Hagibis

Ako’y tumakbo kaninang umaga,

Sa amin dito sa Iowa,

Habang humahangos sa daan,

Ay aking pinakikinggan,

Maiingay na halakhak,

Ng mga ibong taratitat,

At sa aking paghingal,

Aking namang nalalanghap,

Ang mabangong halimuyak,

Ng mga bulaklak ng lilac.

Pero miss na miss ko na,

Mag-jogging sa Maynila,

Kung saan naghaharana,

Mga traysikel na umaarangkada,

At aking muling masasanghap,

Usok ng tambutsong kay sarap,

At takbo ko’y lalong bumibilis,

Parang anak ni Hagibis,

Dahil ako’y hinahabol,

Ng mga asong nauulol.

(*Hagibis means speed in Tagalog, it is also a Filipino comics hero, and the name of an all-male pop group.)

 

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)

Harvest Time

This morning I went for a long run, in preparation for the half-marathon that I would be participating in. The event would be in 2 weeks.

My long runs have been getting longer, and sometimes it can be tedious and boring. Maybe I should play Pokemon Go while I run to make it more exciting, and capture those fleeting critters.

I did not capture a Pokemon, but I captured these photos while I was running:

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Yes, it is harvest time in this part of the world I’m living in. The fields are golden brown, the days are getting shorter, and the wind is getting colder.

In this particular field, they were harvesting corn.

Why are they harvesting corn? Because they sow corn! Shouldn’t it be that way, we harvest what we sow?

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Maybe some cynics out there may disagree with me, for I know we are living in a world where so much injustice abound. People seems to reap what they did not sow, or have been harvesting in fields that are not theirs.

In my home country, we even have a proverb for that: Ako ang nagtanim, ako ang nagbayo, ako ang nagsaing, pero iba ang kumain.

Loosely translated, it says, I was the one who planted, I pounded, and I cooked, but somebody else ate it.

Yet I still believe in justice.

Lady Justice may seems to be blindfolded (I don’t know why it is portrayed that way) to the unjustness and repression happening all around us. And I’m not blind to that. But I know it as a fact that in the end, justice will be served.

That day of reckoning will come to all of us, when we will harvest what we sow.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Purple Crown and Thorns

(I know Prince’s untimely death has hugged the news in the past several weeks and many people wrote articles with “purple” theme, but this post has nothing to do with Prince.)

There are things in this world that are unwanted.

When I went out for my morning run today, I came near a pond and a large mother goose was standing at the middle of the road. Nearby is her family. The protective mother goose stared and hissed at me. I was an unwanted guest.

I went slowly and timidly, as far as I can on the other side of the road, so not to agitate the goose further. After I passed them, they quietly slipped into the water and swam away.

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Not long thereafter, another bird, an aggressive red-winged blackbird hovered wildly above me. It made repeated dives on my head while chirping loudly. I think she has a nest nearby, and she’s telling me to go away. Definitely I was unwelcome there.

I probably would do that too, if an intruder whose intention I am not sure, would go near my family.

But there are other things that are unwanted and unwelcome, which we try to get rid of. Like weeds and thistles from our lawn and garden.

Back to this morning run, after my confrontation with the goose and the blackbird, I went out to the lonely gravel road to continue on my run, where I have not been for a while. There I noticed this purple thistle at the side of the road.

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I did not know that this weed, can grow this tall, as the moment we see it in our garden, we pull them out immediately. I did not know as well that it can produce beautiful purple flowers. Thorny yet exquisite.

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thorny crowns

This weed is known as the milk thistle (scientific name: Sylibum marianum). It was named such due to the milky sap that the plant produce when cut. It is native to the Mediterranean, but is now found throughout the world.

It is not just in the manicured lawns and gardens that it is unwanted. Even in prairies and pasture land where cattle roam and graze, farmers try to eradicate them, as they are considered noxious weed. The reason is it can be toxic to cattle, sheep and other livestocks, if they eat them.

So most of the time, this purple weed is left to grow only on the side of lonesome roads, or in wild, forsaken places. An outcast, if you will.

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But I will argue that despite being unwanted by most of the world, it survives. Defiantly existing to show its beauty for anyone who would stop and appreciate. It has spiny-edged leaves, prickly stems, thorny crowns, yet colorful blooms.

My little research also tells me that this thistle even though it is toxic to cattle and other ruminants, it is perfectly edible and safe to humans, provided we don’t eat the thorns. There’s even studies to suggest that it has medicinal property, like treatment for liver diseases, and also been looked at to treat cancer.

An unwanted and lowly prickly thistle. Yet there’s beauty and purpose for its existence. Just like many other things in our lives.

I know you have an annoying classmate or officemate that you wish would migrate to the moon. Or you have unwanted daily tasks that you wish you don’t have to deal with. Or you experience thorn-on-the-side everyday challenges that you hope to live without. And the list of “unwanted” things go on and on.

Yet they exist for a reason. We just have to look a little closer.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Zen Moment

In our breakneck-pace, sink-or-swim busy schedule, we badly need some time to exhale and relax. We need to find our zen moment.

Different people have different ways to unwind and rejuvenate. There are some who would spend some time in a spa and be pampered. There are some who would go for a hike in the woods or climb a mountain. There are some who would watch a movie. There are some who will go to a mall. Zen shopping? While some would just sit and do nothing. And I mean nothing, as if staring blankly in space, like a frozen computer screen. I know, I do that sometimes.

Another favorite way of unwinding for me is my Sunday easy morning run of 2-3 miles where I just go on a slower pace than my usual, and commune with the wind, the lonely road, and nature. I would say that many of my creative thoughts come during this runs. I guess mild brain hypoxia can generate a stroke of genius.

Then there’s my wife. She will put on comfy clothes. She will go outside to be alone with the elements. She has her portable speaker playing her zen-type of music softly in the background. While she is on her hands and knees……….pulling weeds.

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Turkey Run

Here in the US, there are two occasions in a year, that people are strongly compelled to exercise. During these times there is a considerable spike in gym attendance. This is based at least in my observation and purely my opinion only.

The first one is during early January, when everybody is jumping on the band wagon for the New Year’s resolution to exercise, lose weight, and join the gym. However by the end of January, some if not most of them, have already fallen off the wagon.

The second occasion is right after Thanksgiving, when many are feeling guilty they over ate during the holiday. According to one study, an average American will gobble 3000 calories during Thanksgiving dinner. But with all the snacking throughout the day, it can easily amount to 4500 calories in that day alone.

Some will reason that they can burn all those calories when they go shopping on Black Friday. However, unless you go jumping rope while shopping or you’re hauling or carrying a piano, the amount of calories burned is not even close.

One exercise physiologist estimated that in order for a 160-pound person to burn 3000 calories, he has to walk 30 miles. Or if you want to burn them faster, you can run. For 4 hours!

So this weekend, I avoided the gym altogether since I know it will jam-packed. This morning, I decided to run outside instead.

The problem is during this season, in this part of the world, it is already pretty cold. In fact, we already had snow and freezing rain this past week. Today is no different, the temperature was subfreezing.

Good thing is that I have invested on nifty cold-weather running apparel that I can be warm and toasty even if the temperature is below freezing. So I layered up, summon the spirit of the Black Ninja runner  (see previous post), and ran.

I was a little chilly when I started but by the second mile, I was already feeling warm that I took off the hood from my head. By the third mile, I already unzipped my outer layer. I ended my run after 4 miles, and I was all sweaty and hot that I even took off my jacket, at least temporarily, as I was walking to cool down.

I checked on my smart phone, and the temperature was a nippy 29º F (-2º C).

I believe my run will partly burn off all the turkey I ate. Though I still have to burn all the kare-kare* and krema de fruta*, which were what I really feasted on during the Thanksgiving dinner.

Now I’m feeling hungry. Where’s the left over kare-kare?

(*traditional Filipino dishes)

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)

Bite Me

Summer breeze is now blowing here in the northern hemisphere. Yesterday, we had our first 90-degree-Fahrenheit day for the season, and it is predicted that it will be the same today. Summer has arrived in our neck of the woods.

I went out for a run in our neighborhood this morning. Just my usual 2-3 miler run. Nothing extraordinary.

With the warmer air, I felt it was harder to run. Though I am not fond of the cold, I will admit, that running in the colder weather can be better. Personally, I feel that 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature to run, especially when doing longer distances.

As I was struggling this morning on a steep uphill climb, but was nearing the top, suddenly a fierce-looking black bulldog came out from a neighbor’s yard.

The dog was not barking. It was just charging towards me!

They say that there are two ways to react when faced with danger. The first response is flight.  But as I said, it was uphill, and it would be very difficult to sprint ala-Usain Bolt. Plus I am not sure I can outrun a charging bulldog.

The second response is to fight. Me fighting a menacing-looking bulldog? But I don’t have my Black Ninja sword with me. Would my Kung-Fu deter this attack dog?

Confronted with danger or in an excited state, the flight or fight hormones (adrenalin and the like) will be secreted by our body. With these body juices rushing, individuals can do extreme feats, like carrying a refrigerator all alone during a fire evacuation, or clearing a high fence on a single bound when being chased by a vengeful lover.

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Fight or Flight (as in flying!) response

Well, some people say that there’s another response in facing danger. That is to freeze. Like a deer caught in a bright headlight.

Scientists say that standing still or playing dead is a real mode of defense mechanism. It is employed by many creatures in the animal kingdom. Best known is the opossum. They freeze not just because they are gripped with fear, but rather they are using nature’s way of self-preservation.

And that’s what I did. I stopped running and stood still.

But the bulldog did not stop on his charge. It was rampaging straight for my legs! I saw it open its mean snout……

And then it licked my leg! No bite. Just a friendly lick.

I must be like Kentucky Fried Chicken to that bulldog. Finger-licking, ah, er, leg-licking good!

(*photo from the internet)

Chasing Rainbows

I went out this morning to run. Just before I head out the door, I checked the weather forecast on my phone and it was a balmy 70º F. That’s kind of warm for an early May morning where it usually in the 40-50’sº.

The forecast also called for 60% chance of rain at that time, and 80% chance in the next hour. But I still took my chances. And ran.

Besides the sun was shining. At least partly.

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And on the other side of the horizon, there were nimbus clouds. In other words, rain clouds. Nothing scary though. No lightning flashing. No thunder rolling. No tornadoes forming.

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Have you heard of the avid suitor who said: “I’ll give you the moon and the stars if you asked me, my love. And I’ll come back tomorrow night. If it does not rain.” Such a fickle dedication.

But not me. It takes more than nimbus clouds to intimidate me.

Not long after I started my run, the rain came. These meteorologists were really accurate in their weather forecasting!

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see the rain drops in the water?

Anyway, it was light rain only. I am water-proof. My dedication is water-proof. Even my running apparel are water-wicking. I would be alright.

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The rain may have dampened the road, but not my spirit. I’ll just sing “I do my running in the rain.”

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At least this lonely gravel road would not be so dusty. Not muddy. But the rain moistened it just enough that I would not be eating billows of dust if ever a lost car pass by me.

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The rain did not really get more than a pitter-patter. And I finished my run without really getting soaked. Though I still broke out a sweat.

Would I catch pneumonia. Nah!

But I caught this.

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full arc rainbow

If the looming clouds deterred me from going out, I would have missed the rainbow.

Just like in life. Sometimes we need to go out of our comfort zones. Take our chances even if the odds is against us. And chase our rainbows.

Maybe next time I would also catch the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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(photos taken with an iPhone)