Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Blog About Running...Again

Long Beach City College - Veterans Memorial Stadium
About 3 weeks ago, I shared on social media that I did my longest run in years when I managed to finish an hour and 12 minutes which covered 6 miles and a pace of 12:01 minutes per mile. That was a proud moment for me since I haven't been able to run in recent years due to my permanent ankle injuries made worst by myalgia or pain on both my thighs caused by cholesterol medications. This often resulted in strained thigh muscles whenever I tried to run longer or if I increased my pace. My doctor has since discontinued my cholesterol medication for the past 3 months and prescribed the over the counter supplement called Omega 3-6-9 complex. We are going to re-evaluate this strategy on my next physical exam this coming October. As a result, my pain in my thighs have diminished. I can't do anything about the PTTD (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction) in my ankles because they are permanent injuries other than limiting my mileage and not try to push off my ankles to pick up the pace. Thus, I've had to make changes in my stride which makes it feel unnatural for me, namely, shortening it and keeping my feet lower to the ground to lessen the impact. Anyone who has run with me in the past know how noisy my natural stride is. Maybe nowadays they won't hear it as much due to the stride adjustment and the cushioned shoes. This has enabled me to run about twice a week the past couple of months with lots of recovery days in between runs. To take care of my thighs, I've been using a rolling pin to massage them and it seems to help.
Running at the Dominguez Gap
I haven't written about running in a while, years even maybe. Neither have I shared restarting it because I hate to jinx myself by getting reinjured and stopping again. But here I am writing about it and hoping that I can stay consistent without getting injured, even if it means just running twice a week.
I also reconnected with my former running partner Katherine, a neighbor whom I used to train for marathons with years ago. We have been running once a week from her house to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach City College. She would do repeats on the stadium steps while I jogged around the track, and the last time we were there, I managed to do 8 repetitions of walking up and down the steps. We were going to do the same thing today (June 23rd) but when we got there, a sign was posted saying that the stadium and track would be closed for maintenance and renovation for the next two months.

Katherine suggested that we run all the way to the Campfire Girls Lodge on the corner of Carson Street and Los Coyotes Diagonal. I said "what!?" my legs can't take me that far and still run back home! I said, why don't we try making it to the next intersection first (Clark Avenue) and then the next one, and the next one, then I'll tell her if I give up and ask to turn around. Well, we made it all the way to the lodge in 50 minutes so that meant that we had at least another 50 minutes of running to get back home, and I was already plodding before that. Remember, my longest run was an hour and 12 minutes and that really exhausted me. Oh my, what have I gotten myself into? With Katherine pulling me and me willing myself to reach the next intersection with hopes that we would hit a stop light, I kept plodding along which felt like I was running about a 12:30 per mile pace. A couple of weeks prior, I did a solo run which covered 5 miles at a pace of 11:31 and that was really pushing it based on my reduced stride and aerobic capacity.

I finally told Katherine that I was going to stop running when we reach an hour and a half then walk back the rest of the way, while she kept on running. When my watch ticked 1:30, I started walking and Katherine was nice enough to walk with me the rest of the way. After 12 minutes of walking, we made it back to her house. My goodness, that was only 2 minutes over our anticipated finishing time of 1:40! Did we manage a negative split up to the one hour and 30 minute mark despite what felt like a much slower pace going back home? Katherine said it was a 9 mile out and back course so I entered our time and distance on a running calculator and it spit out the results: 11:20 minutes per mile pace. What!? That even included the last 12 minutes of walking in the equation.

After the 1:12 run several weeks ago, my next goal would have been 1:15 or 1:20 to see if my legs hold up, so it was a shock to the system to go 1:30 suddenly. Hours after the run, my legs still feel ok although I expect them to be sore for a few days. I'll be doing the rolling pin massage as soon as I finish typing this. Wish me luck with hopes that I may be able to continue doing this exercise without further catastrophic injuries. This mainly means practicing self control because I tend to overdo it, hahaha!

BTW, Katherine can still probably push an 8:00 to 8:30 pace if she wanted to, so I was really thankful for her running ahead and pulling me all the way and talking to keep my mind off my heavy legs and heavy breathing :D

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Trying The Most Affordable Amazon Fire Tablet

Well I bought this Amazon Fire tablet which is on sale at Best Buy this week (June 12 to 18, and also at for $39.99 because my Windows 10 laptop could no longer connect to the wi-fi at work. Sure I could still connect with my Android phone, 2012 Nexus 7 tablet,  and 4 year old Asus Transformer, but the phone is too small to type with and the tablets aren't too responsive anymore or at all. For the price, what have I got to lose, right?
I've been using the Fire for a couple of days now and despite it having only 1 gigabyte of RAM and 8 GB of storage, the responsiveness is pretty amazing. Sure it lags sometimes when a lot of apps are open but that's easily taken cared of by closing some. The home page is cluttered with Amazon apps that I mostly won't ever use but they cannot be uninstalled. A little research on the web showed how you can just put what you don't need in a folder thus decreasing the clutter. You can also supposedly only download apps from Amazon but not from Google Play. Well back to the web we go and sure enough you can download the apk file of any Android app and install it by changing the settings to allow non-Amazon apps. I've downloaded the Chrome browser and Dropbox apps and they've been working well so far other than I have not been able to sync my Chrome bookmarks. Now my desktop looks more like a regular Android tablet. Of course with just 8 GB of storage, it limits how much I can download until I can add a micro SD card. I added an SD card later and it's ok for storing files and photos but if you move some apps there, they tend to lag more because Amazon recommends a Class 10 SD card whereas the one I got from Ebay last year is just a much slower Class 2. Typing with either 2 thumbs or one index finger is pretty slow and limiting if you are used to touch typing, but tolerable. That's why I prefer tablets with physical keyboards. This post is the first time I tried typing on it.
Nevertheless, for the price of $39.99, you can't beat it, specially if your main use is just for surfing the web, social networking, or reading ebooks. The battery life is quite good too and with the way the way I surf the web and use Facebook, the battery still had 43% of juice after about 8 hours.  Well, that's my nonprofessional review of the Amazon Fire tablet after just 2 days of use and so far I like it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Philippines Vacation - The Last Day in Tagaytay & The Flight Back Home

Tagaytay - Balay Dako Restaurant
My last full day in the Philippines was Sunday, March 31st. The family had planned on visiting Tagaytay and having lunch there, but due to Momsie Pilaring’s illness, there was a possibility of a cancellation. She didn’t like it very much when the doctor told her to rest at home. Nonetheless, Larry, Ninette, and I proceeded with the plans because we were meeting Ben, Elgee, and Uno there. Thankfully, there was not too much traffic that morning and we arrived at about 11 a.m., just in time for lunch. The family had mentioned a very good restaurant in the area called Balay Dako, which means big house in the Bisaya dialect. Apparently, the chef who owns the place is from one of the Visayas provinces. The place was packed as it was very popular with out of towners. There was a bit of a waiting period so some went to buy some goodies from the bake shop while others went up to the patio to take pictures. I went outside to explore and just as I reached the gate, I saw Ben, Elgee, and Uno driving in. They parked then went inside the restaurant to look for Larry and Ninette while I stepped out to the street to look around. The street was lined with restaurants since the location was a great viewing area for the dormant Taal Volcano. Is it really dormant? I’m not sure anymore.
Ninette & I with Taal Volcano in the background from Balay Dako Restaurant
After about a 45 minute wait, we were finally escorted to our table where the waiter took our orders. The specialty of the house is bulalo, which is essentially beef shank and marrow bones in broth, but in this case it is served sizzling and covered with some kind of mushroom sauce. We also ordered vegetarian kare kare. This usually comes with the same kind of beef parts as bulalo, but I guess since the bulalo already had a lot of meat, the kare kare became vegetarian. Who knows? I’m just guessing here. Anyway, when people talked about the sizzling bulalo, they made it sound like something out of this world and a new way of cooking it. It turns out that the sauce was the same kind and taste used for beef stroganoff. Well, my expectations were deflated, to say the least, but other than that, it tasted really good and the beef was very tender. With beef stroganoff that you eat in cafeterias all over the United States, sometimes the cubed beef is tough to chew. I know we ordered some other food but I can’t seem to remember it now. I’ll have to check out the photos we took to see what was on the table. Thanks to my sister in law Ninette, I found pics of the food we ate in her Facebook photos.
Sizzling bulalo - the specialty of Balay Dako (below are: kare kare without the baka, prawns, & BBQ chicken

After lunch the Bautista Family had to return home and meanwhile we drove to a Taal Vista Hotel to take some photos, then to a nun’s convent to visit the chapel and say some prayers. It appeared that the nuns were cloistered because I don’t remember seeing any. I walked around the place and they had statues around the compound depicting the Stations of the Cross. Nice touch.
Larry & I with Taal Volcano in the background taken from Taal Vista Hotel
Pretty soon we were heading back home and for about the first 45 minutes, it was uneventful. When we were about to exit the town of Carmona in Cavite towards the South Luzon Expressway, suddenly we were being pursued by a police motorcycle with two cops on it. They told us to pull over and told my brother he had run a red light. My brother said, he noticed the red blinking light and not understanding what it meant, just followed the cars ahead of him. Hmm, there seems to be no standard traffic signals in the Philippines which leaves you to guess hopefully correctly. Nonetheless, the police officer started to take out his tickets and told my brother that the standard fine for running a red light is 1,000 pesos, and get this, my brother had to come back the next day which was a Monday to pay the fine at the Carmona town hall since it was closed on Sunday. My brother pleaded that he had to work the next day and will be unable to come back, and can we just pay a reduced fine to the officer himself so the officer can pay it at the town hall. Apparently, this was double talk for bribery, which in most cases is acceptable in that country. So they negotiated for half of the quoted fine and I handed over 500 pesos to my brother and he surreptitiously slipped it on the palm of the officer. Having made the deal, the cop let us go, and for the first time in my life, I was complicit (or is it aiding and abetting?) in bribing the police. It is something that will never happen in the U.S. (for me anyway). Checking on the exchange rate today, that bribe of 500 pesos cost me a whopping $10.70!
Well, the inevitable happened when we reached the city. Traffic. We crawled slowly towards Ateneo De Manila where Ninette had to sign some papers before going home. It was already dark when we got there so a security guard escorted us to Ninette’s office. This was by the way one of my requests during my visit – to see her place of work. The others were to see Larry’s school which I accomplished on the day I was in Greenhills, and to visit the hospital where he had his kidney transplant, which we did when Pilaring had her check up.
On the way home from Ateneo, we stopped by a grocery store where be bought some durian ice cream which I had been craving for. Lacking the real fruit, the ice cream came a close second.
The next day at about 8 a.m. Larry drove me to the airport in a circuitous way through Manila because he said since I arrived, we always drove via Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue. Larry dropped me off at NAIA 1, we gave each other a tight hug, expressed our brotherly love for each other, and said our goodbyes.
I made my way to the China Southern Airlines queue and checked in. Since I hadn’t exercised that day yet, I went looking for a long hallway to walk in. My boarding area didn’t have a hallway so I had to ask a security guard for permission to walk in the only long hallway in the terminal. I completed my requisite 30 minutes walking up and down that hallway and soon entered the boarding area. After about 30 minutes, we boarded the plane and headed to Guangzhou where it was raining. We had to get off the plane in the rain to board some buses which drove us to the terminal. I was supposed to have a 7 hour layover so I put in another walking workout through the large terminal, which made up for the lost day I had on my way from L.A. to the Philippines. That darn layover was so long and if that wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t access the airport’s wi-fi. You needed a special login from the Chinese social media app called We Chat which I couldn’t download because I didn’t have access to the internet in the first place. I walked some more and  tried to take short naps to pass the time. If that wasn’t bad enough, the flight was delayed for an hour thus making it an 8 hour layover.
I got hungry while waiting so I finally gave in and entered one of the terminals' restaurants. I asked the server how much a certain noodle dish was in dollars and she said $14. Oh well, I didn’t have a choice but to order the food since I was starving. While I was eating, another man came in and asked if he could buy a cup of coffee so he could use the restaurant’s wi-fi. Guess how much that cup of coffee cost him? Yes, $14! Perhaps that was a fixed price for anything if you had to pay in dollars regardless of how much it cost in yuan or RMB.
After waiting another half hour in line, we finally boarded the plane for the long 14 hour flight. When I found my seat, I was appalled to see a couple with their baby who was already crying. OMG, it was going to be an excruciating 14 hours if that baby was going fuss the whole time. I readied my eye mask and my earplugs just in case. Well what do you know but that baby slept for about 11 or 12 hours while I probably slept intermittently about 7. Thank you for resting little one, and thanks for giving me some rest too.
My seatmate on the flight back home
We arrived in LAX about 8:30 p.m. and I had some leeway before the reserved shuttle bus stopped running at 11 p.m. Going through customs, I was surprised at the new computer terminals for U.S. citizens where you inserted your passport and the machine verified your identity. Then it spit out a printout of your face and some other data. Then we picked up out checked baggage from the carousel then headed out. There was one more stop to make before exiting the terminal. We passed by some uniformed officers where I noticed the passengers handing something to them. I asked the officer if he needed my luggage tag and he smirked and said he needed the printout of my face from the computer I inserted my passport earlier. I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to diminish your position as a Customs Officer. With that I went out to look for the shuttle bus pickup area. Since I wasn’t sure where it was, I called the company and was directed to the correct place. After a few minutes wait, 5 of us boarded the bus. Two were headed to the San Pedro cruise ship terminal, one to the border of San Pedro and Palos Verdes, and the other to Belmont Shore in Long Beach. If the plane flight wasn't long enough, I was dropped off last. I finally made it home just before midnight, thankful to be back in the good old U.S. of A.

Bonus photos: Top - Saying goodbye to Uno. Bottom - Visiting a gastrobar in Quezon City
Thanks again to Ninette for all the photos posted here. They all came from her Facebook page.