Author: phillyvegans

So… where do you get your…? Vitamins Edition

When choosing to deviate from the standard American diet and instead follow a plant-based lifestyle, many assume there will be a lack of… things.  In the first of our series “So… where do you get your…?”, we will discuss vitamins.

  1. Cal-Mag Plus
  2. Daily Multivitamin
  3. B12
  4. D3
  5. Omega-3 DHA
  6. Alpha Brain

Prior to June 2016, I was not taking vitamins.  I felt fine, was eating a “balanced” diet, and had a vegan chip on my shoulder that food intake would be sufficient enough to meet my vitamin and mineral needs.   I was also an avid runner, just off my first marathon,  my body was at its peak. Then, the unthinkable happened… I got a stress fracture in my shin.

WHY ME?! HOW!?

At this point, my running coach Rita, asked if I was getting enough calcium. UMMM OF COURSE I WAS!..nt.  After reviewing my MyFitnessPal food diary, that I was keeping meticulously to make sure I was getting enough calories while training, it revealed I was getting sad amounts of calcium.  What a disappointment! The vegan chip on my shoulder was quickly knocked off.

My new plan, add tons of food sourced calcium to my diet!  I began consuming crazy amounts of fortified plant-based milk. Almond milk with breakfast, almond milk with lunch, almond milk with dinner…  this got old… quickly. That is when I decided to buy a supplement.  I searched on trusty Amazon and found that Deva has many varieties of vegan vitamins and landed on their Cal-Mag Plus tablets.

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The bottle calls for 3 tablets per day, so I added this supplement to my daily routine.  I took one tablet with breakfast, one with lunch, and on with dinner, sometimes.  Often, per my MyFitnessPal food diary, I did not need a 3rd tablet, as I already met my calcium needs for the day.  I did notice one thing, shortly after taking the supplement with breakfast and lunch, I would grow a tad sleepy.  Funny thing, mag, short for magnesium can make you sleepy!! Now, I take one tablet at night before bed.  Not only does it make my bones strong, it helps me get to sleep more soundly!

It was not until speaking with friends that I decided taking a multivitamin, was a good decision.  Friends scared me with stories that B12, not found abundantly in a vegan diet, deficiency was silent and irreversible.  Stating that once damage of deficiency is done, there is no coming back from it.  NOTE: I did not look up any information or consult a doctor.  I just believed them and acted.

Again, I took to Amazon and went with a Deva product, Multivitamin & Mineral Support.

I had recovered from my stress fracture in about 3-4 months.  I continued to take the cal-mag tablets because I definitely did not want another one.  Though things seemed to be going well, I wanted to be sure all my levels were in good standing.  During my yearly physical, I had a full panel of blood work done.  The results were not that bad.  Turns out, I was slightly low in B12 and significantly low in vitamin D.  My doctor was not worried and did not associate these almost deficiencies with my plant based diet.  Turns out, most people are low in both as sun exposure, due to a million different things is not strong in the northeast, and B12 absorbancy is generally low.  Back to Amazon I go….

Life went on and so did my continued education into the world of vitamins.  Turn outs me and Vinny both listened to different podcasts, Rich Roll and Joe Rogan, with Dr. Rhonda Patrick  and decided to add Omega-3 DHA, essentially algae, to our list of supplements.   This is normally found in fish oil and has a wide list of functions in the body.

Just when I thought our supplement intake was perfect, Vinny brought Alpha Brain into the mix.  Alpha Brain is a nootropic that supports memory and focus.  This was not added to fulfill a lack of vitamin, just an addition to the group.

To conclude, I am no way throwing shade on the vegan diet.  A lot of the time, we lean towards a junk food vegan diet and these vitamin supplements keep us meeting out dietary goals.  I also forgot to mention why we order specified vegan vitamin supplements.  As some people may not know, many vitamins contain gelatin, which is not vegan.  Be careful when ordering your supplements.

— Erin

 

 

Post Run Recovery

Sure, the actual running is SUPER important but so is post-run recovery.  For a long time, I was in the habit of going for a run then going home and sinking into my couch and catching up on social media.  After my stress fracture last year, I changed my ways, sort of.

My Post Run Routine

  1. Drink water. I like to consume about 32 ounces of water within 40 minutes of finishing my run.  32 ounces sounds like a lot but it just so happens to be the size of my Hyroflask.  This is also just my personal preference.  No science behind it.  This is just the amount that make me feel re-hydrated.
  2. Elevate. Since I am still very into sitting around and skimming social media/Strava after I run, I work this in by spending 5-10 minutes with my legs up on the wall.  This increases circulation and makes my legs feel great!
  3. Stretch/strengthen.  On a well-behaved runner day, I follow the NHS basic stretching routine.  Afterwards, I do a series of planks, push ups and crunch variations.  My strength series is nothing too strenuous, with only 30 second planks and about 3 sets of 10 push ups and crunch variations.
  4. Recovery Smoothie.  This part is my favorite.  Within 40 minutes of finished my run (yes I time it), I enjoy my post run “milkshake” aka a Vanilla Vega Performance Protein Smoothie, which I think tastes like a milkshake.  The following recipe is used for any run longer than 5 miles, for all other runs, I half the recipe.

Vanilla Vegan Performance Protein Smoothie

1.5 cups Silk Unsweetend Cashew Milk
1 scoop Vanilla Vega Performance Protein Powder
Flax Seeds
Chia Seeds
Tumeric
Ginger
1 Frozen Banana
Kale

Blend and Enjoy!

All Things Running – 2017 Training (and other things) – Month Uno

It is 2017 and I have BIG running goals, well one big running goal, QUALIFY FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON.  Training for something like this entails more than just constant running. In addition to my body, my mind needs to be equally, if not more, trained for the months of work and the race itself.

The Race

My official go at my BQ will be at the Via Marathon in September.  I know that sounds like a lifetime away, it is for typical 8-12 week marathon training plan, but in order to meet my 3:30 goal, training starts now.

Let’s take it back to the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2016.  This was my unofficial first attempt at a Boston qualifying time.  If anyone was in Philadelphia this day, the weather was not ideal (40 mph wind gusts, 30 degree temps, yada yada yada) and long story short, I clocked in at 3:36:50,  1 minute 50 seconds over “BQ time”.  I say “BQ time” because even if I did clock in at 3:35, I would not be guaranteed a spot due to time cuts made after submissions are final.  The end of the race was bittersweet, my friend Lia’s mom gave me my metal. I was greeted by my boyfriend who followed me on a bike the majority of the race. I had PRed my marathon time by almost 20 minutes but I was still  not qualified for Boston. This 1 minute 50 seconds only fueled the fire to make me more focused and determined to still qualify for 2018.

Back to current time… I chose the Via Marathon due to its location, course and time of year.  The Via Marathon is only a short turnpike trip away in Allentown (plus it is in close proximity to Bethlehem, aka dreams of post marathon ice cream at Vegan Treats).  A close marathon means not too much adjustment from traveling.  The course is flat and previously 27.50% of participants received a Boston qualifying time.    The marathon is on September 10th, 2017 which is the last possible weekend for Boston qualifying as the cut off should be one week later on the 17th.  Some might see this as a risky move or wonder why I did not pick a marathon earlier in the year, here is why.  I toyed with the idea of a spring marathon, the New Jersey Marathon on April 30th to be exact, but the back to back training I recently did between the Philadelphia Marathon 11/20/2016 and the Dopey Challenge 1/5/2017, left me feeling exhausted.  I was not mentally prepared for another 12 weeks of marathon training so soon.  A summer marathon was an immediate NO.  I do not fare well running in summer temps and I did not want to travel far to avoid them.  So here I am running the Via Marathon in late summer and, I think, if train problems do not repeat themselves, this is my BQ marathon.  PLUS, my friend Aaron from my Strong Hearts Vegan Power team will be by my side a pacer!

The Running

Since officially signing up for my second attempt at a offical Dopey Challenge, my coach Rita, has put me in full training mode.  My typical week consists of 2 easy runs, 1 day of coached track speedwork, 1 day of on-my-own speedwork, 1 long run, 1 optional cross training day and 1 rest day.  One rest day and all those work outs might sound vigorous for the “off-season”, and at times it feels that way, but Rita knows what she is doing and I can feel myself improving as the weeks go by.    I have now come to terms with the fact that I have no off-season, as it does not really fit with my current goals, and I am happy about that.  When I am running, I am happy.  It is the part of day set aside just for me, no distractions from my phone or TV or anything really.

All that being said, it is March and it was February.  Both of those months, are part of a thing people like to call winter.  Winter running is not pretty.  Red cheeks, running noses, teary eyes, numb limbs, ice avoidance — all happen and make it hard for any winter runner to be as gazel-like as they believe themselves to be.  Most of my running has been completed on my “home course” of Delaware Ave, the Temple University Track and, sadly, the treadmill at my local Planet Fitness, which I only resort to under unpleasant weather (i.e. freezing rain, snow, temperatures below freezing).  In addition to the cold, I have been haunted by wind since the Philadelphia Marathon.


My most notable and fun run happened during a trip to the PA mountains.  Coincidentally, Lake Harmony, where I was staying for the weekend, was set right on the course of my future race with my team Strong Hearts Vegan Power, the Ragnar Pennsylvania, benefiting Tamerlaine Farms.   I had this idea to complete the final miles, of the last leg, of the race.  To my disappointment, the course proceeded down private property and I could not complete my planned course which was for the better.  I ended up running the majority of my first 4 miles downhill then had to turn around and proceed up hill all the way back home.    It was as challenging as it was fun but my brother, who volunteered to run with me, probably wanted to kill me.


The Eating

I am a creature of habit…  2 hours prior to any run over 5 miles – caffeinated CLIF Bar; Night before a long run, some combination of red sauce with pasta, on pizza, with a baguette, any combo works;  1 GU energy gel every 4 miles; Recovery smoothie after.  They are the basic and things I keep consistent.  I am not perfect, my diet through this month of training has been confusing.  I’m logging 20+ miles per week, my body is in hunger mode and I am compensating, and then compensating more on top of that.  Next months goal: eat more consciously.  Stay tuned for my favorite recovery smoothie recipes as well as my weekly meal plans.

The Listening

I am not the type of runner who relies heavily on music during my workouts. I make playlists, sure, but if music was to fail on race day or during a run, it would not ruin my performance.   Music more or less became backround noise, so after the Philadelphia Marathon, I cancelled my Spotify subscription and went in a different direction with my audio of choice.  I started diving into that purple icon on my iPhoen… podcasts.  Some might find it odd listening to someone talk as you run but podcasts, specifically the Rich Roll podcast, has transformed my running on a mental level.

Ok “transformed my running on a mental level” sounds hippy and out there, I get it, weird, but hear me out.  The Rich Roll podcast features some of the most inspirational guests of our time.  The guest that drew me in and made me a regular listener of the podcast was Kerri Walsh Jennings.  Her interview was so real and though I am not a professional athlete, parts of it were so relatable.  I had to hear more.  This led me down the rabbit hole of the Rich Roll podcast, current and previous episodes, all of them teaching me something new about others and myself.  I loved all of them, except I must confess the more hippy dippy episodes cannot keep my attention, so I skip those.  They probably are enjoyable to some, just not me, especially while I am running! Anyway, I continue to love the podcasts and listen weekly.  There is just something about listening to a person with an inspirational story, while creating my own personal inspirational story, that settles the mind and makes me feel like I am floating through a run.

My suggestion, listen to this podcast.  It does not have to be done while running.  My favorite episodes so far include #273 Mark Allen, #269 Travis Barker, #268 Darin Olien (even though it made me rethink my regular ass water consumption), #266 David Goggins (HE IS BADASS). #262 Kerri Walsh Jennings, #259 Dean Karnazes (the no foam roller), #256 Chris Hauth, #277 Brogan Graham and #230 Robin Arzon.  The list goes on and on and will definitely continue to grow!

Side note, Rich is vegan but not all of this guests are.

Until next month!

Erin

Vegan Disney Part III + Dopey Challenge Race Report

Greeting! Long time, not talk.  Well it is 2017 and I am vowing to keep up with the blog! Be on the look out for race reports, travel posts, product reviews and much much more.  Lets begin with my most recent venture to Disney World to run the Dopey Challenge.

For those of you who do not know, every January Disney World holds their annual marathon weekend.  The weekend included a variety of race, a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon and kids fun races.  For the crazy runner, there is the Goofy Challenge which requires completing the half marathon and full marathon. For the even crazier runner, there is the Dopey Challenge which requires completing the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon.  That is four days in a row of running.  Of course, I made it my goal to do the Dopey… while eating my way through and going to the parks, not taking the running into consideration at all.

The month prior to Dopey was spent in full on training mode.  It was a test to get the mileage in, with not much speed work but it was exhausting.  I had just finished training for my major race of the year, the Philadelphia Marathon (11/20/2016), took a few days off to recover, then was back to training once again.  I spent the month of December glued to the runDisney website/social media and Dopey/runDisney groups on Facebook keeping my motivation up, as I moved drone-like through training.  As the race/Disney trip got closer, the less I thought about the running, so much so that a friend asked me when my next marathon was and I said “September”, not even acknowledging that I would be running another one, IN JANUARY.

The new year came and went and the next thing you know I was on an airplane to Orlando with my mother, Maureen, sister, Jamie, and friend, Natalie.  We all had our own running feats to conquer.  My mom was to complete her first 5k.  Jamie was to complete her own challenge of sorts, the 5k, 10k and half marathon.  Natalie was to complete the Goofy Challenge.  We all had our own goals for each race, whether it was just finishing or making personal records.  Additionally, we were not going to let the running get in the way of our Disney fun.

We arrived around 9:30 am the Tuesday prior to race day, took the Magical Express to our “home” for the week, Old Key West then our girls trip began.

The Food Mentionables

I am not going to mention any of the food I have previously had and reviewed unless there were changes since the last time.  Links to my other Disney posts can be found at the end of this post.

Trail’s End – Chef TJ

It is not a vegan trip to Disney World if you do not go to Trail’s End and dine with Chef TJ. Below our the dishes we split.  We ate an early lunch to prepare our stomachs for the massive amount of food we knew we would be served.  On top of the Chef TJ regulars, we were served a really yummy beet and arugula dish.

Samosas

Nachos

Soup

Beet, Arugula, Corn Salad

Tofu Veggie Entree

Dessert Tower


Le Cellier

Meh, a vegan walks into a steak house.. we got what we expected… confusion as to why we were there.  Upon booking this reservation, Le Cellier had a seemingly delicious Meyer Lemon Tofu dish.  When we arrived, this dish did not exist.  Instead a new “vegan friendly” dish was on the menu, Root Vegetable Gnocchi.  It was okay, just not the Meyer Lemon Tofu dish I was dreaming of.  In addition the veganizing of the Root Vegetable Gnocchi, we enjoyed their bread selection (with Earth Balance upon request) and Truffle Fries sans cheese.


Mr. Kamal’s

Animal Kingdom’s Mr. Kamal’s food stand may hold some of my favorite snacks in all the parks. We enjoyed their samosas and falafel balls as an afternoon snack. Both very tasty when paired with the mango chutney.


Blaze Pizza

The pizza chain, Blaze, now located at Disney Springs is pretty high on my recommendation list. With several vegan topping and staff that will change their gloves to serve you to avoid cross contamination, Blaze gets a five star review.


Erin McKenna’s

My only complaint about Erin McKenna’s Bakery is that it not more readily available in the parks! The night we went to Blaze, we ended up getting some cookies and SOFT SERVE for dessert. It was perfect, except I would skip the caramel sauce topping, its not that great.


BONUS – Erin McKenna’s offered 10% off your order if did any runDisney race (medal proof) which was very cool in my book.

California Grill

Post marathon with dead legs we decided to eat fancy and with a view at the California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary resort. As previously discussed, the chef created a four plate sampling for both me and my friend Natalie. In addition, we had the Truffle Tofu sushi for an appetizer.

Turf Club

The Turf Club, the little known restaurant at the Saratoga Springs went all out vegan for us.  Chef Omar has been all over the Veg Disney plugging his vegan creations at the Turf Club so we thought to give it a try.  Chef Katie and Omar treated us very special.  See below personalize menu along with our meals.

Veganized Buffalo Chicken Dip


Other places/things we ate and/or snacked at and would recommend:

Columbia Harbor House (QS Lunch) – Lighthouse Sandwich (no broccoli slaw); Vegetarian Chili (no oyster crackers); French Fries; Allergy Friendly Cookies


Tusker House (Buffet Breakfast) – Allergy Friendly Waffles (made upon request); Tator Tots; Fresh Fruit


Sprinkles (Sweet Snack) – Vegan Red Velvet Cupcake


Dole Whip (Heaven on Earth)


Popcorn – (Salty Goodness) – Tip: If you are a popcorn lover like myself, buy the souvenir bucket right away. It is worth the extra money. Fill ups are under $2 and are not capped.

Mickey Pretzel (Salty Snack)


Kona Cafe (TS Breakfast) – Tonga Toast

Quick Tip:

Since we flew in from Philadelphia and did not have a car when we landed, we did grocery delivery from Garden Grocer.  They had lots of vegan friendly items included soy milk, Earth Blance, vegan cream cheese, and fruit. The delivery was on time and they were very good at keeping us up to date. 

The Dopey Challenge

Now onto my thoughts on running the Dopey Challenge.  I must begin by saying I did not “race” these events.  Since this was my first go at a challenge of this sort, my goal was to finish all of them.  Unlike most people who use the Galloway run/walk plan, I did intend to run all 4 races.  Going into it, my biggest fear was waking up early.  I knew I could do the runs physically but the 3:00 am wake up calls were going to be a new obstacle.  Before we talk running, we must touch on the expo for a moment.

The Expo was a nightmare.

We went on day 1, Wednesday, because it was mandatory for the Dopey challenge participants as the first race would be Thursday.   To begin, transportation from the parks to the expo was not available or cast members had no information about it. We ended up taking an Uber from the Contemporary since we were spending our day at Magic Kingdom. The Uber was cheap and we were dropped off right in from of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.  In proper Disney fashion, the expo had lines, LONG lines. Bib pick ups were ALL over the place.  Challenge, marathon and half marathon were in one building while 5k and 10k were located on a walkway.  In addition to this separation, someone thought it would be a genius idea to place the half marathon shirt pick up (for any non-challenge half marathon runners) in the main expo building.  The main expo building that had a 1 hour+ line to get into.  FUN.  We waited in this line, for over an hour. Once inside, it was just like any other marathon expo.


Tip: I am not sure if I was so out of the loop or what, but New Balance has Disney themed marathon weekend shoes that were so cool.  I knew about these prior to entering the main expo building, what I did not know what you needed an appointment to buy them.  They were nice to look at though.  My tip for anyone new to runDisney.  Book an appointment prior. Even if you are only thinking about buying the shoes.  Better safe than sorry.

No Tip: I wish I could provide a good time to go to the Expo so you could avoid the craziness.  From what I heard, it is always crazy for the challengers, unless you want to pay extra money to be VIP, but I cannot tell you if that is worth it or not.

Walt Disney World 5k

The race was set to being 6:00 am.  I am a nervous racer.  Waking up, I was extremely nervous about the transportation to the race.  I even had a nightmare about it prior.  Do not laugh at me, this was my first runDisney morning race.  So my sister, mom and I, in our Raw Threads gear, left for the race 1 hour 30 minutes before the race start time, at 4:30 am.  Well… we arrived at the race in in 15 minutes.  Turns out, our resort, Old Key West, was VERY close to the start line!  We noted this for future races!


Arriving early left lots of time for standing around and photo ops.  Before each race, the sponsored character (Pluto for the 5k) hung out for official pictures. Along with the sponsored character, there were also chances for pictures with the challenge sponsored characters, Goofy and Dopey.  My opinion, arriving early for one race and knocking out all of these photos is smart.


As a first time runDisney morning racer, I missed my corral.  I had been chatting with my mom and sister, not paying any attention.  When I arrive at my corral, it already left.  So instead of corral A, I ran with corral C.  It was not too bad, crowd wise.  The course took you through the Epcot parking lot, through Epcot and ended closely back were it started.  As race 1 of 4, I felt great, even after walking all day through the parks Tuesday and Wednesday.  My coach Rita, who was on board with my, “finish” goal gave me a plan to run an easy average pace of 8:20 min per mile.  As with most races, I felt great, adrenaline was high and the crowd was happy (we were in Disney World, DUH).  I ended up averaging 8:01 per mile.   I was surprised as I did not feel I was going at that speed, but obviously I was.  For this race, I did not stop at any character stops.  I feel if I started in corral A, as intended, lines would not have been as long and I could have popped in and out for photos.

::Notes taken for next year NOT to miss my corral:

(Also, yes I said next year… you’ll hear why later.)

Course Map 2017 (5k/10k)

Image result for wdw 5k course map 2017

Post race snacks were vegan friendly.  Each race ended with bananas,  Powerade, water and a runDisney snack box.  The box included tortilla chips, Oreos, a Clif bar and apple sauce.  The only non-vegan item was this nasty looking cheese cup which was all the rage among the omnis..

Transportation post race was a little tricky.  As the course begins in the parking lot, transportation back to the resorts did not begin until every runner passed.    Since I started in an early corral and ended in 25 minutes, I had to wait in line for the bus to go back to the resort (where Natalie was waiting for us to go to parks, JK she was still sleeping).  I waited so long, my sister,who was a couple corrals back, also finished.  We arrived back at the resort just in time for sunrise.  My mom, who walked the entire 5k, arrived back at the hotel about 45 minutes after us.  We then got ourselves together and headed to Hollywood Studios and Epcot for the day.



Walt Disney World 10k

Day two of running and we knew better.  We did not arrive at the race till 4:45 am (for the 5:30) race start.  We both got to our corrals on time and we both killed our races.  Starting in corral A was pretty awesome.  Since this was the first officially timed race (the 5k was only officially timed for Dopey Challengers), many people in corral A were running for time.  There was less dodging people in the beginning and there were TWO characters with no, or minimal lines.  I got to then stop and see The Genie and Winnie the Pooh & Tigger.  For those new to runDisney, the photographers will take your picture professionally while the character “handler” will take a picture with your phone, if preferred.  Rita’s goal for me for this race was another easy 8:35 per mile pace.  As I started, my legs felt their first feelings of heavy.  I had just trotted the parks for 3 days with no regard of my running and had completed a, faster than planned, 5k the day before.  After 1 mile, my legs were back and I enjoyed myself.  We ran through the Epcot parking lot, around the Boardwalk resort and into Epcot.  It was fun and ended my race only a little faster than planned at 8:19 per mile pace with TWO character stops.


Transportation was easier than the 5k from here on out.  I was able to hop on the bus after my run, after getting my photo with Dopey of course.


Again, there was no rest, we arrived back at the room, got ready and spent the day at the Animal Kingdom.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Before getting into race day Saturday, we have to talk about Friday afternoon/night. Saturday’s weather forecast had called for rain all week, no surprise there. On top of the rain, rumors were swirling on social media about a possible cancellation of the race.  The cause of this alarm, lightening.    With three people in our group running the half marathon, we kept our eyes peeled for the cancellation email, hoping it would never come.  That Friday night, on our way to Blaze Pizza for a proper carboload, we received the following message.


Half marathon and “official” Dopey and Goofy Challenge dreams crushed.  Jamie, who’s first half marathon was just cancelled, was the most upset.  Natalie was happy and I was somewhere in between.  Luckily, my support system did not let me get upset.  Disney was going to issue refunds for the race (something they did not have to do) and I accepted that I would have a day off before the marathon, until I talked to Vinny back home.  Vinny along with a couple other friends has some motivation for me. “run it anyway”.  With that thought, I ate my pizza in a somber mood and went back to the room. I was not mad about the race cancellation until I heard the news and they exclaim that there was a 1% chance of lightening. ONE PERCENT.  This solidified my plan.  I would run the half marathon on my own and I was not the only one with this plan

That Saturday, I set out with my rain gear, after “sleeping in”, at 7:37 am.  My course took me on multiple loops through Old Key West, Saratoga Springs (the two resorts are connected with a walking path) and Disney Springs.  I saw so many people along the way doing their unofficial half marathons as well.  It was the best.  I feel like I can say I semi-earned my shirt and medal, as all the others runners I saw out there did.  Others would disagree, but to each is own.    Rita did not give me a plan for this race as I was supposed to pace my sister at about 11:00 min per mile.  I ended with a pace of 9:02 min per mile.  It felt good.  It was raining and warm and my legs were enjoying it.


I arrived home to my party actually waiting for me, no snack box in hand though, and I got myself together and we went to Hollywood Studios and Epcot for the day again (even walking from park to park).  When I say I did not rest, I meant it. The most sitting I did was on the bus.

Walt Disney World Marathon

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Feeling like a runDisney race pro at this point, me and Natalie, sort of slept in.  I woke up, ate my Clif bar, drank some coffee, packed my Gu’s and we left, around 4:30 am.  We arrived at the race start with just enough time to go to the bathroom and get to our corrals.  It was cold on this Sunday morning and not many people could handle it.  I mean we were in Florida, who would expect the cold.  Not the case with me.  This was my prime running weather.  I was in my shorts and tank top and got all the stares when I took off my trash bag I borrowed from the cleaners at Old Key West.   It ended up being the perfect race attire.  Rita’s plan for me involved 10 miles at 9:40 min per mile, 10 miles at 9:20  min per mile and a stronger finish.  I started off with heavy legs, as I had for the 10k and it was taking me a bit to shake them off. This leads me to my off topic runner complaint. A lot of runners are WAY TO SERIOUS.  I understand people may have been going for PRs or like super concentrating on their gait but whatever, runners may have been in the happiest place on earth, but they were not happy themselves (further proof of this later).  I am the type of runner who LOVES a good chat while on the course.  I was chatless for over 2 miles.  No one even responded to my cheesy jokes like “25 more to go” at mile 1, until I hear a faint “Erin” over my music that I wasn’t even listening to.  It was a friend from home, Suz who I had met 2 years prior at the finish line of my first marathon in Philly.  She was the co-leader of the November Project, Philadelphia tribe and we joked how I wanted to go to November Project strictly for the crowd surfing aspect.  I eventually starting going to November Project the following year.  It was crazy that of all people there we would run into each other.  From there on, I ran with her as we chatted the remaining 24 miles about our lives, Twizzlers and concussions.  We learned more about each other in those 4 hours than we did in the time since meeting each other combined.  It was so nice to have her to chat with and get through the ups and downs of the marathon with.  The course weaved through all four parks in addition to the Wide World of Sports complex and ended where it began at Epcot.  Suz and I ran through the finish line hands held high as we completed the Dopey Challenge.  We did not get to ride any rides or get a margarita, we were too early for both, but we did have fun & stop for so many characters along the way.  Final race pace was 9:53 per mile pace with about 12 character stops.  At the end Suz had to go back to work with Runner’s World and I got to go back to getting the silent treatment from other unhappy marathon runners on the bus.  I even offered my cheese cup to everyone around me, crickets.  Some people do not run as happy as others, I get that now.


Overall, I loved the races and the food.  Since I did not officially complete Dopey, I have already signed up again for next year. I will also be back with my sister, Jamie, to run the Wine & Dine half marathon in November.

❤️ Erin

Detour: Italy… The Good, The Bad, The Croissants

Italy, the land of pizza, pasta and cheese…  Many people would think a trip to the big ol’ European boot would pose a problem for a vegan.  At first, many people would have been correct.  It was not till day 3 of my trip that a trip, plagued with bad luck, turned itself around.   Get ready for a whirlwind food (and a bit of fitness) tour of my experience in Italy with my friend Erica.

First stop… Positano on the stunningly beautiful Amalfi Coast..

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Positano.  WOW. I felt like I was living in a postcard for 2 days.  For this location, my friend Erica and I stayed at an AirBnb in the Montepretuso area of the town.  This was up the mountain and a pretty intense stair climb from the city center.

On night one, we went out with a blind eye.  I settled on going anywhere.  We stopped at the first place we saw after missing the stair path to town and walking on the sidewalk-less roads.  Both of us were starving and our legs were tired.  We ended up at Ristorante Caffe Positano.  It felt like a bit of a tourist trap, pictures of food on the menu, etc.  We went anyway.  After walking miles, we were just happy to see civilization.  No pictures were taken here but I ordered bruschetta  and pasta with tomato sauce.  At first, it came out covered in cheese even though I ordered with “senza formaggio“. The meal itself was nothing to write home about.

Day two started with a planned 4 mile run.  Due to the elevation of Positano, this was disastrous.  It was me either running extremely uphill or extremely downhill.  At one point, I found the steps down to the city and, thinking it was a short way down, ran down them.  Big mistake.  The run (WALK) up was killer.  Feel free to check out my Strava account for routes.  For those into hiking, I am told the Hike of the Gods is along my run route and should be checked out.  We did not really have the time during our trip.

For breakfast that morning, our AirBnB host provided us with a bunch of stuff I could not eat.  Thankfully my friend was not vegan and took on for the team to make us not look rude.  I ate pre-toasted bread with jam, juice and espresso.  It was a sufficient.  Looking back, I should have told her I was vegan.  She probably could have accommodated.   We then headed out for the city.  After exploring all morning, we stumbled upon the CUTEST cafe and overall popular eating establishment in the area, Casa E Bottega.

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Casa e Bottego was an extremely fresh cafe in Positano offering vegan options. So happy to find it.  I had the vegan panini and it was so simple yet so delicious. The ambiance of the cafe is worth going to alone. There is nothing else like it in all of Positano. The seating area is small but worth waiting for. We sat at the “bar” area and it was very enjoyable. We were able to watch the chef prepare food as we waited for ours. Everything was prepared fresh. Nothing frozen or pre-made.  I highly recommend making this a priority stop if visiting Positano.

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Next stop, Naples…

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Naples is quite the city.  It is very busy and not in the tourist sense.  Despite the beautiful back drop of Mt Vesuvius, of all the destinations in Italy, this is the one I would not return to.  If I did return, it would only be for the pizza, and maybe the gelato.

Out first stop in Naples was Perfectoo, a semi Americanized cafe very close to our hotel, Hotel Palazzo Salgar.  Here I had the Vegan Burger. The burger itself was great, the bun, looking back on it, was a bit suspect since I did not feel quite good after eating it. My thoughts are that the bun was not vegan as it had been labeled on the menu.  I suggest going bun-less if you try this place. ALSO, chips listed on then menu are NOT french fries! They are actual chips.

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Next, there is gelato.  Almost all gelato places have a vegan option, they are either fruity or extra dark chocolate.  Typically they are labeled in the case.  I tried as many as I could.  Just note, the cones are typically not vegan.  Your best bet is to go with the cup OR the gluten free cone many places offer. Always ask first.

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It would not have been a trip to Italy without pizza.  We went to one of the top places in Naples and their marinara pie was amazing.  Pizzeria Trianon was established in 1923 and you can tell they have perfected their pizza making in those years.  I ate my entire pizza, like always and I suggest you do the same.  Oh and it costa whole 3.50 euros.

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Last but not least, Naples opened the doorway to croissants, VEGAN croissants.  To be honest, I was not completely thrilled with my food in Italy, as a whole, at this point.  All my meals not listed, consisted of fruit, chips and chocolate purchased at the grocery store, Gran Gusto.  Not the healthiest and not the most fulfilling. Then… at a gelato shop my last night in Naples, I see a sign for “vegano cornetto” aka vegan croissant! My plan was to wake up early the next day and go get one! Sadly, I woke up too late and missed my chance. LUCKILY, this was not the only place in Naples with a vegan croissant.  They are everywhere and not just in Naples, in all of Italy.  I found this out hawking every place we passed by on my sad walk to the Napoli Centrale train station.  On the right, river side, I spotted a sign on the outside pastry case, vegano! They has apricot filled vegan croissants, I scooped one up. It was delicious.  It was my first. I will never forget it.

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Before we move on to Rome, I want to note something that did not disappoint, my run in Naples.  While exploring the day before, my friend and I saw several runners on the water front path, this was good news for my 4 miler the next day.  I left from my hotel and enjoyed a really nice morning run.  Naples runners are friendly and I waived to nearly everyone.

Please be advised………… DRIVERS IN NAPLES ARE WILD.  Stop signs more or less do not exist. Crossing the street, even at cross walks, is risky.  You have to be aggressive.  That being said PLEASE BE CAREFUL if you run here.  Its bad enough walking around during the day, running in it is even worse.

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Now off to Rome…

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Rome… where I truly fell in love with Italian food.

Steps away from our hostel, The Yellow, in Rome, we found the most lovely authentic Italian restaurant, Rifugio Romano, so wonderful we went twice!  Unlike other places in Italy, this restaurant had an entire vegan menu.  Big plus!  We sat outside and it was perfect.

On my first trip, I had pizza with vegan mozzarella and it was so creamy. I was very impressed.  We also enjoyed the vegan antipasto which contained really interesting garlic bread balls, house made vegan mayo, fried rice ball, hummus, and marinated tofu. Me and my non-vegan friend both enjoyed it.  For dessert, they had a special cake on the menu, I would provide details but I spaced when they mentioned chocolate.

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On visit number two, my friend and I shared a lovely bottle of vegan red wine.  For dinner, we ordered the bruschetta, mixed salad and gnocchi. The gnocchi was in walnut sauce and to DIE for.  Truly a MUST STOP if in Rome.

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After spending the day getting turned down from countless religious establishments for having our knees exposed, we found something that did not let us down, lunch at Crispy.  Crispy is a market/cafe with sandwiches, juices and salads, among other things!  I had a vegan”ham” sandwich and it really hit the spot.

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I know you’re not surprised.. but.. I found croissants in Rome..

Right around the corner and on route to all the Rome tourist locations, was a small cafe named Synbiofood.   To my enjoyment, they has vegan croissants and other vegan baked goods.

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Roma Termini, I love you, but only for your croissant sandwich.  The terminal has multiple locations with vegan sandwiches and croissants but not a vegan croissant sandwich like this one from the Juice Bar.  It made travel day delicious.

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My Rome run was the highlight of my trip (run-wise).   I woke up early and even after a night of lots of Italian beer, I went for my “long run”.  It was delightful. Since I was able to get out so early, barely any tourists were around!  I did loops around the Colosseum and ventured around the area taking in all the touristy sites before they were crowded by annoying selfie sticks.

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Portofino

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Portofino was nothing special for the vegan books, but boy was it super cute.. and super ritzy.  The little waterfront town was filled with designer stores and overpriced drinks.  One good thing about having drinks in Italy that I have no mentioned thus far, snacks.  They give you snacks.  Whether it is chips or peanuts, it is pretty cool.

We set out in Portofino hungry, but still too early for  dinner.  So we ventured around and found a cute wine bar with outside seating facing the beautiful Portofino harbor.  This was a prime people watching location.  We had a few drinks and an awesome snack plate.

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For dinner, I wanted pizza and my friend wanted pasta so we found a place close by, and also on the harbor, that had both at Da Nicola.  At Da Nicola, me and Erica split the marinara pizza, pasta and a salad.  Our meal was alright.  Nothing special really.

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Florence

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Starved from travel day, we set out in Florence to find somewhere to eat.  Since a lot of places close after lunch but before dinner, our timing was pretty bad.  It was 2:45 pm, horrible timing to get a good meal.  Anyway, we stumbled upon Konnubio down the street from our hotel.  What caught our eye was how beautiful the inside was, then we saw the menu.. with.. VEGAN OPTIONS.  Luckily, the staff was amazing and sat us despite the time! We ordered the Cous Cous appetizer and the Chickpea salad for lunch.  Both were amazing and we were so thankful to have stumbled upon such a great place with vegan options.

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And then there was our late night dinner at Universo Vegano.  Two separate friends had told me to go here while I was in town, I do not know how I almost forget, let alone totally missed a visit at the restaurants other location in Rome.  Anyway, I got there just in time before closing.  The staff was super friendly and though I wanted to order everything on the menu, I ended up with the burger and a delicious looking dessert.  If I was staying in Florence I would have went back.

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And then there was more gelato. I was OVERLY excited when we stumbled upon this place.  A friend had suggested it but I had forgot to look up the address while in Wifi zone.  Luckily we passed it by accident!  The place… Festival del Gelato.  They had soooooo many vegan fun flavors!  I was impressed by the clear labeling as well.

Note: Only the gluten free cone is vegan.

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My final (sigh) European croissant was enjoyed at the Shake Cafe.  This little cafe in the Duomo area was super cute and in addition to their various vegan croissants, they had an assortments of juices and smoothie bowls suitable for vegans.  I actually took their vegan bagel sandwich to go for my plane ride to Vienna and it was a treat.

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THE LAYOVERS

During this trip, my friend and I used our American Airline reward miles and it left us with some pretty lofty layovers in London and Vienna.

I had huge dreams for London… a vegan pub with authentic English fare, an all vegan ice cream shop. Dreams crushed.  We arrived at The Coach and Horses around 9 pm.  Late for dinner I know! Sadly,  they were done serving food. 😦 We then ventured on and found a Thai restaurant. Nothing special.  After our meal, we ATTEMPTED to get ice cream at Yorica.  We showed up just as they were cleaning up. Bad luck in London.

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On the way home, however, our layover was lovely.  We had about 8 hours in Vienna and we decided to have our meal at Swing Kitchen.  I had the vegan cheeseburger meal and a cute chocolate cupcake.  I wish I had waited on dessert though, later I found out they had soft serve.  Erica had the falafel wrap.  I did not try it but it sure looked good.

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Well there is that.. my tour of Italy (and London… and Vienna)! I would like to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to Yelp.  Without Yelp, I would have never found any of these places in the first place.

These are a few of my favorite things: March Edition

With the approach of spring in Philadelphia and all its wonder, I would like to take some time to point out a few of my new found favorite things popping up all over the city.

1. Miyoko’s Creamery Cheese

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Miyoko’s cashew based cheeses recently entered my life when friends of mine were kind enough to pick some up while visiting Lagusta’s Luscious in New York. Until this moment, I did not know what I was missing. Since then I have tried nearly all the varieties, savoring each block then waiting for my next chance to get another. It has never been available in Philadelphia which set up a road block on my highway to vegan cheese glory.

The the road block was averted…

While shopping at Whole Food’s South Street, I nearly fainted in the dairy (free) isle. This Philadelphia location now carries Miyoko’s Double Cream Chive ($8.99) and Aged English Sharp Farmhouse ($9.99). I purchased the Double Cream Chive and now I do not know how I will live without it. It’s rich, creamy flavor fulfills any pre-vegan cheese dream I ever had. Whether you plan to throw a vegan wine and cheese party or just indulge is some cheese on toast, you will want to pick up both of these delectable cheeses.

2. Center City Soft Pretzels

Not to begin on a negative note but I have always had a bone to pick with the Philadelphia Pretzel Factory and their need to use whey in their pretzels. I not only ate one of these pretzels myself before doing my research, but I have also had to correct other people on a vegan diet of this unnecessary ingredient in the well-known Philadelphia staple. So let’s talk about a company who does not put unneeded ingredients in their pretzels: Center City Soft Pretzels.

Seeing a Center City Soft Pretzels immediately reminds me of my childhood, specifically, recess in grade school. It is funny how a pretzel could bring you back to a time when your biggest worry was finishing your homework in time to go to the playground. These three-ingredient, kosher bundles of joy are just perfect.
Since recently moving onto Richmond Street in Port Richmond, I am lucky enough to be in walking distance of the River Wards Café, an establishment serving up Center City Soft Pretzels daily. (TIP: Get there at 8:15 am and the pretzels will still be warm.) So stop by and get your carb on. The lattes are not that bad either.

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Center City Soft Pretzels are also available around the city of at their factory in South Philly.

3. Origin Almond

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Oh, almond milk and all this dairy-free goodness. The past two months have been very almond-y for me.

In the beginning of February, my vegan runner enthusiasm came to a screeching holt when I was unofficially diagnosed with a stress fracture. After taking a careful review of my calcium intake, I found out I needed A LOT more than I was getting. Since almond milk is a huge source of calcium for vegans, I did my research on all the commercialized milks and their calcium content. Quite frankly, I was too lazy to make my own almond milk at home. It was really hard to settle on an almond milk that was organic, non GMO, and did not contain carrageenan until Origin Almond popped in my inbox.

Origin Almond is a localish (New Jersey) company that makes 100% raw and unpasteurized almond milk. Their flavors vary from plain old almond milk to a Golden Tumeric blend. Not only do they use organic almond, they are also GMO and additive free! As if things could not get better, ONE 16 oz bottle of Origin Almond Milk contains the almond equivalent of TWO commercial cartons of almond milk. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

Origin Almond can be ordered online and delivered to your door (like the olden times) OR it can be found at Essene Market on 4th Street.

4. Dottie’s Boston Creme Donut

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The wait is OVER. Dottie’s Donuts finally opened up its brick and mortar location in West Philly. On that day, the heavens opened up and sent down the Dottie’s Boston Crème Donut for all of the people of Philadelphia to enjoy. I have no further words about it. Just go. Try one for yourself. You’re welcome.

5. Front Street Cafe Kale Caesar Salad

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As if Front Street Café could not get even better in my mind, THEY DID. If you have not been to Front Street Café you are missing out on a lot. The café/restaurant hosts a ton of vegan Philly favorites including Crust Vegan Bakery and Dottie’s Donuts (not so fast, you still can only get the Boston CrèmeS at THEE Dottie’s Donuts in West Philly) along with juice, smoothies and bagels. Their sit down brunch and dinner menu is on point, carrying everything from pancakes and buffalo cauliflower to their version of vegan eggs benedict. All this is great and delicious.

But then there is the Kale Caesar salad..

Skeptics out there would think “what is so great about a kale salad?” Skeptics have never tried THIS kale salad from Front Street Café.

The salad is as follows:
Kale; Walnut Picada; Roasted Tomatoes; Pickled Red Onions; Caesar Dressing
(I also added grilled tofu to my salad <3)

Again, just go. Try it. I have never tasted something so healthy yet delicious.

OH! Do not be fooled by the Front Street Café menu. Instead of placing a symbol next to vegan menu items, Front Street places symbols on items that are not vegan! So go crazy and order anything without a cow, pig, chicken or cheese wedge next to it.

❤ Erin

I trained for my first marathon… AKA I ate a lot of pizza.

This year, I decided to take my running to the next level and run my first ever marathon.  As a Philadelphian, I chose the fall 2015 Philadelphia Marathon and enlisted Rita at Breakaway Bikes to provide me with the best training in the city.  During my 21 weeks of extensive training, I became one hungry girl.  Training for a race of this sort leaves you feeling hungry… all the time.  For me, I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted and however much I wanted without feeling a shred of eaters remorse. I was a machine, specifically.. a pizza eating machine.  Each week,  once (or twice) a week I would find the best (and some mediocre) pizza in the city (and a few in New Jersey) and put it up to the long run fuel test.

Get ready to drool over my favorite and not so favorite vegan pizza pies…

NOTE: I stuck with primarily marinara style pizzas as this worked perfect as fuel!  Also, do not be fooled, I ate the whole pizza, each time.  No sharing during marathon training.

THE BEST:

  1. Zavino – Gayborhood – 112 South 13th Street; Philadelphia, PA 19107

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I had this gloriously wood fire pizza (and glass of red wine) the night before the Rock & Roll half marathon.   The sauce here was perfect and the pizza itself was cooked to perfection.  Zavino is quite the hot spot but definitely worth the wait.  My friend and I were lucky enough to grab bar seats immediately.

2. Taconelli’s – Port Richmond – 2604 East Somerset Street; Philadelphia, PA 19134

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This. Sauce.  I am 100% not a fan of a ton of sauce but this is the exception.  I could actually drink it.

Side Note: Dough must be ordered in advance but it is worth it. This pizza is pretty much everything and the fact that it is in, Port Richmond, the neighborhood where I grew up gives it a special place in my heart.

3. Nomad Philadelphia – 611 South 7th Street; Philadelphia, PA 19147

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Nomad was my first pizza love early on.  I think I told EVERYONE about how good it was.  As you can see from my other pizza comments, it is all in the sauce.  Nomad’s marinara was equally perfect.

4.  Blackbird Pizzeria – 507 South 6th Street; Philadelphia, PA 19147

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Ahhh Blackbird.  The food here warms my soul therefore I had this pizza (among other things) 3 times throughout training.  It was my go-to on nights when I wanted to stay in or I was too sweaty from a Friday night run to go to anywhere fancy.  My recommendation, always, is to go here and try everything.  The food coma is well worth it.

5. Pizzeria Vetri – Callowhill – 1939 Callowhill Street; Philadelphia, PA

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Another pizza done right.  Killer sauce, crisp crust, perfection.  There were some very interesting pizzas on the menu here.  I may go back a play around with some of the other toppings.

THE WORST:

  1. Bufad – 1240 Spring Garden Street; Philadelphia, PA 19123

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In one word, floppy.  This pizza was so… floppy.  It looked delicious but looks can be deceiving.  Maybe if they cooked it just a tad bit more it would have been better.

2. Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar – University City – 200 South 40th Street; Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Literally had the worst time here confirming the ingredients were vegan.  Traditional pizza dough does not contain egg.  Our waitress seemed certain it had egg.  I pretty much had to walk her over to ask the kitchen if it did.  As I suspected,  no egg in the dough.  For a restaurant that boasts a menu full of veggie and low-cal farm fresh meals, I was not happy with this experience.

The Good:

  1. Nomad Roman – 1305 Locust Street; Philadelphia, PA 19104

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If you like it thin, you’ll LOVE this pizza.  For me, however, it did not fit (I am a fan of thin but more of a Neapolitan style pizza) but was still very very delicious.    A bit on the spicy side but that never bothers me.

2. Taconelli’s Pizza Maple Shade – Maple Shade – 27 West Main Street; Maple Shade, NJ 08052

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This Taconelli’s is owned by another member of the same family who owns the OG in Port Richmond.  I might just be crazy but I do not think the sauce is AS good.  Its good but not on the level of the original.  On a brighter note,  this NJ location contains more than just pizza and no dough pre-order required.  I do not know about you, but I am a fan of the salad/pizza combo.  Their menu also contains pasta dishes.

3. Jules Thin Crust – Cherry Hill – 1650 Kings Highway North; Cherry Hill, NJ

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Stumbled upon this was while venturing to New Jersey and it was delightful.  The crust was thin, as stated in the name, and it was perfect.  The whole business has a pretty good story behind it as well.

4. Dock Street Brewery – West Philly – 701 South 50th Street; Philadelphia, PA 19143

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This gem in the heart of West Philly makes a fantastic vegan pizza.  If you like beer and pizza, it is worth the trek west.

5. Bricco Coal Fired Pizza – 128 Haddon Ave; Westmont, NJ 08108

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During POPE weekend, I ventured to New Jersey a lot to avoid the crowds and found Briccos on Haddonfeild Road.  They know what they are doing here.   Their pizzas are delicious and filling.

6. Spuntino – Northern Liberties – 701 North 2nd Street; Philadelphia, PA 19123

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This new wood-fire pizza joint was a treat.  The pizza was cooked perfect and it came out really fast.  ALSO, when you order a salad, you receive a piece of freshly baked dough.   It was awesome.

The Ehhh:

  1. 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza – Cherry Hill – 2000 Marlton Pike; West Cherry Hill, NJ

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Mehhh, this pizza was fast.  I had a lot of trouble with the employees not knowing the ingredients in the dough resulting in my biggest vegan conversation pet peeve…

Me: “Is the gluten free dough vegan?”
Employee: “Well yes, its gluten free.”

.. The gluten free dough ended up having egg.  BUT the regular dough was vegan and they had pineapple as a topping so I was happy.  They restaurant prides itself on being fast but my pizza was floppy.  I am not a fan of floppy pizza.

2. Debbie’s Place – Port Richmond – 2617 East Westmoreland; Philadelphia, PA 19134

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I call this the “Cardboard Pizza” or “Bar Pizza”.  It is so simple, so processed, so perfect.. especially when there is nothing else around.  I am sure it would be even better with toppings but I would typically eat these hours before a long run so I did not want to test the limits of my stomach with new things.

I hope this post got your hungry for some pizza and maybe motivated to marathon train.  The perks are amazing.  For 21 weeks I could eat everything, lose 11 lbs and better my endurance (both pizza eating and running related.)  In the end, I certify pizza the #1 long run food.  

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