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Bryan Hamilton, who is in the US Army, ran all four Gasparilla races four years in a row. Now deployed in Afghanistan, he plans to run the four again this year "remotely" and his time will be counted. [Courtesy of Gasparilla Distance Classic]

He'll run Gasparilla half a world away

Bryan Hamilton will miss watching the sun come up over Bayshore Boulevard at next weekend's Gasparilla Distance Classic, but the U.S. Army Major will still get 9.3 miles in "shadow running" around Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. "This will be my fourth Ultra Challenge," said Hamilton, 43, an intelligence officer st …

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Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor

Terry Tomalin

Terry Tomalin moved to Florida in the spring of 1980 for the sun and surf. After graduating from the University of South Florida in 1983, Tomalin backpacked through Europe, returning a few months later to work for a small Central Florida newspaper, where his stories on the Ku Klux Klan resulted in the resignation of a local sheriff.

Tomalin joined the Times as a police reporter in 1986, but left 18 months later to backpack through New Zealand and Australia. He returned a year later and transferred to the sports department to cover the great outdoors.

During the past 20 years, Tomalin has lived with witch doctors in the Amazon, explored sunken Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico, sailed to Cuba, canoed to the Bahamas and swam around Key West. Tomalin loves to fish, surf, paddle and enjoy all Florida has to offer.

A fellow of the prestigious Explorer's Club in New York City, Tomalin holds a master's degree in Florida studies and is involved in many community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

Phone: (727) 893-8808

Email: ttomalin@tampabay.com

Twitter: @WaterTribe

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  1. He'll run Gasparilla half a world away

    Running

    Bryan Hamilton will miss watching the sun come up over Bayshore Boulevard at next weekend's Gasparilla Distance Classic, but the U.S. Army Major will still get 9.3 miles in "shadow running" around Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

    "This will be my fourth Ultra Challenge," said Hamilton, 43, an intelligence officer stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. "I'll do a 15K on Saturday, just a little earlier because we are 9½ hours ahead of you, and then a 5K to top it off."

    Then on Sunday, Hamilton will follow up with a half-marathon and another 8K, thereby completing the Ultra Challenge, a multi-race phenomenon that has become the hottest thing in endurance sports. Next weekend's Ultra Challenge field is limited to 1,000 runners, who see more than 30 miles of running in just two days.

    "We were the first to do any kind of challenge," said race director Susan Harmeling. "It has just grown, year after year. People just love it."

    The concept was born out of necessity. Originally, the Gasparilla marathon and half-marathon were held in December, but when they moved to the same weekend as the classic 15K, people complained.

    "They said now we have to choose what race to do," she said. "So we came back and said, 'No you don't. You can do them all!' "...

    Bryan Hamilton, who is in the U.S. Army, ran all four Gasparilla races four years in a row (the Ultra Challenge). Now deployed in Afghanistan, he plans to run the four again this year "remotely" and his time will be counted. Pictured, Hamilton running the half-marathon in 2015 (1:42.39). (Courtesy of Gasparilla Distance Classic)
  2. Outside Planner: Grayton Beach getaway, camping with the family, and a sturdy cooler

    Outdoors

    GRAYTON BEACH: A FAIRY TALE STATE PARK

    Once ranked as America's top beach, this 2,000-acre state park on the Florida Panhandle has sugar sand beaches, pine flatwoods and stands of scrub oak and magnolias, bent and twisted from the salt winds, that look straight out of a fairy tale. The beach itself has great surf fishing and locals say the best sunrise and sunset in Florida. But it has something you won't find on our local barrier islands — a 100-acre coastal dune lake, ideal for canoeing and kayaking. Pitch a tent in a full-service campground, or rent a cabin nestled in the pine woods. The two-bedroom, one-bath duplexes come equipped with a gas fireplace (available November through March), a kitchen and screened porch and an outdoor grill. Linens, pillows, blankets and towels provided, but be forewarned, there's no television or phone, which is why Grayton Beach is a good place to get away from it all. Go to floridastateparks.org.

    GET CAMPY: FUN AND INEXPENSIVE

    With spring break right around the corner, why not make some plans for a family getaway? Growing up in a family with nine children, my parents only had one option when it came to family vacation: camping. These forays into the wilderness were fun and inexpensive. You might need to make an initial investment in some basic equipment, but campsite fees are cheap. Most campsites in state parks come equipped with a charcoal grill or fire pit. You can prepare meals over an open fire, but you are better off to buy a good twin-burner propane stove. Put together a "camp cook kit" containing at least one pot, one frying pan and the necessary utensils, and you will be able to fix everything from linguine and clam sauce to beef stroganoff. When it comes to shelter, all it takes is one long, wet night in a cheap tent that leaks to make you wish you had spent an extra $50 for a quality product. Tents come in all styles, sizes and prices, and you can usually find a model that sleeps four people at one of the big-box stores. But remember, any tent will perform well in good weather. The question is, how will it do when a storm hits? Most families find that a lightweight dome tent is most practical. Ease of setup is a big plus, especially when you get to the campsite late and have to cook dinner. Be sure to buy one that has a separate rain fly, which gives you the option of just setting up the tent when the weather is good. A separate ground cloth will add years to the tent's floor, as will posting a sign that says "no shoes inside."...

     Orion Cooler photographed at Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure on Tuesday January 12, 2015 in Pinellas Park.
  3. NOOD Regatta brings sailing spotlight to St. Petersburg

    Outdoors

    St. Petersburg's Grant Dumas races year round but he looks forward to February when the first stop of the National Offshore One-Design series brings in fellow sailors from around the world.

    "It is cold up north and everybody always looks forward to coming to Florida," said Dumas, the 45-year-old skipper of the race boat Warrior who won last year's event. "It is a great way to show off our local sailing scene."

    Coming less than a month after Key West Race Week, the event, known as the NOOD Regatta, typically attracts an assortment of elite sailors who don't mind racing in the Sunshine State, especially when it's snowing back home.

    The regatta, held off downtown St. Petersburg, is expected to draw more than 1,000 sailors. The term one-design describes boats with identical measurements and specifications, the same style of racing held in the Olympics.

    Dumas and his crew, which usually consists of at least 11 other sailors, races a Tripp 38 in the Spinnaker A class.

    "It is a pretty complicated boat … lot of strings to pull," Dumas said of his "party" size crew. "But we race together all through the fall and spring and even do the Friday night series during the summer months."...

    The largest national sailboat racing circuit in the United States, the National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta series, will launch its 28th season in St. Petersburg on Feb. 12-14. The St. Pete NOOD will be the first stop on the five-city circuit, with about 1,000 sailors competing on Tampa Bay for the event?€™s top prize ?€“ a trip to the British Virgin Islands to compete in the NOOD Championship Regatta, hosted by Sunsail.
  4. Take it Outside Planner: Racing at Bradenton Area River Regatta, hiking Big Cypress

    Outdoors

    River rockets: Bradenton Area River Regatta

    The fastest inland boats on water, the Powerboat Superleague racing boats, will light up the Manatee River alongside the quickest personal watercraft in the world, HydroCross, at the Second Annual Bradenton Area River Regatta on Saturday. The action literally runs from dawn to dusk. You'll find the best viewing Bradenton Riverwalk, but this year's event will also feature activities on Palmetto's Riverside Drive, where you will find racing pits and the kids zone. A field of 12 professional "pilots" in the F-2 powerboat race will climb from 0 to 100 mph in less than four seconds and reach four G's or more on the course, negotiating turns at nearly full speed. Race fans can look forward to a series of qualifying runs and time trials before the division and championship racing from 2 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. The stand-up HydroCross racers will also be on the water competing for the Florida Winter Cup/Mayor's Cup title. In between races, the top riders will do stunts along a river course in front of Palmetto Pier.

    Destination: Big Cypress

    The "Big" in Big Cypress Swamp describes the vastness of this 2,400-acre national preserve, not the size of the dwarf cypress trees that dot the South Florida landscape. The name "swamp" is actually a misnomer since the area has a variety of habitats, including forests of slash pine, hardwood hammocks, cypress domes and wet prairies. Most backpackers who travel this section of the Florida Trail, which runs from the Tamiami Trail to Alligator Alley, do so in the dry, cooler months when most of the surface water has either evaporated or been soaked up by the limestone just beneath the soil. Big Cypress is known as one of the last refuges of the endangered Florida panther. This is also bear country, and backcountry travelers must take care to hang or hide their food so these opportunistic omnivores don't rummage through their camps in the middle of night. Jeep trails snake their way through the preserve, and if you are not careful, it is easy to find yourself wandering around in circles. At times, the Florida Trail follows the old "roads," but hikers must keep a keen eye out for the orange blazes that signal a turn. Winter is the best time to visit, so if you are looking for adventure, park at the Oasis Ranger Station and head north. You can leave your car there overnight, but be sure to check in with the rangers. They'll update you on trail conditions. Let them know when you finish. It is possible to walk all the way to the Alley, but you'll need to arrange transportation back to your car. It's much easier to do the loop trail....

    Hikers head into a pineland habitat while exploring the Florida Trail in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
  5. Red-shouldered? Red-tailed? Read the clues to identify the hawk

    Outdoors

    On a recent trip down the Suwannee, a large bird of prey flew across the river about 25 feet in front of my canoe.

    My paddling partner, a relative newcomer to the Great Outdoors, asked what kind of bird it was.

    "A hawk," I replied.

    "What kind of hawk?" she asked.

    "A red-shouldered hawk," I replied, thinking I had a 50-50 chance of being right. Then I added, "Or maybe it was a red-tailed hawk."

    This led to a brief conversation about how to tell the difference, and I of course uttered the obvious, "… one has a red shoulder and one has a red tail." But to tell the truth, when you're on the water or in the woods and you see one of the magnificent birds, it's hard to tell which is which.

    So I headed down to St. Petersburg's Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, where they have a great collection of birds of prey, to sharpen my identification skills. The Preserve, one of the city's greatest treasures, is hosting a Raptor Fest this weekend, in case you want to do the same.

    Let's start with the red-tailed hawk:

    One of the most common hawks in the United States, you've probably seen this bird on any long car trip. Red-tailed hawks love open country, and you'll often spot them soaring over open fields hunting for food. These birds of prey feed mostly on mammals — mice, rats, squirrels and rabbits....

    Dancers, a 16yr old male red-tailed hawk, pictured for Raptor Fest at Boyd Hill Nature Park, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. in Petersburg Thursday afternoon (01/28/16). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  6. Take it Outside Planner: Visit Big Talbot Island, look for cranes and fish for sheepshead

    Outdoors

    MAKE THE TRIP: BIG TALBOT ISLAND

    If you have never been to a maritime forest, northeast Florida's Big Talbot Island is well worth it. This state park near Jacksonville is one of the last undeveloped "sea islands" in that area of the state. Bring your camera and binoculars and you'll get great photos and memories. Also bring your lightweight hikers. Take your pick of the Blackrock Trail, Big Pine Trail or Old Kings Highway, each one traversing a different habitat. You can put your boat in at the north end of the island to fish the edge of the salt marsh. Or rent a kayak and take a guided paddle tour. Afterward, visit the Bluffs for a picnic lunch, then head down to Boneyard Beach, famous for the salt-washed skeletons of live oak and cedar trees. For a more civilized adventure, bring your bike or baby stroller and cruise the paved, multi-use Timucuan Trail that runs parallel to A1A. Big Talbot Island State Park is on State Road A1A N, Jacksonville.

    GUILTY AS CHARGED: SHEEPSHEAD

    The water may be cold but that doesn't mean the fish have stopped biting. Winter is a great time to fish for sheepshead. You will find the finicky eaters in residential canals, along rocky channel edges and, of course, under docks. These unappreciated sport fish feed on everything from barnacles to shrimp. Old-timers sometimes call this lowly bottom dweller the "convict fish." Some say it's because the pattern of black stripes on their bodies resembles prison uniforms. Others argue the name came from this species' uncanny ability to strip a piece of bait clean off the hook before it hits the bottom. This fish looks a lot like a juvenile black drum except with a full set of very human-looking choppers, complete with molars, incisors and rounded grinders well suited for crushing a variety of crustaceans. Sheepshead are members of the porgy family, a close relative and constant companion of a well-known species anglers often use for bait: pinfish. The two are often found together, and the first task of any sheepshead angler is learning to differentiate between the pinner's nibble and sheepshead's chomp. Most sheepshead found in local waters weigh 1 to 2 pounds, but fish caught in deep water can weigh five times that much....

     The Yeti Hopper 30 ($349) photographed at Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure on Tuesday January 12, 2015 in Pinellas Park.
  7. 7 things hikers always should carry in their pack

    Outdoors

    As a Boy Scout leader, I try to make sure the young men in my charge are always prepared. Troop 219's war cry is "We hike. We hike. We hike." Sometimes it is just along the waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg. But occasionally we take off to the woods of Withlacoochee State Forest.

    Anything can happen out on the trail, so you need to be ready for everything. I have hiked in the mountains of New Zealand, the deserts of Australia and the jungles of Brazil, but my day pack always contains the same seven items, regardless of the terrain:

    1. First Aid Kit: Over the years, I have treated a variety of injuries. I've seen fellow adventurers get cut on coral reefs, tumble down rocky slopes and be bitten by bullet ants. But luckily for them, more often than not, I have remedy in my medical kit. You can put together your own first aid kit from your medicine cabinet at home, or you can buy a premade kit at an outdoor retailer. I am partial the Adventure Medical Kit line. The California-based company sells everything from personal packets to expedition outfits for large groups. The kit featured here sells for $17 and is ideal for day hikers.

    2. Emergency Blanket and Line: Hopefully, you will never have to spend a night in the woods unless you want to. But if you do find yourself lost, or stranded due to injury, better have a survival blanket. When it comes to these little lifesavers, you get what you pay for. You can find an aluminum foil version of this safety standby for a few bucks in the camping department of any big box store. It will keep you alive, but you'll be cranky come sunup. Spend a few extra dollars and buy an emergency blanket that can double as a shelter if need be. The heavier material might add an ounce or two to your day pack, but in the end it will be worth it. I always stow some light line with my "space" blanket in case I have to make an emergency bivvy. Adventure Medical's Survive Outdoors Longer, or SOL, are well worth the money. If you get caught outside on a cold, rainy day, you'll be happy you followed my advice and dropped the $7....

    Before taking off on a hike, there are certain staples to have in your day pack, including a first aid kit, compass, map and multi-pliers.