Wednesday, December 23, 2015


To say that this race could be the make or break moment for my future running career could be overly dramatic, but let’s go for it anyway.

I have been battling this knee injury all year.  The Patella Tracking Disorder was cured several months ago, but the pain in my knee has not gone away.  My medical team has tried everything, but it’s been a real head-scratcher.  Five miles seems to be my pain limit, and I’ve run significantly less mileage this year than any year previously.  I had signed up for this race way in advance, and was determined to complete this sucker no matter what.  Two weeks prior, I did a five-mile run, and felt pretty good.  Afterwards, my knee was very sore, and was not able to run the entire week.  On top of everything else, I got sick.  Since it never takes me less than four weeks to get better, I would be running Mount Dora with a cold and a bum knee.  With this new-found misery, I make the decision to rest the knee one more week, and sacrifice the cardio.  As luck would have it, I had an appointment with Yasmin on Friday (two days before the race).  After my medical tune-up, Glenda and I hit the road to celebrate our anniversary in style.

We made a reservation at the Mount Dora Historic Inn, and got a cottage all to ourselves.  A cold front had moved in for the weekend, with temperatures expected to be in the forties and fifties.  I was feeling like crap, but we treated ourselves to a great supper at the Goblin Market Restaurant.  I went to bed über early, and Glenda stayed up watching holiday movies on the Hallmark Channel.  I rolled out of bed around 10am on Saturday, but still felt ragged out.  We went to pick up my race packet, and spent the day sightseeing and shopping.  After taking photos of the amazing holiday lights, it was getting too cold for Glenda to walk around anymore, so it was back to the cottage for more holiday movies.







  I woke up at 5am on race day, and did some stretching, taping and hot showering before we made our way to the starting line.  This day was special, not only because of the race, but it was also our 34th wedding anniversary.  The temperature at the start was 48 degrees, which made the 649 participants truly feel as if they were running in a winter wonderland.  The knee felt really good when the gun sounded, but this injury has been very unpredictable.

Everything felt as good as I could hope for during the first four miles, as it would be an unrealistic expectation on my part to run pain free.  It was at this point that I started to get a cramp in my right calf, which of course would give me two injuries to battle.  The cramp is something that has been happening during my last few runs, but I had hoped the compression socks would keep it under control.  Now with two very different types of pain to think about, this had all the makings of the most agonizing race ever!  Fortunately, neither injury got to the point that I could not run anymore, so I got to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Mount Dora.  The knee brace on my left leg certainly came in handy, as I was able to tighten it up when necessary.


The last two miles were a little difficult, but I think that was more psychological than anything else.  I was able to sprint the last part of the race, and Glenda snapped a great photo of me crossing the finish line.  My finishing time was my worst since my first half marathon, but the fact that I was able to complete the race in one piece was a very big moral victory.  As I began my post-race stretching, the knee felt better than expected, and kept the dream alive for at least the Miami Half Marathon in January.



Thursday, November 26, 2015


As I battle this peaky knee injury for what seems like an eternity, I give thanks that I was able to run this race pain free.  It also reminded me just how different the culture of a 5K race is, compared to a marathon or half marathon.

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know that the Tamarac Turkey Trot is the race that started it all for me way back in 1996.  At this point in my running career, the Tamarac Turkey Trot is the only 5K race that I run, both out of nostalgia and tradition.  This is a very popular family institution, with 1,816 participants who obviously don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to cook their turkeys..  Lindsey and Rachel both joined me, so it was a great way to start the holiday weekend.  That being said, I was reminded just how “annoying” a large family run like this can be.
  1. The slower runners and walkers are supposed to go to the back.  I guess the term slow is up for interpretation, but I can assure you I’m no Scarlet Speedster myself.  However, if you are planning on walking right from the start, you should not be up front.  It’s very frustrating to the other runners, especially since it is like a cattle call at the starting line of the race.
  2. Many adults run with their kids; some of them are very young.  It’s great family bonding, and it gives everyone a very satisfying sense of accomplishment.  If you fall into this category, please stay off to the right side of the road.  Many of the youngsters cannot keep up the pace, and randomly stop several times.  I’m a big guy, and I would hate to step on a little kiddie.  I also find it interesting that many parents use this race to whip their kids into shape, as the “Drill Sargent” in many moms and dads seem to rear their ugly heads.
  3. As touched in previous blogs, the ultimate showoff move involves the runners who have already finished the race.  They will run or walk in the opposite direction of the runners who have yet to finish and will do one of the following:
    1. They are doing a “cool-down” run.  Yeah…right.  I guess I've never been bubbling over with that much energy.
    2. They are walking towards their car.  Why not park where the other 1,800 folks parked.
    3. They will shout words of encouragement like “Keep it up, you’re almost there,” or “You’re doing a great job.”  My responses are the following: “Thank you Mr. GPS,” and “If I were doing great, I’d be finished like you, but NOT being a pompous ass like you and walking in the opposite direction.”
Not really a big laundry list of annoyances, but just a reminder of what I’ve been missing by not running these shorter races.  All in all, it was a great time, and I’m especially thankful to have the physical ability to participate in this and other races.



Saturday, September 19, 2015


You love to run. Simple and sweet.

What you don’t love, though, is the annoying stuff non-runners say to runners. Has anyone said any of these to you?

1. You don’t look like a runner.
Gee, thanks. Yes, I know I don’t look like a gazelle. Not everyone is an elite. Being mainly skinny with muscular quads and calves is not a requirement to be part of this club, you know. We come in all shapes and sizes!

2. I wish I could do that.
Well, if you made an effort, maybe you could, too!

3. You’re lucky you’re so athletically blessed.
This is right up there with you’re so lucky you’re naturally fit/skinny/healthy. No — it’s because I get out there, bust my butt and train!

4. Did you win?
Why yes — I won a banana, a finisher’s medal, all-you-can-eat bagels, the satisfaction of completing the distance and great company with lots of people high on endorphins.

5. Don’t you get tired?
Nope. I am Super Runner. I’m immune to the usual effects of physical exertion. That’s why I win every time.

6. Don’t you get bored?
No way. I delight in putting one foot in front of the other monotonously for miles and miles. (Especially on the treadmill!) Yes, sometimes it’s boring. But if you give it a chance, you’ll find what’s so amazing about it.

7. I only run if something is chasing me.
Like I haven’t heard that one before? I know, you’re just trying to be funny. But it just isn’t.

8. Haven’t you heard of that guy who died during that race?
Sure, there are the occasional unfortunate incidences of someone collapsing to his or her death while running. But what about the other hundreds of thousands of people whose health has been drastically improved by the sport? What about the higher incidence of people dropping dead because of obesity-related diseases preventable by such exercise? I’ll take my chances on running, thank you very much.

9. Running is bad for your knees.
You know who you don’t hear saying this much? People who actually run. Just so you know — running actually strengthens the knees, according to the most recent research. Conversely, sitting around is bad for all of your joints…and your heart…and your arteries…and your lungs…and your mental health….

10. Do you need a ride?
I’m amazed how often this happens to me. Do they not see that I am in full running gear, exercising on purpose? Are they just trying to hit on me? Or trying to kidnap me?

11. Do you know how to get to (X location)?
I just love it when people stop their vehicle in the middle of the road to ask me for directions. Do I look like a map? Don’t you have navigation on your phone? Can you not interrupt my workout, please?

12. Run, Forrest, run!
This one wins the award for the ultimate most annoying running remark. Seriously. Be original, people. It’s not the least bit amusing anymore.

By Lindsay Kunkel 
*Courtesy of RunHaven


Thursday, April 9, 2015


It’s been a few weeks since I’ve run this race, and it’s not like me to not recap right away.  Having said that, I’ve been able to really see what has happened to me physically over the last few months and maybe paint a more honest and objective picture.

Most people who know me really well will attest to the fact that I try to keep my complaining to a minimum, and I will never use an injury as an excuse for my performance.  Truth be told, the 5 Points of Life Marathon and the Gasparilla Distance Classic in back-to-back weeks was a bad decision on my part.  After Gasparilla, it was all I could do to walk, let alone run, for the next two weeks.  The pain in my patella was excruciating, and nothing seemed to help.  My Physical Therapist Yasmin wanted to take an X-Ray to see if anything else was going on, but she assured me that nothing was torn or ruptured.  After two weeks of rest, the limp had finally gone away.  It was now time to test the waters.  I went out for a five-mile run, which truthfully should have only been a three-mile run.  I say this because after the first three miles, it was a total struggle for the last two miles.  The limp was back, and so was the soreness.  I still had a couple of weeks before my last half marathon of the racing season, so staying off the pavement was not an issue.  The issue in my mind was…am I going to get better?  I know I said the same thing about my torn hamstring, but this was different.  The hamstring was torn and would eventually heal.  The patella seemed as if it were going to be a nagging issue to haunt me the rest of my life.

My friend Mark from Atlanta affectionately calls me a “physical phenomenon. “  If I am, a lion’s share of the credit goes to Yasmin.  I’ve been under her care for the past six years, and I can’t think of better hands to be in…literally and figuratively.  I went to see her about ten days before the half marathon; this is when we had our discussion about the X-Ray, and possibly taking a more aggressive approach in regards to my treatment.  Two days later, the pain had all but gone away, and I was not limping quite as noticeably.  With guarded optimism, I went out and ran on Saturday…exactly one week before the race.  Having learned from my last failure, I decided that three miles would be the maximum distance I would run.  To my surprise and delight, I ran pain-free.  The rest of the day was pain-free as well, and I decided to give it another shot on Monday morning.  Five miles later, the knee was still in good shape.  I saw Yasmin again that Wednesday, and she told me that my kneecap had moved back into place, and the patella was functioning correctly.  Maybe part “physical phenomenon,” but mostly great medical skills.  I did one last three-mile run before the race, but I was still not totally convinced that I was “over the hump.”  There is a big difference between running five miles pain-free and running a half marathon sans pain.  My only consolation was that after the race, I would have all the time I needed to rest the patella…if necessary.

The Race For Women’s Wellness Half Marathon takes place in Coral Springs, and is literally five minutes from my house.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, the race is ridiculously overpriced.  Even if you sign up early, it is still more money than most of the races I have run.  The race shirts are extremely ugly, and the medal is just okay.  I’m not a fan of the course, but this is because it takes place on many of the roads I train on.  Ideally, it would be great if the course took us through North Coral Springs, as opposed to South Coral Springs.  I’m not sure why this race takes place on a Saturday, but I don’t really have an opinion on this either way.  Having spewed all this negativity, I will always continue to support local races.

The starting time for the race was 6am; this is opposed to a traditional 7am or 7:30 start (again, not really sure why).  I got to the starting line about 30 minutes early, and was greeted by my longtime friend Doug B.  Doug and I worked together at Continental Cablevision for about 11 years, and we even shared an office/edit suite/workbench for part of that time.  Doug had started running a few years ago, and he has really come a long way.  We would try to run together, but I told him that I did not know with any degree of certainty how my knee would hold up.  There were 386 participants entered for the half marathon, and 736 runners doing a 5K later in the morning.  After a 15-minute delay (again, not really sure why), we were off.  The patella felt good, and Doug and I were able to run together for the first few miles.  I started to slow down just a bit after the third mile, but was still just a few steps behind Doug.   I made my way towards the bushes for my traditional watering of the lilies, but was now a good 45 seconds off of Doug’s pace.  It was at this point that the entire race changed for me.

For reasons I cannot explain, I got a tremendous bolt of energy.  I was running a very strong pace, and more importantly, totally pain-free!  I eventually caught and passed Doug around the five-mile mark, and was really feeling optimistic about my knee holding up for the duration of the race.  The one cool thing about this event is that I actually run past my house around the nine-mile mark, so the entire family was outside to greet me.  As I came down the stretch, I knew that a PR was possible, but not probable.  When I completed the race, my finishing time was better than Melbourne by 82 seconds, and maybe my second fastest time for a half marathon.  Doug finished 42 seconds behind me, which was one of his best times as well.  We were both very happy with our performances, and only time will tell how my patella will react.


Saturday, February 28, 2015


This weekend came together so quickly, it still seems like a blur.  The Gasparilla Half Marathon is a race that everyone has run but me, figuratively speaking of course.  Both Jen and Pam have participated several times, as well as many of the other Turtles.  The common theme is that everyone loves the event, right down to the course, the medals, the shirts, and the crowds.  The history and name of this Tampa tradition traces back to the legendary antics of Jose Gaspar. The success of early invasions encouraged the creation of additional Gasparilla events, including the Gasparilla Distance Classic.  Since neither Jen nor Pam had entered this year, I didn’t hold out much hope in running the race until 2016.

During the weekend of the Miami Half Marathon, Mary told me that she was running Gasparilla.  Not just the half marathon; the Amber Challenge.  The Michelob Ultra Amber Challenge consists of running the 15K & 5K on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday.  Once I heard this, my eyes lit up brighter than a spotlight.  I wanted in, but there were some logistics to figure out first.  Mary had planned this weekend several months ago, along with Robin.  They had reserved two rooms at Aloft Tampa Downtown, and the rates had since skyrocketed.  The more important issue at hand was the Amber Challenge had sold out.  Disappointed, I registered for the half marathon, and asked Pam’s sister Jen P. if I could stay with her Saturday night.  Jen lives in St. Petersburg, which is about 30 minutes from the race.  Just for the heck of it, I contacted the race officials and asked them to put me on a waiting list for the Amber Challenge, should someone decide to drop out at the last minute.  I knew this was probably a long shot, but what did I have to lose?  Literally one day later, the race officials notified me that there was in fact a cancellation, and the spot was mine!  I was happier than a pig in slop.  Only one small problem…where would I stay?  Jen’s offer was for Saturday night only, as she had a prior commitment for Friday night. With less than two weeks before the event, and no real knowledge of the area, I went right to the source…Robin!  I’ve known Robin for a few years now, and she is one of the sweetest, funniest, and outgoing people I’ve ever met (and maybe the only Jewish person in Ocala).  The Turtles usually travel in packs, and stuff as many people in one room as they can (extremely cost effective).  To my surprise and delight, she said that I could have the second room, since not as many folks actually committed to the weekend as first planned.  With everything now falling into place, I told Mary she would have a running buddy for the entire Amber Challenge.

Running the full marathon at 5 Points of Life was probably not the best decision I’ve ever made.  My Patella was so sore and swollen after the drive home from Gainesville, it was all I could do to walk without holding onto something.  Factor in the natural soreness from not having run more than 13.1 miles in almost a year, I was truly a “hurtin’ Gator.”  On top of all this, I developed a UTI, and had to call my brother Mark for an antibiotic.  The soreness started to subside by Wednesday, and went out for a three-mile run on Thursday.  Mary was hoping to get off work early on Friday, but Robin, Melissa, Sharon, and Judy did not expect to be in Tampa before 7pm.  The expo at the Tampa Convention Center was open until 8pm, but I planned on leaving my house at 10am, which would put me in the hotel before noon…or so I thought.  A fatal accident closed Interstate 75 for close to 6 hours!  I took an alternate route, but apparently so did everyone else.  I made it to the hotel nine hours later, emotionally and physically drained.  I met the ladies at the expo with 45 minutes to spare, and the agony of the drive was now a thing of the past.  The expo was not quite as big as the one in Miami, and not very crowded (thankfully).  The race shirts were very nice, as well as the embroidered jacket we received for during the Amber Challenge. We grabbed some pizza for dinner, and went to bed pretty early.

The start time for the 15K on Saturday was 6:45am, and we all met up in the lobby at 6.  Maybe one of the greatest things about the weekend was that the hotel was one-tenth of a mile from both the race start and from the convention center!  It was 45 degrees as we made our way to the starting line, and I opted for a throwaway sweatshirt on top of my long-sleeve FIU shirt (making its inaugural race debut).

5,919 runners lined up for the race, and I was amazed how organized everything was.  Robin was having knee issues, so she was planning on doing a good deal of walking.  Melissa, Sharon and Judy would stick with her; Mary and I would run together.  Lisa and her boyfriend Chuck drove into town that morning, but their race speed is way out of our league.  About two miles in, I discarded the sweatshirt, and the patella was holding its own.  The course was a simple out-and-back, but the homes we ran past were beautiful.  The one thing I noticed, which would be a theme for the entire weekend, was how many photographers were on the course.  You would have thought we were running the Boston Marathon!  Of course Mary and I are not camera shy, and glammed it up every opportunity we had.  Once we crossed the finish line, there was little rest for the weary; the 5K would be starting shortly.

With 14,122 entrants (clearly making this the largest 5K I’ve participated in), it was impractical to have everyone wait for the 15K to end.  Instead, the runners started the race in strategic “waves,” beginning at 9am.  There were four different waves, each starting 15 minutes apart.  We were free to jump into any wave of our choice, but there were recommended finishing times for each wave.  Mary and I were the only runners in our group doing the Amber Challenge, so the other ladies (and Chuck) made their way to the post race celebration.  After several photos with our medal, and a quick trip to the restroom, Mary and I jumped into the second wave.  By this time, my patella was good and swollen.  Mary and I made the executive decision to walk most of the 5K, and preserve our energy for the half marathon on Sunday.  It was less painful for me to run than it was to walk, so I had to part ways with Mary for the last mile of the race.

With two races under our belts, Mary and I met up with the ladies (and Chuck) at the post race celebration.  Presented by Michelob ULTRA, the Q105 Post Race Celebration & Awards Presentation took place in Cotanchobee Park.  There was lots of food, music and beer.  Lots of beer!  It was packed with runners, but very scenic.  After consuming as much beer as we could (considering it wasn’t even 12 noon yet), we made our way to the famous Columbia Café for lunch (and sangria).  I was having an absolute blast, but my patella was über swollen at this point.  We made a quick trip to the expo, and then back to the hotel for a much needed power nap.

Melissa left Tampa to volunteer for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and Jen G. drove into town to fill her spot. We met up with her for an early dinner at Jackson’s Bistro & Sushi Bar, conveniently located within walking distance of the hotel.  The patella felt much better, but I had no idea how it would hold up on Sunday.  In all the years I’ve been running, I can’t recall putting in this amount of mileage in back-to-back days.  Since the ladies were not running on Sunday, they made their way to the hotel bar after dinner.  Lisa, Mary, Chuck and I went upstairs for an early “lights out.”

The half marathon started at 6am on Sunday, which meant we would be running about 45 minutes before daylight.  6,305 runners lined up for this event, and once again I was impressed how organized this whole weekend went.  It was about ten degrees warmer than Saturday, so no jacket was necessary for the start of the race.  As we crossed the starting line, I was thrilled that my patella showed no ill effects from the day before.  What I did not count on was my UTI going haywire!  I had to find the bushes almost immediately, and probably “watered the lilies” close to 15 times during the race.  I’ll spare you the details, but towards the end of the race, it was like ringing out a dry washcloth.  It took me close to five miles to catch up to Mary; thankfully, I’m a little faster than her.  The course itself was really pretty.  We ran along legendary Bayshore Blvd., with beautiful homes on one side of the road, and the water on the other side.  Mary wanted to do intervals, but I would have preferred to run the entire time (mostly because of my patella).  Since I was stopping so much to find the nearest bushes, I ultimately ran the entire race in order to keep up with Mary.  I could tell that she was running (and walking) a really strong pace, and it became apparent to me that she was finally going to capture that elusive PR she had been seeking.  I could tell she was spent, but I offered up encouragement the entire time.  When she crossed the finish line, she shattered her old PR by almost 12 minutes!  The joy on her face was priceless.  I would like to think I was a big influence on her performance, but she begged to differ.  I don’t know, but two of her three best finishes in a half marathon came when she was running with me.  Coincidence…I think not.

Robin, Sharon, Judy and Jen met us at the finish line, and joined in the celebration of a totally successful race (and party) weekend.  There was actually one more race waiting to start after we finished.  This was an 8K; part of the Ultra Challenge.  This was sold out as well, or I probably would have been stupid enough to run this instead of the Amber Challenge.  4,659 ran this race, for a grand total of 31,005 for all four races this weekend. My patella thanks the race committee for not letting me in.  I did see Andy, who was participating in the Ultra Challenge for the fourth year in a row.  We went back to the hotel right away, and I was on the road by 11:30am (hoping it would take considerably less time to get home than nine hours).

If you have never experienced Gasparilla, I highly recommend it.  I’m already excited for next year.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Remember when I said that if I were to run more marathons, I would like to try something new?  To quote the rock group Cinderella: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

This was shaping up to be the first year since 2007 that I had not completed a full marathon.  With a partially torn hamstring in October, and now suffering from Patellar Tracking Disorder, I had not run more than 15 miles at any one time since the summer.  The mind was willing, but I could not be certain that the body was able.  That being said, if there were ever a race I would want to gut out 26.2 miles, this was it.  My affection for this race has been well documented in past blog posts.  The race is first class, and so are the folks who work hard to put it on.  We apparently have a affection for one another, as 5 Points of Life follows my blog, and will often retweet my posts.  In making a sample chroma key project for my students, I selected the 5 Points of Life Marathon for my subject.  Needless to say, it was a big hit.

When Terri noticed that I had registered for the race, she asked if I had signed up for the full or the half.  I did the full with her and Elaine in 2013, and had a blast.  Terri has become significantly faster than me, so there would be no way I could keep up with her this year.  She was planning on running with Chuck, so the pace would not be as quick.  I still had a couple of weeks to decide, but my body would ultimately make the final choice.  Later on in the week, there was a cancellation in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, and I was able to enter the Amber Challenge (to be covered thoroughly in my next blog post).  The Amber Challenge involves running a 15K and a 5K on Saturday, followed by a half marathon on Sunday.  This made my decision for Gainesville an easy one…or was it?

Glenda drove up with me on Saturday, and I gave Terri a call from the car (hands-free of course).  I was planning on running the half marathon with both her and Chuck, as the race splits right around the 13 mile mark.  I don’t really remember how it happened, but in the blink of an eye, Terri convinced me to enter the full marathon!  From an emotional standpoint, I knew I could do it.  From a physical standpoint, I knew I could do it.  My big concern was the physical fallout after the race, and how much of a role it would play on my performance at Gasparilla.

Jen met us for lunch, and we then made our way to the expo.  When I went to “supersize” my entry, Elli greeted me (the 5 Points of Life Program Coordinator).  Both Glenda and Jen were stunned that she knew me by name, as well as some of the other folks at the expo.  They are fans of my blog, and I see Elli every year when I do the race.  I usually make a purchase at the expo, but it was Glenda who scored a pair of running shoes this year.  We then met Paula and Bill for an early Valentine’s Day dinner, and they were gracious enough to let us stay with them that night.

The race started at 7am, and it was about 45 degrees when I met up with Terri, Bettie and Chuck.  This was just what the doctor ordered when you have not trained for a full marathon, and have concerns about your knee.  There were a total of 808 participants, with 140 running the full, and 668 running the half.  This was also the tenth anniversary of the race, which made the race shirts and the medals extra special and collectable.

As good as I felt physically running Clearwater, Miami and Melbourne, my good luck would not carry over to this race.  The adrenaline of running in Gainesville worked to my advantage, but my knee hurt right from the start.  It was not the kind of pain that would hinder my performance; it was still a nagging pain nevertheless.   Conversation with Terri and Chuck kept me distracted in a good way, as Chuck is a true fountain of information.  The first ten miles always seem to go by too quick, if you can imagine that.  The course is very scenic, especially if you bleed orange and blue.  Running through the Swap is a rush, followed by a trip down Fraternity Row, and past Lake Alice.  When we hit mile marker 13, there was no turning back.

I started a get a little tired around the 17-mile mark.  My legs were beginning to tighten up, and Chuck was slowing down as well.  It was now time to face my number one nemesis…Williston Road!  This year, I was determined to make this stretch of highway my bitch!  The wind was at our backs, and the temperature was now around 70 degrees.  As much as my knee was hurting, the support from Chuck and the volunteers made it go quicker than usual.  Making that right turn onto 34th Avenue, I knew I had conquered the beast.

The last five miles were very pleasant, but I received a tremendous surprise right at the end of the race (not counting the woman handing out beer at mile marker 25).  With about four-tenths of a mile to go, one of the volunteers shouted out to me “Thanks for coming, I love reading your blog.”  To say I felt like a rock star would be a major understatement.  I crossed the finish line both happy and sorry the race was over.  I can honestly say that these emotions are reserved only for this race.  Elli and Brite were both standing at the finish line with big smiles on their faces.  It was easy to see that they were proud of their hard work and dedication.  My knee was pretty swollen, and it wasn’t the easiest thing to walk to the car.  Was it worth the pain?  It’s Gainesville baby!

Thanks to everyone at 5 Points of Life for once again reminding me why I love running marathons so much.  As an added bonus, check out the photo below.  It's Elli and Mr. Salty!