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

Friday, August 15, 2008

Return to the Village

It's been a couple days since I was able to post. Now that I'm back at the Olympic Village, there is so much going on. I was able to see my family (YAY!) for the first time here in China on Friday and now that I'm in Beijing I'm feeling very Olympic!

Let's go back to Friday, my last day in Dalian. I got in a short morning training session around the resort, just enough to stretch the legs before the flight over to Beijing. Our trip to the Dalian airport was eventful only because there was no police escort. It felt bizarre to be in normal Chinese traffic with buses and motorcycles and taxis zooming in and out. There were pedestrians and bicycles and mule-drawn carts. After all the heavy security, it was unnerving.

We were met at the airport by China Northern representatives and I assumed it would all go smoothly. Nope. Ian Dobson, Jen Rhines and I were the only three athletes returning to the Village, but for some reason Ian and I weren't in the system. Eventually they sorted it out, got everyone tickets, and took us to the VIP lounge. Ian was stressing out at first because he had never been into a First Class VIP lounge and with all the delays he was worried we weren't going to have time to enjoy it. Well, we ended up getting spoiled in the VIP lounge. We were the VIPs of the VIP. No kidding, they sat us down, got us drinks and then a few minutes later open of the attendants came over and said, "You are very lucky customers, lucky customers." Ian and I were thinking, "Yeah, we're in VIP, we feel lucky all right."

Jen, Ian and I were brought to the front of the VIP lounge, introduced to the vice president of China Northern Airlines, and told to pose for photos. Then they rolled out a huge cake with a big "2" on it and champagne glasses. The VP cut the cake, then they insisted that Jen cut a slice while posing for more photos. Ian was next, then I had to smile, cut a slice of cake, and raise a glass of champagne to the second anniversary of the China Northern Airlines VIP lounge. It was all very surreal.

On arrival into Beijing, we were sitting in the Olympic Village shuttle bus when a couple Irish officials came and sat down across the aisle. The guy looked very familiar but I couldn't quite place him at first. Then I realized it was Patrick Ryan! Patrick and I met in 1992 when I was on an Irish Literature study abroad program with Carleton College. I found out that there was a track meet with a 10,000mt racewalk and I jumped in. Patrick and I walked the whole thing together and finished in a tie: Irish Under-23 National Champions. We hung out together a few more times, I had a great time visiting with his family at his hometown, and we made a promise that we would see each other at the Olympics some day. Well, he's here as the Irish National racewalk coach and I'm competing. Today we kept saying, "16 years ago...."

After getting back to the Village and settling in, I was able to track down Liz, Miles, Mom, Dad and Malcolm. We all got together and hung out at the apartment. It was so wonderful to see everyone for the first time since back home. Then we all went over to the Bird's Nest to watch the track and field competition. The highlight was the women's 10,000 meters. USA's Shalane Flanagan, who had been sick and throwing up just three days earlier, came from behind for a stunning bronze medal. It was an incredibly courageous race (and she just came by the TV room where I am typing up this blog... brush with fame!).

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