The Casual Blog

Tag: running

Older athletes, my 5K race, working out with audio books, CRISPR, and Uber

I like stories of successful athletes who have passed the normal age for athletic achievement, for obvious reasons. There was a good one this week in the WSJ, which featured Klaus Obermayer, founder of an outdoor clothing company. At 95, he lives in Aspen, skis whenever there’s snow, does Akido, and swims, along with getting gym workouts, and eats a mostly vegan diet. I’ve previously challenged myself to still be skiing the big mountains at 85, but it looks like I may need to raise the bar.

On Saturday morning I ran a 5K race in downtown Raleigh – the Jingle Bell Run, a charity event for the Arthritis Foundation. It was a beautiful fall day, clear and chilly, and a lot of my Red Hat colleagues showed up at Saint Mary’s School. Jonathan C, an accomplished runner, let me tag along as he did his warm up routine. Sally came along with Stuart and lent moral support.

The route was up and back on Hillsborough Street, which is a long climb going out, but it went OK. On the home stretch, as I passed the International House of Pancakes, I had a shot of pain in my left hamstring, and struggled to the finish. But I still ended up with an official time of 25:12. That’s average miles of 8:10, which was close to my planned best case scenario. Jonathan came in third, at 18:02 (5:49/mile). Sally said Stuart had a nice time: lots of people petted him, and asked his name and how old he was (13).

At the gym lately, I’ve been dividing my time among the various cardio machines – treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, rowing, and stairs – putting in about 45 minutes of total sweat time, plus core work, resistance training, and stretching. Listening to audiobooks and podcasts makes this a lot more fun. This week I discovered News in Slow Spanish, which is exactly what it sounds like – a podcast for intermediate Spanish learners who like to listen to the news. My comprehension went way up when the announcers slowed way down.

I’ve also been listening to Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science, by Steven Gimbel. Gimbel has really helped me with the last 100 years of physics. I’m not prepared to claim deep understanding, but I’m getting more comfortable with, for example, the idea of gravity as a bend in space-time, and matter as just an expression of energy.

We like magazines, but it’s hard to keep up with them. In the last couple of weekends I made good progress in dealing with the pile of New Yorkers, Economists, Atlantics, Opera Newses, and Scientific Americans (but didn’t get to the pile of golfing, photography, and scuba magazines). I finally got a fix on what CRISPR is from a New Yorker piece by Michael Specter, and realized this is a technology that is going to change the world as we know it. The CRISPR tools allow biologists to edit DNA relatively simply and cheaply. This holds the potential for understanding and treating various serious diseases, and also improving food and industrial products. And, of course, there’s the possibility of creating Frankenstein monsters. Anyhow, for better or worse, or both, the genie is out of the bottle.

Last week came the end of driving as we know it – the beginning, for us, of the age of Uber. We scheduled a trip to our old favorite, Caffe Luna, and with a view to avoiding post-wine driving, I downloaded the Uber app. Our first experience was entirely friction free – no telephone call, no waiting, no tipping, and automatic payment, at an entirely reasonable rate. We gave our drivers high ratings, and hoped they did the same for us. I’ve been tracking the progress of driverless cars closely, but had sort of ignored Uber. Now I get it – it’s fantastic.

Ordinary health matters, learning Lightroom, and seeing sweet Cinderella


I took these pictures late Friday afternoon at Raulston Arboretum. The fresh blooms of early spring are gone, but there was a richness to the atmosphere, and great smells. I tweaked these with my brand new software, Lightroom 6, which I decided to buy on DVD, rather than the subscription service. After watching a number of instructional videos, getting a short lesson from my friend and colleague Ruth S., and experimenting a bit, I’m starting to get the hang of what Lightroom will do, and looking forward to improving some of my image making and storing.

Jocelyn’s been running, and texted this week that she’d taken two minutes off of her four-mile time. She was pleased! When we talked, she reported that running was helping her get to know her neighborhood Fort Green and the environs. I’m so glad she’s taking good care of herself!

Here in Raleigh, Gabe has been running, too, at a nothing-to-sneeze-at pace of 8 minutes. Thinking of his health, I asked what he was doing about health insurance since leaving his job last month, and determined he hadn’t really addressed it. I briefly panicked, since one serious accident could mean financial ruin for us all.

Sally has long been a skeptical critic of the American health care system, and pointed up an on-point new piece by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker. It’s about the incredible waste in our system from the many unnecessary medical tests, drugs that don’t’ make people better, and surgeries with more risks than benefits. Gawande is a practicing surgeon, and thus has a fair bit of credibility, as well as interesting personal anecdotes. The legal scholar in me would have appreciated more citations, but I don’t have much doubt as to Gawande’s basic point: our system is optimized to make money for hospitals and the medical establishment, rather than to keep people well, and is horribly inefficient. It’s remarkable to me that we can’t get general agreement that we need major reform.

Anyhow, we live in the world that is. At my urging, Gabe figured out how to get an ACA silver plan, which doesn’t kick in until the first of next month. Meanwhile, I counseled him to cool it for a couple or weeks on skateboarding. Also, he should be particularly conscious of looking both ways before crossing the street, and watch out for falling flower pots.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a short walk from our apartment over to K2 Massage, where I had an extraordinary therapeutic massage experience with Ken Katchuk. For this first visit, Ken told me to allow for two and a half hours, and ended up needing about three. He spent time debriefing me on ailments and old injuries, and on things I liked to do. Then he got down to the business of figuring out where my areas of tension were, and going after them. It was difficult by moments, but I felt that I was in good, experienced hands, and my body was being helped.

That evening we had dinner with friends at Buku, and saw the Carolina Ballet’s new Cinderella program. Margaret Severin-Hanson was a lovely, graceful Cinderella, and Alicia Fabry and Randi Osetek were very funny as the mean stepsisters. Fabry’s tango solo was a hoot! I wish, though, the score were less sweet and repetitious. In the second half, I really liked Zalman Rafael’s new piece, In the Gray. Set to music by Philip Glass, it is sort of an anti-Cinderella, emphasizing kinetic abstract shapes rather than characters. The dramatic side lighting deemphasized the dancer’s individuality, but Jan Burkhard, Cecilia Iliesiu, and Adam Crawford Chavis made powerful individual impressions. As with other Rafael work, this one shows deep comprehension of the music and unites with it.

A rodeo, a tennis match, a run, and a good curry meal

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This was an unusually sporty week. I got to see a local rodeo and a semi-local professional tennis event, and took a run down memory lane.

It is always cheering and a little startling to find that there are communities of people who care passionately about something I know hardly anything about. Who knew there was a rodeo community in the Raleigh vicinity? Actually, I had just learned this the prior week from Walter magazine (an attractively designed and informative monthly that covers our area).

The rodeo was in northern Wake County off of Louisburg Road. The main events were barrel racing and bull riding. The barrel racers were all young women, and they rode their horses extremely fast. It reminded me of road course racing – in addition to extreme acceleration, they had to hit the brakes hard at the barrels. I was in awe of their riding skills.
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The bull racers sat on bulls and got bucked off. This seems simple in concept, but the trick is not to get killed or severely injured by the bull. We got to see this event up close, and it looked extremely dangerous. I was not happy to think of the bulls being mistreated, but that didn’t prevent my appreciating the courage of the young riders.
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On Thursday Sally and I drove east to see some professional tennis at the Winston-Salem Open. We watched Sam Querrey play Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. These guys can play! Querrey had a huge serve which topped out at 137 mph. Garcia-Lopez had a beautiful one-handed backhand that he could hit with a lot of topspin. The match was close through two sets, but Querrey took control and prevailed in the third.
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That night we stayed in downtown Winston-Salem at the Brookstown Inn, built as a cotton mill in 1837 and now decorated with antiques and crafts. Our room was spacious (a 20 foot ceiling, at least), and the bed was particularly comfy.

When I’m on the road, I make it a habit to use the hotel gym first thing in the morning. The Brookstown’s web site didn’t mention an exercise facility (it turned out to have a tiny one), so I had packed most of what was needed for a run (forgot my tee-shirt). It was still dark at 6:15 when I went out, shirtless, for a run through the city of my youth.

There was hardly anyone out, so I don’t think I upset anyone with my shirtlessness. There was a pleasant breeze. Heading down Fourth Street, many of the businesses I remember were gone (no more Woolworth’s), but there were some interesting looking restaurants and galleries. I ran past the city’s most striking high rises, including the Reynolds Building (which looks just like a miniature Empire State Building), and along Main Street to Old Salem, the eighteenth-century Moravian town that’s now a tourist attraction. I went past the building where my parents had their bookstore and by the half-timbered brick buildings and grassy squares where I had a happy summer at Governor’s School.

This took about 40 minutes. I hadn’t run more than ten minutes for many a moon, because of various minor injuries. I felt comfortable and strong. The next day, though, my quads were sore.

On Saturday night we walked up to the Packapalooza festival on Hillsborough Street for some people watching and food. The festival was in celebration of the return of the students to N.C. State, and there were plenty of them there. It seems they get younger every year, as I get older. There was real diversity, including in music: some bluegrass, some hip hop, some rock, some Hare Krishna.

I had one moment of shock and horror, when my Nikon D7100 came loose from its strap. I’d gotten an over-the-shoulder strap that screws into the tripod mount, and it somehow got unscrewed. It hit the asphalt hard. Picking it up, I expected to see cracks in the lens and the back screen, but everything looked OK. My test shots seemed fine. The only apparent damage was a minor scratch on the bottom on the housing. It’s a tough little bugger! I got this butterfly at Fletcher Park the next morning.
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We ate at a new Nepalese/Indian restaurant on Hillsborough Street called Kabab and Curry. The menu had good options for vegetarians, and everything we tried was excellent. We shared veggie pakoras, and I had the vegetarian sampler, called rani thali, which included shahi paneer, alu gobi, chana masala, and dal makhani. The food was spicy in a colorful way, stimulating but not overwhelming, with a variety of textures. A bright addition to the local asian dining scene. I’ll definitely be going back.
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Home alone with the animals and our new doggy portrait

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Sally went to Ashville with her tennis team to compete in the state finals this week. They’ve had success this year competing at the 4.0 senior level, and Sally’s feeling good about her game. I was happy for her, but a little melancholy to be home alone. I missed her.

So did the animals. The first day they spent time sitting by the front door waiting for her. The cats showered me with affection that they would normally give to her, and Stuart was much more excited than usual when I came home from work. Our routine called for a pee walk outside and dinner, which are certainly high points of any dog’s day, but even after dinner he wanted extra petting.
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Stuart was immortalized recently in a drawing by Sally’s cousin, Alison (Muffy) Brush. Muffy turned out to be really talented, and we were very pleased with the work. It’s based on some of my photographs, but captures his essence much better than the photos did. As our dance friends will note, he has beautiful turnout. I think Sally’s frame selection really works.

Stuart is 10 now, and showing his age. He’s a basset-beagle mix – a bagle, or perhaps a beset. He still likes people and being petted – he’s met many people during elevator rides and is quite popular in the building – but unlike in his younger days, he’s wary of other dogs. Anyhow, as we often say, he’s a good dog. Handsome, too, I think.

I was somewhat the worse for wear from our trip to the Outer Banks last weekend. For the first time in many moons, I went for a substantial run – four miles – on Sunday. It was a lovely day, sunny and mild, and I felt fine, even when I got my heart rate up to the low 160s. Only hours later did I begin to feel pain in my knee, and more and more soreness in my quadriceps. The next day I was so sore I could barely walk.

Also, according to my usual pre-morning-shower weigh-ins, I somehow gained 6.8 pounds between Friday and Tuesday. This was a shock! Did I really eat that much? I enjoyed Keith’s food, but I consciously kept from stuffing myself – no second helpings, for example. I snacked on pistachios, which were kept in a bowl that somehow never emptied out, and that may have had something to do with it.

Anyhow, I was gimpy and heavy, but things improved over the course of the week. On Friday, I got to the gym when it opened at 5:30 a.m. and got in a mega-workout: 30 minutes of lunges, squats, step-ups etc. a 50-minute spin class (a major aerobic accomplishment), 25 minutes of upper body work, 10 minutes of core exercises, and 10 minutes of stretching. By the time of my morning weigh-in, I had lost 3 pounds from the previous day, and six for the week.

On the drive back from Corolla, Sally and I talked about possibilities for our next adventure. We try to do something fun outside the usual routine every month or so, and the next four week interval brings us almost to the July 4 week. The Fourth is on Thursday, so if I can get off that Friday, presto, we’ve got a four-day weekend. We’ve been wanting to visit Gabe in Colorado, and also wanting for a long time to visit some of the beautiful country in southern Utah, which is within driving distance of Telluride. I took on the job of researching the possibilities of fitting this into a July 4 trip.

Saturday morning I decided to skip yoga and go on a little photo safari to see what was blooming at Raulston Arboretum. There were some beautiful flowers, and it was quiet and calm. I made a few images I liked. 13 05 31_1883
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