Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Running

Its been really cold the past couple of days, lows in the single digits, and a little windy too. I didn’t really make any New Years resolutions this year, but I did kind of recommit myself to running. One of the things I said I would do is run outside on every running day, as long as it wasn’t dangerous to do so.

Weather extremes can be dangerous for runners. In Hong Kong I worried sometimes about strong thunderstorms. I ran on paths that were on the sides of mountains, usually, and the weather could change dramatically if I decided to go up and run on the path around Victoria Peak. On a nice day there were glorious views of the entire city, but often the peak was enshrouded in fog, and sometimes, quick rainstorms could pop up here or there.

I don’t really mind running in the rain. Its kind of fun and I’ve learned to wear a hat with a brim to keep the rain out of my eyes. But thunder and lightning are no joke, and I’ve been caught in a thunderstorm more than once. So far I’ve survived, but if it’s thundering before I leave the house, I will put off my run.

Running in the heat can be very dangerous. Any time the temperatures are over around 65F, you just have to slow down; otherwise you risk getting heat exhaustion. I’ve experienced heat exhaustion when running in Texas, and I’ve learned my lesson. It’s not worth the risk, and frankly it’s counterproductive, since the recovery period negates any possible benefits I might have received from a run. But the solution to running in the heat is simple, get up early, run at the coolest time of the day, and slow down as it gets hotter.

Winter running is great, up to a point. Temperatures below 60F are perfect for running. I only start to feel uncomfortable when the temperatures get close to 40F, and then it’s just that my hands get cold. I have nice running gloves that work great down to about 25F. Below 20F I resort to ski mittens, bulky and a bit awkward but better than having my fingers freeze!

I even don’t have much trouble with ice or snow. I have these great things I put on my running shoes called Yak Traks. They are pretty comfortable to run in. They have steel coils and little spikes on the bottoms, and I find that I can run in just about anything without worrying about falling.

It’s when the temperatures drop into the teens that running outside in the winter starts to get problematic. From 19F down to 10F I wear silk long underwear under my running clothes. If it drops into the single digits I use Smart wool long underwear instead. This keeps my core warm, especially once I warm up. I wear a beanie, and a wool cap on top of the beanie, and that keeps my head warm. I recently received a Smart wool neck warmer as a gift, and that keeps the cold air off of my neck. Plus, it can be pulled up over my mouth and nose, keeping most of my face warm as well.

I look like I'm getting ready to rob a bank, don't I?!

So, I go out the door, start my watch, walk for a couple of minutes and then start my run. At first it’s cold, but I soon warm up. I try to run relaxed and smoothly and not too fast at first, until I’m sure my muscles are warm. Eventually I actually get hot and start to sweat. Here is where I have a problem with winter running. The running books and articles say to start removing layers when you get hot, so that you don’t overheat. I can see the benefit in this, but so far I haven’t mastered it logistically. I can remove my outer layer, but then what do I do with it? The only thing to do is tie it around my waist, I guess. Plus my GPS watch is bulky, so in order to get my outer layer off I have to remove my watch. It’s a hassle, and interrupts my running.

For my shorter runs I just live with getting sweaty. I’m not out there long enough to worry about it. Because the problem with getting sweaty when it’s really cold outside is that then you start to get chilled. And if you start to get chilled you risk getting hypothermia.

So far I’ve been able to tough it out. I don’t go on really long runs in the winter. The longest runs this time of year tend to be around 7 or 8 miles, which takes me under two hours. I’m not going to die in that amount of time! But as part of my quest to keep running marathons throughout my 60’s, I’m am eventually going to want to try to train for a spring marathon. Inevitably that is going to mean long training runs in the winter. Before I get to that point I know I’m going to have to modify how I handle my winter running outfits. It will probably mean carrying a small backpack so that I can remove my outer layer as needed and carry it comfortably.

I’m not ready to tackle a spring marathon just yet. Philadelphia, New York and Chicago are all in the fall, and I intend to get them all under my belt first. But then there is Grandma’s in Duluth, Big Sur in California, and yes Boston, for a charity, since as a slow, slow runner there is no way I can ever qualify for that race. I’ve got plenty of time to think about training for a spring marathon, plenty of time!

Friday, January 18, 2013


This isn’t the most pleasant topic for a blog post, but I thought what the heck. Maybe if I describe my experience somebody that is reading this and putting it off will decide to go ahead and get it scheduled. Besides, now that its over, writing about it will help me process the experience.

I had a colonoscopy when I turned 50 (yes that was ten years ago!). We were still living in Missouri. Daniel and Nicole were 16 and juniors in high school, and Cody was also living with us and would have been in 7th grade. I don’t remember a whole bunch about the experience, but I do remember a little. I know that I didn’t have to drink the gallon of Golightly that some people do, that even back then I did the two bottles of Gatorade and Miralax concoction. I don’t remember it being at all difficult to drink back then, and I definitely remember it working quickly, and very well. I remember sitting in the rec room, very close to the bathroom, most of the evening, but by the time I went to bed everything was running clear. It wasn’t painful and I didn’t feel nauseous at all.

I don’t remember anything about the actual procedure, except climbing onto the table and looking at the monitor. I know we were talking and joking, and then I was in the recovery room. That’s probably the biggest difference between back then and now. Back then the anesthesia really knocked you out. I woke up while I was standing there putting on my clothes and talking to Lee. I was still groggy when I got into the car, and only very slowly started to feel normal again.

This time I wasn’t as worried about the prep as the first time, but ironically I had a harder time with it.  The day before I started on a liquid diet, jello and beef broth for the most part, plus a lot of tea. That part was easy. I didn’t even get that hungry. At 5 pm I took 4 Ducolax tablets, and an hour later started drinking the prep, 8 ounces every 20 minutes. I found the 64 ounces of Gatorade and Miralax pretty nasty, but I could drink most of it without any nausea. It took a couple of hours for the prep to start to work, but once it started working it just kept going and going (or I did) all night long. It turned watery very quickly, but never ran completely clear. I’m still puzzled by this and wonder why my system acted so differently this time. Was it age, my fitness level, or what? Apparently I was clear enough for the doctors because nobody complained about their ability to view my colon.

Another big difference this time is the ubiquitness of the Internet. Every time something about the process made me nervous, I would get online and Google it. I usually ended up reading reassuring information from doctors and horror stories from other patients. The combination inevitably calmed me down because whatever symptoms I was having were never as bad as what somebody else had experienced!

After a long night of interrupted sleep it was finally time to get up and head to the Salem Surgical Center. I wasn’t nervous but I was ready for this all to be over. We went in, signed in, registered, and sat down to wait. And wait. And WAIT! After 40 minutes I went up to the window and asked them what was going on. “Oh Dr. Cohen just got here, the nurse will call you in a few minutes”. Pooh.

Then my name was called. I followed the nurse into the back and they led me to a room with a recliner. They gave me a bag to put all of my clothes in and one of those attractive hospital gowns that fit me like a tent. They reminded me to take off my rings and gave me a baggie to put them in, which I took back out to Lee in the waiting room. I didn’t want to be responsible for them when I was groggy!

They put in the IV, but so far it only had a saline solution in it. They gave me a couple of magazines, and a blanket because it was a little chilly. At one point the anesthesiologist came in and talked to me for a bit. This was nice; except he had a very strong Spanish accent and I had to keep asking him to repeat himself. It seemed that he was telling me stuff that was important enough that I ought to understand it! Other than that I sat there in the recliner…and waited, and waited, and WAITED! I could watch the nurses and doctors out in the main area going back and forth. I had to wait so long that I had to get up and go to the bathroom, hauling my IV bag with me. I finally asked a nurse, again, what was going on? “Oh since Dr. Cohen was late we’re just catching up now. You’re next!" Lucky me. You know, I don’t really mind having to wait, but it would have been nice if someone had told me why the doctor was late, and had checked in and let me know how things were going. If I had known it was going to take so long I could have at least told Lee he could go home for awhile.

FINALLY I was ushered into the examination room. I met Dr. Cohen, a nice man, who introduced himself and shook hands with me. One thing that was interesting was that at each stage of this process they asked me my name, my birthdate, why I was there and if I understood what they were going to do. It was repetitive, but I know that it is part of one of those hospital checklists that help them reduce their error rate, so I appreciated it!

They had me lay down on the metal exam table, and then the table rose higher so that I was at a good level for the doctor to do his thing. They even asked me if the pillow was comfortable, and folded it double so that my head was supported properly. Dr. Cohen told me I was kind of “small” and asked me to scoot closer to him. That endeared me to him; I love being considered small! I could see the monitor, but nothing was happening there. The anesthesiologist hovered over me and murmured that they were going to start putting the drugs into my IV. As soon as they did I felt a sharp pain in my hand. “OW!” I exclaimed. The anesthesiologist told me to move my hand around and told me the pain would go away soon. “Its still hurting,” I kept repeating. “At least you all know that I’m still awake,” I joked, and the next thing I knew the nurse was telling me that it was over.

The doctor told me right away that my colon was great, no polyps, nothing suspicious. I was good to go for another 10 years. And best of all, this type of anesthesia wears off almost immediately. Although I was a little woozy on my feet, I could get up within minutes, get dressed, and go out and be with Lee.

Before I knew it I was back home, curled up on the couch with the dogs, eating chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I was very glad that it was over. The rest of the day I was a little tired, but that was it. By Wednesday morning I felt ready to exercise and on Thursday I went for a run.

It did take until today (Friday) to have things start “working” again down there. I had a couple of days of farting, but they pump your colon full of air so they can see things better, so that’s to be expected.

I can’t say the prep is pleasant, but it’s not really horrible. I know this experience is different for everyone, but I’m a big wimp, and really it wasn’t that bad.

I wonder if I will do it again when I’m seventy though. As we get older our bodies really don’t like being messed with that much. And my colon seems to be pretty happy. I think I’ll just continue to have All Bran for breakfast occasionally and wait and see.

However, I definitely have no desire to eat Jello again any time soon!

Monday, January 14, 2013

New York January 2013

We decided some time back that we wanted to do another week in an apartment in New York City. We like pretending that we live there for a short amount of time, and its nice to be able to take the dogs with us. Last time we rented an apartment in the Village. This time we decided to move a bit north and try Chelsea. Next time we’ll try the Upper West Side, maybe!

On Friday January 4th we drove to New York, leaving New Hampshire around 10 AM and arriving in the city before 3 PM. The trip went very smoothly, with no traffic issues for a change. The apartment in Chelsea turned out to be wonderful. On the first floor (only one flight of stairs), its a roomy studio, with a nice bathroom and a small efficiency kitchen. Once we are settled we take the dogs out for a short walk. We were worried that Cosmo would be freaked out his first time in the city, but no. Cosmo proves to be faithful to his breed. Westies are game, and Cosmo is game for the city. He is happy, interested, and downright gleeful. He plays nicely with the dogs in a nearby dog park. Harper on the other hand is seeing or smelling lots of scary ghosts. She is upset and scared, and doesn't want to poop either. This is a mystery, since she’s the dog that has experienced the city several times now.

Friday night we meet Sarah's high school friend Liz at Eataly, a nifty market / restaurant a few blocks away. I have wine and gnocchi, and we catch up on each others lives. I love Liz! 

Harper is okay loose in the apartment, but Cosmo can't be trusted yet so he goes in the crate when we are gone. When we return we can hear him crying loudly. Uh oh, that's not good. We don't want to keep the neighbors awake! Fortunately we have no plans to stay out past 10 most nights. He sounds pitiful, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s not the crate, it’s that he is sad to be left behind in a strange place. He seems to do a bit better if he can see Harper, so we experiment with putting the crate on the bed. This seems to help a little. A Kong filled with peanut butter and kibble helps even more, but too much peanut butter upsets Harper’s sensitive stomach, and we can’t just give a Kong to Cosmo, so this solution can only be used sparingly.

My goal this trip to New York is to have fun, relax, and to not eat like a pig. We can eat lots of good food; I just need to stop eating when I'm full. This is easier said than done since I really love to eat. I recognize when I'm getting full but I also have a habit of eating fast so sometimes the fullness signal doesn't come in fast enough. And if what we're eating is especially yummy I hate to stop even if I'm stuffed. But I'm trying to learn to eat slower, and pay attention to the signals my body sends.

Saturday morning we eat a light breakfast in the apartment. Lee takes the dogs to a self-service dog wash that's several miles away. They look lovely when he returns and they're pretty tired too.

Then we walk down to Chelsea Market for lunch. This is a converted warehouse that is now filled with little shops, groceries and restaurants. We walk through the entire thing and decide on Thai. I like the thin beef noodles I have, but it's not very flavorful, and not spicy at all.

Then we hang out in the apartment for a while, walk up to Whole Foods to get salad for dinner and then it's off to see Once. I loved the movie, and the music. It's such a nice story, involving two people that admit their attraction to each other but stay faithful to their partners. I loved the set for the musical, a Dublin bar with mirrors, and minimal prop changes to change the location of the action. And there was a great preshow, with musicians standing around on stage, playing Dublin music as if it was a real bar. They even let audience members come on stage a buy a drink! It's a romantic, uplifting show, sad, funny, and very musical. It deserves all the Tony’s that it won this year. And it was pretty cool to see it soon enough that plenty of the original cast was still taking part, not to mention that its been less than a year since we visited Dublin in person.

On Sunday for my morning run I run along High line and the Hudson, around 4.5 miles. It’s in the 30s, cold but not bad. We have brunch at a neighborhood restaurant and then take the dogs to the local dog park. I put my new polarizing filter and lens hood on my camera, and wander about taking pictures. I love what the polarizing filter does but I actually need some advice on using a lens hood. It’s supposed to help avoid glare and sunspots when taking pictures on a sunny day, but I still run into problems.

That evening we meet Eugenie for cocktails at Dbar, on 19th St in Chelsea. I googled best cocktails in Chelsea to find this place. We walk in. it’s very small and stylish, all black and chrome. We tell the bartender we are meeting a friend. He asks,  “Is she a cute little old lady in a red coat?” Oh my...if Euge is now an old lady what the hell am I? She's still cute though! That's great.

Dbar turns out to be a black gay bar; they didn't mention that on Yelp. Euge and I both get Manhattans, and mine totally knocks me on my ass. I think they needed to be stirred. We have a lovely drunken conversation about God knows what. Just like old times a little bit anyway.

Then Lee and I hop on the subway, uptown to 72nd street, to a restaurant named Sushi Yasuka. We have sautéed mushrooms, black cod, the 6-piece omakase and lots of green tea. Delish, reasonable, and wider aisles so no danger of being doused with hot tea

On Monday our plans are to meet Chris and Adrian in Queens and try the dim sum there. I anxiously plan out how to get to Queens on the LIRR. This is the first time we venture out of Manhattan on one of our city trips. It turns out to be pretty easy. We get off at the Flushing Main Street Station and are suddenly immersed in Chinatown! Fish balls, scallion pancakes, dumplings are being sold right there on the street. We find the dim sum restaurant, Jade Asian Something. It’s a huge room of course, full of Chinese, and us. But the dim sum is just okay, not enough of the dumplings that we like. I think maybe all the Chinese in the room have been away from Asia too long! But such a fun area for walking around, and the egg tarts from a nearby bakery are pretty good.

Then it’s back to Manhattan. Chris and Adrian are staying right by Pen Station in the New Yorker hotel so we help them check in. This is a nice Art Deco Style hotel, and they got a great deal on Groupon too. Then we all walk over to our apartment to hang with the dogs, relax, eat snacks and drink tea. Then it’s off to dinner at a restaurant in the east village called Calliope. It was recently reviewed in the New Yorker. They gave it a great review and they were right! It was fabulous! We get appetizers, lamb neck, halibut, glasses of wine, coffee, and an apple tart. Rats, my moderation flew out the window, but my, it was good.

On Tuesday we go on another tour at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. This one is about the various shops that were in the building at different times, including a German beer hall, a kosher butcher, and an auction house. We walk over to Balthazar’s for lunch. It’s a classic French bistro with delicious food. We say goodbye to Chris and Adrian, go rescue the dogs and spend the rest of the afternoon in the dog park in the sun.

We have dinner at the Red Cat, right around the corner from our apartment with Steffen, my friend Bob’s boyfriend. Steffen is doing as well as can be expected. He is being strong, and seems determined to survive this blow, for himself and for Teddy, their cute dog. There are no results on Bob’s autopsy yet but Steffen did find a copy of his will while going through some papers. He says he is thinking of learning to drive! Good for him. He is a sweetie....maybe he’ll drive up and come and visit us someday.

We can tell by Wednesday that we are starting to feel ready to go home. We are lazy in the morning, but decide to take the subway uptown and visit the Met in the afternoon. It’s a long walk across Central Park to the museum from the 81st Street stop. We visit the Matisse and Photo exhibits. The Matisse exhibit shows various painting pairs and triplets that he produced over his lifetime. He would paint the same scene using various techniques and colors, changing all kinds of little things from one picture to the next. It was fun to decide which one I liked the best. The photo exhibit was about photo manipulation before the age of Photoshop. All I could think was how much more difficult it was to alter an image back then. I like to take pictures and mess with them a little, but I don’t think I would be nearly as interested in it if it was still as complicated as it used to be.

We go back to the apartment, rest a bit, take the dogs to the dog park. Book of Mormon is the finale for our trip. It was so hard to get tickets for this show. We have seats in the orchestra, but they are off on the side and I almost think it would be better to have been in the balcony this time. Its a funny show, irreverent hardly does it justice. But it’s not as offensive as you might think. I’m not sure what a devout Christian or Mormon would think, but I kept thinking the show makes the point that all religions believe in things that on face value are wacko. So it takes faith and a bit of suspension of reality to keep that faith. The show is not at all sentimental, and it is obviously by the same guys that did South Park, but the songs are catchy, the acting is great, and the story is really, really funny.

Book of Mormon was a great way to end our trip. We are glad to be home, back in our little house in the woods. I saw some deer in the woods behind our house, the dogs are so glad to be back in their house and yard. I love going to New York. I used to think I wanted to live there, but not any more. I’m very glad we live where we do.


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