I Took a Trip to Alaska

Did you ever play road trip games with your family? Growing up in Ohio—”The Heart of it All,” but the center of hundreds of miles of farmland, small towns, and boring highways—road trips were a rite of passage. My sister, Sarah, and I would be stuffed to the gills in the family station wagon, each insisting that we have our pillows, blankets, backpacks full of books, and snacks to tide us over. Travel-size games like Pass the Pigs were well-intentioned, but not great for the bumpy backseat. One of the Swank family favorites was “I took a trip to Alaska.” This game helped my sister and I survive hours and hours of travel and required no physical accoutrement. 

You may be asking yourself how to play. Simple! You and your travel-mates will go in a round. Person 1 will say, “I took a trip to Alaska, and I brought an {something that begins with A} APPLE!” 

“I’m up? Okay! I took a trip to Alaska, and I brought an apple and a {something that begins with B} BASKETBALL.” And on and on it goes. 

Each player has to remember all of the preceding words until the end of the alphabet. If one person fails, the game is done and you have to start all over. Personally, I like the kind of games that make your mind work. For children and young adults, it’s easy to get in the apple-basketball-candy-dog rut. The last time I played, I challenged my cousin to a new version while swimming in Costa Rica. Each lap correlated with a letter of the alphabet, and all words had to be in Spanish. Despite years of Spanish-language estrangement, executing the laps was much more difficult than thinking of appropriate words. 

Now that I live in Oregon, road trips take a little bit more mettle unless you’re driving straight up/down I-5, or over the mountain to Bend. Everything else brings the risk of driving through the night. If you have scads of free time, it’s no problem. If you want to arrive at your destination in time for dinner, you fly. 

I haven’t played the game in years, but recently I had the opportunity to take an actual trip to Alaska! Obviously, a road trip to Alaska takes a labyrinthine level of planning that I was unprepared for, but spending hours in the car by myself didn’t sound appealing anyway. The trip had been in the works for over a year, and pandemic be damned, we were going to make it happen. Six of us were flying in from 5 different cities across America to celebrate our dear friend Mandy’s 40th birthday. At first it didn’t seem like we were going to be able to follow through with it, but when we found out Alaska had made it mandatory to get proof of a 72-hour Covid test to enter the state, we heaved sighs of relief and comfort. Overall, I’ve seen a somewhat lackadaisical approach to pandemic travel in the US, aside from closing public bathrooms, which infuriates me to no end. (How are we supposed to wash our hands if we can’t access the bathroom??? And that is another blog for another time.) Because of this, I have used extreme caution when going anywhere farther than an hour.

Alaska is one of those places that is perfectly unique in every single way. Such isolation and utterly captivating topography has created a stark, yet somehow lush picture that gives each visitor a feeling of complete awe. The indiginous culture, ingrained for eons, tells stories; the hardy wildlife, like polar bears, whose coats have turned white to blend in with the snow, has adapted to conditions that seem un-bear-able to many (I’m so sorry); much of the art is made with natural resources—true story, I bought earrings made with Alaskan marten penis bones!

Below are some of the memories I collected during the 5 days in Fairbanks and Denali National Park. It cannot possibly present all the grandeur that is in Alaska, but maybe it will give you some ideas for what to expect if you ever take a trip there—and it could give you a new vocabulary for your next road trip game. “I took a trip to Alaska and I brought an abalone, a bunchberry, a caribou, and a dogsled.” 

I’m also curious as to your favorite travel accessories. The softest travel pillow, great earbuds, a perfect toiletry holder, anything! Comment below with your favorite accessory and let me know where you want to go next. 

Books Are Our Friends—Part II

As the gorgeous state of Oregon burns around me, I take this time to meditate on healing. Healing the earth, our hearts, and our world dogma. And, because I promised myself I would, even though I’m feeling on edge and don’t particularly want to, I am catching up on my writing, including a sequel to my blog post about my dearest friends: books. This—writing—helps me heal. I hope you are finding your own ways to heal during this dark time. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Some say that listening to an audiobook is not an effective way to fill our brains with information because of the lack of engagement. Think about all the things we do while we listen to audiobooks: clean the house, go for a run, wash the dishes, and most commonly, drive. Do you feel that you are able to fully engage with a book if you’re doing something else while you listen? Are old fashioned books better because they demand more of our focus? (If you read the first installment of this post, you already know that I prize old-timey paper and glue.) 

I am curious what my readers think about this, because I assume you are all avid readers. But here’s the thing. I don’t actually want to write about cognition today. Unless it’s a textbook or for work, I have a choice on how I take in information. If I want to listen to Gone Girl while belly dancing, I’ll do it. I’m not going to—it’s a waste of both a great book and quality dance time. But, if I really needed to multitask this way, I certainly could.

Today, I want to write about a different aspect of the listening-versus-reading debate. To me, the thing that stands out is not the cognition, but the experience I have with the words themselves. I’ll give you a few examples. 

Bill Bryson’s humble, foible-filled travel writing always makes me giggle. I adore Bryson’s writing because it takes me on a journey right beside him. I’m there while he’s hiking the Appalachian Trail, listening for the shuffling of bears and glancing over his shoulder every mile or so to make sure Katz hasn’t dropped dead. I harrumph with him through small town America, where one cannot simply walk to the 7-Eleven—everything must be managed through personal transportation. At least once a chapter, I stumble upon a line so authentic that it makes me chuckle to myself. Bryson doesn’t hold back on the embarrassing indignities of real life, and I love that about him. He spells every single detail out without me having to think about it. Therefore, it’s very easy to listen to him on the way to Costco. I can easily perform other activities because I don’t have to work that hard to be satiated.

Conversely, from the moment I pressed play on Delia Owens’ audiobook, Where the Crawdads Sing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to merely listen to this book. This was a book to be read with my eyes. This was a collection of words that needed to be rolled around in, as in a warm mud flat on the edge of a bayou. Delicious words that looked and felt sumptuous, that needed to be feasted upon visually as well as internally. Immediately, I turned it off so as not to ruin the experience further. 

Did you catch the difference there? Bryson paints the picture for you, while Owens makes you paint the picture yourself, do some of the heavy lifting. Have you ever started listening to an audiobook and then turned it off because you could tell it would be better to read? Just me? Personally, I love helping out with the heavy lifting. It makes my brain happy. So, now I wait for Where the Crawdads Sing to pop up in my queue at the library. Some books are worth the wait. 

Shorts :: The Jungle

This short piece was written in the jungles of Costa Rica, about two and a half hours’ drive from San Jose, weather / traffic / landslide permitting. This was my second trip to my family’s permaculture property in Lanas, VerdEnergia Pacifica, where the nearest neighbor is several kilometers away and we sleep in open air structures, listening to the sounds of the night. A full telling of my experience will follow in the next few days after I get my bearings back.
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In the meantime…
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I walk my eyes from front to back, methodically. Over creek, through canopy of wide-heavy planks, colors of the jungle peek through fronds–the fuchsia, the amarillo, a population of green vast as the ocean’s blues.
I find the twist in my stomach questions many flavors of life; tongue stumbles on unknown textures, prickle here, tickle there, sour-sweet thing with no known ceiling. Sun blinds the limits of the jungle, and the moon illuminates mischievous beings.

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Shorts :: Marcy and Martha

Recently I attended an all day writing retreat entitled “The Next Season” at Hidden Lake Retreat in beautiful Eagle Creek, Oregon. The grounds were absolutely magical, with several acres to explore.

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Serenity in the woods


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The surging fish ladder


During the morning session, 12 writers participated in 15 minutes prompts. The first one started with a chuckle. One of the facilitators removed a sheet from the floor, which had been covering a mysterious lumpy pile of…shoes? She asked us to each pick a pair.
We all got up a bit hesitantly. My eyes slid to the pile, and instantly I knew which shoes I would choose. Can you guess why?
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Marcy                     Martha


Then she said, “I’d like to know what these shoes are saying to each other.”
…really?
Well, it turned out to be the most fun prompt of the day! So, here goes. It’s not going to win a Pulitzer, but it sure was fun to write.

“Your edges are curling, Martha,” Marcy sneered.
“You’re no spring chicken yourself, Marcy.”
“At least I’ve managed to pretend I have some class left,” said Marcy.
“Who needs class when you have a story?” Martha retorted.
“Remember Cinderella and the Glass Slipper? The shoe that got left behind ended up in the hands of a prince! No one cared about the shoe that stayed with Cinderella. Sure, it may have looked better, scratch-free, but the other slipper will always be remembered as the one who brought Cinderella to her prince!” Finished Martha.
“God, Martha!” Marcy huffed, “Why are you such a drama queen? That’s just an urban legend. Besides, you’re just a $20 slide from DSW. Get over yourself.”
Martha simply replied, “I know you are, but what am I?”

 

A Confession Session

Last week in The Dancing Runner, I read a really fun post called Confession Session. I love Chelsea’s blog. Her writing is consistently upbeat and inspiring, particularly when it’s about two of my favorite things—running and dancing. This one, however, had a different twist and I decided to steal the idea. Here are some highlights from the past few weeks plus a couple of random facts you may not know about me. Thanks, Chelsea!
35 is the new 25! Okay, I actually read that on a fertility blog, but it still totally applies! I had the most wonderful birthday! I turned a spry 35 last Sunday and instead of going camping like I usually do, I opted to do something a little more accessible—brunch. To make it even more fun than brunch already is, I announced a theme. The theme was tutus! My friends never disappoint me. It was tutus all around. Oh, and did I mention my restaurant of choice had $5 bottomless mimosas? Yeah, that’s a no-brainer.
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I’m a Harriette. I’ve never written about this part of my life on the blog, but it’s a big part, so it should be mentioned! This group, the Hash House Harriers, is known to be “a drinking club with a running problem.”  Basically, it is very similar to a scavenger hunt, only instead of scrabbling around town, searching for a trinket or landmark, the harriers (runners) are scavenging on a flour-marked trail for beer hidden by the hares (trail-layers). I’ve been a member for two years now, and though I cannot keep up with the FRBs (Front Running Bastards), I have just as much fun as those who get to the beers first. The group makes it a point to label everything lasciviously (when you’re new you’re a virgin; when you lay trail for the first time, you’re de-floured), and hands out tawdry names to each member when they’ve done something “stupid enough” for the pack to agree on. For example, my hash name is Tainted Trench. (I could tell you how I earned it, but then I would also have to make you come to the hash yourself to experience the full Monty!) And if you think this is just a Portland thing, think again. This group started in Malaysia by a pack of Brits who wanted to get out from under their weekend hangovers in the 1930s. These days there are Hash House Harriers coast to coast in the United States, and on every continent! Yes, there are some timid folks who think that hashing is not for them; there is a lot of shit-talking as well as actual shit-on-trail—hashers prefer to barrel through blackberries and muddy creeks rather than take the path more often traveled: the clean, paved one. However, if you can get through your mental blocks and come to peace with the fact that you may get a little scratched up, you’ll experience one of the most fun physical activities on earth, and a vast accumulation of forever friends.
I found out that my dentist is circumcised. I’m sorry! I tried (admittedly not very hard), but I couldn’t keep that one to myself. It started out as banter about what we were doing over the weekend. He said, “I’m going to Ecuador” (as one often does on the weekends), and that sparked a chat about toilets in developing countries. When we got to the dreaded squat toilet part of the conversation, it got a little hairy (har har). Now, picture me listening to his story as he is hovering over my open mouth, the table leaning precariously toward his twig and berries. He says, “So, I was in Palestine this one time, and I’ll tell you there’s no privacy in those bathrooms. The attendant kept giving me the side eye, you know, because I’m circumcised. Jews are circumcised, and it’s not good to be a Jew in Palestine!” Okay okay, I get it! He continued with a whimsical description of the toilets in Korea, but I could not get the immature giggle out of my head. It almost bubbled out; it was so close. I mean, come on, this guy is my dad’s age. Politics and adventure aside, what other reaction could I have from his story than EWWWWWWWWWWW!
Oregon Wine Country. I love wine tasting (Who doesn’t?) but don’t do it nearly enough. This past weekend some girlfriends and I found a free afternoon, and took a lovely jaunt into Oregon’s wine country. We were lucky to find a Groupon for A Blooming Hill Vineyard. There are several deals for local wineries—I highly recommend you take advantage of it! It was absolutely gorgeous, and impossible to believe that we were only a short drive from Portland. The owners were a darling couple who had converted their home into a simple yet elegant winery which overlooks their vineyard in addition to a beautiful view of distant hills and valleys.
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Bird’s the word. I would never ever call myself a bird watcher. There is one time a year, though, that I pack my picnic basket and a blanket, and I make my way to Chapman Elementary School in NW Portland to wait for dusk, and the famed Vaux swifts. Up to 35,000 swifts, the biggest migrating group in the world, create an astounding vortex as they prepare to roost each night in the chimney. It is an amazing sight that words truly cannot convey. Saturday night I grabbed a group of friends and we sat on the soccer field, observing the bird tornado and several dozen children “sledding” down the dusty hill on cardboard sleighs. It was probably the largest group of birds I’ve ever seen since I’ve been here in Portland, and it never gets old.
No sleep ’til Brooklyn (and the rest of NYC)! I’m leaving for my first trip to New York City in t-minus two weeks! I’m incredibly excited but still collecting my travel research, so help me out! Send me recommendations for things I must see, do, and experience! Tell me a route I have to run! Let me know your favorite salsa club! Suggest big city travel tips! Give me advice on public transportation! I’m all ears.
This ends the inaugural Confession Session by Becky. Feel free to use the idea for your own blog, and please, leave a link in the comment section if you do, so I and my readers can enjoy it. Have a great Monday, friends!

Looking Out For the Littlest Happy Things

For the month of July, I made a concerted effort to live in the present and enjoy each moment. I stopped putting pressure on myself to have it all because I realized that it WILL come. When we cling only to what we know and let overwhelming fear in, it’s because we are trying to hold on too tight to control. I realized I had to stop chasing this controlled ending or I will lose precious time. No one knows what path their journey will take. Some of us want to try to guide it, but only the universe truly knows where it will go.
I did several things to help myself along: I withdrew my profile from the dating site I was on. I practiced gratitude often. I made an effort to unplug more consistently. I ate whole foods. I expressed myself honestly and confidently instead of holding back because I wanted to sugar-coat a statement. I spent productive time alone. I took myself out on dates.

Happy face on a hike

Happy face on a hike


I also decided to be more assertive in the pursuit of my passions. I want to see opportunities more easily when they are offered to me. We tend to have tunnel vision and close ourselves off to creativity when we are in a rut. These are a few ways I can lead myself away from that tendency.

  • I will write more consistently (and publish more often). Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember, and I tend to run away from it when I feel anxiety about the future. I should be doing the opposite! Some of us have natural talent, but practicing our craft is what make us great.
  • I will open my eyes to the creativity that the world gives freely, and use it. We don’t always take advantage of the gifts that are bestowed upon us every single day. We shouldn’t be wasting them.

The first thing I did to kick off the month was take myself out to a movie. ALONE. It was great!
In the first week of July, I gave myself a gift. I bought my plane ticket to New York. I had been hemming and hawing, not wanting to pull the trigger because I hadn’t yet planned everything out perfectly. No longer! The trip will fall into place in the next few months, and I am comfortable with that.
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Over the next few weeks, I did many things for myself. I chose new podcasts to listen to. I attended an overnight event with 100+ people I have never met (and a few that I know very well). I cherished quality friend and family time. I tried new activities, including an amazing class that combined belly dance, yoga, and aromatherapy. It turned out to be quite transformative. I attended a meetup without a wing man to provide comfort, forcing me to talk to strangers on my own merits. As much as I am a people person most of the time, there are moments when I am shy. Walking into a place knowing absolutely no one is one of those. Everyone was friendly of course, and I even left with some future salsa partners. I went camping for five days in Olympic National Park with two friends. Talk about adventure! There were challenging hikes, beautiful sights, and giggles galore over games of Canasta and Yahtzee. I tried new beers at Brewfest on the Portland waterfront. I treated myself to a massage and acupuncture, and it was totally worth it. I allowed myself to emotionally heal over some issues I’d been hiding from. It felt fantastic.
The best things, though, were the small things. I walked around the farmers market and enjoyed fresh fruits right out of the pint. I let the tinkle of a child’s laughter float over me and fill me with joy. I found heart shapes in nature and took pictures. I read books, listened to bands playing in the park, and took a day off work midweek just because I wanted to. What a fabulous month. In August, I intend to take the spirit of the last 31 days and keep the energy going. I have some great ideas but welcome more! Book or podcast suggestions, activity invitations and restaurant recommendations especially appreciated. I hope you are enjoying the summer as much as I am! Drop me a note here and tell me what special treats you are giving yourself during the sunny months.
 

Beautiful Lake Crescent

Beautiful Lake Crescent


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Heart-shaped rock


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Hearts in nature

Snowpocalypse Recap

Hello from snowy freezing slushy Portland, Oregon! We’ve finally melted and all is pretty much back to normal here. At least the rains have finally come and washed away most of the snow banks. I never thought I’d hear myself say that I’m grateful for the rain, although I don’t have a severe hatred for it like some transplants. (I credit my running habit—once you start running in the rain for 3+ miles, you realize there are much worse things than getting a little wet.)
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However, my gracious attitude towards the rain does not lessen my love for what has been called the Snowpocalypse of 2013. I am very lucky to live and work close-in to downtown Portland, and therefore can easily get around on public transportation. So instead of getting stir crazy inside my apartment, rationing a dwindling supply of hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps, I frolicked. I played Uno Attack and went sledding with my awesome neighbors on Friday. Allison’s Uno victory dance and Danny’s smack talk were legendary; the Flexible Flyer that we took to the top of Fremont did us proud; we watched the Blazer game and ate pizza. It was pretty great.
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The next day I decided that I needed to hit the city, snowman style. I put on my ski pants, jacket, and trusty hat (plus two pairs of socks, 3 shirts, a neck buff, and gloves) and snow-hiked to the MAX train that took me downtown. I met up with several groups of friends during the day (even met some new ones!), walked all over town, gulped warm drinks and ate bad food, and not until 11 p.m. did I realize that the MAX had been shut down due to the freezing rain. Not a problem! I hiked back across town to find the one bus line that was going my way and waited…and waited…and waited. Luckily my friend Ruth had tagged along, trying to figure out if she would be able to get as far as 60th (Alas, the bus stopped at 25th. No matter, my living room and an air mattress were just fine for her.), and so we chatted as we watched for the bus that would take us across the river. When it finally sailed (lurched, skidded) to a stop on NE 15th, we decided we’d better get a drink to celebrate making it over the bridge, and hit up my neighborhood bar for one last drink (2 drinks and a shot).
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Sunday was more of a relaxed day. Did I get anything productive done? Nope. Do I regret it? Nah. Snowpocalypse weekend was all about feeling fancy free and not worrying about the little things. I had heat, I had food and drinks, and I had great friends and fantastic moments.

HOWEVER! Now that playtime is over, it’s time to get serious again. Up next on the roster is the Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle, and I have some pretty hardcore training to do in the next 2.5 weeks. Join me in a training run, wish me luck, or come to cheer me on in Seattle on March 2nd. If you’re less of a runner and more of a consumer, the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival are also coming up soon.
Who says winter has to be dreary? Come out and play!
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Last Days of Summer/Autumn Serenade

Is it possible we are actually having an Indian summer in Portland? The sunshine this week, after a few days of extremely hard rain, feels lovely. It’s not what we expect here in the Northwest, that’s for sure, but I know I’m not the only one who has welcomed it back for a small break before the hardcore rain shatters our peaceful evening walks.
The changing of the seasons can be rough at first. We all have different reactions to it. The first hard rain of the autumn gets me so excited for boots and tights and all the fun clothes that come with them. Then, the doldrums set in, and I have to readjust all of my routines. Instead of sunscreen every morning, I have to choose which scarf to wear. I have to remember that my umbrella or rain jacket should always be within reach, and those flats I wore all summer will likely get soaked outside, even if I am just taking a stroll down the block for lunch.
Why else do I love fall?
The brisk winds that make my hair fly every which way.
The excuse to stay in and be a bookworm.
Snuggling up with soft blankets (or whatever snuggly friend is hanging out with me) and putting on a movie.
The beauty of the leaves falling with grace.
That extra helping of holiday happiness. I’ve got a friend who, for years, swore up and down she hated every season but summer here in Oregon. Now, every year around the end of October/start of November, she gets positively giddy with holiday happiness. When we lived together I’d find little holiday presents dropped onto my bed when I wasn’t looking, or yummy holiday teas in the cupboard. And holiday happiness is contagious. Spread the happy rash, people! Changing seasons are fantastic.
Last but not least…the fun fall races! October and November races can be some of the best all year. (Truth be told, though, spring races are my favorite.) If you like to dress up, you’ve got a multitude of choices: Run Like Hell is a classic. Terrapin Events puts on a great race! They pick a different theme every year and it’s always a good one. There are tons of other creepy holiday runs coming up as well, including The Zombie Run, Halloweenathon, Zombie Apocalypse Run (this weekend!!), Dawn of the Dead Dash, and Run For Your Lives. (This one is in Seattle – a fun destination run for those who like to get out of town with a group of friends.)

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Courtesy of The Zombie Run website


Speaking of friends and holidays, what do you do for Halloween? Do you have any autumn traditions? What is your favorite fall month? I have to say that mine is probably November. First of all, it is National Novel Writing Month, so obviously, tons of points there. Then there’s Thanksgiving. I love cooking up all sorts of fun cold weather foods and spending time with family, but I also look forward to Friends Thanksgiving! A group of friends and I get together every year and prepare an amazing feast. It’s a great time to catch up with people and, if we’re so led, head out to a bar after we stuff ourselves and get silly! This year we’re adding to the fun and doing the Ugly Sweater Run along with the traditional dinner. I can’t wait!
Whether your idea of awesome autumn frolicking is running, eating, carving pumpkins, getting spooked at a scary corn maze, or just observing the changes in nature, I expect you to love the next few months and stomp in those mud puddles with cheer when they come, because we all know they will be coming soon.
 

Time Flies When You're a Busy Bee

I’m sorry I haven’t written. I have a million excuses; you don’t need to hear them. But perhaps you want to SEE what I’ve been doing! A post in pictures…
Sahara Sunday at Marino’s. Three of us performed our choreography created by Claudia at a small cafe on Southeast Division:

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Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. I walked for my friend Alice, who almost lost her baby to complications in her pregnancy related to preeclampsia:
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Camping in Central Oregon. We stayed at Cove Palisades State Park on the Deschutes River. I LOVE CENTRAL OREGON:
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Hope for Andrew benefit. A salsa buddy asked me to perform at a fundraiser for a little boy with cancer. It was a beautiful event:
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Oh, and I’m cooking dinner for 40 people tonight. Stay tuned for my next 5 minute window and maybe I’ll actually be able to write a whole post! I hope you are enjoying the beginning of summer.

The Human Race—My Eugene Half Marathon Recap

Last weekend I ran a half marathon in Eugene, Oregon, only two weeks after the Boston bombings.
I’ll admit, I was feeling a little skittish about it right after all the drama happened, but as the day grew near, I could feel the support and anticipation building, and I was able to get excited again. When I drove down to Eugene and picked up my packet at the health and wellness expo, I got REALLY excited. As I noted in my last blog post, the running community is a strong one, and there are probably very few towns that are more supportive of running than Eugene, a.k.a., Tracktown USA. Last weekend, many elite athletes and hobbyists had come to this mecca to celebrate the amazing sport of running.
WOW. Ladies and gentlemen, it is called Tracktown USA for a reason! The joy in this first day of the marathon event was truly palpable. There were smiles to comrades and strangers alike, hugs and excited conversations between friends. I didn’t know anyone else running the race, but I could feel the warmth of the community pulsing through the pre-race expo in waves. There were several memorials to Boston as well, and I experienced them with a somber but hopeful outlook.
That evening I went to bed rip-roaringly early. I took two melatonin pills to aid in a quick sleep, and ate my carbs like a good girl—early bird style. Then I climbed into bed, ready to see the Sandman…and lay there for the next four hours. I tried everything to get to sleep. I played rain sounds on YouTube. I tried telling myself a story. I tried fantasizing. I visualized a gentle stream. Nothing worked. I would have considered asking my host to come in and tell me a bedtime story, but he had gone out for the night knowing that his guest would not want to party hard that evening. I don’t think I ever actually got any quality REM sleep, but I know I eventually closed my eyes for a short while. I wasn’t too worried; I knew there was no chance I could actually fall asleep while on the course, but I was certainly frustrated. Doing this half marathon on my own was a BIG DEAL. I had never run a race alone, much less one of this caliber. The nerves, apparently, were kicking hard.
The alarm went off and I leaped out of bed. Well, I got out of bed anyway. I had pre-laid my clothes on top of my travel bag and arranged my breakfast food just-so in the refrigerator the night before, so my race preparation was flawless. There should be an Olympic category for this. I would win.
I got to the shuttle parking lot right on time, and had a blessedly uneventful ride to Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. From there the start of the race was terrifyingly close at hand. I took a last minute stop at the porta-potties and got in line in my corral, a.k.a., the corral for the fast-at-heart runners, a.k.a., the turtle runners. My peeps. When corral D finally made it to the starting line, I was ready, and calm. I thanked my body in advance, queued up my watch, and prepared for greatness.
A few general notes before I describe my awesome half marathon finish:  Eugene is GORGEOUS. I mean, Oregon in general is pretty amazing; we are bordered by an ocean coast, have snow-capped mountains, trees for days, and a super-cool desert too. We almost literally have it all here. Eugene really blew me away, though. I made notes to myself to come back as soon as possible for the many hiking and drinking possibilities alone, if not also to visit my host, Eric. He has always come up to Portland for visits, because, as you may know if you live in Portland, it is the sweetest place on planet Earth. I truly believe Portlandians can be a little pig-headed and snobby when it comes to our city. I am guilty of it. (That could be a topic for a whole new blog post.) In other words, I hadn’t given Eugene a fair shake. I now stand corrected. Especially if you’re a runner, you must go to Eugene for a visit or a race.
The feeling of exhilaration and support was to the extreme. People from all walks of life, not just fans and family of the runners, were out cheering, waving banners, hoola-hooping, playing “Eye of the Tiger” with their 10-piece ukulele band (seriously), giving high-fives, dancing on the sidewalks in costume, and riding bikes with boom boxes attached playing upbeat songs to keep us motivated. It was unreal. I had been afraid that running 13.1 miles solo would get tedious. I had a store of monologues ready to go in my head for when I started flagging. Not once did I need to use them. All the colorful sights and music were fantastically distracting. I barely noticed I was running! In fact, the first two miles, I was so excited that when I looked at my watch I realized I was running 10 minute miles, and normally I run at a pace closer to 11:30 minute miles!
In a special bonus, Eric and I realized that mile marker 6 was practically in his backyard, so he got out of bed just to meet me on the course to take pictures and run a few blocks with me. It was a priceless experience.
The run ended back at Hayward Field. I ran around the track towards the big clock, and, as I used my last burst of energy to cross the finish line, I saw that there were hundreds of people in the stands. It was insane! I’ve never experienced a race where the host town and race organizers were so breathtakingly awesome. (I really wish I could find a better word here, but I really can’t.) I almost cried a few times…it was very emotional and overwhelming.
That night Eric and I went to celebrate with dinner, but I felt really awful afterwards so I had him take me home. That was a big bummer because I really wanted to see more of Eugene, and he wanted to take me out to celebrate. Usually I am okay to party after a half marathon, but there really was a huge difference in my body after RUNNING the whole thing as opposed to running/walking it. (Did I also mention that I shaved SEVEN minutes off of my previous half marathon time? Yay for getting a new PR!)
I will be doing this race every year until I can no longer run. It is a standout event, and I’m SO glad I went! No words describe how PROUD I am of doing it on my own, but in my heart I knew it would be great because I could never truly be alone running side-by-side with this wonderful community of people.

Ready for greatness!

Ready for greatness!


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Surprise! Eric jumped on the course to run with me for a minute.