Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Saying Goodbye to 2008:
Reviewing My Year In Running (Part II)

Coming home after spending a long weekend in New Hampshire with extended family (20+ under one roof!), I finally bit the bullet this week, and signed up for a gym membership. Not only so, but I also ended the temporary restraining order I imposed on my running shoes and got back out to the park again. I know I originally posted that there’d be “no running ‘til new year” but once I figured out that the Boston Marathon is but 16 weeks away from this past Monday, I really had no choice but to get back on the horse and start training. (More on this to come later this week…) But strangely enough, a funny thing happened on my first post-recovery run. I was expecting myself to be slightly sluggish after the 3 week layoff, but after a long stretch and some tentative first steps, I was running again comfortably and effortlessly at my NYCM goal pace. And the more I ran, the faster the pace became. I wasn’t sure if it was just the pure excitement of running again or if it was the way my legs chose to show their appreciation for my recovery break, but it became really difficult to control my speed. I felt really good the whole way through…up to the very last step of the last mile. I finished 6.1 miles at 6:55 pace and felt completely wonderful. It wasn’t until I got home and looked back at my training log that I realized that I hadn’t run that pace for that long a distance since the weeks before NYCM! Wow! What started as a nice easy comeback run became one of the best training runs I’ve had all year!

Speaking of which, I’m ready to delve into the second part of my review of 2008. Instead of evaluating my accomplishments on the road in terms of PRs or race times (which I did in Part I), let’s see how the year stacked up in terms of what I set out to do way back in the very first post of 2008. If you remember (and you can check here if you don’t) I wrote down a list of 8 goals I wanted to achieve this past year – my running resolutions. In July, I took advantage of the All-Star break in baseball to compose a midsummer review of these running goals. I gave myself a 50 out of a possible 80 points in that evaluation – which I was content with at that point. With that as the backdrop, let’s revisit those goals and see how my running year finished out in the final analysis.

Final Review of Running Resolutions for 2008
Goal 1: Run 3 marathons in 2008.
Completed? Yes – SFM, NYCM, LVM
Grade: 10
Comment: Ran as many this year as I did the last 3 years combined!

Goal 2: Log at least 1333 miles for 2008.
Completed? Yes – Logged 1366 miles for 2008.
Grade: 10
Comment: Had some catching up to do after having only 10 miles on 3/1 due to injury.

Goal 3: Established PRs in at least 3 distances.
Completed? Yes – Had PRs in all 5 race distances – 4M, 5M, 10K, Half, Full.
Grade: 10
Comment: Ten PRs in all this year. Never expected that. Simply wow!

Goal 4: Run in 3 road races outside of New York.
Completed? Yes – NJ Half, SFM, LVM
Grade: 10
Comment: Good I got to travel; bad I never made it to CT to run a race.

Goal 5: Participate in 3 road races that I’ve never ran before.
Completed? Yes – Need for Speed relay, Newport Half, GC Turkey Trot
Grade: 10
Comment: Each of these was so fun in their own way…and I didn’t even have to repeat any from the last category.

Goal 6: Run a road race with 3 new people.
Completed? Yes – NY Flyers (any of them), sRod, my friend EW…etc
Grade: 10
Comment: Ran with a lot of new people this year, more than I ever expected I would…only hoping there’s more to come.

Goal 7: Coach 3 new runners to run well in their distance events.
Completed? Yes – Frayed Laces (BQ), RB, MW
Grade: 10
Comment: Paying it forward! (Read this if you don’t know what I mean.)

Goal 8: Run a marathon in under 3:05.
Completed? Yes – NYCM (3:02:20)
Grade: 10
Comment: Reached my A+ goal for this race.

Total Score: 80 points out of 80 points
Final Analysis: A Perfect Score! Some will say that my goals were too soft; I’d like to think that I was just that awesome this year! Who knows. Only thing I can say is that I truly enjoyed my ride—so if I’m still dreaming, please don’t wake me up (at least not until after Boston)!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Saying Goodbye to 2008:
Reviewing My Year In Running (Part I)

Now that all the guests have left, the yummy food is gone, and all the gifts I’m gonna get has been gotten (No, no R.L.F.S.T. for me…yeah, I’m sorry too…) it’s time to look back on the year that was before we forge ahead into the new year. And because this was such an amazing year for me running-wise, it’s going to take a multi-part post for me to record all my sentiments on 2008. (After all, if it took me four sessions to cover my 26.2 mile tour through the streets of NYC otherwise known as 3:02 on 11/4…how long should my story for 1300+ miles be?) This is a disclaimer just in case you feels slapped-in-the-face by my pats-on-the-back, it’s not my intention, so feel free to look away, turn back, or skip ahead. I’ll understand. Just don’t ask me next time why you didn’t get an invite to the party!

As for the rest of you…welcome to part I. First the digits.

  • Total running distance : 1355 miles (1018 miles in 2007)
  • Total running time: 167:06:47 (124:50:10 in 2007)
  • Average running pace: 7:24 min/mile (7:21 min/mile in 2007)
  • Total road races: 15 (vs 10 in 2007)
  • PRs achieved: 10 (vs 4 in 2007)
  • PRs by distance (4M twice; 5M thrice; 10K twice; 13.1M once; 26.2M once)
  • PRs by distance (2008 time vs previous PR)
    4M: 24:38 (vs 24:53 in 2007) = improvement of 0:17
    5M: 30:46 (vs 32:40 in 2006) = improvement of 1:54
    10K: 39:44 (vs 40:34 in 2006) = improvement of 0:50
    13.1M: 1:25:44 (vs
    1:28:06 in 2007) = improvement of 2:22
    26.2M: 3:
    02:20 (vs 3:08:18 in 2007) = improvement of 5:58

The numbers don’t lie. I’ve ran more, competed more, and won more (via PRs) than I’ve ever done before. What the numbers don’t tell you though is how much more of a confident and more determined runner I’ve become during the past year. Despite the fact that I was forced to take off the first two months of the year because of a broken clavicle, I was able to come back stronger, trained harder and run faster than I’ve ever dreamed possible. Yet, I find it interesting that despite my overall improvement in speed, my overall average running pace is a few seconds slower than it was last year. I guess it proves my contention that racing fast does not simple equate to running fast all the time. As one increases mileage, it is much more important to have fewer sessions of high quality runs than more sessions of just pure speed.

Another tidbit that I find interesting is that my biggest improvements in PR time this past year came in the marathon followed by the half-marathon. This is surprising to me because I’ve always considered myself more of a short road race junkie than a pure distance runner. I find the training vs reward ratio so much higher in the longer distance races than at the 4M or 10K. In fact, prior to this year, I hated the long and grueling marathon training cycle so much that I limited myself to running only one marathon annually. This year, I’ve run three and thoroughly enjoyed the added sense of accomplishment in training for them. Despite these antics, I’m hesitant to consider myself a pure distance runner because I don’t think I spend nearly the amount of time on the road that one should to be a good marathoner. When I hear 60,70,80 mile weeks, I’m more incline to shudder than be inspired. Still, I’d like to think that I’m at least versatile and can run either short or long distance and be equally adept at both.

Having said all this, I still think digits or just that…numbers. They are good to look at and provide a basis for analyzing our individual performances, but don’t stand for much else if not for the journey and the memories we have obtaining them. What I find most gratifying over the past year is the number of new personal connections I’ve made over the past year because of running. Whether it’s coaching some new friends, joining a new running club, or meeting other fellow bloggers, I think it’s the social interaction I’ve had with people I would never have known otherwise that I’ll remember most about 2008.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Still Waiting

Hey All. I have a bit of good news and a bit of bad news.

The good news is I finally finished my Christmas shopping. It took me ‘til now to complete all the gift buying, paper wrapping, and card writing. I didn’t know how much of a procrastinator I am until tonight when I finished my shopping just as the guards were just about to lock up. (Truthfully, I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to spend a night in a department store…)

As for the bad news, I still haven’t found my R.L.F.S.T. Apparently Santa couldn’t ask his elves to built one for me in their workshop but I’d have to find one myself if I wanted to see one for Christmas this year. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to settle for something much more mundane for Santa to bring down the chimney this year.

In other news. I think I’m almost ready to get back to training. I’ve been getting the urge to hit the road even when the temps been in the single digits outside. I think that means my body’s fully recovered. I’m planning to do my first miles in three weeks this weekend and ease back to base training next week. But since I don’t plan on having good enough weather to run on most days of the week, and I don’t own a treadmill, I’ll have to sign up for a monthly membership at the gym just so I can use the running carousel from hell. Feels like such a waste to me, but I know motivation alone won’t be enough to get me to Boston. I actually have to run, and train, and all of that. I haven’t made up a training schedule yet, but I know it must be done by the end of the month since it’s already less than 17 weeks to race day.

Hmmm…gives me something to think about over Christmas. Meanwhile, I’m still holding out hope that my very own R.L.F.S.T. will magically appear in my room tomorrow morning so I won’t have to worry about the weather throwing a wrench into my marathon training. Here’s to hoping anyways.

Hoping everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday! Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All I Want For Christmas

So yes, for all those who wanted to know, I FINALLY started my Christmas shopping this week (because honestly I have no excuse now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag in my last post.) But let me tell you all, as I’ve been running all over town this week, picking up this thing from this store and plucking that thing from another, traveling up the East Side and down the West, staring at all the same holiday displays at all the shop windows until I’m ready to deck someone’s halls and call it my folly, all I could keep thinking about is what I’d really want for Christmas. So just in case Santa asks any of you before he gets to me, and because I’ve really been a good boy this year (just check out my PRs!) this is my ONLY request this Christmas…you ready?

Okay…again if Santa asks…What I really want, more than any thing, under my Christmas tree (even though I don’t have one) on Dec 25th…maybe technically the 24th…is…get this…a REAL-LIFE FACILATATOR SIMULATOR TREADMILL (RLFST). What is RLFST? You (or Santa) might ask? Other than a short acronym for REAL FAST, it is for all intents and purposes, a treadmill. But not just any old treadmill, no siree, it’s one with the following built- in features:

  • More than one running lane so as to allow others some maneuverability or some companionship
  • Instead of a smooth boring slab of rubber, it will have customizable terrain like asphalt, grass, dirt, sand, and the like, to simulate real-life training
  • It will also have obstacles, like potholes, cracks, dog dung, and the like which will force you to pay attention to the road and dodge to the other running lane to avoid disasters
  • The running lanes can be cambered…higher in the middle, lower to the side to simulate street running
  • Instead of a tv screen or windows looking out on the street, the treadmill will be in a self-contained video room which will simulcast the Boston Marathon course or a serene beach trail in front of me as I’m running.
  • The simulcast video is synchronized to my stride and pace
  • Temperature and humidity in RLFST is customizable to my training objectives and preferences…maybe even a fan for wind
  • There's an attached sprinkler and precipitation maker above the RLFST to adjust for rain, snow, sleet, hail…to create whatever weather pattern I choose to train in.
  • Every couple of miles or so, there's a motor arm on the side of RLFST that hands out Gatorade in a disposable cup so you can perfect the technique of grabbing, pinching and drinking on the run.
  • Oh and finally, the RLFST is completely idiot-proof! No instructions…just like an iPhone.

Yep, so if Santa asks, I’d like one of those…RLFST…the best treadmill ever! If he doesn't drop by, someone please drop him a note. Thanks. Hope you’re all enjoying the final preparation for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Running Til New Year…

I have a secret. It’s about time I share. It’s not that big really, except to me it is. It’s been a full 8 days since I last ran. I’m talking zilch, zero, nada. Not even a mile today when it’s 50 degrees out or a leisurely stroll to hang out with the guys from my running club. And the surprising thing is that I’m not even feeling so guilty about it.

Some people close to me have been worried lately. Laminator, where have you been? Haven’t seen you at group runs, in the park, in races. Are you hibernating? Well, folks. The truth is that I have decided to take a short break. After the great running year I’ve had in terms of mileage, marathons, or even just race PRs, I feel it’s appropriate that I give my legs and feet a short rest before official training for Boston Marathon kicks off in January. I’ve never ran more than 6 miles before at any one time during the winter, much less train for a springtime marathon so I’m worried that my body will burn out both physically and psychologically if I ran hard and long from one marathon training cycle to another without a good break in between. Besides, it will help me refocus and allow whatever microscopic injuries I might or might not be having to completely heal before I ask my body to perform again like a well oiled machine. So as much as it pains me to read and talk about running without actually doing it, I will adhere to my strict ‘no running’ policy until after the New Year.

Meanwhile, I think I have enough things happening in the next two weeks to keep me occupied. Case in point, I haven’t yet done any of my Christmas shopping yet…yikes! Maybe I’ll need to sprint from store to store this weekend to make it happen. Either way, at least my secrets out. Just thought you all should know. Aaahhh…the burden on my back feels so much lighter already!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why I Run
Reason #9 - To Pay It Forward

I know it’s been a while since I’ve made a contribution to the “Why I Run” series (please visit the archives under the same heading for my previous installments) but I feel that given the current holiday season and the events of the past week, it is a most opportune time for me to discuss one of the poignant and powerful motivations for why I run.

For those who haven’t yet had the fortune of watching this wonderful movie, Pay It Forward is a low-budget feel-good story about a seventh grader, Trevor, whotook an intriguing homework assignment given to him by his social studies teacher and by completing it inspired a national movement to change the world for the better. The assignment (movie clip) was simple yet challenging: Think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor’s solution (movie clip) was revolutionary and profound: Repay good deeds not by payback, but by pay forward – doing good deeds for three new complete strangers with the understanding that they would have to pay off by helping three other new people.

I’m not going to divulge any more details about the movie, as I’m hoping you all would be intrigued enough to see it on your own. Suffice it to say that this flick ranks as one of my favorite movies of all time. I love this film not only for its simple yet elegant message, but also because it is so applicable to what we can achieve in our own lives as runners.

When I first started out, I saw running as a very individual sport. It was just me and a pair of running shoes going to war against the asphalt. The first time I went running which was only about 5 years ago, I wasn’t even able to make it past 2 miles before I called it quits and went home. Slowly though, as I laced up the shoes more habitually and visited the park more and more, it became rather obvious that I was not the only runner around. Because I didn’t know much about running at the time, I’d hang around water fountains and port-a-potty lines, listening to conversational tidbits and asking stupid questions of any runner I could find. I picked up most of what I knew about running back in the day in the most unsanitary of circumstances. Since my friends at that time were all non-runners, I was somewhat forced to learn all I could about running that way. Eventually, however, as I became more familiar and knowledgeable about the sport, I realized that this secret running passion was too great, too powerful, and too inspiring to keep to myself alone. That’s when I decided I would do what I could to introduce, teach, and/or coach three new people every year to the sport. It was the best way I knew how of giving back. Although some of my efforts have not been met with much success, others have gone on to do great things with their running. For all my time and energy, I never ask for much from those who’ve been under my tutelage. All I ask is that when the time comes, they would likewise do the same for those around them - introduce them to the sport and help them out as much as they can. In essence, they have to promise to pay it forward...

Shortly after her B.Q. the other day, F.L. came to tell me she’s been encouraging and helping out a fellow runner/blogger who recently found out she has a pelvic fracture and has to be on crutches for a while…I couldn’t help but look at her and smile. The circle is now complete. I think my own little social experiment is working out just fine.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Matter of Perspective

I have always believed that runners experience life entirely differently than non-runners. Because of this, our perspectives on different subjects tend to vary greatly. I came back to town from Las Vegas last night, expecting to ease back into the swing of things. Instead, what unfolded today, became all just a matter of perspective...

I went into work a half-hour late this morning. Those who saw me sneaking into our departmental meeting must have thought I was lazy, slacking from the job. The word on the street was that I had gone off to Vegas to gamble, to sin, to get away from the hospital and my patient responsibilities for a while. I was exhausted all right, from a three hour overnight nap after a twelve hour double-connection flight that landed at JFK at one in the morning. And no, work pals, I didn’t go off to Vegas to make friends with the club managers or blow off my dough at the craps table or on the roulette wheel. I ran my 6th marathon this weekend and coached my friend to a B.Q. which is more work than any of you will give me credit for. I’m late today only because my foot is busted and I didn’t account for the terrible pain masking a brewing stress fracture in my right first metatarsal when I headed out for work this morning.

I didn’t leave haphazardly but designated patients and clinical tasks to the care of colleagues before I left. I’d like to think I’m a responsible physician and have the interests of all my patients at heart even when I’m not physically there to care for them. Perhaps that’s why it was such a shock to me when one of the fellows told me on my way in to the office this morning that a patient of mine had mysteriously died while I was away. Yes, he was a noncompliant teenage diabetic whose family neglected to heed the warning signs of intractable vomiting and flagrant hyperglycemia and didn’t bring the patient to seek medical care until three days after the fact when he became apneic and lost consciousness in the bathroom. And yes, there probably wasn’t anything different I could have done before or during the episode to change the eventual outcome. Still, I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. If I didn’t, I’d no longer deserve to be in this profession.

Over lunch, one of my workmates who was not native to this country asked me what my score was for the marathon. I’m sure he meant time, not score, but I asked anyway, just to verify. “Your score,” he repeated again. “Don’t you run marathons for the score…so you know if you win.” “No, I didn’t run this one for the score.” I told him. “But I know I already won.”

Some people congratulated me on my 3:15:09 marathon finish. To many, it was a relatively good time, considering I was running it easy. To me, 3:15 is a relative disappointment. It would have been one thing if I kept a 7:23 pace throughout and ran though the finish at around a similar pace, but in actuality, I ran 8:00 miles, 6:40 miles, and bonked hard in the final few. I’m not judging those for whom 3:15 is a great time, but for me, in this race, I really could have and should have done a whole lot better.

FL finally posted her race report for the Las Vegas Marathon. In it, she mentions me helping her with this and comforting her about that. Who is she kidding, really? I made it a point just not to mess anything up. Everyone knew she was going to B.Q. I just happened to be along for the ride.

Finally, have you listened to the latest edition of the Runners’ Loungecast (Episode 5)? In it, some insightful blogging runners, including yours truly, share tips on how to beat the winter cold even as we run and train all season long. I might be biased here, but I think this episode will prove most useful for those who are planning or thinking about training for a spring marathon, especially if you happen to be, like me, preparing for a certain roadrace that starts in downtown Hopkinton on Patriots’ Day. Try it out, and take a listen.

Afterwards, let me know. What’s your perspective?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mission Accomplished in Las Vegas

In case you haven’t heard, FL rocked the Las Vegas Marathon and punched her ticket for the 2009 Boston Marathon with a sensational time of 3:37:40. It turned out she really didn’t need my help all that much as she ran her own pace, managed her own fuel/water, focused her own thoughts and pushed herself through the difficult miles all the way to a fantastic finish and marathon PR! I for one am very proud of her as I know how much training, both physical and psychological, it took for her to reach her lofty goals. She went from a broken pelvis in her first marathon to a B.Q. in less than 365 days, for crying out loud. [As an aside…I’m trying to convince her to publish a book about that…it’d be a bestseller!] If ever there was a reason to believe that anything is possible if you are smart, have a good plan, and are willing to work hard, this would be the prime example. It is such a great and inspirational story that I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn't come and got to experience it firsthand. (Please go over, if you haven’t done so already, to congratulate her on a job well done!)
As for my own marathon experience, which is really beside the point as far as this weekend goes, it went as I had predicted. Finishing time was 3:15:09. This was my second slowest marathon finish ever. I had a late start, spent too much time bobbing and weave amidst the crowds and ran the race without a specific goal in mind. At multiple points during the course, whenever I would pass by a fast food place, I would think of sneaking in, grabbing a burger and sitting by the road to wait for FL. I knew she’d kill me though so I didn’t dare bother. I spent the bulk of my race worrying whether she was still on pace or not. I ended the race really struggling today, but just kept reminding myself that this marathon really wasn’t about me – not my pace, not my time, not my finish. There will be other races and marathons for that. I was running today for a higher purpose, and when that purpose came rushing through the finishing line about 20 minutes later, I was emotionally choked up and as happy as a clown because I knew I had done my job this day.
Congrats FL for a fantastic marathon and allowing me to share in the experience of your magic carpet ride through the streets of Las Vegas!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Countdown Begins - Las Vegas and a Boston Qualifier Awaits

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

A year ago, I decided to reach out to FL who suffered a broken pelvis while running her very first marathon. She had some underlying hormonal disturbances which caused her pelvic fractures, and since I am somewhat of an expert in that sort of thing, offered my virtual assistance in the off chance she needed any. Eight months ago, I was here, spending some days and nights in the heart of the Las Vegas strip, helping a friend celebrate his final days in bachelorhood. The only running related highlight of that trip was one small incident involving a runner (me), a city bus, a side impact collision, and a story for the guys that I was involved in a fistfight at 9am (link). I vowed after that brush with death that I’d never run in Las Vegas again.

So what do those two stories have in common? Well, both incidents have led me to this day, as I’m sitting in bed in a hotel suite less than 24 hours away from the start of the Las Vegas Marathon with FL in the other room. We spent almost all of yesterday walking and sightseeing all over town: From our hotel on the center of the strip to the race expo at Mandalay Bay (which was right next to a rodeo convention/cowboy marketplace), from the beautiful yet disoriented Italian river d├ęcor at the Venetian to the spiraling escalators at the Forum Shops. All the while, we reviewed pacing strategies, course details, and race apparels. The magnitude of this B.Q. attempt on her part weighed so heavily that at times I felt as if I was the one needing to run a specific time to qualify for Boston. I think I’m more nervous this time coaching someone else to B.Q. than I was when I prepared for my own B.Q. race! Oh brother. I did a good job hiding my own anxieties from her however. She never suspected a thing.

At the end of the night, because of some “drama” surrounding her own living arrangements, I invited her to spend the night over at my hotel suite so that she could one final night of peaceful sleeping prior to running the race of her life. After dinner and before retiring for the night, we got to preview the hot tub located right in our suite and make plans how we’d celebrate in it with some champagne come post race Sunday! Wahoo! Both of us can hardly wait…now less than a day away!

We’re officially ready for you, Las Vegas. Bring. It. On.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Leaving (for) Las Vegas

Wow…I can’t believe I’m leaving town in two days.

It’s been a while since I’ve gone out of town. The last time I left the state (not counting a brief excursion to Jersey for a half-marathon) was four months ago, when I went to San Francisco to celebrate my birthday. Coincidentally, I left town that time to run in a marathon too, SFM ’08. I remember being just a nervous wreck the entire week leading up to the race. I did a whole bunch of runs up and down Harlem Hill because I thought that would help me conquer the hilly course. Boy, was I wrong! It didn’t matter though because even though I didn’t run the race as well as I thought I could, I still had a lot of fun visiting the town and seeing the sights from a totally different perspective.

This trip, although it will still involve a marathon, is going to be so much different from that one. For starters, I am not running for time, and so I haven’t been as diligent with my training or my taper as I probably should. I figured that having run NYCM four short weeks ago, I still should be able to tackle the distance without too much difficulty. Secondly, as some of you may know, I’m been coaching a friend of mine, FL, all year to BQ in this race. So in essence, this race will be so much more about her than it is about me. So whether I do a good job will be dependent on if she does a good job, and because I KNOW I’ve been doing a good job, she cannot help but follow suit. Yes, yes, yes. (But it'll help too if you can go over to her blog and send her some last minute encouragement!) Lastly, because this trip is first and foremost a vacation for me, there’ll be plenty of partying...probably much more so than before or after any of my previous marathons.

I don’t know how much blogging I’ll get down when I’m down there so I apologize in advance if this is the last you hear of me for a while. I promise a full recap though when I’m back so don’t you worry. There are also rumblings of another podcast with my voice inside it as well coming out in a week or so. So yes, there’ll be plenty more of me to go around upon my return. I can hear the frightful gasps already…

Have a great rest of the week everyone!

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