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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Weight

While I was in Australia a funny thing happened. I lost 5 pounds. Last year was the first year ever that I did not gain weight over the holidays and I am off to a good start this year. Right now I weight about where I was at the start of the New Year – I weighed158 pounds this morning.

Now, while I was in Australia I did not have access to a scale. Here at home I weigh and record my weight every day. I would not say that it is an obsession (but I am sure you could say that it is) but I do like looking back on the data and charting the trends.

In years past when I have stayed with my sister I have gained weight (good beer was cheap in Texas but it is $$$ in Australia – there was not much drinking on this visit). My sister and her family are very healthy eaters but different than myself. They are grazers between meals. I do this also however I am much more regimented. I eat multiple small meals throughout the day. I have to have portion control – these small meals are containerized. I do not have much discipline when I am presented with a buffet type meal. You can forget chips and salsa and that type of food – I do not know when to say when.

So I have been asking myself what was different that allowed for me to lose 5 pounds. One of the differences is that there was always sliced vegetables out on the table during snacks and dinner. Her kids love vegetables but only when they are raw. I love them too but I rarely have a bowl just sitting out. I know that if I did I would also snack on them. I am going to start having broccoli and baby carrots in a side dish at dinner – every dinner.

I also ate a lot more fat. They are all big nut eaters. They are munching on almonds and cashews all the time. In addition, avocados were on every salad at dinner. My sister also ate an avocado for nearly every lunch. She would use rice crackers and scoop out the avocado. On top of this my sister also ate salmon for most dinners and I also had salmon several times while I was there. At least once a week. I eat a fair amount of nuts but nothing like I did last month. I also have to be careful with my portions – the calories in nuts add up quickly. I also do not eat much fish at all. I need to add a meal a week.

I eat a lot more chicken in my home life. I get a lot of protein from poultry – for better or worse.

However, I do not think my weight loss was strictly due to diet. I did run a lot while I was there. Sixty plus miles one week and more 10k’s than I can count. Many days I ran twice a day (10k x 2 = 12+ miles). And it was hilly to boot. I also walked the kids to school every day. I walked all around the city of Sydney. I walked to the grocery store and carried bags of food back home. I walked to the train station. I walked to friends houses that were 45 minutes away. I rode the train and then walked to about 10 different museums. Then once at the museums I walked all through the galleries. Even though I lead an active lifestyle full of exercise (about 15 hours of exercise a week) I am still tied to a desk for 40+ hours each and every week. My level of activity simply increased while I was in Australia.

Take home message –Just because we can run butts off does not give us the excuse to sit on our butts the rest of the day. We need to live a healthy, active lifestyle even when we are not exercising.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Garmin Forerunner 305 - NOW $99

I have seen some low prices for the Garmin Forerunner 305 this weekend.  However it is now $99 with free shipping at amazon!!!  This is a Cyber Monday deal that is valid (probably) today and tomorrow only.  So if you have been on the fence about getting into training by heart rate or pace - now is your chance for less than a hundred bucks!  I'm thinking about buying a second one.

Even though it says $129 - the link will
take you to a page where it is $99!

It looks like the price may have jumped to $129 again ... maybe it is only valid on Monday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jenolan Caves - plus a mob of wallabies

We went to the Jenolan Caves this past weekend. These are remarkable caves in the Blue Mountains about 3 hours west of Sydney.

We got a late start heading towards the caves on Friday night. Katherine had a piece of art that was being displayed in a gallery. We went to the opening and had apple juice and cookies.

The weather turned cooler and the winding road leading to Jenolan was treacherous with fog. We arrived safe and sound to the lodge. This tiny ‘town’ at the caves looks like some sort of Bavarian village. Joe and I got up early the next morning for a run. Everything here is vertical. We headed up a steep stair case jogging. We took several trails out from the village and ended up in the middle of a valley. The trail was narrow and there were stinging nettles everywhere. Our legs were itching. We did happen to see a ton of wallabies. There were mobs everywhere. It was funny, we would run up on these wallabies and they would hop 20 yards away and look back at us. We would continue running and they would repeat the hop away and stair. We came into this large valley and I bet there were 50 wallabies. We started this mob and they took off straight up the cliff side. There were tons of baby wallabies.

Someone had changed the 'No Stopping' signs

Alpine retreat?



Later in the morning, after breakie, we went to the caves. We first did the self guided tour. This consisted of little toy phones that you put up to your ear. The device told you all about how the caves were formed and the history of the caves. Geek worthy trivia is that you can select from a number of languages for the tour – including Klingon - read more / USS Jenolan (star trek).

Just finished abseiling

Climbing through a window

We next did another cave that went much deeper into the earth. This tour was presented by a guide. We learned a lot more about the caves and their history. However, after we had lunch was the fun stuff. Joe, Isabelle and I signed up for the ‘adventure caving’. We put on blue coveralls, headlights and helmets. We met up with our guides Cory and Gordon. We did not know that we would have to do any abseiling (repelling) but it was fun. The ‘plug hole’ cave was very interesting. It is amazing that the early explorers did their spelunking with just candles. Without the bright light of our headlamps it was pitch black in the caves. We had to pull ourselves though tiny windows and crawl and snake our way through very small passages. It was very challenging and a lot of fun.

Next stop Katoomba and the Ruined Castle.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Throwing stones in Sydney

Just a quick quip – when I was running the other day we were talking about weight loss. There was a girl who said she lost 14 in the last year. She was running behind me and I slowed a bit and asked, “How much?” She explained further and said 14 kilograms. I guess the guy next to her could see the gears turning in my head because he decided to convert the weight for me. He said it was a little over 2 stone. Wow, thanks.

I did the math myself – I have gotten pretty good at converting between kg and lb – (14 x 2.2 = just over 30 pounds). Good on her.

For you those playing at home:

1 kilogram = 2.20462262 pounds
1 kilogram = 0.157473044 stones
1 stone = 14 pounds

Next I think I will start measuring my runs in furlongs (1 furlong = 10 chains which is 0.201168 kilometers or 660 feet).  I think running a 500 chain race sounds pretty cool (just over 10k or 6 and a quarter miles).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Going to the Blue Mountains.

I am going to the Blue Mountains tomorrow for the weekend.  I stole this video from Miss Zippy's blog:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sydney Striders 30k

I left the house at 5:35AM. The sun was just starting to rise. I ran down the steep hill to Lane Cove National Park. I was meeting George for a ride to the Sydney Striders Sunday run. As I got to the park George spotted me from across the street and waved his arms. It was only a short drive to the start of the run but not knowing the area I was glad I had the ride.

We soon arrived at another park about 5k away. There were already about 30 people there. They had a table set up with a cash box, maps, plastic map protectors and some GU’s. It was the honor system. You paid your $4 and grabbed the maps and a GU it you wanted it. Another guy named George was the organizer for this run. He explained the course to everyone. There would be the standard 30k run but there was also the option to cut it short at about 23k. He also told us that the difficulty level (hilly) was rated at a 4. They use a 5 point scale. George then wished them well and off went the 6:00AM group. This first group had about 30 people in it. It was a little difficult trying to calculate the paces from km to miles. I was not sure what paces everyone was running but George (the guy that I have been running with, the one that gave me the ride) said that I should wait until the 6:10AM group started. The first group ran at around 10 minutes per mile. He said that the 6:20AM group was FAST. There was also another group that ran 10 – 15 k that started at 7:00AM.

More people started to arrive. George (the organizer) then went over the same information and the 6:10AM group was off. It was not 300 yards before we hit the first hill. There were about 12 of us running in this wave. My watch indicated that even with the hills we were running at a mid 8 minute per mile pace. The hills made this a tough run. There were a group of girls out front and they were pushing the pace. I was running at my conversational pace for much of the run except when the hills hit. You could hear everyone’s breathing become labored. These hills were hard. Our group stayed together for about the first 6 miles and then it started to spread out – this is when we started to overtake much of the 6:00AM group. At this point one of the girls up front decided to push the pace and left the group.

We continued on and soon we were Bush running. These were not technical and the pace remained high. At just past the half way point we entered into Lane Cove National Park and back on the road. I had run these roads all week. Someone mentioned that they had a 10k race the past weekend in the park. I had discussed this with someone earlier. Once again, this is very hilly. I mentioned that a 10k race on this course would ‘eat my lunch’. The girl on my left laughed and said “What?” I repeated that the hills would eat my lunch. She asked what does that mean. I thought about it for a moment and said that I was not exactly sure where the saying comes from but that it meant that it would be difficult. I said that it means that it would take advantage of me – maybe, I am speculating here but like a bully taking your lunch or lunch money. She thought that was funny.

I then commented that they had just as many odd sayings. She asked, “Like what?” I threw the zinger “Bob’s you uncle” at her. I said I understanding the meaning in context but what was its origin? They use the phrase to mean like – “you put this with that and tie it in a knot – Bob’s your uncle.” I take it to mean something like “there you have.” One of the guys in the group said that it meant ‘comfortable’ because like everyone has an Uncle Bob. I guess it is like running – you just put one foot in front of the other and Bob’s your uncle.

Anyway, we were at about mile 14 of the 30k (sorry about mixing units of measure – mile 14 of about 18.6). We soon left Lane Cove and then started back on some more Bush. This was a more technical area. We passed a few more people that were part of the earlier group. Fatigue was starting to set in. We had dropped several of our group and several had cut the 30k short. This was really a challenging course.

On one of the technical areas of the Bush I took a spill. I was trying to keep up with one of the guys. I could hang easily on the road but in the Bush he pulled away. As far as falls go this was about the best I could hope for – my foot caught a rock, I turned my ankle and I went down on my palms. My hands hit soft sand. Only my hands touched down and I jumped up quick without missing a step. I did not even have a mark on me! No harm no foul.

By the time we wrapped up the run we were all haggard. I have run (and even raced) this distances before – but, oh the hills. We finished up the 30k (my gps had the run closer to 19 miles) in 2:56. It was very challenging to say the least.

We got back to the park and George (the organizer of this run) had set up cold drinks and snacks for everyone. There was lots of fruit and candies and cakes. There were also a lot of sodas. I took advantage of the diet cokes and tin tams. I got my fill while chatting with the runners. I left the park with George and asked if I could be dropped off closer to my sister’s house. I really did not want to walk up the steep hill on Fullers Road.

With this challenging 30k it capped off a solid week of running. While not my highest volume I did hit 100k (62 miles) for the week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Road ID - repair kit

Back in July I reviewed the Road ID Elite bracelet. I really like it and I still wear it almost everyday. I believe in the product. However, one time it accidentally became unclasped from my wrist. This caused me some concern. From my blog this past summer ( ):

I do have one major concern. Last week, since I am playing and not training right now, during a racquet ball game the bracelet flew off on my wrist! Now, I am the type of baller that swings wildly and with very little grace. I did not even notice that it was gone. The person that I was playing with handed me the Road ID. There is a watch pin that holds the clasp together. It was gone. We looked for a few minutes around the court but could not find it. I am a resourceful guy. When I got back to my office I used a paper clip to replace the watch pin. I cut it to size and beveled the ends of the paper clip with a file. Now, this Road ID is going nowhere. However, this did make me think about an accident. Would it stay in place? Was the flying off of my wrist just a fluke?
Well, today I received an email from Edward Wimmer – one of the owners of the company. It stated the following:

Hello James:

You previously purchased a Wrist ID Elite from us. It has come to our attention that a very small percentage of the clasps on the Wrist ID Elite are not functioning properly. A few customers have reported that the clasp “pops open” unintentionally.

After a few of these reports, we decided to proactively address this isolated issue. We have done two things:

1. As of 8/16/10, all newly purchased Wrist ID Elites ship with a revised clasp. This new clasp eliminates the potential for the “popping open” problem.

2. We created a “Clasp Repair Kit’ that fixes the problem for all existing Wrist ID Elite clasps. The repair kit is available for FREE to any customer that has a problem with their EXISTING clasp. This repair kit will get a malfunctioning clasp working again...good as new.

The vast majority of our customers do not have any problem with their clasp. With that said, if you are experiencing the “popping open” problem, we want to send you a FREE Clasp Repair Kit. To request the FREE kit, please go here:

IMPORTANT: I just want to say that Road ID is committed to providing outstanding products of exceptional quality and workmanship. We stand behind our products 100%. If you have any problems with your Wrist ID Elite, or any other Road ID product, we will make it right. You can count on it.

Lastly, even if you don’t need the free Clasp Repair Kit, hop on over to our website to check out the Holiday Giveaway that we just launched. We’re giving away over $14,000 in prizes including a Trek Madone 6.9, Speed Concept 9.9, a spot on Team Livestrong in the NYC or Boston Marathon, Hed Wheels, Garmin GPS, Newton Shoes & more.

Thank you for your time.

Be safe out there,

Edward Wimmer & Mike Wimmer
Road ID
How cool is that! A company that cares about it’s customers and it’s products! First class in my book.

After I ordered my free repair kit the website had an apology that said - "Oh yeah, if it makes you feel any better, The guy responsible for the malfunctioning clasp had to sit in time-out for three straight days. It was brutal, but I think he got the point."  I hope they were not too hard on the guy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Leap'n Lizards

I headed out the door this morning for a quick little bush run. I only wanted about 45 minutes. I ran down Fuller Street again towards Lane Cove National Park. Fuller Street is very steep – all downhill going to the park. As such, it only takes me about 4 minutes to get to the park.

Once at the park I stayed on the trail. There were not many people at the park and I noticed quickly that the lizards were out in force. They were basking all along the trail – some were on rocks near the trail but most were on the trail. They react pretty slowly to an approaching running. They also blend in to the surrounding very well. I could see the vegetation on both sides of the trial most as I passed. There was also more than one occasion where I had to huddle one of these lizards. Just to be clear, these are pretty bit lizards – like at least a foot long and with their tails more like 3 feet long. Yeah – big lizards were everywhere.

After my run my sister and I headed back to Darling Harbour in downtown Sydney. We visited the Australian National Maritime Museum. There were several real naval vessels (a Destroyer Class ship called the HMAS Vampire - damn cool name for a ship) as well as a full sized replica of the HMB Endeavour (a sailing ship from the 1700’s). In addition there was more information on Aboriginal peoples and lots of stuff on navigation. There was also an exhibit about ‘Britain’s Child Migrants’.

From the 1860s, more than 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries through child migration schemes. They were sent by charitable and religious organisations, with government support, in the belief that their lives would improve, and that they would provide much-needed labour and increase the population.

Few were orphans; many came from families who were unable to care for them. The lives of these children changed dramatically and fortunes varied. Some succeeded in creating new futures. Others suffered lonely, brutal childhoods. All experienced disruption and separation from family and homeland.

Child migration schemes received criticism from the outset, yet continued until the 1960s. Formal apologies were made by the Australian Government in 2009 and the British Government in 2010 but many former child migrants and their families are still coming to terms with their experiences.
They were shipping kids to far off lands for hard labor and increase white people in these countries.  Many were lied to and told that their parents were dead and deceived into thinking that they were going to have a great time.  Some thought they were going to get to ride horses and kangaroos and pick fresh fruit from trees.  This was the governments and the churches.  Nice.
It was a nice museum.

I had planned on another run in the late afternoon after walking the kids home from school. However a storm blew in and it rained rather hard for about an hour. I had lost my inclination to run.

Woven jellies

Aboriginal coffins

Cockle Bay

Motorbike parking

Street painter

Christmas tree's are up already

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Running Lane Cove

I got up early this morning. I headed out for a short run before most of the house rose. There was very little traffic on my way to the park. The Lane Cove National Park is quite hilly like most of Sydney. This is good for me. I ran at an easy pace for most of an hour. I had to get back to the house to walk the kids to school with my sister. We would be heading to downtown to run around today.

The park has a mix of road and trail runs. Any run that is no on a road is called bush – so hiking on a trail or running on a trail is a Bush Walk or Bush Run respectively. I did a combination of road and bush running. I did see several road cyclists in the park. They were riding up and down the hills. There are some pretty good hills in this park. I got back to the house with plenty of time to grab breakie and pack a lunch for the day.

We walked the kids to school, which is also quite hilly. My calves are getting a workout with just the walking. At the school the kids have to line up by class and the all of the announcements are made. My sister and I then headed to the trains to head to downtown.

We got off the train at Circular Quay. This is the hub of Sydney Harbour. It is the founding site of Sydney and the home to the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens. On the north side is the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks.

After walking around this the Opera House we visited the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art. We then had lunch in the Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens are expansive and impressive. There is a pond with lots of birds and eels.

Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Me in front of Sydney Opera House

In addition the trees are very unique. In the tops of the tress there are many huge flying fox bats. I have been told that at dusk it is exciting to see the bats take flight. After the gardens we headed to the Sydney Library where they have a small but interesting exhibit about the first aboriginals their interactions with the first westerners.

Duck in hiding

Bats (Fying Foxes) in trees

Bats (Fying Foxes) in trees

Close up of Fying Foxes - You do not want to picnic under these trees

Century Old Trees

The day had flown by and it was time to head back to Chatswood, do a little grocery shopping and then pick up the kids and walk home. When we got home I had a small bowl of oatmeal for a snack at got ready to meet the Lance Cove Runners at the park. They meet Tuesday and Friday evenings. I ran down a steep hill of Fuller Street (about ¾ mile) and arrived at the park just as three other people were congregating. I introduced myself and one of the guys was Jim who I had corresponded with a couple of weeks ago. Two of the other people were Tom and George. They are both accomplished Bush Runners. In fact, Tom has a 100K bush run this weekend. We started the run at a comfortable pace and the road got hilly. This ended up being a challenging run. I would say it ended up being comfortably hard. Tom and I pushed the pace in a couple of sections but we were able to keep it conversational most of the time. Tom asked me if I thought that Australia had an obesity problem. I said that compared to Mississippi Australia had nothing to worry about – Tom was still concerned.
I ended up getting just over 13 miles running plus several more walking around the city.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Great Barrier Reef - snorkling day 2

Katherine, my middle niece really wanted to ‘swim with the turtles’. The more we talked about it the more we got into the idea of going out and snorkeling again. I mean, how often are you on the Great Barrier Reef?
This time we took a sailboat to the Lower Isles. The water the much calmer and the sun was shining bright. It was a beautiful day. The sailboat trip only took about an hour. We had to take small motor boats to the island but then we could get in and out as much as we wanted. This worked much better for the children.

While snorkeling on the island we did in fact see several turtles. They were almost tame. They just kind of ignored you and grazed while you watched. I think we saw 3 different turtles. I also saw two black tipped reef sharks. They do not want you to watch them. I followed one for a little while but as soon as he noticed me he was gone.

After all day snorkeling we made it back to the apartment. The kids were not done yet and we swam for another hour or two. It was a good time.

The next day we would be returning but I wanted to get in another run. I got up early and headed out. The resort that we were staying at is gated. I could not get out of the complex. I did not want wake everyone up so I headed to the pool to do some calisthenics. I did a couple sets of pushups and then some crunches and stuff. I was ready to call it a day – I mean I made a solid effort. And just then I someone coming into the complex and I had them hold the gate. I was going to get my run after all.

I had gotten up and brushed my teeth and headed straight out of the door. I was thirsty. I headed to the beach where I knew there was a water fountain. I took a big drink and headed out on the beach for an easy run. I wore shoes this time to protect the feet. I did not want the run to be cut short. The sound of the surf was relaxing as I ran. The sun was just rising. There were a couple of people out on the beach. There was one guy with his dog breaking open a couple of coconuts. Then I ran into this guy fishing. He was struggling to remove the hook from this shark.

When I got back to the apartment complex the gate was still locked. Fortunately Joe was out at the pool again with the kids. I was let in and grabbed some breakfast before we headed down to Cairns for our flight.

We spent the afternoon in Cairns and did not get back to Sydney until late – about 9PM. That is late for me and really late for the kids.

This week I am going to explore Sydney. There is a group run on Tuesday night at Lane Cove National Park where I hope to meet a few people. I also want to see all of the museums and sites of the city.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation

These campers are everywhere.

Stinging Trees

Mossman Gourge

Mossman Gourge - you can swimming in these freezing waters

Self Portrait


Rooster at overlook

Little balls of sand.

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Great Barrier Reef -

After the run along the beach we changed into our swimsuits and boarded the boat. It was about 2 hours of very rough water until we arrived at the first reef. There was quite a bit of sea sickness going around – Joe, Francie and Daniel had some trouble. They were very green. The boat was really tossing around.

They had wetsuits and stinger suits that you could wear. Since this is the early part of the season the suits were optional. I decided to wear the stinger suit anyway. The wind was pretty strong and it was a little bit chilly. We jumped in and explored the reef. We would hit three locations. The reef was spectacular. This is something that I have always wanted to do. I used to always have saltwater aquariums and I actually worked at a saltwater fish hatchery raising clown fish, and Banghi Cardinals, and neon gobies. It reef was awesome!

parrot fish

lots of coral

self portrait

Self portrait

Lots 'o fish

Self portrait

bald spot!

another one

Other sites on the reef were these people. I wanted to point out in particular this guy’s shorts. Wow – that screams 1988!

Wow - check out the wayfareres

I also had a chat with this guy – Professional Beach Volley Ball player and gold medal winner Phil Dalhausser.

In other news – Qantas has grounded its entire fleet of Airbus A380’s! The engine on one of them kind of exploded. I am pretty happy that my return flight is on a 747 – there should be no delays for me.