Fitness week recap – 6/24/2019

I’ve decided that I want to try something new in the blog for a few weeks. I’m going to try to do a weekly fitness recap each Sunday night of what I’ve done during the prior week. I’m looking for this to be a way to capture, not just the numbers and stats of my activities, but how it felt.

Week Starting 6/24/2019
Running:
35.5 miles
Biking:
63.6 miles
Steps:
130,139 (64.7 miles – 29.2 walking)

Impression: This week was much the same as last, but with a few less running miles. The week started out good with some solid runs early, and then a nice long bike ride for my Beer & Bikes ride. I also got in two commute rides, one just to the train station, and one fully to the office. The biking week finished out with a nice ride with my wife and our friend Abe to a cafe.

On the running front I had a solid 20 mile run at Afton on Saturday where my friend Mike and I repeated a bunch of the hills. I ended up with 2,800ft of vert, which is killer for the training. However, during the run my legs really felt heavy and tired. As I finished out the 20 miles I surmised that I might be doing a bit much right now with both biking and running, and need a little rest. Therefore, this upcoming week will be an intentionally low mileage week. A couple runs, nothing over 8-10 miles, and no biking all the way to work. I also will be missing my Wednesday Beer & Bikes ride due to a soccer game, so that will cut down my mileage.

I’m hoping I can get a little bit of recovery going in my muscles and hit things again next week. With my big 100K race coming up the first weekend of August, I need to make sure I’m focusing enough on my running, and balancing the biking more.

Savanna Portage Photos

I realized I haven’t posted this yet, so here’s my gallery of shots from Savanna Portage State Park. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were so bad that I didn’t get as many shots as I wanted. Stopping to take photos was just not a great idea.

https://swiftphotography.smugmug.com/Exploration/Savanna-Portage-State-Park-2019/

Quick Review: Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite

I’ve been an avid Pokemon Go player for a while now, and also dabble in Ingress at the same time. These are both augmented reality games from Niantic, that mix your actual location in the world with game play. As you wander around your surrounding area you encounter various places and items that you interact with in game. In Pokemon, it’s random wild Pokemon that you can catch and add to your collection. In Ingress, it’s portals that you can hack to gain items, or destroy to take down the enemy team’s strength. These games are often very deep, and you can play them idly, as you go places. They also track your steps, and reward you for them, so it encourages you to get out and move.

This past week the newest release landed, Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite. The basic premise is that some unknown force has been causing things to appear in random places around the world. To protect the secrecy of the wizarding world you must cast spells to free these items and allow them to return to their proper place in the world. You also encounter fortresses where you can do battle against dark forces, both solo, and with your friends. There is also a large crafting and leveling component to the game which promises some longevity.

As someone who’s been playing Pokemon Go for a while, there was an immediate comparison to that game, and how it did or didn’t measure up. In fact at first blush, I was very underwhelmed by Wizard’s Unite. I found it to be clunky and inelegant, with far too many things to keep track of. Many of the first reviews out there agreed, that this felt like too far of a departure from the beloved game style of Pokemon Go, while still just being a skin over the same mechanics.

However, I’ve now been able to spend more time with the game, and I’m changing my tune. The more I get to know the interface, and the various mechanics, the more I’ve found myself enjoying it. Yes, there’s a steep learning curve to really understand everything that’s going on, but once you’ve figured out the basics, it starts to become more natural.

Here’s where I think Wizard’s Unite get’s things right.

  • Using the mechanic of tracing the outline of a spell works really well on a touch-based device. Once you learn the spells motions it becomes pretty rudimentary to cast them when required, and it’s different than just throwing a Pokeball everytime.
  • In addition to casting the spell, the method for determining success is a fun balance between being careful and being quick. You might be able to trace a spell perfectly, but slowly, and that lowers it’s effectiveness. However, trying to go faster can result in missing the outline too much and failing to cast the spell at all. It ends up being a neat balancing act.
  • The story throughout the game is fun and engaging. You’re trying to solve a mystery, and that’s always fun. As you unravel more and more of the plot, you get to meet more characters, and that makes reading the filler dialogue more interesting.
  • The Harry Potter world is presented well, and despite the fact that many things are just cosmetic (like which House you choose to join), you feel like you’re in the actual world of Harry Potter. There are tons of references to books, movies, and extra material throughout the game that help keep you engaged.

So where do I think they got things wrong?

  • The energy mechanic needs some adjustment, but not for the reason you may thing. Many people are bemoaning the lack of energy that they’re finding to cast spells, but much like Pokeballs in Pokemon Go, it takes time to build up your supplies. I think in time, balancing always having energy available won’t be such a big deal. My issue is that energy is used for too many things, and you can only replenish it at certain places. In Pokemon you can get more Pokeballs at any stop or gym. In Wizard’s Unite you can only get energy from Inns, and sometimes greenhouses. But yet you need to use energy any time you’re casting spells either in the wild, or in a fortress. Pokemon never asked you to use your own Pokeballs in a gym or raid. In Wizard’s Unite you have to spend not just energy, but runes as well, meaning that you’re using up two forms of currency.
  • Spawn and de-spawn rates need some tweaking. It feels like the number of times that an encounter ends with the challenge disappearing is far too many. In Pokemon Go the wild creature can run way and you miss your chance to catch them. It’s not terribly common, but it happens. In Wizard’s Unite it feels like it’s happening way too often. Additionally, foundables seem to resist your spells way too often.
  • Better guides online. This is a game that has a lot of depth built in to it. It would have been great if some of the tutorials would have been presented in a website or YouTube video (much like Ingress). I think they missed an opportunity to help people really understand what they were doing here.

Apart from that, I’m not finding much to hate on. The complexity of things like growing plants in greenhouses, or mixing potions could be simplified a bit more, but they do make the game feel like it has more depth than others. Perhaps in the future, some simplification of the number of spell ingredients would be nice.

I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m still playing frequently in a couple weeks, or if I’ve gone back to Pokemon, but for now I’m enjoying a bit of something new.

Fitness week recap – 6/17/2019

I’ve decided that I want to try something new in the blog for a few weeks. I’m going to try to do a weekly fitness recap each Sunday night of what I’ve done during the prior week. I’m looking for this to be a way to capture, not just the numbers and stats of my activities, but how it felt.

Week Starting 6/17/2019
Running:
40.2 miles
Biking:
62.8 miles
Steps:
137,268 (68.3 miles – 28.1 walking)

Impression: This week was an increase in biking, mostly through commuting, and a really long Beer & Bikes ride on Wednesday. I also ended up commuting a couple extra times than I had planned. My running was mostly solid, and I put down a PR on the Afton 25K course, however I bonked hard on the final 2.5 miles of my 18 miler on the day. Overall, a solid week, and I feel like my legs are starting to realize that this is the new normal.

I also have been working a lot on my calf and quad rolling to help with some tight ligaments near my knees. After having a few years of really high mileage I’m starting to understand more of what is normal for my body, and is just a “niggle”, vs something I need to pay more attention to.

Quick Review: VEGA Essentials Shake

I’m not one to jump on a diet or health-trend bandwagon. Despite having lost 40 lbs at one point in my life, I’ve basically tried to lose weight with a general policy of cutting calories and increasing activity. However, something that has always been a struggle, having a desk job, is reducing my hunger level throughout the day. It’s really easy to keep walking over to the vending machine and grabbing something new every couple of hours. Especially at my current job where we have an awesome self-serve market that filled with all kinds of goodies.

Something I know about myself is that if I can get a decent amount of calories in me, first thing in the morning, I can stave off my snacking till later in the day, or even until lunch time. For a while I was grabbing a breakfast sandwich at the gas station each morning, since it had protein in it that would help satiate me longer However, it was also loaded with cheese and other yummy stuff that probably was self-defeating. So, I decided to try a meal shake for breakfast.

One of the brands I had sampled in the past, and enjoyed is VEGA. In particular, their chocolate flavor is rich and smooth, and doesn’t taste cloyingly sweet. The price isn’t too bad, $36 for 18 servings, which with the addition of milk and a banana, I’m getting breakfast for around $3 each morning. I’m not a huge dairy milk fan (doesn’t always agree with me), so I’m using coconut milk, which gives the shake a bit of a tropical flavor. I could blend my banana into the shake, but I’m trying to be efficient with my time, so I just eat that on the side.

Apart from the solid flavor, I’ve found the texture to be quite pleasant as well. It’s not chalky, and when I shake it in a blender bottle, I’m able to get it pretty smooth. As with most shakes like this, it’s a thick substance, when made to recipe. There’s just no getting around that, but I’ve never felt like the texture is off-putting in any way. One of the reasons I chose their Essentials Shake is because it’s also loaded up with lots of vitamins and is more well rounded than just a simple protein shake. I’m not looking to bulk up, so having a more balanced mix works well for me.

It’s now been a couple of weeks since I started this routine, and yesterday I weighed in at my lowest weight since August of last year. I’m finding that I’m able to keep my hunger more in check in the mornings, and have been able to push my lunch later in the day. I still do some snacking at work, but in general I’m keeping it to just 1-2 per day instead of some times when I’ve been visiting the snacks every hour and a half.

I want to be clear though that I’m also needing to be smart with my other eating. This isn’t some magical diet drink, but a tool that I’m using to get my weight back down where I want it. I still need to keep up my exercising, and watch my calories the rest of the day, but having a solid start has helped a lot to keep me in a routine that works.

If you’re looking to use a shake to supplement your diet, I’d recommend giving VEGA a try. I think it’s a great mix, with good flavor and consistency. It’s reasonably priced, easy to make, and does the job I want it to to.