Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Chill

The workout : a 7 mile run

The weather: overcast and cool

The company: a group of like minded peers

The result: an enjoyable no pressure run

The total: 9.5 miles with a 1.5 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool-down, the longest I've run without walking in recent months.

Meeting someone new during a run enables you to learn about other people's lives away from running and explore new topics. In today's case, it was a lady whom I will call M. She is training for her first marathon and she wants to do it before she turns 40. M doesn't look anywhere close to 40 so I wondered aloud jokingly who her doctor was. A little botox here, a nip and tuck there could do wonders. No, I'm not saying M had those done. Some people are just blessed with good skin like M does, while the rest of us get wrinkled sooner because of the sun damage from all the running we do.

A couple of women we paced with last weekend started out a lot faster today and we weren't able to catch up with them. They must have felt really good because even if I was behind them, my pace was still faster than last week. No matter, I'm getting used to this holding back the pace technique. At least my ankles don't feel too battered afterwards. I'm still burning about the same number of calories regardless of how long it takes me to finish.

After the cool-down and after stretching, the cool air caught up with me and I started to feel chilly so I put a sweatshirt on and just skedaddled out of there and headed home. If this edge of summer chill keeps up, I may have to fire up the heater at home again.

Not much substance in this entry, just random thoughts about today's run.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Increase in Waist

I bought a technical long sleeved shirt from Walmart yesterday for $5.00 because it was on closeout, and I ran in it today. It felt good to wear it so I went back to the store to see if I could find more. Unfortunately, there wasn't any left. I saw some swim trunks and lounging shorts and tried them on. I currently have some swim trunks that I wear for running and they feel just as comfortable as running shorts and they have pockets on them. So I go to the dressing room to try on the merchandise and I discover that what they have for Small size which is supposed to fit a person with 28 to 30 inch waist, doesn't fit me – they were too big! I mean they looked more like size 32 to 34. Surely I haven't shrunk. A few years ago, I bought similar merchandise at the same store and they were a true 28 to 30 inches. It appears that Walmart has adapted their clothing size to accommodate the increasing girth of Americans. Is the increase in inches on the clothing supposed to make you feel thinner? You'd just be fooling yourself or maybe its the intent of the store to fool you. Maybe the resize gives you the opportunity to tell your family and friends - “oh, I'm a Small”, which is a fallacy. Of course they don't sell Extra Small sizes. You would have to go to the children's department for that. Children's size 18 to 20 would probably fit me but the Husky size would be too big. Its not only Walmart who does this. I've noticed that Target doesn't even sell Small sizes for a lot of their clothing, they begin at Medium. And these are the more affordable products that usually go on sale. I remember hearing in the news about this happening to women's clothes too but since I don't have any experience trying women's clothes on, I can't comment on that. What am I going to tell the salesperson? That I'm doing research on true sizes of women's clothes? If any of you have noticed these size changes, please feel free to tell me about your experiences. Thank you.

Downgrading Internet Service

Last month my annual contract with the telephone company's DSL internet service expired so they started billing me a slightly higher monthly rate. However they had three different annual contract options being offered to new subscribers: $19.99 a month for 1 megabit per second (mbps) download speed, $29.99 for 3 megabits per second which I currently had, or $42.99 for 7.1 megabits per second. Being an old subscriber normally disqualifies you from the new promotional offers, but having gone through a similar process last year when I upgraded from 768 kilobits per second to 3 megabits per second, I knew what to do. When you call the phone company's regular customer service people, they won't be able to help you avail of the new promotions. They have a different department called the “solutions department” where they can resolve special problems. Last year I was passed from one department to another before they were able to help me. This time I knew whom and what to ask for. In this case as well as last years', the solution is to retain a customer and the telephone company was able to help me faster this time without me feeling like a shuttlecock being batted around back and forth across the net. For my new annual contract, I opted to downgrade my internet speed to 1 mbps, two thirds slower than what I've been used to in the past year. It was initially discouraging to see the slowdown of my download speed, but bit by bit (pun intended) my patience is beginning to adjust to it. It used to take about 35 minutes to download a 700 megabyte public domain movie. Now it takes about an hour and 45 minutes at full speed. Streaming videos from and TV shows from and Fox On Demand can get choppy or pixelated at times. But in this economy, some sacrifice is warranted and every little bit of savings helps.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Night At The Asylum (apologies to Night at the Museum)

A patient yells for no reason, another one is singing hymns in bed, a couple of others are snoring on opposite ends of the hallway not unlike a surround sound system, while still another is talking and arguing with herself while lying in bed. A patient staggers out in the hallway not knowing whether he is coming or going. Seems like the Ambien is not agreeing with him with all its side effects (sleepwalking, confusion, etc...).
It's 1:30 in the morning and all is well. Another night at work and despite of what is happening so far, this would be considered a quiet night. No admissions since the night shift came in at 7:00 PM but that could change any minute because in some remote emergency room someone might have checked in complaining of being suicidal, homicidal, having hallucinations, or just plain have no place to sleep for the night and cannot take care of him/herself.
I am here, I watch the hallways and check on the patients to make sure they are safe, this is my job, I'm a mental health worker, the lowest position on the totem pole of a psych unit.
It is indeed a quiet night but I don't complain about being bored because something might happen at any given second in a place like this, which I hope it doesn't. I like quiet boring nights because it means there is no one acting out and the patients are safe and getting their needed sleep. I wish I could do the same but sleep is not for me at this time of the night. Sleep will have to wait till I get home in the morning. In the meantime I keep my fingers crossed hoping that it will remain a quiet night at the asylum.
Addendum: Come 4:00 AM things have changed drastically. One of the confused patients intentionally or not tried to attack one of my co-workers and at 6:45 AM another patient tried to destroy the radio because she didn't like listening to Janet Jackson. The good news is that nobody got hurt and nothing was damaged. As the night shift ends, a new patient is being admitted by the day shift.
Oh well, another night at the asylum trenches is over and I survived another one.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Yesterday's Post Run Activity

When I left home to go to the training run yesterday, I noticed that the rear left tire of my car had partially deflated again. I've had this slow leak for the past four weeks and the only thing I did about it was add more air. I've been putting off having it repaired for so long so I finally decided to take care of the problem after running yesterday. On my way home I stopped at a specialty tire store and surrendered my car to the tire gods. I mentioned the problem and they said it will be done in 20 minutes. So instead of sitting around, I went for a short walk to check out the shops in the area. When I returned to the tire store my car was ready and I asked if the problem was with the valve stem. They said no, there was a small nail imbedded into the tire. So that problem was taken cared of to the tune of $20.00 for 20 minutes of work. Made me feel like I was in the wrong line of work. Oh well, at least it gave me some peace of mind that my tire was working again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Two Wows

Today was the second training day on the AREC (A Running Experience Club) marathon and half marathon schedule. Four miles for the half marathoners and six miles for the full marathoners were on tap. My alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m., and I'm wondering why am I doing this when I could be sleeping in. After all I have to go to work later tonight. But it gives my early Saturday mornings a purpose, so out of bed I get. For some reason I felt very tired and just couldn't wake up fully. I got to Joe's Crab Shack and someone was talking to me and I couldn't even respond very well - I was mispronouncing words. When the run started I was even feeling a little lightheaded. But oh well, I guess we just need to have a little blood pumping up to the brain. I started the run conservatively as planned and tucked behind some people I've run with in past years, but whenever I saw somebody up front whom I thought I could catch, or when somebody passed me, I could feel the urge to pick up the pace. But today, I kept thinking about preserving my ankles so I was able to resist the urge to go faster. My goals have changed, now its just to finish the run and increase my running longevity. The run went pretty smoothly and I talked to someone I haven't met before. Although there was some effort, I didn't feel like I was pushing so it surprised me that I was able to finish the six mile run in under an hour. That was the first wow. The second wow happened when I signed back in on the roster (we sign in before the start, then sign out when we finish so everyone is accounted for). There were 82 people who signed the roster today! Unbelievable! I don't think that many people have ever done the Saturday run before. I already commented to other runners during the run that it seemed there were more people this week than last, and the roster confirmed it. Well, its seems like this old fogey can still run under 10 minutes per mile despite the ankle ailments and at a conservative pace at that. Of course since there are more participants now, there is a better chance of finding someone to pace with, and that helps a lot. Now its time to ice the ankles.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shake, Rumble, and Jolt

The old song says: shake, rattle, and roll, but instead of that we experienced a shake, rumble, and jolt here in the Los Angeles area last Sunday evening. The earth moved, the cat jumped, the building shook, I was frozen on the couch, then a big jolt ended it all. My first thought was: WOW! That felt stronger than the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Next thing I did was go on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website to find out where the epicenter was. It said Lennox with an initial intensity of 5.0 which was later revised to 4.7. Not much reaction from my neighbors since the electricity, gas, water, and phones were still working. So I check around my condo and saw that a couple of my emergency flashlights have fallen on the floor and under the couch. I wouldn't have found them if the electricity went out. In the bedroom, I have a huge old analog 43 inch TV on top of a stand which was near the foot of my bed. It had moved about an inch forward on the TV stand. I always feared that this TV would fall during an earthquake and if Sunday's jolt was any stronger, I think the TV would have fallen. I have to get myself a smaller TV for the bedroom. I really don't need a huge TV in there. I opened the cupboards in the kitchen and although nothing was broken, some plastic containers had moved about and fell out. When I opened the refrigerator, I couldn't open the door all the way, the oven door was blocking it, so I had to push the fridge back a couple of inches. There was a 4.0 rolling aftershock on Tuesday but it didn't affect anything here. So there it is, it seems like we survived this one without much damage. Gotta read up on that emergency plan again so we know how to react if worst things happen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Increased Serotonin Level

Got the first training day out of the way, in the pocket, finito, and Long Beach Marathon training has taken its first steps for the 2009 season! It was nice to see and talk to old friends and acquaintances from previous training years again. This year I promised myself that I'm not going to push the pace but just run comfortably depending on how I feel, regardless of what the pace is. Of course I've sworn the same thing in previous years but could never hold back. This time, if I want prolong my running life, I would really need to control myself.

Since it was early when I got there and people were still signing up, I went for a 15 minute warm-up jog, then after listening to Todd (AREC president) talk about the training program, we were on our way for a 5 miler. Coming down a bridge into a left turn, what do we encounter but a pink thong on the ground. I had to make a quick check beneath my shorts to make sure mine hadn't fallen off.

Its always nice to be able to talk to a bunch of people while running because it makes the time and distance pass, and I got to catch up with people I haven't seen since last October. After the 5 miler, I ran by myself for another 23 minutes as a cool-down. For some reason, I felt really happy after the run. I was smiling all the way home. Not because I saw a thong. It must be the increased serotonin levels in the brain that exercise can give you.

When I got back from my solo cool-down run, I saw a pan on one of the tables that the club set up. I went to check it out and what do I see? Hot chicken wings! At 8:30 in the morning?! That was a first for me (to see, not to eat). Post workout protein replenishment, I guess.

So just like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano in the spring, we return, but instead of to the Mission, to Joe's Crab Shack instead.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Marathon and Half-marathon Training

AREC (A Running Experience Club) marathon and half-marathon training for the Long Beach Marathon starts again tomorrow and I'm feeling apprehensive. So many questions that need to be answered. How will my ankles feel? Will they hold up to the gradually increasing mileage that is required to finish a half marathon five months from now? Will I have the mental toughness and concentration to go through long runs again? I haven't done any long runs in recent months aside from the five minute run one minute walk technique a couple of months ago. Provided my ankles hold up there is no doubt I can finish a half marathon that way. But what if I try to run continuously forgoing the one minute walk breaks? Am I still capable of doing it? It scares me that the tendon tear of last October might happen again. Right now I'm pretty content on being able to run non-stop for an hour or so. I don't really need to run another half-marathon if I don't want to. But it seems that I feel the need to challenge myself again. In the past, needing to challenge myself meant training for a full marathon. I know for sure that I can no longer withstand the pain of training for that. How about training to walk a full marathon? Thats a consideration but it would take so much time to walk a marathon at the pace I'm capable of, about six plus hours. So which training should I try to do? Right now, I don't really know. But tomorrow and every Saturday thereafter for the next five months, I will show up at training and try to find out what I'm really made out of. After all, if I don't try, I'll never know.
This was last years' photo from the Long Beach Half-marathon. As you can see, I'm running crooked because of the pain on my right ankle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Lungs On The 3-2-1

I went out for a run yesterday planning to do a road interval workout. It was either 2 minutes hard effort with 2 minutes recovery jog or the 3-2-1 intervals ( One set consists of: 3 minutes hard effort, 1 minute recovery jog, 2 minutes hard effort, 1 minute recovery jog, 1 minute hard effort, 2 minutes recovery jog, for a total of 10 minutes each set). During the first 10 minutes of warm-up, my legs were feeling pretty good so I opted for the harder 3-2-1 intervals, maybe at least 3 sets of it. As far as my breathing was concerned, the first set felt good, the second felt better, by the third set I was feeling really, really good. It felt like I had really big lungs where despite having to breathe harder due to the increased effort my lungs felt bottomless. So I kept that feeling going until I finished an hour: 10 minutes of warm-up plus 5 sets of hard intervals. The speed of my run may have looked very slow to any casual onlooker, but the intensity and effort I put into it made it a very good workout for myself. The only reason holding me back from being able to run any harder is the pain in my ankles. Yesterday, my ankles cooperated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Audited By The IRS – Part Deux

I recently chronicled my experience about being audited by the IRS in this blog entry:
Two weeks ago, I finally heard back from them but they had no good nor bad news for me. All the letter said was thank you for my response to their inquiry and that they will contact me again within 45 days to let me know what action they are taking, yada yada yada...
Then last week I got another letter from them. It said: “Closing notice. We are pleased to tell you that with your help, we were able to clear up the differences between your records and your payers' records”. More yada yada yada, then, “Thank you for your cooperation”.
I'm breathing a sigh of relief right now and am so happy that they agreed with me. Whew!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Roots Of My Being

I called my Mom in the Philippines today to greet her Happy Mother's Day a day early because I anticipate the lines are going to be busy the next day. And no, it was not a collect call. We talked for almost an hour about how she was, what was going on at her part of the world, and what her plans for Mother's Day was. We also talked about the upcoming Notre Dame reunion because she was a product of the same elementary and high school as I was. I finally got the chance to ask her how our family came to live in Jolo. On her side of the family, she said my grandpa who was originally from Pangasinan was in the Philippine Constabulary and was assigned to Jolo. My grandma was originally from Pasig but my mom doesn't know how grandpa and grandma met, but they met before they moved to Jolo. My mom and a couple of my uncles and aunts were born there. Incidentally, did you know that there is a community called Jolo (pronounced Joe Low) in West Virginia? Anyway, back to my story. On my father's side, my grandpa was an agriculturist who was assigned by the government to Jolo, although he and my grandma met in Zamboanga where my father was born. So now I know my roots up to the grandparents level. How interesting that I never queried about those things while growing up until now.
How about your roots, can you tell me about them? Click on Comments below and leave me a message :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Coming Soon

The other night I was assigned to work 1:1 with a patient who had assaulted another patient earlier during the day. Fortunately for me, he slept all night from the time I started watching him till it was time for me to leave in the morning. So what did I do to fill the 12 ½ hours I sat by his bed? Between reading and answering crossword puzzles (I always save the newspaper crosswords for quiet nights such as that night), I wrote drafts of a few blog entries I intend to post soon. Here is a preview of what those topics may be: Audited by the IRS–Part 2, Internet Slowdown, and Karaoke. Everyone please keep checking this blog with bated breathes. LOL!
I also made a list of the names of my former elementary and high school classmates, both male and female (those that I can remember). I still have to figure out what to do with that list. So I managed to be creative with the fortunate downtime I had and got something accomplished.

Going For A BQ

No, its not what you think, nothing to do with cooking meat over hot coals, and no, its not about me doing it either. A BQ is a Boston Marathon Qualifier. The Boston Marathon has certain qualifying standards based on sex and age before the organizers allow you to participate in the prestigious and storied event (there are other ways that you can participate but it involves raising money for charity). It means that you have had to previously run at least a certain finishing time in a marathon within roughly a year and a half before the year of the Boston Marathon that you want to participate in. For example for men aged 18 to 34, the qualifying time is 3 hours and 10 minutes. For women aged 45 to 49, its 4 hours.
My neighbor, friend, and erstwhile training partner, who has gotten faster while I have gotten slower, BQ'd in last year's Long Beach Marathon by running it in 3:49:41. So on April 20, 2009, she toed the line in Boston and finished the race in a remarkable time of 3:50:32. Kudos to her for the achievement (I immediately sent her a text message when she finished because I was tracking the race online).
Another friend is trying to BQ at a younger age group so he ran a marathon on May 3, 2009 in an attempt to do so. The week prior, he told me about his plans and what pace per mile he needed to run to achieve his BQ goal. I asked him what his most recent 10 kilometer race finishing time was. From prior experience and readings in my almost 30 years of running, I was able to mentally calculate what my friends' potential finishing time was going to be based on his 10K time if he ran well on marathon day. He needed to finish the marathon in 3 hours and 10 minutes to BQ, but my calculations brought his potential more into the 3:20 range. I didn't have the heart to tell him that because I wanted him to keep his positive mood for the race. Besides, who knows? He might be able to outdo his potential with the proper circumstances on race day. It has happened to others before, so I just kept my fingers crossed for him. Alas, it was not to be. He finished way short of his goal and even short of the calculated potential. In his own words he said he “crashed and burned”. I feel bad for him. So his quest for a BQ continues and I'm sure he is going to keep on trying. After all he is still a young man and has lots of opportunities to achive his goal. When I was running my best at my prime, I would have never BQ'd because I never even had the calculated potential to do so. If my friend continues to train well, he does.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What Happened Last October or The Half-Marathon of My Discontent

Looking back at my training logs to the last few days leading to last year’s Long Beach Half Marathon, I just realized what could have caused my posterior tibialis tendon to tear. Having been a physical education major in college, I learned that one of the principles of training is specificity. This means that to be good at sport, you have to train specifically for that sport. So if you are a tennis player, you play tennis, if you are a cyclist, you cycle, and if you are a runner, you run. This is so the muscles and joints get used to the specific movements of the particular sport you are training for. Using that principle, I ran for two consecutive days on Saturday, and the race on Sunday. I believe now that this spelled the doom for my posterior tibialis tendon. When you exercise, you develop microtears in your muscles and connective tissues and it is during recovery days between hard workouts that these muscles and joints get a chance to repair themselves. In my case, with a pre-existing injury, even the short run recovery day on the eve of the half marathon continued to irritate my ankle tendon. And this is what I think led to its overstretching or tearing during the race. It was just a bad training decision based on a good training principle. Keeping an exercise logbook does help to see where things went wrong and likewise when things went right. Hopefully, I know better this time and not make the same mistake. Learning about your own body is an experiment of one.

Friday, May 1, 2009

In Search of Wee

About a month ago, my elementary school classmate who is a doctor in the Philippines asked me to try to look for his aunt whom he said lives in California. He was planning on visiting this coming summer. I asked him for the last known address that he knew and whatever other information he had. I searched on the internet and the phone book and found a woman with the same name whose address happened to be about 3 miles from where I lived. Not only that, but it was on a street that the River Runners used to do their workouts on Saturday mornings. So for my running workout the next day, I decided to run to that house, check it out, then run back home. When I got to the address, I rang the doorbell and a young man answered. It appeared that I had woke him (must have been a night shift worker). I briefly stated the purpose of my unannounced visit, asked him if there was a woman whose name is so and so lives there and if she was from the Philippines, and he said yes. So I told him I was going to call their listed number later to give more information. Then I apologized for having woken him up then left to run back home. Later that day, I tried calling the number I got from the phone book and internet, but to my disappointment, the number was no longer in service. So a few days later, I wrote a letter addressed to the lady of the house introducing myself and restating the purpose of my prior visit. I left my email address and phone number in addition to my classmates email address in the Philippines. I put the letter in an envelope, ran from a different location, then dropped the letter in her mailbox. Later that day, I received a call from the lady and she acknowledged that she was indeed the aunt of my former classmate. We talked in our native dialect for a few minutes and I told her I was elated to find her and about being able to help my friend. Then to our mutual surprise, we found out that we work in the same hospital! What a coincidence! We had never met because I work in another building, but one night a few months ago, I had worked on the unit where she was a charge nurse. After talking for a few more minutes, we bade our goodbyes and believe it or not I could almost hear the song “It's a small world after all” in the background. I was very happy to be able to reunite an aunt and her nephew.