Thursday, April 30, 2009

Austin Air Quality is Mixed in Review

An old parable says that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. Kind of like A-Roid all of a sudden having surgery after the steroid mess came out. However, if you put that same frog into a pot of cool water and then you gradually increase the temperature until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. Much more like how the roid situation with Clemens went down. Maybe because he kept saying the pot wasn't hot enough, denying any use.

I thought since A-Roid wasn't scheduled to come back from his rehab until May 15 we'd be treated to full days of roid-less sports coverage but that's been blown out. Thank God that ESPN spent very little time on the piece this morning and decided instead to focus on two of today's brighter players.

So back to the cooked frog. The Austin Business Journal reported yesterday on the American Lung Association's report on Austin's air quality. Long story short, Austin gets a mixed rating. Air quality in general is based on small particle pollution and another reading for ozone pollution. Austin is good on the 2.5 micron pollution but bad on the ozone. I have mixed feelings on this report as it may encourage more people to venture out, eventually becoming cooked frogs later in life.

Here's what I base this on. If you venture out first thing in the morning say around 5:00 am or 6:00, but not later than 6:45 (that's when people in my neighborhood start leaving for work) you will notice cleaner air. The reason being that overnight the pollution from the day before has been swept out of town for the most part. Wind and pressure play a part here but let's say for argument it is swept out on most days. If you are jogging and pass an early commuter in their car you will notice the exhaust from that one car. It's sufficient to make you not want to inhale until you get far enough away. So one car passing while your in a clean air environment is very noticeable.

Now go down to the hike and bike trail along Lady Bird Lake underneath the Mopac Expressway bridge where there's heavy traffic and run down Cesar Chavez street where there's heavy traffic at say 5:30 pm. Unless there's a car with flagrant expulsion of exhaust it'll be difficult to notice the exhaust. Why is this? If you look at the pollution charts that provide real time readings from monitoring equipment you'll see the levels are higher than they were at 5:30 am. If you can smell the poisonous exhaust from one car, common sense says 10,000 cars are doing some damage. And mix the sun's rays, which creates ozone, and is also said to create a sunburn effect to the lung's inner lining it's a wonder anyone jogs at all.

Needless to say I'm sticking to the early morning runs unless there's a weather event that sweeps the bad air out of the atmosphere. Recent rain storms did this. I'm also staying away from heavy-traffic-streets. I'd rather run in the afternoon or evening but it's just not worth it in the long run.

Read more about dirty air in the Canada Medical Association report.

If you want to watch the Texas statewide levels rise over a period of a day, point your browser to the TCEQ ozone level map and the TCEQ PM 2.5 level map,

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chalk It Up To Not Knowing

Most exercise mags rehash the same content over and over to great success. Last week, as I kept one eye on the person in front of me in the grocery line placing bag after bag of cheese puffs and their favorite soda flavor containing high fructose corn syrup on the conveyer belt, my other eye locked on one of the mags near the cash register. After I found out which celebrities were bikini weather ready I shifted attention to Prevention Magazine. Prevention recombines the title phrases Over 40, Best Abs Ever, Walking and Lose Weight Fast in various combinations which are slightly different than last month but still preys on our fear of the fact that most hate getting older, have spare tires or big butts and don't exercise enough.

Runners World Magazine is like this. I've put a copy in my grocery cart each month for the past four years thinking there was something new to be found in the ever-shrinking number of pages contained within. While I've learned much from this magazine, most can be attributed to running faster which is ironic as I get slower. But as many have pointed out, we do live in the Age of Irony. Run Fast! In the May 2009 issue however, I came across a great piece of information. Which pain reliever to take. It's not a matter of preference.

I asked a volunteer at one of the aid stations on the Longhorn Half-Ironman course a couple of years ago why they had Tylenol and not anything else. It turns out my preference, which is ibuprofen, doesn't work with the kidneys so well. And since kidneys are a vital part of a race for fluid absorption as well as not vomiting up strange substances which turn out to be digestive tract lining (see story link above), Tylenol was chosen. It negatively works on the liver only when there's alcohol involved or when too many are taken. Whew! Who knew?

Who drinks when they run? Seriously. I do remember drinking a beer, no two, at the 25th mile of the 2006 Austin Marathon. It was the best beer I'd ever tasted. It was provided by the Hash House Harriers who run and drink beer. I suspect the Harriers don't need to ingest Tylenol or any pain reliever for that matter as the beer does an adequate job of numbing a runner's pain. But the Runner's World Magazine makes no mention of beer as a pain reliever.

The Hash House Harriers are no small group. 1892 hash groups in 1229 cities and in 183 countries and not one mention of someone puking up strange substances which turn out to be their digestive lining, although in all fairness I think there has been at least one case of someone drinking beer and losing their lunch and digestive lining would have only been included in the expelled substance if this runner ate at a Vietnamese restaurant and happened to order the tripe pho soup.

So to summarize, if you take lots of ibuprofen and run long distances you stand a chance of losing your digestive organs. If you drink lots of beer and run long distances you stand a chance of losing a cow's digestive organs.

First Ten Minutes of Anything Suck

I've mentioned here a few times one of my fellow triathlete bloggers, Tracy (a.k.a. Wil) from ThroughTheWall has mentioned the first ten minutes of everything suck and then it's all good. I think of this often but yesterday was a little different. Being the first serious run in two weeks after being sick, the legs felt great from the first stride. Wow, it's not very often where it felt great from the start. The lungs felt sucky from the first stride and at the ten minute mark they felt even more sucky. In fact they never felt good and so here's an addendum to Tracy's Law of 10 Minutes.

Some days certain things will suck longer than ten minutes and may suck the whole time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Time to Play Visionary, Fanatic or Lunatic

fa·nat·i·cal (f-nt-kl)
1. Possessed with or motivated by excessive, irrational zeal.

vi·sion·ar·y (vzh-nr)
1. Characterized by vision or foresight.

lu·na·tic (ln-tk)
1. Suffering from lunacy; (Insanity, especially insanity relieved intermittently by periods of clear-mindedness.).
4. Characterized by lunacy or eccentricity.

"The Godfather of Fitness", Jack LaLanne is 94 and still at it. "I work out every day for two hours," he said. "Swim one-half hour, and other one and one-half hours I do weights."

May 2009 Runner's World Magazine
Ronald Kmiec, 66 of Concord, Massachusetts, ran every day for 31 years and 360 days. During a race in 2007, he felt chest pain. He finished, and ran the next four days, until his wife forced him to see a doctor. Kmiec had had a heart attack and needed surgery. But four months later, he ran the 2008 Boston Marathon, his 35th in a row.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Grabbing the Remote

Got a chance to see Jacoby Ellsbury burn the Yank's Andy Pettitte stealing home. Go 'Stros and Sox. As you can see I'm giving baseball a chance again. Hopefully, the steroid era is over.

I couldn't believe ESPN went nuts with the NFL Draft, the mock draft, the fantasy draft, the speculating on top of the speculating until the whole thing was one long sentence running from one ear to the other reaching a point where I was seriously considering going downstairs and watching the Hallmark Channel and it's endless noise stream of faux Little House on the Prairie episodes with the rest of the family. Heh heh. Not really.

The NFL needs to find something to do with the 10 minutes inbetween the selections. Something other than showing Crabtree after he didn't get selected with beads of sweat building up on his forehead. They also need to find something else to show than a player talking on a cellphone to his agent while his family and friends look on. How they sold commercial time for this is beyond me.

In the end it's my fault. In this age of endless media opportunities and Tivo I need to spend more time looking for the gold nuggets like the Red Sox/Yanks match up which produced the stolen home base. Like the good articles. Like Rafael Nadal winning his fifth straight Barcelona Open whether it's live or recorded. Like BikeSnobNYC. Like the Jim Rome radio show and JRIB in the afternoon.

There's more than enough content to watch, read and listen to if I'd just apply a little strategy and not just grab the remote.

Spreading Germs

Just in time for the swine flu outbreak.

People who go to work sick don't realize the impact they have on on others. Three weeks after getting sick from someone who couldn't stay at home and was still contagious, I'm still recovering. I haven't worked out in earnest for three weeks. My lung capacity is still compromised. When I take a deep breath my airway gurgles. Others in the family are still coughing and feeling the remnants of the cold. When I spoke to someone else who had it, they coughed their last cough four weeks after contracting the bug.

The Honeywell air purifier I bought and placed in the bedroom has helped. It's amazing how easier it is to breathe when the purifier is running. I also think my night's sleep has improved.

Mexico is getting serious about the swine flu outbreak. They advised people to stay home from Sunday mass and the soccer games.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On This Almost Earth Day

On this almost Earth Day I sit inside (10:00 am) and not on the patio as the ozone level has already climbed over 50.

and food for thought from The New Yorker, In the Air.

In a recent survey, the Pew Research Center asked Americans about their priorities for Congress and the new President. “Dealing with global warming” ranked at the bottom of a list of twenty choices, far below “strengthening the nation’s economy” and “reducing health-care costs,” and even below dealing with unspecified “global trade issues.” The recession seems to have dampened the nation’s enthusiasm for any measure that could affect—or, perhaps just as important, be portrayed as affecting—people’s pocketbooks. Last month, when Gallup asked Americans whether “protection of the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth,” only forty-two per cent said yes. This was the lowest proportion in the twenty-five years since the firm started asking the question. Results like these do not make action on climate change any less imperative. But—especially since opponents can be counted on to spend tens of millions of dollars on lobbying—they do make it that much less likely.
This week, when Earth Day turns thirty-nine, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will plant trees. The Interior Department will host a fair in Washington’s Rawlins Park, and in Bloomington volunteers will teach sixth graders about karsts and creeks. As perhaps befits a middle-aged celebration, these are all eminently reasonable activities. But Earth Day has lost its edge and, with that, the sense that a different world is possible. Even more than in 1970, what’s needed now is an outpouring that organizes itself—with millions of people and, for good measure, some stinky dead fish in the streets.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Oak Pollen Eating My Lunch

I knew better than to use the blower to move a ton of fallen oak leaves from one side of the property to the next. Last year it knocked me out for a week. This year, it's going to knock me out for a week. Wednesday and Thursday were days where I literally did not move except to drink some water. The Benadryl-D played a role in knocking me out. The one benefit to being sick is that it's the best diet pill on the planet. I've lost nine pounds so far. Food poisoning was the only thing that I've seen do it faster and that's because there was absolutely zero urge to eat for days.

As I'm still coughing up a lung regularly, exercise outdoors is out of the question. As the skull throbbing has subsided I can at least now get back on the computer and write or read or tackle a little Ruby on Rails which I've been meaning to do since SXSW ended.