24 August 2010

Thin Different

"You lost some weight, are you OK?"  "I did not recognize you at first."  Those two phrases were addressed to me in recent weeks by people I have not seen in months, maybe even a year or two.  I don't usually care enough about my look, but these observations made me happy.  All that running has paid off.  Even though my weight still hovers between 185 pounds and 210 pounds (83 kg and 95 kg), supposedly there is visible change in my appearance.  I unreasonably hope that my 95 kg really contains some muscle mass.  I do see the love handles getting smaller, so maybe I really lost some fat.

It all started almost a year ago, September 2009, that for some reason I decided to lose some weight.  My family went on vacation with a big group and perhaps there were other men in the group who were overweight.  Perhaps the men made a bet on who would shed some pounds.  Strange that I don't remember the details from last year's event.  I remember back in 2007 I was upset that my ring finger was so fat I almost couldn't remove the wedding band.  I was also on vacation and went through some exercise routine after coming back from the vacation.  It also involved jogging but I gave up after a while.  Maybe the cold weather set in and I got discouraged.  This time around my Facebook friends definitely helped with the good words of encouragement.  I started out running 6 times around the nearby park, totaling just 3K or a pitiful 1.8 miles.  Slowly I worked up to 9K or 5.5 miles.  Then my right foot started to hurt so I switched to cycling, around New Year's Day.  I am sure cycling has its benefits, but I was still operating a machine, so the energy I use in an hour on the bike is less than an hour running.  About four months of cycling and I switched back to jogging.  This time around I introduced longer distance on the weekends, 15K (10 miles) or more.  Warm or hot weather, I was out there putting in 8K to 15K each run.  The work culminates in the 2 half-marathons I ran recently.  Before running the half-marathons, I was not sure if I could even run them in less than 3 hours.  I eked by with the Queens Half, at 2:54, but with the Bronx Half, I completed the course in 2:35.  Now I am so gung-ho about the whole thing that I'm considering running the full marathons in the New York metro area, perhaps a bit further out as far as Philadelphia.

It takes time to exercise regularly.  In my case, I have to give up being a night owl so I can get up early in the morning, like 5:30 or 6.  Just do the run in the morning and carry on with normal activities during the day.  I get home late in the evening so this is the only solution for me.  It really helps that I don't have to cook or wash the stinky clothes, for I have mother and wife to thank for.  Still, I have to drag myself out of bed in the morning.  I no longer stay up past midnight playing Wordscraper Blitz or some other games I have installed locally.  No more random surfing of the web looking for a particular piece of software.  Or just checking out free Mac software just because they are free.  I already watch very little TV and DVD, now I do so even less.  I just have to make do with podcasts and paper books, something I can consume while commuting.

If you have the need to lose some weight, or take better care of your health, I hope my story inspires you to put wish into actions.  It may be hard to get started, but if so start small.  I started at 3K and worked up to 15K, over almost a period of one year.  Yes, you will have to sacrifice some time, but the outcome is worthwhile.  On days that I go jogging, I feel energetic and alert the whole day.  Food tastes better and sleep comes easily at night.  Let me know if you are inspired enough to do something about your health!

21 August 2010

Bronx Half-Marathon, Bonus Questions for Vietnamese

After the Bronx Half-Marathon, I attended a luncheon for my wife's grandmother.  To be easy for others, it was held in the much-hated, by me anyway, Manhattan Chinatown.  Will anything ever be done so it's easy on the drivers among us?  It was next to impossible to find parking in the area.  The sea and mountain of people in the area were just staggering.  I was a bit tired from the race and felt even worse upon arriving in Chinatown.  I ended up parking far away at some municipal parking lot.  At the end of the long walk from the parking lot, I met the paternal grandmother, plus others, for lunch.  What's the Vietnamese phrase to describe the situation?  Hint:  I was tired then I saw the paternal grandmother.

Only Vietnamese speakers need to try!

20 August 2010

Bronx Half-Marathon, Photos from My Cell Phone's Camera

I thought I would have some free time to snap photos of my old neighborhood. The Kingsbridge area of the Bronx was my first home in the U.S., albeit for just half a year. Unfortunately, I got to the race late, had a hard time finding parking, then after the race I had to attend a luncheon to celebrate the 90+ birthday for the in-laws' clan matriarch. I took some photos along the race though, mostly the mile markers.

19 August 2010

Bronx Half-Marathon, the Race Itself

The Bronx Half-Marathon officially started at 7 A.M. Sunday 15 August 2010.  Before that there was the national anthem followed by the horn, not unlike the much-hated vuvuzela of South Africa.  I think I was still on the queue to use the portable john.  No rush, really, I won't be running at 7 but my time will be counted only when I cross the Start line.  I walked slowly into the corral and stretched a little on the side.  Around 7:15 or so, I finally started my race.

Believe it or not, the first thing I thought when I finally ran was "Oh no, what did I get myself into?  Three hours, 13 miles, such long and big numbers!"  I thought back to my blog entry about lòng người ngại núi e sông (the human spirit fearing the mountain and the river) and pressed on.  Mile #1 came up pretty soon, where JHS 143 was located.  I took a photo of the store that I was sure used to be a different kind of deli, with a video arcade machine outside, where I lost a few quarters to Space Invaders.  Somehow I missed Mile #2 but even before I reached the Moshulu Parkway the leading man already ran back toward my group of runners.  The Moshulu Parkway was described as scenic but I was too busy running to really take it all in.  I only looked forward to where the course looped back, U-turn, on the Moshulu so we know we got another leg of the race covered.  At Mile #5, back at JHS 143, I feel a tingling pain on the right foot as I stepped down.  Luckily, it was nothing major and I continued back to the area of the start line.  For some reason, I got annoyed by a pair of power walkers in front of me.  It didn't look like real work to me, as they don't actually run but just walk very quickly.  Still, they managed to stay ahead of me - that's enough reason to be annoyed, right?  At some point I managed to run past them.  Rounding the corner to pass the start line and head for Mile #6, somehow I pulled a muscle in my left hip.  Past the portable johns and I was again on the Moshulu Parkway, but only until I reached the Grand Concourse.  Mile #7 was pretty much at the entrance to the Concourse, with Mile #8 around the dip that crossed Fordham Road.  Onward I pressed to around 183rd Street then a U-turn on the Concourse to reach Mile #9.  I noticed some woman using me as a goal to keep up with.  She alternately ran and walked and the tactic seemed to work.  I couldn't shake her off with my constant pace.  After Mile #11 we were back to the Moshulu for the last time.  I think around the U-turn on the Moshulu to get to Mile #12, I finally ran away from the woman.  Just before Mile #13, some man was trying to keep up with me and we were running shoulder to shoulder for a few minutes.  I offered to race him to the finish line and he accepted, but then I started to sprint and he could not keep up.  Pity my sprinting does not look that fast in the Brightroom video.  Sprint!  The page is actually for someone who finished a tad before me.  On my own page, the video does not include me at all.  I think there was a mistake. Jump!

Compared to the Queens Half-Marathon, the weather was great.  It was not hot and even the sun was not shining.  As a result, I did not have to stop at water stations as much, or get sprayed on.  My finish time was almost 20 minutes faster.  It really helped that I did not walk at all, only briefly through the water stations where I stopped for water.  I also paused to take photos.  Maybe I should skip the photos next time to improve the time even more.

17 August 2010

Bronx Half-Marathon, the Race to Get There

Ah, the best laid schemes of mice and men.  The Bronx Half-Marathon this past Sunday was my second race in a long time.  It was held not too far from my first home in the U.S., in the Kingsbridge area of the Bronx.  I thought by then I would be familiar with the format of the race and would arrive early to snap a few photos of the old neighborhood.  I got my bib number, tank top, and timing tag (D-tag) on the Thursday before the race.  That same night, I got the bib attached to the shirt, D-tag looped securely around my left sneaker's lace.  The night before the event, I packed a change of clothes in a small duffel bag.  With the Queens Half, I packed on the morning of the race and only realized I forgot the change of clothes when I parked at the event.  Nothing would go wrong this time, so I thought.

I got up early at 4:30 in the morning and out of the house by 5.  Less than half-way there, the car complained that gas was low.  (A subway stop is close to the race start line but traveling from Brooklyn to the Bronx on the subway really early on Sunday is probably not a safe thing to do.)  I knew that normal usage would allow the car to go another 15 miles or so even after the low-gas indicator came up.  However, I really don't like to take chances.  Who know, I might have enough gas to get to the race but maybe it won't be enough to go back.  I lived in the Bronx for only a few months and rarely visit the borough so I am not familiar with locations of gas stations.  Better get gas before arriving at the Bronx Half.

I figured it would be safest to get off the highway while in Manhattan.  The idea of getting off the Gowanus and visit some gas station on Brooklyn's Third Avenue or Fourth Avenue, at 5+ in the morning, was not very attractive.  I got off the FDR Drive at the Queensborough Bridge exit and went straight for the gas station at York and 65th Street (?).  Alas, the attendant was AWOL and all the pumps were unusable.  Only one prompted me to swipe the credit card but by the time I backed my car near that pump, it timed out on the prompt for zip code and it too was not usable.  In the end, I went somewhere I was familiar with, Washington Heights, where I occasionally go with the in-laws to visit the clan's matriarch.  The original plan was to cross University Bridge but in the end I went with the 155th Street Bridge instead.  Good thing I had a good sense of direction so even with all the bad turns I still made it to the Bronx before 6 AM.  One hour to race time!

The Queens Half-Marathon took place mostly in Flushing Meadows Park, with some free parking spaces on the park's inner perimeter.  With the Bronx Half, you only have a handful of paid parking lots and whatever little street parking you can find.  With all the delay in getting gas for the car, I got there too late to find parking.  I ended up parking two subway stations away, at University Avenue and Fordham Road, on the edge of Devoe Park and looking at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church.  It was a long walk to the race!

Thanks to the timing system, even though I was technically late to the race, my own race did not start until whenever I crossed the start line.  That was when the computer would detect my D-tag and start to log my time.  Of course at some point latecomers would not be allowed to run, but I was not that late.  I did a little stretching within the race corral, on the side, with others eager running past me.  I finally crossed the start line at around 7:15 A.M.

04 August 2010

Queens Half-Marathon Photos

My photo order from BrightRoom arrived yesterday.  At $15 or so a pop, I better milk the photos for all they got!  I wish someone I knew was there at the finish line or along the way to photograph me, but then again the race started at 7 A.M. and I finished around 10 A.M., on a Sunday.  Most people would just get up then.  Even if someone was there, chances are BrightRoom had exclusive rights for the event, at least at the finish line, but that's just my guess.

I already signed up for the Bronx Half-Marathon, August 15.  That's less than two weeks away and I haven't run since about two weeks ago because of all the clean-up around the house.  Ack!  Better turn in early for the night and try to do 8K tomorrow morning!!!