Monday, November 03, 2008

I chickened out.

I decided NOT to sign up for Ironman Florida next year.

I totally KNOW I'm not ready for an IM race, though I think I could handle the swim and the bike....and maybe half the run. Yes, I'd have a year to train, but I'm not sure that would be enough to be confident of finishing in 17 hours. Would I want to DNF after all that work? Of course not.

On the other hand, I thought ....whats the worst thing that could happen? So, I come close...I'll be better prepared for 2010 than if I don't sign up! It's only money. Sure, $525 is a lot of cash to spend right before the holidays.

Maybe if I weren't so sick this weekend, I might have been more positive about it, but with my athena sisters DNFing, I took this as a 'sign.' There's also this NYC marathon thing (which is the same weekend) that going to mess me up until hubby and I both get in and run that race.

My biggest fear is that this time next year, I'll be exactly where I am now........not ready and not any closer to being ready. The things I need to work on to make sure that doesn't happen:

1. Lose 50 more pounds.
2. Learn to swim, really I can finish an IM swim in 1:30 or so instead of 2 hours.
3. More consistent training.

I guess in the end, I opted to respect the distance, and try and train for it properly....and as a thinner person, so that when I do show up on race day, I'll be ready.

What do I think it means for me to be 'ready?'
1. Weigh 170 or less.
2. Ability to do an 8 hour century
3. Ability to do a 6.5 marathon
4. A HIM time of 7:30 or less

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yesterday, I mentioned to my boss that I was headed up to Ironman Florida to help out as a support dive...and without thinking I added, "Let's hope I don't do anything stupid while I'm there . . . . like sign up for next year's race."

Why did I say that?

I'd *really* like to do an ironman race.

I've done half the distance.....and hey I made it with 20 seconds to spare. Of course I'm ready to do twice that! Right?

Some days, I think to myself, "just sign up. The worst thing that can happen is you have an excellent motivation for training all year and you have a fantastic swim & bike and so what if you don't make the run will motivate you more for the following year."

Other days I think, "what total humiliation. I'm not at all ready to tackle that huge a challenge. I should work on getting to a sub 6 hour marathon, consistent 16mph on the bike, and a place where I can finish the swim in under 2 hours first." But will I get to those places without such a lofty goal or deadline looming ahead?

I have decided to NOT make a decision until after I witness this years race. We'll see.....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ironman 70.3 Florida Triathlon
Current mood: accomplished

I'm still in shock that I FINISHED! And in regulation time
What a testement to picking a goal that's a true stretch and then busting your tail chasing after it. I may actually start feeling like a real athelete soon!

The day before the race, I was FIRED UP and so full of energy.....but the one critical thing I forgot to pack was sleeping pills. In normal life, I don't usually go to sleep til about 1:30 AM and since I was so excited, I got pretty much NO sleep the night before, and was lethargic and quiet. Hubby drove me down to transition and left to park the my stuff together quickly and headed to the water's edge.

This would have been a good race to have some cash on hand, as they were selling coffee....but I had none :-( Finally found hubby at the beach, and Sue stopped by to say hello....and got to see me drop by goggles into the sand...ugh.

Swim Comments:

I should learn to swim and SIGHT. Did pretty okay for me until the first turn-around (@ 25 min), there was still one or two from my wave in the water and that leg was at least 60% freestyle. Had a few off-course adventures, but it was okay. Once we made the turn, it seemed like the guys had taken over and from then on, it was a fight to breathe. Guys suck!

There's a technique in cave diving called 'pull and glide.' Its used when you are trying to get through a cave that has very high flow.. you grab onto a rock and PULL yourself forward until you can reach another rock and pull there, etc. Thats how the guys swim and unfortunately *I* was their rock!

T1 Comments:

Not sure what took so long here. Rinsed my feet with a discarded water bottle, no socks. Sprayed sunscreen on my shoulders..It landed as white dots everywhere...should have done this before the swim. maybe that's what took so long.

Bike Comments:

I executed this to the BEST of my ability! Riding through Disney was fun...especially "Buffalo Bend" and although it seemed there were many little turn-arounds and overpasses, it was effortless. I even passed a few people (maybe not as many as passed me) This time, I recognized the course marshall's motorcycle sound and avoided the penalty tent! I had no fear though...I was quite far from the person in front....though they did go NUTS with their horn to someone close by.

The first aid station was adorable..done in a 'Bee' theme...all the folks had antennas on and they had signs like "BEEleive in yourself"...adorable. I had barely drank anything at this point and didn't pick up anything other than gels (just in case...for later). I was popping a fig newton every 15 min...just like training and it was wonderfully overcast. Ah, bliss. What a wonderful day!

I was very pleased with how they had sectioned off US-192, so we didn't have to ride right next to cars, but the winds from the west pretty much sucked! I was happy, happy when we got to the bank and turned right...even though I knew the hills were coming!

Well, it took forever to get to the hills cuz we had to do so many side street stretches..and while I was on Porter road, the sky opened up and it started POURING! Since this is the part of the course where I was hoping to hit 30+ on free speed downhills, it was a little scary to have all this water to skid on. I guess everyone around me felt the same cuz it seemed that everyone slowed down about 10mph at this point, and I started passing folks left and right...especially on the downhills! Wheeeeee! And they mostly didn't catch up to me on the uphills, either! Bye Bye scaredy-cats!
I guess ignorance is bliss...having never ridden in the rain before, I've never had any scary moments to make me fearful either!

Felt great all the way to the Publix....the last 10 miles was hard...the sun made itself known and the traffic was bad on the last stretch. And they had us do some crazy hop to the sidewalk thing...yuck. Picked up a gatorade at the last aid station and drank most of it by transition.

T2 Comments:

Well, there was no place to rack my bike when I got back. And I had 2 bikes over my transition towel, so it was hard to get to my stuff without moving their bikes. Grrr.

Since my rack was under a tree, everything got SOAKED during the downpour... and instead of drying off when the sun came out, all my transition stuff got leaf droppings instead. So, I came back to wet shoes, wet socks and tried my best to dry off my wet feet with my wet transition towel.

Run Comments:

Ugh. Started off walking....knowing I needed to cool off a bit before picking it up. I'm soooo grateful that Beth told me to bring a water bottle on the run...this SAVED my race and probably kept me from getting heat stroke too. Brilliance!

Picked up a couple of sponges at the first stop and stuffed one in my shirt. Tried to get the other one to stay in my hat but that didn't work, so I carried it and kept wiping off my face and neck. I had energy to run, and I'm sure if I hadn't been so overheated in the sun, I'd have had a much faster first lap. Perhaps the mental toughness was missing here?

Ran into Christine's hubby and mine too...Mike was thrilled with my time so far and made the colossal mistake of telling me I could walk the whole thing and finish. And this is pretty much what I did, though at that moment I was horrified at the thought of walking the whole thing.

Met some cool guys who were also on their first had lost 35 pounds getting to the race, and the other had lost 60. They were pretty surprised when I told them I had lost more than both of them PUT TOGETHER....they were awesome, but faster runners than me and the dark haired guy took off. Hung with 1975 for most of the rest of that loop and we both really tried to motivate one another with "let's run to that cone, come on 30 seconds" . . . but it was clear that he was the faster, better runner and when we got back to the shade, I encouraged him to go on ahead.
He was funny and said "you're going to MAKE me run??" and I guess I sort-of did....he managed to work up to a half mile ahead of my by the last lap and I was very proud of him!! Kept hollering encouragement to him as we passed each other at the turn-arounds. Also hooted to some girl named Meggan who I passed on the bike...she was behind me, but hanging tough!

My routine at each aid station was the same: Hit the ice trough, chill hat and sponges, pour ice down my shirt. Picked up Gatorade and drank, then ice for my water bottle. A few times I got grapes or gels. The pretzels were gross, the cola (it was REAL COKE!) was disgusting. Then run for as long as the 'cool' lasted. I think the amount of time running made up just the amount of time wasted standing at the ice trough.

The second lap surprised me because there were still plenty of people on the course (YAY!) but everyone was walking. People weren't even making the effort to pick it up for the crowds or the finish. Walked for a bit with BTer "tri the world" guy. He was very cool and is doing the Austria 70.3 next week. Wow!

Since I had pretty much walked the first lap, I started to worry about the 3:00 cut-off here...and did my best to run whenever possible. Sometime on this lap was when my right foot started feeling like it had a shell trapped in the shoe. Since I was soaked, I was afraid taking my shoe/sock off would take too much time, so I kept pressing on until I finished the loop and made the cut-off.

When I got to the end of the 2nd lap, there were still a handful of folks out there cheering, and the race director was standing there too....I knew I had made the cut-off by over ten minutes and according to the pre-race literature, I had unlimited time now to be an 'unofficial' finisher and 1:15 to be 'official' (before 4:00PM). Tom called out "you've got an hour and fifteen minutes....are you going to make it?" I guess that could have been a little embarrassing, but I just hollered back "ABSOLUTELY!!" and this made the folks standing by just cheer me very loudly...that was awesome and it lit a fire under my ass to make sure that I made it in that time frame.

As I started the last lap, there was only one person behind me....this guy must have had a flat or something bad happen cuz he passed me doing 8 min miles and was GONE. So it was just DEAD last, starting the last loop. I took a minute and fixed my shoe...didn't find that shell I thought was there, but I guess I unwrinkled my sock or something cuz it felt just a teensy bit better (at least that's what I told myself) and went to work. At about mile 11, I passed the guy who ended up being the final finisher. YAY me for beating a 67 year old! During mile 12, I passed a girl and a guy...moving on up! And in the last 1/2 mile, I powered past another girl (who cheered me on....saying "Go for it! I've got nothing left!") and another guy!

I was trying to maintain a run through the entire finisher chute, but I just couldn't do it the whole way....saved a little bit for the last 100 feet.

There were still a few people hanging out and some stuck out their hands for a high-five..that was fun but the BEST was crossing that finish line!! And they had tape out too! That was a huge surprise and it made me FEEL like a rock star. I made the official time and finished 20 seconds before 4:00.

Hubby was there and bawling....he just kept saying how proud he was and hugging my nasty sweaty self tight....his face was TOTAL emotion and it made me cry too....what a perfect finish!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Barbecued Iguana 2

Sistema Dos Ojos

We spent 3 days diving the Dos Ojos system. First from the Dos Ojos cenote, then from Hidden worlds, and a special trip to The Pit.

The first day, it's Gary, Isaac, Mike and I on our own. I regret not joining the other group to look where the movie was filmed. And I'm really sorry I missed the Barbie in the Gator. I know we went on a more challenging dive and its silly, but I really wanted to see the Barbie doll!!

We had been sent on a wild goose chase. We followed a left cavern line & surfaced at another cavern opening according to plan. A few minutes later, an air bell with bats. Then we expected to take the first jump. We found an arrow to jump from, but no line. We searched for a bit, finding no reasonable place to jump to. Our group split up at this point, and I spent too much time sniffing out a spot that COULD be our jump. This brought me to a place no backmounter should ever try to enter. I gave up and headed back.

Mike was waiting for me on the line, we found the rest of our team up the line a bit at Motmot Cenote. We discussed the lost jump and came up with a new plan. We continued on through the maze and then Gary took

another jump. This cave was super, super silty and viz was horrible for photos. Everything was orange and dark. Its amazing that Isaac got a few cool shots even through the halocline at 30'. Isaac led us through a really tight restriction and I saw another line below us. I dropped to peek at it and it was very porcelain looking, much like the Taj Mahal "broken china" room.

Gary turned us around and we headed out. On the way out, I saw an air bell with hundreds of hanging bats.

Later that day, we did a traverse from Orquideas to Hilario's Well. Meaning orchids, the cenotes were at Hidden Worlds, and we got to meet Buddy Quattlebaum. The walk down wasn't too bad and we had to do a giant stride in pretty shallow water. Paul led us upstream to show where they filed the scooter crash scene in "The Cave."

We turned back after 15 min and drifted down to Hilario's Well. This is another dark cave with giant columns. Often the main line split in two and Mike took the "second story" while I stayed on the "first floor." This dive had a hysterical moment when Paul made an interesting gesture for our amusement. I almost choked, I was laughing so hard!

The following day, we headed out for the most special dive - The Pit!

The climb down was intimidating. A long, long hike over rocks and a steep
climb in which we had to hold onto tree braches. You'd have to seek out a
foothold, then as you'd shift your body weight to that foot, the ground would
give way. Thank God for Ruben and his team of sherpas!!

Mike and I drop down quickly (Yeah ears!), we reach 200 by 7 min, we onl
stayed at that depth for 3 min. Its funny because no one wanted to go deep, but when we got back up to about 180', it seemed like everyone was there!!

The nice part was doing a nice cave penetration during deco, instead of just hanging on a line or hugging a tree…Mexico spoils us!!

We returned to the Dos Ojos system two days later, and Paul took Mike and I to see the Barbie doll! I was terribly excited about this, and when we were done manipulating the position of her legs, Barbie was excited too.

This was followed by the "Mile Run" which is a 6000' traverse from Dos Ojos to Monolito. This place is like a medieval castle because the walls are so dark.

Paul carried the slave and got some good shots with Isaac as the

We passed a few other cenotes to get here. The sequence is:

Doss Ojos--> Dos Palmas -->High Voltage --> Tapir's End --> Monolito.

Recalculated thirds at each opening.

In one of the cenotes (maybe High Voltage) along the way, where were a
bunch of plastic hibiscus on the ground. Mike picked one up and handed it to me.

The exit was steep and treacherous. It was a mudhole - like Buford
coming out.

After the dive, we all went tot he Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Barbecued Iguana
Current mood: cheerful

A trip to Mexico for a week of cave diving tantalizes the imagination. Prior to the trip, I worried that I'd lose interest in diving places like Little River or Madison Blue after seeing the wondrous decorated tunnels in the Riviera Maya caves. We packed our bags with trepidation and struggled to meet the 50lb airline restriction. Hey, cave gear is HEAVY!

Once we landed in Cancun, I felt like the most dangerous part of the trip was behind me! Now, for the easy stuff - diving! Going through customs in Mexico is somewhat a madhouse. You have to grab your bags and THEN go through customs. As miserable as waiting is normally, waiting with 5 suitcases sucks even worse. Merging from 20 lines of brain-dead travellers to 2 lines while hauling your 5 suitcases is even more fun.

Our hotel, Aquatech Villas DeRosa, was fabulously more than we expected. The rooms were big, there was air-conditioning (which we never had to use) and the sounds of the ocean gently rolling into the shore lulled us into a deeply relaxed state.

In Mexico, the "standard" set of doubles is 2 AL80s and we used a cute device called a v-weight to wedge between the tanks. It worked out very well, and the resort provided these huge oversized milk crates in which to store our gear. This thoughtful item kept our gear from mildewing throughout the week and the storage area saved us from hauling up heavy wet stuff up three flights of stairs each night!

Sistema Carwash

Our first dive of the trip was in Carwash, named so because cab drivers used to pull their cabs there to rinse the dusty Mexican road off their vehicles. The entry was the easiest of the week and with nice tables to set your gear on, we got a little spoiled. The surface water was black and I kidded Paul about all the clear water he promised us. Fortunately, the water was crystal clear below about 10 feet. Our group was divided in two, and the 4 divers who were all full-cave certified formed my group. My husband and I were joined by 2 photographers: Gary and Isaac. We went off in search of the Room of Tears

Gary led, Mike was second, then me and Isaac was at the end. Since Gary, Mike & Isaac are all loaded down with camera gear, I ran the primary reel. Gary led me around trying to find the main line. I though we'd never find it! I barely had any line left on the spool! After tying in, we got in the right order. I was blown away how awesome it looked. We passed under another sinkhole called Luke's Hope. We got to a line arrow that marked the jump and Gary looked to the left and made a right into what we later called "the rat hole" that pinched off a little while later.

Since we couldn't find the jump so we continued on the main line all the way to Adrianna's Room. Saw all kinds of onion-skin looking paper, but it was rock!! Very thin rock. The room wasn't the Room of Tears, but it was gorgeous with stalagmites and stalactites all over.

On the way out, I scoped out the jump and I thought I spotted the right place to jump to. Mike pointed out a stalagmite that looked like a golf ball and took a fake swing at it.
For our second dive, we wanted to try again for the Room of Tears and the spot I noted turned out to the right one! This tunnel is just beautiful! Mike points out some broken stalagmites that look like ivory. I really wanted to take one, but I left it behind for others to enjoy. We made it back to the room of tears and went on a bit further. Gary turned the dive just as it dropped down. On the way out, we run into Paul and he gives me the "Wow" sign. Wow is right!!

Sistema Naranjal

Nothing in Mexico has only one name! The common convention is to refer to a place by its system name which may include several different cenotes. Sistema Naranjal is no exception, and we dove this system from both the Mayan Blue (also known as Esconditio) and the Cristal (aka Naharon) cenotes.

Escondito is a cool place to do a huge giant stride off the 8' cliffs. We were all a bunch of kids jumping off prior to gearing up, then again with gear!

Gary leads us to the hole (B Tunnel) and I run the line. At first, Naranjal reminds me of Peacock 3 because its dark and iced with silt, but its a pretty thick silt. The rock has a lot of jagged edges. I'm surprised by the extent of the halocline and its very hard to see. Its making me a bit dizzy and I have to hold onto a rock to get oriented. We came along a beautiful group of spires that resemble Cinderella's Castle.

Its pretty, like a tunnel filled with wedding cakes, but not nearly as nice as the Room of Tears. We switch order a bunch of times and at the turn, I take some photos of Isaac. Isaac called the dive, and its great that we all have about the same air consumption. I'm surprised when we have a deco obligation at the end.

Naharon was the next dive on the list. It's a very intimidating entry with very treacherous algae-covered slippery rocks. One member of the group declined to dive there, as she has twisted her ankle here and ruined a previous trip.

There are lots of snorkelers and swimmers here and there's a rope tied to a tree to help lower you in. I manage to get in without killing myself. There's a huge basin to swim to before you get to the cave and the ground has really cool plants with little fish hiding within. Since no one wanted to run the line, I volunteered and we shared a reel with Paul's group. Paul runs the first jump to the left a few feet later sends us off on another left jump. He knows this place well, having been part of the original exploration team. This dark tunnel has lots of halocline, but it is stunning! It was funny on the 2nd jump, I ran out of line and Isaac had to clipped his spool to my jump reel to finish jump. My measly little Florida reel is meant to bridge gaps, not do the exploration jumps they seem to expect in Mexico.

The Southern Sacbe tunnel has spots that look like a candle shop with wax dripping over the sides. It was very pretty. Mike turned the dive and is having trouble staying down. He's not carrying the slave strobe and can't seem to get un-positive. He added more lead for the rest of our dives.

Sistema Taj Mahal

This place is interesting with stark white and bright orange intermingled. The stalactites here have grown so large that many have fallen from their own weight. They are all over the floor pointing in odd directions. The water in this place is called "sweet water" which is a mixture of salt and fresh water.

I'm so disappointed that I can't find a map for Sistema Taj Mahal. We took right (downstream) line, Mike and Gary popped up at Cenote Buena Vista (we think this is the one) and we continued downstream. We all surfaced at Cenote Sacrada that had an alter. Mayans used to have some type of religious service here that somehow led to a lot of broken pots.

We popped at another hole and played with tree roots growing out of the ceiling, there's calcite flakes floating on the surface of the water.

We then went on to an enormous room in the Jumna River where were all doing cartwheels & flips.

="" lang="EN-GB">Sistema Sac Actun

Entered in Grand Cenote and swam to the Cuzan Mah. This cathedral like section towers over divers and was the most gorgeous ever! We saw lots of formations like cityscapes and a huge beehive rock. In one spot, we had to swim through a tight formation that was way cool. We made another jump somewhere along the way.

Gary turned the dive and we backtracked to where Sac Actun cenote is and ran a line to the opening. It was pretty and jungle-like. This was my favorite dive so far!!

The next dive was up the Paso de Logarto line where every rock seemed to resemble some type of animal. On the way out, we saw a little cage with lifesaver looking thing and a note that said: Scientific Experiment: Don't touch.

Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich

This dive was amazing!! We passed through "Heaven's Gate" and followed the main line for a while. Gary led us through 2 jumps all at an average of 15 feet. I thought I'd be tremendously bored at 15 feet, but this place is amazing.

Mike was working the slave. I ran the lines and stayed back. Around one corner, we saw a large formation that looked like an eagle statue...a bit later was a LITTLE HOUSE! The boys called it "jail house." One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen!

Gary turned the dive and we stopped at a cenote on the way back

(Luna something. Paul thought it used to be called "The Castle") and the angle of light created by the small hole in the roof was stunning! Met up with Paul's group and we all headed back together.

Our second dive was very different from the first. This time, I led in and made the jump at the first place we came to. This passage could be called "porcelain forest." It was highly decorated and resembles a forest with huge 4' diameter columns (like trees) with endless soda straw stalagmites that look like leaves on the ceiling. I had to keep flipping upside down to look at the ceiling. We noted a jump to the right, actually it was a T and Mike dropped an arrow. We stayed on the straight path, not realizing it looped around back to where we started from.

When we saw daylight, I'd hoped we were someplace new, and was disappointed that we were at our point of origin. This dive yielded the best
photo of the trip. Awesome dive!!! I didn't expect to do a circuit in Mexico!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Silt Castle

I admit being brainwashed. As a young girl, my mental picture of a castle never included real castles, made of stone and for protection. Instead, I pictured the mansion-style that Disney moved Cinderealla into. By definition, a castle is a strongly fortified, permanently garrisoned stronghold with high walls and towers. I certainly didn't expect to find an animated Cinderdalla hovering in backplate and wings in Hendly's Castle, but I did expect to be disappointed. So many cave names hold such promise, but don't live up to the mystique of the name. (let me site the Godzilla Room as a prime example).

For our full cave "graduation dive," our instructor gave us a few options on where to go. Many folks choose to do the Grand Traverse (a mile swim from Orange Grove to Peacock 1), but we have been most of that route already, and knew we'd not really see much new passage. What really turns us on is going deep. I don't know why its such a thrill, but it is. Frankly, we should be over getting excited by triple-digits on our depth gauges, but we are captivated by challenge. Like a junkie who has found his next fix, there's some magic in having to lean up your mix. I just hope the deep dives hold the same level of excitement when helium cuts back the nitrogen buzz.

The dive started a little rough. We tried to be so careful and not stir up the basin as we entered, but it very tough attaching stage & deco bottles while standing very, very still. We tried, but did end up bringing along some baggage with us. This was my first time cave diving in P3, and it stuck me as way more exciting than the Peacock system for many reasons. First, like a snowbird who returning home to their sheet-covered furniture, everying is draped in silt. Each room not the same hollow tube that varies little for thousands of feet. There are big changes from room to room. Some passages narrow, and then turn to the left into huge rooms with high ceilings. There's a spot where there's a crack that seems to go all the way to the surface! One part is very tall, but narrow and made me feel like Princess Lea in the trash compactor! There's a notable restriction along the way called sandslide. We dropped our stage bottles just prior to this restriction.

The actual jump to the Hendley's line is just inches from the main line, so instead of using a jump reel, we just connected the two lines with an arrow. The real fun began as we squeezed our way down to 130' and then through a narrow lengh of pancacke like passage until we got to the bottom. It was pretty cool running into the end of the line! It was suprising though as the map showed another tunnel. We were a bit suprised, but Paul showed us where the line continues down a bit north of the main line. The next tunnel doesn't look big enough for even sidemount, so we didn't dare go any further. It was very sad when air was up and it was time to go. How odd to ascend 150' and not surface! We still had a long swim out! Just as I was getting pretty miserable of the cold, we found ourselves in the cavern was nice to burn off some deco while swimming. By the time we hit the cavern, we only had 20 minutes of deco left....Brrr.

I can't wait to go back!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Diamonds & Locusts

Buford. A dive site this dazzling should have a more exciting name. Diamond Spring is what I would have called it. Or perhaps, "the Reward", in honor of the prize that awaits an arduous path. We were lucky that the sunlight was just in the right spot and as we descended, the rays of sunlight were bouncing off the bottom and reflecting back at slightly different angles. As we changed even the slightest in position, it seemed the sunlight was glittering back up at us, like a perfectly cut diamond. As we got deeper and looked back up at the cavern opening, you could see the impressive sun beams bore down to the 80' bottom creating a display Paul Heinerth compares to "a religious experience."

The cavern below holds scalloped walls, a pretty ceiling, and a rubber chicken at the end of the line! We found a little spot in the east wall that could probably be penetrated, but we saw it late in the dive and didn't have the gas to investigate further. This is absolutely a dive that everyone needs to do at least once.

We had heard about the tribulations that one encounters on the way to Buford, but hearing about and experiencing are such different things. All the books say you need to go with someone who has been there before, if you ever plan on finding it. That's very true. Even the detailed directions we were given wouldnt have gotten us close. You have to *know* where it is. Much of the way there is what divers consider "normal." You have to park your car a ways back and there's a long walk that you can take a cart to. But the normalness ends about 200' from the swamp. The quicksand-like mud was ankle deep in most spots. And I won't get into the joy of hiking thru mud in 101 degrees wearing a 5mm wetsuit. Next time, I'll go with a 3mm and freeze. Of course, the horseflies can easily gnaw through your flesh in a 3mm, so there IS a trade-off.

The following trip account describes the "wildlife" quite well:

We saw no gators snakes or snakes but the horse flies were of biblical plague proportions. If you can still find an old barrel of DDT someplace, bring it with you and it may keep the younger flies off of you. You're on your own for the bigger older flies. We spotted them flying in tight formation making every attempt to break through our 5mil deet soaked defenses. On the way home pick up some hydrocortisone to spackle on any remaining exposed flesh you may have had.