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Archive for May, 2014

My daughter does not have a disease like cancer…despite what PETA or Autism Speaks might imply.

My daughter is not God’s vengeance…despite what Toni Braxton may have once thought.

My daughter is no more a potential killer than any of you…despite what the Washington Post might say.

My daughter, Brooke, has autism.

She IS autistic.

Is being autistic all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns?

Um, no.

Are there days that Brooke struggles mightily, in part because she is autistic?

Sure, no doubt.

Are there days when Brooke excels, in part because she is autistic?

Absolutely.

***

Words matter.

Stigma matters.

Demonization matters.

The way Ms. Braxton or PETA or the Washington Post or Autism Speaks talk about autism undoubtedly has led to unnecessary  tragedy.  I am not trying to convince a struggling parent that their autistic child is a gift from god, unless you believe that ALL children are a gift from god.  I am not painting a picture that is all rosy and “happily ever after” when an individual or family receives an autism diagnosis.  I am not trying to hold a scared parent’s hand and say, “everything will work out fine”.

BUT…

But individuals, parents, families and friends need to understand that autism and being autistic is NOT a death sentence like cancer can be…

Individuals, parents, families and friends need to understand that autism and being autistic is NOT a punishment of the parent for some imagined slight against his or her god…

Individuals, parents, families and friends need to understand that autism and being autistic is NOT an indicator of murderous tendencies any more than being any other member of the human race is…

***

My daughter is autistic.

She struggles a little more than others.

She also giggles and smiles a little more than others too.

She sees the world a little differently than you or me.

Sometimes that hinders…sometimes that helps.

As her parents, Jess and I do what we can to make the world a friendlier, easier place for her to exist in, while providing her with skills that will allow her to navigate it.

***

For the love of whatever deity you pray to, please stop seeing her as a diseased punishment, hell bent on hurting people.

My daughter is autistic.

She is different.

And that is okay.

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She IS driving…

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Yesterday I posted this on Twitter:

Dear @peta,
Is it lost on you that you are demonizing #autistic people with your Got #Autism/ #Milk campaign? That action has consequences.

A little while ago they responded with a non-response:

@luau Researchers have backed up many families’ findings that a dairy-free diet can help kids with autism: http://t.co/yl9O76Gmve

No acknowledgement of dehumanizing autistic people; just uncited “research” not even tangentially justifying their actions.

And so I said this:

@peta you’re still demonizing autistics – THAT has consequences!!! How many parents have killed their autistic child b/c of demonization?

And this:

@peta if the “science” were true, there are better ways you could have said so…

@peta instead you chose to perpetuate the demonization.

@peta it’s lazy and narrow minded….and again, has consequences.

I kept wondering how I could put their campaign in a light that they might understand. The best I could come up with while driving down I-90 was this:

@peta let me ask u this – I know little about PETA….
…but many friends say u r money grabbing attention whores… Do you feel this is a fair assessment? Of course not…
…perhaps I should do my own research, right?
…so my question: did u interview anyone in the autistic community? And not @autismspeaks – they are a parent organization…
…did you speak to any autistic adults? Without cherry picking data?
…I would recommend speaking to the autistic community NOT the autism community.

So, I know it was completely ineloquent, but I would like to know if PETA ever even considered talking with autistic people? My guess is they would have found that in those autistics with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, going off dairy would have shown improvement in some co-morbid issues, whereas in others, there would have been no difference in the way an autistic individual went through their day whether they had milk or not.

If PETA wants to be taken seriously, they should behave as one, instead of irresponsibly demonizing more 1% of the population.

***apologies for any typos – written on the fly on my phone***

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If you are a headline writer, you are an asshole.

There, I said it.  You may not like it, but it’s true.

Why? Because if you are a headline writer, a craft that goes back to the early days of the printed news, you have contributed to the continual dumbing down of the United States of America.

The recent article by the Washington Post claiming “Study: ‘Significant’ statistical link between mass murder and autism” was a classic example of what newspapers and networks have been more and more guilty of in recent years.  Hitting people with out of context snippets to create interest to drive traffic in the form of clicks or viewers to bring in dollars is what these assholes do.

The problem is that a large chunk of people won’t click through and will simply read the headline – absorbing it as critical information without actually understanding the greater context of the  bigger picture.  Those that DO click through will read the article or watch the video through the lens of the headline – so despite the content saying something completely different, or at least preaching caution, the reader/viewer will not truly understand what they are reading.

We have become a headline nation – why is it that the Right and the Left are so far apart on everything?  They actually are not, but the headline writers have purposely created an environment that feed the angers and insecurities of a struggling nation.

Are we really so far apart on health care? or education? or security? taxes? care for the less fortunate? religious freedom? gay marriage? abortion?  I would argue that the vast majority are much, much closer than people realize.  The problem is that we can’t get past the headlines.  Headline writers throw people into one of two camps – for or against – when the truth is much more subtle.  We have reached a point where we compress everything we believe into 140 measly characters and then shout it out in ALL CAPS.

Nothing, I mean NOTHING that is worth debating should be compressed down to 140 characters (or even 1.400 characters for that matter).  The problem is that we have become lazy readers who would much rather have our country run by  someone we think would be a good drinking buddy instead of someone who is obviously way smarter than we are.

I consider myself to be pretty bright.  I did pretty well in high school and went to a decent college.  I like to think that I’ve got some brains – but there is no way on God’s green Earth that you could convince me that I am intelligent enough to run a country, no less the most powerful nation in the world.  Meanwhile, our leaders have been pushed by these headline writers to dumb themselves down.

In my opinion, these headline writers, particularly the one who wrote the headline for the Washington Post article, are guilty of negligence and any harm perpetrated by a parent on an autistic individual will have to be partially blamed on that particular headline writer.  Why?  Because somewhere out there is a parent who is feeling lost because society still hasn’t fully accepted autistic people.  Wherever this parent is, he or she will read the headline, and in some twisted, sick, evil way will come to the conclusion that he or she will be saving society by hurting their child.  This headline writer should also be found guilty of causing loss of employment of any autistic who doesn’t get a job he or she is qualified for because somewhere in the back of an employers mind will be, “I can’t hire a potential mass murderer”.

John Elder Robinson debunked the “study” showing that the number of people who were known to have autism in the study was about the same percentage as overall society, but I betting that most people who read the original article didn’t pick up on that.

The bottom line is this – I implore you to ignore the headlines when you aren’t willing to read the full article…

…and always remember, headline writers are assholes.

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I always tell people that if you want incentive for going to the gym/exercising/eating right, sign up for something.

Anything – a 5K, a 10K, even a Half-Marathon.

Get something on the calendar; something that is not so far away that it joins the rest of the “some day”s in your bucket of  “I’ll get to that tomorrow”, but no so close that you are unable to train properly for it.  More importantly, tell people about it.  Let them know what you are doing so that they will hold you accountable.

After watching my various social media feeds during the Boston Marathon, I did just that.  I signed up for the Bay State Marathon which takes place on October 19th.  Although it is not until Fall, it gives me enough time to get my running legs back before I kick into Marathon Training Mode.  My goal is to go sub-3:25 (my new BQ-time as I move up in age group) with an eye on sub-3:20 to give me a cushion.

My plan is to spend the next month getting my legs back before beginning training in earnest near the end of June/early July.  I’ll even have a tune-up race in September that I will write about soon as a separate post.  I’m still trying to decide on a training plan so if some of you more experienced runners have suggestions, I am always open to them.

I’ve got something on the calendar and I’m announcing to the world so I am held accountable and incentivized to get out there and run.

***

Oh.

There’s one more thing.

I’m not exactly sure how, but it appears that I am signing up for the Ghost Train Rail Trail Ultra…which takes place 6 days after Bay State.  My friends Jeremy and Josh somehow convinced me (I’m positive one of them must be a Jedi and did the ole Jedi Mind Trick on me).  Runners can choose to run 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90 or 100 miles (I think there’s actually a 115 mile option for overachievers, but that’s just friggin’ ridiculous!).  I’m sure you can guess which distance we will be shooting for.  After completing the TARC 100 last June in just under 28 hours, my only regret was that I was not able to do it in under 24.  That will be the goal on October 25th/26th.  It just better not rain that week.

So there you have it.  Pushing the limits of what I am physically capable of will be the theme of the week from October 19th – 26th.

What the heck am I thinking?

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Yes, this was my birthday cake for my 40th birthday.

Yes, this was my birthday cake for my 40th birthday.

In the past week I have been bombarded with either email links or Facebook tags regarding the recent settlement between Vibram USA and a Class Action Law Suit led by a woman who said the company deceived customers by claiming, without scientific evidence, that its FiveFingers shoe could strengthen foot muscles and decrease injuries.  Vibrams USA will be paying out $3.75 million to anyone who bought a pair of FiveFinger shoes after March 29th, 2009.

“Aren’t these your shoes?”

“What do you think?”

“Are you going to keep running in them?”

Theses questions, and many more, have been asked of me along with the tags and emails of that story.

I will admit, I bought into the increased foot muscle strength and the decreases injuries mantra hook, line and sinker, and I am very disappointed in both Vibrams USA (for not having the scientific data to back their claims up) and myself (for not doing a little more research).

That being said, let me make it clear, I will NOT be asking Vibram USA for my $94 that I can rightfully claim.

Why?

Because Vibrams Fivefinger Shoes were very much an integral part of getting me INTO running AND taking my running to the next level.  Without my KSOs, Bikilas, Treks and Seeyas, I don’t know if I would have achieved 8 marathons in less than two years.  Did I wear them for every marathon? No.  But they were an important part of my weekly training, and I believe they DID help keep my feet injury free.

Where’s my proof?  I have none except my own experience.  During a stretch a couple of years ago, after finding BQ success mixing my runs between VFFs and the original Saucony Kinvara, I purchased the 3rd iteration of the Kinvara.  During about a 6 month stretch, I ran almost exclusively in them, despite never truly liking them.  I’m not sure why I had moved away from the VFFs other than maybe VFFs were becoming popular as an alternative and I foolishly didn’t want to be “mainsteam alternative”.

Foolish, I know.

I eventually stopped using the Kinvaras because both of my feet were hit with plantar fasciitis…anybody who has experienced it will tell you just how painful it is.  When I mentioned my pain on Facebook, a friend said I needed to put my VFFs (Vibram Five Fingers) on, go out for a run and burn that PF out of my foot.  This went contrary to everything I had read on the Interwebs about PF.

Roll frozen water bottles under them.

Get orthodics!

Support, support, support!

Being the occasional contrarian (see above) that I am, I decided to heed my buddy’s advice, but instead of putting on my VFF’s, I went completely barefoot.  3 miles later, not only were the calluses on my heels now pedicured for free, but my PF was gone…yes, gone.  After having suffered for nearly 10 days heeding the common wisdom, barefoot running had cured me of my PF.

Is that scientific proof?  Absolutely not, and I want people to be perfectly clear that this was something that worked for me and for my feet.  I am not you and my feet are not yours.

***

Do I think Vibrams USA made a mistake in claiming what they did in the manner in which they claimed it?

Yup.

Do I think Vibrams USA is completely at fault for what this woman and many other may or may not have suffered through due to their use of VFFs?

No.  Friggin’. Way.

Even I, a mildly experienced runner at the time of my first purchase of the VFFs had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing.  I went out and ran 3 miles in them the first day I got them and proceeded to be literally hobbled for the next week because I nearly snapped my Achilles’ Tendon.  There are so many people in this country who, looking for a quick fix, will buy a product without thinking whether it is good for them and then go straight to using them without following instructions.  That was me the first time I put them on…and I even had a friend who had adamantly told me to run no more than a 1/4 mile in them the first time.

Did I listen?  No.

Typical of my fellow citizens, I went all out and nearly injured myself in a serious manner.

After that first run, my VFFs went into the closet, presumably never to come out again.

But then came the book Born to Run and I thought, maybe I didn’t do things right the first time (which I hadn’t).

This time I did a little research on transitioning into them. I read blog posts of runners who enjoyed some success in them and figured out how to make the slow transition myself.

I would go on to train exclusively and run 3 marathons in VFFs running a 3:54 (Manchester City), a 3:32 (Boston) and a 3:30 (Providence) all in the course of about 6 months.

***

So what’s my point?  If you take nothing else from this post or from the Class Action Lawsuit that Vibams USA settled, let it be this – Barefoot and barefoot style running works…for some.  Barefoot and barefoot style running doesn’t work…for some.  There are a thousands of people who rediscovered running due to the FiveFinger Shoe because they were forced into better running form.

That health benefit, to the individual themselves and to our society as a whole, is priceless.

I will not be asking for my $94.

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Remember this?

or this?

Then there was this:

joe_montana_skechers-300x404

and also this:

gretzky-shape-ups

I remember thinking, “Oh, Joe!  Oh, Wayne!  How the mighty have fallen.  Did you manage to mismanage your finances so badly that you have to shill for what is so obviously a ridiculous, lame product?”

The FTC realized it and Skechers was forced to pay $40 million in refunds.  To me, that is where the “Skechers as an athletic shoe”-concept would have come to a grinding halt, never to be attempted again…at least I would have thought so…

But then a couple of Monday’s ago, THIS happened:

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Meb Keflezighi WON the Boston Marathon, becoming the first American to do so in decades.

Here’s a closer look at his feet…more specifically, his shoes:

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Yes, those are Skechers.

Skechers on the feet of one of the fastest long distance runners in the entire world.

Skechers.

Ugh! Really?

Wrapping my brain around that concept was, well, difficult, because all I could think of when I kept hearing that Meb won in Skechers was Joe Montana and those ridiculous Shape Ups.

***

But it wasn’t just Meb.

Caleb Masland, better known as Coach Caleb, and the leader of Team Wicked Bonkproof, ran Boston in an incredibly impressive 2:32…also in…

Skechers.

Then in an online conversation, New England Ultra Marathoning Queen Maddy (you may remember she helped pace me at the end of my 100 last June) said, “everyone who’s worn them on the TWB [Team Wicked Bonkpro0f] team…LOVES them and raves abt (sic) em”

I was inching closer.

The deal was sealed when Pete, aka Runblogger, a runner and scientist I highly respect wrote this, “Luau, try them, you will be pleasantly surprised! Great people behind the shoes, been working with them for a few years now.”  If you have spent anytime on Runblogger.com, you know that Pete KNOWS running shoes.

That was it.  I was sold.

Even better, I found them on Zappos for only $79.

***

Upon their arrival, I was surprised at just how light they felt.  At just under 7 ounces, we’re talking a very light shoe.  For comparison, my Kinvaras weighed in at 9 ounces, while my VFF Bikilas come in around 4 ounces.  I was also a fan of the 4mm heel to toe drop – which is similar to the Kinvara.

You may be wondering why I didn’t just buy a new pair of Kinvaras.  After enjoying much success in the original Kinvara and the Kinvara 2s, I found the 3s to be extremely uncomfortable.  I ran a 200 mile relay in them, along with a marathon and a few other races, and they never provided the same comfort or support as the 1s or 2s.  To a degree, the 3s became a barrier for me to “get to” my run.  That being said, I will probably check out the 5s when they come out later this month to see if they have made any positive changes.

Putting the Go Mebs on my feet, they felt light and fast…for someone who hadn’t run a lot recently, this was actually not a good thing:

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 2.31.44 PMI was gassed by the fourth mile and I blame the shoes…because they are light and fast!  The fit, as mentioned in many online reviews, was a little tight in the toe box, but not so much that I felt constricted.  I’m not sure whether it was the suggestion on their website that Go Mebs promote a mid-foot strike, but honestly, it felt like I was hitting that mid-foot strike with every stride.  The chassis on the Go Mebs feels sturdy but flexible.  If you are looking for a full support, cushiony shoe, the Go Mebs are not for you; but I will say that, to me, I didn’t feel like I was running in a minimalist-type shoe.  My feet felt protected while maintaining a sense of being close to the ground.

This sensation of  being “close to the ground” is something that I feel has kept me relatively injury-free.  I have no scientific data to base this opinion on, but I have always felt that the closer my feet are to the ground, the more I can “feel” through my shoes, the more likely I will be able to react quickly should my feet hit a pothole or rock.  That being said, and despite not being a cushiony shoe, I never felt like my feet were “hitting” the ground.  Perhaps it’s the mid-foot strike the Go Mebs encourage, but my footfalls, whether going uphill, downhill or on the flats, felt soft.

A second run, at a purposely slower pace allowed me to focus on traction, which was just as one would want in a road racing shoe -neither slippery nor sticky.  I was also able to focus a bit on how my feet felt from heel to toe as I ran…or rather, how I didn’t have to focus at all.  Much like my experience with the original Kinvara, and exactly the opposite of my experience with the Kinvara 3, I didn’t think about my feet during my run.  THAT to me, is a sign that you are running in a shoe that is right for your feet.  If you aren’t thinking about your feet, you are better able to focus on breathing and pace, but even more importantly, you can focus on your race or training run.  Running should shoes be like the offensive linemen of running.  You only hear about offensive linemen in football when they give up a sack or blow a blocking play.  It’s the same with running shoes – as soon as your run starts, you shouldn’t have to think about them at all, despite their importance.

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As mentioned in the Facebook post above, these shoes are growing on me.  I think the thing that’s holding me back, preventing me from saying that I absolutely love these shoes is Joe Montana and the fact that they’re, you know, Skechers.

Time to get over it.

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