Vegas, Baby – 2017

Last month my dear friends J., B. and I ran the 2017 Rock n’Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas.

This was my second year running in this series. The half marathon is really novel since the Las Vegas Strip gets shut down for the runners, and it’s run at night. We were planning to run two races over the course of the weekend, a 5k on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday.

We arrived Friday and checked into the Bellagio. The floral displays featured peacocks.

Housekeeping obliged by giving us extra amenities. There is something about the smell of these toiletries that I love. Ditto the floral displays, especially the fall-ish scent that must be pumped in.

Most of these tiny tubes came home in my suitcase.

Friday night featured a runners’ reception at Hyde, which is one of the clubs in the Bellagio. It’s eye level with the fountains and part of the club is open air, so the view is unbeatable. The top picture is one of the many displays that we saw. I never get sick of watching those fountains.

On Saturday morning, we hit up Giada for brunch. This was one of our favorite restaurants from prior trips, and it did not disappoint. I got my money’s worth of bottomless mimosas and we all went nuts for the fresh burrata, blue cheese and olives that we had as appetizers.

Saturday afternoon consisted of picking up our race packets at the expo, a bit of shopping and getting ready for Saturday night’s race, which is a 5k that takes place near the SLS Hotel. Security was tighter this year than last, but the race went smoothly. There was a Goo Goo Dolls concert afterwards that we could have stayed to watch, but none of us were really in the mood to stand around in the cold night air while sweaty.

Plus – we had 10 PM tickets to Absinthe, a funky circus-type show that combines feats of strength, burlesque, insult comedy, tap dancing and roller skating. We’d seen the show once before but decided it was worth a second trip since the first time was so wow-ing, and we also wanted to see if the political jokes sprinkled throughout by the MC were Trump-esque. Many were. The show did not disappoint the second time around, and we all agreed it was as good or better than ever.

The show finished so late that most restaurants were no longer serving dinner, which was a bummer since we were now all pretty hungry. We ended up in an Asian noodle bar in the Bellagio, which hit the spot.

One thing that was unusual for me on this trip was that I gambled. This was the first time I’d gambled in a few years, and once again I learned that while I love to spend money, I like to have something to show for it. Gambling doesn’t fit that bill. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and put $20 into a National Lampoon’s Vacation slot machine. I promptly lost $1.10 and cashed out.

The next day, a Betty White machine caught my eye and I tried again. This time, success! I turned $20 into $22.65, so I called myself a winner and walked away.

Full disclosure: My friend B. and I stumbled upon the 10 cent voucher at the top, so I technically can’t count this as a money I won. Still, I made up for my $1.10 loss the day before and then some. I’m not quitting my day job yet, though.

Sunday’s brunch was at Bardot Brasserie, a restaurant in the Aria Resort. Given that the half marathon was scheduled for a few hours after brunch ended, I didn’t make the same mistake I did last year when I went whole hog at the Bellagio’s buffet.

We did, however, spend $5 to buy a small serving (large pat?) of what was described on the menu as “The World’s Best Butter.”

Carb loading at its finest.

Sunday’s race had a new starting line this year due to the recent mass shooting. I have to admit I was nervous at the start, when approximately 40,000 runners were corralled into a small area. The security was tight and police presence was everywhere. My predominant thought was that this was one of the first major events since the shooting and the need to get it right was strong, so I felt that every reasonable measure had (probably) been taken by the Las Vegas PD. I also knew that once the race started, everyone would be stretched out along the course so much that the crowd would no longer be concentrated.

Another thing about this race: I was totally, completely under-trained. This is embarrassing to admit, but I had some serious magical thinking leading up to the race and I couldn’t seem to do what I needed to do to prepare. The longest run that I had done in the two months before the race was about 7 miles, which is a far cry from 13.1.

As I stood at the starting line, I told myself that I would divide the race into thirds and run the first third, run/walk the second and walk the final third if needed. I wasn’t exactly happy that I needed to make this plan, but that’s where I found myself.

Once I started, it took more than the first mile to settle in to a comfortable rhythm. That worried me. I thought I might not even be able to continuously run the first 4 miles, but once I completed miles 2 and 3, I started to get into the groove.

Mile 4 then passed and I told myself that I would go to mile 5 and then take a running gel for some energy. That milestone came pretty quickly and about that time I settled into a pack of runners for the next mile or so, and I decided that I would go to mile 6.5 so that I could say I ran halfway.

At mile 6.5, I felt really good so I kept going through miles 7, 8 and 9. Shortly after mile 10, I felt like I was not going to be able to run all the way to the end, so I took a walk break and picked up running again. I alternated running and walking for the last 3 miles and finished the course with one of my worst half marathon times, but an overall sense that I did waaaaaaay better than I thought I would.

Weirdly, it was motivating to see how well I’d done under sub-par circumstances and it inspired me to set a new goal and train appropriately for it. This was the best case scenario; if the race had been a disaster I think I would have been completely defeated.

By the time the three of us had finished the race and showered, it was already 10 PM and we were hungry. We had dinner at Yellowtail, which is a sushi restaurant in the Bellagio. B. called it an early night since she had a flight an the ungodly hour of 7 AM. J. and I finished dinner and then had a nightcap (or two).

Monday was our scheduled day of departure, but not before J. and I hit the Bellagio spa. For a hotel spa, it’s really good. My only quibbles would be that they tend to try to upcharge with service add-ons and there is a communal waiting area for men and women. While I’m a first order feminist and all about equality, there is something about seeing a hairy guy in a too-short robe that just does not jive with the Zen spa vibe. Give me a women’s only area any day.

The trip home was uneventful. Too boring to write much else about it.

Overall, this was a perfect getaway with friends. I can’t wait to go back next year and hopefully set a PR on the course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Snow of the Year

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It snowed last Friday.

I’m not sure why it always takes me by surprise, but winter’s on its way.

I’d planned to go for a medium-ish long run that morning but after peeking out the window, I reconsidered that decision.

Coffee seemed appealing.

Howling winds and blowing snow did not.

I surprised myself by going, particularly since my comfort zone is approximately 71-73 degrees Fahrenheit (Spouse corrected me when I told him this, saying it’s not a zone when it’s really more of a singular point, specifically 72 degrees F).

Not every moment of this run was pleasant, but I ticked past one, two and then three miles. Four and five came next, and by mile six I had turned a corner into a tailwind that took me the last half mile home.

As part of my running group, Fellow Flowers, I had planned to use this run to complete a virtual challenge called the Joy Run.

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Mission accomplished.

 

 

Tucker Dress Inspiration

Did you see this photo last week?

The title from Mashable says it all:

Insane wildfire photo perfectly sums up America in 2017

Golfing at the country club while the forest burns behind you. Yep.

And this is exactly how I felt about myself yesterday as I sat on the sofa shoveling ice cream into my mouth while remotely tracking two of my friends who were competing in the Ironman Wisconsin.

She just completed mile 62 of the bike portion? Wow! Slurp. Slurp.

Her half marathon time is better than mine, even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112. Wow! She’s so amazing! Slurp. Slurp.

I was so impressed that two of my friends had done the work required for an Ironman and were now fearlessly competing. That was awesome. 

The correct thing to do here would have been to become insanely motivated and head out for a sweat session of my own, running in solidarity, but I did none of that.

I stayed on the couch.

Argh.

Earlier this year, I set a personal goal to train for and set a PR in a fall marathon. I had my sights set on the Twin Cities Marathon (October 8th), with the secret dream to stay in good enough shape to consider tacking on the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. These are both races I’ve done before and love.

Through the end of July, I kept up with my training fairly well. At that point I was commuting up to three hours a day, but I still found time to get in the weeknight runs as well as the longer ones on the weekends. In the week before we moved, I completed a 15 miler. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

And then came the move.

The first week, I missed three training runs during the weekdays but was able to complete my longer run (13.1 miles, it was a drop-back week) on Saturday.

The second week, I missed the weekday runs and the long run. I started to panic. I didn’t know routes, directions or water stops in my new neighborhood. I doubted the safety of running alone. It was hot.

I fell apart.

I made the lame excuse-ridden decision that this was not my year, and called it quits on the marathon plans, but I really let myself down.

Compounding that is the fact that while I changed my exercise patterns, I sure as heck didn’t change my eating. Frankly, the move has opened up a Pandora’s Box of great new restaurants to try in person or via delivery. There is even a liquor store that delivers through Amazon Prime’s two hour service to my house, which just sounds like the most dangerous thing ever. (I haven’t sunk quite that far).

Which brings me to the title of this post: Tucker Dress Inspiration.

Tucker is a NYC-based company that makes feminine, pretty clothes.

They are also very expensive.

While I love to spend money, it is hard even for me to justify buying a blouse that is almost $300.

Except – I have a work conference coming up next month, and the combination of my lifestyle factors (M&Ms, I’m looking at you) and job switch (moving from all suits/all the time to more business casual or even – yikes! – scrubs) has left me with limited wardrobe options.

And of course I want to look good.

These dresses from Tucker caught my eye:

The top one is called The Market Dress in Black Tire Track.

It’s silk and retails for $375.

The bottom is a fun Russian Dolls print.

The style is called “Abigail’s Party Dress” and it retails for $355. Tucker’s website styled it well for fall with black tights and boots. It looks adorable.

The real kicker? Both of these look like they *may* be forgiving of my recent indulgences.

I might have to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooks Running Apparel Review

I’ll be honest: I was really, really bummed a few weeks ago to have to miss my favorite running event of the year.

So much so that I backed off of my running, which is so not me.

Compounding that wave of sadness was seeing happy social media posts from countless friends who had recently completed races while I moped on the sofa.

I was feeling left out. Left over. Left behind.

And then I knew I needed to pick myself up, dust myself off and hit the road, one foot in front of the other.

Cute clothes never hurt that mission, either.

I’ve been wearing Brooks running shoes for several years, faithfully rotating out worn pairs for new ones, but inexplicably, I don’t think I’ve ever owned any other Brooks running gear.

I saw this outfit on another blog and was able to track it down on sale:

The shirt is called the “Streaker.” I’ve now seen it in both short and long sleeve versions, as well as tanks.

While I purchased the pink/cobalt combo above (and the colors are so gloriously bright in person; I love this shirt), it is also available in a red/orange pairing and a seafoam/turquiose one.

Here is the last one on sale at Sierra Trading Post:

This is a close up shot that shows the color gradient:

The shirt is moisture wicking and made of antimicrobial fabric, so here’s hoping that it wards off perma-stink for the entire summer and fall running seasons.

And let’s talk about those capris. The “Go-To Running Capri” comes in this awesome hot pink color (boringly called “641” on the Brooks website), as well as black and navy. The fabric is really smooth and these capris have two pockets in the waistband to hold money, keys, etc. I love this feature. The pockets are also trimmed with fluorescent yellow fabric, which is a cool contrast IMHO.

While I ordered the above directly from Brooks (the shirt was on sale but looks like it might be sold out now), I also found some screaming deals on Brooks gear at Sierra Trading Post, Amazon, 6PM.com, REI, and even Nordstrom.

At Sierra Trading post, I was able to get this cute pair of capris for over 50% off retail and also score this tank for less than $10.

Here is a screen shot of the capris, which are called “Greenlight SE.”

There is a cute ruching detail on the leg:

And here was a surprise: they are reversible! I like the striped side better, but the pink/navy is also nice.

Since they are reversible, the capris are also just the right amount of thickness. Not too bulky to be hot, but also not too thin to venture into transparency. Nobody wants that look.

The fabric is the same silky smooth knit as the first pair of capris. They  have a wide waistband that I appreciate and also come with a pocket for essentials.

I am hoping this new gear gets me set and in the right frame of mind for fall marathon training. I ended up hitting the trails three times over the weekend, so I am feeling positive and off to a good start.

What is your favorite brand of running gear?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orangetheory Fitness and Me

I recently started attending classes at Orangetheory Fitness.

Here’s a description of the workout from the Orangetheory website:

Our heart-rate monitored, high-intensity workout is scientifically designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy.

Here’s my take: This is a killer workout that uses heart rate monitors to force you to your breaking point.

The ostensible goal is to get 12-20 minutes per workout in the “Orange Zone,” where you are working at 84-91% of your maximum heart rate.

Ok, this is really hard to do.

The hour-ish long workouts combine running (or walking) on a treadmill, rowing and calisthenic exercises, usually with hand held weights.

Participants spend about half of the workout on the treadmills and rowing machines, and the other half in the weight area. The cardio time consists of stints of working at Base Pace (which is what I would consider my normal running pace, maybe 6.3-6.5 MPH, or a 9:30-9:10 minute pace per mile), Push Pace (1-2 MPH over Base Pace), and All Out Intervals, where you just go nuts and run until you feel like your heart will explode.

Why I decided to try this:

  • I love running and have been working hard for the past six months or so to get faster. Speed work – which the Orangetheory workouts naturally include – are a necessary pain to achieve that goal.
  • I secretly have always wanted to be a rower. Spouse was on the crew team in college and later taught me to row. I regret not trying it earlier, especially in college because I think I would have been pretty damn good at it.
  • While I love to do cardio, I hate to lift weights. Without the pressure of a personal trainer or a group, I just won’t do it. And I know weight lifting is important to overall conditioning.

Here’s a dirty secret about Orangetheory: if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape when you join, it’s going to be really, really challenging to get 12-20 minutes in the magic Orange Zone during the class.

For me, getting to the Orange Zone requires running on the treadmill at a speed of at least 7.5-8 MPH, which is waaaaaaay faster than my normal pace.

And it is super uncomfortable to do so.

On the flip side, if you’re not in good cardiovascular shape, you could easily get to the Orange Zone just by briskly walking on the treadmill at a modest incline.

I routinely see people get 20+ minutes in the Orange Zone, whereas it is a struggle for me to reach 12. This is humbling. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that while I am working extremely hard, I need to work harder. Part of me always wants to throw in the towel and feel Good Enough with what I’m doing, which is often a lot more treadmill work than the person next to me.

But I guess that’s the whole point of Orangetheory. Push. Push. Push.

Yesterday was particularly humbling: I went to a class and got zero Orange Zone minutes.

My heart rate monitor read a steady 112 BPM even when I was running 8 MPH at a 5% incline.

Something was not right.

At the end of the class, I approached the (very fit) front desk worker and said that my heart rate monitor did not seem to be working. He asked me to show him how I was wearing it, which prompted lifting my shirt and providing an embarrassing display of my abdomen to the entire studio.

Turns out, I was wearing the heart rate monitor upside down, and it will definitely not work properly that way. Whoops.

Big sigh for my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declare It Day 2017

Declare It Day 2017 is in the books!

Knock on wood, my running’s been going well lately and I’ve been kicking around the idea of a fall marathon, most likely the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon given that the course is  going to be (practically) in our new neighborhood and it’s a course I’ve run four times already.

This will also be my tenth marathon, which seems like a cool milestone.

Putting something out there for everyone to see has usually been an effective motivator for me in the past, so here’s my Declare It Day goal for 2017:

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And yes, I want to go for a PR!

 

Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 4

Final installment, I swear!

(Part three is here).

The last thing we did during our Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas racecation weekend was visit the Spa at the Bellagio.

We didn’t book appointments before we arrived and were fortunate to secure them, although for a while it looked like we might not. Next time, I would book my appointments far in advance, especially for the busy hours of 9-11 AM.

In the end, the three of us were able to have facials and massages.

The Spa at the Bellagio is huge.

When they were checking us in and leading us back to the waiting area, I could see a list on a clipboard of all the people who had appointments at 9 AM, and it was a full page.

The robes, slippers and lockers were pretty standard. In the changing area, there was fresh carrot juice (I did not try; B. liked it and J. said it was gross), lemon and ginger water, tea, coffee and bottled water.

The waiting area for massages had about 15 people in it while we were there, and I did not like the fact that men and women were in the same area. There were some guys who did not seem to have their robes secured very well, and these were not the kind of guys you would want to see with their robes undone.

Fortunately, this part of the visit was brief and we could silently roll our eyes at each other while avoiding direct views of the unpleasantry.

I had booked a standard facial but changed to an anti-aging one when I got back to the room. The products were from a professional Elizabeth Arden line. I thought they were fine.

What was really amazing was the lip balm that they applied at the end. Over the course of the weekend, my lips went from dry to parched to raisin-like to peel-y. The combination of dry desert air and dehydration, plus licking my lips constantly during the race even though I know I should not do this was too much. Once the facial was done, I inquired about the balm and learned it was this brand.

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From what I can tell, What’s Your Virtue gloss is such a small company that they don’t have a website, but there is an outdated blog from 2014 I found. How the Bellagio chose this brand is a mystery, but I bought the clear gloss and I absolutely love it. This turned my dry lips around in less than 24 hours. The price was $12.

The second appointment I had was a 50 minute massage. Especially after a race, I would prefer a deep tissue massage to work out the knots, but hotel spas are – IMHO – notoriously light on the pressure. The technician I had was somewhere in the middle, so I was ok with that.

There seemed to be quite a few people who had already checked out of the hotel and had their luggage with them when we got back to the locker room. This is a reasonable strategy if you have an afternoon or evening flight (one I have used many times), because you can shower and get ready to go home after your appointment at the spa. For reference, the Spa at the Bellagio had many private rainfall showers, shampoo/conditioner/shower gel, oversized towels, and the standard things (combs, hair dryers, hair products, aerosol deodorant) that you would need. If you had an abundance of free time, you could also use hot tubs, steam showers and a sauna in the women’s only locker area. We did not have an abundance of time so we did not.

Sadly, then it was time to go to the airport.

We did.

The flight home was uneventful.

My final thoughts: I had a blast. J. and B. are super fun travel companions. The three of us had actually already been to Las Vegas for a long weekend over Memorial Day, so this was a familiar trip. I liked the fact that we could offset some of the calories with running. The two trips were different, though, so I am not sure if one was better than the other.

How does the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon compare to other races? As I said previously, the course is flat and fast. This is great. The night start is unique, as is running on the Strip. I have only done two Rock ‘n’ Roll races (the other was Dublin in 2015), and overall I think I like the organization of Run Disney races better (signage, water stops, corral placement). Having said that, I’ve done worse races, too. I would do this again. If you can swing it, I’d also strongly recommend adding the VIP package, even if just for the eagle eye view of the finish line at the post-race party.

How about the medals? These were solid, heavy and quite interesting. I forgot to mention earlier that since we did both the 5k and the half marathon, we got a third medal for completing a “Remix Challenge.” Some 5k medals are flimsy, but even this one was substantial. The half and Remix medals had spinning elements. (See below).

Would I change anything? This is a hard one to answer.

  • I definitely would have done a better job with pre-race fueling.
  • We didn’t get to try as many excellent restaurants as the first visit (including Mr. Chow and Giada’s) since we had the pre-race party one night and room service another.
  • We didn’t get any pool time (although that was mostly temperature related; it was in the low 70s and we could have gone to the pool but decided not to).
  • On the plus side, I burned off a lot of calories and didn’t feel quite so gluttonous on my way out of town despite having an excellent cookie/brownie/cupcake/cannoli from Carlo’s Bakery, and there were the Meb sightings and Snoop Dogg.

So there’s that.

And this guy came home with us:

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