Stay Tuned!

Check back here for more information about Dr. Shenkman's new office location, coming to Tarzana, California in January 2018
New Practice Hotline: 818-398-9572

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ultra Time!!

Weather has not seemed to want to cooperate with my race schedule.  First, Hurricane Sandy led to the eventual cancellation of the New York City Marathon.  Now, days of heavy rain are causing havoc on the North Face Endurance Challenge course, leading to last minute course changes and muddy trails.

I registered for the North Face Endurance Challenge months ago.  I planned to do the 50K race, about 31 miles of trails with 6800 feet or so of climbing, tomorrow.

Then I saw the weather forecast:
Now, I've run in rain.  I finished the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon, during which there were torrential downpours from just after the start, intensifying throughout the race to what could be considered monsoon conditions.  In spite of the weather, I had a pretty good race.  Two weeks ago, I ran four hours in the Santa Monica Mountains, slip-sliding in mud at times, covering nearly 19 miles.

This will be my first ultramarathon.  I will be out on the trails for over six hours.  I don't want to be miserable, cold, and wet.  And, I don't want to risk my safety and health running on a muddy and presumably slippery course.

So, I'm out -- I'm not running North Face.  Several of my teammates will be there, and I hope they have a good and safe race.

BUT, there's another ultramarathon this weekend!!!!  Ridgecrest 50k.  It seems like a low-key race. It's known as the friendliest ultramarathon.  I'm not sure what that means.  There are aid stations about every three miles.   The high will be 66 degrees with a 30% chance of rain.  And, while North Face 50k has about 6800 feet of climbing (though they are being forced to change their course due to the weather so it will be less), this race has less than half that amount, about 2,664 feet.
Yup!  I'm running this!

I'm looking forward to my first ultramarathon on Sunday, hopefully in sunny weather!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Can Endurance Sports Hurt Your Health?

Exercise is good for you.  But is there such a thing as too much exercise?

-At the end of marathons, runners have been shown to have elevated troponin levels, a markers of heart muscle damage.  They may also have elevated CPK levels, representing skeletal muscle damage.  The consequences of these abnormalities are not known.

-One study found that there was MRI evidence of dysfunction of the right ventricle of the heart.  This was a transient finding, and, again, the long-term consequences aren't known.

-Arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, are more common in endurance athletes.

-Athletes have died during Ironman distance triathlons.  That said, athletes have died during marathons, half marathons, and shorter distance triathlons, and the incidence of sudden deaths during the Ironman is no greater than any other distance race.

-Long-term marathon running increases the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries, which is a marker of coronary plaque.

-Blood markers of inflammation are higher during intense training.
Me -- on my way to becoming an IronMan!

So what about me?

I'm a triathlete, who has completed 13 marathons, an Ironman triathlon (Ironman Lake Placid 2010), countless other road and trail races and triathlons of other distances, and next weekend I will be running my first ultramarathon, a 50-k (31 mile) race.

I've had an arrhythmia -- AV nodal re-entrant tachycardia, a form of SVT (supraventricular tachycardia).  I underwent a successful ablation procedure in April 2009, and have had minimal palpitations since.  To my knowledge, AV nodal re-entrant tachycardia is not an arrhythmia that is encountered any more frequently in athletes than in non-athletes.

During my Ironman Lake Placid training, I did some blood work.  My cholesterol numbers rocked, my hemoglobin was well within the normal range, and electrolytes were good, but my high-sensitivity c-reactive protein level, a marker of inflammation, was quite elevated at 7.4, with normal being levels less than 2.

As I trained for Ironman Lake Placid, I was tired all the time.  I didn't feel good.  My run times dropped, and I slogged along on my long 15 to 20 mile practice runs at an 11 to 12 minute per mile pace.  I couldn't wait for my 6+ hour long bike rides on Pacific Coast Highway to be done.  And the swimming... I've never been a fan of long swims, so the day I had to swim two miles, thankfully my friend Ray was there to entertain us with the occasional group hug or joke, as we then doused our faces in the water and stroked on to the finish.

I finished Ironman Lake Placid in 14 hours and 45 minutes.  I see my friends and teammates who have done multiple Ironman races.  I contemplate how on a flat course and the right training I could finish in under 13 hours.  Because I could achieve that.  I even thought about signing up for Ironman Arizona 2013.  Fortunately, when the race went on sale last Monday morning at 11 AM, I was busy with patients and wasn't bored at my computer to repeatedly hit the "refresh" button.

But, if I were honest with myself, I don't want to do another Ironman.  I will do an ultramarathon for the same reason I became an Ironman -- to say I've achieved that distance.

I'm not going to be an endurance athlete forever.  I'll always be physically active, and I hope that during the length of my "career" as an endurance athlete that I can take away the health benefits and not be left with the possible consequences.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Over It

I DNF'ed a marathon.  It's not the end of the world.

I'll chalk it up to burnout and mental distraction, and starting the race too fast, not accounting for the 80 degree weather expected later in the day.  As I prepared for NYC, my sole focus was breaking four hours.  That was my goal, and I should have been more flexible.

On my only other DNF ever, which was the Surf City Marathon in 2009, I scrambled to find another marathon to redeem myself.  And I did.  I posted my best time ever at the time, in my fourth marathon.  That said, I was a nervous wreck, having put so much pressure on myself to finish well so soon after a bad race.

In the first couple days after my most recent DNF, I was a bit sad.  But honestly, I think I'm over it.  I've run 13 marathons.  So what if my attempt at number 14 is a bust?

I've had to refocus -- I've had some great races this season.  Yet, I seem to perseverate on where I've failed, when I've actually had some awesome successes -- I took fourteen minutes off of my Santa Barbara Long Course race at the end of August, had a great day at Age Group Nationals, and qualified for Age Group Nationals for the second year in a row by placing in the top ten percent of my age group at the Malibu Classic race in September.

I didn't blog about those accomplishments.  Yet I am not hesitant to overanalyze where I've screwed up.

Next up is the North Face 50K on December 1.  That will be my first ultramarathon, at just over 31 miles. 

 Me and teammates Evan, Ray, and Alex, at Westridge Trail on Sunday morning

Yes it's more running.  But, trails are so different from roads.  I ran 27 miles of trails this weekend, and I'm not sore.  If' I'd done that on roads, I'd feel quite differently.  And, an ultramarathon, while longer than a marathon, has less pressure.  Or at least I put less pressure on myself.  My goal is to finish so I can call myself an ultramarathoner.

After North Face, I am taking a much-needed hiatus.  It might be a month, it might be longer.  While I do not plan on sinking into my couch and scarfing down vegan bon-bons, I will exercise when I feel like it, without a schedule, without a coach to report to, for the first time in about two years.

And, after my hiatus, I'll come back and figure out what I want to accomplish as an athlete next year.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

DNF at Santa Clarita

I was supposed to run the NYC Marathon.  You know that if you've read my last 2 posts.  Instead, I signed up to run the local Santa Clarita Marathon.

I started at a good pace, 9:10-9:15 per mile.  My heart rate was a little high, but I felt okay.  I kept that up, give or take a couple minutes, through mile 13.  Then it all fell apart.  I can't say there was anything that specifically hurt.  I felt tired.  I just couldn't keep up the pace.  It was a bit hot out too.  Any attempt to run had my heart rate around 180.  Around mile 14 I starter walking some intervals.  Then I found myself walking more.

Just after Mile 18, I was at Magic Mountain Parkway, and knew the finish line geographically was only a mile away.  I took off my race bib and walked to the finish area, grabbed my gear, and left.

Sure, I could have finished.  I would have walked and run, and I would have finished in 5 hours or maybe a little longer.  But I didn't come to just *finish* a marathon.  I came to finish a marathon well.  And if I had schlepped another 8 miles to the finish line, I would be sore and fatigued for several more days.  By cutting my losses at mile 18, I know I'll be recovered sooner.

Training was spot-on.  I did all my workouts.  I even did my yoga.  I think this is all mental.  It's been a stressful week in all manners, particularly trying to decided whether to go to NYC, and then of course personal issue.

I'm not sure what to do next.  My next race is December 1, the North Face 50k.  I want to complete an ultramarathon, but I'm not excited about a terrible marathon performance hanging over my head.  There's the CIM Marathon in Sacramento and the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon, both on December 2.  I could run either of those, and the Las Vegas race is even offering a 20% discount to those of us who were registered to run NYC this year.

All I know is today was not my day.

Friday, November 02, 2012

My Day On Radio and TV

It's been an interesting couple of days, in deciding whether or not to run the New York City Marathon, which ultimately was cancelled as of today.

On Wednesday, I was revved up and ready to go, come hell or high water.  My friend, a reporter at local NPR affiliate KPCC interviewed me for a piece she was doing on the race.  Then, the following day, before her story aired on the radio, I decided not to do the race.  Nonetheless, I'm still featured in the story and she made it work.

Click here to hear the interview, which aired on the radio this morning.  The audio link is on the left side of the page.

Then, later in the morning, I was contacted by a reporter from our local CBS affiliate, and I was featured on the evening news, along with teammate Dolores Schutzman.



Tomorrow, I will be waking up early to get to the Santa Clarita Marathon race expo and sign up, just in case I'm not the only person who was shut out of the NYC Marathon who will want to race at the last minute.

Finally -- I've donated to the Red Cross to help support recovery efforts from Sandy.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

NYC Marathon -- I'm OUT!

I've been training for the NYC Marathon.  I've been so excited to run through all 5 boroughs and be cheered on by the loud crowds of spectators.

Then came Sandy the Superstorm.

Initially, I thought, it'll be cleaned up by Sunday.  New Yorkers are resilient.  My flight is still on.  My hotel hasn't cancelled my reservation.  It's going to be a sunny day according to the weather.

Then reality set in:  My hotel has no electricity, heat, or hot water, nor do many other hotels in NYC.  Many businesses are closed.  Public transportation isn't fully functional.  Where would I stay?  How would I get to the start line?  How would I get to the Javitz Center to pick up my race packet?  And what about the course?  Will there be changes to our route?

It was a tough decision.  Coach Gerardo gave me some clarity and made the decision much easier:  I take this stuff seriously.  My reason for running this race is primarily to have a sub-4 hour marathon.  I love visiting NYC, but that is secondary.  If I go to NY, I'm not going to have my best race given the conditions of the city and the race.  So, I shouldn't race.
Someone posted this on my Facebook wall.  The deadline to defer to next year has been postponed to Saturday at midnight, the night before the race.  While we won't get our money back, we do get a guaranteed spot in the 2013 marathon.

JetBlue was kind enough to refund my airline ticket, and fortunately the hotel that I booked at didn't require a deposit, so I lost no money there either.

THIS is my race on Sunday:
Fortunately, there is a local marathon on Sunday to take the place of the NYC Marathon for me.  Ironically, it's the marathon that I was supposed to run last year that I skipped because I was sick.

Sandy was a terrible natural disaster.  I'll run NYC next year.  Right now, the east coast's recovery is more important than my silly little marathon.