Monday, August 31, 2015

Ferreira Wins the Kearsarge Hill Climb


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This past Saturday, I went over to Warner to help out with the Kearsarge Hill Climb which is a uphill bike race from the center of the small town of Warner up the Kearsarge Auto road. All told it is a 8 mile, 1700+ foot climb. I've biked it before and it is brutal. Luckily, I was not there to race but just help out before the start.

Amber decided to show up last minute to the race, getting there just in time for last-minute registration. She had done it a couple years ago, but hadn't planned on doing it, until I had mentioned to her that I'd be going out. So she just "shows up". This race is a pretty big deal as many cyclists are competing for the New England Uphill point series so she didn't know how she'd do. She did, however, take a look at what the course record was and wasn't sure that would be in her reach.

I finished helping out at the start then drove up to the gate(4.5 miles into the race) and then "ran" the last 3.5 miles. Ran is in quotes because it was much more like a jog with that first mile similar to that of Mt. Washington. I barely go to the summit before Sam Evans Brown, another Concord racer, came in as the first male. A few minutes later, Amber comes in. First female and 30 seconds off the course record. Not bad for a couple weeks after Timberman!

She is heading up to Vermont this weekend for the 4 day Killington Stage race and I'm interested to see how she does. Good luck Amber!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to be a Happy Runner

It seems to me that running can easily make you miserable. Not because it a miserable sport in itself(although some would argue that it is), but because you cannot help compare your performances to your peers and your younger self. Now surround yourself with like minded and more fleet-footed friends and you've got a recipe for disaster.

I just read somewhere that the countries with the highest rates of happiness also have the highest rates of suicide. There were so many possible confounding factors that researchers then did a similar study looking at states in the US. Interestingly enough, the states with the highest level of life satisfaction also had the highest levels of suicide. I bet if you then look at runners' satisfaction, the slowest runners in a certain peer group will also be the most unhappy(assuming all things equal of course).

Obviously there are still a lot of possibilities for this, but one theory is that of relative comparison. That is we compare ourselves to people around us. Similar to why people are always trying to keep up with the Joneses, we compare our happiness to those around us. Unhappy people in a overall happy and contented society have a starker and more drastic contrast than if they were in a country/state/county/cul de sac that was all fairly miserable.  Those slow runners may be very fast but in comparison to their peers they are lead-footed snails. This certainly becomes a problem if their self-worth and image are linked closely to running.

The author of that study on state happiness concluded that: "Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life. Those dark contrasts may in turn increase the risk of suicide. If humans are subject to mood swings, the lows of life may thus be most tolerable in an environment in which other humans are unhappy.”

One solution of course, is to move to somewhere where everyone is miserable and just surviving is a struggle(or in the case of running, move to somewhere where everyone moves sloth-like). Another, less radical option would be to change your sample size. You can do this one of two ways: 1) Make it bigger, or 2)Make it smaller.

The case for a large comparison group.

If you are only comparing yourself to your richer (and seemingly) happier neighbors, and you're struggling financially or whatnot, your troubles are glaring. However, broaden that comparison group to those in the neighboring towns, counties or states and you may not fare so poorly. I maintain that, at least to a certain degree, people volunteer out of selfish reasons to make themselves feel better about themselves. When exposed to people worse off than you may help put things in perspective.

However, our confirmation biases can lead to trouble where we ignore information that refutes our opinions and seek out only the examples that confirm that we are poor, slow or miserable. Sometimes we may need a smaller comparison group.

The case for a smaller comparison group.

Ditch social media! There have been several studies looking at people using Facebook and becoming more unhappy! Your comparison group is too big and you're only seeing people expressing their best side(for the most part). Sometimes we need to unplug and be with the ones that we love and not worry about those around us. Run for the love of it, not for strava points or placing at a race.

As far as has been shown by science, we only live once and we cannot spend it comparing ourselves to others. The first way to overcome the inherent pitfalls of comparison is to recognize that we do this and then we can make a conscious effort to be mindful of all the good things(or fast times) we have.

Run Happy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is Alcohol Good for You?

Not sure if you've heard yet but New Hampshire is the Napa Valley for beer drinkers. There is even a Granite State Beer Trail which takes you to all the different breweries around the state(minus Budweiser). It is a fun way to sample different beers. However, after noticing that my beer passport has started filling up pretty quickly, I started to wonder, is alcohol good for me?

If you do a quick google search of alcohol's benefits you will find it everywhere. It seems that alcohol consumption is almost considered on the same level as exercise by some for it's heart benefits. And there has been quite a bit of research out there suggesting that light to moderate alcohol consumption(a glass a day for women and 2 for men) may be beneficial for multiple cardiovascular outcomes(such as congestive heart failure stroke, diabetes, coronary artery disease) as well as with all cause mortality. In fact, there has been a correlation between these people and less risk of these disorders even than in teetotalers. So not drinking enough may be as bad as drinking too much(heavy drinkers are still at the highest risk).

See, I'm glad I am traveling on the beer trail! So drinking is good for me?

Not so fast!

The British Medical Journal just published findings that light to moderate alcohol consumption led to increased risk of overall cancer in both men and women. However, this may be another example of how women get the short end of the stick.  While men needed to also be smokers to increase their risk of cancer, women who never smoked but did light to moderate drinking increased their risk of alcohol related cancer(primarily breast cancer). That means that one drink a day recommendation that may be good for your heart, might not be so good for your chest.

So it's bad?

Hmmm that's a tough one.

What I would suggest is to look at family history of heart disease versus alcohol related cancers and see which you are more predisposed to, then err on that side. I wonder whether a drink every other day still has the protective nature for the heart without the cancer causing effects.


And then to throw another curve ball in the mix. Supposedly alcohol works in opposition to grapefruit in regard to medication extraction(it gets it out of your system sooner). So maybe while I'm on anti-malarials, I should make sure my beer is a grapefruit Shandy?


One thing, however, is clear. Try to keep in the light to moderate range AT MOST! There is no benefit beyond that second drink and there are definitely plenty of well documented side-effects.

Want to have more than one? Try a sample of each:)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Month Until Danny Leaves for Guyana

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."


I have always loved this quote. Something about it is just so exciting and makes it easier to justify change, even if it's scary. Well I am about about to lose sight of the shore, and I can attest it is scary. 

I leave for Guyana in less than a month and it's just now settling in that this is really going to happen. While I've traveled quite a bit around the world, I have always had a home-base and never missed a holiday. I've been conflicted about that for a while and it started feeling like being a tourist was just another means of consumption. How could I criticize people "wasting" their money buying things, when I was doing the same thing buying experiences? Granted, those memories and experiences have been amazing and I am glad for every one of them. 

But I am also ready to do "more". What exactly this more is remains to be seen but I hope that I can not only give back but also grow through my experience this coming year with the Peace Corps.


"We can only become responsible citizens of the world once we start to acknowledge that there's a complex world out there that's not easy to assimilate "

 I want to be more than a tourist. I have wanted to do this for a long time and I am very excited about it. And yet, it's a scary thought to be away from everyone I love in a country that I know very little about. I suspect that I will also miss that cool evening breeze and the smell of the mountains. But I suspect I will gain more in this year than I will lose. And I will always have a home to return to which will just make the journey all the more enjoyable. 

I hope you will join me on this journey. 


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."