2015 Country Music Half Marathon

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Another half marathon, regardless of how slow I ran it (it is now my personal worst finish, but we will examine this in a later post), is in the books. Saturday marked my second consecutive year of surviving the hills of Nashville in the late April humidity. The weather could have been worse, the predicted storms could have come through, ravishing the course and participants, but luckily all we had to endure was humidity at the start, and actually was blessed with a reprieve from the sun beating us down along the course. The temperature remained relatively cool, especially for late April in the south.

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

There were over 30,000 participants for the day’s activities, and while at times, it certainly felt like you were around 30,000 other people, the event does a good job of managing the masses. There is plenty of parking at LP Field, especially if you arrive early, which is something I always try to do. Traffic is a beast, but that cannot be avoided in Nashville. The city is designed in such a way that traffic delays are unavoidable, especially during major events. If you have some knowledge of the side streets, you can circumvent some of the delays, which will certainly help your stress level. The event had 43 starting corrals to spread us out along the course, which certainly helped with the early congestion in the race. I was in corral 19 which meant I started about 35 minutes after the elite runners. The standing and waiting for your race to begin is not ideal, but it certainly beats trying to funnel 30,000+ people along city streets and through water stations. I cannot even imagine the chaos that would ensue without the wave start!

An area that the event could improve its crowd management is with the porta-potties, beer ID check, and post race refreshments. On my walk from the parking lot to my starting corral, I only saw four clusters of less than 20 porta-potties within each cluster. For 30,000+ people, this can create some issues. Especially when units begin to run out of toilet paper, which happened around 6:15 for the units closest to the parking lot. To get your ID checked for the post race beer, you had to stand in a long line at the expo. Maybe checking ID’s at the bib pickup location could help? I do not know for sure, but several people skipped the ID tent because they did not want to wait in line for their 21 and over bracelet. The finish line was a huge cluster. People were trying to stretch, refuel, and meet up with their families in a very finite space that was constantly adding new people to it. It felt like runners were being herded like cattle from receiving our medals to the various refueling options, around the corner to the beer tents. Honestly, the process would have probably worked better if the race could have used the facilities inside LP Field, not just around it.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Course: B: It was hilly, but we knew that going into the event. There were bands throughout the course and quite a bit of crowd support. Water stops were frequent and there was GU at mile 11, which is where the marathon and half marathon split up. The wave start helps to maintain the crowd considerably along the course, with only minor issues when the course goes through a residential neighborhood towards the middle. The course incorporates music row and downtown, which are areas everyone wants to see in Nashville.

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: A-: I like the medal, the shirt is good, but not great, and the post race refueling was plentiful. Rock ‘n Roll events are expensive, so it is nice to know that you got your money’s worth once you finish the event.

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race!

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race! This meal was consumed at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. It was excellent.

Overall: A: Managing an event for 30,000+ people is not easy. There are going to be complications to address. Lines will be long, the crowds will be dense. The expo was a great example of this. There were numerous vendors there, but getting to each one could be a chore. I loved the expo, and I scored a few much-needed running items on the cheap. I really do enjoy this race, even though it is a challenge for those of us flatlanders that get kicked in the teeth by the hills. I have run in this event before, and I will run in it again. And maybe next year, I will be closer to my 2014 results, and not this year’s disappointing finish.

And on a side note, if you like fried chicken and spicy flavorings, Nashville has you covered. I loved the hot chicken at Hattie B’s, and will also be making a return trip there in the future!

I am a Rock ‘n Blog Ambassador for 2015 and I ran this race as such. It in no way skewed or influenced my reflections of this event (you can check last year’s review for that confirmation). All views and opinions within this blog are my own. 

Samoas Are My Kryptonite

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Yep, this sums up me vs Samoas

Yep, this sums up me vs Samoas

This time of year is brutal for those of us that battle our weight.  The full brunt of the winter blues is upon you and the little army of sugar pushers are in full force.  You go to Kroger for fruit and they are there.  You go to the Home Depot to grab something for your house, they are there.  You go out to dinner, and boom, they are there.  You come to work, and their generals, or mothers, depending on how you are looking at it, are there, pushing the wares.  You cannot escape their reign of terror, it feels like the Stormtroopers in WWII if you are a fat guy trying to eat right.

How can you resist?

How can you resist?

Of course, I am talking the Girl Scouts of America and their biggest money-maker, Girl Scout Cookies!  I am not trying to disparage the Girl Scouts or their cookies, rather just pointing out how pervasive they are in a community with their cookies, and at $3.50 a box, it is nearly impossible to say no!   Especially when Samoas are involved.  Seriously, they are my Kryptonite.  I cannot resist them, and they wreak havoc on my health.  I open a box, and before I know it, they are gone.  Every last one of them.  I even turn up the container trying to savor every last crumb!  It really is a problem.  I think I need to go to a support group for this addiction.

This is Kryptonite

This is Kryptonite

Of course there are other varieties that are tempting, but for me, Samoas are my biggest weakness.  In fact, this season I have ONLY had two boxes of Samoas, and I feel that it is a victory for my waistline!

Not the healthiest thing I had this week, but they taste so good

Not the healthiest thing I had this week, but they taste so good

If you want to delve further into the facts about Girl Scout cookies, there is a great infographic here.  One thing that stood out to me is that last year there were $714 million worth of cookies sold!

This post has both made me hungry and want to go for a run!  I guess I will be busy after work…

*Again, this post is not trashing the Girl Scouts or any of its members, rather just illustrate how weak I can be in my weight loss journey.

WDW Marathon: Everything But the Race

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I feel that I covered the WDW Marathon and my experience rather thoroughly, so this post is going to be about everything else that I did while I was at my runcation.  Susan and I traveled to Disney World on the Thursday prior to the marathon and left on Monday.  During that time, we squeezed in four days in the parks and several excellent meals.  And since we went down to Disney for the marathon, our approach to visiting the parks was altered slightly from what we have previously done.  Instead of going 100 miles an hour from the second the parks opened until the second the parks closed, we scaled back our time in the parks, but still logged several daily miles.  I also brought my GoPro camera along on some of the rides.

The Resort:  Usually, Susan and I stay at Coronado Springs when we visit Disney, but we could not book a room there for marathon weekend.  Instead, we stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, which is the largest resort at Walt Disney World, and falls into the moderate resort category.  Caribbean Beach was very disappointing and honestly was overpriced for what you get.  The interior of the room felt and looked cheap.  There were pools, and beaches, and dining at the resort, as it is at all of the moderate resorts, but the rooms were lacking.  There are no rooms with king sized beds in the entire resort!  Our room had a cheap, white ceiling fan, a Finding Nemo wallpaper runner around the top of the room, and uncomfortable, bland bedding.  For the same price, Coronado Springs has ornate doors and decorations, much better bedding, and closer proximity to the amenities that make the resort a moderate resort.  We will never stay at Caribbean Beach again.

Nemo wallpaper from our room

Nemo wallpaper from our room

Thursday: Between flying into town, checking into the resort, the expo, and an intense rain storm, most of our day was consumed outside of the parks.  We did manage to go to Epcot late in the afternoon to ride some rides and dinner.  Test Track is by far the best ride at Epcot (sorry Soarin’ fans), even if it is just a Chevrolet commercial. and enjoyed dinner at the Coral Reef, which is an underwater themed restaurant with a large aquarium.  You pay more for the atmosphere than the food, but every time that I have gone there, I have found something worthwhile to eat.  On this evening I tried the grilled Mahi Mahi with laughing bird shrimp, hearts of palm, jasmine rice, cilantro, and a coconut-lime sauce.  Susan had the crab cakes and both were good.  After dinner we grabbed a cronut for a snack, which is the greatest thing ever!  It is a croissant prepared like a doughnut (not runner friendly), covered in cinnamon and sugar.  This was the first time we had one and it was not disappointing.  After our dessert, we watched the fireworks show Illuminations, which is a phenomenal show and it is the personal favorite of both Susan and myself.

The Cronut!

The Cronut!

Friday:  We did some park hopping, trying our best to maximize the value for our tickets.  Our day started at Hollywood Studios, where we rode the Tower of Terror multiple times and took in several shows since we were trying to limit the miles we walked.  We also were able to work in a ride on Aerosmith’s Rock ‘N Roller Coaster thinks to Fast Pass+ on our Magic Bands.  Dinner was at the Brown Derby where we enjoyed their “world-famous” Cobb Salad and grapefruit cake.  After dinner we headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check out the new Fantasyland, including Beast’s Castle and the new Little Mermaid ride since that is Susan and my sister-in-law’s favorite Disney movie.  We also watched Wishes, which is their nightly fireworks show.

I used my GoPro on several rides throughout the day, but honestly, they were not that impressive.  Tower of Terror and Space Mountain were too dark to be worthwhile, whereas the Little Mermaid ride is a little slow to post.  I honestly shot that one specifically for my sister-in-law.  I did not use my GoPro on the Rock ‘N Roller Coaster because I was afraid it would fall off (same as Test Track) and it was dark in there as well, so the video would not have been great.

Saturday: We started our day at Animal Kingdom, which is the best park to start at since everyone wants to go to the bigger parks first, so you can do everything you want in a relativity quick manner.  We rode Expedition Everest three times, Dinosaur, and the Kilimanjaro Safari within the first hour an a half of going to the park.  I got an awesome video from the front seat of Expedition Everest since there was not that many people to contend with for seating.  My video for Dinosaur was not great, so I will not be posting it.  So enjoy my video of Expedition Everest!

After leaving the park, we returned to our hotel to relax with Susan’s cousins at the pool.  I did make a return trip to the expo for some fuel and a last second walk around.  Dinner that evening was at Il Mulino and it was easily one of the best Italian restaurants in which I have ever eaten.  I took it easy, but all of our friends and family really enjoyed the food and wine.  The rice balls and gnocchi were both phenomenal and the Caesar salad was hands down the best I ever had.  The portions were huge and I am really glad that Susan and I decided to split the gnocchi.  And honestly, the place was the most reasonably priced meal of the entire weekend, especially when you consider the quality and amount of food you get.  I can not wait to return there when I can fully enjoy the menu and atmosphere.

Sunday:  After the race, we went to Germany in Epcot to refuel and enjoy some liquid refreshment.  My grandmother is from Germany and my mom spent many years over there, so I love German food.  Not to mention the gigantic beers that they serve there.  After lunch, I had to have another cronut, this time a la mode, and then we went back to our hotel to shower and crash for a couple of hours.  That was the best sleep of the entire week!

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

After our nap, we returned to Epcot for dinner at Le Cellier, which is the steakhouse in Canada.  My first impression of the restaurant was that every employee was incredibly attractive.  It was quite noticeable and unexpected.  Apparently there is something in the water up north.  Now onto the food.  Susan and I split the cheddar cheese soup and Caesar salad for appetizers.  You are also given a trio of breads, all of which were good.  Dipping the pretzel bread into the cheese soups was great. Then we both ordered the filet with wild mushroom risotto and the steaks were on par with any steakhouse that I have had the privilege to previously visit.  It was the most expensive meal of the trip, but it was worth it.

This is Disney Parks photo of the filet at Le Cellier. Ours looked really close to this actually.

This is Disney Parks photo of the filet at Le Cellier. Ours looked really close to this actually.

We enjoyed our trip to Disney, and even though we did not do as much as a typical trip there, we did hit all of our favorite rides and enjoyed some great meals.  I really did a poor job of taking photos of my food while in Disney, so I do apologize for that.

Chattanooga Trip

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Last week I posted about my experience at the 4 Bridges Half Marathon, and I barely touched on anything about the weekend besides the race.  This post is going to be about the sights  and experiences that Susan, her sister, and I had over the weekend.  There might be a little overlap with my previous post, but the majority of the info will be new,  I will not rehash the race or our bed and breakfast, The Mayor’s Mansion, which was awesome.  I will, however, talk quite a bit about food, especially food that is not ideal for weight loss.

The view from the park

The view from the park

The Places We Ate

Anyone that knows me knows that when it comes to going out to eat, I prefer to go to a local place.  It is great to support your local community, try some unique recipes, and bathe in the culture.  This is doubly true when I travel away from Memphis.  I can have the same mediocre steak at an Applebee’s anywhere!  I usually refer to Yelp!, Urbanspoon, the Man vs. Food website, or Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives website to see what is out there.  This trip, however, I did not have to rely very heavily on electronic reviews since my sister-in-law lives in Chattanooga and served as our culinary tour guide.

The first place that we ate at was Good Dog, which is a hot dog restaurant by the park in which the race expo and packet pickup was at.  I know not everyone likes hot dogs, but I do, and this place was beyond amazing.  There were numerous varieties to choose from and a plethora of toppings as well.  The fries were home cut in-house and come served in a cone that sits in a hole drilled into the tables.  There are four types of house ketchup available on the table and a house rub as well.  I went with the BLT dog, which was exactly what it sounds like.  The homemade mayo, called fritesaus was great, and I cannot wait to try some more of the menu items here in the future.

Our food was a little bit better than this

Our food was a little bit better than this

The second place we visited was the Big River Grille & Brewing Works.  This is not 100% local because there is a restaurant open in Nashville, and Lake Buena Vista, FL, but we don’t have one in Memphis, so it counts.  The wait here was insane, so we opted to sit on the patio.  This was a big mistake.  The temperature was steadily dropping and by the time we finished our meal, all of our teeth were chattering.  It was this experience that prompted the trip to Wal-Mart for my cold weather gear.  I did not order a beer since it was cold and we were trying to rush our order, but I really wish I did.  Susan had a grilled chicken sandwich with avocado and bacon, my sister-in-law had a cobb salad, and I tried the Mac ‘N Chicken.  My meal was rich, but very good, and portion was huge.  I only ate about half of it, which I appreciated the following morning during the half marathon!

After the race on Sunday, we went to Taco Mamacita.  This is another local place that is expanding to new markets, namely Nashville and Sullivan’s Island, SC.  The place is billed as “Fresh-Mex” due to the high quality of the ingredients.  We all three opted for the two taco and side deal.  We ordered the California Club (chicken, avocado, bacon), Taco Royale (double stacked taco with chicken and chorizo), and Oy Vey (brisket) tacos, and the Mexican street corn, charro beans, and green chilli rice as our sides.  The California Club and street corn were the far and away winners, but I would have no reservations about ordering anything that we had again.  I also enjoyed a Sweetwater 420 while the ladies had homemade sangria.  There was also something on the menu called a Durty Sanchez, which was a PBR and shot of tequila.  The man beside us order this against the wishes of his wife and young daughter.  She almost had him convinced that it was too early to drink when are drinks from the bar came out.  Whoops!

Durty Sanchez

Durty Sanchez

For an afternoon snack, I suggested that we try an ice cream place called Clumpy’s.  My sister-in-law had never been there, but it was next to Good Dog and seemed promising.  The was a considerable line when we got there and it only kept growing as we waited.  There was only one poor soul working, and he was earning every tip that he got.  The ice cream and waffle cones are homemade on site, so this is what I had.  I used opt out of a cone, but the ones coming off of the waffle iron smelled too good to pass up.  The ice cream selection seems to change daily and my chocolate peanut butter and pistachio ice cream waffle cone combo hit the spot.

This the whiskey available at Urban Stack

This the whiskey available at Urban Stack

Dinner was a Urban Stack Burger Lounge, which is actually owned and operated by the same people who own Taco Mamcita.  This was a burger joint with a vast selection of whiskey and beer.  They use local ingredients and have several specialty burgers, which is exactly why I eat at local places, variety and fresh ingredients.  I opted for the Good Day, Sunshine, while Susan and her sister went for a more traditional burger.  My burger was topped with a fried egg, bacon, a white vinegar mayo, and cheddar.  It was big, tasty, and excellent, even if it was not the best burger of my life (that honor is still bestowed upon the Pharmacy in Nashville).  The fries were house cut and there was a homemade chilli ketchup as well.  Also, all of our burgers came with a side of house-made Fire and Ice pickles.  I ate all three orders of the pickles and had no regrets.

Greatest sign ever! No Crocs!

Greatest sign ever! No Crocs!

Our breakfast at the Mayor’s Mansion was also delicious, even though I missed my all time favorite, French toast, on Sunday morning since I was running.  We also stopped at Publix on our way home because Susan loves the subs from there and she cannot get them here since Kroger has a grocery store monopoly in Memphis.  This is the second trip in a row where Publix subs have made an appearance and will be a sign of things to come on future trips to Publix friendly towns.

The Places We Visited

Susan & her new friend

Susan & her new friend

The biggest attraction in Chattanooga besides the mountains is probably the Tennessee Aquarium, which I had actually never been to.  The place is separated into two buildings, with one being the ocean side and one being the river side.  All three of us agreed that the ocean side was better mainly because of the penguins and despite the butterfly massacre.  The penguins were all over the place and very energetic.  They interacted with the spectators as much as the could behind all of that glass.  It makes me feel sad for the penguins here at the Memphis Zoo.  Side note, Susan and I are Memphis Zoo members which carries discounts at almost every zoo, museum, or aquarium in the US, especially the southeast, yet this aquarium was not one of them.  The butterfly massacre is in reference the nets in the butterfly room.  There were hundreds, maybe thousands of dead butterflies caught in the nets surrounding the ceiling.  It was kind of off-putting.  There was a gigantic tank that was four stories tall and all manners of ocean life in it.  There was also a couple of touch tanks where you could touch a shark or ray.  The river side would have been better the otter exhibit would have been open.  That is the major draw for that side of the aquarium, and without it, the place seemed kind of dark and empty.  Also, when we walked into the building, somewhat commented that I looked like Walter White.  I’m 31 and I was compared to a 51-year-old meth dealer with cancer, so that wasn’t great.

Entrance to the park

Entrance to the park

After our ice cream snack, we went to Point Park Battlefield, up on Lookout Mountain.  It is a national park that thankfully had reopened after the government shutdown.  It was a Civil War battle site and has a great view of the city.  There is a small museum, a couple of cannons, and several places to take in the view.  This was the only place we went on the mountain since it was so late in the afternoon.  We didn’t have a chance to go to Ruby Falls or the haunted cavern that was up there.  Apparently the haunted cavern is a top ten haunted house and I was the only one that wanted to go to it.

If you need this sign, you are in trouble

If you need this sign, you are in trouble

Perky Jerky Review

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About two weeks ago I was afforded the opportunity to try a beef jerky snack that I had never even heard of prior, Perky Jerky.  Now, being a guy of generous proportions, I have enjoyed some beef jerky in my day.  My friend Derick and I even bought some from a stand on the side of the road in rural Tennessee once upon a time.  But, in my efforts to try to eat a little healthier and take better care of myself, I have abstained from all dried and packaged meat snacks.  That period of abstinence is now over.

Perky Jerky packaging

Perky Jerky packaging

Rather than paraphrase the background of Perky Jerky, I was just use their own words so you can get an idea why this is a different sort of company.  Their story is as follows:

Our story – like most good stories – begins with two Jerks in a ski lodge.  After a long, hard night of energy-drink-cocktail-fueled libation, these jerks settled in while the winter storm raged outside.  The next morning they awoke, loaded up their gear, and headed out to the mountain.  Amongst this gear was an open bag of peppered beef jerky, which had, unfortunately became drenched in some of he energy drink that had been carelessly spilled the night before.  On the first lift up, it made no difference.  To these jerks, jerky was the only breakfast they needed, altered or not.  Much to their delight, the jerky had retained its original flavor, but was more tender by the accident.  What’s more, as they floated their way down the mountain through bottomless powder, they realized they’d been given an extra boost – the jerky had taken on some of the pep of the energy drink.  On the next lift ride up, the greatest innovation in jerky since cracked pepper was born.  Since then, these Jerks developed a very sophisticated process for making Perky Jerky.  The result?  Just the best tasting, most tender jerky around.  The bonus?  Perky Jerky is now the ultimate snack to get you up the mountain, down the slope, or off on whatever adventure you decide.

After reading that, I was even more excited to give Perky Jerky a try.  These two guys would have fit in with my fraternity quite well, I am sure.

Perky Jerky nutrition

Perky Jerky nutrition

Perky Jerky is an all natural, gluten-free snack, with no nitrates, preservatives, or added MSG.  The marinade for Perky Jerky consists of seven natural ingredients, with Guarana helping with the tenderness, providing a little flavor, and adding that boost to Perky Jerky that you would expect from an energy drink.  The result is a snack high in protein, low in carbohydrates and fat, and all while coming in under 100 calories per serving!

Turkey Perky Jerky nutrition

Turkey Perky Jerky nutrition

Perky Jerky sent me two samples to try, their regular beef jerky, and their turkey variety.  I could not wait to try both, and let’s just say that the samples were not long for this world!  In two days time I devoured both samples throughout the course of the day.  Day one I tried the beef jerky and day two I tried the turkey jerky.  Honestly, I could barely tell a difference in taste between the two which is a great testament to the flavor of the marinade.  Both had tons of flavor, and were noticeably more tender than traditional beef jerky.  Honestly, I did not notice a significant boost in energy, but I usually do not from these sort of things.  I will say unequivocally, I will be purchasing Perky Jerky in the future.

Perky Jerky has a total of eight flavors available, and I will sample them all to determine my favorite, I am sure.  The flavors are Original, Hot & Bothered, Teriyaki, and Sweet & Spicy.  The reason they advertise eight flavors is because these four flavors are available in both the beef and turkey varieties of Perky Jerky.

And if the taste, tenderness, and energy boost Perky Jerky provides did not convince you, consider the next positive for Perky Jerky.  A portion of their proceeds from the sale of Perky Jerky is used to help support the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  The owners have a personal connection to this disease and an intense desire to do whatever they can to fight it.

I also have two side notes on Perky Jerky.  One, it amuses me that Home Depot and Best Buy are two of the select retailers for Perky Jerky.  Two, I love following their Facebook page.  They have several giveaways on there and they definitely seem to have fun with what they are doing.

PB Lean Review

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A couple of weeks ago I posted my review of My Oatmeal (revisit here) and at that time, I mentioned that I also received a bag of their peanut butter powder called PB Lean.  PB Lean is a gluten-free, dehydrated peanut butter that is a much healthier alternative to traditional peanut butter.  I have used PB2 in the past, and PB Lean is the same thing, just from a different company.

Nutritional information

Nutritional information

The numbers for PB Lean are quite staggering when you compare them to traditional peanut butter.  PB Lean contains 45 calories, 1.5g fat,  and 5g protein per a two tablespoons serving.  Now compare that to Jif, the most popular peanut butter in America, with its 180 calories, 16g for fat, and 7g of protein per two tablespoons serving!  That is a significant difference in the two products, and becomes quite noticeable when you eat peanut butter a few times a week, like I do during training months.  I like to have some peanut butter on wheat toast or with a banana before my runs over seven miles, so a healthier option is a major plus.

Inside the bag of PB Lean

Inside the bag of PB Lean

So, we have determined that PB Lean is obviously healthier than traditional peanut butter, but how does it taste?  PB Lean could be the healthiest substance on earth, but if it tastes like the actual earth, no one is going to eat it.  MY honest taste assessment is that the taste is acceptable.  The absence of the fat, oils, preservatives, and so on is noticeable the first time you try PB Lean.  It is not going to cause the average person to spit out their first bite nor should it, but there is a difference in taste.  There is also a slight difference in texture since it can be difficult to mimic what machines do in factories with a spoon and water.

Toast with PB Lean

Toast with PB Lean

To make a serving of PB Lean, regardless of size, I used a 2:1 ratio of powder to water.  This ratio holds up if you are prepping two tablespoons or two cups of peanut butter.  The PB Lean bag did not give me these instructions, but I borrowed them from a leftover jar of PB2 that I had.  You just add the water and stir.  The longer you stir, and the more water you add, the creamier the peanut butter becomes.  I have found that for a normal serving, adding one tablespoon plus one teaspoon of water to the two tablespoons of PB Lean makes a consistency that I really like.  The piece of toast above was prepared using this ratio.  But, obviously, if you overdo the water, you are going to have a peanut butter soup rather than your desired substance.  You have been warned.

Mud Cookies w/ PB Lean

Mud Cookies w/ PB Lean

Since I had so much PB Lean, I decided to try it in a few ways in addition to eating it in a traditional manner.  One way was simply adding a tablespoon or two to my oatmeal in the morning.  It was a very easy way to add a new flavor to my breakfast that did not cost me too much in the way of fat or calories.  There is a machine called Yonanas that makes ice cream from frozen bananas!  I got it as a wedding present and despite not using as often as I would like, it is a valuable kitchen tool for a struggling fat man.  You put one or two frozen bananas into the machine, add any other frozen fruit, chocolate chips, or the such to it for different flavors.  I used PB Lean and added a little peanut butter flavor to my banana ice cream.  A third, and tastiest, was adding it to one of my all time favorite deserts, mud cookies.  Mud cookies are a major weakness for me, so anyway to make them healthier is a major bonus.  So, with that in mind, I am going to include the first ever recipe in Running Large history!

Mud Cookies

3 Cups Uncooked Oats

1/2 Cup Skim Milk

1/2 Cup PB Lean

1 Stick of Butter

2 Cups of Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla

3 Tablespoons Cocoa

1. Mix sugar and cocoa in a pot until there are no clumps.

2. Add in butter and milk, and bring to a raging boil for 2 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in the PB Lean and vanilla.  Mix well.

4. Stir in oats.

5. Quick drop spoonfuls onto wax paper.

6. Let cool and enjoy!

This recipe does not work well on very humid days and do not overcook the ingredients in the pot.  Also, it works better to mix the PB Lean before adding it to the recipe.  That way you have a true 1/2 a cup and not an abundance or shortage of peanut butter.

I wanted to substitute a healthy alternative for the butter and sugar, but Susan did not want me to experiment too much with the recipe.  We had already been using skim milk, and then I added the PB Lean.  Next will be a healthy butter alternative and then a healthy sugar substitute.  Honestly, the flavor of the cookies was great, and if you did not know that I had used PB Lean, you would never have known the difference in taste.  The downside is that the cookies do not firm up quite as well with PB Lean.  There is a slight stickiness to them, but they still stay together and are very edible.  I am going to do some experimenting with the formula and cook times to see if I can solve the consistency problem.

For peanut butter lovers that are trying to watch their weight, PB Lean can be a very valuable dietary asset.  You can enjoy peanut butter without wreaking you entire diet.  Plus, since it takes a little bit of work to prepare the peanut butter, you are more inclined to watch your portions and you will burn a couple of calories while mixing it up.  I have tried PB Lean and PB2, and honestly, there really is not a difference between the two.  I will say that being able to buy PB Lean in a one and a half pound bag is plus in my book.  The cost for a bag of PB Lean was $13.99, and the cost of a six and a half ounce jar of PB2 is $5.99 on amazon.  You do not have to be a math major to see the cost benefits of PB Lean!  And actually, that price point is even competitive against the generic brands of traditional peanut butter in the grocery store!  So not only are you saving you waistline, you are saving you pocketbook as well!

My Oatmeal did provide me with a free sample to try and review, but this fact did not influence or alter my opinion of the product.  All views in this post are my honest assessment of the product and I am not being financially compensated for these views.

My Oatmeal Review

Standard

A few weeks ago I was presented with the opportunity to review some products from My Oatmeal, a new company that specializes in customized oatmeal, as well as powdered peanut butter (that review will come at a later date).  Being that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that I am always willing to try something new, I decided to give My Oatmeal a shot.  I was given a discount code that provided me a bag of PB Lean as well as a bag of my custom blend of oatmeal.  I also decided to purchase a second bag of oatmeal from their mystery bag selection to maximize the amount of healthy oatmeal at my disposal.

All 3 My Oatmeal products

All 3 My Oatmeal products

The process of building you oatmeal is very straightforward and hassle free.  First, you chose how much oatmeal that you want.  You have the options of 1, 2.25, or 4 pound bags, depending on your needs.  Since I was creating my own bag and the really, this is all the discount code covered, I found it prudent to order a one pound bag of oatmeal.  Next, you chose the type of oats that you want to use.  There are five varieties to choose from, but I went with the five grain rolled oats and flax.  Then, you chose a flavor to add.  There are forty-eight different flavors to experiment with, so you should probably never get bored with a particular flavor.  I chose dark caramel, but I was very tempted to roll the dice and give key lime pie a shot! Maybe next time.  Next, you add dried fruit to your mix if you so desire.  There are seventeen fruits to choose from and you can request light, regular, or heavy amounts of any fruit you chose.  I went with the dark raisins in a regular distribution.  The next step is to add sweetener to your mix, and this is a suggested step for any mix in which a flavor was added.  I chose to add brown cane sugar to the mix.  After that, you may add nuts and seeds to your mix.  There are ten varieties here, including the PB Lean.  I went with one of my personal favorites by adding sliced almonds to the mix.  Finally, you name your mix.  I went with a boring title of Caramel Delight.  When I order again, I vow to be more creative!

Caramel Delight

Caramel Delight

Pricing works by the quantity of oatmeal you order and by what you add too it.  The more fruit, flavors, nuts, and such you add, the higher the price of the oatmeal.  The oatmeal that I created would cost you about $9.  There are also price decreases when you order multiple bags of oatmeal, so once you discover what you like, you can buy in bulk and save.

Caramel Delight

Caramel Delight

You can also buy some premixed oatmeal recipes on the site, and honestly, I almost bought a couple of these flavors.  They have Todd’s Forrest Blend, Dirty Banana Oatmeal, AppleDoodle Oatmeal, and Wood Smash Peaches and Cream.  After reading the description for each, I was certain that they were good, but I decided that I wanted to create my own for my first time out of the gate.

There also is a mystery blend option that you can choose.  This is a crapshoot bag of oatmeal.  Basically, when the company creates flavors for customers, there are leftovers that would go to waste unless My Oatmeal figured out a way to utilize the excess.  So My Oatmeal takes these leftover oats and mix them in one pound bags and sell them on the cheap on their site.  You and the company have no clue what exactly you are getting.  You may get one flavor, you may get five flavors!  All that can be guaranteed is that you will get some combination of oats, dried fruits, flavors, sweeteners, and nuts.  After reading this, I decided to give it a shot and ordered a bag out of my own hard-earned cash.

One serving

One serving

First, let’s review my custom blend, Caramel Delight.  The first time that I opened the bag, I immediately could smell caramel, which was a great thing.  I also noticed raisins and almonds mixed throughout, another great thing.  I could not wait to give this blend a try, so that is what I was determined to have for breakfast the following morning.  Of course, I did not read the preparation directions so the next morning, after completing my four mile run, I was a little pressed for time when I grabbed the bag of oatmeal.  As I began to rad the instructions, I realized that this was going to be a little more involved of a process than your usual bowl of oatmeal.  And this is something that I should have known being that this is 100% natural ingredients, but I just did not consider that.  Despite the time constraints, I stubbornly forged ahead with my oatmeal breakfast.  After microwaving, stirring, covering, microwaving, stirring, covering, microwaving, stirring, and such, I finally had my first taste of Caramel Delight.  It was good, just with very little caramel flavor.  I tried a few more bites, and the same result.  I am sure that my nose was tricking me because I smelled the caramel, and I honestly was expecting to be overpowered by the flavor, but I was not.  But I did enjoy the bowl and the plethora of raisins and almonds.  After a couple of days of eating this oatmeal, I would definitely order the same recipe again, but it will be awhile until I get back to it since there are so many more recipes that I want to experiment with first.  I will say that the microwave instructions call for one cup of water and half a cup of oats.  I cut the water down to three-fourths of a cup after my first bowl, and I had much better results for my preferences.

No clue what is in here

No clue what is in here

Now, let’s tackle the mystery bag.  The first thing that I noticed was that the bag had no nutritional values and no cooking instructions since there was no real recipe of what was in the bag.  In fact, there is just a question mark on the back of the bag!  This made me chuckle.  I decided to prepare this oatmeal just like my bag of Caramel Delight, and the results were perfect.  For what is in the oatmeal, I am not entirely sure yet.  I know that whatever sweetener was used is sweeter than the brown cane sugar in Caramel Delight, there are raisins, mangoes, blueberries, pecans, seeds of some sort, and oats, but honestly, I have no clue had to determine what kind of oats.  Also, I cannot pinpoint any specific flavors as of yet.  But I will say that each bowl that I have had of the mystery blend has been great.  Honestly, it has been a pleasant surprise.  I will be buying another mystery bag in future when I get bored with creating my own custom mixes.

A look into the mystery bag

A look into the mystery bag

My first couple of pictures of the oatmeal did not come out in the most appetizing of manners.  I guess I should have hired one of those photographer that take pictures of fast food items for their menus.  They can make a $1 cheeseburger look gourmet and then when you get it, it looks like you drastically overpaid by paying $1.

My bottom line for My Oatmeal is that it is a cool and healthy concept.  You do not have to add all of the options to each blend, so it is very affordable as well.  I cannot comment how beneficial the product is for weight loss, but I would imagine that it is better than a per-packaged packet of oatmeal from the store.

I have been trying the PB Lean as well, and that review should be posted towards the end of this week and the beginning of next week after I can use it a few different ways, including in my oatmeal.

My Oatmeal did provide me with a free sample to try and review, but this fact did not influence or alter my opinion of the product.  All views in this post are my honest assessment of the product and I am not being financially compensated for these views.