Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blessed or Cursed with Speed

As a long distance runner with a busy professional life, I tend to do most of my training by myself. This is fine by me as I can run according to my own schedule, my own pace, for as long or short as I want. Almost by necessity, I am very cognizant of my own effort, my own speed, my own progression as a runner but somewhat clueless as to how it relates in comparison to others. I am part of a running club, the NY Flyers, but they serve more of a social function in my running life than as a source of competition. I participate in road races, but more to provide an objective measure of assessment for myself than as a tool to rate against others. For what good is it to me, if I'm top 1% vs the bottom 1% if I know nothing and have no business, and don't run with any of them? I much rather race the clock and chase PRs. That way, I can interpret my race times as it relates to me, and I can modify my training or alter my goals based on them. In the end, am I not a better judge of me than some ranking based on assumptions about others?

Maybe I'm naive, but I've always assumed that others follow a similar path. Even beyond the obvious, "speed is relative"; we all experience the same joy when we crush a PR, the same pain when we hit the wall, the same sorrow when we come close but fall short at a goal, and the same happiness when others achieve success in their events. So why does it matter so much who's a fast runner and who's not? Does the person who runs a 5 hour first marathon not deserving of the same applause and accolades as a 3 hour tenth marathoner? Who's to judge anyway?

I have been left to ponder the consequence and randomness of speed ever since one of my friends told me the other day that many, many members of my running club secretly admire my running and that some are even intimidated by my speed. He threw out some names and explained that people generally don't look for me to run with because they respect my speed and, in a sense, fear it. This is a complete shock to me on many levels. First of all, many of these people are my friends and no one previously has ever mentioned this little known fact to me before. Secondly, who the heck should care about how fast I run except me? Yes I may be blessed with God-given talent that may make me a little faster than the average human being but I train and run and struggle and hurt and race just like everyone else. From my vantage point, there are people in front of me, and there are people in back of me. We're all trying to get to the same place as fast as our legs will carry us. I might get there a little sooner or a little later, but eventually, you'll get there too! And if you struggle, I will do all I can to help just like I assume those in front will help me too! Admiration? Intimidation? How does any of that figure into the equation when all of us are traveling the same direction and sharing the same roads? Thirdly, since when has it been considered a bad thing to run with someone who's a little faster? Anyone who's ever been in training for any sport knows you don't get better by training with those who are at the same level as you, you get better by training with those who are bigger, faster, and more experienced. So by the same token, runners should look for opportunities to run with faster folk. Just by virtue of hanging with them, learning from their experience, and running with them, you're most definitely going to run faster and race better too!

I'm been told on many occasions that I can be humble to a fault, and many people have tried on numerous occasions to convince me that I'm incredibly gifted, talented and fast. With all due respect though, my mind is incapable of comprehending those terms because to acknowledge those qualities means that by extension, I must think you are less gifted, less talented, and slow, and I don't judge by those criteria. Sorry! Instead, I would like others to regard my speed (for those who think I'm fast) as a possibility for them. I want to inspire people to view speed not as a dichotomy (fast and slow) but as a continuum bounded by nothing but your own imagination, dedication, and hard work. Heck, I didn't start out running 6 minute miles either!

For whatever the reasons may be, no matter how much I want to be in denial about this, I know now that I'm generally well-respected in my local running scene and in the virtual community for running prowess. In so much as I'm viewed as a source of knowledge (both running and non-running), I want to help others achieve better results, better health and a better overall life for themselves and for their friends and families. In the end, that's what motivates me to train hard, to be faster and get better each and every day. I so much rather be respected and congratulated for that than for some arbitrary time on a race clock at the finish line.

To improves the lives of those around me, physically and virtually, that's why I run.

(I wish you all a happy weekend! It's very frigid temps for much of the country so stay warm wherever you may be running. I have a big announcement to make on Monday so come back then and don't let me catch you napping! Haha! Repeat after me: Spring will be here soon...)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon Pace Report

(Sorry for the tardiness of this professional duties have been keeping me far too busy to attend to this blog earlier in the week!)

So this is my pace report for the half marathon I ran on Sunday. If you came here looking for a race report, please read Brandon's version of things from a racer's perspective. As this is the first race I've ever paced, my point of view will be slightly different...

If there is one thing I took away from this pacing exercise, it would be that in order to be an effective pacer, one much detach oneself from the race experience as much as possible. Like the backstage manager of a Broadway play or the offensive center of a championship football team, one must learn to be in control of the situation, understand every emotion and execute the game plan while remaining anonymous and out-of-sight. After all, it is not a race for the pacer and it would be counterproductive for him to regard it as such. Rather, it is his responsibility to establish and maintain a specified pace regardless of any external or environmental factors. And though I knew this going in, and even actually stuffed a post-it note with the words "PACE NOT RACE" into my racing tights, I still found it extremely difficult to suppress the racing instinct once the gun went off. It's like that old adage that says "You can take the runner out of the race but you can NEVER take the race out of the runner."

I met my crew of 3 a little before the race start and jogged over to the start. Since the runners who were running with me were a mix of blue and red bibs, we situated ourselves in the middle of the red corral and waited for the race start. The sky was damp and cloudy but not in the slightest bit cold. I debated wearing two top layers for this race but decided to go with one when it was revealed to me that it would be approaching 40F before race's end. I felt perfectly comfortable waiting there with my bandana, gloves, my Philadelphia Half Marathon technical top and running tights although I wondered silently whether shorts might have been more appropriate given these fair weather conditions.

Once the horn sounded, we waited for about 20-30 seconds before following the crowd to start our race. I told my crew that we were not going to waste energy bobbling and weaving. Instead we ran slowly and conservatively and saved our energy for Cat Hill in mile 2. At the halfway point of the first mile, I lost one of my runners who decided to run ahead to attempt a PR. During the last portion of Cat Hill, I lost my second runner who stopped off a bit before to run with his brother who he found on the course. This left Brandon and I for the full duration. After settling for a slow 7:56 in mile 1, we got things back on track in mile 2, running a 7:18.

The next several miles were uneventful as I kept a conservative pace for Brandon to follow. We sped down the downhills and climbed up Harlem Hill without much difficulty. I noticed we were passing people on all the uphills which was encouraging. At the bottom of the West Side, after one full loop has been completed, we gradually picked up the pace. By mile 8, after another Cat Hill was tamed, we ran a 7:15 perfect mile and was on par for a sub 1:35 finish. Unfortunately, Harlem Hill came soon after and shattered my dreams of going 1:34. My mate came so close to losing it after battling the hill that he tasted a bit of his impending vomitus in the back of his mouth. Although I couldn't see his face as I was in front, I could tell from his heavy breaths and shortened stride that he was indeed tiring. For the rest of the race, I did the best I could and encouraged him to push the pace as much as possible - 5K to go, 2 miles, than 1 mile to go. We were able to pass some, but many others ran past us in that last half to quarter mile. Eventually, the finish came, and we sprinted as best we could toward the finish. Once over the line, Brandon lost his balance and slumped onto me. He gave his full effort and finished a hilly half marathon in 1:35:20 (7:16) for a 9 minute PR! Woohoo!

In retrospect, I am glad I was able to help out a friend and secure an epic half marathon PR for him. Not only was it so much fun, I also learned many valuable lessons that would help me pace better races in the future. I've already decided I'm going to pace 1:30 for a half-marathon over the summer. Then who knows, maybe a 3:10 for a full marathon in late fall or early spring? As long as it fits into my training schedule, I'm more than willing to help out fellow runners to have better results in their races.

What about you guys? Have you ever paced others for a race, or have used a pacer yourself? What was your experience like? What qualities of a pacer are most important to you?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Prelude to Pacing

As a member of the global running community, I'm always fascinated in the myriad of ways by which our presence as individuals and as a whole enrich the lives and experiences of those within and outside that community. Some of us run races to raise money for charity. Others take on loftier challenges and bigger goals to bring attention and raise awareness for public health concerns (See Sara Stanley in RunRideInspire Project). Still others write blogs, engage in twitter, and produce podcasts that educate and inspire their audience with stories from their own adventures on the road. Heck, even the lonely runner who does none of these things but only complains to his non-running buddies about his ITB acting up in the middle of a weekend long run is contributing to the community by advocating for our sport and engaging others in a conversation about health and exercise. What a wonderful feeling it is to know that no matter who we are, no matter what we do, or who we know, as long as we're consistently getting out there, day after day, running, biking, swimming and staying active, we are all doing our part collectively and sharing our passion for everyone in our communities, our cities and our country to lead healthier lives.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I am heading into the city to participate in the NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon. For me as well as for a lot of the local runners I'm sure, it will be our first road race of the new decade. The excitement and energy for this 13.1 mile race through two loops of Central Park has been palpable on blogs, twitter, and facebook for the past few days. The race has been sold out for weeks and during my visit to the NYRR headquarters for bib and t-shirt pickup on the first day of registration, I overhead a conversation between the volunteers that they had to call in extra help because there wasn't enough manpower to handle the crowds at the t-shirt station. Wow!

Personally, when I was putting together my race calendar for the first half of the year, I never envisioned that I'd be running this race. It's still early in my marathon training cycle, I'm still building up my mileage slowly, and I'm nowhere near my tip-top racing shape. But when my friend Brandon asked me to consider pacing him for his PR attempt in this race a few weeks back, I did not have to waste much time coming up with a response. Unbeknownst to him, he inadvertently created the perfect scenario for me to participate, run, but not race this race! Not only will I be completing my scheduled long run for that week at a 7:15 pace that is perfectly comfortable for me, I also get to run in scenic Central Park, help out a friend, hang out with other Flyers and friends who I haven't seen in many months and develop my skills as a consistent race pacer! (I have serious aspirations of being a BQ pacer in a marathon later this year or the next, but that's another story for another day...) Since the inception of this idea, we've invited several other twitter friends to join us and our impromptu 1:35 pace team for the race tomorrow. I am absolutely thrilled, extremely excited but a little nervous at the same time. The Central Park course, as anyone who's ever run there knows, is extremely technical. There are so many hills, big and small, that to maintain the same pace throughout will be difficult to do. I will do my best to maintain a consistent effort and avoid having to speed up or slow down too much at the end. I sincerely hope I do a good job and everyone who runs with me will have a pleasant experience.

Best of luck to those racing this weekend, both here in the city and elsewhere! Let's all get out there and inspire!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Eccentricity Knows No Bounds

During different stages of my medical career, I've been described by mentors and professors that I've worked with as "novel", "eccentric", and an "out-of-the-box thinker". I used to take these random assessments at face value. I used to think that maybe these people understood my curiosity, appreciated my inquisitiveness, and applauded my efforts to turn every clinical question into an intellectual exercise. Now though, as I've risen through the medical ranks and have become myself a student and resident advisor, an interviewer, and a character evaluator, I've come to realize that all those eclectic words were just the professionally polite way of saying that I'm a weird guy.

Okay, okay, I get it. I'm not someone who likes to abide by convention. I'm not someone who likes to sit around and have someone tell me how I should listen, talk, and interact with my patients. People are more complicated than that. Science is constantly evolving. Practice guidelines and clinical dogma devised years and decades ago are often not applicable today. So what if I'm going to spend my office time talking about Glee and Isaac Newton and New Year's Resolutions instead of running down a laundry list of the complications of obesity and PCOS for Amy and her mom? You sure are never going to find that kind of clinical practice or interviewing skill covered in any peer reviewed scientific journal. And I dare say that my method of delivering care, however eccentric, may actually be more effective too!

Lately though, I've noticed my penchant for novelty and passion for change escaping and reflecting in my running and blogging. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. You guys may have already seen instances of that by my subscription to twitter and the dailymile last week, and my utilization of an entirely different approach to marathon preparation as detailed in my NJM training plan. What you probably don't know is that I've totally revamped my training log to de-emphasize mileage and focus on heart rate and pacing. I'm also doing workouts that I've traditionally sworn off before (like specific hill training and Yasso 800s). I have also started writing up a daily assessment of my runs in relation to goals and objectives I have for that particular. (I will start posting them on the sidebar for those interested in following along.) In terms of blogging, I also noticed that I run faster and better after writing posts (which I've found is unanimously frowned upon by my twittering friends) and sometimes, just thinking of what I'm going to write while I'm running freaks me out and causes my heart rate to rise uncontrollably. (Yeah, I can't explain it either!)

So the secret is out - I'm a weird and eclectic guy - as a doctor, as a runner, and as a blogger! At least I'm consistently freaky in all parts of life. Right? Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NJM Training Plan Revealed!

First of all, thanks everyone for all the positive comments and feedback you've given me in the last series of post. Your support and encouragement was really appreciated. I hesitate sometimes to discuss my hospital experiences here because most of the time it has nothing to do with running and it can be a bit mundane to everyone else but me, so it's nice to know when other runners can appreciate and benefit from some of the patient stories I encounter in my professional life.

Okay, now on to the good stuff...

After many hours of investigation (into training plans), interrogation (with coaches/experts) and deliberation (watching reruns of Glee?), I think I'm closed to finalizing a training schedule for the New Jersey Marathon on May 2nd. Now for those marathon newbies who think this should be as simple as looking at a website or opening up a book and copying down some numbers, let me assure you that this process was more extensive and time-consuming than any research paper I've ever written! Not only did I have to figure out such details as total mileage, mileage per week, training paces, tune up races, long run distances, marathon simulations, but to do so in the context of a consistent sixteen week buildup with adequate recovery to avoid injury and burnout while making every effort to "overcome inertia" by incorporating new techniques, drills and workouts into the plan and somehow fit it all within the framework of my professional duties as a full-time clinician was extremely exhausting and challenging. There were many moments while I was preparing this that I almost wish I didn't know as much about marathon training as I do. For some reason, deciding on a training plan for my first marathon was so much easier and less time consuming than it is for my tenth. I guess "ignorance is bliss" applies as much to running as it does in everyday life!

Before I unleash the glory of the training schedule for you all to behold (or criticize if it's not to your liking) let me point out a few important differences between this training plan and those I've used for past marathons:

1. Less mileage, more speed - One of the overall themes I'm adopting for this training plan is reducing slightly the quantity of miles while incrementally increasing the quality and speed of the runs. My number #1 pet peeve from last year's training was running too many miles at too slow a pace, especially on my long runs. Perhaps as a consequence, I was not able to keep up with many of my scheduled speedwork sessions. This time around I'm going to try running slightly less total mileage (average ~45 miles/week) in hopes of being adequately recovered to optimize my speed and endurance training.

2. Fewer 20 miler long runs, more marathon pace practice - There will be one fewer scheduled long run (four 20 milers) as compared to the fall, but there will be marathon paced runs galore, ranging from 2 to 14 miles this time around.

3. More hill workouts, more Yasso 800s - Something that will be entire new to me is this idea of hill sprints and workouts. I've never done them before but according to almost all the books I've read, this is the best, safest and most effective way to build running strength. As for the Yasso 800s, last year, I dabbled in them for one or two sessions. This year, they will be become a stable in my speedwork routine. I will start with 4x800s and build up to 8 by the peak of training. They will replace my mile repeats which I used to do religiously. I'm hoping this extra strength will come in handy when I'm busting for the line and I've got either two people or two seconds to beat.

4. Pace variety and heart rate zones - Since I've got so many workouts packed into such a finite space and time, I need to be focused to make sure I'm doing each run at the specified pace. To make myself accountable, I'm going to list the objectives and goals for each day's run on dailymile in terms of purpose, pace, and heart rate and perform a self-assessment on each of these goals at the end of every run. This will ensure that I plan ahead and have a clear idea of what that run should do for me in the context of marathon training even before I lace up the shoes. For someone who has a tendency to push every run hard every time out, this is an important step for me.

Okay, so without further ado, here is my training plan for the 2010 New Jersey Marathon.

Of course, I reserve the right to make changes based on convenience, work, weather, and whatever I deem fit, but for the most part, it is a done deal. What do you think? Do you like? Do you not like? Leave me comments and feedback and let me know. Like I said before, I plan to post a detail assessment on my workouts on the dailymile (which I've already begun to do for the past weekend's workouts) so if you want to follow me there (profile name: Running Laminator), please do. I'm going to do more of a generalized training update for my blog every once in a while to keep the rest of your guys in the loop. Any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Let the training (and the fun) begin!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Overcoming Inertia (Part III)

(Yes folks, there's a part III...refer back to Part I and Part II if you have to...)

But what about me? I thought to myself as I'm riding on the 7 express on my way home that night. At every stop the street lights flicker and the commuters ebb and flow to the rhythm of the moonlit sky. Am I being true to myself? Am I being true to Amy? Is this connection between Glee, inertia, and a happier healthier life applicable to me?

The superficial answer to the rhetorical question is obviously not. I am definitely not overweight or obese (in fact, if I could gain a few pounds, that would be ideal!), I run just about everyday, I walk everywhere, and about to start swimming lessons too. So the problem of inertia for me as it relates to exercise and activity isn't learning how to start moving, like it is for Amy. It is actually learning how to stop!

But in a broader sense, the issue of inertia isn't just about finding the motivation to start. It is also about maintaining a certain pace and direction of travel and having the courage to change course if the projected destination is no longer acceptable or desirable. For what good is it to walk and run and train and work hard to be active for the sake of being active if the end result isn't really what you want?

For me personally, it was this last question that I struggled with the most coming home from the office that night after seeing Amy. Although I was scheduled to start my sixteen week marathon training the next day, I was ill-prepared to do so because I hadn't yet settled on a plan. To be honest, I was initially planning on using use another Pfitzinger program as the basis for the genesis of my own training program just like I did in years past. But after experiencing a plateau in my marathon times the past two cycles with the various Pfitzinger plans, I have doubts whether I should be following Pfitzinger as blindly and closely as I did before. After all, do I want another 3:02 or 3:04 in my next marathon, or do I need to overcome my own inertia and try for something better? I know we all know the answer to that one. (I'll have more to say about this in my next post where I plan to reveal, discuss and evaluate my training plan for the NJ marathon in relation to what I've done in the past.)

The general point though is that even for those of us who treat running and athletics as a way of life, we still need to constantly examine and evaluate our training and our goals to ensure that they are compatible with our needs, our objectives, our schedules and where it is we want to go. If we find that one or more of these parameters are obsolete or no longer applicable, we must be flexible and adjust our training, goals, and expectations accordingly.

As you can see then, the problem of inertia and overcoming inertia is always there whether you're moving at 6 minute miles, 10 minute miles, or no miles at all - just as Newton predicted it would be more than 500 years ago! The question is whether we are personally and collectively willing to accept the challenge of overcoming the inertia in our own lives as well as inspiring others to do the same for theirs. When the time comes, I hope we are and I hope we do!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Overcoming Inertia (Part II)

I allowed the question to linger in the air for a few seconds while I plotted her height and weight on the growth curve in front of me. Her height was at the 75th percentile while her weight was way above the 95th. Her BMI was 42.5 kilograms per meter squared, which is actually an improvement from last year when she was measured to have a BMI of 45. "So how about it, Amy. Any clue?"

"No...not really." She mumbles.

"Okay. Let me help you out then. Listen, and listen close, because at the end of all of this, there'll be a test...Well, no, not really, but it might change your life so you better pay attention."

I laid down her chart and began my exam as I talked.

"So, let's start with some simple concepts. Common sense physics tells us that in a closed system, like this room, or your body, whatever, energy can neither be created or destroyed. Also, you'd probably learned that energy going in must equal energy coming out. You with me so far? All of this sound familiar?"

"Yeah. I remember something like that."

"Good. This is essentially Newton's First Law which tells us that the energy you expend on something should be equal to the energy that comes out, minus a negligible portion lost to the environment because of friction, etc."

"O...kay. So what does that have to do with anything?" she asks with a condescending smirk.

"Hold on, I'm getting to that. Well, if you take Newton's first law of thermodynamics AND his first law of motion, you know, the one that says that things in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on by another force, and apply it to a fictionalized high school setting, you'd understand one of the reasons why everyone loves Glee..."

"I...I don't get it."

"Look, what is Glee essentially? It is a club made up of what most people would label as "freaks" that somehow find a way to resist societal pressures and bond with one another to become something truly wonderful. They share a passion through their singing and dancing and are able to collectively use their talents to be much better than anyone in the school ever thought they could be. In fact, the more they are mocked and laughed at by everyone else, and the more outside circumstances try to break them up, it seems the more cohesive they become and the better friends and singers they all become. Remember Newton and his conservation of energy? Yeah this is a perfect example of its application on a societal and high school level. It seems as if they are all able to gather all the negativity thrown at them by the outside world and channel them to become better singers. It is truly amazing, and I think it's what draws people to the show and their story.

"I guess I can kinda see that. But what about the new year's resolution thing and how it affects me?"

"I'm getting to that. But you know, before each of those Glee kids found success as a group, before they knew each other, and even before they knew they could sing, they each had to do some thing, something very simple it seems but very very important; something that again points back to Newton and his physics as applied to high school."

"What is it?" she asked, thoroughly intrigued now.

"They had to solve the problem of inertia."


"Inertia, you know, the force that prevents you from moving forward. Newton's first law of motion. An object in motion will stay in motion while one at rest will tend to stay at rest, remember? Yeah, so they individually but collectively had to tackle their problem of inertia. Before they joined Glee Club, they had to decide for themselves whether they should go on with their present lives the way it is, or make a change and sign up for Glee Club. Translated to physics speak, they had to individually decide whether they will stay in motion at the same speed at the same direction, coming and going the same way everyday or whether they will apply a force and change the course of their high school lives by signing up for Glee Club. Without this first critical initial decision to overcome inertia, there'd be no singers, no songs, no club and no show! I believe this is the message behind their hit song "Defying Gravity", which is, in my opinion, their best song!"

"I like when they sang Don't Stop Believing in the first episode. That was really cool."

"Yes, that one is pretty good too. But the point is that the hardest thing to do sometimes is overcoming one's own inertia. The majority of people are so set in their ways that they reject any and every change, even when they know change may be good. This simple concept not only mirrors the attitudes of the Glee kids, but also underscores the importance of New Year's Resolutions, because you see, resolutions are nothing more than attempts by people to use the excuse of the new calendar year to overcome inertia and institute change in their lives. People who don't have resolutions are either perfectly content with their lives or are too lazy to do something about it. Since you are neither of those two things, I expect you to have some New Year's Resolutions the next time you come by to see me."


"Yes really. I want you to think about 3 things that you want to change about yourself. It could be about school, home, friends, your body, etc but it must be important enough to you that you are willing to work on it for the whole entire year. As you're thinking about it, I want you to really try hard to overcome your own inertia and answer the question for yourself...what is important to me? how can I make this one thing I don't like about me better? Whatever it is...come up with 3 things and we'll go over it next time okay?

"Okay." she says as I finished my exam. She gathers her stuff and turns toward the door. "Am I done?"

"Yes you are." I said, as I open the door for her.

"Defying gravity, that'll be me!" she says as she exits my office cheerfully. "You'll see, doc, you'll see!"

As I close the door behind her, I'm hoping she will choose her health as one of the initiatives she will improve upon this year. But honestly I have no clue. All I know is that I realized I needed to overcome my own inertia in terms of running and training to improve upon my performance and I was able to use this message to (hopefully) help out a teenager in her fight against obesity.

Maybe this running thing can make me a better doctor after all!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Short Commercial Break

I apologize to those of you anxiously awaiting Part II to my story from yesterday. I got so entrenched in my tale that I lost all track of time and had to bail before I could finish. Not to worry though, everything will be resolved by tomorrow.

Before I continue though, I would just like to give a quick shout out to the people at Champion Innovation Lab. They contacted me a short while ago and asked me to review some running gear. Of course, being that I aspire to be somewhat of a champion in my own life, how could I say no, right? So I will be telling you my take on the yeas and nays of their new line of apparel after beating them up for a few hundred miles out on the backcountry (or my backyard) roads and trails, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime go to the Champion website and check out their entire line of athletic gear for runners of all shapes and sizes for all types of terrain...and let them know I sent you!

As an added bonus, they are also sponsoring 17 athletes to run this weekend at the Disney World Marathon Challenge! I have secret aspirations of participating in the Goofy challenge sometime in the next couple of years so I'm very excited to see how they and the rest of the runners do this weekend. I hear great crowds are expected at this race and I personally know friends and fellow bloggers who will either be running or spectating both days. To those who will be participating in the Disney Half Marathon, Full Marathon or both, have a great race and a wonderful time! I, for one, am on the one hand thrilled for you all but on the other hand extremely jealous! Good luck, take lots of pictures and have loads of fun! I expect full, detailed and glorious race reports (like the kinds I am famous for!) from everyone next week!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Overcoming Inertia, (Part I)

Runner friends of mine who are familiar with my professional work often ask how my understanding of human physiology affects my development as a runner. The truth is that although I can explain precisely the mechanism behind the conversion of glucose to lactic acid when glycogen stores are exhausted and anaerobic respiration at the cellular level dominates in the latter stages of a marathon, the knowledge of such facts neither facilitates its prevention or ameliorates its effects for me as I'm running. (as those who've read my last few marathon race reports have gotten to know!). Rather, I think my clinical expertise helps me the most when I'm resting, recovering, or preparing for a run - in sort of the daily grind of everyday life - because those are often the times when fluctuations in hormonal levels have the most effect.

Personally, I am more intrigued by the question of how running affects my professional life as a pediatric physician. I always wonder if there are things I learn from my adventures on the road that can be appropriately adapted to the clinical setting. It is often difficult for me to imagine how learning to appropriately gear down in anticipation of hilly terrain or fighting the tough patches during a tempo long run can help me become a better doctor to my patients who often suffer from obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions where mere walking a few blocks is considered an extremely strenuous activity. Still, I am constantly looking for opportunities where I can use my experience as a runner to help my patients make better choices in battling and dealing with their disease.

One such opportunity presented itself yesterday as I was seeing my last patient for the day...

Amy (not her real name) sat with casual ambivalence as her mother gave me a brief rundown of how she got to be the way she is. "She was always a big kid growing up but every since she started developing, it's like she keeps on putting on more and more weight." She hands me the consultation request from her pediatrician and continues "We been to specialists, doctors, nutritionists, and nothing has worked. She'd lose a few pounds after starving herself for a few days but then her weight would go right back up again. Dr. B wanted her to see you to see if there's anything more to be done." I glanced over the consultation request quickly to pick out the pertinent information and sent Amy's mother out into the waiting room before continuing. Before she left, I was able to ascertain that Amy doesn't eat much at home, drinks juices and water at home, and has almost no physical activity

"Hi Amy, I'm Dr. Lam. It says here that you are obese, pre-diabetic and have symptoms suggestive of PCOS. Do you know what all these fancy terms mean?"
She shrugs her shoulders, pauses slightly for effect, than continues. "I guess it means that I'm fat?"
"And how do you feel about that?"
She shrugs her shoulders again.
"Do you think you're fat?"
She gives a slight nod before her eyes drift off into space.
" what are we going to do about that? "Do you have any ideas"
She shrugs again, then silence. I let out a small sigh under my breath and walk over to the sink to watch my hands. Oh God, please, why now, why today...All I want to do is finish work, go home, run a few miles and get down to business devising my marathon training plan, and this teenager won't even talk to me. What do I do now?
I washed my hands, dried them with a few towel and turned back toward my patient. "I tell you what...let's not talk about fat for the rest of this visit...let's assume it doesn't even exist. But you have to promise to answer my questions, okay? So, how were your holidays? Did you make any New Year's resolutions for 2010?"
"No, I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions/"
"Did you watch any TV during break? What's your favorite show?"
"Cool, that's my favorite show too! It also says here in my chart that you are an honor student at the Bronx High School of Science. Have you taken chemistry or physics yet?"
"Well, I took chemistry last year and am taking physics right now."
"Good. So you must know about the Newton's Laws of Thermodynamics..."
"A little..."
Okay, so let me ask you a question...what does New Year's Resolutions and Glee have to do with Newton's 1st Law of thermodynamics and how does it relate to you?"

(to be continued...)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ambitious Goals and A Little Birdy Announcement

Thanks for all the wonderful and supportive comments about my goals for the coming year. I have to say right off the bat that I realize that some of them might be a bit ambitious - running sub-6 for 4 miles and 7 min miles for 20 miles (both in hilly Central Park) - come to mind but I figured that if I'm not willing to challenge myself and take some risks with my running than i'll never know whether I'm ready to take my running to the next level. As my mentor used to advise me - Take every challenge as an opportunity to better yourself. If you win, you claim victory. If you lose, you gain experience. Either way, you're helluva lot better off than if you didn't bother to try! So there it is, my goals and expectations out there for all to see, so that we can come back at year's end and evaluate whether I'm a total jackass for setting myself up to fail or whether I'm a running genius, sent down from the heavens to bless these roads with my talent. Haha! Either way, this is going to be a fun, interesting, and provocative year for me! I'm so glad you all chose to come along (especially all the recent delurkers!) Welcome to the Running Lam show!

In the spirit of trying new things in the first year of a new decade, I've decided to do something I've never done before. Frankly, I don't even know how or maybe even why I'm doing it, but since I know there are many of you who do do it and those who have done it have so many good things to say about it (not to mention those that have badgered me endlessly about it last year) I've decided to get myself a twitter account! Yeah, it's shocking, isn't it? It's still completely a work in progress, but if you want to hear about my training for road races, marathons, and beyond, you can follow me there at @runninglam. I'll most likely follow you too. Once I learn the ropes of this new form of social media (for me anyway) and have everything figured out, I plan to twitter? (tweet?) extensively about my comings and goings on the road (and maybe the pool too!). Hopefully, I'll keep you entertained if not inspired by my tweets as I embark on all my running adventures in 2010!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year, A New Decade:
Running Goals for 2010

Hello blog-o-world, welcome one and all to 2010!

Now that I've gotten the obligatory pleasantries out of the way, let me say that I've already got beef with 2010. Yes, I know we're only two days in, and I know I made more mistakes writing 1/01/2010 than the NY Giants when they got trounced by the lowly Carolina Panthers 41-9 over the weekend, knocking themselves out of the playoffs (I'm hanging my head down in shame...) but please, please, someone tell me - what is the socially acceptable nomenclature to abbreviate the important events of this year? For example, we all know Chicago '07 and '08 were nothing short of a social travesty and Boston '09 was great because it was my first, but could you honestly say Boston '10 as Boston-TEN (because that sounds so awkward) or should you say Boston-ONE-O? Hmmm...while I'm at it, do we refer to this new decade as the decade of the TENS or the TEENS? And has anyone yet figured out the proper term for the decade we just passed? Sorry if this all seems so frivolous to some or most of you, I'm just so confused...

As for something that's not as confusing...I ran my 4 mile midnight race in Central Park on New Year's Eve and finished up 2009 miles for 2009! Yay for me! Although it may conceptually seem like an easy task, it was anything but. Not only was it windy and cold in the dead of winter on a night when all the sane people were partying and having a ball in heated houses and apartments, it also snowed heavily during the morning which left the roads slushy and slippery and drizzled and rained for most of the night. Fantastic! But despite all of that, I had an absolute blast running this race with my newbie turned marathoner running friend MT. We watched the fireworks at the start, regaled each other with memories of our favorite runs of the past year, sipped sparkling apple cider at the champagne station at mile 2, exchanged high-fives with walkers and runners in costume all along the course, and slogged our way through the four mile course in 44:28. For those counting at home, that's a 10:57 minute per mile pace, easily my worst ever in a road race! But again, it wasn't about the time...but enjoying the night with a good friend sharing our communal passion out on the roads. Still, I found out that climbing hills at that pace is not easy. Everything seems to drag on for so much longer when you're running slow. (Yes, I realize that fact should be somewhat intuitive, but it really isn't!)

I also took some time in between the miles (yes, I had a lot of time, haha!) to reflect on the past year and think about my goals for 2010. Although I might be disappointed with a few minor details, for the most part, I've had a tremendously successful year on the roads. In addition, I've also enjoyed all the new relationships I've fostered as a result of my running. I'm truly grateful for all my new real world running friends, my virtual world bloggy friends, and those who've managed to bridge both worlds. Whether you've never met me before, or have met me a thousand times, I thank you for knowing me and inspiring me and motivating me to be so much better than I ever thought I could be. Hopefully in time, I could do the same for you! (Toward that end, I have some exciting news to share in a few days...)

Below are my running goals for this coming year. Let's rock the roads for 2010. Who's with me?

My 10 Running Goals for 2010
1. First - I will enter my first ever triathlon, ultramarathon, or overnight relay race!
2. Two New Feet for Two New Runners - I will training two newbies to run their first long distance race (it's part of my Pay It Forward campaign).
3. Sub-3 - If you gotta ask, you must be new here...Sub-3 marathon, here I come.
4. As in 4 PRs - I will PR in the 4-Miler and 3 other distances (4 PRs).
5. Pentathalon - I will complete the final two legs of the Laminator Pentathalon (4-Miler in under 24 minutes and Marathon in under 3 hours).
6. Seis (which loosely rhymes with states) - I will run 6 out-of-state races.
7. Seven minute miles - I will volunteer to be the 7 min/mile pace leader for a Long Training Run in Central Park (16-20 miles).
8. 8 City Parks - I will find time to run in 8 different city parks this year.
9. 9 Distances - I will race 9 different distances this year (1M, 5K, 4M, 5M, 10K, 15K, 10M, 13.1M, 26.2M)
10. 2010 Miles - as in 2010 Miles for 2010.

Are you all ready for 2010? I know I am. I can't wait to get started.
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