I've had strange race weekends but this went above and beyond, into the realm of Neverland itself.
I had not intended to run any of the races during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend, I was going to house sit for my sister and brother in-law while they enjoyed the Disney weekend (and races). Plans changed, as they are want to do, and my brother in-law ended up having to work the entire weekend. They decided that Charlene would still go as they had a lot of money already spent on the weekend plans, non-refundable money. Sis originally thought to go alone, she's a seasoned traveler, but they shared a single car which he'd need for work. They hit on the idea of asking me to travel with her to Anaheim in my car, they'd cover my room and board for the weekend, and things would work out as well as possible (all things considered). I was happy to go and be her cheer squad, plus I could do my training runs through the Anaheim neighborhoods (I love running there).
I then stumbled upon the information that a 10k race had been added to the Tinker Bell weekend, one open to male competition as well as women (the half marathon is only competitive for women), plus the race coordinators had created a special event challenge for people who wanted to run the 10k and half marathon on back-to-back days. I really enjoy the dual race challenges, and I knew I could be strongly competitive for a 10k overall top 3 placing, possibly even 1st place. As for the half marathon (even though it wasn't open to men for competition) it was still a good race to run for personal time and pride, so I bit the bullet and spent $342 for the challenge. It was an unexpected new adventure for us but we knew it would be "interesting". We had no idea.
Our first indications that the pixie dust was already in the air around us started weeks before the race and increased in “oddness” as the event weekend got closer. We had unwanted people from our past try to weasel their ways back into our lives, as if “leave me alone” didn’t actually apply to them. Charlene’s health continued it’s rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, leaving her in serious doubt as to whether she could even compete the 5k and 99% confident that the half marathon was out of the question. Charlene’s pup Jack got spooked during a walk and somehow managed to back and wriggle his way out of a body harness and then flee in panic. Fortunately he was caught and calmed in short order but it took hours for my sister’s heart and stomach to resume their normal places inside of her.
One of the more frustrating and odd problems to come up for my sister at the last minute was the need to completely redesign her Disney themed costume to run in during her 5k race (Disney races are very popular to run in costume due to the rich field of characters and stories). Her original costume idea/plan had to be scrapped because her tailor person repeatedly failed to get the body of the outfit right, despite her many and often discussions with him as to what it was and how it should look. It wasn’t at all difficult for someone of his skill set, he just kept going against her requests and design in seemingly random ways but promised to get it right in time before the race. She finally had to decline his services all together and create her own “quicky” costume made of bits and pieces from previous costumes and stuff from her closets.
On my side things weren’t really any better, as far as strange things went. On a particularly windy night (just days before the drive to Disney) I’d stopped at a grocery store after work to pick up a few things. I made a quick trip in and out again and had just loaded the bags into the backseat of my car (on the passenger side) when I heard a rushing sound and then a loud crash. The wind had blown a shopping cart from where a lazy shopper had left it out in the open, between my car and the one next to me and smashed my driver's side rearview mirror. The cart didn’t touch either car, except to destroy my mirror, even after it rebounded off the curb we were parked against. I cursed and spluttered of course, as one would expect, but I thought I might be able to replace it quickly since it was still early in the day since my car's dealership and a major auto parts store were nearby. Of course the dealership parts desk closed early, and the auto parts store would have to order a new mirror assemble from out of state which wouldn’t arrive until well after the race weekend. At that point I wanted to either set fire to my car, roast marshmallows over it’s smoldering husk, and chuckle with more evil burgeoning thoughts or to just go home and hope the night ended quickly. I chose to go home and tried to relearn how to change lanes safely without the driver side mirror before reaching the first traffic light. To top off that bit of excitement, that same night just as I was climbing the stairs to go to bed for the night, I heard a strange and loud clanking noise from the second floor. It sounded much like a cookie sheet twisting/popping in a hot oven but I couldn’t think of what would make such an odd noise. I went back downstairs to check the oven, to ensure it was off, and I looked all around both floors to try and spot anything unusual. I found nothing broken or damaged, nothing out of the ordinary to explain the loud noise. When I stopped in the bathroom next to my room I found something strange indeed, the large wall mirror above the sink had inexplicably broken free of the wall and dropped onto the backsplash. It was leaning casually against the medicine cabinet, just slightly askew, with the air of a particularly clever Easter egg that a child finally found in May. All I could do was laugh, and then add Liquid Nails to the list of things to get ASAP (right next to a new car mirror).
Thankfully the drive to Anaheim was nice and normal, most importantly it was safe (thanks to my sister and I shopping all over Vegas to find a new mirror).
Normal didn’t last beyond the Expo/packet pick up at Disneyland though. runDisney violated their own corral placement rules for the 10k and put me in line based upon my date of registration as opposed to the stated proof-of-time based method. We tried to get my placement updated/upgraded to the position I’d earned but they were adamant about staying with the unadvertised “first come, first served” mentality they’d inexplicably adopted for this particular race. Things went downhill from there: During the afternoon, Charlene was enjoying some park time and tried to use a Disney gift card I’d given them before 2016 ended and the pesky thing didn’t work. Neither of us had the original sales receipt with us so the cashier couldn’t verify the card should have been operational. On top of that, their own computer system was acting up so the cashier said it might still be good but Charlene would have to try it again later. Then, later that afternoon, My brother in-law sent sis a text message telling her that their new pretty car had been hit in the parking lot at his work place. He’d been able to get the driver’s insurance information but the damage had been done and they’d have to deal with it in the near future. Just to ensure the day was plenty weird, my sister received another unexpected text that evening but this was good news: She had received a lot of positive feedback at work and received a promotion of sorts and a gift of appreciation. She and her friend spent the rest of the evening in Disney watching their nightly parade and having a generally good time. At least the day ended on a high.
The first day of races (the 5k on Friday) was pretty frustrating for Charlene, essentially from the moment she woke up to when she lay back down to call it a night. It started with runDisney pulling another fast one on the racers arriving at their assigned starting spot: they decided to ignore the corral placement rules again and lined up their runners first come first placed, instead of the assignment printed on the race bibs. Then once the runners got started on the 5k course, they found out that the normally highly popular Disney characters typically placed throughout the race course (for pictures, selfie style and official photo pass style) had been reduced to only one instance and that one was set away from the runners so they could not take pictures together (many runners attend the races specifically for those Disney character picture opportunities). Later that morning, after she’d returned to the hotel to freshened up a bit, she went back to the park to meet friends and to spend some quality alone time with her buddy Walt (get it?). A little over an hour after leaving I received a text from her saying she had forgotten her bank card. She’d attempted to rent a locker near the Disneyland park entrance and discovered the absent card, after having to wait for an hour in line just to get past the first security check area that screens everyone before they can even reach Downtown Disney on race days (they were moving crazy slow for some reason, slower than what is normal for Disneyland staff). She told me exactly where to find the card, which I did, and asked me to bring it to her after she met with her friends. I also discovered that she’d forgotten to put the protective case back on her phone after the morning’s race and brought that as well. Her lunch plans took an odd turn too: She’d hoped to try a new special item in the park but the place serving it ran out just before she got there. She waited through another delay while more of product was brought from a different section of the park and the meal only turned out “ok”. It wasn’t even good or special enough to have a second time during a future visit, or to recommend to her health conscious brother. Charlene was still able to get in a few rides and a couple hours of quality park time but things took a frustrating turn again when she went through a longer and more arduous task of getting a “special” dessert/treat in the park called “The Grey stuff”. Yet another food disappointment, not worth her time nor effort even if she’d gotten it on the first try at half price (which of course she didn’t, it took 4 tries and full price of course). She also tried the gift card again, as recommended the day before, and it failed of course. It did however make a satisfying frisby as it went spinning into the nearest trash can. The day was annoying enough that she called it quits at only 4pm, there just was no salvaging the mood.
Day two of the races (the 10k on Saturday) and park time was a mixed bag of good and unfortunate: As predicted I completely outran my corral placing despite having to weave through hundreds of participants. I even ran fast enough to get a better time than the guy who was the 3rd male to cross the finish line (by comparing my chip time to his). Charlene and I were both very angry and disappointed about the posted results but the race staff didn’t care, they even tried to avoid her when she voiced her complaints to the staff members stationed at the information/solutions table. We also found out that the character photo opportunities were still significantly less than is normal at their other events (though more were available than the measly one-limited access during the 5k). We were given platitudes when we cornered one race staff member about the race results, assuring us my results would be fairly treated, but both of us knew nothing was going to change no matter what we said. Later, while I was winding down at the hotel, Charlene went back to the park to spend some time with friends again and to meet others for a lunch date. That went over well enough until the lunch date invited still more friends along and they happened to include a person sis didn’t get along with at all. Still, she enjoyed her friend’s company if not all of the other peoples'.
The biggest race related insult/shock came around mid afternoon when my race results completely vanished online. I made a special return trip to the race expo area (minutes before they closed) to plead my case with the race coordinator and the timing experts; it seems that they couldn’t believe I’d actually run the race so fast from the crappy starting position they stuck me with. They were able to verify my having run the race by using official race videos, and by my showing them proof of prior race performance at one of their own events in Disneyland less than 6 monthly previously. They were happy to correct my finish status and results though they still wouldn’t correct the overall men's standings.
Later that night (just to make sure neither of us let our guards down) Charlene’s new teeth aligners mysteriously vanished. She’d noticed them missing while packing her travel luggage in preparation for the drive home after the half marathon the next morning. I helped her tear apart the room and mentally retrace her steps and actions from the last time she’d known she had them, but we couldn’t find them anywhere they might likely (or even unlikely) have been. We ended up finding the aligners shut inside her laptop, stuck between the screen and keyboard. At least we ended our night on a good hearty laugh.
The 3rd race day (the half marathon on Sunday) was perhaps the strangest day of the weekend as far as running went (both good and bad) and the strangest travel day by far (also in both good and bad ways). Charlene and I both performed surprisingly well during the half marathon, finishing far faster than we could have possibly hoped for. Though the men’s division of the race wasn’t “competitive” and started at a disadvantage compared to the women’s racers, I was able to finish as the 3rd overall male (good for nothing but personal pride). Charlene ran a seriously fast race compared to what she felt she could accomplish in the weeks and months leading up to it. Unfortunately it was also extremely painful and taxing for her, bad enough she was wheezing at the finish and literally crying by the time she was able to find me in the “family reunion” area. Friends and acquaintances kept popping up wanting to chitchat as she/we tried to recover from the race and get ready for the walk back to the hotel. It’s usually nice to find out how friends performed at the race but when you’re hurting you just want to get “home”. I think we were polite but my concern was for Sis, not their feelings. Those could be smoothed later if necessary, health had to be the priority.
We took a little extra time leaving the hotel so both of us could quickly clean up and Charlene could take a few minutes to settle her breathing and body back down. We were both very hungry by the time we hit the road but decided to first get out of Anaheim and back onto Interstate 15 before we stopping again. We wanted to be truly heading home just as much as we wanted to eat. Charlene and I both wanted to stop at a very nice Red Robin restaurant in Victorville, CA that we favored and have visited multiple times when driving back to Vegas. We programmed the GPS unit to take us there and settled into the rhythm of the road. Somehow, during our conversations and exclamations of surprise at how well both of us performed during the half marathon (despite our physical limitations and all of the recent oddities) we not only missed the entire town of Victorville but the GPS took us to a Red Robin that no longer existed. Both of us had our hearts set on our favorite foods at the restaurant chain so we decided to continue onward to the next town, sure it was Victorville: Nope, and it’s Red Robin was so far off the Interstate that we gave in to frustration and decided to press on to Barstow. We would just eat at whatever random establishment that seemed palatable. We (really I) chose the Barstow IHOP, I’d eaten there many times in the past and knew it to be inoffensive (generally speaking). IHOP also has a decent variety on their menu so we had some confidence in finding something. Though both of our hearts weren’t into the options available there I think we had a decent meal, I even discovered a sandwich there (the Turkey Club) that I really enjoyed. It could well be a newly favored sandwich of mine after I ask the cooks to make a few minor tweeks to how it's prepared. Charlene wasn’t fortunate enough to land a new special meal but she did have a satisfying lunch that made her body happy on the ride home. When we finally had the Vegas skyline in our sight we both gave a cautious sigh of relief: We’d made it home (mostly) in one piece, and the wacky stuff could finally come to an end (we hoped).
The next few days after the race weekend were rough on Charlene but she did end up feeling stronger rather quickly. She and I both felt physically stronger before too long after the hard running, we felt released from the tension of all the weirdness (though I did send runDisney an email of complaint about the 10k and how it turned out, as was my right as a paying customer), and we were both happy to be through with any “major” race related traveling for almost all of the coming summer.
And then, Wednesday happened:
Shortly after lunch time, Wednesday afternoon, the building I work in was evacuated and closed to reentry by the company fire department. Someone in a management position, though not my manager or his boss, decided that a 20 year old grounding problem at my building should be reclassified to an emergency situation (though nothing changed except this person’s opinion) and we were ushered out of the building as if it had been on fire. No announcement was made ahead of time, to give us an opportunity to make an organized exit; no I was literally rushed out of the bathroom by a firefighter in full gear (minus the facemask) and ordered to the safe area/evacuation assembly area. We were then informed that not only were we not allowed back into the building any time that day but it could be days, even weeks, before it would be opened again. That took me from annoyed to nearly frantic: All of my personal stuff was still on my desk (including my wallet, car keys, and house keys), I’d be SOL beyond reason if I couldn’t get back in there. Of course, most of the other office workers had their personal things with them since they were at their desks when the evacuation orders came down, but those of us not at our desks weren’t so lucky. That also left our field technicians in a bad way since their personal stuff not required on the job was at their desk too (fortunately for them they had their keys and wallets with them out of necessity). Adding to the comedy of errors, the people in the office didn’t pull the fire/evacuation alarm to warn everyone to get out of the building when they received the phone call (which is standard procedure and is even practiced annually). They instead made a quiet search in the office area and assumed anyone not at their desk was out of the building, and then left (with all of their personal stuff naturally). Even the firefighters failed to thoroughly check the entire building, they missed an entire half of the office areas and left 3 employees inside for a good 10 minutes even after ushering me out. Those unfortunate 3 had only come out later to find out what was going on, one of them had heard someone’s 2-way radio in the hallway. Of course they too left all of their personal stuff behind due to ignorance of the situation. Naturally the firefighters wouldn’t allow them back into the building, despite being embarrassed by missing them in the first place. We found out, while standing around outside, that a routine level maintenance package was already in progress to fix our building’s grounding issue. The building would still have been closed (at a later date) but we’d have been assigned to new offices somewhere else, in an orderly fashion, and our work lives would have gone on smoothly. This fiasco not only blocked us from our stuff but it locked us away from quite a bit of our primary job tools and equipment (equipment required to maintain the communication equipment for the entire company and complex). All because some idiot pushed the panic button rather than allow an existing process take care of the situation. The office workers (including myself) were eventually sent over to a nearby building to wait for further information. After 3 hours of waiting and arguing it was decided that the firefighters would be allowed back into the building, with a qualified electrical worker accompanying them, to pick up people’s personal effects and what work related equipment that could be retrieved. That’s when we found out that one of our coworkers again went against procedure during the evacuation and closed all of the doors behind them, some of which were locked with the keys still inside the office (and of course mine was one of those). Now, I was doubly messed over and left wondering what to do. My boss wanted to take the stupid door off, as did I since I never close it anyway, but the building manager didn’t want to go that route. He called in the company locksmith to go into the building with the firefighter and the electrical specialist to open the door and retrieve my pitiful lunch box (that I hoped still contained all of my stuff). My supervisor brought my personal gear to the new temporary digs for which I thanked him profusely. I then promptly joined over half of my coworkers in taking the next day off and making a long weekend of it. I think our boss and every boss involved was happy to get us out of their hair for 4 days while they “discussed” the day’s events and what to do with the future. In the end, we’re still in the temporary office weeks later, the power has been turned off to our regular building, and we’re actually allowed to go in and out of it as we please to retrieve necessary job related stuff.
The best part is that the pixy dust curse seems to have worn off over the long weekend after my office broke.
Life returned to it’s normal crazy for the family and I so we can start working on summer plans again.
Or so we thought...