Category Archives: My life

fall day

I woke up this morning with pain and pressure in my face / sinuses again and a headache and overall feeling of malaise.  I’ve been feeling this on and off all week (but not yesterday).  L had the same cold as me and was over it in 24 hours.  B didn’t even get it.  But I can’t seem to kick it.  I guess maybe I shouldn’t have run yesterday.  I feel like all my hard-earned fitness is disappearing hand over fist.

This time of year is not my favorite.  It’s perpetually dark and gray.  We have 8 hours 40 minutes of daylight at the moment as compared to 10 hours and 20 minutes in, say, Houston, but with the rain and gloom, it feels like less.  This morning was particularly bad.  Combined with feeling ill again, I was in a foul mood driving the kids to and from school this morning.

I did spend some time playing the piano today for the first time in ages.  I’m feeling the urge to play again, try to recover some basic proficiency.  I played Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, one of his easiest pieces, a few times, and I’m thinking about maybe trying to work on it a bit between now and Christmas.  I’m sure even half an hour of practice a day for a couple weeks would go a long way.  I’ve found recording myself playing is a good way to expose all the many faults.  I also had a very painful go at Comptine d’un autre ete, which I think is very playable with some practice.  Hopefully I can improve at that one as well.

 

marathon reflections

I woke up this morning feeling like crap, and I still feel like crap.  Normally, I don’t enjoy feeling this way, but it is nice to know that I made the “right” decision.

A runner I follow on Instagram with very similar stats as me who was aiming for the same time as I would have been, had I been healthy (3:50 pace group / 8:47 mpm), had a bad race, wasn’t able to stick with the pace group for long and ended up getting pulled at a med tent at the halfway mark.  I think it just goes to show that you cannot underestimate the marathon, and that going into a 26 mile race in marginal health is just not a good plan.  Finishing a marathon is always an accomplishment, and finishing on your target pace is an even bigger accomplishment.  For this of us running the race around the 4 hour mark or slower, I think this is even more true.  For an elite man running a marathon in 2 hours, it’s like a half marathon for me.  For a 4 hour or 5 hour marathoner, the marathon is like a 50 mile race for an elite – it’s an ultra, with all the complexities and uncertainties of an ultra.

I follow a lot of fast runners on Insta.  They inspire me.  On days when it’s raining or cold or I’m just feeling lazy, I know these people, who I don’t know but are nonetheless real, will be out there running.  By fast, I don’t mean elite, but you know, people aiming for a 3 hour marathon, or even a 3:30 marathon.  Faster than me (which I guess is what a lot of people call “fast” – people faster than themself.)  In any case, many of these runners do marathons quite casually.  I’ve reached a place where I can do a half marathon casually.  It’s not a big deal for me to run 13 miles, and I know that while running a half at sub-8 pace will just about kill me, running one at 9 or 10 mpm is not that big of a deal.  Many runners have reached that place for a marathon, but I am definitely not there yet.  I am in *excellent* shape (or was) to run a half, but the same cannot be said for a marathon.

There is a marathon in two weeks in Port Orc.hard called the Yu.kon Do It marathon.  On the plus side, Port Orchard is only one hour and 15 minutes away, and the race still has open slots.  There are plenty of minuses though: less than 200 runners, 1500 feet of elevation gain, and likelihood of rain high.  The last item is a sticking point for me.  I have not signed up for the race, but I went ahead and made a hotel reservation.  If the weather looks OK – say 50% chance of rain with 0.25 inch accumulation predicted, I’ll go.  If it looks bad – say 90% chance of rain and closer to an inch of accumulation predicted, I’ll pass.

Too far out to tell, but you can see what I’m dealing with in terms of PNW winter weather.  I’m also planning on traveling on my own.  While it would be nice to have Jonathan there to support me, it’s just too much trouble and stress to take the whole family in lousy winter weather.

If I decide to pass based on weather, Houston is a possibility, as well as a few options in CA.  I guess I plan to try and maintain 40ish miles per week mileage until I find a race I can actually run.

It’s hard to plan anything between Covid and small children and just the busyness of life.  I prioritized CIM pretty darn highly and imposed on my family and friends (to watch the kids), and it still didn’t work out.  But I’m sure something will.

not going

I ended up canceling my flights.  I’m not going to Sacramento.

I am VERY ambivalent about my decision.  I can never know if in my heart of hearts I’m doing it because I don’t feel like getting on an airplane.

But I’m still wheezy and snotty.  And when I ran hard while sick in high school, I ended up with pneumonia, which it took me four months to recover from.  I just don’t feel great right now.

And I still don’t have results back from the PCR test, which I took more than 24 hours ago.  Why is testing STILL so slow here?

I wanted to go to CIM so I could run a “fast” marathon, sub-4 at least.  If I can’t do that, much as I hate to say goodbye to the pricey entry fee, I’m not sure it’s worth trekking down there.  There is another marathon on a couple weeks, albeit on a hilly course.  I won’t do that one either if it’s too rainy.  (I’ll run in light rain, but I won’t run 26 miles in steady rain.  I have my limits.)  But there are several options in January, including Houston and another one in CA.   CIM is special, and I wanted to run it.  Maybe I WILL run it next year.  Maybe we’ll all be dead of some nasty Covid variant next year.  Who knows.

For now, I’ll just sulk and feel lazy.  At least I had the sense to buy changeable plane tickets and got a credit for those.

the best laid plans

Saoirse came down with a cold a couple of days ago, so it was really only a matter of time before I got sick as well.  We are still co-sleeping, and, being two, she really drools and breathes all over me from morning ’til night.  Anyway, I woke up feeling ill at 4:30 this morning, mostly with a nasty sore throat, which is generally the first sign of sickness for me.  The timing really could not be worse for my marathon.  Also, because I’m traveling, it’s not like I can leave it until the last minute to decide what to do.  It also seems very unlucky.  I have had one cold (or illness of any kind, except the vaccine reaction) since last March!

My backup plan if anything happened with CIM was to run Houston.  I’m not thrilled with this backup, mostly because of the distance and time change.  But it’s an option.  However, I looked on their website today, and YESTERDAY was the deadline to apply to be in the first corral, which is targeted at runners who hope to finish under 4 hours.  (I meet the half marathon qualifier with several minutes to spare.)  This is problematic, because who knows where I’d end up if I’m seeded randomly, and furthermore, I was really looking forward to running with a pace group.  Any sub-4 pace groups would start in the first corral.  Also, it’s kind of hot in Houston even in January.

There aren’t a ton of other options at this time of year.  And with the hysterical response to the new variant, it wouldn’t surprise me if they start canceling races soon.

I’ve always been kind of unenthusiastic about the marathon, but it’s a bucket list thing for me.  I am going to run one in my lifetime, damn it.  And I’d like to do it this weekend.  But I just don’t know if it’s going to be possible.  I’d say it’s 50/50 at best.

Oh-my-kron

Does anyone believe that this case is the first Omicron case in the US?  I’m guessing there are dozens, at least, already.  Furthermore, am I supposed to be encouraged because “aggressive contact tracing is underway”?  Contact tracing works, kind of, in a completely locked down society like NZ or Australia in which citizens must scan QR codes whenever they enter any kind of shop, takeout restaurant or any other location.  Ultimately, it failed in the NZ in the face of Delta.  It flat out does not work in open societies and is a waste of time and money.  And Omicron in theory is much more contagious than Delta (obviously TBD), so contact tracing will be even less effective.

It’s interesting and disturbing to me how elected leaders are behaving as if we’re just discovering Covid all over again and following roughly the same playbook.  If they shut schools again here, I swear I will lose my marbles.

The emergence of Omicron itself doesn’t worry me all that much.  I mean, I’m not thrilled, obviously.  It’s right on schedule, though, and follows the pattern of Alpha and Delta – new variants every six months which are more contagious and less effectively contained by the existing vaccine.  This is why I keep thinking and saying that what we are living right now IS the new normal.  It’s probably not going to get markedly better any time soon.

But the degree to which Washington state in its wisdom decides to screw up our lives is a very big concern.

Vaccine update

Unfortunately, data from Europe is making it more and more clear that vaccination will not stop Covid, even if very high percentages of the population are vaccinated.

Case 1 – Ireland.  89% of Irish citizens age 12 and up are fully vaccinated.  More than 80% of those vaccines were Pfizer or Moderna, with the remainder Astra Zenica or J&J.  In other words, it’s a fairly similar profile to the US.  Their vaccination drive peaked in July, or about four months ago, so vaccine effectiveness waning would be less than in the US.  (You hear a lot about vaccine effectiveness waning at 6 months or later, but my take on the data is that the sharp dropoff starts at 4 months, or even 3.)  Ireland also still has mask mandates for adults and restrictions on large indoor gatherings, unlike most of the US.  In addition, there are vaccine mandates there to do just about anything indoors.

Despite the high rate of vaccination and other measures, Ireland’s cases per capita now exceeds the case levels the US experienced during its late summer Delta surge.  Of course, US numbers are lower because, being a large country, our numbers average out when one part of the country is surging and another isn’t.  In addition, Ireland is doing more testing than the US, and they haven’t yet seen a corresponding surge in deaths.  Deaths are starting to tick up there, so it’ll be telling to see how that goes.

Case 2 – Iceland.  Like Ireland, Iceland has a vaccination rate for ages 12+ of about 90%.  Also like Ireland, Iceland is experiencing a major Covid surge.  Iceland has a number of restrictions and Covid mitigations in place basically banning large gatherings.  With the new surge, they are introducing new rules restricting gatherings to only 50 people, limiting opening hours for restaurants, and imposing % capacity restrictions on everything from swimming pools to ski areas to gyms.

(It is worth noting that Iceland, being a small remote island, doesn’t exactly have overflow capacity for its hospitals, so it’s reasonable for them to take measures that might not make sense in the continental US.  Ireland’s relationship with the UK is . . . standoffish, and they don’t seem to be cooperating on Covid in any way, shape, or form, which no doubt forces them to also be more cautious, as a small island.)

Case 3 – King County.  We have 84% of people fully vaccinated and 89% with at least one shot.  I don’t think the Covid levels are particularly alarming around here, but the Seattle Times subjects us to regular hysterical headlines about hospitals being overwhelmed, and we have a mask mandate for indoors and larger outdoors gatherings.  In any case, we’ve certainly had an ongoing surge for the last few months that never seems to end.

Perhaps most disturbingly, between 40 and 45% of recent deaths in King County are among the vaccinated.  Now, with nearly 85% vaccinated over age 12 (72% of the total population), you’d expect a fair few deaths in the vaccinated population, but more than 40%?

Given the greater contagiousness of Delta and its greater severity, I do think the vaccine is likely making a huge difference.  Unfortunately, I think, at 70% effective against contagiousness and 90% effective (at best – probably less for the people who need it most) against hospitalization, we’re not much better off than we were at the beginning, with the wild type, before the more contagious alpha variant.  The new treatments from Pfizer and Merck and encouraging, however.  Perhaps they will tip the balance.  The 30,000 foot view for me, though, is that in addition to heart disease and cancer, which both kill about 600,000 people per year, we now have a third disease which will take a slightly lesser toll for the indefinitely future.  Taking into consideration waning immunity, vaccine mandates, future variants, and better treatments, it seems likely we’ll be looking at around 300,000 deaths per year indefinitely (at least – more this year, but vaccines weren’t widely available until spring) and potentially a year or two reduced life expectancy.  I don’t think this is the end of the world; we’ve gain a couple years of life expectancy since the 90s, and things weren’t so bad back then.  It is what it is.  I can only say that hospitals need to be increasing capacity, both in terms of beds and equipment, and staff.  Doing so will take years, and there’s no time to start the work like the present.