Saturday, June 2, 2012

9 Down, 13 to go!

Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon #7, Half Marathon #9 of 2012: PORTLAND, OREGON

Thursday, May 17th:

I left the Greensboro airport around 10am to begin a long day of flying. The only flight I could get that was remotely reasonable was a 3-leg deal: Greenboro to Charlotte, Charlotte to Phoenix and Phoenix to Portland. Not a lot of fun changing planes but at least it gives you an opportunity to get out and walk around a bit between flights. Made it to Portland at 8:00 pm local time (was now 11pm for me!) but had the wonderful gift from a friend waiting for me at the airport: a loaner car for the week! My bags were the first off the plane and I made it from landing to car in less than 15 minutes--sweet! One of my best friends from high school (and now), Christian Vansteen Buccholz, lives in Portland with her husband and 3 daughters. She left the car for me as long as I promised to meet her in downtown Portland upon arrival... she's sneaky that way! 

Luckily she picked a spot just a few blocks from my hotel, so I checked in and somehow resisted the gravitational pull of the sweet king-size bed calling my name. I popped back out and found my bearings, then began the short walk in the Portland twilight.

The view from in front of my hotel, The Vintage Plaza, in downtown Portland. This photo was taken around 8:45 pm.
The restaurant Christian picked was was a place called Departure located within a swanky hotel in the downtown area. She selected this one for the view... here you can see why:

The view as night settles upon Portland. In the background you'll find the Willamette River which separates East and West sides of town. The marathon start and finish will be on this side of the river but the bulk of the run is slated for the East side.
Friday, May 18th:

I had a great time with Christian last night but had to beg out after about an hour or so with her... I was so tired and I had a long weekend ahead of me still. I had hoped to sleep in today but my internal clock was still set on East Coast and I popped up bright and early, around 4:30 am! I did a bit of work on my computer to kill a few hours then to Peets Coffee around the corner for a cup of bold roast and newspaper. What can I say, old habits die hard!

Next Jim and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and went for a run along the Willamette River. Here are a few sights along the way:

Heading North from the riverfront area.

Everywhere you look you'll see water, trees, bridges and people out enjoying them all.

Just one of 7 bridges I counted from my vantage point... on this run I ran across 2 of them.

A leisurely pace for sure!!

I think this bridge is called Steel Bridge. I may be making this up. But really, there is supposedly a bridge by this name in the area so I'm saying it's this one.

Another view looking back West to downtown.

OK, Maybe this one is steel bridge? Either way, a beautiful view on a clear day in Portland.

I've heard of the Oregon Ducks, but Oregon Geese?

I couldn't resist stopping and watching these cute little guys.

This sign looked so cool coming in from the airport last night... it is adorned with lights that make it shine like a Christmas decoration. Just to the right of the sign is the area of Portland they call Old Town.
After our run I showered and waited for Christian to come by the hotel. She pledged to run the race with me if I made it to Portland and she kept her promise! She arrived with my 3 favorite girls... Emily, Allison and Harper... and we headed out to the race check-in to pick up our packets.

Christian, discovering that they had her name in registration so she may just have to go through with the run. 

The beautiful Buccholz girls!

Game on!! This was the Skeeball competition set up in the Brooks venue at the expo...the first person to 26.2 miles wins!
My first stops at every Expo this year, after getting my official race number and T-shirt, is to visit the friends I've made in the vendor booths. I rarely buy anything at the Expos but there have been exceptions for items I can't get just anywhere:

Hi Merle! 

My cool friend, Merle, working the Sweaty Bands booth.  Sweaty Bands are great if you are a fan of headbands and sports--they stay in place no matter what and they have hundreds of cool styles to choose from. Once I found out that Merle is also a UNC fan, we became friends and try to meet up outside of the Expo hours whenever possible. She's one of the few people who understands the rigors of traveling this Rock 'n Roll circuit.

Harper volunteers at the Brooks exhibit to run across the "magic potion"... she's a rockstar!

Guess what?! Because of the girls, both Christian and I entered our name in the Brooks booth to see if we could win prizes for them. We won t-shirts but were told that our names would go into the drawing (every couple of hours) for a free pair of Brooks shoes.. my favorites! So, because we were watching Harper run across the cornstarch mixture behind me, we happened to be there for one of the drawings. I won!!! Woo hoo, this will save me about a hundred bucks on my next pair... and I am going through shoes quickly this year.
After the Expo fun we headed out for lunch. Christian wanted to make sure I got the "Portland Local" experience while here and this was one of her faves:

A relatively new upscale pizza restaurant, Oven & Shaker.

the menu. We ordered a few small pizzas and a salad to share...yummy!

The view.
Next stop, the girls' favorite... Salt & Straw ice cream shop!

So many flavors to try... I got 3 tasting spoons before settling on the Coffee with Cocoa Nibs.

Salt & Straw is located in an area called "Trendy 23rd", a few blocks worth of cool shops, boutiques and eateries.

I never got to try one of these but Christian and her family LOVE this place... a food truck that sells grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The menu at PBJ's.
After eating and walking along 23rd street I was off to meet Jim, who still needed to check into the Expo after working with his local distributors all day. While Jim was getting his gear I noticed a man wearing one of Allard's braces and stopped to get his story. As it turns out, Darren is an incredible athlete who had a life-altering surgery a few years ago.  Here is a link to what I eventually discovered about him: 

Another athlete with footdrop! Darren Smith with his son at the race Expo. Darren is a seasoned triathlete and is running the Half tomorrow  in support of CAF, the Challenged Athletes Foundation:
In our discussion at the Expo I learned that Darren was worried about Sunday's race... not about being able to complete the distance (after all, for him this was "only a Half" while he's used to Ironman distances!) but about a painful issue with his shin. It seems the liner for his brace was not ensuring enough protection and was causing a "hot spot", something not uncommon for people with footdrop. Because of my own experience with this pain, and because the Allard experts solved this for me, I was hopeful that Darren could also found a solution. I told him that Carl Brance, the district sales manager for Oregon and Washington, would be at the race and perhaps could help him out upon gaining more information about his situation. We exchanged contact info and wished each other luck for the upcoming event, hoping to meet up afterwards at the finish line.

A beautiful sunset to end the long and eventful day.

Saturday, May 19th:

I slept in as long as I could then Jim and I went out for an "exploring run" through downtown. I was told I had an opportunity to meet with a TV reporter between 10am and noon, somewhere near the starting line area, and so I wanted to remain in the vicinity. Also, Carl Brance and his wife Ashley were driving in from Eugene to meet us for lunch after the interview. Here are a few of the Saturday morning sights:
One end of the Alley served crepes and coffee, the other end was...

Voodoo Doughnuts!!

There was a line around the block for this place... we opted out on this trip!

Local lore

A bronze statue of the Green Man of Portland.

For the record, I was never struck by the archer's arrow and so I never saw the Greenwood.

Along the riverfront, where I was to meet the reporter, we found a local tradition: Saturday Market. Tent after tent of local food, arts and crafts and music... really a fun discovery!

More Saturday Market. 
While browsing through the market I received a phone call from the reporter; she was in the area of the starting line so we made a plan to find each other. I was really excited to get this opportunity... especially after speaking with Darren yesterday I was even more convinced that raising awareness for mobility issues is critically important.

Getting out the Get Back Up message!

Perfect timing! Carl Brance, right, met us just as the interview was getting underway.

Carl has an amazing Get Back Up story himself, which he got to share during this interview.  Carl was the first person I met who wears an Allard brace and has been a source of support ever since. He was so convinced that Allard's bracing was the best that he eventually went to work in sales for the company... now he's helping so many more people Get Back Up.

After the interview Carl, Ashley, Jim and I went to lunch to catch up on everything that had happened since we all saw each other a year ago in Sweden. At that time I was not yet working for Allard but instead was a guest of theirs, invited there to share my story at their world HQ. Carl presented his story for the crowd as well, and we both laughed when we reminisced about tearing up in our presentations. We both forget sometimes how challenging our journeys have been now that we have successfully found our way "back up". 

After our lunch visit together, we made plans to meet the next morning for the race then Jim and I found our way to Kells pub to watch the soccer match... the Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Every pub in Old Town was packed with spectators so we had standing room only for what turned out to be a very exciting match.

Kells' Pub for European football.
After the game, which was decided by penalty kicks after a scoreless overtime, we said good-bye to the Saturday Market area and headed back to prepare for tomorrow's race.

By mid afternoon the crowds were rolling in!
Sunday, May 20th--RACE DAY!!

We were all surprised by the early morning drizzle, the forecast had been calling for clear skies until later in the day. The rain, although not ideal for spectators, was actually perfect for runners. Temps were in the upper 50's to mid 60's for the day, with precipitation going from mist to drizzle to pouring rain by race's end.
Carl and Ashley came out to support us before we started the race.

A brief moment in the sun: Carl, Ashley, Jim, Christian and her husband, Mark in the VIP tent before the start.
One thing I forgot to mention from yesterday: While we were waiting for the reporter near the starting area on Saturday, we saw some of the Rock 'n Roll team setting up the logistics for today's event. One of the men we spoke with was a guy named Josh who turned out to be the VP of operations for the entire race series! After hearing our story he offered us VIP bands... giving us access to the private tent areas at the start and INCREDIBLE PERK!!!

My VIP bracelet which was more valuable to me on the day than my Garmin GPS watch. The tents gave us access to "private" porta-potties, hot food before and after the race, shelter from the rain and a great place to meet our fellow teammates before and after the event. My Garmin died on me in the first mile, after it indicated a full charge... go figure.

A view from the inside of a very roomy and spotless Porta Potty, or as the name on the front indicates, Honey Bucket. Trust me, this is a perk over the facilities at any other race!!

Our private facilities, complete with a toiletries table with fresh flowers!

The VIP tent with the finish line area in the background.

Here's Christian, in her Sweaty Band without a hair out of place. She finished in just over 2 hours after 5 tennis matches in 3 days... she's a Rock Star! The hot plate of food in front of her did not last long!

Myself, Mark and Christian sporting our Portland medals.

After finishing the race I got to pick up my "Rock Legend" medal as well as my finisher medal for this race; the Rock Legend signifies completing 7 RnR events in the same year. This was my 9th overall Half since January, the 7th in the Rock 'n Roll series.

Here I am at the finish area with Emily, she's my "bling babe" with Rock 'n Roll Marathon Jewelry. I saw her at the Expo on Friday when I bought my Portland charm but she was so busy I didn't get to take a photo with her then. Thanks for all your hard work, Emily, and thanks for having such a great jewelry line--I love my charm bracelet!

Portland charm!

Carl and Ashley braving the weather to cheer us on and spread the Get Back Up Message!
Here is Carl, hoping to catch a glimpse of Darren Smith crossing the finish line.

Darren finished and celebrates in the VIP tent! Carl brought 2 liners for him to try and they got to share their experiences with foot drop and the Blue Rocker brace.
After the race, we all showered and headed back out to another athletic endeavor... but this time just as spectators! Mark and Christian treated us to a Portland Timbers soccer match, what a blast it was!!

Big food and fun before the game... the Buccholz' are sporting their Timbers Army scarves.

Christian and I in front of the stadium.

The crowds pour in...

The match is on!!

The fans are amazing at every one of these sellout matches... no sitting for the Timbers Army!

A view from our seats

The scoreboard with the game underway beneath it.

Jim with Timber Joey (I think!)... a slice of log is cut every time the Timbers score a goal... which in this case was the first time in a month! The Timbers beat Chicago 1-0.

I got this photo via my phone; my cousin, Sandy, was back east celebrating her graduation from Haverford. I hated to miss this but, alas, I had my 9th half marathon across the country this same day.  Sorry to miss it Sandy but we were thinking of you--Congratulations!

Back to the hotel after a long day of running and soccer.

I had a wonderful time in Portland and we advanced the Get Back Up mission even more. We got great airtime both Saturday and Sunday, I will post a link to the video as soon as I get it. Thank you to all the people who help to make this possible, together we are changing lives for the better!!

Goodbye for now to my best friend Christian, and to 3 of her best friends... I will miss you all!

At home with Christian and her beautiful family before I head back East.

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog thanks to Jennifer at Allard, who apparently found my blog thanks to this post. I profiled Darren, and appreciate the link. It is tough being a challenged athlete, and nice to meet others in "the family". Good luck with your remaining runs! I look forward to following you on Twitter and adding you to my blog reader!