Friday, March 16, 2012

Upright Standing.

So I exercised my evolutionary imperative to run and ran to work this morning.  In fact I've been exercising my evolutionary imperative quite a lot recently, but more about that in a bit.

I mention evolutionary imperative because David Suzuki's "The Nature Of Things" (TNOT) documentary last night on the evolution of human running is likely on many of your minds.  I watched it, against my better judgement, knowing that David Suzuki can't seem to pick a subject and remain neutral.  Be it climate change or farming he has to take a stand; it's almost a pathological iconoclasticism. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't.  What worries me is that when I don't agree with him; fish farming for example, it's because I know something about the subject and know that what he says isn't backed up by the data.  I had this conversation with a nice lady from the Alberta Cattle Association (or some-such) on a plane once; he'd just rubbished her industry on prime-time CBC but misreported everything he could.  This a couple of weeks after he did the same to fish-farming.  Is this the same with every subject he covers?  Is there is a small core of people who know he's wrong but he sounds utterly convincing to the other 29 999 970 Canadians?

What's worrying about Suzuki is that he is a trained scientist; hell, he wrote the genetics textbook for my generation.  As such should know when to equivocate and when to acknowledge the other side.  He doesn't and I find this highly irresponsible behaviour from someone of such note.  Some of this note, of course, came from him making the CBC's Greatest Canadians short-list a couple of years back, which has given him a gloss of infallibility with the Canadian public not even accorded the pope!   When it comes to Dons turned to Documentary makers, give me Darwin's 21st century bulldog, Richard Dawkins, any day.

I was hoping the TNOT doc would give us a nice (ahem) run through human evolution and anatomy, as per Bramble & Leiberman's 2004 review (Nature 432; 345-352) of the adaptations that make us, Homo sapiens, great runners.  I loved their concluding statement "(endurance running) is primarily a form of exercise and recreation but its roots may be as ancient as the origin of of the human genus" or as I think it was summed up elsewhere (and I'm paraphrasing here) "the current fad for marathon running owes less to fashion than it does to 5 million years of human evolution".  TNOT accorded such sentiments (and data) mere lip-service, a two minutes explanation of the unique role of the achilles tendon and plantar arch in human locomotion.  The rest of it was people running and the inevitable Suzuki screed, this time it was against Big Shoes. I don't think that was strictly necessary.  The same point could have been made by talking up bare-foot running and five-finger style minimalist shoes rather than bashing the Saucony Stabil.  

Enough whinging.  I also like the phrase evolutionary imperative because it reminds me of the dirtiest Darwinian chat-up line of all time.  Nowhere near the subtlety of "I have what you want; matching genes for your beneficial but recessive alleles" and more direct than "I want to give you a Cambrian explosion between your strata".  I am, of course, referring to the timeless classic "will it subvert our reproductive imperative if you let me come on your face?" Did this ever work?  Could this ever work?  "'ello darlin', grab your coat, you've pulled" indeed.  Regardless of it's efficacy, after the Big Shoe denunciation that was TNOT I needed cheering up and if you're a runner (highly likely if you're reading this) then so do you.

My evolutionary imperative (but not my reproductive one, just so we're clear on that) has been getting quite the work-out recently as I train up for my spring's marathons. 

I've really been getting the miles in.  My shoe of choice for the winter is the Mizuno Ascend.  It has been for many years: here's my Ascends collection from a couple of years ago

The collection is much larger now.

The Ascend essentially uses the same last as the Mizuno Precision and Wave Riders I've been running since I started running seriously again in 2004.  The sole is more aggressive, which is why it's my winter shoe of choice.  Unlike the Precision or Wave Rider, it has a mild medial post whereas I use a neutral shoe.  In the short term this is of no importance.  In the long term, however, as the sole breaks down, the posted medial side breaks down more slowly than the non-posted lateral side, leaving me running with a supinated foot, which in turn will do funny things (funny-peculiar not funny-ha-ha) to my knees.  Long story short, I need to swap these shoes out every 500km or so, rather than the rather slovenly 1000km kickings I give my regular shoes.

So I got these Ascends in the new year and immediately ordered the second pair so I could pick them up when needed.  Then, I promptly forgot to keep my training logs properly.  I still logged daily mileage but geeked out on Garmin Connect instead of compiling my stats as I used to. 

They don't look too bad do they?  Nowhere near broken down.  Then last week I thought "wow, I haven't looked at my stats properly".  So I sat down and punched the numbers into Excell.  Oops, I thought, that can't be right.  so I did it again, same number.  Then I rang Aerobics First and asked Dana when I got the shoes.  "Yeah man, you got 'em January 13th brother".  

Double oops.  Over 600kms on them. No wonder my knees were starting to ache.  So I got the second pair straight away.  


A smart pair of shoes; and I've put 100 kms on them already!  In one week!  I'd better slow down a bit before I lose a knee or worse.  You know what they say: flying in March, toast by June!


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