Weekend in Houston & the ABB 5K

On Friday afternoon we headed down south to Houston for the weekend. We should have been pulling into the race expo around 4pm but due to congested highways and the population of Houston being incapable of operating a vehicle correctly, it ended up being just after 5. When traveling somewhere new, you should definitely experiment with using the maps app on your phone without turning the GPS on. Turns out all of the GPS usage and iHeart radio streaming on our road trip to/from Florida in December drained the crap out of our data for the month and we had to navigate downtown Houston GPS-less. It was REALLY fun.

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The expo was massive and super organized. I loved how a volunteer could scan the barcode from my confirmation email on my phone rather than having to print out a hard copy. We picked up our 3 (5K x2 & the half for me) race packets in less than five minutes and were released out into the sea of vendors. I chatted all things Oiselle with Sara at the Fleet Feet booth, browsed the USTAF merchandise, and pretty much breezed through the rest. Skechers, a new sponsor for this year, provided all of the official race merchandise. The LE shoes created specifically for Houston were pretty cool and a lot of the apparel looked great too, but I wish there would have been other items like pint glasses or magnets. Something cheap that wasn’t clothing-related. A Skechers employee working the area said they’d keep it in mind for next year. Luckily on our way out I saw Chevron putting free magnets out on their table so I snagged a couple.

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I saw the Nuun booth but it was pretty busy so I skipped over it, only to realize later that night they were giving out Texas-specific water bottles with the purchase of two tubes. Now I need another water bottle like I need a hole in the head, but guys: this one said Texas on it. Somehow this justified the purchase and we went back the next morning to grab one.

Nuun Hydration - Run Texas

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After the expo we made our way to the hotel. Initially I booked the Residence Inn downtown so we wouldn’t really have to drive at all and could walk to the race start both mornings. After a little research, I realized I could move us out to a SpringHill Suites near Reliant Park and save $300 on the hotel/parking. It was about 10-15 minutes away and only two blocks from the rail station. I don’t regret this decision at all – $300 is $300.

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The next morning was the ABB 5K, which was by no means a goal race for either of us since Brad was coming off a sprained ankle and I had the half the next day. We grabbed coffee in the lobby and took the rail downtown.

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The race was a super flat out-and-back and the weather was perfect. Beautiful morning for a run! We were pretty surprised with how many spectators were out cheering but it got me excited for crowds the next day. The National Guard handed out medals at the finish, which I thought was pretty cool.

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We had lunch at Freebirds and then went to see Lone Survivor. Okay, so I had heard this movie was pretty intense. I imagined intense like Act of Valor. Definitely teared up at the end and it was sad, but I was able to compose myself in less than five minutes. Let me just say that “pretty intense” does not even begin to describe Lone Survivor. I don’t cry at anything (owner of a black heart) and no amount of sniffling or deep breaths could get me back to normal before the lights came on. It was heart wrenching. Incredible movie, but heart wrenching.

For dinner I had my heart set on Italian and luckily there was a Carrabba’s only a few blocks from the movie theater. Once we cracked open the menus I realized we were at the most expensive Carrabba’s in all the land. Had I done a little research I might have noticed that this was the original restaurant and not under the same management as the chain. But since we were already there and every other Italian restaurant in town was probably swarming with runners, we stayed. At a normal Carrabba’s our exact dinner would have cost us $54 plus tip but at the original we were hit with an $85 bill. Good thing I saved a few bucks on the hotel.

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After dinner we returned back to the hotel so I could buy more songs on iTunes, tweak my playlist for the billionth time and try to get to bed early. Pretty sure Brad fell asleep before I did, but what else is new?

Next up, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

Tuesday Things

1. Are you sick of me talking about the office? Well sorry, I’m not quite done yet. The project is still unfinished but we’re much closer than we were a week ago. I bought a twin comforter set and while I’m sure it’s the norm, it bothers me to no end that it only comes with one pillow sham and no option to buy an additional one. The daybed looks dumb with just one pillow at the top and definitely requires 2(+) pillows in the middle. Currently I’m on a hunt for two red decorative pillows to match the sheets, but not really red … maybe cranberry? Or wine? In any case, it’s proving to be impossible to find pillows to match. Don’t even get me started on how expensive effing Euro Shams are. WHY?! It’s a piece of fabric. Also, please kill me for caring this much about a bed in a room we rarely go in.

dumb bed

2. I accidentally became a VIB member at Sephora. Seriously, it was accident. My online account said I had 92 points – clearly not enough for VIB. Once I dug a little deeper it looked like they issued me a new BI card at some point and never linked it to my other account. So I was earning points in the store with one BI card and earning points online with another. While I was in there stocking up on moisturizer recently, BAM – they handed me a shiny silver VIB card. I have no idea what this card gets me except a private shopping event in November (which is REALLY far away) so I don’t know whether to be excited about the new status or upset I spend so much time in the store. I blame my sister mostly. In any case, I’m getting a post together about all the fun makeup-y things I’ve bought over the past few months. Makeup? On the blog? There’s something new.

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3. Oiselle, Oiselle, Oiselle. A few items from the S14 line hit their website recently and the colors are ridiculously beautiful. It’s taking quite a bit of self restraint to keep myself from putting every single new item in my cart. The newest Stripey (now Earn Your Stripes) comes in two of the best colors Oiselle has put out: brill blue + jade green.  I’ve figured out how to wear 90% of my Oiselle wardrobe to work, which is AWESOME. The seamless flyte tank is perfect for layering and much more exciting than a standard cami under a cardigan. If you’re currently Oiselle-less, this is a great piece to start with!

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4. It’s race week! For some reason even though I’m only running the half, this feels like a bigger race than usual. Maybe because there’s been so much build up since the lottery last summer. I’ve heard so many great things about Houston so I’m really excited to finally be able to run it. I’m also running the 5K day before – hello, bonus medals – with Brad. Well, Brad is a maybe. He sprained his ankle playing basketball while we were in Florida (probably trying to get out of having to drive on the way home) so he said he’ll make the final decision on Saturday. Either way he’ll be heading down there with me, so Houston here we come!

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5. The Verizon Wireless ambassador program is wrapping up this week and it was definitely a great experience. I learned a lot about the Verizon Edge program and new Isis Mobile Wallet, both of which I look forward to using in the future. One of the perks I received as an ambassador was a Samsung Galaxy S4 to use for the duration of the program. I’m not going to list out all of the technical specs because (1) your eyes will glaze over and (2) I don’t even understand what a lot of it means. The main thing I say to everyone who asks what I think of the S4 is that the battery is horrible. This may be because I came from the Droid Razr MAXX which had a much larger battery. I could stream Pandora in my car for 90 minutes on my way to work, use the phone intermittently throughout the day, stream Pandora for 90 minutes on my way home, and still end up at around 50% battery. With the S4, if Pandora is used on my way to work, the phone will need to be charged by early afternoon – even if I’m connected to the WiFi at the office. Hashtag first world problems. So now I listen to the radio in the morning instead. I’ve tweaked many of the settings but even with minimal use I’m usually at about 40% after 12 hours off the charger.

Okay, so now on to the non-battery related things. The camera is excellent! It’s just average in low-light (concert photos turn out not so hot) and at night, but for everything else the pictures are great. The screen is huge and super bright, even when the setting is at 50%. The Samsung-affiliated apps are nothing to write home about, with the exception of S Memo and WatchON. S Memo is exactly what you’d expect, a note-taking app. WatchON allows you to turn your phone into a remote for your TV. Rather than scrolling through your provider’s channel guide, WatchON recommends shows to you based on your preferences. You just press the photo of the show you want to view and voila, your TV switches to that channel. Pretty cool feature and the recommendations are always spot on.

WatchON App

Also (this is minor) since I own a Samsung Tablet, I really appreciate that the two run on the same operating system. When I had a Motorola phone, it was somewhat annoying to go back and forth between the two devices. Now everything looks almost identical. Also minor, but there are a lot more options when it comes to cases. My current favorite is the Spigen Neo Hybrid – very simple and lightweight.

Overall, I really like the phone. My main issue is with the battery and it’s probably only because I was majorly spoiled with the Razr MAXX. I carry a portable charger (purchased with my own dollars, not provided by VZW) with me when heading to concerts where the camera will drain my battery or when I’ll be away from an outlet for most of the day. I also connect to WiFi at the office and at work, which helps avoid battery draining caused by roaming. Would I recommend the phone? YES. But if you’re a heavy data user, you may want to look into an extended battery or portable charger so you aren’t SOL mid-day.

Tell me something about your Tuesday. Or Wednesday, since this went up way later than I originally planned.

Things I’m Loving Right Now

This is NOT a gift guide. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A GIFT GUIDE.

These ribbed leggings. I bought them in Smoke Heather with a discount code and birthday coupon (btw VS, my birthday is in January – jumping the gun a bit, no?) so that made them a bit more affordable. They’re soft and warm and I pretty much live in them on the weekend with a slouchy sweater. AND they come in lengths, which means I can order them in “short” rather than buying crops to use as leggings. Story of my life. Note: order one size smaller than usual, they stretch a bit.

Ribbed Legging   A Kiss of Cashmere   Victoria s Secret

This entire Etsy shop. I saw Grace & Lace on last week’s episode of Shark Tank and I WANT EVERYTHING. This could be dangerous because now I also want a new pair of riding boots. My favorites are the Alpine Slouch (pair them with ribbed leggings and you probably won’t ever leave the house), Nellie Knit Scarf, and Britain Buckle Leg Warmers. Oh! And the Nellie Knit Button Head Wrap. See? I want everything.

Alpine Thigh High Slouch Sock Tweed thick cable by GraceandLaceCo  source: Grace and Lace

Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping. I have frequent flyer accounts with most major airlines but since Southwest is usually my go-to (free bags, cheap flights), my points balance is the highest with them. A few months ago I started using their shopping program and holy crap, my balance has taken a huge jump! Brad bought tires, shocks, and brake pads at Advance Auto Parts and my account was credited 4 points for every dollar spent. That was a pretty hefty point increase. There are SO many companies on the Rapid Rewards Shopping site (The Body Shop, Express, Sephora, Best Buy, etc.) and I’ve been trying to check there first before I buy anything in-store. If you do a decent amount of shopping and travel fairly often, you should definitely look into their rewards program. The plan is to have my flight for Ragnar Cape Cod in May completely paid for with points only.

Shop Online at Southwest Airlines

Oiselle Lux Layer. There’s been a handful of Oiselle items I’ve been living in lately (like the flyte tank, which has found it’s way into my work wardrobe) but the Lux … this top is heaven. If it wasn’t so pricey I’d have the damn thing in every color available. The Poppy dropped into the sale section a couple weeks ago and an Amazon gift card helped score one in Ribbon. Can someone buy me the charcoal for Christmas, pretty please?

Oiselle Lux Layer - Heather Ribbon

MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pots. The masses own Painterly, but my go-to is Layin’ Low. My skin has the the tendency to turn everything pink, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Painterly oxidized on me. I tried nearly every shade available and the most versatile one ended up being Layin’ Low. It’s perfect on it’s own (gives you that wide-eyed ‘awake’ look) or as a primer/base for shadow. A budget alternative is Maybelline’s Color Tattoo but the shades are limited. Tough as Taupe is too dark to be neutral and Too Cool is a bit too frosty to come off natural.

MAC Pro Longwear Paint Potssource: the sunday girl

This fantastic item that brews caffeinated happiness. I’ve been looking at French Presses for awhile now but always talked myself out of buying one. I saw this one on Jessica’s gift guide (I despise gift guides because they’re super overdone, especially among running bloggers BUT – this is an exception) for the Foodie Freak & Kitchen Lover. I don’t even want to talk about how many things I want from that list. Anyway, the Bodum Brazil has been in my cart on Amazon for two weeks now.

Bodum Brazil 8 Cup French Press

On Wednesday Brad and I were out running errands and popped into Sur la Table to pick up an ice cream scoop. Dun dun dunnn. That store… I should have known better. I’m sure you see where this is going. The Bodum was on display in the back of the store and Brad didn’t even try to talk me out of it. In fact, he pretty much talked me into getting a burr grinder too. Whoops. Let me tell you – that was money well spent. The coffee tastes SO much better. I think this means I’m a coffee snob now. Crap.

 Okay, I think that’s it for now. So tell me, what are YOU loving lately?

2013 Shiner Beer Run Race Recap

Shiner Beer Run

We almost didn’t run this race. All week the forecast called for high winds, cool temperatures, and rain. 38 degrees isn’t exactly standard Texas weather, considering it was 89 on Thursday evening as I drove home from work with the A/C on. And I don’t mind running in the rain when it’s warm, but when it’s that cold? Eh, not really that interested. I took a few polls on Twitter and changed my mind more times than I can count between Wednesday and Saturday. Crazy thunderstorms Thursday night had me saying “no freakin’ way!” but the calm, somewhat dry morning on Saturday at 3:30am helped me make the final decision: we were heading to the Shiner Beer Run.

Race Day Wear: Poppy Lux Layer, Oiselle singlet, Lesley Knickers; also added a throwaway sweatshirt and gloves, neither of which I was able to toss. Definitely warmed up in a mile or so, but once we started running into the wind there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d part with the extra layer.

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The city of Shiner is two-ish hours from our house so we left at 5:30. Packet pickup was available during the week at 2 locations in San Antonio or the Shiner brewery itself, but since we live so far away we opted for race day packet pickup. The ride out to Shiner was long and boring, with a lot of country roads and views like this:

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Pre-Race: We were able to score a perfect parking spot across the street from the brewery, allowing us to sit in the car until 5 minutes before the start. This was clutch. Also pre-race I made a quick bathroom stop and somehow the drawstring of my pants disappeared inside of the waistband. Massive fail. I spent the ENTIRE RACE hiking up my pants. ugh.

Swag: Awesome, some of the best I’ve seen. The shirt was a Brooks Podium tech tee and I loved the design – AND the color. Glad some races are starting to move away from white shirts. We also got koozies, an iron-on decal, bandana, and pretty sweet cups at the finish line to hold our beers. And it should come as no surprise that the finisher’s medal doubles as a bottle opener.

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Race: Ugh. The first two miles were through town and neighborhoods, but after that? Absolutely boring. Very hilly with lots of cows, horses, and farmland. Miles 2-6 were uphill into the 20mph wind. Even though you were running, you actually weren’t moving at all. We ran with our heads down, holding onto our hats and headphones. The wind was an issue pretty much the entire time (unfortunately never at our backs) and light rain came in later miles. The race coordinators had reminded us repeatedly of what to expect at mile 6/7 and I expected to hate it… but it was actually my favorite part of the course. They were on a gravel/dirt path and my legs welcomed the change from the asphalt. The last 3 miles of the course resembled the final miles of ZOOMA Texas and were basically a death march. To be honest, the entire race was a death march.

There was a fair amount of spectators lining the course despite the weather and the course being somewhat inaccessible to cars. Everyone was super enthusiastic, offering high-fives and words of encouragement. There were plenty of water stops and two fuel stops: one had GU gels and one had GU Chomps. The course was clearly marked, with markers at every mile and arrows painted on the ground to ensure you wouldn’t make a wrong turn.

Post-race: What we’d been looking forward to for 13 miles!

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Each runner gets 4 (yes, 4!) beers at the finish. Shiner had a few of their regular brews on tap, as well as limited edition White Wing and seasonal Shiner Cheer. I loved the options!

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As for food, everyone received two huge smoked sausage links: one on a french roll and one in a tortilla. Strange, but hey – this was a Texas race. There was also potato salad but I wanted nothing to do with food that wasn’t warm.

We went on a tour of the Spoetzl Brewery and had the rare opportunity to see production in progress (usually it’s shutdown on Sat/Sun, but was kept open due to the holiday next week).

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After the tour we grabbed another round of beers and checked out the race merch tent. It was all Brooks items so while that meant great quality, it also meant higher prices. Last year’s race tees were on sale for $10 but seemed like an odd purchase for someone who didn’t run in 2012. Our final stop was the brewery’s gift shop, where we were able to grab a beanie and two coasters for $20. Pretty affordable for touristy items!

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Overall: Unless you’re a freak of nature and hills are your jam, this really isn’t a PR course. The weather is Texas is so unpredictable (as previously mentioned, comparing Thursday to Saturday) and last year’s race was hot and humid. My recommendation is to approach it as a fun run with friends and enjoy the post-race party. It’s super organized for only being in its second year. If you love Shiner Beer, you’re going to love this race – PR or not.

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A New Opportunity

Last year I was selected to be an ambassador for a certain organization. If you’re in the running/HLB community, you undoubtedly know who I’m talking about. As time went on, it became increasingly clear it wasn’t a good fit. A lot of the campaigns weren’t relevant to me. Many of the campaigns went to the same people, who professed their undying love for Saucony one week and then declared Mizuno as their one-and-only the next. It didn’t feel genuine. My Twitter feed was filled with hashtags and reviews all for the same product. I expected to change my mind at some point but early this summer I asked to be removed from the program. I truly appreciated the opportunity but in the end it just wasn’t for me.

I blog because I enjoy writing. (And yes, I know I’ve been absent for a few days – NaNoWriMo is kicking my ass!) I don’t post three times a day or even every day. If there’s nothing to say, there’s nothing to post. I don’t force content. I don’t accept every free product offered to me just because its OMG-FREE. During this 3+ year journey, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some wonderful companies.

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Oiselle In August I was one of a lucky few chosen to run for Oiselle Team. This was a huge (and AWESOME) surprise! I am incredibly honored to run along side some ridiculously fast and inspiring women. Oiselle is a feminine fierce company founded by Sally Bergesen and I consider myself very lucky to represent them at every race I run. Before becoming a member of the flock, my closet was stocked with multiple poppy and indigo items, Lux Layers and 50/50 tees. I love their clothes, my fellow teammates, and the opportunity Oiselle has given to me by offering me a spot on their team.

Keep Austin Hydrated

Nuun Hydration I became an ambassador for Nuun after being assigned as an alternate for their 2013 Hood to Coast team. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. I’ve been a fan of these electrolyte tablets since Tricia first introduced me to them a few years ago. The amount of Nuun tubes in our house is borderline ridiculous. Brad and I both use it for running, and he tosses a tablet in a water bottle for his softball games too. I don’t talk about it because I’m an ambassador – I talk about Nuun because I use it frequently and love it.

And finally, my newest opportunity: Verizon Wireless. The timing of this probably could have been a little better. I noticed yesterday that another company kicked off a campaign with VZW as well. I’m not associated with that campaign – I’m working with Verizon directly. I’ve been a customer of Verizon for 15 years, so becoming an ambassador for them over the next few months seemed like a perfect fit for me. There are a couple programs I was interested in (ie. Verizon Edge) so this is a great way to learn a little bit more about them and in turn, share the information with YOU. I know Verizon isn’t running related, but it’s a company I’ve been involved with for quite a long time (and probably some of yours!)

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to incorporate more of my personal life and other various topics here. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about running and it’s nice to change things up once in awhile. In any case, the purpose of this post was to make everyone aware of my new relationship with Verizon Wireless and why I accepted it. And it is NOT because of OMG-FREE products or to add another ambassador notch on my belt (I feel like this is becoming a trend with bloggers lately…)

Is there a company you are an ambassador for? If you could be an ambassador for any company in the world (cupcakes, vodka, Urban Decay – whatever you want!), which would it be?

Are you listening, MasterCard?

As I clicked submit on several online orders lately (Oiselle, Sparkly Soul, Road Runner Sports – just to name a few), I got to thinking. Running is EXPENSIVE. A far cry from the “just lace up your shoes and go” line I heard all too often when I first took up the sport.

Sparkly headbands to keep your hair out of your face

Sparkly Soul Team USA

Anti-chafe sticks to keep you comfortable on the run

Anti-Chafe

Sweat-wicking socks to make your feet happy

RRS Drymax

Headphones that stay in your ears for 10+ miles

Yurbuds

Shoes with the perfect balance of support and cushion

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A GPS watch to track your pace and mileage

Garmin Forerunner 305

And let’s not even get started on the race registration fees.

IBM Race Registration

Something I don’t recommend doing? Using Mint as your budgeting tool and tagging every single running expense. I did that for 2011 and nearly had a heart attack when I reviewed my annual expenses at the beginning of this year.

You know what would be nice? If we were rewarded for spending our hard-earned dollars on running-related purchases. Sure, some races hand out medals and shirts. You might win a pint glass for an AG win. Or receive a complimentary beer at the finish.

austin 1020 bib and medal

But that’s not what I had in mind.

What if there was a credit card that could only be used for running-related purchases? What if every dollar you spent on Mizunos, Nuun, Gu or Lululemon earned you points? And then after hitting a certain threshold, you could redeem those points for running clothes? Or race registrations. Or running shoes!

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Gone are the days of feeling guilty for buying that pair of shorts you didn’t really need. Those shorts edged you one step closer to a free half marathon registration. Or a new pair of racing flats.

Are you listening, MasterCard? Runners need a credit card!

What do you think? Would you take advantage of a running credit card?

What do you spend the most money on when it comes to running?