The Women’s World Cup is Awesome

Last summer, when people kept telling me the World Cup was starting, I was like, “No, no, I’m sure that’s next summer.” Hah. Turns out I was sort of right. Just turns out that I sort of care more about women’s soccer than men’s.

So when I found out the final was in Vancouver and tickets were like $70, it was a no-brainer to go.

At first, I wanted to work the tournament for FOX. Then, I actually didn’t want to work at all because I am exhausted. Then, I sort of ended up working anyway, writing this and this.

It was still sort of a vacation, except with a lot of driving. We drove up to Eugene on Thursday, but because traffic was insane we didn’t get there until late. Headed right to a brewery and then ran Pre’s Trail in the morning (which isn’t that cool a park, but is such a soft trail that I managed over 10 miles without really feeling it—even though it was so, so hot and my ankle has been bad lately). Bought some stuff from the Nike store, naturally, and then hit the road again.

More traffic on Friday, because cars are just my most favorite thing, and we finally got to Vancouver around 9:30 p.m. We were staying in the West End, which I picked based on three things: you could walk to the stadium, there were lots of bars and restaurants, and we were close to Stanley Park. I was right. It was a pretty cool area and Stanley Park has to be the best urban park around. But I didn’t get to run in it much, because the wildfires meant the smoke got really heavy and thick by Sunday.

The game, itself, was kind of insane. Soccer goes by so fast. It’s not like baseball. You have to load up on all your food and drinks beforehand, or you’ll miss something. Then three goals are scored in 15 minutes and aren’t you glad you loaded up before the kick-off? And then, in less than two hours, it was over. We stayed for the celebration, but there’s only so long you can keep cheering. Outside the stadium, it was just about one TV camera per every ten spectators. We hit up a bar and tried to figure out a way to get into the team party, but the smoke was getting so bad and we were both so tired, then we didn’t prowl the streets too long.

I wrote about what it was like and women’s soccer and Hope Solo and Canada.

Then it was more traffic Monday morning, when we spent well over an hour at the border. The border agent seemed weirdly suspicious of us, when I said we weren’t bringing any food back and didn’t buy anything, so finally I was like, “Oh, well, yeah a t-shirt.” Which wasn’t true, but it made him feel better and he waved us through and we went on to Seattle.

I got to run in another park, Discovery Park, which was very cool, but maybe my least favorite of the three. And then we went to the Space Needle (because you ought to do that one time you go to Seattle), the big REI store, and of course another brewery.

Now, vacation’s done and I’m so tired I don’t even know how to get back to work.

USA! USA! USA!
USA! USA! USA!
The celebration -- through the increasing smoke.
The celebration — through the increasing smoke.

‘He Can Be Gotten’: Our Ireland Trip

We got back from our 9 days (10 days? who knows with the time zones, it is not knowable) in Ireland. And I’ve basically spent all week since then trying to rally.

The trip was sort of a blur, but after way too much drinking and not enough training I got really worried about Escape from Alcatraz this upcoming weekend. (I mean, literally, I did not have a day while we were on vacation that I didn’t have at least two drinks and I averaged four or five per day. While in Ireland…) So, last weekend, while we were in Belfast, I got very concerned about this and decided I needed to do something to snap back into gear.

Time for a local 5K with Steve’s cousin!

The 5K was ugly and the super-fatty lamb belly I had the night before, at a hip/trendy Belfast restaurant, btw, where we saw the girl who played Ygritte in Game of Thrones eating next to us, did not sit well while running. But I did not stop for a bathroom break until after I finished and I managed to do the two loops around the park in 20:03ish. We’ll call that a success.

While I was running, spectators kept yelling things and it turns out Ireland is, like, a totally different country and they yell different things than we do. Instead of “You can catch him,” people yelled, “He can be gotten.” Which is, really, just so much more theoretical. Like, they’re not saying you can do it, just that it can be done. And then, since I was pretty far in the lead of the women’s race, someone yelled, “Now, make it a good one!” I like that.

That’s the goal for this weekend now. That, hopefully, when I jump off the boat it’ll all come back to me and I’ll make it a good one.

First, we had an 8-hour layover in London, during which we saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and had Indian food and a beer with Ming. Much better than hanging out in an airport:

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In Dublin, we got a little lost trying to find the visitor’s part of the Guinness factory, but the actual factory was so much more interesting:

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And I learned the right way to pour the beer, even though I don’t even like Guinness:

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Then we caught the train to Galway and a bus to the ferry terminal and a ferry to the Aran Islands off the west coast, which have a total of about 1,000 people on the three islands. But a drunk guy on the bus let us know that, “The big island’s gotten so commercialized. The have a police officer now.”

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As you can tell, it rained a little bit. But when we got up to Belfast I really wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway, which is super crazy. You can’t tell that well in pictures (especially the picture where Kelley and I are doing some kind of candid photo imitation), but those hexagonal rocks are not man-made. Which is insane.

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Don’t you really feel like instead of using this rope bridge for 300 years to harvest salmon, they could have just eaten all the sheep everywhere?

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We also saw the Peace Wall in Belfast, which is very, very much still there and more walls are being built even now. And, Steve’s cousin showed us all the murals, for both sides of the Troubles. Belfast is definitely a safe and up-and-coming city, but the amount of conflict still there is insane.

ireland-13 ireland-14And then we had a 6-hour layover in Philly, which also has a lot of monuments dedicated to fighting the British and gaining independence, but they have a very different tone to them. Almost like the dominant narrative has been established and isn’t still up in the air.

Now, I’m home for about two weeks? Sigh.

Some Thoughts About Turkey

My favorite picture I took was of this guy selling flags in Istanbul. I wonder if there's someone's blog somewhere with a picture of me.
My favorite picture I took was of this guy selling flags in Istanbul. I wonder if there’s someone’s blog somewhere with a picture of me.

 

Yes, I went to Turkey. That’s sort of why I’ve disappeared from the internet, though that may have as much to do with the fact that I’ve also simply stopped sleeping. People keep asking if I’m jet lagged and if that’s why I look so terrible. But, I’m pretty sure I’ve been back for a quite a few days. I think it’s more the lack of sleeping.

Turkey is an interesting place. I don’t have a ton of insight into it, since I was only there for a week and we mostly were on a strict schedule of five-hour dinners and hitting all the highlights. There’s a lot of history, including a bunch I didn’t know, and a pretty big cultural divide I think between eastern and western Turkey. I think. Because there really was no way I was going to the south-east border to confirm that suspicion. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m super American. I basically can be spotted for American from across a packed crowd. I think it’s the hair and the clothes and the accent and the attitude. After some time in Morocco (back in the day), I’d get mistaken for Belgian occassionally, but that was only after I got a lot quieter and collapsed in on myself from the months of misunderstandings and general wearing down of being a woman traveling by yourself. So.

"Come, spend your money here."
“Come, spend your money here.” And other things shouted as we walked by.

 

Here are some Turkish observations:

– Istanbul is really crowded. There are 15 million people there and I’m pretty sure not a single one of them gives a rat’s ass about not walking in front of moving cars.
– Izmir was my favorite of the places we went.
– In Izmir, a bunch of teenagers (or tiny college kids, who knows) hung out in the big square at night to roller-blade.
– There were also leeches for sale at the bazaar/market. And wedding dresses. And tupperware. And scuba gear.
– Stray kitten were everywhere. Not cats, kittens, even baby kittens. They were like the rats of Turkey, but cuter. See:

History cats.
History cats.

 
– People don’t seem to run outside much. At first, I thought maybe they just aren’t that into the whole fitness thing fills up nearly every large American park on weekends. But, on closer inspection, the gyms were full. (I even walked in on a cycling class in the hallway of the hotel gym full of local, very attractive and very made-up yuppie Turkish women, and a DJ.) But, I did not see a single woman, besides me, getting her sweat on outside. Evidently, though, there was a Northface ultra in Cappadocia, which I totally should have done if I had known about it beforehand, and there were women who finished it. So, who knows. Maybe I’m completely wrong.
– They are into their swimming though. Nice pools.
– I saw one person in spandex riding a road bike — through the insane Istanbul traffic. That’s got to be rough.
– If you are interested in working out not indoors, head to the waterfront. There are really nice paths in most of the coastal towns and crazy big palaces that have now been turned into hotels. And, it’s a worthwhile way to see things and people you wouldn’t usually see.
– Of all the tourist sites — and Turkey has a lot, because it has a lot of history — Ephesus was the one that was totally worth it.
– Do the tourist places, yes, because they’re impressive, but wander around some too. Turkey strikes me as a place that can’t be known without wandering, and I don’t feel like I did enough of it.

As someone who hates tourists on principle (and also because they're The Worst in Marin), it was quite hard being one.
As someone who hates tourists on principle (and also because they’re The Worst in Marin), it was quite hard being one.

 
– For somewhat understandable reasons, Americans aren’t that in to going to Turkey right now. I get that. But, in the Western big cities and along the coast I don’t think you have a ton to worry about. It’s a total cross between Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and you should mix right in just fine, unless you’re an idiot. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that nothing would happen, but it seems ok. I would, though, probably stay a decent amount away from the Syrian border.
– I went to Turkey as part of a media press trip for travel writers with Trafalgar Tours. And, they were all totally nice and 96% of the people were cool. And, if tour groups are your thing, they seem to do a very solid job. But, groups (or, really, people in general) are not my thing and I was so, so, so tired.
– Also, I overate beluga caviar at one point. I think that sums things up.

Istanbul-6
Selfies in the Hagia Sophia.

Southwest tries to charge me $175 to switch flights

This has nothing to do with running, cycling, triathlon or sports at all. But…

I flew to Phoenix on Friday. When I bought my tickets, I deliberately flew Southwest because I knew this trip was going to be sort of up in the air and everyone knows Southwest is great for changing flights.

I booked a flight back to SFO on Wednesday originally because that was in the middle of the week and I could always change it to Tuesday or Thursday. Then, it started to seem like I should fly back Tuesday (which is today, btw), because I needed to work. A week ago, when I checked online, it was $37 to switch the Wednesday 8:10 a.m. flight to the Tuesday 8:10 a.m. fight. But, I didn’t do it, because I still wasn’t sure and wouldn’t it suck if I ended up having to switch it back. That was stupid.

A bunch more things came up and I definitely needed to get back on Tuesday, so I went back online to make that switch. Only, now it was $79.

Yes, yes, you don’t have to pay change fees on Southwest, but you do have to pay differences in ticket prices, which have become prohibitively high the closer to the flight.

I figured I’d just ask at the airport when I flew out. Everyone knows it’s easier to change flights at the airport.

Nope. At SFO, they wanted to charge me $115 for the change in ticket prices. From Wednesday to Tuesday. I had a ‘seven day’ fare apparently and they didn’t have any of those fares available. (I don’t know what that means either.) But, you have seats, right? Yes, but you have to pay the difference in the prices. Can I fly standby? Southwest doesn’t really have standby. To fly standby would require an upgrade from my fare, which would also cost $115.

At the gate, the attendant said she couldn’t see that many days ahead on the computer.

The rest of the weekend I checked online. It remained around $80-90 to change. Yesterday I called. The woman said, sure, we can put you on the 6:30 a.m. flight Tuesday morning. Great! Then, she said, it’ll just cost $75. AGHHHH.

But, there were seats available on the 8:10 a.m. flight to SFO today. And on the 10 a.m. flight and the noon flight and the 2:30 p.m. flight. Everyone agreed if I went to the airport in the morning, there was NO WAY they wouldn’t let me just switch onto one of the open flights. I’ve never had a hard time switching flights at the airport – even on United, which has so many other problems. So, Maggie dropped me off at the airport at like 7 a.m. on her way to work.

Sure, the woman at the airport said, they could put me on the 8:10 a.m. flight. It would just cost $175 to upgrade my fare. I can’t pay that, I said. She suggested I check online. I didn’t say that I was hoping she would have more power than the internet. Instead, I said, is the problem that there aren’t seats? No, there are seats. So, are you going to fly the seats empty? Yep.

The airline has to make money somehow, she said, and they don’t charge a change fee. I didn’t say that I would pay a $25 change fee instead of the jacked-up last-minute fare. I didn’t say that ideally the airline is making money doing it’s actual job, not screwing people over at the last minute. Instead, I said, but there are empty seats on the flight leaving in an hour, right? Yep.

She said maybe I just bought this fare without any intention of using it and now I’m trying to rip off the airline for a more expensive seat. I didn’t say that that was the most idiotic thing I’d ever heard, because the seats on the plane were ALL THE SAME. I didn’t say that I was simply trying to change from one flight on Wednesday to the EXACT SAME FLIGHT on Tuesday, and that they had been the same price when I purchased the ticket, that they were equivalent, that one wasn’t better than the other — except to me.

Instead, I said, but you’re just going to fly the plane empty? Yep. Isn’t it better for the airline to just switch me to the exact same earlier flight, in the seats you haven’t sold. You may end up needing my seat tomorrow. You may be able to sell it or you may have delays and be begging me to give it up tomorrow. Isn’t it better for the airline to put me on the earlier empty flight? She said, “I understand.” But, I don’t think she did.

‘There just wasn’t anything she could do.’ Which is my least favorite phrase, because either Southwest lacks the basic computer capabilities of every other airline or what you mean is there just isn’t anything you want to do.

Steve had to fly Southwest last-minute to LA from San Francisco recently and it cost close to $300, which never went down in price (he kept checking), and yet the flight was less than half full. So, it appears that Southwest has made a decision that they’d rather jack up last-minute prices even if it means they’re not be able to sell all the seats. I’m pretty sure basic economics suggests that’s not a great plan to maximize profits.

Because, here, in this example, they flew a plane with empty seats instead of getting the $30-40 I’d be willing to pay to be in one of those seats; they may end up really needing my seat tomorrow and it may cost them more even than that $175 they were trying to take from me; and, I’m way, way less likely to fly Southwest now in the future. That’s kind of a loss for them all around.