Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quo Vadis, Noel?

Under normal circumstances I would have been running Monday morning. Instead I could only wish that I was. My old crazy self would be out on the roads regardless of how my ankles were feeling, you know, the “no guts, no glory” attitude. My new crazy self is telling me to be more conservative and do something else so I can heal and preserve my tendons. I already mentioned in last Sunday’s post that my left ankle was hurting after 6 miles and although it disappeared after a few minutes, the pain reappeared while at rest and when I was doing my balance exercises at home.
So I’m now at a crossroads about running once again. With the pain I’m experiencing on my left ankle indicating a likelihood of PTTD (posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction), I have to decide whether to keep on running and hope that it would work itself out, or stop running altogether hoping the pain wouldn’t progress any further, with the possibility that it might still heal. As far as the right ankle is concerned, that tendon has been given up for lost a long time ago. If I keep on running, I might damage and lose the left one too, and well, I might as well be physically disabled if that happens. I know it sounds so doom and gloom, but this ailment being a progressive disease, I am just stating reality.
I haven’t run since last Saturday so I know I’m losing some conditioning already. I fear that if I try to run, my left ankle would get worse. I even have pain when I walk too much. Where do I go from here? I have a variety of cross training aerobic exercises that I rely on so I know I am capable of staying in shape, but none gives me the pleasure and satisfaction of finishing a run. What do I do from this point on? I wish the answer was as simple as giving up running. People who love to run know it’s not.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

No Splatter Run

So what was different about Saturday’s run? There was nothing very significant about it except that as I approach my danger zone as the runs go longer, I have to start running more conservatively to save my ankles. I did my solo warm up covering 1.6 miles, then stuck with the 10 minutes per mile pacers with AREC the whole way for 9 miles even though they started the first mile a little bit faster. I could tell by perceived effort that the pace was around 9:40. The pace remained more consistent the rest of the away at about 9:50. Our pacer, Allison, said that she found it hard to hold back her pace because she is used to running a little bit faster, but she appreciated the fact that her body didn’t feel as fatigued afterwards with the deliberate slowdown.
I was running pretty well until my left ankle started to have a sharp pain at about 6.5 miles, but that worked itself out after a half mile. The regular pain on my bad right ankle soon followed but I was able to tolerate it until the finish. For some reason, when we hit 2nd St. bridge, I found another gear. I like pushing the pace on that bridge whether I’m running alone or with others. It’s like one last effort on a short hill before the finish knowing that there is only a half mile left from the apex of the bridge.
There was a noticeable difference at Saturday’s AREC run after all. My eyeglasses had no splatter because I didn’t get to blow my nose while surrounded by the ladies.  I’m sure they appreciate not being exposed to that grossness. People I’ve run with already know about the nose blowing and I usually apologize to them ahead of time.
The next day I’m having the usual pain on the right ankle, but I don’t like how the left side is feeling. Despite running a deliberately easier pace, the cumulative miles still batter my ankle tendons. Sigh! These darn ankles are too much drama!

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Setting Unplanned PR’s

Back when I was still racing a lot, I never really set out to break certain time goals. With track workouts once a week and long runs every Sunday, I could feel an improvement with my base easy pace. This in turn translated to faster racing times. Without time goals, there was no pressure to keep on dropping finish times, but drop they did, and every time it happened, it was a pleasant and satisfying surprise. For example, I ran my first marathon in the Philippines in about 5:35, the second one in Honolulu around 5:20. By the time I ran my third one, the time had dropped to about 4:30 and it kept on dropping until I reached a final PR of 3:29. All of these times were not planned but rather a consequence of being able to train well. It was not as if I told myself I’m going to break five hours today, or four hours, or run an average of 8 minutes per mile for the whole marathon. I just relied on my training, put one foot in front of the other after toeing the line and just let things fall where they may. It was the same for the half marathon, 10 mile, 10K, and 5K. Mind you, this was before they had timing chips, so the clock started when they fired the gun, not when you crossed the starting line.
At the time that I set all my final PR’s, I retired from racing because it was also at that time when I bought my condo, and with the mortgage payments, I couldn’t afford to pay for races any more. My base pace became progressively slower from then on. Nowadays, running a pace of 10 minutes per mile feels like what 8 minutes per mile used to be. My cruising pace wouldn’t have deteriorated so badly if I didn’t have the right ankle PTTD problem. But I’m not complaining. I consider myself to have had a marvelous racing past because I dropped my times unexpectedly and unplanned. If I have anything to lament about today, it’s not that I have slowed, but that I have bad ankle tendons.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Embarrassing Juice Exchange

A few days ago at work at around 11 P.M., I found a box of Kool Aid drinks in a room where we do patient admissions. It wasn’t labeled with anybody’s name or how long it had been there. It could have belonged to a patient or staff. But since it was not labeled, it was considered public domain, so I passed it around and offered some to my coworkers until just three remained out of a box of ten.
The next morning, one of the day shift staff asked if we saw a box of Kool Aid that she had forgotten to put away the day before for a patient. With much embarrassment, I admitted that I had offered it to everyone on the night shift until there were only three left. Fortunately, I had a box of similar drinks (Capri Sun) in my car so I gave it up as a replacement for what we consumed the previous night. The patient actually had a net gain of two extra containers of drinks when all was done. I hope she didn’t mind too much that it wasn’t the same flavor.
And now, a follow up. I was off from work for one night and when I returned, I asked a day shift staffmember if the patient had any questions about her replacement drinks. The patient apparently didn’t notice the difference. Whew!!! I’m still slightly red in the face.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Successful Escapes From Psych Units

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the escape attempt by one of our patients that failed (The Great Escape). Today, I’m going to tell you about some that succeeded.
When I first started working in the psych field in an adolescent unit, we heard a loud sound coming from one of the patient rooms at about midnight. When we went to check, we discovered that the iron window bars have been pulled out of the outer wall. A friend of one of the patients had tied a rope to the bars, attached the other end to his truck outside a fence about 50 meters away, and pulled. Needless to say, the patient escaped through the window and over the fence. Who would have thunk it?! At another hospital, an agile adolescent climbed up the corners of a wall in the smoking patio area a la spiderman, and escaped from the roof. Let me try to explain how he did that: with his back facing two wall corners, he used his feet, legs, and arms to propel himself upwards towards the roof. In another roof escape from a patio, an adult patient stacked tables and chairs to get up and over the outside of the building. Most recently about three years ago, while the housekeepers were waxing and polishing the floors, a female patient managed to strip the caulk off a window leading to an outside patio and left the hospital. We didn’t find out that the patient had escaped until about two hours later, after the housekeepers finished their work. The cops picked up that patient the next day and brought her back to us.
The above are only incidents that I was present in. Other workers probably have more interesting stories about patients trying to and sometimes successfully escaping from locked psych units.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Post Saturday Run Blues

After Saturday’s AREC run, I had to work my usual 12 hour shift from evening to morning and the exhaustion I mentioned carried over at my job. I felt so drained, that by midnight, I could barely stay awake. The next day my thigh muscles were sore (it’s Monday afternoon now as I post this and they are still sore). Kinda similar to post marathon soreness but not quite as bad. It felt as if I haven’t run in a long time and just started again. Well, duh! For someone who used to run every day for so many years, four days of not running is a long time. After that many days off then suddenly running 10.42 miles, of course my legs would be sore. At least my ankle joints didn’t fare so badly, so I hope I can resume my current three days a week running schedule. No matter how much cross training I do, it’s not a substitute for running. As I mentioned in a blog post last year explaining the training principle of specificity, you have to run to get in shape for running.
              People probably wonder, since I mention that I have a permanent ankle tendon injury, why I keep on showing up at the Saturday morning runs. If the injury is so bad, why am I still running with them? It must not be as bad as I claim it to be, you might say. The truth is, it is really bad and I shouldn’t be running anymore, but I am just hanging in there, prolonging as much as possible what I love to do despite the pain. The permanent injury is on my right ankle, but in the past few weeks I’m feeling similar signs and symptoms with my left ankle, which is not good. If my left ankle goes, so goes the running.
This is the reason why I’ve been taking so many days off. With so many days off, my running conditioning suffers. That’s probably why I felt so flat and exhausted last Saturday. Maybe instead of taking extra days off, I should just reduce my running time to 30 to 40 minutes during the week instead of my usual hour. That way, I hope my ankles are not too battered, but I would still be able to maintain my running conditioning. I may try that this coming week and see what happens.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Random Thoughts For June

And now, another episode of random thoughts for those uncategorized topics that come up once in awhile.
As a little boy, I remember getting woken up early Sunday mornings to get ready for mass and having to drink a glass of Ovaltine or Milo at least an hour before communion to satisfy the one hour fasting requirement. Breakfast came only after getting home from mass. I’m wondering now if that was actually a Catholic church regulation.
Eating a plain ham and cheese sandwich nowadays reminds me of the snacks they used to serve on the Philippine Airlines DC-3 flights from Jolo to Zamboanga. What did they serve my Muslim townmates, I wonder? I don’t remember the airline serving peanuts...
In elementary school, I remember the boys having to wear shorts as part of the uniform. We couldn’t wait to get to high school so we could wear grown up long pants. I don’t know how we survived wearing khakis from kindergarten through high school in the tropical heat of the Philippines.
Psych patients are like needy babies sometimes. All they care about is instant gratification. All a baby does is eat, sleep, and poop, or in some Philippine dialects “papa, meme, oo”. In the case of patients, in addition to eat, sleep, and poop, all they like to do is take the most medications and smoke the most cigarettes they can possibly have. Like babies, they also throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want right away.
There used to be 2 or 3 wireless networks within range of my home 2 years ago, some of which were not secure. Today there are 11 and all secure. People have finally learned about keeping their networks safe.
I went to Target last week to buy a one terabyte hard drive for $69, which was the cheapest I’ve seen for that size. What surprised me at the store was not finding that there was any left for that price, but rather seeing for the first time Target’s waterless urinals. There was no water used for flushing and a sensor simply emptied your pee by use of gravity (I think).
My computer crashed while I was trying to do too many things at once on it (watching a movie, downloading a huge file, moving files from one drive to another). When Windows Explorer restarted, there was no audio in the video files I had saved. I thought they were permanently damaged. I shut it down and rebooted, Thank God and Microsoft Windows 7 which did a self diagnosis, I didn’t lose any files and the system repaired itself.
                When I had a day off several weeks ago, I closed a Roth IRA CD that matured from a bank and transferred it to another bank down the street which offered a slightly higher rate. CD rates are so low nowadays that you can’t get a decent interest rate unless you sign up for a longer termL.  Then I went home and exercised, did my laundry, updated my computers, burned video files on DVD’s for friend, caught up with DVR’d American Idol and watched the finale of Dancing With The Stars online. Later that evening, I watched the American Idol finale and blogged about it afterwards, which I never thought I would have ever done. It was a pretty productive day off.
                One my way home from the Wrigley River Run last week, I saw two motorized wheelchairs create a traffic jam between themselves on a sidewalk. They were facing each other and there was not enough space on either side for them to pass by each other. I thought that was a little amusing.
                I wrote these random thoughts a few weeks back but never got to post it. Well, better late than never, and it’s still June after all. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

No Legs + No Energy = Fumes

Look at my very unbalanced form above.
On a day when you just don’t have it, what do you do? Well, you just hang in there and hope to make it to the finish. That is how I felt today. I didn’t have the legs, lungs and energy for a feel good type of run, and I’m sure that this is a result of not being able to run since last Monday. With my achy ankles, I decided to take a few days off to make them recover so I can do the Saturday morning AREC run, but oh, did my conditioning suffer despite cross training on the stationary bike and elliptical machine all week. I just couldn’t get back in the saddle again and have muscle memory take over.
It probably didn’t help that my warm up became unintentionally longer than usual. I planned on doing about a mile and a half warm up but ended up with 2.42 miles because I started with Tam’s group and overshot the distance going out. Then after starting at the back of the pack with the AREC group, it took so much effort to catch up with Allison’s 10 minutes per mile pace group, then made a mistake of chasing Leila who started much faster than when I ran with her in last weeks’ Wrigley 10K race. By the 4th mile of Saturday’s 8 miler, I was running on fumes and was just hoping to finish. Well, thankfully, I did finish without having to walk, but it took every ounce of whatever glycogen was left in my muscles to do so. When I got home my energy level didn’t get any better even after eating and was practically stuck to the couch for a few pass out naps the rest of the day. I wasn’t able to do anything else from the exhaustion. Hopefully, I make it through my 12 hour shift at work tonight
To my fellow runners out there, in running as in life, some days there are struggles such as the one I had today, but remember what Nietzsche said, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Or so I hope in my case. I can't complain though. After all, I ran more than 10 miles :)

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Friday, June 18, 2010

The Magic Jack Trial

Who, do you ask, is Magic Jack? Some kind of prestidigitator named Jack? A lot of people have heard of the Magic Jack of course, and I’ve read about it myself in the last couple of years since it first came out, but I found no reason to obtain one since I have been using my cellphone and Skype for telephone calls ever since I stopped using a landline. I’ve managed with those so far even though I couldn’t receive incoming calls in Skype, though you can subscribe to that service if you wanted to for additional bucks. Since I’m not a big phone user, my prepaid cellphone service and outgoing Skype calls have sufficed. But my Skype credit is down to 93 cents and it was either put in more money, or try something else. Hence, I bought the Magic Jack yesterday. All that was required for it to work is a computer and high speed internet connection. You can use a corded or cordless phone, but it’s not necessary.
 I remember last year when my brother and his wife called me from the Philippines using Magic Jack with an Arizona phone number. I answered my cellphone out of curiosity to find out who would call me from Arizona and was surprised to hear my brother. It turns out, someone from the U.S. had given it to them as a present.
 Now it is my turn to try this device. I plugged it in a USB port on my computer, the built-in program tried to install itself, then nothing else happened. So I read the instructions more closely and it said, plug in the phone to the device before plugging the device to a USB port. When I did that, the software installed and asked me to register so I can obtain a new phone number. So far so good. I have an old cordless phone at home which is what I plugged into the Magic Jack, but I didn’t get the expected dial tone. However, if I used my computer’s speakers and microphone, I was able to make and receive phone calls. I concluded that my old cordless phone’s battery was dead and was no longer charging. The next day, I went to Walmart and bought the cheapest corded phone I could find (six bucks), even though it was tempting to get one of those DECT cordless phones. When I got home, I disconnected the non-functioning cordless phone and plugged in the cheap corded one. I got my dial tone at last!
The Magic Jack has worked pretty well so far when I made a couple of calls from it yesterday. There was some occasional choppiness as can be expected from internet telephony but not any different quality that I get when using Skype. My internet connection isn’t that fast anyway, only 1 Mbps, so I can live with the choppiness, I’m sure. I don’t know what the quality will be like yet if I’m uploading or downloading something, but I hope it would not be too degraded. Even though the instructions said that I should plug the device into a main USB port and not in a hub, I have mine in a hub and it has worked just as well. You can dial from your telephone keypad or on the pop-up keypad on your computer screen. So there it is. This is not a review, of course, but just my experience with the device so far. 

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wrigley River Run 2010

First, I apologize for these grainy videos with no audio. Oh, after I posted it, there was audio after all! Yay!
Tadpole Trot Start

Tadpole Trot Finish

What was the goal for today at the Wrigley River Run? To be able to run. What will this day bring, I wondered? Having not run since last Tuesday to make my aching ankles recover from the overstretch I suffered that day, I didn’t know if it was too soon for me to try running again. But I had made my decision to show up at the starting line of this neighborhood race and find out ( More on this shortly.
There was a proliferation of AREC shirts at the race and our running club was represented very well. Wow! The organizers outdid themselves this year! This race was well attended despite another race going on in downtown Long Beach with what I surmise, bigger organizers and sponsors. There were three bands in this Wrigley River Run 10K/5K/Kid K race and all these from a grassroots, community event! Buono’s Pizzeria was at the finish as usual and I loved the taste of artichoke pizza last year so I asked for that again this year. The Buono’s people who were serving told me it was called the Giorgio. There were also bagels and bottled water for post race nutrition. The swag included: a couple of Clif Builder Protein bars, Myoplex Nutrition Shake, Wheaties Fuel cereal, Squiggles Twist fruit, California Dried Plums, coupon for $7.00 off at Buono’s (note to Buono’s: even though the pizza box shaped cardboard container the coupon came in was a nice gimmick, it was a waste of paper products), and numerous other discount coupons including a free Yoga session at Free Spirit Yoga. There was also free stride analysis from Roadrunner Sports store and free massages from Beauty and Wellness Day Spa.
The Tadpole Trot was fun to watch and it gave me chance to take a couple of video clips with my new cell phone. The way that kids start their run with reckless abandon is very exciting to see, because to them, it’s play time. As of this draft, I haven’t seen the videos yet or transferred them to my computer. I really couldn’t see what I was recording because of the sun’s glare, so it would be interesting to see what I was pointing my cell phone at. Update: I transferred the video files to my computer but the sound was missing even though there was sound when I played them on the cell phone. The video was grainy, at best. This is my first video upload so please forgive me for the poor quality.
You cannot imagine how anxious I must have been about how my ankles were going to feel the next morning when I went to bed on Friday night, because I woke up about four times during the night to check the time. Should I save my ankles for another day, or should I at least give running a try? After I picked up my number and swag bag and took them to my car, I started my warm up in an isolated area of the race location. My thoughts were: will I limp, be in pain, feel ok, or bag it for another time? Although my stride was heavy on the left leg, my right ankle didn’t hurt so much, so after a mile and a half warm up, I declared myself ready to run in the race at a slow and comfortable pace, hoping not to pound the ground so hard. I started running with Nancy the first half mile and continued with Leila (both are from our running club, that's Leila in red at the photo above) for the next three miles. I vowed to keep it as easy as possible, hold myself back,  and just finish the race with the least amount of pain. However (!!! I knew there was going to be a however somewhere in here!), at about the 3 ½ mile mark at a turn going back to the riverbed, I lost Leila because I picked up the pace slightly to catch a fellow ARECer slightly ahead. Darn if I wasn’t doing it again: doing the catch, recover, and release! This practice got repeated the rest of the way to the finish line. Along the course, I made sure to thank the volunteers who were manning the water stations, street corners, and turnaround points, even towards the end when I was gasping for breath.
Well, so much for trying to run an easy pace. What I tried to do was increase my stride turnover rate slightly but keep my feet closer to the ground to decrease the pounding. Oooh, were my ankles glad it was only six miles! My days of negative splits are long gone and forgotten, but on this day, I managed to do it one more time. Forget about checking mile splits. I only checked my time after I crossed the finish line and based on effort, I knew it was a negative split run. Even though I ran slightly slower than last year, I’m not disappointed and still happy because I was able to run at all. I’m not an overly religious person but I thank and praise God for endorphins! Hallelujah!
Thanks for this photo Deb C.!
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Friday, June 11, 2010

How Big Is Your Hard Drive?

             So they are selling PC’s with 2 terabyte hard drives nowadays. A couple of years back, 160 gigabytes was quite adequate for a laptop. Now, it’s just enough for netbooks. I remember when you can run a PC with a 360 kilobyte floppy disk!

When I upgraded to a desktop computer with a 20 megabyte hard drive a while back, it was a big deal. Much more when I was able to install a second 20 megabyte drive. At that time, Windows could not read anything larger so if you had a drive with more capacity, you had to partition it first.
External hard drives came later and I had a 40 megabyte one in the 90’s before it failed. It was about the size of a netbook nowadays. When I switched to laptops, the Dell I had, came with 60 gigabytes. My current Toshiba laptop has 160 gigabytes built in and more than half full already, so I had to buy a few external drives: a one terabyte for saving files in and for back ups, and another one terabyte for archiving. Byte, kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, terabyte, and soon petabyte!
 So now I’ve told you about the history of my hard drives, let me show you this picture of a 5 megabyte hard drive from 1956. What can you fit in that huge hard drive? About 2 songs in MP3 format.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Run or Bust on Saturday

I know when one kind of pain feels different from the usual. The different pain is what I felt towards the end of what was supposed to be a slow, easy run last Tuesday morning. It’s the same old tendon overstretch story that you have probably read time and again if you’ve followed this blog for the last couple of years. It won’t be the last time it’s going to happen either because this is the nature of my injured ankle. Just from personal experience, it would either be baseline pain, overstretch pain, or tendon tear pain. The third one of course is what lays me off from running for several weeks to a couple of months. What kind of pain did it feel last Tuesday? It felt like the second type, or at least I hope it’s that one. The pain has been coming and going the last few days and I haven’t run since then even though my schedule calls for a run Thursday. Usually it doesn’t hurt as much two days later. I don’t intend to try running again until Saturday which happens to be the Wrigley River Run 10K and I don’t know how my ankle is going to feel that day. I am only hoping that taking a few days off from running will enable it to heal enough for me to run the race on Saturday regardless of how long it takes for me to finish.
On Saturday morning, I’m going to wake up early, lace up my running shoes, drive myself to the starting line, play it by ear, or in this case by ankle, and hope for the best. It’s going to be run or bust.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Shredded Tire, Anyone?

On my way home from work Sunday morning, I took the freeway since it was not busy. There I was driving leisurely on a wide open freeway following a van. Just as I was about to exit, I saw some debris hit my windshield, and then I noticed that the front right tire of the van ahead of me was shredding to pieces! Good thing I wasn’t following too close. The driver of the van managed to pull over to the shoulder of the road without losing control of the vehicle. Lucky for him for not losing control, lucky for me for seeing the problem from a distance, and lucky for both of us for part of the freeway we were in being devoid of other cars. Whew! The van’s tires must have been retreads because I’ve never seen a tire shredding to pieces like it did. It's not the kind of excitement I'd like to have especially when my day is winding down and I'm about to go to bed. Well, at least nobody got hurt.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Evolution of Virgin Mobile Phones

Most people who have used cell phones through the years have gone through different iterations and sizes of the device, not to mention what services they have subscribed to. Cell phones started out large, got smaller and smaller until it got to candy bar size and now they have started getting bigger and heavier again to accommodate all the electronics.
 I myself have been using what I consider lower tech gadgets from the Virgin Mobile prepaid service all these years and I’d like to show you the different phones I’ve had from the start to present time. I didn’t upgrade every time they came out with a new phone, of course, and probably kept each model I had for about two years. This year, Virgin Mobile finally came out with a couple of semi-smart phones in the form of the LG Rumor Touch and a Blackberry model. As a self present for my birthday, I acquired the LG Rumor Touch which is the first touch screen model for Virgin Mobile. I didn’t really need it since I don’t surf the web or use Facebook and Twitter on my cell phone, but it was my birthday and it was on sale at Best Buy. It is also my first phone with a full keyboard which makes it easier for me to add contacts and send text messages even though I’m don’t do SMS that often. In any case, it is there if ever I need it.
 So here are some pictures of the Virgin Mobile cell phones I’ve used through the years. I’m not a reviewer so I’m not even going to attempt to describe what these phones can or cannot do. Of course feel free to look them up on the web if you are interested to find out what functions they have or in the case of the older ones, what they had.

The Virgin Mobile Party Animal

I don't remember the name of this model

The Marble

The Slice

The Shuttle

and finally, the LG Rumor Touch

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Monday, June 7, 2010

The Great Escape

               Last week, we had a patient who was upset about being in the hospital and made it known to his parents who were visiting, that he will not be here the next day. He stormed out of the visiting area and went back to his room. A few minutes later we heard a loud crash coming from his room and we rushed to see what happened. I cringed at the thought of seeing the patient hang himself. Upon entering the room, we didn’t see him so we immediately checked the bathroom. The window had been busted open and the patient was trying to escape! He probably thought that the window led to his freedom. Unbeknownst to him, it opened into an inside patio with a door leading to the nurse’s station. After a brief tug of war of the door between him and a female nurse, he managed to enter the office. There, he encountered more nursing staff who had rushed back to the office knowing that the only egress the patient had was in there. He must have been so disappointed to see where he ended up in. He tried to fight with us when he was being escorted out of the office so we didn’t have a choice but to tie him on a bed with leather restraints. As I probably mentioned in a post awhile ago, we try as much as possible to avoid restraining a patient, but in this case, with his aggressive behavior, that was our only option. He was a pretty strong fellow because he was a trained gymnast who developed depression in recent years. The next day, we saw him doing push-ups in his room. The kind of horizontal push-ups where his feet didn’t touch the ground and just all arms!
                It was fortunate for us that the great escape turned out to be a failed attempt. This patient could have harmed himself or worse if he succeeded. Gymnast, he was, but Steve McQueen he was not.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Brief Stint as a Tennis Pro

 Being on the varsity tennis team in college, I volunteered myself as a student assistant for some instructors in tennis P.E. classes at the University of the Philippines and that is where I honed my teaching skills for beginners. Students started out facing the outside wall of the campus gymnasium which was used as a huge backboard while learning the basic strokes of the game: forehand, backhand, and serve. Turn slightly sideways, time the arrival of the ball, swing the racket through the ball in an arcing upward motion, and follow through with the swing. While doing all that, you transfer your weight from the rear leg to the front leg with your knees slightly bent. Imagine if you were the student trying to remember all those instructions in an attempt to do one basic stroke. By the time they process all that information, the ball would have passed them. Tennis fundamentals are difficult initially but when you learn it properly at the start you are able to improve quickly the rest of the way.
                While assisting in college, I also had a couple of clients for private lessons which I charged twenty pesos an hour and that helped a lot in supplementing my meager allowance.
                After graduating, my first job was teaching tennis in a summer recreation program for employees of a major pharmaceutical company. When I received my paycheck at the end of the program, the first thing I bought was a skateboard which I never learned to ride. If I remember correctly, I still had a couple of students for private tennis lessons at the time. I stopped teaching the sport when I got a job at a health club as a fitness trainer. A year after that I moved to the U.S., played tennis in a few parks for a couple of years, then stopped playing the game altogether.
Then there was this travelling tournament sponsored by Marlboro cigarettes in the Philippines. One summer while I was visiting my parents in Zamboanga City, the tournament was held there and I played in it. I was eliminated in the first round by the man who coached me when I was still learning the game in high school. I got 50 pesos for losing in the first round.
So there you go. No remarkable tennis past in my life, but it was a sport that I loved playing. I limit my tennis to an occasional Nintendo WII game nowadays.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Freeway Closure, Abbreviated Warm Up, AREC Run

I got out of the house later than usual on my way to the AREC training run Saturday morning. To compound the problem, part of the freeway was closed and my usual exit was not accessible so I had to drive farther to get to where I wanted to go. That delay cut into my usual warm up time so I had to cut that short after I arrived at my destination. No time for pre-warm up chit chat today, so I just took off and managed to do a 1.2 mile warm up before the group got started.
After the usual short speech by our club president, Todd, we were off for a 7 mile run. As usual, I hooked on with the 10 minutes per mile pacers and we hit the first mile slightly faster at 9:49. I started picking up my pace with the plan of chasing and recovering like I did a couple of weeks before ( That worked pretty well for the next three miles, but after that, the rest of the runners were separated by huge gaps that I couldn’t bridge. My breathing felt like I was racing a 5K by this time. I even considered running back to rejoin the 10 minute pacers so I can catch my breath. I caught up with a last group at a water stop but their pace was slightly faster than mine and they pulled away in the last two miles.
            This is how my stride felt from start to finish: my footstrikes from miles 0 to 3 went flick, flick, flick, then miles 3 to 5, they felt like flop, flop, flop, then by the last couple of miles, my feet were going thud, thud, thud.
           At about 5.5 miles, my body’s check engine light went on, indicating a problem with the right axle (ankle). Not wanting to make it worse, I pulled the pace back a bit and that was when the people ahead of me left me behind. Still, when I hit the last hill, I managed to pick up the pace again to finish strong without further hurting my ankle. Other than the discomfort of putting in a lot more effort than I planned, it was an altogether satisfying run. Why? Well, because I finished.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

National Running Day Sentimentality

Running on a treadmill on National Running Day (Wednesday) was not the most ideal way to celebrate it especially when it was not part of my workout schedule, but rather just had to do it to be sentimental. It was something I should have at least done outdoors since it was a beautiful day. Instead I did a token run on the treadmill for thirty minutes plus another thirty minutes on the elliptical machine and twenty minutes on the stationary bike.
                Why all the activity, you ask? Well, National Running Day fell on my birthday and my coworkers threw a potluck party for me at work on the night shift. You know what that means: another bout of overeating. Thus, there was a need afterwards to balance things out by burning those calories. That was the reason for the extended workout. I normally don’t do any aerobic exercise past an hour, but with all the eating we did, I felt the need to do something extra. Even though the slow treadmill run added to the calorie burn, my ankles did not appreciate not being given the extra day off from the activity. Maybe next year I will arrange my schedule better so I can fit in a run day on that date.
As a result, Thursday’s scheduled run became a slog of sorts. Even though I planned for an easy run/walk, my tired legs made for a slower than usual pace and sore than usual ankles. I’ll chalk it up to the previous day’s workout and the junk food induced malaise from the potluck party.
Oh well, such is life. It can’t feel good all the time. Running due to pure sentimentality didn’t help either. I promise to do better next year.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Memorial Day Un-race

On Memorial Day warm enough to run in a tank top, there were a few races far and near going on. I was not a participant in any of them. Instead, I raced unexpectedly against me, myself, and I. The intended workout was supposed to be an easy six miles using the four minute run/one minute walk method. What it ended up being was an hour run comprising of a ten minute warm up, followed by 8 x four minutes hard pace with one minute recovery jog, and ten minutes cool down to finish it off. The first two intervals felt smooth and bouncy, but the last six were a knockdown, drag out fight between me against gravity, wind resistance, and the limits that God gave my body. The left thigh pain I developed the previous day from using very heavy gears on the stationary bike was not even an issue. What mattered most was trying to maintain form while running as hard as I can for four minutes without making my ankle tendons suffer the consequences of the pounding. For four minutes at a time, it was me racing against the road ahead of me. On this day when I found it difficult to get going, that I didn't start my run until almost 9 A.M., just by getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other, I already won the race. 

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