Sunday, July 31, 2011

Minimalist Running (AREC Training 7-30-11)

Waking up to the alarm clock in mid-dream isn’t the best way to rise for the day but that was exactly what happened Saturday morning at 5 o’clock. It must have been a good dream because my first impulse was to turn the darn alarm off and resume the pre-alarm reverie. But, I’ve been looking forward to this run all week so I jumped out of bed before I could even press the snooze button. Wait, wait, I can’t do any more jumping whether it’s out of bed or elsewhere. Let me rephrase. I rose slowly out of bed before getting tempted to press the snooze button. After the usual routine of using the bathroom and checking email, I donned my running garb for the day. It was another surprisingly cool summer morning so I opted for a t-shirt day instead of a tanktop. It wasn’t one of those bare buns runs so I put on a pair of running shorts too. After tightening the shoelaces of my Asics Gel Foundation very snuggly, I was all set and headed out the door for the short drive to Joe’s Crab Shack.
                My previous warm up routine before both ankles were seriously injured was a mile to a mile and a half of slow running with a few strideouts towards the end. Nowadays, I am only able to do a few short jogs so as to save the ankles for the pounding that was to come later.
                I didn’t know who I would be able to pace with on this day but I espied Rosie, who I’d run with before, and her pace matched mine at the start so I joined up with her. She was one of those girls that I couldn’t catch up with three weeks ago when I started running again. For the first couple of miles I felt that I might be able to until later when I may have to do some walk breaks.
                It was one of those busy weekends in Long Beach along our running route. Between miles 2 and 3, there were dragon boat races going on at the beach side, so we had to run on the street side. We passed this area on the way out and on the way back. Somehow the dragon boat races didn’t look as crowded as in previous years. Anyway, Rosie and I chatted until club president Todd caught up with us, upon which we talked briefly about his and Rosie’s dog. I could feel the pace gradually pick up since Todd is a lot faster than us even though he was chopping his stride. I brought this to their attention so Rosie and I pulled back while Todd forged on. Rosie and I had a couple of pictures taken while coming and going at this point. Our club VP and intrepid photographer Dave just got back from Rwanda and Brussels and we missed him taking our photos while he was gone. We joined up with Nancy at about 4 miles and talked about real estate, wine, Rosie’s and my jobs, and Long Beach marathon history, which, helped me dissociate from the anticipation of pain in my ankles. While all this was going on we barely noticed that we had made it to 6 ½ miles. Nancy had to stop to re-tie her shoelaces so it was up to Rosie to bring me home to the finish. And bring me home she did and we even managed to tack on an extra half mile, thus completing 8 ½ miles for the day! In mid-run, I asked Rosie what her usual pace is for long runs and she said 10:30 to 11:00. The woman had that pace dialed in because when I checked my watch at the end, our pace was 10:28. I thanked her profusely and felt so happy that I forgot to stretch afterwards. I only remembered about it on the  way home and did it when I arrived. Did I have any ankle pain? That goes without saying, however it was more of a dull rather than intense pain and that was most likely due to the distraction of talking with people while running.

So how times in the previous week and how many miles of running did I do? Forget about minimalist shoes, this is minimalist training at its best. Last Tuesday, I ran/walk for 4 ½ miles then my only other run (without any walk breaks by the way!) was the 8 ½ miles on Saturday. Hurray! Almost a half marathon for the whole week! You won’t hear any complaints from me. After all I managed to run didn’t I?

Postscript: My pee was slightly dark yellow post-run because I sweated 3 pounds of fluids, but ingesting 48 ounces of fluids later, I was back to normal hydration.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Running Afterglow

There was this little 7 mile run I attended last Saturday morning. It was just the usual AREC training stuff. It took my ankles two weeks to recover from the previous 8 miler I wrote about two weeks ago so I don’t know how long it will take this time. Running once or twice every couple of weeks? What kind of training is that? Well, I run when I can and I don’t when I can’t. That simple. I used to do a mile to a mile and a half warm up before the club training runs and that included some stride outs. Nowadays I can only manage short jogs interspersed with walks, just enough to get my circulation going but not enough to hyperventilate my lungs in preparation for hard running. Like usual I set my watch to beep after four minutes so I could do a one minute walk break, then repeat the process until I finish. However, I ignored the beeps and kept running without the walk breaks hoping that my ankles would hold up for 7 miles. Just to find out if I was the slowest participant, I started at the rear to see if I could pass anybody. I may have gotten a lot slower but I’m not the slowest runner yet, unless of course I just walk like the first few weeks of the training program. As I was chugging along, I saw this woman who usually runs with her daughter, but on that day she was running alone. So I asked her why she was going solo. She said her daughter just started cross country in high school and was exhausted. I remarked that her daughter was too fast for us anyway. I was hoping to run with somebody like I did two weeks before but I didn’t find anyone to pace with. The daughterless woman remained a few steps behind me and I could hear her footsteps, which compelled me to keep my pace. She might as well have been my pacer because I felt like she was pushing me from behind. That was until I barely made it through a green traffic light while she got stuck with red. I had to rely on myself for the last two miles. I don’t know if it was the loss of company or the infrequent running that made those last two miles feel much harder. It was like driving with four flat tires but I managed to persist to the end. To my surprise, the average pace turned out to be 10:01 minutes per mile! Hardly running nowadays and still being able to run that pace?! However, I don’t foresee myself doing continuous runs as the mileage climbs because the pain on my ankles would be too much. Regardless, I was happy with the way I performed last Saturday.
Which brings me to what I miss most about this activity - the camaraderie in the afterglow of running. Does that even make sense? You know, a bunch of people who are still on an endorphin high hanging around and talking about the day’s run or whatever else comes to mind. I talked to that woman who was missing her daughter and told her about how she was pushing me from behind and she in turn said I was pulling her from the front. I guess we really helped each other. When she mentioned which high school her daughter ran for, I knew the school very well because I used to live near it. In fact, one time another runner who was my neighbor did intervals on that high school track many years ago. As we were talking, another woman approached us and gave each of us a Marathon energy bar. She was being sponsored by the company so pictures were taken of us enjoying the freebie. I talked to a few more people before departing the scene. It was a most enjoyable workout day in recent memory.
When I got home, I tried something different with regards to icing my ankles. Instead of using ice packs, I filled an old cat litter pan with water, dumped a tray of ice in it, and dunked my feet and ankles in the cold water. It was okay except I don’t think I had enough ice in it because when I use ice packs they feel cooler. I’ll let you know sooner or later how long it took for me to recover from that last run. Ta-ta for now.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Weighing Scale With Too Much Weight?

Not in pounds or kilograms, mind you, but in functions. My two year old digital weighing scale which measured body fat percentage and hydration level went on the fritz a couple of weeks ago so I had to find a replacement. I mentioned this in a recent post about running to the Target store to look for one. I later settled for the one they had at Walmart. This new scale which is the same brand as the old one has more features. Aside from the aforementioned body fat percentage and hydration level, it also includes measurements for body mass index (BMI), bone mass, and how much weight you lost from your initial measurement. Heck, why don’t you throw in the date and time in there too while you’re at it? Believe me, they are all in there. If it had GPS and a timer and if I could wear it around my wrist, I might have taken it out for a run or a bike ride so I can monitor minute to minute all those measurements. It can even track data for as much as four people. Uh… did I tell you I live by myself? Do I have to develop multiple personality disorder so I can avail of all the functions of this multi-fangled weighing scale? If there is something like too much information, I believe this device has it. It took me a few days to figure out what all the numbers were on the display. On a side note, while looking for similar products online, I found one with ‘The Biggest Loser‘ brand name (a TV show in the U.S.). I don’t think that’s the same kind of scale they use on the show though. 

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Monday, July 18, 2011


Okay, I’ll spare you the pictures because they are downright unappealing. Two years ago around this time, I wrote about my oral surgery experience . At the time, a couple of my teeth had to be extracted and it took up to now to have those replaced by artificial ones. Since I own all imaginable aerobic exercise machines already, it was time to finally have some savings to afford partial dentures. If I can afford to spend something for my heart and lungs, surely I could spring more than a few bucks for my mouth too, and so I informed my dentist that I was ready. I was getting tired of chewing food from one side of my mouth. Measurements were made a couple of months ago and it took two attempts because there wasn’t enough mold material the first time around and the dentist was having a hard time releasing the mold from my mouth thus messing up the impressions. My jaws actually felt tired after that ordeal. Two weeks later, I was called back in to fine tune the measurements and another two weeks afterwards, another tuning was required. Finally, last week, the partial plate that was to replace three lost teeth on the left side of my mouth was ready. The dentist showed me how to put it in and take it out. I asked her if I had to take it out every time I go to bed at night and she said yes and to just put it in a cup of water. I was thinking maybe I would adapt to it better if I kept it in the whole time. Good thing I looked up the reason for taking it out on the internet because I didn’t get any aftercare instructions other than taking the dentures out. The main reason is so that the gums could breath and recover and the other was that there has been a history of people swallowing their dentures in their sleep (!). Let me get back to how it felt having a foreign object in my mouth. Unquestionably, it felt strange having something stuck on the roof of your mouth but like other things new in life, it’s just a matter of getting used to it. After all it hasn’t even been a week since I got it.
So what was the damage to my wallet? Well, the insurance company only paid about $240 and out of pocket, I would have had to pay $459. As I was taking out my credit card, the nice receptionist suggested that I ask the dentist for a discount. They rounded it down to $400. If it cost that much for three teeth, I wonder how much it would be for a full set of teeth! I’m guessing if I had implants done in the Philippines, it would have cost much less, but of course I would have to pay for plane fare to get there and back.
So how does it feel so far? I have to chew my food slowly because otherwise I tend to chew on my cheeks too. I have to find the right balance and chewing pressure on both sides of my mouth which takes practice. That doesn’t mean I’m going to eat more often, silly! As of this writing, I still need a mirror to put in and remove the partial denture. Hopefully in the near future I will attain better spatial awareness or proprioception of my mouth. For everyone out there who still have all their teeth, please take good care of them because it’s not much fun losing any of them and getting artificial replacements.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Running 8 Miles Without Run Training

Me on extreme right side trailing Kim and Luis last Saturday.
Nuts, I say!  I haven’t done any runs in… well (pause to think), I don’t even remember the last time I did. Sure, I’ve walked farther than that in recent months, but as far as my ankle tendons go, running becomes a different beast altogether. After overstretching my left ankle tendon three weeks ago while doing squats at work in the middle of the night, then doing a 7 mile walk with AREC a week after, I stopped doing walking workouts altogether for 17 long days. I kept all my workouts on the spinning and recumbent bikes. After I deemed my left ankle adequately healed (my right ankle is hopelessly damaged), I went out last Tuesday not for a walk, but (gasp!), a run/walk to Target (to my readers from overseas, it’s a department store). I had to check out what kind of bathroom weighing scales they had and the costs because mine broke, but that’s another story. Anyhow, I managed 45 minutes of the 4 minute run with 1 minute walk break with minor soreness, which I followed up two days later with a 10% incline hill walk on the treadmill.
Which brings us to last Saturday morning. I had skipped the AREC workouts for two weekends since it was useless to show up if I didn’t plan on walking while I healed. The plan on this day was to do the 4 minute run with one minute walk interval for at least 6 miles. It was revised mid-run because my ankles felt ok so I didn’t do the scheduled walk breaks. The revised goal was to see if I can run non-stop up to 4 miles without pain before doing the walk break, which was revised further to 6 miles, but that was only because I managed to link up with a couple of other runners -Kim and Luis, which is what I miss the most about the training runs. When I walk alone, it makes the time and distance feel longer. Sorry guys, that I didn’t talk very much because I was trying to monitor how my ankles felt as the run went on. Not only that, I was also concerned about straining my right calf muscle like I did last year. We had two water breaks and one insulin adjustment break for Kim who is diabetic, which helped a lot in enabling my ankles to go a little bit farther. Believe me, I didn’t mind those breaks one bit and appreciated them a lot, whereas in the past I would have gotten very antsy. I told them about my plan and when we hit 6 miles, Kim reminded me of it. Well, one more mile maybe, and at 6.5 miles, I asked her to block or stop me from running any further and take a walk break when we get to 7. I made it to 7.34 before my watch signaled the one minute walk break, and this time I took it despite having only 2/3 of a mile to go. My stride was deteriorating at that point and I could feel the pounding on my ankles. A four minute run, a walk break and another couple of minutes of running later, I finished the greatest 8 mile run in recent history I’ve ever had! Yippee! All thanks to my two running partners of the day.
Was I in pain afterwards? Well of course I was, and I didn’t expect any less. I experienced what I consider a “beautiful soreness” of the muscles the next day. The real test for me however, is how much pain my ankle tendons would have the next day and two days after that. Thankfully, as of this writing, not very much. Notice how I differentiate between soreness and pain?
What do you say to a person who shouldn’t run anymore but still tries to? Don’t say “you’re nuts!” because I already self diagnosed myself with that one. Am I back? Highly doubtful. As it has been in the past couple of years, I’m day to day, and that’s just the way it is. Who knows? Running once a week just might work out for me.
Me and Rick going up Appian Way bridge.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Psychiatric Worker’s Worst Fear

The worst fear a psych worker can have happened to me last Tuesday night – the fear of losing a patient by suicide. The night shift just started and on my initial rounds, this patient was just in her room not giving a clue on what she was going to do next. While I prepared to do vital signs on all the patients, this woman asked another staff member to open the shower for her. A few minutes later, I heard a commotion and three workers rushed to the shower room. Upon opening the door, we saw the patient hanging from the ceiling. She had torn the pieces of cloth that are used to tie hospital gowns, knotted them together, put a noose around her neck, connected the other end to a sprinkler on the ceiling and jumped from one of the plastic chairs in the shower room. She was beginning to gag when we got there and the only thing I had on me to cut her down was a pair of nail clippers that I always have in my keychain. I cut the cord from the ceiling first, then the ligature from her neck. Fortunately, she had no trouble breathing when we sat her down on a chair and her vital signs were normal.
 That just goes to show you that if someone was really serious about killing him or herself, they would find a way to do it despite the precautions we practice, like taking away shoelaces, belts, and sharp objects from them. We were lucky when we found the patient while she was just in the process of doing what she did, which also happened to be the time of my next rounds. If that happened in between, it might have been a different outcome. The patient would have been out of a life and I’d have been out of a job.
Like I said, that’s what I fear the most in my job – finding a patient dead due to suicide. When that happens you might feel responsible because you were not able to prevent it. After all, keeping patients from harming themselves is our main responsibility.  I’ve found a few patients dead before but those were from natural causes or they had underlying medical problems. Even though I felt bad about losing them, at least they didn’t do it intentionally or deliberately.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aerobicizing Without Running

Equipment I used to have years ago. The upright bike and stairstepper have been replaced with a spinning bike and treadmill plus an elliptical machine.
I’ve been trying to hold off from walking or jogging the past couple of weeks and confined myself to the recumbent and spinning bikes at home. I’m trying to get my left ankle to heal as much as possible even though it’s tempting to get out and pound the pavement. One moment I don’t feel any pain then the next moment the pain comes for no reason at all.
On the spinning bike, I noticed that when I start on a low gear and ramp it up ever so slowly while trying to keep the cadence high, the breathing pattern feels like doing an easy run then progressing to a tempo run. Because of that, the endorphin high feels similar too. The only difference is the pain in the butt. For some strange reason, doing stand ups on heavier gears, even though it feels harder,  doesn’t have the same effect.
Unfortunately the elliptical machine isn’t working too well for my ankles because there is too much up and down motion which overstretches the already tender tendons. I’ll try wearing running shoes with heel lifts and use a lower tension next time. Maybe that would help.
I’m considering using the rowing machine again but I don’t like the inconvenience of dragging it from it’s corner and unfolding it. Besides, I can’t do any reading while rowing which I like to do while stationary cycling. If I had more room I’d keep it open and probably use it more. I used to do a variation of circuit training where I do five minutes each on the rowing machine, recumbent bike, and upright bike for three or four sets. It breaks the monotony of using only one machine for a whole workout. I still do this sometimes with the spinning bike, recumbent bike, and elliptical machine.
          I haven’t resorted to my old Taebo DVD yet. I’m not even sure if I can find it any more.

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