I caught my first two Pokemon while attending the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials. Pokemon number one, Charmander, was hanging out in our Airbnb. The second, Goldeen, was right outside the men’s room at the Eugene Airport. I have no idea how Goldeen got past security but, once captured she fit comfortably into my carryon luggage.
After I got home from the Track and Field Olympic Trials, I was fired up to get back in shape. I took the Pokeymon Go app out for a workout. I went with my Dad, who’s in his 70’s and is enviably fit.
According to Strava, Dad and I walked 2.7 miles in 74 minutes. Our pace was 27:13 per mile. I burned 434 calories.
Now, a 27-minute-per-mile pace will not get me into the Rio Olympics. I’m compelled to point out that we stopped multiple times to — what else? — catch Pokemon.
Also, walking 2.7 miles won’t break any long distance records, but: That’s how far we got until my cell phone died.
We kept walking after that point but there’s no Strava proof and of course, there were no Pokemon bagged after my iPhone quit. We couldn’t use Dad’s smart phone because, well, he doesn’t own one.
I jumped from level 2 to level 4 in Pokemon Go, which is a personal record. I’m still trailing my best friend’s son, who is on level 9.
Goldeen and Magikarp Pokemon were prevalent along our our route. They are aquatic looking creatures. Our walk strolled along Elliot Bay so, maybe there’s a connection.
We passed my cell phone back and forth so that we could take turns catching Pokemon. Dad is much more accurate with the Pokeball.
We texted photos of our Pokemon encounters to our respective girlfriends and to my brother. No one was impressed.
I’ve run along this same section of Elliot Bay dozens of times, but in the past I rarely if ever stopped to absorb and learn. Several Pokestops were quite informative, like this one:
The best part of the Pokemon Go workout was spending quality time with my Dad. I know that these times together are finite. And after this experience, Dad’s even thinking about getting a smart phone.
The U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials are a unique experience in sports. The competition is brutally precise. Athletes who finish in the top three of their event make the U.S. Olympic team. Miss the top three, and you’re out.
Take, for example, Brenda Martinez. Brenda was a favorite in the women’s 800M run but finished 7th in a wild, crash-marred race. Her Olympic dreams were temporarily dashed. Six days later, she returned to place third in the 1500M race with a gutsy dive at the finish. She’s going to Rio, and she has the scars to prove it.
Conversely, there’s hurdler Aries Merritt. He won gold in the 2012 London Olympics but shortly thereafter, he suffered health problems which ultimately required a kidney transplant (his sister was the donor). Amazingly, Aries worked his way back in less than a year and competed in the Trials last week. He finished fourth in the 110M hurdle finals by one hundredth of a second. He won’t be going to Rio.
It’s no wonder that the U.S. Olympic Track & Field squad has been called “the world’s toughest team to make.”
Occasionally, even a top 3 finish at the Trials isn’t an automatic ticket to the Olympics. This was the case for the top 3 men in the hammer throw, including Rudy Winkler, a.k.a. Clark Kent. Rudy’s modesty and his glasses begot his nickname. None of the top three hammer throwers achieved the Olympic standard of 77 meters. But after a week of nervous anticipation, they were invited to Rio based on their global ranking.
My first visit to the Trials was four years ago, in 2012. Hayward Field, the historic venue, accommodates more than 20,000 spectators. But even when the stadium is at full capacity, the connection between fans and athletes feels intimate. At Hayward, nearly everyone becomes fully immersed in the competitors’ successes and failures.
Racing meets reality
At this year’s trials, current events comingled with competition. Beneath a Hayward Field flag that flew at half mast, athletes tried to put their Olympic aspirations into context with the spate of tragedies in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas.
Kristi Castlin made the Olympic team in the 100M hurdles, then dedicated her performance to survivors of gun violence.
Justin Gatlin won a dramatic 200M race, then gave a moving call for people to love each other.
Their words were poignant and memorable. Here are a few more unforgettable moments from this year’s U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials:
Chaunté Lowe’s celebration. Chaunté, a 32-year-old veteran of 3 Olympics, finished first in the women’s high jump and achieved the highest jump in the world this year. Perhaps best of all, her celebration dances were solid gold.
Noah Droddy. Jen and I watched a long-haired, neon-clad dude with a backwards hat finish dead last in the 10K race. Then he got famous. He’s original, funny and totally legit as a runner.
Boris Berian. There are so many reasons to like @borisgump800. He went from McDonald’s employee to U.S. Olympian. He fought Nike and won. And his reaction to making the U.S. Olympic 800M team is genuine joy.
Youth. Sydney McLaughlin earned a spot on the U.S. 400M hurdles Olympic team. She is 16. Vashti Cunningham made the team in the high jump. She’s 18. Noah Lyles and Michael Norman, who both just finished high school, competed in the final of the 200M race. They barely missed making the team but gave a glimpse at two future track stars.
Experience. My favorite moment was Bernard Lagat, aged 41, coming from behind to win the 1500M race. His victory lap with his kids was priceless.
The trials are over. It’s unknown whether they will return to Hayward Field in 2020. If they do, I hope to be there.
You know it was a good week when you only wore pants once. Long pants, that is, to celebrate the end of our adventure with a semi-fancy dinner in Portland.
The days leading to that particular moment were spent wearing shorts and soaking up sunshine, while exploring amazing things. Towering redwoods, plunging waterfalls and a jaded toad — were all parts to our road trip of a lifetime.
LAX to SEA
Ours was a one-way road trip from Santa Monica to Seattle. Our route followed the famous Highway 101 up the California coast, winding through Big Sur, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and rolling through redwood country.
Approaching Oregon the route turned inland, rumbling on I-5 to Ashland, pausing for a milkshake in Eugene, then continuing to Portland. And finally, 1,500 miles later, arriving home in Seattle.
Jen flew into LAX at 10:30 AM on a Thursday. I picked her up in the Jeep and we hit the road, heading north for a week-long road trip.
Don’t leave home without a #
Everyone knows that the second-most important thing you need on a road trip is: a hashtag. Our was #1way2sea. Clever, right? Jen came up with it.
Of course, the single-most important thing to bring on a road trip is: country music. As Jen says, “Country music tells a story.” It’s true. A good story makes the miles pass more smoothly.
Our favorite country ditty was “Nobody to Blame” by Chris Stapleton. It’s a cautionary relationship tale for guys, who want to avoid having their whiskey poured down the drain or having sugar poured into their John Deere riding mower.
Our favorite things
Each day of our trip brought something exciting and memorable. Here are a few highlights.
Favorite sight: The redwoods. We stopped multiple times to walk among redwoods while driving through Avenue of the Giants and the Redwood Highway. Each stop was amazing, magnificent and unique. See the redwoods in your lifetime.
Favorite hike: Ewoldsen Trail, Big Sur. This 4.5 mile loop has a bit of everything: redwoods, ocean views and a peek down onto Highway 1 from a fairly precarious ledge.
Favorite bar: The Jaded Toad in Windsor, CA. Grilled cheese, garlic fries, cocktails in mason jars and good tunes.
Favorite accommodation: Jen raved about the historic Ashland Springs Hotel in downtown Ashland, OR. I was a big fan of our tiny Airbnb with an amazing view (see photo above) in Carmel Valley, CA.
Favorite day: Mine was Day 2, Paso Robles to Carmel, featuring: Winding views of Big Sur from Highway 1; gorgeous hikes (see photo above); capped off with dinner at Plaza Linda. Jen’s favorite was Day 4, Windsor to Eureka. We spent this day immersed in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We finished with dinner at Lost Coast Brewery.
Favorite bipartisan bumper sticker: “Somebody else for president.”
Favorite phrase: “I can definitely smell smelly.” Jen sharing one of her many talents.
Favorite TV show: Jen’s bedtime program of choice was Alaskan Bush People on Discovery. Mine was Life Below Zero on the National Geographic Channel. The Alaska theme of both shows is (oddly) coincidental.
Favorite technology: I liked my Olloclip Active Lens. It enables wide-angle and telephoto pictures using the iPhone (see an example above). Jen appreciated my Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS watch as a navigational aid. If you’re extremely bored, you can check out GPS profiles of our hikes: Ewoldsen Trail; Lithia Park; Trillium Falls.
#1waytosea – In (more) pictures
In closing, here are a few more favorite images from the trip.
If you made it this far, you’re dedicated! The photo gallery below contains additional images (with some duplicates from above) from our road trip.
I left my job yesterday. My terrific colleagues threw me a party with thoughtful parting gifts, including: a box of blue Peeps; a microwaveable bowl of soup; and a plastic shovel.
The shovel, I assume, is for breaking ground on whatever’s next in my life. Or, it could be for digging myself out of a huge hole down the road. Either option is appropriate because, as of today, I’m deliberately without a job.
I’ve had many jobs in my life, including:
Paperboy (I was a pretty good one);
Bartender (I was awful);
Travel writer (got the scoop on skiing the Italian Alps from the seat of one’s pants);
Product manager at a start-up company (exactly how it sounds);
And, most recently, digital media guy (dotcom 4life, yo!)
(Side note: I’m writing this while sitting in a coffee shop. The server just called out someone’s order: “Breakfast sandwich!” It’s 3:30 in the afternoon. Heck, even without a job to wake up for, I finished my breakfast by 11:00 AM today.)
I’ve heard that during one’s ____ (sabbatical? timeout? period of enlightenment?), s/he should re-examine the concept of “To Do” lists. So then, here is my “What’s Next” list, version 1.0:
Go all in on my relationship
Jen (my girlfriend) and I have been dating long distance for almost three years. We’re moving in together in 11 days. Check.
(Side note: I am most tolerable in small doses. I mentioned this fact to Jen. She still wants to live with me full time. This could get interesting.)
Get reacquainted with my family
My parents are getting older. I see them roughly twice per year. I told Dad I was planning an extended visit. His response was, “How long are you staying?”
Don’t mess with a retiree’s square dancing schedule.
Get in shape
My brother and I are planning a mountain bike trip along the Great Divide. We will ride roughly 50 miles per day, from Banff, Canada, south through Montana. During bear season.
Serve my community
One of my proudest moments occurred when I was honored as a youth mentor of the year.
One of my most photogenic moments occurred when I was a volunteer firefighter. I never actually put out a fire. But the photo of me in my firefighting gear made a great profile pic.
(Update: The server just called out someone else’s order: “Irish breakfast tea!” I’m not making this up.)
There are many more things I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to see. If you receive an email or text message from me that starts with “It’s been a while!” you should expect that I will ask to sleep in your spare bedroom. Or on your couch.
I’m excited and terrified. I believe that whatever comes next, is directly related to how hard I work. And I will work hard.