Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I’m getting close to the end of my training for HURT. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a taper quite so much. I feel strong and prepared, but I’m tired and perma-sore. Other 100 mile veterans tell me it means I’m ready. I really, really want to believe them. This is my 3rd attempt at this race. I’ve managed the 100K in the last two years, but this year the 100K cop-out isn’t even an option. Not that I want it to be an option. I want to finish this damn race, all 100 miles of it. My one goal for this year’s training was to stay healthy. It has not been easy. Not at all.

I had a fatty summer of running. It started off with pacing Alisa Springman for 38 miles at Western and built from there. There were weekends to Winthrop, a day in Yosemite, and a “fun run” with the Skagit Valley Runners. Then things got a little out of control. I had an unexpected 60 miles in Colorado and the killer Speedgoat 50K about a week later. I ran Waldo 100K and swept 25 miles of Cascade Crest the following weekend. Then I paced at two different 100s on consecutive weekends—Rich White for 38 miles at Wasatch and Alvin Crain for 30+ miles at Pine to Palm. I just about froze myself solid during the first and just about drowned during the second. Throw in a week of running in Moab between those two pacing duties where I got severely dehydrated and the result equals me exhausted and falling apart.

It took another weekend of running in Winthrop to realize things were not right. I could barely manage to keep up with Varner, et al during a whopping 4 mile run and running the unofficial Winthrop half marathon the next day took much longer than it should. I had both Alison Hanks and Candice Burt work on me and jam their elbows into my psoas and glutes that weekend to no avail. Frustration.

In 2008 I had a disastrous first 100 miles at Big Horn and ended up with a stress fracture on my left femoral head. It took months to heal and I’ve had hip problems ever since. Last year, I dropped from White River 50 due to psoas, hip attachment, gluteal medius… issues. With chiropractic help from Elite Sports and Spine and some massage, I was able to get through Cascade Crest. Things were better-ish. After all the running this summer, these hip issues seriously flared again. For awhile there, every run caused me to tighten up. My back would seize, both hips would feel solid, and my hamstrings burned. After a couple of weeks taking it easy and not running, I still couldn’t get back into it and I started to believe it was more mental. I’m tired of being injured and the thought of continuing to run through injury was holding me back, but it felt an unnecessary hold up. I needed to break through.

Enter Devon. Devon won the national 50 miles championships the weekend before I flew down to San Fran to visit and run with her every day. I love Dev. She never lets me feel slow compared to her super speed. I told her what was going on and asked her to help me and help me she did. She wasn’t a task master, she simply took me running and when I would fade or whine, she’d gently suggest I go a little farther. It was that easy. I mean, as easy as it is keeping up with those long legs, but it got me the results I wanted. I also earned a free session of Active Release Techniques (ART) by assisting with a video her sponsor Psoas Massage was making. A few days of running with Devon and one sesh of getting my hip ripped apart by one of the therapists and my mind was back where it needed to be—I felt like a runner again.

The ART session reminded me I should go back to Elite Sports and Fitness. I made an appointment with Dr Jeff Schwan and he’s been diligently putting me back together for a couple of months now. He’s thankfully focusing on my right knee as well. Somehow I forget it’s also bothering me. It compensates for my hip and takes some abuse. Things seemed to be coming back together; however, about a month ago….

Sisters Belated Halloween Party. A group of runners got together at Sean Meissner’s house for a weekend of running, costumes and general debauchery. I was stoked, although nervous because pretty much everyone at the party was a speedster and I’m a solid mid-pack runner. I’ve run with Sean and Amy Sproston before who’ve been great with me, but I was less familiar with everyone else and it always stinks to be the one person holding everyone up. Yet, it would turn out to be a nonissue. I hurt my back. Or rather, someone else hurt my back. It’s embarrassing, but hell, there were jello shots involved. Dear, sweet Chris is almost a foot taller than me and 50-60 pounds heavier. We were in Sean’s kitchen standing on a wet floor. Chris, with his tallness, picked me up to hug me and slipped on the floor and brought us both down. Lucky for Chris, I broke his fall. Not so lucky for me. At the time, I was worried about the fact I’d hit my head, but it was my back that was the true problem. When I woke up the next morning, I could barely move. It was clear there wouldn’t be any running for me that weekend. I hiked and it felt better when it warmed up, but any period of non-movement caused it to stiffen. I couldn’t bend down, had trouble getting dressed and lifting my right leg was painful. It hurt to the touch and I hobbled around like a little old lady. Chris of course feels horribly horrible and continues to apologize and ask how things are improving. He came out of the fall unscathed though he claims he bruised his heart when he realized what he’d done. (insert “Aw” noises)

I saw Dr Jeff the following Tuesday and he said I had lumbar strain and whiplash and that it appeared as if I’d been in a car crash. I cried on his table as he tried to adjust me and massage out the spasm-ing muscle with some menthol cream. Jeff taped me up with kinseo tape, so my back had pretty pink stripes. He told me to use a heating pad to loosen the muscle so I went home and did so. Oh, it felt so nice and warm, but never too warm. Later that night, being the good little patient, I started my prescribed stretching. I noticed the tape on my back was irritating me, so I pulled a bit off and took skin with it. Holy stinging hell. I left the rest of it alone figuring I should leave its removal to a professional. I decided the tape and heating pad was not a good combo, so skipped its use for the next couple of days. Wednesday, my skin was itchy under the tape and I couldn’t wait to get Jeff to take it off. Thursday morning I woke to go to my appointment and felt my back. Blisters. There were blisters under the tape, a good cluster of dime-sized blisters. What the eff? I felt like such a wreck. Jeff performed some minor surgery and it took a good week to heal everything up. Jeff says the remaining scars resemble the Hawaiian Islands. I take that as a good sign somehow.

I see Jeff weekly and do as he says. He’s pleased with my progress as he continues to work on my back, hip, knee and IT bands doing ART and graston techniques. All the bruises and scratches from trail running and his therapies are starting to make my legs resemble a 3rd grade kid’s, but it’s all working. And if I can quit falling on slippery bridges while out running which just aggravates things and if Chris holds to his promise not to pick me up again until after HURT, I should be good to go come race day. Things are going to be okay. I’ll probably fall apart after it’s all done, but that’s fine. I know where to go to get put back together again. HURT is going to hurt, but I’m ready for it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Honey and Eggs

My friend Devon just sent me this blog. It’s a very good read and very hard hitting. My thoughts go out to her and I can't imagine the struggle she went through to come to her decision, but commend her for doing what was best for her body. It hurts my heart that vegans would threaten a vegan whose gone non-vegan. Doesn't that seem like a non-vegan thing to do? Devon went through something similar a few years ago. I don’t know what I would do or how I would react if health reasons meant I had to eat meat. I'm thankful being vegan for 8 years hasn't thrown me out of whack. My blood work is always very healthy and the most my doc has ever suggested is I take vitamin D supplements and even then he says it's because of where I live, not what I eat.

I've been reflecting a lot on what my "vegan" ways even mean. I think it's less meaningful and more cosmetic than most vegans would ever want to admit. The blogger goes much more into depth to illustrate this than I will here. For me, it really is as simple as not wanting to eat an animal that was once walking around, breathing and possibly had thoughts and emotions. That's really all. It’s nice to believe I've saved lives and made some huge environmental impact, but really? I'm one little person who only consumes so much. How much of a difference can I really make?

It's too bad people feel the need to judge others by what they eat. I have maybe one vegan friend and a few vegetarians, but everyone else eats meat. I've always made it a point to let people know my beliefs are my beliefs and to not impose them on anyone. I feel rare in the vegan community though because I don't and won't vegangelize and I’m open-minded to other food philosophies. I thought The China Study was a crappy book and think paleo might be a better way to go. I was there when Devon took her first bite of cheese after being vegan for a while. She looked at me with a face that said, “Please don’t hate me for doing this” and I didn’t. It felt like what she needed to do and I understood that. I'm also afraid to admit to my one vegan friend that I loves me some honey and I don't tell people (until now!) about my day of not being vegan in San Francisco because vegans and even non-vegans will judge me. I grew up Catholic. I’ve lived with enough guilt without people making me feel bad because I want a pb & honey sammich so I refuse to do it to anyone else.

Much like the blogger was saying, it's more important to be local and organic than it is to be plant-based. People should simply be thoughtful about their food. I once overheard a friend at the meat counter ask what the animals were fed and it made me happy. Another friend does this whole sort of penance thing and will kill chickens and turkeys at an organic farm because he believes he should be willing to do something like that if he wants to consume it. It keeps him connected to his food source and I find it admirable. I think that's all I really hope for--that people are mindful of what they consume and choose local, organic, sustainable foods when they can, but also remember to consider their own health.

Meat of any kind will probably never be on my menu. Probably not dairy either. That day in San Francisco (tres leches cake at Tartine! Yum!) and the resulting stomach cramps that woke me in the middle of the night reminded me of that. I do think about eggs. As I train more and harder, I find my energy level waning and wonder if the added and different protein would be beneficial. I might do and I might not. But I will make a thoughtful choice and I would kindly ask not to be judged as anything but someone who cares about animals, the planet and herself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pacing and Crewing

I love to pace and crew. I love it much more than I love actual racing. This year in particular I’ve had the chance to help out several times at races and speed record attempts. It’s been pretty incredible, sometimes terrible, but it’s what I love to do.

I paced for the first time in 2007 for Rich White at Cascade Crest 100. I met him in the middle of the night at Kachess Lake and brought him in. It was my first exposure to that distance and what it took to organize and help someone complete their goal. I didn’t have to do too much. Rich was a truck and never stopped moving, except for maybe one time. He came to a tree root that had made a natural foot high step and he stopped and contemplated how he was going to get down what probably looked like Mt. Rainier to him. I put my hand on his back and said, “It’s just a step” and he stepped down and kept going. I ended up unofficially pacing for Jamie Keizer at the same time and got to be there to watch them cross the finish line together.

My first real crewing experience was for Devon Crosby -Helms at Vermont 100, 2008. It was unbelievably easy. Devon was super organized (to be expected from my twin librarian) and always knew exactly what she wanted from one aid station to the next. All we had to do was trade her used pack and bottles for new ones, then refill things using the lists she’d made of what she’d want and when. She was predictable, patient, efficient and very grateful. Such a breeze!

I’ve been hooked since. It hasn’t always been so easy as Rich and Devon, but I’ve come to find a satisfaction in every experience. On a basic level, pacing and crewing is a great way to get miles and to see a race course without having to pay the race entry fee. Generally, you go a slower pace so it’s easier on your body, although it can still take its toll when the miles are longer. On a higher level, it’s inspiring to be a part of someone’s goal. I love this sport of trail and ultra running and can understand how important that finish line can be. Helping someone get there, watching their process as they go through lows and highs and fight through so much really gets to me. I think I’ve often cried more at the end due to pride for my runners than they have for themselves. I put these images into my brain and use them as motivation when I’m running my own races. It’s amazing. Being so close to that reminds me what human beings can do mentally, physically and emotionally.

I have so many stories: Alvin Crain and I singing “I like down hills and I cannot lie!” and him making me laugh so hard I really did fall off the trail. Jess Mullen’s one liners like “Sugar makes me want to vomit” and “I’m so proud of my legs.” Pouring an entire bag of ice over Devon as she sat in the tub post-race. Jamie K. thinking she saw a semi truck on the trail. Listening to Meghan Z. and Adam Gifford debate which element is the best one on the periodic table. Becoming buddies with Rich White Sr. and him calling me babe. Meeting a shepherd in the middle of Colorado and playing with his puppy. I could write a book and maybe I will someday.

It isn’t all trails lined with candy and roses though. I’ve been so frozen my joints hurt for days afterward. I’ve been rained on so hard I could still see the raindrops for hours after the downpour stopped. I’ve given away the clothes I’m wearing and suffered rain and wind in a short sleeve shirt. I’ve had things thrown at me. I’ve had to deal with panicked runners who wouldn’t listen to me. I’ve told a runner he was looking good while I was secretly trying not to throw up from altitude sickness. I’ve given away all my food and then been dropped and left alone without food, water or a map for what felt like forever. I’ve been yelled at, snapped at, lectured, and scolded. I’ve cried silent tears of frustration and pain. It’s part of the deal and I deal with it.

Catherine Horton gave me some sage advice—the runner has to take care of himself. As a crew person, you are there to assist and encourage, not to be their servant and commanded about. The runner needs to know what s/he wants and give you the chance to give it to him/her. There needs to be a basic plan and if there is a deviation from the plan, the crew person needs to be ready to adjust, but the runner also needs to be patient through the adjustment. A moment’s pause can mean a huge difference, usually for the better.

When those times have been tough, it’s been important to remember these races are not about me, but about my runner. That’s why those tears are silent and I don’t mention I was trying not to throw up until well after the run. Getting my feelings hurt or complaining isn’t helpful. There’s a grace period for the runner to be less than wonderful. It depends on the length of the run/race, but I usually give at least the day before, the day after and the duration of the race. This gives the runner some leeway to be bitchy, cranky and rude. There are still boundaries, of course, but this grace period is why I’ve managed to maintain some friendships post-event. We aren’t always at our best in the middle of a cold night after tons of miles and climbing. It’s good for all parties involved to be forgiving.

I don’t think I’m the best at this—there can only be one Steve Stoyles, but I show up ready for anything as best I can. I like to discuss with my runner what kind of encouragement works best, what their goals are, and what their favorite foods/treats might be. If I can surprise them with something along the way, like a good chocolate chip cookie, PB Puffins, or that burger and Coke (not Pepsi, Alissa!), then it can be a great motivator. I try to be somewhat familiar with the course and cut off times. I’m ready with stories, from my own to the plots of books I’m reading to full recitations of children’s stories. I’ll sing, although I never know if this is helpful or not…. And I’ll be quiet when asked or if I can sense the runner needs some time to settle. I’ve learned (the hard way) to bring extra clothes and food for myself and the runner. I carry their camera and take pictures. I run up ahead (and sometimes back if they’ve forgotten something) to aid stations to get their drop bags and grab the things they need. And I’m ready to spout as many “good jobs,” “nice works,” “you look goods,” and “you can do its” as necessary. Believe me when I say pacing and crewing can be just as exhausting as running the actual race. There’s a lot to do.

Ultimately, what is it I want from doing this? Just some appreciation. My runner at Western gave me her finisher’s medal (don’t worry, she kept her buckle!). I’ve gotten some cute t-shirts out of these deals. Ooh, and Alvin gave me the headlamp he won—that was sweet. Yet I don’t do this for the tangible things. I have no ulterior motives and am really confused when people think otherwise. What else could I get from doing this, but extraordinary experiences? I’ve been to the best places and seen people do the greatest things. All I want in return is some acknowledgement (not necessarily publicly) and a genuine hug of gratitude. It’s an honor to help someone achieve their goal. I love being a part of it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food, One Day at a Time

In my last posting, I included a breakdown of my nutrition for the day and it turned out I had eaten just under 2000 calories. I received a number of responses telling me this was way too low for me. Yes, I do know that, but this one was single day in the grand scheme of my life. The very next day I ate much of the same, but added soy yogurt and went back to my two, yes, two healthy bowls of cereal before bed. The point of the whole food for a whole day was to see how it would work for a day and to see if it was something I would want to continue in a reasonable manner. I've stuck mostly to it, but I'd say I'm closer to 80 - 90% whole, with some liberties for added calories and purely because there are some foods I just want to eat.

I really enjoyed eating this way. I'm enjoying it now. I like how it makes me feel and the energy I seem to have. My body isn't wasting energy processing processed foods but is efficiently working on simple foods allowing my body to use its energy elsewhere. But I'm not planning to go all crazy on this. If I started eating so little every day, then that's when one should worry. I want to be healthy and continue having a healthy mindset about what I eat. I've been unhealthy about my eating before and I never want to go back there again.

Warning: shit's about to get real. In 2002, I would say I was anorexic. Thankfully, it was a short lived bout, yet it happened. I restricted my calories like I can't even believe now. Currently, I stay between 120-125 pounds. At the time of my anorexia, I was 105...with shoes on. I looked awful and felt awful. I think about my daily diet and can't understand how I even functioned. The place I worked had lots of food in the cupboards and fridge for us to eat, so my intake began there and was well thought out for my entire day. I can still remember it.

Breakfast: 1 Clif or Luna bar, whichever was available and had the fewest calories.

Snack: 1 piece of fruit.

Lunchtime: I would either go for a run or walk to the market and get some fresh dates to eat from a fruit stand and maybe a meringue or some bread at the bakery.

Snack: 1 small bowl of veggies.

Run or work out.

Dinner: I concocted who knows what and always made sure it was less than 400 calories, the lower the better.

Dessert: one small bowl of cereal or a yogurt.

I subsisted on coffee and tea. I used sleeping pills to help me fall asleep through my hunger pains and then got up with coffee and caffeine pills. I was obsessed with food. I could barely think of anything else. I spent hours on the computer looking up recipes and figuring out how to reduce calories and fat grams. I browsed pro-ana sites. I watched Food Network like it was porn. My eyes always felt blurry and glazed. I was weak and tired and cranky. And I thought I liked it. Feeling hungry was a sign of success. That hunger headache meant it was working.

People started saying things to me and I had to come up with excuses. I was fine. I ate more than they knew. I just didn't want to fall into the typical American way of overabundance (as if anorexia was activism). Oddly, guys seemed to enjoy it...or more likely I was dating the wrong guys. Yet even the concern was reinforcement telling me that I was getting skinnier and it was still working.

Then I ran my first marathon. I had no clue what I was doing and so didn't understand the idea of needing to eat during the race...not that it would've made much difference. I doubt I would've let myself consume much. I stuck with water rather than the sports drink because I didn't want the calories. The only thing I ate for the entire 26.2 was a large tootsie roll. I have no idea how I made it through without falling completely apart during it. After I finished, I weighed myself at the gym and was elated to find I was only 103. But then I did start falling apart. I was wasted the entire drive home. I actually did want to eat, but I couldn't. Everything hurt. Food made my stomach cramp and I couldn't digest it and I got sick. Even with my sick sick brain, I knew this wasn't good.

But I continued to try to stick with it for awhile. I ran more and started to actually train for marathoning. I was so tired and absolutely starving. I found myself starting to binge. I would go out only at night to a grocery store and buy big cookies and start eating them on the way home. I would feel so high and dizzy and would want more and would go get more and eat and eat until it felt like the food was all the way up into my throat. I would be so sick the next day and happy to find I didn't even feel like eating. I tried not to follow this pattern because of how guilty I felt when I ate and how sick it always made me feel, but it continued for weeks.

I was miserable. I knew my obsession with food and losing weight had taken over. I wanted to die. One night after going to the gym, I drove home and parked in my apartment's garage. I looked over at my gym bag which held nothing more than a book and small towel. I thought about how I had to climb two flights of stairs to get to my studio (I refused to use the elevator). I started to cry. It was too hard. I didn't have enough energy to lift my little bag and go up two flights of stairs. That was when I knew things needed to change.

This, thank goodness, lasted less than a year, but it took me a long, long time to work my way back out. I did it on my own, without therapy or really talking about it much with friends. I knew I wanted to run and be healthy and so I knew I needed to feed myself. I slowly crept back up in weight and started to remember how to love food again without the guilt.

I did read part of the book Intuitive Eating. It has such a simple idea. We forget how to eat. We spend so much time worried about weight, about calories and fat grams and carbs, that we stop using hunger as our reason to eat. When most of us were kids, we ate food when we were hungry and stopped when we were done. I remember that. I remember not finishing a soda because it made me too full. I remember pushing my plate away because I didn't want to eat the rest. My tummy was full of food, so why eat the rest? Some where along the line we stop doing this. We clean our plates. We put way too much on that plate or we deliberately don't put enough on it. In Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, he discusses out we are too concerned about the nutrients and not concerned enough about the actual food so we end up eating processed food-like stuff with their health claims (Froot Loops now has more Fiber!) instead of simply eating simple food. We end up eating too much of the wrong things and don't remember what real food is any more. It's confusing and distorted and it's thrown us out of whack.

I started to try to eat healthy foods that I want to eat. I haven't always been great at it. I lose sight of my own health and fall into the Western diet. My weight has fluctuated. I spent a couple of years due to travel and injury much heavier than I'm comfortable. I was 135+ two years ago and it didn't feel good. So about a year and a half ago I started to just pay attention again to what I ate. I didn't count calories, but I switched to eating more fruits and veggies and fewer crackers and snacky foods that had snuck into my diet. I ate if I was hungry and stopped or didn't start if I wasn't. I felt better and the weight melted back off.

It's still tough for me to know what my body is telling me. A lot of people say to me "I never weigh myself" as though that's their evidence they aren't concerned about their weight. But you know what, I do weigh myself a couple times per week. I don't want to ever get back up to 135 again, but even more so I don't want to drop. I used to believe I eat my emotions, but I'm learning I starve them. When I'm blue or stressed or busy, I tend not to eat and my weight plummets. Last fall was rough for me and I ended up at the doctor. I stepped on the scale fully clothed and was only 117. No wonder I'd been feeling depleted and so tired! I upped my food intake and started feeling better soon after. I need that little extra help to keep me on track and I find it is helping me recognize my body's clues. Just a couple of weeks ago when Matt was in town I told him I felt like I was wasting away a bit. He was skeptical, but I weighed myself and sure enough I'd dropped 3 pounds in the week he was here. So I'm slowly but surely learning. Maybe someday I won't need that scale to help me know where I am, but as long as I don't start obsessing about the actual number and am using purely as a health indicator, it's going to remain a tool.

All of this is simply to say that I want to remain healthy and that one day of doing something that isn't ideal isn't going to ruin me. One day of under eating does not represent a trend. I've been through that trend and I never ever want to feel that way again. Nor do I want to end up orthorexic and obsessed with eating nothing but healthy, whole foods. If I want a bowl of puffins or two then I'm going to eat them. And if one day I eat half a tub of Trader Joe's Schoolbook cookies (nom nom nom!) then so be it. One day will not make me blow up. Matt and I are about to do a week's worth of eating from the book Thrive. I think it'll be a fun experiment, but it doesn't mean I'm going to eat that way forever. We'll see. I'm going to do the best that I can, but I'm doing this one day at a time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eating Whole Foods

One whole day of whole foods and it was pretty much what I expected. It was easy and enjoyable and also brought about some interesting conversations and reflections.

I started out my day at the gym where I ran into my doctor, Adrian Call. I'm very lucky to have him as my doc. He's an avid marathon runner and race director and completely understands me as a woman and athlete. He came over to say hi and I couldn't wait to tell him what my day would hold. After explaining the challenge, he seemed interested and encouraging and began to share some of his own stories. Inherent to being a family practitioner, he spends his day talking to his patients about becoming healthier. All day he talks to them about diet and exercise and he's routinely met with resistance and incredulity. What he finds remarkable is how people like him and me, people who exercise daily and watch we eat are now considered abnormal by the general populace. We are looked upon as though we are crazy or odd and his patients often act as though these concepts are too difficult to grasp. They seem to think making healthy changes would be much harder than what they are already doing--which are things that are making them sick and causing them to be in his office in the first place. He told me a couple of things he shares with his patients to try to get them to consider their diets: If you have to open a package of any kind--a box, a wrapper, a can--chances are it's not good for you. If you don't recognize the ingredients, chances are it's not good for you. A serving of cornflakes has more salt than a serving of salted potato chips and even though Cheerios are made from oats, it's so much better to eat actual oats. He wished me well and told me to at least take my vitamin D and was on his way.

I thought about our conversation all day. I've always met with disbelief from people when they find out I'm vegan or don't want to have a piece of birthday cake at the almost weekly potluck at work. People can't comprehend the work outs I do, how much I run and that I actually find it enjoyable. I'm asked so often how I do it. How do you get yourself to run so much? What do you eat all day? Where do you get your protein if you don't eat meat? What I have trouble with is why this so mysterious for people. Maybe it shouldn't amaze me but I can't help it when people don't know about basic things like portion sizes, how much to exercise and what is and isn't a healthy food. I spoke about this challenge today and explained to someone if she tried it out, even a little bit each day, it might help her lose weight. She actually asked me if I'd write out a list of whole foods for her because she didn't think she'd be able to figure out what they were on her own. Even after I said to stick to the produce and bulk sections and I told her what I'd eaten that day, she was dubious and said she needed more guidance. We're almost exactly the same age and grew up fairly close to one another, so I can't say it's because she grew up too differently than me. She's a smart woman, but somehow this is too complicated for her. It's discouraging because I know she represents more people than I represent in this society. Yet I'm encouraged because she was at least interested and I will write a list out for her if it'll help.

As for the actual day, it really did go great! I'll admit I sort of expected to be hit with major hunger at some point, but it never came. I felt quite satisfied and very energetic. I didn't have any cravings, but rather just looked forward to what I'd packed for the day. One thing that made me very happy was how little waste I produced. Apparently, everyone in the US makes about 4.5 pounds of garbage every day. I don't think I even came close to that today. All together I had a banana peel, some rind from my melon and pineapple, an apple core and stems from my grapes--all of which is compostable. Then there were a few stickers off my apple, zucchini and squash and two tea bags and their wrappers. That's barely anything. Every bag or container can be reused when I buy more produce or bulk products, so I'm not wasting those. It's bonus effect of eating this way to be able to reduce what ends up in a landfill or would've needed energy to be produced in the first place. No wrappers, no cans, no boxes, no packages. Love it.

Here's what I ate:

Pre-work out snack: banana

Post-work out, quick snack to tide me over until I could make breakfast: two celery stalks with almond butter and peanut butter chopped into bit-sized pieces. Quite delightful!

Real breakfast: oatmeal with raisins, almonds and cinnamon.

Lunch: lentil salad with spinach, zucchini, squash and mushrooms. apple.

Snack: pineapple, cantaloupe and grapes.

Dinner: quinoa with edamame and roasted sweet potato.

Dessert: rhubarb and strawberries baked with a little sugar.

Drinks: coffee, water, green tea, yerba mate.

My breakdown for the day was just under 2000 calories, about 47 grams of fat and 66.5 grams of protein. Pretty good. Nutritionally, I was overall very good, but low in calcium and vitamins E and D--only 1% which Doc Call warned me about and why he advised I continue my supplement.

I hope to sustain this longer. I feel very good, inside and out and would like to see how it'll make me feel in the long term. I don't think I'll be 100% whole foods all the time. I'd like to keep my soy- and coconut milk-yogurts as I feel the probiotics are important for my system. They fight infection and help with my tummy's digestion and the versions I eat have by far less sugar than the conventional dairy yogurts. I'll also admit I still can't see completely giving up cereal for all time. My doc even says I can certainly afford to eat it and it's important to allow yourself some comfort food in moderation. I like something sweet before I go to bed and tonight the strawberries and rhubarb were indeed super tasty. But the crunch of cereal soaked in almond milk...mmm...makes me smile all over. Even so, I would like to reduce my intake by eating only one bowl thus ending my nightly statement of "I think I ate too much cereal" as I rub my full belly. I've been challenged to forego it for a week. I can do that...maybe next week. I want to be reasonable and healthy about my entire diet. Last thing I want to do is to become obessive or too strict, but I think a balance is easily obtainable. We'll see how it goes. So far I like it. I'm into it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eating whole foods from Whole Foods

Matt first tried to get me to do eat nothing but whole foods by saying he'd be vegan for a day if I'd eat only foods my grandma would recognize. No problem, I told him. He said that meant no cereal, a known weakness of mine. "Are you kidding?" I asked him. "My grandma loved cereal!" It was true--raisin bran, Rice Krispies, Fruity Pebbles--there were always several boxes to choose from in her cupboard. Matt amended his idea to be a whole day eating nothing but whole foods and the Whole Food for a Day Challenge was born. I was in. I am in.

I'm already vegan and try to eat mostly organic. I make sure to eat fruits and veggies, good proteins and grains every day. For the last couple of months I've been eating out less so more in charge of what I ingest. I've noticed I've leaned out a little and feel overall better. Yet I know I've still become lazy in how I eat. I used to love trying new recipes and have several favorite cookbooks with bookmarks and stains of food splattered on the pages. Now I eat the same things over and over throughout the week and just assemble things from packaging--frozen foods, cans, boxes without considering what's really on the inside of those packages and how it affects me and the planet. So the idea of eating foods with only 1 ingredient would simply further the progression of my diet to being healthier, more interesting and creative, and less wasteful. I know it'll help me really consider what I put in my body, what I buy and what I waste.

Speaking about this with people over the last week the one concern people voiced was cost. Isn't it more expensive to buy food that way? I didn't think so and my grocery bill proved it. Take away the cereal, soy-yogurts, almond milk and dinner I bought at Whole Foods last night and my bill would've been less than $60. I focused on the produce and bulk sections and walked out with apples, bananas, avocados, melon, pineapple, sweet potato, spinach, carrots, celery, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, quinoa, almonds, raisons and even freshly ground almond and peanut butters. As Matt so lovingly putt it, I eat a "shit ton" so believe me when I proudly say this is a lot of food. Not bad for $60, eh?

My personal concern has been protein. Usually I get a fair amount from a scoop of soy protein with my oatmeal in the morning, but since this is processed and doesn't follow the 1 ingredient rule, I have to drop it. Otherwise, I always mixed my proteins and get my requirements from many forms. But since soy is the only plant protein that is considered complete, I worried I'd need to start complimenting my protein sources in order to optimize my amino acid intake. I know I'm only doing whole foods for one day, so I shouldn't worry too much about what one day would do to me protein-wise, but I can't help but think in the long term. If I wanted to sustain this how complicated would my diet need to be? Shouldn't I already know this stuff anyway? Thankfully, a little research showed me the idea of protein complimenting is obsolete. As long as I eat a wide variety of foods, which I will and do, I will be fine.

I'm doing this tomorrow. I'm jazzed about it. I think it'll be interesting and easier than anyone can imagine. I'm hoping I'll be able to sustain it longer and see how I can reasonably incorporate it into my daily life. I'll tuck into a big bowl of cereal tonight, but I'm betting I won't miss it tomorrow.


I miss my boy Drake. In 2005 I was living with someone who I'll call Bronx. I had my girl kitty Shazzar with us and had turned her into an indoor kitty much to her chagrin. I mentioned I was considering getting a friend for her so she wouldn't be so bored. Since Bronx was allergic to cats and not happy Shaz was with us in the first place I was surprised when he came home one day and said he'd told a lady at work we'd adopt the last kitten from a litter her cat had. The kitten was the run and no one wanted him. I love the underdog, or undercat in this case, so I was all about taking this kitten.

We met the lady in the parking lot of a hospital in Bellevue since it was halfway between our homes. She handed over the little kitten and I was instantly in love! He was a tiny puff of black and white. Bronx drove home and I held the teeny one in my arms. Bronx wanted to name him Oreo thinking he was being clever because the kitten was black and white. I do believe I rolled my eyes right at him and told him no way. I did a little research and found the name Drake which is an English form of Dragon. Bronx was born in the year of dragon and because he was insisting this kitten was HIS because Shaz was mine, I thought I'd find a name that would suit the both of them. Secretly, I was also naming him after the cat in Rats of NIHM, but Bronx wouldn't have understood that. Drake fit the poof quite well.

It's so fun to have a kitten. Everything they do is cute and sweet. He was so funny to look at because he was teensy and looked like he'd stuck his paw in a light socket. His fur was a fuzzy halo around his little body. He was so curious and tried with all his tiny might to be a big cat right away. He'd try to jump onto the counter because Shaz was up there, but couldn't make it even half way. He was all over the place and into everything. Shaz was mortified! Drake kept her on her toes,pissed her off and entertained her. I'd catch her gently sniffing him and letting him be near her, but mostly she acted as snooty as she could. I could tell she was pleased to have him around in her own bitchy way. Bronx didn't really know what to do with him. He'd hold him and try to cuddle, but Drake would quickly wander off and come over to me because he'd learned from the get go that I provided the most love...and food. Drake rapidly became my cat against Bronx's plans.

It was a very rough time in my life. Very soon after Drake took over my heart, my daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Life became consumed by Daddy's illness, so Drake was the little light spot that helped keep us smiling. Daddy loved Drake and got such a kick out of holding a kitten in the palm of his hand. When Daddy passed away, he was surrounded by his entire family. It was a beautiful yet exhausting experience. I needed Bronx to help with the cats and I asked him to go home and make sure they had food and water. When I got home that evening, Bronx was asleep on the couch after eating an entire frozen pizza while the cats' food and water dishes were completely empty. I knew then what I'd suspected for along time. My relationship with this person was over and Drake was definitely my cat.

The following couple of weeks were a blur. I missed my Daddy and cried while my cats, both Shazzar and Drake gave me comfort. Bronx was away at a work training camp, so I didn't have to deal with him much and could take comfort with a few of my closest friends and these soft animals who seemed to know I needed them. Eventually things were settled. We had Daddy's memorial and laid him to rest. I began to consider moving home with Mom so I could offer her my strength and also because I was planning to start grad school. However, Mom already hd a full house with my brother's family, so moving in would make the house break at the seams. Ideally, I would continue to live with Bronx as a roommate. One night I discussed this idea with Bronx over the phone saying I'd move into the second bedroom and increase the amount I paid for rent. He found this unacceptable and said I shold find a new place. I explained if I left Drake would come with me. Again, he found this unacceptable and said I was taking Drake out of spite. I went off and pointed out how he was allergic, didn't show the cats any love and couldn't even manage to put a scoop of food in a dish. He didn't agree and said there was no way I was taking Drake. I hung up on him then called my friend Michelle and brother Paul and we had me moved out of the apartment with Drake in tow by mid-day the very next day. Bronx never even tried to take Drake back.

Drake was always my guy. He grew and grew and grew until he was a good 15 pounder! So much for being the runt! His fu was long and he didn't care to be brushed so he'd clump up and run from me if he saw me pick up scissors because he knew I was after them. He was such a raggamuffin! He was a total boy--always into things, not that bright, a little dirty and sometimes a bit stinky. He wasn't particular about anything and simply seemed happy to be alive. He didn't talk much so it was surprising if he ever meowed. But he sure did purr! Pet him once and he became a motor and would rub and rub against my hands and for some reason bonk his head against whatever was closest, whether it was my leg or a wall. He'd do this for a minute or two and then just sort of walk away as happy as can be. He also like to do this on his own with my bedside lamp. I never understood his obsession with the lampshade, but he loved to rub against it and knock it round while purring. I only minded when he did it at 4am. He was much more of a watcher and follower. Shazzar is very talkative and active. She's all over me when I'm around, has a lot to tell me and will roll around and speak and kiss until she's comfortable and curls up into a perfect ball. Drake would watch the whole scene unfold, sigh and flop over as though passing out and then, well, pass out. He kind of looked like a drunken cat when he'd sleep. He'd pick arbitrary places to sleep and I could often find him in that spot for a few weeks before he'd move onto a new choice. And he was passed out, barely moving when I'd pet him or move around him. He was not one for going outside. I often had to force or trick him. He'd follow me out when I was grabbing the mail and I'd rush back in and shut the door before he knew what happened. He'd go to the back glass door and look in at me with such a look of panic and give out a feeble little cry "me-e-e-e-ow!" I never understood why he hated it so much since it wasn't as if he was traumatized. He made some cat buddies and mostly found sunbeams to lay in. I also learned he went to the neighbors' houses to visit.

There are so many stories. Getting his head stuck in a hole in the wall and me needing to break the wall a part to get him out. The couple of times he got himself trapped on the roof. My nephew Jake putting Drake in a box hoping to keep him. The way he'd swipe at Shazzar's tail as she drank from the sink or how he'd rush at her like a linebacker just to piss her off--he was never disappointed with her dramatic screams and fits of hissing. How he'd hang off my friend Kristi's car window and stare at her through her windshield. He was such a good cat, everyone's little buddy and my big handsome boy.

I was in Hawaii in January to run a race. While I was there the weather was beautiful back home. Drake decided he actually did want to go outside, a very rare choice for him to make. Two neighbors witnessed a car come flying up the road and hit Drake. They said the car was going so fast they didn't have time to see who it was. Instead, they focused on Drake and said he was probably gone instantly. I pray it happened so fast he didn't have time to be afraid or feel any pain. One neighbor picked him up and took him home with her. It took her a day to find Mom and bring Drake back home. Mom called a few people to figure out when and how to tell me and decided, I believe rightly so, to wait until after I was home. She picked me up from the airport and told me when we were only minutes from the house. I was devastated, shocked, crushed. I couldn't believe it and felt panicked inside. I wanted out of the car. I wanted to find him. I wanted it to not be true. Was this some sort of horrible joke? A cruel prank? I got into the house and expected to see him him in the entry way waiting for me like usual. Instead it was empty so I laid face down right there and cried. My brother Paul was there and he picked me up and held me. I cried for days and even now still have my moments.

I miss him dearly. He was my boy, my buddy, my baby. He was there for me through my toughest time and there for the best times. I'll miss him looking at me from the floor and reaching up with one paw to poke my leg to get me to pay attention to him. Shazzar misses being pissed off by him and spent the first couple of weeks looking for him. She's still clinging to me and going outside less often than before. He was only four and we thought we had a long life ahead of us together. Now I'm just grateful we had any time at all. He was a blessing.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I'm sitting on the couch with Cosmo laying below my legs. Cosmo is such a stud. Rich and I met a few years back after Chuckanut. It was a rainy, extra muddy year and one of my first 50Ks. I'd been sick that week and since I was faster than my carpool mates, I finished and was out of it and all alone and shivering looking for my bag. Rich, being the fireman/medic he is came over to rescue me and we've been friends since. We ran Capitol Peak 55K a month later together along with Laura Houston (first time meeting her at her first ultra) and the friendship was solidified. I quickly learned that Cosmo was a big part of Rich's life. He speaks in the terms of "we" whenever I ask what he's up to or his plans. "We're driving to the store" or "We're at the park." We = Rich + Cosmo. Cos comes with us pretty much everywhere. He's a laid back mellow dog who sometimes acts too cool for you because he's a busy dog with things to do. He doesn't care to mess with other animals and will only play after he deems them worthy of his attention. Even then, he's very chill about it. He does love his belly rubs and will grunt and groan in appreciation. The only time he ever shows a ton of emotion is when we drive into a wooded area. Trees and mountains mean good times are about to happen. He starts to whine and pace back and forth in the car because he is so excited to go out on the trails and play. I mentioned this to Rich once about how awesome it is that they've been so adventurous together that trees are now the proverbial Pavlov's bell. Rich smiled and replied, "Yeah, I'm pretty proud of that."

But Cosmo is getting older and he’s always had some hip problems. I certainly can feel his pain on that considering my weak hips have given me so many issues over the last couple of years. Yet I can explain what’s hurting and I can understand when my doctor tells me I need to take it easy, whether I like it or not. Cosmo can only understand that he isn’t moving like he wants to move. Rich has had to help him get around lately, picking him up to get into the car and sometimes even just up a stair or two. And Cosmo just takes it. Rich slipped the other day and put Cosmo down faster than he wanted to, almost dropped him and Cosmo simply landed and started to roll and grunt because he thought they were playing.

I’m at Rich’s house for the weekend hanging out with the stud muffin dog while Rich is out of town. As soon as Cosmo realized who it was coming into the house, he was so happy to see me and practically knocked me over with love and hellos. I saw right away his movements are different. His back hips are stiff and he’s not moving fluidly. He seems to move one side more to the side than should be necessary and he’s definitely slow. It’s tough to see this tough guy in pain. He’s moved over to his favorite chair, the one that’s the perfect size for him to curl up on and almost the exact same color as him so he’s hard to see. He’s not as happy, but he seems resigned to this and I bet he knows that Rich is doing everything he can to get him better. Surgery is scheduled for March 1st. I pray that it’ll at least make him more comfortable so their daily trips to the park can begin again.

Me, Mandi and Mom in Athens, Greece