January 29, 2009

Pretty good workout

Spent Monday and Tuesday rather sore. That's good, in its way. Wednesday...well, if you live here, you know what kind of shit Wednesday was. Not particularly cold, but snowy/slushy; slippery as snot. I didn't even try it.

So today, I got out for a 4-miler. Only, after surveying the myriad icy patches in the first block or two, I decided to head uphill instead and do my 3.7 mile hill run to the park. The weather is gloriously sunny and just below freezing - which means that while the thinnest watery/icy patches have run off and dried off, there's many areas where the footing is treacherous. Some people did not scrape their walks yesterday - and now it's all ice. Lumpy, malformed ice, too; the kind that forms from walked-in slush. Some people did shovel/scrape/snowblow, so the walks there are mostly clear and dry, except for runoff areas that cross the sidewalk - which end up being 3-foot-long, sidewalk-wide sheets of very slice ice. Nearly went down twice trying to cross these.

You CAN run on ice if you don't change speed or direction - you have to go with the inertia you've got. Not always easy to do in this city.

So there were a lot of little walk breaks in this run, particularly on the way up to the park. I was trying to dodge traffic, other people, and ice and sometimes just had to slow down to avoid calamity. But I'm not upset about that - my lungs were needing some acclimation time. They were wheezing from the second block onward, almost all the way to the park.

So I struggled up the hills to the park, amazed to find that I have enough breath support to actually tackle the hills with some gusto and only walked the upper 1/3 of the longest hill. I am very happy with that. I took a few minutes to stretch while at the park, then headed home.

This time, I choose sides of the street in direct sunlight, which reduced the number of icy patches, but increased the number of pedestrials. (Yes - new word: pedestrials (n): people who are technically classified as pedestrians, but whom are perceived primarily as obstacles by runners.) I also chose to run in the street a lot more, dodging and weaving among moving traffic, parked cars, ice that extended out even into the streets, over-salted areas (which can be just as slick), etc. I'm sure you know what I mean. I did get a break: some of the streets were closed to traffic by the time I headed home, so I could freely run right down the center.

As for the moving traffic, I wasn't TOO worried. I was keeping an eye out for myself and I had purposely worn my most eye-searing ensemble: red marathon knit gloves Jerry Cahill bought for me, bright orange long-sleeve marathon t from a couple years ago, and a hi-viz yellow cap by Asics that I bought to match my marathon running jacket. Frankly, I looked like a clown. A hideously dressed, sweaty clown. But surely the drivers couldn't miss me, right?

And it was cold. I dressed right, but didn't bank on wind. Coming back, I was running right into a headwind and was quite cold by the time I got home. For several minutes, I couldn't work my fingers well enough to get my gloves off or fish out my key.

The best part of the run was that I used the flat stretches on the route home to do some strides - I picked up the pace to about a 8:30 pace for 200 yards at a time, and used the downhills or further flat parts to slow down for a couple hundred yards. Had it been a little more structured, I could have called it a speed workout.

And it felt good. I'm actually looking forward to this weekend's long run. I'm planning eight to nine miles.

January 26, 2009

a little more product photography

Had another crack at the Ghirardelli box.

Also tried some macro photography with this little glass bottle I found in my crawlspace. I used a Kenko extension tube and a 50MM lens. The extension tube lets you get very close to your subject and still focus.

This little bottle has an interesting history. From what I could read off it, it was made by G.I. Hood & Co, Lowell, Mass. The other side says "Hood's Pills Cures All Ills". Some research on the web leads me to believe this held 100 little "liver pills", which were basically junk medicine at the time, but were very popular. The old plant still exists. The bottle dates to about 1903-1905, which is just after when my house was built. I also found an old women's periodical up there, but since it is so old, I will take it first to a conservator at the NYU or Public libraries and see about the best way of keeping it from just flaking into dust, now that I've removed it from the warm, dry crawlspace. It is very brittle. Pics of it once I can figure out how without destroying it.

And here's me. This is the body the other runner commented on? Pfft.

January 25, 2009

Manhattan Half Marathon 2009

You can't just sit on your ass for two weeks and expect to PR.

This was the thought that kept running through my head during the second half of the race today. But before we get to the grueling misery that was miles 8 through 13.1, let's back up and start this story where it began, two weeks ago.

Remember from my last post that I was just out of the hospital w/ a PICC line in my arm and running two kinds of IVs: Meropenem and Tobramycin. In addition, I was on Bactrim and Levaquin. All these medications will really tire you out. I decided that my best choice was to rest during this time until I got some energy back and try to eat more and gain some weight. As things turned out, I didn't start getting any real energy back until about this last Tuesday. (Though I did have a good time at the International Motorcycle Show, and a great meal after it last Saturday at the Hudson Yards Cafe, which is near the Javits. Scrumptious beef stew!) So. I was getting my energy back and had decided to go running with Michelle again. Remember, she and I ran on the boardwalk together. We'd been trying to get together for another run ever since. We made plans to meet Wednesday, then put it off 'til Thursday, thinking we'd meet in Central Park, put in 6 miles and pick up our bibs and shirts while we were at it. Well, Wednesday night, she suffered toe breaky. So Michelle's out. (M, I did pick up your bib and shirt and chip, turned your chip right back in, and picked up some Powergel for you. However, I am keeping your cocoa-roast almonds - that's what it cost you. I really love these things, you know.) I ended up doing about four miles that day and was really overdressed for the run. I thought perhaps I'd wear one layer less for the half marathon.

Friday, I did my last IV and the nurse pulled the PICC line. I'm free! But I'm also still on Zyvox and now, for the first time in my life, I'm on a moderate course of Prednisone, which I started taking Thursday night. By Friday night, I was breathing better than I have in a year or two. The Prednisone really gets the inflammation in my lungs under control, especially in the small airways. It's quite amazing. I won't be on the medicine long, but I hope the effect will last for awhile.

So this morning arrived - along with frigid weather. I checked nyrr's website from my iphone before I even got out of bed, hoping they'd decide to make it a "fun run" so I could skip it and still get credit. Well, they hadn't. Of course they hadn't - it's not like it had snowed or anything; it was just cold. Besides, I would have gone anyway. For the Grand Prix, I don't want credit for a half-marathon I didn't do! I want to EARN that special t-shirt!

I spent an hour getting ready, incuding nebulizing some albuterol. I dug up my salt tablets, power bars, and my all-too-precious CFC albuterol inhaler. I mixed up some Sustained Energy and loaded up my Fuel Belt, which I haven't used in a long time. I layered up, took some extra cotton shirts with me for after the race, girded my loins, and headed out the door. Wow. 14 degrees this morning. COLD. but...somehow, not THAT cold. The windchill reading was 9 degrees, but I wasn't really feeling that. I was OK. At the baggage corral, I opted to take off two layers so that I might not get overheated during the race. And though I was shivering with cold before we started, I was quite comfortable once we all got going.

The first 7.5 miles went pretty well, really. The back of the pack started off at a slow trot, about 11 minutes/mile and I was able to hold that pace very well for most of the first half. I did have to walk about 1/2 of Cat Hill the first time and much of the big hill in the northern half of the park, sometimes called Heartbreak Hill. After that hill, I had to stop for the john and stopped my watch for that - it was about a five minute wait! (So my official results reflect that time.) Then I only had two more short bits of walking on hills until I completed the whole first lap and was once again trudging up Cat Hill. Cat Hill was much harder this time and I walked more of it.

I'd made a very rookie mistake (besides not having run for two weeks): I'd brought salt pills, but forgot to take any. While I still had energy, my muscles began cramping and I began to struggle. My body wanted to move my bowels again, but there wasn't a john when I needed to go, so I held it 'til the end of the race. My lungs, however much boost I'd gotten in the first half of the race, were now at the mercy of the cold and my wheezing was very audible and I would run out of breath quickly. Due to the Prednisone, I think, I was able to catch my breath much quicker than in the last several months and I was breathing somewhat deeper, but it just wasn't enough. It did cross my mind, in some despair, that this may be the best I ever breathe again, at least in winter. :(

So, you can see from the chart how I initially had long stretches of continuous running, one of those stretches is two miles long, but then it breaks up badly in the second half of the race.

I managed a strong-ish finish, which is to say with about 2/10 of a mile to go, I was able to get up to a stiff, tottering trot and crossed the finish line in well under three hours. I admit that I had visions of NOT crossing the finish line in three hours today. There was so much stacked against me. But the good first half really saved me a lot of time and if you discount the five minute wait for the john, I did the race in about 2:41, or about a 12:20 pace. Far, far from my best, or even my average. But it got done, and that's one down, four to go. I am certain the Bronx Half will be better.

After the race, I changed into my dryer, warmer cotton shirts before heading out of the park. As I stripped my last sweat-soaked race t off, I got a compliment on my body. It was from an older gentlement, and it wasn't creepy. I smiled my thanks, put my cotton shirts on and walked over to Columbus Circle, where I went to chat with my friend who works at the New York Running Store and then bought some tuna from Whole Foods downstairs. The stairs...whoa, oh my god, the stairs. I was really feeling the second half of the race.

This was my 14th half-marathon and my 54th race. 3rd worst half-marathon time. I have one more piece of commentary on the events of today, but I'm rolling it into my next post, which will probably go up late Monday or sometime Tuesday. (My class starts tomorrow night and I have to finish my syllabus!)

Finally, speaking of the Bronx Half, I'll be running that one in memory of Nic Waitt, a friend of mine w/ CF who passed away last weekend from complications of CF. Breathe easy, Nic.

January 10, 2009


I might have posted this yesterday, but I was too tired.

I was admitted to NY Presbyterian hospital Thursday afternoon. (By the way, who are they kidding? "We have a bed for you; come in right away." Please. Single people like myself have a lot of things to make sure get taken care of if we're away from home - it's takes a couple of hours to arrange all that, pack, and get on the subway.)

The doctor wanted me in for the whole weekend, and I initially agreed w/ the stipulation I had to check out by Sunday night. Being a fellow New Yorker, she understood my reason - alternate side parking. Alternate side can be of great leverage in this city.

Well, after a series of tests, including CT scan, chest x-ray, and numerous blood tests, I closed out Thursday with only a peripheral in my arm. Why the hell did I go INTO the hospital, if not to avoid the bullshit of having a peripheral placed and then replaced the next day by a cath? I mean, this was the kind of crap the home nursing agency pulled the last time I was on IVs and I wanted to avoid it. But no...I didn't get my PICC line placed until 11:30 a.m. Friday.

I talked to my doctor Friday morning and said that being an in-patient isn't worth the problems it was entailing; that I could take care of myself better at home. She agreed to let me go home late Friday.

I have to admit the PICC nurses were worth waiting for, fast, efficient, and very good at what they do, but what the hell? To make matters worse, despite numerous prompts, I didn't get a chest x-ray to confirm placement of the PICC until 4 p.m. That is entirely too long for my comfort to have a cath in without heparin lock.

So after the first treatment through the PICC, I got to check out. And go fill some prescriptions for orals. I got home last night about 10:30. Couldn't sleep 'til 5 a.m., despite having only gotten five hours sleep the night before.

I suppose I wouldn't have been so hot to trot if the room were actually comfortable. The bed itself was very comfortable, but the rest of it sucks. Their wireless network for guests wasn't operational, the TV would turn itself off if you so much as looked at it funny, I couldn't get into the bathroom and close the door unless I put the IV pole in the shower, and the food.... well, I needn't go into that. I'll just be reinforcing what are already widely held beliefs.

But the tipping point was the contact isolation. I don't care if everybody has to gown up before they come into my room, but being unable to leave the room, even to go outside between treatments and grab a cup of real coffee or buy something edible... well, it makes home IVs all the more attractive.

Of course, even home IVs have their requirements. The home nurse came at 10:30 to change my PICC dressing and go over the details of the home IVs, which I already know quite well, but I appreciated her attention to detail. Unfortunately, this meant I had a second night of only five hours of sleep (morning, really). Worse, I had to skip the Fred Lebow classic. Hopefully things won't get in the way for the Manhattan Half-marathon. I don't know how well I'm going to run that, especially if I don't get out for a seriously long run this week, but I just have to do it.

January 7, 2009


"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed..."

That is from Second Corinthians. I take it entirely out of context, I'm sure, but it seems like an apt quote for today.

Mosodiplosis is the repetition of a word or phrase at the middle of a clause, as in the above example. Right now, repetition of the middle ground of my life seems to be a theme for me.

Let me begin and end this post with up notes. The first: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the leading candidate for Surgeon General. This would be a very popular move by Obama, as Dr. Gupta is very personable and very well-known. His multi-racial background is also good texture for the administration. At this point, O's administration is shaping up to be a far better mirror of the American populace than any previous - and O is not having to sacrifice quality leadership to get it. In the CBS Evening News announcement of this bit of news, they aired a few seconds of stock footage of Dr. Gupta jogging - with me. :D

Okay: The meat of the post - the middle part that will sound like a repeat, if you've been reading my blog long enough. Can you guess what it is? Have the past few posts been clue enough? How about if I said that although I've worked out three days in a row, that the two runs (one of 6.7 miles, the other 2) were of poor quality and I'm not happy with them? Can you guess why?

Enough teasing. I saw my doctor today and described the increased difficulty I'm having with breathing lately. I blamed it on TOBI no longer being effective for me. I blamed it, too, on the new HFA inhalers being ineffective. We talked about switching me to the old tobramycin formulation in February - the I.V. kind that we nebulize anyway. It might help. She wrote a scrip for a different inhaler. It's still HFA-propelled albuterol, but a different manufacturer, Ventolin. Hopefully, it will help, though I'm not wowed by it so far. Interestingly enough, they finally added a counter to the inhaler so that you know when the thing is empty. I also picked up this month's supply of Aztreonam. Hopefully that, too, will help.

But...the doctor felt, especially after seeing my PFT results, that none of that was a pro-active enough solution to my current depressed lung function. FVC: 54% FEV1: 31%. I am horrified and unhappy.

So, it will be another course of IV antibiotics. I turned them down last time, just before the marathon, and instead went with oral antibiotics, which did pretty well. But I'm beyond that point right now. IVs are the way to go. And, in order to get things kicked off well, I'll be admitted to the hospital for a few days.

Now, I haven't been admitted to the hospital since summer of 1991, so this is a pretty new thing for me. I won't be in long, just enough for the pic line to be placed, the first half dozen doses to be administered and a schedule stabilized. But I have to clean the house and pack just as if I were going away to teach a three-day seminar. And I have to arrange for my tenant to keep giving Mable her pills.

The other part of my life that feels like mesodiplosis is that this time of year is always hard money-wise, and it's the same tune again this year. For some reason, most of my subscriptions, memberships, dues, what have you that are annual seem to come due at THIS time of year, rather than when I'm working. Dammit. The big thing right now is gym membership. I think I'm going to shop around. The YMCA memberships are nearly as much as Manhattan Health Plaza, but I'll double check. I hear Parks & Recreation runs a few places and membership is cheap - something I'll definitely look into.

So. I don't know if I'll get that 10-miler done Thursday or not. Tomorrow's weather is supposed to be outrageously terrible, and Thursday morning similar. I also don't know if I'll actually be in the hospital yet or not. We'll see.

Two upbeat things to close on: One, Monday I worked out at the gym for two hours - 40 minutes on the stationary bike, about 30 minutes of stretching and balancing exercises, and the remainder of the time doing pushups, pullups, situps, and weights. A very high-quality workout. So how come I'm having such trouble running?

The other upbeat thing: Photography! I've been experimenting with what my D700 can do, with the lenses and equipment I've already got. A few nights ago, I shot this:

And earlier tonight, I shot this:

Click either picture for a slightly larger size. If you want desktop size versions, just email me. :) I've been enjoying shooting the moon. That photo was taken with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 on my Nikon D700 with a manual (Nikon F era) Kenko 2x teleplus. Sure, the older teleplus means no lens information is sent to the camera, but with instant review in the digital age, I could adjust my shots accordingly. The moon was shot at f/2.8, ISO 3200 (yes, the D700 makes that look good!), and about 1/250 shutter speed.

I've also captured similar images using my consumer-grade Tamron 28-300mm lens with the teleplus, though at an effective 600mm, it is almost impossible to stabilize my camera and tripod well enough to get a sharp shot - and I can't use as fast a shutter speed with that lens, either. I have plans for solving the stabilization problem, though. Still, I'd love to play with some longer primes, especially when the moon is full.

For the chocolates tin, I built a small light box out of a cardboard box with three sides cut out and slid an old white t-shirt over the openings to create diffusion. I set my flash off to the side (the D700 can control it remotely), and shot it through the t-shirt on the right side of the photo. There's enough bounce to create good fill without having to add in the on-camera flash as well. The set up needs improvement. I want to make a bigger lightbox and get another flash or a color-balanced lamp, to help balance the other side. But, hey, not bad for my first foray into product photography!

I'm also planning on experimenting with macro photography. All my old Nikon F lenses fit my D700 (if I take the aperature prongs off) and I also have a set of extension tubes, so I'm all set to experiment a bit.

OK. That's it. Time to eat some pudding and go to bed.

January 1, 2009

Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9!

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

So. Because NYRR now requires a volunteer commitment from each of its marathon hopefuls, I had to squeeze in a volunteer opportunity before the end of the year. I signed up for the very last opening - the Emerald Nuts midnight run. (This was before NYRR extended the qualifier window through the end of January.) I got to volunteer at the champagne tables.

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

My tenant has taken to running and I talked her into doing the midnight run, so she and I took the train to Central Park together. We got out at Columbus Circle, then walked up to the start/finish area, where - 90 minutes before midnight - the party was in full swing. Emerald Nuts people were handing out glowing green light sticks, 2009 foam hats, and awesome awesome cocoa-roast almonds. Man, I loves me some cocoa-roast almonds.

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

By the way, before I forget, you can click any of those links that say "From Emerald Nuts Midnight Run" and go directly to the whole Picassa album I set up with all the shots worth seeing. Lots of costumed runners!

So, suffering a good deal of asthma, I trudged up to 102nd street crossover. It was pretty cold, and maybe that didn't help the asthma, but I don't think the new HFA albuterol inhaler was at all helpful. I wasn't carrying all that much, but I could feel the weight: my DSLR and a thermos full of hot coffee.

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

So I got up there and immediately went to work pouring little plastic cups full of sparkling apple cider. It took about 30 of us almost an hour to get ready. Right about the time we were opening a couple extra bottles in case we ran out of filled cups, I noticed we had 4 minutes left 'til midnight. We counted down the minutes, then heard a canon boom and saw the fireworks.

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

Less than 10 minutes later, the fist of the runners came flying through!

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

These people were running under five-minute miles! I managed to get a lot of shots 'til my speedlight's batteries buckled under the load and I finished up the night with the pop-up flash. Almost all of these shots, by the way, are here presented as-is. I did no digital darkroom work on them, aside from cropping one or two and downsizing them all for posting on the web. I am super impressed with how well these shots come out, how well I can do stop-action. Some of these shots were with flash, a couple without. All were with the ISO set at 3200, which would be an unusable setting on my old D70, but the blacks are crisp and clean even at this ISO on the D700. And all were shot with the Tamron 28-300 zoom lens, which is really the weak point in my setup, but a damn handy lens for general shooting.

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

It was great catching runners in all kinds of dress drinking Champagne Slushies and having a great time.

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

The run wrapped up, we cleaned up, I grabbed one of the open, but unused bottles of cider, and headed home. I got in about 2:30 a.m., ate a little bit of desert, got to bed about 4, and slept 'til 1. What a great New Year's Eve!

Here's to all the great things that surely must come our way in 2009!

From Emerald Nuts midnight run 2008/9

Snow, slippery, WINDY New Year's Eve sprint

So my planned run with M in Prospect Park didn't pan out. She wasn't feeling well, and though I did go out for a run, it quickly got truncated. Apparently, I just picked a bad time of day for it - the temperature was dropping, it was snowing, and was very windy. I couldn't see well for all the snow blowing into my eyes. So I made this a short, hard 1.25 mile run from my house to the grocery store. I don't recall any walk periods, though I had to stop a couple of times for severe coughing. My wheezing is getting more and more audible, and I simply couldn't breathe while I was out there. I'm not sure I could've lasted 6.6 anyway, not with my lungs like that. Very disappointing.

But that wasn't the end of the day! As you'll see in the next post, I volunteered for the Emerald Nuts midnight run. All I'll say about that in this post is that my asthma was full on and I had a very difficult time walking up from the start area (to which I'd escorted my tenant, who has recently begun running) to the champagne tables up on the 102nd street crossover. Still, I beat most of the volunteers there.

Before I get to that post, though: some end-of-year wrapup pictures! The first two are of my Hanukkah gift to my Mom and Dad.

Yep, that's the real deal - my marathon medal. I had a plaque engraved and put together this shadow box. I cut a hole in the back so they could see my name and time engraved on the medal. Perhaps this isn't as cool as Marci's use for her medal, but it was the best thing I could think of to do with it.

These are of Mom at the Union Square shops.

And these are some random pics I've been getting with my D700. I love this camera. This may be the last camera I ever buy. Nikon would have to seriously up the ante and bring some magical capabilities to the table for me to upgrade. I'm not using the best glass in front of it, yet - can't afford it - but I'll get there. Actually... all my old Nikon lenses fit the camera, but of course the old manual lenses don't have any automatic functions. I do have a newer 80-200mm f/2.8 that works well on the camera, but the resulting rig is so heavy that my cheap consumer-grade tripod is not up to the task. I'll worry about that more as I get closer to photographing my next dance concert. Anyway, yes, the D700 is enabling me to get much cleaner high-speed in-the-dark shots. The noise level is WAY down. I like the camera's layout, functions, and flexible capabilities with flash on- or off-camera.