Just returned from a short survey of Seattle...via a 26.2 [+change] venture. I signed up with a friend of mine to run the Seattle Rock 'N Roll Marathon several months ago, and we've been following the same training regiment, although living in different states, for the past 18 weeks. She's been my running buddies for years now [and one of my dearest friends] so as soon as she mentioned that she was doing the race, I knew that I was to do it as well. It was not only an excuse to see a new city & get into shape, but a way to stay in touch over the geographical distance that separated us.
Friday 24 June 2011
I pride myself on being a good planner...however, there are times when God sees my pride growing too heavy, too large such that it obstructs my view of Him and makes me feel that I am above needing the help of others. So this trip began with a humbling. I had conducted significant research into what flight would be the best from a cost & time standpoint in order to maximize by two day venture to Seattle. The airport selected was one that I felt I would have plenty of time to get to because I make a drive in that direction often, and felt myself familiar with the traffic flow. However, I did not account for it being a summer Friday afternoon, and with an hour until departure I was realized I would not make my flight.
So I reversed course, grumbling internally with the diction of my tight-on-a-dollar obsession, and went to a more local airport to purchase any ticket I could get to Seattle that night. I have to admit there was something slightly exciting about walking up to a ticket counter and asking for an ASAP flight out, one way...I wonder what that Alaskan Airlines employee thought of me, what story she imagined was attached to my urgent departure with no apparent plan for return. Although I am still mourning the loss of the dollars extra I had to shell out for a replacement ticket [time will heal all sense of loss...right?], I am very thankful that there was a flight I could take that night...lest I miss the race I'd been training for over the past 4.5 months. I landed around 2300, caught the free shuttle to our hotel [thanks to my friend's mom who got the information for me], laid out my running gear for the next day and hit the hay.
Saturday 25 June 2011
The next morning reveille was at 0500. We quickly got dressed [I actually slept in my running kit, sans shoes, in order to maximize my zzz's], grabbed a bit of breakfast on our way out of the hotel, and hopped in the car for a drop-off point by my friends mom [many roads were closed for the race, so she could only get us so close to the start line]. We followed the zombie-paced parade of runners to the start line, about a mile walk, and got there with about 45 minutes to spare.
0700 the race began, with us starting in the 4:15 corral. The Seattle Rock 'N Roll Marathon has one of the most efficient starting procedures I've seen in marathons. Granted I haven't run that many, but I was still impressed. They use a wave start, such that each corral starts separately with about 2 minutes in between, this keeps you from bottle-necking in the beginning. In past races the first mile is usually more walking than running. The course itself is quite pleasant and forgiving. There is a good variety of terrain and scenery your run by, keeping you from mental fatigue if nothing else: by lakes, in residential areas, parts of downtown, on closed-down highways, and through tunnels [my personal favorite]. The hills weren't too taxing, they were long and gradual and game at increments in which a hill was needed to relieve you from the flat, to simply use different muscles and keep you from cramping too much.
We ran well, my friend had her sights on sub-4, and while I very much believed she would obtain that time for herself, I had little faith, bordering on negative faith, that I would be able to get such a time myself. We ran together until mile 24, and then my leg muscles decided they were done for the day:
Me: Actually, you see, we still have 2.2 miles left...we've discussed this...don't be like this...
Legs: You're free to continue on, but I've had my fill. See you on the flip side!
My friend and I had both discussed before hand that if one of us was feeling good and the other not-so-much, that the former must continue on...for, slowing down when you're feeling pretty good to keep up your current clip will only increase your physical pain. I would have been upset if she had done otherwise. We ended up finishing 3 minutes apart...and I was quite frustrated that I could not finish with her [my legs and I are still not on speaking terms], but I was very happy we had got to run the majority of the race together and was please with our final time, both under 4 hours.
I staggered and dragged myself to her after I crossed the line and we made our way, hobbling, to the meeting point where her family and friends were. Interesting to get glimpses of being older...feeling acute pain in each step, the experience of standing up and sitting down being an event. We grabbed some lunch as a group [most generously paid for by her parents]. Her dad had done the marathon as well & several of her friends had done the marathon or half-marathon, so anywhere we went we were a force to be reckoned with...and to be seated. We then returned to the hotel to shower and rest, and then we went to her friend's uncle's [?] home about 30 minutes outside of Seattle for a BBQ.
They were so hospitable and hind to take in so many of us...we were a small army really [at least 15], but they welcomed us to join them in their feast. The property was beautiful. Simply blinding in the variety and intensity of green hues with the fading afternoon light...it made sense then why Seattle is the Emerald City. A perfectly peaceful place to relax after a race day.
The highlight of that evening, however, was the potato launcher. Made of PVC pipe, with a small button at the bottom to give a spark, one simply inserts a spud of choice [the variety that suits your fancy], spray some hair spray on the inside near the spark-button, aim into the woods and shoot away! Makes me wish I lived out in the open...that's not the only reason, but certainly an added bonus. And we all slept well that evening.
Sunday 26 June 2011
The next day we went to the 1100 mass at the Chapel of St. Ignatius on the campus of Seattle University. Although I am not Catholic, I enjoyed the service immensely. The chapel has a stripped down, simplistic beauty in its interior decor and exterior architecture, feeling modern and serene. I tried my best to follow along and enjoyed the old hymns especially, and I was doing quite well blending in until it came time for the Lord's Prayer...I kept going after "deliver us from evil" and got a chuckle from the man sitting next to me and a few behind me as well. I was exposed as the non-Catholic. I did not feel judged, but I had lost at the game of trying to blend in. When the prayer ended the chuckle-man glance my way and with a raised eye brow commented on the shirt I was wearing, which happened to have a skull on it...which in hindsight maybe was not the best choice for Catholic mass, but it is one of my favorite shirts and I had packed light so it was the only clean shirt I had. Oh well...gives him a story to tell others I guess...the girl who likes skulls and didn't know the proper ending of the Lord's prayer.
After church we walked a it around campus and then began walking down town towards Pike's Place Market. En route our first stop was Elliot Bay Book Co. This giant book store had a warehouse-type interior with the selection of a larger chain book store. They had a substantial graphic novel section that I spent a good amount of time in and had a bargain books section as well. Being the bibliophile that I am, I could have spent quite a long while in there, but we had other stops to make. If I lived in Seattle, this would become a dangerous place for me to be.
Right before we hit the market we stopped for lunch at Kell's, and Irish-pub-styled restaurant on a side street just before Pike's Place Market. It had that inviting and warm atmosphere that every good pub has, a wide selection of beers & Irish fare including shepherd's pie, stew, and pasties [the latter picture below].
Next we hit the market place. It was more busy than usual [I was told], and simply buzzing with activity.
First notable thing we saw was the original Starbucks, the franchise started here in Seattle, and the crowds seemed to know it...there was a line leading out the door [not unlike any other Starbucks I suppose].
Then we ventured into the the market area itself, full of vendors selling produce, meats, candies, and crafts. We sampled cherries, honey sticks, chocolate covered nuts, fresh peaches, and even chocolate linguine.
The liveliest area, undeniably a tourist trap but still entertaining to view, was the fish section. You know you have arrived via all your senses: the smell the sea, the sound of laughter and shocked comments, the taste of salt gleaned from the air, the feel of sticky fish residue on the ground [roll of the hems of your jeans!], and the sight of [yes] flying fish. Pike's fish sections is infamous for the employees throwing fish over the counter to each other to fulfill a customers order, intentionally catching at the last moment in front of a customer's face to varying reactions ranging from anxious excitement to squeamish disgust and even tears.
After that we headed back towards the Seattle University campus where our car was parked. We made one final stop for beer, coffee, and conversation along the way at Elysian Brewing Co. Constructed in 1919, the interior is complete with high ceilings, wooden floors, and brewery tanks. In the proper season, they even offer pumpkin beer.
My friend and her roommates dropped me off at the airport as they headed out of town, completing my Seattle survey.
It was one of those travel experiences that was wonderful not for the things we did, but for the mere fact that we did them together. I continue to be amazed and humbled by how many kind people there are in the world, they dwarf me in their Christ-like servant-hood and giving spirit [this most especially relates to a certain Filipino couple that not only paid for my hotel & a meal for all of us, but also made me feel like a part of their family within 30 minutes of knowing them]. I rarely get sentimental when a trip comes to an end, especially one so short, but I was sincerely sad to see such a simple weekend of fellowship come to a close.
Aching physically from the marathon of the day before but renewed spiritually on the highs of companionship I boarded by 2115 flight back home, bidding the Emerald City farewell.