Eating to win a half marathon

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“It’s bad for you. It’s junk…”

I’ve heard it a lot. Many times before. Too many to count. And I’ve never really cared about it. I thought it didn’t really concern me. To some extent I still think so.

Whenever somebody talked about nutrition, bad carbs, junk food, I never understood what they meant by it. So I just discarded that information.

I’ve done some research and now I think the people who talk about junk food don’t even know themselves much about it. Here’s how I understand it. Junk food means food which is poor in nutrients. Ahh… there’s that word again. Nutrients. Nutritious meals, nutritious and delicious…  What does that even mean? Nutritious?

Luckily I’ve broken the code. Nutrients just mean vitamins and minerals (and of course proteins, carbs, fats, and fiber). There’s a bunch of them: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, K, and minerals Ca, Fe, Mg, Se, Zn, P, K, Na etc. The human body needs all of these vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs etc to function properly. And that’s it. Nobody ever told me that nutrition means food which is full of vitamins/minerals. That was my aha-moment. Clearly I’m a genius!

So I decided to find out how healthy my diet was. I wrote down every single thing I ate for a week (and I will continue to do so, YES, I have too much free time). I also noticed that the day I started recording my meals I added lots of healthy stuff to it which I’d normally avoid. Interesting how human behavior changes if someone has to document his actions. It’s like all of the sudden I tried to be a better person. I read something similar, I believe it was one of Van Tharp’s books, where he said that if you tell an alcoholic to write down exactly how many beers, glasses of wine… he drank, the ones who do will drink less. The alcoholics aren’t instructed to decrease alcohol consumption, just to document it. And still once they start documenting it they will start drinking less. They too want to become better people.

I googled the nutrition data for my various meals and the recommended daily amount (RDA) of each nutrient needed to stay healthy. That last part turned out to be pretty tricky because those recommendations keep changing and different websites say different things. I don’t know who to believe but I managed to get an idea of the RDA’s.

I’m a vegetarian and read an article which said that vegetarians find it hardest to get their daily amount of Ca (1000mg), Zn (15mg), Fe (18mg) and vitamin B12 (4-7μg, it used to be 2.4μg). So I just focused on making sure that I get enough of these 4 and then tweak my menu for all the other stuff.

B12 was the hardest, 1 boiled egg has about 0.5-0.6μg and 1 glass of milk (250ml) about 1μg of this precious vitamin. Sounds pretty easy, right? No! There’s all this discouraging information out there. I remember reading something about researchers saying that we absorb B12 really badly from eggs. One study said that you need about 200-400 eggs a day to satisfy your daily B12 requirements. That’s a lot of eggs and cholesterol. I don’t know about the absorption from dairy products. It seems that you can’t win! But hey, you can always just eat shit. Literally. (Just watch the video.) Anywho… B12 is a bitch. My strategy is to munch on B12 fortified cereal with some milk (for example Cheerios or Froot Loops).

You know what I like most about my nutrition tracking? It’s the sense of accomplishment when I look at my Excel spreadsheet and all the nutrient amounts have been satisfied. Feels good!

I hope this will also help me in my training and finishing my half marathon on March 24th. According to my calculations: If I get all the vitamins and minerals each and every day, combined with my optimized training plan (I used the gradient descent method to optimize) and if I run really really fast… faster than any other runner (this last component of the formula was statistically significant at a p-value of 0.05), I will surely win the race. 😀 That’s the plan. Now, all I need to worry about is what to do if the “finish ribbon” doesn’t brake when I win. Maybe I should just go under it or jump over it. Any advice?

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Born to run

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of running. As a kid I didn’t enjoy running that much. I got red in my face (I still do), I got stitches in my sides and I looked terrible during and after my runs (my acne didn’t help me either). Naturally I didn’t enjoy the experience.

Fast forward many-many years. A couple months ago I wrote a bucket list. #34 is to get a six-pack and #57  was learning to surf. I borrowed Emily’s surfboard and whenever I went surfing (read: splashing in the water desperately trying to put two feet on the board but always failing) I also went for a run at the beach. Sometimes where was a national park in the neighbourhood. Perfect! Beautiful girls are running in those parks. If I started running I would see more of them.. so I thought…

And that’s pretty much how it started.

There was a TED talk, Christoper McDougall was saying that people don’t need shoes to run. I thought that was interesting and wanted to put that idea into practice.

Among other things you will find out from the video that women weren’t allowed to run marathons before the 1980’s because of fears of their uterus being torn or falling out of its normal location. 😀 Oh… doctors and their worthless opinions…

Here’s another video. Professor Daniel Lieberman’s study about running barefoot:

In the beginning I ran every other day. After 6 weeks I thought I needed to approach my running with a bit more strategy. I was reading a running magazine and found a training schedule to increase my endurance. I quickly wrote it down and decided that this is what I’ll be doing. So far everything is going according to my training plan.

I also signed up to run the Twilight Run 2013 on March 24th. It’s my first ever half marathon (21.1 km)! My goal is to finish the race in less than 2 hours, ideally in less than 100 minutes. Wish me luck!

An expensive cup of coffee

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A long-long time ago I saw “The Bucket List”  and decided that I’d love to add Kopi Luwak to my bucket list.

I’ve been wondering about Kopi Luwaks for several years. What does it taste like, what does it smell like, is it spicy, is it gross??? So many unanswered questions left me sleepless for many a night. These years were brutal but they’re a thing of the past now.

From The Bean Providore:

Kopi Luwak is one of the world’s most expensive and low production varieties of coffee. It is made from the beans of the coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet, then passed through its digestive tract. Coffee cherries are eaten by a civet for their fruit pulp.

The beans are thoroughly washed, sun dried and given only a light roast so as to keep the many intertwined flavours. These beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness. The origin of Kopi Luwak is closely connected with the history of coffee production in Indonesia. In the early 18th century the Dutch established the cash-crop coffee plantations in their colony in the Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra, including Arabica coffee introduced from Yemen.

The Dutch prohibited the native farmers and plantation workers from picking coffee fruits for their own use. Still, the native farmers wanted to have a taste of the famed coffee beverage. Soon, the natives learned that certain species of luwak (Asian Palm Civet) consumed the coffee fruits, yet they left the coffee seeds undigested in their droppings. The natives collected these luwaks’ coffee seed droppings, then cleaned, roasted and ground them to make their own coffee beverage. The fame of aromatic civet coffee spread from locals to Dutch plantation owners and soon became their favorite, yet because of its rarity and unusual process, the civet coffee was expensive even in colonial times.

So I bought 100g of this magic coffee. It set me back $55. One kilogram should cost a couple hundred dollars. If your coffeshop sells Kopi Luwak it’ll be probably around $50 a cup. Expensive stuff!

I put some beans in a blender and ground the hell out of them. Made myself and Dario (a German couchsurfer) a nice big cup of coffee and satisfied my curiosity about Kopi Luwak. It smelled and tasted like coffee and I had no problem drinking it. In fact it was quite good but nothing too exotic.

 

Coffee expert,

Ivar

The little things in life

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I was standing in line. The girl in front of me was talking to the instructor and it seems they had a lot to discuss. As I waited I looked around in the room and felt a bit lost. Some people were laying on their backs with a cloth on their eyes, waiting.

The brunette finished her chat and I introduced myself. I said that this was my first time there and sometimes my back was a bit sore. I also wanted to try something new. Dan replied: „Very good, go grab a mat, a pillow, a belt…“

I walked nervously to the corner of the room, left my sandals, phone and car keys. After that I grabbed my equipment and claimed my territory between a beer bellied man and a cougar. Excellent spot I thought. I will look like Prince Charming next to these two!

Slowly the room filled with people. Most of them were youngish, but some looked like they could already taste the soil of their graves :D. Alright, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you should know that I consider people older than 25 to be old…

For every man there were 3-4 females. Sweet! The cherry on top of the cake was the hot girl who parked her mat right in front of me. Oh! The joys of the little things in life… 😀

So far so good! Dan greeted the class and started my first yoga lesson. We started with focusing on our breathing and practiced being aware of our bodies and thoughts. Later we started stretching from one pose to another. I stretched muscles, I didn’t even know existed.

I was sweating and couldn’t believe how bad a shape I was in. There were several poses I was not able to hold as long as others – either my hands or legs got too tired. Planking was the hardest thing to do. I think that nobody in the class was able to hold a high plank for 10 seconds, move into a half plank for another 10 second and then 10 seconds in a low plank. People just collapsed to the floor. Now that’s a hard exercise!

Dan told us that planking was a very good analogue to our daily lives. Sometimes we are just overwhelmed with our lives and the only thing we can do is surrender. Give in. Nobody is able to plank for a whole day. I liked that! We all need some time to forget everything and rest on the floor for a change.

The yoga class ended similarly to the way it started. We tried to notice our thoughts, focused on the feelings in our bodies and asked ourselves how we were.

I felt great!

I loved this morning. Again next week!

 

Future yoga guru,

Ivar