Monday, February 27, 2012

All running all the time

This weekend was pretty much just running and watching the Oscars.  I'm not even training for a marathon, but Kathy is running Boston in April and a side-effect of her high mileage is that I've also racked up three 50+ mile weeks since the beginning of the year. As soon as I get a breather from work stuff I think I should look for a May or June marathon!  Can't let all this training go to 'waste'...

The weekend was tough on the legs though with a 10-km race (Rodeo Run) on Saturday (which we stretched to 10 miles total) and then a 20-mile training run on Sunday, part of it being a 5-k race, the second running and first official of the Run for Wellness 5K in George Bush Park.  This monthly free race (last Sunday of the month) is a lot of fun with probably the fastest, flattest track of any 5K in Houston, professional race management, post-race food for all and nice awards for top three male and female places.  And just to prove that age has nothing to do with it, the overall female winner this Sunday was Sabra Harvey, one of the fastest 60+ female runners in the world.  Sabra is coming back from an injury but she was looking great and has not lost her turn of speed. Just ask my friend Chris Adams ('Fast' Chris)  who thought he could challenge Sabra towards the end of the race.  Maybe next time buddy!

Here are a few pics I took at the Rodeo Run and the annual Houston Livestock and Rodeo parade which followed the run in downtown Houston.

Huge congestion at the start, it took me more than 3 miles to fight my way through walkers and much slower runners, never could make up the deficit but ran sub 50-minutes for the 10K so not too unhappy about that.

The Channel 13 TV Rodeo broadcast team in action

The dogs go along for the ride

This is how you get to be a good rider: start young!

We enjoyed an early lunch at Jenni's Noodle House after the run, Teddy's Not Gay for me and Artcar Curry for Kathleen

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon

This last weekend was supposed to have been 'all running all the time' with a 6km race scheduled for Saturday morning and a half marathon - the Rhythm and Blues - on Sunday.  As it turned out the 6k Buffalo Wallow was practically washed out - even though some people did show up and run it.  I did not quite sleep in - was already up and the dogs had to be fed - but I was not going to slip and slide through the mud of Spotts Park so packed it in. 

The next morning was a lot better and a bunch of us - probably just over 1,000 - tackled the 13.1 mile Rhythm and Blues half marathon.  Living up to its name, the race had several pretty good blues bands along the course and at the end, and another blues ensemble played at the post race festivities.  Combine that with some good food - even some vegan options from Snap Kitchen - and three different kegs from the new Karbach brewery and it made for a really enjoyable morning.  Saw some friends whom I had not seen in a while as well.  My time of 1:54 was so-so, I guess the best that can be said is that I maintained a steady pace throughout, right around 8:40 per mile.  The three-loop course does get to be a bit boring but it is 'only' 13.1 miles... Half the distance and twice the fun of a full 26.2 mile marathon.  Actually I am feeling fine this morning (Monday) and will probably do a few easy miles tonight.  The Rhythm and Blues run also had a 5K component which was run before the half marathon, with about the same number of entrants as the half.  So a pretty good turnout for an inaugural race. Well done to Raymond Cooper of Finish Strong Sports and his team of volunteers and assistants.   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Photographs on the run

54 miles total this week: highest in quite a while!  Mostly just tagging along the group & keeping Kathy company while she prepares for Boston.  Hopefully all the running will translate into a decent time for next week's Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon.

Here are some photographs taken this morning and yesterday:

Reserve Bank Building

Mecom Fountain @ Main & Montrose, Hotel Zaza in b/g

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can you see me now - Part 2

Yes I can see you but not as well as before.  For someone who has had few if any health issues - ever - in life, who takes no medication of any kind and hasn't missed a day's work in 20 years, the gradual onset of deteriorating eyesight is at first just annoying, then worrying and finally depressing. Having started noticing some very distinctive double vision in my left eye, I recently had a battery of tests which came out all OK: no disease or underlying condition causing this. Just some adjustment needed on my prescription.  Which we promptly did.  However, it did not work.  Left eye vision still poor with pronounced double vision, even with the new glasses... Very unhappy about that.  Will have to go back next week to see what can be done.  Options including possibly trying contact lenses again, or maybe even surgery in the one eye.  Will resort to that only if all else fails.

Running is going great: 8 miles this morning (late) after some stopping and starting due to rain.  Can't complain about rain, we are just emerging from a massive drought.  If I can get in 10 miles tomorrow - which should be doable - it will be my 3rd week in a row of 40+ miles.  And-  touch wood - the plantar fasciitis in my left foot is slowly receding like a bad memory. Kathleen's training for Boston is also on schedule, I am sagging for her and a few other runners tomorrow morning for a 17-mile run. 

100 days of weight loss: Day 35
I am stretching this program out to what will likely turn into 300 days of weight maintenance, still 20 pounds heavier than I want to be... Rather this than abandon it altogether.  So once more with feeling:  today's 'lesson'is to try to recognize an 'eating pause' that occurs at some point while eating a meal.  People would stop briefly and lay down their forks or put down the food they're holding in their hands.  Don't go back and start eating again: the natural 'eating pause' is likely the exact point where you are satisfied or comfortable. 

Cultural notes:

Emily Newton as Anna Bolena in Opera in the Height's Performance of Anna Bolena by Gaetano Donizetti.  Photo courtesy of OIH

Kathleen and I have been to the opera twice lately.  Last night was Anna Bolena, Donizetti's bel canto masterpiece, at Opera in the Heights.  And fabulously sung it was too, by young soprano  Emily Newton who hails from Lake Jackson in Texas.  Beautiful, expressive voice!  The tenor  in the role of Lord Percy (Zach Averyt) tried really hard but fell a little short.  I think  he just had an off night, but he seemed to have a hard time holding some of the more challenging high notes which unfortunately are rather common in any Donizetti opera.  No big deal though, the cast as a whole was stellar, as was the chorus, particularly the women.  All in all a very satisfying evening at the opera.  Just a very long one. Like everybody else in the theater, I was squirming in my seat by the time 3 hours and 15 minutes had elapsed. Yes it is a marathon performance but with so much beautiful music, what can you do.  Stretch your legs, re-arrange your seat and enjoy!  Also, there was a pretty blonde playing the drums.  Complete with Madonna hairstyle.  If she wasn't in the back there she might have stolen the show from Maestro Enrique Carreon-Robledo who conducted with great passion and energy.  The music never sounded so good!

Albina Shagimuratova.  Photo by Andrei Bogdanov

Last Friday we were at the Houston Grand Opera for Verdi's La Traviata.  HGO consistently delivers an opera experience of the first order and this performance was no  exception.  In the title role Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova was a revelation.  She tossed off a succession of hugely difficult and challenging arias with the greatest of ease.  Making singing at this level look easy takes masses of natural talent and unbelievable devotion and sheer hard work.  Patently there is nothing easy about performing successfully on stage singing opera in front of 2000+ people. You have to remember the words and the music, sing (in Italian or French, most of the time), move exactly when and where as previously directed, act, react, adjust and improvise when necessary, and pretend as if it's your first time even if you've sung the role a 100 times before!  No bored or jaded expressions allowed...  That would not have been a problem for Brian Hymel - an up and coming young tenor from New Orleans.  He was inserted into the role of Alfredo Germont barely one week before the opera's first performance due to the originally cast tenor falling sick.  Mr Hymel made the very most of his opportunity, performing flawlessly.  His strong yet delicate high notes had a pleasing Italianate flavor and there was not a hint of under-rehearsal.  A good future in opera awaits Mr. Hymel!