Archive for February, 2011

We saw Drive Angry this weekend. Now, I hate — “FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE” hate – movies in 3D. Granted, I’ve only seen two, but they were both The Suck. Not only does the 3D give me a headache, it seems so blatant that movie felt like I should be entertained by the absolute and total coolness of the 3D in and of itself that and that I there was no need to worry my pretty little head about anything else, like, you know, story or script, and… I wasn’t.

(Full disclosure: my entire sample size for my “Do I like 3D or not” was Avatar and The Green Hornet (wait. Lantern. Hornet? Seriously, how these are two separate movies I will never understand. The green one with Seth Rogan, that’s the one I saw.) (And it sucked.) (Seriously, the movie’s main tension point revolved around getting a thumb drive to a specific computer to upload something. Remember that South Park episode that was a spoof on 24, where every time the gov agents were like “We need to re-route those satellites!” and the kids were all “No worries man, we’ve got that Google app up and running already.”? That episode aired FOUR YEARS AGO, and you’re telling me the people on the set of The Green Hornet/Lantern/Hornet couldn’t figure out that Thumb Drive hijinks might be a touch out of date? No? Really? Wait, I’ll distract myself with some 3D cars shooting at the audience. That’ll help)

ANYWAY – the point: it has been my experience that 3-D movies are totally boring and give me a headache to watch. Which explains why neither my brother nor my husband told me that Drive Angry was a 3D flick, and, frankly, that’s fair, cause that movie is kind of a hard sell anyway, without bringing in a genre that I have exactly zero desire to give even a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. I could see it in their faces, too, when I bought the tickets and was like “Wait, why did I just pay $10 for a Sunday afternoon movie omg omg omg WHY are you handing me 3D glasses nooooooooooooooo”- – they were both like “Yeah. It’s way too late for you to change your mind about this, so the we’d appreciate the most minimal amount of bitching you can limit yourself to”


But you know what? DRIVE ANGRY IS AWESOME.

Yes, of course: It’s Nic Cage, with bad hair, doing his…Nic Cage halting creepy talking Nic Cage thing. You’ve got a gun called the God Killer. You’ve got shoot outs involving naked chicks still having sex with one of the shooters (that was, actually, kind of cool. In a very distasteful way.) It’s ridiculous on so many levels that I don’t even know where to start, but the most amazing thing is the fact that the 3Dness of it actually made it better. In many parts, using 3D was a really valid and, God help me, artful way of telling the story. Don’t get me wrong – this movie is a hot mess (and I think I actually mean that as a compliment), but not because it’s in 3D.

So anyway, I’ve made my piece with 3D – clearly my issues were more with – gasp – the actual movie than the annoying technology behind it.

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So, I know I should support local running shops. They’re good for the community, the local economy, etc etc. I know. I really do.

But when I need new running shoes (shoes that I was admittedly sized for and recommended by my local running shop), I go to Zappos, everytime.

Yesterday I went to re-order a pair of running shoes. I looked up in my order history the model and size, and did a search on the main site to see if they were there. The shoe itself had been updated (No longer a Nike Free 5.0, it was now the Nike Free 7.0), and they only had them in men’s sizes. Bummer, but not horrible; I could probably order the men’s shoe  in a corresponding size, except I didn’t know my corresponding size.

So instead I did a Google search for the old model in my size, which I found, payable by Google Checkout, easy as can be.

But, you know, I wanted to order from Zappos. I knew I’d have them by the next day, in time for this weekend’s run. I knew I’d get a friendly email telling me that my shoes were being lovingly plucked from the shelves, and I knew that then I’d have a record of which shoe I bought when, so I’d know when and what to re-order.

So I popped open a live chat window on Zappos, and told the Live Chat Dude my problem: I’d ordered this one shoe in the past, I didn’t see any women’s sizes for the corresponding shoe now, and could he please advise. I even mentioned that I found the old model online, but that I’d rather buy from Zappos if they could find a women’s size or advise me on the men’s size. Live Chat Dude responded: “Yeah, that shoe has been updated from the 5.0 to the 7.0. We don’t carry the 5.0 anymore. Have a good day.” And then he signed off.

So. Un.Helpful. Sure, Live Chat Dude probably had something else going on, hadn’t read my question correctly, was in a rush to get to the next thing, I don’t know: he wasn’t focused, it happens, but it wasn’t helping me out, and the impression I got was “Whatever, spend your money where ever you want. Not my problem.” What should have been a five minute task (Go to Zappos, find shoe, click order, confirm order, done) was turning into A Thing and I just wanted my damn shoes, GRUMBLE.

The thing is: I don’t really expect a lot from live chats and email customer service accounts and general helpfulness from nameless companies. But I expect a lot from Zappos, because they brand themselves that way and because in every other interaction with them, I’ve had no reason to expect anything less. And frankly, when I tell someone “I can buy what I need from somewhere else, unless you can help me find a way to buy it from you,” I expect them to, you know, do that.

So instead of just closing out the window and buying the shoes from the other place, I opened a NEW live chat, and started over. And got helpful info (“your size in the men’s shoe is ___” ) and was able to order the stupid shoes and move on with my life.

But first I sent an email to Zappos with the transcript of the first live chat, saying, in effect: “Wow. This was unexpectedly bad service. Total suck.” (I’m paraphrasing)

Within five hours I had a response back with an apology, and a $50 gift card for the inconvenience. Which was totally unnecessary, and totally awesome.

I know that Zappos works in such bulk that they can afford to comp shipping and offer stuff at prices local stores can’t. I do understand that they are a stupidly big company and that I’m hurting my local running community by not patronizing the shop that has the local running experts. But for all the talk of how evil big corporations are, how all they care about is profit and not people, there’s a couple big conglomerates getting it right. $50 is not a lot to a company like Zappos, but it’s a lot to me, and they were smart enough to authorize their customer service people to distribute that money as they saw fit. Sure they get major discounts in shipping because of the vast amount of shipping they do, but just because it costs them nothing to give me free overnight shipping doesn’t make me any less appreciative of getting my stuff from them quickly and cheaply.

Zappos makes it easy for me to spend my money there, which is the most compelling reason for me using that service, but there’s another level why I love them: I really respect how GOOD they are at this. Every company wants their customers to be happy. Every company wants to quickly correct bad experiences and send customer’s away feeling happy. Wanting to be good at those things is not rocket science. Trust me – I work in the Client Satisfaction group of a really big company, and we would love nothing more than to very quickly respond to every disgruntled customer in such a way that makes them feel fully satisfied. The difference between Zappos most other places is that they’ve figured out how to DO that – they authorize their customer service people to provide comps as needed, they have dedicated staff on Twitter that is linked up with the main account team; every part of that company is dialed into the customer’s experience – from a process perspective, they have it nailed.

When I got that email response with the apology and the $50, I literally said to my husband “GOD, I love giving Zappos my money.” And you know, I do. I gotta get running shoes from somewhere – why not a place that gets them to me quickly, for a fair price, and goes out of their way to make sure I enjoy the experience? That’s win-win.

And it doesn’t hurt that their shipping confirmation emails say “You shoes are being lovingly plucked from our shelves” –  it really doesn’t.

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Runners: We’re Different

Last week, Ben Does Life reminded me of the old Adidas marketing campaign: “Runners: Yeah, We’re Different


I loved looking at these ads so much – they reminded me of the 4 or 5 years of my life I spent deeply immersed in running and triathlon… running a 5k in Disney with character costumes on a few weeks after heart surgery, volunteering at Ironman Arizona and cheering on my friends racing that day, six exhausted runners sharing 2 beds in a crappy motel after the Sunmart Ultramarathon in Huntsville, Texas, Sunday morning brunches in sweaty running clothes.

In the spring of 2005, I had just finished my masters degree and was working full time, and found myself worried about leaving behind school and the inherent social element that came with it. Around that time, I went to a running clinic hosted by the D.C. Triathlon club, with the intent of trying to meet people. (As I explained to my grad school roommate at the time: “I dunno, I gotta find my people SOMEWHERE.”)

From there things kind of spiraled out of control. I open an account at BeginnerTriathlete.com and met other new triathletes. I kept going to D.C. Tri Club workouts and happy hours (mostly the happy hours), and sure enough, I found my people. In the fall of 2006, when I ran my first marathon, 7 friends – all who I met on BT, all who traveled from different states – ran alongside me, shuttling their own time and goals to pace me to the finish. Training for an Ironman can be isolating, but not when most people you know are training too — there’s no time for isolation, you run into your friends at the pool, in spin class, at the bike shop. My book club started when we were all deep in training and were seeking something non-triathlon related to do with our time. When Mike and I left D.C., almost every single good friend at our going away party we met through the Tri Club; there was a period of time in there when the only friends I had were people I saw in Spandex.

Things do change — of those people at our going away party, the majority now have young children and can’t spend their days on epic bike rides or their nights at epic happy hours, and while I still log at BT, I don’t keep up with the community as much, and my main core group have adjusted their focus as well. But I remember those days of going to work with a dissembled bike in the back of my car, ready to be thrown together to minute the work day was over so I could get in an afternoon ride with friends. I remember the weekends of travel to races for the primary purpose of meeting up with good friends and secondary purpose of racing. When I look at those Adidas marketing ads, I remember being part of a group that did “weird” things but that felt so normal to all of us.

It feels past tense to me, but I suppose that’s not the case; just a few weeks ago I made plans to travel to Duluth to both meet up with friends and run a marathon while I’m at it. I can only hope that as Mike and I set up this new phase in life, we’re so lucky as to continue to have the chance to spend our days and our miles with good friends along side of us.

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Breathing Again

It seems that I am finally – finally – getting better adjusted to the altitude.

When we got to Colorado, I was so so so happy to get back to a routine and some normalcy. I spent November/December/January traveling and working out when and where I could, but an extra 10 lbs was telling me that it wasn’t enough. Upon arrival at our new house, I found my running shoes, my PT gear, and the nearest Crossfit gym, and forced myself to get back to it.

(Some back story: Way back in December it came to my attention that several good friends were registering for Grandma’s Marathon, up in Duluth Minnesota. I knew I was spiraling rapidly out of control with my sloth and was still in a bit of shock that I had actually, like, for real, moved away from my close friends, so when presented with the possibility of running a race with good friends in my home state seemed like a great motivator to pull it back together. Also, I’m about 6 months out from the Ironman, which means I can no longer remember how much I hate endurance racing, and have sugar coated over all the horrible parts of marathoning, which all means: Marathon. In June. What’s that definition of insanity again?)

It was rough going that first week of getting back to training; I’d like to blame the altitude completely but I have a feeling that there was a fair element of “out of shapeness” at play. I headed to my new CF gym on an off day from running, expecting that the workout would hurt, but not, like, be debilitating.

You guys, it was both.

The workout was 5 rounds of: 400m run/30 box jumps/30 wall ball. Now, I have many, many shortcomings as an athlete, but 400m runs and box jumps are not part of them. I can box jump like a mo fo, and 400m is nothing.

Excuse me while I change that entire last sentence to PAST TENSE. I died during this work out. I could not easily run 400 meters. I could not easily box jump – so much so that I started doing step-ups just to keep moving. I stopped the workout at 3 rounds, with the coach looking at me, saying: “Are you ok? Just breath. No, really: just breath”

I couldn’t breath. There is no AIR in this effing state. NONE! We’re 1000 feet higher than Denver – which is 5000 feet higher than my last state district of residence – and it feels like death.

(The gym’s website lists everyone’s times for that day’s WOD — and there was my name, with a nice little DNF. Ooooh, my ego. Once again, Crossfit does it’s job of reminding you that you are both awesome and totally not awesome, almost simultaneously.)

But it’s getting better. Not quickly, mind you – I tried to run a 5k a few days later and the combination of hills and NO AIR had me gasping and thinking about taking up knitting – but slowly. In the days after my first disastrous Crossfit WOD I was able to keep up and finish with the group, painfully, but not in such a way that feels quite as close to death as that first time; I ran yesterday (10x200m repeats) and it was the best run I’d had in months.

Which is all my way of telling you that if I ever do successfully adjust to this altitude, I am only ever racing at sea level. I swear to God, this acclimation process will pay for itself SOMEHOW.

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Moving Ramblings

There was a discussion on Twitter today regarding vacuum cleaners, specifically the total awesomeness of the Dyson.

Wait, come back: I promise this isn’t boring. Well, it’s only boring if you don’t own a Dyson; if you do, then you know and you will completely understand why a bunch of people getting together to justify the purchase of a $500 vacuum cleaner is of note at all. One twitterer commented that in her ex-husband’s divorce decree, he stipulated that he only wanted two things, the Dog and the Dyson, which: OF COURSE. Those would be the first two things I’d fight over, too. Not that we’re getting divorced but you know HYPOTHETICALLY we’d fight over the dog, the dyson, and the universal remote (although if we’re fighting about that it’s mostly because I’m just being difficult, because I don’t really know how to use it and don’t care, but I know he loves it. Anyway.)

So we’ve been in Colorado for about …two weeks, almost? It’s going well, or, as well as it can go when you’re somewhere completely new. I’m in this strange phase of settled, but not at all, in that I”m so happy to not be traveling and homeless, but I’m not yet sure if this is home. Things I am loving so far:

  • The morning mountain air, which is really quite fantastic in this stereotypical clean way that I makes me look forward to walking the Moose every morning
  • The 100 acres of open space dog park down the road from our house. Happy dog = happy life
  • My new crossfit gym, which seems to have great coaches and peer group and is a nice social element in an otherwise work-from-home kind of day
  • We’re 6 miles from the front range, and I get a breathtaking view of the mountains every time I step outside my house. I hope this never gets old
  • Twice in the past week I have seen fleece vests over business clothes in a professional setting. Love it.

Things I am working on getting used to:

  • I put 300 miles on my in three and half days. Y’all, the state is SPREAD OUT, especially considering DC is about 6 miles wide, and I never used to leave it
  • It’s sunny. All. The. Time. Rain is my favorite type of weather, is what I am saying, and it is sunny here, All.The.Time.
  • I live in the suburbs. Garage? Awesome. Wal-mart? Not. Granted, I knew this going in, I shouldn’t be shocked, but … it’s the burbs. It’s … different. I feel like I need to have kids like, immediately, if only to reinforce that the convenience factor of living here is worth it, which is slightly conflicting with my “I want to have kids, but not, you know RIGHT NOW” kind of mentality.
  • The altitude. Holy gods, this is no joke. I tried to run a 5k time trial last weekend and almost died in the process. Crossfit high intensity workouts have been killing me. There is NO AIR HERE. I’ll adjust, but it’s humbling. And scary. I CANNOT BREATH!

I was home alone last weekend – Mike was off doing some USMC related something or other, and I found myself heading down the road to the state park just a few miles away. It seemed so easy and accessible to head over and do a short mountain hike with the dog before starting the rest of my day. An outing like that used to be a Weekend Plan, but now it’s just kind of a one-off. Later that Saturday, I found myself meeting up with a cousin and going for a short walk/hike outside with the dog, enjoying the unexpected 65 degree weather and a chance to be outside.

It’s been hard to explain to people why we wanted to move west, but if I had to try again, I guess I would use that story as a starting point. There’s not a lot of tangibles to it – “Woo, I went for two long walks!”, but how it felt to me gets to the heart of what we’re doing here. It used to be hard to find ways to get outside and fit in time to be active, and now it’s just…part of the day. It doesn’t tax me mentally and it doesn’t overbook me logistically. (Of course: moving away from all your friends will free up you schedule quite a bit, bu that’s Not My Point, jackhole 😛 )

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about these days … trying on this new home, seeing if it fits. So far, so good.

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So, I don’t really want to show you pictures of my house, because it currently looks like a Stuff Bomb exploded and I don’t know how we’ll ever crawl out. Seriously, when I first go to the house, I was drunk on space: laundry room! coat closet! linen closet! (dude. In my entire adult life I have never had a linen closet. I cannot go back, people, I CANNOT.) But then, of course, the movers came, and the afternoon went something like this:

  • “Yay my stuff! Bring me my stuff!”
  • “Wow, awesome! Look at this stuff I have missed!”
  • “Wow, ok, more stuff. Huh, um, put that stuff over there”
  • “MORE stuff? Um, how about over …there?”
  • “STOP BRINGING ME STUFF. How’d I get so much freaking stuff?”

So while I’m still drunk on space, I’m slightly sobered by the mess currently covering my space.

In light of that, I’d rather show you the view at the end of a trail that runs right outside my house:

Imagine how nice that would look when I find my real camera, eh?

I haven’t longed for the mountains the way Mike has; my opinion of perfection in nature  is a rocky beach with towering evergreens — but in just two days here I still find myself breathless [insert altitude joke here] with the view of the front range. With the mountains in front of us, and the woods behind us (not pictured), I’m starting to love this place.

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Mike flew into Minnesota Saturday morning to pick up me, the jeep and the dog and get us moving (finally. FINALLY!) out to our house in Colorado.

The house we bought two weeks previously, while in Miami. Because of course we did.

Do you know what is in between Minnesota and Colorado? Nothing. That is what in between. Ok, well: Des Moines is there, and that was nice, but otherwise: nothing. As far as I can tell, the land between Minnesota and Colorado is a great windy expanse of nothing. I have spent most of my road tripping years going way juuuust enough over the speed limit that I could maybe slow down in time to be legal if I saw a state trooper; this ride was so windy that I ended up going consistently 10 mph less than the posted limit (75, btw: Hello, the West, I love you), and I STILL got pulled over, this time just a warning to not drive too close to trucks, due to the wind.

We left at 5pm and drove straight through the night, opting to get in really early on Sunday versus late Sunday and then have to scramble to get ready for work Monday morning. And sure enough, we got in around 6am Sunday AM, at which point this latent neat freak that apparently has been lurking inside me (unknown to me or anyone who has ever met me, ever) reared her ugly head, and I became determined that regardless of our “We just drove all night” zombie state, we could not possible spend a single minute in that house until all the shelves in the refrigerator were removed and santized, the bathrooms bleached down, and all the sheets and comforters washed and beds remade.

A word on that: we had sheets and blankets waiting for us. On freshly made, brand new beds. Like, the mattress pad? Had never been used (I washed it anyway, because: duh.) The house we bought had been put on the market by a company that had bought it as part of a corporate relocation package (got that?), and was furnished with staging furniture in the “Crate and Barrel on a corporate credit card” style, which is to say, pretty nice, if extremely neutral. When we made an offer, we stipulated that they had to leave the grill and one of the dressers; they came back and said, “No deal. We’re leaving EVERYTHING, or you can’t have the house.”‘

So I have a fully furnished house. I didn’t necessarily need a fully furnished house, but since everything I own is currently on a moving truck somewhere in the middle of the country, I greatly appreciate that I was able to show up at the house, throw the sheets in the dryer and go: “Cool! We’re home!”

Speaking of: does anyone want a bow-flex, an ab lounge machine, or a dish of pine cones? I’m serious: they left the decorative pine cones. You can have them if you want, my gift to you.

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