Monthly Archives: August 2009

Born to Run, Native Wisdom, and why I hate Michael Pollan

For some months everyone I knew in sport was reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and then chucking their sneakers to run barefoot. “Dude”, my cousin Chris told me, “my legs are like steel cables!” Coach Brian was giddily sprinting barefoot up and down San Vicente navigating tree trunks and slippery discarded Gu wrappers, then went and signed up for a 50K ultra marathon in the hills of Malibu. The more people evangelized the book the more it sounded like the moronic “Native Wisdom” arguments that Michael Pollan makes in The Omnivores Dilemma. In Pollan’s Berkeley-colored, Whole Foods isn’t liberal enough, left of Caesar Chavez world, returning to our ancestor’s way of life is the route to ridding ourselves of disease, stress, and strife. What Pollan conveniently forgets is that Native Wisdom means dead by age 35, and the moment western medicine and modern agriculture have been introduced to stone-age peoples their life expectancy shoots through the roof. My rage was coloring my view going in to McDougall’s book, and yet being in this sport was forcing me to figure out what the whooping was all about.

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Famous Last Words

In Los Angeles many, if not most people refer to “back east” when referring to the east coast. Even people who were born and reared in L.A. have adopted this nomenclature as if we are, in some way, from back east. As we’re all from Africa at some point this does hold an amount of truth, though I doubt Scandinavians refer to going home as “dropping south”. I was on Alaska Airlines flight 6 flying back east to visit my parents for my father’s 65th birthday, see my sick grandmother in hospital, see my sister and her new boyfriend, and most importantly see my wife after two weeks of her in residency at grad school. An hour after we took off the pilot came over the intercom and announced that the vibration we felt upon takeoff appeared to be the rubber coming off our front tire and they were going to figure out their next steps. It occurred to me that I may not survive the flight.

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Going the distance.

Two years ago my wife started a master’s degree program. She recognized that my endurance training wasn’t showing signs of abating and that left her by herself for many hours on the weekends. She’s excellent at relaxing, but months went by and there were only so many hobbies and crafts that could be done before she realized she could get a graduate degree with her free time. Her semester classes are done via telepresence and they meet for two weeks in summer for an intense session of in-person learning, collaborating, and collegiate debauchery. (Grad students eschew beer and instead stay up late drinking fine wine and top shelf spirits.) The first time she left for two weeks I let my clients book me 24/7 and worked myself into back to back nasty migraines. The second year she was gone I figured out how to protect my time better, but still used it as an opportunity to work nonstop. This year she admonished me not to let my clients run roughshod over my schedule and to keep my normal business hours. I promised her that I wouldn’t have a choice as Coach Brian picked that first week of flying solo to lay down one of my Ironman training goals: the 300 mile bike week.

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