Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting Set for NYC:
The Marathon in 2 Days!!

My, oh, my! I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be this way. For the past 24-48 hours, I’ve been stuck in an emotional roller coaster of excitement, anxiousness, exhilaration and dread without a beginning or at an end. I get snappy at the slightest perceived insult and can’t stay on a non-running related conversation for more than 5 seconds. What has gotten into me? I’m not sure. I’ve done 7 marathons (including 3 New York) before and yet today feel as if I’m a newbie about to run his first on Sunday. All I know is that I’m turning into the taper monster a day short of Halloween.

Just a few thoughts from me as I make final preparations for the big day…

I had dinner with Brian Sell yesterday. Well…not exactly me singularly, but he did come to speak to my running group, the NY Flyers, and share in our traditional pre-marathon pasta dinner with us last night. He has been training hard for the NYC marathon and is a contender for the podium on Sunday. For me, It was so thrilling to hear from someone who considers a 2:16 marathon “a bad race”. What I took away most from his speech, besides his ringing endorsement of Red Bull (mixed with some Gatorade) as a good energy drink in the middle of a race, was how he didn’t rest on the laurels of his Olympic experience, but continued training for and chasing his goals. In his own words, “I continued running because I had some unfinished business with the marathon distance (having run a 2:16 in the Beijing Games)." In my mind, I’m replaying those words and wondering if he’s speaking to me directly…

The joke around the office the last couple of days was how I was going to get graded for my race on Sunday. Eventually, they came up with some race goals for me. If I run sub-3, there would be no obese kids for me to see next week (because everyone knows they take the most time and are the most frustrating patients to manage). 3:00-3:05 means I get my usual share. 3:05-3:10 means I get more than my share, including some who are already diabetic. And if I should come in over 3:10, well, their suggestion is for me to not even bother coming in….I had to laugh at these because these race goals are so perfect for me!

I went with my friend M to the expo and the Flyer pasta dinner. She is an old friend but a new runner who I “coached” this year from a self-described recreational runner to a soon-to-be marathoner. She will be running her first in NYC on Sunday and I am so thrilled for her. Ordinarily, bib pickup for NYC is so mundane for me because the expo is small and a bit out of the way but it became such a fun adventure this year with M. As we strolled through the booths, I reminded her to live it up because you never get a second chance to run a first marathon. In between, we also reminisced about how she once thought there was no need ever to drink water on a training run and how she attempted her first 20 miler without GUs or gels and felt so sick mid-run that she had to cab it home! (Okay, it was more me reminiscing and her telling me to shut up!) Somehow she recovered and now is so psyched to run her first marathon. Woohoo! Because she’s starting in the second Wave and is expecting to come in about an hour and fifteen to an hour and twenty minutes behind me, I’m thinking of finishing my race, grabbing my stuff, and hopefully catch her as she comes into the park at mile 23-24. It will all depend on how my legs feel after the 26.2 and how chaotic the finishing area is. If I somehow pull it off, it would be so exhilarating to see her as she comes in towards the finish.

Speaking of the race expo, is it just me or does the Asic store get bigger every year while all the other booths get fewer and smaller? For the first time, I also left an expo without any freebies. Boo, and double Boo! Actually, all I wanted was an ID badge holder, the kind that you can wear around your neck, with the insignia of the ING New York City Marathon on it. I want this so I can wear my ID around the hospital and be identified as a marathoner without being too obnoxious about it. But for the fourth year in a row, those Asics people told me they didn’t have any for sale. You are dead to me Asics. I refuse to buy any of your overpriced running merchandise until you either lose your sponsorship with the NYC marathon or you make one of those ID badge holders available for sale to me!

Finally, a lot of peeps say they want to track my progress in the marathon on Sunday. Really? I am flattered people, I really am, but haven’t we learned our lesson the last time we tried to track me for sub-3? As I recall, it didn’t work out so well for me that time. I am embarrassed that you all would not rather be doing something else than track little old me for close to three hours on a beautiful Sunday. But if you insist, the stalking, er…I mean…tracking website is here. (Register quick though because it is almost closed!) Bib number is 7444 and I’m starting out in Blue, Wave 1. I ask only if you do track me that you refrain from commenting in foul language if I should breakdown in Mile 22 or yelling too loudly in jubilation if I should somehow come in under 3. The spouse, kids, neighbors and pets might not like that...Hahaha…

In all seriousness, thanks to everyone for all their kind words and encouragements throughout my training. They all have meant a lot and I will take them with me out on the race course. In the meantime, Happy Halloween, and eat an extra piece of candy for me, won’t ya!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gettin’ Excited for NYC:
The Marathon In 4 Days

First of all, I want to acknowledge and thank you all for your kind words and encouragement on my last post. As you all may have guessed, it wasn’t easy for me coming up with answers to some of the Q&A’s and in the process, expose personal details about myself that not many people outside my family and closest friends even know, but after reading through all the wonderful comments, I felt as if I made the right decision to answer each question as honestly as I can. So thank you all.

Anyway, so how is everyone doing with their running? By the way, did you know I’m running a marathon in 4 days? Nah, me neither, or at least that’s what my colleagues at work would have you believe because when I walked into the hospital on Monday, I was swamped with deadlines and projects and paperwork that were all due today! Talk about a pre-marathon buzz killer! So instead of freaking out about the weather or what I’ll be wearing on race day, I worked nonstop and way past my bedtime for two straight days. It wasn’t pretty, but everything got done, my research protocols are written, all the patients got seen, and I gave a kickass conference that left my fellow workmates speechless and begging for more. It just goes to show that even in race week, when everyone else who’s running the marathon can’t help but talk, think, and breathe the marathon, I can still contain my pre-marathon jitters and do a damn good job in my professional life when asked to.

But now that all the work is done and pertinent deadlines have past, it’s time to get excited for the New York City Marathon again. Woohoo! (Are you excited yet? If not, you should play this song and leave it running as you read through the rest of this post.)

I feel that I’m late to this game. All week, every local marathon runner has been preparing themselves physically and mentally for NYCM. Some have taken to books and magazines for inspiration. Others are talking to family and friends. Still others are keeping busy with marathon minutiae, as if they have psychic powers to predict the future. Luckily for me, I’m not most people. I don’t read books or magazines (I blame it on the lack of time); my family don’t come to races and I’ve done too many of these to pretend that I can control factors that are outside my control to guarantee a great race.

Instead, I must resort to unconventional ways to get my game face ready for race day. Below are the five things I do to get pumped for the big day:

1. Watching Dave and me cracking up over those who should just give up now.
2. Reading and re-reading race reports from years past:
a. 2007 – My First BQ (Part I, II, III, IV)
b. 2008 – My PR Report (Part I, II, III, IV)
3. Watching inspirational NYCM course videos (I, II, III)
4. Seeing how some celeb (Anthony Edwards) have chosen to train for this race (video). This is actually funny, I promise!
5. Attending a FREE Newton Running Clinic hosted by IronBrandon on 10/30 7AM at the Central Park Boathouse (Please visit his fantastic blog for more information).

Question – What do YOU all do to get excited for race day?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Getting to Know The Laminator
20 Questions About Me, Part II

11. Do you like being on the Flyer team or do you prefer running just for yourself?
I spent the first three years of my running career running on my own and the last two years as a member of the Flyers and you know what…that’s just no comparison. Running as a New York Flyer absolutely rocks. Not only do all my teammates cheer me on at every single race, challenge me when I’m stagnant, humble me when I become too self-involved, educate me on running stuff that I never knew I didn’t know, inspire me when I’m unmotivated to run, and generally help me to train for longer distances and faster PRs than I ever imagined I could, they also, to a man (and woman), understand me as a runner like no group of friends I’ve ever had. I attribute much of the success I’ve enjoyed on the roads the past two years to the fact that I run as a New York Flyer, the best running club ever!

12. Why did you start blogging? Do you feel like blogging about your running helps you run better?
I addressed my motivation for blogging in this post I wrote a few years ago on Why I Run. In it, I mentioned that I used to be a writer/poet and wanted to use this forum as a venue for my running related thoughts. To be honest, when I started this meager attempt at self-expression, I never figured this to be more than a one year project. So when I recently celebrated my 300th post earlier last month in this my third year of blogging, it was a bit overwhelming and surreal.
Although the subjects I cover and the general readership has changed a bit over the years, I feel the blog has evolved right alongside me and my running. This, I think, is a good thing because it keeps the topics and my perspectives new, fresh, and a whole lot of fun to read and write about.
As for helping me run better, well, I think my natural type A personality would likely have done that anyway. But what blogging and my bloggy friends have done for me is to keep me accountable for my running, training, and racing. No longer would I ever allow myself to bail in the middle of a race or a long run if it means having to ‘fess up and explain why I sucked to the rest of the running world. I think I’d rather tell my mom that I broke her $1000 vase when I was twelve playing baseball in the living room than blog about some meaningless race that I started but never finished…sad but true!

13. A while back you said you were reading "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. What do you think about the book - especially the ideas he reports on about barefoot running and modern maladies caused by running shoes?
Wow. A toughie. So tough in fact that I conveniently “forgot” to write a review of the book after I had finished reading it. Sucks for me someone noticed! Well, the truth of the matter is that although I found the book a very interesting read and recommend it highly to everyone, I cannot buy into the passionate fervor of the barefoot running/minimalist shoes movement that the author advocates in the book. Don’t get me wrong - I too believe that the modern running shoe is a bit excessive and probably over time weakens the foot/arch structure of the general everyday runner. But the absence of proof isn’t really proof of the converse. Just because there is no proof that the modern running shoe decreases or prevents injuries doesn’t mean that barefoot or minimal shoes is the perfect solution. I think everyone’s foot structure is unique and everyone’s running form is unique. Therefore, the stresses we place on the hundreds of ligaments, tendons, and bones that make up our knees, leg, and feet when we run are going to differ. As such, there is not going to be one universal method of running that will apply to all and prevent all from injury. I take the approach that barefoot running is just one of a myriad of ways to run. It is not better or worse than running with shoes (assuming you are running in the right shoes for you), it is just different. Just like not every child is born with perfect vision – some will need glasses at an early age, not every runner is born with feet that will support injury-free barefoot running over a lifetime and will benefit from some shoe support. The trick is finding the right type of shoes that will fit your feet and your needs and not impact your natural running form. How to determine that is a whole another discussion. So from my perspective, I think the jury is out on this debate because the truth is that there is a lack of objective quantifiable research information on all of this. Most of the evidence you will find in support of barefoot running is for the most part speculative, anecdotal, and subject to individual interpretation. I think this NY Times article echoes my sentiments and presents the most unbiased arguments for both sides that I have come across.

14. Did you always want to be a kid doc?
Hmmm, I always knew I was going to be a doctor from an early age (as the result of some experiences I had growing up which I will get into later) but I didn’t really know I was going to be a pediatrician until the last year of medical school. In retrospect, I guess I should have known earlier on because I think and act so much like a kid anyways (hence my passion for doing crazy things and running!) But all through college and medical school, I thought I was going to be a psychiatrist because I loved talking to people and counseling them through their problems. All my friends used to tell me what a great listener I am (whatever that means) and I was always the first one most of them came to with their relationship drama and parental/sibling issues, etc. So I entered medical school thinking that psychiatry was my calling. It wasn’t until I started rotating through the hospital wards as a medical student and got to see what psychiatry was about in the real world (Dealing with drug abusers, criminals and psychotic schizophrenics on a daily basis was NOT my idea of fun!) that I knew a career shift was in order. So I decided on pediatrics because I remember feeling the happiest when I’m around that part of the hospital. Also, kids are resourceful and innocent and their illnesses and diseases aren’t the result of their own bad behaviors or judgments (as compared to the usual problems we see in adults). Most of all, most problems that kids have are reversible and curable, which makes it definitely more fun to diagnose and treat. As an added incentive, most doctors who see and treat children look and feel younger too! So yeah, that’s how I ended up as a kid doctor and since day 1, I can’t say I’ve ever really regretted that decision.

15. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Ooh, I feel like I’ll have to make a list for this one…so I will.

Best parts of my job:
  • Playing with the children, acting like a kid and it being perfectly acceptable.
  • Telling a teenage and her family that she’s cured of (thyroid) cancer.
  • Acting as a confidant for a girl who isn’t quite ready to tell her parents that she’s pregnant even as they are right outside in the waiting room thinking she’s got some weird recurrent abdominal pain.
  • Helping families decide the proper sex of rearing for a baby born with ambiguous genitalia (male and female sex organs)
  • Finding the proper diagnosis and treatment for a perplexing case.
  • Teaching young medical students and residents how to act and think doctorly.
  • Conducting clinical research and finding answers to some of life’s most basic questions (ex. What triggers puberty? How come some otherwise healthy kids grow up so much taller than their parents while others are so much shorter?)
  • Maybe someday winning the Nobel Prize? (okay, maybe I’m getting just a little ahead of myself here…I need to find the cure for diabetes or cancer first!)
Worst parts of my job:
  • Losing in a video game to a 5 year old.
  • Having no community-based resources to help kids who are morbidly obese.
  • Telling mom or dad that their child has diabetes and will need finger pricks and insulin injections for life.
  • Finding out what’s wrong and not being able to help.
  • Witnessing kids suffer the consequences of being born to bad parents.
  • Not being able to offer candy to a diabetic child after their visit on Halloween.
  • Watching children die from a debilitating and incurable disease.
  • Telling parents that their son/daughter will not be able to have children.
  • Helping families cope with the inadequacies of our current healthcare system.

Actually, for a more concrete example of how all of this fits into a typical day for me, I encourage you to read an earlier post of mine, titled “A Most Extraordinary Day”.

16. How did you get into medicine? was is lifelong dream? a particular course? A personal experience?
There’s a part of me that really didn’t want to answer this one, and I contemplated skipping it entirely or just giving a superficial and facetious answer like they do on one of those talk shows when the host asks something that’s completely obscene or inappropriate, but then I decided that since I was the one who opened Pandora’s box in the first place and asked to be asked questions, I should not shy away from my responsibility in revealing the details of my life honestly, even if it will make me and everyone else reading this slightly uncomfortable. Besides, I think retelling this story might help inspire me to run a little better in the later stages of NYCM (now just 7 days away, yikes!).
So for the story of how I ended up in medicine, I’d have to take you back some 25 years, to a time when I was just a 10-year-old little boy. At the time my simple life consisted only of school and home. Because my knowledge of the English language was still severely lacking (I had immigrated to the states at the age of 8) and I was uncomfortable making friends with neighbors or kids at school, I never ventured to play outside or participate in after-school activities. The only playmate I had back in those days was my sister S who went everywhere and did everything with me. Although S was technically two years my younger, one could never tell from our interactions who the elder was. That was because S knew English better than me (she was born here; I wasn’t), S knew the neighbors and the streets better than me (she lived in that house way before me) and S understood the TV and cartoons better than me. Is it a wonder then that I followed her lead wherever she went instead of the other way around? And because my parents both had full time jobs during the day and attended grad classes on alternating nights during that time, they really depended on us to look after ourselves most of the time. This was fine by us because S and I were self-sufficient. We developed and played games that no one else played and made up stupid jokes that no one else would get. We even sang karaoke to cartoon songs on a tape recorder and judged ourselves on our performances a day later. On the rare occasion that we did play outside with neighbors and friends, we were likewise inseparable. The parents of the other kids would give us quizzical looks when S would show up with me to a Ken & Barbie playhouse party or when I would take her with me to play freeze tag or stickball out on the street. But of course we didn’t care. Since very early on, we were not only siblings but also our own best friends.
This all change suddenly and drastically on a fateful afternoon in early May when S was hit by a car walking home from school one day. I was about a block away so I wasn’t there (like I should have been) at the moment of impact. I was there about 15 seconds later when I saw my dad running towards me asking me frantically what happened? I was there when S was carted off to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I was there when they rushed her to the team of doctors waiting for her at the trauma bay. I was there in the hospital, waiting, day, night and then into the next day, not knowing what was to become of my sister. And I was definitely there, when the head ER doc, told my parents and I that they had done everything. “Everything?” I asked. He nodded. “Then how come she isn’t waking up. Well, let me try. I’m her brother, her best friend, she’ll listen to me. Wake up S, it’s me, it’s me, it’s me!” She didn’t wake up. I couldn’t believe it. I poked her again. She didn’t move. I asked one of the doctors in the room again to help me. He didn’t move. Just shoke his head and said he was sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I pinch her arm and squeeze her hand. “Wake up S! C’mon, it’s me!” She doesn’t listen. She doesn’t move. And then I realize, and I know. She’s no longer there.
I was angry at the doctors, at the hospital, at the world for a long time after that. I just didn’t understand or couldn’t understand how “everything was done when there was S lying there, hoping and waiting for something to be done.” When I saw S one last time the following week before they laid her body to a permanent rest, I gave her a letter and placed in by her side. In it, I told her that I was sorry for failing her twice – once for not being there when she crossed that busy street by herself, and twice for believing the doctors that said that everything was already done. And although there was no way for me to undo my first wrong, I vowed that one day I would make it to the other side, to make sure that everything wouldn’t be everything for somebody else.

I could say more, but I think you all get the gist of how the medical profession found me at a young age instead of the other way around. It was the fulfillment of a promise I had made to someone very special to me a long time ago.

17. Were you a runner in med school? Yay, finally an easy one. NO! (See answer to #10)

18. Favorite workout?
Hmmm…I really don’t have a preference, but if I had to choose one, it’d be mile repeats just because I’ve done them so often and for long that I’m very comfortable with the pace of this workout. That is not to say they are easy, because they are both physically and psychologically challenging (at least the way I design hem), but I find that they really do help me improve my form and focus. This becomes most evident in the last few miles of a long distance race.

19. What is your favorite mile of a marathon (and you can’t pick the last one!)?
I don’t know if I have a favorite mile (if I’m not allowed to pick Mile 26, or the last 0.2) but I always look forward to running mile 24 of every marathon because I always share a special conversation with my sister S (see #16) during that segment of the race. We share stories, jokes, gossip, and whatever else that comes to mind. As for running, I try not to complain about my aches and pains too much because she gets turned off by that. Instead I tell her about my past races and recent PRs and what I’ve learned about myself since the last time I spoke to her. She listens very attentively, tells me she’s proud of me, reminds me not to slouch when I’m running tired, and sends me on my way. When I’m done with that conversation, I always feel focused and reenergized and ready to sprint to the finish.
[And if you must know, our conversation is reserved for Mile 24 because it was during this mile (the vaunted Fifth Avenue Mile) in my first New York City Marathon (and first overall) that as I was literally crawling for 3 blocks (because of bilateral leg cramps) that I first heard my sister’s voice loud and clear, keeping me company and encouraging me to move forward one side at a time. She also told me to pay no mind to the people around me but just focus on her. Slowly, we made our way to the medical tent where they rubbed down my cramping leg muscles and allowed me to finish my first ever marathon.]

20. Which would you rather do: give a reading of the worst of your literary works (poems, essays, etc.) OR speak to a bunch of runners about the top 10 dumbest things you've done while running?
Easy. Dumb, comical, embarrassing things because isn’t that half of what running is about anyways. The ability to share your running stories with others because in some weird way, they “get” it too! So I much rather share my list of dumb things done while running than read any of the garbage I’ve written and recited in a previous life. As a matter of fact, here’s a sampling of my most embarrassing running stories from the past couple of years.
March 3, 2008 – The Next 4 Miles & PR in Embarrassment
May 31, 2008 – Talking to Intensivists and Stupid Things I Still Do While Running
July 21, 2008 – Adding Insult to Injury
April 11, 2009 – Sickness Update and the Epitome of Embarrassment

Bonus Question:
21. Did you create your training grid from scratch or did you copy it from somewhere?
Although I’m sure someone would love to harass me and wring me out to dry with copyright infringements and a few civil lawsuits and such, I unfortunately came up with the training grid all on my lonesome, so back off people…no royalties for you!

Speaking of which, here’s my updated training grid detailing my 16 week training for the New York City Marathon. As you can see, I would dare say that training went well despite a few hiccups in the past few weeks. I ran all the miles I am supposed to for this training cycle and then some. It should be plenty enough for me to reach my goal next week. Let’s hope it will be.

Thanks for all the questions. They were all so awesome that they really took me a while to come up with the proper responses to some of them. Thanks again everyone for playing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting to Know The Laminator:
20 Questions About Me, Part I

1. Have you always run 6 minute miles? What pace were you running when you started?
Hmmm…this is hard to answer. It’s similar to the question How fast do you run? But for a basis of comparison, according to my running log, during my first month of running, I would average 7:30-7:40 for 6-8 mile runs and 7:00 for tempo workouts of 4-5 miles. I think I probably run about 30 sec/mile faster now as compared to then.

2. You mentioned thinking about learning to swim! Are you considering triathlons in your near future?
Most definitely! In fact, the first agenda this winter is to sign up for swimming classes. Little known fact about me is that I have this ridiculous phobia of water. Don’t know why, but just the thought of hitting the pool is causing me to hyperventilate! Yep, need to get over that and learn how to swim if I hope to ever tri-. So yes, if I am able to make friends with the water this winter, I will take a plunge into some triathlons. Fingers crossed!

3. What recovery steps do you take post LR or post race? Or do you say forget it and have a beer?
In general, I will stretch for a bit after a long run or race to cooldown. Like most people, sometimes I am more diligent with this than at other times but it really depends on how sore I feel. Sometimes I will do a cooldown mile too if the race effort was particularly grueling. Then I hit the Jamba Juice for my favorite reward drink – a Strawberry Wild with extra vitamins and then I hit the showers. Beers are out for me except on rare occasions or after marathons…then it’s a must!

4. Sounds silly, but is that you in the "about me" picture?
No, it isn’t but in my mind, I’m ALWAYS running like that guy…so that’s why he’s me!

5. How about some inspiration for slower, older runners?
Believe it or not, sometimes I feel slow and old too! This happens particularly when I’m running around the park at the same time as track practice for NYU. It’s quite distracting when I’m huffing and puffing around on my tempo workouts and these collegiate younglings are passing me by while joking with each other. During those times, I try to remind myself that for who I am and where I’m at, I’m pretty damn fast and pretty damn good, and there’s probably someone out there running slower than me who thinks I’m inspiring and pretty fast too! Speed and age is relative my friend!

6. What is the best post-marathon meal you've ever eaten?
This turned out to be a difficult question for me because I’m usually too hungry and too tired to even care what I eat post-marathon so it’s generally whatever is most convenient or whatever I get my hands on. The most memorable though was the meal I shared with my Hawaiian friend in Vegas last year right after the Las Vegas Marathon where she BQ’d for the first time! We went to the Mirage, hit up the C.P.K. (California Pizza Kitchen) and ordered up a giant Hawaiian pizza and some German beer in the biggest beer glass they had! I believe FL’s exact words were “Oh. My. God. This beer is as big as my head!” Classic. For dessert, we brought some champagne and clinked glasses in a hot tub right inside our hotel room! Yeah, those were some good times! I still wonder whether we were more drunk that night from the champagne or the post-marathon BQ runner’s high.

7. How do you juggle being a doctor and running? How many times a week do you run?
Well, I don’t have a choice since both activities are so vitally important to me. I actually think I perform better professionally when I run than when I don’t, so I fit it in when I can. I try and get in 5 runs a week when I’m in active training. Sometimes this calls for early morning wake up calls at 3 or 4 AM, other times it requires me to run in total darkness at 8 or 9 PM. It’s absolute craziness sometimes since I rarely know my work schedule too far ahead of time (especially when I’m covering the hospital on-call). But at the end of the day, miraculously, everything gets done, patients are well cared for, and I somehow fit my run in. Just don’t ask me how many hours of sleep I get as a result of this work/run schedule.

8. What do you do with your finishing medals? What's your whole finishing medal philosphy?
I don’t really pontificate on the significance of medals because for me, it is really just a cheap piece of metal that commemorates a particular marathon or race. I already have a personal way of commemorating my achievement in a long distance race. It’s called a race report. In it, I record EVERYTHING that happens (usually mile-by-mile) so I can remember them a month, a year, or even a decade later. Having said that though, I do give all my marathon medals to my mom who arranges them in a stand in the family patio. Basically after every marathon, I donate my medal to her and she displays them proudly. From my point of view, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

9. Do you have an all time favorite place to run?
So far, my favorite run is the 20 mile San Francisco run from the Ferry Terminal through the Embacadero and the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. I have run there three times over the past 2 years and it never gets old. I love how you can run through town, leave the city over this massive bridge, enjoy the San Fran skyline from the Marin side before retracing your steps back to the start. There are even some steep hills to practice pacing on. It’s a shame I don’t live in northern California or else I would run this course every day! Yeah, it’s really that good…

10. Did you run in high school? Track, Cross country?
No, but I wish I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t “find” running until after medical school, towards the end of pediatric residency. I still wonder at times if I would have been a good high school runner if I knew about running way back when and what kind of runner I would be today if things would have turned out differently. Would I still be chasing PRs today or would I have been too burnt out to even care somewhere along the way?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Running: Physiologically Speaking
Marathon Deaths – Why The Men?

Late last night, while soaking my feet and licking my wounds after 18 grueling miles in the cold, wind, and rain – my last long run before the NYC Marathon – I came across some disturbing news with an interesting followup question posted on the NY Flyers running forum that left me a bit shocked, a little intrigued, and slightly apprehensive about racing 26.2 miles in a couple of weeks. Apparently, at the Detroit Marathon yesterday, three men, ages 26, 36, and 65, collapsed and died for no apparent reason (other than the fact that they were running a half marathon). No doubt this is indeed sad news for all of us who are passionate about the sport and thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who were personally affected by this tragedy, but one general question that my fellow club member and I share in response to these untimely deaths is this: Why are they all men? In other words, are men more susceptible to dying in half/full marathons than women? Is this mere coincidence or is there some scientific justification for these unfortunate events? (For the rest of this discussion, for simplification, I will refer to them as marathoners and the incidents as marathon deaths even if their unfortunate passing occurred on or around the half marathon course.)

In the spirit of raising public awareness and reminding myself as well as the running community about the inherent danger of endurance running, I will use this edition of Running: Physiologically Speaking to discuss why marathon deaths occur predominantly in men (and not in women). Hopefully, this will be somewhat educational for everyone involved.

Before I begin, I would like to throw out a couple of disclaimers.
1. The death of a runner in the middle or right after a half or full marathon is an exceedingly rare event. Estimates vary but it is reported that 0.8 deaths occur per 100,000 runners. Considering that even the most popular marathons (like New York) do not exceed 40,000 participants, to have three people die in a single race is infinitely rare.
2. Just because you are young, not male, or can run five minute miles does not mean you are without risk. There are many exceptions to the rule and not everything I will explain later pertains to everyone. So check with your own personal doctor to review your own individual risk factors before training for or participating in any endurance event. Likewise do not use anything I write as medical advice because it is not intended as such. You have all been forewarned.

Now that we’ve dealt with the pleasantries, let’s delve into a discussion of why it is so much more likely to read and hear about men dying in marathons than women. I will make some general statements about marathon runners using statistics gathered from the runners of the Detroit Marathon to illustrate my point. To make my arguments valid, two basic assumptions have to be made. The first is that marathon deaths are cardiovascular in nature or result from an acute coronary or cardiac event. Historically, cardiac problems are the most common identifiable cause of sudden death in marathon runners. Recently, it has also been recognized that troponin and other cardiac enzymes that represent myocardial injury are elevated during and immediately after a marathon (link). For the purposes of this discussion, we will ignore deaths that result from other causes. The other assumption we have to make is that the runners who ran and finished the Detroit Marathon is somewhat representative of marathon runners in general. As you will see from the data, although the numbers are small in comparison to other major marathons, the actual breakdown in percentages and established trends are not that significantly different.

Here is the chart showing the breakdown of all the finishers of the 2009 Detroit Marathon by age and sex.

Fact #1 – The most populous age group was men between 40-44 and women between 25-29. In general, older men and younger women represent the majority of marathoners. Whatever your theories are for why this is true, this trend is typical of most long distance races.

Fact #2 – Older men are statistically more at risk for major cardiovascular events than women. According to the Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics published by the American Heart Association, which you can read here, the average annual rates of first major cardiovascular events rise from 3 per 1000 men at ages 35-44 to 74 per 1000 at ages 85-94. For women, comparable rates occur 10 years later in life. The gap narrows with advancing age. Likewise, if you look at a representative graph of heart attack hospitalizations in New York State in 2000-2005, as depicted here, you can appreciate the fact that acute cardiac events start early and occur more frequently in men. (Although these statistics do not pertain specifically to athletes, I am using the data to illustrate a general trend so the actual numbers is not particularly significant in this discussion...)

Fact #3 – Women, compared to men, are very unlikely to suffer acute cardiac events until after menopause. This epidemiologic observation can be explained by the fact that physiologic estrogen has been proven to be cardioprotective. That is the reason why, as we saw in the Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics, cardiovascular risk do not rise substantially in women until beyond the age of 44. This cardioprotective property of estrogen is one of the reasons why hormone replacement therapy should be considered for most postmenopausal women.

So now, if we go back and revisit the demographic data gathered from finishers of the Detroit Marathon, we see something interesting. Notice how the majority of male marathon runners are above the age of 35 when the risk of acute cardiac events becomes substantial and begins to rise. However, when we look at the corresponding female runners, the majority of them are below the age of 40 or 45, which is the age cutoff when their risk of acute cardiac events rises. This means, essentially, that the men who most commonly run marathons are also the most at risk to suffer an acute cardiac event while the women who most commonly run marathons are much younger and have much lower risk. No wonder why you hardly ever hear of women collapsing and dying during marathons. It just doesn’t happen, as proven by the statistics and explained by medical science. (*I realize that the 29-year-old man who died during the Detroit Marathon is outside the range of appreciable risk for men, but I'm treating this case as exception to the rule...)

But even beyond these reasons, I can think of two other possible explanations for the disparity of mortality rates between male and female marathoners. One is the simple fact that men in general (and I include myself in this) do not care as much or pay as close attention to their health as their female counterparts. Study after study have shown that men visit doctors less frequently, engage in fewer preventive practices, and are less knowledgeable about their own medical history than their female counterparts. It is not surprising then that more men in general die younger and have a shorter life span than women. The importance of screening tests and regular scheduled visits to your doctor cannot be overemphasized, whether you are a veteran marathon runner or not.

Finally, I think the false bravado of the general male ego may also contribute at times to our own demise. Consider the newbie runner who thinks he can run a marathon without having run farther than a few miles in training. He is probably carrying a Y chromosome. Or the runner who is at mile 21, slogging on, refusing to acknowledge the sharp stabbing pain in his chest that is growing more intense with every step. He is also likely to take his bathroom break standing up. Finally, there is the runner who just finished the marathon and is getting congratulated left and right by friends and family. He feels tremendous pressure on his left chest with pain radiating down his left arm. How likely would this person be to voice concern if he were male vs if she were female?

In conclusion, you may ask, “Is there a take home message to all of this?” I think the most important message I want to leave you with is not to assume that you are healthy and well just because you train for and run marathons. Running does not automatically give you the right to ignore your health. Be knowledgeable. Visit your doctor and find out what risk factors you have and discuss your concerns with him/her so you can be an active participant in your own care. Because, outside of psychic powers or a fortune teller who can predict the future with 100% accuracy, taking control of your own health and well-being is the best guarantee you have to living a long, productive and healthy life – on and off the marathon course.

As a reminder, I am still missing a few questions to complete my list of 20 Questions about Me…so please feel free to ask away (even if you have already asked a question!). You can drop them in here or in the comments to the last post. I’ll start providing answers in the next post. Thanks for playing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Own Little Game of 20 Questions

First of all, I want to thank all you guys & gals for making it through that last race report and leaving such warm congratulations and nice comments for me. Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed spilling the beans on my races because I know some people cannot get over how fast I run (even if I don’t think I’m really all that fast myself!) and may regard my excessively detailed race reports as arrogance or overindulgence. But honestly though, I try to record the thoughts, sights, and sounds during my races for you all to show that even though our paces might not be the same, our experiences on the road are not entirely all that different. I hope that in between all the verbosity that sentiment came through at least a little bit, even if it was not explicitly stated.

Still, having said that, I’m sure there are probably so burning questions you have had at one point or another about me, my work, my life, my sports, or my running. Perhaps you’ve wanted to know when I started running (hint: it’s on my sidebar) or why I started running (to get fit for basketball season) or what I do in my professional life (I treat kids with hormone problems) or how I got that nickname “The Laminator” (read here). Or maybe it’s something completely random that I can’t even come up with…well, I am giving you all that once in a lifetime opportunity to ask me whatever you want be it about my running, my training, my coaching, my work or a running/training question that doesn’t even deal with me. Leave them in the comments, and once I get about twenty, I’ll compile them and answer them in a little expose’ post about me next week.

I’m looking for some fun and thought provoking questions. If you need some inspiration as to what questions to ask, listen to the latest Phedippidations episode where Steve Runner answers 20 questions about himself posed by his friend Joe Steindl. It was so highly insightful and entertaining, I decided to copy his format here for myself with all of your help of course!

So yes, let me know what you want to know about the Laminator and I’ll let you know all you’ve wanted to know about me early next week. Deal? Good. Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Combining Consistency and Flow to a Stellar PR:
Race Report for the 2009 Staten Island Half Marathon

(I’m sorry for the tardiness of this report, but in the setting of some great marathons this past weekend, I was in no mood to steal the spotlight from those who ran the full distance. Congrats to all those who ran and finished the full 26.2! For those who still care, I humbly submit my report for my half marathon I ran this past weekend…)

Intro - In many ways, I was ill-prepared and hesitant to run this race. I was running in my third half-marathon in less than a month, I had missed out on speedwork for several weeks due to nagging concerns of some right hip flexor pain I suffered in the aftermath of tackling 22 miles in Palisades State Park and oh yeah, I was in the last week of dedicated training for the New York City Marathon in 3 weeks. But since I promised the world I’d run this race for the World Wide Festival of Races, I promised the city I’d finished this race to complete my NYC Half Marathon Grand Prix, and I’d promised myself I’d race this course because frankly it is my favorite out of the five boroughs series, I found myself straggling into the blue starting corral for this race on a sunny and brisk Sunday morning in Staten Island wondering if today was finally going to be the magical day I’d PR and go under 1:25 for this 13.1 mile race.

Mile 1 - I hear the horn and follow the shuffling stampede across the starting line. Because the opening road leading to the first incline was somewhat narrow, I remember two succinct thoughts as I made my way through the crowds. Thought #1 – Accelerate slowly to a comfortable pace. Thought #2 – Don’t get trampled! No sooner had I completed those thoughts that I felt my feet brush the back of someone’s leg. Oops! I turned, apologized and felt someone else brush mine. (Like I said, it was crowded at the start…) I remained in this tight dense package of runners until we made it past the first hard turn into a steep incline towards the midway point of the first mile. Once we crested this opening hill, the road opened up like an empty black canvas. I smiled. Although I am no Michaelangelo by talent or by trade, on this gorgeous fall Sunday morning, I was very eager to paint. (Mile 1 – 6:24; Avg HR 152)

Mile 2 – Clusters of neighbors from surrounding apartments are gathering by the side of the road to watch us run. Volunteer cops occupy all the street corners, directing the sprinkling Sunday morning traffic away from the race course as we make our way eastward from Richmond Terrace to Bay Street. There is a series of rollers here – nothing big, all of them small – yet sufficient enough to create a flux of movement in the flow of runner traffic around me. I remind myself to ignore my neighbors who are all surging forward or falling back but focus instead on my own breathing and running cadence to determine what my own pace should be. Towards the end of this mile, as we make a left onto a small bridge that will take us to the next section of the course, we pass by a convenience store coincidentally named “On The Run”. Although they were situated in the vicinity of a gas station, I wondered aloud whether they could secretly be catering to runners in need for fluids or a gel instead of drivers in need of cigarettes or beer. (Mile 2 – 6:22; Avg HR 166)

Mile 3 – I was surprised, shocked really, to see the results of my last mile pace. Despite the steady diet of rollers in the last portion of the course, I had managed to keep my second mile pace eerily similar to the first. Since my half marathon PR pace (accomplished in Long Branch, NJ back in May) is 6:31 min/mi, I had it in my mind before the start of the race that I would have to maintain 6:30s in order to PR this race. And because I semi-unintentionally told a few friends and teammates last night that I wasn’t coming to Staten Island for the beautiful scenery, I was under a bit of self-imposed pressure to run a good time or at least score for the team. Some quick and easy math made me realize that I had built a 14 second PR cushion for myself at this point. Both my body and my head agreed that it was still too early to tell whether this information would be relevant or useless at the end of the race.
Halfway through this mile, we approach our first water station of this race and I refocus my mental energies back on this race. I grabbed the water from a helpful volunteer, take a sip, and realize that I wasn’t even as thirsty as I thought I would be. I take a second smaller sip, toss the paper cup to the side of the road and took a few quicker paces to regain my stride. Up ahead, I could see a string of runners stretched out for a good half mile in front of me. Aside from tall grass and abandoned warehouses, they wasn’t any surrounding scenery to speak of for this next two miles. For me, this minor inconvenience hardly mattered because I was so heavily focused on myself, my form and my flow at this point. (Mile 3 – 6:23; Avg HR 167)

Mile 4 – After a series of wide straight flats next to shipping yards and anonymous warehouses, the course suddenly turns onto a long but gentle hill leading to a more residential area of town. As I make my way steadily towards the top, I remind myself to shift into a lower gear mentally and withdraw further into myself, wondering if anyone else studying my form right now would classify it as an example of flow or a dying duck waddling his way upstream. I crest the hill, make a left and start my descent down a windy path on a residential street. The street itself is flanked on both sides by ethnic stores which are for the most part closed for Sundays. Volunteers and spectators alike decorate the sidelines as they clap and cheer on us runners passing by. Partly fueled by their boisterous encouragement, partly motivated by thoughts of these festivities serving as a microcosm of what is to come in three weeks, I find my pace increasing ever so slightly. (Mile 4 – 6:21; Avg HR 169)

Mile 5 – It is getting warmer now. What started out as a chilly morning in the low 50s must be hovering around 60 now. I wipe the first drips of perspiration from my brow and ease off the slightly faster pace I had been running. Even with my semi-erronenous quasi-arithmetic capabilities available to me mid-race, I was well aware that I was about 30 seconds ahead of PR pace a quarter of the way into the race. As I continued to run, I continued to process this information. On the one hand, I knew I should be ecstatic that I am extending my cushion and not barely maintaining an adequate pace. On the other hand, I also knew that I have a history of pulling off 6:50s during the harder second half of races especially on courses that includes some late and gnarly hills like this one. I temper my own expectations and make a pact with myself not to calculate paces until I’m done with the giant uphill at Mile 8.
I slow down for the ascent up some small rollers and extend my stride down the back stride as we approach the long out and back portion that marks the halfway portion of the course. This is my favorite section my the race because not only do you get to see the elites battling it out in the front as you approach the midway point but you get to see your friends out on the course with you on your way back. I start to wonder in anticipation who I might know out there today and for a few seconds, almost forget that I’m running at PR pace. (Mile 5 – 6:31; Avg HR 168)

Mile 6 – If I wasn’t so entranced in my surroundings, I would have been slightly perturbed that my pace had dropped to 6:30s for the first time in the race. After a long and gentle descent, I arrive at Father Capodanno Boulevard, highlighted by a mile and a half straightaway ending a hairpin loop, and the best part of the race at for me. Soon after I begin my trek, I see the lead vehicle leading the first overall man on his journey back. It was remarkable to see him run. He had a smooth effortless stride and a very quick turnover. From my vantage point he looked as if he was chasing the lead vehicle. The most amazing thing was the long silence that ensued after he came and went. The second place runner was at least a minute back. Wow! Soon after, the trickling of elites began and gave way to more and more runners. After a few minutes admiring the elites, I checked back into myself and refocused my energy on my own form and breathing. (Mile 6 – 6:16; Avg HR 164)

Mile 7 – Did I just throw down my fastest mile split halfway into this race? Between gazing at all the elites and watching for any faster teammates running ahead of me, I hadn’t noticed that I had inadvertently shortened my stride and quickened my pace. I make the hairpin turn a quarter mile into this segment and begin my trek back. I straightened my stance and forced myself to take deeper breaths in a conscious effort to control my speed. I was well aware that I was more than 40 seconds now ahead of PR and didn’t want to ruin my chances by running the rest of the race at too aggressive a pace. After settling back into a nice groove, I divert my eyes to the opposite side of the boulevard to search for familiar faces coming up towards me. As I watched the parade of runners passing by behind me, I got the sense that not too many of my teammates took the ferry to run this race today; Most probably opted to stay behind to run their last 20 miler of the year before the taper for the NYC marathon. The ones that did run this race however, gave me some applause, some shouts, and other encouraging gestures that made me feel like a mini celeb out on that course. (Mile 7 – 6:31; Avg HR 165)

Mile 8– We exit the boulevard, take a left and begin the half mile climb up the biggest incline on the course. On the other side, waves of runners were making their way down the incline on the way to where I had just been. Although I had already seen many of my friends who I had expected to see, I couldn’t account for one which concerned me. I ran closer to the divide and searched for a face among the arriving masses. I hadn’t yet found her when I arrived at the end of the incline and was forced to turn right to continue on my way. I wouldn’t find out until after the race that night that my friend suffered a knee injury and dropped out mid-race and had to be carried back to the start by ambulance amidst a stream of tears and concerns. As of today, she is still not sure whether she will be meeting me again on November 1st in Staten Island for the start of the NYC Marathon. This is to be her first ever marathon. I have no words of wisdom for her right now. (Mile 8 – 6:40; Avg HR 168)

Mile 9 – I was excited to learn that I conquered the big hill mile only 10 seconds above PR pace. In my past experiences with this particular mile, I never went below a 6:48 for this section, so to be done with this giant obstacle still holding on to a 30 second lead over my previous PR is extremely gratifying. I flew down the backside of this hill in ecstasy, knowing now that my PR is well within reach. At the half way mark, I slip myself a Chocolate Expresso GU gel and continue on my way. (Mile 9 – 6:20; Avg HR 165)

Mile 10 – At this point, the bad news was that my legs were mildly fatiguing. The good news was that I had only 4 miles to go and about 50 seconds to play with. Some quick math confirmed that I only needed to maintain a 6:40 min/mi pace for the next 4 miles to get my PR. As I feel my stride becoming heavier and more pronounced with every step and my back leaning more and more forward, I yell at myself, audible to others at times, to correct my posture and maintain optimal running efficiency. We are back at the empty warehouses and grassy fields where we had been before. There is no scenery to speak of here, just the sounds of several thousand pairs of shuffling feet and audible groans from those who had pushed the pace a little too hard in the earlier miles. (Mile 10 – 6:32; Avg HR 164)

Mile 11 – I pass the double-digit mile marker just as a train rolls through the tracks far off to the left. The pace feels a big aggressive to me now so I pull back ever so slightly to temper my speed for the final 5K portion of this race. My legs were sore now, I can feel them, but given that there’s a PR on the line, I push onward at a slower but steadier speed. After battling through the monotony of the flat roads and uninspiring landscape, I finally make a left back over the bridge towards the final section of the course. I pass by “On The Go” again and am somewhat shocked to find that they are still closed. No matter, I am almost done now. The rollers again eat me up and I fight like hell to sustain a manageable pace. PR be damned if I miss it now. (Mile 11 – 6:38; Avg HR 165)

Mile 12 – The spectating crowds become thicker and more boisterous as we approach the final mile. I notice a ferry boat docked in the marina down below and reflect on the beautifully fall weather we are having for this race. I refused to contemplate thoughts of sub-1:25 but upon cresting the final small roller and seeing 1:27:XX flash in fluorescent yellow colors above the last mile marker, I could not help but quietly acknowledge that 1:24 was now not only possible but probable. (Mile 12 – 6:36; Avg HR 171)

Mile 13 and Finish – It was go time! I used the fast descending slope off the last roller to gradually accelerate. As I do, I think about the significance of this day, this race, and this time. I reflect back on the day just a few years back when running sub-1:30 for a half seemed like an impossible dream. I remember conversations I had back then when I told others that in my mind sub-1:25 was the best that any recreational runner could ever hope to achieve in a running career. I remember back to those times and run a little harder. Can it be, can it really be…that I am now finally where I never thought I’d be? Have I finally reached the pinnacle of my dreams? I approach the finish line with three others but hear the loudspeaker announce my bib number and my name as I come over the mats. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see the clock for myself. 1:24:25. Yes, I indeed had done it! (Mile 13 – 6:12, Last 0.1 – 0:35; Avg HR 176)

Analysis – I’m glad none of my friends and teammates were immediately available to see my actually cross the finish line (all were still running their race…) because I was an utter emotional wreck once I realized what I had done. I had snot out my nose, tears out my eyes and leftover GU out the corners of my mouth. But despite my dilapidated appearance, I was secretly and quietly reveling and enjoying my own appearance because it represented all the blood, sweat and tears I had spent in training over the years to make this dream a reality. Needless to say, I am extremely proud of my performance in this race. Not only did I finish with a stellar PR time, a time which now makes a sub-3 marathon a bit more realistic, but I also ran well with a consistent effort and pace almost throughout the entire race. I also somehow managed to run fast with soreness and pain in several muscle groups of my right leg which proves to me that I am not a flimsy runner but can overcome slight nagging injuries to have a good race. I am hoping that my success in this race will translate well to the full marathon distance. We shall see in less than 3 weeks!

Final Statistics
Finishing Time – 1:24:25 (PR by 0:51)
Average Pace – 6:26 min/mi
Overall Place – 76/3983 (1.9%)
Gender Place – 75/2351 (3.2%)
Division Place – 18/940 (1.9%)
Age Graded – 70.4%
Flyer Men – 1st Place

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Just Training or Over-Training?

In honor of the NYC marathon announcing bib numbers and starting assignments for its participants today (I'm Blue, Wave 1, #7444, for future reference), I summit to you…

Top Ten Signs That You’re Overtraining for Your Marathon

10. You’re more concerned about the miles you’ll miss than the throbbing pain in your foot.
9. You limp to work everyday and convince yourself and your co-workers that it’s completely okay.
8. You run 15 miles on a Monday but feel as if you should’ve done 20.
7. You start to envy those who are running and NOT training for a marathon.
6. The award for the most overused appliance in your home now goes to the washer & dryer.
5. You consume more calories from GU on a daily basis than you do from solid foods.
4. You know every detail of the lives of running podcasters but need a minute to remember the names of friends and family.
3. You know the planned mileage for the next 20 days but for the life of you can’t remember when you last took a rest day.
2. Even though your weekly mileage far exceed those of your peers, you still convince yourself (and any others who will listen) that you’re really “undertrained” for this marathon.
1. People can’t wait for race day because they’re so ready to run. You look forward to race day ‘cause you’re so ready to NOT!

…and in case you were wondering…this list is in fact somewhat autobiographical in nature. But I’m okay, I really really am!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Measly And A 5K:
Non-Race Report from the Grete’s Great Gallop HM

(The title was inspired by a certain redhead running her first marathon in Chicago next weekend who referred to a ten-mile training run as “measly”…So I’m thinking a half marathon at MP should be measly for me too! )

The Course
Two full loops of Central Park starting from the east side of the 72nd St transverse and running in a clockwise fashion to finish next to Tavern on the Green, which by the way, will also be the finish line for the New York City Marathon. My personal best on this course is the 1:29:06 I ran earlier this year in the Manhattan Half back in January.

The Plan
In a nutshell, my goal for this race was, well, NOT to race! Instead, as mentioned in the last post, the main objective for running this race was for me to practice marathon pacing (which is ~6:50 min/mi for me). I wanted to establish my pace early on and maintain it throughout the course with as little deviation as possible. Although in theory this should not be that hard to do, in practice, it would prove extremely difficult to maintain a consistent effort and pace out on this hilly course.

The Digits
Mile 1 – 6:43; Avg HR 159
Mile 2 – 6:44; Avg HR 167
Mile 3 – 6:43; Avg HR 167
Mile 4 – 6:44; Avg HR 166
Mile 5 – 6:49; Avg HR 172
Mile 6 – 6:44; Avg HR 168
Mile 7 – 6:48; Avg HR 168
Mile 8 – 6:51; Avg HR 170
Mile 9 – 6:42; Avg HR 170
Mile 10 – 6:54; Avg HR 170
Mile 11 – 6:58; Avg HR 174
Mile 12 – 6:40; Avg HR 172
Last 1.1 – 7:14 (6:34 min/mi); Avg HR 179
Finishing Time – 1:28:40 (6:46 min/mi pace)

Gosh, this run turned out not to be measly at all! The rest of this non-race race report can be summarized into the good, the bad, and the ugly…

The Good
  • Met goal of maintaining MP pace
  • Attained a new course PR without even trying
  • Started slow and kept a consistent pace for 8-9 miles
  • Waved and smiled at all the spectating Flyers
  • Had a conversational exchange with runner26 at Mile 9 to prove that I was maintaining a conversational pace...sort of.
  • Found a long lost friend mid-race and gave him training tips for his first marathon at Marine Core.
  • Took Gatorade served by Mary Wittenberg
  • Carbo-loading after the race with burgers and beer
  • The BEST POST-RACE PARTY EVER (with my usual suspect of friends)

The Bad
  • Humidity was 97% at race start…97%!
  • Neglected to carbo-load even a little at dinner last night
  • Forgot to account for humidity in my hydration plan…okay, what hydration plan?
  • Clothes and socks were soaked to the bone by mile 2.
  • Dropped my only gel on second trip up Harlem Hill and had to sprint back a few yards to find it.
  • Mile 10 – 6:54; Mile 11 – 6:58; Need I say more?
  • Sort of forgot this was a points race and finished in 6th place on my team. Boo!
  • Ran with shoes that already had 450+ miles on them…Oops…

The Ugly
  • Did I mention the humidity for this race was 97%? Just checking.
  • Saw a girl slip and do a faceplant on the wet pavement at Mile 1. Ouch!
  • The climb up Harlem Hill the second time was the epitome of ugliness.
  • Developed blisters from slogging around in wet socks and shoes.
  • Saw quite a few runners cramping and limping around in final miles
  • Experienced a toe cramp during my cooldown mile. Wierd!

The Photo

Stay focused L, stay focused!

Final Assessment
This was a strange experience for me from beginning to end. From being nervous in the morning that it’d be raining or that it’d be really cold, to the stifling thick wet humidity which made running a marathon-paced run require much more than a marathon-paced effort, the weather really threw a curveball at us for this race. So after all the good, bad, and uglies, I’m not exactly sure how to interpret this run in the context of marathon training. On the one hand, I expended a lot of energy running this measly non-race…far more than I expected. (As an illustration, Avg HR today was 169; Avg HR for Queens Half which I raced was 162…) Therefore, I really should save my legs and not race again until the marathon. On the other hand, I really want to race my half in Staten Island next weekend to see where I’m at physically and whether I should even bother to think about sub-3 anymore. Did I mention I also ran 65 miles this week and will probably do 60 miles next week? Yeah, so throw that into the equation too.

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do. Maybe after my last 20 mile long run on Tuesday, I can strategize and reassess my situation. Congrats to all those who ran & raced in that crazy Central Park carousel yesterday! It was a stifler out there. And for all those who are racing and/or prepare to race in other places, best of luck in all your events! Now, get out there and race your heart out!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The First of October

Thanks everyone for all your insightful comments on my last post. It’s fun to compare running with cycling and judging from the lively discussion, I think you all like it too. I have other thoughts on running vs cycling as athletic pursuits but will save them for a later date when I run out of fun topics to discuss.

Well, today is the first day of October. This means that the big race (NYCM) is exactly one month away. To be honest, I’m not really sure how I feel about that. On the surface, just based on numbers, I have NOTHING to complain about. September was another stellar month of training. I accumulated 241 miles on my feet, totaling 29 hours and 51 minutes of running at an average of 7:26 min/mi. I ran two 20+ milers and completed a half marathon (Queens) during the month. I ran 21 days and took off 9 days for rest and recovery. I averaged 5 days a week of running and 11.5 miles per run. These are the fun numbers – the ones that prove I’ve been diligent and consistent during training. But then there are the bad numbers – the ones that show I didn’t do any speedwork whatsoever for the first two weeks of September because I was sick and when I got back, my tempo speed was severely lacking. Out of the past two tempo runs that called for 6 and 7 miles at tempo pace the past two weeks, I have yet to finish a single one of them (calling quits after the fifth mile in both cases due to poor speed conditioning, I surmise. The latest defeat a couple of days ago left me questioning whether my goal was still achievable. Although the inquiry is a bit rhetorical, since I don’t believe in running marathons without a goal in mind, I am disappointed that my speed game isn’t where I expected it to be this late into training.

I have two opportunities to prove to myself that I still have a legitimate shot at sub-3 in a month. First comes Grete’s Gallop half marathon this weekend and then the Staten Island Half Marathon next weekend. My plan is to run this weekend at marathon pace and race next weekend for a PR. My lower extremities will be a bit worn down in both cases since I am doing my 18 and 22 mile long runs mid–week on my way to the two highest mileage weeks of the entire training cycle. In essence, I’m peaking mileage-wise even as I’m not feeling so hot about the running. Go figure! I’m hoping at some point – after the race, after the last 20 miler, or during the taper – it will all turn around and I 'll start feeling the excitement of the marathon once again. Until then, I’ll continue to keep putting one foot in front of the other, just hoping that each step I take will be proven purposeful on November 1st.
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