The results arrived about two weeks ago, and I just haven’t managed to squeeze them into the story line until now. They were, in a word, wicked cool (in New England, that’s one word). And in a way, they relate well to a Second Lap blog namesake story for the week.
The results of which I speak are my results from the medical study I participated in for the Boston Marathon. I’ve yet to see the aggregated results of all us guinea pigs, but that will take some time. Meanwhile, I’m happy with mine.
Said study sought to explore whether cholesterol meds, known in the med biz as statins, might have any impact on certain blood enzymes synthesized during heavy exertion. These enzymes happen to be markers of injury to both general muscles and cardiac muscles, so an impact on the enzymes could imply an impact on cardiac response to the heavy exertion of a marathon. Or in other words, what better way to gain some ammunition to respond to those naysayers who love to point out that someone collapsed and died in last week’s Lower Slobovia Marathon, so why would you do that do yourself?
Oh, and as a bonus, I needed to get my cholesterol checked anyway, and this way I got it done for free. What’s not to love?
So first the easy part: my cholesterol hasn’t looked so good in several years. The total was down, but better, the HDL, or good cholesterol – the one that you can boost through exercise – read, running – hit an all time record high. And not only are both of these good news, but the ratio between them, which is really the important bit, was just plain beautiful. One word: Booyah!
Now the complicated part: the enzyme du jour is called creatine kinase, or CK for short. Your muscles spit it out when they are, well, in a word, pissed at you. You beat them up, they spit it out. You beat them up a lot, they spit out a lot. The lab finds it in your blood, they know you’ve done something mean, nasty, and ugly.
But there’s more. There are several flavors of CK. Without getting into the actual names, which I can’t, because I don’t know them, there’s MM (M&M? Plain or peanut?) and MB (Melon Balls?). Most of your muscles spit out MM – in fact, almost all of their CK spit is MM save about 1% MB. Your heart, on the other hand, spits out 30% MB when it’s mad at you. That’s how they tell you that you had a heart attack when you thought it was just bad fish – your elevated CK-MB percentage is a dead giveaway. Do you see where this is going?
Run a marathon, and your muscles are going to spit out CK. If it’s CK-MM, you beat up your body. If it’s CK-MB, you beat up your heart. The latter option, of course, being bad, scary, a mean thing you’d rather not see. And that’s what the study is looking at. Did we guinea pigs beat up our hearts? And if we did, was there a difference between those of us drugged up on statins versus those healthy dudes who score 125 on their cholesterol tests without even studying? It would be sweet justice, now, wouldn’t it, if we druggies were to win that battle. But I don’t know the answer to that. All I know at this point is my own numbers, which gave me the second big smile of the day, after reading the cholesterol report.
Before the beating, my CK rang in at a leisurely 143, in the normal range of 44 to 196, all MM. That alone is cool enough considering that we runners’ constant level of workouts would probably make the average Joe’s CK take flight. But whatever. Immediately after the beating, when tested right at the finish line in the med tent, it doubled to 303, still all MM. Muscles still trying to figure out what just hit them. Starting to spit.
The next morning’s draw, cha-CHING, 980. More than six times the starting level, and over triple the post-race traumatic reading. (And I’ll bet it rose higher the following day, the day of ‘max burn’ muscle pain, but I know not…). So the machine works, it spits as prescribed. Cool enough. But the wicked awesome (like wicked cool, that’s one word) part is this: 99% M&Ms, 1% Melon Balls.
Verdict: I beat the crap out of my body, but my heart just plain didn’t care. Or, in practical terms, the next time someone reminds me of the guy who collapsed at mile twenty five or something like that, I will blind them with science. And run away smiling.
I can’t wait to see the results of the whole study!
Now, what about that namesake story?
Last week found me in Cambridge, over the river from Boston, for a seminar slated to run till just past noon. Having no further meetings booked, you know that of course I planned a mid-day run in place of lunch (which was consummated as a PowerBar wolfed down on the drive home). Said run, besides taking advantage of a perfect spring day, was engineered to remedy a gap of horrid dimension in my running life. Despite living a mere marathon from Boston, despite running into Boston five times now in the high miles of a certain rather well-known race, I’d never run Boston’s most famous and beautiful run-o-drome, the paths around the Charles River basin.
I headed out from Kendall Square toward the river, not entirely certain how to find the best paths, and was thus thankful to link up with a Native Guide as I hit the road, Todd from Belmont, who worked in Kendall. His pace was a bit slower than mine, so I gladly slowed to a social ramble while trying not to drift back to the quicker zone; it’s simply not polite to kill your guide. I probably talked his ears off, which is hard to avoid when your partner is breathing a lot harder than you, but other than the guilt of burdening him with my ramblings, it was a truly lovely circuit, pretty much all that I’d expected it would be. On the Boston side, he led me the quickest way off the streets and onto the paths along the Esplanade. On the Cambridge side, we skirted mere feet from the water along worn unpaved paths. We made the turn at the BU Bridge, one bridge earlier than I’d planned, but probably a better choice based on traffic. With about six miles under our belts, we approached the spot where a hard turn to port would take us back to Kendall, at which point he announced he’d stop there and walk it in as a warm-down.
Feeling that I’d already overloaded his chat receptors, I decided I’d leave him in peace for his warm down, and I’d continue just a bit further, making the turn where the basin angles northward, then head back into Kendall from the east. But plans change…
Around the turn, the broad sidewalk narrowed to squeeze under the Longfellow Bridge, and it was at just that point I needed to squeak past a lady I’d been catching up with for the past quarter mile. “Excuse me, coming by on your left,” brought the unexpected response of, “I’ll have to try to keep up with you,”, and somehow in the half block between there and the spot I intended to peel off, we were chatting. OK, I figured I’d take the next turn instead, and, well, next thing you know, yes, I ran the second lap. Just like the name of the blog. Another pass through Science Park back to the Boston side, another meander through the Esplanade. Another lovely conversation companion, Mary from Charlestown, with compatible views on kids, education, faith, heck, bring your husband over, my wife would love this, we’ll sit on the deck and chat for hours, the world’s a mess but we’re sane, that kind of meeting of the minds. Serendipitous. On top of a perfect day, a wonderful venue, why not go around again just to enjoy the moment?
She peeled off on the Boston side where she’d parked, and I took the Harvard Bridge this time instead, adding another four for a leisurely ten mile ramble on a perfect day. And in the last solo mile back to Kendall, I reminded myself how lucky I was that I’ve been blessed with the health and fitness (now you see the connection with the first half of this posting, right?) that grants me the freedom to just say, what the heck, let’s not waste a wonderful opportunity, let’s just go for a second lap, because I can. Count your blessings.