Saturday, July 30, 2005

Clothes Shopping

I rarely shop for clothes. In Washington, half the time I went out intending to buy clothes, I ended up at REI and bought a micro-fiber garment of some sort. Still, I needed to buy some sandals and shorts, because it is a bit warmer here in Florida. Also, I could use a few more shirts.

I was going to do all this sometime in the future, but I heard on the radio that the state of Florida is running a special deal - for this week ending Sunday, there is no sales tax on clothes or school supplies, as a back-to-school break for parents. The school year begins early here - next week. I decided to take advantage and visit some stores.

So far I bought 3 pairs of sandals, 5 pairs of shorts, and 3 shirts. I plan to get a few more items over the weekend, especially since most stores are also running sales on top of the sale tax amnesty. I may very well wind up spending more on clothes this weekend than I have in the past year!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Car Insurance

An update on the ongoing effort to becoming a Florida resident: I got my Florida issued car insurance, after only two hours with the agent!

It took so long because he had to call my agent in Washington, wait for some faxes, and so forth. Various tasks are more cumbersome when your bank doesn't have any branches in your new state, and your car/home insurance company doesn't write policies in the new state. For me the involved companies are Wells Fargo and Metropolitan Life.

My agent was helpful while we waited. It seemed most of this was due to verification - he showed me various options in the insurance database, and what happens to your rate when you can't prove you had insurance for the past six months, and so forth. What was intersting is that sometimes, carrying a higher liability limits is cheaper! One company would give a lower rate for 100/300 liability rather than 50/100 liability, even though 100/300 is better coverage. The reason has to do with statistics and risk - people who carry 100/300 coverage are usually safer so they get lower rates. He showed me the worst category is some minimal coverage at 10/20, where the rate is nearly double.

With that all set, it was time to pay. They had an EFT option, but charged a service fee for doing that. There was also an option to pay 6 months at a time, and get a 15% discount. So that's what I did, because I'm all for saving a little bit on insurance.

Now that I have Florida issued car insurance, I have the honor of battling it out with the DMV and try to get Florida license plates. I hope to take care of that tomorrow, because with Florida plates I can sign up for the E Pass and zip through the quick lane instead of fishing around for change at all the dang tolls on the highways in this area.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ironman Lake Placid

Jen's day is here - after all the work and training, her event has arrived! I'm excited for her, and also am happy to spectate instead of participate. As Francesca said to me before IMCdA, doing the swim would be fun, if you could skip the bike and run. ;) She has been thinking of this event for a long time - last year I ran a July 4th 5K with her, and as I remember, she told me she was planning to sign up for Ironman Lake Placid 2005 when the registration opened up.

My hotel is very close to the transition zone, so I got up comparatively late but still made it in time to find Jen and Duncan near the swim start at Mirror Lake. The water temperature was 76 degrees F, so wetsuits were allowed, but that is getting on the warm side. Jen looked relaxed while suiting up, and left to get in the water. Unlike IMCdA which had a beach start, IMLP was a water start - all the athletes are already in the water when the race begins.

Ready to Rumble!

This event is the pro women's race (the men's pro race was Ironman Coeur D'Alene). Since some age group men are as fast as the pro women, the pros were given a 35 minute head start, so they would be done with their first swim lap and well into their second lap before everyone else took off.

The Swim Field

Duncan spotted Jen at the midpoint of the swim, where the athletes get out and cross a timing mat before swimming a second lap. She was doing well and a bit ahead of her expected finish time. It was difficult to see or get close since the barricade was placed 15 or 20 feet away from the chute, so we split up and I went to wait near her bike in the transition zone. She came by and I yelled and waved, and then went to the bike start. She hit her swim time target perfectly, finishing in 1:29:51.

Starting the Bike Course

The bike start is tricky: a downhill into a hairpin turn, then a 90 degree turn into a sharp descent. The race organizers warned athletes to take a really easy starting out - no use crashing into hay bales less than 5 minutes into the bike!

Nice Shirt!

Jen arrived at bike special needs (just short of halfway through the bike course) about 12:30 pm, looking a little tired but in very good spirits. Duncan and I talked to her while she reloaded nutrition, and she was energetic and having a good time out there. This station was far more crowded than IMAZ or IMCdA, because it wasn't as spread out. Because of this, bikes were stacked up two or three or more deep and I hope there were no collisions.

At Bike Special Needs

I went off to watch the pro women and top age group men finish. Tony Delogne managed to make up the 35 minute head start the pro women received, and finished first. After watching Karen Smeyers finish, I waited by the bike course for Jen to arrive. Duncan called about 4:40 pm and to ask what the cutoff time was and if I had seen her. I said she's still got 45 minutes and I hadn't seen her either, but that I could always check for her bike in the transition zone.

Less than 10 minutes later he called again and said she just went by special needs. She rounded the corner next to the Olympic Center and I took a picture. This is great news, she made the bike cut-off. Privately, I was a bit concerned about that, because the bike course at IMLP is difficult. Making the cutoff is a tradeoff: go "too hard" and making the cutoff might result in no energy left for the run; go "too easy" and not making the cutoff... then your race is over. At least, this is tradeoff for those of us that take nearly all the allowed time on the bike course. ;)

Almost Done...

... with the bike course.

I caught her attention at the run start as she started the marathon. She waved, pumped her fists, and then was off down the road. She was on the run course right around 5 pm and thus will have a full 7 hours to finish the marathon.

At 7:30 pm, I went to run special needs to wait for her. As it turns out, she spotted me since I was looking at the wrong side of the road - she had already been through and was heading out for lap 2! Right the Duncan called and I updated him and was able to relay messages between them. After Jen turned the corner and ran off, Duncan and I met and ate dinner, and I calculated that Jen should be back to that spot around 10:15 to 10:30. He left to get Jen's mom, while I milled around the finish chute for a bit before going back to the hotel.

Starting lap 2

At 10:20 pm, I made my way back to the run course and waited. Less than 5 minutes later Jen passed by to the final out and back. She smiled and complained briefly "I want to run but they put all these hills on the course". I moved closer to the finish area and when I spotted Jen again I called Duncan and told him she was on the oval and would be finishing in seconds.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of her in the finish chute. I ran around but couldn't get there in time due to the crowds. Jen looked woozy and headed off to the medical tent, but soon afterwards she was walking back while sipping a drink. I helped pick up her bike and then she took off with her family for some well deserved rest.

Jen finished in 15:48:58 - a great day!

Later, I went back to the finish area to cheer the last 15 minutes of athletes. A small group of us hung around the start of the oval, on the other side of the stands. Here it wasn't as loud and we could call out to the athletes with just a few hundred yards to go. These were the people digging really deep in order to finish. I called out to a woman as she passed and on hearing her name, she looked up with a very startled expression. Then she smiled as I clapped for her. Another guy must have crashed on the bike course - his knee was heavily wrapped and he was limping and clearly hurting big time. He made it with minutes to spare.

Finally, one athlete finished 30 minutes after the cutoff. She had to surrender her timing chip at midnight, and despite the fact people were taking down run course barricades, she turned to do the final out-and-back before entering the finish area. Racer #1915, Jennifer Dennis, officially DNF'ed but finished all 140.6 miles in roughly 17:30. That is gutting it out!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Lake Placid

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
I went to the expo and merchandise tent, and was able to get out after only buying two shirts: one generic IM Lake Placid shirt, and a green "off the couch" sub17 shirt.

After meeting Jen and Duncan for breakfast, I made a sign at "inspiration station" and then attended the volunteer meeting.

I saw a woman with a great shirt that read "Dontcha wish your girlfriend was fast like me?". But by the time I thought of asking to take a picture, she vanished in the crowd.

Transition Bags
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Hanging like ripe fruit...

at IMCdA they just had the transition bags on the ground.

Real Snow!
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
It is exciting being here, Lake Placid is a small town in a beautiful setting. It is a bit warm and humid, but that doesn't stop the city from having some "real snow" available for kids and dogs to play in.

Now, as for the signs I made:

Front of Sign

Stretching the limits of my artistic abilities...

Back of Sign

Eve or Brian (I can't remember) began to refer to our training group as the "supah hero crew" after Eve wore a tutu at Chilly Hilly. So no, I didn't misspell. The athlete depicted is supposed to be Jen, with blue eyes and frizzy blond hair (orange was the closest color available) wearing her "Critical Speed" training outfit and lightning bolt cape. The green polka dots are there for decoration. Use your imagination and it will look better! ;)

I drove the bike course, and I must admit it is very scenic. The course passes through rustic towns, follows rivers (I saw several fly fisherman) and has views of forested hills.

Upstate NY

One thing about Ironman Lake Placid (and Ironman Canada) is the locations they are held are a bit remote, compared to IM Coeur D'Alene and of course IM Arizona. Lake Placid is in the middle of the Adirondacks, a huge park in upstate NY. There is a small airport inside the Adirondacks at nearby Sarananc Lake, but the service is very limited and expensive - no flights on the weekend and only a few during the weekdays. I haven't seen the airport, but I get the impression it exclusively handles smaller airlines, for example Fielding Airways, based in Scranton, PA. ;)

Albany looked like the next best location to fly into, about 140 miles away. I arrived about 9 pm, and discovered I had somehow forgotten to arrange for a rental car beforehand. After surveying the various choices, I went with Enterprise, largely because the clerk was very friendly and very helpful.

Due to this screw-up of my own making, I sped away from Albany a few minutes before 11 pm. There is a group from Orkut camping in Massachusetts and I briefly considered a visit, but reality set in - to be in Lake Placid before noon would essentially require pulling an all-nighter and about 7 hours of driving for 4 hours of visit. So I nixed that and drove north.

There was a full moon and I could tell I was driving through a forest, but I couldn't really see much. The road to Lake Placid was rolling hills and windy (perhaps I drove part of the course!) and I fell in behind a car with a bike rack. I noticed plastic bags tied onto the bike protecting the drivetrain and brakes, so it was clearly a race bike. I thought to myself that I would HATE driving into the venue for Ironman after midnight the day before the event. That person should be getting a good night's rest!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Daylight versus Standard Time

It looks like Congress is extending Daylight Saving Time, although the House and Senate didn't quite agree on how much of an extension.

I'd just like to drop it altogether. I mean really, rather than monkey with time why not stick to the same clock all year, and just get up earlier. I'm not a morning person, but I'm also not dumb enough to believe that setting the clock back and forth actually buys me anything. It would be easier to businesses to have "summer hours" than introduce all the extra "daylight" time zones.

Arizona has the right idea!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Neighborhood Welcome

This evening a lady rang my doorbell and introduced herself as a neighbor, and also as the official welcome person for the subdivision. Wow! I thought the "welcome wagon" was an ancient tradition that died out long ago. ;)

She introduced herself as Sharon and asked where I moved from, and we chatted for a bit. She gave me several pamphlets: information on how to get a driver's license (heh, my realtor beat her to that!), local physicians and dentists, several coupons for local services like haircuts and vets, discounts from local restaurants, and a $25 gift certificate to the Macaroni Grill. She talked about the homeowner's association, where and when they meet, and who to call to get my name in the directory at the gate. She also gave me a business card and said to call if I had any questions.

My most pressing question was if the pedestrian gate had a key, because I want run on the trail that passes outside the neighborhood. She told me that gate isn't kept locked. All the same, I'm going to take a walk over to it and see if there is a lock that my house key or another key I received fits.

I've unpacked a bit more, but my study and master bedroom are still cluttered with all sorts of things. I'm trying to be good and pack away or throw away things I don't need out, so it is going slowly.

Now that the furniture is here, I am convinced this home is bigger. Of course, I already knew that from the square footage - this home is around 300 square feet bigger. But it felt smaller, and I think the reason for that is this home is single story whereas my Kirkland home was tri-level. So that was an illusion I fell victim to. I was worried all my bedroom furniture wouldn't fit, or my desk and bookshelves wouldn't fit, but now everything is here and I have more space in the bedroom and more space in the guest bedroom I turned into a study. Or I will when everything is packed away and the floors are clear. ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

First Dip

A minor confession: I haven't gotten in my pool yet... until this afternoon. I didn't want to get in before the pool service paid a visit, and I had the water tested. After adding a cup of acid (to restore the water's pH balance), I decided to wait another day... and then Saturday was busy since I was running errands until late.

So today, I decided to finally get in and enjoy my pool.

Enjoying the Pool

I only stayed in for 30 minutes or so - swimming back and forth, sitting in the spa, watching the pool robot move along and filter water. The chlorine concentration is lower than a regular pool, because I don't feel itchy or smell like chemicals.

The robot moves like one of those small wind-up walking toys. I haven't come up with a good name, but I'm leaning towards "clank", the robot companion in the Playstation 2 game Ratchet & Clank. Or maybe the the name of the remote control submersible from The Abyss, if I can remember it. Or something functional like "creeper" or "scrubber".

It was great, I think I can really get used to this. I just need a floating bar and I'll be set! ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Driver's License

I took another small step towards shedding my Washington roots by getting a Florida driver's license, and surrenduring my Washington license.

I planned to also register my car and get Florida license plates, but after sitting there for 15 or 20 minutes, I noticed a sign that said Florida issued car insurance is a requirement for Florida license plates. I don't have that yet, so I left the DMV for the license bureau, which was nearby.

Earlier, I visited an insurance agent and we got the car insurance policy set up, except he suggested I wait until after July 26th to transfer over. The reason is that a small claim in July 2002 will vanish off my record, and thus the new policy I get will take a dip in cost.

The license bureau was very busy and faily inefficient. First, I had to get into a slow line just to check-in - basically leave my name. After hanging around in the waiting room, they called me and then I got to stand in an even slower line, to finally reach a clerk, give over two forms of ID, answer questions, and have my picture taken. After more time in the waiting area, I was called for payment - $20. Then, another go in the waiting area until the license was ready.

The entire time I was thinking that splitting up this task among four different areas was just a way to employ more people, and not make it any faster. ;)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pool Instructions

Vinny the pool guy came by to show me the basics of pool maintenance, and how to operate the equipment, which is located by the side of the house. So just in case you were wondering what it is like to maintain a pool, keep reading. ;)

Easiest to operate is the heater, which has two dials: one for the pool, and one for the spa. This is simply: dial a temperature range (no numbers, just a yellow/orange/red color wheel), click on.

Next easiest is the timer, which explains why the pool and robot started up all of sudden the other day. The rule of thumb is to run the pool/robot about eight hours a day. This basically suctions water through the robot cleaner, through the chlorine or saline tank, and back to the pool. I'll probably run this while I'm at work.

The filters require a bit more work, since there are three of them. On filter is near the pool (the "skimmer"), and the other two are by all the valves on the side of the house. One of the side filters is a large cylinder that I remove and hose off once a month, the other is a basket that catches debris that I check once a week. The skimmer filter sucks in water off the surface of the pool (so obviously, if the water level is too low it won't work), and I just have to pop the lid and check that filter once a week. The large cylindrical filter needs to be replaced once a year, while the others don't, because they are plastic baskets.

Pools can be either chlorinated or salinated, or I suppose neither but in that case the water may become dangerous ;) and it so happens mine is setup for both. However, the chlorine system is the one that is currently working - the saline system needs repairs. Vinny said saline is much nicer, while the employee at the pool store said the chlorine is definitely the way to go. So, it isn't a clear decision and I need to search around and read up on the various pros and cons. In the meantime, the chlorine system is another small tank that I open and drop tablets into, as needed.

Once every other week, I need to take in a water sample for testing, and the pool store will tell me what to add. I did that earlier in the afternoon, and the only comment was the pH of the pool was a little high (7.8, so tending towards basic) so I need to lower it by adding some acid. I bought a gallon jug of muriatic acid (which is just another name for hydrochloric acid), and will add the recommended amount of 1 cup. The store also checks for calcium and chlorine levels, and at some point in the future I'm sure I'll have to add a mix of other stuff to bring those into line.

Once a week, I may need to "shock" the pool, which is dump in a higher concentration of chlorine. After shocking, I won't be able to use the pool for about 12 hours.

The robot cleaner is controlled by a valve, which is shared with the main suction pump. More suction to the robot, and it will climb the pool walls, scrubbing along the way. Vinny said to give the robot about 25% suction, otherwise it will wear out too fast. So keeping the pool walls clean may be a partnership between my robot and me with some sort of brush.

Finally, two other valves control the aeration and water jets for the pool and the spa. I can run both, just one, or neither...

It sounds like a lot, but it really boils down to an hour a week of adding chemicals and checking filters. I'm a new pool owner and it is all very exciting, so I'm sure I will enthusiastically perform these chores, at least for a while. Especially since a pool service runs between $90 to $120 a month, and those prices seem a little high for the effort involved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Moving In

Today was a tough day of watching the movers do their work. ;) I waited at my house until they arrived, and we did a quick walk through which let me explain where the major furniture pieces should go.

I had a tough time deciding about my former den furniture, the TV, sofa, and love seat. I prefer that visitors do not see tons of electronics when entering my house - I'd rather have a formal living room setup and have the entertainment in another room - but after mulling all sorts of permutations, I decided the furniture worked best with the sofa, love seat, and TV in the living room, immediately to the right of the entry. This works better because that room is carpeted while the den/kitchen/breakfast nook is tile; plus, since the kitchen is open to the den, activity there would be more of a disturbance if I setup in the den. In reality, this house floor plan is far more open and better lit than my old home in Kirkland, so it probably don't matter that much.

I found the instruction manual for the pool robot. The manual said to check basic functions, turn the dial to MAX and peek in the tank window. I did this, and all that happened was the service light started blinking. After fiddling around with the controls for a while, checking the manual and mysterious chart that indexed pool size in gallons versus hours of chlorine production, I gave up and called the pool company. I was unsure about nearly everything: how long to run the robot, how to chemically balance the water, what settings to use, etc. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "hello, I just bought a house with a pool, and I'm not sure how to care for it. The robot service light is on, the saline/chlorine tank window shows nothing..."

Lady at the store: "Ah, so you need a 'show and tell'. Let me get your information and the owner will call back to schedule a visit. In the meantime, if you bring 8 oz of your pool water to the store, we can analyze it and tell you what to add."

Me (thinking to myself): Thank goodness. Sounds like they've done this before with dozens of clueless people like me calling in for help.

Later in the afternoon, I looked out and notice the robot was running and several pool jets were on. I guess it had some previously set schedule it was following.

Home Purchase

I now own a residence in Lake Mary, Florida.

I met my realtor and mortgage lender, along with the seller and their realtor, at the title company. I wasn't very impressed with the title company since they just couldn't seem to return any of my phone calls requesting wiring instructions. I had to tell my mortgage lender that I wouldn't be able to send the money since they never provided instructions, and this would hold up closing. Anyway, after rattling a few people my mortgage lender got the info for me.

Closing in Washington didn't require all parties to get together for the ritualistic document signing. Here in Florida we gathered and signed papers, pushing them back and forth across the table until it was over.

In the afternoon I picked up my parents, who flew in to help me. This is nice, because some of what I need to do is wait around for people to show up at the house - for instance, the movers. They can help me effectively be in two places at once, freeing me to run a few errands.

Lake Mary Tile Mosaic

At City Hall

Monday, July 11, 2005

Krush Soccer

I planned to see a smaller local attraction, but found it was closed on Sundays, contrary to the little guidebook I had. Oh well, I'll try to make it back soon - it is sure to be a multiple picture opportunity. ;)

Instead, I waited until later in the day to attend a soccer game. There is a semi-pro women's team in the area, the Central Florida Krush and I thought it would be fun to watch a game.

I drove out to the stadium, but arrived a few minutes late. As I walked in, both teams were on the field, facing the flag for the National Anthem. I stood and looked at the them, one dressed in blue and the other dressed in white, and I realized I didn't even know what the home colors were! After the game started, I studied the jerseys on field, and looked over the roster in the program, and figured out the Krush wore blue.

The game was pretty good and the Krush won 2-1. I find soccer to be like baseball in that it is more fun for me to watch the games live than on TV.

One thing that puzzles me about soccer is the penalty/injury time. Since the clock doesn't stop, whenever somebody is injured or the game otherwise stops, the referee accumulates time. At the end of the period, the game continued until this time expires. The thing is, nobody except the head ref knows how much time really remains. It just seems odd they don't add time to the clock for a countdown everybody can see.


Before the game, at a nearby plaza, I saw these three walking around slowly.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Wekiwa Springs

I decided to take it easy and visit a local state park, Wekiwa Springs. I read that canoe rentals are available and I planned to do that.

However, I got a late start and arrived at the park mid-afternoon. After walking around for a few minutes, I found the swimming area, sat on a bench and read a book instead (The Secret Life of Bees). I watched people snorkeling and floating around, and enjoying this area that had a "summer swimmin' hole" feel. Perhaps next weekend I'll come back, after my things are delivered - I'll have my swim trunks so I can jump in, and my bike so I can take a leisurly ride along the trails.

Wekiwa Springs

I parked under a huge shady tree, covered in moss.

Spanish Moss

The canoe map shows several points of interest, including a waterall. This area isn't completely flat ;) but I can't imagine that the waterall is very tall. However, the suggested round-trip times were higher than I expected, due to the current. I'll have to come back and rent the canoe another time when I can get to the park earlier.

War of the Worlds

I was going to see Fantastic Four, but since all the reviews were mediocre, I decided to see War of the Worlds instead. I read this classic sci-fi novel years ago, and really only remember how it ended.

Earth is under attack by aliens that built and buried robotic machines before our civilization existed. These robots are invulnerable, because they have a force field around them that prevents injury. The only way one is taken down is when Ray (Tom Cruise) is almost eaten, and manages to deposit some gernades and get pulled to safety.

For days, the machines kill everything with their laser beams. Eventually, they get sick and die - yes, in the novel and movie, it is common microbes that kill the invaders.

My only issue with this is the plot hole, which to be fair exists in the novel - we have a race of advanced beings smart enough to build robots, lasers, force fields, yet stupid enough not to realize there are microbes on earth? Dumb enough to not filter their air supply?? Oh well, good for us. With all the destruction in the movie, there would be famine and plague which might finish the job they started. Heck, if they could die from our microbes, maybe they brought some along with them that finish us off!

Overall, I did enjoy the movie. I think it portrayed mass evacuations, panic in the streets, and the chaos and breakdown of civilization pretty well. Ray and his family are pulled from their car by an angry mob, and soon afterwards, thousands stampede trying to board a ferry. Another great survival scene is where Ray kills a man they've been hiding with - the other man panics and Ray decides that he's a risk and will call attention to them. This scene is all implied - Ray enters a room and closes the door, and then exits a few minutes later.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Florida Arrival

Well I made it here, getting in early yesterday morning. My temporary housing is the Hilton Garden Inn in Lake Mary, which I like a little bit more than the Marriott, which is the usual corporate hotel. The cookie platter the Hilton puts out in the afternoon might have something to do with that.

The air conditioning everywhere is cranked to the max. I get goose pimples sitting in my office, and feel cold when I go out to lunch. The thermostat in my hotel room was set to 68 degrees, and I bumped it up to 72 or 74. When I came back later, housekeeping set it back to 68 (or even less) again! I decided to see Batman Begins at the movies, and the same thing happened, it was chilly. How weird would I look carrying around a sweatshirt to wear indoors?

I feel a little restless as far as exercise. I know I should rest a bit longer, especially after IMCdA, but mentally I'm ready to go again! Apparently all the difficulty scheduling workouts has been forgotten... however I won't need to do the same volume for this second half of the season. I searched around and found a running club and a biking club, and what appears to be a biking club that also does triathlons, so when my stuff gets here I plan to get out there two or three times a week: taking it easy, but definitely starting up again. Also, a group at work bikes twice a week and they invited me along, so after my bikes arrive I'll be able to do that as well.

I felt like lazing around yesterday evening, possibly due to jet lag, and found a Battlestar Galactica marathon on the Sci-Fi channel. This was incredibly cool, since I didn't get the Sci-Fi channel in Washington - I was too cheap to pay for expanded cable - and I really liked the new series after watching the pilot via Netflix. I watched three episodes and hope they play more. As far as cable TV, I plan to give in and subscribe to more channels, but probably not any premium ones.

Tonight I checked out the YMCA, which has the usual exercise machines and a pool. I dropped in on the pick-up volleyball game, and found it to be utterly random. I'm not the most skilled player in the world, but half the ones there were out in space. And organized league would be far better, and while I would like to play again, getting that going isn't my highest priority.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Olympic Training Center

I met with my friend Joe at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Joe is a resident triathlete and is pretty busy as you can imagine. I think a typical workout for him is all three sports every day, varying intensity. Someone like me would do a bike workout, and then rest. Joe would do a hard bike, and "rest" by swimming and running easy. Anyway, he had a little time in between swimming and running and he graciously took me around the complex for about 45 minutes.

This is frustrating, I can't seem to link to Joe's bio. If you want to see it you have to go to the elite athlete bio page and then select "Joe Umphenour" from the dropdown box.

We went into the Athlete Performance Lab, the scientific lab where oxygen consumption and blood lactic acid and all sorts of stuff like that are measured. In the middle of the room was a treadmill that can go up to 25 mph. Yes, 25 mph. Maybe only my running friends will relate to that, but let's just say that is really fast for a human! The lab director said that some sprinters can hit that briefly, which is why the treadmill can support that speed. This must be one of the fastest treadmills in the world.

Fast Treadmill

We walked by the gymnastics area and watched two men on the pommel horse for a few minutes. Then, we went through the indoor shooting range, by the volleyball court, and over to the swimming pool and peeked in through the windows. On one side of the pool was a synchronized swim team, apparently getting chewed out, since Joe said the coach didn't look happy. On the other side were four or five lanes of swimmers. Since I'm a tri geek, I couldn't help but time some of them. ;) I watched one swimmer complete a 50 meter length in about 35 seconds, which is about twice as fast as I can do it. Plus, the swimmer didn't look like she was pushing hard at all, just there doing some "easy" yardage!

Then we walked to the Athlete's Residence Hall, and I followed Joe past the large "NO VISITORS BEYOND THIS POINT" sign. He pointed out their cafeteria and I noticed the menu was quite expansive.

Athlete's Residence Entrance Hall

We went up to his room, which was the model of efficient storage: neatly stacked bike helmets, running shoes, and bikes on stands. Plus, he's got one of the best views in the building - Pike's Peak!

It was a very interesting tour. The Olympic Training Center is much like a college, except the people there are studying an athletic discipline instead of adademics. I'm grateful Joe could take the time to show me around, especially the areas the regular tour doesn't visit.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

I went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with Lindsey and her sister's family. The star attraction for the summer is a white lion, but he was sleeping. Who knows, maybe the white lion is still adjusting to the altitude. ;)

I found the giraffe feeding area to be far more interesting. A walkway stretched over a giraffe pit, and their heads would just come over the railing. The zoo sold crackers which the giraffes loved - all I had to do was hold out the cracker and the giraffe would stretch over and munch it right up! I tried to pet one, but they move their head back quickly - these animals probably aren't used to humans as much as a dog or cat is.

Feeding a Giraffe

After walking around the zoo, which is on a side of a mountain and has an amazing view of the plains, we continued up to see the Shrine of the Sun. This looked like one tower of a castle, perched high above the zoo. The tower was named after Will Rogers and inside various small rooms lots of pictures from various points in his life.

After eating at Fargo's, a pizza place which was decorated in 1900's era stuff, they dropped me off at the hotel and I went to find two geocaches in a park just around the corner. One cache was located at a memorial for Zebulon Pike, which Pike's Peak is named after. The other cache was located at an old train engine, which in 1883 pulled the first passengers from Denver, Colorado to Ogden, Utah. Geocaching is fun, and it is especially interesting to see some of the history of an area.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Caves and College

A tour I was very interested in was of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Guided tours aren't available on Sundays, but the public facilities were open so I did a self tour and bought a few souvenirs from the store.

Olympic Strength

At the base of the Olympic Strength sculpture are plates for the various sports. I searched around until I found my two favorites: triathlon and vollyeball.


I crossed to the other side of the welcome center and walked around a sculpture garden where informational plaques for the sports are displayed. I was shocked to find out the triathlon sign at the Olympic Training Center lists the wrong distance for the swim - it says 1.2 km swim instead of 1.5 km swim!

I also drove by Prospect Lake, expecting to find a small urban lake similar to Green Lake in Seattle. Lindsey mentioned there were drainage problems and she described it as a "tub of goo". I parked and walked up to a fence, and was quite surprised to find "tub of goo" was not at all accurate... because there was no water at all! Prospect Lake is currently completely drained. Instead of water there were several parked bulldozers and hundreds of rolls of tar paper. Clearly, the city is regrading the bottom of the lake, resurfacing it to prevent leaks, and eventually will put water back in (or wait for it to rain?) and Prospect Lake will exist again.

Prospect "Lake"

Afterwards I had lunch with Steve, another friend in the area. We had a nice Mexican lunch and chatted - it was great to meet in person after chatting online for a while.

I met Lindsey again and we drove out to see Cave of the Winds. Unfortunately, the longer and more adventurous "Lantern Tour" was sold out until later in the evening, so we did the Discovery Tour instead, which was about 45 minutes of walking around and looking at various cave formations.

View from Cave of the Winds

Cave Formations

To wrap up the day we took it easy and went on a walking tour of Colorado College. For dinner we ate at Old Chicago's, and played a few games of pool.

Shove Chapel

On the Colorado College campus.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Colorado Springs

Rather than mope around the Seattle or Orlando area, I decided to visit some friends over the July 4th weekend, in Colorado Springs. I've been to Colorado several times, but always during the winter. A summer visit to see the beautiful Colorado Springs area sounded like a lot of fun!

In the morning, I met Lindsey and we drove off to Pike's Peak. She brought along some lemon juice, which apparently helps with altitude sickness, in case I needed it. I joked that she probably had a betting pool with friends on how long I would last before needing a sip... but she denied that. ;) Lindsey said you could drive to the summit, but that didn't really click - I thought you could drive most of the way but had to hike the rest. It turns out, you really can drive all the way to the summit! You can also ride the Cog Railway, or hike, but many choose to drive, especially on such a beautiful day.

The road was very windy but the scenery was spectacular. From the ranger station entrance, the road is 19 miles one-way to the summit. Halfway up the road switches to unpaved, and we continued to climb slowly. Eventually we crossed the timberline and still the road continued. There was minimal snow, something I was surprised with since Mt. Rainier is about the same elevation as Pike's Peak, yet is snow-covered year round.

Eventually we gained the summit, parked in the lot, and then wandered around for a while.

Summit Picture
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

We did it! Nobody has to know we drove, we can claim we hiked from the trailhead.

While we were on the summit, we could see a storm off to the north. There were a few lightning bolts and rain, but not much thunder, which often echoes around canyons in the area.

View of Colorado Springs
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

We left the summit and drove down the road, stopping for a brake temperature check midway. I let Lindsey drive since she has more experience with mountain driving, which worked out nicely because she wanted to drive, and that let me spend more time staring out the window. At the brake temperature check, the ranger commented "very good" after she told us the brakes were 137 degrees. A large sign said cars had to take a mandatory break if the brake temperature was above 300.

After leaving Pike's Peak, we visited Garden of the Gods, which is filled with rugged colored rock formations. These formations are actually quite thin, and after looking at them, a few reminded me of a petrified ocean liner, frozen in place.

Rock Ocean Liner
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Rock climbing is popular and we watched a group climb one of the smaller formations. The park also has a few trails which are good for hiking or running. We meandered through and then left to eat a late lunch.

Our last tourist spot was Seven Falls, a series of waterfalls in a canyon.

Seven Falls
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

At night, the park lights each waterfall with a different color, but we didn't want to stay long enough to see that. Instead, we rode up to one observation platform, and then we went to the base and I walked up the first flight to get a better view of the falls.

After leaving Seven Falls, we followed a road up an adjacent canyon and hiked a scenic trail to another waterfall. We returned to town by following a dirt road ("Upper Gold Camp Road") which lead through two tunnels - this was fun and reminded me of a tour I took in New Zealand - and eventually wound down back to a paved road and into the city.

Today was quite a bit of exercise walking and hiking around!

I have more photos on my Pike's Peak and Garden of the Gods Flickr set.

Leaving Seattle

The past few days have been a whirlwind of last minute details, meeting friends for dinner, and travel/relocation/real estate plans.

Despite the fact my belongings are all packed up and movers are loading everything onto a van, it hasn't quite sunk in that I am moving, mostly because I was spared the most tedious thing for me, which is packing. All I had to do is go through and unplug all my electronic devices. No getting boxes and tape, no wrapping dishes in paper, no going through every drawer, no packing small items and books, and so forth.

I'm not sure it will actually sink in until I move into the house there. I've taken several business trips to Florida, so in some ways this will feel like one of those trips. Except, I won't fly back to Washington after a week or two.

So I leave tonight, but not directly to Florida. I thought spending the holiday weekend there by myself wouldn't be enjoyable, and neither would lingering around Seattle - I would just be sad. I thought it would be more fun to visit a new area of the country, meet some friends and be a tourist...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Closing the IMCdA 2005 Chapter

Jen asks "how does it feel to close this chapter?", referring to my IMCdA 2005 blog.

Well, it feels really good. It felt great to set a distant and challenging goal, and methodically work towards it. It felt great to take a leap-of-faith on myself and sign up, not really knowing if I could train enough, stay healthy, show up, participate, and finish. The training was all relaxed, and other than sometimes having trouble finding the time to do it, it was very enjoyable. I looked forward to all the swim and bike workouts I did with others.

The timing of this also seems appropriate. When I moved to Washington, I struggled to run one mile. Before I moved away, I completed an Ironman triathlon. So over my years in Washington, I certainly got into better shape.