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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Post Surgery Recap

As you can see by the gigantic bandage that is currently containing my left leg, I did go and have my varicose vein surgery yesterday.

The surgery was at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital, which is actually really far from my house, but the drive was worth it since my doctor is one of the best in the area.  I was originally supposed to be at the hospital at 11:30am, but the hospital called in the morning to let me know that there had been a cancellation and asked me if I would come in earlier.  Since I had been fasting since midnight, I was eager to get going.  I hadn't slept well either, I was nervous about going for the surgery.

So, since we were suddenly going in earlier, I quickly took a shower and threw my things together to get ready.  I did not get photographs of  my leg before the surgery, which is really, really disappointing.

We made it to the hospital around 10am, filled out some forms and I was called back almost immediately.  I had a little pre-op surgery square (this is my name, I don't know it's real name, but you know, it's a place in a big room with lots of people in it that is squared off by a curtain, but happens to be just my space).  Nurses took my vitals and gave me a hospital bracelet, and my doctor came and drew all over my leg with a marker.  I started asking her questions about when I could do certain things, which had been my biggest concern before the surgery.  When can I run again? Two weeks.  When can I ride a bike again? Saturday, indoor only, absolutely no incline.  When can I do upper body weight training? Monday.   My questions answered, I settled into the bed to wait to be pulled into the ER.  They called Todd back and he sat with me while I waited.  Nurses came by and asked me more questions.  The anesthesiologist came by and spoke with me.

Finally, at around 11:45, I was taken to the OR.  I have to admit, it scared the crap out of me.  You see, I had a serious surgery when I was 14 that kept me in the hospital for 3 weeks.  That one was a big, huge deal and terrifying for me as a kid.  Suddenly, going back into an operating room seemed really, really scary and too much like that ordeal.  They did the usual things that they do when you have surgery - I was put on the operating table, given a warm blanket, and then the anesthesiologist told me he was "giving me something to make me feel more comfortable" and that's the last thing I remember before waking up with my leg in its giant bandage.

I was wheeled to post op, and the clock said 12:45 when I got there, so it wasn't a long surgery.  I was given some ginger ale, and I basically sat and observed the goings on in post op while still coming out of my anesthesia.  Everyone else looked a lot worse off than me.  My leg was hurting, but it wasn't too bad.  However, when I was wheeled to another area and had to stand up to move from the bed to a recliner...  that is when it started hurting.

They gave me cookies and cranberry juice, and they were positively disgusting.  I was thirsty like I had never been thirsty before, and the second I bit into a cookie, my mouth was dry and gross.  Even after ginger ale and 2 cups of cranberry, I was still having this problem.  However, I had to eat so that they could give me percocet for my painful leg.  Todd came back and sat with me, and let me know that the doctor had said that my doctor had told him that I may be in more pain that others because she hadn't closed the entire vein (confusing and counter intuitive, but apparently the case).  Part of my vein was still healthy, so it wasn't closed.

We drove home, with me still kind of dazed and baffled from the anesthesia and the percocet.  Yesterday evening, I was to lay down with my leg elevated, and get up to walk around 5 minutes of every hour.  I did this religiously, and I kept drinking because my thirst was totally unbearable.  In fact, how thirsty I was bothered me more than the pain.  I tried to work, since there was a software release last night at work, but I couldn't focus and I was just generally confused about the whole thing.  Finally, I just went to bed.

I slept fine, and this morning I was finally not thirsty anymore.  Today, I was told that I have to walk as much as possible, but I admit that is difficult with this giant bandage on my leg.  It's hard to bend my knee.  Walking is difficult.  I can't shower until I get the bandage off tomorrow.  I'm not in very much pain, though, which is great.  More than anything, my leg is eager to just be out and moving freely.

There is a danger of deep vein thrombosis, so tomorrow I go back to the hospital to get an ultrasound.  I'm sure it will be fine, and I can't wait for the doctor to take my bandage off!!

Indonesia Extra: Tirtagangga and Rice Paddies

On our way to Ubud, the car driver stopped some so that we could take a look at the views of rice paddies with the mountains in the distance.  Since we missed this on our drive in, we really appreciated this.

The drive to Ubud was just as adventurous as the other times we'd driven in Indonesia.  There seem to be no traffic laws and cars routinely cross into oncoming traffic.  We got to see a ton of small villages, and we passed some incredible statues, temples and sites.  Even though the distance between Tulamben and Ubud is only 28 miles the way the crow flies, it took almost three hours to get there (not including stopping).  We had to travel around Mount Batur, and the roads are slow, windy and not well kept.

We also stopped at Tirtagangga, which is a town with a beautiful royal water palace.  It was built in 1946 by the King of Karangsem, but was destroyed in 1963 when Gunung Agung erupted (this is the same eruption that pushed the USAT Liberty into the sea).  It has been rebuilt, obviously, and is very beautiful.

Rice Paddies

Rice paddies


Me at Tirtagangga

At Tirtagangga

Todd at Tirtagangga


At Tirtagangga

The water palace at Tirtagangga

Looking down at the water palace


A quiet path in Tirtagangga
You can learn more about the royal water gardens of Tirtagangga at their website.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Indonesia Extra: Spectacular Tulamben Photos

Take a look at these fantastic photos that Todd took while we were diving in Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia.  We actually do have the exact names of all of the nudibranchs, but we haven't quite sorted them out just yet.  It's complex and confusing! 

Also, I have one more video of Tulamben!  This one is of the grounds at Villa Markisa.  Check it out.  This one is longer than the last, and I bounce the camera a lot, both because I apparently walk hard, but also because I am incapable of not moving my arms when I walk.  






A crab on an anemone
Harlequin shrimp finishing off a starfish


Nudibranch eggs


A crab in a Crinoid

MBE: Race Reports

Monday Brain Exchange is sponsored  by Jill!

This Weeks Topic: Race Reports

This Weeks Question: Do you enjoy writing your race reports? Do you use them later for reference?

I do enjoy writing my race reports!  Race reports are nice, quite frankly, because they're an easy topic.  I run races, I get to talk about the race, and who doesn't like talking about cool stuff you did?   My only problem is that I don't write enough detail about things that I might want to know about later.  I often forget to record what Galloway intervals I used, and I rarely include exact splits.

I do go back and reference my race reports, especially since I run a lot of the same races every year.  It's nice to look back and see what exactly happened and what I could have done better the year before.  I wish my individual race reports were more prominent on my blog, since I feel like I'd like people visiting for the first time to be able to find them more easily.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Indonesia Part Six: Diving in Tulamben, Bali

In Part Five, Todd and I traveled for a day from Sorong to Bali, Indonesia.  We'd had 11 days in Raja Ampat scuba diving, and now it was time to dive in Tulamben, Bali, home of the USAT Liberty Wreck.

Like on the boat in Raja Ampat, I took a little video of the room at our resort.  It's shorter than the boat video that you might have watched in part five, and less silly.  Check it out!

A bird on the shower head of our outdoor shower
We woke up in the morning and had breakfast at the open air dining room in the resort.  Breakfast each day was our choice of American or Indonesian breakfast.  Both of us preferred the American breakfast at this point, since we'd been eating Indonesian breakfast every day for 12 days.  This meant we got a fruit plate with pineapple, mango, watermelon and another fruit that I didn't recognize.  As it turns out, this was Markisa.  I was totally wrong on my previous assumption that Markisa meant gift.  Nope, it is a fruit that looks somewhat like an orange on the outside, but is filled with seeds and citrusy-flavored pulp.  Then, I found out it's a Passion Fruit.  I've had passion fruit a million times, in smoothies and shakes and such, but I had never actually seen a passion fruit in person.  I'd never even realized it!  They were delicious and not at all what I expected.
Markisa, Image courtesy of sonymon4

The pond in front of the dining area had three turtles living in it.  The biggest and friendliest was named Camilla.  She would come over and sun  herself and look for hand outs, although we never fed her.  The other turtles were teeny tiny, and they would run away when we would get close.  Too cute!

Camilla the turtle
During breakfast we met and talked to Christiane, who is one of the owners of the resort.  Chrisiane is a well-known nudibranch expert, which is one of the reasons we chose Villa Markisa.  We knew before coming to Bali that we were choosing one of the worst times of the year to dive in Bali (but one of the best for Raja Ampat), so we were expecting it to be rainy while we were there. However, Chrisiane let us know that this rainy season had been exceptional, and the rains had created a layer of silt over the sand, and visibility was low.  She was planning on diving with us later in the day.
The pool at Villa Markisa

After breakfast, we headed out on our first dive.  Villa Markisa is right on the ocean, so we decided to stick to shore diving at the house reef, called Seraya Secrets.  This dive site is muck diving, which is a lot like what it sounds.  Instead of being on a reef, we dove on sand flats.  The sand was black and volcanic, and looking across it, it looks as if there is nothing there.  However, the closer the look, the more you see amazing small animals living in the sand.  On that first dive alone, we saw nudibranchs, Harlequin Shrimp, an ocotopus, tons of cleaner shrimp, a small baby frogfish, and tons of more things.  It was our first experience muck diving and it was incredible. You know it's great when Todd surfaces and just screams "WOW!"

Cleaner shrimp waiting for something to clean.
Since we were the only people staying in the resort, we were able to totally make up our own schedule.  We chose to have a second dive in the afternoon, and enjoyed a delicious lunch and then a rest on loungers overlooking the beach (the waves were gently lapping on the beach).  While we were there, it started to rain, and we headed to our outdoor sofa at our room, which was on a covered porch/lanai.  The rain turned into a big storm with super-loud thunder that lasted for well over an hour, and we ended up going on the dive a bit later.  In fact, it would rain really hard for at least some of the day every day, and rain basically happened more than sunshine during our stay in Tulamben.  Believe it or not, this didn't take anything away from the resort, since there is something totally beautiful about sitting outside watching a summer tropical rainshower/storm.  We were well protected on our patio, and the rain was SO relaxing.

Mantis shrimp
On our second dive, we also dove at Seraya Secrets, this time joined by three divemasters instead of one, plus Christiane.  The storm had brought the nudibranchs out, and we found a ridiculous amount of them on this dive, from tiny ones that were only about a millimeter long to big ones that were several inches long.  It was incredible.  Christiane had amazing air consumption, and we were doing dives with her that were really, really long (close to 90 minutes).  Visibility had decreased because of the storm, and as we would find out on our night dive that evening, the currents were starting to pick up.  We ended up doing a very short night dive because we really couldn't see much underwater, and it was difficult to stay in one place due to a strong current.  Each day from then on, the water in front of the resort would become a little more cloudy and rough, and we weren't able to dive there again.  By our last day, there were huge waves, and the beach was getting eroded.

Each night, we ended with dinner, delicious Indonesian fare served in the beautiful outdoor dining room.

Day two, we started our dive at the USAT Liberty wreck. This is a US Army transport ship that was hit by a Japanese submarine in 1942.  The army beached the ship on the coast of Bali when it was taking in too much water being towed to port.  Then, in 1963, the volcano nearby (Gungung Agung) erupted and pushed the ship into the water where it is now.  It is a huge wreck, and very impressive.  It's covered with soft corals, nudbranchs and more, and schools of bumpheads and jacks circle it.  I also dove this dive as a start to our third day of diving, but Todd was not feeling well (stomach issues) and snorkeled on the surface.  From below, I looked up at him and he was literally making a hole in the center of about a thousand jacks.  It was amazing, and I'm so sorry that I don't know how to use the camera.  Todd shot macro on our first dive at the wreck, intending to come back and take wide angle photos of the wreck the next day.  Since he missed our second dive there, he didn't get any wide angle shots.  It's a reason to return to Bali again, especially since we'd like to dive the Liberty with better visibility.
Harlequin shrimp eating a starfish.

For the rest of our dives, we spent time mostly doing muck diving.  We were seeing tons of colorful nudibranchs.  Christiane had a guest at the resort, Judith, who also livwed on Bali.  Judith and Christiane would come and dive with us on some dives, and we'd find tons of critters. We spent some time at a site called Coral Garden, covered with tons of beautiful soft corals.  We saw lots of clown fish, and our first Ribbon Eels.  I know that the diving in Tulamben could have been better, but to us it was spectacular.  It is definitely on our "must do again" list.  We did a total of ten dives at the resort - 3 for each of 3 days and one dive on our last day.
A nudibranch (which is a sea slug)

On our second day of diving, we ended the day with massages at the spa at the resort.  A Balinese massage is oh-so-relaxing and remember the relaxing rain?  It was raining outside during my massage, which for some reason put me into a total trance.  After I had my massage, Todd had one also.  It was his very first massage and he loved it!

A Balinese woman carries a scuba diver's equipment
on her head.
On our last evening in Tulamben, we decided to make the 3 mile walk to the nearby geocache, which was in town.  Leaving the luxury of the resort was a bit of a surprise.  The road was crowded with motorbikes following crazy Indonesian traffic laws (the first rule is don't hit, the second rule is don't get hit).  Locals frequently live without a lot of modern conveniences.  For example, we saw many people cooking over an open fire because they do not have ovens or stoves.  Houses had roosters in cages on the front yard, which were used for cockfighting.  Everyone seemed capable of carrying heavy objects on their heads, including dive equipment.  We saw cows and goats in yards, tons of shrines and offerings, and walked in the shadow of the volcano.  We eventually made it into town, but it was getting late and about to rain, so we chose not to go as far as the geocache.  We headed back to the resort.  Six mile walk in all (no running while scuba diving).

On our last day, the air was windy and the seas were rough.  When we did our boat dives (as we did every day except the first), we had to swim to the boat.  There was no pier, the boat was mored out off of the beach.  Typically, seas are calm and there is no issue, but while we were there the waves were getting progressively higher and it was getting more and more difficult to get to the boat.  The staff would take Todd's camera and our equipment to the boat, but we had to get ourselves in and out.  On the last day as we got out of the water, waves were so high that two staff members would get on either side of me and hold me by the arms to help me out of the water.  It was exhausting, and we had dove 40 dives since we arrived in Indonesia, so frankly I was happy on that last day to be packing up our dive equipment for the last time.
A nudibranch on the USAT Liberty
We packed and said goodbye to Christiane, and got in the resort's car to take us to the town of Ubud, our last stop on our trip.
Blue Ribbon Eel
A Clownfish takes care of his eggs.  He intends to name
one Nemo, and the rest will be Marlin, Jr.

Stay tuned for part seven, where things go slightly wrong in the artist town of Ubud.  We visit rice paddies, relax at our private pool, turn down rides for taxis, get deep into Balinese culture, and get a little more than we bargained for from some sacred monkeys.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


So, my surgery that I mentioned a week ago has been postponed by a week.

Sunday night, I noticed that I had a sore throat.  Blah, I have a cold.  It's not even a bad cold, it's one of those spring colds that I think will move through quickly.  By about noon today, my sore throat was gone, and I'm left with the sniffles and sneezes, but no fever and no congestion.  When I got the pre-op call today, I told them about the cold and they determined that I cannot go under general anesthesia tomorrow.  I kind of wish I hadn't mentioned it, since I think I'll be feeling mostly better by tomorrow, and I really think it's not a big deal.

But, they know best, and so I went ahead and rescheduled.  So, surgery will be next Wednesday.  This messes up my schedule in a number of ways.  For starters, it throws off my half marathon training by a week, so I'm not entirely certain how my schedule will go after the surgery.  The way it was written, I should be doing 14 miles the Saturday that I'm allowed to run again, but that is probably too much and I should push it a week.  This is bad because I won't be able to run with my friends :(

Work, also, is messed up because I have a release next Wednesday night and with surgery that day, I won't be able to participate.  And, next Thursday, Todd leaves for 5 days for Florida to visit his parents, so I'll be doing my recovery time alone.

I'm just bummed.  I had scheduled a ton of things around this and it totally sucks to be moving everything around.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shamrock 5K 2011

I ran this race a week ago, but I hadn't had time to get a blog post up until now.  Busy, busy, busy!

So, on March 13, I ran the Kelly St. Patrick's Day 5K for the 6th time.  This is a great race through the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore.  It starts at the base of the Washington Monument, goes straight down Charles Street (about a 3/4 mile downhill to start the race), then around past the Science Center and Visionary Art Museum.  The course then turns around, and goes back around the Inner Harbor and down Pratt Street to end at Power Plant Live.  Once you've gone downhill, the course is almost entirely flat.  It also happens to run the parade route for the St. Patrick's Day parade just before the parade starts, so there are plenty of spectators around.  They're really waiting for the parade, but they're a ton more spectators than you'd ever expect at any other 5K.  This also means that the race starts at a very late 1:15pm, so there's absolutely no getting up early!

Work is going a little crazy right now, so for the four days before the race (including Saturday), I worked a 12-13 hour day.  So, I was pretty worn out by the time Sunday came.  I thought about not running the race, but since I didn't have to get up early and I would need to run anyway, I figured that I may as well run the race I'd paid for.  Plus, it was a gorgeous day - sunny and warm!

I brought my awesome husband downtown with me.  We always tend to run into people we know (even those who aren't runners).  This time was no different, we ran into a couple of friends!  Plus, some runner friends!  We reached the starting line about 15 minutes before the race started and chatted it up with everyone.  The whole area was a sea of green shirts.

I didn't get as close to the starting line as I would have liked, but I didn't think I was too far away.  I know from past experience that this is a REALLY difficult race if you aren't closer to the front.  Once we started and I crested the hill and looked down, though - it was runners as far as I could see.  How could that many people have gotten in front of me???  Amazing.

I just could NOT get around people.  I was either wasting energy weaving or feeling frustrated being behind someone I didn't want to be behind.  I had made the decision that I was not going to worry about a PR at any race this year except my marathon, but I still sort of wanted a PR.  I've set a PR at this race three years straight, so one more would have been nice.

I never saw Mile Marker 1, the course was too crowded.  We headed around Key Highway and turned around, and the course was STILL crowded.  I think maybe more people who signed up actually showed up because the weather was so nice?  It certainly didn't seem so crowded in 2009, for example, when it was 40 degrees and raining.  I passed Mile Marker 2, did the math, and decided I probably wasn't going to make it in for a PR.  I can't remember what my split was though... LOL

Once we headed back past the Science Center, the course opened up.  I ran along Pratt Street thinking the same thing that I think at this point in a 5K...  I hate 5Ks.  Too fast.  I ended up crossing the finish line at 33:21, about a minute above my PR, but still a respectable time.

Usually, I would stay downtown and have some free beer, but Todd and I were feeling exhausted and ended up just grabbing a bite to eat at an Asian Restaurant downtown and then heading home.

So, it was a good race.  I don't think I'm going to do this one next year, though.  It's not that I don't like the race, I do, it's just that I've done it 6 times, it's time to move on to another race.

I wish I had taken some photos!!  Alas, I did not. :(

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Going Under the Knife

A week from today, I'm having surgery.  I mentioned it a few times, but I haven't specifically gone into what I'm having done and what the deal is.

Image courtesy of
I am having a varicose vein closure procedure done.  On my left leg, I have a varicose vein that I first noticed in 2005.  My mom has them as well, and she has for as long as I can remember.  Hers are especially bad, and she is finally having them treated now.  In fact, she has already had the closure procedure done on both legs with no problem.

First, a little about varicose veins.  When your blood goes up the veins in your leg, something has to stop gravity from pulling it back down again.  In a normal vein, there are valves that close and stop the blood from going down.  The heart pumps, valves close, then the heart pumps again and the valves open again and let the blood go up.  In a varicose vein, these valves are broken and don't close all the way.  The blood is pumped upward by the heart, but between heartbeats, it all falls back down the leg again.  After a while, the vein starts to bulge and look funny.  It is misshapen from the blood pooling there.

Varicose veins are similar to spider veins, which a lot of people have and are small capillaries near the skin that resemble spider webs.  Spider veins are typically cosmetic only and don't really have any bad consequences and don't require treatment.  They also don't bulge out like varicose veins do.

My symptoms are that my legs are frequently tired and heavy, even if there is no reason for them to feel that way.  The veins themselves are warm to the touch and are sometimes itchy and burn.  I've been wearing medical compression stockings to work and on airplanes since 2008, and I sometimes have to wear them to bed because my legs will cramp terribly during the night because of my veins.

My vein doesn't look horrible, it certainly could look worse, but it is noticeable on my leg, and it's getting more and more noticeable as time goes on.  If I don't have the surgery, my leg will eventually look like this:
Varicose Veins...  Image courtesy of VNUS
I don't want that.  Not only will they look bad, but eventually my symptoms will get worse and worse until the vein breaks the skin and becomes a bleeding ulcer.  I don't want that either.

So, what happens here?  Well, I'm going to go under general anesthesia, and then the doctor will make a very small incision in my leg and insert a catheter into the vein.  The end of the catheter will get warm, and that will make the vein close.  As the doctor pulls the catheter out, the vein will close around it until the entire vein has closed.  She will then go in and make a few more incisions in my calf to close the branches of the vein in my calf.  Then, the vein will no longer have blood going through it and it will eventually be absorbed into my body and just... gone.
The Closure Procedure... Image courtesy of VNUS

The biggest question I've gotten is "Um, don't you need that vein?" and the answer is, apparently, no.  This is a superficial vein, and the body knows how to reroute the blood into deeper veins inside the leg that are still healthy.

After the surgery, my doctor is going to want me to walk a lot, but I've been asked not to run for 2 weeks.  This is the biggest reason why I'm not shooting for a time goal for the Indianapolis Half.  I also can't go into a pool or hot tub, and I can't fly during that time.  However, by next Friday, 2 days after the surgery, I should be feeling at about 98% of what I was feeling before the surgery.  So, recovery time will be fairly quick.

I first started considering surgery in early 2009.  However, I couldn't find a good time to do it and I kept procrastinating about it.  I should have had the surgery done back in October, when I was not training for anything and I was still far enough from going to Indonesia that I wouldn't have messed up the trip.  However, I didn't, so here I am in the midst of training for a half marathon, going into surgery.

I'm pretty nervous that I won't be able to run again as quickly as I'd like.  Or, that my doctor won't want me running the mileage that I want to run.  When I saw her in December, I asked her if I could walk during my recovery period, and she said absolutely, she wants me to walk!  So, I said, "Okay, so if I want to walk, say, 10 to 12 miles the weekend after the surgery, that will be good?"  She gave me a blank stare, and said no, not that much walking.  So, I said, "Ok, um, 5 to 7 miles?"  Another blank stare.  She never did get specific with me about what I can and can't do, and I almost don't want to ask her again because I'm afraid she'll tell me no.

I have to wear the support hose 24/7 after the surgery for two weeks, but besides that I think I'll be ok.  I'm not nervous about the surgery itself, just about my running and how that will come into play.  It's difficult for me to give up that need to race Indy all out.  I know that I might still have a pretty admirable time at Indy, but I tend to prefer to RACE RACE RACE, and to do so I need to train... and if I am recovering from surgery, I can't do that.  I've worked the two weeks off into my training schedule, but if the doctor tells me I have to sit out longer, it will be a problem.  We shall see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MBE: Music

It's been a little crazy for me lately.  I've had to work overtime quite a bit over the last week or so, including putting in a 13 hour day on Saturday.  I have a backlog of things to blog about, and it's all coming, just stay tuned!

This is Monday Brain Exchange, which is sponsored by Jill!

This Weeks Topic: Music Montage
This Weeks Question: If you had a soundtrack for your training and racing, what songs would appear on it?

As a general rule, I don't really listen to my iPod while running unless I am on the treadmill.  However, I do have some songs that I use to get excited about races.  These seem to vary from year to year, and the list looks something like this:

2005, my first year running: "Take the Money and Run" by Steve Miller Band
2006, my first marathon season: "Under Pressure" by Queen, or the remake by The Used
2007 (Marine Corps & Disney): "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen
2008 (Baltimore Half): I can't think that I had one for this year, maybe that's why the Baltimore Half was such a crappy race for me... Hm.
2009 (Disney / Philly Distance Run): "I Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas and "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay
2010 (Philly Half): Again, kind of nothing.  Maybe I don't get as pumped about half marathons.
2011: So far, it's been "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2

I don't think there's any rhyme or reason to why I pick what I pick.  Clearly, Take the Money and Run and Born to Run were more about the fact that the songs contain the word "Run."  I've also been known to visualize races to songs like "Ready to Run" by the Dixie Chicks and "Run to You"  by Bryan Adams.  Not very creative, I know.  The Coldplay song came from watching this video.  The Black Eyed Peas is because the very first time I ever heard the song, I realized it would be a great race day song.   The U2 song...  I don't know, I randomly put it onto a CD the other day and it got me thinking about New York.

So, while I don't have playlists of running music, per se, I do have theme songs for each year.  And they seem to typically be older songs.  Oh well, that's just me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Indonesia Part Five: Sorong to Bali

In Part Four, I described the incredible diving and adventures that we experienced in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.  For the other four guests on the boat, this was the end of their trip and they were heading home.  For Todd and me, we were ready to head off on another Indonesian adventure -- Bali.

First of all, if you want, you can watch a very, very silly video that I made while in Raja Ampat called Kim Shows the Boat.  We didn't take photos in the boat, so this is an opportunity to see what the boat looked like.  Like I said, though, it's very silly and also probably boring.  But, if you're interested... Check it out

Our last morning in Sorong started out cloudy, and as we ate breakfast, thunder clouds rolled in fast and soon it was POURING.  Todd and I had an earlier flight than everyone else, so we left the boat first, in the middle of a huge downpour.  We waved goodbye to the crew from the dingy that took us to shore and loaded back into a cab to the airport.  I was prepared for the horn honking and scary driving this time.

The beach in Tulamben, Bali
The airport in Sorong was crowded, hot and crazy.  Weka escorted us into the check in area, despite the fact that a security guard clearly didn't want him to.  I stood by our checked bags (to keep them away from the airline personnel who might want to charge us excess weight fees for them), and Todd and Weka checked us in. Weka managed to negotiate us a cheaper rate for bag fees, which was great.  We waved goodbye to him and went through "security" (nothing like in the US), and we were on our own.

Indonesian airlines do not run on time, and they are even less likely to do so in the rain.  So, we sat in front of the doors to the tarmac and watched the rain come down.  We were clearly the only non-Indonesians in the waiting area.  Then, Todd started talking to the woman next to him and it turns out that she was the owner of the Raja Ampat Explorer (our boat!).  Even better, the man sitting behind us turned out to be a former divemaster from the Archipelago Adventurer II, the boat we were initially supposed to be on.  We sat and talked to them, and got some more of the scoop about what exactly happened to the AAII.  I won't go into detail here, but it was interesting.

Our plane became late enough that Matt, Ellen, Nicole and Daniel showed up at the airport for their later flight.  No planes were taking off in the pouring rain, and there were no more seats for anyone.  Nicole tested out the bathroom and I was told not to even go in there (I did not).

Then, the rain stopped and planes landed, and they let off 40-50 people each who were apparently transferring to somewhere else and came in and filled up the waiting area even more...  Then, when they'd announce that a plane was boarding, a hundred or so people would push out the door to get to the bus that would take us to the plane.  It was chaos.  I don't know when they announced that our plane was boarding (about 2 hours late), but everyone else apparently knew before I did.  I pushed along with everyone else - if you can't beat 'em, join em!

Our flight from Sorong to Makassar was on Batavia Airlines, a fairly new domestic airline.  This plane had the least amount of leg room of any plane that I have ever been on.  Our knees were smooshed into the seats in front of us, and injury may have occurred if the people in front of us had reclined.  This was clearly an old plane - it still had ashtrays.  The flight attendant came by and gave us some water and hot tea and a roll.  I bit into the roll and there was something brown inside.  I couldn't identify it. Was it meat?  Something sugary?  Nuts?  I was hungry, so I had to take the attitude of don't question it, just eat it.  It wasn't BAD, I just didn't know what it was. I did peek over at Todd's roll and the roll of the guy next to me, and they both seemed to have weird brown innards in them as well, so it hopefully wasn't bugs or something.

Makassar airport is incredibly nice.  Once we were on the ground, we retrieved our bags and then headed around to the check in desk for Garuda Indonesia Airlines, which would be taking us to Bali.  Garuda wrapped our bags in plastic ties, and didn't charge us any bag fees because we were scuba divers.  Our bags were soaked from being loaded on the plane in the pouring rain in Sorong, but it wasn't too bad.  

We had four hours in Makassar (it was supposed to be six, but we landed two hours late).  We had lunch in an Indonesian cafe, eating Nasi Goreng, or Indonesian Fried Rice.  We had diet soda for the first time since we left the US - Coke Zero is surprisingly popular in Indonesia.  From the airport cafe window, I watched a guy take a bucket and dip it into the fountain in front of the airport, then use it to wash his car in the airport parking lot.  Isn't that weird? 

We also used our Kindles to discover that we had internet access!!  We were able to check email for the first time in a long time!  

Apparently, Indonesia is where Polo Ralph Lauren makes a lot of clothes, so the airport was full of stores selling Ralph Lauren clothes.  There were also tons of stores selling "Markisa."  This was interesting, because our hotel in Bali was called Villa Markisa.  I decided it meant gift, because Markisa was written all over boxes that appeared to be gift boxes.    Further exploration of the airport found a muslim prayer room with about 150 pairs of shoes outside of it, a wet bathroom with included sprinkler hose, a reflexology place with lots of women massaging men's feet, and a store selling pastries with flies walking on them.  Prior to going to Indonesia, flies walking on food would have kept me from eating said food, but I'd developed a tolerance for insects while in Raja Ampat, so I investigated these pastries, but declined.  I did have some tasty frozen yogurt!  Yum!

Soon, it was time to get on our Garuda plane to Bali.  We headed out to the plane and got on and... air conditioning.  This was the first domestic flight in Indonesia that had air conditioning turned on while the plane was still on the tarmac.  There was even first class! And, the seats had televisions in the headrests!  This was luxury like we had not experienced in a while.  We found our seats and - EXIT ROW!  Score!  (Later, someone would tell us that Garuda will always give westerners exit row because Indonesians are less likely to actually help people in an emergency.  I don't know if this is true or not, but I will say that every person in our row was a westerner).  Garuda is the only Indonesian airline that is allowed to operate in the European Union, and it was like heaven compared to Express Air and Batavia.  (Garuda was previously banned from the EU, but was allowed to fly there again starting in June 2010)

On this flight, I experienced Teh botol for the first time.  Teh botol is an Indonesian drink that is everywhere, and is basically Jasmine tea.  The packaging looks remarkably like Coke.  Teh botol is disgusting.  I don't know what it is about packaged teas in Asia, but every time I tried to drink a packaged tea, I wanted to spit it out immediately.   Or, maybe I just don't like Jasmine tea.  I don't know.

At last, we landed in Bali.  It had taken a whole 12 hours from the time we left the boat to the time we landed in Bali.  We collected our bags, Todd changed money (finally) and I went to the ladies room.  This is where I had another Indonesian Bathroom experience, where the floor was so wet that I almost fell down, the woman that I mentioned before came out of the stall with her skinny jeans and heels, and I just wanted to stop her and ask what the deal is.  Like, "Hey lady, what exactly went on in there?  It looks like you were spraying a hose around! What is that about???"  The Indonesian bathroom confusion continued.

We met up with the driver from our first resort in Bali, who loaded us into the car to settle in for our two and half hour (!!) drive to Tulamben.  As you can see from the handy map of Bali that I have provided, it doesn't look that far from the airport (Denpasar) to Tulamben, but there is a giant volcano between the two that you have to drive around.  Travel in Bali is slow.

It was night, so we couldn't see much outside of the car, but in Denpasar we saw bits of home - McDonalds, Subway, Cartier, and more familiar brands.  The farther we got from Denpasar, the less light and buildings we saw.  We saw lots of motorbikes.  And dogs.  Everywhere, dogs.  People were just walking in the street in the dark, sometimes carrying things on their heads.  Our driver beeped at every single car he passed, and often crossed into oncoming traffic.  Apparently, the way it works in Bali is that every part of the road is a passing zone.  You can pass someone anywhere, and you should, because trucks go like 2 mph.  So, pass them, and you don't need to worry about the oncoming cars... apparently.  I don't know.  We didn't die in a horrific car crash, so that was good.  Todd nodded off, which I don't understand because I was facing life and death panic every few minutes.

Finally, we pulled into our resort, Villa Markisa.  The staff were waiting for us when we arrived and showed us to our room.  We were the only guests staying in the resort, so they'd kept dinner waiting for us (it was about 10pm).  Our room was AMAZING.  No roaches.  Mosquito netting, beautiful king sized bed, fresh fruit, mini bar...  We kind of stood there in awe for a few minutes, in culture shock after our time in Raja Ampat.

We followed one of the resort staff over to the dining area.  OMG.  It was open air, with a walkway over a fish pond in front.  As we ate (delicious Indonesian style food), we could hear the ocean nearby.  The grounds of the resort were beautiful.  Everything was amazing.  The dive master for the resort came by and we agreed on a time to meet up for diving the next day.  

Looking out from the dining area towards the ocean at Villa Markisa
We headed back to the room and got ready for bed.  Our bathroom was outside.  Toilet, shower, sink, everything was outside, which is pretty typical for Bali (and perhaps for Indonesia).  That first night, I was attacked by a giant blue bug that looked like a Beetle and that was about the size of our cat.  I was careful to leave the outdoor lights OFF after that. 

We settled into bed, dreaming of what was in store for us on the beautiful island of Bali....

Stay tuned for part six, where we are introduced to muck diving, have a roadside adventure, and dive the famous wreck of the USS Liberty, and more!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Have You Done the NYC Marathon?

After the Chicago Marathon closed, I started researching other marathons that I could do in the likely event that I do not get into New York City.  Estimates this year are showing that there is an 8-12% chance of getting into the marathon through the lottery this year.  Not all that likely.

I so appreciate everyone's suggestions for marathons in my run stats post!  I looked into all of them and more!  In the end, I was looking for races that:
  • Had the best travel time from Baltimore (direct flight from BWI or no longer than a 6 hour drive).
  • Include a fairly flat course, and one that is scenic or has entertainment on the course.
  • Take place no earlier than October 1, and no later than New York City (November 6).
  • Have a 6 1/2 hour time limit or longer.
I ended up narrowing it down to two races!
  • Wineglass (Oct 2)- Corning, NY, a 4 hour drive from Baltimore, scenic, flat course, 6 1/2 hour time limit.
  • Columbus (Oct 16) - Columbus, OH, a 7 hour drive or 1 hour flight from Baltimore, flat course with 80 bands on the course, 7 1/2 hour time limit.
... and now, I kind of feel more excited about the prospect of running one of these races than about New York.  I'm starting to dread the idea of getting into New York.  It's because of the huge hassle that is the New York City Marathon.  You have to be on the bus at 5am, but my (likely) wave start won't begin until probably after 10:00am.  It's crowded and huge...  and intimidating.

Thoughts?  Have you done the NYC Marathon?  Did you enjoy it?  Should I just back out?  I can actually remove myself from the lottery if I decide not to do it...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Indonesia Extra: MORE Raja Ampat Photos

There are just too many photos for me to keep them to myself...

School of Bannerfish
Mandarin Fish mating

School of Barracuda
Me and some Clown Fish!
Checking out a big school of fish
Soft coral
Todd investigates some soft corals

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