Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sugar {oh honey oh honey} You Got Me Wantin' You {My Thoughts on Grain Brain}

So lately I've been pretty in to the Tim Ferris Show podcast on my commute. He talks to interesting people (the ones with Arnold and Peter Attia are particularly good) and has quite a few episodes on health. He's practicing the Ketogenic diet currently and rolling around SF consuming lots of butter tea. That was essentially the catalyst of jumping into this book: Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter, a University of Miami neurologist. Dr. Perlmutter claims that a diet high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbs ("Ketogenic Diet") is the key to curing a range of metabolic and neurological disorders from your everyday blues to bi-polar disorder.

Jumping right in to Chapter 3, Dr.Perlmuttter cites the 1992 food pyramid recommendations as THE relevant fact to the sharp rise in obesity thereafter. I know the food pyramid impacts the structure of government-funded food programs but there'd be a certain time lag to those effects. (The government has definitely played its role -- check out Fed Up on Netflix.) There are numerous other factors contributing to the early '90s being the point at which obesity levels (he is discussing levels, not rates, which is odd) began to climb -- the manufacturing of foods having infiltrated American life while real manufacturing and labor jobs (the kind of jobs that got us off our asses) having exited the market, the increase in more sedentary leisure activities, the baby boomers aging, and the increase in dual-income households and fewer meals prepared at home. But no, he points to the government food pyramid because that's what everyone pays attention to when they purchase and consume food. Umm, OK. (It's like when restaurants started to post calorie counts, studies have shown the calorie information was thoroughly ignored. Food choices are generally driven by preference, habit and availability; not posted calories...or cute government charts.)

Chapter 5 is where he really gets into the structure of the ketogenic diet (more on that means metabolically over here) which is primarily used to treat epilepsy and sounds just dandy as long as you don't have symptomatic ketosis. Also if you aren't already nauseous from the ketones, maybe the the sound of getting 80-90% of your calories from fat on the ketogenic diet is enough to make you feel sick to your stomach. That is a whole lot of fat people. If  you're on a 1600 calorie diet, that's like eating over 10 tablespoons of butter worth of fat. Yum.

Chapter 6 is where he elaborates on his perceived connection of a gluten diet and mental illness. Grain Brain also thoughtfully includes a letter from a bi-polar woman who claims that a low-sugar, low-carb, high fat diet "cured" her bi-polar disorder. Seems legit, right? He includes other letters from former patients for which a ketogenic diet has done a 180 on their lives. The letter part really lets him off the hook on any real medical evaluation by him, which is a stark contrast to someone like author and neurologist Oliver Sacks who details his evaluations and follow-up assessments.  Since he's a neurologist writing a book, not a Dear Abby column, I think a complete assessment of case study patients would be relevant.

Continuing on in Chapter 6, Dr. P states that "In addition to watching your mood brighten up, you'll watch your weight go down, and your energy soar in just a few weeks" on the ketogenic diet. He could write scripts for late-night infomercials I tell ya.

Some of the studies he cites are interesting; although the way he states them and pieces them together he's very much struggling to make a real case for the high fat, low carb diet. Not to mention this diet seems highly unrealistic and unsustainable for the majority of people. Parts of the book got my blood pressure up more than a bowl of fruit salad. Yes, he discuses how fruit elevates your blood pressure and promotes inflammation. (Yeah, really.) As a result of reading Grain Brain though I have been paying more attention to sugar content and how even "good" sugar like honey or very sweet fruits like pineapple should be used in heavy moderation.

A note by my inner statistician on the way he cites studies in the book: There are simply certain ways you don't phrase statements when discussing results of studies. There are instances when he uses "proves" instead of "shows" or "indicates." Like, you fail Stats 101 if you throw out "prove" in your final. He gets deep in to biochemistry but never once mentions a p-value. He's clearly counting on the reader to follow biochem processes but discounts their understanding of what should be the crux of his discussion, data. Read it with a large ol' grain of salt.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Races Loved and Races Lost in the Bay Area

Didn't get into Napa to Sonoma? Trust me, I've been through that 2 hour registration, website crashing game to pay $150 for a race. As much fun as that can be, I've pulled together a list of hot ticket Bay Area races and their sane-yet-similar "sister" races.

Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

Location: Finish in Downtown Sonoma
Fee: $155 + transportation
Start time: 7 am, held in July on Sunday.

You'll run through gorgeous wineries... 

You might even have a sip on the run...

Then you'll finish with an unlimited wine tasting! Awesome. But what if you didn't get into this bucket-list of a race? Try the...

Livermore Half Marathon

Location: Livermore, CA
Fee: $84 (I've seen early bird prices ~$60)
Start time: 8 am in March, on a Saturday (!)

The lesser known but still fantastic Dry Creek region produces some pretty good wines (Wente!) and the race has similar views to N2S.  See all the wineries there along the route? Perfection.

Plus you'll get all that wine after, and it's held on a Saturday so it's a perfect race for actually enjoying the wine.

{Via Napa to Sonoma Half}

This race is March 28th and there are entries still available. Sounds almost too good to be true compared to the craziness I endured for N2S. On to another quick to sell out Bay Area race...

San Francisco Marathon 

Location: San Francisco
Fee: $120 (First half, which goes over GGB, sells out first.)
Start time: 5:30 - 6:30 am, Sunday toward end of July

I've only run the 5k version of this event so I can only vouch for the amazing organization and excessive amounts of free snacks afterward. There was also a post-race concert (of cool local bands). Win-win-win. Here's the course map:

Golden Gate Half

Location: San Francisco
Fee: $64
Start time: 7 am, Sunday in early November

It's nearly the same race as the San Francisco 1st Half except you circle back through the Presidio instead of over to Golden Gate Park. (The Presidio is more breathtaking than that part of GGP anyway.) 

I think I also got a hot meat pie and warm drink after this race back when it was the US Half. Plus you basically finish in front of Buena Vista and I can't think of a more perfect fall weekend than a long run finished with an Irish coffee. 

Big Sur Half Marathon

Location: Monterey, CA
Fee: $100 (early bird price - registration opens April 1 this year)
Start time: 7 am, Sunday in early November (same date as Golden Gate Half this year)

Ahhh another race people seem crazy about. It's hard to get registered for unless you mark your calendar and set 5 alarms for yourself to remember to register that day. There's the dude that shows up at the finish line with all the sand dollar-like medals from every Big Sur Half ever. But the views were so amazing...I almost considered registering for the full (HA!). Plus the guy on the grand piano and all the local support. Ugh, this one is a really tough race to match.

{Pretty much that disgustingly awesome. Via BSIM website.}

Other than some Marin headland trail races, it would be tough to find views with as much ocean as this race. A few I'd recommend but haven't done:

Golden Gate Trail Half Marathon (It was Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 starting at Rodeo Beach in Marin)
This trail run looks gorgeous! I've hiked through here quite a bit and it would be an ass kicker of a race as well as plenty of ocean views and maybe some glimpses of SF. Fee was $45 in 2015. 

{Typical Marin hiking picture.}

Santa Cruz Half Marathon (April 12, 2015) A lot of ocean front on this one too. Some paved and some dirt with a much less classy finish in the close but oh-so-far from Monterey local of Santa Cruz.  I think this would still be a lovely race and make for a fun girls weekend. Reviews here and here. Fee is $75 right now.

Kaiser Half (haven't ran) and Hot Chocolate 15k (have) also give you about 4 miles along the ocean and the rest through Golden Gate Park so those are some pretty lovely surroundings. Finally for the most crazy-hard SF race to get into:

Nike Women's Half Marathon

OK, so no other race will have sparkles, glitter, and jewelry all-in-one quite like this race.

And the firemen, and the music, and the after race massages. It's fun. It's hilly. It's very over the top. The only races I've been to which even kind of compare in atmosphere are the Rock-n-Roll races. (However, in San Francisco we have something called BAY-TO-BREAKERS which is an insane experience and you can use the money you saved to buy yourself a $100 Tiffany's necklace. Just thinking outside the box, people.) The Rock-n-Roll SF race is some thing I have yet to experience but here is it's route:

This is a pretty sweet route with some nice hills in there. The finish line parties and the organization of the RNR races is a large scale production similar to Nike. Plus I think it's 10:1 you'll have Brett Michaels as the finish line performer so there's always that. (UMMM...apparently it's the American Authors this year.) RNR SF is in March and runs about $120, maybe less if you find some nice ambassador on Twitter. :)

The Nike route was majorly overhauled in 2014 and there's no guarantee they're keeping it the same in 2015 so I won't bother posting it. It kind of follows part of the Bay to Breakers route (you'll see the Haight and GGP), and then veers off through the Presidio. Nike didn't include the bridge, which I think is kind of sad because it's such a unique experience but honestly the size of the race also makes the bridge cumbersome. The RNR race also finishes at Civic Center which kind of makes me want to freak-out mentally on behalf of all the tourists so there's a balance I guess that's off for me course-wise with both these races. I'm just saying it's important to look for other factors than maybe the hype sometimes...Like Saturday start times and price points under $100!

Any comparable races that I forgot? Any races here you love? 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kili Trip Report

I finally have all the photos together from my fellow hikers but I can feel the memories of it already slipping away. I had planned on writing in a journal nightly, although once I crawled in my cold (often damp) sleeping bag at night I didn't feel much like writing.

Machame Gate

Day 1 was wet and there were credit card issues at the Machame entrance gate. Porters are scurrying across the parking lot organizing bags in heavy waterproof sacks. We start hiking at roughly 4. We spend 3 (4?) hours hiking in the dark arriving at camp at 9:30 pm.  The rain did not let up much for 3 days.

While that wasn't the most excellent introduction to Kili, the days to come were amazing. Barranco Wall was by far my favorite day, terrain wise.

Heading up to Barranco Wall. 
Note the loads the porters are carrying vs. my  day pack with Larabars and Camelback.

The summit was more beautiful than I had imagined. (I purposefully did not Google summit photos.) The below pic is not even the best of it, so I don't consider it a spoiler for other hikers. :)

While summit day was challenging, it was no worse than a single day hike of Mt. Whitney in my opinion because of the core work I had done. I wasn't sore the next day. I had seen a PT 3 weeks prior to departure for core stability work aimed at some back pain and IT band issues. Core is key. It's what saves you from serious injury when your legs are tired from an endurance hike or run.

Summit day, we were awoken at 11 pm, fed tea and biscuits at 11:30 pm. Our guides inform us that vomiting is normal but is best prevented my not eating right now. They also inform you that above about 14,500 ft your Camelbak will freeze and your remaining water will be (if any) from your water bottles in your bag. Fantastic news all around. We headed out 12:08 am -- 8 minutes later than our guides would have preferred, which they were very obvious about. Never mind that, because we got to Stella Point so quickly that we had to slow down our pace to arrive at summit just at sunrise. Arriving before sunrise and waiting around isn't much of any option since even if you're doing well guides won't let you mill about at the summit more than 10, maybe 15 minutes. It was pitch black when we reached Stella Point so we took a photo on the way down. 

Our guide, James, from Climb Kili is on the far left. The whole company/guide thing is somewhat of a farce. All the guides, asst guides, porters are largely just "contractors" and may work for several companies. All the staff we had was fantastic from the porters to the stomach engineer (cook) to the lead guide. James has hiked the mountain roughly 300 times; the man could have done burpees at the top for all he cared. "Easy peasy, lemon squeeze-y," as he liked to say. 

I didn't do any special training to prep for Kili. Nothing more than 5 miles worth of running at a time. I was actually feeling quite sick the 2 weeks prior to leaving so I didn't do any other workouts aside from PT 2 x week. Fortunately, this worked out for me. I was intensely stressed about not summiting.

If anyone else is completely anal, I've provided my packing list. Crossed out items are things I did not end up bringing. I wore every item I had on summit night minus 1 pair of hiking pants, and 1 sports bra. To be clear that does not include all socks; I wore *only* 1 sock liner and 2 pairs of socks. I rented a sleeping bag so I wouldn't have to haul mine the entire trip and most outfitters provide sleeping pads. If you're not a camper bring an extra sleeping pad; you're sleeping largely on volcanic rock so there's only so much porters can do to clear rocks.

Kili Packing List
Category Item
Bags North Face Base Camp (L) bag
  daypack (Osprey Tempest 20)
Gearsleeping bag

sleeping pad
  sleeping bag liner

trekking poles
Accessories hat
  fleece ear warmer
  glove liner
  light weight glove
  down mittens
  extra batteries
  baseball hat
  glasses (as back up)
Upper wicking t-shirt
wicking tank 
  l/s wool baselayer
  light fleece 1/2 zip
  (heavier) fleece jacket
  north face down coat 600
  patagonia rain jacket w. hood
rain poncho (2 - cheap ones)
2 sports bras
Lower 3 pr underwear
  wool baselayer pant
  convertible hiking pant
  reg. hiking pant
  winter running tights (under armor, kinda heavy)
  lulu pants (these were originally just for the plane but on summit night I added them over my baselayer!)
  rain pants
Feet hiking boots
  trail running shoes
  3-4 pairs socks
  2 pair sock liners
Misc 2 L camelback
  2 - 1 qt size alum. bottles
  spibelt (keep your tip money on you)
  eye drops (holy dust. even non-contact wearers may need these)
  lip balm w. SPF
  baby wipes
  gatorade mix
 airborne (for Kili cold)
  8 handwarmers (pretty useless!)
  quick dry towel
  ear plugs
  bug lotion
  luggage locks
  3 garbage bags
  2 stuff sacks
  binder clips (for drying laundry)

1/2 roll of tp
  12 pairs daily contacts
  hand sanitizer
  small mirror (for putting in my contacts)
  band aids
  pepto bismol
  athletic tape
allergy pills
  pocket knife
  baby powder
  sm duct tape roll (wind it around a pen cap. stuff breaks...)
  extra zip lock bags
Not necessary:

  • Every site I found regarding gear said you need a 3 L Camelbak for Kili. Not so in my opinion; the pace is such throughout the hike that you can easily refill your Camelback from your water bottles. I already had a 2 L so that's what I took. 
  • Also, by the time you want hand warmers, they're useless. They're useless weight on summit night. They're just absolutely worthless - the chemical reaction breaks down at that temp/altitude. Bring 2 water bottles and have your porters fill them with boiling water at night, stuff in sock, stuff in sleeping bag, put in ear plugs, proceed with blissful sleep. On summit night, don't break for more than like 30-60 seconds, you'll freeze. Wear 3 layers of gloves, avoid using poles if possible and keep your hands in your pockets.
  • Too many snacks. Unless you went with a really cheap company or have a really sensitive stomach. I had read from another Kili board to bring 2-3 Clif bars per day. OK, maybe if you are a huge guy but honestly, look at the itinerary - some days are only 3 miles. (Now if you go on safari after, you might need the extra snacks because you're trapped in a car all day or the monkeys stole your lunch nevermind.) I ate 1 caffeine GU chew packet on summit night and maybe 2-3 Larabars during the whole trip. There was so, so much food provided to us by our outfitter at meals. Even the guys in our group felt overwhelmed by the amount of food they expected us to eat. On day 2, our assistant guide said to us during lunch, "Your hopes and dreams rely on what you are doing right now." That is a straight up life #fact. And when all that's required of me at that moment is to eat, I oblige.

Retrospect: The only thing I wish I'd had was a slightly better camera...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Not So Zen: The Death of a Yoga Mat

After finishing my Team in Training (TnT) season, I realized my dear old yoga mat (together since junior year of college!), which had been used for stretching in the parking lot after TnT, needed replaced. Badly. It basically has fuel, oil, and asphalt all over it. No way am I putting my forehead on that.

So first, what to do with my old one? It could be recycled...maybe? No, unfortunately you can't toss it in the blue bin but you may find a place near you that can recycle it here. And here are a few ideas for reusing it:

Beach Blanket. Or at least something to put under your towel.
Non-Skid Rug Pad. Cut a sized-to-fit piece of your yoga mat and put it under a slippery rug.
Donate to a homeless shelter. This would probably work fantastic in SF.
Gardening knee pad. Cut and bind with twine, or just fold.
This has got me feeling kind of crafty; I think I'm going to cut my old mat into a custom-sized dog bed for my rat dog and make a washable cover for it. It will be like memory foam, sort of. There are also a million more ideas here for reuse.
As for a NEW mat, J. Brown at Recovering Yogi makes a pretty good argument that a PVC mat from a country (like Germany) with reputable manufacturing standards, like the European OEKO-TEX 100 standard, which means the manufacturing process is subject to a higher degree of scrutiny and prevents mats from containing heavy metals and DOP softeners, is a reasonable approach to the balance of usable (sticky not slick), and sustainable (lasts a while). So thanks J. Brown for that balanced approach.
I don't have any experience with natural mats made from jute or the like, but you can certainly look for ones free from vinyl, PVC, and phthalates (an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer, obesity, diabetes). You can google natural yoga mat and find a slew of the eco-friendly mats. I think it would be challenging to make both a yoga mat sticky, which requires certain plasticizers, and durable. As for the one I buy, I think I'll go with this one from Yoga Accessories that is PVC and free of phthalates. It's also thicker than my current mat which is really exciting news for my wrists and knees because, well, they hate me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Run for Cancer

So, as brief aside from my Team in Training mission, I was diagnosed with a {really} mild form of skin cancer in August. I think pale is probably a better look than a bunch of these. I also think the amount of information and the difficulty of the biopsy was slightly ridiculous. Even for a "simple" cancer that is basically sitting on the surface of my skin, they couldn't definitively tell if it was cancer. They had to dig out the whole thing to confirm. Not to mention the cost of this "simple" procedure. If I didn't have insurance, I would have paid thousands for the biopsy, test, and Mohs-method removal. Many of us will get a form of cancer in this life. I hope that when any of my friends face it, there will be more treatments or cures than there are today. So let's work on that; let's make that someday TODAY. Also, wear sunscreen out there guys. It's worth it. 

I have a mission - to help find cures and more effective treatments for blood cancers. As a part of that mission, I’m participating in the Nike Women's Half Marathon as a member of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training. I've dedicated this race to my friend's father who was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia this past year. Together we can advance the cures and treatments available for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma.

To get an idea of what you and LLS can fund:

  • $25 Patients chemotherapy drug prescription co-pay.
  • $50 Registration costs for a bone marrow donor.
  • $75 Provide bone marrow typing for a family member of a patient with leukemia.
  • $100 Provide a patient with transportation costs from home to cancer treatment center.
  • $250 Patient aid reimbursement grant for one year.

Any donation, even $5, can contribute towards research and assisting patients. Donations can be made right here. You are making a difference to someone.

Thank you.

I'd like to offer special thanks to: 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What I Ate While Hiking Mount Whitney...and What I'd Do Differently

Hiking Mt Whitney is about 22 miles round trip and 6500' in elevation gain. It's a slog, in other words, but it's gorgeous which makes it worth it.

Altitude can make you feel less hungry since as your red blood cells rush to do their thing, your other functions tend to shut down. Like digestion. How fun. I swear I took 5 extra pounds of trail mix. Meanwhile I ate:

- 1 Cytomax energy chew packet
- 1 Margarita ShotBlok packet
- 1 ProFluids Recovery packet
- Kind Bar
- 1/2 bag of M&Ms
- small handful of roasted edamame
- small handful of trail mix
- banana
- 3 L H2O (packed in)

I usually eat way more calories than that over a 13.5 hour period, even when I'm sitting on my rear at my desk. Thankfully, it was enough that I didn't bonk. My partner who ate less than I did (and weighs more!) bonked pretty hard half way to the summit.

If I did it again, I would have brought more Cytomax energy chews as they were a fantastic pick me up and easy to snack on as we hiked. Not to mention carrying extra trail mix for 20 miles isn't the most fun; it's rather heavy. The salted edamame was great too as salt intake is key, and the protein in edamame is more easily digested than jerky IMO. I made it myself so I added more salt than I usually would. I should also probably note that pre-hike (at 2 am) I ate a quinoa muffin and a boiled egg. Those sat like rocks in my stomach for hours. I should have stuck to a bagel and almond butter for my 2 am "breakfast."

Oh, and the Japanese have a saying about Mount Fuji that I think applies to Mount Whitney too, "He who climbs Fuji-San once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Organic, Gluten-free, and/or Vegan Options at Costco

Costco the land of giant carts, where people don't understand the link between non-organic produce and their "need" for bottled water....

Anyway, I found a wonderfully helpful list here with few exceptions (ahem, GoGo Apple Squeezes, which make me nearly lose faith in humanity). While it is a lovely list, it is either out of date or we get very special Costco items in California. ;) Here are a few exciting items I noticed:

Hemp Hearts 28 oz, $14.59
I've been wanting to try them  in these as an alternative to ShotBloks.

WildRoots Ancient Grain Pancake Mix 3.3 lbs, $8.59 (Gluten-free)
Maybe not healthy, as it is a highly processed item, but healthier than the death mix next to it.

Bob's Red Mill Organic Ground Flax Seed 64 oz., $7.99 
Store this big guy in the freezer. Flax contains oil obviously and can go rancid in a cabinet.

Nature's Path Organic Qi'a Superfood 22.88 oz, $14.59
Considering this is no more than chia, hemp, and buckwheat the price is hilariously good marketing.  I could buy this in bulk at Whole Paycheck and blend it myself for less. Sounds yummy though...

Other things I noticed:
- No chia seeds but they do have them occasionally. I searched for them so long; that's what gave me the chance to snap pictures.
- Larabars (less than a dollar each I think). If I were doing any traveling soon I would have bought them.
- I didn't see any gluten-free breads but they carried Bob's Almond flour and a Bob's gluten-free blend flour.
- Yes, they also have quinoa and nuts but that was covered in the reference list above :)
- No bean-based protein powder.

I don't buy produce at Costco because it's cheaper elsewhere since I live in CA. I also don't buy "snack" foods so I didn't check for healthier options there. (I lied - I bought a jar of sun-dried tomatoes for snacks. They're so sweet!) So that's why I focused on grains/seeds as they are, in addition to nuts, the biggest areas of cost savings for vegan/vegetarian shoppers at Costco! I'm curious though if people in say, Michigan, would be able to find gluten-free options and hemp hearts in their Costco stores. If I see anyone at Costco wearing a manager tag next time I'm sure I won't be able to resist asking.