low volume hearing

nosound

Allergies have been bad. More than the usual itchiness and sneezing, it’s graduated to my eyes hurting and for the past few days, one of my ears is blocked. I’ve tried the usual methods, irrigating it and adding oil.

It’s my left ear so it’s the less dominant one. I guess I’m just an average person in peferring to listen with my right ear.

I suppose I should go to the doctor’s to have it looked at, since I’m experiencing small headaches like if I clench my jaw too tightly. I’m sort of enjoying the lower volume though, less ambient traffic sounds, and I can use it as an excuse not to talk.

vlm2018

vlm2018

I’ve gained all the weight I worked hard to lose, and then some. I’ve lost every scrap of fitness I also worked hard to get.

I’ve made a couple of pathetic attempts at running in the past 13 months but currently I’m unmotivated, lethargic and alternate between having zero interest in or mildly angry at the world around me.

It must be some sort of pavlovian response. See that it’s the week VLM lottery is open, click on the link, fill in the form.

Sod’s law means the year I’m in no shape physically or mentally to train for a marathon is the year I’ll get in the lottery.

allergy alert

pollution
photo courtesy flickr user darkwood 67 under cc

I got hit by a massive allergy attack today. Non-stop sneezing, out of control runny nose, and itchy nose, sinus, throat. It is spring weather, but it’s cloudy, breezy and cool, which normally doesn’t suggest a high allergy day. Then again pollution is largely invisible. I don’t know what exactly I’m allergic too, seems to be pollution, some plants, cats.

In total I took 3 claritins, equivalent to 30mg, over 12 hours. I know, recommended daily dosage is 10mg but it’s never enough. I’ve had to take 2 tablets a day almost daily since March. There was one day a few weeks ago I took 4 during the day and it only started working late into the evening.

In the end I had to take another medicine I got from the ENT doctor last year, to stop the runny nose and be able to sleep. Trying zyrtec tomorrow.

running, christmas pikachu

5.25km 47.25min 9.02min/km

My last recorded run was in June. My last serious training run was in March. It’s been a long time. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet, but an occasional 5k will do me good. Luckily, the charmander nest had gone from the small park, so only regular walkers were there. The gps went a little wonky, I was able to estimate total distance. The usual complaint, slow af.

pokepikachuxmas

Went to morse park after the run. The new nearby screen had a christmas pikachu and I was able to find it easily. The new nearby screen is both good and bad; it enables us to go after pokémons that are spawning near stops but the ones that aren’t near stops are totally invisible and depend on luck to find them. It is what it is.

sore from climbing

Not too much side effect from the dinner, a bit tired because I didn’t go to bed till 2am and woke up at 8am. The side effect from the wall climbing was very evident today. Arms a tiny bit sore, no big deal. My back, on the other hand. Ouch. Needed 2 panadols when I woke up and getting up from a sitting position was a slow affair. Once I got up and standing or walking it was okay. Used muscles I probably never used before.

running20160422

running20160422

5.25km 43.41min 8.19min/km

Small steps. Most of the run was in the rain,;not heavy enough to bother me as I had a hat but heavy enough to make puddles on the path. The last 400m or so I heard incoming thunder so I got out of the park asap. Went inside: market, had my glasses fixed, shuttle bus home.

Chicago marathon application just closed; Brighton and Paris marathon applications are still open. London is this weekend so applications will likely open soon. Sigh. Not sure if I should run one more marathon or give up and switch to halfs.

Get back to running regularly and building base first. Plus I’ve probably lost close to half a stone in a month. It’s a good thing, losing the weight. Now need to build up fitness. Keep healthy. Small steps.

10-apr

12.30am the nurse came to fetch us from the waiting room. We suited up and were at his side.

Good bye and thank you from my heart to Papa. 1.18am. Love you.

Went to bed for about 4hrs. The morning was spent letting friends and family know. The afternoon aunt J and uncle A came with us to get formalities sorted.

09-apr

Such a tough guy, he survived through the night. So proud. Even Doc T, Doc W and all other doctors agree on his toughness.

But chances not good. 5%.

08-apr

Supposed to be transferring today but origin hospital not cooperating. Stonewalling and bureaucracy. Harrowing wait all morning and afternoon. Finally Professor T had to call himself. Transfer finally going ahead, I had to sign AMA. Mum and I went by train and taxi to new hospital to get registered. Sis went with ambulance.

Still very precarious. Lots of things wrong and we’re desperate.

Spent the night at hospital waiting room, sleeping on the sofa. We made the right decision.

01-apr

Had to go to the doctor myself today. Almost 1hr wait in a completely full waiting room. It’s good to see how everyone shifted and tried to accommodate everyone else so all of us had a seat. Doc said cough and allergy, gave me scads and scads of medicine. Plus cleared my ears for good measure.

Was at hospital on my own. Tough. We were trying to make sure everyone gets rest. But I think I’ll suggest at least 2 people, or staggered timing.

31-mar

At this point, all I feel is numbness and a sense of dread. Not eating much, and mostly it’s a mechanical motion to force food into my mouth, need water to wash it down.

it’s cloudy in Paris

parisweather

I should be on the plane. May be I’ve been watching episodes of bake-off, or a noisy adventure film, the type I love to watch on the plane. Or I’ve managed to sleep and am just waking up. Flight is due to arrive at 0655, my plans were for us to get the Roissybus to Op&#232ra and then either taxi or metro to our hotel. If we can check in, great. If not, we’ll leave our luggage there and go to the nearby Treilhard covered market, which on google maps is 10mins’ walk away. In the afternoon, I was going to let Mum rest at the hotel while I go to the expo to pick up my stuff. Then we’ll venture out in the evening.

Ah, plans.

I’m not on the plane. I watched this week’s bake-off on tv and there’s no available noisy adventure film. My dad is still in the hospital so the entire trip is cancelled. What’s more important, his health or my piddly marathon? Do I even need to ask this question? A part of me is disappointed, of course. But mostly, it’s the right decision.

I contacted the travel agent to cancel the flight+hotel package. Not sure if we’ll get the refund as it’s the cheapest class ticket. The French airbnbs I was able to cancel and get a refund less fees, the London airbnb I only get 50% refund. Car rental: refund less fee. Ferry: refund less deposit. Just by cancelling online I get around 25% back. What I can’t get refunded, I’ll try to claim travel insurance. All this comes later.

A bunch of really fantastic people sponsored me for the race and we’re up to around USD500 already. The Board is helping me contact them with the latest news and to give them a couple of options. Hopefully everyone isn’t too disappointed, I hate that I’m not delivering my part of the bargain. I think they will understand, my friends are good people who all agree that family and health takes precedence. There will be other races.

easter for family

rom109easter

Last Easter Sunday, mm and I stood in freezing rain for the entire morning to participate in Mass with Pope Francis. It was well worth the chattering teeth and frozen fingers simply to see him come within touching distance in his Popemobile.

This Easter Sunday, we are waiting for test results for my Dad. They are doing testing over 3 days so we have to wait till Tuesday for the results. I keep telling Mum and Sis that yes, go do internet research but don’t take everything literally. They both have a tendency to extrapolate facts and want to assign blame.

It’s too close to my outbound flight, and I don’t want to disappear for 3 weeks. If tests are okay, he will still need to recuperate at home. The very least I can do is stay home and do the cooking. Parents are my responsibility.

Praying for health and family.

rest day

sickday

A day of resting. Caught up with this week’s bake-off (we’re about a year behind the UK).

Pretty constant coughing = no running. I don’t feel sick though, but I know I should not go out.

#101 be more…grateful and patient with family

00chapel02

So on this Good Friday, I want to express my gratitude for my family. My dad has been feeling poorly the last few days with what we initially thought was the flu. His temperature was still up this morning when he went for a repeat consultation at the doctor’s. I was out at lunch with mm when Mum called to say doc said it’s pneumonia. Ack. I went home asap.

Apparently it’s community-acquired bronchopneumonia. Coughing, tiredness and not enough oxygen leading to shortness of breath and increased heart rate. Doc actually recommended an overnight hospital stay but there weren’t any beds so dad got a shot instead. He slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon and wow, the shot was good. Temp down to 37.4ºC and he felt good enough to walk around, take a bath and even attempted to wash dishes before we shooed him away.

Mum and I made dinner. Congee with veg for dad and leftover noodles for us. We called Sis to update her. Doctor’s orders were that no one visits, so we told sis to stay put. Doc also said mum and I are likely already infected but our bodies may be able to fight it. Reminds me of that Plague game I play. I had a sore throat a couple of days ago and right now I feel a little discomfort in my chest and have a slight cough. Went running with no problems though and have been drinking water.

Our family tends to not communicate; we can sit around the dinner table in total silence. Sometimes communication takes the form of irritated words. A small illness like this made us work better together. I’m doing my very best to be patient and understanding. Mum is also stepping up. I know Sis will pitch in immediately whenever she is needed. We spend too much time normally arguing about tiny things, it’s not worth it and I should always try to be positive and supporting.

The trip to Europe is at risk. We’ll see how it goes over the Easter weekend. Mum will probably cancel her ticket so now it’s up to me to decide if I want to continue the trip on my own or shorten it.

running 30k

running20160312
30.36km 4.36.18hr 9.06min/km (I took 7 minutes off for stoppages, see post)

It’s been said that a marathon is a 20-mile warm up followed by a 10k race. There is definitely something mystical about the 20-mile marker. It’s the longest long run in many training programs, and is also the point where the wall hits.

After bonking last weekend’s long run, I approached this weekend’s milestone 20-miler with trepidation. Argh the first few meters: shoelaces felt too tight, knee brace kept falling down. Not a good sign.

20 miles is 32km, so I mentally split the run into sections: 12k, 20k, 27k, 32k. Increasingly smaller distances between breaks, because inevitably I get tired towards the end. Surprisingly I got to 8k and felt all right. Had a stroopwafel and the green tea I brought as hydration at 12k. Another fuel break between 19-20k of gu and water. Went over to the smaller park for the final third. Slow for a bit, another gu break at 25k after which somehow I found second wind. Legs even felt fresh at that point. Huh.

I stopped at 30k or almost 19 miles because I ran out of time–I volunteered to get dinner, prices go up after 6pm and it was 5.45pm. Could I have gone another 2k? Yep, I was slowing down a little, but not significantly.

Overall I think I did some stuff right. Mentally I wasn’t putting pressure on myself. I foam rollered my ITB beforehand. I made myself take fuel breaks, because I remembered that by the time you feel you need food and/or water, it’s too late. Unlike previous long runs, I didn’t physically stop for fuel breaks; I kept walking. Although I did take 7mins off my total time for stoppages–traffic lights and water fountains.

Quite pleased with completing this milestone training run. Legs were okay afterwards, I walked around the shopping centre in search of dinner and walked to the bus stop without too much pain. This is the key. If I’m pain-free on race day, I have a chance of finishing in decent shape. It’ll never be a PR time, I think those days are gone. Still, if I’m able to replicate today’s performance in 3 weeks’ time, I’ll be okay.

running with medication

running20160306
17.21km 2.50.32hr 9.55min/km

Worse.Run.Ever.

The plan was 12 miles or 19km. I thought I’d split it up into 11-12km, a break for fuel then the remainder. Started off fine. First 10k was okay, the slower paced bits were either stoppage for traffic light or water fountain.

Convenient break at 11km at one of the parks. Had a stroopwafel and a bottle of energy drink. The second part of the run, argh. Went 500m then had to stop and walk. Simply had no legs to run for anything more than 1km or so. Ran some, then had to walk. Gave up at 16km and walked home. Out of breath and no energy. This is ridiculous, I did 28km last weekend and two 13km runs mid-week. I can’t go 11km and then bonk.

The only significant change from last week was starting on HBP medicine. It’s the third day but BP hadn’t gone down. [edit: measured at night before bed, 131/88. Okay, silver lining.] There is some anecdotal evidence that hypertension medication may aversely affect performance. ACE inhibitors and their cousins ARBs, of which Blopress is an example, are supposed to:

have no major effects on energy metabolism and cause no impairment of maximum oxygen uptake. In general, these drugs have no deleterious effects on training or competition.

In fact, one study concluded that ACE inhibitors enhances peak exercise capacity.

A couple of things may be at play here. First, I could have just had a bad running day, it happens. Second, medication affect different people in different ways. My body is not used to medication apart from anti-histamine and the occasional panadol. Mentally my head keeps telling me it doesn’t like the prospect of being on long term medication, and therefore may have contributed to a bad run.

There’s less than one month to go do sort this out. Adding to the stress of moving, unpacking, trying to find space to put stuff, selling things, finding an estate agent to list the flat for sale. Ha, no wonder my BP is high.

health check results are out

cholesterol201603

The results from the health check came back. Apart from high blood pressure, the rest were all right. Saw both the doctor who did the checkup and a dietician, which is part of the package. The report highlighted readings that were outside the acceptable range and both pointed out the highlight in HDL, or good cholesterol levels. The dietician actually said she has to congratulate me. I like this dietician, she said to continue with what I’m already doing in terms of food and exercise. She also agrees with me that we shouldn’t become overly dependent on medicine and supplements. I told her I take a multi-vitamin whenever I remember, but I’m not in the habit of laying out a row of pills in the morning that I have to take. She was supportive of this mindset.

Of course the big worry is BP. I know this for a long time, and have been avoiding it. May as well face the music. Went off to see sis’ family doctor who gave me blopress which apparently is a newer medicine with fewer side effects. Not sure why she said newer, if it’s already available in generic form. Low dosage, I’m to measure BP daily and go back to see her in a week. Just what I hate, seeing a doctor especially since it’ll possibly mean regularly. Let’s see how it goes, it takes a week or so to fully take effect.

running around day 2

I need to get a medical certificate for the marathon, so I booked an appointment for a health checkup. It’s high time I had a checkup anyway. I very rarely go to the doctor’s so I was a bit lost about what to do. Basically the routine is go from one location seeing one nurse or doctor or specialist after another: take BP, take history, physical examination, blood test, EKG, chest x-ray, cashier. Went from LG1 to LG2 to 5th floor to ground floor of a 5 wing hospital. Argh.

Some of the nurses and specialists were nice. The one nurse ‘in charge’ of me was especially great. The doctor who did the physical exam I didn’t like. Not only was he completely without expression, it seemed like he was going through the motions. Plus he wanted to charge me local $500 ($65) for signing a simple medical cert. The checkup nurse pulled me aside and advised me to take the report and go to a family doctor. Well, she actually said my family doctor but she wasn’t to know I almost never go to the doctor. I have been to one near mm a lot of years ago, or I can use my sis’ doctor. Let’s see.

By the end of the tests I was hungry and thirsty–no food or drink (except a little water) allowed for 8hrs prior. So I quickly made my way to the nearest housing estate to have breakfast. Then it was neither here nor there. It was 11am, I was at the other side of town, I had an appointment at 2.30pm. What to do with the time. At the end, I went home. But better to spend 1hr getting home and having a cup of tea and relaxing than wandering around aimlessly for more than 3hrs.

The appointment at 2.30pm was with my FA, to sign some forms and talk about strategy in light of recent market downturns and the pound’s devaluation. I wanted to buy some more GBP since it’s so cheap. So we decided to take some profit in one of the USD funds and keep the GBP either as cash or in money market bonds. Then when GBP goes back up again, sell and repurchase other funds. We met a a coffee shop and since I hadn’t had anything since breakfast, the berry tart was my lunch.

noodleskale201602 barbaresco1996

Went over to sis’, she invited me for dinner. We had another vegetarian meal, this time of rice noodles and baked kale. I could have finished the entire try of kale myself. I brought over a bottle of wine from my collection–time to start drinking up my stash, in the new spirit of downsizing I going to work at reducing the size of my alcohol stash. This was a Barbaresco 1996 I bought in Verona when I was living in Zurich. It means that it’s been shipped 1.5 times around the world. The cork was a bit soaked and soft but I carefully took it out to prevent the wine from being corked. Immediately I could smell the fruit. Peppery, rich, fruity. Good wine.

Finally, the end result of another running around day. No real running, must go tomorrow. My right arm has a big bruise where they took a blood sample. It’s a sign of whether the technican is any good, I’ve had blood taken out with just a pin prick and no bruise. This time, it was quite painful when she was drawing blood (even though I’m not afraid of needles or having blood taken) and now there’s a 10p coin sized bruise. On my left side, I banged my little finger against something on the bus and it’s now swollen, feels bruised and I can’t bend it. Argh.

running 20160207

running20160207

10.13km 1.15.17hr 7.25min/km

An unremarkable distance over an unremarkable time. But it’s my first run in 12 days, so it’s a small achievement. I’m ignoring that according to the training program, it’s supposed to be a 17mile/27km run this weekend. I need to slowly get back on track.

I have a suspicion that the GPS is short when I run along bowen road. It felt slower than 7.25. I don’t remember stopping halfway, even though the app says I did. Hmm. The first dip is a long uphill stretch and the last 2 dips are for uphill and traffic light.

I’m still coughing, but I don’t feel like I’m coughing up my lungs constantly. It’s gotten better the last 1-2 days but I know it’ll take a few more weeks to clear.

Another positive: no knee pain, yay.

atlas wearables fitness tracker review

tl;dr: crowdfunded a fitness tracker from atlas wearables, delivered one year late. Has some potential, functionality hit and miss, doesn’t track running. First impressions: a disappointment.


Two years ago I saw a project on indiegogo, a fitness tracker wristband by a startup called atlas that not only tracks exercises but learn new ones based on the user’s body movements through the device’s motion sensors. At that time (Jan-2014) it seemed to be a really great invention. The wearables market then wasn’t as huge as it is now; fitbit and pebble were new, most people’s idea of a fitness tracker were running watches with heart-rate monitor straps like garmin or polar.

I paid US$175, not an early bird price but one of the second wave backers. For that, I was promised one atlas wristband as well as a technical t-shirt. The t-shirt duly arrived around april. It’s nice, I wear it quite often on runs.

The delivery date of the wristband itself was initially late 2014, in time for Christmas. The first sign of trouble was when atlas’ lead engineer was hired away by apple, presumably to work on what we now know as the apple watch. Late 2014 came and went. Delivery date was pushed back to april 2015. Another email in april 2015, stating delivery

late June through early August

and that there will be

no compromises

Ha! Guess what, they went back on their word. They stopped sending detailed timelines and switched to vague traffic light updates.

I thought, summer 2015, I’ll at least get to use it for chicago marathon training. Ha! October 2015 came and went, and still no sign of delivery. There were emails enthusiastically saying “soon, soon, soon” and then hints that we’ll be getting emails to confirm our addresses shortly. People were getting frustrated and angry, for good reason. But short of asking for a refund, nothing much we could do.

Backing people on crowdfunding platforms is not buying. There have been sordid tales of kickstarter campaigns completely failing to deliver, or the originators disappearing with backers’ money. Someone described crowdfunding as a donation, so basically donor beware.

Finally in november, an email that said emails to confirm addresses have started and the devices will be shipped imminently. But to add insult to injury, instead of fulfilling backers’ orders, they had a black friday sale that promised delivery in 30-45 days. PEOPLE WHO BUY IN NOV-2015 WOULD BE GETTING THEIR DEVICES BEFORE PEOPLE WHO ORDERED IT IN JAN-2014. There was an uproar, again for good reason. They backtracked and clarified that black friday orders will not be sent before backer orders. Yeah, riiight.

At that point, I was this close to writing in for a refund. There wasn’t a lot of patience and goodwill left. Then I realised they were probably victims of their own success and I should give them one last chance. I decided to stick with waiting and see if it delivers the great functionalities it promised.

When they asked me to confirm my address in december, I told them that I don’t want it to be sent to the US anymore since they missed the windows of time when I was around. I refused to pay international delivery, and they relented. Honestly, if they’d asked me to shell out US$15 for delivery I would have asked for a refund there and then. Anyway, I got my atlas wristband just before Christmas, almost 2 years after I ordered it.

atlas01wristband

I watched the intro videos and downloaded the app. The impression I had gotten when I ordered is that I can just put it on, press a button or two and start working out. It’ll then track the exercises. Ha! Nothing can be further from the truth. Here’s one month’s experience.

setup
The device seems sturdy and well manufactured. Chunkier than I thought. The tracker snaps into its slot on the wristband and is held in place by a magnet, so there’s little chance of it falling out. Charging via micro-usb, the port is on the inside of the tracker so it’s protected from the elements. On the minus side, the screen is small and a bit too sensitive to touch. It’s also designed to be used on the left wrist; it’s possible to wear it on the right, but it’s awkward to control.

The tracker has to be synced to the app. In fact, all controls are via the app which then syncs to the tracker using bluetooth. Many complaints on the atlas fb page about units in pounds and feet, it’s straightforward to change to kg and km on the profile page on the app.

exercises
The device comes pre-loaded with a workout called #firstworkout: 10mins of jumping jacks, burpees, crunches etc. There are other pre-set workouts on the app: a strenghten 4 week series, one called the core blaster and one called wods.

What I figured out is that the system works on a 2-step process: a) set the exercises I want to do on the app; b) sync to the tracker. So if I want to do the core blaster, I have to sync it to the tracker and it will replace #firstworkout. This means there can only be one routine on the tracker at any one time.

own workout
I can set a routine by selecting from a bunch of available exercises on the app then sync it to the tracker. The list of exercises include the usual suspects: bodyweight exercises like crunch and pushup as well as a bunch of dumbbell, kettlebell and TRX exercises. Some are not available, like planks.

atlas05trx

To actually do the exercises, the workout routine has to be synced to the tracker. Only one own workout can be loaded to tracker at one time, so own workouts replace the stock ones. I made one with my usual routine and another TRX one. It says 8mins, I doubt I can finish all those in 8mins.

freestyle exercises
A second slot on the tracker is for freestyle exercises. Like the stock and own workouts, these have to be pre-loaded to the tracker. I can pre-load up to 15 of these.

The biggest problem is the pre-loading. Yes, 15 exercises should be enough but what about when you’re in the middle of a freestyle routine and want to do an exercise that you haven’t pre-loaded? You have to stop what you’re doing, open up the app, select the missing exercise, sync to the tracker. Or, not track that particular exercise. It’s a PITA.

The tracker is supposed to recognise exercises based on body movements. This I find to be hit and miss. It recognised and correctly tracked tricep dips and burpees from the get go. It needed a few times before recognising crunches and mountain climbers and it didn’t count correctly every time. I gave up on having it track squats. It doesn’t track lunges, so I end up with data that is never 100% complete.

atlas06freestyle

When I finish and sync back to the app, I get some basic stats. I spend a lot of time editing the exercises, both the name and the number of reps.

running
It doesn’t track running: this is a MAJOR disappointment for me, and looking back at the indiegogo campaign, running was one of the ‘exercise footprints’ advertised.

atlas02fingerprints

We’re told to use heartrate mode. Okay, yes it tracked my heartrate and time and calories, but no distance. Plus I don’t believe I burn 570 calories running 50mins. A game tracks more than this dedicated fitness tracker. This is utterly useless.

atlas07running

battery
According to atlas, the battery is supposed to last an entire week of 1 hour workouts. I find that to be a blatant lie. I switched it off at 100% one night, and when I woke up, there was 4% left. Running for just under 1.5hrs causes the battery to go from 100% to 58%.

Like iphones, the battery is housed inside the tracker and can’t be replaced. We’re told the tracker has

a tested lifespan of 2-3 years, which is standard in the electronics industry

Wait, wait, what?! It only lasts 2-3 years, then it dies? Oh, I see. I’m expected then to buy a new one, at full retail price. It’s currently US$225, so who knows what it will be in 2-3 years’ time.

You know what, atlas? When my device dies, I will definitely buy a new fitness tracker, and based on how I feel now, it almost certainly will not be your product.

running 20160116

runningfield201601

6.03km 47.15min 7.50min/km

Weather is grotty: heavy rain and windy yesterday, less heavy today but still steady. Swapping the weekend long run with monday’s short run since it’s supposed to be at least not raining on monday. Ran around the field I discovered last week. The field was actually very quiet during the week, with around 10 walkers and runners plus one kid playing basketball. Today there were baseball lessons for small kids, and one team was there practicing.

Like all parks here, it’s gated and staffed by a cleaning crew so there is always someone around. Makes it a bit safer, even though generally it’s a safe area. What I like about it is that I don’t need to cross any main road or traffic lights to get to it. Leave our building, turn right, right again at the bottom of our street and straight up. Most of the first 1.5km is uphill, which also means the last 1.5km is downhill. Wheeeeee.

running 20160101 | baseball

baseball20161010

13.01km 1.42.36hr 7.53min/km

I really didn’t want to go running but somehow forced myself outside. Couldn’t be bothered to trek all the way to the parks I normally go to, just ran up to the sad housing estate and back a couple of times.

The second cycle I went into the estate via a different street and saw a pedestrian bridge leading what what looks like another park. This one is well hidden between buildings and a giant flyover. I thought I’d go exploring.

Turned out to be quite a large flat area. One basketball court and the rest is dirt field. Today there were lots of teams there playing baseball. There were at least 3 games going on and the rest of the field were occupied by teams practicing. One or two runners there running around the entire field. I knew baseball is played here, an ex-colleague used to play (still does, I see her posts on fb), I didn’t know where. Now I know. Seems like this is one of a few local venues.

Oh, running. Not too bad. Between foam rollering, squats as part of the 30 day challenge and wearing a sturdy knee brace, the pain has subsided a fair amount.

running 2015

running2015

Summary of 2015 running, by month, showing total distance and average pace. Combined with walking and biking. More stationary bike and walking during early months; a lot of walking in March and April during our Europe trip, which still didn’t make up for the lack of running. Looking back, slow pace especially during the summer months wasn’t just because of heat and humidity, there was also the hip/knee injury that I ignored. The sudden speediness in July was due to shorter indoor runs at the hotel treadmill.

By the numbers in both km and miles:

running2015table

High points: finished Chicago marathon
Low points: finished Chicago marathon in a crap time; injuries

Someone on reddit asked if you could have one wish for your running in 2016, what will it be. Run Faster? Run Longer? Run Injury Free? For me, definitely injury free, because:

injury free –> consistency –> longer –> faster

Interestingly, a commenter said,

if I was offered a deal by a genie that I get my sub-3 marathon, have to miss a month due to injury, then can come back healthy, I’d take it

If a genie offered me a 4.30 marathon but I have to miss a month’s running due to injury, I’d take it. If the genie offered me a sub-4 marathon then have to miss running for the rest of the year, I’d take it too.

#43: 101 crunches

30daychallenge

Task #43 of 101.1001 is to do 101 crunches.

Compared with 101 squats, this took longer to achieve because I’m poorer at crunches than at squats. What helped a great deal was I’ve been following a 30-day challenge that focused on crunches, squats, lunges and wall-sits. Started with 10 crunches on day 01 and reached 100 crunches (plus 75 squats and 100 lunges) on day 30. Not a problem to add one extra to get to 101.

A bunch of other people on fb are also following the program, which makes it more fun. It’s well known that crunches, squats and lunges are beneficial for all levels of fitness. I should continue the program to help strengthen my hips and core for running.

running 10 miles

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16.42km 2.13.36hr 8.08min/km

The 5-day rest seemed to have helped. I rearranged this week’s runs since I won’t have time on saturday or sunday to do the long run. Started off fine, pretty decent (for 2015) pace and good range of motion around hips and knees. Slowed down as I got tired. Around 12km the spot above my knee started to hurt, and it persisted till the end. Overall, the pain was manageable.

I split the run into 3 different missions, with two drinking breaks between missions. Miscalculated a bit, should have doubled back 500m or looped around a side street. The scheduled run is 11 miles or 17.6km, I was short 1km.

What I don’t like about zombiesrun is that it doesn’t give pretty graphs like nike+. I suppose I can turn on both nike+ and zombiesrun, they seem to coexist happily enough. It’ll be a drain on the battery.

running rest

bbktapeknee

Last run was Tuesday. Have only been walking and doing bodyweight exercises since then. Knee, hip and sometimes calf hurt. Taking a leaf out of how elites treat ITBS in 5 days:

  1. stop running — the advice is simple: if it hurts to run, don’t run
  2. increase strength — the #30daychallenge I’m following has squats, lunges and crunches, it’s perfect for my injury
  3. massage the injured area — foam rollering every day, it’s painful but needs to be done
  4. sleep more — trying, but not always possible

Honestly I’m not seeing huge improvements. I did some running on the spot and it still hurts. I can feel the tightness even when I’m sitting down now. Let’s see how I feel over the weekend, may be a short run.

hip stretches

I decided that my ITBS and loss of pace are both partially due to hip issues. The tightening of the hip flexor makes the legs feel heavy and severely limit the range of motion around the hips and knees. Started training for a week now and each run is accompanied by either hip or knee pain, sometimes both.

This is the first time I’ve had hip pain. So I added hips to my foam roller routine. I’ve also been doing some of the back stretches I found earlier this year when I had lower back pain, because it’s all connected. The hip flexor group of muscles goes from the lower spine through the pelvis and to the thigh. The hours spent sitting on a chair all day fix the muscles at a compressed position. Obviously the less time sitting the better, but other than that I need to find a way to release the shorted muscle group.

This is one hip flexor exercise I found on youtube. Initially I was only able to hold the position for 10 seconds, especially with the problematic left side. The purpose is to reverse the chair sitting posture.

crescentlunge

Looks similar to some yoga poses, like crescent or low lunges.

It’s hard to tell whether any of this is effective. The weekend run was faster, although I’m pretty sure it’s because it was absolutely pouring and I was hurrying home. The long run today was just as slow as before–there was knee pain but minimum hip pain.

chicago marathon race report

chimarathon101split

42.2km 6.35.15hr 9.22min/km

overall: 36785 / 46033
gender: 16841 / 16955
age division: 1029 / 1041

Set alarm at 5am but woke up at 4am. Tea, a couple of waffles, a banana and a cereal bar for breakfast. Superfriend Carleen dropped me off and I joined thousands of people walking towards the start line. Found a quiet spot to watch the sunrise then joined the horrendous line for the portaloo. After half an hour in the cold wind the line hadn’t moved much but then someone came over and told us about other portaloos with shorter lines.

The corral was crowded. Wave 2 start was 8am, I crosssed the start line at around 8.11am. I felt great and happy. The crowds were fantastic and pushed me on, soon I found myself at LaSalle and 5k already. Lots of fun signs from spectators urging us on.

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Things haven’t changed from 2010 and 2011: I stopped for the traditional pic outside the chicago theatre, there was warm support at Moody’s church, music at boystown, Japanese drummers at mile 10, the lasalle church opening their toilets up for us at mile 11. The roar of the crowds really did help.

chimarathon058flag

I also caught up with a runner holding an American flag at lincoln park, same as 2011 but different guy. Saw a fireman in full gear too. And a man in his 70s with “50th marathon” on his shirt. I spent quite a bit high-fiving kids and grinning.

Around mile 10 was when it started going pear shaped. First I got a nasty side stitch, which I hardly ever do. Then my left knee started hurting, which affected my calf and then moved to my right leg and finally my back. Basically anything that could hurt, was hurting. So disappointing, the wall came early. Even the biofreeze and tylenol at mile 12 wasn’t much help.

chimarathon071beer chimarathon077turbo

It’s always good to reach halfway, located just behind the old office. HM was at almost exactly 3hrs. I was pretty behind schedule at that point. After mile 13, the crowds thinned out and there wasn’t much shade. I started slowing down significantly and walked a lot. From mile 14 onwards it was boring and tough. Mile 19 was good, loud crowds through Pilsen. Lots of music and drums. Still a lot of walking. When first the 5.10 then 5.25 and finally 5.45 pace groups caught up with me, I tried my best to follow them for as long as I could.

After mile 22 from chinatown to sox park it was awful. Walking and walking. Turning into IIT and back north on michigan was more walking. I was keeping track of my time and I knew I was perilously close to the 6.30 cut off time. At mile 25 it was the final push. I picked up the pace and ran the last mile. It seemed forever before I saw the screen and the right turn up the hill. 400m, 200m and then it was finally the finish line. My iphone registered 6.33. I think they pushed the cut off time because of the hot weather.

chimarathon092finish chimarathon096medal

I collected my medal, a couple of bottles of water and a banana. There was a beer truck right at the finish, but unfortunately the beer was warm. The best thing was a cool, wet towel they gave us. Had my pic taken with the medal, couldn’t be bothered to go to the other side of the park for the tents. The exit closest to me was nearest the train station so that was where I headed.

I had more than 30mins to wait for the train. Felt a little dizzy and realised I hadn’t had much to eat for 7 hours apart from gu, bloks and gatorade. Fished through the goodie bag and found chocolate, and chocolate milk. That helped.

Carleen picked me up at the train station and we had pizza for dinner. I was more tired than hungry, and my feet were hurting. I came back to the house with the news that my fb friends had been tracking my progress online and there were dozens of comments and well-wishes. So moving. I posted a thank you status plus a pic of the medal and there were even more well-wishes. My fb friends are so wonderful. I didn’t even meet my most basic goal (beat 6.30) but the overwhelming support from the organisers, volunteers, fellow runners and my friends more than made up for the disappointment. Looking on the positive side, I finished. And that’s the most important accomplishment.

I didn’t take my camera with me, just used the iphone: uploaded to flickr.

p.s. this also counts as #99 of 101.1001 because I found a race, and I trained for it.

#chimarathon expo

Caught the train to the city and walked about 15mins to the Hilton to catch the shuttlebus to the marathon expo. The queue for the bus was long, I had to wait for bus #4 before it was my turn to board. Took about 15mins to get to McCormick Place. The expo started at 9am this morning and I got there around 10.30am. The place was big enough that it didn’t feel crowded.

chimarathon011fast

Got my confirmation scanned, got my bib, got my shirt. Nice shirt colour this year, a deep red, more maroon than the bright red of 2010. I made it a point to systematically visit every stall. I had on my shopping list the race cap and a few gu packets. I bought the cap ($30!!!) and resisted the t-shirt ($45). Bought a combination of gu and bloks. Sampled many cereal bars, bloks and gatorade. Bought a set of 3 bondi bands since the ones I have are getting grubby. Looked into socks but decided the pair I brought is good enough and I’d buy socks when I get back.

There were also tons of freebies. Encouragement signs, cowbells (sponsored by ML so in ML blue), a poster, space blanket, shoe bag and lots of leaflets in the official bag. Got a 30 second massage on my ITB at the free massage stand. Chatted with people at other marathon desks. Osaka marathon in October (though I’m wary of autumn marathons now) and Dusseldorf marathon in April. The lady at the Dusseldorf desk was super nice, it’s just a shame that it clashes with Paris.

chimarathon029pizza

By the time I was finished it was 12.30pm. The bus back downtown was less crowded and I walked around the corner to go to Lou Malnati’s. It’s been a while, and I had a craving for deep dish. The wait was around 15mins for a table, during which we were encouraged to put our order in to shorten the wait for food. I ordered the lunch special — small pizza with salad and a drink for $8.95. The pizza was smaller than expected, very tasty especially the crust and the sausage. It appeared that many people had the same idea for carb-loading, I saw many people with the marathon bags or marathon t-shirts in the restaurant.

chimarathon031gear

Train back and it was time to empty the bag and sort out my gear. Less than 2 days to go, it’s getting closer.

 

 

duh: how to not get drunk, exercise is good for you

Read about a couple of studies in the news. The results are so blindingly obvious that one wonders who a) thought of the study and b) who funded it. As someone from reddit commented (I can’t remember which subreddit)

in other news, studies found that water is wet

christmasbeer02

Blindingly obvious study #1: to avoid hangovers, drink less. Some scientists studied 1,600 students in the Netherlands and Canada, measuring their blood alcohol levels after a night of alcohol consumption. The results is a straight-line graph:

the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover

gold068gym

Blindingly obvious study #2: exercise is good for you. A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress of 69 people who normally don’t exercise and then started walking for 6 months buys between 3 to 7 additional years of life. Exercise is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, it may retard the onset of dementia and basically

when people exercise regularly, they may be able to retard the process of ageing

“conference crud”

hottoddy01

Several people at the conference were under the weather—in a gathering of 350 people, statistically there will be someone with a cold or cough. Others reported coming down with conference crud after they got home. I had a low-grade, dryish cough throughout conference week, not enough to bother me. It flared up for real on the plane, probably due to the dry atmosphere. It also moved from the back of my throat down towards my lungs. Ugh.

I took some panadol and found some cough medicine in the fridge. Mostly, I know that medicine doesn’t work with coughs and it’ll go away by itself eventually. Went to the market to buy ingredients for soup and to get some lemons. Regular honey & lemon during the day and hot toddy near bedtime—jim beam black, honey, lemon, half a stick of cinnamon, hot water. A couple of glasses at nght beats going to the doctor.

taking responsibility for my own health

I didn’t tell my parents about my back pain; I did the stretching exercises in my room, and went about my business as usual, albeit a little bit slowly. I did that for my own sanity. I know that their first reaction will be one or more of: take medicine, put on medicated rub, see doctor. They are so convinced that the only solution to medical problems is to medicate, and seeing a doctor is the only course of action. It’s come to a point where I daren’t sniff, cough or even rotate my shoulders in front of my mum.

pillman

I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, or an age thing. I definitely hope not the latter; I can’t stand thinking that I’d become them, counting out half a dozen pills every day and going to the doctor’s at the drop of a hat. May be it’s the elephant in the room, the fear of dying. As we grow older, we are more aware and afraid of every little pain or discomfort, because it may signal or turn into something more sinister. My parents are lucky in that their medical care is free, may be if they needed to pay (like I have to get insurance myself), they’d behave differently. I really don’t know.

I find that I’m not the only one with a different attitude towards healthcare than my parents:

Doctors and medicines – my mother’s belief was that these and only these could ever have a positive impact on health.

I applied to study medicine at university before being rejected and switching to chemistry. While I’m satisfied at the way my career worked out, sometimes when I’m watching a medical documentary or a program like ER I wonder if I would have been a good doctor. The reality is the medicine is all about business nowadays, to the detriment of its fundamental operating principle, helping people.

It seems though, that the world has turned into lose-lose propositions for both doctors and patients. Atul Gawande talked about overkill and the proliferation of no-value care: a study of 1 million medicare patients found that 25-42% received at least one of 26 tests and treatments determined to have no benefit or to be outright harmful. The problem is, health services are paid based on treatment provided, not illness prevented. An interesting analogy:

Why would doctors and nurses want to help people look after themselves? It is tantamount to a top restaurant learning that their new task is going to be – in addition to serving splendid food in a smart environment – teaching people to cook at home. Why undermine the business by running cookery classes?

Scrap that. There is a big winner in all of this. Pharmaceutical companies enjoy profit margins of almost 20%. Yes, I know R&D costs are high, risks are high and once a drug comes out of patent the company can no longer make money. But these companies don’t seem to be suffering. It’s an endless cycle—patients expect drugs, doctors prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies charge more and more for the drugs. It’s an endless cycle.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I had a great GP. His prescription to most of my illnesses, especially when it was flu-like, was rest and a few paracetamols if I want to. I’m probably at the extreme of the spectrum. I don’t like going to see the doctor, not because I’m afraid of going to the clinic or hospital, but because I don’t think a course of antibiotics is the solution. Rest, healthy eating and exercise will help strengthen our bodies against common infections. The only exception, I take anti-histammines for my allergy, that can’t be helped.

I think it’s called taking responsibility for my own health.

One of the discovery channels has just started showing The Food Hospital, where nutrition is used to target medical conditions and symptoms such as diabetes, acid reflux and skin allergies. It’s fascinating viewing. Food isn’t the cure for in every case, but if it can help cancer, it can’t be dismissed out of hand.

I recently met a lady in her 70s who look barely older than me, who had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago. She is now the picture of health after changing her diet to a healthier one, and taking up meditation and taichi. She teaches a class every saturday at 9.30am, I need to get off my arse and go to one of those. And drag Mum along too.

foodprevention

Should we reach for the pill bottle every time we feel under the weather? Probably not. Should we abandon medicine for alternative or nutritional therapies? Probably not. The answer is somewhere in between. Eat sensibly, exercise often, go to the doctor when necessary. Figure out what works for ourselves. We only have one body each, and one lifetime each, if we don’t take responsibility for it, no one else will.

back stretches

backstretches

All of a sudden yesterday night my lower back started to really hurt. I get back pain sometimes after a run, which is why I rely so heavily on my foam roller. I’m at parents’ so no roller or alternative, and this time it’s especially painful and stiff. I googled and found quite a lot of stretches aimed at reliefing lower back tension. Put the images together in one place for easy reference.

Wow, I didn’t realise how stiff my hips and hamstrings are. I could feel the strain when I do these exercises. Not quite cured of back pain but feeling a bit looser in places. Plus, improving hip extension is good for running.

I especially like this hamstring stretch. I use a resistance band and a small pillow in place of the yoga gear.

drowsy nap

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Allergies have been hitting me hard since I came back from our trip. My preferred anti-histamine is triludan but I don’t have a lot of readily available supplies. I’ve sort of kept the allergies under control for the last couple of years with claritin, or rather the generic version, loratadine. The recommended dosage is 1 a day, but there have been days when I’ve had 2-3 a day. It works slowly and doesn’t make me drowsy.

Just to switch things up a little, I tried taking zyrtec last night. Woke up with low grade itchiness so I took another one. It’s not supposed to make people drowsy. I don’t know if it’s a new drug, or I’m tired, but it made me drowsy. I had to climb into bed for a quick nap in the afternoon.

Needless to say, today’s plan of going running got threw out of the window. Stupid allergies. I hate this part of the world.

#45 kickboxing class

boxinggloves boxingring

Task #45 of 101.1001 is to take a tai chi, yoga or martial arts class. This is one of the ones carried over from the 2007 challenge. This time I was determined to sign up and attend at least one class. The opportunity came when Sis said to come with her to kickboxing class. That counts as a martial arts, right?

The gym looked pretty serious, with separate men’s and women’s sections separated by the reception area. There is a small changing room with showers. Sis had spare gloves for me but I had to get wrapping bandages for my hands and ankle protectors. The class was definitely a beginners’ class and it was more like using kickboxing moves in a cardio routine. Punching with or without gloves, kicking in the air or against the punchbag, squats, pushups, and combinations. The first part of the class was easy enough, and then the instructor started giving us more complex routines. Burpees combined with punching and kicking; crouching (as if to avoid an opponent) and crunches.

All in all, an intense workout. I got tired towards the end. Not sure if I’ll go again, perhaps. Some people like class exercises, I don’t. I prefer running and doing weights at home so I don’t need to be in the company of other people. Plus, I don’t see the point of paying so much for gym or kickboxing studio membership and class fees.

europe day 33: 285km 456,000 steps total

Technically today is still a travelling day so I’m calling it europe day 33. Fight was about 20mins early but the gain was completely wiped out by the slow-moving taxi queue. I had a lot with me—big suitcase, check-in backpack, hand luggage backpack, small bag with chocolates, duty free purchases. My major purchases were chocolate & snacks mostly for mum, tons of fridge magnets and 5 bottles of whisky. The heaviest were the whiskies at 6kg, I think I’ve done well to keep the weight manageable. I’m glad of mm’s silver status that gave us an extra 10kg.

Unpacked very slowly, then showered and did laundry. Another reason for airbnb: we did most of our laundry in London so our suitcases were mostly filled with clean clothes and I really only had 3/4 of a full load when I got home.

eutrip082pics

I’ll be jetlagged for a week or two while I work on post-trip stuff. Immediate concerns are to pay utilities and credit card bills. Trip spreadsheet is a matter of data entry and checking FX charged by credit cards. There are 3,267 images to sort and upload so this will take a while. I’m estimating around 1,500 when I’m done. At least we’ve had wifi throughout the trip so I’ve been able to post reports daily.

eutrip081mifit

The day before we set off, mm’s brother got us a simple fitness band and we have been tracking our steps and sleep all trip. We have to sync it to the mifit app, as there is no display on the tracker itself. According to mifit, I walked 285km at an average of 8.93km for 32 days; 456,276 steps average 14,259 per day. I read that the band may be 25% off, which may account for why mine would show 10,000+ steps while mm’s show 3,000. An average of 6.5km and 10,700 steps average per day seems more reasonable. There were days especially in Netherlands and Italy that we walked a lot; once we got to Ireland we had the car and in London we stayed in quite a lot.

500 calories: fries or wine

500calories

I’m at the point in the training program when I’m starting to get more hungry more often. We ran out of eggs and a few grocery items so I went for a quick 5k (quick is relative, at 7.23min/km it’s not speedy by any means) then dropped by the supermarket. For only running 5k I shouldn’t feel so hungry afterwards, but I was. I had to limit myself to just a few of the blueberry pikelets I made yesterday. 5k is only around 300 calories which is a croissant or 6 pieces of chicken mcnuggets (not including sauce).

Came across this graphic on twitter. I think it originated from food and wine magazine. The article from 2011, which is probably still relevant, compares fast food items against wine in terms of calories. So a krispy kreme glazed doughnut is aound 1 2/3 glasses of wine and mcdonalds large fries at 500 calories is equivalent to 4 1/3 glasses of cabernet sauvignon.

I always track on the basis that a glass of red wine like cab is 125 calories making it 4 glasses instead. Nevertheless, I know which 500 calories I’d rather enjoy.

easing back

running man

Surreal past few days, with acute allergy attack and medicine that made me extremely drowsy. Will probably take the last of the piriton tonight, get lots of sleep and then try to get back on track tomorrow. Or rest another day then start week 2 on monday. Luckily it’s the beginning of the training and missing a week is insignificant. I still can’t figure out what caused the allergy attack. I’m a little scared of eating shellfish or nuts or even wheat that past few days, although I’ve never had any food allergies. Most likely it was an airborne allergen or I got bitten by something.  

allergy attack day 3

Slept almost 12hrs, with itchiness throughout the night. The angriest red patches have gone, just lighter patches remain. The redness and itchiness are moving to the extremities — both hands are swollen, both feet very red and even the scalp is irritated. I guess it’s like poison moving away so it dissolves. One would hope. 

allergy attack update

rash16oct

Really bad day. Rash has spread everywhere, feels hot and itchy. So much so that I sat in the bathtub with cold water to cool down. Then after dinner I may have developed a fever, so time to break out the cold towel. Going to bed early, piriton makes me drowsy. 

allergy attack

rash15oct

All of a sudden I’m itchy all over and I have red splotches everywhere, like multiple mosquito bites. Allergy attack but I can’t think of a trigger. Food? I was sitting on mum’s armchair, may be got bitten? Went to the outpatient’s clinic and got some medicine. They gave me a piriton shot too. Feeling miserable. 

30in30 #9: sleep early

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Task #9 of 30in30 is to sleep early.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I wake up in the middle of the night, usually 3 or 4am, then can’t get back to sleep until 5 or 6am. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m stressed. I don’t drink anything with caffeine after around 3pm, I don’t eat anything substantial after 8pm and because I don’t need to get up for work there are days when I’m in bed till 9 or 10am.

There’s so much research on sleep. Every so often there will be articles on why we can’t sleep, how many hours of sleep we really need and the science behind sleeping. All sort of interesting, but doesn’t solve my can’t sleep problem.

I’m going to bed early tonight. I hope I get some quality sleep.

30in30 #15: no snack day

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Task #15 in 30 in 30 is no snacks in a day.

Yes, I completed the task, but under annoying circumstances. It was slippery out, I tripped and fell on my bum, didn’t hurt my bum or back but 3 hours later my left knee got very painful and swelled up like a balloon. Had to go to the hospital to get it x-rayed and checked. No broken bones, a sprain with swelling. Argh!! And two days before we’re supposed to go on holiday.

With all the fuss and loss of appetite because of the pain, all I had today was pork chop for lunch and a pear in the evening so I could eat something with the medicine. The swelling seems to have gone down and less painful now. I’m using the walking stick, don’t want to graduate to the crutches yet, I can’t actually find the purple crutches, they should be in the closet but they are not.

30in30 #1: 50+ squats

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Starting 30 in 30 from the top, although the intention isn’t to work down the list daily. Task #1 is to do more than 50 squats in one set.

Squats are not difficult, but they are not easy either, especially to keep to good form towards the end of a long set. I ended up doing 3 sets @75 reps per set. Knees are a little sore, but it’ll pass. I think I can work up to a 101 rep set soon.