Category Archives: Running

A stroll through Central Park

A stroll through Central Park sounds delightful, and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this spring and summer, rather than running. It is with sadness that for this season I am retiring the “running” label from the blog. I have forgone this love affair during the spring and summer of 2007 owing to a festering knee injury.

After a few months’ rest, I thought I was on the mend. I even started a disciplined running regimen to slowly get back into the sport and strengthen the sinews of my joint. On day one, I jogged 100 paces around the track. On day three, I went 110 paces. The next time, it was 121 paces, and then 133, increasing by 10% each time. I made it to 146 paces before the inflammatory pain came and stayed for a week.

These days, a quick sprint across Broadway to catch a bus can be felt a few days later. And so the running and the writing about running must draw to a close. Perhaps the autumn will bring fresh stamina. Until then, I’ll stick to the weights at the gym and maybe even venture over to the elliptical machines once in a while, staying well out of sight of the beloved treadmill.
Interesting article about the runner’s high.
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The marathon completed!

So the marathon is over! Last weekend was a good one. I got several hours’ sleep on call Friday night, and by 0900 Saturday I was heading to Midtown to catch the Chinatown bus to Washington DC. (The Chinatown bus enterprise has expanded to include departures from Midtown which is much more convenient for me.)

It’s always an experience to ride these buses, which provide a $35 round trip between NYC and DC. One looks for a small crowd of people with bags (usually six or eight people if one arrives ten minutes early) waiting on a streetcorner. It’s important to verify with at least two others who speak English that all are waiting for the same bus. At the appointed time, or even a few minutes early, a white, generally unmarked bus will round the corner. At this point, people come out of the woodwork to fill the bus. I’m always impressed with how a group of ten people expands to sixty when the bus pulls up!

On arriving to DC after a thankfully uneventful trip, I descended to the Chinatown Metro station and stood a few minutes baffled by the array of ticket choices. It seems one pays based on the distance traveled, rather than a flat fare as in New York. It’s necessary to save the ticket to exit the Metro as well. I decided on the all-day pass for $6.50 and walked to my train.

The Metro, I must say, was eerily clean and quiet. It reminds me much more of London’s Underground than of the Metro system’s older domestic cousin a couple hundred miles to the north. The trains glide up to the platform as soft red lights flash along the edge, warning the absent-minded straphanger stand back for the approach. The stations feature huge barrel-vaulted ceilings reminiscent of New York’s 168th Street station, only newer, cleaner, and starker. On board the carpeted train, I saw two people, at once, stand and insist that a woman with a toddler take their seats. (Have I changed so much after 16 months in the city? Have I grown so callous, so aloof? My feeling is that if there is as little as one open seat in the car, the young mother can take that one and seat the child on her lap. No reason to give up MY seat!)

Alison lives off the Cleveland Park stop on “The Red Line.” I was amused hearing the locals call the lines by their respective colors on the Metro map. In New York, tourists are easy to spot as they wrestle with maps in blustery Midtown, ride pedicabs through Central Park, or career* through the streets on double-decker buses. But an even surer way of being nailed as a tourist is to call the 1 Train, “The Red Line,” or refer to the 4,5,6 subway as “The Green Line.” Silly Washingtonians! To be fair, I guess they have no need to differentiate between express and local lines.

Alison’s neighborhood was charming. She lives in a four story renovated building just a couple blocks from the Metro stop. The walk their takes one past cafes with sidewalk seating and an old two-story firehouse. She parks her silver convertable Mini Cooper in a dilapidated brick stall off the alley, and her granite-countered, wood-floored apartment is home to two cats, one if which is probably the fattest I’ve seen.

I left my bag at Alison’s before meeting up with Adam & Ashley, and friends Ernest and Sharon back downtown. We rode to Ernest and Sharon’s house in Arlington where we rested for the afternoon. Adam, Ashley, and I watched college football and dozed in front of the TV while Ernest and Sharon attended a Halloween party. Since it got late, I crashed on the living room couch for the night rather than spend an hour trying to get back to Alison’s.

The alarm clocks rang early the next morning! We parked near the Pentagon and joined the throngs of runners and well-wishers in the march around the gigantic building under the cool, pre-dawn sky. After a long wait for the porta-potty and a generous application of anti-chafing lube, Adam was ready to begin.

Adam and Ashley before the race.

Adam and his cheering section. From left, Sharon, Ernest, Ashley, Adam, and Jonathan.

The starting line. It took at least fifteen or twenty minutes for all the runners to pass through!

The first stretch!

We waited for Adam at mile 9, but somehow all four of us missed him! And that, in spite of real-time tracking available online: Adam’s dad would call Ashley periodically with updates; the service also will text-message cell phones with updates on the runners’ progress. Sadly, we weren’t able to see Adam again until the finish line. Here’s his final approach:

Wearing a medal proudly!

I didn’t have too much time to hang out afterward; the others dropped me off in Chinatown for me to catch the bus back. As I waited, I ran into Becky and Carolyn, two friends from Baylor who both then went to church with me in Dallas. Becky lives in Washington now, and Carolyn was up visiting her.

It was a fun, but tiring, weekend. I arrived at my 125th Street station around 2200. It was somehow comforting to be back to the density, the noise, the dirty, screeching subways, and the cool night air of New York City.

Congratulations, Adam!

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The Marine Corps Marathon

Most of my regular readers know that I’ve been training for the Marine Corps Marathon for several months. The big day is Sunday, October 28, in Washington DC.

I’ll be there, but I won’t be running. Since I’ve been out of the world of blogging lately, I haven’t had a chance to update the blog about my knee injury sustained in late August. I went out for a 12 mile run one Saturday and felt fatigued throughout the entire run. I also noticed my hamstrings seemd a little tight.

After only 6 miles, I was feeling so fatigued that I cut the run short, and around that time I noticed a little aching in my knee. “Nothing to worry about,” I thought. “A little ice and ibuprofen will take care of everything.”

Not so. The pain got worse, and for the next few days my knee hurt with nearly every step. I took two weeks off and then ran another short 6 mile run on a soft surface, and the same thing happened.

Given that I’d had knee problems five years ago, I decided it was wisest to bail on the marathon, which was fairly disappointing given that I’d come so far. My long runs were up to 16 miles, and I was beginning to consider a brisk 8-mile run “short.”

I attribute the knee injury to less than ideal training leading to inflammation. I was working in the ICU at the time, and I’d been doing long runs on the weekends without doing as many short runs during the week since I was so busy. The key to successful training, however, is a gradual buildup in both long run mileage as well as total weekly mileage. Perhaps since I wasn’t giving my joints the mild stress of short runs during the week, I didn’t benefit from the strengthening they would have provided and therefore became injured when I attempted my longer runs.

In any case, my medical school friend Adam is now in Washington DC from Texas to run the marathon, so his wife Ashley and I will cheer him on! Most immediately, I have to pack after a night on call and make it to the Chinatown bus pickup spot in Midtown in the next 45 minutes!

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Calm before the storm

As my regular readers can probably tell from my flurry of posting this week, working nights covering the Pain Service has afforded me both some sleep at night and free time during the days. It’s almost like a vacation where I stay in the city and can catch up on things (house cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, packing, signing the new lease) that can be difficult to do during a normal week. I appreciate this, especially since I have eight busy weeks ahead of me working in the ICU and doing cardiac anesthesia, two subspecialties I am particularly interested in.

I worked Monday through Friday nights (1900 to 0800), and then was off for 24 hours until Sunday morning. Today I’m working a 24 hour shift before reporting for duty in the ICU at 0700. The day has been filled doing little things like adjusting patient-controlled analgesia orders, pulling out epidurals, checking on a patient whose epidural accidentally came out while her blood was anticoagulated (we wanted to make sure she didn’t have the potentially devastating complication of an epidural hematoma), and adjusting an overly confused and somnolent patient’s medications. (Oxycodone is worth a shot to minimize unwanted side effects.)

Yesterday was a good day. After coming home, I quickly changed and went for my long run in Central Park. Two loops around made as 12 mile run. The first loop was done in 52 minutes (what I felt was a gentle pace), and the second loop, though I felt I pushed harder, took 55 minutes, bringing my total time to 107 minutes including water breaks. I’m not unhappy with this time, though I would like to work toward eight-and-a-half minute miles. And given the warm, humid weather, this was a good chance to practice disciplined hydration. I noticed that chugging six or seven gulps of water every couple of miles makes a big difference.

Because I’ve worked up a little more gradually to this long run (compared to the half-marathon I did in April), I believe it was a little easier on my body. Sure I was sore afterward, but I didn’t feel as much of an old man as I did after increasing my distances very quickly. I’m beginning to appreciate the wisdom of training carefully to avoid injury.

And lastly, a quick update about my black runner’s toe. I will spare those with a more delicate constitution a picture. Evidently it is common for runners to develop bruising both under the toenail and at the very tip of the digit. Most often, it is caused by shoes that fit too snugly, though increasing distances too quickly may also contribute. Both of these factors may apply in my case, since I tend to buy shoes that fit well. At one point, I was worried I would lose the toenail on my right second toe since it lifted as easily (and painlessly) as one might lift the hood of a Chevy. However, the brusing seems to have healed a bit over the last few days, and the toenail is reaffirming its grasp on the little fleshy nubbin.

The rest of the day was spent packing, going through paperwork, and in the evening Mauricio brought a movie over: Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. I fed him one of my Trader Joe’s BBQ Chicken pizzas, leftover salad, broccoli, and pineapple juice. (Mauricio really likes juice, I have discovered.)

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Running update

The week that just ended Sunday* was one of my best running weeks yet. I ran a total of 26.9 miles in three hours and forty-nine minutes. The sum comprises

  • a 4.9 mile “tempo” run in Central Park (8:07-minute miles),
  • a five-mile treadmill “hill” run (3-4% grade at 8:34-minute miles),
  • a ten-mile “long” run along Riverside Park on Saturday (8:54-minute miles),
  • and a six-mile “easy” run on Sunday (8:14 minute miles).

My easy run didn’t turn out to be so easy. I found myself trying to keep a good pace and really pushed myself up Cat Hill just pass the Boathouse. Only a handful of runners passed me on the six-mile course which tells me my pace is decent. (One was bare-chested and wearing a heart-rate monitor, so I’m not going to worry about him.)

Runners’ World magazine’s online training log helps me keep track of my progress. One of the best features is an integrated google-maps feature that lets me plot my route, and the computer tells me the distance I ran. I suspect the ten-mile run was actually farther, given that the running path’s multiple twists and turns are not well reflected on the route I traced along the Hudson River. In that case, my time per mile should be even less.

It might be a stretch, but I think a goal coming into focus would be to do the marathon in 3:30 hours, which would be eight-minute miles. I definitely have a lot of work to do between now and October 28. My friend Adam, who also happens to be running the Marine Corps Marathon, has made that his goal. It would be great to be able to run with him.

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* I usually think of Saturday as the last day of the week. I find myself disliking corporate calendars that start the week on Monday since it seems very work-oriented. My online training log, however, places Sunday as day 7. (Seems theologically appropriate for a day of rest, but I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind.) Hence, my running week ends on Sunday.

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* Running & Gypsy

A near perfect Saturday:

  • Waking up to sunshine streaming in the window; no alarm
  • Ten mile run along the Hudson River
  • Nap (one hour)
  • Lunch. An episode of The Office with audio commentary.
  • Nap 2 (thirty minutes)
  • Doing this and that around the apartment
  • Picking up last-minute tickets for Gypsy with Patty LuPone, a must-see according to roommate Clay. I talked Mauricio into coming. (This was easy: “Hey Mauricio, do you want to go to a musical?” “Sure.”)
  • Lounging around Midtown waiting for the show.
  • Light dinner of feta-cheese-on-puff-pastry pie and hot tea
  • Gypsy. The show was okay, but Patty LuPone as the lead role, Rose, was outstanding. She carried the show, and the audience knew it as it gave her an immediate standing ovation and round after round of applause which filled the historic City Center theater.
  • Sitting two rows behind Rebecca Romijn. (I didn’t recognize her at the time without her blue Mystique costume.)

  • Quizzing Mauricio on the nuances of the English language. Of the non-native speakers I’ve encountered, Mauricio has by far the best vocabulary; indeed his command of the language is better than most native speakers I know. I wasn’t even able to stump him with the the word recidivism.

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More milestones and angina

Four miles in 28 minutes: Wednesday, June 5th, on treadmill.
Four miles at 1% grade: Done today, on treadmill, in under 32 minutes.

On Saturday I ran the big loop again in the park with Justin and Ezer, My time was right at 52 minutes, which is a full minute slower than my best time; then again, it was considerably warmer and very humid Saturday morning.

The last half-mile or so, leading up the hill to the corner of Central Park West and 110th Street, I really started pushing myself. Within 100 meters of the end, however, I started feeling chest tightness that radiated to the neck and nausea! The sensation stopped nearly immediately once I slowed my pace.

I know what exercising at 15-16 METS feels like, and I believe I was doing considerably more than that, given the grade of the hill and my speed. But still, the experience brought about a good deal of existential clarification when it comes to the concept of angina. I suspected that I was feeling a demand ischemia.

I mentioned this experience to one of the ICU Anesthesiologists, who scoffed at the idea that the pain was cardiac in origin. He mentioned chest wall tightness. I’m doubtful. Theoretically, if the heart rate were not limited by intrinisic properties, someone young like me might push his heart rate to the point where the organ demands more oxygen than can be delivered. This doesn’t mean I have coronary artery disease. Just a heart that can beat faster, perhaps, than it should.

It’s hard to imagine someone feeling the sensation I felt (but sustained and not relieved by rest) and not take himself immediately to the hospital! Scary!

And if you work for Aetna and happen to be reading this, my identity is obscured for a reason!

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