Friday, March 30, 2018

Under Armour App Under Fire After 150 Million Accounts Breached

Athletic wear company Under Armour has a free app called MyFitnessPal (with a paid option) that lets users track the foods they eat over time -- with features to log calories and different types of nutrients. Recently, the company disclosed that data tied to the app was breached earlier this year, affecting 150 million user accounts. The company said the stolen information included usernames, email addresses and encrypted passwords.

Under Armour reports that the breach occurred in February 2018, but the hack wasn't discovered until March 25. The company has been working to notify affected users and is expected to work with the police and data security firms to try and trace the source of the breach.

Under Armour's breach notice recommends that users review their accounts and avoid clicking links from suspicious sources. Users also will be required to change their account password. According to Under Armour, the app does not collect Social Security or driver's license numbers from users, so that information wasn't exposed. The company also said that credit card data was not breached because payment information is collected and processed separately.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ever Heard of Phthalates? They're Everywhere, Even Inside of You!

Phthalates are binding agents frequently used in food packaging as well as a number of other products, including flooring, adhesives, soaps and shampoos. Some forms of the chemical have been banned from children’s products in the United States. Phthalates are everywhere, and the health risks are concerning.

A study reported in the journal Environment International states that certain foods, including burgers and sandwiches, were linked to higher phthalate levels, but only if purchased at a fast-food outlet, restaurant or cafe. According to the study, eating at restaurants and fast food chains may increase exposure to potentially harmful hormone-disrupting chemicals used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastic. The study's findings were especially strong for teenagers. Adolescents who frequently ate at fast-food outlets while out with their friends had 55% higher levels of the chemicals than young people eating at home.

Researchers investigating levels of phthalates in the human body, which have been linked to asthma, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, pregnancy complications and fertility issues in the past few years, were found to be nearly 35% higher in participants who had eaten out the previous day compared with those who stayed at home.

The study's researchers say their results suggest that food prepared at home is less likely to contain high levels of phthalates. The scientists analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected between 2005 and 2014.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Sunday, March 25, 2018

1984 Movie Flashback -- "Raw Courage"

I recently stumbled on a running movie posted on YouTube that I haven't seen since 1984 when I was a college sophomore. The movie "Raw Courage" is about three ultra-marathoners who are on a 72-mile run in the New Mexico desert when they encounter a group of weekend-warrior survivalists who want to "play with the little runner boys." The runners end up in a race for their lives when the demented warriors won't leave them alone. It has an 'R' rating due to some language and violence.

The movie stars actor Ronny Cox, who also appeared in such movies as Beverly Hills Cop, Deliverance, RoboCop, and Total Recall. Cox, and his two ultra-marathoner companions, do a lot of running in the movie! Having run solo across the Mojave Desert, I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be chased relentlessly across the desert like the three men in this movie were.

The movie has received mixed reviews over the years, many saying that it is unrealistic, that the plot is weak, and that the characters are idiotic. The movie was never widely known and aired on the HBO channel in the mid-1980's. Regardless, if you're an ultra-marathon runner it should be interesting to you... although perhaps only a little.

The movie begins as "Pete" (actor Cox) is preparing to set off on a great challenge -- a 72-mile, 36-hour run through the New Mexico desert, accompanied by his buddies Roger (actor Art Hindle) and Craig (actor Tim Maier). They plan to finish their run at the town of Glory, New Mexico, as part of the town's Pioneer Days celebration. They start their expedition and things go well for about the first half of the journey. Then, out of nowhere, the three of them are suddenly captured by the "Citizen's Brigade" -- a private militia made up of ordinary citizens who are preparing for the "crunch," lead by Colonel Crouse (actor M. Emmet Walsh), and the Colonel is attempting to teach them self reliance. After being told that their capture was just for practice, the Colonel lets the runners go. However, unforeseen consequences of their encounter with the weekend warriors soon result in the three runners being pursued again by the militia. This time, the hunt isn't for practice, but it's now a case of run or be killed.

Actor Cox not only stars in this movie, but he also wrote and produced it. It should be noted that the survivalists did not have firearms in this movie. They were on a "survival exercise," and didn't bring firearms -- which was fortunate for the runners!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, March 23, 2018

"A Little Child Shall Lead Them"

I've been a parent for 25 years. All four of my children are now adults and the journey of fatherhood has been an absolute wonderful experience filled with both blessings and challenges. Through my parenting and my efforts through The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, I've aimed to be an example and lead both my children and kids on a global scale toward better health, goal setting, and pursuing dreams. I've had my moments of stumbling while trying to lead, and have fallen down a time or two along the way. However, over the years I've learned that there is actually a lot that can be gained by letting a child lead now and then.

In the Bible, at Isaiah chapter 11, verse 6, it reads: "A little child shall lead them." These are peculiar words in the perception of most parents, because we usually think of adults leading children, not children leading adults. However, God has intended that children not only learn from adults, but adults learn from children.

There are four qualities children possess that we, as adults, could certainly learn from.
  • Children lead us in humility. Jesus says whoever shall humble himself as a little child is great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4). It has been said that humility is not thinking too little of one’s self. Humility is actually not thinking of one’s self.
  • Children lead us in a forgiving spirit. Nothing displays a childlike attitude more than forgiveness. Generally, children don't hold grudges. Those who do, have been taught to do so by the example seen in older people.
  • Children lead us in sincerity. A child is sincere. They tell it like it is without shading the facts. Sincerity leads us not to say one thing and mean another. There must be genuineness in all that we do.
  • Children lead us in confiding trust. Children have great confidence in their parents. They believe that there isn’t anything their parents can’t do. Seeing the trusting heart of a child can help us examine our heart in trusting others.

There are other areas where we, as adults, can learn from children... such as being pure in mind and deed; being teachable; and, being faithful. My advice as a seasoned parent is this -- learn all of these qualities from your children when they're small. It will make all the difference in the world when they grow up and start imitating you.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

To Me, It's Not "Just a Hat." In Fact, It's a Significant Reminder.

When I ran across America in 2006, I wore the same running hat every day. It was brand new and dark blue when I started the run, and over the course of 3,260 miles through the second hottest summer ever recorded in the U.S. it faded greatly! Like various items around my house from adventure runs I've done, my hat from that cross-country run is one of the things that remind me of what I've endured. I'm sure there are those who see just a hat and nothing more. However, for me, I see something that helped to shield and protect me from the elements as I journeyed solo from one ocean to another ocean.

The Nike Dri-Fit Running Hat was perfect for that coast-to-coast endeavor 12 years ago. Nearly every picture of me taken during that run shows me wearing the hat. There are only three photos showing me without it -- one was on the side of the road in 100+ degree temperatures showing how sweaty my hair was; one was taken at the home of a host family when I was showing how long my hair was getting; and, the third photo is of me running into the Atlantic Ocean with the hat in my hand raised above my head. Aside from those three moments, every photo has me wearing that hat.

So, why would I write a blog post about a hat? Does a hat really need to have a few hundred words written about it? Well, those who know me are aware that I spent most of my 40's beneath a hat. I'm about to turn 53 years of age and for the past several years I've only worn a hat a few dozen times. I retired from adventure running in November 2016 and these days I prefer to spend my active time on a bicycle wearing a bike helmet.

The particular hat I wore across America was a daily necessity, much like my running shoes. I felt somewhat naked without it and it became part of my 'image' as an ultra-endurance adventure runner. Believe me, I tried several different hats before choosing to run across America in the Nike Dri-Fit hat. It was just the right fit for me and as I conquered the 15 states it became molded precisely to my head. In fact, I can slip it on even today and I immediately recall the feeling of running with it through the seemingly endless miles.

I think all athletes have a particular piece of equipment that is special to them. Aside from the support stroller that I pushed every step of the way, I would say that my hat is something that is quite reflective of the miles conquered. You see, as I spent nearly 4 months running through the summer heat, my skin got darker and my hat got lighter. The miles slowly changed the initial appearance of my body... as well as what I was wearing. Nothing got more direct sunlight than my hat, and it definitely shows that -- particularly to those who can see it in person and look at how dark blue the inside of the hat is that wasn't exposed to the sunlight!

As I write this, wearing that 12-year-old hat, I can nearly hear the ocean waves that I ran into on October 20, 2006. I gripped the hat in my right hand and held it up in victory. I had achieved my biggest running dream, experienced my own personal 'Olympics,' and had become the fifth person in history to run solo ocean-to-ocean across America. Odd as it may sound, that hat helped me to succeed. It will always be a reminder of the 6 million strides I endured.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

LUMOS: An Innovative Bicycle Helmet Worth More Than a Glance

The Lumos bicycle helmet is the world's first smart bike helmet that integrates lights, hard brake, and turn signals. I'll get right to the price. The cost is between $140 and $180 depending on what features you want. The helmet features 48 individual LEDs in the front and back to ensure visibility on the road -- 10 lights in the front and 38 in the back.

The weatherproof, crash-tested Lumos helmet has bright left and right turn signals that cyclists can activate via a wireless remote. The helmet also senses when you're slowing down and turns all the lights on the back of your helmet a solid red. Both the helmet and remote can be charged with the included magnetic charging cable. It takes 2 hours to obtain a full charge. The helmet's lights last 3 hours in solid mode and 6 hours in flash mode.

There is also a Lumos helmet app which keeps track of battery life, adjusts your helmet's settings, and updates the firmware. The helmet has won several awards and has been featured on CNN, ABC News, USA Today, Outside Magazine, and more. Visit the Lumos website or their Facebook page to learn more. Also, check out the Lumos YouTube channel.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Closest I Ever Came to Dying on an Adventure Run

I had very close brushes with death on numerous occasions during my solo running adventures across states and countries. Whether it be close calls with motorists and semi trucks, sub-zero temperatures causing hypothermia, or having automatic weapons pointed at me on a foreign military base -- there have certainly been times when I've thought "This is it... I'm going to die." However, there was one moment in particular where I came the closest to death, and that was in Bavaria, Germany in 2010.

During my 500-mile solo run across Germany, I was facing traffic while running along a mountainous stretch of road as the temperature was around 20 degrees with snow, ice and wind. Nearly ten miles into that 30-mile day I saw a car zip around a mountain curve at high speed -- coming right at me. There was no shoulder on the road and one of the back wheels of my support stroller had been scraping along the guardrail as I tried to stay as far out of motorists' way as I could. This particular vehicle was going way too fast for the weather conditions (around 50mph) and was coming straight at me and the stroller of gear in front of me. I had absolutely no choice but to jump over the guardrail to literally save myself from being hit.

As I leaped into the air over the guardrail, I glanced briefly down and saw that I was about 50 feet above treetops! As I was falling, my glove-covered hands reached for the top of the guardrail and I grabbed it with all of my might. My body immediately swung forward toward the guardrail and my torso hit the ground where the guardrail was anchored, knocking the wind out of me and causing pain. In the gap between the ground and guardrail I saw the car narrowly miss the stroller and he sped down the road. I was gasping for air, and my gloves were slipping on the cold, frozen guardrail. I struggled to get air back into my cold lungs and began to pull myself up, eventually getting a knee onto the surface below the guardrail. I tossed my body back onto the roadway and couldn't believe what had just happened. In the blink of an eye I was hurling my body over a guardrail and could have fallen 75 feet or so to the ground below -- bouncing through trees on my way down. I would have certainly died had I not grabbed onto the top of the guardrail.

As I collected my thoughts and emotions, I stood there wondering how in the world the driver managed to miss the stroller. He couldn't have missed it by more than an inch! I was quite shaken after this particular brush with death and found a spot to pull the stroller off the roadway as I tried to compose myself. It was a good thing that I had gloves on my hands because the top edge of the guardrail was rather sharp and would have shredded my hands, and likely caused me to lose my grip. My chest hurt from slamming against the slope just below the guardrail and I had that discomfort for a few days, feeling fortunate to not have broken any ribs.

I'll never forget that particular day on the road and I feel very blessed to have endured all of the running adventures I did without losing my life along the way.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Forecast: By 2035, 65+ Year Olds Will Outnumber Kids in America

Currently, the middle-aged outnumber children in the United States. However, by 2035 (in only 17 years!), Americans age 65 and older are forecast to outnumber kids for the first time in history.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of older adults will surpass children by almost two million in 2035, growing nearly five million to a total of 78 million by 2035. The growth rate of the population of children, those under age 18, is expected to be slower and only number 76.4 million by 2035.

Americans are having fewer children and the "baby boom" of the 1950's and 1960's has yet to be repeated. Fewer babies, coupled with longer life expectancy equals a country that ages faster.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that starting in 2030, when all 'boomers' will be at least 65 years of age, older Americans will make up 21 percent of the population -- up from 15 percent today. By 2060 (when I'm 95 years old!), nearly one in four Americans will be 65 years and older, the number of 85-plus will triple, and the country will add a half million centenarians.

With this increasing number of older adults, the U.S. could see greater demands for healthcare, in-home care-giving and assisted living facilities. It may also place a strain on social security.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Priceless Drawing That I Will Always Treasure

I was looking through some old files today and came across this drawing my eldest son, Kyler, made for me back in 2006 when he was 8 years old. Priceless!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, March 9, 2018

Keeping Your Immune System Young Through Cycling

A new study has found that cycling can slow the effects of aging and rejuvenate the immune system. The study involved 125 amateur cyclists between the ages of 55 to 79 and compared them with healthy adults who did not exercise regularly. The non-exercising group consisted of 75 healthy people aged 57 to 80, as well as 55 young adults aged 20 to 36. Male cyclists taking part in the study had to be able to cycle 62 miles in under 6½ hours, while women had to cover 37 miles in 5½ hours.

The findings were outlined in the journal Aging Cell and showed that the cyclists preserved muscle mass and strength with age while maintaining stable levels of body fat and cholesterol. More surprisingly, the anti-aging effects of cycling appeared to extend to the immune system.

An organ called the thymus, which makes immune cells called T-cells, normally starts to shrink from the age of 20. But the thymuses of older cyclists were found to be generating as many T-cells as those of young people.

Many other studies have also shown the health benefits of cycling. One study, published last year, found that regular cycling cut the risk of death from all causes by more than 40 percent, and cut the risk of cancer and heart disease by 45 percent. Experts also believe cycling boosts riders’ mental health, with multiple studies finding that those who commute by bicycle are happier and less prone to depression than those who use any other form of transport.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Run Across America Required 2½ Billion Pounds of Pressure

My blog post yesterday (Can Excessive Running Lead To Red Blood Cell Destruction?) looked at a recent medical case of an ultra-endurance runner where repetitive forceful foot striking lead to blood cell lysis in the feet, resulting in a mild macrocytic anemia and intravascular hemolysis. Today, I want to share with you just how much impact your body experiences when running.

According to a Runner's World magazine article titled "Facts on Foot Strike," every time you land, your foot impacts the ground with a certain amount of force, which is counteracted by an equal and opposite amount of force applied by the ground to your foot. This equal and opposite force is known as the ground reaction force (GRF). The GRF comes in a number of components, typically broken into anterior-posterior (along the direction you're traveling), horizontal (side to side), and vertical (straight up and down). Of these, the vertical GRF is the greatest in magnitude.

The amount of time each foot is in contact with the ground varies among people and at different running speeds, but about one-third of a second is a reasonable number for a typical recreational runner. Each foot comes into contact with the ground 80 to 100 times per minute on average, which translates to a stride rate or cadence of 160 to 200 steps per minute, with considerable variation from person to person and at different running speeds. The average runner will take 800 to 1,000 strides per mile. Over the course of a 5-mile run this means that each heel will strike the ground 5,000 times.

Studies have shown that each heel strike produces a force that is equal to 3 to 4 times your body weight. For a 150 pound runner, this means that each heel strike will generate up to 600 pounds of pressure. When I ran across America in 2006, I took about 6 million running strides from one ocean to another. I weighed approximately 145 pounds at the time. So, the total amount of impact force on my body to run 3,260 miles across the United States was at least 2½ BILLION POUNDS of pressure. Let's put that into perspective. The weight of the Empire State Building (a 102-story skyscraper in New York City standing 1,454 feet tall) is 730 million pounds. My coast-to-coast run applied impact force to my body which was over three times the weight of the Empire State Building. Yes, for that 108-day running adventure I experienced an average of 23 million pounds of impact force each day... while pushing an 80-pound support stroller of gear, food and water.

Impact force doesn’t just act at the foot. As the heel strikes the ground the impact force will then travel up the shin, through the knee, up through the thigh and hip, and into the pelvis and trunk. To ensure that the body is able to handle these forces, it is important to have proper mobility at the lower extremity joints as well as adequate strength, endurance, and balance of muscles that control the leg, pelvis, and trunk. As long as the muscles and joints are working properly the chance of injury is greatly reduced. However, because of the repetitive nature and high impact forces associated with running, even minor problems will increase the chances of pain and injury.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Can Excessive Running Lead To Red Blood Cell Destruction?

I've shared many times in this blog that my 40-year running career involved about 50,000 miles (with many solo adventures across states and countries). I'm about to turn 53 years of age and am pleased to say that I don't have any serious after effects from all of that intense pounding.

In long-distance endurance athletes, trace gastrointestinal bleeding and plasma volume expansion are sources of mild anemia (often called ‘runner’s pseudoanemia’). However, repetitive forceful foot striking can lead to blood cell lysis in the feet, resulting in a mild macrocytic anemia and intravascular hemolysis. A macrocytic class of anemia is an anemia (defined as blood with an insufficient concentration of hemoglobin) in which the red blood cells (erythrocytes) are larger than their normal volume. Hemolysis is the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells, either in the blood vessels (intravascular hemolysis) or elsewhere in the human body (extravascular).

I recently read about Christopher Pokrana, age 41, who was told that his repetitive forceful foot striking was to blame for his hemolysis... the destruction of red blood cells. According to a medical case report, this then led to mild anemia because of the rapid obliteration of his blood cells.

Mr. Pokrana followed all advice including changing his running shoes every 500 miles -- as guidelines recommend. However, he had embarked on an intense training regimen, logging as much as between 50 to 100 miles in his individual training runs.

His condition intrigued doctors in Virginia and was recently published in the BMJ Case Reports -- a prestigious journal for medical tales. Mr. Pokrana's physicians stated that his intravascular hemolysis was most likely due to repetitive foot striking associated with his long-distance running. Without treatment, anemia can be life-threatening.

Mr. Pokrana continues to run long distances.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, March 2, 2018

Karnazes: "Running is when I am at peace. It’s when I’m happiest."

In an October 2006 New York Times article, renowned ultramarathon runner, Dean Karnazes, is quoted as saying, "Running is when I am at peace. It’s when I’m happiest." He made that statement as I was nearing the finish of my solo coast-to-coast run across America. Essentially, Dean is a guy who hit his "midlife crisis" at the early age of 30 and journeyed into ultra-marathon running.

At the time Dean Karnazes said "Running is when I am at peace. It's when I'm happiest," he was actually on the road with his wife and their two children -- ages 8 and 12. There once was a time in my life when I was most at peace, and happiest, when running. However, that is no longer true. Now, I am most at peace and happiest when I am with the love of my life, Kelley. I've learned over the years that physical exertion gives you a limited amount of happiness and peace, but the deepest level of happiness and peace in life comes through a loving, trusting, and completely committed relationship rooted in unconditional love. THAT is what I've been blessed with and that is what gives me my ultimate peace and happiness in life.

I must say that my Christian faith also gives me peace and happiness at a spiritual level, and to have a partner whose faith is of great importance in her life makes the journey of faith all the more sweet.

In just one month from now, I'll be turning 53. As I've gotten older, I've learned what it means to truly be happy and at peace. Those who know me are aware of the many unhappy and unpeaceful times that I've experienced as I've reached for life's mileposts. I'm at a season of life where happiness and peace are a regular part of my days. That doesn't mean that my life is "perfect," because nobody's life is. All of us have struggles and stresses to deal with. However, I've grown to understand that it's the little things in life that are the most cherished and the most influential on experiencing deep and lasting peace and happiness.

Yes, there was a time in my life when I would have agreed with Dean Karnazes (that running brings the most peace and happiness), but I've outrun that misconception.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso