$35/Week Shopping: Week 2

For my second week shopping, I took into account some things I learned the previous week. And still having a decent amount of rice – and I went for better bread while re-stocking beans, eggs. I also sprung for vegetables to mix in to meals: peppers, onions, canned tomatoes.

This week I traveled to Wegman’s, which (somewhat) recently opened in Chestnut Hill. They have a huge frozen section – which ironically, I avoided completely. That being said, I’m not sure I will go back to Wegman’s. The store’s strengths are meats and frozen which are two categories I’m not buying much.

The Haul: Week 2

The Haul: Week 2

The Haul
Vermont Bread Co. Soft Whole Wheat Bread – 1 loaf – $3.49
Wegman’s Butter – $1.99
Wegman’s Organic Large Eggs – 1 dozen – $3.99
Wegman’s Garbanzo Beans – 2 cans – $0.69/each
Wegman’s Organic Diced Tomatoes – 1 can – $1.39
Old El Paso Vegetarian Refried Beans – 2 cans – $1.49/each
Jif Creamy Peanut Butter – 40oz. jar – $6.49
Tyson Chicken Liver – 2 20oz. containers – $2.09/each
Peppers, Mixed – 1.67 lb. – $3.99/lb.
White Onion – 1 at 1.17lb. – $1.99/lb.

Total: $34.88 (99.6% of $35 spent)

Food, Inc.

A day or two after my shop, I watched Food, Inc., a documentary about how agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.”

I read Fast Food Nation about 10 years ago, so while Food, Inc. was not completely shocking - it was a staunch reminder of what really goes on in the food business. It definitely made me think a lot more about my choices and what it really means to “eat well”.

Here’s some of my initial thoughts on my purchases:

Chicken Livers

I bought these because I have found it hard to get sufficient iron as a runner on this type of diet. I am definitely happy with the concept, but after seeing Food, Inc. would like to move away from anything that has to do with Tyson. I am not going to describe some of the practices, but they are cruel to both human beings and to animals. If you have not seen the movie, give it a watch.

Peppers

Expensive. Nutritious – but not many calories. I hate to say it – a bit of a mistake for the price.

Vermont Bread Co. Whole Wheat Bread

I wanted to improve the quality of my bread – and found at Wegman’s is the brand I used to buy in Vermont.

Seems like good stuff – no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial ingredients or preservatives – plus we get to support Vermont, the greatest place on Earth.

Jif Peanut Butter

Feel a little stupid buying Jif despite it being technically the most economical choice I had. In the future, buying only peanut butter that has the ingredients Peanuts and Salt. This stuff has added sugar as well as molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, mono and diglycerides (whatever they are).

Other Thoughts

In some ways, this is an improvement over the previous week. I cut out the frozen prepared foods. No Clif Bars!

I still feel like there is a ways to go before nailing something better down. More fruits and vegetables, really. Less stuff from companies who treat the people and animals like Hell.

One idea I have for the future is to not go for everything in one shop. Multiple grocery stores, farmer’s markets, etc. if need be. I will also start composing some additional rules to how I should be shopping “well”. Stay tuned!

Week 1 Recipes: Sriracha All The Things

Sriracha tweet in BuzzFeed

Sriracha tweet in BuzzFeed

Sriracha all the things! BuzzFeed agrees!

I tried to develop three recipes this week. The first was a chickpea salad that used old butter lettuce. While it wasn’t horrible – chickpeas, old butter lettuce, Italian salad dressing, hummus and chia seeds – it really wasn’t worth breaking down and sharing.

Instead, I will share the next two recipes I developed – successfully – which happened to both use sriracha quite liberally. They are both very basic – but provide a nice base for which to work off of. I have already added different ingredients in future versions – and there is a lot you can do with them.

Maybe these recipes will even come in handy for those attending the Electronic Sriracha Festival. Um, yeah, a festival that combines EDM and sriracha. Anyway… the recipes.

Sriracha Rice & Beans

2014-07-17 12.05.39-2

Sriracha Rice & Beans

This is the first, very basic version of a cost-effective yet nutritious and energy packed meal.

Someone told me that rice and beans were the poor man’s energy food. And they are right, I was able to find some white rice leftover and work and put this recipe together for around 99 cents. It was quite delicious – and coming in at about 800 calories, could feed two.

As you will see, I made it at work with the help of only the microwave. In future version, I will chop up vegetables and add some other spices but here you get the very basic idea.

Basic Ingredients

1.5 cups of rice
.75 cups of refried beans
Liberal amount of sriracha

A couple simple steps

1. I took the leftover office rice into a tupperware container I brought to work. It needed a little bit of revitalizing so I hit it with a little water from the sink and put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

2. Apply the sriracha liberally. Heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir it up and enjoy!

Future add-in ingredients

Orange or red peppers, chopped
Onion
Chopped tomato
Garlic powder
Chia seeds
Chicken

The great thing about this recipe is it is cheap, calorie packed and fairly nutritious. It is also easy to make vegan/vegetarian. Just depends on the refried beans you have.

Sriracha Garlic Tuna Salad

Garlic Sriracha Tuna Salad

Garlic Sriracha Tuna Salad

I had to google whether sriracha and garlic went well together – and apparently they do because this one was delicious. I should have known… sriracha seems to be good on everything!

Back in the day, I worked at Ben and Bill’s “NY Style” Deli inside of a Price Chopper. This guy Charlie had been working in restaurants for years – and one tip he gave me was to go light on mayonnaise in tuna salad (or egg salad). He’s right. It really doesn’t need that much.

I used two tablespoons of mayonnaise for two cans of tuna.

It also makes sense to go light on salt and pepper initially. After you stir everything together initially, then add more if need be.

Ingredients
Tuna in Olive Oil, 2 cans
Olive Oil Mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons
Minced Garlic, 1 tablespoon
Sriracha, “liberal amount”
Salt
Pepper

Steps

1. Sprinkle some salt and pepper at the bottom of bowl.

2. Add a tablespoon of mayo per can of tuna.

3. Add in a 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic per can of tuna.

4. Add in liberal amounts of sriracha. Stir until consistent.

6. Add in tuna – stir until consistent.

7. Sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper to your liking.

And that’s it! So, two very simple recipes that can be improved upon. Next post I will breakdown the Week 2 groceries. I believe I did a bit better – and I definitely kept these recipes in mind. Sriracha all the things!

Week 1: Groceries In Review

As I put Week 1 of my experiment to a close, it’s important to look back at the results of what I purchased for this week. In the previous post I mentioned that in this initial week’s shop I had not given it too much thought – instead just relying on old habits and instincts. As you will see it, it shows a bit!

Breakdown

Here’s my thoughts on each item:

Cage-Free Extra Large Brown Eggs – Dozen – $3.29

Used 6 eggs. Made egg sandwiches some mornings. Bread, eggs, chia seeds. A staple food of this current diet.

Whole Grain White Bread – $2.49

Used entire loaf. I plan on buying organic whole grain bread next time. Bread is another staple of my current diet.

Organic Cut and Peeled Carrots – $1.69

Used completely. Not against buying carrots again ever, but did not incorporate the carrots into recipes. They were a snack food that complimented the existing Ranch dip I had in my refrigerator. Not likely to buy.

Corn on the Cob – 2 ears – $0.49/each

Still in my cupboard. Will use, but will not buy again.

Organic Spinach Tomato Pizza – $4.49

Still in my freezer. Will not spoil anytime soon but will not be returning to frozen “almost prepped” foods.

Multigrain Breakfast Waffles – $1.99

Used completely. Will not buy again now that I have no maple syrup left. At $6 – $8, maple syrup is too expensive.

Roasted Red Hummus – $2.99

Used completely. Ate as a snack with the pita chips but also incorporated into a version of the Sriracha Rice & Beans I made. Will buy again – but not a staple.

Salted Pita Chips – $1.99

Used completely. Ate only as a snack. Pretty empty calories and felt at $2 the bag was a bit small. Will not buy again.

99% Fat-Free Beans & Rice Burritos – 2 – $2.49

Used both burritos. Good – but I will make my own. Will not buy again.

Butter Lettuce – 7oz. bag – $2.49

Still in my refrigerator. Perishable, and basically water in a solid, edible state. Will not buy again.

Chunky Salted Peanut Butter – 2 jars – $2.49/each

Used both jars. I am really stuck on peanut butter sandwiches. Perhaps I am a kindergartener again. Whatever it is, they do the trick. A staple.

Clif Bars, Assorted Flavors  - 5 – $0.99/each

Used all five bars. Will buy again – but could also go without them.

 

Conclusion

There you have it – my habits are changing. Outside of the really core staples of bread, eggs and peanut butter, I only bought two items that I may buy again. As you will see in my next shop, I did not even re-buy those items.

To come are my Week 1 recipes. I tried three things out – one is not worth posting. And the other two involve sriracha!

$35/Week Shopping: Week 1

The purpose of this initial week’s shop was to emulate my buying patterns of the previous several weeks. It is a starting point for change and refinement – and a way to record and reflect on what are my current habits.

Outside of the initial rule of under $35, this shop was not highly choreographed. In this shop, there were no specific recipes in mind. For the past month or so, I’ve been going about a pattern like this one. Obviously though, I have kept the cost to under $35. As a frame of reference, the previous three or four week’s groceries have ended up ranging from $30 to about $75 per week.

What was useful to have in mind while shopping however was my current food inventory – which I included in the $35/Week Preface. One problem I have had in the past is buying items I already had. While I have moved to more non-perishables, it used to be the kind of thing that would cost me $5 – $20 a week – with food like expensive meats not being eaten in time.

My whole shop for this week came at Trader Joe’s - in Coolidge Corner, Brookline (to be exact). If you are not familiar with Trader Joe’s (TJ’s), their FAQ sums the franchise up quite nicely:

At Trader Joe’s, you won’t find a lot of branded items. Instead, you’ll find unconventional and interesting products in the Trader Joe’s label as well as everyday basics.

When you see our name on a label, you can be assured that the product contains:

  • √ NO artificial flavors or preservatives
  • √ NO synthetic colors
  • √ NO MSG
  • √ NO genetically modified ingredients
  • √ NO partially hydrogenated oils (artificial trans-fats)
  • √ NO “marketing” costs
  • √ YES tasting panel approval
  • √ YES quality ingredients
  • √ YES great price

As this experiment is cost-sensitive and health-conscious, TJ’s is a good starting point. When I moved from shopping at Shaw’s (regional grocery chain) to Trader Joe’s about two years ago, I cut my grocery bill by 25% – 30%. The criticism of Trader Joe’s is that they lack good produce and meat. Those are also what lacks a bit in this week’s haul.

The Haul

The Haul: Week 1

The Haul: Week 1

Cage-Free Extra Large Brown Eggs – Dozen – $3.29
Whole Grain White Bread – $2.49
Organic Cut and Peeled Carrots – $1.69
Corn on the Cob – 2 ears – $0.49/each
Organic Spinach Tomato Pizza – $4.49
Multigrain Breakfast Waffles – $1.99
Roasted Red Hummus – $2.99
Salted Pita Chips – $1.99
99% Fat-Free Beans & Rice Burritos – 2 – $2.49
Butter Lettuce – 7oz. bag – $2.49
Chunky Salted Peanut Butter – 2 jars – $2.49/each
Clif Bars, Assorted Flavors  - 5 – $0.99/each

Total: $34.82 (99.4% of $35 spent)

One mistake I made – after staring at the different colored labels for 30 seconds – was buying chunky instead of creamy peanut butter. One lives and learns.

 

Had to part with some Clif Bars

Parting with a few Clif Bars

Clif Bars

When I first arrived at the register, I had a dozen Clif Bars. In order to stay under $35 for this initial week, I had to pass on 7 of them. I believe this to be a good thing. I have been using them as a crutch. I am a light breakfast eater so a Clif Bar in the morning can usually do the trick. However, when you decide to skip another meal by eating 2 or 3 in a row – that’s a sheer sign of laziness.

I do believe Clif Bars to be a good food – well-balanced, packed with vitamins and nutrients, made with mostly organic ingredients, and not from animal products. I believe some flavors even qualify as vegan. At $0.99 for ~250 calories however, it would cost me around $10/day to subsist totally on Clif Bars. At a goal of $5/day, they are more of a premium item. Nonetheless, I purchased five in this shop and intend to use them as a breakfast replacement for the time being.

Reflections

While the lack of vegetables can be explained by a stockpile of frozen veggies in my freezer, I have limited fresh vegetables. I will also be sure to make some fruit purchases as well. Right now I realize I have no fruit.

The absence of meat does not bother me as much. Given that I’m getting iron, I have felt well without it. I may even pass on buying chicken and use some expiring stuffing a bit more creatively.

My staple foods have always been eggs, peanut butter and bread. Those seem to get covered almost unconsciously. In college, there were weeks I would get by on $20 on those. I went through periods where I would not buy bread – which I believe made the rest of my shopping a lot more expensive. A low carb diet would not work with my current lifestyle of distance running and frugality.

Initial Reaction to the Preface

Shortly before heading off to Trader Joe’s – I posted the link to the Preface on Hacker News. By the time I returned home – the post had over 6000 visits, a dozen blog comments, and over 50 comments on the HN forum.

I look forward to combing through the recommendations, advice and websites that so many people were kind enough to provide. My next post will be my first recipe and the results. Please feel free to leave your thoughts on my grocery haul for this week. Thanks!

Thirty-Five Dollars A Week: Preface

I composed the tweet above while in the euphoria of a post-run peanut butter sandwich. The cost of my grocery run earlier in the week was right around $35. Enjoying my peanut butter on whole wheat bread while pondering that relatively small amount of money made me wonder.

That’s a great idea, and I am doing just that – writing a blog series about eating on $35 per week.

The $35/Week series is about eating on a $35/week budget. I hope through my efforts to show that eating well does not have to come with a high cost. I also hope to sharpen my self-discipline and learn a bunch of things – about food, recipes, creativity and about myself.

Another facet I am exploring through this blog is the food industry and American culture – as it relates to food.

Food is one of the few true necessities in life, yet affordable and healthy alternatives to junk food and eating out are often overlooked in mainstream thought – at least in my age and demographic. Being a single 30 year old urban professional male means a lot of conspicuous food consumption is being marketed to me every day. I also live in Boston, MA, a city with an immense restaurant, pizza place and bar culture.

My intention here is simply carve out some time and space to explore food from a practical standpoint – both nutritionally and financially.

To properly preface this series and how I will spend my $35/week, there are a few things that should be laid out.

Personal Considerations

1. I have no dietary restrictions. I am not allergic to gluten, dairy, shellfish, nuts, etc.

2. I have moved towards a more animal-free diet. This is for numerous reasons but one is simply cost consideration. Meat is expensive. That being said, I am neither vegan nor vegetarian.

3. I am a fairly serious runner – averaging 35 – 50 miles per week. This is a major difference between me and most people. If I was not so physically active I am positive I could get by on maybe $25 a week. That being said, even trying to keep very lean – I’m still consuming 1800 – 4500 calories per day.

4. Not included in my budget is $25/month for supplements. I am spending that mostly on multi-vitamins. Most other supplements are running-based: Tailwind, GU, gels. Whey Protein is occasionally part of the mix as well.

5. I am single – and the only one in my household. 85% of the time I am the only one consuming the food I buy. 15% is reserved for guests – so that is to be reflected in the cost and buying considerations as well.

6. I will likely eat out on average once per week. That will not be included in the cost. If I do eat out during the week – it will be noted.

7. I will prefer organic or all-natural to conventional (or unnatural – ha). My decision on which to choose will depend on cost considerations but I will likely spend up to 20% more to buy organic.

8. The goal is to eat with health in mind. If I wanted to eat ramen every meal I could spend much less than $35. That is not the point here.

9. I will accept and use free food. This does not mean I will take on a bunch of potential client lunches to eat for free nor does it mean you will find me dumpster diving. No, you will not find me hoarding samples at Trader Joe’s. But if there is leftover food in my office for the taking, for example, I may incorporate it. I would guess free food will account for about 2-3% of my intake weekly.

Current Inventory

It is to be noted that I am starting with the big advantage of existing food. The following is a list of food items I currently have in my cupboard, refrigerator and freezer:

Cupboard

Cuban Style Black Beans – 1 can
Tomato Soup – 2 cans
Refried Beans – 1 can
Fat-Free Refried Beans – 2 cans
Tuna in Olive Oil – 3 cans
Organic Pinto Beans – 1 can
Organic Garbanzo Beans – 1 can
Vegan Mac and Cheese – 1 box
All Natural Whole Wheat Bread – 1/2 loaf
Converted Rice – 1/2 pound
Egg Noodles – 2 cups
Tomato Basil Marinara – 1 jar
Stove Top Stuffing – 1 box

Freezer

Chicken Shu Mai – 1 box
Frozen Broccoli – 2 medium bags
Frozen Meatballs – ~2 cups
Frozen Peas – 2 medium bags
Frozen Hash Browns – ~8 ounces
Frozen Mixed Vegetables – 2 bags
Frozen Corn – 1 medium bag

Refrigerator

Lettuce – 1 medium bag
Chopped Onion – 1 cup
Cream Cheese – ~1 cup
Margarine – ~1 cup
Olive Oil Mayo – 1 jar
Ranch Dressing Dip – ~1 cup
Italian Dressing – 1/2 bottle
Organic Chia Seeds – ~6 ounces

Miscellaneous

Condiments – Ketchup, Mustard
Various Salad Dressings
Maple Syrup – 1 jar
Olive Oil – 1/3rd bottle
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce – 1/2 bottle
Sriracha – 1 bottle

Keeping my existing inventory in mind, I will be shopping at Trader Joe’s today for my initial week’s grocery – and of course, spending $35 or less. I would love to get your initial reactions from hearing about my experiment. Please leave comments!

Training – Weeks 1 through 4

Week 1: 44.4 miles / 4,636 ft. total elevation climb

Week 2: 30.0 miles / 4,235 ft. total elevation climb

Week 3:  37.9 miles / 4,423 ft. total elevation climb

Week 4: 42.7 miles / 5,712 ft. total elevation climb

Loon Mountain Race

Three days after the Vermont City Marathon, I began training again – running hills on Summit Ave. My new regime retains the upped mileage – averaging around 40 miles a week, but adds 25 – 30% of those miles from hill repeats. After a little research, I found that Summit Ave. was about as steep and long as it comes in Boston – and it is less than a mile from my apartment. Not a mountain – but it works!

Park at the top of Summit Ave.

Park at the top of Summit Ave.

On July 6th I plan on running the Loon Mountain Race. A 7 mile run up Loon Mountain – averages a 12 percent grade incline.

The last 1K of the race is a black diamond by the name of Upper Walking Boss. A 40 percent incline! My desire to run the Loon Mountain Race comes out of a desire to try something different. And to work to test myself against top runners – as the race serves as the USATF Mountain Running Championship. But different – as I’ve picked up on trail running a lot down at Blue Hills Reservation, which is an awesome place to run. Mileage has been up in the 40s though Week 2, I made the decision to take it a bit easy as my left foot was still suffered from tendonitis from the marathon. That ended up being a smart move – and I recovered later in the week.

Doesn’t happen every day

On Monday of Week 3, everything began as a normal training day. Going down the Brookline side of the hill for the first time, I noticed a couple runners coming back up.

As I made my way back up, I felt good – and passed the first runner quickly. As I approached the second runner with more of a push, and he looked over with a bit of surprise.

“You running repeats on this hill?” “Yeah,” I replied, “I usually try to get in about 5 – 6 miles worth.

“Mind if I join you?” he said, and being that I never run with anyone in Boston I told him sure. He introduced himself as Dan. He looked like a runner – about 5’10 and had the build for it. The first thing I noticed going up Summit Ave. with him was his stride rate. It remained locked in perfectly. I also began to realize that Dan was not winded at all. Despite a 7 minute mile pace. Typically I would hit about 8:30/mile pace overall going up the Brookline side of Summit Ave. He could maintain this 7 minute mile pace this while carrying on the conversation as if he was hanging out at a desk in some office making small talk.

After one repeat, Dan decided to join for another. On the way back up, I made mention of what he thought of the Brooks Cascadia – as we were both wearing them. “They’re bricks” he said to which I agreed. I then mentioned that while I ran the Vermont City Marathon in minimalist Nikes, I had sprained my foot. He asked how I did in Burlington and I hit him with my results.

Then I asked him if he had ever ran the Vermont City Marathon. He told he had. “How did you do?” “2:24″. Wow. “That’s like… uh… top 5?” I asked.

“I won.”

Turns out Dan had won the Vermont City Marathon in 2011 and the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon. Right at this moment however, he was urging me to keep going up Summit Ave. At this point, by the second repeat at this pace – I was dying. But I made it. I talked with Dan a bit – and did a repeat or two more. After he did a lighter run over at Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I picked his brain about running as much as I could. He told me the key to success was consistency in training. And not getting injured. That sounded good to me – and very much in line with other things I’ve heard and read. After several more miles, Dan headed off to class and I thanked him several times for not only the advice but for kicking my ass. I was exhausted. Special thanks to him for putting up with me asking incessant running questions!

Chestnut Hill Reservoir - always a good place to run.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir – always a good place to run.

 

Nice places to run – and nice people to run with

Another place I have been training is at Blue Hills Reservation – with the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC). It’s a good group of people that set up ultra marathons and do weekly group runs – usually on Saturday and Sunday.

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Top of Blue Hills Ski Area

Bottom of Blue Hills Ski Area

Bottom of Blue Hills Ski Area

There is also the ski area which makes a great place to run hill repeats. You know, if you are in to that sort of thing! And though I’ve been doing a lot of trail/mountain training stuff lately – I ran the B.A.A. 10K. More on that later!

Programming & The Role of The Developer

Programming is one of the easiest parts of a developer’s job.

I tweeted that sentence on Saturday morning, and there was a strong reaction. Dozens of retweets and favorites. Many replies – a few that disagreed but many who agreed.

A UK developer by the name of Simon Donaldson sums up how I feel quite nicely: “The more you code, the easier it gets. The rest of the job gets harder.”

When I first started as a professional programmer, I’d go home nearly every day mentally fatigued. Leaving work, I had almost surely tired out both my reasoning capability and ability to focus.

On some days, it might be on a single bug fix. On other days, it might be writing a couple new functions with a design pattern I was learning. Many days, I wouldn’t even have to communicate with another human being. Just me, the text editor and the interpreter. Still, returning home I would notice my brain power drawing on reserves.

Then, I would go to sleep and recharge. Dreams would be about writing code. Sometimes I would wake up and realized I had solved a problem I was having – while sleeping. Then I would get up the next day and write more code.

Over time however, things got easier – and more enjoyable. After thousands of hours, you start waking up and writing code with what seems like less effort. You can write code that is simple yet powerful, reusable and extendable. Experience leads to the ability to make sure the details line up with the bigger picture. And it’s fun to do that.

Now there is less need to write code in terms of time spent. And you probably don’t write as much code. And you learn that sometimes the best code is no code. Your personal programming productivity increases greatly.

However, even if you are working on a small project, this means there are many more levels to spend time thinking about. Increasing the overall productivity of the project requires numerous other skills.

For example, you may need the ability better organize the resources available – both human and technological. The division of labor in a project.

Or the system architecture – stack choices and making those pieces fit seamlessly. You can keep an eye out on improved tools, patterns and techniques.

What about navigating a bureaucracy to get the resources you need?

It becomes inevitable that you will eventually have to communicate with other people.

Even if you just want to work as a programmer – with the best, on the best – you will have communicate well. Those people will be other engineers and project managers. And you can’t just simply write very good code at this level. You will have to communicate and defend your decisions – both conceptually and at the “nuts and bolts” level. This is a skill set that is important and not to be taken lightly. I have learned the hard way in the past that you will be shut out from working for the “best of the best” on important things if you cannot be rock solid at this.

And what about freelance?

Sure – the IT world is full of bullshit artists and consultants who spend time telling their potential clients what they want to hear. Then they go and subcontract the cheapest programmers available to get the actual work done. These types of people though, always end up operating at the clueless level. If you have good communication AND good programming skills – you can and should avoid this. The clueless level, by the nature of its low barrier to entry, is a crowded field. It is also a miserable place due to the lack of a clue. I mean, there are good developers who make a living simply cleaning up the messes left by bullshit artists. But certainly it makes sense to avoid this level – simply do great work for great clients for great pay – which is actually a less crowded field.

Either way, as you progress as a developer – you will find a host of other skills that are necessary to further your ability to get important things done.

ng-bind-html

If you are up on AngularJS 1.2+ then you might be aware that ng-bind-html-unsafe has been removed. The -unsafe directive was the simple (but unsafe) way to add HTML into your template.

An example went something like:

<p ng-bind-html-unsafe="data.markupData"></p>

Iteration with ng-repeat was also straightforward:

<div ng-repeat="item in items">
<p ng-bind-html-unsafe="item.markupData"></p>
</div>

 

With the
ng-bind-html
directive however, there are several more steps involved. Here they are:

1. Create a new controller

var ExampleCtrl = function($scope) {

}

And in your HTML:

<div ng-repeat="example in Examples" ng-controller="ExampleCtrl">
<p ng-bind-html="trustedExample"></p>
<hr />
</div>

2. Add the
$sce (Strict Contextual Escaping)
service to your controller

var ExampleCtrl = function($scope, $sce) {

}

3. Use $sce.trustAsHtml function on data

var ExampleCtrl = function($scope, $sce) {
$scope.trustedExample = $sce.trustAsHtml($scope.example);
}

And that’s it!

Vermont City Marathon

Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special.” – Shunryu Suzuki

 

A year and a half ago I was running the Vermont City Marathon… AdWords campaign. I was doing a little bit of freelance work for RunVermont at the time. I recall making a remark to someone at the organization like, “Yeah, hey, who knows, maybe I’ll even run the marathon.” I meant it, I think – at least half-heartedly. It was no commitment anyway.

Back then, I was not yet a runner. There were a couple road races under my belt, but ultimately I spent most of my workout time in the gym, on the soccer field or on the basketball court. Running for running’s sake was not quite me. Gutting out a couple miles under 14 minutes, or a mile under 7 minutes was good enough. A test of fitness, really.

The first year I ran there wasn’t too much improvement or consistency. Moments of enjoyment during my runs? Sure. But it had not yet become a big habit. I’m a little ashamed to admit the Marathon was an event I never paid too much attention to in the years I lived in the city. One year I lived on South Willard Street in the apartment building right after the put the cones out for the right turn. But I don’t recall being there at all for the event.

Looking back at my Endomondo run logs for the Fall of 2012, it’s awesome to see my improvement in ability over time. Back then every run was between a high tempo and race pace, and on an average day, a 5K run would be around 7:45/mile pace. Now I’m knocking off a 5K at 6:10/mile pace.

Looking at my running back then more, I start to see the relative success I had in my very first 10K race as a bit of an outlier – high performance relative to my fitness/running level due to a combination of naivete, desire to do well and pain tolerance. I was really just gutting it out. I would actually like to remember how to gut out a uncomfortable pace like that! That was a ~7:30/min pace. Currently I run a ~6:30/mile pace and the running at race pace is also a LOT more enjoyable.

More importantly – and it is even more surprising – is how much I have grown to enjoy running. I use the saying  “money begets money” but I’ve really found that “running begets running”. The more you run, the more you like it.

But that is not something I knew a couple years ago. Alicia recalls a conversation where I told her shortly after my first race that I figured I could run a marathon without training all that much. I didn’t want to train. And in that lack of want, I pretended that some level of mental fortitude would carry me through a marathon – if I ever felt like running one. Mind you, back then I had just painfully labored my way through six measly miles – thinking it was some kind of running odyssey. It was nonsense – and I’m not sure I really believed it. It took running a couple more serious races for me to figure out that I needed to train for distance races. Back then, my training was running a handful of miles before the week of a race and psyching myself up as much as I could.

Anyway, all that being said, on Memorial Day Sunday I ran the Vermont City Marathon in 3:28 – a 7:59/mile pace.

It was a perfect day and from a personal standpoint, the perfect marathon for my first marathon. A huge chunk of the enjoyment was visiting Burlington, a place I lived for almost six years. I am an also an alum of the University of Vermont.

While in Burlington, I was lucky enough to stay with amazing friends, eat great food and even see a few of the many other awesome people I know in the area. The great thing about Burlington is you get to know everyone – and it’s normal to bump into people everywhere you go. I can’t lie, it made me a bit sad to have to leave again. Burlington is one of the most beautiful, laid back and overall livable places I have ever spent any time in.

The couple days leading up to the marathon came a hard taper – 14.4 miles of training versus the previous week of 43.2 miles. No running at all on Friday.

My good friends (and “host family”) Dustin and Caitlin also provided me with some insanely delicious stuff to carb load with. After Friday night’s delicious homemade pizza and cookies, I actually had a headache. Now, I’ve had headaches from lack of carbs but never from too many. The carbs were really sucking up all the water I was drinking too. Saturday I also took it easy – just running a couple miles, eating frozen yogurt and enjoying the company of friends.

The morning of the big day I had a conservative pace in mind of 7:30/mile. A marathon at the pace I was going for was a different kind of race than I was used to. I didn’t bother to warm up my heart rate. The Preferred Corral proved to be worth a little bit (outside of a lower bib number) – as I simply wandered from my friend’s place down Pearl Street and was able to walk across the starting line to my starting position. About 10 minutes later, we were off.

The first couple of miles were spent really focusing in on my foot strikes and how my body felt. Earlier in the week, I decided to run 3 – 4 miles of repeats (pretty silly). By the end of the workout I noticed a pain in the back of my knee. I was a little freaked. While I went on several tapered long runs during the week, the knee pain was still in my mind. After about five miles, I was feeling good but still a bit tentative.

Regardless of being on the tentative side, I otherwise felt solid – and was hanging around with the 7:15/mile pacers. There were a large pack of runners surrounding the two pacers who wore yellow Skirack singlets. Around mile 7 or 8 was the turnaround on the Parkway where I caught a glimpse of the leaders. If I recall correctly, I remember the eventual winner running in about 3rd or 4th at that point.

One thing that you have to get used to psychologically in the Vermont City Marathon is relay runners whipping by you. At the start of the race, you must resist going out too fast. It took me a few miles to ignore it completely.

Around mile 9 I started to feel great going up a long steady hill leaving the Parkway. I was passing people left and right. The hill work was paying off. Mile 9 – 11 were amazing. The rush back into town is an awesome point in the race as you get to fly downtown and down Church Street. I flew down Church Street – seeing Alicia holding a “GO ERIK GO” sign. Mile 10 was a 6:58! After that fast mile, I was back with the 7:15/mile pacers for a while heading downhill toward the beach.

The GO ERIK GO sign.

The awesome GO ERIK GO sign.

Around mile 16, the wall began. The wall, in some ways, is Battery Hill. It is the Heartbreak Hill of the Vermont City Marathon. I’d guess it’s probably a steeper grade – though not nearly as drawn out. Again though, I enjoyed the hill a bit more than I should – passing runners left and right. A couple people were even walking.

Battery Hill (Courtesy: Burlington Free Press)

Battery Hill (Courtesy: Burlington Free Press)

I cleared Battery Hill feeling pretty good – and hit a quick bathroom break. The next two to three miles would hover around the 8 minute/mile mark. The wall was by no means crushing me but things were slowing down.

Daniels says, “the first two-thirds of the marathon, you run with your head. The last third you run with your heart.” So, here we were.

I knew I had the heart (and legs) to finish – but I worried about pushing it too hard. By mile 20, I was beginning to move into uncharted territory as we moved down into the New North End. As we ran through neighborhoods, there were all kinds of emotional ups and downs. I’d say the biggest thing became the lack of focus on running. I reverted to focusing on breathing. Every few hundred meters you would encounter someone on the side of the road who went out too fast. A lot of younger guys especially – teenagers and early 20s.

Hitting the bike trail for the last 5 or so miles felt symbolic. It’s a quiet, peaceful and beautiful homestretch – a lot like Vermont, in general. At times the bike trail also provides views of gorgeous Lake Champlain. If you are unaware of what that looks like – it’s looks like an ocean with mountains behind it. One of the many natural gems offered by the city!  It’s also quite a bit cooler than the road.

BTV-Waterfront

The kind of views you get at the Burlington Waterfront.

At mile 25, my phone died. And it could not have been a better time! The last full mile was dead quiet outside of the encouraging words of a few onlookers. Up until that point I had listened to Nirvana’s “Live From Reading” live album about 2.5 times through. I once listened to a single song on repeat for a 8 mile race, but that’s an embarrassing story for a different time. As time goes on, I think I’ll move away from the headphones for races.

With less than a half mile to go, a spectator reminded us that the finish was just up ahead. Within a couple hundred meters, you could hear the roar of the crowd in the park for the finish. The finish is wicked mint – and while I had ran something like an 8:30/minute mile in mile 25, the last quarter mile was total reinvigoration. As I picked up the pace going through the amazing crowd gauntlet they had set up in the park I heard my name over the yelling. There it was again! The “GO ERIK GO” sign. Alicia was cheering along with my host family. My aunt Andrea and my cousin Matt were down from Canada and also there to see my finish.

I ran across the finish giving the number one with my finger – first marathon in the books. I looked up to see 3:28, just under 8 minutes a mile. Not the 3:15 – 3:20 I aspired to but a very proud moment nonetheless. The medical people took a quick check and said I looked good. After running 26 miles, that’s the thing you want to hear.

Special thanks to my aunt Andrea for some great photography!

Special thanks to my aunt Andrea for some great photography!

 

After the run… was fun. Nice rhyme, eh? We hiked up to Ri Ra for some food – and then off to drinking some beer with “host family” and old friends.

 

Ha!

Ha!

All in all, an amazing marathon experience I’m very proud of. Looking forward to next year’s. Lots of runs and races planned first though. On my way out of town I bought an old beat-up Lake Monsters hat for a $1. It’s my new training hat – catch me out in Brighton, Allston, Cambridge or Blue Hills with it on.

2014-06-08 13.07.35

Twitter

Quite regularly, Twitter has been sending me emails about what’s happening on Twitter. No thank you, Twitter – I’ll just check Twitter.

If you agree with me that sending marketing email updates is a bizarre strategy for the company, then you are likely not surprised that it’s stock has taken a hit in recent weeks. I’m not sure that Wall Street understands the platform’s potential. Then again, I’m no longer sure Twitter understands Twitter’s potential.

Twitter is an elegant and open platform. It is what you make it. And over the course of Twitter’s relatively short existence, millions of users have creatively found ways to extract utility from it. Businesses use Twitter to grow – without paying the service anything. Businesses have also been built directly on top of the service.

For many, Twitter is a self-curated news source. It can also be used to break news stories – almost instantly, right as they happen.

For others, it is used to market their business. It can be used as a line of customer service communication. It is a valuable source of research data. And of marketing data.

It is commonly used as a way to connect and interact with like-minded individuals. Your stream of information can reflect your interests and personality. Or it could reflect your business. Or you can follow no one and just broadcast. It can be a pulpit, an echo chamber or a megaphone. Or none of those things.

So, Twitter, want to monetize your platform? Be creative. The millions who use Twitter every week have already shown you the way.