Saturday, May 07, 2016

Le Tote: First Tote Review and Comparison to Gwynnie Bee

Note: This is an unsolicited, uncompensated review. I got a discount offer on Le Tote that went out to their mailing list but otherwise paid for my own subscription. I was also a paid subscriber to Gwynnie Bee. This is my honest comparison of both services.

I still miss my Gwynnie Bee subscription. I cancelled it when I was worried about my work contract ending, and to try to get our budget into line, I decided to wait to consider resubscribing until I have permanent employment (I'm still a contractor). I was paying $79 a month for three items out at a time, but now the new price is $95 for the same plan, and by canceling, I lost my price lock.

In the meantime, I missed the fun of having something new to wear all the time, so I decided to try Le Tote when I got an offer for a discounted first month. Their regular monthly price is $59 for three clothing items plus two accessories.

The two services are a lot different. So far, I think Gwynnie Bee is a better value if you're a size 10 or up. How could three items a month plus two accessories for $59 not be a better deal than three items for $95? The difference is in how the two services work.

With Gwynnie Bee, my box of clothing came with multiple return envelopes, so I could swap items one or two at a time. I was able to get something new almost once a week as a result. With Le Tote, all the items have to be returned at once. Everything that does not go back in the prepaid envelope would be charged to my account. I just returned my first tote, so I'll have to see what the turnaround time is, but I doubt that I will squeeze three totes into my discounted month.

I also didn't like any of the items in this first tote as much as the average Gwynnie Bee item. The printed jacket was fun, and seemed high-quality, but the orange shirt was just a thin cotton tee, and shorter than it looked in the photo. I wore the jacket and tee together to work on Friday, and wore the black and white top on Thursday, but I didn't get compliments on my clothes like I did when I wore GB. The earrings were beautiful but bigger than I thought they were, which made them too heavy for my ears. And the scarf, which was pretty, was a weird fabric that all stuck together, so I couldn't get it to look right.

Finally, I'm guessing Le Tote doesn't have a large selection of clothes in my size. I was able to customize my tote, but I didn't see a lot of things I loved in the choices. I suspect because I am at the top of the sizing range, there just wasn't that much that would work. GB is made for women size 10 and up, so almost everything came in my size. I also realized when browsing the clothing that the models in the GB photos also gave me a better idea of what clothes are going to look like on me. Plus the customer reviews helped me to know when something was going to look different than the photo made it seem.

I'll check in again after I complete my first month on Le Tote, but so far, I'm Team Gwynnie Bee.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dooby Du 2016: ENELL Ambassador Update

Before the race, well-supported in my limited-edition Biscay Green ENELL SPORT
ENELL paid my entry for the Dooby Du and has given me some great merchandise as part of the ENELL Ambassador program. All opinions here are my own. All photos were taken by my one-man support crew, Jesse.

I'm listening to a great audiobook: The War of Art: Break Through Your Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles (not an affiliate link). Despite the title, the book applies not only to creative pursuits, but any activity that requires us to do what is easy instead of what is hard. A lot of the book is about resistance -- that inner force that keeps us from trying to achieve our goals so much of the time.
“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of sh*t.” 
I definitely experienced some resistance out on the course today, and I used quotes from the book as part of my mental battle to keep pushing forward.

The Dooby Du is, like the name implies, a sort of double duathlon. It's a 2 mile run, a 6.5 mile bike, a 2 mile run, a 6.5 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. The race organizers describe it as "fun," and "low-key." In my experience, this is a serious start to the race season, and most of the people who show up are the local age-group superstars. In terms of Toledo-area triathlons, it's small, and the people who stay home are the back-of-pack people like me. This is my second year doing it and my second year of being a little concerned that I would end up in last place. This year, there were three women who did it together and actually treated it as a fun, low-key race, so I was saved from being the final finisher. They were the only three people who finished after I did. You can see the results for yourself if you'd like.

But I knew all of that going in. I was hoping to shave some time off my previous year's finish. For me racing is about challenging myself, not winning. I also think this race is a good way to check in and see what mistakes I'm making, and correct them before any of the bigger races that I care more about.

I lined up toward the back, and heard the women I mentioned before talking about their time goal of 2:30, and felt a little relieved that I would probably not be last. You can see me in this start video: I'm the one in the blue headband.

You can also see what a beautiful day it was. Last year it was cold and windy. This year, it started out a little chilly, but by the finish, it was 70 degrees. As we started the run, I noticed two hot-air balloons overhead and it made me really happy to see them. My first run was pretty good. There was one woman who had started near me that I talked to for a while, but she got ahead of me on the run. In transition, I saw her run out with a mountain bike and thought I'd probably be able to catch her. I didn't, though I came close. She got further ahead of me on the second run, and on the second bike leg, I didn't even see her.

The most challenging thing for me about this race was that there was no one in sight for most of it. There were some out-and-back stretches on the run, but on the bike legs, I saw two people on the first loop and was able to pass one. The rest of the field was out of sight, and on the second loop, the only people I saw were all the wonderful staff and volunteers who were out there to keep us safe, hydrated, and on course. I really appreciated seeing them and made sure to thank them for being there.

I struggled with resistance all the way through, from the first run when the pack pulled away from me to the second bike leg when my bike computer stopped working and I had no idea what my speed or cadence were. In my case, resistance suggests I should either quit the race or at least not push myself too hard. I kept repeating lines from the book, "resistance is always lying and always full of sh*t," and my own mantras, like "finish what you start."

The last run was murder. My toes were giving me some trouble and I just was running out of gas. The heat was getting to me too. I probably should have taken salt tablets, but I had no idea it was going to be so hot when I finished. I was hungry and tired. I couldn't run the whole last leg -- I had run the first two, only walking at the water stop so I didn't choke. On the last leg I did a walk/run routine, and just kept moving forward the best I could. I was pretty sure I was not going to beat my time after all, and that made me feel discouraged. I said, "resistance is strongest near the finish line," and added my own geeky touch, "resistance is futile."

Post-race, sweaty and relieved!
Once I could hear the noise of the finish line, I was able to push a little harder. I sprinted the finish, just happy to be done. I had several friends at the race but I wasn't much of a conversationalist -- my mind kept wandering. I was just glad not to be moving anymore.

I finished in 2:14:25, last year was 2:13:18. My rough splits were 24 minutes, 26 minutes, and 29 minutes on the runs and 24 minutes and 23:30 on the bike. I had transitions of about 2 minutes each.

I didn't eat much of the post-race lunch, a few pretzels and some chips. All I really wanted was salt. I could feel the salt on my face and neck and I know that I need to do better on hydration next time. I have been taking it easy since then. I'm proud that I finished and that I pushed myself the whole way. Thanks, ENELL, for supporting me through this challenging day!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Sometimes it snows in April: ENELL Ambassador Update

My first multisport race, the Dooby Du duathlon, is a week from tomorrow. Last night Toledo got the biggest April snowstorm in history -- almost 8 inches of snow.

It's pretty snow, though. My nephew, my mom, and I made a "snow lady," and it was the most perfect packing snow. I'm not sure when the last time I made a snowman was, and my nephew, who is 4, had never made one before, so it was fun. We also were going to have a snowball fight, but he didn't like having snow thrown at him so we did target practice instead by throwing snowballs at the shed.

In Toledo, we rarely get snow and sun at the same time, so it was a treat to go out and run on a snowy day with the full sun shining, no wind, and relatively warm weather. I am guessing that if the weather cooperates, I'll have a better time than my first time doing this race last year. I have ridden that bike course dozens of times since last year, and I have been doing more running than I was last year at this time, mostly in walk-run intervals. I know that I walked quite a bit of last year's runs, too.

ENELL is sponsoring me for this race, so I'll be in my cool new gear, including the new Biscay Green ENELL SPORT. Like all limited edition colors, when it is gone, it's gone, so if you are a green fan like me, you should get yours while you can. Besides the ENELL site, you can find them at online retailers like Bare Necessities (currently having a 25% off sale) and other online retailers, as well as some in-store locations. Green is one of my favorite colors, as evidenced by my favorite running jacket.

I'm hoping for dry roads and low wind -- both of which would mean the weather this year will be much better than last year -- but I have to be ready for anything between 70 degrees and sunny and 27 and windy. Toledo weather is like that.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Hashimoto's Update

After talking with a friend, I realized that I had paid a ridiculous amount of money out of pocket to my alternative practitioner (who was also an MD) for less-than-stunning results -- I didn't need to see my "witch doctor" to go gluten-free and she never did change my meds to include T3, which was what I wanted when I went to her. I only saw an alternative practitioner in the first place because of my dismissive mainstream doc, I was always skeptical about it.

So I quit seeing her and got a referral to a new endocrinologist, with assurances that he was less rigid than my original doctor. He put me on Armor, which did seem to help normalize my body temperature and improved my skin. Armor is expensive and the tablets are huge and hard to swallow. My doctor also wanted me to take a half dose once a  week, so now I'm taking Nature-Throid now, which is about 1/3 the cost, and it seems to be helping. I will know for sure when I get my tests in a few more weeks.

I wish I had asked for a referral to another endocrinologist instead of wasting time and money with the alternative practitioner. I thought I'd post this to help others going through the same thing.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

I'm still here

I realize I haven't posted for a while. I was going through a frustrating job search, and I wasn't in the mood to post much. I have been working on contract since June -- my contract was renewed for a few months in December, but the project I am working on is winding down, and I didn't see any hope of continuing it. I had an interview with a company I was really excited about, but they found someone with more experience -- though I felt like it went well, it didn't end in a job. I was really terrified of being out of work -- though my husband makes a good income, we couldn't live on his alone.

I ended up getting what I had given up on -- another extension of my contract, this time until the end of the year. I will be working in the learning and development department and will be getting lots of great new experience -- I'll get to see how a world-class company does talent development. I'm very hopeful about it -- it will put me in a better position to find something internal, and I'll be developing new skills that should make me more marketable externally.

In other news, I'm giving a TEDx talk next weekend. I'm still working on my talk but it is about work and how it relates to identity -- obviously something that has been on my mind.

My triathlon training continues -- I have decided not to go with a coach this time, and see what I can do on my own. I've already registered for a few races and am going to add a couple more to my schedule. I was afraid to commit to too much without knowing I would be working. Triathlons are expensive.

Finally, my husband and I are cutting back on expenses to pay down debt. I don't want to feel the panic I was feeling ever again. I gave up my Gwynnie Bee subscription, which I loved, because I decided I'd rather put that money toward feeling more financially stable. I'm glad I bought some of my favorite pieces. I really enjoyed the service and maybe I'll pick it up again in the future.

Hopefully I haven't lost everyone because of my long break. I have noticed a lot of my fellow bloggers slowing down. I think Facebook and Instagram and even Periscope are stealing some of the blogging thunder. I still check in with my old favorites now and then to see what's new.  I'm hoping to start updating more often, too.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

I'm an ENELL Race Ambassador

I was thrilled when I was originally selected as an ENELL Ambassador, and I am even more pleased to announce that I will be representing the brand again as a Race Ambassador.

I have worn my ENELL Sport in every triathlon and running race I have done in the last two years.  Here are a few of the highlights:

I did this race for a second time, 12 years after my debut. It was a hot, very difficult race for me but I was proud to make it to the finish.

This race was a giant mud mess, and a little disorganized, but I had fun racing with my friends. 


A tough, story, cold day for my big race of the year, but I got through it with a smile on my face.  My Scuba Blue ENELL looked great under my purple tri kit. It never let me down, unlike the rear tire on my bike.

I'm looking forward to another great season. I have a couple of big challenges planned, like The Battle of Waterloo and the Olympic distance tri at Grand Rapids, which happens to be the Athena championships.

Be sure to support the other ENELL Ambassadors, including several new ones. And also check out the 20% off sale on the ENELL Lite, which is perfect for everyday wear or light-impact activities like yoga. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A trip to the Florida Keys

Happy Belated New Year! It's hard to believe it's mid-January already.  I have been meaning to write this post for a while. Last year was such a hard winter that my husband and I swore a pact that we would go somewhere warm this winter. Ironically, this winter hasn't been that bad -- we have had only a few cold and snowy days, thanks to El NiƱo.

We still went, though. We flew into Miami and rented a car to drive down the Keys. The traffic was pretty bad -- after all, we decided to go during the very busiest time of year -- but the drive was fairly scenic and we could open the windows and smell the salt air. Once we got outside of the hectic Miami area, we were on a mostly two-lane road for miles and miles, crawling along at less than 20 miles per hour.

We stayed in a very nice bed and breakfast, the Barnacle Inn on Big Pine Key. We had actually stayed there quite a few years ago and really liked the quiet location. We could see so many stars at night, and there are small dog-sized key deer all over the island in the evening and morning hours.

Some photos from the B&B:

Deer nibbles on landscaping at the B&B

The sign
Courtyard from the rooftop
Sunrise over the private beach

Rooftop Lookout

View from the roof

Little tiki hut for B&B guests 

We also got to spend some time on a beautiful beach a few minutes from where we were staying, Bahia Honda State Park.

Key West was only an hour away when we wanted more excitement:

Old Town House decorated for Christmas

One of the beautiful roosters wandering everywhere 
Souvenir shopping

Cool old theater converted into a Walgreens

Performer at the drag show at Bourbon St. Pub

Yes, he is wearing a suit, it's just very small. And also a matching hat and elbow-length gloves.
We also had a few active adventures. One morning, we borrowed two of the kayaks from our B&B and paddled around. It was much harder than we thought it would be -- neither of us has done much kayaking or canoeing.

My husband took this photo of me kayaking.
My favorite part of the trip was snorkeling on Looe Key. We went with Strike Zone and they were great. My swim skills came in very handy. I felt totally comfortable in the water and got to see beautiful fish, coral, and even a shark. I moved very quickly away from the shark, which turned out to be totally harmless.

Pre-snorkeling selfie

It was hard to come back to reality. I literally felt like it was summer again while I was there, and all of the things that have been worrying me vanished from my mind while I was surrounded by sun, sand, and surf. Of course, it all came right back when we landed in Detroit.

"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07