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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stats as of 30 September 2009

September 2008
65 miles
14 hours, 50 minutes
Avg Pace: 13:42/mile
Baltimore Half Marathon 2008 (it was in October, but close enough): 2:57:52 (13:35/mi)

September 2009
88.6 miles -- 23.6 miles longer than in 2008
19 hours, 35 minutes -- 4:45 longer than in 2008
Avg Pace: 13:16/mile -- 26 seconds better than in 2008
Philadelphia Distance Run 2009: 2:37:12 (12:00/mile)

Total mileage for 2009 so far: 504.3 miles
Avg pace for 2009: 13:05/mile

In defense of my mileage for 2008, I was on vacation in Bonaire for the first week. However, my distance is definitely longer anyway, since I'm really ramping up my mileage in preparation for Disney. This past weekend, I did my 19 mile run, which is my longest for training since 2007. I felt good, and I'm really appreciating my time off from marathons and the hard work I've put into running since Disney 2008. This month, I also set a new PR for half marathons, and my time at Philly really kicked the butt of my Baltimore Half Marathon time in 2008.

I restarted the STS System last week, but work and other commitments have prevented me from moving into week two, so I will probably be repeating week one next week. I'm also working on lowering my weight before Disney, so that I can carry less pounds 26.2 miles. As of today, I'm down 4 pounds since my highest [recent] weight on 9/14. I would like to lose a total of 15 pounds before January.

Sea Things #17: Caribbean Reef Squid

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.

Caribbean Reef Squid or Sepioteuthis sepioidea! I love these guys. They are perhaps my very favorite Sea Thing to see underwater. The diver hand signal for them is to cross your arm in front of you, fingers & thumb open, then close your fingers/thumb while moving your arm, kind of like a squid moves. You kind of have to see it, it's hard to describe, I guess.

Squids are so intelligent and interesting. They are usually found in schools (yes, it's school of squid). They're not very big compared to other squid - usually about 8 inches long in their bodies, and they have tentacles in front around their beak. They also have fins that just move constantly, and remind me of a hummingbird's wings. They eat small fish & mollusks.

I first became a fan of squid when I watched a documentary about squid research with Todd just a few months before I became certified. The documentary was filmed in Bonaire, and it came on again several months after I was certified, and that was that - I wanted to go to Bonaire. I wanted to see squid. I try not to eat them, and what I mean by that is that I think they're cute and fun and I don't want to eat them for that reason, but they're not threatened and I really like calamari, so I do eat squid occasionally.

The documentary that I saw was about squid and how they communicate. Caribbean Reef Squid change color frequently. They do this for communication, and I find it really, really fascinating. Sometimes, color change is about courting and mating, sometimes it's about territory, etc. We had an opportunity to get very close to a squid in July 2007. We were on the Jigsaw dive site in Little Cayman, and there was a squid all by itself (unusual), that let us get within a foot of it. I was eye to eye with the little guy, and he was lighting up and changing color all over the place. Truly amazing.
Most of the time when you encounter schools of squid, they avoid you. They'll hang out some, and we've seen over twenty together in a school, but they will keep their distance. If you move a foot closer, they will move a foot farther away. And they'll all move in unison. What I do is keep my bubbles small and calm, and I move at a very slow pace towards them, and sometimes you can have some amazing encounters. It really infuriates me when another diver in the group swims up on them fast and scare them away. Squid move at an amazing speed and will be gone in a second if they're not approached cautiously.

Caribbean Reef Squid are found all over the Caribbean, and we've seen them pretty much everywhere we've been. We have had the closest encounters in Bonaire and Little Cayman, though.

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, September 28, 2009

Stella, 1994 (?)-2009

I'm not really 100% sure what year she was born, exactly. Stella was adopted by my sister in about 1997. She would come to stay with my mom and I when my sister and brother-in-law were on vacation. Then, my brother-in-law turned out to be too allergic for Stella to stay with them, and she moved in with us in 1998.

She was declawed, but my mom would let her out anyway, and she loved being outdoors. She stayed in the back yard most of the time. When I was in college, I would get so irritated because she would run outside when I was trying to leave, and I would end up spending an hour trying to catch her and put her back inside. She could climb trees just like a cat with claws could. She loved lace-up shoes and would scratch on them with her paws if you put your foot out for her. The last time she clawed my shoes was for good luck before the Annapolis Ten Miler the end of August...

Stella wasn't a lap cat, but she would sometimes sleep next to my head in bed and stare at me while I was trying to sleep. That was actually highly disturbing. She was good with people, and when my mom would go on vacation, she'd stay with me or anyone else who my mom could con into taking her in. She hated riding in the car, but when she would get to her destination, she'd move right in and you'd never know she hadn't been living there her whole life. When she came to stay with me when I lived in Owings Mills, she took over, even though my cat, Miss Cleo, was living there. Cleo ended up staying in the master bedroom the whole two weeks that Stella stayed with us, and we had to move Cleo's food and litter upstairs while Stella took over and ruled the rest of the house. That's just the kind of cat Stella was.

Stella started getting sick in 2006. She had kidney disease, and was put on a special diet. Still, she recovered and was doing ok for quite a while. Earlier this year, things went bad quickly. She lost a lot of weight, and had to have a saline shot every other day. There were several close calls where we thought she was done for, but she persevered. Even though she'd been on her deathbed in the spring, this summer she successfully launched an attack against a salamander that had taken up residence behind the fridge. It was seen without a tail (the tail was later recovered from under the dining room table), and then a few days later was found dead.

Todd and I last saw Stella on Labor Day weekend, when we stopped by on our way home from Ocean City, She was doing well, and we sat and talked to her for a while.

This weekend, she hadn't been eating and my mom had told me that she thought things were about over. Tonight, she took Stella in to the vet and put her to sleep. Vic buried her in the back yard.

I'll miss seeing Stella when I visit my mom. She was a good cat, and she had a good life....

(going to hug The Bug)

Recipe: Pork Chops With Country Gravy

Ok, since I doubt that anyone really wants to make Hot Ham Water, here's a real recipe. Todd and I had this on Friday evening. We'd had a rough week, with a lot of things going on for both of us at work, and we were busy with both a viewing and funeral, and our scuba diving class that we're taking. Things never seem to let up, it was starting to rain, and I knew we needed comfort food. So, I decided to make this delicious recipe.

This was so good. It was fairly easy to make and reminded me a lot of the type of food that my grandma makes. I served it with fresh corn (cut off the ear) and mashed potatoes. It was really delicious and a winner all around.

Recipe: Hot Ham Water

It's so watery, and yet there's a smack of ham to it. My suggestion is to serve it with either Corn Balls or a Frozen Banana.

Hot Ham Water
Serves: The entire family

2 Quarts Water
1 Canned Ham

Heat water to boiling. Add ham. Cook 1 hour. Serve.

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Do You Save Your Recipes?

I've been trying to figure out how best to organize my recipes. For the most part, I'm talking online finds, but there's also a need to store paper ones, etc. Here is what I currently have going on:
  • I have a lot of cookbooks. Some are in the basement, as they are less-used, and some are in the kitchen. I also found a stash of cookbooks that apparently Todd's in the drawer of our entertainment center.
  • I have a program called Accuchef, that is installed on my PC. Most of the good loose paper recipes that I've had over time are now on Accuchef, and I've been maintaining it since about 2001. The interface is ugly and I'm not sure if I'm on the current version or not. Regardless, if someone has better online or desktop recipe software, I want to know about it.
  • I have a bunch of bookmarks, both at work and at home. Sometimes I go through them and look for something to make, sometimes this process is just disorganized. Plus, it sucks when my bookmark is at work and I'm at home, or vice versa.
  • I have a bunch of starred recipes in Google reader, where someone posted something on a blog and I starred it to remember it. These are all mixed in with other things I've starred or shared in Google Reader, which makes it a PITA. I think you can organize this, but I never have.
  • I have a saved recipe file on, which is honestly where I get my dinner recipes most often. However, even that process is cumbersome and annoying.
I've considered trying to use Google Notebook to see if it will help, but I was wondering if there was something better out there, or if anyone is an avid user of Google Notebook?

So, thoughts? How do you organize your recipes, both online and in paper format?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Today's Take It and Run Thursday is sponsored by Kitzzy, who asks: "I find yoga to be an excellent companion to my running to avoid injury, improve flexibility, and help relieve sore muscles after a hard workout or race. Tell us about your experience with yoga as it relates to running. If you have not tried it, why not? If you have, did it help? How often do you feature yoga in your weekly workout regime? What are your favorite yoga poses and routines? Pass on your recommendations for your favorite yoga DVDs, instructors, podcasts, online resources, etc.

You know, I am not particularly a yoga person. I've taken a single real-life yoga class, once when a previous employer offered yoga (we had to pay for it) in the office after work. We were in a room where any other day I would NEVER have gotten cell phone reception (as it was an all-glass building and cell signal seemed to bounce off of it), but this ONE DAY... I didn't turn off my cell and it rang during class. I was horrified and embarrassed and never returned.

That, of course, has little to do with my like or dislike of yoga. If I'd really liked the class, I'd have gone back, but it wasn't fitting in my schedule. Yoga classes never seem to fit into my schedule. I feel as though I would sign up and then promptly not attend the classes. Plus, they're not exactly cheap. I kind of have enough trouble juggling my running schedule without adding another commitment in.

So, there comes the next best thing - videos. I have a few yoga videos. My two favorites are The Firm Yoga, and Candlelight Yoga. I used to do them both more frequently when I was doing videos more often, but I will occasionally do one. However, I just can't get in the habit and on days when I plan to do a yoga video, I often blow them off and don't do them, which is why I haven't invested in any more videos. Plus, I'm incredibly picky about them. I have to admit, I'm really curious about Bob Harper's Yoga Video.

First of all, I just can't get into the meditation/spiritual side of yoga. When a yoga instructor or video goes too far into this area, it's a turn off. I usually end up preferring videos that include "athletic stretching" or something similar, where the moves are yoga moves, but the spiritual part is absent.

Second, yoga is HARD. Unlike with running, I haven't been able to commit myself to it enough to get past the "this is really hard" part into the "yay, I can do this, and it's fun!" part. I haven't had the incentive to do so, and while I'd like to get more flexible, it's just not at the top of my list.

I do need to get my abs in gear, so maybe yoga (or perhaps pilates) would be a good thing to try (btw, SOMEBODY has a pilates DVD of mine, and I think they've had it for like 4 years. I can't find it. If it's you, I might want it back).

As far as poses go, well, I really like corpse pose :) Beyond that, my absolute fav is child's pose... See what I mean? I'm a lazy yoga person. I do end up doing yoga a lot more often if I am injured or recovering from something, but in general... not too often.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sea Things #16: Spotted Cleaner Shrimp

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.

Despite maybe looking larger in the photo, these little guys are very small, about an inch to an inch and a half, max. Their scientific name is Periclimenes yucatanicus. They are a type of shrimp that does what many shrimps do in the Caribbean - clean fish. They live all around the Caribbean, but we have seen them most frequently in Bonaire - especially off of Klein Bonaire, where the photographs on this post were taken. The shrimp live in anemones, and wave their little antennae around to basically kind of flag down fish. A fish will swim over and the shrimp will clean them of dead skin, parasites and other particles. This is what the cleaner shrimp eats. It works out perfectly for both the shrimp and the fish. Occasionally, you will see them clean divers, but that happens more frequently with Pedersen shrimp, which I will chronicle in a later Sea Things.

Spotted Cleaner Shrimp are pretty much translucent and I think they're quite pretty. They are definitely one of the things that divers will sometimes miss if they fly over the reef too quickly.

Shrimp have a diver's signal of putting your thumb and index finger together. Honestly, crab, eel and shrimp all look very similar when it comes to hand signals, so I generally figure I'm going to see one of the three when I come upon someone making the hand signal. Usually, a diver will make a sign for "small" with their thumb and index finger if it's a tiny shrimp.

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, September 21, 2009

Restarting STS...

I first put off restarting STS (weight training system by Cathe Friedrich) after I got home from Little Cayman, and ended up deciding to start today. I wasn't sure if it was going to happen, as there was a death in the family (on Todd's side) and that will take up some time, along with a scuba course that we're starting this week. But, I think I can fit it in.

The thing is -- my time off from weight training meant that I regressed back to even worse than I was before I started STS, apparently. Disc 1 was SO much harder than I remember it being, and I couldn't finish a lot of the reps. Ouch, I am going to be so sore tomorrow.

I think how I'm going to work it is that I will do legs when I feel I can. I don't see it happening this week. I just ran a PR in a half marathon, and I have a 19 mile run next weekend. Maybe next week I'll do some lower body. I need to make sure I don't overtrain my lower body, and that I still let them recover after more challenging or longer runs.

Anyway, we will see how it goes.

Ryan Hall's Finish Yesterday

Here's a video of Ryan Hall's finish at the half marathon yesterday.

It's kinda long, but cool. And, you can see where I ran!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Philadelphia Distance Run 2009

I feel like I'm getting payoff for all of my hard work this year. I really do. I am so pleased with my progress since January. Today was another great race.

First off, Saturday morning was an early one. Todd had his longest training run before the Baltimore Marathon - 25 miles. He was up at 3am to get to the trail for his long run. I was up at 5am, because I was doing a water stop at the While Hall part of the NCR Trail, which is just before most of the runners will turn around. After everyone had passed, I went south to Paper Mill and waited for my runners to come in. I got to see my group finish, which was good, I felt bad that I didn't see them. (And WTF Team in Training, having so many people at Monkton that the toilets wouldn't flush??) Todd finished his run, and we got home around 10:30.

Shower and a short rest, and we were off to Philadelphia. We were a tiny bit late leaving, so I was a little worried that we'd catch random traffic on 95. We made it up around 3:30, though, with plenty of time to get to the expo. My only problem was that it wasn't clear where we should park for our hotel (the Marriott Courtyard Downtown), and traffic around the square in front of the hotel, and all around the hotel was a total nightmare. It worked out, though, and we made it to the expo around 4 - where we ran into Rachel, although she was with someone and she totally took off...

We had time for a short nap (we were getting pretty wiped out), and then met Cheryl (college roommate who lives in Philly) across the street from the hotel at Maggiano's. If you haven't been to a Maggiano's, they're pretty yummy. We had a good time and had good conversation. :) It was great to see Cheryl, I can't remember the last time that I really sat and talked to Cheryl, and I miss her! It was also a good time for Todd to get to know Cheryl.

We stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for bagels for the morning (I should have gotten something and brought it from home). And then, it was bedtime.

We got up at 6:30, the race started at 7:45. We were in the seventeenth corral, so I didn't see any reason to rush to the starting line. We met Rachel in the hotel lobby and walked to the start. Didn't see Ryan Hall. Didn't see him at the end, either for that matter. It took us 29 minutes to cross the starting line, so by the time we were starting the race, Ryan was a quarter of the way through his 6th mile.

I started out with Lu and Todd, and then Todd ended up staying back with Lu so that she wouldn't have to run alone, and I went ahead. I had done the first mile in 12:45, and thought it was a tad slower than I needed to go. I sped up, but then missed the 2nd mile marker, and at the 3rd mile marker my time for the two miles combined was something like 23:40. I had to think about it and do the math over and over (uh, I don't exactly excel at math and running makes me really suck at math, as if my brain can't be bothered and is busy trying to make my legs go). I finally realized that I was sub-12 and decided to stick with it. Mile after mile, I kept up with the sub-12 pace, just having a mile every so often that was right at 12:00.

Todd caught up with me at mile 4 or thereabout, and ended up running with me until about halfway through mile 12, when he went back to see how Lu was doing. I had a couple miles in that time that were a little higher (highest being 12:20), but mostly stayed sub-12. After Todd left, I continued on, although I don't remember what mile 13 was. I don't usually "run it in," but I ran this one in longer than any other race, and I still felt pretty good at the finish once I got my breath back.

Todd and Lu crossed a little after, and we met back up with Rachel for a photo. We headed back to the hotel, showered and headed home.

I'm pretty excited about my time. I'm not going to even pretend to be modest - my time, for me, rocked pretty hardcore. I had an awesome race. The race itself was great too - flat (flatter than the Disney Half), the weather was cool, the bands were fun (although less fun than expected), the crowd support was great, the course was beautiful, and the medal was very nice (a liberty bell). Overall, a great day, and I'm happy that Todd made it through with no issues after running 25 yesterday.

Final result: 2:37:12. A 12:00 pace exactly.

My best ever 10K? 1:14:10. My pace to the 10K mark today? 1:14:33.
My best ever 10 Miler? 2:01:47. My pace to the 10 Mile mark today? 2:00:08.

Yeah, I'm pretty happy with that race.

You Call It Joggin'

by Jimmy Buffett

You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around.
You say you're losing weight but you ain't lost a pound.
While you're out joggin' with your other friends,
I'm home feeding the kids again.
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around.
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around,
It's the best release you say you've ever found.
Your friends all smile and agree,
Yeah, you were runnin' around on me.
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around.
Somebody said they saw you down at the corner,
Getting out of some strangers car.
You come home after runnin' for hours,
Ain't even breathing hard.
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around.
The soles of your runnin' shoes they ain't wearing down.
While you're out runnin' up and down the streets,
I'm tryin' to get the kids to sleep.
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around.
You've been out since five p.m.
It's now thirty minutes past ten.
You blow in all out of breath,
Honey, you've been drinking gin again?
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around.
Draggin' that silly old towel all over town.
You come home grinning with your hair all wet,
Smelling like shampoo instead of sweat.
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around,
Oh yeah,
You call it joggin', I call it runnin' around. 

Friday, September 18, 2009


Thanks to hamburgerteri for showing me this, I think it's pretty cool. Here's to the folks who are running 26 tomorrow, and those of us doing 13.1 on Sunday... :)

UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TIART: Running Partners

This week's Take It and Run Thursday is sponsored by Jillian, who asks "You get to run the last six miles of your next marathon with 6 different people. They can be dead or alive; famous or not famous. Who are these people and why did you pick them? Furthermore, why did you pick them for the specific mile you did? Remember, you get an extra .2miles with runner #6."

Oooo, I love this question. However, I've been thinking about it for days now and I've been having a lot of trouble coming up with people. So, I'll do my best...

Mile 20: Jeff Galloway, Former Olympian

Well, I figured as I come up on mile 20, I'm going to be needing some help. Some advice. If I'm feeling great, what should I do? Continue with the intervals I'm running, or do longer intervals. What if I feel bad? I might need some advice, and mile 20 is still early enough to recover from fatigue if I know how. So, who would be better to meet me at mile marker 20 than the inventor of my running program, Jeff Galloway?

Mile 21: Sue G, Running Friend

So, Jeff Galloway is a famous guy and all. I've met him a few times, but he's still relatively famous. But, I thought some more. Who else? Lance Armstrong? Ryan Hall? Kara Goucher? Let me be honest, those people are too fast for me. I want someone who plays the game at my level. Someone who knows what it's like to be at mile 21 at a 13 minute pace, and who understands the how and why of taking walk breaks. I don't need someone who makes me feel more slow. I look forward to running with my friend Sue whenever we run together. We know each other well and have great conversations that make the time go by quickly. We've been running together since 2006, so who better to get me through what is some of the toughest and most boring mileage of a race (especially if we're talking the Disney Marathon!). What a pleasure to share a mile with Sue.

Mile 22: Caryn, Running Friend

Next up, Caryn. We'll still be in a boring part of the race and if there's something Caryn is known for, it's talking enough about interesting things and keeping everyone's mind occupied when the miles start really dragging. I actually met Caryn even before Sue - we ran together for the first time 4 years ago this month.

Mile 23: Misty, Running Friend

I haven't known Misty as long, but we've gotten to know each other, too. She's the next person I would want to see because she's someone who is always going to be upbeat. Well, most of the time if she's not pooped herself :) If this was Disney, we'd be heading into Hollywood Studios... Very awesome. Of course, Misty will be running Disney herself this year! :)

Mile 24: Kristy, Running Friend

Kristy and I have probably run more miles together than anyone else. We started running together in 2006 and trained side by side for 2 years and 4 marathons. We ran together at Marine Corps 2006 and 2007. Of course I'd need Kristy there. Hey, Kristy's going to be at Disney this year, too!!!

Mile 25: Davida, Running Friend

This was tough, and Davida does fall into the category of "too fast for me," but she's also been where I've been and she sure knows how to inspire. By mile 25, I'm gonna be needing somebody there to help keep my mind in shape and get me through. Davida, I need you! (Hey, someone else who'll be at Disney!)

Mile 26(.2): Todd, Husband

Of course the end goes to Todd. Funny thing, though. Todd kicks my ass at the end of a race. I guess by mile 26, I'll be needing to push with all I have, and if there's someone who can give me a kick in the butt, it's my darling husband. Plus, I love crossing finish lines with him.

More Responses

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sea Things #15: Decorator Crabs

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.

Decorator crabs are actually a whole group of crabs, not just one type. However, they can be difficult to identify since they are often... well, decorated.

We first came across these interesting crabs in 2007 in Bonaire. We were told to watch out for them on our night dive at Town Pier, since they really would look like sponges that move. Basically, the crabs would take a piece of sponge (or, lacking that, some trash or often a discarded flip flop or sandal), and cover themselves with it. They move around with this piece of sponge on their back to hide from predators. It's as if they're saying "Don't mind me, I'm just a sponge. Definitely not a crab. Nope, just a sponge." It's cute.
Most of the decorator crabs that we've seen since have been significantly smaller than the Bonaire crab (above, on a discarded tire under Town Pier). Usually, we see the little ones that are only about two inches long. They decorate themselves with algae and other bits of things from off of the reef. Other decorator crabs are more specific, and only decorate themselves with very specific things.

So, how do the crabs put things on themselves? Well, they simply use their little pincers to cut off pieces of algae or whatever, and then rough up the end of the algae. When they put it on their shells, little microscopic hooks hold them on. Apparently, whatever it has decorating it will often stay alive, continue to grow and sometimes even reproduce.

There isn't a diver hand signal for decorator crabs, besides the general "crab" signal. This is to hold your hands up like crab pincers and open and close them. They're tough to spot because they're well-hidden. One diver summed it up like this:
One afternoon while lying on a shallow sea floor, watching a colony of Sailfin Blennies, the almost imperceptible movement of calcareous algae caught my eye. A moment later, the small branch mysteriously moved again. I positioned my mask only inches from the greenery and stared. It took a minute before I detected the broken outline of a tiny decorator crab adorned with algal blades. To get a better look, I gently lifted the crab and placed it on a flat encrusting sponge. In the process, the creature’s topknot toppled and fell to its side. Without missing a beat, and to my immense relief, the crab grabbed the fallen sprig with its claw, hoisted it overhead, and in one clean motion, slipped its camouflage costume back into place.

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.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Forget Jaws. See Sharkwater.

Fantastic film.  Please see it, Netflix has it.  We watched it last night.  Sharkwater is an incredibly interesting documentary that, unlike Discovery's Shark Week, shows the plight of sharks and what little is being done to protect them.  The underwater footage in the movie is absolutely stunning, and the message is powerful.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

TIART: Spectators and More About Me

This week, I am the host of Take it and Run Thursday, so "hello" to everyone who is popping over here from Runner's Lounge! I want to first talk a little about myself, my training group and my history of running, and then I'll talk about the question that I asked.

My Running Story
I was not always a runner. I started running in 2005 at the age of 26, having never run a full mile without walking, and having no memory of run/walking a mile faster than a 14 minute pace. As a child, I had taken dance classes instead of sports, and I'd quit dancing after the fifth grade. In middle school, I didn't take PE at all.

In college, at age 20, I joined Weight Watchers and lost 50 pounds in 2 years with no exercise whatsoever. A week after reaching my Weight Watchers goal weight, I got married, and while I made it to becoming a Weight Watchers Lifetime Member, I immediately gained back 30 pounds of the 50 I'd lost. I struggled to lose that weight for another 3 years, and it wasn't until I abandoned Weight Watchers and began a regular exercise program - step aerobics and weight training videos - that I had success at getting back to my goal weight.

Me after my first race in 2005:

After about a year and a half of exercising 6 days/week with exercise videos, I branched out and gave running a try. I had always been very "anti-running," even using "I don't run" as a motto. However, I wanted a chance to exercise outside during the summer, and I wanted to do something that seemed to make more sense to other people, since videos certainly did not. I wanted something to brag about, so races appealed to me, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money up front on equipment. I signed up for a 5K and started the Couch to 5K training plan at During the training, I was nearly in tears once when I had to run 5 minutes at a stretch without walking. I had a lot of trouble converting over to becoming a runner, but on June 26, 2005, I ran my first race, the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K. At packet pickup, I was encouraged to sign up for the Pikesville 5K two weeks later, and I soon was on a roll, completing five 5Ks by October 2005.

In the fall of 2005, I started running with Fleet Feet Baltimore, who train following the Galloway Program of walk/run. This made it a whole lot easier for me to run, and I ended up deciding to take the big step of starting a marathon training program in the spring of 2006. During this period, my marriage was in shambles, and the day I ran my first marathon training run was also the day that I separated from my husband of 6 years. That first year of marathon training was a way to keep my mind from my troubles, and it seemed as though each run was my longest run ever! This is when Todd and I started dating. He runs also, and we supported each other through that first year of marathons. I ran my first Marathon - the 31st Marine Corps Marathon - on October 29, 2006 with a time of 6:23. I went on to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January, 2007 with a time of 6:24.

Showing off my medal at Marine Corps 2006

In 2007, I did another full marathon season, reprising the exact same race schedule as in 2006. I ran Marine Corps 2007 with a time of 6:25, and then failed to keep up my training through January and barely finished the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2008 with a time of 6:42.

After that last difficult marathon, I decided to take a year off and run half marathons, and I've completed four of them now. This year, I am again training for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2010, with a goal of completing the race in under 6 hours. My next race is the Philadelphia Distance Run on September 20.

After the Frederick Half Marathon 2008

In the end, while weight loss is what led me to run, running itself is what keeps me running.

My Training Group and Running in Baltimore
When I started running, I never figured that I would meet as many friends as I have, and now my main reason to keep running is to keep up with my friends. Our training group is tight-knit, and we often help each other improve. I became a group leader for the 2008 Galloway Training Season, and I'm a group leader again this year. We walk/run intervals, and my group trains with 1:30 running, followed by a minute of walking.

My training group at the end of the year party 2008

We rarely run in the city of Baltimore, but spend the majority of our time on the Northern Central Rail (NCR) Trail. This runs from Timonium, Maryland (just north of Baltimore) to the Pennsylvania line. Our hill training is either at Loch Raven Reservoir, or at our home running store, Fleet Feet Baltimore.

Along the NCR Trail in Northern Baltimore County

Local races are often hilly, but can be a lot of fun. My favorite 5K is the Oriole Advocates 5K, which ends on the warning track at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. My favorite race is the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, which takes runners through a hot and hilly course in historic downtown Annapolis (my hometown!). We have a number of marathons and half marathons in the spring and fall, at places such as the B&A Trail, Frederick, Baltimore and on the NCR Trail. We are also close to the Marine Corps Marathon and many of our runners run that race each year.

Some of my fellow runners at Loch Raven Reservoir

Take It and Run Thursday
My question is: Now that we're heading into the fall and winter marathon seasons, and we've talked a lot about how to prepare for races, let's talk about spectators. What do you like and dislike from spectators out on a course? Are cowbells good or bad? Do you prefer to have someone waiting with food or gatorade? What tips can you give for people who are just out to watch the race and not participate?

I've been all over the place on this subject. Definitely for my first few marathons, I've needed a lot of fan support. I so appreciated my friends and family coming out to cheer me on. However, as time goes by, I'm finding that I need the support less and less. There are times when I'm trying to set a time goal or PR and feel guilty if I don't stop and say hello. I understand how frustrating it can be to wait and wait for your runner, just have them come and gone in a few seconds. I've been there. So, I always feel an obligation to stop and chat, and by doing so I'm sometimes risking losing my pace.

It is easiest to have spectators who are runners themselves, so that they understand your needs and the necessity to keep moving during a race. Todd rarely spectates, but will run beside me at my pace for races where he's offering his support - he ran both of my Disney Marathons with me at my pace, which is significantly slower than his.

The final stretch of the Disney Marathon 2007. Todd is clearly running slower than his usual pace.

As far as your average joe specator goes, there are just certain thing spectators shouldn't say. For example, spectators should never, no matter how well meaning it seems, yell lies to the runners. If this is not the last hill, don't yell that it is. If there remains more than 25% of the race, don't yell "almost there!" If there's no beer at the finish line, don't yell that there is beer there. What should you yell? A simple "go runners!" is always sufficient, and even though you may have said it 1,000 times before I see you, it's the first time I've heard you say it.

Most of all, don't mock the slower runners. I CANNOT STAND IT when someone tells me not to walk, even though I walk throughout the whole race, and I plan to do so. There is never time to explain this to a spectator, so I just say "I'll run again in a minute," and move on (while they probably think I'm lazy?). At the Annapolis Ten Mile Run a couple weeks ago, around mile 7, there were four people sitting in beach chairs at the bottom of an out and back hill - so you ran down, then the course turned around and you ran back up again towards mile marker 7. As I passed by, I heard one person say, "Hey, don't let anyone pass you!" and another responded "I don't think anyone back here is passing anyone." In other words, the back of the pack people never pass others towards the end of a race? Nonsense! Bad spectators!

My friends at the Marine Corps Marathon 2006

Most spectators, though, are good. I'm glad they're there and I always appreciate some support from folks who have come out to cheer runners on. I know it's not the most exciting thing in the world, but we're glad you're there.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Unanswered Prayers

by Garth Brooks
Like Garth Brooks says in the liner notes of his Greatest Hits CD, "Happiness isn't getting what you want, it's wanting what you've got."  Sometimes, you don't know where you ought to be until the time is right to be there, I suppose.

Just the other night a hometown football game,
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame,
And as I introduced them, the past came back to me,
And I couldn't help but think of the way things used to be...

She was the one that I'd wanted for all times,
And each night I'd spend praying that God would make her mine.
And if he'd only grant me this wish I wished back then,
I'd never ask for anything again.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers,
Remember when you're talking to the man upstairs,
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care,
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

She wasn't quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams,
And I could tell that time had changed me,
In her eyes too it seemed.
We tried to talk about the old days,
There wasn't much we could recall.
I guess the Lord knows what he's doing after all.

And as she walked away, I looked at my wife,
And then and there I thanked the good Lord,
For the gifts in my life.

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers,
Remember when you're talking to the man upstairs,
That just because he may not answer doesn't mean he don't care.
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
Some of God's greatest gifts are all too often unanswered...
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TIART Slideshow Preview

This week, I'm hosting Take it and Run Thursday from Runner's Lounge.  Head on over there on Thursday to participate, I selected the question, which has to do with spectators at races.  As part of my hosting, I also created a Slideshow to show some of the places where I run in Baltimore, a few memorable races, and what it's like to run with my running group at Fleet Feet.  Enjoy! 

Sea Things #14: Orange Cup Coral

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.

Orange Cup Coral, or Tubastraea coccinea, totally surprised and delighted me the first time I ever really noticed them.  I mean, corals are everywhere, but these are special.  Like many corals, they put out little tentacles at night, but they also just look incredibly beautiful when they do, as compared to how they look in the daytime.

From 2009 Bonaire - Best of Resized
These corals are usually found in shady areas.  I have seen them on wrecks, on dock pilings, and rocks.  They were especially prevalent for us in Bonaire - we saw them under our dock on the last trip and then under Town Pier in 2007.  Sadly, Bonaire had to scrape off the pilings at Town Pier and Salt Pier after Hurricane Omar, when inspection for damage was needed. In the above photo, we found some on the undersides of holes in the reef during our night dive on Klein Bonaire.

Intesteringly, Orange Cup Coral is not native to the Caribbean, but was brought in, presumably on a ship's hull, in 1943.  It's moved in a predictable pattern since, finally ending up in the Northern Gulf of Mexico in 1999.  They're terribly interesting and fun to look at, and they're one of my favorite corals.

From 2009 Bonaire - Best of Resized

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.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Normal Eating

Going through my normal Daily RSS Feeds earlier in the week, I came across a couple of articles about "Normal eating." The descriptions of what normal eating is did such a wonderful job of putting words to what I have been trying to do with my eating for about 2 years now, maybe more.
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it-not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
This is what I've been trying to do!

Weight loss and maintenance has been an 11 year struggle for me, and I think I've finally reached a point where I've found balance and the ability to eat like a "normal" person. In the past, I've been in one of two extremes, either:

  1. Eating "what I want," which meant lots of processed things, crazy binges that embarass me to even talk about (standing in the cabinet eating a whole bag of cookies and not even tasting them), and constantly eating myself to the point of being overstuffed at every meal...
  2. Or, the opposite. Watching every bite, every calorie, low fat, low cal, diet food, Snackwells, Weight Watchers points, etc...

I have been looking for something in between, where I do exactly what is described in the paragraph above. I enjoy food, I eat what I want, I forgive myself for overeating and even allow myself to do it. I exercise to help keep my body in shape, and I ponder what I'm going to eat based on what my body is asking for and what it will feel like after. Food is good, but food is also fuel.

We all know that it isn't healthy to be obese, to be sedentary, or to be a canidate for adult-onset diabetes. However, I no longer think it's healthy to be the opposite either. Trust me, I know all of the diet tricks and I question them from a mental standpoint now. That's why I disklike Weight Watchers these days.

Am I where I want to be? Almost. I've been maintaining a weight I'm comfortable with for well over a year now, but I also would like to lose another 10-15 pounds before my marathon so that I have 10-15 pounds less to carry with me for 26 miles. Will I do it? Who knows, maybe not.

I do eat what I want. I love sweets, and I have dessert regularly. Not every day, but regularly. when I go to a social function, I generally eat what I want without worrying about some of the tricks that I learned in Weight Watchers. I make healthy, nutritious meals and avoid processed foods. I listen to my body. I am not always perfect, but I'm a work in progress and I'm getting there. I feel like I've come a long way from my points counting days, but I could be wrong. Who knows.

As an a kind of unrelated aside, there is another great blog out there that shows photos of people along with their BMI classification (for the record, I am "overweight" by approximately 5 pounds). The BMI Project.

The articles:

Recipe: Wasabi Salmon

I made this on Wednesday night, since I remembered halfway through my run that I had forgotten to soak the cedar plank for the Brown Sugar Salmon that I had been planning to make. It only had to marinade 5 minutes, which was great, and it was very flavorful and awesome. I would definitely recommend it. I cooked it on the grill, because the grill is more better, and I served it with roasted red skinned potatoes and a tomato and cucumber salad.

I did not have any bottled ginger, but I used dried ground ginger instead. However, I burned myself as a result. How, do you ask, do I burn myself as a result of not having bottled ginger? Well, let me explain.

I preheated the grill after I finished preparing the foil packets for the potatoes. I thought I could preheat while I prepared the marinade for the salmon and got that going. However, I couldn't find the bottled ginger. I searched the whole fridge - I was certain that I had some. Surely, it's just hidden behind the ketchup? No. Ok, I can use dried ground ginger. Search through the spice cabinet for the dried ground ginger. Don't see any... Is it behind the Montreal Steak Seasoning? No. Hm. Dammit, I was sure I had bottled ginger. Open the fridge, search through there one more time. Nothing. Ok, fine. I went to the basement to the "spare spices," which is stuff that doesn't fit in the kitchen, and extras from before I was with Todd. Go through the spare spices. Here we are! Dried ground ginger, and it's not even expired, hooray! Take it upstairs, finish the marinade and get the salmon going.

At this point, the grill's been preheating with the heat up to high for a really long time. I take the potatoes outside and put them on the grill. It is six hundred degrees. I leave the lid open for a minute to get it to cool (and turned the heat way down, obviously) and then finally plopped the foil packets on the grill and they sizzle through the foil packet. Hm. Put the lid down. It's still over 500 degrees in the grill. Open the lid back up again to let more air out. Turned my hand funny and touched the grill lid with the knuckle on my right hand. Something like a third degree burn for just hitting for a second - I got a blister there immediately.

Stupid ginger.

Anyway, the salmon is good. Wasabi Salmon

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stats as of 31 Aug 2009

August 2008
63.3 miles
14 hours, 49 minutes
Avg Pace: 14:03/mile
Annapolis Ten Mile Run 2008: 2:05:40 (12:34/mile)

August 2009
76.4 miles -- 13.1 miles longer than in 2008
16 hours, 37 minutes -- 1:48 longer than in 2008
Avg Pace: 13:03/mile -- 1 minute better than in 2008
Annapolis Ten Mile Run 2009: 2:01:47 (12:11/mile)

Total mileage for 2009 so far: 415.7 miles
Avg pace for 2009: 13:02/mile

As we are moving into September, my long runs are getting longer in preparation for Disney.  I am upping my weekday runs as well, and most likely restarting the STS system to gain strength and lose body fat and weight in order to become faster for my big marathon goal of under 6 hours in January 2010.  Next race is the Philadelphia Distance Run, which is a half marathon, on September 20.

TIART: Motivation

This week's Take it and Run Thursday comes from Lindsay, who asks: Whether training for a specific race or just running for the fun of it, we all experience the ups and downs of running. What do you do to get yourself motivated to run when it feels like it's the last thing you want to do?

There are a few things that really motivate me:

  • Reading Runner's World
  • Reading blogs like Runner's Lounge
  • Listening to others' race reports
  • Taking the "work" out of running by making it social, and running with friends
  • Logging my runs and watching my run stats change
  • Switching up and doing something different - running in a new place or doing speed work or something that I don't usually do.
By far, my biggest-ever motivator was becoming a group leader for the Galloway program.  There's nothing more motivating for long runs than having a bunch of folks expecting you to be there every week -- and expecting YOU to be the one motivating THEM.  I haven't missed a Saturday run just because I want to sleep in since early 2007, and my group is why (I've missed them for other reasons though - illness, vacation, etc).

And quite honestly, when none of that works and it's just a day to day problem with feeling motivated for my runs, I have to just give myself a mental kick in the pants and tell myself to get out there and do it.  I don't have another way to explain it, other than I force myself.  Sometimes, like last night, I don't give myself a chance to think up an excuse in my head, I just move like a robot: Drive home from work, put stuff down, change clothes, get out on the road for four miles.

I try to explain to my group members about the Galloway Program.  This is what I say - We are lucky.  Galloway is a low mileage program.  where other programs will require commitments of running 4 and 5 times a week, minimum, Galloway only requires 3 runs per week.  This is generally great news, but comes at a price -- we cannot skip runs.  When Galloway says run 3x per week, you have to run 3x per week!  On a 4 or 5 run per week program, you can skip a weekly run now and again without a lot of problem, but on the Galloway program there is a difference between running both of your weekday runs and only running one.  You WILL notice a difference and you WILL pay for it with your time at your race.  We HAVE to get out there, we HAVE to remain motivated, and we can be excited because yes, we have to get that run in on Tuesday, but we can take Wednesday off.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sea Things #13: Corals

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.

Here's a little bit of interesting things about corals, which are everywhere, and which comprise an entire group of sea things rather than something specific. I'll go into more details on various types of corals in future installments of sea things, but just talking about corals in general is pretty interesting as a start.

First of all, corals, if you are not aware, are animals. This is a big deal because they don't move, and apparently people generally want to classify things that don't move as plants. I, however, have trouble imagining that coral, sea fans and the like are plants or animals - they seem like a whole different thing to me. But, that's just me. They're animals, and this was first discovered in 1753 by french biologists in the Atlantic.

The animals themselves are tiny. The photo below shows star coral, with polyps that are around 1/4 - 1/2 inches in size (and the fish is a friendly Goby). These tiny creatures amass themselves into huge colonies that form coral reefs. Corals have a skeleton of calcium carbonate, which they gather from seawater, and over a very long time form a limestone base of a reef. These can even build themselves up into islands and atolls. Without coral, we wouldn't have the Cayman Islands, for example. Pictured at the top of the page is Lettuce Coral from Belize, one of the many shapes and types of corals out there.

So, with this particular phylum of animals that are corals (called Cnidaria), there are animals that hang out alone and solitary throughout their lives - anemone. There are other animals that group together and amass themselves - most corals. And then there are others that go off and free float around in the water, and those are jellyfish. That's right, jellyfish and coral are really about the same thing. The thing that really makes them about the same is that they have some sort of stinging tentacle that they use to catch prey. Most of the time, divers aren't affected, but sometimes they are (like with jellyfish and fire coral).

Corals are delicate. They require light, so the water must be clear. They also require a very strict temperature range - about 70 to 85 degrees. The problem these days with global warming is that water temperatures have been rising, and this leads to mass amounts of corals dying off (called coral bleaching). In fact, when we were in Bonaire in August 2008, my dive computer was registering surface temps of 84 degrees, so we were close. However, that was on the surface and the water temperature dropped once we got down on to the reef. There hasn't been a major bleaching event since 2002, when a large portion of the Great Barrier Reef became bleached. When corals die, it can take a crazy amount of time for them to repair themselves. Corals grow at less than an inch a year most of the time.

Corals are fascinating and I hope to talk about more of them in the future. I just wanted to go over some basic facts about corals in general before going into more detail on each individual species.

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.
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