Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Alley Cat

My cat got out the door a couple of weeks ago while chasing another cat who had been urinating at my doorstep. She used to be an alley cat whom I rescued about 3 years ago from work where she was hanging around the parking lot and was being fed by my co-workers. What enamored me to this cat was that she would approach just about anybody to be fed and allow them to pet her. During one of my off days, I just went back to my jobsite with a pet carrier and essentially kidnapped this cat from the parking lot. My co-workers didn’t mind because they knew I had been taking care of one or two cats at home for years. When I had her spayed, the vet informed me that she was pregnant so they had to “take care” of the underdeveloped babies. I didn’t want to know what they had to do but at least my new cat had been “fixed” and would not have unwanted kittens again.

I planned on keeping Boo as an indoor cat and that transition was probably difficult for her. She would spend a lot of time staring out the window at the birds outside or hiss at some cat that would come to my door usually to mark the spot. It must be a territorial competition thing with them. Last year Boo even managed to get out the door to chase another cat, then spent the day sunning herself on my neighbor’s patio before I finally managed to catch her and get her back indoors. Her coat was full of dirt and leaves by then.

So it didn’t surprise be very much when she got out the door and chased another cat a couple of weeks ago. The difference this time is that she disappeared for a few days. Then as mysteriously as she disappeared, she reappeared a few days ago peering into my screen door. But when I try to go out and get her, she would run away. I’m not up to doing wind sprints anymore because of my running injuries so I am not able to catch up with her. Anyway, it doesn’t look like she has had any ill-effects of being outdoors. I didn’t see any visible injuries from afar and she hasn’t lost weight, so apparently she has found another food source (the birds?!). So although I miss Boo being close to me, I’m glad that she is surviving in the environment that she is more comfortable in. I hope she comes and visits once in awhile so I can see that she is doing okay. The good thing is that she has been spayed and would not be contributing to cat overpopulation. In short, you can take a cat out of the alley, but you can’t take the alley out of the cat.

Postscript: There is an upside of not having a cat after all these years. The smell of litter is (almost) gone, and after using the carpet sweeper and vacuum, there are no more visible granules of tracked litter and cat hair all over the place (although the deeply imbedded ones still come up to the surface once in a while).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don’t Be Ridiculous!

I laugh at myself sometimes over the ridiculousness of what I’m doing. I mean, who in their right mind would go through the suffering that I am going through just for the sake of fitness or getting a high out of it? Illegal drugs would probably be an easier way to get a high but it’s just not my thing. After runs like today instead of someone asking me what hurts, they should probably ask what doesn’t hurt because it seems like the what doesn’t hurt list is lesser than the what hurts list. Well I’ll tell you the what hurts list anyway from bottom to top. My right inner ankle hurts, that’s a given. My left knee hurts, that’s fairly new. My lower back hurts due to my stride changes. To add to all that hurt I’ve been having a toothache the past week. That’s the only non-running hurt that I have and of course when I’m not running the tooth hurts the most.

When today’s AREC run started, I told John M. that I was going to follow a line from a song from “Phantom of the Opera” (The Music of the Night) and run “slowly, gently”. But that didn’t last very long. I’m back to my old habit of trying to catch up with someone up ahead again. Although it feels good to be able to pick up the pace and do that, it jars the joints harder. Like last weekend I was running at about 85% perceived effort again, this time for 10 miles. The good thing about today’s run is that it’s the longest one I’ve done since I tore my posterior tibialis tendon last October, and not at an easy effort. The downside is all the pain I’m experiencing. A normal person would say that that I’m being ridiculous or just plain crazy (I already knew that) for doing what I do to my body (it’s my body so I can do what ever I want with it, so there!) Oh, my goodness that sounds almost like I’m hearing voices in my head just like the patients I work with do.

My joints are beginning to feel the cumulative effects of the increasing mileage. At least we get a break next Saturday, we only have to do a 7 miler and ooooh, can my joints sure use the break. The ridiculousness of running in pain sometimes has its rewards. In the middle of today’s run Nancy D. commented that I looked happy. All I can say about that, to borrow and paraphrase from another old song “ Smile though your joints are aching, smile even though they’re breaking”.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Accidental Pace

After checking the beep alert on my GPS watch at two miles, I thought it said 19:30, but I did a double take when I saw it actually said 18:30. That would be 9:15 minutes per mile for two miles. I was either having a good day or it was going to be an interminably exhausting run for me. It turned out to be a mixture of the two.

While doing a warm-up jog prior to the AREC nine mile run yesterday (Saturday, June 20), I noticed that my left knee wasn't tracking properly. I could feel a slight pain on the kneecap. It had been hurting on and off in the past week. I was hoping the warm-up would take care of the problem or just hope for the best when we embarked on the nine miler.

My breathing was good and it felt like I was running at about 80% effort most of the way. When the effort went to 90% I would just back off the pace. In past weeks I was running at about 60 to 70% of perceived effort to keep the pounding of my feet against the pavement to a minimum. But then I was running with somebody who enabled me to do that. Yesterday, she wasn't there, so I missed my pacer. I suppose I could have just slowed down and paced with someone else but for some reason I failed to do that. So away I went doing what I was not supposed to be doing: pushing the pace however slightly.

I caught up with this girl going up a hill and on the way down and most of the rest of the way I could feel her just slightly behind me. She would surge for a few dozen steps then back off, almost like doing a fartlek workout and she did this the whole way. Her style of running somehow gave me the push I needed to be able to run a tempo or anaerobic threshhold pace for the whole workout. The problem was I could feel my left knee and right ankle rebelling against the added stresses they were being subjected to. Somehow my joints managed to hang on to finish the workout at a pace I didn't plan on running. The pace for 9 miles was only 8 seconds per mile slower than the 10K I ran a couple of weeks ago. In other words I had a good aerobic day to the detriment of my aching joints and survived to tell about it.

(Also shown in the above photo is the girl who was running her fartlek workout. Thanks for the push Sophie)

Friday, June 19, 2009


I'm watching a movie called “Departures” (Okuribito) It's a Japanese movie which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for 2009. I'm only thirty minutes into the movie and already I'm finding it quite funny even though the subject matter is about “a newly unemployed cellist taking a job preparing the dead for funerals” (per IMDB Summary). It's 130 minutes long so I hope it takes the subtle humor all the way to the end.
During the second half of the first hour the preparation of a body is finally shown and it is done with so much sensitivity, care, and dignity in front of the deceased family. Undressing, cleansing, grooming, and dressing the dead is done with such precise movements, it's almost like a dance.
The conflict comes going into the second hour when his wife finds out what his new job is. She and his friend find his kind of work unclean and not a normal job. So she leaves him because of this. All this time his thoughts go back to his father who started him playing the cello but left him and his mother when he was six years old.
In the last quarter of the film, the wife comes back and witnesses for the first time how her husband does his job when the owner of the bathhouse they visited in the past suddenly died. The owner's son happened to be the friend who vilified him for his job and now ironically, he has to prepare the mother's body for her funeral.
The end of the movie involves the cellist/undertaker's father but I shall leave this review at this point because I hope whoever reads this will get the chance to check the movie out for themselves. The film evolves slowly but beautifully. In the end, it had nothing to do with subtle humor like at the start, but turned out to be a very well composed drama which also illustrated how the Japanese people take care of the dead.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Mismatched Runner

My running clothes don't match. The colors do for the most part, but not the brands. For example at Saturday's AREC run, I was wearing Brooks shoes with a blue trim, plain white socks, blue Champion shorts, and blue New Balance long sleeved shirt (exhibit #1: two posts below). Why the mismatched brands? Because I buy my running gear when they are on sale or closeout. I don't wear the latest, newest, most technical clothes in the market because when Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Brooks, etc. come out with something new, they cost too much and not within my means and budget. So what I do is wait a year or two for those types of fabrics to hit the Targets and Walmarts where the store brands are sold at about one third the cost of the major brand names. I call it my trickle down theory of technical wear. Or just wait for the major brands to go on closeout in some stores.

I'm pretty sure nobody scrutinizes the clothes I'm wearing when I'm out running so it doesn't matter if the brands are mismatched, as long as the colors do. And I didn't have to pay exorbitant prices for them. So please excuse me for being thrifty but I got that trait from my parents.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Running Friends From Yesteryears

Last Saturday morning after the AREC run and while the chiropractor was giving his lecture, I espied two people run by and I recognized them as a married couple whom I have run with a long time ago. I waved and stopped them for a little catch-up chat. I ran with Fred and Linda as members of Team Runner's High in the late 80's through 1992. Those were the best running days of our lives when we constantly set PR's, raced almost every weekend and sometimes even on both Saturday and Sunday. One race I distinctly remember was the Labor Day Mount Baldy Run to the Top. It was a treacherous course with some parts on a single track on the side of the mountain
with a steep drop-off, and the last mile was on a very rocky path only suitable for mountain goats. I was going to write about that experience at the time because getting up and down that mountain in one piece felt almost like a biblical experience. I would have started the article this way: “I have been to the top of the mountain and I have seen ...Fred (instead of The Lord). Fred was the first person I saw whom I knew just before I reached the finish line and he was on his way down (like The Lord coming down from heaven to help me up the mountain). It certainly felt like a religious experience but then again it could just have been the thin air in high altitude. Getting back down was another thing. You had to run down four miles after which you had to ride the ski lift further back down to where the parking area was. Being a bit acrophobic all I could do was look upwards while the ski lift was moving.
My memory of Linda involved the 1992 Long Beach marathon. During the middle miles and through the finish I would catch glimpses of her up ahead. Her stride was so distinct that I would recognize it anywhere even to this day. She finished barely ahead of me in around 3:28 while I finished around 3:29. She probably provided the pull for me to set my best marathon time (it was also a PR day for her).
I would see Fred and Linda every few years when I bump into them while running between Seal Beach and Long Beach and the last time they told me that they were cycling more. When I saw them again last Saturday, it had been at least three years since. Fred said he had a bicycle accident a few years back and broke three bones in his pelvis and legs. Fortunately he has fully recovered. They both still run with Team Runner's High but not as seriously as before.
I told them I wasn't not able to do marathons anymore due to my ankle problems and was just attempting to finish the half marathon. I also told them about the growth of AREC and the marathon training group.
So after a brief chit-chat they continued running on their way back home to Seal Beach. It has been nice bumping into them every few years and being able to reminisce about our glory days of running.

Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 NBA Champions

After the Los Angeles Lakers had that 16-0 run in the second quarter last night, it felt almost anticlimactic the rest of the game. No heroics, no dramatic ending, but just waiting to see by how many points the Lakers would win by.
I don't usually follow basketball during its regular season and I don't even like watching the playoffs because I get too tense and nervous watching whatever team I'm rooting for. During last Thursday's fourth game I would only check on the game every few minutes until the last minute of regulation time and the whole five minutes of overtime. Now that was dramatic and heroic.
While this topic is not my area of expertise, I think the game was won because the Lakers played better defense and even though Kobe Bryant won the MVP prize last night, it was a whole team effort on their part that they were successful the entire season.
I was actually able to watch the whole game last night even though I had to distract myself from time to time so I wouldn't get too excited and tense. In the end, one game of being nervous was well worth it. Go Lakers! Now lets go for a two-peat!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

From Every Day to Day to Day

Time it was when running every day was a no brainer and just something that needed to be done routinely like eating or sleeping. Wake up, run, eat, repeat same thing tomorrow, for years on end. Nowadays, running is a day to day decision depending on how my ankles feel. I try to run just three times a week now. The recovery of my ankles takes between 48 to 72 hours, and during a running day I have to get a feel on how much time or distance my ankle will be able to tolerate. Running is no longer routine for me and I constantly lament that fact. I enjoy the good days and just hang on during the bad ones. Each time I start a run, I do so gingerly with smaller steps than my normal stride. No longer am I able to let it rip (within the confines of my aerobic capacity). My aerobic capacity exceeds the ability of my ankle joints to handle the pounding of running. My back has even started to hurt lately after I run because I have changed my stride. I now try to take smaller, lower strides so as to reduce the pounding against the ground.

After todays AREC training run, a chiropractor talked to the group about hidden runner imbalances and what can be done to correct them. I had been doing some of those exercises inconsistently based on what I have found on the internet but the chiropractor today just reinforced it and he was able to demonstrate some of the techniques. I shall now try to do them more consistently. I asked the chiropractor if the posterior tibialis tendon can still be rehabilitated and he said that something can be done so that I will be able to prolong my running. I am considering buying a balance board and kinesiotape to try to rehabilitate my ankle tendons. I have nothing to lose at this point so why not try them.

After last week's hard effort at the Wrigley River Run, we took it easy for today's 8 miler, barely breaking 10 minutes per mile. Other than charging up 6th Street hill at mile 4 and 2nd Street bridge at mile 8, the run was done at an easy effort. I didn't even do my usual one mile warm-up and cool-down. I'm sure my ankles will thank me for it. 92 runners signed in today. AREC training keeps growing bigger.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crazy Night At The Asylum (isn't that redundant?)

The night shift didn't start in a good way last Sunday night. One of the patients had started hitting other patients again so he had to be monitored by his own 1:1 staffmember. Then we had two registry medication nurses and two registry nurse's aides working with us, so we were missing almost half of our regular staff.
Just about an hour after we stepped into the ward, a new male patient had gone missing but was quickly found trying to have sex with a female patient in her bathroom. Fortunately for us we managed to have a pre-coitus interruptus. So those two had to be watched very closely to prevent the situation from happening again. The male patient was a huge guy and it would have been very difficult for us to stop him if we couldn't redirect him verbally. To add to that, he would try to violate another person's private space intimidatingly the rest of the night and he didn't sleep a wink despite all the medications he received. We lucked out on the girl who slept all night after 10 p.m. But another confused female patient kept on trying to go inside other patient's rooms so we had to watch her very closely too and when she attempted to go into other patient's room, we had to run after her to direct her out of that room. Still another male patient went to bed at midnight and woke up at 3 o'clock and started pacing in small circles in the hallway, after which he started wiping the walls, windows and floors. When he was done with that, he stripped his bed, remade it, stripped it again, and remade it. This went on every few minutes. A classic case of mania. But at least he wasn't much of a problem because he was occupied with his own business.
It was one of those nights when all the staff had to be hypervigilant to keep everybody and everything safe. I hate working on nights like that although surprisingly despite of what was happening I felt relatively calm. Usually I get very tense and anxious when things aren't going very well.
When morning came the two patients who tried to have a tryst the previous night attempted to hug each other but the staff managed to abort that before it happened. You see, we don't allow physical contact in psych units and that includes public displays of affection. Then the other confused female patient went in a room of another patient and tried to lie on the other patient's bed. We managed to direct her back to her room but as soon as we turned around to leave her, she tried to punch me. Luckily, I was far enough so she wasn't able to connect. She was later given an injection to calm her down.
I couldn't wait for 7:30 a.m. to come and when it did, I was out of there like a bat out of hell.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Surviving The Wrigley River Run 10K On Tender Ankles

It seems like my ankles survived the pounding they took from the 10K yesterday. Considering that I have been running at a 9:40 to 9:50 pace per mile in recent weeks, finishing the 10K at 8:50 pace was more than I could ask for specially that I didn't aggravate anything with my ankles. Not making my ankles worst was reward enough for me and the faster than usual pace was a just a bonus. My mind set about running has changed so much. It used to be: how can I run faster or longer. Nowadays it is: how can I preserve the fragile condition of my ankles so I can keep on running regardless of pace.
The Wrigley River Run is a small community event with an all volunteer corps. In spite of this the event was very well organized. The start and finish lines were set up very well. The distances were measured accurately. The bananas and pizzas past the finish line kept on coming and seemed unending. The first place awards were generous: a $100.00 gift certificate at a running shoe store. Considering the price of running shoes nowadays, $100 is a generous amount. I was wishing I had one of those.
Since my feet overpronate badly when I run, I have to wear motion control shoes and those are the most expensive models with any brand name running shoes. $100 would about cover that cost. But I digress. Kudos to Gavin McKiernan for organizing a well run event and compliments and gratitude to the countless volunteers who assisted in making this event a success. There was even a band at the second turn of the course but unfortunately they couldn't play because it started raining and they were exposed to the elements. Some of the volunteers were members of the running club I belong to: A Running Experience Club, based in Long Beach, California. They gave up their chance to race so they could volunteer. Job well done everybody!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

10K's To Remember

Today I ran my first 10K race (6.2 miles) since October 26, 1991 (Bellflower Liberty Run). I wasn't sure what year I last ran a 10K so I had to dig out my log books to find out when it was. Today's race was the Wrigley River Run which I had mentioned in some of my previous posts. Its a nice small neighborhood race so the starting line wasn't crowded like some of the bigger races. The runners can hit their full stride almost right away. In the bigger races, sometimes you have to walk for about two minutes or more before you can even reach the starting line. It was a nice, cool, overcast day with some little sprinkles here and there which didn't help since I wear eyeglasses and I don't have wipers attached to them. So no, I wasn't crying because of the pain of having to run harder than I anticipated. It was just a little bit of rain on my face and eyeglasses.

I warmed up by jogging for 25 minutes before the the 10k (9:11 pace, damn! Too fast for a warmup). During the 10k, I hit the first mile in 8:41 (damn! Too fast again!) So I just tried to keep an even stride and monitor the status of my ankles. I wasn't keeping track of the time too much and wasn't even checking my mile splits. I was just putting one foot in front of the other and tried to hang on. I figured if I run 6.2 miles in about an hour it would be good enough. Imagine to my surprise as I was approaching the finish line the time was under 55 minutes. I eventually finished in 54 minutes and 56 seconds.

Now for comparison purposes through the years:

My first ever 10K race in the U.S. was the Paramount 10K in January, 1981 – 56:59

My personal best 10k was the Bellflower Liberty Run on October 26, 1991- 43:20

Today's Wrigley River Run 10k, almost 18 years later, June 6, 2009 – 54:56

I considered myself retired from racing since 1992 after having set all of my personal best times from the 5K to the Marathon. Nowadays I just run for exercise and to keep my weight at an acceptable level. After today's warm-up and race I had lost 4 pounds of fluids and my pee was very dark yellow when I got home, so I got very dehydrated. I'm currently nourishing my kidneys and icing my ankles as I type this. It was a nice experience running the 10K again and finishing at a far better time than I anticipated but I'm not at any time planning on going back to racing again. I'm still retired :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Passing of a Friend

I received sad news yesterday that one of my former college classmates passed away due to colon cancer. He had been living in Canada with his family in the past few years after having moved from France. Jay was a varsity swimmer and body builder in college. After graduating from college with a degree in physical education, we both worked as fitness trainers in the same gym in the Philippines. The lady who informed me of my classmate's passing was also a trainer in the same gym and a very close friend of ours who now lives in Germany. We were a very tight group of two female and two male trainers. I haven't seen or talked to my classmate since 1980 and I would only hear news about him through the years from our mutual friend from Germany. He went from being a fitness trainer to running a restaurant with his wife in the Philippines and in Paris before moving to Canada. A few months before Jay died, his pastor recorded his testimony and uploaded it to Youtube. Here is the link to that video and it comes in two parts:

Jay, you have lived a full life, accepted what life has given you, and you will be missed. God bless.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Failed Hard Drive

Computers are wonderful machines when they are working flawlessly but become frustrating when bugs start to emerge. A few days ago my 500 gigabyte external hard drive started to turn off and on for no apparent reason. I thought it was just a problem with the USB connection so I attached the USB cord to another USB port. Still, same problem. So I connected the drive to another computer to see if it works. It does for a few minutes then it turns off and on again. Looked like signs of a hard drive failure. All the data are still there but accessing them is a hit or miss experience. I'm trying to find ways of recovering the data before the drive fails totally. One possible remedy that I found on the internet is freezing the drive for a few hours then trying to access the data again. I tried it and so far I have recovered almost 200 gigabytes of data before the drive turns off and on again. The drive is back in the freezer for a few more hours then I shall hope and see if I can get any more out of it. 300 more gigabytes to go.

Update: 6/5/2009 – After almost two days I have recovered almost 340 total gigabytes of data from the failing external hard drive. The task is painstaking though because it takes so much time to freeze, thaw, and reconnect the external hard drive to another computer, then trying to transfer the data to another hard drive. But at least the technique is working. 63.6 gigabytes left to transfer.

Dabbling in Closet Karaoke

About five years ago, at a very small family gathering, somebody brought what they called a “Magic Microphone”. Although products like it have been out for years, it was the first time I have ever seen one. I was amazed at how it worked with the background music, lyrics and scoring all in one microphone. My initial attempts at singing gave me mediocre scores which is not even worth mentioning here. Its worth mentioning that my only past experience in singing was way back in elementary and high school when the nuns made us sing in the church choir and glee club. Then I sang “House of the Rising Sun” and it was just in my key. If I remember correctly, I scored an 86. From then on, I was hooked! I'm thinking, I have to get one of these things. After shopping around on the internet, I found the same microphone with built in 3000 songs for the price of $325.00 . I ordered it right away and when it arrived I started practicing. That was the first of 3 magic microphone type devices I have bought. I have since sold my first two which were wired, and am now using a wireless one with two microphones which can be used for a duet. The reason why this blog entry is titled this way is because I don't ever sing in public except in small family parties. When I practice, I close all the doors and windows so the neighbors won't hear me. God forbid if I break their glassware, or worse, if they call the cops to complain about me being a public nuisance or disturbing the peace of their ears. I can't bear to have my neighbors suffer so I shut myself in. Hence, I call myself a “closet karaokist”. My neighbors can probably still hear me, but at least its muted. See, I don't sing that well. Sure I get high scores sometimes but that doesn't necessarily mean that I sang a song well. It just means my timing is good. I could probably recite the whole song in a monotone and get a high score if my timing is right. Also, if you know the nuances of the machine, you can sometimes trick it into giving higher scores. How do I know I don't sing well? I have tried recording myself and I cringe at the sound of me during playback. But with a little enhancement: add a little echo here and there and it sounds better. I even have a homemade CD of myself which I recorded on the computer years ago. Sadly, I haven't been practicing the last few months since I bought the Nintendo WII. Needless to say, I won't be ready when its Karaoke time in the next family gathering. Even if I keep on practicing, Paul Potts or Susan Boyle or Adam Lambert I'm not or will ever be, but at least I'm having fun when I'm doing it. They have nothing to fear from me because my voice doesn't soar like theirs. The only thing that soars is the electricity bill when I turn on the air conditioner to muffle the noise that I make.