Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I don't need this PS Vita, but I'm thankful Edz bought it for me.
Every year I think about writing a Thanksgiving blog.  I actually do so about half the time.

I'm thankful that my job continues to be exciting and challenging.  I get to work with amazing people who inspire me every day.  This year I traveled to Guam, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Fiji, The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Grenada, and the Netherlands to talk about sharks.  Tomorrow I'm going to New Zealand and Samoa.

Edz continues her march towards achieving the American dream.  The job she started this year offers a 401(k) and an employee stock purchase plan, so I like to tell her that she's technically self-employed now.  This year we managed to save some money, while still purchasing some toys we honestly don't need.

Speaking of Edz, I'm thankful for her poor eyesight.  Even after 3 years of marriage and 7 years being together, I still don't understand why someone so beautiful and kind would settle for me.

I'm thankful for my health.  This year I started to get back in shape and dropped 30 lbs. on my way to running my first half marathon.  I'm running, and hopefully finishing, a marathon in January.  I'm especially thankful that I did all this without dieting.

Next year we're going to spend Thanksgiving in Florida.  Edz has never spent Thanksgiving with the O'Connors and my last time was 2008.  Prior to that it was 2003.  I've been a bad son, brother, and uncle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Still Hurting

As I ran today, I thought back to a brief moment of insanity I had back in September.

The Disney Marathon weekend isn't just a marathon.  There's also a 5K, 10K, and a half marathon on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, respectively.  Disney offers up something called the Dopey Challenge: runners try to finish all four races over the weekend.

Back in September that sounded like a great idea.  I'd run a couple of hundred miles and dropped two dozen pounds after two months of training and I figured that with three more months of training the Dopey Challenge would be no big deal.  I suggested that I take the challenge to some of my coworkers; they suggested that it would probably kill me.

I took their advice and just signed up for the marathon.

Am I ever glad I did that!

The half marathon was 10 days ago and I still feel like I'm still recovering.  I thought I felt ready to start training again, but my first two runs since the race have been miserable.  I'm crampy, stiff, and slow.  Can it really take this long to recover?

Anyway, today's run was 5.6 miles in 53 minutes.  I've now run 204 miles since October 1.  The Disney Marathon starts in 46 days!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Training Break

Today was my first run since the Anthem Richmond Half Marathon. I started out thinking I was going to run about 9 miles, but about 3 miles in I realized that wasn't happening. I felt some tightness in my legs and tasted the bacon cheeseburger and fries I ate for lunch. I cruised home with 5.3 miles under my belt.

I've been training consistently since August 15 and spent the better part of the last three months either starving, exhausted, or both. Rain or shine (rain just meant a treadmill), I'd knock out about 5 miles each day or 60 minutes, whichever was shorter. The half marathon (and some travel) put a hiccup in my training, but I think I needed it.

I took about a week off before the race (due to travel) and a week off after the race (due to laziness) and now I feel great. My plantar fasciitis is gone. My achilles don't hurt. It doesn't hurt to walk and my muscles thank me for that. And I drank a lot of beer, which always makes me feel good.

I've got 48 days left to train for the Disney Marathon. If I'm to reach my goal of 500 miles in 100 days in training (plus the 200 prior to signing up for the race), I'm going to have to up my mileage, which is something I should be doing anyway. Hell, I can average 8:30 miles over a half marathon now, so no reason I can't pick up the pace and distance during my daily runs.

The half was a wake up call to how difficult the marathon is going to be, but I'm still optimistic that I can run 9:00 miles to finish in just under 4 hours.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Concert for Valor

Last week, one of Edz' managers gave her two tickets to go see the Veterans Day Concert for Valor on the National Mall. She texted me frantically around lunch time to let me know that we had to arrive before 5:30 PM for the 7:00 PM concert.

I left work early and met her at 4:00 PM at the Starbucks in front of the Federal Center SW Metro station. With our two blue tickets in hand, we walked towards the entrance on 4th street. I've been to three presidential inaugurations and two July 4th fireworks on the National Mall. There's always the public section that is usually about half a mile away from the stage. With tickets you can get closer, but often not that close. When I was at Obama's first Inauguration I was in the standing only section. When he was sworn in the second time I was closer and actually had a chair (and thanks to Kilili for both tickets!).

I thought of those experiences as we walked towards the entrance. Where would we end up?

After going through security we followed the signs to the blue ticket section. We were led to the area right behind the bleachers, then around the bleachers, and then right down to the front of the stage. At 4 PM there were lots of people spread out on blankets. We walked around them to go right up to the front, about six bodies from the stage. Then we stood in place for three hours as we waited for the concert to start.

Metallica was the best act of the night. You haven't lived until you've seen them live. Rihanna and Eminem were also amazing. Dave Grohl rocked. About half the crowd didn't understand Bruce Springsteen was protesting. I'd never heard Zac Brown, Black Keys, or Carrie Underwood sing before, and probably won't make an attempt to again. And I still can't name a song Jennifer Hudson sings, although I've heard the name.

I posted a few of the photos I took to Facebook. Here are a few of my favorites:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Anthem Richmond Half Marathon

Edz and I drove south to Richmond, Virginia on Friday afternoon so that I could participate in my first road race since ever since.  Billed as "America's Friendliest Marathon," the Anthem Richmond Marathon festivities include an 8K, half marathon, and marathon.  I've been training for three months for the Disney Marathon in January, so I opted for the half.  No need to get ahead of myself.

Our first stop in Richmond was the health and fitness expo to pick up my race bib and commemorative t-shirt.  While Edz went overboard collecting towels, pens, noisemakers, and posters, I did a body composition test.  They expectedly told me I was fat, but high-fived me when I told them I've lost 30 lbs. in the last three months.  The machine also told me I had higher muscle mass than the average person.  Now what guy doesn't like hearing that?

We checked into the Crowne Plaza and we were pleasantly surprised to find we'd been upgraded to a suite.  That sort of thing always seems to happen when I travel with Edz.  You're supposed to eat pasta before these races, so after I laid out my racing gear,  I called the local Italian restaurant and they had room for us at 8:45.  After dining on gnocchi and chicken we went straight to bed.

I dreamt of running all night -- and snow.

A photo posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on

It was 27 degrees Fahrenheit on the morning of the race.  I wore a long-sleeve shirt under my CNMI Men's National Team jersey (represent!), long pants, warm socks, gloves, and a hat.  During my warm-up I also wore a long-sleeve fleece jacket and my grizzly bear hoodie (no real bears were harmed).  I've had a bum achilles for the last, um, decade and it was bothering me, and my right bum also felt a little tight (too much sitting on airplanes last week), so I spent a good 30 minutes stretching out.

About 20 minutes from the start, Edz and I left the hotel (which was two blocks from the start).  Edz gave me a good luck kiss and I headed off to join my wave of runners.  She walked in the other direction so she could cheer me along the race course.

The wave of 2:00 runners was so large that the organizers split us up into two waves: I was in the second.  The elite runners were several thousand racers in front of me.  Their starting gun went off at 7:30.  Every two minutes another wave of runners started.  At 7:38 I started my run.

I started the race standing next to the 2:00 pace team.  These experienced runners try to maintain a pace that finishes at a specific time.  I spent the first half mile or so jogging next to them.  I was so pumped full of adrenaline the pace felt like a brisk walk.

Edz was right down the road.  I unzipped both jackets and tossed them at her.  Mentally it was like shifting into fifth gear.  I left the pace team behind and ran.

Now my goal at the onset was to run 2:00.  My training pace is usually around 10 minutes per mile.  Sometimes I push a little harder and will run 9 minute miles.  My longest run prior to this race was 9 miles.  On November 3, I ran 9.1 miles in 82 minutes.  The way I saw my race in my head was that I could push through nine miles at that pace and then coast the final four miles.

As I passed the first mile marker I looked down at my watch to record my split: 8:35.

Uh oh.  I wasn't pushing it, but adrenaline was getting the best of me.  I was already concerned that I was going to burn out.  In high school my coaches told us to run our long training runs at conversation pace -- a speed where we could comfortably talk to our team members.  I felt like I was running at conversation pace, so I decided to just go with it.

As I passed the second mile marker I checked my split again: 8:33.  Still too fast.  At this point my toes were still freezing.  I weighed my options between freezing now or exhaustion later and decided to keep my pace.

After the second mile I really hit my stride.  My next four splits were 8:16, 8:07, 8:10, and 8:11.  Then I crossed a mental barrier as I passed the 10K mark.  This was now my longest race ever.  After seven miles, I knew I was more than half way done. And I was tired.

The next four miles were hard.  My splits were 8:23, 8:20, 8:28, and 8:26.  Even so, this was my favorite part of the race.  Locals lined the streets holding signs and cheering us on.  Some were giving out cans of beer and shots of whiskey.

Mile 10 was another mental and physical barrier.  I hit the wall hard.  My next two miles were slow, but I kept them under 9:00.  Remember, my goal going in was to run all of my miles at 9:00, not under.  Mile 11 and 12 both came in at 8:57.

Mile 13 was nearly all downhill, which was both a blessing and a curse.  I could have loosened up and let the gravity take me to the bottom of the hill, but if I let go too much I would hurt myself.

My final split was 8:18, and then I cruised into the finish line.

I finished 149 out of 424 for my age group and 910 out of 2901 male finishers.  Overall I was 1479 out of 8452.

The Disney Marathon is now less than two months away. I'm glad I did the half because it gave me a reality check on my training. I'm not ready for a marathon, but with two months to go, I don't think a four hour 26.2 miler is out of the question.

After the run I stumbled around looking for Edz. I took a lap of the post-race festivities and found her smiling next to a tree. Photos, pizza, powerade, beer, coffee, and a corn dog followed. Afterwards we hobbled back up to the hotel to clean up and check out.

Eating at the bar I worked at in college. Really enjoying this beer. #richmondmarathon #richmond

A photo posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on

Our car was trapped in a garage until 4 PM, so after checking out we went back to the finish line to watch the other finishers. I've been training for just over three months now, I've run 400 miles, and burned off 30 lbs. I can really appreciate the accomplishment of finishing a marathon now. So could every person crossing the finish line -- and every person cheering them on from the sidelines. It was very inspiring.

Also, there was a guy who juggled all 26.2 miles of the marathon, and seeing him finish was worth the drive to Richmond.

This guy juggled the whole #richmondmarathon

A video posted by Angelo Taotaotasi (@sharkdefenders) on

And because I'm me, I've laid out my splits into this handy chart, you know, so that one unnamed friend can tell me I did great, and another anonymous friend can tell me I can do better.

Mile Split Overall
1 8:35 8:35
2 8:33 17:08
3 8:16 25:25
4 8:07 33:32
5 8:10 41:42
6 8:11 49:54
7 8:23 58:17
8 8:20 1:06:38
9 8:28 1:15:06
10 8:26 1:23:33
11 8:57 1:32:30
12 8:57 1:41:28
13 8:18 1:49:51
Stretch 0:43 1:50:34

Friday, November 14, 2014

Remembering The Great Indochina Loop

Ian, Chloe, David, and me
As I was walking home last night I recieved a text from Ian telling me to come to a restaurant a few blocks from my office. Sure, why not?  And who should great me?  Chloe and David!

Seven years ago the four of us went on a nearly six week tour of Southeast Asia.  I haven't seen the two of them since we said our goodbyes in a hotel in Bangkok.  This photo was taken on that day:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

European Elasmobranch Association Keynote

Twitter has created an interesting new dynamic at conferences that I first experienced at Science Online last year. Using hashtags to make searching easy, audience members and any twitter user in the world can create an online dicussion around a conference discussion. Sometimes the online dicussion can be as interesting (or boring!) as the live discussion.

I was invited to be one of the key note speakers at this year's European Elasmobranch Association meeting in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. The conference organizers developed the hashtag #EEA_2014 and encouraged all social media users to use it. And they did. I also put my twitter name on the first slide of my presentation and let my 600 followers know right before my presentation was set to begin.

The title of my presentation was Sharks, Science, CITES, and Sanctuaries, but usually it is simply Sharks 101. This is a presentation that I have been developing (with lots of input from my team) that is meant for an audience that knows very little about sharks. For this presentation, which was for an audience that was much more well-versed than me in shark science and issues, I chose to talk about why my organization uses the images, messages, and tactics that we do.

I'm not really going to get into those reasons in this blog (but I'm happy to come speak with you in person!). The thing I like about twitter is that it is the perfect guage of which messages were receptive to the audience. Was there something I said that was particularly memorable? The evidence is in the tweets.
If I like those things, and people react to them, I should probably try saying them again in my next presentation. So how did I do?

I think the most receptive was the message on how shark overfishing occurs. It recieved more than one tweet, but also became part of the wider conference dialogue all weekend. I wish I could take credit for that phrase and idea, but all glory goes to my coworker, Luke.

And I'll go ahead and post my opening joke at the end. I really hate public speaking. I get major stage fright. My legs shake and I sweat up a storm. As I was thinking about how terrified I was to get up on stage, I thought about how many people are afraid of sharks. And thus this classic was born. I'm going to use it again, and no, you can't borrow it.