Tuesday Tribute: Jamesina Simpson – engineer, mom, runner

I’m back with another Tuesday treat, your current Tribute of the week. This one comes from a close personal connection – my sister-in-law, Jamesina.

TUESDAY TRIBUTE: JAMESINA SIMPSON

Part of Jamesina's herd - the kid, the dog... all perfectly under control

Part of Jamesina’s herd – the kid, the dog… all perfectly under control

She’s a PhD in Engineering, a university professor, a sub-3 hour marathon runner, and, perhaps most potently, the wife of my brother and mom to my niece (soon to be 2nd niece!). But there’s a lot more going on – things that have taught me much about myself and how to interact better with other introverts. You see, I’m a shitty communicator, make no bones about it. I’m like Sheldon without the witty t-shirts. When I want to talk about something, I do. When I don’t want to interact on a subject, I don’t. I, in general, have not been communicationally housebroken.

When I first met Jamesina, she was hard to read – quiet, reserved, but serious. She and my brother hit it off immediately at a party we all attended and alighted off to chat alone after I tried to occupy the conversation with talk about running. I was jealous of his time, of course – he had only recently “finally” moved to New Mexico and I was enjoying getting to spend time growing our post-college sibling friendship. On the other hand, Jamesina was really exciting to me – we were both geeky, quiet, and runners. We did training runs together that proved to be key in my own brief road racing stint – easy runs to her, but crazy hard tempo pace for me. It was perfect. She also got me into Bikram yoga (which turned into hot flow yoga), a habit that lasted three years and gained me literal balance that I still retain.

Then there were her life accomplishments: the PhD, a professorial position before 27, a house before 25. Yowzers. Oh, and we both loved Greg. This couldn’t go wrong! Yeah…. well there were some bumps in that road.

In a nutshell, we’ve had some serious miscommunications over the years. However, I’ve learned a TON about being a better conversationalist and listening to other people’s emotions instead of just the words they are saying, and we’ve ironed out nearly all the remaining kinks. She’s shared knowledge with me about her own ups and downs with athletics that has proven insightful and is appreciated. This gives me the same hope that I had when we first met. I’ve only grown in my admiration for what she’s accomplished. I mean, a sub-3 hour marathon a year after your first kid? Seriously impressive.

Not much has changed in the intervening 7 years – she’s still serious, quiet, driven, and always happy to share a joke with Greg. They don’t live here in New Mexico any more, so my visits are more infrequent. But when they are both happy, that’s awesome. I hope the two of us continue to grow as people, communicators, and athletes.

Thanks, Jamesina.

Tuesday Tribute: Krista Scott-Dixon

Tuesday Tribute #3: Mistress Krista (Krista Scott-Dixon to the ‘real’ world)

Krista Scott-Dixon rocking the back squat, circa 2003(?)

It started with squatting. Doesn’t it always? If you think about it, a lot of things start with squatting, like childbirth, a good start to a day, et cetera…

OK, I digress. Back to the squatting that involves iron. It was around 2003. I was reading a few different blogs about weight lifting and female strength training in general. Then I found HER. This petite but fart-joke-loving strong diva of a woman named Mistress Krista. She used an old nickname – something about her diminutive size, I imagine – to adorn her blog: stumptuous.com

On that site she catalogued her thoughts on strength, eating, training, and more – all with a laser focus on women. I read a bunch and then some more. Then I noticed her series on how to squat, and how she broke the HUGE commandment drilled into anyone doing squats in the 1990s – never, ever let your knees go past 90 degrees. Krista came right out and said that is bullshit – IF you have good form and you feel no pain. Anyone with bad form and/or pain need to adjust accordingly, but for many folks, going ass-to-the-grass is totally great and fine and normal. Toddlers do it every day. We’ve forgotten how.

It's actually natural. We forget and tighten up.

It’s actually natural. We forget and tighten up.

Once I learned how to actually squat correctly, I got myself OUT of the stupid Smith machine contraption I was using to try to do squats, and did them like a ‘grown up’. It took about 6 months and my 10 years of runner’s knee went POOF. Gone.

But Krista is oh so much more than squat technique. She’s a powerhouse of information about women in many dimensions – as workers in Information Technology (and wrote a book on it), as athletes, as 40 year olds, and as powerful creatures.

She’s a coach, a writer, a no-bullshitter, and damn funny, too.

Krista, bravo. A zillion times.

P.S. About “TUESDAY TRIBUTE” and the why: a few weeks ago my mind went off a-wandering during my run. As it often does, it strayed into the realm of wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if ideas. Ideas like memes and tributes. It is refreshing to see gratitude posts directed at a certain person or community, someone that made a difference even if they didn’t know it. I thought about those 52 week challenges to leave little notes for strangers or smile more. I decided on a new challenge for myself: I will take every Tuesday to highlight someone from my life, past or present, who has changed my outlook, nudged the course of my life, or given me reason to make a positive change.

There are only two guidelines: First, I must have interacted directly with this person. Authors or public figures that have had positive effects in my life are not candidates if I do not know them well enough to call them an acquaintence. Second, those I choose to highlight are in no particular order. There is no implicit hierarchy or chronology. 

Tuesday Tribute: Charlie Thorn

[A NOTE ABOUT "TUESDAY TRIBUTE" and it's beginnings]: a few weeks ago my mind went off a-wandering during my run. As it often does, it strayed into the realm of songs I’d rather not play on repeat, what the weather might be like today, did that car just wave at me, and wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if ideas. Ideas like Facebook memes. I thought about how nice it is to see gratitude posts directed at a certain person or community, someone that made a difference even if they didn’t know it. I thought about those 52 week challenges to leave little notes for strangers or smile more. I decided on a new challenge for myself: I will take every Tuesday to highlight someone from my life, past or present, who has changed my outlook or given me reason to make a positive change.

There is only one guideline, and one caveat: First, I must have interacted directly with this person. Authors or public figures that have had positive effects in my life are not candidates if I do not know them well enough to call them an acquaintence. They might collectively have their own post(s) in the future, but this series is for my direct circle. Second, those I choose to highlight are in no particular order. There is no implicit hierarchy or chronology. That is all.

TUESDAY TRIBUTE #2: Charlie Thorn

charlie thorn

Charlie Thorn, in front of his house, gathering for trail marking.

It was 1998 and I was an avid participant in this email group called the Ultralist. I had recently started doing 50Ks back in the Midwest and now, living in Albuquerque, I was jonesing for good trail running and connecting with whatever ultra community was around. Trouble is, there wasn’t a lot in the way of races in New Mexico. Like, none. Sure, there were trail runners, ultrarunners, and lots of trail fun runs – you just had to find the right people to hear about that stuff.

Up in Los Alamos there were a bunch of folks who thought about two things: physics and ultrarunning. One of them owned a house in Silverton and went up there a lot to run and stuff… that’s as much as I knew. On the Ultralist came a notice of some trail work being done in Silverton over Memorial Day weekend. I had nothing better to do, so I contacted the guy organizing it, Charlie Thorn, and he offered me a spot to crash at his house, even. Off I went, into these totally new-to-me mountains north of Durango, and had quite a hard time actually finding these guys as they did trail work. Luckily I found them the next day (Sunday) as they were constructing a totally new trail for some ultra event that summer. That trail was the Nute Chute (named for Chris Nute), and it removed a few miles of road from the course. That course, of course, was/is the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run, and Charlie was one of the founders of the event.

On that Sunday – and the next day when he and his wife Andi Kron took me up to Cinnamon Pass half on bikes and half on foot – Charlie told me about Hardrock. I was impressed, obviously. The run didn’t fill up in those years, so Charlie told me I should enter. I thought he was joking at first, and then completely nuts. Had I entered then, who knows what would have happened with my Hardrock “career”. I ended up pacing a new friend instead for about 40 miles and had a really enjoyable and tough time. Sometimes I think Charlie wanted me to enter to see how badly I would blow up. With aid stations and support, I wouldn’t have been in danger, but it might have been an interesting experiment.

Charlie, in his many years on the Hardrock board of directors, has been a voice of reason, humor, snark, and sanity. He has a boatload of Hardrock finishes – TEN, that’s 1000+ miles of Wild & Tough! – and has arguably spent more miles on the course than anyone else still traipsing the trails.

Thanks Charlie!

Tuesday Tribute: Mike Kline (and origins)

Today, on this ordinary Tuesday, my mind went off a-wandering during my run. As it often does, it strays into the realm of songs I’d rather not play on repeat, what the weather might be like today, did that car just wave at me, and wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if ideas.

Today I thought about Facebook memes. I thought about how nice it is to see gratitude posts directed at a certain person or community, someone that made a difference even if they didn’t know it. I thought about those 52 week challenges to leave little notes for strangers or smile more. I decided on a new challenge for myself: I will take every Tuesday to highlight someone from my life, past or present, who has changed my outlook or given me reason to make a positive change.

There is only one guideline, and one caveat: First, I must have interacted directly with this person. Authors or public figures that have had positive effects in my life are not candidates if I do not know them well enough to call them an acquaintence. They might collectively have their own post(s) in the future, but this series is for my direct circle. Second, those I choose to highlight are in no particular order. There is no implicit hierarchy or chronology. That is all.

Let’s begin.

TUESDAY TRIBUTE: MIKE KLINE

Coach Mike Kline taking notes during a meet.

Coach Mike Kline taking notes during a meet.

Mike Kline was and is the Cross Country coach at University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. He is a marathon runner, jogger, and embracer of anyone who finds joy in running. This inclusiveness, I believe, is one of the reasons that our cross country team was not competitive amongst our peer colleges. But it is the reason that it was a dynamic and enthusiastic herd of athletes.

Coach Kline believed that the title student-athlete was ordered that way for a reason. GPAs of less than 3.0 were offered tutoring to bring their performance back up. Being a B student was something that allowed one the privilege to run on the team. Scholarships were frequent and partying was minimal. We trained relatively hard given most of us didn’t have a summer workout schedule, and some of us got injured a lot. Coach Kline was new to this, too – he was about 26 when I started college on his team.

A dedicated runner himself, the one thing that Mike Kline did “to” me as a runner was to condition my head to the idea that some people really, really just like to run. It doesn’t matter if you’re competitive or past your prime or anything. If you like to run, you should do it. He’d show up for practices sometimes after having run 15-20 miles on the roads around campus, looking like I often do these days after the same kind of run – a little sweaty, a little dehydrated, a little crazy. I could tell he had a bit of a compulsion but in a certain way it was alright.

If I were a coach now, I might be a bit more nudgey with my athletes to help them compete, but I’d also be that wild-eyed salt-streaked weirdo showing up for practice right on time because my run went a little long. I’d hope that one of those kids would see the joy in my obsession.

 

Pernicious (or persnickety?) Anemia: Round One

I’ve felt fat and slow for a long time now.

Years. Part of that is not that I’m fat, but that I do actually weigh more than I did 4 or 5 years ago. What happens when I run is just physics: it feels different to hit the ground at 2.5x your body weight with an extra 12 pounds. Strength and experience can get through a lot of that. Good weight training, endurance work, neuromuscular development – all of these contribute to performance even when not at the featherweight category.

And yet. Feeling like you’ve strapped on a soggy wetsuit when going out for a run or trying to bound up a hill and gasping like two decades just jumped on your back ain’t fun.

So I turn to my red fluid of life: blood. Specifically, the known condition deep in my tissues that has lie in wait for years without too much bother: anemia. Uh-Knee-Me-Uh. Sexy, huh?

What is anemia?

Anemia (or anaemia for the fancy) means a lot of things, just like being overly warm can mean a lot of things. You might have a parka on. Or it might be 100 degrees out. Or you might be feverish. Or you might have just eaten Thanksgiving dinner.

With anemia, generally there’s something going on with the available red blood cells and/or their ability to give you oxygen when you request it, either by bounding up a hill or by getting out of bed.

I’ve learned craptons by reading the overview on the Merck site, which delineates different kinds of anemia and how one might get them. Anemias that I am extremely unlikely to have: excessive bleeding, sickle cell disorder, certain other genetic diseases.

Candidates for my own anemia, from lifestyle and bloodwork:

  • footstrike hemolysis (basically when my feet hit the ground the red blood cells get smooshed and die)
  • B12 deficiency (mine is low-ish but not that low, also I get numb fingers sometimes like Reynaud’s)
  • “simple” iron deficiency (caused by malabsorption – gut issues)
  • G6PD deficiency (genetic mutation, can be triggered by infection or fava beans. Yes, fava beans.)

So…. there are a lot of moving parts. But one thing I can start with is to try to increase nutrient absorption. I eat in a manner that does not explain my low nutrient levels – seriously I should be super high in damn near everything, and I’m not.

First experiment: HCl

From scdlifestyle.com – an awesome HCl resource!

Poor absorption of nutrients can be simply because there ain’t enough acid in one’s stomach. Supplementing with Betaine HCl will increase stomach acid and lead to better breakdown of food. It’s not crazy. (In fact, LOW stomach acid, not high, is the most common factor in heartburn and GERD. Weird, huh?)

I’m excited to try this, even though I’ve known for years about HCl. No time like the present, I suppose. I’ll follow some good guidelines about how to do it right, and let’s see how it goes.

“Health” Prescribed Here: Women’s Magazines

random magazines

random magazines

Just a few numbers to liven up your Tuesday, shall we? The world of women’s lifestyle magazines is crammed full of contradictory messages, and that’s not a shocker to most folks. I even remember when I was a teenager noticing that “mature” magazines like Redbook would cram a brownie advertisement directly across from that “low fat casserole” recipe feature. It made me a little sad and angry then, but in the intervening years it’s all but tuned out as the normal way of things. Today I’m un-tuning it out by doing some page counts on just one issue of just one popular women’s healthy lifestyle magazine. Ready? Let’s go.

Prescription drugs:

  • Number of different prescription medications advertised in a 136-page women’s health magazine issue: 11.
  • Number of pages occupied by those 11 out of the total 136: 30.
  • Percentage of pages occupied by prescription medications in a health magazine: 22%

Non-prescription “cures” or interventions/detoxes:

  • Number of pages occupied by OTC medications like detox kits or supplements (not including “standard” beauty products like makeup or sunscreen): 3

Sugary crap and artificially sweetened stuff:

  • Number of pages occupied by food products with added sugar or artificial sweeteners: 8
  • Number of those pages that were placed directly opposite content with a recipe including vegetables or a model in a bikini: 4

TOTAL number of pages in 136-page women’s health magazine devoted to prescription drugs, OTC cures, or sweet foods?

41 pages

PERCENTAGE of pages in 136-page women’s health magazine devoted to prescription drugs, OTC cures, or sweet foods?

30%

It’s in front of us every day. Once you start really noticing, it’s a little disturbing, no?

Vegas: Unlike Virginia, Not For Lovers

Las Vegas is many things to many people, but opinions vary on what it is not. From the surface appearance, it is not for the long-term, the serious, the romantic. In other words, it’s for fast fun frolics. At least that’s what everyone says. I wonder how often the casual-meetup section of Craigslist or the hookup apps crash under the sheer weight of panting people in party apparel.

Now its mid-May and the first blast of heat for Las Vegas in 2014: four solid days of 100-ish temperatures with barely a bit of gauzy clouds to filter the rays. Tourists pound the pavement in search of whatever it is they think Vegas is, with barely a bit of gauzy clothing to filter their derrieres.

The King (of photobombs?)! Photo by Geo Perdis

I use the word tourist deliberately, optimistically, and elitistically, for I no longer consider myself a tourist. In my first few Vegas stops, sure. I “did” the Strip, stayed out relatively late, ate comically-cheap-in-every-sense-of-the-phrase buffets, and tried to not make an ass of myself. (In that last bit, perhaps I’ve isolated myself from many tourists here.)

These days, and this trip in particular, I’m a visitor. I work with Vegas to coax out what I need: wonderful but not stupid expensive food, trail running, social opportunities. Getting lost in the thicket of Caesar’s Palace is amusing and a bit sad instead of exciting, even if Bourdain and Ruhlman lived it up within those walls. In the mornings I escape for dirt pounding on trails south or west of town, or find a local coffee shop a drive away from the hubbub. Note to coffee-fiend visitors and tourists alike: Sunrise Coffee is THE SHIZ.

Las Vegas, this visit, is the vehicle for a group get together of sweets professionals: the 2014 eGullet Confections & Chocolate Confab. I’m no pro, but good friends with some in the bunch, including the amazeballs James-Beard-nominated Rob Connoley of The Curious Kumquat. I’m not a pro, so I’m just spending my time doing writing, researching for Rob’s book, and attempting to take in some of the local non-strip offerings.

I’m not sure what I hope to learn from the stay this time. A trip to a completely divey spot like the Double Down might be awesome. I’ve had Lotus of Siam now, and that is well worth the visit for crispy fried prawns. Tonight will be taco trucks a go-go and hey, sometimes that’s all a person needs.