Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Travel Tips for Runners

My day job (no...it's not running,) takes me all over the world which presents some fantastic running opportunities. Who could forgot the local Moscowvites mumbling "Americano" as I ran through "Red Square." While there are many trips that present great opportunity, there's quite a few more that present challenges. With that, my VBLOG on "Travel Tips for Runners" including the five things I keep in my travel bag at all times.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Meme Motivation Monday: Ida Rocks at 100

Friday, April 22, 2016

Shades of Blue: XX2i Bermuda1 Sunglasses Product Review

"Disclaimer: I received a pair of XX2i Bermuda1 sunglasses  to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

I’ve talked about this before…one thing runners can’t have enough of are shoes and sunglasses. I’m tough on both. When I’m not losing sunglasses, I’m always on the lookout for what’s new. While I’m not the Imelda Marcos of sunglasses (in her case it was 1000’s of pairs of shoes,) I own probably nine pair of sunglasses. Most of them are for my run world. Some are for work or play, but it’s tough to find a pair that transcends across all aspects of my life.

My favorite new sunglasses company is lessor known XX2i Optics. Lessor known means you won't see them advertise during the Super Bowl (yet) but they are winning over athletes with their quality and value (as they are considerably less expensive than other well-known brands that have expensive marketing budgets that drive up the price of the product.)

I already own two pair that I use for running (USA1’s reviewed HERE.) They are light, have fantastic lenses, nose grips (for those long sweaty runs) and don’t slip on your face.

Last time I checked, the sun is shared everywhere around the world, but my hometown of Denver is not called the Mile High City for it’s liberal policies, but is indeed a mile high…and closer to the sun. We also sport more sunny days than most cities in the U.S. Native Coloradoans like everyone outside of Colorado to think it’s snowy and gloomy nine months out of the year to keep it all to ourselves. That combined with my history of sun damage means that I’m always wearing a hat and sunglasses when I run, and almost always in a pair of shades when I’m outside.

With that, I was able to test drive XX2i’s latest pair of sunglasses being launched with BibRave's twitter #Bibchat on April 26th at 9PM ET—the Bermuda1’s. Join the #bibchat and you can be the first to hear more about these new sunglasses, how to buy them, and their 50% off promotion!

Here is the info we received about the Bermuda1:
“As XX2i’s first casual model, the Bermuda1 is the ultimate go-to sunglass that goes easy on your wallet. Available in classic Matte Black, Matte Tortoise, White & Black, and Crystal Black, the Bermuda1 is the perfect accessory for adventure, whether that be a trip to the beach or a quick walk with the dog. Using the same advanced materials as XX2i’s performance models, the Bermuda1 comes standard with polarized lenses that employ 4K optical technology, ensuring the utmost frame durability and lens clarity.”

I found the Bermuda1's to have a bit more casual style than the typical streamlined racing or running shades (their USA1’s or FRANCE1’s) that can fit into your lifestyle AFTER the run. Not that you can’t wear running sunglasses everywhere, but depending on the social situation you may opt for something that doesn’t look like you just logged a training run…believe it or not, I also don’t wear my running shoes to client meetings (in my day job as a technology geek.) I know you love your wraparound racing sunglasses, but does your sister want to see them in her wedding photo?

The Bermuda1’s have the same amazing set of polarized lenses my USA1’s have with a larger frame. I have the tortoise shell version with a light matte frame and blue lenses. I can wear when I'm active, at work, or at play. Like the rest of their sunglasses, they come with a lifetime warranty (no questions asked) and an amazing price point given the high quality. Best part yet…with this blog post, use discount code XX2iRocks to get 50% off!

Hope to see you on #bibchat and out on the trails in your XX2i's!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dear United Airlines...You Suck

You've heard of the play, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change?" United Airlines version is "I Don't Like You, You're Less Than Perfect, You're Awful, You Have to Change." My open letter and trail of frustration to Ms. Linda Jojo. Linda is the current and third CIO of United Airlines since their merger with Continental in 2010. I'm sorry to have departed (poor choice of words) my running blog for an airline story, but many of my run adventures require flying the friendly skies. Who can forget my camel ride in Cairo or running (like an idiot) in front of the Kremlin.
United "pushes" their priority boarding card...everywhere...

Let's start with I'm a million mile flyer (approaching 1.4 million miles) with United Airlines. I don't want a medal, but I got a nice paper certificate that went into a folder. I have been flying for work since 1985. I "dated around" with other airlines, but towards the end of the 80's (back when I had "big hair") I began my loyalty and "love-hate" relationship with United. I have lifetime "gold" with United, but 600,000 miles away from lifetime platinum. I hope to be retired before I hit that ugly number (2 million miles.) By comparison, I was an early loyalist to Hilton hotels, but switched halfway through my travel career to Marriott. I am already lifetime "Platinum" on Marriott which has incredible perks. Lifetime gold on United? Not so much.

But that's not my biggest beef (nearly unattainable lifetime status worth anything on United.) Bear with me...I'll get there. Prior to 2016, I was a back-to-back 1K member on United. With my accident
A typical Boarding Group 2 line
in 2014, injuries and surgeries in 2015, I dropped to "gold" status on United. While it may seem by name that it still has its privileges, it does not. At least for me, the biggest "perk" on United is pre-boarding. Why? I don't check bags as I want to get in and out of the airport as fast as possible. United has seen more of me over the years than my own family has. I'm not asking for sympathy on that front, but that's why getting my bag in an overhead bin could mean getting home for dinner with my wife or hearing about the school day that evening. It's a big deal.
Trying to tell United their feedback site just doesn't work.

That brings me back to my not-so-great gold status. United in their infinite wisdom has a credit card promotion--you've seen the ads on t.v. With a United credit card, you get priority boarding. For United, that means boarding group #2. If you've flown recently, that line is longer than the free Justin Bieber concert ticket line at your local jr. high school. So essentially someone who has never flown a single mile on United can get the same status overnight as I do. Cats (yes, the domestic feline versions) have been offered credit cards unknowingly by credit card companies--in other words, any idiot can get a credit card and rub elbows with million mile flyers. You too can do that without the loss of hearing I have from thirty years of flying, countless missed plays, first words, and dinners. Each time I've boarded this year, it's bothered me that it didn't somehow feel fair so I took my grievances and suggestions to my twitter account.

I "bitch" to United over the twittersphere. They have (I'm assuming) a platoon of people that reply to such tweets. They replied right away. Timely and polite I might add. I had some ideas about how they might change the boarding, rewards, and priorities. United politely pointed me to a feedback site which "flat out" does not work. Yes, I've tried different browsers, and different machines. It has that handy "reCAPTCHA" button to avoid spammers. Their version prompts you to identify which photos show food, flowers, or bridges. I've tried a dozen times.

One of my attempts to try and communicate to the "Black Hole".
I follow up with tweets.
They send me to another website to input to customer service.
I then get another boilerplate email saying they've notified IT of the issue.
Three weeks later, I try the original feedback site again. I pick the pictures that have flowers, and once again, I get errors saying "this field is required" for fields I've filled out.

At this point, I don't know what to do as I'm sitting in my crappy middle seat in the back of the plane with my bag that couldn't get in the overhead bin so they checked it...on the day of my wife's 40th birthday. Yes, the dinner will be cold if and when I get home.

My idea or input was rather simple. Perhaps have a simple criteria that awards a different (higher) status for a million mile flyer that "hit" at least gold miles the previous year (which is still a lot of miles.) Simple enough feedback, but I am unable (Linda--I'm now talking to you) to merely input the idea to any of their systems.

The more I write, the angrier I get. At least Marriott "gets me" and rewards me. Perhaps Linda would too if I could ever figure out how to get ahold of her.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Meme Motivation Monday: Don't Run Away From Your Problems

(Disclaimer: Seeking Boston Marathon, SeekingBostonMarathon.com and Larry the "Foul-mouthed Unicorn" are not affiliated with Universal Pictures or Ms. Marion.)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Anxious, Nervous and Exciting News

For those that have hung with me over the last two years (or longer,) thank you! A marathon is a tough journey and my twenty four months have been just that. I won't rehash all the injuries and setbacks, but I can say I have many emotions with my favorite race coming up and I'm not running in the 2016 Boston Marathon. At this point, I don't have a BQ for 2017 either nor a race on the calendar that could put me there. I do however have some very good news.

I quietly went in for (my fifth...sixth?...I've lost count) MRI a few weeks ago. My latest "bump in the road" is the stress fracture that bounced me out of the NYC Marathon last November. I have not raced a marathon since Boston last year ('15) which was a borderline disaster on a torn hip labrum. No surgery, but intense P.T. to get the hip in shape for NYC. Then the foot thing. I have not raced in any race of any sort since last September. Nearly seven months. That's a long time to go without racing for a run and race addict.

And now, for the good news...drum roll please...

My ortho called with the results last week that all signs of my stress fracture are now gone. He had given me a "soft" green light to start light training the month prior, but either my mind was playing games, or I just wanted to be certain, so I went in for (hopefully the final) MRI. All systems go.

With optimism renewed, I have increased miles, and tempo. Last weekend I ran for a full 90 minutes. A new first, or as my son used to say when he was little, "we haven't done that never in a long time." I also went for a speed fix on Tuesday for the fastest set of Yassos in months. Nothing earth-shaking, but went up to six half mile intervals of my typical (alternating) fast and faster sets. Two minute recovery intervals and ramped up to a six minute per mile pace. Booyah. I felt sluggish as if I'd never run before, but patience kemosabe.

Will hopefully get back to my fast and injury-free running soon. Not without a flurry of emotions including some tentativeness with my hip, my foot, my mind.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Three Blizzards and Deja Snow All Over Again

I can blame the blizzard in Denver this week on a number of things;

1) Me...like some kind of dumb ass prophet telling two people in Seattle this week that Denver has mild winters. Going on to say March is the snowiest month of the year (met with skepticism and later by reality.) One woman looked at me like I had "horns in my head" (I do but they're covered by my red rug.)

2) My high school friend Beth who lives in Singapore and planned a trip home this week.  She prayed to the white "gods," rubbed her snow voodoo doll, and did some kind of Singaporian snow dance to encourage the white stuff to happen during her week home. Beth...please stop. It worked.

3) Me...packing one pair of extra underwear for a 24 hour out-and-back trip to Seattle on Monday. This is my tenth (or is it ninth) week in a row of business travel. The last time I did that (packing too light for a 24 hr trip) also brought on a blizzard right before Christmas to Parsipanny, New Jersey to try and get a purchase order out of T-Mobile right before the holidays. Deja-snow all over again.

This reminds me of three of the most memorable blizzards in my lifetime and Colorado history. In 1982, my sister had one of her first apartments and we got absolutely dumped on. She was all alone...stranded, and I saved her by calling my high school and college friend, Scott McClure who owned a black (mini) monster truck. This thing could drive through anything, and it managed to pick her up AND get up our steep hill to celebrate Christmas appropriately in my childhood home. I think I paid him back in Jack Daniels...or at least told him I would.

Twenty one years later, I was divorced and financially forced to move back into my Mom's house (yes, that same house where we cooked German pancakes for breakfast once Kim arrived in the "monster truck" in 1982. I referred to it as "house sitting" as my mom split time between Colorado and San Diego, but was home (ironically) in March 2003. I "moved" to the basement where my older brother Tim, Tom, then Todd lived. If only that squash-colored yellow shag carpet and eighth-inch thin faux wood paneling could talk. I was dating my now wife at the time, but I was heading to Calgary for work.

Twenty minutes from Denver International Airport, I heard on the radio what I'd already suspected would happen. All flights were cancelled so I turned my car around to head home. It was an import car with all-wheel drive, but drove very low to the ground. By the time I got to the neighborhood hill...same one Scott McClure powered up, my car got stuck twice trying to get up Detroit Circle. I would eventually "throw out my back" with a thoracic muscle sprain that was so painful I thought I'd slipped a disk. I kept thinking to myself, why couldn't I get stranded with my "hot girlfriend" but (no offense Mom,) I limped into the house to spend a long weekend with my Mom. Yes, the power went out, and I eventually went on pain meds as my back was so jacked I couldn't sleep but an hour at night. #joy

That brings us to 2016, and my underwear...and me bragging about March snowfall to some hotel clerk earlier this week. Given the long string of travel weeks, I was bound and determined to make this an "in and out" quick trip for an 8 AM Tuesday morning meeting. The executive for the 8AM did not show, but offered 2 PM. I took the time slot realizing that likely meant getting home at midnight, but still only gone one night. The two PM went long (which was OK,) and halfway through, I began hearing about DIA getting shut down due to a bomb scare. The nation and world was on "high alert" due to the Brussels tragic events. It was a "false alarm" in Denver as the bomb-sniffing dog mistook a bag with oil and spices as something more sinister.

No harm, no foul. I booked another night at a second hotel near the airport and caught a second business dinner downtown. All seemed right this morning as I was exhausted, but went for a run. I dropped my phone in the gym, and thought nothing of it. The rest of the day went downhill. The phone slowly died, but not before my wife informed me my 3PM flight through San Francisco to Denver was not likely happening due to a blizzard in Denver. I spent two hours at Verizon (I still have no phone,) and over 70 minutes on the phone with United Airlines trying to book a flight home. United's first suggestion was Friday night (did I mention I left Monday for a 24 hr trip?)

After settling for a flight that gets me in 10 PM Thursday night, I decide that instead of buying a Samsung Galaxy S7 for $400 at the Verizon store, I will use my Asurion phone insurance, pay $150 and get a replacement S6. The phone conversation with Asurion;

Me: My phone is dead.
As(s:) Did you drop it?
Me: No.
As(s:) Did you get it wet?
Me: No.
As(s:) Then you should call Verizon warranty.
Me: I already went through this at the Verizon store. (I explain that if they find it's been dropped, they charge me $300 vs. the $150 to get an insurance replacement.)
As(s:) Then did you drop it?
Me: Well, I travel and everyone drops their phone. What answer do you want to hear?
As(s:) Sounds like you need a replacement from us.
Me: Yes, can you ship to my hotel before I fly home?
As(s:) Yes, we can get it to your hotel.
Me: Can you ship it priority so I can get it before I leave my hotel.
As(s:) Yes, it will arrive sometime between 8 AM and 7 PM.
Me: That won't work.
As(s:) You will get an email with shipping instructions, then you can call the carrier to discuss it with them.
Me: Please connect me with your supervisor.

After all that, I talk to her older twin and have the same conversation. She assures me it will get there on Thursday before I leave. I check email at 11 PM not able to sleep and feeling something was not quite right. Yes, I confirmed they are shipping to my hotel...on Friday. #FUBAR

Before I shut down the laptop, I set the old-fashioned alarm clock instead of my phone. Hotel number three is a nondescript Marriott Courtyard. Not the romantic scenario like I'd hoped for in the blizzard of 2003 with candles and my girlfriend (now wife.) Back home the teenage boys got the car stuck in the alley when Mom told them not to leave the house. Don't ask about my underwear. Deja snow all over again.

(Author's footnote: my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the events in Brussels this week. Let's stop the insanity please.)