StitchFix pt. 1: Orange-Red Is Still Orange

First of all, StitchFix did not ask me to write this. They gave me a $20 credit so my first shipment would be free, but it was an automated “oh you have an account but didn’t order anything so let’s try to entice you” kind of thing. I didn’t speak to anyone in their PR department or get any nudges. This is 100% my opinion.

That said….well they tried. Part of it is my fault. I should have said NO ORANGE OR ORANGE RED instead of just NO ORANGE. It all makes me look jaundiced. Blue red is fine, but anything that even carries a whiff of orange is awful. I liked the style of both dresses they sent, but one had my hated color and one just did not fit right at the top. It also had a damaged belt loop but that wouldn’t have stopped me from keeping it if it had fit correctly. The necklace was too expensive, and the top they sent was ONCE AGAIN the wrong color. The black and white skater style skirt they sent was perfect though. I kept that. $68-$20 styling fee=$48 which is reasonable for something I can wear often.

All in all for a first shot they did OK. I would expect they’d understand color theory a bit better but maybe that’s asking too much from some poor overworked stylist in a warehouse somewhere. If you can get them to give you the $20 credit then I say it is worth a shot. If they give me another $20 credit I’ll probably give them a second chance. No skin off my nose if it doesn’t work in that case. Likely won’t do it otherwise.

The Dopey and a Book Review

Terrifying as it is, I’m signed up for the Dopey in 2017. Which means I need to run a full marathon. Which means I need to train for a full marathon, run it, and then transition into training for the Dopey.

I’m using the Hal Higdon Novice 2 program to prepare for a race in September. It seemed like the best way to transition into longer distances. We shall see if it works.

http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51138/Marathon-Novice-2-Training-Program

I’m planning to run the All Out Fallfest marathon in September, which looks like a good fit for me. I’d like to do Bellingham Bay the same weekend, but my Washington State friend might not be able to manage it so probably gonna be easier to stick close to home.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Forman is a hilarious, inspiring, brutally honest look at going all in for a marathon…and an ultra marathon. I listened to the audiobook (thank you, Jeffco Libraries!) and it was BRILLIANT. I highly recommend listening to it if you don’t feel like reading it. I’m also making my way through The First 20 Minutes, and The New Rules of Running, and I’ll review those later.

Mr. Forman used to be a runner, but then life and family happened. His older daughter Ronnie challenges him to run a full marathon with her, and despite his reservations…he does it.

I enjoyed the humor and honesty, and I was giggling silently at several points. Anyone who runs will love this book, and anyone that wants to run is going to either be inspired or will panic and I’m not sure which.

I listen to tons and tons of audiobooks and podcasts because I work for very boring companies doing very boring things and it is much easier to ignore my creepy, godawful coworker when I don’t have to hear his stupid voice.

My Gear

I’m a larger girl, and I know how hard it is to get started when you’re not skinny and nobody tells you that you’re going to need certain things. Like Bodyglide. LOTS of Bodyglide. And some very well cushioned shoes.

In case anyone was wondering, here’s a list of the crap I run with:

Shoes:

  • Brooks Transcends 1 for under 5 miles (just bought some Transcends 2s and 3s)
  • Brooks Ariels for over 5 miles

Brooks seriously needs to send me some free shit for how often I have talked up their shoes to my friends and family. Go to a running store and get fitted for your shoes. Don’t just buy whatever someone else has. Don’t go by looks.

Tracking:

Garmin Forerunner 230 (I’ll post a more in depth review of this later, but I love it)

Water:

Camelback handheld insulted (because ice in Denver in summer is necessary)

Fuel:

Gu with caffeine, Nuun with caffeine, and Honey Stinger Chews (add caffeine to these please I am an addict)

Hat: 

I have a couple of running hats from various races. Way better than cotton.

Socks: 

Feetures! of various types depending on the day and the weather

Clothes:

I love Skirtsports and Road Runner for skirts and shorts. I have a big ass and I like to have a little extra coverage so it is…less obvious. I usually buy C9 sports bras and tanks from Target, or wear my race shirts. Get your bras fitted correctly. Do not mess around with shitty ones. I also have two 3/4 zip light jackets for brisk mornings.

Misc:

No seriously. Bodyglide. And sunscreen. And some huge ass sun glasses. You will sweat and chafe and burn otherwise. In cold climates, invest in some really awesome gloves for winter. I also have a flipbelt for when I’m wearing shorts with no pockets.

If you have questions about anything, please feel free to ask! I’m not an expert by any scope of the imagination, but I’ll do my best to help.

Dark Side Challenge 2016

It is raining/hailing/sleeting in Denver, and my birbs are cuddled up and watching bad TV with me. Seems as good a time as any to write my race recap for the RunDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge!

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I was Darth Jar Jar from the reddit theory for the 10k. Don’t you judge me. (Photo taken by Disney Photopass)

To start with, I don’t think I’m going to be doing any more inaugural races for a while. Too many kinks no matter how good the organizers are. RunDisney tried a new course that went from Epcot to ESPN, and a lot of people hated it, but I honestly didn’t mind. The people who drove and parked at Epcot were the ones who had the most trouble. It took a long time to get from the finish back to my hotel (Pop Century) for the 10k, but for the half they’d clearly called in every charter bus for a thousand miles so it was a MUCH faster process. Presumably it was also faster for the people who needed to get back to the parking lot, but I can’t speak for that aspect.

The course for the 10k went from Epcot, through Hollywood Studios, then over to ESPN. There were a lot of weird bottlenecks along the path between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, which I’m told is pretty normal for that route. It was horrifically hot and muggy so there was no chance of me getting a faster time than I had in New Orleans anyway, and I was happy to enjoy the chaos. The last mile…ish was on a packed dirt path and that got hairy in a couple of spots as well. Not awful, but you could easily twist an ankle.

As always, the medals and shirts are great. No complaints there.

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The course for the half was pretty similar except that it went out to Animal Kingdom and then came back to ESPN. There were tons of Storm Troopers and other characters all over both courses, and Kylo Ren on the stage at Hollywood Studios was a lot of fun. I’d like to say I got some great photos but I honestly didn’t because I was so hot and kinda loopy.

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Have some fireworks. I’m a terrible photographer. 

For anyone worried about the Disney Photopass changeover, don’t be. They did great and (once the server problems were resolved) everything popped up quickly.

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Darth Maul’s horns did not hold up as well as Jar Jar’s eyes…not gonna lie. (Photo taken by Disney Photopass)

I’ll almost certainly do both Star Wars races at some point so I can get the Kessel Run medal, but that’s the only reason I’d do this race again. It is fun, but it is just too damn hot in April in Florida. I love RunDisney but I think they need to reassess what time of year they hold this run.

As for the next round… I don’t know if I’ll be staying at Pop Century again for the Dopey…. my friend Sara and I are going to try to upgrade to Port Orleans. Or Yacht Club. We stayed at Yacht Club the last two nights of our trip and it was GLORIOUS. The pool alone is worth the cost, but given that the Dopey is in January…ehhh. Probably won’t be able to use it.

Signups for the Dopey are tomorrow and I’m conflicted. Am I going to be able to do this? I’ve lost more weight. I’m getting faster. Can I really go the full 26.2?

I hope so. I’ll sure find out.

Questionable Judgement pt 1

I finally beat my personal record for the mile today. Now, grant you, 11:04 was not insanely fast to begin with, so finally getting down to 10:08 probably isn’t all that impressive to anyone, but given the fact that I’m recovering from bronchitis and it is that time of the month, I think I deserve at least a little pat on the back.

And some spinach ravioli.

POINT IS my dream of finishing a full marathon in under 5 hours seems that much more attainable when I’m actually capable of running a mile at something more than a glacial pace. I feel less awkward about calling myself a runner.

Also the Shakira song from Zootopia is now on heavy repeat on my running track list. I haven’t seen the movie yet but the song just makes me so happy.

Running Goals

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Have a decent picture of the Rock and Roll NOLA 10k medal while I’m at it. SORRY IT WASN’T IN THE ACTUAL BLOG POST ON RNRNOLA. 

I’m always interested to hear what other people’s goals are in regards to running. For some people it is specific times, for others it is a certain number of races in a year, or a new distance altogether.

For me, this year, it is all of the above. My plan is to run the Dopey in 2017 and to reasonably be able to do that? I need to run my first full marathon some time this year. I need to get my times under 12min/miles AT LEAST and I need to do all of this while losing weight and staying injury free.

I’m terrified, honestly. There is so much that could go wrong. But I need to do this to prove to myself that I’m actually kind of becoming a runner. A real runner.

Since the Princess Half in 2015, I’ve run 10ks or halfs (or both) in Florida, California, Colorado, and Louisiana. My first full marathon will probably be in Washington State with my dear friend Sara in September.

Good, bad, or ugly…I’m going to do this.

Do feel free to leave your goals in the comments and make me feel a little less crazy.

Race Recap: Rock and Roll New Orleans 2016

Woo! I managed to set a PR for the 10k in New Orleans! 1:21:59 isn’t incredibly impressive but it is way faster than I usually manage, and it gives me some hope that I’m finally making progress.

All is well with the world. The medal is by far and away one of my favorites (after the Disney Coast to Coast medal and the Glass Slipper). I loved the course, and other than some minor messes with the post race busses back to the starting line, everything was great.

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It wasn’t stupid hot so I looked a hell of a lot better than I usually do post-race. 

I am surprised at how generous they were with the timing….there were people running the marathon who had only made it to mile 9 at the 5 hour mark, which seems just…odd.

We stayed at the International House Hotel, just a couple of blocks up from the starting line. Other than the entire hotel smelling faintly (and sometimes strongly) of cigarettes, I had no complaints. Everyone was polite and quick to help.

Of the various bars and restaurants we went to, Cochon and GW Fins were both the most expensive and the most amazing. Bourbon O Bar had great music and some strong drinks, and Red Gravy had an EXCELLENT breakfast. The food at Camilla’s Grill was good, but the pecan pie was excellent and the guys working there were so much fun.

We did a graveyard tour through Save Our Cemeteries, and it was a bit odd but very informative and fun. The Gray Line tour of Oak Alley Planation was probably overpriced but the bus was comfortable and the tour was good. The driver was very talkative and friendly.

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Terrible history, STUNNING house. 

All in all, New Orleans is wonderful and grimy and exciting and confusing and I highly recommend the race and the city. There’s nothing better than beignets for recovery, and a flat and fast course past a graveyard never hurt anyone.

Onwards

Next Sunday is the Rock and Roll New Orleans 10k, which I’m both excited about and wondering what I was thinking signing up for a race in the best food city in the world (in my opinion, anyway).

My mom is from South Louisiana (which is a different world from North Louisiana and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise) and I’ve been to New Orleans a handful of times throughout my childhood. Lafayette and the surrounding parishes are a little more familiar to me because that’s where my family is, but I’m not unfamiliar with New Orleans. All this I’m saying because it gives context to the fact that I can eat my weight in seafood without really trying. This will also be my first trip to NOLA since I turned 21, and I’ll be with my best friend instead of my parents. Not that my parents ever actually prevented me from doing anything while in New Orleans on previous trips. They were too busy having a good time themselves.

I really, really want to get a 13 min/mile average for this race. I know that sounds pathetically slow, but it has taken me 2 years to get to the point where that even seems possible. I did a 14 min/mile average for the Hot Chocolate 15k, and I’ve been working my butt off since then, so I’m optimistic.

I’ve dropped 8 lbs since Christmas, which is really strange to think about. I’m looking a little thinner for the first time since Sophomore year of college when I did Weight Watchers and dropped 20 lbs over the summer. I got down to 180lbs and was starting to look a little…off when the summer ended and a combination of beer, vodka, and hot wings put all the weight back on and then some. This time it has all been me. My trainer got pulled away by a really exciting coaching opportunity so I’ve been going it alone, and so far it all seems to be working.

I will say that if you’re somebody who needs help with this kind of thing, but you don’t want to use a trainer or a group, a combination of the free version of the Noom app and the Garmin Forerunner 230 have done wonders for me.

I’ll have plenty of photos and a race recap when I get back on Monday next week.

Key West Half Marathon 2016

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I registered for the walk because I’m very very slow. But there were other very slow people registered as runners so it wouldn’t have mattered. The shirt is the loudest, most obnoxious race shirt I’ve ever seen and I love it because it could not be more Key West.

My first race of the new year! January 17th I ran the Key West Half, which loops around through downtown Key West, past the Southernmost Point, up along the coast, and then sends you all the way back. Out and back courses aren’t anyone’s favorite, but given the layout of the island, it makes sense why they do it the way they do. This year the race started an hour later than normal because we were caught up in a tornado warning. Because why not. There was wind. There was rain. The restaurant I was eating breakfast at lost power. The race course was full of Portuguese man ‘o war.

Despite all this I managed to set a PR of 3:30:54 (pathetic, I know. I’m very slow) so I can’t complain *too* much. The medals are fun because they’re conch-shaped wine bottle stoppers, and every person I interacted with was happy and enthusiastic no matter if they were volunteers or participants. It was a fun race, and I got to eat some oysters after I finished, so all in all it was worth doing once. I’d definitely do it again if my friends wanted to go. Being by myself kinda sucked. Marathonfoto was also supposed to be on the course but hell if I saw them anywhere but the Southernmost point and the finish line.

I would NOT do AirBnb again for a race. It was a little too weird being in someone else’s house, and for what I paid, I should’ve just stayed in a hotel. The lady was nice, I just prefer the anonymous nature of hotels, and I don’t like waking up anyone else when I get up at 4am.

The rest of my weekend was spent in Key Largo doing a bit of scuba diving and a lot of laying around in the hot tub. Shout out to Dove Creek Lodge for upgrading my room Sunday and Monday nights and being generally pretty awesome all around. They had a picture of Donald Trump in the lobby and weren’t being ironic, which is literally the only bad thing I can say about them. Even the lobby coffee was decent! Nice views, clean rooms, excellent pool and hot tub, and friendly lobby staff. What more do you want?

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Dove Creek Lodge in Key Largo has a very nice pool that hardly anyone else seemed to use? That hot tub was so nice after the half…..

I went diving with Rainbow Reef Dive Center out of Key Largo, and I have to say they were great. Brent, my dive guide, argued with me on how much weight I needed, but it was all friendly and I’d totally use them again if I went back. I was the only woman traveling alone on a boat of…20-30 people? It was odd. Several guys were by themselves, but I was the lone lone female. No matter. The boat was clean and in good repair. They had plenty of water bottles, and the rental gear was in good shape. Cheers to you, Rainbow Reef.

As for food in Key Largo…Harriette’s for breakfast is delicious and very reasonably priced (just bring cash) and Hobos Cafe is 100% amazing. Get the Mahi Quesadilla. Trust me. The food in Key West was…eh. Dante’s doesn’t get a link because their staff basically ignored me the entire time, though the food was actually pretty good. The Half Shell Raw Bar was OK. Seafood pasta needed way more seafood though, and again the staff kinda ignored me. I had breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s on race morning, and they were good, but the staff didn’t handle the insane crowd from the half marathon very well. I feel like they weren’t prepared for it, but this isn’t the first year the race has been run, and the starting line was just a block away, so I’d think they would have been used to the whole dog and pony show by this point. The power going out didn’t help, but they were floundering before that.

All in all, great weekend. I love the Florida Keys, and driving down from Miami (despite the terrible drivers) is worth doing just for the hell of it. The views are stunning, the people are usually pretty friendly, and there’s a charm to the Keys that you just don’t get in the rest of Florida. I agree with Runner’s World that the Key West Half is very much at the top of the list for destination races, and I would do it again if someone else were going with me.

Next up: Rock and Roll New Orleans 10k and the Inaugural DARK SIDE HALF MARATHON WHEEEEEEEEEE!

*I was not given any compensation by any of these companies. Dove Creek Lodge upgraded me to a suite from the standard room I paid for because “the manager was in a good mood” and they did not ask me to write a review for them. I would have said nice things about them without the upgrade, since even their “standard” room is really nice. Rainbow Reef asked politely for good reviews on Yelp, but I paid full price for my dives and rentals. The restaurants likewise did not comp me anything.*

Bread Machine at Altitude

My baby is a Zojirushi BB-PAC20. It does everything you’d want and a few things I’m not sure I’d ever need. Bread, cake, meatloaf, jam…you name it.

The one problem is that the altitude adjustments in the Zoji cookbook aren’t very helpful or clear. I had mixed results with them, so I did some experiments. I’ve already said the key is to use fast rise yeast on the regular rise setting in another post and I swear to you that is the fastest way to make sure things come out light and fluffy.

BUT there are some other things you need to do to ensure your recipes come out. First and foremost, you need to reduce your amount of yeast by 1/4 to 1/3, depending on how high up you are. I’m in Denver, and if a recipe says 2 1/2 tsp yeast, I put 2 tsp or so. I also put in a little less sugar or honey. More liquid is also a good idea if you’re in a very dry climate like I am. Finally, I almost always add a whole egg. The extra protein and structure REALLY helps to keep everything lofty and chewy and delicious. I crack my egg into my liquid measuring cup and then add more water or milk to the line.

If you’re using sourdough starter, I HIGHLY recommend feeding it the day before and keeping it very very runny. It seems to really help.

Without further ado, here’s my basic Zojirushi bread recipe. I’ll add some more as I get them perfected, but this one WORKS. If all you have is active dry yeast, I suggest using the regular dough course and then letting it rise a little longer before throwing it in the oven.

Basic white bread (for a 2lb bread machine)

1.25 cups water/milk (or watery sourdough starter if you’re feeling daring)
1 egg
4.25 cups bread flour
3.5 Tbsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Dry Milk (omit if you’re using actual milk)
2 tsp Salt
2.5 Tbsp butter
2 tsp Rapid Rise Yeast

Use the regular basic setting and let ‘er rip. I keep an eye on everything as it mixes, and add a little more liquid if it doesn’t look wet enough. If you can’t watch it, err on the side of more liquid and just add a tablespoon or two of extra water or milk. Too wet is better than too dry in my experience.

The machine will do the rest, but if you want a more evenly shaped loaf, you can muck with it a bit after the final rise. You can also remove the paddles if you want a prettier loaf, but I don’t care enough to bother with that crap.