The Challenge

In the driveway I saw you this morning,

I pass under where you’re standing,

Lording over as if you’re taunting,

You look down at me silently mocking,

Daring me that I got no more hops,

That I have also lost the touch,

I may have slowed and I have aged,

But I’m still up for a challenge.

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the takeoff

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the propulsion

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hang time (as in time for the old man to hang it up?)

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the release

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Goooaaal!!!

PS: Were you expecting a dunk? Maybe in 10 years when I am 60.

 

A Gray Day to Run a Marathon

It was time for my annual participation for the half marathon. As always, I can’t run without taking photos. I could have played Pokemon Go and capture Pokemon creatures too, but I settled in just capturing pictures.

It was a foggy and an overcast morning. Though for runners, there’s no “bad” day to run. As you can see, hundreds of runners showed up on race day. Here we are waiting for the run to start.

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And here we go! Crossing the official Starting Line.

img_3577Weaving our way through downtown Des Moines.

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Passing the Pappajohn’s Sculpture Park.

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We’re away from the downtown buildings now. The visibility remained a few hundred yards due to the fog, as shown below.

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Circling around a lake. Where’s the lake you may ask? I know you can’t see it, but just believe me, that’s a lake.

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Crossing a foot bridge in Gray’s Lake. It was really gray indeed!

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Even if it’s foggy and cool, we need to keep hydrated. Below are the paper cups thrown aside by the runners just past the water station.

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Running around the Capitol building. The golden dome is barely visible due to the fog. It was about this time that I felt my legs starting to cramp. So I started to intermittently walk and run.

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I almost crawled the last (13th) mile. But to look good for the spectators at the finish line, I ran fast for the final 0.2 to 0.3 miles to the Finish Line. As they always say, finish strong! Even if it just for a show.

Finally, me approaching the Finish Line! Look, a medical personnel is waiting.

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(*all photos were taken by me, except for the last photo which was taken by my wife)

Not Running

The annual Des Moines Marathon is less than 3 weeks away. And I am in no close form to run it.

For the past 5 years, I participated in this yearly event, running the half-marathon (13.1 miles). This year I learned that a classmate of mine from medical school who is also now living in the US, but in another state, is participating in this run. Even out-of-towners are joining this event, not to mention some elite runners as well.

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(photo taken during Des Moines Marathon 2013)

Participating in this annual race keeps me committed on my running and hopefully this keeps me fit and healthy, which is the ultimate goal anyway.

I know it is not hard to find a hundred reasons to stop running and it is so easy to fall off the wagon, and stop exercising at all. Doing this half-marathon at least once a year keeps me motivated. Or unable to button my pants, or an innocent yet honest remark from my kids about my bulging belly, will also do the same.

If I follow the running gurus’ advice, like the Hal Higdon’s training schedule (click here) on how to prepare for the half marathon, my long runs should be at least 8 to 10 miles by this time. Adhering to these recommended training schedules assure you that you cross the finish line on race day without killing yourself. But I loosely follow those schedules anyway.

Yet, even if I am not on track in my training for the half-marathon, there’s no urgency for me to train hard. The truth is I was not even training at all. I have not run a distance of more than 3 miles for the past couple of months. I am indeed slacking.

Why? Have I lost the motivation? Have I resigned and accept my bulging midsection? Not at all!

About 3 months ago, I learned that on the weekend of the scheduled Des Moines Marathon is the date that my kids will have their piano competition. And I will not miss the world for that. So we will be out-of-town at that time, and thus I cannot do the run.

So I forgo on my training.

However last Sunday, just to challenge myself, I push to run 5 miles in less than an hour, and I felt good about it. Next weekend, if I can run 7 or 8 miles, then it is as if I am ready to run the half marathon, even if I am not doing it.

Just because.

Running, Asthma and Darth Vader

Do you like running? But do you run out of breath and sound like Darth Vader when you run? Maybe you have asthma.

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Recently my cousin, who is a budding journalist in the Philippines, asked me questions on the subject of asthma and running, knowing that I am a lung specialist as well as a runner. He said that he was writing it for a fitness website. I would like to share them here.

1. How does asthma affect people? What does it do to their bodies?

Asthma is a condition in which there’s two main components, (1) narrowing of bronchial airways (bronchoconstriction) and (2) swelling (inflammation) causing edema and production of extra mucus. These can cause the difficulty breathing and wheezing, making you sound like Darth Vader. These attacks can be intermittent and reversible, and triggered by exposure to certain allergens.

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2. Can everybody have asthma?

No. It is most likely genetic or familial predisposition that leads to one’s having asthma. For example, there are certain triggers that can cause an asthmatic attack, like house dust mite, but not all people will react to it. It is like an allergic reaction, where a predisposed person’s immune system overreact to the trigger.

So if you have asthma, you can partly blame your parents and the genes they passed on to you.

I’m not sure if Luke Skywalker have asthma too (“Luke, I am your father” – Darth Vader).

3. What are the common causes of asthma?

There is a wide gamut of asthma triggers and can differ from person to person:

A. Inhaled allergens – like house dust mite, pollen, cockroaches (I hate cockroaches), indoor and outdoor fungi/mold, pet dander (I feel sorry for pet-lovers if their beloved pet cause them their asthma attacks).

B. Respiratory infections – common cold and other viruses, or bacterial infections

C. Inhaled respiratory irritant – cigarette smoke, pollution and smog (like in Manila!), certain chemicals like volatile gases that can be at the work place, and even (cheap?) perfume. If you have a co-worker that has a body odor, you can tell them to take a shower for it can trigger your asthma. Just kidding.

D. Hormonal fluctuations – like in pre-menstrual and menstrual period in women; it can be part of pre-menstrual syndrome!

E. Medications – like beta blockers (metoprolol) that is use as an antihypertensive or in heart patients.

F. Physical activity – exercise

G. Emotional state – anxiety, sudden upsets. Yes being dumped by your girlfriend can cause an asthma attack!

H. Temperature and weather – cold air, hot humid air, wet conditions (which can increase respiratory allergens in the air).

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4. What are the symptoms of asthma?

Most common symptom of asthma is difficulty in breathing, with sensation of chest tightness. You feel like you have a rubber band around your chest. When more severe, wheezing ensues. If really severe, it can lead to respiratory failure. A persistent cough can be a symptom of asthma as well, which is from the constriction of the airways.

5. Can it be prevented?

Yes. Avoiding the triggers as what I mentioned above. Also by using medications such as inhalers, especially the inhaled corticosteroid that kind of stabilizes the membranes of the respiratory tract of an asthmatic, so it won’t be so reactive. This lessen the attacks.

6. What’s the cure for asthma?

No cure for asthma. If you have it, most likely you’ll have it for life. Sorry Darth Vader. But we can control or minimize the symptom or lessen the attacks through avoidance of triggers and through medications. Asthmatics can do whatever they want and can live a “normal” life if their asthma is well-controlled.

7. Can running trigger asthma?

Yes. As any other form of exercise can.

8. Can a person still run if he/she is an asthmatic?

Yes. Even though exercise is a potential asthma trigger, it should NOT be avoided.

9. Can running help a person fight asthma then?

Yes. Aerobic exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system and may lessen the sensitivity to asthma triggers.

However, it is important for persons with asthma who are not in a regular pattern of exercise to build-up their activity level slowly to minimize the risk of inducing asthma. Also, if exercise is your asthma trigger, use your “rescue” inhaler (like albuterol meter-dose-inhaler) 5 -10 minutes before you exercise to preempt the attack. And if you have an attack while exercising, you can use the inhaler again.

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee, an Olympic medalist, uses an inhaler after running

10. Can a person run if he/she has an asthmatic attack or episode?

Yes and no. If the asthma attack is pretty mild, you may be able to endure it. However if the attack is significant that you’re wheezing, I would recommend to take it easy for that day.

11. How long should a person run after he recovered from an asthmatic attack?

No fast rules. You can sense when you’re ready. Listen to your body.

12. What’s your advice to people with asthma who wants to enjoy running?

Continue running. But you may want to run when it is not so hot and humid, (or too cold if you’re not in the Philippines). Or run in areas not so polluted or smoggy. That is maybe doing it early in the morning.

Also avoid stray dogs. Not because it can trigger your asthma, but it can chase you!

13. What should runners with asthma remember during their runs?

Have your rescue inhaler handy during your runs. It easily fits in even the smallest pocket of a running shorts anyway.

If there’s a lot of dogs in your area, you can carry a pepper spray too to ward them off. Just don’t mistake it for your inhaler!

And most importantly, have fun!

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This is how to defeat asthma and Darth Vader.

(*photos from the net)

Lumang El Bimbo

Hinintay ko nang matagal,

Gabi ng ating pagkikita,

Ngunit ako’y naimbiyerna,

Sa pagganap mong ipinakita.

 

Ang yakap mo ay kay higpit,

Braso ko ay iyong iniipit,

Bitiwan mo na ang aking kamay,

Pagka’t hindi naman tayo bagay.

 

Ipagpatawad mo aking kapusukan,

Sa husay mong sumayaw di abutan,

Kasi El Bimbo lang aking alam,

Naiwanan tuloy sa takbuhan.

 

Ano ba! Ikaw ba ay lalaban,

O tayo’y magsasayawan na lang?

Kung akin lamang alam,

Sana tayo’y nagkantahan na lang.

 

(*For all the frustrated boxing fans who expected more, after watching Mayweather and Pacquiao fight.)

Running of the Bulldogs

I went to the annual Drake Relays last weekend and ran the 10K road race. I can say, I ran like a Bulldog*. Or more accurately, I panted like a Bulldog.

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The inaugural Drake Relays was held in 1910. So this was the 106th year of this event. It was a 5-day meet with competition in track and fields.

Over the years, hundreds of Olympic medalist have competed in the Drake Relays, like Bruce Jenner (yes, that’s him or now her?), Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, and Jesse Owens to name a few.

By the way, if you don’t know, Bruce Jenner is a former track and field athlete, and won a gold medal in Decathlon in 1976 summer olympics. So he (or she) was already famous before the Kardashian’s fame and way before the sex change.

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Drake Stadium, home of the Bulldogs

Back to the Drake Relays, due to good sponsorships, it is also one of the richest athletic event in the US. For example, the winner of the half marathon was awarded $70,000 prize money, while the winner of the 10K was given $40,000. But I would never get that. Maybe if they have a prize for the slowest?

Even though these events attract elite athletes, it was also open for wannabe athletes like me, especially the road races. After all, if anybody can get an athlete’s foot, then anybody can be an athlete, right?

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For the past five consecutive years I have participated in the Des Moines Marathon (I ran the half-marathon, 21K) which is held every fall. But this was my first time to join the Drake Relays. And also the first time to run the 10K.

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As I came a little early, I had time to take some pictures. Then when it was time to line up, I had to find my place in the starting line.

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Oh, that’s the elite runners group, with the 5-minute-per-mile pace. That’s not running, that’s flying. I don’t belong there!

I had to find my place at the back. Way, way at back of the line, with the more than 10-minute-per-mile pace.

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Then I found this line. Oh, that’s not it too. That’s the line for the portable toilet!

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Finally, it was time to start. The half-marathoners were given a head start, while we, 10K runners were released 30 minutes later.

There they go!

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The first half of the course was a piece of cake. No, I am not gloating. It was due to the fact that it was mostly downhill. And of course, I took photos while I ran, so I can blog about it.

Here’s a photo of the course going downhill with some of Des Moines skyline in the distance.

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Here’s one as we pass by a sculpture park.

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But like the reverse of the law of gravity, what goes down, will go up.  So on the final half of the course, it was mostly uphill. That’s what took my breath away. Especially the dreaded and infamous “Bulldog Hill.”

The Bulldog Hill may have chased my breath away, but never my will.

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We had plenty of cheerers along the way. We even had a marching band inspiring us to push forward on the steepest climb of the course.

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After the hills, finally the stadium was in sight. I gave my final push.

When we enter the Bulldog Stadium, there was a crowd of people to witness as we finish. It does not matter if you were the first finisher or among the last, they cheer you on just the same.

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I really like the feeling as I sprinted to the finish line in those lined tracks inside the stadium. For a time, I felt like a real runner. This maybe the closest feeling I can get to being an Olympian.

Maybe I can be famous too like a Kardashian? Naaah!

 

(*Bulldogs is the athletic team of Drake University)

(**all photos taken with an iPhone) 

Old Man Running

I ran the Des Moines half marathon (13.1 miles) this morning.

Compared to my previous runs (this is my 5th half marathon), this was my least prepared race. I usually start training around 3 months prior to the race. I gradually increase my run and by the time of the race, I should have at least run a 10-miler or more.

But due to interruptions in my training this year, like my unscheduled trip to the Philippines, my extra weekend calls, and other lame excuses, I never really had my training up to par. Though I don’t want to waste altogether the effort I placed on this for the past couple of months, so I still decided to participate anyway, and just have fun.

I never ran more than 7 miles this year. Well, until this morning.

While I was standing in the starting line among the throng of runners (it was estimated that there were about 10,000 participants – for the marathon, half marathon, and 5K), I saw a familiar face. It was one of the cardiothoracic surgeons whom I worked with in the hospital.

When I approached the surgeon, he told me that he was running the half-marathon as well. He asked me what pace I usually run, and I said to him that I’m just going to “go slow” this time, due to lack of preparedness. He then asked me if we can run together. Of course, I obliged.

I told him that I commend the fact that he as a heart surgeon, have the credibility to advise his patients that he performed cardiac bypass on, to live healthy and exercise, for he himself follows that advise. I wish we doctors will all practice what we preach.

So we ran together the whole 13.1 miles. As we ran, we shared stories of our lives and our families in between gasping breaths. It was my first time to run with somebody the entire race, and I enjoyed it. We even finished with a decent time: 2 hours and 35 minutes. Not bad. Not bad at all.

After crossing the finish line, and when I was walking back to my car, I suddenly felt my age. How many more years would I be doing this?

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But did I tell you that the heart surgeon that I ran with was in his mid-60’s and has recently retired from his practice? He’s almost 20 years older than me but still in very good shape. I just wish I can still run when I’m his age.

Although honestly, he kept me going on that race. If I was running alone, I would have run more slowly, or even walked part of the course, or who knows even stopped and quit. But I was too embarrassed to slow down, given the fact that I was much younger than he was.

After getting home and getting some rest, I felt good except for some soreness in my legs and feet. I just moved “slowly” the rest of the day. Just like an old man.

Ninja Runner vs Polar Vortex

It’s dead of winter. But I ran 3 miles outside today!

Before you declare that I am a little crazy, well, I know that already. Yet hear me out.

After last week’s polar vortex which plunged our temperature in the arctic range, we are enjoying a slight break today. During the cold blast, the mercury here in our place plummeted to -15 F (-26 C), with wind chill in the -20 to -30 F. It was so frigid last week that school was forced to close, not from snow, but just from the bitter cold. It was so frosty across the US and Canada that I have seen photos that the mighty Niagara Falls froze and stopped flowing.

But today was different. The thermometer reading have wandered above freezing. It was even a few digits higher than the freezing point that the ice coating the roads have melted and it was not slippery at all. It was a heat wave!

So that’s why I decided to go out for a run. We may never have another “warm” day like this for a while. In fact, it was a balmy 37 F, when I went out this morning.

Besides, over the years I have invested on high-tech cold running gears. They were light-weight yet warm. (See previous escapades of Black Ninja runner). If I layer up and use my nifty apparel, I can run comfortably outside as long as the temperature is not in single digits (F) or lower.

Even though I can run in an indoor running track inside a gym, or in a treadmill, nothing beats running outside in the open. To feel the sunshine on your face, breathe the chilly air, while winter birds cheer you on, is so liberating.

Here is the man-made lake that I usually pass over during my morning run. The water was frozen over. Should I try to run over it?

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Here is what it looks like during summer.

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I have not been running consistently for the past month or so, so I took my time in completing the 3 miles. After about 40 minutes, I came back home exhausted yet feeling fulfilled.

In keeping up with this trend of self-portrait photos, below is my selfie.

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As you can see I traded my Black Ninja look for a more colorful gear. Green Ninja? Oh, Ninja Turtle!

Because it was still cold, even after running for more than 30 minutes, I don’t think I even broke out a sweat, not until I went inside the house. The first 3-mile run of the New Year. No sweat at all!

Now my muscles hurt. Should I ice it? Or maybe I can just go outside to cool them.

Oops, I Did It Again

No, I did not suddenly become a fan of Britney Spears. What I meant was I finished the Des Moines marathon again. Well, half marathon (13.1 miles). And it’s not really oops, but rather “whoopee, I did it again!”

This year I decided to keep away my camera phone and just concentrate on the running. Though I still took pictures before the race started.

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photo taken at the start line

I planned to run at around 11-minute mile pace, which is what I trained for, so I followed the 2:20 pace runner. That is if I keep the right pace, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I was doing great in the first two miles that I even overtook the 2:20 pace runner. However on the 4th mile the 2:20 pace group caught up with me. I must have been slowing down then.

I was still at par with the 2:20 pace group after 6 miles, when “nature” called me. I needed to pee! So I stopped at one of the many portable toilets lining the race course.

By the time I got out, the 2:20 pace runner was too far away already. Damn nature call! I didn’t want to burn too much energy to catch up with the group, so I ran on my own. Yet I was still keeping up with my training pace.

After passing the 10-mile marker, I was happy that I was still feeling great. Yeah, my bunions may be hurting a bit, but I could run through blisters and pain. Even though I never ran more than 10 miles during my training for this race, I knew that the sheer excitement and adrenaline rush could carry me through the last 3.1 miles. Just like in the past.

On the 11th mile, the motorcade with the lead marathon runners passed me. (Even though the course of the half and full marathon diverge at some point, the start and finish point are the same.) It was amazing to think that they have already covered 24 miles. That was way below 6-minute mile pace! Those athletes are really freaks of nature. And I said that in a good way.

Not too long after the lead marathon runners passed me, when trouble began. Leg cramps! It was not so bad, but I have to stop running. But I can still walk. I was still determined to finish this race, cramps and all, even if it means I have to crawl the last 2 miles.

On the 12th mile marker, the 2:30 pace runner and group passed me. I thought to myself that given the circumstances, I was still not so far from my projected time of finish.

I was working on my last mile, when the lead “physically challenged” marathoner passed me. He was “rolling” strong on his wheelchair to finish the 26 miles. That gave me renewed inspiration.

On the last stretch of the race, in front of cheering crowds of people lining up near the finish line, that I really wanted to finish strong. But whenever I tried to break into a run, my legs would cramp again. Certainly the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Or more aptly, the flesh was cramping! But I plodded on.

Finally I crossed the finish line. Time: 2 hours 35 minutes. Maybe not to the condition I wanted, but it was still sweet regardless.

I know I will be sore for a few days. Was it worth it? Definitely! Every single step (and cramps) of it.

*******

Related Posts:

Take the Photo and Run

I Did It!

Tables Are Turning

We have a new past time. Nope, it’s not cow tipping. It’s more fun than that. It’s ping-pong!

Few months ago, I bought a ping-pong table. After 2 years of having our basement in disarray and left undone (after it was flooded – see previous post), we finally had it fixed and finished. Now, our newly done basement is an official table tennis tourney room.

I learned to play table tennis with my friends, when I was growing up in Manila. Back in those days, our table sometimes was a make-shift one, like a sheet of plywood placed on top of a desk or a dinner table. Though at times we played on a standard tournament table – especially when there was a sports fest in our church.

Our ping-pong paddles were cheap or something that we improvised too. We cut out pieces of wooden board into paddles. Though I already knew in my youth, about Butterfly brand paddles, and have even held one. And boy, it felt so good to play with that kind of paddle. Obviously it was not mine, I just borrowed it.

My parents allowed me to hang out with my friends to play table tennis even for long periods of time. They didn’t mind at all. They just don’t want me to hang out with the other “table” game – billiards. There was nothing wrong with playing billiards, but it was the association and the company they keep. Where I came from, the billiards were usually in the beerhouses and pubs.

I never became a good ping-pong player, but enough to enjoy the game. Though some of my friends became adept at it, that they compete in local or interdistrict tournaments and sports fest. I usually accompany them for moral support.

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This is how we play ping-pong. Not!

After many years, now I can afford to have my own ping-pong table, so I indulged a bit. I got us a good quality, tournament-grade table. It really have an even bounce, unlike the sheet of plywood where I used to play before. I even got us deluxe Butterfly paddles! However, even with the top grade equipment, I am still not a good player. It just show that it is not on the equipment, but on the skill of the player.

I may not be an expert but I taught my son and my daughter the basics of table tennis. We also looked at some tutorial videos in the internet, as well as videos of world-class players in action, which were mesmerizing to watch, to say the least. I was pleased on how quickly my children learned, especially my son. It was amazing how my 10-year old son got quite skillful in such a short period of time. Maybe credit the teacher (ahem!).

We had visitors that we invited to play ping-pong with us. Don’t underestimate anybody’s skill, as you can never tell if he/she is a mediocre player or would blow you away.

The first visitor we had was our kids’ music teacher, who was an accomplished pianist and had a master’s degree in music from Juilliard. What does a musician know about ping-pong? Wrong! She schooled us with all kind of spins and drives and we ourselves were spinning. We later learned that she was a varsity player in college.

The next visitor we had was a friend who was a minister by profession. Yes, he can give rousing sermons, can sing, and can play the piano too. But does a pastor know ping-pong? Again, we were wrong!

He watched me and my son play for a while, and was hesitant to join. He finally gave in after much prodding from me. The moment he held the paddle – using the Chinese-hold (also known as pen-hold),  we knew right away that he was good. We were again schooled! He told us later, that he grew up in Singapore and learned the Chinese way of the game. (Chinese dominate the sport nowadays.)

More recently, my son has been consistently beating me in ping-pong. The student is getting better than the teacher. In fact, I have not won for some time now. I charge it to his youth and quick reflexes. But I know, it is a pattern that I should get used to: what I can do, he can do better. And I am fine with that.

The tables are turning indeed. And I don’t mean the ping-pong table.

I can challenge him to play 1-on-1 basketball instead. Because I know I can still beat him in basketball. But I also know, it will not be for long.