Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All shook up

Last night I was peacefully sitting at my desk in front of my computer, waiting for my dinner to finish nuking cooking, trying to download something to watch on the plane trip to New York. All of a sudden I felt a little gentle shake to the right, then to the left, another to the right, then RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE SHAKE SHAKE ROLL SHAKE RATTLE and I saw that the wind devas hanging from the curtain rod in front of me were swaying wildly and the race medals on the little stand were clanking back and forth and the good glassware was making sounds of tinkling together and holy crap batman! I realized that if it was going to continue it would be a good idea to remove my ass from directly beneath the heavy ceiling fan so I scooted away. The earthquake stopped after what was probably only a couple of seconds (and felt like about 20 minutes) but everything in my view continued swaying and making noise. Wow, that was a big one!

When that happens there's no way of knowing whether you've just felt a big earthquake on your local faultline or whether it's a humongous quake on a different fault. It turned out to be on the Calaveras Fault which runs along Highway 680, a couple of blocks from my house. Niiiice! It was centered in the South Bay, and a 5.6 on the Richter Scale, the biggest we've had in the Bay Area since 1989. There have been a couple dozen aftershocks in the same area, mostly in the 1-2 range. They've been predicting and warning and cautioning very loudly that the Calaveras or Hayward were going to let go soon, and this was a big fat warning to all of us to be prepared. Ok, as soon as I'm back from New York I'll get right on putting together an earthquake survival package. Really.

Chaos continues at my office where we're expanding into more space and reconfiguring some of our old space. We had no warning that construction would start when it did so we've had to scurry around trying to get things out of the way, making decisions that we probably should have made weeks ago but didn't. I'm incredibly happy that I'll be out of here for three working days. What a mess.

After the shaking last night I knit a few rows on the Opera Scarf and realized that I must have dropped a stitch somewhere. So I unknit back a few rows, knowing that if I just ripped it off the needles I'd never recover; I can never figure out how to pick up yarnovers and usually just drop more stitches that way. I think my net progress last night was minus three rows. Good job!

Tomorrow we'll meet my newest bear, but in honor of Halloween the Gratuitous Bear of the Day is a group photo. I'm hoping tonight that I get some little trick-or-treaters at my door that are as cute as this group!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Big 200!

I guess I really got into this whole newfangled "blogging" thing, hmm? Today is my 200th post! Blab blab blah blah. I didn't realize I had that much to say.

On Sunday I will be running my 29th full marathon in my 17th state (having also run 34 half marathons in 8 states). Could somebody pretty please tell me why the heck I'm so nervous about THIS ONE?? I'm not sleeping well, my skin is breaking out, my stomach is upset, my sweet disposition is on edge. (Stop laughing or I'll hurt you.) I'm nervous about the race itself since -- well, since it's a marathon! It's 26.2 miles of very very crowded streets, starting much later in the day than I'm used to. We'll still need to get up at some ungodly early hour but we won't start running until after 10:10 am (and won't finish before the sun sets). I'm claustrophobic and crowds make me itchy. And I'm very intolerant towards rude runners, of which there will be an abundance in the field of about 45,000 runners. Throw in travel with a large group, an airline I'm not used to, New York prices and oy vey. I'd like to curl up in bed with a bear and a large glass of vodka.

I should think of yarn instead. Om. This is how far I've gotten on the Opera Scarf. It will look much better, more open, after it's blocked. Which won't be for quite some time since I have most of it still to knit. I should get lots done on the long flights, probably very little in-between. Although I'll almost certainly have a couple of other projects before I finish this, I'm on a roll now and it will be done for this winter.

I had a very good run last night with Pam. We only ran our short short route but it was enough to calm my nerves for a while. Also, it's wonderful therapy venting all of my issues to a captive ear. Well, not too captive; she's faster than I am and could run away if she chose. Heh. She's too nice for that! This will be my last run before New York unless I get all my stuff packed while I'm passing out candy tomorrow night. Which means it's probably my last run.

Late yesterday afternoon the man in brown delivered a very squished looking box to my office. He plopped down upon my desk this sorry looking sight:Hey Mr. UPSman, can't you read?? It says that if you're reading this, the poor bear is on it's head! Turn it over you meanie!
So he said "that's what happens when you don't use packing. Squashed bear." Yikes! We'll see what happened to the bear tomorrow ...

Instead, for the Gratuitous Bear of the Day we have little Skeleton Bear. He's another in the group of Halloween costumed bears. With his mask and trick-or treat bag he's ready to scare you into giving him some candy. Oooooh, scary!

Monday, October 29, 2007

This just in ....

A man in brown has been sighted carrying a SMASHED BOX possibly containing a squished, upside-down bear. More information forthcoming!

A ten year old's imagination

Is he Naruto?

Is he Guitar Hero?

Maybe a little of both?

Or just a goofy kid who loves to play around?

My nephew's birthday was this weekend and as has become our tradition, the two of us went shopping together for his present. He always decides ahead of time what he wants. And always changes his mind when we get to the store. It's tons of fun for both of us. He tries to get everything possible past Auntie Amy and I just keep putting things back on the shelf when he turns his back. This year he planned to get a skateboard thingie with helmet and wrist protectors but when he saw Guitar Hero III on the shelf he just had to have it. And the secret spy camera.

I had a good weekend, full of family and food. Lots and lots of both. Maybe just a little too much of both. I could use an extra day to fast and sleep but that's not happening any time soon. Throughout the weekend I had sushi (twice), Indian food, Japanese fusion small plates, pizza, hot sake, cold sake, vodka, beer, yikes! No wonder I'm feeling a bit queasy.

Saturday morning I ran on the Lafayette-Moraga Trail with Bree and Pam. We had an easy 6 miler in very nice cool weather. None of us felt like pushing although my feet kept speeding up on the return miles. They made me run in back since I started going too fast. Funny, I'm normally the pokey person.

I only got a little knitting done this weekend, on the Opera Scarf. I'm adding a tag for that, I have a feeling I'll be knitting it for quite a while. I like it and it's really an easy pattern. And yes, the pattern I'm doing is definitely a 2 row repeat, although the current pattern online only is 1. The big difference is the cast-on stitches; mine is an even number and the current pattern is odd. Too bad I already had a few inches complete or I would have used the current pattern. Next time?

My little bear is almost here. Her journey has taken her all over the country and she's seen way more of the east coast than I have. She started in Williston, VT; to Chelmsford, MA; then Stratford, CT; Philadelphia, PA; San Jose, CA; Oakland, CA; San Ramon, CA. She left San Ramon just about the same time I did this morning but I made it to the office much quicker than she will. I'll bet she's on the 5:00 pm delivery truck so I won't see her until tomorrow. Which gives me even more time to discover what her name will be!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thoughts for a Friday

I think most of us are, to some extent, afraid of getting older. Not because of some vague notions of "old is bad" but because of very valid concerns about becoming less than we are. We fear losing our hearing, eyesight, taste, fine sense of touch, balance and cognitive abilities. An artist or writer fears losing his creativity, an athlete fears losing her strength or speed or drive, a genius fears losing his insight and knowledge. We fear the moodiness, anger and frustration of not being able to do what we could before. We're scared of chronic illness and lasting pain. We look at our grandparents, our parents, the little old bent woman in the store or the old man driving slowly down the street and dread the day that we become them.

When we're in our teens we feel that anyone over 25 is old and out of touch. We turn 32 and think how awful it is to turn 45. We touch 50 and feel the cold hand of age and when we're 70 we wonder how the hell we got so old when we don't feel any different than that 25 year old. The great hordes of baby boomers are actually old now, hitting the age where past generations have retired. We've pushed borders with every milestone we've passed and think this is just another obstacle to get around. But we see our parents, the hard workers, the strong personalities, and see it's not going to be as easy as we thought. It's happening, or happened to them. How can we hope that our aging will be any easier? And how can we make it easier for our aging loved ones?

Certainly having nothing to do with these thoughts, my mom has come to visit. The smoky air in San Diego got to be too much for her so she came up a day earlier than planned. I picked her up at the Oakland Airport after I got off work. The crowds were pretty bad and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pull over because of the way the security guard was directing traffic. I saw my mom and drove into a little opening. As the guard motioned to me to move the car I pointed and yelled out that I was picking up the little old lady in the wheelchair; amazingly he let me leave my car unattended for a moment while I went to help her. Normally they don't care, you just can't leave your car at all without being harassed. He must have elderly relatives.

We headed home since my bro and I had decided that he and his family would have the night off and I'd have the night alone with my mom. We dropped her little bag at home and headed to a local sushi joint for dinner. The other time I had been to Itto Sushi I had enjoyed the food but the service was pretty bad; I hoped for better this time. Yes, it was much better. When we got there most of the tables were empty although they mostly filled up by the time we left. Service was prompt and efficient. The waitress was very sweet to my mom and quite attentive. We ordered three rolls and I'm not sure why but they were some of the best sushi I've ever had. We were finishing up and enjoying the last of the hot sake when the hostess approached our table with a small bottle of hot sake and fresh cups; she recognized me from my several visits to a sushi restaurant in Danville and wanted to welcome me here. She poured us all fresh hot sake, toasted and drank the small cup with us, then left the rest for our enjoyment. Now that's really service!

I had to cancel my run with Pam and Olivia to get my mom. I'm glad they were running together because I really don't like to cancel. But I enjoyed having the time with my mom. I'll get some miles in tomorrow instead.

My pretty bear is on her way. She's made her way from Williston, VT through Chelmsford, MA and Stratford, CT and was last seen making her way through Philadelphia, PA. She's due to be here on Monday but she may arrive after I leave work so I may not get her until Tuesday. Hopefully this is the last time I'll need to use a stock photo of the store's bear. She doesn't have a name yet -- guys, I need help naming her! Give me some options!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Will there be a contest?

Last night after work I ran with Olivia. I know! Neither of us called and canceled, we both showed up, and we both ran. What a concept! This will be our last regularly scheduled pre-New York Wednesday night run; I can't run next Wednesday because I'm sure the little goblins and ghosties would tar and feather (or at least egg and TP) my house if I wasn't handing out candy. We -- ok, I -- decided to take it easy, both because the I forgot my inhaler and because the air wasn't as clear as it's been. Easy my foot!

We hadn't chatted in a while so we wanted to stay together, even though Olivia is a faster runner than I am. So she slowed down for me, I sped up for her. Then she'd speed up, I'd speed up, I'd start huffing and puffing and telling her to go ahead, she'd slow down, I'd slow down, she'd speed up, rinse and repeat. I totally blamed my lagging on forgetting the inhaler. I didn't realize until we'd finished that we had averaged 12:10-ish. Yep, way too fast for me to converse and run comfortably. Despite that we had a great run and a good talk. We're going to try to continue running after NY but I think we're bad influences on each other.

I mentioned that the air was bad. I thought it was because of our very own Diablo winds blowing schmootz from the Valley but on the news last night they said it's smoke from the fires in the south. Apparently their Santa Anas blew the smoke about 100 miles out to sea where the prevailing winds swept them up north, to us. Thank you very much SoCal - take our water and give us smoke!

The air in San Diego is so bad my mom is coming up early for her weekend visit. She has COPD and is having a terrible time breathing. Mostly she's been shut up in her house but she's not supposed to use the air conditioner since that'll bring in outside air. And it's been hot down there. I'm glad she's got the option of getting away.

Oh. I BOUGHT MY BEAR! Yes, yes I did. The pretty little bear is coming home to me. In the words of Vermont Teddy Bear Company: "Sugar and Spice and everything nice - Teddy Bears don't get much sweeter than this. She's dressed in a red velveteen and satin dress with applique heart and heart lace trim, and her matching head bow makes her even sweeter." Now I have to think up a name for her. Should I have a contest? Would anybody enter? Would the results be good? Would the prize be worthwhile? Helloooo - is anyone out there??

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Get some sleep and be nicer

Another recent study has determined that lack of sleep can make you cranky. NO! Say it's not true! Heh. I could have told you that, without doing a very fancy brain imaging study. I only have to look at myself and just about every member of my family (not to mention some of my friends) to show that emotional imbalances are highly exaggerated after a sleepless night. Or several sleepless nights. And yes, I do realize that this study was showing why these results occurred. I'm glad for these studies because otherwise my sis would have to find another line of work and she likes what she does. Note to researchers: instead of concentrating your studies on the results of sleeplessness, pretty please do some research on how I can sleep better. You do not want my cranky butt coming after you!

The fires continue raging through Southern California. I'm keeping a close eye on them, hoping the San Diego fires don't head toward the coastal hills. Yes, it would solve the issue of my mom's having to pack when she moves but we still don't want that. Again, my heart goes out to those who have lost their home and possessions. The forecast is for the winds to switch tomorrow and that will help get a handle on some of the fires. I'm so relieved that we don't have our own local firestorms.

I'm starting to get excited about New York, doing pre-pre-planning. My brain is busy (at night, when it's supposed to be trying to fall asleep) deciding what to take, what to wear, what to do. Of course when I wake up I've totally forgotten what I've decided, so I do it again the next night. Very productive use of my insomnia. Like counting sheep, but I'm counting miles.

Bree and I are going back and forth about our race strategy. On the one hand we'd both love to finish under six hours. On the other hand we'd really like to have a good time out there. We're thinking of carrying cameras and taking pictures every mile. I think if we did that there's no way we'd finish under 6:30; Bree thinks it would only add about 13 minutes to our total time. I've always wanted to take pictures along the way in a race but I'm afraid that by about mile 18 I'd want to chuck the camera at the crowd and just plod on for the remainder of the course. I like my camera and don't want it either tossed or sweated into a moist ruin.

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day is Witch Bear. It's hard in this picture to see her complete costume. She has high heeled, pointy toed black boots, a lovely cape over her dress and the pointy black hat. She's carrying a trick or treat bag that matches her outfit. Very cute and not at all scary!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Running and knitting and bears, oh my!

I ran last night. No, really. Honestly, I ran. It seems so strange that this is the first weekday run since Portland. I'm glad Pam is back since I was starting to feel sluggish. More than usual. I have big problems canceling my regular runs with Pam although apparently I feel free to cancel the runs with Olivia. What's up with that?? Maybe because I've thought of the Olivia runs as "extras" and the Pam runs as "necessities." So I'm glad that we did our regular short short run. It's gone from being dark at the end of our run to completely dark for the entire run in the short break we took. It felt like fall. A warm fall, but fall. I felt really good after running and remembered why I do this.

My heart goes out to all the Southern Californians beset by the raging fires. My mom lives in La Jolla and can't go outside because of the thick smoke everywhere. She's away from the fires now but more are breaking out daily. [Yeah, she's just living where the roads collapse and water mains break.] It's horrifying to think that SoCal has two seasons: landslide and fire. We have those too but we also have a bit of the usual seasons. Even though we had a bunch of early rain last week apparently the Diablo winds (our version of the Santa Anas they get down south) have dried out all the vegetation again. Let's hope our little heatwave that we're having doesn't turn into our own inferno.

In an awkward segue, this weekend I took my car into service and got another key and fob. Remember when I lost mine, inside the car? I've never found it despite furious periodic searches. The service writer at Saturn got a huge chuckle when I told him it was lost somewhere inside the car. That little loss set me back just over $100. When I got the new key I had to try it in all the locks and realized that this car only has one door lock, on the driver's door. The passenger door and trunk must be unlocked from either inside the car or with the remote. The amusing thing is I hadn't ever noticed that before and I've had the car for ten month.

While I was waiting for my car I finished the latest (and possibly last) Point Lobos Hat. It's another Malabrigo one, in (I think) Violetas. I did this one on the size 8 needles again and with the patterned number of repeats. I'm still loving this pattern but how many hats do I need?

I'm trying to decide on my travel project for New York and I think I'm going to take one of my older UFO's. This is the Opera Scarf that I started at least a year ago, probably longer. I don't know why I put it aside since I love the yarn (Lorna's Laces) and the pattern is a simple repeat. Wait a minute. I just looked at the pattern online and I don't think it's the same as the one I have; I'm certain that mine is a 2 row repeat, not a 1 row repeat. Odd. Whatever, it's a very simple, pretty project so I think it'll be what I take.

I'm much closer to talking myself into buying the Sweetheart Bear from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company that I've been coveting. I even went as far as to rearrange my bears at home to find a place for her. And yes, I do have a perfect place, between my (almost) 50 year old dolly and little Frosty. What do you think, will I make it through the week without welcoming her to my house?

Heh. I should have a "Name the New Bear Contest." If I break down and get her, that is. Winner would get, um, hmmm, well. Maybe a Point Lobos Hat. In their favorite Malabrigo color that I have in my stash. It would be a hard contest since I'm running out of good bear names! Yes, I already have a Sweetie. And an SB. Geesh. Maybe I do have too many bears ...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Run Together - Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Report

What a difference a race and 5 minutes makes. We had a mostly a great time yesterday running Nike through San Francisco. The weather was perfect, the scenery was spectacular and the necklace sterling silver.

I was one of the lucky few who managed to register online the day they had the "special sneak preview" registration, last March. I tried all day and finally was able to plunk down my $85 at Many people were unable to get through since Nike/active's computer couldn't handle the rush. In fact, the half sold out so quickly that many women signed up for the full, hoping they could run half and still get the bling.

Thursday night was a special packet pick-up for Bay Area women. The "expotique" (Nike can't have a plain old "expo," can they?) that night featured wine and appetizers, raffles for diamond earrings and the Nike+ system, speakers and a guest appearance by a famous runner soccer player. We decided it would be much less crowded on Thursday and the store would probably still have merchandise. We were right!

The expo(tique) had a couple of cute touches this year. In addition to the foot massage station (with long lines), the pedicure station (with longer lines), they were making pins that read "I'm running with ______" or "my power song is ________". Yeah, there's a big tie-in with Apple iPods and the Nike+ running system. There was a video camera taking down stories of why/how you started running. Free samples of mini-Luna bars, chocolate, jamba juice and tight grip hair bands were being handed out. There was (a long line for) free engraving of iPod Nanos and treadmills with assistants to help set up the Nike+ system. Packet pickup went smoothly, the bib and chip attached together. The goody bag had the usual coupons and a couple of little free samples.

Anita and I must have looked like alcoholics; we were given 3 extra tickets for free wine and hey, we couldn't waste them, could we? Before we drank all that we walked across the street to the Nike store to see what race merchandise was available. They had wonderfully cute tees, sweats, hats and more, all overpriced but a good selection (I was told that by Friday they were out of almost everything). The colors this year were pink and burgundy, and the slogan this year was "run together" (in the past it's been "run like a girl"). I tried on a couple of shirts but they were Nike-sized: way too small for me. I bought a running cap in pink, with the race logo on the side. Hey, I didn't have a pink hat in my collection. I wanted a shirt but didn't want to spend that much money on something that didn't fit well.

My alarm went off Sunday morning at 3:50 am. Yuck. I did my pre-race morning thing and hit the road. I was meeting Sandy and Anita at the Rockridge BART parking lot at 5:15 with the plan that last there would drive. I was last so they piled in my car and we headed to AT&T Park. The "nominal fee" for parking was $10 (I think -- it was early). We had no problem getting a good spot and walked over to the bus that took us to Union Square. They were using real coaches, not school buses, which was very nice.

The set up at Union Square was confusing, even with the signage, because there were so many people there. There were adequate porta-potties, and a table with glasses of water. Sweat check used the bags we had been given at the expo(tique) and was confusing. We asked one woman standing at a bus where we checked them and she told us it was a block and a half away. We walked to the very next bus in line and were told to check our stuff there. They gave you a sticker to put on your bib with the bus and window number so you could retrieve it later.

The corral system could have been better. We were in the 12-15 minute corral, meaning runners and walkers were crammed together. After the gun went off it took us, no kidding, over 25 minutes to reach the start line. There were oodles of walkers in front of us and my game plan was to not have to careen wildly around them all trying to get to pace. I wondered how the heck the walkers were still ahead of us after mile three - I heard later about an early start option.

The first several miles were a royal pain. Not because of the terrain, it was still flat, but because of the people. I'm a firm believer in the run:walk method but I'm an even firmer believer in race etiquette. I'll cut a little slack for newbies but when the race is geared toward first timers, and Team in Training first timers at that, their coaches have got to start teaching them how to behave in a crowd. First, if your group is more than two people you don't string out across the entire road, blocking anyone and everyone behind you. Next, if it's time for your walk break you don't just all of a sudden come to a complete and dead stop in the middle of the road when there are crowds of people behind you. Finally, when the signs posted all over the road say "slower runners to the right" they mean slower walkers too. Get your damn ass out of my way, quit tripping me, quit blocking me, quit impeding the race experience of every single person behind you. Have a little awareness of your surroundings and a little courtesy. Damn! Why is that so hard to understand?

Now I know why faster runners hate slower runners and walkers and don't believe we belong in marathon-length races (what, don't believe me? Check out the forums at places like runnersworld or runningtimes and see how they denigrate us). I also know why I like smaller races that tend to have more experienced racers who practice race etiquette.

So it was tough during the first several miles to do more than try not to trip over someone. I actually elbowed a couple of women in a group that blocked everyone behind them. Finally I just shook my head and decided to get over it, the crowds weren't going away any time fast and the people weren't all of a sudden going to develop manners. When we got to the first hill Sandy took off since she wanted to run it and we didn't. I had three goals for this race: have a good time, enjoy the scenery and get the necklace. It was a perfect day for scenery since it was beautifully clear and crisp. At the higher spots we could see forever and the views were incredible. It was one Anita-moment after another, turning corners and seeing the ocean, or hills, or trees. Even the neighborhoods seemed to sparkle. Since we didn't care in the slightest how fast we went, we would turn around and stare at the vistas or take our time during the beautiful parts.

The water stations were adequate but very crowded. They had trouble keeping enough glasses filled for the crowds and at some of them we had to grab our own drinks. There was confusion and road blockage at the coat check station that we passed at about mile 3. The station with mini-Luna bars and the new Luna-Bites still had plenty of supplies but since people were grabbing handsful they probably ran out before the last walkers went by. The oxygen bar was crowded. Oxygen bar. Good lord, what'll they think of next? No, we didn't stop there. The chocolate station volunteers had given up entirely; we were told to just grab what we wanted from the tables. Thank ya very much, I think I will.

The couple of miles through Golden Gate Park were beautiful, albeit almost entirely uphill. We took our time, running and walking, enjoying the day and the views. Really, how lucky are we to live in such a beautiful place?? I was happily surprised that I still felt very good, my breathing steady, no asthma or allergy problems at all. My legs still felt good and my spirits were high.

We finally turned the last corner and saw the finish line. Anita took off on her patented sprint and I ran my own pace to the end. The tuxedoed gentlemen with their trays of little Tiffany boxes are always amusing to see; I took my box from one tray since none of them seemed to want to hand one over. Oops, then I remembered to stop my watch which then said 2:56. I got a bottle of water, had my chip cut off my shoe, worked my way past the space blanket drapers, got the little Tiffany bag to put the box into. The bag was tiny this year; the past years you could stick everything you got in it but this year it barely held more than the box. I got my race shirt and continued through the lines for a jamba juice and yogurt/cereal, and then finally caught up with Anita. We saw Sandy there, and went to get our checked bags since it was much cooler than it seemed.

We decided not to hang around and walked over to the bus line. And kept walking, the line went on forever. After, no kidding, about 45 minutes in line we finally got on the bus which took us back to AT&T with a stop at Union Square. And a couple of other stops as the driver stalled the bus out by slamming on the brakes once too often.

I'm terribly disappointed by the shirt. Not how it looks. On the contrary, it's a really cute shirt, a technical cotton/poly fabric. No, it's the sizing that was done so poorly. Instead of race-sizing it like they have in the past, they Nike-sized it. As you can see from the picture it's much smaller than the shirt from last year. Although they are both the same size (xxl), the new shirt is 4 inches smaller at the bust and 5 inches smaller at the waist. But an inch longer. Hey, this race is geared toward newbies and walkers and many, many (many) of them are much bigger than I am. There's no way they'll be able to wear it if it's tight on me. Even little Anita took a large, and it was tight on her (she normally takes either a small or medium). Too bad since it's too cute and one of the only pink race shirts around. Maybe I should have taken one of the men's shirts, but even though they let you take whatever size girl shirt you wanted, they hesitated to give out the men's (probably because they didn't have many of them).

After getting back to Oakland we headed out for lunch. Yum, a great BLT with curly fries and a beer. Yeah, I'm pretty certain I consumed twice as many calories as I had burned earlier. Whatever, it was very tasty. Afterward I went home, showered and went back to bed. All in all a fun race, despite the crowds and shirt. I'm sure by next March I'll be ready to shell out my money to do it again!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yawn. And, yawn.

Tonight I'm absolutely positively certainly not going anywhere. Ditto for Saturday night. Although I well remember those long ago days of yore when I went out drinking and dancing almost every single day of the week until 2 am and then went to work by 8 am, I can't do that anymore. Shoot, I drag during the day if I stay up reading past 11 pm. So after two nights out in the big city I'm wiped.

After work yesterday I met Anita and Olivia and BARTed into the City again. Jeanette rode with us and we surprisingly met Raji on our way. We went to the race expo (which I'll report about during my race report), drank some free wine, went shopping at Niketown, drank some more free wine, then Anita, Olivia and I met Claudia and Rocky for dinner at the Daily Grill. We had a good, leisurely meal (there's a fine line between leisure and bad service) then BARTed back home again. I made it home just a bit earlier than the night before, about 10:20.

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day is another Halloween Bear. He's a cutie with his Casper hoodie and matching trick-or-treat bag. This is little Boo Ghost Bear.

Good luck to everyone running the Nike Marathon or Half Marathon this weekend. And even though I'm not an active member, GO TEAM! East Bay ROCKS!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dress like a girl

Last night was the Marine Mammal Center Annual Gala. My boss always gets a table there and invites our employees to fill it up. This year since he was out of town we had even more seats to fill. New employee Jeanette and her hubby were coming so we decided to invite Claudia and her hubby too. Y'know, 'cause they're always ready at the last minute to dress to the nines and party. Heh.

The day before Jeanette and I went shopping for dress-up clothes since, uh, we didn't like what was in our closets. Yeah, that's it. Nothin' to do with how those old clothes fit, it was we just didn't like them. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! Amazingly enough we both found pretty dresses, and shoes too. Add in the cost of the parking ticket we got and we still both got amazing deals.

It was one thing wearing that dress in the dressing room of Ross and another wearing it in public. We were leaving straight from work so I changed in my office. And I didn't want to leave it. Oddly I just was very uncomfortable showing that much skin. I'll wear running shorts and a tank top with no problem but a low cut halter dress that came almost to my ankles seemed too revealing. Go figure.

A few of us BARTed over to San Francisco (after I had to get a new ticket because my old one was demagnetized) and arrived right at the start of cocktail hour. Waiters were walking around passing out cosmos and tequila sunrises, along with champagne and wine. None of us were drinking since we have a race this week. I took a cosmo because I've never been known to pass up a pretty red drink. Yum. Waiters were also carrying trays with teensie tiny appetizers but good luck trying to grab any. The couple I managed to get were very good. And it was amazing how after two cosmos I started feeling more comfortable in that dress. We took lots of pictures which are still in my camera, so I'll post them after I get around to being home long enough to do it.

The rest of our party arrived and then it was dinner time. I've been to a couple of Galas in previous years and I'm sorry to say this one paled by comparison. The setting is gorgeous but the food was nowhere near as good as it has been. The speeches weren't too bad but the auction dragged on interminably. And there was no dessert table as in years past! The nerve of them! Finally Claudia and her hubby offered a few of us rides over to BART in Oakland so we left.

I finally got home some time after 11pm. Too late for a work night! I scrambled around getting stuff ready for the morning and then tried to go to sleep. We know that old story, of course I didn't sleep well.

I'm still trying to avoid the lure of that bear ...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Where did our October go?

I'm used to October in the Bay Area being our best month of the year. We have one final spurt of summer weather, the leaves are turning color, nothing nasty is blooming and causing allergy problems, the air is clear of pollutants. But this year it's cool, even downright cold at night. And it's raining. I know you're not supposed to complain about rain when we're facing a drought but c'mon, it's only October! We have all winter for wet weather!

I ran around after work yesterday trying to find a washer/o-ring thingie to fix my drippy shower. At Ace my helpful hardware man told me that the round o-ring would substitute perfectly for the flatter o-ring. Okey dokey, I'll give it a try. If it didn't work I'd only be out a dollar.

It didn't work. Apparently it isn't a leaky seal, the drip is coming from farther back. Like, in the wall somewhere. And it's not getting any better by itself. I don't even think that getting a new shower head will work, which was a suggestion from a handy friend. Crapola, it looks like I'm going to need to call a plumber. Which means I'll have to take time off work for them to fix it. I have hideous visions of them having to break up the wall to fix it. ::shudder::

I haven't run since Sunday and I doubt I'll run again until next Sunday (and yes I'm feeling like a slug). Too much going on, busy week for me. I wouldn't mind if all the stuff going on involved sleep but apparently sleep is not in the picture. Oh whine whine, right? I figure I'll sleep in December after all these races and travel are over! I mean late December since apparently we're going to add one more race to the schedule.

My favorite crack dealers vendors (Vermont Teddy Bear Company) sent me an email with 15% off any Bear-Gram for Sweetest Day. I'd have ignored it because I don't celebrate Sweetest Day, but it featured my absolutely favorite bear (well, favorite bear that I don't actually OWN yet). I think their Sweetheart Bear is the prettiest little thing and she's wearing a red dress that would look fabulous in my house. I'm trying hard to resist. Must ... try ... harder .... don't ... need ... more ... bears ... too ... cute ... to ... oh ... stop ... me ... now ... where's ... my ... credit ... card ... ....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Finished object and it's not a hat

In addition to all that running and running around last weekend I finished my Cider Moon chevron scarf. Yay and yippee! I just love how this came out, both the yarn and the pattern. For the record, I used 2 skeins of Glacier in Cherry Bomb, a color that must have been designed specifically for me with the lovely reds and blacks. Right! For those who don't know, Glacier is 100% superwash merino wool, approximately 253 yards per skein. The pattern was from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. It's an easy pattern and maybe if I knit constantly I could have knit it "last-minute" but I'm much slower than that. The pattern calls for alternating two colors of KPPPM but there was so much shading in this yarn that I didn't feel I needed to combine anything else. I used my number 7 Options needles and that was a good choice. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire project.

Cider Moon is closed down now, for some unexplained legal reason. I hope they're able to settle it because I just adore the yarn. Good luck guys, hope you're back in business soon! Meanwhile I'll probably start another chevron scarf with a couple of different skeins of Glacier that I have in my stash.

I've also been knitting away on my fourth Point Lobos Hat. I think I'll probably knit just one more, and I'll wait until my New York trip for that one. It's a perfect plane project. Funny how now that it's cooler I want hats and scarves and mitts!

I had a homeowners nightmare weekend; everything in my house is falling apart and I don't really have time to fix it. Without even talking about my oven, it seems that things break and I just work around them. That wasn't an option this time. My neighbor stopped me and told me one of my backyard sprinklers was shooting water straight up in the air. I checked and it was actually a hole in my drip system. Instead of watering the roots of my maple tree it was watering the canopy, about 30 feet straight up. Since I also have a non-working sprinkler head in the back and a broken one in the front I bought some stuff to fix it. Then I realized that my solution probably wouldn't work in the front and I was too tired to fix the one in back. So now those watering stations are off. I may end up fixing the drip system with duct tape but that won't work for the other two broken parts.

My showerhead started dripping Saturday night. I figured it needed a new washer, simple to replace. Wrong-o! I went to OSH where the commercials tell you how helpful the employees are and not so much. The elderly gentleman did exactly what I had done, looked through the exactly same shelves and exact same racks and couldn't find the correct o-ring. Or rubber washer. Or whatever it's called. He said they didn't have it. I asked if they didn't have it, or he couldn't find it and he looked at me as if I took the title in the Ms. Meany contest for the day. Sigh. So I went to Home Depot. Figuring that a hardware store covering six square miles must have the part. Wrong and wrong again! When I finally tracked down an employee I was told "get back in your car, drive over to Bollinger and Alcosta ..." and I interrupted him to say I'd already been to OSH. He apologized and said to maybe try Yardbirds or Ace. Darn. I put the washer back in the showerhead and it was fine until I showered this morning, now it's dripping even worse. Guess what I'm doing after work today?

I need someone to stay home and take care of the maintenance on my house. Anyone know a good handyman?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, San Jose Report

Another half marathon finished and a little more tired. There are times like this morning when I question my drive and my sanity. All the while I'm planning another race in December ...

Saturday afternoon Anita and I drove down to San Jose for packet pick-up and the marathon expo. We pulled into a parking lot and were about to hand over the keys to the attendant when he said that it was $15. Uh, right. We backed out and found a spot nearby on the street where we fed the meter with about a dollar's worth of quarters. Hmmph! Nothing like trying to rip off the tourists, buddy.

Packet pick-up went very smoothly. It was still crowded even though the expo was due to close in about 3 hours. We got our numbers and our chips while the very helpful people passed us along ("This is a chip. You put in on your shoe. Use this tie. Pin your number to the front of your shirt."). They obviously get lots of newbies at their races.

We picked up our "goodie bags" which contained tons of papers and a Soyjoy bar. Yeah, that was it. The shirt was the usual white cotton beefy tee with a pale decoration on the back. Totally unimpressive. For what they charge for the RnR races they could at least switch to tech fabric like all the other races do. Even the ones that charge half as much. Oh well, another crappy white cotton shirt for the rag pile.

The expo was disappointing. Normally RnR events have huge expos but not this time. It was smaller than Portland last week which surprised me. Quite a few of the vendors were totally out of merchandise and were closed (hello Lara Bars and Soyjoy Bars). I think the vendors hire local high school students who realize that the sooner they get rid of the samples, the sooner they get to go home. Sandy, who was at the expo in the morning, told us that they were told to take one of each flavor bar at Lara Bars. They each got more than 10 bars! No wonder the tables were closed down. There just weren't that many other vendors; a few tables from different races, the one big sports we-have-everything-you-need vendor, Saturn, Crocs, rice, smaller tables for the shoe lines and the charities. We were through there in a very short time. I bought one thing, a little bear being sold as a fundraiser at the TnT booth. Yeah, I'm a sucker for a cute bear (and a stealth Gratuitous Bear of the Day)!

Anita and I went to dinner Saturday night with Sandy and Tom at Pasta Pomodoro. There's one about 2 miles from my house so it's very convenient for carbo loading. We had a surprisingly good dinner. I had gotten a coupon for a free dessert so although we were all full we split a tiramisu. Even between the four of us we were unable to finish it. Fun dinner!

Because I live so much closer to San Jose, Anita spent the night at my house. After dinner we sat around for a while talking and knitting, then went to bed early. Then we got up early, at 4:45 am. Yuck. When I finally finished my showering and dressing I came out and found Anita happily eating her cereal. We finished up all our morning stuff and hit the road at about 5:45. Yawn.

I decided to run with my phone this time, something I never do. I both wanted to be able to find Bree and Sandy, and to test out carrying it before New York. We found Bree and Sandy quickly and also saw lots of TnT friends. The race provided bananas, bagels and bottles of water. And tons of porta potties, and convenient sweat check. At about 7:40 we headed over to our corrals. Bree decided to start back a couple with her friend but the rest of us shivered together in corral 10.

Finally the gun went off and the people started compacting. I'm not sure if they were letting the early people go in waves or if it was just a quirk of the crowd. Walk. Stop. Walk. Stop. Strangely, people starting running well before they hit the mats. I'm used to not running until our feet actually cross the start. We started running well, if a little fast. Ok, maybe a lot fast.

Long story short (ha ha) I had a terrible day. For some reason my asthma was acting up and I was having trouble breathing. There was entertainment, bands, about every mile. They all had diesel generators and every time I'd get close to one I'd start coughing. At about mile 5 I begged Anita and Sandy to go ahead because I couldn't keep up with them. Bree and her friend asked if I wanted to run with them, but my pace was so off and my mood so cranky I asked them to just ignore me. We leap-frogged each other for the rest of the race; they were running faster but I was running more since they were doing 4:1.

Water stops were plentiful and helpful. They had water and some electrolyte drink. I even saw ice at the last couple of stops; I think the organizers were afraid of being Chicagoed and were well prepared. There was one gel stop and I think they still had lots of it when I came by. The route, which I had totally forgotten from last year, was very flat except for one underpass that we ran in each direction. We went through lots of neighborhoods; from tiny little homes, to cute cottages, to huge lovely mansions. Neighbors were out cheering in their lawn chairs, covered in blankets and drinking coffee.

The weather for once was a total non-issue. It was cool, mostly sunny, light breeze. Not too cold, not too warm, not too windy, perfect for short sleeves and shorts. Great running weather, the kind you hope for. But normally don't get.

As I was running at about mile 11-1/2 I saw coming toward me on the other side of the road, going very slowly, an ambulance with the lights on. As I got closer I saw there was an elderly gentleman "running" along with the ambulance behind him sweeping the course. Now, he would only have been at mile 5-1/2 so I'm not sure why the course was still open. Maybe he was someone special.

I kept to my 9:1 run:walk the entire way, much to my surprise. I think if I hadn't wanted to get it over with I would have just walked the last few miles but I continued along with my last couple of miles faster than the middle miles. I crossed the finish line at 2:50:13 by my watch, 5 minutes faster than last year. At the finish they had iced wet towels, probably again because of what happened in Chicago. I got my medal and noted that unless they had some hidden away somewhere, they were going to run out before the walkers finished. I got my chip cut off, got a cold bottle of water, got my free rubber sandals, had my picture taken. The food tables were full of ripe bananas, oranges, bagels, cookies, muffins, fruit cups, I think maybe a couple of other things. Still a lot of food and drink left for late finishers.

Anita and Sandy were waiting for me and we waited for Bree and her friend who, although finishing before me, had gotten stuck in the picture line. We were getting chilled (no space blankets, I think they'll either do cold towels or the blanket but not both) because it wasn't as warm as it had seemed while we were running. We walked over and got our sweat bags, then headed back to our cars. They should have had better signage at the end, it was hard with all the people to figure out where things outside of the secure area were.

Anita and I had parked at the HP Pavilion so we had a long slow walk back. There were still lots of people out on the course, poor things! We managed, after several phone calls and driving around and sort of getting lost, to meet up with Sandy and Bree and we all had lunch together at Panera's. Yum. The drive home went very easily too.

My breathing sucked (no pun intended) for the rest of the day, as did my other allergies. I had errands I absolutely had to do and didn't even get a nap. I'm not sure what caused my problems, the air reports said it was clear and the allergen reports say nothing was at high levels. Darn, I can't fix it if I don't know what caused it!

All in all, a well done race. Elite does do it well, have to give them props. I'd do the race again if other fall races don't get in the way. But I'd go to the expo earlier and probably not even take the shirt. I recommend this race for beginners.

Tomorrow: finished Cider Moon Scarf!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Portland Marathon 2007 Report

I went to the expo on Friday night, deciding that I'd check it out before my friends got there. There were no crowds or lines and I was able to pick up my bib immediately. I had forgotten that "Go Amy" would be written on the face of the bib, so there went my anonymity out the door. It's the same big bib they've used before (in a different color) with the complete directions on the front in small letters (the same as on the shirt). I got my chip and was sent on down the hall and the ramp to get the rest of my stuff.

Because of the street construction and some other excuse (projected storms?) they were giving out the "finishers" shirts before the race. This year the long sleeved tech shirt was offered in white or bright blue; I of course went for the blue. These are good shirts for running, I've worn my other one (in a hideous yellow color) several times for night running in the winter.

To get to shirt pickup you had to pass the counters filled with race branded merchandise, and there was plenty of selection there. Men's clothing, women's clothing, hats, gloves, bottles, bears, blankets, scarves; you name it, they had it for sale with their logo. Since I've been wanting a navy blue running hat, and they had a nice one, I bought it. I was chatting with the clerk who was saying the usual "I could never run a marathon" and I mentioned that if I could, anyone could! Then I told him how many I had run, and that this was my second time for Portland. He was astounded and tossed in a bumper sticker for free. Very friendly! I continued on, checking out the booths, then went back up the ramp, down the other corridor and got to the main expo room.

This is where they had the goodie bags which were ok, nothing special. Loaded with the usual ton of papers, an energy bar, a chapstick. And the big size safety pins for the bibs. I'm glad I had small one with me. I wandered up and down the aisles, checking out the booths and merchandise for sale. A couple of the tables were closed for the night since it was getting late. I picked up a container of Ultima which would be served on the course (too bad for those who really detest the stuff), and a bottle of Sport Shield since I don't see it too often. I stopped at the Cold One Therapy Wraps booth selling form-fitting ice packs and pre-ordered one; they were going to keep in the freezer for me and I'd pick it up Saturday to ice my heel before the race.

It wasn't a huge expo but it had all the necessities and lots of extras. Not too much in the way of freebies but who needs another bell or pen or bottle. Wait, I like the bells! And I use the pens! But if you had forgotten anything of almost any product line you would have been able to get it, without walking for hours amongst the booths.

I returned to the expo on Saturday with Bree, Sandy and Pam and it was much more crowded than it had been the night before. Number, chip, shirt and goodie bag pick-up went quickly and efficiently. They still weren't asking for any id to pick up bibs which I thought was strange. I was able to pick up Bree's sister's race stuff for her 5 mile run with no questions asked.

We wandered through the expo, looking and tasting and having fun. The only bad part was they had sold my ice pack to someone else and they were out of them! They offered to ship one to me after the race and I agreed since with all the races coming up I'm sure I'll be needing it. Because they had sold my pack they said they'd include a couple of beverage wraps for free. What a deal! [I received the wrap yesterday but there wasn't anything extra included. Hmmph!]

Saturday night I made the final clothing decision. The forecast was still for rain and probably cool weather throughout the race. I decided to go with a long sleeved shirt. That way I could push up the sleeves but if the wind got bad or the rain got heavy I could protect my arms. I also decided on capris instead of shorts, thinking that keeping my knees warm would be good while allowing for cooling on my lower legs. I pinned my number on my shirt, set a couple of alarms and settled in for the evening.

I slept decently but woke up before my alarms (oh! what a surprise!) and looked outside but it was too dark to tell if it was raining. I did the whole morning-of-the-race thing and then Bree and Sandy came up to my room to wait for a while. They told me it wasn't raining so I decided to wear the throw-away poncho and gloves for warmth and to put my sunglasses on my head just in case.

We met Pam downstairs and joined the rest of the people heading over to the start area. It was just a few blocks away and the crowds got thicker as we got closer. We decided on one last trip to the porta-potties and found one block of them that didn't have long lines. After that Pam wanted to check her sweatshirt and I decided to give her my gloves; it wasn't cold enough to need them. I did keep the poncho on until race start though.

The corral system was set up so that walkers, those with red bibs, would be behind the runners. After all, the course would be open for 8 hours so it didn't matter if it took a while to start. Although I guess it did matter to lots of them since they were seeded as far up as I looked, well into the sub-5 hour finishing areas. Bree and I lined up behind and to the side of the 5:30 pacers and Pam and Sandy went on ahead. There was the usual wait, more wait, the gun, more wait, lalalalalalala more waiting. They were apparently sending the groups off with a pause between them which was supposed to relieve congestion. I'm not sure if it worked up ahead but it didn't really work too well with us.

Finally we walked forward, got to the line and started running (it took about 9 minutes after the gun). It was pretty crowded but most of the people right where we were, were running the same pace. We chatted with a few people and ran along easily. The weather seemed good: overcast, light breeze, cool. I didn't remember too much of the early part of the course from the last time I ran it (2003) and I don't remember a whole hecka lot more now. Just a gradual uphill for a couple of miles, then a downhill when we turned around and ran back again. As we ran down Front Street there was sizable crowd support and the 5 mile race going the other direction. With the river on on side there was at least something pretty to look at. That ended at mile 7 and for the next 4+ miles we ran an out-and-back along an industrial street with freight cars and tracks. Uuuuugly. The best part here was we could see the faster runners going the other direction and saw Pam streaking easily along. We finally made the turnaround and started back the other way and were able to see the slower runners. Hey, someone is slower than we are! This part was hard since the wind had picked up and was blowing smack into our faces. We tried to find some big people to run behind but when you're run:walking nobody goes your pace.

Oh, did I mention? We started our pattern 14 minutes into the race, doing a 4:1. I like the 9:1 better but it's true that we did run a little faster with twice the walk breaks. At first. We continued the 4:1, sometimes adding in a short walk at the water stops if they didn't coincide with our regular breaks. We were doing well, easily on pace for a sub-6. We crossed the half marathon mat at about 2:50 which was perfect; not too fast, not too slow.

The course took a jog through a cute neighborhood but all too soon we were on St. Helens Road. This is a commercial stretch with lots of traffic and exhaust spew. If we only looked to our left, up the hill, the view wasn't too bad. Looking anywhere else we saw freight yards, traffic and industry. Almost 4 miles of that and we weren't impressed. Until we saw the rooster just strutting along the side of the road. That was pretty funny. I don't know how he managed not to become roadkill.

Then we got to the dreaded uphill towards St. John's Bridge. In my mind it had taken on huge proportions and I was hoping my memory had exaggerated the length and incline. Nope. It was as bad as I remembered. I told Bree to take it at her pace and we'd meet at the top since I walk faster than she does. We saw absolutely nobody trying to run that hill; what was the point for back-of-the-packers to give everything they got in one quarter mile stretch. I made it to the top and walked on verrry slowly so that Bree could catch up. I couldn't stop at that point, my heart was pounding and I didn't want to fall over. She caught up and we decided to walk to the top of the span and then go back to our run:walk. At this point Bree started getting quite quiet.

We continued along, down the hill, through a nice neighborhood along a cliff. This was the prettiest part of the race. Unfortunately the wind had really picked up and it looked like we'd have a fierce headwind for the remainder of our miles. Bree's hat had already blown off once and I had to keep tugging mine down.

The wheels had come off for Bree. She wanted nothing more than to stop, rest, throw up. She had been drinking Ultima, which she wasn't used to, and it think it was a bad decision. I told her to just drink water and I gave her a salt tablet instead. She told me to go ahead but there was no way. My only goal for this race was to make sure she finished under 6 hours. I wasn't going to cut any slack, be forgiving. She was moving along whether she wanted to or not.

We saw Bree's family at about mile 20. Her adorable little niece Tilden started to run with us (and almost tripped Bree a couple of times) (which I'm not sure Bree wouldn't have minded if it meant she could lie down for a while). Four year old Tilden actually ran with us for a good quarter mile before deciding it was walk time and luckily our watches agreed. It was great seeing them there and I think it gave Bree a mental boost.

So we kept running, headwind and light sprinkles notwithstanding. At this point I was running well below the effort I could have expended because Bree just didn't have it and uh uh, I wasn't leaving her. Somewhere in the last 5 miles we switched to a 3:2 which seemed to ease Bree's running a bit. There was one uphill and we walked that. All along I kept looking at my pace chart to make sure we had a cushion to get us in on time.

We crossed the Steel Bridge with such a wind blowing that we both just took off our caps and held them. It was nice to know that we were finally back at the elevation when we'd be finishing and except for a slight incline there were no more hills. I kept nagging Bree along and I was starting to get afraid that she'd hate me after the race. I don't normally let out my inner nag but hey, she bought her ticket! Heh.

Finally we were down to the last mile. We took our last walk break and Bree kept walking. I tried to get her to go, telling her we had to hurry, but she had a watch and knew we had a couple of minutes to go. I didn't tell her then that my goal was to finish by 5:58; hey, that was more information than she needed right then.

We passed the Fat Lady at a run, saw her family cheering from behind the barricades and ran it in. We lifted our hands together like the champions we were and lookie that - 5:57 exactly! One minute before my goal and a huge 20+ minute PR for Bree. We staggered to the chip removal boys, had our medals placed around our necks and got wrapped in our space blankets. We were handed glasses of water and I downed mine immediately. Then another. We moved through the restricted area and saw Sandy who had waited for us after finishing her race.

Even as late as we finished there were tables full of food. Bagels, cookies, fruit, candy, chips, more water. They even had ice cream bars. I snagged a Haagen Dazs chocolate covered ice cream cookie thingie and started eating it. It was delicious but I knew my stomach would rebel and since I didn't want to puke it right up I only had a few bites. I got my little marathon pin and my rose but decided I had no use for a Douglas Fir; it wouldn't fit in my yard.

I was very impressed with the organization of this race. I didn't like how the only mile markers were on pieces of cardboard leaning on or taped to post and poles; there were marks on the streets but many were covered by vehicles. There were sufficient water stations with good volunteers handing out the drinks and they all seemed to have the drinks in the same order. The Ultima was actually mixed to the right consistency and I didn't use my own packets at all, I just filled my bottle with theirs. They handed out packets of honey instead of gel and that stuff is even sticker to run over than anything else. They also hand out gummy bears which as far as I can tell is a waste of time and money since (1) they were stale and very hard to chew [I eat gummy bears and know what consistency they should be]; (2) it was a waste of cups since the bears were placed 4 in a cup; (3) of the 4 or 5 places that were supposed to have them, only one had any left when we ran by: and (4) we ran through gummy bear graveyards where they literally covered the ground after a water stop so I think more got tossed than eaten. But these are really just picky things. The course was marked correctly (when you could see the markers), there were more than enough fluids, the traffic enforcement at crossings was well done, there were plenty of porta potties along the route and at the beginning, the expo was fine, the shirt nice, the medal very shiny, the extras (pin, rose and tree) unique. The volunteers at the expo, the course start, along the route and at the finish line were all cheerful and friendly and helpful.

Too bad the course is just so butt ugly! I guess if they wanted to show the prettier parts of town they'd have to put in more hills and turns and it would slow down the course. Maybe it's just me but I'd give up 10 seconds per mile to have something more scenic. The only relief to the ugly industrial areas were the brilliant colors of the trees in the fall and it was just dumb luck that the colors were so bright last weekend.

After we left the secured area we found Pam - amazing in that crowd! She had already gone back to her room and showered and changed. Lucky girl. She keeps getting faster and faster and it's a joy to see. We hobbled back to the hotel and got the car keys so Bree and Sandy could leave.

I was thrilled, as usual, to just take off my shoes. I was worried about further damage to my toes and worried about blisters since I'd had a couple of stones in my right shoe for about half the race. It turned out that I had a seed, about the size of a small safety pin, floating around while I ran. A little pebble fell out of my shoe too. But except for sock-seam blister on the side of my big toe I sustained no further damage. I was sore and stiff, sure, since I'd just run 26.2 miles. But I felt amazingly good.

Would I do this race again? Probably not. Would I recommend it for someone else? Probably. As long as they keep the numbers of runners manageable it's still a good run, even if not scenic. Some people don't even care how the route looks. The organization and amenities are above average, from what I've seen.

The Gratuitous Bear of the Day makes a second appearance; heeeeeeeeere's Johnny with his second medal!

A few days later and I can say that running those last 6 or so miles as easily as I did was just the thing I needed to ensure a good recovery. Except for stiffness after sitting a long time I felt as if I only did a long run. Today I'm feeling back to normal. Yippee and I'm looking forward to the next race!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My weekend in Portland

I had booked rooms at the host hotel which was really two hotels; the regular Portland Hilton and the Hilton Executive Tower across the street. Our rooms were in the Executive Tower. I arrived Friday night and Pam arrived Saturday. Check-in went very smoothly, I got my key cards and went up to the 19th floor. And discovered my room was directly opposite the elevators. Uh oh, not very quiet. I went inside and realized I was on the street side, above the Sixth Street construction project. Where they were busy working away even though it was after 6:30 pm. I called the front desk and pleaded that they move me but the hotel was booked and I'd just have to live with the noise. Fine then, not like I was going to sleep much anyway!

I decided to go to the expo and packet pick-up since it was open late. I could get an idea of what was there so that we could breeze through on Saturday. After that I wanted to get to a drugstore to pick up water and snacks, maybe find a restaurant for dinner. I never found the drugstore. I had asked while checking into the hotel where I could find one and they pointed out the direction and said it was 3 blocks away. Well, I walked about 5 blocks in one direction, turned around, walked 4 blocks in another and back again, then tried the last direction that might have been pointed out. We all know that I'm directionally challenged but that was ridiculous. It was dark, getting late and I was tired so I didn't bother trekking the last direction (which, I found out on Monday, was where I should have gone). I headed back to the hotel and ordered room service.

They finally delivered my yummy pizza and beer, I unpacked my race stuff and set it out, then went to bed. I slept surprisingly well, for a few hours, and didn't hear too much construction noise in the early morning. I ate a bagel in my room, then Bree and Sandy picked me up and we headed off to a nice local coffee shop in Bree's sister's neighborhood. The Coffee Plant was a converted house with excellent baked goods and tasty coffee. I managed to resist the pastries and just enjoyed my decorated latte.

When we finished we headed over to a local grocery to pick up the waters and snacks we needed. Zupan's Market reminded me of Whole Foods and we wandered through, picking up necessities and treats. The bakery case looked fabulous but we still managed to walk on past.

We headed to the airport, picked up Pam and returned to the hotel so she could check in. There was no problem, even though it was earlier than the stated check in time. She dropped her bags in her room and we walked over to the expo.

I had two places in Portland I needed wanted to go to; Powell's City of Books and a local yarn store. Nobody else had anything planned, and we needed to burn some time, so it was agreed that we would go. But first, it was lunch time and we needed to carbo load! We saw a noodle place right across the street from Powell's and decided that would work perfectly. Noodles & Company turned out to a great choice for lunch.

I was given a short, set time to browse and buy at Powell's so I got to work quickly. Two four seven books later I was waiting in line to pay, exactly on time. Then it was on to the yarn shop. Yay!

I had picked the LYS online; it was in the neighborhood of Powell's and that was pretty much why I picked that one. I knew by the whimsical window display that Knit Purl would be a great choice. I walked in and stood inside, looking around. Wow, I just love the colors and smells of a yarn shop. I took a quick spin around, then another, then got down to the serious business of picking out something special.

The people were friendly and helpful and what's that?? A mechanized winder?? Watch that baby spin! They had hooked up the winder to a small motor and with a few belts created a superwinder. What a great idea, and so much fun to watch.

After lots of serious consideration I ended up buying only 3 skeins of yarn. I fell in love with this shaded pink alpaca, Shibui Knits Baby Alpaca DK and bought 2 skeins of it. It was so soft it was hard to put down for them to wrap. I'm thinking a lovely drop stitch scarf would work wonderfully. The other skein just jumped out at me because of the colors. The picture doesn't do it justice but it's brilliant turquoises with deeper blues and greens. This is Jitterbug by Colinette Yarns in Jay, a superwash sock yarn. There's even a sock pattern on the inside of the label.

They asked if I wanted the yarn wound and although I was tempted, just to see that winder in action again, I asked them just to put the yarn in tissue for packing ease. They did, wrapping each skein separately like little gifts. All in all, a great visit to a LYS. I highly recommend this shop!

Then I had to track down my friends. I realized I hadn't seen them since I walked in the shop. I walked out, looked around, hmm. The car was still there but they weren't. I stood around for a while, wandered here and there, decided to call them. I called Bree first but the call went to voice mail. I called Sandy but the call went to voice mail. Then I called Pam and yep, to voice mail. Finally I noticed a Starbucks across the street and guessed they might be there. Oh yeah, there they were, blissfully unaware that their phones weren't ringing.

We still had some time to burn before dinner so Bree drove us all around Portland. It was fun seeing areas I hadn't seen the first time I'd been there. We drove up in the hills along narrow twisty roads, down to the water, over to other areas. Finally we had burned enough time to go eat. Then we had to find somewhere.

We ended up at a pasta place a few blocks from the hotel. Probably not the smartest thing to pick a pasta restaurant right by the host hotel of a marathon because we ended up waiting about 45 minutes. Then we waited for our waitress who spent most of our dinner trying to avoid us. The food was ok, nothing special, but it was carb-y and went down fine.

Back to the hotel, final layout of clothes, and surprisingly to sleep. An early wakeup Sunday, the race, and back to the room (yes yes yes, I'll do a race report later). It was strange having my own room this time; it's been a long while since I haven't shared with either Sandy, Petra or both of them. I read, watched a little tv, rested, rehydrated, rested some more.

For our celebration dinner we picked Rock Bottom Brewery; we all had different ideas of the perfect post-race splurge and that seemed to offer choices. I ended up having ribs, my favorite protein after a long run (and it's pretty much the only time I ever eat them). They were good. Not as good as the fries on my plate, or the cole slaw, but still very good. And I surprised myself by not being able to finish them.

After dinner Bree dropped us back at the hotel. She and Sandy were taking an early Monday flight but Pam and I had both taken Monday off and decided to take a mid-day flight. After a restless night I got up and packed, then met Pam for breakfast. Bree had recommended a great place and so we walked over there. It was about a half mile away and uh oh, it was closed! We were disappointed and headed back toward the hotel along another street, hoping to find somewhere. We ended up at Greek Cusina, the place with the purple octopus above the door. The bacon was wonderful (another treat I only have after a long run) but the Greek Scramble was ordinary and blah.

We went back to the hotel, finished packing, checked out and caught a cab to the airport. In great contrast to my first driver in the city, this one was chatty. He didn't stop talking the entire time we were in the cab. I tuned out much of it, nodding my head and "uh huh"ing when it sounded appropriate. We paid him off and headed to baggage check.

I've talked about the end of our trip, the airport problems we had so I won't repeat it. It was a great trip and I'm glad I got to see the nicer parts of Portland. Great thanks go to Bree for driving and Bree's sister for giving us use of the car. And thanks to Bree, Sandy and Pam for allowing me to get my book and yarn shopping done!