Category Archives: Beer Reviews

By the numbers

Alternate title: The sort of crap you come up with after staring at your computer for an hour and failing to produce any ideas for intelligent blog posts.

(It’s teetering dangerously above “WHAT I’M LOVING NOW!” or “THE ABCs OF ME!” on the scale of blog cop-outs. I know. Sorry.)

Anyway. In descending order….

65: Degrees and sunny this week. I’m officially under springtime’s spell.

And I’m having fun exploring Atlanta in my running shoes. Yesterday, I headed downtown and putted around the Olympic Centennial Park, which isn’t all that big (about 3/4 mile around) but is very pretty. I’m a sucker for parks surrounded by tall buildings.

51: Miles logged last week.

I guess this was my peak week. That mileage number really should be higher and I really have no good excuse as to why it wasn’t. Fail. I don’t think a PR is in the cards for me next month.

On the bright side, I did have a good tempo on Wednesday and my long run on Saturday was pleasant enough…well, it was pleasant until mile 17ish, when it became decidedly less so.

I’m trying not to take that as an omen. When I’m running a marathon, I usually hit the crash-and-burn stage around 18/19. At CIM last December, I didn’t hit it until 23/24 and that made a huge difference in my overall performance. I credit last fall’s higher mileage for that. Mileage that I have NOT been logging this spring. Ugh.

8π√3: Correct answer to this one stupid math problem that had almost made me hurl BARRON’S NEW GRE against the wall last night.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’d like to continue my education at some point in the near future, and to do so, I’ll need to subject myself to humiliation at the hands of Educational Testing Service. So I’ve started “studying” (I use the term loosely) in an attempt to minimize the damage.

Awesome bonus: apparently they made the GRE harder last year. That’s what I get for slacking.

But I can now find the area of a quarter of a circle superimposed on an isosceles triangle. Super useful life skill, right there.

33: Pounds of cat under which I found myself buried when I hit the couch for a study break.

They’re not big boned, they’re just fat. (I wrote that on a Post-It Note and stuck it on their litter box, but someone took a crap on it and then buried it. Huh.)

18: Days until the Gansett Marathon! Yikes.

9: Miles I’m planning to run tonight, including some mile repeats. This is about as appealing as it sounds.

3: Bottles remaining in the six-pack of Sweetwater 420 I picked up on Monday.

This is the best my local grocery store can do, beer-wise, but I can’t complain too much! This American “West-Coast Style” Pale Ale is everywhere around here and it’s a decent little beer. With the descriptor, you’d expect something like a Sierra Nevada, but it’s nowhere near as big as that. Instead, it’s mild and very drinkable with mellow hops, strong carbonation, and a little citrus. 5.6% ABV.

Bottom line: Not the most exciting beer in the world, but enjoyable enough! (Purchased at Publix, $9/6)

1: Minute until I gnaw my arm off if I don’t stop with this useless blog post and make myself some lunch. Happy Wednesday!

Empty

A confidence booster. That’s what I’d hoped this morning’s Tobacco Road Half Marathon would be.

I tried to stay chill about it, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had a goal time in mind. Last year at this time, I ran a 1:38, and judging by workouts and performances at shorter distances, I’m in better shape now. I’d hoped to crank out a 1:35 if the stars aligned.

Unfortunately, the stars were all over the place. I finished at 1:48 and change.

Making excuses for bad race performances is pretty lame, but here are my reasons for sucking it up big time today:

Reason #1: It went soft. In the weeks leading up to this race, I said it a million times: if there was one thing that would sink this race, it would be a soggy trail.

The Tobacco Road half is mostly run on a section of the American Tobacco Trail that’s made of loosely-packed crushed gravel. For a long run, it’s fantastically forgiving. For a speed workout, it’s slightly challenging when dry. And when it’s wet, it’s miserable all around.

Well, guess what it did ALL NIGHT Saturday night. I almost stayed in bed when my alarm finally went off, after being awake all night listening to the pouring rain. 13.1 miles of racing on soft, soggy terrain? Ugh.

But obviously I heeded the alarm. I probably should have adjusted my expectations for this race before I even got out of bed, because….

Reason #2: The effing humidity. I know it could have been worse: it could have been warmer. But I hate being soaking wet before I even start running, no matter what the temperature is. Enough said.

Reason #3: My cranky womb. Sorry if this is TMI, but…standing in the start corral this morning, I felt a familiar throbbing in my lower belly and aching in my hips that I knew had nothing to do with running or digestion. Rather, it was my reproductive system letting me know that it was about to begin its monthly thing, and wouldn’t I rather be at home, under a blanket, with a warm cat sprawled across my lap? Why yes, I would.

In nearly two decades of racing, this was the first time I had ever encountered such unfortunate timing. It sucked.

Reason #4: My head wasn’t in it. Instead, my head was worrying about whether the movers would be on time on Monday and fretting about boxes that still needed to be packed.

Yeah….planning a half marathon the day before an interstate move is not a great plan.

Also, honestly? My heart wasn’t really in it today, either. My heart was in Atlanta, with my husband, who I miss dearly and cannot wait to see tomorrow night.

Reason #5: I’m exhausted. For the last week, I’ve spent nearly every waking moment moving shit around, putting shit in boxes, hauling shit to the trash chute, and shlepping shit to the car to bring to the Goodwill Donation Center. Even though we have movers coming to help with the actual moving, just preparing to move is exhausting.

So, those are my excuses. I started out today’s race with a downhill 7:20 mile that felt far too difficult; I knew it wasn’t going to be my day to run hard. I dropped back to marathon pace (7:45-7:50) for a couple of miles, but once I hit the soggy path, even that felt like too much. So I dropped back again and hung out at 8:15-8:30 (pretty close to my normal long run pace) for the rest of the race. And even that felt harder than it should have.

Sometimes, it just isn’t your day.

(Thanks to teammate Jenna for the photo)

Anyway. So this race didn’t exactly make me feel like a million bucks going into the last couple of weeks of Gansett Marathon training. In fact, it made me feel pretty discouraged and doubtful. My training volume hasn’t been what I’d hoped it would be this spring, and while I’m still running pretty well (for me) at shorter distances, it seems like I’m falling short in the stamina department.

Not sure if there’s much I can do about that at this point. Oh well.

After a lovely post-race nap, I cleaned myself up and headed in to work to drop off my key (sad!) and cajole a couple of my co-workers into enjoying one last post-shift beer with me. And it was a good one…

The famed 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish HeadIt was as amazing as I’d imagined it would be.

Around these parts, Dogfish 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA are pretty easy to find, but the 120 Minute is an elusive beast – probably because it’s actually illegal here in North Carolina. Amazingly smooth and sweet, it’s hard to believe that this beer packs an 18%-ABV punch. You get a quick hit of full-flavored hops at the beginning of each sip, but as it goes down it mellows in to a lovely honeysuckle finish with no pucker whatsoever. Utterly delicious.

Bottom line: This one definitely lives up to the hype. If you have a chance to get your hands on it, definitely buy it – and buy me one too, please!

Well…tomorrow is moving day. Every closet, cupboard, and drawer in the apartment is empty; the only thing left to be packed is the TV/cable/modem setup. By this time tomorrow night, if everything goes smoothly, I’ll be rolling in to Atlanta with two confused felines in tow.

Wish me luck!

Deflated

Yesterday, I failed myself. Allow me to explain.

Upon getting the keys to my very first car, my father insisted that Teenage Me spend an afternoon on parking lawn in front of our house, learning basic car things like checking the oil level, putting on chains, and putting on a spare tire.

The first two skills, I’ve actually used! Believe me, I can read a dipstick like no one’s business. And cable chains? Well…if you need ’em, you’ll be glad you know how to put ’em on.

But seventeen years later…I’ve still never changed a flat. But it’s not for lack of trying!

You see, I have always been paranoid about having flat tires. To the point where I imagine them. See, for example: this road trip. For weeks after that, every time I approached my car, I examined every tire with squinty eyes, trying to see if they looked a little low.

And I actually got new tires put on, following that trip. That was two weeks ago. Confident in the fact that I’d made a Responsible Adult Purchase and was therefore absolved of any worry about my wheels, I stopped looking for flats every time I went for a drive. So of course, that’s when it happened.

Overnight, my brand new tire somehow became fully deflated. It was the moment I’d been waiting for…and yet somehow, was least expecting.

My first phone call was to Costco’s tire center, which was the scene of the recent purchase and installation. I asked the guy whether my flat tire would be covered under their warranty. He said it absolutely would – I just needed to bring it in.

“UM,” I said. “How am I supposed to do that? It has a TOTALLY FLAT TIRE.”

“Well…you will need to put the spare on,” he replied calmly.

“Right,” I said, as I literally felt a cartoon light bulb coming on over my head. “It has a spare tire.”

I hung up with Costco and proceeded to spend about fifteen minutes prodding around the underside of my car before realizing that this was NOT a good use of my time. Sorry, Dad.

To truncate a rather long and drawn-out story: seven hours and two tow trucks later, I finally had a new (fully inflated) tire on my car. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend all day trying to change the tire myself, because as it turns out, it doesn’t come off of my car. (Apparently, some screw thingy on the spare is stripped. We bought the car used and it’s a decade old, so…whatever. Good to know, I guess.)

I don’t really see myself as a helpless female, but yesterday, I sure felt like one. Hell…I was one. There was no way I was getting that car out of that garage without someone else’s assistance. Pathetic.

But at the same time: I am almost 32 years old. Is learning a skill that I’ll utilize one every two decades really a good use of my time and energy? Especially when I can just pay my insurance company an extra six bucks a month to take care of that shit for me?

Anyway. After dealing with all of that, I needed a beer. And this week, Spring has sprung here in Raleigh! It’s been warm and beautiful the last couple of days…the perfect weather for sampling a new seasonal.

Bluepoint’s Spring Fling Ale is a coppery American Pale Ale. This is a straightforward, slightly hoppy, thoroughly enjoyable beer. The Long Island brewery pairs German barley and American hops to create a balanced brew that is fresh and inviting. 6% ABV.

Bottom line: It’s nothing groundbreaking, but a solid drinkable beer! (Received as a gift, retails for ~$2/12 oz)

The weird thing is…when they took off my wrinkly tire, they didn’t find anything wrong with it. Like: no maliciously thick nail or shard of scrap metal poking through it. According to them, my brand-new tire just spontaneously deflated. According to them, that sometimes just happens.

Aaaaaand, we’re back to being totally paranoid about tire pressure every time we approach our vehicle.

At least it’s a way of life that I’m accustomed to.

Do not be alarmed

Alternate title: Why it sucks to be undermined by your own stupidity in spite of making every effort to be a responsible adult.

Do you ever have fitful dreams in which you are paranoid that you’ve forgotten to set your alarm correctly? And – in your dream – you wake up to find that the clock says 8:37 AM when you were supposed to be on/in a 7:15 AM flight/meeting? And then you wake up – for real – and see that it’s only 2:32 AM? And then you fall back asleep and repeat the process several times until it’s actually time to wake up?

I didn’t ever really have those. Not often, anyway. But I will now. It was not a good weekend for me and my alarm clock. The circle of trust has been broken.

Alarm clock near-miss #1: Silent but deadly

Saturday morning.

The plan: Go to bed at a responsible hour with a minimal amount of booze in my belly. Wake up at 6:30 AM. Leave the apartment at 7 AM, drive to work, park and drop off my stuff, eat breakfast and have coffee. Leave work at 7:30 and run 3 miles over to the 8:30 start of a local 5K race. Race. Run back, shower (at work) and start work at 9:30.

What actually happened: was that I woke up an hour late. Because, as I later understood, of this:

WHY IS THIS EVEN AN OPTION? Seriously…who sets a soundless ALARM?

Looking back, I’m sure it was user error and I somehow changed that setting, but still…WHY DOES THIS USELESS SETTING EXIST?

Anyway. Somehow, I managed to get dressed, find my way to the start line, pull a 20:48 5K out of my ass, and make it to work on time.

(I won’t even try to do a “race report” on this one because there isn’t much to report. I ran without a watch and ran fairly hard the whole time…although probably not as hard as I could have. And it was a hilly course. That time is pretty decent for me, but I can’t help feeling like I should be running faster, given how well my speed workouts have been going this year.)

So that brings us to the next morning, when I had an early (again, pre-work) 20-miler on the agenda.

Alarm clock near-miss #2: Why don’t we use military time, again?

Sunday morning.

The plan: Get my three-hour long run done, and be done by 11 AM, in order to get to work on time. With a 20-minute drive to the trailhead, that meant a 6:30 wake-up call.

What actually happened: Panic, followed by outraged confusion, followed by 180 minutes of slightly frenetic running.

As I nestled my responsibly sober self in to bed at a geriatric hour on Saturday night, I fussed extensively with my alarm – including setting a test alarm to make sure the sound worked. The thing chirped obediently, and so I set the time and went to bed feeling great about my prospects for the next morning.

Naturally, I woke up at…7:35.

Oh, the old OH-NOES, I-ACCIDENTALLY-SET-MY-ALARM-FOR-PM-INSTEAD OF-AM trick. Last seen: 2003. Except at that time, I was:

  • 23 years old;
  • in my first real job;
  • wandering in to my cubicle at 10 AM;
  • hella hungover from staying out until 3 AM the night before; and
  • in need of an explanation for my why I looked like a frazzled piece of crap.

But this time? I ACTUALLY DID IT. I finally did the completely stupid thing I’d relied on so many times as a scapegoat for my irresponsibility. (Um, I mean…only that one time…)

I can’t even describe how explosively pissed off I was about this situation. Until I realized that it was my own fault. K*^H%$SF*M&DF. How did I let this happen? Well, actually, it’s not all that hard to miss ONE LETTER…

Okay…I’m going to say something potentially unpopular here. I think that  24-hour military-style clock is a better system. Why have two identical values that need a disclaimer when you can have separate numbers for each one? WHY? We have an unlimited number of numbers. Let’s use them.

(Not on board with the metric system, though. Sorry. I think inefficiently in inches and feet. Maybe my children’s generation will be more open….)

Anyway. Somehow, I managed to pack up my work bag, brush my teeth, feed the cats, and get out of the house in under twenty minutes. I hit the trail at 8:10 and ran for exactly three hours and five minutes…and then booked it frantically to the store to shower and open things up for the day.

For the second time in a weekend, I ditched the fancy timing gear and just ran the old-fashioned way, by time and feel. Because I knew the route, I’m certain I covered at least 20 miles (which was the goal!) and probably picked up another mile or so doubling back to chat briefly with friends I ran in to who were running the other way. I’m calling it 21.

And 61 for the week.

I feel pretty good about this week’s training. I had a solid track workout, a decent race and a respectable long run. Overall mileage is right where it should be.

I’m thinking of taking things down a notch next week (maybe 50-55 MPW) and then trying to gun for 70+. I’ve only hit 70 MPW once before: last fall, a few weeks before CIM, and it felt awesome. I’d love to stretch it to 75 MPW if I can.

But we’ll see. That’s a lot of miles, and as I wrap up a super busy weekend of running and working the idea just sounds…exhausting. Tomorrow is a (planned) rest day, and I’m looking forward to it.

I love my job and I love our customers, but…holy hell, the last two days have been tiring. Work is definitely more fun when things are busy than when they’re slow, but after two days of nonstop shoe-fitting action on top of hard mileage, and an abundance of snacking in place of real eating…when I got home tonight I was ready for a decent meal. And one cooked by anyone but me.

So I hit the bar next door, where I found a beer on draft that I had to try, if only for the name: Lagunitas WTF Ale.

Honestly…this beer indeed left me saying WTF. Because…I couldn’t quite classify it. The bartender billed it as a Black IPA, but it wasn’t really all that hoppy. Some BeerAdvocate reviewers classify it as more of a Brown Ale and I can kind of see that: it’s a bit nutty and not heavily carbonated, but…eh, it’s not quite roasty enough. This beer sits in a weird place: it’s not really hoppy, and not really toasty, and a little watery, but…hell, it’s 7.5% ABV, unoffensive and highly drinkable, so maybe that’s the point here?

Bottom Line: In my opinion, this beer is relying on its catchy name. It was alright, but I wouldn’t call it a must-try. (Purchased, draught, at The Borough, $4.50/pint)

In other news, I got my hair cut on Friday. There are now lots of layers.

I tend to distrust the whole “OMG layers” thing because I don’t want to look like Jennifer Aniston circa 1996. But I actually like this cut. I have a lot of hair and my ponytail is much lighter now.

 Still NOT in the Circle of Trust? MY PHONE’S ALARM CLOCK.

I’m not sure what else there is to screw up with that thing, but I’m now totally paranoid about the whole situation with my phone and its alarm. I don’t even have to be up for anything tomorrow morning, but I’m setting an alarm anyway, just to prove to myself that I can use this feature competently. And I fear the next time I have to make an early flight. No trust.

 * * * * *

Wear a size 9 or 9.5 shoe? Still time to enter to win a pair of ASICS GEL-NEO33 shoes! I’ll pick a winner Monday night!

Free Shoe Friday

So. I’m moving in three weeks (holycrap!) and I have a #firstworldproblem: I have too many running shoes.

I get a lot of free shoes at work. Brand reps give running store employees their hot new shoes so that we’ll try them out and be able to sell them competently, with a personal slant – and hopefully wear them on the sales floor, too.

This is largely how I have, over the last couple of years, ended up in this situation:

How many of these can I take to Atlanta with me?

Although I’m pretty lucky in that I can usually run without issue in whatever shoe I want – neutral, stability, minimal, etc – sometimes I receive a pair that just doesn’t work for some reason.

Case in point: these Asics GEL-NEO33 lightweight trainers are sadly of no use to me.

Not because it’s a bad shoe! In fact, I was really excited to try it. But they’re too big. I wore them around the store for a few hours before realizing that the inch of extra space in the front was kind of a deal-breaker.

The ASICS 33 line, which debuted last December, is the company’s answer to the likes of the Saucony Kinvara/Mirage and the Brooks PureProject shoes. It’s a “natural motion” shoe, which isn’t to say that its minimalist, because there’s still a good amount of cushion in the NEO33. But the heel-toe offset is slightly lower (10mm, in this case – which is pretty conservative, compared to the 4mm found in  comparable “natural motion” shoes – but still lower than the typical running shoe’s 12mm). Billed as a lightweight shoe, it clocks in at 8.5 ounces: a bit lighter than its more traditional counterparts (ASICS’s mid-level stability trainer, the 2170, is 9.9 ounces) but heftier than, say, a Saucony Kinvara (which is around 7 ounces).

Anyway. I like the feel of this shoe, but I know that I’m not going to wear it because it doesn’t fit me. So I’m going to give it to one of you guys!

Shoe: ASICS GEL-NEO33 / Size: Women’s 9B (runs big!) / Type of shoe: I’d call it a mild-stability lightweight trainer. It does have some support, making it appropriate for someone who is a mild to moderate over-pronater. If you wear the ASICS 2160/2170, ASICS Kayano, Brooks Adrenaline, Brooks Ravenna, Saucony Guide, etc…it would be a great shoe for you!

If you want it, just say so in the comments; I’ll compile them and pick a random winner on Monday. (Shipping’s on me, as long as it’s US/Canada.)

Anyway. I have tomorrow off of work, so I’m kicking back with a beer tonight:

I’ve had this one in my fridge for a few weeks, so I’m not sure if it still qualifies as a “catch & release” seasonal, but this Sweet Water Happy Ending is delightful.

Bright hops flirt with semi-sweet chocolate in this Imperial Stout, and a strong dose of carbonation gives this beer a surprisingly quenching quality. This is not a stout that harkens your morning cup of coffee, coating your mouth in creamy richness. Rather, it reminds me of a fun chocolate truffle with something fresh and tart inside: rich, but refreshing. 9% ABV.

Bottom line: I’m rather smitten by the hoppy, bubbly quality of this beer! Definitely a fun stout to try. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $2/12 oz)

Off to catch up on about seven more episodes of How I Met Your Mother (which I’m watching serially on Netflix – and loving OMG) before I call it bedtime.

Happy (almost) Friday!

That hot pink looks good on me

Today’s post brought to you in list format, because I’m kind of all over the place tonight. Lazy blogging. It happens sometimes. Oh well…at least it’s not a list of things I’m LOVING right now, right?

1) I found a decent MSPAINT-like app for my new Mac! It’s called InstaPaint and it cost four bucks. What a deal.

All the same features, but with more colors! Look at that hot pink! Also, there’s a little bomb icon, which I was pretty excited about, but it was kind of a letdown: instead of doing something fun, it just reverts the entire canvas to blank white. Racist bomb.

2) I ran thirteen miles today. In two sessions. And it didn’t even feel like that much. I know this is probably common sense – or rather, common arithmetic – but doing doubles is really the only way I can keep my mileage up in the 60+/week range. A four and a nine is far less daunting than a single thirteen.

3) With increased mileage, I’m trying so very hard to be good about keeping up my paltry core work and stretching routine. But it’s difficult when I have to fight for space on my own yoga mat.

 Get your own mat, cat.

4) My finger was on the “Order” button today, ready to summon a cheese pizza and garlic breadsticks to my apartment. But then I resisted, and thought of all of the food in the pantry, and of the fact that, generally speaking, I probably should eat less cheese.

So instead of eating cheese-laden goodness made by Hungry Howie’s Pizza, I ate cheese-laden goodness made by me.

Mac and Cheese Balls, a la Megan. Although of course I didn’t have time for any of the chilling/ball forming business, so I just plopped them into my mini muffin tin. Quick, easy, and delightfully cheesy.

(That eating less cheese thing starts, um, tomorrow…)

5) Tonight’s beer was excellent.

SweetWater is the major craft brewery in my soon-to-be-hometown, so I’m sure I’ll have no shortage of opportunities to drink their beers in the near future. But this 15 Years of Heady Beers is a one-shot deal, and I didn’t want to risk missing it by waiting until the Atlanta move, so I snagged one when I saw it.

An American Strong Ale, this boozy beer poured a dark copper color with, appropriately, a big fluffy head. The first sip reminded me a little of zucchini bread: sweet and doughy, chewy and satisfying. Lots of fruit in this beer – ripe peaches and plums, a bit of banana – but it’s well balanced by that yeasty bread flavor, and a touch of hops as well. Very enjoyable and easy to drink, especially considering its 10% ABV.

Bottom line: Great beer, definitely worth trying! (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $8/22oz)

6) Time for bed. I have a wild weekend ahead of me, so I’m trying to bank some sleep hours. Good night!

Twenty

You could definitely call it a love-hate relationship. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was flinging curses upon William B. Umstead State Park. Today, I fell in love all over again.

And when I skip town in a few weeks, I am truly going to miss the Reedy Creek Double Out ‘n Back, in all of its sinister glory.

Yes, it’s hilly as hades. I’ve hated on those hills so many times. But somehow, this morning, I ran a very respectable long run on this roller-coaster of a route.

With all of those hills, that’s a pretty good average pace for me! I’m usually closer to nine-minute pace on this route. I credit good company for the fact that the miles flew by. Thanks, Joe for distracting me with talk of craft beer, racing strategies, Crossfit, food, wine, travel, and everything in between. I think it was a pretty stellar run for both of us. Even though it was OMG COLD:

Ok, I know that this is not that cold. But I had a minor meltdown when I woke up this morning and checked my weather app. My Southern-living ass was unaccustomed to twenty-degree weather. Down here in the South, we haven’t seen a flake of  snow or a crystal of frost at all this winter. I’ve been wearing tights since it was 45* out. I know. I know. 

So of course I packed a bag full of all sorts of clothing and accessories. I was headed out for the 20-miler, and then straight on to work, where I’d shower and stuff before starting my day of retail shenanigans. I tried to pack a whole day of clothing suited for various activities and conditions on the “coldest” day of the year. It was completely ridiculous:

Although I’d packed an extra pair of tights, a thick fleecy jacket, and even a face mask (that I hadn’t touched since I lived in Ohio), I ended up being totally fine in a regular pair of tights and long sleeved top with a paper-thin jacket over the top.  A thin hat and gloves were nice to have, but I would have lived without them. (The gloves came off halfway through.)

Still, I have to unequivocally give credit to my running buddy for getting me out of bed and in to the cold. I wouldn’t have done it on my own.

This whole week was filled with a whole lotta social running, now that I look back on it:

Of those 63 miles, fewer than 10 were done alone. Three cheers for human interaction! And also, for logging 63 miles in just 5 days! I’m pretty happy with how this week’s training went.

An appropriate beer for today:

Most of the beers I’ve tried from Dogfish Head are quite good, but this Pearl Jam “Twenty” Faithfull Ale was just okay. To be honest…I was dying to try it more for the novelty factor than anything else. Because I had this giant crush on Eddie Vedder for much of my youth. But it wasn’t just a hot-guy crush; it was a music crush, which is clearly more meaningful. (Yes, it is.) Ten was one of the very first CDs I ever owned. And I still think it’s a damn fine album.

Anyway. The Twenty is a decent little Belgian, with a jammy berry backbone that’s perhaps a bit unique. It’s brewed with currants, which are tamely present. But at the end of the day this bottle didn’t knock my socks off. If it weren’t for the Pearl Jam association, it would be rather forgettable. 7% ABV.

Bottom line: Not a bad beer by any means…and certainly drinkable and smooth. It’s not disappointing – but its not a must-try, either. (Received in a beer swap; retails for around $13/22oz)

In other running news:

 – My friend and co-worker Bobby Mack is a beast! You can now call him the US National XC Champion. Come by our store and congratulate him if you’re a Raleigh dweller.

– For more racing news, check out Writing About Running. Author Pat Price, a self-described hobbyjogger, brings a fan’s  keen interest in the elite side of the sport to his blog.

– The Brooks Ravenna 3 is here! As a wearer of the Ravenna 2, I’ve been anxious to check them out.

(old Ravenna 2 on the left; new Ravenna 3 on the right)

I love the fit of the Ravenna 2, but my one complaint (through two pairs) has been that they don’t last as long as I’d like them to. Both of my Ravenna 2’s started to break down around 300 miles. And I’m not the only one who had this beef; I’ve fielded several complaints from customers about their Ravennas breaking down early.

So the new Ravenna 3? It’s…more shoe. Compared to a pair of brand-new pair of Ravenna 2 (above, left), the Ravenna 3 (above, right) seems to have much more cushioning, especially in the forefoot.

I haven’t actually run in them, so I’ll save further review until I do.

For now, though, I’m loving my PureFlows for pretty much everything:

The black ones have 250+ miles on them and are still going strong! And I did 20 in the white ones this morning, pretty much confirming to me that there’s no reason a lower-heel-drop show cannot be a long-run shoe, if you work in to it properly. (Which is something I’ve been working on since October…)

Hope y’all had a good weekend! What did you do?

5K short

Last night, I got home work and entered my run from earlier that day into my log. The page reloaded, updating to add the miles to January’s total, and it came up with this:

I groaned. So close. I was briefly tempted to head down to the treadmill and bang out 3.1 miles to make it an even 200.

But then I was even more tempted by the beer I’d bought on my way home. Because really…it’s just a number. It’s not like 200 monthly miles is any sort of real milestone for me. I was 200+ all through the fall last year. It just sucks to be so close.

In spite of the missing 5K, though, January was a decent month. I’m feeling good and looking forward to cranking it up a bit more in February, starting with the mile repeats I’m going to do this morning just as soon as my bagel digests.

(As a side note: so far, I’m really liking RunningAHEAD! Thanks to everyone who recommended it. Look at this pretty chart:

It color codes my workouts for me! I would never have the energy to make something like this on my own, but it’s kind of fun to have.)

Anyway. About that beer…

My fridge is packed with stouts, porters, and barleywine-style bottles right now, but all I wanted last night was something fresh and hoppy, served ice cold. So I picked up a six-pack of limited-release Saranac White IPA.

As suspected, this beer is a IPA-wheat hybrid, brewed with Citra hops and wheat malt. It poured a little cloudy with a big fluffy head.  Lots of orange and spices, with some mellow hops in the background. More wheat beer than IPA, really – but it hit the spot nonetheless. 6% ABV.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for something a little summery in the dead of winter, this is your beer. (Purchased at Peace Street Market, $9/six)

About those mile repeats. I must get going before the coffee pot lures me in for another refill. Happy Wednesday!

The new must-see TV

Let’s start with a little background. You all remember your first crush, right?

Mine was Fred Savage, circa 1988. Every week, I stalked the TV listings for new episodes of The Wonder Years. I became obsessed with the movie Little Monsters and found a new appreciation for The Princess Bride. I daydreamed and schemed, concocting fantasies in which the object of my affection would move to Washington state, enroll at my school, and profess his love for me in front of my third grade locker.

A pipe dream, obviously.

Twenty-three years later, armed with a  DVR, I can relive those formative years every single night.

I’ve known for a while that one of our odd little cable stations airs vintage sitcoms, often at weird hours of the day. (They also show Family Ties, which I also enjoyed…however, Alex P. Keaton was no Kevin Arnold. And by the time Leo DiCap came on there, I was over it.)

For some reason, it only recently occurred to me to unleash the DVR on this station, a veritable goldmine of quality eighties programming. The machine went to work, stockpiling episodes in its memory bank. And now, instead of spending my Monday night with that Bachelor crap (or whatever you kids are watching these days), I get to have my own little mini-marathon of this:

Eight-year-old me is extremely jealous.

Childhood crushes aside, though, The Wonder Years was fantastic television. It’s funny how elements of the show that I never noticed or paid attention to when I was a kid – like the relationship between Kevin’s parents, Norma and Jack – are now interesting and relatable.

And Winnie Cooper? Well, I pretty much wanted to be her.

It’s humiliating to admit this, but I insisted on wearing my brown hair long and straight, with bangs, because I seriously thought that if anything happened to Danica McKellar, maybe they would call me in as an understudy.

(Uh, yeah…not quite.)

When I was little, she could do no wrong. But watching now, I’m realizing: girlfriend could be a real bitch sometimes. And she was kind of (understandably, I guess, given her family drama) messed up in the head.

I’m still working my way through the episodes on my DVR, but I already know that they don’t wind up together in the end. I remember feeling outrage at the series finale when I watched it the first time around. I’m guessing I’ll probably feel a little differently today.

Anyway. That’s how I’ve been spending my free time lately.

How about a beer?

Peak Organic’s Maple Collaboration is an American Red/Amber Ale made with locally-sourced Maine oats and Vermont maple syrup.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. Would it be a pancake in a bottle? (And would that be a good thing?)

As it turns out, the maple flavor is understated, presenting itself briefly and pleasantly on the finish of each sip. And there’s not much bitterness here, for a red – perhaps another byproduct of the syrup. The oatmeal goes completely unnoticed. Some BA reviewers griped about noticing the alcohol, but I really didn’t. Overall, it’s an amiable beer with a little hint of something sweet. 6.7% ABV.

Bottom line: Nothing earth-shattering, but enjoyable. (Purchased at Tasty Beverage, $6.50/big bottle)

Ok, back to my DVR stash….

TGITrackday: 800s and 400s

When I’m marathon training, I like to take a week “off” from long runs every 3 weeks or so. That week is this week. So I “only” plan to do a 13-14 miler this weekend.

(Crazy how marathon training changes your frame of reference about these things, eh?  A two-hour run is considered time off.)

Because I have an lower-mileage weekend on tap, I wanted to get two speed sessions in this week. So on a couple of days recovery from Tuesday’s awesome tempo, I headed to the track this morning.

(And by “morning,” I mean 11:30 AM. Technically, that is morning.)

I’ll be honest: as I was warming up to the track, which is 2.5 miles from my apartment, I really was not feeling it. As I neared campus, I began to entertain a little fantasy that I’d arrive there and find the university track team working out and thus be forced to bail. But alas: aside from some buff sprinter guys doing drills in the outer lanes on the backstretch, the track was wide open. No excuses.

The workout on tap was this CPTC workout that I stole from Megan. I miss CPTC workouts something fierce. That shit will make you faster for sure.

The plan: 4 X 800 @ 5K pace, 4 X 400 @ 3K pace. Because I lack reading comprehension, I did 200M recovery throughout, but the workout as prescribed actually calls for 400M recovery between the 800s. I’m calling it even, though…I tend to stop my watch and dawdle a bit between repeats when I’m running workouts alone. (Bad habit.)

I know I often write about how much I looooove track workouts. And I do. But this workout was not easy. Not for me, not today. I thought about quitting between each and every one of those 800 repeats. Every time I punched the start button on my watch and took off, it was with a sense of dread. During the last 400, I felt like I was running through cement. This workout hurt.

You know what, though? I’m so glad I pushed through and finished and and kept the pace legit.

Workouts where you cruise along and feel great are wonderful, but for me, it’s the tough ones that build confidence. Eight times today, I thought: I can’t. But eight times today: I did.

Something to draw on next time I’m faltering through the inner miles of some race that I’m in danger of bombing, I hope.

Anyway. After the workout, I came home and cleaned my entire apartment. That sucked more than the workout, but it needed to be done.

And then I rewarded myself with a beer:

This Black Raven IPA hails from Olde Hickory Brewery, which is right here in North Carolina. I don’t think I ever blogged about it, but I tried Olde Hickory’s Death By Hops IPA a few weeks ago and thought it was kinda meh. I decided to give the Black Raven a shot after my favorite local beer store guy assured me it that was a good choice.

Equal parts roasty and hoppy, I thought this beer was a decent example of what a Black IPA should be. It’s a sipping beer for sure, with the toasty backbone of a porter and the pucker factor of a strong IPA. With all of that going on, there’s not a lot of room for other flavors in there, but I did get a little hint of dark chocolate and charred…something. Good carbonation and overall enjoyable. 7% ABV.

Bottom line: Definitely not a must-try, but a good beer if you happen to come across it. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $5,22/big bottle)

I’m off to spend my Friday night watching “Shark Tank.” (So glad it’s back!) Happy Friday!