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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Bug's Travel Bug


I haven't talked much about Geocaching, even though I've been doing it for a while, and I have the Geocaching.com badge on the blog's left column. I've reached a new level! I have created my own Travel Bug!

Let me explain. Geocaching is kinda dorky - but I like it. :) What happens is that someone goes somewhere (you'd be surprised where - sometimes parking lots, sometimes in the woods or in parks, sometimes on the side of the road - basically anywhere) and hides a small box or some such. Boxes can be very small - about the size of watch battery - or very large - like a big tool box or even larger. Inside the box is a log book, and often prizes, trinkets and things. This is called a "cache" and the person who hides it goes to a website, geocaching.com, and enters some information and hints about it, and the GPS coordinates of where it's hidden. Then, you can go online and get the coordinates of the cache and find it. When you find it, you sign the log and record that you found it on the website. It's like a big scavenger hunt.

So, I've been doing this since March, when my co-workers decided that they wanted to give it a try. We went out a couple times at lunch and found some caches right near my office. Then, I went to Bonaire and found one that didn't require a GPS. Once I returned, I decided to go ahead and get a GPS, and now I cache periodically (I've found 26 to date). They're all over the world, and we plan to cache in Hawaii and Indonesia when we go - we found a cache while we were in Florida in early August.

So, why? Well, frankly, the answer is "because." I find it interesting and it gives me something to do. I like looking at my stats and seeing where things are hidden, and they can also lead us to interesting and pretty places. There is one in Indonesia that claims to take you to a secluded beach with an old temple on it, and that sounds interesting. I know Boy Scouts and things will sometimes Geocache in order to learn navigation and such. We were unable to cache in Little Cayman because it was just too hot and we would have had to bike over 14 miles in order to find the cache. The interesting thing is that the person who hid 2 of the caches on Little Cayman was, by complete coincidence, our wedding photographer.

So, I made a Travel Bug. What's that? Well, it's an item - and it can be anything, with a dogtag attached to it (geocaching.com also tracks geocoins, which are coins that are similar to the dog tags, but without an item attached). Each dogtag has a code on it. When you find one in a cache, you take it and then go to the website and enter the code. This will show you a log of where this item has been, and sometimes the items have goals. You don't keep the Travel Bugs, you place them in a new cache and help them on their way, either to their goal or to travel around the world. As an example, I have had a travel bug that wanted to be photographed in National Forests (I was unable to help, but picked it up in Hampstead and dropped it in Cunningham Falls State Park). Another travel bug wanted to be photographed in Disney World. Again, I couldn't help without keeping it for too long, but I picked it up in Thurmont and dropped it in Leesburg, Florida (getting it awfully close to Disney!).

This travel bug is a photo of The Bug. The Bug's goal for his travel bug is to have it photographed with cats all around the world. Let's see how far he gets! I hope to drop him in a cache within the next few days. There is a good sized cache just around the corner from my house.
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Throwing Out Socks

An amazing thing happened last week.  I went to run on Tuesday, and the heel of my sock didn't fit on my heel anymore, it was all stretched out as old socks tend to get.  Why is this weird, you ask?

Well, these socks are old, for sure.  I first purchased my first pair of running socks in 2005.  That means that this sock could be up to 4 years old.  I only know of the one poorly fitting one, I don't exactly keep them in perfectly matched pairs since they all look the same.  I was numbering them for a while, but stopped, and the one that is going out of commission is unnumbered.

It's crazy!  I have fretted over these socks before, complaining that they are $9.99 a piece, and that $10 for one pair of socks is just nutty.  But, they're important.  They wick the sweat away instead of being heavy like cotton socks get when wet.  They help prevent blisters, and they're seamless, so there's no annoying seam rubbing on your feet for 20 miles.  These are, in fact, awesome socks.  And now, it seems, they last a long time, too, since in over 4 years, this is the first one I've had to throw away.

I don't know how many pairs I own, I would guess around 9 or 10 pairs.  Unsure.  For being such an important part of my running wardrobe, I would say $90-100 over 4 years is a bargain.

And so, here they are, the socks I wear, and the socks you'll see in every running photo I have.

Balega Enduro Socks.

Goodbye, fair sock.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Annapolis Ten Mile Run 2009

I went into this race feeling like I didn't know what I wanted to do.  On the one hand, I have been doing well this year, feeling fast, strong and good about my running.  On the other hand, when you try too hard at Annapolis, it is a miserable race and part of me was dreading feeling like I killed myself for nothing if I hadn't done well.  So, I went into it giving it a try.

I went the first mile pushing to see how fast I could do it and still feel comfortable.  I managed to pull it off in 11:48, when a PR time for me would be just over 12:00 per mile.  This made me happy.  Mile 2: 11:12.  Mile 3: 11:55.  Mile 4: 11:45.  I was feeling pretty awesome about those splits.

Then, the bridge.  Now, the Severn River Bridge is the most difficult part of the race, and you hit it in miles 5 and 9.  Still, Mile 5, including the bridge: 12:10 - only 10 seconds off my goal pace and I still had lots of spare seconds left to stay ahead of a 12 minute overall pace.  From there on out, I had some less than spectacular splits, but still kept my overall average for miles 5, 6, 7 and 8 at about 12:20.  Mile 9, another mile with the Severn River Bridge in it? 11:55.  Awesome!!

Mile 10 was somewhat slower, I admit that the 11:55 on the bridge took a lot out of me.  Temperatures had risen, and I don't perform as well in the heat.  I was tired and I'd been busting my ass all race.  I slowed down, but still finished (I think - results aren't out yet, and my watch has been wrong before) in 2:01.  My previous PR, in 2006, was 2:03.  FINALLY, a PR on this course! (subject to change, based on what happens when I see the results).

As for the details of the race itself (besides split times), I ran alone, except for the first half mile or so, when I ran with Sue.  I didn't have a lot of people out doing my pace today, and I was ok with running by myself.  Todd finished and then came down the course, and I saw him when I had about a quarter of a mile left.  He ran with me and cheered me on at the finish.

There were some parking issues, I noticed.  We came from the area of the Bay Bridge (since we slept at my mom's last night), and so we had zero traffic (plus, we always park at the easy to get in and out of courthouse).  However, others were not so lucky.  When we turned off of Route 50, we could see that Route 50 Eastbound had at least a 4 or 5 mile backup of people trying to get to the race.  While we were running, there were cars stuck on the road in the first mile.  People who were late getting into the parking lot because of traffic had just had to turn off their cars and sit and watch the race pass them.  It was painful to watch.

I think this race needs some corrals.  It's so tough to be a back of the pack person who ends up in the front/mid pack.  However, it's not to be and I end up spending the first few miles getting passed by just about everyone.  I mean, it's a fast race, so technically I don't even belong on it (no year, including this one, have I finished in the required 12 minute time requirement, although I was passing the bridge on the way back to the stadium with the required 12 minute pace).

It seems like a lot of people did really well.  We had great weather - the heat index "only" reached the lower 80's by the end of the race when it's usually in the 90's by then.  Nice time, awesome shirt.

UPDATE: Official time, 2:01:47.  Results

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Lot of Angry Trainers

I'm not sure where I first saw the Time article titled, "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin," but I definitely know that a lot of people got very upset about it. I personally follow the blogs and/or Facebook pages of several personal trainers. Two of them, Josh Hillis and Sean O'Malley, wrote long articles about why Time was wrong, wrong, wrong. I ignored the article at first, but after reading what Josh and Sean had to say, I thought I would chime in.

The article's main points are the following:
  1. The only reason to exercise is to lose weight
  2. Exercise is hard
  3. The author hates the gym
  4. Exercise makes the author hungry
  5. The author eats to fulfill that hunger - and what he chooses is fast food.
  6. The author does not lose weight
  7. There are some studies out there that make it sound as if the author's anger at exercise is justified
  8. The author writes for Time magazine.
I was actually taking this in stride some, because frankly I didn't feel like getting all worked up about it, but actually, I do think it was a pretty irresponsible piece for Time to publish.
First of all, there are many, many reasons to exercise, and frankly I think we should just drop the whole "I need to lose weight" thing. If you want to work out, fine. If you want to eat better fine. Focus on those things, and the weight results will come, I promise. You will feel better and you will be healthy.

The article says, "One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you will lose weight." Really? Because I haven't ever accepted that. There's no rule out there being touted by doctors or personal trainers saying this. The rule is, "Eat less calories than you burn, and you will lose weight." That means that if you exercise, you can eat more and still lose weight. Period.

The author discusses going to the gym and then having, "the lip-licking anticipation of perfectly salted, golden-brown French fries..." Dude, it's called self control. Get some.

I mean, YEAH, you will be hungry after you work out for an hour. No kidding. This isn't some big mystery. The key is that you don't go to McDonald's and eat a meal, you eat something healthier. And I'm not talking salad here. How about some grilled chicken, black beans, avocado and some veggies? It's a delicious meal, and probably you could have fit it into your diet with our without exercise, so have a small dish of ice cream, too.

America doesn't need another reason to not exercise, trust me. The problem with people who think like this, though, is that people assume that you burn a whole lot more calories than you do when you work out. They also assume that food has a lot less calories in it than it actually does.

Take this meal, for example:

  • Chickfila Chicken Sandwich
  • Medium (note: not value sized) Waffle Fries
  • Large Diet Coke
  • Vanilla Milkshake (small, not even a large here)
And let's say that's your treat after you ran. How far would you have to run to burn that off? 3 miles? 5 miles? NO. You'd have to run 13 miles to run that meal off. You'd have to run 2 more miles if you wanted to get a large fry and a large milkshake. Switch that over to a large regular Coke and you'll have to run 2 more miles on top of that. And guess what? There isn't much stuff in that meal that is going to stick with you - just a lot of sodium and fat - so if you eat that meal, then you are going to be hungry again sooner than you would if you had made better choices. So, yeah, eating fast food after a workout (or frankly anytime) isn't a great idea.

You see, exercise, even marathon training, doesn't give you free reign to just eat what you want. It doesn't work that way. Weight loss is about what you EAT not what you BURN. Plus, I've found that when you start thinking in terms of minutes of exercise vs. calories, it's a losing proposition anyway.

Exercise makes me feel better, and eating better makes my exercise feel better. So, just eat better. Workout to feel better, not to lose weight. Find something you like and do it and you won't feel like you're wasting your time. Trust me on this.

More Information: - Read some more in-depth analysis of the article here!!:

Fall Race Schedule

August 30 - Annapolis Ten Mile Run.  This will be my fourth consecutive year running this race.  I both love and hate it, but do enjoy sweating my way through my hometown.  Here's hoping for cooler temps this year! Current predicted high is 81 degrees with scattered T-Storms.  Here's hoping for rain/overcast!


September 20 - Philadelphia Distance Run.  This is a Rock n' Roll Half Marathon, the first one I've ever run.  What that means is that there's a band at every mile!  Plus, Ryan Hall is running!
Band Info | Spectator Info | Results | Course

October 10 - Baltimore Running Festival.  Todd is running the marathon, I'm not likely running anything, but it would obviously be the 5K or the Relay.  If anyone wants to run the relay with me, let me know, or I may be up for a slow 5K if you want.
Marathon Info | Results | Relay Info

October 24 - Tower of Terror 13K.  I just got word that this is the last year that Disney will be offering this race, and the Race for the Taste 10K.  We had planned for this to be our last year running it anyway.  We're pretty excited, though, this is a very fun race.

December 19 - Celtic Solstice 5 Mile Run.  You know, I thought I'd hate this race, but I really didn't.  The bad news is that it is the morning after a release night at work, but the good news is that I can just walk it without feeling particularly guilty.

January 10 - Walt Disney World Marathon.  A whole 26.2 in the happiest place on earth.  This is my third time doing the full marathon there, and I'm hoping that the third time is a charm.  If I don't get my time under 6 hours, which is my goal, I will be signing up for:

(Date unknown) - B&A Trail Marathon.  Yep, I have to do another one if I miss my goal, and this is it.  We'll see what happens, I'd rather just get it done at Disney.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

TIART: Running and Breakfast

This week's Take it and Run Thursday question comes from Jill Will Run, who asks "It's the morning of your weekly long run... what do you eat and why?"

Well, I've covered this all to hell and back lately.  So, I'm going to direct your attention to a few posts from the last couple of months:

July 31 - Running and Breakfast, where I discuss my past experiences with breakfast, what I used to eat when I started running and throughout my last few years of running / marathon training and why it's not working.

After that, I decided to experiment with eggs, because frankly I love eggs.

August 1 - Followup: Running and Breakfast, where I attempted eggs on my long run morning, but love eggs too much apparently and ate too many.  I was full for my run, which wasn't exactly a good thing.

August 15 - Running and Breakfast, an Update, where I reduced how many eggs I ate, and had a pretty successful run with it.  I also talked about what I eat during and after my runs.

So, there you have it.  I've pretty much already written this post, huh?

Other Responses

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fitness Update

I haven't done any sort of major workout updates in a while, so here it is.

Running
This is what I've been focused on, which is good, because it's my thing.  I've been keeping up with my running, although I did fall off the wagon a little when I went to the Cayman Islands.  I missed the week while we were gone, and I missed a run leading up to it, and a run after it.  Since then, I've really had to force myself onto the treadmill or outside.

It is just that time of year.  It's hot, so running outside is uncomfortable.  Running inside on the treadmill isn't always desirable (as many of my running friends will tell you).  The way to avoid these problems is to run in the morning, which has been difficult.  Work has been stressful and I've had a lot going on, and it's just been hard to get my stuff done.

But - I've been doing it, just with a lot of moaning and groaning.  I've managed to get the majority of my runs in, and I've managed to keep them at their required length.  Which is good.

As far as long runs go, my group has completed 15 miles and will be doing 17 Labor Day weekend.  Once September 1 hits, I'm officially out of my self-proclaimed "off season" and I'm going to have to start increasing my mileage accordingly - and acting like somebody who is really training for a marathon.  Disney is just over 4 months away.  Train, train, train.  Run, run, run.

Swimming
Well, I gave up on Total Immersion.  I wasn't going to the pool often enough to do the drills, and I just wasn't focused.  When I'd go and do it, I would get frustrated.  So, I stopped worrying about it and just focus on a few of the bigger pointers that the book offered me, and I enjoy doing my laps.  As long as I'm not training for a triathlon, it shouldn't really matter anyway.

The thing with swimming is that I really despise our pool.  Basically, there are two pools, a swimming pool, which is (as far as I know) unheated, and it's a place where there's just general swimming and flopping around.  I've never been in that one, so that's why I say I think it's unheated but don't know for certain.  The other pool is a lap pool.  It's heated and it's the one we're always in.

There are numerous problems though -

  • Cleanliness.  On a good day, there's hair and leaves and band aids in the pool, but the water is clear.  On a bad day, the water is cloudy and disturbing.  On the worst day (a few weeks ago, Todd refused to get in), bay water was clearer and there was so much algae that you couldn't see the bottom of the pool (well, ok, you could, but just barely).  This is gross, and unacceptable.
  • Swim Team - For May and most of June (and I've heard, September through May), the swim team is in the pool in the evenings.  To get a lane, you have to ask the coach, because he never leaves one open for people swimming laps.  
  • Kids - And THEN, even if the swim team isn't there, kids and some adults hog the lanes.  They stand and play in the lanes, or swim and play through them while you're trying to do your laps.  Lifeguards do nothing to patrol this.  When I was a kid, you didn't play in the lanes where adults were swimming.  There would be adult swim time when people could get in for 20 minutes and do some laps.  NOT AT THIS POOL.  

So, I feel like we're always fighting to get a lane to swim in, and that our membership means nothing.  I've thought of about a million other options (the YMCA in Towson, Lifebridge Health in Pikesville, MAC or Brick Bodies)...  none are right.  So, I just feel like we don't have access to a pool at a reasonable cost that will make us happy.  For the amount we pay to belong to this pool for just 4 months...  well, it's not worth it.  No more swimming for me, which is sad.

Weight Training
I start STS again in September.  For now, I've put off weight training until summer's craziness is over.  More on that at a later date.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sea Things #12: Sharp Nosed Puffers

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.



These are funny and cute little guys, called Sharp Nosed Puffers, or their scientific name, Canthigaster punctatissimus.  They are also known (to aquarists, anyway), as tobies, and are very small - about 3 inches long, max.  They use their little pointy noses to catch small animals (crill, etc) out of the water and off of the reef.  They swim around using their little pectoral fins, which they wildly flap in order to swim.  Most of the time, you just see a few of them around on the reef, hanging out, doing their thing.  There is no diver hand signal for them, because they are too common and generally not pointed out.

We never had really thought much about Sharp Nosed Puffers, until we went to Belize.  Something had happened there and Sharp Nosed Puffers were everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  It's one of the major things that I remember about being in Belize - huge amounts of Sharp Nosed Puffers.  That is where we learned their names.  They would even hang out with us, as if they were using us as protection to hide from other fish, and one even made it up to the boat with Todd after our safety stop.  You could easily hold them in your hands and feel their little pectoral fins up against your palm.  It was pretty cool, but strange.

Here is a photo of me, and what is in my hand is a Sharp Nosed Puffer:


Doing research today, I found some interesting things about the particular population explosion of Sharp Nosed Puffers that we saw in Belize in November, 2008.  While we were there, our dive master simply said, "They just spawned," as a reason.  However, that isn't 100% the exact case, now that I've done some online research.  John C. Ogden, who is director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography wrote on a NOAA listserv:
My guess is that sharpnose puffers have the same type of recruitment as Bill Gladfelter and I observed for balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus) many years ago in St. Croix. The larvae are pelagic for a long larval life, up to a year. During this interval; they slowly gather into huge schools of many thousands of individuals (about 3cm long) which then recruit en mass to whatever coastal region is favorable within the time frame of development. The area then becomes completely flooded with recruits which gradually disperse and are preyed upon. You could call this a sort of 17-year locust type of recruitment.
Truly facinating.

More:




Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Coming Up!

I'm way behind in blogging. I had a lot of stuff come up last week. First of all, there was a major crunch time at work which seems to be growing bigger - as in, this crunch time might be for good, or at least until the end of 2009. Secondly, if you don't have access to my private blog, you won't know that my dad became ill last week, and had 2 heart attacks (Monday and Wednesday, the latter being minutes before Todd and I arrived at the hospital), and then had triple bypass surgery. He is doing better now, still in the hospital, but recovering. But, now you know, if you were wondering what all the fuss was about on the private blog. We were overbooked on the weekend, with my release night Friday, running Saturday morning, running with Jack on Saturday night / Sunday morning, Iron Girl with Natalie on Sunday morning, and friends coming up for a party on Sunday afternoon. I had also wanted to go to a book signing Saturday afternoon, and it seems like there was some other random thing that was nixed fairly early on. Some stuff got dropped. Blogging has fallen by the wayside. Things are hectic.

Anyway, I want to do some blogging over the next couple of weeks to catch up. Here are some upcoming topics, so you know what to look forward to:

  • Running, Swimming, Weight Training and how well or not well I am doing with those goals.
  • Upcoming Race Information, as the beginning of fall means the beginning of Marathon Season.
  • The Annapolis Ten Miler
  • I am sponsoring a Take it and Run Thursday very soon.
  • A Time article that caused a major stir on other blogs? What is my take?
  • More Sea Things!
  • Probably some recipes!
  • Books, as Bookjetty that used to show what I am currently reading has been getting a grade of FAIL from me lately, so I'm trying to find a new solution to that problem, and some friends have potentially convinced me to read the third Twilight book, even just so that I can have something to blog about. Haven't gotten it yet, but maybe soon.
Onward, more coming soon.

TIART: When Did You Become a Runner?

This week's Take it and Run Thursday (better late than never!) asks the question, "When did you know you had become a runner? Was there a defining moment, or was it a gradual progression over time?"


This is a tough question.  I mean, if you want a true timeline, it looks something like this:
  • 1978-2005: I steadfastly am "not a runner."  I don't run, ever.  If someone chases me, I let them catch me.  Nothing gets me to run even a few steps.
  • 2005: I start running for a few reasons - mostly, I'm looking for something a little different with my workout routine, which had been going strong for a little while at least (mostly step aerobics).  To keep myself in check, I signed up for a 5k and ran my first one in June 2005.  I ended up running 5 5k races between June and October 2005.
    I definitely did not feel like a runner during that time.  I was still out doing my thing.
  • 2006: I committed to running a full marathon, afraid that if I ran a half marathon first, I would never do a full.  I had only run 4 miles at a stretch before committing to the program, and felt like every run was my longest ever (and that was often true).
    Did I feel like a runner then?  Kinda sorta.  
The rest is history, but perhaps, when I first really felt like a runner was sometime in the midst of that first marathon season, when I was downing Gus and eating pasta and dealing with blisters and injury and more.  I had the equipment, that was for sure.  I think more than anything, it was a gradual progression, and I could have thought of myself as a runner even before committing to distance.  But, who knows.  I'm a runner now, that's what matters.

Other answers

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Private: Update

Update

This is on my private blog, so you'll have to email me if you want access.


As a side note, it's Thursday and I'd really like to participate in Take it and Run Thursday this week.  Hoping I have time to blog later.

Private: Trip Down to DC

Trip down to DC

This is a private post on my private blog.  Email me if you want access.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Private: Update

Update

Personal blog.  Email me for access.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Private: Family News

Family News

This is a private post on my private blog, sorry if you don't have access, but you can email me if you want and ask for access.

Sea Things #11: Caribbean Spiny Lobster

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.


The Caribbean Spiny Lobster, or Panulirus argus is found all over the place. We've seen them at every dive location where we have ever dove. They look like what you'd expect, lobster-like, with big long antennae that have spines on them that will hurt if they hit you. They will try to hit you, and sometimes have attacked Todd's camera when he is taking photos of them. They don't have the big claws like you'd see on a Maine Lobster, but use the antennae as a major form of defense. They eat snails and mollusks and such. Apparently, they migrate in big lines across the ocean floor, which I haven't seen except in Finding Nemo.

Lobsters are typically up in holes and under ledges. They're usually sitting in there, looking out at the world, trying to appear threatening when they see divers. The sign for them is to put your hands on your forehead and make the lobster antennae with your fingers. Divers will often go catching lobsters, and will refer to them as "bugs" when on a lobster hunt.

I've been on a kick, talking about conservation and overfishing a lot. Lobsters, though, are generally not overfished, and the traps don't usually harm other sea life.. In fact, when I see a lobster underwater, I start daydreaming about tongs and butter. My mouth waters. I would consider being one of those divers that would go hunting for lobsters, except that I can't stand the thought of personally boiling an animal alive (though I'd have no issue with getting someone else to do it for me, I admit). Eat lobsters all you want, they are scrumptious.



More information:


Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it. Photos on this post are courtesy of Todd Krebs.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Recipe: Zucchini Chips

We've been making sauteed zucchini on the grill for a long time.  Lately, we've been stopping a lot at roadside produce stands (a dime a dozen up here in BFN), and so we've been having the sauteed zucchini constantly.  Delicious, but I was so sick of it.  So, tonight we made these lovely zucchini chips for something different. 

The verdict?  I thought they were pretty good and very easy.  I made them on the grill, putting them on a grill pan rather than cooking them in the oven.  The zucchini were yummy and smelled just like the Dough Roller in Ocean City (in my opinion).  Give them a shot if you want something different for a side item.

Zucchini Chips

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Running and Breakfast, an Update

So, after my last couple of posts about running and eating, I made some changes and I'm pretty happy with my results.  Last time, I enjoyed the eggs for breakfast, but made too much.  This time, I only scrambled 3 eggs (1.5 eggs each for me and Todd) and toasted an English muffin and it was pretty perfect.  I felt good during the run, I had no trouble eating it, and still the only issue is that it is time consuming.  Still, it is kind of nice to sit with Todd before a run and have a nice breakfast, even if it was just for a couple minutes.  I think this will be our new routine! 

During the run, I once again had the sour worms and it was, again, awesome.  I brought twice as many as last time (the equivalent of 2 bags of Sport Beans), and at them all in one eating.  I just didn't want to put them away, and I ate them in about a mile.  Huh, I found something I can eat on a run without forcing myself or gagging.  Awesome!

Finally, post run.  We've been doing low fat chocolate milk for a while now.  It's been found to be just as awesome for post-run as recovery drinks, and it tastes delicious!  We put it in a small cooler and keep it in the car during the run, and it is nice and cold when we're finished running.  Plus, we bring a towel with us, and if we are feeling sore after the run, the ice packs that were keeping the milk cold can be used to ice down sore muscles on the drive back.  Todd prepares the cooler while I'm making the scrambled eggs for breakfast.  It works out perfectly, and it's just so yummy and easy to drink post-run.  I get the pre-made chocolate milk in individual bottles, just because it's easy to buy it pre-made and I don't like putting milk in reusable plastic bottles because it inevitably makes them smell funny.  Our current favorite is Turkey Hill's Cool Moos.  Excellent mix of carbs (32g, 30g sugar), protien (8g) and fat (2.5g), although I do usually drink 2 servings (one bottle is 2 servings).  If you compare it to Endurox R4 (Galloway's recommended recovery drink, which I've never tried but I heard tastes like absolute ass), the two have reasonably similar breakdowns of carb/fat/protien.  Is there a downside?  Yes.  I've found that once Todd finishes his bottle of chocolate milk, he begins trying to steal mine.

I will probably have more of an update about running in general soon, as well as other things I"ve been doing or not doing (swimming, weight training, diving). 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

TIART: Between Races

This week marks the first week where Runner's Lounge's Take it and Run Thursday is hosted by a different person each week! It's very exciting, and look for me to be hosting a week in September. This week is being hosted by Erin, who asks:
How do you decide how far/long to run when you aren't following a predetermined training plan? I have a few short races (5Ks and 8Ks) coming up but I'm not planning to follow a training plan for them. I just finished my most recent half-marathon on July 19th and now I'm at a loss as what to do now in terms of distances, etc. I almost always run with a training plan but I'm not sure if I should now or not. Or, if I should be, what I should be looking for in one.
Well, first of all, I'm almost always following a pre-determined training plan. That is part of what keeps me interested in running. For example, I did really well with weight training when I was routinely following Cathe's STS Program. With STS, the workouts were great, but even more so, the structure of the program kept me going. As soon as I got off of STS and wasn't following a structured training plan, I dropped weight training like a hot potato. That's not the first time that's happened. So, first of all, it is always best for me if I have something in my future to train for, even if it's a 5k. I don't mind looking online and finding a 5k training program and starting up with that after my marathon, if need be, but most of the time, I try to have a half marathon always on the horizon - a major race at least every 4-6 months.

So, if I'm not on a training plan? Well, I still keep up the same number of runs per week. I run according to Jeff Galloway's method, and he recommends running three times per week. Two of those are short runs (on Tuesday and Thursday or Monday and Wednesday) and one long run on the weekend. So, I keep up those short runs at 3-5 miles, or 30-45 minutes. Then, I run my long run distance based on what I'm feeling. I try to keep all weekend/long runs at 6 miles or more, and usually for a total off-season, I'd be trying to do a 10 mile run every 4 weeks or so, just to keep up a nice base. Because - think about it - if you keep a 10 mile base, you can at any time do a 13 mile run and then you're all set to run an easy half marathon!

I always run with a group on the weekends, and keep a list of folks who might be interested in running with me. I email them and often have running buddies for my mileage.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Private: Florida Wedding Party

Florida Wedding Party

This is a private post on my private blog, so you will have to email me if you want access to it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sea Things #10: Nassau Grouper

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.




Groupers are cool.  They really are.  I certainly would not have guessed before I became a scuba diver that one of my favorite animals to interact with underwater would be a Grouper - a fish that I'm used to only interacting with in the form of a delicious sandwich.

Nassau Groupers are Epinephelus striatus, and can get pretty big - up to about 55 pounds.  We've seen them all over the Caribbean, but they are certainly the biggest and most prolific in Little Cayman.  Here, the groupers are friendly, like dogs.  They will swim up to divers when the boat arrives, and follow the divers around.  They will let divers touch and pet them, really not caring at all.  In exchange, they want to be fed.  They will swim up to a hole in a coral head that contains a squirrel fish, and will wait for a diver to scare the little fish out.  Then -- GULP.  All in one bite.  Really not that much different from a Labrador Retriever, huh?

Some groupers in Little Cayman are so famous that they have even been written about.  Interesting.  And, here is an interview with Ben the Grouper.

Here, a friendly grouper follows Matt around:


And, here's my conservation story about Groupers.  First of all, they are friendly, and quite honestly, surprisingly cute.  They're good fish, they breed slowly, and they have the potential to help control the Lionfish population.  They do taste good, trust me, I know, I've eaten grouper before and it was one of my favorite fish to eat for a long, long time.  But, they are over fished horribly, and it really shows when we dive in places where they're not protected (like they are in Little Cayman).  We saw very few in Bonaire, and even fewer in Belize.  If we aren't careful, they will be gone.  Not to mention, that they are smart and friendly.  So, please don't eat Grouper, and if you do, make sure it is farmed.  Nassau Grouper is endangered and may soon be extinct, so no matter how tasty it is, it really isn't worth it.

There is no diver sign for the Nassau Grouper besides pointing in a way that says "awesome fish ahead!"

And finally, here is me with a friendly grouper.


More info:



Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ideas for Potluck Lunches

For some reason, my Ideas for Potluck Lunch Day post from November, 2008 is my most popular post of all time.  In fact, if you Google ideas for potluck lunch day, my blog is the #1 post, and ideas for potluck lunches - my blog is #4.  These are the most popular searches for my blog.  I feel bad because I don't feel like that post is particularly great and I wonder if anyone even finds any value in that post.

So, here are a few recipes that I've posted that I think would make good Potluck Dishes.

  • Tomato Mozzarella Pie - My current favorite potluck item.  It's not light, but it is fairly easy and impressive, plus easy to double if you need to.
  • Kim's Chili - Easy, light, cheap, and easily carried in a slow cooker.
  • Easy Asian Beef & Noodles - I think this one would work well, although I would probably double it.  It gets better the more it sits and can be served hot or cold.
And here are a few sites that should be able to help you find something:
Please comment if you have some more ideas, people really need to know!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Perfect Crime

"What is my perfect crime? I break into Tiffany's at midnight. Do I go for the vault? No. I go for the chandelier; it's priceless. As I'm taking it down, a woman catches me. She tells me to stop. It's her father's business. She's Tiffany. I say no. We make love all night. In the morning the cops come and I escape in one of their uniforms. I tell her to meet me in Mexico but I go to Canada. I don't trust her. Besides, I love the cold. Thirty years later I get a postcard. I have a son. And he's the Chief of Police. This is where the story gets interesting: I tell Tiffany to meet me in Paris by the Trocadero. She's been waiting for me all these years. She's never taken another lover. I don't care. I don't show up. I go to Berlin. That's where I stashed the chandelier."
-- Dwight Schrute

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sea Things #9: Greenland Shark

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.


What's this?  A second Sea Things in the same week?  Nutty!  I just felt like my last couple of sea things (Lionfish and Caribbean Reef Shark) had been so much about conservation and some of my own frustrations over people just NOT CARING about reefs and oceans.  I wanted to have another Shark Week post that focused on an incredible, fascinating shark, which I only learned about several months ago.  This is the Greenland Shark.






In February, 2009, Todd and I went to a seminar on the Greenland Shark, which was hosted by our local dive shop, and was presented by National Geographic Photographer and Maryland native Nick Caloyianis.  While usually for my Sea Things feature I prefer to stick to creatures that I have seen and interacted with myself, I have my doubts that I will ever encounter a Greenland Shark, and they are just too facinating to not discuss.  During the presentation, I must admit that I was totally spellbound.  What interesting animals!


Nick Caloyianis went to Baffin Island, Canada to find these sharks, which until his trip there, had been studied very little.  No photographs had ever been taken of a living one in its natural environment.  He wasn't certain he would find them, and the expedition had been delayed by two weeks of storms.  Finally, diving in 28 degree water, he found one:


A dull outline formed in the murky distance. It was a long animal. Huge. My diminished senses perceived it to be a narwhal, without its unicorn-like tusk.
Forget the cold. I kicked my fins and swam toward the shadowy figure. It turned and began moving toward me. I was face-to-face with a Greenland shark. I’d seen drawings and paintings of the fish, but this was utterly different. It was ghoulish. Its nostrils were the largest I had ever seen on a shark. They reminded me of a giant double-barreled shotgun. Its mouth was slightly open, revealing rows of small sharp teeth. Its eyes looked fogged over, like those of a dead fish, and from each one dangled a tasseled parasite.

Greenland Sharks are one of the largest in the world.  They rival the Great White in size, growing to 21 feet and 2000 pounds.  They live in the Arctic, sometimes traveling South as far as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but tend to stay in the Arctic Ocean (the main reason why I doubt I'll ever see one...  brrr!).  They are thought to often live in deep water, as deep as 2000 feet, which is well beyond the depth of other sharks.  


The sharks have a parasite that attach themselves to each eye.  The parasites are called copepods, and hang from the sharks' corneas.  The copepods make the sharks blind, but since the sharks live in near darkness beneath Arctic ice, it is not usually a problem.  In fact, it is thought that it is a symbiotic relationship - the parasites glow with a bioluminecence that attracts prey (such as seals) to them.  Once the prey gets close enough, the sharks sense that it is there and can suck them in from up to 3 feet away.  


A closeup of the copepod on a Greenland Shark's eye:




Greenland Sharks eat seals, sea lions, halibut, herring and salmon, and sometimes are cannibalistic.  Despite the fact that they sometimes eat fast swimming fish, they are actually quite slow and sluggish swimmers.  As for what eats Greenland Sharks?  Nothing.  There is absolutely no danger of Greenland Sharks becoming part of a chinese food menu, as other sharks have become -  Greenland Shark meat is poisonous.  Caloyianis, during his presentation, described how the local Inuits do not eat the meat (although do sometimes kill the sharks because they are considered a nuisance).  The Inuits fed some of the shark meat to their dogs, which became drunk with a neurotoxin in the shark meat.  


These are some crazy-interesting sharks, and I would love it if Discovery had included a documentary about them in their Shark Week lineup.  I realize that one big reason this isn't possible is that most of the info on Greenland Sharks was gathered for an issue of National Geographic, but maybe the NatGeo Channel will make the documentary I'd love to see...  Well, it was better having met the diver in person anyway.






Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sea Things #8: Caribbean Reef Sharks

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.



It is Shark Week on Discovery Channel, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about sharks today.

The shark species that I have spent the most time with underwater is the Caribbean Reef Shark.  They're found all over the Caribbean, and we've seen them in Turks & Caicos, Belize, and Little Cayman (well, and someone made a huge deal out of telling us about a Reef Shark sighting in Bonaire Labor Day 2008).  Their scientific name is Carcharhinus perezi and they eat what you'd expect them to eat - fish and other sea creatures.  They get to be about 10 feet long, and the largest one I've ever seen was about 8 feet long.  If you see a shark underwater, the signal for it is to put your hand on top of your forehead like it's a shark fin.



Here's the thing about sharks, though.  They've gotten this bad reputation for being horrible man-eaters.  You can see me in the photo above, hanging with a Caribbean Reef Shark.  He's not threatening me, he's not trying to eat my arm off.  There was even food nearby, and I hung out there for most of the dive.  I am still alive to talk about it, complete with all of my limbs.  In fact, later in the same trip, I swam into a swim-through soon after some fish heads had been released into the water, when sharks were circling.  I turned on my flash light to see what was in a hole in the swim through, and lo and behold - a big shark swimming right at my head.  Oh no!  What did he do?  Did he bite me?  Did he at least take a nibble to see what I tasted like?  No, he swam past me, paying me no attention at all.

Despite what you might see in the movie Jaws, which is in fact fictional, you shouldn't fear sharks.  Do shark attacks happen?  Yes, sometimes, but often when they are provoked, or when there is food in the water, or when they can't see what it is they are eating.  Although, too, some sharks are more vicious than others.  I wouldn't get in the water with an Oceanic White Tip Shark, for example.  Oceanic White Tips aren't found on beaches, though.  I've watched Jaws a couple of times recently, and I laugh at it, thinking to myself that it is no different that something like Godzilla -- I don't fear lizards, even though I've seen a large one attack Tokyo in a film.  The thing is, though, people take Jaws seriously.  They really think all of that is true and reasonable.  It's not.  It's fiction.  I really dislike that movie (it's not even that good when just taken at face value without the shark conservation angle).

As much as people feel like they need to be afraid of sharks, it is really sharks that should be afraid of people.  Sharks are endangered -- they are losing food due to overfishing, and losing their habitat due to pollution and more.  Even better, 73 million sharks die a year in order to support the shark fin trade.  What is that?  Well, shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in China (you can also find it at some Chinese restaurants... it is still served in London's Chinatown and was served at Columbia's Asean Bistro until just a few years ago).  To fin a shark, they are dragged onto a boat, their fins are cut off and then the rest of the shark is thrown back in.  It drowns because it can no longer swim.  Often, sharks are finned before reaching maturity and therefore do not have the opportunity to reproduce.  Even if they do, they don't have as many babies as other species of fish.  They just cannot reproduce fast enough to replenish their populations.  Shark finning is illegal in the US, but is still practiced in other countries. 

So, let's talk about Shark Week.  It would be great if Discovery Channel showed programming during shark week that talked about the endangered shark, and pushed the need to stop these practices.  But, no.  This years shark week premiers with the show "Blood in the Water," which talks about a shark attack that inspired Jaws.  Discovery has been said to be trying to “tap into people’s fear of sharks and bring back the fear of Shark Week.”  Oh, goodie.  They are showing commercials for saving sharks, but how much are people going to want to save a man-eating threat that people constantly fear?  Plus, the conservation ads are run back to back with ads like these.  Seems like Discovery's attempts to get people to protect sharks is kind of half-hearted, huh?

The summer of 2001, if you recall, the news media covered shark attacks constantly.  I remember footage of sharks near beaches, coverage of a couple of shark attacks that had occurred, etc.  This was all forgotten in September of 2001 when more important things took over the news, though. Just for the record, here is a nice chart that shows the fatalities in the United States in 2001, the year that I remember shark attacks being publicized the most, due to various causes.  Note where sharks fall in the list.



Sharks are not to be feared, they are to be respected.  They are amazingly incredible creatures that can be exciting and studied without all of the horror and drama.  In fact, the real horror is what WE are doing to THEM, and to all of our oceans.  So, do me a favor.  Don't eat shark, especially shark fin soup (shark contains loads of mercury anyway).  Boycott restaurants with shark fin on the menu.  Protest against Discovery's irresponsible shark programming by signing the petition.  And most of all, work to protect these awesome animals, and the ocean in general.

More:



Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Little Cayman Photos

Here are some of our topside photos from our trip to Little Cayman (wedding/honeymoon).  If you would like to see some awesome underwater photos, you can find them on Todd's blog.

Wedding night, cutting our cake:


On the dive boat:


Curly tailed Lizard:


In the pool:


On the fourth of July (which from now on will always remind me of our wedding):


A cosmo on the fourth:


Fireworks on the fourth:


Our hotel room at night:


The airport terminal:


Todd on the dive boat:


Waiting to take over/under photos:


Todd jumping in:


The view from our shower:


Sunrise:


On the dive boat:



All of the topside photos:
2009 Little Cayman Topside

Again, don't forget to check out Todd's underwater photos... he really took some great ones!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Followup: Running and Breakfast

Or, really, running and eating in general.

So, this morning I scrambled eggs for me and Todd, and had a whole wheat english muffin, too.  I debated on the whole wheat or not, because I'm not necessarily keen on lots of fiber before a run.  So, the result?  I love eggs.  The taste was awesome, and the eggs were very delicious, even at 4 in the morning.  My problem was that I ate too much - a first for a pre-run meal.  I scrambled 3 eggs (which is what I would normally make for a breakfast), and that was too many.  In all though, I was merely pretty full during the run, and I felt good otherwise.  I was worried that eggs was overdoing it on the protein, but it seemed fine.  I was a little dehydrated at the start of the run, so I need to give the eggs another try being fully hydrated before I'll know for sure.

Eggs aren't terribly portable, though, and that is the biggest problem with them.  Still, I should be ok having a toasted half bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese before my races where I'm out of town.  The other issue?  They're time-consuming, which is crappy when I am trying to get out the door.  I can't bring them in the car with me, and that is sad.

As for the rest of the run, I had bought some sour worms during my last trip to Wegman's and I packed 6 sour worms instead of beans or gu or other sport things.  I'm starting to buy into the philosophy that the food that is marketed to runners to eat on runs is not only gross, but over priced and silly (unless you're a person who must eat gus or gels during a run because of stomach problems).  So, I decided to try some other things that I might like.  The incredible result?  While I have to force sport beans down these days, the worms were YUMMY and I eat them all in a single walk break (a rarity for me, it usually takes me 2-3 walk breaks to eat a pack of sport beans).  Maybe it had something to do with the eggs, too?  Maybe the eggs didn't bother my stomach as much so I was prime for eating the worms?

Who knows.  I'm going to peruse my running nutrition book to see what else is recommended, but I'm going to stick with this for a while.

Other thing...  I bought a new water belt and really like it, so I will perhaps talk about that one later.
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