Thursday, June 30, 2005

Books and What's Next?

I met Eric and Krisanne at Garage (not The Garage, just Garage) for dinner and pool, except we chatted so much we didn't play any pool!

I got some interesting reading recommendations: Botany of Desire, Cloud Atlas, Deep Survival, and Tipping Point. All sound very interesting! I have a backlog of books I already bought but haven't read, but I think I can squeeze a book or two in at the front of the line. I recently finished up Life of Pi and Freakonomics, and am currently reading Swimming to Antarctica. Freakonomics applies economic theory to various situations, and the logic is interesting to follow. I found the section on real estate to be particularly timely... but the book bogged down at the end with a huge analysis of the popularity of various boy's and girl's names. So far, Swimming to Antartica is very interesting, because to me, long distance swimming is a paticular kind of crazy: lengthy swims (8+ hours) in cold water (55 degrees or less) without a wetsuit - wow! Of course, long distance swimmers probably think triathletes are crazy. ;)

Eric asked me "What's next? What do you do after Ironman? Ultramarathons?" Ultramarathons are any running event longer than 31 miles, or an even 50 kilometers. I think I could do a 50K run, but then running is pretty harsh on feet, ankles, and knees. I joked that I would try adventure racing instead! Adventure racing involves map and compass navigation (using a GPS is cheating) to go from checkpoint to checkpoint. It also involves a variety of sports, from rock climbing, rapelling, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and so forth. While there are short adventure races ("sprints"), many are 12+ hours or multi-day, and become exercises in sleep deprivation. This doesn't sound that fun to me, but perhaps there are "shorter" ones that would be OK.

Another problem with adventure racing is picking up a ton more gear for all the new sports that are involved!

I've also thought about an XTerra triathlon, which are off-road triathlons. Instead of biking on roads, it is biking on trails - i.e. mountain biking. Instead of road running, it is trail running. This sounds fun as far as mixing it up, but the problem is I'd need a mountain bike to do one. And biking is expensive enough as it is - I don't need to be getting a mountain bike just to do an XTerra tri. I might be able to borrow or rent one, however.

What is really in my future, as far as sports, is rest, and then a late season tri. With my aerobic base from ironman training, I will try some speedwork. This seems like the best thing to do.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More Blog Entries

I packed up the car in about six trips back-and-forth (yes, I flipped out and packed far more gear than I really needed) and drove back to Kirkland. I listened to most of the audio book Fahrenheit 451, and lets just say Ray Bradbury makes a better author than narrator.

It rained yesterday and today in Coeur D'Alene, and I realize that I lucked out as far as weather. Rain during the bike portion would have made things far more difficult. It would have been colder and more miserable, more crashes and slips during hill descents, more flats, more blisters from having wet feet, etc.

Francesca wrote a blog entry about IMCdA, and so did Krisanne. Sunday was one of those days that went so well for me I want to relive it and keep the memory alive. :D

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Awards Banquet

After breakfast with my friends I went back to the expo area to pick up my finisher's certificate, official race results, and pictures. I wound up buying all my race photos and a horribly overpriced photo mat, falling victim to the need for more souvenirs. ;)

The race photos look OK - unfortunately the photographer caught me at the finish line with my eyes closed. I think when I crossed I heaved a sigh a relief and thus closed my eyes for a moment. I do have my eyes open for my other finisher's photo, and am wearing a toothy grin as well. The swim and bike photos came out pretty well. I was lucky my race number was visible for the swim, because there were stacks of hundreds of unidentified wetsuit pictures - arranged into sleeved and sleeveless piles with further categories by wetsuit brand name. A small crowd gathered to flip through the stacks, which is what I had to do for my run photo. I eventually found it and saw why it was in the unidentified section - my race number isn't visible. The run photo is a close up of me shortly after leaving transition, with white steaks of sunscreen visible, grimacing as though I were in pain. It isn't very flattering, and I must not have seen the photographer otherwise I could have at least tried to smile, because I didn't feel as bad as the picture looks!

I attended a portion of the awards banquet, which was interesting. I probably wouldn't have gone except the printed results and finisher's certificates were in the same tent, off to the side. The race officials brought up the top five finishers in each age group for both men and women, and awarded plaques. The crowd cheered and when it was over, I grabbed my DVD and left.

My friend Kandi found something cool - she told me there was a picture of me on the bike, on the official website. I searched around with the photo album viewer, until I found it.

Other than that I took it easy. I visited the hotel pool to soak, aqua jog a bit, dip into the hot tub, and finish up soaking in the pool. Yesterday's cold water bath helped out and I may repeat that again tonight.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Ironman Coeur D'Alene

I finished in 16:16:17! Woohoo!! I am an Ironman! :)

Before the Swim

The swim was the best part of my day. IMCdA is a beach start: the pros start in the water, while the rest of us line up on the beach. When the cannon goes off, everybody rushes in and starts churning. I'm sure it is quite a spectacle and I had a really good view of it. ;) I hit my goal of swimming under 1:30 (I did 1:28:33) so I exited the water very happy. I had a few of the expected water collisions but overall I was unharmed. IMCdA makes you get out of the water after one lap and cross a timing mat - this is a little annoying, but I liked the break. Plus, I was able to adjust the velcro strap on my wetsuit. It still bit me a little, but not as much for the second loop.

The bike was tough for me. I paced very conservatively: often I would catch up to somebody on hill, but then drop back as I decided to didn't want to invest the energy to complete the pass (sometimes it meant passing 3 or 4 others). I tried to keep my heart rate down. This got me to special needs at mile 62 feeling good, but by mile 85 or so, the second loop of hills really took it out of me. It was hot and windy, and for the last 30 miles I kept calculating what I needed to average to make the bike cutoff. If I could coast faster than that average, I did. I wound up stopping at every aid station to stretch, hit the porta-potty, and pick up some nutrition. My bike computer said my "ride" time was 7:35 so I evidently had another 45 minutes of these breaks as my clock time for the bike was 8:20:17. But, I needed every one of those stops.

At Bike Special Needs

Here I am surrounded by gorgeous women... this Ironman thing doesn't seem so bad. ;)

On the bike course I saw my parents; Alexandra, Christina, Francesca, and Jen at special needs; Eric and Krisanne around mile 100. These were all really huge boosts!

Around Mile 100

I was very happy to get off the bike and start the run. I crept along at an 11 minute mile for 4 or 5 miles, but eventually I had to walk for a few minutes after each aid station. This was mostly to let my stomach settle a little after taking in some nutrition. I sampled everything, but mostly the chicken broth and water. As the night wore on my walking breaks got longer and longer - I was mentally alert (because I fell into "calculate what pace I needed to make the cutoff" mode) and felt good, all things considered, but my feet and knees were sore. By finishing so late I was able to run by glowstick, and see all the other ones ahead of me, especially in the out-and-back section along the lake. ;) Run time was 6:01:01.

"Only" a Marathon Left To Do...

Alexandra, Francesca, Jen, and Mike stationed themselves near the transition zone; my parents were a block away; Eric and Krisanne were two blocks past that; Christina and Greg drove out towards the turnaround along Lake Coeur D'Alene - so I wound up seeing friends and family quite often, which was enormous because I was starting to drag a bit on the run. Francesca walked with me for along the short turnaround from the transition zone to run special needs, and it was great talking to her and drawing on her IM finishing experience and overall huge enthusiasm!

My Amazing Cheering Section

The finish was great - despite being pretty beat, after crossing the line and hearing my name called as an Ironman and taking a bunch of pictures, I was buzzing with excitement. My parents and friends met me and we stood around and chatted for a bit, before I left to go back to the hotel and soak in a tub.

Goal Achieved!

I'm really thankful my friends drove out to cheer - it was a long day for them since I finished at 16:16. They made T-shirts and had pom-poms and I need to get copies of the pictures to upload. All the volunteers and spectators were great too - hearing somebody clapping and calling out your name is quite a boost as well.

So I got my finish and will probably go nuts at the merchandise tent. I've already purchased some stuff but there are always IMCdA logo arm warmers and I'm sure I'll see something else or order pictures. What the heck, I'm not sure I'm up for doing another one, so I'm gonna bask in this one. :)

Thanks to Krisanne and Francesca for these great photos!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Taking it Easy

Today was all about taking it easy, as easy as possible. After meeting for breakfast, I returned to my hotel to pack my swim-bike and bike-run transition bags. I double and triple checked everything, and wheeled my bike into the bike racks and dropped off my bags. Tomorrow morning I'll just need to drop off my special needs bags and show up with my swim gear...

My parents got into town and found me at the bike check-in. We wandered around a bit and I pointed out the swim course to them.

After more relaxing at the hotel, I met up with my friends for dinner at the Olive Garden. Unfortunately, the Olive Garden would only sit us in groups of six, so I decided to wait another hour and go to Chili's instead, since they could seat all of us. I absolutely didn't want to have people sit separately.

Dinner was enjoyable, we chatted about various things and they helped me keep my mind off the big event.


Seated: Greg, Christina, Eric, Krisanne, me
Standing: Mike, Jen, Francesca, Alexandra

I need to get up early tomorrow, but I know I won't be able to fall asleep anytime soon. Still, I'll get in bed and read a bit and try to.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


I spent most of this day around the expo in City Park.

In the morning I took advantage of the Gatorade Bag Check - an area in City Park where Gatorade reps would watch a bag of your items (clothes) while you swam. I wanted to find out what the water temperature was like, and get in a brief swim, so I checked my items and headed to the lake, where there was a short course of buoys marking a rectangular swim (well, three sides of a rectangle). I waded out into the water and started, pleasantly surprised to find the water warmer than I had expected. The lake was much clearer than lakes I'm used to - I could see the bottom which was around 20 feet deep! Overall, with the clear water and pleasant temperature, I think the swim will be quite nice. Afterwards, I talked to two other athletes who had a few questions about the swim course. I think they thought that was the actual course, but I told them it was far too short, the current marking was just for swim warmups.

I wandered through the expo again, stopping to pick up pamphlets and product samples, and yes, I got a few more IMCdA logo items. ;) I listened to parts of two speaker's panels, where pros held a Q&A session. The first speaker was Chris Legh, who talked at length on salt and electrolyte intake. He was the unfortunate victim of dehydration at IM Hawaii one year, which hospitalized him. He's also had trouble with cramping, so he participated in studies which found he was just losing far more than the normal amount of electrolytes through sweat - so now, he's upped his salt/eletrolyte intake for events in hot and humid conditions. Next up were a group of four pros who answered questions about their training; however all were quite cagey apparently not wanting to reveal too much info to their competitors!

It is getting more exciting here, just wandering around. I find my eye drawn to everyone's wrists, looking for the silver bracelet I am wearing.

Later in the afternoon Jen and Alexandra arrived, so I met up with them for dinner at the Dockside, a restaurant in the Coeur D'Alene Resort. It was great to see them, as I've been mostly keeping to myself these past few days. We walked around afterwards, wandering a few blocks and stopping at a candy store. Back at City Park, we noticed the swim course appeared to be fully marked with yellow and orange buoys.

We returned to their hotel and played Killer Bunnies. Now I am a fan of board games and card games, so I really liked Killer Bunnies after only playing it once. It is up there with Illuminati for wackiness and entertainment. Mike and Francesca arrived and we all hung out for a bit before I left to get to sleep.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

IMCdA Packet Pick-up

I picked up my race packet at lunch, when the registration tent was comparatively empty. At most triathlons, I'm used to being handed the packet and then going off on my own. Here, I met with a registration volunteer one on one and we went through everything in the registration packet, one item at a time. To be fair, there is more info to cover for an Ironman.

The volunteer wrote my race number, 678, on a blue swim cap (pink for women) and let it dry. Ironman doesn't cut any corners - this swim cap is a nice silicone one with the IMCdA logo prominently displayed, instead of the usual cheaper blank latex (hair pulling) swim cap. I received two race numbers: one with my first name printed on it, and one with my last name printed on it. Since I have a race belt I'll just use one, probably my first name, the entire time. Also in the packet were several smaller stickers with my race number, for transition bags, special needs bags, bike, helmet, and dry clothes. There were a few more miscellaneous items: a bike check-out ticket, timing chip, wrist bracelet, and eight safety pins.

After covering a few more things and slipping in some papers labeled "Final Athlete Information", she fixed the wrist bracelet to me, and told me have my timing chip scanned. She also handed me my goody bag, which contained a few sample products, and several folded plastic bags - these are my transition and special needs bags.


I think I'm allowed to keep wearing this wristband until the next IMNA event!

My chip scanned just fine, and I had an option of getting the usual red plastic timing chip strap, or paying $5 for neoprene one. Yeah... another little way to get more money, but what are you going to do? Like many others, I decided to get a neoprene one - at least it will be reusable and not potentially cut my skin if it is on too tight.

I wandered around the expo, half of the vendors were already set up. The gear tent was stocked and ready to go. Lots of last minute things for sale - pump adapters, bodyglide, gu, spare parts of all kinds, Ironman logo tires, and so forth. A person could spend a small fortune in the gear tent and adjacent merchandise tent. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Audio Book

I mentioned bringing entertainment along for my road trip. The nature of the entertainment is... audio books. I knew that I would go crazy listening to 10 to 12 hours of music, whether my own or by scanning for radio stations, so I decided to try out two books instead.

While looking around on Amazon, I found a link to a, which sells downloadable audio books, for a discount. On top of that, you can subscribe and basically get two books for $21.95 a month. Since audio books are pricey, this is quite a bargain. More on that later...

I noticed that getting a book on audio introduces at least two new variables. One is often whether to buy the unabridged version versus the abridged version, as many books are available in both. The other is the quality of the narrator - I read many reviews of books where customers essentially said "the novel is great, but the narrator is horrible".

Anyway, after browsing for a while, I decided to buy Q is for Quarry, and Fahrenheit 451 on CD. I thought the mystery genre would make a great audio book - no temptation to flip to the end to see the resolution! - and I read a few of Sue Grafton's "alphabet" series a while ago. I got the abridged edition and felt that was OK as I probably wasn't going to miss too much. As for "Fahrenheit 451" - this is a SciFi classic I've never read, and the audio version is unabridged and narrated by Ray Bradbury! Both audio books are about 6 hours long, which is nearly perfect for the drive.

For the drive out, I decided to listen to "Q is for Quarry". Overall, the audio book experience is really good: it was very easy to follow the plot while driving. If anything, my drive was too short as I didn't quite finish up the story, something I'll have to do in bits and pieces as I drive around.

Now, about I downloaded "The Fountainhead" but wasn't planning to listen to it as it is much longer than I needed. Unfortunately, I had some trouble downloading another book (I had selected an earlier mystery novel in Sue Grafton's series). I tried a few things but discovered I was no longer able to play "The Fountainhead" on my computer, much less burn it to CD. Trying to play the audio track on my computer resulted in a password authorization failure - one downside of so-called DRM (digital rights management) schemes that attempt to prevent unauthorized copying. In this case, it prevented authorized playback. ;) Anyway, I suspect reinstalling Audible's software will fix this problem, but that was that last thing I wanted to fiddle with amidst the number of errands I had to accomplish before leaving for Idaho.

Something to think about - owning the CD is protection against this sort of problem. I was going to try out for a few months. If I fix the problem and find I have an ongoing demand for audio books, I'll be sure to burn them to CD as soon as I download, to help prevent this sort of loss of access.

Drive to Coeur D'Alene

I drove out to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho this afternoon, stopping for lunch in Ellensburg and again where the highway crossed the Columbia River - a scenic windy spot. Up on a hill was the "Wild Horses Monument", so I took a few pictures before resuming my trip.

Columbia River

Wild Horses Monument

The drive went by quickly, as I brought along some entertainment. Seattle was drizzly as I left, but sure enough the weather changed past Snoqualmie Pass - eastern Washington is much drier and warmer than the section west of the Cascades. I could scarcely beleive my eyes when I saw several tumbleweeds blowing in the highway, near Moses Lake.

Once I unloaded my car into my hotel room, I drove around a bit to get familiar with Coeur D'Alene and find some dinner.

Welcome Rock

Monday, June 20, 2005


I heard back from my realtor, who found out from the listing agent that the pool in the house I'm buying is "5 feet at deep end and 3 feet at shallow end".

EXCELLENT, this means that I can get a Fastlane! It'll take me a little while to settle in and unpack, but definitely this item has moved to the top spot on my wish list of things to get.


I met Carrie and Kevin at the University of Washington Water Activities Center, just south of Husky Stadium, where we rented a canoe and paddled around the 520 bridge and Arboretum area. In all the time I lived in Seattle I never did this, so they offered to take me along with them.

We picked up our canoe, lifejackets, and oars, and rowed across to the bridge. The water traffic in the area is high, as the WAC lets out right before the Montlake Cut, which connects Lake Washington to Lake Union. Lots of motorboats use this to get to the Ballard Locks and then out into Puget Sound. Today was a sunny, warm day so it was crowded.

It was pretty tough to paddle in a straight line, we certainly could use more practice. We zig-zagged our way into some small channels where we looked for birds. One group of ducks literally came chasing after us, hoping for food! We had some preztels we crumbled and fed them for a few minutes.

Hungry Ducks

We also saw some turtles napping on a log, warming in the sun. I wished I had a zoom lens because we couldn't get any closer without spooking them.


After circling around a small island, we pushed east along 520 towards a sculpture I've seen hundreds of times from the bridge: the Nellie Cornish Sculptures (this article mentions them in the last paragraph).


We had to row through a dense field of lily pads to get there - they made an interesting scraping sound as our metal canoe slid over them.

Lily Pads

I tried to get a nice macro close up of a lily flower, but it was challenging. First there was the gentle movement of the boat from drift and waves. Then, my leaning over to get the camera close to the flower would unbalance the canoe. I had to hurry to take this photo as the boat was rotating slightly and the flower would be in shadow soon. At the same time, I didn't want to rip it from its stem to take the picture at my leisure in the canoe.


After this we crossed back to the north side of 520 to gawk at the homes along Sand Point, and then made our way back in after a nice two hour canoe trip.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

House Cooling

Today I threw myself a going-away party, and invited my closest friends. Most were able to make it and the proverbial good time was had by all. At least, I think so. ;)

At my house-warming, I grilled shish kebabs. I was lazier this time around and just bought party platter from Subway. I made homemade ice cream which seemed to be a hit all around. I tried to take pictures of everybody who attended, but I missed a few. Looks like I'll have to visit later to get those missing pictures!

I received some fun going away presents: SPF 30 sunscreen, a "Life is Good" triathlon shirt and Ironman socks, and a gorgeous picture of Mount Rainier. I'll frame that and display it along with the Seattle cityscape I bought! Another cute gift was a volleyball signed by the members of my league team, Reeking Havoc.

In an unrelated note, today is the one year anniversary of this blog. Hard to imagine... I started this up for fun, not really expecting to keep it going for very long. It's been enjoyable and not too difficult to find something to write about. Of course, that is because I'm not exactly producting high-minded commentary on society - this is pretty much just what I'm up to. After IMCdA is over, I will merge my training blog back into this one, but only report training on a weekly basis. Daily reports would be mind numbing for most people, and it was getting to me as well. ;)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Home Offer

I decided to meet the seller's sale price. The home is very close to what I am looking for, so rather than wait and keep looking, I'll just get it. So the home purchase effort is moving forward, into the loan approval phase. This means I have a bunch of documents to gather and fax to the mortgage broker in Florida.

Since the seller didn't budge on the asking price, I'll be a stickler on the home inspection - if something non-cosmetic needs fixing, I will insist it be taken care of before I move in.

There isn't much I don't like about the home (yeah yeah, double negative). My current home has a separated den area, good for home theater, TV, and exercise gear. The Florida house has a more open architecture. My bedrooms in my current home are on the highest floor and are a bit insulated from noise. In the Florida house, the master bedroom leads off of the breakfast nook. Overall, without custom designing a floor plan, this one was good enough for me.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Another Home Scenario

I met with my realtor, and we looked at some comps in the neighborhood. She had a methodology where we calculated the price per square foot of comparable homes, and arrived at the conclusion that $315K was a reasonable bid. Of course, the expectation is getting a counter-offer of something in between - $320K for instance.

However, the seller didn't budge at all and refused to move from $325K. The difference between my expected mortgage payments on $325K and $315K are roughly $50 a month, and the difference between $325K and $320K is only $25 a month. The difference isn't huge, and the impact on a monthly payment is minor, but I find it irritating the seller refuses to budge at all.

When I looked at the house again, the seller mentioned he and his wife found new jobs near Miami, and are eager to move and get settled before their kids start school in the fall. He said he could pack and clear out in as little as two weeks, which is plenty early given the closing process takes longer than that. The home has been on the market for a month, received one offer but the financing fell through. It gets quite a bit of foot traffic from realtors, but no other offers as of yet.

Now I do like the home and am not really planning to use this information against them, but again, the refusal to budge is a bit much. Mostly because it makes me think, what if something comes up on the home inspection report? Will the seller also refuse to fix a minor problem? The home did appraise for $325K, so perhaps the seller is confident he can get a full-price offer.

Fortunately, I haven't become so attached to the property that I must have it. I am equally confident I can find a home equally desirable to me. I may decide to accept the terms anyway, because I do like many things about the house, but I am considering another scenario with my second choice. This is the home with the cute colorful garden I took a picture of two days ago.

This home is a little farther away from work, and the entrance to the subdivision crosses a railroad line, which raises the potential of waiting for a train to pass while coming or going. But, it is $50K cheaper and has a reasonable floor plan. It has no pool...

... but that open up another interesting possibility. My realtor says a pool costs about $40K to add to a home, but only adds about $25K in value. Thus, buying a home with a pool is more cost effective than adding one. However, the kind of pool I could add is a little cheaper - an Endless Pool. Triathletes and swimmers everywhere are already familiar with this, but for others, this is basically a pool with a circulation system, which creates a current. I could do useful swimming in this kind of pool, training at home so to speak. I thought this kind of pool was expensive ($20K+) but apparently it is cheaper than a regular pool! I could install it above ground in my second choice's Florida Room, and even disassemble it to take with me should I move. To be honest, I evaluated every home I looked at for Endless Pool space. ;) Several had screened patios that were easily large enough!

My second choice has been on the market for nearly two months, and is already vacant. Thus, the sellers would be so-called "motivated" and I could likely shave a little bit off the asking price. Of course, the calculating logical part of me is already noting that if they had a tough time selling, I likely would as well should the need arise. Overall, my second choice home does have a few drawbacks.

My options are to 1) accept $325K for my first choice, 2) move to offering on my second choice, or 3) just waiting for later. I'll continue thinking this over, and might as some coworkers if they have any input on either subdivision. The fact is I'm leaning towards #1. The home has been shown to appraise for the asking price, which isn't really that bad.

What I'll do is sleep on it, and do some property searches to get another picture of what is selling.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Banking Issues

I've banked with Wells Fargo for a few months now, and am a satisfied customer. Because my current mortgage is with them, I automatically qualify for the fancy checking account and free online bill pay. The only snag in what otherwise is a great experience banking with them is... there are no branches of Wells Fargo in Florida. Since I will be relocating to Florida soon, this presents a problem.

I'm currently out of town, and earlier today I was filling out paperwork from a title insurance company in Washington. The form requests various account numbers, and since I didn't have a chance to fill it out before leaving, I brought along copies of recent statements. As I was filling out the form, I noticed my mortgage account numbers were requested. Unfortunately, I didn't notice this and didn't dig up those statements to bring along.

I thought, no big deal, I can check online! I logged in and looked at my account, and discovered the online statements don't contain the full account numbers - the last three digits were X'd out.

So I called up Wells Fargo mortgage, explaining that I was out of town and needed my account numbers for a form. The polite lady told me it was against policy to give out account numbers over the phone. She suggested I go to a branch office and request in person. I responded that I was currently in Florida, where there are no branches of Wells Fargo. Silence... and she apologized for not being able to help.

Now I can understand this policy, but in a larger sense, it highlights a problem I will have unless I switch banks: if I cannot transact all business with my bank over the phone or website, then I cannot continue banking with Wells Fargo, as I can't very well enter a local branch when there are none.

So, I'm looking into switching banks. I'm in the middle of getting pre-approved for a mortgage in FL while selling a house in WA, so now isn't the time for switching banks. But perhaps I can open another account but not switch over until later. I will ask tomorrow when I meet with a mortgage consultant if opening another account is OK.

Ironically, the bank I am considering is Washington Mutual, a bank founded in Seattle, which also has branches in Florida. Thus I might conveniently open an account in my remaining days in Washington and be able to continue banking after I move.

As for my mortgage account info, I talked to the mortgage consultant I am meeting tomorrow, and explained the issue. He cheerfully offered to read me the account numbers off the credit report he ran on me! He did caution that sometimes these reports contain partial account numbers, but it didn't seem likely as each account number was 12+ digits, and a superset of what I could get online. I decided I could use those account numbers until I get home and verify them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

House Hunting

House hunting is going well. Today I revisited my top two choices from yesterday, and drove to Winter Park, FL to look at a townhome.

My top choice is this home:

A brief description of the floor plan: left and right of the open entryway are the dining room and living room. Behind the entry hallway, the kitchen, breakfast nook, and den are open to each other. The master bedroom is off the breakfast nook, while the two bedrooms are off a hallway leading past the dining room and utility room, which leads to the garage. The master bedroom and den open onto the screened patio where the pool is. The home has a few ceiling fans, and a combination of tile and carpet floors.

I've noticed several themes in the newer (1995 and more recent) construction here: high ceilings (10 or 12 feet tall), and shelves above closets. The shelves are formed by the gap between the height of the closet and the ceiling. This particular home had a row of stuffed animals sitting on such a shelf, in the kid's room! Also, it is common to see walls that don't reach the ceiling, creating an air gap, but only between common rooms (dining room to living room and/or den to kitchen). I surmise this is to promote air circulation and help cool things down.

This home matches what I want the best of all the homes I've seen: close to work, new/recent construction, screened pool area, right price range, plus many intangibles in real estate such as decent floor plan and general appearance. It is also in a gated community, Woodbridge Lakes.


The rage here in central Florida is gated communities. Half of the subdivisions, especially newer ones, are gated, for whatever reason. This of course means belonging to a homeowner's association and paying dues for shared maintenance items. For example, since the road isn't publically accessible, the HOA is responsible for upkeep. In addition it means having some rules and covenenants to follow, but they don't look too onerous.

I called up a local mortgage broker to start that process up. Even if I decide not to put an offer on this home I'll need to have my loan paperwork in order.

Pools and Lawns

I spent the afternoon with a realtor, driving around and looking at a few properties in Lake Mary and Heathrow. We saw a total of eight homes, and if it weren't for the simple floorplan sketches I made, they all would have blended together.

Before my trip, I was set against getting a home with a pool, because I thought pools would be maintenance time sinks. However, many properties here have pools and they do enhance the resale value of the home, so I would be limiting my choices by avoiding pool homes. As for maintenance time, several co-workers insisted taking care of a pool isn't that much work at all. After talking to several, I learned:

  • Everybody recommended a pool, as a way to beat the heat. Even one coworker that didn't use his much thought it was a good idea, because it is easier to care for than the mowing the yard space it takes up.
  • Having a screened enclosure keeps bugs and debris away. An open-air pool is a lot more work.
  • Buying a robot pool cleaner is also highly recommended. I had no idea there were such things!
  • Do not fall behind on pool cleaning. If you do, and the water turns cloudy and green, it will take a huge amount of work to restore the pool water to be safe again.
  • Finally, you can always get a pool service.

Pool maintenance boils down to this: run the robot all day Friday, for general pool cleaning. Sunday evening or Monday, dump in the chemicals to clean the water and keep the pH balance. You can bring in water samples to pool stores and they'll measure it and tell you how many scoops of whatever to dump in. Once a month, clean the filter. That doesn't sound too bad...

... compared to mowing the lawn. The grass here (St. Augustine) is apparently a genetic mutant hardened to survive tropical conditions. When it rains, the grass soaks up as much as possible and grows noticeably overnight. The blades are thick and sharp and dense. Everybody laughed when I said I had a push reel mower - apparently I'd need to mow every other day to combat the grass. One coworker specifically mentioned getting a 5 horsepower mower - I'm not sure how powerful that is in the lawn mower scheme of things, but since he went through the trouble of specifying mower power, I'm thinking that is a beefy mower.

An interesting fact is palm trees are monocotyledons, making them a closer relative of grass than other trees. Grass and palm trees are in class Liliopsida, but are in different orders (poales versus arecales). Obviously, you don't mow palm trees. ;)


A cute little garden outside one home I looked at.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Golf Sunday

My friend Sanjaya flew in this afternoon, on a business trip. We were coworkers and good friends, and I was sad when he moved away. It was definitely more enjoyable working with him there than after he left. We learned to snowboard together, played computer games, and golf.

As far as golf, we like the par 3 game the most. Crossroads, a nearby park had a course, so we would leave a little early on nice days and play a round, dragging another friend Ken with us. The Crossroads par 3 course was cheap and convenient, most games lasted about one and half hours, and we could play with just two clubs: the 9 iron and the putter. I like par 3 golf courses so much more than a full length course, mostly because I can hit fairly accurate up to 80 yards or so - any more distance means a much higher chance of veering off to the side. There isn't any hassle with scheduling a tee time and expenses are minimal.

We drove over to see my house, and we went to eat at a favorite restaurant. After getting Ken we drove over to the course and found they made several improvements, including opening a driving range and a clubhouse, and changing the start point.

Back when we played once or twice a week, we had an ongoing competition: whoever lost the match treated for ice cream. We had an elaborate handicapping system designed to even things out, but since it had been over four years, all of us were theoretically equally rusty so we just played.

Sanjaya started out hitting the green with his tee shot, putting the pressure on! Ken landed by a tree and I shot just to the side and short. One tough thing about golf is putting so despite the great first shot, Sanjaya was only up by one stroke.

Par 3 golf moves quickly, which also helps. On hole 4 I managed a birdie, but again, all the fairways are short - this particular hole was only 64 yards from the tee.

We played around and in the end, Ken was the most over par. I ended 8 over par, Sanjaya ended 11 over par, and Ken was 14 over par. So Ken honored our tradition and treated us at the nearby Baskin Robbins. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Cascades Edge Sprint Triathlon

My second warmup event was this morning. While it was cool, overcast, and had recently rained, at least there wasn't any during the event.

I showed up and picked up my registration info, and to my dismay I saw my race number was 666! I know somebody has to have that race number (unless the race just doesn't assign it) and I'm generally not superstitious, but I still didn't like my race number. ;)

Race Number and Cool Hammer Socks

I saw my friend Christina in the transition zone before the race, and she joked that she would be hunting me down. My wave (sprint tri - all men started at 9:00 am) launched 5 minutes before hers, so at least I had a head start!

The swim was cold and as I got in the water I remembered a coworker in Florida telling me that she had never worn a wetsuit for a tri. Apparently the water so nice and warm wetsuits aren't even allowed at many events! I pondered how nice that might be, discounting the flotation and time advantage a wetsuit provides. But, I tend to run cold so maybe I would welcome warmer water.

The race started and I swam to the side to avoid collisions, and fell into a rhythm. After exiting the water I jogged through transition, and carefully put on my biking gear, including a jacket because I felt cold. Past the timing mat I struggled for a few seconds with my gloves as another friend Patricia zoomed by. The bike was uneventful, and felt odd because nobody was passing me! However, I knew I didn't take a wrong turn because I've done four other triathlons at this park and so I knew the bike course. Once I passed the turnaround, I saw Christina and we yelled hello to each other.

The run was two loops of a 1.4 mile path around the lake. This was a trail run which was great because those are a little easier on my feet. The course marking was excellent - last year there was one fork that wasn't well marked but this time someone dumped a lot of chalk to point out the correct way.

Midway through the first lap, my race number payed off: someone yelled "run like the devil" at me as I passed them. :) I finished up 1:27:17, 13/15 in my division and 51/100 overall. I have a little more info on the race over here.

On the drive back, I pulled up behind a car that had a funny bumper sticker. It made me laugh.

Funny Bumper Sticker

Now, I'm off to shower. This time, I'm really going to scrub my calf so get my race number completely off!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

New Pedals

I had a RAD pedal fit this afternoon (Rotational Adjustment Devices). The RAD fit process involves replacing your pedals with the RAD device, which is a block with a swivel part. Two colored sticks extend from the RAD device, which give a visual feedback to what needs to change in order to angle the cleat to match your biomechanics.

Pedal "float" is the angle the pedal allows your foot to move through (think of your heel as swiveling around). Foot swivel in turn rotates the tibia, which in turn rotates inside the knee joint, so getting fitted means matching the cleat angle to keep everything aligned.

Mike at Sammamish Valley Cycles adjusted my right cleat quickly. But, he couldn't get my left cleat adjusted. After fiddling with it for a while, and moving it to its maximum adjustment, he said that I need more pedal float for a proper fit. I looked down and indeed, the angle formed by the red and white sticks was indeed just slightly off.

The suggested new pedal system was Look or Speedplay. I have friends who use and love Speedplays, so I decided to go with those, especially since they offer more float than the Look pedals, so I now have Speedplay X/5 pedals on my race bike! Buying new pedals also means getting new bike shoes, so I did that too.

I practiced for a few minutes in the store and the shoes and pedals felt fine. I was able to clip out easily enough, but clipping in was slightly trickier - sometimes my foot would slide right off. No biggie, I am convinced with a little practice on the trainer I'll have it down in no time.

House Appraisal

My realtor called up to say an appraiser would stop by in the afternoon. I immediately had an impulse to run home and clean up a bit, but I quickly realized now that my home is off the market, I don't have to have it ready to show all the time.

The appraiser's purpose is to make sure the house appraises for approximately the loan amount. This is to protect the bank from a bad loan, and also reel in the sometimes crazy bidding that goes on in this area. Read this article for more examples of the hot Seattle home market (I hope the Google cache link stays valid for a while).

If somebody bids too high for the house, then they'll have to make up the difference on their own. So for example if a house that is really only worth $300K gets an offer of $400K, the bank will say hey that is great, but we're only loaning you $300K, so then the buyer will need to come up with the remainder from somewhere else.

It apparently went well. One possible issue is the roof - since it needs repair, it is possible the appraiser would say the home only appraises correctly after repairs are completed. If this were to happen, it just means more paper shuffling to file new financing documents and so forth. However, this didn't come up. He just took a few measurements - apparently square footage is the dominant factor in what a home appraises for - and finished up fairly quickly. As my realtor later described, he didn't ask about the roof, and I (my realtor) didn't point it out. :)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Blue Lake Olympic Triathlon

This morning was the kickoff of my tri season, which so far consists of three events: two warmup triathlons, and IMCdA.

I drove down yesterday afternoon, and met up with Jennifer and her husband Duncan, and some other triathletes Jen knows because they are all working with Coach Cal of Critical Speed. We met at an Olive Garden, and the waiters came in pushing bottles of wine... but a group of triathletes, most of whom were racing the next morning, is a tough crowd to sell alcohol to! We settled on our dinners and eventually left stuffed.

The morning was overcast, drizzly and chilly (mid 50's), so not the greatest weather. But, all I wanted out of this event was to shake the rust off from the long winter of training, and get some practice participating in a tri again. I'm not quite so amazing as Francesca to open my season with an Ironman. ;)

The race went pretty well - I knew before going in that I was going to take it easy. These last few weeks are the so-called "taper" phase for me, where I still workout but mostly rest up for the main event. So I paced myself conservatively and had a pretty good time. I feel fortunate I didn't have any bike issues, because I was working on mine off and on for a few hours yesterday: putting my race wheels together and making various tweaks and adjustments. Plus, the spectre of the dreaded flat tire - they are more common in rainy weather because junk sticks to a wet tire better, and then sometimes it will work through and eventually cause a puncture. I passed at least a dozen others who were on the side of the road fixing flats.

I'm a bit on the cold side, so I bundled up with a long sleeve jersey, jackets, and full-fingered bike gloves, for the bike ride. Just seeing some others in short sleeve jerseys made me cold. I even wore my skull-cap (the orange thing on my head in the pic) which helps keep me warm.

Blue Lake Oly 2005

A photo of me after the event, with my race bike. I finally got around to putting on my race wheels, and now I think my race bike looks really cool. ;)

Total time was 3:05:52. Not the fastest effort I've done on this course, but it was a solid training day for me, which was my goal. I have a little more detail on the event over on my training blog.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Better Movies

After the disappointing Napoleon Dynamite, I watched the far superior and all around excellent movie The Shawshank Redemption.

I apparently was living under a rock for never seeing it. I'd summarize the plot but everyone else has seen it so there isn't any point. ;) Let's just say this movie is all about friendship, courage, patience, redemption, survival, justice, and above all hope. I highly recommend seeing this, and if you already have, check out some movie trivia. The movie was so good, I'm planning to buy the DVD special edition.

I also watched a documentary called Running on the Sun, about the 1999 edition of the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 mile running event that starts in Badwater (Death Valley, CA) and finishes at Whitney Portals (Mt. Whitney, CA).

I couldn't believe what these people were subjecting themselves to: sleep deprivation, blister and toenail problems. Heck, the sheer idea of running in a desert with daytime temperatures above 130 degrees F seems like lunacy to me. Still, it was interesting to watch, just to see that there are crazier people than me out there.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Home Inspection

Another installment in the ongoing tale of selling my house... ;)

Mona, my realtor, got the buyer's home inspection report back, and told me to sit down before she summarized it. The buyers were asking for a little over $11,000 off the price of the home!

We met to go over the report, and found they listed a lot of nit-picky things. Items such as "sliding glass door sticks" for which they wanted $150 to fix. Fix windows that have broken seals, $600. Replace partially rotted deck stair, $150. Fix pocket door, $150. Fix support beam under house, $350. They also put down "add fan to bathroom" for $500, "new water heater" for $500, and of course the big one "replace roof" $8000.

Instead of any fixes, they just wanted the cash transferred to them in what my realtor called an escrow holdback. This is very unusual, and after a few phone calls, my realtor found that their own lender was unwilling to do this. Since we didn't want to do the escrow holdback, this was good news as she could show to the buyers their own bank didn't want to do it.

Mona commented that half the items they listed were cosmetic and expected in a 25 year old home - if the buyers want new water heaters and things like that, they should look into buying a new home. Plus, all the prices were inflated. She also said it was odd to basically ask a seller to begin renovations for them, such as adding a bathroom fan. Same goes with GFCI outlets (I have a few, but none in the kitchen) - while that is the current spec, when my house was built it wasn't. Again, if you want a home that meets current codes, buy a new house, or do these sorts of improvement after the purchase.

We went through the list and marked the "must fixes" which we had to do for any seller. There were only three of these: the roof, the windows, and an allowance for a support beam under the house. For this, we counter-offered $7000, to be applied towards their closing costs. I got a bid on replacing the roof for $6300, for fixing the windows for $400, and we decided to allow the support beam cost since by the time we got someone out to check for us, it would cost that much anyway.

I decided if they wouldn't accept this, I'd back out and put the home back on the market.

Later in the day Mona called and said the counter-offer on the home inspection report was accepted! The $7000 was split partially towards closing costs and partially towards the price of the home, so the official sale price is now $363,500. I think this is pretty good considering my next door neighbors sold their home a few months ago for $365,000.

Now, the process moves along to the bank, which will send an appraiser to check the home appraises for about the amount of the loan. I guess this is a step to verify the bank won't have a bad loan, if there is a default.