Tag: Running

Vagina Rabbit And Race Prep Ice Cream

Vagina Rabbit And Race Prep Ice Cream

Next day it was shopping day.  We got up and headed to the factory outlet stores in an Uber in time for breakfast.  The only place that was open was Starbucks and so that was where we dined.  I then spent the rest of the day walking around every shop in the factory outlet trying to find a pair of football shorts for my boy child….with no luck!  I did end up with two pairs of Levis so that was nice.  We got an Uber back to the hotel and caught up on some sleep before heading out again for the evening.

It was C’s birthday and so we met up for dinner at a place called Lago inside the Bellagio.  It was a very nice place in every way you can imagine.  The customers, the staff, the setting, the food, the atmosphere….it was all at a very high standard.  It was Italian food but you ordered for the table and then shared whatever came out.  We had a range of pastas, steaks and seafood risotto and every bite was delicious.  As someone that doesn’t eat fish, I was assured that the risotto was good, but I trusted the review.

No matter how good the food was, the best part of the evening was always going to be the backdrop.  I had a great seat to experience this too. I sat and ate my meal with the Bellagio fountains putting on their show in the background to music.  Of course I had heard of this theatre and it was one of the things that people said I *had* to see, but until you see the size and scale of the fountains, you can’t begin to appreciate it properly. More of that thought to come in a bit.

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We were asked if we wanted desserts and I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer; the mains were so good it was going to be a treat.  C stepped in and suggested that we should go somewhere else and, as it was his birthday, we put our faith in him.  We went back to the Cosmopolitan and up onto the second floor to a place called Milk Bar.  Are you ready for this?  OK.  Imagine you have just finished your crunchy nut cornflakes and you are left with that delicious cold sugary milk in the bowl.  Now, if you can, don’t drink that but make some ice-cream with it.  For those people that don’t find ice cream sweet enough, this is the one for you!  It was served in a cardboard carton with crunchy nut cornflakes in the base, a lump of this super sweet ice cream and then more sprinkled crunchy nut cornflakes on the top.  I assume that heaven is just a swimming pool full of this stuff.

We walked through the hotel eating our ice-cream and chatting and we thought we spotted Mo Farah standing at the bar having pictures taken with a fan.  It turns out it was his training partner and best friend, Abdi Abdirahman, who had finished third in the New York Marathon.  Looking at his body shape and physique and comparing it to mine (99% stuffed on pasta, steak and sugar infused ice cream) I was pretty sure that my training plan needed a review.

As we waited for the group to get back as one, we noticed at the top of the escalator there was a 6 foot white plastic model of a rabbit.  We had probably walked past it two or three times, but it was only when you stopped to look at it did you realise that the red pattern going through the middle of its face and body was, very obviously, designed to look like a ‘ladies downstairs area’.  We had to explain to a lady that was taking a picture of her 10 year old child in front of it what it was and she said ‘yeah, it’s very clear what it is meant to look like’.  Nowt so queer as folk.

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It was at this point I realised that it wasn’t all about numbers as I had thought earlier in the trip, it was all about big ideas.  I am sure that we have all been in an ideas meeting and the chair has said, ’shout out what you’re thinking, no bad ideas, just say what you are thinking’.  Well in Vegas they collect all of these ideas and do them.  But bigger.  We need something to fill this space at the top of the escalator, any ideas guys?  ‘How about a 6 foot rabbit/vagina hybrid?’  Sure, here is $20,000, make it happen.

Even the ice cream place was in on it.  You can buy a container filled with all the ingredients that you need to make ‘cereal milk’ for just $5.25.  Can you imagine that meeting?  OK, we need to increase sales, any ideas?  Yeah, lets sell a small plastic container full of crunchy nut cornflakes and let people pour milk in it to make their own cereal milk.  Erm, is that not the stuff that you get in a bowl of cereal and you can get it much cheaper by buying a box of cereal?  Shut up and make me a logo, we ship this shit on Monday.

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With those thoughts going through my mind, mixed with thought of the race tomorrow, we decided to have an early night and got our guy to give us a lift home.  Unfortunately, the strip was already closed off for the preparations for the race and we were totally blocked into the car park.  It took us over an hour to make the 15 minute trip and I didn’t get into bed until well past midnight.  I was assuming that Abdi would have better prep than this?

What happens in Vegas

I wrote up the first part of the blog in the crazy early hours of the morning sitting in my hotel’s Starbucks while trying to work out what day of which week I was in.  I didn’t know at the time that I would be in that very same state of mind for the next week or so.  I have been making notes and writing memories down in note form with the honest intention of writing the notes up each evening or over breakfast.

I am now sitting in the departure lounge with 2 hours to go until we board, the crazy timing not all my fault this time, and this is the first time I have had the space to sit and think and ‘work’ on this.  I have been averaging 3 hours per sleep before the run and 5 hours after it. Some days splitting a night’s worth of sleep between a night time sleep and an afternoon snooze, like I am in an old folks’ home.  I’m looking forward to embracing old age, I can feel its cold fingers tapping on my shoulder already.

I woke up at around 5am on my first full day in Vegas and had some problems to solve.  I had not brought the right cables and attachments to charge my phone and so I needed to find a US plug to USB converter.  I set off for a walk to see if there was a shop in the hotel that could help, but nothing was open and everyone directed me to the Walgreens store a few minutes down the road.  I decided it was too early for shopping and I wasn’t ready for the outside world so I settled down in Starbucks and wrote up my notes from the journey to Vegas.
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I drank my bucket sized cup of coffee and nibbled away at my pecan muffin and watched the world come and go.  There really was a huge contrast between the people that were in their athletic gear having come in from their morning walk or run and the people that seemed to be trapped inside the building and magnetised to the slot machines that they seemed to be hanging on to while trying not to slide off them.  It was if they were melting away along with their hopes and dreams as they had ‘just-one-more-try’.  Nothing sums up the American dream better than that hope that this next chance could be the one that changes their luck forever.

I chatted to a lady who had ordered some nutritious shake or other and sat next to me; she was clearly in Vegas for the run.  I doubt that she said the same about me with muffin crumbs hanging off my beard and crazy coffee eyes.  Like all runners, she was there and would do her best but then went on to explain all of her niggles and ailments and training problems that meant that she wasn’t sure if her time would be what she hoped.  It’s the same the world over.

I went back to the room and showered and then headed back out to Walgreens to get in some provisions. I got the power supplies and some Jolly Ranchers for my boy child, that was two things ticked off the list already!  As I headed back up to the room to charge my phone and plan for my day, it was very clear that Vegas was going to be a very weird old place.

Just one block away from the Stratosphere tower and all of the flashing lights, glitz and glamour of the hotel there is abject poverty.  Vegas is so magical, aspirational and wonderful but it is just a very thin veneer hiding a really shit place. You don’t even need to scratch the surface and it’s there, literally in there shadow of the tower you can see people sleeping in the street.  Misery and broken dreams literally lying in the street. It is like the whole place is a mental illness desperately trying to show the world that it’s fine, but actually broken and screaming inside.  It doesn’t fool me.

C had arranged a morning at the shooting range for me and his father and told me to be at the pick-up point for 9.30am where I would be picked up in a Hummer.  I was there for 9am just to make sure I knew where I was supposed to be and chatted to the concierge about how cold it was and if temperatures were due to pick up as the day progressed.  He was talking to a lady in military fatigues and they agreed that it would be warmer as we were in the shade of the building and the day was young.  The lady pointed out that it was indeed cold based entirely on how hard my nipples were showing through my t-shirt.

That didn’t make the journey at all awkward when I told them that I was waiting for a Hummer to pick me up and she said, ‘Oh, that’s me, I’m your ride!’

I jumped into the open sided old style vehicle and she whisked me a few blocks down to Battlefield Vegas.

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With my obsession with WW2, the only package that I was interested in was the D Day experience where I could shoot 15 rounds of a Colt 1911, 24 rounds from a M1 Gerand and 50 rounds from a Thompson machine gun.  All of this was $133 but it was to be an amazing experience.  I had spent years watching second world war films and always wondered what the sound and power of firing the guns would feel like.  We were taken through a secure area and asked to put on ear and eye protectors before being selected one by one to fire our choices of guns at the paper targets hanging by bulldog clips down the range.

Everyone in my group apart from myself and C’s father (who also shot a WW2 shotgun, as his father had on his journey as a tank driver in the European theatre of WW2) was firing modern weapons.  I think C’s Grandfather would have been very pound, watching his son fire his shotgun so badly that it missed the target completely but destroyed the bulldog clip holding it up above the range! The power and noise was frightening. God only knows what it would be like to be involved in a live combat position.  Terrifying to even think about it.

When it came to my turn to shoot, the power and noise was nothing in comparison but, with the advice from my instructor taken on board, I was able to get all of my shots on the board with just three shots missing the target….one of them shooting the guy on the logo on the top right of the sheet right in his gentleman’s area.  I pretended that that was on purpose.
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C was the last member of the group to fire as he had chosen the .50 calibre sniper rifle.  Just to be clear, this thing was like a cannon.  The instructor readied him to fire and shouted across the range ’50 calibre, one round, ready to fire’ which took me by surprise as no other firing had been pre-announced.  C set himself and squeezed on the trigger and BOOM.  The whole room shook with the power.  How that bullet didn’t fly through the back of the range and half way across the Pacific I do not know.  Dust and plaster dropped from the ceilings and walls and empty casings lifted and danced along the floor.  The noise seemed to hang in the room like an angry guest that no-one wanted to confront.

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Apparently, the range of the weapon was over a mile and could be used to fire through walls and armour.  The noise alone would have been enough for me to surrender, I’m not afraid to admit.  C had shared a ride from his hotel to the range with a group of guys from Dubai.  They had been chatting and made friends and, as we walked to our lift home, they were walking towards the military museum in the grounds of the range.  One of the chaps, a rotund little fella, suddenly shouted Allahu Akbar and danced across the car park.    Now, I’m not the smartest of guys, but doing something like that at a gun range probably wasn’t the smartest of moves, all be it that it was clear to me that he was just joking around.

When we told the former policeman who was giving us our lift, about what he had said, he confirmed this by saying that if he had heard what the man had shouted it would have ‘ended very differently’.  America is not the place to mess about.

We headed back to C’s hotel with his father and father’s friend and arrived in the parking area of the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  It was very obvious that we were indeed at the wrong end of the strip as this was a different kettle of fish all together to the Stratosphere.  For a start, the place was clean and smelt nice.  And when I say nice, I don’t mean that it didn’t smell bad, it smelt like someone with lovely aftershave or a lady with lovely long hair and fancy shampoo was constantly walking about 5 metres in front of you.

C took me up to his room for a look and it was spacious and trendy with erotic but classy art on the walls and a hot tub next to the balcony overlooking the strip and mountains as his backdrop.  We headed back down to the craps tables and C patiently explained how things worked, what his strategy was and the table etiquette, it was all fascinating.  A guy came and stood next to me on my right hand side.  I was about to mention to C how ridiculous and blingy the guy’s dollar sign necklace and huge comedy bejewelled watch were when C asked him, ‘Are you who I think you are?’.  As he replied ‘It depends on who you think I am’ it was clear this guy was a player and that his jewellery was in fact real (but still ostentatious) and that I was standing next to someone famous.  I assumed a rapper or musician of some sort but I wanted to play it cool and only found out later that it was Xzibit from the TV show Pimp My Ride.

I’m sure he is looking up who I am right now.

C continued playing with his father and Billy Bling off the TV while I took it all in and tried to work out the odds and maths of the game.  Clearly there was a bias to the house. You don’t make hotels and buildings as fancy as this without making a shit ton of money. The huge extravagances that I could see everywhere I looked made it very obvious that all of this was being paid for out of the money that was being thrown down on the tables and slots left right and centre like a form of stupidity tax.  I have to say that C was fully in control and approached it as a maths problem rather than using emotion and chasing the big prize.  He wasn’t there to show off, he was there to work the system the best he could and was good at what he did.

When N and J arrived at the hotel after their relaxing morning, we went for lunch on the second floor.  We had deep fried chicken at a food court from a place called Hattie B’s.  It was very good quality, but the portions were bloody huge! It’s not often that I don’t finish my meal in full but this had me beat.  As full as a gun, we said our goodbyes to C and spent the afternoon walking through the hotels and taking in the sights of the strip.  I had my first turn at gambling on the slot machines.  I pushed a nice crisp $5 bill in and pressed the button and won about $7 back, a net profit of $2.  I cashed out, happy to have broken the bank.

We decided, as we had time to spare, to walk back to the Stratosphere which seemed to be ‘just over there’. The thing that came to mind as we walked through the casinos was that the whole place was very cynically designed to squeeze every spare dollar out of people’s pockets.  The nice casinos, not the one that we were staying in, smelled absolutely amazing and had very clever light settings and no clocks so that you never had any idea what time of day it was. All designed to make you stay at the tables or slots for hour after hour. I could imagine a team of experts sitting in a room designing every last detail of the space to maximise their profits, the temperature, the smell, the shade, the direction of air flow.  You don’t get to build hotels of this size and grandeur by leaving anything to chance.

As we walked through the fake Italian streets with painted skies that made it look as if you we outside while being very much inside, we passed every high end shop that you can imagine: Boss, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Kors etc etc etc.  All of these right next to old ladies throwing their hard-earned money down suction pipes looking to win their fortunes.  It felt wrong, it looked wrong and it didn’t make me feel great.
We seemed to be walking for hours but the hotel didn’t seem to get any closer. It really did make me think about this half marathon on the horizon.  I was getting bored walking around 5k, god knows what running 21k was going to be like.  The contrast to the smart shops that we had seen was vivid as we came to the end of the nice part of the strip and past Circus Circus and the druggies and vagabonds towards downtown Vegas.  I was happy to be back in my room for a nap and shower before heading out again.

J, N and I jumped into an Uber and headed to the Las Vegas convention centre for the Rock and Roll marathon Expo.  Essentially, this was split into three parts. First, you picked up your race bag containing your t-shirt and bib number, then you had the opportunity to buy a million and one Rock and Roll marathon themed items from hoodies and vests through to hip flasks and bobble hats before finally moving through to the last section where you were sold anything and everything related to running and fitness.

We took around two hours to get through this and it all started to feel very real. It was like no other race I had ever been a part of, it felt special and big.  The bags were sorted by race number and the lady that I picked my bag from had a name badge on which I was sure said Bnana.  Like Banana but with an ‘a’ missing.  I asked her how she pronounced her name and she looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and said Briana.  The ‘r’ and the ‘I’ had merged.  I said ‘nice name’ and walked off quickly.

The only kit that I needed, possibly, was a new pair of running socks but I don’t think you should ever run a long distance race wearing any new kit in case it doesn’t work well for you and causes you problems. So that, plus the $20 price tag for a pair of socks, meant I left that second section empty handed.   There were some great touches that made it feel very personal.  Every runner’s name was printed on a chart on the wall where you could have your picture taken and it was also printed on the back of hoodies and running gear.  It was all very impressive.

As we moved into the third section we were offered a spray tattoo and picked up a new pair of sunglasses and a load of other free stuff from various sponsors.  I checked out my bib number and spotted that I was in corral number one.  I was terrified that some terrible admin error had occurred and that I was going to be up front with the professionals, just getting in their way.  I could make a quick sprint off the line of course, I could imagine the sound system:
“Paul, who finished 135th in the Whitley Bay park run 2 weeks ago currently leads this race, oh, he’s gone off to early and is now last”.

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I chatted to the guy at the help desk and he confirmed that I was OK. I was slap bang in the middle of the departures but at the front of the green section.  My chance to shine had gone!

J and N headed back to the hotel as they were knackered and so I was dropped off at the Mandalay Bay to have dinner with C, his father and his father’s friend.  With the battery on my phone close to death, I had that exciting twinge of trying to sort out a meet up point before my phone died.  It turns out I should have thought more about a meat up point (clever eh?) as they were just sitting down at Strip Steak, voted the best steakhouse in Vegas.  That was very impressive but as I had seen about 6 other places all boasting the same accolade, I was holding off on judgement.

I ordered the 16oz NY strip which, at $62, was towards the offal end of the menu, with a 40oz tomahawk steak coming in at $165.  I have no idea how good that must have been as my saver menu steak was incredible.  Perfectly cooked and accompanied by an amazing peppercorn sauce, this was a bit special.  The conversation was excellent, the company was superb, the food was perfect and the setting was second to none.  I liked Vegas.

I can’t help but feel I dragged down the quality of the evening when the waiter asked me if I wanted a drink.  I asked if I could have a lager and he asked which sort.  I said ‘you pick’ which scared him so he brought me the menu.  I spotted Stella on there and so asked for a bottle and the waiter said ‘of course, a European lager’.  I explained that it is often called ‘wife beater’ in the UK as, when mixed with a summer BBQ and warm weather, it often ends up in a little bit of domestic abuse.  It didn’t go down well, they have a very different sense of humour in the US.

I know that some of you running professionals may be judging my pre-run meals, but I didn’t have a pudding or a side and restricted myself to one beer and then moved to water.  You will see how this impacted my race time later on, but for now, I was happy, and I didn’t care!  All fed and happy, we walked back to the Cosmopolitan and I watched the guys play pontoon until 1 in the morning.  I didn’t play myself, I just watched and learned and worked out the rules of the games.  Vegas was all about numbers, working out patters, working out odds, working out the chances of the dice or cards falling in your favour and working out when to stop or go.  The size and scale of the buildings that people were housed in made it very very clear that most people were not great at working out the odds properly as the odds were always in favour of the house. People were then further exploited through clever lighting, smells and tricks to mess with your mind.  It made no sense to me.  The more glamour and glitz around you, the better the house was doing and the more money you were likely to lose.

I had no idea that there was such a social side to the table; between the croupier and the players in particular.  I split my time between trying to work out what was going on, second guessing what the players would do in each situation and good old-fashioned people watching.  The table was close to the door and so I got to see everyone coming in.  There was everyone from close to the very top end of society right down to people that didn’t have two pennies to rub together and there was no-one trying to stop the two mixing.

It was so unusual to see people walking around the casinos with open bottles of beer, bought outside, and being allowed to smoke indoors.  I had been looking outside and it looked to be light. I had been conned by the casino as it was past 1am by the time I went out to get a taxi.  When I got outside and looked up there was nothing but stars in the sky.  When I got back to my hotel room and I took off my shirt, it smelt like I was coming in from a nightclub in the 90’s, it was quite the flashback.

On the way to Vegas

On the way to Vegas

As you may remember from earlier posts, I signed up to do the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Vegas at the start of the year and, after 6 months of very little training other than buying a pair of running shorts for £45, using two energy replenishment gels and refusing one bacon sandwich at an event two weeks ago, I find myself on the 8th floor of the Stratosphere hotel in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada writing a blog post this morning.

As I look out to my right I can see a US flag flying over Vegas with the mountains off in the background with orange and dusty skies beyond and not a cloud in the sky.  Jet lag has me up at 5am and so I will attempt to write up my thoughts from the near 24 hour door to door journey that I undertook yesterday.

The story actually starts the night before with my usual last minute packing.  I am travelling alone which put Titchy in tight spot; she wasn’t going to pack for me or force me to pack in good time as she isn’t pushy and overbearing but I think leaving things until around 2 hours before bedtime before even thinking about packing was pushing her OCD a little too far and she ended up running through a checklist to keep me on the right tracks.  We had a great system going, she would shout out what I needed to take, I would take it out of the wardrobe and throw it in the suitcase and she would take it out, fold it up and put it back in nicely.  I hate packing, I hate the structure and organisation and forethought required to do it, I am glad she is around to manage me.

All packed up and taxi ordered, my overriding feeling as I went to sleep was one of fear mixed with excitement. Fear of the half marathon I had coming up in the dry desert heat and excitement of travel and the adventures I had coming up, all be it without Titchy.  I was travelling with a work mate and his wife (I will call them J and N) who I was sure would be great companions as they are such warm, kind and thoughtful people and then meeting a friend from the US in Vegas (who I will call C) who would be my guide of sorts as he was a Vegas veteran.  As a very tight accountant, I wasn’t sure that the hedonistic Vegas lifestyle was going to be my ideal home but I was looking forward to seeing the sights and soaking in the feel of the place.

My taxi arrived at 6.45 am and with tears building I said goodbye to Titchy and the cats and with a wave and heavy heart, the trip was underway.  My taxi driver was superb, as they usually are from East Coast Taxis; as chatty as could be and a fellow runner.  He spoke just like the Geordie handyman helper from Alan Partridge’s hotel and told me how he once ended up with bib number 97 and was four rows back from the elite runners at the Great North Run despite being an average runner.

I checked in and was through customs in about 5 minutes, it really is such an easy process now that technology is available to do the grunt work. Regular readers will know that I hate being late and had arrived a little before the recommended two hours before departure time.  I was stunned to find out that J and N had beaten me to the airport by a good half hour and, after I had taken the customary photograph of the view from departures, we had a potter around the shops for two hours.  I shared with them my ‘Cheapest-sandwiches-in-UK-airports-are-always-at-Boots’ top tip but they weren’t impressed and so we smashed out the Nintendo switch and had a quick run around a Mario world to kill some time.

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I will never get bored of watching people race to get into the queue for their preallocated seats on an aeroplane, always fun.  We were flying KLM for the short hop over to Amsterdam and were in the third row from the back of the plane.   I watched out of the window as the familiar sights of Whitley Bay, Newcastle and the North East passed underneath and then the boats and windmills in the North Sea, working away without fuss or consternation in the background.

We were a few minutes late and had a sprightly walk through Schipol to board the Delta flight to Detroit, Illinois.  The relief as I took my seat and plugged in a USB charger and recharged my phone was palpable as I had dipped below 25%.  I’ve said it before, whoever controls the power supply controls the world!  I had a blanket and a pillow on my seat and this tiny space on a metal smarties tube flying through the air was my space on the planet for the next 10 hours.

The metal tube was an Airbus A330-300 registration number N802NW.  Isn’t it amazing what things you will look up when you find yourself disconnected from the world for such a length of time and all you have for fun is an in-flight touch screen display?  In my section of the plane there must have been 100 seats and I would guess at only 20 were taken.  People were laid out across 4 seats and fast asleep and, I have to say, it made for a very comfortable flight.

It was weird going back over the North Sea and Newcastle again so quickly.  A huge part of me would have loved to have spent a while looking around Amsterdam and Europe for a little while before setting off, it felt weird to be in and out of a place I love so much as a passing through point.

A million thoughts go through your head when you have the time for contemplation and rest on these journeys.  Don’t judge me, but I spent a long time trying to work out quite why so many camp people are attracted to the airline industry in particular.  I couldn’t think of anything.   Not quite as controversial was whose idea was it to serve a red hot fajita wrap on an aeroplane at the very same time as giving you a mini magnum ice cream.  The pressure to eat something that was hotter than the surface of the sun at the very same moment you have a melting ticking time bomb almost literally on your lap is some sort of sick game invented in a Delta airline office by someone that hated travellers.

My top travel tip, which I will no doubt forget before the return journey, is to get up and have your ‘comfort breaks’ before the team bring out drinks and dinners or else you end up stuck in your seat holding a part finished drink that you either need to take to the bathroom with you or risk spilling all over the place while you’re away.

We were well looked after and the food and service were superb.  I watched three films on the way: ‘15.17 to Paris’, ’12 Strong and In Bruges. ’15.17 to Paris’ and ’12 Strong’ both had a backdrop of terrorism which made for an exciting journey! ‘In Bruges’ was a welcome and dark humoured blast from the past.  I once read something telling you that you never move in with anyone until you have seen what they are like when they have a slow WiFi connection.  I would like to extend that to seeing what someone is like when they have a faulty in-flight entertainment system on a long flight. My films would randomly, without the screen being touched at all, pause, fast forward or skip.  I saw most of the end of the film before the start, all be it without sound and in high speed, but it was weird that it seemed to stop at key plot points where spoilers were given out.  Again, some disgruntled employee in an office laughing at me no doubt with ruined films and melted ice cream being used to soothe fajita burnt chins.

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After what seemed an age, we landed in Detroit which looked to be just as flat as Amsterdam and looking lovely with its autumn colours.  My Costa Rican friends were worried about getting through customs in time to catch our transfer flight.  They had no reason to worry at all as they got through customs faster than me with my NESTA paperwork that should have made things faster.  I had a good chat with the immigration team and they advised that I took the time to people watch at the Bellagio fountain show and warned me that gambling was a risk game that only the house wins at; my kind of people!

We got from one side of the terminal to the other on their indoor metro system, which was cool, and I stole some Wi-Fi to let those at home know I had landed safely.  Like a huge fish.  I chatted very briefly with Titchy but as soon as she showed me the cats on the video call I got very excited and animated. I had not realised but an American lady next to us in the departure gate was laughing away at me and I ended up introducing her to Titchy and my cats and we went on to look at a picture of her dog back home.  Americans were very friendly.

It seemed like one minute I was looking at a glorious sun floating over the airport and then, like the flick of a switch, it had dropped out of the sky and it was dark.  I had no idea what time it was on which day in my time zone or my original time zone and tiredness kicked in.  We had a quick scran stop at a place called Popeyes.  I was very confused as it seems to sell mainly chicken with not a hint of spinach in sight.  The meals were served with a biscuit, which seems like a very weird way to spell ‘scone’, but you have to love the Americans bless them.  No jam, no clotted cream and no butter, just a shed load of salt instead.

The flight to Vegas was in the dark and four hours of how I remembered longer haul flights being.  We were crushed into a full flight and there was no space to move or get comfortable by straightening your legs out. It was a good job I was far from being a serious athlete!   There was a lot of black space that we flew over with odd outcrops of bright lights and stadiums that you could make out every now and then.

The pilot announced that we were starting our descent and hoped that we had enjoyed the free onboard WiFi.  I had no idea such a thing was available until then and so messaged home to say I was nearly there and was annoyed that I had missed free connectivity!  As the engines throttled back and the nose of the plane dipped, like a white light shining out of a crack in a door, you could see Vegas off in the distance as if someone had ripped a hole in a black out curtain.  I tried to make out any recognisable sights but couldn’t. It wasn’t until the plane taxied to our gate and the plane turned around did I realise that the runway feels as if it is pretty much ON the strip.  I could make out everything and the excitement began to grow, all be it curtailed by the creeping tiredness that was catching up with me.

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C had organised a driver to pick us up and we met him in the baggage collection zone which, weirdly in my view, was open to public access after customs.  Seemed very risky and, if I ever have a downturn in fortunes, I will go back to Vegas to become a baggage thief I think.  Our driver, Lionel, was a six foot ten square of a man with the happiest smile I had ever seen.  We had a quick chat as we walked to the car and each stride of his was like two of mine so I was running to keep up with him.  He asked us what we were doing in Vegas and my friend told him that we were there for the half marathon and 10k races.  He took one look at J and said ’Shit, you ain’t in shape for that’.  I couldn’t stop laughing at his honesty!  He dropped us at the hotel and warned us that we were at the very edge of downtown Las Vegas and so warned us to watch ourselves if we went outside the hotel after dark.

With that warning rising in my ears and tiredness muting my senses, I made my way to check in, my room and then bed.  I had no idea what time it was or what time it was meant to be, but it was time to catch up with some rest after 24 hours door to door with maybe two half hour snoozes.  A sleep that was made tougher by the sudden realisation that, once I had unpacked, I had no way of charging any of my electrical appliances…..to be continued!

Catch Up

I can believe that it was way back in January since I last posted.  It feels like so much has happened in the blink of an eye.  Let me bring you up to date!

You may remember that I had a bot of a health scare back in January.  Shortly after that, I had the return of the foot pain that I had suffered from in November last year, all be it a few toes further along.  I decided to skip the GP and go and see a podiatrist and he referred me to get X-rays at the local hospital.

It turns out that the injury last year was a stress fracture as, apparently, is obvious by the below picture!  Apparently it has healed perfectly, despite the fact I was told it was ‘probably a strained ligament or something’ but they had no idea what was wrong with my new injury and suggested limping or not whinging.

I had set myself a target of running 350km in 2018 and not being able to run for the best part of two months has been a real pain.  I am happy to say that I am back on the road (literally) in that respect and managed to tick of a slow and painful 10k last night.  Progress!

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Foot Knack

I regularly walk past my camera as I walk out of the house and think “I should really take more pictures” and I feel really guilty that I never do despite loving it so much.  So, I dragged Titchy and the kids to Bolam Lake and took a few shots.  I never claimed to be any good, I am just in awe of how the camera does so much work on my behalf!

What else has been keeping me busy?  Well, we got ourselves a pair of cats last year, Dusty and Smudge.  I seem to spend most of my life being distracted by their lovely little snuffly great faces. Just look at them!

 

 

Oh, and in other news, we have booked our summer holiday.  We are heading to Sermoneta, which is a little village between Rome and Naples.  Pretty excited to be getting the family away and enjoying some Italian living for a week and the trip to Pompeii will be a highlight I’m sure.

 

Running Away

Running Away

I remember the morning very well.  The previous night my Dad had passed away and I had woken up to a different world and, quite frankly, I didn’t know where to begin.  His death had come out of nowhere and so there was no getting ready for it and I still couldn’t take it all in.

I sat at the bottom of the stairs in shock and looked up to see my running shoes, that I had bought a few weeks before, and thought to myself, ‘why not do a Forrest Gump and go for a run?’ I had maybe been for two or three runs previously and had never managed to get more than a kilometre.

I ran from my home towards St Mary’s lighthouse in Whitley bay.  It was maybe 2km away, a little further if the tide was out enabling you to run across the causeway and get across to the lighthouse base.

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St Mary’s Lighthouse and a man pointing at the stone that I was sitting on. (Image from Google) 

I ran without thinking, and forgot that I was tired and that my lungs hurt, and ran further than I had ever run in one go.  I couldn’t tell if my eyes were running due to the wind that was blowing sand into my face or tears, it didn’t matter.

I got across the causeway and found a place to sit.  It perched on a rock and just caught my breath and watched the waves for a while.  I will remember what happened next for the rest of my days.  An elderly lady, easily in her eighties, was walking her little dog along and  stopped right next to me.  She put her little frail hand on my head and looked down at me and just said, ‘It’s ok son, everything will be ok’.  I guess I was crying.

She smiled at me, walked off, and has probably never thought of that moment again.  I have.  Kindness, caring for others and taking a moment to make other peoples lives a little easier for no self reward.  It meant everything to me.

Why am I sharing this with you today?

Today would have been my fathers birthday and today was the first day in around two months that I have been able to run without pain in my foot.  I ran to the lighthouse and although the tide was in and I couldn’t get to the same spot, just for a second I looked over and saw the stone that I had sat on and I thought about that moment and all the way back home I thought about my Dad.

Life does go on, but it will always be a little different, a little harder with a little piece of me missing.  I miss you Dad, thank you for being such a huge part in the person that I am today.