A week before my birthday, Nicole surprised me a couple different times. I woke up Saturday morning and drove over to St. Helena for a trail marathon. I left the house a little after 8 AM with Nicole waving me off. Later in the day, Phil and Suzan were coming to dinner along with friends of theirs who had run the Western States years ago and we were going to swap running stories. A few trees, still in the containers, stood next to the driveway waiting for me to plant them when I returned. Looking at the yard, there was a lot of work waiting to be done. So I pulled out and headed over to St. Helena for the run. A few minutes later, Randi called me needing some help with Kaiser. Luckily, the problem was simple and was resolved without needing to stop. About 35 minutes later I arrived at the marathon. A couple hundred people gathered near the start, most were running the 10K and half. After a quick countdown, the few of us running the marathon were off. After the first mile, I ran by myself, slightly ahead of the small group, pushing my legs up the hills and listening to myself breathing pretty hard. I would describe the course as difficult with some steep climbs. The course has a couple dangerous descents that will quickly put you on your rear end if you’re not careful. I took one spill when my right foot slid down the hillside but overall I ran without rolling an ankle or landing on my face. About 3 hours later I crossed the finish line, jumped in the car and headed back to Santa Rosa. On the drive home I called Nicole and told her that I had won the marathon event. She said Carl and Barb called and needed help finding a TV and digital camera. They wanted to met after I went to the movies with Joe and Michael. I realized any plans I had for yard work would need to be postponed.
I pulled up to our house and parked the car in the garage, showered and quickly ate some pasta. I had just a few minutes at home. Joe and Michael picked me up a few minutes later and we were off to see “Two For The Money”. Going to the movie almost never happened. A couple days earlier, Joe called and invited me to the movie. I told him that I would rather go on Sunday since I needed to work on the yard on Saturday afternoon. Nicole kept trying to convince me to go and work around on the house on Sunday instead. So Friday night I called Joe and asked if he still wanted to go. Luckily he said Saturday was still open. So Joe and Michael took me to the movies for my birthday. Then after the movie we stopped by REI and looked at some running shoes and searched for Joe’s new mountain bike.
Next, I met Carl and Barb at Starbucks immediately after REI and we talked TV’s and digital cameras. A little after 5 PM I said that I needed to head home. They drove me home and we pulled into the driveway. Getting out of the car, I mentioned that I would ask Nicole if we could squeeze another 3 people at the dinner table. Barb shot back, “Oh yea! I’m sure Nicole would love that.” It was 5:30 PM and Phil, Suzan and their friends weren’t supposed to arrive until 6 PM. So when we walked up to the front door and I heard voices I thought I was late and in trouble. Peeking in the window I saw some faces and thought Nicole’s going to kill me since I hadn’t been home all day and know I’m late for company. Opening the door, I saw Nicole walking towards me, then I saw Robin, Maureen and Phil. Then everybody came from the kitchen and around the corner and said happy birthday. I stood there speechless. So many friendly faces and everybody had a smile. What a wonderful way to come home. I came home to my surprise 35th birthday party.
It took a few minutes to get my thoughts together. I had no idea this was coming. Looking back, it became clear as to why Nicole tried so hard to get me out of the house but at the time I wasn’t connecting the dots.
This was the first time we had a large group over to the house. The yard still needed landscaping and some pictures still needed to be hung, but it was fun to have so many friends together. We ate dinner (apricot chicken, bourbon glazed salmon, saffron rice, salad with green apples and candied walnuts, rasberry jello salad, baked brie with sundried tomatoes and more), then had cake (chocolate and caramel macadamia tart, Viennese chocolate cake). My personal favorite: Nicole’s chocolate and caramel macadamia tart.
The Roomba (our new pet) took center stage for a few minutes and gave everybody a quick demonstration of robotic vacuuming. I then opened cards and gifts. I couldn’t believe everybody’s generosity and I received some great books, a wireless card, tons of fun gift cards to REI and music stores. Richard and Olga gave me a Giro cycling helmet. All night Nicole had kept me out of the office and finally she told me her present was in the office. She walked me to the office and had me open the door. I had NO idea what was behind the door. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing in front of me was a brand new Trek Equinox 11. Tears formed in my eyes. This blew me away! I just stood there, stunned. After my heart started up again, we rolled the bike out so I could bore everybody about the details of the bike. Then the Carlsons presented me with a new tri seat to match the bike. What a night. I kept resisting the temptation to grab the bike and dart out the door and take the bike for a sprint down the driveway.
Everybody hung around, watched some of the World Series and shared stories. All night I couldn’t believe Nicole had corralled everybody together and pulled this off. The day had started on a positive note and kept getting better as it went on. By the time I walked in the door, the day was perfect and will definitely be a day I will not forget.