Sunday, February 26, 2006


I got up early (though not as early as I had planned to) and drove over to Tampa to meet up with Chris and some other triathletes who were in the Gasparilla half marathon or full marathon. The weather was spotty, with gusty winds and occasional heavy rain, so not the best conditions for a lengthy event. Chris had a great race despite the conditions, as you can read in his report.

Chris and his secret recovery drink

After a late breakfast or early brunch with others, the group walked back to the finish line to cheer for some others on the marathon course. The group is all from the Beginner Triathlete website. I have an account there but mostly just keep my training log up to date and lurk on the forums occasionally. Now I've met a few of them so I'll pay more attention when I'm on the site for a familiar face.

Triathlon slogan

It's fun to chat with others that get excited upon hearing somebody bought a new Kouta Kalibur, or wear around Nike Free's for the comfort but not to train in!

Art in Tampa

After the last BT member finished up the marathon, everybody either wanted to nap or eat (understandably!). Instead, I returned home and did a short brick workout: 16.1 mile PC bike ride, in 1:11; then a 4.3 mile run in 34 minutes. Seeing all these others do a half or full marathon got me motivated, and now I don't feel like a complete slacker.

I didn't spend much time in Tampa - I figure since I live so close I can come back and spend more time there later.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Florida has a homestead clause in the property tax laws, which reduces the taxable value of a home by $25,000. The deadline for filing the paperwork is March 1st of the tax year, so with that approaching quickly I dropped by the county services building to file my paperwork.

I should have filed earlier since waiting so late could mean long lines... but fortunately it wasn't too bad at all. It only took ten or fifteen minutes, and half of that was just waiting for the couple in front of me. They kept mispelling the name of the street they lived on, or perhaps they lived just over the county line and had to go to a different county services location.

My officemate said the $25,000 exemption hasn't changed in at least 20 years, so obviously the deduction used to be far more valuable. Still, the property tax savings works out to about $500; not bad for such little work!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Run Around the Pines 5K

The sixth race in the grand prix series was early in the morning. I wasn't sure if I was really up for racing it, since we had a grueling track session on Thursday and I rode my bike yesterday as well. I thought I could at least try to hold a race pace and see how I did.

I got there early enough to pick up my registration packet and meet with the rest of the team. Amy was working registration and needed to take a break for 10 minutes so I took over for her and handed out a few packets. Coach Dave showed up, went over his strategy: run the first mile hard and then try to coast in. I'm not sure I agree with that for longer events, but I can see where it makes sense for a 5K - if anything you want to get past the people who don't seed themselves properly at all. Five of us from the track session were there (Amy, Mary Beth, Sandy, Mark, and me) and we walked to the start together, and did a brief warmup. We lined up right off the starting line.

When the horn sounded I took off and steered to some open space on the left. After a block or two I checked my pace (Garmin Forerunner!) and it said I was doing under 6 minute miles, a pace I know I can't hold for long, so I cut it back slightly. A few minutes after that Kurt, a friend from the YMCA running group, passed me and said "Hi Karl - fast start?" Kurt recently qualified for Boston and is a fast runner, so being ahead of him, even if only for 3/4 of a mile, was a surprise. I told him I was trying to do 6:45 for the first mile and he wished me luck and cruised on by.

I hit mile 1 at 6:24, mile 2 at 13:21 (6:57 split), and mile 3 at 20:20 (6:59 split), and wound up finishing at 21:15 chip time, 21:17 official time. Coach was right before mile 3 at a turn cheering, yelling "great time" and "you've got it!" as I passed.

The rest of the group also did pretty well, and afterward we did a cooldown run and Coach said he'd get us pizza after Tuesday's track session.

So this is my new 5K PR - 21:15, an average of 6:51 per mile. I was 13th in my division, and extra happy I was able to average under a 7 minute mile. :)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Airboat and Parents

My parents are in town this week, and they were interested in taking an air boat ride since Francesca and Alexandra had so much fun. I took them to the same place we went earlier, and had the same airboat captain. One difference was today's high was around 80 degrees, so the gators were out sunning themselves.

A family of four was also waiting for an airboat ride, so all of us packed onto the same boat and we took off.

Enjoying the sun

We got pretty close to this gator, who froze as we approached. The guide said they do that thinking their natural camoflague is good enough to hide them - so in the gator's mind, we don't see him because he is hiding in the grass.

Hiding from us

Here is the lake we cruised around on.

Lake Harney

My parents really enjoyed the ride! I've gone three times now, 30 minutes each time, during the day. Some places offer night rides and longer tours, so I might try one of those the next time I have visitors. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ORC meeting

The Orlando Runner's Club had a general meeting in nearby Winter Park, FL. The club met once a month last year (I was around for two of the meetings), but that changed when the president moved away and leadership transferred. Like many clubs, about 10% of the membership actually shows up for things.

About 15 of us showed up at Spatz's Billiards, which has a nice deck area in the back. We went for a run (this is a running club after all) along a course marked with chalk and flour. The course wound around through Winter Park for a nice 3.3 mile run.

Later, I talked to a woman named Sarah who had an interesting career - she was a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld! She had a background in veterinary science (pre-vet major) and was one of the successful applicants. Sarah said the toughest requirement is passing the swim test, and everyone at the table asked about that.

She said the test was several parts, and what she remembered was lifting a 20 pound weight from 20 feet underwater, treading water and all the usual stuff, and swimming 125 yards underwater. My mind boggled at this - that is 5 lengths of a pool! It would take me about 2:15 to 2:30 to swim 125 yards with my normal crawl, and I know I can't hold my breath that long. I asked her about that, mentioning swim speed and pool lengths, and that I couldn't imagine swimming that far without breathing... and she laughed and said she meant 125 feet, not yards. So that's 1/3 of the distance but still very impressive.

Next time I swim I'm going to try one length underwater, which is 25 yards or 75 feet in the YMCA pool. ;)

We did cover club business briefly, and that was mostly a few questions about what the club should do. I gather the club is in a state of flux, where the board wants to see more people involved but isn't sure how to make that happen. It's tough, my running club in Washington would wrestle with the same issue. On the other hand, my friend John in NYC is a member of the New York Flyers and they seem to have huge participation in everything from races to social functions.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kingdom of Heaven

I had this movie for a few weeks before finally getting around to watching it. Kingdom of Heaven is set during the Crusades and follows the story of Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), who's wife recently committed suicide out of despair for the child they lost. Balian is lured into the Crusades for two reasons: he believes he can save her soul by participating, and he finds out he is the illegitimate son of a minor noblemen Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), who just returned from the East and reveals himself.

When Balian arrives in Jerusalem, he finds a fragile peace between factions of Christians, led by King Baldwin (Edward Norton), and Muslims, led by Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). Unrest breaks out occasionally, ostensibly over the holy city of Jerusalem. The truth, which the movie does a great job of portraying, is most the regular people caught up in the wars just want a safe place to live, and the real motives are control over trade routes, property, and wealth. King Baldwin dies from leprosy, and the Christian fanatics led by Guy de Lusignan (Martin Csokas), sieze the throne and immediately set out to destroy the Muslims. They are crushed and it falls to Balian to defend Jerusalem, with help from Tiberias (Jeremy Irons) who was Baldwin's advisor and leader of the Templars.

It is odd to see Balian, a blacksmith by trade, become a strategic genius in defending Jerusalem from Saladin, a brilliant and dignified general. But they hold out long enough against Saladin and negotiates a surrendur that includes safe passage for everyone who wishes to leave.

Balian eventually returns home and begins to rebuild his life. Richard Coeur de Lion passes through Ibelin seeking Balian the defender of Jerusalem, but Balian is weary of fighting and merely says he is a blacksmith.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tandem Jump at Skydive DeLand

I did a tandem skydive this morning, which was an extreme thrill. Check out the video of my skydive! I also bought a DVD of my skydive, which includes the jump video (at the link) plus some footage on the plane.

Drop Zone

I was mildly interested in try a tandem jump last year, after seeing Krisanne get into the sport. I didn't go when Gail and I went to see Krisanne jump, because I was training for IMCdA and I didn't want to risk twisting my ankle or any slight injury at all. Now, with no huge event commitment, I decided it would be good timing to go this weekend, since Krisanne is visiting and taking a skydiving course at Skydive DeLand.

I booked a tandem jump for yesterday, but it was rainy and the drop zone called to inform me the weather probably wouldn't clear. So I rescheduled for today, which was sunny, clear, but with gusty winds.

I arrived at the drop zone, signed up, and watched a brief video about skydiving that explained various risks. After initialing a very long waiver, I was called back to staging room along with another tandem jumper who was celebrating his birthday. We put on our jump suits, and then Ray, my tandem jump master, held a harness for me while I stepped into it. Ray cinched everything up and explained we would finish the rigging in the plane while we were seated. After this we walked out to the edge of the runway to wait for the plane.

When it arrived, we tandem jumpers loaded first, because we would jump out at a higher altitude. The seats were actually benches we straddled with our legs, and it was a tight fit as the load included a group of four skydivers that were practicing formations. The plane took off and began a near constant climb to 10,000 feet. The rollup door slid open, and after a few seconds to get set, the group of four jumped out.

I looked through the windows, admiring the view, thinking about the upcoming jump. I believe in engineering, physics, careful preparation and practice to lessen risks... still I felt a bit anxious as the plane kept climbing and banking. Ray told me to lean forward and I could feel him snapping his harness to mine, and then he told me to sit in his lap, and he cinched up the straps as tight as possible.

We reached our target altitude of ~13,000 feet and the door slid opened again. The other tandem jumper went first, and then it was my turn. Ray and I inched forward and at the door, I basically sat and let my feet dangle outside. After a countdown, Ray leaned forward and we were out of the plane! We did a backflip and then arched and held my arms in the bent position familiar to me from my minutes at the SkyVenture wind tunnel.

It is hard to describe - it didn't really feel like falling. We got close to the camerman and he motioned for me to smile and give a thumbs up and so forth. I looked from the ground to the horizon while Ray put us into a few spins. Skydiving is surprisingly loud, and the force of the air was strong and I felt my hand pushed hard occasionally. Still, the view was beautiful and I looked about as best as I could. About halfway through the freefall I felt my ears protesting the pressure change - I am sensitive about that for whatever reason - and I started to yawn, swallow and hold my nose and blow, in order to equalize the pressure. It was painful until I got one ear partially equalized which really helped.

The camerman pulled away and I knew we were about to deploy our chute. I was expecting a jolt, but it was gentle - hardly a pull at all. Now that I was vertical I could breathe easier and I kept looking around, trying to spot our landing zone. Ray said he would loosen some straps to make it more comfortable, and for a split second I had the fear I would fall out of the harness. He loosened a chest strap and both leg straps, but I could tell I was still snug in the harness.

We cruised around, making several turns, while descending. The canopy ride was fun and I enjoyed it even more after I finally cleared my ears and thus didn't feel so dizzy when Ray made a turn. I was so wild eyed from looking around and enjoying the view I didn't spot the landing zone until nearly the end - I could see the large circular spot of rocks getting larger and larger until we made our final turn and landed.

Krisanne came up and congratulated me for the jump and for becoming a skydiver! It was very exciting and I felt woozy trying to stand while Ray unhooked the harness.

Jump Certificate

As for another jump... I must admit afterwards I had a huge "I just went skydiving" grin on my face, plus a huge rush of adrenalin in my bloodstream... but now that I'm home I'm ready to just take it easy. It was lots of fun, but I'm not sure I would really enjoy going on my own - on a tandem, I could just relax (so to speak) and enjoy the view, and not worry much about steering, air stability, wind conditions, landing, and so forth. I think skydiving is a mentally taxing sport since you need to be 100% focused on what is going on to keep safe. The nearest analogy I can make is with bike riding - at all times when you are on the road you have to remain situationally aware of surrounding traffic, road conditions, other riders, etc. This is all fine but along with my ear pressure equalization troubles, I'm not sure I would enjoy going very often. It was painful until I partially cleared an ear towards the end of freefall, and I wouldn't want to be dealing with that while also being responsible for tracking my orientation and altitude, and deploying my chute.

I certainly had a great experience though. It was extremely exciting and I'm glad I tried it. :)

Afterwards I hung out with Krisanne for a bit, and we watched a few more skydivers come in. The winds were gusting pretty strong and Krisanne didn't feel comfortable diving - great call, this is a sport where patience for the right conditions is key.