I would commence a metaphorical dissertation on the meaning of life, but sadly I’m not a sports commentator, so I lack the qualifications. Also, I’ve never met anyone who’s blue. I guess I’ll leave the best selling novel for next time.

A blue dude? Are we smurfs now?

And I definitely met more than 5 people this off-season, so it’s more the 5 groups of people I met in the off-season. Still, I didn’t go to Vegas, so no groups of blue dudes.

The off-season began the second I’d crossed the Tongyeong finish-line. Actually, no, it began when I finished peeing in a cup about 2 hrs after the race ended. Immediately I went in search of some delicious food with Chelsea Burns, Ben “National Champ” Kanute, and Jarrod Shoemaker. I came back with savory donut holes and lots of Korean fish. Success?

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For chopsticks, metal is less good than wood

In a further search for food we met  Person Number 1: Michael Wright, the race announcer and an expat who’d been living in Seoul for very many years. This proved fortuitous as I had an overnight layover in Seoul the next day and wanted to check out the city with the world’s fastest internet (food was solved at the nearest convenience store selling ice cream).

 

On my flight check-in to Seoul, I was studiously informed that I had an illegal layover planned and would probably have to sleep on the airplane. Or something. I don’t speak airport Korean. Shenanigans ensued but I finagled a 6 hour late arrival to Seoul. Despite lacking phone service (short of paying $1million/call or text), I synced with Michael through the magically fast internet tubes. He found me the only club lacking overly eager women and I proceeded to dance awkwardly with someone on an ice dance tour at a random 80s party.

He departed, but more shenanigans ensued when I discovered that trains stopped running at midnight and I’d be stuck in the middle of Seoul till 5:30 or 6:00am. My hotel was about 90 minutes away, so I had like 4 hours to kill on a Sunday night in Seoul. I spent the first half in a bar being accosted by women of the night and the second half wandering the Namdaemum market taking snapchats of vendors sleeping in their stalls. The next day I saw Gangnam province, so… Success?

I was finally back to a phenomenal room at the Airport Hyatt, courtesy of Four Winds Tours (They’re a student travel organization. Book with them. BOOK WITH THEM) Aside from the dankest of complimentary macaroons, the best part of the room was the most terrifyingly effective bidet. To be frank, the enema diagram scared me off. I can only bidet so hard.

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What about this is American? Or Standard?

From Seoul, I visited the best place I could think of to unwind from a  long season – my brother’s (perhaps haunted) house in Spokane. Many people have their niche, but Brian Billington (Person Number 2!, as part of the larger group – EXTENDED FAMILY) is “enjoying life”. First thing I did there was rappel off a bridge in the middle of the night followed by climbing a statue to discover an engraved meaning of life. Next up were about three halloween parties in a row, in which I was a costumed as either the Great Gatsby or a zoot suit rioter as well as Marky Mark in Ted.

Just in case you were curious, yes I missed the shot pictured above. But we did win a best of five tournament, so eat it Lanning (since he probably isn’t reading this, I’ll explain that he was on the other team and is substantially better at pool than I am, but Team Billington still won).

I also got to spend time with the rest of my extended family, (who reside in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area). I don’t see them often enough, so it was nice to make it back home.

When I wasn’t with him, I also reunited with one of my former xc coaches, Ken Bell (Person Number 3 – Friends in Spokane) and his current team of runners. I trained with his athletes while they prepared for sectionals. One of his guys, Roberto Lopez, absolutely crushed the race, finishing 4th to qualify comfortably for state. Kid’s got some wheels and I’m looking forward to seeing  his track results this spring.

I also met with  old family friends, the Koruses, and ran with their son’s, Patrick Korus’, xc team. They’re family friends, but my most distinct memory of Paula is from when she, my Mom, and another friend, Stephanie Schrimshire, biked El Camino Santiago. We were all driving in a Volkswagon campervan and I was, apparently, attempting the gallon challenge with a bunch of strawberry Nesquik because I was 5 and strawberry Nesquik was the bomb. Surprisingly, lots of milk and a long car ride for tiny children don’t mesh well and I regurgitated ‘pink’ all over Stephanie. The memory is etched into my mind.

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This. All over a Volkswagon Campervan

But anyway, Patrick and his teammates are putting in some serious work and they’re ready for a great track season.

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And New York! I reunited with Dan Yu, a good friend from college and Dorian Dargan, my oldest friend and essentially twin because we have the exact same SAT score. He’s also married and has a child and a real job in the tech industry (YouNow! It’s cool and a thing!). So also not really my twin.

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And NYAC! I finally experienced the NYAC banquet. These are the guys that support tons of Olympians and those still striving. The only thing we have to do in return is have an all-expense paid trip to New York and eat a great banquet. Not too shabby. Thanks Ken and Bouker!

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Back to San Diego, and I was lucky enough to meet Emmanuel Yeboa (Person 5! Yeah, that’s right, this blog is almost done), who is the most inspirational person I’ve ever met. He grew up missing a left shin in Ghana, a country where the discarding of disabled babies is, (according to his documentary Emmanuel’s Gift) commonplace – “They call it seeing you off”. If the child is kept, he is destined for a life of beggary (again, source from Emmanuel’s Gift). Instead of this, Emmanuel didn’t just find himself a job, he found someone with a typewriter and access to a post office and wrote to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. He asked for a bicycle so that could ride across Ghana to demonstrate the capabilities of the disabled. He continued working for equality and was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in the US, created scholarships in Ghana, distributed 100’s of wheelchairs for the disabled, and was the subject of an Oprah Winfrey documentary.

Now he’s moved to the US, but hasn’t stopped trying accomplish the incredible. He’s planning a ride across America and I rode with him while he was doing a practice ride from San Diego to Oregon. He had virtually no support, but was happy the whole time, possessing a calm confidence that he could overcome anything. It didn’t matter that he had no route planned, we just plugged “current location to San Clemente” into my phone, pressed “bike route” and rode out of town.

I’ll continue spreading distributing pictures and videos of this guy, but look him up at EmmanuelYeboah.org. He’s a phenomenal person.

Honorable mention because he was last chronologically and I don’t count when I make my titles is Dusty Nabor! I’ve heard a bunch about this guy over the years and it was great to finally meet him. We drove up to his Christmas party and it was incredible. It lacked the dancing guidos I was promised, but we did get to watch Conor “The Notorious” McGregory destroy Jose Aldo on the teevee. I don’t watch much (any) cage fighting, but that was pretty cool. And we did a sweet ride the next day.

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And now, here’s your inspirational quote of the blog.

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