Sunday, December 25, 2011

Guinness Pictures of the Week - 25 December 2011

A couple weeks ago Guinness was so excited to go see Santa (okay maybe he wasn't but I was excited for him!) so he could get his picture taken. He also wanted to let him know what he wanted for Christmas - a squirrel and some filet mignon. However when we got there Guinness was not such a fan of Santa... he looks less than pleased in these pictures!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Fitness Blogger's "take" on S Factor

Here's a blog from a Fitness guru blogger... it gives you the basics of S Factor. I am still working on my long blog of why I love S Factor but after reading this today, I thought this would be a good place for you to start reading about S Factor so you have a better "basis" for my long novel of thoughts on the subject :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guinness Pictures of the Week - 18 December 2011

Guinness just loves to help out when he can... he especially loves to help with laundry....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Response from the Las Vegas Rock-N-Roll Marathon

So here's the response I received over email from the group that runs that Rock-N-Roll marathon series. (It's in between the asterisks.) I'll give you my thoughts after your read that...

Thank you for contacting us regarding the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon & ½ Marathon, and thank you for your patience in receiving a response from us. With any special event, especially in the first year of trying something new, unforeseen challenges can arise. We know we have huge improvements to make and are truly sorry for the way things turned out race weekend. The race definitely didn't go as we planned, and we are fully committed to righting the wrongs that played out at the race. As event organizers of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events around the country, our staff takes great pride in planning successful events. While a significant amount of time was committed to planning for this event, some elements did not go according to plan on race day, and we will be re-evaluating these elements for a better experience next year. Unfortunately we are unable to offer refunds for the race, however, we would like to earn your trust back. If you are interested, we are offering a limited time $50 discount to the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon and 1/2 Marathon (Register online using the coupon code FIFTYOFFAZ between today and December 20th) as well as a discount into the 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas event which will be sent to you as soon as registration details are available for next year. Thank you again for taking the time to contact us and for your feedback, which we will definitely take into consideration in our planning for the future

I find this completely unacceptable. I am not going to spends hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to go to Arizona next month. (Not to mention that it's a little late to start planning that even if I wanted to or could.) I did not get what I paid for in Vegas. Any other business is expected and obligated to provide you what you paid for so why isn't this company held to the same? And giving people money off their other races is simply a ploy to get you to come out there and spend your money with them anyway at the expo etc.

I am debating what to do and welcome any opinions. I'll be honest as much as I have enjoyed the Rock-N-Roll series, with the obvious exception of the Las Vegas run, I am inclined to never give them another dime of my money until they resolve this issue in a way that is deemed satisfactory. (Granted I have already paid my money to run DC in March so perhaps I will still do that last one but then again maybe I won't..... tough call.) Thoughts? Opinions?

And this response was to the online feedback I submitted. I also sent them an actual letter to their home office... though I doubt it will get a better response...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anne's Awesome Breakfast Casserole Recipe - YUMMY!!!

I know I promised I would post this for you guys (with Anne's permission of course!) - sorry it took a little while.

This is the casserole I made in Whistler (though the sausage there was lousy so it's much better usually), Sonoma, for the Landing Party at our house for the last shuttle flight and Winter Park. It is ALWAYS a crown pleaser :)


1 lb. bulk sausage (Bob Evans original, or any good, plain breakfast
1/4 cup finely chopped onion

   Brown sausage / add chopped onion toward end (in time for it to become
soft and translucent)
   Drain fat

Basic white bread (20 +/- slices) -- crust removed
1/4 Cup softened butter (best to use real butter)
8-10 slices of pre-sliced cheese (cheddar or American may be used...whatever you prefer)

   Butter one side of bread and line bottom of 9 x 14 (or slightly smaller)
Pyrex casserole pan, butter down
   Cover bread with a (solid) layer of cheese slices
   Cover cheese with an even layer of the browned/drained sausage & onion
   Top with a layer of un-buttered bread slices

10-12 beaten eggs (depending on size of eggs and how eggy you want it)
3/4 Cup milk
1/2 teas. dry mustard
1/8 teas. pepper

   Mix well and pour slowly and evenly over casserole
   Cover and refrigerate overnight


Remove casserole from refrigerator (set it out for 1/2 to 1 hour to warm up
if possible - if not, sometimes I put it in the microwave for a minute or so
in order to take the chill off the center -- just to make it cook a little
more evenly) 

Preheat oven to 350*

3/4 Cup Cornflakes (enough to generously cover the casserole)
1/4 Cup melted butter

   Cover casserole with Cornflakes
   Drizzle melted butter over Cornflakes
   Bake one hour at 350*

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Guinness Pictures of the Week - 11 December 2011

Guinness loves to lounge about and the positions he gets himself into are just so adorable... Yesterday Ken scooped him up because he was jealous that Guinness had been lounging on my lap all day. It made for some adorable pictures!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon (and Stiletto Dash) Commentary

Let me start with the most important thing up front -
I would not by any means recommend running this race. That said if you are willing to put up with a lot of disorganization and a race that is way too expensive you may be up for it.

It was fun to run the Strip at Night but quite frankly you can walk the strip at night with drink in hand and it's just as enjoyable if not more so I suggest doing that.

As far as the Stiletto Dash goes it was entertaining and I somewhat enjoyed it (I certainly enjoyed laughing about a lot of things including the people who were way too serious about it!) but it was definitely not worth the price of admission by any means.

When I teach Effective Communication one the techniques I teach is what is called the sandwich strategy where you try and start your feedback with something positive and end with something positive - it generally makes people more receptive to your feedback. The times I say that it isn't acceptable to do that is when something is so incredibly bad that anything good is completely outweighed by the numerous issues... this is one of those times. Below is the letter I have written to the group in charge of the races... this should give you an idea of how bad the issues were. And to be honest as I have been reading the Facebook comments etc. there are many more issues that other people experienced (such as a lack of medical personnel) that I don't talk about in my letter because I didn't see or experience them myself...

Dear Competitor Group,

I am a frequent participant in Rock-N-Roll events over the last 4-5 years. Perhaps not as frequent as your “Rock Stars,” but having run 8 different races, scheduled to run DC in March and having registered for 3 that I was unable to run due to other obligations that came up I feel that you guys have gotten quite a bit of money from me.  In addition to your registration fees (which seem to continually be going up) – I have yet to go to an Expo and not buy something from your merchandize area. I list all of this out for you so you understand how I fit into your “demographic” as I continue with the rest of this letter.

I have just completed the Las Vegas Half Marathon and I have to say I couldn’t be more disappointed. I was excited at the idea of running the strip at night but I now have to say it was without a doubt, hands down the worst race I have ever run (and that’s saying a lot given the number of races I have done both Rock-N-Roll and otherwise).  I did enjoy getting to run the strip at night but that pales in comparison to the issues I experienced. Specifically my issues include:

1.    The fact that the Zappos area had it’s own cordoned off area was very confusing and made it difficult to navigate. I recognize that they were the major sponsor but it made it difficult to find everything in the Expo.

2.     Gear Check – where the heck was it? I have heard so many people complain that they couldn’t find it and we were no different
3.     Getting to the Start Line – from inside the Mandalay we tried to follow the signs only to be turned around and told to go a different way and we had to muddle our way through to attempt to find the start line. Finally we gave in and climbed through the hedges in front of the hotel (a fact that I am sure the hotel is less than thrilled with).
4.     Corrals – Clearly you guys weren’t even remotely patrolling who went into what corral

5.     Wave starts were way too close together. Everyone was tripping on one another
6.     WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY (get the picture) too many people. Clearly you guys allowed in more runners than you were prepared to handle. The half was a total zoo. You could hardly move
7.     Clear lack of proper corralling – there were so many walkers in the way of actual runners that it was unsafe. Most of these people had high numbers on (such as 30-40) and I was in the 17 group and was surrounded by these people.
8.     Your designation of half to the right and full to the left by a cone that was less than a foot tall was a joke! Who could see that given the massive numbers of people? I felt really bad for the marathoners who were hoping for a decent time because they clearly couldn’t get it given the number of people they had to navigate when they merged with the halfers.
9.     Water stations – I was doing better than mid-pack for the half and when I got to water stations pretty much all of them were at least half empty and most of them didn’t have any Gatorade (or Cytomax or whatever you call it). This is absolutely unacceptable for any marathon but especially one in such a dry climate.
10. Volunteers – Clearly you guys were incredibly deficient on volunteers throughout the course. Given how much money our entries are at worst case you need to hire some people.
11. There were random cones and such that people were tripping over – again this was exacerbated by the fact that there were WAY to many people allowed into this race
12. Entertainment on the course – why no cheer squads? Far fewer bands than I expected. When I did this in 2007 there were acts like Blue Man Group and Cirque out there but there was none of that this year (or at least none that I saw)
13. I was actually worried for my safety at the finish line due the large number of people and the fact that it was clearly not large enough for everyone. It was a mass of people that could have been very dangerous had anyone fallen or gotten pushed up against a fence.
14.  The space or area and the number of photographer stations seemed to be the same number as any other race which would have less people. Do the math! More people means more space and more photographers.
15. Given the crushing mass of people I wanted to skip the photographers but it was difficult to do so which is unacceptable
16. Food? What food? There were so many people I couldn’t even get to it. My body desperately needed it but I was out of luck.
17. Upon exit of the secure runner area I asked literally a half a dozen people where I could find a shuttle (yes there was 1 sign but I had learned by the start line experience that I couldn’t necessarily trust it and good thing I didn’t) back to the hotel yet not a single one of them had any idea. They all told me to go to the Information booth. (Volunteers in that area should be better prepped by you guys with these types of answers.)
18. Post-Race Parties – The times were too close to the end of the marathon given how long it took to get out of there so we didn’t get a chance to partake.

Stiletto Dash
I also signed up and participated in this… to say I was disappointed is an understatement.
1.     There was such a lack of organization it was appalling. I understand this is your first time doing this but it was only 250 people so really you should have been able to do a much better job
2.     Communication issues – half the time we couldn’t hear what was being communicated to us because the bullhorn wasn’t enough to overcome the noise. Even in the back room it was very difficult to hear. Since we’d had no real instruction prior to arrival we were completely reliant on trying to hear what the heck the people were saying at the event.
3.     Your standards for shoes are questionable and need to be more defined. Some of the girls were running in heels that there was no way in creation that the heel itself was 3 inches. Maybe if you include the upper part of the shoe it was but that’s not how something like this should be measured. You also originally said no boots but then changed that. Pick a standard and stick with it. You can’t expect us to go back and continually check to see if you’ve changed your minds about the standards.
4.     If I recall correctly you said only women could participate but you let men in. That’s fine that you didn’t let them “win” but they got WAY more attention from you guys touting them to the media than us women who the event was intended for.
5.     You cold have done the event in half the time – there was way too much standing around and waiting
6.     The most disappointing part of the whole thing is the necklace. The WHOLE reason I did this was because you said (and I take this directly from your website ”The red carpet will be rolled out for our dashers. Each participant will receive:
                        Swanky, swag bag stuffed with products, exclusive offers and goodies!
                        Sparkling silver finisher’s necklace
This necklace is beyond a joke. It’s like a kids piece of jewelry. It’s cheap and I doubt if it’s even real silver. I expected something like the Nike Women’s Race necklaces (especially given the hefty $100 entry fee).
·      Please do not tell me – “Well it’s for charity” because I really am not concerned with that. That’s great that you guys wants to do something for charity – I wanted to run this event for the great necklace I expected to get.
·      And as far as saying the bag was stuffed you must be kidding…. There were a few items. The word stuffed is a gross overstatement
·      Bottom line is on these points alone I think this was false advertisement and as such I would like a refund for my entry fee.

To combat some retorts to some of these things which I have seen on Facebook
·      You never stated how many people you would allow into the race. Had I known it was 44,000 with the vast majority being Halfers there is no way I would have signed up for this race. But that said there are lots of very large races (see New York & Boston) who do just fine with this many runners
·      This may be your inaugural in Vegas but you do dozens of other runs so you are not new to this
·      I have no issue with walkers overall; however, for the safety of the runners they need to be AT THE BACK! And you need to ensure that they start in the proper corral.

So here’s what I am left with… whether I sign up for another Rock-N-Roll race is certainly dependant upon the type of response I receive from this letter. I cannot in good conscience recommend your Las Vegas events (marathon or Stiletto Dash) to anyone at this point. The question is whether I shout that from the hilltops or not…. I am torn because I have so enjoyed your other races but I feel people deserve to know what they are getting into especially given the steep race fees for all the Vegas events.  I ran this race back in 2007 before you guys took it over and frankly it was a better race then.

I’ve heard you want to expand this race – not only is it a bad idea from a satisfaction perspective but I can’t imagine that is safe. You guys weren’t prepared for a race this size you certainly would be even worse off with more people.

A Very Disappointed Runner,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cirque du Soleil

Okay I admit it... I am a bit of a Cirque du Soleil addict. I love Cirque shows so much that I make a concerted effort to see whatever show I can when it's in town or I am in a city that there is one I haven't seen. In fact when I was in Tokyo at one point even though I had seen Dralion prior in the US I decided to make my way to seeing it in Japan as well.

I love the artistry, the talent, the music of every show and I love that every show is so different. Most shows I watch and think "Holy cow there's so much going on that I could come and see this show a half a dozen times and see something different every time!"

If you have not yet seen a show I encourage you to do so! There are several touring shows where Cirque will bring Le Grand Chapiteau to your city and do shows for several weeks. Every seat in the "tent" is a good one and well worth the trip! If you go to Vegas, Orlando or LA there are "housed" shows there where they have "permanent" theaters so those are always a good option too! Need a recommendation? Let me know. I told you I am an addict... I've seen 15 DIFFERENT shows! (A few of them I have seen twice!)
But honestly bottom line is you can't go wrong with any of them!!!

Shows I have seen
Banana Shpeel
La Nouba

There is an iPhone App you can download that will give you a list of all the shows and where they are.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guinness Picture of the Week - 4 December 2011

Guinness absolutely hates being wet... he doesn't like the pool, he's not a fan of the rain so needless to say he doesn't love baths but he has learned to tolerate them. What's funny is usually he runs around like he's on speed for a few minutes after you release him from his bath. Amazingly I got him to sit still for a few wet dog pictures but you can tell he is definitely not happy!

Then there's the "I'm not going to look at you" attitude!!
 Look at those frizzy ears! It's so funny!

And SHAKE!!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter Park Trip Report

We have found that we absolutely love to be able to travel with good friends and all stay together so when we decided that WInter Park was our destination of choice for Thanksgiving vacation I immediately got on (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and to see what kind of houses were an option. Turns out a lot of places in Winter Park are on these site but managed through Winter Park Lodging so the dialogue about houses continued with them.

Amy at Winter Park Lodging Company was absolutely fantastic and incredibly helpful. I had several houses I wanted more info about so she sent me that as well as a couple that I hadn't noticed (or maybe they weren't on VRBO etc.) She was patient as I had lots of questions about very specific details about the houses and was even more patient as I couldn't commit as I was waiting for the other folks in our group to commit. Eventually we settled on a fabulous house at Base Camp.

I figured out a few years ago that a big house is the way to go on a vacation like this since we LOVE to travel with our friends. A house affords you luxuries that you can't get in a hotel such as a big living room to lounge in and a kitchen to cook in. It's a central meeting place to hangout. Not that you can't go into town and hangout but sometimes it's nice to just hang out and eat and drink in a house that all you have to do is crawl to bed in! And as far as finances go to be honest if you have a few families it is certainly cheaper than several hotel rooms would be. Plus you can save loads of money by cooking at home sometimes and stocking your fridge and such with snacks and drinks (of any variety!!!)

The actual house we got....
Base Camp 456

  • 4 bedrooms
    • Downstairs
      • 1 Room with 2 sets of bunks (so 4 beds total)
        • Full bathroom just across the hall from this room
    • Upstairs
      • 1 Master with King sized bed, fireplace, full bath
      • 1 room with Queen sized bed and twin bed with own bathroom
      • 1 room with Queen sized bed
        • Full bath just outside of the bedroom in the hallway
  • Huge living room on middle floor with fireplace & wet bar
    • Half Bathroom downstairs which is easily accessible from living room
  • Huge Kitchen (overlooking the living room half a floor up) with dining room and fireplace
    • Kitchen is fully stocked (and then some!) with pots, pans, dishes etc.
    • Huge fridge, dishwasher
  • Small deck off the kitchen area 
    • Fireplace is double sided so is outside as well (enclosed in glass)
    • Hot tub
    • gas grill
  • Second smaller living area on ground floor with pull-out couch and wet bar
  • Garage
  • Ground Floor - area to store your jackets boots etc.
  • TVs in every bedroom as well in both living room area
  • Technically ski-in ski-out (I say technically because we were there early enough in the season that half the mountain wasn't open so we could ski-out but couldn't ski back in
  • Bus stop that will take you to Village is right outside the door
This house was absolutely perfect for us (3 families so we took the upstairs rooms and the boys got the bunk room downstairs) and we would go back in a heartbeat! We cooked every night and enjoyed the huge living room to relax in and chill out. 

Winter Park Skiing & Snowboarding
We got lucky and they had gotten a bit of snow - it was a bit early in the season so there was a risk that there would be only a run or 2 open had there not been any snow (the can make some snow provided the weather conditions are right.) So there were more runs open on Winter Park than necessarily expected but still not many in the scheme of how many runs are available at Winter Park/Mary Jane. However it was plenty for us! Ken and I had pre-bought 4-pack passes from Christy sports when we were in town for GABF and that was a great deal. When we got there we found that it was early enough in the season that you cold still get those at the mountain for just a bit more than we paid. What is nice about these passes is that you can ski/board any 4 days during the season as opposed to tickets you buy at the regular ticket window where if you buy a 4 day pass it's 4 out of 5 days meaning you can take 1 day off in the midst of your trip but that's it. 

The staff at the mountain are very friendly and helpful. The village itself is nice with several restaurants and shops and of course bars. For comparison sake it isn't as extensive as the village at Whistler but it was still decent. 

Cheeky Monk
By far our favorite restaurant/bar to hit apres ski was the Cheeky Monk. It's a Belgian themed place that also happens to have some fantastic local craft beers. (And as usual I loved that they had no crap beer on tap!!!) Cheryl and I bellied up to the bar one day to enjoy a few drinks and found the bartender to be very friendly and helpful with suggestions of things to try (and not to try) around the city. We went back another day for lunch and enjoyed some amazing mussels (if you go you've gotta get the bacon gorgonzola mussels) and then back another day to hit the bar again. Each time we had fantastic food (the fries are so addicting), awesome drinks (their tap selection is fantastic) and some of the best service we've seen. HIGHLY recommend this place!

Doc's Roadhouse
Another restaurant/bar in the village. Okay food (nothing spectacular about it but it's certainly good), a so-so tap selection and decent service. My complaint was I asked for a local beer and the gal quickly says "Oh you should have a Mary Jane it's brewed specifically for us." Sold! Well after a few sips I find out that it's actually a Coors product. DAMN! Okay so that's local but it's not craft.... I should have been more specific apparently....

Derailer Bar
This one is right at the bottom of the slopes so it's the most convenient one to get to (though to be fair it takes all of 2 minutes to walk to the others from the bottom of the slope!) and it has the most TVs for football watching so that's what brought us in there. Didn't have a meal but had some chops and queso which were less than fantastic but they were food after a day of boarding so they fit the bill. Beer selection was okay but again they had a Coors product trying to masquerade as a real craft beer. GRRRRRRRRR! The service at the bar itself was fantastic. The gal was very friendly (and yes to me not just to Ken!) and that's no small feat when you are stick at work on Thanksgiving!

Winter Park Winery
We heard about this place so we asked the bartender at Cheeky Monk and he said it was pretty good and worth checking out so we did.  It's a quaint little "shop" that has a handful of tables and a bar area for tastings. The gentleman there was the owner who also happens to be a very accomplished mountain biker who is trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. We really enjoyed chatting with him. The wine was decent enough to buy a couple bottles for table wine but certainly not anything I'd be willing to buy a case of.  But if you are in the area it's worth the stop in. The tasting itself is a modest price $5 and it's a nice locally owned and run place (which I always like to try and patronize if I can.)

On the last night after we had finished Thanksgiving dinner we somehow managed to drag ourselves out to Fraser (town nearby) to go tubing. I haven't laughed that hard in I don't know how long. When someone says tubing you may be thinking a small hill to hp on a tube and slide down. Forget that! It's a big hill and I will tell you that you are hauling ass by the time you get to the bottom! Add to that the fact that apparently the idea is to link everyone together and go down as a group. We had 8 of us and 5 of the 8 were fairly decent sized guys... It doesn't take a physics major to understand the whole mass velocity relationship! Joan and I squealed and laughed the whole way down every time I think! This is the perfect activity for a group of people to do together!

Tommy Knocker's Brew Pub
This is not in Winter Park, it's in Idaho Springs which is between the Denver airport and Winter Park so we stopped there for some food and drinks on our way back to the airport. As you can tell from the picture they had quote the extensive sampler. And I have to say ALL of it was very good! We ordered up so me food too. I had the buffalo burger which was VERY tasty and the homemade potato chips as a side which could have been totally addictive if I went there often! All in all this is a great stop on your trek between Winter Park & Denver!