2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 3 fully loaded ships.


In 2010, there were 39 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 401 posts. There were 91 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 16mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 19th with 164 views. The most popular post that day was Boston Marathon Liveblog.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were hundredpushups.com, dailymile.com, facebook.com, 2sparrows.org, and birthdayshoes.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for poi si torno all eterna fontana, love song lyrics, springer mountain, into the wild book quotes, and poi si tornò all’eterna fontana.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Boston Marathon Liveblog April 2010


Into the Wild. Jon Krakauer. May 2008


Family Happiness and Other Stories. Leo Tolstoy. June 2008


A Grief Observed. C.S. Lewis. October 2006


Grandfather Mountain Hike August 2008

The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan.

  • “The whole of nature,” wrote the English author William Ralph Inge, “is a conjugation of the verb to eat, in the active and passive.”

Another food/diet book read this year, but this one is different.  It doesn’t really espouse a typically type of diet as Plank’s “Real Food” (go back 100 years and eat that way) or Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint” and Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution” (go back 10,000 years and eat that way).

What it does is look at the 3 ways we can get food to our table:

  1. Industrial (the typical way most food is grown today — from the corn fields and cattle fields to the table)
  2. Organic (and he shows the difference between industrial organic vs. small farm organic)
  3. Hunter-gatherer (just what it says!)

In each scenario, he follows the food chain from the beginning all the way to his table, where he prepares and eats a meal.  Well, in the first (Industrial), he buys McDonald’s at the end!

This is really a fascinating book on many levels, and it shows how dependent we have become on corn (which is in something absurd like over 50% of all processed foods you buy at the grocery store) and is used in feeding the animals we eat, etc.  He goes into the economics of why this is the case – namely government subsidization of the corn farmers.  The organic section was also fantastic, especially the part that explores how Polyface Farm in VA is doing things — and how they are successful at it.

The problem with hunter-gatherer is that we can’t support the 6.5+ billion people in the world doing that.  A hunter-gathering tribe could only support themselves, only in the right locations, and only if they were not up against other people-groups.  Small scale organic like Polyface seems to work — so going organic and local is a good thing.  There is a question of scale — could it grow to support the world’s population?  That is tough to say.  And what about costs?  It is more expensive than the industrial chain in initial costs.  But what about the long terms costs in terms of the environment, the dependency on petroleum the industrial food chain has, and health care?  Is small scale organic healthier than industrial?  (I would say “of course!,” though some people don’t agree… Namely the large corporations behind industrial and the scientists on their payroll, and the government groups on the receiving end of their lobbying!)

I would highly recommend this book to everyone!  It is long, but well worth it.  If you want the movie version, Food Inc., is reasonably close, though not nearly as thorough.   And it is not an exact copy, or even a facsimile, of the book.  It does tell some of the same story, and Pollan was one of the main consultants.

The Paleo Solution. Robb Wolf.

Another food/diet book.  I had no idea when this year started I would read so many books on running and food/diet!  Oh well, it has been interesting and fun following the trail where it leads me.

Anyway, after reading The Primal Blueprint, I thought I’d read this book which just came out a month or two ago.   Based on some of the reviews, it sounded like it would have more science behind the recommendations, and I can affirm that is the case, albeit just a little more.  Overall it is very similar to Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, but there are a few differences.  PS does not get into fitness as much, though PB gets into it in much more detail in the supplemental and free PDF Primal Blueprint Fitness.

I am still not sure I agree with everything in either book with respect to diet, though I do agree with the majority of it.  Namely cut sugar, cut processed foods, and the like.  Both also promote grain/legume/dairy free as well, though PB seems to have a little more latitude towards dairy — especially fermented dairy and/or dairy from grass fed cattle.  PS says ok to butter from grass fed, but seems to not like cheeses and yogurt like PB allows.  I am still not sold on legumes being all that bad for you, and I like my cheese and yogurt, as well as milk occasionally.  None of that seems to bother me.   I am beginning to agree with grains to some extent, though I don’t know that everyone needs to cut out all grains.  I do agree that the current recommendations on building your food intake around grains is bad advice — the level of grains that are recommended seem far to high and many recent studies are pointing to the increased in grains (not just processed) ad the culprit behind the obesity and cardiovascular disease epidemic.  (I don’t want to be too reductionist and say that is our only problem… Things are much more complex than that!)   But some grains, some times, may not be too bad, unless you have a known disease/intolerance/or allergy, especially for athletes that can use more carbs…  Of all the grains, I would say wheat is probably the worst for the majority of people, due to how the body views gluten, and what that does internally.

I suppose I’ll have to read the Paleo Diet for Athletes next to see what they say!

I still don’t understand why PS states that combining fat/protein/carbs does not affect the body’s insulin response.  I.e. they state that carbs, no matter if they are eaten alone or in combinations with other (low glycemic load) foods, does not change your body’s insulin response.  I actually have a question submitted to Robb so maybe he’ll answer it on the pod cast, but if anyone understands this and has reference to the literature on it, I’d appreciate it.

Unless you are super interested in this stuff, I’d say you could just pick either PS or PB and be fine — no need to read both.  PS does have more science background, while PB lays out just what the title says — a blueprint for living, not just for diet, but for exercise, work, sleep, and play.  (PS definitely touches on sleep as well as stress as it relates to work and play.)

If you want to turn back the clock 100 years instead of 10,000, I’d highly recommend Nina Plank’s Real Food.  And the Ominvore’s Dilemma is just fascinating all around!   (I just realized I haven’t written anything on the latter yet, even though I finished it before PS, so I’ll have to do that soon!)

MR 340 Part II, The Race

It is a bit difficult to write a race port on this race in my typical adventure race format.  In AR’s, I am normally able to keep all of the details and happenings straight in my head — I think due to the transitions from one event to another.  I’m also typically more involved in planning and navigation than I was in the MR 340 — in this race I was just a paddling grunt.  (Happily, I might add!  It was nice to not have to do a ton of planning as is typical.)

So, to put it another way, since I’m normally reading maps and the passport, heavily involved in the navigation during the race, and because there are clear transitions, it is much easier to keep things straight in a normal AR than in this race.  In the MR340, while we stopped 7 times, I didn’t even get out of the boat a couple of times, and the ramps all kind of blend together in my mind.   So in this post, I’ll give a breakdown of times per checkpoint as kept by our ground crew, perhaps include a quick point or two, and throw in some photos here and there.

I’ll also include the same photo from the last post (part I) here for reference.

Race Start – Kaw Point

The race started at Kaw Point.  We chose to not go to the far river bank so that we could stay close enough to shore to allow us to enter the boat fairly late (close to the start time).  While the far shore definitely gives you a jump on the other competitors in terms of cutting the corner and getting to the fast water quicker, we felt that an additional 45-60 minutes sitting in the boat and fighting the currents was not worth it — especially when we were looking at a 40 hour or more race.

We all got in the boat a few minutes before 8 a.m., pushed off a bit, and then waited.  It was a bit difficult to hold the boat in the current and not collide with other boats, but overall we did pretty well.  At 8:02 the national anthem started, and at 8:05 the canon was fired and we were off!

It was certainly crowded, and when the Kansas River joins the Missouri River within a minute or two of the start, the high/fast current of the Missouri was playing havoc with some of the boats.  While we made it through fairly clean, we later learned that five boats capsized at this point, including eventual female solo winner and star paddler, Robin Benecassa.

I’d like to say we quickly settled into a groove, but in reality, it took hours and hours for that to happen.  However, with 20 paddlers, even though we were pushing nearly 5000 pounds through the water, we had enough power to get into a good groove and start picking off some of the boats that had gotten a jump on us.

Kaw Point to Lexington

The 1st checkpoint was Lexington, 51.1 miles from Kaw Point.  See the chart below for all the times in, times out, etc.

I recall from this section a few things:

Santo:  Santo Albright, the eventual men’s solo winner, drafted us almost the whole way on this section.  Every time I looked back, he was within a foot or two of our stern.  At times, there were several other boats drafting behind him.  This was a solid strategy for him — even though we were losing a little time to the front runners, including a couple of solo men in his division, he was biding his time and taking it easy.  340 miles is a long ways, and he would be fresh on the 2nd day.

Brad:  I noticed a solo man in front of us that was having trouble staying straight.  He was fighting the water the entire way, it seemed.  I couldn’t understand how he could be in front of us — I guess whenever he could keep it straight, he was flying!  We eventually pulled up beside him, and he asked us if his rudder was working.  As best we could see, it was.  A few minutes later I looked back and saw him pulling over, I suppose to check the rudder.  We never saw him, but later learned that he had dropped from the race.  The headline that was picked up nationally, and eventually, internationally read “Asian Carp Knocks Paddler” from race.  The actual story pointed more to the rudder as the main problem, but speculation around the post race area was on boat choice.

Lexington to Wavery to Miami to Glasgow … to St. Charles

Now it all starts to get a little fuzzy.  :-/

I can say going in to the 1st check point at Lexington, I thought our time off the water (at the check points) would be pretty high, as much as 20-25 minutes per stop.  Going in to our 1st CP, I said a stretch goal would be 12 minutes, but we made it out in 8!  Overall, we had amazing checkpoint times considering our crew had to refuel 20 people every time, and in many cases we could not get the boat in broadside — so everything had to come in from the bow.  Or people just jumped.

This is what we looked like coming in to a typical CP:

And this next photo shows a little of the controlled chaos of a CP — note the bottle being thrown in the air.  This is actually early in a CP before it got really chaotic.  At only one check point did everyone get out — typically a quarter to as much as half of us would stay in.  Others would jump out to use the restroom, or help with gear, or to just to stretch their legs.  Yet our longest CP was only 12 minutes.  Most of the credit has to go to the crew for this amazing feat.

And here we are just about to leave:

Here is a chart of all the CP’s and other relevant data, showing our average mph, time in the CP, etc.

We pushed hard the last 40 miles from Klondike in — well, really we pushed hard the last 100 miles or more.  Once we had crept into 3rd place, we did not want to give that up!  And even before then, I recall Will saying a few times “We only need to pass two more boats to secure our place on the podium,” so we pushed hard for a long long ways.

We tried really hard to break 38 hours when we realized how close we were, but we came up just short at 38:05.  I have to say the last couple miles was an amazing, exhilarating time.  We really came together, paddling hard an in sync, and the energy level was unreal.  I think the whole boat was yelling and screaming, and chanting out various words such as “hit,” “stroke,” “arrrgh” an the like, to keep us all in sync.  I certainly hope someone has a video of us coming in under the last bridge.  They said they could hear us long before they could see us.

We had a bit of an anti-climatic finish, as we misjudged the current in the eddie, so we got pushed back up river about 20 feet instead of hitting the shore right at the finish.  But it was only a few strong paddles to put us right where we needed to be.

Considering our original optimal time goal was 40:00 hours, and I thought we could be as much as 48 hours, we really rocked it!  It was good enough to win our division (well, we were the only Dragon Boat!), and get 3rd overall, behind two incredibly fast and talented tandem boats.  We were all certainly pleased, and I think we proved to the entire paddling community that not only is it possible to finish a race like this in a dragon boat, but that in future years, a dragon boat just may win it.  With a few tweaks here and there, I’m certain that is the case.  And, while we were at it, we just happened to shatter the previous world record for distance covered by a dragon boat!

Here is a photo of me getting out at the end — falling back into the boat.  I knew my legs were going to be rubber — in fact, when Joey and I had been switching seats the past few hours, I only did it while sitting and him standing.  I had tried once on the last leg to stand, and the legs just weren’t there.  It wasn’t that I was that exhausted or anything, I just didn’t have land legs.  So I had grabbed my paddle to brace myself as I came out, but it still wasn’t quite enough!

Again, much of the race is a blur, and I don’t recall everything that happened in the order it happened, so in my next post, I’ll offer a few anecdotes and post some other photos…

(to be continued)

Food Rules. Michael Pollen.

A VERY quick read of 64 rules about food that Pollan has established after writing his other books on food and nutrition.   These rules lack most of the scientific reasoning of the rules, but the rules themselves are good if you don’t like that kind of thing.  Of course, I do like that stuff, so I’m now reading his more in-depth book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”
Quotes – only a couple… Most of the rules are quotable!

  • Today foods are processed in ways specifically designed to get us to buy and eat more by pushing our evolutionary buttons—our inborn preferences for sweetness and fat and salt. These tastes are difficult to find in nature but cheap and easy for the food scientist to deploy, with the result that food processing induces us to consume much more of these rarities than is good for us.
  • Not surprisingly, the decline in home cooking closely parallels the rise in obesity, and research suggests that people who cook are more likely to eat a more healthful diet.

Run Less Run Faster

After coming back from Boston, where I watched my Dad and sister run the marathon, I realized I had caught the Boston bug…  Even though Dad can get me in without a qualifying time, I had to check the what my BQ time is to see if I would have a chance.  For me at nearly age 40, I’d have to run a 3:20, or 7:38 minutes per mile for 26.2 miles.  I can run that now for 5 miles, but adding more than 20 would be tough.  I’m also torn, as I don’t really enjoy road running that much, but instead love the trails and right now want to concentrate on trail ultras..

Either way, I had heard about this book so I thought I’d check it out.  The main premise is “3plus2” which is 3 hard runs per week, plus 2 cross training workouts.  The hard runs are all about speed — interval work, short tempos, and long tempos (or at least long runs with tempo like speeds mixed in).  The cross training is mostly about other aerobic work where you are allowed to mix in items that will save your body from some of the pounding of running, such as swimming and biking.  They also show weight workouts and 2 running drills.

The book is filled with all kinds of tables such as:  pace charts for what your times should be for various distance races based on your current 5k race time;  times for your intervals and tempo’s based on current 5k times; training plans for 5k, 10k, and marathon; and on and on.  Lots of tables.

Since I have not actually used the book to train for a particular race, I can’t say if it is effective, though looking around at reviews on-line, many people seem happy with it.

I will say the authors were extremely prompt with responding to a couple questions I had.  For example, I had hoped I could use Heart Rate as an effort indicator instead of just pace, so I could do my long runs on trails.  That would allow me to pursue both my goals of trail ultras and speed work.  Bill Pierce responded within 24 hours that “The principle of specificity dictates that training on trails is good trainng for racing on trails.”    Later, Scott Murr did respond with a much lengthier email all about using heart rate levels, which I still have not finished due to its length!

Right now I am not concentrating on speed at all, as I have SCAR coming up (70 mile run in the Smokies on the Appalachian Trail, though I am pretty sure I will cut it to 33 or 40 miles due to my recent bought with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever).  After SCAR I will re-assess and decide, and while I will most likely not follow the training schedules in this book exactly, I will incorporate some of the speed work into my training to see how close I can get to that 7:38 over 26 miles!

Romans. RC Sproul

Romans has been thrown at me from every conceivable angle for the past few years, starting with a long conversation with a Catholic priest (in street clothes, on holiday — didn’t come out he was a priest until pretty far into our conversation!) in Gatwick airport, sunday school class, reading it on my own, and seeing various passages from it in much of my other reading.  RC Sproul has become one of my favorite writers.  So when  I saw he had a verse by verse commentary on it, I had to get it!   It is a long read, and I had a hundred or more quotes highlighted on the kindle, but I won’t include them all here.  I will just say that if you want to do a serious study of Romans and have a Reformed bent, this book is for you.

What I talk about when I talk about running. Haruki Murakami.

I saw this book while in the Harvad Co-op while in Boston for the marathon (I was spectating, not running!).  Quickly put a sample on the kindle and when I read that later, had to get the whole book.  Kindle samples are killing me!  🙂

The 1st chapter of this book sounded an awful lot like me, even though Mr. Murakami is in his later 50’s…  The 1st chapter was the best, while the rest were not as interesting to me.  Just about running marathons and/or triathlons, though he did have one ultra. But overall a lot of good insite worth reading and sharing here.  So I’ll just throw out a bunch of quotes:

  • Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.
  • Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.
  • I don’t know why, but the older you get, the busier you become.  [ too true! ]
  • the fact that I’m me and no one else is one of my greatest assets.
  • By running longer it’s like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent.
  • (Putting off thinking about something is one of my specialties, a skill I’ve honed as I’ve grown older.)
  • I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.
  • but the only way to understand what’s really fair is to take a long-range view of things.
  • Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that’s unfair, I think it’s possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won’t seem to be worth all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.
  • The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.
  • As you age you learn even to be happy with what you have. That’s one of the few good points of growing older.
  • Still, it’s pretty wonderful to watch these pretty girls run. As I do, I’m struck by an obvious thought: One generation takes over from the next. This is how things are handed over in this world, so I don’t feel so bad if they pass me. These girls have their own pace, their own sense of time. And I have my own pace, my own sense of time. The two are completely different, but that’s the way it should be.
  • and covered sixty-two miles. It was draining physically, as you can imagine, and for a while afterward I swore I’d never run again. I doubt I’ll try it again, but who knows what the future may hold. Maybe someday, having forgotten my lesson, I’ll take up the challenge of an ultramarathon again. You have to wait until tomorrow to find out what tomorrow will bring.
  • Since I was on autopilot, if someone had told me to keep on running I might well have run beyond sixty-two miles. It’s weird, but at the end I hardly knew who I was or what I was doing. This should have been a very alarming feeling, but it didn’t feel that way. By then running had entered the realm of the metaphysical. First there came the action of running, and accompanying it there was this entity known as me. I run; therefore I am.
  • In this instance, relief outweighed happiness.
  • And one of the privileges given to those who’ve avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.
  • Competing against time isn’t important. What’s going to be much more meaningful to me now is how much I can enjoy myself, whether I can finish twenty-six miles with a feeling of contentment. I’ll enjoy and value things that can’t be expressed in numbers, and I’ll grope for a feeling of pride that comes from a slightly different place.
  • Reaching the finish line, never walking, and enjoying the race. These three, in this order, are my goals.
  • On the body of the bike is written “18 Til I Die,” the name of a Bryan Adams hit. It’s a joke, of course. Being eighteen until you die means you die when you’re eighteen.
  • I’ve carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I’m not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I’ve carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.
  • I’d always thought I was sort of a brazen person, but this issue with hyperventilating made me realize a part of me was, unexpectedly, high strung. I had no idea how nervous I got at the start of a race. But it turns out I really was tense, just like everybody else. It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself. No matter how long you stand there examining yourself naked before a mirror, you’ll never see reflected what’s inside.
  • Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive—or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself. If things go well, that is.
  • My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance—all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied.

Real Food. Nina Plank.

I saw this book mentioned on the google minimalist (running) list saying it was a bit more approachable than some other books on the paleo diet, though after reading this I don’t know how paleo it really is.  Guess I’d have to read a paleo book after all.  Or maybe it mentioned Weston Price and Price is not paleo??  I don’t know.  I have read so few food/nutrition books in the past few years that maybe it has all passed me by.  Guess I have become pretty comfortable with my diet!

This book touts moving back to the way food was before it was industrialized, including farm animals, milk, eggs, and produce.  Getting away from grain fed beef and chicken when that is not their natural diet, not eating farm raised fish, getting back to locally grown produce, etc.  And I’m all for that, though I don’t eat a lot of meat…  She was very into using butter — which I never used a whole lot of margin but only went for the real thing — butter is better!; whole milk — I normally do skim or 2% but am now considering sticking with just 2%; eggs – i love ’em — but only pastured so they can be omnivorous as they were ment to be.  She was against all industrial oils (which pretty much leaves olive oil as the only oil).  And all in all getting away from as much process and pre-packaged food as possible, which I already try to do.

Just a few quotes:

  • Is drinking milk unnatural? The critics say that cow milk was “designed” for newborn calves, not for humans. That’s true. But this observation does not prove that the human digestive system cannot, or should not, handle milk. After all, the tomato was designed to make more tomato plants, not pasta sauce.  [ i’ve been guilty of saying this in the past, but I would still say we shouldn’t drink it constantly… everything in moderation!]
  • Aren’t some fats unhealthy? Yes. It’s easy to remember the bad ones: they are the industrial fats recently added to our diet. The unhealthy fats are refined vegetable oils, including corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oil, and synthetic trans fats. Trans fats are formed by hydrogenation, in which unsaturated oils are pelted with hydrogen atoms to make an artificially saturated fat. That’s how they make firm margarine from liquid corn oil.
  • To reap all the flavor and health benefits of olive oil, buy the best oil you can afford, ideally extra-virgin, cold-pressed, and organic.
  • The sooner we ban trans fats— as Denmark has— the better.