28 February 2009

The One-Eyed Runner

Some local runners are known as The Bull Runner, Bald Runner, The Fit Mommy, and even Running Fatboy. And then there's The One-Eyed Runner.

Um, that would have to be me. Currently.

I haven't literally lost an eye, folks, but I am technically half-blind right now, and will continue to be in the next 10 days.

It all started when I attended a workshop last Thursday afternoon. Almost four hours of continuous staring at presentations flashed onscreen through an LCD projector really strained my eyes--especially the right eye. When I got back to the office, my right eye felt particularly sore, and I ignored the pain, thinking that I was just tired and that my contact lenses were going dry. By Thursday evening, after an 8K run, my right eye was smarting and had a decidedly red color. I had to remove the contact lens because it was causing me much discomfort already.

I have been wearing soft contact lenses for 13 years now, so I attributed the soreness to lack of lubrication of my eyes. Even though the lenses are for extended wear, I still have this nasty habit of keeping them on for more than 16 hours a day, which in the long run, isn't good for my eyes.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm practically blind, so to speak. The grade of my eyes has now meteorically risen to 900 to 1,000 due to consistent abuse of this faculty; I've been reading voraciously since age 5. When I was a kid, I'd read a book every single day after homework and during my spare time (which was a lot, because kids back then had nothing much to do except watch TV and play tag anyway). And I would read anywhere, even by candlelight during those brownout years under the Ramos administration. I was so addicted to reading that my mom had to force-feed me because I refused to put a book down during lunch hours. Not kidding.

It also didn't help that my poor eyesight is genetic. My entire family--all nine of us--are eyeglass-toting people, with me winning the gold for poorest vision. I've had more pairs of glasses than I cared to count, with each new one getting thicker and more expensive as the years went by. I was already wearing contact lenses by senior high school, but I had a back-up pair of glasses with me. And when my last pair of glasses (plastic ultra thin, ultra light, ultra expensive, ultra everything) got stolen along with my bag and mobile phone at age twenty-something, I just gave up the idea of buying yet another pair--and ended up solely relying on contact lenses.

Fast forward to the year 2009, on the 28th day of February. I am sitting on a patient's chair inside the office of our family opthalmologist, meekly listening to the doctor as he admonishes me for neglecting my own eyesight for the nth time. He makes me go through a series of eye examinations (which includes him flipping my right eyelid to check the rest of my eyeball--waaaah) before issuing the verdict: my right eye is suffering from something called soft lens syndrome brought about by overuse of contact lenses. I also have a very thin retina and am highly myopic and experiencing high astigmatism. In other words, I may need corrective eye surgery at age thirty-something if my eyes continue to deteriorate.

Dr. Rey Santos (who happens to be an excellent opthalmologist and eye surgeon--one of the best, really) checks to see if the grade of my eyes has improved the last time I saw him. Left eye: 950--no change. Right eye: 1,250. Gulp. Big change. He is about to admonish me once more in his gentle, even tone of voice (which makes me feel worse because he is such an incredibly nice person) when the sound of cathedral bells is heard from his Apple iPhone. It's his alarm for the Three O' Clock Prayer.

He excuses himself to do his prayers, and I pray from my seat, only too happy to escape from his reprimand momentarily. Upon his return, we go through the usual eye chart alphabet thing-y and then he proceeds to prepare a prescription for my new eyeglass lenses (he was disappointed to know that I haven't been wearing glasses as back-up). I am told not to wear contact lens on my right eye in the next couple of days until he deems I'm ready to do so. In the meantime, I am required to get new eyeglasses, and eventually, around two weeks from now, new extended wear contact lenses.

But, he says, I should be wearing glasses while my right eye is healing. And since it takes 7 to 10 days to order my special lens (because of the extraordinarily high grade), I am currently without glasses and contact lens.

No glasses! No contact lens! How in the world am I going to see anything? I am so blind I can only see the blurred outlines of people's faces and bodies, and not their facial expressions. If I have to read something, I would have to be three inches away from the computer screen or book page. And worst of all, I would, literally, have to be helped in crossing the street.

Me being the stupid ass that I am, the first question I asked was, "Doc, can I join in tomorrow's race? Can I still run?"

I must have looked really gloomy, because Dr. Santos mulled over my question for a while and then said seriously, "Sure you can. You can still wear your contact lens on your left eye, you know, while you run. In fact, you have really no choice but to wear just one lens--unless you want to stay in bed for the next 10 days."

Yes! I am not totally blind after all! One eye is still better than nothing! I wanted to give him a big hug and say the Three O' Clock Prayer again out of sheer relief, but I restrained myself.

Of course, it's still not easy having just one eye that can see; my right eye is totally useless at this point. So this is me typing on my laptop, with the left eye working well because of my contact lens, while the right side is just a weird blur. I feel like Two-Face somehow.

Dr. Santos has instructed me to take these special anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial eyedrops for my right eye, and another bottle of eyedrops for both my eyes to serve as a lubricant. My next check-up with him will be in 7 to 10 days, and hopefully, I'll have glasses by then. But for now, I will just have to run with only one good eye, and I think I'll manage to survive tomorrow's Botak Paa-Bilisan 5K race without tripping or falling into a pothole (I hope).

Anyway, if blind men were able to run the New York City Marathon, surely a "one-eyed" girl like me can complete a 5K race!

27 February 2009

what to eat after a run

You gotta love Runner's World for actually encouraging you to drink chocolate milk after a run.

I have strong food cravings after a run. Usually, I crave for fish with garlic rice. Beef tapa, too. But mostly fish. And ever since I started running, Pancake House has been the post-race breakfast venue of my choice because of their pan-fried bangus with garlic rice and egg, as well as their chocolate chip pancakes.

Lately though, I've been really hungering for a post-run cereal breakfast. I don't know any breakfast places (except hotels) that have cereal on their menu, simply because people would rather buy a box of cornflakes from the grocery and eat at home. But there's more joy in unwinding and having a post-run breakfast celebration in a restaurant than at home. If you know of a cheap breakfast place that includes cereal, please drop me a note.

One of the many great things about running is that you have to eat after a run. According to various health and fitness sites, there's a 15 to 60-minute "recovery window" for runners (and for people who work out in general) to refuel because it is after strenuous exercise that the body most needs nutrients to repair muscle tissue and replace glycogen stores, which are responsible for providing the body with energy during exercise. You need to replace these depleted stores; otherwise you won't have enough energy in your next run/exercise, and your performance will suffer.

Such fantastic, craving-friendly scientific truth. I'm definitely going for chocolate milk next time.

26 February 2009

Starbucks instant coffee?

What were they thinking??

I find this whole notion disturbing and, well, totally against my principles. Not that my personal beliefs on what constitutes good quality coffee would matter to Howard Schultz anyway.

This new product just screams RECESSION to me.

25 February 2009

some "Very Hard" training to do

Running in last Sunday's RUNew 5K race has made me realize that if I don't want to be gasping for breath all the way up to the Kalayaan Flyover on the March 22 10K Condura Run, I will need to practice some more.

Last Monday, I found myself poring over training information found in Runner's World, which is a super helpful source of training and nutrition materials for runners at all levels. In this site, I saw a nifty little tool called SmartCoach which automatically calculates an individualized training program for you based on existing data on your current running abilities as well as your training goal. I don't know anyone who's tried SmartCoach, so I'll probably be my own guinea pig. Haha. Anyway, a training program is better than none at all, and at least I'll get to train on my own at a time that's convenient for me. I usually get out of the office around 8 pm (sad face), and so from 8:30 pm onwards, I'm free to run.

Before the customized program was calculated, I had to answer a question on how hard I wanted to train. Obviously, I didn't want to be a sissy and go for "moderate" especially if I'm planning to go up that darned flyover.

And so I put "very hard" instead. Hahahaha. Good luck to me, right? So anyway, here's the program that SmartCoach churned out for me which I'm supposed to follow in preparation for my 10K Condura Run:

Workouts: All runs are Easy, Long, Tempo, or Speedwork
Dist: Total miles for the day
Dist/Time: 9mi @ 9:11 means "Run 9 miles at 9:11 pace."
Warm/Cool: Warmup or Cooldown. Generally 1 mile each.
Speedwork: "6x800@3:47 w/400 jogs" means "Run 6 repeats of 800 meters each, with a 400-meter recovery jog after each repeat."
Rest/XT: Rest day or moderate cross-training activity.
m: meters
mi: Miles

(MCN, you would know more about training programs like these, given that you're in the Nike Running Training Clinic, so any sort of feedback/opinion on this SmartCoach program is most welcome.)

I used my RUNew recorded race time as a benchmark; it's not my best personal record, but it's the most recent, so might as well use it. Runner's World utilizes the English System (i.e. miles) but the site also has a very convenient Pace Converter, which converts English units to Metric units and vice versa. So I was able to convert pace per mile into pace per kilometer and other pertinent data.

In layman's terms then:
2 mi@14:47 = run 3.2 km at 9.19 pace
3 mi@14:47 = run 4.8 km at 9.19 pace
3 mi@13:10 = run 4.8 km at 8.18 pace
7mi@14:47 = run 11.26 km at 9.19 pace
8 mi@14:47 = run 12.87 km at 9.19 pace


When I analyzed the program given to me, my initial reaction was "A 9.19 pace?! Jeez, I'm not a professional runner, but I can certainly do better than that!!!" Of course, I'm being matter-of-fact here--because my most turtle-esque pace ever, when I started running last October, was in the 8 range. So maybe, what this program is letting me build on is endurance for long, slow distance (LSD) running.

In a way, this program makes sense because in order for me to get used to 10K, I would need to have the endurance to go past 10K and learn to run 11K or 12K. (Argh, somebody please tell me if this program is making sense at all.)

I run an average now of 5K every other day, so 2-3 miles is not difficult. I will have to learn to run a 7 or 8 miler though.

So yesterday (Tuesday), I went to Legaspi Park to do the Easy Run expected of me: 3.2K at 9.19 pace per kilometer. And I failed!

Because as I was trying to keep to the 9.19 pace, I got extremely bored and my body even felt heavier going at that slow a pace. So I decided to liven things up a bit by running at a pace that was relaxing but not as dreary as 9.19. =P

I ended up running 5K on even concrete at an approximate pace of 7 minutes per kilometer. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Two days after a McKinley race, any run is easy enough. Haha.

Tomorrow, though, I will be doing a total of 5 miles (8K). But 2 miles out of the 5 are just warm-up and cool-down, so I should do fine. Will post updates on this program. Hopefully, it would prep me enough for the 10K four weeks from now.

U2's "No Line on the Horizon"

Stopped by Music One this evening to pay for my reserved copy of the new U2 album, No Line on the Horizon which MCA Music and Music One are pre-selling before the worldwide release on March 2, 2009.

What's nice about this pre-selling promo is that upon purchase of your reserved copy (which you can pick up on March 2), you also get a free U2 shirt. Yay, another U2 collectible. Aside from their albums, I collect original copies of their concert DVDs. The only pirated copy I have is U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle, the original of which I've been trying to find everywhere. So if you find one, please let me know ASAP.

And aside from a free shirt, you get a free movie pass to the re-screening of U23D in IMAX, SM Mall of Asia. Coolness! Now I can watch it again (and drool over a 3D Bono to boot).

24 February 2009

street fight!

I'm sitting in one of these tables outside Starbucks People Support (the extra cold blast of airconditioning inside the coffee store is just too much for me), just doing my usual freelance work while having a decaf vanilla latte.

It's 12:56 am and Starbucks is mostly composed of the call center crowd at this hour.

I am then rudely interrupted from my work by the sound of a man swearing (as in, really swearing) loudly at someone. And so I look up and see an unusual scene right in front of me.

To my horror (and fascination of the rest of the people in Starbucks), I see a guy in his late twenties grabbing the hair of another guy (also looking twenty-something) while continually swearing at the top of his lungs ("p#&%^g*&@ mo!" times 10). He's yanking on the second guy's hair and dragging him here and there, while a woman attempts to separate the two from one another. After what seemed like forever, two security men from People Support finally intervene, and the whole hair-yanking first act of this street drama is over.

Girl then tries to calm down Foul-Mouthed Boy, who immediately and possessively puts his arm around her shoulder, as Abused Wimpy-Looking Boy looks on, rubbing the sore spot on his head where the first guy seemed to have grabbed a fistful of hair. Foul-Mouthed Boy then seems to have said something negative because Girl pushes his arm away and goes over to the side of Abused Wimpy-Looking Boy, who stands close to her.

The security men block the two boys from going near each other, and FMB continues to say mean stuff while giving AWLB the dirty finger. This gives the security people reason to take both boys and girl away from the transfixed watching public and probably to a place (Barangay San Lorenzo headquarters?) where the matter can be properly resolved.

All this time, I've been watching with my mouth open, my hand on my chest. This was my first time to witness a public skirmish, although it wasn't Embassy-brawl level. Nevertheless, it was a most disturbing sight for me; I never would have expected to see such an ugly scene right in front of a decent coffee place and at the heart of the Makati business district.

The stupid, crass things people do at one in the morning.

22 February 2009

RUNew 5K at McKinley Hill (Feb 22)

I was late for a McKinley race--again! Sheesh. I am so unlucky when it comes to McKinley Hill.

Parking was a nightmare for A and me, as the entrance into McKinley was narrow, and all cars were routed into this carpark building. I was in a foul mood because I could sense that we were going to be late for this run. And I knew Rio's races always started on time.

When we, along with a considerable number of other late runners, ran out of the carpark building and into the wide grassy fields where the Start/Finish area was situated, I could see from afar that the crowd of 5K runners had already started snaking its way out into Upper McKinley Road.

I swore inwardly and made a mad dash for it. There was obviously no time for warm-ups and pre-run hydration as I needed to catch up to the 5K runners. I was in such a hurry that I wasn't able to glance up at the Timex clock in order to check my real start time as I crossed past the Start line. And then some three minutes later, I realized I was running without any music. Thankfully, the first few minutes were spent on flat concrete paths, and so I was able to continue running properly while switching on my iPod.

I was pretty upset because I didn't start the race on time. Usually, such negative feelings can mentally screw up one's performance, but fortunately in my case, the panic I felt in being late boosted my adrenalin, and I just ran hard in the first kilometer to make up for lost time.

Again, I'm no running athlete but i was in decent shape--decent enough to overtake the tail-end group of 5K runners who had started the race on time. It felt good to whoosh past them, although I knew I wouldn't be able to run fast enough to reach the first half of the 5K runners. But at least I wasn't going to be the last to finish. Haha.

When I had managed to catch up to the 5K people, I relaxed slightly and ran at a more comfortable pace. But then the torture known as McKinley Hill officially began.

I can't remember exactly how many hills we encountered; I stopped counting after three. Haha. It was a killer route even without Heritage Park, and the hills were pretty steep--steep enough that my knees were raised high as I ran steadily up to the top (it's more painful for my legs if I run at an erratic pace up each hill).

It took a lot of will power for me not to stop to walk. And I'm glad I didn't walk at all. In every race I join, my number one goal would be simple: never stop running. The moment I'd slow down to walk, I'd know that that particular race would be lost for me.

I ran all throughout that tough McKinley race, and in some instances, sprinted. While I was going through this 5K, I kept thinking how running isn't so much as beating other people to the finish line but defeating that little demon inside you that's urging you to slow down and take the sweet, less painful option of walking. The temptation to walk even gets stronger when the body pain becomes more pronounced. In my case, my scar started throbbing slightly as I went up one of the hills. I gently pressed my right palm over the scar area, and as I ran, I was coaching myself silently over and over like I was reciting some form of prayer, "Don't stop running. It's okay. Don't stop running. The pain will be over soon." I looked like an idiot, with my right hand pressed to my pelvic area while I ran but this technique seemed to worked; the pain subsided a little, and I could run more comfortably without wincing afterwards.

When the finish line came into view, I surprised myself by actually sprinting forward. Sprinting. I didn't even expect to have that kind of energy after having gone through some very tough hills. I suppose the very sight of my destination made me so deliriously happy that the body reacted instantly and instinctively in a positive way.

I didn't have big goals for this race; I knew that my pace on flat concrete roads (e.g. Power Run) would be vastly better than my pace on a hilly route. So when I crossed the finish line, I looked up at the clock--39:16. Ah well. Fair enough. At least I didn't hit an 8-minute pace even if I was late. I suppose my actual time--less the 2 or 3 minutes that I was late--was around 36 or 37:16, but I can't be too sure. Anyway, runrio hasn't posted the results yet, so will have to still wait for the verdict.

As expected of Coach Rio and his runrio races, this RUNew event by Asian Hospital was well-organized, people had fun in the torturous McKinley Hill route (running enthusiasts are masochists, really), and there were lots of freebies! I was especially thrilled to find out that all 6,000 participants were each given a Timex Privilege Card, entitling the bearer to a one-time 15% discount on Timex Ironman watches in participating Timex stores. Woohoo! Now I can buy at a discounted rate the Timex watch I've been eyeing for the past couple of weeks.

Saw Rio as I was walking near the stage and he grinned at me as I, in my post-run euphoria, gave him a high-five and congratulated him on a job well done as usual.

"Ano, dapat 15K sa susunod, para masaya," he said cheerily.

I made a face. 15K in McKinley? Maybe in a year's time. Haha. But for now, I feel really proud of myself for surviving that route. Not my best pace, of course, but finishing a McKinley Hill race is still an incredibly sweet victory.

posted at 11:27 pm

I happened to check Makes Coffee Nervous' blog just now and saw that the RUNew race results are out. My recorded time was 38:17. Average, and not shabby at all. In fact, even if I was late, I can't help but feel cheered up by the fact that I caught up to the 5K people and still placed decently somewhere in the middle!

21 February 2009

the upcoming Condura Run

You know you're already a running addict if you're mentally preparing for a race the next day--and scheduling your next weekend races as well.

This evening, I checked out the site of The Condura Run, which is happening on March 22. It looks incredibly exciting and seems to be the first premier race event for this year. The event is well-sponsored, with lots of freebies and discounts, and the organizers have a line-up of activities for runners and families alike. Very child-friendly! Not to mention environment-friendly, because it's actually a fundraiser for the protection of whale sharks and promoting responsible eco-tourism in Donsol. (The fundraiser in me is wondering about the race's production costs and the net fundraising goal.)

Check out their home page, which even has a cute countdown timer:

The longest race distance offered here is 21K, a half-marathon. And the best part is, the runners get to go up the Skyway. Woohoo! I am so envious!! Someday I'm gonna get to 21K runner status. First, I need to improve my 5K. Then do better in my 10K endurance (hopefully without my scar troubling me). And work my way up to 15K and 21K. And then, and then...42K! A real marathon! (I just had a small cup of caramel macchiato, so I'm all excited and uber caffeinated here.)

As I was telling Makes Coffee Nervous earlier, it's nice to have new goals. Boxing's cool and all but I didn't have any exact goals there. I just wanted to punch stronger and lose weight. With running, I have race distances to aspire for and paces to improve. God willing, I'll continue to be healthy and keep on running for years to come.

This upcoming Condura Run has a delicious 10K route and I am soooo tempted to run that distance. No Skyway here but at least the 10K runners get to go up the Kalayaan Flyover! My pace will probably be in the 7- or 8-minute range here, but it's not every race day that you get to run the length of a flyover. This is really something to look forward to.

The Quest for Laing: Day 1 in Cam Norte

Last February 9, I left for Camarines Norte, a province some 350 kilometers south of Metro Manila and known as the crossroads of the Tagalog and Bicol regions. My colleagues and I were to travel via land to visit different UNICEF-assisted day care (or ECCD--early childhood care and development) project sites in this vast area.

Because land travel time to Camarines Norte, Bicol takes 8-9 hours, we spent the first day traveling to our destination. The road trip was drearily long, uneventful, and consisted of twisting and turning paths up the mountains. I felt carsick at some point but just stayed quiet and concentrated on the music playing on my iPod to keep from hurling on the carpet of our Land Cruiser.

By 5:30 pm, we had reached Cam Norte's capital town, Daet, where we were to stay for the next three nights. Despite its status as the provincial hub, Daet is still a pretty secluded, backwards kind of town, and one ought not to expect any grand hotels in this area--or even 3-star ones for that matter. Villa Mila, our hotel--if you could call it that--was old and shabby and musty-smelling but it was generally clean, and I even felt incredibly lucky that we had aircon, clean towels and hot water in our rooms. In the past, I've been to remote areas where accommodations meant a rickety wooden bed with a mosquito net, an electric fan and a bathroom that had a pail of water and the most basic toilet (read: no flush and no toilet seat). So, Villa Mila was, to me, still a sweet deal for Php 900 per room per night.

We had worked ourselves up to an appetite by the time we reached Daet, so as soon as we checked in our bags, we headed downtown to scout for a place where we were to eat dinner. Our group was craving for Bicol's native fare, laing and the super spicy Bicol Express, and we wanted a restaurant that served the authentic version.

We were in for a disappointment. In a land where we assumed that laing was being served in every street corner, we discovered with great dismay that Daet's idea of "in" dining were Jollibee and Chinese restaurants.

Every time a native-looking restaurant came into view, we'd stop the car and check out the menu. No laing and Bicol Express AT ALL.

Is this a joke? we asked one another incredulously. Are we really in Bicol??

One of our stops was Kingfisher Restaurant, which was recommended by the somewhat zombie-fied staff of Villa Mila. The name 'Kingfisher' alone excited us as it conjured mental images of grilled fish and fresh seafood prepared the native way. One wall of the restaurant showed photos of Kingfisher's six commercial fishing boats, but when we checked the menu, the best sellers were chicken, roasted pork--and Japanese cuisine. And yup, still no laing and Bicol Express on the menu. There were pork dishes cooked in different ways...but no Bicol Express. W-E-I-R-D.

So we headed out of Kingfisher Restaurant, hungry and disillusioned, and stood in the street discussing where to go next. A woman, who had the air of a donya in those parts, approached us and asked us why we were standing outside when there were many available tables inside her restaurant. Oh. So she was the owner of Kingfisher.

We told her, apologetically, that we were hoping for laing and Bicol Express, but we checked the menu and found out that her place wasn't serving these. The woman's back stiffened, and suddenly, she was saying in a very antagonistic tone, that her restaurant was far, far different from the other dining places in town and that she did serve Bicol Express, but it was in the ref, ready for thawing and cooking. And in the same tone of voice, she invited us to dine in Kingfisher.

Well, her brand of customer service was certainly different because she didn't sound hospitable at all. In fact, she sounded like a person about to participate in a bare-knuckled fight.

Michelle, who was really craving for laing, said very politely, "No, thank you, ma'am. We're hoping to try the native laing tonight for dinner and we'll just try looking for it in another restaurant po."

And Dante, who had in the past encountered snakes and other wild creatures in the remotest parts of the country and didn't seem like the type to be intimidated easily, piped in somewhat fearfully, "Maybe we'll eat here next time instead...?" His voice trailed off as he gave her an anxious, we-don't-want-any-trouble look.

And Donya Kingfisher, her chin sticking up, launched into yet another loud, angry litany on the culinary delights found in her restaurant (chicken teriyaki was one of them apparently) and that the Bicol Express WAS. IN. HER. REFRIGERATOR. (She pronounced each word with such reverberating emphasis.)

Where was all this anger coming from?

She was getting scarier and scarier. (And I was thinking wildly in my head that she had a clear, straight path in my direction and could easily pin me down to the ground with her weight if we refused point-blank to eat in her restaurant.)

I don't remember exactly how we managed to escape her; I was too afraid to look back. Haha. I'm sure the others gave another round of hurried apologies and then we all got into the car as quickly as we could. After a few more minutes of restaurant-searching, my stomach was really growling in hunger. Truth be told, I didn't care at that point if we were going to eat laing or some mediocre version of Chinese food; I just wanted some food in my system. But the others were dead set on eating authentic Bicol food--and so the quest continued.

When the next restaurant came into view, my heart sank. It was called Central Plaza Restaurant (or something like that) and from the looks of it, it was another Chinese dining place. But we still decided to ask anyway.

I was the first to go in and I asked the usual question: Do you serve laing and Bicol Express?

The person I approached happened to be the owner--some Chinese-looking dude--but thank God he was the very opposite of Donya in the restaurant owner behavior spectrum. In a pleasant tone of voice, he apologized and said right away that they didn't serve that kind of food but they had other Filipino dishes in the menu, and Chinese food as well (but of course).

Filipino cuisine served in this resto but, er, no special Bicol dish? I was beginning to think that we had stumbled into some sort of gastronomic conspiracy and that the locals' memories had probably been modified by some laing-hating alien.

And then--

"Although if you really want laing and Bicol Express," he said slowly, as if he was thinking hard to himself, "I can come up with something."

My eyebrows shot up. If this guy was willing to give us what we wanted even if it wasn't on the menu, who were we to refuse?

Ecstatic and bordering on ravenous, we sat ourselves down wearily in one table and started ordering rice and stuff. The restaurant was clean and bright, and with many customers eating, so we felt good about our decision to eat here. I could already see Mr. Chinese Magic Man busying himself in the kitchen (which was in plain view) with his staff, and I heaved a sigh of relief. We were going to eat at last.

When the food arrived, I wanted to laugh. Well, in fact I did. I suppose it took a lot of effort on the part of the owner to really produce the dishes we wanted using the current resources he had, because both the laing and Bicol Express came in a small saucer each, looking like such precious commodities.

The Bicol Express tasted more like binagoongan, which was a bit disappointing, but oh well. As for the laing, it tasted different from the kind of laing we were accustomed to, but it was good and the saucer was wiped clean immediately. While we ate, we amused ourselves by suggesting theories on how Mr. Chinese Magic Man conjured up the dishes. Because the restaurant was situated near some houses, he had, in all likelihood, knocked on his neighbor's door and asked for a dish of laing.

And even if the laing he served wasn't spectacular, Central Plaza Restaurant gets plus points for going the extra mile in terms of customer service. (And in price too! Their family-sized sinigang had a generous serving of hipon, and it cost a little over 100 pesos only!)

So when you happen to be in Daet, well, you'll see a lot of gabi trees by the road, but don't expect to find the elusive laing in menus. It's still a mystery that we haven't managed to clear up, by the way.

pre-RUNew jitters

I'm scared of McKinley Hill. There, I've admitted it. Haha.

I was only able to run that route once, during our own UNICEF Walk on the Child's Side walk/fun run last November. And it was pretty memorable in the sense that I was 15 minutes late for the 10K run because I had to attend to some logistics at the UNICEF booth before running.

By the time I joined the race, the 10K runners were way ahead, and the 5K runners had left 10 minutes ago already. It was really a bad idea for me to run at that point, but McKinley looked so tempting I just had to try.

Around an hour later, I was gasping for breath as I staggered out of Heritage Park. If it weren't for my iPod, I would have been de-motivated and would have quit altogether. I wasn't really conditioned for 10K to begin with (it was only my second time to run that distance) and I had no idea how challenging the hilly portions were pala in that serene but deceivingly friendly park. My PR wasn't terribly bad in spite of my 'umble 1-month newbie status (7:40), but the route left me drained and feeling a little down about my performance.

So now that I'm facing McKinley Hill again tomorrow (this time only for a 5K), I'm a bit jittery. I had 3 practice runs this week in Legaspi Park but I still feel woefully unprepared. (To tell you the truth, I don't even have a formal training program to follow, and I just decide on the length of time for running on a very ad hoc basis.) Last Thursday, I ran at a moderate pace for 40 minutes for endurance purposes and covered around 6K, I think. And then yesterday, I did a short maintenance run for 25 minutes. Not sure how much distance I covered, but I ran at a faster pace than that of Power Run and went up and down the few hilly portions of Legaspi Park (they're just little grassy knolls, basically). Shucks, I really need to get myself an affordable GPS running watch soon in order to simply track my pace and distance.

Lord, I don't ask for much, and I'm not even expecting a sub 7 pace for this McKinley route--but at least please, please don't let me embarrass myself in tomorrow's run.

20 February 2009


I woke up this morning and realized that I had just dreamt about Joey, my beloved pet hamster.

Joey lived to a ripe old age of 3--which is already considered a geriatric age for Syrian hamsters like him. He was a gift given to me by my college friends in our junior year at the Ateneo. We were all sitting in our tambayan one nondescript day, and I was then surprised to see Julia carrying this little wire cage containing a hamster (who was looking a little motion sick from the slight swinging of the cage) and holding it towards me as the rest of my friends looked on excitedly, gauging my reaction.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. It was love at first sight, really. Haha. Joey was the cutest teddy bear hamster I've ever seen; it didn't matter that all teddy bear, or Syrian, hamsters looked alike anyway. He was still the cutest. Our group christened him Joey--named after our terror of a history teacher whom I totally idolized and had a crush on, and, erm, conveniently happened to be a Jesuit priest. (Fr. Joey, I hope you never, ever get to read this blog.)

In those first few months of owning Joey, I fussed over him completely. By my standards, Joey deserved a clean, fluffy bedding of pine shavings always, so I made sure to replace the shavings every day while the pine shavings at the bottom of the cage (used to absorb his pee and poo) were removed and replaced twice a week. I cleaned his cage religiously on weekends. I checked his water bottle and little food bowl every day to ensure that he was getting enough nutrition while I was out of the house or sleeping.

While hamsters are not as demonstrative as other domesticated pets like dogs in showing love for their master, teddy bear hamsters are sweet in their own way, and Joey was no exception. He was always a good pet, and never threw any hamster fits. And he was such a stickler for good hygiene! He chose only one certain spot in his cage for taking a dump or a piss, and didn't like doing his number 1's and 2's elsewhere. During feeding time, I'd open the cage and put in my hand which contained a little hamster mix. He'd take pleasure in eating from my hand, especially if I was giving him a special treat--like a small, small slice of apple or some other sliver of fresh fruit.

Joey was an active little one, keeping me company late at night by working out on his hamster wheel while I sat nearby, wading through my pile of readings for Theo and Philo classes. He was a real runner, and the loud, repetitive whirring of the wheel sometimes drove me crazy. But because he also liked to eat, he became so fat that he eventually got tired of running and in the twilight months of his life, chose instead to gnaw on his cage as a form of exercise.

Because I lived a stone's throw away from Ateneo during those college years, I had friends coming over most of the time. They would enter my unit, see Joey sleeping, and tap the cage with a loud, affectionate "Hi, Joey!!" Of course, my poor pet would wake up in fright (because hamsters don't like loud noises and quick movements) and I would calm his nerves by running a soothing hand slowly through his fur until his body would stop trembling.

My favorite memory of Joey was that time I took him out of the cage so that he could stretch his legs a bit and run freer than usual. I placed him on our sofa and I myself laid down to block him from leaving the sofa and running wild inside the condo. As I lay, I watched him scamper from one end of the couch to another--and he would even come near to sniff my arm now and then as if to reassure himself that I was still there while he played. Several minutes later, I woke up in horror, realizing that I had fallen asleep, and I was worried that he might have been running loose in the bathroom or some other place while I napped. But when I looked down, I saw Joey nestled in a little corner right beside my arm, sleeping peacefully. He was the dearest little pet and never gave me any trouble.

I was really broken-hearted when he died: I came home from school one evening, and the condo was quieter than usual. I saw Joey sleeping in his small napping corner inside the cage and didn't think anything was wrong. An hour or two later, I suddenly realized that my place was indeed very quiet, and that Joey would have been awake already at that hour, gnawing on his cage. I went over to him--and then I saw that his furry little body was stiff and unmoving.

He died alone, without me or anyone at home for that matter. That's the thing that breaks my heart the most every time I remember Joey--the fact that I wasn't there when he quietly passed away.

I put a lot of effort into carrying out his little funeral. I gently placed him inside a box with fresh pine shavings, then called some friends, and cried as I told them the sad news. A few of them accompanied me as I buried Joey (using a small toy shovel, my god) in the field near SEC inside the Ateneo campus for sentimentality's sake. After all, that's where he was given to me, and I felt that it was the proper resting place for him.

To honor his memory over the years, I'd name a couple of my possessions after him, like my two iPods, my flash drive, other stuff that I'd carry on a daily basis, etc. And now that I've recently taken up running, with my iPod close to me, I can technically say that I'm running with Joey. =)

I miss seeing his cute little face, as he stares at me with such rapt attention while he stuffs his cheeks with hamster mix--as if to show me that he can multi-task while I babble nonsense to him. And so when I woke up this morning from my dream (I dreamt I was carrying Joey on one hand while I cleaned his cage using the other hand), I felt a huge wave of nostalgia wash over me and it was like mourning for him once more, but in a good way.

He wasn't far from my thoughts today, and the dream left me with a desire to have a pet hamster again. The traumatizing thing about having a hamster for a pet is the animal's short life span; Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures that live an average of 1.5 to 3 years. Four, even, if your hamster was exceptionally healthy.

I'm not quite sure yet what I want to do in terms of getting a new hamster or not, but I did find myself looking at hamster pictures on the web today. The two photos I've included in this post resemble Joey the most; I just wish I took photos of him while he was alive. And if I did, I just simply don't remember where I've stored them.

I miss my little hamster very much. Am not a poet and I can't write poems to save my life, but this blog entry can at least be my own version of an ode to Joey.

18 February 2009

to spit or not to spit

I did a most unladylike thing tonight. I spat on the ground while going through my training run.

As a newbie in running, I could never fathom the very idea of spitting. The Maria Clara in me could not, would not dare show the running public my own spittle. In my first two runs last October, I remember cringing as male runners in front of me would spit now and then, like it was the most natural thing to do in the world.

But as I ran at a moderate pace tonight, I could feel a little pool of thick saliva forming inside my mouth--and I couldn't, for some reason, swallow it down easily. I was afraid I'd choke on my own spit, and because that was such a humiliating possibility, I finally gave up and crossed over to the dark side.

I let loose a large glob of saliva from my mouth on the side of the running path, and watched in morbid fascination as it landed silently on the soft grass (and probably caused the drowning of an ant or two in the process).

I was thinking to myself, wow, in fairness, my spit has a nice trajectory. I must be a natural at this!

I ended up spitting three more times before completing a 34-minute 5K+ run tonight. Little Miss Prissy has now been replaced by Little Miss Spitty.

Hope it's not habit-forming though.

16 February 2009

orgasmic icons

No, this isn't a porn blog entry.

I love the icons on my Mac so much that I consider them, erm, orgasmic. A few weeks back, I spent an entire day just surfing for cute desktop icons. Most of the freeware icons I got are from Apple's Downloads section. The best things in life are free!

I now have a collection of fruit icons, cupcake icons, doughtnut icons (obviously, i love food), Lego icons, creature icons, and even a Starbucks coffee cup icon which I promptly used for my personal pics folder. But my absolute favorite set are the Lord of the Rings icons which Ryan allowed me to copy from his own PowerBook G4.

My desktop now looks like this:

If you've noticed, my desktop wallpaper displays the exact time (and also the date). It's called a wallpaper clock, which refreshes every minute to keep the date and time precise. Geeky cool.

Happiness is looking at a snazzy desktop every single day.

Power Run at SM MOA, Manila Bay (Feb 15)

Yesterday, I woke up at 4:21 am, feeling light-headed from lack of sleep. No matter how early I sleep the night before a run, I never get enough rest. I toss and turn in bed, very much awake and consumed by worries that I won't be able to wake up in time, that I'll miss the run, that I'll trip and scratch my knee in the middle of the race and get my first DNF. I am a chronic worrier with a very active imagination.

But if there was one thing I wasn't worried about, it was the amount of time i spent training for Power Run. I had four previous practice runs and I knew I was prepared enough to do a decent PR for this particular race.

So anyway, I dressed up quickly and had a hurried pre-run meal consisting of yoghurt and graham crackers. So far, this pre-run energy formula works for me and doesn't give me that awful heavy feeling when I'm running.

The singlet that the Power Run race organizers came up with was pretty cool. It's black and orange, with a little pocket at the back that can fit a small beverage bottle. This is quite useful; you can hydrate yourself during a run without having to stop for a drink at the water station. I've run enough races to realize that water stations don't work for me because it ruins the running momentum and my pace, of course. So this singlet gets plus plus points for me. And the free beverage loader that came with the singlet can be used in future races. Very, very thoughtful of the organizers.

Arrived at the race assembly site with my sister at 5:30 am, said hello to some people I knew, and then did my warm-ups.

By 6:22 am (17 minutes behind schedule), the 5K runners started pounding the pavement. I was in Happy Land, maintaining a steady pace that was comfortable enough for me and thoroughly enjoying the wide, even concrete road and the company of other runners. I wasn't elite-runner fast, obviously, but I wasn't slow either.

After 30 minutes of nonstop running (the small beverage loader really helped!), I was starting to worry. Big time. I knew I was running well at a decent pace--so how come it was taking long for me to reach the finish line?? My goal was to achieve a sub 7 pace (or accomplish 5K in less than 35 minutes). When I crossed the finish line, I clocked in 40 minutes.

I was truly upset. WTF, right??? No way was I going to accept an 8-minute pace for this 5K because I knew, I just knew that I had run at a faster rate than that. And besides, my legs and feet were telling me that I had just run more than 5K. After undergoing several fun runs since October of last year, I certainly knew what a 5K race felt like. I guess you could call it muscle memory in that sense.

So there I was, morosely looking down at the free post-run Activade drink in my hand as my younger sister (who did 47 minutes or so) tried to console me. And then, I suddenly overheard a bunch of runners nearby complaining about the race distance. One guy, in his fifties I think, looked irritated and said that he had just completed around 16K instead of the 15K that he signed up for. Well, he looked like a seasoned runner and I'm sure the extra 1K was not really the problem; I think he was annoyed with the fact that a PATAFA-sanctioned event seemed to have messed up in measuring the actual distance. And his buddy, who had one of those fancy GPS watches, ran in the 5K category but noted that his watch measured a distance of 6K.

I immediately approached them to confirm the actual race distances. The 5K race was really 6K! I was right! So my pace was indeed better. How could it not be? The running path was completely flat and therefore friendly on the legs and feet. I had just achieved a sub 7 pace! (6:40 is the nearest approximate, if I consider the guy's measurement of 6K on his watch.)

I was elated. Always listen to your muscles, folks. If it felt longer than a 5K, or a 10K, then your muscles must be telling the truth.

Because there were so many runners airing their complaints about the race distance measurement to the organizers (and I was one of them), the host had to publicly announce that they would look into the matter. I think they should also look into improving their route maps next time: the Power Run route was confusing and had no markers (no markers at all!!!) and as such, many 10K and 15K runners got lost. This is such a terrible thing to happen, especially for running enthusiasts who are religious in monitoring their paces.

But terrible routing or not, I was no longer in a bad mood. I felt encouraged by my performance, and totally excited for the upcoming RUNew race this Sunday. McKinley Hill, I'm seeing you once more!

14 February 2009

a different kind of Valentine's

Got back from my 4-day trip to Camarines Norte just last Thursday. It was a good site visit, and I'm psyched to share my photos and notes on this experience. Currently, I'm editing the pics on Photoshop (just for color enhancement purposes) and I'll post everything soon. =)

For now, I would just like to say that it's good to be back in Manila. I miss the city, my books, my workouts...and my coffee! Now I know how a drug addict feels like when one is in withdrawal mode. I was hoping there would be good native brewed coffee in Cam Norte; sadly, the only decent coffee available was in the sole Jollibee branch of Daet, Camarines Norte. But then, that's all part of the site visit experience, and I will tell the whole Cam Norte story soon!

Thursday, Feb 12

Arrived in Makati last Thursday at 6:30 pm. It took me some time to lug all the food and other pasalubong up to my place and unpack my bags. Then I met up with A because he wanted to buy something from Nike before running that same night.

Believe it or not, even if that 9-hour road trip back to Manila was exhausting, I was dying to run. All that seafood and that coconut milk found in Bicol cuisine could not possibly cause zero impact on my weight. And I was right: I gained 2 pounds from that trip. Moreover, I would have wanted to run while I was in Daet, but there was no good place for running there. So aside from coffee withdrawal, this Ms. Kick Galvanic was seriously suffering from running/workout withdrawal syndrome as well.

A needed new running socks so we checked out Nike. It took a lot of willpower to refrain myself from buying this pretty purple training jacket; I decided to purchase instead, as a sort of Valentine's gift, two pairs of Nike Dri-Fit Lightweight running socks for A.

Socks. It was all very romantic.

Then we ran in Legaspi Park at around 11:30 pm. A warned me not to overexert myself (as I was wont to do) because I was tired from the trip.

As fate would have it for obstinate people like me, Fatigue eventually reared its ugly head. I ran at a moderate pace for only 24 minutes straight, and I had to stop right after because I was just so damn tired. When I slowed down to walk, I cursed out of frustration. I'm supposed to be conditioning myself to run at 5K for tomorrow's Power Run by the Manila Bay, and my semi-run that Thursday night felt like a DNF on race day.

Sometimes I wish had formal training on running just so I'd be able to mentally handle exhaustion better. So far, all I do are just practice runs at the park without even having an exact idea of my pace per kilometer. Thank God I at least have A for a running buddy (among other things, hehe).

Kidding aside though, I need to invest on one of those watches that can track my pace, distance and calories burned. And if I religiously follow a 16-week training program recommended in Runner's World, I can at least informally train on an individual capacity.

Friday, Feb 13

Friday the 13th. Luckily, it was a good, good day for me. Left the office at 5:45 pm to run some "running" errands before having dinner with A. I first went to NBC Tent at the Fort to register for Sunday's Power Run and then walked towards Nike Bonifacio High Street to register for a 5K slot in the Feb 22 RUNew race in McKinley Hill. (I haven't "tasted" McKinley Hill since UNICEF Walk on the Child's Side 2008, and I'm torn between anticipation and dread just thinking about the uphill portions. Haha.)

When I emerged from Nike, happily clutching all my race kits, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Coach Rio's Nike Running Training Clinic session that night was taking place right in front of the Nike High Street branch. Said a quick hello to Rio, who insisted I sign up for at least updates on the training clinic. And then I immediately checked to see if my friend Lara was there. Yup, she was right in front, doing warm-ups with the rest of the session participants. Mouthed a hello and goodbye to her before I left High Street. Wow, I really wish I could join the clinic. High Street would have been an ideal venue, but most of the sessions take place in ULTRA Pasig, which isn't convenient for me on week nights.

Next on the agenda was socks. Again.

If A had new socks, damn, I wanted new socks too (this is the brat in me talking). I've been wanting a pair of women's Nike Elite Running socks with footstrike cushioning for the longest time and now that I've recently acquired a Nike Women VIP card, I'm entitled to a 10% discount on all regular-priced Nike products--and a 20% discount on my birthday month! Hooray! I canNOT wait for June. =)

I really enjoy shopping for sportswear and gear, so buying running socks for myself is actually a real treat. So I went to my favorite Nike Women branch in Greenbelt 4 to get the socks (and resisted once more the urge to buy the pretty purple training jacket) and then window shopped at Bratpack and Columbia in Greenbelt 5 to see if they had any interesting sportswear.

By the time A and I had dinner, it was already 9:30 pm. We had a nice and filling dinner in Cibo. Despite our efforts to trim down, we couldn't resist having a 3-course meal: minestrone soup, tuna salad and a light seafood pasta each. The food in itself was healthy but we felt ridiculously stuffed by 10:30 pm and wanted the heavy feeling to go away. FAST. Well, there was only one recourse for us.

Saturday, Feb 14

At 12:41 am, we found ourselves running in Legaspi Park. Never mind that we were running at an ungodly hour. We just needed to burn the calories from that dinner. And we wanted to run, period.

A and I ran side by side at an easy pace for 30 minutes. I was so happy, I was bobbing my head to the beat of the music on my iPod. Because it was just a maintenance run, we didn't go over 30 minutes. I felt like I could do more than 30 but because the race was tomorrow, I didn't want to tire myself too much. So we stopped running at 1:11 am, and walked around the park twice to cool down.

In a way, it was the best Valentine's Day I've had in years. We don't normally celebrate Valentine's on the day itself because it's cheesy to do so, and you have to deal with the stress of eating dinner in a crowded restaurant. So I'm glad A and I were still able to avoid the whole V Day cheesiness factor and spend the weekend the way we really wanted to.

Enough writing at this point. Will need to rest as race day is tomorrow. Good luck to all Power Run participants!

from my officemates, with love

I have very sweet officemates. Work indeed becomes easier if you have great rapport with the people you see everyday.

While I generally like most of the people in the office, I am close to a selected few (naks). They are my friends, my ka-chika, and--because I think every person in UNICEF is incredibly talented and dedicated in his/her own way in our work for children--they are a source of inspiration to me.

Naturally, it also feels good to be at the receiving end of praise. I shared my blog with these close colleagues of mine, and some of them wrote back (via the office email, haha) to say that they like this little blog. *blush blush*

Writing is not an easy process, and it can be pretty frustrating at times. And even if I think that some of my writing is just mindless drivel, it feels nice to know that others appreciate the random stuff I put in here.
From Marge: gins, why am i checking mail on a sunday at 3am? i dont know either. i love your blog. here's mine. margeee.blogspot.com. love you!

From Tin: Thanks for sharing this, Gins! Really good writing! It makes me want to return to writing myself.

From Cecil: interesting blog gins. my running playlist in my nano is simply called "run". hehehe. i am such a dork. (Cecilia Masagca, I'm grateful to you because you got me into running. And you are definitely no dork when you run. Hope you run a 15K race very soon!)

From Reggie: oist. i read your blog. i loved it haha. you are an amazing, creative writer. true talent comes in raw form--not from some overzealous editor! galing. keep writing, keep rocking!!!

Thank you for the encouraging words, you guys! =) And please feel free to post comments and, er, violent reactions any time.

08 February 2009

Ran tonight with A in Legaspi Park. I was excited to run because I wanted to burn the calories gained from eating that yummy hot fudge sundae at my goddaughter Ashley's 1st birthday party this afternoon. Haha. Good thing I could only finish half of that evil, evil sundae.

I was able to run 31 minutes non-stop, and although I have no idea about my exact pace, I've estimated (conservatively) that I covered more than 4K.

This time, I didn't forget to bring my Belkin Sport Armband Plus. I use it sometimes when I do practice runs. It's actually pretty helpful, if you don't want your iPod touch bouncing inside your pocket. However, it looks better on men, to be honest, because it's just the right fit for them. When I put the sport armband on, it looks like some large, alien contraption that covers almost half of my arm.

Although it may look large, it's convenient and pretty weightless (Belkin comes up with the most amazing quality accessories) and helps me feel light on my feet. I just don't use it on race days since it's so attention-getting, and I don't want to look like some newbie runner with a lot of gadgets on her.

Anyway, on to other things. I just finished packing for my 4-day UNICEF site visit to Camarines Norte. I'm pretty psyched about this field mission, and I hope I get to pick up a lot of valuable insights and stories on our early childhood care and development (ECCD) programs. I intend to bring the office camera as well to do some photo documentation, although I wouldn't consider myself as a good photographer. I just literally point and shoot, period.

But aside from the mission proper, I hope to squeeze in a little running in the evenings while we're based in Daet. I have no idea if the small hotel we're staying in has a gym (and I wouldn't even expect them to have one at all), but I hope I'll be able to find a place there that's conducive to running.

07 February 2009

back to running

In a manner so typical of A, he showed up at my place this evening and asked me, last minute, to prepare my things and run with him. Because I boxed already this morning and I had just recovered from a bout of sickness, I didn't want to run at first. After all, I promised not to push myself too hard.

Well, that resolve lasted for a total of two minutes.

My last run was weeks ago, and I was raring to run again. So I hurriedly got dressed and prepared my things--and in my haste, I even forgot my watch and the thin rubber Belkin skin that I use for my iPod touch when running.

Twenty minutes later, we were in Legaspi Park, and I was semi-bouncing in delight because the air was so cool, there were just a few people running / jogging / walking, and it just seemed like a great evening for running!

To take it easy, I only had a 25-minute run/jog. It was relaxing, just whooshing past benches and people at a regular, easy pace. No hard running here. After a 3-week hiatus from this sport, I felt it best to simply condition my body again to running in a gradual manner. Tomorrow, I will run for 25-30 minutes and see how it goes.

Into each life, a little coffee must fall

After boxing this morning, I treated myself to a nice cup of Starbucks coffee.

I cannot survive without coffee. Anyone who knows me can pretty much say that coffee is in my bloodstream. I have it everyday after lunch. My body literally slumps when I go without caffeine--but this happens only on exceptional occasions (like when I'm traveling for hours or when my hyperacidity is really acting up).

Most of the time, Starbucks is the coffee of my choice, but on days when I'm making tipid, I am content to buy a large cup of cappuccino from the nearest 7-Eleven (which costs an amazing 55 bucks only and came highly recommended by officemates).

Every day during the Christmas season, I get my favorite: grande hot Toffee Nut Latte, nonfat, still with whip. While the presence of whipped cream may negate the effects of choosing the healthier option that is nonfat milk, I can at least enjoy my coffee with less guilt. Besides, I've tried a nonfat, no whip version of Toffee Nut Latte, and it wasn't that great.

But because Toffee Nut Latte is a seasonal drink, this is what I usually have for the rest of the year:

Isn't this chart thing-y cool? (Of course it won't be so cool for some people to discover the actual calorie content of their grande mocha frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream.)

I go to Starbucks' website to check out the nutrional info of the beverages whenever I'm in the mood to try something new. Depending on the supplies used to create the beverages, the calorie count may differ slightly from country to country--but at least you have a general idea how many calories you're packing in for every drink of Starbucks coffee you take. This nifty little calculation tool helps eliminate the guesswork while you're customizing your beverage.

And it also helps that Starbucks baristas are willing to supply you with the nutrional information of the in-store food they serve. I guess some people might think I'm being anal for calorie counting, but, well, that's my thing.

Just to put a little variety in my coffee drinking, I trade the usual Caffe Mocha for either of these two:

Interestingly enough, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's vanilla latte concoction is really yummy and--I have to say--much better than Starbucks' version. (Aside: So when you're in Coffee Bean, try the vanilla latte with the chocolate muffin. Oh. My. God. Heaven.)

I can't imagine life before espresso coffee. Of course, in my younger years, before Starbucks and other cafe stores took the country by storm, people drank 3-in-1 if there wasn't brewed coffee available. Never liked 3-in-1 even back then--I think my taste buds were developed at an early stage to savor only real coffee. Hahaha.

Just so you know, I have a gag reflex when it comes to 3-in-1. So if anyone wants to torture me, just tie me up and force 3-in-1 coffee down my throat. It'll work! I'll confess to anything!

06 February 2009

Run Gina Run

For lack of a better, more creative name for my running playlist in iTunes, I simply call it "Run Gina Run." My friend Randy's is so cute--RUNdy. Haha.

I am completely dependent on my iPod touch to keep me entertained during a race or practice run. It's the only thing that can distract me from the upper body ache and the weird scar pain in my pelvic area. And when my legs feel heavy in a race, it's a really upbeat track on my iPod that motivates me to move on.

I love listening to music whenever I'm running or on the go because I don't get to do that at all in boxing. Can't have my music player with me in the ring or on the training floor because I won't be able to hear Kuya Mong's rapid-fire punch combo instructions.

There are elite runners (especially the purists) who probably don't need a running playlist--but as I am no professional runner, I prefer having my iPod with me. Sharing with you now a list of my top favorite running songs. I customize the list depending on the race distance or duration of my practice run. Like other runners with iPods, I divide my playlist into various race "phases":

1) warm-ups songs (while stretching and for setting the mood before gun start)
2) the picking-up-the-pace set (catchy, cheerful songs mixed with rock / electronic music to keep me alert as much as possible for the first 15 minutes)
3) the tough stretch set (the most crucial part of my amateur run; these are the songs that motivate me to continue and NOT walk during this difficult period). In other words, "mental power" music, baby. Haha.
4) wind-down, you're-almost-at-the-finish-line-Gina! set (calming songs that give me that happy feeling of surviving another run)

Songs 1 to 4 are for warming up. Daft Punk's "Da Funk" totally wakes me up before the 6 am gun start. And yes, I like the song "Fame", so shut up.

Songs 5 to 10 comprise the first set of the run proper. There's a great comfort in hearing something so familiar as A-ha's "Take on Me" as I join the throng of runners in the first few minutes of the run . I grew up listening to my elder siblings' collection of New Wave / synth-pop tunes, and it's music like A-ha--cheesy 80s pop music and all--that triggers child-like happy thoughts as I pound the pavement. Weird, but A-ha works.

"All the Small Things" and "Here It Goes Again" are such sell-out tracks, but the beats of these songs keep me alive so I'm not taking them out of my playlist. Rooney's "I'm Shakin'" gets points for being the happy-pappy song that gives me a little bounce while I run. How corny but true.

When I'm starting to feel extra tired already, I immediately switch to the remix version of the (in)famous Rocky theme song "Gonna Fly Now." Go ahead and laugh. It's probably the corniest track on my list, but I swear, it works for me. And because I box, I have a certain affinity with that song. I swear, when I visit Philadelphia one day, I'll run up those museum steps and do a victory pose just to recreate that scene in Rocky. Of course, my younger sisters would die of embarrassment if I did that.

New Order's "Temptation" is a track that I can listen to day in, day out. Beautiful, upbeat tune. I'm totally addicted to it.

Of course, what's a playlist without U2 in it? (Well, at least in my own little world, I can't imagine a U2-less playlist. They have a song for everything.) "Where the Streets Have No Name" is, without question, my favorite running song. If each person had to identify his/her own Nike power song, this would be mine. During my 10K run at the UNICEF Walk on the Child's Side 2008, this song was playing as I underwent the 5K-7K mark in Heritage Park. The place looked so beautiful and serene, and I was smiling stupidly to myself while singing (hopefully without other people noticing).

My other U2 song in the list is "Yahweh." This is such an uplifting song, and incidentally, it's my friend and officemate Cecil's power song. We watched U23D together with Randy in IMAX back in 2008, and "Yahweh" served as a fitting end to the concert. When I run, I sometimes find myself singing "Yahweh" out loud as well, because the lyrics are so nice:
Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

It's usually "Yahweh", "Digital Love", Starlight" and "Under Pressure" that are my wind-down songs. Songs 21-25 are back-up tracks if I need to cover a longer distance.

As you can see, I'm so fussy when it comes to my running playlist. No wonder my pace isn't improving as fast as it should. I'm too busy singing along to the music while I race. Haha. Oh well.

To end this blog entry on a baduy yet euphoric note, here's the training scene in Rocky. (Of course, I can't do push-ups like Stallone, and I don't have the luxury of punching frozen slabs of meat hung from the ceiling.)

Have a nice run, people!

05 February 2009

The benefits of getting sick?

I get to lose weight. I am now at 93 pounds.

Which means I can binge more than the usual and have Yellow Cab pizza (with its oily, garlicky, buttery sauce) and chocolate this week. Because it's relatively easy for me to lose and gain a few pounds, I can afford to binge. I'm burning those extra calories anyway in my next workout. Don't think I'll ever have killer abs in the near future, but at least I get to have my precious snacks.

The downside to getting sick? (Aside from, well, getting sick.)

I am forced to stay home, chewing my nails in agitation, because of the haunting certainty that there's a ton of work to be done. I've been like this since Wednesday. Even checked my office mail while in bed with fever. Heck, I even wrote on this blog.

When I had to go on a forced one-month leave in 2007 for my ovarian cyst operation, I couldn't stop calling the office a week after the surgery, checking on the progress of my direct mail campaign.

So what if I'm a workaholic?

Just found out this morning that my site visit to Camarines Norte is pushing through this Monday to Thursday. Being the obsessive-compulsive, guilt-ridden person that I am, I couldn't simply stay at home (in spite of my weakened state) and let my officemate Tintin do all the travel arrangements in my behalf. So when I felt somewhat better, I ran out of the house at 5 pm and was in UNICEF in fifteen minutes. Worked--happily, I must say--until 10:30 pm.

I am a complete failure in the work-life balance department.

04 February 2009

Death of the Letter 'F'

On one particular Thursday night, I was in Starbucks The Columns editing an essay that my officemate JinSoon had written. I was holding up my cup of Toffee Nut Latte, cracking a joke at the expense of JinSoon, when it happened.

Because I was laughing so hard at my own brand of wit (served me right for making fun of JinSoon), my hand shook, and I didn't put down my coffee properly on the table. The cup sort of toppled over but I managed to catch it before its contents totally spilled out onto my Mac.

But still, it was too late; there was already a small, small glob of latte (thankfully not all 16 fl. oz. of the drink) that was rapidly seeping into the innards of the keyboard. I could only stare down at my laptop in shock and horror, while my friend, who had his wits about him, immediately reached out for a napkin and started inserting it below the keys to absorb the liquid. I think the wild look on my face alarmed him, and he hastened to reassure me that keyboard spills happen to people many times, that they don't damage the hard drive, and that I could have the keyboard cleaned by my Mac service provider.

When I finally un-froze myself from that petrified state, I did a general testing of my keyboard. On the surface, everything seemed to be fine, and I could type. Idiot that I was, I should have checked each key. Because I only noticed the next evening that the letter 'F' wasn't working anymore.

I was editing another of JinSoon's essays (which are part of his application to Harvard Kennedy School of Government) that Friday, and I was furious to discover that the 'F' key was totally dead. It shouldn't have surprised me; that letter was the epicenter of the coffee spill.

I was in an ugly mood, of course, and I kept saying fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck it. And JinSoon chose to crack a joke at MY expense at that moment by saying, "You mean 'uck', right? Instead of 'fuck.' Your letter 'F' is dead."

If I hadn't been rendered speechless by his untimely smart-alecky comment, I would have thrown a left hook to his ear. But my officemate was the type to go to mass every day, and God was probably on his side that night, so I left JinSoon unharmed.

The next morning, I went to Senco Link to have my Mac assessed and told the whole sad story to Carlos, the senior engineer who handles my unit. He immediately pried out the 'F' key, ran a couple of tests, gave me an apologetic look, and proclaimed the key officially dead. Then he proceeded to tell me that the entire keyboard had to be replaced (because there were no spare individual key parts for Mac), and that Senco Link could order the keyboard from the U.S. upon my go signal.

Me: Okay, I'll have it replaced. So, um, how much would the entire thing cost?

Carlos: Cost of the replacement keyboard is Php 3,500. Plus-- (and he throws me an embarrassed look, like it's his fault pa that the stupid key died)--Php 2,000 charge for the labor.


What could I do then, but swallow and place the order? Besides, I trusted Senco; there were times when I had the Mac assessed and upgraded with new software, and Carlos didn't even charge anything for that. So while waiting for the new keyboard to arrive, I had to contend with the annoying situation of having an 'F'-less keyboard.

As I write now this blog entry, I'm still forced to copy the said letter from old documents and paste it every time I need an 'f.' A hassle indeed. But it could have been worse. Can you imagine if the letter 'E' was the one not working instead?

By next week, I'm taking the Mac to Senco to have the keyboard replaced. After which, I can happily type all the 'f' words I can think of.

not so "Alive!"

I knew it. I knew I'd get sick.

Stuck at home right now with a slight fever and aching bones. I get anxious, just thinking of the workload I've left behind in the office. (As a disclaimer, I'm not the only workaholic in UNICEF. A lot more of my colleagues are worse, with more than 60 unused leaves to their name. I'm in the 40+ range in terms of unused leaves, and I haven't even managed to come up with a leave plan for the year. It's so stressful.)

Because I'm such a delinquent when it comes to taking vitamins and supplements, I don't have a very good immune system. If someone I'm with has a cough or cold, I'm 95% likely to get it as well. I'm prone to fever and I feel fatigued a lot (but the latter I can attribute to lack of sleep). It's actually a miracle that I haven't collapsed during a boxing session or a run.

So when my officemate Winston was urging me (oh well, alright, "selling to me" would be the more exact term) to take Alive! Mega-Nutrionals Whole Food Energizer, I was intrigued. I need meds that would boost my immune system and keep me energized. As much as I love, love, love coffee, I also have to have a healthier alternative to staying, erm, alive and sprightly enough for my sports activities.

These energy supplements, which are produced by Nature's Way in the U.S. and distributed locally by AIM Global, contain this mega-impressive list of vitamins and minerals and what-not blends: green food/spirulina, digestive enzyme, myco defense mushroom, garden veggies, etc. Golly gee, each capsule must be a meal in itself!

Winston, who has the natural charisma and tactics of a true salesman, was able to secure a sale from me. So I got meself a box of 30 capsules, which wasn't exactly cheap by the way (Php 1,125 per box, or Php 37.50 per capsule a day). It better work. Oh, the price of staying Alive! (okay, bad joke)

To his credit, Winston vigorously attests to the health benefits of taking these supplements, as he was cured from five of his ailments. Moreover, the doctors in our office have given their seal of approval on this product (Doc Marths even bought 3 boxes), so there's no harm in trying. Besides, Alive! might actually give me that extra boost when running. And they're not steroids, ha!!

I'll start taking the meds this month, and will observe for any signs of progress.

I couldn't help but laugh though at the site's blurb on Alive!:
Alive Mega-nutritionals is the God of all supplements - The World’s First Whole food energizer and dietary supplement - The Most Nutritionally Dense Food Concentrate in the world market today. - The Most number of Anti-oxidants with approximately 16,000 Phytonutrients in one product - The Most potent Anti-aging Product in the history of supplementation. - The First Mega-Nutritionals whose ingredients work in “synergy” to produce maximum result for your body.

03 February 2009

boxing vs. running

I checked my weight this morning and was deliriously happy to see that I've gone down from 96 pounds to 94. Yes! (two punches in the air)

Before the inevitable food binge last Christmas, I was at 93/94. Then Christmas came, and I totally forgot there was such a thing as exercise. I started snacking on a lot of chocolate every day during the break. Well, the chocolate didn't mercifully disappear, and instead, decidedly announced its presence through a weight gain of 2 pounds.

I should be grateful. Other people put in more pounds than that during the holiday season. But after two 5K races and Pilates now and then, those crummy 2 pounds simply didn't want to go away, damnit.

But after a dry spell in running for the past few weeks, I decided to put my energy into boxing once more--and lost the 2 pounds.


I have this theory. My weight loss isn't as dramatic and effortless as it used to be because for medical, post cyst-removal reasons, I've been advised by my ob gyne to cut down on boxing (and even reduce my 10K running back to 5K). *sob* It must be the scar tissue. I exercised way too soon after the operation, and the scar didn't heal as quickly as it should have.

Anyway, my theory is that running doesn't give me that much-needed weight loss as compared to boxing. Don't get me wrong. I love running, but boxing lets me sweat buckets and lose pounds faster. It's useless to prettify yourself before stepping out into the ring or training floor because you end up looking like a heavily sweating Coke bottle under the noonday sun afterwards. Or like a human condom, to be more exact. Nobody can sweat and still manage to look passably attractive inside a boxing gym that has only one ceiling fan and open windows for ventilation. A person has better chances of hooking up with someone in uber slick, uber air-conditioned Fitness First.

After several rounds of struggling to deliver the dizzying number of punch combinations I am required to make (with my trainer Kuya Mong in angry-face mode, screaming out the combos and throwing a soft punch to my rib now and then as a warning for me to keep up), I am usually made to position myself on a mat to begin the cool-down exercises.

Which is a ridiculous term, really.

There's nothing so 'cool-down' about 100-150 crunches after a hard boxing session. Boxing is so old school: the trainer works you up into a sweat in the ring, and then tells you to get down on the floor and counts matter-of-factly as you deliver--humbly and minion-like--all those crunches. And that's that. None of those extra fancy Pilates movements which Mong dismisses with a snort.

By the time I'm done with my morning boxing workout, I am ready to hit the sack. While I'm allowed to eat anything I like after boxing (Kuya Mong even recommends, in a very businesslike tone, the inclusion of both rice and beans in my post-workout meal), I usually don't have the energy to eat. I just stagger home, grunt a hello to my mom, shower, and collapse onto my bed. When I wake up several hours later, I am happy to have a light-to-medium sized meal and my afternoon cup of coffee.

This twice-a-week exercise routine can certainly explain the loss of 16 pounds and shrinking of my tummy. Boxing really works, and I'd encourage anyone to try it. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial for slimming products, I can pretty much attest that in a few months' time, you'll get the results you want, and you won't gain back easily the weight you worked so hard to lose. I've been boxing for more than a year now, and I have the freedom to eat whatever I want without worrying about gaining 5 or more pounds. Gaining 2 or 3 pounds, in my case (without being smug or boastful), is as extreme as it can get.


While boxing lets you expel energy in, er, spurts, as you punch, running is just one continuous stretch of torture. Which makes it exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I don't box to compete because the vain part of me doesn't want to get all bloody and beaten up (a bruised rib for two weeks was enough to convince me that I had no career as a boxing athlete). But in running, well, one is forced to compete--whether it's against one's last personal record, or PR (your best time at a given distance) or against the rest of the crowd in an organized race.

Personally, running is a pride thing. I certainly don't want to end up last in a race. And the scary possibility of being the last is enough to push me to continue running--lungs bursting and all--and finish decently. I got hooked into running, thanks to my officemate Cecil, just last October and I've joined a couple of fun runs (5K and 10K) since then. I wouldn't consider myself fast because, well, I currently run at a trailblazing speed of 7:26 per km--harhar. Obviously, I'm a beginner at this sport, and I just need to work on improving my pace. If I could attain a sub 7 pace this February, I'd be really, really pleased.

Like boxing, running is a humbling exercise. There is a great pride in finishing the race, certainly, but it's the feeling of humility that's dominant within me during a run. As I go through that agonizing stretch of road and forcing, ALWAYS forcing myself not to stop running--I can really feel how utterly human I am: the pools of sweat rolling down my back and arms, each expelled breath coming out as a measured gasp, the constant physical upper body ache (never the legs, strangely enough), and worst of all, the uncomfortable slight throbbing of my scar in the pelvic area (how very Harry Potter-like but not as glorious).

With nothing but the road before you and the playlist on your iPod to keep you going, you spend a good 30 minutes to an hour (depending on your race distance) keenly undergoing a masochistic immersion into physical pain. But the bad feeling disappears when you see the finish line in sight, and you hear people cheering, and then you suddenly obtain that extra rush of adrenalin that gets you to the end of the race. And it's all natural euphoria after that.

No wonder some people liken running to a love-hate relationship.

There are bad running days sometimes--days when I honestly can't reach the finish line without stopping to walk in some parts (and I curse myself vehemently for stopping). Everyone has days like those. But there are also blissful race days when I just run and run--mentally willing myself to ignore the side stitches, the dry throat, the perennial throbbing of the scar--and keep on running until I cross the finish line. Some people talk to their injured knees or shins while they run; I talk to my scar and ask it to let me finish the race without stopping to walk.

It's an insane sport in that sense, luring stubborn people like me to run even when the doctors advise against it. The scar pain IS troublesome, I admit, and as a means of meeting my ob gyne halfway and appeasing her wrath, I've demoted myself back to 5K. Which I'm perfectly happy to do, because 10K is simply grueling and I honestly think I'm not good enough for that race distance. Yet.

You would think, after my description of the pain and sweat encountered in running, that one 5K race would at least make you lose, like, 5 pounds immediately. Sadly, this isn't the case (unless you have incredible superhuman metabolism), and just like boxing, there are no shortcuts. One has to run regularly to eventually lose pounds and achieve toned muscles.

But in my case, I've noticed that I don't lose as much weight in running as compared to boxing. Oops.

I'm pretty sure it's because of the delicious meal that awaits me after each and every race. You can't help it; you NEED to eat after all that continuous running. I'm not a breakfast person at all, but after every race, that plate of garlic rice with beef tapa and/or fish that the waiter places in front of me is wiped clean in 7 minutes.

So in order to offset all that carbo loading, I gotta run more regularly. If my work schedule would have allowed me, I'd attend proper (and free!) running lessons at Coach Rio's Nike Running Training Clinic in ULTRA every night. Unfortunately, ULTRA's too far and I always do overtime at the office. Sigh. My newfound friend and fellow race runner Lara (who's a runner since high school) is a participant in that clinic though, and the training is totally boosting her running performance these days. I'm sure she'll place in the top three in a 5K run this 2009.

As I have no ambitions in winning a medal for running, recreational running is just fine with me, thank you. It's a great complementary training activity to my boxing and Pilates, and an excellent sport for increasing endurance and mental willpower.

But being the restless creature that I am, I'm not going to stick to just three sports activities. I want to take up--very soon, I hope--spinning. Spinning! Whee! I haven't even started, and I'm excited already.

PS. After reading through what I've just written, I just thought, mehn, this blog entry's long. Hope I didn't bore anyone who happened to chance upon this blog with my lengthy descriptions of pain. Whoever you may be, kind reader, feel free to stop reading whenever you see the words "sweat" or "throbbing scar" in this little blog.

Legaspi Park

A picked me up from work earlier this evening (yes, we still see each other regularly), and invited me at the last minute to run tonight.

Drat. I've been wanting to run for the past few days, but work has kept me busy. Now that I'm able to get out of the office early (8 pm is already early by my standards), my body isn't conditioned to run. Woke up this morning with aching bones and a generally unwell feeling. Oh no. Hope i don't come down with the flu or something.

So here I am, sitting inside A's parked car, typing this entry while he does a 25-minute jog/run around Legaspi Park. I haven't run in this place before, and to my surprise, it's full of people at this hour. I suppose it's a convenient park for running and walking after office hours since it's situated in the middle of office buildings.

Legaspi Park is bigger compared to Salcedo Park (where I do practice runs at night during weekdays), with the former having a nice little uphill path for a bit of running challenge. But the path in Legaspi Park is narrow, and one has to overtake and weave his way through the little groups of people leisurely walking so as not to break the running momentum. But I'll definitely give the place a try one of these days.

While I'm currently doing weight maintenance and improving my pace, A is trying to lose weight in a major way. He intends to lose 20 pounds, and I'm helping him with his diet (Actually, it's not a diet, as I honestly, honestly don't believe in crash diets. It's simply all about proper eating habits and nutrition. I'm not a nutrition expert, and all I'm saying is that if people researched more about good dieting, they'd be able to slim down AND learn how to eat properly without feeling deprived. But I should stop ranting now.)

My next planned run is on February 15 at SM Mall of Asia, by the bay (if I manage to register on time). The route consists of a fairly even path--unlike Fort Bonifacio's gently sloping terrain--so it should be a relaxing run. Here's hoping my PR gets better!