Monday, December 31, 2007

Facing Demons & My Year End Report

playing an imperialist at the calcutta club, kolkata, india

I almost wrote this prior to leaving to India but knew spending the holiday season half way around the world would add more than a footnote to my recap. Ironically, though sitting in a Raj era hotel in Kolkata that is famous for housing writers, chronicling my own insignificant life isn’t coming easy. Given, however, that this is my blog I will attempt to do so nonetheless.

I’ve written a lot on this trip but am happy with almost none of it. India is an assault on the senses. So much so that describing it promotes a tendency towards hyperbole. Though most of my trip is over it feels as though my adventures here have just begun—I’m family now. Therefore, save for the anecdote below, I’ll leave this part of my life alone pending further contemplation.

2007 was another year of transition. Though ending it in Asia, I’ve become a full time resident of Utah. I love the mountains and the place I call home. For the first time in my travels—at least that I can recall—I’m actually looking forward to my return. “Not kicking and screaming this time?” asked my friend Lisa echoing my general sentiments on ending any travel. And, oddly enough, my answer was an affirmative.

The big news of the year has been Beachbody; my primary employer and, thus, my default responsibility. I had cut back my hours to work towards my PhD but was called back into full-time action, most serendipitously, as more of our products took off. Primarily responsible for this was P90X and, for those of you who’ve known me for a while will attest, this is a reward for a lot passion and hard work. We spent years developing this program only to find it tough to fit into the market. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, along with its success, the obesity rate in the US has leveled off for the first time in four decades. Go us.

Most of my other projects have thus been flat. Wall Rats did find a home. Then, in a Hollywood-esque scene right out of The Big Picture, lost it. Then found one again. I think it’s being released at the end of Jan. The long-time California guide book is also near completion—well, volume one anyway. My two other books ideas are being worked on but still not ready to shop around. Hopefully that will happen this year.

Athletically, not much happened though I was about as active as ever. Living in such an amazing playground it’s quite hard to focus on one thing. Ben Ditto, who moved to Utah as a young talented climber in order to further his aspirations put it perfectly when he told me, “I quit climbing so much when I moved here because it just seemed wrong not to experience everything the Wasatch has to offer.” So I ran, rode, raced, skied, snowshoed, scrambled, climbed, explored, and tried to punctuate it with a decent birthday challenge. At the premier of the new Warren Miller film, the best segment was about Utah, which opened with glowing descriptions of the many variations of Gobsmacking scenery you will encounter and the line, “It’s a place where you can wake up in summer and drive into winter,” then segued into a bunch of crazy ski tricks into powder before finishing with “don’t try this at home, people, unless your home happens to be Utah.”

Yep. That’s where I live.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a short tale from India. Happy New Year!

Today I was chased by my demons. On a walk to an ancient mountain top fort I was, as usual, way ahead of everyone else when stir craziness hit me like it never has before. I couldn’t look at another tourist, another “guide”, beggar, peddler, or place filled with the masses living vicariously through things that had happened before them (not that there’s anything wrong with this, but I digress). So I took off, running, across the large plateau the fort is located on, through many of the old remains not inhabited, and then down into the most likely location to spot tigers in the wild on the planet.

with my dad

mom and brian at the victoria memorial

Following my brother’s wedding, I had acquiesced to travel with my family around India. Now I love my family. I love spending time with them. But a Griswald-like holiday trip with six grown people was an absurd thing for me to take part in. While we’re all seasoned travelers, I’m different. I’m different than almost everyone. I’m restless. I move fast. I often lose track of this fact because I’ve surrounded myself with others like me but faced with the masses it starkly apparent how different I am. My family knows this and gives me space. Unfortunately, on this trip there was little space to be had.

some indian jazz bar

So I ran. Into the depths of Rontambhore National Park. At this point, I would have preferred to be killed by a tiger than to endure any more tourism. I’m not a good tourist. When I travel I attempt to disappear into a culture and have no interest in sightseeing or hanging around people from back home. I can’t deal with tourists, and generally avoid them, but this trip had faced me with an onslaught. Nothing mattered, at all, except to get far away from people. I’d made it this far. I only had to endure one more day and then I could travel on my own. But the fear had gripped my throat and was strangling the life out of me. I had to escape its clutches. I ran until all traces of recent human activity were far out of sight and mind. It was only then that I became a bit worried about tigers.

I’ve dealt with plenty of animals in the wild, alone. But tigers scare me. I’ve met them face to face in controlled situations and never felt too comfortable. I don’t have the same rapport with cats as other mammals. In spite of this, I kept going. I needed to. I broke a branch off a tree and fashioned it into a gun, knowing tigers in populated areas are generally scared of guns. It helped. I continued until, jumping off a rock I turned my ankle on a rock hidden in the grass.

I knew it was pretty bad because I had to concentrate in order not to vomit. It wasn’t that bad, but I knew it was going to swell and I’d better turn around because it was going to slow me way down. And, oddly enough, being forced into even the slightest state of survival mode changed my mindset. I was at peace again; living life the way it feels right. I was born to live in a survivalist state. Instead of spending my life trying to make the word healthier, I should welcome its demise and hope for the apocalypse because that’s the society I would thrive in. But I don’t. I try to combat my demons in order to understand them. And thus, until recently, my life had been a series of failed attempts to somehow fit in.

I could no longer run but I could walk pretty fast, so I opted to explore a different path back to the fort. I found an old stone wall (apparently the fort was once surrounded by a seven kilometer wall) and traversed it back towards the tourist area where I encountered my next obstacle.

In my way were a group of large monkeys sitting in a two-tiered court area right in front of me. It was too far to backtrack (not really, but I didn’t want to) and the walls under me were probably 25’ so I couldn’t jump. I approached to monkeys wondering if they’d let me pass. As I got close I knew this option wasn’t going to fly as they were agitated. I found a place amongst them where the wall was lower, about 15’. I could jump, provided I could get there. The first monkey let me pass. The second bared his teeth to threaten me, and then the rest all followed suit and now I was surrounded by a menacing pack, with more right above me. I needed first one that threatened me to move. I didn’t want to be aggressive towards him (a hit or miss monkey tactic that seemed a poor gamble as the group could tear me to shreds). So I looked at him stoically, looked down where I intended to jump, and said “don’t worry, buddy, I’m just going down there” and pointed. He looked down, back at me, and then backed up a step and let me jump.

I limped home.

Icing my ankle gave me an excuse to miss the afternoon safari where the rest of my family would be treated to some great tiger viewing. Telling my brother that, more than my ankle I just couldn’t endure any more tourists; he captured my feelings with a quote from the film Repo Man that was also used in a profile written about me by my friend Bob. “Look at those poor assholes over there. Ordinary fuckin’ people. I hate ‘em.”

I don’t really hate them. I don’t hate anybody. But I do feel better when they’re not around.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Guru's Dream Gym

Watching people exercise in India is like watching a film from the 70’s. They still do standard calisthenics, bounce when they stretch, don’t warm-up or cool-down thoroughly, or complete a myriad of other “must dos” as deemed by the modern fitness world. But, hey, hardly any of them are fat. They must be doing something right.

the national passtime

Many trainers in the US promote one type of training above all else. Wild proclamations such as “that won’t work,” “you’ll get injured if (insert any type of exercise they don’t teach,” “your body can’t digest (any type of food they don’t subscribe to)”, and so on, fill the health wires. But if we really had all of these answers, and there was really only one right way to train or to eat, why are we still getting fatter? It seems that even the most altruistic of us have become self protectorate. It’s our way or the highway, or else we won’t get your business. But when it comes to diet and exercise this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our bodies simply need exercise and decent food. Other than that, it’s all nitpicking. The latest technology comes into play when we’re training athletes, where a 1% improvement in performance is the difference between a Gold medal and not qualifying for the race. But for the average person 1% is nothing. Obesity rates have tripled; body masses indexes are up nearly 30%. If we simple swapped out the time we spent bickering about the “right” way to exercise into actually doing any kind of exercise, we’d slash these figures by double digits.

"there's a new sheriff in town."

“Guru” over at Guru’s Dream Gym seems to know this. Ashna, my brother’s fiancé, couldn’t help but walk in and, in with John-Wayne-covered-in-a-saree-esque swagger, announce that there was a new sheriff in town. She got his card and, while we haven’t had our fitness knowledge high noon showdown yet, I did manage to check out his facility. It’s filled with a lot of equipment that reminds me of my high school gym. It was also packed with people, most of them getting after it pretty good. Other than Hindi push-ups I didn’t see a lot of “trendy” first world technology being applied. No functional movements, no pilates, ergometers, or “power” yoga. Just good old fashioned exercise. And while it wasn’t World Gym in Venice Beach, nobody was fat either. Maybe there’s a lesson there. I think the Guru and I will agree on the one.

with food like this how come everyone isn't fat? ok, there's no food in the pic but if you saw it you'd know what i mean.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Fitness Yogi

I’m in India for my brother Brian’s wedding. He lives in England but is marrying an Indian girl. I’ve always wanted to see India but, since I began traveling, have rarely been to destinations that didn’t include climbing as part of the itinerary. This was a good excuse to finally get there.

My favorite way to get acquainted with a new place is to go for a run. You can’t get the lay of the land, nor a feel for its people, from a car or, to some degree, even public transportation. You need to go where the people go in their daily lives. In most countries, this is done on foot. And when you’re running, you can cover a lot of a city in very little time.

Traffic in India is crazy. It’s also kind of fun—a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Run with diesel engines. You zip around dodging rickshaws, dogs, goats, bussed, trolleys, goats, cows, etc. At each stop you’re accosted by just about any form of beggar, all using some sort of tact, talent, or tidbit to help them stand out from the crowd. It’s an experience not to be missed but, if it’s your only mode of transport, will ensure that you’re missing out on a lot. So each day, I take to the streets on foot.

It’s very rare to see another runner here. When you do it’s generally in a park or stadium. I’ve yet to see one on the streets. You do see plenty of other modes of human transport. The once ubiquitous human powered rickshaw is now outlawed, though you’ll find plenty in the heart of downtown (laws being more like suggestions), but velo-shaws are everywhere. In fact, anything you might want to cart around town you’ll find attached to a bike. All of them are single speed, meaning that you’ll want to size up your driver before hiring one. But hardly anyone runs for exercise, especially on the streets.

A two hour run/tour had my local area (oddly enough called Salt Lake) pretty well sussed. By the end of the run Kolkata no longer seemed crazy. It was just a city, with wild parts and serene parts. I also learned that Bengalis are big on character. And their definition of what gives character is different the what is standard in the west.

Things here are often run down, and that’s how people seem to like it. Even nice things. It’s funny to see something that you can tell a lot of work went into building—which is still in good condition structurally—that is allowed to dilapidate to a great degree. This was never more apparent than at the Salt Lake stadium, which is supposed to be the largest stadium in Asia, or at least southern Asia. Running around its perimeter my first thought was that it might be condemned. Shanties were built in and around it. It was locked up but not well. You could just walk in. But the grass was in fine shape and, in the subsequent days, things seemed to be going on inside on most of them. Around the perimeter many people engaged in sport, usually cricket or soccer, but many other variants as well. The odd thing was that they choose little patched of dirt or abandoned building sites for this activity, yet there were large empty manicured football pitches and cricket fields right near by. According to Ashna, “If it doesn’t have dirt, Bengalis don’t want anything to do with it.”

Armed with this knowledge I found my training facility of choice for this trip. It’s a beat up police training obstacle course, which will allow me to do P90x type circuits. It even has ropes to climb and traverse (so Tony would be psyched). I also found a very nice abandoned climbing wall. It’s looked creaky and a little scary and only one side had any holds. I climbed as high as I dared, which wasn’t too high since the holds weren’t stable. It was amazing. This wall must have cost $100,000 to build. It was nice. And abandoned. Next time I come I’ll consider bringing climbing gear and holds.

I get a lot of odd looks, waves, and occasional chides on my run. And, while most people look absolutely confused, the reactions are overwhelmingly positive. Because I’ve been running in an orange shirt, Brian has suspected that perhaps they see me as some type of fitness yogi. Orange, I’ve learned, is only worn by men who’ve become enlightened. This has added some fuel to the credence of Ashna’s idea that I would have an almost instantaneous cult following if I were to move here and champion exercise as a way to enlightenment.

I may have added to this allure by getting into an impromptu race with some velo-shaws. I generally pass these without any notice. On one long stretch, a guy I passed came back around me. I didn’t react until he passed another, which sped up to stay ahead of me. This caused a chain reaction until the rickshaw traffic on the entire street was much more spirited than normal. I speed up to watch the action, then decided to see if I could catch them. I passed them all until I caught the original driver. He put in another surge, with no reaction towards me at all, and we raced back and forth until we hit my final roundabout in a dead heat. With neither of us giving away the we were racing, all we did was exchange a subtle but knowing look. Me, happy because it forced me into a better workout. He satisfied, no doubt, because he held off the charge of an enlightened fitness yogi.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Fattening of America

Not too many days go by when I don’t ponder, to some degree, the question of why America became so fat? We’re a country blessed with advantages, technology, information, equipment, and open space. Yet we continue to expand horizontally and our health continues to plummet, even with incredible advances being made in medicine. The capitalist in me tells me to stop questioning and enjoy the job security. The humanist in me would gladly change careers in order to help the planet. My competitive American spirit is simply pissed off. When did we become the problem rather than the solution?

Nothing brings this to light more than traveling. The first time in traveled to Europe, some 30 years ago, the world was a completely different place. The difference between the USA and, pretty much, any country in Europe was apparent without leaving the airport. America was clean, modern, spiffy. Europe was old, quaint, and in need of repair. Today this has flip-flopped. American airports are over-crowded, stressful, the entire system in need of an overhaul. Conversely, European airports are now clean, modern, and spiffy.

The biggest difference though, by far, is the people. 30 years ago nobody was fat anywhere, at least not that you’d notice in a crowded place. Nowadays, American airports have become a catwalk for what our society has become. I got a text from a friend returning from a long trip to Asia. It stated, simply, “In Denver. Americans are fat.”

My recent trip abroad didn’t cite to me any improvement whatsoever. I landed on a hop to Denver and was greeted by an alarming scene. The entire airports attention seemed diverted to TV screens placed around the airport. My first thoughts were of 9/11. We’d been attacked again or, perhaps, were at war somewhere else. Certainly something major must be happening. The answer, however, shed a bit of light on our obesity problem. These people were focused on the “breaking news” over steroids in baseball.

First off, as an athlete, steroids have been around for 40 years and pretty much readily available. 30 years ago, on the trip to Europe, I knew athletes taking steroids in high school. It may be news to the general public, or our President, but this is not breaking news to athletes. And it’s not important news, or shouldn’t be, to anyone. But it is important in an allegorical sense as it perfectly identifies how we’ve become fat. We’ve become a country that lives vicariously instead of doing things ourselves. Secondly, even though we realize that the media manipulates us, we allow them to do so without a simple squawk. Thirdly, we’ve lost focus on issues that really matter to us.

Taking the third part last, another news story on the day everyone’s world was rocked because “The Rocket” may have been a cheater, was that our country was solely responsible for holding up the world summit on climate change. Now here is a subject that affects each of us every single day. Yet all we seem to care about is whether or not Barry Bonds should have an asterisk next to his records.

All this apathy towards things that really matter allows our corporations to have their way with us. We’ll work longer hours, for less money, with no health care, and no vacation plan, for little retirement, just so long as the Yankees can win another pennant. During the time Roger Clemens has been pitching, we’ve seen the discrepancy between rich on poor in our country widen to the point that we’re, statistically, a third world nation. Our minimum wage has only raised a fraction and is current half of all other first world countries. Our president told a woman who spoke of working three jobs in order to just feed her kids that her situation was “uniquely American”. We’re grown too tired, too busy, too broke, too distracted to even bother with the basic things that we know keep us healthy. When did this happen? It’s not the America I grew up in.

But the real problem isn’t George Bush, the media, or the Enron’s of the world. The problem is us. As a society, we just don’t care enough anymore about what really matters. We need to wake up and take back our lives.

And, literally, that’s all it will take. Sure, the corporate stranglehold and statistical disadvantages won’t change over night. But your health will. And no matter how broke or busy we are become no can still eat better food and find thirty minutes a day to exercise. It’s really as simple as watching less baseball.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanks for WOWY-ing!

Thanks to everyone who WOWYed during my birthday challenge. The stats showed that we had three times our normal numbers. Now that you're doing it, keep it up! WOWY is about you anyway. My challenge was just an excuse to get your in there. My sister, who was logging my progress reports throughout the day, won $500 (of course, she's not eligible so that will go back into the pot). Anyway, the point is that you can get paid to workout, so why wouldn't you do it?

Here's my challenge report. For best results, you might want to watch The Eiger Sanction first:

Birthday Challenge 2007

above photo: the crew sporting some serious 70s style. "a wild turkey on the rocks for my good friend the doctor."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Here's To All My Friends!

Thanks everyone for you well wishes! It all begins in a few hours and I'd better get some sleep. For the details:

You can WOWY anytime beginning at midnight today. C'mon! Why not? As I was telling a friend today, everyone stands to benefit more from WOWY-ing than I do.

Gotta go try and get a few hours of shuteye...

Live you life!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday Morning Inspiration Video

So I didn’t manage to catch up on sleep but I did renew my enthusiasm, in part due to this little video.

The vid’s not that great but the music is and it’s always fun to watch people work things that you’ll never do. Anyway, I’ve got heaps on today’s agenda so I’d better get at it. I’ll be in WOWY this afternoon when my work is finished.

Don’t give up…

Sunday, November 18, 2007


When I say each day I mean some days or, perhaps, each day I feel like writing. I do have actual work that comes first. I only get to the blog when I have time or find a news tidbit that I want to post right away. I did see something today about environmental conditions in China that was rather alarming but that's too depressing, so I'll yammer on a bit about training. And, as I'm very tired tonight, it will be a wee bit.

A three week training cycle is mainly a fine-tune cycle. You can't create any real body composition changes in such a short time. You can train one energy system to exhaustion but that won't get you ready for a competition. So a three week cycle to prepare for competition consists of two weeks of hard training and one week of tapering.

And, converse to how you normally train, your highest volume training should be early so that you have plenty of time to recover. My first week consisted on long climbing sessions that were often coupled with bike rides or easy runs, and on the other days generally long hard rides with easy runs. These are also tests to see where you body is at so you can pick which areas that need to most fine tuning.

During week two the volume decreases. It takes your fastest-twitch muscle fibers about 2 weeks to fully recover. So while you can't totally rest them because you need to ready your body and mind for the rigors of the upcoming event, you can consider this and not go too deep or too intense. How to actually do this is tricky; everything in such a short cycle with a peak at the end is a compromise. You kind of take each day and evaluate how you feel and base your training solely on this. You can't just plug in a workout program and do whatever you think you should. This is asking for trouble because this close to event one bad day can do irreversable harm. One skin flapper, major overtraining session, or getting dehydrated can set your perform back to where you won't fully recover in time. So it's always better to slightly under do it than to even barely do too much.

With a week to go I'm on the verge of the latter, however this may have to do with my friend's party last night as well. Whatever the cause, I need to catch up on some rest, which will be difficult because I've got a very busy week ahead. At least I don't have any more high volume training days. Well, tomorrow may be slightly high volume. After which it's less and less til Sat.

Oh, and I always forget to WOWY on Sat. This is my biggest volume day each week. Two weeks ago I did 21 long routes outside, which took about 9 hours. The next two I went climbng all day. I guess because I left early I forgot to log on. My calendar my not be Xed off but, I assure you, I was training.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Training For My Birthday Challenge

Okay, so I've been logging my training in WOWY for all to see and just found out that there's no way to let you see it. So it's going to be here from now on. Since I only announced the challenge two weeks ago it's not like there was some big scientific process. I put the challenge out there, hope I have the requisite base training, and have since concentrated on building up the necessary skin thickness, eating habits, engram patterns, and strategy to see me through.

Three weeks isn't long enough to truly train for something. All you can do is fine tune what you've got. For a 24 hour endeavor, this leaves no shortage of things you can do to improve your performance at the last minute. My challenge is chronicled on this page:

2007 Birthday Challenge "My blood must be fully replaced every year"

I realize, however, that the banter over there may be a bit more esoteric than a wide audience can tolerate. Therefore, I'm going to use this blog for MDB members as we, too, can talk in a unique language about such things as WOWY, the X, bringin' it, and so forth.

To recap, here is what I have planned, thought there still can be a bit of juggling, adding rules, etc.

In 24 hours, on or around November 24th, I'll attempt to:

On sight 47 rock climbs
On sight 47 miles of "advanced" single track on my single speed
Ride 47 miles on my fixie
Run 47 kilometers (about 30 miles) on trails


Get 470 people to WOWY with me during the challenge!

Over the last two weeks my training sessions have been between 1 and 9 hours, with 3-4 being about average. In P90X, we talk about how you can't really train efficiently for over about an hour. This is true. However, I'm not training for general conditioning but to attempt to complete 24 straight hours of exercise. In this case, longer training is essential.

That's all for today. Each day I'll write a bit more about the what and why on training for endurance vs training for general body conditioning.

Until next time, keep pushing play and WOWY!

Friday Inspirational Video

This route is just beautiful. Wish it were closer to home. I love aretes. They are, by far, my favorite rock feature to both look at and climb. Feel free to email me with your list of favorite aretes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Workout With Me

I've updated my training blog for my upcoming challenge. Now you can virtually train with me using our WOWY feature at MDB. Since most of you probably aren't in need of a virtual training partner the only motivator I've got is cash. MDB gives money away randomly to anyone that logs on (it's free).

Check the blog for more details:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's A Fat World After All

Disneyland has closed down some rides to retro them for our fatter society. Scroll down for the article:

Like those who deny that global warming is occuring even though glaciers are disappearing world wide, there are those who believe that the obesity epidemic is nothing but some sort of political sounding board so we can keep good American food corporations from maximizing their profits. Maybe they'll wake up when they can't bring their tub o' popcorn and 64 ounce soda on their oh-so American jungle ride.

"Quite simply, the boats weren't designed to handle multiple adults weighing more than 200 pounds, and they now routinely bottom out in the shallow flume and get stuck. The Imagineers who designed the unique flume ride system for the World's Fair assumed that adult men would average 175 pounds, and adult women would average 135 pounds. Needless to say, those 1960's statistics are hopelessly out of date in today's world. This same issue creates similar problems on the drops at Pirates of the Caribbean, or even on the older dark rides like Pinocchio or Alice In Wonderland as the more heavily loaded cars try to keep up their pace throughout the ride. But at it's a small world, the weight related problems happen more frequently."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Birthday Challenge 2007

My new birthday challenge blog is up:

Challenge Blog

As usual, I have no idea if I can do it. In fact, if I tried tomorrow I couldn't. I also only have two weeks of hard training to get ready. As Jack Burton always says, it's going to take cracker jack timing. That and a lot of luck.

Friday, November 02, 2007

How Bad Is Sugar?

"Just think," said my friend Ben last night. "This is how normal people feel all of the time."

We were in a comatose state of a sugar crash that came of the heels of one of my more unhealthy weeks, which has led me to make a little anecdotal statement about eating excessive sugar.

I’ve been traveling every weekend to climb and, with a birthday challenge in the forecast, decided that this week I should rest and recover before my final cycle of training leading up to the big event. Instead of doing an actual recovery phase of training, I opted to do nothing while catching up on my social life. Given this week is Halloween; there’s been no shortage of weird sugary treats to indulge in. So I partook regularly, will the knowledge that my hard training during the ensuing weeks would easily counteract it.

So yesterday I go climbing. After my second warm-up climb, where I’d accumulated a fair amount of lactic acid build-up, I felt awful. At first I thought I was hung over because I’d been out the night before. But I’d only had two drinks. Next I thought that, perhaps, I was getting sick. I took a short nap and then finished off my climbing workout tentatively, wondering why I was feeling so bad.

I had dinner with my climbing partner, Ben, and his family. It was healthy and I began to feel better. Then we hit the leftover bowl of Halloween candy. Almost immediately, I returned to my prior state. As we sat there feeling worse and worse Ben made the above comment.

As I struggled to drive home I recounted my diet for the week. It had included more pure sugar candy than I’d had all year. From gummy worms to Wonka taffy to Haribo burgers, I’d been munching on the type of stuff some people eat on a regular basis. After all, as one of the packages informed me, these were “no fat” treats. How bad for you could they be?

Well let me tell you:

I’m pretty healthy but I don’t always eat ultra healthy. In fact, when I’m participating in endurance sports I often eat a lot of sugar in order to quickly re-charge my glycogen stores. So I should be used to eating sugar, right? Not exactly.

Dense calories, like sugar, are vital when you’re burning more calories than you can possibly eat. However, when you’re not doing excessive exercise—and most people never do any—eating dense sugary foods is friggin’ horrible for you. Last night I dreamt of lettuce as a junkie probably does crack. Give me some fiber and low density stuff to soak up all this crap, my body seemed to be saying. I’ve never been a big fan of salad for breakfast but that’s what I’m going to have. I have no idea how some people live in the state of being all the time. Especially when you know that you don’t have to.

Happy… cough…Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Phil Training

I haven't had a lot of time for blogging recently, which won't always be the case. In the mean time, check out my friend's new blog:

It's new, so not much to look at yet, but will be entertaining, especially for those who like extreme training. Phil trains "for climbing" but he mainly trains for training. We've trained together, on and off, for about 17 years now, and Phil is probably the most diligent person I know when it comes to sticking to a workout program. He's an enigma to most, since his workout is just as, if not more, important than his climbing. This no doubt holds him back when it comes to his climbing resume (but how important is that, really?) but it means that he's very rarely injured and strong as a friggin' ox. As a testament to how hard and precise he trains, not one person has ever completed an entire training cycle trying to keep up with Phil and not been injured.

Phil is the main guy I used to experiment with on diet and training during the early 90s, when no one really knew how to train for climbing. We've got some pretty good stories and I'm sure they'll show up on his blog. So stay tuned.

Photo is of Phil on his route, The Old Pro Skill, Owl Tor, Silly Rock, near Santa Maria, Ca, in 2007. It was originally rated 5.12c but is realistically more like 13b--about standard for the Tor--and is one of the many routes Phils runs laps on as if they were 5.10. I've got plenty of old pics that I'll have to dig up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

One Life To Give

Here is an article on Chuck Feeney, a billionaire who has given almost all of his money away to charity. He doesn't own a house or a car or hang out with "society" types. Inspiring.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

24 Hours of Moab Slideshow

Here's a slideshow of our weekend in Moab. As you might surmise from our attitude, we didn't win. Didn't even come close. We probably, however, won the party. There was at least one martini on the podium that was courtesey of us.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wall Rats Trailer

This is a re-post because I accidentally approved a comment that I was asked not to publish. Anyway, and an update Wall Rats is now officially a VAS (Video Action Sports) title and should be at a store near you soon. It may also be purchased at


Wall Rats Trailer

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More On Why We Should Stop Being Fat

It's not all about how you look...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly twice as many U.S. adults are obese compared to European, a key factor leading Americans to suffer more often from cancer, diabetes and other chronic ailments, a study released on Tuesday found.

Treatment of these and other chronic diseases adds between $100 billion and $150 billion to the annual health care tab in the United States, according to the report comparing U.S. and European health published online in the journal Health Affairs.

The United States spends significantly more per capita than any European country on health care, about $2 trillion annually, or 16 percent of the gross domestic product. While the big discrepancy has been linked to higher U.S. prices for medical treatment, the report said a sicker population may also be a factor.

"We expected to see differences between disease prevalence in the United States and Europe, but the extent of the differences is surprising," said Ken Thorpe, professor of public health at Emory University and a study co-author. "It is possible that we spend more on health care because we are, indeed, less healthy."

A key factor in many chronic illnesses is obesity and smoking. About 33 percent of Americans are obese, compared with 17 percent in 10 European countries reviewed. More than half of Americans are former or current smokers, compared with about 43 percent in the European sample.

While Americans appeared to be on the whole sicker than adults in other industrialized countries, the study said more aggressive preventive care could help explain the results for some illnesses.

For example, the study found 12.2 percent of Americans are diagnosed with cancer, more than twice that of Europe. But that is likely due in part to more screening here, the study said.

Friday, September 21, 2007

GMO Food Guide

For those of you interested in avoiding genetically modified foods, here's a pretty good place to start.

The Importance of Sleep

A pretty good study on the importance of sleep...

By Ben Hirschler
53 minutes ago

LONDON (Reuters) - People who do not get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease, according to a large British study released on Monday.

Although the reasons are unclear, researchers said lack of sleep appeared to be linked to increased blood pressure, which is known to raise the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

A 17-year analysis of 10,000 government workers showed those who cut their sleeping from seven hours a night to five or less faced a 1.7-fold increased risk in mortality from all causes and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death.

The findings highlight a danger in busy modern lifestyles, Francesco Cappuccio, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Warwick's medical school, told the annual conference of the British Sleep Society in Cambridge.

"A third of the population of the UK and over 40 percent in the U.S. regularly sleep less than five hours a night, so it is not a trivial problem," he said in a telephone interview.

"The current pressures in society to cut out sleep, in order to squeeze in more, may not be a good idea -- particularly if you go below five hours."

Previous research has highlighted the potential health risks of shift work and disrupted sleep. But the study by Cappuccio and colleagues, which was supported by British government and U.S. funding, is the first to link duration of sleep and mortality rates.

The study looked at sleep patterns of participants aged 35-55 years at two points in their lives -- 1985-88 and 1992-93 -- and then tracked their mortality rates until 2004.

The results were adjusted to take account of other possible risk factors such as initial age, sex, smoking and alcohol consumption, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol.

The correlation with cardiovascular risk in those who slept less in the 1990s than in the 1980s was clear but, curiously, there was also a higher mortality rate in people who increased their sleeping to more than nine hours.

In this case, however, there was no cardiovascular link and Cappuccio said it was possible that longer sleeping could be related to other health problems such as depression or cancer-related fatigue.

"In terms of prevention, our findings indicate that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health," he said.

Drug Companies Suppress Release of Sicko?

From the wires...

One week before Michael Moore’s hotly debated documentary Sicko was scheduled to open, Mark H. Rachesky, M.D. -- the founder and president of MHR Fund Management LLC -- purchased 33.4 percent (over 40 million shares) of Lions Gate stock.

Lions Gate (along with Weinstein Co.), the company distributing Sicko, had planned to release the film in over 1,600 theaters across the United States in June 2007. However, one week prior to the release (the same week that Rachesky made his purchase), the number was reduced to 400 theaters.

While this could be mere coincidence, some are questioning whether Rachesky’s stock purchase was made for controlling interests in Lions Gate. Typically, for a shareholder to gain major influence on a company, he or she would need to purchase at least 51 percent of the shares.

However, in certain instances an individual can maintain control with just 33.4 percent of shares… which is the exact amount that Rachesky purchased.

Further, Rachesky is involved with a number of health care companies who stand to be impacted by Moore’s provocative film. Rachesky is:

On the Board of Directors of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc.
An investment broker for NovaDel Pharma, Inc.
The beneficial owner of Medical Nutrition USA, Inc.
The Director of Neose Technologies, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company
An investor in Emisphere Technologies, Inc., another biopharmaceutical company
Sicko examines the financial and medical struggles of Americans to get proper health care, and chronicles the experience of a group of World Trade Center rescue workers who travel to Cuba to get medical care, for free.

The Zetetic August 4, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

An Ocean Of Problems

I'm reprinting this article because it's important and I'd want a target that I can easily reference. If you'd like to read the article with photos and graphic, click here:

An Ocean of Problems

A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain. Scientists say these toxins are causing obesity, infertility...and worse.

Fate can take strange forms, and so perhaps it does not seem unusual that Captain Charles Moore found his life's purpose in a nightmare. Unfortunately, he was awake at the time, and 800 miles north of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

It happened on August 3, 1997, a lovely day, at least in the beginning: Sunny. Little wind. Water the color of sapphires. Moore and the crew of Alguita, his 50-foot aluminum-hulled catamaran, sliced through the sea.

Returning to Southern California from Hawaii after a sailing race, Moore had altered Alguita's course, veering slightly north. He had the time and the curiosity to try a new route, one that would lead the vessel through the eastern corner of a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical gyre. This was an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoided. For one thing, it was becalmed. "The doldrums," sailors called it, and they steered clear. So did the ocean's top predators: the tuna, sharks, and other large fish that required livelier waters, flush with prey. The gyre was more like a desertâ€"a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingered above it.

The area's reputation didn't deter Moore. He had grown up in Long Beach, 40 miles south of L.A., with the Pacific literally in his front yard, and he possessed an impressive aquatic resume: deckhand, able seaman, sailor, scuba diver, surfer, and finally captain. Moore had spent countless hours in the ocean, fascinated by its vast trove of secrets and terrors. He'd seen a lot of things out there, things that were glorious and grand; things that were ferocious and humbling. But he had never seen anything nearly as chilling as what lay ahead of him in the gyre.

It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Moore could not believe his eyes. Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill.

How did all the plastic end up here? How did this trash tsunami begin? What did it mean? If the questions seemed overwhelming, Moore would soon learn that the answers were even more so, and that his discovery had dire implications for humanâ€"and planetaryâ€"health. As Alguita glided through the area that scientists now refer to as the "Eastern Garbage Patch," Moore realized that the trail of plastic went on for hundreds of miles. Depressed and stunned, he sailed for a week through bobbing, toxic debris trapped in a purgatory of circling currents. To his horror, he had stumbled across the 21st-century Leviathan. It had no head, no tail. Just an endless body.

"Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic." This Andy Warhol quote is emblazoned on a six-foot-long magenta and yellow banner that hangs with extreme irony in the solar-powered workshop in Moore's Long Beach home. The workshop is surrounded by a crazy Eden of trees, bushes, flowers, fruits, and vegetables, ranging from the prosaic (tomatoes) to the exotic (cherimoyas, guavas, chocolate persimmons, white figs the size of baseballs). This is the house in which Moore, 59, was raised, and it has a kind of open-air earthiness that reflects his '60s-activist roots, which included a stint in a Berkeley commune. Composting and organic gardening are serious business hereâ€"you can practically smell the humusâ€"but there is also a kidney-shaped hot tub surrounded by palm trees. Two wet suits hang drying on a clothesline above it.

This afternoon, Moore strides the grounds. "How about a nice, fresh boysenberry?" he asks, and plucks one off a bush. He's a striking man wearing no-nonsense black trousers and a shirt with official-looking epaulettes. A thick brush of salt-and-pepper hair frames his intense blue eyes and serious face. But the first thing you notice about Moore is his voice, a deep, bemused drawl that becomes animated and sardonic when the subject turns to plastic pollution. This problem is Moore's calling, a passion he inherited from his father, an industrial chemist who studied waste management as a hobby. On family vacations, Moore recalls, part of the agenda would be to see what the locals threw out. "We could be in paradise, but we would go to the dump," he says with a shrug. "That's what we wanted to see."

Since his first encounter with the Garbage Patch nine years ago, Moore has been on a mission to learn exactly what's going on out there. Leaving behind a 25-year career running a furniture-restoration business, he has created the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to spread the word of his findings. He has resumed his science studies, which he'd set aside when his attention swerved from pursuing a university degree to protesting the Vietnam War. His tireless effort has placed him on the front lines of this new, more abstract battle. After enlisting scientists such as Steven B. Weisberg, Ph.D. (executive director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and an expert in marine environmental monitoring), to develop methods for analyzing the gyre's contents, Moore has sailed Alguita back to the Garbage Patch several times. On each trip, the volume of plastic has grown alarmingly. The area in which it accumulates is now twice the size of Texas.

At the same time, all over the globe, there are signs that plastic pollution is doing more than blighting the scenery; it is also making its way into the food chain. Some of the most obvious victims are the dead seabirds that have been washing ashore in startling numbers, their bodies packed with plastic: things like bottle caps, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, and colored scraps that, to a foraging bird, resemble baitfish. (One animal dissected by Dutch researchers contained 1,603 pieces of plastic.) And the birds aren't alone. All sea creatures are threatened by floating plastic, from whales down to zooplankton. There's a basic moral horror in seeing the pictures: a sea turtle with a plastic band strangling its shell into an hourglass shape; a humpback towing plastic nets that cut into its flesh and make it impossible for the animal to hunt. More than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die in the North Pacific each year, either from mistakenly eating this junk or from being ensnared in it and drowning.

Bad enough. But Moore soon learned that the big, tentacled balls of trash were only the most visible signs of the problem; others were far less obvious, and far more evil. Dragging a fine-meshed net known as a manta trawl, he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.

This statistic is grim for marine animals, of course, but even more so for humans. The more invisible and ubiquitous the pollution, the more likely it will end up inside us. And there's growingâ€"and disturbingâ€"proof that we're ingesting plastic toxins constantly, and that even slight doses of these substances can severely disrupt gene activity. "Every one of us has this huge body burden," Moore says. "You could take your serum to a lab now, and they'd find at least 100 industrial chemicals that weren't around in 1950." The fact that these toxins don't cause violent and immediate reactions does not mean they're benign: Scientists are just beginning to research the long-term ways in which the chemicals used to make plastic interact with our own biochemistry.

In simple terms, plastic is a petroleum-based mix of monomers that become polymers, to which additional chemicals are added for suppleness, inflammability, and other qualities. When it comes to these substances, even the syllables are scary. For instance, if you're thinking that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) isn't something you want to sprinkle on your microwave popcorn, you're right. Recently, the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upped its classification of PFOA to a likely carcinogen. Yet it's a common ingredient in packaging that needs to be oil- and heat-resistant. So while there may be no PFOA in the popcorn itself, if PFOA is used to treat the bag, enough of it can leach into the popcorn oil when your butter deluxe meets your superheated microwave oven that a single serving spikes the amount of the chemical in your blood.

Other nasty chemical additives are the flame retardants known as poly-brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). These chemicals have been shown to cause liver and thyroid toxicity, reproductive problems, and memory loss in preliminary animal studies. In vehicle interiors, PBDEsâ€"used in moldings and floor coverings, among other thingsâ€"combine with another group called phthalates to create that much-vaunted "new-car smell." Leave your new wheels in the hot sun for a few hours, and these substances can "off-gas" at an accelerated rate, releasing noxious by-products.

It's not fair, however, to single out fast food and new cars. PBDEs, to take just one example, are used in many products, incuding computers, carpeting, and paint. As for phthalates, we deploy about a billion pounds of them a year worldwide despite the fact that California recently listed them as a chemical known to be toxic to our reproductive systems. Used to make plastic soft and pliable, phthalates leach easily from millions of productsâ€"packaged food, cosmetics, varnishes, the coatings of timed-release pharmaceuticalsâ€"into our blood, urine, saliva, seminal fluid, breast milk, and amniotic fluid. In food containers and some plastic bottles, phthalates are now found with another compound called bisphenol A (BPA), which scientists are discovering can wreak stunning havoc in the body. We produce 6 billion pounds of that each year, and it shows: BPA has been found in nearly every human who has been tested in the United States. We're eating these plasticizing additives, drinking them, breathing them, and absorbing them through our skin every single day.
Most alarming, these chemicals may disrupt the endocrine systemâ€"the delicately balanced set of hormones and glands that affect virtually every organ and cellâ€"by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. In marine environments, excess estrogen has led to Twilight Zone-esque discoveries of male fish and seagulls that have sprouted female sex organs.

On land, things are equally gruesome. "Fertility rates have been declining for quite some time now, and exposure to synthetic estrogenâ€"especially from the chemicals found in plastic productsâ€"can have an adverse effect," says Marc Goldstein, M.D., director of the Cornell Institute for Repro-ductive Medicine. Dr. Goldstein also notes that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable: "Prenatal exposure, even in very low doses, can cause irreversible damage in an unborn baby's reproductive organs." And after the baby is born, he or she is hardly out of the woods. Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia who specifically studies estrogenic chemicals in plastics, warns parents to "steer clear of polycarbonate baby bottles. They're particularly dangerous for newborns, whose brains, immune systems, and gonads are still developing." Dr. vom Saal's research spurred him to throw out every polycarbonate plastic item in his house, and to stop buying plastic-wrapped food and canned goods (cans are plastic-lined) at the grocery store. "We now know that BPA causes prostate cancer in mice and rats, and abnormalities in the prostate's stem cell, which is the cell implicated in human prostate cancer," he says. "That's enough to scare the hell out of me." At Tufts University, Ana M. Soto, M.D., a professor of anatomy and cellular biology, has also found connections between these chemicals and breast cancer.

As if the potential for cancer and mutation weren't enough, Dr. vom Saal states in one of his studies that "prenatal exposure to very low doses of BPA increases the rate of postnatal growth in mice and rats." In other words, BPA made rodents fat. Their insulin output surged wildly and then crashed into a state of resistanceâ€"the virtual definition of diabetes. They produced bigger fat cells, and more of them. A recent scientific paper Dr. vom Saal coauthored contains this chilling sentence: "These findings suggest that developmental exposure to BPA is contributing to the obesity epidemic that has occurred during the last two decades in the developed world, associated with the dramatic increase in the amount of plastic being produced each year." Given this, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that America's staggering rise in diabetesâ€"a 735 percent increase since 1935â€"follows the same arc.

This news is depressing enough to make a person reach for the bottle. Glass, at least, is easily recyclable. You can take one tequila bottle, melt it down, and make another tequila bottle. With plastic, recycling is more complicated. Unfortunately, that promising-looking triangle of arrows that appears on products doesn't always signify endless reuse; it merely identifies which type of plastic the item is made from. And of the seven different plastics in common use, only two of themâ€"PET (labeled with 1 inside the triangle and used in soda bottles) and HDPE (labeled with 2 inside the triangle and used in milk jugs)â€"have much of an aftermarket. So no matter how virtuously you toss your chip bags and shampoo bottles into your blue bin, few of them will escape the landfillâ€"only 3 to 5 percent of plastics are recycled in any way.

"There's no legal way to recycle a milk container into another milk container without adding a new virgin layer of plastic," Moore says, pointing out that, because plastic melts at low temperatures, it retains pollutants and the tainted residue of its former contents. Turn up the heat to sear these off, and some plastics release deadly vapors. So the reclaimed stuff is mostly used to make entirely different products, things that don't go anywhere near our mouths, such as fleece jackets and carpeting. Therefore, unlike recycling glass, metal, or paper, recycling plastic doesn't always result in less use of virgin material. It also doesn't help that fresh-made plastic is far cheaper.

Moore routinely finds half-melted blobs of plastic in the ocean, as though the person doing the burning realized partway through the process that this was a bad idea, and stopped (or passed out from the fumes). "That's a concern as plastic proliferates worldwide, and people run out of room for trash and start burning plasticâ€"you're producing some of the most toxic gases known," he says. The color-coded bin system may work in Marin County, but it is somewhat less effective in subequatorial Africa or rural Peru.

"Except for the small amount that's been incinerated, and it's a very small amount, every bit of plastic ever made still exists," Moore says, describing how the material's molecular structure resists biodegradation. Instead, plastic crumbles into ever-tinier fragments as it's exposed to sunlight and the elements. And none of these untold gazillions of fragments is disappearing anytime soon: Even when plastic is broken down to a single molecule, it remains too tough for biodegradation.
Truth is, no one knows how long it will take for plastic to biodegrade, or return to its carbon and hydrogen elements. We only invented the stuff 144 years ago, and science's best guess is that its natural disappearance will take several more centuries. Meanwhile, every year, we churn out about 60 billion tons of it, much of which becomes disposable products meant only for a single use. Set aside the question of why we're creating ketchup bottles and six-pack rings that last for half a millennium, and consider the implications of it: Plastic never really goes away.

Ask a group of people to name an overwhelming global problem, and you'll hear about climate change, the Middle East, or AIDS. No one, it is guaranteed, will cite the sloppy transport of nurdles as a concern. And
yet nurdles, lentil-size pellets of plastic in its rawest form, are especially effective couriers of waste chemicals called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, which include known carcinogens such as DDT and PCBs.

The United States banned these poisons in the 1970s, but they remain stubbornly at large in the environment, where they latch on to plastic because of its molecular tendency to attract oils.

The word itselfâ€"nurdlesâ€"sounds cuddly and harmless, like a cartoon character or a pasta for kids, but what it refers to is most certainly not. Absorbing up to a million times the level of POP pollution in their surrounding waters, nurdles become supersaturated poison pills. They're light enough to blow around like dust, to spill out of shipping containers, and to wash into harbors, storm drains, and creeks. In the ocean, nurdles are easily mistaken for fish eggs by creatures that would very much like to have such a snack. And once inside the body of a bigeye tuna or a king salmon, these tenacious chemicals are headed directly to your dinner table.
One study estimated that nurdles now account for 10 percent of plastic ocean debris. And once they're scattered in the environment, they're diabolically hard to clean up (think wayward confetti). At places as remote as Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, 2,100 miles northeast of New Zealand and a 12-hour flight from L.A., they're commonly found mixed with beach sand. In 2004, Moore received a $500,000 grant from the state of California to investigate the myriad ways in which nurdles go astray during the plastic manufacturing process. On a visit to a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe factory, as he walked through an area where railcars unloaded ground-up nurdles, he noticed that his pant cuffs were filled with a fine plastic dust. Turning a corner, he saw windblown drifts of nurdles piled against a fence. Talking about the experience, Moore's voice becomes strained and his words pour out in an urgent tumble: "It's not the big trash on the beach. It's the fact that the whole biosphere is becoming mixed with these plastic particles. What are they doing to us? We're breathing them, the fish are eating them, they're in our hair, they're in our skin."

Though marine dumping is part of the problem, escaped nurdles and other plastic litter migrate to the gyre largely from land. That polystyrene cup you saw floating in the creek, if it doesn't get picked up and specifically taken to a landfill, will eventually be washed out to sea. Once there, it will have plenty of places to go: The North Pacific gyre is only one of five such high-pressure zones in the oceans. There are similar areas in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. Each of these gyres has its own version of the Garbage Patch, as plastic gathers in the currents. Together, these areas cover 40 percent of the sea. "That corresponds to a quarter of the earth's surface," Moore says. "So 25 percent of our planet is a toilet that never flushes."

It wasn't supposed to be this way. In 1865, a few years after Alexander Parkes unveiled a precursor to man-made plastic called Parkesine, a scientist named John W. Hyatt set out to make a synthetic replacement for ivory billiard balls. He had the best of intentions: Save the elephants! After some tinkering, he created celluloid. From then on, each year brought a miraculous recipe: rayon in 1891, Teflon in 1938, polypropylene in 1954. Durable, cheap, versatileâ€"plastic seemed like a revelation. And in many ways, it was. Plastic has given us bulletproof vests, credit cards, slinky spandex pants. It has led to breakthroughs in medicine, aerospace engineering, and computer science. And who among us doesn't own a Frisbee?
Plastic has its benefits; no one would deny that. Few of us, however, are as enthusiastic as the American Plastics Council. One of its recent press releases, titled "Plastic Bagsâ€"A Family's Trusted Companion," reads: "Very few people remember what life was like before plastic bags became an icon of convenience and practicalityâ€"and now art. Remember the 'beautiful' [sic] swirling, floating bag in American Beauty?"

Alas, the same ethereal quality that allows bags to dance gracefully across the big screen also lands them in many less desirable places. Twenty-three countries, including Germany, South Africa, and Australia, have banned, taxed, or restricted the use of plastic bags because they clog sewers and lodge in the throats of livestock. Like pernicious Kleenex, these flimsy sacks end up snagged in trees and snarled in fences, becoming eyesores and worse: They also trap rainwater, creating perfect little breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

In the face of public outrage over pictures of dolphins choking on "a family's trusted companion," the American Plastics Council takes a defensive stance, sounding not unlike the NRA: Plastics don't pollute, people do.

It has a point. Each of us tosses about 185 pounds of plastic per year. We could certainly reduce that. And yetâ€"do our products have to be quite so lethal? Must a discarded flip-flop remain with us until the end of time? Aren't disposable razors and foam packing peanuts a poor consolation prize for the destruction of the world's oceans, not to mention our own bodies and the health of future generations? "If 'more is better' and that's the only mantra we have, we're doomed," Moore says, summing it up.

Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Ph.D., an expert on marine debris, agrees. "If you could fast-forward 10,000 years and do an archaeological dig…you'd find a little line of plastic," he told The Seattle Times last April. "What happened to those people? Well, they ate their own plastic and disrupted their genetic structure and weren't able to reproduce. They didn't last very long because they killed themselves."

Wrist-slittingly depressing, yes, but there are glimmers of hope on the horizon. Green architect and designer William McDonough has become an influential voice, not only in environmental circles but among Fortune 500 CEOs. McDonough proposes a standard known as "cradle to cradle" in which all manufactured things must be reusable, poison-free, and beneficial over the long haul. His outrage is obvious when he holds up a rubber ducky, a common child's bath toy. The duck is made of phthalate-laden PVC, which has been linked to cancer and reproductive harm. "What kind of people are we that we would design like this?" McDonough asks. In the United States, it's commonly accepted that children's teething rings, cosmetics, food wrappers, cars, and textiles will be made from toxic materials. Other countriesâ€"and many individual companiesâ€"seem to be reconsidering. Currently, McDonough is working with the Chinese government to build seven cities using "the building materials of the future," including a fabric that is safe enough to eat and a new, nontoxic polystyrene.

Thanks to people like Moore and McDonough, and media hits such as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, awareness of just how hard we've bitch-slapped the planet is skyrocketing. After all, unless we're planning to colonize Mars soon, this is where we live, and none of us would choose to live in a toxic wasteland or to spend our days getting pumped full of drugs to deal with our haywire endocrine systems and runaway cancer.

None of plastic's problems can be fixed overnight, but the more we learn, the more likely that, eventually, wisdom will trump convenience and cheap disposability. In the meantime, let the cleanup begin: The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is aggressively using satellites to identify and remove "ghost nets," abandoned plastic fishing gear that never stops killing. (A single net recently hauled up off the Florida coast contained more than 1,000 dead fish, sharks, and one loggerhead turtle.) New biodegradable starch- and corn-based plastics have arrived, and Wal-Mart has signed on as a customer. A consumer rebellion against dumb and excessive packaging is afoot. And in August 2006, Moore was invited to speak about "marine debris and hormone disruption" at a meeting in Sicily convened by the science advisor to the Vatican. This annual gathering, called the International Seminars on Planetary Emergencies, brings scientists together to discuss mankind's worst threats. Past topics have included nuclear holocaust and terrorism.

The gray plastic kayak floats next to Moore's catamaran, Alguita, which lives in a slip across from his house. It is not a lovely kayak; in fact, it looks pretty rough. But it's floating, a sturdy, eight-foot-long two-seater. Moore stands on Alguita's deck, hands on hips, staring down at it. On the sailboat next to him, his neighbor, Cass Bastain, does the same. He has just informed Moore that he came across the abandoned craft yesterday, floating just offshore. The two men shake their heads in bewilderment.

"That's probably a $600 kayak," Moore says, adding, "I don't even shop anymore. Anything I need will just float by." (In his opinion, the movie Cast Away was a jokeâ€"Tom Hanks could've built a village with the crap that would've washed ashore during a storm.)

Watching the kayak bobbing disconsolately, it is hard not to wonder what will become of it. The world is full of cooler, sexier kayaks. It is also full of cheap plastic kayaks that come in more attractive colors than battleship gray. The ownerless kayak is a lummox of a boat, 50 pounds of nurdles extruded into an object that nobody wants, but that'll be around for centuries longer than we will.

And as Moore stands on deck looking into the water, it is easy to imagine him doing the same thing 800 miles west, in the gyre. You can see his silhouette in the silvering light, caught between ocean and sky. You can see the mercurial surface of the most majestic body of water on earth. And then below, you can see the half-submerged madhouse of forgotten and discarded things. As Moore looks over the side of the boat, you can see the seabirds sweeping overhead, dipping and skimming the water. One of the journeying birds, sleek as a fighter plane, carries a scrap of something yellow in its beak. The bird dives low and then boomerangs over the horizon. Gone.

© Copyright 2007 Best Life Magazine

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The E100 - A Day of Mass Carnage

It's time to finally get my report up, so here we go. The E100 is one of the hardest single-day mtn bike races in the world. Its profile looks difficult enough on paper, with 100 miles and somewhere between 16,000 and 18,000' of climbing, but the true difficult is the nature of the racing. It's almost all single track. Much of it is winding and technical and slow. Over the 100 miles course there are only a few short points where you can relax on your bike. Mainly, you're paying close attention the entire time. It’s not ultra technical, just enough that you need to pay attention. It’s also fun riding. Really really fun.

The bike decision

All summer I'd been riding my 29” single speed. However, I didn't feel like I could finish 100 miles on it, at least not this particular 100. The week before the race I did two loops on the most technical part of the course on my Rig (ss) and my light, geared, 26" Fetish Seduction. I was much faster on the Fetish. Furthermore, I felt like I was using a lot less energy. I purposefully chose the section of the course that would suit gears and small wheels but, still, the advantage seemed significant. Most importantly, however, was my concern over my knee that I’d injured in a similar race two seasons ago. I’d ride the little wheels.

The course

I’d helped the race organizer, Boris, mark the course the week before. Unfortunately, construction had closed many of the trails used in prior years so we wouldn’t be riding on Deer Valley. This meant that two sections of the course would be done twice. The “full” course was now 100k, which was an option for the race.

These laps meant that we’d climb Spiro four times. Spiro is a nice climb. It’s technically easy but a steep grind. On two of the laps we’d continue beyond the top of Spiro for another 1,000’ nearly to the Wasatch Crest. As we finished our work we ran across a guy who was prepping for the race. His comment “I think four laps on Spiro is going to cause some problems” would turn out to be prophetic.

Stage 1

At 6:00, in the dark, we set off up the mile-some-odd steep dirt road that was used to sort the field prior to the single track. I spun up this at a fairly easy rate knowing we had a long day ahead. I passed a bunch of single speeders and wasn’t missing my Rig yet.

The next section, Billy’s Bypass and John’s, are quite technical climbing. I’d never cleared this section on my own and, at race pace, I didn’t even try. It was easier to just get off and walk during some sections as opposed to riding anaerobic.

As we hit Mid Mountain I felt pretty good. The long ride to The Canyons was a section I was familiar with but it sure went a lot faster with all these folks out here pushing me along. As we neared Red Pine Lodge I thought I felt a twinge in my knee. “It couldn’t be,” I thought. “I must have clipped a bush or something.” I took it somewhat easy down Holly’s into the transition where I ate, stretched, and re-filled my pack.

Stage 2

This stage begins with a long rocky climb back to Mid Mountain. I took it slow and steady. A couple of single speeders had passed me on MM and as I passed them going up we chatted about the difference in a race like this. Even though I was passing them, I missed my other bike.

My knee was definitely hurting. It wasn’t bad, yet, but it was certainly exactly the same thing that had knocked me out of the 508 two years ago. I kicked it into a very small gear and soft pedaled the best I could. At the top of the climb I stopped, let a bunch of people past me, and stretched.

I passed some people on Mid Mountain and finally settled into a small group. We passed a few people already hurting. On guy said he was done, even though he was riding the 50 mile version. This was on the downhill section, so I think he was thinking about his last climb up Spiro. I rolled into the checkpoint still feeling hopeful. I got rid of my lights, re-fueled, but didn’t take any anti-inflammatories. I want to feel my knee. If it got bad I’d back out. It wasn’t worth another 6 month rehab process just to finish this thing, which I was started to wonder about the prospect of even if my knee wasn’t hurting.

Stage 3

The climb up Spiro was obviously bothering people as I passed riders at a regular rate. I sat and spun the best I could, trying to conserve energy. My knee felt fine for a while. In fact, it felt fine through the hardest section of the climbing. Near the top it all changed. It began to hurt, exactly like before. I could stand and it would go away, which confirmed that it was the same issue. I began to wonder about my future as an endurance cyclist.

On the last section of the climb, up Mid Mountain, I knew my ‘race’ was over. There was no way I could survive this climb three more time without risking some serious time off the bike. It was irritating. I wasn’t suffering enough to quit, so I began to think of a way to earn my day. I was cautious on the descent. No reason to risk anything, like hitting a tree, going down John’s. I’d done this trail a lot, but never too fast. I don’t even know how to do it fast. By this time the leading racers were passing me on their second laps of stage 3 and it was cool to see how fast they could negotiate this terrain. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to ride like that and it made me wonder how I could possible suck so bad at something. I then came upon a guy being rescued who’d obviously hit a tree. He didn’t look well. I’d remain cautious.

Stage 4

We were supposed to do stage 3 twice but by the time I got to the transition I had a plan: to finish the course. This meant I’d do stage 4 instead, which would get me a 100K finishing time—though it would be unofficial. I asked Boris about it and he encouraged me to finish the 100 miler. I had time, he said, so even going slow I wasn’t doing too badly. But it just wasn’t an option. I was 100% sure I’d get injured, if I wasn’t already. I now just wanted to finish the course, tick 100 of something, and not have to stay off my bike through the fall.

5 minutes later I realized this was going to be a longer proposition that I’d hoped. I was walking. Last lap I’d ridden all of Spiro without a break. Now I could hardly pedal without pain. All I had was about 5 miles and 3,000’ of elevation gain to go before I could ride. It was going to suck.

For a while I tried to ride the flatter sections but as soon as the pain began to radiate to the back of my knee I bagged this idea. I’d have to walk the entire climb. Yikes. I took at break at the Mid Mountain transition with an official and a guy who was hurting, too. There was carnage everywhere. Most people were walking and turning into their second lap of stage 3. By this time they had no hope of making the time cut.

Like an adventure racer, I walked with my bike. The race official at the lake asked if I needed medical help. I told him I was fine, just injured, and was going to finish the course no matter how long it took. Finally, I arrived at the top. From here it was 12 miles, most of it downhill, to the ‘finish’. Except for the few short up hill sections it was pretty uneventful. I felt like I’d made the best out of the situation. It was a good day of riding—even the walking part.


Here’s another report I found. This guy finished 80 miles and didn’t make the cut. From the data it looks as though the 100k was 69 miles. It’s got a lot more detail than I provided. He also has pictures, which is what he did when his race went south. They were the only pics of the course I could find. Too bad. The course is stunning.

In the end, only 22 people finished the 100 miles. And not one of them was on a single speed. NOT ONE. Crazy. And only two women finished. This was far worse than in previous years so, apparently, those laps on Spiro took their toll. I was about the last person after lap three who still had a chance, time wise, so the carnage had begun fairly early. As I sat at the finish sipping beer and icing my knee people were coming in after stage 4 just cooked. No one seemed bummed about missing the time cut. “I’m done,” was the common sentiment. I didn’t hear one person ask to be let out for their final lap, and quite a few were only minutes off the cut-off time. It was/is a hard race.

After talking to a bunch of people I’m pretty sure my bike caused my knee problems. It’s too small, for one (I’ve never had a proper mtn bike fit like I do for my road bikes, which I’m gong to change) but I think it’s mainly the slight suspension bob and the continuous seated pedaling. On the ss you are constantly stressing different muscle groups because you can’t sit and spin. I talked to a few single speeders who have experienced the same problem.

If I could do it again I’d opt for the 100k on the ss. However, my goal for next year is to finish the 100 mile on the ss. I’d better start training now. I think I’ll begin with some rehab and then a solid off-season of weight training. I’m going to need stronger legs.

This race is awesome. I can’t wait to have another crack at it. See ya out there next year. Start training now.

Race Report: Carnage At E100

It's time to finally get my report up. The E100 is one of the hardest single-day mtn bike races in the world. Its profile looks difficult enough on paper, with 100 miles and somewhere between 16,000 and 18,000' of climbing, but the true difficult is the nature of the racing. It's almost all single track. Much of it is windy and technical and slow. Over the 100 miles course there are only a few short points where you can relax on your bike. Mainly, you're paying close attention the entire time.

The bike decision

All summer I'd been riding my single speed. However, I didn't feel like I could finish 100 miles on it, at least not this particular 100. The week before the race I did two loops on the most technical part of the course with my ss and my light, geared, 26" Fetish Seduction. I was much faster on the Fetish. Furthemore, I felt like I was using a lot less energy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Vuelta a Espana/ Congrats Levi

The Tour of Spain began this weekend. It's the last Grand Tour of the year and it wanders around Spain's "tranquello" countryside in a less tranquello manner. It's generally a race for the climbers, as there is less time trialing and far more climbing than the Tour de France. It also tends to be very exciting. Last year, Vino took the jersey on the final descent of the final climb. This year, the fireworks begin on day four, Tuesday.

You can watch the entire race live on Cycling TV.

Except to say that last year's podium is skipping the event due to doping allegations, I won't even mention it. In fact, let's go the other way and congratulate Levi Leipheimer, who just won the US National Championship race. Next year he'll wear the stars and stripes for... someone, I'm sure. This is a fine culmination of an incredible season.

Levi hasn't been mentioned in any doping scandal that I've heard of. Not a peep. As a grand tour rider this is rather rare these days, perhaps in unprecidented. He's ridden on four different teams, all of which have had guys busted, and not a word of scuttlebutt that he might be involved. Is there another rider (GC not sprinter) of whom you could say this? Go Levi!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hey, We're Getting Fatter!

Or maybe this is just another for "The Duh Files". In spite of the fact that you can't turn on your computer without reading about healthy lifestyle solutions--even if some are bogus--we are still expanding at an alarming rate. I suppose that anyone finding my blog doesn't need to be reminded of this but, hey, it fuels my fire. Seeing the number of people that don't ever exercise never ceases to astonish me. No exercise? As in zero? I'm not sure that I could make it through a week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The E100

This weekend I’m slated to do the best mountain bike race in the world, the E100. Up front, I’ll admit to a bit of hyperbole with this statement. In fact, I’ve never actually done a mountain bike race (unless it was part of something else, like adventure race). But I’ve looked at a lot of races and ridden their courses. Compared to some of the more famous races on the planet, the E100 blows them away.

At first glance, the race seems daunting. Its 100 miles with 18,000’ of elevation gain. When you delve a bit deeper, you find that the profile is just a piece of the puzzle, and the proposition begins to seem insane. Unlike Leadville and most of the other 100 mile and 24 hour races, the E100 is almost entirely on single track and doesn’t follow repetitive loops. The course is chosen for aesthetic beauty and fun riding, not for blowing through miles quickly. Much of the single track snakes its way through thick groves of aspens on rutted terrain. For most people, it’s not a course that gets ridden very fast.

The upside is that the riding, according to my friend Jeremy, “is on the best single track I’ve ridden anywhere in the world.” And he’s ridden a lot of places. For those put off by attempting 100 miles, there are 100k and 50 mile options. The 50 mile option takes the famous Mid Mountain Trail between Park City and The Canyons and is one of the most sublime rides I’ve ever done.

I highly recommend that anyone not doing anything this weekend get your ass and your bike up to Park City and join the fun!

The Course

There are detailed maps on the web site. I helped mark the course this weekend. Here’s a quick rundown:

Stage 1 – After a mile of steep dirt road to sort the field, you head uphill on Billy’s Bypass and John’s, a slow twisty ascent through the aspens. This is the most technical climb of the race and it will probably still be dark.

Next you hit Mid Mountain, turn right, and take it past Red Pine lodge at The Canyons Resort. This section is world famous and rightly so. It’s only mildly technical but one of the most beautiful sections of trail I’ve ever ridden. It’s capped by a technical rocky descent down Holly’s Downhill to the base of The Canyons.

Stage 2 – Ascend Holly’s Uphill to Ambush to Mid Mountain. A difficult climb with some tight switchbacks and rocky sections lead you back to Mid Mountain, where you get 3 and some odd new miles back to the trail you came out on. Then you reverse Mid Mountain back to Park City, which is quite different in this direction. Then you head back to Park City MR down dome cool, twisty, single track.

Stage 3 – Takes you up Spiro, an aerobic sufferfest that is, thankfully, almost fully shaded. You turn left at Mid Mountain and take this back to John’s, the techie trail you ascended that morning. This is an outstanding serpentine descent through the Aspens.

Stages 4 and 5 – The 100 mile racers get the biggest climb at the end, and twice. It’s a grind up Spiro to Powerline to some steep dirt roads leading almost to the top of the Wasatch Crest. After 5 miles and over 3,000’, you’re rewarded with 12 miles of screaming downhill. Well, it’s actually not really screaming. Most of it is very narrow and parts are technical. It’s also not all downhill as you climb up onto the Deer Valley side of the canyon before dropping down a cool new trail I’d never seen before traversing above town and then dropping down a road for the last half mile.

Personal Dilemma

I’m not yet signed up. The main reason is that Sandee and I were trying to plan a trip before her kids head back to school but, seeing as we’re both tight on cash, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. But I also have this bike dilemma. I don’t know which category to enter. I want to ride on my single speed but I’m not sure it’s a smart idea.

The geared bike would be easier. It would be more comfortable. I would almost certainly finish and I’d get to race against my age group. If I ride the ss I’ll be forced to race against the hammerheads that do nothing but ride where I’d probably come in last place if I manage to finish at all. But, mainly, I’ll be forced to do 6 big climbs in one day and each time I do them one at a time I feel right on the verge of puking. I injured my knee doing the Everest Challenge on large gearing (in honor of tradition), so there is some rational for choosing gears.

The only reason I’d ride the ss is for fun. I love riding this bike. I love the 29 inch wheels, the geometry, the way it seems to fit me perfect as I stand or sit or no matter what the terrain. I love the simplicity of not deciding on what gear to be in or how hard to push a section. You pedal when you can, stand when it gets hard, and coast downhill. It’s like being a kid; and I’m sorta just an old kid.

I’ve got too much going on to actually plan it. On the last day to sign up I’ll just wake up and decide. But it doesn’t really matter either. Worst case scenario is that I get to ride all day in the Wasatch, so I guess it’s not really a dilemma at all. No matter what I choose, life will be very very good.

Are Organic Labels Becoming Meaningless?

Here's the latest on this issue, as the Very Very Big Corporations of American continue to coerce the FDA into altering its laws. This has been going on non-stop since it was confirmed that having "organic" on a label could help boost sales. As consumers, we've now got to look beyond this bit of marketing and try and recognize what the actual ingredients are. Of course, beer (cited below) doesn't have to list its ingredients so all we can do, for now, is boycott Anheuser-Busch.


The USDA has announced a controversial proposal, with absolutely no input from consumers, to allow 38 new non-organic ingredients in products bearing the "USDA Organic" seal. Most of the ingredients are food colorings derived from plants that are supposedly not "commercially available" in organic form. But at least three of the proposed ingredients, backed by beer giant Anheuser-Busch and pork and food processors, represent a serious threat to organic standards, and have raised the concerns of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), as well as a number of smaller organic companies and organic certifiers. Specifically, the OCA disagrees with the "Budweiser exemption," allowing conventionally grown hops, produced with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, to be used in beers labeled as "USDA Organic". Also, OCA strenuously objects to the USDA's proposal to allow the use of conventionally raised factory-farmed animals' intestines (we'll spare you the gory details of what thes animals have been fed) as casing for sausages labeled as "organic." Take action now and forward this alert to interested friends and colleagues.