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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Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 3

(Part 2 is here if you need to catch up).

Our longest event of the weekend – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon – didn’t start until the evening, so when my friends J., B. and I woke up on Sunday morning, we decided to get some pre-race fuel via the Bellagio’s breakfast buffet.

Ugh. Mistake.

This would be a good time to point out that I rarely, rarely eat at any type of buffet situation. When food is unlimited, I tend to eat unlimited quantities, so this is not good and the best strategy is for me to avoid it entirely.

And yet, knowing this information, I boldly strolled into the breakfast buffet and proceeded to consume roughly 14 zillion calories.

At one point I used a slice of cheese pizza like a piece of toast and topped it with part of an omelet to make an open-faced sandwich.

The cheese display was also heavily pilfered.

Ditto the sushi bar, despite having just eaten a much superior sushi dinner only 12 hours earlier.

Double ugh.

The one thing I will contend is that I definitely got my $33 worth of breakfast foods, not that this should be a point of pride.

After that mess, we wandered back to our room to rest and digest.

By 2 PM, we had to head to the starting line.

Even though the race wasn’t beginning for a few hours, there was a pre-race concert at 3 PM that we wanted to see.

This guy:

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Yep. Snoop Dogg.

The starting line for this race is near Mandalay Bay. There were 22,000+ runners in the half marathon, so the starting area was quite crowded.

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Our VIP race package gave us access to a special area in front of the concert stage with tables, chairs, private bathrooms (still portable ones but barely anyone was using them, so it wasn’t as gross as usual at the start of a race), and refreshments.

img_0973This is what the area looked like:

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I was still overly full from our breakfast – even though it was hours earlier at this point – so I did not want any of the food or drinks they had in the VIP tent. The spread was impressive, though. There were several things that looked reasonable to eat before a race (trail mix), but also a massive bowl of hummus, which just seemed like a terrible decision before embarking on a two hour run.

There was also alcohol available, and I was surprised to see several people partaking. Again, this would have made my already bad decision making that day worse. I stuck to water.

Soon it was time for the concert.

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Snoop Dogg played the crowd well. At one point, he looked out at the audience and said,

What’s that y’all like to drink while you’re running? What is it? Gatorade?

Crowd screams back: “Gin and Juice!”

He begins singing that song. Crowd goes nuts.

And guess who was dancing and singing along next to us at the show? Meb Keflezighi.

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I was in the Green starting wave, which was the second group. The Blue starters began the race at 4:30 PM, Green at 5, and the Yellow wave was at 5:30 PM.

Like the 5k the night before, there were assigned corrals but they seemed like mere suggestions. People were randomly crowded into the space, so there was zero separation by anticipated speed or finish time. This meant that speedier runners were stuck behind slower runners or walkers in many cases. I did not like this part of the race set-up.

The half marathon course is flat and fast.

Runners head away from the Strip for about a half mile at the start and then do a U-turn, running past the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and then down the entire length of the Strip, which is closed to traffic for the race.

Ok, that was super cool. Later I spoke with a woman who was part of the planning team and she told me that getting the Strip closed to traffic is a big, big deal. It only happens twice a year, once for this race and again on New Year’s Eve.

I don’t know if I perceived this correctly or not, but it also seemed that much of the Strip portion was ever so gently downhill.

For the first few miles, I had to bob and weave to make room but still managed to keep a reasonable pace.

My 5k split was 29:45, which is 9:35 per mile.

At Mile 3, there was a run-through wedding area. Supposedly 200 couples got married during the race.

I did not.

My 10k split was 58:53, which is 9:29 per mile.

I secretly had a goal in my head that I wanted to get a two hour finish. I have been working with a trainer over the summer and generally done a lot of better things for my health and body, so I was excited to see what I could do.

Except the wheels came off the bus at this point.

Miles 7-10 were in a strange part of town. It was very dark and difficult to see. After the bright lights and distractions of the Strip, this took significant effort to keep momentum going.

I chugged along and we passed the Fremont Street area.

I was getting very tired, realized I had improperly fueled (Breakfast buffet! You ruined me), and walked for two minutes in Mile 10 near an extremely sketchy “hostel.”

My 10 mile time was 1:37, or 9:42 per mile.

At this point, I was demoralized. I realized I would not make it in two hours. I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to pull out three sub-8 minute miles.

Once I finished my walk break, I felt a lot better.

At least until Mile 12.

I thought I’d missed the sign for Mile 12. When I finally found it, my watch said I’d completed 12.47 miles.

This was very surprising to me, because my watch had seemed pretty accurate to the mile markers up to this point.

I was further defeated and decided to walk for two more minutes. When I started running, I felt moderately better and saw the finish line. In the end, I think mile marker 12 was misplaced and I was further than the course said.

I put a bit more effort into the finish, but my final time was a disappointing 2:09:39, or 9:54 per mile.

My overall finish was 4164/22048, and 1609/13755 for women.

Now, let me also be clear that I know I am crying over spilled milk. I was healthy. I completed the race. My finish was respectable. I get to run whereas others cannot.

I get all that, but what I am saying is that I had a personal goal in mind and felt like I’d let myself down. My time for this race was almost exactly – to the second – the same as my finish for the Tinker Bell half marathon in May. I guess I am consistent.

I got over it my disappointment pretty quickly, in fact by the time I had exited the finisher shoot.

My friends weren’t quite finished yet, so I headed to the VIP after-party, which was held at the Linq hotel.

Besides the party, there was one final VIP package perk: all runners received a very soft red fleece Rock ‘n’ Roll logo blanket. I was cold and sweaty at this point, so that blanket was everything to me.

The party was never crowded at any point while I was there. While there was an indoor area with food (pizza, sandwiches) and drinks (free beer and wine, plus some liquor, but $5 for soda or Gatorade – which was weird and wrong), the outdoor area overlooked the finish line and is where I spent my time.

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My hair looks terrible but I am happy to be done.

A slightly better shot of the finish line from above:

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J. and B. soon arrived and we had some food and wine (me). Being cold, wet and tired at a party is not all that fun, though, so we didn’t stay late.

Once back in the hotel, we quickly showered and had a celebratory drink.

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It was getting super late and this point and we decided to get room service and call it quits.

Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart’s new show was on TV, so we had a laugh watching it while we ate.

Next up: Review of the Bellagio Spa and their amazing lip balm. The (sad) trip home. Final thoughts on the weekend. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 2

(If you missed Part 1, read it here).

So, to catch you up: last weekend I went to Las Vegas for a racecation with two of my fabulous girlfriends.

After our mild debauchery on Friday night (Sub-G Rated by Vegas standards), we were moving somewhat ssslllooooowwwly on Saturday morning.

We ended up heading for brunch at Mon Ami Gabi – a popular faux-French bistro in the Paris hotel – at 11 AM.

We were seated at a well-positioned terrace table and let the caffeine kick in. 

And in. And in.

We waited a long time, maybe 40 minutes, for our order to arrive. The server apologized for the kitchen being slow.

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Frankly, I didn’t mind. It was a beautiful day. I was laughing with my friends. The people watching was excellent.

When the meal arrived, it was mediocre. I was really hungry by then, so I ate anyway.

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We all agreed that the overall experience was disappointing. On a scale of 1-10, we gave it a two.

But then something unexpected happened that totally turned it around. The manager came over to our table and said this:

Ladies, I need this table for a large party. If you would be willing to leave now, I’ll pick up your check.

Who says nothing is free in Vegas?

We were out of there so fast that there were smoke streams.

Brunch experience now elevated to at least an 8.

We decided to do some shopping and walk off the calories. What really caught my eye were the Alexander McQueen “Obsession” print pieces that I saw in several stores.

Wow. These were stunning.

This collection was new to me and I was honestly a bit dizzy thinking about how much I wanted this bag:

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I resisted, but barely.

Here are some of the other McQueen styles that I was longing for:

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The above dress was long-sleeved, sleek and absolutely gorgeous. The charms were all individually sewn onto it. I think the retail was about $6000. This was at Neiman Marcus in the Fashion Show Mall.

This blouse ($1200) was also exquisite:

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I tried to buy a scarf with the print, but it was sold out in the Alexander McQueen boutique. Fortunately (Unfortunately?), I discovered it is available online.

Our final stop was Carlo’s Bakery, which is operated by “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro. 

We briefly contemplated bailing since there was a 20+ person queue, but in the end we decided to stay.

And we were so glad we did.

I bought a brownie, a cookie, a cupcake and a cannoli. They were all gone by the time I boarded the flight home.

We headed back to get ready for the 5k race and took the monorail to the SLS Hotel, which is at the far end of the Strip near the Stratosphere. It was slow going to the race. I glanced at my watch and noted that it was almost exactly an hour to get from Point A to Point B.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas 5k started at 6 PM on Saturday night. There were 8200+ runners.

The course was dark, narrow and crowded. It was a boring out-and-back loop. Part of it was on a track. I felt like I was running in a high school track meet, albeit a really crowded one.

The first half mile was so crowded that I was boxed in, an experience I do not enjoy.

I started bobbing and weaving and was able to occasionally make some space to stretch out.

I wish I would have kept my mile splits but I didn’t. I would estimate that the first mile was around 10 minutes with the crowding.

Once I found some space, a competitive drive kicked in and I put the pedal down. My pre-race cupcake and cannoli fuel seemed to be working for me, so I went with it.

As I neared the finish line, I saw Meb Keflezighi for a second time that weekend. He was giving out high fives at the finish line and I was lucky enough to get one! I was so happy.

My finish time was 27:56, which placed me at 923/8249 overall and 307/5297 for women.

I was ok with that. I immediately forgot that I didn’t like the course and mentally registered for next year’s race.

The finish area was crowded, but I eventually met up with J. and B. We reversed our monorail trip back to the hotel, showered and headed to a sushi dinner at Yellowtail.

I wish I would have taken photos of the meal, but I was too busy eating. Everything.

It’s a bit fuzzy (we were also drinking wine), but we ordered:

  • Shishito peppers (a standing favorite among the three of us; these were excellent)
  • Edamame
  • Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño (Unanimously voted best dish)
  • Popping spicy crab roll (This was nuts. I could have eaten two more on my own).
  • Mile High Roll
  • Uni Truffle pasta

And guess who we saw eating there? Yep, Meb Keflezighi.

Next up: Half-marathon and VIP post-race party.