Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review & Giveaway shockingly on time as promised

Can you believe it? When does that ever happened here?

See, maybe I’m feeling a little guilty about that post yesterday after all. I mean, really I don’t know for certain that the Clarion Mackinaw funk was the funk of some poor pitiful mouse moving on to a better place. Who knows? It could just be that they were in dire need of some new upholstered headboards or something. Perhaps something the likes of that available from CSN Stores?

Ok ok. That was a totally lame segway to my CSN review and giveaway, but I gave it a shot now didn’t I? And no, I’m not really feeling guilty, except maybe perhaps because I forgot to mention that Muffin Man (A.K.A. my brother-in-law) completely rocked his 1/2 marathon setting a personal record by a good couple of minutes on a way hillier course than his last PR. In fact, he did so well that he thinks my blog readers would definitely be interested in a new special section to my blog to chronicle his tales, The Adventures of Muffin Man complete with a trumpet sounding “Dun da da duuuuun….” every time you clicked the link. I told my sister to tell him to go get his own blog ;-) Seriously, though he did a great job. Way to go Muffin Man!

But on to the review!!

When Jamie from the CSN promo team contacted me to do a review and giveaway, I was thrilled. THRILLED.  Why you might be wondering? Well, I had already seen a ton of other glowing positive reviews on various blogs I follow and so I’d checked them out already a bit. If you’ve never heard of them before, CSN Stores is kind of like a mall only better because you never have to leave your house and fight traffic to get there. It’s 200+ stores right at your fingertips online. Besides upholstered headboards of course, you can get anything from cookware and furniture to toys and clothing and then pretty much everything in between.

And honestly guys, I don’t know about you all, but personally, I’m not a huge fan of shopping with kiddos in tow. “Mommy, I have to pee!! I want this. Oooo can I get a snack! Let’s just look at the toys. Oh I really really NEED that.” Shuffle shuffle, pouty lip, “pleeeeeaaaase, can we go home now?” All while my two year old is randomly grabbing things off the shelves and trying to wiggle her way out of the shopping cart seat. Nope. Not my idea of a good time.

BUT (and that’s a big but there, see how I wrote it in all capital letters, and made it both bold AND italicized. That’s serious.) shopping online, which includes none of the above (usually) oh yeah baby, I’m all about that. So, Jamie sent me a gift card and I got down to business. The site was super easy to navigate and they have a search engine, which I realize seems like a pretty basic thing for an online business to have, but surprisingly not all online stores have one and most of the time that right there is enough for my hot little mouse clicking trigger finger to head elsewhere.

There’s free shipping on a lot of products (not all, but a lot of them) and returns are “hassle free” (this I don’t actually know first hand and will just have to take them at their word because no way, I’m sending my stuff back). But probably, my favorite part of the site is that the products have reviews. I’m big BIG on reading reviews before I spend money so as not to waste it (hence one of the reasons why I do them for you all here).

Really, the only negative thing I can say about CSN is that they’ve got such a wide variety of products that it seriously took me FOREVER to figure out what I wanted to purchase. I mean, do I get the new cookware I so desperately needed, or do I give that immersion blender a try? It is getting to be soup season and that would maybe come in handy for that tasty sounding potato soup recipe I was thinking about giving a go. Or perhaps one of their ceiling fans would be a good idea, so I could use the air conditioning a little bit less in the summer. Then again, I really have no shoes in between running or the heeled variety, so that might be a wise (and very fun) purchase too. What to do what to do?

animalpuzzleSo what did I finally settle on? Toys. Because I’m totally a sucker for my kids. You see, my now 2 year old’s birthday was coming up and I stumbled across those wooden Melissa & Doug Puzzles. I thought  it’d be perfect for her. She’s very into putting things where shape puzzlethey go, but also happens to be very into eating cardboard (really. Pretty much anything of the board variety: board books, board puzzles, that random cardboard box that my running shoes came in. Yep. She eats it.) so I had pretty much taken her other puzzles away. (Don’t judge me. The half devoured puzzle pieces wouldn’t fit together anymore anyhow.) tryke

Then, I found the wooden Melissa & Doug animal magnets. Sooooo very cool. My daughter loves “amimals.” I knew she’d totally dig them. And since we had been thinking about getting her a little tricycle anyway, I figured I’d give that a little search too and voila! The Fisher Price Grow with Me Tryke popped up, which was the one I had been looking at already for Tiger Baby.

So that’s what I got: 2 wooden puzzles,  animal magnets, and tricycle. (Yes, I totally outspent my gift card if you were wondering). And my daughter LOVES this stuff. She is incapable of eating the puzzles, so she actually plays with it (and so does my 4 year old). The tricycle she hasn’t exactly figured out the pedals yet, but she likes to sit on it and push it around with her feet (and so does my 4 year old). And the animal magnets, now those were probably the very best birthday present. The first time I put up the gate to block off the kitchen while I made dinner after those magnets were on the fridge, she threw a massive fit which I definitely took to mean she likes her toy and not at all that she did not take a long enough nap ;-)

magnetsIt is honestly though, probably the only thing in our house she plays with every single day and it is definitely the first thing she goes to every morning. She moves all the little animals around. Identifies them (and I was totally shocked at how fast she learned what each of them were) and makes all the different animal sounds. Just the other day she discovered they’ll also stick to the dishwasher and holy moly! It’s like a whole new toy. (Btw, there’s way more magnets than what you see in the picture, some are on my dishwasher and some are kind of small so they’re way up high where she can’t reach. I’m a freak about choking remember).

Everything was reasonably priced. In fact, I checked those exact same puzzle prices at my local grocery store and they were cheaper at CSN. And I was surprised to find my order came in even faster than I expected which was probably a good thing because we were right on top of her birthday. So I’m definitely giving CSN Stores a big thumbs up.

Anybody else want to give them a shot?  Jamie from the CSN Promo Team is sending me a $45 gift card for one lucky follower to use on anything from any one of their stores. So let’s run a little giveaway shall we?

Required to Enter:

1. You must be a follower of this blog. Not a follower yet? No big deal. Just click over there where you see my happy little group of followers on the right. It will take you all of about 10 seconds (if you’re a slow counter). 1 entry

2. Check out the CSN Stores website and tell me what you think you’d use the gift card on if you won it. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to it since I myself changed my mind about 9 thousand times. 1 entry

Additional Entries:

1. Like Secrets of a Running Mom on Facebook 1 entry

2. Update your FB status about this contest. **NO BORING STATUS UPDATES ALLOWED** Make it funny, interesting, or unique. (You know, the whole goal here is to make people click your link. Plus I am completely against status updates that say things like I’m going to the grocery store now or I’m entering a contest. Snooze. So don’t make me part of the snorefest) If it doesn’t make me at least grin a little it doesn’t count. So yes, you have to tell me what your update said. And let’s reward your creative with say 3 entries

4. Suggest Secrets of a Running Mom to at least one FB friend. 1 entry

3. Follow CSN Stores on Twitter. 1 entry

4. Follow Secrets of a Running Mom on Twitter 1 entry

5. Tweet about this contest. (See the Facebook Status update description. Ditto.) More brain power required so 3 entries

5. Blog about or add a link on your blog about this contest 1 entry

6. Throw Secrets of a Running Mom on your blog roll 1 entry

7. Email somebody (or multiple somebodies) about this contest 1 entry

8. Tell somebody about this contest, CSN Stores or SOARM. 1 entry

9. Tell us your next big race or goal. 1 entry

So that’s the deal. You are not required to do all of the above listed methods of entry. Choose as many or as few as you like, but please leave me a comment to let me know how you’ve entered. No comment no entry. And if you’ve already become a Facebook fan or Twitter follower that counts too! Just be sure to let me know.

You have until Saturday, November 6th 11:59:59 PM to submit all of your entries. I’ll pick the winner on Sunday, November 7th. Actually, I won’t pick the winner. That’s the official job of my 4 year old and she’d be totally crushed if I did it for her. And yes, we are currently still using old school methods for random winner selection. Paper, big bowl, and her teeny tiny little hand. So unless you are totally in love with captcha’s, you only need to leave me one comment.

For this contest, you must be a U.S. or Canadian resident to enter. The winner will have 1 week to respond and if they don’t, a new winner will be chosen. Rinse and repeat. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Good luck!

'Til next time...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mackinac Island 1/2 Marathon: What the funk?

DSCF7690 Sorry all, but if you’re looking for an in depth race review or a detailed account of my performance, you won’t find it here. Because even though every race has a story, the story that begs to be told this time around is the one of the hotel. And I sort of feel obligated to tell it, mom to mom. After all, a good majority of you are moms and MI moms at that, and even if you’re not a MI mom or a mom at all, chances are you’re a runner and while I’d highly recommend you put the Mackinac Island Great Turtle 1/2 Marathon on your list for the sheer and utter beauty of the scenic, but be forewarned, somewhat hilly course, I would even more strongly recommend you do everything in your power to NOT stay at the Clarion hotel in Mackinaw city and I’m about to tell you why.

But before I do, don’t get your knickers in a bunch because of a fairly runningless blog post. For my thoughts on the race itself you can head over to Racevine and read my review here. And as far as how I did, well of course, I won’t keep those race results a big mystery (or force you to waste precious minutes digging it up yourself online like I know y’all would do anyway). I’ll weave that in here for you too because I’m cool like that ;-)

So the original plan with this 1/2 was to just take it easy and enjoy it. Count it as a lower mileage week amid marathon training and give myself a break. But due to a handful of the unexpected and a few more constraints on my time than I’d have liked, my 15 mile long run the weekend before the race wound up being 8. No big deal. But I figured, hey, since I’ve kind of sort of tapered why not try to PR? Why not indeed.

Two days prior to leaving for the race my nose started running. And we’re not talking a sniffle here or there. It was like turning on a faucet. I literally could not grab the tissues fast enough. Not exactly an ideal condition to set a personal record.

On Thursday, we headed out of town for the 4 1/2 hour drive to Mackinaw with my cold not getting worse really, but certainly not getting better. Then to my surprise, it snowed a little on the way Up North (FYI: In case you missed this in previous posts, Up North is the official term we Michiganders use to refer to any vacation spot in the state that is north of where we live, yet south of the Upper Peninsula. Once you’re talking a location in the Upper Peninsula, that we call the U. P. Stick with me kid, I’ll keep you up on all the hot trendy MI lingo. You’ll be getting another in a second). Now, I’d expected it to be cooler. But snow? Really? I hadn’t packed enough warm running clothes for that (because I never ever learn my lesson that weather people are really just kidding around most of the time when they give you the forecast and after 32 years of living in Michigan I still like to pretend that the weather here is somewhat predictable).

We had booked a suite at the Clarion in Mackinaw City rather than staying on the island, because it was far less expensive. We could get a suite for 1/2 the price and my parents could stay with us. Upon arrival, all things seemed just about as you would expect. The hotel was a little bit older, but the room looked clean and the staff seemed friendly and best of all we had booked a room right on the water. It was of course too cold to fully enjoy Lake Huron, but the view was spectacular nonetheless.

The heat was off when we got there and the room was a little chilly, so we switched it on and headed out for dinner at the Dixie Saloon (which has really terrific fish ‘n chips btw). When we got back, it was getting late and we were all tired from the drive so I didn’t waste any time prepping the girlies for dreamland. And here’s where it gets interesting. I kept getting a whiff of something. Something mildly unpleasant.

Repeatedly, I checked Tiger Baby’s diaper, thinking maybe she was the culprit, but there was nothing there. At one point I even asked my husband if it was him, he did after all have a little chili with dinner and well, you know how that goes. But he denied having any part in the mysterious odor and said he too thought he smelled something when we first got there. A little moldy maybe was his guess. I just figured eh, it’s an old hotel and its probably got a little funk to it or something. It wasn’t horrible and my kiddos had quickly fallen asleep in the other room of the suite. No big deal.

The next day the funk lingered and seemed to be growing stronger. I opened a window to try to air it out some and then we took off for a day of exploring in the city. My parents, as well as RunSis, Muffin Man and the fam, and some of our friends with their kiddos arrived later that day and we all went to dinner at the one Italian joint still open in town. Being that it was the last weekend of the year for tourists on Mackinac Island and there were record numbers of runners this year, the restaurant was majorly understaffed although they seemed thrilled to seat everybody. Let’s just say dinner took a looooong time.

When we finally got back to our room, it was way past bedtime for our little tykes and I was fully ready to get to getting them to bed. But the minute we opened the door, there was no denying the stench. Whatever stunk had gotten even worse while we were gone. Much much worse. I still went ahead with getting the kids ready for bed (which in hindsight was probably a mistake, we should have complained right then despite how late it was and how tired my girls were).

After the girls were tucked in, my parents, my husband and I went on a hunt in the other room to try to figure out where the offending odor was coming from, but it was hard to place. My husband for a little while was convinced it was some oranges we had brought, but oranges, even rotting ones (which ours weren’t) smell like, well, oranges. This smell did not any way resemble citrus to me, more like back when I worked at an ice arena and every once in awhile a little mouse would climb up into the pop (there you go. MI lingo for soda) machine because it was nice and cozy warm, then get stuck or lost never to be seen or heard from again, at least not until we smelled its dead rotting carcass. THAT is what it smelled like. Delightful to say the least.

But once again the kiddos were already asleep in the other room and we needed to be up somewhat early to catch a ferry to the island for the race. None of us were really up for a late night move. My parents assured me that they could handle the smell and my husband assured them that the stink was most likely the oranges and he had set them out on the balcony. Problem solved.

Unfortunately for my parents, my husband was SORELY mistaken. By the next morning, I could smell the wretched fumes, the minute I opened the door of my suite room even though the door of my parents’ room was still closed. It reeked. I had planned on eating in their room to let the girlies sleep a little bit longer, but that was just not going to possible, at least not if I wanted the contents of my stomach to remain IN my stomach.

So instead I headed over to the breakfast room where my parents already were. I joined them and of course, apologized profusely for their having to sleep in that disgusting room. I felt horrible about it. I was the one that picked the hotel, booked the suite, and put my daughters in the odor free room, forcing them to spend the night with the funk of God only knows what. They were of course gracious as always, but my Dad seemed more than happy to go down and try to get our room switched while my mom and I went back to Smellville to finish getting ready for the race. The hotel agreed to switch our room and even offered to have someone move our things while we were out.

Now, I wasn’t really too keen on that idea at first, I mean we only had about 1/2 an hour until we had to be out the door to catch the ferry in order to make the race and there was still a lot to be done. Packing up hadn’t been on the agenda, plus who wants somebody you don’t know moving your things around without your being there? But I also figured, none of us would be in the mood after the race to be hauling our luggage up and down stairs (no elevators, at least not in our building), what with my mom and I having just run 13+ miles and my husband and dad having wrangled our two little kiddos while we did so. So we took the hotel up on their offer.

Turns out the weather got on our side for the race, it was just about as perfect as it could possibly be at the start. Partly cloudy, mid 50’s. It was just gorgeous. And how could I NOT run full out in weather like that or at least give it a shot. I mean really, how often does that happen on race day? So I made a little pact with my mom at the start, I was going to go ahead and give it a full out effort for the first few miles and see how it went even though I wasn’t breathing so hot and if it didn’t work, then I’d walk until she caught up and run the rest with her. (BTW quit looking for me in that picture. That’s the start line and I started waaaaaaay in the back. )

And that my friends is just exactly what I did. I gave it about 4.5 miles or so, but I was just sucking wind hard the whole time. Now sometimes, when I start it takes me a little while to get my breathing under control, but definitely by 3 I’ve worked out all the kinks, breathing and otherwise, and I get into something of a groove. It just wasn’t happening and no (because I know you’re all thinking this) I didn’t start off way too hard this time. I just didn’t have it. So rather than spend the next 9 miles trying to convince my head that it was not stupid to keep pushing myself, I decided to enjoy the day, in particular, the scenery. So I walked until my mom caught up to me and then we finished together.

It was the best part of the trip. I think our finishing time was something like 2:45. I don’t really know though. We didn’t care. We were stopping and posing for pictures and chDSCF7700atting about everything under the sun. I quit checking my watch when I started walking and haven’t looked at it or the race results since. I was blessed to run in one of the most beautiful places in the state, if not the country, with one of my very best friends. I could not have asked for more out of that race.

But still, even run/walking or simply walking for that matter 13.1 miles is no easy feat, especially not on a fairly hilly course like that one. It’s exhausting and not just for us, but our families’ as well, who had the tall order of carting our stuff around and occupying all the kiddos (7 of them under the age of 6) while at the same time keeping them out of the way of the runners. Not the easiest task in the world. When the race was over, we were all ready to get the heck out of there.

And that we did, but by the time we waited around for a ferry and got back to Mackinaw, it was after 4:00 (fyi: that race starts at 11:30 AM which is part of the reason we got back so late, in case you’re wondering). So we headed straight for dinner, before going back to the hotel for our new room along with which came a new adventure.

**SIGH** Our new room was located immediately above the old. When my dad expressed some concern that whatever stunk below might woft up into our new room, the Clarion hotel manager assured him that our original room no longer stunk and that whatever had created the stench had been removed. He declined, however to tell us, exactly what that was.

I took the new keys, my mom and my girls, one of whom was about to explode if she didn’t get to a potty asap to the new room, while my husband and dad hung out in the lobby and tried to find a tire place (we were having issues, a valve/sensor was broken and needed to be fixed).

Once up there we were thrilled to discover the keys didn’t work. My mom and I both tried them each repeatedly. Every time the little green light flashed, there was a click, the door handle turned and nothing. It wouldn’t open. My mom took Tiger baby from me and I raced my potty dancing 4 old back through the progressively getting colder and rainier parking lot to the front desk, where with their TREMENDOUS customer service skills, they sent me back across the cold rainy parking lot to the pool to “the nearest bathroom” (place your bets on that one) so my 4 year old could stop squirming while they swiped 4 new key cards for me. After she took care of business, we ran back for the keys, then back again to the new room where the new keys again DID NOT WORK. Same thing. Green light. Click. Handle turns. Door doesn’t open.

Now, I’m starting to get annoyed at this point. It’s cold out. My kids wanted to get to the pool like I’d been promising all day. Tiger Baby was fidgety as all get out. We’d already had a stinky room and the inconvenience of having to pack everything up mid trip to move and the staff of the hotel apparently did not care how many times they sent a mom and her kid running across a cold rainy parking lot. But, I ran back. It’s not like I had a choice. There were no hotel phones to just call the front desk and I figured it’d be faster than looking the hotel up and calling them on my cell.

“These don’t work either.” I told the guy at the desk, who I’d later find out was the manager, and another guy standing nearby overheard and said disgustedly, “I just ran those for you.” I’m not sure exactly what he expected me to say at that point, it really didn’t change the facts any. He gave me keys. I couldn’t get in. So I just relayed the whole situation again. He sighed and ran me some new keys and started to hand them over to me at which point all I could think is “Really? Now why are these going to magically work if THE LAST 8 didn’t?” And the manager, who’d been on the phone but not talking finally interjected and said, “Well, you should probably go with her if it’s flashing green.” (You think?) Which brought another sigh from key runner guy, but reluctantly, he came with.

When we got back to the room, he held up a key and said, “Now, this is the first key I gave you.” He stuck it in. Green light. Click. Then pushed down really hard on the handle shoving the door open and looked at me like I’m an idiot or maybe a liar. I’m not really sure which, but I didn’t care. I was apparently competent enough to work the door below for 2 straight days, but suddenly the exact same kind of door was too complicated? I made him stand there while I tried it again. It worked. I thanked him. He left. Annoyed I’m sure. We’d have the same trouble a few minutes later getting out of the room too. The problem was the door sticks some, and you’ve got to push it really hard something that could have perhaps been mentioned after my first fail at entry.

So we got into the room finally and the first thing I noticed was that the window was open. (Cue the warning sirens) Now you tell me, for what reason in 40 degree cold rainy weather would the window need to be open for hmm…? But the room didn’t seem to smell and the girls were begging for the pool. So we didn’t dwell on it, I shut the window, changed the girls and headed over to the pool to let them wear themselves out.

At some point later that evening, my dad turned on the heat and immediately thought he might be detecting a faint but familiar smell. By morning, there was no ands, ifs or buts about it, some little critter or something had to have been being cooked in that heater. It was just awful. We packed up our things, but my husband decided to stop by the front desk to talk to the manager on the way out. He was told the manager wouldn’t be in until later, but as he headed back to the van, my husband spotted him and went back in.

Now really, we weren’t looking for anything and we were leaving anyway, but after three nights in two horribly stinky rooms and the inconvenience of having to move mid stay, you’d have thought the conversation with the manager would have had at least one apology and perhaps a we’ll look into it. NOPE. In fact, had it, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post. But instead it went a little like this:

“I was in both of those rooms. I’ll give you $20 off your bill” the manager told my husband, “But for the record, I don’t think your room stunk. The only thing we found in there was a dirty diaper.”

Ok now let’s just pause here for a second and be clear here. Wait, let me take a deep breath first. Inhale. Exhale. Ok let’s go…Is this dude actually suggesting that the stink we couldn’t stand was our own stink? Because I’m not sure why exactly our own stench would bother us. And by “found” did he mean in the trash can in the bathroom, you know, the bathroom that didn’t stink? Or that we’re like randomly leaving diapers around the hotel room? Because yeah, I see how that might make a room stink and probably be something that a two year would mess around with too, which is generally why I THROW THEM AWAY and not leave them lying around. As a matter of fact, ironically, just so our room WOULD NOT stink I threw the poopy diapers away OUTSIDE in a trash can. So unless he was talking about finding someone else’s dirty diaper somewhere in the room, I don’t really know what he’s talking about here. But since we searched that room thoroughly and found nothing, I don’t think that’s what he meant.

No, I think what he was saying was not only were we lying, we were actually so devious as to use our own child’s wet diapers to back up our story. Seriously?!

Listen, in a court of law I’d definitely be what one might consider a valid credible olfactory material expert specializing in pediatrics (if one existed). Why? Because I’m around the various odors my children make ALL THE TIME, and I can tell you with complete certainty that that odor was nothing that came from one of mine. Furthermore, I can tell you with nearly as much certainty that it didn’t come from ANY teeny tiny behind of the human variety. And if I’m wrong, the parents of that child should seriously be investigated as to what exactly they’re feeding him or her because it ain’t right.

And furthermore, Mr Clarion Manager, you’re position is completely illogical. You can not sensibly argue that that the first room did not stink, because you removed what stunk. HUH? Did it stink and something need to be removed or did it not stink? And what about the 2nd room hmm? Or are we just back to being overly sensitive about our own stink or that we’re some kind of wild diaper bandits randomly trying to scam money or free hotel stays or something?

And while we’re asking questions here’s a few more I’d like answered:

Do parents of infants & toddlers who wear diapers generally not allow their children to use them at your hotel? I mean we can’t be the only people changing diapers in your hotel. I know I’ve certainly changed them at other hotels and it didn’t sour the entire room. So why is the problem us and our kid and not your hotel room?

Are stinky diapers somehow heat activated and thus only truly stink once the heater is turned on? Because the rooms we were in didn’t stink until we turned on the heater. My kids diapers were present at all times.

Why is it exactly that the rooms the offending toddler and thus so too the perpetrating diapers were in most of the time, the back bedroom and the bathroom, were not stinky? But the room the toddler was hardly in at all did?

Why would a diaper removed from the first room the day before cause the second room to stink the next day?

If you didn’t think the first room stunk the day before, then why go to the trouble of moving us and why tell us something did stink and it was removed?

And perhaps the smoking gun, why was the window of the 2nd room open and the heat off on a cold rainy day when we opened the door?

I don’t know maybe I’m being too harsh and the dude needs to have his nose checked or something. And after all, some smells are sort of a personal preference. For example, my husband HATES the smell of parmesan cheese and I kind of like it. But there are some smells I’m pretty sure we can all agree on. This was more like, you get sprayed by a skunk on your morning run and when you get back home nobody seems to notice. Your kids, your husband, your dog, they just go on like it’s any other day not noticing your wacked out funky stank. Probably not going to happen.

And even if we are totally 100% wrong. Say we let 500 people smell those rooms and out of those 500 people the only 4 that smell anything are me, my husband, my mom, and dad. We can even go so far as to say that the other 496 people thought the room smelled fantastic, like a bouquet of freshly cut flowers or something equally as pleasant. We were the 4 that paid and spent 3 nights in those rooms, we were NOT happy.

How about using an ounce of people skills and instead of accusing us of creating mythological smells and whatever else exactly this manager was getting at, how about saying something along the lines of, “Gee. I’m so sorry that you did not enjoy your experience here at our hotel. Customer service is a top priority here at the Clarion and I guarantee you that I will personally check out both of those rooms myself. I was actually in them both yesterday and just did not smell what you seem to be smelling, but perhaps I missed it” (if he really thought that). Or, “you know, we thought we had found what was creating the smell, but perhaps we didn’t, especially now if you’re smelling it in a second room. Let me see, what I can do here for you. And where exactly again, did you say you think the smell was coming from, just so I’m certain I check the right place thoroughly.” Then go ahead Mr. Clarion Manager and give us that $20 which seems to be your standard go away and leave me alone rebate, since you gave it to us for nothing more than what you considered to be a big fat stinky lie.

Then, I wouldn’t have felt this obligation to rat you out to my running friends who might one day want to come out and race on Mackinac Island. Or my fellow moms, who might want to take their kids Up North for a weekend with some of the best our state has to offer. I would have just considered it to be some out of the ordinary weird freak funk, but you did your best to take care of an extremely unusual situation. But nope, that’s not really the way it went down now did it? So “for the record” I did think BOTH of the rooms at your hotel reeked. I do not appreciate being called a liar and brushed off with a $20 refund and I will not stay at your hotel again. And I’m kind of thinking, that now I won’t be the only one.

'Til next time...

P.S. I DO NOT feel that the customer service or condition of this one Clarion hotel is in any way reflective of Clarions or Choice Hotels in general. I’ve stayed at plenty of them and never had a problem even remotely close to this. I believe this was a limited problem to the Clarion Hotel in Mackinaw and quite possibly the result of it being the very last weekend the hotel was open.

P.P.S. **Deep breath** Now that that’s off my chest (thanks for the vent btw), I’m thinking it’s time for something fun. How about a giveaway tomorrow? Gift card anyone?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grins & Giggles: Questions that haunt me

Ok so maybe you’ve all gotten this in an email already, but I just finished my run, checked my email and this was there from Runnana. It cracked me up, so I thought I’d share. PLUS I’m totally behind on posting ever since Tiger Baby decided to start waking up at 2AM to for a couple of hours EVERY NIGHT. Now, I don’t actually get up and check on her (ok maybe once), because there is absolutely NOTHING in her room that could possibly hurt her. Literally. NOTHING. There was a dresser, but she started ripping the child safety locks off with her brute baby strength which was of course followed by using the drawers as steps with which to climb. Buh bye dresser.

There was a toddler bed. Until I discovered she was eating it. And by eating it, I don’t just mean gnawing the paint off. I mean biting actual chunks of wood out of the frame and digesting (hopefully) it. Buh bye bed.

So then there was a just a room with a toddler mattress on the floor blocking the closet so she couldn’t break into it. But did I mention brute baby strength? Yeah, she tossed that toddler mattress around her room like a WWE wrestler. Which was of course followed by the discovery that the sheet didn’t cover the bottom of the mattress. And lo and behold Tiger Baby sunk those little claws of hers into the bottom and tore a nice whole in her mattress, ripping the stuffing out to do what else with, but eat. Buh bye toddler mattress.

So now she has a giant twin mattress, blocking the closet and that’s it period. But I guess in protest, she’s decided to have a little free for all for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. It’s actually quite entertaining to hear her having a good old time playing all by herself, but I think I’d enjoy it a little more if it wasn’t AT 2AM.

So anyway, lack of sleep means lack of posts. I’ve got to get it when I can and that means I’ve been trying to get to bed early for the late night party every night. Hopefully, this little phase will be coming to an end soon because I have sooooooo  much to tell you all.

But in the meantime here’s a giggle thanks to Runnana. Feel free to add your own haunting questions if you can think of any.



Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Why do you have to 'put your two cents in'... but it's only a 'penny for your thoughts'?  Where's that extra penny going to?

Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they 'slept like a baby' when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change?
They're going to see you naked anyway...

Why is 'bra' singular and 'panties' plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours?
They're both dogs!

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Why do they call it an asteroid when it's outside the hemisphere, but call it a hemorrhoid when it's in your butt?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Why, Why, Why

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are getting dead?

Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they know there is not enough money?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?

If people evolved from apes,
why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses
are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?

When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, 'It's all right?' Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, 'That really hurt, why don't you watch where you're going?'

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

And my FAVORITE.........
The statistics on sanity is that one out of every four persons are suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you

'Til next time...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When the port-a-potty lines are…too short?

I know! I can hardly believe it myself. I mean, who ever would of thunk it?

But yes, yes it is possible for the port-a-potty lines NOT to be long enough. And THAT was the situation at one of my races this weekend.

And no, to answer your question, you did not read that last sentence too quickly and I did not make a typing mistake (this time). Besides the whole port-a-potty oddity, I did actually run in two, count ‘em 2, races this weekend. Because that is the exact smart thing to do just 2 weeks out post marathon right? (The correct answer here would be no.)

In fact, not only did I run 2 races, I attempted to PR 2 races. Why? I don’t know. Because I’m like that. How’s that for a sensible answer?

And it was race number one, the Red October Run 5K, that had the toilets from the twilight zone. There was a giant row of port-a-potties and at all times, it seemed one was open. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that’s terrific! Nothing’s worse than a race with a shortage of pots, but Runnana almost got into a brawl over it.

You see, you come to expect something of a line after being in them race after race. So you plan accordingly, and when suddenly you wander over there and there is none, chaos ensues. It went a little like this:

Runnana to kind racing stranger: “Go ahead. You go first.”

Kind Stranger: “No, that’s ok. You go first.”

Runnana: “No really. Go ahead.”

Kind Stranger: “No. No. You go ahead.”


Kind Stranger: “Ok. Ok. I’ll go.”

See. Totally bizarre. Nearly had to come to blows if Kind Stranger didn’t relent when he did. So next time you want to curse the lines at a race, think twice. You could wind up being branded Crazy Runner Woman Who Gets in Line for No Apparent Reason. And who wants to live with that stigma? Sorry mom.

Anyway, I had bad vibes going into this race ladies & gentlemen. My girlies got sick the beginning of race week and I could totally tell I was fighting it off. My lungs were just not functioning the way they should have been, I couldn’t really get a deep breath. So I tried to keep the runs to just 3-4 miles all week because I read once (where? why Runner’s World of course!) that runs between 1/2-1 hour would boost your immune system whereas runs longer than an hour or so would actually suppress it for a short while after your workout. And I needed no immune system suppressing last week thank-you very much!

If the pesky virus wasn’t enough, the weather turned out not to be my friend. Cold, windy, and rainy, which really, whatever, but we were bringing the babies (who are not so much babies anymore at 2 & 4, but I will probably refer to them that way forever I’m sure) and I didn’t want them to freeze.

Then there was some renegade off road driving by my father in my BRAND SPANKING NEW VAN to get to a decent parking spot (Yes, Dad it was  good spot. Yes, Dad the van is fine.) And then, when I ran into the port-a-potty (literally because there was no line and I was doing a warm up) I discovered that I, joy of joys, started. And by started, you know exactly what I mean.

Somewhere on the mile run to get my car keys from my dad, then back past the lineless port-a-potties to my car to break into my glove compartment stash of emergency feminine products, followed by the return run BACK to the port-a-potties,  I thought to myself (or actually it was more of a sarcastic question to God), “Really, could you send one more sign that I should NOT attempt to PR today?”

Which is exactly what He did, or at least I thought so, when He strategically plopped two walkers right directly in front of me at the start. (I overhead them that’s how I knew they were walkers. I wouldn’t dare judge by appearance).   I waited for the lady with the megaphone giving orders to ask the walkers to move to the back, but no such luck. So I figured instead of plowing these nice people over, I’d ask them to swap me places and also pose for a picture.

redrunposer Ha ha. Just kidding. I did not actually ask him to pose for a picture, but he looks more into the picture than I do doesn’t he? Certainly way cooler anyway. That’d be my yep, I’m smiling but I’m really just frustrated with the whole situation face. Don’t misread my crossed arms though. They are crossed for an entirely different reason, I’m frickin’ cold. And then there’s Runnana in her Martian 1/2 Mary t-shirt behind me. She’s sick, freezing, and probably just as frustrated as I am but she totally exudes joy and warmth. One day, when I grow up I’ll be like her.

None of this jockeying for position mattered btw because nearly the entire front row at the starting line was walkers and I spotted them pretty quick after the horn, so I ended up just jumping onto the curb and running on the grass to get around them. (Poor 5K newbie walkers, you should have heard them shrieking “AHHH!! We’re going to get run over” when the race started. Really, I’m not being a snot about this. I LOVE people that get out there and run, walk, or do some combination of the two at these races. But some of these super fasties will literally PLOW YOU DOWN if you are in their way. Trust me. I’m not a super fasty and I’ve learned the hard way. These race directors would do well to give these rookies at least a fair warning. How would they know?)

But then, you will NOT believe what happened…

Mile One- 7:11meredrun

Oops. Apparently in my zippiness to get around the walkers I went  ahead and zipped out that first mile faster than I’ve ever run before (that’s me being zippy in the picture, waving to the fam). So yeah, at that point I figured I ought to make an attempt to PR. 24:40 was my best though, just under 8 minute miles and I figured maybe I ought to slow down just a touch. After that first mile, I could afford to.

Mile Two- 8:12.

Oops. Might have slowed down a little too much. Besides the whole PR thing, I also really really wanted to give this race all I had so I’d have a good solid performance to base the training paces for my next marathon (details on that to come, but yes, I have one in mind). So I kindly reminded myself of that and picked up the pace again.

Mile Three.1- 8:12

There was no mile three marker. Or at least, if there was I totally missed it. So I had to have picked up the pace again in order to bust out the same split as the previous mile with the additional .1 added in there to cover. All I know is, when I rounded that last corner and saw that the finish line clock didn’t even say 23 yet. I busted my butt to get in there sub 24.  I was stoked.

cokethingy I finished 2nd in my age group and 5th female (according to my brother in law but I can’t seem to find where it says that anywhere and I think he’s making it up. No wait!! I totally just found it on Active you guys. I’m on the leader board. NO WAY!! That’s never happened before. Go look. It’s so cool. Here’s the link) I won a little green glass artistic leaf thingy that my husband says is a paper weight and my dad says just looks like the bottom of a coke bottle. You can be the judge. Here’s a close up:


Runnana? She PR’d too. Woohoo!! 31:56. She finished 6th in her age group. And the sleeper was Muffin Man, my brother-in-law. He ran his first 10K and being that he was totally in the throws of that same cold I had, he was planning on taking it easy and running the 10K in about an hour. Imagine our surprise when he showed up at the finish line at 47:48 just barely missing out on an age group award finishing 4th. Still, stellar first performance, especially for a sicko.

Moving on to race number two, the Huron Applefest 10K. Now, I purposely planned the longer race the 2nd day, not because I’m a psycho, but because my 10K PR was from last year, 58:56 whereas my 5K PR was from this year. I’m in better shape this year than last, so I figured I'd need to have fresh legs and work harder on that 5K since that PR was more recent. 

My legs were a little sore the day after the 5K but not shot, so I still figured I could make still make it happen. I’d just need to run a little better than 9:30 minute miles. Here’s how it rounded out…

Mile 1-8:27

Mile 2-8:01

Mile 3-8:31

Pretty good start, a little bit faster than intended, but it felt ok and I was kind of concerned my legs wouldn’t hold up after that 5K effort, so I figured I’d stick with it for as long as I could.

Mile 4-7:20

Not entirely sure what happened here. My legs did loosen up some as they usually do after about three miles, but I was totally shocked when I saw my split. I did not think I was running that fast. More like 8 minutesish. Since that’s a faster pace than my new 5K PR, I figured if I knew what was good for me, I’d better slooooooooow down.

Mile 5-7:54

Better, but still probably too fast and I was really starting to feel it. But I realized at this point that I had a serious shot at breaking 50 minutes. I knew this course well and was well aware that I had two hills coming on that last mile, but still thought maybe, just maybe, I could push through and make it happen.

Mile 6-8:15 All hills considered, this was a pretty good last mile. That last one was a serious struggle. In fact, I may have been running in arms only, but it was on the…

.2-1:52 that blew the 50 for me. I just had absolutely zip zilch nada left in my legs after all that hard running and those last hills to pick it up at the finish even though I could see I was so so close. I came in at 50:04. 

I tried to convince my husband that since it was super windy, I should be able to wind adjustment my time to 49:59:59, but he didn’t buy it. So if it didn’t fly with him, I figured it won’t fly here, but you better believe I’ll be setting a new 10K goal.

No age group awards for me for this race. I finished 4th in my age group. Runnana, on the other hand, who I suckered into running a 2nd race with me, completely won her age group in the 5K and went home with a jug of cider. This after having completely wiped out running over some uneven sidewalk on her warm-up and smacking her head, wrist, and elbow on the concrete as well as scraping her knee. Apparently, she needs a good beating before she wipes the floor with her competition. (She’s totally fine everybody, just a little bruised up.)

And that was the last big race weekend of the year. **SIGH** Well…besides running the Mackinac Island 1/2 in two weeks and probably a Turkey Trot around Thanksgiving and…geesh who’m I kidding?

'Til next time...

P.S. Of course my little miss got a chance to run this weekend too!

chloerun Well, you know her. She’s a run/walker. This time she decided also to try her hand at Run/walk/hugging.

chloerun2It was a whole mile, that’s an umbrella in my hand. I figured a mile in the rain could be a really long mile if she decided she wanted to walk. Fortunately, the rain held off until the grownups started running and she did run most of it. Her mile time: 12:30.

And let’s not forget about our biggest cheerleader now…madcheerShe’s totally got it down. She claps and yells, “Go…” (insert each and every name she knows whether they are running or not.)

P.P.S. More reviews, giveaways, and details on the RRCA coaching certification class coming soon. And I’ll post the nitty gritty Racevine reviews of these two races just as soon as I write them.