Monday, June 29, 2009

HIT vs ET: A Scientific Review

Sometime late last week, my partner-in-running-crime Frayed Laces, asked me to review her latest running science report on the benefit of long endurance training vs short interval workouts in increasing aerobic capacity. Since I am a passionate runner, a medical scientist and somewhat of an Alberto Salazar to her Kara Goucher (okay the last one is a bit of a stretch, but work with me here people…) I will oblige her request and share with you all my scientific opinions on her piece.

For all who haven’t done so, please read my review on the physiologic differences of interval training, tempo workouts, and long runs because what is to follow will be somewhat of a continuation on that theme. First of all, let me start by saying that I agree with FL’s general assessment of the NY Time’s report. The physiologic benefit of HIT (high intensity training) vs ET (endurance training) is oversimplified in their review. On the protein level, the rise in PGC-1a seems rather short after HIT compared to ET. The peak levels (as she has shown) is indeed lower as well, even if the difference may not be statistically different. It is also impossible to extrapolate the changes in concentration of one protein level as the cause/effect of training as we know that it is sometimes not the quantitative effect but a qualitative effect on protein-protein interaction that affects muscle performance.

On the macroscopic level, I surmise that HIT/ET produces some qualitative differences on running economy that may be not measured in their simple rat/human experiments. As I explained in my initial review, I surmise that HIT is similar to going at max speed for a short time, while ET allows the oxygen delivery system to become more adapt at sustaining top efficiency for a much longer period. In the span of a 30-minute test or some other short-term measure, both parties can have similar benefits but if you extended the test and asked the subjects to bike/workout at equivalent time/effort to a marathon, I surmise that there would be a clear difference in their exercise physiology. (Maybe that’s why the study clearly state that they’ve never tested their hypotheses on runners…)

In the end, I think although there is clearly some crossover benefit, specificity training is clearly the best way to prepare for an event. Short distance runners should clearly concentrate their efforts on the track while marathon runners should stick to their consistent long runs. Clearly though, it helps for each to train in the other’s shoes every once in a while.

Thanks to F.L. for bringing forth this interesting topic for discussion!
I spent the entire weekend packing and completely missed my long run. So instead of amassing 36 or 38 miles for the week, I got stuck at a pitiful 28 miles. Total suckiness. But at least I'm almost all packed up! Moving day is just 2 days away! Will provide some pictures of my new crib once it's a bit more presentable. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Day To Remember

Wow, what a day! I am happy and sad, exhiliarated and exhausted, anxious and nostalgic, and filled with a hundred emotions that I don’t quite know how to explain…

The day began with some exciting news. Now although I have mentioned this to only a select few before today, I decide to make my big announcement here because most of my close friends already know, and outside of them, my bloggy pals are my closest buddies anyway, and anyone who isn’t a close friend or doesn’t read my blog, well then, they really DON’T need to know. But, after endless hours spent with realtors, lawyers, mortage consultants, and the like over the past several months, yours truly closed on a spanking new condominium today. Wahoo! Although the process was long, and I’ve signed so many legal documents this morning that I felt as if I was signing my life away, I’m proud to say that I’m finally a new homeowner! It’s very exciting, but a bit anxiety provoking at the same time. It’s a two-bedroom condo on the top floor of a medium size building out in Queens with a balcony and a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. I’ll write more about the new place once I’m a bit more settled, but suffice it to say that although I’ll be moving out of the city and away from Central Park, it’s definitely an upgrade from my tiny studio on the Upper East Side where I’ve been living for more than 6 years. And in case anybody is worrying about my running, Flushing Meadow Park is less than two blocks away from my new home, which means that marathon training will continue as scheduled even after I move out of the city sometime next week.

Speaking of marathon training, I arrived back home in the late afternoon and decided to head to the park for an easy tempo run. Since I’m in base building mode and not racing anymore, I figured it’d be good to reacquaint my legs to doing tempo runs in the middle of the week again. During the racing season the past two months, I had skipped out on way too many of these because I figured my weekend races would substitute for speed training and my time would be better spent running midweek long runs at a slower pace. Just to get back into the swing, I gave myself an easy task of running just 4 tempo miles under 6:32 pace after a warmup loop around the reservoir. Maybe it was because of the great weather today (75 degrees with 70% humidity and a cool late afternoon breeze), maybe it was because of the great news from the morning, but I had a truly glorious tempo run in the park today. My mile splits for each of the four miles was 6:14, 6:16, 6:14, and 6:16 and I ended my tempo run running my best four mile time (25:22; 6:15 average) ever outside of a race. The weird thing was that during the last half mile coming down the home stretch, I told myself NOT to push hard, but just keep the pace as steady as possible. Wow! Considering my 5 mile race pace four days ago was 6:14, busting out a 4 mile tempo run one second slower (without even trying so hard) was quite unexpected. Just for reference, my previous best for 4 mile tempo run on the same course was 25:50(or 6:21 average pace) during marathon training last year. Needless to say, I’m tickled by the prospect of what pace I could actually sustain for 4 miles when I am at the peak of training…

Finally, feeling generally happy but a bit tired after my run, I came home to the shocking news that one of music’s biggest icons, Michael Jackson, had inexplicably suffered cardiac arrest and passed away. Wow. Although I know he was a bit psychologically unstable towards the end of his career and had been accused of some nasty things, the fact remains that he was a brilliant singer/performer and for a period of time while I was growing up, was the biggest pop star in the music industry. I am saddened by the news because I feel as if he never really got the respect he deserved. He was so many things to so many people all around the world that I don’t think the world today can truly appreciate the significance of his contributions back in the day. C’mon, Thriller, Moonwalk, Billie Jean…they are so iconic and typified music and culture in the late 80’s. I can’t help feel that with his passing, a bit of my youth also died with him today. R.I.P. MJ, you will be missed!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Base Building

With the conclusion of the Father’s Day race this past weekend, I officially close the chapter on my running life titled the 2009 Spring Racing series. That’s right, from now until middle of August, there’ll be no more racing for these tired legs. Although the results of six races in the past two months were rather meager by my standards, with only 2 PR’s scored during that span, I had a blast trying to milk whatever speed and fitness I had gained as part of Boston Marathon training for as long as I could. But now that I realize with each passing race that I can no longer tap into that running well, I must regroup, refocus and move on to the next marathon training cycle.

As I’m crunching numbers and comparing notes on different marathon plans, I’m giving myself two weeks to build a 16-week training program for the NYC Marathon on November 1. For these two weeks, I’ll be running 30-35 miles at a comfortable pace as part of base building. But to be honest, even while I was racing during the past month, I’ve been scheduling my workouts during the week as if I was already in base building mode anyways. The basic weekly structure for me during this base building phase has been 2 easy/recovery runs of 6 miles during the week, one mid-week longish run (10-12) and a long run or race during the weekend. To my credit, I have been pretty diligent with the midweek longish run over the past month even as my weekend plans have been all driven all of wack by my races. Looking back at my log, for the last four weeks, I have done every single midweek run of 9.5-12 miles, keeping an average pace of 7:13-7:15 for each one of them. Since one of the goals for the new training plan is to run more weekly mileage, I’m hoping this midweek longish run will be the new wrinkle that will help get me to my goal. The only trouble for me is trying to keep a slower pace as I’m running them. I find it extremely difficult not doing tempo pace for the last 2-3 miles when I’m tired and just want the run to end. I know that’s not exactly the right attitude to have but I’m seriously trying to work on that.

Another thing that I’m trying to be more diligent with during base training, is to be consistent with stretching after runs and doing slow recovery jogs after speed workouts. Instead of stopping right after I’m done, I’m forcing myself to jog a good half mile or a mile cooldown to allow my heart rate and muscles to equilibrate back to a normal state. I’ve found I’m able to recover quicker and have less residual soreness when running the next day.

Oh, and one more thing that I’m incorporating into my daily life in honor of base-building: more sleep! God knows we all need a bit more of that no matter what stage of training we’re in.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Race Report from the NYRR Father’s Day 5M

All day Saturday, the weather reports from the news and online forecasted a 60% chance of showers all through the day yesterday so I really didn’t know what to expect when I woke up bright and early Sunday morning for the race. I had been suffering from temporary insomnia for the few prior nights so I was especially tired when the alarm so rudely interrupted my desperately needed slumber. I got up to look outside my window somewhat wishing that it was already raining so I’d have an excuse to miss the race. Unfortunately, although there were plenty of puddles out on the streets, leftover souvenirs undoubtedly from a thunderstorm passing overnight, it was not actively raining. Moreover, the temperature was actually a bit on the cooler side. Knowing this was better racing conditions than one could ideally hope for on a summer solstice, I surrendered myself to the circumstances and started the obligatory preparations for race day.

Since the race start was once again located on the lower west end of the park, it was a rather long trek from my apartment on the Upper East. Although my stomach usually feels quite queasy from performance anxiety and pre-race jitters on the walk over, I was unusually calm yesterday morning, even once I took my usual position in the back of the first starting corral. The air was misty with a hint of light drizzle by the time the pre-race instructions were given and the national anthem was sung. After some brief props delivered by Mary Wittenberg to the first time fathers in the crowd, the starting horn sounded, and we were off.

Mile 1 – I fought my heart, the crowds, and the adrenaline rush to start my race at what I thought was an appropriate pace. Instead of bobbing and weaving the first quarter mile like I usually do, I stayed in lane and waited patiently for openings to appear before jumping ahead of slower runners. Because this was a points race for the guys, it was unusually packed near the front. Although mostly inadvertent, the constant arm brushings and meandering feet clashes made me nervous and claustrophobic to be running so fast in the beginning next to my neighbors who were all less than an arms length away. I was so terrified of being tripped and falling flat on my face that I didn’t even realize I had conquered the hills until I passed by the first mile marker. [Time – 6:08]

Mile 2 – I saw this Flyer girl cheering from the sidelines pretty soon after crossing the mile marker. Feeling somewhat triumphant from having conquered the opening mile, I slowly released the clamp on my legs and allowed them somewhat to open up. My strategy for attacking the hills in this course was to take the uphills steady without pushing effort or pace and utilize the downhills to gain speed and momentum. I was careful not to expend excess energy rolling down the hill. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I might have still opened up way too early as this mile became the fastest of the race for me. [Time – 6:03]

Mile 3 – I paid for an overly aggressive mile 2 with a slow and painful mile 3. Although this mile has a net elevation gain, I didn’t expect it to be THIS difficult. My legs suddenly felt tired, my breathing labored, and my will to fight almost nonexistent. Because the halfway point of the race just happened to pass by Engineer’s Gate, close to my apartment, I had more than a few thoughts of stopping to walk or just dropping out and going home. I eventually persuaded my legs to just keep turning, albeit at a slower pace than in the beginning. I saw my cheerleader friend again just as I was losing speed, interest and composure. [Time – 6:23]

Mile 4 – Having just conquered the highest elevation point on the course, I advised my legs that it was time to pick up the pace. But unlike my previous races where proper pacing resulted in some heroic second half surges. This time, the leg muscles could not and did not respond. It was as my body just laughed at the suggestion to speed up and forced me to slow down to recover a bit before I caught a second wind. I sprinted down Cat Hill at an easy effort, hoping to recharge the batteries a bit before the mad sprint to the finish in the final mile. I allowed a few people who I had been tag with since the start to pass me by, hoping I’d have the last laugh in the end. I saw the mile marker and was a little disappointed that my time this mile, was only a couple of seconds better than my previous mile, despite the downhill. [Time – 6:21]

Mile 5 – The last mile was more a psychological battle than a physical one. Although I once again told my legs to push the pace through to the end, the pickup never materialized until the final 200 meters. By then, the damage had already been done and what was a good effort and time in the first two miles, (course PR-6:13 average-aspiring? Overall PR-6:09 average-aspiring?) turned sour in the middle and this became just another race for me. I did beat out a few of the guys who passed me by earlier in the race and regained some dignity in the process. Eventually, I plowed through the finish at Tavern on the Green and it was over. After recovering for a bit, I walked around, posed for a few pictures and congratulated my teammates on their races before heading home to celebrate the rest of my day with Dad. [Time – 6:17]

Final Statistics
Official Finishing Time – 31:12
Average Pace – 6:14
Overall Place – 160/4538 (3.5%)
Gender Place – 156/2818 (5.5%)
Age Graded % - 69.1
NY Flyers Men – 3rd

Things I Learned From This Race
1. If you’re actually yawning in the starting corral, your legs will probably do the same halfway through the race.
2. Despite your best intentions, you’ll never pace properly starting out with the gazelles in the first corral.
3. Expect to lose your flow in the middle miles if you haven’t been doing your tempos and your finishing kick if you haven’t paying the track its due.
4. Your race is a reflection of your mental state. Yet…
5. Your mental state will always be driven by how you race.

Hope everyone had a great Father’s Day weekend!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm Back!

Oh my, has it really been a week since I’ve posted? Has it been a week since I’ve wrote about running, talked about running, visited running blogs or cared about running at all? For all those who cared and wondered where I’ve been, thanks for the concern. For the others who don’t care or may be fed up with me and my running babblings, too bad, you’re stuck with me anyway, just for a little while longer. In either case, here’s my explanation for the little hiatus I took from running and blogging this past week…in case you’re wondering…

It might surprise some of you, or maybe even most of you to hear that I don’t consider myself to be a very good runner. A fast runner? Maybe. A talented runner? Perhaps. But a good one? No, not even close. At least in my mind. In my mind, a good runner knows his limits, his boundaries, knows how to fit running and training into one’s life so that it augments rather than detracts from one’s own life experiences. For me, for the past six months or so, running has so dominated my life, in terms of training, racing, coaching, and blogging that it consumed me more than I care to admit. It took a little trip out of the park, out of the city, and out of the running vortex that I’ve created for myself, for me to realize that it needn’t be this way. While I was away (in D.C.), I got a chance to talk to some runners (again, there were literally tons all around town) who told me that many of the people that run in their city aren’t really training for any particular race. In fact, most of them were running with no agenda, no training plan, no idea how long or how far they were going to run everyday. They run when they can and don’t care about it when they can’t. This was simply shocking for me to hear because everyday I’m out running, I’ve already calculated the exact distance I’m going to run and the pace I’m going to run it at and know ahead of time how many miles I’ll have to run the next day too in order to hit some arbitrary distance goal I’ve established for myself way back when. It’s gotten to be such a routine that it’s become instinctual. To not know, and not care, even if you’re not “in training” is completely ludicrous to me. The weird part is that everyone there was so happy to be doing their own thing at their own pace that I felt more than a bit guilty gliding past everyone simply because I can’t seem to adjust to running at slower speeds anymore. At the end of my visit, I promised myself to try this new running perspective for at least a week, just to see if it’d make a difference.

Well, I took myself on that little experiment this week, and ran only as fast and as far as I felt comfortable, without having an agenda in mind. This was good in a way because I was swamped with work this week and had to give a major presentation to chairman of the division (my boss) and the chairman of the department (my boss’s boss) yesterday. As a result, running took somewhat of a back seat and for once, I did not feel guilty for missing miles or missing runs. Instead, I focused more attention on catching up with patients and hospital work and preparing for my presentation. The strategy worked well as I got everything done, gave a stellar presentation (even the department chair came up to me afterwards to give his approval), and squeezed in two weekday runs in the meantime. Yay me!

I hope that suffices as an explanation. If not, then just blame me for burning out and being human. Marathon training starts anew in a week or so and I’m cashing in on some down time when I can afford it. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’ve got a race! I’m hoping for good weather and a decent performance to celebrate Father’s Day. No expectations this time out except to enjoy running again and to have a good time. I might even jump back a corral just to make sure that happens. We’ll see how I feel in the morning. Look out for the race report afterwards.

In the meantime, I’ll be catching up on what you all have been up to in the next several days, so look out for me in your comments. Happy Father’s Day weekend to you all!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Race Report from the Lawyers Have Heart 10K

Yes, you read right. The race I ran in D.C. yesterday had a rather peculiar name. Ever since I registered for this race a month ago, I’d been wondering if the name was a reminder to lawyers to take care of their pumping chambers or if it was just a reference to the rest of us that lawyers too can be caring and sentimental. I wasn’t sure so I asked the race volunteer handing out race bibs at number pickup a few days ago. To my surprise, she didn’t know either. Or maybe she did and just didn’t want to tell me. A fellow racer later told me that the race was 19 years old and it was sponsored by both Legal Times and the American Heart Association. Everything else would be subject to individual interpretation.

Other than this little snafu, the race itself turned out to be a blast and I had fun competing with the fittest people in the country. Although there were over 3,600 runners out on the course today, separated into two wave starts (smart move!), there was minimal congestion and plenty of post-race food and water to go around. The race volunteers all did a great job orchestrating the masses and directing runner traffic at the starting area. The bag dropoff/pickup was efficient as the assembly line of high school girls organized the area to perfection. Even the singing of the national anthem was momentus, as it was performed by a young aspiring vocalist who apparently is nationally renounced, as I was told by one of my race neighbors.

The course itself was simple yet scenic and made for a fast race. It basically consisted of running onto a blocked off section of a highway for about a mile, then off an exit onto a neighboring town for another mile, then along a road next to a river for slightly more than a mile before hitting the turnaround and going back the same way we came. Other than the big climb to the highway from the street at the start, there were some small rolling hills just to keep things interesting. There was good crowd support at the start and end of the race but for most of the way out there, I was basically listening to the sound of my own breathing and the rhythm of other people’s footfalls to keep me entertained. This was fine by me. I enjoyed running next to the water and the trees and bodning with nature if only for a little while.

As for my own performance, I ran a good race today but not a great one. I did not PR (Goal A), falling short by a good 25 seconds but I did run my second-fastest time ever for the distance, easily beating my 10K time at this point last year and my Goal B time of 39:30. This result is to be expected since as I haven’t kept up with speedwork and haven’t run nearly as much as I had been running a month ago. My pacing was pretty consistent throughout the race which I’m happy about and I didn’t feel as fatigued as I thought I would pushing through the hills. I would have liked to have been able to pick up the pace a bit more towards the end, but otherwise felt I ran the best race I could.

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 39:24 for an average pace of 6:21 min/mile. I placed 78 out of 1845 males and 25 out of 655 in my age division. This is pretty much on par with my recent race results back home so I think I held my own out there today. The coolest part of the race was when the MC called out my name as I was crossing the finish line and thanked me personally for traveling so far to run this race. I heard some loud cheers from the audience and took a bow just for fun to show my appreciation.

After my experience today, I can’t say I’m convinced that lawyers indeed are creatures of sentiment (for those readers who are affiliated with the law profession, I kid of course…) but since I’m all for healing hearts, I suggest all those who’ll be in D.C. next year around this time to check out this race. It really was well-organized and loads of fun…even if you don’t happen to be a lawyer!

Mile Splits:
Mile 1 – 6:20
Mile 2 – 6:18
Mile 3 – 6:27
Mile 4 – 6:25
Mile 5 – 6:26
Mile 6 – 6:19
Last 0.2 – 1:09 (5:45 pace)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Live from D.C., Part II

So it turns out that Susan was right. Washington D.C. was billed as the nation’s fittest city in 2008, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. (New York is only #22? Seriously? Boo!) No wonder I haven’t been able to walk down one whole city block without seeing another runner. They are literally everywhere! Whether it’s 7:00AM on Wednesday morning, 8:30PM on Thursday night, or 3PM on a Friday afternoon, there ware always people out running. If I wasn’t a runner, I’d probably be very annoyed by these people, but since I am, I’ve felt somewhat privileged just to be among them for a few nights this week. In my self-guided running tours around town, I’ve found so many perfectly paved roads, lush green parks, picturesque riverside trails and open dirt paths in full view of the historical monuments that I’ve come to the realization that it would be more unnatural to be surrounded by all this goodness and NOT run. Now that I’ve totally immersed myself in all this positive running energy, it’ll be depressing when I'm back in NYC tomorrow night and suddenly realize that I’m once again back in the minority as a runner in the city. Urrgghh!!!

But…before I hop on the bus to travel back up the interstate, I have a little score to settle with the locals in the form of a 10K scheduled bright and early in the AM. I don’t have high expectations since I haven’t kept up with the speedwork and running just base miles for the past couple of weeks. I’m intrigued though just to compete among all these freakishly fit people who run here everyday. Was all that running I saw the past week just a show or were they all secretly training for this 10K without telling me? Will the hometown folks teach this visitor a thing or two about roadracing in the nation’s capital or will I hold my own and show that running well knows no state boundaries? We’ll soon find out. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Live from D.C.

Hello all! I’m coming to you today not from my humble abode in NYC, but from Obama’s backyard in our nation’s capital! Okay, not exactly his backyard, but since his front gate is only a block away from my hotel, I think that’s close enough! I’m here all this week on a semi-work basis enjoying the view and checking out the sights. I’m considering it only semi-work because the conference I’m supposedly attending isn’t really mandatory, so I’ve been attending only half the sessions. Hey, don’t judge, that’s more than what a lot of my other colleagues are doing. At least I don’t take day trips to Baltimore or Virginia when the conference is right here in D.C.!

One of the surprising things I noticed as soon as I arrived in town was the number of people I saw running on the streets. Out on the sidewalks, in the parks, people were out and about more than I remember in other cities. The most impressive thing about it is that there’s been a thunderstorm watch here for the past few days and the weather has been very erratic. Yet, these people were running with their Ipods and Garmins as oblivious to the heat and humidity as they are to me gawking at them. Needless to say, I was rather impressed.

As for my own run, I finally got one in today after conference before it got dark. A couple of days ago, Betsy recommended that I "run the monuments". So I took her up on her suggestion and circled the track from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building and back, bypassing the Washington Monument in the middle. It turned out to be a fun and glorious run! In between the national landmarks, I passed by high school teams playing baseball on the lawns and younger girls playing kickball and older teens tossing a Frisbee around. I also saw many runners both young and old taking the same path that I was. I didn’t run too hard, but took care to enjoy the summertime sights all around me. In the end, the 9.4 miles that I ran (at 7:14 avg pace) felt more like 2.4. If it hadn’t gotten completely dark by the time I was done I would have gone back and ran some more.

The only drawback to all of this running is that I was actually banking on being busy with conference and easing up on my miles this week. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s not going to happen now as I’ve already planned on another 6 mile run tomorrow and a 10K race on Saturday before heading back. Oops! But as long as I hold myself to keeping my pace at a recovery effort, I think the extra miles won’t bother me. I’m hoping anyway as I’m about to start marathon training again in another couple of weeks and I want to be as fresh as possible heading in.

Monday, June 8, 2009

From The Sidelines:
A Mini View of the NYRR Mini 10K

Now that it’s Monday, and we’re back at it again, back to the drudgery of another hot summer work week…How was everyone’s weekend? I hope it was good, fun, productive, and filled with lots of running goodness. I know it was for me. Although most of my time was spent in front of the computer, slaving over research journals and esoteric textbooks, preparing for a big presentation that I’m sure more people will sleep through than actually pay attention to, the highlight of the weekend was definitely the few hours on Sunday morning I spent attending a race.

Now I know what you all must be thinking. There goes Lam again, running another race when his legs haven’t yet recovered from the half marathon he ran last weekend. But then, you’d be wrong. Surprised huh? Yeah, this Sunday, for the first time in a long time, instead of running a 10K in Central Park, I actually stood on the sidelines and watched one. And you know what else…if you promised not to tell anyone…I think I kind of liked it.

The Mini 10K, which took place this past Sunday, is an annual event commemorating the first ever all-women road race held some 37 years ago. In the first version of the race organized by Fred Lebow in 1972, it was called the 6 Mile Crazylegs Mini Marathon and featured Playboy bunnies at the starting line. 78 women finished that year including the race co-founders Nina Kuscsik and Kathrine Switzer. This year 4297 women, including the eventual winner Rose Kosgei of Kenya, crossed the finish line, making it one of the popular and well-attended races on the NYRR calendar.

Since I did not possess two copies of the X chromosome, I could not run this race. So instead, I came out to watch and cheer on all the lady runners busting their butts and strutting their stuff out on the course. And wow, was I ever impressed by what I saw out there! So many dedicated women all running so fast, it was all so inspiring to see. For me it was quite a spectacle to behold, all these women racing against each other next to me. Honestly, I don’t get to experience much of that during the races that I run. Most of the time, especially in the shorter distances, I could go through the whole race without seeing any female runners racing next to me at all! Not only that, but I don’t usually get to see even the women runners who are just slightly slower than me as I’m usually recovering or grabbing my stuff just as they’re finishing. As I was spectating close to the finish line and cheering on all the women sprinting the last 100m towards the end, I couldn’t help but wonder how it much have felt to be a male runner before 1972. It must have been so competitive for the top guys, but oh so boring for those who weren’t. I feel thankful that I run at a time where there’s equality among the sexes out on the course…well, for the most part anyways.

After the race, I congratulated the Flyer ladies on their great races. I enjoyed hearing their battle stories as they're quite similar to the ones I have when I run my 10Ks. They each got a medal and a carnation from NYRR for their efforts, which I thought was cute and apt for the occasion. Someone even snapped a picture to commemorate the occasion and for once, I looked quite photogenic in a Flyer race picture…hmmm, I wonder why!

Photo Op with Flygirl and Runner26

All in all, it was a fun and very enjoyable Sunday morning. Congrats and thanks to all the ladies who ran and provided me with incentive to keep pounding the pavement. Only now I’ll keep in mind to slow down every once in a while, look around and enjoy the scenery!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Running: Physiologically Speaking
Why Am I Peeing Blood After My Long Run?

Oops, it happened again, today, to a running friend after she ran 12 miles. Something weird. Something unexpected. And yeah, it freaked the living daylights out of her.

The first time it happened to a friend, I was there, with F.L., when she came out of the bathroom right after the Boston Marathon. She was somewhat freaked as well.

In both circumstances, I happened to be at the right place at the right time and luckily, I miraculously did not fall asleep when they covered this topic in medical school. Go me! On the other hand, I wonder how much running-related medical information I must have missed out on because I used to sleep through all the lectures. Damn, if only I knew I’d be a runner way back when…

Lam, stay on topic, so what is thing that happened to F.L. and your running friend? They both started peeing blood right after their runs. I thought it was obvious from the post title.

Maybe that’s obvious. But why? They both had E.I.H.

What’s E.I.H.? Is that the name of a new designer steroid for performance enhancement? No, no, no. E.I.H. stands for exercise induced hematuria. It is the appearance of blood in the urine (gross or microscopic) occurring after a period of intense exercise in people who have no other evidence of kidney or urinary tract disease. It goes away with rest.

Are there any associated symptoms? No. The key feature of E.I.H. that separates it from everything else is that it occurs in the absence of any disease. As such it is completely asymptomatic, well aside from the residual muscle soreness as a result of the intense exercise of course.

How long does it usually last? It usually resolves within 24-48 hours.

What if it doesn’t? If the hematuria persists beyond 72 hours or you’re having other symptoms, such as pain or fever, then you’re not dealing with E.I.H. and should get checked out by a doctor. It could be a urinary tract infection that requires antibiotics or rhabdomyolysis that may lead to kidney failure or something else.

Why causes E.I.H.? No one really knows. One theory is that constant jarring of the bladder wall during exercise causes bleeding and leakage of blood into the urine. Another more physiologic theory is that when there is intense vasoconstriction of blood vessels into the kidney during prolonged exercise, some of the cells responsible for filtered the blood inside the kidney can die from ischemia and get filtered into the urine. Usually, this slight alteration in kidney function is reversible and not of any clinical consequence, but in cases where the kidneys are already artificially clamped down (as is the case after ibuprofen ingestion…hint, hint...) the effect can be multiplied and result in some degree of kidney ischemia and kidney failure.

How common is E.I.H.? Statistics vary, but according to some studies, about 20-30% of runners were found to have some degree of hematuria after a marathon. Most cases are microscopic though, which means they are not visible to the naked eye.

Is it preventable? Because no one knows what brings it on, no one knows how it can be prevented. There is general consensus though that dehydration plays a key role, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your runs if you don’t want to see red in your pee.

Where can I go to learn more about this? You can read about it here and here. Someone also wrote a blog post about it here.

Hope you all learned something today. From now on, no more freaking out if you see a little blood in your pee after a long run, you hear? Good. Class dismissed.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Justifying My Self-Depracation:
The Dilemma of a Runner-Coach

Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments in my last post. It did made me feel better and in a way keep things in perspective. I agree that it’s quite unbecoming of me to rant on my own running like that. I’m usually a bit more discreet about such things and is able to weed out my self-deprecating alter ego before he announces his presence here on the blog, but on that particular day, I was stressed, frustrated, confused, and just wasn’t in the mood to edit him out.
I guess I could’ve blamed my troubled state on the three teenage diabetics who are basically committing suicide with their refusal to care for themselves and making me feel generally inadequate and utterly powerless to help them. I could’ve likewise pinned my frustrations on the young mother of the newborn I had to admit to intensive care for treatment of hypocalcemic seizures because mom thought prenatal vitamins were “optional”. Heck, I could’ve even chalked it up to any of a number of parents that day who verbally abused me in clinic for not “fixing” their morbidly obese kids who were 40, 55, even 80 pounds overweight. (Um, sorry lady, there is no medicine I can prescribe to undo the damage you’ve done by overfeeding little Johnny for the last 10 years. And no, bariatric surgery or stomach stapling is not an option!)
Still, I know I’m ultimately the one at fault for carrying my work life onto the road and placing intense pressure on my body to perform at the highest level under not-so-ideal circumstances. No matter what I know about proper rest and recovery, I just wanted to run fast and run well in THIS ONE race and THIS ONE workout just so I know for myself that I can still do THIS ONE thing well. Maybe no one else ever approaches their running in quite the same manner, but for me, sometimes the passion for the run overwhelms its purpose. That’s why the failures both in the race and in my interval workout was so emotionally disappointing. For the first time in a long time, running just felt so hard and pointless.
As for those who are suggesting that I’m pushing my body too often and too hard, I can’t really disagree but then again who’s to know? The coach in me is often telling me that I’m so used to taking the easy way out that it’s not a surprise that when it really matters, when push comes to shove, my body just doesn’t know how to respond. In my “Video of the Week”, Kara Goucher talks a little about when she first met Alberto Salazar, one of the earliest workouts he had her do was “12 X 1K real easy”. She thought he was crazy but she did it anyway and nailed it, much to her surprise. In the same way, I’m always challenging myself to be just a little bit better or just a little bit faster than what I think I’m capable of, even if it sounds a bit crazy at first. I feel that only by pushing the envelope every so often will I be able to uncover something close to my potential as a runner. The weird thing was that in my Tuesday speed session, I was only trying to hit my pre-Boston time goals, and hence, not even pushing the envelope at all! (It’s sad that even that I couldn’t do!) At any rate, the point is that there is a fine line between pulling back and regressing versus pushing hard and risking injury to test the limits and it’s hard to know when to say when. I guess as long as I’m training myself, I will always have difficulty separating the coach, who keeps wanting me to run faster and push harder, from the runner, who just wants him to shut up!.
Hope this explanation makes sense to some of you…Maybe?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Walk To Forget in the Brooklyn Half Marathon

By now, everyone locally has heard about my 1:26 finishing time in the Brooklyn Half over the weekend. Part of it was because of word of mouth. Most of it was because I decided to post my race report on the Flyers discussion forum when someone in the club asked for feedback on the race. I decided to chime in not because I wanted people to know about my race. It was more because I wanted to point out some logistical things that detracted from my experience in hopes that the powers that be can bring it to the attention of the NYRR. At any rate, the response has been almost universal. “Good job, Lam. You walked and still finished with a great time. Congrats!” Although I’d sheepishly grin and modestly accepted the praise, in my head all I could hear are the words…”You walked…YOU WALKED…yes…YOU WALKED!” and nothing else. And although there were a bunch of mitigating circumstances working against me on race day (sunny, humid, lack of water being the most obvious), I still can’t get over the fact that I found myself walking again in the middle of a half-marathon. You see people, before I became the Running Laminator, when I didn’t know my own ass from my elbow in terms of running and only went to races because my best friend disguised as my running coach dragged me with him, I had a habit of walking in races. I’d walk in some of the 5-milers, a few of the 10Ks, and almost all the half-marathons I was entered in. It used to get so ridiculously bad that I’d consider it a success if I took only one walking break in the middle of the 13.1 miles. As a result, it took me forever (a year and a half) before I was able to break 1:30, even though I was hitting 1:31 pretty consistently. Eventually, at the Queens Half two years ago, I was finally able to run the full distance without walking and sure enough broke 1:30 for the first time (1:28:06). Fast forward two years, and I have managed to remain walk-free ever since. That’s why it was so horrifying when I succumbed to the heat/exhaustion/fatigue and reverted to an old habit that was so hard to kick. I can’t help but feel like I failed and regressed a bit as a runner – somewhat like an old alcoholic returning to the flask. It may be irrational, it may be far-fetched, but I cannot shake the image of me taking steps in every long distance race from here on out.

And it’s not like I haven’t tried. I took two days off running and went back to the track today to refine my form, practice my stride and regain the speed and confidence that I feel I’ve lost in the past six weeks since Boston. I looked back at my schedule and saw that my last successful interval run was 4 x 1 mile at 5:52 pace in the middle of March while training for Boston. In order not to be overwhelmed, I purposely set a softer goal for today: 3 x 1 mile at 5:55 pace. But even after the first mile, I found everything a complete struggle. I was so winded and tired after each one that I had to “cheat” and take complete rest for a minute or two before even doing the recovery half-mile jog. It was against protocol, but it was all I could do to not drop dead or jump into the East River (my track runs right next to it). In the end, my grade was still a giant FAIL because my three interval mile times were only 5:52, 5:58 and 6:03. And because it was now a possibility, the thoughts of stopping/resting gnawed at me in the middle of every interval as I was getting tired. Before this Saturday, it would never even have crossed my mind to ask the question.

In my mind, walking in middle of a race is completely inexcusable…regardless of the conditions. Before I regard myself as a runner again, never mind training for another marathon, I have to have to HAVE TO bury the hacket on this walking thing and not entertain it as a possibility. It is actually quite humiliating when you start with the fast group in the first corral and walk in the middle miles of the race. Believe me, I know. I secretly used to make fun of those people. Can you imagine Kara, or Ryan or other running elites taking steps in the middle of their races (unless they were severely injured)? Yeah, me neither. I rest my case.

Thanks for reading my semi-rant. Remember tomorrow is National Running (not Walking) Day! Make sure you do your part to promote the cause and celebrate!
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