Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reaching my final destination

It took awhile, but I finally made it to Michigan last Friday. I thought about it during the process and how crazy it was, and the only way to really describe it was in outline form. I'm sure this isn't technically correct (English teachin peeps?), so bear with me.. it was a long day/night.

I. Introduction - 'Prepare for the best and expect the worst' should've been my motto. The packing list was written out Thursday night, 'piles' created, and then loaded into the correct baggage Friday morning while I worked from home until 1:30pm. Weather looked good in all points en route (BWI, Cleveland, GRR), so a seamless travel plan looked particularly promising. I should've remembered that it's the holidays and something bad is bound to happen.

II. BWI - Cleveland - You know it's a sign when the first flight is delayed 20 minutes one hour before boarding.
1. I have 1 hour to make my connecting flight
a. We end up taking off only 12 minutes late.
b. I'm mushed in my middle seat, but am asleep before we take off.
c. We arrive in Cleveland 9 minutes late.
d. I wake up when the wheels hit the ground.

III. Fun in Airports - I call my sister who is supposed to pick me up in GR at 10, and BIL says when answering "I hear you're already delayed.
1. Check the screens.
a. 8:56 departure has now moved to 9:56 departure since the plane from Richmond hasn't left yet.
b. Continue to talk with sister about weather, the holidays, nephew, and baby #2 on the way.
2. Call other sister to have her bring stuff I forgot.
3. Call girlfriend to see how drive up to NH is progressing.
4. I move away from my gate to chairs close to an outlet so I can charge my cell phone and read.
a. A guy sits about 15 yrds down the row of chairs from me.. and proceeds to give himself a friggin manicure!!
- Clipping, biting, digging, and filing.
- I have coworkers that do this in their cubes at work.. I can't seem to get away from it.

III. Supposed Flight from Cleveland to GRR - Finally we start boarding around 9:45 an I take my aisle seat in 17B.
1. Earphones in, book out - I just want piece and quiet.
2. I learn that the soldier in the seat in front of me likes to wear his uniform "for the perks", as he explains to other Army and Navy vets around us.
a. Said soldier explains the only differences between Coach and Business Class are the seats and the beer, which he can't drink because he's only 18.
3. We should've taken off by now, but there is a "weight issue". I'm mildly offended and assume they are calling us Michiganders fat, then I realize.. well, we are Michiganders.
4. Flight attendant announces the options of removing passengers and/or luggage.
a. Luggage - first assumed only 11 pieces needed to be taken up (would be delivered to GR by the morning ), but it was soon confirmed that all but 11 pieces of luggage needed to be taken off. That option was declined.
b. Persons - 11 passengers were offered a "Limo service" to GR that night, or could try to get a flight in the AM.
- I was on the phone with sisters and GF weighing my options - could I get on sis's flight through Cleveland in the AM, or would it be booked; I wouldn't mind the $500 voucher; nephew had been promised I would be there in the AM and he could wake me up, and I didn't want to disappoint him.
c. They needed one more volunteer and most of the passengers looked away, hoping they wouldn't be picked.
- I stood up and walked forward to mild applause and some 'thank yous' as I exited the plane.
5. Little did I know what I was getting myself into..

to be continued...

Friday, December 21, 2007

The gift that keeps on giving

I have my moments when I like shopping. I can't say I thoroughly enjoy it nor am I good at it, but sometimes when that window is open I not only enjoy shopping, but get good deals and aren't annoyed by other shoppers.

This time of year begs for coworkers to buy presents for each other in an effort to keep with their good graces. It's even more challanging when given a $20 limit. So when I was out at REI the other weekend, I was wandering around looking for ideas. I thought this Whitewater Game was cool when I first bought it, but as the date of the party got closer, I had a gut feeling it was a bad choice. Well, the gal pal wrapped it up all pretty like and we showed up at the party in Philly.

I put the present on the table amongst the large packages and gift bags. I was starting to feel insignificant so I quickly found myself some sort of winter brew to drink. Enough beers later, the Chinese Polyanna (what they called it), started. As the cheese plates, Netflix gift cards, wine accessory kit, and DVDs were unwrapped and unvailed, I grabbed another beer while a partipant unwrapped the gift I brought. I didn't dare speak up to explain what it was when he flipped it over and looked closer to try and figure out what it really was. Nothing was spoken of it the rest of the evening and I'm a little surprised he didn't leave it there.

So I had another work holiday party this week that involved gifts. The 'twist' with this party was that it had to involve something you received before that has gone unused. I knew there was a chance the guy who got my wonderful gift might attend this party (even though he works out of our Philly office), and sure enough, he was tehre.

I had 3 holiday parties to go to, but only went to two of them, and this was the last on the list. I showed up with my unopened dusty bottle of cheap champagne that the VPs gave us last year. The classy part is the "Happy Holiday's from T & P" written on the bottle in puffy paint. Of the 40 participants, I drew #29. I didn't scout out the regifted gifts prior to the event, but assumed mine from the Philly party was amongst the crowd.

I laughed along (I blame it on the umpteen Stella's I had been drinking) as those before me unwrapped a smores making kit, unwanted wedding gifts, and Santa candy dishes. I was happy to see the recipiant of my gift recieve a gaudy tote bag and matching umbrella. I "lucked out" and got a lock de-icer and an electric windshield scraper. Perfect for the car I don't have! Might be seen on Freecycle in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

And sure enough, the Whitewater Game was on the table and selected by one of the VPs of my department. It received the same "What is it?" question while it was being unwrapped. Once your gift was unwrapped you had to explain why you brought it. His story was "I received it at another party and didn't know what to do with it".

From Friday to Wednesday.. that has to be one of the quickest regift turnarounds, eh? I'm a little upset, but whatever. His loss and the VPs gain.. I'm sure it's a wonderful game.. and I put money on it that he regifts it to his 6 yr old daughter. Hopefully she can appreciate it.

REI failed me :(

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Race Popularity

I've been doing triathlons since making a New Year's Resolution in 2001 to do one.. yknow, just to see if I could do it. I also registered for my first Ironman that year even before doing my first sprint tri. In the years to follow, of the four other IMNA Ironman triathlons I completed, I had to be at my computer the day after the race, poised and ready to be one of 2,000 to make it into the race for the next year. This year, the registration process of Ironman Lake Placid practically changed on the spot to keep up with (stay ahead of?) the popularity of the race.

So on December 4th, I was lucky enough to be one of 160 to register for the 14th running of Masssanutten Mountain Trails 100. In the past, I have heard that this race never closed in less than a week or two, but that was because you registered online then mailed in your entry form and check. So it was a bit of a surprise when the upcoming race sold out in 2 hours. Granted, we're not talking about the same participation level as an Ironman, but how many people do you know were sitting at their computer on a Tuesday morning anticipating the opening of a race with a 36 hour time limit?

I do feel fortunate enough to have made it in, and now it's time to start training again. I've taken plenty of time off *looking at my belly* and have done a little stuff here and there, but I have a 40 miler in a month and a half to prepare for to start off the 2008 ultra season. There's a growing waiting list for MMT.. yes, people wait in a virtual queue to do this race.. and I hope to keep my spot. Sure, I hope everyone on the wait list gets in, but that would mean someone currently registered had to bail due to injury or some other reason. I hope I am not one of those people, so I'm going to alter my training a bit this year to stay as healthy as possible. As popular as MMT is and as long and strenuous as the training is, I plan to be smart about it this year to improve on my 35:45 finish this year. If that doesn't happen, I guess I'll have to do it again next year.

That's what it does.. it sucks you back in. Now I know why those people are on the wait list.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wanna get away?

I needed a break. From what.. I don't know. But my weekends had been packed since the start of Fall, so I wanted some time to just relax.

So where does one go to relax? Why, the quaint town of New York City.

This was the plan. We had booked a hotel (Millennium Broadway)and tickets (The Color Purple) through We hoped to see "The Lion King", but tickets weren't available, so we went with our second choice. It just so happens that the stagehand strike continued while we were in NYC, so we didn't get to see "The Color Purple" at all. We hoped to find discounted tickets when we got there at TKTS, but there was nothing showing that we were dying to see..

.. so we walked.

There was vendor we had heard about on Good Morning America who won the Vendy Award for being the best vendor in the city. I had read that he sold vegetarian food, so we wanted to find him and try his fare. With our backpacks stuffed with layers of clothing (it was a chilly weekend), our bathroom toiletries, and food, we headed down towards Washington Square.. some 30 blocks away. It was nice to get away from the tourists and the overwhelming visual stimulation of Times Square. It was too much. We stopped at a flea market in Chelsea and just wandered. It was nice.. it was what we needed. The vendor wasn't at Washington Square, so we watched the dogs in a very small dog park in the area. It's like parents who rarely get away from there kids finally get a night to themselves to go out to dinner, and the conversation is about their kids.

Since the vendor wasn't there, we had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant we just happened to find nearby. It was a small place that hit the spot. Needless to say, the 30 block walk back was a little slower. We didn't know what we wanted to do and didn't really want to do any shopping, so we ended up at the skating rink at Bryant Park. We had a nice corner spot on the rink where we had a great time watching people fall. How great of a time? We were there almost 2 hours. I decided to take pictures of people falling as proof that we were in NYC. That's me being a tourist.

The sun was low around 4:30 and we were starting to shiver and decided it was time to check in. We ended up calling it a night and stayed in the hotel room for the evening. We romantically dined on PBJ's and trail mix while watching "Spiderman 3" for $12.95 + tax and could barely stay awake at 10pm. The king size bed had two distinct body prints in the mattress (before we got in the bed) so I didn't move much during the night.

Waking up on our own.. with no dog chewing my Crocs or barking to be let out to pee.. was a treat in itself. The $30 breakfast tasted like something we could've made ourselves, but that wasn't the point of the trip. We walked around a little bit more that morning before ending up at Bryant Park again. I don't know what it is about people ice skating and falling that draws me to them, but it was very entertaining to just people watch.

It was the perfect, uneventful weekend that I needed before the busy holiday season starts up.