When Customer Service Stinks… You Blog About It

Hello there!  We are back in the states after a lovely week in Aruba. We are tan and totally unrested. But such is life with a teething baby. 

Over the last few months I have been dealing with some humorous situations that are both disappointing and ridiculous. Rock and I were chatting about them during a run the other day and he said, “These are so nuts you have to blog about it.”

Starting back at Christmas I ordered our holiday cards from Snapfish.com. I have ordered from them for years and have loved their products and awesome deals. In fact, I order a lot of photo books and things for projects for our programs in NYC and at home. In the past year or so they started messing up orders by sending them to other addresses, but each time I called the 1-800 number and received my order within days. 

So when my cards arrived on photo paper instead of card stock, I assumed it was my fault and quickly reordered the exact same order again and made certain it was on card stock. I was relieved when it arrived days before Christmas and on the correct paper. But just as I was about to send them out, my mother-in-law pointed out one major flaw. They were all signed by the Andersons. We are not the Andersons!

 

Lots of typos there too!

 
It was too late to reorder so I shrugged it off and crossed out the incorrect name and signed it with ours. We joked that it would be humorous for years to come. 

And then the second half of my order arrived. I ordered ornaments with photos of our family as well as photos of family members with baby Mary. This is what I received:

  At this point I was more than annoyed and went to call Snapfish. Guess what?  They no longer have an 800 number and you can no longer speak to a live person. All contact must be done online with their chat service. 

I waited several minutes and finally spoke/typed with someone who had very broken English. When they offered to replace my cards, I pointed out that we no longer wanted them. I was given a 50% refund. And then I was told that my ornaments would be redone and rushed to me. 

I waited a month before contacting Snapfish again to let them know that our Christmas gifts had not arrived. They told me to look for an e-mail. I received it days later and it stated that they wanted to confirm our satisfaction with their service. I immediately responded and told them I was absolutely not satisfied and had not received my product.  


  
 We are currently waiting to see if we receive our order….. 

Meanwhile, Rock purchased a pair of Yurbuds for me as one of my wishes for Christmas. I have weird ears that won’t hold earbuds. And I love this product (as you have seen me rave about on here on multiple occasions).  I wanted a set that has the microphone because I use them when I coach groups and also to walk the baby and dog and still manage phone calls. 

Two weeks into using them, the microphone stopped working. I e-mailed Yurbuds to let them know and waited for two weeks for a response. When it finally came, it read, “We are contacting you to ensure that our response to your e-mail was satisfactory.”

Again, they had never responded. I e-mailed back and said that no it was not satisfactory, because I was never contacted in the first place. And two weeks later, I have heard nothing back. 

So here are my questions for you:

Is it a red flag when a company does not allow phone access anymore?  And have you watched a company you love change their service for the worse?

And what earbuds work for the earbud inept?!

Warm Weather & Vacation Running Tips

Good morning!  I kind of have to share my current view as I sit here and type this post.

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Right now I am beachside in warm and sunny Aruba, a welcome change despite our mild winter.  We are down here to celebrate my brother’s wedding later this week.
This also brings up a topic that I have been working with a few clients on recently.  Many of us live in colder areas during the winter.  As runners typically do, we look for races around our vacations, or we schedule vacations around races.  This often leads to warm destination races this time of year.  While they are fun, they often present some interesting challenges.
A few weeks ago many athletes participated in a Disney race.  Who doesn’t love escaping to Florida and running through one of the most magical places ever?!  Many of these runners were disappointed by their performances and some were discouraged.
We often forget how difficult it can be to run in warmer weather, and in my opinion humidity is the one factor that brings a runner down like no other.  You can’t control it and quite frankly, it controls you.  Along with poor fueling and dehydration, humidity is one factor that can truly destroy a race.
As we are currently training for a few marathons, we have been doing our runs down here and absolutely enjoying wearing shorts and tanks.  But the warm weather hits us winter runners in a few different ways.  Saturday I had to run 14 miles and by the end I was in pretty rough condition.  If you follow me on Instagram you know that I referred to it as a total battle of wills between my mind and my body.  My body won that battle!
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When your run takes you into a desert, you know it is going to be a rough one.

We get accustomed to the cold and don’t handle the heat as well as we did a few months ago.  Unlike summer running, you don’t get the opportunity to ease into the heat when you plop yourself in Florida or Aruba.  You land, you run, and you sweat!  It takes a toll on your body.  You typically need a few weeks to allow your body to adjust.
I absolutely recommend finding fun races and destinations to go run through.  But do keep in mind that your body might not respond as it normally has been in training.  If you are looking to PR or qualify for Boston, you might find this type of strategy to be discouraging.  If you have the luxury of arriving a few weeks before the race to acclimate that is great (and I am totally jealous).  But do know that heat and humidity can be oppressive for runners.
Make sure you hydrate and fuel properly.  Drink plenty of liquids in the days and weeks leading up to your race and consider eating something salty the night before to help you retain some water.
Allow yourself to scale it back a bit if you find yourself struggling.  Many of us seasoned athletes get a tad competitive and won’t back down when our bodies ask for a break.  With heat and humidity this can lead to dangerous situations with dehydration or even heat stroke.  If you need to stop, that is okay.
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Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the sunshine!

 Where is your favorite warm weather running destination?

Why I’ve Been Ditching My GPS

To be honest, I still use my GPS, but far less than I used to.  At first, I did it because I really don’t like my new GPS.  Back in October, my beloved simple Forerunner 10 died……the day before the Chicago Marathon!  I ran (literally) to Fleet Feet to get another one and the only thing they had that didn’t cost a small fortune was the Forerunner 25.  I immediately didn’t love it because I preferred the simplicity of the 10.  All I need is to know how far and how fast I’m going and how long it takes me to get the job done.

I think the GPS is a great tool that all runners should invest in at some point.  As I was telling a few new runners earlier this week, the GPS takes a lot of the mystery out of running.  Once you know just how far you have gone and how long it takes you, the pressure is off and you can stop wondering what they heck you are doing.  And once you know how far a mile is over and over again, they start to feel easier and smaller.

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Oh how I miss this friend!

My dislike for the Forerunner 25 continued at the Turkey Trot when my watch did’t connect while I waited in the corral and continued to refuse to connect for two miles.  I was livid.  And this pricey tool continues to take 5-10 minutes to connect today.  Winter in Chicago is too cold to be standing around waiting outside for your watch to connect (even during this mild winter!).  The thought of standing outside waiting in frustration finally got the better of me and I said to heck with it and left it at home and went running sans technology (well I still had my music with me….let’s not get too crazy here!).

Most of my weekly training runs consist of 7-10 miles and I know routes around me that cover those exact numbers.  So I set out for a few runs without the GPS and some wonderful things happened:

I stopped constantly worrying about how far, how fast, and how long I had been running.  I just worried about getting to my turn around and enjoying my run.  That’s right; when you stop constantly worrying about the numbers you can enjoy running.  It’s kind of like why you started running in the first place.  Strike that.  It is exactly like how I started running.

I wasn’t just doing fast runs.  There is value in slow runs and if you look at a well laid out training plan, there will be several easy runs throughout your week.  Your body needs these both to recover and continue to build.  If you choose to ignore them you won’t be doing yourself a favor and it can lead to injury.

I’m competitive by nature and it is hard for me sometimes to see those paces click at the end of each mile and not want to beat the next or stay on a pace that I am aiming for on race day.  So it is helpful for me to just plain not have those numbers there in the first place.

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I got faster!  That’s right.  By running without constantly looking at my watch and my pace, I allowed myself to build as a runner.  Now my average pace is faster than it was a few weeks ago and I didn’t even notice it because I was just running by feel.

The moral of the lesson:  I still wear my watch for many runs and I always wear it for long training runs and speed work.  But sometimes we need to strip it all down and just enjoy a run for the sake of running.  Even when training, not every one has to be a “training” run.  There is value in keeping it simple!

Do you wear a GPS?  Do you always wear it?

 

My Playlist Needs Some Help

Week 1 of marathon training….check!  I have to say that I am loving being back on a plan and having some structure to my running.  The tired and heavy legs?  Not loving that so much.

In the past when I have trained I used an iPod Shuffle.  But I got sick of them dying on me all of the time and spending a small fortune replacing them.  Now that I have an iPhone, I can connect to my music more easily.  Lately I have been using Pandora and mixing it up with different genres.  But we are headed somewhere this week where I won’t be able to use Pandora.  My playlist could also use some new tunes and a little change up.

That’s where I am hoping you can help me! In return I will help someone else.

Help me find some new tunes for my playlist and for each new song that isn’t already on my list and works for training, I will donate a dollar to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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As you may (or may not know) I am a coach for MDA’s Team Momentum.  They just announced a very exciting rebranding and I am thrilled with their new look and exciting new mission.  I have met so many wonderful families through the MDA and they have become both friends and family to our family.

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So why not help all of us out?  Send me your favorite running tunes and I will send them a donation for your assistance.

Don’t be shy with the music.  I like it all and have the most embarrassing playlist.  Anything goes as long as it has a nice fast or strong beat.  Here is a sampling of what is on my current playlist: Led Zepplin, Miley Cyrus (yes they are next to each other), 50 Cent, Mackelmore, Johnny Cash, Vienna Boys Choir, Dolly Parton, One Republic….you get the drift.  Anything goes as long as it has a good beat to keep my legs a movin’.

 

Simple and Delicious Jambalaya Recipe

I don’t know about you guys but winter makes me want to make big pots of warm food.  I love making soup.  Last Sunday I had a rare full day off and didn’t have anything to do except hang out with the family all day.  I wanted to make a nice winter soup but I also wanted to do something fun and “football-esque.”  While I know that jambalaya isn’t necessarily a typical football food, I thought it would be a nice change up from the traditional chili tailgate recipe.

I searched online and found several recipes.  Each had it’s own unique twist and in the end, I decided to wing it and do my own version.  This recipe is relatively light and could feed a crowd, or these Dudek’s for several dinners.  Give it a whirl and then let me know what spin you would give this.

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Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts (cubed)

1 package of Andouille sausage (sliced)

1 lb. cleaned and cooked shrimp

2 cups cooked rice

4 cups chicken stock

2-24 ounce cans tomato sauce

1 bell pepper diced

1 large onion diced

4 stalks of celery sliced thinly

1 clove of garlic minced

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon basil

1-2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

2 bayleaves

Directions:

In a large pot with a touch of olive oil, cook the pepper, onion, celery and garlic for a few minutes until tender.  Add in the sausage and allow to cook for about 8 minutes.  At the same time, add the chicken to a skillet with a touch of olive oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until mostly done.  Put the chicken in the pot along with parsley, basil, bayleaf and Old Bay seasoning.  Add in the chicken stock and tomato sauce.  Add in hot sauce to taste.

Bring everything to a boil.  Then simmer for 25-40 minutes uncovered.  Throw in the rice and shrimp during the last 5-10 minutes.  You can also then set it on low for up to an hour.

We made cornbread with cheddar to go with this.  It also pairs well with a beer!

Magazine Advertisements: Wrong Place, Wrong Time

I have a minor gripe today.  I usually like to keep this blog happy and informative, but I’ve been noticing an unfortunate trend in magazines lately.  I love magazines and have a tendency to get a subscription to just about everything: Runner’s World, Running Times, Cooking Light, HGTV, Food Network…..you get the drift.

Last winter I did a post about how disappointed I was with Women’s Health for being a health magazine that went and completely altered Britney Spear’s fabulous body in a picture.  It really bugged me that a “health and fitness” magazine would take a perfectly beautiful and fit body and then airbrush the heck out of her.

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Then a few months ago I noticed that the back pages of Runner’s World carry a lot of advertisements.  Typically when I get to that portion of the magazine I tend to just flip through because I have generally lose interest with ads.  But I started to notice that there were a lot of advertisements for diet and weight loss pills.

This stuck me as a little bizarre.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand that magazines and other forms of media are only able to survive with the help of advertisements.  But I was pretty bummed to see that a magazine aimed at helping runners of all levels become better and more fit athletes, would have so many advertisements for pills that help you lose weight faster, or in some cases as the sole way to lose weight.

People come to running for many reasons.  Some are looking to lose weight or to become more physically fit.  Others find solace in the alone time and it clears their head.  Many are already perfectly fit, while others seek running as a way to shed pounds.  While some struggle with weight, others struggle with body image issues.  To me, it was a bummer seeing so many adds for magic pills in a magazine aimed at this diverse running population.

And then the doozy of all ads was presented to me the other night.  Rock recently flipped through a Sports Illustrated for the first time in a long while.  We were both surprised to see some of the ads in this issue.

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Seriously?

To be very honest, I didn’t even know that you could advertise cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in magazines anymore.  I understand that this is a magazine for sport’s fans and not a magazine directly aiming to help athletes.  But I found it really bizarre to see these ads in a sports related magazine.A magazine that promotes professional sports and touches upon interviews with some of the best athletes in the world was okay with advertising carcinogenic compounds.

Let’s not forget that many young and impressionable teenage boys and girls flip through these pages at home or even in their school libraries!

To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I get that companies need to advertise to stay afloat in a time when digital media has taken over.  But I wish that more of these companies and publications would consider who their market is and proceed with a tad more awareness.

What are your thoughts on magazine advertisements?  Do you even notice what is being advertised?

2016 Simple Hydration Running Team

Happy Monday!  I hope all of you on the East Coast are doing okay and hopefully enjoying an extra day off to shovel.  Yikes, what a storm.  I was somewhat glad to not be living in NYC this winter and especially to not be teaching skating outdoors in Central Park!

I am so excited this morning to announce that I have been chosen to be a part of the 2016 Simple Hydration Running Team!

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Two years ago I got a great e-mail from Brian at Simple Hydration in regards to trying out his water bottle.  I gladly accepted and was blown away.  I don’t always run with water, and often try to map out my runs so that I don’t have to carry water with me.  But I was really discouraged by the hydration options on the market.  I didn’t want to wear another belt to hold my water or to carry it in my hands.

At first I was skeptical that the bottle would even work.  The concept is that it fits on your pre-existing belt or on the waist of your pants/shorts.  Before I even tried the bottle I was preparing myself for a mediocre review.  But it worked!  It was comfortable and I even forgot that I had it on.

Since then, I’ve encouraged many of my clients and athletes to purchase the bottle and try it for their long training runs.  Everyone has liked the product and I am always impressed with how responsive the company was to helping our runners out.

So when I saw the chance to apply to be a part of this year’s running team, I decided to go for it.  I was so busy, I didn’t even get a chance to check their blog to see who made the team.  But Elle from AFastPacedLife tweeted that I made the team and I was so excited that I called Rock from the grocery store to let him know.  Nothing like an exciting announcement while hanging in the produce section!

I can’t wait to share more information with you and show you all of the fun places I take my Simple Hydration this year!

Have you ever used Simple Hydration before?

I’m Not The Runner I Used To Be, But……

Last night I got in a run as I left work.  Over the past few weeks I have made a transition to going back to work.  I am lucky to have a job where I can set my hours and they are sporadic, fun, and active.   The other half of my job involves working with running clients which is also fun and active.  But once you have a child, it takes a lot of balance.  And when there are two runners in the house, there involves a lot more coordinating to get our daily runs and workouts in.

Gone are the days when I could wait around and then pop out the door on a whim and come back 15 miles later.  Now every run has to be carefully planned around both of our schedules.  We have to work to make sure that we each get a run in and have time to get everything else done too.

I start marathon training next Monday and I am feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension as that day approaches.  I’m excited to be back on a schedule and to even be considering a marathon.  But this time around I have goals.  The last time I ran a marathon I had nothing to expect and I surprised myself by qualifying for Boston.  I didn’t even push myself to my limits during the race and it made me wonder what I could have done.  This time I know what I am capable of, or should I say, what I was once capable of.

Back then I ran a lot.  I would run 55-70 miles per week and randomly go for 20+ mile runs on the weekend.  Just for the heck of it!  This time, I have struggled to find the time to get in some double digit runs between work schedules, weather, a sick baby, and life.

So last night when I was running, I looked at my watch as I weaved around ice patches and snow mounds to check my pace.  With each mile, I would think, “Ok, I only have to run that pace for 22 more miles.”  Then I would start to wonder how I did that so effortlessly in the past.

A thought came to my mind, “I’m not the runner I used to be.”  Talk about discouraging!  It’s true.  I’m not the runner I used to be.  I’m a mom now.  I’m older.  I have a new job and new responsibilities.  And that’s okay.

As I played with this notion in my head, I tried to put it in perspective.  That is when another thought came to my mind, “But I wasn’t the runner I am now.”  Sure I am older.  Yes I don’t have time to go run when I want and come back when I feel like it.

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On the other hand, I have a lot of experiences under my belt.  I’ve learned how to properly rest and to know when my body needs extra time to heal.  I am more patient with my body.  I’ve coached hundreds of other marathoners and know things will be okay.

I also had a baby and I know that I can push my body to the brink…..and then some.  I know what it takes to push through the hard times and that when your mind says you can’t take it a step further, your body can take over (and vice versa).

I’m more forgiving with my schedule and know that things can be readjusted.  A training plan isn’t a Bible and a missed run or a crappy run won’t break me.  I know when to push myself and when to be patient.

I think as athletes this is an important lesson.  We shouldn’t get so concerned about living in the past, or missing what was in the past.  Those memories aren’t going to help move us toward our goals.  Instead, focus on what you have learned and what you can do now.  In many ways, we can use our experiences to move us forward and become stronger and smarter athletes.  And in the end, remember that as we got older, those qualifying times get slower!

Morrie

Motherhood and Running: 5 Months

It is hard to believe that Mary has been with us for 5 months already.  To say it has been an adventure would be an understatement.  I kept hearing from friends about how difficult the first few weeks would be and I figured they didn’t know how tough Rock and I were.  Then those first few weeks came and we were exhausted.  You really just don’t sleep for the first few weeks.  Everyone said it would get better, but I swear it felt like Mary was never going to move past needing a feeding every three hours.  Something clicked and suddenly she was making it for longer and longer periods at night.  Now we are waiting until she truly makes it all the way through in one straight shot!

I ran all the way up until exactly a week before Mary was born.  I would likely have continued running but was advised by the doctors to take it easy because our little one was trying to make an early entrance into the world.  She did so anyway, but I am still glad that I heeded their advice.

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When Mary was born, my doctor was out of the country at the time.  I was scheduled to see her two weeks later but was advised in the hospital that I could not run for at least a month, probably even six weeks.  Of course I asked when I could run again, almost immediately!

Two weeks later at my appointment my doctor told me to go ahead and start running again (without my prompting!).  I was surprised, but also super excited.  I set out the next afternoon for a slow three mile run.

That first run felt weird.  The only way I can best explain it is to say that everything felt a little wobbly.  My hips felt like they were moving in crazy directions and I felt as if I had lost all of my endurance.

About a week later I tried going for a run and my right leg refused to move.  I ended up sobbing and sitting at home in pain for a few days before making an appointment with a chiropractor who works with runners.

In retrospect, I think I would have waited a bit longer to get back out there and run.  During pregnancy and also during labor, our bodies release hormones, namely relaxin.  The role of relaxin is to help relax our ligaments and loosen everything up to allow the pelvic area to expand.  Since relaxin can’t just go directly to the pelvic area, many of your joints will feel loose.  This can cause injuries in areas like the knees or ankles that are more prone to rolling or twisting.  In my case, it seems that the running had caused a nerve to be pinched as my body was working to get itself back to its normal state.

It would have been worth waiting two more weeks to allow my body to heal, and enjoy some time on the couch (something I never do).  I was of course in a rush to get back out and running because the Chicago Marathon was looming and I wanted to be there to help my athletes.  Thanks to my chiropractor, I was able to get back out there pretty quickly and I did end up running the marathon 9 weeks postpartum.

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After the marathon I eased into some easier mileage and worked to slowly get my pace back.  It took time and was frustrating during some runs.  But I was honestly just happy to be running.

I believe it is important to remember that the months of pregnancy change our bodies and labor and delivery ask a lot of us.  Then those first few weeks with a newborn continue to exhaust and push you.  Running will come back in time, but you must be patient with yourself and your new body.

Five months later, I am continuing to get stronger and work at getting my body and fitness back on track.  Next week I start marathon training.  For the past few weeks I have been working on upping my mileage to prepare for the rigors of marathon training.  Usually I would like to have some nice double digit runs in before I get started but this time around I will have a few 10 milers and that is about it.  Marathon training with a baby and a husband who is also preparing for the same race is going to take some balancing.  But it will be an exciting adventure.

Next up will be trying out our jogging stroller.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that the thought of running with the stroller scares me!  When I see people pushing these bad boys around, I feel as if they are total bad asses.  It is advised that you wait to run with your little one in a stroller only after they can sit up on their own.  Mary isn’t quite there yet and I am okay with that.  Plus, I don’t really want either of us running outside in our current weather anyway.

Until then, we enjoy using the car seat attachment on our stroller for walks to the store and around the block.  If I can give one recommendation to new or soon to be parents, invest in a great jogging stroller.  We got the Bob and it is one awesome piece of equipment.  It is easy to push, moves around corners smoothly, and has some pretty fantastic tires.  The only downside is that it doesn’t really fold up very well and takes up a lot of space.  Mary has truly taken over our home!

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Do you run with your children?  Any advice?

Running and Fitness Tracking

Last year I blogged about how much I loved my UpBand by Jawbone.  Well, for my birthday Rock got me a Fitbit and I have since ditched the Jawbone.

While I don’t necessarily need a fitness tracker.  I enjoy seeing the data each day and this tool does it in such a way that you can’t help but enjoy watching your progress.

Unlike the Jawbone, my Fitbit shows the data right on the face of the “watch.”  The Fitbit shows the time, as well as steps taken, calories burnt, miles completed, my heart rate (available on certain models) and flights of steps completed.  The data doesn’t stop there.  The App is super user friendly and also tracks my sleep.

  
I admit that the sleep tracking is a tad depressing these days with a new baby.  But it is helpful to see that I get a certain amount of sleep each night including how many times I wake up and am restless.  This is great motivation for me to get to bed earlier (sometimes this happens and often it does not).

I love being able to see my step averages over time as well as my other data spread out over days, weeks, and months.  For someone who is working towards losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, these are all very helpful parameters to keep in mind.  While the distance tracker isn’t as accurate as a GPS, it comes in pretty close to what my Garmin reads. 

The App also allows you to friend your contacts who also have Fitbits.  You cannot see anything other than your friend’s step averages, but you can all engage in friendly competition.  With daily and weekly step challenges, this is often just the motivation one needs to stay a bit more active each day.

  
I recently blogged about the benefits of increasing your non-exercise activity levels, which is a major factor for increasing calorie burn throughout the day.  This device can be a great motivational tool to keep you up and moving.

Finally, I love that the Fitbit sends you badges for completing new challenges, steps completed in a day and the lifetime of your tracker.  You receive this both on your phone and via e-mail.  You also receive a weekly e-mail that lays out your entire week’s stats, including total amount of calories burnt and steps taken throughout that period.  Another bonus is e-mails to let you know when your Fitbit needs to be charged.  How nice is that?!

The major downside is that I find this tracker does not hold a charge for very long.  But it is easy to charge it up off of my USB port when I am doing things such as blogging!

I have the Fitbit Charge with heart rate monitor.  The price on this varies a bit but you can find one at Costco for about $130.  The Charge also has a caller ID built in so that when you receive a phone call you can check to see who it is straight off of your wrist.  This is super helpful when I am out running and don’t have to take my phone out of my pocket for a call I wouldn’t answer until later.  In my opinion, all of this is a small price to pay for all of the bells and whistles this device offers.

  
This review is strictly my own and I am not being compensated for this.  I personally wanted to share my experience with my followers in the hopes that it might be helpful for anyone who is working to take on a more fit and healthy lifestyle.

Do you use a fitness/activity tracker?