Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Off to Afghanistan

We all have things in our life that has a profound effect on us and that we are proud of. One of those moments was the year that I spent in Afghanistan. I was a member of the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion in Knoxville, TN and soon after 9/11/01 we were notified that we would be the first Civil Affairs battalion from the Army Reserve to deploy.

I had joined the battalion in August 2001 after spending 6 years on active duty and a couple of years in the IRR where I did nothing. My primary reason for joining a Civil Affairs unit at this time was due to the fact they were part of the Army Special Operations Command and had money for some good missions and good training. You would get to actually go do Army Training or to other countries for good training.

After 9-11 I was soon on my way to Fort Bragg, NC for training at the JFK Special Warfare Center. To quickly train more civil affairs officers this course was shortened to two weeks. The course is now 9 weeks long and much more thorough. I completed the training and started a new job. We knew we would deploy just not when the date would actually be. So I was only at that new job for about 6 weeks before we got the deployment notification.
We were at Fort Bragg for about 6 weeks before going on to Afghanistan. During this period of time we conducted a lot of different training. The most difficult training was taking part in part of the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). We did not have time to take the entire course nor were there enough slots. However, the survival training we got was first class.

We continued with Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) training, shooting our weapons, some advanced weapons training, and in addition to combat training we practiced our civil affairs skills. We met with members of the Department of State, some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), and conducted area studies for the areas of the Afghanistan that we would be operating. In addition, conducted liaison with member of the special operations community we would be replacing. I even got 15 minutes of fame on the local Tennessee News.

Then we packed up all our stuff and headed into the unknown

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tacoma Parks Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving Day I ran in the Tacoma Parks Turkey Trot. Turkey Trotting has become a ritual for me the last few years. In the past I have run the Del Rey Turkey Trot in Alexandria, VA. This year we were in the Seattle area to visit my brother. Donna has just started training for a half-marathon and is doing great. She has not run in over a year and half but is working hard to get back in shape and take her running to the next level.

We headed out for the race about 8 am. We arrived at the race start about 8:45 to pick up our chips and swag which consisted of a shirt. There were about a 1000 participates in the race. Most of the people in costume were dressed in a manner that fitted the Thanksgiving Holiday, but one individual dressed as Wonder Woman. I thought it was a very tall lady, but my brother was convinced it was a man. I wish I had a picture so I could get a vote. But alas.

The race started at 9:35 and the first mile was pretty crowded with an elevation gain of about 100 ft in less than a half mile. My time for the first mile was just over 8 minutes. Considering that I did not warm up and the crowd I had to deal with I was not overly disappointed with that time. The second mile had a loss in elevation of about 175 and I completed it in about 7.5 minutes and I was pretty happy. We had been told that the final mile was a gradual uphill. That may be a gradual uphill to people in Tacoma, but to those of us flatlanders in DC, this was a hell of hill. Based on my Garmin, the final hill was 175 feet in 0.6 mile. Even the hills I run for my "hill workouts" are nothing like this.

Over all I ran the race in 26:14. I was shooting for 25:00 - 25:30 and I finished in the top 20%, so I am not unhappy. It was good to get out and run before eating too much.
Donna finished the race in 43:??. For someone who has not run much in the last two years and is just getting back in the swing of thing I was very proud of her. She will do great in March at the Shamrock Half.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

This is such a great sport. This video always touches me and reminds of of a father's love. I will always be thankful for the memories I have of my own father.

REI, Music and Fish

Donna and I spend the day in downtown Seattle today. We went to Pikes Market, had lunch at Lowells (it is rather over rated), visited the Experience Music Project, and capped the day off at the REI Flagship store.

Pikes Market was pretty interesting. We did not spend much time there, but we did eat Lowells. I have heard of that this place was very very good. However, I found this restaurant not to be that good. However, the view was outstanding.

The Experience Music Project was rather fascinating. Since I am rather cynical, I came to the conclusion that Paul Allen started this project (1) because he has more money than God and (2) he never really had an friends and was not cool. Now he gets to hang out with cool rockers.

We ended the day at the REI Flagship Store. This place was HUGE!!! I could hang out the for days.

Well, its late and it is time to hit the bed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Feeling Fat Fat Fat

Man, it is the week PRIOR to Thanksgiving and I am feeling the lure of food. Last weekend we ate very good (and very bad), today my mother flew in to travel with us to visit my brother out in the Seattle area. So tonight, we headed out to Overwood for dinner and I chowed down on their molasses and rum ribs. MMMM Good.

This month I have run a piddly 12 miles and swam 7300 yds. And I continue to eat. We depart for the airport about 9 am in the morning. I need to get in at least 45 minutes of running prior to the flight. Lets hope I get up.

Next stop will by the Great Northwest!!! Oh yes, and Thanksgiving Dinner!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Two Years

It is so hard to believe that we have been married for two years. The time really has just flown by. We had kind of make it a tradition to go on a cruise for our anniversary, but this year we are heading to Seattle for Thanksgiving to visit my brother who I haven't seen since he returned from Iraq. So we decided to stay closer to home and visit Colonial Williamburg and stay at a very nice resort known as Kingsmill.

We both left work early on Friday and we were on the road by 1:15. Since it was a holiday weekend, there was not much traffic leaving DC and we made good time. I had to make my mandatory stop going to south at a Waffle House to get my patty melt fix. Then it was back on the road to complete the journey back in time.

We arrived, checked in, and after some relaxing it was off to dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Food for Thought. If you are in the Williamburg area or traveling along Interstate 64, get off and enjoy the food and service. I can't say nice enough things about both. Then it was back to the condo, after a stop at Wawa for some coffee and half and half. There was only Starbucks at the Condo and neither of us are big Starbucks fans.

Saturday we slept late (almost 7:15), had some coffee, watched some college pregame, and it was off on our trip back in history. We did not pay for admission to anything this weekend. Everyplace we went had Veteran's Day specials, so we watched the movie and then stepped back in time. During our few hours in the 18th century, we saw a trial, toured the magazine and saw the weapons (most original), watched a fife and drum parade.

toured the old prison and finally took a tour of the Royal Governor's Palace. This is Donna outside the prison enjoying some hot cider.

And here I am in trouble as usual.
Then it was back to the hotel to watch UGA and Auburn, and get changed for dinner. The dinner at Eagles on the property was very good. After dinner we watched some of the Maryland/BC game. All in all it was a good day for the both of our teams!!
Sunday we ventured down Jamestown to learn a little more about the first settlement in America. The actual settlement has some ruins, the walls of the old Fort, a visitors center and of course a statue of Pocahontas.
We toured a couple of recreations of the ships that brought the settlers to Jamestown and decided to call it a day. We then headed back north to our little casa for a good nights sleep prior to heading back work.

It was a great weekend and anniversary!!!! I couldn't have asked for more fun!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The UGHKnown

What is about the “fear of the unknown” that paralyzes so many people from moving on and trying new things in their lives? I grew up in a small town in Northern Georgia and the year I graduated from high school we had more scholarship money than any class before us. I am not talking huge scholarships to Harvard or Yale, or even athletic scholarships to play football or basketball at major schools. For the most part, the class of 1989 had scholarships that made good smaller region or state schools affordable. However, a very large percentage of people with the scholarships never made it to college or only to the Junior College down the road (and most never graduated from that).

I was asked on numerous occasions how I could go to college so far away. How far away do you think I went? To Texas? California? Manitoba? Nope, I went to Mercer University in Macon, GA. My trip was 93 miles from my parent’s house to campus. The main reason these people did not take the scholarships, I found out later, they were afraid they would not make friends. They had bought into the fallacy that high school was the best time of your life. I have repeated told high school kids that I work with that if high school was the best time in your life, then I should just shoot myself.

I find it hard to believe that the simple fear of a controlled unknown ruined people’s life. Ruined may be a harsh word. This irrational fear did not allow these people to live up to their full potential. It short-changed the individual and it could have possibly short-changed the world. Who knows what one of these individuals would have accomplished?

The same is true for our athletic endeavors. If the irrational fear of failure keeps us glued to our sofa, who are we short changing? Yourself for sure and on many levels at that. You could be short changing your spouse (getting sexier) and your kids (living longer) and maybe even some person that you have never met yet.

So overcome that irrational fear, get off the couch and make the world and yourself better.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Did I really swim that fast?

I finally got back in the pool after two weeks on dry land. I had planned on swimming two days last week; however for one reason or another the pool was not open during my self imposed morning swim hour.

Our coach is still out with her injury and we had a “sub” whose methodology is very different. We started out with a basic 600 yd warm up broken down in the following:
200 kick
200 swim
200 pull

Next we did down steps totaling 600 yds:
300 yd 30r/i
200 yd 30 r/i
100 yd 30 r/i

We then did sets of 10 x 100. These were broken down into 3 x Slow, Medium, Fast and the final 100 was all out. The purpose of the slow sets was to rest while swimming. It is not that hard to lower your HR after a fast set while swimming easy and slow. The medium set was a moderately fast pace that you could maintain for at least 15 minutes. The three fast sets were as fast as you could hold for 100. Then the last one was an all out sprint. Some how my three fast sets were an average of about 1:46 and then my all out sprint was a 1:43. The really scary part of that is that if I could do a decent flip-turn I could cut another 2-3 seconds off.

Overall I was very pleased with the workout today. However, I am certain I will feel it tomorrow. Lets see how my lungs like running the newly cold.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Solar Powered Man

Do you ever wonder powers us? I am not just talking glycogen and fat. I am talking about what makes feel good when we get out of bed in the morning, motivated to meet the new day, and contribute to the betterment of man (or at least our wallet). I can’t speak for each one of you, but I have learned over the years that I am solar powered. I need sunlight to make me happy. It took me many years to figure this out and it still catches me by surprise.

The last couple of weeks I have been feeling rather blah. Its not that I am sick, but I just have not very motivated to do much of anything. I haven’t wanted to go to work, I haven’t wanted to workout (even though I feel so much better when I do), and all I have wanted to do is sleep. I mean sleep like 9-10 hours. I may go to bed early, but I usually get up between 0430 and 0450.

I had Army Reserve Duty this weekend and I fell like crap on Saturday (I went to be about 2030 on Friday night) and I was not looking forward to getting up early for the change of command. I went to bed early AND gained an hour of sleep on Saturday. I woke up before my alarm, had some breakfast, showered and hit the road. I could see the sun starting to peak over the horizon and it just made me feel so much better. I felt so much better all day on Sunday. This morning I woke up prior to my alarm and I just felt energized—even though I did not have a day off this weekend.

I usually suffer from this melancholy in the spring when we are just waiting for the warmth and longer days. I guess this year it just hit me earlier. Well, it appears to be over and it is time to get moving again. I guess I really am solar powered.