All in all, a really good trip to Los Angeles this weekend.
After the long 10K Saturday morning, I got the opportunity to take in two more college basketball games -- and another 10K on Sunday.
Everything about my trip was really predicated based on the hotel I selected, where I got a pretty good rate given the Los Angeles market.
The Friday night basketball game at the Galen Center was close enough -- 8-10 miles -- that I didn't have to get up on one of L.A.'s busy freeways while people were trying to get home from work.
The race Saturday morning was no more than 15-20 minutes away as well Saturday afternoon's basketball game at Loyola Marymount University.
Before the LMU game, I went to downtown Los Angeles -- not too far northeast from the Galen Center -- to register for Sunday morning's Run For Rememberance 10K.
I went east all the way on Slauson Avenue and then went north on Broadway, which put me right in the middle of L.A.'s barrio.
Some of it reminded me much of being in El Paso last October when I was very close to the border with Mexico.
Thing is: I never felt unsafe. However, when you travel in a major city, anywhere, you learn to be very, very aware of your surroundings at all times.
Packet pickup was at the Millenium Wilshire Hotel, just off of 5th Street. Surprisingly, I was able to park in an underground garage, go in and register (paying cash) and be back out on the roads en route to Loyola Marymount in about a half hour.
I arrived at LMU about an hour before game time and had the chance to walk around campus a bit. Smaller campus, but beautiful no less.
The basketball, however, was bad.
Both Loyola Marymount and their opponent, the University of San Diego Torreros, aren't having a great basketball season. It is very easy to see how Gonzaga wins the West Coast Conference year-in and year-out.
Friday night, I paid $15 for a courtside seat and saw a pretty solid women's Pac-12 basketball game.
$21 got me a chair-backed seat two rows behind the LMU bench with nobody around me, but I had the ghosts of Red Auerbach and John Wooden sitting beside me and three kids kicking the seats in front of them, which rattled my entire row.
All I could take was a half and I moved into the upper section, which was sparsely populated, for another quarter before I left.
Flying home (where I'm writing the majority of this), I can't even tell you who won. Haven't even looked. LMU pulled ahead of the University of San Diego, but I had beetn tweeting that it was just simply "bad basketball".
When you're in L.A., you worry about navigating all of the freeways and not getting stuck in a ton of traffic.
For me to get to Hope International University, where a pair of NAIA powerhouses would square off, I would have to take the 405 South to the 105, go east until I reached the 605, go south and pickup the 91 -- I think the Riverside Freeway -- until I got to 57, where I would go north.
I had plenty of time. I got a bite to eat at a place called Pieology Pizzeria, which is a bit like Subway, Freebirds and Chipotle but with pizza pies.
Design your own pizza and have your own thin-crust in about 7-8 minutes. Pretty impressive and pretty tasty too.
I found Hope International - after driving past the gym once -- early enough where I was able to see the second half of the women's game between Hope International and Biola University.
However, I was there to see the men's game. Oh, and the admission fee was just $5.
Biola University, under Dr. Dave Holmquist, has been an NAIA power for 30 years. He entered the year just shy of 900 wins and was sitting at 910 entering Saturday's game as the 10th-ranked team in the nation.
Meanwhile, Hope International, who honestly I had never heard of before, was coached by Bill Cezch and was 7th.
Both schools are faith-based, Christian institutions -- and they play some pretty good NAIA-level basketball.
A lot of the guys at the NAIA level can play at the NCAA Division I level, but some just aren't a fit where the stakes -- as a revenue sport -- are a little higher.
Both teams averaged in the 70- to 80-point range, but neither team had passed the 40-point mark at halftime.
It was a defensive battle all night long. There were a lot of missed shots, but it wasn't necessarily because of bad shot selection. Both teams hammered it inside, which you see less and less these days at the NCAA Division I level. And for the most part, the referees let them play.
It was refreshing and enjoyable to watch versus an upper level AAU or summer league basketball game.
Hope International beat Biola by just over 10 points, which they've done quite a bit since Czech took over a program that had gone something like 20-288 in the previous 10-11 years before he took the job after spending 15-plus years at Fullerton Union High School.
Sunday morning had an early wakeup call for a 7 a.m. start, something I'm very familiar with as much race announcing that I've done.
I left the hotel at 5:15 a.m. and planned out the right route that put me in Beverly Hills by about 5:40 a.m., which I needed because there had been a long line to get into the parking structure for a set of shops called The Grove.
I actually broke to the start line at about 6:40 a.m., because it was a little chily at 52 degrees (which turned out to be perfect to run in).
The race was to pay honor to fallen first responders -- and to thank them for their service in the greater Los Angeles area.
For a first-time race with both a half marathon and a 10K in a major city with a pretty good crowd, the event production team, I think, hit a home run.
They had some waves - by about 90 seconds each. I was in the fourth wave and I crossed 5 minues after the first gun sounded.
Mario Lopez was the celebrity host. (Check out his instagram feed for the crowd selfie that he took and you'll see Mr. Non-Expressive himself there in the sea of runners.)
For the 10K, it was right out onto Beverly Blvd., left on to La Brea, right onto Melrose and then east to turn left on to the Paramount Studios lot, which was actually pretty cool.
We passed the mile 3 mark - after going through a section set up with displays of officers whose watches had ended while on duty -- and before we exited the property, they had the red carpet laid down.
It is one thing to have it at a local race in Houston, which I don't do, and totally another thing to do it in L.A. on the Paramount lot.
It was right out of their grounds and run the course in reverse to the finish.
I think I was in the upper 1:04 range after racing 7-plus miles the day before without having any regular miles on my legs.
Thought about both my sister and my grandfather while I was running on the course, which I pretty much always do while I have time to think.
I ended the day back at LAX to get ready to fly home and had one of my great Sunday phone calls with my daughter -- one of the great privileges I get as a parent while she's off to school at Liberty University.