Thursday, March 27, 2008


Not for me--I am not worthy. For this guy:

I had the pleasure of meeting Triboomer last summer, and know him to be a dedicated triathlete. More importantly, as you can see from the logo on his shirt, he has single-handedly raised over $90,000 for a charity close to my heart, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, through his triathlon events. A vote for Triboomer will help him become the next fully-sponsored member of Team Evotri.

If you agree and are so inclined, you can vote for Triboomer by sending an email and typing into the subject field:

We both will appreciate your vote.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


In only the second time in weeks, I finally got outside for a run this morning. The temperature was above freezing (32), no wind, ice and snow melted finally, and the 3/4 moon gave enough visibility to be able to avoid the potholes.

It was about time too. I have finally reached my breaking point with the treadmill. After we got dumped on again last weekend with snow and ice, I was forced to take my long run to the treadmill again. I couldn't do it. I slogged through it, hating every minute of it, whining and complaining (only to myself), and wanting to tear my hair out from the monotony. Tuesday, another scheduled run day, I couldn't bring myself to step on that contraption again, even though it was snowing yet again. I just couldn't do it. I vowed then that this morning I would go outside to run. Naturally I was also hoping for a dry morning. It was perfect, if you can call cold and darkness perfect.

But the good things about running in the darkness? It doesn't matter what you look like. I don't have to comb my hair, put on makeup, or even have matched gloves. The darkness also seems to insulate how you are feeling on the run. Or maybe because no one can see whether you are feeling good or miserable, you aren't as aware yourself because you know no one is looking at you.

I always have to remember, though, that it takes longer to get a run in when going outside in this weather because of all the layers: tights over shorts; under armor shirt; wick-away shirt over that; headband; socks; 2 pair of stretchy gloves, none of which matched the other (one pink; one gray; one striped; one blue), and finally the illuminite jacket. That added on another 5 minutes at least getting into all that gear. And I have to admit, sometimes that is enough to deter me.

And today, I hardly saw anyone out, not running or dog walking, and then I realized it was actually earlier than usual because my schedule called for 4 miles. And I was more than ready to get out and get going by 6 am. It felt good, moving through the darkness, no ice, no slush, no wind. I have gained quite a bit of endurance running since late fall/early winter, so the treadmill runs have at least paid off there.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I can get one more good outside run in and then, once again, I will be on the road again, this time to sunny (hopefully!) Florida. An opportune chance to get away for some sun and relaxation, and later getting together with Shelley and her crew for a few days. So the next time I check in, I'll be walking in sunshine!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Making use of all that snow.

Changing seasons, but which one was more appropriate this weekend?

Friday, March 21, 2008


That was from a news story I read just 2 days ago and what some analysts would like us to believe. Sorry, but that just doesn't happen here. Even the calendar lies! See for yourself why I don't put much stock in that theory:

These are scenes from roadways around the area today. At least 4 inches predicted, maybe as much as 8 in some places. Glad I'm not traveling this weekend. Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

This is from last weekend's indoor tri. Jan says its bigger than her Boston Marathon medal!

Jan took 2nd, I took 3rd in the age group. So I'm happy enough with that. I suppose I should not "concede" (as taken from Fe-Lady's post that she did not concede) to Jan, and maybe I do, without realizing it until later. We were very close. I'm not sure I would have beaten her, but being close puts it within the realm of possibility, and always opens up that can of worms "what if"--what if I had biked a little harder; what if I had not fallen apart on the run; what if?

I figure I can bide my time until next year, when I will be in a different age group from her. But then again, I hope to not take the attitude that because we won't be competing against each other in the age group that I should concede to her then either. One day, I will catch her off guard.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


This was the third and final indoor tri of the season to complete the series. Jan and I headed down to East Lansing, home of the Spartans, to compete in an indoor triathlon put on by the MSU triathlon team, held at the Michigan Athletic Club. Its a beautiful facility, with connections to not only the MSU tri team, but also Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. They have a standard 6 lane Olympic pool, but they also had another 6 lane pool and kiddie pools in a domed area that becomes an outdoor water park in warm weather, with water slides and a sprinkle park for the little kids.

I have to admit, I was not all that geeked about going this time. I was tired, stiff, sore, and felt dragged out after having worked all last weekend, going through the time change, getting an 8 mile run in on the treadmill (because the windchill once again was about 7 degrees), and then battling the ITB problem all week and missing some key workouts. And, to further confess, I was a little ticked off at Jan, for reasons best left unsaid.

But I showed up, hoping for the best. My hip and ITB were still somewhat sore, but nothing as painful as earlier in the week, but I was still concerned about the run, especially when it would be on an inside track. I decided ahead of time to give it my all on the swim and bike and get through the run as best as possible. Each event was only 20 minutes, so that should seem like a walk in the park after my recent long runs.

The swim went well enough, but dummy here didn't hear the start whistle so there I was, standing in the pool looking stupid while everyone else started out. I was going to have to play catchup.

I will say only one thing about my irked feelings about Jan lately and that has to do with the swim. Jan started masters swim classes in January, and since then has had a very superior attitude about her swimming ability. Suffice it to say, she has improved, but to put it nicely, there's no way she was going to beat me in the swim if I could help it!

So there I was, lagging behind immediately. I decided just to relax and not worry about it. Jan was keeping even with me, but after about 5 laps, I passed her, and everyone else in my heat. Whew! That made me feel better! LOL!

I managed to finish with a little over a half mile, so I was pretty much on my mark. Then it was the usual 5 minute transition, and on to the bikes.

They had the whole setup fairly close to the pool, with the bikes in between the pool and the inside track. We used upright Precors, not my favorite, but whatever, you do what you can do. And y0u never know what they will have for you to use.

When I got out of the pool, I immediately took my things and went to the bikes to get ready and picked one where the seat needed the least adjustment. Then Jan showed up, but none of the others in our heat showed up. I wondered out loud where they were, but at the 5 min. transition, they had us start the bike--just Jan and I. Over a minute went by before the other 4 in our heat showed up, walking like they were in no particular hurry, until they found out we had already started! How could that be? they asked. We still have over a minute left! Well, not according to the timer's watch. I don't know who was right, but I have had that happen to me just once and you live and learn. No lollygagging between events.

The bike didn't go well at first. The seat was uncomfortable, my shorts were wet and I kept sliding, and just couldn't get my speed up. I adjusted the resistance, trying to bring my speed up, but my cadence immediately went down, so I had to keep backing off, adding resistance, backing off, etc. Finally, after almost the halfway point, I just went by distance and kept track there, but I was below my hoped for goal distance by about a quarter of a mile. I just barely cleared 4 miles, and had hoped for more of course. And this was by far my slowest bike of the 3 races this year. It had to be the bikes, right? LOL!

Then it was on to the run. The 4 who were late on the bikes were still griping, and I know their late start cost them a lot of distance, so I understand them being upset, but they had warned us from the minute we picked up our packets to not be late for any event, because the timers were instructed to start on time whether you were there or not.

The run was on an indoor track, 5 laps to a mile, which surrounded 4 indoor tennis courts. That should definitely be easier mentally, if not physically, than a treadmill or a 20 laps to the mile track. I had to stretch out the ITB again after the bike. The seat definitely irritated something, so I was trying to make myself hold back on the run. I had nothing to prove here. The whistle blew and we started. My first steps were painful. The ITB and hip hurt and were stiff, but after a lap or two, it stopped, and I think I made a mistake here and picked up the pace. I wasn't hurting or struggling, and I definitely was running faster than lately, and definitely faster than on a treadmill. I had no one to pace myself off from, so just went lap by lap in my mind to keep myself going. I was glad to see Jan was passing everyone, as I expected she would. I even had managed to keep in 3rd place. Until I hit lap 7, and then things fell apart. I had hit the 1 mile mark well under 10 minutes, way too fast for me right now, and by lap 7, I was feeling dizzy. I slowed for a moment and staggered a little, walked to the turn, and then started again. By lap 8, I was struggling still, and falling behind. I was mentally falling apart. I wanted to get 10 laps in at least, and knew it would be a stretch now, but I pushed on. In lap 9, I again had to slow and walk a moment, still dizzy, and then when they blew the 1 minute whistle, I had to dig in and push for lap 10.

I am a good sprinter, and pretty much sprinted the entire last lap, just missing the full lap when the blew the stop whistle. However--if you passed the halfway point on the last lap, they counted it, so my sprinting probably was for nothing, but at least I felt like I earned the last lap instead of getting it by default.

And surprisingly, once I cooled down some and walked part of a lap, I wasn't that tired or sore. My hip and ITB were only slightly tight, probably no worse than usual, and stretching produced no real pain or tightness. I had hoped to do better on the run, and where I messed up was in starting too fast. Live and learn there. But for me, it is always hard to hold back on the track, even though I realize it was no blazing speed.

We don't have results yet, and I'm waiting for pictures another friend took who was there. They had heats going until late in the day, and the last time I checked, they weren't up yet. I don't expect to beat anyone in my AG, but its still fun to compete.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Last night, I went for a massage, my second in a week. Seems extravagant? Well, the first was free, since I had received a gift card to a local spa where they do massage and other relaxing things, but that did pretty much nothing for a problem I've been having.

Since about a month ago, I have had a nagging problem, first in my right glute area, and then on the right ITB. I think it has been aggravated by first doing some pretty intense bike trainer workouts, second from pushing as hard as possible at the last indoor tri, and third from running on the track on the ship while on vacation, just so I could be outside for once. That probably was the final straw, since I had been running mainly on the treadmill all winter, and then the first chance I get to be outside in decent weather in months, and it had to be on a track. So, since vacation, my right hip has bothered me, and recently it got to the point where it was getting harder and harder to even go upstairs. I should have been familiar with what was happening here, since several years ago I had a bad time with ITB that eventually required physical therapy, and of course I don't think I was ever the same again.

For me, ITB does not lead to knee pain, like it does with many others (I know a couple of you are suffering from that right now). In my case, it always leads to hip pain and tightness, and eventually the whole band down to the knee gets tight and tingly. That's where I was this week, so it was time to do something about it. Left unchecked, it would eventually get so tight I wouldn't be able to even lift my leg enough to go up one step.

My first massage, last Saturday, was with a person who didn't seem to have a clue what my complaint was. In fact, I don't think he even knew what a triathlon was, based on the questions he asked about my training. And while the pressure of his hands was pretty good, he completely ignored the ITB and glute areas. I mean, how can you totally ignore an area that was my main reason for coming?? When I mentioned this, he said, oh yeah, its tight, but still did very little. It was like he was afraid to tough "something." Glad that was free!

So I was facing a dilemma again on how to get this problem treated and under control before I was laid up again. I personally think that accupuncture would work, but was a little hesitant to go that route just yet, mainly because I know it can be a deductible expense on my health flex plan, but I wasn't sure about needing a referral, and I didn't want to wait any longer than necessary. I thought accupressure might also be a good option, so I started looking in the phone book for any names that might offer this service. There were a few, and they had websites, but reading through the information I just was not on board with those places.

Then I thought of a woman I have known since we both started running in the 80s. I ran into her last year in the fall and learned then she was doing massage therapy, but I didn't get her number then. So I looked her up, called her, and got an appointment for that afternoon.

I found out she also did accupuncture and accupressure, but once we started talking and she started working on me, she determined that some stretching and massage would be just as beneficial, at least initially. So I let her work her magic on me.

What a difference between the two! With her being a runner herself, and a fantastic one at that (she is in the 50-54 age group and still runs under 21 min. for a 5k, and under 3:30 for a marathon, so she is not limited in her athletic talents), she knows what we need and where we hurt. She worked some areas that I'm telling you probably have never been touched that deep, even though over the years I have consistently used massage therapy on a fairly regular basis. And of course the hip and ITB were SO painful, I winced throughout the entire time she worked on those areas.

Today, I am at least able to walk up the steps again. I still have some tightness and a little discomfort, but nothing like before I went to see her. I will give myself a little rest for a couple of days, continue icing and stretching those areas, and see how it goes. I also plan to make another appointment with her in a couple of weeks to keep up the pace of healing. It was well worth the money I spent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Well, not exactly. Just back to reality it seems. A week in paradise does break up the bleakness of a Michigan winter though! And just think, the calendar says that spring is coming. Its obvious with the snow melting (not gone by a long shot!), the sun actually shining, and birds chirping in the early morning hours. And, if it weren't for the snow piles and potholes, I might actually be tricked into thinking it was warmer out than it is. We are enjoying quite a bit of unusual weather--sunshine. I'm not particularly fond of this daylight savings thing either. I know I complain about it every time we go back and forth, because my body does not function well on that cycle. It takes me weeks to adjust. So, rather than fight it, I must just wait it out.

I have been very busy at work, not just from being gone, but just some projects that were "out there" before I left, only to haunt me when I came back. I was hoping they would disappear on their own, but no luck. So I am not intentionally ignoring you bloggers. I am reading but don't have much time for posting. I am just finding myself away from my computer for long periods of time, and then catching up on all the e-mails when I do get to sit down. I will catch up with all of you eventually!

In the meantime, I have been tagged, by Shelley and Anne, to reveal 7 things, and I think it is weird things, about myself. I've been pretty careful up to this point to not let on just how weird I am, so as to not scare anyone off, but if you must know, here goes:

1. I love coffee, but almost always drink decaf. Its not the caffeine I like or need, just the taste and the comfort it brings. In fact, when I can't sleep, I can get up, make coffee, drink a cup or two, and then go back to sleep. Weird.

2. I cannot stand the smell of melting or melted butter or cheese. I retch whenever I smell either. I've been that way since a kid, so I don't know where it comes from. If someone at work makes buttered microwave popcorn and I get a whiff, I have to run out of the room immediately. Same thing if they are nuking something for lunch with cheese on it. And my kids all know neither is allowed in my house or anywhere near me. Ewww.

3. I sleep with a pillow over my head. I can sleep without it, but sleep best with one over my ears especially. I've been doing this since a kid too, so figure it might have started when I still lived with my parents and 5 noisy brothers and sisters and when I would stay up all night reading books and then want to sleep all day. And it continued again when my one daughter was young and frequently woke me from a sound sleep to tell me she was sick, and then proceed to throw up on me. Had to protect myself. It was a defense mechanism.

4. I love red wine, but have to really limit myself on drinking it. One glass, and my mind is sharper and I am so smart. Two or more, and I find out just how stupid I really am.

5. After doing triathlons for the past 10 years, I still cannot change a bike tire. I keep looking for my AAA card in the mail for a number to call someone to change my tires, but no one has sent me one yet.

6. My hair grows completely uneven. What I mean here is that on the right side of my head, my bangs grow very slowly or hardly at all between haircuts, yet are wavy; the rest of my hair on the right side is very straight and grows unproportionately. On the left side of my head, my bangs grow much longer than the rest and are stick straight; the rest of the hair on my left side is wavy and grows much slower. I sometimes have to get my bangs trimmed on one side and the rest of the hair on the other between haircuts to not look lopsided. Somewhere, wires got crossed.

7. When I swim, I count every lap and every stroke. On the contrary, I never keep track of any of my workouts on paper and never have.

And there you have it. Weird things about me you probably wish you didn'tknow. And believe me, I've edited out some of the worst ones!

I'm not sure if he has been tagged before, but I'll tag Black Knight, and see what happens. I don't know much about him yet, and he might have already been tagged, but if so, please pass this on! And now, its time for me to have another cup of coffee and maybe go back to sleep for a while.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


And finally the last installment. I hadn't intended to drag this out, but the fifth day turned out to be an adventure in and of itself, so it was easier to just break it down one more time.

Day 6: Day 6 was scheduled to be a day at sea, traveling from Cozumel to Princess Cays, Bahamas. I had had a very uncomfortable night with the motion sickness, and then was abruptly awakened by Don who decided at 6:30 am that he was going to get up and do some laundry! "Now??" was all I could moan and lay back down, still feeling sick and queasy. "Why do you have to wake me up now??" was all I could ask. Apparently that was enough to scare him out of that idea, because he quickly got dressed and headed out of the room, and later he told me he went to the gym instead.

I had just drifted back to sleep when there was a knock on the door. Room service. Of course! After the second day of having no coffee readily available in the room, I started ordering room service coffee. As long as it was complimentary, why not? The first day, they brought it late. The second day, I had to call. The third day it was weak as water. And now today, it was early.

I got up and stumbled to the door, which even with the dark room and not having my contacts in would have happened anyway, since the boat was still swaying more than I liked. Then, I went right back to bed.

A couple of hours later, Don resurfaced, saying he had been at the gym and was going to go get breakfast and did I want to come? No way! I still was weak and queasy and my head was pounding too. "Just bring me a little something, and hopefully I can eat it later." When he came back later, it was with some fruit and a couple of boiled eggs, which he knows I can always eat, regardless of how I feel. Then he did laundry and showered. I still was in bed. I had already decided there was no way I was going to be able to do my last scheduled run workout that day. It could wait until tomorrow.

Around 2:30, I was finally able to get up and shower and put myself together enough to go down to a late lunch. I had a terrible time in the shower, because with the boat still moving quite a bit, I was constantly losing my balance. Same when I was at the sink. I just wanted the boat to stop moving!

Before lunch, I headed down to the ship's store and found some Dramamine. I wasn't alone in trying to seek some relief from that affliction. I hadn't been outside yet, but knew the winds were still causing rough waters.

I didn't eat much for lunch, just some fruit again and some fish. I was still feeling a considerable amount of motion, while Don was not, but the queasiness had pretty much stopped. I decided to take one dose of Dramanine, hoping for the best. We then went out to a semi-protected deck area, looking for a sunny spot, and we both read for a while. It wasn't long before I could barely keep my eyes open. The Dramamine packet had said it would cause "marked drowsiness" and sure enough, it was right!

So I headed back to the cabin for a nap, fell asleep, and didn't wake up again until almost 7 pm. Then I forced myself up to go eat, and went right back to the cabin after and went back to sleep and didn't wake up until 7 am the next morning.

Day 6: Day 6 was scheduled to be a day on Princess Cays (pronounced keys), Bahamas, the private island of the Princess Cruise lines. Announcements were being made nearly every hour about arriving late, shore excursions being delayed and later cancelled, and apologizing for the delay, but which was of course due to the weather. I felt good enough to get up and get my run in, but with the high winds and continued swaying of the boat, I decided I would just go to the gym and use a treadmill. My workout was a 4 mile tempo run, and getting started I could see my "tempo" was going to be much slower than planned. I was still feeling weak from the day before, but was no longer sick or queasy.

And what I thought would be a much easier run on the treadmill than outside battling the winds, turned out to have a surprising twist. After running about a mile, I did increase the speed slightly, so now running was a little challenging but not impossible. Before I knew it though I was struggling and thought about backing down on pace when I realized that I felt like I was running uphill! Then it was like I was running downhill. It occurred to me then that the boat was going up and down so much still that even running on the treadmill I felt like I was on a rolling hill course. I was amused by this and decided to consider it a good workout after all.

As was our usual routine, we were planning on heading over to shore after a late breakfast. The planned ship's barbeque on the Cays was cancelled because of the late arrival, as well as most of the shore excursions. As it turned out, we were only going to have about 3 hours of shore time. I didn't really care that much. I wished that we could just stay on the boat, but I also knew that I wanted to get that last chance in to shop and sit on the beach in the sun. It hadn't been that warm since the day in Cozumel, so I really wanted to be able to soak up the final warmth of the trip.

Getting ashore, we used the ship's tender boats, which went much smoother than the last trip off the boat we had. It was probably just a 5 minute trip and we were on land. And the tender boats only held about a 100 people, so there were no long waits getting on or off.

Princess Cays was a small island off the "mainland" island near Eleuthera. There was a bridge connecting the two, but we didn't really have enough time to explore. Here I am at the welcome sign. And that is not my drink I'm holding!

After doing the obligatory shopping, where we found out the shops only took Princess Cruise cards for payment (it all went on the same credit card, so no problem for me), we found some beach chairs and attempted to settle in for a while.

It was very hot, however, so we both wanted to go in for a swim. Don had brought his goggles, I had not, and I wasn't that energetic anyway, so I just decided to wade. Wading was very difficult, because the water's edge and the sand in water itself was very rocky. So I looked for a clear spot and just got wet and took pictures while enjoying the scenery, the water, and the sun.

Then it was time to get back on the ship, our final time in paradise.

We had a late lunch again, then lounged around on deck and read for a while before heading back to the room to start the packing ordeal.

The procedure for packing up required us to pack everything on Friday that we didn't want to have to remove from the boat ourselves, which pretty much was everything. We were to keep out an overnight bag and our carryon items for the plane. So you had to be selective on what you packed and didn't, so you either weren't without something necessary or didn't end up with more than you could carry. Once we collected our luggage prior to heading to the airport, we could stow any items not allowed as carryons by the airlines.

After packing for an hour or so, it was getting close to 7:30 pm, so we decided to go to dinner, and after we could finish up organizing our luggage. It needed to be done by 9 pm. Packing to go home would also require on my part some major reshifting of items, since I now had an entire suitcase full of purchases for the kids mainly. Good thing Don packs light, that's all I can say, because now I had his bags filled with my excess stuff!

We took a last walk around the ship, and then called it a night. I was still tired out enough that going to sleep was not going to be a problem.

Day 7: Day 7 was traveling home again. We had set the alarm this day, getting up by 6 am, because our scheduled departure from the ship was 7:45. This allowed us time to shower and dress and go for breakfast, along with most of the other ship's passengers it seemed. We saw Cowboy and his crew for the last time (after having run into him in the elevator the day before, on the beach the day before, in the tender boat the day before, and again at dinner the day before--each time he was a two-fisted drinker. I was surprised he was still standing this last morning!) The weather had calmed quite a bit and was nicely warm. We had arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale cruiseport sometime in the early morning hours, and after eating, we took our coffee out on the deck for the last time. We could see them making arrangements on the dock to get the ship ready for disembarking passengers. I really hated leaving the deck. It was peaceful and warm, and even though I was ready to go home, I was not particularly ready to leave the warmth and sunshine.

We finished packing our last minute items and cleared up the room. Here's a last look at the room. (The bathroom is not visible from these views, but the room is about the size of a small hotel room. Adequate enough.)

Then it was time to go to our departure area and wait to be called. I'm not going to go into the rest of the trip home. Suffice it to say, it was a long day, I did not like the Miami Airport, and true to its reputation, our United flights were late.

Would I take a cruise again? is one question I have been asked. Did you like it? was another. Yes, to both questions, with some reservations.

First, if I were to take another cruise, I would ask for a room closer to midship. Our room was on the extreme front of the boat, making it necessary for us to walk long distances for everything, even something as simple as a glass of water. They do not have ice or vending machines anywhere on the boat, like in a hotel. Not that the exercise wasn't great, its just that I figured walking to the dining room twice equalled almost a mile, and I can't tell you how many times we did that, not just to eat, but to get coffee or water, or iced tea. Also, I have to wonder if the ship's movement would have seemed less midship. The other thing about the room location was we were directly above one of the theaters, and the sound carried well enough that it was like we were right next to it. There were nights I would have preferred going to sleep before midnight, but I am too light of a sleeper to block out that noise.

Second, I would go on a shorter cruise. Four days would have been enough for me, with another 3 or 4 on shore somewhere. After four days, I was ready to not have to be around that many people all the time or wait in lines to eat or go on shore. Even when in your cabin, you really couldn't be alone because the steward was in and out during the day doing his thing, unless I put the privacy sign out, which I did a lot of the time.

Third, I would be more specific on airline specifications. We decided to book airfare through the cruiselines to make it one whole package and not have to bother with that detail, but the return flight was less than convenient. We had to spend 6 hours in the Miami airport, basically with nothing to eat or drink or do (a problem with the airport setup), and then still have to go the rest of the way home, returning close to 11 that night. Way too long and a wasted day.

And finally, I would take less and spend less.

For the most part, what I wanted to achieve on this vacation was met. My main goals were to:
  • not get a bad sunburn (I didn't--tanning ahead helped);
  • sleep until it was light every day (most days I think, although we didn't have a window so I'm not completely sure);
  • get adequate exercise but not overdo it or be rigid in working out (I only had 3 run workouts planned: one long run; one speed run; one tempo run, all which I did. Other than that, I only swam which was relaxing and enjoyable, or did a lot of walking, which could not be avoided.);
  • eat and drink in moderation (we never stuffed ourselves, even when mainly using the buffet for meals, only had a few of the many delicious desserts available, and only had a few drinks each. Of course paying for those helped curb that!);
  • read a whole book (almost got one done);
  • have fun (mostly I did).

I don't want to dwell on any negative part of the trip or give an indication that it was a negative. The weather was a factor, to be sure, but any sensible person knows you can't control the weather. It was a first-time learning experience, and no vacation could be expected to be perfect. And what's perfect anyway? Well, that's another whole post by itself!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Day 5: Day 5 we were scheduled to sail into Cozumel, Mexico. We woke up late, after 7:30 a.m., which was surprising, but we also knew we had a longer shore day than usual, and the time changed when we arrived in Cozumel. Don wanted to get to the gym right away for what was becoming his new rehab routine for his Achilles. He had finally been able to use the elliptical and stationary bike the week before, so he was off to the gym for another long workout. Since this was my off day from running, we planned to meet at the endless pool for a swim later. Until this point, I didn't know where it was located, only to find out it was, not surprisingly, right next to the fitness center, as it was also an adults only pool.

Before heading for breakfast, I decided to go to the Internet cafe and attempt to figure out the wireless connection--or lack of--on my laptop, only to find out it was a compatibility problem with my model and the ship's connections. No problem! I hadn't wanted to spend any real time on the computer anyway, but only wanted to be able to store my photos or possibly send some e-mails with pics to family and friends.

I noticed a lot of motion on the boat that I hadn't been aware of before, but until this time, I hadn't been outside yet that day, so I was surprised when I looked out the windows of the Internet room and saw how rough it was. I also noticed it was cloudy and overcast. I was disappointed with this because I had been looking forward to sunshine every day.

I went to the purser's desk after this, where you sign up for any shore excursions you want to do. We hadn't signed up for any yet, and the only one for Cozumel that interested both of us was the Mayan ruins tour, which was 8 hours, so we nixed that. Plus, we would have missed the time frame for doing that. The only other thing I was interested in was a Nautilus submarine tour of the reefs with snorkeling after. But, I found out it was also unavailable. No problem!

I then headed to the buffet dining room to get something to eat before meeting Don later. This was when I noticed that today was the first day they had an employee posted at the entrance to the food line with hand sanitizer, squirting everyone's hands before they entered. They also were not letting you serve yourself, either food or drink, so I had to wonder what changed here.

After breakfast, they started making announcements about being late coming into Cozumel because of the weather, and that the tender boats were also running late. No problem!

I then went to the endless pool, found a seat in the sun, and planned to read until Don arrived. I noticed it was very windy, and while the pool area was open overhead, it was below a sun deck, so was mostly protectly by the wind. Above, on the sun/jogging deck, there is also a paddle ball court, and this area is covered. The winds were howling through here, making it sound much worse than it looked, but the flags overhead were whipping. The sun was in and out of the clouds. I enjoyed about an hour of reading before Don arrived. And then we waited for the endless pool to become operational. The hours for the pool were 10 am to 10 pm. Another woman arrived and began using the pool. She had been here the day before as well, not a swimmer, just doing some water exercises.

When 10 am rolled around, we both wondered who was supposed to come and turn on the machine that controlled the current. We waited about 10 more minutes and then Don asked the woman if she knew. "Its already on," she said. Oh, that's right. The time had changed, but the pool clock had not, so it had been on the entire time I was sitting reading! We waited some more, waiting for the woman to finish and leave. But she didn't. Ten minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes. All right, I've had enough I told Don. I want to get in that pool. We're wasting our day here. He finally got in when she swam to the other end of the pool to try out the current. We had been told it wasn't that strong, and there didn't seem to be any way to adjust it. And it wasn't very strong. I finally got in there as well, but couldn't control my stroke enough to go slow enough to get caught in the current, so finally gave up and headed to one of the other pools nearby. It wasn't occupied since this was a shore day, so again I had the pool mostly to myself. Don came and joined me after a while, and when I finished my swim, I headed to one of the deck chairs to relax and wait for him.

It was still very windy, overcast, and cloudy, but finding a spot in the sun it was comfortable enough. We finally decided to go shower and eat lunch before heading to shore. We actually had until 5:30 this day to go to shore and catch the last boat, instead of 3:30 like other days, so we weren't in that big of a hurry. I had pretty much figured it wouldn't be a beach day because of the clouds and wind, so we just planned to shop and wander around for a while.

At lunch, we again noticed the sanitization restrictions. It wasn't that big of a problem with the eating lines, but now you couldn't even help yourself to a glass of water, so that did become frustrating.

I noticed while eating how much motion there was in the boat. There seemed to be a continuous vibration and swaying, but Don said he didn't really notice it. After lunch, we headed immediately to Deck 4, where we were to take the tender boats to shore. By this time, no "ticket" was needed, meaning there wasn't any line waiting, so we figured we would have no problem getting ashore quickly.

How wrong we were! There was a long line, probably 100 people, waiting just to board the tender. We arrived just as they were attempting to unload people from an earlier boat, only to discover just how rough the water was, making disembarking very treacherous and time consuming. A woman in front of us said I should look out the doorway to see how rough the water was. She was right. The tender boat, and the walkway bridge, were going up and down so rapidly, it was almost impossible for people to get off the other boat and back on.

And then we heard a loud commotion, a crash, and a lot of scrambling. We found out that someone on a wheelchair nearly went off the walkway as they were attempting to help him off the tender boat and back onto the ship. I never saw any of this, but Don thinks he saw him a few days later, all bruised. After several more minutes of the dilemma, where people had a difficult time disembarking from the tender and getting back onto the ship, I finally said let's forget it. I was really concerned about getting on open water in a ferry boat, imaging us tipping or worse. Don was trying to pooh pooh me, saying it would be okay, but I held firm and said I wasn't going.
So we went back to one of the open decks, found some chairs in a somewhat protected area, and read, lounged, and played handheld yahtzee games we both had. After a couple hours of this, though, we were bored and I suggested that we go see if there was a line for the tender boat and go ashore. The sky had gone from dark and threatening rain to clearing somewhat, so I thought maybe it would be safe to go. To our surprise, there was no line waiting, and they had just finished unloading a group of passengers, so we only had to wait a few minutes before leaving for shore.

The water was still rough, no doubt, and the winds were still strong. We were the only ones on the tender boat except the crew, even though the boat would hold 300 people.

We managed to sit under one of the few open windows on the boat, so the first wave that hit came in and soaked us. It was like having 3 buckets of water thrown in your face at the same time! Salty!

Arriving on shore, I could see it definitely would not be a beach day. The waves were crashing against the dock and the sea wall on shore. The seas were angry that day, that's for sure.

The tender docks were just a short walk to the shopping district. I'm not really sure what else there is on Cozumel, since that's the only area we were able to visit.

Here, we were in a little plaza across from some shops. You can see that I now have on capris, and had had on a hooded zip up jacket as well until getting off the boat. The day was still cool, but warm enough to take off the jacket once on shore.

We spent a couple of hours shopping, looking in many shops, to the point where I just wanted to go back to the boat. After a while, it becomes the same everywhere. We did each get beach type jackets that said Cozumel on them, which I liked very much.

Heading back to the boat dock, we had to attempt to cross this street.

For the most part, the police were controlling traffic for the tourists to cross, but you still had to be careful, since standing on the sidewalk there was no curb to separate you from the street. One wrong step and you would be road kill.

It was now 5 o'clock, and the last tender boat was scheduled to leave at 5:30, so we decided to just get in line and wait it out, since the lines were from the docks to the street long, and were soon snaking down the sidewalk as well. After about 10 minutes of standing waiting, and after listening to conversations around us, I started getting the impression we might be in the wrong line, so I went to investigate. Sure enough, the Princess cruise lines were on another dock, and the line was less than half as long. That was a relief! Or so I thought.

So we stood there, and stood there, and stood there. Five thirty came and went. Not too many more people lined up behind us, and it was hard to judge how many were in front of us. But what else could we do? It was getting much windier now, and almost downright cold. The few stragglers getting in line were drunk for the most part, still carrying bottles or cans of beer and continuing with their partying. One guy, who we started calling Cowboy, was there with his group. We had seen him a few other times, and each time he had a drink in each hand. He appeared to maybe be French Canadian, since he spoke French, and we knew there was a large group from Quebec on the boat. His group was certainly having a great time!

We continued to wait. It was starting to get dark and now windier, and the tender boats were having difficulty getting close enough to the dock to board passengers. Six times they attempted it, and then left. We didn't know what to expect at this point. It was about 6 pm by now. Finally, a smaller tender boat came and picked up a load of passengers, and then headed to the ship. Another one came and picked the rest of us. When Don and I had a chance to get on the boat, I insisted we sit on the middle deck, near the exit. He wanted to go down below because it would be less windy, and probably we wouldn't get wet from waves, but I just had this gut feeling about staying on top.

But even after boarding, we still sat and sat and sat. No one knew why we weren't heading back to the ship, and lots of speculations were circulating among the passengers. Finally, the tender ship's captain came and told us that the other boat was having so much difficulty unloading passengers and getting near enough to the ship that they were going to turn the ship to help get it out of the wind some, but until they accomplished this and unloaded that boat, we would have to wait. In the wind and cold and dark.

People's moods varied. Some were grumbling, others were still partying, and some were complaining about feeling sick. Oh great, I thought, if one person pukes, I'm going to hurl myself!

Around 7 pm, we got the okay to head to the ship. There was much cheering for that! But it was a rough ride, as expected. Sitting and waiting, and then heading out to sea, I was reminded of the one time I rode one of those carnival rides, the gondola, or pirate ship, or whatever you know it by, where the front of the boat goes way up and then drops down and the other side goes up and down, like a teeter totter. That's what it was like. I was gripping the railing in front of me so tightly you could see my white knuckles, and I was holding back a scream for the entire ride. I think I did squeak out a few brief screams, since I am so terrified on those rides that I cannot control the urge to scream.

I was never so glad to get back to the ship, but then again, we had to wait to disembark. Fortunately, sitting in the first row near the exit, we were the first to get in line to unload. Still, the gangplank was bobbing up and down so much, it was impossible for 6 guys to hold it down, so we still had to unload, one at a time. I was the third one off. When they gave me the okay, I flew down that ramp onto the ship! Whew! I was off.

I expected Don to follow behind me, but instead a woman and her child were next. He would be next then. Or not. Somehow, he managed to get shoved back a ways and it was probably another 15 minutes before he got off. His first words were, "Let's go get a drink and then eat." But I wanted to eat first, since I was now starving, and it was after 7:30 pm. We had a show we wanted to go to at 8:30, so we had to hurry.
Sitting at dinner, we again saw Cowboy and his crowd, still with a drink in each hand. This was to be just the second of many times he would amuse us on the cruise

I could feel myself moving the whole time I was eating, and when we headed back to the room to change, I had a hard time standing up without staggering. And we hadn't even had anything to drink! We quickly changed for the theater show and headed to one of the lounges to get a good seat. Here, we decided to have a drink, and I just chose wine, thinking it might be a better choice than something else. Neither of us had had more than a few drinks since boarding.

We also had conversations with others sitting near us, everyone discussing the wild boat rides that day.

After the show, Don wanted to go on the upper deck to feel the wind. We attempted to get there, but the wind really was so strong I found it difficult to walk around without losing my balance, so I just sat at a table by a pool, while he went on the upper deck. I eventually decided to go to the room, because it was almost 11 pm and I was tired. He decided to stay outside for a while.

And that's when the adventure started again. Sitting in the cabin reading, I was really bothered by the movement of the boat. Our room was in the front of the boat, so maybe that was it. I don't know. Walking through midship, you could hear the boat creaking and groaning too. The captain had made a few more announcements about the wind, and also mentioned we were late leaving Cozumel, so most likely we would be late getting into the Bahamas on Friday.

I decided to get ready for bed, but still was having a lot of trouble with the boat's movement. And then it happened. I felt sick to my stomach. I tried to ignore it, but eventually I did get sick. Over and over and over. When Don finally got to the room, it was after 1 am, but I asked him to call the medical people and see if I could get something for the motion sickness. I never brought anything with me, and until then it never occurred to me I would need anything. They said they would bring something in 30 minutes. But the 30 minutes came and went, and they never did show up. I finally managed to get to sleep, but I felt extremely sick.

(To be continued)

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Vacation's over. I had a great time! Here's a recap of the week:

Day 1: Day 1 was mainly a travel day. We were up at 4 am for a 6:30 am flight. I'm not sure I really slept the night before. Do we ever before something like this? The temperature when we left the house was 8 degrees. But at least it wasn't snowing!

Our first travel leg was to Detroit, where we had a 2+hour layover before leaving for sunny Ft. Lauderdale, FL. That gave us time to get a nice breakfast before taking off again.

The second travel leg was Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale. Of course, by now, some of you know going through Detroit probably means flying Northworst, and once again NWA lived up to its bad reputation. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, surprisingly, slightly ahead of schedule and then---sat on the tarmack for one full hour waiting for another plane with mechanical trouble to move away from the gate so we could get off the plane. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to be sitting, stuck in an airplane, seeing all that wonderful, inviting sunshine waiting for us??

We finally got straightened out and were able to get off the plane. The Ft. Lauderdale airport was HOT! I made sure I didn't wear anything wintery, but still, with a coat and pants, and after sitting in the plane for an hour with no air, I was beginning to sweat, and couldn't wait to get into a pair of shorts!

The Princess Cruise lines had representatives waiting at the airport with signs to help us locate our group. We collected our luggage and then struggled to get that load into the shuttle bus that would take us to the cruise port. I was getting very impatient at this point, but kept under control. Soon, soon, was all I could think.

Once we arrived at the ship, we were both awestruck by the size! Bigger than we could have imagined.

We actually were arriving at the tail end of the timeframe to board, so we didn't have too much of a crowd. We needed to fill out some more forms, go through immigration, get our cruise cards, and we were on our way!

We arrived just after 4 pm, and already the welcome party was underway. We went to our rooms first, and I was really expecting our bags to be there, but no luck, so I couldn't change into shorts. And did I mention that the temperature was around 83 degrees?

We decided then to head to the Lido deck, where all the partying was taking place. We no sooner went through the doors onto this outer deck and drinks were shoved into our hands. Not free of course, but why not?

We decided to find a spot on one of the outer decks to watch the ship set sail, and I was surprised at how windy it was. After that, we went for a short tour. We didn't actually set sail until after 5:30, so it wasn't long before the sun was setting.

After that, we found the dining room and ate our first of many delicious meals.

After dinner, continued our tour, attempting to find the gym for the next day, as well as other places on the ship we would need to find. We went out on the promenade deck. You can see how dark and windy it was.

Then, we were both really tired and decided on an early night of it. Only to find out that there was a theater directly below our deck on our part of the boat! Whoa! I couldn't believe how loud it was! At first, I thought it was someone's music on our deck, but realized it was a show going on. So it wasn't until after the second show, which ended at 11:30, that I was able to finally get to sleep. Oh well, go with the flow!

Day 2: Day 2 was a day at sea, so we had no shore excursions planned. I didn't sleep that well the first night, and was up 6:30 a.m. We had an inside room with no window, so we had no idea whether it was light out or not or what the weather was like. We dressed quickly and decided to go to breakfast early and go outside and check the weather and just see what we could see. I expected it to be as warm as the evening before, but being on the open sea, it was breezy and cool. We went to the buffet breakfast. The buffet is open 24/7 with a huge variety of foods, practically anything you would want, so we enjoyed the variety available and the leisurely enjoyment of breakfast. We both made calls home and were happy our phones still worked. After that, we sat on the outside deck drinking coffee and enjoyed the sun warming us. After about an hour, I decided it was time to get busy and get my workout in.

My planned workout for the day was a 6 mile run. This was week 2 of a 10 week plan, so I wanted to stay on track as much as possible. And I was looking forward to running outside for once. There was a jogging track on one of the upper decks, and a quick check the night before told me it was 10 laps to the mile. Acceptable enough. Better than a treadmill, I told myself. I got my water bottle filled, brought my room card, and headed to the track. Don went inside to use the bikes.

I had been warned about the track being busy, and that was an understatement. It wasn't even 10 am, yet all the deck chairs were filled with people sunning themselves. And the unfortunate thing about the location of the track was it surrounded one of the biggest lounging areas that wasn't by a pool. So there was a lot of traffic going to and from the deck chairs. That wouldn't have been so bad, but then you got the idiots who didn't seem to have a clue they were on a running track or the ones who decided to go the opposite way indicated, or worse yet, the ones who used it for photo ops and actually walked backward to get a camera shot! It was very frustrating, and I secretely wanted to knock someone down, but I kept at it, lap after lap. By the time I hit 3 miles, it was really getting quite warm, too. The weather prediction had been for over 85 degrees, and it was probably getting close to that. Still, I hung in there for another mile, having to stop half way through for water instead of after a mile on my other laps. After 4 miles, it was getting too warm for me to continue safely. I was getting that dizzy feeling you get from too much sun and I was getting extremely frustrated with all the people on the track not running. Many did not speak English, so it was impossible to get the point across that YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY! So I did the wimp-out thing and headed to the gym and finished the last 2 miles on thr treadmill. But I got my 6 miles in!

By the time I finished working out, it was getting close to lunch. So after a shower and change we again headed to the buffet for another fantastic meal. We were getting used to the routine already. And it was great being able to eat and not have gobble my food and hurry off to somewhere else or back to work.

After lunch, we got in our bathing suits and headed for one of the sun decks to play some games and read. What a treat for me!

Then after a few hours of relaxing, it was time to get dressed for dinner. This was one of their "formal" nights, so we got dressed up.

That night was also the Academy Awards, so they had "Hollywood under the Stars" night where we viewed the program on a big screen on one of the outer decks. (daytime view)

Day 3: Day 3 was our first shore excursion day, Ochos Rios, Jamaica. I hadn't slept well again, but I didn't feel all that tired, and we were up early anyway. Don wanted to hit the gym early before we headed to shore. I was having an easy workout day, just a swim, and with most of the passengers either getting ready to leave the boat or already off, I had the pool to myself.

We actually took our time that morning, enjoying the quiet of the boat, ate a late breakfast, and then headed to shore.
Ochos Rios is very beautiful, as you can see from the surrounding hills and countryside.

But what a cultural shock it was for me! The cruise ship people recommended going to Island Village, a beach/shopping area within walking distance of the boat dock. We were also warned not to take any taxis that didn't have red license plates, but I'm not sure we ever found out why. Somehow, this information totally went out of our heads once we were off the boat. The problem, of course, is that you can't take one step off the boat without getting bombarded to take a taxi. We probably had 15 people try to get us to take a taxi before we finally relented. This one guy said he would take us to a "private" beach. "How far is that??" I asked. About 4 miles. I was alarmed, thinking we would have to walk back. Oh, no problem! (a favorite phrase there). For $10 we could go to the beach, shopping, and get a ride back. "And how will you know when we want to come back??" Of course I had to ask that! The answer wasn't reassuring, and the farthr away from the boat we got, the more the ride was starting to cost. What had started at a reasonable $2, was now up to $10, and soon it was $20 for a round trip, and finally I said to let us out. Now! Instead, the driver continued on further to a shopping center area before finally letting us out, probably 2-3 miles from the boat. And how much for that ride? $4. "$4? I thought you said $2." $2 each. Of course. No problem.

We immediately figured we were in a pretty expensive shopping center, and cash seemed to be the only form of payment. It became obvious to me that these drivers have prearranged shopping areas where they take tourists, maybe getting some form of kickback from the shopkeepers, particularly since it was farther away from the cruise ship dock. And I was quickly adding up all the cash slipping through my fingers, when I had planned on using mainly a credit card to not leave myself cashless. And the shop keepers followed you around, pushing stuff on you. And all had death breath! I was starting to worry about what disease I would get just from them breathing on me! And while I negotiated prices on a few items, I'm not really all that sure I got much of a bargain. I didn't enjoy this experience at all. Then Don decided he wanted to go to an open air craft market. We headed there and almost immediately got separated! I tried not to be alarmed, but I was a little concerned being there alone. If I thought they were pushy in the shops, they were worse here. They hounded you to death to look at stuff. "Can I just show you...?" Another favorite phrase of the day. I was actually looking for a particular item and did finally find it, all the while keeping a lookout for Don. I tried to attach myself to one gentleman, just to not look like I was alone, but the guy didn't speak English and didn't seem to have a clue what I was doing. So I moved on, found the item I wanted, bartered a halfway decent price, but then had to follow a woman to her "bag man" I guess you would call him, someone who she turned her money over to and got change for me. I wasn't letting her out of my sight with a $20 bill! I finally found Don and we quickly got out of there. Neither of us liked the experience. I felt dirty and violated after wandering through there.

Then we had to begin our walk back to the beach by the boat. I wasn't giving that up no matter what! I can't tell you how many beggers we passed, people hawking wares, pushing taxi rides on us, and even "weed" several times. A paradise for some, I'm sure! But we were not getting in another taxi. The drivers were crazy too. I doubt too many actually knew how to drive. It was very hot too, close to 90 degrees, so we stopped at the turtle park above. That at least took us away from all the street traffic and beggars, but the park guide pretty much dominated us the whole time, so it was hard to get pictures close up. They just don't leave you alone there for a minute it seemed!

We finally arrived at Island Village, a very nice little shopping area with a beach attached. And they took credit cards! Yipee, civilization! No one bothered us while we shopped either. And for "only" $5 each, we could rent a beach chair and sit on the beach.

Did I mention how much I love that water???
And while we have some fantastic beaches in Michigan, I always forget that the ocean water is so salty! We spent a couple of hours here and did our own version of snorkeling. The water was very clear, and you could see some coral and fish in different depths.
Then we decided to finish up on the shopping. I enjoyed not being bothered while I browsed too. Here are a couple of pictures of "rubber band man" as I called him, a very flexible local who performed for the crowds. We should all be that loose and limber!
That evening we went to one of the nightly shows in the clubs on the boat. We went to the 8:30 show, but I forgot that we would be hearing it again from our room at the 10:30 show. There was no going to bed early around there!
Day 4: Day 4 was Grand Cayman. We again did our morning workouts, headed to breakfast, and then to shore.
I was a little leery about what we would encounter once we hit shore again, but it was nothing like Ochos Rios. There are numerous jewelry and other shops all within walking distance of the tender boat docks, and a huge parking lot full of taxis, bus taxis, etc., so it was a simple matter to line up transportation if you needed it. And no one bothered you to buy stuff or take a ride. Here I am with one of the "locals."
The beaches weren't close by, however, and we were forced to take a taxi to the famous Seven Mile Beach.
Here again, we did our own snorkeling and saw many schools of fish below the surface, as well as a lobster or crab beneath a cement block in the water. Couldn't be sure which. We both swam between the swim buoys too. I had a hard time navigating, and Don kept saying he felt really heavy in the salt water. I felt like I floated much easier!
That night, we watched another movie under the stars, Bee Movie, which I had seen before, but Don hadn't. The cruise ship covers all the deck chairs with terry cloth coverings, and puts out blankets and pillows to use while watching. It had turned cooler and somewhat windy, so it was also necessary to dress a little warmer for the night. The weather would also prove to be an omen for what was to come.
(To be continued)