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Friday, October 31, 2008

What would you do?

OMG, trick or treaters are out. This kid, he's like 16 or 17, comes to the door, barely wearing a costume. He was with a group of friends. He asks if he can buy a bottle of water. I was like, "kid, you're a nutcase." And he was like, "No, I'm really thirsty! I will give you 2 dollars!!"

So, I gave him a bottle of water and took his two bucks.

My question is, would you have given him the water? If so, would you have taken his money.

I figured he is too old for trick or treating, wasn't really wearing a costume, and should have had the forethought to bring a beverage along. So, I took it.

Thoughts on Halloween

  1. At Current Employer, people dress up for Halloween.  This is funny to me.  I really wanted to do it this year.  In fact, I had the idea of dressing up like Deb from Napoleon Dynamite (I would be super-comfy in stirrup pants, a big sweatshirt or sweater, and Keds), but I elected not to dress up because of stress with my family that is going on, and because IT tends to not dress up and I don't have friends in other groups.  It was a great idea, though.  
  2. In an effort to not have tempting Halloween treats around well before Halloween, I decided to wait until this week to buy candy.  However, I have been super busy at work and with my personal life, so at this time, we still do not have anything to give out to trick or treaters tonight.  I'll likely buy candy either at lunch or on my way home, but I'd love interesting ideas about other things to give out.
  3. I really have a generally 'bah humbug' feeling about Halloween these days.  It seem gluttonous and wasteful.  In a society where we can't get kids to do much, eat right or be active, the one night where we dress them up and send them out to walk and get some exercise, we have them do so in order to collect candy from strangers.  I hear everyone likely saying that I should lighten up, but I still think Trick or treating is silly.
  4. I was thinking of making teenagers that are too old to be out trick or treating do some sort of song and dance in order to get their candy.  I know Todd would be against this, but I guess he should be answering the door then, huh?
  5. What is the best Halloween song?  My vote is for "Ghostbusters," because there is never, EVER, another time of the year when I wish to hear that song.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What to do with the kid?

What to do with the kid who killed his parents?

I've been trying to wrap my head around this kid since it happened.  I mean, I can't imagine killing your parents in the first place (or anyone, for that matter).  But, what do you do with a 16 year old kid with a life sentence?  There's no doubt that he did it, he admitted to the crime, he seems like a smart kid.  No one else did it.  Kid, WHY did you kill your parents?? He's going to be sitting around in jail for the rest of his life.  What a shame, but what else do you do with him?  Don't things like this give you a little less faith in the world?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Private: Goings On

Goings On

This post is only available on my private Blog.  To gain access to my private blog, please email me.

Tell Me!

So, I watch my blog stats pretty closely.  I've had some unwelcome visitors to my blog before, so I like to know who is coming.  What is see is that a lot of folks visit my blog several times a day and if I haven't posted (or if I have), they read the blog roll to keep up on the blogs that I read.  I have a few questions to keep people coming back.  Please reply in comments or email me to let me know what you think!
  1. What blogs on the blog roll do you like the best?
  2. What blogs on the blog roll do you like the least?
  3. Do you have a suggestion for a new addition to the blog roll that my readers might enjoy?
  4. What topics on my blog would you like to see more of?
  5. What topics on my blog would you like to see less of?
  6. Does my blog load too slowly for you?
  7. Other comments?
I  now get over 50 visitors a day, which I am pretty proud of.  I'm not out to make money on this, but it's nice to know people are reading.  I've reduced a lot of my personal topics and moved a lot of the more sensitive things over to my private blog as a result.  You may have noticed the shift over the past year or so, where I no longer write about every single little thing that I do.  Who wants to read that anyway?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tower of Terror 13K 2008

What a weekend.

We left Friday evening and flew down to Orlando for a quick weekend and nice little race in Florida. We had originally gotten reservations at the Boardwalk Hotel, but when I logged in on Thursday to check something on my DVC account, I saw that we'd gotten through on our wait list request to stay at Beach Club instead. Then, on our way down to Florida, it occurred to me -- my sister is in Tampa, why not invite her over to spend the day with us Saturday?

However, even after we went to packet pickup to get our glow in the dark numbers and race shirts, we hadn't heard from my sister, so we went off to Epcot for lunch and rides. Sharon called while we were there. She was sick and was thinking about coming over and would let us know.

The problem with Epcot was that the Food and Wine Festival was going on. I'd never been there for the Food & Wine Festival, so I was initially excited, then turned off by the fact that on a race day we couldn't indulge in wine, and I really wasn't that interested in the food. We had lunch in Germany and then went over to Future World to see what we could ride. The park was packed because of the food and wine festival (presumably), so we rode some of the lesser-ridden rides - The Universe of Energy and Maelstrom (which still, inexplicably, has a fastpass option) and then hung out in the Living Seas for a while.

I love the Living Seas these days. The Nemo stuff inside is awesome, and I like looking at the fishies, especially the cuttlefish. At one point, there was a scuba diver showing off his skill, and then he got out and did a question and answer / meet & greet kind of thing with guests and I had to ask Todd if he wanted to get a photo with the scuba diver. He said no, and my equipment is nicer than that guy's.

We had an early dinner at the Coral Reef restaurant and we pondered the fact that the fish in the Living Seas still look sick. They weren't that way when we dove there in January 2007, I'm wondering of something bizarre was introduced to the aquarium between January and April 2007 (April being when we first noticed it). It makes me sad, the fish in the tank do not look good at all.

We headed back to the hotel and Sharon and family met us there. It was such a pleasant surprise to see her! We hung out at the pool for a few hours, and then we got dressed for our race and Sharon dropped us off at our race transportation at Boardwalk. Sharon and family hung out in Disney for a while later for dinner and such and it sounds like they had a nice time.

It seems like the race was better than last year, just based on the reviews that I read. The runner's village was smaller than the Disney Marathon, but looked similar. They had a place for you to sign the hotel register (since we were doing the race at the Tower of Terror). They gave out temporary tattoos with the race logo on them, and had a place for us to get our photo taken (I was wearing my Minnie ears that I wore for the 2007 Marathon).

We were pretty early and sat and stood around for a long time. The race started with fireworks and was hosted by the bellhops from the Tower of Terror. There were a lot of walkers. A LOT of them. To me, being where I was, it seemed like the whole race was mid to back of the pack people and there were few people that really seemed to be running for any sort of time. Of course, there were costumes - the whole crowd from The Wizard of Oz, Forrest Gump, Tinkerbell, Minnie Mouse, Pumpkins, a roman soldier, pirates, etc. The field was smaller than I expected - 2700 finishers. This is a lot smaller than other races down there. We spent a lot of time passing walkers who were walking 2-5 abreast (for the life of me, I don't understand why walkers can't be more aware and courteous during races).

There were quite a few people out on the course to cheer us on, including a lot of cast members, disco dancers, some creepy girls dressed the same a la The Shining, and many Disney villains. There were a lot of fog machines, but it wasn't TOO heavy, as I think Disney was afraid someone would fall down. At times, there would be loudspeakers where someone would come on and say things that were weird and didn't make sense and sounded like the Twilight Zone. Nothing was especially frightening or dark, so the glow in the dark race numbers really only glowed when we tested them out in the bathroom of the hotel.

The course took us through some woods and into the Wide World of Sports Complex, between the fields and around the track there. Then, we were back on the roads, headed back to Hollywood Studios. Going through the studios was a lot of fun and we truly wound all the way through - including through the set of "Lights, Motors, Action!" The finish line was directly in front of the Tower of Terror.

As for how I did, I maintained a 13 minute pace throughout, until right at the end, but I was never above 14. Todd stayed with me the whole time, and he helped me stay on pace. I had been sick and therefore hadn't gotten a lot of running in, so I didn't do as well as I might have otherwise. I was still coughing and feeling bad during the race, but I still had a good time. Running at 10:00pm is definitely weird, and it was just before midnight when we finished. I had post-race upset stomach (I've been getting that a lot lately) and we sat for a few minutes while I tried to eat a banana. Then, it was off to the park.

We hit the Rock n' Roller Coaster first, which did not hurt my stomach at all. Next, we headed over to the new Toy Story Mania Ride. It was fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was like the Buzz Lightyear ride, only better. So much fun. We waited about 45 minutes for it, but it was worth the wait. My stomach was hurting pretty bad at that point, so we went and got some pizza, which made me feel a whole lot better.

At that point, it was 1:45am and the park was closing at 2, so we had to decide what to do next. I let Todd choose and we ended up riding the Rock n' Roller Coaster again. We tried for a third time, but it was shut down and we were done for the night. We finally made it back to the hotel to get in bed by 3:30am or so. A long day for two people who are used to going to bed by 11.

Today, we pretty much got up with barely any sleep, had some breakfast in the hotel and headed home. It was a great weekend and very fun race. Weather was nice - sunny and warm shorts weather all weekend. Good times.

I'd definitely do this race again. No complaints whatsoever.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finances: Money Saving Tips

I talked a while back about how I'm trying to cut costs. This originally stemmed from gas prices rising. Gas prices weren't really what was killing me, it was the fact that the price of everything was rising, too. Even though gas prices have dropped significantly, the prices of everything else seem to have stayed the same (surprise, surprise).

Here are a few articles that I've bookmarked over the last week or so that I wanted to highlight. First, How Much Money Do You Spend on Food? is a good one. I think it's true that a lot of folks really don't know how much they spend on food. Being one half of a couple, I sometimes don't pay attention to what Todd is spending on going out to eat, or if he picks up a few things at the store, or the tab in a restaurant. Even just looking at what I spend alone, I rarely add up my food expenses (this is something that Mint.com would be handy for, though!). Even if you don't plan to cut back at all, wouldn't you at least like to know what you're spending? So, I'm working on keeping better track of this and watching my grocery receipts more carefully.

Money Saving Tip #1: Don't eat out. Or eat out very infrequently. While I've never kept good track of food expenses, I do know that I used to eat out every single day for lunch when I worked at previous employer. Even with Diettogo (which amounts to $14 per day for both breakfast and lunch), I don't spend as much as I did just on lunch each day at Previous Employer. Even for dinners, I've found that I prefer eating in, knowing what is in my food and how it was prepared, and not bothering with service and waiting and driving to who knows where to eat. That doesn't mean that we eat meatloaf and boiled chicken breasts every night, either. We often stop at Wegman's to get pre-made meat entrees that are cheaper than a restaurant, but still a treat and a notch above plain dinners. An excellent example is Wegman's salmon topped with crab meat. Tastes very good, is easy to make, comes in its own baking container, and at something like $14.99 per pound, it's not a bargain, but cheaper than eating out.

Another article: Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. I have to admit that when I was a direct sales person, I wasn't necessarily good at it because I had a lot of guilt for playing little tricks to try and get people to buy things. I knew some of my customers couldn't afford what they were buying, and I felt guilty all the time (a lot of them shouldn't have been eating what I was selling either, but that is a different topic).

I think it pays to really understand the tricks that stores play on us to try to get us to buy things. My personal favorite right now is that grocery stores are giving out coupons for dollars off your next trip, which gives you an incentive to return to the store again within a certain timeframe.

Money Saving Tip #2: If you visit a store that gives you those "save x dollars on your next purchase" coupons, if you can, go through self-checkout. Then, when it gives you those coupons as you check out, you can just scan them after they come out of the coupon machine. Or, if you know you'll be getting one, save some of your groceries to ring up as a second purchase in self checkout and scan them then.

From the article:

  • Spend less time in stores. Underhill writes, “The amount of time a shopper spends in a store (assuming he or she is shopping, not waiting in line) is perhaps the single most important factor in determining how much he or she will buy.” Do not browse. Shop with a purpose.
  • Don’t use a basket. Only use a basket (or shopping cart) if it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re dashing into the supermarket to pick up milk and bread, carry things in your hands. Baskets induce people to buy more.

I think that a lot of the time, I save money naturally because of two reasons: I hate malls, and there really isn't a decent mall within 20 miles of my house (because Westminster, Owings Mills and Hunt Valley all suck, the closest is Towson Town Center). When I lived and worked in Columbia, I did go to the mall more often and spent more as a result. This also creates problems because I don't buy clothes nearly often enough and my wardrobe is suffering as a result.

Don’t examine or handle things you don’t need. The more you interact with something, the more likely you are to buy it. “Virtually all unplanned purchases — and many planned ones, too — come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment.”
This was a biggie for my direct sales parties. That is why we passed the bottles and boxes of product around. You could look at them, touch them, smell them, and then we passed around samples so that you could taste them. And, trust me, sales were higher when we did that. Don't be fooled!
Make a list and stick to it. The majority of supermarket purchases are unplanned. Underhill writes: “In one supermarket study, we counted how many shoppers came armed with lists. Almost all of the women had them. Less than a quarter of the men did. Any wife who’s watching the family budget knows better than to send her to the supermarket unchaperoned.”
As much as I love having company while listening to "What's Love Got to Do With It" at Weis, I know that if Todd comes along, the bill will be higher, grocery list or not. This is because he isn't used to shopping off a list and doesn't share my frugal mindset and willingness to comprimise on brands. Not a bad thing, just different. However, if you want to save money, make a list and no matter how much you might want to, don't buy anything not on the list (this gets me out of the store faster also, which is good when you shop in a Bad Times store).

And another article: How Low Can You Go? This one talks about just using less. For example, do you need as much shampoo and toothpaste as the packaging would have you believe? Probably not. I've also found that some products just aren't necessary at all. For example:
  • Disinfectants. I really thought about it, and I treat my bathroom counter as if it is dirty, regardless of how often I clean it, and with what. I don't eat off of my bathroom counter. I don't even sit my toothbrush on it. So, why does it need disinfecting? I found that by using two microfiber towels to clean with, I get the bathroom counters and sinks spotless without buying cleaners. One towel is damp, which I use to wipe, then I follow up with a dry one to make things shine and sparkle. Drop them in the washer when I'm done, but hang dry them because dryer sheets make them not work so well.
  • Glass cleaner. Ditto with mirrors. The microfiber actually works better than windex. I use the same ones, but start with the mirrors since they're less dirty than the counters (usually).
  • Soap Scum removers. Baking soda works better.
  • Mildew removers. I haven't tried it yet, but I have a feeling that regular bleach would work the same as Tilex.
Something else I was thinking of was the wasted energy from cable boxes, televisions, DVD players, etc, that always use a little bit of power even when they're turned off (because they're waiting to see if you use a remote control to turn them on). I've thought about putting a power strip or some sort of switch on them to turn off the power to them when we're not using them to keep this from happening - especially in our spare bedroom and workout room where those things get used the least frequently. How much would that save? Who knows.

So, since money saving has become a little game for me, see what you think of my tips and articles. More later, I am sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Marathon Fastest Runner Not the Winner

See the article here.

The basic premise is this. A woman ran the Nike Women's Marathon in 2:55. The fastest elite runner ran it in 3:05. Yet, the elite runner won. The race organizers were apologetic, but the elite runners were given a 20 minute head start, so they are the only ones that have a chance of winning.

Sucks, yes. But, I side with the race organizers here. Honestly, in any big race, if you are going to win, you have to be in the elite group. When the gun goes off for them, that is the start of the race. Normally, that is when everyone's clock time starts, even though your chip time doesn't start until you cross the starting line. Chip times don't count in the results for the winners, although they sometimes count for age group awards, etc. Baltimore had a separate set of awards for non-elite runners, but the elite runners were the only ones with a real chance of winning the top prize.

So, if you think you're going to run that fast, run a small race (like the NCR Trail Marathon), or get yourself into the elite group. Or, just be happy with your time.

The good news is that I will never have this problem.

Finances: Mint.com Review

I've spent the last couple of weeks testing out Mint.com, the new personal finance website that is similar to Quicken (or, Quicken Online).  It's free service that allows you to enter your information about your financial accounts, and keep track of your finances and spending habits in one place.

PROs:
  • It's a FREE service, which is nice.
  • Most financial services companies seem to be represented.  In fact, I was able to get into all of my accounts.
  • Setting up your account is a no-brainer.  It's very easy to get in and use, even if you don't know a lot about this type of thing.  I was set up and looking at my spending in minutes.
  • Budgeting seems to be very easy.  You do have to go in and categorize your expenses, but once you've done that, just set up your budget and Mint will send you an email or text message when your budget is exceeded.
  • Lots of alert customization.  A good one is that Mint will tell you when a deposit becomes available for withdraw.
  • It's very nice being able to see everything in one place and get a true idea of your spending habits. 
  • Mint will also let you browse other credit offers to see if one is better for you.  Presumably, this is how they make their money.

CONs:
  • The biggie, and the single biggest thing that is keeping people away - you have to enter in all of your sensitive login information for your financial accounts.  Passwords, security questions, PINs.  This is scary to have in one place.  While Mint assures us that their data is secure, you're now adding one more insecurity to the mix.  If only financial institutions would do a push of data down to Mint instead (with your permission), so that you didn't have to give up passwords.  Maybe someday.
  • You can't actually DO anything with your accounts through Mint.  While it would be nice to be able to pay your credit card from a bank account in Mint, that's not possible, so you end up logging into your accounts to pay online anyway.

Overall, I really like the service and I think it's a great idea for those that want to set up a budget and watch their expenses.  However, the security issue is a big one, so if you think you're not going to get much use out of it, I wouldn't sign up, or I would only use some accounts (maybe just credit cards, not bank accouts).  Since I'm horrible at sticking to a specific budget, I'm probably not going to stick with it.  I do OK at managing my spending when I need to even without a specific budget.  I'll write up how I budget without a budget another time.


Private: Let Me Just Show You...

Let Me Just Show You...

This post is only available on my private blog.  If you would like access to my private blog, please email me and I can set you up  with an account that has access.  Thanks!

There is a new (not private) post coming up very soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sushi Selector

When eating sushi, please consider choosing fish that is not endangered or over fished (or worse - containing toxins).  I've posted on before, but here is another Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood.

Once again, please don't eat Grouper.  I know it tastes good, trust me, I love the taste of Grouper, but they are highly overfished, very friendly to play with underwater, and eat invasive species.  Not that you would eat Grouper on sushi anyway.  Other commonly eaten fish (at least around here) that should be avoided are Orange Roughy, Atlantic Cod, Shark, and Snapper.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

BLING!

From Random Photos 2008
Left to Right:
Marine Corps Marathon 2006, Marine Corps Marathon 2007, Frederick Half Marathon 2008, Maryland Double 2008, Baltimore Half Marathon 2008, Disney Marathon 2008, Disney Marathon 2007

Yes, the photo would be better if Todd had taken it. I suck.

I actually have a few more medals than this that aren't pictured: Gasparilla 5k 2006 and 2007, my Galloway Training Program Medal (from 2006, I think), and my Champion medal for being such a "great spectator" at Disney this year.

Review: Fuze Refresh Banana Colada

After running today, I went to Wegman's (which is awesome at 9am on a Saturday, nearly empty). I was thirsty for juice and tried this - Fuze Refresh Banana Colada. Delicious!! It tasted very similar to drinking a pina colada without being too sweet. It's somewhat healthy... It has 90 calories per serving (don't be fooled! There are 2 servings in a bottle!), which is less than a lot of similar juices out there. It also has added calcium and vitamins A, C, E and B-Complex. However, two of the first 3 ingredients are sugars (the other is water), so this is a treat and not an everyday thing. Perfect for after a workout.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What To Do, What To Do...

I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with myself now that the Baltimore race is over.  For right now, I have to keep up a pretty strict running regimen, at least until I run the Disney Half Marathon.  I'm also signed up for the Celtic Solstice 5 miler in December, so I'm pretty set for running.

It's cross-training that is the issue.  I tried Josh Hillis' workouts in April/May, but failed to really be inspired to continue.  The major problem with his workouts is my own lack of equipment to do the job.  Videos are more inspiring, at least for me.

So, I have a few options:

  1. Go back to Cathe.  I can start doing her videos now, and then when I'm done with Disney, I can start doing her full rotations again, which I would love.  Can I be as inspired to keep up with them as I was back in 2005?
  2. Krav Maga.  This is a fighting workout.  It's martial arts based on the Israeli army.  They have a location in Owings Mills, which is convenient.  However, I feel very intimidated by it.  I also have no clue how much it costs or how many times a week it needs to be practiced.
  3. Rock Climbing.  I've done this, so I know the drill.  I do love rock climbing and it would allow me to work out my upper body without weights.  However, the closest gym is in Timonium, which is not as convenient as Columbia used to be when I worked down the street.  I also need my belay partner to buy into this one and be willing to do it with me. Since he works in Annapolis, who knows.  At least we both already own all of the equipment.
  4. Personal trainer.  I could see if I could find a personal trainer, but I need one who won't require me to join a gym.  I also need one that is affordable, and frankly most personal trainers are NOT affordable.  What I would most want would be a personal trainer who does not require a gym membership, but who is also willing to teach in a class format (so, maybe 4-8 people at a time) in order to help us reduce cost.  I have no idea how to find that, but I'm certain that I could fill a class if it's in the Owings Mills area.

So, I don't know.  For now, I took this week off in order to give myself some time to mentally recover.  Cathe is certainly the easiest, but I think one of the other three would be more fun if I could get others into it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Blog!

Yeah, I was sick of the name, the salsa tagline, and the layout. The layout was a pain, the title was silly and the salsa thing only made sense to 2 people. So... thoughts?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My eye!

Yeah, it sucks. Last week, my eye started watering. No explanation. It kind of came with a migraine, but once the migraine was gone, the eye continued to water. No pain, no itchiness, no redness. Everything looked normal except for the tears. It has been almost a week and yesterday I'd finally had enough. I made a doctor appointment and went to the eye doc this afternoon.

I have a clogged tear duct. So, my eye produces tears, but doesn't drain them. The doctor numbed my eye, then poked at my eye with a probe, trying to clean out the tear duct. At first, it really seemed to work. Now, though, my eye is still filling up with tears. It's draining a little better, but it's just highly annoying.

Grr. Please, eye, be all better again.

Finances: Auto Insurance

So, I just saved a bunch of money on my auto insurance.  I didn't switch to Geico, though.  I went with AAA.  My last auto insurance was with State Farm, who was the cheapest when I got married in 2000.  Dave's parents had been with that agent for years and years, which got us some sort of deal.  Plus, Dave and I both had accidents on our driving records that didn't do us any favors.  I re-evaluated car insurance when I got my CR-V in 2002, but apparently State Farm was at least competitive at the time because we stayed with them.

This month, my premium was due and State Farm raised my car insurance by about $12 for no reason.  My car is getting old and decreasing in value, so this made no sense to me.  Had my premium stayed the same, I probably wouldn't have looked into it, but something about it just really irked me.  Plus, when I went to the AAA office last month to get HersheyPark tickets, the AAA agent told me that they're doing a lot of special promotions for auto insurance right now.  So, i called AAA.  As it turns out, I get a 12% discount from them since I've been a AAA member since 2000.  Hooray!

My final savings on auto insurance: about $240 per year.  That's a lot.  So, look into switching your auto insurance if you're out to save some money.  And always, look into AAA because they ROCK.  Just the amount that I saved for my recent repairs at the Honda Dealership paid for my AAA membership fees for 2 years.  Plus the money I saved on my Hershey Park tickets, and now auto insurance.

Here's a helpful site I used, as well:  How Much Auto Insurance Do You Need?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Doing the Salt?

I'm a big fan of the Running Doc.  So, when Todd was looking for answers as to why he gets leg cramps and I was looking for answers as to why I just sometimes feel as though I'm near death during a race, I turned to the Running Doc for advice.

He's suggesting salt packets.  For anything over a 10K, he suggests eating a salt packet (Like the kind you find at McDonald's or somewhere) at the start and at the halfway point.

Do the Salt
More Info

Ok.  I'll give it a try, what the hell.  I do love salt.  The heat is always an issue for me and it's not shocking that some of my worst races happened during extreme heat (Disney Marathon 2007, Pikesville 5k 2007, Annapolis 10 Miler 2007, Disney Marathon 2008, Baltimore Half Marathon 2008)...  Of course, there are other reasons that I might have felt bad during these races, but hydration and electrolytes are always a big difficulty.  So, I'll give it a try, what the hell.  I'm almost guaranteed that my 2009 Disney Half Marathon will be hot, so now is a good time to get started.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Constructive Criticism About the Baltimore Marathon

First off, this isn't a rant. I understand how hard it is to run a race like this (or, really, multiple races). I have a ton of respect for Corrigan Sports, so please understand that these criticisms are meant to be constructive. That being said, there were a number of things I didn't like about yesterdays race.

The Half Marathon: Starting Time
I HATED the fact that the half marathon started at 9:45. This is almost 5 hours later than my usual long run training sessions started. Due to parking, it made sense to arrive well before 8 am to see the full marathoners start, and once that happened, there was no where to sit or relax until the half marathon began. I much prefer to start with the full marathoners and finish before them, just like in Frederick. Then, the race would have been cooler, I would have been running with full marathoners who also run my pace (rather than 4:00-4:45 marathoners), and I could have done my standing around after the half rather than before. For this reason and this reason alone, I don't see myself doing the Baltimore Half Marathon again. I would much rather be a spectator.

Medals
Ok, for those of you who have never run a race like this, this may seem like a minor complaint. However, I know that I'm not the only one that feels this way. When we got our medals at the end, whether it was a half marathon or a full marathon, the volunteers were standing there with boxes of medals and they simply said, "here's your medal," and handed us one in a plastic baggy. All of that pain and torture, and my medal was handed to me in a plastic baggy. Most races with medals have them hanging on racks, and they place the medals around your neck. It's a minor thing to do so and makes a huge difference to how you feel at the end of the race. So, Baltimore Marathon, please start doing that. Start placing medals around necks. It's really not that difficult, costs nothing, and makes a big difference.

Photos
Most races also have a place right after the medals where you can get your photo taken by marathonfoto or whoever is taking the official race photos. I couldn't find this place, if it existed.

Maryland Double Line
They're going to get a lot of complaints about this. We all had just run 13.1 or 26.2 miles, and then to get our Maryland Double medals, we had to stand in line in the hot afternoon sun for over 45 minutes to get our Maryland Double Medals. Once again, they were handed to us in a plastic baggy.

The Goofy Challenge is nothing like this, so, Maryland Double folks, take a page out of the book of Disney. At Disney, you run the half marathon on Saturday and afterwards, the Goofy folks are given a wrist band to wear. They must keep it on, and then at the finish line of the Marathon on Sunday, they present it and are given their Goofy Challenge medal. No looking up times is necessary. It seems to me that the Maryland Double could do the same thing. Look up the Frederick times at the Expo, and put a wrist band on the Maryland Double people, which must remain on until they cross the finish line. Then, just give them their medal. Easy. This writstband could even be given out in the morning before the start of the races.

At a minimum, the Maryland Double table should be staffed the same as race packet handouts, which had a much shorter line. One person is not enough to be giving out those medals. But, I think you know that and you're going to be hearing from plenty of people who were nearly passing out in that line (I was actually nauseous and nearly ready to throw up from the smell of the Qdoba tent).

Runner Cage
I understand why you have the "cage" around the runner area. Stupid spectators hang out and steal all of the food, so you block them out with barricades that prevent anyone from runners getting into the finish area. However, this cage is around the entire celebration village, too, and I find that unnecessary. I had a difficult time getting back to the finish line to see Todd cross the finish, and I had an even more difficult time trying to get to the car. I felt locked into a cage and for the life of me I couldn't find my way out. When I finally did, I had to walk all the way around to get to Parking Lot A. Seems like overkill.

At a minimum, it would be really helpful to have some signs directing how to get out of the runners area and back to the various stadium lots. Just a sign with "Parking Lot D" and an arrow would be really nice. Things look different later in the day, different things were blocked off that were not blocked off when we arrived, and we were hot and exhausted.

What was good?
Not to be all negative, there were good things. The water stops were plentiful, and well-staffed. For once, I was experiencing middle of the pack rather than back of the pack because I was with full marathoners who were faster than me. The merge between the half and the full went very well, and there were lots of things to eat at the finish line. The expo was very nice. This was not a bad race, there were just a few minor things that needed to be tweaked.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Baltimore Half Marathon 2008

Basic summary: Today was not the day.

We met with Todd's work friends first, around 7:00am downtown. After photos and such, we headed over to the warehouse and met Kristy. She works in the warehouse and we were able to go in and warm up and use the restroom. Which was nice.


Todd and his co-workers
From Baltimore Marathon 2008


Once we started getting close to marathon time, we headed down to the marathon starting line. Todd met up with Paul and Leslie (and we also ran into Jan) and headed out at 8:00am for his 26.2 mile journey. After assisting a slightly freaked-out Jen, Kristy and I headed back up to her office for a bit and then headed down to meet up with the marathon course at Light Street, which is mile 7.


Us, at the marathon starting line
From Baltimore Marathon 2008



Jan and Todd at the start
From Baltimore Marathon 2008


We saw lots of people running the marathon, including Todd, and then lined up for the starting line. Kristy and Rachel had to use the bathroom and I went to meet the rest of the group. The lines were long and Kristy and Rachel didn't make it back as far as we went before the race, so I didn't see them again until the finish line.


Alyssa
From Baltimore Marathon 2008


The race started at 9:45am and I was in the third wave, starting to run with Caryn and Sandra (not strongchemistry, different Sandra). I admit, the hills were tougher than I had anticipated. My pace started at 12:45, even though 12-12:30 was my desired pace. As a result, I lost C & S by the time the marathon and half marathons merged (around mile marker 3).


My group and me at the start: Misty, Kathy, Sandra, Kim, Caryn
From Baltimore Marathon 2008


I continued on alone, and by mile 5 I'd moved to about a 13-minute pace, so there was no point in sticking with the 1:30 and 1s. I switched to 1:1s, hoping to either increase my pace somewhat or at least let myself recover. I did ok with that, and the 1:1s definitely felt better. At mile 7, I passed the Fleet feet people and the course was such that we passed them twice. The first time, I only spoke to Karen and Bobby. I said I was slow, they asked about Todd, I said he was behind me still.

Right then, Jess caught me and asked if she could run with me. She was doing the full and was having a rough race. I said sure, explained my own slowness, but she had lost her watch and was grateful to use mine for 1:1s. She stuck with me around Lake Montebello unti the hills in mile 9. I think it helped her out to slow down with me and she seemed like she felt better when she headed on her way. And it was nice for me to have some company for a while. She did push me a bit around the lake, where in hindsight I probably should have relaxed and recovered, but that's ok. I didn't know the course well enough.

Meanwhile, Karen and Bobby talked to me when I passed again and said they'd seen Todd. So, that meant right then he was a mile or less behind me. I also saw other Fleet Feet folks - Chrissy, Davida, ErikaM, and others (the world was a blur at that moment).

I tackled miles 9-13.1 by myself and felt pretty horrible. Miles 9/10 had some good sized hills that really wore me out. The heat was getting to me and I had really been pushing my pace. Even the downhill that I looked forward to in 12/13 was not enough to really make me feel better. Still, I finished and I think it was a decent race.

Of course, it could have been better and the following things contributed to my slower time than in Frederick:
  • I underestimated the hills. I can say I didn't know the course well enough, but I didn't know Frederick's at all. However, I took Frederick's hills very seriously. This gave me over confidence in Baltimore, when Baltimore's hills were more significant.
  • I did not take heat into enough account when guaging my starting pace. I should have started somewhat slower.
  • The chinese food I had Thursday night didn't do me any favors.
  • My eye has been acting funny lately, and constantly tearing up. My constant wiping of my eye made it sensitive and when sweat got near it, it started burning. This didn't affect my running but affected my mood and made me even more uncomfortable.
  • I did not hydrate enough. I was dehydrated going into the race, and as a result I was so thirsty that I over drank at one point, which made me nauseous.
  • The standing around from 7:00am when we arrived in Baltimore until almost 10:00am when I started the race threw me off and made my legs tired. I didn't sit at all that whole 3 hours.
So, not a bad race, but one in which lessons can be learned. Final time was 2:57, which I think is very respectible given the race and other mistakes that I made.

Oh, Todd did not catch me, but I'll let him talk about his own race. I also have some complaints about how the race was run, especially the finish area. But, I'll post that later.

Today, We Run.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
-
Robert Frost

... and off we go, 26.2 and 13.1.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On The Eve of a Big Run

So, tomorrow is the Baltimore Running Festival. Tune in to WBAL Channel 11 tomorrow morning to see the race! Todd is running the full marathon, I'm running the half.

Go here to see results as they happen!

We're all ready. We had our usual pasta dinner. We've set out our clothes, and took a trip to CVS to get tylenol and rice krispie treats.

Hooray for running!

Dude, Get Out of Our Yard!

So, not our next door neighbor, but the neighbors on the other side, so 2 houses down have 2 kids. They're both boys, one is a toddler, maybe 12 months? (Old enough to walk, I am not a good judge of age), the other is bigger, perhaps 2. Both are very young. These kids are always in our yard. It's like a game. One kid runs across our next door neighbor's yard and into our yard. Dad or mom runs after him. The second kid runs after dad or mom. Dad or mom collects kid #1 and walks him back over to their yard. Kid #2 stays in our yard, and when Dad or mom returns to collect Kid #2, Kid #1 follows dad or mom back into our yard again. Repeat indefinitely.

This is irritating for many reasons. First, they come right up to our window and it just feels weird to have this guy grabbing his kid from under our window. Second, last year our glass patio table shattered and glass might still be in our yard. Third, the neighbor between our 2 houses has a dog and doesn't always clean up the dog's doo doo.

I mean, it's just annoying. We don't know these people. Aren't there toys or something that the kids can play with? Are they responsible for the hoola hoop that now hangs from the street light?

What to do? Talk to them? Just endure?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kim, Circa 1964


I look shockingly like my mom. Or maybe my little grandma (my mom's mom). This is courtesy of www.yearbookyourself.com.

Further Review: Diettogo

I've been doing Diettogo for over 6 months now.  It's really working for me thus far.  It's not that I'm losing weight (in fact, I'm not - I've been maintaining since May), but it's wonderful to have my meals made and planned for me without me having to put the slightest thought into it.  Each Tuesday and Friday, I just go to the gym on my lunch break and pick up my bag of food.

They also added a fifth week of food, so now the schedule rotates for 5 weeks.  Week 5 is a little more creative in what they serve, and I really enjoy it.  Everything is pretty good, although I've never tried one of their dinners.

I've gotten to the point where I know what I don't like and I've substituted out the things that are bad.  So, I always have something good to eat. 

Favorite Meals
Pancakes (Blueberry or Apple)
Raisin Bran Muffin
Chicken Philly Sandwich
Corn Bread Muffin
Chicken Pesto Sandwich
Breakfast Pizza (YUM!!!)
Homemade Cinnamon Power Bar
Wahoo Fish Burger
Greek Style Burrito (eggs and spinach burrito, sausage on the side)
Whole Grain French Toast w/Mango Syrup

Least Favorite Meals
Szechuan Turkey Burger (too spicy)
Pasta Salad Primavera (just didn't like it, can't explain why)
Strawberry Banana Muffin (dry/bland)
Broccoli & Cheddar Soup (didn't sit well in my stomach)

My one big complaint is that the customer service is lacking.  I prefer to deal in emails and then I get form letters back.  It's never quite clear if they understood my request.  I would rather have a hand written response.

For those of you that are interested in trying it, please give them my name as the person who referred you!!

Original Review
Another Post

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blogroll thingies

There are constantly new things going up here on the blog roll, which seems to be one of the more popular things on my page (that, and the recipes).

Anyway, I am trying to get back involved with the Hoobajoobs and the Firm Ya Yas and my newly found board, Ladies Night. Need to start getting back in touch with my online lady friends. Reading the Ya Yas tonight, I found a quite excellent new to me blog, Margaret and Helen. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Debate

  1. I cannot STAND John McCain saying "my friend" over and over. I'm not his friend. I think he's a dickhead.
  2. Mr. McCain also talks too much Senate talk.
  3. Both of these guys are in Congress, so they're both part of what I consider to be a collective of jackasses. Yet, I still feel the governor in the group (Palin) is the stupidest.
  4. McCain said, "Fixing Social Security isn't hard. We know how to fix it." Then he proceeded to not say what is wrong or how he'd fix it.
  5. He's blowing sunshine up our asses talking about the American Worker. He said we're good at importing and exporting here in America! He's thinking of quitting the exporting, and just focusing in on the importing. And this is causing a problem, because, why not do both?
  6. If America is good at importing and exporting, it's importing foreign workers and exporting jobs!!
  7. Why can't these guys stay within their time limits? Can we get the orchestra from the Oscars out here?!
  8. The CNN Ohio Voter Ticker is awesome.
Arg.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sarah Palin?

Who does Sarah Palin seem more like??

Tracy Flick




Summer Wheatley






Hermione Granger?

Michael Buble

We went to the Baltimore Arena last night to see Michael Buble in concert. What a good time! We went with friends Jim & Jackie. Our seats were on the side, but pretty decent. The group that opened was called Naturally 7 and they were quite good. They are a group of 7 guys that sing without instruments. Not exactly a cappella, because they make the sound of instruments (drums, guitars, synthesizers) while they sing. Pretty cool.

Michael Buble was AWESOME! I haven't seen a really good concert in a while. Kenny Chesney is OK, but his concerts feel so marketed and canned (not to mention nonsense with drunken asses). Michael Buble really engaged the crowd, he was funny and charming. He even appealed to the guys that were there only because their wives & girlfriends wanted to go. He made fun of himself and the fact that housewives buy his CDs. He's hot in a Leonardo DiCaprio kind of way...

If you get the chance, go see Michael Buble. He was a ton of fun, sang some great songs, and even Todd and Jim admitted that they enjoyed themselves.

Good times!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mr. President, Have Pity On the Working Man

courtesy of Randy Newman

I've been avoiding the topic of the economy, mostly because I don't feel like there's much I can say that isn't being said by everyone everywhere.  Like Jon Stewart was saying last night, we are on a rudderless ship - it's like 'Lord of the Flies' out here!  Nonsense.  Anyway, here are some appropriate lyrics.

We've taken all you've given
But it's gettin' hard to make a livin'
Mr. President have pity on the working man

We're not asking you to love us
You may place yourself high above us
Mr. President have pity on the working man

I know it may sound funny
But people everywhere are runnin' out of money
We just can't make it by ourself

It is cold and the wind is blowing
We need something to keep us gong
Mr. President have pity on the working man

Maybe you've cheated
Maybe you've lied
Maybe you have lost your mind
Maybe you're only thinking 'bout yourself

Too late to run. Too late to cry now
The time has come for us to say good-bye now
Mr. President have pity on the working man
Mr. President have pity on the working man
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