Sunday, April 30, 2006

Urban Assault Race

Today my friend Nate and I competed in the San Diego Urban Assault Race. This is the event description from the website (

  • The Urban Assault Race™ is a combination of an Adventure Race, Scavenger Hunt and Bike Race. For the past 2 years, the event has been the biggest adventure race in the country! Sweet!
  • Teams of 2 race through the city to reach checkpoints where they perform fun physical and mental challenges. Racers can be ages 7 – 100 (anybody can do it!). Checkpoints are listed on the website before the race and racers pick their own course to the checkpoints, which can be reached in any order. The first team to complete all the checkpoint challenges and return to Start/Finish wins the race! Then the party begins!
  • The standard race distance is approximately 20 miles and includes up to 10 checkpoints plus the final challenge at the finish.

Twenty miles? Yeah, right. Here is a picture of our course. Keep in mind, you plot your own path, as long as you hit all the checkpoints. And it looks like we should have switched checkpoints 2 & 3, but the map is misleading. We really did take the most direct routes with the least amount of tracking back.

The races are held around the country, and the average distance is 20 miles. Our course ended up nearly 38 miles! We rode through Vista, Carlsbad, and Oceanside, up and down some incredible hills. Along the way, we also had to ride (a) adult size hippity hop horses, (b) oversized big wheels, and (c) combination skateboard/scooters, balance a wiffle ball on a board as we ran around a baseball diamond, and solve a brain teaser.

It was a tough race, but we had a great time. And here we are at the finish line!

Finally, a special thank you to Ric. More than once, Nate and I used my cell phone to call Ric and ask for directions. We felt like we were in The Matrix, calling the operator for a much needed exit.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Shirly, No E

Yesterday would have been my late Grandmother's 84th birthday. Her name was Shirly, spelled like the man's name instead of Shirley. If you know me at all, you know that I will always think of her as an angel placed for a time on Earth.

Along with my Grandfather, Robert Patriquin, she was a foster parent who cared for more than 400 children over 39 years. They eventually adopted 22 of those kids... my Mother being one of them. We were all so blessed to be part of their family, and I am thankful everyday for the life they gave me. My Grandma acted as if the sun rose and set on my shoulders, and she empowered me to make the most out of every moment in my life. She once told me that I would "change the world, one person at a time." I have never forgotten that, and I try to live my life in such a way that I honor the confidence and faith she had in me.

She passed on January 29, 1995, and I miss her more everyday. I can't believe it has been eleven years that she has been gone. At her memorial service, I read these words from an old George Jones song. They were the best way I knew to say how much she meant to us all.

Mama's work is done
Now she's gone on home...
The words in our hearts
Are engraved on her stone

She loved a lot in her time
She watched love grow and die on the vine
She stood in the shadows
So others could shine
She loved a lot in her time

Grandma, you loved a lot in your time.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ok, so I am a bit obsessed...

After a month of working out and eating right, I am posting my weight chart for the last 30 days. The high points are Mondays, of course, and you can tell that weekends are more likely to be my "cheat" times. Still, I have been pretty solid and committed, and I am very proud of the results.

Oh, and one point to clear up... I have not weighed myself everyday. That is why the chart reflects 30 days but does not show 30 different weigh-ins. (And I promise, I am working on relaxing about the numbers. It's just hard to stop weighing myself each day.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More noticeable results

The scale continues to move in the right direction (196.6 and counting down!), but this week I am noticing other benefits of working out and eating better. I picked up dry cleaning that we have not worn for a month or so, and I am happy to discover that my clothes are now fitting looser. In fact, a few of my pants were so tight that I could only wear them with a shirt that went outside the pants, as opposed to anything that should be worn tucked in.

This morning, though, I am wearing one of those pairs of pants, and my shirt is tucked in. That may not be a huge thing to anyone else, but to me it is a great reminder that good things come from a healthier lifestyle. Sure, being more physically fit and probably living longer are two of those things, but even more important is the chance to wear really cute outfits again.

Monday, April 24, 2006

More photos from the Dive Weekend

Horizon Dive Trip

This past weekend, Ric, Greg, Grant and I boarded the Horizon for a weekend of SCUBA diving. We left Friday evening, motored through the night, and woke up Saturday morning at Santa Catalina Island. We were able to get 4 dives, including a twilight dive. We settled in for dinner and an optional shore excursion, then motored again through the night to San Clemente Island. There we made another 3 dives before heading back to San Diego. On our ride in, we were escorted by hundreds of California Bottlenose Dolphins. What an amazing weekend!

I am including a few pictures here, but for more check out these webpages:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Aboard the Seavette

Last night, Ric and I were the guests of a friend aboard his boat, the Seavette. We left the Southwestern Yacht Club about 7:15, so we were on the water at sunset. It was a beautiful cool evening, and the harbor was quiet and calm. It was a nice cruise, like a warm-up for this coming weekend's Catalina dive trip.

Thanks, Paul. We had a great time and can't wait to go out again!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


It's interesting to me how quickly things can change. It was just 7 months ago that Brenda signed me up for my first 5k run in Chicago. Since then, I have continued to run in at least one 5k event each month. In addition, I have done biking events and started going to the gym. (I know, I know... I have already talked about going to the gym. This is not about my weight, though, I promise.)

What has changed is the overall level of physical activity in my life. Before, I was very busy, but much of what I was doing was sedentary. Schoolwork had me sitting in front of my computer, as did web surfing and computer games. Going out with friends meant meeting for dinner or drinks. Outdoor events were limited to watching the Padres play baseball. And I was watching a lot more television.

Now, though, after work, I am heading to the gym or going diving. On the weekends, I am diving or biking or running some event. Hanging out with friends now is more likely to involve a long bike ride than a night of drinking. I still enjoy that, of course. But now it is done in moderation, and I prefer to participate in the outdoor activities rather than watch them.

It has not been an overnight change, which I think is probably better in the long run. Rather, I continue to make small changes over time that I can maintain. For me, now, I am feeling stronger, happier, and better about myself than I have in a long time. That has to be a change in the right direction.

Early or Late, but not in between

Yesterday's SCUBA diving lesson was very simple: diving from the beach at La Jolla Shores is good early in the day, or late into the evening, but not in between. Greg and I decided to try to get two dives in, one around 5pm and another one after sunset. Unfortunately for us, the waves appear to be at their strongest (and highest!) just before the sun goes down. Trying to kick out through the surf was tough. The waves were rolling, so it felt like we were kicking out 10 feet and being pushed back in 5 feet. Ugh.

We finally decided we had enough of the wave battering us and dropped below the surface. We were in a complete soup with no visibility. We swam out to a depth of 50 feet before the visibility opened up, but of course it gets colder as it gets deeper. By the time we reach our cruising depth of 65 feet, we were definitely chilled by the thermocline. (Brrr!)

We did see a lot of sea life on the dive, but the deeper depth meant faster air consumption and less dive time. We swam back into towards the shore, but quickly ended up back in the soup. We made it to a depth of 14 feet or so before heading for the surface. Ugh. The waves were even worse, which made the swim the rest of the way in pretty crazy. Afterwards, Greg said he enjoyed the wild ride in. Me, I much prefer a smooth entry and exit. I would rather use my energy on the dive and not on the trip out and back.

So the lesson is simple. Early mornings are good because the waves have not yet kicked up. And night dives are good because the waves calm back down after sunset. Late afternoons, though? No thanks!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


With Iraq descending into Civil War and complete chaos, I can't stop thinking about our Marines. Selfishly, I am thinking about Jon and AJ, and their friends, stuck in the middle of a war zone. I will avoid the political opinions here and focus on the personal.

All I can do right now is hope and pray that they complete their mission and return home safely. To that end, I am including a link to a video by an artist named Morgan Clamp. The song is called Trench, and it's written from a soldier's perspective. (Click here.) I am posting the lyrics, too, as a reminder to all of us that our servicemen and women deserve our continued respect and support. May they all return to us safely and soon.

There's no bullet as sore as the sight of your eyes
When I kissed you one last time
So we can be brave, and we can be heroes
If we only manage to stay alive
For all the things I've sacrificed, and the things that it gave
It's a terrible trade, and now I lay awake inside my trench
My hands are bruised and my feet are drenched
What lays ahead for me?

So we all have a destiny
Tell me what is mine
And we all have a place to be
But here I don't feel right

Please say that you're thinking of me
Please say that I am not alone
And please say that you're dreaming of me
And please pray that I'll be coming home

Please say that you're thinking of me
Please say that I am not alone
And please say that you're dreaming of me
And please pray that I'll be coming home

Please say that you're thinking of me
Please say that I am not alone
And please say that you're dreaming of me
And please pray that I'll be coming home

Monday, April 17, 2006

Finally, results I can see...

I know from looking at the scale that I am losing weight, but I hadn't really noticed a difference in how I look. This morning Ric was getting pictures together for my dive certification cards, and he noticed how different the shape of my face looks in these two pictures. Looking at the pictures side by side, I can see that I am beginning to lose the round face. It's a great motivator to see some results from working out and eating right. It makes it easier to keep going!

Diving Nicknames

It was inevitable. Knowing how crazy our group is, it was only a matter of time until we began to give each other diving nicknames. First it was Sonya, who got her nickname her first night of class. She walked out to the pool with her leather sandals (bow on top!), wearing her pearl earrings and necklace. I looked at her and immediately thought "good heavens, it's Lovey Howell learning to dive!"

And now Greg has his diving nickname, too. This picture is reason enough for Greg to be known, now and forever, as Elton.

Weekend Dives

This weekend found us all back at La Jolla Shores, as Grant completed his four required Open Water certification dives. The weather was overcast, and it looked like rain was coming, but the ocean was surprisingly calm. In fact, the other divers there called it "Lake La Jolla" because the surface was so flat. It sure made beach diving easier.

On Saturday, Ric and I joined Grant and our instructor, Joe. The kickouts felt long, but because of the surface conditions we made it out there pretty quickly. Grant completed his skills with no problem, then he and the instructor made their way back to the shore. Ric and I headed farther out, maxing out at 85 feet and cruising a bit along the wall. Visibility really cleared up below 45 feet, which made the dive even better.

On Sunday, Greg and I joined Grant and Joe. (Ric was home, enjoying his first day to sleep in.) We all kicked out together, but Greg and I were going deep. Before long, he and I were both sitting in cold, cold water 130 feet below the surface. That was my deepest dive, and definitely as deep as I need to be going until I complete my advanced Deep Diver class. I still can't believe I was thirteen stories below the surface of the sea. Wow.

And congratulations to Grant, who successfully completed all of his dives and is now a PADI certified Open Water diver. Catalina weekend dive trip, here we come!

And an amusing aside, at least to divers who have "been there"...
At 130 feet, Greg decided we should test for "narc'ing." In other words, how well were we dealing with the affect of depth on our minds. He held up fingers on both of his hands, and I was supposed to respond with the same number. He held up 4 fingers on one hand and 2 on the other. Well, traditionally, a dive instructor will always pick a number 5 or below, so the student can answer with one hand. When Greg held up 6, I wondered "hell, is he narc'ed?" I tried to answer 6, but I was fumbling with my dive light in my one hand and couldn't hold a 6th finger up. So now Greg thinks I am having problems, I think he is having problems, and we both have no way to sort it out at 130 feet. Ultimately, I just signaled to him to do it again. He held up 4 fingers, I replied with 4, and we were done with the test. We had a good laugh over it, though. All I kept thinking was, "there's no six in diving!"

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday, and I am sending her the all the best wishes for a fantastic celebration today.

I am so proud of my Mom, and she gets more fearless each day. This past year has been a roller-coaster of experiences for her - from the high of watching her son graduate (finally!) from college and celebrating by skydiving to the low of losing her home in Hurricane Rita. Despite the challenges, though, she never gives up.

Shirly Ann, I am so proud that you are my Mother. You remind me everyday that life is a gift, and you encourage me to follow my dreams and whims and impulses. I love you so much, and I am proud of the person that you are.

And finally... the milestone...


After only a few weeks of hitting the gym and eating better, I have managed to weigh in under 200 pounds. For me, after hitting a high of 218 last year on my 38th birthday, this milestone feels fantastic.

I can do this. I know it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ride 4 AIDS

After weeks of fund-raising and hitting the gym, the day for the ride was finally here. The weather was beautiful, with just a bit of cloud cover and a cool breeze. Team Woofy was there: me, Verna, Mike, Sonya, Ashley, George and Becky. At 8:00am they began sending waves of riders off. Since it was a ride and not a race, there was no concern about starting behind other riders.

The route was simple - Spanish Landing Park to Harbor Drive, up Canon to Catalina, all the way south to the Cabrillo Monument, back down to Rosecrans, south again to the Naval Submarine Base, a loop around Shelter Island, a loop around Harbor Island, then back to the start. There were some good hills, and I know that I have never had a ride that took more out of me than this one. Still, the training paid off, and we were all able to ride the whole thing. We were slow a time or two, but we never walked a single hill. Go Team Woofy!

One thing to mention… I was so focused on raising money (top fundraiser! whoo hoo!) that I didn’t really give a lot of thought to the purpose of the ride. As I neared Cabrillo, riding past Rosecrans military cemetery, I found myself thinking about friends that I have lost to AIDS. Before I knew what was happening, tears were running down my face and I could barely see to ride. I let myself cry, doing nothing to try to stop myself. My friends mattered to me, and my tears were a way to honor their memory. Then, as the sun broke through the clouds, the music on my MP3 player changed to Dream Academy’s Love Parade.

Oh the love parade goes on
Even when you're gone
It'll go on forever
The love parade
This is dedicated,
To the ones I love

It's important to remember those we have lost, and just as important to work for a cure so we don't lose anyone else. I want to thank Being Alive for making such a difference in the lives of those affected by HIV in San Diego. The work you do means so much to so many. It was an honor to play a small part in helping you.

Ride 4 AIDS - Photos

Deep Dive and Navigation - Saturday, April 8th

It was back to La Jolla Shores Saturday, as I made my last two required dives for my Advanced Open Water Certification. The first dive was the Deep Dive, and our dive plan was to head down to 100 feet. That is 10 stories, so it is a pretty significant dive. The kick out was pretty easy, with the water incredibly calm. We made our out to what we expected would be a 40 foot bottom, but when I finally touched down I checked the gauge and discovered I was at 68 feet.

We gathered closer as a group, then headed further down. We finally stopped, and my gauge read an unbelievable 118 feet! We did a quick narc check, which means that Joe (our instructor) held up fingers and made us give the count back to him. Everyone was fine, and we were quickly back on our underwater tour. Being that deep means very little time to explore, but we made the most of it. A few minutes later, and we began our ascent.

After a brief surface interval and a tank swap, we were back into the water. This time, we had three skills to do: (1) swim along a measuring tape for 100 feet to establish a kick count, (2) do a reciprocal compass swim for twenty kicks out and back, and (3) swim a square pattern. All of this was to make sure we are comfortable reading our compass underwater and maintaining direction.

While out there, I saw a really cool banded guitarfish. I found a picture of another one taken at the shores, so you can see what it is I am talking about.

And just like that, I was done. I have completed my five required dives for my advanced certification: enriched air nitrox, peak performance buoyancy, night, deep and navigation. From here, I will start to work on more specialities, ending with my certification as a Master Diver. It's hard to believe I just started diving a few months ago.

Night Dive - Friday, Apr 7th

Friday evening was my first night dive. I was a bit nervous, imagining dropping down into pitch black water and not being able to see anything. Turns out, with the dive lights and improved water conditions, I had better visibility than during my last dive in the bay. We descended all the way to 85 feet, and the water was sure cold! It was like something out of a movie, following the dive leader’s green light. It cast a large, soft light in front of us, and swimming towards it made me feel almost like it was drawing me in. We cruised around a bit, until a couple of us were low on air. We surfaced about halfway back to shore, then kicked the rest of the way in. It was beautiful out, with calm seas and clear skies. With my vest inflated, I floated all the way in while staring up at the stars. It was a great end to a fantastic dive.

Another diver took this picture. This is the view kicking in and out of La Jolla Shores at night. Incredible, huh?

Friday, April 7, 2006

Phoenix Pride 2006

What an incredible weekend we had in Phoenix! From the flights to logistics, food and entertainment, festival and partying... everything worked out. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken. With friends already in Scottsdale and Chandler, and others in from Atlanta, Temecula, and San Diego, we had a fantastic adventure.

Thursday evening, several of us flew into Phoenix - me, Ric, Rocky, and Andrea. Nate met us at the airport, and we checked into our hotel then walked over to Roscoe's for cocktails. (Note, cocktails will be a recurring theme.) It's a gay sports bar, which means it looks like every other sports bar with the addition of rainbow flags and sexier posters. We met up with Bridgette there, and we had a few beers and a few laughs. (Beer and laughter are a DEFINITE recurring theme.)

Friday morning, I went to L.A. Fitness with Nate and Bridgette. A painful hour of cardio later, we went our separate ways. They joined Andrea for a "girls' day out," which meant pedicures and lots of wine. I joined Rocky and Ric poolside back at the hotel, then I took a great nap. Oh, vacations are so nice.

Late afternoon Friday, Ric headed to the gym while Rocky and I met up with the group for more drinks. From Acme to BS West to Dos Gringos, we were a wandering band of troublemakers. We even met up with Nate's brother, Kenny, and his wife, Brandy. Cue the yummy margaritas and the delicious bar food!

Friday evening, and Ric, Rocky and I headed to Padlock. There, we met up with Tim, Brooks, Russ and Trevor. While we were there, Nate, Bridgette, Andrea and others headed out for "Straight Night" somewhere. (Maybe they can comment and add some details.)

Saturday morning, and we all got moving just in time to get to the parade.

(More to come... I just need to get this posted so I can add the next entries. I will finish this post sometime this week.)

Ric, enjoying art in a new way

Ric and a fellow kilt wearer

Me and a fantastic margarita!

Phoenix Pride - Inside Jokes

  • At least let me swallow first.
  • I'm not saying... I'm just saying.
  • Ketchup dispenser
  • Road show
  • My cha-ching
  • Tina, the train wreck
  • Girls' Day... plus one
  • Gay Night... plus one
  • The schedule! The schedule!
  • Candye Kane

I will add more to this post as my fellow weekenders chime in with their suggestions.

John and Madonna?

Here I am in Arizona, having my picture taken with Madonna.

Okay, so it wasn't really Madonna. But she looked like her, and more than that, when she sang live and performed on stage she really did seem like her. Her real name is Melissa Totten ( and she performs in Las Vegas as part of the "Legends in Concert" show at the Imperial Palace. Check her out if you get to Sin City!