Another dark and stormy night -- 08/14/08

And it really is a dark and stormy night.

We got some light rain in the early afternoon, just briefly... and then, around three-thirty or so, thunderstorms moved in.

I find this to be very annoying because I had hoped to go out for a run using the new toy that arrived last Friday from Amazon.com... an Omron HR-100C heart monitor. I've wanted one for the past year or so but really couldn't see spending sixty or seventy bucks -- but then I heard Amazon was having a sale on athletic equipment and when I found that it was on sale for about half its regular price I couldn't resist.

I've used it three times now and I like it. It consists of a heart rate reader that straps around your chest -- I had always thought they might be uncomfortable or prone to slipping, etc. but I've found it to be quite comfortable and it has stayed in place without a problem. It has a digital display that looks like a digital watch that you can strap on your wrist just like a wristwatch (and which also comes with a plastic mounting gadget so you could also put it on your bicycle or on a treadmill or an exercise bike, etc. The monitor on the chest strap broadcasts to the monitor, displaying your heart rate on the screen. (It can also function as a stop watch).

You can use it to monitor your heart rate to be sure that you are exercising to achieve your goals. For example, I am trying to build my aerobic capacity (as well as burn calories to loose weight and to tone my muscles) so I want to exercise in between 70 and 80 percent of my maximum range. The rule of thumb for maximum heart rate is 220 minus age -- thus, for me, 220 - 65 = 155. So my aerobic training range would be from 108.5 to 124 beats per minute. (Okay, so to keep life simple, I think of it as being 110 to 125.)

The first time I tried I was just following my three and a half mile course on the bike path... during which, I must admit, I stick in a couple short sections of walking (sort of following the C25K training philosophy -- that stands for Couch to 5K). I've also tried it when riding my bicycle. On Tuesday I decided to try it on the track -- wanting to see what my pace would turn out to be under that kind of controlled situation. So I jogged over to the track and ran six laps (one and a half miles) trying to keep my pulse from going above the aerobic zone. It was a little bit disappointing in that my pace was too slow -- about 15 minutes (10 minute mile) -- but I was deliberately trying to keep from running hard. Whenever I saw my heart rate hit 127 I would ease my pace until it came back below 125 (except in the last half of my last lap where I picked up the pace a little bit just for fun and let it go into the low 130s).

No sign of the thunderstorms leaving (and even if there were no risk of conducting electricity while running, I really hate running in the rain -- no windshield wipers on my glasses) so I think I'm going to head down into the basement and ride my exercise bike.

The Washington County Fair is running this week so these thunderstorms will be hurting their attendance figures. There's supposed to be more rain and T-storms tomorrow also, but I think the weekend will be better. Of course we can't go this year because Nancy is still recovering from her bunion surgery (three weeks ago yesterday) -- she is making great progress, but she's facing another two or three weeks of wearing her moonboot.

Ah, but the "dark and storm night" in my entry title was not just a reflection of the current weather outside -- it is also in recognition of the announcement of this year's winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. As many of you know, Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton was a Victorian novelist whose novel Paul Clifford began with the following sentence:
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

This year's overall winner -- written by Garrison Spik from Washington, DC -- offers:
Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

You can read the various other winners -- in categories such as Adventure, Romance, Fantasy Fiction, Detective, etc., plus Vile Puns and also Dishonorable Mention -- at the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2008 Results.

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