2014: Year in review

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2014YiRmontage

I always want to do one of those “year in review” posts on this blog and somehow I never manage to do it before the year is up, and then it’s January something and it just feels dumb. But this year, I decided that I’m doing one anyway. After all, this year has contained some pretty crazy stuff. In fact, I’m dubbing 2014 “The Year of the Unexpected Adventure.”

From T’s heart attack to all sorts of travel, both planned and spontaneous, it’s been a pretty eventful year. As I was looking through my photos to select ones for the collage, I was struck by just how much happened this year. And not just to us – friends adopted babies and moved to new places. All in all, 2014 was a roller coaster. I’m not sure what I hope for in 2015, I guess more adventures of the “spontaneous travel” variety and less of the “unexpected trips to the emergency room” sort.

Bring it on, 2015!

Christmas traditions

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This year, Susan came up to Seattle for Christmas. For many years, she would do a pre-Christmas party that we would come down for, but it’s been a long time since we spent actual Christmas together. (I want to say we were living in Oakland, so maybe 2000?) Back then, I was so busy trying to create this perfect Christmas experience, that I wouldn’t actually enjoy any of it. So much has changed since then!

Now, I’m less worried about having some Martha Stewart-style fancy holiday. I want to hang out with the people I love, eat great food and drink some delicious adult beverages. Over the years, we’ve developed our own traditions, like the traditional Christmas eve starchfest… uh, I mean… pittaha:

xmas2014-PittahaWhich we served on T’s and my Christmas present to each other: a new table for the dining room:

xmas2014-TableSettingAnd of course there are lots of dogs to love:

xmas2014-SusanDogpileChristmas morning started at dawn (both Blue and Susan are early risers!) Susan had said that she hadn’t bought much, but the big pile of presents told a different story. My brother also outdid himself:

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They also gave us a gift card that T turned into this:

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Susan gave T a bit of his childhood:xmas2014-TandBobsSauceI think the real winners of the day were the dogs. Even with the fancy new decorations, they had an awesome time:

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Someone had so much fun, he fell asleep half way through the present opening.

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He still managed to rally for a little Christmas day run, still in his ribbons. We finished up the day watching movies and making a nice pork loin for dinner. Very pleasant.

The next day, we resurrected an old family tradition of mine: the returning gifts/going shopping the day after Christmas. I’d managed to ruin Susan’s big gift to us by buying a pressure cooker over the black Friday/cyber Monday weekend. (Bless her heart, she was very nice about it.) So, we were off to Macy’s to return it and get some new cookware. We scored an awesome deal on some shiny new Caphalon which will replace the set we got when we got married:

xmas2014-NewPansWe finished up the day with a trip to Roux, for some deliciousness:

xmas2014-RouxDessertsFor the final day of our visit, we decided to make some sugar cookies. Susan typically makes a batch every year, so we decided to observe that tradition as well:

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It turns out that moose can be tricky:

xmas2014-Cookies2We may not be professional cookie decorators:

xmas2014-Cookies3And things got a little punchy toward the end…

xmas2014-CookieFight1xmas2014-CookieFight2The next morning we sent Susan off with a nice little brunch at Skillet, and then she hit the road for home. We ran errands and prepared for our upcoming new years adventure. Stay tuned for another exciting blog post!

Lighting up the holidays

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Now that the big race is over, it suddenly feels like Christmas is coming way too soon. We had a LOT of work to do, so we got up on the early side and headed out. (Going to bed at 9:30 has it’s benefits!) After a nice breakfast at Portage Bay, we did some holiday shopping and crossed a few names off of the gift list.

Then it was home to clean and put up some holiday decorations. And prepare for an impromptu 5k sponsored by The Oatmeal – The Blerch Green Lake Fun Run. I’d picked up some battery powered Christmas lights and some fun Santa hats, so we were looking pretty festive:

BHE-PreRaceGetup

We didn’t really see anyone else when we walked over, but there were a ton of people at the meeting place:

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Given that this race was announced on Monday, it was pretty impressive how many people showed up. The mood at the start was fun, even though it was VERY chilly out:

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I tried to get a picture of the action, but this was the best I could do:

BHE-Race

Luckily, they posted a video (shot with a little helicopter drone) that is WAY better. (In fact, at 1:40 you can see yours truly veer off the path to take the above picture. I’m on the far right side of the frame. Look for the red light necklace and white lights around my hips.)

Oatmeal Greenlake Fun Run from Mel Gray on Vimeo.

It was such a fun event and put me fully in the Christmas spirit. Afterward, we went to a local Italian place for dinner. (I love Seattle where you can go to a decent restaurant in silly running clothes and no one looks twice.) Then it was a super brisk walk home because it was FREEZING!

Once there we finished decorating the tree and relaxed. It was very festive and enjoyable. A great end to a fabulous weekend.

Deception Pass 25k

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The big day has finally arrived: race day! After a scintillating day of work, we drove up north and checked into our hotel. It was Austin’s first time in a motel. He made himself comfortable, as is his custom:

DP-AustinHotelKing-sized bed means everyone has plenty of space, especially yours truly!

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I don’t know if it was all of the great group training runs or if ignorance is bliss, but I was feeling strangely at ease going into this race. I set up my gear and settled in for a good nights sleep:

DP-PreRaceSetupThe next morning, I was up just before my alarm. (Thanks Austin!) I have my pre-run routine down pretty well at this point, so it was a pretty calm morning, (except for the wrong turn out of the hotel. Gah!) But despite that little hiccup, we made it there with plenty of time to check in and all that jazz.

The boy even took a pre-race picture of me, all raring to go:

DP-PreRun

Trail races take low tech to a whole other level. After checking in, I followed a crowd of people out to the parking lot. Where we milled around until someone yelled instructions over a bullhorn and we queued up in a different part of the parking lot. 😉

DP-StartLineAfter some hilarious pre-race instructions, (the gist of which was “don’t fall off of a cliff”) we were off. It was very crowded at the start. The woman in front of me was clearly very frustrated by this, but I just took it easy and didn’t waste any energy.

DP-RaceStartEventually it spread out a bit:

DP-scenery1(It helped that people like me would stop to take photos… )

Eventually, the trail got much more technical. I couldn’t help snapping pics of the scenery as we went along. Some of them weren’t in focus, but still pretty. It was hard to believe we’d be crossing that bridge (twice).

DP-scenery2Given that this was the course map, I was really worried about getting lost:

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But they did a really good job of marking the trail. Which can’t have been easy:

DP-trail1As we went along, it seemed like the views just got better and better:

DP-scenery4DP-trail3DP-scenery8I mean, seriously! Look at this!

DP-trail4While I was taking the picture above, a nice racer behind me offered to take my photo:

DP-midrunAs the race wore on, I won’t lie – I was tired! The trails were very technical and there was quite a lot of climbing. Some of it was very similar to trails we’d run in training, so I was grateful for that experience. But there were things hurting that hadn’t hurt before, so there were definitely tough points. Signs like this definitely didn’t help:

DP-signNot to mention there were sections of trail that involved climbing over downed trees. This is definitely not a sport for the faint of heart.

DP-trail5The wheels were starting to come off a little bit. I wanted to just lie down next to the trail and take a little nap, but I pressed on. Unfortunately for me, the toughest part of the course is second half:

DP-ElevationProfileIt has these steep, relentless climbs that not even the beautiful views could overcome. (I was too dizzy from being out of breath to enjoy much of anything.) I wheezed my way up them and cursed the course makers and geography in general. The “good” thing about trail running is there really isn’t any option to quit. So, I put my head down and got it done. All time goals had gone out the window by this point, so it was just about finishing the thing.

I’d been trading places with the lady who’d taken my picture at the mid-way point and as we closed on the final mile, she and I were very close together. Her significant other was cheering her in and was kind enough to add me to the mix. He assured us that there was one last hill and then we just had to run a little bit more to the finish line. (That turned out to be a strange run through the parking lot, but there weren’t any more hills!) He’d raced also, so he didn’t want to run up that hill again, so he shouted encouragement and off we went. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to cross a finish line. That race was TOUGH.

The boy was there cheering, as were a number of ladies from my training group. I pretty much crossed the finish line and went right to the pizza line. (That’s right, someone was making wood-fired pizza at the finish. Trail running rocks!) T had to take over my spot because I needed to sit. He loaded me up with a bunch of snacks and the world’s most delicious Coca Cola. I cheered and snacked until he brought me pizza. It was perfection.

Then I changed out of my sweaty clothes and we hit the road for home. I’d had these grandiose notions of going out for a delicious dinner, but, when all was said and done, I had no energy for anything other than a hot bath and ordering a pizza which I ate on the couch. As always, T was an amazing support crew. He wrangled the dogs for the many hours that I raced and then drove home and took excellent care of me. He’s the best.

Weekend wrap up

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Sadly, Heidi and family had to hit the road on Friday morning. We sent them off with a nice breakfast at Skillet. It was pouring rain, which was a huge bummer. But we enjoyed the last of our visit with snuggles from Kenley and entertainment from Kamryn:

KamrynSpoonThe waiter was kind enough to take a group photo before we parted ways:

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Our house was so quiet when we got back. T had to work, so I spent the day puttering around, doing laundry, etc. Neither of us had any desire to go out and shop, so we spent a nice relaxing evening at home.

The next morning, I was supposed to meet the group for a trail run but I woke up with a scratchy throat and about an inch of SNOW on the ground. It was in the forecast, but we’ve been burned so many times that I just didn’t believe it. So, I called my trail run and let the boys do the running for me:

BoysinSnow SnowDogsMontage

Austin gets so excited when it snows. We’ve only had it twice now, but it gets him all jazzed up. I can’t wait to take him up to Jenn & Bryan’s cabin this year. He’s going to lose his puppy mind!