Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Summer work conference - excercise

If fitness is important to you, then it's important to maintain it while traveling.  I was in the middle of marathon training at this point, and a full week conference is a long time.  I brought some running shorts, tanks, sports bras, and a good pair of running shoes, so that I could work out in the hotel gym and/or run outside.  Even if I wasn't in the middle of training I probably would have brought this stuff - running is a great way to see a city.  It turned out to be a great way to see some of New York.  And, at some conferences, running can be a great way to network.  It didn't quite turn out like that here, but I did join the conference-associated running group a couple mornings.  While it wasn't amazing networking, it was really fun, and it was energizing before the long conference days. 

The shorts in the pocket and the flask I'm carrying are important for city runs in a new place - where I can't rely on water fountains and where I'd want to have my phone and a map with me.

If you are staying at or near the conference hotels, you also have to make sure that your workout gear is something you're comfortable with others seeing you in.  Sure enough, someone commented later in the day on Tuesday that they had seen me in the gym - and complimented me on my tricep extensions.  LOL.  These shorts are long enough, and the tank loose enough, that I feel comfortable, but they are still practical for the summer heat.  If I had anything more in the chest area, I may have gone for a higher-cut sports bra or tank, but given there's basically nothing there, I don't get self conscious about that.

(Shorts: Lululemon, tank: old navy, sports bra: Champion for Target, running shoes: from a local running shop - always go to a good local running shop to get fitted for the right shoes for you!, hand flask: Nathan (amazing design which make the hand flask feel really light and makes it so easy to carry) purchased through Amazon)

Summer conference day 5: Wow it is hot

Philly was over 100 degrees and extremely humid while I was there.  This dress is one I feel comfortable in without the blazer if necessary, even though it's sleeveless.  I ended up wearing the blazer when we were inside because air conditioning was strong enough, but it was nice to be able to go sleeveless in the heat outside. 

I also love this dress because it is cut like a perfectly prim and proper work sheath, yet it is made from a denim fabric. There's just something so subtle and cool about that. 

The name tag at this conference was clip on instead of ribbon, so I could wear a necklace and still have my name tag nice and high. 

(Dress and blazer: White house black market. Pumps: Tory Burch. Cami: Spanx, purchased at Nordstrom - I know I don't really need to be held in, especially with this magically flattering dress, but the spanx tanks just stay in place so well, and are nice and thin and slick so clothing doesn't stick to them.)

Summer conference day 4: A train ride

Day 4 included checking out of my New York hotel, taking a train to Philadelphia with my luggage, checking in to the Philadelphia hotel if I had time but possibly not having time and possibly not having a room ready even if I did, and then going to the Philadelphia conference.  So I needed clothes that could be comfy and professional.

This is how I played it:
I wore the tan cropped pants and the magenta top.  But for the train ride I wore them with my cozy athliesure jacket and black jellies.  At the very top of my suitcase was my black blazer and a pair of heels, which I could easily pull out and change into in the hotel lobby or at the Philly train station.  It totally worked!  I only took pics of the conference version, but you can imagine how practical the train version was for travel.  The comfy outfit really came in handy with all the fast walking I had to do around the hot train stations - especially when our first train had issues and we had to switch to a second one. 

(Pants, top, blazer: White house black market. Not shown jacket: Athleta, shoes: Mox.  Shoes shown: super old from Macy's.)

Summer conference day 3: presenting

I like to wear pants when I present.  I tend to walk all over the place, possibly sit on a table - it's just more comfortable in pants.  And, for whatever reason, I don't like to emphasize that I'm a woman when I'm presenting - I just feel like people can focus better on the content when I'm not showing my legs.  At the same time, I like to wear a bright color.  First, it's somewhat my signature.  Second, it helps to keep people awake.  It's harder to fall asleep with a bright red shirt walking all over the room and every once in a while standing right in front of you. 

I wanted to wear a necklace with this outfit, so I let my nametag hang lower this time.  I figured at this point the people I wanted to meet/re-meet had met me, and when I was presenting everyone would know who I am (my slides all have my name on them in a corner, again as a reminder while I present). 

This conference is not too formal, so I planned to carry my blazer but largely not wear it.  Again, the temperature made that more comfortable.  For the same conference but in the winter, I'd probably have sleeves rolled down and wear the blazer. 

(Suit and necklace: J-crew factory, blouse: Express slim fit (I love these Express blouses - there is a regular fit and this slim fit, and they look great and last well, for a very reasonable price), belt: Ralph Lauren, shoes: so old that they are starting to die severely enough that I'm not sure a cobbler can fix them and I am so so so sad.)

Summer conference day 2: blazerless

I've obviously fallen way behind, but I'm going to start where I left off and play catch-up.  This was my outfit on the second day of my New York/Philadelphia conference trip.  This is a dress, though it looks like 2 pieces.  What I like about this dress and outfit is that I can go blazerless and still look put together.  I had discovered on day 1 of the conference that the rooms were warm enough that I'd be more comfortable without the blazer.  And if I'm not going to wear it, it's easier to just not carry it around with me.  This dress also satisfies the criterion of being striking enough that people will notice me - so I don't have to put as much effort into identifying people I know - they'll see me first.  

I knew the shoes were not going to be incredibly comfortable.  This was my first full day wearing them - they need to be broken in.  So I carried my black jelly flats in my bag just in case.  I ended up using them when I left the conference at lunch-time on my own.  They definitely came in handy, and with that little break, my feet made it through the whole day just fine.  

I also captured how high I wear my name tag - again, so it's easy for people to see my name tag when they're looking at me.  That will help them to see my name and affiliation, associate it with me, and remember me.  It's a bit awkward looking down at someone's waist, or worse yet their chest, to check their name tag.

On to post the day 3 outfit!  :)

(Dress and earrings: white house black market, last year.  Pumps: Tory Burch, on sale - I've learned her stuff almost always goes on sale but sells out *super* fast once it does, so if you like Tory Burch stuff put yourself on the email list to be notified when sales start, and then act fast!  Flats: black jelly flats from Mox.)

Monday, October 10, 2016

My first marathon!

It's been a while since I've done a fitness-related post, but I have to record this one in painstaking detail.  I just ran a marathon!  An entire full 26.2 mile marathon.  And I had such a great time!

I started preparing for my October 9 marathon at the start of May.  I picked an 18-week training plan, and then spent a month getting ready for it to make sure that the plan wouldn't be too much for me.  I built in an extra 2 weeks into the plan to account for likely delays due to work or colds or such.  So overall, I pretty much prepared for 24 weeks - a little over 5 months. 

For me, being the nerd that I am, preparing included reading, listening to running books and podcasts while running, and frequenting a message board of like-minded but more-experienced runners.  The running itself was typically 4-5 days a week, including one "hard" run which was either hill repeats (there's only one hill around here, so I went up and down and up and down and ...) or a faster "marathon pace" run.  The rest of my runs, including one "long run" per week, were all very very slow. 

The plan also had "step back weeks" so after building up to a new longer distance, the next week would have fewer miles to allow the body to rest and recover. 

Overall it was a really nice conservative plan.  And I have an excel spreadsheet with all the details.  :)

I kept up with my weight training, pilates, etc., at first, but it slowly dropped off as my running increased.  By the time I hit 50 miles of running a week, I was lucky if I got in one 1/2 hour pilates session during the week, and that was it.  It just became too hard to get it all in.  So I am looking forward to working on those other aspects of my fitness regime now that the race is over (while keeping up my running at a more moderate level).

By the time of the race, I had run 3 20-mile runs and a 22.5 mile run in training, and had practiced all of the race-specific things like carrying my flask, using "fuel" (race-specific food to keep you going), etc. And I had "tapered" the last 3 weeks - allowing my legs to rest more, and carbo-loading to stock up the glycogen stores in my muscles.

The race itself:
When I was preparing, I looked for "my first marathon" articles/stories online, and they were all horrible!  So many dumb mistakes, so many stories of horrible painful finishes.  I think my nerdiness helped a lot here, because even skimming a single short quick-read marathon book would allow most people to avoid a lot of those mistakes.  I was lucky to also have the great advice of that online group along the way - that helped a lot. 

I packed my "gear check" bag the day before, laid out all of my race gear the night before, and went to bed early while hubby took the kids to a Halloween party.

I woke up at 3am on race morning.  The race started at 6.  I wanted to get there at least an hour early.  It's a 40 minute drive without road closures.  I wanted to have breakfast before.  etc.  I got ready, had breakfast, took my first ever Uber ride.  But forgot my coffee!  Oops.  Oh well.  We ran into road-closure barricades even though roads weren't officially supposed to be closed yet, but a friendly bicyclist told us we could just drive through at one point, and a police officer one block on confirmed.  So we got across, then got close enough that I could get out and walk.  I found gear check and checked my bag.  Then I settled in on the curb near-ish to porta-potties and had some more to eat.  It was pretty deserted at that point, but slowly all the runners trickled in. 
 I hung out on my spot on the curb until 5:25 and used the potties.  Then I ended up chatting with someone who's done over 300 marathons - walking all of them.  He had recently had eye surgery and was going to walk this one with a patch over one eye.  Finally I got up to warm up, stretch a little, and find my "pace group."

The race has pacers who hold up signs for certain goal finish times and then run at a steady speed to get to the finish at that time.  My plan was to start with the 4:25 pacers and then slowly fall behind, or at least not pass them.  A lot of the horrible finishes to marathons are due to runners starting out too fast.  I wanted to avoid that mistake.  But at first, all I could see were 4:10 (WAY too fast), and 4:55 (too slow).  Finally, just a few minutes before the start, the 4:25 signs popped up and I made my way through the crowd to them.  A little idle chit-chat, I tossed my "throw-away sweater" aside, and we were off.

At 6am it was already warm enough that I was comfortable standing around in shorts and a tank top.  Running felt great.  Cool enough to be comfortable, but warm enough that I was comfortable and loose from the start.  I fell into a rythm, and enjoyed the run.  It was a little crowded for the first few miles, but not bad, and I avoided another energy-sapping mistake: weaving.  I fell behind the pace group on every uphill, and caught up on every downhill.  Note to self: May need to do more hill training to build up that uphill strength.  The roads were also very strongly "cambered" for the first 6 miles - sloping one way or another.  That was tiring for the feet and ankles, and I hadn't trained on roads like that so I wasn't prepared.  But I don't think it hurt me overall.  At mile 2 my foot started to go into a pothole and I lifted it back out before rolling my ankle.  Man that made my heartrate jump!  I could have rolled my ankle at mile 2!!  Luckily I did not, and it made me watch the road more carefully going forward.  

The course was stunning for the first 6 miles.  We went over a bridge at mile 2-3 and to our left was the sun rising over the ocean, with the Queen Mary ship to our right and the aquarium and harbor to our left.  It was stunning.  We went by the port with it's big cranes.  We ran on the freeway!  At mile 6 after doing some looping around, we were running right by the water and Pelicans were gliding just above, and several types of birds were swooping into the water nabbing fish.  The sun was still just rising and the sky was streaked with colorful light wispy clouds (which burned off all too soon). 
Here are a couple of the official Marathon pics to give you an idea:

We looped back past the start area where the half marathoners were now getting ready for their start, and then we got onto a beach path.  This was not as nice as it could have been because we were running straight into the sun, and the sun was just over the horizon!  I ended up pulling my visor *way* down and looking a little bit down at the path.  But I took a few moments to appreciate the view - the beach path is quite lovely in Long Beach, with cliffs to the left and islands out in the water to the right. 

We looped back onto the street and a slight uphill.  Then turned around to head inland through a few different neighborhoods.  This was a fun part of the course, but also the section where I got really frustrated with water.  On most races, there's a water station every 1.5-2 miles where tables are set up with cups of water and/or some electrolyte drink like Gatorade (here it was Nuun).  Volunteers hold the cups up so that runners can easily grab them as they pass.  Here was the problem: The first inland station was only electrolyte drink.  It would upset my stomach.  The second one was only coconut water.  Same thing.  So I ended up going over 5 miles without a water station!  Luckily I had carried a flask with me just in case, but I drained it before mile 4 of that stretch, and then I was left wondering when I'd find water again.  When I finally got to the water station, they weren't very good at refilling my bottle, so I had to basically put it down on a table and fill it with cups of water. 

Very soon after that I passed the half way mark, but the sun was starting to get hot, and the water debacle had taken a little energy out of me, so I officially gave up on my under-4:30 goal.  I had known I'd have to with the forecasted heat, but that's when it really sank in. 

The amazing thing - the moment I really truly gave up on my time goal, I started enjoying the race MORE!  I started shouting back to the spectators and people cheering, making silly comments about their signs or thanking them for being there.  I started watching the other runners more from a people-watching perspective than a running/racing perspective.  We hit a stretch where we could see runners coming the other way - and these were FAST runners - ones who were running a full marathon in 3 hours or less - it was amazing to see them. 

And at mile 15 I saw my mom and youngest brother!  They had come out super early to see me at that point in the race - they had to drive out from several towns away, and then walk out from my brother's place.  But they were there.  The stretch where I saw them for some reason had gotten pretty deserted.  No one was coming the other way, and in my direction the runners had gotten fairly spread out.  So my mom got some good pictures.  I was SO happy to see them there.  I waved like crazy and blew them a couple kisses.  :) 

The next mile was somewhat shaded, and a slight downhill, and I was energized and happy.  There was a live band playing 80s music on a sunny corner.  And then, we turned right into the sun.  It was no longer near the horizon.  It was higher, shining brightly, and hot.  The street was wide and there was no shade - just asphalt reflecting the light and heat back up at us.  And I knew that we'd be on this road for 2 miles.  It was mile 15.84 - I kid you not, I remember that moment so clearly - and oh I was not happy about the next 2 miles.  And then, at about mile 16.5, my very favorite spectator besides my family showed up - a woman holding a tray full of tiny cups of ice.  I took a cup of ice, and for the next half mile felt oh so good.  It gave me just what I needed to keep me going strong right onto the Cal State Long Beach campus.

Cal State Long Beach is a local University. The campus is pretty.  The band was playing as we entered.  At various points there were groups of students cheering.  There was a DJ playing in one spot.  But it also has the biggest hill of the whole course.  A hill so big that one running coach at a local running shoe store had told me to expect to lose 2 minutes on it.  I didn't quite lose that much, but wow it was steep.  And even coming back down - it was so steep that it was hard on the legs.  Then we came out onto the longest pure-sunny stretch of the race - over 3 miles with not a single spot of shade.  I once again wished there were more-frequent water stations, but I managed okay with my flask.  I definitely slowed.  But I didn't feel bad about it all.  My #1 goal, as the forecasted temps had crept up the prior week, had become "Finish without heat exhaustion" and slowing down was required for that.  And the amazing thing is I started to pass people.  A lot of people.  I was slowing down, for sure, but a lot of the other runners were slowing much more.

When we turned the corner near that band again, we were at mile 20.  Only 6.2 to go - but everyone describes a marathon as 2 races - a 20 mile race, and a 6.2 mile race.  It's that 6.2 mile race that gets people.  And I was about to start that second race - HOT.  On the way down that street the first time, we'd been in the shade.  Back up we were in full sun.  And now, for 1 mile, the main thought in my head was "Oh no, my family is going to see me at this point.  I have to muster up some strength.  I want to look good for them!"  But when I turned the corner onto the street they would be on, I didn't have to fake it.  Knowing they were going to be there renewed my energy.  And when I actually saw them - Oh man it was amazing.  They had stationed themselves on a corner so I was running straight towards them and then turned away from them.  I could hear my little 5 year old boy from over 100 yards away shouting "Go Mommy, Go!"  (I love his big huge voice.)  And I could hear my little 3 year old girl when I got a little closer.  And I could see them both running and shouting and cheering.  Hubby, both my brothers, and my mom were there too.  It was amazing.  I just waved and shouted out "My Loves!" as I ran past them, and I was on a high for another 1/2 mile. 

At mile 22, I got a text from one of our friends. I didn't read the text of course, but my running watch let me know that a text had come in from her, and I knew she must have been texting to send me good wishes for the race.  That gave me another boost.  At this point I was starting to see runners stopped on the side of the road to stretch.  A couple were sitting on the curb, their elbows on their knees and their backs hunched over.  This was "the wall" people talked about.  But I still felt solid.  Tired of course, but solid. 

And finally, around mile 23, my "fast music" kicked in.  I had planned my playlist so that the highest-energy music was saved for the end.  Around mile 23.5 we merged in with the half marathoners, and since it was the tail end of the half marathon they were mostly walkers.  The organizers had set up coned lanes, but there were no signs or people to direct us for where runners and walkers should go, so it was just a big mess.  With whatever energy I had left, and my fast music pumping me on, I just went for it.  I ran with whatever I had left, weaved through the walkers and around the cones, and ran to the finish.  As I was approaching the finish line, I saw the big race clock reading 4:34:4x.  I pushed with everything I had left to get in under 4:35.  I didn't know what time I passed the starting line, but I knew that if I hit the finish under 4:35, I'd be under 4:35 overall.  Given the heat, and since I'd just let myself run by feel after mile 14, I had assumed I'd be coming in over 4:45 and possibly closer to 5:00.  Seeing that time on the clock was crazy. 

They gave us an ice-cold wet towel after crossing the finish line and oh man that was amazing.  I got my medal, collected up my baggie of snacks, a couple water bottles and a coconut-water can (not good for me while running, but perfect after), and just kept walking to prevent my blood pressure from dropping too suddenly after the race (with one pause for a selfie - that's the finish line in the background). 

Hubby and I exchanged some texts, I picked up my gear check bag, walked out to where hubby was.  And originally he was parked on this street with an ever-so-slight hill I'd have to walk up to get to him.  I was staring at that hill ahead of me and it looked almost overwhelming.  He drove down to the bottom.  :)  I got in, we went home, with a quick stop at a gas station to use the restroom - oops forgot to use the porta-potties after the race, and it had been ...  oh, 6 hours. 

When we got home I checked the weather and it was 86 at that point.  I don't know how hot it had been during the race, but almost certainly at least 80 by the finish. 

My official time was 4:33:32.  And my experience was just amazing.  I loved running this marathon.  I hope I get a chance to run more.  No more than one a year, for sure - it was a huge undertaking, and definitely hard on the body.  I'm pretty sore and stiff today, and I know from my reading that it will take at least a month before my body fully recovers.  But wow, it was amazing.  I may look for one a little later in the fall next year, given that these So-Cal October heat waves are not ideal running weather, but I may do this same race again - especially if my family would come out again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer conference day 1.5: post red-eye

After the red eye I just wanted something easy to change into. But I also wanted to make sure that I would stand out, in a good way. I'm not good at spotting people at a conference and recognizing them and going to say hi. If people spot me, that improves my networking immensely. So I make it easy for people to spot me. Hence: easy and not much thought required dress and blazer, but in eye-catching white and black. I also wear my name tag high so it is close to my face. People are often unsure about names and it can make them hesitate to talk to someone. If I make it easy for them, they're more likely to talk to me, and more likely to remember my name-face combo. (And let's face it, it's awkward looking at anyone's chest or lower to see their name, but it's especially awkward looking at a youngish woman's chest.)
By the way, I was overdue for a new work bag.  After months of searching, including slightly higher-end lines like Tory Burch, Coach, Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Brahmin, I ended up buying a new one of the exact bag I had before, but this time in black.  I'm super picky about functionality - the bag has to fit my laptop, zip closed at the top, have two main compartments so notepads and laptop can be on one side and little things on the other side, loops to hold pens, a slot for my phone, another slot for cards or small items.  That's the minimum.  Most of those lines I listed above had bags that were open at the top!  The chances of everything spilling out of my bag at inopportune times was just way too high.  And the few that did zip on top were just one big space inside, which wouldn't work for me - everything would get lost in there.  

The bag I got is Giani Bernini, sold at Macy's, and is 100% leather.  I like this line - it's all leather, decent quality, and just so well thought out for functionality.  The quality is definitely lower than Tory Burch, or other lines in that range, but since it's so inexpensive I can buy a new one every year or two, and always have a bag that looks fresh and new (and as my style evolves, I can change bags without feeling guilty, which is nice for me).  I couldn't find the exact bag that I'm carrying on the Macy's website, but I think they often restock it in the fall - it's more of a fall/winter item (though I of course carry it year round for work). 

(Dress and blazer: White house black market; Shoes and bag: Macy's)

Summer conference day 1: the red-eye

A red eye flight calls for comfy cozy clothing, but going straight to the conference hotel upon arrival requires professional-appropriate clothing. I wasn't going to the conference itself directly, but there was a high chance of running into people in the lobby. Hence: yoga dress pants, a super soft but modest and slightly dressy t, sports bra rather than normal bra 'cause who can sleep with underwire?, and my new athleta hope jacket - a great travel fabric. The jacket was for mid-flight when the plane gets cold and I need a little something to help me feel cozy and sleep.  

I also wore my new black jelly flats ( which are ridiculously amazing.  They conform to your feet, so they are super comfy.  I had a gold pair I wore all summer, but I bought the black in advance of this trip since they would be more versatile for work travel and fall.  A friend of a friend sells the Mox Shoes and basically they spread through our whole group of friends.  (And no, they're not sweaty like the old jelly shoes of the 80's.)

And yes, the conference was last week.  But I'll post the outfits this week, now that I'm back and life is a *tiny* bit less crazy. 

(Pants and jacket: Athleta, T-shirt: White house black market, Sports bra: Champion for Target, Shoes: Mox)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yoga pant work pants

Inspired by my friend K-, I decided to get a pair of yoga-pant-comfy pants. Mine are from athleta. They're really just ponte pants, which means they are soft and stretchy, but they are styled like casual work pants or dressy casual pants, with a fly, front pockets, belt loops, rear patch pockets, and nice clean side seams. 

At first I planned to wear them out and about, but not to work. Then I decided to try them for work. Now I've worn them 3 times. And they work!  I won't wear them when I'm doing a presentation or anything, but for a more casual work day, they are fine.

So, pros: So so so so comfy.  The first day I wore them I actually did some squat-jumps and spidermans in my office, just to test them out - worked great.  :)  And the stretchiness means they fit perfectly (no more pants falling down mid-day).
Cons: A little more snug than typical of work wear - not so much grazing as hugging.  I took some closeups of the hip areas (lifting my shirt up a bit so it shows clearly) to give you a feel.  I think they are fine in dark colors, but I wouldn't get a light colored pair for the office.

I've worn them with longer/looser tops, and that has worked nicely.  Today's is actually the most fitted and shortest top I've worn with it.  I don't think I would ever tuck something into these - it just wouldn't look quite right I think.  But we'll see - maybe with a nice belt...  I promise I will experiment.  I forgot to take pics of my first couple of outfits with these pants, but I'll try to post more going forward.  Out of all my work clothes, I suspect this is the one that you, my wonderful readers, might be most likely to adopt for yourselves.  Pencil dresses with 4 inch heels are all well and good, but this...  Ahhhh.  :)

(Pants: Athleta (, red tank, flats, earrings: white house black market, White/cream sweater: Old Navy)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

White dress for work

I love white dresses but have never bought one for work before.  The color blocking on this one makes it work appropriate though.  It's too low cut on it's own, but I owned the perfect beige cami to put underneath.  And it is surprisingly flattering for a white fitted dress.  Plus it actually works with my comfy mid-heeled wedges!  I took the blazer just in case - air conditioning, wanting to be modest, something like that.  But didn't end up wearing it at all.  It is definitely summer!
I think the keys to making it work for work are the fit - pencil dress but still loose enough over the hips and butt - and the thick fabric and lining which make it truly opaque and ensure that little lumps and bumps won't show.  The color blocking and meticulous seaming are the final details that make it work.  I was amazed I got this dress at the price I did - I think a lot of people were nervous about a white pencil dress when they saw it online.  But after this, I'd encourage anyone to give it a try if they're feeling bold.  (Just so you know, I basically wore a bib while eating my salad in my office today - and ordered a color-less drink when I met someone for coffee this afternoon - so there is that.)
(Shoes: Payless shoes source, Dress and blazer: White house black market, Purse: I'll do a dedicated post on this one soon! Tory Burch, shell earrings with silver trim: White house black market, necklace: old and from some cheaper store like Kohl's.  The matching earrings died long ago, but the necklace has survived for a long time! I'm excited I found these WHBM earrings which go so well with it.)

Summer solstice outfit

It has finally started to really feel like Summer here, and it happened to be Summer Solstice on Monday - a day that I have mixed feelings about.  I love the long day, but it always makes me a little sad that the days will start getting shorter.  Regardless, I was feeling very summery.  I decided to go for heels, even though I have mostly been trying to wear more practical shoes.  I was pretty comfortable, and able to run the next day without pain.  BUT, I took that evening off - I think running the same day would have stressed my calves and feet a bit too much. 
I got so many compliments and comments on this outfit (from my mostly male colleagues).  Everyone enjoyed how summery it was, and loved the shoes.  I'm really enjoying my white culottes.  I got them on a whim because they were heavily discounted, but they have turned out to be one of my best recent work-clothes purchases. 
(Sweater: old! Pants and belt: White house black market, shoes: Vince Camuto, from DSW (that brand is also sold at a lot of department stores, esp. Nordstroms), earrings: small boutique near my house.)

Monday, May 23, 2016

The perfect white sweater and my red blazer

I tend to wear this blazer a bit more buttoned up. Literally. But today I wore it open and casual, and the weather was such that I had it on about half the time and off half the time.  I'm also loving this sweater every time I wear it. I hope whbm makes more of these. I will even pay almost full prices for them. 

I've been making a concerted effort to gain a little weight lately, but in a healthy way. It's a slow process, but I think it's starting to show - check out my butt!  Lol.

(Pants - banana republic, sweater - White House black market, blazer - Ann Taylor, shoes - Payless shoe source)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Casual workwear

I'm wearing actual flats - pointy toe so as to be more professional, but they're still flats!  And these pants have jeans styling, though they are made of a nice trouser fabric. This is my version of casual-but-professional. 

(Whole outfit: White House black market, but banana republic Sloan pants are very similar (I have both))

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Another new pair of comfy work shoes

Near the beginning of summer last year, I went to Payless Shoe Source to get a cheap pair of quasi-disposable sandals or flip-flops.  I happened upon a pair of nude fake-suede wedge pumps with a 2-2.5" heel.  I like the idea of a comfortable neutral summer-friendly shoe, and they were super cheap, so I bought them.
As my running has ramped up, I've found myself going to that pair of shoes more and more often.  The low wedge heel is comfortable, but the shoes look so much better with dresses, pencil skirts, and ankle pants, than flats do.  So I decided to get more!  After searching for comfortable practical but cute shoes at various other stores for a few months, and staring at the pair of low-heeled Ferragamo's that I bought in the fall and haven't worn once, I made another trip to Payless Shoe Source.  And sure enough, I found two pairs.  Plus a bonus pair of flats.  Not only are these comfortable so far (on day 1 - I can't imagine how much better they'll be once they break in) - but they were on clearance for $10!  The burgundy fake-patent pair I wore last week for my birthday are a little taller and a little less comfy, but still much better than most of my skinny-4"-heels.  And they were also on clearance for $10. 
The nude ones I've had for over a year are "deflex comfort" brand, as are these black ones.  The burgundy ones were different, but also nicely padded on the inside.  Payless shoe sources' heels are awful.  I tried a few on just for fun while I was there, and they are not well balanced, forcing the wearer to use their own muscles to do all the balancing.  But the chunky heels and wedges were pretty impressive.  The flats have no support whatsoever, and seem like they will wear out quickly, but for running quick errands, I think they'll be great.
SO, if you were curious about payless shoe source, this is my impression.  I've been incredibly impressed by how well those nude wedges have lasted, and I liked them so much that I ended up going back to buy these additional pairs.  That says a lot.
Oh, and you know Christian Siriano from project runway?  He has a Payless shoe source line!  SO CUTE!  The shoes are way too expensive at full price, given that they are still payless shoe source quality (but amazing design).  But on sale or clearance, they're really reasonable.  The flats I bought are from his line.  I'll wear them soon and post pics.  :)
(Sweater and pants: White house black market, Shoes: Payless shoe source.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Culottes for summer

Culottes are undeniably comfortable. And are very much on trend. So the question is  whether they can actually look good on a normal woman in a normal setting. 

The current blogger fasion trend is generally to pair high-waisted culottes with a slightly cropped top to allow a couple of inches of stomach to show. I would not consider that a normal-setting outfit. This version created a similar proportion with the boxy tucked-in top, but is still work- church- or family-function friendly. 

I think culottes look best on long torsos or on women who look good in a-line skirts. I'm neither of those, but I think I can pull them off anyway. Hubby even liked them, complimenting me this morning, which took me by surprise. Also, if you're at all self conscious about your thighs - culottes will camouflage them completely. 

(Top: jcrew factory, culottes: White House black market, shoes: Payless shoe source)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A denim dress

When I was a kid, my mom would get me a new outfit for my birthday every year.  It was usually a cute girly dress.  All these years later, I still love the idea of a birthday outfit.  I bought this dress a couple months ago, but I've saved it for my birthday.  And the shoes are brand new too. 
Denim is a huge trend right now.  Denim everything.  I'm not a chambray shirt girl, and denim jackets just don't work on me.  But this denim dress is just my style.  It's an unusual take on denim.  The fabric is sleek, thin, and has just the right stretch, and the dress is amazingly well tailored.  I'm not that curvy, but it makes me look like I am! 
This dress could be a little low cut for work if you have much of a chest.  In that case I would have worn a cami underneath.  But I decided that given my current physique, it doesn't really look low-cut at all, and the dress is so well cut and the fabric is substantial enough that I don't feel like I need the smoothing of a spanx cami, so I went without. 
Oh, and with blazer:

(Dress and earrings: White house black market, probably on sale now.  Shoes: Payless shoe source!  I'm going to do a whole post on these and a couple other payless shoe source purchases I think.  Not a store you probably expect me to frequent.)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Rolled sleeve blazer

This blazer is about 4 sizes too big for me. But I love the way it drapes, and it's just such a nice complement to more fitted bottoms. I usually don't roll the sleeves on my blazers, but on this one it made a huge difference!  The blazer went from looking frumpy to stylish with just a few rolls of the sleeves. I also love the confident casual professional look of business wear with rolled sleeves. 

I've also officially accepted that my joints can either handle heels or handle running, but can't handle a lot of both. So expect to see more low-heel and flats outfits going forward!  I enjoy wearing my heels, but it turns out I enjoy running more!

(Pants: banana republic Sloan fit. Sweater: White House black market. Blazer: j crew. Earrings: super cute little local store.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Replacement shoes (and belt)

This is basically an outfit I've worn before - I do love this dress.  But my old black comfy pumps have been dying for a long time.  They were still comfy, but just didn't look that good.  So I finally made a concerted effort to find replacements.  I did a search for the same brand online, and found out that they still made roughly the same shoe!  Woohoo!  :)  So, I bought the update.  I still have to break them in, but they definitely do look a lot better.  For fun, take a look at old vs. new:

The new ones have a more almond rather than round toe, slimmer heel (though still wide enough to be hopefully stable and comfortable), and lower-cut sides.  And they are actually more padded!  They definitely look just a bit better, besides being shiny and new. 

The belt is new too - I had a couple of different black belts die on me at the same time.  I'm still in search of a good basic one, but got a couple of fun ones, including this, for now. 

(Dress: Roland Mouret for Banana Republic, shoes: Bandolino from Macy's, belt: White house black market)

Friday, March 18, 2016

New Dress

Teaching quarter, with its insane level of work, and fairly boring pantsuits, is finally over. I still have to grade, but no more class. So expect to see more posts as I wear clothes that I'm a little more excited about. ;)  And as I'm working on my research and hence needing occasional mental breaks.  :) 

Today's outfit is super comfy but still cute.  The dress is a little shorter than I usually go for in a work dress.  And it's really sleeveless, which I also try to avoid (but have slowly gotten over - Southern California is a sleeveless kind of place).  But the diagonal stripes and the neutral color combo were just too perfect, so I went for it.  The shoes worked well too - they are so comfortable and practical, but still looked nice.  This is a pair that I occasionally ponder getting rid of, because for some reason they are not always comfortable.  But I think I'm starting to understand when they are and aren't - has to do with water retention.  Bleh - womanhood.

(Dress: White house black market, currently in stock on sale, blazer: White house black market last year, shoes: Payless shoe source! Dexflex comfort.  One of their ongoing designs that they bring back every year in different fabrics/materials and variations (open toe or closed).)

I ordered a new phone with a better camera!  We'll see if my picture quality improves next week.  :)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Banana Republic

I have a few fall-back stores that I get most of my clothes from: White house black market, J-crew Factory, Old Navy for activewear.  But I still like to explore other stores.  I hadn't gone to Banana Republic in a while, but ended up spending several hours there on a Friday afternoon before Christmas.  This is my take:

  • The quality of the items at Banana Republic is very good for the (sale) price (or the prices are very good for the quality).  This is especially true for the work clothing.  Casual clothing the quality was a little more variable, but there was some nice stuff in there.  
  • The styles are nicely updated, but still quite classic, as you would expect for Banana Republic.  The fits are mostly traditional Banana Republic fits - so if you have hips, Banana Republic will work great.  Their newer Sloan fit works well for women with my shape - i.e. women shaped like boys.  This was a pleasant surprise since for many years Banana Republic just didn't have any bottoms that would fit me. 
  • They have great suits for amazing prices!  If you need a new suit, check out Banana Republic.  

  • At full price, the prices are only so-so.  But the store frequently has "everything in the store 40% off" promotions.  So keep an eye out for one of those.
  • Their sizes often do not go down very far.  The size 0 was often too big for me, and they don't have a 00 in many styles.  There's a reason the pics below do not include a fabulous new Banana Republic suit - they were all too big for me!
  • At least at the store I went to, the checkout process was painfully slow.  They have to often manually put in sale prices.  If they have convinced you to order something online (different size/color) that they didn't have in store, that takes forever - much longer than if you just go online later and buy it.  And so on.  These are issues related to the systems that corporate has put in place, so I'm guessing these problems will arise at other stores as well.  It was over half an hour, and closer to 45 minutes, from the time I got in line to when I stepped away from the checkout desk.  
I ended up getting a couple pairs of pants, a couple tops, and one ridiculously stylish blazer, but I probably won't go back for a while.  Here are some pics:

(Pants, shirt, blazer: banana republic. Pants are Sloan fit size 0, shirt is non-iron slim fit satin finish size 2, blazer is 00p.  Shoes: Nordstrom, and I bought a second pair in my size because I love these so much!)

(Pants: banana republic, Sloan fit size 0. The fabric on these is amazing. It has great texture and weight but is still a little stretchy and very comfortable. Blouse: New York and company. Shoes so old I can't remember, but totally work for the girly menswear look. I also paired this with my red blazer from Ann Taylor)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Half Marathon Race Report

I did it!  I ran a half marathon!

I'm pretty happy with my time too: 2:05:52.  SO, let me give you the full report.

I started training early because I knew January, the last month before the race, would get crazy for me with teaching and conferences.  October, when I was training for the 10k, I ran 40 miles.  November, starting to train for the half, I ran 80.  December I ran 120.

Then, sure enough, January turned out to be crazy.  It was actually even worse than I expected.  I came down with a cold, it turned into a sinus infection, when that finally got better I got the flu.  All together I was basically out of running for 3 weeks (luckily with 2 good runs in between the sinus infection and flu), and when I finally felt good enough to run - I had less than 2 weeks left before the race.  The last week before a longer race like this needs to be a "taper" week with less running, to let the legs rest up.  That left me with just a few days to do some longer runs, and try to rebuild some of that lost fitness.  Obviously it wasn't enough.  So I wasn't sure what to expect going into the race Sunday.  I just crossed my fingers and hoped that my November/December training had built a solid enough base of fitness, and that my few runs in January and February had been enough to maintain some of that base.

Race Morning:
I have two running buddies that I normally race with.  One opted out of the half because she felt the mileage would be too tough on her knees - which is probably the sane approach.  But she offered to drive me and other-running-buddy to the race!  That was *awesome.*  We didn't have to stress about driving and parking, or try to walk super-far and get tired before the race even started.  So all three of us met at my house before 7am, and drove over to the race.  She dropped us off, and race-buddy and I made our way to the starting area.

The Starting Line:
The Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon is a huge race.  Last year there were 20,000 runners.  I think this year was slightly smaller, but still over 15,000.  So you can just imagine - over 12,000 runners all lined up to start the half marathon together.  To make it work, they have "corrals" - areas for different bib numbers, which are based on peoples' self-reported estimated finish times.  They start a corral, wait two minutes, and then start the next corral.  And each corral has pacers to help people in the group stick to their estimated finish time if they want to.  My running buddy suggested we start with the 2:15 pacers - the ones targeting a finish time of two hours 15 minutes, and I was okay with that. 

The corral-start is a good idea.  But it turns out it breaks down completely at Surf City.  We didn't realize this, and my running buddy and I lined up pretty much where we were supposed to - in corral 5.  It turns out we really should have put ourselves in corral 2.  Instead, we ended up having to weave through thousands of runners and walkers who were much slower than us.  This was tiring and slowed us down.  Lesson learned for next year.  

Miles 1-4 (9:38, 9:24, 9:55, 9:25):
The first couple of miles are a straight run along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). 
Every race I tell my running buddy "Okay, let's start slow and pace ourselves.  Let's stick with our pacers," and then the moment I cross the starting line, I'm weaving through the crowd passing annoyingly slow people.  Every time I pass someone I speed up a little to do so, and I never slow back down!  So of course instead of the planned 10:15 pace, I ended up going 9:40 or faster.  Oops.  But my running buddy kept up, and eventually we got to an area with enough open space that we could run next to each other and chat a little, which is always fun.  

Just past mile 1, we ran past my street, and my husband and kids were there to cheer me on.  It was so amazing seeing them there.  The photographer got a good picture of me waving to them as I ran past.

At mile 3 we hit our first water stop, and I got completely stopped up.  Someone fell next to me, slipping on the dropped cups.  People were stopping (stopping completely, not walking) at the station, and I got surrounded by people standing still.  It was a mess.  You can see that mile 3 was 30 seconds slower than the miles before and after - and I think that awful water stop was a big reason why.  Subsequent water stops went better though because I passed more of those runners who probably hadn't run many races before and didn't know how to handle the water stops, and I myself got better at doing a quick enter to get the cup and a quick exit back out into the moving stream of runners.  This is another thing that will go better, I think, if I place myself in an earlier (more appropriate) corral next time.

After the water stop, the course turns inland for a couple miles.  My running buddy and I ran mostly together, though the narrow course and crowds forced us to split to weave often. 

The Hill (miles 5-6, 9:02, 9:17):
Around mile 4 we hit the only real hill on the course.  That's when I lost my running buddy.  I powered up the hill - I think it's all that running with the toddlers in the stroller, but I just cannot go slow up a hill.  I ran shoulder to shoulder with another women, which I joked about half way up the hill.  And I kept that speed up at the top.  I picked up even more speed on the way down the other side of the hill, and kept that speed up for another mile.  I passed a lot of people during these two miles.  Most people slow down on a hill, not speed up.  And even on the flat, my faster pace carried me past a lot of folks.  It was after this that I finally had a little more space to run.  There was still plenty of weaving - but it wasn't constant anymore.

Miles 7-12 (9:48, 10:01, 9:22, 9:45, 10:01, 9:57):
Around mile 6 we turned back onto PCH, and that's when I slowed down.  I suddenly realized that we were only 6 miles in, 7 miles left, and I wasn't quite sure whether my legs could keep up the fast pace.  So for a little over a mile, I ran at a 10 minute pace.  Looking back, I could have run this part faster - but my uncertainty was understandable given January, and if I was going to make an error at that point in the race, going too slow was probably a better error to make than going too fast.  Next time though.... :)

Then I hit an unexpected treat: Live bands!  Miles 7-9 had three surf bands playing.  They were awesome.  So upbeat and happy, such a perfect fit for the beach-front course - I couldn't help but speed back up for a couple miles.  (This also made me think that music and headphones might help me to keep up a faster pace for longer... I will have to give it a try.)

After those surf bands were behind me, I started feeling the fatigue of having run reasonably fast for 9 miles.  I think this is where my awful January affected me most - I just didn't have the endurance I would have had a month earlier, or the confidence to push myself with 3 miles left. 

One thing that surprised me though - very few people were passing me.  Even though I had slowed down, I guess that either I was still far enough back corral-wise, or others had fatigued just as much or more, but only a few people passed me and I was continuing to pass others.  That may have contributed to my slower pace, honestly.  I'm competitive enough that if a lot of people were passing me, I might just have sped up!  Tired legs or not.  ;) 

That last 1.1 (9:06, 8:29, but I turned the Garmin off late...):
At mile 12, I passed my family again!  And man did that kick me into gear.  I caught up to the 2:10 pacers, which I had been hoping to do.  Since they were in an earlier corral, that meant I had cut at least 7 minutes off of the 2:15 pacers that I had started with.  They of course were chatty and happy, so when I told them "I was hoping to catch up with you!" one replied "You did!  Now pass us!"  Between the high I was feeling from seeing my kids, and that little extra encouragement, knowing that the finish was somewhat close, and wanting to put everything I had into it, I ran that last 1.1 miles at about a 9 minute pace. 

Happy me after passing my family again:

And seriously running me:  

I finished in 2:05:52 (official chip time), and I feel like I really ran the race well.  I had fun.  I pushed myself and ran hard (at least in places).  I finished feeling tired but strong.  And I didn't hurt myself. I even had the energy to throw my arms up in the air at the finish.

Another runner and I took turns taking pictures of each other with the finish line behind us. Then we got ushered through, and out of, "the chute" which is the area after the finish line where they hand out water and food for the runners.  I ended up vending my way back to a medical tent to get some gatorade!  The heat, plus my usual low blood pressure, made Gatorade a necessity for me - I was getting dizzy without it.  I always drink it after runs when I get home.  But there wasn't any in the chute - only at the med tents.  So I sat and relaxed with gatorade for a few minutes, found my running buddy, and went home.

Each runner could get 2 free Sam Adams beers at the beer tent after the race.  I do love my Sam Adams.  But at that point I really just wanted food, gatorade, a good stretch, and a good shower.  My running buddy was in even worse shape, so it was clear she wouldn't be sticking around.  So we did the smart thing and went home (and were in good shape to really enjoy the Super Bowl party later that day). 

It was an amazing experience.  And I can't wait to run another half marathon.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cropped suits

I always get compliments on this suit.  The slim ankle-length pants are very modern.  The wool is soft and drapes nicely, but still has a little structure to it.  And overall the suit looks very professional, but also in style.  I always try to pair it with largely-neutral accessories to carry the line of the pants down to the ground despite their being cropped.  This helps the suit seem more lengthening, and not too trendy. 

(Suit and belt: J-crew factory - this is one of the ones where I bought the pants in 2 sizes, so now I'm down to the smaller size pants with the same blazer.  Blouse (silk) - White house black market.  Shoes - Me Too (a pretty cheap brand, but the quality on these has been amazing) from Macy's.)

This is the more statement-making cropped pant-suit I own.  The fabric is more unusual given it's pattern and heavier-weight stiffer wool.  The pants are cropped higher.  And there are the elbow patches to add just a little extra statement.  I think I always pair this suit with a black blouse and black pumps - never anything else.  The suit is such a statement by itself, that I let it carry the outfit.  I think a white button-down might work too, but I haven't tried it yet.  (And I have enough different black tops and black shoes that I haven't actually repeated a pairing yet!)

A suit like this is a little too fashion-forward for more conservative settings in my opinion.  But if you don't have too strict a dress code it can be a really fun variation.  Just keep in mind that the shorter crop will make your legs look shorter.  I'm okay with it, but not everyone would be.

These shoes are so comfortable!  Since I'm teaching two 3-hour classes in a single day now, I am relying more on my most comfortable shoes.  But I have to say - these shoes are also looking a bit beaten up!  I should probably get rid of them, but I just haven't been able to find another pair that's as comfortable.  In the meantime, I polish them up as best I can, and just hope that the wear and tear doesn't show too much.

(Suit: J-crew factory, blouse: Express portofino slim fit (they have a regular fit and a slim fit), shoes: Bandolino, Belt... I can't remember - totally has to be replaced too!)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Date night - scotch tasting

I had fun with the little details in this outfit. The dress was also a perfect balance of sexy and sophisticated without being over the top.  (Skinny mirror was being extra lengthening apparently.)

I got a new evening purse!  It's quite functional, and I think I will get a lot of use out of it. I love the cute bow/t logo. Tory burch does an amazing job of making the logo visible but still elegant. I'm a convert. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Let's keep them awake Saturday morning!

I'm teaching a 3 1/2 hour class Saturday mornings this quarter. I decided a little bit of bright color might help keep the students awake and alert at 8:30 am. :)

This suit is one of the ones I bought when heavier, but I bought the pants in two sizes anticipating the weight loss. The smaller size pants fit perfectly now, and I just take my jacket off while teaching so it isn't too obvious that it's big. I'm a big believer in buying two pairs of pants for classic suits, even if you don't change sizes like I do. The pants always wear out faster than the jackets, and the jackets are the really expensive part. Two pairs of pants allows the overall suit to last much longer.  (Of course I don't do that for really trendy suits, since I don't plan to wear those for a decade like I do with my classics.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Suit alternative

Given my shortage of suits that fit me, I'll be doing more blazer outfits this quarter. I love how this one turned out. Sorry for the poor photos. 

The soft drapey blazer was extremely comfortable - I even left it on while teaching, which I rarely do. And the color combination worked perfectly. The blazer is a nice rich blue, lighter than navy, with the blue and white striped shirt and the grey boot cut pants - it worked!  I always find it to be a little more work to put together a blazer outfit - but sometimes it's worth it. :)

These types of blazers are really in right now. A lot of times they are paired with crop pants. I wouldn't advise that. Both the blazer and the crop pants are shortening. I was a lot happier with this pairing since the pants are lengthening and provide some balance to the cropped boxy flowy jacket.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Just how many black sheaths does a girl need?

I'm drooling over this dress from White House Black Market and am constantly tempted to order it.

But then I remember that I own:
- A black mid-knee-length sheath with elbow-length sleeves (and a lovely wide square neck)
- A black knee-length sheath with an asymmetric neckline and a front slit
- A simple sleeveless black knee-length sheath

And of course:
- A mostly-black colorblock sheath with 3/4 sleeves
- A solid purple sheath with cap sleeves
- A navy puff-sleeved sheath
- A royal blue sleeveless sheath with a slim v-neck

But I don't have any dresses that look quite like this!  Oh if only this were dark grey.

It's time for a closet cleanout, and if I end up getting rid of a few dresses, I might let myself add this one.  But I have to do a thorough cleanout first and see just what's left in there!  Even I think that 3 black sheaths is probably enough.  ...  Probably.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Back to school

I was sick going in to the first day of class. Combine that with sabbatical quarter, holidays, and class starting early Monday morning, and I'm sort of just glad I made it. (And let's just say it was a close call for one section. Remember when you were a student and the prof wasn't there for the first few minutes. And just when you were hoping class would be cancelled the prof showed up? I'm that prof now.)

I figured it was worth showing that every once in a while I forget earrings and have unpolished nails. :). Luckily, I have a few good default suit outfits, so without having to put too much thought into it, my suit, shirt, necklace, shoes and belt worked. Phew. And I love this shirt - the fit and little pleat detail plus the color are all great for me. Unfortunately most of my default outfits are too big for me now, so expect some new stuff going forward. :)

(Suit: jcrew, shirt: express, necklace: banana republic, belt: Ralph Lauren)