App and Down

It’s mid August. In about 2 months it will be time for the Des Moines Marathon, in which I plan to participate in the half marathon run. I have not registered though, because I’m still feeling myself if I would be ready for it.

It has been a while since I posted progress of my training. As you already know, I even have a running app to track my pace and distance to aid me on my training. The farthest distance I covered so far is 6 miles in my current training period. I also was able to get my pace under 11 minutes.

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But that was about a month ago. Since then, I am struggling. I even am sliding down on my distance and pace. So I was hopeful that today, I can steer my course in the right direction.

By the moment I went out this morning to run, I was captivated by the sunrise. For some reason it has a different hue or color. It’s orange-red. (Sorry, but the photos I have below do not give real justice to the striking splendor of the sunrise.)

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Then I thought that it could be from the many ongoing wild fires from California that is giving the sky a different haze, even though Iowa is 1,500 miles away from California. My thoughts and prayers goes out to those who are directly affected by these wild fires.

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Back to my run, I was able to complete a 3-mile run, but not to the pace I wanted.

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What’s my excuse this time? Stopping and taking too many photos of the crazy sunrise!

Yet in life, sometimes we are so engrossed in the task at hand that we don’t appreciate the beauty around us. We don’t stop to smell the roses. Or stop and admire the sunrise.

In my case, I have no regrets of stopping and capturing the moment. Have a good week everyone!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

My Weekend in Photos

Here’s what I did last weekend:

1. Helped my wife cooked tuyo (dried fish) in our outdoor grill.

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2. Chased a deer during one of my morning runs.

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3. Scavenged for bargain art item in the streets downtown (Des Moines Art Festival was this weekend).

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4. Got lost among the corn (visited a friend’s farm).

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5. And lastly, summoned my indigenous spirit or maybe my hidden pyromaniac nature and did a fire dance.

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(*all photos were taken by me with an iPhone, except the last photo which was taken by our friend)

App To No Good

In January 2011, the American Dialect Society named “app” the word of the year for 2010. Today, that word is engrained in our daily vocabulary. App is shortened for application, something that you download in your mobile device. I think everybody knows what an app is, unless you’re living under a rock.

There are more than 2 million app available in Apple app store currently, and for Android users, there are about 3.5 million apps. If you think about something, there’s probably an app for that. This technology has been part of our day-to-day life and it’s really on the up and up, or should I say, on the app and app.

I have several apps on my smart phone that make my life “easier.” I have an app for the weather alerts, an app to know where I park my car, an app to read and check the latest medical literature and studies, an app to do my banking, an app to control the air-conditioner or heater at my home even if I’m not home, and app to listen to Filipino radio stations, even if I’m 8000 miles away from the Philippines.

You already know that for about 3 weeks now, I have been using an app to help me improve my running (see previous post, App for the Challenge and App to Speed). I started with a pace of about 11 minutes per mile but with the aid of the app I was able to decrease it to 10 minutes per mile on my last run.

After a couple of runs with a faster pace, this week it was my objective to build on that and further improve my pace. My goal is to have it under 10 minutes or even a 9-minute mile.

But I failed!

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I ran a longer distance this time though.

I can think of a hundred reasons of why I was not able to achieve that goal. First, I had only 5 hours of sleep the night before I made that morning run.

Second, it was hot outside when I ran, with the temperature near 80º Fahrenheit. I know that was not really hot, especially if I consider that I grew up in a tropical country. But for me I rather run in a 30-60º F temperature and just layer up in my running gear. If the temperature is 90º F or higher? Forget it, that can kill a runner.

Third, the app did not give me wings in my feet.

Fourth, the app failed to give me more air in my lungs.

But I think the only acceptable reason is that running a 9-minute mile is not as easy as I thought, and I am not as fast and strong as I believe I am. As in most endeavor, it takes time and perseverance to achieve what you aim for. Maybe it would take me few more weeks or even months to attain that lofty goal. Or maybe never.

For now, I’ll just blame it on the app.

(*background photo taken during my run)

 

App To Speed

I posted last week that I am now using a running app to help me prepare and train for my half-marathon. It gave me a renewed interest in running.

Before I was just estimating and calculating my distance and pace in my head, but now I’m doing it accurately and scientifically. Though to be honest, my estimation of the distance I covered before is pretty close to actual, as if I’m off it’s only 0.1 mile or less. I think I could work as a surveyor.

My pace last week was 11:16 minutes per mile when I did a 3.1 (5K) run. This week, I was challenged to run the same distance, but push myself a bit and see if I can run in a pace of less than 11 minutes per mile.

And I did!

This make me think that if I was able to shave a whole minute per mile in my pace in less than a week, with the aid of this app and if I really push myself, maybe next week I can run a 9-minute mile. And in 10 weeks, I should be running 1-minute mile. I would be Flash!

In case you believed or was caught up on my drift, I was really talking non-sense. The fastest 1 mile done by a human is 3 minutes, and 43.13 seconds. Even if Usain Bolt can run at his top speed of 27.44 miles/hour and sustain it for a mile, which is humanly impossible by the way, he would still take 2.19 minutes to cover that mile.

Maybe this app is only good for giving me crazy ideas. I’m not sure this app will turn me into Flash, but one thing for sure, this earned me bragging rights.

(*background photo taken during my run)

App for the Challenge

It’s summertime here in our area. I can’t use the excuse of “it’s too cold to run” anymore. Though I can say, “it’s too hot.”

Anyway, it’s time for me to take longer and more frequent runs outside. If I plan on joining the half-marathon this autumn, I have about 4 more months to prepare. That’s plenty of time.

In the past, I just needed 10-12 weeks of rigid training schedule to be in good running form. ‘Good running form’ does not mean I can compete with the elite runners, for me it means finishing the 13.1 mile course without keeling over. But I know I’m getting older, so maybe my body needed more time to be ready.

I want a ‘smart’ runner’s watch that has GPS that can track my distance and or pace me when I’m running, which I think can help me train. Perhaps it’s another excuse to get another “toy” to get me motivated to continue running. When you’re more than 50 years old, and your joints and muscles often times protest after a run, you need all the motivation to keep going.

But when I shop around for that nifty runner’s watch, it’s kind of expensive. The ones that I like are north of $200, so I hesitated to buy. Maybe I’m too cheap.

Then it dawned on me that there are several running app that I can download on my phone that are very inexpensive or even free. Why have I not thought of that before? I used to just estimate my distance and pace before, which is not accurate nor scientific.

I always carry my phone anyway when I run. I carry it in case of emergency, like if a deer ran me over or a wild rabbit attack me. Or if I get disoriented and get lost in my own neighborhood, I can use its GPS to guide me home. Kidding aside, I carry my phone all the time to take photos when I run.

After downloading a running app, I used it for the first time this morning. I only planned on running 1-2 miles as I have to be at work early, but I suddenly got challenged when my phone started chirping my progress and telling me my time and pace every mile I covered. So I finished a standard 3.1 mile (5K) run.

Not bad for this time of year. If I can shave several more seconds on each mile and extend my distance little by little, I think I would be alright for that half-marathon. I think this running app is helpful. Or if at all, it’s more for bragging rights.

Happy running!

(*background photo taken during my run)

Chasing Phantom Fishball

Yesterday our temperature here in Iowa finally wandered above 50º F. Considering that we had snow last weekend, and even had some flurries the day before with subfreezing temperature, we’re just excited that finally spring has sprung.

I was able to come home early with the sun still way up in the horizon, so I decided to go for a run outside.

I wore my brand new cool running shoes that I bought as a birthday gift for myself. I also planned to wear my new colorful running shorts and nifty running shirt that my wife got me for my birthday, but I found out they were still in the laundry. You see, like a child I need all the enticements to keep me motivated in running.

I’m proud to say that I finished my first outdoor 5-kilometer run for this year. Though I would not deny that I was a little out of condition and I struggled to complete the run.

While I was doing my run and I was on my 4th kilometer navigating through our neighborhood, I suddenly caught a whiff of a very familiar scent. I took a deep breath and inhaled it in to confirm. It was the unmistakably glorious smell of fishballs being fried in a lake of oil on a deep frying pan.

Instantly, I was transported back to my days in Manila, as if I entered a Twilight Zone. I felt I was in Forbes Avenue (now Arsenio Lacson Avenue) in front of the UST Hospital. I could almost hear the jeepneys and buses plying that route. Most afternoons, there was a fishball vendor there with his push-stall near the entrance of the hospital.

It does not matter if health experts say that it may not be “safe” to eat street foods, like fishballs, as you can get hepatitis A and some other illness, especially if you dip the fishballs in those jars of sauces. The reason is that some people do “double dip,” that is after taking a mouthful bite of their fishballs on the stick, they would dip it again in the sauce, and that’s how a disease is spread. Could it be the tincture of slobber that makes it more tasteful?

But my courageous friends and I don’t care what the experts say.

After an exhausting day in the hospital working as medical clerks (4th year medical students), we would trek down outside the hospital in our white uniform and all, and buy those delightful fishballs. While they were still hot and floating in oil, we would make “tusok-tusok” the fishballs with the stick, then dunk them in the different dipping sauces. My favorite one was the black spicy concoction with floating onions and siling labuyo. Sometimes I would also dip in the tangy sweetish brown sauce. Sometimes I would dip in all the three jars of sauce. But I swear, I don’t do double dip.

Interesting enough, during our 25th graduation anniversary meeting and reunion held in our medical school two years ago, they served fishballs on a stick during one of the breaks. They have the authentic taste like the ones peddled on the street. It was definitely a hit!

As I reached the end of the cul-de-sac, I came back to the realization that I was on a street in Iowa, and not in Manila. I looked around to search if there’s a fishball vendor around. But there was none. Just the leafless trees, brown grass, and the empty street that I was in.

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Was I hallucinating? Was it because I was huffing and puffing that my brain was oxygen deprived? Or was it because I was hungry and my blood sugar level was running low? Has my brand new running shoes have anything to do with it? Or maybe I was plainly home-sick again?

Fishball, o fishball, why are you haunting me?

(*photo taken during my run)

Turkey Trot

By now, you already know that I like to run. No, not running from responsibilities, but running as in road races. But I missed the annual Des Moines Marathon this fall, in where I usually run the half-marathon. It was because I was in New York during that event.

To scratch that itch to run, this Thanksgiving, I decided to join the Des Moines Turkey Trot. In this event you can either do a 5K or a 5-mile run. I did the 5 miles.

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You may say, I was crazy to run on a Thanksgiving Holiday, where one should just be resting and relaxing. But as you can see with my photo below, I was not the only crazy one.

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I was surprised on how many runners join this event. According to the official results, there were about 3,000 finishers. I’m not sure if there’s more that started but were not able to finish the race.

The event was more of a family affair, as I saw many parents with their young kids who participated in the run. Unlike in the marathon or half-marathon events, which definitely were longer runs, there were more “serious” runners or even elite athletes joining those runs. I’m not saying that I am a serious or an elite runner. Far from it.

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The course took us through downtown Des Moines. The most difficult part was the uphill climb around the Capitol building. Good thing it was in the first mile.

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After going around the Capitol, it was mostly downhill from there, or at least no more climbs.

I was slow, but I was not the slowest. See, I was already heading downhill while others are still going uphill (photo below). On second thought, maybe they were released much later, as runners were released in waves, and I was just among the first wave of runners to start, giving me my imagined advantage.

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I finished the 5-mile run under an hour which was my goal. However, when I checked the official results, I was indeed one of the slowest finishers. There were runners in the 5K and 5-mile that finished with a pace of 5-minute mile! I was wrong in thinking that there were no serious or elite runners joining that race.

At the end of the race, it really does not matter if we were slow or fast. We were all finishers, and that is what’s important. As in all other endeavors we participate in.

One thing for sure, running this event gave me a reason, or more of an excuse, to gobble (gobble, gobble!) more food. It was Thanksgiving after all!

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Me and the turkey (hindi kami bati)

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Deer Run

I went out for a run in our neighborhood this morning. It was a beautiful summer day.

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As usual, I spotted many deer along the way. But unlike before, where they were too fast and scurried away before I get close, this time they seem to stand still and let me take their photo.

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There’s even two in one shot.

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Even the rabbits were not bounding away, as I was approaching.

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I even stopped to smell the flowers.

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Or maybe taking photos was just my excuse to stop and take a breather, in completing my 5-mile run.

And here’s one deer that even crossed my path. I was able to capture it in action.

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Just like the slogan of John Deere: nothing runs like a deer. Have a good day!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Out of Shape

The other day, one of my partners requested me to supervise a cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) that he ordered on a patient that he saw in our clinic. Since I would be in the hospital all day that particular day, and the exercise test would be done in a lab in the hospital anyway, so I obliged.

CPET is usually a test that we request if the cause of shortness of breath remains unclear even after initial evaluation. Most of the time when we request a CPET, we have already done lung imaging (like a chest x-ray), a pulmonary function test, and basic heart evaluation to rule out gross cardiac problems. Definitely we don’t want a patient having a heart attack and keeling over while we are performing the test.

During CPET, a patients walks/runs on a treadmill or pedals on a stationary bike, while having all these body monitors to measure the heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation level. Then they also wear a mask, like the super villain Bane in the Batman movie, that is attached to a breath analyzer where we measure not alcohol content, but the volume and gas content (oxygen and carbon dioxide) of the air they inhale and exhale. At the peak of the exercise, we also draw a blood sample to measure the level of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and lactic acid. We may not be experimenting on Captain America, but it is an intense test regardless.

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cardiopulmonary exercise test (image from BMJ journal)

By the way, lactic acid is a byproduct of “overstressed” metabolism. It is produced when there’s not enough oxygen supply to the contracting muscles, so the muscle switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. The build up of lactic acid in the muscles is one of the cause of having pain in your muscles few hours or few days after a viogorous exercise. I hope I am not bringing back bad memories from your high school physiology teacher.

The exercise test is usually ended in several possible ways: a patient cannot exercise anymore due to exhaustion, or we have achieved the maximum target heart rate (which is: 220 minus patient’s age), or we have reached the end of the designed exercise protocol, or the patient developed an alarming symptom, like severe chest pain.

The information we gather in this test help us delineate what is the limiting factor causing the shortness of breath, whether it is a heart problem, a lung problem, a muscle problem, or plain deconditioning. Sometimes elite athletes undergo this test to gain data on how they can improve their performance. I’m sure Gatorade lab performs lots of this.

Perhaps the most common diagnosis we reach considering the group of patients we deal with, is deconditioning, or in simple term, being out of shape. Definitely this is a scientific way, albeit expensive, to say to a patient that he is too lazy or is too fat.

The duration of the CPET is mostly less than 15 minutes, and with our patient population, it rarely last more than 10 minutes. Not a big deal for me to supervise the test, as it is short and quick.

I was busy that day so I was not able to look beforehand at the chart of the patient whose CPET I would supervise. What I just know was the time I needed to show up in the lab, the name of the patient, and his age.

I knew that the patient was in his early 50’s, a couple of years older than me. Even before meeting the patient, I already have a diagnosis in mind, as I was expecting a middle-aged man who is overweight, maybe a couch potato, and perhaps cannot accept the fact that he is way out of shape, and instead blames something is wrong with him, thus we are doing this CPET. Since I have a few half-marathons under my belt, I thought I could show him how to “exercise.”

When I came to the lab, I met our patient who was already sitting on the stationary bike. He looked fairly trim, and to be honest, he looks younger than his age. I introduced myself and explained the test that we will administer.

To get some idea of his condition, I asked him about his symptoms. He told me that he felt this “disproportionate” shortness of breath when he is running.

Sensing that he is a “runner” like me, I asked if the shortness of breath happens early, or during the latter part of his run. He answered that he experienced this shortness of breath relatively “early” in his run. I asked him then to be more specific, like how many minutes after he started his run.

Then he said, “I have this ‘unusual’ shortness of breath after running 20 to 25 miles.”

What?! Who considers 25 miles as early? Most people are not short of breath, but may not be even breathing at that point!

That’s when I learned that he was an ultra-marathoner, and runs 50 to 100 miles or more when he competes. He said that after 25 miles of running, he usually catches his “second wind” and feels good the rest of the way through.

All my preconceived notion flew out the window. Life is never short of surprises. Another lesson learned. Never assume.

I just told the lab staff to commence the exercise, and brace for a long, long test.

Slow Run

It’s summer here in our place. Well, not quite officially, as the summer solstice is not until June 21 which marks the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Yet the mercury is rising, as our high temperature for the past few days and the coming week will be in the 90’s to even reaching 100 º F.

But this morning, it was a comfortable 74 º F, so I went out for a run. It is also about this time of year that I should start preparing for the half marathon, if I should decide to join again this coming fall.

As I was approaching the small pond in my running route, I have to stop and let the family of geese get off the road before I could pass. The mother goose was already hissing at me as I was approaching them. They can be very territorial you know. But that’s fine, I can share the road with them, and I have no plans on swimming in their pond.


When I came to the wooded areas, I also saw a deer. But it bounded quickly away before I could take out my phone out of my pocket to take a photo. It might be sneering at me that I am too slow.

Same thing happened when I came to an area where a couple of wild rabbits were on the side of the road foraging for food. They also scurried away at the sound of my slow feet, before I can get near them. They may also laughing at me for being slow.

I admit, I am getting slower. Maybe my age is catching up on me. I have no match for the swiftness of the deer and the hare. They seem to dash so effortlessly and yet so gracefully. While me, I push for every step of my way to get to a pace that runners would even consider “running.”

Maybe all of us can relate in one way or another, and in different endeavors, that we feel we are no match to the “competition” we are going against. Whether it be in sports, or in school, or in our work, and in life in general.

Then as I was fighting my way uphill, I saw this guy.


Yes, that is a snapping turtle. And I was “quick” enough to take a photo of him.

They are called snapping turtles not because they snap their fingers as they go, rather they have the ability to snap, as in bite an attacker. That’s why I kept my distance.

The pond, or any body of water that I know in this area, was hundreds of meters away. I don’t know how long it would take him to get there, if that was where he was heading. But I’m sure his slow pace does not stop him from continuing, for that’s who he is.

It gave me a good insight for the day.  Life they say could be like a race. But it is not always for the swift, but to those who kept on running.