2017 Resolution #2 revisited (NaBloPoMo day 12)

“I always joke that my entire paycheck goes directly to the Walt Disney Corporation. And with my Disneyland/Disney World annual pass, race registrations, and a couple of trips to Orlando per year it’s not that far from the truth.”
1/26/17 webpage post

Back in January, after the shock of getting my credit card bill from the holidays and a trip to Orlando, I resolved to be more frugal in 2017. About ten months have passed since then and I have to start this resolution revisit by confessing that I haven’t exactly succeeded in being more frugal this year with regards to Disney-related purchases. I’ve renewed my Premier Annual Pass which gives me unrestricted access to all Anaheim and Orlando Disney parks, gone to Disney World twice and run several races there, and participated in four multi-day race weekends at Disneyland. And all of that is on top of my usual visits to the Happiest Place on Earth that have nothing to do with running. These are expenses that, while technically frivolous, bring me a lot of joy. I get an immense sense of accomplishment out of conquering the Disney races (including the Avengers half marathon just this morning), plus I get to see the overwhelming excitement on my sweet goddaughter’s face when we watch Paint the Night or Fantasmic. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for any amount of money, but that doesn’t mean they were cheap! There’s some good news for 2018, though. Well, maybe not so much good news as really terrible news with an indirect upside.

On October 18th runDisney officially made an announcement that most of us in the running community had been expecting for a long time. All West Coast races were cancelled for 2018 and placed on an indefinite hiatus. This was not a huge surprise considering that back in March runDisney suddenly postponed registration for the Disneyland-based Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend shortly before it was supposed to open. (I was one of the lucky few who had already signed up for the 5K using a link sent out to previous participants so I was even more bewildered.) And then they gave us not one word of explanation for the next six months. After this extended radio silence we all knew that the race wasn’t going to happen, but we were still incredibly annoyed at being kept in the dark for so long. When the announcement was finally made last month, current and future construction at the Disneyland Resort was blamed for the race interruption. There’s no guarantee that is the true reason for the hiatus, but we have no idea when or if the race weekends will actually return. So the bad news is that my favorite races have disappeared for at least a year (the Avengers races this weekend were their swan song), but the good news is that I’m going to save a lot of money. Not just on registration costs, but also hotel reservations, food, and merchandise. My bank account is certainly going to thank me, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. The bottom line is that I’ve failed miserably at this particular 2017 resolution, but things are looking up for 2018! Stay tuned for more next year.

Thank you, Old Navy

“The other day I realized that some of the new pants I ordered from Old Navy recently (during a 50% off Labor Day sale online) were feeling loose. Not like I’ve lost a full pants size yet, but I might be getting there. Will I be disappointed if all of my brand new pants don’t fit in a month? A little, but I’ll be much happier being smaller and lighter than I’ve been in about a year and a half. And running will be easier too.”
10/2/16 webpage post

“It’s official – my pants are too big. This morning as I was getting dressed for work I slipped on a pair of my favorite pants – olive green skinny jeans from Old Navy. I ordered them just a couple of months ago, about a week after I started my Nutrisystem diet. I was so excited to have started losing weight that I treated myself to some new clothes to celebrate. What I didn’t think about was those new clothes being too big for my shrinking body a few short weeks later. Even though I knew I’d been making great progress, I was still shocked when I buttoned my pants this morning and discovered how loose they are in the waist. Really baggy everywhere but the legs (this runner’s legs are muscular!). Not quite unwearable yet, but they’re getting close.”
11/9/16 webpage post

A couple of weeks ago Old Navy was having a 50% off sale on jeans. Based on the fact that most of the pants from my pre-diet days no longer fit me properly I figured it was the perfect time to restock my wardrobe. It was so satisfying selecting a smaller size when filling up my shopping cart. I’ve lost 17 lbs (and counting) since September and I look damn good. Especially now that I’m a size 4 again. Due to the very timely sale I went a little crazy and bought six new pairs of Rock Star jeans and pants to replace the ones that I can’t wear on a regular basis anymore. About a week later they finally arrived at my door I eagerly tried on every pair. The purchases were mostly a success because I decided to keep five of the six pairs. I’m so excited to have more items of clothing that fit me at my current size rather than pulling the same couple of pairs of jeans out of the drawer day after day. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. Last night I tried on all of my old size 6 pants to decide whether any of them were worth keeping. Due to the less than superior construction of Old Navy garments every one fits a little differently even though the tags all have the same size printed on them. I’m not quite ready to donate all of the old pants yet, especially my beloved corduroys (winter will last a while longer here in LA), so I’m going to try throwing them in the dryer to see if I can shrink them just a little bit. Not that I have any place to store both the old and new pairs, though. I know it’s a first world problem, but I’m really going to miss my favorite purple pants if I have to get rid of them!

2017 Resolution #2

New Year’s Resolution #2: Be more frugal

I always joke that my entire paycheck goes directly to the Walt Disney Corporation. And with my Disneyland/Disney World annual pass, race registrations, and a couple of trips to Orlando per year it’s not that far from the truth. Not only did I just get back from Disney World two weeks ago, but over the last two months I’ve registered for four different Disney race weekends. Add up what all of those races cost me (Disney races are notoriously overpriced), including one related plane ticket I’ve already purchased, and my recent credit card bills have been extraordinarily high. I’m lucky to have a good job that pays well and a healthy bank account so I can afford these things that I enjoy so much, but they are most definitely luxuries. After this concentration of 2017 and 2018 race registrations, plus the holidays with gift-giving and irresistible sales, and a trip to Orlando on top of all that I need to think about how best to spend my discretionary funds.

Over the last week (especially while I’ve been sick at home with only my laptop to keep me company), I’ve found myself looking at something online like a pair of shoes and thinking, “Those would be nice to have.” But then I realize that I already have enough shoes for just about every occasion so it would be a completely unnecessary purchase. This thought process has already saved me from a number of expenses. I even got a surprise gift card from favorite running apparel company the other day because I’m a member of their club, but I gave it to a friend so that I would avoid buying anything that I don’t need. I already have workout clothes coming out of my ears! Not only am I saving money, but I’m also avoiding augmenting the wardrobe that I purposely pared down over the holidays. I didn’t donate a carload of clothes to Goodwill just so I can acquire more. I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ve saved enough money by skipping frivolous purchases that I don’t stress quite so much about those expensive race registrations or other bills from my favorite activities that come up in December/January.

On a final note, I’m due to renew my Disneyland annual pass which I was planning to do this weekend. With two planned trips to Orlando during the next year (November and January) it makes sense for me to once again get the Premier pass that is valid in both California and Florida. The only problem is the huge upfront price tag. It seriously dwarfs a race registration cost. However, the Florida option will more than pay for itself after two Disney World vacations so it’s kinda of a no-brainer. It doesn’t really help me fulfill this New Year’s resolution, though!

New shirts

I’m spending the weekend sick at home with a wicked cold, which always seems to happen when I get back from vacation. With all this time spent on my couch in front of the TV I figured I’d have plenty of time to write some decent blog posts, but my brain isn’t cooperating. I can barely breathe, I have a lovely cough, and I’m reaching for my Rogue One Kleenex box pretty often. Doesn’t that sound like fun? So instead of working on my marathon recap post(s) I am writing about something silly instead. Silly is about all I can handle in my current state!

I used some of my down time over the holidays to clean out my closets, my dresser, and all of my storage boxes, and in the process I assembled a huge pile of clothes to donate. I seriously filled up the entire backseat of my car with bags. The discarded clothing was a mix of items that I haven’t worn in ages, items I don’t really like (i.e., ugly race shirts), and items that no longer fit since I’ve lost weight. It was a relief to drop off all of that stuff at Goodwill earlier this month, and also to have some free space in my closets and drawers that used to be filled to the brim. Even after reducing my wardrobe by getting rid of all that I still can’t believe how much I own. Which is why my acquisition of six new shirts (not including my Disney World marathon shirt which was included in my race registration) over the last week or so is pretty ridiculous. First of all, I picked up two of these shirts on my trip to Disney World (see bottom left of the above photo) – a Magic Kingdom 45th anniversary shirt and an Iron Man shirt from the Uniqlo store at Disney Springs. (If you’re a Disney fan and haven’t seen their line of shirts at Uniqlo yet you are missing out!) Next, I discovered that a package containing my Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival shirt (bottom right) arrived while I was in Orlando. I contributed to the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter over Thanksgiving in 2014 so I guess it’s about time! Then I went to the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend expo on Thursday at the Disneyland Hotel and rounded out my new collection. Not only did I get the Star Wars 5K shirt that came with mt registration (top left), but I bought two shirts from New Balance that struck my fancy (top right). I feel pretty ridiculous to acquire all of these shortly after donating so much to Goodwill, but it seems I have no restraint when it comes to graphic t-shirts. At least I’ve got my weekend outfits covered for a while!

An unexpected day

I am now the reluctant owner of a new iPhone 7. This is not how I expected this day to go. I left work a little early on my first day back after the holidays to try and restore my ailing iPhone 6. I had an appointment at Best Buy to hopefully get the battery replaced, but it was a short visit because the Geek Squad told me they weren’t authorized to do that. Since none of the local Apple stores had any appointments available before I have to leave for Orlando I saw my chance to have a reliable cell phone on my trip slipping away. So in an act of desperation I got in my car and headed to the South Coast Plaza location to beg for help from any employee that would listen. By the time I got there even the store’s walk in queue was closed for the day because they were so busy. I was at the end of my rope. I almost started crying while talking to a manager. At this point I made a desperate decision to solve the problem by throwing money at it. Hence the iPhone 7. I hadn’t planned on making for such an extravagant purchase today, but it was the fastest and easiest way to have a fully functional cell phone before Friday. A half hour later I walked out of the Apple Store with a brand new phone that will hopefully last me for a few years. It’s not that I won’t get my money’s worth out of the iPhone 7, but it’s disappointing that I had to go to such lengths just because the new operating system didn’t play nicely with my old iPhone 6 battery. The upside is that I have the latest and greatest technology, including an upgraded camera, to play with while I’m at Disney World. Happy early birthday to me!

Adding to my unexpected day I skipped boot camp this evening. It took me 45 minutes to get home from South Coast Plaza in rush hour traffic which barely gave me enough time to get ready and make it to boot camp by 7 PM. I quickly checked my Facebook messages as soon as I walked in the door to find out that my workout buddy was wavering on going to the gym. That was excuse enough for me to suggest that we go to tomorrow’s class instead. The last thing I needed today was more stress. Suddenly I had no plans for the night and no desire to go running again after three straight days and 18 miles. I hardly knew what to do with an unplanned rest day! Luckily I had more than enough chores to keep me occupied. And even with all of the extra free time I had from skipping boot camp I’ve stay up too late writing this post. I have a feeling I’m not going to get a lot of sleep before I leave for Orlando on Friday. No more rest days until then!

Holidays are over

Today was the last day of my holiday break which means that I have to go back to work tomorrow. I’m not crazy about that prospect, but I’ve had a paid vacation since December 23rd so I can’t really complain. If I didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to that’s my own fault. Today didn’t really help me feel like my time off was well spent either. Unfortunately I spent most of the day trying to figure out what’s wrong with my stupid iPhone. A couple of days ago I noticed that the battery was draining very rapidly (losing 50% in about 15 minutes) even with very light phone usage. At first I thought it was due to my new Garmin watch that was connected via Bluetooth or some of the new running apps I added recently. However, reverting those changes didn’t fix the problem. I won’t bore you with the details, but as of this afternoon I’ve tried everything in my power to resolve the issue, including completely wiping the phone and restoring the factory settings. This is particularly because I need a reliable phone for my marathon and I’m leaving for Orlando on Friday morning. I have an appointment at Best Buy tomorrow to perhaps replace the battery. From what I’ve read in Apple forums this was the only thing that seemed to help at all, even though my battery passed a diagnostic test at a local repair shop. If my poor phone is still afflicted after that I’ll have to walk in to an Apple Store on Wednesday without an appointment and hope they have a solution. Let’s just hope the “solution” isn’t simply a brand new phone. I’m not really ready for that yet, but I may not have much of a choice. Kinda like my car buying experience last spring! I’ll let you know how it goes.

There was some good news today – Florida beat Iowa in the Outback Bowl! Go Gators! It was a lot of fun to watch them win a game after the disappointing end to the regular season. Let’s hope that this portends a promising 2017 season for Florida. I guess we’ll have to wait until the fall to find out. Right now I need to go to bed so I can get up on time for work tomorrow morning. My holiday break ended with a bit of a whimper, but I still had a relaxing and fairly productive week and a half. Now it’s time to put the holidays behind me and get started on 2017. My Christmas tree won’t come down until after I get home from Orlando, though. I didn’t put it up until December 18th this year so I’m going to enjoy it for a little longer. Happy January everyone!

A Christmas present and a tribute to a legend

For Christmas this year my parents gave me a new GPS watch for my running habit/obsession and I love it. It’s a Garmin Forerunner 235 with a color display and an optical heart rate sensor, which is an upgrade from my old GPS watch. I set it up and wore it for the first time on my 5-mile run around Seal Beach last night. The wristband is more flexible than my old watch so it fits well, and it’s incredibly comfortable, unlike a first-generation wrist-based heart rate monitor that I tried some years back. Technology improves at a fantastic rate these days! It was fascinating to see a plot of my heart rate from my run last night. I’ll have to check out trends over the next few months to compare my heart rate during runs where I feel great and compare it to runs where I feel terrible. As an engineer who loves to analyze data this is going to be fun.

I went running again tonight (6 miles) so I got to wear my new GPS watch a second time. Also, I wore my Princess Leia shirt, which I’ve worn for multiple half marathons (including the Star Wars Dark Side half marathon in April), in honor of Carrie Fisher who passed away this morning. I’m a child of the 80’s so I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy on a regular basis, and Princess Leia was one of my role models. She was a strong, independent woman who brought down empires. She was not only a princess, but a general who fought alongside the men and often eclipsed them. For a young girl who didn’t want to wait around for a man to come along and define her, Princess Leia was a beacon of hope. RIP Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you.

Holiday running apparel

Last week I ordered a Christmas running shirt from my favorite company so that I’d have something to wear for the Holiday Half Marathon this Sunday. It’s a red shirt with a reindeer and Christmas lights on it – perfect, right? I knew I was cutting it a little close for delivery before the race, but I haven’t had any trouble getting apparel from this company in a short period of time. Unfortunately this has been the exception. As of this evening the shirt has yet to ship. There’s about zero chance it will arrive in time for me to wear it on Sunday now and I’m annoyed. I know it’s mostly my own fault for not ordering earlier, but what’s the point of getting a Christmas running shirt after my only holiday race weekend (5K on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday)? I guess I’ll stick it in a drawer for next year. (Yes, my running buddies and I have already started thinking about which races we want to run in December 2017!) The only Christmas-themed running shirt that I have in my possession is from a race last year and it has long sleeves. There is absolutely no reason to have long sleeve running shirts in Los Angeles. They are useless because it doesn’t get nearly cold enough here! Usually I wear arm warmers when I start a run on a cold morning, but I take them off after a mile or two when I’ve sufficiently warmed up. The climate is just too mild here to require full arm coverage for very long. So the big question is, what do I wear for my races this weekend? I’m thinking of wearing a shirt that says “Will Train for Chocolate” for the 5K (appropriate since I consume more chocolate during the winter holidays than any other time of the year), and then my “Frozen” Elsa shirt for the half marathon (snowflakes seem fitting for a December run). I know I’m over thinking this, but these are my last two races of 2016 and I want them to be great!

Thanksgiving 2016 (Part 1)

What better way to end November than with a Thanksgiving recap post? Or half of one, at least!

After flying to Florida on Tuesday, Wednesday was Thanksgiving prep day, but before that I got up early and ran 5 miles around the neighborhood. Being out of town was no excuse to let my marathon training slide. After I showered we ate some homemade egg sandwiches for breakfast and went to the mall for some pre-holiday shopping since we didn’t want to be anywhere near there on Black Friday. I was actually fairly successful. I found a pair of work pants at Loft and a blazer at Limited. On our way home we stopped at Supercuts so I could get a much-needed haircut, and also made a stop at Publix in the same shopping center for the last few required Thanksgiving dinner ingredients. Once we got home the cooking began. First I made some spaghetti for dinner so I could get my carb fix before the turkey trot the next morning. Then my mom and I assembled the ginger-coconut pumpkin pie and baked some sweet potatoes for a casserole recipe I found in Cooking Light. And while watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” I also made a batch of my favorite cranberry sauce recipe.

On Thanksgiving morning we all got up early to go to the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. I was running the 15K while my mom and her friends walked the 5K and my saintly dad waited for all of us at the finish line. It was a warm morning (the race didn’t start until 8:45 AM) and the 15K course was hillier than I expected so it wasn’t an easy run. My time was acceptable (for me), but it was challenging. I’m still glad I did it. Since it was week # 12 of my marathon training plan I was supposed to do an 8-mile mid-week run, so a 9.3 mile race fit very nicely. One the way home was stopped at the first open McDonald’s we could find and had Egg McMuffins for a late breakfast. The perfect post-race meal. Cooking started in earnest once we got home and got cleaned up. And of course we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while we prepped for the big meal. Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely delicious (see our complete menu here). We tried several new recipes this year and most of them were a success. Some could use a few tweaks, like the sweet potato casserole, so I’ll keep that in mind for next year. One recipe that is a definitely keeper (with no changes) was the ginger-coconut pumpkin pie. It was by far the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted, so I have a feeling that one will become a holiday tradition in my family.

Check back tomorrow for part 2!

Disappointment

I ran the Doctor Strange 10K at Disneyland this morning, but I don’t have time to write a recap post today. Way too much stuff going on this weekend! I’ll work on that tomorrow afternoon when I’m lying on my couch recovering from the Avengers Superheroes Half Marathon. Didn’t I say there’s way too much stuff going on this weekend?

I’m going to make a bold statement – Softsoap’s holiday edition cinnamon & clove is the best hand soap scent ever. Usually for the holidays you get products with essence of berry or pine or something like that, but the cinnamon & clove hand soap has a lovely spicy fragrance that is perfect for Christmas. (And also for the rest of the year when you’re not so patiently waiting for Christmas to roll around again.) I loved it so much when I first bought it a couple of years ago that I went back and stocked up on some extra bottles so I could use it all year. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to replenish my reserves last year because I couldn’t find any holiday Softsoap hand soap varieties. Not cool! And then just recently my stockpile of cinnamon & clove cleanser finally ran out. I was so disappointed. Now I’ve had to resort to washing my hands with some peppermint candy cane hand soap that found in the back of my cabinet. It’s not bad, but I sorely miss my old favorite. Luckily this is the epitome of a first world problem. My quest for the 2016 holiday season is to find a new festive hand soap variety. This is important stuff!