Monday, January 14, 2013

Tapping into The Power of Fat

It is common Biochemistry knowledge that fat cells provide the most bang for their buck, giving 9kcal/g. Carbohydrates and proteins only offer 4kcal/g. For those of you good at math this is over double the BANG. The only problem is that our body normally uses this as a secondary energy source to carbohydrates. I recently read a paper by L. Burke et al that looked at the body’s ability to oxidize fat as an energy source and a lot of other interesting things about fat. They concluded that, “5 days of a high fat diet enhanced rates of fat oxidation during sub-maximal exercise despite increased CHO availability before and during exercise”.  Basically the way the body works is that it uses minimal amounts of fat along with glycogen (stored sugar) as energy. It isn't until most of the glycogen stores are gone that the body reverts into extensively burning fat as an energy source. By changing your diet to be high in fat and low in carbohydrates you are forcing the body to become better at using fat as an energy source by increasing the number of substrates necessary to do so. This concept was the basis for the famous Atkin’s Diet that was popular a few years back.  Burke discovered that after 5 days of the high fat diet, when they introduced carbohydrates back into the system the body still had significantly increased fat oxidation during exercise. This information could be extremely helpful in ultra-endurance activities because it would allow the body to preserve glycogen stores longer, using higher amounts of fat as it drains these stores. It would also improve the body’s ability to oxidize the fat once the body has depleted much of its stored glycogen and is relying more heavily on fat. 

L Burke et al. Adaptation to short-term high-fat diet persist during exercise despite high carbohydrate availability. Official Journal of American College of Sports Medicine. 2002

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Running Recap

Running is enjoyable. I'm not sure that I would call it "fun" necessarily but just enjoyable I just feel better after a good run. This past year running has allowed me to explore our Bay Area surroundings. Much of the time running this year I listened to medical school recordings while I prepared for upcoming exams including the huge boards part I exam. I would take any free time that I had and just run from the house and into the surrounding hills. I swear I have run almost every run-able route within a 15 mile radius! I was able to push my body to limits beyond what it has ever gone before both mentally and physically this year. Below is a summary of my running this year.

Notable Runs

  • Nualolo Trail to Nualolo Cliff Trail to Awa'awapuhi Trail; approx 13miles. Ran this beautiful trail along the spinous ridge tops of the rugged Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii while the sun was coming up! It was glorious.
  • Section of the Western States 100 trail to the top of Squaw Peak and down into the Alpine Meadows ski resort area; approx 19miles with a lot of elevation gain. The Western States trail is historic!
  • Dick Collins Firetrail 50 mile race. 
  • Grand Canyon R2R2R. 

Number of Runs: 86 runs
Total Miles Run: 1111 miles
Total Hours Run: 177.5 hrs
Average Run Distance: 13 miles
Average Run Time: 2hrs 3min
Longest Run Distance/Time: 50 miles/ 9hrs 2min

It was a great year! One of the most difficult things about this much running is the huge amount of time that it takes. I would like to publicly thank my wife, Kimber, for her support and putting up with all of my absence while running. She is the love of my life.

Now get out and RUN!!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mt. Tallac, Tahoe Backcountry

The objective, Mt. Tallac.

I have lived here in California for almost three years now and this was the first time that I had skied the Tahoe backcountry. According to some random page on the internet Mt. Tallac (9,739ft) is the "quintessential Lake Tahoe backcountry ski descent", so naturally that is where we went. The climb to the summit is a roughly 3,250ft climb and the views were picturesque.


Jeremy Koons

Binh Ta

We left Roseville, CA at 4:30am to drive to Tahoe and get a pre-dawn start. 

The skin track up from the highway near the Spring Creek turn off on the south end of the lake was well used,  icy, and steep, making it a bit difficult. We started in a neighborhood of cabins, mostly boarded up for the winter. It took us 5.5hrs to make it to the summit. We could see everything from up there. 

Binh with Lake Tahoe in the background.

Skinning.                                                  Getting closer....

The last skin-able section up to the final bootpack.
 The ski down offered hard conditions up high and nice creamy snow down further in the the trees with a few fun rock formations to play on. We made it back to the car by 2pm. Awesome tour.

The summitt of Mt. Tallac!

Binh walking the highway back to the car.
****Nerd Alert****  During the skin up Binh was having a difficult time due to the icy, steep conditions as well as a bit of inexperience. Jeremy and I started discussing how many steps we may have taken on skins to become advanced skinners which lead to us trying to figure it out. So, here is my best guess and how I came up with it. 

Each step on skis up a hill probably moves you forward a little bit over a boot length depending on the steepness of the terrain. A normal ski boot's sole length is about 300mm which is roughly 12". So we can estimate that each step moves the skier forward about 15" (1.25ft). Distance hiked, not skied, during an average tour is probably about 4 miles(21,120ft). This means that on an average tour we take about 16,890 steps. During a dedicated season I got into the backcountry skiing about 30 times giving me 506,700 steps per season. I have probably gotten in the equivalent of about 4 seasons of 30 backcountry ski days a season giving me roughly a total of 2,026,800 steps up to this point in my life. So, Bihn, don't feel to bad that it was a rough tour. Practice makes perfect. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas in Utah

Saturday, 12/22/12 - Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT

Up at 5:30am, after not going to bed until around 3:30am due to a late flight in and visiting with family I hadn’t seen for a year, my brother, Andrew, and I met Spence and we got a pre-dawn start up from the “Our Lady of Snow” church on our way up to Flagstaff Peak, just across the canyon from Alta Ski Resort. Two days before the area had received about a foot of new snow, which made it surprising to find a hard snow base. This must have been from warm temperatures and high winds the day before. We took our time on the way up due to me living at 0ft elevation and Andrew coming at it with limited aerobic preparation. We topped out after about 2hrs of hiking and ended up skiing on the north side down into what I think was the upper portion of the Mill D drainage. Turns were incredibly variable, changing from rock hard to creamy with an occasional section of the dreaded death crust reminding us all that we aren’t pro rippers. Climbing back up the north side back to the ridge line was a bit of a circus. When I got up to the cornice I ended up using my pole as an ice axe to pull myself up, all the while keeping my skis on, preventing me from being able to use my feet due to the rock hard conditions. It was ridiculous. The ride down the south facing side back to the road offered some nice wind-blown turns with pockets of soft snow. Good outing, however, the early start and limited rest made it impossible to stay awake for the “Savior of the World” show later that day on temple square.

Nerds below Flagstaff. 

Monday, 12/24/12 – Powder at the Beav!

Beaver reported 9” new in the last 12hrs when I woke up.  We made it to the Beav about 20min before the first chair but still had to get my dad some rental skis and buy passes.  We had my Dad, two brothers, Garrett and Andrew, and Danica along for the day. We spent the morning lapping the South Face and Spring Road. The snow was awesome, nearly ideal for Beaver! Due to the limited amount of steep terrain there if they get too much snow then it makes it difficult to ski down the flat transition parts of the mountain. 9” was perfect!  We had a ball! At lunch Andrew had to take off and the rest of the family came up. My mother and sister, Amie, manned the lodge and brought lunch.  Before the little kids, Jackson and Kennlyn, got ready my dad got a run on Andrew’s fat skis and I think his eyes were opened at the ease of skiing deep snow on wide skis. Hopefully it was enough to encourage him to get some! I skied the rest of the day with Kimber. It was the second time she had skied in deep snow on her fat skis that we bought back when we lived in Salt Lake. She crushed it! We even did a few runs on the “Magic Carpet” run with my little niece and nephew who were learning to ski. Kimber and I think that little kids look kind of like little chickens when they are learning to ski. It was a great day! Always a good time getting back to my home hill and seeing all the familiar people and bombing the familiar runs! I can’t even remember the last time I skied from first chair to last chair.

Andrew and Lindsay's little ripper, Titan.  

Wednesday, 12/26/12 – Morning Woodcamp Tour, Logan Canyon

Met up with Brody Hatch, a high school buddy who is currently living in Fort Colllins CO, and slogged it up Woodcamp. We again got a pre-dawn start. There was only about 1” of new snow so conditions were semi-stable. The skin up reminded me of the amount of work that is needed to ski the backcountry in Logan Canyon. The first ~1.5miles was on a gradual incline part way up a trail and then off into a field of sage brush. After making it to the base of the canyon we planned to ski, it was a long heinous skin up steep pine covered slopes and along rock band infested ridge lines. It required two wallowing/climbing sessions over un-skinable sections. After about 3.5hrs we topped out. The sky was overcast and merky but visibility was decent and we decided to ski the ridge that we could see to the south of us during our skin up.  Turns on the way down were dreamy and creamy. All of the effort and pain we experienced on the trip up were instantly forgotten. We did notice a few deep sluffs that accumulated on the way down but nothing of great concern.  On the trip out through the sea of sage brush I saw either an elk or deer that had a decent sized rack.  I couldn’t tell because it was running away from me in the aspens. Beautiful morning! Thanks Brody!

Entering the "Sea of Sage Brush"
Brody, almost to the steeps.
The wallowing/climbing session. 
The exit.  
Thursday, 12/27/12 – Powder Search at Beaver

Decided to drop money on another pass at Beaver Mountain and ski with my dad and brothers again. They only reported 1” in the last 24hrs which wasn’t awesome but it was a better option than sleeping in, way better! We spent the first part of the morning seeing what powder was left and riding the crud. Andrew and I decided to risk the hitch-hiking ticket and take a hike out to second peak and ski down to the highway.  It was the right choice. The threat of the hitch-hiking ticket is the best thing that happened to the backside because it dissuades a lot of traffic. The backside of Beaver is a hidden gem! We timed it right so that only one group of snowboarders had hiked it before us, packing out the trail. The snow was lovely. We dropped a few fun little rocks and had a blast. Hitch hiking back up once on the highway took a bit longer than I remembered but we jumped in the back of a truck for another round. We skied a few runs down the bumps and trees before taking another go at the second peak. My dad offered to drive and pick us up on our way out of the canyon. We bombed about the same route down, this time with Garrett tagging along as well.  I was tempted by a nice cliff drop and ended up putting the biggest core shot in my ski that  have ever seen. Totally worth it though. I always have the attitude that gear is to use, and use hard. It was a great morning!

Boot pack to 2nd Peak. 

Yea, that is the foam core you see there. 
4 days skiing out of the 6 days in Utah isn’t bad. I had to get my fix. But in reality, the “fix” just reminds me of how awesome skiing and the mountains are and makes me miss them that much more. Going back to Oakland was a little bit more painful than normal but we had a good attitude about it. All for the greater good.