Sunday, March 28, 2010

Men Users

Last week, 6 of my friends and I planned to venture to New Orleans to catch our cruise ship for SB10. We met up at 4:00am to start the journey. Coffee in hand, I volunteered to navigate while Mary Grace took the wheel. Just the 7 of us and the open road. The drive was free and easy. We made up several games to play along the way. Rules for when we crossed state borders, saw double semi-trucks, and saw trucks pulling boats behind them. We sang "Wagon Wheel" on the hour, every hour (until about hour 4, and then we were over it). I peg hour 4 to be about the time our trip turned drastically wrong. Were approaching our first state border into Louisiana... or so I (the navigator) thought. It was then that I picked up the GPS and noticed that our car was heading West along the southern border of Arkansas. Rather than saying anything in an attempt to prevent panic, I casually grabbed the Atlas beside me and attempted to resolve this problem. After we had driven 30 minutes in the wrong direction, I decided we needed to turn around. And so we did... we drove 30 minutes back to our starting point, putting us an hour behind schedule.

Good thing we left at 4:00am, right? Sort of.

Our hour disadvantage added a little stress to the already stressful situation of Molly's flight delay in Kansas City. Everything that I had joked about happening in worst-case-scenario was actually happening. I began to regret voicing my hypothetical scenarios earlier that morning.

sidenote: for those of you keeping score... at this point, I believe that I am 2 for 2 for making everything go wrong on this trip.

Check in for our cruise is between 12:30 and 2:30.
We arrive in New Orleans at 2:15.
Stress level builds.

With Julie behind the wheel, we speed our way into New Orleans and follow the Carnival fin in the air in order to find our ship. At last, we find our ship. We also find 4 full parking decks, all of which have a 6 foot clearance. Which means, that if Sarah Scott had heels on, she would not be able to walk under that clearance. No less, our car be able to drive under it. You see, in order to have more space in our car, we had strapped a luggage Turtle to the top, making it reach a height well over 6 feet.

We were late. Parking decks were full. We had a Turtle on top of our car preventing us from parking. Molly was still on a plane. Panic ensues...

After several U-turns, Julie pulls into the Hilton Hotel for valet parking. Though, we did not intend to use the valet parking.... just the male valet parking attendants. We pile out of the car and hurriedly grab luggage out of the Turtle. Two valet attendants walk over and ask if we are staying here. We reply, "no." Then, they ask us if we need help. We reply, "yes... and if you are here on Thursday, we will need you to put this Turtle back on."

At this point, luggage is everywhere, the Turtle is being unstrapped and dismounted by two Hilton parking attendants, Grace is on the phone with Molly who is still en route, Sarah and I have to use the bathroom and do so in the Hilton Hotel, our car is still not parked, and check-in for our cruise is well-past over, and I am closer to a panic attack than I ever have been in my life.

After being called "men users" by the Hilton Hotel manager, Sarah, Callie, Katie, and I strap everyone's luggage to us and speed-walk to our cruise ship. I think the Lord knew that this very moment was coming and that training for the half-marathon would definitely be put to practical use. This is the moment we had been training for.

We cross the train-tracks (clearly not the correct way to get to the Cruise ship) and people begin to cheer us on and point us in the right direction. We are running at this point. It was either adrenalin or the realization that we were running parallel to the train tracks in downtown New Orleans. Either way, we made it to the ship. The line was still out the door, and people were still checking in. A luggage attendant came over to us to take our luggage from us. It was all I could do to keep from hugging him for taking the 3 suitcases strapped to me away.

After stretching my legs and my back and wiping the sweat off of my face, we got in line for check-in. A few short-moments later, we see Mary Grace and Julie casually walking over to us in the line. They had parked the car successfully... in a parking deck... connected to the cruise port... 75 yards away.... with a clearance tall enough for the Turtle to still be strapped on our car.

I laughed to keep myself from crying. All we could say was "That is so unfortunate."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My neck can barely hold this medal.

Here's the setting:

7:00 am: One hour before the race begins. Literally downtown already. When all of the sudden...

....Carla turns to me and asks, "do you have the time chip to put on your shoe?"... I stop and stare in disbelief, half-way assuming that she had made up said chip. I had my number pinned to my shirt, my shoes were tied tightly, and I was ready to run.. Or so I thought. What in the blazes was a time chip? Being new to the racing world, I didn't have that answer. And so I blankly responded, "Well, no, Carla, I don't... because you said that you grabbed all of my stuff. So thank you for grabbing everything except the one thing that I actually need to participate in the race." And if you weren't a liar, we wouldn't have to be turning around and driving 20 minutes home and 20 minutes back in order to retrieve it. It got a little tense there for a moment, but even in spite of all the chaos, leave it to the Sawatski family to go 40 minutes out of our way and still show up early for our 8:00 am start time.

7:45 am: We made it to our respective Corral. Corral D. We made our way to the front of our Corral, surrounding ourselves with people who had clearly done this before. We saw fanny-packs, camel-packs, back-packs, power-gel packs, and more. And there I stood, in my white v-neck t-shirt with nothing more to offer than athleticism in disguise. Making our presence known, Carla and I joked about how we had forgotten our ankle weights and were afraid that the impending doom of 13.1 miles just wasn't going to be much of a challenge without them. We scoffed at the people with various packs strapped to them, and claimed loudly that if we had packs of our own, we would fill them with rocks, because our body weight just simply wasn't enough weight to carry.

8:00 am: The race began.

8:05 am: Corral D approaches the starting line, and Carla claims, "Well, here goes absolutely nothing." And I think that about sums it up. With 3 Corrals ahead of us, we crossed the starting line and settled into our pace. You see, we really only had one goal for this half-marathon, and that was to finish the race... and if we did it without walking and without any full-marathoners beating us to the finish line, all the better. Well, little did we know that we would accomplish all of those things. The full-marathon runner from Kenya didn't finish his race until 20 minutes after us. I try not to think about the fact that he was running almost twice as fast and definitely twice as long as us. We beat him, and that's what counts.

Mile 5: The Broadway Bridge. Carla looks at me and says "Wow. This really isn't too bad!" It wasn't. I mean, I would not have wanted to remain on that steady incline for much longer, but it really wasn't too bad.

Mile 7: I distinctly remember thinking to myself. "I feel great. I could probably almost run the full marathon!" Then it made me wish that I always had thousands of people cheering me on when I ran.

Mile 9: I took back every optimistic thought of running a full marathon when we approached the hill leading up to the Capitol. One steady mile uphill. Reality sank in. My feet hurt, and I desperately needed the next water station.

Mile 10: Around this time, I was running out of fuel. The carbs from the day before were spent. But then a miracle happened. I don't know whether it was the thought of only having 3 miles left to run or if it was Jim Bob Duggar handing me my cup of water and wishing me good luck with the rest of the race. Then I thought about it, I still had a 5K left to run... so it was obviously the latter. Talk about fuel! I felt like a celebrity. I was star-struck through miles 11 and 12, leaving them nothing but a blur.

Mile 13: The end was in sight. Everyone had spread out by this time, leaving only an attractive young man, my sister, and myself running up the chute to the finish line. As I approached the chute, I noticed the throngs of people on either side cheering us on. I felt like I was in the Olympics, just with maybe a little less glory at the end. But we did get a medal!

After we crossed the finish line, while Carla joked about how she wanted to stick her head out at the end to make it more of a photo-finish, I was too busy trying to find water to splash all over my face. I could feel the salt crystal formations all over my skin, and I was about to take a picture with my medal, so I needed to look presentable. Little did I know that it would be like plunging head-first, eyes-open into the ocean. I was blind. Medal on my neck and salt in my eyes... Not quite the phot0-finish I had dreamed of.