Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rock N' Roll DC Half Marathon

I signed up for the Rock N' Roll DC Half Marathon about a week after I ran the Disney Marathon.  I had the momentum of my first marathon driving me forward and the endorphins blinding me to reality.  One unleart lession from the Richmond Half Marathon that I do not recover well.  It takes a lot of effort for me to get back into training.  That and I spent the entire month of February traveling in the Caribbean.  So heading into yesterday's half I had only trained three times: the Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday before the race.

Yesterday morning it was cold and raining.  What drives thousands of people to get up early in the morning only to experience the agony of physical exertion?  I set my alarm for six, but adrenaline woke me before my phone went off.  I showered, stretched, and dressed before jogging out into the dark to find the start line.

Runners huddled under whatever cover they could find.  I stayed dry in a Washington Nationals poncho.

My time from Richmond earned me a spot in corral 7 (out of about 30).  I knew I wasn't in 1:50 shape any more, so I found a spot near the back and hopped about to keep warm.

Disappointingly, the Rock N' Roll in the half included a lot of Ariana Grande.  She and Jesse J announced the start of my race.

What had started as a drizzle was now full on rain.  I didn't want to run in a plastic bag, so I discarded my poncho (like many of the runners).

My three training runs for this race were not great.  I was stiff and slow.  And that's how I felt right from the start.  Even so, the first mile was a breeze.  The second mile was a chore.  I stepped in my first puddle at mile three, soaking my right shoe right through.

The next three miles along a traffic free Rock Creek Parkway were my favorite part of the race.  I knew I wasn't going to earn a PR, but I was keeping a good pace and actually having a good time.

And then I came to the hill.

Just past mile 6 is a hill that takes the runners from the scenic Rock Creek Parkway up into the city.  Other runners started to blow by me as my heart pounded in the attempt to get my fat ass up that hill (did I mention I'd put 10 lbs back on since the marathon?).

At the top of the hill I fought back the urge to barf in front of the spectators and chugged down the road towards Colombia Heights.  From that point on, my goal was to finish.  Screw my pace.

The Washington Nationals mascots were giving out free flags just past mile 8.  I grabbed one and carried it for the remainder of the race.

A group of spectators were giving out free beer at mile 9.  I drank one.

Agony set in at mile 10.

A group of spectators were giving out free jello shots at mile 12. I ate one.  

I cruised over the finish line at 2:09:23.  It was 19 minutes off my PR, but I didn't care.  The conditions sucked and I didn't train.  I was under a 10 minute per mile pace.  I was happy.

In the finishers chute I collected my medal, tin foil blanket, banana, gatorade, and Power Bar, and then walked back towards the course to see if I could see any of my friends finish.  I saw Isabel cross the finish line and then realized I was freezing.

I could have gone straight for the Metro, but that would have meant wasting my free beer coupon.  So I drank my free Michelob Ultra and then stumbled towards the Metro.

The line was long and unmoving, so I decided to walk home.

About two blocks into my walk I called Edz to come pick me up.  She couldn't navigate the street closures, so I walked 16 blocks to just past where the police had closed the roads for the marathon (oh, bitter irony!).  Edz was parked on the side of the road.  I crawled into the car and she drove me home.

My clothes were completely soaked.  I undressed as soon as I got inside the apartment and defrosted my cold body in the bathtub.

And thus ended my second half marathon.  While slower, this one wasn't as daunting as the first.  I think I like this distance.  It's a lot more manageable than the marathon and I learned that you can run one with only three days of training.

Not sure what my next race will be.  I think I'd like to try a 10K.

For those of you that are interested (none of you, I assume?), here are my mile splits:

Mile Split Overall
1 9:01 9:01
2 8:30 17:31
3 8:47 26:19
4 8:53 35:12
5 9:01 44:13
6 9:22 53:36
7 10:48 1:04:25
8 9:54 1:14:20
9 10:15 1:24:35
10 11:40 1:36:15
11 10:57 1:47:12
12 11:32 1:58:45
13 9:46 2:08:31
Stretch 0:51 2:09:23

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Running Again

I love running
I ran my first marathon in January.  I crossed the Disney Marathon finish line at 5:06:04, a bit slower than I had hoped.

So I've decided to run another one.  I hear you're supposed to train 6 months for these things.  That gives me plenty of time for either the Marine Corps Marathon here in DC in October or the Richmond Marathon down by my alma mater in November.  You have to enter a lottery to run the former, so unless I get lucky, I'm probably doing the latter.

I started my training this afternoon.  It was spurred on after I stepped on the scale today.  Holy crap.  How the hell did I put on 10 lbs in two months?

I've been thinking a lot about my next round of training -- just not doing a lot about it.  Back in January I signed up for the Rock n' Roll 1/2 marathon taking place in DC this Saturday.  I ran 9:30 miles today, so we'll see how I do.  I'm not going to push it too hard.  There's no way I'll set a PR, so I'm not going to even try.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The Sharks of Bimini

Nurse shark
Bimini, The Bahamas is the sharkiest place I've ever been in my life.  It's home to the world famous Sharklab, of course, but it's also a place where large sharks roam freely.  In a single day I saw six species of shark, plus three species of ray.  The nurse sharks (Data Deficient) were everywhere.  They were inside the lab's pens, at the dive sites, and swimming in the marina (more photos on Facebook).

Lemon shark
Lemon sharks (Near Threatened) were also in the pens.  I also saw an adult swimming in the marina.

A video posted by @tadziobervoets on

The bull sharks (Near Threatened) patrol the Big Game Club marina every day.  The scientists at the lab go there to study them.  One also came in for a visit when we visited the hammerheads.

Caribbean reef (Near Threatened) and blacknose sharks (Near Threatened) swarmed us at the Triangle Rocks.  The reefies are about 5 feet long; the blacknoses are smaller.

I've swum with all those species at different times, but this was my first time to see a great hammerhead (Endangered).  I spent two days on the water.  I saw three on the first day and one on the second.

I also saw several spotted eagle rays (Near Threatened) both at the marina and out on the water, several southern stingrays (Data Deficient), and a single yellow-spotted ray (unassessed by IUCN) hanging out in the marina.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

I met a president today

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and Shark Stanley
I had a fun day at work today.  There's a kid and his mom that I've been in contact with over the last few years who is really dedicated to advocating for ocean issues.  He's helped collect signatures and write letters for a couple of different initiatives, including my campaign to keep President Obama from overturning 11 state and territorial shark fin trade bans.

10 year old Nick contacted me again recently looking for somewhere to help, so I sent him some articles and information on Palau's effort to create a marine reserve throughout their entire EEZ.  Nick thought that was cool, so he wrote a letter.  But he didn't stop there; he recruited about 1000 friends and family members to sign on to his letter.

And it just so happens that the President of Palau was in New York this week, so after making a few phone calls, we arranged a meet and great.  I went as the official photographer.  Since this is my blog, the photo is of me!  If you want to read more about Nick's story, check out Shark Defenders.  I also posted photos to Facebook.

I'm not as big a deal as Shark Stanley
President Remengesau is one of my heroes and this is the first time I had my photo taken with him.  Palau has always pushed the envelope in terms of what conservation can accomplish and it has often been him doing the pushing.  I think that my leaders in the CNMI can learn a lot from him.  In fact, I'd like to see the CNMI and the federal government expand the protections of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  Then our protected area and Palau's protected area can form a sister-park partnership.  A man can dream.

Funny story.  The president is such a humble, regular guy.  After our little presentation of the signatures by Nick to the president, the two ambassadors and the Cabinet members turned away from the president to talk among each other and to the other visitors.  The president ended up sitting in the middle of this big group of people -- except everyone's back was to him.  Nobody was paying him attention!  This was my big chance to talk to him.  I told him I was from Saipan and asked him about the recent bust of an illegal Taiwanese fishing vessel.  Turns out the vessel had 450 sharks on board.  Cool stuff!

Danielle, Nick, and me in front of the United Nations
Of course the whole day wouldn't have been possible without Nick and his mom.  We had lunch together at an Italian restaurant and I got to know them a little better.  Turns out Nick's not only caring and inspiring, but also funny.  And really shy.  But he did just fine talking to a president.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Shark Sanctuary Declared Across Micronesia

President Manny Mori signs the 2011 Micronesian Chief Executive Summit pledge to create a shark sanctuary.
The Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) passed legislation Feb. 4 to create a shark sanctuary in the country’s full exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which covers nearly 3 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) in the western Pacific Ocean. President Manny Mori transmitted and assigned the legislation as Public Law No. 18-108.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, which has worked the past four years with the Micronesia Conservation Trust to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia, welcomed the legislation. The measure, expected to be signed into law by President Manny Mori, prohibits the commercial fishing and trade of sharks and their parts.

"Our commitment to the Micronesia Challenge includes the protection of the top predators in our ocean," President Mori said. The Micronesia Challenge is a regional declaration of conservation goals to which the nation agreed in 2006. "Our traditional stories say that sharks protect the people. Now the people will protect the sharks."

The Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is larger than the European Union.
On a broader scale, passage of the legislation marks the completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary, which already includes the waters of Palau (more photos), the Marshall Islands (more photos), and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. In total, the area of protected shark habitat across the contiguous area is larger than the size of the European Union.

Creation of the FSM sanctuary follows a grassroots effort spearheaded by the Micronesia Conservation Trust, based in Pohnpei. Led by executive director Willy Kostka, the organization built a coalition of conservationists, traditional leaders, and students to advocate for protection of sharks throughout Micronesia.

"More than 8,000 students from across the region signed petitions to support these protections," Kostka said. "This is something the people wanted."

Passage of the FSM’s law creates the 10th shark sanctuary in the world and cements the country as a global leader in shark conservation. The sanctuary will protect iconic species such as silky and thresher sharks, which are considered near threatened and threatened, respectively, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Worldwide, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries. Nearly 30 percent of all known shark species assessed by scientists are threatened with extinction.

"The completion of the Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary is truly a landmark action because it joins together a massive swath of the western Pacific as a trans-boundary sanctuary for all the sharks that migrate across this huge ocean region," said Angelo Villagomez, a shark expert with Pew. "We look forward to working with our partners in the FSM to make certain that the implementing regulations ensure strong protections for sharks."

Sharks play an important role in maintaining the health of the entire ocean. As top predators, they regulate the variety and abundance of other species in the food web, including commercially important fish. Sharks help maintain healthy marine habitats, such as coral reefs.

They also are among the foremost species that scuba divers want to see, and their presence helps attracts tourists to these islands. By establishing a shark sanctuary, the FSM is acting to strengthen the marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, and helping to secure industries, such as tourism, that depend on a healthy ocean.

The Federated States of Micronesia consists of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei (more photos),and Kosrae. Press release from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Creating Your Conservation Dream Team

Last week my employer hosted a workshop dubbed "Shark School" in our Washington, DC offices.  We invited about a dozen of our partners to participate, along with all of our shark team staff.  Over the course of two days we had many discussions and three break out sessions.  The first session was a chance to discuss lessons learned over five years of shark conservation.  One of the conservation professionals in my group described a model of conservation leadership that I had never thought of or heard of before.  I found it compelling and useful.  I'm going to attempt to explain it here for my readers (both of you).

I'm in the business of creating agreements to protect sharks.  My focus is on protecting all sharks in a particular jurisdiction.  In 5 years we've passed 23 policies in 3 oceans to ban finning, restrict the shark fin trade, or close down commercial shark fisheries.  Each of these policies was enacted through either an executive decree, regulation amendment or the legislative process.

In each of these cases passing the new policy required a Champion.  The Champion is someone who has the power the enact a policy change, supports a policy change, and works to change the policy.  In the legislature this is usually a lawmaker who has to convince all of his or her colleagues to vote for a shark conservation law.  It can be a minister who has to convince a president.  It can even be a president who doesn't have to convince anyone.

The Champion introduces the policy change in the relevant forum and guides it through the proper mechanisms to ensure passage.  This is the person who gets much of the glory when it is all over.  They are the ones who give the media interviews.  In the Marshall Islands this was Tony deBrum.  Diego Benavente was the Champion on Saipan.  BJ Cruz and Rory Respicio were the Guam Champions.

I tend to think only in terms of needing a Champion, but during my breakout session someone suggested that there are two other important roles on a conservation team.  The Champion is only one player.  You also need an Ambassador and a Patron.

The Ambassador is an influential person who serves as the public face for the public support of your policy change initiative.  There are famous Ambassadors like Sylvia Earle and Leonardo Dicaprio, but the Ambassador can also be someone with local influence.

When I managed the campaign to create the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument in 2008, I relied on several Ambassadors like Ike Cabrera, Chailang Palacios, and Dave Sablan.  I was a greasy haired 29-year old punk who talked too much.  They provided the gravitas I lacked to bring skeptical community members on board.  Ike in particular helped build an overwhelming amount of grassroots support to overcome the objections of the handful of citizens with links to the Hawaiian longline industry.

The Patron plays a role similar to the Ambassador, but rather than be out in front, stays in the background using their influence to build support with key stakeholders.  In 2008, I asked my father's godfather, Manny Villagomez, to help me.  His support brought on board many others.

Previously I would have described the Ambassador and the Patron as a Champion, but I see now that there are subtle differences.  So it's not groundbreaking stuff, but when I build new conservation teams I'm going to keep these distinctions in mind.