Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Half Way Done on Day One!

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And so it begins!

Day one of the "real" X~Terra Training. Easy start...10 Mile Bike! Some balance and core work for the Trail Running.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

When a flight is oversold...Work it!

I spent two years of my life working in the airline industry as a corporate customer service trainer. You know all those folks at the front counter that have the power to make your life amazing or miserable when you are stuck in the middle of a pile of travel %#*#? Yea, THOSE folks? Well, teaching them to be nice under pressure was my job. I have to admit - I loved it! Had it not been for the post 9/11 airline restructure, I would probably still be there.

Though my position was caught in the cutbacks, I kept a few skills that still come in very handy. Just consider this: I just returned home from a trip to Orlando in which I easily secured three full fare roundtrip tickets to ANY destination that Airtran flies to. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider they fly to the Bahama's....well, sounds like a spring break trip is on the Horizon. FREE! How? easy!

First, before I tell you how I got free flights, let me brag about Airtran Airlines. This was my first experience using their company for travel and, immediately, I made two quick observations about them. First, the crew, customer service AND ground folks were all amazing. They were pleasant and helpful...even when they were busy. Yea, I said it. They were ALL pleasant. Seriously, they make United and Delta employees look silly. Second, their equipment was amazing. They have the newest fleet of Boeing Jets in the industry. Every flight has internet and XM radio. I was happy, kids were happy. That makes one very happy family travelling through the skies!

In addition, after doing a little bit of research about Airtran, I learned that they were just purchased by Southwest. What a great marriage. That was like finding out that the two nicest people in the neighborhood just got engaged.

Enough bragging - time to get back to my story! When I went to check in for my return flight to Columbus, the (very friendly) agent at the counter couldn't assign me a seat. TIP: When they cannot assign you a seat, it means they don't HAVE one. So, I quickly hustled through security and straight to the gate area. TIP: Don't waste your time at the front counter. ONLY the gate agent controls the seats after a certain period. Regardless your whining, pleading or begging, front counter can't give you a seat that doesn't exist on their screen. At the gate, I inquired about whether the flight was oversold. Well, yes, it was. TIP: If you know that the flight is "close to" or "absolutely" oversold, and you have some flexibility, insist on having the customer service agent place your name ( and your entire party) on the volunteer list.

If you don't get pro-active at this point, you are either going to get a crappy seat on a full flight or get bumped off and then reimbursed via check in the mail, ( and of course re-routed). If you VOLUNTEER, you can control your destiny. After I asked to volunteer my family, an elated agent looked at me and said, "Really? You don't mind?" I did him a favor and he got his flight out much quicker. He never had to ask for volunteers, nobody knew the flight was overbooked and everyone was happy! It took me less than 7 minutes and a few questions to walk away with a great deal.

What DID the kids and I get? We were rebooked on a direct flight home the following AM, free dinner and breakfast at a nice restaurant, an excellent Hotel room for the night AND ( drum roll), 3 completely free roundtrip tickets to any of their destinations...including International. Basically, one simple question just paid for approximately $1,500 worth of tickets for spring break. :D Can anyone say..."Beach?"

So, the lessons of this blog are simple:

  • Airlines overbook flights all the time - especially during the Holiday season.
    If you are travelling during a busy time of the year, plan for an extra day or two of flexible travel.
  • Check in close to the 45 minute limit ( after others have all checked in before you and taken the seats).
  • If they cannot immediately offer you seating at the self check, inquire at the gate about volunteering to be bumped.
  • Make sure they give you vouchers for food and hotel. ( Yes, they are required to but sometimes they "forget".
  • Finally, when you get your voucher, immediately book your new ticket. If you lose your voucher confirmation number, you lose everything.

    Oh, and if you are travelling on strict deadlines, do everything exactly opposite of what I just suggested. Remember, just because you have a ticket does not mean you have a seat.

    That's it folks! Happy Holiday travelling! Time for me to book a flight for Spring Break. Based on the map below, hmmmm.....where DO I want to go?

    Yea Airtran! Yea Me! :D

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What? Deer Hunting and Vegan Eating?

I am amused at the folks who follow my facebook or my blog and are now confused about my stance on food and health. It really isn't that confusing...so, let me clear it up. First of all, it is important to understand that I view food as a science. I am always interested in how to get maximum results from nutrition. From the moment I read one of Jane Brody's nutrition books as a teenager, I was hooked on eating for performance.

I do not subscribe to a "diet" of any kind. I never have. My interest lies in nutritional habits and how they affect my life as an athlete and a woman. My typical day would normally include a large variety of nearly raw foods ( avocado, nuts, etc) and some lean protein. This fall I decided to see what would happen if I followed a Vegan lifestyle for a short period of time. I was just curious if it could be done, it if was appealing, and if I maintained athletic performance. What did I discover?

#1) I loved it and could live like that for the rest of my life.

#2) I experienced a large body fat loss. ( Not so great for me because I didn't have alot to lose)

#3) I never really felt tired. If anything, I felt invigorated.

#4) The ONLY negative that I experienced was a loss of muscle mass. In my world, I rely on my muscle for strength in every area, however, I am especially dependent on muscle mass to keep me from getting injured. Despite hemp protein, rice protein shakes and an impeccable menu, I could not seem to maintain the same level of muscular development that I was used to.

Overall, I thought the experience was great. I saw a huge benefit from giving up dairy. All said and done, I went over 60 days without animal protein. I will continue to leave dairy out of my menu. In addition, I will continue to focus on many raw foods for the base of my products. A few times per week, I will, however, add some lean animal protein sources back in.

So, the question of the deer? Well, considering that my Vegan Interest had absolutely nothing to do with animal rights activism, I have no problem consuming animal protein. I do, however, care very much about the source and the type of animal I eat. Organically ( preferably local) grown beef and chicken, ocean fish and/or lean wild game are at the top of my list. Obviously, deer is a great source of wild game lean protein. Many people are taken back by the concept of hunting and therefore decide they could never eat venison. My rebuttal to that would be that if they ever saw how the store bought meat was raised and butchered, they would be horrified. I encourage my friends to consider that meat doesn't start it's life in those neatly wrapped packages!

At the end of the day, my desire to eat vegan for a few months and my desire to hunt this year are all centered around the same concept: Finding the healthiest choices of food for both myself and my family.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back to Civilization!

Last Thanksgiving I was thrilled to spend some time with my Oklahoma family enjoying great food, bluegrass and some time at a hunting cabin up in the hills near the Arkansas and Oklahoma border. One of the greatest memories of the trip was the amazing peace I found "disconnecting" from technology for a few days. As much As I love the tech life (and trust me...I do!), it was therapeutic to turn it all off while I was there. With that in mind, this year when a friend of mine suggested that we celebrate the Holiday by taking a trip to the wilderness...I jumped at the opportunity.

The "wilderness" was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan..about 3 hours Northwest of anything considered a city. As we drove in before dawn, I knew we were in for an adventure as we made our way to the cabin (in our vehicle) and had to maneuver the truck in an effort to keep large snow covered tree branches from smacking the truck. We finally found a place to park, strapped on our backpacks and began to hike the rest of the way in.

We took propane, some food, some water, hunting items, a few layers of clothes, cooking utensils, whiskey, and a camera. Maybe a few other items I am forgetting...but, take my word for it....very few! Don't let the word cabin fool you either! It was, literally, shelter. There was no electricity all. The only water anywhere near us was at a Hand pump down the hill.

The bathroom was an outhouse past the firewood shed. The only heat that existed came from the wood burning stove in the cabin itself. I learned very quickly that knowing how to build a fire would be lifeskill...literally. Once the cabin warmed up, we were able to set up the cabin and get ready for a day of hunting.

I had a Michigan big game license so my ultimate goal was a deer. As it turned out, even after learning how to put up my own tree stand and wait very patiently, the deer were not interested in hunting games. I never even saw a track! I did, however, have a few attempts at a squirrel. No deal. Thankfully, my friend was an excellent hunter and despite my sorry attempt at providing some of the food, we still had amazing meals each day. He shot and then prepared a feast of squirrel on day one...pheasant on days two and three. It was incredible.

I was startled at how efficient you become very quickly. With limited daylight and much to do, I was up at sunrise and then called it a night at about 8 PM. I wish I could pull that off in my everyday life!

All in all, the lessons were many...but for those who may want to venture into the wilderness in the middle of a snow storm and survive with little more than a well pump, fire as warmth and a rifle...I have a few pointers I would like to pass on:

  • When washing dishes at a well in the snow, do NOT grab the metal handle with wet hands. You will get stuck.

  • Do NOT sit on the outhouse toilet seat with a bare butt. It is very similar to grabbing the well handle with wet hands.

  • When carrying a hunting tree stand on your back, pay attention to where you step. Hitting a sheet of ice with the metal stand strapped to your back has no good end result.

  • If your friend is much better at building a fire than you will ever be, it is acceptable to feign sleep until they have created enough warmth for the room to slip past the freezing mark. THEN you pretend to wake up.

  • Hot Onion soup in a thermos while sitting in a tree stand waiting for deer to show up is better than, well, anything I can think of presently.

  • Detaching from the outside world for a period of three days is the best Thanksgiving gift to give yourself....ever. I promise that the moment you step under a warm shower in a real bathroom you will be pretty darn thankful.

  • Finally, and, most importantly...I learned that when you pack your backpack to leave, do NOT put the "Doe Urine Wafers" in your backpack unless you wish to have everything you own smell like, well, Doe urine. Make sure to put that in someone else's!
Though I will admit that it felt wonderful to check into a hotel after our adventure, I am already looking forward to doing it again next Thanksgiving! Whether with my family in Oklahoma or with friends at a remote location, I do believe that one of the greatest ways to truly appreciate and be Thankful for what we have is to give it up completely for a few days!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This is a SERIOUS hunting store!

They just provide the game right here!! :) Just kidding...but, really, this Cabela's is unreal! On the shopping list for today: tree stand, scent blocker (that is NOT a fancy name for deodorant hunting challenged friends), bright orange hat and an out of state license to hunt in the great state of Michigan!

Thanksgiving Craziness!

As I type this, I am sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle heading North. As far North as one can get in the Midwest without landing squarely in one of the Great Lakes. A friend and I have decided that the best adventure for a Thanksgiving weekend would be to hike into a remote area of a National Forest with nothing but our backpacks and some hunting gear. While we will be staying in a cabin for shelter, it has no electricity, running water or heat. We will have a wood burning stove and, supposedly, some firewood on the porch.

The best part of the trip is that our food source will be the small amount of food in our backpacks and, with some luck, a tasty deer or some squirrel. Yum yum. I may be dreaming of a warm shower and cranberry sauce by Friday night!

News update: It is supposed to snow all weekend and the high on Friday is a whopping 26 degrees. Woohoo!

I will update everyone when I am back in cell service on Sunday! I will have plenty of pictures...hopefully one with my first deer!