City Review: Little Rock Arkansas: A Great Way to Start a Great Trip (May 19, 2017)

Friday, May 19: Little Rock Arkansas is not high on many people’s list of places to visit. It wasn’t on mine either as we left for our week long vacation but I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed my time in the city.

On the way:

Leaving Bright and Early!

We left early in the morning (around 5:30 am) to make sure that we got there with plenty of time to explore the city.  The drive was an easy one with no traffic since we did not go through any large cities (we only skirted Memphis) and we arrived in Little Rock before 11 am so we missed any morning commute traffic.

First Stop: Clinton Presidential Library


We decided to make one step before we had lunch.  That stop was the Clinton Presidential Library & Museum.  We had only been to the Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL so we did not know what to expect to find at the museum. The museum was two stories and in the first story, there was a replica of the cabinet room and a long corridor that was arranged based on the years of the presidency.  Each year had its own panel in the center with sections based on topics surrounding them.

Mitra sitting in the President’s Cabinet chair

On the second floor there glassed in sections that held many of the gifts that President Clinton was given during his 8 years in office.  Also, Bride’s favorite part of the museum was the last thing that we got to look at.  There was a life-size replica of the Clinton Oval Office in the museum that we were able to walk through and take pictures in.  This room not only was impressive because it was the oval office but reading about all the symbolism found in the items that are located throughout the office. Overall the museum was a great experience, and some of the artifacts are priceless pieces of American history.

Second Stop: Lunch

From the Clinton library, we walked downtown to the River Market District and had lunch at the covered food hall located in the district.  The hall had multiple stands and restaurants, similar to the standard mall food court.  Although this one had a variety of small and diverse stalls to choose from.  You could eat from a different stall every day and could come back every day for over a  week or two without eating from the same place twice.

Third Stop: Arkansas Capitols

Little Rock has some similarities to Springfield, IL.  It has been the state capital for a long time and with that distinction comes the fact that there has been more than one capitol building in the city.  In Little Rock, the old capitol is in the downtown district right on the river.  The old capitol is open and is free for anyone to walk around and look at the displays throughout the building.  The displays include the history of the building, an overview of every Arkansas governor as well as a new display focused on the first ladies of Arkansas including dresses from the first ladies, including Hilary Clinton.

Last Stop: Big Dam Bridge & Little Rock’s Running Path

Northwest of Little Rock is Big Dam Bridge.  The bridge is the longest bridge in the country designed only for pedestrians and cyclists.  According to the plaques at the beginning of the bridge, this was the only bridge ever designed to be added to a dam.  All other bridges that span dams were designed as part of the dam structure but when this dam was built it was not meant to have a bridge over the dam.

Little Rock’s Riverfront Running/Cycling Path

*I am planning a larger, more in-depth post of this path later*

The bridge is a focal point of a 16-mile run/bike path that spans both sides of the Arkansas river.  The path connects Big Dam Bridge to a bridge near the Clinton Presidential Library.  The path is really developed and you can tell that Little Rock, as a city, is committed to making this path part of its community.  The path connects the Riverfront outdoor amphitheater, the Clinton Presidential Library, the Big Dam Bridge, Junction Bridge (pictured to the left behind Bride) and everything in between.  I am looking forward to coming back to Little Rock someday and spending some quality time pounding the pavement on the riverfront trail.

Overall, Little Rock has plenty of stuff to keep you busy for a long weekend or even a little longer.  It has a great mix of history, modern entertainment, and a great path to workout on.

Look for another post on our next city later this week!

-Runner

Vacation Posts Begin

Currently, I am in the middle of a 12 state 10-day vacation.  This vacation will include visits to Little Rock, AR, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, TX as well as Panama City Beach and Ginny Springs in Florida before coming back home during the memorial day weekend.

In the next few days, I will begin posting the first in a series of reviews of the cities that we are visiting.  These reviews will not only hit on the attractions that each city has to offer but will also have pieces on the running/cycling trails that each city has and my opinion on how good each city is in welcoming runners, cyclists, and triathletes.

Little Rock and the beginning of my vacation will be the focus of tomorrow’s test.

-Runner

Back at It!

I heard the pop.  The sound that makes everything move more slowly.  I heard that sound and knew before I hit the ground that everything was going to change.

On Wednesday, September 7, 2016, my athletic life changed quickly.  I was playing a soccer game with my law school soccer team when an innocent play for a header turned into a trip to the emergency room that night and 8 months of recovery since.  That pop was my patella dislocating and relocating due to the impact of my fall

That pop was my patella dislocating and relocating due to the impact of my fall.  It caused a Medial Patellofemoral Ligament (MPFL) tear and pieces of cartilage to break off.  I got surgery on Halloween and was in physical therapy since before the surgery occurred.  I cannot speak highly enough of the team that has helped me recover in the last 8 months, but now the hard work begins.

Despite physical therapy and all the work I have done so far, I am still not as strong as I was on September 6, 2016, but I am well on my way to be not only as strong but stronger than I was before my injury.  The assurance that I will grow to be stronger than before my injury has allowed me to once again look forward to my next athletic challenge.

THE NEXT CHALLENGE
Although this is a new challenge it is one that is familiar to me.  Before my injury, I was working to finish Ironman Louisville that was less than a month after my infamous soccer match.  My new challenge seeks to update and complete this unfinished goal.

I plan on competing in Ironman Texas next April!  Ironman has not announced the exact date yet for the 2018 race but, assuming it is on the same weekend as it was this year, I am just 48 weeks away from finally becoming an Ironman!

I am nervous to train through the winter for a race but this race will symbolize more than just triumphing over my injury.  Just a few weeks after this race I will graduate law school, signifying a new chapter in my life.  I see this event as culminating not only a long term athletic goal but also an educational goal that I have worked so hard to accomplish.

Before that race, I have a million steps that I will need to take but they will all be taken with one goal in mind…to become an Ironman!  More coming later!

-Runner

Swim, Bike, Run

Hello from 2017! Just checking in with some updates.

Runner encouraged me to try my first “tri.” It was a matter of good timing and a moderate fitness level. Since August I have been swimming with the Saluki Masters. I also dabble in indoor cycling and light jogging. Oh, and for Christmas I got a Garmin (#fitspo). So, on January 22, I participated in “Tri the Hub” which is an indoor triathlon held in Marion. It was 10 minutes of swimming laps, 20 minutes on the indoor bike, and 15 minutes running on an indoor track.

I was most pumped for the swim and felt strongest in the water. Once the women hit the bikes, it got a little scary … I just don’t pedal that fast!! And then there was the run where I took a slow and steady approach, got lapped by a few, but felt proud for running the whole time.

Look who got second place in her age group:

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Yippee!

I have to say that I was super nervous before the whole thing started. I didn’t really know what to expect with all the gear, the transitions, etc… but I’m glad I did it and would be willing to try it again.

Since then I have been working on improving my running. (Remember that time I ran a half marathon?) Sticking to shorter mileage but working on speed. Thanks to my Garmin Vivofit3 I can document my progress:

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I’ve decided that “Sunday is run day” so I hope to continue my 5K streak throughout March. I also plan to swim competitively in a meet in April. Runner got me cycle shoes for Valentine’s (so romantic!) but I’m still learning how to clip in and out. #goals

In the meantime I’ll be wrapping up PA school (I graduate THIS August) woot!

Where Have I Been!

September 7, 2016 is a date that will have repercussions for a long time to come.  I was playing a soccer game in the adult soccer league that I have been a participant in for multiple seasons.  During a routine corner kick a unique and life changing accident occurred.  A player on the opposing team fell onto my knee and I immediately knew it wasn’t good.

POP!!! I immediately heard and felt it as I hit the ground.  I rolled over and my teammates knew something was wrong.  I tried to get up and hobble off but I could not put any weight on it at all.  I needed to put my arms around two people just to get me to the bench on the sidelines.  I went to the hospital and x-rays could only show there was no break.

After multiple other doctor visits, an MRI and what seemed like forever, it was only 8 days,  I was told the bad news.  I had dislocated my patella.  I was happy that it wasn’t the ACL, MCL, PCL, or a full knee dislocation but this still wasn’t good.  I was signed up for Ironman Louisville in less than a month and I knew I had no way of participating.  I could not have surgery until Halloween and have been rehabbing my injury ever since.

The journey since the injury has been an eye opening one.  I am now on the road to recovery and am able to swim and bike without any pain.  But my down time has taught me more about exercise, endurance sports and life than swimming, biking or running has.  I will continue to share those lessons throughout my healing process.

As I have begun to feel that I am getting back to my normal self I thought it was time to reinvigorate this site and I am glad to be back.

-Runner

Ride Recap: Chicago’s North Branch Trail

This weekend I went up to Chicago in order to drop Bride off for her Ireland trip (hopefully she will update everyone on her journeys).  While up there I figured I might as well not waste a trip so I should get in a good bike ride while up there.  I studied what bike paths were available and asked some friends for their suggestions.  The North Branch Trail seemed to be the best one for the distance that I wanted to ride, as well as for being close to where I was staying near O’Hare international airport.

Bike and Trail MapThe day was pretty cold for May (temp at the start was 46 degrees) but since when did Chicago actually listen to the seasons when it came to its weather.  I decided to wear my long sleeve jersey but I wore it over my tri-suit rather than wearing pants.  I figured once I got going I would warm up.

Over the first few miles I realized there was a steady wind coming from the north that I would have to compete with for the first half of the ride before turning back south at the end.  The wind, plus the cool temperatures made the ride a lot more uncomfortable than it would have been otherwise.  With that being said, after I got going and warmed up I welcomed the challenge of the wind.

The trail was in great shape.  It was paved the whole way and even had an extra horse trail that paralleled the path, including have a few crossovers during the northern half of the trail.   Throughout most of the ride you are riding on a path covered by tree canopy connecting multiple parks following the North Branch of the Chicago River.  Below is a video of a small section of the path to show what great shape the path is in:

The only negative part of the path that I found was the lack of water fountains available to the riders and runners.  I did see there were some bathroom facilities available in some of the parks next to the trail and I assume there were some water fountains available near those bathrooms but there were no signs indicating their presence.  For cyclists this is not too big of a problem, but for runners this could really prove to effect your performance.

After riding approximately 13 miles north you get to ride around the Skokie Lagoons in an adjoining 4.2 mile trail before heading back south 13 miles back to Caldwell woods. (The video of my ride around the lagoons is directly below.)  I would love to do this ride again later in the summer as a 50 or 60 mile ride since it would be easy to complete two laps while being able to stop at the car to refill at the half way point if it is necessary.

Lastly, the quality of this trail has made me want to ride on many of the other trails around Chicago.  Although many are not long enough to be attractive for many of my rides, there are a few others that I would love to try eventually.

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Gear Review: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium

Trekz PackagingDisclaimer: I received the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Whenever you do anything for a long time without stopping your body will begin to ache. That is no different than when you are running with headphones your ears will begin to hurt, or the headphones may begin to rub your skin raw.  The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones are the exception to this rule.

During the time I have had the Trekz Titanium headphones I have put in multiple runs and bike rides of well over an hour and never have the headphones ever become uncomfortable.  At the end of each run and ride the headphones were the last thing on my mind.  Never did they cause any irritation or any discomfort which would cause me to pay attention to them before paying attention to my run or ride.

Beyond the comfort, these headphones are very practical.  The headphones were initially very easily to hook up to my phone through bluetooth connection.  After they were initially set up  they would quickly connect to my phone when I would turn them on.

Out on a RunWhile you were wearing them it was easy to control the primary functions of your phone including answer calls, and using voice controls.  I was very impressed with how much you could do with a minimal interface.  There are only a few buttons available, but from these few buttons there are many options for a user.

Lastly, it cannot be underestimated how nice the listening experience is.  Although when you first turn them on you feel the vibration from the headphones, which is a little odd, once they are on the experience is simply amazing.  You could clearly hear the music, radio or commands from the phone.  Most importantly, I was shocked at how well I could still hear what was going on around me.

I usually do not wear headphones when I run because I like to be aware of my surroundings, and am constantly looking around and seeing what is occurring around me.  With these headphones I am able to not only listen to what I choose, but to still be aware of what is going on around me.  I believe these headphones are in a class of themselves.  They are one of a kind, provide a unique experience, and will prove to be a leader in what I hope to be the future of athletic headphones.

-Runner

Gear Review: 2xu Vectr Sock and Calf Sleeve

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 2xu Vectr Socks and 2xu Calf Sleeve to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

When I started to run I never would pay attention to what socks I was wearing, or what impact they had on my day.  I quickly realized if you take as many steps as are necessary to complete any long run a small issue with a sock can cause havoc during and after the run.  A small rub on your foot causes a blister that stays for days effecting your ability to run or even walk around during a regular day.

Sock on.jpgThe 2xu Vectr socks are some of the best socks I have ever had an opportunity to wear.  I have had great runs ruined by socks but I am confident these socks would allow any run to not be ruined by a sock.  These socks do not add what a new pair of shoes does to your run, and in fact these socks only do their job because you do not notice them having any effect on your run.  To test the socks I wore them throughout a whole day where I am able to concentrate on how the socks feel more easily than I can during a run.  The socks did not disappoint. Throughout the day, no matter what I did, the socks performed well and did not rub uncomfortably against my feet.  To also test these socks I wore them with multiple pairs of shoes, running shoes, basketball shoes, and regular lounge shoes and the socks performed perfectly with all of them.  There is nothing I would change about these socks and from here forward I will wear these socks during my long runs and races.

Calf Sleeve (From Dicks)

Taken from Dicks.com

The second product I had the ability to test was the 2xu Calf Sleeves.  I must first admit
that I do not normally wear calf sleeves.  So needless to say I knew I as tried these they would take some getting use to.  During the first couple of runs with them I was inside and running on an indoor track for some speed work.  During these workouts I felt the calf sleeves might have made my calves sweat more than normal, but at the same time they felt fresh throughout the workout.  After these initial workouts I was able to wear them during some outdoor runs and here is where I was really able to feel a difference.  Not only did they provide some warmth to my lower legs, but they allowed my legs to feel more responsive throughout the run.

Products in Box.jpgOne opportunity I had with these products was the ability to test them together.  When they are worn together the products cover the whole bottom half of my leg.  Just like when the sock is worn by itself, these products work best when you do not realize anything about them during your workout.  During most of my training session with the products, I was wearing both of them at the same time.  NEVER did I have any issues with either product rubbing, or chafing.  I did make sure they did not overlap too much around my ankle in order to better allow no chafing to occur.  I believe the only way to improve on a great product is to partner it with another great product.  That is what happens when you wear the 2xu Vectr Sock and Calf Sleeve.

Products on their BoxI have never been the biggest proponent of compression but after testing out these products, as well as previously testing the 2xu Hyoptic Tights, I am coming around to believe good compression gear can make a difference in your training.  After wearing both of these 2xu products I felt I was able to more quickly recover, or I felt better after the exercise was over.  I still will not suggest everyone wear compression gear, and I will not wear it everyday, but I do believe there is a benefit of it and no company creates compression gear better than 2xu.

Both the Vectr socks and the 2xu Calf Sleeves are products at the top of their market. There are no products that can compete with the quality of 2xu. They are made with comfort and practicality in mind.  I would recommend everyone go out and purchase both the 2xu Vectr socks and Calf Sleeves to add to their regular running closet.

You can get 15% off any 2XU product with the code “TRAIN15”

-Runner

Training Thursday: Feb 22-Feb 28

Feb 22:
-Swim Session: 500 yd Easy Swim (9:09; 1:50 min/100yd)
-Strength Session: Shoulders & Core (1 hour 15 minutes)

Feb 23:
-Run Session: 5 Mile Fartlek (39:08; 7:50 min/mile)

Feb 24:
-Strength Training: Legs (40 minutes)
-Indoor Soccer (40 minutes)

Feb 25:
-Swim Session: 2,000 Long Session (600×3 yd reps-each rep faster than previous; 37:49; 1:53 min/100yd)

Feb 26:
OFF DAY!

Feb 27: 
-Cycling Session: Cycle 120 (1:49:45; 32 miles; 17.5 mph)
-Run Session: 6 mile run with Franky (6.04 mi; 1:18:11; 12:57 min/mi)
-Soccer Practice: 90 Minutes

Feb 28:
OFF DAY! (Became an Uncle)

Sorry I was a little late this weekend.  It took me a couple of days to catch up from my weekend.

Overall this week was a pretty easy week.  I had a hard Saturday but my Sunday was an off day because I had to head up to St. Louis because my brother had a little baby girl.  Ms. Norah Ren was born at 1:45 on Sunday.  It was a great reason to miss a workout.  Sadly that workout was going to be an indoor triathlon put on by my triathlon club.  The triathlon was a success but I am sad I had to miss the event.

This week (which is almost over) will focus on just relaxing and doing what I want.  This week and next will focus on the same thing before I start my triathlon training officially. I decided to push the start day back two weeks since this weekend I will be out of town and next week is Spring Break.  I did not want to start behind on my training plan, so I will officially start it after Spring Break.

-Runner

Training Tuesday: Feb 15-21

Feb 15:
-Strength Training (AM): Shoulders (50 minutes)
-BRIC Cycling Session: 20 mile spin (40:03; 30.0 mph)
-BRIC Run Session: 10K Run (48:18; 7:47 min/mi)

Feb 16:
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 43:08; 1:55 min/100 yd.)
-Cycling Session: 30 Mile Spin (1:01:59; 29.0 mph)

Feb 17:
-Run Session: 2 Mile Warm-Up for Indoor Soccer (15:38; 7:49 min/mi)
-Indoor Soccer: 40 minutes
-Strength Session: Legs (45 minutes)

Feb 18:
-Run Session: 5K Lunch Run (3.2 Miles, 26:06, 8:100 min/mi)
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 44:19; 1:59 min/100 yd.)
-Cycling Session: 15 Mile Spin (29:18; 30.7 mph)

Feb 19:
-Run Session: 4 Mile Lunch Run (4.21 mi; 35:07; 8:21 min/mi)
-Cycling Session: 20 Mile Spin (39:38; 30.3 mph)

Feb 20: Bradley Indoor Triathlon
-Cycling Session: 24 Mile Outside Ride (24.21 mi; 1:34:28; 15.4 mph)

Feb 21:
-Run Session: 7 Mile Slow Run (7.27 mi;  1:02:51; 8:39 min/mi)

This week I completed the Indoor Ironman at SIU Rec Center.  This race consisted of completing the distance of a full Ironman Race inside an allotted time period.  The Rec Center allows you three weeks to complete the competition, but I wanted to challenge myself to get it done within one week.  Despite having a lot of school work to do this week I did complete the distances although I feel like I cheated a little by putting so many miles on the indoor bikes.  You will hear more about this week of training later this week.

This week marks 33 weeks until Ironman Louisville.  My training plan is a 32 week plan so I will officially begin the training plan next Monday (February 29)!  I will unveil my full plan next week in a post.  This plan will include competing in the NCAA Triathlon National Championships in April, and completing at least one half Ironman in August (with another possible one in May). Needless to say I am going to take this week easy and just workout when and how I want too, rather than sticking to a strict plan like I will have to for the foreseeable future.

-Runner