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)

Trees and Lights

Last weekend we went to Festival of Trees and Lights, which was on its 31st year. This event had become a staple kick-off to the holiday season here in our city.

In this event, beautifully and custom-decorated trees were on display, and were available for silent auction. It also features music by a number of local children’s choir in the big auditorium, and an assortment of children’s craft and activities, including a visit with Santa and a kid’s train ride.

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Not just this event heralds Christmas, but it also embodies the spirit of giving of this season. All the  proceeds of the event benefit the Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines.

Over the years, this fund-raising event had helped hundreds of sick children and their families. Certainly a fun-filled event, with a good cause.

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(*photos taken at Iowa Events Center in Des Moines)

Right Decision

Ten years ago, me and my wife made a decision that have changed our lives. We chose to live in Iowa.

Where? Iowa what? Why?

After residing in New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, we finally settled in the vicinity of Des Moines, Iowa. It was a decision that was questioned by friends and family, and we may have second guessed if it was the right decision at that time as well. But after 10 years here, we have never looked back.

When we are vacationing or visiting other states, we still get a ‘funny’ look if we tell them where we’re from. Ohio? Idaho? No. Iowa.

I am glad though that some experts are confirming what we and others who have moved here have discovered. Here’s a recent feature of Des Moines, Iowa, in Today show.

But I guess, I don’t need others’ opinion (expert or not) to tell me what I already knew. Moving to Iowa was the right decision all along.

Now excuse me, I got to go. I have to clear the snow in my driveway. And about the cold and the snow? It builds character, you know.

Take the Photo and Run

It was a perfect autumn day. It was clear and cool, with early morning temperature in the high 40’s but expected to warm up to 70’s Fahrenheit. Excitement was heating up the nippy air. Beautiful day to run the marathon! This was my third half-marathon race. And I even took pictures while running it.

Waiting to start. This was how far I was from the starting line.

There was a sea of people that day. Nice to be in this good company of athletes and wannabe-athletes. This was the annual IMT Des Moines Marathon (which also includes the half-marathon and 5K run). I learned that there were more than 8,000 runners that morning, and perhaps thousands more family and friends who were there to support and to cheer.

It took a few minutes after the official time begun before I even cross the starting line.

Iowa Capitol in the distance. I was trying to follow the pace runner with the red sign 2:20 (that is the goal time I want to finish the half marathon)

Court house building ahead. Can you still see the 2:20 pace runner?

I kept on taking pictures to amuse myself. I also took photos of all the mile markers as motivation for myself of how much distance I already covered. Somehow I missed the mile 2 marker as I was oblivious of other things, like keeping up with the pace runner that I wanted to follow, while watching other runners and not stepping on their toes, for it was crowded.

Mile 3 marker. Where’s the 2:20 pace runner? I think I fell behind already. O well, I’ll just enjoy the run.

After running through city streets we entered Water Works Park, and it was a change of scenery.

Mile 4 marker

Mile 5 marker

I was in mile 5 when there were several runners going the opposite direction, meaning that I was still on my way further and they were on their way back already. Are you kidding me? I must be running slow! The eventual winner of Des Moines half marathon was a Kenyan with a blistering time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 18 seconds. That was really more than twice faster than my pace.

I was still going upstream, while others were already heading back.

There were several water stations along the way. They offer water and Gatorade. There were even different stations that handed out pretzels, candies, gummy bear, energy gels and power bars. I stopped on most of them and took whatever they offer. Hey, they’re free.  And I don’t even have to say trick or treat!

Gatorade station

Along the route were signs that kind of encourages the runners to go on. There was one that said “Run as if you stole something.” Maybe I should have stolen the prize money for the winner when I passed the starting line and I could have run faster. Playing in my head was the Steve Miller Band song “Take the money and run.” Hoo, hoo, hoo! Here are the other signs.

Why can’t they hand them now in the water station?

I am a Filipino, and I can run fast too. Specially if I am being chased by a rabid dog! (see previous post here)

Besides the spectators on the side of the road cheering the runners, there were also several singers and local rock bands playing, boosting our moods and electrifying the air.

local rock band

Mile 6 marker

I need a break. This kind of break. A breath-holding break, if you know what I mean.

water station

A different kind of station.

They even have an ambulance ready. But not for me. Not today.

Mile 7 marker. I am more than halfway!

Another music band

Mile 21 marker. Huh? Oh, that’s a marker for the full marathon.

Here’s the right one for me, the half marathon marker.

I am not Dave, but I’ll take the motivation. Thanks doggie!

Downtown Des Moines in the distance. That’s how far I need to go still?

Mile 9 marker

Gray’s Lake in downtown Des Moines. A beautiful day indeed!

Still in Gray’s Lake

Mile 10 marker. That’s the farthest I ran training for this half-marathon. It would be sheer determination from here on.

I was on my 10th mile, when a motorcade passed, alerting us to give way. It was the lead runner for the full marathon. He already ran 23 miles in the same time period that I was running! The next marathon runner that passed me was almost 5 minutes behind the leader.

The lead runner for the full marathon.

I learned that this was James Kirwa (#1), a Kenyan runner. He eventually won the race with the time of 2:16:54. It was his third consecutive year winning the Des Moines Marathon.

Mile 11 marker

Mile 12 marker. The next marker will say “FINISH”

This band was blaring heavy rock music when I passed by.

Finish strong? My legs were like jelly. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

I can smell the finish line!

Finally! Finish time was 2 hours 29 minutes. Still close to my goal,while taking photos to boot.

I think I deserve one of those, please.

wearing it proudly

See you again next year! For now I need more ibuprofen.

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(*all photos taken with my iPhone)

Summer Scenes

Last week we have friends from Canada and California visited and stayed with us for a few days. It was a mini-reunion of sort for my wife and her two friends, since all of them have not been together at the same time for about 20 years. I know Iowa is not really a tourist destination, unlike Niagara Falls and Disneyland area where these people came from, but just seeing old friends was enough for them to come.

Aside from enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing the good ‘ole days, we also tried our best to show them that visiting our place is worth their trip. Perhaps with this photos I can convince you also that we can be a tourist destination too.

We start with our immediate neck of the woods.

home sweet home

my wife and her friends having fun

We have other visitors too that frolic in our yard.

fawns in our yard

ducks swimming in the man-made pond

we are blessed to live in this idyllic neighborhood

We also showed our friends downtown Des Moines.

our State Capitol

downtown Des Moines as viewed from the Capitol (note the flag is at half staff)

Courthouse in Des Moines

We went and toured the Salisbury House in Des Moines. This mansion was built in the early 1900’s by cosmetic magnate Carl and Edith Weeks, and was modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England.

entrance hall

great hall

In the great hall is an antique piano. The tour guide even allowed my daughter to play it, after he made sure she adequately cleaned her hands. This old piano’s current market value is estimated to be almost half a million dollars.

antique Steinway concert grand piano

dining hall

vintage car in mint condition in the mansion’s garage

One of our favorite place to bring our visitors is to “The Bridges of Madison County,” which was featured in a book and film (starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep) with the same title.

Roseman Bridge, built in 1883. One of the few remaining covered bridges of Madison County

racing back through time and history

under the bridge

We also spent half a day wallowing in a nearby community water park.

floating in the lazy river

lining up to the water slides

Our friends’ visit was just in time for the annual National Balloon Classic festival held in Indianola, Iowa.

blowing up the hot-air balloons

Up, up, and away in my beautiful balloon!

my son climbing the stone wall at the balloon festival grounds

balloons coming in for landing

We also drove to the nearby state of Minnesota to visit Mall of America. This mall is the biggest in the USA. It is so big it has an indoor theme park at the center of the mall.

“Air Bender”ride

“Log Chute” ride

log ride crashing through the water

“Swing Along” ride

“Fairy Odd” roller coaster ride

With all the walking and touring, it was indeed tiring. But my family and our friends and their family, had a fun time together. Maybe next time it’s your turn to visit.

tired but happy feet (my wife’s and her friends’)

(*thanks for my “official” and “unofficial” photographers for the pictures)

Iowa Tourists

Few days ago, some dear friends from New York visited us here in Iowa. Yes, while hurricane Irene lashed out New York City and the northeastern seaboard, they enjoyed a perfect weather here in the midwest.

Aside from reminiscing the good ‘ole days we spent together and having re-bonding time, we played host to them as well as tour guide to our locale. There are more to see than cornfields here. (For there are also soybean fields!) But seriously, even though our state is not a popular tourists’ destination, we have interesting places to visit. But if it is cornfields that amuse you, then this is a “Field of Dreams” for you. (By the way, that film was shot here in Iowa.)

We visited the historic covered bridges of Madison County, which was popularized in a best-selling novel by Robert James Waller and later on made into a film, “The Bridges of Madison County,” which starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

There were 19 covered bridges built in Madison County during the late 19th century. Only 6 remain today.

This was the oldest remaining bridge which was built in 1870.

Holliwell bridge which measures 122 feet, is the longest remaining bridge.

When you step inside them.....

....they provide a passage way into the past.

We went to visit the Salisbury House located in the ‘South of Grand,’ an area in Des Moines noted for eclectic variety of historic mansions and luxury homes. The Salisbury House is a mansion built by cosmetic magnate Carl Weeks, and was modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England. The house was completed in 1928, and has over 42 rooms.

Some of the artifacts found inside the mansion.

mantle of the fireplace at the great hall

The courtyard of the mansion. It was being readied for an event.

We also drove around downtown Des Moines and visited the Iowa State Capitol complex.

Golden dome of the Iowa State Capitol

Allison Monument

Monument of American Revolution

Lady with parasol and the "Shattering Silence" sculpture. The sculpture commemorates the 1839 Iowa Supreme Court ruling granting freedom to a former slave.

We also toured the Temple of Performing Arts in Des Moines, a beautifully restored building, which was a former Masonic Temple. The building now hosts music and theatre performance facilities.

grand hall

clock on the top of the elevator

We also went to Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown, which just opened in 2009, and features artwork by 21 of the world’s most celebrated artists.

In the backdrop of the park is Principal building, the tallest structure in downtown Des Moines.

more park sculptures

Jumping inside the sculpture

The tour would not be complete without a visit to the farm, after all, that is what our state is known for. We were invited by one Filipino who lives in Nevada, Iowa. Her family owns an almost 9,000 acres of farmland. While we were driving to their place, we got “lost”, and intentionally took a detour to have a closer look at the rows and rows of windmills, jutting out from the vast landscape of cornfields.

wind farm

parasol lost amidst the cornfields

dust cloud

old farming equipment

setting sun over soybean fields

After touring our visitors, this gave me a new perspective and deeper appreciation of this place, even of my immediate neighborhood.

sunrise in my neighborhood

view from my porch

looking outside my window

This just solidify my endearment for the place I now embrace as home.

me on a bench at Capitol complex, overlooking the city of Des Moines

(* photo credits to my visiting photographers, and to the resident photographer, my wife)

I’m a Father of a Teenager

It seems like yesterday…….

When you arrived into our world and I held you for the first time, in a hospital room that overlooks the New York’s Central Park.

When I danced with you in the middle of the night, as you would not sleep, while the Number 7 train roars from a distant track.

When I pushed you on a swing, in a crowded playground in the middle of hustle and bustle of upper Manhattan.

In our New York Apartment (Number 7 train in the distance)

Was it only yesterday…….

When you ran in your swimsuit on the grass, with the sprinkler on, as you gleefully soaked in water under Florida sun.

When you played and dug in the dirt beside our apartment, with the nearby fragrant orange groves in sight.

When I pushed your stroller as we walked in Downtown Disney, to watch the fireworks in the humid Orlando night.

It was like yesterday……

When you first stomped on the freshly fallen snow and scooped it up with your bare hands, in the dead of Des Moines winter.

When you roamed in our yard picking dandelions, while the distant fields of corn swayed in the breeze of Midwest summer.

When I held and steadied your bike as you first learn to ride, in the driveway of our home here in Iowa.

me and my daughter in our backyard, here in Iowa

It was like yesterday, that you came into my life, and I became a father.

Where did time go? Now, I am a father of a teenager.

Yes, a teenager! But’s that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it is a wonderful thing.

My baby, is now a young lady. And I’m looking forward to more happiness you will bring.

Wayfaring Pinoy Transplant is Home

I find it hard to believe that it has been 7 years since I moved here in Iowa. After leaving Manila, which had been the cradle of my childhood, and after short stints in New Jersey, New York, California and Florida, I now have settled here in Iowa and have accepted to call it home.

Truly, my world have changed from the one I was reared into. I transitioned from the congested streets of Manila to the wide open fields of Iowa. Our neighborhood in Sampaloc was so crowded that if I open my window and ask our neighbor to lend me some salt, they can literally hand it to me through the window. Now, where I live, if I open my window and shout to my neighbor to pass the salt, he should have a very good arm to throw it that strong so I can catch it. That is if he can hear me shouting for the salt first.

Manila skyline (photo from the net)

Consider this: the state of Iowa (145,000 sq. km.) is bigger than the total land area of Luzon (105,000 sq. km.). But the population of Iowa is only 3 million. Yes, 3 million! That’s only the population of Quezon City! Can you imagine scattering the people from Quezon City alone, throughout the whole island of Luzon, and that will still be more dense than Iowa.

You may be able to drive for miles after miles here without seeing people. But you cannot go very far without seeing the handiwork of people, as stretches of cornfields, soybean fields, cattle and hog farms are the constant scenery here. Only a very small portion of produced corn here is used for human consumption, as most of them are for processing ethanol for fuel and other industrial use. There’s so much corn, that it is just considered cattle and hog feeds. The cattle population (almost 4 million) is more than its people. And hogs? We have 20 million. There is plenty of steak and pork chop to go around.

typical Iowa scene

(photo from here)

I remember when I told my friends that I will be moving from Florida to Iowa. Their first question was, “Where is Iowa?” The next question was, “Are you nuts?” And when I told my family in the Philippines that I will move to Iowa, their question was, “Is that still in the US?” Many people, even Americans cannot locate Iowa in the map. I admit that I had no idea where the heck Iowa was, or knew that it even exist, until a good friend of mine years ago invited me to consider moving here.

This friend is a classmate of mine from pre-med to medical school in Manila. Then we both did our post-graduate training in New York City. He moved to Iowa while I went to Florida, after our training. And for some reason he was very satisfied of the way of living and his practice in Iowa, while I was not in Florida. Besides, this is the man who was the best of our batch in medical school and was the top-notcher of the Philippines’ Medical Board of our time. If it was good enough for him, then there must be a very sound reason.

downtown Des Moines

(photo from here)

As a matter of fact, Des Moines, Iowa is always in the top 10 cities in the US for raising family, for business and career, and a place to relocate. (No, I’m not making those up, but perhaps I need to hear those reports to convince myself that I made the right decision.) But what I like most here is its people. They are friendly, laid-back, simple and are family oriented. Moreover, people here still like their doctors, as the rate of medical malpractice lawsuits is not that high compared to other states. (The states where I lived before were among the high risk states for malpractice lawsuits.)

Seven years and counting. So far I have no regrets. Except when I am freezing while shoveling snow in my driveway, that moving somewhere warm (like the Bahamas) crosses my mind. But winter is almost gone now and spring is on its way. I will soon forget about the bone-chilling cold, at least until the next winter.

Will I stay here for good? Only time can tell. But for now, this wayfaring Pinoy transplant has found his home.

Not Cold? My Ears are Frozen!

Last weekend we shared a lazy Sunday brunch with our neighbors (yes, the same one who borrowed Voltes V). They have just moved from Minnesota to Iowa last summer, and as good neighbors we befriended them. They did fit in quickly to our neighborhood, and have settled in pretty much in their lovely new home.

Trying to know people with very different background than us is always interesting. They were curious how we who grew up in another country ended up here in Iowa. We told them of our experiences and what it was like back home. We were happy to inform them that the Philippines have more than 7100 islands (and that some of them disappear during high tide), and that our country’s land area is only twice as big as Iowa, but our population is about 92 M, compared to 3 M here in Iowa.

Then we talked about the Philippines’ climate where the temperature varies between 70’s to 90’s F all year through, unlike the very wide range of -20 (below 0) to 100 F here in Iowa.

As we were sharing stories, they told us that their friends have called them earlier that day and told them that they should be thankful, for there was so much snow and it was so much colder there in St.Paul/Minneapolis (Twin Cities) where they use to lived, than what we were experiencing here in Des Moines.

This couple grew up in Minnesota and spent most of their lives there, and they are very accustomed to cold. They claimed that in Minnesota, they can have up to 6 months of snow in a year. (Half a year of snow?!!) They have learned to embrace the cold weather and enjoy activities in snow. To them, Iowa winter is considered mild. (What do you mean not cold? My ears are already frozen!)

I find it funny that we have such different perspective of what cold is. I guess, to each his own.

Should I be thankful then, for it is warmer here than in Minnesota? I went out and checked the temperature outside: 8 F. Yeah, right.

Superman Visits Des Moines

In the 707th issue of Superman comic-book series that came out in stores yesterday, it showed Superman visiting the city of Des Moines. He did his usual hero stuff here, like stopping a freight train from running over a girl, rescuing a crashing helicopter, and foiling a robbery. No, I don’t have the comic-book, I just heard it from the Iowa Public Radio which I listened to, when I am driving to work. I then read it more in the Des Moines Register (our city’s newspaper, counterpart of the fictional Daily Planet where Clark Kent works) on-line edition.

According to the story, Superman, has been walking, (mind you, not flying) across America to get back in touch with humanity. Even though I don’t follow comic books (except for Calvin and Hobbes!), I am a Superman fan, and maybe I will get a copy of this most recent issue, just for curiosity sake.

That's the Principal Building in Des Moines (image from Des Moines Register)

Des Moines is far different from Metropolis, the fictional city where Clark Kent lives. For one, Des Moines is relatively small compared to the mega city of Metropolis. We also don’t have crazy characters, like the mad scientist, Lex Luthor, who wants to rule over the world. There might be some mad doctors though (No, it’s not me!). And it does not mean, we have no use of another caped hero.

I am not sure why Superman did not stay for long in Des Moines though. Perhaps he found out that we have traces of kryptonite in our water. Or maybe Lois Lane does not want to move to Des Moines. Or maybe he just cannot find a telephone booth where he can change into his tights. But then again, what other cities still have telephone booths?