Dark Water in Paradise Springs @ Ocala, Florida

 

 

 

 

Dive #71. What else can I tell you outside the video? Paradise Springs is one of two Florida locations where diving a cavern to 100 ft can be done without an additional Cavern Diver certification; however, you’ll need proof of your Advanced Open Water certification. The other site is Blue Grotto in Williston, Florida. Before heading out to Ocala, Florida, double-check each diver brings enough money for covering the cash only entrance fee of $30 in US currency. If claustrophobic and/or fear the dark, there are other unique spring experiences perhaps more suitable like Devil’s Den. Lastly, while this family owned operation does offer air-refills and some equipment, be sure to square up any boutique gear needs ahead of schedule. During our visit, the nearest local dive shop less than a mile away, remains closed for business all Sunday.

After parking and paying the entrance fee, divers get to watch a homemade instructional video. This underwater guide provides a play by play of the descent including fossils in the walls, the guideline, assorted man made figurines and the max depth death sign. Some aspects of the surrounding area do get left out like the fog evaporating into the morning sunlight just above the watery entrance. Right above that view, a closed circuit camera is peering over the dive platform. Which makes one wonder, ”Why so many gun shell casings are littering some of the steps to the opening below?”

With that introduction out of the way, Florida freshwater springs are well known for providing excellent visibility and year round temperatures of around 70 degrees F. They make ideal targets for testing out dive equipment, physical and mental conditioning. Submerging into the mouth of the spring, the sun illuminates the water giving way to the next chamber. Looking backward, a bluish hue emanates over the debris mound recalling a church alter or a theater stage. The second portion of the cave is vast in width and height. The space is more than adequate for three pairs of divers. Moving into the third portion of the cavern, the space narrows. Glancing back to the surface, I can always see the lit opening. Following the guideline, the experience feels effortless.

At the bottom of Paradise Springs, it’s easy for your vision to fill with saturating white from a camera lighting rig. This is exactly what occurs on our little adventure. What follows are moments of complete darkness. For myself, a surge of endorphins make my heart race. With eyes still attempting to adjust, my emotions peak into a panic attack. At the same time, my dive partner slowly moves to photographing another limestone wall facing in the opposite direction. He is unable to hear the tapping on my tank because of a hoodie covering his ears. The catch for myself is cycling off blood pressure medication, specifically Beta Blockers. Beta Blockers happen to suppress your body’s natural adrenaline response. Without them, it’s like being exposed to “raw untamed power” that fire up your fight or flight response.

Now, any calm person knows Paradise Springs is devoid of any current, sharks, gators, devils and demons. We’ll “mostly.” With both of my dive lights operational and the entrance above, the challenge is relaxing and managing air consumption until re-establishing visual communication. After about five minutes of holding the guide rope, and burning through a ton of air, fear gives way to calm and an engaged dive buddy for an air check. In the open ocean, there are many other factors beyond your control. This is why I love Florida springs for diving. It’s about as close to ideal conditions a diver gets for trial run outside of a pool.

Whether you dive or not, on Beta Blockers or know someone, I suggest reading up on the many side effects of this powerful class of prescribed medications. Here is a starter article that might peak your interest; Side Effects of Beta Blockers and Weight Gain

More Information:
https://www.floridadiveconnection.com/paradise-springs/

A Journey into Wonderous Stories

This past Monday, I had placed my two week notice at the office. With that simple interaction, a new journey had started to surface on the horizon. Gone were the countless hours of shifting through different conversations and desires that makes one resolute in a final decision leaping forward; however, the trepidation accompanying such a decision was dwarfed by the acceptance of changing, if not ending, some of the personal work relationships from over the years. For those moments, I had encountered emotional conflict.

Some of these interactions had grown into friendship, perhaps even extending even beyond this reality. Yet, still my mind had wandered into the potential of tomorrow. “What now?”, I had thought reflecting on all the shared stories and jokes over the years. What defines my person was the very freedom of wandering, aimlessly sometimes, from one locale to the next. Though, what merit had held the journey without the company you keep?

Tonight, I had started thinking about the choices ahead giving rise to new adventures. Whether mental or physical, these steps were highlighted by starting with one moment, one muse at a time.

Experience More:
Muse (Wikipedia)
Yes – Wonderous Stories (Yes Official)

 

 

 

Managing anemia and scuba diving

Over the past year, I had picked up my Padi certification Open Water and Advanced Open Water through a local dive shop, Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida. One of my immediate concerns getting signed up was medical clearance for a reoccurring stomach ulcer. The reason for the heightened sense of awareness about the ailment was anemia. With periodic changes in my blood’s ability to carry oxygen, I had thought I might be unable to enjoy exploring this endeavor.

After reviewing my results with my family physician, I was provided written clearance for scuba diving; however, a piece of paper was the first hurdle to managing my anemia. For those unaware of your blood’s hemoglobin count, I had encouraged getting this number checked out periodically if engaging in this activity or any other athletic adventures. For myself, my hemoglobin had floated around 9 grams (gm) per deciliter (dL). Here are some posted normal ranges from per Medicinenet.com:

    • Children: 11 to 13 gm/dL
    • Adult males: 14 to 18 gm/dL
    • Adult women: 12 to 16 gm/dL
    • Men after middle age: 12.4 to 14.9 gm/dL
    • Women after middle age: 11.7 to 13.8 gm/dL

Here were few additional thoughts I had learned up to my last outing in the big blue Atlantic.

  1. Eat your iron. Always keep a bottle of iron (OTC) or medically prescribed version available in your gym or scuba bag. For myself, this was paramount to making it through Open Water course.
  2. Get a thicker wetsuit! For myself, this was exceedingly apparent on my outing for the Advanced Open Water class. When underwater getting hypothermia, you had reduced your chance to relax while shaking like a low power vibrator. Think I had lost few pounds on that Saturday but, worse still feeling like a burden to my dive buddy and instructor(s). After trying to get by on the cheap with rentals of 3MM suits, I had conceded the point. I had shelled out about $400 bucks on 5mm Aquaflex medium from Seminole Scuba. The dividend after the fact was a more calm and fun dive time.
  3. Know your limits. Sounds obvious, though, I had understood a man’s ability to hold onto his maverick independent streak. The smarter person, the better diver, had kept themselves self-aware about their limitations including fatigue, alertness, and pain.
  4. Avoid anything that might exacerbate your anemia. In my case, avoiding irritating an ulcer was important before a scheduled dive. Recently, I had marked off the list alcoholic beverages (i.e. margaritas), caffeine and spicy foods few days in advance if in the midst of a flare up.

Again, if you were interested in scuba diving and anemic, talk with your family doctor. Safe travels!

Read More:
Overview of anemia and diving – Diving Medicine Online (scuba-doc.com)
Understanding Anemia — the Basics (WebMD)
How is hemoglobin measured? (Medicinenet)

 

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#3463, The Rescue Run Corporate 5K @ Lake Mary, Florida

On Thursday, March 27th, 2014 @ 6:30 PM, I had journeyed out on my first outdoor run since October 2013. The purpose of this endeavor was helping raise money and awareness to the plight of the homeless in Seminole County Florida. For myself, the point was just to see how my aging, 42 year old body might fair at the end of a business day. Some fellow work friends had inquired, ”Are you going to run or walk?” My response was, “Just have to see what happens!”

On the day before the run, a work email was sent out listing all the registered participants. Though registering for the event online, my name was missing. Following up with the in house organizer, I had requested being placed on standby for any cancellations. Writing off that possibility Wednesday night, I had awoke at 3 AM Thursday morning hoping to wrap up loose ends on an IT project; however, the day was marred by frustration and disappointment copying files from one portion of a SAN (i.e. fancy disk system) to another. The phrase,”Soooo slow” was echoed by one peer embodying the morning’s events. Think this was the theme for most of the day. Then, an unexpected chat window from an event coordinator had materialized on my laptop display. Someone from the list of registrants had called out sick. I was thinking, “Okay I’m in. Let me turn this day around.”

With the 5K kicking off promptly at 6:30 PM, I had cruised the first mile with a brisk clip. At 1.5 miles in, I had felt my calve muscles starting to cramp from too much afternoon caffeine consumption. In an effort to maintain pace, I had employed a routine from a friend alternating a walk and run every minute or so. With that technique, I was able to bridge the next 1.5 miles at a moderate clip. Coming around the final corner, I had switched to walking again. Pulling up on the left side, one of my co-workers had encouraged me to “finish strong!” For some reason, I was reinvigorated by his inspirational phrase. That act of comradery had provided me with a descent final run time.

At age 42, a 5k at 30 minutes 40 seconds were quantifiable, some say, respectable numbers. More important was bridging these moments to the failing health of someone close to me over the weekend. That person, age 38, had experienced a potential stroke including loss of facial muscle control. I had not known anyone that close to me or young to suffer such a physical setback. I had never felt so helpless to fix a problem. With each tomorrow, I had to waited to see what happens with his condition. For today, I had only hoped to motivate him, like my co-worker, down the road that lies ahead.

Update: The stroke was a misdiagnosis of Bell’s Palsy.

Read More:
The Rescue Run Corporate 5K (therescuerun5k.com)
Bell’s Palsy (Wikipedia)

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Wanderlust in Wekiva Springs State Park @ Apopka, Florida

“Wanderlust  …dissatisfaction with the restrictions of home … may also fuel the desire to travel…commonly described as an enjoyment of strolling, roaming about or wandering.”- Wikipedia

Two weeks after surgery, I had discovered an ever increasing desire to wonder around Central Florida. With a little help from my friends, I had tempered this flame with standard fare from walking at Lake Lily Park to Lake Eola; however, that was just the start. Hitting the road yesterday to Canaveral National Seashore, I had wrapped up the weekend back in the heart of Central Florida with swimming at Wekiva Springs State Park.

The latter two outings were less than ideal with chilling coastal winds to cloudy waters of an over populated springhead. The importance of the walking and swimming this weekend was an affirmation of a healthy recovery. In some sense, I was grateful in earning back more mobility. Though, in the back of my psyche, I had recalled dialing down my fervor a few notches. It wasn’t like I was playing with snakes seeking atonement, rather simple solace. This notion sometimes had seemed easier stated than done with an elderly lady power walking right by you as an adult male.

Recovery from surgery for anyone, was a measure of equal parts physical healing and mental attitude. With possibility of pain and discomfort acquiescing to a “pity party” was the lost opportunity in focusing a return to some sense of normalcy. Before surgery, I had blogged for folks to make the most of their day. Today, for those with a recent procedure(s), I had thought the same rule applies. I hadn’t needed to beat grandma, just redirect that intensity elsewhere. I had dared you to do the same no matter your circumstance, just live it up!

Read More:

Wekiva Springs State Park (Florida State Park)

Wanderlust (Wikipedia)

Courtesy of Florida State Parks

Courtesy of Florida State Parks

What do scars tell us?

Some say scars build character, others maybe misfortune, for myself I had believed these markings tell us about our own story. Having come out of initial recovery from hernia surgery, I was thinking exactly what do these new etchings mean? For my story, I had looked back to my first big physical trauma.

One day leaving the military grocery store in the UK, my mother and I were headed to the parking lot.  As with many children, I had wanted to treat this rudimentary chore as a chapter in a whimsical fantasy. For most young boys, most had periodically idolized Superman and his super strength. So in my best physical impersonation, I had decided to pry off one of the car doors from the inside out. Now, the visual counterpoint were tiny preschool boy hands wrestling with modeled sheet metal. If Superman had crushed cars, so could I. Unrelenting, I had become entrenched in a battle against this unwavering construct. On the other hand, my mom had focused on efficiently loading up the day’s groceries in the trunk. Then, the slam of the car door had brought reality to a screaming halt, literally. Under the door hinge, my left hand had laid.

Awaking from the shock, I was walking with my mom through a courtyard at a hospital. Looking at my left ring finger, it was dolled up in cotton gauze. Under the gauze had existed the bloody bludgeoned shortened fingertip. If I hadn’t told, you might not had been any wiser to this scar. The only physical challenge I had ever experienced, learning to play guitar with a little more effort on the frets. In reflection, it was small penance in embracing my childhood ethos of Superman. From my mom’s point of view, she had felt enormously guilty about the mishap; however, in retrospect accidents and boys had seem inseparable facts of life.

Looking at the incisions from repairing two hernias, I had thought of how this experience compares to the first. In certain sense, the same spirit was at play. Men and boys had always wanted to reach beyond their grasp, sometimes reality. Looking at the some of my other noteworthy scars, from my right wrist, left forearm, and right knee, all had echoed moments of being more than ordinary maybe, even super. Scars in themselves were just a reminder of the body’s frailty.

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Surgery, stand and deliver!

Before this year had started, I knew the day would roll around for my hernia surgery. The important part of the adventure was confronting any loss of mobility post the procedure. For myself, a loss of mobility had meant a loss of freedom to randomly travel wherever on a whim. With any luck, I had hoped to work through recovery in a reasonable amount of time. On this Friday, I had thought to ask you to assert your own freedom to explore the world we live in. Face some fear that had held you back from enjoying living. As I had set this to autopost to WordPress at the time of my procedure, consider your day without such a constraint, stand and deliver!

mr. mister

Hear More:
Stand and Deliver by Mister Mister (Youtube)