Saturday, April 18, 2009

Run for the Parks 4-miler 4.5.09

Hi all,

Race number 8 (6th 2010 marathon-qualifying race) was the Race for the Parks 4-miler.

Goals: to run between water stations and to finish in 38 - 40 minutes, with every mile run in under 10 minutes.

This was my first race since the marathon and I was still getting back into training, so I wanted to take it a little easy today. It’s also taken longer than I expected to adjust my breathing. After the first couple of days at sea, I had no asthma symptoms at all (except during the marathon). I got to the race early enough to warm up, but squandered my time wandering around the festival and not winning anything at the American Airlines booth (I mistakenly thought that if my spin landed on a place name, I’d get a ticket to that place – I was sorely disappointed).

My warm-up was the quick jog from the baggage tent to the start. I lined up, stretched a bit and waited for the gun. We did our usual stop/start/bottleneck thing and I was able to settle into a good, comfortable place shortly after the start. I wanted to keep it to a comfortable, but hard pace. I ran all the way up Cat Hill, saluting as I passed, and started looking for the first water station. Where I expected it to be, there was just a pile of table parts and a stack of garbage cans (the fire-hydrant water is stored in plastic-bag lined garbage cans), but no volunteers and no water. I assumed that the water would be on the 102nd St. Transverse instead and talked myself into running all the way to the Transverse, so I could hit my first goal. It wasn’t until I had crossed the Transverse and was running up and down the rolling downhills of the west side that I started worrying. I usually take a walk break every mile or 2 at the water stations, but now, I hadn’t been able to stop at all. I wasn’t sure there would be a water station until the finish and was feeling breathless and tired, so I gave up and stopped to walk. I used my inhaler and tried to keep up a fast walking pace. Shortly after I started running again, I heard a volunteer say that the water station was around the corner. It was, in the usual place, so my 3rd mile felt much slower, with the 2 walk-breaks. I tried to pick it up for the last mile, but I’d blown it by missing that first walk break. In the end, though I missed the first goal, I beat my low-end goal by nearly a minute without feeling like I was running too hard!

Official stats: my official time was 37:05, for an average pace of 9:16. My splits were 9:23, 8:57, 9:52 and 8:58. I was 3357 out of 5739 total runners, putting me in the 42nd percentile. It was 45°F with 56% humidity.

Celebratory treats: After Charlotte’s 3rd place win in the 2-year-olds’ race, Andrea, Brady, Charlotte and I headed over to Whole Foods for a mini chocolate tasting.

Next up: Run-as-One 4-miler (4/19).

Race pictures are available here:

Mast Chocolate Factory pictures are available here:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.16.09

Antarctica Journal 3.16.09

I had set my alarm for 5:30 so I could watch the ship come into port in Ushuaia, but turned it off as soon as it started beeping. The next thing I knew, it was 6:30 and I’d missed the best part of the maneuvering; the ship had done a 180° turn and was slowly backing into its berth. I took a few pictures of Ushuaia in the dawning light, then went down to breakfast.

After breakfast, Kathy and I picked up our carry-ons (the checked bags had been picked up during breakfast) and went down to the lobby to wait for our disembarkation. There were hugs and goodbyes and let’s-keep-in-touches.

When we were finally allowed to disembark, we had to claim our checked baggage, which had been lowered to the pier in cargo netting. I’d planned to get pictures of that, too, but had forgotten all about it in the excitement of getting ready to go. My Badtz Maru duffle had been crushed under a much larger and heavier duffle bag (it took me several passes through the bags to even find it).

I got the bags loaded into my bus, then climbed aboard. Kathy and I sat together for the ride to the airport. I was very disappointed to have no time in Ushuaia. I expect travel agents to make arrangements in order that all of their clients receive similar experiences. Instead of arranging for travelers to have equal amounts of time in Ushuaia, the arrangements were based on whether or not you’d had a nonstop flight heading down. I’d had a nonstop heading down, so I was booked on the only flight with a stop, resulting in a total of about 45 minutes in Ushuaia, where other groups had several hours there on both legs. Very poor travel planning on the part of the travel agency, if you ask me and many of the other passengers on the short schedule!

The flight to BA was uneventful, but we received 2 meals: a cheese sandwich immediately after take-off and a full lunch after the scheduled stop (Colafate?). Instead of landing at the local airport, we were directed to Ezeizas. I called Daniel while I was waiting for my luggage, but he had a meeting and wasn’t able to come to the airport, after all. I was disappointed, but he had taken a lot of time for me before the cruise and, of course, he has a business to run. Hopefully, his planned chocolate classes in NY will come to pass and I’ll be able to extend the same hospitality he showed me.

We weren’t able to check in until 4:30 (yet another irritating result of the early flight), so I had to cool my heels for about an hour. I was a little annoyed when I had to show a second ID and answer questions about my identity, but wasn’t about to make a fuss on my way home. On my way to security, I found the Persicco booth on the second level and treated myself to one last Argentinean ice-cream. I had dark chocolate and chocolate with almonds, drizzled with chocolate sauce. Yum!

Past immigration and security, I navigated my way through the Duty Free shops so I could drop my bags in the Admiral’s club. I found Ruth there and told her I was going to go shopping, so she joined me. I didn’t find anything to buy – it was mostly a shopping mall charging higher prices than I would have paid if I’d bought them outside and paid tax.

We went back into the lounge and found Theresa and the three of us sat around talking about the trip, comparing experiences. Theresa’s flight left first, then it was my turn. At the gate, I checked on upgrade status and was told there wouldn’t be any upgrades on the flight.

After boarding, there were a couple of women who wanted to sit together and a flight attendant was asking people to switch, so they could. When one passenger refused, because he only wanted an aisle seat, the FA told him to calm down and then said “Let’s not deal with him” very dismissively to the passenger disrupting the seating arrangements. She asked me to switch out of the emergency row for a window seat much farther back in the plane and, when I refused, because I’d chosen the seat for the legroom, she just turned her back on me and went off to ask someone else. She succeeded, because someone else came and sat in the seat next to me.

The rest of the flight was uneventful and I cleared border control, baggage claim, and customs in about a half hour. I was at work by 9! Oddly, I kept expecting the cubicles to move around me, but they stayed solid. I guess I got my landlegs back pretty quickly.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.15.09

Antarctica Journal 3.15.09

I couldn’t sleep (no more Cokes at dinner), so I tossed and turned. I feel asleep a little after 1:30 and had to drag myself out of bed at 7:30 to shower and get ready for breakfast.

After breakfast, I repacked my duffle and then went down to the presentation room to find photos again. At about 9:30, Kathy and I went to the library to settle accounts. Some of my charges ended up on her bill, so we had some changes to make. It all went very smoothly and we were given our passports and a certificate commemorating our Antarctica landing.

At 10:30, they showed a really cool movie about rounding Cape Horn. Captain Irving Johnson had made the film back in 1929 when he was a sailor, but didn’t narrate it until 1980. I really enjoyed it and hope to buy it when I get back1.

I was feeling cold again, so I went back to my room and bundled up under the blankets. I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew, the lunch announcement came over the loudspeaker. It was a pretty boring meal – creamy chicken soup, salad from the salad bar, and a chef salad wrap. Dessert was mango tart, so, obviously, I skipped it.

After lunch, I repacked my Badtz Maru duffle and carry-on backpack, then rested until it was time for the 3pm tour of the ship2. We went through the mud room and saw the old scientific/spy machinery that had been left in place because it was too expensive to remove. Is it cynical to reflect that leaving it in place means it’s available should the ship be recommissioned for active service? We saw the emergency steering mechanism, which looked like an over-sized steering wheel, rather than a ship’s helm, not to mention it faced the interior of the storage area, so the helmsman wouldn’t be able to see where he was steering. The engine room was fairly interesting, too. We went up to the bridge and saw Cape Horn for the first time. The Chileans refused to let us get closer than 12 knots, so we weren’t able to “round the Horn” in the classic sense, unfortunately. I’ll have to take a cruise from Chile, if I want to experience that.

After the tour, I headed straight for the bar for the last cookie time. More and more people trickled in, hovering around the bar, waiting for Max to arrive with the tray. Just after 4:30, we could smell cookies, but there was no sign of Max in the corridor. All of a sudden, there was a surge towards the lounge. Max had tricked us by going around the deck and coming in through the lounge. Luckily, there were enough chocolate chunk cookies that I was able to grab one for me and one for my roommate. Unfortunately, before I realized it, I’d eaten her cookie. There were still a few left on the tray, so I grabbed another and carried it up to her, before I could eat that one, too., By then, it was nearly 5 pm and time for Rupert’s Voyage Recap3 and Sam’s photo journal slideshow.

In the half hour between the end of the slideshow and the beginning of the final camera class, I went to the bar to hang out and met Kenny and Karen, who live in NY. I had to run off at 6:15, but probably should have stayed. The camera class was supposed to be an intro to Photoshop4, but Ellen didn’t seem all that familiar with it. She couldn’t show us how to straighten a horizon, which was just about the only thing I was interested in learning. She spent a most of the time showing us how to clone pixels and use them to delete things, like people and wrinkles, from photos, which I don’t really believe in. To me, a photograph is a capture of a moment in time and should be left alone. Straightening a horizon doesn’t bother me that much, but erasing people and wrinkles isn’t something I would do. All in all, I was disappointed with the class.

We were kept late again, so we had to rush off to change for the Captain’s Dinner. I hadn’t brought any formal wear (and neither had most people), but I put on a pair of dark gray slacks with my NY skyline shirt. I sat with Kenny and Karen, Connie and Mike, and Natasha and learned that the $350 fuel surcharge was really to cover an insurance policy, rather than to cover the actual cost of the fuel for the trip. I’m going to request a refund, though I doubt I’ll get it.

During dessert, there were the usual speeches, with thanks and praise going around to everyone, some deserved (the ship’s crew and staff and the Quark expedition team) and some not so deserving.

After dinner, I hurried up to my room to make sure my bags were ready for the morning, then went down to the bar to hear John play guitar and sing (I missed the new song he wrote for this marathon) and to see the Kiwis do the Haka. It was getting late (for me), so I brought down two boxes of Daniel’s chocolates as a bribe and then got my camera ready to record. Tim started the show with an explanation of the Haka, then, with much encouragement from the crowd, he and Rod took off their shirts to the thing right. It was an impressive show. I waited to see if John would do an encore of the Antarctica Marathon song, but, at 11:15, I called it quits and went to bed.

Pictures from these days are available here:

1 Around Cape Horn – Mystic Seaport sells it on-line.

2 Ship Tour
• Mud room – Russian spy ship, ostensibly for scientific research
• After 4 years, became tourist ship
• Sonar equipment – large microphone – too expensive to remove equipment, so it was left in
• Can go 55 days without taking on fuel or water
• Ioffe and Vavilov are sister ships: Ioffe is the receiver and Vavilov is the transmitter. Both could be used as receivers, with a sub transmitting
• Emergency steering
• Side thrusters – useful for navigating among icebergs
• Stabilizers
• 2 engines – max. power is about 14.5 knots

3 Rupert’s Recap
• Record lifeboat motor/drill
• 2 ships
• 20 zodiacs
• 4 ATVs
• 206 participants
• 36 half marathon runners
• 180 marathon runners
• 7 excursions
• 2 continental landings
• 1530.4 knots covered
• 1 knot = 1.15 statute miles

4 Camera Class 5
• ISO – light sensitivity – higher ISO = more light
• (AV?) AP – aperature priority
• TV or SV – shutter speed
• Composition is key
• Pattern is a legitimate subject
• Diagonals are good
• Picasa, Elements (can’t move pixels)
• Photoshop (can move pixels)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.14.09

Antarctica Journal 3.14.09

Back at sea. I wasn’t feeling well when I woke up. The seas were not as calm as they were coming down. I felt overheated at breakfast, then felt really cold. With 2 blankets on, I was still cold, so I asked Kathy to let Tamsin (the ship doctor) know. Tamsin checked my temperature and pulse and both were low, so she told me to take a 20-minute hot shower, bundle up and make sure I ate something for lunch. She thought the “thermostating” problem was a seasickness symptom.

The shower was an interesting experience. The water felt hot, warm, cold, hot. The ship was rocking badly, so I kept having to grab the hand rail to keep from falling. I couldn’t stand it (literally and figuratively) for the full 20 minutes, so I got out, bundled up and got back under the covers. I slept fitfully until lunchtime and carried 2 sweaters with me to the dining hall. The doors opened late, because the salad bar buffet crashed and had to be rebuilt. I had some salad and bread and ordered the chicken, but it wasn’t very good. I skipped dessert, too, because it was peach cobbler. Throughout the meal, my temperature changed several times. Sweater on, sweater on, sweater off, sweater on, sweater off, sweater off, sweater on, etc. After the announcements, I went back up and burrowed under the covers again. The ship was seriously rocking with spray coming up to the 5th floor windows at least! Every now and then, the ship would shimmy and shudder. It’s amazing the punishment it takes.

The gift shop opened at 2 for an hour, but I waited until it was nearly time for the 3pm lecture to go. Liz had recommended the Frank Hurley book, so I wanted to pick it up. Michael’s lecture was on the plight of the albatross and other sea birds.1

After his presentation, I stayed in the bar until cookie time (chocolate chunk), then went to the dining hall for Lynn’s presentation on conservation of Antarctic wildlife.2 Seems like the world has tourism to thank for getting the scientists to clean up their acts down here.

Immediately after Lynn’s lecture, I had to go back to the presentation room for our 4th camera class.3 My photos got critiqued first. I got some pretty good comments, but I don’t really believe in correcting photos, so I’ll have to take better pictures first time around next time. After class, I ran up to my room for a Coke to drink with dinner, which was rack of lamb. It was okay, but I had to send it back to be cooked more. After dinner, I started packing, then went to the presentation room to load photos into the photo journal and to copy my race day photos. I also helped some people with their photos.

Pictures from these days are available here:

1 Plight of the Albatross
• Seabird conservation in fisheries
• 30 km lines
• 10-20,000 hooks/line
• Pategonian toothfish = Chilean seabass
• Albatross attracted to offal and to baited hooks
• ≈ $20/kg
• Trawl fishing also kills birds
• Methods of protection
o Streamers on lines
o Individual weights on hooks
o Dye bait blue
o Fish at night
o Lay line below water, instead of off the deck onto the surface of the water
o Limit fishing season

2 Conservation of Antarctic Wildlife
• Lynn was a conservation geneticist
• Studied how big/small a species had to be to survive
• Conservation linked to election periods
• Species need to be able to adapt to change over time in order to survive
• Blue whales and fin whales are largest species
• Genetic variation diminishes as population size decreases
• Right whales (called that because they were the best whales to hunt) – high blubber content, pale baleen (easier to paint/dye), float when dead and migrate regularly
• Penguins okay, except where in contact with humans - no defenses

3 Camera Class 4
• Review of previous sessions
• Portraiture – background, lighting conditions, photograph in shade, no light stippling
• Fill flash
• Side light increases texture
• Lens – long lens (100mm) – portrait lens
• Posing (male/female – lengthen)
• Group photos – stagger heights, triangles are good, for families – use touching to establish connection
• polarizer

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.13.09

Antarctica Journal 3.13.09

Last day in Antarctica, but one of the most exciting of the trip. We hit the farthest point south (64’53”, I think) on this voyage. I’m a little disappointed that we aren’t crossing the Antarctic Circle, but I hop to come back some day and will make sure that’s a part of the experience.

I did my usual bridge visit and was happy to learn we’d be entering Neko Harbor. The channel looked too small to allow our ship through, but, as we got closer, Antarctica pulled its usual magic and the channel widened into a huge opening into Neko Harbor. It was beautiful!

I hurried down to breakfast (late) and had eggs Florentine. Rupert told us during his breakfast announcements that the morning examinations would include a landing and a cruise and only the first 5-6 zodiacs would land, while the rest cruised and, then, halfway through the morning, they’d switch. I was delayed at breakfast talking to someone, then kept forgetting stuff, so I ended up being in a cruising zodiac. We had to hear over the radio that a leopard seal had caught a penguin just off shore.

Instead of checking out the animal activity near shore, our driver went out into the bay to look at icebergs and kept us out so long that we only had about an hour on shore when we finally landed. I was really annoyed. I trudged up the beach, narrowly avoiding stepping on a penguin carcass. Penguins were all around us. As I came around to the snow hill, I saw Nadine lying on the snow taking pictures. Two penguins had come right up to her, so I snapped some shots, because she couldn’t. I went up the hill and took some pictures over the bay and back down the hill.

On my way back down the hill, Kevin handed me his camera and asked me to take pictures of him working with his video camera. He let me take some penguin shots, too, but I wished I knew more about photography so I could have taken full advantage of the opportunity. At that point, Michael, the wildlife expert, started herding us back to the shore to go back to the ship for lunch. I held back as much as I could and was the last person to get in the zodiac.

Lunch was pizza or crab louis, neither of which I like (or can eat, in the case of the crab), so I went for the pizza, obviously. The best part of lunch was dessert: ICE CREAM SOCIAL!!!! As we finished eating, the salad bar table was reset as a buffet of toppings: sauces, fruits, nuts, cookies, sprinkles, etc. I had two scoops of chocolate ice-cream with chocolate and caramel sauces (side-by-side), brownie bits, crumbled meringue cookies, crushed chocolate wafers, whipped cream and sprinkles. Yum!! I also got to talk to people who’d seen the leopard seal with the penguin. What an experience!

During lunch, the ship moved from Neko Harbor to Paradise Harbor. Rupert announced that there would be no polar plunge, which upset a lot of people, but I knew they wouldn’t have denied it, if they could have let it happen. For the afternoon excursions, there was no way I was getting in a cruising zodiac first, but, even so, I was on the 3rd zodiac out. I was a little surprised to see Thom and some of his staff getting on the early zodiacs. As our tour guide, I expected him to make sure we were all on shore first, but I haven’t noticed that he operates as a tour guide out here.

As soon as we landed, I saw a signpost with various destinations and their distance from the base in knots. I took a few pictures, with and without the ShakeAway cup, then explored the deserted Argentine base a bit, taking pictures and video of the penguins. In order to slide down the mountain, I had to climb it first. The sun was blazing and I was hot, so I left my parka at the landing and started trudging. I was sweating by the time I got halfway. It was really steep and I was glad that I had footprints to step into and make my way more easily up the hill (I’m not sure which this was – I’m not good at judging distances or steepness, which are both factors in determining whether an elevation is a hill or a mountain).

At the top of the snow, I climbed up onto the bare rocks and ate some chocolate. I’d forgotten that I wasn’t supposed to bring any food onto Antarctica, but I wanted to eat some of Daniel’s chocolate on the continent. People started sliding down the hill and, after a good groove was carved into the snow, I tucked myself into it, lifted my feet and slid down myself. A bunch of us started out towards the outcropping with the Argentine house, but were waved off from a zodiac in the bay. They’d forgotten to tell us that the scientific buildings were okay to explore (from outside), but not the house.

I took some more penguin pics and video, then went to the landing for my zodiac cruise. People from the emptying zodiacs were trying to get their pictures with the signpost, so I offered to take pictures for them. By the time I finished, the last zodiac had left, but it was going back to the ship to drop people off, so Lynn asked it to come back for me. It was, unfortunately, the same driver from the morning, with the same results. No animals, except for a lone minke whale on our way back to dinner. Some of the other zodiacs saw animals, but not ours. Luck of the draw, I guess.

Back on the ship, it was cookie time, so I grabbed a couple for me and a couple for my roommate (chocolate with white-chocolate chunks). Instead of packing, I played with my photos until dinner.

I sat with Liz and Rod. Dinner was prime rib, which was okay. Dessert was a chocolate molten cake, that was more like a chocolate soufflé cake. Delicious!! I spent the rest of the evening in the library before going to bed with a sleeping pill.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Antarctica Journal 3.12.09

Antarctica Journal 3.12.09

I slept until the wake-up call came. I’m getting more and more tired each day. The breakfast special was pancakes, which I ate with peanut butter and a fried egg white.

The morning excursion was a zodiac cruise in Wilhelmina Bay. Scottie was our driver and he took around some interesting bays and to a whaling ship that had been scuttled in 1915 because of a fire. It’s now home to Antarctic terns. We followed some humpback whales around and on several occasions, other zodiacs (or maybe it was the same one each time) would cut in front of us, blocking our view. The last time that happened, a whale came within 5 feet of the other zodiac and we couldn’t see it at all. It was really exciting for them, but frustrating for us, because we were the ones tracking that whale and the other zodiac cruised in at the last minute and took our view. I’m glad they got to see the whale, but would have liked to have seen it up close, too. We did get to see a calving glacier, which made some big noises and some little icebergs.

We got back to the ship at around noon, which gave us time to get ready for the big barbecue. The Vavilov passengers and staff came over to the Ioffe for swordfish, steaks, ribs, wursts, burgers, and various salads and sides. Dessert wasn’t very exciting – some sort of orange bread with a custardy sauce. The best part was taking pictures under the race banner. Towards the end, Thom announced the winners. It would have taken all of 10 minutes to put together a proper list, but he just tried to read them off of the main list, which meant he read the age category winners from 1st to 3rd, instead of the other way around. He also announced them from the middle of the deck, rather than by the race banner, so we didn’t get to see the winners, because they all went to the banner at the stern to be photographed.

It wasn’t clear whether or not we’d be going back out in the zodiacs, but, happily, Rupert announced that, after an hour of gift shop access, we’d be heading back into the bay. I bought some little flat things (no princessy t-shirts for my nieces – I hope they won’t care that I don’t have anything for them) and considered buying more to get a free hat (they were having a “spend $100 and get a free hat” promotion), but decided against it.

At the appointed hour, I suited up and climbed into Lynn’s zodiac. I asked her about ice worms, but she said they don’t appear in Antarctica. Before we’d gone very far, Rupert pulled up with a single passenger and asked if anyone wanted to come over. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to climb between zodiacs in the middle of Wilhelmina Bay in the Antarctic, so I hopped over. I am proud to say that I did not fall on my face or my butt or any other part of me.

Changing zodiacs turned out to be a good call. Rupert was an excellent guide. We watched a leopard seal and some whales, then “parked” behind a glacier, out of view of the ship and tucked into brash ice with icebergs all around us and just drifted. Rupert is a Ph.D. candidate, studying sea ice, so he explained some thing about ice. Then, we heard it. A whale was snorting from deep in the bay. We saw it blow a couple of times, but it was too late to approach it. We started back for the ship, stopping twice to whale-watch. By then, we were seriously late. So Rupert opened up the engine and we flew across the mirror-like bay. It was exhilarating!

Dinner was served at 8 pm, because of the big BBQ lunch. I had the sole, because I wanted to fish at least once, but I liked the wild rice side better than the sole. Dessert was strawberry tart, so I skipped it. After next-day instructions from Rupert, I headed down to the presentation room to review my photos and load any good ones into the file for the photo class. Elizabeth was there and showed me her race photos and then Kevin showed us some of his photos.

I was exhausted, as usual, so I went to bed early.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.11.09

Antarctica Journal 3.11.09

I woke up early, so I went up to the bridge to see what was up and check out the latitude/longitude. We were heading into Mikkelson Harbor, our first glimpse of the mainland. After breakfast, we suited up and took zodiacs out to Trinity Island. Leopard seals were playing in the water as we approached.

The shore was lined with fur seals and gentoo penguins. As soon as we landed, we saw an old whaling boat surrounded by whale bones. The island was a whaling factory back when whaling was a profitable industry. I wandered around taking pictures of seals, and penguins, and seals and penguins. Sam taught me how to tell what penguins and seals have been eating by looking at their poo*. I watched Rupert having a dance-off with a bullying fur seal (Rupert won, but, in all fairness to the seal, Rupert has much longer legs).

I walked over the snow bank and nearly stepped on a Weddell seal that was completely zoned out. He never woke up, no matter how much noise we made or how close we came to him. The zodiacs started loading up, so I didn’t get a chance to see the Argentine refugee, where, apparently, an Adelie penguin was hanging out. As I waited in line for the zodiac, I rock-watched again. There were some beautiful green stones.

I sat next to Thom at lunch. I opted for the Croque Monsieur, because it was supposed to be cooked in cinnamon custard, which I couldn’t resist. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that good, either. I wished I’d gone for the curry chicken salad instead. I asked Thom if anyone had missed the cut-off and he said no, but I heard that at least two people had been picked up on ATVs.

After lunch, we went on zodiac cruises in Charlotte Bay. There were a lot of ice-bergs, plus some wildlife, including a leopard seal and some fur seals. We got back in time for cookies – oatmeal raisins with a few chocolate chunk mixed in. We all know which ones I ate! Results had been posted in the bar, so we all checked them out. I think I was 15th in my age category, which means I didn’t do very well, but I had a great time.

Before dinner there was a photo class, but we just critiqued each other’s photos. Mine weren’t copied onto the laptop, so I didn’t get any critique. Dinner wasn’t very exciting. The only option I could eat was the zucchini pancakes, which came with mashed sweet potatoes, which I can’t eat. I’ve been feeling pretty hungry at night, which seems strange, because everyone else comments on how much food we’re given. During dessert, Lynn gave a mini lecture on ice.

Pictures from these days are available here:

* Red poo means they’ve been eating krill
White poo means they’ve been eating fish
Green poo means the animal is stressed, such as when they’re moulting
Black poo means a seal has eaten a penguin

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Antarctica Marathon 3.10.09

Antarctica Marathon 3.10.09

I slept a little better without all the rocking. I got up early and went to the bridge to check out the stats. The winds were down to 4-5 m/s and it was a balmy 32°F. We had an early breakfast, because the zodiacs needed to get started by 8. I don’t usually eat before a race, so I only had some white rice and Special K. Back to the room to add the rest of my layers and suit up and boot up for the zodiac ride.+

We were greeted by penguins and a seal (crabeater or Weddell) who didn’t seem all that pleased to see us. After a few photo ops, I decided to drop a layer and didn’t wear my hat or gloves. I couldn’t believe how warm it was! I decided to wear my wrist camera for the first time around the course, then switch to my new Pentax the second time around. A bunch of us were standing and chatting when we heard a whistle and realized that the race had started. We were off!

Even after going over the elevation chart many times before leaving NY, I was somewhat surprised/shocked at the hills. Not just the number of hills (neverending), but the steepness, too. I went out way too fast, because the downhills were fun and I was trying to run up the hills. I didn’t get very far before I realized that I was making a big mistake. Not only was I going to have to do all of these hills twice, but when was I going to have 7 hours to wander around Antarctica? I started walking the steeper uphills and continued tearing down the downhills, but trying to run moderately on the few flat stretches between hills.

I had to carry one of my 3 water bottles out to the first water station, which was at the Vavilov start at the Uruguayan base. I hate carrying stuff while I’m running and this was no exception. I happily dropped it and carried on running until about the 4th mile*, when I hit the mud and quicksand that heralded the approach of the glacier. I did try to run it, but it was rocky and muddy and I nearly lost my shoes many times (other people did lose shoes, some of them multiple times during the 4 times we had to cross that section). I decided I’d rather slow down (I’d calculated a half hour for the glacier, anyway) than lose a shoe. I picked my way gingerly across the mud, trying to step on rocks as much as possible. I knew when I was crossing quicksand because the rocks would sink beneath me.

And then I hit the glacier. It was crazy! Thom had promised no crevasses, but that was before the course change. We ran right along a crevasse to the turnaround point, I took some pictures and turned back down. The glacier was slick and slippery, so I was careful and slow back down. The mud field was just as bad going back to the trail, but I managed not to lose my shoes this time, too. The mile was about 20 minutes, if not longer.

I did all the hills in reverse and caught up with Linda, who was completing her 7th marathon on 7 continents in 1 year. She’d injured her foot and hadn’t been able to train much, so I checked to see if she was okay. We leap-frogged a bit, then I caught a second wind and went on ahead. I don’t know if it was being closer to the glacier or if it was because of the increased wind, but I had to put my gloves on.

Back at the start, I had to go to my bag and grab my second bottle to carry out to the water station on the Great Wall loop. I kept up my walking uphill strategy, which was just as necessary, because the hills on this end were pretty bad, too – they were longer, though less numerous. On the way past the Chilean base, next to a pretty blue church, there was a small water station manned by a very nice Chilean man. He seemed as excited about talking to the runners and photographing them, as he was about giving us water. In the 10th mile, the trail became a stone road. It was not fun at all. I was still on track for a sub-3 half, so I didn’t push it too hard (we had to finish the first half in 3:20 to be able to continue running the full).

After a particularly difficult stretch, where the path narrowed to one lane as it skirted a huge boulder (or mountain), I could see the turnaround at the Chinese base. They had set up a fluid station for us, with beer, water, sodas, orange juice, etc. The commander was there, as well as some of the scientists. I thanked them (I hope – I could have mispronounced it), took a couple of pictures with the commander and headed back. I hadn’t taken too much fluid, because the water tasted funny. Back out to the stone road and I saw someone taking pictures right before the big boulder. I stopped to look, too, and there were 4 or 5 moulting chinstrap penguins sitting in a cleft in the rock. Cute!! I snapped some pics, of course, then carried on, making sure to tell everyone heading that way that the penguins were there.

Another swig of Gatorade and then it was just a mile or two before I finished the half. I stopped at the site to use the bathroom, just to say I had, and, boy, was I sorry!! It was disgusting!! Port-a-potties are luxury toilets compared to the biobox we had to use. It was basically a cooler in a tent. I picked up my regular camera to make sure I got some good shots, in case the Hero didn’t work. I also stopped for a picture next to the “Finish” sign, in case my battery died (it was in the red and I didn’t have a spare battery with me).

As I was getting ready to start my second 8-mile loop, Gert, the winner, was coming in, so I stopped to cheer him in. The “tape” was a strip of torn plastic bag and when he crossed, he collapsed on the ground. Thom asked him to do it again, but then checked and he’d caught the shot, so he didn’t have to after all.

Back to the course for an even slower 2nd half. I’d hoped that all the energy I’d preserved by walking and going slow and stopping for pictures would help me with negative or even splits, but I was worn out and walked at least half of the second time around. On the way back towards the glacier, there was a penguin on the course. He was running along with some runners and wandering around at other times. We found out later that he was probably looking for a place to moult (he was a long way inland from the coast). I was leap-frogging with Deb at this point and we stopped to take pictures, then headed back to the glacier. The runners coming back towards us said the glacier was in better shape now, but the mud was just as bad, if not worse. I was relieved to get onto the glacier. I took more pictures, including one of my feet straddling a crevasse. No-one was manning the turnaround this time and the banner had fallen over, so no pics there. I was able to run down the glacier – it was nice and crunchy, probably from the drop in temperature and the increase in the winds.

Back across the mudfield with no pretense of running at all. I was in survivor mode by this time. My back and hips ached. Up and down the hills, picking up my water bottle on the way, until I was finally back at the start and ready to complete the final 4+-mile loop. I dropped off the water bottle and tried to run through Bellingshausen, at least. That lasted all of a minute, I think. I was trying to stick to my run-downhills-and-flats plan, but gave it up completely when I hit the stone road into the China base. I drank a cup of Coke at the Chinese water station, then strode off to finish my marathon.

I knew it was only about 2.5 miles, but I couldn’t take running on the stones. My lower back ached and my hips and legs weren’t all that happy with me, either. I told myself that when I hit the mud trail again, I would run, and I did, but not for long. Back at the water drop, I picked up my bottle to bring back to the finish. I started looking at all the different rocks and passed some time thinking about how different and how similar is to the rest of the planet.

Back up and down the hills (I kept telling myself I’d see the finish area around the next bend, but it must have been wishful thinking) until I hit the final downhill before re-entering the Russian base. I decided that I would run the rest of the way and I didn’t stop – not when some Chileans stopped in their truck and blew me kisses, not when I thought I couldn’t run another step, and not when I hit the final uphill to the finish. I wish I’d remembered to drop the water bottle before the finish-line photos. My camera battery had died back in China, but Deb was still gathering her things, so she very kindly agreed to put my memory card in her camera so I have finishing photos.

I was covered in mud and there was no way I was going to put my waterproofs on and get them filthy inside and out, so I just picked up my bag and boots and headed back to the landing site. Linda was coming in to finish, so I cheered for her a little, but I was cold and tired and wanted a hot shower, so I “hopped” into the zodiac. As we loaded there were a lot of chinstrap penguins playing in the water and some of them even swam out after us for a little ways.

I’d been worried about getting up the gangway at all, forget about carrying the bag and boots, but I made it with no problem. You can’t take anything from Antarctica, so our boots and shoes had to be thoroughly cleaned before we entered the boat. The boots were easy, but I didn’t see how my shoes would ever be clean. No problem – the guy blasted them with the cleaning fluid while they were still on my feet. I scrubbed at them with the brush and, between us, we got the shoes looking nearly new!

I got back to the room and did the happy dance. I was so excited about having finished the marathon, even though it was a really slow time. I showered, dressed and went down to the dining room, where they were serving a buffet lunch for the finishers. The chili and rice were delicious! The ship was full of clusters of people talking about their experiences on shore, with lots of drifting and changing as people kept coming back or waking from naps.

Afternoon cookies were chocolate with white chocolate chips and peanut butter and I had one of each, plus some of Daniel’s chocolate-covered brazil nuts. Dinner was at the usual time and I had the osso bucco with risotto. Dessert was crème brulee. Yum! I washed my clothes and tried to stay up, but was too tired, so I ate a few more of Daniel’s chocolates and went to bed.

Official stats: my official time was 6:21:19 for a 14:33 pace. My splits were 9:47, 13:00, 13:44, 13:02, 16:45, 13:33, 14:51, 12:42, 27:00 (2 miles), 13:39, 14:49, 12:24, 22:55 (2 miles), 13:00, 6:50 (??), 17:27, 21:54, 14:49, 14:16, 32:09 (2 miles), 13:31, 17:40, 15:46, 13:52, and 1:19 for the last two-tenths of a mile. I was 119 out of 149 total runners, putting me in the 20th percentile. It was 32F, overcast and windy.
Celebratory treats: Daniel’s chocolate-covered Brazil nuts
Next up: Run for the Parks 4-miler (4/5)
Thanks for all your support!!
Pictures from these days are available here:

*Theresa and I were running somewhat together through this area and, as we were coming up out of a particularly muddy patch, we saw someone’s Yak Trax stuck in the mud, so we notified the first “course monitor” that it was there, so it could be retrieved.

+ Race Instructions
• Ioffe passengers start at Bellingshausen and Vavilov passengers start at Artigas
• Start at Bellingshausen - run towards Artigas – at glacier, turn left - at 4 miles, run up the back side of the glacier (only 300m) - run back to Bellingshausen - then run to the Chilean base - at orange storage tank, follow the flags - head to China - water stop at turn around - return to Bellingshausen – for marathoners, repeat course
• water stops – leave one bottle at start - carry one water bottle to 2-mile marker at Artigas, at first return to start, take second water bottle to China water stop. Pick up bottles on final return trip.
• Wet weather gear
• 9am start
• 8am first zodiac
• 45 minute to get all ashore
• The moss is an environmental concern – be careful not to step on any moss
• Do not leave the course
• Worst mud is 100 yards in and lasts about 100 yards

Race Strategy
• Race strategy – trail course, pay attention, don’t fight the wind or the hills or the mud, don’t hurry over the rocks.
• Most challenging course – hold yourself back
• Best way to race on hills is to keep effort level the same, not pace.
• Open stride on downhills

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.9.09

King George Island and Pre-Race Banquet

I got up early to see if we had come in sight of land yet, but, when I got to the bridge, it was really hazy. After about a half hour, Gary spotted a rocky outcropping and then I saw some snow-covered rocks. It was all very exciting, except that it looked nothing like the Antarctica I’d expected.

After breakfast, I went up to the top deck to watch the crew load ATVs into the zodiacs. It was much colder than it had been and extremely windy (16 m/s) and I started to worry about race-day conditions. Being so close to land brought the birds closer to the ship and it was fun trying to guess which they were. We were supposed to go on a zodiac cruise of Maxwell Bay at 10 am, but it was too windy and the waves were too high, so we were invited to watch BBC’s Planet Earth: Ice, instead. I was exhausted after the movie (I hadn’t been sleeping well with the rocking back and forth (head to foot) all night long and hoped that I could take a nap, now that we had dropped anchor.

At 12:30, the lunch announcement came over the loudspeaker and I descended to the dining room to find beef barley soup, salad and quiche waiting for me. I turned down the cherry cobbler dessert. At lunch, it was announced that the winds had abated sufficiently (hooray!) and that we could leave postcards with the ship for mailing from Antarctica (double hooray!). I made a beeline for the lounge and started writing.

At 2:30, we lined up for the zodiacs and I maneuvered myself into position to be in the same zodiac as the photography instructor, because, according to the class schedule, we’d be getting more instruction in the zodiacs. I think she said 2 things. Total waste of money! The first time going down the gangway over open water was pretty exciting, though. Rob, our zodiac guide, took us in to the Russian base (we saw penguins sunning on the way) then around to the Chilean base, where we could look at Collins glacier and panic a little about getting up it twice during the race. We then headed over to Great Wall, the China base, to get an idea about how far away it was. We couldn’t get too close because of a sand bar (the Great Wall?) blocking the way.

We cruised a little more around the bay, then headed back to the ship. I grabbed my postcards and started writing again. I stayed in the bar so I’d be there for afternoon cookies (chocolate with white chocolate chips and peanut butter ship) and spoke with Linda about 7on7. She advised me not to worry about dropping Gatorade (Thom had warned us during the reception in BA that we were not to leave even a drop of Gatorade on the ground) and to take the fuel I normally do, but be careful about it. She and her husband left and Elizabeth and her dad joined me. We chatted a bit, then Rod headed off and Elizabeth and I stayed talking until dinner was called.

Dinner was served buffet style (this was our past party/carb load), so each deck was called in separately, to avoid congestion. My deck was called first and I gorged on salad, couscous, green beans almondine, lasagna, and penne arrabbiata. Dessert was tropical fruit sorbet, so I skipped it.

Rupert and Thom addressed us over dessert, giving us the final race instructions. There was a significant course change, because the glacier was solid ice and to dangerous to run along the normal course. They found an alternate route around the back of the glacier with a shallower incline, but it was a shorter climb, too, because the Chinese base didn’t want us not to come to their base for the marathon. The new course became an 8+-mile out (instead of 7) and back and a 4+-mile (instead of 6) out-and-back. They also decided to start the two ships out of different bays. Our ship started at the official start at Bellingshausen, the Russian base, but the other ship started 2 miles into the course at the Uruguayan base. I wonder if Thom will have 2 winners, since he has 2 courses.

After dinner, I came back to the room, got my race day gear set and went to bed.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.8.09

The Drake Passage – Day 2

It was a really rocky night. I was sliding in my bed from feet to head. Needless to say, not much sleep. I got up a little early and took some pictures from the deck. After a pancake breakfast, I did another bird check, then headed to the Presentation room for Thom’s lecture on the history of the Antarctica Marathon1. He ran over, hurrying through the end, and we had just enough time to get to the dining hall for the penguin lecture2.

After the penguin lecture, I had the second session of the camera class3. It was just as bad as the first. I want to complain, but am concerned about how the rest of my trip will go, if I do.

Lunch immediately followed. I skipped the broccoli soup and just had a small salad, followed by Guinness stew. Dessert was bread pudding, out of which I picked the raisins, but was otherwise pretty tasty. I should have taken a nap after lunch, but went shopping in the gift shop instead. I picked up postcards and a t-shirt for myself. It was the last excursion of the season, so the pickings were pretty slim.

I had just enough time to head up to the top deck to watch for birds before heading back down to the presentation room to learn about seals4. I hope we get to see some! Between lectures, I went to my room to grab some stuff I’d need later, then did some more bird watching (on deck and from the bridge), before going to the bar for Afternoon Tea (aka cookie-time) for yummy chocolate chunk cookies. Heather helped me stamp and organize my postcards, then it was time to go to the dining hall to learn about Scott’s and Amundson’s race for the South Pole. I don’t understand why people reviled Amundson for getting there safely and without any casualties when Scott, who was hailed a hero, made numerous, compounding mistakes that ultimately lost 8 men their lives, including Scott!

After some more birdwatching (I finally got a fairly decent shot of an albatross), I went to the lounge for happy hour. No snacks for me (they served chips and salsa). I sat with Kevin, who is filming Linda Quirk’s Run 7 on 7 Dream Big challenge (this is her last marathon of the challenge) and we chatted about this, that and the other. He said he’d send me some of his pictures after the trip and I gave him my flickr name so he could see my stuff, too.

The dinner announcement came at 7:30 and Kevin and I went in together. We sat with Mike and Connie*, who looks way too young to be a surgeon and the mother of a 20-year-old! I had a small bowl of navy bean soup and some salad for starters, then had chicken breast stuffed with herbed cheese, with rice pilaf and snap peas. Dessert was supposed to be chocolate chocolate cake, but the cake was vanilla with chocolate frosting.

At the end of dinner, we were told that we’d have an early start tomorrow, so I came upstairs to my room to write some postcards and do a little reading before going to sleep.

*I won’t be naming all of my meal companions, but I will say that I tried to find different people to sit with every time. It seemed to me that the type of people who would do something like this must be very interesting and I wanted to hear more of their stories. I learned what I’d suspected before I even signed up – I was way out of my league in this crowd. I heard stories of Kilimanjaro and Everest and the Great Wall of China and many other extreme events. Chuck was on his third time (accidentally) around the 50 states. Dale and Cathy were running this marathon as their first ever marathon! Cecile was running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 80 days. Many were gaining entry into the 7 Continents Club. I was an imposter, pretending I belonged in this group of illustrious runners. The winner trained in the mountains of Kenya to prepare. Patrick, who is from Tahiti, trained in a freezer at -18° with a fan on to simulate the wind. There are a lot more stories like this. If I hadn’t had Elizabeth’s training plan, I wouldn’t have been nearly as prepared as I was and it was only the worry of disappointing her that kept me on track! (You all know how lazy I am and that I’m not a fan of hard work!)

Pictures from these days are available here:

1 History of the Antarctica Marathon
• John did not interview Thom excessively for the book. The book does not include the underbelly of the event
• MT started in 1979
• 1991 Antarctica Treaty covers tourism
• August ’93 – article brings Antarctica to runners’ attention
• Arctowski (Polish base) – trial run too muddy, a lot of attacking Skuas
• King George Island – course okay, but 4 countries created a lot of politics
• Esperanza – Hope Bay – base commander happy about the race, but the Argentine Foreign Minister said no
• King George Island base commanders were very helpful
• Course change because of quicksand
• Implied that race on boat was his idea, though the book indicates that it was Winkler’s idea

2 Penguins

• 17 species – wingless diver, brush-tailed, true diver, little true diver, little wedge
• Largest – Emperor Penguin - 1.1m, 40k
• Smallest – Little Penguin – 40cm, 1k
• 100°C birds – temperature range of climate
• feathered fish, spindle shape to ease transition between land and sea
• solid bones – helps overcome buoyancy
• all penguins have dark backs and white bellies for camouflage
• no teeth, raspy hooks that point backwards
• thin layer of fat, feathered survival suits, hooks on ends of feathers act as an insulator when penguins are in water
• penguin feathers are all the same size
• heat stress when warm in Antarctica
• warm-blooded egg layer, do not travel great distances, no flight
• breeding – males are “passive pawns” – female drives the breeding season, male nests – serially monogamous, female will not stay with an ineffective male
• fatter males are more desirable
• some females have affairs
• prostitution – females will offer copulation in exchange for good nesting stones
• males – will copulate very often w/female to ensure that they inseminated the female and will also try to be the last one
• nests made of stones – high enough to keep the nest about water
• some nests are thousands of years old
• 2 eggs from Gentoo and Adelie
• incubation lasts 31-39 days
• food chasers - chicks follow adult on a search for food ensuring that each chick gets fed
• creched for 23-30 days
• fledgling for 48-82 days
• high mortality rate up to 80%
• penguins moult once a year over 3-5 weeks
• birds fast during moult
• moult feather by feather – high stress period
• predators – leopard seals, seals peel penguins before eating them
• Gentoo – 76-81cm, 5.5kg, dives to 100m, brush-tail, white band across brow, 3rd tallest penguin, eat krill, nest on open beaches, good rock scramblers
• Chinstrap – 68-77cm, 5kg, dives to 70m, brush-tail, large colonies away from beach
• Adelie – 46-75cm, 5kg, dives to 175m, brush-tail, breeds farthest south of all birds, 2-day limit for last year’s partner to find the female
• Penguins as far north as the Galapagos
• Penguins do not migrate
• Emperor penguin stays on Antarctic mainland

Rules for penguin encounter
• Must stay at least 5m away
• Do not approach, but if they come close, don’t move
• If a group walks up and stares, you’re in their way and should step aside

3 Camera Class 2

• EV compensation – higher-lighter, lower equals darker
• Shutter speed – cannot adjust on Pentax
• Aperature priority – long lens = shallow depth of field, short lens = longer depth of field
• Waterproof case
• Flash fill?
• Composition – for landscapes, go with 2/3 for the more important subject and 1/3 for the rest
• Reflections are okay to have as a double

4 Marine Mammals – Seals
• Southern seals – 4 species – year-round Antarctic dwellers
• True seals – slow-moving
• Eared seals – can run on all four legs
• Fur seals (eared seals) – subAntarctic summer visitors– can’t cope with Antarctic cold – harem breeders, fearless and mean, nearly as fast as dogs, cannot eat while breeding, because of having to protect harem, lose up to 40% of their body weight
• Elephant seal – summer visitor – sexual dimorphism, female: 800-900 kg, bulls: 3 ½ to 4 tons, pup weaned at 12 days
• Antarctic seals have a catastrophic moult
• Ross seal – blubber for insulation, very rarely seen
• Weddell seal – lazy – nicknamed the “Antarctic Blubber Slug” – smiley-faced, no neck, nostrils block salt water from entering lungs (relaxed position is closed) spotted, teeth are sharp, breathing holes in ice, no land-based predators, Weddell seal can hold his breath for 180 minutes – counter-current heat exchange (venous blood is warmed as it goes back to the core and arterial blood is cooled via capillaries), feed on fish and squid, most efficient at digesting fat, live up to 40 years, Weddells take their babies hunting, breed in water, give birth on land
• Leopard seal – similar to Weddells, but bigger mouth, sleeker head, obvious neck, spotted, curious, long flippers, waist, hips, shoulders, single-pup births,
• Crabeater seal – golden body, longer nose, independent breeder, social animals, scarring (mostly caused by male-to-male combat), males turn silvery with age, do not eat crabs, eat krill
• Researching marine animals is difficult, cannot anesthetize until secured because of inability to breathe, not easy to count (10-70 million), attached satellite transmitters moult off in 12 months
• Only predator is orca whale
• Strong muscles
• Not sure about global warning
• Hearing and eyesight are the primary sense for hunting, at one meter distance, whiskers take over

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.7.09 (sorry about the formatting - I typed this in Word)

The Drake Passage – Day 1

The ship was rolling pretty strongly during the night. At one point, there was a series of little crashes, as everything that wasn’t battened down flew across the room. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I mistimed it and got up when the ship was rolling towards the bathroom, so I hurtled right past it and hit the cabin door. Luckily, I didn’t wake my roommate.

After breakfast, we had two mandatory lectures. The first was on the Antarctica Treaty1 and the second was about zodiac safety2. In the hour before lunch, I did some bird watching, took some pictures (I tried to take pictures that showed the rocking of the ship) and took a nap.

At lunch, I had a salad from the salad bar, wild rice soup, chef salad and pound cake drizzled with dulce de leche and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. During the announcements, we were told that the photo class was starting at 1:45 and would last until 3. The next announcement was that the gift shop would be opening at 2 for an hour. There were lectures at 3 and 5, as well, so I was going to miss the shopping hour and I’d already found several items in the catalog that I wanted to buy. The photo class3 was over twice as large as we’d been told (“limited to 10”) and a lot of time was spent on individual instruction for people who didn’t know how their cameras worked. It took 20 minutes just to get through ISO, so, when the instructor, Ellen, started helping people figure out their flashes, I ran across the ship to the gift shop and picked up the fleece I’d noticed in the catalog.

Ellen was still working on flash, so I didn’t miss anything. I’m more than a little disappointed about how the class started. There are too many people (especially since I only signed up because it was going to be a 10-person class) and we covered only ¼ of the material she’d expected to teach in a 2-hour session. We’re also going to have to fight over who gets to sit in her zodiac during the excursions.

The 3pm lecture was about the birds of Antarctica4 and then we got fresh, hot peanut-butter cookies at Afternoon Tea. The 5 pm lecture was about Shackleton’s 1914 expedition, but I didn’t learn anything that I hadn’t already known. More bird-watching until Happy Hour, but, by the time I got there, the lounge and bar were full, so I did some prep work on my running shoes (we had to clean them thoroughly before stepping foot on Antarctica) and rested in my room.

Dinner started with salad bar and pumpkin soup, which was pretty good. I had the pork entrée and dessert was a total disappointment – rhubarb tart. The ship was really rocking and rolling and the portholes were getting splashed. I tried to get pictures and vide, but wasn’t very successful. Ellen saw me taking pictures and asked me what I thought of the class. So I told her. She asked me to sit down and tried to show me my camera’s settings in more detail, but the battery died at that moment (3rd time in 3 days!), so she showed me on my old Casio. Not that it did much good. After dinner I was going to hang out in the lounge, but it was really crowded and noisy, so, after a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit questions, I went to bed.

Pictures from these days are available here:

1 IAATO Presentation (Mandatory)
• Ioffe is Russian
• IAATO – International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators
• IAATO guidelines were adopted by the UN as the Antarctic Treaty
• Keep Antarctica pristine
• Antarctica is the largest wilderness on earth
• Do not drop or litter anything overboard
• Stow belongings securely to avoid being blown away
• Avoid freshwater lakes and streams to avoid polluting
• Avoid introducing new organisms to Antarctica
• Inspect and clean clothing and equipment before going ashore
• No food ashore
• Take photos, but nothing else
• Leave no evidence of visit (graffiti, etc.)
• Protect Antarctic wildlife
• All species are protected
• Antarctica wildlife shows no fear of people
• Do not disturb wildlife at sea
• Animals have right of way
• Do not feed, touch or handle wildlife
• Stay a minimum of 5 meters (15 feet) from Antarctic wildlife
• Avoid slopes, which may contain burrowed nests
• Avoid rookeries
• Birds will attack if you get too close
• The moulting period is dangerous for the birds; they are stressed
• Seals can be dangerous; show strong front
• Avoid walking on plants
• Protected areas
• Do not remove or damage historical remnants
• No smoking
• Do not enter buildings unless invited
• Respect scientific research
• Emergency refuges are only for emergencies
• Safety – severe and changeable weather
• Dress properly – water- and windproof clothing
• Glaciers and icefields can be crevassed and dangerous
• Hands-free when getting in and out of zodiacs
• Terrain is slippery and uneven
• Be sure to stop and reflect
• Buddy system – stay in sight of the group
• Heed advice of leaders
• We are ambassadors to the last great wilderness

2 Zodiac Safety Presentation

• 7 compartments of air, difficult to puncture, a punction in any of the 7 compartments won’t cause it to sink
• 10-12 passengers, max is 15 passengers
• Waterproof clothing is helpful for landings
• Rubber boots only in zodiacs
• Hands-free embarking and disembarking
• Mandatory life-jacket on zodiac, but not on land
• Gangway is most dangerous part of excursions
• Step onto pontoon, then enter zodiac, sit down right away. Stay seated
• Man overboard – all remaining passengers turn to kneel on floor and try to locate the person
• Zodiac driver is captain and must be obeyed
• Limit drinking and eating prior to going ashore (no port-a-potties on shore)
• No intoxicated person is allowed in the zodiac
• Horn blasts from ship signal time to depart
• Landings last about 3 hours and occur twice a day
• Someone will be at the zodiac, if we want to leave early, need the bathroom, forgot something
• Boots – choose now and place in a particular place in the mud room – no boots in rooms
• Line for zodiacs is along starboard decks on the 3rd floor
• Bring Yak Trax in case you want to walk on ice

3 Camera Class 1

• Basic camera functions
• People are vertical
• Always fill frame
• ISO – light sensitivity of the camera – ASA is same – higher ISO number for darker scenes, lower for lighter
• Flash
• White balance – for photos in bright light
• Camera settings – turn digital zoom off
• Composition – penguin on iceberg, focus on penguin, press button halfway, recomposes photo and complete the shutter
• Macro

4 Birds of the Southern Ocean

• enclosed nostrils on bill, poor eyesight, good sense of smell
• weigh 20g to 10kg, oceanic, single/double tube, surface feeders
• monogamous, late sexual maturity, single egg each season, shared parenting
• chicks are semi-precocial (already prepared to survive at hatching)
• long incubation and brooding, rich stomach oil
• projectile vomiting to protect themselves and nests, live in colonies of 100-10,000 birds
• natal philopatry – adult birds return to their birthplace to breed
• navigation – birds migrate to places with a lot of food, built-in salt factory

• 21 species – 19 threatened – 4 seriously endangered
• can live 50-60 years
• scavenge food from surface
• two tubes
• can circumnavigate the globe without landing – can glide for days
• one was tracked at 30,000 km in 9 days without setting down
• dynamic soaring – on lower wind currents
• slope soaring – upwind, low soaring
• rarely flap wings – not designed for flapping
• wingspan of the Wandering Albatross is 3 1/2m - the longest of any bird
• energy efficient – peach spot behing eye, get whiter with age, 28,000 pairs worldwide
• elaborate breeding rituals
• longest incubation – care for chicks for over a year, breed in alternate years
• Black-browed Albatross – 2.4m wingspan
• Gray-headed Albatross – gray head and orange-banded bill
• Light-mantled Sooty Albatross (Michael’s favorite) – 2.1m wing span

Petrils and Prions
• diverse group, scavengers and predators, less graceful than albatross – 2.1m wingspan
• Northern Giant Petril – tip of bill is pinkish
• Southern Fulmar – 1.2m wingspan, bull-necked, silvery gray top
• White-chinned petrels – 1.5m wingspan, brownish-black plumage, yellow bill, wings flap
• Cape Petrel – 90cm wingspan, distinctive checkerboard plumage
• Snow petrel – at Peninsula, pure white, 85 cm wingspan, not gliders, Furious Fifties
• Antarctic Prion – wingspan contains a broad dark M (like McDonald’s), black spot on tail
• Blue Petrel – similar M marking – white tail
• Wilson’s Storm Petrel – sooty with white butt, can walk on water, 42cm wingspan
• Terns – Antarctic tern, black cap, red bill
• Skuas – large and gull-like, females larger than males, pale color, scavengers, predators, kleptoparasitism (steal food from other birds)
• Kelp gull – white body, yellow bill w/red spot, black wings
• Snow Sheathbill – pigeon-like, no webs on feet, rarely fly, scavengers, kleptoparasites
• Antarctic Shag (cormorant) – black-head, blue eyes, orange bulb on bill, can dive to 100m, wettable plumage

Friday, March 27, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.6.09

BA to Ushuaia to Embarkation on the Akademik Ioffe

Another early morning. Heather had to have her bags downstairs by 5, but I just wished her a good trip and went back to sleep until my 6 am wake-up call. I showered, dressed and went to breakfast, taking care of last-minute errands on the way. The bus to the airport left at 8 and check-in went smoothly. My money turned up, too. I had put it in my passport for safekeeping and when I handed my passport to the agent, she handed the money back. We’d been warned that one of the earlier busloads had had to pay for overweight bags, but I wasn’t charged, even though my duffle weighed 20.2 kilos. For some reason, we weren’t allowed through security until it was time to board, so, of course, we left and arrived late.

I was really irritated because I was only going to have an hour in Ushuaia (Thom said it would be two, but he hadn’t factored in the time change), and I wanted as much time as I could get (I already knew that I was on the first plane out on the way back and would have no other opportunity to spend time here)! As soon as they let us go, I hurried to the first shop I saw and bought, wrote and sent postcards. I also bought some empanadas, which were delicious! I took some pictures and went back to the bus (in order to board the ship, we had to be driven onto the pier and unloaded at the gangway), where we were kept waiting until we were cleared to enter the dock and board our ship, the Akademik Ioffe, handing over our passports as we crossed the threshold.

When I got upstairs, my roommate, Kathy, was already unpacking. We had been told to bring collapsible duffles that could be emptied and then stowed under the bunks, but the bunks had drawers underneath, so the brand-new duffle, bought especially for this trip, had to be stowed under the chair. I didn’t bother unpacking the top of it; I used it as my dresser drawer. Kathy stowed hers across the counter and the top of the chair. As soon as I’d stowed my gear, I headed off to explore the ship. There was a reception at about 6, with appetizers, cookies and drinks. During the reception, we learned the lifeboat drill, which came in handy. After the reception, I went up onto the top deck and was there when the alarm sounded (7 short blasts and 1 long). I hurried to my room, put on my warmest clothes and coat, and went out to the lifeboat, carrying my life-jacket (you don’t put the life-jacket on until you’re on deck). We’re competitive runners, so, of course, we all cheered when Rupert, our expedition leader, told us we’d mustered in the fastest time this season, and, possibly, ever for this ship – 109 passengers hit the deck in their winter gear and life vests in under 10 minutes!

After the drill, we gathered on deck to watch the cast-off and see Ushuaia disappear into the distance, then moved forward to watch the Beagle Channel disappear beneath us.

Dinner was served at 7. I sat with Heather, Cathy, Susan and Lisa. We were served wild rice soup along with the salad bar and, for my main course, I ordered the steak with no mushroom gravy. I also substituted a cheese plate for the mandarin orange tart. As we ate, we passed the southernmost settlement (on the coast of Chile) and after we finished, I went back up on deck to watch the channel and the straits. I’ll be asleep when we pass Cape Horn, unfortunately.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.5.09

Bean to Bar Chocolate in Buenos Aires!

I stayed up late again and couldn’t get up for my run. My legs are tired and stiff, anyway, so, hopefully, the rest will do some good.

I ate a little more at breakfast today. When I saw Heather come in, I went upstairs to brush my teeth and picked her up on my way back out. We walked across the plaza to General San Martin’s memorial to where the Buddy Bears were set up and walked thorugh them on our way to Recoleto Cemetery. Daniel had suggested we walk up via Quintana and back via Alvear, so we took that route. It was very Upper East Side. At the cemetery, we admired another of the Ombu trees and the cemetery entrance before buying a map and going in. We followed the route in the map as far as the Peron site. Recoleta is an old European-style cemetery with mausoleums, some of which are haunting, like the statue of a young girl at a doorway and the statue of a young girl and her dog. There was quite a lot of stained glass, most interesting because the picture is on the inside of the mausoleum. Presumably, the visiting families enjoy the view, since the occupants certainly can’t.

After admiring the plaques commemorating Evita, I had to head back and Heather decided to go back as well, so we walked down to Alvear (more UES) until we hit Arroyo, where I detoured us to visit the Israeli Embassy Plaza, which is a memorial to the 29 victims of the 1992 terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy. The memorial is stunning. The wall of the building beside the embassy site holds an imprint of the building that was there and there’s an avenue of trees (either 21 or 29). A little farther along, we passed Plaza Cataluña. The old-fashioned fountain caught our attention and the plaque indicated that it’s a replica of a fountain in Barcelona. As we turned to leave, Heather noted that the building edging the Plaza had trompe l’oiel windows. We got back to the hotel with enough time for me to grab a snack, brush my teeth and repack my bag.

Daniel got there a little after 1 and came bearing empanadas from Tatu, his favorite empanada restaurant. We drove out to Chocolates Fenix (the only bean-to-bar chocolate maker in BA, if not in all of Argentina) and had lunch with Rodrigo Salgado, whose family started the factory nearly 100 years ago. The factory is on the street level and the Salgados live above it in a beautiful, Spanish-style home. We ate lunch on the terrace and it felt like home to me. There was even a poster from the Seville bullring where we used to see bullfights when I was a little girl. Lunch was followed by another nostalgic moment, when we met their yellow lab, Captain Hook, on the way up to the rooftop greenhouse to see the cocoa trees. There were in flower, but no pods. Two appeared last year, but didn’t last long.

The real treat came next – a top-to-bottom tour of the chocolate factory, which was in full production, with the exception of the roaster, which had been shut down so they’d cool by nighttime. I saw the roasting ovens and buckets of fresh-roasted beans. The winnower was going with nibs and hulls going to separate sides of the machine. The nibs drop down a chute into the melanger. I happened to be there right as the cocoa butter press was activated, so I got to see the cocoa butter being separated. There were piles of cocoa mass in various sections of the factory, waiting to be ground into powder or blended with sugar for chocolate production. The temperer was active, too, so I got to see the bars (large commercial blocks, really) being poured, too. Then we returned to the office and talked chocolate and food until it was time to leave. Rodrigo very generously gave me bars of chocolate to take home to my tasting group and I can’t wait to share them.

Daniel wanted to train that night, but graciously agreed to stop at his shop on the way back to the hotel. I bought some truffles (with some argument, because he wanted to give me everything, but he’d been so generous already that I insisted) and then we drove back.

I scrambled around, buying postcards, doing a quick (15-minute) e-mail check, grabbing food to eat in my room and then wrote out my postcards, to make sure I got them out before I left. I completely emptied all of my bags and repacked, with Antarctica in mind this time. I was a bit concerned about going over weight (we were going to be on a domestic flight with tighter weight restrictions) especially with all the chocolate I’d been given. I also couldn’t find my monty. I’d separated my dollars, so I wasn’t carrying all of my cash around (especially after all of the warnings about pickpockets) but it wasn’t anywhere I thought it would be. Instead of going to bed early, I ended up staying up late yet again, this time, lying down, then jumping up to check more places to see if it would turn up. No luck. I was still up when Heather got back from the tango show and she helped me look a bit. All she found was a wrapped box under her bed. We’d already had issues with the hotel and this was the last straw. We’re both going to file complaints. The issues included late housekeeping (the room was never made up before 3), dampness (no mold, but everything was damp, including the things we brought in), ineffective housekeeping (on the last day, the housekeeper had left a bag of trash on Heather’s bed) and, now, we’d found the present under the bed, which means vacuuming was spotty at best. At a $300/night Marriott, our room should have been spotless and thoroughly cleaned by the time we returned from our morning excursions.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.4.09

Buenos Aires and the Antarctica Marathon Reception!

After talking late into the night (Heather made the innocent mistake of asking me about chocolate), it was a shock when the alarm went off. We reset it for another half hour of sleep, then I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for the day. Breakfast was a buffet in the hotel with tables for 8 scattered around the room. Inevitably, the conversation centered on marathons – when, where, how bad, how good, etc.

The city tour started at 9:30, but it was pouring rain, so we only got out of the bus at two stops: the Metropolitan Cathedral and Caminito Street in La Boca, where the tango dancers danced and took pictures with us for donations. The guide was good, though, and told us some interesting tidbits about BA and its people.*

Back at the hotel, I cashed in the free gift coupon the guide gave us to use at H. Stern for a nice silver pendant and learned about the Inca Rose (rodocrosita), the national stone of Argentina. The clerk told me that the stone is only found in Argentina, but my own research doesn’t bear that out.

I called Daniel and we arranged to meet at 3, so I went to a local café for lunch on the recommendation of a fellow marathoner and ordered the lomo, which is, supposedly, a specialty cut in BA. The food came and I realized that I hadn’t told the waiter that I wanted it well-done. I was afraid to send it back, though, so I asked for some lemon. The fries were delicious and Spanish-style and I doused them with lemon, too. After lunch, I wandered around Plaza San Martin and took pictures of the Buddy Bear exhibit, General San Martin’s monument and the amazing ombu tree in the center of the park.

Daniel picked me up at 3 and we retraced part of the morning’s tour, giving me a chance to see it without the rain and also giving more information about various points of interest that hadn’t been mentioned on the tour. We also stopped at a couple of chocolate shops. Vasalissa was a beautiful shop, but the truffle we had was old. El Viejo Oso wasn’t as impressive to look at, but the chocolates were much better, although the alcohol truffles were very strong. We stopped for ice-cream (for me) at a Freddo shop, too. It was very good, but the dulce de leche was a bit much after a couple of bites.

On the way back to the hotel, Daniel stopped at the Barbie store for me, but they didn’t have anything that said Buenos Aires, so I just took pictures. By then, I was late for the marathon reception, so we hurried back, with plans for me to meet him at 1 the next day.

At the hotel, the reception was in full swing, so I went in and picked up my bib. I talked to some people here and there as I made my way over to the race memorabilia table, where I succumbed and bought a t-shirt and 2 patches (1 for me and 1 for ShakeAway). I went back up to the room to drop off my stuff and when I got back, the dining room doors had been opened. Heather had saved a seat for me and we all traded names and info. Lisa started a round of “what was your scariest moment” (mine was the moment I was talking on the phone in college and saw that my doorknob was slowly turning back and forth as some man tried to get in) which was an interesting conversation starter. Dinner started with chicken Caesar salad (real anchovies in the dressing) and the main course was salmon with some sort of mashed vegetables. As dessert was being served, Thom gave his presentation, explaining all of the difficulties he’d encountered setting up this year’s race, breaking down the race day logistics and a slide show of photos from previous year’s races (including a trilogy which culminated in a seal eating a penguin). Dessert was a passable chocolate cake, but they hadn’t heated it so the ganache filling was solid, rather than liquid. I left the raspberry ice-cream melting on the plate.

Chocolates were served with the coffee and tea and I was able to correctly identify them as El Viejo Oso chocolates from my earlier visit to their store. After the banquet, Heather and I stayed up late again, talking until 1 am. Heather was planning to go for a run outside, but I wanted so skip the heat and humidity and run on the treadmill, so we made plans to meet at breakfast after her run.

Pictures from these days are available here:

*My notes from the tour:
• The British Tower was renamed Torre Monumental after the Falkland Islands War. The Falkland Islands War Memorial was installed directly opposite the Tower.

• Retiro Station – more people travel by bus than by train to save time, e.g., the 19-hour bus trip to Iguasu Falls takes 40 hours by train

• Floralis Generica – a huge flower sculpture that opens in the morning and closes at dusk

• Eva Peron’s remains were moved 3 times – there was an offer to move her a fourth time, but the Duarte family declined

• Very green – lots of parks, sculptures and monuments

• In the late 19th century, there was a yellow fever epidemic – 500 people died each day. The rich moved to summer houses in the north

• Café Tortoni – oldest in the city

• La Bombonera – soccer stadium

• La Boca - founded by immigrants, colorful houses, Caminito Street, tango

• Tram - US$50,000,000 – 15 blocks, no connections, always empty – we counted the people in the one that went past us and there were only 5, including 2 crew members

• Puerto Madero – used to be the main port of the city, but is now full of nice restaurants and places to shop

Monday, March 23, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.1-3.09

The Preamble

On Sunday, March 1st, I received an automated phone call from American, telling me that my direct flight on Monday had been cancelled and that I was booked on a connecting flight on Tuesday instead. In a panic, I called American and spoke to one agent who told me that the Monday flight to BA from Miami was full and that she couldn’t guarantee a seat for me, but that she could get me on a flight to Miami. I insisted on speaking with a supervisor and I’d either misunderstood or the first agent hadn’t been clear. I had a seat, but no assignment. I lost about an hour of my last minute packing time and ended up staying up until about 12:30 trying to get everything done. I absolutely did not pack everything I needed and absolutely did pack things I did not need!

On My Way

Freak-out day – everything was delayed, moving slowly, bugging me. Up at 5, got my cat ready for my absence, threw some last minute items in the bags (though not all that I’d meant to bring) and went to work. B&H opened at 9, so I hit the post office at 9, then B&H. When my sock dampened, then got soaked through, I realized that my right shoe had a hole straight through to my foot and I added buying a new pair of shoes to my morning errands ($10 at K-Mart). I guess the heavy snow that had cancelled my flight did me some good, after all. I couldn’t get out of work on time, because of problems with voice-mail, but my boss agreed to fix it for me so I could leave. The LIRR train stopped outside of Jamaica for over 10 minutes. The AirTrain waited at Jamiaca for over 10 minutes. The priority line at the airport was held up by stupid passengers, including someone paying cash for a first class ticket, who found out that he didn’t have enough, so he ran off to get some more money. The agent just waited, while we stood there seething.

I got through security with just enough time to get to my gate after general boarding had been called, but, luckily, American has priority boarding, so I was settled in my seat pretty quickly. For no reason. We were delayed waiting for baggage to be loaded (why wait until after departure time to start loading the luggage?) and for 10 passengers to connect from a Milan flight. I asked if my connecting flight would be held for me and was told there was no guarantee. When we were finally ready to take off, we were held again for deicing (not that I minded that delay, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if we’d taken off on time).

Once in the air, we learned that there was no in-flight entertainment. So, not only was I stuck on a connecting flight, but I wasn’t going to get the food and movies that I would have had on my original flight. Grrr About an hour out of Miami, the flight attendant I’d spoken with earlier came by to tell me he’d checked on my flight and it wasn’t until 8:30 and I’d definitely make it. (In my journal, I wrote that I was going to send a commendation to American for him. I did.)

We got to Miami late and then got stuck on the tarmac waiting for a plane to get out of the way. I had a pass for the Admiral’s Club, so I hurried through the very long concourses. I was able to send an e-mail to my friend, Daniel, to tell him not to pick me up at the airport. I filled a water bottle with lemon water and got 2 bottles of water with my drink vouchers, so I was set for the hotel in BA. I hurried to the plane and got settled again. My seatmate guessed that I was 22, which made my day! Unfortunately for him, he was on my flight and, carrying through with the theme for my day, the first mate found a problem and the mechanics had to be called out, delaying the flight for over half an hour for a 5-minute repair.

I Have Arrived!

I slept okay on the plane. Lots of tossing and turning, but no insomnia. Over breakfast, my seatmate gave me tips about where to go and not to go in BA. After clearing passport control and collecting my bag, I found the Marathon Tours group and boarded the bus to town. Thom Gilligan, the tour company owner and founder of the Antarctica Marathon, greeted us with a tale of taxi-cab counterfeit-pesos-for-change-of-American-dollars scams and then Laura, the local guide, talked about various other pickpocket and taxi scams. Not an encouraging welcome to BA, especially because it concluded with the news that we would not be checking in immediately, but would have to leave our bags at the hotel and amuse ourselves until 3 pm when our rooms would be ready. I had been looking forward to a nice, hot shower and getting out of my NY-appropriate sweater. It’s over 60 degrees warmer here.

The drive into town was interesting. We moved through suburbs, then tall Soviet-like apartment buildings. As we got closer to the center of town, little gems started appearing among the gray blocks - beautiful mansions with gorgeous architectural details – worn and not particularly well-cared for. Even closer to the center, the ratio inverted and the ugly block buildings gradually disappeared and were replaced by big modern buildings. Big is a relative term, here. Most of the buildings are less than 20 stories tall.

When I checked in, I was happy to learn that my room was ready and that Heather, with whom I’d been communicating on Facebook about the race, was my roommate. There was also a lovely bag of chocolates from Daniel and a SIM card, which, unfortunately, I couldn’t use because my phone isn’t unlocked. After showering and getting settled in the room, I wandered out for a walk. I found a little shop with sandwiches and headed back to the hotel to eat. I called Daniel from a pay phone and he told me he’d pick me up in half an hour. Heather was in the room so we chatted while I ate.

Daniel was right on time and he took me on a driving tour of BA, highlighting areas where he’d trained to run Cruce de los Andes (100km trail run across the Andes). On our way back into town, we passed the big polo field and there was a free match on, so we stopped and watched for a bit. Daniel even asked for a polo ball for me. After the match, we headed to his shop, where he gave me an extensive tour of his laboratorie and I was able to taste lots of ingredients and chocolate. He showed me the pictures from his Andes ultra and then it was time to head back for the afternoon training run.

I scrambled to get ready and was able to catch up to the group for the 6 pm training run. It was really hot and humid. We ran from the hotel to the park (which I found out later was an ecological reserve), then plotted a course through the park. I ended up running with different groups of people as I warmed up and got up to speed. It was very hot and humid. We ended up missing a turn, exiting the park before we were supposed to, and had to run back along the streets, including Puerto Madero, the old port of BA, for awhile. We passed Luna Park, where a long line of (mostly) giggly teenage girls waited to the Back Street Boys. When we got to Florida Street, a pedestrian road leading back to our hotel, it was too crowded, so we had to stop and walk. Heather and I had dinner together at a local café.

Pictures from these days are available here:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrock 5k 3.1.09

Hi all,

Race number 6 (5th 2010 marathon-qualifying race) was Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrock 5k. The course was changed this year (ostensibly for safety), so we ran from 173rd Street up to Fort Tryon Park, looped the Park (instead of turning around for the out-and-back), then ran back to 173rd Street.

Goals: to run between water stations and to finish in under 28 minutes, with every mile run in under 9 minutes.

I had planned originally to run down to the race and run home afterwards, but it was too cold and I didn’t feel like wearing a backpack all the way down. So, I took the train, wandered around trying to find baggage and ended up walking 5 blocks out of my way, which meant I had to walk 5 blocks back. I had already decided that I should just run this, rather than race it, because of my speed workout on Thursday. Just a half mile in, I knew I’d made the right decision, because my legs felt really tired. I had been skeptical about the new race course, but it turned out to be a really nice addition. If I’d been paying attention, I could have seen my apartment as we ran around the Cloisters! We had a much longer view of the Palisades and a lovely shot of the George Washington Bridge as we came back around to head back out of the park. It was hillier, because of the loop, but I’m looking forward to trying again next year.

After the race, I went to Coogan’s, for the first time (this is my 5th or 6th time running this race). It was very crowded, but I got in fairly quickly and was amazed! Coogan’s puts on a really nice post-race spread, including shepherd’s pie, scrambled eggs, pastrami sandwiches with cole slaw and pickles on the side, and an assortment of mini breakfast pastries. There were also trays of Guinness beers going around, along with juice and soda and coffee. And it was free! I talked to one of the waitresses and thanked her and was embarrassed when she told me that I was the only one who had thanked her. There were hundreds of runners in there and I hope most of them were thanking Coogan’s staff for a great post-race event.

Official stats: my official time was 27:54, for an average pace of 9:00. My splits were 9:04, 8:59, 9:02 and :53 for the final tenth of a mile. I was 2516 out of 4696 total runners, putting me in the 46th percentile. It was 30°F with 74% humidity 10 mph winds.

Consolation treats: a chocolate brownie made from Columbian chocolate (made by a friend) and a Porcelana chocolate tasting in the afternoon.

Next up: The Colon Cancer Challenge has already filled up, so I’m out of that one and the next NYRR race that I have scheduled is the Wall Street Run 5k in May, but I’m sure I’ll sign up for others in the meantime.

Race pictures are available here:

If you’re interested, here are pictures from a Walker’s Crisps tasting:

Here are pictures from the chocolate tasting, but I haven’t had time to edit them yet, so there’s a bunch of junk in there, along with the regular pictures.:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Al Gordon Snowflake 5k 2.21.09

Hi all,

Race number 6 (4th 2010 marathon-qualifying race) was the Al Gordon Snowflake 5k in Prospect Park.

Goals: to run between water stations and to finish in under 28 minutes, with every mile run in under 9 minutes.

I missed 1 ½ workouts this week and was short 13.5 miles, so I had intended to run the 5k course before and after the race, as well, but had ruled out the post-race 5k before I went to bed last night (I didn’t feel like running with a backpack). Because the MTA is still playing with my subway line, I had to take a bus to the train again. Hopstop indicated a 1:22 ride, so I left a little earlier than that, but it took almost 2 hours, instead, so the pre-race 5k was out, too. I should have left even earlier than I did, but we had no heat again and I spent most of the night slightly awake, aware of how cold it was. In fact, there was little difference between being inside my apartment and being outside. Anyway, when I’d dropped my bag, I jogged about a half mile to the start as my warm-up, then stood around shivering, waiting for the race to start. I tried to find Steven before and after the race, but didn’t see him.

I knew we had a long hill to climb in the first half mile, so I started out slowly. I was having a little trouble breathing, because of the cold and humidity, so I used my inhaler (on the run – no stopping) and made it up over the last bump of the hill towards Grand Army Plaza. I tried to maintain pace down the rolling hills and to keep running until the water station, which I assumed/hoped would be at the halfway point. My shin started acting up in the second mile. The muscles started bunching up around my ankle, so I slowed down a bit, trying to take the pressure off of my calf. I stopped for water and took a long walk break, trying to stretch my calf out and even stopped to pick up the last garbage can, which had been tipped over. I jumped back onto the course and tried to catch up to the people who had passed me, but the bunching up sensation starting spreading up towards my knee, so I eased back again. As I came up to the 2nd mile marker, I was hoping that I’d stayed until 9 minutes and was surprised to find that I had by nearly 20 seconds. I had about 25 seconds in the bank for the last mile, which I knew was going to be uphill, because we had to cross the second transverse and somehow get back up to the west side of the park, which is at a higher elevation. I briefly considered walking to ease up on my shin, but my legs kept going, so I decided to take my brain out of the equation and let my legs do the work. The hills on the transverse were a bit steep, but manageable. Coming out onto the west side of the park, we had to continue uphill to the first transverse and then uphill some more towards the finish. I was very discouraged as I approached the 3rd mile marker, because I got the numbers mixed up. I thought I’d gone to nearly a 10-minute mile and was shocked to see that I was only at about 8:40. No finishing spring for me, but I did make my goal.

On my way out of Prospect Park, I did some exploring, trying to find a building I’d seen two years before after the Brooklyn Half. I found it and briefly considered going on to the Farmer’s Market at Grand Army Plaza, but someone told me that going back the way I’d come was shorter, so I headed back to some shops I’d seen on my way in.

Official stats: my official time was 27:13, for an average pace of 8:46. My splits were 8:58, 8:43, 8:41 and :55 for the final tenth of a mile. I was 1978 out of 3987 total runners, putting me in the 50th percentile. I was 614 out of 1945 women, putting me in the 68th percentile and 35 out of 144 in my age category, putting me in the 76th percentile. It’s been a long time since I finished this far forward in such a big race, so I’m feeling pretty good about it. It was 28°F with 53% humidity and 12 mph winds.

Consolation treats: On my way back to the subway, I stopped at the Dub Pie Shop, which I passed on the way from the subway. I picked up two pies to try and a vanilla custard tart. I also stopped at Whole Foods on the way home for a chocolate fudge brownie. And, of course, my slushy Dr Pepper!

Next up: Coogan’s Salsa, Blues, and Shamrock 5k (3/1)

Race pictures are available here:

If you’re interested, here are pictures from a Valentine’s Day Valrhona tasting:

That same week, I went to a lecture on the Science of Taste at the New York Academy of Science:

Bronx Half Marathon 2.8.09

Hi all,

Race number 5 (3rd 2010 marathon-qualifying race and 2nd Grand Prix Half Marathon) was the Bronx Half Marathon. The course is an odd cloverleaf shape. The first loop goes out to the Moshulu Parkway from the Jerome Reservoir and back (about 6 miles). We turn just before we would cross the finish line from the wrong direction, looping around to the Grand Concourse, on which we run a 4-mile out-and-back, returning to the loop around the Moshulu Parkway, then back to the reservoir for the finish.

Goals: This was my 3rd half marathon in as many weekends and part of a 15-mile training run, so I set soft goals for this one. I wanted to run between water stations, as usual, and hoped to finish in under 2:20 (my Manhattan Half time).

I got there early and went into the school to get warm. I ran into some colleagues and we chatted a bit, before I dropped off my bag and headed out to run my 2-mile add-on. I got back to the start, but didn’t have time to get the hat I’d forgotten to put on for the warm-up. We started just about on time and I tried to maintain an easy pace. I got through the first half without any extra walk breaks and began to hope that I might get through the second half without any, as well. This is my least favorite of the five Grand Prix half marathons, but it’s the Grand Concourse (miles 7-11) which are the worst part (not to mention the dead rat I’ve seen every time I’ve run this race). Despite the fact that there are occasionally interesting buildings to look at, the Concourse is just a drag! You have to watch nearly every footstep, because of potholes and irregularities in paving, not to mention waves in the pavement that, if you’re not careful, cause you to run with one foot in a trough and the other on a crest. And it was on the Concourse that I realized that my shoes were dead and that I wasn’t going to beat my Surf City time, though I’d been hanging on in hopes of doing just that. I started taking small walk breaks at the mile markers, but my legs were toast. Finally, I was running down the small hill from the Concourse to the Moshulu Parkwayj, with just over 2 miles to go. And there it was! Actually, it was so squashed that I can’t be sure it was a rat and not a squirrel, but, in any event, the road kill rodent had appeared, disturbingly close to the water station. For some reason, this energized me and I managed to keep running between water stations and not take any extra breaks for the rest of the race. In the last half-mile, I came up on someone walking and as I caught up to him, I told him we were almost there and could make. He started running and whenever he seemed to be slowing down, I tried to encourage him and stayed with him to keep him running. Unfortunately, he caught a second wind and was then pushing me to keep up with him. I hadn’t planned a sprint finish, but that’s what it felt like!

Official stats: my official time was 2:16:41 for a 10:26 pace overall. My splits were 9:56, 9:35, 10:23, 11:00, 10:07, 10:30, 10:03, 10:39, 9:59, 11:01: 21:38 (average of 10:49), 10:53, and 1:02 for the last tenth of a mile. I was 3034 out of 3668 total runners, putting me in the 17th percentile. It was 56F with 64% humidity and 7 mph winds.

Celebratory treats: Sweet Revenge cupcakes, Bespoke chocolates, and a slushy Dr Pepper

Pictures are available at: