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April 24, 2011 / Dan Hertz


Well, I’ve now been running again for a couple of months and I thought I’d post a graph showing what I’ve been doing. I guess it’s only been two months that I’ve really been running consistently, and I definitely did it much more in March, as can be seen by the much steeper slope for that time period than for February or April. But I’m still hoping to get in 60 miles in April, with a couple of runs this coming week. It’s going to be pretty steamy, so my pace is dropping. I suppose this is a danger of living somewhere like DC. I was hoping for spring to last a bit longer, but I guess I’ll have to see how things go.
Running is also a way of doing something that feels like it’s constructive, worthwhile, but in no way relates to worries about job hunting, so I think that’s another draw for me at the moment.
I’m still having some issues with electrolytes on these runs, and I’m worried that it’s only going to be more of a problem as it gets warmer. I’ve got a water bottle that I carry with me now, and I’m drinking a weak solution of gatorade while running. And I have some salt capsules I’ve been taking as well. But I definitely think I could be doing things better. It’s something I need to work on, certainly.

March 14, 2011 / Dan Hertz

Running and hyponatremia

I’m back to running outside again, now that the weather is reasonably nice and feeling like some exercise would be a helpful thing for improving my mood.
Things have been going quite well, on the whole, as I’ve expanded my routes to include parts of Rock Creek Park, which has some very nice trails. It’s gratifying tracking one’s progress and routes on, but I was disappointed to find that a number of the trails in the park are not included on the site. Which is a shame because it’s generally more interesting to run on trails in the woods than it is running on a flat paved surface. And since I no longer have the problems with my ankles (spraining them easily), I definitely would prefer more varied terrain.
The good news is that I’ve run just about 50 miles so far in March, which I’m quite pleased with. The bad news is that I went for a longish run yesterday (11 miles at a moderate pace, in an hour and forty-five minutes), not too different from a run I did on Friday. However, I failed to eat lunch before going (since I left at around two) and didn’t fully realize what that would do. I felt okay during the actual run, but after I got home I started feeling rather unwell.
They’ve turned on at least some of the water fountains in the park, which is nice, but I think I ended up with my electrolytes badly out of balance. Apparently it’s called hyponatremia (lack of sodium), and in extreme cases has led to people dying. My case was clearly not that severe, but I did feel quite unwell, and couldn’t really eat too much at dinner (out with Beth’s family as usual on a Sunday night). After dinner we went to Beth’s parents’ house in order to file our taxes (sadly not getting as much of a refund as we’d hoped, but it will certainly help), where I drank some gatorade, which seemed to help a fair bit.
By the time we got home in the evening (and skyped Josh to wish him a happy birthday and see Henry jumped up on birthday cake), I thought I was feeling a little better and had some more to eat, but it was a short-lived thing, and by the time we went to bed I wasn’t really feeling able to sleep at all, and I ended up passing a fair bit of the night reading about energy gels and salt tablets and what I should be doing when running in the future. And I’m stuck at home today because I feel pretty thoroughly rotten.
I don’t know what kind of selection (of energy gels and salt tablets etc) I’ll be able to find at a grocery store, so I may have to go to to a specialty store, or just order online. I think that in general I should perhaps be putting a bit more thought into my runs and spend at least a little time reading some training guides for half-marathoners and marathoners. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, and seeing as I have ended up pretty much stuck in bed for today, I have conclusively demonstrated that failing to think about these things can hurt.
I think that a lot of the problem comes from the fact that I’m not used to running/cardio workouts that are in the region of two hours, uninterrupted. I’m going to have to find some way to bring fluids and energy with me on these runs if I’m going to avoid this kind of problem in the future. I definitely need to find some way to carry water/gatorade/something with me on these runs. I suspect a trip to Roadrunner will be required shortly.

Interestingly, one might think that the high-sodium diet which is ubiquitous in the US would lead to avoiding these sorts of problems. However, apparently if you have high sodium in your diet normally, you will end up with saltier sweat as a rule (because your body is trying to get rid of the excess), which then means that you will lose all the more when you’re sweating lots on a long run. The better thing to do is to move to a low-sodium diet in general and make sure you have enough when working out. At least, that’s the impression I’ve gotten from the light reading I’ve done so far; as I said, I need to examine all this in more detail.

February 12, 2011 / Dan Hertz

More headaches

Well, I’ve now been going to physical therapy for my headaches for a couple of weeks, and while things initially seemed like they were improving, I’ve been having a bit of a relapse this week. I suspect that I’ve been overdoing it a bit, and that three days a week of PT is too much.
My neck has been feeling very stiff and my headaches have returned, which is obviously frustrating. The other development is less an actual change in my state of health and more to do with a realization. It turns out that some people have headaches that do not involve sensitivity to light and sound. I hadn’t really ever thought of headaches that weren’t at least somewhat alleviated by lying quietly in the dark. So I guess all my headaches are migraines, although they’re not to the extent of me seeing auras or feeling nauseous, thankfully. Still, it was sort of an ‘oh’ moment.
I guess this means I should talk to the neurologist about getting some more serious medication for the headaches. One of the things I’d tried seemed to help a fair bit, so perhaps I’ll give that one a more serious run.

Obviously, once the stresses in my life diminish a bit, I’m sure that things will start looking better in general (in terms of tension in my neck and back and head), but I would like to have it so that I don’t immediately get week (or month) long headaches just because life is stressful.

January 29, 2011 / Dan Hertz

Back on the wagon

Well, after two months of inactivity and a load of different excuses, I finally returned to doing some exercise this weekend. As always, things tend to look good for the first week or so, obviously.
While it was demoralizing how far my level of fitness had fallen since the fall (when I was able to run half a marathon), I have at least started doing something. It will obviously be a while before I’m back to my level of fitness from the fall (let’s not talk about my old levels of fitness because that just gets depressing), but at least I can feel like things are going in the right direction.
Importantly, doing some exercise seems to help with my headaches. I wasn’t expecting it to be positive in this respect, but that’s a pretty powerful motivation factor at the moment, since I’m really really really tired of having a headache all the time. I’m hoping that the workouts, in combination with physical therapy and stretching, will resolve the issue in a longer-term way. And if I have to be doing some amount of cardio every morning in order to not have a headache, that’s a habit that wouldn’t exactly be bad for me in any case.

For now I’m just working up slowly on the elliptical, but I’m hoping to at least improve my ‘technique’ on it so I can optimize my workouts in terms of maintaining a high heart rate, or even doing interval training. I have, however, discovered that each of the machines in my gym are different despite being nominally identical. A given ‘level’ setting is not the same resistance on any two machines. Which is just weird. Oh well, I’m certainly not expecting the ‘calorie count’ to be anywhere near accurate, but it’s still kind of weird that things are so different from one machine to the next.

October 28, 2010 / Dan Hertz

Writing problems

So I’ve been trying to write some things lately and I’m having a definite problem getting words down on paper. Well, words onto the screen, technically, but you know what I mean. I feel like I didn’t always have this problem, as I was at one point in time quite a good writer. Maybe it’s that I haven’t been writing much seriously in years (the only significant thing being my thesis), but I feel like I’ve even lost the ability to write any type of serious piece of work. Even blogging seems to have become more arduous than I remember it being (which perhaps accounts at least in part for why I’m not posting as much these days).
It’s something about focusing on one thing for any length of time which seems to be causing me trouble, although in this case we’re talking about focusing for a period of time on the order of… minutes.

Anyway, it’s frustrating, and it’s obviously putting a damper on my work progress.
It could just be a question of being out of practice, in which case nothing is going to solve it except getting back into the swing of things, and… well… practice.

Perhaps posting here more frequently will help. I don’t know, but it’s a reasonable motivation to try writing more regularly.

October 25, 2010 / Dan Hertz

Pumpkin Time

Well, yesterday we went apple and pumpkin picking with some friends and then ate an exceptionally tasty meal consisting largely of apples cooked in various different ways. The pumpkins were also carved, and I have to say that I think Beth did a pretty outstanding job, both in creating a stencil for Josh and Meghan to carve a squirrel, and in executing a magnificent carving of Trogdor, the Burninator.
Sadly we do not have a porch on which to display said pumpkin, so we left it at Sara and Ron’s house for their neighborhood to enjoy.
From left to right we have Sara’s duck (stencil found and resized by me, so I helped), Beth’s Trogdor, and Josh and Meghan’s squirrel. They are presented in three different lights.


August 30, 2010 / Dan Hertz

A Successful Move

I am writing this entry from my new office on campus, which is a pretty exciting development. I’ve got my monitor and computer set up (that was a pretty quick thing) and now I’m going to unpack my few boxes of things and try to make this place seem a bit more like home.
I’ve already discovered that the filing cabinet doesn’t seem to have the rails to hold hanging files, so I’ll need to do something about that. But one exciting new thing is that I have actual desk drawers again. What a revolutionary concept! Somewhere to put pens, pencils and all that kind of stuff.

My desk is extremely tiny, but I think I’ll be able to make it work. And I do have a nice desk chair, which is pretty awesome. Finally something that has real lumbar support and isn’t just a cast-off from god knows where. All in all, it’s pretty exciting.

Yes, this is in fact what passes for excitement in my life these days. Oh well.

August 25, 2010 / Dan Hertz

Renewed existence

I appear to have regained my identity with the university. Apparently this actually happened some time ago but almost simultaneous with my reinstatement, my password expired (I of course did not receive warning of this because my email wasn’t working) which meant that my account still didn’t work, but now for a different reason.

So the good news is that my email now works and that I can once again access the university wifi. The bad news is that I may have lost two weeks (give or take) of emails which may simply have disappeared into a black hole or may have been bounced back to the sender.

My appointment is still technically through Biology (rather than my new department) which is leading me to believe that my existence may suddenly cease at some point (with no warning, of course), and I’m basically giving up on using my UMD email account ever again. It’s all gmail for me from now on.

August 12, 2010 / Dan Hertz

Ongoing complaints

UMD still hasn’t reinstated my directory ID, meaning that I don’t have my email address or wifi access back.
How incompetent is this bureaucracy? Clearly this isn’t going to get resolved properly until my new job starts.

And my shins are still unhappy, although I feel like it’s currently at a manageable level. However, this means not running as much as I’d like, and I’m beginning to truly loathe the elliptical machine. I just can’t seem to get the intensity and quality of workout I would running. If only they had an erg at the gym 😦
Instead they have a mouse, apparently. Good stuff.

August 6, 2010 / Dan Hertz

Reading the Bible

So I’ve been listening to a lot of iTunes University classes over the last year or so, which has been really interesting and I’ve enjoyed learning a ton about all kinds of different subjects.

One of my favorite classes to date has been an introduction to the New Testament, from Yale’s Open Yale Courses. This led me to buy an annotated Bible so I could actually do the reading for the course. This is actually a newer edition than what I got (it’s brand new, I guess), but I recommend it very highly.
Anyway, following listening to this (and thus reading all of the New Testament), I thought “I’ll do the same with the Old Testament, how hard can it be?” There’s a corresponding class from Yale for the Hebrew Bible, so I thought I’d listen to that and read along in the Bible.
I somehow hadn’t really looked at the fact that there’s a lot more material in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible than in the NT. And also just how much extra time it takes to read if you’re going to read all the footnotes. So my planned read has taken rather longer than I anticipated it might. But I’ve now read most of it, actually and only have a few books left.
There’s a big difference in the ordering of the books in the Hebrew Bible vs the Old Testament, so I ended up reading things kind of out of sequence of either, but I’m sticking mainly with the Hebrew Bible order for my reading, except for a few deviations.
So far I’ve read the Pentateuch/Torah, Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, The Twelve, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and Ruth.
This leaves me with Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon/Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther.

So why am I doing this? Well, I guess I feel like the Bible is such a major part of our cultural history that it’s interesting to actually read the whole thing and understand it in textual and historical context (this is where the footnotes and listening to the podcasts are extremely important). And I keep coming across expressions and thinking “So that’s where that phrase comes from” and feeling kind of ignorant for not having previously known it.

Once I’m done with these, there’s still the Apocrypha left, of course, but I’m going to hold off on that for a little while, I think. I was getting a little burned out a couple hundred pages ago, but now that the end is in sight (really, less than 500 pages to go) I’m picking up speed again.

Once this is done I can get back to reading The Great War for Civilization, by Robert Fisk. Some day I may even start reading regular fiction again…