Tuesday, December 29, 2009

First run with Harrison... first run with Galloway...

Around the beginning of the summer I found myself having a few beers over at my friend Harrison's house. It's a very social place and one learns very quickly that if you're lucky enough to be hanging out at the Harrison's there are two rules. 1.) you will probably drink too much and 2.) if Mrs. Harrison offers you food, don't be a fool. Eat it! No matter what, it'll be good!

So as I was saying, I found myself drinking at the Harrisons. The conversation somehow got off on running, marathon running to be exact. Then to my amazement both the Harrisons started talking about how they plan to train and run this little marathon called Disney Marathon on Jan. 10th, 2010. A little taken back I was fucking shocked at this as neither Mr. nor Mrs. Harrison* are avid runners. A few more beers and I stood up in front of a modest large ** crowd of friends and proclaimed that "I TOO SHALL RUN THE DISNEY MARATHON!" I mean seriously, 2010 is a LONG ways away, right?

The next day I woke up, slightly hung over, grabbed the cell phone, called Harrison and asked, "did I really say I would run a marathon last night?" His response was simple and in a matter-of-fact tone of voice all I heard was, "yes you did... you sure did!"

Here we are only days away from Jan. 10th, 2010 (not so far away now) and after having my training scheduled FUBAR'ed by a nagging Achilles tendon injury I've gone from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C to Plan WHATEVER. The one thing I know is I will run this race and I will run another marathon at a later date to get the proper training experience once I'm completely healed.

So onward to Plan WHATEVER. The best I can say right now is after months of training and countless conversations about our injuries (Harrison has struggled with shin splints, minor Achilles pain and a few other problems) that we will both attempt to run this Marathon together with the understanding that we can leave each other at anytime to finish or get a better time.

We came up with this idea and then we realized we have never run together. It's very ironic because early on I would ask and pester Harrison to go for a run with me, but he would always find a reason to decline my offers, for fear that I was too fast for him. In recent months I've run very little being injured and I'm glad to say Harrison's confidence has made leaps and bounds. Now I am the run finding reasons not to run with him for fear I am too slow. Finally, we decided to do a long run together to serve a couple purposes. First, to see if we can run together at all and second, to see how his running style "Galloway," jives with me as I've never attempted the run walk run walk training style.

During the Holiday Halfathon I was forced to walk a lot of Mile 8 because of annoying cramps. This allowed my legs to get cold and caused them to ache upon starting to run again and that led to further cramps in my calves. My muscles aren't used to stopping and starting back up again. Harrison assured me that if I started walking earlier and for shorter amounts of time that I'd actually feel stronger down the stretch. What the hell, I'll try anything once!

On Sunday we set out for our long runs. The air temperature was 55 degrees. I decided for a short sleeve tech shirt, shorts, normal socks, a beanie and some light weather gloves. I plotted out a route on MapMyRun that fit both our needs; 10-12 miles for me and 20 miles for Harrison. Me being the genius that I am, I'm not going to attempt 20 miles until Marathon day (note: that was a statement of sarcasm about being a genius).

We set out a little goofy. I lunged ahead of Harrison for a few steps then slowed down only to lay chase as he sped up to match me. About 50 feet later we were pacing the same. I asked if this was the correct pace and he agreed that it's a "good pace." It felt slow to me, but I was prepared to go slow rather than my faster "pretend I'm not injured" pace. Another thing to note is I totally forgot my watch. I'm such a failure when it comes to timing my runs. I guess time isn't as important to me as others. According to the more responsible Harrison, who remembered his watch, we started our first walk around 13 minutes. The entire run went this way; run for 10-15 minutes and then walk for 1-2 minutes. At first it seemed very ridiculous. I wasn't even sweating and I didn't feel warmed up and we were already walking? After an hour of this my legs felt great. Time was flying by and I was truly enjoying our conversation. I hate doing long runs alone. I really think all long runs should be accompanied by a good conversation pal. Since the temperature was colder than I've ever experienced on a long run (yes, I'm used to Hades and our 80+ degree weather before the sunrises most of the year) I found that I did not sweat very much at all, but still forced myself to take a couple of Gu gels and even had to use the bathroom once (a rare occasion for me well into a long run).

Overall the run was excellent. We had one scare while trying to run along side each other on a narrow sidewalk. Harrison slipped off the shoulder of the sidewalk and almost twisted his ankle, but he was fine and we continued on to better running conditions such as a boardwalk and a little bit of the beach with the wind at our backs. I decided to end my run at 11.65 miles, which took us about 2 hours and 8 minutes according to Harrison's watch. John hashed onward and I drove ahead providing two additional water stops for him before he finished 20-miles. He is so ready for Disney and I'm so proud of him. He's come so far since that night of beer drinking at the beginning of the summer. I feel like I'm ready as well and could have easily gone 20-miles with him using his running method, but with only 2-weeks until the marathon I decided to be cautious and not risk further injury.

I can honestly say this was the slowest-best long run of my life. If there is going to be a way to finish the Disney Marathon completely unprepared like I am without injuring myself this plan is it. Plan Whatever with a bit of Jeff Galloway! Hey Disney.... Bring it!

*Mrs. Harrison, bless her heart, had to drop out of the training program due to poor knees.
** You guys have no clue how stoked I am to finally figure out how to do the strike through line!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hitting the trails in Gainesville

Ahhhhh Gainesville. So many memories, so many stories. It's hard to believe that it's been a decade since I lived in this small, yet big, college town surrounded by what I like to call "real Florida," or otherwise known as the north central part of the state that tends to be more "southern" than the Hispanic dominated south Florida or the Yankee dominated coastlines. It's amazing that my college memories during my years at the University of Florida seem to be primarily limited to parties, football games, friends and a few bars, some of which no longer exists, but the parks, natural environment, recreation areas and outdoor activities are nothing but a void. I guess I had a few too many beers back in the day.

Nevertheless, I'm happy to say that last week I got to experience a small slice of this town that I'm actually a little ashamed of never taking advantage of while I was a resident party animal. The San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, located just north of Gainesville off C.R. 232, is absolutely beautiful. It's about 6,900 acres of trails accommodating hikers, bicyclist and equestrians. The Dietitian and I planned out a 4.5 mile run, turned 5-miler (we got temporarily confused), along the Cellon Creek Loop, which is described as "traversing both sides of Cellon Creek as it winds through rolling terrain and across small jog jumps. This is a 4-mile intermediate level trail."

It was a crisp morning as the air temperature was in the upper 40s. This would be my first trail run since before injuring my Achilles tendon in September. Not really knowing how to dress for running in cold weather (we're used to running in 90+ degrees down here in Florida) I opted for a long sleeve Under Armor Heat Gear top, running shorts and some wool snowboarding socks. The dietitian wore a long sleeve tech shirt, long running pants and gloves.

The trail was super fun right away. Unlike some of the trails I run around New Smyrna Beach, this area of Florida has very little palmetto plants and palm trees. There's less under growth in the hammock making for better visibility. Less palm trees mean more oak and pine trees and other hardwoods. The trail was heavy with gnarly roots protruding chaotically here and there on the trail requiring constant attention to every step. This dodging of the roots works the core muscles so much more than a regular run on pavement. I love it! The ground is laden with leaves. So much so that extra care must be taken not to slip. The leaves also have the tendency to cover up and hide one of the gnarly roots just waiting to twist an ankle, but this is what I define as trail running!

About halfway through the trail we realize that we're not on the trail. We've been chatting up a storm and totally not paying attention. It's a good thing the Dietitian knows the area because I'm completely lost and would otherwise have to pull out some Bear Grylls knowledge to get us back on track. We double back and find our way back on the trail. About a mile later we're chatting away again making a bunch of noise while I hear a loud shuffle ahead. At first I think some mountain bikers are headed our way and then appearing out of nowhere two deer jump right in front of us not but 20 feet away! They're both doe. Figures that the one time I leave the camera in the truck, this happens! They stop and watch us run by and I sense little fear from them, unlike the deer found in the woods around my home that are more accustomed to hunters shooting at them. Awesome.

Right around the 4-mile mark we emerge into a huge grassy field rolling with small Florida "hills" that reminds me somewhat to other areas of the south like Alabama. The last mile skirts the tree line just within the woods but keeping visibility of the field before we arrive back at the parking area. The run was great. My company was even better. My Achilles tendon spoke to me a little, but did not complain in the hours and days after the run so I'm giving myself a big SUCCESS on this trail run and look forward to visiting the preserve again on future trips to good old Gainesville!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

TallGuySurfing wishes everyone a Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Mr. T Wiggles a.k.a. Sir Tucker the Labradoodle wishes everyone a woof woof Christmas as well...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Thursday Stoke!

Merry Christmas Eve!!!!

Wishing the best for the entire Blogsphere! Here's a few Christmas wishes.

M-istletoe, may I find myself under some with a special someone...
E-pic Waves, for Easy Tom, Vancity Allie and Christian...
R-ecords, as in PRs for Redhead Running, Spike, B.o.b. & Lisa...
R-incon baby! Puerto Rico... I'll see you again in a few weeks...
Y-ou know you want some tasty Christmas food. Forget training and indulge...

C-ompletion, as in goal completion for the Redhead and Operation Jack...
H-anging ten, as in lots of noseriding in 2010...
R-aces, lots of races in 2010 including Muddy Buddy, Bay to Breakers and maybe Seattle...
I-njury Free, for myself and everyone else dealing with injuries right now...
S-eventeen days until Disney. Good luck to me, Harrison, Lucy, Julie, Jessica and Melissa...
T-ibialis, as posterior tibialis or a new one for Frayed Laces. That girl is inspirational...
M-any more posts from the Beginning Runner's Blog, that girl's humor cracks me up...
A-wesomeness stoked out positive karma all around...
S-well, as in fun swell waves for Wiffleboy, Surfsister, JY, Mick and Holly!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Thursday Stoke!

Check out these epic waves!

Yes, I'm stoked about the amazing everyone-at-work-thinks-I'm-at-a-lunch-appointment-but-I'm-really-surfing-with-my-bros surfing session we had at the inlet on Tuesday!

It's Thursday and I'm still stoked!

You can clearly see in the picture above the super glassy, chest to head high peelers that were rolling in out in the background behind my 9'8" Anderson noserider!

Or perhaps not. There was a rumor in town that the surf was really fun. Only one obvious problem.... due to the fog you just had to paddle out and find out for yourself.

Text messages are great when you're friends with a lot of surfers. If there's good swell in the water your phone will start blowing up with messages of wacky named surf spots, wave information and sometimes unintelligible jibber-jabber that only surfers "get." Tuesday was one of those days. It started at dawn, about 7 a.m., as my phone sounded off. It was Dees. He's already at the beach. He can hear the surf, but not see it. There's no wind and he just "knows" it's good. He doesn't want to paddle out alone, but I'm due at an 8 a.m. meeting and can't join him. Surfing alone is usually not a big deal unless the conditions are dangerous (i.e. Hurricane swell), but surfing alone in heavy fog is just down right spooky. It is sort of like surfing at night, only you can still get sunburned. You can't see the beach and your only indication of the direction of land is the direction of the waves. Dees drives down the beach until he finds parked cars, paddles out and finds some strangers to surf within sight of, which is less spooky than being alone in a fog bank.

I attend my meeting, which sucks, and then sneak out for "lunch." I rendezvous with Norton and Tennessee Jeremy. Norton is a flight instructor and doesn't have another flight until 3 p.m. Tennessee Jeremy is a student and is in between final exams. Surfs up!

For the longest time it was only our threesome and of course the dolphins and spotted eagle rays that decided to say hello between waves. The rides are long, clean and perfect for noseriding. We have no idea if we are drifting or even what direction we are drifting. If it were a point break there would be no way to triangulate ourselves to the point. Sound seems to carry better through the fog, perhaps due to the high humidity/precipitation? We cheer each other on wave after wave and hear other surfers off in the unseen distance doing the same. It's one of those days where it's hard to leave the water, but work beacons.
We leave the water and return to our lives, but with huge smiles all around. My feet are sandy within the socks inside my shoes and my hair is tangled, damp and salty. As I return to work a couple co-workers that also surf give a nod of approval for they "know." And the other co-workers? Well, who cares what they think.

Yes, I am stoked. The windless fog is my friend.

Here's another picture of the epic day of surfing at the beach!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Halfathon Recap...

25 Days until Disney Marathon...

I am not ready.

I'm aware that I'm not ready, but last Sunday's 8th Annual Florida Gulf Beaches Holiday Halfathon (Half Marathon) was reality knocking on the door. Overall it was a great weekend. I got to see the west coast of Florida, a coastline I've only seen a handful of times. There were no waves, but that's expected. I met up with the Dietitian and seven of her female runner friends the night before at the packet pickup, which I have to say was way more exciting than the Daytona Half Marathon "expo" since Brooks was there, and we all ate dinner at a hotel restaurant on the beach right after sunset. It was interesting seeing every one's dinner choice. How often do you go out on a Saturday night and eat at a table of nine at a nice restaurant and the entire table orders water? I felt like I was surrounded by "speed" and it was great!

Jump to 6 a.m. Sunday morning. The group meets in the lobby of the hotel. Two of the girls are drinking Rockstar Low Carb Energy drinks. Amazing. Maybe I should try this before a race? Since our hotel is at the finish line we decide to all pile into my pickup truck and only take one vehicle to the start line 13.1 miles away. Five of the girls jump at the opportunity to ride in the back of the truck and the Dietitian and another jump in the warm cab. As I drive up to the starting area I think about the massive amount of estrogen-packed running speed I am delivering all in one small pickup truck! We get our chips, use the bathrooms, stretch, warm up, drink more water (some drink more Rockstar) and before I know it the race is about to begin.

The horn blows. 1,099 runners slowly advance across the start line each finding their own pace. The air temperature is 79 degrees and visibility is down to about 100 feet as there is a heavy fog. The group is split up from the beginning. The Dietitian and another runner start near the front while most of the girls start in the middle. I start back from the middle and on the edge. My only goal for this race is to NOT make my Achilles tendon worse. It's been several weeks with no pain. I can still feel a small lump in my Achilles, but my doctor says it could be scar tissue since it is not painful. If I can finish this race today and manage NOT to re-aggravate the tendon like I did at the Daytona Half Marathon it will be a huge boost of confidence for the Disney Marathon.

Mile one flies by and I never see the mile marker. At mile two I check my time and I'm pacing under a 9-minute mile. This is faster than I want to be running. Part of my plan is to experiment with taking a few intentional walking breaks early on to try and keep my leg muscles from fatiguing too early and allowing me to finish strong. During Daytona I ran super slow intentionally allowing many runners to pass me for the first half of the race and then I ran faster each mile to the finish line. For that race I had only taken three weeks off from running, thought my Achilles was healed and it wasn't. In this race, it's been 41 days since Daytona and I've only done short distance runs (4-miles at the longest) since.

Mile three comes and goes and I'm still running at around an 8:30 pace according to my sometimes not-up-to-par math skills. I consider walking, but I'm feeling so damn good that it just seems ridiculous to walk. I'm usually pretty good at pacing myself for whatever distance I'm aiming for so I decide to trust my gut and continue on running to run. I stop looking at my watch until mile six. At this point my amazing math skills tell me that at my current rate I'll shatter the 2-hour mark, beat my Daytona (also my Half Marathon PR) time and not seem insanely slow as all of the group is ahead of me and I haven't seen them since the start. Then I start thinking about how much it will suck to injure myself today and not be able to run Disney at all? I continue on because.... well.... I'm stubborn.

At mile 8 I feel something new. It's a painful stabbing feeling on both sides of my ribs up high almost under my arms. With each breath I take I feel like someone is punching me in the ribs. This is a new cramp I have not felt before. The fog has not lifted and the temperature is now in the 80s. I'm sweating like crazy and decide to take a GU and walk at the aid station I'm approaching. The cramps just won't seem to go away as I stretch and continue on walking at a fast pace. I feel that 2-hour Half Marathon barrier slipping away, but at this point I'm more concerned about getting these cramps to go away. This is the worst part of the entire race. I walk for what seems like an eternity. By my guess, somewhere around mile 8.75 a speedwalker
passes me. The official start time for walkers was 35 minutes before runners and I passed most walkers miles ago. I immediately think about the Snickers commerical with Mr. T yelling at a speedwalker and say to myself, "Oh hell no! I am not getting passed by a speedwalker!"

I start to run again, pass the speedwalker (who never passed me again) and continue on for another couple miles until exhaustion causes me to stop and walk again. This time I'm somewhere after mile 10. I tell myself I'll allow for a walk break for one minute after each of the remaining miles. This seems like a logical compromise at the time. The problems I'm experiencing seem to be more muscle related than general endurance. Having an Achilles tendon injury since the end of September has seriously taken a toll on my leg muscles. I've managed to stay in shape by other activities (Surfing, yoga, bicycling, etc.) but I've lost the strength in my legs I had while I was training each week. Each time I walk it becomes harder and harder to start running again. So much for my brilliant "walking" plan!

Finally mile 12 comes along. I check my watch and realize I'm not even going to beat my Daytona Half time. This sucks. I remind myself that my Achilles does not hurt right now and that seems like the one thing I have going for me. The final mile and a half does a huge loop around a lake. Part of the course goes through a disc golf course. I wasn't aware I was running through a disc golf course until I felt a sharp pain in my right hamstring. When I realized it was not muscle pain a nearby runner says, "well, that adds insult to injury." I had been hit by a disc in the back of my leg. No one yelled "fore" or even "hey dude, look out." I stopped and started to walk. I considered throwing the disc into the lake, but that would take too much energy. I have a friendly conversation with the runner that saw the disc violation and then attempt to run again. We can see the finish line. I hear my name being yelled and I can see the Dietitian up ahead. She has walked back from the finish line to cheer me on. She runs the last quarter mile with me and it helps. I cross the finish line and we immediately put ice on my Achilles tendon and my calves, which felt like someone was stabbing with a knife on each step of the last tenth mile.

I'm a mess. My official time was 2:27:55. Absolutely horrible, but at the same time humbling. All of the seven girls finished way ahead of me. They were all amazing. The Dietitian got second in her age division. Another girl made a PR and another finished her first Half Marathon having never run further than 7 miles. Someone mentions free beer and it sounds to me like free medicine. I down a beer and immediately start feeling better. On the bright side, my Achilles tendon is not worse and appears to be unchanged. If I can get one or two more long runs in during the next 25 days before Disney, I might actually have a shot at finishing. I would not have finished a marathon on Sunday. So much of running, like surfing, is based on experience; knowing your body, how to pace yourself, prepare and finish. I've got some serious work to do in the next few weeks!

As or the Holiday Halfathon course I would say it was an "ok" race. The race coordinators need to have at least one more water/aid station. Toward the end of the race I needed water really bad and I wanted to take my last GU. It was at least 2 miles before that water station finally came. At one point it appeared as if an aid station was ahead, but turned out only to be a few volunteers handing out orange slices. If you're going to have a station for orange slices you might as well have water too, right??? The course was flat and fast. There was one small bridge to run across and the only other hills were several sidewalk overpasses. A majority of the race was a long straight bike/running path that was somewhat boring. The food, beer, drinks, snacks and entertainment at the finish line were great. However, there was no more water at the finish line when I arrived and I had to walk to the food tent to find water. I will probably not be running this race again as there are too many other races yet to be run and for me to come back and run it again it has to be extraordinary.

Oh and in case your wondering after seeing that first picture, I did not run the entire race with the Santa hat. I chucked it into a trash can at mile 2 because it was too damn hot! Most of the girls ran with jingle bells on their shoes. I thought this was awesome! The Dietitian even told me a guy told her during the race that he was pacing to her jingle. Ha!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Thursday Stoke!

Need I say more???

Look what was waiting for me in my inbox this morning. Guess it's time to sign my life away! Apparently, I'll be bib number 4379.

I showed this to a co-worker. He asked me "how far is this marathon," and when I told him he shook his head and walked away. Non-runners.... they'll never understand.

Disney Marathon here I come! January 10th baby! Totally stoked or slightly insane!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Runners are Great!

I love the running community. Runners are a masochistic bunch that seem to share the same sick and twisted view of the world and somehow manage to be amazingly friendly at the same time. Maybe it's because we share the same common feelings that seem insane to non-runners?

For example, last weekend I volunteered for the first time at a race. A runner, whom I'll call The Firefighter because, well, he happens to be a firefighter when he's not running, saw me at a time station and yelled out, "Why aren't you running man?" I only had time to respond with, "I'm injured... Achilles tendon." He kept on running at his sub 8-minute pace for the 10k and missed his PR by 10 seconds. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see him after the race. It was raining and he was soaked so he left before I got back to the finish line. The Firefighter has run the Disney Marathon and the NYC marathon and I wanted to pick his brain a bit about my situation and ask for advise.

Then on Monday my phone rang and almost as if he knew I wanted to talk to him, it was the Firefighter calling out of the blue. I consider the Firefighter my friends, but he's not someone I actively keep in touch with; I see him around town and say hello, but that's about it. He was calling only to check on me and ask about my "injury." I didn't even know he had my number! He said he had noticed me running all around town all summer long and was thinking "man, he's going to smoke me this year at the Ed Root," and then he was shocked and concerned to see me volunteering. I was so stoked when he called that we chatted about running for a good half hour.

It was a case of one runner being concerned about another runner and having the common bond of knowing how much it sucks to be injured. The Firefighter gave me a few suggestions and I'm sure we'll keep in better touch as he plans on running MCM next year. Since I've missed out on the whole "training" experience and will never be ready to seriously run Disney I'm already eying a few other marathons including MCM later next year where I can get the full experience.

Part of The Firefighters advice was to run on a rubberized track and to walk stadium steps. I tried this out yesterday morning before work. There happens to be a track within a mile from my house that I had forgotten about. How crazy is it that I can be so crazy about running and forget about the track? I ran a few miles at a perfect 8 minute pace switching directions every two laps to be careful of my ITBs. Two things I noticed right off the bat.... track running is fast and extremely boring. I had forgotten my iPod. However, it felt good and I even ran the stadium steps for 10 minutes after (I'm no good at walking them). I felt no discomfort in my Achilles tendon after so I'm going to give it another whirl soon!

But seriously, the running community is great and I'm glad to know the runners that I'm lucky enough to know!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Take one for the team... Volunteer!

I watched the SEC Championship last night.

In case you are wondering... I only have one thing to say.

Go Gators! ... that is all.

But I do have something else to say about yesterday. I volunteered for the first time during a race. It was the 26th annual Ed Root 10K/5k race here in New Smyrna Beach. It was the first 10k race I ever ran last year and I really wanted to run it again this year. However, in an effort to "take it easy" with the Achilles tendon recovery I decided the best way to ensure I don't run it is to give back and volunteer. After reading a post by Redhead Running several months back about her experience volunteering at a race it's been on my mind. This was the perfect opportunity.

I contacted the race director a few days prior and despite the late notice she was more than happy to accept my offer to volunteer. So I showed up at 6:45 a.m. eager to work. They let me help pass out T-shirts at registration and then work as a time person at mile 4. I had expected to be put to work handing out water at an aid station, but was giving a stop watch instead. We started our stop watches at the sound of the start horn and then drove to Mile 4. It wasn't long before the leaders showed up as mile 4 and mile 2 intersected. When they returned to really hit the mile 4 mark I not only yelled out their times to them, but also their respective places and their time behind the leader. This got rather complicated rather quickly and I had to stop and settle for only the race time after about the 20th person from the leader passed (I got confused).

Over all I was so happy to help out with whatever they asked me to do. During the last year I've run numerous races and it was really nice to give back a little as so many races would not happen without the support of volunteers. It was also fun to yell out the time to a handful of friends that happened to be running the race.

The weather was sub-par with some relentless light to moderate rain. The temperature would have been perfect without the cold rain at around 55 degrees. Kudos to all those that participated and hashed it out in the rain. I heard a lot of soggy shoes slosh past me.

If your injured, or recovering from an injury I highly recommend volunteering at a race. It keeps you feeling like you're in the running community, keeps you motivated to recover and get back in the game and is a good overall experience!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

...So give a Cheer for the Orange and Blue...

In case you don't already know, I'm a huge Gator fan. I have absolutely no idea nor comprehension of what it would be like not being a "Gator." I was born into it, love it and wouldn't consider anything else even if the University of Florida football team had a losing record. Of course, they don't and in case you've been living in a cave in Afghanistan they are far from a losing record. As of this morning they are undefeated and what's even more impressive is they are the defending National Champions and still undefeated this late in the season. So today I'm writing about Gator football. I just can't help it!

One of my earliest memories involves Gator football. It was November 8, 1980 and I was 3-years-old (go ahead figure out that TallGuySurfing is quite old) and all I remember is my father screaming at the television. It was one of those "gigantor" early color televisions that seemed to be swallowed up in a cabinet twice the size of the actual screen. I remember being concerned why my father was so upset and him trying to explain to me that the Gators had just lost to The University of Georgia Bulldogs 26-21, thanks to Herschel Walker's freshmen year as a Dawg. This early memory not only instilled in me a healthy rival-related hatred for the Georgia Bulldogs, the biggest rivalry of the Gators (we really don't regard FSU as a rivalry game like the media wants to hype it up) and a deeply embedded loyalty to the Gators. When it came time for me to apply for college I only filled out one application and that's where I went to school. I never considered another school. I marched in the band at all the games home and away and also played in the basketball band.

So now that I've told my story and made it sound completely impossible to write in an unbiased and objective manor I'm going to tell you about today!

Today is the SEC Championship Game (again in case you've been living in an Afghan cave). It's Alabama vs. Florida. What's unique about today is it's also the first time in the history of NCAA football that an undefeated No. 1 ranked team is playing an undefeated No. 2 ranked team for a conference championship. This usually happens for the National Championship, but not this year. This year it's today. Obviously, I'm for Florida, but win or lose, at the end of the day I'm going to be ok. Here's why. One name.... Tim Tebow. Now if you're still in that cave and haven't heard of Tim Tebow lets just say he's been pretty dang successful as a college quarterback. He's been involved in two national championships and has been a finalist twice for the Heisman Trophy, winning it once and may have another shot at the award this year. He's absolutely smashed just about every record a quarterback can do and then some. He's surpassed Herschel Walker's record for most rushing touchdowns in a college career. By the way, Walker was a running back and Tebow is a Quarterback! (Although I'll be fair and admit that Walker did it faster and in less games).

Even if the Gators lose today I'll still be Proud to be a Florida Gator! I'm proud because I can honestly say that Tebow is the best college football player I've ever witnessed play the sport and how completely awesome is it that he's a Gator?!? Not only is he an amazing athletic, but his leadership skills are out of this world. I can also honestly say that if he were the quarterback for another team, let's say Georgia (remember I hate Georgia), I still couldn't help but love the man for who he is and the good he represents. He's probably one of the best athlete roll models I've ever seen. He's a deeply religious man and if you're a Gator you can't help by have Faith and Believe in him and the Gators. He's surrounded by elite athletes whom some of which have followed him from their high school days. It's living proof that great people will follow great leaders. Watching him play football this year has been unbelievable. It's an exciting time in college football and I'm sure today will be one of the highlights of the season. Both these teams know each other well. Last year Alabama was ranked number one and undefeated. Florida marched into the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and unleashed hell upon the Crimson Tide. Late in the fourth quarter Tebow led two scoring drives to take the lead and hand Alabama their first loss. It's No. 1 against No. 2 in more ways than one. No. 1 offense against No. 2 offense. No. 1 defense against No. 2 defense and the list goes on and on.

No matter who wins I believe in Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators. He's made me into a Believer! Go Gators!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Thursday Stoke!

This week is the first week of December and I am stoked because the hour is upon me to start marathon training again!

In the past 11 weeks I have only run twice (I've been dealing with an Achilles tendon injury both mentally and physically), the Daytona Beach Half Marathon, which made my injury worse and last Saturday in the Run to Sun 4-mile MDA benefit race.

Yup, I jumped the gun a little bit and ran a race before December (the doctor's orders), but I had some really REALLY good motivation so it was worth it and the best news of all is everything went perfectly fine. Of course I thought I was just going to walk most of the race and maybe only run a small portion. Well folks, that's just not me. I ended up running the race at an 8 minute pace until the last half mile where I admit I did feel some discomfort in the Achilles so I slowed down considerably to give me a finish time of 34:36. After the race I stretched and iced the Achilles and in the following days the injury remains unchanged. I feel that it's getting better very slowly, but the best part is it is not getting worse.

Each day since I have been testing myself a tiny bit more every workout. On Monday I played outfield in a Men's league softball game and that means sprinting. This went fine and I even hit an in-the-park home run when I burned the right fielder. On Tuesday (Dec. 1, aka, official start to marathon training) I weight trained and then rode the bicycle. Yesterday I set out bright and early at sunrise to a beach boardwalk that is a 1.5 mile loop. The idea was to start off running short distances. A lot of short distances to get my legs back in shape and if no problems persist with my Achilles go for maybe one or two long runs before the Disney Marathon. I know this probably sounds ludicrous, but you have to take what you can get sometimes. My nemesis is definitely over doing it and training too hard so this plan forces me to take it slow and hopefully not re-injury a healing Achilles. Only problem yesterday, was I'm not good at running slow.... specially when I know I only have to go a mile and a half! When I finished I looked at my watch and it read 10:30ish.... yup, my slow first official training run somehow turned into a 7:30 minute pace. Then, just for good measure I decided to play softball again last night. It was a double header and I played outfield again (more sprinting) and even managed another in-the-park home run (super fast sprinting).

The best news of all? Today my Achilles is fine. It's still not 100 percent, but it's not any worse and I think the fear of making it worse and the trauma I've been through is going to be enough to force me to take it easy the next 38 days until Disney.

I'm a 100 percent open to suggestions. I've had to tweak my original training schedule twice since September and each time my Achilles tendon has blown it out of the water. Essentially, I have not trained in two months (running wise) and now I have only one month to get ready for the Disney Marathon on Jan. 10th. This sounds insane even to myself. I'm determined to at least finish the damn thing and if that doesn't satisfy me I'll go for a respectable time in a future marathon down the road. But, if anyone has any ideas of how to get ready for a marathon in 38 days, please feel free to speak up? I'm in above average shape, but my legs are not ready to hash out 26.2... I know that much.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trial Tuesday... Socks!

After mentioning the free Asics socks I was given after purchasing some new shoes recently at Spikes Athletic Footwear, I was asked to review them. I think all of us that have never worn an anatomically correct left and right foot construction sock are naturally curious about the pros and cons (if any) so here's my review:

The Asics Kayano II Low Cut socks

First things first, they look cool and with a blend of nylons and elastane they feel high tech! Far more superior than traditional cotton socks that will leave you with painful blisters. I live in Florida where it's a blazing inferno most of the year, which means sweat. Lots of sweat on long runs, which means lots of Body Glide and good socks to avoid blisters. Reading over the features of the Kayano II low cuts, they fit the bill.

* Anatomically correct left & right foot construction and high-density cushioning.
* ASICS exclusive ankle fit
* ASICS Tiger Stripe Design (maybe they'll make me fast like a tiger?)
* Articulated arch band for better fit.
* Flexible horizontal lace pad cushioning
* "Y" heel gore for improved fit, reducing slippage

The first thing I notice upon trying them on is how snug they feel to my feet, almost like wearing a skin-tight wetsuit. There are no loose spots or extra clumps of fabric around my toes, heel or Achilles tendon. They just feel good.

The chosen test subject is a 4-mile race (yes, more to come on TallGuySurfing's return to running in a future post) called the Run to the Sun benefit for MDA. At the race start the air temperature is in the high 40s so my feet are a little cold for the first mile. This concerns me because I begin to fear that I may be developing a blister near my big toe and I'm uncertain if I'm just cold or something is going wrong in my shoes. After the first mile my feet warm up and feel fine. Throughout the race my feet feel snug in my shoes and I do not feel any slippage, discomfort or rubbing. I can honestly say these socks feel great. There are cushions near the edges of the arches in the socks, but not thick enough to interfere with arch support of my shoes. I have one collapsed arch and one high arch, but the socks fit both feet superbly.

After the race I give both feet a full examination. I'm one of those lucky people that rarely blister from running and I've never lost a toe nail, but occasionally I do get some raw and tender spots. With the Kayano II low cuts my feet pass the examination with flying colors. These socks rock! Seriously, the only con I can find is the cost. A quick search of Google "shopping" (since my socks were free) reveals an average price of $13.99 for only one pair. I'm relatively new to distance running, but I have extensively tried similar performance socks by Adidas and Nike and the Asics Kayano II low cuts blow them away hands down. The real test will be to see how they hold up over time. For the price I expect them to last at least as long if not longer than your average performance running sock. However, I will probably splurge in the future and buy a few more pairs.

If you feel like treating yourself to some higher priced socks I definitely recommend giving these socks a shot. They are probably worth the price if you are blister prone. I'm looking forward to wearing them on my next long run.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving.... to cook or surf, that is the question!

When I asked what to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner she said, "just bring beer." Being quite handy in the kitchen this is a hard task for me to comprehend. Beer is easy, right? Go to convenience store and buy beer, preferably cold, and bring to family gathering. I like to cook and holidays that involve cooking whether it's a 4th of July Cookout or baking Christmas cookies are my favorite (make fun of me if you like) so when my sister told me to "just bring beer," I was not having it.

On Thanksgiving morning I started my insubordination by beginning to cook a banana nut bread. It is 11 a.m. and the meeting time at my sister's house is 1 p.m. My cell phone beeps with a text message and it's Dees telling me how great the surf is at New Smyrna Beach Inlet. It says, "Wind offshore, clean long period sets head high bring blue board." The blue board is my 9'0" Walden performance longboard that's great for sectiony powerful waves. It's fast and turns quickly.

Now I have a decision to make. There's not enough time to bake some bread and go surfing.

For about .5 seconds I'm really torn so I think hard and then make a decision. . . GO SURFING!

The roommate recently bought a longboard on Criag's list where the seller threw in a 5'10" twin fin fish. The Fish is totally sick. It's very retro, super wide and 3" thick. I've been eyeing that board since Day 1 wondering if I can ride it being 6'6" tall. I mean, seriously, this board is so small that when I paddle it my head is at the nose and my knees are at the tail. It might as well be a hard bodyboard!

Well, when the roommate heard I was going surfing he wanted in too and since his new longboard is getting some glass work done he grabbed the Fish. Now the roommate is learning to surf (I let him borrow one of my wetsuits) and I've already had him out on a classic-super-fun-glassy-small day with a lot of friends in the line up so he's hooked now that he knows how fun surfing can be. However, as we get on the beach the wind has shifted to a side shore wind causing semi-choppy conditions. The waves are good on the outside break, but the inside is a small washing machine with a south-pulling current.

Dees is waiting for us as I pull up and ready for his second session. I'm stoked to get some waves to ride. The Roommate looks anxious and makes a comment about how hard it's going to be to paddle out on the Fish and it would be easier on a longboard. In my book that's a loaded statement. Yes, I'll paddle out a longboard any day in most conditions, but I don't think it's always easier to get a longboard to the outside in some conditions without having a lot of experience points on your side, which the Roommate is seriously lacking. I tell the Roommate to give the Fish a try and we'll keep an eye on him. If he's struggling he can simply give us the Team America secret signal and I'll bring him my longboard. We can switch and I'll paddle the fish out and we can switch back once we're all on the outside.

We start our paddle out and I find myself sitting in the slew watching the roommate struggle to get through the first break. Dees waits as well, but is a little further out. After a few minutes the roommate is completely exhausted looking. It's not the Team America super secret signal, but the delusional look upon his face is enough for me. I paddle over and ask how it's going. He just gives me a look and with no words, I toss him my leash and board and we switch in the slew between sets. He starts paddling out the longboard and I let him go. It's my first time laying on the fish in the water. It's surprisingly buoyant, but definitely NOT a longboard. I start to paddle and it feels more like swimming.

It's not long before I pass the roommate. I wasn't trying hard or meaning to belittle him, but I hear him yell out in an exhausted tone something like, "how are you paddling that faster than me!?!" I look back and try and explain that he needs to dig deeper in his strokes and not thrash the surface of the water so much and for God's sake pace himself. I duck dive the fish under three waves, paddle past the fourth wave, sit up and turn around. The roommate is a good hundred feet away drifting quickly south and taking wave after wave on the head. I've instructed him how to turtle roll and how to duck dive, but today I don't think he's accomplishing neither.

By the way, as thick as the fish is, it still duck dives very easily. It wasn't long before I found myself sitting next to Dees on the outside watching the Roommate doing the walk of shame up the beach back to the Jeep. He never made it out and he's completely defeated and exhausted. Hey, it's happened to all surfers and I feel for him, but now I'm way out here and my longboard is up on the beach. I guess I'll just have to see if it's possible for a 6'6" guy to ride a 5'10" fish!

Dees takes a wave and as he's paddling back out I spy a wave coming my way. It's peaking up perfectly. If I was on a longboard I'd paddle past it, but guessing that this fish is going to be a late takeoff board I wait for it and at the last second turn into it paddle three times and it takes me! I hear Dees screaming encouragement in the background as I pop up. Both feet land on the board right where they should be, but I'm so high up on the lip I free fall a couple feet before hitting the bottom of the wave. The first thing I notice is how fast this board is and its ability to turn on a dime. The bottom turn is a little slow, but once I'm up on the wave face it goes! It goes so fast I shoot way out far down the line and attempt a fade away, but it turns so fast I fly off the board from the shift of momentum.

Several years ago I attempted to ride a 6'2" thruster. I failed big time and could never get my footing right on that board. Now I'm riding a fish that is 4-inches shorter and I'm nailing it! Nothing.... NOTHING makes you feel better than concrete proof that you're improving in your sport no matter what it may be. I get in about a dozen more decent rides before it's time for that Thanksgiving feast and I can honestly say I ripped it up on a fish! Twice I did have trouble with my back foot initially landing on the fish tail section of the board and slipping off, but once I corrected for that it was not a problem. I just may be in the market for a fish as my next board. Or maybe something like a Rusty Dwart... maybe 5'11" or 6'0" ???

Here is the famous fish next to my 9'0" Walden epoxy performance longboard to give it some scale.

In all fairness to longboarding, I did not feel like the Fish compared to the same awesome feeling I get from trimming up a longboard down a perfect line, or ripping up the lip with a monster board. But, what really got me was the challenge. Can I ride this board? Yes, and it was fun. It kind of felt like a skateboard, but in the right conditions I think it would be sick. I can already tell this little fish will ride smaller waves than my 6'8" shortboard.

And don't worry about the Roommate. He'll get it. He's got the addiction. I can see it in his eyes. Now all he needs is time and experience and perhaps a little stronger paddling arms.

Riding that fish really made my Thanksgiving. Of course seeing family and friends was awesome too, but what better way to go to a family gathering than already being stoked about a fun surf session?

So in the end I just brought some beer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Behold! ...New Shoes!

Asics Gel GT-2150

Picked these babies up at Spikes Athletic Footwear a few days ago to replace my well worn GT-2140s. I tried on the new Asics Kayanos, but they felt almost the same as the GT-2150s and for the price difference I just don't see the value.

These will be the shoes I wear for the Disney Marathon on Jan. 10th.

Perhaps influenced by Spike... I felt it necessary to introduce my old Ascics to their new Ascics replacement. Although I have NOT given them names yet. However, I am considering "Disney" for the new ones and "Achilles" for the old ones.

Nancy at Spikes was kind enough to throw in a free pair of Kayano II low cut Asics running socks even though I passed on buying the more expensive Kayano shoes for the GT-2150s. They are left and right foot socks. I've never owned socks designed specifically for left and right feet. I will post a review as soon as I get a chance to test them out a few times.

I know I've been AWOL the past week and even missed my Thursday Stoke, but I promise I have good reason and will have lots to write about this week as I get back into the swing of things!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tour de Florida Football Recap

327 miles driven
1 trumpet dropped on concrete
1 camera dropped on concrete
3 orange and blue glazed donuts consumed
2 football games in 2 days
2 tailgates in 2 days
1 Waldo sighting

Favorite Weekend Quotes:
"You suck... back up!"
"Gator Band Good!"
"What F*ck The?" (WFT not WTF)
"Squeeze hit!"
"Are you ready band, Hell yeah!"
"I want to set her purse on fire."

What a great weekend? I'm soooooo tired and at the same time feeling the need for some exercise. I ate way too much junk and drank enough to almost be worthy of living in Gainesville again. This weekend was the Gator Band Alumni Game. The University of Florida Gators (who are number 1 in the polls by the way) played Florida International University (a sacrificial lamb of sorts). The final score isn't important. We'll just say they could have had the Gator cheerleaders in playing toward the end of the game. The important part was the fun times. I got to see dozens of old friends, some of whom I had not seen in a decade since our old glory days as band geeks. This was the first year I've attended Alumni Band for the entire weekend and not just the game. Yes, they actually have a practice, a business meeting and a cookout, not to mention marching across the field at halftime with the real band to park and play a few songs. I lucked out and got a spot on the 50-yard-line only three rows back. Trumpets always get a kick butt spot on the field. I figured out a way to clip my Go Pro Camera in my music lyre on my trumpet for some interesting wide-angle shots. On Sunday I said farewell to my friends and Gainesville (ahhhh... what a great town) and drove up to Jacksonville for football day two! I rendezvous with some other friends to tailgate and attend the Jacksonville Jaguars game against the Buffalo Bills. Jags won with a game winning touchdown with 56-seconds remaining. Here's a few photos to recap the good times!

Let the tailgating begin!

One of my contributions to the Alumni Band tailgating... a recipe I found on Vancity Allie's blog. See it here under "The Most Absolutely Delicious and Moist Banana Bread Recipe."
It really is the most absolutely delicious banana bread and I'm totally making it again for Thanksgiving!

TEBOW! Need I say more?!?

Go Band!

Daniel and I before halftime. Two old trumpet friends!

"Gator Band Good!" lol... you'd have to be a band geek to get it. Can you spot me?

Can you spot Waldo? Where's Waldo?

Jags game!

It was a fun weekend, but like I said, I'm seriously feeling the need for some exercise. My Achilles tendon is still prohibiting me from running, but I'm going to try some long bike rides this week, perhaps some surfing and yoga. Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Thursday Stoke!

Welcome to my 69th Post.... hell yeah, what's better to be stoked about than seeing 69 Posts on your dashboard! LOL....

Seriously though, I'm completely stoked about this weekend. I am calling it the Florida State Tour de Football by TallGuySurfing! Tomorrow afternoon I'm off to Gainesville to meet up with my University of Florida Pride of the Sunshine Marching Band Alumni band geek friends! Whew... yeah that's right. TallGuySurfing was a band geek once upon a time. As a matter of fact, I was a kickass trumpet player band geek! This is the annual band alumni weekend where we all get together, pretend we can still play our horns and march across the field during halftime slightly intoxicated from tailgating. While it's not the same as the old days of real marching, it's still fun and great to see a lot of old friends.

So Friday night I'll be making appearances in Gainesville. Saturday morning we'll be tailgating outside the MUB (College of Music, next to the famous bell tower) . Saturday afternoon it's Gator football time. Saturday night will likely be more Gainesville shenanigans or I'll head back to New Smyrna Beach to catch the finish of the Ragnar Race. Sunday morning I'm off to Jacksonville. A different set of friends twisted my arm and talked me into coming with them to the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills NFL football game. I haven't been to one football game this season and I'm going to knock off a college game (the number 1 team in the country I might add) and a NFL team in the same weekend. This should be ram jam fun packed craziness! So stoked!

Here's a shout out of good luck to the Redhead and also my friend Rolling Hooters (of the Daytona Beach Hash House Harriers) in the Ragnar Race. Both of them are crazy off their rockers and are going to run an all day all night relay across the entire state of Florida. Good luck gals!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My 1st Surf Contest: FAIL.... kinda

The background:
Three of the four days prior to the contest I surfed multiple sessions in Puerto Rico until my arms couldn't paddle anymore. The night before the contest I slept only three hours before getting up at 1 a.m., driving to the Aguadilla Airport and flying back to Florida. I landed in Orlando at 6 a.m. and drove straight to Bethune Beach (site of the Contest) so I only had the equipment I packed for Puerto Rico... in other words no wetsuit. I did not sleep on the plane, but opted to watch the movie "Up" over "G.I. Joe" instead.

The reason:
Brian has been bugging me to surf a contest for months now so I figured this was better than never. I'll try anything once and while I have little desire to surf contests nor do I fully understand how they work, I figured I might as well give it a shot at least for the experience, not to mention I'm a curious person.

The story:
Saturday morning was a classic Autumn-like day on the east coast of Florida with a twist. A Nor'easter had pounded the northern states for the prior week leaving a swell in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Ida had passed through the gulf coast in an easterly direction and out to sea causing west winds along the central east coast of Florida. With the swell and offshore winds it was an above average day for surfing. Head high sets rolled in with moderate periods. The waves weren't hollowing out, but were on the edge almost feeling as if they want to and just need a little more push. Perhaps a tidal change. Looking back it's obvious that I under estimated the conditions having surfed much bigger waves in Puerto Rico the prior few days.

Initially I was not going to enter the contest. I came to scout the south beach area while another friend went north with the goal of finding the best waves. Brian, Jeremy and Blythe were already at Bethune. Brian already entered the Open Men's Longboarding Division. As I arrived the surf looked really fun and clean. My friend scouting the north drove down to meet up with me, but while I was waiting for him, Brian convinced me to enter the contest. Jeremy entered it as well. The folks at the "Before the Fall" Pro Am contest could give us no real idea of how long it would be before our heat would begin in our division. This was frustrating. I felt as if we had to wait around all day to be called just to surf a 20 minute heat. I just want to surf. This is why I have long felt that surfing contest are NOT for me and also not considering myself skilled enough to be competitive.

On a gamble (not knowing when my heat would be called) I told my friend, Bob, that I'd surf with him for a while. Bob had somewhere to be later in the day and I could tell he wanted to surf with someone. He was not entering the contest. Besides, I wanted to surf with Bob. He's a super cool longboarder and I'm always stoked to paddle out with him. The water was colder than what I was acclimated to so I wore a long sleeve 2mm top that I borrowed from Brian. This worked out well, but Brian wore a full suit and ended up being too hot and wanted the top back for the contest forcing me to wear a short sleeve top. I took it easy so not to wear out my arms. The waves were fun and clean and after getting a feel for them I felt as if I could actually rip a few of them up and score some points.

After the warm up session with Bob the waiting fest begins. Heat after heat competes, but still no Men's Longboarding Division. Hours go by and finally they give us notice. We are going after the next heat and since there is only one girl registered in the Women's Longboarding Division she is going to surf with the men. She's a talented local longboarder that also works in a surf shop here in town and I'm stoked because of the five of us in our heat only one person is a stranger to me. This is going to be like surfing with friends on any given day I tell myself. A contest official calls my name and hands me a light green rash guard. Brian scores a blue rash guard, Jeremy a red, Kristen a yellow and stranger gets the white (they have us wear these so the judges know for sure who is who). I'm told to surf as many waves as possible and they take the best two waves to score you. Jeremy and I joke around about a twisted strategy while we're waiting. Since we both feel Brian is the better surfer and Jeremy thinks he doesn't have a chance we joke that I'll drop in on and snake Brian on all his waves and they'll disqualify me (the thought of contest officials telling me to never come back makes me laugh), but ruin Brian's chances for a good score and give Jeremy a fighting chance! This is all good sarcastic fun and we'd never really do that to each other.

Longboarders tend to be so much more laid back and mellow than the shortboarders. This is a generalization of course, but more often than not if you hang out with a group of longboarders you're going to have a good time regardless. The contest is allowing five minutes to paddle out and then they blow an air horn indicating the 20 minute heat has begun. As we're waiting for the go ahead on the paddle out we are all talking casually on the beach. Jeremy borrows some wax from me and then I decide to put a little finishing touch on my board. I look up and everyone has left me and they're already in the water paddling out. I didn't even realize someone said "go." .... shit, it's game time!

I toss my wax in my pocket and sprint to the water to catch up. It's funny how quickly the seriousness of being competitive can take over the vibe and spread like Ebola virus in any sporting environment. I hit the water fast and hard and immediately gasp from the chill. I paddle hard not only to stay warm, but to catch up. Since the warm up session hours before the conditions have changed drastically. The wind switched to a north wind and that has crossed up the waves a bit leaving it choppy. The tide has changed from flooding to ebbing and the long shore current is now pulling south like nobody's business. We entered the water well to the north at the advisement of the contest officials with the hopes of staying in the boundaries or contest box once we make it to the outside break about 300 meters offshore. I paddle at a 45 degree angle to wear I'm heading. If I was an airplane I'd be crabbing into the wind. I lose sight of everyone except Kristen in the yellow jersey. She's slightly ahead of me and gets pushed back by a large set wave. I turtle roll the same wave, but recover much faster. Soon I find myself past the break and in the midst of several female shortboarders finishing up their heat. I yell to one of them, "is your heat over" and she gives me a stupid look. I look at my stop watch. It's been 4 minutes. I look behind me and see that I've made it to the outside ahead of the rest of my competitors. Kristen soon arrives on the scene and Jeremy and Brian are a little south. I look to shore and realize we're on the southern end of the contest box about to drift out of bounds so I start paddling again north. I hear the air horn blow and now our heat is officially beginning.

At first there's some hesitation and we're all kind of clumped together fighting to stay in bounds. Brian goes for a wave and backs off. Kristen takes a wave and nails it going toward the right (north). Jeremy passes on a wave so I turn into it and pop up making a fast bottom turn to the right. It's a four or five second ride and I complete one cutback and a fadeaway. Then it begins to close out so I exit off the lip not wanting to get caught on the inside. It's my first wave and it felt really good. I probably could have done a floater into the foam ball, but it's early in the heat. I'm amazed at how strong the current is pulling to the south. The contest is running two heats at once in two different boxes. We're in the southern box and a shortboard division is in the northern box. As I'm paddling to stay in my box I see several shortboarders drift by as they can't keep up with the current. Suddenly it's apparent that these are not the ideal conditions for a contest. The strange thing is the current subsided a little while after our heat almost as if it were only there to pick on us.

I look at my stop watch and we're three minutes into the heat so I've been going full strength with no rest for 8 minutes. I know I need to calm down and pace myself. I feel like I just ran a 6 minute mile. My arms are a little sore from surfing in Puerto Rico and my body is tired from lack of sleep. But, it's a contest and I'm fully involved in the moment. Another wave approaches. It looks good and I'm in the best position. I look left and right and nobody has priority over me so I drop in and take this one left for the hopes of a longer ride. It's a smaller wave so I push it a little to far thinking I might get more points for a long ride. Eventually it begins to close out on me. Hmmmm, how about that floater? I cut back on the lip and try to line my 9'0" Walden up to go down the top of the white wash, but it stalls leaving me to fall into a void of aerated water. A few seconds later I surface, flip my board over and begin to paddle back to the line up. But, before I can get there a set wave crashes down before me. I turtle roll, recover and fight to make it back out before the next wave arrives. I FAIL. The next wave is larger and I'm in the worst spot. A spot that you can't turtle roll. A spot that endangers your board in that it could break it. A spot where the only thing to do is push away from your board and dive to the bottom. I do this and get under the wave, but the leash drags me back a good distance all underwater. When I surface again and get back on the board a third wave arrives and forces me to abandon ship again. This time I'm dragged underwater even harder and in the middle of all the roaring water I hear a loud "pop" followed by a release in pressure upon my leg. "F*ck," I yell underwater as I realized my leash has just snapped.

It would be just my luck that in my first surfing contest the conditions go to hell in a hand basket and my brand new leash that I bought only five days prior breaks leaving me in a dangerous situation. I've had a few leashes break before, but this one was the worst possible situation. I'm located just on the verge of the outside break about 300 meters offshore after riding a wave to the left (south) leaving me outside the contest box. At the time I couldn't figure out how nobody could see me and my situation, but now I realize the judges are only looking at surfers riding waves plus I'm only a head in the water now making me harder to spot despite the bright green jersey I'm wearing.

My first instinct is to get back to my surfboard. Only problem is I can't see it anywhere. The bigger problem soon becomes the fact that I'm exhausted from paddling out, surfing waves back to back and then taking three large waves on the head before my leash broke. I can't get my breath back. I'm in colder water than what I'm used to and only wearing a 2mm short sleeve top. Unlike most people I'm negatively buoyant in saltwater because I'm so thin. If I cramp up I'm dead. Trying to put that thought out of my head, I start to do the natural thing and swim for shore. Swimming in rough conditions is tricky. You have to pay attention to the waves around you. You can't just put your head down and swim like you would in a pool. Several waves break right in front of me. I try to dive below them, but get tossed around like a rag doll. I still can't get my breath. I turn around and can see Brian about 100 meters away paddling away from me. He's fighting to stay in the contest box. I yell out to him, but then realize how silly the thought of him hearing me over the crashing waves is so I look back to shore and triangulate position. I've already drifted a few hundred meters south of the contest box. This leaves me about 1,000 meters from the judging tent and the lifeguard tower. Still no sight of my board and I still can't seem to catch my breath. Then it happens.

I puke then dry heave and puke again.

It happens so fast I can't believe it's happening to me. I've never barfed from exhaustion before. I've hurled from being ill and also from injury pain, but never from exhaustion. I'm so stunned by the fact that I'm actually puking I fail to notice a wave breaking right behind me. It engulfs me and my body involuntarily decides it's a good idea to drink some saltwater to wash out the puke. This promotes a few seconds of uncontrolled coughing that seems like an eternity. I regain my composure still not being able to catch my breath and all of a sudden that lifeguard tower starts looking more and more appealing. I've never counted on a lifeguard to save me before. I've never even considered the lifeguards good for anything other than say helping me if I get bit by a shark and only after I make it back to the beach. I've even joked that the lifeguards here don't even pay attention to surfers, but right now in this moment I decide to give him a wave. I'm also a scuba diver and I know from diving that if you surface and wave your arms from side to side it's pretty much the universal signal for "help me dude!" I still can't catch my breath.

After about 5 seconds of waving I soon realize that it's taking up more and more of my energy to wave and the chances of him seeing me are slim. Last I saw him before the heat he looked like he was half asleep.* I stop waving and feel an odd sensation overcoming my body. It makes no sense at all. The instinct to panic is a strange one. Panicking is basically a death sentence in my book. If you panic you lose the ability to think rationally and usually kill yourself in the process. I've been around the water all my life. I'm extremely comfortable in the water, yet right now the thought of panicking is actually appealing. Perhaps my brain is hypoxic since I can't seem to get enough oxygen to catch my breath and I'm not thinking rationally? It's now that I feel a sense of anger coming about me. I series of thoughts fly through my head. Things like I should have checked the leash since it took a few strong pulls in Puerto Rico and if I was wearing a full wetsuit I'd be more buoyant. Then things like where is the next set of waves and does that look like a rip current over there? Then the movie "Major League" of all things pops into my head. I think of the character that prays to his god named "Jobu." At the end of the movie Jobu is failing him because he is about to strike out and he looks at his bat and says "F*ck you Jobu, I do it myself!"

I'm getting no love from the lifeguard. My surfboard is gone. I'm out of sight of my friends. I want to panic. The only person that is getting me out of this situation is me. F*ck you waves, I do it myself! Anger overcomes the instinct to panic. I fight and I fight. I flip over on my back and attempt to float in the hopes of catching my breath. This works, but takes a while as I have to frequently dive under breaking waves. Just when I think I'm getting close to a sandbar where I might be able to touch bottom the waves subside a bit and the texture of the water changes to something I know all to well, a rip current. Usually in rough surf I seek out these holes in the sandbar that funnel water out to sea. It's the easiest way to get to the outside when you're floating on a surfboard. Now is not one of those times.

I turn and swim toward the south at a 90 degree angle to the shore, with the long shore current and eventually make it through the rip current, but I feel like I'm back where I started on the outside. This happens a second time, which pisses me off even more. Adrenaline flows through my system as if I've injected myself with heroin. I fight and I fight some more. After 22 minutes (yes, somehow I kept track of time on my stop watch) from the point that I took the second wave that ultimately snapped my leash I feel the bottom. I'm on the sandbar and I can't only barely touch, but this gives me a boost of the "I'm almost there" feeling. I'm able to rest between waves crashing down and finally catch my breath enough to swim through the slew and crawl up the beach. I swear I wanted to kiss the sand!

Almost immediately an extremely intense headache overcomes me. I recognize it as a side effect of all the adrenaline my body just used to survive. I spot my surfboard about 75 meters south of me drifting in the slew. I thought it would be washed up on the beach, but like me it was also having a hard time getting to shore. I forced myself to swim out to get it and then I begin the long walk back to the contest tent. I estimate I drifted 3/4 of a mile. Upon being spotted by my friends and competitors they gave me the "what's wrong with you" look and had no clue that I had just fought for my life. The crazy thing is we stuck around for the awards ceremony and I got third place. I couldn't believe it, but the two waves I rode (my only two waves) counted enough to get me third place. Brian got second and the stranger got first. Unbelievable!

The Lesson Learned:
Contest are not for me. It was fun and I can see how it can be exciting, but I'd rather just go surf on my own schedule and agenda. Despite surfing with friends that would usually be watching out for each other, none of them even saw what happened to me because they were so involved with their own ability to surf the contest. This experience strengths my believe that panic in any situation will kill you. The fight instinct can save you if used correctly. I'm not sure if I would call this a near death experience, but I am certain if I wasn't so comfortable in the water that I would have panicked and drown. That's a crazy feeling to have and ponder. It makes me thankful to be alive and appreciate the things and people in my life.

*No offense to the Volusia County Beach Patrol. I truly believe you do a top-notch job saving hundreds of swimmers each year from rip currents. I've even assisted from my surfboard before in saving swimmers, but as a surfer I feel like the lifeguards don't expect us to get into trouble and that is completely fine with me and a fact I accept every time I paddle out.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Hey Papi" Here's your Puerto Rico recap!

Last week was my fourth trip to Puerto Rico (third this year) and I must say it was the best surfing trip of them all! I went to visit my friends John and Julie and see their new digs (they moved down there 6-weeks ago). A decent swell was already in the water as I arrived and we wasted no time seeking out and ripping up the best breaks on the Northwest coastline around Rincon, Aguadilla and Isabella. Here's the recap by day!

Tuesday, Nov. 10th
Arrived at Aguadilla airport at 2:55 a.m. on the $59 Jet Blue flight. Grab three hours of sleep and get up with the sunrise to surf Maria's in Rincon off HWY 413. The wind is offshore. The waves are 6-7 feet and slightly sectiony (yes, I did just creat
e the word sectiony), but packing some punch to make the sections. It's a little crowded, mostly at the point, but nothing I can't manage. Just think New Smyrna Inlet on a perfect day in the summer. John and I surf for 3-and-a-half hours straight without coming out of the water once! I meet a family from New Smyrna Beach in the line up. They look familiar, but I don't know their names. The father is a little arrogant and likes to name drop like the fact that he lives next to the house that Johnny Damon bought a few years back and is now trying to sell (yes dude, I know the house and I remember when he bought the over priced home). My injured Achilles tendon seems to be fine. Around noon we admit exhaustion and head in to crab some lunch at Calypso's. This is when I meet Crazy Dave, who also just moved to PR from D.C. We hang out the rest of the day at Crazy Dave's pad directly on Corsica Beach only a few blocks from John and Julie's place. There's nothing better than drinking frozen rum drinks, eating fresh avocado dip and floating around in the clear turquoise ocean water until sunset, that is until I decide it's a good idea to surf the dumping shore break in an inflatable lounge chair!

Wednesday, Nov. 11th
As the sun rises I'm waking up. My body is now in tune with the time of nature! We pick up Crazy Dave and head out to Aguadilla. I'm excited because I have not s
urfed Wilderness yet. All previous times it's either been too big or flat. Today it's perfect. Epic with offshore winds and overhead sets. It's also got to be one of the strangest surf breaks to get to in the world. You drive into Aguadilla like you're heading toward the airport. After you pass the giant radar domes the airport runway is on one side of the road and a golf course is on the other side. You literally drive through the middle of the golf course, down a hill, through some woods and onto a muddy dirty road almost worthy of Costa Rica or Nicaragua before passing some old ruins (that break is named ruins) and then an old bathroom (the break there is named shithouse) and finally arriving at Wilderness. I decide to try out my Go Pro HERO 5 camera for the first time in Puerto Rico. John said I got more stares from other surfers with that camera on my board than he's ever seen. I didn't notice. One nice surfer named Danny King asked me about it, but that was all I noticed. I was too busy riding amazing powerful waves. My 9' Walden performance longboard was struggling to keep speed with the fast moving waves. Several times I found myself working the board extra hard just to keep up my speed on the wave face. I think for these conditions a pintail longboard with a pulled in nose would work much better... maybe a semi-gun shaped board. Let me just say after this session I was more stoked than I've been in the last year! Everyone in the water was friendly. Hell, even a body boarder struck up a friendly conversation with me. I counted six sea turtles (hawksbill I think) during the session and even ran into Bernie Crouch (owner of Maddog Surfboards) in the line up. He told me about the tasty pinchos they sell on the beach.

Thursday, Nov 12th
After scouting the other side of Rincon (Pools and Sandy Beach) and realizing the swell is fading we drive to Isabella on the north coast and surf a break called Jobos. This is probably one of the more scenic beaches. There's a beautiful cove protected by a rocky point that creates a right point break and a wedgy left in the right co
nditions. The bottom is mostly sand with a few scattered rocks and the current pushes one way on the inside and the other on the outside with a distinct channel to suck you out at the rocky point. It's a lazy surfer's dream as you don't have to fight the waves if you ride to far into the inside break. John and I paddle out and there are only three other guys in the water, all shortboarders trying to surfer the wedgy wave coming off the rocks. John and I hang just down from them and systematically pick off and rip up the long rights coming off the point. The waves are head high and perfect for fearless screwing around. The water is super clear and you can see everything on the bottom as you surf down the line. I'm in Heaven! After two hours and countless rides we break for food and head toward Aguadilla as the afternoon wind is chopping it up at Jobos. We eat lunch at a place called Jimmy's Pizza. It's the best pizza I've ever had in Puerto Rico (yes, better than Brother's in downtown Rincon) and I eat and entire pie all myself! In Aguadilla we check out Surfer's Beach, which is right in the middle of the old housing area for Ramey Air Force Base. This is where a ton of North Americans turned Puerto Ricans live now. In other words, the beach is full of gringos. Everyone is super laid back and extremely friendly. There's a right breaking wave just south of Table Top that we surf for a few more hours. John points out a girl in the line up about 20 feet away and I realize who it is... Shannon McIntyre from the surf travel show called "On Surfari." I'm stoked because this is one of my favorite travel shows. If you've never seen it check it out sometime even if you're not a surfer. Unlike so many surfing shows, they capture more than just the surf. The always make a point to portray the culture of the destination and usually volunteer with some charity group in the area too! After the session we introduce ourselves to Shannon and have a conversation. She's the nicest down to earth celebrity I've ever met. Very humble. Her and her husband, Shane, and two kids live in Aguadilla. It's nice to see someone you see on TV and see how real they are, unlike so many other famous personalities.

Friday, Nov. 13th
As I'm writing this I realize it was Friday the 13th and I didn't even realize it on the day! Good thing I didn't surf. We scouted Maria's and Domes at sunrise and
decided to make it a road trip day. Crazy Dave did score some fun smaller waves at Sandy Beach. John, Julie and I headed south through Mayaguez to Cabo Rojo on the extreme southwest corner of the island. There's a beautiful beach near the light house (El Faro de los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo). The landscape of the island changes from lush jungle (near Rincon) to a more arid and dry setting with less trees and even cactus. There's a south wind chopping up the sea and it has created a silky looking water. John is upset because normally the water is crystal clear making the coral reef visible from the cliffs along the coastline, but I still think it's one of the more beautiful beaches I've seen. We hike around and my Achilles tendon protests for the first time during the trip. Flip flops and hiking on rocky slopes is No Bueno. The rest of the day we spend driving along the west coast stopping at random beaches and enjoying the day. That evening we cook out at the house and sample "blood sausage" a Puerto Rican favorite. It kind of reminds me of black pudding in Scotland, but way better. I hit the hay early, grab four hours sleep before getting up at 2 a.m. and heading back to Florida for another adventure that I'll post later in the week.

Now in list format... a few of the experiences of the trip!

- Enduring an hour long story about "Pistol Pete" and the adventures of Crazy Dave while slightly buzzed from rum all in the name of getting two old Puerto Rican ladies, who have overstayed their welcome, to leave.

- The cabin lights went out on the Jet Blue flight down and the individual seat TVs reset all at different times, which caused them to flash rapidly while alternating between black, blue and white screens. This illuminated the ceiling of the aircraft like a disco dance party. A Puerto Rican passenger in the seat behind me turned up a speaker with dance music and everyone on the plane started clapping and singing as we taxied and took off. Never seen anything like it in all my days of aviation as a passenger and pilot!
- Racking my balls upon my surfboard while exiting a wave at Jobos and having to
rest for 15 minutes on the outside to regain my composure!
- Making it rain starfruit by shaking the tree in John and Julie's backyard.
- Attempting to order my meal at the Taco Maker using only Spanish and getting something entirely different than what I thought we had agreed on in Spanish.
- Drinking my first Mojito in a bag purchased from a gas station in Rincon.
- Discovering the best way to grill pork cutlets and it's so simple! Just marinate them overnight with tons of garlic, some salt, pepper, oregano and a lot of olive oil.
- Smoked a locally hand rolled cigar that Crazy Dave brought over to the point that I
couldn't feel my face.
- Drank the best Port wine I've ever tasted... with the port cutlets of course!
- John and I taught Crazy Dave how to use the spear gun he recently purchased while drunk and out of the water.
- Met the owner of the Playa Oeste surf shop and art gallery. Purchased a "Rincon, Low Life" trucker hat and ran into him again on the flight back to Orlando.
- Represented my friend Christina and her clothing company Bellasol by plastering a Bellasol sticker on a street sign overlooking Tres Palmas.
- Ate pretty much any food I came across including Blood Sausage and Spicy Octopus!
- Jammed out to Two Live Crew while in a traffic jam in Aguadilla.

- Ate a ripe starfruit as opposed to the unripe starfruit I sampled the prior trip. Much better.
- Applauded a local mechanic to do what Pep Boys couldn't do in two weeks as he fixed the Trooper in 15 minutes and then declined any form of payment.
- Took the dogs (Cooper and Macy) for a walk or run on the beach. They went "ballistic."

That's it for now. I'll try and post some more pictures later in the week! Adios Amingos!