Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016 Pac-12 Championships

Last year, I was asked if I wanted to work at this year's Pac-12 Championships in Seattle. 

What a silly question. If there's one thing I love more than track, it's traveling to track meets. Especially when it's partially on someone else's dime. 

So off I go. Unfortunately, our local airport was closed for runway paving, so my options were a bit limited. But a 6 hour drive isn't too bad. And I decided on the back way, avoiding the Portland/Olympia/Tacoma traffic; on a good day, the slowdowns are brief. On a bad day, horrific. 

I stumbled across an online review for eateries near my halfway point, and the second pick was my target: the St. John's Monastery Bakery, north of Goldendale. Staffed by Orthodox Greek nuns who generously made no mention of my running shorts and Hood to Coast t-shirt, they served me up unquestionably the best gyro i have ever experienced. Just sublime. 

The dolmas were good, too: piping hot, not what I expected. I think i prefer the canned ones from Trader Joe's. But you can't lose either way. 

Yakima reminded me a lot of West Texas, only with more hills. And next time, I'll take the detour thru Roslyn and see the setting of the show Northern Exposure. 

Into the city, check into the hotel, then off to West Seattle to meet up with Kay, Stacey, and young Declan. 

Nice shirt, my man!
Kay's house has a wonderful view of Puget Sound...

Dinner was at Ma'ono: a Fried Chicken and Whiskey Bar? Yes, a full page of whiskey choices. 

And did I mention the food? If you haven't had Spam Musubi, you haven't lived. No joke. So much for dropping a few pounds. 

Back to the hotel, the Silver Cloud Inn on Lake Union. I've been in worse locations. And with someone else picking up the tab, it's even better; for this meet, the rooms are covered by UW. 

Next morning: up early for a swim at the Queen Anne Aquatic Center. Five bucks gets you in, and the pool had plenty of room. Recently, i decided to stop being timid in the pool, so i committed to learning how to execute a solid flip turn, not the garbage I've been throwing out there. And it began to click: the problem has been that i'm uncomfortable swimming underwater on my back, and that's what a proper turn requires. But hoards of real swimmers seem to manage without drowning themselves, so let's get after it, shall we? 

45 minutes of laps done, and I'm out of there. Now the fun begins....


 That's one seriously purple track (even if it looks a little blue).

Briefing at 10am, and the rain began promptly at 11. And continued for the next 3-4 hours in heavy doses. Very wet, but at least it was cold.

Did i mention the rain?

This sucker paid for itself many times over...you can't write up fouls if the paper is disintegrating.

By the end of the day, i was ready for dry socks and a comfortable chair. Dinner was sushi picked up from the University Village QFC.

Next morning; a bit o' running. Wanted to start getting my legs back from that unfortunate Eugene Marathon experience, so down the waterfront i go. Over the Eastlake Bridge, winding thru the U, then past Husky Stadium and a massively attended road race. No thanks, i just want a quiet run to myself. 5 miles out, 5 back, and I'm good. Also noticed that I dropped some spicy miles at around 7:35 pace on the way back.

The rest of the events went well, not many fouls to report. Just some great running...the UO team, known for distance runners, goes 1-2-3 in both women's sprints. We knew Jenna Prandini would be tough to replace, and yet here's newbie Hannah Cunliffe laying waste to the competition. Oregon doesn't recruit, they reload. Ed Ches comes back from injury and lack of conditioning by putting a couple of 4:25 miles (estimated) at the end of the 10k, and doesn't have much company. Meanwhile, the 5k was awesome; a couple of Colorado guys pushing a serious tempo for most of the race...with two laps to go, their coach yells out, "Save a gear!" Too late: UW's Gilbert finds a snappy cadence in the final 400 and completes a solid 13:35.

His teammate Izaic Yorks leads wire to wire in the 1500 and takes the crown. Always good to see locals winning on their home track. And a nice big 'fro, too.

Oregon's Raevyn Rogers cruelly keeps the field close for 700m, then drops the hammer and runs away with the crown. She has a good chance to be a 4-time outdoor champion in the 800 meters.

My roommate James brought us to a great Mexican restaurant down the road. At the counter, I see this...

The server sees me looking suspiciously at the chocolate chip cookie and laughs. "Yes, it has jalapenos," he says. When i hesitated, he comped me. Not sure that made me more interested, but what the heck.

The food was great: fresh, tasty, and lots of it. Surprisingly, the cookie was good, too.

Next morning, I blew off another swim and decided to get driving. Seattle traffic (even outbound) is hideous. With the little bit of rain, i decided to return on the sunny back route, knowing that slick roads near the city mean lots of delays.

Same Greek bakery for lunch. This time, spanakopita for the first time. Not a fan of creamed spinach. The dessert baklava was beyond sweet, almost made me break out in hives. Next time, I'll stick with the gyros.

Great trip, great experience.

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