July 24, 2013

Why I drink after work

Ten o’clock was slowly approaching and I was more than ready to call it a day.  I had just verified a prescription for a patient’s Wellbutrin.  Five minutes later she came to the counter to pick up the medication and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I had no idea where it was placed, but it was obvious that I didn’t place it in the correct bin.  I eventually found the prescription... in the refrigerator.  I am normally not this absentminded at work, but after a day like today, I’m surprised my brain didn’t shut itself off from overload.

*phone rings and technician answers call*
Technician to me:  What happens if you brush your teeth with permethrin (treatment for lice and scabies)?
Me:  What?
Technician:  Lady on the phone wants to know if that’s safe.
Me:  Huh?
Technician:  Her grandson accidentally brushed his teeth with a tube of permethrin cream.
Me:  Have her call poison control.

*phone rings and I answer*
Me:  Pharmacist, how may I help you?
Cracked out lady:  What’s the day and date?
Me:  Day and date of what?
Cracked out lady:  Today, what’s today’s day and date?
Me:  Today is the 24th
Cracked out lady:  But what day of the week is it?
Me:  Wednesday
Cracked out lady:  Are you sure?
Me:  Yes
Cracked out lady:  I knew it!  That’s what I thought, too.  I made a bet with a friend.  Thanks!  (hangs up)

*young guy comes to counter*
Guy:  What’s the best thing to flush out your system?
Me:  You mean as a cleanse?
Guy:  No, something to flush out weed.
Me:  I have no idea (I really want to tell him to drink a bottle of the laxative magnesium citrate)
Guy:  You don’t know?
Me:  No (and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you)
Guy:  I heard Niacin works well.
Me:  Okay?
Guy:  How much of it do I have to take?
Me:  I have no idea.
Guy:  Well, what I am supposed to do?
Me:  (QUIT DOING DRUGS!!)  Sorry, but I’m probably not going to be any help here.

*checking voicemail*
Nurse:  I just left a prescription for some suppositories, and I wanted to make sure it’s used vaginally and not orally.

*verifying prescription label for a cream*
Prescription reads:  Apply 1/16 inch (or 1.5 mm) of cream to affected area
Other pharmacist:  WTF?  Are we supposed to dispense a measuring tape with this?

*phone rings*
Me:  Pharmacist, how may I help you?
Cranky old man:  I need to speak to the pharmacy manager.
Me:  This is she.
Cranky old man:  No, I want to speak to a man.

*verifying prescription for Buspar (anti-anxiety med)*
Computer:  drug interaction with Energizer battery

*helping young girl at counter*
Girl:  I need the D.
Me:  Excuse me?  (How in the world am I going to be able to have a serious conversation with you after you just said that?)
Girl:  My doctor told me that I needed “something-D” and I have to get it from the pharmacist.
Me:  What are your symptoms?
Girl:  I can’t breathe because I am so stopped up.
Me:  (gets a box of Sudafed)  This is what you need.
Girl:  No, that doesn’t say D.
Me:  (oh, this is going to be fun)  D stands for decongestant.  Sudafed is a decongestant.
Girl:  No, my doctor said I needed “something-D”
Me:  (I’m not even going to argue with you and I just grab the closest pseudoephedrine product that ends in D)  Is this better?  It’s Claritin-D.
Girl:  Yes, that other stuff wasn’t what my doctor wanted.

*phone rings*
Me:  Pharmacist, how may I help you?
Cranky old man #2:  I was just there and that girl only gave me one of my prescriptions.
Me:  Sorry about that, what is your name?
Cranky old man #2:  John Smith.  I only got my inhaler, but I was supposed to get my blood pressure medicine, too.
Me:  Sir, our computer records show you picked up your blood pressure medicine last week.
Cranky old man #2:  NO I DID NOT!
Me:  (I’m busy and don’t have time to argue with you.  The cost of your medicine is not worth the hassle, so I’m just going to get it ready for you again.)  Okay, I will just get it ready again and you can pick it up at your convenience.
Cranky old man #2:  And you’re going to pay for my gas because this is your fault.
Me:  (I was going to give you your medicine for free as a courtesy since you lost what you picked up last week.  I am not paying for your gas.)  Sir, is there a number where I can call you back?  I need to check into this more.

I head to the office and put on my private detective hat.  After a little Nancy Drew work, I find the security video of him picking up the medication that he said he didn’t pick up last week.  I compare that video to the video of him in the store earlier today.  He is wearing the exact same clothes.

Me:  Sir, I just did a little researching, and we have video of you picking up your prescription here a week ago.
Cranky old man #2:  No you do not.
Me:  Yes sir.  It is definitely you in the video because you are wearing the exact same clothes as today (I describe to perfection what he was wearing).
Cranky old man #2:  Miss, I was not in your store at all until today.
Me:  Sir, I have you on video.
Cranky old man #2:  Well, that video is lying then.
**the rest of this conversation is irrelevant**

Now do you see why the Wellbutrin ended up in the refrigerator?

July 12, 2013

3rd Annual Backyard Beer Olympics

Have you ever had so much fun in one day that you didn’t think you would wake up the next morning because of fun overload?  No?... then you need to get some new friends.  I, fortunately, experienced that euphoric feeling last weekend at the 3rd Annual Backyard Beer Olympics in Charleston, South Carolina.  The home-made day of drinking and obstacle games came to fruition two years ago to celebrate my dear friend’s birthday and it has now become an annual tradition.  This year I made the pilgrimage to Charleston to experience the excitement first hand for the first time.

I flew in that scorching Saturday morning and joined 40+ other hooligans at the house of the birthday girl, Catherine.  The recycling bin was empty, the music was mellow, the temperature was hotter than hell, and there was a calm atmosphere amongst the crowd.  Oh, how a few hours of Beer Olympics can change everything.

Step one of Beer Olympics was drawing teams.  Everyone’s name went into a bowl and twenty teams of two were drawn.  Watching Catherine draw name by name caused more excitement than watching the ping pong balls drop for the NBA Lottery.  With the teams drawn and the Olympic flame lit, it was game time.  

There were ten events and ten rounds.  Marcus the Mastermind created an event spread sheet (that took more brain power than a Harvard law degree) so that each team knew where to be during each round.  The start of each round was indicated by the blow of a duck whistle, which I know had to be heard at least 30 miles away... and caused me to jump ten feet in the air each time.

Here is a run-down of the 10 Backyard Beer Olympic games:

**The ice tray game (we need to come up with more creative names for these games next year).  Each person gets an ice tray full of beer and a straw.  The first team to finish sucking all the beer out of their ice tray wins.  Side note:  the non-beer-drinker who chose to use vodka & water instead of beer (my opponent) was at an unfair advantage because that goes down much smoother than thick, foamy beer... however, I’m sure she was the one at a disadvantage about thirty minutes later.

**Three-legged race.  This was just like elementary school field day, except with strategy fueled by beer.  Shoes or no shoes... inside or outside leg first (note to my partner Frankie, “left leg first” DOES NOT WORK)... turn around inside or outside of the cone... to dive or not dive at the finish line.  So many tactics to consider... but sometimes no matter how hard you train and prepare, you still end up like this while the team wearing butterfly wings celebrates:

**Dizzy bat.  Next year, we may have to have people sign a waiver for this game.  It is dangerous.  Yet, hilarious.  While wearing a helmet, the batter chugs a beer, spins around five times with their head on a bat, then takes off running fifty feet and back, only to then hand off the helmet and bat to their teammate.  This game got a little competitive at times... and why weren’t Joel and Adam wearing helmets... SAFETY FIRST GUYS!  

Dizzy bat did cause a few minor injuries this year... exhibit A shown below documents the injuries that occurred when the defendant ran into the wooden fence ten feet away.  Didn't we have a personal injury lawyer present?

But the following video is pure gold and is reason #1 why dizzy bat will forever be a sport in the Beer Olympics.

*Beersbee.  This game was not fun because I can’t catch a frisbee.  Let me set the stage... there were two white polls in the ground set about fifty feet apart, with a beer bottle on top of each pole.  The goal was to hit the pole with a frisbee and knock the bottle off the pole.  You got one point if the other team didn’t catch the frisbee.  You got two points if your frisbee hit the other team's pole and knocked off their beer bottle.  You got three points if the other team knocked off your beer bottle and you were able to catch the bottle before it hit the ground.  First team to 21 points wins.  This game required coordination and fast reflexes, which I have neither, thus I did not like this game.  Moving on.

*Egg toss.  Please tell me I don’t have to explain this one.  Simple game, but the only caveat was that you had to hold your drink the entire time while playing this game.  I may be the best egg-toss player ever who can drop the egg on every catch, yet drop it so gracefully and with such a gentle touch that the egg doesn't break.  Skills.

*Plunger beer walk.  There were no rules to this game because every team made up their own rules, but the overall gist was to balance a cup of beer (we ended up using water because we didn’t want to waste the beer!) inside of a toilet plunger while racing back and forth.  I didn’t ask this at the time, but I really hope those plungers were bought new that day and didn’t come from the master bathroom.

*Can-jam.  Once again, another game I didn’t like because it used a frisbee.  And once again, you got varying amounts of points by doing various circus acts to get the frisbee inside of this can-looking-thing.  Not a fan.

*Corn hole.

*Red-neck golf.  Another tailgating favorite.  A foot-long piece of string with a golf ball on each end is thrown at rows of bars with different heights.  Wrapping the string around a bar gets you points, and the higher the bar, the more points you get.  Once again, first to 21 wins.

Now, problems arose when the throw was too high and the string attached to golf balls landed in the tree limbs.  Smart option number one would be to get a ladder.  Smart option number two would be to use a long stick.  Smart option number three, well, I don’t have another option but I’m sure I can come up with something safer than the following.  I am still in awe that two strong, manly boys could drop tiny little Erica while lifting her up into the tree.  I’m even more in awe that there were two other boys standing nearby and neither of them were spotting her (cheerleading 101, people!).

*Beer pong.  I don’t need to explain the rules.  But my partner, Frankie, and I faced team Shake-n-Bake during this round.  And I was beyond a horrible partner for this game.  I didn’t hit one cup, and thus we lost.  (Side note:  picture below is of Annmarie and not team Shake-n-Bake.  I chose to use the picture of Annmarie because she is easier on the eyes.)

*Championship round.  The top ten teams with the best overall record moved on to the championship round.  The other ten teams went home.  Ok, they didn’t go home... they just started drinking more.  

Frankie and I made the championship round with our 7-3 record (losing only in ice tray, three-legged race, and beer pong).  We had a two-round bye, and our first game was a rematch in beer pong with Shake-n-Bake.  I rubbed down my throwing arm and did a few stretches to get loose... I couldn’t embarrass myself again.  This time I hit a few cups, catching Shake-n-Bake by surprise.  Frankie and I won in a close match, upsetting the tournament favorites and sending team Shake-n-Bake home to cry in their beer.  They were overly confident prior to our match... maybe they should have been more focused instead of taking pictures and signing autographs for fans.

As the championship round continued, the rain started.  The two final teams battled it out in a game of corn-hole...  this game was for all the marbles.  At one point it was monsooning so hard with flash flood warnings, yet I have never seen so much concentration in trying to throw a bag of corn onto a board.  

Meanwhile, the losing teams were huddled under a tent playing flip cup and staying dry.  It was Team Kentucky versus Team Everyone Else.  Team Kentucky dominated flip cup just like we do a basketball court.

After the most intense hour long game of corn-hole I’ve ever seen, Catherine, the host and birthday girl, and her teammie Josh won in dramatic fashion.  It was Catherine’s first championship win in the Beer Olympics and I’m sure she’s looking to repeat again next year.

*At some point during the day, the boys thought they weren’t drinking enough beer and decided to shot-gun.

*Hours after the games, no one was ready to go home.  With the Jambox blaring someone’s playlist on shuffle, the full version of the Harlem Shake song was a surprise.  And then the wheels started turning in Emily’s head:  we are going to do our own version of the Harlem Shake.  It's our party, we can do what we want.  We are so turnt up here... getting turnt up here...  and here is the final product of a day of Beer Olympics.  (I spy a man sitting on the corn hole board with his pants down, a girl busting ass on the corn hole board, a girl wake boarding in the back, a UK flag, a weed eater, a vacuum, two plungers, and a bicycle.)

*We started the day with an empty 95 gallon recycling trash can.  At one point during the day the recycling bin became so full that someone had to stand in the bin to smoosh down all the cans and bottles to make room for more.  Here is the recycling bin the day after.

*The 3rd Annual Backyard Beer Olympics was nothing shy of amazing.  It has now been added to my yearly holidays, alongside Christmas, Easter, and my birthday.  I will start my training for next year’s Olympics this fall during football season because "it takes lots of beers to play the way I do."  Can't wait to see y'all again next year :)

June 6, 2013

Classy, sassy, and on the hot mess express

A year ago in Nashville after running the Country Music City Half-Marathon, my best friend met a boy at a bar.  Three months later they were engaged and a year later they were getting married.  And everyone thought they were crazy.  But over the course of the year, family and friends gaped at their relationship and anxiously awaited the wedding festivities that were going to commence in Charleston, South Carolina.

Emily’s family rented a house for the week on Wild Dunes beach on Isle of Palms.  Joel’s family rented the house next door.  And seven friends and I rented the other house next door.  I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and my friends picked me up at the airport.  As we followed the GPS directions to our rented beach house, we discovered that this house was definitely not too shabby.  I guarantee it is easier to trespass the Gold Vault on Fort Knox than Ocean Point Drive where our house was located.  First, in order to enter the Wild Dunes area, we had to pass through a security gate where your name must be on a guest list.  The security guards had tighter control over this list than the secret service does patrolling a list for a State Dinner at the White House.  Once we were finally cleared to enter the area, we drove a few miles and then came to a second gate.  This time there was no security guard... this gate was passcode protected.  Folks, we weren’t just staying in a gated community.  We were staying in a gated-gated community and feeling fancy.  After unloading the car and dragging my 45 pound suitcase up 60 stairs, my friend Brandon and I explored the amazing house jamming to some Paula Abdul (don’t judge) and took in the breathtaking views of the golf course, beach, and ocean in our backyard.  

That night, Emily arranged a jewelry party at our house and friends started to slowly trickle in to socialize and sip on some wine spritzers (courtesy of Britt -- white wine and Fresca)... everyone was just excited to be together.  Then we received a frantic phone call from our dear sweet precious friend Casey.  Who was stuck in Detroit.  Because she booked her flight to Charleston.  West Virginia.  Not South Carolina.  I didn’t even know Charleston, West Virginia, had an airport.  As Casey approached her gate in Detroit, she realized that the destination on the reader board was listed as Charleston, WV.  Confused it said WV and not SC, she went to the gate agent who informed her she was indeed booked on the flight to West Virginia.  She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

After having to buy a new ticket, the airline wasn’t able to get her with her checked bag (which contained her bridesmaid dress) to South Carolina until the next day.  But the airline did generously comp a hotel room for the night at the local Days Inn on 8 Mile... just kidding, I don’t know if it was on 8 Mile or not.  But it was a Days Inn.  In Detroit.  On the way to the hotel, she sent me a text that said, “I hope I see you again.”  She arrived at the hotel, only to discover that someone had already checked-in to her room under her name.  And this story just keeps getting better.

Once the room issue had been resolved and she was “settled” into her room, there was a knock at the door with someone saying they had a delivery.  She opened the door to find a lady standing there with a bottle of champagne from her husband.  My first question:  “The Days Inn has champagne?”  No, they don’t.  David, the husband, originally called the hotel thinking to get a concierge who would get her some flowers or a bottle of sparkling wine.  Eminem at the front desk kindly informed him that the Days Inn did not have concierge services, but to check with the bar next door for some champagne.  So David called the bar next door and they didn't have champagne either (what kind of bar doesn’t have champagne?).  But, the bar told him there was a bowling alley down the street that might have some.  Yes, you read that right.  So, after some bribery, a bowling alley in Detroit delivered champagne to his wife at the Days Inn.  That may be the weirdest, yet most awesome sentence I have even typed.  Attention all boys... take notes... things like this make you a great husband and make your wife’s girlfriends fawn over you.

Back in South Carolina, two friends and myself stayed up very late trying to solve all the world’s problems, including why the toilet in our downstairs bathroom sounded like a siren every time someone flushed.  The wedding rehearsal and bridal luncheon were the next morning, and then we did a little beach time that afternoon before the heading to the rehearsal dinner.  The rehearsal dinner was in the backyard of the bride’s sister house, and after I learned the food was being catered from Home Team Barbecue, I firmly told everyone that there were to be no snide comments made about the amount of food I was about to put on my plate.  Later that night, most of the girls had hit a wall and we had to make the rough decision:  go to bed or get this party turnt up.  Of course we chose the latter.  Yes, the girls were the ones to bring out the Maker’s.  A few hours later we returned to our house and sat around the dining room table talking about everything inappropriate under the sun until one of the husbands quickly asked, “Is this what girls do when they are together?”  Yes, it is.  And then he promptly went to bed.

Friday was The Big Day.  A team of hair stylists and makeup artists showed up at our house the morning of the wedding to transform the bride, two moms, and bridesmaids into beautiful swans.  I loved listening to the funky hair stylist describe my gaggle of friends:  “You girls are classy, but sassy.  I did two traditional weddings last weekend where everyone wanted boring buns, slicked backs, and bouffants.  You girls are anything but boring.”  Well, we are pretty fun... just ask us.  It took the beauty team five hours to morph us into wedding material, but that just allowed for more mimosas and girl bonding time.  Sporting my Siena Miller inspired milk-braid, we were off to the Creek Club at I’On, a stunning venue on the banks of Hobcraw Creek in Mount Pleasant.

The ceremony took place in the late afternoon on the spacious lawn of the Creek Club that overlooked the sparkling creek.  The bridesmaids wore a simple and classy navy, one-shoulder, knee length dress, and the groomsmen were donned in a traditional suit with sage tie.  Our good friend, who was known for the day as Mr. Reverend Brandon Everett Warren, officiated the wedding and conducted the ultimate ceremony with humor and emotion.  “By the power vested in me by www.getordainedonline.com, I now introduce to you...”  

While the wedding party took pictures, the guests enjoyed cocktail hour with seared scallop spoons, bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, and these deliciously sinful Southern ham biscuits with jelly.  The bar ran out of the Kentucky Mule specialty drink (made of Maker’s, ginger ale, and lime) in approximately 13 minutes and that was the only catastrophe of the night.  As a bridesmaid and by process of elimination, I volunteered to do the wedding toast.  But I realized right before dinner that I had no clue what I was going say, so I huddled in the bridal suite and quickly scribbled out a rambling of words.

Once everyone was seated, we were served a dinner of lowcountry traditions:  local greens salad, fried turkey with a southern pan gravy, Charleston shrimp & grits with Tasso gravy, brown sugar-glazed country ham, sweet potato mash, collard greens, succotash, sweet cornbread, and biscuits with honey butter.  As I came back to my table, I was balancing my plate stacked with 6 inches of food and my sister’s boyfriend asked, “Why didn’t you just get two plates?”  Because then I would look like a pig.  

Next were the toasts.  Joel’s best man gave a great tribute to Joel and then presented Emily with an ugly University of Missouri t-shirt that I hope she uses to wash her car.  It was then my turn and I had a room full of Kentucky fans staring at me and trusting me to deliver an appropriate jab in response to the t-shirt.  Here is the wedding toast that I was honored to give to my best friend and her husband.

For those who know Emily know how amazing she is and there really is no need to elaborate because we all know that she is one of a kind and one in a million.  But for Joel’s family and friends, you need to know what a jewel Joel has found and know that he is probably the luckiest guy on earth today.

Emily and I graduated from pharmacy school together and once we graduated, we became closer and closer over the years.  She has always been my rock and my travel buddy as she always had her suitcase packed for a last minute girls’ trip.  We’ve invaded cities all over the US -- Chicago, LA, Fort Lauderdale, Colorado, Las Vegas, New York, Sarasota, and I can keep on going.  

We have made so many unforgettable memories, and some of our trips have included running races.  Emily’s sister, Catherine, is a huge runner and has managed to con all of us into running a race with her at some point in time.  Running was really not Emily’s “thing,” but she agreed to run her first half-marathon in Nashville last April.  In 2012.  Wearing a blue and white tutu.  In celebration of Kentucky’s National Championship they won only weeks earlier.  So for those of you keeping count, that would be Kentucky: eight... Missouri: zero.  With a large group of friends in Nashville that day, we rocked out that half-marathon.  And Emily accomplished once again another goal that she had set for herself.

We all know what happened in Nashville that night and know how it ended... which is why we are all here now.  But I never spent quality time with Joel until we acted like fools, again Catherine’s idea, and decided to run a 200 mile relay from LA to San Diego, while wearing a hunting camo shirt with a shot gun printed on the chest, and neon orange shorts.  You really get to see the true side of a person when you are stuck with them in a van for 36 hours -- and I learned how lucky Emily was to find the perfect compliment to her in Joel.

But, seriously, Joel, I think you broke the record on how many times someone can use a porta-potty in 36 hours.
And Joel, I love you, but no song by Lionel Ritchie is ever the go-to-jam.

So everyone raise their glass to a perfect couple and to Emily who has brought so much joy and happiness to not just my life, but everyone’s life that she has entered.  We love you Joel and Emily and I cannot wait to celebrate with you tonight as we watch you start your new life together.  Cheers!

And then the party started.  About an hour into the reception, I noticed that every single guest was outside on the deep porches of the Creek Club.  But the DJ was inside playing music all by himself.  Things needed to change ASAP.  So we gathered a small flock to go inside and get the dance floor greasy.  I convinced the DJ to delete his current playlist and mainly play rap and hip-hop from our college years... just make us feel like we are at Two Keys!  I didn’t leave the dance floor for the rest of the night unless I needed a refill.  By the end of the night, I was a sweaty mess and my quads hurt, but we had exploded the fun meter.  And most of the guys had added ammunition to the theory that white boys cannot dance.

Of course a party isn’t a true party unless it has an after-party.  Taxi vans picked up all the partiers and transported us to Reds, a popular Mount Pleasant bar on the water.  Things get a little blurry here, but it was so great to be with all of my close friends.  The next day was just as remarkable as the day before.  All the wedding guests made their way to the beach in the backyard of our rented houses and we just continued the party.  There were lots of champagne bottles popped that afternoon in celebration of a breathtaking wedding and awe-inspiring couple.

With Brandon and Jess, I capped off the night by laying on the greens of the golf course that were right at our back door... staring at the absolute clear skies, listening to the crashing waves, and making wishes with each shooting star.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect perfect wedding weekend.  Congratulations Emily and Joel!

May 24, 2013

Dreams of Paradise

Times arise in everyone’s life where they sit back and thank the lucky stars for where they are today.  As I celebrate a birthday this weekend, on a weekend that ignites a wide array of emotions inside, I have to stop and give thanks to those who have led me to this life of paradise.

Two years ago on my birthday, my Nana sent me an email that I recently recovered.  I read this note and beam with gratitude for the love expressed in these few sentences:
I appreciate you more than you will ever realize.  You are a lovable, strong granddaughter.  Please rest and do the things which you enjoy and join me in knowing that we have a Supreme Power looking over you!
I finished a book this week that a good friend and I added to our self-help book club:  “The Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson.  This book may be a game-changer as I found myself highlighting passage after passage.  I only wish I had discovered this book a decade ago.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine...”
You must love yourself before you can expect others to love you.  You cannot downplay your strengths with fear that others will be inhibited.  You cannot hide your weaknesses with fear that others will be judgmental.  You must do the things that make you happy and then love will follow. 

I will spend this Memorial Day birthday weekend staring at the water in my backyard while doing all the things that make me happy and content:  reading, creating and designing photo books, crafting a gift for a friend, and reflecting on the many joys I have had this past year.

I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for the love and support of my family and friends.  Knowing that next week I will be on the beach with all the amazing (I wish there was a stronger word for amazing) friends in my life who have lifted me up and loved me unconditionally over the years has me jumping inside with excitement.  I now realize that continually surrounding myself with love has led me to this life of paradise.

When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach so
She ran away in her sleep
and dreamed of paradise
Every time she closed her eyes.

May 9, 2013

California Tour of 2013

The California Tour of 2013 started with the 200-mile Ragnar Relay Race.  But that was documented in the previous blog (and if you haven’t already read it, then what’s wrong with you?).  This is the remaining seven days of the trip.

The Ragnar Relay Race finished on the water of San Diego and there was only one thing on our mind:  celebration.  Two local friends who are well-versed in the San Diego bar scene were in charge of the post-race activities and they led us to Bub’s Dive Bar.  I needed beer and greasy food stat.  And this bar had grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots... which had me at hello.  As a grilled cheese sandwich connoisseur, #1 would be Paradise Park Cafe in Nashville, #2 is Sonic, and Bub’s Dive Bar in San Diego has now earned the #3 spot on my list.  Now, one of the girls was not as pleased with the menu as she told me she wanted a grilled chicken sandwich with pineapple and honey mustard sauce -- don’t get too specific there, Britt.  

After inhaling my dinner and a few beers, it was getting late (and by late, I mean 9pm).  After being in a van for 36 hours, all I wanted was a real bed and real sleep.  So Britt and I called it a night and decided to go get our 12-passenger van from the Ragnar finish line and head to the hotel.  You would think this would be a simple task since the hotel was only a whopping mile away.  First of all, the iPhone map app gave us incorrect directions to our hotel.  We could see our hotel, but with all the one way and dead-end streets, we drove around for almost 30 minutes before we were finally able to find the hotel parking garage entrance.  Pulling into the garage, we immediately realized the entry to the first level was crazy narrow as we could both reach our hands out the windows and touch the wall.  There was a series of “Oh my gods” the entire way up this alley ramp and you could hear a sigh of relief from our van when we made it unscathed.  But crap, there weren’t any open parking spaces on the first level.  Here is the abbreviated conversation that ensued as we tried to get up the ramp to level two:

Britt (the driver):  oh my god, oh my god, oh my god
Me (the navigator):  you are good, you are good.  wait, back up a little.
Britt:  oh my god, oh my god, oh my god
Me:  ok, now cut it a little to the right.  
Britt:  oh my god, oh my god, oh my god
Me:  ok, you’re good.  go forward just a little more.
Britt:  oh my god
Me:  you got it, you are totally fine on my side (CRUNCH -- she hit the wall ON MY SIDE... apparently she wasn’t as fine as I thought)

At this point, we were stuck in the garage.  It was too narrow to go up a level, and it was too narrow to go down.  So we just put the van in park in the middle of the garage and waited on the rest of our friends to arrive and remedy the situation because it was obvious that Britt and I were no longer responsible enough to handle a 12-passenger van in a narrow parking garage.  Please let it be documented that this disastrous situation could have been avoided.  We not only had one 12-passenger van... we actually had two.  And one of the girls in the other van told me post-dent that they also received minor damage to their van in the garage earlier that day... ummmmm... why didn’t you tell us this BEFORE we tried to squeeze another elephant-sized van through the narrow halls of this damn parking garage.  And I wanted to scream when the hotel manager told us, “This happens all the time!”  Then why don’t you have a HUGE sign out front that says:  "WARNING: THIS IS THE NARROWEST PARKING GARAGE EVER AND YOU WILL NOT FIT UNLESS YOU ARE DRIVING A FIAT OR SMART CAR."  Or maybe a sign that says:  "OH, YOU ARE DRIVING A 12-PASSENGER VAN?  THEN FORGET ABOUT IT."

I did add some comic relief later that night after I had a shower.  I was moisturizing my body post-shower as I normally do with Aveda Replenishing Body Moisturizer.  At least that is what I thought I was using.  I realized after I had rubbed this all over my body that I was using Aveda Curl Enhancer for my hair.  Attention Aveda people:  please color code your bottles so that deliriously tired users like myself do not make this mistake again.  No, I did not retake a shower.  I was too tired.  But I did notice that my skin was very moisturized the next day... maybe I’m on to something?

I slept for 12 hours that night and it was magical not waking up until noon.  We had brunch at a fancy fabulous restaurant that had a bloody mary bar and a menu where we were batting 0.500 on identifying the foreign ingredients.  But it was oh so good.  We then started to bar hop and ended the night at a great piano bar where Adam Levine was filling in on piano.  Ok, so it wasn’t really Adam, but this guy looked just like him... meaning that he was so damn hot.  They even had a Ragnar contest for free drinks where BJ (from our team) raced some random guy from another team around the block while Adam was playing Chariots of Fire.  Poor BJ was in flip-flops... and the other guy was like really really fast.  At least our team had prettier girls.

We said good-bye to San Diego and most of our Ragnar team the next morning.  But first we spent almost thirty minutes safely navigating our two vans out of the garage.  It was a team effort, with one of the boys at the wheel and the other boys navigating outside the vans... while the girls stood on the sideline as cheerleaders.  With the vans safely on the road, only five of us girls were advancing to the next round of the trip.  We drove back up to Los Angeles and checked-in to Le Montrose, our cute little boutique hotel in West Hollywood.  This is where we saw our only celebrity of the day.  I use the term celebrity loosely here.  He was more like a C-list celebrity (probably D-list, but since he was even hotter in real life than on TV, I will reward him with C-list status).  You’re dying with curiosity now, aren’t you?  It was Eric Neis of MTV’s The Real World Season 1.  I was so dumbfounded by him that I literally could not stop staring... this man was beautiful in his button down shirt and linen pants.  He was having credit card problems checking-in, so of course I was staring even harder as I tried to listen to every word between him and the front desk.  But the chance of him flirting with any of us girls was completely diminished when the lady asked me what type of car I was valeting and I responded with “white Ford 12-passenger van,” which the valet guys nicknamed “The Mammoth” while we were there.

What do five young ladies do in Hollywood for the day?  Rodeo Drive?  Hike up to the Hollywood sign?  Eat at some trendy restaurant with the hopes of spotting another celebrity?  Nope, we didn’t leave our hotel.  We ordered room service up to the rooftop pool and drank wine all day in the sun.  And when we ran out of wine, we summoned my New Orleans Final Four friend who lives in LA to bring us more.  And then when we ran out of wine again, two of the girls walked up the street to the nearest store.  And then we ordered Thai food delivery for dinner.  And that, my friends, is how we experienced Los Angeles.

The next day we were early risers (too early if you ask me) and the day was spent driving to San Francisco.  We had to make the decision whether we wanted the drive to be fast or scenic and we chose the latter.  I am so thankful for this because driving the Pacific Coast Highway was amazing.  Granted, it was another 13 hours in the van, but it was so beautiful that I felt like I was in a foreign country at times with the coast of Italy on my left and the mountains of Austria on my right.  The first stop of the PCH road trip was Paradise Cove, which was a little cafe on the beach in Malibu.  We randomly found this place and it was a hidden jewel.  I ordered apple pie pancakes if that tells you anything.

Stop number two was to see the hundreds of elephant seals relaxing on the beach.  Thank God they were adorable because they stunk so bad!  Please keep in mind that none of these “stops” that I mention along our PCH road trip were planned, so when I say “stop” it really means “saw something cool so we slammed on the brakes and swerved off the road.”  Stop number three was our attempt to see Hearst Castle, but that quickly fell through when we realized that the tour was going to take two hours.  Everyone took turns driving and I somehow got the Mario Kart leg of the trip.  We all got car sick with the twists and turns and curves and hills.  I seriously felt like I was driving in a video game.  But you just couldn’t complain because it was so beautiful.  We made numerous other stops throughout the drive just to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery.  

Let me preface the next part of our trip by saying:  don’t mess with a girl from Manchester, Kentucky, who just spent the last thirteen hours riding in a van.  We finally pulled into San Francisco around 7pm.  We checked-in to Hotel Abri in Union Square and were told that one of our two rooms had been upgraded to a suite.  Sweet.  The other room was this:

Apparently, the girl working the front desk did not know this room was under renovation.  So she moved us to a different room... this one was freshly painted and had a huge blower in the middle of the room to diffuse the toxic paint fumes.  She apparently did not know this as well.  Her solution:  “I will give you a room with a single queen bed and give you 30% off.”  Wait.  There are six of us (another friend flew into SF that night to meet us), so where are we all going to sleep?  Her solution:  “There is a pull-out couch in the suite.”  So we are paying for two rooms where some of us now have to sleep on a couch?  And then Manchester came out.  I’ll fast-forward and just let you know that we had the second room completely comped with three bottles of complimentary wine delivered to the room.  Don’t mess with Manchester.

The night ended with a sushi night-cap and an early exit to bed.  You know you are getting old when you care more about hiking around in San Francisco the next day than staying out all night.  The next morning was spent sight-seeing around San Francisco in temperatures that I did not pack appropriately for.  After a quick stop at In-N-Out Burger near Fisherman’s Wharf, I ducked into a United Colors of Benetton store to buy a coat.  And I walked out 15-minutes later with a whole new wardrobe.  They were having a “going out of business sale,” so what’s a girl supposed to do?

Fourteen, yes 1-4, 14, other girls flew in that morning to San Francisco and met the six of us in Napa later that afternoon.  It was bachelorette time.  We rented a gorgeous compound (there were twenty of us, so yes, we needed a whole compound) and spent the next four days exploring wine country.  This is the point in the story where I now draw the red curtain... because we all know that what happens in Napa celebrating a bachelorette, stays in Napa.  But, I will make one exception because this story epitomizes how awesome we are.  After a day of having a private bus tour of wineries, we needed food.  Nevermind the fact that we had $1000 in groceries at the house.  Some of the girls had ordered food at a taco truck in town the day prior and one girl had the idea, “Why don’t we just order the taco truck?”  The whole truck?  Yes, the whole truck.  So the taco truck made it’s first private house call ever to our compound that night and those Mexican boys loved us when we sent them home with a bottle of Makers.  It’s just what we do.

April 29, 2013

Vans, No Sleep, and Running Shoes

About a year ago, I received a call from a dear friend.  I can remember the excitement in her voice as she pitched a ridiculous idea to me:  “There’s this relay race in California next April where we will run 200 miles from Los Angeles to San Diego.  It will be so much fun and I think we should get a group together to do this!”  I instantly agreed.  Apparently, what I thought she said was:  “There’s this relay race in California next April where we will run 200 miles.  We will barely have to train and you will be able to rock out 16 miles at a seven minute pace... and then we will be able to walk on water when the race is over.” 

Surprisingly, it was not hard to find eleven other idiots who also wanted to run 200 miles and sit in a van for 36 hours with little to no chance of sleeping.  With our team in place, it was a group effort in organization and logistics as we booked five hotel rooms at the start and finish lines, rented two 12-passenger vans, coordinated flights as we were departing from eight different cities, and each picked our runner positions (based on elevation, terrain, and miles).

Now, before I move on, I need to give a Public Service Announcement on why NOT to be near any social media networks after you have taken Ambien.  The night before we were to fly out, I had taken an Ambien around 9pm because my flight was very early the next morning.  My phone buzzed about an hour later when I had a Facebook message from a team member asking if someone could print off the spreadsheet that listed our mileage, pace, estimated start times, etc.  Here is the conversation that ensued (cut and pasted):

10:04pm Me:
I can print. But when I was looking at the doc, it lists my last leg as 2.9 miles, but it actually is 7.8 miles??

you must not have seen it since they tweaked the legs a few weeks ago...?
it's listing runner #8's third leg as 2.9 on the site now

10:13pm Me:
Oh that sucks!!!!

10:13pm Matt:
Wishful thinking Stacey, I would love a last leg of 2.9 miles...

10:14pm Catherine:
Would you want to switch with me... You want to run more????

10:15pm Me:
I was wanting to run in the 16 mile range.

10:18pm Emily:
Stacey....go to sleep! Your ambien is making you talk crazy! If you want more miles ill give you my last leg...my gift to you!

10:18pm Britt:
Ha ha! And don't miss your flight!

10:18pm Me:
i'm really mad. i went from having a 16 mile total to 10 miles.
it's the shortest distance of all the legs

10:19pm Emily:
Well I have 12 so you can trade me!
Catherine is injured so you can have her 20.6....and be happy again!!

10:21pm Britt:
It's not a contest. But if you want to make it one... If its not hard enough I think you should bong 2 beers and then run your miles. Or, sprint the last leg and see how fast you can get it done! Then you can catch us up on our time lag.

10:21pm Me:
i went to print and i don't have any damn paper. so i can't print now. so now i'm going to bed in a bad mood.

10:23pm Emily:

Britt I love you and Stacey I don't understand you. Please read this in the morning...I'll remind you!

And, boy oh boy, did they remind me the next day when we arrived!  Why in the world I was mad that my mileage had decreased is beyond any rational thinking.  My friends were able to work it out so that I would now have 14 miles (not the originally assigned 16, but also not the newly planned 10), and my body was hating me and my Ambien during my last four mile leg.

The night prior to the race, the entire team stayed at a hotel near the start in Santa Ana, which is in Orange County.  Everyone placed their three running outfits in ziplock bags (BC quote: You know you are not running with real runners when they call their running clothes ‘outfits’) and played real-life Tetris in the vans as the boys organized luggage, food, and coolers.  The last item on our check list for the night was to pick up our van drivers (two friends from San Diego that we conned into driving us) at the train station.  My friend and I kept them waiting about 20 minutes because after driving around in circles, we learned that it is important to realize the difference in 100 Santa Ana Boulevard versus 1000 Santa Ana Boulevard.  Ooopsie.

There were 646 teams competing.  We were team number 43.  Team 12-Gauge... with a 12-gauge shotgun on our tshirt.  Get it, 12 runners... 12-Gauge.  I live in Kentucky and, unfortunately, being around hunting camouflage is a part of everyday living.  However, I quickly learned this is not the case in Southern California.  I got more compliments on my hunting camo running tshirt than I usually do on a new pair of Jimmy Choos.  One guy was willing to fork over money to trade shirts on the spot.  I doubted you on the design, Catherine, but stellar job!

I am going to attempt to give you a quick run-down on exactly what happens during a Ragnar Relay.  There are 12-runners.  Runners 1 through 6 are in Van #1 and runners 7 through 12 are in Van #2.  Van #1 starts the journey as runner #1 runs the first leg.  There are supported legs where the vans can meet the runners along their route with water, or just to cheer, or just to give a trademark honk... then there are non-supported legs were vans are not allowed on the runner’s course... and there are partially supported legs where vans can only meet the runners in certain areas along the running route.  Van #1 then drives ahead to the runner exchange, usually located in a random parking lot, where ropes are set up for runner #2 to wait.  Runner #1 passes off the slap-bracelet (just like we wore in the 1980‘s) to runner #2 and off they go.  This repeats until all six runners in Van #1 have completed their first leg.  Then there are larger exchanges called “van exchanges” that occur when the sixth runner of Van #1 passes off the bracelet to the first runner of Van #2.  Van #1 is then on break while Van #2 carries the bracelet.  This whole process repeats itself until each runner has completed three legs.  I could have just summarized this paragraph with “I was dumbfounded at the amount of organization it takes the Ragnar staff to prepare for this.”  
SoCal Ragnar 2013 started on the beach of Santa Ana at 6am.  I have no clue what it looked like or any details because I was in Van #2 and was still sleeping in the hotel room.  The six runners and two drivers in Van #2 were able to sleep in and eat a good hotel breakfast before loading into the van and heading to the first van exchange around noon.  Once we were all loaded into the van, all decked out in our camo tshirts and neon orange shorts, the haunting words of “So, which way?” were uttered as we backed out of the hotel parking lot.  No one knew.  We hadn’t even pulled out of the hotel parking lot and we were already lost.  Not a good sign.

At the first van exchange, Van #2 received their safety briefing and signed off on waivers that pretty much said “I will not sue if I get hit by a car, overheat, or get bit by a mountain lion.”  Our van’s first runner then got the bracelet, and the rest of our van was off to our first runner exchange.  Except we couldn’t find our van.  There were ten parking lots at this large park, and at least 1000 WHITE FORD 12-PASSENGER VANS.  It was worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Somehow we found it in a reasonable amount of time and duly noted to remember where we parked for the remainder of the trip.

Our first legs were brutal.  We were running in the dead heat of the day, with a heat index soaring to 107.  Our routes were all inland as we trudged through the desert mountains and valleys of Southern California... did I mention it was 107 degrees??  I finished my first leg of six miles and my hands were swollen like the Pillsbury Doughboy and I wasn’t even sweating since I was so dehydrated.  And I was stinky... real stinky.  My van quickly learned that we got screwed as far as running times go since we had the legs that were during the heat of the day and the middle of the night.  But we made the best of it... meeting our runners blaring “Eye of the Tiger” from the van, having dance parties to Lionel Ritchie, and discussing the book about rules for dating (which was a huge hit amongst the guys *sarcasm* -- they hated every rule I read).  

After the completion of our first leg, we had about six hours of down time which took us to Olive Garden to carb load (yes, having only showered with baby wipes) and then to the best surprise part of the trip:  Mike’s house!!  One of our drivers had a brother who lived nearby, so the eight of us invaded his beautiful home and forced his wife to consider remodeling since they will likely never use the couches we slept on again.  Entering Mike’s gated subdivision was entertaining as the conversation with the security guard went something like this:

Z:  I’m here to see my brother, Mike
Security:  What is your name?
Z:  Z
Security:  As in the letter?
Z:  Yes
Security:  And what is your relation to Mike?
Z:  I’m his brother
Security:  Does he know you are coming?
Z:  Yes  (to the rest of us:  I’ve never had problems getting in to this subdivision before)
Us:  But you have never tried to enter driving a white 12-passenger van with 12-Gauge painted on the side while wearing a camo shirt with a gun on it.
Z:  True

It was amazing to be able to stretch out and rest for a few hours as we geared up to run our midnight runs.  However, the first van was not too thrilled with us when they found out we were able to spread out and relax in a real house on real couches.  They were even quoted as saying:  “I bet you even had someone there fanning you and feeding you grapes the whole time, too.”

The midnight van exchange was a straight-up party.  I guess the Ragnar people were trying to do anything to keep people awake.  They had fire pits, a DJ, video screen, disco balls, and a lot of runners wearing safety vests, headlamps, and flashing back lights.  Our van rocked out our second legs.  With the temperature dropping to the 40s and most of the course being downhill, I sprinted out my best time ever (my team was shocked I got there so fast that the next runner was still sitting in the van and not ready at the exchange ropes --and she fell out of the van trying to get to me).  Everyone in Van #2 did amazing running in the middle of the night --even though we looked more like spelunkers than runners.

There was one minor setback during our night run.  There were eight people in our van.  That means there were eight cell phones that needed charged.  And a couple iPads.  One guy even joked that we were probably charging a juicer so we could have fresh juice in the morning with the strawberries, blueberries, and bananas we had in the cooler.  Our van had the mother of all docking stations set up as we were able to charge up to 5 devices at a time.  Unbeknownst to us, when the van was turned off... all the devices still stayed charging.  Not to mention the number of times we turned the lights on in the van when it wasn't running.  You probably know where I am going with this.  We had one runner left and had to get him to the next exchange.  And the van would not start.  So now we were on a mission trying to find jumper cables.  The problem though is that all the other vans with us were also rental vans and no one had jumper cables.  We finally lucked out and we were able to get some juice to get us going.  But that was a moment of a little stress amongst the group.

And then guess what??!?  We finished our second leg and then had an even better surprise!  Our drivers lived close by and we were able to go to their house during our break to sleep and, even better, SHOWER!!  I have never felt so refreshed from rinsing off and only three hours of sleep in a chair, but I woke up feeling like a new woman.  

We were almost done... we each had one leg left.  But I was hurting.  I already ran 10 miles and the breaks between runs were allowing my muscles to cramp up and “the quads above my knees (as opposed to the quads below my knees)” were so tight.  I started my last leg of four miles and was hurting real bad from the start.  The original plan was for my van to meet me at mile two with water, but when my van passed me at the beginning of my run, I screamed out “I need Biofreeze!”  I was assuming they were going to pull off somewhere close by so I could rub my quads down.  So I kept walking, and running, and walking, and running, and walking, and running and I never saw them.  I got to mile two, and they are still nowhere to be found.  I was starting to think I was running the wrong route.  I finally made it to mile three and my van was there waiting.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Where have you guys been?
JH:  You said to meet you at mile three.
Me:  No, I said mile two.
JH:  No, when we drove by you screamed, “Meet me at mile three!”

Mile three... Biofreeze... like Nicki Flash... because it rhymes... close?  I lathered up in green gel and it was enough to get me through the last mile and I was done.  And very happy.  We had two runners left and the next runner had seven miles including the hill of death along her route.  We wanted to meet her prior to the mile long hill that was at a 70% incline.  We drove down the hill, then back up the hill, then down the hill, then back up the hill trying to find her.  One of the guys in our van, who will remain nameless, insisted there was no way she was already at the top of the hill because "there is no way she can run that fast."  She was running like the wind and actually beat our van to the exchange, where runners from other teams were booing us for not being there on time.

Our entire team met our last runner about 100 yards from the finish line we all finished together on the beach of San Diego.  The experience was over, and it is so hard to put into words how amazing it was to drive, cheer, complain, laugh, sleep, snack, motivate, calculate, sweat, and run 200 miles spanning 36 hours with the other runners.  Running felt like a team sport for the first time in my life and I was proud to be part of something that was bigger than my individual accomplishment.  However, Catherine, before you ask... the answer is NO to ever wanting to do this again... only because another Ragnar experience will never live up to the memories created during the SoCal Ragnar Relay of 2013.

This blog was already five pages, yet I left out so much.  However, for the other runners, here are some of the best quotes from the trip:

** “I’m glad opposites attract... because if I’m acting like Jason, and Jason is acting like Jason, then we’d be in a fight right now.”

Joel:  That’s why you pack your own bread in your suitcase and bring it from Missouri.

** Joel:  The last race I ran I was hungover and miserable.
Emily:  Yeah babe, but you met me.
Joel:  Yeah, and I was miserable.

** “If runners had trading cards, then you’d be my favorite.”

** “I wonder what the poor people are doing today?”

** Joel likes to sleep in the dark at other people's houses when they are putting their kids to bed:  “If they don’t turn those lights out, I’m going to go sleep on the floor in the other room.”

** “You lost your navigation privileges four beers ago.  You have been demoted to snack boy.”

** On the snacks bought by our driver:  “Cheetos and 5-hour energy drinks would be great snacks if we were smoking pot... but we are running a race!!”

** Breaking Z’s kazoo:  “That is so disrespectful... I can’t wait to break something you love.”

** Van #2 when Van #1 was not on time for Matt:  "AGAIN!!!??!"

** Josh when Van #2 was not on time for Erica:  “This would have NEVER happened on my watch!”

** Joel never being at the start-line on time:  “How many times can you hear them scream ‘TEAM 43!!’ while you’re in the porta-potty?”

** “I am so tired.  I just rubbed lotion all over my body... only to realize it was curl enhancer for my hair.”  --me

** The boys:  We are going to the bathroom.
The girls:  Since when do boys go to the bathroom together?  Must be code for something.
The girls (when the boys return):  So did you take shots or smoke?

** “I want to order a shot four-ways... like a $5 footlong”

** Deep thoughts by Britt:  “You know how all of our information is now in clouds?  Do you ever look up to the sky and just see all those zeros and ones?”