Thursday Things

1. I’m in a weird place with The Voice. At the beginning of this season it was always the last show in our DVR that we watched. The 2 or 3 hour shows are painful to sit through and to be honest, we fast forward through all of the personal stories and filler crap. I didn’t get invested in anyone until really late in the season – and then they went home. Not really sure how Tessanne made it as far as she has, definitely not her biggest fan. But Jacquie Lee? Um, where the hell did she get a voice like that? It’s kind of ridiculous to hear a teenager belt songs out the way she does. Anyway, after this season I’m not sure if we’ll watch anymore. Kinda over it.

2. Have you seen how WestJet made hundreds of passengers’ Christmas wishes come true? Pretty damn cool.

3. This and this brought back memories of the way too many years I spent in the service industry. If you’re a former (or current) server/bartender, you’ll be nodding your head agreeing with each and every point. And even if you’ve never stepped in a restaurant to do anything other than stuff your face, they’re still worth a read to see how NOT to piss off the people who handle your food. 

Worst Restaurant People

4. Brad and I have opposing opinions on which Home Alone movie is the best. His is the original and mine is Lost in New York. Generally I despise all sequels (don’t ruin a good thing!) but for some reason Home Alone 2 doesn’t fall in that bucket. I love Kevin McAllister livin’ it up at the Plaza Hotel. Which is your favorite?

Kevin McCallister - Home Alone 2

5. I’m a serial returner. As in, I buy things and 9 times out of 10 they go straight back to the store. I don’t know if it’s impulse buying or buyer’s remorse. Obviously it happens way too often because any time I’m about to click “Submit Order” on something, Brad asks me why I’m buying something I’m going to return anyway. YOU DON’T KNOW ME! Okay fine, nine years later I guess you probably know me. I’ve even tried waiting a week or two before buying something to make sure I realllllllly want it. Unfortunately the outcome is still the same: return, return, return. So strange. If anything, it’s good for my credit cards.

Tackling Holiday Travel

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Holiday Problems - Part 2

Aside from those mentioned in Part I, another huge source of anxiety for me is holiday travel. Not so much the ACTUAL traveling, but the planning and being able to afford it at a time of year where we’re already spending a significant amount of money on gifts and whatnot. When I lived in Florida, my parents came down for Christmas almost every year. I didn’t fight it, I mean come on – Christmas on the beach? Yes please. It was a no brainer.

Once I moved to Texas, things changed quite a bit. Here’s how Christmas has looked over the past few years:

2009: My family drove out to Texas for the week, Brad flew to Florida on Christmas Eve to see his family
2010: Brad went to Florida and I went to NJ. I got stuck there for an extra week due to a massive snowstorm. Yikes.
2011: We stayed in Texas.
2012: We stayed in Texas.

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While spending the holiday alone is low-key and stress-free, we’re also spending the holiday alone without our families. So last December we made a pact to figure out some way to see both families for Christmas in 2013. I had the bright idea for us to fly to Florida, then on Christmas Eve fly to New Jersey, and then fly back to Texas a few days later. Once I priced that thing out it was obvious this option would NOT be in our budget. We also had the added obstacle of the two dogs. If we went out of town, we’d have to find somewhere for them to go. I’m not a huge fan of the boarding option, especially because of how much it would cost. I really didn’t want to have to leave them. After a ton of brainstorming and number crunching, we finally figured out a way to make it all work.

Road Trip!

Sox Drives

We’re jumping in the truck with the dogs and heading to Florida. I’ll spend a few days with Brad’s family and then fly up to New Jersey on Christmas Eve to see mine. Then we’ll meet back up the following weekend and drive back to Texas, making a pit stop to see this girl on the way. Somehow this crazy ass plan is the most cost-effective. I was able to book two one-way tickets to/from NJ for $100 each [on Jetblue + Southwest, so $0 bag fees] which is a RIDICULOUS steal for holiday airfare. Since I never take any time off and will be out of the office for quite awhile, my boss has been referring to this trip as my sabbatical. He’s hilarious.

Anyway, I’m glad it all worked out and that we’ll be able to bring the dogs. Not entirely sure how the drive is going to work to/from Florida with a 100lb and 70lb dog in the truck, but it should certainly be interesting. And I’m also kinda concerned about having to pack for two different climates. I have a feeling I’ll be bringing a lot of layers so there’s options.

I’m super excited to see family/friends in New Jersey and Florida. Can’t believe it’s only a couple weeks away!

How do you tackle the holidays in your house? Do you travel or does your family come to you?

Do the holidays usually run you into the ground? Will you definitely need a cure for your #HolidayProblems by the end of December? Enter to win a trip for two to Travaasa Austin in 2014!

holiday problems

Disclaimer: Earlier this year I fell in love with Travaasa Austin [reviews :: resort stay & culinary class / wine tasting] and they are offering to send me back in exchange for my participation in their #HolidayProblems campaign. My thoughts + opinions on Travaasa are 100% my own and no additional compensation will be received.

Share your #HolidayProblems and enter to win!

December Survival Guide

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Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, the most magical and stressful time of year is upon us. While you may have saved the big bucks yesterday braving Black Friday, it provided only a glimpse into the holiday season that tends to swallow each and every one of us up over the next several weeks.

But it doesn’t have to. This is the first in a two-part series where we’ll identify – and tackle – those #HolidayProblems which summon anxiety and keep your heart rate elevated every December.

Holiday Problems - Part 1

Your credit card is cowering in the corner. This is inevitable unless you’re a super planner or are super rich. If you’ve waited until the last minute to start your shopping, you’ll need to assess your current financial situation. Determine the total you have to spend and then divide that amount across your list. Does this sound like a feasible number to spend on each person? If not, it’s time to re-prioritize your list. The holidays should be about spending time with your loved ones, not stressing over how far you put yourself in the hole trying to shower everyone with gifts. Set limits for yourself, such as only buying for the children – or in our case, nieces & nephews. The remaining family members can participate in Secret Santa with a spending limit or even a fun White Elephant swap. Get creative!

Duck Dynasty Chia Pet

Operation Eat All The Things. The fastest way to overindulge is to restrict. My social media feeds are bursting with tips on how to lighten up that sweet potato casserole or slash calories from your eggnog. Let’s be honest here: do those really taste the same as their full-fat counterparts? No, they certainly do not. Rather than saying ‘no’ to your favorite dishes, allow yourself to truly enjoy them in reasonable portions. Do you need to eat 3 pieces of that bourbon pecan pie? Probably not, but certainly have one – and savor every last bite.

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Fitness keeps getting bumped to the bottom of the list. During the busiest time of the year, certain things fall by the wayside and for some people, their fitness routine is the first to slip. When you’re laying in bed the morning after your company holiday party with a chardonnay-hangover, it’s easy to forego that 5-mile run. DON’T SKIP IT! Exercise endorphins are the best for banishing stress – take advantage! Schedule spin classes & yoga sessions right into your calendar, the same way you would with a meeting or lunch with a friend. Alternate water with your champagne cocktails to keep wicked hangovers at bay. You’re your own worst enemy: stop dreaming up excuses and get your butt to the gym! Make your workouts a priority and retain some semblance of sanity.

Someone Who is Busier Than You is Running Right Now

Treat Yo Self. I know I know, this time of year you’re supposed to be shopping for others. But sometimes you’re seconds away from a meltdown in the middle of the mall on Saturday afternoon and retail therapy might be just what you need to pull yourself together. So treat yo self to that french press (<— you know I did) you’ve been eyeing or the cashmere scarf now on clearance that will go with basically everything in your closet. Hell, it can even be a latte from Starbucks! Nothing huge or extravagant, just something small to boost your spirits. Take a deep breath, swipe your card, and finish tackling that shopping list.

Keep Calm and Treat Yo Self


Do the holidays usually run you into the ground? Will you definitely need a cure for your #HolidayProblems by the end of December? Enter to win a trip for two to Travaasa Austin in 2014!

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Disclaimer: Earlier this year I fell in love with Travaasa Austin [reviews :: resort stay & culinary class / wine tasting] and they are offering to send me back in exchange for my participation in their #HolidayProblems campaign. My thoughts + opinions on Travaasa are 100% my own and no additional compensation will be received.

Share your #HolidayProblems and enter to win!

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?

Where the Magical Cookie Butter Lives

Trader Joe's Rollingwood

I’ve been listening to everyone rave about Trader Joe’s over the past few years but never quite understood the hype until one opened in Austin in September. I went on opening day like an idiot and walked out with a reusable TJ’s grocery bag (Austin banned plastic bags earlier this year) full of Syrah-soaked cheese, Chili-Lime Chicken Burgers, and the wildly sought after Speculoos Cookie Butter. That stuff is equal parts delicious and dangerous. If you’re confident in your willpower, purchasing cookie butter should be no problem. But if you’re not? Plan on sneaking a spoonful (or 12) every time you’re within 5 feet of it.

Trader Joes Rollingwood

I made another trip last week and here’s what I picked up:

Basil only $1.99 – and it’s a plant! Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup perfect with grilled cheese;
Fresh Ciabatta Bread; Charles Shaw “Two-Buck Chuck” Cabernet; Cranberry Apple Butter

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Frozen Fire-Roasted Veggies; Chile-Lime Chicken Burgers buy these – SO GOOD! I like them with pepper jack cheese + avocado (or guac); Chicken Fried Rice; Chicken & Vegetable Dumplings; Prosciutto Perline Pasta toss with arugula + cherry tomatoes, drizzle with good quality EVOO + pesto

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Burrata ohmygod BURRATA. Make your caprese salads with this and you’ll never go back to regular mozzarella; Havarti Cheese with Dill pretty underwhelming, in my opinion;
Chocolate Cheddar Cheese WEIRD. Definitely wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. After you get over the fact there’s chocolate in your cheese, it’s pretty damn good.

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Build Your Own 6-Pack I mean, it’s hard to go wrong here. You can pick up a variety of regulars or be adventurous with some new brews. I opted for a mix of the two.

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A few other unpictured favorites are the pumpkin waffles, fresh garlic & herb pizza dough, red pepper jelly (awesome on biscuits or coconut shrimp), and spinach tortellini. Much to my wallet’s dismay, I haven’t been disappointed with a single Trader Joe’s item yet.

Do you have a Trader Joe’s near you? What are your favorite items?

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

shoes

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?

Hell froze over

Since starting running over two years ago, I’ve been pretty loyal to capris.

wine and dine 10

IBM 10K

Dallas Half

San Antonio half

There was one brief affair with a pair of tempos

TSTT 10

but resulted in a pretty abrupt breakup.

Shorts and my legs just don’t get along. They aren’t thin enough for shorts, but compression capris do them just fine. Nike, UnderArmour, Lululemon – you name it, I own it. Whether its 40 degrees or 90, you’ll find me out on the trails ticking the miles away in capris.

Until a couple weeks ago.

During marathon training last summer, my mid-week runs were all done on the treadmill so only my long run was done outside. One hot, humid day a week in capris? No big deal.

But this summer we’ve been pounding the pavement at night during the week and it is HOT. It took me a few weeks but found myself seriously contemplating a pair of shorts. I took a trip to Lululemon during lunch one day to find a pair, but after trying on the entire store I left empty-handed. My bank account rejoiced.

I made one last ditch effort two weeks ago, stopping at Academy to humor myself. Steering clear of three racks of tempos, I dragged a few pairs into the dressing room with me. Most were definitely misses but there was one pair I didn’t particularly hate. Before I knew what was happening, I was back in my car with the pair of shorts and a new running top.

Nike Fast Pace

Nike Pacer Shorts

And then, before I had a chance to change my mind, I ran in them:

run

It felt … weird. It was definitely cooler than running in capris, but made me incredibly aware of how skinny my legs are not. Thankfully I became BFFs with Body Glide & Aquaphor pre-run or it could have gotten ugly. I think as long as I prepare myself before leaving the house, they’ll be fine. I really want to LOVE running in shorts, so I’ll stick with them. And it’ll give me more incentive to stay focused on workouts and lean out my legs 🙂

Annnnd I already bought another pair:

Nike Pacer Shorts (2)

I’m tellin’ ya – MOTIVATION!!

Do you run in shorts? What brand/style are your favorite(s)?

Remind me to thank John for a lovely weekend {Ian Malcolm}

Base building for Philly is well underway and I’m really happy with the way things are going. Our Tuesday/Thursday runs have been pretty consistent pace-wise and as the Saturday long run mileage increases, the pace has been decreasing. Definitely headed in the right direction! There’s still two weeks until training “officially” starts, but going into it with a solid base will without a doubt help kick it off on a high note.

Believe it or not, the training plan for Philly is STILL under construction. I made the mistake of playing around with SmartCoach on the Runner’s World website and now I’m rethinking some of my training paces. However, it WILL be done soon and then I can finally stop obsessing (and stressing!) over it.


Saturday morning Brad and I ran a steamy six (well, 6.2) miler at Brushy Creek.

Brushy Creek 7 14 2012

We recently upped our intervals to 4:1 and surprisingly, we haven’t been struggling. Ideally I’d like to keep bumping up the intervals a little every couple weeks so eventually (after 10:1) walk breaks will be wiped out completely. Probably could have done this from the beginning, but after a few low mileage months I didn’t want to push it right off the bat.

Our running pace was in the 11-12:00 min/mi range, with a final overall (with walk breaks) pace at 12:43. Still not where I’d like to be, but getting there. Temps were at a comfortable 73 but the humidity was at 93% and the air was THICK. At one point we stopped to stretch, using a railing for balance.The entire railing was covered in condensation! The run was a certified sweatfest. BUT! We were done by 8:30 and had the rest of the weekend to do important stuff…

like stop for some caffeine to power us through grocery shopping with the crazies

iced coffee

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and use a $3.50 coupon + rogue gift card in my wallet to update my summer nail polish collection:

nail polish

watch a Friends marathon

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cook a super clean dinner Saturday night {I shared the giant piece of pork with Bo – he’s most certainly not spoiled. at all.}

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read this bookJackie Warner

watch the CMT Top 20 Countdown {love the top 3}

 

prep meals for the week {asian turkey meatballs + fried rice}

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wonder why our Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine had Jose Bautista on the cover instead of Gronk

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uncork a bottle of cab mid-afternoon on Sunday {hello, cheat day!}

Simi Cab

inhale a delicious plate of Chicken Tikka Masala

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and watch Jurassic Park for the 37893rd time.

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JP2

After grocery shopping post-run on Saturday morning, we didn’t leave the house for the rest of the weekend.

And it was AWESOME.

How was your weekend? Do you like country music? What’s your favorite part of Jurassic Park?

Scenes from the Weekend

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Friday

We whipped up breakfast tacos for dinner, as well as a full pot of coffee.

Best laid plans.

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The handle decided it despised the pot and removed itself from the situation. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen mid-wash or while it was empty. Noooo, it happened with a piping hot pot of coffee. Handle snapped off and the pot smashed against the countertop, sending shards of glass to the floor to swim in a pool of coffee.

So sad.

RIP Mr. Coffee, it was a glorious two years.

Saturday

The Christmas decorations finally made their way down from the attic. Once I got to unpacking them, it was clear the coffee pot wasn’t the only casualty of the weekend.

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For those keeping score: Austin Extreme Summer Heatwave 1, Melissa’s Entire Collection of Christmas Candles 0

Again, so sad.

An emergency trip to the mall was necessary.

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Brad cleaned up the old candle holders so I could add the tealights

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Crisis averted!

Saturday Night

I decided it would be a brilliant idea to peel forty (no exaggeration) cloves of garlic to make this recipe, a variation of Ina Garten’s. The dish was 100% without a doubt worth the effort.

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The chicken was served with creamy polenta, based off of this gem I found from the Pioneer Woman. Rather than goat cheese I stirred in a couple tablespoons of Philly Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Crème.

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Heavenly.

Sunday

I had one more fire to put out.

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You see that? That’s what Target looks like before all of the crazies come out to play. Shop early in the morning and you will add years to your life!

Wanna take a guess what I went for?

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No, not a new coffeemaker…

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Just a new pot! Thank you Target (and Mom!), you just saved our Sunday.

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All is right in the world again.

What’s your favorite coffee (or tea) flavor?

Rock n Roll San Antonio Expo

Saturday morning I picked up some coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and met up with Carly at her place. We packed our bags into the car and once Jeanette arrived we were San Antonio bound!

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First stop: the Alamodome for the expo.

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We went straight to the Check-In area to pick up our bibs

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Then we grabbed our shirts, swag bags, and headed into the merchandise/vendor area.

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Nutrilite was our first stop. I traded in an old bottle of GNC vitamins for a 90-day supply of theirs.

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As was the case with last year’s expo, it was enormous. Tons of vendors, a few freebies – basically anything your little runner heart desired was in the Alamodome.

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We admired Rock n Roll’s 2011 Heavy Medals collection

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And I fell in love with the one I’ll be receiving in the mail shortly for completing both Dallas and San Antonio this year:

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Oooh, ahhh. Sparkly.

I replaced my near-empty container of Strawberry Lemonade Nuun and picked up the Citrus Fruit as well. Added bonus – another free water bottle!

Josh Cox was speaking about hydration and nutrition the day before a race:

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Clearly I was very excited about my bag of swag:

381786_10150934775910045_592895044_21688661_450147115_nCarly invested in a very appropriate Slightly Inappropriate Mantras tee

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I invested in this Raw Threads shirt:

live-love-run-marathons

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Carly bought us cheetah (!!) headbands to wear during the race. We had searched high and low for cheetah kneesocks in the weeks leading up to the race but came up empty handed. Headbands it was!

About an hour and countless dollars lately, we decided we had seen all the expo had to offer.

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We took a peek at the finish line on our walk back to the car. It wasn’t done being set up yet, but still cool to see it completely empty and quiet.

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We then parted ways with Jeanette to check into our respective hotels. We clearly hit the jackpot with our mini-suite. Plenty of room for us!

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And courtesy of Carly, here is our fully stocked fridge:

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All of the pre-race hydrating essentials: Smart Water, Vitamin Water, and wine.

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While getting ready to head out to dinner, we dumped out our swag bags:

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We LOVED the shirt. Super cute. The rest of the contents of the bag weren’t incredibly exciting, but when are they ever? There was a Gu flavor we hadn’t seen before – Island Nectar. That was about it.

Next up – dinner on San Antonio’s Riverwalk!