Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March’s Last Run

Waking up early Tuesday morning and looking out the window, I saw dark clouds in the sky that grew even darker on my way to the grocery store. I hightailed it back home after buying a few things because I wanted to put a run in before it started raining. The forecast was for the rain to arrive by Tuesday evening but it appeared it might start pouring much earlier.
The workout planned for the day was the 4 minute run with 1 minute walk Galloway training method. I tried to start running harder than usual without a proper warm up. The difference was I took a full minute walk break between intervals. Usually I start running again after about 40 seconds of walking even before my watch starts alerting me for the next repetition. This was just an experiment since I already know that my body doesn’t get into a good groove without starting slowly and warming up first. Not only that, my inner ankle tendons tend to hurt more because it is subjected to heavier pounding so early in the run. Needless to say, it was a rough start and my stride didn’t feel smooth until after about 3 miles.
I wanted to treat this run like a regular interval workout but since I have to be careful with my ankles especially at the start, I couldn’t really pick up the pace hard enough to the capacity of my heart and lungs. So the four minutes of running is closer to a tempo pace rather than a lung busting effort.
Well, I finished my usual hour slower than my last 4:1 workout two weeks ago. This experiment made me conclude that it is better to warm up slowly at the start then pick up the pace later with the reduced walk time, than running hard from the start and taking the full 1 minute walk break. The toll on my ankles is also lesser with the proper warm up. Another lesson learned. Even though I’ve been running for 30 years, running like life continues to be a learning process. What may have worked well in the past may not work now because of changes in your body as you age. The experiment continues.
By the way, the rain never came, the skies cleared, and the sun was out when I finished the run. 

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recent Happenings In Life

A couple of weeks ago there was an earthquake in our area at 4 a.m. while I was off from work so I was asleep at home. I didn’t feel a thing and never woke up. I only heard about it in the news later. Maybe my dizzy spells had something to do with not feeling anything because in my head I’m already shaking and swaying.
Also about two weeks ago, we admitted a patient in the middle of the night and while I was checking his belongings for things not allowed on the unit, he gave up a cell phone, wallet, and his barbering tools. Then I noticed he tried to hide something from me while I was checking his jacket pockets and when I asked what he had in his hand, he showed me another cell phone. The first one must have been a decoy.
While it is somewhat difficult, I found out that it is possible to read the newspaper while using the elliptical trainer even if you use a programmed workout which changes the speed and tension of the pedals. The difficult thing is turning the page of the newspaper because you have to take both hands off the handlebars.
I could possibly be in trouble for blogging about our recent fire drill at work because instead of notifying the safety officer by email or incident report about the problem, I sent him a link to the blog post instead. So far about four other people from work have read it and at least two of them were managers. Even though I made them aware about the possible flaw in the system and I didn’t identify the location of the building, the way I notified them could be problematic for me. It has gotten me very concerned for my livelihood. They haven’t called me yet but we are supposed to have a regular staff meeting very soon.
                 I recently changed my blog’s layout and background but there seems to be slight bug in the way the background was programmed because it gets cut off in the middle and doesn’t cover the whole webpage. I hope the programmers find a fix soon.
                This could be my last post for the month of March. I can’t believe a quarter of the year has gone by already. How time flies. Happy Easter everyone!

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts About Toilet Paper, Pedestrians, Signal Lights, and SUV’s


Did anyone notice that the surface area of a square of toilet paper has been decreasing through the years? Do you think it’s an effort by the TP companies to conserve paper and save trees? Won’t people just tear off a larger piece beyond the perforations between TP squares? Maybe the TP companies made it that way not to save on paper but so people will need to buy more TP. More money for the company for less paper. But that’s the trend with packaging nowadays anyway. Lesser product for the same price or more. What’s up with that?
This might just be a California habit but I’ve noticed through the years that most people who cross the street here stroll on the crosswalk as if they own it. There seems to be no haste in getting to the other side, even after the traffic light has changed. Even if the pedestrian has the right of way, you can’t help but pity the poor drivers who have to wait for the strollers to cross safely as slowly as they possibly can. What’s up with that?
And then there are those drivers who cannot be bothered to use their signal lights anymore. You know who you are. Some don’t signal at all when changing lanes and others who make a move to change lanes first then signal at the last moment. What’s up with that?
When SUV’s became popular in the last decade, a lot of people started driving them. How surprising it is to see the drivers of these huge behemoths approach a slight bump or a dip in the road with the utmost care so as not to damage their vehicle. Weren’t those built to handle off-road terrain worst than the street bumps and dips? I run my piddly Honda Civic through those street barriers and my car is none the worse for wear. What’s up with that?
This is an addition which I forgot about when I wrote this post originally: What about women drivers? This has nothing to do with the way they drive because they drive very well. I’m just curious as to why it is that when they approach a stop light at an intersection, they can’t seem to get very close to the pedestrian lane. There is usually about 2 meters of separation between the front of the car and the lane line. What’s up with that?
The above observances happen so commonly nowadays that people don’t notice or pay attention to them anymore but nevertheless things that you can ponder upon if you have nothing else better to do (like read this blog). Thanks for reading.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Do You Spokeo?


There’s this new website called Spokeo.com and it is an information aggregator like Zabasearch. That means the site gathers public information about people and puts them together, so when you search someone’s name, it shows personal details already previously publicly available from different companies or websites about that person. You can also look up telephone numbers, email addresses, and it can scan your email contact list (I haven’t tried that one yet). Check out the site and discover what you may or may not know about about yourself: http://www.spokeo.com/ . Of course if you want your name deleted from their database, you can click Privacy on the bottom of the website’s page and put in your request. However, your public information will still exist from where Spokeo found it from, and that’s an altogether another story. You can get more information about Spokeo here: http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/spokeo.asp .Oh, by the way, I think the database of the company only covers U.S residents.

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Watch Your Step!


Going to Saturday’s run, I was very apprehensive about how my right ankle was going to withstand the pounding I was going to subject it to, because it has been hurting the past few days.  I’ve been icing it and had it wrapped in a brace most of the time but it still hurt upon waking up Saturday morning.
I arrived at our starting area early and saw Michael, Will, Nick, Tina, and Mack beginning their run so I joined them ¾ miles out and ¾ miles back for my warm up before running with Cyndi at 7:30. They were doing 8 miles just 6 days after finishing the L.A. Marathon. What a hardy bunch of runners! Will’s 2 dogs were chomping at the bit when we started and one of them bumped my leg and almost tackled me. I finished my warm up with minimal pain so that was a good sign.
When I got back from my warm up, Tam, Jean, and Cyndi were already there but the first two were waiting for Jaymi, so Cyndi and I took off for our 8 miler. Cyndi commented that our starting pace seemed a little faster than usual and my GPS confirmed her assessment. In the meantime I was constantly monitoring how my right ankle with the PTTD felt and had to watch my step very closely and keep my stride low to minimize the impact, so I don’t make a misstep that could aggravate the problem. Hence the title of this blog post. I had to remind myself that phrase during the whole run that it almost became like a mantra. Other than that, Cyndi and I were chatting as usual until we were halfway up 6th Street hill and that’s when the conversation was limited to a minimum until the finish.
With a mile to go I urged Cyndi to unleash her finishing kick which she did. Although I tried to keep up with her, I couldn’t do it even though I was giving it all I had. We ended up with an overall pace of 9:11 for eight miles after starting the first mile with 9:45, at 6 miles we were down to 9:18, and the last 2 miles were covered at 8:52 pace. When Cyndi picked up the pace the last mile, I’m sure it was faster than 8:52. With the effort we expended, I lost 4 ½ pounds of fluids (wake up weight plus 1 lb. of coffee minus post run weight). Sorry for the pace statistics because I can be anal like that sometimes. I’m just happy that my ankle held up despite running that distance the fastest I’ve ever done in recent memory.
Next week, we bump up the distance to 10 miles because Cyndi is training for the Orange County Half Marathon.
Here is my dilemma: in order for me to give my training partner a decent pace, I have to do speedwork in mid-week to increase my aerobic capacity. But by doing that, I risk worsening my already bad right ankle. Based on my history, whenever I start running well again and my pace improves, that is when I aggravate the injury because I tend to push off harder on the right foot.
So how can I solve this problem? All I can do is keep watching my step and keep my fingers crossed.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Ecstasy and Personal Benchmarks


Blogs from runners that I’ve read so far portray an obsession to running, which is understandable. They are mostly regular people who have their own goals: some use the sport for weight control, restarting running, just starting to run, others to continue streaks, or write about their training for the next race. There is also the brag factor: showing their personal bests for the races and distances they run. These bloggers run the gamut from triathletes, marathoners, short distance specialists, BQ aspirers, or ultrarunners.
Did I run the L.A. marathon last Sunday? No. Did I finish an Ironman Triathlon? No. Did I do the Western States 100 mile ultramarathon? No. My everyday running streak? Long gone. So what did I do that had made me feel so ecstatic in the past week? My contentment benchmark is not set so high nowadays. Just having run well last Thursday, Saturday, and Monday despite the dizziness problems has made me feel giddy. Or maybe it’s the dizziness itself that’s making me feel high. Of course my ecstasy can vanish at any moment if I aggravate my right ankle again. Here is my problem when I try to run a hard pace (or even an unintended one), my right ankle might not hurt badly while I’m running but it hurts worse a couple of hours after I stop when the endorphins wear out. As my aerobic capacity increases and I’m able to run a little bit faster, I’m also in danger of tweaking my right ankle with the PTTD that brings me back to agony. So it’s not a good trade-off because when that happens, I have to take a couple of steps backward to heal the ankle again. It feels so good to be able to run hard though. Your arms pumping, your legs churning, your lungs feel like they’re about to burst. God! What a feeling!
So here I am on Thursday with my right ankle still smarting a bit from the past weeks’ harder than usual runs. It was time to dial down the effort so it was an easy one hour run. It was such a slow run that I didn’t even hit my stride until after 30 minutes. Mission accomplished.
This is what my personal benchmark boils down to: neither a long distance runner, a racer, or a marathoner am I anymore. Nowadays, completing just an hour run gives me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Pretty low goal, huh? What counts is I’m pretty happy with it and that’s all that matters.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Better Eating in March + Mal de Debarquement



After a bad month of eating in February (when we had those three potlucks at work), I’ve been trying to consume healthier foods consisting of fish, chicken, vegetables, salads, beans, rice, and even more fiber in the form of cereals. The weight that I lost control of last month has stabilized and even decreased. Further tests of my blood sugar in the form of HbA1C came up normal so I don’t have diabetes although I may be prone to it. Other than the dizziness, I seem to be healthy.
As I mentioned before, my dizzy spells feel like I’m on a rocking boat. The feeling is not constant though, it comes and goes, so all I can do is ride it out. I questioned myself last week, should I even be running or doing any other kind of workout with this dizziness? If the diagnosis he doctor gave me about fluid in my ears is correct then it’s reassuring to know that it’s not my heart or my brain that has a problem. I actually get some relief from the dizziness while exercising.
Ever heard of Mal de Debarquement syndrome? Well, that makes two or three or all of us who haven’t heard about it. Here is a description found on the web: Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (or MdDS) is an imbalance or rocking/swaying sensation often both "felt" and "seen" by the sufferer that occurs after exposure to motion (most commonly after a sea cruise or a flight). Although other forms of travel have been known to trigger it. The rest of the information is here: http://www.mdds.org.uk/ .
My doctor didn’t actually say that’s what I had, but my symptoms are exactly the same as the description except I haven’t been on a boat to develop motion sickness.
Well, that about all the health update I can give you for now. I can only hope that the rocking motion subsides and disappears as time goes on.
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Things I Did On My Days Off Last Week


It was time for my biennial car smog check so I had that taken cared off last Wednesday and also had the oil changed along with the air filter which hasn’t been replaced since I’ve had this car in 1998. The next day I paid my car registration. Online payments make it so easy, no lining up at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office or renewal forms to mail so fuel, time, postage and paper are saved. The results of the smog check are also forwarded to the DMV electronically. Yes, my trusty old, dinged, and dented 1998 Honda Civic is old by American standards but it has never given me a problem so I haven’t found a reason to replace it especially in these tight economic times and since I haven’t worked overtime in about 7 years. So I don’t even aspire to buy a new set of wheels because there is no extra cash lying around.
I received my census questionnaire last week and noticed that it was addressed to the correct Zip Code but wrong city. A couple of days later the newspaper had an article about it. I filled out the form and mailed it in.  Something else came in the mail. It was my absentee ballot for the Long Beach city elections. I picked the officials I thought would get the job done and mailed that out along with my census form.
So, on my days off, I did my civic duty by completing the census form and voting, and dutifully did my Honda Civic good by having it serviced. How about that for a lesson about civics? How can I almost forget? I also went to see my doctor for my dizziness problems as previously mentioned in another post and finally got a diagnosis of fluid in the ears. Next up: the dentist and the barber.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Fire Drill That Didn’t Work So Well


We had a fire drill at work Monday night. Almost everything went well with our response time but there was one or two flaws in the system. If we weren’t pre-warned where the fire was supposed to be, we wouldn’t have known where to run to with our fire extinguishers. First the things that went right. When the alarm sounded, the patients were evacuated to a predetermined spot in the building and all the doors which unlock automatically when a fire alarm is tripped were covered by the remaining staff members in the unit. Three other staff members each grabbed a fire extinguisher and proceeded to the fire location.
 Now the things that didn’t go as planned. We heard no announcement on the intercom about where the fire was supposed to be. The reason for that is aside from the intercom system inside the nurse’s station, there was no other way to make an announcement from the rest of the building. If there was a real fire, the security guard would have to go in the psych unit, unlock a door to expose the fire panel which indicates what part of the building the alarm was set off. Security would then have to run to the nurse’s station to tell the staff there to announce “Code Red” and at what location. In the meantime, time was being wasted and the fire would have grown bigger.
Usually the overhead paging system is accessible from any telephone in the building so that the first person who observes the fire can trip an alarm then use the phone to announce “Code Red” so it can be heard throughout the whole building. Well, there is a disconnect in the way the building and the phone system is set up and the people who ran the drill had no answers except to notify their supervisor about it.
Another flaw in the system is that the lone security guard on the night shift has to do rounds across the street and is not always near the fire alarm panel. If there was a real fire and security was away, the staff would have to run around the hallways of the whole building to look for the fire. Yikes! It doesn’t seem they like planned the system very well.  I hope I’m mistaken and that there is really a paging system that we just don’t know about, but need to know ASAP.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

The GPS Runaround


After running near Belmont Shore yesterday, I had time to kill so I set my GPS to guide me back home even though I knew how to get there. In the past, the device always told me to turn left at the first intersection instead of right as I’ve known my route home. So I was curious to see where the GPS would take me. This is how it went: from Marina Drive, left on Second Street, right on Park Street, right on E. Anaheim Street, left on Pacific Coast Highway, around the Traffic Circle, exit right on Lakewood Boulevard, then enter the 405 Freeway. So after a series of rights and lefts at numerous streets which even took me to the traffic circle, a place that I’ve tried to avoid in the past, the GPS finally showed me the freeway entrance. If I followed the route I was familiar with, it would have taken one right turn and one left turn to get to the same freeway.
Well, to sum up, the GPS gave me a runaround through the streets of Long Beach. If you followed its directions and weren’t a local, you’d probably get confused. I found it a waste of time, a waste of fuel, but also at the same time, mildly amusing. That goes to tell you that you cannot rely solely on the GPS to get proper directions. Check Googlemaps, Mapquest, or even your trusty old Thomas Guide first or as a back up.


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Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Decent Pace?

Two Saturdays ago I felt some shame because I couldn’t give my weekend running partner Cyndi a decent pace despite the flat terrain we ran in. It was at that time that my dizzy spells started and being unsure of its cause, I gave a conservative effort. Before today’s run, I informed Cyndi of my problems and a caveat that I may have to take it really easy. Despite that, she still agreed to run with me and I’m so appreciative of that. After my solo run last Thursday and knowing more about my condition, I figured I might be able to give a better effort than what I could muster two Saturdays ago. I woke up dizzy as has been usual the past week but it was time to “buck up” and run with my best effort. Cyndi told me before we started today that I should just run my pace no matter what it is and see how it feels and she will match it. And that’s how we started.
 Since we didn’t run together last weekend because she was occupied, we caught up with the happenings of the past two weeks. This is why I like running with other people. It makes the time and distance pass. Cyndi is faster than me so when we run together, that would be considered her easy day while it would be my tempo effort day. For people who read this blog who are not runners, tempo effort means you are running comfortably hard (even though for me, it gets uncomfortable at times).
Running the usual AREC (A Running Experience Club) 8 mile course, we climbed up 6th Street hill at the halfway mark and what do we see but a Siamese cat crossing the street at the apex. We stopped a moment while Cyndi consumed an energy gel and I tried to catch my breath because we went up that hill at a pretty good clip, and the cat approached us. I was surprised that it didn’t run away and allowed me to pet him/her. Could it have been the pheromones emanating through my sweat, or just my animal magnetism ( LOL!)? Talk about attracting the wrong kind of creature. I told the cat that I’ll be back for him in about an hour to take him home with me. I didn’t of course, but I miss having cats at home. What I don’t miss is the tracked litter all over the place. Up to now those tiny things still come up out of nowhere. Last week a runner gets killed by a crashing plane, and yesterday another runner was assaulted by a kangaroo, and with some stroke of luck, all I encountered was a mild mannered cat. Thank God! 
Anyhow, we left the cat behind and trekked back to where we started from while trying to keep the pace that we attacked the hill with. We must have done pretty well because our overall time for 8.37 miles was 1 hour 18 minutes and 6 seconds or 9:20 average pace per mile. Two weeks prior, we did a 9:36 pace on a flat course. So today, I hope I was able to give my weekend training partner a decent workout compared to two weeks ago. Thanks again for running with me, buddy!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Dizzy Running


Last Mondays’ blog post briefly mentioned my recent problems with dizziness and lightheadedness. Let me tell you how it feels. It feels like you are on a rocking boat. These dizzy spells and lightheadedness are driving me bonkers because they haven’t subsided. Last Tuesday I couldn’t even get started running because I was unable to decide if the dizziness was bad enough to make me pass out if I exerted some effort. I went out the door twice then returned inside wondering if I should just ride the stationary bike instead. I tried running on the treadmill to see if I can tolerate the dizziness and after 4 minutes went outdoors again. I slowed down the pace as much as possible to limit the up and down motion of jogging and somehow I managed to run for 45 minutes without falling down or passing out.
 I had seen the doctor the previous week and he instructed me to make another appointment if I didn’t get any relief, so I called right away after I returned home. I was back in the doctors’ office yesterday (Thursday). He found some fluid in my ears and I don’t know what would cause that. I don’t know human anatomy to that extent. I’m more familiar with the muscular and skeletal system. The doctor ordered me a nasal spray antibiotic, a generic form of Dramamine for the dizziness, and Sudafed to dry out the ears.
I had planned on running after the doctors’ visit but was undecided on what route to take or how many minutes to do. Well, I found a goal that I could reach for. Let me make the connection here. During the visit to the doctor, I had a co-pay of $15 for my insurance. However I only had a $20 bill and the doctors’ office didn’t have any change. I was supposed to pay them on my way out because they might have some change then. Well, in my haste to go to the pharmacy, I forgot to pay them. So this is what I decided I was going to do: run to the doctors’ office to pay them, then run back home. I’ve run this route a few times before and I already knew it was about three miles out and three miles back. It would be a good test run for me and my dizziness. The first 5 minutes was a warm up to test my equilibrium, then after feeling okay, I started picking up the pace. For the next 55 minutes I managed to do 11 repeats of 4 minute pickups with 1 minute recovery jogs (instead of the usual 1 minute walk break). By the time I finished, I had Completed 6.72 miles in 1 hour for a pace per mile of 8:56! Who would have thought I could do that??? I hope it wasn’t a GPS malfunction. Maybe I should be dizzy more often!
Side notes: It has been warm the last few days, I had to run in a tanktop in mid-March. Getting sick sucks especially when you don’t know the cause of your ailments. Being alone makes it worse and that’s probably the only time I miss having someone here with me.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My First Extended Elliptical Workout





Warning! The following blog post is for information purposes only and may bore you to sleep. If you have insomnia, now may be a good time to read it.
       I first used my new elliptical trainer last Friday morning but only did 30 minutes on it while using the stationary bike for the second half of my workout. On Monday afternoon, after taking my morning sleep coming off the night shift I decided it was time to take the elliptical machine past the half hour mark. First I set the machine to one of the pre-programmed workouts which consisted of 2 minutes easy tension, then 2 minutes medium, then another two minutes of slightly harder tension on the pedals. I set a preliminary goal of 40 minutes and when I hit that mark went for another 10 then another 10. So I was able to double my time on the elliptical using those ladder intervals. All the while I was watching the documentary movie “No Impact Man” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1280011/.
      Compared to last Friday, the machines’ squeaks and groans were significantly lesser so I hope it stays that way if I use it regularly. If I were to rate that workout, I would give it a grade of Fair because even though I was breathing hard at times, the highest pulse rate I hit was only 130 beats per minute. I may have do use a more challenging pre-programmed workout. Maybe find one where the harder intervals lasts longer than the recovery intervals. What I like about the machine is that it is the closest that simulates running compared to the other machines I have.
      I don’t know if I’ll ever go over an hour on the machine so I’m pretty satisfied with what I accomplished last Monday thanks to No Impact Man. Excuse me! Is that you I hear snoring???

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Monday, March 15, 2010

My Home Gym Is Complete

      After many years of accumulating exercise equipment at home, I can unequivocally say that my home gym is complete, even though it is missing weight stack machines. What I have is an array of aerobic specific equipment comprised of a treadmill, rowing machine, stairstepper, upright stationary bike, recumbent stationary bike, and the latest addition, an elliptical trainer. Those plus a couple of hundred pounds of free weights in the form of dumbbells and barbells, complete the home gym. I must not forget to mention the chin up/pull up bar attached to a door frame. The pursuit of fitness is not really a pursuit for me but rather a daily habit that needs to be completed. Since I have been unable to run every day for the last four years, I need the variety of workout machines to keep me engaged.
      In addition, what gym would be complete without a weighing scale? A few months ago when I thought the springs of my mechanical, round-dial type bathroom scale had worn out, I finally succumbed to technology and bought an electronic scale that measured weight, body fat percentage, and hydration level. How exactly that happens is hard to explain but has something to do with electrical impedance in which a very small amount of electrical current passes through your body while standing on the scale and your fat percentage and hydration levels are measured. Sounds like a good concept but which I find inaccurate. Case in point: pre-run, it indicates that my hydration level is 63.5%, then post-run when I’ve lost three pounds of fluids, the hydration level goes up about 1%. How can you lose fluids and gain hydration level? Another example: before running, my body fat percentage is show as 12.5%, and after running, 11.5%. Certainly I only lost fluid weight and not fat. I hope at least the weight measurement is accurate.
      So there you go, I have equipment for cardiovascular fitness and endurance, plus free weights for muscular strength and endurance. Flexibility is the only missing link to attain overall fitness. Two out of three ain’t bad.
      I know, I know… ain’t is not proper English.

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A Vitamin D Run

Having confined myself to indoor workouts last week due to problems with dizziness and lightheadedness, I finally decided last Saturday morning to go outdoors and soak up some vitamin D from the suns’ rays. I ran on a very familiar route around the Rancho Los Cerritos area. As I entered the street going into the Rancho (it’s actually a home museum), whom do I see but none other than Thom L., proprietor of Runner’s High store in Belmont Shore. I wondered what he was doing in that part of town since I think he lives in Seal Beach. I didn’t get the chance to ask him because by the time I turned around he was too far to catch and no matter how much faster I tried to run, he was way too fast. My one hour vitamin D run went surprisingly well considering how yucky I had been feeling the whole week. I may be developing adult onset diabetes because after seeing the doctor last Thursday and getting some blood tests done, my blood sugar was found to be slightly elevated. Regarding the run itself, I was able to do some unorganized pace pickups like a Fartlek workout and even managed to go into oxygen debt towards the end and had to slow to a jog for a few minutes before being able to resume my regular stride and finish the hour. I ended the run with strains of Sheryl Crow’s song “I’m gonna soak up the sun” playing in my head.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Recent Changes In This Blog

***I just need to write an addendum here. While I was writing this entry, Google Adsense was still working but right after I posted this, it suddenly disappeared. I don't know what happened or if Google suspended my account again for whatever reason.
If you have visited this blog lately, you may have noticed that I got advertisements from Google Adsense back. They suspended my previous account for clicking on my own ads which was a no-no with their terms of service. So I lost the $10.00 I earned on that account. However they allow you to use another account by using a different email address. Since I’m getting a few more hits on the blog in recent months (thanks to my Facebook friends), I hope the people who read it find some ads interesting and click on them. I’ve also been using Infolinks for advertising. They are the ones you see highlighted in green and ads pop open when you put your cursor on the word. I started using Infolinks after Google suspended my account.
I’ve also added some widgets. If you notice on the left column, there is an area to share the blog on Twitter and Facebook, a list of people I follow and people that follow me, plus something named Feedjit which tracks where someone came from when they visited my blog. It is interesting to see what part of the world the readers came from, how they found you, and if you click on the Feedjit website, you can also see what browser and operating system their computers have. You can see it for yourself here: http://live.feedjit.com/live/noeldlp.blogspot.com/ and you will probably see your city and country of origin on the topmost of the list.
What hasn’t changed are the archives and the useless knowledge widget. I’ve read some running blogs recently and their pages are all enviably much better dressed up than mine. Maybe if I can find nicer templates… For now, everything is all good because I don’t want to clutter the page too much that it distracts from what I’m writing about.

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Random Thoughts For Early 2010


     After several months of avoiding it, I finally did karaoke again at home because I saw Manny Pacquiao singing on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show last week. You can check out my karaoke experiences here: http://noeldlp.blogspot.com/2009/06/dabbling-in-closet-karaoke.html
     One thing I don’t like about writing these blogs: I tend to sit too long and not move around. The only movement happening is when my fingers start typing. How many calories do you think that burns?
     So what’s with all these Nerf products? I went to the store to buy my nephew a birthday present a few weeks ago and the shelves were stacked with Nerf toys. I bought one for him and he got Nerf toys from two other guests also.
     Just when I thought I was doing okay with my expenses, my mortgage payment got higher due to an increase in property taxes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the homeowners association raised our monthly dues. So much for trying to save.
     I received my federal income tax refund on February 26th. Basically, the federal government gave me back my deposit in the form of withholding taxes. At least I have something to pay for the increase in my mortgage and homeowner’s association dues and also the new elliptical machine.
     One of the runners from our running club recently ran a 50 kilometer race on trails and finished in 7 hours and 55 minutes. That’s about the same amount of time I engage in aerobic exercise for a whole week, sometimes lesser.
     Remember when I blogged about giving computer and internet tech support to my uncle and auntie a few months ago?  You can find that entry here: http://noeldlp.blogspot.com/2009/12/computer-frustration.html  . They still call me once in awhile but I found a function in Skype that allows them to share what’s on their screen to me. So now, if they have a question, we connect on Skype and they can point out to me what the problem is or ask me how to do things while I tell them where to point their cursor or where to type certain things to get the results they want. Microsoft Windows Live Messenger has a remote assistance function to it but I’ve never tried it and my Uncle and Auntie don’t have Messenger.
     Last week, I resisted the urge to use the internet so I could catch up on my reading. My reading nowadays is severely limited to Runner’s World, Westways, Competitor, and the USA Today magazine that comes with the Sunday newspaper.
     It’s funny to be remembered by former classmates or townmates not necessarily by my name but by a nickname a girl gave me in high school. Back in the day, I was nicknamed Renault. I heard that girl has been widowed, married a second time, has about four kids and still lives in the same town. I’m not in touch with her. Searching Google or Facebook has not yielded any results.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Trying Out The New Elliptical Machine

     I tested the new elliptical machine on Friday morning and for the first few minutes I could hardly believe how whisper quiet it was. My recumbent bike made more noise than the elliptical. However after about 15 minutes of continuous use, it started groaning, squeaking, and creaking but the noises would mysteriously disappear before another strange sound came up. The good thing is that the noise disappears eventually but replaced with another kind of noise. I hope it’s just the machine settling and redistributing its lubricants.
     I’ve only used an elliptical machine once before a few years ago when I walked past a gym and asked the owner if I can try it. He had me sign a waiver in case I got injured while using the machine. Now that I have one, I’m finding out how unnatural it is to move your arms and legs at the same time with the handlebars and the pedals. It was easier to just use the fixed handlebar. Another thing I found out is that it is difficult to read a newspaper while using the machine because of the up and down motion. Due to my poor balance I’m afraid to let go of the handlebar for fear of falling off. If I have to work out harder I’d have give up reading while on the machine. However, since the machine is quiet, it’s more feasible to watch TV or a movie without having to raise the volume too much.
     At the time of my first use, I still hadn’t figured out how to increase the tension of the pedals and it wasn’t until hours later when I read the instructions did I learn how to do that and the programmed workouts. The instructions itself wasn’t a very easy read because it was printed in China and you had to interpret in proper English what it was really saying. I’m sure some of your electronic items have instructions like that too. The machine has a manual setting, 12 pre-programmed workouts, and I think 2 user programmable workouts. It has the usual heart rate monitor, speed, distance, time, calories burned, plus two things I didn’t expect: a body mass index (BMI) calculator and body fat percentage calculator.
     Other than the squeaks, creaks, and groans of the machine which I hope is a part of the break-in process, I like all the functions that it has which appear to be similar to high end machines. And it mimics the running motion better than the stairmaster or stationary bike. If it gives me the same endorphin high that running does, so much the better. I tried out the new elliptical machine and lived to tell about it, so for now, two thumbs up!


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Thursday, March 11, 2010

My New Toy/Torture Device


My new elliptical trainer was delivered on March 11th   (Yipee!!!). Actually it was supposed to arrive March 10th but I didn’t hear the delivery person knocking because I was asleep in the daytime after coming off the night shift from the asylum. So I had to wait the next day for redelivery. Oh well, just another delayed gratification.

After waiting all morning and part of the afternoon, the UPS guy finally knocked on my door and asked if I can help him lift the box up one flight of stairs and I said yes. I was surprised to see how bulky the box was and it weighed about 120 pounds. Initially, he wanted us to just lift the box but I convinced him to use the dolly and I had him pulling upwards while I pushed from below.
 The first thing I looked for upon opening the box was the instruction manual to find the customer service number.  I just wanted to pay someone else to assemble it just like my treadmill but it appeared that they didn’t have that service. Customer service was closed for the day when I called and was not available till the next day. After reading the assembly instructions, I decided to attempt doing it myself. I remembered how the guy who assembled my treadmill organized himself and I did the same. First, I sorted out the nuts, bolts, screws, and washers. Then I laid out the parts of the elliptical trainer on the floor. From that point on, it was just identifying which parts connected where and with what screw/bolt/nut/washer. After about a couple of hours, I had the machine assembled and saved myself some money by not hiring someone else to do it J. I had underestimated my mechanical ability again. At the end, I found an extra nut : it was me. This nut will be attached to the elliptical trainer tomorrow for a trial workout.

Oh I forgot, the machine can be plugged into an electric outlet but I couldn’t find where the cord connects to the machine initially. I thought it was on the display console which would have been logical, but it wasn’t there. After searching high and low around the machine, I stuck the plug into a hole at the  front of the machine and I was surprised that it fit. But I still wasn’t sure until I plugged the other end in the electric outlet and that’s when the machine came alive. Assembly finally completed!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Simplicity of Life in a Small Town


Writing this reminds me of an old Barbra Streisand song with the lines “could it be it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten many lines”.
Children growing up nowadays lead hectic and complicated lives, with a sensory overload of electronic games, cell phones, after school activities, and the internet. What I remember best growing up in a small town was its simplicity. The only electronic item we had at home was a radio and the town had only two stations, though if the conditions were right, we would get Voice of America and a Manila station. We didn’t have TV in those days. Cleaning the house? Most people had hardwood floors then, way before they became popular in homes again. So we didn’t have vacuum cleaners because we didn’t have carpets, or even electric polishers or special fluids to make the hardwood floor shine. What we had was floor wax and a coconut husk scrub. You spread the wax with a rag by hand while knelt on the floor and afterwards while standing up, you step on the scrub with one foot and start moving it back and forth. It’s hard to paint that picture here, but my Filipino friends won’t have a problem understanding it. And if you didn’t have floor wax, melted candle did the job just as well.
 The one and only traffic signal in town was a small booth where a policeman steps in and turns a lever with a sign on top –stop on one side and go on the other side to indicate which street at the intersection stops and which one goes. Public transportation consisted of jeepneys and tricycles and if you had to travel out of town, you went on bus-like transports simply called trucks, because basically they were flat bed trucks with benches and a roof with no walls on the sides or the back.
Entertainment consisted of movie theaters, some of which were infested with bedbugs which bit into the back of your legs while you were sitting on the wooden chairs. One way to prevent this from happening was to spread newspapers on the chair before you sat down. There were a lot of restaurants in town and most of them served Chinese cuisine, but one of the perennial favorites was a Satti place, satti being local delicacy. It consists of skewered chicken meat, a special hot soupy sauce, and chunks of sticky white rice. Other entertainment venues were a couple of night clubs (Sky Room and Sea Breeze?). A frequent hangout for me was the local tennis club which was next door to our house. I learned to play the game in high school and became a member of the club.
Festivities like weddings or some other private parties thrown by wealthy people were considered whole day affairs because the partying lasted all day. This didn’t happen often but only on very special occasions.
When people exercised, it was usually a pre-dawn walk around the Jolo Wharf to breathe the fresh sea air, or jogging on the asphalt pavement of the airport runway.
The electric power plant of Jolo had a very loud (air raid) siren which blared at 7 a.m., 12 noon, and 5 p.m. to signal the start of the days’ work, lunch time, and quitting time respectively. People adjusted their clocks and watches based on that siren. How’s that for simplicity of time keeping? Would you believe that workers went home for lunch and perhaps a siesta before going back to work in the afternoon? Well, that’s the truth and I guess we got that from the Spaniards who colonized the country for more than 300 years.
Other things I remember but not necessarily about our town was going on a trip every year to Zamboanga City for the Fiesta Pilar. I had to be absent one or two days from school depending on what day of the week the fiesta was celebrated. One thing I looked forward to as a young child going to Zamboanga City was riding the calesa which is a horse drawn carriage and a main form of non-motorized transportation in those days. Another thing was begging my parents every year to buy me a helium filled balloon which string they tied to my wrist so it wouldn’t accidentally fly away. Other than celebrating the Fiesta Pilar, the birthdays of my mom and lolo Lawa (of Lawa’s CafĂ©, whose coffee addicted the town population to no end) were celebrated too. Mr. Lawa never failed to give his extended family a Christmas ham every year. Anyway, it seems that I’ve digressed from my main topic at this point.
I’m sure my townmates have their own share of memories of how simple it was in those days of growing up. My memory is not so intact anymore to remember all my experiences, but I hope this has awakened some forgotten slices of life in other people, and if that happens, please do share. Thank you so much.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Comfortably Hard

An oxymoron for sure, but that’s the only way I can describe Saturdays’ 8 mile run with Cyndi. Mind you, it was comfortably hard for me but probably comfortably easy for her since her base pace is approximately a minute per mile faster than mine. It didn’t seem like I was pushing the pace, not that I could have done that today, but as long as I didn’t talk, my breathing was at a steady state. Once I started talking, I gasped for breathe.
 For a change of scenery, we started at Joe’s Crab Shack as usual but headed to the Long Beach bike path until we hit four miles then turned around to finish the second half. More people run on that path than on our usual route so it was good to see quite a few runners. I had to apologize to Cyndi towards the end because that was the best pace I could give her.
For some reason I’ve been feeling out of sorts the past few days. I could only attribute that to all the unhealthy food I’ve been eating during the past month with all those potlucks we had at work. Not only that, I’ve been overdosing on jelly beans the whole week, so I think my blood sugar was spiking and dropping erratically. I finally threw away the rest of it in the trash when I got home.
When we finished the run, my right ankle was hurting badly and I had to walk it off until the pain subsided. It felt ok while we were running but the moment we stopped the pain was intense. Maybe because it was the first time I wore the over–the-counter Heel That Pain orthotics past six miles.
Well that’s it. Comfortably hard it was, though the overall pace was surprisingly slower than my last couple of 4 minute run/ 1 minute walk intervals. But then again, that was only an hour duration. I’d rather be conservative while running non-stop than hurt my ankles badly. Thanks to Cyndi for slowing down for me the whole way. I’m becoming dependent on other people in doing longer mileage so I appreciate the company very much.
Postscript: About an hour after we finished, a rainstorm passed through. We got lucky we missed it, otherwise we would have been drenched specially that we weren’t wearing raingear.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Space… The Final Frontier

Upon receiving my federal income tax refund on February 26th, I earnestly embarked on a journey for the search for Spock. Oops, wrong journey. Let me regroup and rephrase: I searched the internet for a good deal on elliptical trainers (not the ellipses of heavenly bodies). The one I found with the features I wanted was on Overstock.com with a shipping price of $2.99. I searched Amazon.com for the same product and it was $20.00 lesser plus free shipping and no sales tax. I waited a couple of days for the government check to clear and by the time I checked Amazon again, the price of the elliptical trainer had gone up $20.00 more, with 5 left in stock. The initial price of the machine must have been that good that people were buying them quickly. Another economic theory in action: when the demand is high, the price goes high. I put in my order anyway and sent an email to customer service to see if they would roll back the price by $20.00. It was no go, but I think I still got a good deal with the free shipping and no sales tax. Why I didn’t consider looking at Amazon when I bought my treadmill last summer, I don’t know. I just stuck with Walmart after seeing the treadmill features and price I wanted.
Meanwhile, in my tiny corner of the cosmos, I’m concerned about space or lack thereof in my gym/living room. I’ve been trying to visualize how I can rearrange the rest of the exercise equipment so I can fit in the elliptical machine once it’s delivered and assembled. The only way I can make it work is to move aside the folding machines when not in use and pull them back out whenever I want to use them. That means the stairstepper and the rowing machine because the upright and recumbent bikes don’t fold, and even though the treadmill folds also, it’s too heavy to move around. Oh my, half of the living room will be a maze of cranks, levers, cylinders, gears, belts, and pedals. If I had a wife, she’d probably put me in the garage and leave the exercise equipment alone. Good thing I live by myself.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Reducing My Carbon Footprint



What a pleasant surprise! My electric bill for the month of February suddenly took a dip. It seems that just unplugging my air conditioner because it’s not being used during the winter, along with the paper shredder when not in use, plus replacing the old huge TV in the bedroom with a smaller LCD one is already paying dividends. It’s all due to phantom electricity and by unplugging those devices I am able to reduce my electric consumption (phantom electricity refers to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode). When I’m not charging my netbook and laptop computers, I also turn off the power strip/surge protector. By far, the most power hungry device I have at home is probably the treadmill which I don’t use frequently, thanks to the fair weather we have most of the year in Southern California. I should probably unplug that too when not in use.
I’m not exactly an environmental fanatic but I do make an effort to conserve. All my light bulbs are now the compact fluorescent kind. Since I don’t have an automatic thermostat, I try to remember to turn off the heater before I leave home for my night shift job. And of course, as mentioned above, I unplug unused appliances. For several years now in drought stricken California, I’ve also reduced my water use. Oh, I almost forgot! I finally signed up for paperless statements from my bank, credit card company, and electric company. I get all those statements and bills online now.
My electric bill has been rising the past few years and I know because the electric company has a year by year comparison which shows how much I consumed from month to month going back three years. Just making minor adjustments in the way I live has made a difference. My pocketbook thanks me, and by trying to reduce my carbon footprint, hopefully the environment does too.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh No! Not Another Potluck!


Another night and another birthday potluck at work. Damn, that makes it three for the month of February alone, and thank goodness, it’s a short month and it’s over! I hope that nobody has a birthday on the night shift in March so our veins and arteries can recover from the cholesterol onslaught they’ve been subjected to.
When I eat too much unhealthy food, I can feel the difference in my body. As if unhealthy food wasn’t a problem, we tend to eat more of it thus exacerbating the problem. No wonder I’m steadily gaining weight and struggling to rein it back in. These potlucks are becoming an exercise in gluttony. Too much food are being bought or brought. The taste buds in the mouth say “more, more” even when the stomach is saying “no mas, no mas”. Being the single person in the group, it is me who gets to take home the leftovers with permission from the other potluckers, and I’m good for the next few days without having to cook or buy anything. It’s hard to see food go to waste but I’ll have to start declining the offers to take them home.
It is time to put everybody’s collective feet down and agree that we would only do one potluck a month to celebrate everyone who has a birthday for that particular month. I’ll be the first one to volunteer my foot.
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