Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dawg Dash

Francesca and I met up with Mike, Alexandra, Christina, Rod, and Jen near Husky Stadium before the Dawg Dash. This is a fun run on a fairly technical course (hills, lots of turns, stairs, a 10K course that partially overlapped the 5K course, plus it is baby stroller and dog legal) so it isn't the best choice for trying to set a PR. But I thought, what the heck, lets push the pace and see how well I can do. After all, I came all this way! ;)

I'd like to get to a 22:30 5K and a 45:00 10K eventually, so I was very pleased with the 45:45 I ran (so far the times are unofficial). I picked it up as hard as I could for the final stretch, which was on the track in Husky Stadium. Francesca and Christina saw me at the end, but I was so out of breath I couldn't even respond, for fear of nausea! After catching my breath I met them along the finish chute.

My footpad measured the course as 6.17 miles, so once again I am impressed with the accuracy. The footpod was 0.48% off, and that is assuming the course is accurately measured (I have my doubts it is THAT accurate since the course changes slightly every year). My mile times were:

  • Mile 1 - 7:49 (lots of traffic to weave around)
  • Mile 2 - 7:38 (up some stairs)
  • Mile 3 - 7:21 (pushed it up a hill)
  • Mile 4 - 8:02 (wound around the library, another hill)
  • Mile 5 - 6:56 (nice downhill!)
  • Mile 6 - 6:50 (mostly flat so I picked it up as best I could)
  • Mile 0.2 - 1:12 (going as hard as I could)

Miles 3 and 4 were the tough part of the course. They encompassed a hill, downhill, gradual climb and an aid station (where I stopped just briefly for a sip of water), a portion near the library with a few stairs and turns, and another hill. After that, we were near the high point of the course so it was mostly descents or flat back to the finish. It was a great race for me and I am confident I'll be able to hit my goal of a 45 min 10K soon. As it happens, this is my 10K PR so I am doubly pleased.

Afterwards, we gathered at Francesca's for delicious waffles, fruit, chatting and hanging out. It was a great morning!

Fellow Dawg Dashers

Christina, Mike, Alexandra, Francesca

Friday, October 28, 2005

Property Flipping

I drove by my old house, just to see what the new owners have done to it. To my surprise, I found it for sale! My realtor told me she thought the purchasers intended to make the home a rental property - she could tell from the financing paperwork. So I was a bit surprised to see it for sale.

I drove up and noticed the roof had been replaced. Instead of another cedar shake roof they went with a nice looking composite roof. The front yard looks the same, but they've planted more flowers along the walk to the front door. They painted the front door white to match the rest of the house.

I saw a stack of real estate pamphlets, so naturally I picked one up. I was stunned when I saw the new asking price: $475K, marked down from $485K! I just sold this home 4 months ago for about $373K?!

Those of you have have visited my previous house can check out the MLS Listing, while I can comment, since I have a unique perspective on this property.

They redid the main level - hardwood floors all throughout the kitchen, living room, and dining room. (See the main photo). The kitchen had hardwood floors before, but those were redone to match the rest of the level.

They updated the kitchen appliances and cabinets, moved the refrigerator to where the pantry used to be, and blocked the original hallway entrace to the kitchen with a wall. This new wall is where the pantry is, and what used to be the entrance to the kitchen is now a hall closet. The original hall closet was a floating island in the entryway. Also, they retiled a counter to make a breakfast bar, which looks out over the dining and living room. (See photos #4, #5, #6). They also updated the appliances, and added a microwave oven.

The master bathroom got an overhaul also: new double sink, new tile flooring, and they tiled shower unit. (See photos #10, #11).

The pamphlet said they also updated interior doors, put in all-new carpet, and added a new water heater. The new furnace I can vouch for, because I had that done when I lived there. ;) They also painted various walls and updated the fireplace mantel. If I had been able to go into the house, I would have!

I know kitchen and master bathroom upgrades are pricey, and roofs aren't cheap (but I received a bid of ~6500 to replace the roof so it wasn't that bad), but trying to sell for over $100K more? They probably put $40K into the house and are looking a quick profit of $40K or so after real estate fees. Not bad for 3 months of work and investment.

The thing is, I think they have priced themselves out of the neighborhood. Even if the home is actually worth that now, it would be a huge amount over any of the homes in the area. But, maybe the crazy real estate market will support that. A few nearby brand new townhomes were selling for about $420K as I remember. Still, those are new homes and my previous house is nearly 25 years old. Also, I think one home across the street sold last year for $410K, but that one had even more renovations, including new ceilings, and it had one more bedroom.

Good luck to them for trying to sell the house for that. I'm curious what the final selling price will be. I might ask my previous realtor to check when a sale finalizes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Seattle Surprise

Francesca invited me up to Seattle to attend our bowling club "reunion", and run in the Dawg Dash. I thought about it for a bit and decided, what the heck - time for a little vacation! It would be fun to see everybody, laze around for a long weekend, and participate in the Dawg Dash. So I requested a few days off work, bought tickets, and flew up this afternoon. We decided to keep my visit a secret, just so I could surprise people at the bowling alley.

I wound up flying Southwest Airlines, an airline I rarely use. One problem is the multiple stops they make for flights of any distance, and another is competition - Alaska Airlines offers a direct flight from Orlando to Seattle, for example. Even flying to Southwest's HQ in Dallas (near where my parents live) is inconvenient because Southwest Airlines uses Love Field instead of DFW Airport, and has to operate under the Wright Amendment, which restricts direct/non-stop flights to neighboring states. However, this time Southwest had the best last minute fares and the most convenient times, so I chose them.

After a brief stop in Kansas City, the flight continued on to Seattle, where I was greeted by a low 50's overcast slightly drizzly day. Exactly what I expected. ;)

I bought dinner for us at Zao's, a Asian restaurant in the University Village I really like. After eating, we stopped by the Pro Sports Club to squeeze in a treadmill run and then showed up at Sunset Bowl in Ballard. Mike and Alexandra saw me in the parking lot first, and then once inside Eric, Krisanne, Wendy, Josh, et. al. were suitably shocked I was there. So it went over just great. :)

Originally uploaded by krisanne.
The Unholy Rollers, courtesy Krisanne

After a warmup game, Francesca schooled us all by bowling a 178, a game that included 4 strikes in a row, and 6 total. I was pleased I broke 100 and managed a 147.

Proof of Francesca's bowling dominance!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Weather Change

I'm not sure if the cold front that accompanied hurricane Wilma is responsible, but the weather has been quite different ever since it passed over. It is a good 10 or 15 degrees cooler, and 20% less humid... basically now the daily highs are in the mid 70's, the lows are in the low 60's, and it is "only" 60% humid. Along with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine, this is some really beautiful weather!

I thought the change from summer to fall in Seattle was abrupt, but this was even sharper. Yesterday was almost chilly, and for the first time since I moved here, I dug out my jeans, socks, and a long sleeved T-shirt (!). I had my first hot beverage as well: a grande mocha, non-iced. :)

Today was warmer and I wore a short sleeved shirt instead. It looks like the fall will be a bit like summers in Seattle, and I am looking forward to mild weather until late Spring.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Panama and the Amazing Race

Tonight's Amazing Race took the teams to Panama City, Panama, which I got to visit in the year 2000. It was a fun trip and I recognized a few landmarks. The pit stop for this leg of the race was the Miraflores Locks, which I visited.

miraflores locks
Miraflores Locks

The afternoon I was there was the one time a month the locks were closed. Talk about bad timing. The reason the locks were closed was the Panama Canal authority was dredging the channel to clear silt and widen the canal downstream, so no boats were allowed through. It turns out today's supertankers are too large to fit through the Panama Canal, so the country is busy widening the canal as much as it can, while also building replacement locks for an eventual switch over.

The race also took teams to the Casco Viejo part of the city, which I visited as well. That is where the Presidential Palace is:

presidential palace
Me, in front of the Presidential Palace

I was on a tight schedule that day and only had an hour or so to wander around. I took a picture of a very pretty church I walked by:

Iglesia de San Francisco

I need to plan a trip somewhere in 2006, I'm getting the travel bug!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hurricane Fringe

Wilma was a little delayed getting here, but it finally arrived. I am on the fringe of the storm here in central Florida, but we are definitely getting part of it.

All last night I could hear the wind howling and a heavy rainfall. This morning when I peeked out I saw lots of yard debris in lawns and streets. The level of my pool is quite high, less than half an inch from the lip. It has stopped raining for now but if it picks up again I may drain the pool (into the side yard) a bit to avoid having it spill over. There are drains around the edge of the patio, so I don't think I'm at risk of flooding or anything, but I might as well take that minor precaution. I noticed another frog in the pool, but I'll leave him/her be for now. ;)

It is really windy - the forecast says gusting winds from 30 to 40 mph. I was unbalanced a few times just walking around so I'm glad it isn't any higher than that! I was also surprised to find out how cool it is - currently 64 degrees according to my outside thermometer.

Windy Day

My front yard trees. This pic doesn't quite capture how windy it really is.

I drove into work and found an empty parking lot. This can only mean that the office is closed, but since I was there I went in for an hour or so. Sure enough, the office is closed and we have the day off, so after checking a few things, I left to grab lunch and come home.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Post FC Thoughts

As I write this, the pain of the run is fading and I've thought about what went wrong and right. First, for having such a tough run I only missed my goal by 17 minutes, which means it is quite reachable under better conditions. Second, my bike split was very good for me. A few things come to mind why I had such a hard run:

  • Low run volume.
    Quite simply, I am not running enough miles per week to expect good half marathon results.
  • More bricks.
    I haven't done any at all since the very few I did for IMCdA. I need to do some, just to better find out if my nutrition and fluid intake on the bike is correct.
  • Under hydrated/messed up nutrition on the bike?
    I felt just fine on the bike. I had three bottles of sports drink, and two gels. This fueled me for the bike but may have not been enough to carry into the run. I am still trying to find the right level of hydration.
  • Weather?
    It was overcast, but still warm and humid. I also had plenty of company grinding out the run - I walked and chatted with three of four fellow athletes in the same situation. We all remarked on the conditions, which thankfully weren't worse.

As for what to work on for next year, that is simple:

  • Bike volume.
    This will sound crazy, but for now I am as fast as I need to be on the bike, to reach my modest goals. Certainly faster is better, but for now, just working on bike volume and building more bike endurance is key. Bike endurance translates to covering the same distance/speed but leaving more in the tank for the run.
  • Run volume.
    I've been dogging the run lately, by focusing more on speed for short runs, rather than endurance for long runs. A 2:15 half marathon works out to about 10:30 min/mile pace; this has nothing to do with speed and everything to do with endurance.
  • Swim.
    I'll just maintain it, which currently is twice a week at 45 mins to 1 hour each time for approximately 4000 yards. Yes, that is low but the fact is spending another day swimming doesn't make sense right now. I'm time limited and I would be way better off spending that time doing a run of some sort: a brick or a regular run. What would I hope to get out of a 3rd day swimming? 5 mins off my half iron swim time? Where an extra run could realistically net me those 17 minutes I missed plus even more.
  • Half iron and olympic triathlons.
    I see the half as a more enjoyable distance for me, so I'm going to stick with that until I can do a 6:30 half and not suffer through any of the legs. ;)

In the meantime, after taking it easy for a few days, I have a half marathon in early December to focus on. My goal there is to run 1:45.

Florida Challenge Half Iron

The quick answer is: I missed my goal by 17 minutes. I finished 6:47:07, 46/59 in my division. Still, I am very happy with my bike split, and now the tri season is over and it is time to think about next year. After I zone out for a few days.

There was a lot of activity, since a full iron distance, half iron distance, and sprint were all going off. I got there early, setup, and then waited on the beach for my wave. The water temp cooled down to 78 degrees, so this was a wetsuit legal race, and I brought along my sleeveless. Technically under 84 degrees is wetsuit legal, but between 78 and 84, wearing a wetsuit disqualifies you for age-group prizes. Not that I have this problem. ;)


Not much to say about the swim, other than it took 45:24. I was hoping for a few minutes faster than that, but I am pleased. Realistically, my swim isn't holding me back.

Exiting the swim

T1 was 4:34, an excellent time given that I removed my own wetsuit, slipped on bike shorts over my racing shorts, and didn't rush at all.


My strategy on the bike was to try to average 18 mph: spin up hills, and strategically coast and rest when appropriate. It was overcast so we got a break from the direct sunlight, if not the humidity. The first 30 miles or so are flat with gradual inclines and declines, and then the course turns onto the "Mammas and the Pappas", a hill before Buckhill Road. Buckhill features four hills, which are annoying because they are spaced far enough apart you can't take any speed or momentum from coasting down one into the next. Plus, the second hill of the series is the tallest, which hides the last two. I've ridden this before and knew of the extra hidden hills, but your mind plays tricks on you when you crest one hill and see just one more to climb. A few people were off their bikes walking up, while others choose to veer all the way across the road and back. Fortunately with my compact chainrings and 10 speed cassette, I was able to spin up pretty well!

I made pretty good time, and pedaled along, knowing the next major hill was Sugarloaf. This was tough, I switched into my lowest gears and spun as best I could, all the way up. I happened to notice it took me 2 minutes 30 seconds to climb Sugarloaf. But, no getting out of the saddle, no veering back and forth, and no walking, so I felt good. After that it was just a few rollers back to transition.

My bike ride was about 3:10:03 which I am extremely pleased with. I averaged 17.9 mph on a reasonably hilly course, and even better, had moderated my fluid intake so I didn't spend any time in "T3" (so to speak). I went through three bottles of sports drinks and 2 gels. Unfortunately I probably undernourished.

Almost done with the bike

T2 was 3:02, another good time for me. I am methodical about transition and don't rush for fear of forgetting something.


This is where it got ugly. At this point, I was 4:03 into my race. I needed a 2:27 half marathon to finish at 6:30. This is normally very realistic for me, but it was not to be today.

After about 3 steps outside transition, I picked up a minor side stitch that I just couldn't get rid of. I ran along as best I could, and hit the 3 mile aid station in almost exactly 30 minutes. I decided to take stock and do a hydration test. I'll spare the details but lets just say it wasn't good... crayola yellow. I walked back to the aid station, carefully sipped some Gatorade, and then jogged off to the course turnaround, about a half mile away. At the turnaround, I was forced to walk, because the side stitch became a general abdomen tightness plus some aching back muscles joined in. I decided to walk back to the aid station, let my heart rate come down, and regroup with some water and electrolyte tabs. I managed to get to the 5 mile mark at almost exactly 5:00 into my race. So I had 1:30 to go 8.1 miles; again, quite reasonable.

But, I wasn't feeling good at all. The side stitch on my left side wouldn't go away, I felt slightly bloated, and got the occasional cold chill. I know feeling bloated is a sign I took in too many fluids, past the point I could process them. I also know getting a cold chill while running in 85+ degree weather at 90% humidity is a sign of something bad. ;) Since I never felt dizzy and my legs were OK, I continued on. I found a pace that was slightly faster than walking, that held the various stitches and stomach cramps mostly at bay. Except, they flared up once in a while and I had to walk for a bit anyway.

I decided to try for the 6:30 finish, but see how things were going at mile 10. So I hoofed it (so to speak) and got to mile 10 at 6:05 in my race. At this point I realized 6:30 isn't realistic anymore - I can run a standalone 25 minute 5K, but that wasn't going to happen for the final 5K of this half iron. By this point I had to breathe shallow, otherwise I would cramp up all along my side. I shuffled along, picking up sponges and water and gatorade at the aid stations. I drank a mix of water and gatorade, walked, and continued on. With about a half mile to go I picked it up and finished at 6:47:07.

To recap: first 3 miles were 10 min/miles; next 2 were 15 min/miles; next 5 were 11 min/miles; last 5K was 42 minutes (~13:30 min/miles).

This was by far the most difficult run I've ever done, standalone or in any event. I never felt this bad during the marathon at IMCdA! I was a bit disappointed I couldn't even manage a 2:27 half marathon, but I know I tried as hard as I could, getting to 10 miles by basically grimacing in discomfort the whole way.

Starting the run


The good news is I didn't need medical attention - just some stretching, fluids, a little bit to eat, and I felt a lot better. My legs were sore but not cramped. I collected my stuff, then returned to the finish line to see the GFT winner, Joe Bonness, an age group legend. This guy is 50 and did the full iron just under 10 hours, winning it outright. Last week he did IM Hawaii and came in 2nd in his age group. Next week he'll be at IMFL where he hopes to qualify for 2006 IM Hawaii. Whoa! He's friendly; we shook hands, spoke briefly, and then I went off for a massage. :)

I did enjoy this event and thought it was very well produced by Sommer Sports. For an independent iron distance (and half iron) race, it had the same level of course support I saw at the IM's I've attended. The only difference I noticed was the expo was smaller and the finisher's chute wasn't as jammed with people. But hey, friends and family are really what a finisher is looking for. My only complaint would be about the 3 or 4 mile section of the run course near the end, where there is no shoulder and the road was fully open to traffic.

Elevation Profile

The course wasn't completely flat. Granted, the elevation here varies from 100 feet to 300 feet, but still, the last half of the course had plenty of small hills and rollers.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Florida Challenge Check In

I took the day off to take care of some errands, which included cleaning my bike and driving out to Clermont to pick up my registration packet, check in my bike, and attend the athlete's briefing.

I've been to 3 Ironman events, and those were complete zoos compared to this one. Of course, the Great Floridian (iron distance) and the Florida Challenge (half iron distance) attract fewer athletes - 497 for the full and 603 for the half - but there will still be over 1000 triathletes showing up for a long course event. There is also a "super sprint" going on tomorrow (267 entrants) so it will be a cross section of all kinds of triathletes. Race day will be more crowded with spectators and I'll see what I think then.

Since the long courses merge, they offer some very generous cutoffs. The iron distance gets 17:30 to finish (7:30 am to 1 am) so if you played your cards right, you could brag about how you started on one day and finished on another, thus proving your staying power and endurance. ;) The half iron starts in waves starting 45 mins after the full, and the swim course closes at 10:15 am - which gives the full a 2:45 swim cutoff, and a minimum of 1:15 for the half. (I'm in the 2nd to last half iron wave at 8:55 am so even I'll have 1:20 for the swim).

The first loop iron bike cutoff is at 2:30 pm, and if you don't make it, you can switch to the half iron on the spot. Of course, such a person would have wound up swimming 2.4 miles already, but hey, that is a nice option. However, if you don't make the 6:30 pm 2nd loop cutoff, you are done. The cutoff for the half is the same as for the full, so if you really want to get your money's worth and trot out a 17+ hour half iron, you can, as long as you exit the water on time. Apparently one aid station on the run is famous for setting up a full barbecue and bar, so the 15 hour half iron finisher may have stopped in for a meal and a few drinks.

The head referee went over the usual penalties (drafting, blocking, illegal position, unauthorized assistance) and introduced a new one: "indecent exposure". From what I understand this is an existing penalty they have decided to highlight with its own category. This isn't for people stripping in transition (there are change tents) since that is a DQ. Instead, this will be awarded to those who choose not to use the porta-potties on the run course. So if you are caught relieving yourself on a bush, expect to find your name in the penalty section with a prominent "indecent exposure" penalty. And then explain that to your friends!

I thought about my goals for this race, and I'd really like to come in under 6:30. That would be a ~45 minute swim, a ~3:15 bike, and a ~2:15 run. Of course if the weather doesn't cooperate than I'll toss that out the windows and just have a fun time. I'll still be happy if I don't make 6:30, but I'll learn from it and figure out what to work on during the off season.

Near the transition zone I saw a sign in front of a small pond.

Alligator Warning
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

As far as I know, USAT won't be issuing "alligator enticement" penalties at these events. That's exclusively for local law enforcement. ;)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wilma Update

The good news is Hurricane Wilma has slowed and current forecasts predict it offshore Cuba Sunday afternoon. Translation: weather looks good for the Saturday's events! Sommer Sports issued a brief news release that basically says things look good, except we'll need to see what the governor says/does Friday at 5:30 pm.

A few Central Florida triathletes posted a backup plan - if "we" get cancelled, "we" could do another full/half iron distance event in the Bahamas, the Grand Bahama Triathlon on November 19, since registration is still open.

Now this is an interesting event because it is longer than the usual full/half iron distance. That's right, Grand Bahama rounds up the distances, so the full is an even 150 miles total (2.8/121.4/26.2), and the half is an even 75 miles total (1.2/60.7/13.1).

Why? I guess because they can. Still, it might be handy to keep this event in mind for the future.

I'm looking forward to the half iron distance, because I have a feeling I'll like this more than the full. It should be easier to train for and less grueling to execute. Faster recovery should make it feasible for me to participate in several a year. Woohoo!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Triathlon Reception

Sommer Sports held a reception in Clermont for the Great Floridian and Florida Challenge athletes. I drove out since it sounded like fun. The reception was held at the Tiki Bar, which apparently is a local landmark. They provided lots of munchies from vegetable platters to pasta to cheese squares to... a chocolate fountain with strawberries, pound cake, and rice crispies. Of course I ate sensibly (and will make no comment on relative proportions)! :)

I talked to a few other athletes and conversation invariably turned to Hurricane Wilma which is predicted to pass over Florida this weekend. That is a bit inconvenient since the triathlon is Saturday.

Whenever I think of training for another IM, I get a slight uneasy feeling, like something is holding me back (above and beyond my abilities and the desire to only do it if I can realistically shave 2+ hours off my previous time) but I couldn't quite figure out what it was. I realize now what that uneasy feeling is - it is reluctance in putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. If you train for a sprint or oly, and can't do it because of a minor injury or weather or illness or whatever, there will be another in a few weeks you can do. Not so with IM - if you can't do the event you trained for, you are out. WTC IM races are sold out so far in advance, you can't get entry into another, even if one were available in the right timeframe. The training can be so time consuming, it might not be feasible to do it again. The best you can do is somehow maintain your fitness level and regroup at a later iron distance event, since those don't typically close so early.

This was the concern I saw on a few faces at the reception, and I certainly sympathize. Some people on the forums want the race director to either cancel the event so they don't have to travel, or guarentee it will be held, which is ridiculous since the weather may force things. Others suggest cancelling the iron distance event and having everybody do the half iron; this of course is unacceptable to people who are set on doing the iron distance. What is clear is nobody wants partially shortened course in which the distance winds up being something between a half iron and a full iron.

I threw out the suggestion that if weather forces the full iron to shorten, perhaps the course could be fixed to the ITU Long Course format, which is a 4K swim, 120K bike, and 30K run. That way it should be possible to have everybody finish a few hours earlier, and beat the storm.

I feel bad for people who trained hard, if the event is cancelled. But realistically, if the hurricane comes through Clermont, people would be insane to bike and run amidst the wind, rain, and lightning. The police would probably cancel their course assistance and that would stop the event.

The good news is that it isn't all doom and gloom. Current weather forecasts show Wilma well offshore Saturday morning, and just approaching landfall late, further south on the coast. This might bring some rain at the end of the event, which would be less than ideal, but better than cancellation.

For fun, Sommer Sports printed up a bunch of small flyers:

hurricane wilma

After mingling a while I left. Everybody was pretty upbeat - after all, you can't really do much about the weather. We think we'll be lucky. ;)

Sports Drinks

These days I mow right through sports drinks. I've been very happy with Powerbar Endurance, and opened up my last can today, which prompts me to make another order. My can will last several weeks (more than the previous cans did since the season is winding down) and I decided this is a good time to try some other brands.

One new one I ordered is Clif Shot Drink. I also ordered some GU2O Sports Drink. When this stuff comes in I'll give it a nice trial.

The most interesting one I decided to try is InfinIT Nutrition. The hook here is the exact formula can be tweaked. Want or need more electrolytes? Carbs? Stronger or weaker flavor? Add some protein, amino acids, caffeine? You can do all that! This of course totally fascinates me.

I first heard of InfinIT from my friend Jen, who swears by it. That made me read the website to learn more, and now I've placed a small order of my own for the lemon-lime flavor.

After creating an account, the web site guides you through a simple series of questions. Do you favor short or long course? Is your sweat salty or not? Do you like weak or strong flavor? Do you cramp or bonk? Instead of yes/no, the website presents sliders for a range of answers, and then formulates a sports drink for you.

The suggested basic formula generated doesn't have any protein, caffeine, amino acid, or anti-oxidant tweaks, and they suggest you try the basic formula for a few weeks before getting fancier. I can't wait to try it!

The only downside is that for obvious reasons, InfinIT is only available online. But that isn't a big drawback, since I order all my sports nutrition online anyway. My local stores charge $30 a can for Powerbar Endurance. Meanwhile, All3Sports charges about $35 for two cans (first one is $20 and a second is $15). That is a enormous savings over $60 for two cans (plus sales tax) that easily makes up for the shipping cost. So I don't mind ordering these items, it just means I can't let myself completely run out.

All these fancy drinks are pretty good, but every now and then I go old school and just have a glass of V8. As a recovery drink of course, V8 is too thick to drink during exercise. ;)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pool Visitor 2

This morning, I checked on my pool and discovered two frogs! While I do appreciate the positive word of mouth, I decided stronger measures were in order. Not only would I have to evict my surprise guests, I would transport them to one of the ponds in my subdivision. Last time, I just deposited the frog outside the screen area, and clearly that wasn't far enough for this determined amphibian - he came back and brought a friend! I really do think this pair wandered away, got lost, and selected the nearest body of water they could find.

One thing is clear: I must search my screen for a small hole. Either the frogs are smart enough to open the latch on the screen door, or they are clever enough to perform an infiltration worthy of a Navy SEAL team by slipping into the filtration control system (which is outside in an unscreened area, but this involves unscrewing a cover), or... there is a small hole in the screen (or perhaps a door jamb doesn't quite line up against the frame) which offers entry. I don't remember inviting them in.

One frog was sitting in the exact spot the one last week was in - and that may have been the same frog I tossed into my lawn. His friend had selected a sunny spot underneath the lip of the spa.

Trying to Avoid Capture

Unfortunately, the best transportation I could offer was a plastic bag. After chasing them around for 15 minutes, one at a time of course, I had trapped them both into seperate plastic bags, which I tied shut. Then, I walked these two to the farthest pond in the subdivision, near the entrance. If they come back, they really must prefer my chlorinated pH-neutral waters. Perhaps they enjoy observing Clank the robot hard at work.

Transport Bag

I reached the body of water I had in mind for them, and opened each bag. I had to shake the bag and pretty much tickle them through the bag before they jumped out. I'm sure getting tied up in a plastic bag is traumatic for the frogs, but I couldn't very well hold them in my hands. Shortly after landing on the shores of the pond, they took a giant leap in and I just know they will be happier there.

New Frog Home

Here is where I let the two frogs out.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rice Volleyball

By sheer luck I noticed the Rice women's volleyball team was in town to play UCF. I guess I haven't been paying attention but I was surprised to find Rice in a new conference. Last I saw we were in the WAC!

I enjoy watching the games and in Seattle I would attend a few Husky volleyball games with friends. I had never seen my alma mater play, so I attended. Admissions was free if you brought canned goods to donate for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, so I also was able to finally unpack a cardboard box sitting in the dining room. ;)

I got to the UCF Arena and quickly found the other two Rice fans. We were outnumbered about 200 to 1 or more, but cheered diligently for the Owls. The match went to 5 games and Rice won the last one decisively. Yes!!

My undergrad college (Houston) is also in Conference USA, and their women's volleyball team is here on Sunday. I might attend that as well, and try to make it out to watch football and baseball games.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pool Visitor

This morning I was out checking on the pool, and I discovered I had a visitor! See my visitor below, enjoying the current from the spa?

Pool Visitor

Here is a closer shot. Notice how the frog has strategically selected the shady section to enjoy.

Shady Spot

Unfortunately, I cannot welcome a frog into my pool. After all, my Home Owner's Association might complain my pool isn't properly zoned for a frog subdivision. And, there isn't any food for the frog in the pool. Plus, I can't believe the water is good for frogs, since I dump acid and chlorine in it all the time. I'm sure this one wandered inside the enclosure and couldn't figure out how to leave, and in the meantime, he or she decided to cool off.

So, I pulled out the leaf skimmer and moved in to trap the frog, who promptly leapt out into the main section and hid against a wall. After a few tries, I netted this nervous amphibian, and transported him outside my screened patio.

I hope this frog is from the small lake in the subdivision, and will perhaps find a way to reunite with all his friends which undoubtedly miss him or her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

SSX On Tour

I'm a pretty big computer games fan, everything from strategy (Civilization) to real time strategy (Rise of Nations or Age of Empires) to first person shooters (TRON) to quick puzzlers (Zuma). I even branched out into console gaming a few years ago, buying a PS2 and several games. Now I also play platformers (Ratchet and Clank) and sports (NFL2K5) and stealth/adventure (Splinter Cell) and driving/racing (Burnout 3: Takedown) and combat (Virtua Fighter) and action/adventure (the infamous Grand Theft Auto III) and so forth.

I used to be a PC game snob, and thought console games were all crappy - cheesy looking 2D side scrollers. But as you can see, I think the latest generation of consoles has bridged the gap and these days, the truth of it is console gaming has several advantages, such as cheap and easy setup. Some genres are better suited to console gaming than PC gaming.

So far, my all-time favorite console game is SSX Tricky, where you do crazy tricks by mashing combinations of buttons on the controller. The tricks are gravity defying - some involve clipping out of the snowboard and doing various flips - and all look cool. ;) Naturally, I also bought the sequal SSX3 when it came out, and played that as well.

Just yesterday, the latest SSX game came out - SSX On Tour. Of course, I bought it as my birthday present to myself.

I haven't played much yet. There is too much stuff competing with my spare time, and I'm adamant about not impacting my training time. After my season finale triathlon, I might slack a bit and play a bit more. ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Like everybody else, I don't really feel a day older than I did yesterday. I am, but I'm not sure you can really feel the difference from one day to the next. But today, for me, the big year counter rolls to the next number... I am now 37.

Thiry seven isn't much of a milestone; these days I think in age groups. ;) The next big shift will be when I enter the M40-44 age group. Qualifying for Boston becomes "easier" at 3:20 instead of 3:15 (!). So does qualifying for IM Hawaii - at IMCdA, the last M35-39 qualifier went 10:04:15 while the last M40-44 qualifier went 10:07:31 (!). Why, that's more than three whole minutes of extra time. Athletically, it appears there is little difference given to the 44 year old male versus the 35 year old male.

My birthdays are typically quiet affairs. Last year was a notable exception; Francesca organized a nice party for me. This year I don't really have any friends to celebrate with, but I will treat myself to a nice dinner! I almost snuck out of work to go see the Wallace and Gromit movie, but I couldn't quite swing that... I'll try to catch it sometime soon.

My mind wandered around quite a bit today, from travel to home decoration to children. I'm gonna milk it and get a few posts out of those topics rather than cram it all into this one. ;)

Sunday, October 09, 2005


On the last day of the bicycle festival, I decided to do the "Assault on Sugarloaf" ride.

Assault on Sugarloaf

A flat ride until you have to tackle Sugarloaf and "The Wall", two of the most challenging hills in FL.

I just had to see what Sugarloaf was all about. And, I decided to do this ride on my own - no drafting. Better to simulate triathlon conditions that way. ;) So I spaced myself in between groups and mostly rode on my own. I even pulled a group with me for a few miles, and then let them all pass when we hit some congestion. There was a 3.5 mile stretch where I did draft, right before Sugarloaf - I came to a crowd of bikes and couldn't get around them to go my own pace, and the road was fairly busy with car traffic.

When we came to Sugarloaf, the group split up. Some sprinted to the hill, others took it easier... I took it easy and then turned it on at the base. Not that we were competing for the polka dot jersey or anything ;) but I was the 3rd person to the top out of more than a dozen - some folks went a bit too hard and I passed many, spinning along in my 34x23.

Sugarloaf is a respectable hill, I would compare it to Slater north of NE 124th St in Kirkland. Yeah, not a deathclimb but it is a challenge. At the top there were about 50 people congregating around the water/food stop, and I got off the bike for a bit to stretch and reload a few items before taking off.

After a nice long gradual descent, I started to think of the next hill, "The Wall". I thought I found it just after mile 21, but the real Wall was at mile 23 of this ride. I'd compare the Wall to a longer version of the Lake Washington Technical University hill in Kirkland, also known as NE 120th St.

I made an elevation profile, through Sugarloaf and "The Wall". I didn't do the other 16 miles back to Mt. Dora. I pushed on this ride, and did 39.3 miles in 2:07, averaging 18.6 mph. I'm pretty happy with that, given the hills, and of course the fact I only drafted 3.5 miles of the route. It was a tough pace for me, and I was beat afterwards. I can't ride the Florida Challenge like this since I'll need to leave something in the tank for the run.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Mount Dora Bicycle Festival

Friday through Sunday is the Mount Dora Bicycle Festival, and I signed up to participate all three days.

Yesterday, I did two rides:

  • Thrill Hill

    Ride through the rural countryside with a few gently rolling hills and roller coaster thrill hill.

    I was curious about Thrill Hill ever since I found Thrill Hill Road on the map. As I made my way along the course, I saw a hill looming in the distance. It was 25 or perhaps as much as 40 feet of elevation. I considered my options: gear down and spin up; or gear up now to gain speed and let my momentum carry me through. It was all moot because I had already summited by the time I finished considering all this. That was disappointing, and I continued along. After another tenth of a mile, I saw the road disappear out of sight... AHA! I'm going to spoil the big secret right here: Thrill Hill is actually... a valley. In a hill, you have to work to climb one side to coast down the other. Here, you get the fun part first, and then have to climb back out.

    I hit 35 mph coasting down it. I did a quick check with TOPO and it appears Thrill Hill (Valley) is between 75 and 100 feet of elevation change, at roughly a 6% to 8% grade. I might buy an inclinometer to get better grade measurement, since TOPO tends to smooth things out. I think Thrill Hill was a little steeper than that - it reminded me of one stretch on Hollywood Hill in Woodinville.

    Giant Spider
    Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

  • Three Bobs

    A flat scenic ride with many lakes on the route.

    Nobody on the ride knew why it was named "Three Bobs". The ride was fun, especially since we got off course once or twice, and had to backtrack a little. I chatted with a ride marshal who was wearing a complete Orlando Road Club outfit. I asked if she enjoyed bike racing and her response was enlightening. She said "not really, I'm too lazy to race often enough to move from Cat 4 to Cat 3. I really joined for the store discounts and group rides." Nice, I can see myself doing that exact same thing.

    Rural Florida
    Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Total yesterday: 60.4 miles in 3:38.

Today I did one ride:

  • Yalaha Bakery Ride

    Ride to an incredible German bakery. Work off your pastries on the way back.

    Yalaha Bakery Ride Start
    Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

    If you mention "Black Diamond" to a Seattle area cyclist, most will instantly recognize a small town locally famous for its bakery. I must admit that I never did make it to the bakery in Black Diamond. Here, the locally famous bakery is the Yalaha Bakery. I rolled into the bakery, tried some almond something-or-others (it was crescent shaped like a croissant, but had a firmer texture, like coffee cake, covered with almonds) and it was absolutely delicious. Fortunately the bakery was jammed so I wasn't tempted to wait in line and get more.

    Yalaha Bakery
    Originally uploaded by klbarrus.

Total today: 55.4 miles in 3:20. The ride out was at a considerably faster pace - 28.4 miles in 1:34 for an average 18.1 mph. On the way back I took it easy - 27.0 miles in 1:46 for an average 15.3 mph. What can I say, I had to let the pastry settle. :)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Things I Miss About Seattle

A friend asked me, what do I miss about Seattle? I thought about that today while biking, and came up with a list. I put one fake item on the list, who can spot it?

  • My friends. This encompasses a lot of activities, from athletic events (tri stuff, volleyball, run club) to social (eating meals, hanging out, watching movies, shooting pool).
  • Views of mountains and snowcapped peaks. It wasn't as if I climbed them, or hiked or backpacked that often, but the view is beautiful.
  • Protein berry pizzazz smoothie from Jamba Juice. This chain is in Florida but nowhere near me.
  • E. E. Robbins commercials. You can't listen to the radio more than 15 minutes without hearing an ad for this jewelry specialist, and they were always inventive and humorous.
  • Snow. Yeah, I don't want to live in it, shovel it off my driveway, or drive in it for extended periods, but I do want to snowboard or snowshoe. Seattle is a nice easy day trip from snowsports during the winter. I'm not missing this yet but I will in the winter.
  • Fun day trips. I can't very well cruise up to Vancouver, BC, from here. I would go up several times a year, to visit friends, watch hockey, or pass on through to Whistler.
  • Trails to run on. I haven't found a nice gravel or dirt trail here, it is all asphalt.
  • Cheaper electricity. I'm not sure if it is fair to list this, but I miss how low my power bills were in Seattle. Air conditioning is a necessity here, and it leads to some high power bills.
  • Swimmable open water. Though the season is short, it does exist. Here, I have yet to find a suitable body of water for swimming in, outside of a triathlon.
  • REI. My favorite store - I just loved to go in a browse through all the stuff. The closest REI to me now is in Georgia.
  • Maple bars. This is my favorite donut, basically instead of a clear sugar glaze it is a maple syrup glaze. These are usually available shaped as a rectangle (hence the "bar") but sometimes as a regular maple glazed donut. I haven't seen any here, I guess we are too far from Canada. ;)

I feel bad that this is all I can come up with, for an area I lived eight years in. It feels like I am trivializing the Seattle area. I'll think more on this and maybe come up with a few more.

I can't even say I miss the milder weather. Sure, it rains here too, and the summer was really hot and humid. But I have a feeling I'll be enjoying the milder and sunnier winter here.

What this really boils down to is that I do like the area, but I don't miss much that was specific to the area, with the notable exception of my friends. My hobbies travel well (except for snowboard and snowshoe), and I wasn't deeply involved in some Seattle-specific institution. It isn't as if I hung out in Capital Hill or downtown Seattle, or was really into Pike Place Market or Fremont or the Seattle Center, etc. Nope.


For some reason, I keep watching Alias even though it jumped the shark in Season 3 (in my opinion). That was when the primary secret global conspiracy was revealed and replaced... by another one. Who knew that so many quasi-governmental world-spanning networks of renegade secret agents were out there?

So far in season 5, we had a main character (Michael Vaughn) reveal he has actually been working on another super-secret mission the entire time, and Vaughn was just another alias. This doesn't actually matter since Vaughn was then promptly killed off. OK, that was kind of a surprise actually. Except in the fictional universe that Alias is set in, there is a method of cloning people... but I'm not sure they can use this to bring him back without really going over the edge.

Anyway, Sidney Bristow is now four months pregnant, motivated by revenge even though she says she isn't, and is still out there doing the secret agent stuff. It was bad enough when she was shot through the shoulder and still managed to ninja her way out of the building of bad guys (season 2 opener), and then heal up entirely within weeks. Meanwhile, I pick up nagging little volleyball injuries that last for months until they go away. I guess that's why she is the secret agent and I'm not. Or I need some of the vitamins she takes.

In tonight's episode, they followed the bad guys and infiltrated their plane, a la Executive Decision. One minute everybody is in Europe, next they are on a Stealth nearing North Korean airspace about to board a plane. Talk about your frequent flyer miles. Naturally, the pilots are all shot with stray bullets from the large firefight that ensues, but fortunately the cabin isn't depressurized and somebody on the boarding party can fly the plane.

Well, there is a depressurization - see, one of the bad guys claims the people he works for are so powerful he can't be protected while in custody. Thus, he does the smart thing and blows a door and gets sucked out of the plane. Maybe he had a parachute, but from what little I know, you don't normally deploy at 35000 feet, especially without an oxygen mask. Sidney is OK, despite being very close to him and not really holding onto anything. I guess the extra weight she's put on from her baby glues her to the floor.

They discover the secret cargo is actually a person in cryogenic suspension, and at the end somebody else (one of the people Vaughn worked with when he was on his secret double agent missions) broke into a secured facility and stole the body... and began the revival process. Some personnel shuffling occurs back at the main office - it appears two new people are coming onto the show. We'll see if they live for more than a handful of episodes.

In previous seasons, we were introduced to not one, but two heretofore unmentioned sisters of Irina Derevko, Sidney's mother. So I wouldn't at all be surprised if Vaughn gets back on the show by some "cloned extended relative" or "guess who was one of a triplets we just discovered" trick.

Follow all that? I do find Alias entertaining, with its implausible plot twists. So far this is better than season 4, when J. J. Abrams was clearly occupied with Lost, Jennifer Garner was busy shooting movies like Elektra, and Alias lurched around randomly. Still, I'll be happier when 24 and BattleStar Galactica are back on. Or I'll start working through Stargate SG-1 DVDs faster.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Belle Isle Oly

This morning was the Belle Isle Triathlon, which took place near the airport. It was originally scheduled for 9/18, but the organizers moved it since another popular tri picked the day before.

The swim was in Warren Lake, which is supposed to be spring fed and clean. This was true, except I could smell and almost taste the fuel from the boats that were patrolling the swim course.

I made a horrible error by wearing my tri top in the water, because that thing acted like a parachute, slowing me down and making me work far harder than I should have. I don't mind being slow, but having to work hard to be slow - that just isn't right. ;) After the first lap, I wasted a good 2 minutes taking it off, wading to the edge of the swim beach to hang it on a pole, and starting off again. Total swim was 38:57, including the jog from the beach to transition area. Ugh, what a lousy time, but that did include a slow first lap plus clothing issues.

The bike course was absolutely flat: no overpasses, underpasses, or anything grade variation. Seriously, it makes Blue Lake look hilly. There were winds however, so I didn't get off too easy. ;) When the wind was with me, it was easy to go 23 mph. Coming back the other way, 15 mph was a struggle. Still, I managed 1:19:11 for the 40K, averaging 18.8 mph, which is a good ride for me.

The run course was flat and wound through the surrounding neighborhood. There were trees, and I'd say more than half the course was shaded, which was nice since it was heating up. This course also had distance markings every quarter of a mile, painted onto the road! The olympic tri course was two laps of the sprint course, and there were two aid stations. The first one only had water... and so did the second one. That was a bummer because I really wanted some sports drink, and I didn't pack my fuel belt and my own since I thought something would be available on the course. My calves were stiff, which could either be low carb or electrolyte levels, a tough bike segment, or the fact I rode yesterday. That's cool, this event was just for fun so after the second aid station, I just took it a little easier for the remainder of the run.

My run was 53:40, and total time was 2:55:48. The results are up. There were 9 men in my division, and I did 9/9 in the swim, 7/9 on the bike, and 5/9 on the run. At least that is a good performance trend. ;)

Overall, it was an OK outing. I was hoping to do better on the run, but for various reasons I just didn't have it today. Still, I had fun and it is nice to see good weather for triathlon extends into October here.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


One of the joys of home ownership is... yardwork. Ugh. I am quite happy to pay for a lawn service to mow, but that still leaves me trimming the hedges and trees.

I hadn't done anything about the small palm trees in the front yard, since I moved in nearly three months ago. I'm not sure what these trees actually are, so I'm just calling them small palm trees. These trees seem to grow in pairs, splitting from the base. I have two pairs of these trees, so four total to trim, and all were looking very bushy.


After 30 minutes or so with the clippers, here is what the tree looks like now:


The leaves of this tree have sharp needles near the trunk.


I had to put gloves on to gather the trimmings. Running through a forest of these plants would certainly be painful!

Next up are the hedges. I am tired of trimming the hedges with clippers, so I think I'll swing by Home Depot and invest in a hedge trimmer. Ideally there will be an electric one, and then I can cut my hedges into perfect suburban boxes. Hehe.