Fish Oil Does All That? Wow.
An ultra-pure fish oil has become a staple part of my nutrition plan. I was first pointed to fish oil for it’s benefits of helping reduce stress. I
have since learned that is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the many incredible benefits. My challenge was actually finding a fish oil that didn’t have a really horrible fishy after taste that seemed to linger in mouth for as long as it takes me to run a 250km multi-day race. Good news, I found one. And an option for vegetarians.
First the benefits, which are many so far now weare going to focus on howfish oil has helped support my athletics. (In future posts I detail the benefits to the brain, skin health and several other benefits.)
Cortisol is the stress hormone. It can be menacing. It degrades muscle, leads to fat gain and makes you feel stressed. An ultra-pure fish oil improves the activity of insulin in your body. A high insulin sensitivity gives you the ability to lose fat. Insulin shuttles glucose from dietary carbs (two things here – 1. you need to eat carbs 2. you need to eat carbs. No that is not a typo.) into the muscles to be stored and used as energy. Fish oil helps load nutrients into the muscle like creatine & carnitine for physical performance and fat burning. (FYI – your body naturally produces creatine. It is also found in meat & fish. Yes you can supplement additionally based on your goals.)
Decreasing cortisol can increase protein synthesis; i.e. what you need for energy. The mTOR pathway (regulator of cell metabolism, growth, proliferation and survival of cells) produces muscle growth and studies have shown that fish oil has enhanced muscle growth by 30%. Fish oil helps to repair the tiny muscle tears that naturally occur enabling you to build muscle.
Reducing both your cortisol levels and inflammation in your body (i.e. not necessarily the inflammation that you can feel) can enhance body composition by enabling you to lose fat and build muscle. From an athletic perspective having inflammation in the body equates to delayed recovery times. When it comes to recovery an ultra-pure fish oil has a double barrel impact.
1. Decreases the acute immediate inflammatory response to intense exercise. In English? No problem. Have you ever gone to the gym, for a run, spin class, some other form of exercise jumped into your car and been stiff when you tried to get out? That is acute immediate inflammation. An ultra-pure fish oil can alleviate those symptoms. I will go for a 4 – 5 hour mountain run, take 2 – 4 fish oil capsules, get in my car, drive for 20 – 30 minutes to get home and no longer need to pour myself out of the vehicle. I am super grateful for this new reality thanks in part to my fish oil supplement.
2. Decreases the chronic inflammation aka delayed onset muscle soreness. Again in English. You know when you are sore not the necessarily the very next day but maybe the day after exercising? Yes, fish oil can help with that too.
An ultra-pure fish oil helps reduce inflammation by accelerating the detoxification process. It supports the removal of waste product (no not that type of waste product; lactic acid build up and stuff like that) and removes inflammatory biomarkers.
But Can’t I Just Get Everything I Need From Food?
You know that saying “you are what you eat”? Right. I work with an amazing Registered Holistic Nutritionist who has beautifully reframed that statement. You are what your food eats. When it comes to fish, many species have seen a dramatic rise in their mercury content. Actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage, Old School, Serendipity – yes I watch Rom Com’s) had a high profile case of sever mercury poisoning. It can cost as much as $5,000 to remove the mercury from your system. When you are pregnant it is recommended to only have 1 serving of tuna per month. PER MONTH. If that wasn’t enough to persuade you, the quantity of fish you would need to to eat for optimal benefit is likely more than you would want to attempt. Not to mention that I don’t know anybody who reaches for cans of sardines as their post-workout meal…
Okay So Why Do I Keep Saying Ultra-Pure?
#1 is to ensure there is NO mercury. Zero. In my personal opinion there is no “safe” level of mercury to be ingesting. You want the source of the fish oil to be from small, fast-moving cold water fish like anchovies & sardines. The North Pacific near Alaska and north Atlantic near Norway are the two bodies of water that have the purest / cleanest fish. In the manufacturing process you want to make sure that the fish oil has not oxidized. Exposing it to oxygen can result in the fish oil going rancid inside the capsule. Yep. That’s gross. The brand that I have partnered with and recommend can be found right here.
You Said There Was A Vegetarian Option!
100%. An omega 3-6-9 oil containing safflower, sunflower, flax seed, pumpkin seed oils plus rosemary leaf and turmeric will provide the same or similar benefits. There one main difference is that the vegetarian oil needs to be refrigerated and the fish oil capsules do not. Check out my favourite omega 3-6-9 oil here.
Natural Allergy Relief & Grape Seed Extract
Recent research has shown that grape seed extract supports the alleviation of asthma symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center also highlights that grape seed extract can also reduce the symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency. This is why you may have heard of it as supporting treatment for thyroid conditions or for athletes seeking increased blood flow for recovery from strenuous exercise.
Grapes are really the original super fruit. The key ingredient (I say “ingredient” because phytochemicals or plant based polyphenol are complicated words) are the Proanthocyanidins (sorry – there’s no simple one word “translation”). My first reaction was Proantho-what now? These “Pros” are powerful anti-oxidants that reduce inflammation in the body supporting healthy circulation throughout the body.
For allergy sufferers, grape seed extract is regarded as a natural anti-histamine. It can “inhibit the release of chemicals called prostaglandins that can generate inflammation during an allergic response”. Grape seed extract reduces histamine production and simultaneously boosts the immune system. Dr Ray Strand, a specialist in nutritional & preventative medicine, advocates 200mg of grape seed extract per day as the minimum recommendation for preventing the symptoms of allergies.
From my own experience, I have an allergy to cats. Puffy & teary eyes, itchy skin & throat, sneezing, etc. While recently looking after a cat for an extended family member I took 200mg of grape seed extract prior to visiting the home and was symptom free while enjoying back to back Stanley Cup Playoff Games.
If you’re interested in learning more about grape seed extract watch this short video and if you’re interested in trying it for yourself, here’s the only option I recommend – Proflavanol C100.
Preventive Health Guide + Medical References & Resources
Whole Health MD
Health Articles 101
University of Utah Health Care
RLCure.com – Restless Leg Syndrome
Foundation for Alternative & Integrative Medicine
Stop the Thyroid Madness
Gear Review: Xterra Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Ever since seeing friend and former university classmate Lina Augaitis speak at FEAT and watching her ascension to be the top female SUP athlete in the world I became more and more interested in the sport myself. Typically I dive head first into any sport taking on one of the most difficult races whatever sport it is has to offer. This time I decided to ease it into rather than say taking on Maui to Molokai as my introduction to the sport.
Being a fan of the Xterra brand – I have been trusting their wetsuits for open water swimming and triathlons such as the Escape from Alcatraz and Leadman Epic 250km – I was excited when I got their e-mail just after Boxing Day promoting their 10′ Inflatable SUP. Like many, I had no idea that inflatable SUP’s could exist nor that their quality could actually surpass that of what I will group as “solid” or “non-inflatable” boards.
I’ll keep the comparison between inflatable and solid super high-level. The cheaper solid SUP’s typically feature some sort of foam core. Minor bumps, drops, impacts etc can have a devastating impact on the lifetime of your SUP. With most gear, I look at it as an investment. Sure, I can buy this cheaper option but one unfortunate turn of events could spell the end for your cheap solid SUP – and let’s put that in perspective. Starting prices for cheap SUP’s are in the $800 range.
I liked the concept of inflatable SUP for a few reasons.
1) I like gear that is easy to transport.
2) I like gear that is durable and going to have a long life span.
3) I live in a condo have 3 bikes, 2 snowboards, camping gear, golf clubs, hockey equipment, more running shoes than I can count, and all of the assorted accessories that come with that gear so storage is at a premium.
4) They are lighter than solid boards.
There are variety of inflatable SUP companies out there so how did I settle on Xterra because let’s be honest, making a great wetsuit doesn’t automatically mean you make a great inflatable SUP. What I like about the Xterra 10′ Inflatable SUP (FYI – they now have a 12’6″ board that was not available when I bought mine) is:
- Warranty – a 1 year warranty and 30 day risk free money back guarantee
- Durability – they drove a car over it. Seriously. A car. Over an inflated board.
- It weighs 28lbs compared to epoxy boards that weigh 28 – 45 lbs.
- you get a full package: board, pump, paddle, repair kit, back pack, pressure gauge. Other companies will leave out one or more of those and a paddle can cost $300 on its own. And you really, really want the pressure gauge. The pump is also from BRAVO who are touted as the best.
- You can weigh up to 250lbs. Depending on the race I am training for I range from 195lbs – 205 lbs so this rules out the vast majority of boards.
- The walls of the board are reinforced for added durability.
- Price + Quality. I’m on the Xterra mailing list so I bought mine for USD $598 whereas the website sells them for USD $1100. I still think that is a good deal but my best recommendation is to get on their mailing list. Three months after I bought mine they went on sale again and I bought another for my girlfriend.
I have been using my board about 2 – 3 times per week for several months with a typical distance of 5km – 10km though I have gone as far as 30km on my Xterra Inflatable SUP. Most of use is on the ocean though I have used on lakes and rivers as well. Point here is that it pretty much handles anything. Caveat here is don’t go do a serious open water crossing or surf waves bigger than 3 – 4 feet. If that’s your thing, there are boards designed for that. I can inflate the board in 4 minutes. Yeah 4 minutes. It deflates on it’s own in less time.
Renting an SUP from a vendor can cost $40 – $50 per hour and there is a general scarcity in terms of supply and availability. Being able to head down to False Creek for a sunrise or sunset paddle any day of the week has huge advantages. You can go get an amazing core workout or just relax on the water.
Areas for improvement:
- the side straps on the back pack could be higher quality. Until they are, only lift the back pack by the should straps. Trust me.
- the paddle is an entry level which is fine for 90% of the people out there. I ended up upgrading to a Werner 3 piece (though I also have plans to do a 60km open water SUP so factor that into your evaluation).
- the pump is good but it can be difficult to get the last 5 – 6 psi especially if you are shorter and don’t have the advantage of your height as leverage (I am over 6 feet tall). An electrical pump does exist with a governor that stops it at 15 psi (you do NOT want to over inflate your board) but you have to physically connect it to your car battery. I’ll be sitting tight until there is a version that connects to the outlet in my car or a battery pack.
You’ll notice that my areas for improvement have absolutely nothing to do with the board itself. I love it.
What else you should get:
- a life jacket and a real one not the Mustang Inflatable belt pack.
- a whistle
Deepak Chopra – A Better Way to Think About Your Body
As an advocate of self-care and activating someone’s well-being this article from Deepak Chopra didn’t just resonate with me – I literally felt the words vibrate through me. We do need more people to engage themselves in a systems based model focused on making their bodies stronger. The strive for mediocrity (as my Grade 10 Biology teacher put it) needs to end. Being a student of neuro-linguistic programming I identify with the need to have all of our cells aligned with our goals with a dedication to achieving optimal levels of health & happiness.
The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.
Let me start off by saying that I wanted this one. Rarely do I go into a race with as focused a time / performance goal as I did at Leadman. It wasn’t just the belt buckle that you get for finishing in under 11 hours, though it gave me a pretty good excuse to tell people what I had set as my goal. Not finishing the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica earlier this year was hard for me. I know that withdrawing from that race after suffering exercise induced kidney failure was the right decision. I loved seeing my teammates continue to overcome every challenge they faced. Still, my DNF sat with me and I went into Leadman prepared, planned and well trained. (Don’t get me wrong, a 250km ultra distance triathlon still makes you pretty frickin’ nervous!)
Be Water, My Friend
When a race is called the Leadman Epic 250km Triathlon you know you’re in for one hell of a day. Standing at the water’s edge I was calm and ready for the 5km swim – yeah, 5km swim. Conditions for me were near perfect. Overcast, air temperature of 8 C, water temperature of 16 C. I learnt over the course of training that I love open water.
Siting through the first 2.5km only had a couple of challenges as we found our paces and selves in the water. The first turnaround was uncrowded and coming back I had to remind myself there was one more 2.5km loop. I eased back into my rhythm knowing there were 245km to go after I got out of the water. About 300m after the first turn the lead swimmer in the wave behind me hit me head on – he was a little off his line! Coming back into shore I felt strong. The swim at Leadman is two 2.5km loops requiring you to exit the water. pass an aid station and dive back into the water. This is done to check people for hypothermia…
The second 2.5km loop required much more navigation dodging fellow swimmers who had started after I had. As I passed the second buoy I saw a swimmer holding onto it signalling to a kayak, Leadman was starting to claim competitors inside the first 2km of the race. The depth of peace that I feel in water is a huge advantage. Coming around the far turn I cranked up the pace. I decided to push it again when I could see the lake’s floor.
75 minutes and 33 seconds after starting the 5km swim I emerged from the lake and ran into transition.
Mother Nature may be forgiving this year, or next year, but eventually she’s going to come around and whack you. You’ve got to be prepared.
The transition tents were steaming from the warm bodies discarding wet suits. I managed to get out on the bike pretty quickly. I have made a habit of flagging the row that my bike is in and a landmark in line with that row so I can find it easily. Clipping in I wove my way along the road out towards the main bike route. I anticipated managing my fuel properly over the course of the 223km bike course to be the main challenge on the day. Mother nature had a different plan.
I knew the two climbs up and over Mount Bachelor were going to be tough. I received some good intel from a couple of locals that when you hit the 57km mark you think that you’ve reached the top but you’ve really only begun. And that’s when it hit me. And hit me again. And kept hitting me over and over and over again.
You see Bend, Oregon has some pretty outstanding weather – about 300 days of sunshine each year. On this day, on this 223 km bike ride, the skies had opened up and delivered a punishing bout of hail. Climbing from 4700 feet to about 6500 feet the temperature kept getting colder and the hail kept getting harder. The first loop I managed to push through it fairly well but I knew it was going to make the entire day much more difficult. There’s a reason it’s called the Leadmand EPIC Triathlon.
Descending down the first loop the hail converted to rain and it began to drop my core temperature. Reaching speeds of 65km – 70km I was definitely hydroplaning at times. I could tell the weather was better at lower elevations so I made a commitment to get descend as quickly as I could. Mentally preparing myself to go through it once more.
Let’s get one other thing crystal clear – Central Oregon is unbelievably beautiful. High mountain desert, Ponderosa pine tree forests, volcanic peaks in all directions, lakes, rivers – you name it, it’s there. Despite the weather it was all you could do but enjoy the scenery. Now back to the gauntlet.
Kilometer 150 marks the aid station with your special needs bag and wow was I looking forward to the salted avocado I had waiting for me. Having solid food with healthy fats at altitude was a great suggestion from a trail running friend. I stayed long enough at the aid station to re-load my water bottles while I inhaled the avocado. Leaving the checkpoint I started focusing on the second climb up Mount Bachelor.
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
The rain began to fall from a much lower elevation and the hail returned. All of my energy was going to two places – keeping my legs moving and keeping my body temperature as warm as possible. Temperatures dropped to 6 C and competitors really began to struggle with the elements. My hands were beginning to get so cold that I couldn’t open any of the food I had. I stopped at each of the aid stations on the second climb for hot chocolate and shifted my focus to once again avoid hypothermia. I attacked the climb with everything I had. I pushed through a 4km climb at a 12% – 15% grade clocking a consistent 24 kph. This course was not going to beat me.
Before taking on the final 24km descent into Bend and the transition to the run I spent nearly 10 minutes warming up at an aid station. An amazing volunteer wrapped his jacket around me while I imagined crawling into the cup of hot chocolate being pawed by my hands. I knew it was critical for me to raise my body temperature before tackling the harrowing descent into Bend. I also knew that I needed to keep moving.
Leaving the aid station I became aware of one major problem – my hands were frozen. Seriously. They were so cold that I didn’t have the strength to shift or brake. I shifted into my big ring by reaching across with my opposite hand and pulling back with my shoulder. Success.
Normally the descent into Bend is a relaxing part of the Leadman Triathlon but with the conditions in 2013 it was anything but. One small mistake, closing eyes for 1 millisecond, focusing on how you felt rather than where you were going could mean the end of your race and serious injury. In the distance I could see sun shining in Bend and I knew that once I got there I would be able to warm up. Without being able to use my brakes I began to speed past other cyclists. I could see them shivering on their bikes and wobbling as a result. At one point I looked down to see myself break 80 kph. Time to find a way to use the brakes.
If this were an Ironman, I’d be done by now.
Seriously. Triathletes at Transition 2 of Leadman have already covered more distance than an Ironman race.
I came into Transition 2 exhausted. I had definitely considered withdrawing after the bike if it was raining in Bend. I hadn’t been able to eat for over 90 minutes and had probably burned 2000 calories in that time. My hands were definitely frost bitten and my feet were numb. I racked my bike and headed into the changing tent. Looking around no one was strong enough to undo their helmet so I pulled mine off my head. I dropped my shirt and pulled on a fresh top. I cursed several times trying to get my bike shoes off and when I finally did I wrapped my head around the fact that there was a significant chance I was about to run 22km with my shoes undone because there was absolutely no possible way I was going to be able to tie them myself. Bless the 75 year old volunteer who bent down and tied my shoes for me.
Coming out of the chute I didn’t no yet what to expect of the run. I knew that I had to eat. I new that my hands didn’t work. I straight up bit into the banana I had grabbed from my transition bag. I managed to eat about half of it before my inability to open it got the better of me and I through it away. Let’s get back to how beautiful Central Oregon is – the sun was beginning to set and the colours across the sky were an incredible mixture of yellow, orange and purple.
Finishing my first 11 km loop of the run course I knew it was going to be tight for me to finish under 11 hours. I got the news I was going to need to complete the second 11 km in about 40 minutes. For about 500m I cranked it up and then pulled back. My feet were now warm enough to feel but my hands were still numb. I settled into a pace that I knew was going to have me complete the race but without vomiting and collapsing at the finish line.
Coming into the final stretch of the run a cyclist passed me coming into T2. My heart sank. He still had his 22 km run to go and had probably spent over 10 hours on the bike. A true testament to the human spirit.
The final stretch of any race is always my favourite. No matter how I feel, even the day that dropped out of the Coastal Challenge suffering from kidney failure I gave it everything I had. Just over 11 and a half hours after my race began I came through the finish line completely and utterly satisfied even though I missed my goal.
I left every single piece of encouragement, every ounce of training, and every morsel of superficial fitness out on that course. Five years ago I would have told you it was impossible for any individual to self propel themselves 250km in 11.5 hours. No excuses, no disappointment and no belt buckle. Massive shout out to my girlfriend for the unbelievable race support and over the previous several months of training. She is some kind of wonderful. The conditions saw several people exit the swim with hypothermia, rain, sleet, hail and snow plagued the bike. My hands got so cold I couldn’t shift or brake. Chuck Norris isn’t a Leadman but Graham Snowden is.
Survival of the Fittest
Coast Mountain Trail Series organizers Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford you have out done yourselves. I have not had that much fun trail running in a long time and that is quite a statement. For nearly the entire Survival of the Fittest race all I could think about was that I was going to have to move to Squamish because the trails were that good.
Racing on back to back days (I ran Seek the Peak the day before and had completed a 95km cycle ride for the Leadman Triathlon) and the morning after some birthday festivities I was a little worse for wear at the start line but eager to sweat it off.
Leaving Quest University the route quickly climbed via a variety of switch backs offering spectacular views of the Tantalus Mountain Range. Diamond Head and Black Tusk frequently present themselves along this course. Rising up the Climb Trail, I took a few moments bending over next to a tree before ripping down some unbelievable single track. The course gracefully weaves it way along river beds, up and over wooded terrain, and through open valleys. Your feet dance across the varying terrain with snow capped mountains all around you. 3400 feet up and a giddy 3400 feet down.
The Coast Mountain Trail series in its first year has offered some great race options whether it be the relay at Buckin Hell, a tough 8km or 13km at Cap Crusher or the amazing scenery at Survival of the Fittest. The pictures below are just a few of the highlights from this magnificent course. I’m already looking forward to the 2014 Coast Mountain Trail Series.
Seek the Peak 2013
Seek the Peak is one of my favourite races and 2013 was no exception. A record 804 participants ran 16km from Ambleside Park in West Vancouver up 1225 meters to the peak of Grouse Mountain. The weather was much kinder this year than the past two. Bright, sunny and not too warm.
Leg 1 starts adjacent to the sports fields at Ambleside and connects to the Capilano Pacific Trail on a mix of asphalt, crushed gravel and short sections of wooded trail. After 4km the work begins with Leg 2 continuing up the CPT and then veering off onto the wooded Shinglebolt Trail. This section of trails rolls with some short technical descents. Agile and arguably fearless trail runners will make up some time here just remember to call your pass.
After rising up to grassy field at Capilano Dam the route trudges 1.6km up Nancy Greene Way – possibly one of the toughest parts of the course as it challenges you mentally. Fortunately on race day lots of people are out cheering you on, which is a huge help on the climb.
For some reason the Grouse Grind section to me almost feels like a reprieve. This may be because I love to climb and my legs have so much muscle memory in them that I can clear my head and turn the race over to my legs. The Grind is still the Grind though and it can really challenge you as racers scale 900m of elevation over 3km of distance. And the climbing isn’t over there.
The final leg takes you from the main Grouse Mountain chalet and wraps up to the peak before racers cut the breaks descending back down to the main chalet and finish area. This was my 3rd consecutive year racing Seek the Peak and there were some great highlights:
- an extra day to pick up race kit
- Raincoast Crisps in the swag bag
- pre-race warm up
- BC Cancer Foundation as the charitable partner
- helpful and energetic volunteers
- race medals for the first time
There are two main adjustments I would make from an organizational perspective:
- each of the past 3 years the finish line has been in different spot, which is completely fine however, you could not see the 2012 or 2013 finish lines until you were within about 30m of them. Having a sign on course with 400m – 500m to go would give runners an indication of how far they are and when to start their finishing kick.
- race photography, even if it is only the finish line, to me is key to a first class race experience.
Overall, I was very happy with the race and super impressed with the record participant turn out. I battle through a seized right calf to finish in 1:52:51 – a personal best!
Seek the Peak Promo Video
Seek the Peak is one of my favourite races – 16km almost 100% uphill rising from Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to the peak of Grouse Mountain.
BCMC for Boston
In the wake of the finish line tragedy at the 2013 Boston Marathon, I organized a quick fundraiser with proceeds going to the Boston Red Cross, who was first on the scene providing runners and spectators assistance.
Supporting Boston in the Marathon Tragedy - bc living magazine, April 16, 2013
Rock 101- Radio Interview - Rock 101, April 16, 2013
Lead Adventure Media
Lead Adventure Media was on hand to document the Going Coastal team during the 2013 Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica.
#TCC2013 Team Profile: Going Coastal - Lead Adventure Media, February 3, 2013