Monday, June 30, 2008

2 articles worth noting

However, before I note them - I would like to send a very heartfelt THANK YOU to my friend Carmen!! It was Carmen who recommended "The Stick" (Mel, your comment cracked me up!!). Oh my goodness. While I had some slight pain return about 20 minutes into my short run on Saturday, the first 20 minutes were incredible. It was like I had never had ANY PAIN AT ALL! I'm just going to keep workin' it every day and I really think it's going to get better. THANK YOU CARMEN!

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 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 Foods Paycheck is one place I absolutely LOATHE for the same reason everybody else here does. They perpetuate the notion that eating healthier is exclusive to those who can afford it. They foster the idea that anything 'organic' is somehow automatically healthier. They make it seem 'cool' to be shopping at a natural foods store that is insanely overpriced. Ugh.

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.


Kelly said...

the swim trials yesterday were awesome! and it seemed like almost all of them were wearing the LZR suits, so i'm not sure how that worked out. i think the pureness aspect is why i love running and track. because sure you can have fancier shoes and a uniform but thats it and thats probably why its one of the few sports where people from the much poorer nations are some of the best.

i lived in berkeley too and micheal pollan is really interesting and theres some amazing food there. and i did (sorta) a thesis on small farms and local and organic movements. and while theres some really important things about the slow food movement and there are HUGE fucking problems with our ag idustry, i had a few problems with the whole organic movement. 1. it's not all good. organic can be mass farmed. things that seem good aren't necessarily and just because you bought it at whole foods doesn't mean it's better (so many fucking yuppies seem to think that) and 2. because of the problems with our ag/food system, it is inherently a elitist movement. while you're totally right that it is completely fucked up that a burger is cheaper than a head of broccoli and there are sometimes cheap(ish), healthy alternatives, poorer families and neighborhoods don't have these options alot of the time. and they get screwed and left behind. alot fo movements tend to ignore the lower socio-econ classes.

that sounds like a really really interesting conference. maybe ill go. i had a friend take pollan's class and she was like 'what am i suppose to eat now??'

Greg Remaly said...

wow, i have a lot to say about these two things...

1) I think you know where I stand on technology infiltrating a pure sport and making it that much less pure and more expensive to compete on a level playing field with everyone else. Although it's awesome to see such fast swimming at the Trials, I can't help but think after every fast time if they would've broken the American/World record with normal suits. I think it has tainted everything.

Apparently Speedo sent 2500 of their suits to the Trials so every swimmer could use one for free. Although this leveled the playing field for this meet, many other elite swimmers all over the world can't afford the $600+ price tag. And I can't help but see this as a total PR/advertising move for Speedo.

Competition swim suits need to be sold at a price affordable for EVERYBODY, and durability should be the key factor.

2) I've read both of those books mentioned numerous times and like you, the food movement interests me greatly.
I HATE Whole (Paycheck)Foods, Wild Oats, and that whole "Big Organic" complex for so many reasons I can't even begin to start. They are probably my least favorite corporation, and that's saying a lot.
But one of the reasons I hate them is that these stores create the illusion that "healthy" food is expensive and elitist.
The local farm model in "omnivore's" is excellent - everyone nearby can buy directly from a self-sustaining (or nearly so) farm, and those further away can join some group and do mass orders.
This system has more promise than pretty much any other. I think another factor is that Americans have become used to not spending that much of their paycheck on food because of the way big agriculture has found (unhealty) ways of mass producing and delivering food. Europeans by and large spend much more of their paycheck on food than we do, they buy fresh food locally, and they live much healthier lives. One of these days maybe Americans will get it.

I think a lot of them are beginning to realize they will have to change their driving habits because of the rising gas prices. But I don't think this correlates to our food problems. Most Americans will keep eating crap because it's cheap and easy, and obesity-related deaths will continue to rise.

Chris Westall said...

Ok... talk about 2 topics to get people going.

1: I think I'm on the other side of the fence on this one. There are many athletes out there that have signed contracts with manufactures but anyone of them can leave that contract if they want... Give back the money or whatever it is that X company gave you.

Look at Tiger Woods... he got a lot of crap when he went to Nike clubs and ball as opposed to Titleist. Now here's a guy that could play with anything he wants and he chose Nike and will push them to be better.

And Michael Phelps could swim in any product that he wants as well. He chose what he felt is best for him.

I don't think that it's about a level playing field or that equipment makes you the player you are... You still have to execute.

If they feel that strongly about the "disadvantage" then... drop your contract and swim in the LZR.

2: I completely agree on this one. I HATE @$$Whole Foods and all that they stand for. For me... It's all about the Farmers Market. Luckily I have the Ferry Building in the city that offer such great food and brings in local merchants a couple times a week. I don't know what I'd do without it.

Thanks for calling out the article... I missed it. But I'll be there. Julie and I are self proclaimed foodies too. Oh... check out Conduit in the mission.. The food is amazing and the Justin Deering is an ARTIST!

Rainmaker said...

1) The swim trials were awesome to watch. It was interesting noting all of the folks wearing the new suit - which was basically everyone I saw minus one person. While I think all of us dislike the fact that WR are being broken at a great clip - I think it's really no different than all of the bike technologies or even as they move to lighter and lighter running shoes (I'd say that's a very similiar comparison).

2) I'm on the fence on WF. While they are indeed overpriced, they do offer access to some ingrediants I can't get at some places. I love visiting my farmers market for many things, but they don't always have what I need...when I need it. Meaning, they're only there 3-6PM on Friday's - sometimes I need something outside of that window. One alternative I often use is the local Asian grocery store - it offers a great variety of fresh produce...but I often worry about the source.

You're lucky in that you live in an area that has a PLETHORA of fresh products and meats available from local vendors where you know where it comes from. Unfortunately, in my area - I don't have as many options. I'm liking Wegman's because it offers a combination/blend between WF and a regular grocery store. Where I can get the products I need and the variety I want.

Greg Remaly said...

the comparison to running shoes would be valid if they weighed nothing or helped you spring off the ground with more energy than your own body would provide, in an "is this still legal" kind of way.

Oh, and also they would cost $700 and they would only be made available a few months or weeks before the most important marathon in four years.

And also, comparing what is happening in swimming to what has already happened in other sports - cycling was named, but there are many other sports where technology has overtaken the sport, robbed its purity, and priced people out of it - does not mean what is happening in swimming is a good or necessary thing. precedents in other sports do not in any way exculpate USA Swimming et al from this travesty and shame.

I was pretty sure we were on the same page with Whole Paycheck, Sarah, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to unleash some venom on my most hated corporation!

Courtenay said...

i am unsure about the aesthetics of this suit. he looks like he's sporting a codpiece!

also... my mom called me the other day to say if i wanted her to help me buy a LZR so i could swim faster, she'd happily help me. so cute! little sal looking out for her firstborn daughter and trying to make up for the fact that i nevere got swim lessons when i was a kid!