After the Vegas experience, I returned home to work Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. I drove up to my parents house Wednesday night so that I could hop on a plane Thursday morning to head out to Annapolis. There aren't enough words to express how excited I was... to see my friend Mark, to see Annapolis and the DC area from his point of view, and to run ANOTHER half marathon - with him.
I arrived early, read and snacked on salted caramel Brownie Brittle (go buy some... now) while I waited for Mark. He brought me a surprise - DONNER (the famous weim I have heard so much about). In my years of working with animals, I have to say he is one of the best looking ones I've seen - a really handsome creature. We arrived at his house - which is completely adorable and awesome, an old historic house, just blocks away from the downtown area. It's like a movie... people actually live like this?!?
We strolled around downtown with Donner, complete with Starbucks (of course), and he showed me the lay of the land. What an absolutely beautiful place. The open water just draws me in, I love it... We went home and got ready for a dinner at USNA - I got to be pretty and dress up. We walked over to the academy and joined the cocktail hour for a second before dinner. They couldn't really figure out who I was (Mrs. P, Ms. P, Ms. M?) - it was cute... We got arranged in a line to proceed into dinner, but we got split up so I made friends with the people around me and a few midshipman. Dinner was delicious - really cool to hear the different people talking and the midshipman next to me was kind enough to explain different Navy things. After the dinner, we walked around a bit and headed over to their after party. I met a handful of the tri team members - super nice kids, really great to talk to. It was sweet to see Mark talking to the kids - they really like him and obviously respect him and its clear he cares a lot about them.
We walked towards home (me with shoes in hand) and stopped at a couple of bars for drinks which was quite fun. Class the next morning, so we didn't stay out too late.
Biked to USNA in the morning and got to sit in Mark's class for a few hours. Very cool. I even learned some things... after being a career student for so long, I almost miss sitting in class and learning. We headed back to the house for a bit so he could have a new fridge delivered, then biked back to USNA for SWIMMING. We swam in the "prison pool" - the good pool was being used for water polo - and it was fun! I tried to give a pointer or two about his stroke, but I am a terrible coach. Plus, my stroke is close to unnatural so there's that...
It was time to pick up the race bibs, so we biked over and checked out where the race would start/finish. At that point, people were arriving at his house, so we biked back and got ready for dinner. Dinner was delicious, his friends on the tri team are great, really friendly, good people. Adam, Holly, and Lee were staying at Mark's house too. Met Andy Baldwin (go ahead, google him too) and we all had a good time at dinner. After dinner, Lee, Mark, and I went to a bar for a bit, but they were kind enough to let me buy a caramel apple along the way.
Woke up in the morning (early!) and got dressed in layers for the chilly run that lay ahead of us... it was about 25 degrees at race start - BRRRR. I had warm tights, a tech shirt, a long sleeve compression/warm shirt, and a cold weather hooded running jacket. The hand warmers really hit the spot inside my gloves! Adam, Holly, Mark and I jogged over to the start, maybe 3/4 to 1 mile away - perfect warm up. Mark handed out the bibs we had collected the day before and we joined the customary bathroom line before the race started.
We were still near the port-a-potties when the race began, so we were a bit behind - it wasn't a very large race, but we definitely were jogging around, passing people for the first handfuls of miles. There were hills... oh the hills... but it wasn't too terrible. Super cool to run with someone and just enjoy the morning and running together. We ran a comfortable pace so we could still chat and I really enjoyed it. We ran near his house and downtown, passed USNA, and hit the hills - it was an out and back course with a few turn-arounds. Around mile 5 or 6 was a clusterfuck of crossing paths... but besides that interesting obstacle, it was a good course. The last half mile ends up in the stadium parking lot and the finish line is directly outside the stadium. We finished together, finally warmed up and collected our gear. The finisher long sleeve half zip was quality - the best that I've gotten from a race so far for sure.
I can't express how cool the post-race party was. An irish band was playing, and there were oysters and beer/cider galore. Ah, heaven. They had a warmed oysters with cheese and bacon bits and spices - it was simply incredible. We listened to music, dined on oysters, and enjoyed the drinks for awhile. Eventually, we made it back to Mark's house to clean up and head out for food and drinks. The Iron Rooster is a newer restaurant that Mark and I went to for lunch Friday and again after the race with everyone. The food is all amazing, I would live there, in that restaurant, if I could. It was a really great group of people, so different and AWESOME to find people with similar interests as me - that's what I'm lacking where I live now - other than Dayle (I don't know what I would do without her) and T. It is really important to me to find a club that I can get into to make friends and train. It really was quite cool...
Mark gave us a USNA tour (!!!) and the group started to part ways. We ended up making a fire in his backyard and later going to dinner with Kate and Blaine, his friends that own Tri360 in Virginia. Good people, good times...
The next morning, we went to church - a completely different kind of spiritual experience than anything I've ever been a part of. It was a contemporary christian church and I was really moved by it. I won't launch into a religious rant about the Catholic church and my personal issues with it, but I left the service feeling like I had learned something, things that I could go and directly apply to my own life. Quite an awesome experience to say the least. Also neat to share it with someone.
He surprised me afterward with apple fritters and Starbucks. We sat at Starbucks and read the paper for awhile - I could get used to spending Sunday mornings like this! We walked around town, stopped in a few stores, and headed back to the house. We drove to Washington so I could see what it was like and we walked Donner along the water. Neat running paths and people all around. Yet another surprise - Georgetown Cupcakes! I LOVE these... I ordered them for Mom for mother's day last year, the variety of flavors is quite awesome. They didn't have my favorite that day (Earl Grey Lavender) but pumpkin spice and salted caramel hit the spot and we ate them on a park bench. We ended up driving over to the Lincoln memorial and walking through the WWII memorial, how incredibly beautiful and special... I got a little taste of a history lesson from the trusty tour guide, but it came time for me to get ready to go.
I loved visiting Annapolis, for many different reasons. Like I've said before, you never know who you'll meet at races... I'm grateful for the experiences I've had this year and the really special people I have met. Very happy to be where I'm at in life right now.