Running Tips: Keep a Diary...You'll Be Glad You Did

Start a training diary, it really helped me become a more serious and better runner.

When I first started running, I really wasn’t that serious about it. I’d run now and again, sometimes fast, sometimes barely jogging, and then there’d be big gaps in between where I did nothing. A few months into it though, I decided if I was going to run I needed to take it seriously.

So, among other things, I bought a blank book and started to write a training diary. Writing a training diary is a great tip for runners, as it really does focus your thoughts and goals. Also, because you can actually see your progress (and days which aren’t so good!), you feel like you’re really getting somewhere.

First thing to do to start a training diary is to buy a book. You can buy books that are set up as training diaries, but I preferred to organize my own so I bought a blank book. Once you have your book, set it up. Starting from the front, on every page, I set up columns for Date, Distance I Ran, Time I Ran In, Weather Conditions, Where I Ran and Who I Ran With. Then, starting from the back of the book, I have a section for Goals (these change weekly, so this bit has quite a lot of information in it).

About 15 pages in from the back, I set up a section for Races. Here I record when races are and if I participated in a race, how far it was and what my time was in it.

Other things you can add to your training diary if you like include the Pace Ran (there are several pace calculators online), Calories Used, Weight Loss (or gain) and other information pertinent to you. The great thing, with a blank diary, is you can set it up to be exactly what you need it to be.

There are also several places online where you can write a training diary. The problem with this though is, if the site goes down, you can’t access your diary and, if it disappears altogether, you’ve lost your diary completely. You could also set up a training diary in Microsoft Word or Excel. I prefer the feel of the actual book in my hand though and like to take it with me in my running kit when I go to races.

One thing having a training diary did for me was to help with injury prevention. I’ve pulled muscles in my knee three times while running (same knee), and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. When I finally looked back at my diary, I discovered all three times I’d pulled the muscle was when I had been running courses that were hillier. Without the diary, I may not have figured this out.

So, if you’re serious about your running, buy or set up a training diary. You’ll immediately feel more organized and more like a ‘real runner’ and, if you’re like me, that’s half the battle.

Wedding Destinations: Vegas, Baby, Vegas

Las Vegas gets a bad reputation where weddings are concerned. However, the opulence and magic that bring millions of visitors to Las Vegas, Nevada every year make it a perfect location for a destination wedding.

Las Vegas gets a bad reputation where weddings are concerned. However, the opulence and magic that bring millions of visitors to Las Vegas, Nevada every year make it a perfect location for a destination wedding. The city that never sleeps, Las Vegas as a setting for a destination wedding means excitement, sunshine, energy, ease, and a great time to be had by guests and the bride and the groom.

The Planning Stages

Planning a destination wedding in Las Vegas won’t be as stressful as many other locations. Because it isn’t necessary to travel out of the states, the bride and the groom don’t need to worry about additional wedding requirements, foreign languages, or expensive plane tickets or last minute costs. The fee for the wedding license is only $55 (subject to change) and simply requires both parties to present themselves at the courthouse. There is no requirement for blood tests, length of stay in Nevada, or witnesses at the purchase of the license, though both parties must be present.

Going to the Chapel

Not only are the legal details easy, but by getting married at one of Las Vegas’ beautiful hotels and casinos, the ceremony itself will be flawless. Consider a wedding package from the Bellagio. A destination wedding at this beautiful hotel on the strip can range from $1,500 to $15,000. The pricier packages included a suite for a night or two, while the less expensive choices mean you’ll need to find your own place to stay on the wedding night. Get married outside on a terrace at the Bellagio, or select one of their indoor chapels, seating between 30 and 130 guests. The Bellagio can take care of everything for your destination wedding, from the floral arrangements and the officiant to the photographer, videographer, and the spa treatments before the ceremony for the bride and the groom. For a seamless wedding ceremony, the Bellagio would make a wonderful destination wedding choice in Las Vegas.

The Excitement of Las Vegas

Of course, once the wedding ceremony is over and the celebrations begin, there’s no better place to be than bustling Las Vegas, Nevada. Visitors to the Las Vegas area who aren’t interested in the gambling scene don’t need to be disappointed. Spend the day lying by the pool (get a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel just for the night and use theirs…it’s out of this world and hands down the best on the strip). Or walk the strip and shop at some of the beautiful and first class shops available in Las Vegas. Take in a round of golf at some of the golf courses that litter the desert landscape in Vegas, or simply pamper yourself with a day at the spa (the strip is filled with them!). Of course, throw in a game of blackjack and a bottle of champagne, and Las Vegas really is the perfect wedding destination.

Celebrating your wedding day in Las Vegas means excitement, energy, and opulence at your fingertips. Get rid of the imagine of a sleazy drive through wedding chapel, throw caution to the wind, and have your destination wedding in one of the wildest cities in the United States. A destination wedding in Las Vegas won’t disappoint.


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Death-Defying Climbs: Nanga Parbat

Though both deadly and beautiful, Nanga Parbat attracts climbers every year.

Some of the most beautiful mountains in the world have proven to be the most dangerous, even for the most experienced of climbers. Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest mountain in the world, is a breathtaking and majestic destination that definitely has earned the nickname of “The Killer Mountain.”

Located in Pakistan in the Himalaya Mountain Range, Nanga Parbat reaches a height of 26,658 feet (8,125 meters) and its name translates as “Naked Mountain” because of the lack of vegetation and snow on some of the steeper slopes.

The Killer Mountain claimed the lives of numerous adventurers until its streak was first broken in 1953. In that year, Hermann Buhl, as part of a German-Austrian expedition, made it to the summit after many of his fellow climbers found the mountain too challenging.

Buhl had tackled Nanga Parbat from the north, ascending what is referred to as the Rakhiot Flank. In 1970, world famous climber Reinhold Messner and his brother Gunther ascended to the summit from the Rupal Face, but Gunther lost his life in an avalanche during the descent. Gunther Messner’s remains were later recovered by another expedition in 2005, but the disappearance of Messner’s younger brother led to some rather nasty accusations, which haunted the mountain climbing for decades after his initial success on Nanga Parbat.

Because it is one of 14 mountains in the world that tops 8,000 meters, Nanga Parbat continues to attract high altitude adventurers, even with its killer reputation. Despite the high cost of food and transportation these days, climbing Nanga Parbat actually is less expensive than ever before. In 2007, as part of the “Year of Tourism,” the Pakistan government sliced the climbing royalties in half. You also don’t need a trekking permit, but a visa is required to enter the country.

As is the case with any mountain as high as Nanga Parbat, climbers do need to take special precautions when mounting an expedition. The ideal time to make the attempt is between the months of June and September; the winters atop Nanga Parbat can be extremely harsh and treacherous.

In addition to extreme cold and illness, one of the leading causes of death above 7,000 feet is hypoxia, or oxygen starvation. Though Buhl made his solo ascent without supplemental oxygen, most climbers should bring extra bottles and tanks with them. Taking the time to acclimate your body to the high altitude also can greatly increase your chances of survival in the extremely thin air.

Though many have successfully reached the summit, Nanga Parbat’s Mazeno Ridge has proven to be the most difficult route to tackle. If your determination is high and failure is not an option, Mazeno Ridge may be your next climbing destination.


Project Runway's Finale Showdown at NY Fashion Week

The most anticipated fashion show of the year has got to be Project Runway’s Season Five grand finale, slated for New York Fashion Week in the big tent in Bryant Park (some time between September 5-12-the actual shows haven’t been scheduled yet but they like to leave Project Runway for the very last day).

Project Runway has been sold to the Lifetime network, and some Runway fans fear it’s the end of the world as we know it, with such rumored modifications to the show as a move to L.A., new sponsors and possibly even changes on the judge’s panel (we’re happy to report that the last rumor turned out to be unfounded, and the next generation of Runway designers will still get to live in fear of boring Nina Garcia ).

However, due to a contractual obligation, the producers of Runway are being forced to put on one more season for Bravo, which means Lifetime won’t get the show until Season 6, slated to start airing in November. This means that 2008 will feature an unprecedented three seasons of Project Runway-that’ s a lot of fashion shows! But while that’s good news for us diehard fans, Season 5, which will begin airing in July, is the last classic Project Runway season.

Project Runway stars are so numerous at New York Fashion Week fashion shows you can trip over them-I met Tim Gunn last September and Laura Bennett this past February, and I’m happy to report both of them were even lovelier in person than on TV, and Tim Gunn approved of the outfit I was wearing, which solved my self-esteem issues for all eternity. This just heightens anticipation for the finale fashion show. Who gets to show at Project Runway’s fashion show is one of the most closely guarded secrets of Fashion Week, so much so that the producers use decoys.

What are decoys? Designers who have been eliminated at the time of the live Project Runway fashion show, but who are still appearing as contestants on the episodes that are airing due to the lag in air time. Rather than have every blogger in the world post the real finalists from their cell phones, and contrary to what Heidi Klum is seen saying to the losers on television, ALL of the last five or six finalists get to show at New York Fashion Week, although it’s true that the ones who have already been eliminated get a lower budget. No one outside of the show knows who they are, though, so the press reviews them as equals. Maybe having the pressure of the contest off does wonders for the also-rans’ creativity, because in previous years, non-contenders such as Kara Janx of Season Three have garnered the most critical acclaim.

Photos of all the designers showing at the Project Runway finale fashion show end up on the Internet within minutes of the curtain call, and this past February, though I suspected he was a decoy and ended up being correct, my favorite collection was that of Chris March, even though some of his Gothic touches like trimming his clothing with real human hair were kind of creepy. I can’t wait to see what the Season Five designers come up with for Project Runway’s final finale for Bravo.

fashion show, project runway, season five finale

We'll Miss You Alana

Alana Ledford, who joined Zappos in February of 2007, left on Friday, May 31st to move back east with her husband. From day one Alana was recognized as not just someone who could be counted on to do a job well, but also as someone who could be counted on as a friend. Even those who did not work closely with Alana felt a sense of comfort going to her, as she had a very welcoming personality and warm smile – as I can attest to when I first transferred to the Business Unit. I sat down with Alana on Friday to talk about her time here at and what she will miss the most.

W: Alana, tell me about – let’s start with your history here at Zappos – actually, let’s go back further than that, where are you originally from?

A: I was born in New Zealand and we moved around a lot internationally when I was younger and then I grew up mostly in Southern California. Then I went to school in UCLA and I was actually an outdoor guide for them, leading trips for students and faculty doing kayaking, backpacking, rock climbing and all kinds of stuff. When I graduated from UCLA I started working for Adidas in sports marketing for a couple years and then moved to Vegas and
started working on the outdoor team for merchandising here at Zappos.

W: What’d you think when you first showed up at Zappos? Like on your first day, never even hearing about the place and not knowing anything about it, what went through
your mind?

A: I think it was exciting, just the casual work environment and how much fun people were having at work. I think it was a little overwhelming because I didn’t entirely know what I was getting. . . it was a lot of excitement mixed with anxious trepidation kind of waiting to see what this experience was going to be like.

W: So, over time as you’ve continued in your employment here, how has those initial feelings you had, maybe the anxious trepidation, etc.; what has that turned into over time? How has your experience with Zappos evolved over this time period?

A: I think there’s so many things about Zappos that are just so hard to replace. I think that the people that I get to work with on the outdoor team, they are just irreplaceable; such great people to work with, but also such great people on a personal level as well. I’m so thankful for the experiences like the 40 mile hike that we got to do together, training for the marathon and half marathon with people and encouraging them to get out and run. At the same time I have learned so much from the job and its been great to have the opportunities to move up and learn my category and taking charge of my portfolio, so there are definitely some stressful times as you are learning and growing and managing and figuring out numbers and all of that. So, its been a huge personal and professional experience and I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything.

W: I know, for me, Zappos has had a big effect on my personal life. How has Zappos effected your personal life or helped enrich you in some way? What have you learned the most personally as opposed to professionally?

A: I think the great thing is coming into work and not counting the hours. There are always things going on outside of work, but its interesting how everything kind of fuses together. Your job just kind of becomes part of who you are because you care about it so much, you know, you take it home with you, you talk about it and you work on your laptop when you get home, its hard to put it down. You want your portfolio to do so well its hard to kind of disengage from it. The weekends are also about hanging out with work people and barbecues with them, its just so much that I think the line between personal and work becomes cloudy.

W: What are you going to miss the most about Zappos?

A: The friendships and I really like my category and my reps.

W: Is there anything else you would like to add or say in conclusion?

A: I guess I would just encourage people to just make the most of opportunities that they have. Sometimes on trips that I’ve gone whether its traveling or outdoors, it never comes at the most convenient time. Its never like “oh, this is the perfect time to train for a marathon” or “this is the perfect time to go hike forty miles before I have a wedding that weekend”. I feel like you always have to fit stuff in and I would just really encourage everybody to really seize those opportunities because when you go on a seven day backpack trip. . .the perspective that you have on who you are as a person and what’s important in life, its gonna be so different then just going about your daily routine. Even if its a small step like getting up in the morning and running before the sun rises. The mountains are beautiful here, take the time to go outdoors, don’t put it off until there is a better time because who knows when that better time is going to come as you have a family or start a family. So, I definitely want to be the kind of person who is up for those adventures and make the most of those experiences. I really just wanna encourage people that if you have a chance to just jump in a plane and go somewhere you’ve never been for a three day weekend, just do it! Have those experiences, don’t live it through the travel channel or on your couch. Get out and do it whether you feel like you can or you feel like you can’t! Seize those opportunities and – if you don’t know how to do something find someone who does and try it. You don’t know if you’re going to love whitewater kayaking until you get in a boat and charge down the rapids. I feel like when I go into a library that its just overwhelming because there’s so many books to read and so much out there that I want to try and see and I guess I would just encourage people to never, ever let go of that thirst for knowledge and experience.

Thanks Alana, you’re a great spirit, and good luck!


Brandis R. Paden (super genius) has a thing or two to teach us about how to rock out.

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Constrution of Shoes: The Great Running Shoe Debate

Explore how your running shoes are constructed

Running shoes – the foundation or damnation of a running career. There are hundreds of different running shoes on the market and each one offers a unique design and targets a specific type of runner. Properly designed running shoes will respond to your foot shape, pronation tendencies and running technique in a manner that keeps your feet stable and your joints protected from excessive jarring. Improperly designed running shoes will do little for you, and in some cases could actually cause you to develop a running injury. Before you buy your next pair of running shoes learn how they are constructed and what the latest shoe technology can offer you.

Your Gait Cycle

The way you run, or the way you progress through your gait cycle, impacts what type of running shoe will work best for you. It is difficult to judge your gait cycle style without a third party watching you or without the use of a video device. What you will want to look for is how your arch shape and pronation style affects your body position when you run. For example, a “normal” gait cycle will include landing on your heel, rotating forward toward your toes, slightly pronating and then pushing off.

Pronation is basically just the angling of your heel bone inward. A little pronation is expected. However, overpronating (rotating the heels excessively so the knees point inward), or supinating (rotating the heels excessively so the knees point outward) are not “normal” body mechanics and they can lead to injuries.

Shoe Construction

Almost every shoe is made up of an upper and a sole. The sole is the foundation of the shoe. The sole has two main functions, to provide a protective barrier between your foot and the pavement and to provide your feet with a little bit of cushion. Each sole has about three layers. The outersole is made up of a rubber like material that is hard and has a tread. The midsole is the key to your shoe’s design, and it is where shoe design technology comes into play. The midsole’s design is going to determine what the shoe is good for. For example, it can be designed to provide maximum cushion, it can be designed to correct pronation problems or it can be designed to handle the extra support needs of larger runners.

The second part of a running shoe’s construction is its upper. While a visually important element of your shoe, its design is less important than the sole’s design. However, it will provide your feet with some support and stability.

A third part of a running shoe is the sockliner. High end sockliners are particularly useful for runners. They provide an extra layer of cushion and can even help to support high arches. Another great feature of sockliners is that they are removable. This allows you to wash them occasionally and keep your shoes from stinking or growing legs of their own.

Shoe Technology

If you have overpronation problems, then there are three shoe construction technologies that you will want to look into. The first is the crumple zone. This helps your overpronation by separating the midsoles from the lateral heel. A medial post, which is an extra dense and stiff foam block that is position on the medial side of your foot, is another construction advancement that can help you if you overpronate while running. This helps to stabilize your foot and keeps it from rocking to the medial side. The final technology that you can look for in a shoe design is a midfoot shank. This is a semi-rigid shank that is located in the middle of your shoe. Again, it is designed to stop your foot from rotating while you walk or run.

Puffer Pig. Walken, Walken, Walken.

We got a new toy today in the Imaging room. Its the Puffer Pig! Others would disagree, but I’d like to think of it as a stress ball. It tricks you thinking you are playing and having fun squeezing his head so his eyeballs burst out at you. Puffer pig is actually reducing your stress levels.

Then you may wonder why in the world is anyone stressin’ over here? I mean, we’re working at! The greatest company to work for ever! Its not so much the work as its is, well… Christopher Walken’s face-Yep, even though he’s all over this room, he’s still hidden, watching us. Sometimes he is wearing disguises.

When we leave at night, he dances mostly. He will fly around the warehouse blaring Weapon of Choice. If he isn’t in the mood he becomes the best and coolest team member there is. Telling people what to do in the only way he can. Just imagine it. He throws in some cow bell for that fever situation he has.

Thanks for the Puffer Pig, Erin!