Thursday, March 18, 2010

There's Coffee At The Summit

The alarm went off at ten-to-5 a.m. I got up and put my running clothes on in the dark. I hate getting up early to run especially during the last few months when it's been cold. There's nothing like stepping out the door into 19 degree air knowing you have 10 miles ahead of you. Yesterday morning wasn't that cold, thank goodness, but it was still early.

The thing that got me going this time was knowing that I had already committed and people might be waiting for me. I had been talking to my buddy Chad Randolph for weeks about heading up to Davidson to run with his group. Davidson is a small town about 25 miles north of Charlotte and one of the few places in NC that reminded me of being on the west coast again.

So, of course, I was running behind and had to speed to get up there. I didn't want to drive all the way just to get there and see the running group take off without me. I drove in the dark with no traffic. Man, Davidson is out there a ways.

I pulled up to the CVS right in downtown and saw the familiar sight of runners warming up. And there was Chad, tall as a tree, wearing shorts! Dang. I pulled up just in time to get introduced to everyone--Jeff, Todd, Jim; and then Chad hands me a headlamp. A headlamp? Where the heck were we going? I tried to be cool as I adjusted the strap like I'd worn headlamps to run all the time, but honestly I've never worn a headlamp. Back in California I almost never ran in the dark. I was a musician, so I usually got out the door in the late morning and didn't really get to running until the early afternoon.

Chad showed me how to switch the thing on and soon we were headed up the street. We cut into a greenway section, which I would have liked to see in the daylight. You could see the outline of the trees like giant matchsticks against the dark purple dawn. The guys mentioned that some kids had shoved a big log across the greenway path so that if you weren't watching carefully you could trip over it and wind up face down in the middle of the path. They joked about the delinquent youth of Davidson.

I've come to realize as I get older that everyone has their "thing". Which means that everyone has an interest that they geek out on. Some people are into Star Trek, some are into classic cars, some folks are music snobs (me), and some people are runners. We geek out on running. As we ran along the dark greenway path we talked about everything running.

I hung back with Jeff and Chad most of the time, both of whom run ultra-marathons (distances longer than 26.2 miles). Jeff is probably in his late 40's*and he and Chad talked about their ultra races. I think Jeff said that he'd run about 150 ultras! I peppered Jeff with questions about the races and the ultra-marathon "community", about his times and training. This guy is insane!

Chad, 42 (I think), runs almost exclusively in Vibram Five Fingers and is the one who got me excited about them so, of course, we geeked out on that too. Todd was maybe in his early 40's, too and Jim was about my age. They stayed up toward the front and then cut off a little early.

Chad and Jeff and I crossed a road and headed up an incline near a field just as the sky began to glow at the horizon, mixing dark with light. Our breath in the cold trailed behind us like smoke coming out of a locomotive. We dropped back into downtown Davidson to complete six miles and cooled down to where we had started. Next stop--Summit Coffee house.

This is probably one of the best parts of the run. Strong coffee in a cool coffee house. Summit definitely made me feel like I was touring again, up in the Northwest, sampling all the amazing coffee joints. It's a small, narrow place with wood paneled walls and warm light and great coffee. I liked it because it was funky. It was no Starbucks or Caribou. It's the kind of place where none of the chairs really match and the guy working behind the counter has dread-locks.

From the street we could see Todd and Jim waiting for us. Our group sat around the table with our coffee (thanks Jeff. It's on me next time) and talked about the next run. I said that I would definitely come to run with the group again. Jim asked me if I lived in Davidson and Chad told him, "No, this guy drove all the way up from South Charlotte!"

"What?" said Jim. "You came all the way up from Charlotte for this run?"

That's right. I lived in San Diego county for the last 10 years, dealing with traffic, long commutes, time on the road for hours touring and so a 45 minute drive to Davidson with no traffic was a breeze. If I hadn't driven up there I wouldn't have had such a great run with a great group. I'll definitely do it again. Anyone want to join me? We can carpool.

*So, I had originally tried to guess Jeff's age and got it wrong. Big time. Sorry Jeff. Like I said, it was dark. Hope you'll let me keep running with y'all again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday night Bobcats

Last night my wife and I went out with one of her colleagues and husband to a Bobcats game. For anyone who doesn't know; the Charlotte Bobcats is an NBA team now entirely owned by a guy named Michael Jordan. Charlotte used to have the Hornets until the team was moved to New Orleans, I believe.

We started the evening out at a cool little tavern called "Tavern on the Tracks". And one of the best things about the place is that it is SMOKE FREE! We can finally go out to some of these places and not taste cigarette ashes in our food and come home without having to leave our clothes hanging up in another room.

After dinner we headed over to Time Warner Cable Arena, nestled right downtown/uptown. If you haven't been to a game there, I would suggest checking it out. It's a great facility. The interior of the building has many modern touches with other unique characteristics like a huge mosaic representing some of the region's basketball history that almost covers one entire wall near the entrance.

Our friends hadn't mentioned anything about our seats when we got inside. We got into an elevator (which has a human operator--classy.) and went up a couple of flights. I knew we were getting something cool when we stepped out of the elevator and the floors were carpeted. Turning a corner, we finally came to a closed door and I realized we were getting treated to box seats. Never had box seats before. Pretty cool.

We eased into soft faux leather seats and watched the game below. My wife and I have been to 3 events at TWC Arena: 2 Bobcats games and 1 concert. There's not really a bad seat in the place. For a major sports arena the place is actually pretty cozy. The state-of-the-art scoreboard features replay videos and special short films and even holds a model of the city skyline that wraps around the whole thing.

One thing about these games that I find crazy is the amount of audio and visual stimulus that goes on during the night. It's a testament to how short our attention spans are, I guess. You can't just sit back and enjoy the game for what it is. Almost every moment is filled with the announcer hollering, songs being played, the organ pumping or recordings of huge beats to get people to chant "defense". Every time-out features another booty dance by the "Lady Cats" or the firing off of T-shirts into the crowd.* There were a couple of times when it got quiet for about ten seconds, when the Bobcats were behind, and as if the system had sensed a change in the arena noise, a recording kicked in that said,"Everybody clap your hands!" So of course we all felt compelled to like little robots.

The Bobcats lost to the Dallas Mavericks unfortunately, but the game was still a blast to watch and we had a great night out. Not bad for a Monday.

*I'm constantly being amazed by human ingenuity; the fact that someone, somewhere invented a special hand-held "cannon" to fire rolled up T-shirts into the stands of sporting events.