Monday, March 28, 2011

Par for the Course

Me and Mom, Post-Race

It's official. My brother and I successfully completed our first half-marathon! I must note my brother also kicked asphalt when he served in Iraq, finishing a 20-mile race in extreme heat. So this was probably a piece of cake by comparison.

The weather was a perfect 40 degrees (only perfect for the runners; for the spectators...that was another story) and the sun started peaking through the trees as I ran past the Washington Monument to the tunes of Sara Bareilles. Scrumptious sites and sounds.

We had had a momentous start to our race, just barely getting there on time; the D.C. metro is lovely and clean but not the place you want to be 20 minutes before a race. But, strangely enough, it built on the anticipation of the run, and when we finally made it to our destination, we were ready to get it on.

Supporters lined the streets with signs. Favorites included:

*Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.

* Toenails are temporary, medals are forever.

* You guys are really good at exercising.

My brother and I completed our race fast and strong, with my parents and sister-in-law (his wife-to-be) looking on. It was an awesome day! While I had this expectation in mind (I highly recommend picturing success in the weeks and months leading up to a race), the day-to-day training sometimes had me in a mental slump.

The cold windy weather that was winter had been getting on my nerves. We had seen a lot of snow and ice, treacherous conditions indeed, and I watched as daredevil runners ran right over sheets of slippery ice patches on Kelly Drive. I did not have such a death wish. I tried to run outside as much as possible but had to resort to the treadmills much more than I cared to. While I had no control over the weather, I had a few tricks up my sleeve...they got me through and helped my performance in D.C.

Dates - great little fuel bites, pre-run...compliments of Brendan Brazier's book on vegan nutrition for athletes.

Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer, Chai Flavor - vegan protein powder, perfect in smoothies but can stand on it's own too...just add water. Perfect for prepping on the go and an overall great recovery drink. It's pricey but worth it. You can find a discount with free shipping on

Chia Fresca - a recipe the Tarahumara tribe uses to hydrate during 50-100 mile runs in the desert. Check out Born to Run for more on the fascinating story. My friend Robert, a vegan macrobiotic marathon runner, swears by chia fresca and introduced me to it. I started out by putting chia seeds in water and adding some honey and lime. Now I can just take it with chia and water. While the cooler temps definitely kept me going, my morning chia fresca was just the thing to minimize my water stops during the 13.1 mile run. It was so hydrating!!!

Daily Mile - I like to run solo but it doesn't mean I don't need motivation and running friends to keep me honest. Think Facebook for runners. Splendid.

I'll add the signs above to this motivation/fuel list as I work to increase speed for the Broad Street Run in May.

What fuels you?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Year of Not Eating Animals

Ok, it's been a bit longer than a year. 387 days to be exact. Many of those days were without milk, eggs and cheese. Occasionally I had some cheese pizza or ate a cookie/cupcake someone made that likely had egg in it...that was pretty much it.

Why did I go veganish*?
*a term I use because on rare occasion I eat cheese.

I had never been a huge lover of animal flesh, especially when it came to cooking it myself. I enjoyed cow tush and pig skin on occasion. But with unexpectedly high cholesterol and a friend who needed moral support for Lent last year, I gave up animal products with him until Easter. Easter came and went and my friend and I got competitive. We decided to see who would go without meat the longest. And we'll be vegetarian for life given our strong wills and egos.

But the road to vegan was much more than that. There was definitely substance and thought that came about over the course of a year...and my decision to not eat animals evolved to include several reinforcements.

1) I did it for health.

I decided to continue forgoing animal products to keep my cholesterol down and arteries clear. I did it to avoid antibiotics and hormones and corn-fed beef (I used to primarily eat meat in restaurants and presumed much of it came from factory farms where these drugs and feeding practices are used). The payoff: I got slimmer, I had more energy and my headaches ceased. I can't remember the last time I had one.

The most frequent question I've gotten in regards to health and an animal-free diet has been, "Where do you get your protein?" I get it from living and plant-based foods...lentils, beans, nuts, green vegetables, peas, broccoli, nutritional yeast. I take a B-12 shot monthly and supplement with Vitamin D.

2) I did it as a concerned consumer.

If you have seen the footage in some of these slaughterhouses, I imagine you are appalled. You might not even care to eat meat again. Not a quality product in my mind. And the companies that produce this meat, judging by the videos, care very little about consumer health. Congress has only recently passed a bill that would give the FDA the authority to recall dangerous food products. Before a company could voluntarily recall bad meat. Seriously. A young boy died because a company delayed a recall of beef. His is just one story of contamination and death.

3) I did it to remove myself from a system that disrespects animals.

The majority of meat in this country is produced in factory farms. Video documenting conditions of livestock is sickening, saddening, and infuriating. Chickens are shown being kicked and thrown around, cows are cursed at and poked and prodded. Dairy cows are not given the right to mother their young. Downed animals (those too sick to stand or disabled) are dragged to their death (this last act has only recently become illegal). Everyone decides what foods are best for them. But I would argue that at the very least, the animals that we consume be respected before their death. Does the thought of chicken or cow chock full of stress hormones sound appetizing?

I wrote on this topic in more depth after viewing the documentary Earthlings.

What's Next? The Year Ahead.

The documentary Earthlings, in addition to revealing factory farm conditions, also raised the concerns of using animals for fashion, whether it be fur coats (there is graphic footage at a fur farm where animals are skinned alive) or feathers for down comforters. It made me look at these products differently...the hand-me-down UGGs I own, the down comforter I sleep under at night, my wool coat.

I haven't gotten rid of any of them yet...But I now seek products that look just as great but are free of animal cruelty.

Latest finds:

*Old Navy Polyester Puffer Coat (but in gray) - Yummy and Warm

* Vegan UGG-Like boots without the UGH

Got any favorite vegan finds?