Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall feelings

As the seasons change so does running: it feels more mellow, more easy-going.  Part of it comes from the weather because now I don't have to steel my nerves as I head out for another trek in 101 degree heat.  Instead the soft coolness of the autumn air refreshes and renews my muscles as I move.

But the bigger change is in my goals.  During the racing season I have races and deadlines constantly looming, so there is this constant pressure to make progress quickly because if I toe the line and I
m not ready there will be problems.  But once I decided that I wasn't going to race any more this season, everything changed.

Now I've moved in the building phase, that long, slow period in the winter months where you go back to basics and retool your machine to have a better season next summer.  I still have goals, but they are a little more nebulous, and further off.  I can run solely for the pure joy of running, rather than to meet some special training criteria.  And if I'm too busy with work to do yoga and run on a given day, I could take a day off from the pavement and not worry about it.

For every endeavor we all need periods of intense focus and periods of relaxed recovery.  This is periodization, really, but a more holistic kind.  We should take the time to enjoy the variety and the fresh perspective that it brings.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The man who climbed up a mountain and came down a...man still, I guess.

For the last couple of weeks I've been running the trails along the Wasatch Front, and it's been a blast.  Every day I pick a new place and just explore.  And now that autumn is in full swing, the scenery is gorgeous.  I started in the Spanish Oaks Reservoir and decided to run up the small mountain just behind the lake:

There were two ways to the top, and first looked pretty dang scary:

This one looked a little tamer:


It was still a monster, with long stretches of 40 percent grade.  To give you an idea, after six minutes I had already climbed this high above the lake:

But I could barely notice my heart pounding because the trail looked like this:

Once I got to the top things leveled out a little and I could actually run instead of hike/climb/crawl.

By the time I made it to the peak my lungs were ragged so I took a short photo break.  This is the trail I had just wrestled into submission...

...and this is the view from the top.  Not a bad climb in just twelve minutes!

I decided to take a different way down by running along the ridge and going down that scary trail I considered going up.  I don't know why but there is a big white cross at the end of it which looks rad perched like it is.

When I reached the cross this was the view back up the canyon.  This is why I love this spot so much.

The way down wasn't actually a trail, but some kind of dried up river bed.  It was crazy steep and made of this loose, crumbling clay which was about the most dangerous terrain possible.  I walked most of the way down to keep myself from snapping a leg.

At the end I could cool off by jumping into the reservoir and unwind by sitting in the sun sipping an ice-cold Arctic Shatter Powerade.  So, yeah, it was basically perfect.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Guess what? There are no superfoods.

I'm not an angry person, so I never rant.  Well, almost never.  I hate the phrase, "superfood."  You see it everywhere- tv commercials, magazine ads, newspaper articles.  The problem is that it is totally meaningless.  The reason there can be no superfoods is because there are no good or bad foods; only good or bad diets.

You can't eat everything that you need to survive in a single meal-there are too many different essential nutrients.  So you eat a variety of foods over time, and what your body responds to is the time-average of all the things you eat over days, weeks, and months.  A good diet is one that has the right balance of everything- protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.  A bad diet is lopsided, too much of one thing, or none of something you need.

So it doesn't make sense to say, "This food is bad for me" because depending on what else you had been eating, that food could be either a good or bad addition to the overall context.  Broccoli isn't inherently healthier than cheeseburgers- they both have things you need, and they both would be elements of an overall healthy pattern of eating. If you had eaten nothing but broccoli for a week, than broccoli would be the worst choice for your next meal.  And if you had gone all day without eating any fat, than a cheeseburger would be the perfect choice.

So there are no superfoods- not oatmeal, not goji berries, nothing.  I think the reason these ads infuriate me is that they are the most despicable kind of marketing campaigns, the argument of "buy this because it is the right thing to do."  And what really burns me is that these people know enough about health to know that what they are saying is a lie.

Another manifestation of this fundamental misunderstanding of basic physiology is recent government efforts to curb unhealthy eating by enacting laws that prohibit things that aren't categorically bad for you.  Mayor Bloomberg has passed a host of laws prohibiting certain foods he believes contribute to obesity.  His most recent "accomplishment" is banning the sale of sodas larger than 16 oz.  The problem with this restriction is that there are situations where drinking more soda than that would be perfectly legitimate.

One example: according to Dr. Tim Noakes (the man who has done more rigorous scientific studies on the physiology of running than any other researcher) a two liter of Coke is the best thing to drink in the middle of running an ultra marathon.  The combination of glucose, sodium, and carbonation is exactly what a person needs if they are in the middle of running 50 miles.

So if someone tries to convince you that you need to eat this one magic thing to be healthy, you can tell them their wrong and be confident in the fact that you weren't tricked into buying something you didn't really need.