October 30, 2019

The Dugyot From Way Back

Since early high school, i've been One Who Writes.  Not well, nor prolifically, but enough to make my thoughts known and make ME happy.  In 2005, i discovered blogging and became an avid blogger on the website doktorko.com.  Shortly after that, i made the jump to a website called vox.com.  Over the years, i generated over a hundred blogposts.  In 2010, after turning into a Google fanboy, i decided to move to blogger.com.

Alas, shortly after i moved to blogger, both doktorko and vox shut down, taking all my posts with them.  Unfortunately, even though i had multiple opportunities to migrate/save my data, i procrastinated until they eventually ended up in oblivion.  Years of writing, gone JUST LIKE THAT.

I grieved over the loss.  In my opinion, i had written some pretty decent posts over the years, but they were never to be seen again.

Recently though, i discovered the Wayback Machine.  I had no idea such a thing even existed, but apparently it's archived the internet over the past few decades.  I dared to hope that it archived doktorko and vox, and gingerly typed in my vaguely-remembered URLs for my blogs.

I am happy to report that i achieved SUCCESS!  While i wasn't able to save everything, i was able to extract 96 blogposts from those two sites.  I copied and pasted the content into my "new" blog - Dugyot From Way Back (the observant reader will note that the URL is completely different... that's because the initial iteration of this blogsite was supposed to be entitled "The Rhythm Strip," but i eventually decided that "Dugyot" was more apropos).

I realize that nobody really cares, but i am extremely glad/grateful/ecstatic that i was able to resurrect some old "gems" like The Animal Story, the Medical Miseducation series, and the Turista series.

Since the initial blogposts were written "op-ed" style, i feel like it would be best to present them in chronological (oldest to newest) order.  Many of the links are broken, and i was unable to recreate the images and videos on the original sites, but at least the content is still there, and i hope the omissions don't detract too much from the overall experience. 

After i read through the posts, i realized - much to my dismay - that i have mutated from an idealogue to a pragmatist.  Honestly this made me sad and a little bit angry.  I feel/hope that the idealist in me is still there somewhere and comes back out once life settles down a little bit more (no further details forthcoming).

October 29, 2019


So two weekends ago, a day after the venerable Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour barrier for the marathon, i finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 4:55:42.

My time was nothing to write home about.  After finishing last year's CIM in 4:52 and change, i really thought i could come in between 4:30 and 4:45.  In fact, early in the race, i was convinced that i could do it.  As usual, i run-walked with a 3:1 ratio.  The plan was to do the first few miles a little slow, then find a decent rhythm 4-6 miles in.  After the first half, i would start accelerating and lock in a "fast" pace until mile 20, then just completely run the remaining 6.2 miles at a "tempo" pace.  Done properly, this would get me in around 4:30, with 4:45 as a worst case scenario.

Half the race was actually run "according to plan."  Unfortunately, around 13-15 miles in (yes, that early), i felt the beginnings of a cramp in both my calves.  Not full blown contractions, but enough tension to let me know that they would start seizing up if i asked too much of them.  It was enough to make me consciously heel-strike; apparently when my cadence goes up to 160-180, i start midfoot-striking, which my calves object to.   At that point, i dared not increase the pace, for fear of demolishing my calves.

Slowly picked up the pace until the halfway point, then had to dial it back down.

Running with trepidation. 

A little over 21 miles in, i had a half-second cramp in my right calf during a running interval.  It dissipated quickly, but forced me to slow down even more.  Eventually, everything fell apart in the final 0.2.  There was the tiniest bit of an incline on that last right turn heading into Grant Park.  Not much, but enough to make me extend my walking interval by another 30 seconds or so.  Since i wanted to finish running, i picked my feet up and RAN once it started flattening out.  But then, literally ONE FOOT from the finish line, it happened: both my calves completely seized up, forcing me to ignobly hobble my way to 4:55:42.

Everyone else was happy to finish... I was disgusted with myself.

So - i was not happy.  But (as if i had a choice) i'll take it.  As far as the Abbott World Marathon Majors are concerned... still five minutes faster than my last one.

As an excuse for my performance, i am invoking undertraining.  I don't think i prepared enough for this race.  In my training leading up to NYC/CIM and Big Sur, i ran about 560 miles over 15 weeks.  In contrast, i only ran 460 miles (a 20% difference) for Chicago.  This was done on purpose: after developing plantar fasciitis (diagnosis made by legit podiatrist) around Big Sur, i made a conscious decision to run less this time around.  It worked - the heel pain let up after a few weeks, and i didn't feel as bad in the month leading up to the big race as i did previously.  In that context, i should be GRATEFUL that i even got to run another marathon this year (or ever!).  So: slower, but - literally - at least i made it.

Hopefully, i'll be able to do around 500 miles for the next buildup, run the actual race faster, and still remain healthy.  Only one way to find out.

Race notes:

1.  The expo was well-organized, but otherwise unremarkable.  Packet pickup was a breeze.  Note that even though they don't include safety pins with the bib, they're available "Participant Services" close to the entrance.  There was no wall of names.

Waiting in line to get into the expo.

2.  The weather on race day was a little chillier than i'd prefer, staying in the low 40s for the duration of the race.  Coupled with the wind chill factor in the "Windy City," it got pretty nippy.  The wind also threatened to blow off my cap a lot of times, which i remedied simply by riding the visor low.  I honestly don't mind the cold when running...  Undoubtedly better than that year when it almost went up to the 90s.  My regular outfit was still sufficient coverage.

The mass of humanity waiting at the start.  Temperature: 42 Fahrenheit.

I had to keep the brim pointed down to stop my cap from blowing off.

3.  The entrances/gates to the corrals are located on Michigan Street, starting at around the corner of Monroe and extending all the way down to Balbo.  The roads are closed on Lakeshore Drive.  We found this out the hard way, when our Uber driver opted to drop us off at Balbo and Lakeshore in order to avoid the crowds on Michigan.  We had to walk quite a ways just to get to the right spot.

Close to the starting line.  I had already walked about a mile, at this point. 

4.  The Balbo Hospitality Tent is a spacious, heated tent with buffet breakfast and lunch (for after the race), unlimited fluids, a charging station, and post-race massages.  They also had their own gear check, separate from the other 45,000 runners.  There were more than enough porta-potties.  Whether this is worth $125 or not is completely up to you.

Pre-race buffet breakfast.  They had sandwiches.

Enjoying a cup of coffee before the race.

The post-race spread.

5.  The course is not COMPLETELY flat (it's not on a track, after all), but there's no significant up- or downhills.  There was a gentle upslope at the end that i only really noticed because of my cramps.

6.  On-course, it seemed to be much less crowded compared to NYC.  My heels weren't kicked as much nor did i feel like i had to navigate through a crowd whenever i tried to move to the side of the road to walk.  Personally, i felt that NYC was overwhelming in terms of crowds (participants and spectators both).  Chicago was STILL thousands of people, but less crowded.

There was always a crowd, but not too bad IMHO.

7.  The post-race experience is a lot better than NYC.  The family reunion area is relatively close to the finish; no need to climb an overpass to get there.  Unfortunately, unlike NYC, there was no sweet poncho at the end.  They DID however have that special 312 beer with an additional Goose Island beer that you can redeem with the coupon that comes with the bib.  For some reason, they wouldn't let people take the cans of beer (even when demonstrably empty) out of the marathon finisher area, which defeats the purpose of having a "souvenir" beer can. 

Reunited with my support crew.

"Free" beer.

8.  I think the Abbott World Marathon Majors is nothing more than a genius marketing ploy.  I'm not really out to garner "six stars," but i may get them while working through my "marathon bucket list."  To be honest, i haven't been highly impressed by the courses for either Chicago or NYC.  While the cities they're held in are great and the organization is stellar, i wish the actual courses were more picturesque and actually worth running through.  Not every course can be as gorgeous as Highway 1, but if Chicago had run up Lakeshore Drive or at least up Magnificent Mile, it might have been more interesting.

Who cares about the medal?  The deep dish pizza is the real reward in Chicago! 

9.  Even though my calves ultimately betrayed me, i never came close to "hitting the wall."  So the problem was not necessarily one of nutrition or hydration.  Or perhaps it was?  At one point, when i reached back to put my water bottle in my belt, my left shoulder started cramping.  I may have been so depleted that ANY muscle ANYWHERE would cramp with exertion.  Nutrition-wise, i went through six Gu packets (one every 40 minutes or so).  Hydration-wise, i drank at every station (i believe there were twenty in all).  However, i barely drank from my own water bottle, and didn't pee for close to 4 hours after the race finished.  So maybe it WAS dehydration...?  On a slightly related note, my Vaporkrar flexible bottle keeps digging into my back; maybe i need a better way to carry my water when Camelbaks aren't allowed.  Regardless, one thing i probably need to focus on is strength training for my calves.

10.  While my Garmin tells me that did 26.2 at around 4:45, the official "tale of the tape" says otherwise.  With so many runners on the course, it's impossible to run the tangents properly (which is why the elites start way before us regular folk), which resulted in me running a 27.05 mile marathon.  Meh.

More lessons learned.  Onward to Tokyo!

May 1, 2019

5:42:20 (AKA Crash and Burn, But at Least the Views were Good)

This past weekend, i ran the 34th annual Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) with a time of 5:42:20.

My time was much, much slower than i wanted (somewhere in the vicinity of 5:00), and still significantly slower than i predicted (somewhere between 5:15 and 5:30).   Why did i predict so slow a time when my finishing times have been steadily getting faster?  Well... selfies.  And hills.  As for the reason i came in so far below my already low expectations...  injury.   And hubris.

I knew i was in trouble as early as a month and a half ago.  Two weeks before the Modesto Half Marathon (in the thick of the "monster weeks" of marathon training), i developed a nagging ache in my right heel.  The Armchair Podiatrist would diagnose this as plantar fasciitis.  But due to a variety of factors which i won't go through in detail, i in fact diagnosed it as Not Plantar Fasciitis.  At the onset, it wasn't bad enough to keep me from running Modesto.  After that race however, it became so bad that i had to come to work in Hokas and pause my marathon training for an entire week.  Fortunately, by the end of that rest week, my heel was pain-free.  Unfortunately, the pain immediately came back after a run.  Resting a day between each run would make it feel better...  But of course one needs to do a "shakeout run," so i ran 3 "easy" miles on the day before the big race.

So on that fateful Sunday, prior to crossing the starting line, i could feel a slight twinge in the offending heel.  In spite of that, i thought that doing 26.2 would be no problemo; after all, i RAN Modesto dealing with the exact same issue.  Run-walk-running a full marathon at 3:1 should be no big deal.

Feeling the heel.

Ignoring the pain.

Lining up with the rest of Wave B.

Ready... get set... go!

Soon after the race started, we went into the first downhill, and i could FEEL IT every time my right heel struck the ground.  Boom-boom-boom-BOOM!  Ouch.  The pain let up with each walking interval, but came right back whenever i started running again.  Miraculously, after the second mile or so, it faded into a minor ache.  Relieved, i didn't think to question my good fortune.

Feeling a little better, at this point. 

The next several miles were business as usual, as i settled into a familiar rhythm.  Considering how hilly the course was, i was content to keep a pace of around 12:00 and fantasized about speeding up in the second half.  I even managed to get up to Hurricane Point at a decent clip, passing other runners the way i usually do when using the run-walk-run principle.  Success!

Some trash-talking Kenyans.

The drummers at mile 10-ish, marking the beginning of the ascent to Hurricane Point.

Hurricane Point is at mile 12.

Made it!

On the downhill following Hurricane Point, i felt a little cramp in my left thigh.  Nothing major, but it was a new sensation for me, as i'd NEVER had cramps in any of my previous races.  It went away immediately, so i just pooh-poohed it.

By miles 16 and 17, i was in a LOT of pain.  My quads were tiring out (moreso my left, which i thought was kind of odd) and my right foot felt like it was on fire.  Strangely, the problem heel itself seemed to be behaving... whereas everything else around it was not.  This worried me a bit, since pain in my previous marathons didn't really start setting in until mile 20 or so.  At that point, i formulated a Plan B: since the race cutoff time was 6 hours, i just had to keep running until i reached a spot where i could walk the rest of the way and still officially finish.

Laughing at "The Wall," with only a slight idea of what lay ahead. 

It was at mile 24 that i finally choked - hard.  On one of my running intervals, my left thigh completely cramped up, forcing me to slow down and walk.  I ended up slow-walking most of the way to the finish line, shamefully overtaken by everybody else i'd passed minutes before (including people who were merely walking fast).  I'd try to run for a couple of seconds at a time, but then my thigh would protest and threaten to explode, making me stop.  I wondered if i'd be one of those runners who collapses mere feet from the end and drags themselves over the finish line (which, while dramatic, would ultimately be disappointing, since i didn't have a good backstory).  Through sheer pigheadedness, i managed to run the final 0.1 and cross the finish line upright.  But as soon as i did, both calves seized up and forced me to hobble through the chute.  Done... and done.

Fake it 'til you make it! 
Photo credit: Images by Gia Chong

In the final analysis, i realized that i had favored my right heel for the entire race.  In trying to avoid exposing it to more impact, everything else - my left leg and all the other structures in my right foot that weren't the heel - had been forced to work overtime.  I had modified my foot strike to avoid landing on the painful spot, which changed my stride and made me run in a way that was unnatural for me.  Retrospectively, i wonder if i did this during the Modesto Half as well.  But that was only 13.1, and i was fine up until that point in this race.  The full 26.2 (and beyond, i imagine) keeps you honest.  Any and all training deficiencies, mental weaknesses, and niggling injuries will be laid bare and magnified as the miles pile on.  In my case, i thought i could barrel through my whatever-the-hell-my-heel-problem-was.  I was dead wrong.

I am - in a word - humbled.  For the past year or so, i'd fancied myself some sort of athlete - picking up marathon running again in my 40s, accruing gains as the months went by.  As i continued to work out, the pounds came off, and i looked/felt better than i have in close to a decade.  In the 16 weeks leading up to Big Sur, i felt like i could do anything.  Then reality paid me a visit and reminded me that i was doing something that i was never built to do.  That hurt a lot, body and soul.



1.  The expo was nothing special.  Although, same as New York and CIM, they had a wall of names, which was cool.

2.  Weather-wise, i've had a string of good luck with all my races.  This one was no exception: temps in the high 40s to low 50s (reportedly milder than previous years) with zero precipitation.  I was actually so concerned about the temperature at the start that i bought a headband just to cover my ears at the expo.  It was much ado about nothing; it seems that my ears do just fine in the high 40s.  The sky was overcast on race day, which was apparently a good thing because it meant that it wasn't going to be as windy as it could have been (i'm not clear on the meteorologic reasoning for this).  On the other hand, i felt that the cloudiness diminished the majesty of the views; it would've been nice to see sunlight dancing off the Pacific Ocean.

3.  The race started at 6:45-ish, but the last buses to the starting line (no drop-offs allowed) were scheduled to leave at 4:15.  Meaning, you had to line up for transportation at 4 o'clock.  In reality, our bus (the first one to leave our station) only got going at 4:30, so being tardy for the buses was probably not a tragedy.  It took about an hour for the bus to get to the starting village from Carmel.  Once there, there was an ample amount of porta-potties (according to the announcers, a "good" ratio of around 1 per 45 runners), and FOOD (!).

We were way more chipper than anyone should have to be at 4 in the morning.

Waiting to get on the bus, around 4:15 AM.

Arrived at the starting village around 5:30 AM. 

Got my pre-race bagel fix.

4.  The first few miles is mostly downhill, through some forested areas.  It's easy to get carried away and run fast, but one should take care not to stress the quads before even getting to the hills.

Running through redwoods.

4,700 runners is not bad at all.

5.  You get out of the forest around mile 4.  The views start getting really spectacular around miles 5-6.

Rolling hills at around mile 4. 

You start to get a glimpse of the ocean at mile 5.  It's there, i promise.

Point Sur State Historic Park in the distance.

6.  Personally, i don't think BSIM is the time to attempt a PR.  The course is gorgeous; one really needs to stop, soak it all in, and take as many pictures as possible.  The views are what you came for; look for faster courses elsewhere.  At the top of Hurricane Point, i had stop and take a photosphere.

Looking north, from Hurricane Point.  The ragged edge of the western world, indeed.

The iconic Bixby Bridge in the distance.  Everybody was taking pictures, and it was impossible not to get photobombed.

Atop Bixby Bridge.

Michael Martinez, the piano man of Bixby Bridge.

Bixby Bridge from the other side.

More photos of the ragged edge.

The bagpipe lady at mile 15.
7.  Even though i feel like i did a halfway decent job of it, climbing up to Hurricane Point is a b!tch.  While boning up on elevation charts prior to the race, i thought it would be a piece of cake.  After all, New York was pretty hilly, too.  What i DIDN'T take into account is that the elevation charts are not drawn to the same scale!  New York's hills are little speedbumps, with the biggest climbs being "only" 100 feet.  Big Sur is... a little more challenging.

Elevation chart from New York, in isolation.  Looks hilly enough, yeah?

Elevation charts compared.  (Cue the Crocodile Dundee voice going, "That's not a hill, THIS is a hill.")
Source: http://www.seerunlove.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/bsim-elevation-titled.png

8.  Another "feature" of the BSIM course is how steeply the roads are banked.  While snaking their way around hills, the running surfaces are essentially diagonal.  This can be torture to the ankles.  In 2017, i paid the price for running along the side of the road too long at B2B.

9.  There's enough hydration, nutrition and porta-potties on the course.  I had to stop to pee twice and didn't even get through my entire Camelbak.

There was a very short line at the mile 3 porta-potties.  Farther down the course, there were no lines whatsoever.

10.  Due to time and weather constraints, the majority of my training is done on a treadmill (dreadmill).  While i wouldn't recommend this to anyone, i personally don't have much of a choice.  I paid special attention to hill training by increasing the incline for "hill days."  Unfortunately, while this may be sufficient for the UPhills, there's no way to sufficiently train for the DOWNhills on a treadmill.

11.  Prior to New York and Big Sur, we went on week-long vacations.  The way i figured it, i should be tapering and carbo-loading on the week of the race anyway.  This is probably a mistake, and i should leave the vacay for AFTER the race.

12.  When i grow up, i want to be like this guy.  It'll probably never happen.

13.  Next time we're in Carmel, we need to try this place:

No relation.

So what comes next?  Redemption?  More disappointment?  Only one way to find out.  On to Chicago!

To date, the hardest i've worked to get a finisher medal.