Hello from snowyfreezing 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.)
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.
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).
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!
The time has come to set some new goals. It’s quickly closing in on the New Year’s Eve countdown, so why not? Before starting my list, I have to note that my numerology number for next year represents Beginnings. How great is that? That may seem like a given, considering that’s pretty much everyone’s theme for starting every new year, but I really think that 2014 will be a year of astounding changes and new opportunities for me, in particular. I have noticed that many doors have closed this year, and people or things that were clinging to me have been noticeably slipping away—some sneaking quietly in the night, and some going out with a bang. All of them needed to go, whether I was truly ready to say goodbye or not. As they say, out with the old, in with the new! So, without further ado, here is the list!
1) Have my last first kiss
There are no guarantees in love or life, but I’d certainly love to have my last first kiss in 2014.
2) Trust my gut feeling – and always be proud of the decisions I make
Sometimes I let fear rule my decision-making. Sound familiar? If so, congratulations! You’re human. Let’s work on it together.
3) Take a vacation to somewhere completely new
My initial thoughts are New York City and Miami. Who’s coming with me?
4) Finish the novel I started
I wrote 33,000 words of this novel, tentatively titled “From Rich Soil,” in 2011, and now that I have figured out the ending, I’ve got to get the words out of my head and onto paper (or into Microsoft Word, as the case will surely be).
5) Run a new race
I’m all signed up for Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon and ready to set a new PR! Actually I’ll be running at least two new races next year. I’m running the Chocolate Run next year as well as participating in their ambassador program. This race and the ambassador concept is a first for me, and I’m very excited to see where it will take me, in my running and in my writing. Bonus – I will be running in a new racing city: Seattle!
6) Salsa dance in a new city
Speaking of Seattle, I’m thinking it’s time to take on their salsa scene!
7) Go wine tasting at a new winery
Taking fantastic winery suggestions and applications to be my partner in crime!
8) Take a new class
Nutrition? Samba? Archeology? What exciting things will I learn this year? I am a student of the world, and I love to learn continually.
9) Use my new tent as much as possible + rent a cabin or yurt on the coast
One of the most amazing natural sights, and I’ve never seen it in person. How can this be that I’ve lived in Oregon for ten years and not seen this monolith??
11) Be gentle
This encompasses everything and everyone. I vow to be gentler with people who are different than me, and I vow to be gentle to myself when I am feeling critical of my own actions.
12) Be healthy
I’m not going to state a pound amount of weight loss I am shooting for (although I have one in mind), but I will tell you that I want to be more healthy and only eat when I am hungry.
13) Triple the love in my life
No, this does not necessarily mean get married and have a baby this year (Please don’t tell my parents…they will use this against me). I just want to surround myself in radiant, hugging, giggly, sometimes blush-inducing LOVE! That goes for familial, platonic, and romantic love. Help me share the glow!
14) Be grateful every day
It’s a pretty simple idea. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how great I have it. Join me in remembering every day and treasuring the feeling.
Recently I went to Seattle to meet up with my friend Mandy. She lives in Washington DC but is a jet setter around the world for her journalism career. (This girl is totally inspiring!) She happened to be teaching a conference from Wednesday–Friday, and asked me if I wanted to meet up with her for a weekend of fun. Obviously I said yes! I hopped on an Amtrak train at noon on Friday, and when I arrived at King Street Station I was swiftly carried away to my downtown hotel, transported by a cheerful cab driver, where I was soon presented with beautiful downtown Seattle.
It was a great time to travel, as the autumn rains hadn’t completely set in yet. In fact, it was a flawless sunny weekend, a rare treat in October for the Pacific Northwest. We took full advantage.
We checked out some local gems that first night, starting with the complementary happy hour in our hotel. Free wine every night at 5:00? Yes, please! A fabulous dinner at Ivar’s Acres of Clams and a flight of beers at Pike Brewing found us befriending a grizzled chocolatier named Vladimir (Could he be the man of my dreams? *insert fantasies of living in Willy Wonka’s world here*) who then invited us to visit him at his chocolate factory the next day.
Both being runners, we wanted to test out our legs in a new city, so we ran along the beautiful waterfront Saturday morning and up into the hills for a very challenging run. We richly rewarded ourselves later with a delicious brunch at Planet Java and, of course, a visit to Vladimir’s chocolate factory. Filled with sweet delights, Mandy and I took to the water and took a ferry to Bainbridge Island.
In the evening, we took a cue from our younger years and decided to hit the energetic nightlife in Capitol Hill to go dancing. Seattle, you did not disappoint. There seemed to be a huge variety of places, from your typical club scene to niche bars, to hipster joints to punk rock palaces. We stayed up way past our bedtime and had a blast doing it.
The next day, Mandy had to leave early to catch a flight, so after breakfast I was on my own to explore. I chose to visit the EMP (Experience Music Project) and Science Fiction Museum. I had heard about the excellent exhibits and was curious to check them out, especially the Nirvana exhibit. I grew up in the grunge era and have fond memories of the grunge era, Nirvana and Alice in Chains especially. I also very much enjoyed The Lure of the Horror Film. My dad, should he ever step foot in Seattle, would go completely gaga over this exhibit. He raised me with the classics, and they were all represented at the EMP. There were original costumes and props from movies, mini documentaries about the many horror sub-genres, a screaming booth, a monster timeline, and more. It was seriously cool.
Seattle is incredible! I definitely created lots of memories to take away with me, and I can’t wait to make more. Give me more than two days and see what happens then!
After I left, all I could think was that I wanted to go back sooner than later. Well, I got my wish! I’m excited to announce that I am collaborating with RAM Racing Series as an ambassador for the Seattle Hot Chocolate 5k/15k 2014! (It’s perfect for me, don’t you think?) This is great news for me and even better news for you. I get to be a part of a fantastic event that is raising money for a worthy charity (Ronald McDonald House) and YOU can join me for a weekend of fun, running, and of course, chocolate! Even better, if you sign up with my promo code, CURIOUSMUG, you not only get the amazing goodie bag (see below for details), you also get a bonus gift because you are awesome and read my blog. This is my chance to give back to you for being such loyal readers and all-around amazing people!
You can sign up today, OR you can wait for my next post, because guess what? I’M GIVING AWAY A FREE REGISTRATION TO ONE LUCKY READER! That’s right! Stay tuned for my registration give-away, and in the meantime, mark your calendars for March 2, 2014.
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.)
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.
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.
I am just glowing in Portland pride right now. This city is so awesome, and weird, and diverse, and beautiful! So I’ve decided to make a list of the Portland experiences that absolutely must be crossed off my list in short order. And yes, I will be writing a post about each one when the time comes. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know which one(s) you want to know more about! Dare to join me?
1) Freakybuttrue Pecularium: The name kind of says it all, right? I dissolve into giggles just thinking about this place, a self-described store and gallery of the strange, that is home to the Insectarian Club, where the most brave of souls from near and far devour bug sundaes (or bug chili dogs) in hopes of stardom and fame! At the very least, they get their picture posted on the Pecularium’s website, and perhaps if they’re lucky, a groupie or two.
B) The Portland Aquarium (Ok, this is technically in Milwaukie.): I’ve got kind of a reputation for not being a pet person. Now, I’m not saying I dislike animals, but personally, pets are just not my thing. I can barely keep a succulent alive in my apartment, and that is because it only needs to be watered once a quarter. I’m rarely home! However, animals, the ones you can visit temporarily and not have to clean up after, those are pretty cool. The aquarium has plenty of those. Plus they have great family and evening events like Sleeping with the Sharks! Sold!
III) I am ashamed to say this, but I haven’t made it to the Japanese Gardens yet. I know, I know…I honestly have no excuse. I’ve seen the Chinese Garden, the Rose Test Garden, Crystal Springs…I’ve been to the Redwoods for crying out loud! I just haven’t taken the time to go and take in the Zen of Portland’s beautiful Japanese Gardens. It’s about time.
4-or) Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Clinton Street Theater. This is a long-running tradition in Portland. I cannot believe I’ve never made it to this show. I absolutely love Frank-N-Furter, Magenta, Brad (Damn it, Janet!) and the rest of the cast of RHPS! I haven’t yet decided if I will go all gussied up in a costume like the hard core fans, but I certainly must “lose my virginity” and see the show sometime soon! Come with me, and don’t forget the toast!
cinco) Glowing Greens Putt-Putt: Doesn’t blacklight indoor miniature golf with a pirate theme sound amazing? I’ll let you know!
seix) The HUMP! Film Festival: This festival piques my curiosity and my sassy side with home-movie erotica, amateur sex cinema, and locally produced pornography. Local sexpert Dan Savage is the master of ceremonies. I’ve heard many different adjectives describing this festival. I’m sure I’ll have a few choice words myself when I walk out of the theater.
vii) I want to attend a service at a Unitarian Universalist church. This particular congregation meets in a stately church downtown. I’ve been intrigued since the summer of 2003, when I worked at a Quaker summer camp that seemed to be overrun with Unitarians. I had never heard of this religion before, and being a Unitarian at a Quaker camp seemed to be quite popular that summer. It seems our religions have some things in common, but I never had the chance to really delve into the mystery. Here in Portland there are several churches to choose from. My only real challenge is when to go.
nein!) And because this is named the P-List…(You assumed it stood for Portland, didn’t you? Don’t you know that assuming makes an ass out of U and ME!? Har har, that’s an apt phrase, considering what’s coming next…) I am going to make my last entry be the best place to pee in Portland! Through much internet research, it seems clear that Rimsky-Korsakoffee House has the coolest loo in town. I will admit something to you guys: I have been here before. Indeed, I remember the awesomeness of the bathroom. Why, then, is it on my list? Go, see for yourself. It merits a second, third, and fourth visit.
Las Vegas is CRAZY. The minute I got off the plane, I could tell that I was not in my natural territory. I have never felt claustrophobic, but this place could bring that feeling out of anyone, I am 100% sure. I was so overwhelmed by everything. It was huge, loud, hot, bright, smelly, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out of my damn hotel! When I arrived on Friday, I basically just held on for the ride. I didn’t want to make any decisions, I just wanted someone to grab my leash and lead me. This worked out well, since most of my friends had been in Vegas before and knew the right places to show me for my inaugural stroll. We walked around A LOT and had dinner at the Harley Davidson Café, which was decent. Their portions were huge, so Alicia and I split the chicken parmagiana. It was just what we needed, lots of pre-race carbs. We also went to CVS and bought crackers, Oreos, Skittles…all sorts of bad stuff that you’re allowed to eat when you’re doing a half marathon. Heh heh.
Saturday we had to wake up at 4:45 AM, ouch. We all met in the lobby and saw the stragglers from the night before looking pretty darn haggard! The drive was 45 minutes to Boulder Beach at Lake Mead. The organizers started both the marathon and the half marathon later than announced because it was so dark outside…not sure why they didn’t think of that before… Good thing, though, because the line of cars to get into the park was unbelievably long!!! Once we got there and got in the race lineup, it was all good.
The race was HOT. It was HILLY. The first half was incredibly HARD. The elevation gain was “only” 380 feet, which, when I think of that in hiking terms is absolutely nothing. Running, though, it’s a different story. I had to walk quite a bit during the first half, but still, we kept good time. Alicia and I ran together for about three quarters of the race and then she broke off and went ahead. The second half was smoother. I found my pace and it was a lot of downhill, but they took away one of the aid stations so I was just dying of thirst!! We didn’t carry water with us because A) it’s a huge pain in the ass on a longer run, and B) there were supposed to be water stations every one-two miles. They were there in the beginning but they shut one of them down prematurely, which really pissed me off. But what do you do? Unfortunately, there isn’t a vending machine on the trail, so I had to suck it up and keep going!
The final section was all downhill, and you’re staring straight at the finish line for what seems an eternity! Behind it was Lake Mead. It was SO beautiful! I looked at my watch, I ran, I looked at my watch, I wiped my sweaty face, I ran some more…finally I saw my friends waiting for me and cheering me on! I crossed the finish line TWENTY minutes faster than my last half marathon time!!!! AMAZING! My hardcore training totally paid off!
That night we did the obligatory partying. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hang, considering my amazing accomplishment of 13.1 miles (and a too-short nap), but my friends and I danced and frolicked until the second time the clock struck 2:00 AM (Daylight Savings weekend)! I will not go into further details here to protect the not-so-innocent. The next day I paid for it, but I managed to get outside because it was beautiful and 80 degrees. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t argue when sunshine is offered up. You just take it.
For my birthday I received the new book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” from my boss. I had been looking forward to reading it after hearing an interview with the author on the local NPR station, Portland’s KBOO 90.7. I finished it in 96 hours–pretty fast for me these days, since I’ve barely had time to read with my crazy schedule.
A review of “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
After her mother died at an early age, permanently scarring her and leaving her without any sort of home base or support system, Cheryl Strayed went on a head-clearing hike from the Mojave Desert in California to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington State, following the Pacific Crest Trail. While preparing as best she knew how, she was completely flummoxed by her lack of “street-smarts” on the trail and made multiple errors in judgement, creating an entertaining yet sympathetic retrospect for her audience.
It was a fast read, but an interesting one. I flipped through the pages, chomping at the bit to see what idiotic newbie mistake Cheryl was going to make next on the trail (and in her flashbacks)—hey, we all like to watch disasters…that’s why America loves reality TV. She didn’t disappoint me. I hope she realizes how lucky she is. She definitely had a guardian angel on her shoulder, because no matter how many mistakes she made, and how many times a weird situation could have gone terribly wrong, something always saved her. She didn’t get off scot-free, but things could have been a lot worse.
At the end, it seemed there was a slightly mad scramble to tie up the ending in a neat little bow with her final “summit” and letting go of her mother once and for all. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Cheryl experienced a great epiphany about herself and her mom during her hike, but I liked reading about the journey. Honestly I would have enjoyed it without all the inspirational nuggets, but that is because I’m a hiker myself and I like reading about adventures on the trail.
I wasn’t bodily moved like I was with the travel memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” but I’m glad I read it, and I’m glad Cheryl wrote it. It obviously meant a lot to her. Maybe her guardian angel was her mother’s spirit all along…but it turns out I feel pretty indifferent about that.