Thursday, February 28, 2019

Eating on the Run. Literally.

I don't typically run long enough to justify consuming calories while I'm out. However, the times I do manage to get in a long run are the worst times to experiment with food. With this in mind, I purposely brought food along on a number of hour long runs. The results were surprising.

I raided our pantry for sugary snacks, and brought one type of food along on each run. Generally, I'd start snacking on the food about 20 ~ 30 minutes into the run. Each snack was about 100 calories.

Before I get into the specific foods I tried, here are some general observations:

  • The benefits of consuming calories were almost certainly mental. That is, the "burst" of energy I was getting was probably due more to the placebo effect than actual nutrition. But placebo effect or not, it felt good! I'd get one boost just by eating the food, and then another boost 15 minutes later when I imagined the carbs hit my bloodstream. That's a significant benefit when we're talking about something as simple as eating a few marshmallows.
  • For the solid foods noted below I always carried and consumed about 12 ~ 16 ounces of water. Apparently eating without drinking is a no-no.
  • A few times my stomach protested when I noshed. However, this almost certainly had more to do with when I ate my last real meal rather than what I was eating on the run. If I'd snarfed down food too close to the run, then eating a snack seemed to unsettle my stomach. If I was careful to have a simple meal like oatmeal and honey two hours before my run I could eat without worry.
  • I found simpler foods were easier to tolerate, say marshmallows or tea & maltodextrin, rather than more complex foods like cookies or Carnation Breakfast Essentials mix.
  • Most of my runs were in cold weather, which means I didn't have to swig down warm drinks. In fact, the very Carnation Instant Breakfast that I mentioned wasn't great on my stomach was super delish on a 34°F night. Though a couple miles later, my stomach was less impressed.
  • The cold weather reduced my dexterity and made opening up the little ziplock bags of snacks a real chore. This is something I'll have to look into optimizing.
  • A number of my food powered runs took place in DC where I had to contest with traffic lights. I found red lights were an ideal time to dig into my snack supply and gave me the impression that I was using the time, rather than just being stuck.

Here are the specific foods I experimented with:

  • Black Tea & Maltodextrin - the maltodextrin has no taste, which left just the black tea, which I enjoy. The tea also has caffeine, which is potentially another bonus. For a no frills energy drink, this combo was great.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies - feh. They tasted OK, but I think they're probably too complex to bother with when all I really want are quick carbs.
  • Carnation Breakfast Essentials - tasted great, then my stomach did some protesting. Like the cookies, I think I'll stick to simpler foods.
  • Marshmallows - tasty, portable and low cost. These are a win.
  • Jelly Belly Energy Beans - this is one of my go-to quick energy snacks, and it worked well as on-the-run nutrition.
  • Crystal Lite Drink Mix & Maltodextrin - the 100 calories of malto made for a quick energy drink, while the 10 calorie mix made for a solid taste. Another win.

Pre-run I found that oatmeal was a reliable way to give myself energy without risking an upset stomach. Oatmeal plus honey or brown sugar worked, but so did getting more creative. In one case I mixed hot-chocolate and oatmeal in a mug, poured in boiling water. The result was hot chocolate, followed by chocolate flavored oatmeal. And out of curiosity, I mixed oatmeal with cold water and just drank that. While not the tastiest, it did get the job done showed me just how versatile oatmeal is.

Another food combo win was a tablespoon of honey with a quarter cup of salted sunflower seeds. Besides tasting good, this snack had sugar, fat, sodium and potassium. I need to find a good way to eat this on a run. So far I've only had this combo as a post-run pick-me-up.

As experiments go, this one was a success. Having the option of taking in energy on the go, even if it's just a mental hack, far outweighs the cost of carrying a few marshmallows or a bag of jelly beans. If it's not something you've tried, you should!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

New Life for an Old Laptop | Powered by Neverware's CloudReady

Over the weekend I was cleaning our second bedroom and saw the stack of old laptops I've got stashed away. As I was pondering what I could do with them, it hit me: could I turn one or more of them into Chromebooks? I love the zero setup, Just Works nature of my Chromebook and wondered if the same software could be installed on ancient hardware.

A quick Google Search and YouTube video gave me my answer: Yes!

The magic is provided by Neverware's CloudReady. I downloaded their installer and used it to turn a 16GB USB Thumbdrive I had lying around into a Chrome OS installer.

On the hardware side, I found a Lenovo B575 laptop with an index card taped to it that read Slow, but works. The hardest part of the setup was digging through my pile of AC adapters to find the right one.

The setup process was effortless. Sure, downloading the installer took time, and so did the process of copying Chrome OS to the hard drive. So don't attempt to do this process in a hurry. But the result is as promised: I've turned an ancient 'slow, but works' laptop into a totally usable Chromebook.

After logging in I found my desktop setup carried over from my store bought Chromebook, down to the same background and 'shelf' orientation. I popped over to YouTube and was able to blast some tunes. Heck, I'm composing this blog post on the new laptop. Amazing.

There's no comparison between the slick new hardware of my ASUS Chromebook and this old Lenovo. Boot-up, for example, is speedy on my new box and takes its own sweet time on the Lenovo. But the keyboard is actually pretty solid on the Lenovo, the screen size acceptable and most importantly, it all just works.

Below are some pics of the setup experience, but the bottom line is this: if you've got an old laptop lying around give Neverware's CloudReady a chance. If your experience is anything like mine, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Sunset between Two Gems

I caught the above pic while running nearby the DC Wharf. The Wharf got a massive renovation a few years and is still being actively developed. While the shiny and new promenade is fun to stroll along, I find two sites at the bounds of the waterfront to be more interesting. At the northern end you'll find the Main Avenue Fish Market. Which besides being a feast for your senses, has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States. It's apparently 17 years older than New York's Fulton Fish Market. Take that New York!

Months ago, on a far warmer day, Shira and I were down at the fish market and ordered ourselves a grilled salmon platter. The kitchen thought otherwise of our choice and opted to deep fry, rather than broil the fish. The result was the tastiest fish and chips I've ever had. Best. Kitchen. Error. Ever.

To get to the other notable site, walk south along the water until you hit the edge of Fort McNair. Once there, you'll see this splendid monument:

That's the Women's Titanic Memorial, which has a plaque that reads:

APRIL 15, 1912


The monument seems to reflect the iconic Titanic Movie Pose, though the memorial predates the movie by nearly 80 years.

In any other city these sites would be quite notable. In D.C. they're considered obscure at best.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Australian Open Adventure - Day 4

[Composed 1/18/2019]

It was fitting that on our last day of our Australian Open adventure we would get to see Steve Johnson play doubles. After all, it was Steve Johnson that we watched play in the Auckland Open at the start of our trip so many days ago. Apparently we're not exactly Steve's good luck charms, as he lost again with us watching. Sorry, Steve.

We got to see some legends play today, including Serena and Djokovic, both of whom sailed by their opponents. In the Serena vs Yastremska match, Serena was more big sister than opponent. Telling her at the end, "you were amazing" and "don't cry." And when the interviewer suggested that Yastremska was star struck, Serena played dumb, saying she had no idea what the interviewer was getting at. It was all very precious.

The most impressive tennis we watched today happened by accident. While arriving for the Serena match we managed to take in the 3rd set of Zhang vs Svitolina. You can study who's playing who, and guess which matches are going to be the most interesting, but you just never know until the ball starts flying.

As we wrapped up our time at the Australian Open we couldn't help but compare the grounds to Flushing Meadows, where the US Open is held. The Aussie site seems noticeably larger, with what seem to be more side courts, more packed in. Courts 10, 11, 12 and 13 are so close together you can practically take in matches on all 4 courts by standing in one place. It's crazy. On the other hand, none of the stadiums are anywhere near as colossal as Arthur Ashe. When we arrived at the grounds we assumed the massive stadium nearby was for tennis. The stadium we saw was the 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Grounds, the largest cricket stadium in the world. Looking back, we didn't really get a chance to thoroughly explore the grounds. I suppose that's just a side effect of getting to take in so much tennis. Guess we'll have to come back.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Australian Open Adventure - Day 3

[Composed 1/17/2019]

Shockingly, today we started the day with a non-tennis activity. We made our way over to the Queen Victoria Market to do some browsing. We arrived as folks were setting up, so we mostly had the place to ourselves. You can tell the market is massive and the goods quite varied. From discount t-shirts, to hand painted jewelry, to kangaroo and crocodile meat, this place has it all. It's the most impressive market we've seen this trip, and while not quite as colorful as the markets of Morocco or Japan, it still ranks up there as being impressive.

Have no fear, by 11:08am, we were in our seats ready to watch more tennis!

While we had the opportunity to see the legendary Roger Federer sweep Taylor Fritz, the real highlights of the day were watching a couple of the so called next generation players work their magic. There's a handful of 20'ish year olds that are making a splash in the tennis world, and today we saw two of them: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe.

The Tsitsipas v Basilashvili match clearly highlighted Tsitsipas's potential. He had flashes of running down balls like Djokovic, with impressive slides and amazing court agility. And then there was Tiafoe v Seppi. When we arrived on scene Tiafoe was down two sets, and it looked like the 35 year Andreas Seppi was going to put the youngster in his place. Tiafoe fought his way back, and managed to take the match. Tiafoe's celebration showed just how pumped up he was by his victory. Of course, if I had those six pack abs I'd use every opportunity to take my shirt off, too.

At the last US Open, we'd seen Zverev, another 21 next gen'er lose to the more senior Kohlschreiber. That moment gave me pause as to just how quickly these kids are going to rise to fame. And yet today's performance by Tiafoe and Tsitsipas left no doubt in my mind that I was looking at future #1 players.

Today wasn't all about the kids, though. We also got to see the Bryan Brothers take on Mannarino and Mies. While it's always fun to watch the Bryan Brothers, this match was especially sweet because this was Bob's first tournament back from hip surgery.

Hard to believe, but tomorrow is our last day of tennis. Oy, this vacation is quickly coming to an end!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Australian Open Adventure - Day 2

[Composed 1/16/2019]

Generally, tennis relies on its fans to police themselves. Unlike say, football, where the roar of the crowd is a distraction that teams need to manage, tennis typically assumes near perfect conditions. As a fan, you're supposed to be seated, quiet and avoid doing anything to distract the players. So it was a bit unnerving to find myself in the first row of the Sock, Withrow vs Cabal, Farah with a couple of guys sitting next to me chatting away during points.

Surely they were drunken, novices who didn't know any better, right? Not at all. They were none other than members of the Israeli Tennis Association, and they were sitting next to their friends, the coaches of Cabal, Farah. It was a classic Israeli move. When I asked them (during a break in play, mind you) where all the Israeli players were in the tournament, they replied that they had none. You'd have to look to the college level to see their up-and-coming players. He explained that grooming new tennis players takes patience, and that was a resource his home country was a bit short on.

Alas, we had to leave the Sock-Withrow match after the first set, which the USA team dropped. Fortunately, Sock and Withrow came back and ultimately took the match. We couldn't stay and watch doubles because we had the Wawrinka vs Raonic match to see.

Being early in the tournament, you come to expect one-sided matches. Watching Nadal obliterate his opponent is par for the course. So watching Wawrinka and Raonic duke it out turned out to be a special treat. The first set lasted an hour and went to a tie break. And so did the second set. And so did the third. Ultimately, Ranonic would win the day, but at 6-7(4) 7-6(6) 7-6(11) 7-6(5) it was an epic battle to the last shot. Even I was exhausted after watching that match.

Following Wawrinka and Raonic was Halep vs. Kenin. I didn't have any expectations for this match but was blown away by how both players absolutely slugged it out. Both players seemed to think that if they hit the ball 10% harder each stroke surely the other player would crumble. Neither did, but man, was there a lot of grunting. I'd never seen Kenin play before, but I'll have to keep an eye on her, her performance was remarkable.

During the match, a few rows back a guy kept yelling Hi Simona!. Simona is Halep's first name, and I couldn't imagine why this guy thought it was appropriate for him to be trying to get her attention. The whole thing was just creepy. Dude, she's playing a tennis match, she's not interested in flirting with you. The only thing that gave me pause was that the guy had an obvious Eastern European accent, maybe 'Hi' didn't mean what it meant in English.

During a break in play I finally worked up the courage to ask the guy what he meant. He explained that 'Hi' is Romanian for 'Come On.' Halep is indeed Romanian, and this guy was a member of the Romanian Tennis Association. He wasn't creepy at all, he was encouraging his countrywoman in a way she'd fully appreciate. Oh.

The guy turned out to be quite nice and agreed that Kenin's performance was admirable. He promised us that he'd root for her next time, assuming of course she wasn't playing against a Romanian.

We finished the day's activities off watching Djokovic defeat Tsonga, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Djokovic remained in control the whole match. As I noted at the start of this post, tennis matches almost always require silence from its fans; at least during play. One exception to this rule is the expected behavior at the US Open's Arthur Ashe Stadium. The stadium is massive, and the upper-decks ignore all tennis protocol. There's movement and noise when there should be neither. With that as our reference, it was a bit surprising that the center court at the Australian Open, Rod Laver Arena, gets totally silent during play. Perhaps it's the difference in capacity, or the fact that we aren't dealing with New York fans, but the comparatively large stadium has the same decorum as the smaller venues. Well, the smaller venues minus a bunch of chatty Israelis.