The first article is this: "Not a suitable week for swim team" - from the SF Chronicle last week. The article discusses the whole issue with the new Speedo LZR Racer suit and how it came out after swimmers had already signed contracts, etc. What's the big deal, right? The big deal is that at the Olympic trials yesterday, Phelps and Hoff both broke records - and both were wearing the new suit.
What is the Speedo LZR? I think this quote aptly describes what the noise is all about:
The star attraction was the much-ballyhooed LZR Racer, which was designed with NASA's help and has been worn for 38 of the staggering 42 world records that have fallen since its unveiling in mid-February.-"Swimsuit battle calls uneasy truce in Omaha"- AP
I guess this comes back to the whole issue that I've hashed out before: can you buy your speed? Is it ethical? True that if I put on the Speedo LZR the only record I will break might be my own. Same goes if you put a beginning cyclist on a top-of-the-line tri bike with disc wheels and an aero helmet. It's really about the engine inside.
But the issue I have is that unlike in triathlon, where all of the top pros DO have an even playing field with equipment, it seems unfair that swimmers who've signed contracts and must stick with their brand will be at a slight disadvantage because of this suit. True that Nike is allowing its swimmers to choose what suit they want. It just seems so unfair to me that we're getting to the point where suits are starting to be designed with some buoyancy and not just for the sake of being smooth. I remember hearing about this blue seventy suit and just thinking it was so ridiculous because they actually did add some buoyancy to it (but still under the legal limit).
Um...hello? I've always thought swimming was one of the few pure sports left (not counting all the steroid stuff). That equipment wasn't really much of a factor; that it was all the athlete and none of the 'stuff.'
In a sport where milliseconds actually matter, it just doesn't seem right. And that's all I have to say about that.
The second article worth noting was in today's paper: "Slow Food Nation Comes to San Francisco." Slow Food Nation is going to be a big 4 day event held at Fort Mason and the Civic Center where they'll have speakers and food demonstrations. I'm really hoping to go and listen to what people like Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan (one of my heros) have to say.
So why bring this up?
Well...I am a self-proclaimed foodie. My mom thinks I'm a food snob. I agree that I probably come off that way. But after living in Berkeley for 8 years - where Alice Waters and Michael Pollan live - you sort of can't help becoming one.
Yet I think that one of the biggest misconceptions is that this Slow Food Movement is elitist. True, Alice Waters has a very high-end restaurant that costs a lot of money to eat at. But she has done so much good work within the community; she started the Chez Panisse Foundation which works to underwrite cultural and educational programs around food and sustainable eating. She has done countless other things that I won't go on about.
But the bottom line is that she has emerged as a leader in this movement of fixing our very broken food system.
I think Michael Pollan says it best when he remarks "There's something terribly wrong when it's cheaper to buy a double cheeseburger than a head of broccoli."
The article goes on to say that "Countries like Haiti and the Philippines have become so reliant on imported rice that they've stopped growing their own, said Pollan, who blames globalization. Now their citizens are going hungry."
After reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation several years ago, I think that was really the turning point for me. The point where I just felt so angry and so bitter toward our government and big business for allowing our food system to get to the point at which it has.
One of the things I look forward to being more involved with when I back off from triathlon a bit next year is to be more involved with this food movement. I want to help educate people on how easy it can be to cook. How much better locally grown food tastes. Why it's important - not only for the taste but for the health and political reasons as well.
My interest in all of this ultimately goes back to my fascination with food science and nutrition. How we eat is so important, and yet...as a nation we abuse ourselves daily. I can never get over the long drive-thru lines I see at McDonald's. The heaps of processed food in people's grocery carts. The humongous platters of food at chain restaurants. It's alarming not only from a foodie perspective but from a health perspective as well. I care so much about the health of our country but honestly - we would be so much better off if we could only care more about the food we eat.
I couldn't resist saying something in response to the great comments this post has solicited. Just as an FYI, let me be clear - I wholeheartedly agree that there are aspects of this food movement which ARE elitist. Whole
Just the other day somebody was giving me directions and said "okay, well you know where Whole Foods is, so..." and I said "no. I don't." The response was "oh, I thought EVERYBODY knew where Whole Foods is!" No. Not me. I boycott it.
Anyway, there are massive problems with the new food movement, too. I don't like that this label "organic" has become so ubiquitous and freely-used. I don't like that healthy food is so out of reach for so many people. I may just write another post about this since there is so much to say; I just wanted to make it clear that while I wholeheartedly support this slow food movement, there are many problems with it, too. That's one thing I'd like to work more with down the road.