Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trip to the Bank? Or Trip on the Treadmill?

Yesterday, I was feeling light headed upon waking up due to the swine flu shot which was giving me a side effect that felt like a hangover, and it was spanking me really hard. The plan was to run 15 minutes to the bank, withdraw some money from the ATM machine, run around a little bit more and head back home to finish at least a total of 40 minutes. Instead, I ended up doing a pre-programmed treadmill workout. I hadn’t tried or even looked at the pre-programmed workouts on my treadmill before and while I was exploring it, I stumbled upon and ran a ladder interval. It consisted of a one minute warm up, then for the next three minutes it would speed up ½ MPH each minute, then for another three minutes, slow down ½ MPH each minute. The whole process repeats itself (except for the one minute warm up)until it ended 40 minutes later. It was chilly outside and I had intended to run on the treadmill as a warm up before going outdoors (not the whole 40 minute interval workout), but decided to stay indoors in the warm comfort of my living room and finished the whole workout. Initially, I got off the treadmill after five minutes to get a piece of hard candy and put on my MP3 player, then restarted the 40 minute program, so I finished a total of 45 minutes. I discovered that to make an easy transition from slow to fast I can do a float stride (catch more air) before resuming quicker steps to catch up with the speed of the treadmill.

After having this treadmill for several months I am only now beginning to find out what else it can do. When I received my electric bill this month, it was higher than usual. I scratched my head for awhile until it dawned on me that one of the functions of the treadmill was increasing my electric bill. Oh well, gotta pay to play J. And no, I didn’t trip on the treadmill…yet.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Sister’s Keeper

No, I don’t have a sister. This is about my reaction to the movie I just finished watching. It’s called “My Sister’s Keeper”(you can read the plot summary here: ) , which gave me a very strong emotional response. Essentially, my lacrimal glands got a fairly good workout expelling salted water while watching this movie in the privacy of my living room, which is a good thing. Darn it! I’m a middle aged man and not supposed to be doing that, but please excuse me because emotional movies still make me feel that way. I dare anyone, male or female, young or old, to watch this movie and not have a similar reaction. How’s that about putting it out there for anyone to read in a blog? I was feeling crummy from the side effects of the swine flu shot all morning, but after having lunch and dropping some saline solution from my eyes, I felt better.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

An Open Letter to Mental Health Workers

Dear co-workers, here are ideas that may make our jobs a little easier in the long run.
Ø When a patient brings in their own clothes and they are being inventoried during admission, have him or her pick three or four sets to take to their room and not keep all of the clothes in the contraband locker. This is to avoid us from having to go back and forth to get clothes for the patient when he or she needs them. Quite often, staffmembers take all the clothes and keep them in the lockers then days later the patient asks for them.
Ø When a patient brings in a cell phone, give them a chance to retrieve some phone numbers that they may need later from it, instead of locking it in the safe right away. This way we don’t have to keep calling the security guard to open the safe just to retrieve phone numbers from the cell phone. Have you noticed that this happens frequently?
Ø If the patient has some valuables that need to be stored in the safe, it is not necessary for you to list it on the regular property list because the security guard has to make a list of it anyway which is attached to your regular list. So you can eliminate this redundancy and safe yourself time.
ØBefore you take the patient’s picture, please have them sign the consent first. You’ll be surprised how many or our co-workers take the picture before the patient consents to it.
Ø Please don’t leave the paperclip from the admit packet lying around in the admitting area where a patient can pick it up and use it as a tool to hurt themselves, or worse, hurt us. I realize that they can use just about anything to cut themselves with, even their fingernails, but at least let us not give them some obvious tools to do it.
Ø If the addressograph name plate is not immediately available, at least print the patients’ full name on their close observation form so there is little danger of misfiling it in the wrong chart.
Ø Other miscellaneous things: when you return from your break, the first thing you should do is check on your patients and not just rely on the information of the person relieving you, because you are eventually responsible for your own patients. This is especially important on the night shift. Just because the patient hasn’t gotten up, let us not assume that they are asleep in bed. Besides, being in bed doesn’t mean they are alive, so we really have to make sure that they are. Please check them more frequently and make sure they are breathing. If you are one of those workers who do rounds diligently and see that a patient hasn’t moved from one position in a while, that’s the more reason to check for breathing. If a patient has been in the bathroom for awhile when you do your rounds and even if they respond to you from inside, we should not assume that they are safe. They may be attempting to hurt themselves in there. If after several prompts the patient doesn’t come out, you may have to violate their privacy just to make sure they are safe. At least have a co-worker of the same sex as the patient accompany you in opening the bathroom door so if the patient accuses you of doing something illegal, you have a witness. Another additional item: Please expel or squeeze all the air out of the blood pressure cuff before checking a patients' blood pressure. You can't believe how many people do this seemingly simple thing incorrectly!
Anything else anyone wants to add that I missed? Other than the above, we are doing a pretty good job of doing our admission responsibilities. These are just practical suggestions that may save us time and grief later. Thank you for reading and listening.

The H1N1 Flu Vaccine

Our hospital finally received a batch of the swine flu vaccine today and without hesitation I filled out the consent form and got the shot right away.
But first let me tell you what the posted official hospital guidelines are. Employees who decline the vaccine are supposed to wear a mask if they are treating a patient with suspected H1N1 flu, and they have to replace the mask every four hours. Unofficially, an email was sent to the charge nurses saying that employees who refuse the vaccine are supposed to work their full shift wearing a mask. Hah! Let’s see how long that’s going to last before someone sees the ridiculousness of that practice. The worker has no symptoms plus the patient has no symptoms so there is no practical reason to do it. It’s bad enough that some of these patients are already paranoid. It would only worsen their irrational fear by seeing staffmembers walking around with their masks on. I thought this was only exclusive to the mental health units but as I type this I learned that it was a hospital wide directive. I don’t know where our hospital got this idea from so I’m beginning to wonder if other hospitals are doing it too and we are just following the rest. The intent is good, but is it practical and realistic? We shall find out in the ensuing weeks.
I was all set to get my vaccination and exposed my left arm for the nurse who happens to be the supervisor for the unit I work in. Since I received the seasonal flu shot on my right arm two weeks ago, it was my left arms’ turn. I hardly felt the prick, but then I heard the nurse say “Oh! I hit a vein!” I thought she was joking until I saw some blood in the syringe after she drew it back away from my arm. So she had to draw another dose and give me another shot on my right arm. This time it went well, if not I would have offered my buttocks next, and my co-workers in the nurses’ station wouldn’t have relished that scene. Some of the other nurses later commented that the supervisor hit my deltoid muscle too low on the first shot and since my arm is tiny and the needle a little long, there was more of a chance of hitting a vein, or at worse, a bone. Oh well, that never happened to me before and the supervisor said it was the first time for her too.
More of my co-workers declined having the vaccination than the ones who had it. Maybe they wanted to find out first how our bodies would react to it first before they decide if they wanted it or not. This is probably what being a guinea pig feels like J.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rowing Workout

On Monday afternoon, after waking up from my daytime sleep due to working nights over the weekend, I did a rowing workout on my imitation Concept II rowing machine. I don’t use that machine very often anymore and I was even considering giving it to my co-worker. I’m glad I didn’t because it gives me a good workout which doesn’t involve using my ankles, just the back, arms and thighs. I was able to do 40 minutes of rowing which is the longest amount of time I’ve ever done. To help pass the time, I watched a documentary called “Food, Inc.” By the time I finished rowing, I was almost halfway through the movie. The pace of my rowing was pretty steady except for the last 10 minutes when I did a few short pickups. That, and the length of time I rowed probably contributed to what I discovered the next day. There was a blister on my left ring finger. When I ran Tuesday morning, my legs felt a little heavy because they weren’t used to the unfamiliar stress I subjected them to the previous day. In the past, when I used the machine, it was as an adjunct to a short and easy run, back when I still ran every day. Or I used it as part of a cardio circuit training workout where I do a three or four repeats of five minutes each on the recumbent stationary bike, upright stationary bike, stairmaster, and rowing machine. That way, it breaks the monotony of doing just one type of exercise. It also helps if I’m watching a good action movie for distraction. On some past rowing workouts, I would do one minute pickups with one minute recoveries, somewhat like interval training. That way, the pulse rate increases during the pickups when I row a little bit faster. I was only aiming for 30 minutes of rowing on Monday but ended up with 40, so it was a good enough workout on a recovery day after having worked two 12 hour shifts over the weekend. The thing I like about rowing is that it’s a total body workout involving the lower and upper body. What I don’t like about it is that I can’t read while rowing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The 11:30 P.M. Drive-By Therapy

A psychiatrist walked on the unit I work at 11:15 p.m. After reviewing a few charts, he started his walk-by therapy at 11:30 by going in his patients’ rooms (and other patients whose doctor he was covering for during the weekend). So the psychiatrist wakes up these patients and asks them a few questions after they have been in bed since 10 p.m. It is not unusual for doctors to just walk thru the unit talking to a patient for just a few seconds. What was unusual this time is how late he showed up. One of the patients who was awakened, came to the nurse and asked for a sleeping pill so he can go back to sleep. How ridiculous can that be? So far none of the patients woken up has gotten agitated, but the night is young. I remember another psychiatrist who used to do the same thing a few years back, only he did it at 5 a.m. and I think the administration talked to him about that and he soon got tired of working here. At least they did room service.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What to do? Run, Walk, or Bike?

Today was supposed to be a run day but the past few days some aches and pains would crop up, like for example yesterday my left ankle started to hurt in a different way for no apparent reason. When I woke up I still hadn’t decided whether to try to run, walk, or ride the stationary bike. This morning the ankle felt ok but I still wasn’t sure so I thought I would just go with a one and a half hour walk. Then my neighbor asked me if I wasn’t running today so that gave me the impetus to at least try a run/walk workout and if that aggravated my left ankle than I’d just continue walking. I could feel discomfort at times but it didn’t get worse so I just kept on going until I finished six miles at a 10 minute pace for the combined run/walk. Hooray! I finally did a six mile run/walk! This is my longest since the marathon two weeks ago. The thing I like about this kind of workout is that I can still sometimes run with a full stride for four minutes and I could even attack some short hills which I like because it really challenges my aerobic capacity. At the same time the one minute breaks help my ankles recover which in turn enables me to run longer. It’s not quite as fast as the 12 mile run with Linda when we averaged 9:55 minutes per mile but then I started slowly today so I can get a better feel for my left ankle. Besides, it’s only been a couple of weeks after finishing the Long Beach Marathon. I don’t want the left ankle to become as bad as the right because if that happens then I wouldn’t be able to run anymore. There is still some room for improvement as far as the pace goes with the run/walk technique and that’s something to test in the near future. In the meantime, it’s still a recovery period for both the body and the mind.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is the Press Telegram Trying to Confuse Us?

That’s what I’m guessing anyway. In the past year the Long Beach Press Telegram has changed their fonts, reduced its size, changed some comics, used lesser pages and has more advertisements. Then last Monday, they moved the comics to section A of the paper, then the next day it was back to the usual section B. I’m starting to wonder if they are trying to confuse their readers or just keep them on their toes with all the jumping around. You never know on any given day on what page Dilbert can be found.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the paper usually comes with advertising circulars from grocery stores and drug stores which I like to receive so I can peruse what’s on sale that I need to buy. However there are certain days that I those ads are missing from the newspaper. Maybe it’s the delivery persons’ mistake for not including them. I’m not sure anymore.
To add to that, the Press Telegram is notorious for its misspellings. One day they even misspelled the country of Colombia as Columbia! Yet I continue to subscribe and only because I like reading news in hardcopy and I can also read it while stationary biking, stairmastering, or treadmilling (no such words like the last two, I know). If I can only read while on the rowing machine, I would do it too but I still haven’t found a way to pull on the simulated oars and hold on to a newspaper. I also like to read about local news so I know what is happening in our neighborhoods, which you won’t find in the bigger newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register. If I were to proofread the whole Press Telegram, I would probably find a lot more mistakes. I realize that there are no proofreaders anymore and they rely on spell check to save money, but I just cringe when I see obvious mistakes. The only good thing that has happened in recent years with this newspaper is that they have kept the price the same.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lost In Thought

I finally cut off the D-tag timing chip from my shoe today which I didn’t realize was still there since marathon day. Since I alternate between two pairs of shoes, I haven’t worn today’s pair since October 11. My workouts during the weekend consisted of a 45 minute ride on the stationary recumbent bike on Saturday, and a 1½ hour hill walk on the treadmill on Sunday. So today I decided it was time to do my second post marathon run. The last two runs have been GPS-less so I didn’t have to feel the pressure to run a certain pace. I just went out as slowly and as easily as possible. There were moments when I got lost in my own thoughts.

One of them was about yesterday’s party at Kate and Deb’s house. It dawned on me that I haven’t attended the Win Freeman Post Marathon Party in four years, the same number of years since my last marathon. It wasn’t intentional, it just turned out that way. Although I was initially apprehensive about going because of the social anxiety I mentioned a few blogs ago, I thoroughly enjoyed being there listening to stories of my AREC clubmates’ experiences, whether good or bad, during the Long Beach Marathon. It was also nice to hear about their future running plans. Deb and Kate were very gracious hosts and kept everyone entertained. Even their cat made a brief appearance.

Another thought that came to me while I was around the Virginia Country Club area, was that finishing a full marathon again hasn’t completely sunk in yet and perhaps it never will. It feels like it didn’t happen. Maybe I don’t completely believe in myself that I am still capable.

Towards the end of the run, my thoughts were of gratitude that I was still able to do what I love doing despite my slowness.

I got this Sufi saying from a Canadian indy movie I just finished watching - “You are where ever your thoughts are”. Now I feel that I was not lost in my thoughts after all.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Almost Like The First Time

The feeling of finishing the 2009 Long Beach Marathon felt almost like it was my first. Attempting something new just two months before the event is not exactly good training advice, but out of necessity, I had to do it. I’m talking of course about the run/walk method. Even with that training technique, I still thought I would only be doing the half marathon because I did not believe that my right ankle can take the punishment of running 26.2 miles. So deciding just days before the event to attempt the full marathon felt like doing it again for the first time. My first two marathons were run with a shuffling gait and through the years as I got better, it turned into a full stride until I reached my peak in 1992. Shuffle, full stride, and now run/walk. All techniques which had taken me from the starting line to the finish line 26.2 miles later. This latest marathon may have felt like number 1 again, but the difference was that I knew what to expect in the later miles when the going got rough. That part I can attribute to having experienced 25 prior marathons. I thought I had the best ever marathons when I ran 3:30 in 1991 and 3:28 in 1992, after which I retired from racing, but finishing the 2009 Long Beach Marathon in 4:50 can compare with my fastest ones as the best ever because I feel just as fulfilled. Comparing it to my first marathon in 1980, I feel just as relieved.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Post Marathon Run Plus a Weird Dream

I felt so exhausted after my first post marathon run of 40 minutes yesterday. I was nodding off all day and finally went to bed at 10:30 last night. I wanted to see the old Robert’s department store in Bixby Knolls being demolished so I ran by there then swung over to my friend Katherine’s house and saw her in her front yard. I jokingly told her to come run with me and she took me up on it. My planned 30 minute run turned into 40 minutes. Katherine and Bryan were Nadine’s pacers last Sunday before Nadine unfortunately had to stop about half a mile from the finish. Katherine told me what happened and that the medical personnel who showed up couldn’t really do anything other than radio it in. It took more than 20 minutes before the ambulance arrived. I’m glad that Nadine is all right other than having no recollection of what happened. In extreme glycogen depletion conditions, one’s mental state can get affected. Even the brain can get hypoglycemic. As expected, Katherine teased me for claiming to be retired from marathoning after seeing me on the race course.

I’m just wondering if I’m tired because of the flu shot I received a couple of days ago or still recovering from the marathon. I already know I don’t recover as fast as before, so it might be a combination of both. The pain I’ve been having on my right ankle and left knee are back since the overall marathon muscle soreness is gone. At least there is no more pressure to train for anything at the moment.

I had a weird dream about going back to the Philippines to live there permanently and it even involved Emmett, our running club secretary. I don’t how Emmett got in the picture. Maybe my subconscious made a connection with what he posted on Facebook last night. He was heading for Alpine Village while his friend was heading to the airport to go to Sydney. Funny how the mind works. In my dream Emmett was supposed to meet me at the airport to see me off and he had my plane ticket. However I still had something to do before departing because I was with a couple of TV repairmen while they were doing their house calls. I found out later that my flight didn’t leave till 1 a.m. I woke up just as I was trying to decide whether to bring my gloves or not, and decided not to because it was never going to be chilly to need gloves in the Philippines. Weird dream indeed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Diffusion of Responsibility

This is the description I found on Wikipedia: Diffusion of responsibility is a social phenomenon which tends to occur in groups of people above a certain critical size when responsibility is not explicitly assigned. This phenomenon rarely ever occurs in small groups. In tests, groups of three or fewer, everyone in the group took action as opposed to groups of over ten where in almost every test, no one took action. This mindset can be seen in the phrase "No one raindrop thinks it caused the flood". Knowing this, it is always important to respond to emergencies such as a car accident in the light of the mindset, "Well there's so many people driving past this, surely someone has called 911."

I learned this in a Psychology lesson a long time ago and what happened the past few days where I live is a good example of it. One of the electronic gates in our condo complex malfunctioned late last Saturday and would not open. Fortunately there are other gates available for the residents to go in and out. Thinking that one or more of the residents called the property management company to report it so they can send someone to repair the gate, I didn’t do anything but wait patiently. Finally on Thursday afternoon, after the gate still wasn’t working, I called the management company to report it. It turns out that I was the first and only one to call it in. I found it a little funny that among the numerous residents who use the gate, everyone thought that someone else reported the malfunction. A good example of diffusion of responsibility indeed even though it was not an emergency. The repairman is supposed to come today. I’m still waiting…

Update: gate repaired and functioning properly.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Few Random Thoughts Post Marathon

Now that the generalized muscle soreness is subsiding, my regular aches and pains are returning as expected. I was wearing a knee strap at the race which I really don’t like using because I’m allergic to neoprene. It gives me a rash.
The perils of carbo loading: you eat a lot of carbs for three days before the marathon, during which you decrease the amount of exercise that you do because of tapering. Your stomach expands with the extra food which increases its capacity. After the marathon, the capacity of your stomach remains at an expanded state and it’s more difficult to attain satiety than during your pre-carbo load days, so you tend to eat more to feel satisfied. The result – weight gain. But that’s just my theory based on experience. This year, I didn’t alter my diet significantly so I didn’t get the resultant weight gain.
I don’t know when I’m going to start running again. It feels like I gave it my all last Sunday and don’t feel the need to run again soon. Maybe I’ll try on Friday and Sunday.
I haven’t lifted weights in more than a week due to pre-marathon tapering and post marathon recovery. I’ll have to get back to that routine soon.
I got my seasonal flu shot at work tonight. My right arm is sore. We don’t have the H1N1 or swine flu vaccine yet. I hope we get it soon because I don’t want to look like the picture above.
My CPR certification is expiring at the end of the month so I signed up for renewal at work which is exactly on the day that my current one expires. If I don’t do it, I’ll get suspended.
I haven’t thought of what to reward myself for finishing the marathon. Maybe I already pre-rewarded myself when I bought the treadmill.
Every year a week after the marathon, and for the past two years, Kate and Deb have been hosting the Win Freeman Post Marathon party otherwise known as the Liars Party, where people share stories about what great time they had running the full or half marathon. Shall I go to the liar’s party or not? I RSVP’d in case I make it there. I have a tad bit of social anxiety and I’m more comfortable socializing while on the run. Was that last sentence TMI?
I’ve been back to work the past two nights and wore my marathon technical shirt the first night. One of the patients was a spectator in the race and she told me that she was in awe of all the runners and volunteers. It has been a good couple of nights so far. Oops, I’ve spoken too soon. We are expecting two admissions after 1 a.m.
The security guard I wrote about last week is back tonight and the staff remains wary of him. The picture I included in that blog resembles his body type so well.
It was my mom’s 78th birthday yesterday in the Philippines and I talked to her on the phone before I left for work. She is 15 hours ahead of us here in the U.S. She sounded well and said she felt good except for her arthritis. She had a full day planned to celebrate with her friends. She didn’t receive the birthday card I sent yet but I hope it gets there now matter how delayed it will be. One of my aunts said it takes more than a month – about 2 days from the U.S to the Philippines and the rest of the time seemingly by pony express from Manila to Zamboanga, if it gets there at all. My mom was able to attend the Notre Dame High School Grand Reunion because it was held in the city she lives in and she met some of her former classmates and childhood friends. My Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita also attended and they came from Jolo, the town I was born in.
Mama was happy to hear that I was able to finish another marathon because in the past four years I’ve been telling her I couldn’t cover 42.16 kilometers anymore. All’s well that ends well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Experiment

The experiment: Training using the Galloway method

The subject: Yours truly

The location: Long Beach Street Laboratory

The test: The 2009 Long Beach Marathon

The result and conclusion: Read below

It was an experiment in which I was the sole specimen to be tested. At the start of Spring 2009, I began to step up my training by running with the Wrigley River Runners group when they started their Saturday morning sessions. This was after recovering (up to a certain point), from the inner ankle tendon tear that I suffered last October during the Long Beach Half Marathon. A couple of weeks before the Wrigley group wrapped up their Saturday training, I rejoined the ‘A Running Experience Club’ marathon and half marathon training group which I have been with since its inception six years ago. It was during the first 12 mile run of the AREC season that I experienced my highest high of the year when I managed to squeeze myself in between four vivacious women and finished the run with them. A few days later in mid-week, I experienced my lowest low when I tweaked the problematic ankle tendon and had to walk the following Saturday using trekking poles for balance and support.

It was then that the experiment of one began. For me to be able to keep on running, I felt the need to reinvent the way I train. It was sad to separate myself from the new friends I gained from the earlier weeks of training, but I had no other choice. I was resigned to having to run by myself, which I didn’t like too much because my purpose in coming back to this group year after year was to find people to run and pace with to make the miles go a little easier. See, my running friends? I have an ulterior motive after all and that is to use you to make me run better. But, it seemed like I was going to be back with my lonesome until I bumped into Linda one day in mid-run. I’ve known her for about four years but never ran with before except for brief periods along the course. Even though she had a different run to walk ratio, she was kind enough to stay with me that day with my four minute run to one minute walk ratio. Thus started my reinvention.

I used to do a 5:1 minute run to walk ratio occasionally in the past and a week after my trekking poles walk, I was able to do a 3:1 ratio, then increased it to 4:1 on that first day I ran with Linda. After a few days, I tried to go back up to 5:1 but in spite of running an extra minute each interval, my overall pace was slower. So I went back to 4:1 and it worked very well in the ensuing weeks that I trained with Linda, who decided to forego her usual 7:1 ratio.

Then Rick, whom I’ve known for three years, lent me his book “Born To Run”, part of which the author talks about reinventing his running due to chronic injuries not unlike mine. The book served as an inspiration to my own reinvention.

This brings us to the present time and the events of the past weekend. The marathon – a distance which I thought I would never be able to run again. After waffling back and forth the past three weeks, then with much encouragement from my AREC and other friends, I swapped my half marathon entry for the full marathon, knowing full well that in case something happens to my ankle during the race, there would be a lot of red-shirted medical personnel along the course. Linda also made me promise her that if I felt I could not continue, I would avail myself of the medical assistance. There was no need. I finished my 26th marathon and my balky ankle and my reinvented self survived the experience. I’ve never been so happy finishing a ‘slow’ marathon as I am now!

So you may not have seen me with beakers, test tubes, and Petri dishes along the training and race course, but this experience was an experiment nonetheless, and one I can call a resounding success! Borrowing the phrase from a poster in my living room - “The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running”J. And my friends, although I was never fleet of foot, I found a way to keep on running.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Random Thoughts About The 2009 Long Beach Marathon Experience

I’m at the time of my life that due to my ankle problems, I never expected to run a marathon again. But on Sunday, I managed to do just that. I didn’t realize that I haven’t run a marathon in 4 years until I checked my logbooks when I woke up Sunday morning. With recent training results and a lot of encouragement from members of our running club and my childhood friends living in other states and countries, I went out and played with 23,000 other people on the streets of Long Beach.

The night before the marathon, I plugged my cell phone into the charger but forgot to turn it off first. Normally, that’s not a problem, but I have the phone’s alarm set to go off at 12:30 a.m. for my lunch break at work. So after retiring to bed at about 11 p.m., I was awakened by my cell phone alarm and was restless the rest of the night. Fortunately I had a good night’s sleep Friday night.

Because I ate more sensibly this year instead of doing full-on carbo loading several days before the race, I didn’t gain any unnecessary weight.

Linda, my run/walk training partner, and I made arrangements to meet at the AREC Club tent early and about 15 minutes before the start of the race, we proceeded to the starting line. Our group that positioned ourselves with the wave 4 crowd included Rich, Colleen, Tam, Sophie, Monica, Linda, and and me. I like the wave start because it was not too crowded and it enables you to run right away after you cross the starting line, instead of having to walk several minutes before you can even start shuffling your feet during a mass start.

One of the most admirable things I saw in the race was Sterling pushing a running stroller with his mom in it. We saw them at about mile 4 and they were doing the half marathon. Sterling later posted a picture with mom holding a cup of beer at the finish. Funny guy, that Sterling!

Linda and I stuck to the plan of running for 4 minutes, then walking for 1 minute, and when our watches signaled that it was time for a walk break we would announce “walking!”, so the people beside and behind could adjust accordingly and go around us. Later in the race, despite my legs starting to feel heavy and Linda getting short of breath at times, we managed to keep the pace even.

We plugged along steadily and while I wasn’t aware of how far we have been running, I thought the tough part of the course was seeing mile markers 23, 22, and 21 on the other side of the street. The organizers shouldn’t have those signs 2-sided so the outbound runners don’t have to see how much farther they have to go before they reach that point on their way back.

I saw my neighbor and former training partner Katherine as she was inbound at the 22 mile mark. She will probably tease me later about running the marathon because I’ve been telling her in the past few years that I’m retired from marathoning.

In past marathons, I used to consume an energy gel about every 45 minutes from the start of the race but on Sunday I didn’t take one until 18 and 23 miles.

Just before 21 miles there was group of people wearing cowboy/cowgirl outfits passing out water at the corner of Palo Verde and Atherton. I was about to ask the guitar player wearing a dress for a date until I noticed ‘her’ full moustache and beard.

The Long Beach Hash House Harriers were in full force at 21 miles as usual with their beer offering, but which I did not partake. Maybe next time. Thanks to Emmett, Bernard and the rest for being out there to cheer us on.

I’ve always gotten cramps in my legs while running a marathon regardless of pace and they would occur anywhere from 18 miles or later, so it wasn’t a total surprise that it happened again on Sunday. I was on what I call Cramp Management after 23 miles. The two heads of my calf muscles on both legs seemed to be doing an uncontrollable jig. I’m surprised I didn’t topple over. All I could do was walk a little bit for the spasms to stop momentarily specially after 24 miles. At least yesterday, it didn’t start happening until after 23 miles and maybe because I attacked that last hill. I didn’t lack energy and didn’t feel that I hit the wall. I was even talking, joking, and singing between 19 and 23 miles. What surprised me was that I even got a cramp on my left latissimus dorsi muscle.

A Filipino guy ran with me after 24 miles and asked me if we will still be able to go under 5 hours and I responded that I wasn’t too concerned about it. Frankly, I didn’t know how long I’ve been running because I was only concentrating on running 4 minutes at a time. I didn’t know my total time until the finish when I clicked my watch off.

Linda, as in the past few weeks, provided the support I needed to keep me steady. She finished a few seconds ahead of me and she broke 5 hours for the first time. Congratulations on your PR, Linda! You were spot on when you told Lew that you would be finishing about noontime. As we approached the finish line with Linda a few seconds ahead of me, I heard her name being announced on the public address system. I was surprised when my name was announced too and I couldn’t help but raise my arms up to acknowledge it. Good thing the announcer pronounced my last name correctly J

Finishing gave me such a mix of positive emotions: tears (well, almost) of joy, happiness, and relief. I was surprised that my finishing time while using the run/walk method is the same as the one I had 4 years ago when I ran my last marathon but flamed out at the end, and I was still running faster at the time. My official finish time was 4:50:45, 11:06 pace, which was better than our 21 mile pace 3 weeks ago. Overall place = 1999, place among males = 1349, age division place = 132. Linda, like I told you a few weeks ago, our projected finishing time was still in upper 40% of all marathoners if 5000 ran it. Because we weren’t able to run the tangents all the time, my GPS watch registered 26.66 miles/10:55 pace.

I may have to write Jeff Galloway to let him know that it is not necessary to run/walk more than 26 miles in training to be able to finish a marathon. Jeff Galloway and Linda have given my long distance running new life and they are greatly appreciated.

I don’t know what to ice, all my joints and muscles hurt. The only thing that doesn’t hurt right now is smiling, but I won’t be surprised if that hurts much later too. I don’t remember hurting this much in the past after finishing a marathon. One good thing: no holes in my socks this time.

I was planning on indulging in chili fries with onions and peppers from a diner which I would pass on my way home, but by the time I left the parking lot, I was no longer craving it. Maybe some other day.

Some runners may have met their time goals, others not, and some finished their first marathons. Others may have not run as well as they wanted to, but I’m sure we all gave it our best effort and that’s all that counts. Kudos to my new friends Sophie and Monica for finishing their first marathon!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Day Before The Marathon

Let’s start with yesterday first. I went to the Long Beach Marathon Health and Fitness Expo at the Convention Center to pick up my bib number. Having signed up for the half marathon months ago, I received a red bib number and since I decided to switch to the full marathon, I had to complete a new Scantron card at the late registration desk. I had to pay an extra $20, given a yellow bib number, then pointed towards the Solutions desk where they took the red bib number (7022) and logged in my new number (4118). I guess that means that there are about 5,000 or less people doing the marathon with the rest of the 20,000 participants doing the half marathon, 5k, and the Kids 1 mile. Then it was off to pick up my technical T-shirt and goodie bag. I went a couple of rounds to look at the merchandise that the vendors were selling but didn’t find anything interesting to spend any money unnecessarily for. It seemed like there were slightly more vendors this year but lesser freebies to give. So I didn’t hang around long and headed back home. Inside and outside the Convention Center, I saw and said hello to Johan, Nancy, Nadine, Hugo, Roberta, Greg, and Andrea, plus a couple more people whose names I don’t know (sorry). Later in the evening at home I did karaoke for more than an hour, sandwiched between a couple of movies, to relax. I also laid out all the equipment I need for Sunday morning.

Today, the D-tag will have been attached to my shoe, bib number pinned to my singlet, waist pack checked for ID, gels and candy, GPS watch, MP3 player and cell phone charged, Gatorade mixed, throw away old sweatshirt readied, and alarm clock set for 4 a.m. The marathon website will be reviewed again for the nth time. Much later, I may watch the movie “Without Limits” (bought years ago from the bargain bin of Walmart), and maybe “The Fred Lebow Story” again, for inspiration. I don’t think I have the “Saint Ralph” movie any more.

I’m just wondering if this has any effect on running a marathon: our circadian rhythms in the past few months are used to doing long runs every other weekend on a Saturday, then suddenly our bodies have to wait an extra week plus a day to do it again. Any thoughts on that?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Creeping Doubt

Because of my aches and pains, I feel apprehensive about the upcoming marathon on Sunday. Never in so many years have I had the lack of confidence as I feel now. Do I keep my half marathon registration, or shall I upgrade to the full marathon at the Expo? Taking the easy and wimpy way out is attempting to finish the half marathon. Trying to prove to myself that I can still run a full marathon even with my leg problems would be nice and I would be ecstatic to finish it regardless of how long it takes. Getting slower due to injuries in the past few years, I can accept, but attempting a marathon is almost mind boggling if not for the relatively comfortable 21 miler we did a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t expect to have this dilemma because when training started at the end of May, my mind was set on just doing the half marathon. If I can run/walk the same way on Sunday as I did running 21 miles, I’d be more confident, but during marathon day, you never know what’s going to happen until you reach 15 to 24 miles, if you get that far at all. The inconsistent training I’ve had all summer is letting doubt creep into my head. However, this feeling is not limited to me. In a lot of marathoner’s minds, there will always be the question of “did I do enough long runs, speed work, or tempo runs to enable me finish this marathon?” There will always be self doubt until you settle into the run and monitor how your body feels as the miles go by. I’ll be relying a lot on Linda who has been my training partner in the last few weeks and on the support of my running club, AREC. In the meantime, waiting for 7:00 a.m. Sunday to arrive is becoming excruciatingly painful mentally, specially that I’m off from work starting Wednesday. My biggest concern is aggravating something between now and then. I may need something to distract myself. Any suggestions?

About Our Hospital Security Guards

What do you think hospital security guards do? Do their rounds and make sure the building is safe? In our building there are certain areas where the guards punch a small flashlight-like magnetic device to record that they checked that area. I don’t know how often they have to do this. Some of them get too friendly with the nursing staff that they spend too much time bantering on the unit. Others like the one we have tonight has reportedly become a snitch, reporting to the higher ups what the staffmembers are doing, going so far as to do a headcount of how many people are working on a particular shift. I don’t know if that is part of his job responsibility and it would sure be interesting to see his full job description. It’s bad enough that we are being constantly monitored and recorded by cameras all over the hospital. I even jokingly suggested to my co-workers that we should get a blow up doll, dress it in scrubs, and seat it in the hallway as a decoy. Or do like that children’s story where the mice attach a bell on the cat so they know when the cat is coming.
This particular security guard had already caused the termination of a 15 year long nurse on a medical floor because the nurse dozed off momentarily in the nursing station. Is it the guard’s job to try to get workers in trouble? It is this kind of nit picking by certain people with a false sense of authority that contributes to the low morale of their co-workers. With the constant fear of being terminated in this high unemployment times, even good workers are concerned about going on their required lunch break because the security guard might report them as having disappeared from their post. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of security doing a head count of nursing staff. How ridiculous could that be? I wonder who authorized or gave him the order to do this kind of monitoring? Could it be that he is doing it on his own in an effort to make him look good to his supervisor?
Mr. Security guard, thank you for watching over us and our hospital to make us safe, but please cease and desist watching us in a way that make us feel unsafe for our cherished jobs.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baby Shower!

I went to my Uncle Oscar and Aunt Ditas’ house yesterday for the baby shower of my cousin. The party was hosted by my cousin’s older sister and parents. When I first received the invitation a couple of months ago, I immediately posted on my cousin’s Facebook wall, my congratulations to her and her husband about the pregnancy. Only about a day later did I realize that I might have made a mistake. Maybe they didn’t want to announce it to everyone and by posting it on Facebook, I might have broken a secret. I quickly deleted it and sent my cousin an email apologizing for my lack of judgment. She assured me that it was okay and I was able to breath a sigh of relief, whew!

When I came to the U.S. years ago, Kristine was just 3 or 4 years old and I lived in their house for a few months before I moved to my own apartment, so I practically saw her grow up from grade school, high school, college, then marriage to a wonderful man named Howard who is originally from Louisiana. And now they are blessed with the upcoming arrival of their first child. I don’t know if you remember this Kristine, but in the first couple of days while I was living at your parent’s house, your dad was teaching me how to drive and you were seated at the back seat before child safety seats were mandated. We were on the way home from a holiday party and as we neared your house, I inadvertently braked hard and you fell forward and hit your mouth against the front seat, which hurt you and caused your gums to bleed. I was mortified because you were crying and I thought that I broke your teeth. Luckily, the bleeding stopped and so did your tears. So just to warn you, when your baby is growing up, never let me drive a car with her in it.

At the party, my cousin Mary Ann, who is Kristine’s sister made an interesting table centerpiece in the shape of a three tiered cake made out of diapers. How creative! I got to see relatives whom I haven’t seen in months because we live far from each other even though it is within the Southern California area. There was Jeanette who lives in Thousand Oaks with her husband Ike (he couldn’t make it because he was babysitting the grandkids). I told her that Jon and Kate Plus Eight had nothing on her family because she was one of nine children. I used to live with them in U.P. Village for a couple of years when I was in college, so there was my Uncle and Aunt, the 9 children, plus 3 other relatives (including me) in the household. Ed lives in L.A. while his sister Beth and her daughter, son-in-law and two grandkids recently moved to Murrieta from Long Beach. Cousin Edwin, his wife Danielle and three kids live in Santa Ana.

After having lunch consisting of Chick-Fil-A nuggets, sandwiches and wraps, plus pancit, lumpia shanghai, steak, key lime pie, fruit tart, ambrosia and a huge cake, Mary Ann started some games. The first one was guessing the girth of Kristine’s belly using knitting yarn. We all took our estimates, cut the yarn to the size of our guesses then at the end compared it to Kristine’s actual belly size. Needless to say, I didn’t even come close, but Danielle, her with the three sons, came within an inch and won. The next game was word scramble consisting of words relating to pregnancy and having a baby. Out of 25 words, the winner came up with 16 correct answers. Trying to be a smartass, I announced that I got 26 words correctly. Another game was trying to pick the most number of tiny safety pins out of a big bowl of uncooked rice while blindfolded, within one minute. The winner was able to get 6 safety pins. I tried this game much later and was amazed at how difficult it was. If I only knew, I would have brought a magnet. There were other games that followed but I went inside to talk to relatives who were trying to guess the sex of the baby based on the shape of Kristine’s belly, the width of her shoulders, or if she was beaming or not. I didn’t even hazard a guess for I don’t know anything about it. While all these were going on, I managed to tease my Uncle who has been relearning to use the internet, not to forget to attach a postage stamp whenever he sends an email.

Later in the evening, I asked Kristine and Howard for the three of us to pose for a picture and asked for their permission to write a blog about the party and post the picture, which fortunately they consented to. If not, this entry would have never been written. Thank you very much Kristine and Howard, for your graciousness. May you be blessed with your new baby.

A Little Bit of This and That Equals an Hour of Cardio

Thank goodness for foldable exercise equipment, otherwise I would be tripping all over them in the living room. I shouldn’t even call it a living room anymore because it looks more like an exercise torture chamber. I wonder where I can get second hand waterboarding equipment? Is that considered cardio? And does it fold?

Today, I couldn’t get started working out because I could not decide what to do. My left knee is hurting a bit and too much cycling makes it worse. Maybe a little bit of everything might help, so I unfolded the stairstepper and the rowing machine. Maybe ten minutes each on the stairstepper, recumbent bike, upright bike, and rowing machine, plus a twenty minute hill walk on the treadmill to round off an hour would do the trick. I ended up doing fifteen minutes on each of the machines except the treadmill so I still ended up finishing an hour. The hardest was the rowing machine because I haven’t used it since last year and ever since I was able to put the chain back on track, the tension has gotten tighter.

Today starts the last week of tapering before the marathon so I’m trying to save my legs as much as possible so I can make it to the starting line. The price of having overeaten at the baby shower yesterday is having to work out today on four different machines, but at least it didn’t make my knee pain any worse. That’s enough exercise for today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Last Day of AREC Training for 2009

Well, it’s the last day of AREC training for the Long Beach Marathon. It was nice to have caught up with old friends and made new ones. Next Sunday, we get to find out what kind of individuals we are made out of as we set out to run the marathon or half marathon, after having trained for the past four months for it. A lot of first timers who have never run more than a few miles found out that they were capable of more than they thought. People who have run marathons before may be aiming for a personal record this time. Others may just run the race for fun. Most have made advances in their running and a few like me have had setbacks but still persevere and hope for the best.

Today’s run was eight miles for the marathoners and six miles for the half marathoners. I ran with Linda again and we decided to try to run eight miles non-stop at an easy effort, depending on how my tendons felt. I asked her a favor to hold me back if she saw me picking up the pace. Along the route we discussed what our strategy for next week’s race was going to be. How and when we drink, based on where the aid stations were positioned and what to do if those don’t coincide with our one minute walk breaks. We more or less settled the issue and arranged to meet at the AREC tent at least half an hour before the race started.

For some reason I felt drained and sluggish today while running eight miles. It seems that my body got used to the walk breaks that we usually take. I had the normal pain on my right ankle and some discomfort on my left knee, so my joints were thankful for the shorter run today. It was strange and funny to find out at the end of the run, that we ran the same pace for eight miles non-stop as we did on last Saturday’s twelve mile run/walk, and I was in lesser pain last week. This statistic speaks volumes about the advantages of the Jeff Galloway method. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it is working very well for me. I’m a convert. Now I have to keep my joints, tendons, and muscles healthy for next Sunday.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Glycogen Depletion And Tapering For A Marathon

This is how tapering for a marathon was like years ago. The last long run used to be two weeks before the marathon and those long training runs used to be on Sundays. I don’t know how, when, or why it got switched to Saturdays. Maybe it was more convenient for more people’s daily lives that way.

Tapering used to involve decreasing the total weekly mileage gradually over two weeks (still true today except you do it over three weeks), except for the Sunday before the marathon, you would go on a medium distance run of about 10 to 15 miles for the purpose of depleting your body of glycogen. Glycogen depletion continued for three more days up to Wednesday where you would be eating a high protein diet to really strip the glycogen out of your muscles. The theory behind this is that your muscles become more receptive to storing extra glycogen when you start on a high carbohydrate diet from Thursday to Saturday in preparation for the marathon on Sunday. This training technique worked very well too. The only problem is that during your runs and other activities from Monday to Wednesday you feel very sluggish and fatigued from lack of energy-giving glycogen in your muscles. Not only that, you tend to become cranky. And if you overdo the high carbohydrate diet from Thursday to Saturday, you might gain some unwanted weight. Nowadays most marathoners don’t go on a glycogen depletion diet anymore. You only have to eat a regular diet from Sunday to Wednesday and slightly increase your carbohydrate intake from Thursday to Saturday.

Another variation of tapering involves the same decrease in running mileage, but keeping the intensity of the workouts. In other words, you still run hard during the shorter runs to retain the speed and lung capacity you have developed during training.

So there it is, sounds pretty simple. Now go and do it. A little more than a week to go for the marathon. Good luck with the diet, tapering, and the race.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Mother’s Birthday Card

Every year for Christmas and my mothers’ birthday, I send her a greeting card through a Philippine courier service called LBC even though it costs five times more than sending it through the U.S. Postal Service. Since time immemorial Filipinos have had some problems sending cards, letters, and packages via regular mail because employees of the Philippine post office open the mail coming from the U.S. in hopes of finding something valuable inside. The mail is then either forwarded to the addressee lacking things, or not forwarded at all and sent to the garbage pile (I’m assuming). This is why Filipinos who live here send mail, packages, and money through private courier companies like LBC and Forex even though it costs more. For example, sending a letter or card like I did today costs 98 cents via USPS while it is $6.00 via LBC in what they call a Speed Pouch Pack. It may be more expensive, but you have some peace of mind that your loved ones will get it because it gets there safely.

So today, I went to the local LBC office to send my mother’s birthday card but when I got there, the sign on the façade had changed. It was a different courier service where you can still send packages and money, but not letters. I asked the lady about LBC and she only knew that they closed but didn’t know where they moved to or where an alternate office might be. I drove down the street to Forex but they don’t have the letter delivery service either. Running out of immediate options, I decided to risk it and send it through regular air mail and hope that my Mom receives it, regardless of whether it is opened or not. I sent an email to my Mom’s landlady (my Mom does not have internet service) saying that I sent a birthday card but if it doesn’t get there, it’s not because I forgot, but because the Philippine postal workers were at their shenanigans again. Pity that this still happens. By the way, the picture above is not the card that I sent but just for illustration purposes.

Happy Birthday, Mama! I’ll be calling you on your birthday. Happy Fiesta Pilar too!