Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Let's see how fast I can get this typed up, and how long it ends up being.

Friday morning, I got an hour or two of work done from home, and then Mom drove me to the airport on her way out of town.  She had been visiting me for a couple of days as a belated birthday present.  It was great for us to get to spend a couple of days together since we don't see each other that often anymore.

Before Mom pulled away, Amy's sister Andrea pulled in to drop off Amy and Stephanie.  The three of us headed inside and breezed through security.  I was relieved because I was warned it's hit-and-miss with TSA efficiency at the Fresno airport.  I usually drive south to fly out of Long Beach or LAX for more direct connections, so it's rare for me to utilize the Fresno airport.  I hadn't been here in a year and a half.  Thankfully we had some time before the flight boarded, because I had to open my laptop and prep a report for work in the terminal.  I had to do the same in the Portland airport.
I have discovered my relaxation point on flights is Sudoku puzzles.  They are challenging enough to engage my brain but simple enough to do with distractions.  And I love flying Horizon because of the free beer and wine.  I'm a white wine drinker, so I always opt for beer if they only offer red wine.  So it was beer for both flights north and wine for both flights south three days later.

When we landed in Portland, I almost left my sweater on the plane, but thankfully I stayed near the plane long enough for the flight attendant to come running out of the plane waving it.  Portland was just my layover, but was Amy and Stephanie's final stop.  They graciously stuck around and had lunch with me in the airport during my hour layover.  We were enjoying our time together so much that I was summoned over the loudspeaker for final boarding for my next flight to Seattle and was the last one to walk on the plane.  Thankfully the last few people were still finding their seats, so they weren't waiting on me.

One thing unusual about these flights is that I barely attempted to converse with my seatmates at all on this trip.  Usually I'll initiate a conversation and we'll talk for the length of the flight if they feel so inclined.  I didn't even get the name of the person I sat next to on my first flight, and barely spoke to the woman next to me on my second flight.  I wasn't stand-off-ish, I just didn't offer any effort at conversation and neither did they.

Getting my rental car in Seattle proved more annoying than difficult.  Not as difficult as for Amy, whom was still trying in Portland when I landed in Seattle.  The company I went with had just relocated facilities and was having trouble with process flow.  I'll write a letter.  But finally I was in my car and headed to SPU to pick up my sister Joy.  I got lost when the freeway I was on ended and I couldn't find the rest of it.  I finally ended up in a corporate parking lot and a woman leaving work graciously told me to follow her to it.

I arrived at SPU and had dinner in the SPU cafeteria with Joy.  They have great food, but since I liked the FPU cafeteria food, I know only 10 people in the world who would take my word on food quality.  We stopped at the student snack shop to grab supplies and got in the car for the drive back down to Portland.  There wasn't too much traffic, but the delay in getting my rental car and getting to SPU set us back on desired arrival time.  And everyone here drives 5 MPH below the speed limit.  It's ridiculous.

Then I realized that of all my Google Maps I printed planning for this trip, I neglected to print on to get to the hotel.  And my PDA's GPS was having a meltdown, so we called the hotel.  The front desk clerk really tried, but he didn't put emphasis on taking the 205 instead of taking the exit off the 5 after passing the 205 freeway.  We eventually arrived.  Then a different hotel clerk, Sandy, was in no end of confusion with our trying to check in.  While I had reserved two rooms (one for Joy and me, another for Amy and Stephanie) using some of my D&T-travel-earned Marriott points, I had only put Amy's name on one of the reservations (my name was on both), and apparently they checked her and Stephanie into the room without Amy's name on it.  I failed to see why this mattered, but it was a big deal to this clerk, who kept trying to describe to me the process by which Amy would now be checked into both rooms.  After having been in travel mode for 11 hours of flying and driving, Sandy's life expectancy was getting shorter and shorter, when she finally handed me a room key.

Amy and Stephanie were across the hall from us, and we all talked in their room for a little while before going to bed.  Then Joy and I discovered our different room preferences.  I don't sleep well in a cold room, and she doesn't sleep well in a warm room.  And the hotel room thermostats never seem to be sophisticated enough to control to a desired temperature.  We made do and found a decently happy medium.

The next morning, we had oatmeal and bananas in Amy's room before heading to the expo to grab our race bibs.  Amy had signed up to race also, but due to plantar fasciitis, was under doctor's orders not to run.  Joy had problems with her knees and ankles while training for this race, so she had decided to power walk the race.

I love Rock-n-Roll race expos.  This is the largest series of races nationwide and the expo in each city occupies a whole convention center, and so it's very high energy and they attract a lot of sponsors who give out lots of freebies.  We got lots of food, both prepared and packaged for later, we made race signs for Amy and Stephanie to hold, and I even competed for a free Spartan race entry, trying to complete the most burpees in a minute.  The expo record for guys was 28.  I did 19, and was pretty darn proud of myself, because those are hard and I don't regularly do them.  I'll just have to train for my next expo.
After the expo, I dropped the girls off at the hotel so they could go sight see.  I had other people I wanted to visit that day since I so rarely make it to Oregon.  I drove up to Vancouver, WA, to visit my godparents Sherman and Harriet.  They're in their 80's, and just celebrated 66 years of marriage.  It's amazing how mentally sharp these two are.  None of even the standard forgetfulness any average senior citizen may experience.  I had to work to keep up with Sherman's humor and quick wit.

The secret to their longevity?  I'm not sure, but I think it's ice cream.  Their freezer is packed with almost a dozen half gallon cartons of different varieties.  There really isn't that much else in there, so that's what I had for lunch.

That evening I met up with my friend Matt.  We started work at D&T together, he last three years and I lasted five.  We have so little in common outside of our time at D&T, that if not for working together, we probably wouldn't make any effort to get to know one another if introduced.  But just that experience has forged a deep friendship that I believe will last a lifetime.

Matt is working on a Sports Management MBA at University of Oregon in Salem, but he was up in Portland that weekend for a bachelor party.  He invited me over to the house they rented that weekend for us to hang out for awhile and then I joined the group for Thai food that evening.  The food was spicy, but so delicious.  It was a good group of guys to hang out with, and I was grateful they were okay with me joining in for awhile.

I finally got back to the hotel at 11 p.m., and the girls were all asleep.  Joy hadn't prepped her race gear, but I decided not to wake her up for it.  I pulled out what I could so I could help her with it tomorrow as she got ready, then put everything of mine together, and went to sleep.  Since Joy was already out, I was able to warm up the room a little more to my liking, but still within a range where she wouldn't wake up from it.

We woke up, dressed, and drove across town to the start area.  I figured out at my last RnR race that while an event photographer will only offer to snap one or two photos of you, you can pass the time from arrival to gun time by walking around and posing for all the event photographers.  With over 22,000 people at the race, there were a lot of photographers.  So Joy and I kept walking around to find new ones and trying all sorts of poses together: her on my back, taking turns pantomiming choking the other one, different facial expressions.  Try as I might to get decent photos along the course, I'm never thrilled with them, so we decided to get good ones before the race.

Amy had signed up for text message alerts on both of our bib numbers so they'd know when we passed certain markers along the course.  They were there on the sidelines to cheer me on at mile 3, and said they'd see me on mile 7, but while waiting for Joy, couldn't get to me until mile 11.
Some spectators will make signs, either personalized to their runner, or generic to get runners to smile.  Some of my favorites have been "Worst parade ever," "free beer at the end," and "great practice for the zombie apocalypse."  This course actually took us past a church, and they put a Bible verse about running a race in their marquee for us, and a few parishioners were out cheering us on.  I love interacting with spectators.  The best ones make noise.  It doesn't matter whether they're yelling, cheering, blowing a kazoo, or ringing a cowbell.  Especially when I'm on a difficult stretch of the race, it can overwhelm me to tears to see some stranger ringing a cowbell with a smile on his or her face.
But since this is an inaugural race, many spectators stand there expressionless and silent for the whole race, waiting for their one friend or family member to come running past.  I used to resent these people who couldn't muster up the energy (hey, I'm running 13.1 miles here, they're just standing or sitting there) to smile and cheer for everyone, or at least more than one of the 22,000 runners.  Now I have accepted to call to educate such spectators.  So as many times as I could (at least 15 over the course of the race), I identified such an individual, pointed straight at them as I ran past, smiled huge, and breathlessly yelled, "Thank you for being out here today, it means so much!"  It provoked a smile or more out of most of them.  Time to be a part of the solution instead of continuing to complain about the problem.

Most of the first half of the race was uphill, and most of the second half was downhill, only about 400 feet in elevation change overall.  We ran across two bridges.  It was sprinkling on for the second half of the race, which I loved.  I finished in 2h6m, and was thrilled with my time.  Joy finished in 3h6m.

I love race recovery food: fruit cups, chocolate milk, bagels, pita chips, powerade, and a beer for the 21+'ers.  I loved the rain during the race, but afterward it started getting a little annoying trying to eat after having run that long.  Thankfully it wasn't too cold.  Amy and Stephanie had tried to leave and go to church, but couldn't find their way due to road closures, so they came back to congratulate us.

We then went back to the hotel and cleaned up.  We each went down and sat in the jacuzzi for awhile.  I tried to do some laps to loosen up after the race, but was pathetically winded after three in a very short pool.  So I just soaked in the hot water for awhile.

Joy and I then packed up and gave Sandy at the front desk a chance to redeem herself.  I had to get Joy back to school sort of early the next morning, so we were leaving for Tacoma that evening to stay with Leroy and Karen.  Since our room hadn't been cleaned yet, I requested a late check-out after normal check-out time of noon had already occurred.  Sandy refunded some of my rewards points back into my account.  Sweet!

We went to Famous Dave's with Amy and Stephanie for dinner before hitting the road.  Delicious food!

The traffic was actually terrible trying to get up to Tacoma.  No accidents, but at one point the three lanes reduced to two, and that caused a statewide panic that held us up for an hour.  The freeway sign not only said "Right Lane Ends," but also elaborated "Form Two Lines Left."  These people need help.
We finally made it to Leroy and Karen's for a late second dinner of chili, equally delicious.  We had a nice visit with them and then went to bed.  They left in the morning before we did, and I was pleasantly surprised that I was hardly sore the next morning when I woke up.  Joy however was having a hard time moving.  A sharp contrast to two years ago when we ran the Seattle half marathon together.  I was in pain the next day, but she (with almost no running training but in shape from water polo) bounded down the stairs fine the next morning.

I dropped her off at school, and drove up to Everett for a brief visit with my grandma, before heading to the airport.  I spoke at length with my seatmate on this flight, but can't recall her name as I'm writing this a week and a half after the fact.  She was in her 70's, lives in Cleveland, and was coming to Portland for the Rose Festival.  She plays the soprano saxophone in a large band every year here.  She was staying for three weeks.

I got off the plane and met Amy and Stephanie at the same airport restaurant.  They had ordered me the same burger I had on Friday, and we had the same server, Jared, who was starting to feel like a familiar long-time friend.  We finally boarded our flight home Fresno, soaking in as much cool weather as possible in anticipation of the summer heat awaiting us in a few hours.  Andrea picked us up at the airport with Amy's kids.  They dropped me off at home first, along with three of the kids who couldn't wait any longer for the bathroom, and then Amy picked them up later after dropping off Stephanie and Andrea.  And I just watched T.V. the rest of Monday evening because I was smart enough to take Tuesday off work, too.

After these past few months at work, with the audit, and the bank loan renewal, this was a much-needed break for me, and I'm so grateful for the ability to run and for the flexibility to take time off work for these races.

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