Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Seattle Disappointment

I love this city! I've been here for business in the past, staying and enjoying the downtown area of the city with its good food and Starbucks on every corner.

This year I looked forward to returning to run a Rock n' Roll Half Marathon and then spending a couple of days after the race to see some of what the city has to offer. The flight was easy and uneventful, if long, and the cab ride into the downtown area and my hotel enjoyable, thanks to a very friendly and intelligent cab driver.

Originally I'd booked myself into the Hyatt House Hotel near the Space Needle. My rationale was that it would be close to the start line of the race. But then a few months later, I rethought that logic and looked at other options. The race organizers always do a great job of negotiating deeply discounted hotel rates at the key hotels wherever they hold their races.

So I took a look and realized that I could stay at the Grand Hyatt for about the same rate as the Hyatt House and be just a block away from the Westlake station where I could catch the LINK south to CenturyLink Field for packet pickup and the monorail north to the start line at the Space Needle. It was an infinitely better hotel and location. So I cancelled my Hyatt House reservation and booked my reservation at the Grand Hyatt through the race housing bureau and was still able to claim my Hyatt Gold Passport membership and therefore earn points for my stay. Oh, my! Words cannot express how thankful I am that I changed hotels! Read on to find out why.

I had brought back a nasty head cold from my trip to San Diego three weeks earlier and was still battling the symptoms. While the head cold symptoms had abated, it had moved into my chest and had been lingering for a couple of weeks. The day before I was to fly to Seattle, I woke up to alarmingly increased chest congestion and a dry, barking cough. I had a decision to I continue with my plans and hope that the symptoms get better, or do I cancel my plans, possibly pay a penalty from the hotel for late cancellation and pay a rebooking fee with United to re-use the credits.

My decision was made. I would continue with my plans and hope for the best, hope that the chest congestion was just a passing thing and that I'd be well enough to run the race two days later.

The hotel was gorgeous! The woman who checked me in was so caring and professional. She recommended the deli off the lobby as a great place to grab a sandwich, so after I dropped my bags at my room, I walked back down and checked it out. There was a full-service Starbucks cafe, the deli, and a great-looking sushi restaurant in the lobby. I decided to try the sushi place and had a great meal of various nigiri, noodles, and Cali rolls for dinner. The concept for the restaurant was so cool! A conveyor belt continually passed around the sushi sit-down counter, while sushi chefs worked in the center, creating and replenishing. If I sat there long enough, new items would pass by and I could grab something else to eat.

I stopped at the Starbucks afterward and grabbed a cappuccino, and ducked into the deli to grab a couple of cans of microbrew beers and some chocolates for later. Then I returned to my hotel room to assess my situation. My symptoms were getting progressively worse. I had a few Mucinex tablets with me, but only enough to get me through the night of coughing.

The next morning I had breakfast at Starbucks - a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant - and then thought long and hard about what to do next. I decided I might as well go on down to the expo and get my race packet, at least get some of my money's worth from the race: a tech fabric shirt.

Taking the LINK was so easy and quick. The Westlake station was so close and easy - just one block away from the hotel. A train arrived just moments after I got down to the platform. I got off at the Chinatown/International District station and had a pleasant walk to the exhibit hall just south of the stadium to get to the expo. I arrived just as they opened the doors, so had to stand in a fairly long line to get in. But the line moved somewhat quickly and I made a beeline to the bib pickup area, found my designated pickup line, and quickly got my bib then headed through the expo area toward where I could pick up my race shirt and bag. Task accomplished, I found my way to the exit and retraced my steps to the LINK station to head back toward the hotel. The Brooks Running booth declared "Happy" but I was not too happy knowing there was a good chance I wouldn't be running this race.

I dropped my things off at the hotel then went back out in search of a drugstore to buy more Mucinex and then entered the big indoor mall, Pacific Place, where Google Maps told me there was a cupcake shop. These errands done, I was ready to call it quits for the day. I went back to the hotel, bought a deli sandwich, and headed to my room for lunch and a nap. At this point, I was pretty certain I would not be running the race the next day.

For dinner that night, I went back down to the sushi restaurant and picked out a few items to go, brought it all back to my room and crawled into bed, TV on, and ate my dinner. I was totally "spent" and exhausted from the chest tightness, coughing, and inability to breathe.

It was very hard to stay in bed Saturday morning, knowing that all of the other runners were lining up at the start line, getting ready to run the marathon. Throughout the morning, I thought about this doggone race! I went down to Starbucks and ordered another breakfast, including a Frappuccino this time, which though cloyingly sweet, felt icy cold and soothing going down. I watched Facebook on my cellphone, waiting to see others post their finish photos. It was depressing. But I was so sick and I had to remind myself that I really did the right thing.

I treated myself to room service for dinner that night, convincing myself that I deserved it, even though I didn't run that race.

Sunday morning I felt no better, was still struggling to breathe, still needing Mucinex every 4 hours to hold the dry, uncontrollable cough at bay. I thought about getting out, taking the Monorail up to the Space Needle and the museums in that area, but just didn't have it in me and just didn't feel well enough for even that little bit of exertion.

So another morning at Starbucks, another day spent in the hotel room watching TV, another room service dinner.

I packed my things that night, then checked out the next morning for my trip back to the airport. The woman at the front desk remembered me and asked about me. She knew I arrived sick and was possibly not going to run the race. I was so impressed that she remembered me and asked about me. Definitely going to stay at this hotel again if I ever get back to Seattle.

Another uneventful flight back to Houston and I was back home, back to my kitty, back in my own bed Monday night.

For the next few weeks I'll be spending my mornings in rehearsals for our next play performance and working on the playbill artwork and the sound effects for the play. Another summer off from running, too, as my next half marathon is not until late September. A badly needed break from the running.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

California Dreamin'

As the weeks of May slowly marched their way toward the end of the month and my upcoming trip to San Diego, I was hoping and planning for an idyllic visit with family, capped off by a fun and exciting race, the Rock n' Roll San Diego half marathon.

I must have been dreaming!!

Let's start with the airport. I knew it was going to be crowded. This was, after all, the start of the long Memorial holiday weekend and the start of summer vacation for school kids here in Texas. I knew there might be trouble when I saw that my flight, which was originally scheduled to depart from Terminal C, was changed to Terminal E. This is where all of United's international flights depart from. Oy!

But then I thought, "Hey, I'm first class and a United Premier member, so maybe the line to check in won't be that bad. They usually aren't. Again, I must have been dreaming!

This is the Premier/First Class check-in line. It stretched
the length of the terminal lobby then did a big U-turn
before reaching the check-n counters, which is where
I'm standing to take this photo

I was so thankful that I got there a couple hours early, because it took an hour to make my way up to the check-in kiosk to get my boarding pass and my suitcase checked.

The TSA Pre lines were long, wrapping through the cordoned lanes, but it moved fairly quickly and I found myself at the departure gate with about 1/2 hour to spare. The good news here was that I didn't have a very long wait before they started to board the plane.

When I got into San Diego, visions of easily walking across to the parking lots and getting my rental car and getting out of there in just a few minutes filled my mind. After all, this is how it was last year when I came to San Diego. I must have been dreaming! San Diego has built a brand new off-site combined rental car facility which required waiting in a long line for a shuttle bus to arrive. It took two shuttle buses to load and depart before I was close enough to the head of the line to get the next bus.

The giant bus creaked and groaned and swayed as it carried its full to over-capacity load of passengers and luggage to the rental car facility. I had no idea where I was and knew that my GPS would not find a signal for several minutes after I exited the garage in my rental car. But thankfully, they had the foresight to include some pull out "GPS" lanes right outside the garage. Oh, my! Someone was really thinking ahead in the design of this facility! It took a couple of minutes, but then my GPS finally found a signal and routed me to my son's house.

I was looking forward to seven full days of family, spending quality time with the grand-kids, having a few rare days with my son and daughter-in-law. When I got to their house, the first thing I noticed was that my grandson was fighting a head cold, evident by his runny nose and constant sniffing. Oh, great! Visit the family and not get sick? I must have been dreaming!

I took the grand-kids to breakfast at Einstein Bagel on Sunday morning, to let their mom and dad relax a bit. Then my son and I made a run to Home Depot to buy some gardening supplies and stopped at the grocery store, where we picked out some craft beers and I bought ingredients to make some split pea soup, some artichokes (I'd been craving them ever since my Italy trip) and picked up some bananas and a big bag of Rainier cherries to nibble on.

We broke out the game of Battleship several times during my visit.

On Monday my son and I took the grandson to IHOP for breakfast then took both of the grand-kids to a really nice playground and let them play until they were exhausted. It became apparent that now the granddaughter was also coming down with whatever her brother had.  That evening son and I took grandson to his water polo lessons.

Trevor in foreground, learning how to pass the ball. Note the depth of the pool

I went back to the grocery store and bought ingredients to make a pot roast in the crock pot so that on Tuesday, when my daughter-in-law went to Master Garden classes all day, I could make the pot roast and have dinner ready for everyone.

So on Tuesday, while daughter-in-law was away, I stayed home with the two sick kids and got the pot roast browned and then into the crockpot.  By early afternoon I was starting to feel sick myself. That evening I was feeling really crummy, sort of spaced out and groggy. Whenever I get that spaced out feeling, it's always because I have a fever. I took my temp with that really cool in-ear thermometer my son has, and my temperature was 101.8. I was definitely sick! It was inevitable. Whenever I visit my family, one of them is usually sick, which means I will get sick, too.

Daughter-in-law prepared the artichokes and we had pot roast, artichokes, crusty sour dough bread, and craft beer for dinner.

I struggled along for the rest of the week, mostly being sick. One day I made split pea soup, another day I made beef barley soup from the leftover pot roast. But most of the time I didn't feel like doing anything. I stayed home with the kids one evening so that my son and daughter-in-law could attend a formal Navy dinner.

My granddaughter was home sick pretty much all week. She does not "do" sick very well. Nothing was right in her world. She ate very little, refused to drink fluids, and was just generally miserable.

On Friday, my daughter-in-law took my granddaughter to the doctor's leaving me to pick up my grandson after school. I drove to the parking lot at the little yuppie grocery store and then walked the rest of the way to the school to wait for grandson to be let out. When he saw me he ran over to me and said he had something very important to tell me or his mother. I said, "Tell me." Tonight was supposed to be their open house, but I knew we wouldn't be able to go, since it was also supposed to be granddaughter's ballet recital. My grandson had asked his teacher if it was okay to bring a parent to open house immediately after school instead of in the evening. She said it was okay, so grandson and I went to his classroom where he gave a very well-prepared presentation, showed me some of his workbooks and projects, and his cute little diorama.

Afterward, we carried all of his artwork, workbooks, diorama-in-a-shoebox back down the hill to the little strip mall parking lot and stowed it all in the car. I treated him to an ice cream and then we stepped next door to the grocery store where I bought the ingredients for dinner. I knew my daughter-in-law had been dealing with the sick granddaughter and the doctor's office, so would probably appreciate dinner waiting for her when she got home. I bought a rotisserie chicken, fresh asparagus, and grandson helped me pick out some sushi for appetizers.

Earlier in the week I made the decision to cancel my hotel room in downtown, thinking I wouldn't feel well enough to run the half marathon on Sunday. But by Friday evening, I was re-thinking this decision. It wasn't so much that I was feeling better, because I really wasn't.  No, it was more about finding a quiet, peaceful place where I could veg out in front of TV, watch my favorite shows, get room service and not have to do anything except relax, maybe take a nap. The whining, shrieking, arguing and temper tantrums being played out by a six year old and an eight year old, both of whom didn't feel well, were making my sick head pound and my stuffed up ears ring. Relaxing, restful visit with family? I must have been dreaming!

So just for the heck of it, I logged into my Marriott account and checked for rooms at that same hotel where I'd cancelled out just a few days earlier. Imagine my surprise when I found they had a vacancy and at a lower rate, too. I made a reservation for Sat-Mon, exactly the same as what I had cancelled earlier. Then broke the news to my son. He was disappointed, but it was, after all, my original plan to stay downtown the last two nights before flying home on Monday.

Saturday I had lunch at my son's house - some leftover beef barley soup - then packed my car and headed downtown to the hotel. My son and grandson were at a friend's house for a party so they weren't there when I left and I couldn't say goodbye. My only hope was that they would come out and meet me along the race route on Sunday. We'd discussed it but never made final plans when I wasn't sure I'd be doing the race.

I turned the car over to hotel valet and they had my room ready early, thankfully, so I put my bag in the room then returned down to the lobby and started the long walk to the convention center to get my race packet. I still wasn't 100% sure I'd be doing the race the next morning. The cold had moved into my chest a bit, which was making it a little harder to breathe.

I spent as little time as possible at the expo, grabbing my bib, my race packet, and then fighting my way through the throngs of runners in the exhibit hall to find the exit. There is a Starbucks in the convention center lobby so I bought myself a cappuccino then started the long walk back to the hotel. The TV, the bed, and the remote control were all calling my name!

A nice afternoon of TV, room service delivery of dinner, and I was feeling a little better about the outlook for the next day's race. I went ahead and set the alarm on smartphone and decided that if I could sleep through the night without waking up coughing - it had been a rough few nights previously - then I would at least attempt to do the race. I called my son to let him know my plan, and said I'd text in the morning if I was indeed going to do the race. We made tentative plans to have them meet me near mile 6, the same place my daughter-in-law met me last year.

I got the best night's sleep I'd had all week and when the alarm went off, I was certain that I'd at least attempt to do the race. I got ready, had some Cheerios and fresh strawberries in my room, then started out on the 1.3 mile walk to the race start line. I texted my son and daughter-in-law just moments before I crossed the start line, to let them know I'd started.

The first 6 miles were roughly the same as last year's race. When I got to about mile 4.5, I texted them again to give them my position and ETA to mile 6. And just before I got there, I saw them all standing on a corner about 1/4 mile in from the mile 6 marker. So wonderful seeing them and hearing them calling my name! We all walked together to the mile 6 turn, the grand-kids running circles around me and my son and generally reveling in the novelty of this meet-up. Clearly the kids were feeling a lot better!

I said my goodbyes, gave everyone a sweaty hug and then continued on to finish the race.

The route was changed up a little from last year, with a different finish line near waterfront park instead of Petco Park. I liked this route much better. It included more of Balboa Park and ran through the downtown gaslamp quarter. It was an easier walk back to the hotel, as well.

I toyed with the idea of driving to their house afterwards and getting a late lunch or dinner, but when I got to the hotel after the race, I was "spent" and the thought of doing anything more than relaxing and watching TV was pretty distasteful. I must have been dreaming! So I called my son and begged off, once again thanking them for their hospitality and saying my goodbyes.

Another dinner ordered in, some TV, and I was done for the day. Tomorrow I find a Starbucks, pack my things and check out, then find the rental car drop-off and make my way to the airport to fly home.

A couple of weeks at home, then next up: a quick trip to Seattle for another Rock n' Roll half marathon.