Sunday, January 30, 2011

Random Running Thoughts For Late January 2011

If you haven’t noticed, I have not been posting as often as I have in the past couple of years. It’s all because I had to stop running and had nothing new to pass along. As I try to run gingerly again, maybe I can find something to write about, even if it doesn’t involve marathon training or racing because putting one foot in front of the other while trying to avoid pain is an adventure in itself.
It’s going to be Groundhog Day soon and we will find out if the groundhog sees it’s shadow or not. As for me, I have seen my shadow while running this past week and it isn’t pretty. It looked like I was moving in slow motion, which I guess is better than glacial pace, but nevertheless, pathetically slow. No matter, at least it was a semblance of a jog.
I successfully completed an hour of non-stop running on pavement last Saturday morning. Well, mostly non-stop. I ducked into a Target store at the 25 minute mark to check out a product that I wanted to buy (a more comfortable replacement saddle for my spinning bike). They didn’t have it, so I resumed my run till I finished an hour without doing any walk breaks. Would you believe that there was only a difference of 9 seconds per mile between the run/walk technique and running non-stop? I might as well do the run/walk all the time because it causes less pain on my ankles.  Anyway, I added calf or heel raises to my workout regimen in an attempt to strengthen the muscles supporting the ankles. Maybe that added to the soreness I felt after running non-stop.
Hell on shoes. That’s what I am. No, nothing to do with speed a la hell on wheels but more to do with the damage done on the outsole of running shoes, you know – the rubber that hits the road? I’m such a severe overpronator and a heavy strider that the outsole of my shoes are worn out after just a few weeks of use.
Wow! Does this mean I’m writing about running again?

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Continuing Problems With Virgin Mobile

I used to like this company, but now problems with Virgin Mobile continue to hit me in the pocketbook. Last November, I blogged about inadvertently ordering 2 month’s worth of data packs which can be used to access the internet on my cell phone. I say inadvertently because I didn’t press the buttons on the phone myself when the order went to Virgin Mobile. You see, when my phone downloads email, the touchscreen becomes unlocked and if say, a pen in the pocket where the phone is bumps the screen, it could do anything from trying to dial a number, send a text message, or in this case, order data packs. I think this is a design flaw with the cell phone because even though I have it in a case now, it still does the same thing.
So anyway, back to the problem. As I said data packs were ordered and I tried to cancel them by disabling internet access for my phone and calling Virgin Mobile customer service to get a refund. They told me that since I disabled internet access, they have no way of refunding the data packs that I never used. In short, that money had disappeared in cyberspace but was still being charged to my credit card. I then filed a dispute with the credit card company who refunded the money (worth 43.90) to my account. With Virgin Mobile, there is a separate fund to pay for phone calls which they call Top Up (or load in some countries). When I topped up with 20 dollars last November, Virgin Mobile took the money out of that fund and refunded my credit card, and they did it again in December when I topped up at that time (remember there where two separate bills that I disputed worth 21.95 each). In turn, the credit card company rescinded the refund they gave me because Virgin Mobile paid them back, even though this came from my top up fund. When I appealed to the credit card company’s customer service, they said they couldn’t do anything about it because when Virgin Mobile returned the money, the dispute had been settled. It may have been settled between them but I’m still out $43.90. When I originally contacted Virgin Mobile about this, all they could offer to placate me was 100 free minutes worth about $10.00. All I could do now is take a hard swallow and eat the cost. It’s irritating but it’s not the end of the world. Oh, well.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Running Shorts In My Laundry

I had been biding my time before venturing to run again. I figured that each day that I would be able to hold myself back from running, would be another day of healing. So what about running again? After three weeks or so of resisting the urge to do so, I tried running a couple of times on the treadmill the other week at a very, very slow pace. The first time, I did a 4 minute run then a 1 minute walk for a whole hour. The second time, I was able to do a slow jog for 40 continuous minutes. Three weeks of rest didn’t do much good for the developing PTTD on the left ankle.  However, as usual I had good days and bad days. The following week, I did a couple of jog/walk workouts for an hour each time. Then on Monday morning I was able to jog for an hour and five minutes non-stop on the treadmill without too much strain on the ankle tendons. I may never be able to run hard again or for extended distances but for now, some running shorts have been finding their way to the laundry basket again.
To try to strengthen the muscles around the ankles, I’ve been doing toe contractions where you scrunch your toes as if to pick up objects from the ground. Although it helps a little, it hasn’t been enough so I had to find other strengthening workouts. I had been looking for Thera-bands which can be used to rehabilitate my ankle tendons, but couldn’t find any in drugstores. I found something similar and cheaper at Walmart with the Gold’s Gym brand name (Thera-band is a brand name by itself). With these wide rubber bands, I could do ankle flexions, extensions, and eversions with resistance, which I hope would strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankles. How much it helps remains to be seen. The left ankle has more potential to be rehabilitated because the posterior tibialis tendon has not ruptured, but the there isn’t much I can do with the right side since it ruptured a couple of years back.
While looking for Thera-bands, I saw that drug stores are now selling pulse oximeters for home use which costs about $50.00 (Pulse oximeters measure the level of oxygen in the blood).This was a surprise because in the past, only healthcare professionals can buy these and you probably would have needed a prescription from the doctor. Anyhow, I If I looked, I would probably have found a cheaper version of pulse oximeters at Walmart too.
                So there it is. I’ve taken the first tentative steps in my attempt to return to running or jogging. My muscles seem to have forgotten how to do it because they get sore despite the slowness and short distances. Nevertheless, it’s better than having to ride the stationary bike all the time and I get to wear running shorts again instead of just cycling shorts. If my laundry basket could talk, it would probably ask – “where have you guys been?”

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Living a Frugal Life

Am I frugal? How frugal am I and why? My coworkers often buy fast foods for lunch and I don’t. They see me eating what’s available for free or cup of noodles that I keep in my locker for emergencies. They think that I probably have a lot of money saved because of my frugality. While I do have some saved, it may mean “a lot” to some people while it may mean “not enough” to others, depending on how comfortably one wants to retire. No doubt, relatives and friends in the Philippines most likely think that I earn a substantial amount because I get dollars here. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Please allow me to tell you about the reality of the situation. Sure, I earn a modest living – but just enough to pay the mortgage and other bills while saving a little bit for retirement. My biggest monthly expense is my mortgage like most people do, and I have about 10 more years to pay that off. I pay in full every month whatever I owe in my credit card. Because I only work one job now and am not inclined to work overtime any more, my income pretty much is in balance with my expenses. This is why I don’t eat out or go out as much as I did, say, a decade ago. Go on vacation? Forget about it! There’s just not anything much left after basic monthly expenses. So when my former classmates invite me for a reunion in the Philippines come September, I’ll be one of the missing again. I can only be with them in spirit and in cyberspace. This is not a sob story by the way. I’m fairly comfortable and content the way it is, barring any major life changes or emergencies.
Of course if you have been reading this blog, you already know that my major purchases the last couple of years have been exercise equipment, and that’s probably the main reason why I haven’t been able to save. However, I count that as an investment in the future of my physical fitness in case I’ll never be able to go back to running. Right now, I couldn’t possibly cut back any more on my basic expenses because it’s practically bare bones. My main form of entertainment is watching free streaming movies. I stay home on my days off from work unless there is some family gathering.
So what are these basic expenses I’m talking about that eats so much of my income? Without going into dollars and cents, here they are: mortgage, homeowner’s association dues, electricity, natural gas for heating and cooking, internet, cellphone, and gasoline. The rest would be for food and credit card purchases. I drive a 13 year old (old by U.S standards), thankfully reliable car. On an annual basis, there is car insurance and maintenance. How much more bare bones can that be?
So in short, let me tell you folks, I may live and work in the U.S., but in no way can you consider me well to do. Frugal? Maybe, but I’m just being realistic and practical.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Visiting the Intensive Care Unit and Meeting a Remarkable Patient

Another opportunity presented itself to work on another unit of our hospital. I’m calling it opportunity here, rather than saying that I was forced to go there because it was my turn to do so when the patient count on our unit fell below regular staffing levels. So anyhow, when I heard that I had to go to the ICU, I felt some dread because last time I was sent there, I had to do a 1:1 with a rapid detox patient ( who was so confused that he was practically jumping off the bed. When I arrived, I asked the person I was relieving what the history of the patient was and the reason why she was on ICU. It turns out she originally came from the psych ward where she was on a 72 hour hold for overdosing on her sleeping pills, then because her pulse and blood pressure was dropping to dangerous levels, she was sent to the medical floor. When they were not able to stabilize her there, she had to be sent to the ICU. So that is where I met this totally blind but remarkable Asian woman. For privacy reasons, I will leave some personal details vague so as not to violate any laws.
***Side note: when psych patient on a 72 hour hold or more are sent to a medical floor, they are automatically on 1:1. Because this patient is blind, she was already on 1:1 on the psych unit because her condition makes her unable to protect herself in case another patient acts out.
 I first thought she was asleep when I entered the room, but she stirred while I was getting report from the outgoing shift. So I introduced myself and told her that I would be with her all night and if she needed anything, to please let me know. She asked me where I was from and I told her that I was Filipino. I was surprised when she said I didn’t sound like a Filipino because I didn’t have an accent compared to the other nurses who were talking nearby. I chuckled, thanked her and told her that my accent still comes out from time to time when under stress. So on to her story. She told me she became blind due to a gunshot wound to the head while fleeing the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities in Cambodia during the time of “The Killing Fields”. Her daughter died during that time and she escaped with other people to Thailand where she lived in a refugee camp until being transferred to the U.S. in 1979. While she was only partially blind during her escape, she became totally blind a few years after arriving in America. Even though lacking knowledge of the English language, she not only learned it but learned Braille and typing as well. In the meantime she raised two sons, one who is an engineer and the other who is unfortunately, unemployed. I didn’t ask particulars about her former family in Cambodia and new family in the U.S., however I asked if she was interested in writing about her experiences so she can share her remarkable story with more people. She said she didn’t know how to spell despite being able to speak English fairly well. Plus, it would be difficult to translate from Cambodian to Chinese, to Braille, to English. As far as she knows, there is no Chinese Braille. While in this country in recent years, she has been living independently in her own apartment despite her blindness and she said she likes to clean and cook. Heck, I’m fully sighted and I don’t even like doing those things! I was in awe while listening to the highlights of her life story because of the obstacles she had to hurdle to get to where is now, and which continues to be a challenge due to her blindness. She on the other hand began teasing me to ask one of the nurses for a date upon learning that I was a bachelor. I said, I’m pretty sure that all of those nurses were already married (which was confirmed by listening to their conversations later). Too bad, since they were quite attractive women, LOL!
In the middle of the night, the patient asked me to leave the room and call her nurse. I wondered why until she told the female nurse that she needed to use the bathroom. I wouldn’t have minded assisting her with the bedpan but I had to respect her modesty and preference for help from a female.
                The shift was pretty unremarkable as far as having to work hard. In fact it was probably one of the easiest 1:1’s I’ve had to do. And to hear her story made it even more interesting. She was such a good patient that even though she didn’t sleep well, I ended up finishing a magazine that I was reading plus 6 newspaper crossword puzzles that I had been saving for quiet nights like this. When my shift was ending she asked me if I was going to be back the next night. Most likely, I would not be, so I bid her goodbye, wished her luck, and thanked her for telling me her story.
                ***Another side note: one of the nurses asked me if I was a runner because she said my physique looked like I was one. I responded that I used to run but am no longer able to do so and that I just do cycling now and mostly stationary cycling at that. Nice to hear that I still look like a runner J.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Work Matters – Where Have All Our Patients Gone?

The number of patients being admitted to the psych units of our hospital has deteriorated in the past year. Usually, during winter time the units are always full because we get a lot of homeless people with mental problems who want or have to get out of the cold. Lately it hasn’t been that way and I can’t figure out the reason why. Did the government finally catch up with the abuses of some of these patients? It is common knowledge in this field that there are some people who abuse the system. They claim to be mentally disabled, get free medical insurance and social security benefits from the government. After that, they don’t have to work a day in their lives any more. When they run out of money, they check themselves in the hospital until their next check arrives. These are the people whom we usually rely on to fill our units. However their numbers have dwindled lately and that doesn’t bode well for our job security. We are getting sent to other units more often now, or sent home early, or cancelled from work. Still, that’s better than not having a job.
On another note regarding work - I don’t mind end of the shift admissions most of the time except when the patient brings his or her house except the kitchen sink. Inventorying belongings takes most of the time when doing admissions. That is what happened to me last week. As soon as I saw the name of the patient on our roster board, I knew right away that she would be bringing a lot of belongings. When she arrived, I told her jokingly that I didn’t expect any less from her. Since it was 6 a.m. and she had been in the emergency room all night, she was tired and didn’t really grasp what I was saying. Fortunately my coworkers did the vital signs of my other assigned patients for me while I was inventorying this woman’s clothes and accessories. Thank you very much for your help Saganda!

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Virgin Mobile, Dentist Visit, & Christmas Clothes

Would you believe that Virgin Mobile gave me the shaft again several weeks ago? When I tried to add some load or minutes through their website before Christmas, it wouldn’t go through. I called customer service and the woman tried to do it from their side but their system wouldn’t do it either. I suspected that it might be a credit card issue because as I mentioned in November, I had to withhold payment for something I was billed that I didn’t order intentionally (insert link here). In turn, Virgin Mobile blocked future payments using that credit card. When I gave customer service a different credit card, their system finally allowed me to buy more minutes. I hope that will be the last of my problems with that company.
A couple of days before Christmas, I had to go to the dentist for a drill and a fill of the grille. No, I don’t have teeth jewelry like some rappers have been displaying in their mouths lately. My dentist just had some end of the year fillings they had to complete before my insurance renews in the New Year. The following week I had to go back for an emergency check up. My lower right side gums were hurting so much that I had difficulty chewing and eating. It seems like I irritated the gum while flossing. The dentist prescribed antibiotics as a precaution. You would think that since it was difficult to chew, I would have lost some weight, but I didn’t. In fact I gained a little because of the lack of chewing ability. Chewing releases digestive enzymes that break down food better for digestion. My theory is that I didn’t digest well and stored the calories instead. Well, that’s just really a guess.
Other than a few exercise gear, I don’t really shop for clothes anymore. Know why? Because my relatives keep me current in fashion and style. My new clothing needs get taken cared of during Christmas. I show my appreciation to them by wearing those clothes during our family gatherings. That way they know that I like what they’ve given me and that the items were not regifted.
                And a final thought that occurred to me after talking to my mom during the holidays. What if I decide to retire in the Philippines but when I get off the plane the sudden blast of hot air hits me. Will I think I made a mistake?

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Random Running Thoughts for Early January 2010

Whoa! That was my first reaction when I saw the Vibram Five Fingers print ad in the January issue of Runner’s World magazine. Most subscribers have probably seen it already and I’m wondering what their reactions were. Me, I’m just catching up on reading it since I got my copy in the first week of December. For those who haven’t seen it yet, what I’m talking about can be found between page 48 and 49. Damn! There is a nekkid woman in a running magazine(please don’t correct my misspelling, it’s intentional)! I wanted to scan it to show here but it was a foldout page that was too big. Ok, I found the pics and here it is:

As runners, do you care how much you eat or just go for broke because you know you can run off the calories anyway? We know that running gives us the most bang for buck in terms of calorie burn. Well, how about when you cannot run due to injury, weather or whatever? What would you do then? Other types of workouts don’t seem to do the same job as running does. Regardless of what type of activity you do, there are no shortcuts. You still need to put in the time and effort.
While searching for new ways to deal with posterior tibialis tendon problems, I found a $40.00 over the counter rigid orthotic that looks and feels almost exactly the same as my $250.00 prescription orthotics. However it’s thermoplastic instead of graphite composite. Still, that’s a big difference in price. No wonder health insurance companies don’t pay for sports orthotics – because you might find non-prescription ones that might work or a pedorthist can make adjustments to it to fit your foot condition better.
Last Christmas was my 30th here in the U.S. which coincides to the number of years I’ve been running. Running was the sport that enabled me to immigrate to this country after all. Thank you running and thank you U.S.A for taking me in.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Computer Audio Lag Problem

During the week before New Year’s Day, the audio on my laptop began to lag when I play a video or music file. I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. At first I thought I was using up a lot of resources so much so that the processor couldn’t catch up, or I got a virus or spyware. My second guess was that I had a bad sound card. After doing some diagnostics to check for the above mentioned suspected problems, everything appeared to be in good working order. The problem didn’t stop so I did some searching on the web for a solution, which took a few hours, and when I found it, it was totally unexpected.
 A sound lag caused by the wireless network adapter? Have you even heard of anything like it? What’s up with that? What I found was a single message board thread that mentioned disabling the wireless network adapter to correct the problem. When I tried that technique, the audio lag disappeared. When I enabled the adapter again, the problem returned, so now I have it permanently disabled. Not that I needed it anyway since I’ve been using the built in network interface card (NIC) with a CAT-5 cable connected to the router. What I found out while searching for a solution, was that you can purchase a USB sound card as a replacement for a damaged one in case you don’t feel like digging into the innards of a computer, especially if it’s a laptop. As far as a replacement for a bad wireless network adapter? Well, most of us already know that you can get a USB one too.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflections in the Past Year of (Not) Running

The year in review: This is a summary of my trials and tribulations and attempted comebacks in 2010. The year ended the same way it started, meaning - I’ve stopped again due to worsening ankle tendon problems. That makes a total of 4 times for 2010 that I had to quit my beloved recreational activity. What ended it this time was a lung busting, ankle breaking one hour fartlek workout just before Christmas.
I’m sure this tired topic has been heard or read by some of you so many times already if you have been following this blog for the past 2 years, and I’m sorry about that. At the start of 2010 during the winter, I was just recovering from another one of the episodes of overstretching my right ankle posterior tibialis tendon while trying to keep up with Cindy who was a much faster runner than I am. When it got a little better in the spring, I did the Wrigley River Run 10k. Two weeks after that, my left ankle tendon started to hurt so I took 6 weeks off, thinking that was the end of my running days. I even purchased a road bike to use as an exercise substitute to running. At the end of 6 weeks, this time in the summer, my left ankle felt a little better while the right side was status quo, so I tried running again. That lasted all of two weeks because I strained my right calf and had another lay off from my beloved sport, which made me miss the Long Beach Marathon. Finally at the end of summer going into fall, I restarted running gingerly. Disaster struck in the winter while doing the above mentioned fartlek workout, when my “good” left ankle finally gave in. That makes a total of 4 stoppages due to injuries just in one year, the most number of times I’ve had to quit. Have you noticed a pattern here? Every time I start running harder, or picking up the pace when I’m feeling good, that is when I start hurting my ankle tendons again. All that is a result of the original right ankle tendon injury which has caused numerous imbalances to my biomechanics and stride.
 The pain in my left ankle is now where my right ankle felt 6 or 7 years ago when that original injury just started. The pain is pretty constant nowadays on the left side which is not a good sign. The difference between then and now is that I was still running every day 7 years ago regardless of pain, and I was able to do so because I still had one leg to rely on to support most of my weight. Today however, I literally don’t have a leg to stand on, or at least to run on anymore. Thus the latest stoppage. This comes about 30 years and change after I ran my first marathon in 1980. After 30 years of running with less than ideal biomechanics, I’m surprised I even lasted that long, and it bears special mention again that 21 of those years, I managed to run every day. Will this finally be it for running, never to make another comeback? I’m going to take a few weeks off to find out if the left ankle can still recover and take it from there. Meanwhile, I consider 2010 the four seasons of my running discontent.

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