I run…therefore I am

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In the Groove…

In the Groove

Currently, our group (me, Dave & Frank) would gather at 5:30 am to do our weekday runs 3x a week in a regular route around our village.  We cover a 4.4 km course which has its share of mild uphills and minor descents.  We used to circle this path only once but now, it’s no longer a struggle to run through it twice while catching up on the latest issues of the day.  Our run is definitely a breeze on weekdays and gets a little testy on weekends.

On Sundays, we take the same path and tread it for 6 times, stopping every 4.4 km cycle along our service car to replenish our bodies with chocolate, bananas, water and energy drinks.  We assemble earlier during the long run since the morning sun can be assaulting as early as 7 am.

Our goal is to rack up at least 45 km of running, walking and jogging in a week to strengthen our bodies and enhance our resistance.  Never thought I’d get into the running groove but here I am – running longer and feeling stronger.  I just hope to keep this up even with the approaching rainy season.  Our goals:  the Milo Marathon (July 4), the PAU 65K (Aug. 29) and the Camarines Sur Marathon (Sept. 26).


The Extern Files: Tales from the E.R.

The Extern files

Tales from the ER

It’s been ages since I first laid eyes on that tiny space at the mighty PGH.  For the next 6 months, the dental emergency room became our breeding and sleeping space for (+-) 24 hours every 10 days as part of the rotation assignments of our externship program.  The white-tiled room (which used to be the morgue) was supposed to fit in 2 externs, a folding bed, an x-ray machine, an antiquated dental chair, electric fan and all the artillery needed to treat any emergency case.  How we managed to make those duties memorable is primarily due to the effect of the drab hospital environs that surrounded us.

The obscure space was situated at the far end of the complex so we had little idea of what was going on with the other departments.  One division in particular would sometimes intercept cases requiring dental intervention, not ENTs (oops! I  said it).  As a result, many of our nights on duty remained undisturbed as we slept unperturbed, except when you need to do intravenous drug transfusion every night or to irrigate on cellulitis patients.  Or w an all-night session in the room that you had to light up katol (and end up smelling like Lion-Tiger).

I remember when one of our former juniors would complain of the hazards of staying with one of their juniors who was the daughter of the Iraqi ambassador (this was the height of the Gulf war!) for fear of the ER being blown up to smithereens from a wayward bomb by religious fanatics.  Perhaps, one of the loneliest 24 hours would be getting assigned on a Christmas or New Year.  Instead of having a delectable (and cholesterolic) noche buena, one gets broken fingers and dismembered bleeding ears for dinner.

Of course, a 24-hour ER duty is too misleading for after 24 restless hours, you still have to attend to your duties at the OPD for another 8 hours.  Unless you had a beauty sleep the past night (along with the lamoks and the ipises), doing those surgical cases the next day is no different from pushing a round boulder up Mayon Volcano.

I remember once, when I was all washed up to go to sleep on my beat up bonbon bed (Juniors take the bed while seniors sleep on the dental chair, if it’s any consolation) dressed in my worn out scrub suit when a loud knock thud on the door.   Darn.  It was a child patient with a swelling and very feverish.  Out of sleepiness or fear in handling the little child, we just prescribed some analgesics and antibiotics.  The next day, the patient came back for treatment at the OPD, the whole department was thrown into a frantic situation. – Code Blue. The child had an epileptic attack and it took specialists from other departments to stabilize the situation.  Had we attempted treatment on that case – what could have happened?

The ER experience always kept us up on our feet (and mind) like hungry lions awaiting to pounce on our next victims, er patients.  The adrenalin, the urgency and the will to treat any patient who comes knocking on that little blue door (sometimes, no one showed up) is still incomparable and very fulfilling.  We were young soldiers in our blue scrubs, always eager and geared for the next battle.  Years after, I still long for that rush and gratification of being part of the 24- hour service.

extern X, cubicle 10, batch Jan ‘90

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Pulp Fiction: Micromanaging a Clinic

Micromanaging a Clinic

Micromanagement, I believe, should be vital part of a successful and thriving dental practice.  It basically requires the dentist to oversee the finer details of the dental office set-up.  I don’t expect the clinician to go overly obsessive and compulsive on these matters – as accounting for every piece of paper point consumed on Monday or determining the grams of alginate left on the canister.  But you basically get down to the details such as confirming and rechecking the appointed time of patients two days prior to their schedules or synchronizing the arrival of an RPD patient with his framework delivery on time.  That kind of thing.

Now imagine if you’ve set an appointment with this balikbayan patient for canal obturation only to discover that you have run out of endo paste or worse, x-ray films.  Am I being too OC (obssessive-compulsive) in this situation? (I usually am).  But can you bearing the grunt, frustration and embarrassment of cancelled appointments, expired/ used up dental supplies or lost/misplaced dental instruments (where is our 304 elevator?!) mostly due to your lack of organization and system in scheduling and supply assessment?

Some dentists get by their practice without delving on such detail and complications. I don’t.  That’s why I got me a trusty dental coordinator (a.k.a. dental assistant, secretary or my no. 1 employee) to micromanage my day-to-day dental affairs.  With all the tension and pressure we encounter regularly in our operatory, maybe it’s time we let somebody else do the explaining and reminding, accounting and repurchasing(?), updating and paying, of our daily appointments, dental supplies and expenses, respectively.  I take my hat off to dentists who can juggle all these responsibilities (dental/business) with ease and still keep their sanity and normal blood pressure.  This is completely different from practitioners who put 50% of their heads in their dental cases and perhaps 10% into micromanaging their clinic affairs and requirements.  These are dentists who are bound to disappear from the dental stratosphere, sooner or later.

So, for the last 12 years, the finer details of micromanaging has been left with my dental coordinator (though I still do the book keeping and cash disbursement) while I concentrate on flushing out dentinal debris on a partially obliterated mesiobuccal canal or evacuating blood out of the periodontal pocket before the rubber impression material enters the space.  You could say I’m enjoying the practice with less stress and more time for bouldering and gym workout.  However, as fate would have it, I accidentally orbited into the micromanaging realm of my practice.  Guess what, the once well-entrenched highly-organized system in my office started showing signs of cracks and chaos (you know the symptoms – loyal patients suddenly disappearing, expired dental materials gathering mold in the innermost sanctum of your cabinet, rusting and oily compressor which suddenly stops in the middle of a bridgework and the classic colony of spiders taking refuge in your clinic ceiling).

It was time to take action on my dental coordinator who seemed to relaxed and forgotten the basic rules I’ve thought her in 1992 (12 years in the dental assisting has perhaps become too routinary for her).  A series of re-orientation, reviewing and up dating took up more than a month to put my clinic back in its spanking, efficient new form.   Now, I know better.  No longer will I leave the micromanaging work to my assistant completely.   Every end of the month, we do our recapitulation and analysis of the last 30 days in our practice.  Now, I feel I’m running a corporation with one employee.  Of course, it’s added effort and mind work but I guess it’s the only way to keep me and my assistant on our feet and the practice in tiptop shape.

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Running in the Rain

For the first time in ages, the Metro finally experienced not just a trickle of water from the sky, but a deluge of Ondoy proportion for an hour or so. And what better time than during our weekday run around the village at 5:30 am or so. So what to do – run in the rain and feeeeel like a child again, sans the fear of getting sick. It was most liberating to say the least.

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Running with Giants, part 2

Running with Giants, part 2

We run off as the gun exploded at 4:00 am. While the starting area was glaringly bright with all the spots trained on the runners, the path started to get darker as most roads were not well lit or totally left in darkness (like the overpasses and the skyways).  So while the rest of the Metro was still snuggled nicely on their beds, some 7,000 souls were hovering around in their trainers and eyeing marathon glory (at least, among their facebook friends).

We first circled the Fort Bonifacio area before exiting towards Buendia Ave.  Along the flyover, it was hard to figure out the many moving bodies on a sea of darkness but following the outline of the road will lead one down the Makati business district. It’s hardly been an hour but the sweat and heat have started building up.  The weather was perfectly nippy and slightly breezy so I never felt the need to walk, just slow down at times.

As expected, the veteran runners sprinted to an early lead but since it was a long way to go, Maribel and I took our sweet nice pace while trying to keep up with the general speed.  It was still dark when we entered the Skyway and with the deluge of the runners, I found myself running alone in the paved undulating roads rising from the South superhighway below.  In the middle of the Skyway stretch, the first rays of the sun began to peek and I haven’t even reached the midpoint of the race.

So far, it’s been a constant pace for me with no signs of pain or fatigue.  When we made the turn on the Bicutan interchange, the sun had started to light up the seemingly endless highway and this is when I started feeling the weight and heaviness of my step.  I met Ian and Eric on the detour leading to NAIA 3 – we were all getting hungry but our motorcycle-riding support was still at the end of the Skyway so we subsist on our liquefied chocolate bars.

We finally enter the South superhighway going to Buendia and with it, our first taste of bananas and energy drink from our support guy.  It’s around 7 am, the sun blazing and many of the runners slowing down, we still have 20 kms to go.  The cheers of the crowd and shadows of the buildings along Buendia avenue give our waning spirits a nice needed jolt and we were ready for our homestretch.

Going up the Buendia underpass, one gets a taste of the blazing late morning sun.  From here on, we were practically exposed to the summer heat and thoughts of dehydration and mortality weigh us down even further.  Perhaps the last 10 kms was the most testy and curse-inducing portion of this marathon.  Of course, my trusty MP3 player won’t play again and I’m given to listening to some recessed songs in my head (‘Don’t, don’t you want me…’).

So far, the muscles are tired but not hurting.  Ian calls me and asks for some extra strong anti-inflammatories.  We never meet up as I take the final turn going to the finish line.

That’s still a good 15 minutes before I finally cross the line at 5 hours, 36 minutes.  I even sprint a little to show the waiting crowd that I’m still good for another 10 but once I relaxed and took in all the kilometers I’ve ran, fatigue and mild pain finally set in.  I always kid myself that I have Wolverine’s quick healing adamantium so that I rarely feel weakened nor worn out after a race.  This time around, taking the first steps on my rubber slippers was like walking on puppet legs without the strings – you’re bound to unexpectedly just fall down and crumple on the pavement.  But we still managed to walk around Bonifacio High Street and have our little celebration.  After all, it’s our first full marathon and we survived it.

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Running with Giants

Running with Giants

The first time I set my goals on running the full marathon was in 2009.  Along with a friend, we set our sights on running the 42km Quezon City International Marathon.  We had 2 months to prepare plus proper & scientific guidance from a Runnex trainer and the support group of the Runnex family, with most of its members bent on joining their first marathon.  So every Sunday at the UP Diliman grounds we trained on the proper way run to keep our momentum and reserve our strength for the long haul.  Our plans were on schedule.

Nearly a month before the actual event, Ondoy struck.  Everything had to be put on hold as we try to make sense of the flood which suddenly came and left a devastation we never thought would happen in our lifetime.  The next time I hit the pavement was almost two months after.  During this time, the plan was to join the Hong Kong marathon (a killer with its steep ascents and descents I would later realize).  But then the holidays replaced our mini-practices and runs with endless parties and reunions, albeit unhealthy eating.

2010 arrived soon along with a sedentary and slightly flabby me.  Then news came from Ian, the unofficial promoter of our runs.  The Condura Run will be having a 42 kilometer race on February 7.  We had exactly 1 month to prepare for the big one.  On weekdays, I would run around 5 kilometers (later going up to 12 kilometers) around the Marikina Sports Center while on Sundays, our group (4 people actually) would gather at 5 am and run from Cainta to Antipolo in the Valley Golf area and back.

We tried all terrains from the flat often uneven sidewalks of the reclamation area to the rolling hills of Crosswinds subdivision in Tagaytay.  Days before, a feeling of confidence and positive excitement was more palpable – we are ready for this.

Friday and Saturday before the 7th, I binged on all the ‘healthy’ carbohydrates I can fill my mouth with.  All the heavy eating I had to engage in especially during dinner left me with fears of ‘acute pancreatitis’ (bangungot) but I need all the energy reserve I can pack in.  With the help of an anti-allergy drug, I was sleeping by 9 pm (could have been earlier if not for the text messages from Ian, e.g. ‘8 hours to go’, ‘Ready ka na?’ etc.).

Sans my reliable alarm, I was up by 1:30 am (30 minutes earlier), ate up my pasta meal and started dressing up.  Our group met up before 3 am and was at the Fort area by 3:15 am.  Around 700 runners signed in for the 42 kilometer Condura race.  Not everyone would finish while some will not make the cut off time of 6 hours.

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My Take on Marathons

My Take on Marathons

I’ve been doing fun runs and road races for the last 13 months and will be embarking on my first full marathon by Sunday.  A feeling of trepidation and excitement envelopes me days into my longest race ever – all 42 kilometers which I’m praying I will be able to finish in hopefully a decent time (around 5 hours or less). I never thought I’d get to this the first time I did my 10 km run (the Unicef  ‘Walk on the Child’s Side’).

I’m what you might call a gym rat – been doing my gym sessions quite religiously for the last few years with acceptable results.  However, the aerobic/cardiovascular exercises I’ve hardly done on a regular basis I found in running.  What I mostly did at the gym is weight training with the ‘bakal boys’.  With age comes a weaker stamina and a struggling, palpitating heart during the most menial of chores – ‘gotta get me out of this exercise funk’ I told myself.

In 2008, running started gaining ground in the fitness map in our country.  This was also the time that gym buddies started signing me up to these fun runs just to shake off our routinary gym blues away.  At first it was all for the fun of it – you register, show up in what should be a passable running get-up, join the throng of runners move around the well paved streets of the former Fort Bonifacio, struggle and sweat to finish the race and collect your freebies and give-aways.  Now you have some bragging rights which you can post on your Facebook wall.

As the runs progress, you try to move up from 10 km to15 to 21 km.  Along the way, you learn the science of running – the recommended posture and pacing, the correct foot steps, proper hydration, and a slew of other accessories beyond the running shoes, shorts and tank tops.  Now you need a fuel belt, a speed/heart rate/mileage measuring watch and food supplements besides your regular Gatorade drink.

Yes, running can get a little expensive if you take it seriously (careerin ba naman?) but more significantly is the time it takes out of your regular schedule.  But then it could also be a chunk of heaven in an otherwise busy day.

Running can be fun and interactive when done in groups but it can also be meditative when done alone.  If one is to take it seriously, it can become a solitary activity with the silence of the night whispering in the background or the blaring guitars of the Edge pushing you to go the distance.

Ah yes, the wonders of the MP3 player.  I never was the techie type but now I can’t seem to cover more kilometers without the aid of my dinky accessory.  Lately, I’ve been enjoying some of my audiobooks narrate and take me out of my universe during those solitary running sessions.  It can get involving sometimes.  Until you realize it’s time to go home.

As I embark on my first full marathon, all the concerns and anxieties are always overshadowed by the excitement on accomplishing something new and significant.  Will I survive the big one?  Maybe I will.  I have enough driving energy that helped me get to where I am now.  Plus it’s going to a be lot of fun….let the games begin!

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Me run?


The first time I tried running long distance was when I came out of a turbulent relationship.  It was most fitting to spend hours exploring the remote part of the village at night and giving me time to think and meditate.  Geared only in my non-running trainers and gym outfit sans an MP3 player, the silence and the isolation cleared up my mind of the day’s highs and lows.  It was liberating to say the least.  Plus it helped bring down my blood pressure to normal levels.

It was the last months of 2008 when friends from the gym started catching the running bug.  So without even thinking of what I was getting into, I registered for my first ever long run – a 10 kilometer.  The Unicef ‘s Walk on the Child’s Side gathered us runners on a Sunday early morning and before the sun could come out – we shoot out of the starting line.  I had no idea how far we were going or how long I would last.  But by the time we entered Heritage memorial park and seeing the expanse of the distance ahead, I knew I wasn’t going to make it.

Good thing I chanced upon a classmate from high school.  Danny has been in the running circuit for a year now and as my ‘walking’ companion, he would help me exit the gates of Heritage park in one piece and even gain a second wind near the last kilometers of the race.  By this time the adrenaline levels have gone down and one is left on his own to either join the crowd or set one’s pace, unmindful of all the female runners zipping by.

Perhaps, my competitive nature kept me going as I tried slowing down when the muscles tired down and suddenly bursting into a sprint when the energy returned.  In between, I contemplated on all my faults and shortcomings and swearing to be a better individual once I get past the finish line.  It was also a time to pray for all my loved ones, to keep them guided and sheltered always.  These thoughts suddenly dart into my running stillness when I felt I wouldn’t make it and the angels would just suddenly scoop me to heavens.

Of course, I finish my first official run.  At 1 hour and 7 minute, it was exhilarating and triumphant.  But I thought I wouldn’t be doing this again.  This was going to be my last.  It was just stupid and foolish.  Two months later, I was on my second race and I haven’t stopped running since then.