18663 Ventura Blvd, Suite 202, Tarzana CA 91356

Sunday, May 31, 2009

San Diego Rock' 'N' Roll Marathon

Today's San Diego Rock 'N' Roll Marathon was my fifth marathon, and now I can finally say that I've run a marathon like it's supposed to be run. In every marathon that I've done up to this point, I've started too fast and found myself miserable from mile 20 onward. Not today.

One key to my success today was that I rested this week. I learned from my Wildflower race a few weeks ago just how important it is to not overexert in the days before the race.

My friend Ray, an ultramarathoner, who was doing the marathon as a "training run", agreed to pace me to a 4:20 finish. That was my goal for the day. We started at a 10 minute mile pace. I stayed consistent at that pace for several miles. I felt great.

Around mile 19, I still felt good. I gradually picked up the pace. For miles 22-24, I was hitting a 9:30-9:40 pace. I was passing just about everyone; it felt great!!! At mile 25, Ray turns to me and says, "Here's where you're going to give it everything you've got." I picked up the pace to 8:30/mile, and for the last two tenths of a mile, I hauled it in to the finish line.
My finishing time: 4:18:32. A minute and a half faster than my goal. And, I did it in negative splits, meaning that the second half of the race was faster than the first. Overall, a great day!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I spend a lot of time talking to my patients about lifestyle change. I truly believe that a patient is not treated by pills alone. If a person commits to a healthful lifestyle, he or she will live longer. And I believe that people can change.

But change does not come easy. It comes a few small steps at a time.

I don't expect a patient with out of control blood pressure and lipids, who does not exercise, and who eats no fruits or vegetables, to come back to me a month later having become a vegan who exercises five days a week and with normal blood pressure and cholesterol. If he or she returns to me a month later with an improved blood pressure, perhaps a pound or two lighter, and is now eating a salad every now and then and walking two days a week, I consider that success, and we can improve even further from there.

Diet change is especially tough. Someone who consumes a lot of meat and not many fruits and vegetables cannot overnight adopt a plant-based diet. A great way to start is to give up beef and aim for two vegetarian meals a week. Then give up dairy, and try new things like soy milk and rice milk and hemp milk. And then another change towards eating healthfully, and another....

I can recall a time back in college when a grilled cheese sandwich, a large order of fries, a 24-ounce Coke, and a large ice cream sundae was a normal dinner. At that time, I thought that by putting on my Rollerblades a couple of days a week for a few minutes to get to my classes that I was exercising enough. I was overweight and had so little energy. It took years and many small steps along the way to become a healthier person.

Small steps can be the key to long-term success. Celebrate small successes, and keep moving forward.
Image from

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"It's in my chart"

Be an active part of your health care. Know your medical history. Carry a list of your major health problems and medications and their doses with you at all times. Consider getting a medical alert bracelet.

Just because something is "in the chart" doesn't mean that I have it in my records, especially if I'm meeting you for the first time. I do not rely on "the chart" for what doses of medications you take -- you are the keeper of the pill bottles and you are the one who puts the pills in your mouth, so you are the one who knows exactly what and how much you take. Further, all of your records may not have come to me yet if I am meeting you for the first time.

And, finally, imagine this scenario: You end up sick in an emergency room where none of your doctors practice. Your medical information is absolutely crucial to your treatment in the next few minutes and hours.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My New Favorite Workout

Exercise is a habit. If we enjoy exercising, it's easier to stick with it.

My favorite workout right now is the Ocean Speed Circuit. At 6:30 am, nearly 100 people from my triathlon club gather in Santa Monica to swim in the ocean. We swim out to a buoy, swim back to land, run a few hundred feed on land from one cone to another, and then get back in the ocean and do it all over again.

It's a great workout -- getting into the ocean, diving under waves, and running on the sand definitely gets the heart rate up. Swimming in the ocean always reminds me that I'm from the Midwest -- I am not entirely confident swimming under and over waves, and with the quick entrances and exits from the water, my ocean swimming has improved.

And really, what better way to start the day than a dip in the ocean?

Here's what it looks like from a traffic helicopter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wildflower Triathlon Pictures

Getting out of the water after the swim

Climbing that first big hill out of the transition area

Cruising along on the course... with a smile

Running the course... trails and hills... very challenging

Dashing to the finish line

And the big finish!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Farmers Market

I love a trip to the farmers market. The produce is locally grown, less expensive than at the grocery stores, and absolutely delicious! On top of that, supporting your local farmers market is kinder to the environment, because your produce was transported from somewhere nearby, like San Luis Obispo, California, as opposed to, say, Chile.

This sandwich is created from my farmers market trip today. Fresh whole-wheat pita bread with avocado hummus, cucumber slices, and a chopped tomato. Don't mind the few bites taken of the sandwich -- it's the best way to show you what's inside. Paired with a salad and some strawberries also purchased at the market, a very filling lunch after my long run this morning.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Big Lunch Salad

This is my typical lunch: A big salad.

The base of the salad is dark lettuce with carrots. Sometimes I'll add some beets, celery, cucumbers, or sunflower seeds. I always include some form of protein, such as kidney beans, chik peas, lentils, or tofu. Here, I've added Follow Your Heart's Chicken Free Chicken. The salad is topped with two tablespoons of Follow Your Heart's Thousand Island dressing.

I pair the salad occasionally with a slice of bread or a side of pasta and always include fresh fruit for dessert.

Follow Your Heart is a favorite stop of mine. They are a vegetarian grocery store in Canoga Park, just a mile and a half from my office. In addition, there is a fantastic cafe in the back of the store with delicious healthy vegetarian items.

Follow Your Heart is located at 21825 Sherman Way in Canoga Park.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pictures from Wildflower

This is me climbing the hill called Nasty Grade. I'm almost at the top.

On the run, near the end. Fighting a stomach cramp and finding some adrenaline knowing that the finish line is less than a mile away.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wildflower Race Report

It' s been a crazy year in my athletic life. I started by DNF'ing a marathon, coming back two weeks later to race a marathon where I achieved a personal record, and then being derailed from racing by an arrhythmia known as supraventricular tachycardia.

Eight days after my arrhythmia ablation, I raced Wildflower Long Course, one of the world's toughest half ironman distance races. I am pleased to say I had a great time and a great day as an athlete.

Wildflower is the only reason that I own a tent. It is known as the Woodstock of Triathlons. The only feasible way to race is to camp there the night before, and then of course celebrate the night after with my team at the campground.

My goal time for the race was 7 hours and 15 minutes. I thought that was a pretty ambitious goal and wasn't sure I could make it.

We started with the swim, which I estimated would take me 43 minutes. After accidentally following a swimmer into an embankment, I straightened myself out and had a good consistent swim. There were a lot of us out there in the water and I managed to avoid being elbowed or kicked too much. I followed a sea of different colored caps. But, toward the end, as I was getting out of the water to run to the transition area, I suddenly noticed a sea of men in pink caps that I had not seen before! I thought I was in the wrong place, until I realized that they were all the frontrunners in the shorter mountain bike triathlon race that was taking place that day.

Time for swim portion: 44 minutes. Close to my goal.

I pulled off my wetsuit, put on my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and hopped on my bike. I heard several friends and club members cheer me on as I rode out of the park. One person who knew about my arrhythmia issues yelled, "Surgery one week ago, racing today, no big deal!" Well actually it wasn't a surgery, it was a percutaneous procedure through the vein in my leg... ummm never mind. It's the thought that counts.

I had a tough time on the bike course when I tried it out a month ago. My goal was to finish in 4 hours and 15 minutes, or maybe 4 hours if I was doing really well. Since then, I put a new rear cassette on my bike that would make hills easier. What a difference!! I glided up the hill known as Nasty Grade with more ease than last time, passing several riders. As it turned out, I finished the bike ride in 3 hours and 50 minutes, taking forty minutes off my previous time!

On to the run. This is my favorite of the three sports. I had hoped I could finish in 2 hours 24 minutes, an 11 min/mile pace. This run course is TOUGH!! It is really hilly and mostly on trails. I passed a lot of the athletes who had passed me on the bike. Many people were walking. Other than a few very brief steep portions, I ran the entire course, though at many points my run was more of an uphill shuffle. I ran past Blaine from NBC's The Biggest Loser, who was competing with his cousin and fellow Biggest Loser contestand Dane, and this time around no one drove them to the finish line.

I had a sudden stomach cramp at mile 12. It hurt so badly that I started walking, until a member from my club yelled behind me to stop walking and to run. So I picked up the run again, and before I knew it, I saw the finish line, and the adrenaline kicked in and I had no more side pain. I heard "Dr. Heather Shenkman is coming across the finish line!"

Finish time: 7 hours, 11 minutes. Four minutes faster than my goal.

My run time was 2:29, a little slower than my goal, but actually faster than a lot of athletes in my age group.

I have to say, I just had a great race. For the most part, I felt great, even to the end. I had fun and achieved my goal time.

Ironically, I think some of my success was due to the rest that I had to take because of my heart procedure. I came into the race feeling well rested, which I think really helped. That's a lesson that I will take with me to my upcoming races.