Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Final Football Wrapup!

I failed to totally jinx myself! Here's the rundown:

Midnight Stalkers: I got crushed. 2nd place isn't bad though. Stupid DeAngelo Williams.
WW GNU League: Victory! The title stays with our department and I win the cashito!
Multi-State Showdown: I actually hoped to lose, but I seem to have won. Oh well. :-)
Open Sports Test League: Victory! Because I played with the site in beta testing they say I'll get free use for life. Hopefully they'll get the bugs worked out by then.

Ok, so 6 leagues, 4 championship games, 3 championships. Not too shabby!

I'm planning on joining less leagues next year but of course I said that last year too. . .

Orignal From: Final Football Wrapup!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fantasy Football Report 2008

Every year I post a report a few times during the season and unfailingly it jinxes me. This year shall be no different, except I'm jinxing myself as I play for the championship in 4 of the 6 leagues I joined.

Midnight Stalkers: 2nd seed. Playing for the Golden Meatball.  9-4-1
WW GNU League: 5th seed. Playing for cold hard cash & to keep the championship in our department.  8-5
Multi-State Showdown: 2nd seed. Playing for the Trophy and a 4-peat. Crazy! 9-5
Geocachers League: 2nd seed, but only because the 1 seed played me without my RB & WR. Bounced in the first round by a terrific game by the 3rd seed.  11-2
Yahoo Champions League: Formed of previous Yahoo league champs, I had a tough season and finished 5-9 though I was 5th in total points. Sometimes it's more about luck than a good draft.
Open Sports Test League: 1st seed and playing for the championship. This league was just a beta-test of the new site. 10-4.  I didn't pay too much attention in this league.

Ok, so 6 leagues, 4 championship games. I'm hoping to pull off upsets in the first two.

So wish me luck... I'll post an update tomorrow or Tuesday with the results!

Orignal From: Fantasy Football Report 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Navesink Challenge

After training for the past several months for no particular reason I decided I wanted to run an official race this fall. A race on a Sunday in which Heather could participate would be perfect. Enter the Navesink Challenge - a local race that featured a 15K & 5K along with an after-party at Outback Steakhouse. Perfect! We pre-registered and were all set.

The weather looked to be a potential rainy problem early on but the night before forecasted that the rain shouldn't start until noonish. Of course it decided to start at 5 AM instead. When the race kicked off at 10 AM it was 41 degrees and raining. Yuck!

The 15K started 10 minutes before the 5K and I misheard the announcement. As the starting gun sounded I was clear on the other side of the field so I ended up starting dead last. Fine by me. This way nobody can pass me!

I had decided early on that I would attempt to run every step of the race. The last time I tried a 15K it was the Mount Penn Mud Fest and the trails were often steep, narrow and crowded. This meant I had to walk portions. As I ran it with my cousin Terri I didn't mind the walk as it gave me a chance to catch my breath and keep up my end of the conversation. I only walked a few tenths of a mile over all but I couldn't really say I "ran" a 15K now could I?

This time I'm proud to say that I did run all 15K except for a studder-step-dance while I tossed a water stop cup. It got a little hairy early on when I hit the large back-of-the-packers trying to funnel over a narrow bit by a steam. I went over a guardrail and around about a dozen people but didn't have to stop and walk! Most of those folks passed me in the next few miles but I got the positions back on the hills. I'm much more of a sprinter than a distance runner so hills don't bother me as much as they do others. Well, the uphill parts anyway.

The downhill parts give me another problem - bouncing. For the final long hill I decided to spare my quads the typical pounding and just increase my turnover and wheel down the hill by converting some of my forward motion into bounding strides. For some reason this creates side stitches on my right side as the bouncing does something evil to the muscles. I'm no doctor but I know what hurts. With only a mile and a half to go I started cramping badly. It completely locked on me with just under a mile to go.

I could either walk and try to get the cramp out or I could (literally) gut it out and finish slow. I finished slow. 8 people passed me on that last stretch which was disappointing as I had worked really hard to get past them in the final few miles but at least I finished and accomplished my mission!

It rained off and on throughout the race but, thanks to an early Christmas gift from Heather, I was warm and dry in my weatherproof jacket. I had picked out the jacket a few months earlier and didn't think I'd need it until true Winter hit but I was glad it was available today. Nature is all good but nothing beats good new-fashioned petrochemical science-crafted synthetic goodness to keep you comfortable when the weather gets ugly!

After I finished and walked off the cramps I found Heather and learned that she finished her 5K successfully and even thought she could have went longer. Yay! Adding to the fun was that my bib number was lucky 75 representing my birth year & winner of a random prize - a t-shirt and bag combo. The bag says X-C and features a cross-bones motif. I guess this means Cross Country. Hey, what do you want for free-random-prize-swag? Heather won a door prize too so both of our numbers came up lucky today!

Heather hooked me up with a sports massage when we got home and then we cashed in our free appetizer & drink voucher at the local Outback and enjoyed a victory meal. I think we earned it.

After seeing her picture on the results page Heather remarked that she wanted to do another race. I've created a monster!


Race Results:

Orignal From: Navesink Challenge

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just because I haven't shared anything in a while...

In the Summer of 1779 the land of Tatum Park near Middletown, NJ was a small farm owned by a family that was struggling to just keep the farm running. To make matters worse, British soldiers were occupying their land. Young Emily had a magnificent garden of native flowers, but the wildflowers that grew in the meadows were her favorite. Emily watched with irritation as the troops made camp in a field that was being allowed to grow natural that season. They crushed down her beloved wildflowers & greedily ate the berries she had been cultivating all Spring.

One of the soldiers took notice & saved a large bouquet of flowers, which he presented to her one morning. Despite their differences, the two fell in love. Though she never tried to change his mind, her love of the land was infectious & soon after being deployed into battle the young soldier defected to the Colonial Army. He promised to marry her when he returned. He wrote to Emily frequently over the next year but one day the letters stopped coming. The years piled up, the war ended & she lost hope & began to despair. She was inconsolable. As Emily's health began to fail so did the farm. Crops withered, fruits dried on the vine & not a flower could be seen on the property.

On the occasion of the first frost in 1783 Emily took a walk in the North East meadow, sat down to rest under a willow tree & never woke up. She was buried in that same meadow. On Christmas Eve of that season her lover finally returned. He had been captured by the British & sent over seas as a prisoner of war. The revolution ended before he could stand trial & eventually he was able to make his way back to the colonies. Her soldier was saddened when he heard the news of her death but war had hardened him & he could shed no tears. Emily's mother led him to the gravesite. As he knelt by Emily's final resting place, her Mother placed a bundle of dried flowers alongside the headstone. The soldier recognized the flowers as the very bouquet he gave her when they first met. His heart finally broke & he began to weep.

On the first day of Spring life returned to the farm when a lone Morning Glory bloom unfolded to greet the dawn. It had sprouted alongside Emily's grave where her love's tears fell to earth.

Orignal From: Just because I haven't shared anything in a while...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Running & Swimming & Rain

It's 6:50 AM, 69 degrees, it's raining... hard and I'm running up my street mentally typing up this blog.

There's something refreshing about running in the rain, but from the looks on the faces of the people who saw me, most folks don't get it. Rather than try to explain it I simply suggest you give it a try! I try to rain-run as frequently as my shoes will allow during the warm months because:
A) It's one way to stay cool.
B) It recharges my batteries like little else that I have discovered.
C) I get to play in the puddles.

On the back half of my loop I was watching my feet splash in a small stream that had formed on the sidewalk when I heard a cheerful "Hi". I looked up and discovered another jogger, soaked to the bone but smiling, heading the opposite direction. I shot him a smile & a "Hey" because I recognized a kindred spirit soaking in the weather. I bet he turned to hit those same puddles I was splashing when he saw me.

Water and running go hand-in-hand which is why I enjoy running the Ocean Grove Biathlon every year. The race was this past Saturday and I set a new personal record though I'm not sure how. I placed 59th out of roughly 140 runners. It was near 90 degrees and sunny at 8:30 in the morning. The water was only 68, but it felt good after pounding out two 7 minute miles. I ran out of juice on the swim portion of the race but struggled through and was still passing people as I stumbled up the beach to the finish line. I came in at 20:58 (approximated based on where I assumed the starting line was). My official time doesn't exist because this isn't one of those super organized races. We don't even wear bibs! All I know is that I've never finished under 21 minutes before, that I had a blast & that I'll run it every year until I'm old enough to medal.

If I can maintain the 21 minute race I'll have a shot when I hit the 60-69 age group.

OGBi results by age group

Orignal From: Running & Swimming & Rain

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Out of Body Experience!

Did you know that Geocaching is the only cache site the doesn't have an actual Latin prefix?

It's true, it's clue!

The other day I was driving home from work and the car hit 100,000 miles just as I was passing Holmdel Park. I took the opportunity to explore Historic Longstreet Farm and scout out some cache locations. I found three good spots and used one almost immediately.

My most recent Geocaching hide is an addition to Team EKitt10's excellent "Psychic Friends Network" series. I'm using the "Out of Body Experience" angle and forcing cachers to think outside the box (or outside the physical realm) to find the coordinates. I spent some time this evening making the puzzle more fun and adding easter eggs to the cache page. If you're reading this and you came from the cache page then you obviously found one of the easter eggs! :-)

Good luck, happy hunting and enjoy your OOBE!

Orignal From: Out of Body Experience!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Captain Kidd's Treasure Found!

Captain William Kidd stood on the Gallows & a thin rain began to fall. He was dressed in the full splendor of a decorated colonial captain of the seas from the spotless coat to the new pair
of boots. A list of crimes for which Kidd stood accused was being read for the gathered crowd but Kidd wasn't listening. He had spent the past few weeks becoming familiar with all of the crimes he had been charged. Right now he was busily scanning the crowd & looking for a familiar face. Had his friends shown up at the last? The noose was placed around his neck & a dark sack over his head. As the darkness covered his eyes, his life, as it tends to do in these situations, flashed before them...

Captain William Kidd
William Kidd was born in 1645 in Greenock Scotland. His family sailed to the New World while
Kidd was still young. They settled in New York City, which at the time was merely struggling to support itself as a seaport. Kidd spent his life on the Ocean & won acclaim fighting the French during King William's War. He was granted the Rank of Captain & held in high regard by his community & peers. In 1695 Kidd was called to Great Britain. At the recommendation of the Earl of Bellomont, who was the Governor of New York at the time, Captain Kidd was granted an official Letter of Marque from King William III.

"William the Third, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, … To our trusty and well beloved Captain William Kid, Commander of the Ship the Adventure Galley… GREETING; Whereas we are informed, that Captain Thomas Tew, John Ireland, Captain Thomas Wake, and Captain William Maze… do, against the Law of Nations, commit many and great Pyracies, Robberies and Depredations on the Seas…. Now KNOW YE, that we being desirous to prevent the aforesaid Mischiefs, and, as much as in us lyes, to bring the said Pyrates, Free Booters and Sea Rovers to Justice, have thought fit, and do hereby give and grant to the said William Kid, to whom our Commissioners for exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of England, have granted a Commission as a private Man of War, bearing Date the 11th Day of December 1695, … full Power and Authority to apprehend, seize, and take into your Custody… all such Pyrates… which you shall meet with upon the Seas,… with all their Ships and Vessels; and all such Merchandizes, Money, Goods and Wares as shall be found on board…"

King William also granted Captain Kidd a license as a Privateer to attack any French ship he should chance to encounter. The expedition was funded by Lord Bellomont, several politically connected Nobles & King William himself. Kidd was given command of the Adventure, a 237-ton galley featuring 34 cannon & oars for out maneuvering enemy ships. He loaded his ship with the best sailors he could find & set sail. Before the Adventure could even hit open waters a Navy vessel approached. Showing some early colonial disdain for imperial Great Britain, Captain Kidd refused to salute (or possibly mooned) the Navy vessel. The end result was the Navy forcibly impressed (or drafted) the majority of Kidd's crew. Undaunted, he sailed for his home harbor of New York where he hoped to be able to find enough sailors to round out his crew. Unfortunately, New Yorkers had enough problems of their own without worrying about "Pyrates" hiding in the West Indies. Those he could convince to join him on the voyage were mostly made up of men who needed to flee the colonies for legal reasons & they demanded the lions share of the profits. With this inauspicious start, the Adventure set sail for Madagascar seeking pirates… with a crew made up of men who had most likely been pirates just days before signing on with Captain Kidd.

When the King of the most powerful nation in the world decides that he's going to start hunting pirates the word spreads quickly – even over the seas. By the time Kidd was finally en route from the Americas all of the pirates mentioned in the official charter had made themselves scarce. Kidd & his crew bided their time & were able to take over a small French ship but it did little to serve their purpose… or line the greedy crew's pockets. The Captain used the same methods he had employed with success back in the Colonies – to mingle with the other Privateers of the area. Many of the other Captains were small time pirates in their own way but Kidd was after a larger prize. Unfortunately, his crew saw this as wasted time & became restless. The Adventure encountered many richly laden Indian vessels but, despite the opposition of the crew, Kidd made no moves against them. Men started to desert &, sensing an eventual mutiny, Kidd set sail for the Red Sea with talk of intercepting a rich fleet of which he had caught rumor. "We have been unsuccessful hitherto; but courage, my boys, we'll make our fortunes out of this fleet!"It was not meant to be & the Adventure never met the fabled fleet.
Kidd never wore a beard On October 30 1697 a rich Dutch ship sailed into view &, tired of waiting, the crew urged Captain Kidd to attack. The Captain refused, knowing that attacking the Dutchman would be both piratical & sure to anger King William who was of Dutch descent. William Moore, a gunner under Kidd's command spoke out loudly against his captain & burnished a sharpened chisel. The two exchanged words & it became clear that a full-blown mutiny was sure to occur if Kidd was unable to quiet Moore. Without speaking a word Captain Kidd strongly suggested that Moore return to his work by heaving a wooden bucket at him. It was an unlucky throw as the bucket struck Moore in the head & he died the next day. A bucket is a far cry from a deadly weapon & it's obvious that a mortal blow wasn't intended, but the act didn't do much to improve moral on the Adventure. The next time they docked to resupply much of the crew deserted.

In late January or early February of 1698 their luck finally turned & they were able to easily capture an Armenian ship the Quedah Merchant. Kidd & crew boarded the ship & learned that though the captain of the ship was English, he had purchased passes from the French East India Company making the Quedah Merchant a fair target of the war. The ship was one of the greatest prizes ever claimed by a Privateer. She was a 400-ton beauty laden with gold, silver & all manors of extremely valuable linens. The value might have exceeded 100 million in modern dollars. Kidd kept the French passes & the ship which he renamed Adventure Prize.

Back in England, disgruntled former crew members of the Adventure told the crown that Kidd had refused to attack pirates & had even turned pirate himself. A fantastic political scandal ensued when political opponents of the Kidd's backers got wind that King William himself was funding a pirate! Great stories of piracy & barbarism on the high seas were invented to fan the political firestorm.

When Kidd learned he was a wanted man most of his crew deserted him so he left the Adventure behind & sailed for home in the Adventure Prize. Only 10% of the original crew remained loyal to their Captain including Monmouth County residents Moses Butterworth & William Leeds. Upon arriving in the Caribbean, Kidd learned that several British men-of-war were patrolling the East coast looking for the Quedah Merchant. Realizing his prize was marked he scuttled the Merchant & set out for New York confident he could convince Lord Bellomont of his innocence. Kidd made several stops in New Jersey & Long Island before the authorities knew he was in the area. During this time he secretly buried much of his treasure – some 40,000 pounds – to be used as leverage. Kidd, leaving several of his men in West Jersey with strict instructions on what to do in the event he was arrested, then sought out Lord Bellomont who was residing in Boston at the time. Unfortunately, Bellomont decided that bringing Kidd before the throne in chains was the best way to save his own neck & had Kidd & his men arrested.

The trial was a travesty of justice & the nobles who had financed Kidd's voyages made sure to burn Kidd's logbook & lose the French passes from the Quedah Merchant. In the end Kidd & most of his crew was found guilty of piracy & the murder of his gunner William Moore. Moses Butterworth & William Leeds had remained in West Jersey where they were tried & found not guilty.

... Captain Kidd awoke from his reverie in time to hear the official proclamation that he was to hang by his neck until he was dead. The rain had begun to soak through the thin sack & he could almost see through it. There was a disturbance in the crowd & some shouting but he didn't have time to wonder what might have caused the fuss because at just that moment the floor dropped out from beneath him… & he fell… & the noose pulled tight… & the rope snapped! The crowd gasped as Captain Kidd disappeared through the trap door & landed with a grunt on the ground beneath the platform. In those days this stay of execution wasn't seen as a sign of divine provenance but rather an indication of a poorly made knot. After a few moments of confusion Captain William Kidd was bustled back up onto the stage where the noose was refitted & secured into place. Though most of the crowd & the officials on the stage were nearly soaked to the bone, Kidd was gauged dry enough that the noose would not slip free. Without delay the trap was sprung & a few agonizing seconds later the saga of Captain William Kidd ended at the end of a taught rope. As the crowd began to disperse, William Leeds, loyal to the end, fought against the crowds until he was near the front. An old muddy pair of boots dangled at eye-level only a few yards away. He smiled.

Sunset of Cliffwood Beach So what of Kidd's buried treasure? Well, there are more rumors than fact. Every state up & down the coast has a tale of Captain Kidd's buried booty, but only two states have ever found any of it. The first cache of gold was unearthed on Gardiners Island just off the coast of Long Island New York. The owner of the land had cooperated with the British authorities in retrieving some 10,000 Pounds. Gold coins have also been discovered in New Jersey within the Raritan Bay. The first strike was at Money Island & the second at Duck Pond, now known as Treasure Lake. Let's look at the legends & skim the fact from the fiction.

It's a fact that William Leeds had money. In his will he left 438 acres of land to the county & the Christ Church. This land is where Thompson Park & Brookdale Community College is
today. On the foundation of an old jail (the very jail that once held his friend Moses Butterworth) Leeds built the Christ Church of Middletown.
Sunrise from Cliffwood Beach
It's a fact that Money Island is no more. It's been excavated to the point where it's nothing more than a sandbar. If there was treasure on the island it's long been spent or sent to Davy Jones' Locker.

It's a fact that the Army Corps of Engineers surveyed & excavated large sections of Cliffwood Beach a few decades ago. They built up the seawall as if to protect the unfound treasure from the elements. The positioning of their benchmarks is very suspicious.

It's fiction that Captain Kidd used two gigantic trees as range markers to navigate to the hiding place of the gold. These trees, known as "Kidd's Rangers" were supposedly at the mouth of the Raritan Creek & atop of Rose Hill in Matawan. There were indeed very large trees in those locations but it's highly unlikely anyone could use them as markers from the bay. Of course someone did try eventually... & by no small coincidence there's a small park at the site where the trees would lead a sailor. In fact, the exact center point has been calculated – & an ACoE benchmark labeled PL190 exists there to this day.

It's a fact that Treasure Lake is just North of this mysterious park – & the actual site of the buried treasure! After Captain Kidd was arrested William Leeds dug up the treasure
& moved it. This is why some coins were found on Money Island. He spread rumors of "Kidd's Rangers" to throw people off the trail but actually buried it ... where X marks the spot! To help guide Kidd back to his treasure Leeds left a clue in the church he built – he carved a cross above the pulpit. The cross represented a prominent feature of the landscape of that time. It has since been replaced with a man-made structure. The treasure hunters of yesteryear got everything right except one crucial detail... they dug in the wrong direction!

Keyport in backgroundIn days gone by treasure hunters found "the cross" & started digging into the sand right on the beach but the base of the cross isn't telling you where to dig… it's pointing the right direction to dig! The addition of the benchmarks makes it easier on current treasure seekers. To find the current resting place of Kidd's treasure you'll need to locate benchmark PL160 – or the spot it would have been if treasure hunters trying to cover their tracks hadn't removed it. You'll need to search the seawall & find the midpoint between PL150 & PL170. From that point, follow the line of the cross 30 feet. You'll know you are going in the right direction if you pass a smaller vertical cross. Back in Kidd's day, your "tunnel" would have ended in buried treasure. Today you do not need to dig, as a 30-foot tunnel would come right out the other side of the hill. That spot is where you will find the treasure!

Some may call me a fool for sharing this information, but I trust that you will treat the treasure as the historical artifact that it is & take only a small sampling of the treasure for their own. Do not feel the need to trade swag at this cache. While exploring the seawall be mindful that it's called Cliffwood beach for a reason. Be careful. Be safe. Have fun.

This cache is certified Central Jersey.

Gold Hot Rodders Cliffwood Beach Ninja Pirate Always Open Go the other way! Yarr. It be purdy. All about the Kidds Park & Walk Pirates! Central Jersey Silver

Orignal From: Captain Kidd's Treasure Found!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Catching up...

Ok, it's been months since I've typed anything into this spot so I'm way overdue (again). Today is probably not the best day to attempt creative (or accurate) writing as I'm recovering from a pretty bad bout of food poisoning. I wont go into details except to say that if Illness = Kung Fu, I was practicing the "Double Headed Dragon" for many hours yesterday. The final symptom was a fever coming in at a balmy 101.5° Fahrenheit. By that time I was able to stomach some dry toast - and cook it on my forehead.

The reason I haven't written here is because I've been writing elsewhere, moonlighting if you will, albeit in the daylight mostly (Thanks, Daylight Savings Time!). I'm proud to report as of this month that is up and running. To date we have 59 users and lots of cool features that I consider cool even if you don't because cool is subjective and all features are cooler when you identify/install/configure & manually tweak them all by yourself. Yeah, it's been a lot of work but I've learned a more about PHP coding & a lot more about Joomla as a Content Management System. We're not nearly done so I probably wont be writing here very much. Honesty == Refreshing.

Since my last writing I've had a few notable experiences. The first was the big trip to North Carolina to visit my Mom & check out (and volunteer for) the Storytelling Festival of the Carolinas. The festival is only in it's 2nd year but they brought in 4 featured tellers of national acclaim and pulled off a wonder of festivality. To make things more interesting, a very large tree decided to topple (on Arbor Day no less) right onto the main tent. Now this was a Circus Quality Super Tent so the tree didn't wreck it, but there wasn't any way we could let people sit inside with a few tons of tree looming overhead. Some emergency management found a few guys with chainsaws & a bucket truck and the tree was gone within a few hours. The tellers put on an amazing show and I got to chat them up in between sets & after the performances. My only regret is that the festival took up large hunks of the days & I didn't get a chance to just hang out with mi madre as much as I would have liked.

On the Geocaching front, the extra travel has netted me 3 more states & lots of finds. I'm at 560 finds as of this writing. I have 15 caches hidden (in 3 states) and 3 more caches right around the corner. My favorite is a cache honoring Capt. William Kidd. Disgraced & hanged as a Pirate, he was a actually a misunderstood privateer who simply ran afoul of his financiers. The geocache itself will be near Treasure Lake & is of the multi/puzzle variety. It will require you to piece together the clues that Capt. Kidd's loyal crew left allowing Captain Kidd to reclaim his buried treasure one day. Gold coins were actually discovered in two spots less than a quarter mile from my home so I couldn't resist putting a cache there. The contents of the cache are completely unique as well but I wont reveal the secret here! Kidd was hanged on May 23rd 1701 so this past weekend, exactly 307 years later, under the light of the moon, I buried Kidd's Cache while Heather stood guard.

The most recent happening was the passing of my annual Continually Reoccurring Affirmation Period. This means I'm now 33 years old. For my birthday the most interesting gift I received was the food poisoning I mentioned earlier. Happy Barfday to meeee! Fortunately, we had done some celebrating earlier in the weekend. On Saturday night we went up to a comedy club in New Brunswick & saw comedy legend Gallagher. He's the guy who is famous for smashing watermelons (among other things) to end his sets. Compared to other comedians his routine is very organic (no pun intended). He plays off of the audience &, in this small venue, interacted directly on several occasions. Not the least of which was allowing all of the folks who had a birthday to kneel before the smashing platform and receive some birthday cake at high velocity! Good times (and small bits of my birthday cake) were had by all.

That's enough for today. Rest assured that other interesting things have happened and many random thoughts were thunk but until I decide that I'd rather be typing instead of jogging, caching, movie-watching, book-reading or web-community-developing... well, the postings will be less than frequent. Until next time!

Orignal From: Catching up...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nine & a Third Miles

Pre-race snackThis past weekend I ran in the world famous Mount Penn Mudfest in Reading, Pennsylvania. It's a trail run that takes you up and down as many hills and through as many mud-pits & streams as the race designers could fit into 15 kilometers.

When I first heard about the race from my cousin Terri I thought it sounded like a really good time but too darn long of a run. Since then I've been training on trails, hills & mud for a few years and little by little (by very little) getting my mileage up. Last year I ran my first organized 10K (6.2 miles) so this year the next step was obviously the 15K!. Of course, I can't do anything the easy way so I have to try the grungiest 15K anyone has ever conceived.

The weather didn't make things any easier either. I don't like running in the cold so the temperature was a balmy 29 degrees when I got up on race day. I had my bowl of Wheaties and a large helping of grumpies. I might have felt better but I forgot my Under Armor and was going to spend the next 2 hours or so freezing to death. We arrived at the race location about 45 minutes before it was set to start. About 15 minutes later it started to snow lightly. 15 minutes after that it was a minor blizzard! It wasn't getting any warmer either. FINALLY, nearly a half hour late, the ceremonial pig was fired into the air and the race was on! I stayed all the way in the back of the pack because running anywhere else was near impossible. The race is capped at 850 runners and many of the trails are just wide enough for single file & no passing. Terri was also running the race so I caught up to her and we pretty much hung together for the duration of the race. I enjoyed hurtling over the fallen logs (there were at least 60 such logs) and dancing over the frozen rocks while others splashed through the streams (4 times). Some hills were walked. Some were climbed on all fours. One was an out of control downhill slalom that ended in a creek. It was fun, but tiring & despite the cold (it never came close to the weather channel's prediction of 40 degrees) I was sweating like a hog after a few miles.

Terri & Eric at 2.5 milesThere were a few surprises along the route. I found a hidden easter egg on the trail that was worth a door prize (for my caching eyes!) & around the 7 mile mark there was a "Dehydration Station" which, unlike the typical water stop, provided "alternative beverages". *wink* I saved just a bit for the final kick and sprinted over the finish line with an official time of 1:59:09. Of course, with races like this one nobody really cares about their time (the evidence of this is that apparently the official clock didn't start until 5 minutes after we started - time stamps on the photos don't lie!). The after party featured a live band (Ok, a 70 something husband & wife team), lots of food & drink & about a million door prizes. I have a t-shirt & a commemorative coffee mug to show I finished.

The bottom line is that I survived and did better than I thought I would. Two days later I'm barely sore though I think the post-race massage from Heather helped a good deal. I don't know if I'll run it next year but I'll certainly remember it forever!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Florida Vacation 2008

Welcome to Florida!A week ago today Heather & myself left for a trip to Florida. The main reason for the trip was to visit with some of Heather's FL based relatives. A few live in Europe and would also be flying in this week. The plan was to hang out periodically through the week and then meet up for a grand party on Saturday evening. The plan worked!

We arrived after an uneventful $80 flight via JetBlue (During which I watched the NY Giants victory parade). We took a walk in downtown Orlando, grabbed some grub, played in the hotel's jacuzzi & pool & turned in kinda early (for a vacation anyway). Wednesday we met up a few cousins at Blue Springs state park. They normally have manatees a-plenty in the winter but with the near record-breaking heat, the hot-spring river didn't draw them the way it normally would and we saw only two sea cows. Well, we really only saw a nose. Every 5-10 minutes they expose a nose, take a breath and dive back under the water. Exciting! Sometimes they blow bubbles too! The highlight of the trip was meeting Margot – the most recent addition to the family. She's a very tranquil soul who only gets fussy when startled by flash photography & sudden rides in a rented minivan. From Blue Springs we drove East to New Smyrna Beach where we'd be staying at a B&B on the intracoastal waterway. We were promised pelicans & dolphins & saw both frolicking (aka fighting for food) in the waters. We took a nighttime walk on the beach, found a few local geocaches & had a very enjoyable evening.

Atlantis Lifts OffThere were only two solid dates on the calendar: The Party & The Launch. Thursday at 2:45 we planned to be somewhere near Cape Canaveral watching the Space Shuttle Atlantis take off. It was just a happy coincidence that there was a launch this week but we couldn't have planned it better. The weather was dicey early on but it cleared up and the NASA declared everything was Go for liftoff. We took our time driving down Route 1 (yeah, the same one we drive on in NJ) and marveled at the lack of traffic we were supposed to be hitting. We did hit some congestion but after driving in Joisey this Florida stuff was non-traffic. We decided to view the fireworks from Space View Park in Titusville just across the water from Cape Canaveral. You can get closer if you don't mind waiting a few hours to leave on the 2-lane bridge that serves as the only way on/off the island. As it was we did just fine. As we overcompensated for the traffic we were 2 hours early so we busied ourselves with finding local geocaches & shopping. I'm happy to report that we were able to discretely find a cache in the very park where everyone was waiting around to see the launch. Behold my stealth! The shuttle lifted off on time & without incident. It wasn't as impressive as I hoped and the high humidity dampened the sound but it's still quite a sight to see and I'm glad to have seen it.

That evening we headed a bit further South and met up with the only cousin we hadn't yet seen and her impressive family. Amy & Greg have 6 kids. They range from a few months old to 9 years. I'm still reeling from the energy of that many kids in one place! Fortunately they're all well behaved and you can use your grill all year in Florida so the "meet & meat" was a complete success. On the way home Heather couldn't resist stopping off to find a geocache named "Bovine Royalty" which advertised itself to be a magnetic key-holder stuck on a dumpster behind a Burger King. Hey, they can't all be out in nature, right? We found it easily and had a snack afterwards so it's all good.

Airboat!The next day we returned to Orlando by the scenic route. VERY Scenic! We took the backwoods routes to make sure we went past some swamps so we could take an air boat ride. They zip along the swamps propelled by a huge fan in the back. We had an 90 minute tour with Airboat Bill & saw quite a number of gators. At one point our boat was surrounded by about 2 dozen! They were just babies, but it pays to remember that The Mammagator is nearby and watching VERY closely. If you ever find yourself where there be swamps I recommend a tour. Besides seeing lots of cool critters we also learned a good deal about the local Seminole tribes, their shell mounds and the local animal & plant life. While out in the boonies we discovered a roadside stand selling a local delicacy - Goober Peas AKA Boiled Peanuts! They're easy to make - just soak the peanuts for half a day then boil them in a tasty broth (salty, savory or cajun). They turn out more bean than nut but very tasty. Later, we met the folks for a nice Italian dinner. Yeah, the days were full!

Lake Eola ParkBy this point we were just about worn out and ended up sleeping late. We spent a few hours in the morning in one of the city's more famous parks (Lake Eola) and a lesser known one (Fern Creek). Getting to explore a part of the city where tourists don't normally go was an exciting proposition. While taking a walk to snag a geocache I spotted a guy spray-painting the side of a shoe store. He was being paid by the store to add urban chic to the area. For lunch we ate in a famous local eatery without knowing it was historic until after we got home. "Beefy King" predates all other fast food in Orlando and makes a sweet hot ham & cheese. Yum! Because the majority of the family was going to be in town this weekend Sherry organized a huge party (hosted by her beau Hutch). The shindig featured a nice place, tons of food and lots of interesting people to meet. If Heather & I didn't have to get up early for our flight we could have stayed a lot longer.

We enjoyed a complimentary buffet for breakfast and hit the airport early. Welcome back!Then the flight was delayed for wind & snow in Newark. A few phone calls later we learned that it wasn't snowing in Newark so this proves that even the airlines have no idea why their flights are delayed. Turns out there was a good deal of wind over New Jersey and our flight had to make an extended approach which caused lots and lots of turbulence. This created a definite need for the fancy blue bags they stash in the seat pockets. I wont elaborate but to say that there was a shortage of those bags and it was not a pretty scene. Back on the ground the weather was also pretty nasty - 30s, wind-chill in the 20s & snow flying sideways. Welcome back to Jersey! We got home at a reasonable hour and I spent a few hours unpacking, unwinding & logging cache finds. Oh, and of course looking through the pictures that we had taken. This here is a link to the full photo gallery. Enjoy!

Orignal From: Florida Vacation 2008