Tuesday, February 7, 2012

End of XC Season

This year, Latifa was the only BMC runner to make it to nationals, which were once again in Ft. Vancouver, WA.  She was not exactly excited about qualifying or overtly thankful for the opportunity to travel (expenses paid) across the country to represent BMC at the national championships.  I love to travel and looked forward to seeing Portland again; however, I was afraid this would be a painfully QUIET trip, and the lack of enthusiasm about going made me sad to miss part of our family's Thanksgiving vacation to Jellystone.   

Unexpectedly, Emma Baxter and her mother, Stacey, decided to travel along and support Latifa.  The trip started off on Thursday morning just as I feared.  Two sullen college students sat across from me in the Memphis airport.  "Great.  This is going to be the longest three days of my life," I thought.  Things did not improve much throughout the day, and we had the longest dinner ever at Red Lobster that evening.  Thankfully, Stacey gave Emma a "talking-to," and the next day was MUCH better.  Emma's more positive attitude was infectious, and I think Latifa even started to enjoy herself!

On my run through the town and along the river that Friday, I saw this metal statue.  I have always been drawn to WWII posters (I love the colors and the drawings!), and I also like metal artwork- this combined the two into a neat "Rosie the Riveter meets the shipyard" type statue. This year we did not run from Washington to Oregon and back... doing it by myself just didn't seem as exciting as it was last year!  I did, however, stick some money in my sleeve and finish my run at Starbucks.  Walking the block over to our hotel in the drizzle, holding a steaming cup of coffee was as therapeutic as the run itself!
 I loved the statue and drove us back to take a picture of it later!  We all got out of the car and admired the view of the river and Bridge.  This is the only picture I have of Stacey!
On Friday, we jogged the course, checked in for paperwork, and had some down time.  That afternoon, we ventured across the bridge and into Portland.  Taking the advice of the concierge, we decided to explore the free public transportation system rather than chance parallel parking in the downtown area.  It was definitely the lesser, yet more exciting, of two evils.  The fall colors were beautiful, and this picture makes it look like it was actually sunny outside.  HA!  Don't be fooled- it rained the ENTIRE trip, once again.
We spent several hours shopping, and Emma coerced me into trying on formal dresses, saying that if she had to talk and be friendly, then I had to try on a dress with her.  Done deal, definitely worth it!  :)  I have officially reached the age of needing "Spanks" under fitted dresses.  Oh boy.  I'll stick to t-shirts and jeans.
We enjoyed trivia games and dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, explored Ross: Dress for Less, and then managed to find our way back to the car (using the rail system) and then back to the hotel (using the highway system).  It was a weekend of planes, trains, and automobiles!

The next morning was race day. The course was once again at the historic Fort Vancouver site, a destination for travelers on the Oregon trail in the 1800's! The runners ran around the edge of the drilling grounds, and I loved looking at the tree-lined officer's row homes. (And imagining what they would look like if it was sunny...)   Latifa was in the same starting box with her Union competitors, Allison Martin and Audrey Hazelhurst.
The start was crazy crowded, and it did not thin out much... 300 of the fastest NAIA women in the country were racing, so there was not the typical large gap between first and last.

It sounded like a stampede at the finish line, as women battled over finish place.
Latifa finished near the middle of the pack.  Nagging knee pain, dehydration, and lack of nutrition handicapped her before the race began.  At this point, I was becoming more certain of my decision to resign, and so I had decided to enjoy the trip instead of picking a fight over whether a nutty bar was a sufficient breakfast/lunch to prepare for a race at 1:00pm.   In addition, I don't know if Latifa had ever run in a race that large or crowded, and I know that she is not used to being boxed in the middle of the pack.  It was a great learning experience for her, and I think next year she will be better prepared mentally for the aggressive, crowded race.

After resting a bit and then having some Chinese food for lunch, Latifa voted to go see the ocean.  "If we were going to get that close to the Pacific Ocean, we might as well go see it," we reasoned!  This was the most amazing part of the trip.  As we drove, the highway turned into a two lane winding road.  You see, in order to get to the beach, we had to go over and through the mountains!

We got higher and higher, and we began to see some snow on the side of the road and on the trees.  We stopped in the middle of the road to take a picture of this tunnel through the mountain!

It was beautiful, and we were amazed!  We pulled over at a "scenic overlook" place and took a few pictures.  Mountain/ snow pictures are never as pretty as it was in real life, but this will give you a general idea... It was a winter wonderland at the beginning of November!

We began the descent toward the ocean, and got there JUST in time to see the beach before the sunset.  It was amazing.  The waves were so much larger than the waves in Destin!  We got there a little late, but it LOOKS like the sun MIGHT have been shining here... maybe things are different on the other side of the mountains!  Going from moderate weather... to mountains and snow... to beach and beautiful... and back, all in a few hours was a memorable experience.  Yay, for voting to see the beach!
On our way back through the mountains, we stopped for dinner at a logging camp restaurant.  When it was built, it was the base of a logging camp, and it was the largest log cabin... I don't know, in the world?  Something like that.  Anyway, it was very cozy and pretty.  It was like a Cracker Barrel type place, and we marveled at the GIANT saws hanging from the walls and at the size of the stump that the cash register was mounted on... The center was hollowed out and big enough for a person to stand in the middle, with a counter all around.  The portions were Paul Bunyan sized... after eating steadily for the duration of dinner, the level of stew in my bowl had hardly moved! 

After our meal, Emma posed for one last picture with the giant, carved lumberjack, and we headed back to the hotel.  This time, it was dark going through the mountains, and the roads had gotten icy in spots! 

 We made it back safely, backed our bags, and prepared for the long journey home the next day.  We left Portland super early, flew to Houston, flew to Memphis, and then my family picked me up at the airport and we drove to Gatlinburg, TN to start our Thanksgiving vacation!!  I made it through all U.S. time zones in one day!  Although the day seemed long, it was a piece of cake compared to the MONTHS of journeying in covered wagons to get to Oregon done by the settlers!  

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