Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sick, Tired, Warmer, Faster

Those are the words I’m using to describe my walk at Signal Hill with the Long Beach Area Walking Club on Saturday morning (April 28) where seven of us showed up if you count Tiger, a boxer dog.
 First – Sick. I have a developing cold and a very sore throat which started last Thursday. I predict it would become a hacking cough in a few days if I base it on my previous history with colds.
 Second – Tired. Because of my sore throat, I haven’t slept well the past three nights. I’ve been waking up between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. and had been restless in bed unable to return to a fitful sleep.
 Third – Warmer. Saturday morning was a lot warmer than the previous times I’ve walked with the club. I usually wear a thicker fleece base layer underneath a nylon jacket, but on Saturday only a polyester base layer was necessary. If I didn’t have so many things in my jacket pockets, I wouldn’t have needed it, but since I didn’t bring a waist pack for my accessories (cell phone, keys, ID, cough drops, HD radio), I had to keep the jacket on.
 Fourth – Faster. Despite the three aforementioned disadvantages and even though my perceived effort belied it, I actually walked at a faster pace than I did a few weeks ago which I related in this post:
Like with my last walk with the club, I proceeded at my own pace. It seems like I finally figured out the route after all this time, since I didn’t have to wait too much for the rest of the group to guide me. I still had to do a few dipsy doodles on the course so they could catch up with me, hence I covered more distance. Because of the warm weather, I finally could feel perspiration dripping off my brow and couldn’t use the excuse of misty air like I did last time. On the uphills, it felt like I was doing intervals on the track again, though at a much slower stride rate. Man, was I out of breath. Four weeks ago, I mentioned that I passed an older woman running uphill. This week, a man running downhill passed me but when we turned a corner going uphill, I caught up with him, passed, and left him behind. By the time I reached the apex, he was about 50 yards behind me. Too bad though, because even though I can maintain a good cadence walking uphill, I seem to be unable to move my feet any faster downhill or on the flats.
 So here’s a comparison I’m going to make between running and brisk walking: if I felt sick, tired, and hot during a run, I would certainly slow down. With walking, I went faster. Go figure.
 Four weeks ago when I started walking at the beat of my own drummer, my pace was 14:38, on Saturday it was 14:30. It’s not like I do a lot of walking workouts much less on hills other than the treadmill, so for me, those results are quite good. It still shocks me when I pass runners going uphill. Still, I envy them because they are running.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On The Run While Getting New Tires

On another one of my multipurpose mornings last Thursday, I drove down to Allen Tire Company in Lakewood to have the four balding tires on my 14 year old car replaced. After canvassing around for prices, they had the best deal I could find. So I dropped off the car and was told it was going to take about an hour - enough time to put in a run and that is what I did. Starting out with a plodding, flat footed stride which never changed from beginning to end, I proceeded eastward on Carson Street. Last year, I found a dirt path along the San Gabriel River flood control channel but I didn’t know how far it went so that’s where I headed  to find out how long that trail was. The path was flat and well groomed with all types of plants on both sides and it ran underneath huge electrical transmission lines. It was over a mile from where I left my car and the trail turned out to be a about slightly over a mile long too extending from Carson Street to Del Amo Boulevard. As I exited the trail at Del Amo, I turned left to loop back to where I started from. By the time I got back to the tire shop, I had completed 50 minutes of slow, non-stop running. Just enough time without straining my ankle tendons. Hard for me to believe but I think I’ve run 3 times a week for the last two weeks. After all, I’ve gone weeks without running when my ankles were hurting badly.
So anyway, I picked up my car and noticed the huge difference between my old bald tires and the much deeper grooves of the new ones. When I started slipping and sliding in light rain, I knew it was time for a replacement. By the way, someone mentioned to me before that I shouldn’t buy Chinese made tires but when I called the tire shop, they said that just about everything comes from China now. I ended up getting Blacklion tires ( . What’s up with filling tires with nitrogen gas anyway? That’s something I forgot to ask the tire shop. Why not helium to make the car feel lighter? So here I am more than $300 poorer with another repair coming up to replace both front axles costing about $400. I suppose that’s the price I have to pay for having an old car.
I mentioned the multi-purpose day earlier right? A few doors down from the tire shop was Harbor Freight Tools and I picked up a couple of carabiners to use as key chains, then drove down to Winco Foods for some brown rice (61 cents a pound! Good price!), before heading back home. It was a productive morning.
As far as running goes nowadays, nothing comes easy because it’s always a struggle putting one foot in front of the other. No smooth stride at all. The reason for that is I have to propel myself from my thighs because I cannot push off  with my ankles. The satisfaction is in finishing the run regardless of how tough it felt. Maybe that short trail saved my ankles because the underfoot was more giving. Unlike my bald tires which can slip and slide, all my legs could do is drag and plod. My car has new wheels, I wish I could do the same and get new ankles.
Miscellaneous observation: While running, I noticed that the City of Lakewood seems to have a lot of reserve cash to be able to repave their streets while Long Beach is having a hard time just filling its potholes.

p.s. I must have written this when I was tired because when I  reread it hours later, I found a lot of grammatical errors. My apologies to those who read it in its original form.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Dr. Charter To The Rescue

I was going to write this letter and email it to tech support or customer service but I opted to call them instead.

Dear Charter Communications,
          Ever since we had a service outage about three weeks ago due to strong winds, the speed of downloads has not gone back to the usual. I understand that speed varies but I have done speed tests several times and at different times of the day and it’s been constantly stuck at about 10 mbps and no speed boost. In the past, with speed boost, I would get about 20 mbps. The upload speed is still as advertised at slightly more than 3 mbps. Can you check as to why this is occurring? Thank you very much.
So that’s basically what I told the Charter Communications representative during our phone call. We tried troubleshooting over the phone and he said that it appears like a hardware or cable problem. He was going to send a technician in the afternoon.

Within the 2 hour appointment window and despite the heavy rain at times, Dr. Charter made a housecall. He ran the same speed test I did and got the same results. Then he asked me if I tried running the test on a wired connection. When we did that, the speed came back up. That was strange because I was getting the increased speeds on the wireless connection before. For some reason my wireless router had slowed down. Well, at least the technician discovered the problem and on his way out I said “thank you, Dr. Charter”, which made him laugh. Hopefully Charter Communications won’t charge me extra for the housecall. Good job, Charter! I’m keeping myself wired for awhile.

Here's an update: Charter indeed billed me $35.00 for the service call and it appeared on my next bill which was dismaying. However I thought I might contact customer service and ask the fee to be waived as a one time deal. After all, when you search their website, nowhere does it show that a customer would be billed for a service call, and I wasn't informed beforehand that I would be billed for it. I wasn't expecting too much but if I didn't ask, I would never know if they would grant my request. Well, Charter Communications did me very well again by waiving the service fee! I cannot say enough about the terrific customer service of this company. Thank you so much for your help Charter Communications. For someone like me whose income is not that big, it certainly helps a lot not having to pay the service fee. I'll be more careful next time I need assistance with a tech support problem. Charter Communications, You Rock!!!
          If I make make a suggestion: a disclosure up front would be nice :)
Here is my other post on Charter: A Surprise Gift From Charter Internet

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finally! Proper Coffee Dosing

In my last post about experimenting on the amount of coffee to brew, I mentioned the possibility of buying either Don Francisco which was on sale for $4.00 a can at Ralph’s or Dunkin Donuts for $6.99 a can at Von’s. Well, the lower price of Don Francisco won out. I bought two cans: Hawaiian Hazelnut and Cinnamon Hazelnut. I tried the Hawaiian Hazelnut first. The recommended measurement was two slightly rounded tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 oz. of water. My coffee pot only holds 24 oz. so if I were to follow the recommended amount, I would be using about 8 slightly rounded tablespoons of ground coffee. Hmm, that seemed like a lot to me so I used a teaspoon instead. Not wanting to o’d on coffee again, I ventured on a more conservative measurement of 4 rounded teaspoons for 24 oz. of water. Well, what do you know but it appeared like I hit the sweet spot! The amount I used still enabled me to taste the hazelnut flavor while maintaining the slight bitterness that I like in black coffee (I always drink it black). There was no harshness in the taste and the caffeine kick felt similar to the amount of instant coffee that I’m used to drinking. What a big difference in taste compared to the cheap Master Chef brand I initially tried, and I didn’t feel wired all day, nor did I get queasy. It seems like I finally found the proper measurement for my taste. My question is: will that measurement be similar to all flavors of the same brand, and will I have to do a similar experiment with different brands? For now, I’m sold on Don Francisco. Now I understand why the Master Chef was so cheap! One thing I noticed with the Don Francisco – it left an oily residue in my mug. I wonder if that’s normal. The cheap coffee? No noticeable oily residue.
For my previous attempts, read these: Wired On My First Brew and My Continued Bumbling Attempts at Making Coffee .

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Workout Notes Plus A Week of Running

I’ve had the Asus Transformer 101 Tablet PC for more than two months now but I haven’t used it while running on the treadmill (or on the road, ha!) until two weeks. On the first try, I started with a 10 minute walk then started jogging gingerly because I was still recovering from the thigh injury I suffered the previous week. I didn’t feel any thigh pain so I continued. Ever since I found an app for the local newspaper, it’s been so much easier to scroll the pages, so the initial run which lasted for 35 minutes turned out okay as far as reading and scrolling went. A second try a week later at a slight faster pace went well too. So how did it feel compared to a netbook? Well, other than the touchscreen scrolling as opposed to the arrow keys on the netbook, they worked out pretty much the same.
I rarely use the rowing machine more than 5 minutes at a time because I find it boring. So far, I haven’t found a way to read while rowing  so what I do is turn the TV on to the news and also turn on the captions. I usually do a circuit of rowing, spinning, and recumbent cycling. Somehow, last week I zoned out on the rowing machine and lasted for 15 minutes before hitting the other two machines. As far as the perceived effort went, I think repeats of 5 minutes each on the machines for 2 or three sets had better aerobic effect than 15 minutes straight on each. But that’s just me.
I don’t know what all the hullaballoo is about H.I.I.T. and Tabata. In the mid-70’s in college while taking my Physical Education degree, we already learned about circuit training which wasn’t even new by then. H.I.I.T. and Tabata are basically good old fashioned circuit training renamed.
 Ever since I started weight training in 1979, I’ve always used the suicide grip when doing the bench press because that was the way I was shown to do it. I didn’t even know it was called that until two weeks ago when I was searching for suggestions on how to do the bench press more safely without a spotter. The suggestion was not to use the suicide grip and since then I have wrapped my thumb around the bar. At first it was difficult to complete my usual number of repetitions because it felt awkward. After a few tries, I had to reposition the bar on my hands a certain way and it seems to work better.
If I were to believe my bioelectrical impedance weighing scale, I lost 1% body fat by sitting for 30 minutes while on the computer, but only lost half a percent after a half hour workout on the spinning bike. Nuts!
In other exercise news, after I did the unplanned run on Easter Sunday, I was able to do three more runs the week after. They were only very slow 45 minutes to an hour - twice on the treadmill and once on the road, but nonetheless, I’ll count them as runs. Based on my recent running history, that's plenty.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

American Idol Results – Jessica Sanchez With Lowest Number of Votes

Here’s my quick and delayed take on last week’s American Idol results. Why do I think Jessica Sanchez got the least number of votes? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute. The other surprise of course was that Joshua Ledet was in the bottom three too. There’s the usual excuse of voter apathy when people assume that their favorites and previous leaders will get votes regardless. That probably figured into the equation. In my opinion, there were a few factors. First, the teenage and young adult female vote probably boosted Colton Dixon and Philip Phillips. Second, even though Jessica sang a very beautiful song called Stuttering by Jazmine Sullivan, both the artist and the song were not familiar to me and I assume to a lot of other people. I certainly haven’t heard about her or the song in the top 40 radio stations that I usually listen to. Even the powerhouse song by Bruno Mars that Joshua sang is not a Bruno song that gets the most play among the ones in his album. A lot of you might disagree, but that’s just my perception.
Here is another concern I have about Jessica Sanchez. I have observed from the start of this American Idol season that although she shows emotion when she is singing (she has that down pat), she appears unemotional or at least blunted on results nights when somebody gets sent home (even on the night she was saved by the judges). She seems to only show a “pretend cry” face. Has anyone also noticed that she appears to be distant and isolative from the other contestants? Maybe the voters have picked up on that one?
So even though Jessica Sanchez has sold the judges on her extraordinary singing, unless she starts doing familiar songs and showing more affinity to her fellow contestants, she may have a difficult time winning this contest. Heck, even Carrie Underwood, a country singer who supposedly was always the top vote getter week after week during her season, probably got those results because she chose songs that the general public knew and sang them very well.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Unplanned Easter Sunday Run

I had to work last Saturday night and wasn't planning on running after work and after I slept Easter Sunday morning. Normally I don't run after nights that I work because walking up and down the hospital hallways is really hard on my bad ankles. However when I woke up Sunday afternoon, my ankles weren't feeling too sore so I thought I might try to run either on the treadmill or outdoors, and get a break from stationary cycling. It turned out to be a warm day so outdoors it was.
Several days prior, I had run very slowly on the treadmill and tried landing more on the midfoot rather than the rearfoot. It was somewhat successful for the most part, so on Easter Sunday I thought I might try to replicate the technique on the roads. Well it was harder than expected because I was the one who was trying to propel myself forward rather than a treadbelt providing the motion. Besides, the road didn't have the cushioning of the treadmill. What made it even harder was that the attempted midfoot strike felt so unnatural to me and it took a lot of concentration to maintain it, and I still mostly landed on my heels first. I tried to keep my feet as close to the ground as possible to lessen the impact, that I felt my shoes scraping the ground. It was so slow that it felt almost like racewalking except at times both feet were off the ground. That would have disqualified it as racewalking in the strict sense. Nevertheless, the thought of celebrating Easter with a run enabled me to finish a very slow 45 minute non-stop workout. I didn't use my GPS watch but I probably covered the least distance ever in 45 minutes. But I didn't care. I only cared that I was able to do it. The day after, the ankles didn’t feel too bad but since I run too infrequently, it appears like I developed some chafing in the nether regions, you know, close to my personal Easter eggs ;). That was a surprise. Now, even my skin is out of condition.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Continued Bumbling Attempts At Making A Proper Cup of Coffee

         This one is about caffeine content of a cup of coffee and megadosing on caffeine by mistake. One side effect that I didn’t expect from being overcaffeinated is that it seemed to hold hunger or appetite at bay for a long time. After all caffeine is a main ingredient of some if not most diet pills.

          I've always been poor at math so I'm not suprised that I have been miscalculating my caffeine intake since I bought my automatic drip coffeemaker a couple of weeks ago. When I drink instant coffee, I usually put a heaping teaspoon into a 22 oz. mug of hot water which is equivalent to 3 1/2 - 6 oz. cups. A heaping teaspoon may contain 100 mg. of caffeine at best. When I brewed my first pot of coffee, I double dosed by using 6 heaping tablespoons of coffee in about 24 oz. of water. For simplicity's sake, let's just say I correctly used 6 flat tablespoons. The normal caffeine content of a cup of coffee is about 100 mg. If I drank the whole 24 oz. pot (which I did), that would be 4 cups x 100 mg. = 400 mg of caffeine. Double dose would make it 800 mg. in one sitting. No wonder I became intoxicated on it! A week later, you'd think I learned my lesson, and in a way, I did. I only used 4 heaping tablespoons. If my calculations are correct, 24 oz. of that would contain roughly 532 mg., still a megadose of caffeine. And of course I was feeling queasy after that one too.
          Another thing I tried on that last pot was adding a pinch of salt to the coffee grounds to cut the bitterness. It didn't seem to make a heck of a lot of difference on the cheap coffee I used. This week, Ralph's grocery store has a special on a can of Don Francisco coffee at $4.00. Is that a good brand, or should I go with Dunkin Donuts coffee which I have a couple of coupons I can use to get the price to 5.99 a bag? I know for sure that Dunkin Donuts coffee is very good but the way I've been bumbling my way around the coffee pot, I don't know if that helps me make a proper cuppa joe. I may be the only person who can make a simple task such as brewing coffee be so complicated. I admit it. My coffee IQ is very poor.
Here are my other two posts about coffee:

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pushing The Pace At Signal Hill

Another view from the top on a cloudy and misty day. Yes folks, there are still oil derricks in Signal Hill.

          Oh my, I just lost what I was typing because the Polaris word processor on my Asus tablet PC crashed :(  Oh well, I'll have to start all over.
          Last Saturday morning, even though my ankles were still sore from the 30 minute treadmill run I did three days before, I showed up for the 6 mile Signal Hill walk led by Donna of the Long Beach Walking Club. There were 12 people signed up on their website. Five of those cancelled ahead of time, one at the last minute, and there we three no shows. I was too ashamed to be a no show regardless of my ankle problems. I was slightly disappointed when only four of us showed up because I wanted to walk with more people, especially when one of them indicated that she could run at a pace of 10 minutes per mile. I was hoping maybe we could walk together at a faster pace. Well, so much for that hope.
          Before we started, Donna asked me if I had been running more because she had seen me running up the hills in our previous walks. I told her that those few minutes at a time were all that my ankles could tolerate. Little did she know that it takes several days up to more than a week for my ankle tendons to recover after those short attempts at running. Heck, even just walking long distances make my ankles hurt.
          Last Saturday, I was determined to walk the whole route at my own pace and not run a single step. As in previous walks with this group, I would walk ahead then come back to them but this time, I didn't hang around to chitchat but kept my pace up. Donna altered the course a little bit at the start and I wasn't familiar with the first half mile that was added. Once we were past that and into familiar territory, I took the lead. I was really working the uphills hard but even with the effort I didn't feel a hint of sweat on my forehead until close to three miles due to the cold morning air which started in the 50's. It was also misty. On a second thought, maybe it wasn't sweat on my forehead but mist from the air. At three miles, I was still slightly over 15 minutes per mile. I was surprised at having hunger pangs during that walk because that hardly ever happens when I'm working out. A couple of times, my ankles were really hurting especially on the downhills,  which was like adding insult to injury. Thankfully, it worked itself out. I was actually walking faster on the uphills and even passed a woman who was running up one of them. I'm sure she would have spanked or chicked me on the downhills. But you know what? I would seriously trade places with her if only I could run again.
          And so it went - up and down hills on my own terms and at my own pace (which felt darn good). By the time we reached the end, I had covered 8.2 miles to my companions' 6.5 miles in two hours. My pace was 14:38 per mile on the hilly course - not bad for someone who doesn't do too many walking workouts. I just wish that I could find someone to walk my pace. That's the difference between the running club and the walking club. In the running club, it's easier to find someone to pace with from 6 minutes per mile all the way to 13 minutes per mile (not that I ever ran 6 minutes per mile).
          Upon arriving home, I Motrinized myself, applied capsaicin ointment on the ankles, then put on some supportive braces. I very, very seldom take Motrin or any other pain reliever. It seemed to work well this time. Pretty soon after that, I finally got relief from the hunger pangs with lunch.

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