California Trip

Arriving home late Sunday night one week ago, after my four days cycling in Vermont, I had a crammed schedule for three days at work, then I was on my way for another trip. This time, it was out to the coast, the other coast, the one where the sun sets over the Pacific, where palm trees are everywhere, and when running, hills play a major role. Having lived so long on the east coast, I get confused when I return to San Diego. It seems that east and west are reversed, and I must consciously think about which way it is towards the ocean. I took this trip to visit my daughter, who lives in the University Heights neighborhood, and to work on our family’s house in Poway, which we are maintaining and repairing to get it rented. I also planned to attend the fortieth reunion of my high school graduation. Forty years seems to me a ridiculously long time ago.

I had not run for three days due to my need to recover from the cycling, but it was also a forced break due to the work schedule, and travel. So, on arrival in San Diego, I was eager to get out there and run again. I landed in San Diego late Wednesday night, with my daughter Audrey and her boyfriend Evan there to greet me. I wanted to get in a ten miler as a start, so I looked at the map with Audrey and planned my route. On previous trips I ran around Balboa Park and back to her apartment, a five mile route. So, to add another five miles I added a loop from Balboa Park down to Harbor Drive, out to Harbor Island and then back. The next morning, after a quick breakfast of raisin bran, I headed out for my run. As practice for Steamtown, this is a great route. After about a mile of gentle rolling hills, it goes in and out of a canyon in Balboa Park, for a sharp descent and a steep climb. It levels for a bit around the park, then turns down to Harbor Drive dropping several hundred feet over a mile or so which really stresses the quads. Along Harbor Drive is a multi-use paved path which passes by a coast guard facility and the airport, and is completely flat. Once I hit five miles (plus a little extra, to be sure) on the trusty Garmin, I turned around and did the return trip. I took basically the same route, except went down El Prado in Balboa Park, past the museums, the Spreckles Organ Pavilion, and the Old Globe Theater to the other side of the park and made my way back. The climb back up from Harbor Drive to the park is a real beast, seemingly unending and very steep. Once at the park, though, it is a relatively easy run back to the start. I got in my ten miles, and it felt alright, though the quads had suffered, especially on the downhill segments. My average pace was about 8:54. The rest of the day was pure vacation. We spent two hours at Ocean Beach. Audrey and Evan played Frisbee and went swimming, while I was content to sit on a folding chair, taking in rays, and reading a book. Later, Audrey and I went shopping at Horton Plaza in San Diego. When I was in high school, Horton Plaza was where the navy and army recruits got into fights and went to massage parlors. Now, it is an upscale shopping area, with elegant stores and restaurants. In fact, the whole downtown area of San Diego has been upgraded, and we saw many tourists and locals making for a busy scene. That night, Audrey and I ate out at a sushi restaurant within walking distance of her apartment.

The following day, we planned to go out to Poway to work on the house. I ran the shorter route that morning, the five mile loop around Balboa Park, which still includes the canyon for a steep descent and climb, ever thinking of the Steamtown profile. Again, my pace was around 8:55, still feeling sore quads from the day before. We drove up to Poway, and spent about five hours on the house, repairing a split rail fence around the property which had gotten dilapidated and was falling over in many places. The house looks better than it has looked in a long time, with help from Ray the landscape guy, and Audrey and Evan’s impressive efforts. After the fence work, taking down some overgrown bushes, and installing a new light in a bedroom, we took ten minutes to jump in the pool before we had to head back to get Evan to work. The pool is being cared for by a pool service, so it was clean and felt great. That night, Audrey and I put together a pasta dinner with “home made” sausages from her local Sprouts supermarket. Sprouts is a very health-oriented grocery store, with mostly organic and locally grown foods.

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Evan and Frank and the Improved Fence

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Frank cools off in the pool.

The following day, Saturday, I was feeling good, and wanted to run another ten miler. I did essentially the same route as on Thursday, except on reaching Harbor Drive I turned left instead of right. This brought me past the sailboats docked in the harbor, the Maritime Museum of SD with it’s historic sailing ships, and the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier launched the 20th of March, 1945. After service in Viet Nam and Operation Desert Storm, with many missions in-between, she is permanently docked in San Diego as a museum. The last stretch along Harbor Drive reached Seaport Village, a collection of cutesy shops and theme restaurants, built for the nearby convention center and hotels. With the large number of tourists walking the cobbled paths, and the enviable weather of San Diego, it is no surprise that innumerable homeless denizens call this area “home”. On a historical note, this village is built on landfill over Punta de los Muertos, burial site of sailors from Spanish expeditions of the mid 1700’s, many of whom died of scurvy. Again turning around at the five mile mark, I headed back to the climb up Laurel Street, past Solar Turbine Corp. and the leading edge of the airport runway, under “the 5” as Interstate 5 is known in California, and up the incline to Balboa Park. Then it was over “Suicide Bridge”, the bridge over the Cabrillo Freeway. Apparently, suicides there were popular until the Coronado Bridge was opened in 1969. Contrary to this theme, I was feeling strong and upbeat, and managed to keep a good pace right up to the finish, around 8:35 average for the ten miles.

After the run, I got my hair cut at Axle Hair Labor by Jackie. I mention this because this place epitomizes west coast vibe. Jackie was very nice and did a great job with what hair I have. We then headed out to Ramona, to the Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery where my daughter is the marketing manager. It is a beautiful winery on a rocky hillside, surrounded by mountains. It’s owner, Kit, and his winemaker, Jim, create wines equal in my mind to some of the better Napa wineries. I realize I may be biased, but trying to be objective, I was very impressed. I got a tour of the vineyards, learned how to measure sugar content of the grapes and when to pick, and tasted their wines in their nicely appointed tasting room.

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Hummingbird at Milagro Farms

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Audrey and Sangiovese Grapes at Milagro Farms

That evening, I had tickets to attend my fortieth high school reunion, as I mentioned. Having only attended Poway H.S. for two years, being in Scottsdale, AZ, for my first two years, I did not grow up with these folks, and I did not feel I knew them very well, or that they would even remember me. With that thought process, I decided to skip the reunion and instead spend the last night of my trip going out to dinner with Audrey and Evan. We went to a tiny restaurant called The Farm House Cafe, on Adams Street. We talked, ate delicious provincial French fare, had good wine and beer, and it was to me much more valuable than the reunion possibly could have been.

The next day, back on the plane, I flew back to Philadelphia, thinking wistfully of the last two weeks spent cycling in Vermont, running in San Diego, and generally enjoying myself.

Frank

Killington to Stratton

The last day of our four day tour of the Green Mountains was planned to take us back to our starting point, a bit of a round about route from Killington back to Stratton. We had started to enjoy life in the mountains, in nice condos, eating big dinners, drinking beer ad-lib from local breweries and having desert each night. The stars at night in the mountains are spectacular. The milky way shines through, and myriad stars one never sees fill in the sky among the more common constellations one can see in the backyard back home. We all slept well in our Trail Creek condo, even Keith, who had suffered the hard fall the day before and had to abandon the tour. Yes, he let out some odd groans whenever he turned in his sleep, but he managed to sleep through the night. For breakfast, we had bought the fast food favorite, sausage and cheese on english muffins, bagels, and coffee from the hotel convenience store next door the night before. Keith, who would be getting a ride directly to Stratton, had arranged for our bags to be brought back up to the hotel, where they would be picked up and brought to Stratton, too. The movement of luggage to each person’s hotel or condo each day cannot have been a simple task, and I commend the organizers for carrying this out flawlessly during the tour.

With the luggage taken care of, and Keith’s transport arranged, we got our bikes out and headed down the Killington access road to start our last day’s ride. Dan B. and I let gravity have it’s way as we sped down the hill we struggled up the night before. Dan T., not having the same lust for a fast downhill, laid on the brakes and took it more slowly. Dan B. and I arrived at the junction of route 4 well ahead of Dan T., and we crossed the highway to where the director of the tour, John Sohikian, was waiting with his van and tire pumps. We chatted with John, telling him how much we had enjoyed this four-day tour, and how well it was organized, as we topped off our tires for the last leg. Meanwhile, Dan T., having arrived at the bottom of the access road, missing the fact that we were waiting for him across the street, took off in a mad rush to catch us who were behind him. He spent the rest of the morning chasing us down, skipping the Magic Mountain rest stop, and beat us back to the finish line by a good margin. Dan B. and I, meanwhile, came back up to the intersection and realized that the other Dan had taken off solo. We headed out down route 100, enjoying the incredibly beautiful scenery, but also keeping a pretty fast pace as we headed towards Ludlow. Dan B. makes quite an engine. I was just barely able to hang in his slipstream as he paced me over the rolling route. Our first rest stop was at the Clocktower Center in Ludlow, where there once was a very comfortable and funky coffee shop called “A State of Bean”. It is now a snowboard shop, alas. The next segment of the ride took us to a rest stop at Magic Mountain. This is a smaller resort than the others we visited, and it was closed due to bankruptcy in the 1990’s. Apparently, it is now open again, but will still face the challenge of being surrounded by larger and more familiar resorts. It was at this point we could have opted for a bus ride back up to Stratton, avoiding the climb up the Stratton Mountain road. Many of the other riders were doing this, perhaps to get back earlier and start their drive home. But Dan B. and I, and we were certain, Dan T. as well, were not going to skip the last big climb of the trip. We mounted back up for the last leg of the day’s ride, down route 100, up route 30, and finally, all the way up the Stratton Mountain road to the base lodge. As it turned out, though a bit of a challenge compared to what we had already done, that last climb was not so bad, “only” reaching grades of around 10-12 %. As we rode up the last bit, our cell phones were going off, and we knew it was Dan T. wanting to know where we were. It turns out, he had missed the turn for the Magic Mountain rest stop and skipped it all together, just continuing on to the finish. Our ride that day was about 65 miles, and seemed short, done by noon.

We saw that our luggage was delivered and waiting for us. We went for lunch under a large tent set up in the area next to the gondola. Summer visitors were taking the gondola up to the top of Stratton to get in some hiking. John Sohikian was making rounds at all the tables, asking how we liked the tour, and gathering mental notes for next year. Keith had already been dropped off and he left us a note on our car, saying he would be up for another trip next summer. We changed out of our cycling clothes for the ride back home and got the bags and bikes back into and onto Dan B.’s hybrid SUV. We then drove off, leaving behind the beautiful Green Mountains, and heading back to our workaday lives.

This was an exciting and challenging tour. It had classic elements of man vs. man, man vs. nature, and even man vs. dog. It was at times sublimely relaxing, drinking beer with our feet up on the Lay-Z-Boy sectional sofa telling jokes, and at others, harrowing, requiring keen attention as we shot downhill, around mountain curves, avoiding road fissures and gravel while logging trucks and other vehicles passed us. Whether this will hurt my marathon training for October 7, I don’t know. I would say I kept up with the cardiac training, and my legs got an impressive workout, just not with the same action as running. Now to get back to the roadwork. We’ll be getting in more miles and longer runs in the next few weeks, as my training partners Steve, Brian and Tony did last Sunday, with their twenty miler. Good going, guys!

As a post-script, I heard from Keith that he got checked when he got home regarding his injuries. It turns out he cracked two ribs, had an A-C separation (acromio-clavicular), and a small pneumothorax. Tough guy, that Keith.

Frank

Happiness is…

 

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…..running my first 20 mile practice run of 2012 successfully and after being passed by some dude at mile 6 passing him at mile 16 and logging over 3 hours of (almost) non-stop running and  burning 2862 calories (equal to 4 Big Macs) and thanks to Steve for showing the terrific Lloyds Hall route and letting my little salt loving dog lick my ankle as much as he wants.

Okemo to Killington

A century ride is unpredictable. Like a marathon, all sorts of things can happen in a long event like this. Weather changes, injuries, bonking and so on can all play a role. Our ride today took us from Okemo to Killington, not a very long trip if your purpose is just to go from one to the other, about 27.5 miles. But that’s not what we did. The route started at Jackson Gore in Okemo, the newest development of the Okemo Ski Resort. Again, breakfast was simple, granola, Greek yoghurt, pastries, coffee and orange juice. We then headed out, up route 100, which runs the length of the green mountains. At route 4, we turned to go past Killington access road, and started the first serious climb of the day, the Sherbourne Pass. It was a good warmup for the climbs to come. After cresting the top of the pass, we had a four mile drop down to Rutland. Racing down these long hills takes nerves, The road has two lanes going up, but only one coming down, making the combination of fast cars and trucks, and narrow, jagged ruts on the side of the road treacherous for the cyclist. Before getting in to Rutland, we turned north, for a loop that would ultimately take us to the major climb of the day, the Brandon Gap. My good friend from college, Keith, and I rode together here along with Dan T. Our other Dan (B.) had taken off at a faster pace and hooked up with a fast group from Connecticut. It turned out Connecticut supplied the most riders of any state for the Vermont Challenge. This seems in no small part due to the director being from Connecticut, with a house in Vermont, and convincing a large contingent of his cycling club to come up for the event. We were content going at a moderate pace, and we even stopped to take a few photos of the Vermont countryside. In this part of the state, there is almost no open or forest land. It’s all farms, some very well kept, some a bit bedraggled appearing. We also saw signs of the destruction from Hurricane Irene, with crumbled buildings and road-sides washed away. There were also many stretches of new pavement where, we were told, entire roads were destroyed. The Vermont Challenge is a fund raiser to help Vermont recover from the effects of Irene. Cycling along these farm roads, we had to stop every now and then to take photos of the picturesque rolling hills, with barns and silos, fields of corn, and the blue sky with cumulous clouds setting the tone. It was along one of these stretches, about a mile or so from the fifty mile rest stop, that we saw a golden retriever zip uncaringly across the road to where a few workers were harvesting hay. As we approached, with Dan T. having shot ahead of Keith and I, we saw a cat running across the road with a mouse in its mouth. The dog came bounding after, right in front of Keith, and he hit the dog. Keith went down hard. He wasn’t riding very fast, and didn’t slide, but instead came down with great force, and lay sideways on the ground making a terrifying noise and managing to say, “I can’t breathe.” I quickly got off my bike and rushed over to him. I helped him turn on his back as he started to come around and his breathing became more normal. The owner of the farm we were passing, who was not the owner of the dog, nor the hay field, came out to help. He moved his industrial sized pickup truck out to the road to block traffic. By then, Keith was starting to breathe more normally. His left shoulder was giving him intense pain, and at first glance, seemed to have a separation between the collar bone and the shoulder. On closer exam, it wasn’t separated, but it was badly bruised. He was sitting up and thinking more clearly. Finally, he was able to stand, and we took a look at his bike. The handle bars were about 90 degrees skewed, but the gears and wheels were intact. I was able to muscle the handlebars back into alignment. Since we were only a mile from the rest stop, we decided to ride there, and Keith could decide if he could continue. It was a very slow mile, particularly painful for Keith, who was cruelly jarred by every little bump in the road. By the time we arrived at the rest stop, Keith was in a lot of pain, and clearly could not go on. The provider of our rest stop snacks, BonkSupport.com, offered to give Keith and his bike a ride to the finish, at Killington Mountain. Keith quickly accepted, recognizing that his Vermont Challenge Tour had come to an abrupt end.

I continued on. Dan T. had already gone blithely ahead, not aware of the accident that felled our companion. The next twenty miles I rode solo, seeing no one from the ride ahead or behind me. This was supposed to be a loop of bucolic splendor, but it was tough not to think about Keith and how he was fairing.  The next stop, at 70 miles was a very brief one. I saw Dan T. heading up the hill as I arrived, but he was too far ahead to hear me, and I needed to get some water and have a gel before starting the main climb. I filled my water bottle from a faucet outside the store, downed a gel I had in my pocket, then started out on the five mile climb. The first four miles were not too severe. I kept a steady but slow pace except where the road occasionally dipped down, for a short break from the climb. At about the four mile mark, the road enters a national forest, and gets severely steep. It took every bit of strength I could muster from my legs to pedal up the last mile, reaching grades of fourteen percent, with no significant flat areas to take a break. As I struggled, going around four to five miles per hour, a young, slender woman rode past me, saying, “I’d say I was passing, but I’m too tired to say it”, when a mere “passing” would have been sufficient. As I approached the summit of the climb, I noticed signs for the Long Trail, the oldest established hiking trail in the United States, and which I plan to hike next summer. After a short stop at the top with a few other cyclists who came up shortly after me, and a round of congratulations, I headed down the four mile descent, taking care to avoid the fissures in the road as I sped around the curves. The last stretch of the ride was to the base of Killington Mountain, then up the Killington Mountain Road to Outback Pizza, about three miles up the road. With all the climbing we had done, I really didn’t want to climb any more. But I made it to the restaurant, where the two Dans were already perched on bar stools telling stories with the other intrepid cyclists, drinking beer courtesy of the Otter Creek brewery, and eating sandwiches provided us by the tour.

After two beers, yes, two, we got back on our bikes to climb the last mile up the road to our Condo, which Keith had already staked out for us. He got our bags delivered to our room, and made a reservation for us at a nearby restaurant. We were completely beat from riding 106 miles with 6875 feet of climbing, but managed to recover and had a very good meal at Ovations restaurant, at the Killington Grand Lodge. We headed back to the condo, and, floating high on our ride, but also on the wine and beer we drank, came up with an idea for a sitcom we plan to call “Four Guys”, about for cycling friends who get into all sorts of crazy predicaments. Then it was to bed, to rest up for the next day’s challenges.

Frank

Manchester to Okemo

Manchester doesn’t seem to have much in the way of early breakfast. Up For Breakfast, the breakfast place locals like, opens at 7, but we needed to get breakfast a bit earlier in order to get to the ride start on time. Dan B. walked down to the combo Mobile gas station and Maplefields minimart, and brought back a variety of egg and sausage sandwiches, donuts and coffee. Another champion’s breakfast. We gathered for the ride at the Dana Thompson Recreation Park. We were led out on a loop through town, although the expected cheering throngs of townies did not materialize, then headed out for day two. The first twenty miles were covered in well under one hour, since the road was relatively flat and we had a tail-wind. In spite of our speed, we still were able to appreciate the scenery, including dairy farms, meadows with wild flowers, and a large lake, along Route 30. The route got moderately hilly the second 20 miles, which slowed us down considerably, and we lost the tail wind. We stopped at a bakery at around 35 miles to refuel. As with most places in rural Vermont, it had a quaint look, and served home baked goodies that were very tasty. I was feeling a major bonk at this point, and I think my week on call the week before was catching up with me. The last 28 miles included some very long, but moderate grade climbing, long downhills, some highway riding, and it proved to be a great opportunity for 71 year old Dan T. to show what he can do. He really powered up the hills, keeping pace with Dan B., and outpacing Keith and me by a mile. The Lion of Haddonfield roared today! Our ride finished at the Outback Pizza in Ludlow, where very nice sandwiches and salads were waiting for us, and the Otter Creek brewery rep was providing our group free beer. Total miles about 68. Then, we had to mount back up and ride a mile back to the elegant Jackson Gore Lodge, where we checked in to our luxury suite (for real, we are in a premium 3 bedroom suite). Keith and I took advantage of the pool here for a casual swim. Dinner was a barbecue mix of pulled pork, cowboy beans and slaw, while listening to a local band. This was a regular event here, not specific for our group, so a lot of the locals turned out. Tomorrow is a major ride, 104 miles over steep climbs and fast downhills. Should be good.

Frank

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Stratton to Manchester

Day one in my adventure in Vermont started on Stratton Mountain, a place with which I am ver familiar. I’ve been here dozens of times with my family for ski trips, but never in the summer. My group, Dan T., Dan B., Keith and I decided to stay in a condo In Stratton, and we wound up being assigned the very same unit my family stayed in back in February when we were here to ski. We were here for the inaugural edition of the Vermont Challenge, a four day point-to-point cycling tour in the Green Mountains. We got checked in to our condo easily enough. We then wandered the area of the Stratton Village, searching for signs of life and the registration area for the event. Finally, we located it in a building near the gondola. Looking up the mountain, the ski runs look very different, covered in green grass and surrounded by leafed-out trees. We signed in and were given a strap to be worn around our wrist the duration of the event, like the ones used at multi-day concerts. We got a large bag with a Vermont Challenge cycling jersey, very attractive, although Dan T. thought it was “hideous”. It also contained a bunch of Hammer gels, several tourist pamphlets, printed cue sheets, and a name badge. Upstairs in the bar, they had dinner waiting for us, buffet-style burgers, salad and brownies, plus we were given two tickets for beers from the bar. A live band of slightly past-their-prime rockers was playing, including one odd song “Take it like a man”. I wasn’t sure what kind of bar this was… Anyway, this was the send off party for the group, and we sat out on the deck, enjoyed the view of the mountain, and just relaxed. We got a speech by the director of the event, thanking all those who helped, naming all the sponsors, and giving instructions on how to proceed the next day.

The next morning we got up early, got our suitcases to the drop-off point, and got a barely adequate breakfast of raisin bran, yoghurt, bagels and coffee. After the obligatory speech, again thanking the sponsors, about fifty riders headed out for the first day’s ride. This number would grow with each day, as many more riders would be joining us for the three, two and one day options. The first part of the ride was a long, screaming downhill, part of which was through a road construction zone. The flag girl held traffic for us as our group rode through. Then the ride started into rolling hills, and a couple more long down hills before we got to the valley where Manchester is. This ride was a pretty benign ride, mostly down hill, with a long loop around Manchester, before winding up in a beautiful park outside of Manchester. The total miles for the day was 56. They had a catered lunch waiting for us under a large tent, music playing from speakers set up by our combination DJ and photographer, and we sat out enjoying the warm sun.

We checked into our inn, a very quaint old victorian house called Sutton’s Place, run by Frank Sutton for over thirty years. He’s a tall gent who lives with his wife in the inn, charges very reasonable rates, and is very accommodating. The inn is close to Northshire Bookstore, which I feel is the best independent bookstore in the country. We spent an hour browsing, and each of us buying a book or three. I bought “This is a book” by Demetri Martin. Very funny. After that, I had to get in a run. I did a five mile run out Barnumville Road 2.5 miles then back. I was able to manage an 8:50 average, with some significant hills in the run. I’m thinking of laying off the running the rest of the tour since the serious climbing is coming. Dinner was at “Ye Old Tavern” (for real) and it was delicious. Then it was back to the inn to get rested for the next day.

Frank

Vermont Challenge

Ed told me, “Frank, at some point you will need to decide between cycling and running in your training.” This was a few years ago when I was training for my first marathon, but still cycling a few days a week. Over the next year I made a big shift, devoting more time to running, and putting fewer miles on the Pinarello. Now, I still ride to work when I can, and get in the occasional longer ride. Ironically, the last longer ride I took was out to Valley Forge with Ed, Michelle, and a resident of mine named Mike. Ed’s knees don’t allow him to run like he used to, and he has become a cycling and swimming demon.

Today, I awoke at five AM, because that is my habit, but I’m in a condo on Stratton Mountain getting ready to ride the four-day Vermont Challenge. This is the inaugural year for this event, which, on paper, looks very daunting. It’s four days of cycling in the Green Mountains of central Vermont, going from point to point. We start from Stratton to Manchester, then Manchester to Okemo. The third day is Okemo to Killington, and the last day is Killington back to Stratton. Each day is around 60 miles, except for the third day which covers 104 miles and includes a long, hard climb in the middle of the route. Of course, this being the Green Mountains, it appears every day is all climbing and descending, since there is not much flat here.

Whether this will hurt my training for Steamtown, or be a good counterpoint, with a successful cross-training effect, I don’t know. I am up here with three friends, two Dans and a Keith, with whom I ride every year, and we are out to have four tough but fun days of cycling. I think I’ll be riding into shape during the event, and not hoping to shine the first day. I will try to write each day to let folks know how this respite from marathon training is going. I brought my running shoes with me in the fanciful belief I could get in a run or two. We’ll see if that happens…

Frank

I run. I doctor.

As an Internal Medicine resident I penned a letter to the Nike corporation suggesting they sponsor out internal medicine team. Sports companies sponsor amateur teams from Little League to college. It seemed reasonable the best known sports company in the world may want to throw its sponsorship in the direction of some underpaid, overworked residents, especially when I imagined the TV commercial.

University Hospitals of Cleveland, 2 AM .…Any day

….the camera catches the bottom the green scrubs, the tail of the well worn white lab coat a glancing view of the Nike swoosh as it pans the ankles and feet of medical residents in a dimly lit room. You can barely make out the tired voices….

Resident #1: “Ms. Murphy spiked another fever. I need to draw blood cultures after I get the ABG on room 545, and check the PTT on 318. Only 16 hrs and my 36 hours are over. Then I can sleep in my own bed.”

Resident # 2: The Chief Resident called – we have an admission in the ER. A 78 y/o woman with urosepsis and a change in mental status; another sleepless night.”

Overhead announcement: “Code Blue!!!, 8th floor Lerner Tower, Code Blue!!!

The camera catches four figures scrambling out the door, stethoscopes in hand, rounding the corner. When they spot another medical waiting at the elevator they crash through the door into the stairwell and furiously climb flights of stairs, beads of sweat forming as their breathing becoming simultaneously more rapid and audible. Springing out of the stairwell the four heroes dash into a patient’s room as the crash cart slides in, and other team members collapse into the small patient room. The four residents take their positions: chest compressions, airway management, vascular access and the senior resident at the head of the bed barking out commands. They work  feverously works to regain a pulse while the other medical team, the one waiting at the elevator, watches helplessly from outside. As the cardiac monitor acknowledges the beep and digital display of a heartbeat, across the screen in large letters:

Save Lives.

Just Do It! Then the Nike swoosh and …fade to black.

I never received a response.

Now my rounding looks at lot like my running. No sprinting to codes, just the long plodding of more miles; caring for patients with chronic illness. The punishing 36 hour shifts have given way to years of patient medical practice.

I now take call from home, but needing to round at two hospitals this past Sunday. The Steamtown Marathon is two months away and I am in the midst of increasing mileage. No time to take a weekend off. At 4:45 AM I rolled out of bed, and by 5:25 I was starting the first steps of 17 miles. A quick shower, a 2 minute breakfast, and then out the door to start hospital rounds.

At the end of the day I am fatigued and can feel the ache in my legs, but I am satisfied my miles and my medical advice have been solid. And satisfied from a day of physical and mental work. Hopefully both result in positive outcomes.  

I have no true aspirations for a professional sponsorship – at least not from running. At one time it was fun to think about a completely different biathlon: running and saving lives. But those days are long gone. I run. I doctor. Two separate events that keep me whole.

Hydration, Electrolytes, and Running

My cycling friend, Dan T., brought to my attention an article in Mother Jones, an online and print news magazine, which asks the question, “Do Sports Drinks Really Work?”  The article is a discussion of seven articles in the British Medical Journal which discuss the research supposedly supporting sports drink manufacturers’ claims that their products actually improve athletes’ performance.  In the articles, very valid arguments are made that the whole science behind sports drink claims is heavily tainted by the source of funding for the research, the small number of participants enrolled in the studies, the lack of adequate controls, no blind studies, the proprietary nature of the studies, little or no studies showing negative results, and the sources of funding for the journals and societies themselves.

The lead article of the seven, titled “The Truth about Sports Drinks,” is an investigative essay looking at the rise of the sports drink industry, the ownership of the various sports drinks by the giant multinational corporations Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Glaxo Smith Klein, and the way the have used supposedly scientific research to support their claims that sports drinks are a necessary adjunct to superior athletic performance.  The science comes from institutes owned by the sports drink companies themselves, or from researchers heavily supported by the companies.  Assumptions, such as the major role of maximizing hydration, the claim that thirst lags behind the need for fluid replacement, that water alone is inferior to the sports drinks for achieving hydration, that color of urine is a key indicator of whether one’s hydration is adequate, are all made without good  scientific evidence.  For the article, the writer and staff studied hundreds of articles used by these companies to justify their claims, and found that the “quality of the evidence was so poor that it was impossible to draw firm conclusions about the effects of the sports drink.”  The research and marketing have been taken as proof by many sports medicine physicians, coaches, and everyday athletes, and become a kind of gospel of training and competing.  A major criticism in the article is that the marketing is also directed to teens and children participating in typical school or club sports, contributing to child obesity.

All of us who run marathons, participate in triathlons, engage in long cycling events, or do other endurance sports, have been influenced by this.  Not everyone buys into it.  We are offered either water or a sports drink at most running events, and my personal observation is that about half the runners go with water.  I’ve been offered gels and salt packets at marathons, advised to “make sure to start hydrating at least a day before”, told to drink before I got thirsty, and all sorts of other hydration related advice.  It becomes especially confusing training in the summer, with warm days of high humidity when we sweat so much our socks squish with every step, and we look like we jumped in a lake.  I know I need water, and I even get terrifically thirsty, but knowing what is appropriate fluid replacement, and whether the sports drink claims have any merit at all is not a simple thing.  I would recommend anyone with an interest in this to look at the articles, and see how they examine with the rigor of true, objective scientific investigators the truth about the claims and marketing of the sports drink makers.

Frank
Ref:  BMJ 2012;345:e4737 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4737 (Published 18 July 2012)

Mother Jones, “Do Sports Drinks Really Work?, All that stuff about replacing electrolytes and so on you’ve been hearing all these years? Not so much.”  By | Mon Jul. 30, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Slackers

Each athlete, whether amateur or professional, has the athletic standard they can reach and the level of competition they achieve. The great assumption is we will all work to the best of our ability; however, our mental and physical state along with our previous experiences limit what we can achieve. Malcolm Gladwell writes on this very topic in “Slackers” (New Yorker July 30, 20120), when he highlights the career of running great Alberto Salazar and reviews his new memoir. Gladwell muses that Salazaar is an anti-slacker (my term, not his), who in his prime, worked beyond the expectations of his coaches and co-runners – sometimes to his detriment. Steve Prefontaine ran times far quicker than would be calculated by his vO2 max.

I incorporate the idea of the slacker in my training runs. As my weekly mileage increases and the workouts increase in intensity I hope I will be able to run at the level of competition I have set for myself.  In the last 2 months before Steamtown my goal is to minimize my slacking. Every long run – no slacking. Each interval or hill workout – no slacking. Every lost toenail, blister, sore muscle – no slacking. I have run enough to understand the challenge. Now I just need to run the very best I can.

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