Regardless, I went to work booking rooms and flights and making preparations for our trip. One preparation included finding hair ribbons for the girls. Thanks to Christy and Ellen Riley, they would have BMC embroidered ribbons! Practice was much more laid back, as there were only 5 runners now, and we were in "taper" mode.
On November 18th, we departed the BMC campus at 3:45 AM for the Memphis airport!!! At this point, my weariness had vanished and I was excited about our trip. We arrived at the airport, parked the van, and everything seemed to be on schedule.... Until we arrived at the check in counter.
The man told us our flight was delayed, and he was going to have to change our group to another flight. We were put in a line at a neighboring counter, and when we finally got to the front of the line, the lady started checking us in. She told us we were cutting it close, and kept barking orders to have out tickets, etc. Four out of eight people got checked in, and then she said that the flight was closed and the rest would have to take a later flight. There was no way I was going to leave runners in the Memphis airport with no information about when they would join us in Portland!! The lady was not very friendly, and I had to firmly convince her that it was "all of us or none of us!" I called everyone out of the security line, and we were trying to figure out what was going to happen.
In the meantime, the lady behind us started crying and begging the lady to let her on the flight. It seemed that her son was a soldier and on leave, and they were going to meet in Vancouver for Thanksgiving. The mean airline lady was quite unwilling to be helpful, and we were all trying to figure out a way to help her. Finally the manager heard what was going on and let her through to the gate. We all still wonder if the lady made it to see her son. As soon as she rushed off to get through the security line, the mean worker got on her radio and told them to close the flight. She then glared at us and said, "I don't like to be late!" Yikes!
We were then moved BACK to our original line and put on the original flight! We had been early, but now we were running late, and they were about to close THIS flight!! We rushed through the check in process, hurried through the security line, and got on the plane just in time. Whew! We made it! After a brief layover in Houston, we arrived in Portland close to lunch time!
We got our rental van and headed across the river from Portland to Vancouver, Washington. It was quite a bit cooler than Mississippi... 40 something and drizzling. Vancouver is the home of historic Ft. Vancouver... an old army post dating back to the mid 1800's. The cross country course was at the Ft. Vancouver site.
Our first order of business was to find the hotel and get checked in. As we waited in the lobby, Austin made two quotable remarks... First of all, he said, "Hey! Did you see the size of that squirrel?!" This was followed by, "Hey dad, that chandelier is bigger than our kitchen table!" Both of these statements in themselves are not that great... but when they were made in a room full of people NOT from the South, and with a THICK southern accent... Hilarious!
Our hotel was in downtown Vancouver, and we were within walking distance of the meet headquarters, Subway, Starbucks, and the course was only about a mile away. Being in a city with more pavement than kudzu was a big change, but it was a great experience!
Thursday afternoon, we jogged our way through town and over to the course. The course was a lap course... great for spectators, but horrible for runners. No cross country runner appreciates running in circles... especially in the mud! On our way back to the hotel, we jogged across the bridge going from Washington to Oregon. Now we were able to say that we had run from Washington to Oregon and back!
Austin, Emma, Magan, Richard, Tuesdae, and Page (Tuesdae's sister) ready for a jog in the cold!
When it was time for dinner, we decided to strike out and find some supper. We didn't seem to see any restaurants in the immediate vicinity, so we headed over the bridge to Oregon. Traffic was terrible, and we took the first exit with any promise of food. We ended up getting a very thorough tour of the industrial area of Portland. Finally, as we were all becoming delirious with fatigue and hunger, we found a place called Elmer's. It was the Northwestern equivalent of a Shoney's, but we did not care! We were all very excited to make it back to the hotel for the night! I stayed up for a little while, finishing up the slippers I had been working on for the girls. (I thought about making Richard and Austin a pair, but decided that they would probably just laugh at me... I was right!)
On Friday we had several things to accomplish: walk to Starbucks, attend a coaches meeting, jog the course again, check out the Nike lounge, and find a better place to have dinner.
This time we took the van to the course and just jogged and stretched there. It had been at least drizzling, if not all out raining the entire time, so the course was getting good and muddy. So muddy, in fact, that there were flags blocking it off in several places. As we were jogging, I got tickled about runners... we are a strange lot. Tuesdae and Page were running in some wild knee socks. A van full of runners drove by, and the guys were hanging out hollering, "Hey, I like your socks!" (Pick up lines for runners!)
During the NAIA Coaches meeting, I gave the runners some homework. Their assignment was to find us a place to eat dinner, including directions! The coaches meeting was a typical business meeting... voting on measures and yada yada yada. When we were adjourned, the runners met me at the headquarters hotel, and we waited for the Nike experience lounge to open.
Nike was the major sponsor of the meet... which is why the National Championship was not more centrally located! They had a section of the hotel called the Nike Experience Lounge... Richard was in heaven... Free Red Bull!! He had us all collecting cans for his stash!
They had a booth where you could make a photo flip booka booth to play wii, and a booth set up to play Rock Band or Guitar Hero... or whatever!
We all got free red shoe laces and at least one can of Red Bull for Richard before we headed out!
We had to pose with the XC symbols... I thought they were swords, but they are spikes!! Get it? Spikes in the shape of an X with the C below? XC? Cross Country? (Just in case you were wondering.)
The runners had done their homework, and we were heading into Portland again for supper. As we came into the HUGE city of Portland, we all just laughed... if we had only gone ahead two more exits on the freeway the night before, we would have been in a completely different part of town! I navigated the 15 passenger van through the traffic and streets of downtown Portland. (In the rain... because it was STILL raining!) The restaurant turned out to be a great pasta place... good atmosphere, moderately priced... definitely wish I could remember the name, because we would like to go back next year!
When we got back to the hotel, we had our team meeting and started getting ready for the races the next day. Unlike regular races, each runner had 4 numbers to get pinned on! Poor Emma, our early bird, was dozing off, so we had devotion and called it a night.
The next morning was RACE DAY!!! I woke up early and went for a long run around Vancouver. There was much more to the city than we had at first thought. I enjoyed running through the Ft. Vancouver area and the nearby neighborhoods built in the 30's and 40's... bungalow houses are my favorite!
I came back to the hotel and had just enough time to shower and get a bit of breakfast before heading over to the course. By this time, we didn't even notice the rain. It just seemed natural for it to be gray outside and misting!
We got to the course, and the air was already charged with excitement. You know it's going to be a big race when the line of porta potties is about 40 across!! There was a great PA system set up and playing music, and Nike people were giving away cow bells and megaphones. Richard had his dreams come true the night before with the Red Bull stand, and now it was Austin's turn... Muscle Milk had a tent set up, and they were giving away free protein shakes! We had to take advantage of a few photo opportunities before it was time to get warmed up!
Richard Feist, Emma Baxter, Tuesdae Rowland, Magan Wilburn, and Austin Epting... competitors in the 2010 National Championship race!
I mentioned earlier that the race was held at historic Ft. Vancouver. The open area was used for drill, games, and parades. All around the area were historic buildings... the barracks (which looked like some of the older pictures of the first BMC buildings), and Officers' Row (beautiful older homes). To begin the day's events, some men fired a real cannon after the singing of the National Anthem!
It was time to start warming up... this would take a while, because the temperature was still in the 40's! The starting line was incredibly wide. I had never seen anything like it before. 350 runners thundering across a field... It's enough to get even the most non-athletic person excited!Tuesdae led the Lady Toppers during the race. She came back from spending the summer in the Ukraine rarin' to go, and never slowed down!
After the first lap, the course was trashed. You can see how torn up the ground was, and they had a few laps to go!Last summer, Emma (the runner above) ran a 5K in Kossuth in 26 minutes. Look at her now! She worked hard all season, and I was so pleased with how competitive she became!
Magan (below) came into the race with a quad pull. It had happened right before conference, and we had spent the last month trying to walk the fine line between keeping her in shape and not making her injury worse. Magan definitely would receive the "Guts" award for the year... she showed amazing determination!
The girls' times were slow... as were everyone's. We were not very competitive at the national level THIS YEAR, but then again, I didn't expect us to be. This year our goal was to MAKE it to nationals... and we did it!!Magan, Emma, and Tuesdae with their frozen, muddy legs after the race!
Now it was time for the guys to start warming up. I love this picture (below), which vividly shows the contrast between the personalities of Austin and Richard... Austin is on the left. Every muscle tense, furrowed brow, and a look of concentration on his face. That pretty much sums up Austin. Intense. And then there's Richard on the right. A mischievous twinkle in his eyes, a grin, and hands rubbing together... because he is constantly moving! Very different individuals, but both very talented runners!
Before the men even started their race, the course was a hot mess. It was like running through a hog pen, and they had 4 laps to go!
Austin started and finished the race strong. He finished exactly halfway in the pack. He was closer to one of the Kenyans from Union than he had been all year! I think Austin was a little shocked at how competitive NAIA cross country is. He is even MORE determined (if that's even possible) to do his best for next season. I have tried to warn them about the coming increase in miles...
Richard had a great race as well. The last two laps we kept shouting, "Catch Zach!" because he was so close to a friend of his from high school! He ended up finishing just a few seconds behind him, and closer to Austin than he had been all year!
Below are Richard and Zach at the finish line... you can see how spent they were. Awesome.
We took one final group picture before heading out to the pasta feed. I will tell you about our evening adventure in a separate post...