The real issue facing America

On September 11, 2001, the United States was the victim of a terrorist attack yet unseen in our nation. 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks and our nation has never recovered from the image of the WTC towers burning [1]. Since then, we have gone to extreme lengths and costs to protect ourselves by expanding surveillance and greatly increasing defense spending.  National security has become a hot topic in every political race since then, and probably will be for a long time.

Let’s look at another number of deaths: 610000.  That is the approximate number of people in the United States who die every year from heart disease [2].  It is the leading cause of death in the United States, with its only real competitor being cancer (in the high 500k/year) [3].  That means that we have the equivalent of approximately 2000 preventable 9/11 attacks occurring every year, and we are doing very little to stop it.

The most common form of heart disease is coronary, which occurs when veins and arteries are blocked by buildup of fat and cholesterol [4].  This buildup is caused when damage to the veins from high blood pressure or diabetes is repaired and fats/cholesterol are deposited.  As a result of the buildup, arteries can be narrowed which reduces blood flow and weakens heart muscles [4].  And if the vessel experiences a blood clot, completely cutting blood flow, it can cause heart muscle to die (this is known as a heart attack).

The vast majority of these cases are preventable since the behavioral risk factors of heart disease are poor diet (high is saturated and trans fats and cholesterol), physical inactivity and obesity, which the first two can lead to [5].  As you know if you know me or have read any of my other posts, physical activity is incredibly important to me because of my relationship with cycling.  However,  I have recently made some changes to my diet based on research so this aspect has become more important to me.

This TED talk by Brendan Brazier opened my eyes to the ideas behind a plant based diet (basically vegan) for sports performance.  According to the talk, eating less animal products and more plants increases the amount of nutrients you get in, which makes you more full.  In addition, your body is more easily able to fight inflammation since your food is not contributing.  In February, I went vegetarian and found that I was recovering from hard workouts faster (anecdotally), which has been enough to convince me to go mostly plant based now that I am cooking for myself.

So, where am I going with all of this?  The point is that food policy is an incredibly important aspect that affects every american yet it has barely been mentioned in this election cycle.  I did a little research to find out which candidate is going to do more in order to ensure that americans have access to the fruits and vegetables which the WHO says help prevent heart disease.  You can find the article I read here, it’s a great read.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to go vegan, far from it because I’m not even a vegan. But the fact of the matter is that americans eat a lot of meat and food policy has a strong impact on that since it has the power to make foods cheaper (see HFCS in the past few decades).  The average american eats 270 pounds of meat per year, double the USDA recommendation of 125 pounds, on top of large amounts of other animal products like cheese all of which contain a large amount of fats that can contribute to heart disease [6].  This has a huge effect on our health and as a result, our nation (we spend the most on health care in the world)  [7].

So, here’s what you can do: First, take a little break from the meat.  You’ve probably been told that it’s not that great for you so maybe just make one day or two a week where you don’t eat any.  Recipes are so easy to find online.  Second, be sure that you’re informed on this incredibly important issue that affects so much about our country: climate, health care, agriculture, business.  Third, get out and vote to make your voice heard.

Now, looking back at the number of deaths due to terrorism: 2001 was an extraordinary year.  The average number of deaths due to terrorism in the United States from 2002-2014 was just 4.7, with 5 of those years having no deaths at all [4].  The average number of US citizens killed worldwide over that time period was 12.1 [4].

Obviously the fact that people are dying at all due to terrorism is tragic, as no one should have their loved ones taken away like that.  But when we look at the number 12.1 compared to the number 610000, does it not seem that our priorities as a nation are skewed? Food policy also has the potential to affect the way that our climate is shaped, which as we all know affects every one of the 7 billion people on earth. There is so little attention paid to the issues of personal health and nutrition when we have so much more at stake.


  1. 9/11 Death Statistics. (2016, August 1). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from
  2. Heart Disease Facts. (2015, August 10). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from
  3. Leading Causes of Death. (2016, October 07). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from
  4. Miller, E., & Jensen, M. (2015, October). American Deaths in Terrorist Attacks. Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from
  5. “Heart Disease Behavior.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.
  6. Davis, Michelle. Thug Kitchen: Eat like You Give a F*ck. New York: Rodale, 2014. Print.
  7. Robbins, John. “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Where They Stand on Food.” Food Revolution Network. N.p., 20 Aug. 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Stay in drugs, eat your school, don’t do vegetables

Over the summer, the reality that I would be facing the real world after I graduate in May hit me square in the face: “I barely know how to cook, how am I going to do other adult stuff?”.  Thankfully, college is kinda like real life practice and I have the best housing to accommodate that practice this year (aka a 1920s house with crickets and no A/C).  So, I’ve been cooking pasta while sweating and killing a lot of small insects on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  It’s close enough to practicing living as an adult.


Despite all that, this is going to be a pretty amazing semester.  I am currently three weeks into my senior year at the University of Maryland, I have 4 classes, none of which start before 2 PM and I like all 4 topics.  To finish out my major (materials engineering), I am taking polymeric engineering and finite element analysis.  One of my professors rushed us through a topic because we “lost” a class on labor day but I’m not bitter.  As an elective to keep myself full time (#scholarships), I am taking spanish literature.  Essentially, we dissect every possible symbol like in high school literature but in spanish.  After 1.5 years with no spanish, it’s been a little tough keep up but definitely interesting.


Imagine this but in Spanish

Since I’m a huge dork, I’m going to go into a little more detail about my last class.  Hands-On Systems Engineering is a technical elective for my major.  In the class, we’ll work to design and model a system that can be used in some real-world application.  At the end, each group’s project is going to be judged by real systems engineers from Textron and the top three groups receive a cash prize. One of the professor’s former students works for the Goddard Space Flight Center and suggested one project could be a power control system for the NASA TiME project.  So, I came up with two solar energy projects: one based on the submarine’s power collection and one involving power utilization in remote areas.  Safe to say that I’m very excited about this class.


   Picture of Kraken Mare, one of Titan’s liquid methane lakes          *Insert nerdgasm here*

But most exciting to me is the fact that I have a healthy amount of free time this semester.  After two years of 15 credit semesters plus administrative responsibilities to the cycling team and lab work, it’ll be nice to have some me time.  With this time, I’ll be able to train, sleep, recover, work and eat in the amounts that I want to.  I haven’t really had that opportunity since taking on an officer position for UMD Cycling in Fall 2014.  My current plan is to spend a month or two in Belgium next summer and the better my fitness at that point, the more I’ll be able to take advantage of the racing there.  In order to get my fitness, mental toughness and language abilities to the points I want them at, I have started a habit board.

It’s both as easy and as hard as it looks

De puede ver, uno de los habitos para mi semestre es a escribir uno parrafo en ingles y espanol cada dia. Ambos parrafos necessitan ser demasiado cinco frases substantivos. Tambien, tengo que hacer 10 minutos en “Duolingo” cada dia para aprender holandes.  Este va a ayudarme cuando voy a Belgica el proximo verano.  Tambien, he fijado una meta a tener fluencia en 5 lenguajes en mi vida.  Aprendiendo una lenguaje se convierte mas dificil con edad asi voy a aprednder con mucho velocidad.  Estoy emocionado para este meta porque communicacion es tanto importante a mi.

This idea came to me through r/theXeffect on reddit.  In order to ensure that I’m doing the right things everyday, I need a large visual reminder of the steps required and of my goals. Without being constantly reminded of our goals, it’s easy to let the small things that you need to do everyday slip by.  I’ve tried a couple systems before, including the BASICS notebook but I found that something that has to go in a backpack sometimes doesn’t come out enough.  I always knew it was there but it was too easy to forget.  Having a visual reminder in my face has worked so far, now all I have to do is stick to it and work hard. Seems pretty easy.

Spokes out.

Froome isn’t cheating

Last week, Chris Froome won the Tour de France General Classification by four minutes and five seconds.  When compared to his total elapsed time of 89:04:48, Froome beat second placed Romain Bardet by .0736% over the course of the race.  If that was found to be the statistical difference for a new training method or piece of equipment, even Dave Brailsford might scoff at it.  That’s less than a rounding error of difference.

When Sky started up in 2010, they set the goal of winning a grand tour within 5 years. With their focus on the marginal gains involved in the sport, they were able to win the Tour de France within 2, a truly incredible feat.  As I explained in my post on the strength of marginal gains, using a tactic that provides a small boost every day over large periods of time will eventually lead to large effects.  When we talk about marginal gains, we talk about finding that one percent extra in performance.  But in pro cycling, where everyone is already trying to find every advantage that they can get, one percent is massive.  If Froome had won the Tour by one percent, his gap to second would be fifty three minutes and twenty eight seconds, a huge margin (25th place in this TDF).

Team Sky’s reported budget for the 2016 season is 29.1 million Euro ($32.5 million), which is presumably the highest in the World Tour.  For comparison, Tinkoff’s budget is 22.8 million Euro and AG2R’s is just 14.1.  The average in the World Tour is presumably closer to the AG2R number but we are unsure because teams are not required to disclose these numbers to the public.

There has been a lot of speculation over the past several years as Team Sky has won four out of the last 5 Tours.  This speculation has included both mechanical and biological doping, neither of which I believe Team Sky participates in.  While this does have the air of US Postal, you can see from my calculations above that their winning margins are tiny.  One of the main pieces of evidence being pointed to is Froome’s data from the Alpe d’Huez climb where he seems to easily drop his opponents with an attack while his heart rate does not move.  This seems fairly easy to counter: have you ever had issues with accuracy of your heart rate monitor readings? Exactly.

Another claim that I have heard is that “there’s no new science that should be giving them this edge.”  With a 29 million euro budget and the help of British Cycling, which is funded by lottery money, they would likely be able to either conduct their own experiments or see things in research that others don’t.  That budget gives them the resources to try anything, including stupid stuff that no one else would try.  In addition, it buys them wind tunnel time, nutritionists, strength training coaches and physical therapists.  They will be able to hire the best of everything and in the end, that is probably enough to give them a 0.736% edge.

Spokes out.


Mi viaje en español

*I’m working to improve my spanish so this is going to be a quick rundown of my spanish education and a quick recap of my race this past weekend

He estado estudiando español encendido y apagado para diez años ahora. He tenido clasès comenzando en escuela de medio hasta nivel diez. En mi tercer año de colegio, estaba tomando demasiado clasès para continuar con español. No reincià con español hasta mi segundo semestre en la Universidad de Maryland.

La clase fue “Español intensivo intermedio” y la professora me disgustaba. Por accidento, ella tropecè sobre mi pie en el empiezo del semestre. Despues de esto, la clase fue muy dificil para mio. Nunca he sido bueno con la usa de acentos y este clase tuve mucho escritura. La problema continue en mi segùn clase “Gramatica en español”. Este clase tuve un foco en los acentos y tambièn la professor fue horrible.

Ahora, ha sido un año y medio desde la termina de mi ultima formal clase en español. Estoy inscrito en mi tercer clase de español en universidad para el verano, “Literatura en español”. Estoy muy excitado para estudiar una otra lingua de nuevo.

Kitchen Road Criterium
Este pasado sabado, fui a la parque aptitud de Bob Rodal en Trexlertown, PA para una carrera. La carrera fue veinte y cinco miles en un regazo de un mile. Yo era activo para los primero diez minutos antes de descanso para quince. Atacado varios veces antes de descanso en el pelotòn para diez màs. A quarenta minutos, un hombre al fremte de yo toca ruedas y chocò. Yo evitè el hombre pero alguien golpe mi cambio trasero y el rompiò. Allì, my dia termine.

The stars and stripes: part 2: electric boogaloo

I’m pretty annoyed that I forgot to write yesterday and broke my streak of Thursday posts. But by the time I remembered, I was in bed with the lights out so it just wasn’t gonna happen. Anyway, here we go:

I have now had a few days to absorb the end of my semester and the race at collegiate nationals. This year’s events were special because they were the last for my teammates Eric and Ryan. Next year, it will be my last as an undergraduate at UMD. It’s crazy to think that just three years ago, I was a wide-eyed high school graduate. That was the first year that I took up road racing seriously. I look back now and see that I have come a long way but after this past weekend, I realize how much farther I have to go.


The three amigos

In the road race, I was permanently dropped from the main group 25 miles into the 72 mile course. In the criterium, I was dropped after 3 laps. I finished 3 minutes slower than the winner of the individual time trial. And now, I couldn’t be more motivated.


Dying on lap 2

While there are some people who seemingly just “have it.” There are those with the tactical knack or the genetic ability to put out a sickening amount of power. But there are so many more who invested their time and worked incredibly hard to get where they were. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.


Believe it or not, we started racing at the same age

My goals for the year haven’t exactly gone how I was hoping. An injury derailed my fitness in April, and as a result, I’m behind where I want to be physically. However, I feel much farther ahead mentally than I did at this point last year. Thanks to some philosophy lectures and a couple good books, the pursuit of life seems like it comes simply. Not easily, but simply. By taking care of the same, small things every day, I’ll be able to succeed where others have failed, even when the path seems unclear.

Spokes out.