April 20, 2010

National Hemp Day

It is April 20 (4/20). In honor of the this date I propose we make this National Hemp Day to raise awareness of this valuable cash crop which is illegal to grow in the United States. It is illegal to grow hemp because law enforcement has a hard time distinguishing this plant from its intoxicating cousin. Hemp products are not illegal, hemp food and textiles are available everywhere.

I become aware of hemp products while researching my problems with eczema. In previous years my eczema would flair up in the spring, and I would take olive oil to help ease the itching, but I still had problems. I heard that Hemp Seed Oil was a natural cure for this itchy rash problem. It worked better than I thought it would. This is the first spring in ten years I've not had any problems (knock on wood) . I know it may be psychosomatic, whatever works. The oil is kind of expensive, $20 for 24 ounces, but I found a place online that sells organic hemp seed oil for half the price of the Natural Food stores. I also love the nutty flavor. I use the oil on my vegetables and to make popcorn. It stores well in the refrigerator and does not become thick. If used in cooking, use only low temperatures.

I also use a milk like product and a protein supplement made from hemp seeds. The milk is quite good on cereal. The protein powder I use when I make chocolate/banana/strawberry smoothies protein shakes. It doesn't dissolve and adds a nutty flavor to the drink. They also make a nut butter from the seeds which I haven't tried yet. Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritionally complete foods available.

Hemp can also be used to make textiles for clothing. It is a superior fiber to cotton, stronger and longer lasting. During WWII farmers were allowed to grow hemp to make rope for the military because of its superior strength.

It is natural bug resistant crop so pesticides are not needed, and grows well in different types of climate.

It is unfortunate the farming of this important crop is not allowed in this country, fortunately other countries don't have such shortsighted laws. I can't believe it is illegal to grow certain plants in the U.S and we have to waste the benefits of this plant for farmers and consumers.

April 11, 2010

Racing at Talladega

I dedicated my run today to the late Paul Lightfoot, NASCAR enthusiast.

Racing at Talladega is what I did today. Yes, I was on the track racing the Talladega 21000 at the Talladega Superspeedway. I can't help but think what my former father-in-law would say about it. OKAY, It was not NASCAR , no loud motors or crashes which caught his attention. I doubt he'd be interested in seeing a bunch of runners desecrating this holy temple of NASCAR by having a foot race on this race car track. Still, It was quite an experience, and I think he would have enjoyed just being there.

Before the race, the runners gathered in pit garages doing there last minute prepping before the 21000 meter race. I was looking for the start and finish line, I asked one of the crew getting this race underway. He pointed down the speedway and said; "right there, where the start banner is.." I looked down the speedway and saw nothing. He pointed at the embankment and told me it's right when the straightway starts after turn 4. Then I saw it, the tiny banner, a good 3/4 mile down the track. I was expecting a banner across the entire track, but the track is huge, and the banner was the size which would span a normal city street.

We slowly made our way down to the start area. The race started a couple of minutes late, because of long lines at the five (yes, only five) port-a-potties, which was the one thing they need to improve on. Somewhere during the race we passed a field with hundreds of spare port-a-potties, it's not like there's a shortage of them in the area.

To get some idea of how long this track is, after we started, we passed the one mile mark before making the first turn on the track, we'd hit mile two less than halfway around the track.

One thing which surprised me about this race was the number of steep inclines we had to negotiate. We climbed to the walkway above the embankments at mile two, one hill outside the speedway about mile 3, a steep incline coming into the grandstands after mile 6, then a slow steady climb up to the top of the opposite embankment, through the tunnel, which is a steep decline followed by a steep incline which went under the track and back inside the track for the last four miles which were on the track again.

The race was well managed, with plenty of water stops, a good post-race party courtesy of Jim-N-Nick's BBQ, and the availability of beer, a required recovery food. I can't say that I want to do this again, but I was glad I had this experience. It's another one of the Alabama Half-Marathons I can check off my list. I still have a few to do in Anniston, Mobile, and Huntsville to finish my list.

I wasn't expected a great finish time (1:48:50), as I had mostly stopped interval training after my last half-marathon because of stubborn tendinitis and sore ankles from races in January, February and March. I was hoping a slower pace would cure these chronic problems without having to stop running, like I had to do last year for two loooooong months. The slower pace is helping and I hope I can start doing intervals again at the end of the summer as I train for my next half-marathon.

The weather also played a huge part, as temperatures in the 40's quickly gave way to sunny 70's and almost no shady areas along the route. The sun zaps my energy. On one part of the course, running through the grandstands, I was passing people left and right because we were out of the sun, but as soon as I got back out in the sun, I had to slow down and those people got the chance to retake their lead.

I would recommend this race to all runners for the unique experience of racing on a NASCAR track.