Thursday, January 28, 2016

State #27, 3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX, January 24, 2016, Part 1

I left Friday, January 22nd for Texas right after work. I drove directly to the airport, and luckily got out with just a slight delay. A major winter storm was heading up the east cost, and even though Connecticut wasn’t expected to see the bulk of the snow, flights (due to connections) were canceling and getting delayed. I squeaked out and made my connection through Detroit without a problem on my way to Austin. 
I chose Austin this time around because of the good reviews I’d read about the 3M Half Marathon. In addition, I was hoping to run in Austin because an old childhood friend of mine lives there, and I was hoping I could sneak in a visit while in the area. I reached out to her well in advance, and even though we haven’t seen each other in roughly 30 years, she was excited and open to meeting up. Yay!
My cousin Andrew registered for the race as well, so it would be a grand old time in Texas! I arrived late Friday night and discovered a text from Andrew that his flight was canceled for the night. He rebooked for the next day around noon and would keep me posted. Bummer.
Saturday morning, I allowed myself to sleep in a bit. Shortly thereafter, I heard from Andrew that his noon flight was already delayed, and he wasn’t feeling optimistic about things. In the end, he decided not to come, feeling that if he arrived very late, he’d be too exhausted to deal with the run the next day. Totally understandable, but disappointing none the less. 
Visitor's Center guitar pick sign.
I headed out to downtown Austin to pick up my bib number at the Convention Center. 3M provided a huge bag of goodies along with the bib, including sticky notes, a vacuum cleaner attachment for sandpaper dust, food treats, some car wheel polish, and other things. I brought all that back to the car and headed out on foot. 
Painted murals just off 6th St.
After a stop in the Austin Visitors Center with a recommendation for a taco place for lunch, I was off. I had heard from my friend that 6th Street was a place to see, so I walked in that direction on my way to the Capitol area. Wow! What a scene it was! 6th Street is filled with bars, tattoo parlors, music shops, The Museum of the Weird, and all kinds of colorful characters. One local described it to me as the Bourbon Street of Austin. I didn’t have much desire to visit any bars (although I was tempted by the Museum of the Weird), so I just meandered through and turned up Congress Street toward the state Capitol building. 
Austin Capitol building.
The Capitol building is enormous and gorgeous! It is taller than the national Capitol in Washington, D.C. and reminded me of a palace. I wasn’t really expecting that in Texas, but boy was it impressive. 
I made my way past the Capitol area over to Lavaca Street where the restaurant was, when I was stopped by a (seemingly) homeless man. He was clearly intoxicated, and asked me directions to 6th Street. Having just walked from there, I was happy to help. Of course, next he took to telling me many of his life stories. He was carrying a guitar case (not sure if there was actually a guitar in it), but he told me he had played music with Miles Davis, Ray Charles and the Pointer Sisters. He was from Oregon originally, but had just rolled in to Austin by way of (I think) Mexico, where he said he was beat up by some guys there and had his teeth knocked out and ribs broken. He really was a mess. I listened as politely as I could, but when he asked me if I had time to sit down and chat, I made tracks. The Austin slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” was making sense to me now. :)
Lunch restaurant.
I found the restaurant a few blocks later. El Mercado it was called, and after a chat with my waitress, Sam, I settled on the brisket tacos. And ohhhhh my, were they delicious! I had never tasted a more delicious taco before. They served it with sides of barbecue sauce, guacamole, fresh cilantro, spicy brown beans with chiles, chopped onion and a generous basket of tortilla chips with salsa. I was in heaven! After having my fill, I hiked back to the Capitol building for a tour. 
The building houses the state senate and house of representatives, both chambers we toured. The state court is also there, and many historical items, including paintings depicting the battles at the Alamo and San Jacinto. The rotunda area and dome are especially stunning. We also were able to walk down to the extension underneath the capitol building which was added later to house additional office space. It was a fun and interesting way to pass the afternoon. 
Back side of Capitol building.
Interior of rotunda dome, looking up. Beautiful!
Austin Capitol Building Senate chambers.
Dawn at the Alamo painting.
Battle of San Jacinto painting.
Austin Capitol Building House of Representatives chamber.
I headed back to my hotel later in the afternoon, stopping at Target and Whole Foods on the way to pick up some necessities. I changed and headed out to visit my friend for dinner. 
My friend Hazel and I were best friends in our early childhood. I have such fond memories of her and her family from those days. She grew up in a family of 6 kids, so something fun was always happening at her house. All of the kids were creative and funny, so going to her house as a kid was always a blast. She now has a large family of her own (7 children!) and a wonderful man to share her life. 
Hazel's kids. One amazing bunch!
As I arrived at her house, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place, as everything was completely silent. How could a house with seven kids be so quiet?!! When she opened the door, it was as if the last 30 years of not seeing each other was erased, and there we were. I hugged her and then had to hug all her beautiful kids (ranging from age 15 to 14 months!). Through the magic of Facebook, we were able to glimpse in to each other’s lives these last several years, so although we knew some details, we had loads of catching up to do. 
Old friends together again!
Her kids were right there with us, listening to all the old stories and life events (college, jobs, homes, marriage, kids, running, etc.). I was so struck at how well-mannered they all were and how entirely sweet and lovely. Every single one of them is smart and polite and engaged and all were connecting with the conversation. 
Hazel and her partner, Marshall, offered to host me for a pre-race spaghetti and meatball dinner, and it was just the most wonderful part of the trip. My heart was bursting with emotions, and I was nearly a water-works when I first arrived, seeing and hugging Hazel after all these years. 
Crazy shot with the full group.What an incredible night!
I left on the early side, hugging everyone again. Hazel was going to try to meet me at the finish line. What a trooper! I got back to the hotel, organized all my things for the morning and went off to bed. A good night sleep followed after such a wonderful, heart-warming evening.

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