Saturday, May 23, 2015

2nd Stop on the TeamUP Tour: Portland Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon with Darren Smith

Portland Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon & 10K: TeamUP Tourstop #2

First of all, I received the BEST news in a year last week...I am now officially allowed to resume physical activity!! My doc told me that I am cleared to begin walk/jogging--not full blown running until I get my conditioning up--but this is a great start. I may still have some challenges ahead but we'll only know for sure once I return to my normal level of activity. At this point I just want to have all of this behind me, it's been a really tough year, so the sooner I know what I'm dealing with the better. I say, "Bring it on!"

Wednesday, May 13th:

I'm heading to Portland, OR a day earlier than originally planned. Jim has work out there tomorrow and since I'm still limited to what I can lift (for 1 more week!) I'm going to tag along with him and have him handle my luggage. I plan to work from the hotel until I meet up with my TeamUP Co-Captain, Darren Smith, on Friday. 

Beautiful canyons over the southwest.

Thanks to the USAir upgrade fairy I made it into First Class. Can you believe
it? They're serving Kale Salad--I love it!! The woman beside me hates Kale so
she offered me hers too...I traded her my dinner roll for it. Everybody wins!

My view from the hotel room. Usually when you stay at an "airport hotel"
you're not actually on the runway but for today and early tomorrow morning I get to
watch airplanes land every few minutes. Shown above is a tiny plane but most
of the aircraft using this runway were 10 times this to watch!
Thursday, May 14th:

Taking advantage of my East Coast body clock I woke up at 3:30am and worked until sunrise from our airport hotel room. Around 9:30, while Jim was out with his Northwest sales rep visiting local customers, I checked out of the room and headed into East Portland where we'll stay for the rest of the trip. When Jim finished his appointments and met me at the new hotel I was practically nipping at his heels to go out on a walk/run with me. This will be only my second jog in over 8 weeks (Monday, 3 days ago, was the first) so I was eager to go out for an hour-long effort today. Yes, I could have run this morning without him but I am listening to my doctors--and to my parents--as they've stressed using caution and having help nearby in case something happens. Being in Portland so far from home I figured the only way to heed their advice was to have a running buddy along for the ride. Thanks, Jim!

(Jim said I reminded him of my stepmom as I was bouncing all around the room waiting for him to change into his running gear. :-)  Suzanne, I wish you were out here with me today--it's a gorgeous day to run with no humidity and NO WIND!)

Perfect Portland day.

I've never stayed on the east side of Portland before so I was pleasantly surprised
to find so many great eateries, neighborhoods and trails within easy walking distance.
We're on the river path now and depending upon which bridges you use to cross over
to the downtown Portland area you can make this a 2-, 3- or 4-mile loop.

My first running selfie since the Dallas 1/2 Marathon over 8 weeks ago!
It is SO GREAT to be jogging again!!! In the background is downtown Portland
on the west side of the river.
Our jog-walk went very well, we completed about 5 miles total in the span of 67 minutes--not too shabby after living the life of a slug for 8 weeks. My legs felt heavy but my heart felt so's hard to describe the joy I felt being a runner again.

Speaking of "heavy"...I did gain a few unwanted pounds while I was recovering. Once my appetite returned I found I was eating as much as I was pre-surgery. What I neglected to take into account was that in the months leading up to my surgery I ran 3 full marathons and 1 half marathon in 8 weeks--plus all the training runs in between--so I needed every ounce of food I took in. Not so much post-surgery. I ate the exact same way and while the foods were healthy overall I probably needed 1/3 of the calories I was eating before. Oops.

So now I'm in a city with amazing food and a dizzying array of artisan craft breweries and I'm supposed to maintain a low-cal diet? I'll do my best, I promise, but it will be hard to do knowing that Jim has no such dietary restrictions...and he's on a mission.

It's late afternoon here in Portland but by our body clocks it's dinner time. We
set out on a walk to the Kerns neighborhood and caught this restaurant in between
lunch and dinner crowds. This meant that we had only a small
selection of light apps to choose from, but since we planned
to stop in at several places this worked out well for us.
 This particular restaurant is...

...The Burnside Pub and Brewing Company. We ordered 2 appetizers,
Roasted Cauliflower (my choice) & a pickled veggie tray (Jim's choice, surprisingly).
Unfortunately, in my mad dash to put food in my belly I totally forgot to take photos
of the food. I did have one other distraction I should mention: As we were taking our
seats on the patio I spotted someone I recognized...

It's Adam Richman of The Travel Channel's "Man V. Food",
"Best Sandwich in America" and "Fandemonium"! I've been a fan
of his shows for years but became a super-fan when I learned he
was a gifted soccer player, a supporter of vegetarian/vegan fare (though
he is an omnivore currently) and a diehard Tottenham Hotspurs fan.
Adam is even nicer in person than on his many TV shows, hard to believe but true.
Thanks, Adam, for spending so much time chatting with us today!
For more about Adam:

Adam goes for the selfie shot... Ron Carino, look out!
After a great experience at Burnside Jim wanted to check out another local brewery's pub. We walked about a 1/2 mile to the next stop at...
...Base Camp Brewing Company.

Base Camp didn't have their own kitchen but they've partnered with permanent food trucks.

This is the truck we chose for our next round of light bites.

I don't often see a Pasty (rhymes with nasty, but totally the opposite of nasty--they're yummy)
 outside of Michigan's U.P. where I was born. The pasty is a hand-held
meat pie traditionally, brought over from the Cornish miners in the 1850's. Nowadays there are many
variations of the original, but I can say with complete conviction that I've never
had a better pasty outside of Escanaba, MI. Read here for more:
Dad, I'm sure you'll argue that there's still only one true Pasty, and that's one containing Rutabaga, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes and Ground Beef. Am I right? :-)  One day I'll make you a vegetarian version using Grandma's pastry/pie crust recipe and see what you think...

Wow, so much easier reaching Base Camp than I expected...and much warmer too.

Beautiful bar setting inside but we chose to sit outside in the warm, late-afternoon sun.

Since I'm trying to watch my calories and eat mainly nutrient-dense foods, I order the
Quinoa Salad. Jim ordered the Mini Pasties (vegetarian versions) so I could have a bite to
compare with the Pasties of my youth...

Not the most photogenic dish ever, but it was really quite good.  A light, lemony dressing
added just the right flavor to the nutty, protein-rich grains. Beth was a happy camper.

Jim had the Spinach & Feta and Curried Samosa pasties with cilantro yogurt sauce. I had a bite of each. While the flavors
were good, the texture and delicate richness of the Yooper pasties are far superior. (No pun intended, but do you get it?
"Superior", as in Lake Superior?)

Friday, May 15th:

After our light dinner at Base Camp yesterday afternoon we walked the mile-and-a-half back to the hotel and called it a night. By the time we got back it was only 7pm but to us it felt more like 10pm...and we had an early morning ahead.

So excited this morning to see Darren Smith! He has a 6:00am media appearance at the Convention Center Expo which is only 6 blocks from our hotel. Darren, on the other hand, had to drive about 30 minutes south to get here today...and he still beat us to the Expo.

I love my TeamUP family!

Darren is such a wonderful ambassador for people living with physical disabilities. Clearly
I'm not the only one who knows this because he's about as "branded" as a Nascar race car:
TeamUP, Team Chocolate Milk (formerly known as Team Refuel) and CAF (Challenged
Athletes Foundation)...just to name a few.


Darren readies for his first interview of the day. This one happens to be a live feed for the local morning show. Good
luck, Darren...going live is always scary!
As always, Darren totally rocked his interview! In a few short minutes he was able to share his inspiring "get back up" message while managing to plug for every one of his sponsors. Darren, I want to thank you especially for naming Allard USA; thanks to you the Portland community will know where to look for more information on this type of high-performance bracing.

Though we had arrived at the Expo about 6:00am, Darren's interview didn't actually happen until almost 7:00am. We had just enough time afterwards to grab a coffee and catch up before Jim had to head off to his appointments for the day. In our eagerness to visit with Darren both Jim and I neglected to get photos...sorry. 

When Jim went off to his meetings I stayed in the room and got caught up on the last of my "computer work" for the week. I knew I'd be busy all weekend with race and media events so I didn't want my other assignments getting in the way of the weekend festivities.

Darren had another great media event in the afternoon, courtesy of Team Chocolate Milk and CAF. He had the very special honor of presenting a Grant Award--a new running leg!!---to a recent amputee in the Portland area. This presentation was taking place back at the TCM booth at the Expo.

While the cameras were rolling, Darren surprised Erica with a new running leg,
thanks to a grant from TCM and CAF. Erica is 23 years old and lost her leg a few months
ago while riding a motorcycle. Tomorrow, Nike is sponsoring a running clinic for amputees
in partnership with CAF...Erica has been given a special invitation to attend and Darren
will be a volunteer throughout the morning clinics. I have to say that this was an emotional
presentation, Darren & Erica both got choked up which then had everyone else in tears.
Now that the Expo is officially open to the public I plan to pick up my race packet and wait for Jim to arrive. Yes, that's right, I have a race packet awaiting me. I registered for this race last year before I knew what was in store for me health-wise. When I discussed the possibility of running this event with my docs, I was encouraged by the response. Dr. Roberts told me that she'd be totally fine with my running (really, walk-jogging) the 10K this weekend but wouldn't prohibit me from attempting the 1/2 Marathon if I felt I was ready to try that distance. She told me I had to use my own best judgement and to listen to my body no matter which event I chose (if any). So, at this point I still have no idea as to which race I'll attempt. After yesterday's 5-miler (and a previous 10K-distance walk about 4 weeks ago) I know I can do the 10K without reservation. My inner runner really wants to attempt the challenge of the Half though... just to get a real sense of how much work I have to do to get back into shape again.  We'll have to see....

As I'm waiting for Jim to meet me at packet pickup I run into some of my favorite people...

...the Gypsies are hitting the Expo likes moths to a flame!
Great to see you Kevin, Hyalker, Ron and Joe!

When Susan and Jim arrived at the Expo we took advantage of the Toyota "photo booth" for some silliness.
Dashboard cam in action!

Kevin hams it up with the Rock n' Roll accessories.
That's a great look, Kev!
It was no nice seeing all the Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies again, especially now that I'll be among them on the actual course this Sunday. They've been instrumental in keeping my spirits up and in motivating me all year long, I'm so grateful for their friendship!

Speaking of friendship, one of my best friends whom I've know since high school lives here in Portland. Unfortunately she can't participate in the race this year because she's leaving town in the morning but she's made time to catch up this evening. So Jim and I make our way back to the hotel to drop our gear and then walk across the river to the Pearl District to meet Christian for dinner.

The skies are overcast but the temperatures are still in the 60's, perfect
for an evening walk.

You can get a real sense of how immense the Portland
bridges are when you walk across them and look way down
on the tops of the trees.

This is the restaurant Christian recommended for tonight. She's never once
steered me wrong regarding Portland food so I have complete faith in this choice.

Jim said this about his Pizzaiola with Penne: "If I come back here 100 times I would
get this dish every's just so good I couldn't imagine liking anything else more."
I've never heard him say that about any dish, any where...and he didn't leave a drop of
the dish on the plate so I think he liked it.

My Pasta al Tonno. The dish was quite tasty, especially the tuna, but I did leave a lot
of the noodles on the plate. Wow, I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Christian's Spaghetti al Pomodoro

Poor Christian has been battling some stomach issues but she managed to make her way through most
of her dish. Normally I'd totally take the bullet for her and finish her food...but I let her down tonight since
I'm trying to watch the calories these days... Sorry, Chica!
I hope you're feeling better soon!

Saturday, May 16th:

This morning I received several wonderful texts from two great friends in Michigan. I had previously introduced TeamUP Co-captain Shannon Poortenga to Emily Underwood (formerly Emily Schulte of Rock'n'Roll Jewelry fame) via social media channels. Emily is now working with the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, totally in alignment with some of Shannon's public service missions, so they met in person for the first time today at the Stomp Out Stigma fundraising walk in Grand Rapids, MI. I got texts and photos from both of them, starting my morning off with a happy heart!

Shannon Poortenga, Emily Underwood and Christy Buck (the Foundation's Director)
Shannon is passionate about speaking up and speaking out
about Mental Health issues, especially on matters of depression
and anti-bullying messages. I'm so happy she's now in touch with
Emily and the MHF of West Michigan--potentially a
powerful pairing!

First item on the agenda was a morning walk in search of a good breakfast place. Darren would be occupied most of today at the Nike Running Clinic so I needed to stay close to the Expo in case we had some other TeamUP media opportunities. Jim was free of work commitments for the rest of the weekend and was happy to go on a walkabout with me (especially since food is on the agenda)...

About a mile north of the hotel we found some cool
neighborhood areas with shops and small restaurants.
We opted for Milo's this morning.

The menu, page 1...

I ordered the Vegetarian Hash & Eggs from this side of the menu while Jim ordered the Broadway omelet from the
other page.

Eggs were perfectly poached and the sautéed veggies were delicious. Under the eggs there was a large helping
of fresh spinach and roasted bell peppers. I skipped the toast and most of the potatoes and still I was quite full when we
finished our meal.

Jim loved his "meat lovers" omelet and left little behind on his plate.

The Dish must've run away with the Knife this time...

Jim give's Milo's 2 thumbs up.
Upon finishing breakfast we continued our walk north to explore more of Portland's east side. Much of the 1/2 Marathon is run on this side of the river but during a race event you don't always get a good look at your surroundings, this was a perfect time to see what we've missed in the last few years of running the Portland RnR.

All told we probably walked about 6 miles when suddenly I had the bright idea of the morning:

Pedicures and massage-chairs! Surprisingly it wasn't hard to talk Jim into this. I think the massage and relaxation were much appreciated treats. I know I
was happy for the special treatment--I am actually sore from Thursday's 5-mile effort.
Following our unusually relaxing morning I learned I needed to make a few phone calls and tend to a bit of work on my computer. By mid-afternoon I was free again so we had just enough time to check out some areas along the river before heading to Vancouver at 5PM to have dinner with Darren and his wife, Stacey. I haven't seen Stacey since meeting her in Vegas a year-and-a-half ago so I'm looking forward to catching up.

Portland isn't called The City of Bridges for nothin'.

The view in this light actually reminded both Jim and me of Dublin.

Interesting sculptures are all over the city of Portland. I'm sure this is quite stable but I opted out of posing
underneath the stone...I've had enough health problems without adding "crushed by rock" to the list.

Jim can almost wrap his arms around this Car2Go. (Laurie this what Polly Pocket drives?)

This time we're crossing a bridge by car, en route to Vancouver to meet Stacey and Darren.
We met at a restaurant called Lapellah, a favorite of the Smith family. I wish I took more photos to share with you but we were immersed in great conversation so I only got a few:

Stacey and I both ordered the grilled Pacific Wild Salmon over quinoa with roasted cauliflower. This was so
delicious and perfect for my dietary goals!

Darren ordered the Paella...

...and Jim ordered some sort of stringy meat between fried onions and polenta wedges.
Actually, he said his dish was outstanding... I just don't recall what he ordered and I neglected to get photos of the menu
so I'm at a loss for a better, more tantalizing description.

Jim, Stacey and Darren outside of Lapellah's. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful evening!
Now, it's back to the city for a good night's sleep before the Rock'n'Roll events of tomorrow.

Sunday, May 17th: RACE DAY!!!

It's official...I decided this morning that I'm going to attempt the 1/2 Marathon. Darren is going to attempt the 10K but says he may take a shortcut because he's having trouble with his knee and doesn't want to risk further injury. Jim has promised to walk-jog with me during the half and I've promised to bail out at the first sign of any issue whatsoever. There will be medical aid along every mile so it will be easy for me to seek help and/or get a ride back to the finish if find I'm not ready for the Half. I decided not to tell my parents ahead of time of my decision...they may try to talk me out of it but also they will probably worry. I can assure all of you (and Jim is my witness!) that I am confident that I won't risk injury or setbacks today...I have absolutely no problem quitting the race if anything feels even slightly off. The deciding factor is that I'll only know what my limitations are going to be if I test them at each stage of my healing. Today will be a test and no matter whether I finish or not, I'll have good information for the next stage of my recovery. Plus, my doctor said I could.

I couldn't leave Portland without adopting some friends again! For those of you who've read
the blog for a few years you'll recognize "Puggles" on the right. I've never seen these fun
balloons anywhere but Portland and Philly so I had to get some while I'm here. I got the Pug for old
times' sake and I bought the Corgi for Darren (he and Stacey just got a real Corgi puppy).
Jim loves being a pet owner again!

These little guys were the hit of the Portland Rock'n'Roll Race Festival!

Carol and Angie, what do you think about ordering some canine TeamUP jackets??

Believe it or not Darren walked/jogged the entire 10K with Chalupa Batman the Corgi.
(I like the name you chose, Darren.) Meanwhile, Puggles stayed behind with the VIP team...he
was in high demand for selfies and other photo ops.

On a serious note, Joe Harris provided many of us Gypsies with bibs to honor the memory of Jake Zeman. For those
who don't know, Jake crossed the finish line at the Savannah RnR Marathon in 2013 then sadly collapsed and died. Since
then his family has been on a mission to honor Jake's legacy and today we are joining in the effort. For more about
TeamTrust, check out the link:

To the Zeman family, Jake was running the streets and
bridges of Portland with us today. Our hearts were with
him and with all of you.

This is the first year that Portland is hosting a 10K and a Half Marathon, the start lines are different and the Half goes off about 20 minutes before the 10K. True story: about 10 of us Gypsies, as much as we've run these Rock 'n' Roll events, were suddenly alerted that we were at the wrong starting line, waiting for the gun to go off. Meanwhile, our event--the 1/2 marathon--was already underway about 100 yards from where we were! OOPS. We hustled over to correct starting corrals and filed in as the runners were making their way across the start-line mats. Whew! Thanks to a total stranger for noticing our bib colors and letting us know our mistakes we all made it to the right race.

Ron was trying to warm up Susan's arms while I'm
snapping selfies...all the while oblivious to the fact
that we're waiting for the wrong race to start.

I took advantage of the free bib personalization to help
motivate me to Get Back UP...I'm SOOOOOO excited
to be able to start the race today, regardless of whether I can finish it.

I DID IT!!! With Jim escorting me along our walk-run today in Portland I was able to complete the entire 1/2 Marathon feeling really good. Yes, I was tired but I fully expected to be exhausted since I'm out of shape after 8 weeks "off". The course was also very friendly, most of the back half of the race was flat or downhill...I LOVE this course and applaud Rock 'n' Roll for making the changes this year!
 I had tears in my eyes along the course today,
especially at the finish line. I will never, ever take
running for granted.

Kevin "Bacon" Gonzalez enjoys his post-race bacon, eggs and cookies. Congrats on your
8-Track, Kevin!

Both Darren and I thought we'd be cutting our races short today but both
of us managed to complete the course. Congrats, Darren--well done!
Thank you, Allard USA for making it possible for us to run and to share
the Get Back UP Today message!!

Joe Harris has some play time with Chalupa Batman

Darren's friends from Team RWB (Red, White and Blue) celebrate their finishes in support of
enriching the lives of veterans everywhere:

Who is the bigger celebrity here today? That's right--Darren is!! Everyone wants to be
photographed with Darren and his pup.

It would be so much easier to work with Darren if only he weren't so serious all the time.

Thank you, TV2 for sharing the GetBackUP message with your Portland viewers today! (I know, I can't believe it
either that Darren brought Chalupa Batman to the interview. I have to admit though, the camera loves him.)
The medal. This is so special to me because although I
kept this race in my sights through recovery I had no idea
I would actually get to participate.

In closing I'd like to say that I have so many people to thank for the overwhelming support and love I've received throughout this challenging year. For those of you who sent me encouragement through voicemail, text messages, emails, cards & letters, Facebook posts, blog comments or in-person I can't thank you enough for what you did for me!! I am so fortunate to have your friendships and knowing all of you makes it hard to believe that there's anything but good in the world. Keep on being amazing because I know you're making a difference to so many more people than me! And as for me, I can say that your kindness and encouragement meant everything... I promise you that I will live by the example you set for me and now I'll get busy "paying it forward".

So one more time, THANK YOU to my family, to my friends from school (middle school-through-high school and college), my co-workers from past and present (this includes about 20 jobs across 3 decades!), my neighborhood friends, my CMTA friends, my MS Society friends, my running friends (especially The Southside Running Club, the OutSideSouthside Runners and of course the Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies), the amazing Get Back UP Today family, my tenacious TeamUP teammates, The Rabid Dogs, Hugo's/Fat Dogs/Carolina Restaurant Supply Softball Team, my unforgettable Tennessee ToeOFF Trot family, the entire Allard crew (USA and International), Dr. Roy & Julia Carter's team,  Dr. Roberts and her team, the dedicated Dralla Foundation team, my Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge family, our Downtown Greensboro family (even if you've moved you're still family), our Grasshopper friends (past and present) and to all of you whom I've met just through pure luck & perfect timing...  I hope I can provide the same support to all of you somehow!