August 27, 2010

Chasing Clouds

Early Thundercloud 

Here are a few images of some of the clouds I've been chasing lately for an upcoming video I'm working on.  I've watched a few amazing thunderstorms in the last few days.  There is nothing like seeing lightening strike in front of you while sitting on a mountain to get the old heart rate going....hell, it beats doing hill repeats!

The video is evolving, but it will incorporate some cool time lapse techniques and a taste of nature, which I consider to be one of my greatest sources of motivation to run.  While I hope you enjoy it, I really hope you are motivated by it!  Be sure to give me your feedback!

The Real Deal

August 16, 2010

The Science of Running and Memory

“There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third.” 
Timothy Leary 

This just in….you don’t have to drop acid for enhanced long-term memory.  Sorry Mr. Leary.  Acid is out.   New method is in.  What is it?  Just step outside your front door.  Seriously.  But make sure you’ve got running shoes on. 

It’s been nearly two years since I ran the Grand Canyon.  Yet my mind continues to drift back to that day, enamored by its majestic vistas, sandy beaches along the Colorado, narrow trails etched in the sheer cliffs.  It was great day for all that dared to go the distance.  I hope to hold on to that memory for a long time.

Of course there are memories I’d just rather forget.  Like the time I performed a perfect swan dive on the steep downhill along Santiago trail.  I remember yelling like a child before I hit the ground.  Boy did my palms get torn up.  It wasn’t the best career move either.  A little awkward at the office shaking hands with scabs the size of meatballs on my palms.

Of course the aging process shows no mercy, and it’s just a matter of time before our memories fade. But if you’re a runner you’ll be happy to hear that you now have science your side. It was once believed by neurobiologists that the human brain, upon reaching adulthood, was incapable of generating new cells.  At this point it was thought brain cells could only die off, never to be replaced. That was until scientific studies in recent decades proved otherwise. 

The human brain is three times the size of other mammals of equivalent body size and has somewhere between 50 – 100 billion neurons.  Deep in our brains is a section called the hippocampus which, among other things, is responsible for long- term memory and spatial navigation (finding your way around a city or, in the case of a rat, through a labyrinth). What’s unique about the hippocampus is that it is one of the areas of the brain that science has discovered is capable of generating new cells.

Scientists have also learned recently that running plays a large role in the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, and in improving memory.  A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that running increased brain cell formation in the hippocampus section of the brain in mice.  Its method was quite simple but very revealing.  One group of mice was given unlimited access to a running wheel. This group of mice voluntarily clocked an average of 15 miles a day! The other group didn’t have access to an exercise contraption, and was sedentary during the study. 

The results were clear. The study identified that running contributed to the generation of hundreds of thousands of new cells in the brains of the running mice. More importantly, along with the new grey matter came an enhanced mental capacity.     The running mice scored nearly twice as high as their sedentary counterparts in a memory test.  The greatest improvement came later in the experiment when the test became progressively more difficult for the mice.

While the results of the Cambridge study are clear—that running stimulates the growth of new brain cells—science is yet to figure out how or why this happens.  Some postulate that it’s the result of increased blood flow to the brain.  Others believe its because running limits the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which happens to be linked to the shrinking of the hippocampus.  

So when someone at your next dinner party asks you why you run, it might be appropriate to ask them first if they can remember your name.  If they can’t, then tell them they now have their answer.  

August 8, 2010

Log Chute, Snow Summit

Once in a while I carry my camera (Panasonic DMC_LX3) with me on runs.  I do this to force myself to look at what's around me. I'm always glad when I do.  Today I was climbing up the face of the ski run Log Chute at Snow Summit located in Big Bear Lake, California.  Have you ever been to a ski resort in the summer?  Its not a bad time of year to visit one.  No people, no traffic, no stress.  Just blue sky, warm air and awesome scenery.

These are just a few shots of what I saw around me.

August 6, 2010

Investigation of Cycling Hero Intensifies

Call it destiny, bad luck, fate, innuendo, jealousy, or simple justice, Lance Armstrong's empire is at risk of falling faster than Barry Bonds' bid for the Hall of Fame.  Empire?  Yes, seven straight victories at the Tour de France, an empire built on a certain rise from the ashes, a defiance of the grim reaper, a cult of confidence.  Is this possible?  Everyone seemed to be looking around, wondering.  He's never tested positive....he's the hardest working athlete...he's got the best team....he's...he's...he's BEING INVESTIGATED BY THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, PEOPLE!

I'm not going to to go any further with this, but check this out if you want more...