It Starts With Food – Book Review

I received an advanced copy of Dallas and Melissa’s new book It Starts With Food on Friday night. By the time I had gone to bed I had read the first five chapters. This doesn’t surprise me, I’ve been a fan of their writing for quite some time and have probably read every blog post they have written for the last two years over at They have a way with words, and a way with dissemination.

Having also read pretty much every nutrition based book on the market at this point, I was curious how the Hartwigs would add something new to the deluge of information available. What they’ve done in It Starts With Food is to simply removed the dogmatic Paleo or Vegan or Low Carb nonsense and focus on what the science tells us, asking simply “Does consuming this food make you more healthy or less healthy?” – wonderfully straight forward.

The chore becomes, making the science understandable to the layperson. While reading any nutrition book I am constantly assessing whether the book would make sense to a coaching client, to my sister, to my mother, etc. The answer in this case is a resounding YES, and it’s the very same reason I think this book is a must read. (As an aside my mother is now down to her “high school weight” after applying these principles)

To make things a bit easier to grasp, the Hartwigs supply ample analogies as breadcrumbs along the path. Take for example the brilliance of comparing a damaged, leaky gut, to damaged, leaky skin from a road rash. Both cause an auto-immune response, one you can see and one you can’t, but both now susceptible to foreign invaders – top notch stuff.

I also enjoyed how each chapter started with a short testimonial of affirmation, like this one from Chapter 16:

“I had almost every diet related disease – breast cancer, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I was also about seventy pounds over-weight and almost completely sedentary. Since I started the Whole30 I have lost twenty-four pounds. I am completely off my diabetes medication and my high blood pressure medication. I had a checkup with my oncologist today, and he asked me he asked me what I was doing to look so much better. I told him about Whole30 and he said it was wonderful that I was eating real food, and doing it for health, not just to lose weight. He told me to keep it up!” ~ Beth T., Richmond, TX
Powerful stuff.

The chapter on Dairy was particularly well written. The biology of the calcium-dairy story is often misunderstood. They lay out what milk is, why humans need it, and more importantly when they don’t. I often find myself in conversations with women who are completely locked into the idea that without dairy, they would be too brittle to get out of bed. The Hartwigs break down the complex picture…

“Kale is more bio-available source of calcium than milk.”

“Acute restriction of protein reduces calcium absorption and maybe associated with significantly higher rates of bone density loss.”

“Adequate protein on the other hand increases calcium absorption.”

I of course dog-eared these pages for my friends to read prone or supine, whichever they prefer. I know a book is good if it looks like a beginner’s origami project when I’m done, and this one did. I think this book will reach a wide range of folks. It doesn’t address any specific niche, but is written for people who want to get healthy and be the best version of themselves, and well… It Starts With Food.

Nutritionist Amy Kubalsaid sums it up nicely, “This is not some fad diet that cuts calories to a ridiculous level and prescribes pills and powders–there is nothing for sale but health.” Pick up a copy and see for yourself.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now, and will ship June 12, 2012.

Two American Classics, One Canadian Classic

Jen Segger starting the Zion Traverse – Zion Nation Park, UT

Eons ago I used to do adventure races. I raced on a pretty successful team. A lot of that success was due to the females we raced with. Adventure racing is generally a four person team, mandatory co-ed. This always meant that a strong adventure racing team – a team in it for a win – was always comprised of three men and one extremely talented woman.

Jen Segger was that very talented woman on my team back in the day. She was tough as nails. Fast forward seven years and we’ve both moved through our various endurance sports, and we’ve both ended up focusing on ultrarunning. Jen’s on team salomon, me on team Montrail.

Jen was coming down to my hood to crew Slater Fletcher at the Zion 100 (May 11th) and really wanted to run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim route for her first time. Being that I was meeting her in Zion, there was no way we couldn’t run across Zion National Park, the Zion Traverse as it’s called. This route has seen a surge in popularity lately with some big names attempting to break speed records. It’s even on the cover Trail Runner Magazine this month.

With a limited amount of time, we decided to try and sneak both in. We ended up pretty much doing them back to back. Zion Traverse 48 miles across the park, sleep, wakeup, drive to South Rim of Grand Canyon, nap for 1hr, then at 11pm head torches blazing we descended into the big hole

I hope we just started a new thing – Back to Back’ing two Adventure Running Classics. Now go get some.

Jen wrote about our adventures over at her blog as well: Zion Traverse & Grand Canyon

Montrail Bajada Trail Shoe Review by Christian Johnson

Montrail Bajada Review

When I started running trails back in 2005 I bought a pair of Montrail Vitesse and thought they were the best shoes ever made. Hindsight being 20/20 I realize just how clunky the Vitesse (meaning “speed” in french) actually were. Since then I’ve tried numerous models of Montrails from the Hardrock tankers to the lightweight Rogue Racers and despite it’s lack of durability one of my old favorites was the Masai. Probably because it was the lightest shoe I had tried on the trail at the time and it didn’t seem to bind my foot to a certain shape. I mention this because the newly released Bajada reminds me an awful lot of the old Masai in more ways than one
The pre-release hype around the Bajada was mostly geared around the idea that it was a more protective version of the Rogue Racer and that had me pretty excited since I really enjoy the Rogue’s but just can’t tolerate them on rough, long trail runs. For rougher terrain I used the Masochist but never really fell in love with the shoe. There are aspects of it that I like such as the protection underfoot, the cushion and stable platform but the upper just doesn’t agree with my foot all the time. The extinct Masai and newer Rogue’s lack the protection and cushion but have great uppers that are much more comfortable.
The Bajada is the best of both shoes with a comfortable upper (that has absolutely no durabiilty, see Upper section), plenty of cushion with protection and an improved outsole that actually maintains grip. With the added features the weight is increased a bit over it’s little brother, the Rogue Racer’s by ~3 oz, coming in at 10 oz. each for size 8’s. As for sizing, the Bajada’s run a bit large so I would suggest going down by a 1/2 size from most other models. For instance I wear an 8.5 in the Rogue’s and Masochist’s, but a size 8 was perfect for the Bajada’s. They are priced just above the $100 mark which is right on par with other shoes of this caliber.
The Outsole: Montrail uses rubber compound they call Gryptonite that I have found to be less than “grippy” in wet or muddy conditions. Personally I think the grip has more to do with the lug pattern than the rubber compound, but what I do I know, I’m just a runner. The Bajada’s use a similar pattern to the Rogue Racers, a 3-pointed lug, but with twice the depth which is actually quite effective. They’re still not ideal in slippery conditions but seem to work better than the Masochist. The small “blocks” are reinforced on the right side of the heel where many of my shoes have shown significant wear in the past. After 250 miles the outsole is still holding up strong.
The Midsole: The midsole feels a lot like the Masochist. Plenty of cushion and protection with about a 9mm heel to toe drop. The energy return is noticeable, especially after wearing more minimal shoes. The midsole still feels new after 250 miles and shows no signs of collapse or unusual wear.
The Upper: Reinforced plastic provides support in the mesh upper with a lightweight but protective toe counter. A padded tongue keeps the top of the foot happy, but the narrow toe box had my toes smashed on the first steep descent. Part of it was because the laces had come a little bit loose but no matter, the next steep descent I experienced toe bang once again. I should point out I had plenty of room in front of my toes, in fact slightly more than 1/2 inch. Despite the toe bang I was really enjoying the shoe until I started to feel more and more debris rattling around inside. As I stopped to clean out the shoe one day I noticed a tear developing on the inside, near the arch where the plastic support joins the mesh upper. Both shoes had torn completely open after 150 miles. The toe also showed some similar wear issues, although it did not tear completely through.
Unfortunately this is where I draw the other comparison with the Masai; lack of durability. There is clearly a problem with the interface between the plastic and mesh. After tearing the plastic completely loose I find it hard to believe that the plastic is actually doing anything in the first place since it anchored little more than 2mm of contact. I ended up taping the shoe and continuing for another 100 miles just to see if I could wear out anything else on the shoe but the upper proved to be the weak point. Although I did manage to develop two huge heel blisters from the excessive foot movement now that the shoe was blown wide open.
Overall I really like the shoe, but I can’t possibly purchase another pair knowing they will only last 150 miles before they blow out the upper. Fix the upper and I would run in this shoe again without a second thought.

You might also like Christian’s review of the Montrail Rogue Racer from March 2011.

2011-2012 Winter Photos – It wasn’t all bad

Photos from what I’m writing off as a disappointing winter. It’s nice to see there were, in fact, quite a few gems in there.

Kim Havell and Evan Caplis Cardiff Fork, Flakes

 Mike Dawson & Chad Brackelsberg setting Wasatch PowderKeg Course

Comin’ in Hot!

PowderKeg Course setting off Wolverine & below Tuscarora Peak

Dawson putting in the boot pack off Great Western

Mark and Emily Booting

Evan Caplis Cardiff

Rockin the skinny skis in the shadow of Dragon Tail Peak in the Stuart Range, Cascade Alpine Wilderness

A Life Ascending – Ptarmigan Films

The gang at Ptarmigan Films sent me a copy of their award winning movie A Life Ascending.  It’s a timely tale for the winter we are having and the backcountry death we’ve seen this season.  Since friend and inspiration Steve Romeo’s death I’m having trouble mentally squaring the inherent risk involved with a life lived in the mountains.  I’m struck by the dissonance of something so deadly that quite simply breaths so much life into me.

“Regardless of how much you know, you cannot make the mountain safe.” ~ Ruedi Beglinger

World class guide Ruedi Beglinger, his wife and their two daughters own and operate the Selkirk Mountain Experience in B.C.  The movie chronicles their lives and the tragic events of the class III avalanche that took seven of their clients in 2003.  I hope to interview the director soon.

Age or Glands?

I’m pulled from dream land into the semi-conscious by the light just barely peaking in through the black-out shades that cover my bedroom windows. I know when light hits my skin hormones are dispatched in an ancient dance to rouse me out of bed. I picture cortisol marching around banging pots with spoons somewhere inside me. Assessing whether or not I feel like getting up, I think, “these hormones are either impotent or non-existent”. My next thought, “ god when something bad happens”. 
This makes me smile as I consider how clever I am. It also makes me picture my friend YM scolding me with, “Dude, does it always have to be about of god?”.  I’m somewhat obsessed with Theology, much to the distaste of many of my friends.
I’m working on it.
Laying there I wonder, “Do I have adrenal fatigue? Is there even such a thing as adrenal fatigue? Maybe I’m just getting old?” I comfort myself with something Meltzer told me, “I take a nap almost every day man”.  Maybe I just need to become a better napper, maybe that would help the general malaise I’ve been swimming in.  
Maybe this is simply the slowing down part of this journey as a human and as an ultrarunner. I then have a HTFU moment. Of course I’m tired, I just started training again. I think back to my early days of endurance training with my adventure racing teammates on DART. I didn’t even drink caffeine back then. That was real fatigue, and that was me almost a decade ago, at 28 years old.
I quickly remind myself that I’m also in a sort of coffee detox. I just spent a week in Seattle, and no matter how hard I try I cannot avoid a couple Americanos a day while there. What follows is a homecoming of general blah-ness. I just hope that is what I’m dealing with now.

My run today – which I just returned home from – was a complete failure. I started up the West side of Grandeur Peak and turned around after about .1 of a mile. I just didn’t feel like running the planned ten mile loop. Fighting back the self hate I simply turned around and walked back to my car.

I’m off to try and become an accomplished napper.

Thinking of Running An Ultra? Training Peaks Piece is a website after my own heart.  If they hadn’t created it, I probably would have myself.  It’s core functionality allows us coaches to see our athlete’s training logs and schedule them future workouts, but it does far more than that.  

They also have a very diverse and interesting blog where they publish articles from prominent coaches.  I was lucky enough to be asked to write a piece on ultrarunning.  So I wrote “Things to Consider” if you are planning to run an ultra.  Check it out.

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