Thursday, May 29, 2008

Running: Physiologically Speaking
The Danger of Rapid Rehydration

Now that I’ve recovered from my own running troubles, I’d like to help the running community by discussing a common problem I’ve heard some runners complain about after their long runs. I’m also including this as my contribution for this week’s Take It and Run Thursdays series on "Running In The Heat" because it has to deal with dehydration and rehydration, which as we all know, is all too common in the summertime. So sit back, grab your favorite margarita, tequila, or whatever alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage strikes your fancy, and prepared to be educated…


Has this ever happened to you?

It's a bright and sunny day and you're out running. It took a while to find your stride, but now that you found it, you feel like you could run forever. You feel relaxed, floating in a sea of endogenous opioids and running a comfortable pace when suddenly you realize the water bottle you're carrying has less than a sip left. You know you should slow down and turn left towards home at the next intersection, but heck, it took you so long to get to this happy place that you'd like to stay just a little while longer so even before you realize it you're turning right for another 5-mile loop around town. Four miles into this second trip, you're out of water, sweating bullets, and starting to feel a little delirious. Your lips are dry and your skin is flushed. You're still feeling pretty good about the 5 "extra" miles you’re putting in, but not so much about the dehydration. Luckily, you're less than a mile away from home, and because you rather get there sooner rather than later, you bust it all the way home. When you finally get there, you proceed to drink up everything in sight. Within 15 minutes, you've downed 16oz of water, 16oz of gatorade, and the quart size container of chocolate milk intended for your kindergartener when he comes home from school. Feeling as if you've somewhat rehydrated, you change out of your stinky clothes, take a shower, and proceed back to the kitchen intending to carbo-reload. Five minutes later, the sandwich is made, you're sitting down to eat, but you're no longer hungry. Instead, you feel nauseous and have a splitting headache. It takes all of your energy to take a few small bites before you head back upstairs to put your head down. Before drifting off, you review the events of the last two hours in an effort to figure out how you ended up this way...

Over the past few weeks, I've read similar accounts from many running friends out in the blogosphere. So, what is the problem here? Why is it so common to be totally wiped and exhausted a few hours after a hard run in the afternoon? Most people would blame dehydration as the root of all evil. Well, I'm here to tell you that although the lack of fluids is a contributing factor, it is actually the replenishment of the lost fluids that is really the culprit. More specifically, it is the rapid rate of fluid intake that we runners take post-run that is most responsible. You heard it right folks. Rehydration can sometimes cause more problems than dehydration.


In order to understand why rapid rehydration is such a problem, we need to go over some priniciples of human physiology. If you remember back to high school biology, we learned that chemical particles, just like people, always tend to move from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration unless prevented from doing so by an outside force. This is referred to as the process of diffusion. Water, in a similar fashion, will always move from an area of high to low pressure. The technical term for the diffusion of water across a selectively permeable surface (such as a cell membrane) is osmosis. Now, because all the molecules and electrolytes found within the human body exists in solution with water at different concentrations, there is constant pressure for both molecules and water to move across cell membranes (in opposite directions) so that the final concentration of solute over water would be equal on both sides of the cell membrane. This pressure for solutes to move across a membrane along a concentration gradient is termed diffusion pressure, while the pressure for water to move along its concentration gradient is similarly termed osmotic pressure.

Now, let’s observe what happens to the brain and the rest of the body during the process of rapid dehydration, as can occur in the middle of a long run on a hot day. We tend to lose a lot of electrolytes and water in the periphery in the form of sweat when we run. Most of these electrolytes and water are drawn from fluids found outside of cells (technically, blood and the interstitial space). Inside the cells, the concentration of water and electrolytes are kept relatively constant by the protection offered by the cell membrane. At some point however, as the dehydration gets worse, the osmotic pressure becomes too great for the cell membrane to handle and water is eventually drawn from inside cells (called the intracellular space) as well. As more and more water is lost from cells through the circulation to the environment as sweat, cells lose their volume and shrink. As they shrink, they also lose the capacity to function normally. In order to prevent this process from happening at the level of the brain, where maintaining a critical water concentration is vitally important for nerve conduction and other high level processes to take place, it has the special ability to generate free osmotically active molecules, called free osmoles, which allows it to negate some of the water pressure exerted on by the periphery. Essentially what happens then, is that as more water is lost in the circulation, the more osmoles are generated in the brain to balance the solute/water concentration. That way, water is drawn away only from the periphery and not from the brain, where centrally processes can continue to function normally.

This unique adaptive ability of the brain to generate free osmoles in the face of dehydration is not without consequence however. The most important side effect, for the purposes of this discussion, is that once these osmoles are generated, they take a very long time to go away. This important principle comes into play in the rehydration phase, after the long run. When we rehydrate, we are refilling our body with a large quantity of water (and electrolytes). And because the brain hasn’t yet had a chance to decompose the free osmoles, there is a high residual osmotic pressure for water to move intracellularly (which is no longer compensated by the osmotic pressure for water to move outside the cells since the periphery is now water replete, and not dehydrated.) As a result, water is drawn into brain cells as fast as it is consumed in the periphery and the cells swell up. Unfortunately, the brain handles water intoxication much worse than it does with water deprivation. As a result, brain function goes haywire and you end up with a splitting headache. By the way, this is actually the same mechanism by which people die from severe hyponatremia (as caused by too much water consumption and too little solute consumption) during marathons.


The recommendation I’m proposing is the same recommendation that is used to treat patients suffering from severe dehydration in the emergency room. The key to rehydration is to replace HALF of the fluid deficit in the first 2-4 hours and the REST over the next 12-24 hours. This means that if you estimated that you lost about 16 ounces of water in your long run, you shouldn’t gulp down two 8-oz bottles of Gatorade before you hit the showers. Instead you should have one bottle and wait for about an hour or so before you have the second one slowly with your post-race meal. The slow rehydration allows the brain to eliminate some of the free osmoles that are no longer needed and the rest of the body to readjust gradually from a dehydrated state back to normal.

This slow rehydration technique is more important for small-framed individuals and people who tend to sweat a lot when they exercise because they will have more fluid shifts during their dehydration and rehydration phase. Also, because these central osmoles are generated only with moderate to severe dehydration, these guidelines are much more applicable for those who participant in long endurance training events than those that exercise for shorter periods of time.

Hope you all find this little dissertation on the physiologic consequences of rapid rehydration useful. Please feel free to ask any questions. Let me know if this was all too confusing to follow. I’m thinking I’d like to post some other physiology lectures on running in the future so if there are any burning questions that you want answered, I’ll take suggestions for those too.

Okay, hope you all learned something today. Class dismissed!

Quick Update: Turning Things Around

Thanks for all our comments and genuine concern yesterday. I’m a bit embarrassed by all the feedback and encouragement I’ve received for something as trivial as a few sub-stellar weekend runs and losses by my favorite sports team. I thought being supportive and nurturing was my job! After all, it is what I do professionally as a care provider. Still, I just wanted you all to know that the kind thoughts were very much appreciated.

But…luckily for you (and me), those kinds of sentiments will no longer be necessary around here. I just came back from an exhausting but exhilarating run in perfect pre-summer weather where I was able to complete my 7 mile tempo run that I skipped out on yesterday at an average pace of 6:39 min/miles. This was just under the 6:40 average pace as scheduled in my marathon training plan. Sweet! To be honest, I had serious doubts heading into my run whether I should even be attempting this so soon after my aborted speed run yesterday, but the weather was gorgeous tonight and I felt I really needed the extra boost of confidence. Although the effort was very difficult to say the least, I am very proud to have made my time. So much so that I celebrated with sixteen ounces of Strawberry Wild Jamba Juice on the way home! And oh yes, it was sooo delish!

And as if that weren’t enough, the Mets have suddenly also found new life in the past couple of day as they just won back-to-back games against the Marlins. Tonight, they even capped it off by coming back twice to win a thriller in extra innings. Wow, when was that last time THAT happened? Oh yeah, try NEVER, as it was their first comeback victory of the season. (And guess who has tickets for tomorrow’s game…)

In conclusion, I just have two words for any naysayers who are still left…


Thanks again for visiting and listening.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Weekend To Forget

Hi everyone. Hope you all had a happy long weekend.
It’s been a while. I know. But I have a good excuse. Have you ever had one of those days where you feel as if the whole world is turning against you and all you want to do is just hit the sack so the day could be over? Well, if you extend that to a long weekend instead of just 24 hours, that’s the kind of weekend I just had. And since I don’t like to use my blog as a venting forum, I kept waiting and waiting for my bad streak to turn so I can post about something a bit more positive. Except now the weekend’s over, everyone's back to work and the whole bad luck spell still has not yet worn off.
We’re tired of waiting. The show must go on. I’m thinking now that if I were to actually write down the negative events of the past weekend that maybe some purging of evil spirits will take place and the aura of optimism and positivity that I usually travel around with will come back to me once again. Well, it’s either that or staring at the television wondering which of the kids I saw in clinic on Friday afternoon was really Harry Potter in disguise…

Saturday – Woke up early on a bright sunny day for an 18-miler on the west side of Manhattan. It was the first long run in my training for the San Francisco Marathon training so I really wanted to start off on a good note. I ran with a friend for the first 13 miles to make sure my pace would be easy and slow. These first miles were pleasant enough, maintaining a 8:30 pace throughout. After my friend left, I tried to pick up the pace for the last 5, but for some reason wasn’t able to. I was expecting to run around 6:45-7:00 for this stretch, but only managed to average 7:15 for this stretch which annoyed me to no end. For some reason, I was extremely fatigued and felt extremely slow, even though I knew I could handle the distance. The most tell-tale sign was when I found myself checking my Garmin every quarter mile after mile 14. I usually don’t do that until the last mile or two in a long run. It was so bad I found myself doubting whether I was ready to train for a marathon during the last mile. Needless to say, it was not at all the productive LR I was expecting to propel me into marathon training.
The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the just opened Sports Museum of New York with my little brother. Although the exhibits were fun and exciting and I learned a lot about stuff I never knew I didn’t know, it still required me to spend 4 hours on my feet…which is not so much fun after a painful long run.

Sunday – Both my legs were still complaining about my 18-mile hell run the day before, but since I had an easy 6 planned for the day and wanted to use Monday as a rest day, I figured I’d run it slow and hopefully feel better about things towards the end of the run. Alas, I waited too long and only got out to run at noon. As such, the weather was hazy and just not conducive to a relaxing run. So even though I chose a path by the water (the East Side Drive over to Randall’s Island), there was hardly a breeze in the air, and it was all I could do not to suffocate in the humidity. I got my six in, again at a slower than normal 7:28 pace. (I know most of you would not agree, but 7:28 is very slow for me; as evidenced by the two guys who made eyes at me while passing by with their jogging strollers!) If one slow running day is bad luck, two slow running days makes a pattern…
After washing up and grabbing lunch two hours too late, I proceed to watch my favorite baseball team, the NY Mets, put forth another lackluster performance on the field on their way to yet another series loss. It was so disheartening to see the myriad of fundamental mistakes and general lack of interest as exhibited by the everyday players that although I had tickets to the next day’s game against the first place Florida Marlins, I was seriously debating whether I should even bother showing up.

Monday – Thank goodness for the rest day, because I’m not so sure I could psychologically handle another bad run this weekend. I took advantage by sleeping until really late and eating fast food for lunch (which I hadn’t done since last year!) Then I proceeded to watch my alma matar Johns Hopkins lose to Syracuse in the NCAA Lacrosse Championships. I’m not usually a lacrosse fan (as evidenced by the fact that I had to wikipedia all the rules while the game was going on) but since they never won a championship while I was in school there, I thought I should at least watch when they were in the finals. Unfortunately, they were just outmanned, outhustled, and outcoached today.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, I actually took the time to meet up with my best friend and his family to take the train all the way to Queens to watch the Mets lose…again! In actuality, I should’ve known better and left after the second inning, because they didn’t score again after that. While I was there, the chants of “Fire Willie!” from the crowd was louder than the public address guy announcing the lineup. Disgusted doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the team right now.

Tuesday – It was a tough day today at the hospital. It almost always is the first day back from a long weekend. I got yelled at by a mom who wondered why I wasn’t at work yesterday to help her daughter (Apparently, they don’t celebrate Memorial Day in Hispanic culture) and the train decided to break down on me in the middle of my commute. Still, I found myself exactly where I wanted to be at the appointed hour…in Central Park with a scheduled 7 mile tempo run to boot. I needed this today in the worst way; not only to eradicate the stench from my stinky slow runs this past weekend, but also to erase the doubts I was starting to have about my fitness and my training.
The run started out well. I ran 6:43, 6:30, and 6:34 for the first 3 miles. But then the unthinkable happened…the skies opened up. Less than 2 minutes later, I was caught in a torrential thunderstorm with water droplets the size of golf balls attacking me from all sides. I usually have no problems running in the rain. In fact, sometimes I purposely head out to run in the rain just to cool off. But at times like today, when the ground was so wet and the rain so heavy that I couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of me and my running shoes were starting to slip and lose traction, it really was not safe out there to run anymore. So yet again, I was thwarted from my attempts at redemption and had to cut my tempo run from 7 miles to a measly 4. And as if that wasn’t irritating enough, about fifteen minutes after I had quit and started to walk home, the rain suddenly stopped and the dark sky gave way to blue clouds and bright sunshine once again. What the heck?

Anyway, there you have it, my faithful readers…a review of my misfortunes over the past four days. Don’t feel sorry for me tough, please. I realize this is just small stuff in the overall scheme of things, but uurrgghh…
I hope this purging exercise will be enough to get me out of this mega slump that I’m in. Otherwise, I might have put in a call to ask Giambi for his golden thong to wear. On second thought, isn’t he only batting something like .230? Okay, never mind then.
Hope you all had a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Most Extraordinary Day

I have a project today. My project is to show you all how running takes what may seem like an ordinary day and transforms it into an extraordinary one. And since I know how you all enjoy my race report narrative, I’m going to take you through this journey as if we’re running in a race, which for all intents and purposes, wouldn’t be that far away from the truth. So grab your numbers, race chip, gel packs and running shades, ‘cause we’re going for a run…

[Mile 1 – 10:30AM] “Any questions from the audience?” I asked, wrapping up my talk for the crowd of intensivists. Judging from the clock in the back of the small auditorium, I knew I had done well to finish ahead of time to allow ample opportunity for fielding questions. As I sipped the last remaining gulp of water from the cup situated next to the podium, I looked around the room to see a bunch of uncertain eyes and quizzical faces staring back at me. Have I completely baffled them with my intricate description of the vitamin D pathway or were they just waiting for the mandatory 10 seconds before sinking me with their criticisms? Finally a hand shoots up from the back and the head of the department speaks, “Fine talk doctor. I’m interested to hear your perspective…”

[Mile 2 – 11:15 AM] “Listen doc, your patient is here without an appointment. Mom says they’re here for a special test, but they don’t know what.” “Tell him not to move, I’ll be right there. Thanks.” I tell the nurse and hang up the phone. On the one hand, I’m extremely upset because he had a missed appointment with me yesterday where I had planned to examine the child and explain everything to mom. Instead, now he shows up unannounced when I was not ready to see him. Still, I was glad he was here because he had a relatively serious medical condition, called CAH or congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which causes his body to make excess testosterone resulting in his going into puberty prematurely. Any delay in the treatment of the disease would not only push him further into puberty, but also compromise his final adult height. My job was to explain all this to mom, and have her consent for a hormone stimulation test which would establish the diagnosis. It was a monumental task not having met the patient or mom before, but one that I must do in order to help this child. I push aside my annoyance with her timing and press on to the task at hand.

[Mile 3 -12:30 PM] I’m having lunch with my longtime friend and previous running mentor. He chides me about my recent running successes. “So how fast do you think you can run a mile?” He asked. “I don’t know, I’ve never tried. Maybe a 5:50 or so…” I answer, somewhat sheepishly. “I think you’d do a 5:30; maybe even a 5:15…” “I think you’re crazy.” “Have you ever thought about a triathlon?” “I’ve thought about it, but I can’t swim. I mean I can swim, but I can’t float…which means that I could possibly die in the middle of the ocean. So I can’t swim.” “Of course you can, you don’t need to float in order to swim.” Really?

[Mile 4 – 1:30 PM] I’m back on the hospital ward, rounding on the inpatients who are under my care. In one bed I have a 15 day old baby girl who has DiGeorge syndrome and is struggling to keep her calcium in the normal range despite the supplementations we’ve given her. In the bed next to her, there is a 10 year old type 1 diabetic who got admitted for DKA for the 4th time in the past 6 months. I’ve seen them both earlier in the morning so was quite familiar with their current medical condition. A medical student looks at her notes, looks at me, and starts to present. “On bed 1 is a 15 day old with DiGeorge…” “Wait, wait, wait.” I interrupted. “What is the baby’s name?” She ruffles her notes. “Uuhhh…I…uh…don’t…know…” “She’s been here for 3 days and you don’t even know her name?” I close her notebook for her. “Please get her name, read the chart, and come back to me when you can tell me her whole story without these papers. Remember, these are people we’re treating, not textbook cases, and each of them has a story to tell. It’d be worth your while to learn them.”

[Mile 5 – 3 PM] “I think we should report this mother to the Agency for Child Services and file a grievance for medical neglect,” the social worker says before she’s even halfway into my office. “I think this child is going down the tubes and mom’s not taking care of her.” “Hold on. I think we need to give the mom the benefit of the doubt here. She’s been here for less than 24 hours. We don’t even have some of the labs back yet. Let’s see what we’ve got before we jump the gun.” We’re discussing the fate of the 10 year old diabetic girl who’s treating the hospital like it’s a revolving door. “Besides, you really think this girl will be better off in foster care than with her own mother?” “That’s really not for us to decide. Our job is to report neglect when we suspect it for the safety of the child. What happens after isn’t really up to us.” “I understand, but is mom really neglecting? Let’s wait at least a couple more days before we decide to break up the family.” She leaves, not satisfied. I’m staring at my patient’s chart laid out in front of me while trying to decide if my moral compass is pointing me in the right direction.

[Mile 6 – 4:30 PM] The commute home took less time than I expected, which is a rarity. What’s even better is that sometime during my journey home, the rain had stopped and given way to a sliver of sunlight. I’m sitting in front of my computer staring at the plan for my interval workout. I can hardly believe my eyes. Apparently, my string of recent PRs means my old training paces are no longer adequate for me. What was once 3XM@6:14 pace, has now been replaced by 3XM@6:04 pace. Similar, a casual tempo run of 4M at 6:40 pace has suddenly turned into a hard 8M at 6:39 pace. Sonnafa… This is one consequence of running fast that I am not a big fan..

[Mile 7 – 6 PM] I did it, I did it…it wasn’t pretty but I did it. The road was wet, the pacing was poor, but I completed my three 1-mile intervals. Splits of 5:43, 5:52, and 6:01 clip are so much harder and faster than of my previous workouts that I really wanted to keel over in the middle of every mile and pass out. Still, I was excited that I was able to step up my game and run faster than I’d ever had before. At the end, after limping to the finish on my last lap, I wonder if these extra fast efforts would translate to any real effect in my next race.

[Mile 8 – 7 PM] I head over to the park for another Flyer group run. Maybe because of the bad weather, or maybe because people haven’t yet recovered from the grueling race over the weekend, there were only 6 of us who came out for the race. I aligned myself next to our group leader who I found out suffers from a disease that I have some expertise in. Through the next 6 miles, he shares his story with me as I try to offer my best medical advice to him. Although our pace was the slowest of the group and a couple of people had already left by the time we finished our run, I had a fascinating time talking and learning about medicine from his perspective. It was such an enlightening experience that the running almost became secondary. Afterwards, I was just so happy that I was able to bring together my two biggest passions for the benefit of another that I went completely home before I realized that I hadn’t yet had dinner.

All in all, it was the perfect ending to a most extraordinary day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Talking to Intensivists and Stupid Things I Still Do While Running

Don’t have time for a long post today. I’ve got a date with some intensivists tomorrow. Although I have total word crush (ding ding ding) for their job description, this date isn’t really for me. It’s for some unfortunate kid with a hormone problem who might come under their care. Yeah, I’ve been suckered invited to give them a talk on how best not to kill my patients. For those who don’t know what intensivists are, they’re the doctors in charge of the intensive care unit. They work with the most damaged, most catastrophic, and sickest kids, in one of the busiest parts of the hospital. Kids get shipped in whenever there’s a crisis and get shipped right back out once they do their thing and the danger is over. God bless their souls for what they do, but as a direct result of their job description, they are a very intense bunch of individuals. And tomorrow, I’m supposed to give them a talk on my area of expertise, which is anything but intense, life-changing, or emergent. If I had to draw a comparison, it’d be a little like walking into the first corral at the next roadrace and finding yourself next to Dathan Ritzenheim, Ryan Hall, and Brian Sells. Yeah, that’s how I’ll feel at about 10:30AM tomorrow morning.

But I did have some running related thoughts that I wanted to leave you all with. Since I haven’t had a chance to experience my shades yet because of the horrendously bad weather we’ve been having lately, I had ALOT of time to reflect on the stupid newbie mistakes I still make in my running. Although I like to admit my faults almost as much as I like prepare this talk for the intensivists, I’m sharing my shortcomings for three main reasons. 1) So you can laugh at me; 2) So you can laugh at me while secretly thinking, Damn, I do the same thing! and 3) So you can laugh at me for doing something stupid AND admitting my stupidity…which is stupid2 (Gosh, I hope NOBODY that attends my lecture tomorrow reads this!)

So without further ado, here’s my list of STUPID THINGS I STILL DO WHILE RUNNING:

1. Forget to double-knot shoelaces before a race.
2. Running too fast and too far to the left approaching a water station.
3. Going out for a 16 mile long run on an empty stomach and without any gel packs.
4. Having knee pain but still refusing to throw away running shoes with no treads on them.
5. Responding to a new runner all happy with his 6 miler with “Yeah…I ran 16 miles today too…”

How embarrassing! If I repeat any of these mistakes in the future, please kindly remind me to return my trifecta garb and ask for a refund!

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Award For Completing the Trifecta

How do you celebrate the completion of a Trifecta? Heather, An awesome runner in her own right (can you say trophy-envy...) wanted to know. Funny you should ask. Ordinarily I don’t get too excited about my race results, even the PR’s. I usually walk home in utter euphoria, veg out in front of the computer, anxiously wait for my time to become official, then proceed to update my PR List and think of the most entertaining way to recapture the experience on my race report. This time, however, was entirely different. You see, this feat of mine, the completion of the Roadrace Trifecta, wasn’t something I dreamt up at the spur of the moment after I crossed the finish line. Rather it was something I had set out to do a long time before, ever since last summer when one of my friends inadvertently challenged me by asking if I considered myself a runner or a marathoner. I didn’t have a good answer for him at the time but as the summer wore on, I realized that I really wanted to be a versatile runner, good in all distances. And that, truth be told, was the origin of the Trifecta challenge.

Since in my book, versatility was synonymous was good, I was careful not to acknowledge or believe that I was any good at this running thing until after I had completed what I had set out to do. I know I’ve been flamed and defamed many times over the past several months for refusing to believe that I’m a fast runner, but I can’t help it. I’m adamant in my beliefs not because I’m trying to be humble or play some reverse psychological warfare game with my audience, but I really didn’t think my credentials are adequate to support that sentiment. (With sincere apologies to those who still desperately want to label me as such, please review my previous post to see why your claims are not justified).

But after I crossed the finish line on Saturday, I, in essence have graduated. My trifecta was complete. I have in my mind attained the status of a good (but not fast!) runner. As such, I felt I needed to get something to commemorate my achievement. Although it would have been nice if NYRR could’ve provided a trophy, plaque, or even a certificate to acknowledge this momentous occasion, I really had no grandiose perception that anything I do would be just cause for a public celebration. Still, I felt I needed something special, something symbolic, an emblem of some sort to show the world what a badass…er…I mean…good runner I now was. So I went to the running store and got me one of these…

It’s supposed to be ultra-polarized and offer SPF40 protection. I didn’t really much care. I just think it’ll go well with my bandana and tech t-shirt look. Hopefully, I won’t look like the guy who brings his own bowling ball to the alley but can’t bowl over 100 to save his life. But now that I am Trifecta-certified, I think I've earned the right to swag a little even on runs in the rain. What’d you all think?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Completing the Trifecta - 3:10/1:30/40
Race Report from the Healthy Kidney 10K

Ever since I completed The Best Run Ever (Part I) last August, I had it in my head that in order for me to consider myself a pretty decent…okay, a good…all-around runner, I needed to complete the Trifecta of road racing. What is the Trifecta? you ask. Well, I consider the Trifecta as a 3:10 marathon, a 1:30 half-marathon, and a 40:00 10-K. Each of these accomplishments are significant in its own right, but being able to claim success in all three of these endeavors would speak volumes about my versatility as a runner.

Going into this year, I knew I had problems with my short game. There was really no reason that I completed the first two legs of my trifecta on my first attempt at each of those distances last year but couldn’t break through the 40:00 mark for the 10K after four or five attempts! I realize it’s a bit faster than the equivalent race times for the longer distances, but still, I’ve been hoving around the 40-41 minute mark for more than a year and with the gains I’ve made in my other race distances, it’s a joke that I cannot improve on my 10-K time. Finally, I told myself, enough was enough, and embarked on an intense training regimen for the past two months, geared specifically to building speed and stamina for this 10K road race.

What is to follow then, my friends, is the aftermath of my training, and my response to all those critics (namely Me, Myself, and I) who’ve ever doubted that I’d ever run fast enough for long enough to break 40. I’d like to call it “Breaking the Speed Barrier”. You can call it the “Race Report from the Healthy Kidney 10K” if you need to be objective about it.

My Apartment [6:30AM] – It’s two and a half hours before the start, one hour before my alarm is set to go off and I’m already awake. Today is Saturday. What’s wrong with me? My mind is requesting a return to its peaceful slumber while my body is already anxious to get up. Suddenly, I remember that I hadn’t yet charged Rover (my Garmin). In less than two seconds I’m standing and scrouging through my athletic bag for my digital pet. I find it snuggling next to a half-eaten banana that I’d left for a snack but had forgotten to eat. It wasn’t until it lit up again during the charge that I was able to breathe a little easier. As I proceeded to head toward the bathroom to wash up, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d have been better off with a real pet instead.

The Corner Deli [7:20AM] – I’m waiting in line for my standard race day breakfast - toasted poppyseed bagel with cream cheese. The store manager takes my order, translates it to the guy working behind the stove in a language I don’t understand and sits back down.

“You going running today?” he asks me staring at my blue tech shirt with matching bandana and matching shorts.
“Yeah, there’s a race today in Central Park.” I offered, walking over to the fridge at the back of the store to grab a Gatorade.
“What is this ‘Laminator’? What does it mean?” he asks when I’m back at the counter.
I let out a smirk. He must have caught a glimpse of the back of my race shirt as I was walking away. I am quite proud of this shirt really, it’s the only one I own that is customized for me. It has the word LAMINATOR written in big bold lettering across the back uniform-style.
“It means one who runs really really fast…in Chinese!”

Walk To The Start [8:00AM] – Hallelujah, the weatherman is wrong again! I’m walking slowly toward the race start at the southeast corner of Central Park. All week, they’ve been forecasting winds and heavy rain for this morning. But as I look up at the sky, the only rain we had must have stopped overnight and the only winds I feel are the artificial ones whipped up by the speedy bikers passing by. In the distance, I see large crowds start to gather and my stomach starts to feel wheasy.

At The Start [8:50AM] – Damn, I’m late! There’s still ten minutes left to the start of the race, and yet I’m already stuck way in the back of my corral. What the heck is this? I thought by virtue of my three digit race number signifying my right to start in the front, I should be right near the front. Instead, I’m stuck behind several hundred people because some runners with bib colors other than dark blue have slipped in to the corral from the sides and now were intermixed with our group. I inched forward by a couple of rows, but then decide it’s not worth the aggravation. As I wait anxiously for the start, I close my eyes and focus on my race mantra for the day – Run within yourself! You can do this!

Mile 1 [6:18] – In roadracing, as in poker, it’s sometimes better to be lucky than good. By the time I passed the first mile marker, I was convinced I was the luckiest runner in the race. Right out of the starting blocks, the guy next to me made an aggressive move and got his legs caught in the pothole next to the curb. Ouch! Then at the quarter-mile mark, the runner right in front of me slips on the wet pavement and collapses face-first to the ground! Since stopping was not an option in a stampeded of runners all moving in excess of 9 m.p.h., I take a leap of faith and hurdle over. Fortunately, I land safely on the ground on the other side. The guys right in back of me weren’t as lucky though as I heard the sounds of more than a few runners tumbling behind me. Yet, even after the lucky breaks, this mile was not without its troubles for me. Somewhere midway through, just as I was about to summit over a hill, my shoelaces become untied! Aarrgghh…such a rookie mistake, I thought to myself as I struggle over to the grassy area to fix them.

So with all of that, to finish my first mile with that time at that pace without injury, was inadvertently exactly where I wanted to be.

Mile 2 [6:17] – In my head, I was excited because I was running comfortably at a blistering pace. In my heart though, I felt I’d let my team down because more than 50 people must have passed me by as I was tying my shoelaces. Since this was the first race that I entered as a Flyer, and it also happens to be an important point race where timing ultimately isn’t as important as your place in the standings, I couldn’t help but wonder if my one mistake would end up costing the team collectively. I fought hard during this part of the course to regain some ground against the competition. Running through the rolling west side hills, I was amazed by how fast my legs were moving even though I thought I was still breathing comfortably. I glanced down at Rover to see an average HR of 180! Okay, maybe not! As I was running fast in one particular section, some guy I just passed yells out “Laminator” in a weird drawn out voice. I looked back to make sure he wasn’t someone I knew, yelled back “You know it!” and sped up just a little bit more just in case he had any ideas of passing me back. I am glad to report that he was not to be heard from again for the rest of the race.

Mile 3 [6:18] – Harlem Hill, we meet again. Although we’ve battled many many times before, I vow that THIS time, things would be different. I vow that THIS time won’t be like the LAST time, when you sucked so much life out of me that I lost the will to fight the rest of the course. You see, Hill, unlike LAST time when I was fresh out of my winter slumber and not so used to the trickery of your ways, THIS time, I have been practicing, mindlessly subjecting myself to your punishment time and time again, day after day. And although many fellow runners would have me believe that running you in a counterclockwise direction was generally more acceptable, I have continued to take the direction less traveled on each and every speed run in order to familiarize myself with your repretoire. And although you won’t acknowledge it, even you must be surprised at the ferocity with which I’m attacking your roads; sliding up and down with relative ease, like a brush on canvas. I don’t think you’ve ever seen me run these parts at this pace. C’mon, admit it. You are a little worried. From now on, Hill, please do not attempt to question my sanity, break my spirit or use fatigue as a fulcrum to your mischievous ways. Let’s be clear. That LAST guy who used to be scared to come by this parts LAST year does not run here no more. In his place, will be THIS guy, the new Laminator, and oh, he is so NOT afraid!

Mile 4 [6:46] Ouch! Maybe my battle with Hill took more out of me than I thought. Finishing up the hill and running along the Upper East Side of the park was akin to physical torture. A few people were passing me now, which isn’t really helping. Never mind I spilled the cup of water I grabbed at the last water station all over myself and almost tripped and fell when I attempted to grab another one, or the fact that my heart rate average has climbed into the mid-180s, Rover’s letting me know that I am still way ahead of my PR pace. Although in my mind, I wanted to run competitively and score well for the team, I also know that I’d burn out very quickly and ruin my changes for a PR if I am not careful. Suddenly, I remember what I’m supposed to do in situations like this. Run within yourself. You can do this! I slow down a bit and decide to take a more conservative approach for the rest of the race.

Mile 5 [6:23] Breathing a little easier now, and speeding down Cat Hill less than 1.5 miles away from the finish, I suddenly come to the realization that I’m actually having fun. It is a weird feeling to have at that exact portion of the race. Physically, I’m fatigued, achy, somewhat dehydrated, and want so much for it to be over. Emotionally though, on so many levels, I was euphoric and didn’t want this feeling to end. For one thing, I was running a PR race on a perfect Saturday morning on my way to possibly completing the Trifecta, which I’ve dreamed about all winter. Secondly, I was thrilled to have inspired some old and new friends (Hi sRod!) to join me in this race. Thirdly, I’m not even running just for myself, but as part of a team that I’m so proud to be a part of. Lastly, with the completion of this race, I think I finally have the confidence to believe that I’m a good runner…which as you all know, is an idea that I’m not very comfortable with.

Mile 6.2 [7:42] Coming up around the bend now, I try to summon up whatever’s left at the tank, but gas is expensive these days and fuel is running on empty. All I could muster up was about a 6:28 pace for the last mile. It seems like my body was content to just coast to the finish. Then, right at 400m mark, I can see the last of the turns leading to the finish at Tavern on the Green. In front of me, I see a pack of five girls about 10-15 feet in front. I’d been chasing their tail for the past half mile, but no matter what pace I went, they all seemed to be just a little faster than I was. Suddenly, at the 200m mark, I can see the finish, and the huge crowds gathering on both sides. In almost every other situation, I am a strong proponent of “Ladies First”, but right then at that moment, something about crossing the finish line a step behind five girls with hundreds of spectators watching really really bothered me, so I reached back and gave all I had in a dead sprint to nip them all at the finish.

It wasn’t until about 20 seconds later, when I finally regained my breath, that Rover and I were able to celebrate!

Final Stastics
Finishing Time – 39:44; (PR by 0:43)
Pace –
6:24; Age Graded % - 68.1%;
Overall Place – 272/6273 (4.3%); (BTW, Bib number was #271)
Gender Place – 241/3438 (7.0%);
Age Place – 88/2386 (3.7%);

Trifecta complete!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Random Thoughts On Marathon Training

  1. Now that my half-marathon is done, it’s on to marathon training for me. I’ve devised a semi-easy, semi-hard 13-week abbreviated training schedule for myself in preparation for the San Francisco Marathon in August. I don’t know much about this marathon, but I hear it’s hilly, so I’m doing the bulk of training in Central Park, which should be enough to get me prepared for whatever awaits me on the west coast.
  2. I’m also trying a new training technique this summer. Instead of keeping my runs to a max of 6-8 miles during the week, I’m combining workouts so that at least once during the week, I’m running 12-14 miles. I’m doing that for two reasons. First, it will allow my to do one fast workout (either intervals or tempo) on my own and then do a recovery/social run with friends/fans at a slower pace. Second, it will serve as an additional medium/long run during the week. Third, because I’m combining workouts, I’ll be able to take more rest days in between workouts too…which will make my legs very happy.
  3. I’ve looked over the race schedules for the months of June/July in the entire tri-state area three times over and there’s not one half marathon during that time frame that I can enter. I usually like to do one about three or four weeks beforehand as a pace run just to gauge where my training is at and what time I should realistic shoot for. So now that I’ve being denied that opportunity, I’ll have to come up with a virtual 13.1 mile race on my own. (Yeah, you can pass this info on to a certain virtual race director so she can get the ball rolling on this one right away!)
  4. In my experience, the epic battle between speed and distance in marathon training is almost always dominated by the faster miles, especially during the summer months. I have tried to rectify that situation by incorporating 1-18 miler and 4-20 miler runs into the schedule. That is double the number of long runs I did each of the last two years in preparation for the marathon. One thing I will try to do is to turn one of the 20s into a 22 and run it at a pace that is just slightly slower than what I plan to run in the actual thing. I’m hoping it’ll help me feel more comfortable running with fatigue during the later miles.
  5. For once in my life, I will also try to eat more as I train more. One of the problems I'd had in the past has been that I tend to lose too much weight during peak training season. This year, I will buy more fruits and yogurt to have after dinner as a snack before I go to bed. Believe it or not, this last proclamation will be music to my mom’s ears more than mine. Go figure!

That’s all the ideas I have for improving my time. I’m hoping to break 3:05 in SF (there, I said it…my new time goal!) so I’m implementing these modifications to my existing training plan to make the runs funner, faster, healthier, and more productive. Whether they work or not remains to be seen. What do you all think? Any and all additional suggestions are welcome; just leave your name, age, and previous marathon finish next to your comments so I know how legit your advice is. Haha, j/k…you can leave out that last part.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pleasure Of Running Slow(er)

I believe I’ve been misconstrued and misrepresented.

My participation in certain running events in the past two weeks (namely the Long Branch Half Marathon and the 10K Virtual Club Run) have brought some unexpected focus and attention to the velocity with which I traverse the roads. Most casual friends and RBFs, upon reading my last few posts and others’ comments, have been led to believe that I am a fast runner. In actuality, nothing can be further from the truth. Those who have run with me know that I am not fast. Just because I’ve won a few accolades (thanks Nancy for naming me a Legend of Loincloth!) and PR’d most of my races so far, it’d be wrong to equate the Laminator with speed, because truthfully, I do slow just as often as I do fast. In fact, the most pleasurable runs I had in the past few days have been some of the slowest miles I’ve logged all year! I’ll detail just a couple of examples to illustrate my point.

Slow Run #1 happened last weekend when I ran with my fellow blogger friend sRod. I know most of you have probably read his race report (since he used it as his virtual 10K race) by now, but what you didn’t get was my thoughts and my experiences running with him. Although the pace was slower than what I was accustomed to, it was exactly what I intended and wanted that particular run to be. For starters, I had done my own 10K virtual race the previous night, so my legs were more than a little stiff heading out so early in the morning. Secondly, I was planning a 16-mile long run that day, which would not have been possible if I was running my usual pace for the duration. Thirdly, I needed to run slowly so I could be conversant. (To be honest, I was running at my conversant pace while he was doing his race pace, which meant that it was a one-sided conversation the whole way through for the most part!) Finally, I was secretly hoping to train him to run faster by starting out slow and ever so slightly increasing the pace when we were in the midst of a deep conversation. All in all, I think the run was a major success. We caught up on things; sRod ran his 10 miles and got a PR (Woohoo!), while I ran slow for 10 then faster for 6 to finish my long run of 16 miles at a pretty decent pace.

Slow Run #2 just happened today when I convinced a friend of mine to join me on a six mile run around Central Park. Over the weekend, I had come out early to cheer her on as she ran the Mother’s Day 4-Miler for her first official NYRR race. Afterwards over breakfast, she told me that the race wasn’t as tough as she thought it’d be and that she had plenty left in the tank even at the finish. So I did what any runner would do and challenged her to run the Healthy Kidney 10K with me this weekend. She seemed intrigued, but was hesitant because she had never ran that distance before and wasn’t sure what to expect. So I offered to take her around the course after work one day as a preview to race day. She agreed, signed up, and met me promptly today for her tour. Anticipating this run, I had headed out an hour and half before to do my tempo run and track work so that by the time I’d meet her, I’d be tired and ready to run slow. We started on a slight downhill, and so was able to management a fast first mile. Once we got going, I allowed my friend to dictate the pace, always holding myself a step or two back so as to not lead the way. Because she seemed very focused on her running, I did not bother her with much conversation throughout the run. Instead, I allowed my thoughts to wander and really took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings. Although she struggled at parts, especially during those big gigantic Harlem Hills (honestly, who wouldn’t), my friend managed to finish the six mile loop without stopping at a 9:10 pace. I was very proud of her for sticking with it (it was totally dark when we finished the run!) and proud of myself for not running ahead or messing up her tempo. I make great company on these slow runs, my friend told me as we were parting ways. For once, I couldn’t agree with her more.

So you see, fellow runners, I consider myself a runner just like the rest of you – not fast or slow, or both fast and slow. Speed, as I’ve come to learn over the years, is a relative term, and as such, has no merit on its own. As runners, we should use it only as a basis of comparison with ourselves and as motivation to perform up to our own athletic capabilities. The fact of the matter is that I’m a runner, and whether I’m fast or slow really has no bearing on the kind of runner that I am.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Time To Celebrate: Results, Revelations, and Other Congratulatory Stuff

Hey All! I thought we’d start off today’s post with a little Kool & The Gang. Hit it Boys!

Welcome everyone to my party! Please feel free to grab your favorite beverage, get comfortable and be prepared to be enlightened and entertained. By now, you must be asking yourself, What’s the cause for all this hoop-la, Laminator? Well, let’s run through some possibilities…

1. Are we celebrating the fact that you ran and PR’d in the Long Branch Half Marathon last weekend? It’s a great achievement and all, but after dedicating two full posts to the race and receiving more congratulatory responses than I think I deserve, even the fat lady has sung and left the stage, so I think it’s time to move on.

2. Are we celebrating your fantastic run in the virtual 10K last night with a finishing time of 40:44? Hmmm, it’s a thought. But since my dear friend Nitmos has already cleared away the competition for me by using reverse psychology to convince everyone else that fat is good two days before the race [read his conniving plan here], and no one actually saw me cross the finish line except some electrons in a piece of plastic (referred to as Garmin in some eclectic circles), I feel slightly less deserving of any accolades that the friendly race director may bestow upon me.

3. Okay, then maybe we’re celebrating the fact that you finally found an elite running group (called the New York Flyers – what a cool name, huh?!) that had such low standards to accept you as one of its members. Now you’re getting warm. I will have more to say about this in a later post, but it’s refreshing to find that an organized running group in NYC where running fast is the norm more than an anomaly, thinks I don’t suck so bad as a runner to welcome me into its ranks. Maybe we can have a party to celebrate this achievement when I’ve actually contributed something to this collection of great runners. To start whooping and hollering a week into trial membership is a little too premature. Maybe they’ll kick me out once they discover that I have major stage fright at big races.

4. Maybe it’s for a non-running related reason then? We could celebrate the fact that you passed your final board exam (referred to in this post) and can now pass as a Board Certified Pediatric Endocrinologist (minus the whole crazy running thing because no board certified anything would in their right mind run as much as you do). Yeah, I guess we could have a party for that, but it’s more like a release of unnecessary stress than a cause of celebration for me because after all the training I’ve been through, I’m SUPPOSED to pass my boards. If I don’t pass, then what they’re essentially saying is that you’re just too dumb and shouldn’t be in this profession in the first place. So, no, can’t bring myself to celebrate that. Maybe I’ll get a Jumba Juice milkshake, but that’s about it.

Okay, we officially give up, Laminator. Besides, half your guests are already gone. So what the heck are we celebrating?

We’re HAVING A PARTY (could’ve posted another video here) because THIS (drumrolls please…) IS (drumrolls getting louder) MY (confetti coming down…wait, that’s tissue paper, not confetti…) 100TH POST!!! That’s right, people. You’ve made it to the 100th post of this silly little reformation project. It’s been a long time coming, and I can’t believe that I’ve got readers even though I don’t proofread half as well as I write, and I don’t write half as well as I run, and I run, well, not that particularly well at all. (Don’t complain, some freak of nature 49-year-old beat me in the half marathon by more than two and a half minutes!) Still, I’m honored to have so much company on my journey. Thanks everyone for taking the time to come by to read my ill-formed thoughts, laugh at my jokes, poke fun at my insecurities, and generally convince me I’m fast even though I’m not. I started this thing way back in August of last year, on my 32nd birthday, as a reminder to myself why I have to go out there everyday even when I don’t feel like it. Slowly, over the past 100 posts, it has evolved into something so much more, a conversation between like-minded friends, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes funny, and sometimes sad (I know it’s corny…but it’s true). I’m grateful to have “virtually” met so many of you runners out there, who inspire and challenge me to be better than what I thought I was capable of. And to the lurkers of my blog out there who’ve chosen to remain invisible (including some guy from Japan who’s been visiting everyday since this blog has started) I just have one thing to say...Don’t trespass if you ain’t gonna help mow the grass! Yes, you heard right. Consider yourselves warned.

As for the rest of you, who I honestly don't know why you keep coming back, I have a little present for everyone in the form of some self-revelation. Ever since you started visiting, I know there’s been something that you’ve always wondered about, at one time or another, but were afraid to ask. Now to think of it, Vanilla over at Half-Fast might have verbalized it way back when, but truth be told, who listens to that guy anyways? So now I guess it’s as good a time as any to spill the beans. What’s up with your nickname, Laminator? Is your family in the stationery business? Do you have some weird fetish involving heat and machines that maybe we shouldn't know about?

Do not be led astray, my friends. The story of how I became known as the Laminator actually started a few years back in my pediatric residency. A little known fact about me (something I’m not very proud of even though others think I should be) is that I write with pristine penmanship. The reason that is is because when I was a little kid in the early years of elementary school, I wrote my letters so slanted and in such unrecognizable fashion that my teachers would always give me the minimum passing grade whenever we had a writing assignment because no one could actually figure out what it was that I was writing. As a result, over the summer between my third and fourth grade, I was forced by my parents to practice my penmanship by writing out the alphabets for an hour a day everyday for two months. They’d review my work at the end of each session and rip up the pages and make me redo them if they were in the least bit illegitable. After that exercise, I never had a problem with my penmanship ever again.

Over the years, my penmanship has improved to the point that everyone who’s ever seen me on paper always claim that I write better than anyone they know – male or female. Again, it is a reputation that I’m not so proud of because as a doctor, messy handwritten notes and illegitable prescriptions are associated with a certain prestige and class. I’ve tried on multiple occasions in the past to “mess up” my handwriting such to fool those who’d read my notes, but even with that, everyone always knew it was me because they say that even when I write messy, I’m so damn neat about it. Let me tell you people. It is very frustrating as all bloody hell!

So, the origin of my nickname traces back to one day in the hospital when all of us residents were sitting around a table writing notes on our patients. One of my colleagues notices an error on one of the notes that I had written the previous day. “Hey L-, you need to fix this. You wrote down the wrong medication in your note. The kid got Ceftazadime yesterday, not Ceftriaxone.” “So just cross it out and put the right one in,” I told her. “No, I can’t do that.” “Why not?” “Well, for one thing, it’s YOUR note, so YOU need to fix it. Secondly, you write so neat that my chicken-scratch sticks out like a sore thumb.” Someone else then chimed in. “Seriously, L-, your notes are so perfect that they should be laminated…” And that, my friends, is how the legend of the Laminator began. That, and because my last name is Lam, makes my nickname somewhat appropriate, I guess.

There you go. I hope you enjoyed the story because I am not ever going to repeat it again. (It’s funny how many friends I have who call me by that name without knowing exactly where it came from!) Thanks again for stopping by and celebrating with me!


In other news, I ran my 10K yesterday for Nancy’s Virtual Club Run. I pushed it hard, but not so hard because I was still a little tired from my half-marathon last Sunday. I ran the big loop at Central Park and extended it a little bit to cover the distance. I once again started out too fast and let the rolling hills club me silly! Here were my splits: Mile 1 – 6:02; Mile 2 - 6:34; Mile 3 – 6:45; Mile 4 – 6:36; Mile 5 – 6:43; Mile 6 – 6:43; Last 0.2 – 1.20; Final Time – 40:44 (6:33 min/pace). Can you guess which mile time doesn’t belong (…in other words, Where’s Waldo?) I feel good about my time since I was running all by myself and still finished only 17 seconds slower than my PR. I didn’t see too much out of the ordinary out on the course today, just some guy I overheard ask his friend if he was running 6 minute miles when he was running more like 8 minute miles, and a wheelchair athlete who got squeezed and almost flew over the curb when a car and a bike were passing by him at the same time. Like I said, it was just a pretty ordinary day in the neighborhood.

I listened to Jeff and Alan’s recap of the Flying Pig Marathon as I ran this race and enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t believe they had a three-alarm fire the morning of the race and had to reroute the runners. Gosh, everyone knows how tough the last 0.2 of 26.2 is. Imagine having to do ANOTHER 0.2 on top of that?

Much thanks to our awesome virtual race director, Nancy, for galvanizing this running community and organizing yet another amazing race! Hope everyone had nice weather and a nice course for their 10K. I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s race reports.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

13 Thoughts On My Best 13.1 (So Far…)

1. No weather like racing weather – What started as fog and mist at 50° turned into a calm and crisp 48° at race’s end…in other words, it was the perfect weather for running.

2. Lonely feeling up at the top – I was really surprised by how spread out the runners were during most of the race. I wasn’t kidding when I say that after the first couple of miles, I could count on one hand the number of runners that I came in contact with. Truthfully, I was a little embarrassed by all the attention I got running through the crowds.

3. Inspired by awesome signages – I have to say, NJ spectators make the best posters. It definitely made the running a lot more enjoyable. Like you guys, I loved the “Go Kenyans!” sign.

4. Getting chicked by winner – I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turns out the only girl who “chicked” me ended up winning the women’s race. I guess I shouldn’t be so offended if I get beat by a future female Olympian.

5. Kids do funny things on the sidelines – Maybe it’s because I’m a pediatrician, or maybe I’m a little delirious when I’m running but I found kids who spectate do the funniest things. For example, during the race I found a girl who tried to do cartwheels on the street whenever a runner past her by. Another kid was holding his one hand out for people to slap as they run past while covering his eyes with his other hand. Still another would yell, “faster, faster, faster” in quicker and quicker succession as the runners got closer and closer. When he ran out of breath, he’d stop, inhale deeply and start over again. It was the most hilarious thing I’d ever seen.

6. Tension caused by throbby legs – Gosh, I was so traumatized the way my legs felt during the last few miles of the race. They literally felt like they could cramp up at any minute. I was too scared to slow down to see what would happened. My fear probably caused me to run faster in the later miles than I would have otherwise.

7. Pacing for racing – Although I ended up with a fast time, I actually didn’t like my pacing through the entire race. In my mind, I always imagined my perfect race on a flat course to be one where each mile was run at exactly the same pace mile after mile. Instead, in this race, I’d slow down, run fast, slow down again, run fast again, and never finding any consistency in my breathing or my running. Going forward, I think I’d like to improve on that just a little bit. Oh, and while I’m at it, can I please run a negative split at a half-marathon for once in my life.

8. Imagining things – This is one technique I liked. When the leg pain became quite substantial, and I had no visual but an empty road ahead, I’d close my eyes intermittently, and imagined a similar distance course at the local park. It definitely made the last few miles seem last daunting.

9. Dedicating the last mile – I ain’t lying when I said you were all with me on my race. I memorized all your names beforehand, and yelled them out one by one during the last mile. It made me feel as if you were all in the crowd cheering me on to the finish.

10. Yeah, I guess I’m fast – So after seeing my name on the leaderboard for the first time, I can no longer deny that I’m not so slow.

11. But still a long way to go – But because the guy above me in my age group ran his half-marathon faster by more than a minute, I still have A LOT of room for improvement.

12. Outkicked and outclassed by marathoner – I don’t know why, but I’m really bothered that I picked a fight with a marathoner. That’s a no-no in my book of racing etiquette. In fact, it’s my default source of rationalization in the rare instance that someone runs faster than me in the park. I’m always like “Oh, he’s running faster only because he’s running one mile intervals while I’m on my 20 mile long run.” Here’s an instance where the reverse was happening, and I can’t help but feel somewhat embarrassed.

13. Responsible race reporting – I really wanted to capture the random nature of the thoughts I had while running the miles. That’s why I chose to report my race experience that way. Hope it achieved its purpose. If so, remind me to thank my first creative writing teacher back in high school who taught me this technique.

13.1 And yes Miss Allycat, my feet are stilling hurting!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My Best Run Ever, Part II
Race Report from the New Jersey/Long Branch Half Marathon

Race Eve [10 pm] – I’m sitting on a king sized bed in a Days Inn just a few miles away from the start. I’ve got all kinds of race gear spread all around me: short-sleeve tech shirt, long-sleeve Under Armour liner, racing shorts, 3 lucky bandanas to match, heart rate monitor, Garmin 305, socks, racing sunglasses, gels, water bottle, a leftover PowerBar from my long run last week, a thin fleece sweater, long racing tights, and a cheap wind jacket I picked up at the expo earlier in the day. I’m freaking out right now because I cannot figure out what I should wear for the race tomorrow. Is it going to be misty with heavy gusting winds like it was on the boardwalk today on the way to packet pickup? Is it going to rain like predicted all week? Or maybe it’ll just be damp and cold like it always is this time of year in Jersey. Gosh, if it’s cold, windy, AND rainy, maybe I should just jog the whole thing and pretend it’s just another training run. Am I even adequately hydrated, have I had enough carbs, does it even matter? I transfer all the junk to the bed next to me, finish the last piece of fruit salad, set the alarm and head to bed. As I drift off to await tomorrow’s fate, I can hear the words of the Mizunos coach I saw speak at the expo resonating all around me…”Why do we always give ourselves excuses not to succeed right before a race? ‘Oh, yeah, I’m running the 10K, but my left side is bothering me, so I might just take it easy’. Or ‘Oh, I signed up for this half-marathon as a long training run, not really to race it.’ Bullshit. Time matters, people, time always always matter…”

The Start – There’s an announcement. “Due to some traffic concerns, it looks like there’ll be a slight delay in the start of the race. Don’t worry. We’re only looking at like a 5-10 minute delay, I think. As soon as we get clearance from the road, we will begin.” I’m trying hard to hide my anxiety. All around me, people are taking test strides and hopping in place to temper their emotions. I review my game plan to maintain focus. Start slow to conserve energy. Maintain 6:44 minute miles through the course. Don’t get trapped by the rabbits in front. Instead, maintain your pace and try to pick out someone to pass every couple of miles. At the end, aim to finish with a faster last mile than your first. “All right folks, we’re ready to begin…”

Mile 1 [6:19] – Shoot, I did it again. I was tricked by the delayed start to run too fast again. The front pack of 20 or so runners are already way ahead. I’m in my own little group, each of us thinking slow but moving fast, trying to figure out our pace for the rest of the race. I feel my heart rate increasing rapidly and force myself to slow down. Instead of fixating on the few runners slipping by, I redirect my gaze upward. There’s no sun, no rain, just some heavy cloud cover and a dense fog. This is a strange day. I feel as if the weather gods are being indecisive; not really sure if a thunderstorm or clear skies were more appropriate for the occasion. I glance at my tech shirt, racing shorts, thin gloves and decide that my choice of running attire this morning was dead on.

Mile 2 [6:38] – This is more my pace, but my breathing is still labored. The runners are starting to thin out now. I cross pockets of spectators all around me. Sometimes, I’m not sure if they’re really cheering for me. Then I hear “Way to go, L-” (Our names are printed as part of our race bib) and then I know. I smile, say thanks, and move on.

Mile 3 [6:42] – I’m finally hitting my comfortable race zone and cross a bridge. This is significant because it’s the first uphill I’ve noticed since the start. I see some funny signs on the side of the road and let out a chuckle which startles the guy running past me. Two kids are standing right at the mile marker. One holds up a sign that says “In our minds, you’re all Kenyans!”; his brother, two steps away, holds up another sign that says “Go Kenyans!” For some reason, I thought this was hilarious.

Mile 4 [6:46] – Slower still, but not too bad. I look ahead and do a double-take. Aside from the spectators sporadically placed on both sides, there’s no one else on the course! The guy in front of me is at least a couple of hundred feet in front. The guy in back, well, I’m not looking back, but at least is not in my vicinity. I start to feel something I haven’t felt since the Hartford Marathon a year and half ago. I try not to acknowledge it, but I’m lonely. At least in Hartford, there was nice fall foliage to look at. Where I’m at, in a beach town on a Sunday morning with dense fog, the scenery is less than stellar. So I adapt, and recruit the crowds to cheer harder for me.

Mile 5 [6:38] – I’m running on a long straight road that seemed to stretch toward the horizon. I speed up a bit, hoping to catch the guy way in the distance for a little company. Coming up on a fluid station, I see 10 volunteers all filling their cups and holding it in front of my face, each offering, no pleading for me to take theirs. I take them out of their misery and point to the little girl in the back of the line, whose cup of Gatorade I scoop up effortlessly, pinch and drink all in one motion. “Perfect technique.” I hear some spectator comment to his friend behind me.

Mile 6 [6:40] – I honestly do not know from where she came. I was feeling good, trying to remind myself to maintain race pace, not tempo race, when suddenly this figure came up from behind me amidst some loud cheers from the crowd and moved ever so effortlessly by. From the back, I could see this figure had slender legs and long blond hair. Wow, but could it be? In my mind, I wanted to speed up and eliminate the possibility. But almost as soon as I realized what had just happened, she was gone, and I was left to contemplate how she would’ve made a perfect rabbit.

Mile 7 [6:43] – Another long straight road with not an end in sight. A kid asks his dad “What’s his name?” His dad whispers in his ear, and the kid goes “Faster, L-, faster, faster, faster!” For some reason that gives me a kick, and I do go faster.

Mile 8 [6:46] – My right leg is starting to throb ever so slightly and I’m refocused internally again. Did I do enough long runs? Did I do too much? I did 8 miles somewhat fast on Thursday...have I not recovered fully? Since I’ve clocked more than a few miles below 6:44, I know I’m at least on pace for a PR. Should I take 2 cups of Gatorade instead of 1 at the next fluid station? I start to worry.

Mile 9 [6:53] – The only big incline of the race comes at a bad time for me. My left leg is starting to feel slightly throbby like the left and even though I was mentally ready to tackle this mogul, I decided to take the hill slow to preserve my PR opportunity. I felt a little weary, but knew that the finish was only 4 miles away equating to a single small loop track around Central Park. How many times have I run that feeling less than 100%? So I pressed on. Towards the end of this mile, I could see the fast pack of runners heading back towards the finish.

Mile 10 [6:43] – After the hill, my legs felt less throbby and I was able to speed up to a faster pace in preparation for a big finish. I finally found a guy during this straightaway that I recognized from earlier in the race and passed him without much trouble.

Mile 11 [6:50] – My legs are really starting to burn now, with intermittent spasms that may transform to sustained cramps at any given moment. Knowing that a PR was less than 2 miles away now, I refuse to slow down. Instead, I focus on synchronizing each foot strike with a deep breath. I'm clearing my head and closing my eyes intermittently to create a calm mental image of me finishing strong. Inadvertently, out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a sign which reads “Yes, you signed up for this!”

Mile 12 [6:43] – Making the final turn onto the boardwalk once again, I'm think about how I made it through another race with another PR. I think about all my friends, real and virtual, who helped me along the way. I think about how far I’ve come since the first time I ran this distance in Central Park in 2005 with a 1:41 and the last time I ran this distance in Central Park (before NYCM last year) with a 1:30. I also think about how much pain my legs are in right now, and how much further I have to go, in this race, in this year, and in this lifetime.

Mile 13.1 [7:03] – Coming into the last mile, I decide to empty the tank and push to the finish. I am doing this not because I think I need it to PR, but because I finally see someone a short distance away that I think I can take on my way in. So I grit my teeth, straighten out my back, and challenge my legs to run faster than it had for the entire race. When I get within 10 feet of the him, he suddenly realizes what is happening and quickens his stride. In response, I turn it up some more and take over the lead temporarily. After another quarter mile, he retakes the lead with a kick of his own. We are less than 400 feet from the finish now. I am about to use one final push to overtake him right before the line when something strange happens. Instead of veering left where the half-marathon finish was, he veers right, into the lane bypassing the finish. I cannot believe what I am seeing. This guy, who had just pushed me into pure exhaustion, was running the loop a second time for his marathon. I am so embarrassed by what had just happened that I don’t really want to wear the finisher’s medal the volunteer was placing around my neck.

Inside the Finisher’s Tent – After recovering from the humiliation at the finish, I pick up my bag, get changed, and go back to the finisher’s area to check out what food and drinks were available. While in there, I glance at the leaderboard to figure out where my final net time of 1:27:28 (1:27:33 gun time) placed me among the finishers. I was thrilled when I see my name placed among the age group leaders (#7). Not only so, but I am #26 among all half-marathon finishers, and the top finisher hailing from New York, NY! I am so excited by all of that, I have to ask the race officials if they give out awards for anything that I might qualify for. He said no, but gives me an honorable mention for being tops from NY, NY over the loud speaker. How’s that for recognition!

Final Race Results
Gun Time - 1:27:33; Net Time – 1:27:28; Pace – 6:40;
Overall Place - 26/3701 (0.7%); 1st from NY,NY!!!

Gender Place – 25/1430 (1.7%)
Age Group (30-34,M) Place – 7/246 (2.8%)
Age Graded % - 67.6%
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