Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hood to Coast 2012

This is my favorite weekend of the year.  The weekend where 12,000 of us crazy runners throw all comfort out the window and pile into vans, forget about sleeping and run from Mount Hood to the Oregon coast on extreme adrenaline (and a little training, too).

Our team name was Return of the Flies - last year we were Droppin' Like Flies and next year we'll be Lord of the Flies.  The team included several coworkers, my roommates, guys from last year's team and a few other friends.  I was in Van 1 with our awesome driver Bruce who owns a 15 passenger van and has driven Hood to Coast for 15 years.  He was the best!  I ran Leg 6 with a total of 17.33 miles which I ran at an average pace of 8:15.

My first leg was 6.75 miles along Hwy 26 in Sandy.  It was a long and hot one on Friday afternoon.  My second leg was 5.23 miles along Hwy 30 in St Helens.  I ran this one at midnight and was grateful that I didn't fall asleep in the middle of it.  My third leg was 5.35 miles out in Astoria.  I ran this one at about 10am.  It included a lot of downhill which was good because I didn't have a ton of extra energy but it was pretty rough on my already sore and tight quads.  Our star runner this year was Justin who ran leg 5.  Not only is the the #1 ranked most difficult leg, this year there was a 2 mile detour added to one of his legs due to a fire out in St Helens.  He dominated and didn't complain once.  Seriously, way to go Justin!

I love the craziness of the weekend event that runs directly through Portland and the encouraging spirit of the 1,000 teams.  I love spending lots of time with the other people in the van (despite the lack of any personal space).  I love being surrounded by others who simply love running as well.  I love not taking showers, not sleeping, and using port-a-potties.  Just kidding - that is definitely not the highlight of the weekend.

Speaking of the highlight of the weekend... I don't know if any of you have seen the Hood to Coast documentary.  It's very well made a gives a good picture of what the weekend running weekend is all about.  The film was made 4 years ago and follows 4 different teams.  One of those teams is Dead Jocks in a Box.  In the words of one of the team members, "Being on Dead Jocks is kind of like being on a select but really irrelevant fraternity."  They are "over-the-hill" athletes.  I think the team is awesome and really hilarious.  Yesterday after I had finished my last leg and we were headed out to the Coast, we came across one of the Dead Jocks vans (literally right after we were talking about them and I said I was hoping we would see them on the course).  So we pulled up next to them, I rolled down my window and said, "Hey guys, I'm your biggest fan!"  They invited us to hang out and talk with them.  I got a picture with them, got an autographed coupon for a Dead Jocks massage (as well as a little shoulder massage right there on the spot) and even got sprayed by one of their infamous water guns.  They were as hilarious and crazy as I imagined them to be.  And I ran into the whole team at the coast and got to meet Larry, my favorite team member.  That was definitely the highlight of my weekend!

After partying at the beach for a while, I made it back to Portland and crashed.  Getting out of bed was difficult this morning - not only because I'm exhausted but because I'm so sore that my legs nearly gave out under me.  Going down stairs feels having small knives poking my quads.  But I'll take this soreness anyday (well at least once a year).  I've now completed my 4th Hood to Coast relay and hope that our team makes it in again next year!

the whole team at the coast

just hanging out with the Dead Jocks

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Banff Road Trip

We just got back last night from our week-long road trip to Banff.  We saw and did so much!  We spent the first night in Sandpoint, Idaho and headed to Glacier National Park on Wednesday morning.  I've been wanting to go to Montana, specifically Glacier, for a while now so I was really excited to get to see this amazing part of the country.  We car camped at a site in the park on Wednesday night then hike around Logan Pass, which is located on the Continental Divide, on Thursday.

Thursday evening we crossed the US/Canada border where we were asked to park our car and come into the station for random questioning.  Once they realized that we weren't smuggling drugs or avacados into Canada, they let us continue on our way to Calgary, AB.  We spent the night there and then toured the city on Friday before making the drive to Banff.

We staying in the small ski town of Banff on Friday night and enjoyed a nice dinner and soak in the local hot springs.  I didn't realize this when I was planning the trip, but apparently my family visited Banff when I was 5 years old.  A few things from that trip 21 years ago came back to me, but this was definitely a different experience.

Saturday we headed into the back country of Banff National Park - our final destination.  Banff is absolutely stunning.  I was constantly amazed at the breathtaking scenery we were surrounded by.

It was a wonderful week of simply relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors.  Here are some pics to highlight the trip... more to come soon!

taking in the sights

a mountain goat

ready to hike into Banff


a grizzly!

a fork in the road... literally!

epic road trip together

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Road

I'm taking a week off and hitting the road on an adventurous road trip. My best friend Megan, her boyfriend Gabe, his brother Jon and I are headed to Banff via Glacier National Park. We've got our backpacks, Chacos, and Clif bars and the plan is to simply explore and enjoy the great outdoors. More to come next week!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Every Tuesday morning I serve breakfast at Blanchet House, a hospitable place that offers meals to the homeless and those in need in Portland and is also a transitional house for about 25 men.  I've come to look forward to Tuesday mornings, despite having to wake up at 5:30am in order to be downtown by 6:15am.  Some mornings at Blanchet are very enjoyable and I actually have fun serving breakfast.  Some mornings are uncomfortable and I wish I could shield myself from the problems of our world today.  Some mornings are really tough and I'm faced with the dark reality of the complexities of people's life situations.

This morning, a woman with short tangled hair and no teeth walked through the doors of Blanchet.  I walked over to her table, said "good morning" and set a plate of eggs, a banana and a bagel down in front of her.  She grinned and thanked me and I walked back to my position by the kitchen.  It was a slow morning (it's the beginning of the month and people have plenty of food stamps and possible paycheck money right now) so I stood there looking around at the crowd in front of me.  My eyes kept drifting to the woman with no teeth.  At times she was laughing or chatting with her new table friends, but for the most part she was sipping on her hot coffee with a vacant look in her eyes.

I wondered what she was thinking about; what worries she had on her mind.  I wondered what her life story is; how she fell into this life situation.  Was there anyone out there who really cared about her?

And then I thought about my worries; my life story; my current life situation; and all of the people who care about me and support me.

Our lives are different.  Very different.  But we are the same in that we both have complexities and simplicities in our lives.

And then I thought about the prayers I present to God; the worries that fill my mind; the things I stress about; things that many people refer to as "1st world problems" or in this case "privileged life problems".  Example: last month I was stressed about whether I should take my paid time off to go on an Alaskan cruise with my family or a roadtrip to Canada with my friends.  1st world problems.

I tried to imagine the prayers this homeless women might present to God; the worries she is facing.  God is listening to her.  God is concerned for her, and he cares about what is going on in her life.  I'm guessing that she is not a theologian or scholar whose mind is filled with questions about which religious group is closest to the truth or how Bible translations change the meaning of the gospel.  I'm guessing that her thoughts and requests are pretty basic and simple, yet urgent and essential.  And though the world may view her as a less important member of society with a somewhat meaningless life, God views her as equal to any of us.  She's actually our sister, whether we're confortable with that or not.

Our lives may seem complex and complicated and stressful and less than what we would wish for, but try putting that in perspective.  If you are reading this, you are a fortunate person.  Because you know me and I know you and we support each other.  Because you have money to have a computer or iPad.  Because you have time to leisurely read a blog just as I have time to write a blog while eating dinner rather than wondering where my next meal is going to come from.  Your life is important - equally as important as your homeless sister in the eyes of the God who sees and hears us all.

Easy Life/Hard Life
One of my coworkers once told a story about a woman she met in Haiti.  The woman was probably about 50  years old, but her wrinkles and tough skin made her look about 75.  She asked my coworker where she was from to which she answered, "America."  The Haitian woman put her frail hand on my coworker's face and said "Easy life."  She then took my coworkers soft hand and put it on her Haitian face and said, "Hard life."  I don't know why each of us is given the life that we are, but we can't take the credit.  Most of it is our circumstances.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bike Commuting

I bought a new bike a couple months ago. It's definitely a step up from my old hybrid. This bike is legit.  And I guess it makes me a legit biker. People keep commenting on it and I just act like I know a thing or two about cycling... "Sweet bike. Is that a Raleigh Revenio 4.0? Carbon fork? Ah, Shimano Ultegra gears - the best. 10 speed. Smooth shifting."  To which I reply: "Yep. And did you see the awesome red tires and matching waterbottle?!"

I really do like my bike and I have to admit that it is pretty awesome. I splurged a little because I wanted to start commuting to work some.  I wish I could commute to work everyday, but the reality is that I live in SE Portland and I work 13 miles away in the suburbs.  Biking to work takes about an hour and it's uphill both ways (I'm still not sure how that's possible, but it's true!).  So I've committed to biking on Wednesdays (ok, I don't have a perfect record, but I'm doing pretty good).

My coworker Mike has been my biggest supporter.  He's an avid biker and is the one who planted this whole bike commuting idea in my head.  He helped me research different bikes, came with me to look at this one before I made the purchase, and showed me the route to work on my first ride.  He even sings the Rocky theme song as we're going up big hills and always encourages me when I want to quit and let my cool red tires roll backwards down said hills.  Thanks, Mike!

Today we biked to work together, leaving his house at 6:10am and getting out to Tigard just before 7:00.  Talk about a morning boost!  We took the "scenic" route home (aka the longer, hiller route) and it was tough but definitely gorgeous. When we got back into SE, we decided that we deserved a beer and it was just too sunny not to make a stop at Apex Bar and sit out on the patio.  It's always tough to get out of bed and put on my biking helmet, but at the end of the day I'm always glad that I did. And I don't have to go to the gym after work either!

a nice view of Mount Hood on my commute home on Barber Blvd

blackberry break on the way home today