Thursday, April 30, 2009

That Loving Feeling

“You've lost that loving feeling” , so goes the song by the Righteous Brothers. That is how I have been feeling the last few weeks about my running due to certain aches and pains to my lower extremities. After having worked the last two nights with hardly a break, I expected today's run to be another slog in the neighborhood streets. I started out pretty slowly but after about 15 minutes I felt a good bounce to my stride and the pace speeded up subconsciously. My plan was to run for only 30 minutes but I ended up finishing 38 minutes with the last 23 minutes in an unintended tempo/race effort. I just love it when I experience this kind of run and the natural high that I feel while I'm doing it. Just a short run but very satisfying. I'm happy to say that the loving feeling is not “gone, gone, gone”.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How I Came to Live In The U.S.

I've recently been in touch with another former classmate in the Philippines. She works as an archaeologist over there and she sent me an email recently asking me how I ended up in California. It seemed to her that I just disappeared from the face of the earth right after high school. We went to the same university after that but we never saw each other there. So here is a brief history of how I got here:

The running boom in the U.S. during the 70's finally reached the Philippines around 1979. I was working as a physical fitness instructor then and I joined a Sunday training group in the Metropolitan Manila area. It was just one of those weekly fun run events where they gave you ribbons for finishing and after participating 10 times, you got a free t-shirt. There was also a group that followed the Honolulu Marathon Training Program with the intent of running the 1980 Honolulu Marathon. It was with this group that I hooked on to which enabled me to come to the U.S. They arranged for the visas, air travel and hotel accomodations after we gave them the money so everything was taken cared of. With us came the medical director of the fitness center I worked for, so he was my roommate in Hawaii when we got there. We had already run our first marathon in the Philippines in November. So we ran the Honolulu Marathon and it was one of those rainy days where peeing in your shorts while continuing to run to save time wasn't out of the question. After all, the rain just washed it all away. No need to pull over the side of the road to expose and relieve yourself. Gross, huh?!

Part of the plan was to visit relatives in the mainland so the day after the marathon, we left for California. We went our separate ways here, me to visit my uncle, and the good doctor off to see relatives in Connecticut (if I remember right). So this is how it came to be. Visiting relatives, finding a job, becoming a legal alien, then finally becoming a U.S. Citizen. All this things happened to me and I owe it all to running. Thats probably the reason why I continue to run today, because without running I wouldn't be where I am now. Being in a place where a lot of people all over the world can only dream of.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Keeping Cool

The heat wave earlier this week left everyone sweltering even indoors. Coming from work Tuesday morning, I went to bed and upon waking up in the afternoon, went to the bathroom. To my delight, I saw that my cat had found a comfortable spot to keep herself cool – the bathroom sink. That gave me a good laugh because it was so cute so I just had to take a picture of her.

The Year of the Gun

The year: 1992. It was the height of the Los Angeles riots. People of different races were being threatened and harassed on the streets and were in danger of getting beaten or worse. It was at that time I purchased a .25 caliber handgun from a sporting goods store. The gun was a piddly little thing which probably had no stopping power. I have never used it all these years and it has never been fired. Last weekend an opportunity arose to finally get rid of it. The L.A. Sheriffs Department has a program called “Gifts For Guns” where you turn in a firearm with no questions asked and in turn they give you a $100.00 gift card from Best Buy, Walmart, or Target if it was a handgun, and $200.00 if it was an assault rifle. I wasn't familiar with the collection area so I drove past it before seeing the sign. I turned around and parked on the opposite side of where the entrance was supposed to be. The sheriffs had put those yellow “do not enter” tapes around the area. Not thinking too well, I took the unloaded and boxed gun from the car trunk and started walking past the yellow tape approaching the officers manning the entry from behind. I didn't realize that this was a drive thru operation until I got there since the newspaper notices didn't mention it. I was immediately stopped by an officer who asked me where I was going. I pointed towards the entrance and said I was turning a gun in. Another officer escorted me, took the gun and had to frisk me because I was a “walk up”. Then it occurred to me at that point how dangerous it was for me and them, that I had crossed the yellow boundary tape and was walking towards the officers with a gun. So I understand why they were taking extreme precautions. However, the officers were very respectful and walked me through the whole process. They separated the ammunition first, then at the next table they inspected the gun barrel for any bullets after which they inserted a disposable plastic gun lock in it. At the next table were the gift cards. There was a choice of picking two $50.00 cards from whichever store you wanted. I picked a couple of Walmarts because I thought that was where I could get the most bang for the buck. They also gave away a free t-shirt with Arnold Schwarzenegger's picture on it saying “TERMINATE VIOLENCE”. Everything turned out to be a very pleasant experience. I got $100.00 worth of gift cards for a never used gun that I bought for about $60.00 a long time ago. Pretty good deal!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Nintendo WII Tennis Record

Playing Nintendo WII tennis has been an up and down experience. I have found that if I don't beat the machine handily my skill level points goes down by leaps and bounds. Even when I win a match, I can still lose points by not winning all games or if the opponent is given a chance to rally too much. This is how it goes. A match in WII tennis consists of 3 games, unlike in real tennis where a match consists of winning 6 games in a set and 2 or 3 sets in a match. So basically, WII tennis is a very shortened version. You have to win 3-0 all the time, not 3-1 or 3-2 or else you lose your overall skill level point standing. It gets worse if the machine beats you. Of course this encourages you to play better and harder. The machine hardly beats me anymore but sometimes it wins one or two games so that brings my point total down. Thats the reason why I take a picture of my record score for posterity because I might not exceed it again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thoughts of Retirement

The recession, poor economy, exhaustion from working, has led me to thoughts of retirement. No, not here in the U.S., I wouldn't be able to afford retiring here at this moment. As an emergency plan, I thought returning to the Philippines might be a good idea, specially if a job loss happens. I've saved all these years but most of my savings are in tax deferred investments and I have to wait until I'm at least 59½ before I can withdraw from those accounts without a 10 percent tax penalty. I'm not even sure if I have enough liquid cash to last me from now till I'm 60 before withdrawing from the tax deferred accounts. Money aside, there is this problem about the place I might want to move to where my mother now lives. The general area is very notorious for kidnappings by rebels who don't agree with the government. Here is a comparison data about the cost of living in the Philippines which a remittance company had in their newsletter:
San Francisco / Metro Manila
Movie Ticket: $11.00 / $3.00
Fast Food Meal (Lunch): 5.00 / 1.50
Restaurant Meal (Dinner): 15.00 / 4.00
Taxi (5 mile trip): 12.00 / 1.30
Studio Apartment (monthly): 1100.00 / 160.00

Another friend who lives in the city where my mom lives told me that its possible to live very comfortably there for about $500.00 a month. Will that be within my modest projected budget? Well, it could be possible...
Of course its not just a matter of checking out from here, then checking in over there. How do I liquidate my condo, car and other possessions? What kind of lifestyle will I be able to live? What if if I find out I don't like living there? How do I collect social security from here when I reach the appropriate age? I'm thinking that with the internet, applying for it and having direct deposit may make it possible, but thats a long way from now. There's also the concern about healthcare. With no health insurance, will I be able to afford the cost of medical care in case something happens to me over there? So many questions which answers I still seek. Well, like I said, its just an emergency plan. Or not even a plan, but just something to consider.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Curtailing Running

The hard and long workouts I have been doing the past few weeks has finally caught up with me. I have been doing road intervals (running hard for a few minutes then jogging slowly to recover, repeat a few times), and long run/walk workouts as I mentioned in previous blog entries. It felt so good to be able to run hard and long and be able to push the pace sometimes. One day I averaged below 9 minutes per mile which I haven't done since last summer. I've even done a couple of two days in a row of running. I don't seem to learn my lesson because in the recent past, when I run on back to back days, my joints don't recover very well. This week even my good left ankle started to hurt. That led me to the decision that I should curtail my distance, time and pace so I don't injure myself further. It's better to be able run slow and short than not be able to run at all. Remember, I can't Zen the pain away anymore.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Must Watch!

Copy and paste to your browser. Watch it and let me know how you felt after watching it. Thank you.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Oil and Filter and Poop

I went to have the oil and filter changed on my car today and was planning on running while the service was being done. Normally you would fill out your information on a duplicate form then the serviceperson would write up the work order then depending on how many customers were ahead of you, your car would be lined up behind others until everyone else is serviced and its your turn. I was planning on having this waiting time to do my run and hopefully by the time I was done, the oil and filter change would be finished. Well it seem like this service station or the corporation that runs it had a new technique. I spent approximately 40 minutes of waiting around before a serviceperson addressed me to find out what service I needed. That was 40 minutes I could have spent doing my workout instead of stewing and raising my blood pressure while waiting around doing nothing. The service person never said anything except “I will be with you in a few minutes”. Apparently if your car has been serviced there previously, then they already had a record of it, which mine did. So that eliminated the filling out of paperwork. After getting the work order the serviceperson said my car should be ready in about 5 minutes. I told him I was not going to wait and was going out for a run. It seems that this new marketing technique would make it appear that the waiting time between write up and finishing the service is shortened. What they probably didn't consider was the waiting time beforehand. So I go for my run which I now badly needed to de-stress myself. I was still stewing about the long waiting time and was already having a bad day because of it. To make things worst, after I finished running and was walking back to the service station, I felt something drop on my forearm. A bird had just pooped on me! What else can go wrong with this day?! I took some leaves from a nearby plant and wiped the poop off my arm, paid for the oil and filter change, picked up the car and went home to take a shower. I'm now currently trying to decompress from a stressful morning. Hopefully the rest of the day will better. I am considering calling or emailing the company to complain about this new service technique.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Recently Watched Unknown Movies

I watched two movies today: The Burning Plain with Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger in it, and Revanche, an Austrian film. I don't believe these two movies got any press here in the U.S., because I've never heard of them before. Both had beautifully and carefully crafted stories and I think deserved to at least be nominated in the recent academy awards for best director and screenplay.

This is the plot of The Burning Plain as described by IMDB: A drama with a two-tiered storyline concerning a mother (Basinger) and daughter (Theron) who try to form a bond after the young woman's difficult childhood.

OK, big mistake, I just discovered that Revanche was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year during the last Oscars. Here is its plot courtesy of IMDB: Ex-con Alex plans to flee to the South with his girl after a robbery. But something terrible happens and revenge seems inevitable.

I hope that if you have the time and if they are available at your local video store, then you can check them out.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Long Beach River Runners

The alarm clock jolts me out of a dream and its time to wake up earlier than usual to run with the Long Beach River Runners group. I haven't woken up this early since last October and it takes some time getting used to doing it again. I usually set my alarm for 7 A.M., when I'm off from work and catch up on my night sleep (I work nights). For the past two Saturday mornings I've been joining a group of runners who are preparing for the second annual Wrigley River Run and Tadpole Trot on June 6, 2009. Some in the group are experienced runners, others coming back into running, and still others who are complete beginners who set their goal to finish their first 5k or 10k run. I usually get there early so I get about a 15 minute warm-up jog, then join the group for stretching, then run with them (20 minutes for the past 2 weekends), then go off and run by myself for about another 30 minutes. So far so good, I might have to curtail my warm-up and post group extra miles when the group incrementally increase the number of minutes they run through the coming weeks. Its just nice and inspiring to be able to see people doing something to improve their physical fitness. After having a crummy 40 minute run yesterday where I struggled from start to finish, I had a better day today despite having run 2 days in a row which I hardly do anymore. Running with other people always helps. Makes waking up earlier certainly worth it.

For more information about the River Runners and the Wrigley race, please visit: