Sunday, May 22, 2016

On Being Passionate and Humble

My good friend Rudy loves to tell the story of how we first met.  I was looking at the results of a sprint triathlon that we had just finished and I introduced myself as the guy who beat him!  This was vintage Mike Wasserman.  I was quite excited about my efforts that day and enthusiastically wanted to share my excitement.  The results were actually secondary.  A few years later, I was just as excited when Rudy passed me during the run of another sprint triathlon.  What has always mattered to me when I race triathlons is giving it my best effort.  Of this I am quite passionate.  

There are many people in the field of geriatrics who have known me for many years.  I have worn my passion on my sleeve in a similar fashion.  Having been blessed to have had success in a number of endeavors in my chosen profession, I am often excited to share my knowledge with others.  I recognize that at times this can turn people off as my passion can be overwhelming and come across as if I have too big of an ego.  This is actually something that I am working on.  It can be difficult, however, when my gut tells me that I have some answers as to the best way to care for frail older adults.  In both clinical situations and in business, I have always trusted my gut, and it has often served me well.  Figuring out how to effectively channel those instincts has become my holy grail.

Today was week 13 in my mission to complete a 20 mile run every week for 20 weeks.  It was easily my most difficult run and it was truly humbling.  The fact that I essentially completed 85% of an ironman over a weekend just two weeks ago, and did a solid 20 mile run in Central Park last weekend, culminating with a 10K, put me in a position today where my legs were tired and were pretty sore just 10 miles into my run.  However, there was no way I wasn’t completing my run today.  In my usual enthusiastic and optimistic approach, I actually went out a little faster than usual today for the first eight miles, which in retrospect may have been a bit ambitious.  Again, that’s me, and as I started slowing down, I had to remodulate my plans and adjust my effort.  I made one last attempt to pick up my effort with four miles to go, but my right calf started to spasm, and I realized that today was just about completing the twenty miles.  Still, running 20 miles at nearly 57 years of age under such circumstances at about a 9 minute per mile pace is something I am quite proud of.

I always say that Ironman often imitates life and today was no exception.  There have been many times in my career that my enthusiasm to share my thoughts and ideas about the most effective way to deliver care to older adults is too strong.  In these circumstances, as of late, I have been learning to slow down, just as I did today when I got ahead of myself during my 20 mile run.  There is a definite balance between allowing ones passion to show through and maintaining a level of humbleness that assures that we can get to the finish line.  The challenge, on the other hand, if figuring out when it’s time to push forward and when it’s time to back off.  While I am proud of the fact that I am nearly 2/3 of the way to my goal, I was quite humbled by my experience today.  

This week was the Annual Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society.  As is my annual experience, each day lasted about 15 hours.  I saw many old friends, heard lots of great talks and learned a lot about the state of geriatrics in today’s world.  There was a lot of angst over the upcoming new government rules for physicians.  My experience from the business side of healthcare over the last three decades is setting off lots of bells and whistles in my head and heart.  I kept my thoughts and opinions mostly to myself this past week, a departure from my usual passionate desire to tell everyone what I think.  Over the coming weeks, I think that I’ll formulate my thoughts in a constructive fashion so that anyone who is interested might have the opportunity to consider my suggestions.   

Saturday, May 21, 2016


On my way to completing a weekly 20 mile run over 20 consecutive weeks, I keep gaining new experiences.  Each of these are filed away in my brain to be used when I need them the most, during an ironman.  My most recent occurred during my 20 mile run in Central Park, NYC.  I had timed this run to coincide with my 34th wedding anniversary trip to NYC with my wife.  It came just 6 days after my last twenty miler, which was run just a day after a very solid 100 mile bike ride.  When I headed out to Central Park, I thought I felt good.  However, by the time I was coming around to finish the first loop in the Park (about 6 miles), I noticed that my quads were feeling sore.  This is highly unusual, and may have been due to a couple of factors.  First, I had literally done nearly 85% of an Ironman the weekend before.  Second, I had walked a ton the day before, which was highly unusual for me and puts an unnatural strain on my leg muscles.  Nevertheless, this was what it was.  I put the pain out of my head and just kept running.  I followed my usual protocol of starting with an easy effort and letting the effort get gradually harder.  This meant that my pace at the beginning was around 9 minutes per mile, and this pace did slow a little during miles six through twelve, when my left knee started getting a little sore.  I’m not used to the unrelenting ups and downs that Central Park surprisingly has.  I did stop once to stretch, which actually helped my quads and my knee.  My last loop was timed to coincide with a 10K being run in Central Park that day.  There were a lot of people running and I was in a pack of people the entire time.  I did have about 5-10 minutes in between my 12th mile and the 10K so I stretched some more and hoped that I wouldn’t tighten up from stopping.  As soon as I got rolling (took about a quarter of a mile due to the number of people), I just ran hard, and actually managed to maintain an 8:30 pace most of the way.  As usual, I just let the difficulty come to me, which it did, as did the quad and knee soreness that returned to my legs a few miles into the final 10K.  But the thought of completing my 20 mile run never entered my mind.  It just so happened that today’s run would be associated with quad and knee pain.  This fact wouldn’t even have a huge impact on the pace I was running at.  This has been the most mind blowing part of my weekly 20 milers.  My commitment to doing this has trumped any self doubt or questions about my ability to not only run twenty miles, but to run it at somewhere in the vicinity of a 9 minute per mile pace, every time I go out!

Sunday, May 8, 2016


11 weeks ago I begin my journey to do a 20 mile run weekly for 20 weeks. Today I completed number 11. What made today's run remarkable was that yesterday I did a 100 mile bike ride with about 6000 feet of climbing and I did it with an effort that was arguably as hard as any Ironman bike ride I've ever done. That set me up today for a 20 mile run on tired legs. Moreover, my bike fit is probably slightly off and I have been having some trouble with left knee pain when doing long rides on my triathlon bike. Fortunately, the left knee pain is superficial and I doubt that there's any structural problems with my knee. That said, I started today's run definitely tired with minimal soreness except for my left knee as well as a tight left hamstring. I decided not to look at my pace the entire run and to just run based on feel. I ran the first 6 miles at a very easy effort in relationship to my breathing (breathing every sixth step). The next 6 miles was done breathing comfortably (every fifth step). The next six miles were done at my MAF breathing (every fourth step).  I saved the last two miles for going as hard as I could, breathing every 3rd step.  My legs held up fine, although there was some burning in them the last few miles ("shut up legs" was definitely in order during these last four miles).  My pace the first 12 miles was 9:36, and the last 8 miles was 9:12, for an overall average pace of 9:26.  My last mile was my fastest, 8:59!

The best part of todays run was my mental state and attitude.  Despite the circumstances going into the run today, I knew I would do well.  It almost never crossed my mind that I wouldn't complete this workout.  In fact, during the three hours and nine minutes of my run, negative thoughts entered my consciousness for less than a total of one minute!  I knew that I could do this run.  This is a great place to be with 13 weeks to go before Ironman.  It's also a place I've never been before.  The idea of doing the twenty 20 mile runs has always been about reaching this point.  I thank Coach Lucho for the concept and for supporting me as I've gotten here.  What is somewhat "surprising" to me is that I've reached this mental state with plenty of time to spare. Perseverance has definitely paid off!