Monday, January 30, 2006


TV watching is great these days, since my two favorite shows (24 and Battlestar Galactica) are back on the air and in full swing.

24 has progressed beyond the initial plot and has hit the first twist that will fuel the rest of the season. It seems that Walt Cummings, the White House Chief of Staff, made a deal with some smugglers to deliver nerve gas to a terrorist camp. The plan was to then detonate the nerve gas, proving there are evil terrorists with chemical weapons out there. Unfortunately, the smugglers double crossed him, stole the nerve gas, removed the detonation trigger, and now intend to use this weapon domestically!

One thing different this time is that there are two potential romances for Jack. He's had a tough time through the previous four seasons. His wife was killed by rouge agent Nina in season 1. In season 2 he met Kate, but during the off-season it didn't work out for unexplained reasons. In season 3 he met Claudia while working under cover exposing a drug gang, but she was tragically shot in a daring escape. Who could have expected that to happen. He started season 4 in a romance with Audrey, but that soured as Jack was later forced to torture her ex-husband for information, and then left him to die in order to save someone else. Audrey wasn't too happy about that; go figure.

After season 4, Jack went into hiding and rented a room Diane. Amazingly, Audrey and Diane have now met and have established they both care for Jack... who knows, it is almost Valentine's Day so perhaps this time something will work out for him. ;)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Year of the Dog

Happy Chinese New Year!

If you want to get all fancy, there are 5 elements assoiated with the Chinese Zodiac, and this particular year's is fire. Hooray for Fire Dog's! ;)

In the morning I drove out to spectate at a local 5K since several of my track training team member's were racing. I didn't race because this particular event was the all-women's Lady Track Shack 5K.

Other than that I didn't do much to celebrate Chinese New Year, except clean a bit around the house. That was also motivated by my friend Krisanne who is coming to visit next weekend.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Seasons 52 Park Avenue 5K

What a long name for a 5K, but this particular one was sponsored by a restaurant named... Seasons 52. How about that?!

My goal for this was to come in about 22 minutes, which is just over a 7 min/mile pace. So I took along my trusty Garmin Forerunner 201, and seeded myself half a dozen or so rows from the start. This race had a gradual hill and was mostly on cobblestone roads, which are bad for running because of the occasional odd-angled bricks.

The speedwork is paying off already, as I managed to set my new PR of 21:49 for an average pace of 7:01 min/mile. I was 168/2282 overall, 139/1035 among men, and 17/138 in my division. So I'm extremely happy with how the race went.

My division place is interesting - I was slower than #18 through #20 in the division, going by chip/net time. However, the results are sorted by official time so I did well by starting closer to the line. For me, the only number important is chip time. If I can somehow drop another 2 minutes off my 5K time I will start placing in the top ten and at that point, the difference between chip and official time will be important.

As a side note, the Forerunner measured the course at 3.2 miles instead of the 3.1 miles, for a ~3% error.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Kamp Karl winds down

My house is all quiet again... Francesca and Alexandra have left. Last night we played Killer Bunnies, a wacky fun card game. In the morning, we got in a bit of exercise and biked the "Heathrow Hills" route, before I left for work and they went to SeaWorld.

The track workout went by quick - we did 6x440 with 440 rest in between. My goal was to run the 440's in 1:38, so I paced myself carefully around each quarter of the track, trying to maintain 24 or 25 seconds for each. I ran with another woman who had a similar time goal, and that helped. We were able to hit 1:30 to 1:38 for 5 of the 440's. For the last 440, I went as hard as I could and did 1:15.

I really loved having visitors! The only disappointment was that it was cooler than forecast. That and my spa heater needs a lot of time; I left it while we were at the Animal Kingdom, but the water only heated up from 62 to 74 degrees. It was definitely warmer, but exactly hot tub temperatures. At least we had a lot of sun despite the chill! ;)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Animal Kingdom

True or False: getting the full Disney theme park experience requires towing along a small child.

We had no small children in tow (thankfully!), but I think you can come close by attending the It's Tough to be a Bug show at Disney Animal Kingdom. This is a 3D show featuring air puffs, drops of water, and other surprises that sync with the movie on the screen. Hearing the screams of hundreds of kids made this show even more fun - Francesca, Alexandra, and I sat in the back and thoroughly enjoyed this feature!

Afterwards, we went to the petting zoo (called the "Affection Section"), took the safari, and wandered through the vet exhibit.

Do you have any food?

The safari ride was pretty cool, but it was hard to take pictures. We saw a very cute baby elephant - very tiny next to his mother - but I couldn't take a picture before the van moved on by.

Yawning Hippo

Thirsty Hippo

The vet exhibit was interesting, since they have such a variety of animals to work on. There was a slideshow talk covering medical procedures administered to animals, including surgery on a fish! The fish was anesthetized by putting drugs in water, and circulating it over its gills. Later when the surgery was over, they dropped the fish into regular water and in a few minutes the fish was back to normal. Another pictured showed a gigantic turtle on the gurney - it was so heavy (over 500 pounds) it broke the gurney and the Animal Kingdom had to order a special gurney that could hold 1000 pounds.

We also stopped into various stores and looked over the stock. One T-shirt shop had some really great ones:

This shirt is BRILLIANT!

Another great shirt!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Airboat Ride and SkyVenture

This morning we drove out to Lake County to tour the Central Florida "Mountains" (Buckhill, Sugarloaf, The Wall) by car, rather than ride them. Part of this was due to logistics: I can't really fit 3 bikes on my carrier, and riding from home would be about 110 or 120 miles. Going that far at this point in training would be quite grueling! A nice benefit of driving was the ease of stopping in at the Yalaha Bakery, a German-styled bakery in Yalaha, FL. They serve up some great pastries and we sampled a variety of them. :)

Francesca surverys her street and post office.

After this we took an airboat ride on Lake Harney. It is a bit cool for gators, but we did see one from a distance, floating along like a log. We also saw a bald eagle and lots of birds during our 30 minute trip. While gators are always around, they hide in the cool weather and from boats. I think the best time to see wild gators is during the summer when they lay their eggs - the airboat captain just has to get near a nest and the female gators will come out of hiding to protect her eggs.

Lake Harney airboat ride

Once back in the car we drove to SkyVenture Orlando for some indoor skydiving. I did this months ago and hadn't been back, so I was really looking forward to another session. Francesca tried it on a previous trip, and Alexandra was excited since it was her first time.

Our group was a mom and several small kids, plus a teenager who had booked 10 minutes of time. The kids were having a tough time so after letting them float for a bit, the instructor just grabbed them and did horizontal loops. The teenager had a cool looking black/red flame jumpsuit, and worked on fancy moves. Meanwhile, I was just happy to float around slowly... it is really fun and hard to explain how exciting it is when you really just kind of float in place.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Alexandra and Francesca wanted to see manatees, so we drove to nearby Blue Spring State Park where they are known to visit. I heard a good time to see them was in the morning, because they seek the relatively warm waters of the spring. Later in the day when it warms up, they swim out into the river.

Blue Spring State Park

It was a sunny chilly day, and several were at the spring when we arrived around noon. At the first dock we stopped at, there were three of four close by and we watched them for a long time.



We walked to another observation platform and saw 8 or 10 more, on the far bank where it was sunny. One kept on surfacing and making a funny sound by blowing his nose. In between the two platforms was a sign that showed all two dozen or so manatees that visit Blue Spring, identified by various scars they have - the poor manatees are often victims of boat collisions which leave them injured.

The manatee viewing trip was a great success!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Busy Friday

I was hoping to take today off in order to hang out with my friends, but I was assigned a high priority bug on Tuesday and had to wrap up work on it. I probably spent half of Wednesday just setting up machines to reproduce the bug, and then another day stepping through the code in the debugger, before diagnosing it far enough to hand off to the correct person.

I had to go for a half day to make sure it was all taken care of, so while I was at work in the morning, Francesca and Alexandra went off to Discovery Cove to swim with the dolphins. I got in a short bike ride and we all went to eat pizza and plan out the weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Full House

I have some friends me for the weekend. Earlier this evening, I picked up Alexandra. She is excited to take a break from the rainy weather in Seattle - it seems it has rained 25 straight days in the Emerald City. Before everybody makes fun of Seattle, let me quickly add that 25 days in a row is unusual. Our forecast looks mostly sunny so I hope that is enough of a sunbreak for her.

Another friend was in town as well, Rod, who participated in the Goofy Challenge. The challenge is competing in both the Disney half marathon on Saturday and the Disney full marathon on Sunday. This sounds very grueling to me, but Rod did really well - in fact he ran the marathon fast enough to qualify for Boston. My mind boggles at this feat.

After the events, Francesca and Rod went to the Miami area and further south to the Florida Keys. They got stuck in traffic and didn't think they'd make it up to my place, but later they called and said all the airport area hotels were full so they needed to stay with me. Tonight my home is alive with friends. :)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Disney Adventures

So while I missed the 5K, the day wasn't completely lost - Francesca and Joe wanted to visit the parks and they invited me along! They had free passes, and even chipped in for my ticket, so that was very nice of them. As a Florida resident, I can get a dayhopper pass (good at all 4 theme parks) for $66 plus tax, while the normal rate is $105 or something. So I bought one of those and we planned to visit Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.

We spent about 10 hours in the parks, mostly at Epcot, before taking the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. Some of the highlights were:

  • (Epcot) Mission: Space - a simulator of a launch to Mars. This ride uses a centrifuge effect which is quite powerful... in fact it left me a bit queasy as I am prone to motion sickness. However, after a few minutes I regained my equilibrium and we went off to eat in the Japanese section of Epcot.
  • (Epcot) Taiko Drums - demos of a 3 person team pounding on big drums. Rhythmic and interesting. Later we tried to catch the Chinese Acrobat show, but it was apparently cancelled at the time we wanted to attend so we missed it.
  • (Epcot) Test Track - a simulator of a car proving grounds. The ride accelerated our car up a hill, over some bumpy roads, did a braking demonstration, and then whipped us outside along a track. This was pretty good!
  • (Magic Kingdom) Space Mountain - a classic coaster ride, inside a dark building with stars and whirling galaxies projected all over.

I got home and was exhausted from all the walking we did. I'm not sure how Francesca and Joe did it because they also ran a 5K while I sipped coffee and read a magazine.

Disney 5K Mishap

I've missed a few events I've signed up for. In 2003 I skipped the Blue Lake tri because I had twisted my ankle (playing volleyball) the week before. In 2005 I missed the Valentine's half marathon outside Olympia, WA because of a business trip. Now in 2006 I missed the Disney 5K, because I just couldn't get there in time! I was trying to meet Francesca and Joe for this fun run, and wound up missing it.

One frustrating thing about the Disney website, particularly the Wide World of Sports section, was the usual race information was missing. Information such as: day of event packet pick-up? Driving directions?? On the day of the event it looked like they were trying to route people to one of the entrance roads (the one I wound up stuck in) while another one was less crowded.

I left my house at 9:15 am for an 11:00 event, exited the freeway at 10:00 am, and then spent the next hour creeping along in traffic, finally making it to the Epcot tollbooth at 11:00. That's right, I spent one hour moving from the freeway exit to the Epcot entrance. As traffic slowly moved forward, I saw a steady stream of runners along the roadside, heading towards the event start. When I reached the tollbooth, I decided not to pay $9 to park because I would probably miss the event, so I turned around and drove off to Downtown Disney where I grabbed a mocha and read a magazine while I waited to hear from Francesca and Joe. They told me the race had been delayed to 11:20, but I had already turned around.

The whole ordeal was useful - I am now very unlikely to sign up for another Disney sports event. I'm sure they are well run and fun and so forth, but the time involved is ridiculous. For this 5K I would have had to pick my packet up the day before (~75 mile round trip), allow about 2.5 hours to get to the event the day of, and then another hour to get home. Pretty much the only reason anybody should do the event is if they are already there anyway, spectating somebody in the half marathon earlier in the morning.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Looks like winter is here in Florida this Saturday - high 59 and low of 37! It's all the talk on the radios and in the news, about the big chill descending on us. My bike group is talking about starting later, to let the sun "warm things up" for a few hours before we ride.

Fortunately, winter moves right on through because we're back in the mid 70's next week. I guess that is one advantage of flat terrain and no mountains - the weather just passes on by.

It's funny, in Seattle it was the reverse. When it would heat up to the mid 80's, the weather reports would warn to give extra water to pets and so forth, to be careful in the heat wave. Hehe.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Speed Work 2

Tonight's track session was really tough. I'm in the fast group based on my mile time, and our group is six or eight people. The other group is much larger, perhaps two dozen or so, and is for people at an 8:00 mile or higher. This session was again just to gauge times and get a baseline, this time for 220 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards, and mile.

Some in my group were doing a Disney event this weekend (half marathon or marathon) and thus they didn't want to run hard. Very understandable! So two people took off to run some easy miles, and the coach decided to drop the 880 and do it another time.

We lined up for the 220, and took off. Midway through I got caught up in chasing the girl in front of me and poured it on as hard as I could to catch and pass her. Meanwhile, I forgot I also had to run a 440 and mile afterwards so this was a huge strategic error, especially coming off a multi-week rest period. I did the 220 in 35 seconds, and outsprinted her, but it hurt. Later, I talked to her and found out she is on her middle school's track team - she is in 8th grade! I need to get her name so when she's in the olympics I can brag about how I beat her in a 220 yard training session years ago. ;)

The effort on the 220 left me drained for the 440, which I was able to crank out in 1:22, significantly off the pace. That in turn left me really hurting for the mile, which I was able to do with great difficulty in 7:50. When I say great difficulty I mean ragged breathing, side stitches, elevated heart rate way beyond what it should be for a 7:50 mile.

For 1 and 3/4s miles run total, it was tough. I need to get my base mileage going again to run this hard.

Speaking of that, I'm curious what kind of workouts the other group is doing. While I do want to get faster, I have fairly modest goals. I need to leave myself time for biking and swimming and probably can't concentrate on the running this group will require. I'll investigate and see.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Speed Work

This evening was the first day of the Track Shack's speed training program, so I drove to meet the group near Lake Eola in Orlando. We were at a nearby middle school track. There were about two dozen others and everybody look excited to be there. As we milled around waiting to start several people said they had taken the program again, so it must be pretty good to draw repeat customers.

After a quick intro, we went for an easy mile loop through a neighborhood. This section of Orlando has cobblestone streets, which I hate running on in the evening. Lighting wasn't good and there is the occasional small hole or protruding brick to watch for.

When we returned to the middle school, we did 4 strides across the field. The strides were: start out easy, accelerate in the middle, slow down at the end. After more stretching, we grouped up for our mile time trial.

The program will divide us into two groups depending on how fast we are, but at the same time the leaders said we could join either one depending on what kind of workouts we want to do. If I understood correctly, one group would just do hills and tempo workouts, while the other would alterate with track workouts. We'll see what they say on Thursday when we are to do a different workout including a 440 and 220 time trial.

The first group was for 7:30 and faster miles, so I joined them and we started off. They called times for each lap, which were 1:30, 3:15, 4:58, and 6:37 for me. I'm pretty happy with my 6:37 mile! My lap splits worked out to 1:30, 1:45, 1:43, and 1:39 which shows I started out too fast but was able to keep a consistent pace for the last 3 laps.

After the first group finished up, the next group went out so I stretched more and talked to a few others. Several of us decided to run around nearby Lake Eola before heading off, so I did that too.

All in all, it was a fun workout and I'm looking forward to the rest of the program.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Run

When I first took up running, it was a big deal to me to run on my birthday. I guess I wanted to get out there and feel healthy, while I notched up another year. Now, I've shifted that desire to a run on New Year's Day. It is often easier since it is a holiday, plus there isn't much traffic - not that this matters since I run on a path. There is usually a fun run if I want to run in an event. Lastly, I've noticed extra runners out - many probably made resolutions to take up a fitness activity and I enjoy seeing all manner of people out exercising.

I was lazy and didn't feel like driving in for an organized event. Instead, I just took off from my house and planned on 5 miles. But the weather was good, and I was feeling good, I decided to do 6 miles. Then, I added another 0.2 miles - I figured if I'm going to run 6 I might as well tack on an extra 0.2 to make 10K. Along the way I passed what looked like a Dad with his two girls and 2 of their friends, all on bikes. The girls had completely tricked-out bikes - pink handlebar streamers, baskets, training wheels, loud and colorful paint jobs, some tinsel-looking spoke wraps, and a flag or two. I would venture to say everybody got bikes for Christmas, but that is just a wild guess. ;) All the kids had helmets - excellent! He looked exhausted from herding them along, but still managed to smile and wave when I passed by.

Total run was 6.2 miles in 59:30. Nice and easy!