2012 Manhattan Half Marathon

This was not the triumph I’d been hoping for.

9:07am, about 6 miles in, 23°F on the CNN clockI’d built this race up in my head quite a bit, convincing myself that this one would redeem last year’s injury hampered race. Despite those thoughts, I wasn’t able to train adequately. It likely wouldn’t have mattered anyway, temperatures dropped suddenly and my body never had a chance to adjust to running below-freezing yet. My left knee threw a cold-related tantrum near mile 8, tightening up and never letting go. The last few miles were something of a death march. These things happen sometimes, even with perfect training.

So why did I build this one up? After a fantastic running year in 2010, I went into 2011’s Manhattan Half with a mild foot ache and finished with a stress fracture. Probably two fractures, but the X-ray only showed one at the time. The spot where my foot gave out in 2011 has been haunting me ever since. Just past Cedar Hill behind the Met. 2012’s race was supposed to be when I confronted that demon and put it to rest.

The weather would have none of it. Saturday was the first snowstorm of the winter. Not a big storm, but cold, windy and with enough snow to mess things up a bit. Like the subway, but more on that later. NYRR switched the race to an unscored, non-competitive run; participants would get 9+1 credit whether we ran it or not. After the first lap one of the NYRR organizers was telling people to bag it at 7 miles. I didn’t. Again at 12 miles, an organizer said the last mile was too slippery and to stop early. I’d been fighting my stupid knee for too long to quit there, so again, I kept going. After two hours in a blizzard with a crap leg, this level of psychological torture was sort of existentially comical.

The race started out well, it was snowing, windy and 23° but everyone who braved the elements was in a great mood. This was my first snow run of the year, so my footwear situation was untested. This seemed like too long a run, and likely too wet, to try huaraches and socks in the snow for the first time. I ended up wearing a pair of wool Injinji socks and Soft Star DASH moccasins. The combination seemed fine, I had a similar cold knee issue a few weeks ago in huaraches, so I don’t blame the shoes.

Running in snow is hard work. At the finish I heard someone say it was like running on sand. I didn’t think it was that bad, but my heart rate was significantly elevated the whole time. Trouble sleeping the night before also didn’t help. Still, I didn’t “bonk” or run out of energy, and had my knee cooperated, I don’t think I would have.

Even after finishing with my worst Half Marathon time ever, the day just wouldn’t let up. Thanks to subway and bus troubles, I ended up finishing the morning with a 1.5 mile slog across 14th St. By the time I got home my feet were soaked, I was very cold and very tired.

But in the end, none of that mattered. It was an insane, amazing morning, and while not the triumph I was hoping for, it was a triumph nonetheless.

I’m looking forward to doing it again–and better–in 2013.

Postscript: Two days later I found myself running along the East River, no shirt, no shoes, and smiling in the sun. This has been a crazy winter.


Are Lavender and Tea Tree Oils estrogenic?

There’s a bit of a monster pesticide-resistant lice epidemic going around New York City, it seems like every school near us is infested. Last week, a third of my younger daughter’s class had lice. We didn’t.

Besides regular comb outs and wearing their hair up or in braids, we’ve been applying aromatic oils to our daughters’ heads before school. The mix of oils was recommended by a friend:

  • Tea tree, lemongrass & lavender in apricot kernel oil (25% dilution)
  • Put a couple of drops on your hands, rub palms together & then pat it on the hair.
  • Avoid contact with skin
  • Definitely avoid contact with eyes!

I mentioned the oils to some other parents and emailed it to the class. This morning the classroom smelled like tea tree oil.

But one parent mentioned some concern about estrogenic qualities of lavender and tea tree oils. This was troubling me so I did some research. Check out the most thorough essential oils guide

From what I found, the concern about tea tree and lavender originated with this 2007 observational study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM):

Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils

NEJM received several critical letters about the study which should be read too.

This was foremost an observational study, and the author’s conclusions seem loosely drawn from the results of three cases. (Gynecomastia is enlarged breasts in males) From their abstract:

We investigated possible causes of gynecomastia in three prepubertal boys who were otherwise healthy and had normal serum concentrations of endogenous steroids. In all three boys, gynecomastia coincided with the topical application of products that contained lavender and tea tree oils. Gynecomastia resolved in each patient shortly after the use of products containing these oils was discontinued.

First issue with the study is that not all three cases were exposed to tea tree and lavender, here’s what they mention in the text:

  • patient 1: “healing balm” containing lavender oil
  • patient 2: regular use of styling gel and shampoo containing tea tree and lavender oils
  • patient 3: lavender scented soap and occasional lavender lotions

Only one of the three of their observed subjects even recorded contact with tea tree oil.

As pointed out in the letters, there’s virtually no mention of dietary factors. Soy is known to have estrogenic effects and processed soy products are in everything these days.

Experiments using breast cancer cells to measure estrogenic effects seem to only vaguely apply to gene-expression in boys.

Both oils stimulate ERE-dependent luciferase activity in a dose-dependent manner, with the maximum activity observed at 0.025% volume per volume (vol/vol) for each oil, corresponding to approximately 50% of the activity elicited by 1 nM 17β-estradiol. Treatment with higher doses of the oils was cytotoxic.

The most extreme numbers were collected at the maximum possible oil dose before the cells they were treating were poisoned so much they died. I have no idea what that dosing would be to a human, but I suspect there’d be significant physical reaction before getting to that point.

Presenting their findings as “Average fold increase above control” without the actual numbers can be suspect. An increase from 0.02 to 0.06 is a three-fold increase, but still relatively insignificant.

Also, the delivery vehicle used in testing, dimethylsulfoxide, is suspected of having estrogenic effects:

Our data show that DMSO-induced significant increase in ERα, ERβ, Vtg and Zr-protein genes in a time-dependent manner. Indirect ELISA analysis showed a time-specific effect of DMSO. The use of DMSO as carrier solvent in fish endocrine disruption studies should be re-evaluated.

Most tea tree oil studies in PubMed seem to be related to its anti-fungal qualities or efficacy as a delivery vehicle for topical medications. I did find one study which looked at transdermal absorption of tea tree oil and found that very little passes through the skin:

…only a small quantity of TTO components, 1.1–1.9% and 2–4% of the applied amount following application of a 20% TTO solution and pure TTO, respectively, penetrated into or through human epidermis.

I believe this study looking at the effects of dietary soy proteins on tumor growth demonstrates greater estrogenic effects of dietary soy protein isolate than the tea tree oil study showed with direct in vitro exposure.

NYC Barefoot Run Weekend 2011

Sunday was the second annual NYC Barefoot Run, and the cap on a very unique, very fun weekend. In spite of a forecast of potentially heavy rain, the weather was perfect.

I ran three loops, or as Chris H. said (a line I’m gleefully stealing) “I had three wonderful conversations.” I’m still nursing some old ankle injuries (shoe-related) and some of the laps were a lot faster than I’ve been comfortably running lately, otherwise I would have kept going. But I couldn’t have asked for better company.

My main takeaway of the weekend was how much the idea of barefooting has grown in the past two years. Sure we’re still out on the fringe, but it’s a rapidly exploding fringe which is transforming lives around the world.

I really enjoyed meeting and catching up with old and new friends, putting faces on names and being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded people whose radical diversity was unified by our hyper-capable genome. And toes.

Thank you to Maggie and John Durant and all the organizers and volunteers who put this together. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Four times, one morning every year

Four times one morning every year I go downstairs to the sidewalk and stand in silence with the men and women of the fire station across the street from our apartment.

8:46. 9:03. 9:59 and 10:28. This year they also stood for Flight 93 at 10:03 and may also have commemorated the Pentagon at 9:39, but I didn’t know to check. This is the right thing to do, it wasn’t just New York City.

Across the street, the younger firefighters might have been kids in 2001. Ten years is a long time. Our oldest daughter was born six months after the towers fell. Children who were her age on that day are now soldiers, police and firemen. I’ve seen how tragedies and catastrophes on the other side of the world have affected my own kids. I can’t began to imagine how difficult it was for children to deal with an atrocity down the street.

I did not know what I was going to feel today. But as I stood there, my thoughts kept coming back to the selflessness on display. The stories of heroism and sacrifice on September 11th must have inspired the direction of their lives.

So, perhaps strangely, this year instead of a pervasive feeling of loss and sadness, I find myself filled with a sense of hope and pride in humanity. We remember the act of hatred, destruction and mass murder, but what we commemorate and honor is the spirit of what makes mankind so spectacular.

Ten years: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

Trash TVs

Analog television broadcasts ended in the United States at midnight on June 12, 2009. As people slowly switched to newer TVs, their old televisions were often tossed out with the trash. I started taking pictures of discarded televisions around my neighborhood.

Below are 20 most recent images from my Trash TVs Flickr set.

If you’re getting rid of an old TV, please find an electronics recycling location in your area.

Dirty Webcam

Caught me.

1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run

On Sunday October 10th, I’ll be running in the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run on Governors Island. (see update below)

I’ve been torn for the past couple weeks about whether or not to do this, since it’s exact same time as the Staten Island Half-Marathon.

Each year NYRR organizes five half-marathons in NYC, one for each borough. I was too late to sign up for the NYC (Manhattan) Half in March, but I ran the Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx races and really enjoyed the experience and am proud of accomplishment. Is easy to participate if you have a place to stay near all these races, you can always find cool obx rentals around the country that fit perfect for this occasions.

But there can only be one first.

There will be another Staten Island Half next year and really there couldn’t be a more appropriate date: 10-10-10.

The barefoot run with Chris McDougall last month was a fantastic experience. Great people and just a ridiculous amount of fun. Chris can’t make it, but Barefoot Ted (ironically, a fellow ACCD alum) and Dr. Daniel Lieberman will be.

There’s a registration cap of 500 participants, so if you’re interested, don’t wait.

Update: Unfortunately, I had to travel unexpectedly and will be unable to attend the run. I wish everyone the best and will put in some barefoot miles Sunday so I can at least say I was there in spirit.

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