Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reflections with Gordo

There is nothing better on the internet than Gordo Byrn's reflections on Family, Fitness, and Finances - his major areas of interest in life. Gordo is a former world champion professional triathlete at the ultradistance specialty. Before that, he was a high finance whiz kid who had an exceptional and brief career before jumping ship around age 30 and going full bore into ultra triathlon. he's pushed his body to a training volume matched by few humans in history. Yes, there are many laborers who work extremely hard, but (as Andrew MacNaughton reminds us) if you define work as mass x force, guys like Gordo or Andrew or Pete Kain (going on his 30th straight competitive triathlon season at elite pro or amateur level) have worked harder than most any human who has ever lived.

Here is a reprint of one of Gordo's blog postings. Subscribe to his blog and get a regular dose (not an overdose he promises) of insightful commentary at a perfect word length for your busy life. Following his post are my comments back to him. See what you think....

My Silver Year

by Gordo Byrn
2015-12-27 13.50.08It was my 47th birthday last week.
Borrowing from the late Oliver Sachs, I decided to look up 47 on the periodic table. I was happy to discover it's the element Silver (47Ag). So the next 12 months will represent my Silver Year.
When I'm going through a tough patch, I tell myself to live-every-phase.
I have two tendencies that distract from a goal of living every phase of my life.
The first is wishing backwards - mourning the loss of peak physical power.
The second is wishing forwards - feeling like I am trapped in a perpetual holding pattern with my preschoolers. Wishing for freedom that, I believe, will come later.
The above thinking is not useful.
A useful antidote is to reflect on the advantages of my Silver Year.
My life is straightforward, surrounded by wonderful people, close to nature and simple.
While I'm past my athletic sell-by date, nearly all my physical changes so far have been positive.
Staying healthy is easier, and requires much less time, than I expected. As a former ultra-endurance athlete, the toughest part has been changing my belief system to reflect what I've seen with my body.
With that in mind, I'll offer this observation about my younger self.
  • If you have the capacity to convince yourself that total focus towards your goal is "necessary"
  • If you have the capacity to commit significant, sustained attention towards a narrow field of interest
  • If you have the capacity to recover from high workloads
  • then you have what it takes to succeed.
You also have the capacity for sustained, extremely poor judgement.
Success in a narrow niche is about getting a lot of work done, shedding non-core and motivating others to help you achieve.
As we age, we're likely to value connection more than success.
...and connection is about being good enough across a wide-network of relationships.
...and my relationships benefit from what I don't do, don't say, don't indulge
Now, at this stage of my life, there is a growing realization that the people around me don't care about my personal productivity. They want to see me happy and serene.
However, I notice that time is passing and the window for getting-stuff-done is closing.
But what stuff will "I" value having gotten done if I arrive at my Golden Year (79Au)?!
I deal with this tension by pausing and paying attention whenever I feel happy, content and serene.
The motto "live every day" always makes me feel like I should be enjoying myself.
For my Silver Year, I prefer "live every phase" -- giving myself permission to experience my difficulties as they come and vowing to keep moving forward despite knowing how the story will end.
Brilliant's a couple things:

1. Preschoolers - yes, maximum energy and attention and battery drain. My perspective now with kids 18 and 16 is that every phase was beautiful and perfect. I shudder at the idea of having pre-schoolers right now, and I was exhausted during that time period going all in. Other parents tried to intimidate me about the teenage years and while there was plenty of truth expressed (they get difficult/moody/rebellious, they don't need you any more blah blah), even the battles are a beautiful phase. Think of the alternative of an 18-year-old man clinging to my side like a preschooler. no thanks. Right when i was about to crack many times, my kids entered a new phase, bringing relief and also new challenges.

2. Training - reflecting now, I think its possible that if we only  trying to win, decisions would have been different. Lighter work load, more self care and self respect and moderated competitive intensity. Instead, I think many in our game were compelled to suffer, as a (possibly healthy psychologically) rite of passage in a world that's too safe and easy. Leaving your best performances in workouts sucks in many ways (poor judgement as you say) but it delivered a payoff on the spot, eh?

I have an idea for a new book - it's about transitioning from Type A to Type B...Letting go of attributes that no longer serve me or bring happiness. I think it could be of interest to many. Why does society value the excess competitive intensity too much? Maybe the parking attendants of the world have more to offer than the overblown lifestyle gurus that populate the social media. I spoke in Spanish to a parking lot attendant a few months back, lamenting my struggle to speak better Spanish. He said don't worry about it, the most important thing is the esfuerza - making the effort. What a profound statement!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cancer, glucose, and ketogenic eating

The message below pasted from my friend Mike DiLandro's excellent monthly newsletter. There is some big interest lately in the idea that a ketogenic diet can fight cancer, because cancer cells are known to feed off of glucose. Ketogenic diets have also been found to help cognitive disorders like ADHD, autism, and Alzheimers, and they have been used with great success to elicit rapid fat loss. A ketogenic diet is where you restrict carbohydrates to an extremely low level, thereby teaching your body to burn ketones (energy rich by products of fat metabolism in the liver when carb intake is extremely low) as an alternative source of fuel to glucose. It's the ultimate expression of the primal/paleo concept where you escape from dependency on regularly timed high carbohydrate as your primary energy source, and instead become expert at burning internal fuel sources. 

These abilities (we call it 'fat adapted' or 'primal adapted) are hard-wired into our genes through 2 million years of selection pressure to survive with very unreliable food sources--until the advent of civilization from the cultivation of grains (a reliable source of food that transitioned us out of hunter-gatherer existence). Today, with our obsessive overfeedings of high carbohydrate meals, we have shut off our genetic abilities to survive and thrive on high fat and irregular eating patterns and are utterly reliant on regular doses of carbs (ever get cranky, foggy and loopy after skipping even a single meal? Then you are carb-dependent!

Right now I am 22 days into an experiment with a ketogenic diet, where my daily carb intake is 50 grams per day or less. Practically, this means I am eating ample servings of vegetables and snacking on nuts and nut butters, but consuming no other carbs to speak of. No grains, no sugars, no sweetened beverages, not even fruit or my lovely 85% dark chocolate! What I can report so far is more regulated daily energy levels and never feeling hungry. Fooling around with ketogenic eating is not advised until you have built some excellent momentum from low carb, primal aligned eating. I have been off grains and sugars for 8 years now in my primal journey, so I am simply dialing back my carbs even further to see what happens. For those interested and inclined, the health benefits are outstanding. Dr.'s Phinney and Volek detail the potent anti-inflammatory effects of ketogenic eating in their book, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. 

Okay now let's read about the origin of chemotherapy, the role of glucose in cancer progression, and how ketogenic eating might help. From Mike DiLandro:


Tripping Over the Truth” is a chronological history of the fight to cure cancer.  For those of you old enough to remember President Richard Nixon declaring war on cancer, it is sad that almost 50 years later we have still not been able to eradicate this family of devastating diseases.  Some of you may have also recently listened to the documentary series “The Truth About Cancer” ( ).  If you did, you truly begin to question the approach we take in battling cancer: surgery to cut out as much as possible, followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

In “Tripping Over the Truth”, Christofferson describes how chemotherapy was invented.  At the end of World War II, Germany bombed a fleet of US ships that were stationed in Italy.  One of those ships that was destroyed was secretly carrying nitrogen mustard gas.  Sailors that were blown from their ships into the water were exposed to the mustard gas and killed.  What doctors who autopsied the sailors who perished learned, was the mustard gas all but ceased the division of certain types of cells that were prone to divide fast.  The doctors then formulated that nitrogen mustard gas could be injected in humans to try and kill cancerous cells.  70 years later we are still using a variety of chemotherapy drugs, but their downside is that they don’t just target the cancer.  Chemotherapy is analogous to dropping Napalm on a jungle.  You are going the burn more than just the bad guys.

The key message I got out of “Tripping Over the Truth”, is that we have been looking in the wrong place for the cause of cancer up until very recently.  Dating back to the early 20th century, there were two schools of thought on cancer’s cause: genetic or metabolic.  Over time the great majority of scientists believed that cancer was caused by genetic reasons and thus based their attacks on cancer down this path.  Unfortunately, recent developments from the Human Genome Project and subsequent related gene mapping programs have proven that cancer cannot be caused genetically.  Basically, we have been looking at the problem all wrong for almost 100 years for how to cure cancer.

To understand the metabolic cause theory of cancer we need to look back to German Scientist Otto Warburg, who was born in 1883, and his Warburg effect.  According to Wikipedia (with some notes from me in parentheses), “In oncology (the branch of medicine that deals with cancer), the Warburg effect is the observation that most cancer cells predominantly produce energy by a high rate of glycolysis (the splitting of glucose molecules to form Adenosine Triphosphate [ATP] energy) followed by lactic acid fermentation, rather than by a comparatively low rate of glycolysis followed by oxidation of pyruvate (an end product of glycolysis) in mitochondria (the cell’s power houses that create ATP) as in most normal cells.  Malignant, rapidly growing tumor cells typically have glycolytic rates up to 200 times higher than those of their normal tissues of origin.  Otto Warburg postulated this change in metabolism is the fundamental cause of cancer.”

To clarify, food is digested and supplied to cells mainly in the form of glucose.  Glucose is broken down further to make ATP by two pathways.  One is via anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism occurring in cells, also known as glycolysis.  The major physiological significance of glycolysis lies in making ATP quickly, but in a minuscule amount. The breakdown process continues in the mitochondria, which is more efficient for ATP production.  Cancer cells seem to be well adjusted to glycolysis.  In the 1920s, Otto Warburg first proposed that cancer cells show increased levels of glucose consumption and lactate fermentation even in the presence of ample oxygen (known as “Warburg Effect”).  Based on this theory, the switch to glycolysis promotes the proliferation of cancer cells.  Many studies have demonstrated glycolysis as the main metabolic pathway in cancer cells.

More recently in March 2008, Dr. Lewis C. Cantley and his colleagues announced that the tumor M2-PK, a form of the pyruvate kinase enzyme, gives rise to the Warburg effect.  Tumor M2-PK is produced in all rapidly dividing cells, and is responsible for enabling cancer cells to consume glucose at an accelerated rate.  Forcing the cells to switch to pyruvate kinase's alternative form by inhibiting the production of tumor M2-PK, led to their growth being curbed.  The researchers acknowledged the fact that the exact chemistry of glucose metabolism was likely to vary across different forms of cancer, but M2-PK was identified in all of the cancer cells they had tested.

So what are some potential remedies suggested in “Tripping Over the Truth”?  Well, since cancer consumes glucose at an accelerated rate, starving the body of glucose is strongly advised.  Christofferson talks about using a ketogenic diet, which involves eating mostly fats and thus keeps your body in ketosis.  We are not talking about just your run of the mill, low carb Paleo diet either.  Christofferson’s ketogenic recommendations are to keep your daily carbs limited to 12 grams and your daily protein to 1 gram for every kilogram (kg) of body weight.  As an example, if you weigh 194 pounds, that equates to 88 kgs or 88 grams of protein.  Since both carbs and protein are 4 calories per kg, you would only get 400 calories per day from carbs and protein (12 + 88 = 100 grams X 4 calories/gram = 400 calories).  All of the other calories you intake will need to come from fat.  This fat could come from the fat in meats, eggs, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, olives, etc.  You just need to account for the carbs and protein in whatever you eat and stay below the daily limits.

In addition to a ketogenic diet, Christofferson explains how using a hyperbaric chamber can also be used to fight cancer.  Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube.  Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving.  In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure.  Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.  Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body.  This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.  The argument runs that using a hyperbaric chamber will overcome one of the main influences of cancer, namely that cancer exists in a low-oxygen environment and plentiful oxygen can kill it off.
The dismissal of the Warburg effect, which Otto Warburg discovered 100 years ago, not only has caused cancer researchers to attack the cure for cancer incorrectly, but has also put countless patients through the standard, extremely grueling cancer treatment protocol of invasive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.  Imagine instead, just changing to a ketogenic diet and using hyperbaric oxygen therapy, if you learn of a positive cancer diagnosis.  Not only would your body not be ravaged, but the cost savings would be phenomenal.  Some chemotherapy treatments can cost upwards of $500,000.00.  Dietary changes cost almost nothing and hyperbaric therapy is very inexpensive.

I highly encourage anyone, whether you have a cancer diagnosis or not, to read “Tripping Over the Truth”.  I also recommend checking out the documentary series “The Truth About Cancer”.


Mike DiLandro (

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Primal Endurance Promo on KCRA Channel 3 Sacramento

Check out this 5-minute segment about Primal Endurance and primal eating with Dierdre Fitzpatrick on KCRA Channel 3 Sacramento morning show. I had to bring a bunch of food props to the studio to display primal meals and snacks and contrast the typical high carb food choices.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Inverse Power of Praise-How Not To Talk to Your Kids

This is an article from 2007 that changed my perspective about parenting. I think about the concepts probably every single day.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids - the inverse power of praise

Read it and let me know what you think. It caused me - and many other parents I've sent it to - to reevaluate some of the basic assumptions of being a good parent or a good coach.

OKAY It's long so if you are too busy the essence is that even a simple comment like "I'm proud of you" can suggest to the kid he/she is performing to impress others. If you say, "you're smart, you're a great musician, you're a great athlete," its possible for the kid to attach self-esteem to these characterizations and perhaps withdraw from higher challenges to protect the characterization, or become self-image become too wrapped up in the label (e.g., I thought of myself as a triathlete, until one day I was no longer a triathlete. OOPS!)

If you tell a child, "you're smart", "'you're beautiful" its possible for the child to become socialized to overvalue their innate intelligence or physical beauty and trade on that in life instead of work hard to constantly grow and improve. The article also says that a kid already learns early on they are smart, athletic, physically attractive and it's not necessary to drum these points to boost self-esteem.

Since 2007 reading, with my kids I always try to praise the effort and minimize importance of results or external measurements and judgements. 

I say, "great effort, you have worked really hard, you should be proud of yourself". With my kids I might say things like, 'wow your hair looks great', 'that was a really thoughtful question,' 'that drawing is really interesting and realistic,' or 'you play the game the right way,' you did a good job passing the ball', 'you gave 100% the whole game', or also, 'you are a beautiful person', 'you're a great kid'

Contrast this with sentiments like 'you're so pretty', 'you're so smart', 'you're the best athlete in the whole school,', or even worse, 'you so deserved to get homecoming queen instead of her', 'you should be in the starting lineup instead of him'. Statements like these devalue effort and set up a flawed mentality of referencing one's worth externally instead of emphasizing effort and internal satisfaction. 

How To Lose That Last 10 Pounds

Here is a message I wrote to a client after we got talking about that frustrating challenging of losing the last 10 pounds of excess body fat. Often, people make great initial progress with fat reduction and then stall while still a bit above their ultimate goal.

Homeostasis: First, understand that the body likes to achieve homeostasis, so losing fat over a period of time might require a plateau period as your body's way of maintaining status quo. Do you feel better, sleep better, eat better, perform better than before? This would be great news and now you can make a plan to progress further.

The more fat-adapted you are, the easier it is for you to make some concerted efforts to Intermittent Fast and eat meals off your fat stores rather than your plate. If you are still slightly carb dependent, then fasting won't work and you'll just slow down metabolic rate. If you can have some days where you eat less food and fewer carbs than normal you can make spurts of progress.

Wakesurfing - a super high intensity workout great
for weight loss....NOT. But it's incredibly fun!
Set Point: Very importantly, when your body reaches a genetically comfortable set point, you have to shock your body with high intensity sprint efforts to achieve further fat loss. If your genetic influences have you at x% body fat right now (dang! thats higher than your neighbor who's genetic influences have her looking more like Gwyneth Paltrow than you! Unfair!) ......and you want to drop 10 more lbs, you can consider conducting a sequence of brief duration, very high intensity sprint sessions. Running/weight bearing obviously the best choice, but if you are not adapted to run sprints now, you can do bicycle sprints or uphill sprints (low or no impact options).

Intensity and Fasting: I like pairing these intense efforts with Intermittent Fasting to turbo charge fat burning in the body. So you do your sprints in the am, after ~10hrs of fasting, then fast as long as possible after the workout until you really get hungry and want to eat. Weight bearing sprints send a strong signal to body to reduce excess fat. High intensity, short duration strength workouts will also deliver results in this area. Longer duration (30, 45, 60 min) strength workouts, boot camp classes, personal trainer sessions and so forth cause prolonged stress hormones in the bloodstream and elevated hunger. You crank out that awesome morning workout, burn a ton of calories (hoping to help with weight loss) and then find yourself pounding a pint of ice cream and evening due to the depleting effect of the workout. Hard to believe but its better to get in and get out quickly with the intensity sessions. 

Natural Appetite: Finally, the other error we see often is people having this primal 'license to kill ' where they eat high quantities of food because the food is Primal approved so its 'okay' to pig out. Man you should see the group at our PrimalCon retreats!! they inhale TONS of delicious food, 5-foot tall women with plates piled high enough to make the football team proud. As the book suggests, macadamia nuts are a 'great primal snack' so are sardines and so forth. But you can also eat these snacks off your butt as Mark likes to say. 

If you have made great progress but wanna drop 10 more pounds you can do it in about 3 months time. So you will send me another email in a few months saying, 'hey Brad i did it, check out my 6 pack, photo attached', but this result will require some pretty sincere effort to really really really align your appetite with your intake. You eat only when hungry and finish when you are satified. Not 'full' but simply satisfied. Modern humans rarely behave this way. We eat for social reasons and we pig out on good food. 

Remember though, Primal aligned eating with low insulin producing dietary habits will enable you to easily maintain a desired body composition for the rest of your life. However getting down into your desired summer bathing suit zone is going to take some extra effort for 8 weeks. 

All this commentary should be taken in the context that a physician consultation is important for any eating or exercise program, especially when some foo on email tells you to sprint like crazy! Must be in optimal physical condition to enact this strategy. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Primal Endurance Book is Here

Hey readers the book Primal Endurance is out and getting some good attention in the primal community as well as the endurance community. This book represents Mark Sisson and I coming full circle and bringing the primal message to the endurance world we have so much history with.

Our message is to slow down, chill out, pursue a balanced and intuitive approach, and eliminate carb dependency in favor of becoming fat-adapted. Endurance sports are extremely popular today, but the prevailing approach is overly stressful and leads to burnout and excess body fat. This book provides an attractive solution to the problem, allowing you to go faster, lose excess body fat, have more fun, and spend less time training!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Speedgolf World Championships Update

2015 World Speedgolf Championships
I recently returned from the 2015 World Professional Speedgolf Championships where I placed 20th, matching my result from 2014. The event was a 36-hole competition at the Glen Club outside Chicago, IL. I shot 86 in 54 minutes on day 1, and 91 in 58 minutes on day 2, for a total score of 289 and a 20th placing in the pro division. The winner Rob Hogan of Ireland shot 243 (83-42;78-40) and earned $11,550 from the total purse of $40,000. 

It was not a great performance as I struggled to keep my swing under control while running full speed. My highlight was the second nine on day 1 when I shot 38, including two under for the final five holes. It tied the best score of the day for the back nine among all pros. If you're good at addition you'll realize that I shot 48 on the front nine that day with four lost balls. Everyone struggled in the 22mph wind, but gee I guess my ball ignored the wind on the back nine...

At 50, I was the second oldest in the pro field and these young guys are very fast and great players. I'm already practicing for next year. I took 20th last year as well in the pro division at Bandon Dunes, OR. Here is the Sacramento Bee article about my 2014 participation, 18 years after my last pro event.

36th and final hole on Tues, hence the smile..

Hanging with Olympic silver medalist 1500m runner Nick Willis of New Zealand, also a top Speedgolfer in his spare time. 

Here's the amazing Rob Hogan of Ireland, the world's top Speedgolfer. He is a full-time competitor, training like a marathon runner and a professional golfer at his home in Galway, Ireland.

More Speedgolf

Here is my viral YouTube sensation: Introduction to Speedgolf

Speedgolf revolutionizes the traditional sport by introducing the element of speed, endurance, quick reaction, and shot creativity into the slowest-paced of all sports. In Speedgolf, your score is comprised of the number of minutes spent on the course plus the number of strokes taken (similar to the winter olympic sport of biathlon - shooting and xc skiing).

History of Speedgolf
My first exposure to Speedgolf was when Olympic middle distance runner and recreational golfer Steve Scott set a Guinness World Record for playing a round of golf in 27 minutes, shooting 103 back in the early 80s. In 1985, my mother bet me $50 that I couldn't finish 9 holes in under 30 minutes. I finished the nine in 17 minutes and change and was flabbergasted to notice that I played as good or better than normal golf when I was running full speed through the course--in the zone!

Years later, endurance sports publishing guru Bob Babbitt organized a circuit of Southern California tournaments where we raced thru the course, and had caddies in golf carts providing all of our clubs on demand. I placed 8th in the 1996 World Extreme Golf Championships in San Diego, shooting 80 in 40 minutes for a 120. The sport had Red Bull sponsorship and coverage on ESPN as an attempt to become the next cool extreme sport but it kind of fizzled out.

Forwarding to 2012 or so and a group based in Oregon (Speed Golf International) brought the sport back big time! Oh man this was exciting for me because I was just returning to golf in 2013 after a 10-year run dominating youth athletes while coaching them in soccer, basketball and track (then they grew up and I was forced into the stands to cheer). I read about and watched great athletes like Christopher Smith and Rob Hogan, and practiced hard for a full year to join the elite players at the 2014 championships in Bandon Dunes. Speedgolf is a great sport because it doesn't take much time to play. I visit courses in the final hour before darkness when there are no other players out there, and zip around 9 holes in 30 or 45 minutes, then return home for dinner!

Kearns Golf
I've been golfing since age 4. My father, Dr. Walter Kearns, is the world's greatest golfer over age 90 and has had an amazing competitive career spanning eight decades, including participating in the US Amateur and US Senior amateur. Check out his website and marvel at stuff like eleven hole-in-ones, including seven accomplished in a five-year span after turning 80! My brother Wally is a top amateur player and former California State Amateur champion in his low handicap flite. My nephew Zachary Kearns plays with Capo Valley High School and does trick shots. Cousin Chris Kearns was the Wisconsin State Junior Champion and regular par player. Brother Jeff Kearns had a hole-in-one on Thanksgiving, 2014, joining a populous Kearns hole-in-one club (Marie, Gail, Wally, Walter, Jeff, and numerous cousins) that I have yet to join.