August 31, 2010

197

This past weekend was Hood to Coast, the 12-person, 197-mile relay from Mt. Hood to the beach. Each person on the team runs three times; the total distance each runner runs is anywhere between 13 and 19 miles.

Our first van of runners headed to the mountain on Friday for an 8:45 AM start time. Those of us in van 2 met at my place at 11:30 (I was the unofficial van 2 team captain) and headed out to the first van exchange.

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The beginning moments were a little tense, at least for me. Four members of our van had never run the race before, and it's very difficult to visualize how the relay works until you've done it. I felt a lot of pressure to keep everyone organized and at ease, and I was already an exhausted pile of nerves, having also been responsible for everything to do with acquiring the vans. (I spent a large portion of the days leading up to the race worrying that the vans would be wrong, figuring out how to pick up both vehicles myself, and deciding how to get one vehicle to the van 1 driver). We were a little late leaving my house, and then we were worried about traffic, and we had to meet van 1 with enough time to get our race numbers from them, since both the team captain and I had forgotten that I'd need them before we left town. I was trying to seem like I was a total pro at all of this, despite the fact that I myself had only run the race once before. Fortunately, very high on my list of strong life skills is "faking it till you make it," so it all turned out OK.

We had a beautiful weekend for the race.

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We made it in time to meet van 1, and then we were off. The routine: drive to the next exchange point (mostly right along the course, with the runners), try to find a parking spot for the giant SUV you're driving, hop out, check your watch, check your runner's predicted finish time, stroll -- or hustle, depending -- to the exchange, and then wait. The time thing can be a challenge, especially later in the race when you're battling traffic and fatigue. You want to arrive well before your runner does, and you have to convince your other runners that IT'S TIME TO GO without seeming like a crazy person. And inevitably it's a game of "hurry up and wait."

The nice thing, though: Once your novice runners have gotten through their first leg, they understand how it works. Then everyone is less nervous, and it's easier to swap jobs so that your exhausted van captain can sit in the back seat and put her running shoes on.

Did I mention that the running part of this race was literally the last thing I was worried about? Despite the fact that I hadn't run at all in three weeks?

It's nice when everybody settles in, too, because then things can get silly.

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(erik trying to help van 1 find us, by standing on the roof with his pants down, dancing to the lady gaga CD we had playing out the window)

We handed back off to van 1 at about 7 PM; after that we headed to a teammate's house for pizza and rest. We left again at 10 PM for our second leg, which began at midnight. Runners either love or hate the middle of the night legs; all but one of our runners loved it. I find it to be the best part of the race. You're not tired because you're full of adrenaline, and you get to do this crazy thing: running, as I did, 6.9 miles through the forested coast range at 3 AM under a mostly full moon and a sky full of stars. Night runners wear reflective vests, LED lights, and headlamps; for the most part, the only traffic on the road is race traffic, and there were long stretches where it was nothing but me on that road, surrounded by pines and silence. The second leg was my best; I came in at an 8:00/mile pace and passed a ton of people, including one woman who complimented my form as I cruised by.

We finished our second leg at around 6 AM and it took us an excruciating hour to get to the sleeping spot, partially because four of us lost the van at the van exchange -- a cop had threatened the two remaining runners in the van to MOVE IT RIGHT NOW PEOPLE, as it was (apparently) parked somewhere illegal. We had next to no cell reception, misunderstood where they were, and wandered around the parking lot blearily for 20 minutes or so before we finally got the message correctly and found them. And when we finally got to the van exchange, all the parking spots for sleeping areas were full. We didn't manage to hit the hay until after 7 AM, giving us a sad two hours to sleep. I think I slept about 30 minutes out of that.

Leg 3 is, I think, the hardest: you haven't slept, you've already run 10+ miles, you're sore and stiff and tired of being in the van, wanting real food but maybe unable to eat it. But it's also celebratory: each runner who finishes is DONE! Things get wacky on that third leg, as you approach the coast. We traded the leftover pizza we had in the cooler -- soggy, garlicky, but still good -- with some dudes parked next to us. We got beers in exchange.

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serious face.

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silly face.

Soon enough, you drop off your leg 36 runner -- the final leg -- and you jet to Seaside, hoping to find parking. You walk a long way on your really sore legs to the beach, where the van 1 people have already showered and eaten, the bastards. And then when your runner gets there you meet her and cross the finish line together. Then you eat a lot of food and maybe drink a beer, because your team has been running continuously for over 31 hours and you're real tired and hungry.

Later on, we headed down to Nehalem to stay with the symphony's second bassoonist (three members of our team are Oregon Symphony folks), who along with his wife very generously put us up, opened up their hot tub, made us steamed oysters, and were awesome company. Then the remaining nine of us slept all in one room, in sleeping bags, like a bunch of kids at a sleepover.

Leaving your team the next morning is sad, like the end of camp. Like camp, you didn't know most of these people when you started, but you've been smelly in a van together, and exhausted; you've seen each other through the hard legs and the queasiness; you've cheered and mooned your teammates (ok, maybe I'm the only one who did that) and made it through this crazy thing. Having a good team is what turns an experience like this -- which, to be frank, is often utterly miserable -- into something you return for in subsequent years. We had a good team.

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(the team, finished)

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(the ladies of van 2)

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(van 2 at the 2nd van exchange, passing it off to van 1)

I was so stressed in the weeks leading up to the race -- both about the race itself and about life things in general -- that I was not sure I even wanted to run it (although I never would have bailed). But of course I'm glad I did. And I'm sure they'll convince me to do it again next year.

August 23, 2010

gaga, part 2

I almost forgot the best part about the concert! When Lauren and I pulled in to the parking garage -- my mom had very sweetly bought me a parking pass along with the concert tickets -- we realized we were in the $20 garage line, despite having a $13 parking pass. Lauren yelled out the window to a guy working the line nearby, and asked where we should go; he directed us to the adjacent garage, which had a "FULL" sign in front of it but which, he assured us, would let us in with our pass. We happily left the long line of cars behind and cruised over to the other garage. As we approached, Lauren said, "Hey! I bet those are Gaga's tour buses!" I hadn't even noticed them, as I was too busy puzzling over why there was a guy standing idly in the middle of my lane, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I was trying to enter the garage. Then Lauren gripped my arm. "OH MY GOD," she said. "I THINK THAT'S HER!" To our immediate left, about 8 feet away, was a group of about 8 people -- and in the middle of that group was Gaga herself, pantsless, her hair still "normal," (no wig or extensions), posing for a photo. I had to slow the car down anyway, because the guy was still in the road, so we sat there in my car gaping at Gaga's butt, just feet from our window. "TAKE A PICTURE!" I said to Lauren, because I didn't have a camera. but my window was open and one of Gaga's handlers must have heard me, because he approached the car, stooped right down so his face was in my window, blocking the view, and said, "No pictures."

YOU GUYS. I got scolded by Lady Gaga's bodyguard! Best ever.

And because I've been referencing it lately, here's a video of Stefani Germanotta in her pre-Gaga days, performing in New York. I refer to this any time people say she's a talentless hack.



I promise this is the end of my weird fangirl fawning. But come on guys, Gaga's butt!! After the encounter Lauren and I were simultaneously giddy as all hell and sort of regretful that we didn't a) get a picture; b) jump out of the car and hug her; c) something else awesome that we couldn't even think of.

an abduction

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recipe for a birthday kidnapping (in celebration of your boyfriend's birthday):

black ninja clothes
full tank of gas
secret plans known only to you
cooler full of picnic food (pasta salad, grape & feta salad, roast beef & blue cheese sandwiches, pickled jalapenos, chips and salsa, hostess cakes, cherry cokes)
tablecloth (to fancy up the picnic, of course)
kite, sand shovel, bucket (even if you might not get around to using them, it's good to have them just in case)
shipwreck
sunshine (unexpected)
short steep hike with gratifying views at the top
one delicious night in your own rented fancy cabin
late night walk on the beach
bottle of wine
a boyfriend sweet enough to carry the heavy cooler farther than you thought you were going to have to go to get to your picnic spot

we had a really good weekend. I had been planning it for about a month and I'm so glad it all worked the way I envisioned it would. although I didn't realize it, I think I have secretly always wanted to be kidnapped, so it was really fun and completely gratifying to plan scott's abduction. I am very fond of surprises and it was so great to surprise a (willing) victim. in other words, this might be the first of a series.

August 22, 2010

gaga

I saw lady gaga (#14) in her monster ball tour thursday night here in portland. oh, my. you know, it's going to sound ridiculously cheesy and you're going to judge me forever about it, but I had never had one of those "oh my god, this concert was amazing" experiences and ... I totally had it with lady gaga. the tickets were my birthday present from my mother (I had requested them) and I had wanted them because I'm a gaga fan but also because it struck me that the show would be in the ilk of madonna or michael jackson -- the kind of thing you'd be glad to have seen twenty years from now, when she's more famous or dead or something. and the concert did. not. disappoint. it was an honest to god theater piece as much as a concert, with an (admittedly loose) plot, a lot of stage mechanics, a GIANT PUPPET, and at least 9 costume changes. the costume changes themselves, of course, were probably half of why I wanted to go -- and the dresses/bras/weird headdresses were as outrageous as I wanted them to be. one headdress and dress were animatronic (the headdress moved by itself); there was the requisite bikini, a dress that she appeared -- endearingly -- to not be taped into enough (she kept rearranging her right boob inside the dress. haven't we all been there?), some fake blood, and the flaming bra.

she was simultaneously hilarious and super sweet when she spoke to the crowd, talking often about gay rights (at one point congratulating two of her dancers, gay men who had fallen in love with each other while the tour was in jerusalem) and constantly reminding her audience that "the freaks are the people outside tonight." seeing the make-up of the crowd was almost worth the ticket price: men and women in full gaga costumes, people in all sorts of outrageous tights and bustiers and shiny clothing, a lot of blonde wigs. (my friend lauren, who by the way was the most fun concert date ever, turned to me at one point and said, do you think these people just had these clothes in their closets?!). but gaga was also quintessential gaga, ending her sweet motivational speech at the opening of the concert by saying, "now dance, motherfuckers!"

and then following it up with this, of course.



she had another few hilarious one liners, the funniest one in context being, perhaps, when she said, "I'm sure you've all heard I have an enormous ...[long pause] ...dick," in reference to those people who used to swear she was a drag queen. the impression one got was that she is potentially a normal, nice person underneath the gaga image. she sang well and danced all night, a consummate performer, and I think one of the reasons I like her so much as an artist is that she is so entirely devoted and committed to this thing she's doing. she's not phoning it in, ever. she does all the dancing, she does all the singing, she plays the shit out of a flaming piano. I have a lot of respect for complete dedication in just about any medium. awesome effing show.

August 16, 2010

camera dump

alternate title: what I've been doing

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I recently began harvesting things in the garden. I let the radishes go too long and they were a little woody, but the greens were nice (although a bit .. fuzzy) in salads and sauteed. plus the flowers were pretty in my salad.

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I picked about ten pounds of yellow plums from the orchard behind the garden. I made two batches of cinnamon plum freezer jam because the first batch (pictured above) accidentally came out looking and smelling like puke. I'm actually afraid to eat the second batch, which is, thankfully, a more legitimate yellow-green.

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my friend lauren got married. nub came along. scott and I danced. (no. 17)

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my family visited from maryland, after driving across the country for the fifth time. on wednesday we went to the coast, which was, as usual, moodily overcast and cold. my sister and brother flew kites.

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my sister's kite flying was, as usual, pretty successful.

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my mother was the slave labor.

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on thursday we headed to mt hood, where, from timberline lodge, mt jefferson could be seen smiling at us.

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mt hood was in a pretty good mood too.

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we tried to hit up keana's candyland on friday; we held off eating breakfast and strolled up there -- a nice sunny half mile walk from my apartment. when we arrived ("what does it look like?" my sister asked. "trust me," I answered, "you'll know") we found a sign on the door that said
"closed today
for family funeral"
which was a major bummer for everyone involved, especially the candyland family.

but we went again on saturday and had much better luck. people. oh my god. I had already heard about what the inside looked like but I still had no idea.

pretty prancy unicorn
signed jelly beans
beatrix potter?
ceiling pies
(those pies are on the ceiling)

every wall is covered in this kind of art work. it's unbelievable. we ate omelets and french toast, and pastries warm from the oven. it's totally a little kid's dream house. next week, the owner told us, the entire place will be reorganized, large chest freezers brought in, and completely new stock for sale; instead of commercially-produced candy, it'll all be handmade chocolates and candies, plus gluten free pastries and cake. OH BOY! five blocks from my house. I love you, candyland.

saturday afternoon, we rented bikes and biked around the esplanade.
travis: quad
(my first time biking in portland since my very first day here, five years ago. I fell in love with the blue rental cruiser. somebody buy me a cruiser? with ribbons in the handlebars? and a basket. it has to have a basket.)

then on sunday, we spent the whole glorious, sunny, hot wonderful day at sauvie island.
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there was an ice cream boat. I thought it was a joke.

ice cream boat + spongebob = luv

it wasn't.

Nub eats a choco taco

so, in summary: bikes, beach, popsicles, heat, candy, gardens, kites, sand. success.

August 6, 2010

a litany

1. my car looks more and more ghetto every day. two years ago I backed (at -- no joke -- less than 5 mph) into a parked car whose bumper was apparently made of adamantium; the car I hit was unscarred but I acquired a GIGANTIC HOLE in my fender. a few weeks ago, whether by an act of vandalism or just by the slow degradation of fiberglass, my passenger side mirror fell off. but not entirely off, because it's an electric mirror. now it dangles uselessly by its wire against the side of the car. icing the cake: the trees outside my apartment building -- poplars? I don't know -- have been expelling sap or pollen or some sort of viscous, sticky substance. the car is covered in this gook about every 4 days. for unknown reasons, my windshield wiper fluid pump isn't working properly and therefore I can't spray my windows while driving. so now I've taken to equipping myself at all times with a gallon jug of water, which I can dump on the windshield at a moment's notice. it's better than stopping at the gas station every three days to use their squeegee.

1a.I secretly love driving a shitter, but this is taking it a little too far.

2. my family is en route to me at this very moment. as of this morning they were just outside albuquerque; by now they are likely on california soil. when I talk to my mom on the phone, my brother in the background is playing a harmonica he bought somewhere in tennessee. did you pick up a hobo? I jokingly ask. actually, we're in a boxcar right now, my mom wryly replies.

two days ago they stopped at the world's biggest rubik's cube. it looks like this:
rubik

3. I missed the beach this year. I took it much better than the only other time I've missed it in the last 15 years, back in 2008. that year, as this year, my family went for three weeks instead of their usual two, and I sat through all of those 21 days in a state of unbearable anguish, tortured by dreams of hot sand and cold air conditioning, the sound of the locusts, the sharp green smell of the vegetation in the dunes. this year I had a lot of other good things going on, and although once again I have awoken many days from beach-themed dreams, I have managed not to fall into a state of utter despair at the lack of it. it helps that I'll get to go for all three weeks next summer.

that said, although I took the loss gracefully, it is one of the most beloved things in my life. seeing this photo of 'the girls,' my beloved cousins, from this year's trip punches me directly in the heart.
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and yes, they're touching each others' butts. it's old news:
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(2006)

4. I'm desperately in need of a vacation. what a strange summer it's been, overfull and late to arrive, and now over (opera-wise). I've considered a short jaunt to vegas to spend a long weekend sitting by a pool, drinking some ridiculous, overly sugary girly drink. but I don't have any available time. I'm going to have to settle for, perhaps, an afternoon at sellwood pool with my family, or a day at the adventure park on mt. hood, or a night eating cotton candy at the clark county fair.

4a. related: it is august. I don't understand this turn of events.

5. I haven't been around the blog much lately because my internet at home works for about four minutes a day. it's free wifi provided by my management company, and works just enough for me not to want to shell out any money for my own internet. I also don't get any channels on TV. I had to break this to my family gently, but they took it OK.

6. yesterday, Cookie was a total sweetheart. sometimes I get too tired of working at the barn to remember that I really, really love horses; that I adore that horse. she nickered when she realized I was standing in front of her stall, and stood with her head craned in the air so that I could scratch the underside of her neck, an itchy place on horses that they can't reach themselves. she wanted nothing more than to be loved on a little. it was a little heartbreaking to have to leave without doing anything more than a light groom, but I was dressed in office clothes and only came to the barn to drop a check for the farrier.

7. in case you haven't figured it out, the only thing this list can be called is "things I could tell you that don't go together, but that have happened since the last time I updated the blog."

8. it's not too late to redeem this summer.