Monday, October 29, 2012

Ending World Hunger - Not Quite Yet

Back in July I posted an article dealing with a graphic which talked about how much water goes into raising animals in America.  If you don't have the time to read the article I will boil it down for you - many infographics are completely full of crap. That is not news at all. I don't even have time to begin to debunk all the ridiculous graphics I see all the time.  However, one made its way to me more than a few times so I felt I had to address it.  Here it is:

"The feed needed to produce an 8 oz steak could fill 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains." Wait.  What? I tried to roll this around for a while before realizing that it flat out didn't make any sense at all. However, it has just enough words in there to stick with someone who wants to say that raising beef is causing the world to starve. That's the mission. Place enough "factoids" in the head of people who don't have the time to actually look up whatever it is they want to agree with and blammo - disinformation has been disseminated.

But I didn't want to trust just my powers of research and rationale so I went to a few sources, one being my good friend Daren Williams who is the Executive Director, Communications at National Cattlemen's Beef Association.  Here were some of the points our conversation boiled down to:

1. We have no idea what this is even talking about. Cooked cereal grains? The feed grain corn which is raised for cattle is technically a "cereal grain" but you would never cook and eat it. It could possibly be used to make corn starch, corn oil, etc. that could eventually be used in human food, but would have to be processed to make it edible for humans.

2. You can take wheat, which is sometimes fed to cattle as part of the ration, and cook it to eat. It puffs up considerably, so it would not take much to fill 50 bowls. Filling a bowl is not really that difficult. I can fill a room with cotton but it doesn't mean much, does it?

3.  Nearly 85% of the land cattle graze in the U.S. is not suitable for cereal grain production. So a good part of that steak comes from cows eating grass that we cannot consume. Furthermore, if we tried to farm that land with grain crops it would be an environmental disaster (for a multitude of reasons I needn't get into right now.)

4.  Most importantly, let's ignore 1-3, shall we? Even if we go with the best case scenario of what this message is trying to say, cereal does not come close to providing the same nutrients as beef. We might be able to fill people’s stomachs with a bunch of grain but we would all suffer severe nutrient deficiency from the loss of zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins from our diet. Yes, you can get those from certain plant foods but grains would not provide sufficient amounts. Moreover you can’t grow spinach and kale in say, Nebraska! In other words, even if all land could be used in whatever way we would want to, the end product would still be lacking if it was "cooked cereal grains."

It is unfortunate so much misinformation is out there. We'd like to believe that if it is on a poster that it has been vetted for truthfulness, even if the opinion involved may be skewed. This is definitely not the case, especially when anyone can throw together a poster with some words and a graphic and send it out into the world free-of-charge. (And yes, the idiots who blindly follow people like the Food Babe show I am 100% correct here.)

So, as always, question what you read and here. Even this article. I want you to do the research yourself and if I am wrong, let me know. It's bound to happen someday.  :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cattle Business Weekly - Top 10 Industry Leaders

Recently, I was selected as one of the Top 10 Industry Leaders by The Cattle Business Weekly.  If you have been following me at all for the past two-plus years you will know that I am an enormous supporter of fueling my body properly with an emphasis on doing so with lean beef.

Last year I worked hand-in-hoof (ha!) with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on a 20-race project to help not only dispel myths and rumors about eating lean beef but to spread the good word about how healthful eating lean beef can be for all endurance athletes.

It has been an ongoing battle to try and show many that the things they thought they knew were wrong and how so many athletes, word-class on down, make lean beef an integral part of their diet.

To receive this recognition for my hard work was extremely flattering and humbling. I know that many have worked for countless hours to get the message out to not only consumers but athletes about how the low-calorie high-protein lean beef diet, packed with zinc, iron and oodles of other vitamins is one those who put their body through the wringer need.  To be included amongst those who have given so much of their time and energy to the cattle business is a massive honor.

I look forward to continuing to spread the word about the power of protein! If you are interested yourself, just contact your state's Beef Council and ask them to join their Team Beef.  If it is in its infancy, help get it started so you too can be part of the solution for those who are looking for the right diet to fuel their body for the finish.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Des Moines Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 15th Edition 
320.1 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Des Moines Half Marathon
Place: Des Moines, IA
Miles from home: 1785 miles
Weather: 40-50s; sunny

The Des Moines Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart.

Back in 2006 when I ran 52 consecutive weekly marathons, the Des Moines Marathon was the 41st marathon. I was riding a high of marathons at the time I rolled into town. In my 36th marathon of the year I had run my first Boston Qualifying time of the year – something I didn’t think I had a chance to do given my task. In the 39th marathon, I had done one better by not only running another BQ but bettering my personal best by two minutes to 3:05. The weekend after that I had taken 3rd place overall in a marathon, placing for only the second time in my life at that point. Hitting Des Moines I had a touch of a swagger going on. This was before the word “swagger” got so annoying I almost hesitated typing it out.

At the Des Moines Marathon in 2006, I had an idea pop in my head that I would have laughed off just two months prior – to run a sub-3 hour marathon. However, at the race, I was approached by the pace group coordinator about potentially filling a hole in their pacers slot at 3:10. I now take pacing very seriously and it bothers me greatly when I see people who pace groups who obviously have no idea how to actually pace someone. Even then, having only paced a 3:20 group at the Frederick Marathon I still knew that those needing the help of a pace group leader do not need you to go crashing out of the gate too fast.  Therefore, I said I would pace the 3:10 group with the caveat that they tell those running with me what I was doing that year and I would do my best to keep them going as long as I could. 
While I had gone under 3:10 only 7 times in my marathon career, most of them had been done with rather precision pacing. If you read my first book, See Dane Run, you will see that I was fortunate enough to hit my goal as a pacer in Des Moines. I ended up hitting my time almost perfectly (3:10:12), slowing down at the very end to give the sole runner who was with me his moment in the sun alone. It’s not the pacer’s job to celebrate like a buffoon when they do what they were supposed to do. The attention is not meant for them.

I came back to Des Moines in 2008 and this time paced the 1:30 half marathon group.  An odd day that had virtually all the runners either start sprinting at the last mile, or fall way behind, I finished nearly alone in a time of 1:29:32. I did end up catching one runner who was failing (not unlike what I had done in the marathon in 2006) and was able to push him on. I got a little carried away which is why I finished a full 28 seconds fast.

When I got to Des Moines this weekend to work with the Iowa Beef Council, I couldn’t believe it had been four years since I had been in the DSM. This time I would again be running the half marathon but for the first time would simply be running for myself. 

Super nice guy, Bill.
Speaking at the expo and various engagements around the city about the power of protein, I found I was hardly alone in using lean beef as the fuel for my engine. I would not say that the word is getting out as much as the word has been out and more people are becoming vocal about it.

I could spend the next paragraphs simply listing all of the friends who were running at this race and would still invariably miss a few. Suffice it to say, being back in Des Moines was a reunion of sorts with many who would be chasing major goals. Me, I was simply trying to continue firing some life back into my legs. Des Moines is without a doubt the right half marathon course to do just that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Prairie Fire Wichita Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 15th Edition 
307 miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Prairie Fire Wichita Half Marathon
Place: Wichita, KS
Miles from home: 1762 miles
Weather: 50- 60s; windy and sunny

 I had the great fortune of being in Wichita two years ago when the old and dusty Wichita Marathon got a facelift. Becoming the Prairie Fire Marathon, it had new management, a new course and a whole new attitude.  To say it has been a success in revamping its old image would be an understatement. While I was not able to make it back last year, returning this year was a must.

As the speaker at the event the first year, I also had the opportunity to speaker to a group of middle school cross-country runners.  This year my schedule allowed me to talk at Wichita East where the Blue Aces only can count as one of their alumni one of the most famous of all high school runners ever, Jim Ryun.

After the speech, the Aces took me out for a run and presented me with the coveted 400 Mile Ace t-shirt.  Given to runners who run 400 miles over the summer, they said I had more than earned it.  I was beyond flattered.

When I ran the Prairie Fire Marathon in 2010 it was my first marathon ever in Kansas and my 119th marathon overall. This year, as I am trying to experience as many different races in my life as possible, even when I go to the same city more than once, I chose to take on the 13.1 distance. While my half marathons have out-numbered my marathons since the start of 2010 (41-34) I am still way behind in the total number of halfs run (142-56 coming into the race.)  As such, although this may seem a bit difficult to believe, I am still learning how to run the half-distance. My body is conditioned to run in the green zone for long periods of time.  It is not used to run very hard for short distances.  Part of what I am trying to do is condition myself to say it is OK to hurt.

So many of my friends are graduating to ultramarathons and cross-country runs where I am trying to do the opposite. I still have the occasional challenge planned over the next few years but as I mentioned in this posting on my blog, I want to try and put some fire into these legs. That plan was put on hold with a bike crash in May and some setbacks that followed but it appears I am finally beginning to get back some spark. I was not expecting a super fast time in Wichita but was hoping to continue the quickening trend of late, in spite of all my travel and work obligations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Dallas Preview

You may have read my course preview for the Allstate Life Insurance13.1 Marathon® Series race in Atlanta a few weeks ago.  Continuing to work as ambassador for this series, I headed south again from my home in Portland to Dallas to run another course in its entirety to give runners an idea of what to expect beyond just a mere course map and elevation profile.

WRRC doing some track workouts.
While my schedule in Atlanta allowed me the opportunity to drive the course prior to running it, this week in Dallas was too hectic for a preview in the car. My handler for the week, Teresa, had me promoting the race at various Luke’s Locker locations in the Dallas area as well as taking part in a great track workout (my first in who knows how long) with the White RockRunning Co-Op. In addition, it was an absolute honor to present a short speech to the members of all three chapters of the Dallas-area Back On My Feet organization. For more information on this fantastic organization, please click here.

BOMF inspiring me.
However, I would not be running the course completely blind or without help.  My run with Luke’s Locker (at the awful hour of 6 a.m. – seriously, how do runners run this early?) allowed me to traverse bits and pieces of the course as well as meet those who had run it the year before.  It was very helpful to get their insight and perspective before I even set foot on the course.  In addition, Teresa and her husband provided me with turn-by-turn directions while following me on bikes during the run and also gave me a deep history of the sections I ran through while doing them. Since I would be traversing the course during normal business hours this meant that the downtown portions of the run would be done by abiding to all traffic lights and pedestrian traffic. However, with two cyclists flanking me and with Teresa’s husband conducting a business call with earpiece in, I looked like an important figure with security detail.  We grabbed more than a few looks that day. I couldn’t decide if we should tell people I was Paul Ryan or Novak Djokovic. (Go ahead. Do a google image search of both. The resemblance is a little odd.)

Course Preview:

First off, like the Atlanta 13.1, the Dallas 13.1 begins and ends at the same place. For logistical purposes, I cannot tell you how much I love when a race does that sort of looping.  Even the laziest of your spectating friends is guaranteed to see you twice simply by showing up! Starting in the shadow of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, runners quickly skedaddle out of this area heading for McKinney Ave.  Before even a half -mile has passed you are treated to the warmth of Uptown Dallas. For the next two miles, running on streets wide enough to hold numerous runners but cozy enough to allow revelers to watch from the nearby establishments, the course ever so slightly trends upward in elevation. Don’t worry though as the entirety of this slope equals about thirty feet. You would be hard pressed to even notice the change. Runners have to be just a little careful with their footing here as there is both exposed brick and trolley tracks. I say this just to make a small note even though I have seen many runners, including myself, trip over absolutely nothing. Sometimes it just happens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The following is an article I posted about a year and a half ago.  It was entitled "Trepidation" and I felt, having just received a message from an online friend about their nerves in taking on their first marathon at the Prairie Fire Marathon in Wichita Kansas, that this was a good time to re-run it.

When I meet athletes at an event, many times I am meeting first timers. I ask how they are feeling and fairly frequently the words “nervous” or “anxious” pop out of their mouths. I can relate, obviously. But I tell them these are good feelings to have. These feelings usually keep them from doing something stupid in the last few days before a big race. I also think they are extremely important for races of a longer nature. For example, with the marathon, it doesn’t matter how many races you run, if you do not respect the distance, chances are high it will not respect you either. You will be left to shuffle along, praying for the finish line, only to collapse in a heap at the end if you are lucky enough to make it.

This past weekend was my 130th lifetime marathon. Running for the Vermont Beef Council I realized on the starting line that I had not run a marathon in 50 days. I had only gone that long between marathons 14 times previously. I can usually keep fears and thoughts of under-preparedness away by simply toeing the line for the marathon on a fairly frequent basis. Granted in those 50 days I had done two triathlons, a duathlon, a half marathon and a 10k (personal best, mind you) but my mileage was way down. I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready for a marathon, or at least as ready as I would like. I felt a little lump in my throat. Nerves. They were striking me.

But I knew I was on familiar ground. If I used my head, I could harness the nervousness and use the energy to my advantage. The trepidation I felt was not something to be feared. It told me I knew what was in front of me was going to make me tired, sore and probably quite thirsty. These were all things I had experienced and knew were on their way. Suddenly, I felt relaxed. Acquiescing to the fact that my next three hours were going to include about every emotion one can have suddenly made everything so much easier to swallow.

A nice warm glow came over me. My miles for 2011 might be at the lowest for any year since I have been keeping track, but this just meant that my legs were fresher than ever (Yeah, right). My goal was to run a sub-3 hour marathon so I could tick Vermont off the states I needed to do that for. I had eaten a hearty steak for my usual pre-race meal so my nutrition was set. My mind was where I needed to be. All I had to do was go run.

But I learned a long time ago that the marathon does not care about your own personal milestones. As chance would have it, the weather for this race was right in the sweet spot of what decimates me: namely heat and humidity. But having been down this road before many times, I was able to change my race plans on the fly and have a successful day. And by “successful” I mean crossing the finish line upright and officially, even if it was with a ton of chafing.

Instead of using the nervous energy to propel me forward, I instead used it to hold myself back and then kick where and when I could. Undoubtedly these are things one can only learn in time or by following the advice of others. However, knowing that nerves and anxiety are often your friends, and not your foes, is a key lesson for beginners to learn.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kerrville Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 7; 14th Edition 
293.9miles run; 1.75 mile swam; 59 miles biked in 2012 races
Race: Kerrville Triathlon
Place: Kerrville, TX
Miles from home: 2022 miles
Weather: 50- 60s; windy and cloudy

Comparing running races of middle distance or higher (half-marathons on up, for the sake of this sentence) can be difficult unless you know all the variables involved. Terrain, elevation and the like can sway times so much in one way or another. With a 5K or 10K, the distance is so short that the changes are not nearly as likely to affect your times in a way that cannot be easily understood. Comparing triathlons in general, however, I have come to learn, is mostly a futile approach. Sprint distance triathlons can vary in damn near every distance of all three disciplines. Olympic and their ilk (like the Quarter Triathlon I did this weekend) can have vastly different bike courses which skew times. The 70.3 and 140.6 distances can vary so much by weather and terrain that even trying to compare the same race from year to year can be hard to do.  The only thing you can really do is compare what you did in that race on that day against the people you raced. But even who you raced is up to interpretation.

One of the things which has always bothered me about many of the triathlons I have done are the wave starts. In many of the tris I have participated in (and the sample size is not that great!) many of the racers are doing what I consider a time trial.  Unless you are an elite or pro, in which case you will be racing against those who are most likely to beat you, the triathlete is in the unenviable position of guessing where he/she might be overall.  I haven't "lost" a triathlon because of this yet or anything, but I have had a few where I might have pulled off a top three finish if I knew who I was actually racing.

With the Kerrville Quarter Distance Triathlon, I did not think this would be a problem. I have not swum one stroke or pedaled one revolution since the Vikingman Triathlon five weeks ago.  I knew I was in no shape to "compete.”  This race just happened to fall on a weekend when I was traveling all over Texas and given the chance to compete on Texas' Team Beef is always an opportunity I will jump at. In addition, looking at a shorter swim (1000 meters), longer bike (29 miles) and shorter run (6.4 miles) than would not suit my strengths, I knew I was here just to have a hard training day.

Race Morning: 

The day before had produced weather of vastly changing types. Sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, cold, warm, hot, etc alternating extremely rapidly.  However, on the day of the Quarter and 70.3 tri, the weather was fairly calm. There was definitely some wind to contend with but the outlook called for cool temperatures and cloudy skies.  I will take that!

After having to check in all of my gear and everything the night before, and then re-check in other gear the morning of the race, I was reminded how much more involved participating in a triathlon is over running. In addition, I misplaced my chip and had to scavenger around to remedy that situation.  he hurry was pretty much without need as not only did the entire 70.3 field start their swim before the Quarter Distance, but every wave started before my age group. This is what my earlier rant was about. I knew I would be swimming through oodles of arms and legs and then later biking and running around people whom I had to guess what race they were participating in that day. Again, no major biggie - just not ideal.