the state

– of micronutritional deficiency. by vastate
Friday, 25 September 2009, 14:56
Filed under: -of akjenner, -of funny, -of health, -of sport

A Dispatch from the Odyssey Trail Running Rampage, Where the Simple Elegance of Competitive Running Lies Under Corporate Siege.

The major reason I decided to make the Odyssey trail marathon in Douthat State Park my first 26.2 mile race was that I thought it would be more relaxed than the typical frenzied shuffle along the downtown strip of some middling-to-major American metropolis. The thought of racing on wooded mountain trails appealed to me.

wooden trail

I had escapist motives.

But things turned out differently. True, I got to spend a couple hours tramping through the forest, and it was beautiful, but I found no respite from The Busy Life. I walked straight into its maw. And so, I am compelled to write a eulogy for a racing experience that I never knew, one unstained by commercialism and corporate sponsorship. That stuff has its place in sport – I’ve paid hideous sums to see Man U. matches – but I’d dared to hope some things were still sacred. Do I sound like an obnoxious purist? Every serious runner is, on some level.

People like me are known to toss around platitudes about the purity of our sport – simple, beautiful, the most elegant expression of athletic competition, devoid of luck, of capricious umpiring or ball-hogging teammates, shot clocks, free agency, shin guards, ERAs, etc. Just your own two legs, and how quickly they can carry you from here to there. Cross-country teams pride themselves in slogans like: “We do for practice what your team does for punishment,” and this idea of running-as-purity exists because it is, at some fundamental level, true. Which is precisely why the materialistic cancer so evident at the Odyssey trail marathon was so disturbing.

The symptoms were apparent from the outset, oozing from the literature distributed at the pre-race meeting the night before the race.

In one slim issue of Trail Runner magazine,


(whose very existence depends on – and demands – a critical mass of advertisers hawking numerous goods and products to a readership that, theoretically, should need very few) are several ads for GORE-TEX footwear (“Runners need shoes that can help allow the body to maintain thermophysiological balance across a range of conditions”),


followed by an ad for “reseach-proven” and “dope-free” Wicked Fast nutritional supplements.


Moeben took out a full page to plug its UV-Protected Arm Sleeves (made from “eco-friendly bamboo and hemp fabrics”),


which are apparently crucial, because a runner’s arms must be protected from ultra-violet threats.

Amphipod settled for a one-third page pitch for its hydration products.

hydration_aphipod(Let me pause here to preempt the obvious counterargument to my rant – that runners DO need to be hydrated and they DO need, sometimes, to protect themselves from UV rays – with an analogy: human beings need shelter, but they do not need

subprime mortgages on beach homes, and they most certainly do not need subprime mortgages on LEED-certified beach homes that perpetuate the fallacy that they’ve done Mother Earth a good turn by buying a greenwashed second home).

It’s all kind of sickening, really. Hammer Nutrition,

Hammer Nutrition

coincidentally a major race sponsor, took the cake, though, with a clever, pseudo-journalistic bit of advertising copy entitled “The Balanced Diet Myth – Shattered”:

Did you know that there has never been a single clinical study that documents what comprises a balanced diet, nor one that has demonstrated one’s ability to meet basic nutrient requirements through whole foods alone? In fact new studies show that food alone does not supply all of the micronutrients we need to prevent deficiency, let alone achieve optimal health (emphasis mine; hysterical emphasis also mine) … Luckily, Hammer Nutrition can provide you with all of the supplements you need to reach your performance and health goals!

This one is pernicious on several levels. Man shall not live by bread alone, sayeth the Hammer Nutrition. And more, the wages of eating food is death, but the gift of Hammer Nutrition is eternal micronutritional salvation, whosoever believeth in d-alpha Tocopherol Succinate, calcium chelate krebs cycle intermediates and a “proprietary blend of Coenzyme Q10, Idebenone, Alpha-ketogluterate and Bioperine.” Amen.

The night before the race, my dad told me about the first time he’d run a marathon, in 1984. He drank only plain water. He ate only bananas. That fool’s lucky he’s alive, let alone lucky that he hasn’t developed cancer of his unprotected arms or damned his feet to thermophysiological chaos.

hadleyGlass of water+   bananas1

The implicit message (or, lie) in all of this is one of self-improvement through purchase of various upgrades. You could be the epitome of running mediocrity, but a pair of Julbo shades

julbo_race_asphlt_chmleon_0(featuring “Grip Tech temples,” “elastomer shock absorbers” and “adjustable natural airflow”) will make you fast, we are led to believe. Some American Podiatric Medical Association-approved performance toesocks, “made from recycled resources” by injinji will propel you to glories greater yet. (Vaguely tribal/indigenous-sounding corporate names like this are widespread in the running gimmicks industry – a loathsome attempt to deceive us into thinking that purchasing a set of injinji performance toesocks will help restore us to some imagined pre-Industrial eco-communal-athletic utopia).


I’m afraid all this has sounded kind of bitter, so I must say that the race itself was wonderful until the vicinity of mile 22, when my hamstrings started to get cranky and my calves erupted in outright rebellion. Minor hills turned into mountains, and a sort of hysteria crowded rational thinking out my mind. Just a few more miles, I tried to tell myself. A FEW MORE MILES??? the hysteria screamed back. It felt like my brain was throwing a temper tantrum. So I stumbled and hobbled and gimped my way to the finish – my pace having dropped to something like a brisk walk – where I collapsed in the grass and didn’t move for nearly an hour.


Hammer Nutrition purports to have just the product I needed – Recoverite – to rejoin the conscious, chattering world, and, having competed in the Odyssey Trail Running Rampage, I am now eligible for a 15 percent discount on my first purchase. I got a nifty little racing hat as a finishing prize, too, plus some sort of space-age sweat-wicking shirt, plus a 26-serving bottle of dark, viscous Hammer Gel – Hammer Nutrition’s flagship product, regarded as manna by a large segment of the endurance competition community – plus a little ergonomic squeeze bottle that fits snugly in either hand, to fill with a few of those 26 servings (for best results, I’d probably need to invest in one of those toolbelt/fannypack hybrids worn by numerous competitors, with a little plastic ergonomic squeeze bottle holder to keep my hands free).

hammergel +        recoveriteergonomicwaterbottle

The in-crowd word for this collection of free race booty is “schwag.” To me, though, it all feels more like a collection of battle scars, the price I had to pay for tangling with the lamentably not-so-simple world of trail racing.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

‘fool’s lucky he’s alive’ hahaha! nice guest appearance andrew.

Comment by Rachel Herr

As I recall it, I (not thee) was the one who paid “hideous sums” to take my micronutrient deficient son to see a Man U. game in Philly once upon a time … just for the record. The Dad — still in recovery from his blistering 1984 marathon – if only I had had Hammer Nutrition then! Cheers!

Comment by Hadley

[…] and speaking of homestead, check out the shout-out in this thanksgiving article over at edible blue ridge – incidentally, written by the one and only andrew jenner. […]

Pingback by -of the season (w/ drinks) « the state

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