Monthly Archives: November 2008

Running after 50: Distance

I just read Haruki Murakami’s excellent little treatise on distance running called, What I write about when I write about running (title borrowed respectfully and with permission from Raymond Carver‘s estate). So here’s a disclaimer about distance: I am not talking about distance the same way Murakami is. Not by many, many miles.

When I first started to run (sort of) on the treadmill in the gym, I recall the day I managed to eek out a mile in 12 minutes. That was a huge day for me since it meant I was mostly running with only a couple of fast walk breaks. So you now have a context for what I’m talking about when I’m talking about distance.

This isn't at all what I looked like on a treadmill

This isn't at all what I looked like on the treadmill.

That was about three years ago. About 2 years ago I started running outside–meaning, the ground is not mechanically moving beneath me and I actually have to propel my body forward on stationary ground. Whole new ballgame.

I started slow, a quarter mile, a half mile, with liberal walking before an after. By Spring of this year (2008) I had worked my way up to 2-2.5 miles, running continuously, with hills. This was again a major achievement and I was feeling pretty good about it. I’d learned a lot along the way, and made the decision to quit the gym and focus on running outdoors. I was clearly accustomed to the non-moving natural ground.

Sometime in June, I –with great trepidation–thought: maybe I can do a 5k. This thought was immediately followed by: What’s a 5K? When I found out it was 3.1 miles, I shied away. But the thought was there…and then the Fred Hutchinson 5 and 10K races were there, and I thought: what the hell. If it gets bad, you can always walk. So I signed up.

I practiced a 3 mile course a couple times a week for two weeks before so I figured I was ready for the 5K. I really wasn’t, but it all worked out anyway. What happens in a race, I learned, is that you get swept up by those around you, you find someone you pace with, and before you know it, you’re running a lot faster than you’ve trained, and you run out of gas somewhere in the middle. I still did okay–for me–with a 10.5 min pace. Slow by most anyone else’s standards, but better than I expected for myself (I wasn’t even sure I could finish it–it’s not the flattest course in the world).

After that race, I found my body was more or less thinking we would be running 5ks from now on, and swiftly too (for me). This goes to Murakami’s idea that you have to raise the body’s expectation of itself–you push it and back off, push and back off.

Since June, I’ve run two more 5Ks and earned some money for good organizations. One thing I found after the last one: I wasn’t happy just running anymore. In other words, running was now about racing, and I couldn’t relax and enjoy my beach and park runs like I used to. I was pushing and pushing, finding new routes, etc. I almost couldn’t hear my music anymore. What’s up with that?

So, I went back to some old routes and found I relaxed back into a better state while running and was happy again. One day, on a whim, I decided to run a slightly different route (half new, half old) which I mapped out beforehand on MapMyRun. When I actually got to the starting spot I’d picked out, there was no street sign. Thinking I’d missed it, I started where I thought it should be.

4.1 miles later, I realized I’d increased my distance…by a mile. I also realized I felt great–especially after the 3rd mile. A week later, I did the same route and found the same thing: after th 3rd mile I felt terrific–and ran even a wee bit further. Yesterday I ran it again and went 4.8 miles–nearly 5 miles. Nearly an increase of 2 miles in 2 weeks.

I’ve got a distance plan in place now, using Murakami’s idea: I go 4+ day 1, 3+ day 2, 2+ day 3, rest day 4 and by day 5 I’m itching to run–my old bod is so ready to go the new distance, it’s amazing.

So far so good–I’d like to do a 10k next summer, but I also have a deep respect for taking it a little bit at a time. After all, it’s taken me over 3 years to get here.

Running after 50: for the newbies amongst us

I’ve spent the last few years on this blog focused on environmental changes I can make by myself (My Life with Car series) here in my own home and my own life.

Oddly, among the changes my own environmental experiments have wrought, I count my three year old passion/torture: running.

For one year, I tracked my driving habits in order to reduce needless driving, use my bike more, use mass transit, combine tasks, what have you.  While lots and lots of changes–big and small–came out of that year, one change was completely unexpected: my addiction to running.

I’ve never been a runner–not ever.  And some would say, with my paltry collection of 5K bib numbers, I’m still not a runner (my neighbor has indicated that a 5K is not a race, as she can do it in her sleep.  Oh well.).  I recall back in high school going through the motions required for 100 yard dash tests and such, and not enjoying one second of it.

But that’s not to say I’m not athletic at all–I’ve been an avid bike rider for a long time, commuting to work, touring, stuff like that. And then there’s hiking, river rafting…I’m not a total couch potato, but running just has never, ever been on the agenda.

So how did this start?  I used to belong to a gym, and used to drive to the gym.  I really enjoyed the gym but over-use taught me the value of using different muscle sets.  One day I tried the treadmill and was astonished to find I liked the sensation of running–slowly, for sure, but still.

I kept at it and a 10-15 min run on the treadmill was soon part of my normal workout.  About this time, I realized there was something uncomfortably ironic about driving my car to workout at a gym when I live a block from a gorgeous park on the Puget Sound with great running trails.  One day I tried running down along the beach front–hello.  Running on ground is REALLY different from running on a treadmill.  But I liked it! I felt great afterwards.

And I was totally pleased with myself that even though I was over 50, I was sort of kind of picking up this new sport that seemed to be the realm of the long and lean (definitely not me.) This was three years ago.

running in the rain

running in the rain

After about a year of splitting between outdoor runs and the gym, my attendance at the gym had really started to decline. I made the decision earlier this year to cancel my gym membership and focus solely on running outdoors.  This was huge–especially since I view the Seattle outdoors during 6 months of the year to be uninhabitable.  But I did it.

This past weekend I decided that this journey which has honest-to-god changed my life was worth sharing with others who are over 50 and learning to run, or thinking about it, or curious or whatever.  So begins a new chapter in this blog: Learning to run after 50.

Cornell Ornithology Lab: quick vid

I really enjoyed this vid which promotes the Cornell Ornithology Lab.  I’ve written about Cornell previously and am an avid supporter–they do fabulous things, especially in schools and globally to try to raise the level of awareness about birds, local environment, citizen science and other cool things.

Click here to see their Force of Nature video–it’s short and full of great shots.

Unsubscribing from catalogs: tis the season where this questions becomes obvious

Post-script on this issue: My pal Diana sent me a head’s up that there is an opt-in green initiative for customers to request that companies no longer send catalogs. It’s called Catalog Choice and is a Green Certified site. I went there, signed up on their secure page, and was able to request that Dell no longer send me catalogs.

It will take 12 weeks to process, but hey. It’s notable that Dell has opted in to participate in this program. Other companies, such as Land’s End, have not. So you’re at the mercy of the company’s own sense of marketing fairness or internal processes, whichever.

Thanks Di–much appreciated, since the Dell (bless their hearts!) catalogs were really the nagging irritation!


I do not blame companies for trying to make a profit. That’s what they’re there for. I do get irritated, and especially so this time of year, when I get dozens and dozens of catalogs that don’t even make the cut to a save-for-later pile–they go straight into the recycle bin, unopened, and certainly unappreciated. Dell is a big one that comes to mind: we are a mac household. It’s ridiculous for them to send all these catalogs.

And how many trees gave their lives for this instant recycle fodder? Is the catalog industry involved in recycling and is the production of catalogs therefore job security? You gotta wonder.

Lifehacker posts an article today on the questionable practice of sending catalogs to anyone who has ever lived or used a product. The excellent query: why can’t we easily unsubscribe from catalogs? We should be able to–not only because the constant irritation of receiving these things actually does nothing good for their brand but also because they involve us in unenvironmental behavior that for some of us is pretty disturbing.

I say: do the right thing. Make it easy for us to opt out–put a link on your site that allows us to go there and opt out. We’ll remember you kindly in the future.

The power of those doggone Internets: Rally in Seattle…and the world

At the marriage equality rally downtown seattle on TwitPic

Yesterday saw the eruption of equal rights rallies around the globe in response to the pro-discriminatory Prop 8 victory in California. Rallies come and go, but I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I-won’t-take-it-anymore movement to demand equal rights for ALL citizens, regardless of religion, gender or orientation. I also have a feeling that there is a wave out there that is coming to shore, and here’s why:

One week ago, Amy Balliett of Seattle talked to a friend on the phone and both decided they needed to take some action on the Prop 8 issue–globally. One week later–ONE WEEK!–rallies took place all over the world with thousands of people participating. Estimates in Seattle alone are 6,000 attendees. How did they do it? They used the massive power of social networks and tools on the internet.

They set up a wiki overnight that connected multiple cities and organizers and facilitated info share and networking easily and instantly. They spread the word through twitter, through email, through facebook. Before anyone knew what was happening or how far the news had spread, Saturday was here, and thousands took to the street. Awesome, truly awesome.

And now, we move forward from here. The big message was as simple as it is challenging: talk to one person every day who may not share your opinion about marriage equality. Talk to the person in the cube next to you. Talk to someone who hasn’t really even thought about the issue. Talk openly, not aggressively. Listen. Share. Because at the end of the day, opposition to equal rights is usually more about Fear than it is about hatred. We have to believe that in this world that is getting smaller and more complex every day.

And getting the same rights as everyone else who pays taxes, works, votes, participates, and lives in our neighborhoods and cities and states and country is not too much to ask. It’s the very least we can ask for.



A twitter friend of mine (@troyapeterson) is building a very cool educational tool with the aim of educating kids through the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project. It’s a combination of YouTube and Wikipedia and is largely being driven by interested volunteers to build the “nib” database. You can see, use and participate (no sign in required) at


What’s a nib and how does this work:
you watch the extremely insightful and interesting TED talks and add a wikipedia entry to sections of the talk (some TED talks are high level and a working prototype; the offering will include many more channels as time goes on). In this way, kids can simply watch a talk and click on a “nib” to learn more about something they don’t understand. For example, if the TED talk is on Creativity by Amy Tan, there will be clickable nibs scrolling across the bottom offering info on vocab, for example, or names that are referenced in the talk. It’s cool and the more we participate, the richer it gets.

Give it a try if you have a chance, and by all means, add nibs! Just click on a subject you’re interested in and drill down to a talk you’d like to see/listen to.

And if you don’t have time (who does?), just send this info along to anyone else you think might be interested.

Speaking of Dear World: Hello World.

How I learned to stop listening and love the noise:

For an “An immersive video installation featuring over 3000 video diaries found on the internet,” check out Christopher Baker’s work entitled Hello World here.

Dear World: we’re back.

Dear World: we’re back, we missed you, hope we can get back on track soon.  The Mideast has chimed in with a wish-list of things but at least we’ve got some mojo now.

Al-jazeera front page 11/5/08

Al-jazeera front page 11/5/08

UK Guardian Front Page 11/5/08

UK Guardian Front Page 11/5/08

Le Monde 11/5/08

Le Monde 11/5/08

Xinhua News 11/5/08

Xinhua News 11/5/08

Indian News 11/5/008

Indian News 11/5/008

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! info here, in case you need it

How to find out where you should vote:

League of Women Voter’s Site

Local elections site

The Seattle Stranger endorsements (Laugh While You Learn!)

Legal help of any kind re elections: 1-866-OUR-VOTE

Free stuff for voters in Seattle: Starbucks coffee, Babeland, Cupcake Royale, Ben & Jerry’s

Make history and have fun: go vote!

Wise words from Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman, with whom I have an ongoing love/hate relationship–I unsubscribed from the NYTimes back in 2003 largely because of his seeming lock-step approval of war and the Bush admin–has in the last year gained my deep appreciation for his clarity of thought and insight.  I’m sure he’ll be relieved to know I’m back on board.

Anyhoo, I’ve been telling everyone I can to read and consider this Sunday’s editorial, entitled Vote for ( ).  Individual NYT contributors aren’t allowed to make endorsements for public office, so he sidesteps that…but his preference in this election is transparent and heartening.

More significant to me, though, was this: he makes clear that whoever wins will inherit an economy in shambles, a world deeply divided, and a country that is basically demoralized.  No one person will be able to change the exceptionally difficult times we’re facing–and neither candidate is facing or discussing this reality in the election or debates.

We are all going to have to pay, because this meltdown comes in the context of what has been “perhaps the greatest wealth transfer since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917,” says Michael Mandelbaum, author of “Democracy’s Good Name.” “It is not a wealth transfer from rich to poor that the Bush administration will be remembered for. It is a wealth transfer from the future to the present.”

Never has one generation spent so much of its children’s wealth in such a short period of time with so little to show for it as in the Bush years.”

He concludes, then, by suggesting we vote based on the leadership and character of the candidate, because the new president will be facing a set of challenges that will require a united country, focused on solutions. What a concept.

First, we need a president who can speak English and deconstruct and navigate complex issues so Americans can make informed choices. We have paid an enormous price for having a president who could not explain and reassure us during this financial meltdown….

Second, we need a president who can energize, inspire and hold the country together during what will be a very stressful recovery. We have to climb out of this financial crisis at a time when the baby boomers are about to retire and going to need their Social Security and eventually Medicare.

Third, we need a president who can rally the world to our side. We cannot get out of this crisis unless China starts consuming more and unless Europe keeps lowering interest rates. Everyone is interconnected, and everyone is still looking to America to lead.

Vote for the candidate you think has the smarts, temperament and inspirational capacity to unify the country and steer our ship through what could be the rockiest shoals our generation has ever known. Your kids will thank you.

Thanks, Mr. Friedman–your clarity is much appreciated.

Me ‘n Jack Bauer: My 24 Marathon

24 Season 7 Trailer

A dear friend of mine who loves Jack Bauer more than even the other Jack is–as one might expect–very excited about the upcoming season premier. So excited that he’s having a small party of like minded friends to come over and share the moment with him…I think that’s very sweet and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Except….except, I don’t really know anything about 24. When he talks about Jack, I nod knowingly but I’ve just been faking it.

So, cuz I love my friend, I decided to become conversant with–nay, knowledgeable about, familiar with, aware of–that man of action with a truckload of personal problems, Jack Bauer. And I was going to do it before the season premier. Too bad I made that vow and accepted the invitation before I realized there were 6 seasons.

I ordered them all from the Seattle Public Library, and lucky me! They all came in at once. My mission now: finish all 24 episodes in two weeks, the due date for all six seasons. Do you realize what that means? That’s like 150 hours of tv watching or something–and this is someone who doesn’t watch a whole lot of TV. Okay, Rachel Maddow, but that’s different.

After the first few hours of the first season, I was a little horrified by the prospect.  I don’t know what I thought…I guess I never really thought about it at all: 24 means twenty-four hours. Each season is 24 hours long. Hello?

So I started to strategize–first seek patterns, then figure a path to completion. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I’m now in Season 3 and here’s what I’ve learned (probably every first year film student at USC knows this but it was news to me): You must watch the first episode. They lay down the main players, the crisis, the complicating factors that will be in play for the whole season. You may have to watch a good chunk of the second episode as well. But then you’ll want to go into full speed-view mode which on my laptop consists of this:

  • keep the menu bar open on the full screen view–you’ll need it for fast action forwarding
  • each episode consists of the following three things: What, How, Twist
    • The What: that moves each plot thread forward
    • The How: you can skip most of this, it’s the filler we watch really intently even though all we really want to know is the What
    • The Twist: that’s the unexpected thing they throw in right before the chapter ends that you can probably catch up on in the next chapter’s opening What
  • After the first couple minutes of the chapter, click the forward button. You’ve got the What and you can skip to the next chapter.

If you do this quickly, it’s like one of those old fashioned cartoon flip books that you pfffftttt through really fast and see the characters actually move. Watching 24 like this has the same effect: if you watch 24 like Jack Bauer would watch 24–moving very quickly and intuitively from the first few minutes to the next chapter, you can watch an entire season in under two hours.

It’s still too long, and I may well skip an entire season or two if they don’t grab me in the first 5 minutes of the season premier, but I’m becoming quite fond of Jack–and am feeling confidently conversant about him. He’s a complex guy.

Funny what we happily do for dear friends.