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!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Thursday Stoke! (better late than never)

It's Friday and I'm writing the Thursday Stoke from a bakery in Rincon, Puerto Rico, about the "stoke" that happened Wednesday! So much for being prompt about things, but nothing is prompt when you're on island time!

This is the first chance I've had to get to Wi-Fi and really only because the swell died down a bit so I'm going to explore the south west coast today before returning home tomorrow just in time to catch a swell hitting the east coast of Florida!

For the Thursday Stoke on Friday that is for Wednesday I'd just like to thank all the Veterans that fight for our Freedom and allow me to enjoy epic surfing days while traveling. So at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month of this year I surfed this wave at "Wilderness" in honor of the Veterans! Go U.S. Military!

More photos and a full recap to follow in a few days! Everyone have a killer weekend! Peace out from Puerto Rico!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Puerto Rico Bound .... again!

I'm ready!

My surfboard is packed and ready for airline rapage fees!

My email inbox is ready to become flooded leaving me hopelessly behind while I won't be checking it as much.

My mission: Go to Puerto Rico tonight. Visit friends, enjoy tropical beaches and surf the rest of the week. Do all this while treading lightly upon my Achilles tendon! I've written notes to myself and hid them in random places to remind me to take it easy. I will stay off it as much as possible (no hiking, long walking, climbing or tromping through soft beach sand). However, I do plan to paddle around on the surfboard a bit and spend some time in a hammock!

This is the kind of surf forecast I love to see the day before I'm going to be in the lineup!

I know this blog has been heavy on running stories as of late, but rest assure I'll have at least one good surfing story by the end of the week with photos! I might even pop into the Rincon Burger King for their Wi-Fi and make a post from Puerto Rico!

Clear blue tropical water here I come!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Thursday Stoke!

I'm stoked for steroids!

Yeah.... that's right, STEROIDS!

After not being able to walk Monday (the day after running and finishing the Daytona Beach Half Marathon) I decided it was time to finally face reality and go see my doctor. First, let me say how awesome my doctor is as he is a runner and a surfer. He is probably the nicest doctor I've ever talked to as a patient. His waiting room gets backed up not only because he is busy, but because he is so personable and will talk your ear off. He actually cares about what's going on and even remembers things about you other than your medical condition. No wonder he is so popular.

So I make and appointment and can't get in until Tuesday as the very last patient of the day. This means I don't see him until about 6 p.m. I explain my story. Hurt the old Achilles tendon five weeks ago, thought it was healed up and decided to run a little 13.1 mile race. Now I can't freaking walk! I remove the ACE bandage and the first words out of his mouth are "HOLY CRAP!" I kid not.... he really said that! I call him by his first name and tell him that's really not what I want to hear from my doctor. He sees the fear on my face and down plays it a bit by telling me most Achilles tendon injures he sees are closer to the heel and mine is higher up more near my lower calf muscle.

Long story short; I'm sidelined for at least two weeks. I don't need an X-ray or MRI or Surgery or anything crazy thank God! I have multiple torn spots in the "sheathing" that is the outside layer of the tendon, which has caused some really gnarly inflammation and discoloration. In other words, it looks a lot worse than it really is...

The solution; I'm on steroids baby!

Seriously, it's some kind of week-long pack of steroids called methyprednisolone. All I know is I couldn't hardly walk yesterday morning. I took the first few pills with breakfast and by lunch time I was almost walking normally. Amazing. No wonder athletes abuse this stuff. I hope my balls don't shrink up! The most important thing is I have to stay off it for at least two weeks, which will be my nemesis as I have a hard enough time sitting still normally. I'm determined though and the doctor, who ironically is a Disney Marathon Finisher, told me that "I'll be fine and I've got this," when it comes to still running the Disney in January. Only thing is he says I probably shouldn't train until December, which will give me about four weeks. It's crazy when I think about it, but hey, I did just finish a Half Marathon without running an entire month before so this way at least I'll get a few long runs in... probably won't get the best time, but at least I'll be able to run and finish!

So yeah... I'm stoked for steroids!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Half Marathon Recap Part 2 (the story)

Warning: I'm probably going to get carried away and write a REALLY long story here so stop now if you're not down for reading my gibber-jabber about my first Half Marathon... The Daytona Beach Half Marathon!

Sometimes I question my own sanity. I think this is completely normal, right? My question then would be am I out of my mind for running a 13.1 mile race without running the entire month before? Four week taper anyone? Here's what I did. Five weeks before the race I hurt my Achilles tendon. I didn't go to the doctor, but I did research it online and decide to give it plenty of tim
e to heal. Four weeks should be plenty of time, right? I did go on several 20-35 mile bicycle rides leading up to the race just to make sure my endurance was on par. So when I ask people that question the non-runners give me the "you're insane" look while the runners including my doctor (we'll get to that story in the next blog) give the nod of approval. So in questioning my own sanity... I feel fine (like the R.E.M. song)!

In fact, I was feeling pretty fine on race day. I had been slowly carb-loading for three days before the race, hadn't drank any alcohol for weeks, was fully hydrated and going on a solid 6 hours of sleep. The day before I eagerly picked up my race packet in hopes of checking out the Asics display at their so called "expo" only to discover the Asics people were a no show. Must have been at NYC Marathon. Honestly, I have to agree with Rachael at Beginning Runner's Blog when she says her packet picket up day is about as exciting as watching a cat lick its butt! The Half Marathon people hyped it up in all the emails they sent out and it really was nothing to write home about and I could have saved the fuel and picked up the packet at 4:30 a.m. on Race Day. I will say the swag was excellent. Every runner got a free admission to the Daytona USA attraction. I haven't used mine yet, but I hear it's like a mini NASCAR theme park with all kinds of racing simulators. I'm not a NASCAR fan despite years of covering races as a journalist so this swag excited me about as much as that cat licking its butt, HOWEVER, the tech shirt did excite me! It's an Asics brand yellow tech shirt and it fits me quite well, I might add!

On to race day!

I have to stop for a second and make a quick list of firsts! At some point during the run I started thinking about all the first time things I was experiencing in th
is race weekend.

1st time
attempting to enter a surf contest
1st time
bailing on my 1st surf contest (due to friend's staff infected eye socket)
1st time
EVER going to sleep before 9 p.m. on Halloween night (except for maybe when I was an infant).
1st time
in at least a decade I haven't gotten drunk while partying on Halloween. 1st time ever laying out my race day clothes the night before.
1st time
running a Half Marathon.
1st time
ever running a race intentionally slow due to injury.
1st time
meeting a fellow blogger I didn't already know outside of the blog sphere (Melissa of I don't Need Excuses)
1st time
finishing a race without having someone pass me when the finish line is in sight.
1st time
ever getting a blister from running (a very small one of which the Redhead sarcastically said "I hate you" upon seeing).
1st time
getting free beer after a race, which kicks ass!

I said I went to bed bef
ore 9 p.m and that's true if you count the time change. While just about ALL of my friends were out partying it up for the almost full moon Halloween Saturday night, I was attempting to fall asleep completely sober and hydrated. I usually sleep well. I'm one of those lucky people that can turn off my brain and fall asleep. Not this night. I kept waking up every 20 to 30 minutes and checking the clock. Finally I had a dream. The dream was simply this.... I wake up and it's 8:30 a.m. Somehow I managed to sleep through two alarm clocks and my cell phone. I realize that I should be done with the race by this time and that poor Redhead is probably standing at the finish line with a motivational poster and I'm no where to be seen. This is such a horrible feeling I instantly wake up about to cry. My heart is racing and I look at the clock. It reads 3:58 a.m. I realize it was only a dream and I only have two more minutes to sleep. Thank God! I'm so ready to get up and do this and I'm happy the time has finally come. Then I check my cell phone and see that it says the time is 2:58 a.m. F*ck! I told everyone to remember to set their clocks back and I'm the one that forgets. Damn it! This means I have to try and sleep another hour. I consider getting up, but decide I need the extra rest and force myself to lay in bed half asleep for an hour. Then 4 a.m. finally arrives. I get up and throw on my Paulie Bleeker costume, fill my cooler with ice and ice packets for after the race, grab my bib number; eat half a power bar, a handful of cashews, a tablespoon of natural honey and start downing a large bottle of really cold Smart Water; and head out the door for the 30 minute drive up to Daytona International Speedway.

The road is completely desolate. It's as if I'm the last man alive on the Earth. That is until I get near the Speedway. All of a sudden I'm surrounded by a dozen cars. It's soon apparent that we're all heading to the same destination. The lights are on at the Speedway and you can see it from a mile away
illuminating the sky. It's an odd feeling driving through the tunnel and into the infield of the Speedway without a NASCAR fan insight. The grandstands are completely empty and the only people in sight are totally fit runners. It's a beautiful sight and I start to feed off the energy and excitement of the pre-race atmosphere. These are the people I want to surround myself with in life... along with surfer too of course!

At 5 a.m. I have my chip and have stretched and I'm ready to go an hour early. My cell phone sounds off and it's a text message from the Redhead saying something motivational. That girl is hardcore! Seriously, she doesn
't have to be up for at least another hour to have time to drive over and cheer on Melissa and I at the finish line. I smile at the text message and start to pump myself up for this race!

At 5:30 a.m. I still haven't been able to find Melissa. I've never met her before and am not completely sure what she looks like, but then I hear my name. I turn around and it's not Melissa, but two surfers I know from the inlet, Morgan and Austin. They are both phenomenal longboarders and Austin is going to run the race for "extra credit" in a communications course he's taking in college. His girlfriend, Morgan, is here to cheer him on and ride her bicycle along side. I chat it up with them for a while figuring that Melissa will probably spot me since I'm taller than average, duh, and wearing this ridiculous Bleeker costume. Might I a
dd, at this point I'm not seeing anyone else dressed up in costume and am staring to wonder what the f*ck!?! Melissa finally finds me and we introduce ourselves (1st time meeting a blogger = SUCCESS). Austin is wearing some really awesome looking florescent green Nike shoes. I ask him if he's ever run a 13.1 miles before and he says "nope." Melissa asks him if his shoes are Nike Free. Austin says they are and that he's only run short distances in them, but they feel really "comfortable." Not wanting to worry him before the race, I just say that I think they are supposed to "simulate barefoot running" and that it's awesome if he can run long distances in them. In reality I'm thinking, "holy shit, I hope his feet will be ok after this!"

It's time to corral at the start line. Austin, Melissa and I crowd into the pack of 800 runners somewhere near the back. There's some confusion about where the actual start line is located, but then the gun fires or horn blows (can't remember which) and it's mass chaos as everyone starts running. I never see the actual start line, but Melissa tells me we just passed it. Austin blows ahead and I lose sight of him quickly. Melissa and I are both running on injuries and going slow. We hang together for maybe a quarter mile and I lose track of her as well. My strategy is to run the first 3-4 miles really slow until I'm completely warmed up and make a decision of if my Achilles tendon can handle the entire 13.1 miles. I've run this distance before and when healthy I average around 2 hours to finish. All I want to do today is finish. Getting caught up in the race atmosphere will surely tempt me to run faster, which will undoubtedly result in a FAIL situation. To fight this I devise a plan. For the first few miles I will make sure that people are passing me. If people are passing me then I know I am running slow. If people aren't passing me I force myself to slow down until someone does pass me. Does this sound like an oxymoron to the definition of the word "race" or what?

My strategy works and at the first mile marker a man with a stop watch yells out "11 minutes." Holy goat balls I'm running slow! I bet I can speed walk this faster, but the hell if I'm going to let Mr. T shoot Snickers bars at me! (If you don't get that just google or youtube "Mr T and
Speedwalking") I do the math in my head and figure out what my finish time would be at an 11 minute pace. Not acceptable. Soon nobody is passing me and I'm not even to mile 2 yet. I slow down and let the Galloway people pass me and while I know I'll just pass them again in a few minutes at least someone is passing me. This will be a trend for the first 8 miles until they can't keep up anymore (Nothing against Galloway. It rocks, but it's annoying when people flip flop pace you while doing it)

At mile 2 I'm still running a strong 11 minute pace.
At mile 3 nothing has changed. At mile 4 I'm feeling pretty good although it's very humid and hot. The forecast calls for 66 degrees at the race start time, but in reality it's about 80 degrees and 90 percent humidity. Wearing this 100 percent cotton "Bleeker" T-shirt is starting to suck! The Achilles tendon feels normal. I'm guessing it's at about 80 percent so I decide to start running faster. I check my watch and at mile 5 I'm doing a 10 minute pace. I down my first Gu and chase it with water from an aid station. I feel the urge to pee (stupid caffeine in the Gu), but don't see any bathrooms. I ignore the urge. I fall into a fun little group of runners to pace and decide to keep the 10 minute pace for a few miles and see how the Achilles holds up.

Somewhere between the fifth and sixth mile I hear cheering and clapping up ahead. I hear this over the music playing in my iPod. I look up and see a lone runner going the wrong way. Then I realize he's NOT going the wrong way because he's the leader and he's already on his way back to the speedway! He blows by and I can't help but let out a hoot and clap to cheer him on... this dude was flying! He finished with an average pace of 5:40. It's a full minute before I see the second place runner. Then I realize that this guy has already conquered the high rise bridge not once but twice and is nearly 3.5 miles ahead of me. Amazing! As a few more leading runners including the lead girl blow by I feel myself re-energized and just in time as I make it to the high rise bridge. There's an aid station at the bottom. I take a sip of water, forget my need to urinate and charge that bridge with everything I got. Charging hills I think is a stupid macho guy thing to do, but we can't help it. I conquer that "son of a bitch" and take in the beauty of the pre-dawn sky over the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean off in the distance. Going down the bridge actually hurts more than going up so I take it slow and remind myself of Mr. Achilles as most of the runners I passed going up pass me going down. At the bottom nothing has changed and I'm pretty much in the same place pacing the same people.

At Mile 7 I reach the beach, down another Gu and see Morgan on her bicycle way up ahead, but no Austin. Where is he? This is the official turn around spot and for some reason all I want to do is going surfing
at this point so I just start thinking of the fact that I'm on the backstretch now. Ironically, "It's all Down Hill From Here," by New Found Glory starts playing in my iPod. I decide to pick up the pace. BRILLIANT! My lack of running experience begins to show as I can't seem to figure out what my pace is as I see the race clock at the aid station. All I know is I've made up a little bit of time over that shameful 11 minute pace I seemed to have been stuck on for the first few miles.

Just before mile 8 I see Melissa going the other way. She's conquered the bridge and is looking happy as ever. She's also got a pace partner running with a prosthetic leg. If that's not inspirational I don't know what is!
Soon it's time for the second go around for the bridge. This time charging it is out of the question. I slumber up the bridge and as I reach the top see the last place runner going the other way. If you aren't making a 16 minute pace by the bridge race officials disqualified you. This guy was probably just seconds faster than a 16 minute pace. He looked older, I'm not sure how much older, but the most kickass thing was his condition. One of his legs was completely wrapped in ACE bandages and his entire knee was enclosed in a massive leg brace; the kind that don't allow any motion in the knee. HE WAS ON FREAKING CRUTCHES! Talk about determination! I was mesmerized by this and all I could think to do was yell, "hell yeah man, you got this!" Now that folks, is HARDCORE! Seeing this gave me another boost of inspirational energy as I conquer the bridge again, fly through the aid station, pass up water or Gatorade, completely lose the desire to urinate and rip off this stupid cotton Bleeker T-shirt and throw it into some bushes (I picked it up hours later as apparently nobody wanted my sweaty shirt).

Now it's time to start running seriously. I'm feeling strong and suddenly at mile 9 the finish line doesn't seem so far away. I pass a few runners. The Galloway people are no longer keeping up. I notice a man running with a golden retreiver. This dog is got the biggest stoke look on its face. He's having an awesome time. I tell his master that he's awesome and my dog can't even run 2 miles without pooping out on me and my dog is a lab. At mile 10, to my best figuring, I'm running something like a 8:30 pace? I know I'm dehydrating slightly because doing math is simply not an option and I have no urge to use any of the bathrooms anymore. Nobody has passed me in at least 2 miles. We cross Clyde Morris and I see cops stopping traffic and then hear them whistle on the traffic after I pass. Several cars blow their horns at me. I'm not sure if they're pissed they had to stop or are cheering me on... regardless, I don't care. But as I turn around to look back I notice I can't see any other runners for about 100 yards. Looking forward nobody is in sight. Why does this have to happen to me at mile 10? There are 800 runners and I'm all alone? The 10th Mile officially becomes the "loneliness mile," and fatigue starts to set in again. I lose feeling in my feet. Uh oh, no bueno! I tell myself that I only have a 5k to run and there's no way in hell I'm stopping now! I think of my self proclaimed race motto and say out loud "I'll find a way or I'll make one...... I'll find a way or I'll make one!"

Finally, an aid station appears in the distance ahead. I rip off my last Gel fro
m the fishing line inside my pants (Oh yes I did! I totally sewed my Gu and Gels into my pants with fishing line). It's the 2x caffeinated tangerine flavored Power Bar Gel and I wasn't going to take it unless I really needed it. I need it! I slam it with water and patiently wait for a boost of energy or a jolt or anything! Mile 11 comes and goes and I start to catch up with runners ahead. Some are walking. I'm going strong. A series of Rise Against songs start to play in my iPod and oh man does this help. Rise Against is officially my new Papa Roach for angry-painful running music!

A little after mile 12 I see someone I recognize walking and looking completely defeated. It's Austin. He's ditched his shirt too and looks like he's been hit by a bus.
I yell, "Austin!" He turns around and sees me quickly approaching. "Come on man, I'm running slow, like a 9 minute pace or something! Run with me and finish strong," I manage to say between breaths for oxygen. Austin starts running again and I start talking. I can hardly remember a thing I was talking about, but it's helping me to try and motivate him to keep running and in doing this I'm not only helping him but focusing on something other than my own demise. We reach the .5 to go marker and run through the last aid station. At this point someone hands me a Gatorade. I feel as if I'll puke if up if I drink it so I just dump it all over my head and down my back. Austin and I joke about going to the beach after the race and talk, well I do most of the talking, about surfing and other things and before long we're entering the Speedway. The finish line is in sight and only a quarter mile away! I yell at Austin to "come on, we can do this," and pick up the pace. Austin doesn't and I see the look on his face. It's something like, "I've got nothing left except this pace." So I continue on down the final stretch between turn 4 and the finish line of Daytona International Speedway.

I see a short girl in the distance jumping up and down while holding a green sign. It's the Redhead and she's yelling something to me to encourage me to finish strong. At this point I've jacked up the volume on my iPod to a Rise Against song and can't hear what she's saying, but I don't need to because I know what she's saying, "finish strong!" Her sign has my race motto written on it in Latin followed by Go Sylvan Go! "Aut viam inveniam aut faciam!" I pick up th
e pace to what seems like a sprint, but in reality I'm sure it was a slumber. I pass about 4 or 5 runners in the last several hundred feet and it feels awesome! Crossing the finish line was a blur. Some dude almost tackled me for my chip on my shoe. Then I almost fell over trying to get away from the finish line so other runners could finish. I remember someone grabbing my arm and saying, "are you ok?" I was handed a large Gatorade bottle, which I couldn't open because my motor skills in my hands were not doing as my brain was instructing them. Austin finishes about 20 seconds behind me and collapses on the grass infield. His girlfriend comes up and tells me she got pictures of us each crossing the finish line. Sweet! I shake Austin's hand and we both have the biggest stoke on our faces. I yell to him "Extra Credit!" He laughs and I leave them to walk down to see the Redhead who is a few hundred yards down waiting for Melissa to show up. I resort to asking the Redhead to open my Gatorade. FAIL! I slam the Gatorade like it's a beer drinking contest and collapse on the grass. She makes me get up and walk and stretch. After a few minutes Melissa shows up still going strong. I manage to run with her cheering her on for a short distance before the finish line.
I must say the after race party was super cool. Plenty of food was available and free beer! I managed to eat three chocolate chip cookies and a slice of pepperoni pizza at the same time and have myself a beer. All this before we went to Cracker Barr
el for breakfast. Melissa and I ordered massive amounts of food and each drank a pitcher of water. I'm not sure what the server thought of us. I immediately applied ice to my Achilles tendon, which was already starting to swell up.

All and all I'm very satisfied about finishing my first h
alf marathon with no regrets of my decision to run it injured. My official chip time was 2:16:49.8, which is good enough for the Disney Marathon folks to put me in a decent pace group so I won't be stuck in the 5 hour plus corral. For the Half I finished 390 out of 701 finishers and 35th in my age group out of 44. If I had run the sub 2-hour Half that I know I have in me if I'm healthy I would have finished around 20th in my age group. It's a very well organized race and I've already decided that I'll do it again next year. And if you're still reading this you've got to be a real "runner" so thanks and run strong!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Half Marathon Recap Part 1 (the photos)

Last weekend I ran my first Half Marathon. I've got so much to say about the 2009 Daytona Beach Half Marathon that I'm breaking it up into several posts. First, I'm going to just throw out some of the many pictures I took (yes, I carried my camera along for all 13.1 miles) along the way and even a few that the Redhead took near the finish line!

I've never been so stoked to pick up a race packet. Bib number 406 it is!

Being on Halloween Weekend the race organizers challenged everyone to wear a costume. I finally decided to dress up as Bleeker from the movie "Juno." I never imagined it would be so hard to find yellow running shorts for men. Nine stores later I found some cheap Russell running shorts at Sports Authority. I failed to notice there were no pockets until the night before the race! Wear do I store my Gu and Gels???

Oh yes I did! I took fishing line and sewed them into my yellow dorky pants!

I got to meet Melissa of I Don't Need Excuses before the race! She also rocked her first Half Marathon. We both struggled through injuries and finished strong!

I'm still unsure exactly how many runners were at the start line, but someone said 800.

This was just minutes after starting the race near turn 1 of Daytona International Speedway. We ran completely around the track once before exiting and heading out toward the beach.

One major obstacle to running this race is running up and down the International Speedway bridge TWICE (a mile 6 and mile 8). We don't have many hills in Florida, but we do have tall bridges! This was my view from the top the first time up after I charged it like a fool! The second time kicked my arse!

A small stretch of the course runs along the beach. I was rewarded for making this far with a beautiful sunrise. I remember looking at the waves and wanting to stop running and go surfing.

Melissa going strong around mile 6 right after conquering the bridge.

I ran next to this guy and his dog for about 1/2 mile before passing him. I had to tell him how awesome his dog was! My dog can't even make it 2 miles before conking out on me.

This in case you forgot what you are doing at Mile 10... I saw this in the road and just started laughing out loud. Run Bitches Run! For some reason it was really funny to me after running 10 miles.

.5 miles to go! Pumpkins anyone?

On the final stretch with the finish line in sight! I ditched the Bleeker T-shirt around mile 8 as it was 100 percent cotton and killing me in the humidity.

Caution: Redhead Running came all the way over just to cheer on Melissa and I. She's the best spectator ever and quite the awesome full marathon runner herself! The sign she made for me was my motto for the race: "Aut viam inveniam aut faciam!" or Latin for "I'll find a way or I'll make one!"

After finishing I collapsed (or posed) on the actual finish line of the Speedway! Just think, I crossed the line going about 6 or 7 miles per hour. The race cars cross at 180 mph!

Did I mention how good the free beer tastes after you run a Half Marathon??? Oh and the cookies and pizza were pretty good as well. Oh and the awesome Breakfast the three of us ate at Cracker Barrel was the best! I've been eating like crazy for the past two days!

Final thoughts

Some of you might be asking, "What about the surfing part of the weekend?" ... "What about the Halloween Costume Surfing Contest?"
Well, it never happened. I mean it happened, but not for me. Because of two factors I did not participate. First, my friend Brian woke up Halloween morning with a splitting headache. His entire left eye was swollen up. Brian just got back from a trip to Thailand two days before so playing it safe he went to a clinic. The people at the clinic told him to go to the hospital and it turns out he had a staff infection of the eye socket. I was going to surf the contest with Brian and his girlfriend, but both of them were in the ER all day long so I surfed the inlet instead. The second factor was the costume contest was not going to happen until after the regular surf contest, which I had no desire to take part in and that wasn't going to end until around 2 or 3 p.m., which is WAY to close to kickoff to the Florida Gators/Georgia Bulldogs football game. You know I had to go cheer on my Gators instead! But seriously, folks, don't ever mess around with a staff infection. Brian had to have several shots and he's on all kinds of antibiotics, but that's the kind of stuff that kills surfers. Play it safe. If you're in doubt, go to a doctor! I did decorate my surfboard and I'll leave you with this final picture.
Next blog: "Half Marathon Recap Part 2 (the story) ... stay tuned!