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Napa-Sonoma Half Marathon, July 20, 2014
Noble Canyon 50km Trail, September 20, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

I'm home and it's so nice. China was great. Olympics were great, but it feels so good to sleep in your own bed for the first time in weeks. And I slept nearly 12 hours straight through the night. I can't remember the last time I slept so well. Love it!

The return trip was long long long and I extended it even further by volunteering to get bumped out of San Francisco which gave me more time to drool on my backpack on a quiet bench in the corner of concourse B before my flight. Sleep has got to be one of the most underrated activities ever. The night after my 50km race, my legs were so achy I could hardly sleep at all. On the plane ride home, there were people yakking in the seat behind me. But find me a quiet place and I'm out.

The day before we left Beijing, my family and I hit the Great Wall head-on. We didn't mess around with the over-crowded, touristy hot spot of Badaling. We went for the remote, challenging hike from one end of the wall to the other: 16,000 kilometers. Well, it seemed like we hiked up and over every hill in northern China, but there were a few more sections of wall and a few more towers on the horizon that we didn't get to. The Great Wall at Jingshanling to Simatai. Maybe we only covered 10km but it was really hilly and when you've got a 30 lb toddler on your back, it seems longer than it is. He got down a couple times, but Miles was pretty content to just lounge around in his backpack and offer the occasional word of encouragement "BAH!" It's his multi-purpose 'B' word for just about everything: bus, ball, bird, bike, um-brella, basket, backpack, bus! another bus!

The quickest way to get to Jingshanling from Beijing is by taxi. It's a 2+ hour drive but Liz was able to find someone who lives right near Simatai and knew the shortcuts. He did a great job of getting us there and then drove around to Simatai to meet us four hours later at the end of our hike. As an added bonus, we stopped twice on the way home to visit the taxi drivers uncle and his brother. We were invited in for tea and when Dad asked about the small field of corn out in front of the house, we were sent home with a week's supply of corn. There's only so much corn you can eat the night before a flight back to the States, so we shared with the grandmothers that meet every evening by the front entry of the apartment building with the grandkids.

There are some places that are spoken of in hyperbole: "unforgettable" or "awe-inspiring." Recent visitors to Paris will say, "Oh, you absolutely have to see Notre Dame Cathedral." The Great Wall of China is one of those places. Before my first trip to China in 1995 for the World Racewalk Cup, I remember thinking that my expectations for the Great Wall were too high. "There is no way it will live up to the hype," I thought, "it can't be that impressive." It blew me away. Its scale is just so amazingly huge. As far as you can see, there it is, snaking across mountains and dropping into ravines at impossible angles. Its presence is just overwhelming. I had no idea that it would feel that big in person. It felt bigger than I could have imagined, and then to think that it's been there for hundreds of years and took thousands upon thousands of people to build. It truly is one of the wonders of the world. Wow.

And now I'm back at home in the living room of my little house in San Diego. Makes me grateful that I've been able to see so much of the world. It's such a big place.

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