We’re Going to Disney World!

No, we didn’t win the Super Bowl, but yes, we are going to Disney World.

The last time we went to Disney World was in 2011. We drove up to Orlando to visit family and decided to go to Disney World just for the heck of it, because frankly, who doesn’t love Disney World.  We planned nothing and spent our time running from ride to ride trying to get in as much as we could in one day. Fast forward three years and now we are planning a trip to Disney World around nap times, looking at height restrictions and thinking about stroller parking.   My times have changed.

Planning for Disney with Toddlers

Orlando is home to the most famous theme parks in perhaps the world – Disney World.  It’s actually four parks in one: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.  Thankfully it’s only about three hours from our house, so it is an easy weekend and an easy trip with kids.  That being said, we aren’t planning to spend three days at the theme parks with 1 ½ year old twins – that seems like a bit too much for them and us – so we wanted to find ways to maximize our time at the parks and minimize the chances for toddler chaos.disney world 226618 1280 186x250 Were Going to Disney World!

Turns out in the last three years A LOT has changed at Disney World.  The fast pass system, which allows you to skip long lines on the rides has changed from a paper ticket you got at the ride, to an electronic system you book in advance.  And you can book a “fast pass” for character meetings, parades, shows and all sorts of activities.  The reviews on this new system are mixed, but from my perspective, not having to haul the kids around from ride to ride to get fast passes for later sounds like a good idea to me!  We booked our fast passes online before going to the park – you select which rides or attractions you want to fast pass and Disney offers you four options on fast pass times.  That was terrific for us since we could plan to group together rides and activities in each of the lands.  If you have a chance of heart or plans, you can always update your fass pass selections online or at the park.

Transportation within Disney World is easy and convenient.  We had planned to stay at a Hilton property on Disney property, to maximize the convenience of the shuttle, but other plans got in the way and now we’re staying about a 10 minute drive away.  That’s ok though, because we heard from a local that the hotel/resort shuttles are slow and time consuming if you aren’t at a Walt Disney World Resort or aren’t planning to park hop.  She recommended we bring our own car (with car seats) instead of waiting for a bus with cranky toddlers.  We’ll see if we made the right choice.

For now though, it’s off to Disney World!


Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity

I think I should start by saying ‘Wow’!

DannyTriathlon 250x140 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity


Just a week prior to the race I announced on this blog that I was doing the Miami 70.3 Ironman and that I wanted to raise $3,000 to honor what would have been my sister’s 30th birthday.  I didn’t really expect to hit that goal and I certainly didn’t expect to blow past it with over $3800 raised.  So, first and foremost, thank you to everyone who supported this effort, it really is still unbelievable!

Triathlon3 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity

So, about that race.  Every triathlon starts with swimming, followed by biking, followed by running.  The Ironman Triathlon comes to 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running.  Yes, miles.  Thankfully the Miami Ironman Triathlon was a 70.3 race, or exactly half a traditional Ironman.  My race was 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running.  Because I did the half Ironman, I like to call the race the Aluminum Man, as aluminum is one half the atomic weight of iron.

I woke up Sunday morning and, as one does before a big race, set to coloring my hair pink and purple.  As a result I forgot a few things: breakfast, the beet juice I planned to drink with breakfast, and my glittery bike helmet.  Yeah.  That was a problem.  Especially because I took an Uber ride to Miami so Jill could get back to sleep after dying my hair. Upon arrival in Miami I had to call my wonderful wife to wake up my two sleeping daughters to drive down to Miami and deliver my multi-colored helmet to me before 7 a.m.  Great start.

Somehow it all worked out.
Triathlon4 250x140 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity


We met, I finished my setup before being moved to the start line and had some time to relax and take in the atmosphere with my lovely ladies and my friend Greg who showed up for sunrise.  Before I knew it, my wave was called into the water and I was off.  My training did me well here and I finished the swim in 51 minutes, not bad considering how much extra distance I swam on account of the current pushing me out to sea.  (Also pretty good considering how awful my first long distance swim was!)

Next up, the bike.  We started from Bayfront Park, right by the Triathlon5 140x250 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for CharityAmerican Airlines arena and cycled up US-27 all the way to Stirling Road (practically home) and then back again.  The wind was strong as I headed out but on the way back to transition, with the wind at my back I practically flew.  I averaged 17.2 mph which was excellent for me and the fastest I’ve ever averaged at that distance.  A better bike might have increased my speed a few more mph but I was happy.

Finally the run.  I’ve been told for a triathlon you need to pace the swim, enjoy the ride and survive the run.  I think I might have taken that advice a bit too literally.  I survived the run but not much more.  As I pulled in from the bike ride I relaxed, I was way ahead of schedule and had PLENTY of time to make my 7 hour goal.  I found Jill on the edge of the transition area and she helped me re-color my hair, which was looking rough after hours of swimming and biking and set off on my run.  For the first time all day I was aware of the heat and the sun and before I knew it, it was taking a toll.

As I ran I got more and more tired.  The sun wore down on me.  I took some walking breaks, then I was walking more and more.  I think of running a mile in 10 minutes as my over/under.  I can sustain 7 minute miles over shorter distances and earlier this year managed to run 13.1 miles with a 9 minute per mile average.  My first few miles were around 10 minutes.  After the swim and bike though, I would have been thrilled to have kept to a 10 minute pace but I figured I’d be closer to 11 or even 12 minutes per mile.  I was over 12.  Then there was the I-395 bridge and I had to cross it 4 times, walking more of the uphill each time.  The amount of time it took me to complete a mile kept ticking up; 14 minutes, then 16 minutes. My stomach was cramping, I needed energy but anything other than water hurt more than helped.  I walked more and more  I couldn’t see the finish line but knew it was just around the corner, or the next corner, or the next corner, ack!  I eventually found the finished line and managed to run through it and nearly collapsed on the other side.

My goal was to finish in 7 hours.  My time was 7:09:47.  Just 10 minutes shy of my goal.

Triathlon2 140x250 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity

Did I forget to mention that I missed my goal time at my first marathon by a mere 14 seconds?  This seems to be a trend.

Oh well, I don’t care, I still finished and I survived!

Thank you again to everyone who supported me – your donations, texts and messages of support were appreciated more than you’ll ever know!

Turn my hair PINK and PURPLE for my 70.3 Triathlon

Working towards taking items off a bucket list is a pretty awesome feeling.  Being able to cross item #1 off that list is even better.

On October 26th, that’s this coming Sunday, I am going to compete in the Miami Half Ironman 70.3 race.  This is 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and then a half marathon.  In total 70.3 miles.  I’ve been training hard for about four months now.  Getting up when it is still dark in the morning to swim, bike and run my to work each day to hopefully make it to the office by 9am.  My weeks have consisted of anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of exercise.  I’ve lost weight, purchased a fancy bike, eaten gobs of food and [luckily] managed to avoid major injury.  The worst part, Florida’s summer sun and time away from my family.

With the race so close though, some friends have asked me if I’m racing to support any charities.  Until yesterday, I had not set anything up but…..that was yesterday.

In the past, I have done an occasional race in support of the RSDSA in memory of my sister, Rachel.  The problem with this is that this charity is more a memory of Rachel’s death rather than her life.  In life my sister was interested in three things: helping people, helping animals and doing things with glitter glue.  (I’m sure there was something else but those three are pretty encapsulating.)

Specifically, I remember my sister in her younger years collecting wildlife card files, books she would fill with information about wild and endangered animals.  In her ‘later’ years she and I spent a lot of time working with what was then called the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The mission was to stop racism and hatred of all types.  Unfortunately, NCCJ has not survived the test of time but the Miami Chapter lives on as the MCCJ.  Most important to the sparkling memory of Rachel’s life was her constant obsession of decorating everything with glitter glue.

For each of the first two items, I’ve decided to create fund-raising pages with The MCCJ and The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN). Their connection to my sister should be obvious to all who knew her.  To memorialize the glitter glue is a bit more difficult so instead of donating do the American Association of Glitter Glue Enthusiasts (gosh, I hope that’s not a real organization) I will instead place one centimeter of glitter glue on my helmet for each $50 donated to the above charities.  And to make sure it is clear I’m memorializing my sister, I’ll use purple glitter glue for donations to MCCJ and pink for donations to WCN.  (If you’re curious, the helmet is black.)

There is one other item about my sister that is relevant.  This Friday, October 24th, would have been her 30th birthday.  So, with only a few days to go we’ll set the fund-raising target at $3,000.  It’s a stretch, I know, but as an incentive if $1,500 or more is raised for MCCJ, I’ll dye my hair purple.  If $1,500 or more is raised for WCN, I’ll die my  hair pink.  If we meet both goals, I’ll be running the triathlon as the Miami Beach version of the villain Two-Face from the Batman comics.

The race is THIS Sunday, October 26th.  I’m not going to do this again.  Click the fund-raising links (MCCJ | WCN), share this post on facebook, and help give my race outfit some serious style points!

KIMG0046 187x250 Turn my hair PINK and PURPLE for my 70.3 Triathlon
Rachel as a bunny!

That time I finished a race in first place…and didn’t realize it!

Checking items off a bucket list is always a lot of fun.  Checking an item off and not even realizing can be even more rewarding.

In early 2013 I challenged a couple of friends to walk with me from Washington, DC all the way to Harper’s Ferry, WV.  We did it, unfortunately that item wasn’t on our bucket list.  Several months later, one of those friends challenged the group to another silly idea, competing in a really long triathlon.

We all took the bait.

This past August, six friends and a pair of one year old twins descended on Penn Yan, New York for the Peasantman Triathlon.  The friend who challenged the group to the event was planning on competing in the Steel Distance Triathlon, effectively a half iron man.  His girlfriend and I signed up for the Olympic Steel Triathlon, while Jillian and the other pair of athletes took care of the Half Steel Relay.  We focused on keeping the race low-key and fun.

14987909821 5291d0b382 z 250x187 That time I finished a race in first place...and didnt realize it!
We all finished our triathlons, some of us in first place.

Fast forward to the end of the race… when the two of us who ran the Olympic distance triathlon got the surprise of our athletic careers…we were first place in our respective divisions.  Despite coming in the bottom half of the overall race field, we cleared the first place position in our divisions and, that means item #46 on the bucket list has been achieved.  I came in first place in a race, it doesn’t matter that I was the only one in my division, my certificate says 1st and so… item #46 has been officially checked off the list!

KIMG0012 250x187 That time I finished a race in first place...and didnt realize it!
Just don’t ask how many people I had to leave in my dust….

The only problem is that in training for that Olympic distance triathlon (which I WON!), I somehow managed to sign up for a half Ironman race, something I like to call the “Aluminium Man”.  The reason I signed up is that completing the aluminium man (70.3 miles total) happens to have been the first item on the bucket list.  Wonder if I’ll come in first again….

Why I Opt Out of TSA Body Scanners at the Airport

I think all Americans will spend some amount of today reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001.  For me, as a frequent traveler, I seem to do this every time I go through a TSA body scanner.  I was in Washington, DC at the time of the 9/11 attacks and remember them quite well but not knowing anyone, personally, who was killed that day, the TSA security procedures act as my reminder.  Each time I go through a TSA checkpoint, I am shocked and dismayed that I am the only visible person opting out of the TSA body scanner. My reasons for doing so are many, and it is frustrating to see so many pass through these machines without stopping to think about what they are doing.

There are many arguments against these TSA body scanners with most being a matter of privacy (they take a naked photo of your body) or safety (they blast your body with radiation). I think I was able to get past both of these issues until I watched the below video, taken from my home airport. The author of the video currently has a case pending in U.S. court system but he makes it quite clear that these machines raise some serious questions, but do little to enhance our safety.

The response of the TSA to this video, was quite telling in my opinion. More telling than this is the change of heart TSA officials have had since leaving the agency. A former director of the TSA now calls for a complete reversal of many of the TSA’s current practices because they do not add significantly to our security yet continue to raise privacy and safety concerns.

Basically, for me, it comes down to a few basic factors:

  • I am a law-abiding citizen and do not deserve to be submitted to inspection as though I am a criminal.  Although the ‘nudo-scope’ machines are not currently in use, they may return to use.
  • We really don’t know the long term affects of this radiation but there is significant research out there suggesting that these are not as safe as the government might have us believe.
  • TSA body scanners are very expensive and I don’t like paying for it with my tax dollars.
  • As the video above showed, TSA’s body scanners don’t really help to make us more secure but are just one piece of the ‘security theatre’ currently employed.
  • Many of the TSA agents I’ve spoken to, one agent each time I opt out, agree with my decision to opt out and tell me their reasons for doing the same.

I recently came across an article in the New York Times in which the author was very critical of the entire program. Although I am also critical of the program, I have to disagree with nearly everything this author wrote in BodyScanner Why I Opt Out of TSA Body Scanners at the Airporthis piece. Ever since I’ve educated myself on the program and decided to opt out I have repeatedly found TSA agents to be both friendly and understanding of my choice. Generally, they work to get me through security with minimal delay and usual confess they tell their friends and family to do as I am doing. One in Detroit recently told me their standard office joke is that there will be commercials in 30 years asking: “Did you or someone you know work for the TSA before the year 2020 who might be suffering from fill in the blank radiation disease, if so, call this number!”

I do generally believe that most people in government are in their chosen career because they have a desire to serve their country, hence my personal experiences with TSA agents are generally quite pleasant. This doesn’t mean that lobby dollars aren’t in play (feel free to do your own research on the staggering amounts spent to get these machines in airports) nor does it mean that anyone on either side of the debate truly knows the long-term health impact of these machines. For my money and time, I view it in my interest to opt out and I wish others would do more of the same. I have always assumed that opt out statistics are tracked by the TSA (I’ve actually seen daily counts) and the more people opt out, the sooner TSA PreCheck will be available to everyone.


image credit – NYTimes.com