Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 Year in review

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Now that we are very near the finish line of 2013, I thought it was time for a review of the past year. 2013 was a good year for me as far as joggling goes. Overall, I have run at least 1,200 miles this year. I only started closely tracking my mileage recently, so this is a rough, conservative estimate. About 90% of the time when I am out running, I am also juggling.

I also ran my first 2 marathons this year, the Yonkers Marathon and the Brooklyn Marathon, completing both of them in under 4 hours, while juggling. I also ran an unofficial “ultra” marathon of 28.5 miles from 42nd street in the middle of Manhattan up to Tarrytown, New York with a group of some very awesome runners. These runs were all a lot of fun! I got interviewed about my marathon joggling by podcaster/blogger/avid outdoorsman Steve Stearns over at Outside Health and Fitness. I also got interviewed by Perry Romanowski, a very accomplished joggler and scientist, over at Just Your Average Joggler.

The Wild Juggling blog has also grown during this time. It now has over 700 followers, 318 published posts, and nearly 30,000 page views. Some of my most popular posts from this year are:

And there are many others. It feels great being told I am inspirational, both by vegan and non-vegan athletes. It also feels wonderful destroying myths about veganism with all the distance joggling I do. I will definitely do many more marathons in 2014 and a lot of other fun, crazy things.

I’d like to thank all my friends for your advice, inspiration, and encouragement. You help make Wild Juggling and my marathon running possible. I wish you well with your blogs, your running, and your plans for the new year!

Red hair and prostate cancer risk

Prince Harry, natural redhead

Prince Harry, natural redhead

Read enough about health and you will stumble upon some weird, difficult to explain correlations. The latest that I’ve found is what appears to be a lower risk of prostate cancer in men with red hair, according to the British Journal of Cancer:

Prostate cancer risk did not differ by eye colour or skin phototype. Men with naturally red hair were significantly less likely to develop prostate cancer (HR=0.46, 95% CI 0.24-0.89) than men with light brown hair (reference).

And they have no idea why. At least they’re honest, I prefer honesty over pretending to know the answer to something. Anyway, they suspect high vitamin D levels may be protecting redheads from cancer, since red hair and very light skin tend to go together, and light skin is better at absorbing the type of sun rays that stimulate vitamin D production. Unfortunately, this of course may mean that redheads are at a higher risk for skin cancer.

On the other hand, black men tend to have a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. This may be due to a mixture of genetic and socio-economic factors.

Red hair is relatively uncommon, even in Europe. Among Europeans, it is estimated that about 4% have red hair while it is much more common in the British Isles and Ireland.

Redheads are often stereotyped as being hot-headed or passionate, though I do not know if there is any truth to this. Whatever the case may be, many influential people from history and a lot of celebrities are natural redheads – Famous Redheads Throughout History

Merry Christmas!

Screenshot from 2013-12-25 09:56:28Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a great time with your family and friends, and I also hope Santa has been good to all of you. If you’re running today, that’s fantastic!

Above all, I wish for a more peaceful, and healthy new year.

Breaking distance record on Christmas Eve

Screenshot from 2013-12-24 17:19:0828.79 miles – The most miles I’ve ever run. According to some people, this makes it an “ultra-run” since it is more than a marathon. It took me and the Meet-Up group I ran with 5:37 to complete, but this was due to it being a casual kind of run, not a fierce competition. We also stopped many times to get snacks or water from stores along the route, to take photos, to make jokes, and to make sure the group stayed together. And by chance, we ran into VincentĀ Chiappetta, co-founder of the NYC Marathon in Van Courtlandt Park! We chatted with him a bit. He’s in great shape, though he told us he is more of a walker than runner these days.

The run started in Bryant Park on 42nd street at 8 AM which is in Midtown Manhattan and very close to Times Square, and ended in Tarrytown, New York. We went north on 6th avenue, through Central Park(first time I joggled through there), then along the Hudson river, then into the Bronx, then crossed into Westchester county and ran north along the Old Croton Aqueduct trail.

It was an amazing group of runners, everyone from the slowest to the fastest was very enthusiastic and supportive. Some onlookers were also very supportive. Helen and Mike who I finished with(only 3 out of the 8 runners who attended completed the entire run) are accomplished ultra-runners, and it felt great running with such accomplished, inspiring people. They offered a lot of great advice, and I could feel their energy as I trailed them by a few feet.

The weather was cold and dry, but it was clear skies through the entire run. I felt the Christmas spirit in the air, which provided a little extra warmth. The Croton trail wasn’t as muddy as I thought it was going to be due to all the recently melted snow and rain. I juggled for maybe 75% to 80% of the time, since I would eat or drink sometimes while running, and some areas were too crowded or rocky. I dropped the balls I think 4 times. I feel a little sore now; I had a little trouble going up and down stairs after the run.

All in all a great experience – it feels great to have broken through another distance barrier. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Yaktrax Walker Traction Device

IMG_2269Winter is finally here!

One of the biggest challenges facing distance runners during the winter is all the snow and ice on their running routes. In some areas it can be so bad that they have no choice but to run on a treadmill, which is what I did just a few days ago. Although I got my “miles” in, it’s really not the same thing as a long run in the outdoors, at least to me. I need to actually go somewhere, I need the fresh air, I need the outdoors, I need the wise guys saying “you can only juggle 3?!”. On the treadmill I felt like the human version of a hamster running on a hamster wheel.

So I decided I had to do something to improve my traction when running on snow and ice. I picked up a pair of the Yaktrax Walker Traction Device at the local sporting good store for $20(for 1 pair), which makes them one of the cheapest traction enhancers. Instead of spikes like other traction enhancers, it uses rings of metal(abrasion resistant 1.2 mm steel coils) around rubber to help improve your traction as you walk or run on snow and ice.

IMG_2271It’s very easy to put them on your sneakers. Simply hook the front section of the traction device to the front of your shoe, then stretch it out toward the back to fasten it. It comes in many sizes, XS, S, M, and L, so if you’re looking to buy one make sure you get the right size. Since my sneakers are 8.5, I got a S.

I’ve used them a few times and I immediately noticed an improvement. I am running faster over snow and ice without slipping, even in areas where I would usually slip or slide. I nearly fell in the river last time due to the ice on this hilly stretch of my usual route, but it was like the ice wasn’t there this time, thanks to the Yaktrax.

They feel a bit awkward at first, but I quickly got used to them. They are very easy to remove. Sometimes I fear they may slip off if I run in them enough, but nothing like this has happened so far. I hope they last until the end of the winter, if not into next winter. I’ll keep everyone posted on how long they last.

With the right attitude and the right equipment, outdoor distance running is possible is virtually any condition.

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Being yourself

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can white button mushrooms enhance immunity?

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White button mushrooms. Source: public domain

It’s that time of year again when many of us come down with the cold or flu. And as often as we pass around disease-causing germs, we also pass around advice on how to prevent and/or treat the cold or flu. Most of the advice I hear, beyond the usual getting enough rest, drinking plenty of fluids and hot soup are worthless. There are so many different foods and herbs that are said to boost the immune system, but in this post I thought we would look at a commonly eaten mushroom to see if it is helpful.

According to the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA, in Dietary supplementation with white button mushroom enhances natural killer cell activity in C57BL/6 mice:

These results suggest that increased intake of white button mushrooms may promote innate immunity against tumors and viruses through the enhancement of a key component, NK(natural killer) activity. This effect might be mediated through increased IFNgamma and TNFalpha production.

Natural killer cells are important components of the immune system. They help fight both tumors and virus; low levels of NK cells may make you more susceptible to catching a cold or other illnesses. Since white button mushrooms(Agaricus bisporus) appear to enhance NK cell activity, it is tempting to extrapolate that it may help prevent or treat the cold or flu. At this point, this kind of conclusion would be preliminary, but since I already love mushrooms I think I will eat just a little more than usual these days.

If you want to include more mushrooms in your diet, make sure you cook them first, since they tend to contain natural carcinogens(like agaritine) that are fortunately broken down by heat. Shiitake mushrooms are probably a better choice than white button mushrooms since they seem to have more medicinal properties and fewer carcinogens.

Distance running in the cold

20 mile run to Rye, New York in frigid cold

20 mile run to Rye, New York in frigid cold

Although it is not officially winter, it sure feels like it outside. With temperatures across the U.S below the freezing mark, many runners and other outdoor exercisers may lose their enthusiasm for exercising in the outdoors. The shorter days don’t help either. For a lot of people who ordinarily exercise outdoors, this means heading to the gym to stay fit for the winter.

As for me, nothing can replace outdoor exercise. I’m a distance runner, and treadmills just don’t feel “right” to me. Sure I may be a little slower when running trails since my lungs don’t function optimally in the cold, dry air, there’s snow on the ground sometimes and ice patches galore, but these should be seen as opportunities rather than obstacles. The snow can be a little difficult to run on, but it can help build stamina; icy areas can help you improve your balance. The fierce, cold winds may do all they can to force you back inside, but if you are dressed in enough layers and psychologically ready, you will have the last laugh.

And that is really the key to running outdoors. Dress properly, wear enough layers – but not too many. This may require experimenting, but you don’t want to wear so many that you weigh yourself down or feel uncomfortable, and you also don’t want to wear so little that you freeze your butt off after running for 5 minutes. Don’t forget to drink water or fluids before or after a run, since you will be sweating a lot under your clothing even if you don’t notice it. Don’t forget to wear a hat, especially if it goes below the freezing point!

For me, just 3 layers is enough if it is in the 20s, though maybe you will need more. A regular cotton undershirt, long-sleeved running shirt, heavy sweat shirt, sweat pants and a hat helped me stay warm during yesterday’s 20 mile(32 km) run. Oh and some heavy gloves. Yesterday’s high temperature was about 27 F or -2.7(it was actually much colder when I started the run). I dressed similarly when I ran as it was snowing a few days ago, though I only ran for 13.49 miles.

If you are new to running in snow, or in icy conditions, take it easy the first few times. Be very careful. If it is really icy, you may want to seriously consider buying something for your sneakers to help improve traction. I don’t have anything like this, but I may get something eventually.

Don’t worry if you are running slower than usual because of the cold air. This happens to virtually everyone, and by spring you should find yourself running as fast as last spring or faster.

The cold is not a good excuse to stop outdoor exercise!

Vaccinate! – Over 100 Years of Data Tells Us Why

This is such a well-written, informative post I thought I would reblog it rather than do my own post on vaccinations. I am pretty much in full agreement with this.

Sciency Things

Contagious diseases have been making headlines recently, withresurgences of measles in Walesand pertussis in the US, despite these diseases being entirely preventable and under vaccination programmes. Parental concern over the risk-benefit balance of vaccines have been blamed for under-vaccination, for example here. The resistance to vaccines and lack of immunization are implicated in the repeated resurgence of polio.

A recent analysis of a massive dataset, totaling nearly 88 million individual reports, is a reminder why vaccination programmes are so important. Project Tycho digitized the weekly surveillance reports of notifiable diseases in the US published between 1888 and 2011, and made them publically available. In addition to the disease contracted and when, the data also includes the location.

The researchers focused in on 8 contagious diseases that have been subjected to vaccine programmes: smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A, diphtheria and pertussis. In each caseā€¦

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Photos from the Brooklyn Marathon

Here are some photos from the rainy Brooklyn Marathon last month:

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Thanks to Ken Shelton at Ken Shelton Photography for the photos! In case you are new here, yes, I did juggle the entire time and finished in under 4 hours(3:52:33). I think I am about 95% recovered from this marathon. I already did a 20 mile run last week without much difficulty. Thanks to my friends and followers for your advice and inspiration!