12.06.2008

Bummer...and an interesting piece on running/fitness

Tonite I had planned to take part in a 5k trail "prediction race" (after dark on the illuminated XC ski trails in the nearest state park).  This is an event that I could actually WIN, as the object of the race was not to be the first across the finish line, but to have the closest predicted race finish time and actual finish time.  Participants give the race director their predicted time, then run the race without benefit of pacing device...aka no watches or Garmins.  I'm generally very good at guesstimating my pace based upon perceived effort, so this is the sort of race that I truly would have a shot at placing in, even if I completely sandbagged the thing.

Anyhow...I just got an e-mail from the race director that said:

IMPORTANT UPDATE!

Prediction Run has been changed to 

Prediction Cross Country Ski


Damn.  We have all this it's-not-even-Winter-what's-up-with-all-this-damned-snow to thank! :(


So I guess I will be doing 5-6 miles this afternoon, instead.

__________


A poster on RunningAHEAD.com posted a link to the following article from MSN.  Interesting stuff.  Nothing too surprising to me, but the sort of thing that non-runners with apprehension towards the sport due to high-profile news stories surrounding marathon-related deaths could really benefit from reading.


I'm adding some commentary to the parts that struck me as interesting or relative to my own experiences since I started running almost 3 years ago.  The entire article can be found by clicking below:

Grave Concerns
Amby Burfoot, Runner's World:

Last fall was a tough time for those of us who believe running makes us healthier. The day after Shay's death, Matthew Hardy, 50, died of an apparent heart attack an hour or two after finishing the ING New York City Marathon in 4:48:21. A month earlier, Chad Schieber, 35, who'd been diagnosed with a heart defect (mitral-valve prolapse), had died in the unusually hot Chicago Marathon. These stories often get more attention than those of the race winners. And they always raise the question: If running is so damn healthy, why do runners keep dropping dead in their tracks? Statistically speaking, a handful of runners will die in a marathon this year—the vast majority from heart attacks (the others from heatstroke or hyponatremia). Is running—as the alarmists and cynics often suggest—a dangerous activity?

We've discussed this issue at length on Running AHEAD.  So far I have not run into non-runners who have tried to use these cases as "proof" that running is inherently dangerous.  I think most non-runners realize that these deaths are still rare and are only so high-profile BECAUSE they are unexpected in an otherwise healthy pursuit.  Sort of the "exceptions that make the rule" sort of scenarios.


Reams of research have shown that excess body fat increases mortality rates, but Blair is banking on his morning runs to protect him. His own findings offer much hope. Evidence from the ACLS indicates that the fit-but-fat are nearly as healthy as the fit-of-normal-weight. In other words, regular exercise offsets many of the dangers of being overweight. For that reason, Blair believes American public-health leaders should stop screeching from the rooftops about obesity and instead switch their message to the benefits of exercise. "When you look at me, you can tell I'm surprised and delighted by the fit-fat finding," says Blair. "But the point is, we're losing the obesity battle. So let's try something else. Let's focus on fitness."

I could not agree with this more.  My BMI hovers just barely below "overweight" for my height and build and has pretty much ever since I started running (I should be "eating to run," but I tend to "run to eat"--and too much...oops), yet my most recent bloodwork #s suggest a near elite athlete:
Cholesterol: 154
HDL: 70
LDL: 77
Triglycerides: 36
BP is generally ~ 100-110/60.  I often see stars if I stand up too fast.

My PCPs eyes nearly bugged-out when he looked at my #s, particularly my HDL/LDL ratio and my triglycerides.  On the outside I am a chubby mom, but on the inside I am a (slow) running machine.  Just imagine if I actually ate a truly "healthy" diet and dropped the 20#s that I need to to be at my ideal "skinny" weight of 126 (on my 5'3.5" muscular/stocky frame).


This doesn't discourage Williams. In one 1997 study of 8,283 male runners, he compared those running more than 50 miles a week with those running less than 10. The high-mileage guys were 2.5 times as likely to have heart-protective levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol, and 50 percent less likely to suffer from high blood pressure. Just six months ago in the Journal of Hypertension, Williams updated his information on running mileage and high blood pressure, now using data from more than 24,000 male runners. He looked at runners doing more than 25 miles a week versus those doing less than five. Depending on age, the higher-mileage runners had a 57 to 80 percent lower rate of high blood pressure, a major contributor to disease and death.

Yep. See my #s above. I have never had "high" blood pressure, but pre-running it was closer to the standard 120/80.


In Thompson's classic 1982 study of runners' heart-attack deaths in the state of Rhode Island, he found that a runner's relative risk of dying during a workout was about seven times that of dying in front of the TV. It amounted to one death for every 396,000 hours of running, almost exactly the same rate found decades later in several marathon studies. This doesn't mean that running caused the deaths. It would be more accurate to say that artery disease caused the deaths, and running was merely the trigger. Here's why: Another Rhode Island study showed that the blizzard of February 1978 touched off a mini-epidemic of snow-shoveling deaths. A week later, however, heart-attack deaths dropped below normal levels. In other words, after all the people with advanced artery disease had died, there were few diseased hearts left.

That last bit...wow. Kinda grisly, but it makes sense. Sort of a "survival of the fittest" thing with the weakest having already being picked-off by the predatory heart-disease + bad weather beast. Every Winter we hear stories here in the Great White North of "grabbers" taking shovelers right in their own driveways. It's not the act of shoveling that kills these individuals, but existing heart disease due to genetics and/or lack of physical fitness. Shoveling is not a dangerous activity to a healthy individual any more than running is to someone who is healthy. But no matter how fit one looks on the outside, if their heart is weakened by inactivity or genetics they are at risk of death. Running and other physical activity merely helps to remove the one risk factor we have within our control.


This can happen even to fit runners with low cholesterol who've passed a stress test in the last 48 hours. Still, the occasional exercise death doesn't change the advice for healthy living. "If you want to live a long, vigorous life, you should do an hour of moderate exercise a day," says Thompson."If your only goal is to survive the next hour of your life, you should get into bed—alone."

Boy...ain't that the truth!? :D

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