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Roll’em Up!

11

During my last post, I chronicled my excitement over finishing my last class in grad school and the subsequent liberation of time. Since then, I’m happy to say that I have taken grad school to the symbolic finisher’s chute: graduation.

TADA!

TADA! Master of Public Health in hand.

In many ways, the event was quite similar to finishing an Ironman. I was secretly obsessed with finishing fast and furious, there was plenty of chaffing from my robes, and there was a LOT of pizza and beer following the event.

Great friends trade great beer. I will miss you all.

Great friends trade great beer. I will miss you all.

It’s been a while since I have been in a grad ceremony, and it was a truly wonderful day. It was even better to have my parents and family there by my side.

Since my kiddos and wife have been land locked in Montana since at least the last glacier flow, I decided to take a few days off work for a relaxing vacation in the city. Of course, the concept of a relaxing vacation with four kids in a hotel room is as logical as a k-tape for hemorrhoids.  Yet, I figured with having left my family fatherless more times than I want to remember over the last two years, it was my time to pay them back. So for a good three days, I traded swimming, cycling, and running for strollering, sightseeing, and restraunting.

I even contributed to the gum wall.

However, in true endurance athlete style, we vacationed the crap out of Seattle. Space needle. Done. Pike Market. Done twice. Shopping. With the way my credit card statement looks, I don’t know if I can say “done” yet. One of the best moments was taking my youngest to the Seattle Aquarium. Personally, I love aquariums, and apparently this fascination runs in the family. There is nothing better than seeing the expression of pure wonder and amazement from an infant. He was especially enthralled with Hawaiian fish exhibit. Maybe a good sign?

Aquariums. Like the Craig Alexander of museums.

Aquariums. Like the Craig Alexander of museums.

As always, Seattle was greatly accommodating, and I want to give a couple of shout outs. First, the Grand Hyatt was amazing again. If you have little kids, I highly recommend one of the executive suites; it certainly fills the primary needs of family’s: multiple potties, space to run, TV’s, and good time out spots.

For our celebration dinner, we looked hard to find a small private room in the city. Our search ended with Blueacre Seafood. The owner, who is an avid fly fisherman and thus naturally already awesome, personally and promptly responded to our inquiries for a quiet nook to enjoy dinner with the children, and they offered us their incredible Blue Marlin Room. The owner also runs the famous Steelhead Diner near the market, and the food was incredible. We enjoyed an amazing spread of raw oysters. I also sampled an exciting dish called “Viking herring” and followed this with a perfect swordfish. All under the careful attention of the chef himself. If you need a restaurant that welcomes families and has incredible eats also, I can’t recommend Blueacre enough.

Viking herring at Blueacre Seafood.

Viking herring at Blueacre Seafood.

Finally, we saved a boatload of money by using the City Pass. Normally, I am skeptical of such combo purchases, but I left all hesitation behind when I got to skip the ginormous line for tickets at the Space Needle.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After completing the eight-hour drive back from Seattle in the mini-van, I just couldn’t wait to get back to my desk at the office, even though it looked like someone had tried to build a fort out of charts on it. In my opinion, this is a tell-tale sign of a good vacation.

Yes, I was eager to get back to this.

Yes, I was eager to get back to this.

Naturally, after taking four days off from any exercise, my body needed to be chiseled back out of stiffness. I put in a surprisingly fun and smooth seven mile run the morning after I got back.  Unfortunately, I ended up getting a nasty blister and it looks like it’s time for some new shoes. I also got in a swim and everything still seems great there.

I was pretty anxious about my cycling ability, as I have not been paying attention to this discipline as much lately. I have been thinking about dropping my FTP a little to reflect this, but I decided to stick with what I got for today’s workout.

OW.

OW.

While it went better than expected, today was fairly painful. And, as per protocol, I have come down with the post travel hellish cold, and this workout has left me on the couch with a fever. Oh well. Pass the OJ.

After finishing up school, I have already developed a sense of “now what.” I mean of course, I am concentrating on my family and work more, which is greatly rewarding. But, everyone knows that endurance athletes need finish lines to chase in life. As luck would have it, a visit to a familiar beach in Coeur d’Alene during a drive break this weekend provided the next to answer to my persistent question.

Coeur d’Alene 2014, here I come. Either that or law school.

Where the Westin Wind Blows

Even as a regular blogger, I’m amazed sometimes at the power of the internet. Case in point; as you may remember from last week, I had an interesting evening as a guest of the Westin Hotel in Seattle. The cause of my memorable night was the wind storm that followed the snow and ice blitzkrieg Seattle endured recently. I can normally sleep through anything (I once fell asleep on my trainer), but the sound of the wind and the creaking walls proved too much for my deaf ears.

Now, one interest that may not have been apparent in the blog is my love of weather phenomenon. I giggle at the thought of inversions. I love watching thunderstorms roll in, even while on the bike. I was once nearly wiped out by a tornado in Iowa. I have endured floods and hurricanes. All with a smile. So, despite the associated lack of sleep, when the Westin began to sound like a pirate ship on the high seas, I thought it was actually pretty fascinating. I even recorded a video of it and shared with the local news as I thought people would want to know how windy it was out.

As it turns out, my three tweets and blog post attracted not just news but also the Westin Management itself. In less than an hour, without me ever sending anything to Westin over Twitter, I had been direct messaged by Starwood management three times. To my shock, the Westin Management was genuinely concerned about my rough night and they offered several methods to get over the noise, like pillows and ear plugs.

The Westin’s care for its guests didn’t stop with the sunrise the next day. After I returned from my lectures, I was greeted with a note from management that explained the noise situation in the hotel. Management kept on the ball even after I left and had returned back to Big Sky Country. Today, via email, I received an email from the hotel manager, Andrea Norton. Within that correspondence, she again apologized for the wind noise, explained the cause, and compensated me with 1000 Starpoints on my Starwood Preferred Guest Account. Just awesome.

From my discussion of other businesses, my readers know that I love businesses that go the extra mile to show they care for their customers. I am not the type of guy that demands everything be perfect all the time. Like an affordable Cervelo P5, some wishes are not just realistic. As we all know, all tall buildings like the Westin (I think it has 45 floors) are designed to flex in the wind. Sure, the noise was a little louder than I expected, but it’s not like you can easily go and rebuild the structure to be less noisy while trying to not fall over in the wind. And the wind was a little extreme last Friday night.  It’s easier to use ear plugs…and maybe another glass of wine.

In addition, other than the wind, my stay at the Westin Seattle was excellent. I am pretty particular in my hotel selections, and the Westin was a great experience overall. I’m not talking about all the BS points either; the Westin got things right for the stuff that really matters to travelers. Here’s what the Westin rocked:

  1. The key cards work easily on the first swipe.
  2. The elevators don’t take too long.
  3. I couldn’t hear my neighbors.
  4. There were plenty of plugs on the desk to hook my phone and laptop.
  5. The wifi WORKS, is faster than snail mail, and was available in both my room and the lobby.
  6. There is a gym with plenty of modern treadmills, bikes with watt output, water, fresh towels, and sanitation wipes for equipment.
  7. The soap in the bathroom didn’t suck.
  8. The toilet paper was soft.
  9. My room was clean and smelled fine.
  10. The concierge was available at all times, but didn’t try to stop me to make small talk while I’m rushing out to start the day.
  11. There is decent beer on tap with free bar snacks in the lobby.
  12. I got a cab to the airport in less than 30 seconds.
  13. Good food at a decent price.

Yummy breakfast option

These are the things I really care about, and if you do also, I recommend the Westin to you. If you need anything at all in your stay, I’m certain that the staff and management will do all they can do to accommodate your needs. This triathlete will again be staying at the Westin during my next visit in Seattle at the beginning of March. Sure, I may bring a few ear plugs, but I will also bring a great appreciation for the hotel and its staff/management.

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