Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quick Clarification

Kevin Beck, Brad Hudson and I recently attended an event at the Boulder Book Store and had the opportunity to discuss our book, "Young Runners at the Top." A few questions from audience members brought up some differing opinions about training and coaching, so I wanted to address at least one of the topics here.

The concept for "Young Runners at the Top" started quite a while ago when Suzy Hamilton and I decided to write a book focusing on young athletes. We felt there were training books written for little kids and those for adults, but those addressing teens who want to compete successfully at a high level were lacking. She wasn't able to continue with the project, so I asked Melody Fairchild to get involved, which she was happy to do until a new coaching opportunity prevented her from having enough time.

In the end, this was somewhat of a community undertaking. I and my coauthors are grateful to all the people who helped create "Young Runners at the Top." The list of people involved includes but is not limited to:

Addie Bracy, Mark Plaatjes, Bobby McGee, Dr. Richard Hansen, Lucy and Nerida Alexander, Bean Wrenn, Melody Fairchild, Ruth Waller, Scott Fry, Greg Weich, Carrie Messner-Vickers, Róisín McGettigan-Dumas, Barb Higgins, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Rebecca Walker and Lorraine Moller.

During our first book signing event, Brad, Kevin and I addressed some important topics. We spent a long time talking about why so few young girls who run well during high school go on to compete at a high level in and after college. Obviously, it doesn't come down to one issue. Some contributing factors include transitioning through puberty; social, peer and self-imposed pressure that leads to increased and prolonged stress; and overtraining and burnout. Our book offers ideas on how to help young runners transition through these difficult times and continue running into adulthood.

While discussing these issues, people used many examples and comparisons, which doesn't resolve or accomplish very much. You can't use others as examples of the proper weight or take a training plan for one person and successfully apply it to someone else without knowing a whole lot about both. When using elite athletes as an example, you never know exactly what methods they use to achieve their success. They often offer a very minimal and possibly skewed glimpse into their lives, so it's easy to make assumptions about what might or might not be occurring. One thing the three of us suggested in "Young Runners at the Top," is to always individualize training programs and diets for each athlete. I'm not sure if we made that clear enough at the event, so I wanted to reiterate it here.

The other issue I wanted to address is weight. Some jokes were made about runners being thin, but ultimately you can't be a healthy runner and have a long and successful career if you are not fueling yourself properly. I have already posted about the seductive grace period and weight loss, so I won't go into it again here. Suffice to say that coaches need to be thinking about their athletes moving through different phases of training and competition in the healthiest way possible, and starving won't allow for longevity in the sport.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Repeat of 2012

Actually, I ran 40 seconds slower on the C.U. cross country course today than I did in 2012, but I had some issues on the second lap, mostly fear, fatigue and excessive thirst due to the heat. I also didn't realize that I was carrying an extra t-shirt in the main compartment of my running vest. That should have been obvious when I picked it up to put on, but I ignored the weight, thinking I was on the tired side and probably overly focused on trivial details. I'm sure the small amount of added weight didn't have a huge effect on my running, but it certainly didn't help keep me cool.

The first lap went well. I felt strong and comfortable, but the second lap was a mess. I was fussing with my water bottle and slowing down. It seems I always run into some issue with someone else whenever I'm doing any kind of timed event on that course. Today was no different when a biker coming from the opposite way randomly cut in front of me at the bottom of the big hill and stopped. She apologized, but I thought it was odd that, with all the open space there, she felt the need to zoom in front of me as we turned, cut me off and stop. Minor complications, but those little things seem to throw me off, especially lately.

I was tired and sneezy after the run, so I walked most of the way home. I can tell I don't have much stamina right now. Just like in 2012, I'm disappointed but have to realize that it's good to even be running at all, everything considered. For some unknown reason, a couple of weeks ago, I was able to run 2 minutes faster up to the Mesa Trail this year than my best time last year, though I always use that as more of a fun tempo thing. Still, I was pleasantly surprised. I guess I'm inconsistent at the moment, but it's fine. I have to be happy that I overcame some reluctance to even try again and got out there, sore feet and all. That's progress at this point.

Monday, September 4, 2017

What the Health

At the suggestion of a friend, I watched "What the Health," a documentary about diet and health. Actually, it's more of a one-sided, biased look at diet and health.

The good points of the film, unfortunately, are buried under a lot of bullshit spouted by both the interviewer and the people being interviewed. It's strange that Kip Anderson, the director, producer, writer, and editor of "What the Health" makes quite the fuss about certain studies being funded by specific groups, while pretty much everybody involved in this film is a vegan and very vigorously promotes a vegan lifestyle. For example, Dr. Neal Barnard, one of the many vegans interviewed in the film, is the president of a vegan and animal rights group that has a budget of well over 7 million and was a regular contributing writer for PETA. He and others interviewed in the movie have written books promoting veganism and are activists for the cause. They're not merely suggesting that eating a vegan diet might be good for your health, which isn't actually confirmed by this film, they want you to buy their shit. Meat, after all, causes everything from endometriosis to cancer, and these guys have the books, programs and advice to help you give it up.

There are plenty of other blog posts or articles debunking the obscure and questionable studies Anderson focuses on in the film. I don't think I can do a better job than either of the two linked to below. At one point, Anderson calls a survey a study that supposedly confirms eating an egg a day is as bad as smoking. I addressed a similar survey situation here when a vegan activist woman implied that filling out a questionnaire is as valid as an actual study.

To give you an idea of some of the more ridiculous myths that are promoted in this film, there was a comment in "What the Health" about cheese being coagulated cow pus, which is as absurd as claiming chocolate is really dismembered spider parts because the FDA allows a certain amount of critter pieces per 100 grams in the chocolate making process. That's not even a good analogy because there really isn't any pus in milk, while, sorry to tell you, there might be some spider parts in your Hershey's bar. Nearly every study presented in the film was twisted or bent beyond recognition.

Debunking "What the Health" I  https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/what-the-health-a-movie-with-an-agenda/

"In the first of several phone call vignettes, the filmmaker, Kip Andersen, calls the American Cancer Society to ask why they don’t warn about the dangers of meat on their home page. He is put on hold, but is eventually granted an interview. The interview is cancelled and the ACA stops responding when they realize he only wants to argue with them about diet and cancer. I’m not surprised. Their recommendations are based on expert evaluation of all the published evidence and they are not likely to change their minds because a single nonscientist with an agenda walks in off the street to argue with them. 

The phone call gimmick is repeated for the American Diabetes Association. He wants to know why they don’t clearly state on their home page that meat causes diabetes, and how dare they include a recipe for baconwrapped shrimp! He eventually is able to interview an ADA spokesman who very reasonably tells him there is insufficient evidence that diet can cure diabetes, and says “We recommend a healthy diet.” He acknowledges that there are studies, but points out that many of them have never been replicated or are wrong; that’s why we do peer review. Andersen keeps bringing up individual studies until the spokesman loses patience and stops the interview, saying he doesn’t want to get into an argument. Andersen interprets this to mean that the ADA is not interested in prevention or cure. 

Then he calls the American Heart Association to ask why they include beef and egg recipes. He gets a similar response. He interprets these failed phone call inquiries as stonewalling and an organized effort to conceal the truth. He discovers that the ACA, ADA, AHA and other mainstream organizations are funded in part by food manufacturers like Dannon, Kraft, Tyson, and fast food restaurant chains like KFC. He says we can’t trust them because they’re taking money from the companies that are causing the very diseases they are trying to prevent. 

As an analogy, I couldn’t help wondering how the American Academy of Pediatrics would respond to a random phone call demanding that their home page warn that vaccines may cause autism and complaining that doctors can’t be trusted because they are paid by the Big Pharma companies that sell vaccines. I wouldn’t blame them for hanging up."  -- Harriet Hall

Debunking "What the Health" II  https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/7/25/16018658/what-the-health-documentary-review-vegan-diet

"What’s more, the WHO did not say that eating meat was as deadly as smoking. Rather, it determined that the strength of the evidence linking processed meats to colorectal cancer is similar to the strength of the evidence linking tobacco and cancer, meaning there’s convincing data here. This certainly doesn't mean that eating processed meat is as bad for you as smoking. It means that according to the agency's assessment, the links between processed meat and certain types of cancer are well-established.

So when the filmmaker asks, “If processed meats are labeled the same as cigarettes, how is it even legal for kids to be eating this way?” he clearly didn’t understand the WHO’s read of the research. (To be fair, a lot of other media outlets got the WHO warning wrong too.)"  -- Julia Belluz

In general, "What the Health" is too filled with errors to be any good. One positive thing about the movie is that it calls attention to some of the unethical and inhumane factory farming practices in the United States and encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables, something your mother probably told you to do, too. Oh, and Steve-O made an appearance because he's an expert on scientific research pertaining to health and diet, I guess. Lastly, the success stories of people who, after two weeks of eating a plant-based diet, were transformed from crippled and sick individuals on cabinets full of medications to happy shinny medication-free specimens of health were cool. In general, though, this flick is two thumbs down for me.