Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sayin' Goodbye to 2009:
A Review of My Running Year

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am thinking of holding a mini-protest against the calendar! It's bad enough that Christmas came and went faster than my motivation to run after the Honolulu Marathon but in less than 24 hours, I have to say goodbye to a year and a decade? Who approved this craziness? Don't we have the right to catch our collective breaths first after the long glutinous holiday weekend before we are forced to think nostalgic on what we did or failed to do this past year? Shouldn't we have more than a few days to make plans and design realistic goals and resolutions before we're forced to welcome the new year? C'mon, Robert Frost isn't the only one who has "promises to keep"! I too have "miles to go before I sleep"!

Okay, maybe the last little bit is a slight exaggeration. The truth is that I've only got 4 miles to go before I can bid adieu to 2009. Right now, as I'm totally up my mileage for the year, it stands at 2005 and some change. This means, with an additional 4 miles, I will reach my goal of 2009 miles logged for 2009! How awesome is that? And you know what luck would have it, there's a 4 mile "fun run" happening in Central Park on New Year's Eve with fireworks at the start and champagne for water stops out on the course! So guess where I'll be at the stroke of midnight as we welcome in the new decade? Let's just say I'm planning to set an anti-PR at this 4 miler and I won't care one bit if I am the last one in. Just save me some bubbly if you happen to pass me on the way into the finish!

As if you can't tell, despite my sarcasm, I'm truly excited to be participating in a race on New Year's Eve even if said race is only a fun run with a bib and no chip. I can't really think of a better or more fun way to end the year than to do so in a race with other like-minded people. And on top of that, I'll be running this one with my friend MT who ran her first marathon this year and who gave me this as a Christmas present/souvenir this past week:

Needless to say, this picture is going into my coaching resume.

I'm hoping to run into and celebrate with friends and Flyers before and after the race as well, so it promises to be a great night of fun! I am getting giddy with anticipation just thinking about the race. Rumor has it that there'll be many people running in costume for this one. Would I dare to discard the rules of social convention and join in the fun? Hmmm...decisions, decisions...

While you and I have the rest of the day to pontificate on this absurdity, let me take a moment here to review for you my running year. This year was definite fun, awesome, interesting and yet somewhat humbling for me running-wise. I ran my first ever 5K and my first Boston this year. For the first time, I also failed to PR in the NYCM. I ran a total of 20 road races and set 6 PRs in 4 different distances, although none in the marathon. I completed 8 half-marathons (having never ran more than 3 in any previous year) and set PRs 3 separate times. I also accumulated more miles than I ever did before although the average pace for each mile was noticeably slower than the previous year. I succeeded in traveling a bit for my races although I still have not yet gotten close to an age group award. I did not get injured although I flirted with danger multiple times and had severe muscle cramps in two of my three marathons. I celebrated my running by encourage several of my friends and my brother to enter their first race. I also coached a couple of buddies and several bloggers through their first marathon. I've learned that my body isn't a machine and I can't be as good a runner as I think I ought to be each and every day. I learned that the glory of winning doesn't necessitate despising others just starting out and that sometimes the best way to inspire is through no words at all. Finally, I've learned to appreciate my running for all its strength and weaknesses and to have faith, patience and persistence with the journey.

To all my blogger buddies and running friends, whether 2009 was your best year, your worse year, or somewhere in between, I hope you take some time to celebrate the highlights, learn from the mistakes and love and appreciate all you've got around you. Here's to a safe, happy and prosperous new year to all!

Final Report Card for My 2009 Running Goals (as declared here)
1. Run 1499 Miles
- CHECK (2009 for 2009!)
2. Set 4 New PRs
- CHECK (6 PRs)
3. Complete 2 legs of the Laminator Pentathlon - 4M in 24:00; 5M in 30:15; 10K in 39:00; 13.1M in 1:25:00; 26.2M in 3:00
- CHECK (5M in 30:13; 10K in 38:59; 13.1M in 1:24:14)
4. Run 4 races outside New York State
- CHECK (Boston Marathon, Long Branch Half, Lawyers Have Heart 10K , Philadelphia Half , Honolulu Marathon)
5. Run a race in the Bronx and in Brooklyn
- CHECK (Bronx Half, Cherry Tree 10M, Brooklyn Half)
6. Find a new place outside the city for a long (13 miles+) training run.
- CHECK (Palisades Run for 22 miles)
7. Coach, and/or encourage 4 new runners to reach their individual running goals.
- CHECK (2 friends - first marathon, 2 bloggers - first marathon, BQ marathon, my brother - first race ever!)
8. Participate in at least 4 Flyer running club events
- CHECK (LTR Pacer, 3 Bridges Run Leader, More Marathon Volunteer, Marathon Route Ten Mile Run Leader)
9. Run a sub 3 hour marathon
- FAIL (Boo! Closest was Boston in 3:02:21. Double Boo!)

Final Grade: A- [8/9]

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Weekend Recap and A Lesson Learned

Is it just me, or does everyone else also feel like the long holiday weekend just flew by this year? I think it took a long time for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year and when I finally did, it's already over! How absurd! There are still presents I haven't unwrapped yet and songs on my Christmas CD that I haven't yet heard. What a shame that I now feel obliged to re-package everything and recycle what I don't want for the next hapless friend who holds a special occasion for gift giving. I'm sure whoever that is will absolutely adore the stain glass picture frame I got from my co-worker more than me.

On the flip side though, I had an absolute blast this past weekend hanging with the extended fam. About twenty of us drove up to New Hampshire to spend the holidays at my cousin's place. There were lots of toys, fun, and games to be had as we traded jokes, laughs and shared stories with each other. About eight of us even found time to hit the slopes for some snowboarding and skiing on Saturday. I had originally intended to videotape my next segment of my Running Video Diary while careening down one of the slopes, but since the visibility was close to zero due to some spontaneous snowfall and I could barely see six inches in front of me much less the surrounding landscape, I had to scrap that little project. Still, I managed to conquer my fears (from a broken clavicle suffered on the slopes 2 years ago), hold my own against the snow, had fun with my cousins and somehow made it through to the end of the day with barely a scratch. Imagine that. I might have just found my sport of choice for cross-training during the off-season!

Although there was not much running to be had this weekend (since all the roads in New Hampshire was covered in ice and snow), I did come to a very important realization about running while rambling about my Honolulu Marathon to my cousins and family members who were interested enough to ask about it. It seemed that although they wanted to everything about the course, the scenery, the weather, the people, and how I felt as I was running that day, no one seemed to care how fast I ran, what my finishing time was, or how my pace compared to other races or marathons that I've run. Although I have to admit that most of the people doing the asking were not hardcore runners or even recreational athletes, I still think that their questions still reflect what generally intrigues others about our running - which is what we see, hear, smell, feel and taste while we're actively engaged in our sport. I sense that what we experience as we're running is far more interesting and noteworthy to others than some fluorescent digits on a clock as we cross the finish line. It is really true, no matter how hard it is for us to believe sometimes, that no one really cares as much about your finish time, how fast you ran your first or last mile or how far or close you came to your PR, except you. I realize that in order to run well and inspire others, you not only have to strive to do your best, but in the process, live in the present and take pride and love what you are doing - no matter what your perceptions of your abilities may be.

I'm thankful my family was able to teach me that even without saying a word. My holiday wish is for everyone out there to gain a fresh perspective, a better perspective on their sport of choice, whether running, cycling, swimming, or whatever. Train hard, yes, but enjoy the ride and share your experiences with others, because whether you realize it or not, what you're doing is making a difference in someone else's life!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Holidays and Happy Christmas

First of all, I want to apologize for my absenteeism from blogland the past week. In the week since I've been back from Hawaii, I've been somewhat overwhelmed by a combination of a winter snowstorm, clinical work, holiday shopping, and a nasty cold that I haven't been able to shake. It's gotten so bad that I couldn't even run for a whole week! During that time, the best I could do was make up a new word to express my frustration - "rungry". I'm sure my fellow runners know exactly what I'm talking about.

But run, I finally did. 10 miles yesterday, and a 10k today, for Christmas. It was so nice to see all the holiday decorations on all the neighbor's houses and see so many smiles in everyone I passed by! It was definitely what I needed to get back into the holiday spirit.

So from me to all my family, friends, (yes, even the lurkers) near and far...I want to wish you all a very safe and happy holiday season! So many of you helped make this a very happy, fun, and successful year for me, and I'm so very grateful. Believe me, you all have meant so much to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'll be back this weekend for my second running video diary post (even if it probably will have little to do with running!) and next week for a recap of my running year. In the meantime, enjoy your holidays with good family and friends, and try and run a few miles outside (even if it's cold!) and encourage others to do the same! Who knows, you might come across Santa or some reindeers along the way (like I did this morning...haha). Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Running, Dying, but Still Smiling
Race Report from the 2009 Honolulu Marathon

The Motivation to Run
Some people believe in racing every marathon they enter. Some people will never attempt the distance if they know they are not prepared to run their best time. I used to believe these people - the ones who tell me not to waste my time if I’m not prepared to run a marathon with max effort. After all, I thought that if you identify yourself as a distance runner and are in active training, then you should be aiming to run your best time each and every time you run a race, no matter what. But as I’ve matured in this sport and met many veterans marathoners who’ve done far more of these races than I have years on this planet, I’ve learned that shooting for PRs and time goals are just a couple of the many ways to run a marathon. Just as there are many different and distinct types of runners who run at varying paces for a myriad of personal reasons, so too are there numerous motivations that drive runners to strive for the finish line of a 26.2 mile race. For me, I was running this race partly as a reason to visit a friend, but mainly to rediscover the joy of running long.

Yes, you see, as a result of my chronic addiction for perpetual training and speedy race times, I had for sometime now lost my love for the sport. I knew this because I’ve been habitually and secretly evaluating my daily runs only in terms of pacing. Even as I’ve tried very hard to ignore the Garmin while I’m running, my sentiment for each run remained governed by the arbitrary digits it displayed on my computer screen at the end of it. It is senseless, it is dumb, but as any runner who owns one knows, Mr. Garmin speaks the truth even when it hurts.

The only solution, it seemed to me, was to run a long distance race so completely out of my natural environment that I couldn’t possibly prepare for it no matter how hard I tried. My stipulation for this race was that it had to be a marathon (since halves seemed too short to me, and I have no interest in tackling anything longer), it had to be in some place warm (since cold weathered racing is what I’m used to in NY) and there had to be lots to do and see before and after the race (so as to decrease the significance of the event itself). In all those fronts, the Honolulu Marathon fit the bill quite nicely, which is how I ultimately decided on this destination race.

Getting To The Start
I arrived at the start somewhat ill-prepared to run a good marathon, which I guess was the point of the exercise. Even as I found myself among the huddled masses close to the front of the pack, I was fighting jet-lag, fatigue, unfamiliarly warm temps and a bummed left knee which hadn’t yet recovered since I tripped and fell on a manhole cover a week ago back home. I looked around at the palm tree silohuettes and ocean waves crashing along the beach and remind myself again to do the best I can and enjoy this run. A short while later, amidst salutations and greetings by a Japanese announcer with a foreign accent too heavy to understand and congratulatory fireworks lighting up the clear night sky, the crowd in front starting moving and my race officially began.

Miles 1-6 (M1-7:02; M2-6:41; M3-6:50; M4-6:50; M5-6:51; M6-6:36)
Right off the bat, it felt awkward running a marathon at 5am when the whole city is still dead asleep and knowing that most of my race would be occurring in total darkness. Besides a small sprinkling of Japanese tourists holding signs and clapping their hands on the sidelines, it was really quiet out on the roads once the echoes from the firework at the start faded off into the distance. Because I was situated close to the start, it wasn’t long before the field thinned out and I found myself settling into a comfortable pace. The first six miles of the course is a tour through Waikiki and downtown Honolulu brightly lit with Christmas lights and decorations. As I ran, I turned my head from side to side to appreciate the festive surroundings. Even though there were few spectators and hardly any noise, all the lively store windows and pretty holiday lights made the first 10K a pleasure to run through. Since most of this early section is wide open and flat, I really didn’t have too much trouble establishing and maintaining a reasonable pace. In some ways, I think I may have been too comfortable here as I inadvertently ran mile 6 with a 6:36, which I knew was way too fast in this race for me.

Miles 7-11(M7-6:52; M8-7:02; M9-7:00; M10-7:03; M11-7:21)
Because F.L. drove me through the course beforehand, I knew the nasty climb up Diamond Hill Road was up next, right after the stroll through Waikiki. Although I tried hard to decrease my stride and power through this long uphill stretch with a steady and conservative approach, it was evident to me as soon as I reached the top that I had fought too hard climbing that hill. As a result, I began to slow down significantly through the next section of downhill rollers leading out to the Kalanianaole Highway and the halfway point of the race.

Up to this point, I had been carrying my Gatorade bottle as an emergency handheld just in case the water and sports drink passed out at roughly 2 mile intervals weren’t quite enough for me. Despite never having raced with a handheld before, I felt it advantageous in this race to have my own fluids at my disposal since I wasn’t sure whether I’d be acclimated to be running in this heat. Although the weather remained relatively mild and the actual temperature never wavered above 75 F while I was running, I appreciated the comfort and piece of mind of having accessible fluids at all times.

Miles 12-15(M12-7:20; M13-7:09; M14-7:11; M15-7:21)
It was pitch black by the time I found myself running along the Kalanianaole Highway. The sun hasn’t yet risen, there were no streetlights, and the nearest runner to me was at least 100 yards away. I was content to be keeping a 7:15-7:30 pace now as I became aware that a sub-3, a PR and even a BQ were all probably not happening today. I passed the halfway mark at , which reaffirmed my suspicions that the second half would be a torture for me. Although I had taken my usual GU at mile 10 with another one planned for mile 16, I continued to feel sore, fatigued, and slightly hungry as I ran alone for the most part along this out and back portion of the course. At some point in mile 14 or so, I saw the pace vehicle and the elites come rolling through the other side.

Miles 16-21 (M16-7:15; M17-7:15; M18-7:21; M19-7:23; M20-7:30; M21-7:30)
The first hint of the morning sun became visible through the mountain range off to the side as I made the turn off the highway to start my 5K loop through a suburban residential part of town. I was slowing down and battling the peak and valleys of the uneven course even as I said thanks to all the local neighbors who came out to cheer and slapped the hands of all the little kids that I passed by. Those simple gestures kept me going even as people all around were passing me by and I was moving off to the side to allow them a lane to pass. I took my gel as I planned at mile 17 with some water and Gatorade at an aid station nearby. The water sponges they offered provided a slight relief against the blazing sun which was slowly gaining force as the morning wore on. I kept an even steady effort even as I tried hard not to think about when I’d have to inevitably start to walk. As the course turned back onto the highway and I started my journey back to town, I told myself to hold on and keep running strong at least until I saw F.L. running behind me on the opposite side. I focused on smiling, taking deep breaths and passing different landmarks slightly ahead of me. I counted each quarter mile after 17 and looked out for a face I’d recognize. Finally, F.L. pass by me at mile 18 and I was really happy to see her. I gave her a high five as home girl was looking strong! She told me she’s shooting to finish in 4 hours and I told her I’d have a beer waiting for her at the finish! A little further along, I saw a fellow Flyer from NY who I’d knew had also flown out for this race. As he came up from behind me, I told him I was dying a slow death in this race. He snapped a photo of me with his digital camera and quickly passed me by. I was struggling to maintain 7:25 miles now as I pass by mile 19. Each step seemed harder and tougher than the one before. I had blisters on my feet,my knees, especially the right, hurt and i was sweating profusely by this point. Twenty, just make it to twenty, I told myself. I pressed on. Mile 20 took what seemed like a decade, and guess what I was still running. Could I make it last just one more mile? I studied faces across the way to keep myself mildly entertained. There was a guy running in a Santa suit. Another one had antlers with a red nose and a woman was running with a straw hat and a coconut bikini. Nice! I took two gatorades, two waters, and three wet sponges in an effort to cool myself down at the aid station. But because my shoes and socks were now sogged with a mixture of sweat, gatorade, and water, they were becoming increasingly harder to move.

Mile 22-26.2(M22-8:41; M23-12:31; M24-9:28; M25-8:34; M26+.2-9:56)
Mile 21 came mercifully as we turned off the highway on our way back home. The spectators were getting more numerous and louder now as the miles and the morning wore on. I couldn't stand the heat, the pain, the nausea, and the fatigue anymore and took my walk break after passing the mile marker. At that point, my race was officially over. I walked, ran, and shuffled the rest of the way through the race. I couldn't remember much past the breaking point. All I remember was that everything hurt, different muscles started to cramp, and yet I still had a smile the whole rest of the way. Different volunteers tried to lead me off the course (yes, I was cramping that badly) but I thanked them and vehemently passed on their offer. I struggled to climb back up Diamond Head at M24 just like everyone else did, but for what its worth, I was still faster than most of them until a nasty cramp forced me to hobble and stop three quarters of the way up the mountain. I tried to run it in when I saw the finish line a half mile away, but even that proved too painful for me. I eventually limped it in and collapsed onto two helpful volunteers immediately upon crossing the finish. They laid me on the ground and gave my cramping quads and hammies a nice stretch and massage a couple of times over before I was able to stand again and limper off to claim my medal, finisher's shirt and beer.

After the Finish
Afterwards, with my legs still twitching uncontrollably from time to time, I crossed the street and laid my body on the wet sand and stuck my feet in the cool ocean water. Aaaahhh! That was the reason I came. That was the reason I ran. That was the reason I smiled even when it hurt. That was paradise defined! It was the best feeling ever!

Official Statistics
Finishing Time - 3:18:46
Average Pace - 7:35 min/mi
Overall Place - 236/20546 (1.1%)
Gender Place - 215/10503 (2.0%)
Age Group Place - 24/1202 (2.0%)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Running Video Diary #1:
Sayin' Goodbye to Honolulu

Hey bloggy friends, I’m leaving Hawaii today and heading back home, where it’s currently 27F with a wind chill of 10F. Yeah, not fun! But before I do, I thought I’d take one final video of paradise and share it with you all. I took this during my early morning run along the boardwalk of Waikiki beach on my last day in Honolulu.

I hope you all enjoyed my first little “Running Video Diary”. Like I said in the video, I’m thinking of making this a regular feature here even when I’m back home, so please let me know yea or nay to more of this. Any suggestions, comments, and constructive criticism will be welcomed too! (Just cut me a little slack while I getting use to capturing videos with my phone…it’s still a work in progress.)

Enjoy the rest of your work week everyone. My next post will be my race report of the Honolulu Marathon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Observations from A Running Non-Hawaiian

So I’ve been in Hawaii for less than a week and already I know I don’t belong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a truly wonderful time here and am already regretting having to say goodbye. The weather’s been fantastic, the views spectacular and I’ve already gotten addicted to 7-11 spicy ahi poke and deluxe spam masubi that I know I won’t find anywhere at home. (I've already had these for lunch for three days straight!) But the one thing I’ve noticed though is that I have a hard time identifying with the sports people around here are most passionate about. For one, I am not a swimmer (although I am signed up for beginner lessons once I’m home) so it’s hard for me to appreciate endurance swimming, surfing, jet-skiing or other athletic pursuits that involve submerging one’s body into a bottomless body of water. Second, because of the widespread access of bike routes, running paths and picturesque scenery at every turn, training here occurs year round and endrance race events seem out of proportion to what I’m used to back home. Instead of 20 mile bike rides across a state, people here routinely do 100 mile bike rides along the north shore of Oahu or up on the side of a mountainous range and back down. Similarly, instead of training for marathons, people here speak of 40-60 mile runs on trails, overnight, to train for 100Ks and an annual event known as the H.U.R.T. 100 miler! Umm, no wonder I wore my Honolulu Marathon finishers shirt around town yesterday but haven't felt like much of an athlete.

Now, I know I probably have a warped sense of reality because I’m hanging out with F.L. who ran the marathon as a training run for her 100K race this weekend (Go ahead, you can go over there, shower her with words of encouragement, then come back…I'll be here...) but still, I can’t help feel as if I’m such a wimp for never having completed a single run longer than 26.2 miles, when her and her local running group friends are chattering about so and so doing 50 miles on the H.U.R.T. last week and another person is tacking 45 miles after the marathon to train for Western States (100 mile) race and so-and-so’s going to pace someone for 40 miles in the H.U.R.T. 100 mile race next year. It is an intimidating bunch to say the least. I’m just glad I’m not here on a daily basis and am going back soon to my own neck of the woods where running 20 miles in the wind, cold, and snow one or twice a month is considered hardcore and somewhat of an accomplishment. Maybe one day I’ll be up to tackling 32 hour runs on an steep and arduous trail run here fighting hallucinations, nausea, vomiting just for fun, but for now, I’m content to just revel in my own marathon accomplishment, eat all the crummy food I want, hang out at the beach all day, rest and recover in paradise and NOT think about running, racing or marathoning for the foreseeable future!

Towards that end, here are a few sun, fun, and sandy beachy pictures for you all to enjoy! Don't judge, it's the best I can do short of a personal invite to come over and experience paradise for yourselves! Aloha!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Race Update: Honolulu Marathon Complete

Just wanted to let you guys know that I finished the Honolulu Marathon this morning in 3:18:49. It wasn’t my best effort (it was my second worst in terms of time actually) but I had a lot of fun in this one and ran with a silly smile plastered across my face the entire time. (How can I not? I’m running in Hawaii for godsakes.) I will have more to say to say about this race once I’m home but suffice it to say that it was hilly, it was hard, and this cold-weather New Yorker practically melted in the bright Hawaiian sun. It’s okay though because I had no goals and no pretenses that I would do well on this course. As such, the race turned out to be pretty much what I expected it to be. To tell you the truth, I was more excited about jumping into the ocean after the finish than about the actual race! The water felt so good on my feet that it made slogging the last 5 miles with cramps and blisters so worth it. No matter, marathon #9 is in the books, and I’m so so happy!
If you want to see some pre- and post-race video interviews with me and Frayed Laces, check us out here and here. Now if you will excuse me, I have some beer, ketchups and garlic fries waiting for me by the beach. Aloha!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Closure Talk" with NYCM 2009:

Last weekend, before the chaos of upcoming trips and holidays, I met up with a Flyer friend for brunch in a quaint but lively section of Forest Hills in Queens. The food was good, but the conversation better as we caught up on each other’s lives and reminisced about old times as we both grew up not far from where we were eating. The highlight of our meeting though was when my friend analyzed some past relationship failures of mine and helped me realize some fundamental mistakes I’d made in assuming things that weren’t necessarily true. Case in point: I’d previously thought that when two people who may have been in a committed relationship once upon a time no long have direct communication with each other for several months, the relationship is, for all intents and purposes, over. Apparently, this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone else. Relationships are not over, even if all the evidence is painfully obvious, until both parties have had the “closure talk”. The “closure talk” can be short, sweet and succinct or long, drawn-out, and sad, but it is a necessary evil for both parties to move onward both psychologically and emotionally with their lives even if the physical bodies have long past left the building.
Huh…that’s interesting. Because I’m a pacificist at heart and naturally shy away from all matters of conflict unless absolutely necessary, I don’t think I’ve ever had the “closure talk” with anyone I’ve ever dated because from my perspective, what’s the point of just stating the obvious? But lately, since I haven’t been as successful in my relationships as I’d like, I vow to be a better person and re-examine my past prejudices with the hope that this exercise will foster more open, satisfying and fulfilling relationships in the future.
Towards this end, as I’m on a flight to Hawaii about to run my next marathon, I am drafting this letter in lieu of “closure talk” I want to have with the NYCM 2009:

Dear NYCM 2009,

It’s been said that marathon success is as fickle as a teenager in love, but I’ve always assumed that our bond was a bit deeper, stronger and more powerful than mere strangers who just happened to meet coincidentally at an annual running lovers’ tryst. After all, you were my first (marathon, that is) and every year since we’ve met, we’ve being getting better, getting faster, getting stronger, PR’s building upon past PR’s, until I thought for certain that this year, in this race, you and I would finally be joined together in holy sub-3 matrimony. But something went wrong in the program that day, as I arrived late and was left at the alter without my marathon bride.
Not a word has been spoken between us since, as I’m left to my own devices to figure out what went wrong. Others have certainly chimed in with their critique, sympathy and condolences, but I haven’t as yet heard your explanation or from your perspective of how I came to miss sub-3. Maybe you feel the silent treatment is an appropriate response given everyone else’s voices, or perhaps the point is that I’ve long since forgotten how to listen effectively to your messages, but for reasons that are unbeknownst to me right now, I need your permission to move on with my running life. I need your okay because there isn’t a passing day that I don’t stop to think about you – where I failed and what I’d done wrong. It’s been a month and my body still can’t separate fantasy from reality. No matter how many half-marathon PRs and road race PBs I’ve collected since, my mind still wants to paint my marathon failure as the sole epitome of my running life.
Maybe no one else knows, but I know where I’ve failed you. I know where I’ve done wrong. In the countless sleepless nights I’ve since had analyzing and evaluating my race, I could imagine five areas where my reckless negligence in training and racing doomed my rendezvous with you long before the final 10K:

1. Slow, Very Very Slow LSDs – In my exuberance to run long with others over the summer month, I inadvertently completed every single long run at 1:30 to 2:30 min/mi average slower than goal pace. So although I’ve doubled the number of long runs I was able to complete during this training cycle, I also did them all excruciatingly slow, which naturally left me unprepared to sustain marathon pace for longer than 20 miles. I was wrong.
2. Matters of the Heart – Although I wore a heart rate monitor for this race, I completely forgot to recognize my perfuse tachycardic state until it was far too late. By mile 18, I was averaging 170s and by mile 20, I was averaging 180s! This is crazy and incompatible with a sustainable effort for me. The fact that it escaped detection is completely inexcusable. I was wrong.
3. Training Others Before Thyself – In the week prior to race day, I spent so much time and energy preparing others for their own first dates that I did not even bother preparing myself at all for our annual encounter. If I had the opportunity to reverse time and start over again, I would run this race to have fun with the newbies and save my legs for a later fall goal race. That would have been a better strategy. I was wrong.
4. Out of Town Mentally – Work stress, newbie training, lack of sleep all contributed to my lack of mental preparation to run this race. I did not honor my commitment to run with mantras, quotes, questions, or any of my usual bag of motivational ammunitions. So although my physical body may have been ready to tackle the distance, my mental state was frail and ill-equipped for battle. I should have known better. I was wrong.
5. Racing Too Much Too Soon – In running my goal half-marathon for a PR in Staten Island three weeks before this race, I may have peaked in training a bit too early and a bit too soon. Afterwards, I gave myself the excuse that intervals and speedwork would no longer be important as I have clearly demonstrated my able to sustain a comfortable tempo-ish effort over the course of 13.1 miles. I fooled myself into thinking that my familiarity and success at the half-marathon distance would naturally translate to the full marathon as well. Obviously, I was wrong.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but these items are at the top of the list of reasons why I might have failed you that day. And although I fully acknowledge my part in this fiasco, you must also realize that you are one f*@king bitch of a race. We have a whole year to reconcile our difference and I hope for our sake that we remain socially amicable as we work on our own flaws gradually and individually. In the meantime, we must move on and have closure in this relationship, at least for the rest of this year. This is the healthy thing to do. Just so you know, I’m taking this opportunity to fly off to an exotic locale where I will try to find success in a marathon sibling of yours this weekend. Please do not try to find me or haunt my thoughts with your presence. If it’s meant to be, I will be back soon in town enough.

Thanks for all the good times and the life lessons we’ve shared along the way. The marathon memories we’ve had (Remember that first BQ in ’07?) will be cherished forever.


The Laminator

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Marathons, Motivation, and The Next Big Race

"It's hard to run when it's no longer fun!" Those are the infamous words I was left with this past week when I asked a long time buddy of mine when I haven't seen him running since the NYC marathon a month ago. I wanted so much to yell, to scream, to badger, and harass him about his blasphemous statement, but inwardly I kind of understood what he meant. After the big race is done and the only people left on the park roads and trails are those who haven't yet run their target fall race or out walking their dogs, it is hard to find the motivation to keep putting on the miles everyday. After all, I know that he know that the only reason I'm even inquiring about the status of his running is because I still have a 26.2 mile race coming up before I can call it quits and join the masses for some winter hibernation.
In case you haven't heard, I'm running a marathon next weekend in Hawaii. But unlike the previous two marathons I've done this year, I'm running this one strictly for fun. I'm considering this race more as a scenic running tour through the streets of Honolulu than as a race for time. In a few days, I'll be on vacation and the last thing I want to do while on vacation is stress about running and racing. (Besides, don't I do that enough when I'm at home?) Still, this doesn't mean I won't try to run my best given the circumstances. It just means I've already forgiven myself for not keeping up the endurance training post-NYCM (using only short and long races as speed and tempo work substitutes). It also means that I won't be looking at my splits at the end of every mile and trying to solve complex algebraic equations with three variables in my head in order to figure out where I should be and what pace I should be running for every single mile. It's been a long time since I've been able to run a marathon without that kind of pressure. For this one, I want to run just for the sake of running and have fun and not care about hitting a wall because I'm running too fast or recording a personal worst because I'm running too slow. Time won't mean that much to me in this race. All I want at the end of this race is to be able to wear a medal around my neck, run to the beach and jump right in the water. I've been wrapped in plenty of mylar blankets after marathons but never by seeweed and ocean water. This should make for a very interesting experience.
Congrats to all my bloggy friends who kicked major booty in C.I.M. today! It looks like more than a few will be coming with me to Boston in 2011! Wahoo! Hope all of you are enjoying the last month of 2009 and making grand plans for 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Running: Physiologically Speaking
The Trouble with P.T.

As a runner and as an M.D., I get asked a lot of questions about the body as it relates to running. Why can’t I lose as much weight running marathons now as I did when I used to run track? (Your appetite and corresponding metabolism isn’t the same.) Why can I run faster with less effort during the winter as supposed to summer? (Your evaporative powers are maximized in the cold dry air.) What is the best way to take GU during a race? (A little at a time over a long distance to prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.) In general, I welcome questions because they allow me the opportunity to apply what I know about human physiology to the sport of running. Most of the time, the answers are pretty obvious to me. Sometimes, I have no clue what people are asking and have to defer to my sports medicine or orthopedic colleagues/friends for their clinical advice and acumen. Rarely, one of my running buddies will tell me about what their P.T. told them about some injury they have and I have to do a double-take. Say that again. My P.T. told me that my hip/knee/groin/ankle/foot pain is caused by x,y, and z and recommended that I do these specific exercises. Really? Hmmm, okay, I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, buddy, but that makes as much sense as me going to the local drugstore and asking the sales clerk behind the counter which of these 1000 vitamins and supplements is going to cure my sinus infection!

The truth of the matter is that a lot of people, runners included, do not understand the qualifications or job description of a physical therapist and get in trouble when they seek out their trusty PT to diagnose and treat any and all injuries. This edition of “Running: Physiologically Speaking” is meant to educate my running friends so they are a bit more informed about how the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of sports injuries are supposed to work and who is qualified and licensed to do what job. I understand that many do not understand how different components of the healthcare system are supposed to work, so hopefully this will help shed a little light into the situation for you.

Suppose my friend, Joe Blow, is a newbie runner, who all of a sudden, while out running a long run one day, experiences a sharp shooting pain in the back of his ankle. He stops his run and limps home. Maybe he does the right thing and ices, compresses, and elevates. Maybe he doesn’t. Either way, he feels better the next day. There is no pain. He is happy. He trots out and tries his long run again (after all, he knows he can’t ever miss a long run if he’s “in marathon training”…no way!) Same thing happens again. This time he can barely make it past first mile before the pain cripples him. Crap! He goes home, all dejected. He repeats the same pattern for the rest of the week, but it doesn’t get better. He finally reluctantly calls his runner doctor friend, me, and I advice him to find a sports medicine doctor (or orthopedist) near his home. He goes, gets an X-ray and gets his diagnosis: tiabilis-posterior tendonitis. Treatment: Pain meds, no running, and 4-8 weeks of PT. Not the worst news in the world, but he isn’t so thrilled with the no running part. Still, he wants to get back to the road as soon as possible (after all, he has a marathon to train for!) so he does as he’s told. He finds a good PT, goes to all the sessions, but at the end of the two months, something’s still not quite right. His pain, which started at the back of his ankle has migrated somewhat to the bottom of his feet. His PT tells him he just needs more time, his muscles feel tight and he’s willing to continue the therapy for another 4-8 weeks without a prescription. I advise him to go back to the sports medicine doc and be re-examined. He wants to believe PT guy because he’s been seeing him for 8 weeks and figures he knows him pretty well by now and doesn’t want to go through the hassle of booking another appointment and getting more tests. On the other hand, he isn’t sure if he really needs the PT or if it’s really working. What should he do? What would you do? Are you one of those who’s perpetually in PT, or one of those who seems to have more of a relationship with PT and trust him/her more than practically anyone else you know? If you are, or think you are, or know someone who you think might be, please read on.

First of all, let me start by saying that I think physical therapy, in all its many forms, is necessary and important in injury healing and prevention. When properly done for the appropriate injury by the right qualified person, it is indispensable in helping patients recover fully from any muscle, tendon, or ligament damage they may have sustained as a result of trauma, accident or injury. I myself had to utilize their services when I suffered a clavicular fracture last winter and lost some mobility in my rotator cuff. The caveat though is that the right physical therapy must be tailored for the right injury for the right patient. It must be prescribed by a licensed medical professional (usually someone with an M.D. degree) after a thorough physical examination of the injury and evaluation with lab tests or imaging studies. A physical therapist is not qualified to perform these diagnostic tasks. They, the ones who are licensed anyway, have gone through physical therapy school, not medical school. Their main responsibility is to develop a treatment protocol (for a finite period of time, usually in the order of a few weeks to a few months) once a definitive diagnosis has been established. Coming up with the right diagnosis for the injury is not part of their job description, nor should it be. In fact, after the prescribed amount of PT is over, the patient should return to the physician who ordered the PT for a re-examination to determine if PT was successful and produced the desired effect. If not, the patient should be re-evaluated to determine whether there is some other underlying problem or to pursue whether other therapeutic options would be more appropriate. The answer is never to repeat the same set of PT exercises if they didn’t work or work well enough the first time. Is this distinction clear? I always hear of runners and other athletes who go to the same PT year after year, rehabbing the same injury the same way over and over, without the supervision of an M.D. and it frustrates me to no end. In my mind, the situation is similar to the people who goes to the local pharmacy to seek recommendations there on how to treat every disease and symptom they come across. Nothing very good ever comes out of those stories.

I hope this was a helpful discussion for some of you. Again, I’m not trying to knock the field of physical therapy or the people that perform them. Heck, I have friends who are in that line of work! However, I think it is important for everyone to know what the limits and responsibilities of their line of work. As someone who’s been on both sides of the provider/patient equation, I think it is to everyone’s benefit that we don’t overstep our boundaries and do or say things that although well-intentioned may end up hurting others in the process.

As always, comments, stories, and questions, welcome. Hope you all are having a fine day. Get out there and run, if you can. Class dismissed!
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