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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Treadmill Guilt

This evening, I ran on the treadmill.  I felt horrible about it.  Why?  Well, it's beautiful here in Maryland today.  Upper 70s/Low 80s around run time, totally sunny and beautiful.  Maybe a little breeze.

I just didn't feel like running outside.  I didn't feel like running hills (there is NO FLAT ROAD near my house - in fact, we live on a hill).  I didn't feel like waving, smiling or otherwise greeting neighbors who will definitely be outside while I am out.  I didn't feel like dodging cars, or contemplating what route I was going to go.  I didn't feel like sunshine or sweat or carrying a water bottle in my hand.

I just wanted to go into the basement, where it is cool, get on the treadmill, and GO.  Get it done.

And that's what I did.  Yet, I feel guilty for wasting a great weather day.  I feel bad for not being outside and enjoying it when I complain about bad weather the whole rest of the year.

Well, not really.  I do admit that for running I prefer winter and for everything else I prefer summer...

But, still.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?

Monday, June 28, 2010

MBE: On Giveaways

Monday Brain Exchange is sponsored by Jill at Finishing is Winning.  This post accidentally posted on Saturday, which was due to a typo on my part!  Here is the post on time....

Topic: Give-A-Ways- Love Em or Hate Em
Question: What are your thoughts on give-a-ways? Do you enter them often? What entices you to enter or turns you off from entering? Have you run your own give-a-ways?

I like giveaways, and I enter them pretty often.  Honestly, I do only enter giveaways where I truly want to win the item that is being given away.  Otherwise, I will usually pass.  The other thing I look for when deciding if I want to enter is how many hoops I have to go through to enter.  Sometimes, I don't really feel like writing a whole bunch of things or trolling around on a website that I'm not really interested in.  If I just have to leave a comment and I can move on, that is usually the kind I'll more likely enter.

I've entered a lot of giveaways, but only won once.  I won a cookbook earlier this month from Kovas!

I've had two giveaways on my blog.  They were pretty good.  I ran them mostly to drive more traffic to the blog and get more followers, and I think I've been successful with that.  I'll run more of them if I have the opportunity!  With the Hydrapouch giveaway that I just had, I also wanted to introduce something new that I truly believe in and promote cup-free racing!

Any thoughts on giveaways here on my blog?  I was thinking of giving away one of Todd's photos (framed), but I didn't know if I'd have any success with a giveaway of art.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Linky-Loos

My favorite posts of the week!


Running and Fitness
Other Things
Giveaways!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hydrapouch WINNER!

Last week, I posted a little giveaway for a Hydrapouch.  Today's the day to announce the winner and it is...


Send me an email at kletcosblog@gmail.com and I'll hook you up with the person at Hydrapouch that can send you your prize!  You will also need to pick your color.  Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, as for that photo shoot... I have just been swamped and have barely had time to blog, so I haven't gotten to it quite yet.  I will.  I promise.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Intro to Speed Work

I've been so busy lately!  So, here is finally an update from this past weekend.  Saturday was my Galloway Training Group's first track workout of the year.  I had asked about how to make Speed Work fun, and there were some great ideas!

I ended up doing our planned track work, which was 800 meter repeats.  As far as how Jeff Galloway recommends, this is how they're done (and how we did it).

First, we did one mile (4 laps) of warm up at a slow pace, and using our regular intervals of 1:30 & 1s.
Next, I had gotten everyone's Galloway Magic Mile time, and I calculated what their half marathon goal should be using Jeff Galloway's Race Predictor.  I split our group into buddies using these values.  So, everyone was paired with someone who would be running repeats at a similar pace.  This is because race goal times for my group run from 2:30 all the way up to 3:00, so someone would either not be getting a good workout or would be killing themselves if we all ran together.  It shows when your group leader is a scuba diver - forcing the buddy system on the group...

So, the teams went out and hit the track.  The buddies were to pace each other and make sure that they stayed within their target pace, and no faster or slower.  We did take walk breaks during the repeats, but only walked 30 seconds instead of 60 seconds.  Different buddy teams had different intervals to follow.  After 800 meters (2 laps), we walked a lap to recover and then started again, until we'd done 4 total sets.

I think it went well.  I had grand plans of bringing music and being all happy and such, but I got busy and it just didn't happen.  Maybe next time.  I really want my group to see some progress this year, and I really want them to enjoy it and be proud of themselves when they're done.  Here's hoping!

Tomorrow is the LAST DAY to sign up for my Hydrapouch Giveaway!  Sign up today!

Monday, June 21, 2010

MBE: Family Athletics

Monday Brain Exchange is sponsored by Jill, who blogs at Finishing Is Winning.


Topic: The athletic family


Question: Do you come from an athletic family? Are your parents/siblings/spouses/children also involved in your sport(s)?

As far as my parents/siblings go, no. Not even a little bit. Well, maybe a little bit.  Neither of my parents are particularly athletic.  My mom was a majorette in high school, and I'm not sure if my dad was involved in sports or not.  Regardless, I grew up in a household where we didn't watch professional sports EVER (except maybe the Superbowl if someone was having a party) and we really didn't care about sports even a little.

As for my siblings, one of my sisters was a dancer and baton twirler.  When she was in high school, she was the captain of her Pom pon squad.  That was pretty cool.  The other sister was on the swim team and also played tennis and racquetball  My brother was on a soccer team as a kid, but it never really went anywhere.  So, I guess my sisters were the athletic ones in the family, but neither of them ever ran.

I was on the dancing track with my dancer sister.  Looking back, I do appreciate the dance classes, but I would really have preferred to have followed the other sister and been on the swim team.  I'm making up for all of that now, I guess, and I can also dance.  Kind of.  I wasn't particularly good at dancing, and I hated wearing leotards, and I hated the fact that my dance teacher always put me in the back (which meant I was either too fat or to crappy at dancing to be in the front row.  I always assumed it was the fatness, as I wanted to believe I was good at dancing or else why was I even bothering?).

Now, about that spouse of mine.  He comes from a much more athletic family, where they cheer for the Orioles and the Ravens and watch sports and participate in sports.  Todd was on the lacrosse team in high school, as was his brother.  They still watch lacrosse occasionally, which bores me to tears (I actually despise lacrosse, but it's a big deal here in Maryland).  Todd doesn't actually enjoy watching sports, which is fine with me.  I'm a much happier person since ditching sports as something that I'm forced to watch on television.

Since I've become a runner, my family has been involved somewhat.  My sister (the dancing one) has been super-supportive, even taking up running and running two 5Ks with me in Florida (where she lives).  My entire family came down to see me run my first Marine Corps Marathon, and my mom and brother came out for the second one that I ran.  My mom also came down to see me run the Annapolis Ten Miler.  I'm no longer requiring my family to come out to my races, but I do appreciate them being there.

Todd, of course, is very involved in my running, since he's a runner also and has run many races with me, and if he wasn't running with me, most of the time he's running the same race at his own pace.  He's currently signed up for all of the races that I'm signed up for this year, except the 5K I'm running in July.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Linky-Loos

My favorite posts for the week!




Money and Finance
Running and Fitness
Food
  • Why Wine Drinkers Should Care About the HR 5034 Bill:  I'm a wine drinker.  I would love to order wine from other vineyards elsewhere in the country, but I live in Maryland, and in Maryland you cannot have wine shipped to you.  Period.  I fully supported Maryland's HB 716, which would have made it legal in Maryland to ship wine directly to consumers.  I even wrote to my Maryland lawmakers (and even received a response).  However, HB 716 was killed.  I just don't understand what the big deal is except that the alcohol distributor lobby is paying someone, and lobbying hard (see the link to HB 716 above to learn more of what I'm talking about).  Anyway, now there is a house resolution in Congress to make every state like Maryland.  Don't let it happen, fellow wine drinkers!!
Scuba Diving
Other Things
  • The Kitty Coin Box Entertains Cats:  I just love the kitty videos.
  • Musings on the Bloody Twilight Birth Scene:  I'm so happy I'm reading Breaking Dawn because there is going to be SO MUCH to complain about in my review.  I've been meaning to rent New Moon for Todd & me, but have yet to stop at Redbox to get it.
  • Cupid Strikes: This is a must-read story of a Seattle Mariners player who is marrying a girl that he happened to spot up in the stands.   So cute!
  • Pixar's Secret Weapon:  I'm a Disney Fan, and this is a nice slide show about John Ratzenberger, who has been in every Pixar movie ever made.
  • Eat, Pray, Love Trailer:  Oh, gosh, how I love this book.  And I love that I was reading it while I was in Little Cayman for our wedding, and that while we were in Little Cayman, it was suggested that we go to Indonesia and Bali, and that now we're going.  I can't wait for the movie.
Giveaways!
  • RoadID: From My Reason to Run.  Ends June 21.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Hydrapouch

Today is my birthday!  What better way to celebrate than with a giveaway??  The lovely folks at Hydrapouch were kind enough to sponsor a giveaway for my blog!  They sent me my very own Hydrapouch to test, and they're offering a free Hydrapouch to one of my lucky readers!

Hydrapouch is a replacement for cups during a race.  There are a few really great things about it.  First, it's light and easy to carry.  It's made of silicone and has a clip on the back that makes it easy to attach to either your waistband or a belt.  During my test, I clipped it on to my Spibelt (which is what I would likely have with me during an actual race).

I've always complained during races that I can't run and drink at the same time - water or gatorade ends up in my nose, and I feel like I'm drowning.  As a result, I always walk through water stops.  During my little test run, I filled the Hydrapouch and then tried running and drinking from it.  It was amazing -- it worked!  No drowning feeling, I was able to sip right out of the pouch with no issues.  Better yet, if you are at a race, it's always best to drop your cup close to the water stop so that it can be cleaned up.  With Hydrapouch, you can carry it with you for as long as you need it and then just clip it back in place again.

The best thing about Hydrapouch?  Well, it saves cups.  I just volunteered at a race 10 days ago,  and I can tell you how insane it was.  I was only at the finish line and the amount of cups we used really was crazy.  Think about how many water stops there are during a race...  how many runners... how many cups?  CRAZY!

Now, you might be thinking "oh, but what a pain to have to stop and fill this thing!!"  Well, that's where race directors come in.  Check out the Hydrapour, which goes with the Hydrapouch.  In order to really make Hydrapouch work, race directors need to support it by installing Hydrapours on coolers and giving runners access to them.  First of all, this would make life so much easier for volunteers.  Second, it saves money, time and trash at races.  Hydrapouch/Hydrapour is being embraced at some events (check out the list).  Support these races and encourage your local race directors to start embracing cup free racing!

Now, I went out with my wonderful photographer husband and got some photos of me and my Hydrapouch. Let's just say that they didn't turn out very well (it was getting dark, my outfit was a poor choice, etc).  We want to retry, but the situation was just not great on Monday for the photos, and we haven't had a chance to get back out and take more.  So, here is a photo that I swiped off of the Hydrapouch website of what I'd like to look like with my Hydrapouch...


So, now for the Giveaway!  The winner of this giveaway will get their very own Hydrapouch in the color of their choice.  I'll connect you with my contact at Hydrapouch and they'll send one right out to you!

Here's how to enter.  Please leave one comment per entry:

  1. MANDATORY.  Visit the Hydrapouch website, take a look around and let me know what you think about Hydrapouch and cup free racing.
  2. (Optional) Become a follower of my blog, or leave a comment to let me know that you already are!
  3. (Optional) Become a follower of my blog on Facebook, or leave a comment to let me know that you already are!
  4. (Optional) Leave me a comment to tell me if you'd like me to go out and try another photo shoot with the Hydrapouch, and I'll post the photos when I post the winner of the Giveaway! 
  5. (Optional) Share this giveaway on your own blog, Facebook or Twitter!

This giveaway is open for comments until Thursday, June 24 at 11:59pm.  I'll announce the winner on Friday, June 25.  Good luck!

Disclaimer: Hydrapouch sent me a free sample of this product to test.  I received no monetary compensation and was not asked to post a positive review.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Losing It!

The time is come.  I need to have a serious conversation about Jillian Michaels.  Jill discussed Jillian on her blog a while back, and now I just need to chime in.

I'm a huge fan of The Biggest Loser.  I like it, and I choose to overlook the unrealistic weight loss part of the show.  I'm even a fan of Jillian Michaels.  I have always thought she was great, from a "tough chick" perspective.  I cheered on the season where she returned after being away.  While I never wrote a blog post about it (I wanted to, I just never got to it), I totally supported Jillian in her decision to not have children.  However, Losing It! is just a train wreck.  I will probably keep watching, because it's summer and there isn't anything else on, but come on, Jillian.  My problems with the show...

First, when I watch The Biggest Loser, I get invested in the people on the show.  I learn about them.  We spend whole episodes looking at each person, what their issues are, and we get to watch their slow transformation into a different person.  This is a good thing.  On Losing It!, Jillian whisks in, and all of these little nuances that we see on TBL over the course of weeks all happen in 60 minutes.  It's too much.  I don't care that much.

I just need the build up to be longer.  I need to really feel like I have watched a clear progression from "falling off of the treadmill and vomiting" to "running a marathon" or whatever (and yes, I know there are problems with the marathon on TBL, but since I missed the marathon episode this season, I need to write about it next time).

To make matters worse, when Jillian is sitting there learning about their issues and their alleged reasons for being fat, since I don't care, I have a hard time imagining that she cares.  So, her serious looks and hugs and such seem contrived.  She is a hard-ass.  I can't watch her try and put on a "soft side" every week for 5 minutes in a show where the other 55 minutes were spent yelling at people.  I tried to find a clip, but I couldn't find one and gave up.

Then, there is the yelling.  Oh, the yelling.  Now, apparently this works for some people.  There are evidently these people that can't workout without someone yelling at them and telling them they're not good enough or whatever.  I am not one of those people.  I can handle a little Jillian-style working out, and I like it when Todd occasionally yells at me to motivate me (note: he does this infrequently), but this appears to be the only thing that Jillian keeps in her arsenal.  What if there is someone who isn't motivated by this?  I guess they wouldn't want to be on the show?  Why is she so mean??  See a clip.

Regardless, the yelling is turning me off.  I don't mind it on TBL because there is Bob.  Losing It! needs a Bob.  Bob is good cop, Jillian is bad cop.  There is no good cop, and I just can't sit and watch Bad Cop every single week.  It's gotten old already, and only 2 episodes have aired.

When Jillian tries to be more motivational, she comes up with all of these little things that she says that sound ironic or sarcastic or something.  She is trying to sound off the cuff, but I feel more like she's brainstorming these sayings in advance and just shelling them out when appropriate.  Like, she might have flash cards somewhere so that she can practice what to say when someone says 'X.'  For example, on episode 2, mom says "I'm scared"  Jillian asked, "Of what?"  Mom responds, "Of dying."  Jillian's quip?  "Of dying?  You're already dying you've got that covered!"  It's clever, but seems rehearsed.

I'm just not buying it, I'm just not liking it, and I'm just not that into Jillian anymore.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Asking My Readers: How to Make Speed Work Fun?

I need some ideas for how to make speed work fun.

This Saturday, my running group is going to be doing speed work for the first time.  Our Galloway group has traditionally done more focusing on finishing, rather than on finish time.  There have been people who have done some focusing on time, but there were never formal speed training sessions incorporated into our Galloway program schedule.

Until now.

This year, several people (including me, in a big way) suggested doing speed work on the track.  More specifically, we wanted to do 800 meter repeats for our half marathon groups, done according to Jeff Galloway's specifications for how they should be done in the program.  The person in charge of the program insists that my group is going to find track workouts boring, and that no one will want to do them after a little while.

I am determined to prove her wrong.

I think there is a benefit to doing speed work on the track.  Personally, I find running distances on non-long run weekends that have no purpose or benefit besides maintaining your base mileage to be boring.  So, we're giving it a try.

However, I don't know if my group will find that the benefits of getting out on the track will be enough to keep them going.  We're going to be doing 800 meter repeats and incorporating our usual walk breaks into them.  Ideas to really encourage my runners and make this experience as awesome as possible?  What really gets you going on the track?

Image Credit: wwarby on Flickr

MBE: Motivational Quotes

Monday Brain Exchange is sponsored by Jill, who blogs at Finishing Is Winning.

Topic: Motivational Quotes

Question: What are some of your favorite motivational quotes/sayings? Do you have any personal mantras you use while dealing with tough times on the race course?


Hmmm....

Run time is fun time -- My lovely husband, Todd

What promise did you make yourself today?  What if this hill represents that promise? -- Sean O'Malley, Cardio Coach (not sure which one)

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle
when the sun comes up you'd better be running.
-Anon

This one is on my Facebook page, and it is from a poster that used to hang in the changing room at the Rock Climbing gym that I used to go to:

Remember prison ball and jumping jacks and how your P.E. teacher made you try to climb that rope that hung from the ceiling and you never could, never?


Or how you had to do chin-ups and see how long you could hang and you could only hang something like 2.5 seconds but that wasn't good enough, oh no, you had to hang something like 65 seconds and you could never do that and thank God it was only pass/no pass and you got a pass just for showing up and trying. Which was good.


But when you got older.


And P.E. teachers got smarter. Because now you got graded. You got graded and at least once you got the dreaded C or the equally dreaded C+ and there went your whole grade-point average and speaking of average that's what you were now: plain-old-just-mediocre-better-luck-next-time-see-ya-later-average and you thought Now wait just a gosh darn minute who, exactly, is average? And the answer came back ringing loud and clear over the top of that chin-up bar: Nobody.


You're not average because average is a lie.


You're not average because average means stuck and you're not stuck, you're moving and becoming and trying and you're climbing over every bit of fear or opinion or "no you can't do that" you've ever heard.


So you scoff at average. You laugh. You guffaw. And you run and you play and you move and the more you tell your body that it is a well-oiled machine the more it starts to believe you.


And then one night you have the craziest dream. You're in the middle of your old gym. Your P.E. teacher is standing there. She is grinning. There is a rope before you. So you climb it. And there is absolutely no place to go but up.  Just do it.  --Nike

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday Linky-Loos

My favorite posts for the week!

Money and Finances
  • Frugal Babe, Rich Life: What I find interesting about this one is the section on the high cost of having kids.  I'm going through my own debate about having kids right now, and the money factor is a huge thing for me.  Yet, I keep wondering, why do kids need so much stuff anyway???  And this kind of gives me an answer - they don't.
Running and Fitness
  • Dreaded Druid, the Sweltering Solstice 10K: I love Jeanne's posts.  You don't know how close I came to running the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K this year.  It's known in Baltimore as being one of the most difficult races around.  Hills, hills, hills.  And I chickened out, and based on her blog title, maybe that was a good thing!
  • I Am a World Record Holder!!: Three Cheers for Laura at Absolut(ly) Fit for meeting her goal of becoming the youngest runner to complete 50 marathons in 50 states!  She's 28!  I have loved reading her journey and I'm so happy for her!


Other Things
  • New Harry Potter Trailer High on Drama, Low on Teen Flesh: The best part of this is, you get to see the trailer.  The second best part is that it knocks on Twilight.
  • 50 Welcome Signs from 50 States:  For some reason, I found this list really, really, fun to look through.  My favorite is New Jersey, only because it's the only one that I'm absolutely 100% certain where it is (after you cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge, aka the DelMemBr).
  • Cakespy: Pop-Tarts Ice Cream Sandwiches: I don't usually eat Pop Tarts, as they contain trans fat, but these just sounded sinful and awesome...
  • Queen Sarah: I have been avoiding political things (on my blog anyway), but this piece was just so well written and so exactly how I feel that I had to link it here.  
Giveaways!

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Finishing Chelsea's Run

    L to R: Sue, Misty, Pat, Dannielle, Nina, Kim  (not pictured: Todd, who was the photographer)

    Katye, who blogs at Long Legs on the Loose, had a terrific idea to host a Virtual Run in honor of Chelsea King. Chelsea was a 17 year old student and runner who went on a 3 mile run and then was raped and murdered while on a trail in the scenic park where she was running.  We were to run 3 miles (ok, I ran four), and complete the run that she never completed, and also show our solidarity in keeping our trails safe for runners.

    We did our run on Wednesday evening, even though it was raining all day!

    Katye's Call to Action on her Blog

    The goal was also to raise money for Chelsea's Light Foundation and the Ulman Fund for Young Adults.  Each of us donated to one or the other before the run.  Each of us also wore blue or orange, since these were Chelsea's favorite colors.  Take back that trail!!

    Read about the original 'Finish Chelsea's Run' in San Diego

    It was a great run, a little faster than usual when we're group running, but it was such a treat being out on the NCR during the week with my group.  I love you guys!  The rain even held out for us, and we were rain free during the run.  Next time, though, I am going to arrange for us to go somewhere to eat after.  3 or 4 miles is too short! :)

    Thank you to everyone who came out and supported a great cause.  If anyone else wants to finish Chelsea's run, check out the link to Katye's blog (above), done and get out there!

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Florida Day Three: Ginnie Springs

    For Memorial Day Weekend, Todd and I flew down to Florida to spend some time with his family and also to dive in some of central Florida's beautiful clear water springs.  We spent Saturday at the Blue Grotto, then did two awesome dives at Devil's Den on Sunday.  Monday, we headed to Ginnie Springs.


    On Sunday night, Todd's brother and family came over for a Memorial Day cookout.  We had a good time, and our niece and nephew, Josh and Alysa (teenagers), decided to stay and go with us the next day when we were going diving. We had heard earlier in the weekend that Ginnie Springs was pretty crowded for the holiday weekend, so we decided that we wanted to get there when it opened.  Since Ginnie is 2 hours from my in-laws' house, we had to get up pretty early to get everything ready and out the door.  We were on the road right on time, and both kids (young adults, really, but 'kids' is easier to type) were asleep before we even hit the interstate.

    We arrived at Ginnie Springs right as they opened at 8am.  Ginnie is a MUCH larger complex than the other two sites were, and it includes a lot of other activities besides diving:  tubing, snorkeling, swimming, camping, volleyball, etc.  Apparently, it attracts a lot of non-divers on the weekends, especially Memorial Day.  As we pulled in, we saw that the field was full of tents and people who had been camping (thus, making it not so necessary for us to get there at 8am - everyone else was already there!).  As we waited at the office, one guy who was wearing nothing but a pair of swim trunks that were falling down said to Todd, "Dude, we have been partying SO HARD all weekend!"  He had lost his friend or something.  And I started thinking, "oh, this is going to suck."  And I also started wondering if I should cover up my niece's eyes before the guy's pants fell completely to the ground.

    So, we got our air fills, watched a safety video as a dive briefing, and rented snorkel equipment for J&A.  We pulled around to the first dive site of the day, Ginnie Spring.  We smelled pot as soon as we pulled up, and there were tons more campers around, smoking pot, drinking beer.  You know, whatever at 8am.  It seemed everyone was just getting up (wake & bake?).

    We strolled out to look down into the spring, which had some steps that led down to a pool of water.  You could make out the entrance to the cavern from the top of the steps.  It seemed... small.  Really?  We're going in there?? I asked Todd...  We're going to spend an HOUR in there?  Yep.  So, we suited up.  I'm still thinking "oh, this is going to suck."

    Looking down at Ginnie Spring from the surface is less than impressive.  If you look to the far right of the sandy (light blue) patch, you see a dark strip - that is the entrance to the cavern.

    We gave a quick snorkel lesson to Josh, who hadn't been snorkeling before, then told them we'd see them in an hour or so.  A crowd had formed on the stairs to watch us with all of our equipment.  There were a few people swimming in the spring, splashing and diving around.  I was still thinking, "oh, this is going to suck."


    It did NOT suck.  We swam into the cavern.  Once behind the initial boulders, it opened into a small room.  Continuing on, the cavern opened into the "Ballroom," which is a fairly large room.  At this point, there is just a blue glow of the outside in the distance and it's otherwise dark.  We had our lights, so it was fine.

    Todd at the ceiling of the Ballroom

    The water inside the ballroom is crystal clear.  I have never seen water this clear before in my life.  Even the water in the pools where we do our training are not as clear as this is.  200+ foot visibility, and no silt whatsoever.  Perfect Visibility.  The sand on the bottom was "heavy" sand rather than silt, so it quickly settled if you happened to kick it up.  It was really worth the entire trip to have spent time diving in this crystal clear water.  Not to mention that since the other divers had stayed away for the weekend, we were the only two people in the cave.

    Inside the ballroom

    At the end of the ballroom was a grate.  This is the entrance to the cave system, and it is incredibly silty and narrow inside.  Therefore, no divers (even cave certified divers) are allowed to enter.  This is also where the spring discharges 20 million gallons of water per day.  So, there is a strong current that comes from the grate. We swam up to the grate (with difficulty, you actually kind of had to claw your way to it) and held on to the grate, so that it felt like we were flying.  Then, we let go and flew back (gently) into the center of the ballroom.  It was fun!

    Hanging on at the grate, watching my bubbles go backward instead of up!

    We continued to explore around the ballroom.  There isn't a whole lot of things to see, but it is really fun to investigate the cracks in the walls and ceiling, as you sometimes will find a critter or a plaque dedicated to someone who has died.  I'm not certain if they died in the spring or just of natural causes, but there were plaques around inside.  The air that we were exhaling left mercury-like bubbles in the ceiling, and I had fun touching them and the like.  Some were deep enough that I was afraid to put my hand in, because often the reflection on them made it so that I couldn't see what was on the other side, and there is often something frightening about sticking your hand somewhere that you can't see into.

    A memorial plaque in the Ballroom

    Playing with the air in the ceiling

    Investigating the Ballroom

    We started heading out of the cavern, and once we got back near the entrance, the view looking out was breathtaking.  There were swimmers and snorkelers around, and they would dive down an into the cave for a moment.  Josh and Alysa were there, and Todd shot tons of photos of them.  Eventually, we headed out, and shot some more photos.  We were toasty-warm in our wetsuits, but the kids were cold, so we got out and prepared for the next dive.

    Todd just inside the entrance to Ginnie Spring Cavern

    Alysa and Josh peeking into the cavern at Ginnie Spring

    The next dive was at the "Devil System."  The Devil System is a series of underwater caves and caverns, and it attracts mostly cave certified divers.  In fact, as open water divers, we were not permitted to bring any lights into the spring at all.  Any open water divers were checked before getting into the water, since going into the caves can be too tempting when you are shining a light into it.  Many divers have died this way.  They questioned us, even examining Todd's strobes on his camera, before we got in the water.

    We started out at Little Devil.  The whole area at this point was crawling with people in tubes or people just swimming, and it seemed like everyone was drunk.  They were shouting things like, Dude, that's a huge camera!

    Little Devil was less than exciting.  It is basically a crack in the bottom, and we could really only descend a little way and then go back up.  It's a cave entrance, so cave divers can go in, but we cannot.  The area was silted up from the swimmers, so we took a few shots and then floated down to the next area, Devil's Eye.  This was an interesting dive because we were actually surfacing between the sights, since it was only a few feet deep on the runs between them.

    Me, in Little Devil. The kid on the surface that you can see in the background kept saying "I'm going to watch you!!" before we descended. He was snorkeling.  And he did watch us.

    Devil's Eye is a round hole in the bottom, which opens into a small cavern.  At the end of the cavern is a grim reaper sign, beyond which is an extensive cave system.  There was a pretty heavy current here, since 26 million gallons leave the spring per day, but it didn't feel as strong as Ginnie Spring since the opening was larger.  Still, you can tell in the photo that I'm hold on because of the current.  Again, this was crystal clear water like we'd had in Ginnie.  We spent some time in the cave, and Todd took some photos of Josh and Alysa on the surface. Then, we headed on.

    Inside Devil's Eye Cavern

    Looking up at the surface at Devil's Eye

    Josh and Alysa were waiting at the top of the Devil's Eye. The bubbles coming up out of the ground were the ones we'd left inside the cavern - the air had worked its way up to the river above.

    Next was Devil's Ear.  This is another "crack" in the bottom, which leads into the cave system.  Frequently, cave divers are doing decompression stops here.  We saw bubbles, but no divers.  (Several cave divers had appeared on the scene at this point ) Again, we were not permitted into the cave itself, but we couldn't have gotten in there anyway.  I don't know what the million gallons per day of this one is, but there was no way we could have made it into that cave while trying to swim against the hard current.  I couldn't even get close enough to peek inside.  There's a downed tree inside, and I did claw my way along the log to get farther in, but there was a certain point where I just did not feel comfortable going farther.

    Hanging on for dear life in Devil's Ear

    What is really amazing and interesting about Devil's Ear is that this is where the spring run meets up with the Santa Fe River.  The river is full of natural tannins from plants and trees, and is the brown color that you might expect from an inland river.  The Devil's Ear is where the clear spring water meets this brown water and it creates this interesting and fascinating brown ripply effect (since it's a thermocline as well - the river water is much warmer than the 72 degree spring water).  We stayed in the hole for a while, admiring the effect, taking photos of Josh and Alysa, and watching the tubes and rafts float down the river above.  Note: If you are in a tube, someone looking at you from below probably thinks you look silly.

    Josh snorkeling above Devil's Ear

    Alysa snorkeling at Devil's Ear

    And both of them!

    I also picked up a number of beer cans off the bottom, presumably thrown there by the partiers on the surface.

    Once all of this was through, we headed back up, got dressed and went and had lunch at The Great Outdoors in High Springs.  After this, we really debated on what to do and decided to check out the nearby Poe Springs.  This turned out to be a waste of time, as Poe Springs is only a few feet deep and not very good for diving.  We debated on what to do and ended up heading back to Ginnie, since we'd paid for a full day.

    We did one more dive in Ginnie Spring, where we pretty much did the same thing we did on the first.  We did discover a small room off of the ballroom, which was about the size of a bathroom, but it creeped me out to be in there.  More photos, and some extra playtime in the entrance to the spring.  Then, we suited up and put our equipment away.

    Josh at Ginnie Spring

    Alysa, in perhaps my favorite photo that Todd has ever taken.

    We headed back to my in-laws, and Josh and Alysa headed home.  We were so incredibly tired.

    The rest of our time was uneventful.  We spent Tuesday in Florida, having lunch at a restaurant that did not serve Mexican food (long story), and then headed back home to Baltimore on Tuesday evening.  It was a wonderful three days of diving. :)

    See all of the photos:
    2010 Ginnie Springs

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Florida Day Two: Devil's Den

    For Memorial Day Weekend, Todd and I decided to go to Florida to do some diving in the freshwater springs of Central Florida.  Todd's family lives in Florida, so we stayed with his parents and made the drive to the springs each day.  On Day One, we visited Blue Grotto.

    On Sunday, we woke up earlier than we did on Saturday, but still didn't get quite the early start that we had wanted.  We initially had thought we wouldn't dive on Sunday since Todd's brother and family would be visiting that afternoon, but since Blue Grotto had been such a success, we decided to go ahead and get some more dives in before they arrived.  We decided on Devil's Den for the dives.


    Devil's Den is located in Williston, just a mile or two from the Blue Grotto.  It's different from the Blue Grotto, because it is located within a dry cave, and rather than being a shaft downwards, it is more like a round pool that descends under the ceiling of the dry cave.

    We arrived and checked in, meeting the three Devil's Den cats in the process (I'm totally a cat person).  We had our tanks filled, and then had a dive briefing from the lady who was running the front desk.  We walked around and checked out the cave, and got ourselves ready.

    Entering the Devil's Den

    When you dive at Devil's Den, you walk down a narrow set of stone steps, so that you're underground in the cave.  Then, you walk down another set of wooden steps that take you to the floating platform.  The cave is "dry," in that it's not filled to the brim with water, but the entire bottom is a pool of water from the spring.  The ceiling of the cave has a hole in it - a natural skylight filled with vines, which makes the whole cave look beautiful and dramatic, and lets in sunshine so that the cave is not dark at all.

    The light enters through this natural skylight

    Divers in the water from the floating platform

    Once you're on the floating platform, you can walk down steps into the 72 degree water, and start your dive.  At the part where you can surface in the cave, it's about 15-20 feet deep, and then the ceiling of the cave drops to the water level, and the water continues into a cavern environment in a circle around the pool.  You can reach a max depth of about 60 feet, and explore lots of swim throughs that were created from fallen boulders in the cave.  There are several caves that branch off from the main cave, but they were either blocked off with grating or had "grim reaper" signs at their openings to prevent divers from entering without cave certification.  Todd and I do not have cave certification, so we stayed away.

    This is me doing my descent on the first dive, where you can clearly see the natural skylight in the ceiling above (complete with beautiful vines):

    On our first dive, we basically swam in a circle counter-clockwise, exploring the depths of the cave.  I love swim-throughs, so it was very fun to swim through each of the little holes and explore.  Even though we knew that lots of divers had been here before, it still felt like we were exploring something completely new and unexplored.  The rule was that we were to douse our lights and peek through the hole.  If we could see a glow of light, we could go in.  Otherwise, that was a cave and we could not go through.

    Coming out of a swim through:

    As we circled, we eventually started to ascend to the 20-30 foot depth, to look more at the walls and ceiling of the cave.  They contained fossils of sea biscuits and fish, and it was really interesting to see them.  We also found the caves that contained the grim reaper signs, which is creepy, especially knowing that people had died going into them.

    The Grim Reaper Signs:

    Peeking through a hole:

    As we approached the shallower depths, we were treated to some beautiful sunlight that was entering the water from the hole in the ceiling.  The light was so nice, and the water was so clear that it was truly breathtaking.  We spent some time here on our safety stop taking photos and just enjoying the water.  What a treat!


    We had lunch (that my mom-in-law packed, bless her) and then went down for our second dive.  This time, we went clockwise, which was a whole new dive.  Swim-throughs and exploration, and then exploring the fossils in the walls, and then the beautiful light.  We also found a nice alien head that we hadn't seen before, which someone had placed in the cavern as a joke.


    I am not certain why I look so worried:

    Todd handed me the camera:

    It was hard to leave Devil's Den.  It was so beautiful and such a relaxing and pleasant dive.  We would have LOVED to have done a third dive, but we had to get home to the family, so we rinsed and packed our equipment and headed home.

    Another wonderful day of diving in Florida.

    Coming soon: Ginnie Springs...

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon & 10K 2010 (As a Volunteer)

    I had a lot of friends running either the half marathon or 10K at the Zooma Annapolis run this year.  Several people asked me to run with them, but since I knew I'd be missing the 2 weeks of running group prior to the race, and since I didn't want to run twice in the same weekend, I chose to attend Zooma as a volunteer instead.

    Runners at the start:

    I worked the finish line.  While I'd hoped to be giving out necklaces (which they had instead of medals), I wasn't assigned that job and ended up working the Gatorade station instead.  After telling people "Gatorade!" a few times, though, we were informed that what we were giving out was Ultima and that we needed to call it Ultima.  Ooops!

    For the record, Ultima lemonade flavor gets a solid "ok" from me.  It's not good, but I don't like Gatorade, so maybe I am not the best person to ask.  If I were at a race, I would drink it if I felt that I needed it, but I'm not going to buy any.  There were mixed reviews from the runners who drank it - some loved it and said they'll drink nothing else from now on, others threw it away after taking a sip.  Who knows.  What it seemed to me was that the half marathon folks liked the Ultima more, but I think they were just more thirsty, since it was 87 degrees.  It contains Stevia, which I'd never had before.  If I hadn't looked it up, I'd have assumed it was Splenda.  I think this might be the "aftertaste" that some runners complained about.  Regardless, if you are using Ultima, you should remember that you need to eat something in order to get some calories in.

    The biggest problem for us was that the Lemonade flavor LOOKED LIKE WATER, and since the runners got to our station first, they assumed it was water. They often took it and dumped it on their head before we could stop them.  I kept telling them "This is Ultima Sports Drink, water is at the next table," but they didn't always hear me.

    No, this isn't water. Please don't pour it over your head.


    It was a lot of fun volunteering for the race.  I was able to take photos of those that I knew who were running, and it was nice to give a helping hand.  The race seemed miserable, though.  It was HOT, and there were tons of ambulances, and I heard that many runners had required medical attention and/or collapsed on the course.  Some of the feedback I had gotten from runners was that there was not enough water on the course.  This is often a problem at hot races, but at the finish line, we also ran out of bananas and oranges, leaving bagels as the only food available at the finish line for those who finished the half marathon in 2:30 or over.  I think that it would also have been nice to have had ice for our Ultima Sports Drink coolers, since many runners were looking for it and both the Ultima and the water were warm.  Tsk, tsk.

    So, in the end it was a tough day, a hot day, and a difficult course and conditions.  Congratulations to everyone who ran the race!!

    After the race, I took my mom out to brunch. It was her birthday on Saturday, so we enjoyed the delicious brunch at the Chart House in Annapolis, complete with all you can drink Mimosas. This was also our mother's day celebration, since she spent Mother's Day in Tampa with my sister.  We were sitting right in the front window, with a beautiful view of the Naval Academy and all of the sailboats cruising around.  It was a good time.

    Me and my mom:

    And our View from our table (a storm was coming):
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