Friday, January 28, 2011

Diet of champions

After three years of college, I finally snagged an apartment with a kitchen, and I've gone into overdrive. I am happy to say that I don't buy frozen foods and cook daily, and I'm actually enjoying it. I don't want to wallow in anecdotes because they tend to be nothing more than confirmation bias in action, but I will say that I think a long, healthy life begins at your plate (and your feet). Surprisingly, I've found that I enjoy eating these foods more than the typical college fare, though I enjoy a burger or a pizza after a long run or race.

Foods I will usually eat daily or close to daily:
-kale (possibly one of the healthiest things on the planet)
-winter squash (used to hate this as a kid, but when you get a good, ripe squash its heaven)
-Greek yogurt (breakfast every day with molasses and nuts mixed in)
-sweet potatoes (goes without saying)
-quinoa (I've crafted a whacked-out recipe that uses oregano, thyme, sun-dried tomatoes, and pecorino)
-walnuts/pecans/macadamia nuts (awesome)
-raw milk or washed-rind cheese (the stinkier, the better)
-carrots, rutabaga, turnips (by their flesh mashed together, they are Captain Root Vegetable)
-blueberries (no need to explain)
-apples (yep)
-lentils (with copious amounts of spices: cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, chiles, and garlic)
-tofu (supplement protein if/when needed)
-onions (baked slices, sauteed, whatever, I am an onion addict)

The catalyst of civilization?

And beer. Every day. There is ample evidence that daily beer drinkers live longer, healthier lives than both alcoholics and teetotalers. I'm not sure if it's the alcohol, some beneficial compounds produced through fermentation, or a little bit of two rules are that the beer I drink has to taste good, and I have to try as many new beers as possible. There is an insane number of microbreweries that all craft exceptional beers, ranging from the mild Islander Pale Ale I'm having now from Maritime Pacific, to the strong and complex Abyss from Deschutes that I finally got my hands on early this year.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ethics and the runner's diet

As lame as it sounds, after taking two ethics and philosophy courses as an undergraduate, I have a tendency to assess just about any action I consider "normal" logically and ethically, but I do my best to remain practical. I do this quite a bit with food.

If I will eat its skin (apples), or pesticides and herbicides are normally used en masse on it on conventional farms (the "dirty dozen", for example). For one, it is impossible to remove all pesticide residue, and they have demonstrated human health risks. Two, the runoff from these farms poses environmental problems. Hence, I tend to buy the organic variants of these fruits and vegetables. Yep, it tends to cost more, and true, there are some loopholes in the organic certification system. I mitigate the former and eliminate the latter by doing my best to shop farmer's markets.

With respect to fish, I avoid all of the red list species - species either endangered, or subject to fishing practices that are destructive. No orange roughy or Chilean sea bass for me. Beef? If it isn't grass fed and pasture raised, forget about it. But I'm still grappling with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: is it ethical to kill and eat a living, sentient being for food when I have non-sentient alternatives?

Most of the people I know would tell me I'm worrying about something that doesn't matter. I disagree. Even the lowly species of ants, those guys you walk all over on the sidewalk each day, construct elaborate hives with ventilation shafts. Some cultivate fungus for food in their subterranean dwellings. Every meat you eat can feel pain, from fish to pigs to beef. Nevermind the entirely unethical and disgusting practices of standard factory farming, even if your meat is sustainably or "humanely" harvested, it still often suffers. They look paralyzed, both those fish are suffocating while they sit in the net on-deck. Add in the environmental costs of, for example, raising a cow, and you have quite the conundrum.

The alternative? You can get all of the essential amino acids from a vegetarian diet. I've done well on multi-week stretches without meat, even as a long distance runner. But I still get deep cravings for salmon, for that grass-fed beef burger that Lunchbox Laboratory made so well (never fear, they aren't closed, just moving to South Lake Union), for that bacon in my broccoli and red onion salad...I attribute it to my body's natural craving for meat, since we are, by adaptation, omnivores.

But we are intelligent, and we have the means to produce food that fulfills our nutritional requirements without the killing and suffering inflicted on other beings. Does that all outweigh my cravings, as an omnivore by evolution? I don't know, and I'm still trying to figure out.

 Unnecessary...but delicious.

But I do know you do not need to eat meat to live healthy and run well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to school

Back to running.

Nothing feels more exciting than coming back from time off for an injury, and nothing is harder than restraining yourself from jumping in too fast and injuring something else. I saw my sports doctor here in Seattle and he generally seemed to agree with the diagnosis, except the sprain. Given the fact that I was able to run on it during the race, and the injury only came on ~30 minutes afterward, he essentially rejects the sprain and is more comfortable suggesting either a pseudo-chronic compartment syndrome or nerve entrapment. MRI's are expensive, and since this is recovering quickly I decided to forgo it so his diagnosis is based upon experience (he is, after all, a triathlete who treats endurance athletes).

If it was compartment syndrome, it was minor and was caused by tight shoes restricting blood flow around my ankle. Since it was brought on by repeated, prolonged stress, and not a direct blow, it didn't cause much damage. Further, since the cause was limited to a one-off event, the fascia likely didn't have time to turn fibrous. In that case, heat therapy, massage, and stretching were enough to heal it.

If it is nerve entrapment, the pain I felt was mostly the strain of the muscles around the ankle. If I massage or rub the side of my right leg up and down the peroneal/anterior compartments, I can elicit some pins and needles in the top of my foot. Could the tight shoes and repeated stress have moved some muscles and nerves around? Possibly. Since I still have this sensation without the associated pain or stiffness associated with compartment syndrome, this is probably more likely.

At any rate, the lesson is that without some expensive diagnostics, a lot of this stuff is more or less an educated guess. Either way, I'm working back into running without any symptoms.

Last week's mileage:

Mon: Didn't start yet!

Tues: 3 (4?) miles very easy and relaxed through Marsh Island.

Wed: Leg strength/weight training.

Thurs: 5 miles around the Union Bay trails, caught a nice unobstructed view of the sunrise which always imbues with this extra enthusiasm for the day.

Fri: Total rest.

Sat: 6 miles through Ravenna Park and up Ravenna Avenue. Felt much more loose and relaxed than the last few.

Sun: 8 miles out to the wall near the Bush School and back, through the Arb and Marsh Island.

Planning on running significantly more by the tailend of next week, hopefully capping it off with a decent long run to gauge the injury and my fitness. If all is well I'll be booking tickets and my campground for Huntsville in February.