I’d Have To Be Crazy / The Joy of The Single (BBC Documentary)

As I’ve mentioned before, I pick a couple songs to listen to with six year-old Lucinda at bedtime. Tonight “I’d Have To Be Crazy”, sung by Willie Nelson, originally appearing on one of my dad’s favorite albums, The Sound in Your Mind. Take a listen. Like Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful”, I could listen to it one thousand times in a row and still have that feeling of awe you get when a song just nails you in the middle of the chest. Willie didn’t write this one, Steven Fromholz did. He also sings that haunting background vocal at the end of the song. Perfection.

Tonight Lucinda told me, “Sometimes things that are close feel really far away.” I know the feeling exactly, and I remember laying in bed next to my mom as a kid trying to convey the same feeling. Anyone else?

Speaking of the power of song, sincere thanks to Peggy Dold for sending a link to the BBC special “The Joy of The Single” this evening. I have nothing against entertaining but songs can be powerful in a way far beyond simple entertainment. If you need a reminder (or even if you don’t), watch this:

It’s also about a time when music listening and music purchasing were one and the same. When I was a kid, if you wanted to hear a song you either borrowed it from a friend, waited for it to come on the radio, or you bought it. I bought a lot of records. Today, music is “No Purchase Necessary”. If you think about the process of music discovery, as you move from unaware of a song, to aware, to a fan, to a customer, music LISTENING is no longer at the “customer” phase. It’s at the awareness phase. It’s impossible to overstate the impact this change will have, and we’re only part-way through this transition.

So the above video, being about the 45 single, is 100% nostalgia.

But listen again to that Willie Nelson song. From YouTube. For free. There’s nothing nostalgic about that experience. The power of the song is timeless. We will find a way.

I talked more about this in my presentation at Billboard’s Future Sound Conference a couple weeks ago, if you’re interested.

“Albums, yeah, albums. I think it might have been the start of something really bad and insidious — it may have been the beginning of that little bit of rot that got into the gunnels of the ship of rock and roll.” – Jimmy Webb

“You never thought of albums. Albums were the process that came along after you had two or three hit singles. Then the record company would let you make an album. You didn’t cut an album and then start taking singles off the albums. The albums were an afterthought, really.” – Noddy Holder

Fact: Lucinda (age six) has two turntables, one in the album, one in the playroom.

ian

No CIM for Me in 2012 / What I Talk About When I Talk About Running / What Marathon Should I Target Next?

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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. – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I started my day today face-down on physical therapist Meredith Soelberg‘s table with her thumbs in my right calf, probing to see if I’ve strained my gastrocnemius or my soleus, and to what degree. We moved to standing, socks off, toes to heel. I walked up and down the hallway, she checked my gait. Next I put shoes on and hit the treadmill, first walking, then running. Then off the treadmill and with an associate’s help she pulled my calf one direction and stretched tape across it to sustain the tension. Then back on the treadmill. Less than a mile of running in all and I was feeling the pain of the strain — the tape hadn’t magically lessened the pain. After a brief conference outlining our options for unloading the strain on the injured muscle a bit and hoping for the best we made the call: I’m not running the California International Marathon in Sacramento this weekend as planned. I have an injury and running Sunday will make it much worse, leaving me on the sidelines even longer. For now I’m going to focus on getting better in time for Ragnar Florida Keys January 4th, and pick another marathon to make a Boston Qualifying attempt in the spring. *sigh*

I’m embarrassed to admit how depressing it was to call and cancel my rental car and hotel room, to finally, officially, throw in the towel. I’ve known this was a possibility throughout this training and I’ve pretended to be nonchalant and ok with it. I wasn’t healthy going in, my training started nearly two months late due to an ankle sprain. I told myself I’d do my best and if I didn’t make this one there’d be another. But it’s impossible not to focus on the goal as you’re training, especially when you’re checking your watch and kicking out workouts with a particular time goal in mind. I’m right on the edge where qualifying for Boston is *possible* but a stretch. I’d need to complete a qualifying marathon 30 seconds faster per mile than I ran the Los Angeles Marathon last March; it will take real work and application to get the job done.

Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life. – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

In the end Meredith agreed with my hypothesis, the track workouts are where the calf strain came from. To run fast you need to practice running fast. Intervals on a track are a great way and place to practice running fast. Wearing track shoes and running as fast as you could for the given distance (200, 400, 800, 1000, 1200m — it depends on the day) puts more of the work into the front of the foot which in turn asks those calf muscles to show up, extend, and contract as fast as they can, as hard as they ever have. Who knows which loop was one too far, or if it was just all of them, week after week. But it will heal and I will get back out there, slowly ramping back up and nailing sub-three minute 800s again, smiling knowing that in theory that should mean qualifying for Boston is possible for me.

How is this any different from pouring water in an old pan with a tiny hole in the bottom? – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

When I told my wife the physical therapist agreed it was the track workouts that caused my calf strain, she had a solution I hadn’t considered, “I guess you’re done with track workouts?” I had contemplated quite a few adjustments to my program and workout, but ditching speed workouts wasn’t one of them. I’d thought of adjustments to my shoes and my form and considered a few different paths to work back up to the speed I want but I’d never considered cutting the speed work. It’s part of the learning process. I’m pushing my limits. I pushed too hard. I can ride the line better next time. My awareness has deepened.

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate — and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in abilities, and when should I start doubting myself? – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I just finished the Murakami book from which I’m quoting liberally, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Friend and triathlete Amy Blackman gifted it to me for my 40th birthday this past August. What I Talk About is an odd memoir. It’s a memoir of Mr. Murakami’s running, touching only here and there on his life as it relates to his running. There’s no story arch, no central conflict looking for a resolution. More than anything it feels like the author looking to explain why we run, or perhaps to explain why it doesn’t matter that there isn’t any great reason.

Maybe it’s some pointless act like pouring water into an old pan that has a hole in the bottom, but at least the effort you put into it remains. Whether it’s good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what’s most important is what you can’t see but can feel in your heart. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts. But even activities that appear fruitless don’t necessarily end up so…

I have no idea whether I can actually keep this cycle of inefficient activities going forever. But I’ve done it so persistently over such a long time, and without getting terribly sick of it, that I think I’ll try to keep it going as long as I can. – Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Me too.

Which leaves me searching for my next marathon. Any thoughts on a Boston Qualifying race I should throw myself into in the first half of 2013? Anyone care to run with the 3:10 or 3:15 pace group along with me? Grandma’s Marathon in June? Something sooner? What do you think?

ian

Fueling Long Runs/Marathons With Whole Foods Instead of Sports Drink and Gels

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If you run half-marathons, marathons, or longer, you likely have a favorite sports drink and gel. Personally I found Accelerade drink mix and Gu Roctane gel shots do the job for me (especially the gel with caffeine). But the irony of jamming my body full of factory-packed sugar during an activity I’m doing for my health, meanwhile striving for whole foods in the rest of my life, wasn’t lost on me. Reading about native American ultramarathoners in Born To Run fueling runs at insanely long distances with a blend of maize and chia seed got me thinking — do I need these expensive, scientifically-created concoctions or could I fuel my longer runs with whole foods?

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I’ve successfully managed to substitute sweet potato or applesauce for refined sugar in a few recipes, so when I was looking for a whole food substitute for Gu I started there. A 1 oz Gu packet contains about 100 calories and 25 grams of carbohydrate. Half a cup (4oz) of canned sweet potato puree has about 68 calories and 16 grams of carbohydrates, roughly 65% of a Gu gel. So 6oz of sweet potato puree would be roughly equivalent (from a calories and carbs perspective) to 1 Gu packet. But consuming six times the volume of food during the middle of a run can lead to a run ruined by stomach cramps. So, remembering the author of Paleo for Athletes writing that raisins were the fastest way to get carbs into your system, I decided to try a mix of sweet potato and raisins. Personally, I’ve found that about 4oz of sweet potato puree along with a handful of raisins works just as well as Gu on long runs. It’s not so much food that my stomach gets upset but seems to have the calories and carbs I need to keep from bonking. What’s best, it feels good; no sugar rush and crash, a nice even energy level.

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Further, I’ve found I don’t need the sugary sports drinks on my long runs. I’ve gone with just water mixed with a tablespoon of chia seeds in all the places I used to go with the sports drink. I take water + chia to the gym in the morning and have water + chia strapped to my waist on long runs. The seeds get soft and gelatinous in the water and while they don’t have much taste it’s nice to get a little something of substance in the water mid-run. There are some bold claims made about chia seeds as the ultimate running food:

Chia seeds are high in protein, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorous. As well as being exceptionally nutritious, Chia seeds have a special property which makes them the ideal endurance food. When they are soaked in water, the soluble fibre forms a thick, gel like mass. It is believed that when Chia seeds are eaten, the gel-forming reaction occurs in the stomach, forming a barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. The net result is that Chia seeds are a super slow release energy source, avoiding the usual blood glucose highs and lows. The other important result of this gel-forming reaction is the retention of water. Chia seeds are exceptionally hydrophilic, able to absorb up to 12 times their weight in water. When in the gut, this means that water loss is minimized and electrolyte balance is maintained for longer. – Ultrarunning.co.nz

I can’t tell you if all that is true but I can tell you as a research group of one that getting completely rid of sugary sports drinks from my nutrition plan and substituting with water + chia seeds has worked great. Give it a shot. (Also note the “Chia Energy Gel” recipe from Ultrarunning.co.nz — perhaps that would be better than my sweet potato recipe? Let me know if you try it out.)

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But how do you carry 8oz (or more) of sweet potato and 16oz of water on your person over a three hour plus run? And What to eat it with? I’ve heard of people using these reusable sports gel containers to good effect, but I’ve found something very simple that works for me:

  1. Spoon sweet potato into a plastic baggie
  2. Throw in a handful of raisins (I like the yellow ones in this)
  3. Fold and stuff into an iFitness Hydration Belt, along with a plastic spoon. The spoon will stick out of the zipper a bit but it works just fine.
  4. Fill the water bottles from the Hydration Belt with water, then spoon half a tablespoon of organic chia seeds into each.
  5. Run, eat, repeat.

(Click here for the iFitness Hydration Belt I have. Thanks Brad Feld for the recommendation.)

Here’s my long-run (10 miles and above — below 10 miles I’m not taking any food or water on the run) fueling plan, which is also my race-day plan:

Whole Foods Long Run/Race/Marathon Plan

  • Wake early, eat 2 eggs, 1 banana, 24 ounces of water, preferrably 3-4 hours before the run, no less than 2 hours before the run. Less than 2 hours, just 1 banana.
  • Sip water up to 1 hour before the run. No water in the hour before.
  • 10 minutes before the run, a few sips of water, a spoonful or two of sweet potato and raisins.
  • During run, 4 oz sweet potato plus a few raisins every 50 minutes or so.
  • Post-run, smoothie with blueberries, strawberries, dates, kale, hemp powder, water. Dig a few smoothie recipes here, or add your own to the comments.

Your mileage may vary, and if it does, please share!

ian

A (Not-Too-Sweet) Fall Breakfast Smoothie

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After yesterday’s post regarding fruit juice, I felt an obligation to throw something more positive out there, a liquid fruit/veggie drink I back and drink periodically. To be honest, I was a little surprised the “no juice” post was at all controversial; I thought most people knew juice was on the “NO” list if you were trying to limit unnecessary sugar/calories (which we all should, generally speaking). But a lot of good questions came up. Before I jump into the recipe, here are some answers:

Q: What about juicing vegetables?

A: Based on the little I know, this is better but I’d also say it’s unnecessary. Personally I would get rid of the juicer and use the blender instead. The general rules I’d follow would be: Eat the whole food. Don’t separate fiber from sugar. Don’t drink more volume than you would eat just because it’s been changed into a form that’s easier to consume. Carrots, for example, are a sugary veggie to start with. Would you eat fifteen of them? I hope not. So why drink them? Probably better to eat one whole carrot and have some sauteed kale with your eggs for breakfast.

Q: What about soup?

A: Assuming you’re using whole foods in your soups they don’t have the same issue as “juicing”. It depends completely on what you’re making the soup out of, of course, but soups are not made with a juicer so the “don’t separate the fiber from the sugar” rule doesn’t really apply.

Q: What about fermented, aged, grape juice?

A: Aka, wine, right, Kyle? I love wine. I drink it, but not every day, and I’ve cut back how often I drink it considerably. The effects of Resveratrol are hotly debated. My take is you can look at a glass of wine as 100-150 calories. If that’s how you want to spend those calories today, go for it.

I hope that helps. Thanks for reading, and for the questions.

When I’m in a rush for breakfast I’ll throw together a green smoothie in the blender. It’s easy to make smoothies tasty, just add a couple bananas, a bunch of honey or agave, and some dates. But as mentioned above, I try to keep the composition of my smoothie in the realm of something I would be ok eating if it weren’t all blended together, something that isn’t a carbohydrate/calorie bomb. Here’s my latest invention, featuring persimmons, in-season and available at fully 50% of all farmer’s market vendors at my local market this past weekend:

In a blender, combine:

  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 cup Spinach/Kale
  • 1 Persimmon
  • 1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tbsp Hemp Powder
  • 1/4 cup Blueberries
  • 2 fresh Dates
  • 1 tsp Green Vibrance

Blend. Drink. Enjoy.

What’s your go-to smoothie recipe? Leave it in the comments, please. Thanks! Please be safe as you head where ever it is you’re going for Thanksgiving.

ian

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Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt, Oat/Almond Butter Cookie Sandwiches

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We just spent two months dairy and rich-dessert-free in our house while we participated in the fall running of the Whole Life Challenge. The results were good for the family, but I promised our six year-old we’d break the fast with a running of the ice cream maker. We gave it a go on Saturday with some fresh mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt squished between oat/almond butter cookie sandwiches. Here’s how we did it and how it went.

Both recipes are adapted from the excellent and highly recommended Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook, which I’m steadily working my way through and learning lots of great stuff from. I discovered the cookbook when 101 Cookbooks wrote about the mint chip frozen yogurt recipe in this post.

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Oat/Almond Butter Cookies

  • 1/2 cup Butter, warmed to room temp
  • 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tbsp Honey (raw, local)
  • 1 cup Almond Butter (creamy)
  • 1 cup+ Oat Flour *
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 325.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the butter and sugar. I had to get it softened and mixed with a fork, then run over it with the hand-mixer. I tried hand-mixing it first and made a sugary mess.
  3. Add the egg, honey, and almond butter into the butter/sugar mix. Mix well with the hand-mixer.
  4. Make your oat flour from raw oats if you haven’t already (see below).
  5. In a big bowl, mix the oat flour, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well with a plastic utensil.
  7. Put parchment down on two cookie sheets.
  8. Drop the dough onto the parchment in 1-2 inch balls.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes.
  10. Cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes.
  11. Put on plates and stick ’em in the freezer for an hour.

* Making your own oat flour is crazy easy. Just put oats in a food processor and press the “ON” button. I buy Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats (Oats are Gluten Free generally but when labeled Gluten Free you know they aren’t processed on machinery that also processes wheat) and make my own oat flour.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

  • 1 cup Mint Leaves
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream (we used local, raw cream)
  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice Syrup
  • 2 cups Greek Yogurt (we used Fage Total)
  • 1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract
  • 2 ounces Chocolate, Chopped (we used Chocovivo’s 65% Cacao)
  1. Start by taking a bunch of mint and separating the leaves from the stems (great job for a six year-old). The recipe calls for a cup of mint but I don’t think you could have too much, in the end I wish ours had even more mint flavor.
  2. Pour a cup of cream into a saucepan. Add the mint. Heat with low heat, stir and milk the mint leaves so the cream gets good and minty.
  3. When the cream starts to simmer, add a little more than half a cup brown rice syrup. Stir it in.
  4. Turn off the heat and leave the sweet creamy mixture to sit and soak up more mint. Recipe calls for 30 minutes. We left it closer to an hour.
  5. Strain the mint out of the cream and into a large bowl.
  6. Stir in the peppermint extract.
  7. Stir in the greek yogurt. Stir with a wire whisk until it’s smooth.
  8. Cover and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour, overnight is cool, too.
  9. Run it in your ice cream maker. In our ice cream maker it only took about fifteen minutes to get to the right consistency.
  10. Add in the chopped chocolate at the very end.

Now, slap some of that fresh frozen yogurt between two of them there cookies. Holy head-rush, batman.

Our summary: we loved the cookies. They’re light and crisp, not too sweet, perfect for the job of holding some yummy frozen goodness. But the yogurt wasn’t all we’d hoped. The mint wasn’t strong enough and they tasted too creamy. Between the cream in the greek yogurt and the heavy cream, it was like a cream bomb. We’re going to try this again with a different frozen delicacy. I’d like to find a frozen yogurt recipe I love, or be able to approximate the sprouted almond sorbet made by Sugar & Salt Creamery in Santa Barbara. Any suggestions?

Thanks,
ian

AVOID: Fruit Juice – Eat Fruit, Don’t Drink It

Fruit Juice is Doo Doo

Let’s be clear: You should not drink fruit juice. Ever. Eat fruit, don’t remove all the pulp leaving only the sugar and then drink the equivalent of six servings of fruit sugar in a single sitting. Seriously. Stop. Today.

Even the not-so-progressive USDA recommends against drinking fruit juice:

In one study, children who drank more than 12 ounces of pure juice each day were more likely to be short in stature or overweight.

Although their intake of other foods decreased to compensate for the juice, it wasn’t enough to offset the increased calories the juice provided. This may account for the higher weight gain. Excess juice consumption also decreased the percentage of calories coming from fat, which may explain lower height for age on the growth grid. Although the Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults and older children restrict fat to 30% of the calories, fat should gradually be reduced to this level by the time the child is 5 years old. Infants and pre-school children need fat for normal growth and development.

Although WIC juices contain vitamin C, potassium and other nutrients, it is also similar in calories to soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks. When consumed in excessive amounts, it can mimic an “empty calorie food.”

“Fruit juice is sugar with no fiber to mediate its consumption. When people tell me they’re going on a juice cleanse, they might as well tell me they’re going on a root beer cleanse.” – Peter Kaminsky, author of Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well)

“The moral of the story? Don’t drink fruit juice, and absolutely avoid a high-fructose diet.” – Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Body

Blending fruit in a smoothie is better than juicing it, because you’re not removing the fiber, you’re pulverizing it but the whole fruit is still there. You still need to be careful how much sugar you’re consuming in that smoothie, though. Three bananas? Really? Would you sit and eat three bananas? I hope not. Generally speaking: avoid the smoothie unless you make it yourself and think hard about how much sugar you’re sticking in the blender. Store-bought smoothies (even at the health-food store) usually have fruit juice, too much whole fruit, sugar-added soy or rice milk, agave, or some other bullshit that makes it taste yummy but have more calories and carbs than a Snickers.

Pouring on the pounds

Generally speaking, my recommendation mirrors that of the state of NY: avoid calorie-containing beverages all together. Stick to water, coffee (no more than 8-16oz/day), and tea. Occasionally I’ll have a coconut water after a hard workout, or I’ll splurge and spend 70 calories on a bottle of kombucha, but generally best to avoid altogether.

AVOID!

ian