Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Friend Visit

My friend Mark from the Seattle area was in town this week for work. He was able to get away this evening for a quick visit before flying back tomorrow morning. We ate out at a Thai restaurant, and then I gave him a quick tour of my home and work.

He mentioned how flat it is here, something I noticed too. ;) But his additional comment was interesting - he said he was used to the hills/mountains in Seattle for navigational purposes, to get a sense of direction. I miss the mountains as well, but only for the view. I don't think I even once looked around for Mt. Rainier to get my bearings, or drove on 520 and saw the Olympics and thought "yes I am driving west". Hmmm.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Orlando Magic Game

I haven't been to many pro basketball games over the years. I saw the Houston Rockets twice, and the Seattle Supersonics once. So when Amy suggested we see the Orlando Magic I looked for some tickets since it sounded fun!

She lives a mile or so from the TD Waterhouse Center, where the Magic play, so we walked to avoid traffic and save a little on parking fees. And get some exercise since it was a nice evening. We were in the upper deck at midcourt, so we had a pretty good view of the game. The Magic played the Atlanta Hawks, which I suppose could be a rivalry since the two teams are relatively close, but I'm not sure since I don't follow basketball all that closely.

In all honesty, I can't follow basketball very well. It is mostly the fouls that are mysterious to me. It seems random to me whether one is on the offense or defense - play just stops and I might as well flip a coin. At least in football I can make an educated guess based on which ref called a foul. Besides, in football the action naturally stops all the time so it isn't as much of an interruption.

Amy and I did watch the game but we also spent plenty of time chatting with each other. Anyway, the Magic beat the Hawks. It was enjoyable and perhaps we'll drive out to Tampa sometime where there is baseball, football, and hockey to watch live!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Winter Park 10K

This morning was the final race in the Track Shack Grand Prix series, the Winter Park 10K. It was sunny but a bit chilly, and I overdressed because I hate being cold for 30+ minutes before a race. It wasn't too hot but about halfway through I pushed up the sleeves of my long-sleeved shirt.

I ran a 44:24 averaging a 7:09 mile. This is now my 10K PR! Overall the Grand Prix has been a good series for me. The series was 4 5K's, 2 10K's, and 1 5 mile race (which I missed). I lowered my PR at every 5K and at one of the 10K's.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Amy hadn't been to SkyVenture so I thought it would be great fun for us to go. I called up and made an 8:00 reservation, which we barely made due to heavy traffic on International Drive (I-Drive as it is called locally).

We were placed in a group with 8 or 9 others, most of them were a family vacationing from Mexico. I'd never seen such a large group, and it took a long time for us to get through the introductory class and suited up. Once in the flight chamber, we barely fit.

I wound up going first, which might have been bad. I've done this three times now and I'm OK at keeping my balance and gently floating around... thus giving the impression to the rest of the group that it is easy. My big error now is not looking up (keeping my chin up) - I find there is a huge tendency to keep a relaxed neck and look down towards the floor.

Amy was second up and she entered with a huge grin. After getting positioned by the instructor, she floated around briefly before zooming towards the wall. All the while she kept smiling, and I could tell she was having a great time floating on the column of air!

A few others did OK, but the rest had trouble, from folding in half at the waist, to twisting on their side, to continually kicking like they were riding an invisible bike. It was actually funny, I think this class had almost all the regular failure modes people exhibit, thus keeping the instructor on his toes.

On my second time in I tried a slow horizontal spin, but kept on drifting to the edge. Amy did well and held her balance longer while flying.

Afterwards we drove around the I-Drive area, past a bunch of smaller rides, and looked at the Sling Shot, where a couch is launched into the air via giant elastic bands. It looks fun but neither of us is that interested in trying it - maybe another time we'll hit a theme park for some roller coaster thrills. ;)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

VA 1-2-3 Walk/Run

The 2006 VA Hospital's Step Up To Nutrition 1-2-3 Walk/Run will always be a special race for me, because something unusual happened... more on that later. Amy works at the VA Hospital and told me about this event, otherwise I wouldn't have known about it. The event is hosted by the food and nutrition department of the VA hospital, and it is a fund raiser for paralyzed veterans.

The course was the loop around the hospital and parking lot, which was roughly one mile long. Participants could do up to three loops, running or walking. A small field gathered for the 8:30 am start (which is VERY late by Florida standards - but nice to be able to sleep in a bit) and I seeded myself at the front, since only three or four others looked like they were going to run. The race started and I set off at a comfortably hard pace. I was in the lead but I could hear someone a few feet behind me.

As we ran around behind the hospital, I could tell I was stretching my lead out, when I realized that for the first time ever, I was in front! I passed the start where Amy and I waved at each other and headed out onto my second loop. She stayed to help work the water station and wasn't able to run in the event. Halfway through my second lap I started to pass a few people, and kept on my pace. As I came by the start/finish again, Amy handed me a cup of water which was very welcome since it was getting hot, and this course had no shade. After a few seconds I set off again on my third loop and finished up with a total time of 19:13. My time seemed very fast for a 3 mile run, so I think the course was really more like a 0.9 mile loop or 2.7 miles total.

I wasn't the first person across the finish line because one person ahead of me did a one mile walk/run and finished around 12 minutes. But I was the second finisher and I came in before all other two mile and three mile participants. So in a way, I won this event! Granted, the field was small and non-competitive, but still... I seized my chance because who knows if this will ever happen again. :)

Afterwards, I stayed at the finish and helped score the other finishers - a total of 36 more. Amy and her coworkers served up water and took pictures as each person crossed the finish line.

Anyway, it was a fun run and extra cool since I got a glimpse of what leading and winning an event is like.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day

Amy and I went to a large local street fair - the Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival. We wandered around for a bit, but most exhibitors closed up early. Perhaps late Friday afternoon isn't the busy time so they close down and stay open all weekend instead.

We did see a few booths, ranging from very pretty and intricate marble works, to some rather ugly art featuring people with elongated bodies and shrunken heads. An interesting exhibit was nail sculpture animals - a bear, fish, warthog, and bull made of rusty wires and nails. The price tag for the large items was $16,000, while the smaller ones were $7,500. I cannot believe many of these sculptures are sold!

We decided the line for the Irish pub was too long, so we opted for Olé Olé, a nearby tapas restaurant. Last time I had tapas that good was in Vancouver visiting my friend Gail... Amy and I had olives, cheese, spicy potatoes, garlic spicy shrimp, and a creamy cheese/spice/crabmeat dish that was my favorite.

After that Amy was tired so we played a few rounds of a card game I own, Lost Cities. Then we watched The Constant Gardener.

It was a very enjoyable evening!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mysterious Rattle Solved

I biked with coworkers during lunch, and everyone agreed the rattle was loud and also quite a mystery as to the source. We did our Heathrow Hills loop and the entire time my bike sounded like I had some jingle bells on it. After the ride - 16.4 miles in 1 hour - I took my bike into the shop.

I described the symptom, and also mentioned shifting was a bit sluggish on a few of the gears. Shifting issues happen all the time, through cable stretch, crud on the cassette or chain, or normal loosening. It is typically a quick and minor fix of a barrel adjustor, cable tensioning, or even limit screw adjustment (but not as often).

So the mechanic put my bike on the stand, shifted through the gears, and then poked the cassette with his index finger. The gears just mushed over... which is not normal at all! It turns out I had a broken cassette spacer, and this was the cause of both the rattle and a sticky shifting. After a new spacer, my bike shifts great and is as quiet as it should be. :)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Comedy Show

I met Amy and her sister Julie for a comedy show in the evening. Julie mentioned this show at yesterday's 5K, but in the pre-race hustle and bustle I forgot about it until I talked to Amy later on Saturday.

The show was jointly sponsored by the Arabic and Jewish communities, and featured a comedian from each. I like comedy shows but sometimes they can get a bit raunchy; however these two were instead able to get a lot of mileage out of the very fertile material left by Bush, Cheney, and their various screwups. It was a very enjoyable time!

A great extra was was that a delicious banquet of middle eastern food was included with the show: stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh, hummus, shish kebabs, and more!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Baldwin Park 5K

Our big PR race was the Baldwin Park "Get Behind the Cause" 5K. I've actually lowered my PR twice since the speed training session started, and am very pleased with that. Going into the race I decided I didn't have to PR again - if I did that would be great, but if not, I wouldn't beat myself up about it.

The race course wound through the downtown-ish area of a master planned community, and as a result there were few long straightaways and lots of turns. It was also fairly warm and I thought about how it is only going to get warmer as the weeks go by. I started off fast (6:24 for mile 1) and slowed down to 13:30 for my mile 2 split. From there I found a pace I could hold onto and finish up. I missed noting the mile 3 split. I am near my maximum speed for a 5K because I have almost no "kick" whatsoever coming to the finish line.

I did manage to PR, shaving 7 seconds off my previous time to finish this 5K in 21:08 for a 6:48 pace. This race was small (254 men, 357 women) but since this was just the second year that is pretty good. I was 4th in my division, and unfortunately the age group awards only went 3 deep. My age group is a tough one, but maybe eventually I'll get to the medal zone.

The race was a good showing for us in the speed training program. Amy finished 2nd on her age group, and Mark finished 2nd. Mary Beth finished 3rd even though she was bummed about not setting a new PR. Well... I'd sympathize but NOT. Hehe.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Robinson Crusoe

Amy, my friend in the running club, had an extra ticket to the Orlando Shakespeare Festival's Robinson Crusoe and she invited me to attend with her. We ate a quick dinner of vegetarian pizza at a nearby restaurant while talking of our various travels - she did a year long Peace Corps tour in 2003-2004 to Lesotho, and I showed a few pictures of my trip to New Zealand in 2004. It was great company and fun conversation, and the pizza was even quite tasty despite having broccoli on it (which just doesn't seem right to me).

The play was staged in a small theater with a very plain set. There were just a few props shared between the opening scene on the ship and the rest of the play. Although the set was simple it had a few clever surprises: one small section held a bit of water which served as a pond, and another small square opened up to reveal a campfire. The left was a climbable pole and a few plants that would serve as a lookout spot and fields of grains that Crusoe cultivated. Behind the stage were some totem poles that eventually displayed the passage of time, and a few crates were the remainder of the props.

The story is the famous tale of a man shipwrecked on an island. It had been so long since I read the novel (actually I am not positive I have read it - that is how long it would have been!) I couldn't remember how he came to meet Friday or if he got off the island. All was revealed during the play...

I was quite impressed with the acting. Much like Tom Hanks in Castaway, the main actor that played Crusoe (Eric Hissom) was by himself for about 3/4s of the time. Just him, the dialogue, his facial expression, and he did a great job acting the part and telling the story.

Overall it was a very enjoyable evening!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Real Florida 5K

I registered for the Real Florida 5K, a race this morning. It is a small race, and a fundraiser for local parks. What drew me to the event was that it was a trail run. So I dug around in the garage and found my trail running shoes, which had seen many miles at the Redmond Watershed, Cougar Mountain, or the Powerline trail.

We had great conditions, and I just felt like taking it easy so I ran along with some friends. The course was mostly flat with a few short hills. There were the occasional roots to watch for, but unlike the trails in Washington, this course was sandy. It made for a good run that was gentle on feet.

I finished in 26:17, good enough for 46th out of 210 total! The funny thing was the effort felt harder than a 26 minute 5K. I seems like the speed training I'm doing makes you faster by getting your body used to the demands of a faster pace; it doesn't actually make running a slower pace feel easier. On the other hand, maybe it was the sand that made the pace feel harder than it should have.

It was fun and now I have a T-shirt with some kind of native American art that looks like a bear, a fish, a manatee, or some combination of these three.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

This movie came to the top of my Netflix queue and I took it easy this evening and watched it. Most of what I heard of Mr. and Mrs. Smith had to do with the real life affairs of its stars, which seemed to drown out the movie itself.

By day, John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) are in a declining marriage. However, they are secretly opposing international assassins, pulling off jobs in various locales while still making it home for dinner. Both their agencies discover their marriage and send them on the same assignment, where they interfere with each other and figure out the truth. They look to kill each other out of fear, but they realize both their agencies have issued death warrants for them, so they bond together to stay alive, and rekindle their marriage.

This movie isn't exactly a deep intelluctual piece, but I found it quite entertaining. I'm a fan of the spy/action/thriller genre and this was good enough for me. What I also found funny were the scenes where John and Jane snipe at each other over their past - John is upset that the marriage has been a "web of lies" and that Jane is really an orphan, who hired an actor to pose as her mother for their wedding.

So while I did enjoy the movie, I like a similar movie (True Lies) even more. ;)