Monday, April 25, 2011

Doubts About Still Being a Runner

Although I was able to walk 9 and 10 miles, it still didn’t give me enough pleasure as running did. To add to that, the afterburn (increased metabolism after exercise) of walking doesn’t even come close to running. Perhaps I should start swinging my arms all the time so I can go faster and maybe that would enable me to do more heavy breathing. But would that increase in pace be detrimental to my balky ankles? When I ran those hills two Saturdays ago, I knew I was taking a huge risk, but I had to give it a try anyway because the walking part didn’t give me any challenge or satisfaction. The 10 mile walk two days later was a test mainly for my ankles, not for endurance or speed. These past few months, there has been a  slow and almost imperceptible transition from running to walking. With the cycling, and the walking, and the occasional running,  I’m no longer sure what to define myself. Should I just categorize myself as a daily exerciser? When I first met with the walking group, I told them I was a lapsed runner.
I seem to be maintaining my fitness and weight despite not running any more or rarely doing more than an hour of any type of workout so why should I even think about doing any endurance sports like the Palos Verdes half marathon? Is the challenge or drive still even there?
In other workout news, my elbows started hurting a couple of weeks ago and can’t do upper back exercises and biceps curls. Any movement that involved the biceps make the elbows hurt. I have to limit myself to rubber tubing for the curls but I’m still able to do the bench press, pushups, and dips for the triceps.
I was digging around in my closet one day and found two AREC duffel bags. Now how the heck did I end up with two? Then I remembered that a couple of years ago, the club gave out technical hats as swag for renewing our membership. Since I don’t wear hats, I opted for another bag which was left over from the previous year. Those were from my running days which now seem oh so long ago. Sigh…

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Random Work Thoughts Plus A Senior Moment

Ever since we started the electronic medical records system in our hospital two weeks ago, it seems like all you see in the nurse’s station are the nurses with their noses pressed against the computer screen for hours. They have become like moths attracted to the glow of the LCD monitor. Other than initially talking to their patients, the rest of the time they are seated in front of the computer.
As far as mental health workers are concerned, we no longer have access to patient histories, legal status, or a place where we can do narrative documentation in case we observe anything extraordinary in a patient’s behavior. All we could do is report it to the nurse. If we were accused by a patient of abuse for example, there is no way for us to defend ourselves by documenting our own version of the patient’s complaint. When we were using paper, we could still do that.
Speaking of charts, we don’t use an addressograph machine anymore to label whatever papers we still use. We now have preprinted stickers. When we first started, we had to go to the nurse’s station, open each patient’s chart to get the stickers. I wondered how we could do this more efficiently but couldn’t come up with an idea. Somebody else did however and it works beautifully. He took an empty binder, put in dividers with room numbers, and placed the stickers in the dividers. Now why didn’t I think of that?!
I remember the time when the midnight shift workers were left free food by the hospital. Where have those days gone and do some hospitals till do that? The food were leftovers from the day’s meals and rather than let them go to waste, they were left for the night shift. I wonder what they do with the leftover food nowadays?
I had a pre-senior moment at a store a few days ago. I took out some discount coupons from my wallet when I got there. After I found the products I was looking for, I reached for my wallet from my pants but couldn’t find it! My first thought was “Darn, I left my wallet at home!”. Then I realized that the wallet was still in my hand from when I took out the coupons minutes earlier. DUH!
On that note, Happy Easter To All!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Long Beach Walking Club Part 2 and Palos Verdes Marathon Course 3

I walked with the Long Beach Walking Club at Signal Hill again last Saturday morning. This time I wasn’t as apprehensive about being able to keep up with the group since I already knew what their pace was like. In fact the pace last Saturday felt meandering compared to a couple of weeks back. I guess my companions were taking it easy on me. When the planned six miles was over, I continued on my own from the base of Hill Street. Instead of walking up the hill like I did two weeks ago, I ran up (well, very slowly), and instead of walking after I reached the apex, I continued running down 22nd Street, made a right at the base of Stanley St. and ran up it. I followed the same extra miles I did before, running down Skyline Drive then up again and continuing to run until I reached the finishing point. All in all, the running part of the whole workout tallied just 2 ½ miles but it felt more satisfying than the other 6 ½ miles that I walked. The breakdown was like this: 6 miles walking + 2.5 miles running, + ½ mile cool down walk = 9 total miles. Not bad for a weak ankled non-runner who dabbles occasionally at running, and doing steep hills at that!
                Ok, so I was able to do 9 miles this time compared to 8.5 miles last time. That leaves me 4.1 more miles to finish a half marathon. But how did the ankles feel afterward? Well, very sore. On Sunday I received an email from AREC (A Running Experience Club) telling the members about a discount code for five dollars off for the Palos Verdes Marathon and Half Marathon. I checked out the website and found out that they are changing the course this year. It is now going to start and finish at Donald Trump’s Terranea Resort. I’ve run the original course in the 80’s and the second course several times in the 90’s and 2000’s, so I became curious about this third course change. The marathon will now be a double loop around Palos Verdes Peninsula, with supposedly lesser hills. I’m ambivalent about this because what makes the PV Marathon interesting and challenging is it’s hills. Having been able to walk + run 9 miles in Signal Hill the previous day, I started to think that I may be able to do a half marathon in Palos Verdes.
                The next day, my ankles felt somewhat ok when I woke up earlier than usual. I decided I would go for another walk but on a flat terrain this time to see how long I would last. I went around the Bixby Knolls and Virginia Country Club area hoping to hold onto a 15 minutes per mile pace. The first mile was 16 minutes and several miles after that was locked in at 15 minutes each. I would occasionally swing my arms and by doing that, I seemed to be able to knock off a few seconds per mile. In recent months, I was able to walk for 2 ½ hours on the treadmill and on one of those walks, half was done on the treadmill and half on the road. I figured that would be my goal last Monday. So around I went until I reached my goal time in which the last 15 minutes I was swinging my arms. That enabled me to do the last mile in about 14:20. So I was able to total 10 miles that day, a distance that I couldn’t run anymore. About 45 minutes more or so would enable me to finish a half marathon. But would my ankles be able to tolerate that much more time? They were already hurting somewhat badly during and after those 10 miles. I’ll find out soon enough if I decide to sign up for the Palos Verdes Marathon which is on May 14th, if only to check out the new course and also see what the Terranea Resort is all about. That’s probably the closest I’ll get to a Trump property.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

A Snail’s Pace, Literally!

Forget about the pony express, that would be too fast. This one gives new meaning to snail mail. When I bought my refurbished netbook from a few weeks ago, they offered a $20.00 rebate towards my next purchase if I signed up for something called Everyday Privileges Gold trial membership for $1.00 which is supposed to last a month. This membership offers discount coupons from groceries, hotels, and other stores. If I didn’t want to be billed further, all I had to do was cancel my trial membership after a month. I figured, why not? Getting $20.00 for $1.00 is a very good deal. So I waited for my membership packet and rebate form, and waited, and waited. Three weeks later, I received the packet but not the rebate coupon, so I emailed customer service to ask about it. I was told it was sent via email and for me to check my junk mail in case it went there. Well, I didn’t find it but they told me they were going to send the rebate coupon by snail mail anyway, which I should receive in 7 to 10 days. So I waited some more and after two weeks passed, still no rebate coupon. I sent another email and they responded that the coupon was sent out on March 25th and it may take 3 to 4 weeks to arrive. So it went from 7 to 10 days to 3 to 4 weeks. Talk about snail mail! Either that or the mail was coming on a slow boat from China. Who knows?! Meanwhile my trial membership expired and I called to cancel it so I wouldn’t be billed any further. They tried to sweeten the deal by offering to send me more store coupons so I would continue my membership. I declined. I continue to wait for the rebate coupon as of this writing. If I held my breath while waiting for it, I would be dead already. Maybe the snail that was delivering the mail got intercepted and was served as escargot.
          As a follow up to what I wrote above, I called the company yesterday to check on the status of the rebate coupon and their representative said he was going to send it by email after confirming my email address. He told me to check in the next 24 hours. Hmmm, an email that takes 24 hours to arrive... I think I'm beginning to understand that this company is very good at making promises verbally and in their email email communications, but not as good in backing up their words. They are good at saying things that their customers want to hear but they never really do what they say they are going to do. Talk is cheap, after all. To whoever reads this post, beware of companies run by Trilegiant, in this case, Everydayprivelegesgold. Hot air, snail mail, and 1 bit per hour email all rolled into one.

I found a lot of complaints regarding this company and here are samples:
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Older and Trustier Microwave Oven

About five years ago, I won a $50.00 gift certificate from work for Home Depot and it gave me the opportunity to finally replace my 1981 vintage Sanyo microwave oven which power was probably only 600 watts and had a 15 minute dial timer. I chose a larger sized and more powerful Magic Chef oven with programmable buttons and such. It worked very well for awhile but in the past year, it has been heating unevenly so much so that a couple of my melamine plates broke. This normally should not happen. First, if this story sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because I had blogged about replacing my old 1981 toaster last year but unfortunately I couldn’t find the link. After the second plate broke last week and didn’t even heat the chicken on it, I was desperate and hungry. Fortunately I didn’t dispose of the old Sanyo which I kept in storage in my garage. I brought it back in the kitchen, cleaned it up a little bit then resumed heating my dinner. Other than taking a couple more minutes to heat the food due to the lesser wattage, the oven worked just fine. Would you believe that the smaller Sanyo weighed heavier than the bigger Magic Chef? Could it be that the components of the older machine were heavier because they were more durable and built to last longer? This may be a case of newer not being necessarily better even if it came with fancy electronic buttons. If not for the gift certificate, I probably wouldn’t even have bought the Magic Chef oven. Now that oven is gone and relegated to what it was: a piece of garbage. The Sanyo has returned to its usual spot in the kitchen. So if any of you have a bigger though old microwave oven that still works that you don’t use anymore, please consider giving it to me instead of throwing it away. That way, we can freecycle.
Let me add this: the old Sanyo still has an old fashion ding when the timer finishes instead of the beep beep beep of new microwaves. It probably has a real bell inside it and not an electronic one. Forget about preprogrammed and programmable buttons, the Sanyo only had two settings: Cook and Defrost. My only minor problem with it is that my tall 16 oz. travel mug doesn’t fit inside when I have to heat water for instant coffee. Here is my solution:
The short and fat behemoth of a mug has a capacity of 20 oz. and much cheaper than buying a new microwave oven. Believe me, this picture doesn't do it justice because it looks more like a soup bowl with a handle and lid.
So other than the smaller size of this trusty old oven, it works like a charm. They sure don’t make them like they used to.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Oil Change, Yes. Attitude Change, No!

No good topic to talk about so I’ll tell you about my boring oil change story which happened last Thursday. My car was due for an oil change and I had been putting it off until I found a coupon for a good deal offered by Discount Tire Centers for $16.95. I went on their website to find the nearest location and found one about 4 miles away. There was an option to make an appointment so I made one for 8:30 A.M. When I arrived the next day just short of my appointment time, there didn’t seem to be a line of cars waiting although there were about 3 being worked on and one customer sitting in the waiting room. I approached the desk and notified the man there that I wanted an oil change and that I had an appointment. He responded curtly that it will be a 2 hour wait because there were a lot of other cars coming in. When I asked about my appointment, he said it didn’t matter. Because of the long waiting time, I briefly considered putting the oil change off for another day or finding another mechanic. I was planning on using the waiting time to do an hour of my run/walk workout. I had to change it to 2 hours of brisk walking instead to kill the additional waiting time. There was not going to be any hill walking on that day because if you know the city of Lakewood, it’s pancake flat all over and not even a bridge to climb on. So I left the car keys and started my jaunt around the flat city. After going out for a mile, I figured I should try to use my Android cellphone GPS app called the Runkeeper which functions similarly to a Garmin GPS wristwatch. Initially it was giving me a pace faster than I thought I was going, but it evened out after several minutes and appeared to be closer to my real pace. I made a slightly over an hour loop back to the car shop with the intent of checking on my car, then heading to a different direction for another hour in case my car wasn’t done yet. I saw that the car was already inside one of the repair bays so I approached the man at the front desk again. He said he tried to call me to let me know that they found other problems with the car. As he began what I expected to be a litany of repairs that needed to be done, I stopped him and said “just the oil change please”. I guess that didn’t go too well with him because if he was curt at the start, he had turned surly now. He went to the mechanic to tell him that I didn’t want any repairs, then returned to me so I can pay for the oil change. In an effort to disarm him,  I asked if he was okay because he appeared so serious. He said yes, but his demeanor didn’t change. The guy must have been having a bad day, or maybe I didn’t give the shop enough business by refusing to hear about and get repairs on supposed defects of my car. I was just being wary because there are reports and expos├ęs of car shops being unscrupulous by suggesting repairs that are not necessary. In any case, I picked up my car, went home, and since I didn’t feel taxed by the slightly over an hour walk on a flat surface, I did 20 minutes of fast paced spinning on the stationary bike just to satisfy my exercise cravings.
I’m still wondering why the man at the desk was so surly. He never smiled and was not very welcoming. Was that his normal personality? Does Discount Tire Centers not have customer service training? And what about setting an appointment time? Was it just useless window dressing for the company since they don’t adhere to it anyway? Or maybe it was just that one unusual day that I happened to be there and it was just bad timing on my part? Well, at least I got the oil change out of the way.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April Foolishness After March Madness

Since I hardly run any more, I searched for local walking clubs on the internet last week. I found one in the Meet Up website and there happened to be a scheduled walk at Signal Hill for last Saturday  morning (April 2nd). That was two days after I did a run/walk in the heat on Thursday. I figured it should still be slightly warm on Saturday even though rain was forecasted later that day.
 I signed up with the Meet Up group and met with three other people plus a dog at the base of Hill Street. Even though I’ve been hill walking on the treadmill in recent weeks, I didn’t know what to expect and was a bit apprehensive about being able to keep up with other more experienced walkers on those steep hills. I even considered taking my walking poles along. I haven’t been up in those hills in at least a couple of years but I’m still very familiar with which the toughest climbs are. What I was unfamiliar with was the route the group followed, so I just tagged along. Soon enough we hit the 13 percent grade of Stanley Street hill. Surprisingly, despite its steepness, walking up it only felt like doing a tempo run on a flat terrain. I must still have some aerobic capacity left from running!
There were a whole bunch of people and pets all over those hills walking, running, cycling, or just plain seeing the sights from atop, and we blended in the mix rather quickly. So we walked up and down the winding streets and mini trails of Signal Hill and I actually saw a couple of people I used to run with: Rick who runs half marathons, and Hwaja, who runs marathons and ultras. I knew I was going to bump into someone I knew sooner or later. There was one thing I never noticed before when I was still able to run those hills: dog water fountains. If one of our companions with the dog didn’t have the dog drink from one of the fountains, I wouldn’t have known it existed. It was just a regular fountain attached underneath the one for humans. The walk lasted a little more than six miles but I didn’t feel like I got enough workout for the day, so as we were finishing, I told the others that I was going up Hill Street again. I turned left on top and kept going until I reached the base of Stanley Street. All of  a sudden I was running up the 13% incline until I reached the apex!  I walked down Skyline Drive then turned around and started running uphill again until I reached the top, upon whence I commenced walking until I finished over 8 miles. All in all, with the extra mileage by myself, it turned out to be a somewhat satisfying workout. I probably wouldn’t have walked that far alone. Every time I’m able to accomplish something like that, it makes me think that I may be able to finish a walking half marathon in the near future. Can I do 5 more miles without compromising my bad ankles?

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Madness @ The End of March 2011

What? No more running stories?! Lest you might think this has something to do with NCAA basketball, sorry to disappoint you. This blog should be retitled “Thoughts About Life and Occasional Running” since running has been few and far between lately. However today, this post is about running.
After hiding from the cold outdoors for several months by mostly doing stationary cycling and hill walking on the treadmill because I’ve become a wimp, an opportunity presented itself in an early spring heat wave on Thursday in Southern California. Believe me, it would have been hotter working out indoors on this day so I decided an outdoor activity was in the offing. Maybe my ankles would be able to withstand a run/walk workout after all those uphill treadmill walks in recent weeks.  At least there was a slight westerly breeze when I started at about 2:30 P.M. so it didn’t feel uncomfortably hot. Jogging for four minutes then walking for one minute, I went around one of my previous Bixby Knolls routes with the aim of finishing an hour. Boy, was it rough going for the most part no doubt due to not having done the activity in quite a while! Even slight uphills made me feel winded. However on this day, I couldn’t help but smile to myself for being able to do a semblance of a run. When my legs started feeling wobbly after fifty minutes, it was tempting to stop, but my mantra for the last 10 minutes became “keep it tight”, meaning keep my stride in control so my ankles don’t go from side to side too much.
 Jeepers! When all was said and done, I had lost 4 ½ pounds of fluids in an hour. Good thing I drank a lot of water before going to bed that morning (I had worked the night before).  My post run weight hasn’t been that low since I did that solo half marathon about a year ago (My Own Private Half Marathon). Because of the very slowness of my pace and the slight breeze, it didn’t feel like I was sweating that much. People who saw me were probably thinking why a short, thin man was so slow and lumbering. Believe me, it wasn’t the heat. On this day, I didn’t care about the aesthetics of the run, only that I managed to finish one. Running or a slight semblance thereof at the hottest time of the year so far, was pure March madness. So there – a post about an occasional run J. I can feel the soreness in my legs coming already.

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