Saturday, January 29, 2005

Health Report
On Wednesday I found out I had a touch of pneumonia. Just the beginnings of it, thank goodness. I shiver at the thought of a full-blown case, because this was bad enough: fever and aches throughout the body (head, joints), breathing difficulty, cough -- pretty brutal stuff. The doc gave me three big pink tablets. This was Zithromax, and each tablet contained 500 mg of the drug. I took one on Wednesday around noon. By dinnertime the fever was gone. By bedtime, the aches had subsided. By Thursday morning, I felt pretty normal again, until I went up and down the stairs a few times, which left me exhausted, my head spinning. And that's pretty much where I am today -- I've trended better but remain weak. I wonder how much of that is the infection and how much of that is the antibiotics? There's a lot of antibiotic in my body right now, since the idea with the Zithromax three-day course is (as the pretty fold-out Pfizer box says) that the drug builds up in your body and keeps working on days 4-10.

So the Napa Valley Marathon is five weeks away. I'm going to do it. I'm not going to do it in the 3:35 that I was thinking I might before this shit hit. And if I limp home in over four hours, that's OK. It's a strange thing -- part of the point of my training has been to give myself a precise idea of what to expect on race day. I wanted to know how hard I could push it. I wanted to know my time before the race even started. Now it's back to being a big fat mystery.

If all goes well, I'll do some walks in the next two or three days, then some light jogging the remainder of the week, just to remind my body that I'm a runner. Then I'll build up over the following two weeks to something in the 15-20 mile range. Then it's a two week slide into the race.

Hey, whatever. I'm not Frank-fucking-Shorter. Just a plodder struggling to put a little excitement and adventure into his life. I'll run.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Training Log: Jan 22 05
Friday afternoon I noted a sudden and significant improvement in my condition, so on Saturday I did a short run. Just 3.5 miles in about 32 minutes. Short and slow.

Now, two days later, I'm sicker than ever. The fact that Niko got hit with twin ear infections didn't help. He was up a bit and wanted to sleep with me and his tossing and turning and rapid breathing and sighing and moaning had me up literally the entire night Saturday. Then on Sunday we had friends and family over. It was great fun, but in hindsight not prudent. Soon after our friends Dan and Kate left, Niko starting shaking with the shivers. Gave him Tylenol and he conked out immediately, if fitfully. Then I started feeling lousy -- aches in the back, head and a pretty powerful general malaise. Then came the cough, from deep in the chest. At night, I got the shivers, too.

So now Niko is on antibiotics for the second time this winter (matching his total exposure to antibiotics for the first four years of his life), and I am suffering with a 102 degree temp (my usual is about 97.8, so this is pretty high, and it's rare). I stayed home from work today and it doesn't look good for tomorrow. I hurt all over -- except for my stomach. I've got an appetite. Another good and interesting symptom (or non-symptom) is that my sinuses aren't congested.

Anyway, which me luck. I'd really like to get back to working out again. Being down for a while makes me pine for even short runs, rides and swims. Now, I'm so tired and achy, I am going to crash. 'Night.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Falling off the Log
Training log has been absent for several days for a good reason: No training. I caught Niko's cold (Niko says Robert at school had it before him, so maybe we should call it Robert's cold). Anyway, I have walked every day, four or five miles. And I'm feeling better, except for a cough. So tomorrow I think I shall run.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

And It's ... No Good!
It's always been one of the weirder aspects of football: 59+ minutes of huge, insanely athletically endowed men crashing into each other, only to be followed by some runt who played soccer in high school (and, unlike everyone else in the NFL, never got the hot girls) trotting onto the pitch to decide the game. When one of these sidewinders sneaks it between the poles and over the bar, the deed is noted but only briefly. All too soon the focus returns to the stars. But should the little guy miss, oh, then he shall dwell in a deep, dark and very lonely place. Post-game, inevitably he will yield a quote to a crowd of reporters who just as inevitably will note that the piteous words were uttered "amid teammates who dressed silently around him." So it was for Doug Brien, who missed not once but twice today for the Jets against the Steelers. Well. At least we know this: No matter how awful you feel tonight -- no matter how disconnected from the world or bereft of love or just plain down in the dumps you are -- you got it all over Doug Brien.
Training Log: Jan 15 05
Swim: 1800 yards. I'm going through a period of weak motivation. In fact, I'm as unmotivated as I've been since I started doing triathlon a little more than three years ago. So just getting something done each day -- anything -- is a bit of a victory right now. I swam. Yipee!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Training Log: Jan 14 05
Run: 7 miles / 1:00:23 / 8:33 per mile pace. Hey! I did a slow run. Nice and easy until I stepped in a hole with my right foot and wrenched my left knee as I tried to keep my balance (and did). But I think everything is OK now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Training Log: Jan 12 05
Run: 5.1 miles at 7:30 pace. Should have run longer and slower but just didn't have the time or the patience. That's life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Training Log: Jan 11 05
Swim: 2000 yards. A lot of 175yd/25yd reps, freestyle/breast, the breast for recovery so I could be fresh enough to keep perfect form on the freestyle. But the freestyle sucked anyway until about three-quarters of the way into the swim. I guess that's what a week out of the pool does.

Walked 4 miles tonight under many stars, in the chill, it was good.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Social Security Crisis My Ass
Josh Marshall spells out well what a scam Bush and the Rs are trying to perpetrate:

The Social Security Trustees estimate that over the next 75 years the
program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion.
As we've noted previously and will again, the Trustees use a very pessimistic estimate of future economic growth to arrive at that figure. But, for the moment, let's stipulate to that amount.
$3.7 trillion is a lot of money.
But how much will the president's Medicare drug benefit plan cost over the next 75 years?
$8.1 trillion, say the Trustees of that program.
And over the next 75 years how much will the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts cost if made permanent, as the president wants?
$11.6 trillion.
So you add that up and you get $3.7 trillion we need to cover Social Security's shortfall and $19.7 trillion we need just to cover the costs of the two major domestic policy initiatives of the president's first term.
And yet Social Security, says the president, is in crisis and destined to chew through the rest of the federal budget.
Training Log: Jan 10 05
A lot going on today, so it was great to have the pool back open and sneak a swim in to bust up the day. Short swim and I had no feel for the water at all; nevertheless, good to do something that wasn't hammering my legs.

Swim: 1800 yards: 1x600; 25yards breast, 75 yards free x 6; 1x600

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Good-bye, Xmas

niko working in tree, originally uploaded by pjdwine.

It was a very good Christmas, featuring our most ambitious lighting work in five years on South Montgomery Street. So it was a pretty hefty project to get it all taken down and packed away. Thank goodness we had a skilled professional to help.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Fan Fade-Away
I was stunned today to learn exactly how far removed from the sports scene I've become (remember, I spent the first six years of my professional life as a sportswriter).

Now, mind you, I still pull the Sports section from the rest of the paper first thing in the morning, and I do look at Sportscenter from time to time. I just don't study these sports-news outlets very closely anymore, I guess. And I almost never watch pro football. And beyond the Giants, even baseball has become a challenge (Infospigot has written well on this topic).

Nevertheless, it was shocking to see this Yahoo sports headline this morning -- Schottenheimer Named AP's Top Coach -- and not have a clue what team Schottenheimer coached. I didn't even know if he was coaching in college or the pros! Turns out it's the San Diego Chargers, who apparently won 12 games and are in the playoffs. Who knew?
Training Log: Jan 08 05
Run: 15.63 miles / 2 hours exactly / 7:41 minutes per mile pace
Actually, this was a 2-hour run. In the first hour I covered 7.62 miles (7:52 minutes per mile pace) and in the second hour, 8.01 miles (7:29 min/mile). This was my first long run in prep for the Napa Valley Marathon on March 6. I had plan on doing two more longs, but am now reconsidering. This run was great and there's no doubt it will improve my muscle endurance, particularly. But I worry about the toll it takes on my body. After about mile 12, a lot of joints begin to ache -- not just the knees, which always ache on long runs (and actually, they weren't too bad today, but also the hips. I want to be fit on March 6, but I also want to be healthy. The new plan may be to stay in the 8-12 mile range over the next couple of weeks then go for 20 on January 29. That's five weeks before race day. I'm not suggesting I'd then do a five-week taper; I just think another body-crunching 18+ miler from then on in isn't going to make me faster on March 6. Instead, I see a week of mostly rest following the 20 miler (lots of walking), then a mix of 5 to 13 mile runs over the next three weeks, then an easy week heading into race day.

A few additional thoughts: I went pretty hard the second half of today's run and was well-whipped when it was over. I couldn't have sustained that pace much longer. This suggests to me two things: I can almost surely run a half-marathon at 7:30/mile pace; and I might be able to run a marathon at 8/mile pace -- though that's no sure thing.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Training Log: Jan 07 05
Just a lousy week on the triathlon front. That pool closure really threw me off my game. Today I went over to my old gym to pay $10 to swim in their crappy putrid choking indoor pool only to find they wanted $15 for the privilege. I thanked them very much and declined. So I walked at lunch, a mile or two, then walked three and a half miles tonight, first under clouds and stars then under rain. Praise the Lord he directed me to bring an umbrella. All thanks go to Him, you know. I'll see if I can do a run and a swim before Niko arrives tomorrow just after lunch....

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Training Log: Jan 06 05
I shouldn't even call myself a triathlete. All I do is run. Haven't been on the bike in weeks. Haven't swum since Monday. It's just run, run, run. Thing is, I'm enjoying it. No -- I'm not saying this is the way it's going to be from now on. It's just that right now getting deep into running feels good. I know I'm flirting with danger; the knees, man, the knees. But the simplicity and purity of running, always attractive to me, now have me in their thrall. May be that only an intervention by one or both of my biking pals will get me out of it. Save me, fellas, save me!

Run: 7.17 miles / 53:01 / 7:23 pace, not really working extremely hard, just running well and finishing hard.
Measuring Napa
In the course of conversation last night, Niko wondered how long Napa might be. He speculated 112 miles. (Hmm. The precise distance of the bike leg of an Ironman-length triathlon. Coincidence?) I thought it was a bit shorter than that. He asked, "How do we know?"

So it was that today, on the way to school, we set out to measure our fair burg. We began by driving to the south end of Jefferson Street where, courtesy the flood-control project, wetlands are burgeoning. Napa's city limits officially extend much farther south, but this is where the residential development ends. Beyond are those wetlands and a great gap between the city and the satellite business park at the airport.

Having pegged our southerly teminus, we drove north on Jefferson, which bisects the city north to south. At Imola, we noted the street and the distance in our notebook: 0.5 miles. At Old Sonoma, 0.8. And so on, past Oak and Lincoln and Trancas and Trower until we got to Salvador. Now, there is smidgen of housing beyond Salvador, but only a few blocks. And besides, Niko's school is east from Jefferson on Salvador, and it was 8:59, and school starts at 9. So we called this the end of Napa -- 5 miles! -- turned right and got to school. Niko excitedly shared the news about our discovery with Victoria, his teacher, then grabbed a wagon and began pulling it around the play area.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Desperately Needed: Solar Input
Eleven days without sunshine, and we Napkins are getting antsy. Me, anyway. I'd have to do some research to know for sure, but it sure seems like it didn't used to be this way in the winter: a month or two of sunny weather followed by six weeks of rain, then sunshine again and before you know it, we're well into spring. In the Bay Area of my youth, was there not a lovely mix -- two days of rain followed by four days of sunshine, interrupted by a day of rain, then five more days of sun, then maybe a week of rain and onward thusly? Ah, who the hell knows. In recent years the weather is an all-or-nothing proposition. And the forecast for the next week or so: bleak.
Training Log: Jan 05 05
No pool. Cold and wet in the morning so no ride (wimp). No time to run in the evening (Niko). So I took a 3-mile walk at lunch. That's fine. Sometimes in triathlon, less is more, as someone once said. (Who?)
PR in Action
Kudos to the PR Department at Wal-mart, which is probably called the "Corporate Communications Department," as such operations are at most larger companies because PR folks can't help but PR even their own identity.

Wal-mart had a bad November, with sales rising only 0.7 percent over the previous year, and its gain in December of 3 percent was solidly below the gain it posted last year, 4.3 percent. Yet there's the New York Times saying that "Wal-Mart, the country's biggest retailer, managed to come back with style."

Well, the PR people certainly did.

Faced with bad-to-mediocre news, Wal-mart spun a story of a near-miraculous comeback from the depths of retailer hell. The story begins with the Times recounting how a top company executive tracked on his Blackberry the unfolding bad news that hit on the day after Thanksgiving. "'At 7 a.m., I looked at the readings coming in from other states, and my gut feeling was confirmed,' he recalled in an interview yesterday. 'By 8 a.m., we knew we had an issue.'"

That's when fearless Wal-mart executives -- and even hourly employees, the Times notes -- sprung into action. They held meetings and developed ad campaigns and stuff, but mostly what they did was cut prices on key items. Sometimes it worked -- the rise in fleece sales was said to be "very significant" (note the use of imprecise but suggestively positive language). Sometimes it didn't. Sometimes we're not really sure. But surely they attacked the problem.

Was all this cost-cutting a little, uhm, dangerous? Wal-mart says, uhm, not really we're pretty sure maybe not we don't think so at this point. Here's how the Times put it:

"Still those markdowns did not cut significantly into profits, executives said. Tom Schoewe, Wal-Mart's chief financial officer, said that earnings should come in within the range projected earlier: between 73 and 75 cents a share for the quarter that ends in January. 'We haven't revised that estimate,' he said."

Again, note the suggestive but imprecise language. "Did not cut significantly into profits"; "should come in within the range projected"; "'we haven't revised that estimate.'"

What becomes clear in reading this story is that the Times desperately likes this tale of Wal-mart, the behemoth, acting nimbly to save the Christmas season. What also becomes clear is that it's not entirely clear that 1) what Wal-mart did was at all unusual (don't companies always track sales and lower prices to move items that are glued to shelves?); or 2) that what Wal-mart did was especially effective.

The Times says that "tomorrow, Wal-mart is expected to announce that December sales achieved a 3 percent gain over sales for December 2003." The Times doesn't say who expects this or where it got its information about these expectations; I'm going out on a limb and guessing Wal-mart. No matter. The Times likes this number because it's bigger than the 2 percent rise number that Wal-mart had put out last week. Success -- for the PR department.

Instead of just dumping a load of disappointing news out to the business world -- the 3 percent rise in December sales -- Wal-mart's PR folks deftly juxtaposed it against the 2 percent figure it "estimated" last week (and which, the cynic in me presumes, was a number Wal-mart was pretty sure it would actually beat), then fed the Times a lot of nice anecdotes and half-baked insider information to show how this victory was achieved. They recognized that how desperately media want to tell dramatic stories, and how bringing reporters inside your company -- giving them information they typically don't have access to -- can be so effective.

Beautifully done.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Training Log: Jan 04 05
Arrived at the gym this afternoon to find the pool closed for repairs. Reportedly the membership had been warned of this eventuality with numerous signs plastered throughout the building; I saw none of them, and none were up today, the first day of the closure. Anyway, this state of affairs will be in place until Sunday, which is just too damn long not to swim, so I'll probably fork over 10 bucks to swim at my old gym on Thursday. (I left the old gym because the pool is indoors and the toxic air was causing me massive sinus problems, all of which cleared up once I headed across town to my current gym, where I can swim in fresh air -- well, fresh as can be since they finished the 29/Trancas interchange a few hundred yards away, which, when the wind blows just right, seems to leave an invisible cloud of auto toxins right over the pool.

No swim, so I ran. Good run. I'll run Thursday, probably 10 miles, then Saturday morning I'll crank a 15-miler at 8min/mile pace. I'm thinking of doing a 20-miler on January 29, then probably one more long run around February 12. Napa Valley Marathon is March 6.

Run: 7 miles / 52:30 / 7:30 per mile, nice and easy, quick recovery.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Training Log: Jan 03 05
It's not always pleasant, working out. Injuries happen. You bonk on a long ride. A mistimed breath in the pool leads to, uh, complications. It could be a lot of things. Tonight, for instance (like I said, it's not always pleasant), I set out on a short, easy run only to find myself beset by lower GI issues.

That's right, I had to go. I hardly thought about it at all for the first mile. During Mile 2, I began to wonder. Mile 3 suggested the urges might become very powerful indeed. Mile 4 was a bit of a trial, requiring some deft but not desperate mind games. Mile 5 -- the ultimate mile -- was a highly, highly suspenseful.

I made it.

Today's training:

Swim: 1600 yards nonstop / 55 seconds per 50 yards, nice and steady. What's really becoming evident on my swim is that I gain efficientcy as I go deeper into a long swim. I think it's all about getting a feel for the water. Anyway, short but good swim.

Run: 5 miles at what was supposed to be an easy pace, but ended being merely slow. Around 8:20/mile.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Training Log: Jan 01 05
Three years of consistent (though not hard-core) triathlon training, and I've never kept a log. Highly regretable. There have been countless instances when I wanted to look back and see where I was at a point in the season. OK, so I can't go back and recreate the past three years. But I can track the coming years as they unfold. Starting now.

Run: 10.06 miles / 1:13:50 / 7:20 pace / Felt great; moderate pace with hard but not killer finish.

Trend Alert: Male Eyebrow-Waxing

brows, originally uploaded by pjdwine.

The New York Times says manly men are getting their eyebrows prettified. Be honest, now: Is this something I need to look into?