The Comforts of ‘Que Sera Sera’

Last Saturday turned out to be yet another failed attempt at a long run as Illiotibial band Syndrome continues to plague me. However, at the end of that not so wonderful afternoon, I had the pleasure of finally meeting an absolutely delightful person I had until then known only virtually. As we all know good company leads to good conversation, this meeting did not disappoint.  After a spectacular vegan falafel (with Jalapeno Mint chutney ofcourse) and me rambling to her about the uncertainty of my future career plans, I sighed and said ‘Que Sera Sera’

Why do I mention all this? Because I’m always fascinated at the origins of all of my thought processes. How did I get here? It’s like that time when your discussing how peanuts are actually legumes and you wonder how this topic came about when just one minute ago you were discussing travel plans to go hiking. Travel plan-> what food should I carry -> peanut butter flavored cliff bars -> Did you know peanuts are not really nuts? -> Really?!? -> Nope, they’re actually legumes -> Wow, the Kale Runner that’s fascinating. You’re really smart. Okay, okay, that last sentence didn’t happen. But I am smart I promise.

Anyway, on the one day I did not ride my bike to work, sitting on the CT2 bus got me thinking. Whenever I get stressed about my future career path, I always end it by saying ‘Que Sera Sera’, whatever will be, will be. It’s a liberating feeling saying those three words. Ahhhh, but ‘Whatever will be, will be’! Destiny decides and I play no role in this decision. It’s fascinating how the human mind works. Coping with it’s own stresses by creating this notion of destiny. Suddenly the pressure is not on you. It’s really like a shot of Cortisol for the brain.

I mean, I don’t deny there is an element of luck involved in everything. Everything is not really in your control. But luck isn’t this force that plans things for you. It’s really our lack of knowledge on the “other” factors that define the outcome of a task.

The outcome of any task can be predicted to high degree of accuracy if all the factors that contribute to it are known. Let’s take a coin toss. There’s a 50% chance it goes heads. Now if I know the initial conditions of the coin toss such as position, velocity and angular momentum, I can to a very high degree predict the eventual outcome and not give it a simple 50% chance. My point being, without all this information, coin tosses essentially become a matter of luck.

While ‘Que Sera Sera’ let’s me cope with the pressures of shaping my future, it essentially means I’m leaving it to luck or in this case destiny.  Random events between now and when I have the outcome would shape what career path I go down. Not very good science.

This essentially leads me to my main point about God. One of the biggest changes I noticed in my life, when I finally let go of the comforts of religion was that I finally had the power to shape the situations I was in. Previously at the first sign of trouble I turned to the big man upstairs to save me. As the Beatles wonderfully sung it, I ‘Let it be’. As most religions ask you to do, I surrendered. I essentially gave up and rolled a dice hoping for that double six.

Now that I’m wiser, or atleast I think I am, I stand up and think of ways to stack the odds in my favor. This mess is mine, and only I can actually fix it. The outcome may not always be favorable, but I sure as hell have increased my odds of success with this approach. One side effect I must warn you about is the lack of that cortisol shot for the mind, especially in times of failure. While others will have the comforts of thinking God did not have it in his or her will for them to be successful and that he or she has a plan for you, I’m perfectly okay with beating myself up and hoping I do better the next time. I make my own plans.

I will add that I will not condemn religion. I promise you I’m not playing it safe so as to not upset the person upstairs. I do this because as any good scientist should accept there’s always the possibility that one is ignorant about this issue. As Yuval Noah Harari aptly put in the book Sapiens –

“Modern science is based on the Latin injunction ignoramus – ‘we do not know’. It assumes that we don’t know everything. Even more critically, it accepts that the things that we think we know could be proven wrong as we gain more knowledge. No concept, idea or theory is sacred and beyond challenge.”

For now, I will go with what seems more logical. I will play the role of fate, prepare myself well and stack the odds in my favor to compensate for uncertainties. I won’t just ‘Let it be’. Time to enjoy the rest of this dreadfully rainy Tuesday sipping on some amazing Gingerbread Soy Cappuccino.

Good Vibes!

The Kale Runner (TKR)

 

Cape cod Trail Race – My first full marathon

It’s 12:30 p.m. Time to pack up the laptop. I just finished my poster presentation at the SPL25 symposium, spending the last 2 hours talking about Intraoperative Imaging in Neurosurgery. I was blessed to be doing what I love. I walk out and head past the Harvard Medical School building to enter my workstation at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dam! I forgot to get a pair of jeans. I guess I’ll have to head to the pre race dinner in formals. I rushed to the bus station to catch my ride to Falmouth in Cape Cod.

I was nervous as hell. This was going to be my first 26 mile distance and my first trail race. No really, My first. I’d never run trails in training and the longest I’d run was 17 miles. To top that off the last couple of weeks I’d squeezed in a solitary 10 mile run. This was going to be painful.

I arrived a little past 6 to the dinner site. There were a ton of vegan options available. Oven baked potatoes (perfectly seasoned!) , pasta. We even got to hear from the legendary Geoff Smith, two time winner of the Boston Marathon ( marathon PB of 2:09:08 and PB for a mile at 3:55!). Not a bad evening. I sat next to a delightful old couple. Mind you, they seemed fitter then me. They were bikers, working on converting an old rail road into a bike path.  Dam I wish I’m that active when I’m at that age.

IMG_0030

“Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any” –Anthony Bailey. Geoff Smith(left), two time winner of Boston marathon.

Bib collected. Check. Lets head back to the hotel. After settling in, it was time for another checklist. Hydration bottle. Check . Gels and Lara bars. Check. Clothes and shoes. Check. ‘Eat and Run’ on the audible app. Check. I normally hate to wear headphones during my runs. I like the peace and quiet. Just me and my thoughts. Running was a time to meditate. But I knew, I’d need some extra help tomorrow. As one of the chapter titles reads, ‘Pain only hurts’! Bring it on.

Morning of the race. Jitters! “I’m not ready for this” I thought to myself. Why am I doing this. ‘Sometimes you just do things’ as Scott Jurek’s father always said to him. Pre-race stretching and off I went. No time for doubts.

I wanted to get there early, to cheer on the runners in the other distance categories, who would be starting earlier then the full marathon group. I know how much running a race can mean to someone and hopefully a few cheers lets them know how awesome they are for doing this.

5,4,3,2,1. We’re off. The course starts in an open field. A 1.4 mile loop and we’re back to the start point. Now we take a different course and start the 10 k loops. We’re heading towards the trees. It’s rather windy, which was a greater incentive to head for the covers. Hop over an unused rail track and into the ‘Jungle’. The first climb came. I’d read Emilie Forsberg once comment it’s better to walk the slopes than run it. The time you save running a hill is not much as you slow down. The energy you save walking is immense.

Now the trail narrowed to a one man path. Jumping over roots, boulders, running sudden downhills. Moving left, moving right. It felt exhilarating. There was primal pleasure in running a trail. A sense of freedom from the menial tasks of civilized life(As exciting as it is being in a Neurosurgical OR, it felt menial today). This was my first true trail run. I’d tried to mimic the feeling; running on the unpavemented parts near the Charles and around Fenway in Boston. This was nothing like that.   I was trying to avoid falling, my mind focused on calculating every step I took. Then, SMACK! I tripped. I got up almost as soon as fell. No time to stop. It wasn’t that bad. Should I check the wound? Maybe later. I knew I had to make up ground early on, as I would inevitably slow down towards the latter part of the race. Passing the aid stations and the medical camp. No need to stop right now. Back to the start. Loop 2. It helped knowing the course now. I knew what to expect. A couple of runners passed me by. I passed a few. It was nice seeing people now and then. A few words exchanged encouraging each other to keep moving forward. Then you’re back in solitude. Loop 3, let’s go.

“I’m one of those people that you have to keep your eye on or i’ll wander off into the woods and forget to come back” ― Jack White. At the starting point of the race(left) and somewhere in the woods at mile 22 ish, I think(Right)

A big shout out to the organizers and volunteers. They were always greeting you with a smile and words of encouragement. The aid stations were well stocked and the pre race dinner and breakfast had a ton of vegan options to. They really made it a fantastic experience

I quickly grabbed a few slices of oranges at an aid station, and in a hurry I missed a trail marker. A km later I realized I was off the trail, when I noticed some horses in a stable. That’s new. Turn back. ughhh!!! The trail was actually very well marked, but somehow I missed it.  (does the extra km make me an ultrarunner now!)

Loop 4 was slow, it involved a lot of walking and running. I finally see the finish, I start running fast.  Gotta finish strong. DONE!

12967914_10154084030443908_9204244962434215403_o

“At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill.” – Unknown. Me after completing the race. Did not think i’d be smiling or standing even!

In summary it’s a fairly flat course. There are a couple of steep incline’s but all of them pretty short. A good chunk of the course is on single trails, so having trail etiquette is important. Ask to pass runners, and let runners pass. It’s just polite.

Did I have this life changing experience running a full marathon? Maybe not. I’m glad at the progress I’ve made in a year and a half since I decided to go for a 10 km walk running for a whole minute somewhere in between. Trail running has got me excited though. I’m itching to give it a go again. I’m gonna try to head to the Middlesex Fells reservation this weekend, which is close to Medford. My journey back to the motel was accompanied by the same uber driver, who had dropped me to the race site. A war veteran he was a delightful man, who gave me a bottle of Gatorade and entertained me with some nice stories. I was promised a nice history lesson about America the next time I was in Falmouth. I’ll definitely be back. I hope to do the 50 K next year.

All in all, a super weekend. What were you upto?

Another Vegan Running Blog!!!

I thought of changing things up a bit.  Maybe make this a more productive blog!! You can catch some of my earlier posts, although i’m hoping to go down a different route with future posts. So here it goes, presenting to you, THE KALE RUNNER!!!

Who am I? 

I am an aspiring ultrarunner, vegan blogger, newbie doctor (Yes, the one that pays better, although I hope to get a PhD someday), and neuroscience researcher! I’m originally from Mumbai recently relocated to Boston; flipping through brains, hoping to make my way into a neurosurgical residency program eventually.

What’s this blog about?

Chronicling my amateur attempts at becoming an ultrarunner (marathoner first. Hopefully soon!), information on a vegan lifestyle, and maybe something brain.

Why running?

Let’s back track a little. I’ve been an obese kid, a fat teenager and a very obese adult. Rewind August, 2014. Hitting a low point in life, health wise and personally, I though it’d be a good idea to start running. I’d always been fascinated with the idea. I came across a post on facebook from someone about the Tahoe 200. A Two hundred mile trail race seemed bizarre. A marathon seemed ridiculous enough. Actively seeking motivation, I headed to the nearest book store looking for a guru. There, shinning back at me was ‘Dare to Run’ by Amit Sheth. It was a signed copy too. I remember going out that evening for a walk and completing a run for a full minute. Now 5 half marathons later, considerably lighter and training for my first marathon, I thought I’d start writing this.

Why Vegan?

It was a video about the egg industry that got me thinking about animal farming. Up until, having grown up a vegetarian, I hadn’t really given any thought to the idea that my food choices may be causing a great deal of suffering. Then there came environmental impacts and health benefits. I read ‘Eat and Run’ by Scott Jurek, heard talks by Peter Singer, watched Forks over Knives and Cowspiracy. I’ll elaborate in detail in future blog posts.

Currently, I’m training for my first full marathon. I’m planning on writing a few posts on how I got here and a few posts on what my training aims to be like.

Like any sensible person who gives advice, I must add,

“The contents of this website such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the website (“Content”) are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website” .

Wait. I am a doctor. STILL always consult YOUR doctor. You are NOT my patient.

I’m experimenting with a Whole foods plant based diet ( In addition to being vegan, I try to cook most times without oil, sugar and salt. Really it’s not that tough and it’s a whole lot tastier) courtesy some great tips from some amazing people I’ve met in Boston and ofcourse having purchased the Instantpot, which makes cooking so much easier!

Next post – Dealing with that four letter word every runner hates. Stay tuned.