It was December 3rd, 2017 as Nick Bassett sat in front of his computer eagerly anticipating the announcement of the Western States Endurance Run (WSER) runners.
This 100 Mile race uses a lottery selection process due to the high number of entrants every year. Out of approximately 15,000 tickets, Nick's was the first drawn.
To you and I, that's pretty awesome. But what it meant to a man who just had his 73rd birthday, could hardly be articulated in words.
For many years, the historic Western States Trail served as a direct route for the '49ers to travel between the gold camps of California and the silver mines of Nevada. With exception of a scant three miles of pavement, the race follows these trails in their natural state starting in Squaw Valley and ending in Auburn, California.
The Western States Endurance Run (WSER) climbs approximately 18,090 feet of elevation and descends another 22,970 from start to finish. On this particular summer day of 2018, temperatures would flirt with 100 degrees as racers battled their way through the rugged terrain.
WSER also follows a strict list of performance rules that each runner must abide by, including:
Ready to run the WSER for the 14th time, these rules weren't new to Nick. Yet, what was new was how his body, now nine years older than the last time he ran the race, would handle 100 miles of grueling terrain, heat, and continuous movement.
The Value of Preparation
"Wars are won in the generals tent." - S. Covey
When it comes to running 100 miles all in one go, there are two, sometimes three, ways to prepare effectively:
At 73 years old, one has to be slightly more strategic with training than say, someone 50 years younger.
Nick runs or walks a bunch of volume on his own, and our training at the gym is completely geared to enhance his ability to move for longer, faster.
We work to strengthen his entire body and improve his mobility and stability.
Passion is in the process
The obvious question you would ask any ultra runner is, "why?". It's not for the recognition, not for Nick anyway. Being the oldest finisher in WSER history earned him an overwhelming amount of publicity, but it was the first time in his racing career that so many admirers flocked his way to get a comment, shake his hand, or snap a picture.
What makes endurance runners unique is their insatiable desire to push limits--for a long time. A 20 mile training run isn't something they dread, especially not when with friends. It's a social outing, a way to connect with others, themselves, and nature.
I would imagine we can all find some way to relate. The amateur musician who practices for hours on end to play in front of the local pub crowd. The parent who reads every book they can get their hands on to raise a happy and healthy child. The researcher who works late into the night bent over a microscope looking for the next discovery.
For me, I can only relate it to playing basketball or CrossFit, and using that passion as a way to escape from the daily stresses of life and grow the physical and mental.
The point is, we can all relate to passion, and no one has to understand our passion except ourselves.
This is why the great ones separate themselves from the rest, they are willing to do things others are not.
They are willing to grind, hustle, suffer, endure, and grow.
Not through short cuts.
Not by laying around waiting for something great to happen.
By going out and working damn hard for it.
"Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process."
Everything causes cancer these days. At least that's what it's starting to feel like. I won't lie to you, part of me was appalled while researching this article, but knowledge is power and no matter our socioeconomic background or stage in life, it's important we know what is safe and unsafe, especially when it comes to something as central as food.
We won't be covering the list of 900 chemicals accumulated by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) that circulates in our man made environment, but we will specifically take a look at one pesticidal, chemical villain involved in preserving our food, and the current war waging between one brave groundskeeper and the superpower Monsanto.
Pesticides are nasty stuff for multiple reasons, according to Nature Education. They can throw off entire ecosystems by leaking into ponds, rivers, streams, and kill the animals that live there.
They can also leak into our drinking sources, a process called leeching. Water contaminated by pesticides is no joke for us humans as it is unsanitary and harmful to drink.¹
Pesticide infiltration in our drinking water is bad enough, yet these chemical culprits also coat common foods. Our fruits and veggies are sprayed with pesticides to keep bugs away and so farmers don't lose large portions or their entire crop.
From a business point of view, this makes a lot of sense, but from the health side of things, it is resulting in substantial repercussions, some as potentially extreme as terminal cancer.²
Quick Facts: what you need to know
Studies looking at pesticide use and cancer have shown a positive relationship between exposure to pesticides and the development of some cancers, particularly in children.⁶
So I know what you're thinking, "What am I supposed to eat?" I had the same thought. It's difficult enough to eat healthy, let alone be cognizant of the fact that our produce could be coated in human harming poison. This is a rather annoying discovery if you ask me.
Glyphosate: what is it & why it matters
Monsanto, the multi-billion dollar agricultural supergiant, is accountable for one fourth of the world's seed property. In other words, this single Fortune 500 company indirectly feeds 1.75 billion people!
That said, their practices both before, during, and after food is grown is a huge responsibility, one in which recent allegations have indicated they may have taken advantage of.⁷
Currently, they are undergoing a lawsuit with a California groundskeeper for hiding the cancer risk of it's weedkiller, Roundup.
The bullet in the gun is a chemical called glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup.
Naturally, this cause is bringing attention to an important topic for our time, as it affects the long term health of people who are frequently exposed to or consume pesticides.
Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s home town of St Louis, Missouri.⁹
Solutions: Smart Shopping
Thanks to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), our police for identifying pesticides on foods, we can at the very least make informed choices at the grocery store by knowing what is best to buy in it's organic form.
The EWG has identified the Dirty Dozen as produce that is high in pesticides and the Clean 15 as good to go in non-organically grown form.⁸
Farmers who grow organic produce use significantly less pesticides than non-organic farmers, thus we are better off buying the organic version of the foods that fall into the Dirty Dozen.
More than 98% of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples, tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide, and a single sample of strawberries had been contaminated with over 20 different pesticides.¹⁰
Long story short, if you eat a non-organic apple is it going to kill you? No. But science is clearly proving that the steady consumption of pesticides over time will indeed increase your risk of cancer.
It's worth memorizing the Dirty Dozen list and eating the organic form of each.
1. The Dangers of Pesticides. (n.d.) Retrieved June 13, 2017, from https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/green-science/the_dangers_of_pesticides
2. US Right to Know. "Man vs. Monsanto: First Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims Set to Begin." EcoWatch. June 19, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2018. https://www.ecowatch.com/johnson-monsanto-trial-2579431928.html.
3, 6. Bassil, K.L., C. Vakil, M. Sanborn, D.C. Cole, J.S. Kaur, and K.J. Kerr. Advances in Pediatrics. October 2007. Accessed June 20, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231435/.
4, 5. PAN. "Reproductive Health." Pesticide Action Network. Accessed June 20, 2018. http://www.panna.org/human-health-harms/reproductive-health.
7. GMO FAQ. (2016). "Do Monsanto and Big Ag Control Crop Research and World Food Supply?" Accessed June 20, 2018. https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/do-monsanto-and-big-ag-control-crop-research-and-world-food-supply/.
8, 10. Executive Summary. (n.d.). EWG's 2017 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Retrieved June 13, 2017, from https://www.ewg.org/foodnws/summary.php
9. Gillam, Carey. "Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Cancer Danger of Weedkiller for Decades." The Guardian. May 22, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/22/monsanto-trial-cancer-weedkiller-roundup-dewayne-johnson.
Sometimes it's hard not to want for more in our lives, especially in challenging moments.
What we often don't think though, is what is this - whatever is happening - teaching us right now? What is it doing for us, not to us?
It could be an event, a person, a decision, gum on your shoe, or whatever. It may feel unfair, like circumstance has gotten you to this point or things just flat out beyond your control, and you start to tell yourself, "Gosh.. if only... [insert lame excuse that seems valid at the time]."
Stop it! First of all, a garden of weeds is not something you want to be growing, weeds of course being a metaphor for jealousy, comparison, regret, frustration, disappointment, and other negative emotions.
Instead, focus on weeding out those negative emotions and replanting them with things you would actually want and be proud of.
For example, when you feel a twang of jealousy toward another, try replacing that with admiration and respect.
If possible, show that person that you admire them, that's a beautiful thing! You never know what that small act of appreciation could do for them OR you in that moment.
Or if it's nicer things you want, turn that thought into being grateful for what you have now, and you may very well realize it's more than enough.
If you feel regret, which can be a deeper rooted weed, try approaching one or more of the people involved in whatever situation caused those feelings, and do what you need to to make peace with it. Not easy, I get it; but, very liberating!
If you feel sadness or disappointment, for example maybe you failed at something important to you - an exam, a relationship, a set at the gym, an assignment at work - replace that negative emotion or circumstance with determination, grit, and getting back on your feet!
Failure is a completely normal process in life, and the way you respond to it is what will make you a stronger individual.
Another thought for you?
Don't piss on anyone else's garden. Yeah, you read that right.
Just because yours isn't green (yet) doesn't mean you need go around turning anyone else's yellow.
Focus on making yourself the best version you can be and then bottle up that Miracle Grow and go sprinkle it around on others grass!
Have an awesome day.
Author: Kylie Viens, RDN
If we think of our body as if it were a car, we know our car needs adequate fuel to start and get us where we need to go. Our bodies truly are no different, as they need optimal fuel to “go”—not to mention, thrive and survive.
If you were to think of eating as a way of refueling, and base your decisions purely off of how your body would respond, would your food choices change? What if you had no tastebuds and an infinite amount of money. What would you eat then?
Having a healthy relationship with food is a very important and not commonly talked about issue in our society. The following article is one Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's brief insight onto the topic!
It's very normal for me to hear from my patients that when they eat better they feel better, and science continues to prove this reflection as having much validity.
The answers to what I've asked you so far are fairly obvious, but we are emotional and feeling beings, thusly not every food will provide us with the same sense of satisfaction.
All foods whether they are nutrient dense or not, serve a purpose—some for nutrition, some for the soul, and that's okay!
The 80/20 Rule
No one has a perfect diet (even dietitians!); however, there is a rule that applies to many aspects of life called the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule.
This isn’t a bad way to look at the big picture, meaning that if you can focus on nutrient dense foods 80% of the time, and enjoy your grandma’s homemade macaroni and cheese or brownies 20% of the time—there’s a good chance you will maintain a healthy weight and lessen your risk for chronic diseases.
You could also think of filling your plate following this rule!
A healthy relationship with food most certainly includes our comfort food favs as it helps us be in tune with what will both satisfy hunger and our tastebuds. Further, it is not absurd to eat outside of physical hunger, or something we should be guiltily beating ourselves up about.
There are many reasons as to why we eat other than just responding to our biological hunger signals.
In terms of emotional eating, food will not fix feelings of boredom, stress, procrastination, depression, sadness, anxiety, and so forth.
Although a normal reaction to reach for food, it is important to find healthy ways to cope with emotional feelings outside of eating.
Listen to your Body
Eating should be an enjoyable experience! Unfortunately, the society we live in today has made that more than a challenge for many. Eating should not create feelings of regret, remorse, guilt, or questioning one’s will-power!
Physical activity, meditation, talking to a friend or family member, starting an art project, and gardening are just some examples of “outs” for people without pursuing food to suppress feelings.
If you are interested in taking your commitment level up a notch, personal food logs can be a valuable tool for assessing not only the type and quantity of food and beverage consumption, but also our feelings before, during, and after eating a particular meal or snack.
*I have no stake in the recommendation of this book.
Eating healthy doesn't have to be such a puzzle or stressful part of your day. There are simple tips, like the 80/20 rule and eating intuitively that can help you make good decisions in regards to your diet.
Let's be honest, mornings can be a complete whirlwind, especially if you hit the snooze. Sometimes you don't have time to do more than compose yourself and then hit the ground running.
That said, it's a good plan to have something healthy and delicious, that didn't come in a package, and that.. yes.. was simple enough to make yourself.