How to sh*t your pants during a race: Grand Canyon PA Half-Marathon and Marathon – race report

The beginning

The Grand Canyon, PA half-marathon and marathon races were held on July, 26 and July, 27. You can do the half, the full or decided to “rock the canyon” which basically means you are doing both races. I decided to “rock the canyon” and signed up for both! The races are not very expensive considering what you get: about $80 for the full, $45 for the half and $110 for both. Considering the price of some events, this is definitively worth it: you can enjoy the fresh air of the mountain and have some space to run. Nothing to compare with events like Disney which charges you more than anybody else to run on roads open to traffic packed with people stopping every two steps without going on the right side of the road!

My partner in crime and I drove to Wellsboro, PA on Friday, the day before the race. As we wanted to support the event sponsors, we stayed to the hotel that sponsored the race, the Penn Wells Lodge (which was a huge mistake, more on that later). The drive was 4 hours from Pittsburgh, not too bad at all. TheĀ  hotel has a swimming pool, a hot tube and other facilities you will enjoy. But, as the Walt Disney Marathon, this hotel was a mess, but I will discuss that later. After getting there lately, we decided to go for dinner early. Most of the places were closed and we ended up in a Steakhouse in Main Street. Our experience was almost as good as the one with the hotel: I would get better service and food at McDonalds. If you are looking for a good place, I would rather recommend the Wellsboro House, not too far from the hotel (if you are willing to book in that place …). They have a great service, are accommodating with special diets and very friendly!

Heading back to the hotel, I asked if this was possible to get a late breakfast on Saturday. The race started at 07am and after completing, we had to come back with a shuttle, which might take about one hour total. After all, if they are the official hotel for the event, they should be “runner compliant” and accommodating? However, the staff reported they had no intention for doing such a favor and the service will end at 10am no matter what. I asked also if it was possible to extend the hours a little bit and explained why (the half marathon started at 7am but you need to take a bus to go to the starting line and come back) but again, they were not willing to do so. Apparently, “customer service” is not something well known in that place. About the hotel itself and the rooms: the walls are so thin that you hear your neighbor pretty well and surprise, the bathroom have mold! Not the best place to stay.

Packet Pick up

Packet pick up was held on a School, where the shuttle to the race started. It was well organized with a swag that contains all the necessary information to go to the starting line and visit the area. There was not so many vendors but anyway, do you really shop a lot during race expos? On the other hand, there was a nice local chocolate/candy vendor. I was not able to refrain myself from buying some of them, pretending I cannot go there without trying the local specialties.

 

The book that should be provided in the goodie bag

The book that should be provided in the goodie bag

 

The Half-Marathon

The race started at 07am but you have to take a shuttle to get there. The last shuttle leaves at 0545am and it is really better to be there before to avoid congestion. By taking this last one, you are on the course at the latest by 0630am. There is a lot of port-o-potty when you exit the buses but … none next to the starting line. Which is a big issue because people had to go back and forth between the pick up location and the starting line.

The race started on time with a friendly weather. Part of it is on the road but most on dirty road. Elevation is not too steep, but, having trained in Pittsburgh, this might not be the best reference. The course go through the Grand Canyon and you have one or two great views (see below).

Type of view you can expect

Type of view you can expect during the race

 

There are water stops every 2 miles or so, so, you will not be dehydrated as long as you keep taking a sip at every stop. There was no “real food” at the water stops, only gels but nothing else. On the other hand, this is not a big issue on a half-marathon, as such a distance can be completed without food. On the other hand, this might be an issue for the marathon (more on that later).

The big issue was the port-o-potty: there was almost none on the course. While I do not really care because my GI system is made of titanium, this can be a big issue for other runners who are more sensible. I have seen only one port-o-potty on the half-marathon course while there was 10+ of them at the starting line. This is a real downside for the half. Some might argue that you can go in the nature but this is clearly not an option for others. The elevation profile is not too difficult. There is no steep hill but no “flat part” at all. So, you just alternate up and down hills. Just have to be used to this type of course, which is not an issue when you come from Pittsburgh.

Elevation profile of the half marathon

Elevation profile of the half marathon

 

Once you finished, you received a medal. The results are updated regularly during the party on a board. You get a nice box for food, extra fruits (apple, banana) and pretzels are also available. But not having a port-o-potty at the finish (they are at 0.5 mile so you need to walk) is really inconvenient. This is very unfortunate because all the rest (transportation, course, schedule, results) is well executed and makes this event a great one!

Once you are done and if you did not shit your pant, a bus service takes you from the race to the parking lot so that you can bring your car. It takes about 30 minutes to come back.

In between

We came back to the hotel at 10:02. Fortunately, the hotel staff was wrapping up the breakfast area. Just on time to try to grab some stuff to take as a post-race refuel. At that time, I had no t-shirt, I took it off after the race because if the heat and having blood on my chest (you know, this runner issue …). While I thanked the staff for letting the breakfast a little bit lately, I got the following friendly reply: “put a shirt: no shirt, no service, this is the law”. I was just amazed how unfriendly with their customers.

Conquer the Canyon!

Conquer the Canyon!

The afternoon was the opportunity to visit the area around Wellsboro, rest and prepare for the Marathon the next day. The bib, t-shirt and other stuff were included in the packet I took on Friday, so, no need to come back to the expo. To sum up, the area is great and this is definitively worth to drive around and look at great lookouts. If you planned to go there, consider to take a GPS or a map: you have no cell service at all the the directions are not clearly mentioned. So, this is easy to get lost quickly.

On race day, after waking up at 0430, I saw the hotel staff preparing the breakfast area and asked if I can get a bagel as I was preparing for the day (coffee, breakfast, etc.). The staff told me that: “breakfast will be served in 20 minutes” (in other words, when the shuttle was leaving … so convenient when racing!) and that it is not the rule to serve breakfast before the time. The staff also mentioned that if they give me something, they have to give to all hotel customers. Surprisingly, this does not seem obvious for the hotel to give to their customers what they paid for. I can understand such a service from a normal hotel that is not prepared to accommodate needs for customers with special constraints. But considering they sponsored the event and claimed they were runner friendly, I do not know why they were not more accommodating. The manager might be french or just rude and unfriendly.

The Marathon

As for the half, the marathon starts at 0700am. You have to get a shuttle as well to go to the starting line. As being said before, the main issue is the port-o-potty that are not next to the starting line. There are 10 next to the buses but this is 0.5 mile from the starting line to that, if you want to make a break, you have to come back and forth. Definitively not convenient.

The marathon route go through the same area as the half. Basically, the first part covers the half marathon (except the road part) and go further. There are some hills, while they are not too steep: the biggest elevation is 200 feet, which is not to difficult. What might turn you down is that there is almost no flat area. So, you will constantly go either up or down. Just have to deal with it.

The course is an out and back, so, one you get to the 13-ish miles point, you just turn and hope that your pants are still clean. For an obvious reason: there are no more port-o-potty than for the half! On the marathon, there is only 2 places you can get some rest! So, if you ate the fettuccine alfredo the night before, pray for the best. Otherwise, pack some toilet paper and prepare yourself for a great experience with mother nature.

Elevation Profile, not so hilly!

Elevation Profile, not so hilly!

 

There are water stops every two miles as well, so, the race is doable without an hydration pack. On the other hand, the food available at the water stop is really limited (same as the half): gels at miles 4-ish, gels + banana at mile 14-ish. I am glad that I packed energy bars and asked my partner in crime to bring some extra! This is also definitively a big downside and could be easily fixed (get a costco card and buy some packs of candy or pretzels would be more than enough!). If having limited food for a half is not a big issue, this can be inconvenient for a full.

Once you finish, you receive the medal and, if you completed the half the day before, get an extra-medal for completing both races. On my side, I received an additional reward for having finished 3rd in my age group in the marathon. As for the half, you get a box with food when you arrived and the selection is actually very good as well.

The Medals

The Medals

As for the half, a shuttle gives you a ride back to the parking lot (it takes 30 minutes). But be quick: the hotel that sponsored the race allowed a late checkout at 1pm instead of originally … 12pm! In other words, if you completed your marathon in 4:30 or 5:00 (which is common for many runners), this is almost impossible to check out on time! And do not even think about taking a shower!

Many runners asked before to get a late checkout 2/3pm and the hotel previously acknowledged. But upon arrival, they distribute a paper indicating they changed their mind and asked for a checkout at 1pm. This issues with the hotel also impacts the overall week-end experience. Considering that you pay almost $130/night for a room with mold, no breakfast and rude and unfriendly staff, you just feel that these folks just make fun of you.

 

The Takeaway

Highlights

  • Course well organized: timing was available, results posted quickly
  • Schedule on time: at the latest during the afternoon
  • Bus shuttle from the start to the parking lot: lots of shuttle, pretty quick to get there
  • Packet pick up and expo was simple with just what we need!
  • No car, scenic and offer the opportunity to discover a scenic area: this is a unique opportunity to race in this region.
Next Sponsor for the PA Grand Canyon

Next Sponsor for the PA Grand Canyon

Suggestions for Improvements

  • Put several port-o-potty at least every 5 miles: Having limited space for them is understandable. On the other hand, having only 2 for 26.2 miles is definitively not sufficient. Having at least 3 every 5 miles would be more than appreciated.
  • Sponsor the course by Scott: is the organizers cannot put more port-o-potty, I suggest we replace an existing shitty sponsor (Penn Wells Hotel) by an appropriate one.
  • Have a real runner-friendly hotel: the Penn Wells Lodge was everything but friendly and accommodating for runners.
  • Having a Rock the Canyon results: for those who completed the rock the canyon, having some specific rankings would be useful. Making the half or the full is though but completing both is another story and knowing there you placed among the participants could be useful.
  • More food option on the road: the food at the finish is more than enough (the package is great!). But having more options on the road (especially for people who do not like gels) will be greatly appreciated. This might be easily fixed by making a trip to costco and buy candies, pretzels and other high-carb food for runners.
  • Provide a copy of the well-known book How to shit in the Woods(great reference by the way)

 

Summary

This race is definitively a great one. Not having portable toilets might be an issue for some but most of runners would not have any issue at all. I would just recommend to be prepared (wither not to eat anything heavy and/or take baby wipes with you). But this is a minor issue considering the race, the nice lookout and the unique opportunity to run in these mountains with adequate support. If you like the nature and are looking for a great race, I definitively recommend it. Just do not stay at the Penn Wells, there are better and cheaper places in the area!

Rent a car in Orlando: forget AAA offers

Recently, my partner in crime and I took some time in Orlando. Good occasion to grill your skin, run some flat roads and visit the some theme parks (better than racing them)! But getting around is difficult, so, we needed a car. So, I decided to search for the best deal. I used to take enterprise to rent a car. Easy and convenient, it also worked and never tried to screw me with any special deal. But as a member of the American Auto Association, I looked at the potential opportunities and found out that they offer good deals for renting a car with Hertz.

Let’s compare the deal: for a basic car (Kia Forte), Enterprise charged about $25/day whereas the AAA/Hertz deal proposed $16/day. So, why not give a try to take advantage of my membership? I booked the car online, the total for renting the car for 3 days was about $85 with taxes, insurance and all the additional costs. I never received any confirmation by e-mail. Never mind I thought they will find my reservation when I pick up the car. And worst-case scenario: I can always show up the Enterprise office at the airport.

Once I got to the airport, I was received by a screen when an operator guide you through the renting process using a camera. No “real human”, just a camera. This makes the process not really human-friendly and weird. But after all, why not taking advantage of the new technologies? Once I got there, the guy asked me some questions and showed me the quote. Total: $250.

I said this was not what I got and it turned out that the agent upgraded me from a Kia Forte to a sport/muscle car (Dodge Charger). Needless to say, it increased the price significantly. He also automatically add the insurance and the gas refill because “it is for your best interest”. In other words, the agent took the freedom to replace the complete quote I made online. Of course, I asked to stick to the quote but told me he was not able to find the quote (even if he got all my personal details using my credit card number). After changing the car type, the quote went down to $150. After wondering why I still have the gas refill even if I did not ask for it, he argued that “it was for my best interest”. Loving all the consideration I got for me, I asked to remove it and the quote was finally $100. Not the initial quote but a good discount considering the first one.

After signing the documents and waiting for the instructions, I was finally able to get the car. Once on board and driving my Kia Forte, I was not sure if I made the right choice for not taking the muscle car. On the other hand, I was sure about two things:

  1. stop to use Hertz and the aaa discount and stick to what used to work.
  2. report the issue to consumer association (such as consumer reports) and potentially to aaa, that might be interested to know that their partners do not honor their offers

 

System to communicate with an Hertz Agent

System to communicate with an Hertz Agent

Why running short-distance is as exciting as dating a 19 year-old girl

Since several months, there is a lot of excitement about short-distance races. 5K or 1 mile distances: runners seem to be excited about these short shakeout. Even running websites join the general excitement and declare short-distance as “freaking awesome”. Short-distance races seems to be the new trend.

As a stupid french contrarian and trail-enthusiast, I do not understand this new trend and what makes short-distances races so appealing. In fact, after thinking about it, it appears that short races sounds like dating young girl. But as racing, dating can also have it lot of issues (as shown in the following picture). There are a few reasons.

Common issue during a race or a date

Common issue during a race or a date

 

You do not go outside your comfort zone

As dating a 19 year old girl, running a 5K is easy. You have no time to feel any exhaustion or real effort, this is just too easy.

Do not be stupid, go for a race when you will experience and face a real challenge.

comfortzone

 

This is so quick that you have to do several of them

As dating a 19 years-old girl, running a 5K is quick. No matter if you are an experienced runner or not, you are done within a few minutes. It is so quick that you are trying several of them.

Do not be stupid, go for longer races and sign up for at least a half marathon.

waitfinishline

 

The return on investment is just not worth it

As dating a 19 years-old girl, running a 5K is expensive, especially when you consider how long it last. At first, it seems to be cheap: you are paying $20 for going on a race. But let’s face it, there is nothing special about such a distance: you do not need any support, water or anything else! In addition, as the place is most of the time pretty packed, you have to pay for parking and other extra.

And as dating 19 years-old girls, you are doing several of them regularly. But let’s think about it: when adding up the prices of all these events, it makes the cost per mile pretty expensive, especially for something you usually do in the morning before breakfast.

Do not be stupid, sign up for a long distance run, the one when you will mean support, port-o-potty, water stops and snacks on the course.

 

Everybody want to go be part of it

As dating a 19 years-old girl, short-distance races are easy and give you a shot of adrenaline so that everybody want to be part of it. You end up by having too many competitors that try to battle to get the prize. But it does not really matter: it will not last and you will have to do it again soon.

Do not be stupid, sign up for a nice trail race, enjoy a wonderful course in the nature with friends!

5ksheeps

“Hello, I have to go to the finish line”

They all look the same

As 19-years old girls, short-distance race all look the same. There is no attraction to do them! In fact, this is a side effect of being short and quick: you do not have the time to experience something special and/or go to unusual places! It usually starts and ends in a big area: in between, you have 3 miles that gives you the opportunity to share out and try to get some space.

Do not be stupid, go for a long trail. Enjoy the nature, the difficult of running hills and experience nice views!

 

Pre-5K meal - carb-load is the key!

Pre-5K meal – carb-load is the key!

 

To be attractive, they have to cheat!

As single 19 years-old girls, there are so many short-distance races that they have to have something special to be attractive. The color run, the ice cream race, any obstacle race, <insert-your-theme-here>: there is also a list of them. But there is nothing better than being naturally attractive!

Do not be stupid, experience the beauty of nature and sign up for a good trail race in the country side that will show you areas you never see, even you live there since several years.

5khydration

 

This is a newbie thing

As dating 19-years old girls, short-distance runs are mostly a newbie thing. Sure, some experienced and smart runner might accidentally crash into these events. But this is in short-distance races that you will see people wearing hydration races packed with four bottles: two with water and two with gatorade. This is in short-distance races that you will see folks eating more than what you take as your regular daily food intake as their post-race meal. And this is the same folks that will complain during all the post-race festival about this knee/hamstring/foot injury they developed during this great 30 minutes endeavor. It does not matter if you just want to enjoy some time with your friend, they cannot stop talking about it and put their frustration and stress on you.

Do not be stupid, go for a trail race, packed with nice folks that offers a friendly post-race barbecue with local beer! Sharing a good meal with other runners is just priceless!

 

Hydration is the key: example with the Finger Lakes 50s – 25km

The week of July, 4 is a special week-end in America. This year (2014), it happened that it was on a Friday and a good friend of mine celebrated his wedding on this special day around the Finger Lakes in Lodi, New-York. I love to travel and discover new areas. But among everything else, I love to race when traveling so I can see things usual touristic tours do not show you (basically, area/spots that require a lot of walking/hiking/running). For that reason, I looked for potential races around the area of the wonderful area of the Finger Lakes.

It turned out that I found the Finger Lakes 50s, an event where you can do either 25K, 50K or 50 miles. The registration was closed when I wanted to sign up and go on the waiting list. Hopefully, I was able to register before the event! Being here mostly for a personal reason, I did not want to commit for a long distance and registered for the 25K option. Note that if you sign up for 50K or 50M, you can decide to change the distance on race day (so, you just do the complete 50M if you feel ok).

I arrived in the area two days before race to celebrate my friend’s wedding. As for preparing the race, my partner in crime and I decided to hydrate early by making several wine tasting through the day. In addition, the beverages from the party help us to stay hydrated until lately at night. In other words, we were well prepared for this race, overcharged with heavy food (“peanut butter brownie? Sure, give me 4 of them!”) and alcoholic beverages (“Red wine at every course? Sure!”) . The best recipe to feel miserable during a race.

On race day, thanks to my GPS, we hopefully made it to the packer pick up and the starting line on time. The 25k race started at 800am, so, it gives you some time to wake up and eventually realize that, even if you feel miserable, you paid for that and that it will be good to go, even you will not call it a race but a nice hike. And no matter what, a nice 25K jog will be refreshing.

If you do not want to stay in a hotel and prefer to stay next to the starting line before race day, a bunch of guys camped around. I assume this can be very friendly to stay around, discuss with other ultra-runners while drinking beers the night before the race. If camping is something that does not bother you at all, I would recommend to to it, I am pretty sure you can have a very great pre-race night!

Race packet

The packet contained a t-shirt, a pair of socks and … your bib! Nothing fancy, no bullshit, just what you need. As I registered lately and enter after being on the waiting list, the race director told me t-shirt was not guarantee. Fortunately, there was some leftover and I was able to get one! This is also a nice tech tee-shirt, better then most usual cotton shirt road race used to give.

Once you get your packet, you put your bib and head to the starting line …

About the route

The route is not very hilly (biggest hill is about 500 feet) and very easy if you are used to trail running. Nothing to compare with the hills you can experience in Pittsburgh (in case you train in this area). On the other hand, is is very muddy. You pass by several areas where only cows and horses go. Basically, this farming area can be very challenging. In the beginning of the race, one guy lost his shoe in the mud: the shoe was just stuck in the mud. So, in case it rained a couple of days ago, you have to be prepared to have a lot of mud on your shoes. This was the case of this 2014, the following picture can testify it!

 

Hoka Stinson Trail after the race

Hoka Stinson Trail after the race

 

When you go through the forest, you pass close to several water stream. The area is wonderful, pleasant and the run is very refreshing, especially after partying all night. Not too many rocks (as in other trails), just a lot of mud and sometimes clean soil. You pass by some road one in a while but nothing too concerning or difficult.

There are aid stations about every 3 miles so you do not need to bring your own water and you can just plan to use these stops to refuel. Also, plenty of options for food: pretzels, M&M’s, Peanut-Butter and Jelly sandwich, etc. So, if you are not too picky about the food you eat on the race, you will have everything you need and you will not have to wait too long to catch an aid station. As I was heavily hydrated, I did not take advantage of it but I am pretty sure I will like this on a normal race day.

Finisher Festival

Once you completed 16.5 miles, the finish line has water, soda, food and all the usual stuff you need to refuel. Winners of each age group get a special sign to testify their achievement but also get a growler of beer. The race organizers are very friendly and you feel they try to do their best to give you a great experience. There is also beer and barbecue for all runners and volunteer so, you can just stay at the finish with your friends, hang out and cheer friends. All finishers receive a glass once they finish so you can enjoy beer at the festival as soon as you are done!

 

Finish line Party

Finish line Party

 

On another note, the event states that the look is 25K. Unfortunately, this is not the case because the complete loop is 16.5 miles (what somebody at a aid station told me, which is confirmed by my GPS data). On my side, it does bother me at all but some folks are particularly interested in doing some specific distances. So, if you sign up for it, please consider that the distance is a little bit longer that what you can expect.

 

Waterfalls in the area

Waterfalls in the area

To sum up

This is a very nice race and I would encourage you to sign up and also visit the area (see the waterfall in the picture). This is a great event, the organizers do a great job to make a nice and friendly race. Yes, this is muddy and might be hard some times but many trail races are difficult. On the other hand, you will have a fantastic view of the country side and this is definitively worth it. The finish line was really friendly and fun – seeing so many folks camping and staying just for cheering was definitively nice.

On the downside, I do not know if I will be up to complete the 50K or the 50 miles: running the same loop several times can be mentally challenging. On the other hand, it can be a good training opportunity and you can choose to stop at 50K or continue and keep going for 50 miles. In addition, as you go through the same loop, you have aid stations every 3 miles or so, which can make it easy to take it as a training race and refuel regularly.

 

Useful links

Join us for Pedal Pittsburgh on August, 24

pedalpgh

Pedal Pittsburgh is an established event in the area. You can ride your bike on different distances: 12, 25 or 62 miles. Depending on your fitness level and your ability to keep your butt on a saddle, you can discover different parts of the city with your bicycle. My partner in crime and I signed up for the 62 miles, which pass by most neighborhood around the city. The event is really cheap (about $35) considering the support provided along the course and the festival at the finish area. Also, you can choose to sign up for a membership to BikePGH, the local association that promotes biking around the city. Definitively a good deal!

If you want to bike this day and be part of the crew, you can sign up and bike with us! I created a team, everybody is welcome to join! The name is “Swissvale Active” and everybody is welcome! Hope to see you there!

Quest for the Best Burger in Pittsburgh: ROOT174

I continued my quest around the city to find the best burger in Pittsburgh this Saturday. After Over the Bibycle last Thursday, I tried a local spot next to me beloved Swissvale neighborhood: Root174.The place always attracted me. To me, it sounds like a beautiful and wonderful girl seating alone at a bar without anybody to speak with: the outdoor space looked often empty while many people tell good stories about it. So, if it is so attractive and good, why they are not so many folks eating there? Places in the same block (such as Square Cafe) are pretty packed and you have to wait to get a table while you do not have to wait at root 174. This was time to make my own investigation.

It was a nice day. After helping my partner in crime to organize the Swissvale 1 mile dog walk, I went for a short 10 miles run. So, we needed to refuel. Since a long time, I wanted to try ROOT174 and their burger. Unfortunately, they do not propose it for dinner – only during lunch time. That was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I wanted to try this spot because this sounds to be a place where people reason about what is in your plate and how they cook it. Many places serve frozen food ordered from big companies (such as sysco). It can taste good but everything comes from the same place. So, why bothering to go in different places where all the restaurants reheat the same frozen package? On the other hand, Root seems to be one of the fews guys (such as Legume or the Penn Avenue Fish Company) that really cares about the basics: the ingredients. As a french guy that used to taste the dishes from his grand mother (that cooked the family dinner all Saturday with the vegetables from our family garden or fresh from the local market) this is something I learned when I was young …

So, I ordered the root burger. Simple stuff: a brioche bun with mustard, a patty with a pork belly underneath and an egg on top (at least, you cannot say you do not have protein in your meal!). Some fries are served on the side. No ketchup but a home made hot sauce. First impression: the bun is too small. But you quickly realize how wrong you are: size does not matter. The bun is really thick and tasty and makes you full after two bites. The combination of the ingredients is very tasteful and I really liked it. Not light and not too heavy. Surprisingly, this burger does not have cheese, but I did not miss the taste at all and the pork belly was a good addition. The fries were ok – if this was not the best fries I had, they were definitively good. Also, my partner in crime tried the tacos and it seems to be a good as the burger.

The beer and wine selection is decent ; the beer selection is definitively small, even if they have good ones (especially some from Dogfish Brewery). Having more good beers on tap would be appreciated, especially because there are a lot of good micro breweries across the city! On the other hand, the wine list is decent with good options.

Is it the best burger in Pittsburgh? Probably my favorite so far with the one from Legume (which still needs to be reviewed). One downside: there is no ketchup, which is a bummer when eating fries! The home-made hot sauce was really good but having ketchup for dipping the fries is definitively my favorite.

But the most important is what this spot demonstrates with this meal: good food can be affordable. Many folks will argue that such places are expensive. That is a fact: good food come at a price! But this burger is proposed at $10 and the tacos were at $4. The same price as the ones from all the spots in the same street and serve frozen food. Many other spots (Square Cafe, D’s) propose burgers for $10, but there is nothing to compare in terms of quality. Since this meal, this difficult to understand why others places are still crowded in this street at lunch time while better food is available next door without having to wait …

 

The Root Burger at ROOT174

The Root Burger at ROOT174

 

To summarize, try root174, especially at lunch time, when the burgers, tacos are available and you can enjoy a nice outdoor seating! The place is great and I will probably come back soon. On another note, the restaurant will have a special barbecue platter with a beer on July, 4 for $19. Bummer: I will be away for a wedding, I will have to wait next year to give it a try …

Root 174 on Urbanspoon

Riding for a cause, support research to end cancer

The idea of running for raising funds for a cause crossed my mind several times during the past months. Having fun is something, hearing people that your story is inspiring others is great but, what about trying to get attention to raise money for a good cause? After all, many folks donate to charities, non-profit associations and other initiatives without a reason. So, they might be interested to donate when somebody is supporting such a cause.

 

321event

 

Some days ago, my partner in crime told me about an event called 321 ride and proposes a 62 miles bike ride from Connelsville to Pittsburgh and aims at raising money for cancer research. The title is clear: “Ride to end melanoma and pancreatic cancer”. When registering, you are asking to raise at least $50. This was then a good initiative to start my first fund raiser and see how good I can do. The initial (and minimal) goal was $50 and I will try to raise $500. All profits will benefit the Woiner Foundation.

If you want to support the research against melanoma and pancreatic cancer, please go to my fundraiser page and consider donating. Every penny counts and if you do not have money, a big smile will already be more than enough. And if you are around the Pittsburgh area and want to bike in October, you can also join the fun! Check out the event, there are other distances: a family-friend 7 miles or a long 25-miles on the trails!

 

MORE IMPORTANT: DONATE AND SUPPORT ME
BECAUSE I SET UP A $500 GOAL INSTEAD OF $50 !!!!

 

Quest to the best burger in Pittsburgh: OTB cafe

otbburger

My quest for the best burger in Pittsburgh brings me at the Over The Bicycle Cafe. Some folks classified this spot as the third best burger spot in the area. So, it was definitively time to give it a try! Unfortunately, outdoor seating is very limited so, as we were 8 hungry runners, we had to stay in the indoor space. The server was helpful, quick and took care of us and did everything you can expect. From the service side, this was great.

 

 

We tried The Thick Burger and one friend of mine gave me the half of a her “Dirt Rag Delight”, a burger that includes peanut butter. Both were really well-prepared and tasty. The fries, even if not fresh-cut, were good and paired the burger as expected. From the food side, this was also great!

On another note, the beer selection is really good with many choice from different micro breweries across the country. So, from the beer side, this was (also) great!

So, if you are looking for a good burger around Pittsburgh, try this location. And if you are looking for a post-ride/run refuel, consider their location in North Park!

 

OTB (Over The Bar) Bicycle Cafe on Urbanspoon

Blog Post and Podcast at the Software Engineering Institute

Recently, I authored a post on the Software Engineering Institute blog about the use of the Architecture and Analysis Design Language. The purpose was to show the usability of the AADL toolset for evaluating safety aspect of a system architecture. The post details an user-experience from new AADL users for making safety evaluation of a system. If you are not familiar with the AADL language, this post can provide a good overview of the technology, especially for acquiring the basics and use the safety analysis tools integrated in the Open Source AADL Tool Environment (OSATE).

On another note, the Software Engineering Institute also published a podcast which is an interview made by Suzanne Miller. The podcast is available on the SEI website but also on iTunes. It details some of the work I am currently involved for connecting several annexes of the AADL language together (the Behavior Annex and the Error-Model Annex). While being a little bit more technical than the blog post, it provides a good information about what is going on in the development of the AADL language.

 

 

Let the show begin

This is the beginning of an exciting week-end. Tomorrow, for the first time since many weeks and after a week with more than 60 miles, I will not be running and instead, will support fellow runners from Steel City Road Runners. The car is packed and prepared to have a great day. This is an ultra marathon on the trails that starts in Ohiopyle. These folks are running either 50K or 70 miles. I already run twice what is known as the most difficult part, the first 8 miles. Needless to say that is was hard, so, completing the full race might be challenging.

 

Exploring Ohiopyle with my partner in crime

Exploring Ohiopyle with my partner in crime

 

On Sunday, I will be back on track and running the Man Up 10K on this Father’s day. No big deal, I just have to keep a 9:22 min/mile pace, which is totally doable, especially after a day without any special activity. If you are around the Pittsburgh area and have nothing plan, you can still join the party and register on race day! Everybody is welcome, there is also a 5K if your running appetite is small!