Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Longer a Traffic Ticket Virgin

Was it rotten luck or has the law of averages finally caught up with me? Well maybe it was just the law catching up with me. Last Monday morning as I was driving home from the store, I suddenly heard a siren and when I looked at my rear view mirror, a police car had followed me.  I pulled over right away, turned off the engine and radio and waited for the officer to approach. He motioned for me to lower my side window and I greeted him good morning. He said that I did not stop at the red light when I made a right turn at the major intersection I just came from. Here is my version of the circumstances: I was following a car ahead of me, paused briefly before making the right turn, and after seeing the north/south cars were making their left turns because they had the green left turn traffic lights, I figured it was safe to proceed. I didn’t argue this point with the officer of course. He asked me for my license and insurance card. I thought he was just going to check the information on his computer and was hoping that he was only going to give me a warning after finding out that I have no prior violations. No such luck. He came back and asked me if I had any recent tickets and I said I never had one. He then asked me to sign the ticket and gave me a copy. I said “wow, my first ticket ever!”. When I asked him if he knew how much the ticket would cost, he said he didn’t but that it shouldn’t take off points from my license and my insurance wouldn’t increase. When I got home, I looked up what violation I was ticketed for and it was indeed for not stopping at a red light which was an infraction under the California Vehicle Code. The base fine for the ticket is $100 but with court costs and other fees tacked on, the total would reach close to $500 if not more. Good heavens, that’s a 400 percent increase! With the money I need for my visit to the Philippines and what I can give to help supplement my mother’s care, I’m bleeding cash at the moment. Donations accepted here (just kidding). In the meantime, I’ve been gun shy about driving. I’ve been trying to drive the speed limit, stopping at red lights before making a right turn, and looking around to check for lurking police cars.
                I’ve been checking the Los Angeles Superior Court website and so far my citation number hasn’t been logged yet and I still haven’t received my courtesy letter from the court, therefore I still don’t know what the total fine will be. This violation has violated me – I’m no longer a traffic ticket virgin.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three Weeks Missing

Yipee! After a 32 minute hill walk on the treadmill at 10% incline, I ran for 18 minutes on 1% incline thus completing a 50 minute workout last Thursday morning. It has been about three weeks since I injured my left thigh while out for what was supposed to be 12 mile run (http://aboutlifeandrunning.blogspot.com/2012/07/arec-training-7-7-12-oops-something.html). My very conservative rehab plan was not to start running again until the pain was gone, but sometimes plans go awry. A week after the initial injury, I tweaked it while exercising on the recumbent bike when I tried pedaling on a heavy gear. A week later the thigh felt as if was healing pretty well until I did a weight training workout called the clean and press. Wait, is that weight training or dry cleaning? Anyway, on the fourth set of the clean and press lift which of course involves the legs too, I felt a violent spasm on the healing muscle and fell backwards because of the pain. Fortunately my bed was right behind me and it made for a soft landing. With that spasm, it brought me back to square one. I had my thigh wrapped at work all night and developed contact dermatitis from it. With luck, we didn't have to chase any psych patients around that night.
I started hill walking on the treadmill just a few days ago as part of my rehab.  Previously I could only do the recumbent and spinning bikes on light gears and couldn't even use the stairstepper because of the pain. Today the pain is almost gone but still lurking. I can now do slow non-jerky squats on body weight. I might try running on pavement in the next few days and see how it feels and hope I don’t aggravate the muscle again. For now, I’m still missing from AREC training. Darn, I couldn’t even chat with my newly met running buddies L.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Clueless About The Logistics of Air Travel To The Philippines

Well, this is it. The flights have been reserved and tickets bought. All I have to do is pack my bags and go. Well, after I make an additional booking for the airport shuttle. Why do I have to make this trip? This is not a vacation and I’ll be in and out in less than a week not counting travel time. I’m going to be visiting my ailing mother in the Philippines (more on this later) whom I haven’t seen since my father’s funeral. Before all the airline bookings, I learned quite a few things.
 I don’t travel very much. In fact the last time was 11 years ago and before 9-11. Oh boy, have things changed and I’ve been struck clueless. First I discovered that there is hardly if any ticket price difference between using a travel agent, internet sites like Kayak or Expedia, or an airlines’ website. It used to be you could get the discounted bulk rates through a travel agent. Nowadays those prices are all over the web. In the U.S, the law now requires that all advertised prices must include taxes and fees, which I think is good so you know what your real total is. For example, the ticket I bought cost $630 before taxes and fees and $1070 after. That even includes a fuel surcharge fee. There is no similar law in the Philippines however. When I was researching prices, I was able to find a much reduced one way promo rate for one of the domestic airlines there. Much to my surprise, the taxes and fees cost more than the promo rate. We’re not even talking about the terminal fee that the airports require you to pay at the gate. You cannot prepay that one.
I didn’t get the lowest possible plane fare because I had to consider the logistics of my travel. The cheapest fare required an overnight stay in Hawaii both coming and going and if you have to stay in a hotel, that expense eliminates what you save on the plane fare. Other lower fares involved long layovers – as much as 12 hours, between Manila and my destination which is Zamboanga. So I had to find something with a layover of about  4 hours. I’m just hoping none of the flights are delayed so I don’t miss my connections.
Then there are these other optional cost considerations: baggage fee other than what you carry on, seat choice fee, travel insurance fee, excess baggage fee. It’s almost like getting a mortgage with all these fees!
Buying the Los Angeles to Manila ticket was no problem. I booked directly through the Korean Airlines website which quoted the same price as Kayak.com and the travel agent I talked to. Booking the domestic flight via the Cebu Pacific website was more problematic. By the way, the reason why I did two separate bookings instead of having a travel website figure it all out is because you can find cheaper domestic fares that way and a flight time that may be more advantageous to your schedule. That all looks good on paper and in perfect world without flight delays. So back to the Cebu Pacific booking. I entered all the necessary information and everything was okay until I tried paying for it with my U.S. credit card. Their system was not able to process the transaction. I tried another credit card with the same result and even tried paying in pesos with the credit card company doing the conversion (the credit card company conversion was a few dollars lesser). No cigar on any of my attempts. Meanwhile  the credit card company alerted me for possible fraudulent activities via email and I had to call them to let them know that I indeed made those transactions. I really wanted to get that promo rate before it sold out and since my brother lives in the Philippines, I asked him a favor of booking the domestic flights for me.  He was able to take care of that easily since he was very familiar with the system there. Much thanks again Larry J. Oh, and he also alerted me to the fact that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport now has three terminals. I only knew of one last time I was there. Thanks to the internet, I found out the layout of the three terminals and how to get from one to the other. So that takes care of all the flying concerns. I haven’t even started yet and boy, do my arms already feel tired (old bad joke).
The last time I traveled to the Philippines, I didn’t have to concern myself about charging electronic items because I didn’t have any. With at least a cellphone and a netbook I plan to bring, and owing to my clueless nature, I thought I had to bring a transformer or power converter too. Wrong on that count. I checked with the president of our running club who travels a lot and he enlightened me to the fact that the chargers that come with electronic devices nowadays have built in converters. Indeed when I checked the very fine print on these chargers with a magnifying lens, I saw that they could be used between 100 to 240 volts. That’s one less thing to worry about and I don’t even have to bring plug adapters since the Philippines uses the same two prong plugs that the U.S. does.
I think I might still have a dollar’s worth in Philippine pesos lying around. And now it’s time to dig out my old suitcase, passport, and review the TSA guidelines…

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Has Gotten Me Running Again

So what has been going on in the past two years as far as running is concerned? Since I reached 10 miles last Saturday, what had I done differently? This is a brief accounting of what has happened. It was just two years ago when I gave up running and I actually bought a road bike to try to make cycling my main aerobic workout. Now and then I would make a foray into running but inconsistently. I even joined a walking club but they walked too slowly and I couldn’t find someone with the same pace as mine. After a summer of cycling in 2010, I didn’t take the bike out again because I found spinning indoors or using the recumbent bike, and even just walking uphill on the treadmill made for a more efficient aerobic workout and didn’t take a lot of time like riding on the roads did. During the times I tried running again, I always felt that my fitness level for the activity was close to what it was before and I tended to push the pace to reach that level. The result of course is making the condition of my ankle tendons worse. It was a vicious cycle.
So what changed this year? Let me think… pace, that’s it! Letting go of the pressure of trying to run as hard as I can. Accepting that being slow is ok, that running slowly is better than none. That and decreasing the number of times I run per week to two so the ankle tendons can recovery over 3 or 4 days. An evolution in stride change also helps. After making a conscious effort to alter it, I can now sometimes subconsciously run with a new but slower stride. Whenever I find myself going back to my natural stride, I pull back because that is the one that causes my ankle tendons to overstretch. It’s the push off of the foot that does it. My new stride is shorter and pulls from the front. Those explanations may be simplistic but it took a long time realizing them and those are what work at the present time.
I can’t assume that everything is now hunky dory because I was able to complete 10 miles. There are no hard and fast answers. With stage II and III PTTD (posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction), disaster can strike at any time with a tendon rupture just by taking an unfortunate misstep. I’m only taking it one run at a time – a midweek short run and the AREC training run on the weekend. Not an ideal training schedule and not something you will find in any training program. Well, that’s okay because I’m not training for anything anyway. It’s just exercise.
Other notes on the past 6 or 7 weeks of being able to run: A happy consequence of this twice a week activity? I noticed in the shower that I was  getting my running tan lines again. Since I’ve had these injuries, I no longer have balance if I try to stand on one leg. Whenever I put pants on, I have to hold on to something or lean on a wall. My stride, if you can call it that, feels more like a quarter lunge.
So everything was going well from mid-May to the first week of July when this happened: Oops, Something Happened On The Way to 12 Miles
I’m off the roads again trying to make my left thigh muscle recover. So far I can only do light gears on the stationary bikes without pain. Well, it was a good 7 weeks while it lasted.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

AREC Training 7-7-12: Oops, Something Happened On The Way To 12 Miles

Still OK past 1 mile

Well, I was writing about how I got back on the road and started running again the last few weeks, eventually culminating with a 10 miler last weekend, then as suddenly as I seemed to be getting better, disaster struck on the way to 12 miles this week, perhaps jinxed by what I was writing about. So what happened? Did I tweak one or both of my perpetually injured ankles? Did that developing knee pain from last week get worse? No and no. I consider this more of a freak injury and the same type on the left leg that stopped my every day running streak of 21 years several years ago. It seems to be a deep tissue muscular strain on the outer left thigh just below the hip that happened for no apparent reason. I wasn’t pushing the pace, or pounding the ground too hard, or bounding up 6th Street hill at about 3 ½ miles when I felt it. I was actually having a decent run up to that point. One moment I’m telling pregnant Ellen “walking pace, right?”, and urging the walking Kenny (or Tenny) to continue running up the hill, then the next moment pain struck. A normal or sane person would have stopped and walked at that point but since I’m neither, I continued running hoping to work the kink out. Based on previous experience though, I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but still I pressed on until the pain became too sharp and unbearable at about 6 ½ miles. So I sputtered and walked back to the finish using a short cut on the course.
Just smiling for the camera at about 5 1/2 miles but I was already in excruciating pain
Since AREC training started this year, I’ve been running with other people, but last Saturday I did not.  In retrospect, I should have stayed back and ran with someone rather than going on my own. There was just too much separation between me and the next runner ahead that I should have pulled back and made the pace a lot more conservative.
So how bad is it? The thigh hurts even just pressing on the clutch while driving and it’s going to hurt like the dickens when I do my cycling workouts. Certainly it will keep me off the roads for at least 2 to 6 weeks. It almost never surprises me any more when I get injured because that’s been my history in at least the last 5 years. It surprised me more that I ran 10 miles last week.
The Aftermath: Thigh bound in elastic bandage and ankles braced.
 Despite the protracted run and the weeks of rehab ahead, I’m still I’m grateful to have had 6 or 7 good weeks of running and met new people in the process. Old and new running buddies, please forgive me if I’ve gone missing and you don’t see me on the roads any time soon, but like a bad rash, I’ll be back.
p.s. I’ll post the blog about my running comeback (the one that caused the jinx) after this one.

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

AREC Training 6-30-12 : Elation At 10 Miles

I’m Sexy Happy and I Know It - LMFAO

Can I run 10 miles? Should I be running 10 miles? I don’t need to run 10 miles.  I just ran 10 miles. For long distance runners, 10 miles is just a medium distance run. For a perpetually injured former long distance runner, 10 miles is more than what I can imagine being able to do. Heck, I’m not even training for any long distance race. So why did I run 10 miles? For the simple reason of being with people who enjoy the same thing I do.
I  was  very wary going out on Saturday’s run. Two years ago, the last time I ran 10 miles, I injured my right calf and was laid off from running for weeks. Last year, I didn’t even make it to 10. After running 9 miles, my ankles were shot and didn’t recover for awhile. After last week’s 9 miler, I felt some pain behind my left knee which migrated to the front a couple of days afterwards. It felt as if my knee had gone off track. Although I didn’t feel any pain during my sole mid-week short run, it still felt wobbly all week. Saturday’s run was going to be another test of my new strategy of not pushing the pace with my altered stride.
 I wore the singlet (tanktop) that I bought last week and ran in it for the first time. There were seams in the chest area and I was hoping that once the sweat starts flowing, it would lubricate the area and not cause chafing. It did not. That was one less thing to worry about. Before we started, I told Jennifer that we should pace with Bhavanna but she took off at the start and by the first mile Jen and I were already at least 45 seconds off her pace. We didn’t catch her until mile two and that was not because we picked up the pace but because she slowed down. Perhaps she just started out too fast. Ah, these young'uns are gonna learn pacing soon enough.
I hadn’t eaten anything substantial since 4 p.m. the day before so I felt I was not fueled adequately for the run, so I resolved to at least take some energy drinks at the water stations. Meanwhile, Jen was training herself in consuming energy gels while on the run. She is training for her first half marathon but she is already following the full marathon training distance (half marathoners were only supposed to do 6 miles). Her husband Mike who is supposed to have arthroscopic knee surgery in a month’s time had to make do with a 6 mile run/walk. Jen told me he usually runs around 8:40 pace. So we chatted about running, work, mom, life in general, while I gasped for breath after every other sentence. Oh, I shouldn’t forget to thank Tam P. and Jaymi C. for doling out water and Powerade at the 7 mile water station. I partook of their offerings coming and going. That helped a lot in refueling me. I don’t know the name of the lady at the 3 mile water station, but thanks to her too. It was about 7 miles that I felt my left knee hurting a little (the one that was not tracking properly all week), and a mile thereafter I started feeling the strain of the extra distance on my bad ankle tendons. I began to question my sanity for even thinking of attempting to cover 10 miles. With Jen providing a steady pace, I pressed on somewhat comforted with the fact that in slightly over 20 minutes, we would be done. I’ve done this course countless times in the past and I know for a fact that it’s slightly short of 10 miles. We had to rely on Jen’s new GPS watch at the end and ran another 2/10th’s of a mile past the finish line to complete the full 10 miles. On one hand it’s exciting to be able to run that far, on the other, a concern arises on what further damage it may have done on the ankle tendons and the left knee. We shall find out how I recover in the next few days. In the mean time, please allow me to revel in my unforeseen achievement. Next week it’s supposed to be 12 miles. Oh my…

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