Getting to Know The Laminator20 Questions About Me, Part II
11. Do you like being on the Flyer team or do you prefer running just for yourself?
I spent the first three years of my running career running on my own and the last two years as a member of the Flyers and you know what…that’s just no comparison. Running as a New York Flyer absolutely rocks. Not only do all my teammates cheer me on at every single race, challenge me when I’m stagnant, humble me when I become too self-involved, educate me on running stuff that I never knew I didn’t know, inspire me when I’m unmotivated to run, and generally help me to train for longer distances and faster PRs than I ever imagined I could, they also, to a man (and woman), understand me as a runner like no group of friends I’ve ever had. I attribute much of the success I’ve enjoyed on the roads the past two years to the fact that I run as a New York Flyer, the best running club ever!
12. Why did you start blogging? Do you feel like blogging about your running helps you run better?
I addressed my motivation for blogging in this post I wrote a few years ago on Why I Run. In it, I mentioned that I used to be a writer/poet and wanted to use this forum as a venue for my running related thoughts. To be honest, when I started this meager attempt at self-expression, I never figured this to be more than a one year project. So when I recently celebrated my 300th post earlier last month in this my third year of blogging, it was a bit overwhelming and surreal.
Although the subjects I cover and the general readership has changed a bit over the years, I feel the blog has evolved right alongside me and my running. This, I think, is a good thing because it keeps the topics and my perspectives new, fresh, and a whole lot of fun to read and write about.
As for helping me run better, well, I think my natural type A personality would likely have done that anyway. But what blogging and my bloggy friends have done for me is to keep me accountable for my running, training, and racing. No longer would I ever allow myself to bail in the middle of a race or a long run if it means having to ‘fess up and explain why I sucked to the rest of the running world. I think I’d rather tell my mom that I broke her $1000 vase when I was twelve playing baseball in the living room than blog about some meaningless race that I started but never finished…sad but true!
13. A while back you said you were reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. What do you think about the book – especially the ideas he reports on about barefoot running and modern maladies caused by running shoes?
Wow. A toughie. So tough in fact that I conveniently “forgot” to write a review of the book after I had finished reading it. Sucks for me someone noticed! Well, the truth of the matter is that although I found the book a very interesting read and recommend it highly to everyone, I cannot buy into the passionate fervor of the barefoot running/minimalist shoes movement that the author advocates in the book. Don’t get me wrong – I too believe that the modern running shoe is a bit excessive and probably over time weakens the foot/arch structure of the general everyday runner. But the absence of proof isn’t really proof of the converse. Just because there is no proof that the modern running shoe decreases or prevents injuries doesn’t mean that barefoot or minimal shoes is the perfect solution. I think everyone’s foot structure is unique and everyone’s running form is unique. Therefore, the stresses we place on the hundreds of ligaments, tendons, and bones that make up our knees, leg, and feet when we run are going to differ. As such, there is not going to be one universal method of running that will apply to all and prevent all from injury. I take the approach that barefoot running is just one of a myriad of ways to run. It is not better or worse than running with shoes (assuming you are running in the right shoes for you), it is just different. Just like not every child is born with perfect vision – some will need glasses at an early age, not every runner is born with feet that will support injury-free barefoot running over a lifetime and will benefit from some shoe support. The trick is finding the right type of shoes that will fit your feet and your needs and not impact your natural running form. How to determine that is a whole another discussion. So from my perspective, I think the jury is out on this debate because the truth is that there is a lack of objective quantifiable research information on all of this. Most of the evidence you will find in support of barefoot running is for the most part speculative, anecdotal, and subject to individual interpretation. I think this NY Times article echoes my sentiments and presents the most unbiased arguments for both sides that I have come across.
14. Did you always want to be a kid doc?
Hmmm, I always knew I was going to be a doctor from an early age (as the result of some experiences I had growing up which I will get into later) but I didn’t really know I was going to be a pediatrician until the last year of medical school. In retrospect, I guess I should have known earlier on because I think and act so much like a kid anyways (hence my passion for doing crazy things and running!) But all through college and medical school, I thought I was going to be a psychiatrist because I loved talking to people and counseling them through their problems. All my friends used to tell me what a great listener I am (whatever that means) and I was always the first one most of them came to with their relationship drama and parental/sibling issues, etc. So I entered medical school thinking that psychiatry was my calling. It wasn’t until I started rotating through the hospital wards as a medical student and got to see what psychiatry was about in the real world (Dealing with drug abusers, criminals and psychotic schizophrenics on a daily basis was NOT my idea of fun!) that I knew a career shift was in order. So I decided on pediatrics because I remember feeling the happiest when I’m around that part of the hospital. Also, kids are resourceful and innocent and their illnesses and diseases aren’t the result of their own bad behaviors or judgments (as compared to the usual problems we see in adults). Most of all, most problems that kids have are reversible and curable, which makes it definitely more fun to diagnose and treat. As an added incentive, most doctors who see and treat children look and feel younger too! So yeah, that’s how I ended up as a kid doctor and since day 1, I can’t say I’ve ever really regretted that decision.
15. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Ooh, I feel like I’ll have to make a list for this one…so I will.
Best parts of my job:
Playing with the children, acting like a kid and it being perfectly acceptable.
Telling a teenage and her family that she’s cured of (thyroid) cancer.
Acting as a confidant for a girl who isn’t quite ready to tell her parents that she’s pregnant even as they are right outside in the waiting room thinking she’s got some weird recurrent abdominal pain.
Helping families decide the proper sex of rearing for a baby born with ambiguous genitalia (male and female sex organs)
Finding the proper diagnosis and treatment for a perplexing case.
Teaching young medical students and residents how to act and think doctorly.
Conducting clinical research and finding answers to some of life’s most basic questions (ex. What triggers puberty? How come some otherwise healthy kids grow up so much taller than their parents while others are so much shorter?)
Maybe someday winning the Nobel Prize? (okay, maybe I’m getting just a little ahead of myself here…I need to find the cure for diabetes or cancer first!)
Worst parts of my job:
Losing in a video game to a 5 year old.
Having no community-based resources to help kids who are morbidly obese.
Telling mom or dad that their child has diabetes and will need finger pricks and insulin injections for life.
Finding out what’s wrong and not being able to help.
Witnessing kids suffer the consequences of being born to bad parents.
Not being able to offer candy to a diabetic child after their visit on Halloween.
Watching children die from a debilitating and incurable disease.
Telling parents that their son/daughter will not be able to have children.
Helping families cope with the inadequacies of our current healthcare system.
Actually, for a more concrete example of how all of this fits into a typical day for me, I encourage you to read an earlier post of mine, titled “A Most Extraordinary Day”.
16. How did you get into medicine? was is lifelong dream? a particular course? A personal experience?
There’s a part of me that really didn’t want to answer this one, and I contemplated skipping it entirely or just giving a superficial and facetious answer like they do on one of those talk shows when the host asks something that’s completely obscene or inappropriate, but then I decided that since I was the one who opened Pandora’s box in the first place and asked to be asked questions, I should not shy away from my responsibility in revealing the details of my life honestly, even if it will make me and everyone else reading this slightly uncomfortable. Besides, I think retelling this story might help inspire me to run a little better in the later stages of NYCM (now just 7 days away, yikes!).
So for the story of how I ended up in medicine, I’d have to take you back some 25 years, to a time when I was just a 10-year-old little boy. At the time my simple life consisted only of school and home. Because my knowledge of the English language was still severely lacking (I had immigrated to the states at the age of 8) and I was uncomfortable making friends with neighbors or kids at school, I never ventured to play outside or participate in after-school activities. The only playmate I had back in those days was my sister S who went everywhere and did everything with me. Although S was technically two years my younger, one could never tell from our interactions who the elder was. That was because S knew English better than me (she was born here; I wasn’t), S knew the neighbors and the streets better than me (she lived in that house way before me) and S understood the TV and cartoons better than me. Is it a wonder then that I followed her lead wherever she went instead of the other way around? And because my parents both had full time jobs during the day and attended grad classes on alternating nights during that time, they really depended on us to look after ourselves most of the time. This was fine by us because S and I were self-sufficient. We developed and played games that no one else played and made up stupid jokes that no one else would get. We even sang karaoke to cartoon songs on a tape recorder and judged ourselves on our performances a day later. On the rare occasion that we did play outside with neighbors and friends, we were likewise inseparable. The parents of the other kids would give us quizzical looks when S would show up with me to a Ken & Barbie playhouse party or when I would take her with me to play freeze tag or stickball out on the street. But of course we didn’t care. Since very early on, we were not only siblings but also our own best friends.
This all change suddenly and drastically on a fateful afternoon in early May when S was hit by a car walking home from school one day. I was about a block away so I wasn’t there (like I should have been) at the moment of impact. I was there about 15 seconds later when I saw my dad running towards me asking me frantically what happened? I was there when S was carted off to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I was there when they rushed her to the team of doctors waiting for her at the trauma bay. I was there in the hospital, waiting, day, night and then into the next day, not knowing what was to become of my sister. And I was definitely there, when the head ER doc, told my parents and I that they had done everything. “Everything?” I asked. He nodded. “Then how come she isn’t waking up. Well, let me try. I’m her brother, her best friend, she’ll listen to me. Wake up S, it’s me, it’s me, it’s me!” She didn’t wake up. I couldn’t believe it. I poked her again. She didn’t move. I asked one of the doctors in the room again to help me. He didn’t move. Just shoke his head and said he was sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I pinch her arm and squeeze her hand. “Wake up S! C’mon, it’s me!” She doesn’t listen. She doesn’t move. And then I realize, and I know. She’s no longer there.
I was angry at the doctors, at the hospital, at the world for a long time after that. I just didn’t understand or couldn’t understand how “everything was done when there was S lying there, hoping and waiting for something to be done.” When I saw S one last time the following week before they laid her body to a permanent rest, I gave her a letter and placed in by her side. In it, I told her that I was sorry for failing her twice – once for not being there when she crossed that busy street by herself, and twice for believing the doctors that said that everything was already done. And although there was no way for me to undo my first wrong, I vowed that one day I would make it to the other side, to make sure that everything wouldn’t be everything for somebody else.
I could say more, but I think you all get the gist of how the medical profession found me at a young age instead of the other way around. It was the fulfillment of a promise I had made to someone very special to me a long time ago.
17. Were you a runner in med school? Yay, finally an easy one. NO! (See answer to #10)
18. Favorite workout?
Hmmm…I really don’t have a preference, but if I had to choose one, it’d be mile repeats just because I’ve done them so often and for long that I’m very comfortable with the pace of this workout. That is not to say they are easy, because they are both physically and psychologically challenging (at least the way I design hem), but I find that they really do help me improve my form and focus. This becomes most evident in the last few miles of a long distance race.
19. What is your favorite mile of a marathon (and you can’t pick the last one!)?
I don’t know if I have a favorite mile (if I’m not allowed to pick Mile 26, or the last 0.2) but I always look forward to running mile 24 of every marathon because I always share a special conversation with my sister S (see #16) during that segment of the race. We share stories, jokes, gossip, and whatever else that comes to mind. As for running, I try not to complain about my aches and pains too much because she gets turned off by that. Instead I tell her about my past races and recent PRs and what I’ve learned about myself since the last time I spoke to her. She listens very attentively, tells me she’s proud of me, reminds me not to slouch when I’m running tired, and sends me on my way. When I’m done with that conversation, I always feel focused and reenergized and ready to sprint to the finish.
[And if you must know, our conversation is reserved for Mile 24 because it was during this mile (the vaunted Fifth Avenue Mile) in my first New York City Marathon (and first overall) that as I was literally crawling for 3 blocks (because of bilateral leg cramps) that I first heard my sister’s voice loud and clear, keeping me company and encouraging me to move forward one side at a time. She also told me to pay no mind to the people around me but just focus on her. Slowly, we made our way to the medical tent where they rubbed down my cramping leg muscles and allowed me to finish my first ever marathon.]
20. Which would you rather do: give a reading of the worst of your literary works (poems, essays, etc.) OR speak to a bunch of runners about the top 10 dumbest things you’ve done while running?
Easy. Dumb, comical, embarrassing things because isn’t that half of what running is about anyways. The ability to share your running stories with others because in some weird way, they “get” it too! So I much rather share my list of dumb things done while running than read any of the garbage I’ve written and recited in a previous life. As a matter of fact, here’s a sampling of my most embarrassing running stories from the past couple of years.
March 3, 2008 – The Next 4 Miles & PR in Embarrassment
May 31, 2008 – Talking to Intensivists and Stupid Things I Still Do While Running
July 21, 2008 – Adding Insult to Injury
April 11, 2009 – Sickness Update and the Epitome of Embarrassment
21. Did you create your training grid from scratch or did you copy it from somewhere?
Although I’m sure someone would love to harass me and wring me out to dry with copyright infringements and a few civil lawsuits and such, I unfortunately came up with the training grid all on my lonesome, so back off people…no royalties for you!
Speaking of which, here’s my updated training grid detailing my 16 week training for the New York City Marathon. As you can see, I would dare say that training went well despite a few hiccups in the past few weeks. I ran all the miles I am supposed to for this training cycle and then some. It should be plenty enough for me to reach my goal next week. Let’s hope it will be.
Thanks for all the questions. They were all so awesome that they really took me a while to come up with the proper responses to some of them. Thanks again everyone for playing!