Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Book snippet: Spark


The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

Few Snippets from the book

“To keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard. In Spark, I’ll demonstrate how and why physical activity is crucial to the way we think and feel. I’ll explain the science of how exercise cues the building blocks of learning in the brain; how it affects mood, anxiety, and attention; how it guards against stress and reverses some of the effects of aging in the brain; and how in women it can help stave off the sometimes tumultuous effects of hormonal changes. I’m not talking about the fuzzy notion of runner’s high. I’m not talking about a notion at all. These are tangible changes, measured in lab rats and identified in people.”

“In Naperville, Illinois, gym class has transformed the student body of nineteen thousand into perhaps the fittest in the nation. Among one entire class of sophomores, only 3 percent were overweight, versus the national average of 30 percent. What’s more surprising — stunning — is that the program has also turned those students into some of the smartest in the nation. In 1999 Naperville’s eighth graders were among some 230,000 students from around the world who took an international standards test called TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), which evaluates knowledge of math and science. In recent years, students in China, Japan, and Singapore have outpaced American kids in these crucial subjects, but Naperville is the conspicuous exception: when its students took the TIMSS, they finished sixth in math and first in the world in science. As politicians and pundits sound the alarm about faltering education in the United States, and about our students being ill-equipped to succeed in today’s technologydriven economy, Naperville stands out as an extraordinary bit of good news.”

“A notable experiment in 2007 showed that cognitive flexibility improves after just one thirtyfive-minute treadmill session at either 60 percent or 70 percent of maximum heart rate. The forty adults in the study (age fifty to sixty-four) were asked to rattle off alternative uses for common objects, like a newspaper — it’s meant for reading, but it can be used to wrap fish, line a birdcage, pack dishes, and so forth. Half of them watched a movie and the other half exercised, and they were tested before the session, immediately after, and again twenty minutes later. The movie watchers showed no change, but the runners improved their processing speed and cognitive flexibility after just one workout. Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses. The trait correlates with high-performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs. So if you have an important afternoon brainstorming session scheduled, going for a short, intense run during lunchtime is a smart idea.”

“One of the best examples is a landmark research project from the Human Population Laboratory in Berkeley called the Alameda County Study. Researchers tracked 8,023 people for twenty-six years, surveying them about a number of factors related to lifestyle habits and healthiness starting in 1965. They checked back in with the participants in 1974 and in 1983. Of all the people with no signs of depression at the beginning, those who became inactive over the next nine years were 1.5 times more likely to have depression by 1983 than their active counterparts. On the other hand, those who were inactive to begin with but increased their level of activity by the first interval were no more likely to be depressed by 1983 than those who were active to begin with. In other words, changing your exercise habits changes your risk for depression.”

“Duscha is an expert in cardiovascular health, but he says the same thing almost every neuroscientist cited in these pages has said: “A little is good, and more is better.” The best, however, based on everything I’ve read and seen, would be to do some form of aerobic activity six days a week, for forty-five minutes to an hour. Four of those days should be on the longer side, at moderate intensity, and two on the shorter side, at high intensity. And while there’s conflicting evidence about whether high-intensity activity, which can force your body into anaerobic metabolism, impacts thinking and mood, it clearly releases some of the important growth factors from the body that build up the brain. So, on the shorter, high-intensity days, include some form of strength or resistance training. These days should not be back to back; your body and brain need recovery time to grow after high-intensity days. In total, I’m talking about committing six hours a week to your brain. That works out to 5 percent of your waking hours.”

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Fat Dog 120m: A run through Canadian Cascades

Fat Dog 120M
Aug 11-13th, 2017
British Columbia, Canada

Fat Dog 120M run is a point to point run from  Keremeos in Cathedral Provincial Park to Lightining Lake, Manning Provincial Park, BC, Canada. With a generous cutoff of 48hrs to complete the race. The course boasts climb as much as everest 8673 metres (28500ft).

I had this race in my radar since Chihping posted one of his race videos and raved this course. I had also spoken to few other runners raved highly of the vent organization, challenge and course.

Two fantastic videos by Project Talaria of Fat Dog 2013 and 2014 convinced me, this was a must do for 2017. my commitment to do this was firm after running Cascades 100m in 2016, I just loved running through evergreens (a fantastic narration by Ginger Runner) and waned to experience the Canadian side of Cascades aka Fat Dog 120m. I tried to convince my friend Rajeev Char as well, but he stuck to his first love Ironman and ended up finish Ironman Whistler, BC in the same timeframe.

I chatted briefly about this race with John Brooks as well who had paced one of his friend Shane Bryant in 2016,  and expressed his interest to join as well.

Going by the elevation gain, length of course it was clear this race was a magnitude tougher than most mountain 100m runs in US, and race guide rightly suggested it is tougher than Cascades and Wasatch. In my own experience this was tougher thans Cascades 100 by atleast 25%.

                                                 Fat dog 120m elevation profile.

As a result I decided to add TRT 100m as part of ramp up plan for this race. I had my usual ramp up from Jan to Jun,  starting with weekend runs of 20m and ramping up to 50M runs twice by end of Jun. I also targeted to climb about 40K ft in may and june. Set of races which helped in ramping up to this race were MUC 50m, Quicksilver 100k and SF 12hr night run.

For the most part I was able to accomplish that, I had fantastic time training with Bipul who was also training for TRT 100m, having a buddy with similar goals motivated each other and made it easier to show up at start point at ungodly times :).

We were really looking forward to TRT 100. I DNF'ed TRT 100 (63miles) captured at report.


Bay area had good presence at Fat Dog, we had a team of  3 running Fat Dog:
- Shane Bryant returning after his 2016 finish.
- Chuck Amital and myself were rookies tasting fat dog.

We had a good team of folks helping us as well. John Brooks (crew extraordinaire), Laura (Shane's girl friend, crew and pacer), Amital Family (Karen,  Jesse, Eden) and James (Chuck's pacer). Apart from us Mark Tanaka was running as well after his fantastic Hardrock 100 finish about a month prior.

Team Fat Dog 120

As the race grew closer, there was some uncertainty around air quality around Okanaga county due to fire in those sections. Race director (Heather Macdonald) kept us updated, but finally 2 days prior to race she decide to continue with race and let runners decide to drop out of the race if they felt conditions weren't conducive enough. As for me I was committed to running this race.

Pre-Race trips:
Shane, Laura, John and myself had planned fly to Seattle and drive up to race briefing on Thursday. Prior to that we took advantage of the scenic drive leading up to manning park. Shane, Laura had planned fantastic detours to

Posted some Pictures from these trips.

Race Day:

Instead of listing blow by blow events of the day, I decided to list few keys moments of this race.

1. I was in gratitude for being at the start line and realizing how epic this event is going to be.  specially my wife Rashmi helped me get a good training cycle with all other commitments.
Shane, Chuck and myself @ start 

2. 1st section from Kermeros to Ashnola with Chuck, as he vividly described his Grand canyon rim to rim to rim adventure earlier in the spring, miles flew by.

                                                Chuck nicely cruising along to Ashnola

3. I was thrilled to see our support team at Ashnola and laughed as my Salmon 12S pack zipper broke  apart but didn't let bother me.  As I left Mile 18 Ashnola AS, I started cramping pretty soon on my way up Trapper AS, it was bad enough, I had decided to drop at Trapper, since I was moving pretty slow at  55 minute mile and didn't expect to make cutoff as early as  Bonneville (Mile 40), my hopes of catching Chuck was lost as well.
                                                             Ashnola River
4. after my short conversation to drop at Trapper AS, AS captain nicely dissuaded and encouraged me to continue to next AS as getting ride to Bonnevier would be easier (he lied :)), and so slowly but surely.. I made up ground and slowly started working towards reaching Bonnevier AS 40 mins ahead of cutoff at 12:40am (Chuck had left 40mins prior), great to see Amital family again, who waited for me to arrive. John /Laura had kept coffee and pizza for me at that AS. From that point on I was just running from AS to AS.

5. Aid stations from Bonnevier(mi 42) to Cayuse Flats (mi 73) were all remote and quite minimal as well, due to fire concerns they didn't have any hot food as well, this was very conveyed by Race director so we expected nothing much. I was lucky to rely on Tailwind during this section coz, all I needed was water and I had enough tailwind to refuel myself pretty well. This was a good exercise in self sufficiency. This was also the section when I hooked up with fellow runner Ken from Vancouver Island, it was his 1st Fat Dog as well and we continued on as a team until the finish. Incidentally sleep depravation didn't bother the 1st night I relied on double dose of Vivarin couple a times and that kept me awake until day break at Heather AS (Mi 53)
Ken enjoying the serenity between cayuse flats and cascades

                                   Remote Nicomen AS (mi 62), volunteers hike about 25k with supplies.

6. Getting to Nicomen was a good relief as that indicated beginning of a 35+ miles of downhill and flattish sections to Skyline AS (mi 99). Also it was about half way point, about 23hrs into race, we had another 1 day's work ahead :).

7. As expected running upto Cascades AS (mi 78) was relatively easy terrain and miles flew by fast enough, it was 2nd day time as well so we were relatively less tired. one of the favourite section of the race was  running by skagit river. I could never get tired of it.

8. At cascades mi 78, I bumped into Chuck and family again, he was having a issues with a lean so wasn't able to focus on the trail, he chose to fight another day, It was a unfortunate but I am sure he will come back stronger in future years. He has a very disciplined approach towards his training and races.

9. Shawatum AS to Skyline AS is a section filled with monster bugs, terrain is quite OK, but mosquito bites makes it relentless effort for a good 90 minutes. finally we reached skyline at 11:30pm about 90minutes ahead of 1am cutoff, we had about 11hrs to finish last 20 miles and we ended up taking 9.5hrs. AS was manned by friend Karl Jensen and team of very experienced volunteers, I had many servings of Avocado quesadillas, shakes, after getting extra supplies for 2nd night ahead, we carried on. I should mention All this while Ken was patient with my extended times at aid stations, he was waiting for me without pressing, I am grateful to his support.  (Thanks Karl for all help at Skyline)

10. Skyline to Camp mowich a .8.6 mi climb to top of the ridge, last steep climb of the race and this was the section when Ken got into zone and pulled us along he was very focussed and hardly took any break, that helped us get well within the cutoffs.  This was also the section when it started to drizzle, which totally woke me up and I enjoyed the moment of feeling vulnerable in the elements as I rushing to get all the appropriate gear. I was soaking the moment and enjoyed being on the ridge, the solitude and early dawn running.

                                              Enjoying big mountains, big vistas

11. After a brief break at Camp mowich we continued onto to running on ridge line and several false summits eventually reached the top, followed by a steep 8 mile descent to lightning lake. James came ran up to meet us about 2 miles from finish, that helped was with the feel for the finish.
                                                 We finished in 46:42hrs

This couldn't have been possible without constant support from Rashmi, Ahana and Zoey. I admit my yearly crazy adventures has disrupted their schedules many times, I am commited to make up rest of the year. I also enjoyed my training with Bipul this year, hope to accomplish many more adventures together in future.

How's FatDog 120m different from other US 100s?
(except Hardrock 100m)
1. As previous co-RD Peter said course is "huge mountains, huge vistas and huge water", scale bigger than most 100s I have seen.
2. Running with a pretty heavy pack,  race has a good list of mandatory gear and carrying water for long sections makes pack about 7-9lbs.
3. Some of Aid stations are quite remote and minimal so one has to be prepared to self sufficient and assume mostly water in AS between 41-73miles.
4. Last 20 miles with 7000ft climb, makes this race a good 7-9hrs longer than most mountain 100s.

Fat Dog support team 
John Brooks:     who crewed us right from seattle to race and back; helped us at many AS.
Laura:                helped plan pre race trips, accomodation and crewed at most places.
Amital Family:  every smiling crew helping us throughout the race.
(Karen, Eden, Jesse):
James:               cheering, crewing and pacing us.

Ofcourse fellow runners Chuck, Shan and Ken were a vital part of this journey, wouldn't have been possible without them. I hope to be part of their journey sometime in near future.

Thankful to Mountain Madness and all volunteers at this fantastic race, highly recommend this adventure.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Training for Fat Dog 120m

my training plan for fat dog 120m was mainly centered around running few big races and training runs, along with few back to back runs, ending with a high mileage weeks in May, Jun and July.

I had following races as ramp up plan for the race, my plans aligned very well with Bipul as well . he was running TRT 100 in July.

Mar: MUC 50m race (13hrs)

Apr: Quad MP run (9hrs)

May: Qs 100k race (14:45hrs)

Jun: PCTR SF 12hr run (50 miles), Mt Rose 40m run (10hrs)

Jul: TRT 100m race (going back after 10years) (DNF @ 62m)

Aug 11th: Fat Dog 120M (Finished in 46:40hrs)

Fat dog claimed to have about 28000ft of climb over 120 miles, so my focus was mainly putting as much elevation gain as possible in months leading up to the race, so my goals of running about 40K gain and 200 miles in may and jun were accomplished.