February 28, 2009

Cough syncope or vaso-vagal response

Something I left out of today's earlier post is that two nights ago, I had a bought of coughing that made me pass out. This has happened only once before and I didn't fully pass out at the time - that is, I didn't lose consciousness completely, but my senses did shut down for a few seconds and I was left sitting upright and aware, but blind, deaf, and numb briefly, until sensation returned. This was, oh, about 18 months ago. Well, two nights ago, I had a fit that knocked me right out. Again, I was out for only a few seconds, I think, but I woke up slumped way over in my desk chair, about to head for the floor.

The weird thing is, my heart rate and breathing rate were calm and steady right after these episodes. Usually, a hard coughing fit raises my heart rate and breathing rate and it takes a few minutes to recover, but not with these two attacks that sent me over the edge.

So I've taken some time to research what's going on and believe it is called cough syncope, or vaso-vagal response. Essentially, the vessels in the neck press so hard on the vagal nerve that passes through the neck that it sends the wrong signals to the body, causing the heart to slow and blood vessels in the legs to open up. Blood pressure drops, the brain gets deprived of oxygen, and the cougher passes out. This is a simplified explanation, of course. There are other elements at work, too, including imbalances in blood pressure between the thoracic and intracranial cavities, causing intracranial blood flow to reverse or stop. I am fascinated by the thought that even a brief cough, if hard enough, can instantly put the whammy on one's entire cardiovascular system.

The good news is that there is no damage to the system and recovery is rapid. In fact, I felt just fine after I woke back up, but remained concerned about what this implies. What if this happens while I'm driving? That's my main concern.

As it happens, this is also a concern elsewhere. I found a study from England re: syncope in heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers. Syncope has been the underlying cause of many accidents, some fatal. What the study identified was that the vast majority of sufferers were overweight smokers, and that smoking cessation was successful in alleviating further bouts of syncope. Young asthmatics were also susceptible to syncope. All very intersting, but what caught my eye was that the department of vehicles there updated their regulations such that to be licensed as a HGV driver, you have to be free of episdes of syncope for ten years, similar to the requirements for epileptic seizures.

I have to admit that my very first thoughts after consciousness returned was not what passing out meant for my immediate health - I wasn't worried about that - but what it meant for my motorcycle riding. I have had some doozies of coughing fits while driving. For the most part, all I have to is ...well, not pass out. Keep the bike pointed straight ahead, which involves nothing more than sitting there and keeping the throttle steady. But going unconscious for even a few seconds could prove deadly.

I did fall asleep at the handlebars once, for a few seconds. It was during the first night of a group of us doing an IronButt ride from Long Beach, CA to the east coast. This one was a 2000-miles in 48 hours ride and we completed that requirement somewhere around Knoxville, TN I think. Anyway, about 20 hours in, I had a moment where I fell asleep, the bike wandered onto the shoulder, the vibrations woke me up and I saw the end of a guardrail coming right at me. I twitched my arm and corrected my course and managed to avoid the guardrail, but it was close - way, way too close for comfort. One of the other riders commented on the episode at our next gas stop and I shrugged it off, but made sure to get a jolt of caffeine into me. The rest of the ride was uneventful and I entered that land beyond tiredness where I could stay awake more easily than at that 20-hour window. Still, I nearly crashed that night. Could have died, conceivably. The fact that I was on two wheels is not important - it would have been just as bad in a four-wheeled vehicle.

So, the point is, what if a coughing fit in the future shuts my brain off for a few seconds while I'm on the bike? I am concerned this could result in an accident; a fatality. :(

We'll see how things go over the next couple months. I'd hate to think I have to remove myself from the driving pool because of a tendency toward syncope. I am otherwise an excellent driver and America needs more drivers like me on the road, not less!


Just as I'm starting to bounce back from the flu (I've been wiped out this whole week, too), and decide to go for a couple slow miles on the road today, what little problem decides to pay me a visit today? Gout. I guess I should count myself lucky… it's not a big attack and I haven't had one since last March. Waiting another day before my return to the road isn't going to matter - my lungs are junky as hell and it isn't going to be very much fun anyway.

I have a doctor's appointment for Monday. We'll do some PFTs and get a sputum sample and see where we're at. I don't want to go on IVs again, so soon after the last time, but having gotten so sick may require it. I'm hoping, instead, that we let the cultures cook and see what orals may be effective against my current infections.

One thing's for sure: I've got about a month to get back into decent shape. One month until the Brooklyn Half. And only three weeks until the Colon Cancer Challenge half-marathon. I'll admit I may be walking most of that one!

I can honestly say that I don't recall ever having been as sick as I was when I had the flu. The recovery is slow. But the timing was all good - it would have been a disaster if this had all happened in August.

EDIT: Whoops, the Brooklyn Half isn't until the end of MAY according to the current calendar. Plenty of time to get my health and fitness back on track, if not to train for a PR.

Also, I got notice that I have officially earned my slot for NY Marathon 2009. Guess I'll have to put in the application soon.

February 22, 2009

Beginning recovery

Well, 10 days into this stinking ordeal and I'm finally beginning to recover somewhat. I'm still very, very tired and any energy I get goes away quickly. But the time has come to pick up the pieces and move on. I have work to do tomorrow.

I changed the colors around here a little bit. What do you think? Oh, that's right, I've still got comments turned off, sorry. I'll turn them back on after my next half-marathon.

The Oscars are tonight. When I was a kid, this was a big deal; big night at our house. In college, it was even more interesting because I was able to see a lot of the movies being talked about and I had friends who would have different opinions of movies than I, rather than the cultish, small-town mindset of everybody agreeing as if they all subscribed to the hive mind that I experienced in high school. Come to think of it, I didn't have many friends in high school.

Well, things have changed again. I don't see many movies these days, only those that really seem to have some chance at being a lasting memory, rather than a mere moment's escapism. (Escapism is what Battlestar Galactica and House are for.) So, of course, I'm hoping that those few movies I manage to see will have some place in the Oscar pantheon, thereby affirming my ability to bring culture, education, and wisdom to my choice of how I spend my small entertainment budget. So let's hear it for Wall-E and Dark Knight.

Fact is, this will be the first time since grad school that I'll have actually watched the Oscars. The economy may be in the tank, but this was a GOOD year for film, of all kinds, from all parts of the globe. There were important films. There were watershed films.

Of course, right after the Heath Ledger tribute, I may just change the channel to a House re-run and read about all the awards tomorrow. I'm crass like that.

February 20, 2009

Flu & related opportunistic infections Day 8

After taking a turn for the worse yesterday, including a return to the full-on raging fever and shaking chills, I cleared up quite a lot overnight. I actually got some decent sleep and woke up feeling ...oh... let's say 50%. I am learning real quick the fine art of not over-doing it during recovery. My worry is that two more days before I return to teaching is not going to be quite enough. I can put off the one-day client, but it's a real problem to have to cancel my night class.

I did call my doctor yesterday, early, before I started feeling terrible again. Not my doctor, actually, because she's on vacation, but the replacement doctor seemed competent. We agreed I should stay on cipro and she called in another scrip for it to Duane Reade so I'd have enough supply to do a full two weeks of it.

Anyway, things aren't too bad today. I've switched from Tylenol to ibuprofen, in an attempt to control this somewhat roller-coaster fever. Aches & pains are at a minimum and my biggest problem is just exhaustion. Appetite is returning and I'm planning sushi for tonight. I'm doing therapy three times a day right now and that, too, seems to helping with my lungs. The problem with someone with CF getting the flu, of course, is that the ever-present lung infection can get out of control at the same time. I'm pretty sure that has been a contributing factor here.

So I had enough energy today to go to Time Warner store and have my digital phone line shut off and exchange my cable box for a HD cable box. I also had the energy to shower, shave, and cut 6" off my ponytail, which neatens up the bottom end quite a bit and makes it easier to manage. But after all that and a run to Costco, I was wiped out and took a nap when I got home.

I don't honestly know when I'll run next. I can't imagine expending that kind of energy is good for me right now, but I do have some upcoming races I don't want to miss.

February 18, 2009

Flu, day 6

It's amazing how clear hindsight is.

Here's where it began: Friday, February 13th. Might have been Thursday, but the dry, constant, hacking cough really got going on Friday. Of course, I noticed it right away, but a cough, on its own, could mean anything. And there's the small fact that I was back at work and my lungs were once again dealing with that environment (fairly dusty, even in the off-season; even in the offices). I did not feel like I was coming down with a cold or flu; I was just coughing more.

Saturday - I felt very tired. The events of the previous week had rolled on through without letup: prepping my photos for display at the Spaeth art show, teaching Monday night, taking a class Tuesday night, 8:30 a.m. meeting Wednesday morning, frantically getting a bunch of loose ends tied up Wednesday day, madly cramming together a windows proposal Thursday and Friday - which still wasn't done and I'd brought part of it home to work on. But I just couldn't get up the energy to concentrate on it.

Sunday - Slept longer than I'd intended. Aborted run in the afternoon. Still tired. Began to have joint aches all over and mild fever. Called doctor; she recommended Tylenol and asked if I had any cipro on hand. Sunday night - fever, but no sweating. Immediate shaking chills if I left my cocoon of overheated sheets and blankets. Come to find out, this is a classic sign of the flu.

Monday - wow. Believe it or not, the only time my entire body has been in more pain was for the couple of hours after my motorcycle accident in 2002. Pain like this, once every six years is too frequent. Was up at 6:30, showered and shaved in oder to go do a training session I'd been called in for over the weekend. By 7:30, I decided that even if Dayquil could keep me going, it wasn't wise to expose anybody else to this virus. Called in sick; went back to bed. Later, I struggled out of the house to obtain Nyquil, Dayquil, and Theraflu. Confused about which one to take. By mid-afternoon, there's stabbing pain when coughin in the upper and mid-right portions of my lungs. I assume my upper airways are infected something fierce - some kind of pneumonia. Appetite gone. Managed to eat some lunchmeat, some yogurt, and some ordered-in sushi, though not all of it. Discovered a hot bath could take away the joint pains for awhile. Slept about 20 hours.

Tuesday - more of the same, though the fever was lower. Had to call in sick to Spaeth. I felt very guilty about this, and it might have been disaster for the proposal, except that things are slow at Spaeth right now and there were two other people who could pour their time and talent onto it - and who were already up to speed on the plan. In short, the definition of things was already in place by the time I left Friday - the graphic presentation of it needed a lot of work - but that's where everyone at Spaeth shines. So. Laid off the Theraflu, Nyquil, and Dayquil, just went with the Tylenol. Tried to eat more - nothing tastes right. As a matter of fact, nothing tastes, period. Considered that maybe this is why hospital food has a bad rep: you're so sick, you can't taste anything, but you don't realize it. So you blame the entire lack of taste of these bland little lumps of proto-nutrients on the hospital, but really it's you. Nah...hospital food just sucks.

Today: Had a regular night's sleep, which is to say not too warm, but still sweating (yeah, I'm a sweater, ladies) - about 13 hours' worth. Woke up just after noon feeling much, much better. Not even close to 100%, but I actually had a small appetite and the fever is gone. Still hurts like hell to cough, but I've stopped trying to repress it. That pain seems to be lessening. I'm guessing this is where "illness" ends and "recuperation" begins. I will probably take it easy through the end of the week. Major tasks to accomplish today and tomorrow include washing all my clothes, changing my sheets, washing the mattress cover, and Lysoling every surface I can reach. Sounds like a lot of work.

February 16, 2009

Definitely sick

Woke up this morning feeling worse than when I went to bed. The Nyquil helped me catch some ZZZs, but not enough. I tossed and turned a lot. My bed felt too big. I was either too cold or too hot. No sweating, though. I was scheduled to go do some training today at another lighting designer's office, but after getting up and 6, taking 48 minutes to simply take a shower, and managed to fix breakfast by 7:30, I finally called up the LD and said I didn't think it wise that we do this today. I surely would have shown up, but the quality of education would have been less than if I'm 100%, and I don't want to expose anybody to my germs, if I'm still contagious. We've agreed to reschedule, tentatively for Thursday. My fear is that by then, they may not want the training and will just cancel. (I give that about a 20% chance of happening.)

I do have to go to work tomorrow. :( There's no way around it. We're under a peculiar deadline at Spaeth and we've just got to push through. Fortunately, I won't be in as intimate contact with the other employees as I would be in a training scenario, so I'm not too worried about getting them sick. And we don't share computers.

But for today, I will rest, drink lots of fluids, and venture out far enough to get some TheraFlue and more Nyquil.
Now, speaking of sick guys, remember me mentioning Steve G in California? The guy with severe asthma? His FEV1 is far below mine and yet he still gets out and walks marathons. Well, he has just announced that the Boston Marathon has accepted him as a disabled athlete and will be doing Boston this year! Amazing. Best of luck, Stephen.

Well, he's managed to

February 15, 2009

And the weekend just continues to suck

By all rights, I should have had a good run today. But I'm still worn down and everything hurt so much, I actually aborted my run when I got to the park - and I haven't done that in a very long time. I don't mean cutting it short and running home, I mean calling it quits and getting on the subway.

I think I may have a cold or light flu or something. My cough is frequent, but short and not all that productive; my body hurts kinda all over. I was having bad shin splints today and very tight. Perhaps I should have taken some Tylenol before the run, I don't know.

Well, better luck next time.

February 14, 2009


I'm not real enthused about Valentine's anyhow, but today was pretty bad. Kinda started last night, when the guest of honor at a party I organized failed to show. How rude. I was left looking like a fool, especially since I'd gone out on a limb with this. So fuck her. Turnout was small, but I enjoyed drinking with those who did show. Unfortunately, one of them, who could be really solid friend-material, has decided she's moving to L.A. So fuck, L.A., too.

I didn't run today. Cloudy and windy when I woke up and I just needed the rest. I'm back at my main work, which one would think is good, but the circumstances are very, very strange. Some timetables have been moved up drastically; it's high-pressure right now. But that could all end abruptly, too, as our clients have all experienced radical personnel changes in management. There's just no predicting the course of this season. Which means there's no predicting my income. So...anyway, just left really tired after the last three days and I needed a day of rest.

There's no girlfriend in the picture right now, so I really didn't want to subject myself to the lovey-dovey couples who'd be strolling around Prospect Park and along the bay today. Fuck them, too.

The one woman who's even remotely more than a friend sent some strange and insulting text messages last night and this morning. We had a bit of a fight over the phone about that. Why do I even bother?

Top it all off with the news that I may be losing my health insurance because some rules changed in 2007... I may have to look for a permanent, full-time position somewhere; something with health coverage. With my medical issues, I don't think Spaeth will take me on (and certainly not right now, when they have cut back existing staff hours and are considering letting people go). This is a bad economy to be a freelancer, but it's also a bad economy to be on the staff-position job hunt, too.

My coughing is increasing again. :(

Look, things aren't all bad. Tuna is back in season for a month or two, I'm able to exercise and will go for a run in the sunshine tomorrow. I have an unexpected training gig on Monday. I'm taking a class at FIT (where I teach) to fill in some missing skills; things I've lost jobs for in the past and which I could learn - so maybe that'll make me more employable. There are horrendously bad horror flicks on SciFi right now.

All in all, I need to make life simpler. Offload some expenses and some responsibilities. To that end, I'm turning off comments on this blog for awhile. Sorry. I'll still post regarding my runs and workouts, but I'm not inviting response right now.

Finally, happy anniversary to my parents.

February 9, 2009

Bronx Half Marathon: Part Deux

Alarm at 5 a.m. Breakfast: a cup of peach yogurt, half a nutrition bar, a banana, and a cup of coffee; the usual for race mornings. Train ride: 75 minutes. It was interesting seeing the otherwise-empty D train fill up with runners stop by stop. I would see a couple of those same runners on the ride home.

I got to the start area with about twenty minutes to spare. Plenty of time, I thought. I picked up my bib, pinned it on, chatted with Beast for a few minutes (who revealed his plan to run about 35 miles that day), changed clothes, and dropped off my bag. I hadn't counted on the portapotty lines being so insufferably long, though, and when I was still several people from the front of my line, I heard the horn go off. Well, that's not a tragedy - I've begun races late before.

What that translates to, though, is a "running start". In most races, we back of the packers have the perfect first mile - slow. Because it's so crowded. But this time, those of us at the portajohns had about a quarter mile to traverse before the start and were met with no crowds by the time we got there. (I started about six minutes late, I think). I was able to start the race at full speed, and because there was that sort of "I'm late" and "I need to catch up" feeling (both of which are FALSE), I made a very rookie mistake.

In every single book on running that's ever been written and ever will be written (and let us not say I am partial to hyperbole), it is printed on the very first page in fiddy-fi-point bold, italicized, gold-leafed lettering: the #1 golden rule of running: THOU SHALT NOT GO OUT TOO FAST!*
*If thou goeth out too fast, thou shalt be mistaken for a n00b. Dumbass.

I didn't not hit the starting line at "full speed" (for me). I didn't not tell myself a half-mile in that I had better slow down or there would surely be a reckoning awaiting me, of the type Admiral Adama laid down upon the traitorous leaders of the mutiny, Gaeta and Zareck. I didn't not revel in how "easy" those first couple of miles were.

Look at the graph. See how well I was running. The mile splits are off - I know I didn't run 14 miles. But the splits per-mile are close enough. The graph tells the tale. I ran well through the sixth mile. The first two walk breaks were for drinking fluid and were intentional - unrelated to lungs or legs. You can then see three moments where I stopped altogether - coughing hard at the side of the road. Green stuff is back.

Then things get hairy. I had a stitch in my left thigh that felt like someone had plunged a knife in and cut me about six inches up the leg. More walks breaks. An extended stop at the side of the road after mile 7 to try to stretch. Still managing to string most of a mile together, but the walk breaks were getting longer. The thigh stopped hurting about mile 8.5, but my left calf and right hamstring were -->this<-- close to cramping for the rest of the run. I was in pain. A lot of pain.

There are two kinds of hills. 1) Terrain hills - those which, even when covered over with asphalt, occur naturally. They are long, usually mild slopes that work into steepness gradually and work out of steepness gradually. Then there are 2) man-made hills - ramps and underpasses. Short, but brutally steep. Abrupt in change in slope. Concrete, always. This is what did me in in Nashville a couple years ago. And right now I was feeling a lot like I did back then. The Bronx is littered with man-made hills.

I was also having the gastro problems. I'd mixed my Sustained Energy too rich - I could tell from the first sip I took. It sat in my stomach, no moving out on its own. I would take water off the tables and sip some of that, too, in an effort to balance the osmolarity of the mix in my stomach and encourage it to move. I'm not sure I ever really emptied my stomach. By the end of the race, I felt somewhat bloated, completely drained, and - despite taking a couple of salt pills - short on electrolytes. This alone explains 95% of the problems I was having. The last couple miles, I had to walk every hill and a lot of the flat sections. I couldn't tell where the finish line was and I was just cajoling myself into running as far as the next landmark, the next block, the next vehicle. The last mile was misery. I finally turned a corner and realized I had perhaps 400 meters to the finish. I could see it and hear it and 400 meters has never felt so far away. I even finished the marathon in better shape than this! I finished trotting, but not strong. I must have looked like...well, just exactly like someone who doesn't want to lay down and die doesn't look.

I was not the only one having a rough time. I've already mentioned that Crista couldn't spare the energy for words - yet she finished only eight minutes behind me! I ended up playing tag with several people. One was a woman who carried a purse the whole way. As we walked toward baggage, I asked her about that. She said she doesn't trust baggage check and has carried her little red purse in every race, including the marathon. I'll have to look for her in the future.

I also chatted with one particular guy I'd made a point of not letting get too far ahead of me. Every time he passed me (when I was walking), I'd force myself back to a trot, catch him, pass him. It wasn't a game - it was survival of the fittest. If you and I are out in the woods and a bear starts chasing us, I don't have to run faster than the bear; I only have to run faster than you. Same principle applied here. Well, I chatted with him while getting the post-run bagel (my first clue I must have run a decent race, cuz they still had some!) and mentioned he was "that guy" for me this race. How every time he passed me, I felt I had to turn it on again. "Really?" he asked, "I was thinking the same about you!" We would have LOLed, but we were too tired to do more than chuckle quietly.

When the photos come out, I suspect the pics will be gruesome. Maybe I'll show you them. I know you jackals just come here for the road-kill pics. Sick bastards.

A word about the course: balls. As in: this course can suck my. This "3 out-and-backs" bullshiat doesn't not blow. Comic Book Guy: Worst. Course. Evar. Even Manhattan Half's 2 loops of central park isn't so unimaginative and boring. At least that one's got some got dam trees! From what I could tell, the Bronx has no trees. Anything thin and vertical is a signpole and anything above ground that provides shade is an overpass. Now that I think about, this is, so far, my most unfavorite route of all the half marathons - I'll just go ahead and assume that the Queens Half enjoys a route that, while not award-winning, doesn't stink like a 3-days-gone dead hooker.

Update on Beast: he did not, in fact, finish. A friend of his took sick mid-race and he did the noble thing and accompanied her to the hospital. Good on you, man. You can read his own report here.

I'm sure you want to know how I did. Well, in terms of the history of my 17 half-marathons, this one was actually on the leading edge of average, which is to say, I did a 2:29:23! I shaved 17 minutes off my last half-marathon time! This was my 7th fastest race, and I'd have to shave 7 more minutes to beat my sixth fastest. Seven of my races have all finished within a 9-minute window - I feel confident calling that window my average. The last time I ran faster was the St Louis Half and the next even-faster time was the Houston Half.

So it was a good race in that one respect - that my time improved tremendously. But I am not happy about the second half of the race. I am rankled by my performance and irritated to no end by the course. I consider this a personal challenge from all of the Bronx to me: I must do this one better. I will come back to this one with some very focused training next year and do it RIGHT.

My last topic for this post is about focus. I wanted to focus on running this race in memory of Nic Waitt, an online friend who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis. I found myself losing that focus in the second half of the race and wonder, if I could have stayed focused, could I have performed better? I was also overwhelmed with distress and concern for another friend of mine, but that topic...well, some things are too personal even for this blog. Sorry.

February 8, 2009

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck: Bronx Half-Marathon 2009 part 1

God, that sucked. We begin at the end. I crossed the finish line and was thinking I might die, but that the run wasn't so bad. The first six miles were pretty good. But as time wore on and I hobbled around gathering my bag, stretching, changing clothes, riding the rails, I found my opinion of this run dipping lower and lower. On future race entry forms, I may have to check the box for "handicapped", and only because there's no check box for "crippled by my own stupidity."

Actually, I will leave the judgment of whether this was a good run or not up to you; and you can decide it after you've read this post and the next one. For now, I'll just post some quick impressions; Part II will have the nitty-gritty play-by-play, wherein the runners among my readers will glean the most information. The non-runners may be satisfied with this post, I don't know.

Weather: this will be the talk of the blogosphere today and tomorrow, because it was bizarre. As promised, the weather was warmer. It was also remarkably humid, with fog in the air as I headed to the subway this morning in the dark. The subway platforms and most pavement were all wet from condensation and runoff from melting ice. During the run, I experienced broiling sun alternating with chilly, breeze, cloudy conditions. The blustery wind played hell with any pace I hoped to hold. I ended the run in the rain. Walking back to the subway, I was walking in the sun AND the rain.

I saw almost all of my running friends today. Lou, Crista, and Billy - the triumvirate of senior running - were all there. Lou, as usual beat my pants off; how a man twice my age manages to beat me every time, I have no idea. I saw Crista several times along the course (which had three out-and-backs) and though I said hi and offered words of encouragement, she was having a rough time and had no words to spare. She was literally dripping sweat. Billy seemed in better shape; I passed her at one point, but it's quite possible she re-gained the lead in the second half of the race, I don't know. These three older runners are really amazing. I swear that if one of them dies, he or she will show up to a race the week AFTER we bury him or her. That's just how tough they are.

I also saw Beast, who was planning on - get this - running the race and then running home. Twenty miles home. He's in training for a 100-mile race, you see. That's the difference between us: I'm stupid, and he's crazy. Actually, I saw someone in the exact same shirt as his riding past in one of the little 3-wheeled police cars well before the end of the race. I hope it wasn't Beast.

And I also saw a new running friend: the nurse practitioner at Columbia, Victoria. It's neat the she runs all these races, too, but she's tall and fast and always well ahead of me, so I rarely see her. Well, at one point, I was walking and coughing and I heard my name shouted from the other side of the road - where the faster runners were on the return of third out-and-back - and it was Victoria. Awesome. I have to wonder, though, if it was the cough that attracted her attention in the first place.

Two more things, then I'm going to go shower and take a nap. I've been typing this as I wait for the painkillers to kick in. I'd like to have had some morphine, but all I have is Aleve (and the Percoset has long ago expired), so three of those will have to do.

Thing One: My prep for the race was pretty good. I rode the D train yesterday all the way to Bedford Park Blvd to see how long it takes. About 75 minutes, as it turns out. So I built that into my morning schedule and was up at 5 a.m. and out the door at 6 a.m. And I didn't forget my salt pills!

Thing Two: My pre-race dinner the night before could have been better. A footlong steak-and-cheese from Subway and two pints of stout at Barcade are probably not the best way to carbo-load, though I had a great time. (I also met two more runners at Barcade!) Though I must take this moment to recommend the Captain Lawrence Espresso Stout. The Rogue Shakespeare Stout I followed it with is alright, but the CL was the balls.

OK. That should hold you for now. Race details later on in Part II after my nap.

February 6, 2009

And now for something completely different...

These are a few of my favorite things. Raindrops on windows and fresh-shaven faces, fake versions of Vegas and art in bad places. Six grey-clad dancers tied up with strings; these are a few of my favorite things.
It's been a while since we've had rain. We've had snow and ice, but not rain. It's been bitter cold the last couple of days, getting down into the teens, and I find I've pretty much acclimated to running in the 20s. But tomorrow will be in the 40s and Sunday - the Bronx Half - will hit the mid-50s! If the morning times are even in the mid-40s, I'm going to wear shorts to the race.
I shaved today for no good reason at all. I hate shaving, but I love the result, especially if I've waited three or four days. The best results come with a razor that's been used between 3 and 12 twelve times - no more, no less. I've been using products from The Art of Shaving and the results almost make shaving worth it.
Let's talk about primetime in the daytime. TNT is for housewives, basement dwellers, and the unemployed. Whoops, that last category is sounding suspiciously like me. I don't watch much daytime TV - I try to catch NY1 in the mornings, but lately, I've been glued to Las Vegas, the show about the fictitious Montecito Hotel in Sin City. It has some great characters and has employed a cast of actors one might have thought were past their prime, but have impressed me nonetheless, including James Caan and Tom Selleck. The cast also features a bunch of good-looking upo-and-comings who are worth keeping an eye on. Anyway, if this were on at night, I'd be a lot happier.
Dance is not the end-all and be-all of civilization, but it is one of the great fine arts; at leat it is when in the right hands. To be frank, there's a lot of bad dance out there. And the line between what's good and what's bad and what's merely so-so is very fine. It's also, traditionally, in the eye of the beholder.

I have a lot of experience with dance. I've seen the best and worst NY has to offer and I've lit a lot of what's in-between. Tonight, I went to see Program G of the Cool New York Dance Festival at White Wave in DUMBO. Eight pieces of considerably variable quality. It's all modern, of course.

The first was Roof Running A Through C by Jessica Bonenfant and Sara Greenfield. I will profess I am partial to this duo, as I've lit a few of Jessica's evening-length works. Her pieces are always interesting, even if one doesn't understand them at first. Usually, you kind of "get it" by the end of the evening - even the more abstract stuff. She loves to combine props, costumes, images, and video with her movement. (More on that later). I'd like to see the whole piece that Roof Running is an excerpt of.

Mediterraneo by Amos Pinhael was better than I expected. I am not a fan of solo pieces. I like very few of them; and the number drops when the piece is performed by the choreographer. This is dangerous territory, as the piece can easily slip into self-indulgent crap. To be sure, there are a lot of solos I have loved, but I can count on one hand the number of solos danced by the choreographer that I liked. Mediterraneo might be one of the good ones. It is just a man and a conch shell, but his movement is precise and inventive. The conch is a fairly sensuous item. And though, Amos' movement was in no way sexual, the resultant work is positively lewd at times. I enjoyed it very much.

Me vs. You, by Lynsey Peisinger, was a very enjoyable boxing/wrestling spoof. Comedic, light-hearted, and very physical. Very good.

I'll Take The Blame, by Jonathan Ciccarelli, was unfortunately one of those self-indulgent pieces of crap I'm so disenchanted with. I didn't see what the piece was about, what it was driving at, what it was trying to inspire. In fact, it was so uninspiring, I'm having a hard time remembering it at all. Yawn.

Collection of Shorts, by Andrea Gise, utilized four dancers, three sections, and an outstanding musical duo of guitarist and vocalist. (Matthew Lucas and Alexis Bronkovic) I'd like to see those two do a gig at a low-lit little bar somewhere. I'd come out to see just them! I am a huge fan of live music in dance theatre. It allows a level of interplay and spontaneity that canned music just can't deliver. The addition of the dancers to their music was very nice - lyrical and expressive, as you would hope modern dance to be; each section with its own tone and tenor, but holding with the other two sections as part of a whole. All in all, a well-crafted dance piece, of which Ms. Gise can be proud.

Holy Bones, by Mary-Clare McKenna. Holy shit. I can't believe I watched the whole thing. It was insufferable. It might have been meant to be a meditation in movement, but it just ... lacked meaning. You know your piece is in trouble when your props have no discernable meaning, your costume looks like hell, the music is more interesting than your movement, and the whole piece looked better under the dim lighting cues than the bright ones. Of the eight pieces tonight, this is the only one I think was a mistake to include in the festival.

Wake up...excerpt from The Goblin Boy, by Rob Davidson. Apparently, self-indulgent can apply to duets as well. This might have been good as the full piece, which I understand is the choregraphed version of a fairy tale Rob himself wrote (and published?), but as an excerpt it was just bad. The costumes really yanked me out of what could have been a beautiful piece of choreography; even a beautiful evocation of love-across-the-tracks, but the costumes were laughably high-schoolish in design and execution. More than once, I feared for the safety of the female dancer, Brittany Waldron, who played a leaf - or maybe it was a fairy. As for the music - well, if you're going to go to the trouble of writing a story, illustrating it, publishing it, turning it into an evening-length piece of dance theatre, and paying a costume designer to... well, the least you could do is commission some original music. Sorry, Rob - back to the drawing board.

The evening was capped off by Caught in a Shoelace and used six dancers. I rather liked this piece; it seemed to make a commentary on social interaction. Unfortunately, Sasha Soreff's costumes don't do anything for her piece - I found the dancer in jeans quite distracting. But overall the piece was interesting to watch, even if the ending is predictable. This is one piece that used its props to GREAT effect, the props being long loops of shoelace that bind and tangle the dancers together.

And we're back to Bonenfant's Rooftop Running. The point I want to make here is that Jessica is a master of ineraction between the body and the object - between movement and prop. Unlike other choreographers, her costumes aren't really costumes - in fact, they sometimes fail spectacularly at that end - but are actually props. The are USED and ABUSED in the course of a piece - coming off, being put back on, being swapped between dancers, used as scenery, etc. Likewise, she treats actual props as costumes oftentimes. Her use of images and video are also prop-oriented - they are never merely an illustration, but an intrinsic part of the choreography. I have even seen her use other dancers as props and, in at least one case in a previous piece, has used the lighting as a prop. (As a rule, Jessica's dances could as easily be done under daylight as theatrical lights. When she has a lighting note, I LISTEN, because it's IMPORTANT.) So to see her excerpt tonight, stripped down at it's most bare, was a mini-study in her vocabularly of props. The piece starts with Jessica and Sara in their underwear on stage. They then pull out costumes and make a whole section out of the struggle of dressing. Then there's an entire rooftop running section, then they undress and the piece ends. That's a very inadequate description of what goes on in her piece. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

February 5, 2009

Quick, hard two miler

Not the quickest or hardest, actually; but pretty good compared to my normal hill workout - a little less walking this time, and most of that was prompted by skirting construction or sheets of ice.

My routes are very clogged right now. Had to run in the street most of the way.

The hill route (i.e. same as Prospect Park 3.4 mile run, but without the flat stuff after the hills) consists of four uphills: 1) Very mild grade along 30th or 29th street between 4th and 5th aves. This comes early enough in the run that it is sometimes more difficult than the last of the hills. It is 200 meters long. 2) 200 meter medium grade along 24th street between 5th and 6th. I made it up this one today. 3) 200-meter steep grade along 23rd street between 6th and 7th. Had to walk the upper third of this one today. Then there's a mild downhill to 20th street. 4) 200 meter medium-steep uphill along 20th street between 7th and 8th avenues. This is the top of the Slope. I charged this one today, which I haven't done in a long time. Perhaps this means improvement.

Lungs: went from OK to closed up in the space of the first 400 meteres. Gawd. The cold hit and my small airways just shrank right up. Wheezed for most of the run. Bled from my nose, too. Wish I had brought my phone - I would have taken a picture of the minimalist Pollack I made on the salt-whitened pavement: one small green blob of phlegm surrounded by five bright red drops of blood. Managed to get more blood on my running clothes. They're going in the wash. Thankfully, I can wear shorts and much lighter-weight top for Sunday's half.

Running...is not pretty.

What IS pretty is my latest graphic work - advertising for a motorcycle rally:

Yeah, it's a take-off on Shepard Fairey's Obama artwork - but that's part of the strategy: being such a familiar set of colors should result in closer second looks.

Finally, I've moved my blog subscriptions from Bloglines to the Blogger dashboard - hopefully this means I'll be able to keep up with my favorite blogs a little easier. I like that you can subscribe publicly or anonymously. There's some blogs I follow that I don't want the writer to know I'm reading regularly.

Wait. That sounds creepy. That's not what I mean...

February 3, 2009

little bit sore

Well, my fantastic four miles of Sunday's run has taken its toll. My legs have felt sore and weak for two days now. Didn't run today; probably won't run tomorrow, either. The sidewalks and streets are full of slush and ice again.

But get this: the weather for Sunday's half-marathon is projected to be sunny and 54 degrees. 54 degrees! Upper 40s is shorts weather. I hope I don't pass out from the heat.

February 1, 2009

Pretty solid 9-miler

The Flat Earth Society believes that at the extremities of Mother Disk is a vast, encircling girdle of sheer, unscalable ice walls, holding in the oceans and atmosphere. Today, I believe I found the Great Ice Ridge. It seems to be in Brooklyn, right next to the Millenium Skate Park. It is frozen solid, clear to the bottom - a good four inches thick in some places - and was today topped by a thin friction-negating layer of meltwater. Traversing this monstrosity safely required great amounts of time. I have circled this obstacle in blue on the graph.

Kindly note the strange qualities of the graph. Quite spiky in the first half, much less so in the second half. This is the sign of a workout at odds with itself. The main reason: wind. The second I turned off my street and onto 3rd avenue to head towards the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, I was hit with a headwind of good proportion. This headwind never let up. As you can see, I gave the first mile the ol' college try, but thereafter was reduced to walking every so often, as the wind turned running flats into something akin to running uphill. I was also experiencing the requisite tightness of the three-mile-warmup period and some shin splints. AND I was bleeding. My nose was bleeding and wouldn't stop - I had no choice but to use my gloves to wipe it away, but some got on my pants. My lungs were bleeding too - just spotting in what little mucous I could bring up, but it was definitely from the lungs.

Add to that the fact that my Prednisone-prompted pulse of pulmonary power is now evaporating (now that I'm off it). So I was quite distressed. The first four and a half miles of my run was difficult and not paying any dividends. I was getting nowhere fast, so to speak.

Well, I hoped that when I turned around at the bridge, the wind would turn from foe to friend, that I would have run through the shin splints and that my legs and lungs would have started cooperating. While my lungs never got great (the small airways are closing up again and it is difficult to get a deep breath again), but my legs were warmed up and pain-free, the bleeding had stopped, and the wind was indeed at my back for the second half of the run. My only real problem was that even without a hat and minimal winter clothing, I was actually overheating. (We got into the 40s today!)

So my run home was quite a quality workout - smooth and continuous with the exception of very short walk breaks so I could drink easily, re-traversing the Great Ice Wall, and a single pause for traffic. The entire last two miles were one long unbroken segment.

I tell you, if I can perform like this next Sunday - and stretch out the good half another four miles - then I'm going to have a GREAT race at the Bronx Half.

While I ran today, I listened to the episode of Phedippidations wherein Steve runs the 111th Boston Marathon in a nor'easter. Quite the podcast! It was neat being able to hear his struggles and triumph over adversity while I was struggling to continue smoothly in my second half and not drop to a walk.

Once home, I was starving. I had my Recoverite, a nutrition bar, a shower, dug out some more food, was disappointed to realize I'd forgotten to buy more mayo (I'm on a tuna-melt kick these days), wolfed down half a loaf of bread, etc etc. I pretty much haven't stopped eating since I got home. Sushi is tonight's dinner, and I'm topping it off with a very rare at-home beer for having done such a fine job out on the road today.