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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sea Things #21: Common Octopus

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.

In the Caribbean, there are a couple of different types of octopi. We call them "daytime octopi" and "nighttime octopi." Do I really need to explain the difference? Well, one you only see during the day and one you see at night. So, today we're talking about the daytime kind and that is the Common Octopus, or Octopus vulgaris. Now, let's be honest here, if you were an octopus, would you rather be called a Common Octopus or an Octopus vulgaris? Hmm?

So, people kinda know about octopi. They have 8 legs, etc. They eat other mollusks, such as clams and scallops. Like squid, they change color in order to blend in with their surroundings. I thought about what a diver hand signal would be for an octopus, I don't know that I know of one. I think Todd has told me what it is before, but I usually end up just pointing. But, then again, I've never found an octopus myself either.

We've had a few instances of seeing a Common Octopus underwater. The first was in Little Cayman in July 2007. Chef Ron was with us on the boat, and we looked over towards where he was in the shallows at the end of the dive, and there he was with an octopus! We came over and spent a good bit of time with him. As it turns out, octopus do not mind being touched. We went ahead and touched him and he hung out and let us pet him.

We saw another octopus out in the open (the one pictured here) in July 2009. Todd spotted this one, and he had been camouflaged enough that many other divers had passed him during that same dive and not spotted him. Todd got some great photos, and again we were able to pet him.

There was another octopus that we saw in Bonaire in the spring. It was right outside of our hotel on the house reef, and only his eye and a couple of suckers could be seen in this tiny little hole. Todd happened to spot him, but since he was cornered, I didn't feel comfortable touching him (others we'd touched were out in the open and could swim away if they'd wanted to). I don't ever like putting animals in a position where it will stress them out.

There are a lot more interesting things about octopi. I would try and check out the Amazing Octopus on the Science Channel if you can. We watched it the other night and it was pretty fascinating.

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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I have the flu.

I was gonna blog about it, but updating my Facebook status sapped all of my energy. Still, I'm trying.

Basically, I think I picked it up from this kid who was the only one that I saw visibly sick in Florida. He looked like death and should not have been out of his hotel room, and he was in the same restaurant as us. Of course, there were an awful lot of coughs on the plane, too, so who knows.

Yes, I think it's H1N1, but that's only because I already had a seasonal flu shot in September and because my understanding is that H1N1 is the only flu going around right now.

No, I don't intend to go to the doctor unless I get a lot worse. My doc is in Owings Mills, and I just don't feel like going down there. I'm not in the high risk category, and I feel like going down there is only going to potentially make others sick and not do that much for me. Todd's boss also had H1N1 and recovered ok after a few days.

It started with a cough, and I came home from work yesterday and took my temperature. 98.9. I decided that wasn't a fever, and I was just a hypochondriac and I got on the treadmill. 2 miles later, I was feeling a lot worse and stopped. After the treadmill, my temp was 99.5. Middle of the night, it got up to 100.0. Today, it's gotten as high as 100.2, but not much higher. I have a wicked bad sore throat and I'm amazingly, horrifically tired. So tired that I didn't have the energy to stay awake to watch the Ellen show, and so tired that I couldn't get up for Oprah.

Todd's not sick, which is good, but it seems like he probably will get it. We'll see. The Bug has been awesome, he slept with me all last night and today. Of course, I think he is just excited that I am warmer than usual.

Bleh. So tired... I'm going to try to eat. Todd went out and got me chicken & stars soup. :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo! I'm Faster Than You!

So, I first spotted this article because Jen posted it on her blog. How could I pass up an article like this? You know I had to post it on my blog.

The article basically states that runners who finish a marathon slower than an 11 minute pace, or a 4:48 total time, is not really running a marathon. Somehow, running at this pace or slower degrades the marathon, and it devalues the medals of those who "truly" ran. And the New York Times published this two weeks before the New York Marathon, a race that they sponsor -- a race with a large percentage of people in the back of the pack. And this is the same newspaper that published an article about a soldier who took two weeks to finish a marathon. Bravo!

Here is a quote from Friday's article:
“It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours,” said Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984. “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’ ”
In a debate on the Web site, someone posting as Record10 Carbon wrote that more than half of the people at a marathon are just overweight and “trying to get a shirt and medal ... looking to one day tell a story about the saga and the suffering of their 11 minute pace ‘race.’ ”
Oh, gosh. Where do I start?

These statements are silly on so many levels. I mean, for a start, if you're doing a 4:30, I hate to burst your bubble, but you're not exactly an elite. If you are a man, you aren't going to qualify for Boston with a 4:30 unless you're in your 70s. And ladies, a 4:30 only gets you a Boston Qualifying time if you're 60 years old or older. So, in fact, you're just like me, just another average joe out there running 26 miles to get a medal and nothing else. That Kenyan in the front isn't going to be bowing down to your superiority just like you're not bowing down to mine. To think that there's some magical formula out there making you more special than me is just foolishness.

And I've got news for you - if it's running rather than run/walking the whole race that makes you feel so smug, you're out on that, too. My friends who have qualified for Boston take walk breaks. My friends who run 4:30 and better take walk breaks. We all take walk breaks, and a lot of us are passing you. Plus, two days later when you're still icing your legs? We're walking around like nothing happened. Because we take care of ourselves. No one is giving you a pat on the back for not walking, they're laughing at you. We know the secret and you're too full of pride to give it a shot. There aren't special medals for those who run vs. walk vs. run/walk, but go ahead and plan a race that rewards running the whole 26 if you want. No one is stopping you.

That's the key here - there are races with all sorts of target participants. Disney aims for all-inclusive - everyone. That's why it has a 7 hour time limit. The Breast Cancer Marathon aims to raise money and get people to the race - including training people who have never run before. Boston showcases running's greatest, and has a qualifying time. Marathons exist with strict cutoff times, and require runners to run within a certain time limit. I have never heard a runner upset that he can't enter a particular race because of a time limit, and I hang with a whole lot of slow people. We run the races that are appropriate for us, and so should elites and mid-pack people. It's up to the race director to decide what the limits on a race should be, and it is up to every participant to know what those are and obey them.

Some people argue that what is meant by this article is that faster runners can be held back by slower runners trying to get into the front of the pack. Faster runners then are forced to run around those who are walking, or those who are slower than they are. That's fine, if you want to use that argument. I side with you, in fact. I get really annoyed running around packs of walkers, too, even at my pace. It is a matter of courtesy to be aware of those around you and yield to someone who is faster than you. However, I don't argue for even one second that those walkers don't have as much of a right to be there as I do.

The fact of the matter is, marathons are full these days because of people like me. I pay my race entry fees, too, and some of that money goes towards awards that I can never hope to earn. I recently posted here about what I think about when choosing a race, and not once have I chosen a race because of prize money. But, I pay for the prize money, don't I? And I'm not complaining, because I actually (gasp!) admire those who win awards, I congratulate them and hope to be up there someday with them. The thought that they're looking down on me like I don't even deserve my medal is not only insulting, but wrong. Do you think Marine Corps or New York could afford all of those amenities if it weren't for race entry fees from runners like me?

So what, really, is the problem? If you're really doing a 4:30, you won't see me at the start because I'm in a different corral. You won't see me during the race because I'm behind you with no hope of catching up. You won't see me at the finish because it is another hour and a half before I get there, and by then you will hopefully be at home showering. Is it just that the mere thought that someone else is out there running YOUR race slower than you is too much? I can't fathom this. I can't fathom that people are wasting their time thinking about this for even one second, that they are truly that shallow.

Next comes the insinuation that if you are finishing a race in more than 5 hours, that you must not have trained. REALLY? You think that the secret to getting anybody under 5 hours is just to train harder? If there were some magical training plan that would get me to finish a race in under 5 hours, I'd do it in a second. I have the time. But, I better not get injured in the process. Trust me, this body isn't going under 5 hours for a long, long time, if ever. I'm out there every weekend, 52 weeks a year. Technically, I started training for Disney 2010 in January 2008, and I STILL will have a challenge just getting in under SIX hours. I have never heard something so absurd.

This is all nonsense, and something that I just can't stay angry about because it's so, so, stupid. My running and friends are about support. I don't compete with the people that I run with, because that atmosphere is poisonous. In fact, I choose not to run with anyone who starts to act the least bit competitive (and not supportive). I'm not saying you're wrong in wanting to compete with others, just leave me out of it, I don't want in on your game. That's why I chose running and not some other sport in the first place. My own demons are enough to fight without you getting involved.

I mean, have you ever heard of karma? Do you think you could never be me? Do you want to hear my stories of people I've run with at my pace? Anything can happen. Car accident. Arthritis. Cancer. Heart disease. Bum knees. Or, just plain age. 4:30 might be your best time, and someday you might be back here with the guy juggling and the guy dressed in a tuxedo, and you might be struggling to finish that marathon at all -- and then 6 hours may not seem so horrible. Bad things can happen to everyone, you're not immune because you ran a 4-hour race once. And if it does, we'll be back there, ready to take your hand and help you cross that finish line, because that is what back of the pack people do. We're here to be sure that everyone finishes, no matter what insults they may have slung at us in the past. And we will cross that line and wear our medals proudly, no matter how much you try to bring us down.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tower of Terror 13K 2009

We liked this race so much last year, that we decided to take a weekend and go down to Florida to do it one more time. This is the last year that they are offering the Tower of Terror 13K, next year we'll be doing the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Epcot Center, instead.

We left Baltimore Friday evening. The trip down was pretty typical. We were staying at Beach Club, which is our favorite vacation club resort. We hadn't even brought our park passes with us - the plan was to spend the day Saturday relaxing poolside.

We slept in some on Saturday, which for us is 9am. After that, we headed over to the Wide World of Sports Complex for packet pickup. It was crowded - there was a Tae Kwon Do event going on there. We took our packets back to the hotel and then spent the day by the pool at Beach Club, which is really nice.

We had some trouble figuring out meals, but ended up eating at the Captain's Grille at the Yacht Club, which is right next to our hotel. Rationale behind it was that we were still almost 5 hours before start time, and I figured any food would be digested quite a bit. I was thinking of it like an evening run that I'd do at home, and I don't normally put a lot of thought into my eating during the day when I have an evening run. I ended up ordering a steak and garlic mashed potatoes, with some bread from the bread basket.

The problem, though, was the dinner was too buttery - it was one of those kind of steaks. Rather than just being grilled, it had a lot of butter. So did the potatoes. And so, since I normally don't have that much fat & protein in one meal, it made me sick. Well, it made both of us sick. Poor choice. Then, my panicking about it made me take some medicine, but it didn't really help, and maybe made it worse.

I felt like I was ok, when we got to the starting area we still had about an hour left (the race started at 10:30pm). We sat on the ground waiting for the 5K to start (the 5K is new this year). There were people giving out race tattoos and taking photos. We had a bag to check, too, with clothes to wear later. Disney had set up a scenario where someone had been kidnapped. We had all of the suspects on our bib and there were clues set up around the area. When a clue eliminated someone, we punched a hole in that part of our bib. So, we had some clues to go through at the start of the race.

The race started and we headed out. I felt bad from the start - my stomach was cramping for that very first interval. I was doing 1:30 & 1s and Todd was staying with me this race. There were a lot of folks dressed in various outfits, and things were quite festive, but I just wasn't feeling it. I was feeling sick and sluggish. Somewhere during mile 2, I started wishing we'd signed up for the 5K instead.

The course passed into the Wide World of Sports Complex, and the crowd thinned some, which helped my spirits a lot. We were keeping an easy pace, not really pushing, and I was doing the best that I could with my stomach still in knots. By the time we were leaving the WWS complex, we were passing the halfway point (4 miles) and I was not feeling perfect, but I had at least hit a groove where I could go without too much discomfort. I was doing things that I don't normally do, like allowing myself to walk through water stops without shortening a walk break later.

Finally, we were back to Hollywood Studios, and I think we sped up some. We passed mile marker 7 and I knew there was only 1 mile left. I didn't have chrono going on my watch at all, so I didn't know how far we had left. I kept thinking the finish line was coming soon, but I couldn't remember and ended up messing up my intervals. Since we'd sped up, I was feeling really horrible. Finally, we were rounding around toward the finish line and Todd had mentioned this girl dressed as a pirate. We had just passed her and then she turned it on and tried to pass me. Something clicked in my head and I sprinted to the finish line. I beat the pirate, but that really hurt my stomach. I also PR'd, I was about 6 minutes faster than last year.

After the finish, we had a long wait for our bags. That didn't happen last year, and we were pretty disappointed at how long we had to wait in line. The park seemed more crowded, but we did get right on Tower of Terror. It was a blast and I was pleased to neither get whacked in the face with my medal or get sick :) We headed around to Toy Story Mania, but the line was long, so we ended up circling back to ride Rock n' Roller Coaster twice. Too fun, and I think the roller coaster even made my stomach feel better somehow.

It was 2am by then, and the park was closed. We headed out to our bus, which smelled horrible. It was hot and there was no air moving, and I was tired. I was not feeling well, but we made it back to Boardwalk Hotel, and walked back to Beach Club, finally getting to sleep around 3am. I was still pretty sick, and had some trouble sleeping. It was a fitful night.

We woke up this morning and hung in the room until check out. We did our usual breakfast at Cape May Cafe, and then spent an hour and a half lounging at the pool while we waited for the Magical Express to take us back to the airport.

We're back home, and I am feeling better. Live and learn. I know better than to eat like that before a race, but you know, sometimes you gotta make that mistake. I guess.

Some thoughts on the race:
I didn't have as much fun as last year, but some of that might be just that it wasn't new any more, and a lot of it was because I wasn't feeling well. The addition of the 5K meant that the 13K started a half hour later, which took 30 minutes out of our time in the park right there. Then, there were more people, so lines were longer and things were crowded. We still got to ride some rides, but last year we had time to eat, too. (which might have helped me to feel better).

Other than that, we had a good time and I thought the clues and the mystery were cute (although we never solved the puzzle). I felt like they had a hard time figuring out what to do with this race to make it really special, so maybe that's one of the reasons why they canceled it. I would definitely had preferred to have started a bit earlier.

We knew what to do since we'd done it last year, and the course was about the same. It was a nice race, the weather was PERFECT and it's always fun to see folks in costume. Plus, it's an excuse to see Mickey! It's a long day, though.

The Minnie Mouse outfit worked out well, and I liked the skirt ok. I'm not likely to buy another one, though.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TIART: Why Race?

This week's Take it and Run Thursday comes from MCM Mama, who asks, "We've all discussed why we run, but why do you RACE and how do you choose which races to run?
Do you look for certain distances, swag, location, start time, or something else? Tell me how you decide where and when to race. Also, I'm currently on a quest to run a race in every state. Please tell me--and others about a particular race you've run that is not to be missed. "

My running and racing basically started at the same time. The day I ran my first couch to 5k training run, I dropped off an application in the mail to run my first 5K (because I used to mail in my apps!). I race because I have to have goals. Running would be far less interesting if I wasn't training for something. I try to keep it to 2-3 major (half marathon or above) races per year, though. Even having one as far as 4-5 months out is enough to get me out on the trail.

As far as choosing races... I factor in some of the following:
  1. Location. Often I need to stay local, which means I need to stay within a half a day's drive. The Philadelphia Distance Run was a bit of a drive for us (2 1/2 hours), and OBX is just a bit too far. So is Richmond. If I'm going out of town, I try to stay in the Eastern timezone because I usually don't have a desire to deal with jetlag or long flights, either. As much as I'd love to run San Diego or Portland, we take too many trips for our other hobby (scuba diving) to allow me to take time off of work to acclimate a different timezone and take a long flight for a race. Maybe someday, though.
  2. Friends. I'll often choose to run a race because a bunch of friends are doing it. This is why I ran Marine Corps in 2006. I had no intention or desire to run Marine Corps, but then most of my friends were, so I did. This has become a little less of an issue now that I've overcome my fears of running alone.
  3. Schwag. I'm a sucker for a nice bit of schwag just like everyone else is. I love my Annapolis Ten Miler stuff. I love my Celtic Solstice fleece. Those would be two completely different races if it were not for the schwag. I want my medals for races, and I've resisted getting a DNF just thinking about losing out on getting a medal. Gotta have that stuff! On the opposite side, there's nothing more irritating than a race that gives out the exact same shirt every year. Hooray, another boxy green short sleeve shirt where they don't even put the year on it anymore.
  4. Schedule. Being a group leader, I have to kind of do a few races that I really don't want to do. I dislike the Race for Our Kids 10K, but do it every year because it's part of the race schedule. This keeps me from doing some other races, like the Survivor Harbor 7.
  5. Disney. I'm just a sucker for Disney races. When I finally do go to another timezone, it will likely be to run the Disneyland Half Marathon (maybe in 2011). But, then, will I have time that year to also run the Princess Half Marathon? I think Todd's already decided we're doing the Wine & Dine Half Marathon... (I cannot wait for that one! It sounds AWESOME!) They just keep me coming back! No one does races like Disney.
  6. History and other random small things. For example, I won't run the Baltimore Half Marathon again because I do not like the 9:45am start time, and I won't run the Baltimore Full Marathon because I don't like the course (hilly and through ugly slums). I am considering not running the Frederick Half Marathon a third year in a row just because I've run it twice. So, there are other little things, but they're not as big as the others.
Not to be missed:
  • Any Disney Race (see above)
  • Non-Disney Florida Race: The Gasparilla Distance Classic (lots of distances, good race support, great city, medal for every distance, excellent expo).
  • Annapolis Ten Mile Run: GREAT race premium, competitive and challenging race (makes you feel like you DID something at the end), some of the best spectators anywhere, beautiful town - my hometown!
  • Philadelphia Distance Run: Beautiful town, flat and pretty course, Rock & Roll, great time of year to run.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sea Things #20: Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

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.

When I'm talking about Sea Things, you don't normally think of an island, I suppose. But, still, let's talk a little bit about one of the islands that I visit and that is my love. Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles.

We've traveled to Bonaire three times. Well, Todd went once before I did, but that trip is rather unimportant. Each time, we discover new things and see new things.

Bonaire is located just north of Venezuela. It's 113 square miles, and its largest city is Kralendijk. The "other" city is Rincon. It is part of the Netherlands Antilles, and part of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao). The closest Caribbean island is Curacao.

Bonaire was first inhabited by Caiquetios Indians (who were part of the Arawak Tribe), and then in 1499 was discovered by Alonso de Ojeda (along with Amerigo Vespucci). The island was claimed for Spain, but had no gold or silver or other metals, and didn't get enough rain to grow any crops. What it did have were Indians, so guess what? The Spanish shipped all of them over to Hispaniola and had them work there as slaves. Awesome (sarcasm - rolling eyes). Less than 20 years later, there were very few people living on Bonaire at all.

So then, in 1526, Juan de Ampues was appointed governor of the ABC Islands. He decided that Bonaire could be used to raise animals, and imported some donkeys, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, etc. He also brought some of the original Caiequetios Indians back, but instead of letting them live freely, kept them as slaves. For good measure, be picked up some slaves in Venezuela and had them come work on Bonaire, as well. The animals roamed freely on the island, and even now there are lots and lots of goats and donkeys wandering around the island free.

During the next couple hundred years, Bonaire's population grew some, since the Dutch would stop by periodically and drop off a ship of convicts. The convicts were then forced to work on the island as slaves. In 1633, the dutch attacked and won the ABC Islands and created Fort Oranje, which would become Kralendijk. The dutch saw value in Bonaire for making salt, and started working the slaves in the south on the salt pans. They built some slave quarters there, which are pictured above. They're small, not large enough to stand up in.

Bonaire remained under control of the Dutch for quite a while, although the British would take possession of it periodically. Slavery was abolished in 1862, but the salt business continued to grow. In 1837, obelisks were built in different colors (blue, red, orange and white) to guide ships to the correct salt pans.

After slavery was abolished, though, the salt wasn't quite as profitable. Many former slaves left the island to find work. It wasn't until oil was discovered in Venezuela that Bonaire began to grow again. A refinery was built in Bonaire and one on Curacao, and Bonaire had the money at last to do some public works projects, like build roads. From 1940 to 1947, Bonaire was an internment camp for captured German and Dutch Nazis. The wooden shacks and buildings where the Nazis were held were then turned into hotels and cottages after the war.

In 1962, Captain Don Stewart came to Bonaire. He had learned to scuba dive while in the navy, and in 1976 he opened Captain Don's Habitat, for scuba divers to come and enjoy Bonaire. Captain Don is credited for turning Bonaire into the dive destination that it is today, and he is quite the character. The rest is history.

Bonaire Today
Bonaire is, essentially, a desert. When you see what is on land, you hardly think that there is anything else to look for there. However, there are incredible things under water. In the north, is the town of Rincon and the Washington-Slagbaai National Park, and in the center is the town of Kralendijk. Between them are one lane and sometimes dirt roads, donkeys, cactus and brush. South of Kralendijk, there is an area of desert/brush, and then Lac Cai, which is an area known as some of the world's best windsurfing.

The language spoken on the island is frequently Papiamentu, although English, Spanish and Dutch are spoken quite a bit. Bonaire is known the most for its scuba diving. As you drive along a road on the coast, you will see yellow rocks with the name of each dive site written on them. It is an incredible experience to stop your truck, get out and put your gear on and then walk right into the water to dive. Each part of the island - north, south and middle - is a different geography underwater. The north is mostly hard corals, the south is mostly soft corals and the middle is a mixture of both.

In the center of Bonaire, there is also the smaller island, Klein Bonaire. It is 1500 acres and uninhabited. The dive sites around Klein Bonaire are incredible wall dives with lots of hard and soft corals. Some of our very best dives have been at Klein Bonaire.

Look for more photos of underwater adventures in Bonaire in both past and future Sea Things.

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, October 19, 2009

What the Heck?!

Picture it: The forecast is rain. 40 degrees. "Feels like" temperature of 32 degrees. 10-14 mph winds. Sunday, they're calling for more of the same. I have my first over twenty mile training run since the fall of 2007. My last over twenty training run ended horribly (and with me only doing 14 miles).

I spent 5 hours on Saturday in pouring rain. It was cold, and the rain just came down and down and down. If it stopped, we didn't notice because the trees continued to drip. The trail was a mess - sloppy and muddy and in places full of leaves and puddles. How horrible. It must have ended terribly, since I am the same person that titled previous blog posts about long runs things like "A Lot of Pain" and talked a lot about runs being bad.

Not so! It wasn't bad at all.

That's right, 21 miles in the pouring rain and 40 degree weather was not that bad. What the heck?! I ended strong, feeling like it was possible to finish the whole 26 if I had to. I wouldn't have had a time that was under 6 hours, but it would have happened. I was just feeling like my legs were tired around mile 18 or 19. I could keep going though, and I felt good. How crazy!

I'm as shocked as you are.

I wasn't even that sore. I was sore, but not a whole lot. I found that wearing my compression socks to bed helped me Saturday night, and by Sunday I was doing fine. I should be in good shape to run my next short run tomorrow night (hopefully at Fleet Feet).

The bad part is that I still have 2 more 20+ runs to go - 23 miles on 11/14 and 26 miles on 12/12. There's no telling how these will go. I've been stretching the long runs out, giving me and my group plenty of recovery time and maximizing the amount of long runs that we did while we were still within the Galloway training period (May-October). My group is doing great in their prep for Disney and/or Rock & Roll Arizona.

Things are looking good, here's hoping it stays this way for the rest of the year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

TIART: If I Only Had a...

For this week's Take it and Run Thursday, Mel asks, "Scarecrow asked for a Brain, Tin Man for a Heart, and Lion for Courage. If you could meet the Wizard of Running and ask for anything what would it be? When your wish was granted how would your travels down the Yellow Brick Road of running be different? (I had fun with this theme on my blog and hope you do too!)"

I could only really think of one thing, and that would be experience. My biggest regret when it comes to running (and perhaps life in general, since I don't believe in regrets usually), is that I didn't start at a younger age.

For years now, I have felt like I have watched people who are just starting running who move on to faster groups or become faster runners. Eventually, they surpass me. What do I do? I stay in the same place, in the same group, doing the same pace, year after year. I blame this 100% on the fact that I started becoming active at age 25 or 26, and started running at age 27. What would life be like now if I'd started running at age 14? I would have had higher self esteem in high school, I would have felt better, been more active, things would be oh so different.

And certainly, I wouldn't be striving to run a marathon in under 6 hours, I'd be doing something more like striving to run a marathon in 4 hours or something, don't you think?

It's not that I'm really bitter or anything, there is something nice about being in the slow group, and I love my ladies. We all struggle and we all come from different places, so it's nice to see how people fit into the puzzle. Still, I will always wonder what my true potential would have been had I given it my all when I was a teenager. But, then again, I guess my story would be a whole lot less interesting if that were the case, huh?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sea Things #19: White Spotted Moray Eel

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.
Eels are funny. Sometimes, like in the above photo, they look like they're smiling and excited and happy and friendly. Sometimes, like below, they look kinda mean. Really, as long as you don't mess with them, they are neither.

There are many types of eels, but today we're talking specifically about the White Spotted Moray, which is one of the most commonly found eels out there on the reef in the Caribbean. They are black and white spotted (seems like they're white with black spots, but it can be hard to tell). They hang out in holes and such on the reef. Eels aren't particularly difficult to spot, they usually have their head sticking out of a hole and they are just sitting there with their mouths open, looking around. Provided you don't touch them, they aren't troublesome to divers and usually just hang out. Periodically, Todd's flash will annoy them and they might get a little uppity.

Spotted Morays can get to be about 3 feet long. They eat fish and such, and if they bite a diver it can be very dangerous. If you look carefully at their teeth, you can see that they bend inward towards the eel's throat. This means, that if they bite down on you, and you pull your hand outward, you are just digging their teeth further into your hand. This is why you don't let the eel bite you in the first place. Like I said, they hang in the holes and just look around and generally make not even a slight attempt to bite a diver. One good way to get bitten? Stick your hand into a random hole. Don't do that.

The scientific name for a spotted moray is Gymnothorax moringa and the diver hand signal for an eel is similar to a crab - just open and close a hand... However, it's easily confused with crab and often Todd and I will do that signal and then make our arm into a snake like thing, to show that it's an eel and not a crab that we see.

When we visited Bonaire in August, 2008, we noticed dead spotted eels on the reef. We saw maybe 2 or 3 of them, when we'd never seen a dead eel before on a dive. This was troubling and we wondered if it was fishermen who had caught the eels by mistake and then thrown them back. In fact, it was found by Bonaire's National Park Foundation (STINAPA) that the spotted eels had a disease that was killing them. It was a vibrio bacteria, that is similar to human cholera. The eels were dying a painful and horrible death, and many, many eels had died.

In the end, the eel deaths came to an end when Hurricane Omar hit in the Fall of 2008. Omar did some reef damage, and wiped out some piers, but otherwise cleaned off the reef and got rid of the Vibrio bacteria. Hooray for nature! The Naturalist, who works for Bonaire Dive and Adventure did a write up on the disease. Indeed, when we returned to Bonaire in March of 2009, we didn't see any dead morays.

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.

Recipe: Rainbow Cake

This is not the same rainbow cake that I've raved about from my local bakery, Snickerdoodles. However, it's still a rainbow cake. I decided to give it a try when I saw it featured on Serious Eats a while back. I've had it in my bookmarks ever since and I've been looking for an excuse to give it a try. Well, Monday night was the night! Tuesday was my co-worker's birthday, and since she's the one that usually makes cakes for everyone's birthday, a volunteer was needed to bake her a cake on her special day.

I followed the directions here, but I changed it somewhat.

First of all, I used just regular cake mix, I didn't do the thing with the soda or follow that recipe at all. I used one box of white cake mix, and mixed it according to the package directions. I mean, it was Michelle's birthday, I'm not making her a diet cake, for heavens sake. You can use any white cake recipe that you want, I just wanted to use regular cake mix. When you do your mixing, don't quite beat the mix as long as it says to. Leave it a little bit undone, because you're going to continue to mix it once you add the coloring.

Once I mixed up the mix according to the directions, I then followed the step on the link that says to measure the mix so that you know how much it makes. Skip this step. I don't think it's necessary and the more transferring of mix that you do from bowl to bowl, the more you lose and the more that it gets over mixed. All you need to do is divide the mix into however many bowls you need for however many colors you want. I think 5 is a good amount of colors, so I did 5 colors. Just try to make the amount of mix in each bowl even with the others.

I went in search of the gel food coloring that was mentioned in Omnomicon's blog, and Wegman's didn't have the exact kind. They had gel food colors from Wilton that were pastels, so I bought those. I was disappointed to not get the primary colors in the original photos, but still I thought it would turn out nice (and thankfully I was making this for a female). I'm not sure where else to look for the gel food coloring, and I had limited time, so I just took the pastels.

So, once I divided it into five bowls, I added the food coloring and mixed it. I was pretty liberal with the color, and I didn't measure it. I would suggest adding a few drops, mixing and then adding a few more until you get your desired shade. It will get darker when it cooks, too. I used pink, yellow, blue, green (which were the included colors) and then mixed red and blue to make a purple layer.

Drop the mix into the prepared cake pans one color at a time. Put them in the pan in order, and then put them in the second pan in reverse order. On the first pan, your first color should be the most and the last color should be the least. Just estimate. So, since I put pink in the first pan first, I used 2/3 of my pink mix on the first pan. Then, I used a little less yellow, then 1/2 of the blue and green, and 1/3 of the purple. Then, I reversed it on the second pan, putting in the remaining of each - purple, then blue, then green, then yellow, then pink. Don't mix it, just plop them in the center of the pan (see the link above for info).

Bake according to package directions, and do with it what you want to do with a layer cake. I iced mine with Domino Sugar's Buttercream Frosting (my favorite frosting -- there is no reason to purchase frosting in a tub!). My cousin had given me my grandmother's frosting recipe, but I wasn't feeling brave enough to be adventurous with both the cake AND the frosting at the same time, so I elected not to try it. That, and I don't have a double boiler.

I want to try this again, but try to get a little more mix out of it. I found the cake to be somewhat short and flat, which I think came from over mixing. I had fully mixed the mix before mixing in the coloring. So, one solution would be what I wrote above, which is to mix the mix less before mixing in the coloring. Another solution would be to double the mix and use two boxes of mix. Or, just settle for a shorter cake. It still tasted good, after all. And, it looked quite festive.

Happy birthday, Michelle!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Back in the news today, a story that I had wanted to write about when it happened, but I got caught up in some other stuff and never got around to it.

In May, a great grandmother was tasered twice by a police officer at a traffic stop. Watch the video. Was this right? This is something that Todd and I definitely disagree on. I side with the grandmother, he sides with the police officer. The story is back in the news because she accepted a $40,000 settlement in the case. Here are my thoughts.

First off, NO, I do not think she should have gotten $40,000 for this. While I do (sort of) side with her, I don't think any kind of monetary award should be given to her. In fact, the only thing I'd truly support would be for her to pay her fine for speeding and get on with her life. There are lessons to be learned - for both her and the officer, and giving her that much money does nothing and is just greedy on her part. That is coming from the county, that is public money.

However, in the actual event, I side with her. Was she being bitchy and overreacting? Yes. Should she have acted the way she did? Absolutely not. Still, that doesn't give the officer free reign to just taser her. He is a trained professional. She is not. He should be able to diffuse the situation without using violence.

The second she started to get uppity (I think "uppity" is an appropriate word here), he raised his voice, yelled at her, and then pretty much went straight to the taser. While she was acting irrational and immature and frankly stupid, he should have been able to control her without the taser. He should not have continued raising his voice, which only made the situation worse. He led that scene so that it became a shouting match between the two of them and NONE of it was necessary. Don't even tell me that he couldn't have cuffed her without tasing her. He was not in danger, and honestly should have continued talking to her before asking her to get out of the car. He should have calmed her down because that is what he is TRAINED TO DO. That is his JOB.

People should be upset about the abuse of tasers that is going on. Luckily, she wasn't hurt, but tasers are not 100% safe. They should not be abused, and I hate this trend where police departments are issuing tasers to their officers and acting as though it's perfectly ok to tase anyone who doe anything out of line. There are lots of angry people in the world, and police officers are just (gasp!) going to have to learn to deal with them. Without violence. It's not a game, and those are not toys.

One thing I always find interesting when I see that tape is how the officer yells "TASERED!!" when he does it. Does this seem a little like he's playing a video game? And then, if all of this wasn't bad enough, she's on the ground, and he TASERS HER AGAIN! WTF? Why was that necessary??? What if someone had done that to HIS grandmother? Using a taser is not a decision to be taken lightly, and here it was. There are other ways to control the situation, and he should not have let is escalate until it was out of hand. He is unprofessional, and he should be trained better. She acted stupid, but HE is the one who should have taken control far earlier. He chose not to. He wanted to use his taser on somebody.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Baltimore Running Festival 2009

This morning, I was spectating the Baltimore Marathon, Half Marathon & Relay. Todd was running the marathon, so we were down at the stadium area at 7am. We met folks from Todd's group (Chrissy, Dannielle, Beth) and I met up with fellow spectators (Holly, Kristy, Dianne, and various spouses). We saw the marathoners off at their start at 8am.

Kristy, Holly and I went on down towards the Inner Harbor and Dianne stayed to run the 5K. She met up with us later. I stood and waited while the full marathon folks passed by, and saw Dannielle, Beth & Todd just before their mile 9 marker. It had gotten a lot colder and started to rain, and after I saw my runners pass, I went across the street to where the half marathon start was in progress to find my group. I found fellow runners Rebekah, Steve, Sue and Pat in corral 3. Took some photos, wished them well, and they were off.

After the half started, there was a section of full marathon course right there where it doubles back after going down Key Highway. This was the half point of the marathon and I spotted Dannielle, Todd & Beth again. I had gotten separated from Holly and Kristy, but caught up with them and Dianne after Todd passed. He decided to give another spectating spot a try and headed back to the convention center to get on the light rail to head up to the Meyerhoff. We were at marathon mile 24, and had been there a while when Todd called and let me know that he was stopping running, that things weren't right and he didn't feel comfortable finishing (any further details are Todd's to share, if he wishes). So, I headed back to the finish to meet up with him.

It was great to be out spectating for the race, and even better not to be running the half this year (bleh).

Chrissy, Dannielle, Todd
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

Chrissy, Dannielle, Todd and guess what that other chick's name is.
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

I always love these guys:
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

Mile 9
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

Rebekah & Steve
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

Rebekah, Steve, Pat & her daughter
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

Holly, Kristy & Dianne (aka Knuckleheads on the bridge)
From Baltimore Marathon 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Private: Update on My Dad

Update on My Dad

This is a private post on my private blog, and I control access to my private blog, hence the word "private." So, email me if you think you want access.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

TIART: Running Camp

For this week's Take it and Run Thursday, Lacey asks: "Imagine you are attending a week-long running camp. Where would it be? What would you do? Would there be classes? Bootcamps? Socials? I want to know all about the kinds of things that make up your ideal running-related week. No work, no obligations outside of camp,... for one week you can have it exactly your way! Tell me all about it!"

I've actually always wanted to go to a running camp kind of thing, especially since I've been to a Cathe Roadtrip before, and had a lot of fun with that. Jeff Galloway does running camps, but they never quite fit into my schedule or budget :(

Ideally, I think I'd like to do a running camp in a moutainy place, like Colorado or somewhere else. I've never really run in the mountains, but I always love thinking about running in mountains, especially when I'm on the treadmill listening to Cardio Coach. Beaches are nice, but hot for running. Plus, I love that scene in Forrest Gump, where Forrest is running in front of the mountain lake with the mountains perfectly reflected in the water. Beautiful!

Of course, there would be runs, but I usually only run 3 days a week, so I don't know how that would go exactly. I suppose you wouldn't run on your arrival or departure day, so that leaves about 5 days, and I guess there could be some easy runs on those days. I'd like to see all different types of runs - a long run, short runs, tempo runs, speed work, and of course hill training, since we'll be in the mountains!

And, there will need to be seminars. Nutrition, health, preventing injury, and I'd like to see some vendors come in and talk about their gear and maybe give us some freebies or let us try it out. Plus, Lance Armstrong, Kara Goucher, Paula Radcliffe, and the like will need to be there to talk about what it's like to run professionally. Hey, this is my fantasy! It could happen!

Of course, there should be food involved. Food is delicious. And since we're in the mountains, I'd also like to do some sightseeing and hiking. And swimming in a pretty lake.

Now, I'm sad because I don't have a running camp to attend :(

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Decorator Crabs

While searching through my picasa photos looking for good pictures of Arrow Crabs, I came across this one of a Decorator Crab that I apparently missed.

It's a better close up than any of the more far away ones that I put in the original post.

Sea Things #18: Arrow 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.

I kind of don't really like Arrow Crabs. They freak me out a little, and bear too much of a resemblance to Camelback Crickets, which infested my house that I lived in as a kid. Camelback Crickets give me the heebie jeebies. So, Arrow Crabs give me the heebie jeebies. However, Todd likes them, so here's some information about them.

Arrow Crabs are also called Stenorhynchus seticornis and get to be about 6 inches long at their biggest. They're found in the Caribbean, basically everywhere, at almost any depth. I will usually spot them hanging out in a hole or in a sponge, or sometimes just on an outcropping on a reef. They eat little animals and things, and I've been told that they sometimes will decorate themselves a little like a decorator crab would. Arrow Crabs are nocturnal, so to see one out in the open, you usually have to be around at night time, but I've seen them during the day in holes and stuff, so they're not something that you strictly see at night.

Despite the fact that they resemble ugly bugs, if you really look at them close up, they are kind of pretty. They have gold and brown stripes, and purple pincers. As far as divers are concerned, they usually could care less if you're hanging around, taking photos, etc. I've seen a divemaster pick one up, as well (not that I recommend this, I don't like stressing out sea creatures).

Like other crabs, they molt as they grow and shed their exoskeletons. A diver that wants to point one out will use the same hand signal as for any other crab (holding up hands and making them look like crab claws).

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, October 4, 2009

Diver Stress & Rescue

Bainbridge on TwitpicSo, we took SSI's Diver Stress & Rescue course at our Local Dive Shop. It went really well. I had wanted to take it to be sure that I knew what to do if someone (especially Todd) had some sort of emergency under water. The course taught stress management, as well as rescue techniques.

First, last Wednesday, we had a class night, where we did the general class / textbook stuff. We'd done homework in the books before the class, as well as watched a DVD. Then, a test (I hate the tests), but then once that was over, the real stuff started.

Tuesday, we went to the pool and did a bunch of exercises. Classes always seem to start by going over your basic scuba skills (regulator purge, mask clearing, regulator retrieval). We also did a bunch of tows - towing a diver from front, side or back. Ugh, I hate doing a lot of swimming on the surface with all of my gear on, and then I'm towing Todd with all of his gear on. I got a workout. We went over some other emergency scenarios - sharing air, dealing with a panicked diver, emergency ascents, etc. Then, we did a test of trusting your buddy, where one diver removed their mask and handed it to their buddy, and the other diver led them around the circumference of the pool. It seemed like it took forever when I was the diver without the mask, but it was not so bad when you were the one leading.

Yesterday, was our open water session. We went up to Bainbridge. I had been somewhat dreading it, since it's so miserable in the quarry and it was supposed to be chilly and raining, but it turned out to be a perfect day. Temps were just right so that I was not too hot on the surface and not too cold when I was out of the water with no wetsuit. I still hate wearing a 7mm wetsuit, though, and we're hoping to both get dry suit certified within a reasonable amount of time. Vis was terrible as usual, but we weren't too cold. Then again, we didn't spend any time below the thermocline either.

While we were in the quarry, we went over skills again, this time doing it with neutral buoyancy rather than doing it on the platform. We dove around and then did a series of dives where we went over certain emergency scenarios. One buddy would simulate something being wrong, and the other buddy would rescue them. For example, I once had to pretend to go unconscious and later I tried to take Todd's regulator from him. Another scenario had Todd panicking while I rescued him, and in another had him going unconscious on the surface and me needing to save him. We practiced towing and search patterns, etc. It wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be and we couldn't have asked for a better day. I always feel like I'd do better with classes in the Caribbean, just because I feel so uncomfortable in that wetsuit.

So, good times in the quarry.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

TIART: Race Design

For this week's Take it and Run Thursday, Heather asks "If you had the knowledge, time and/or means by which to Organize a race - what would your "Race Info" include?
Would you choose an organization to donate to? What distance would you choose? Other questions to ponder - Location? Time? Race Expo attendees (guest speakers?)? Shirt design? Get as creative as you want....!"

If I was going to organize a race... hmmm.... That's a tough one. If I really knew what I was doing, and I really had the means to do so, I suppose I'd organize a race to raise money for shark conservation, since recently that's the charity that has been closest to my heart. So, I suppose it should be located in a beach location near an ocean, huh? Let's keep it simple and say my shark race is going to be held in Ocean City, MD. I mapped out a route. It will be a 6 mile race because that's the route I liked. Start in West Ocean City, go across the Route 50 bridge, down Coastal Highway, and then cross over to come down the entire length of the boardwalk, ending at the parking lot in the inlet. I think that would be a pretty interesting course. I could shorten it and make it a 5 mile run, too, but I don't want it to be a 5K because they're too short, and I don't want it to be too long either.

Since it's Ocean City, let's go off season and do it in either the spring - April or May, or the fall - September or October. I think we'll get the best running weather in the fall, but maybe more participants in the spring? Who knows. The race would start at 8am, but I'd have to do it for a year or two first and then maybe change the time if that makes it too hot. I know it's super-sunny on the course I selected, so maybe 8am is too late for a 5 mile run.

Race information will talk about the course and the course elevation - this is a great course, very flat! Our race hotel will be the Dunes Manor, because that's always held a special place in my family. And everything will be about sharks and saving sharks. Hopefully, some people will dress up like sharks for the race. There will be sharks on the shirt, and the shirt will be a singlet, because not enough races give out singlets. Maybe in later years we'll have an awesome jacket to give as the premium instead. I love races that give out awesome jackets.

The expo will be awesome! It will be at the OC Convention Center, and there will be speakers to talk about shark conservation and saving our oceans, as well as running speakers like Jeff Galloway, John Bingham and the like. I'm sure they'll all be lining up to speak at this race, because that is how awesome it will be. Lots of vendors, lots of things to look at and try. Probably a climbing wall. Gotta have one of those. And somewhere to buy cheap sunglasses - I love those guys. And The Stick.

At the end of the race, in the Inlet Parking lot, there will be lots of things to do. First off, free passes for race participants so that they can ride rides on the pier and at Trimper's. Gotta have that. Food will be provided by Fisher's popcorn, Thrasher's fries, and the Bayside Skillet (aka "The Crepe and Omlette Place"). Maybe Boog's as well, since that's what Todd likes. There will also be some bands, like Maryland natives Jah Works and the Fabulous Hubcaps (yes, the Hubcaps are kinda for old people, but my parents used to take me to see them, and I like them so shut up). Between bands, DJ Batman will play some music. It will be awesome. In fact, maybe I should move the race start time to like 4pm so that you can just hang out and have a big concert after, ride rides and eat awesome food. It's a thought.

So, ok, my race appears to be a big celebration of Ocean City and what everyone loves about Ocean City... And sharks. And running. You know, a race that has it all...

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