Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Shameless Carnivore, Omnivore's Dilemma and the Moral Vegan

It is no secret, if you've followed my blog, that I have struggled and gone back and forth in defining my own nutritional and eating philosophy. Now, I find myself having come full circle to where I was when I was in culinary school, what I have summed up by pointing to the words of Michael Pollen in "In Defense of Food" i.e. "eat food, not too much. mostly plants". But that also means I am reincorporating meat, eggs and very minimal dairy and only the kinds that fit my nutritional philosophy. I want to be eating what I think I am eating. It is a nice place to be, I have relaxed and am doing what my body demands. After a year of never craving meat, a month ago after my long run, all I could think about was turkey and I never in my life liked turkey. It was funny, but I listened to my body. The rest of the week, I had less than no desire for meat and then again, the next sunday after my long run, the same occurrence.

Last night when I was running, I was thinking about The Shameless Carnivore, The Omnivore's Dilemma and the Moral Vegan. The first two are names of books and the third I am sure will be one at some point. But moreso, I was thinking about how they represented schools of thought, or in some cases armed military camps. I do believe in alot of the moral/compassionate part of being a vegan in the way that the Buddhists do, though I have never and will never consider myself a "moral vegan". Being a Moral Vegan is viewed as meaning something different in our society in alot of ways, it has certain conotations. But while I do believe in the aspects of compassion etc, I do not find myself in a place where nutritionally I am able to continue being a vegan. I became vegan to be healthier, more fit and a better runner and instead became less healthy, tired, and only able to run at 75% of my ability due to the thyroid problem that was onset therein. The combination of health problems that onset during this time had my doctor exclaiming, "I don't know how in the world you are in one piece, let alone running so well." I am not attributing these problems to veganism, but it is clear something isn't working and that (veganism) is the only major factor that changed in that time. And so now, I have to change it and I am changing it back to when I felt most healthy (summer 07), when I was "eating food, not too much. mostly plants", but that means yes there is/was meat, eggs, etc on occasion. Very clean, organic, local and not from the center of the grocery store. I do not find this to be a moral dilemma, I do not feel like I am therefore not compassionate for the lives of animals. Point of fact, even the Dalai Lama eats meat for health reasons. Is he a less compassionate person for it?

When I think about those three camps (Carnivore, Omnivore, Vegan) in the current political climate, I cannot help but liken it to politics. On each end you have your extremists. In food, your extremists are your Shameless Carnivores and your Moral Vegan. I do not mean extremists in a pejorative way, I mean it in a way as meaning further from the middle and usually with a stronger commitment to their stance. Omnivores are somewhere in the middle and pick and choose what they want from each, that does not make them better or worse, stronger or weaker, but it does make them more moderate. I find myself now, firmly, comfortably and healthfully in the middle. I have and probably will continue to receive some flack for this decision, but the fact of the matter is, the one thing in all of my nutritional/foodie wanderings that HASN'T changed is my moral compass. Quantifying an Omnivore who chooses to eat meat as "Pro-Meat" is like labeling someone who choose to have an abortion "Pro-Abortion". I am not correlating or putting eating meat and having an abortion on the same level by any means, but I am correlating the idea of the right to choose and still be a moral individual.

I was talking to my friend/Vespa sponsor Peter Defty the other day and he worded it best, "I can get on my soap box," he said, "but it is slippery up there." We all choose our battles, get on our soapbox for different things, but what battles we choose to fight are not the sum of our person. Just as it is not a true moral quandary for a Moral Vegan to be "Pro-Choice", or a Shameless Carnivore to be "Pro-life". Just as a Moral Vegan is more than the literature they hand out about the treatment of animals, so is a Shameless Carnivore more than the cheeseburger they consume. We are all more than that. We are all in a position where we can easily lose our footing on our soapbox because we are made up of much more than the issues we get up there for (on the soapbox). Personally, I am letting go of the guilt I first felt when I gave up Veganism, because I realized that my inner moral compass had not changed, no matter how many times others tried to tell me it had. I realized that as complicated and difficult as it was to get where I am on this issue, I am even more infinitely complicated than that. So back on my soapbox for a second, remember whatever you are Shameless Carnivore, Omnivore ('s Dilemma) or Moral Vegan, that the person looking back at you across the line, may share and value alot more of the same things than you might suspect, so why don't you step off your soapbox for a minute, make a real human connect and find out?

I wanted to include two very interesting articles that I literally Stumble!Upon:
Back Aboard the Meatwagon
I found this article amusing and I have heard many similar tales of denounced veganism. I want to read his book, The Shameless Carnivore, I think it would be fascinating not only to read his experiences but also read his several chapters devouted to vegetarianism. He seems to have a deeper perspective than "vegetarians are just plain wrong and crazy to boot."I'll post a full report when I do read it.

Happy, Fat and Meatless
I think particularly in the second article I liked the reminder that being a vegetarian/vegan does not guarantee better health and that in some ways it is more common to eat "unnaturally" through the consumption of faux and replacement products. While I myself, shied away from as many faux or unnatural products, I have known many vegetarians who would go through an entire day and not eat any, well, vegetables or fruits for that matter!

Adventures in Indian cooking

One of the things I am attempting to do is get myself off Iron Supplements or at least, lessen my dependency on them. To that end, I incorporate lots of iron rich veggies, but its not quite enough. Iron is essential in running, helping with the oxygenation of the blood and what not. Low iron equates to slow moving blood, which means slow moving body. I was watching Grill It with Bobby Flay, when I got inspired to make some Indian inspired food. I had been thinking about lamb and ironically, when I went to Whole Foods to pick up some ingredients for dinner, lo and behold Organic, grass fed, etc etc Lamb was on sale. I picked up some ground lamb and headed home, ideas churning in my brain about what to make. In the end I made, a curried lamb burger with a cucumber mint yogurt sauce & heirloom tomato slice and a side of Gobi Masala. It was delicious and the flavors danced across my palate. For those of you for whom gluten is not the enemy, I would recommend homemade pita or naan (ok store bought would do but make sure you warm it up)!

Curried Lamb Burger with Cucumber Mint Sauce
Serves 1:

Ingredients Burger
1/3 lb ground lamb, lean as you can get it
1-2 tbsp curry powder
slightly less than 1/4 cup, minced red onion (to taste & desired texture)

Ingredients Sauce
1 small container plain Greek yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
2-3 tbsp fresh minced mint

For plating:
Sliced Heirloom Tomato

Turn on grill, broiler, gas, whatever you are going to use to cook your burger. In a bowl, mix the ground lamb, curry powder and red onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Form into a patty and grill to your liking!

While you're grilling, in a small bowl mix together the yogurt, cucumber and mint. Salt to taste.

To plate (for those not using a pita or a bun!) place a slice of tomato on the plate, place burger on top and then spoon some yogurt sauce over top!

Gobi Masala
Serves one


3-4 tbsp gobi masala seasoning (you can find this with the ethic foods), you can make your own if you want, but it is simply a good balance of the spices. OR you can use curry powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 of a large head of cauliflower
1/2 cup minced onions
1 cup frozen peas and carrots


Heat oil in a skillet over med high heat. Add onions and saute briefly. Add cauliflower. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add seasoning, coat cauliflower well. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-9 minutes. Add frozen peas and carrots and cook until peas/carrots are heated through.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Breakers Marathon Race Report

The thrill of victory, the agony of misdirection.

This weekend, I headed up to Newport Rhode Island for the Breakers Marathon to get in a good last training race and some bonus miles before my goal race, the 100k World Championships in 3 weeks. I decided to do Breakers because the race offered elite race entry which included a $250 travel stipend, paid race entry and paid hotel. I flew into Boston friday, hightailed it up to Newport and was in bed and asleep before midnight. I slept really well, got up around 6:30 and tosssed on my gear. Howard had me running more miles for the day than just the marathon, so I decided instead of trying to drive to the start and park, I would just run to the race start which was 2.5 miles from my hotel.

The morning was very chilly in the low 40s and it felt good to get out in the air before the start gun. My game plan for the race was to run hard enough to get a good gauge of fitness, but hold back enough to not tax my legs too much since this is not my focus race. Instead of letting pace dictate that, I let my legs do the talking and was going to listen to them through the race to achieve my goals. For some, it is really easy to get caught up in a training race and do more harm than good in regards to their goal race and that is the last thing I wanted to do. I hadn't tapered for this race, though Coach Howard had instructed me to cut down/out my second runs of the day and start reducing mileage to begin the resting up for the WC100k and so I figured my not fresh legs would definitely let me know what they were feeling.

I made it to the start, milled around a bit, hit the porta-potties and headed out to America's Cup Blvd where the start was. I ran into a Marathon Maniac, the "Rev" and we chatted a bit before everyone lined up for the start. I was at the front of the pack, a few feet away from last years female overall winner. I had decided to pace myself for a 2:50 marathon and then back off when and if my legs became unhappy. Yes this was a PR goal, but I was feeling like I could comfortably run a 2:50 without pushing too hard or having a long recovery. The gun went off and we took off at a fast but comfortable pace.

I found myself running stride for stride with Emmily Chelanga, last years winner (well not stride for stride since my legs are 2x as long). The pace felt comfortable and I settled in, trying to warm up again. It was still quite chilly and as we zoomed along and made our way along course, we ran into some strong headwinds out along the water and I quickly realized that "warming up" was not going to happen. We past the first few miles in 6:30, 6:20, 6:18, 6:20, 6:30 in silence. It was myself, Emmily and her training partner running together. Finally, I piped up and said something about how wonderful the headwind was and Dave, Emmily's training partner and I started chatting. It was fun to chat with him and turns out he was crewing a friend at Vermont this year. We kept pushing a good, but (surprisingly) comfortable pace and I had no trouble talking and keeping that pace. Numerous times we nearly were sent running off in the wrong direction because traffic cops were not directing us until we nearly went the wrong way. The course was not marked at all so we were at the mercy of those directing us. I made a joke that I was use to getting lost because I was an ultrarunner but didn't think it was something I wanted to do in a marathon. I felt good, my legs were comfortable and my fueling/hydration was good. I had taken a Vespa before the race and felt well fueled. I didn't have to worry about dehyrdation much so I downed a few sips of water at each aid station.

We came down to Easton Beach which is the finish area as well as the halfway point and crossed the mat in 1:24:50 for our first half. We turned down Purgatory Avenue and headed up yet another forminiable hill. In my head, I went back and forth of whether or not I would be able to maintain this pace or if I would crash later in the race and worse, tax my legs too much. I decided to continue to listen to my legs which were feeling great and not be alarmist. For the first time this year, while running at this pace, I didn't feel like from the waist up I was about to die. The hypo-thyroidism has caused my VO2max to lower and when I did my performance testing 2 months ago, my VO2max was such that indicated I could NOT run faster than a 2:55 marathon and I definitely felt that way. Everytime I got up to speed, my internal organs would start straining, my blood flowed funny and my lungs were working double time. It was not a nice feeling, but the meds were suppose to combat all of this. Having found out a week ago, that my original dosage of meds had not affected my TSH number, I was worried that I hadn't improved at all and thus would not be able to run better than a 2:55. I got on a higher dosage of the meds a week ago friday and was hoping that I would be able to have at least a little improvement from a better dosage. I was feeling comfortable at the pace we were running, even pushing up a long, decently steep hill. We had crested the hill and were heading down the other side when a truck came speeding up behind us and skid to a stop before us. The driver jumped out and started yelling, "turn around, turn around, you've gone the wrong way!" Damn! Apparently we were suppose to take a non-obvious right had turn off the main road. We turned around and quickly indicated to the rest of the people behind us that we were off the course. By the time we got back on course, the top 3 women all had now gone 9 minutes out of the way. We had lost the lead as the 4th woman had been turned in the right direction, when the course marshalls had decided to return to their crucial post at that corner. Emmily and I worked hard together to keep the pace up and hunt down the woman, we averaged around 6:15 pace to track the woman. Her training partner, Dave decided to drop off the pace as he knew he wasn't trained to maintain it. We caught her along Sachuest Point Wildlife and Surfer's Beach, though both Emmily and I were disappointed to see our potential sub 2:50 slip away to potentially not even running a sub 3. I quickly calculated that we would have to run a 1:04 for our last 10 miles in order to sub 3, which was our split for our first 10. That would mean no slowing down, even on the slowest, hardest part of the course.

Around mile 18, I started to feel in need of some calories and more importantly electrolytes as I was feeling a bit crampy in my hamstrings. I was feeling a bit lightheaded and figured it was the affects of not eating anything before the race, since food has been not sitting well in my stomach/feeling really heavy on my long runs. I was adequately fueled from the night before and I had Vespa on my side. We hit another hill and I started moving backwards. Momentarily I thought I was cracking, but I quickly realized it was purely a need for a calorie boost. I grabbed my Roctaine out of my secret pocket on my New Balance race Skirt, downed that and then took a Hyper-Vespa which is super concentrated vespa, the result was instantaneous and the ground I had lost to Emmily was quickly regained without effort. We continued up the rolling hills and headed through mile 21 together. After passing through an aid station just before 21 I got a few steps ahead of Emmily as we got in single file to grab water, and heading out of the aid station she stayed behind me. I felt complelte regenerated and fresh, but I soon realized that Emmily's footsteps were fading off behind me. I dared not look back though. I keep pushing the pace, and decided that my legs were completely under me and ok. For the last 5 miles, I took it up a notch and aimmed on getting under 3 hrs despite the 9 minute loss. That would be 27.5+ miles plus at sub 3 hrs. I came around to mile 25 and headed up the last big hill and down the road towards the finish (ironically down the road we had run the wrong way on), I asked a few spectators to tell me if Emmily was close behind me but was told there was no one in sight. I zoomed down the hill, racing the clock, pushing myself and feeling phenomenal. I still felt relaxed and easy, completel comfortable. I had to smile to myself that I was able to push along at a sub 6:20 (which I had done the last 5 miles in) and not even be breathing hard. I hit the flat and came around the corner towards the finish. Just as I was passing the club where the pasta dinner had been held the night before, a large truck driven by a race marshall decided to nearly run me over pulling out of the parking lot without even looking my direction. I gave him a big yell and said, "geez dude, I am trying to win a race here!!!" It was apparently that kind of day. I hit the mile 26 sign and zoomed down the road towards the finish line, savoring the victory and crossed the finish line in 2:58:50. That means I ran a PR of 2:49:4o! The victory was so sweet, but I was sad that I wasn't going to be able to claim officially the PR I had just run. Emmily came in 5 minutes later, meaning I had put 5 minutes on her in just 5 miles. I knew that my ultrarunning background had come in handy on this day as it is routine to do more than 26.2. I chatted with race director and former UR magazine editor, Don Allison and then headed off to run a bit more. I decided that since I was already at 30 miles for the day with the before extra and during extra, that I would just run back to the hotel, so I could make it back to the start area for the 12:30 award ceremony. I was suppose to do 36 miles for the day, but figured that with the speedier pace, I could be satisfied with 31 miles. I still felt good running up to the inn and I hoped into my minivan (it was the only thing they had available at the time to go immediately and was cheaper than the car I was going to rent!) and changed my clothing, ate a banana and Clif Builder bar.

All in all, the day went awesome. I ran a PR (2:49:40), got in some great mileage, won $1,000 and more importantly gained a level of confidence in my fitness and training that will serve me really well at WC100k. Also it showed me that I am on the road to recovery from the hypo-thyroidism. For the next 3 weeks, I will be balancing quality workouts and less mileage. Then off to Italy to hunt down a 7:50 and help get the US women on the podium. I am feeling like this is quite possible, as last years team leader Kami Semick is in top form, as she just ran and won the Portland Marathon in 2:45. After the WC100k, I am also excited to go after my own 2:45 at California International Marathon. I am quite confident that this will be possible after yesterday, as I 1) held back and 2) that is not a PR course. Such exciting times and an exciting victory. The race, despite the course marking (or lack there for), was a fun, well organized race and I am so happy I got to be a part of it! for a recovery run!

All done!

And just for fun, some new pictures of frog in her new fleece/costume....a frog suit...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recovery Day Cooking

One of the nice things about Mondays for me is the fact that it is a rest day, thus I have a bit more time to do some things that I can't on any other day. Usually it doesn't pan out that way however. I usually get wrapped up in work, errands and just trying to keep it together. Today however, was different. I had anticipated possibly cooking dinner for my co-worker Lauren and having our usual monday night tv watching at her place, but her mother had an accident, so I was on my own, but already my mind was made up to cook something fun and something I hadn't done before. I was also hoping to make something that might be able to stretch for a few days, enabling me to have a bit more time to rest and relax after my long days of running, working and running.

With the up'ing of the thyroid meds, I have been absolutely ravenous. I feel like no matter what I eat, I am hungry again 20 minutes later. Usually, my appetite is quite surpressed during hard training, but not so for the last few days!

One of the things I love about fall is being able to able to tuck into heartier, warmer foods. I decided to make a spicy vegetable soup and pumpkin corn bread. I have been wanting to make pumpkin muffins or pumpkin spice cakes or something. When I came up with my soup recipe, the pumpkin corn bread (which is actually a modification of the muffin recipe) was the perfect sidekick. This meal was delicious and I had a blast dancing around the kitchen, listening to Frightened Rabbit. It made me feel comfortable and at home, and even though I am not really at home here in Atlanta, it just confirm to me that at this point in my life, I am happy just to be wherever I am.

Spicy Southwest Soup

1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small serrano pepper, minced
1 ear of fresh corn, cut of the cobb
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
1 can diced tomatoes w/ green chilies
1 can chili beans (a mixture of red, pinto, etc), rinsed!!!
4 cups vegetable broth
salt, pepper and spices (I used my african peri-peri spice blend)
olive oil

On medium high heat, heat the olive oil and saute onions, carrot, bell peppers until they start to soften. Add garlic, chili and spices and cook a few more minutes. Add corn, squash and mushrooms. Once all the vegetables have started to comingle, add in the diced tomatoes and beans. Give it a good stir and then add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Once the soup is simmering, you can get to making your pumpkin corn bread! I used Karina's recipe (linked above) and I put the bather into a greased pan to make bread instead of muffins. The only modification I made was reducing the oil in the recipe from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup and upped the pumpkin puree a bit. Once the corn bread came out of the oven and cooled, I took the soup off, bowled it up and garnished it with a couple tablespoons of white cheddar and sliced avocado. To feed the savage beast that is my stomach, I also made a small side of brussel sprouts. This meal was delicious, balanced, healthy and just plain fun!

Spicy Southwest Soup with White Cheddar and Avocado

Pumpkin Corn Bread

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Peak Training

Fall is here and I love it. Fall brings crisp cool air, even here in Atlanta. Fall brings all of my favorite fruits and vegetables back in season. I am already drooling over brussel sprouts, persimmons and many others. This weekend was a perfect fall weekend for me. After a grueling week at work and lots of mileage as I begin to peak for WC100k, including having to work late on friday night I was looking forward to running, relaxing and enjoying the fall weather.

I got up super early on Saturday morning to head out to the Silver Comet Trail for a flat and fast 30 miler. I had gotten connected with a local speedster, Jason, through an ultrarunning acquaintance and it turned out he was going to do 10-12 miles at 6:30am, so I decided to meet him there at 6:30, so I could have company for the first 12 miles. While he said he wanted to take it easy as he was feeling tired, we clipped along at a good pace and what felt like no time, we were back at the start and I was grabbing my water bottle and heading back out for the remaining 18 miles. I decided to push the pace and dropped down to 6:30/mile. At about mile 16, I suddenly started having stomach pains and my entire insides started hurting. That morning, I had started my higher dosage of thyroid medicine, 3x higher than my previous dosage because the lower dosage was not having any affect after 8 weeks. I had been diagnosed with hypo-thyroid in August, after beginning to investigate why I was having muscle loss, slight weight gain, anxiety, fatigue, low max heart rate, dizziness, among several other symptoms. My normal doctor had struggled with this diagnosis because I don't fit the normal stereotype but in the end the numbers speak for themselves and it is great to feel like I am finally, at the very least, heading in the right direction. There is an interesting article about hypo-thyroid in runners here. Needlesstosay, after mile 16, the side effects started kicking in and I was not a happy camper. I kept pushing and manged to not only run 30 miles in 3:30, but along the way make a few new friends on the path.

After my run, I headed back to the house and went out to brunch with my dad at Perish. I then enjoyed a nap, ran some errands, including picking up a super cute new sweater, then I head out to Apres Diem with my friend George for dinner and drinks.

Today was another enjoyable day, I ran twice reaching 116.5 miles for the week, got a massage and more importantly made these:

I have been thinking about rice crispies treats for a few days, but traditional version didn't really appeal. I came up with the idea for this combination on my morning run today. It was a well deserved indulgence. I shared them with my friend/massage therapist Oni and my dad and Fran and they all raved. I dare you to try and eat just one. I guess it wouldn't be that hard to just eat one, if you didn't cut them into squares....It was a great weekend and it was a nice respite from the run/work jam packed but nothing else weekdays that I have been experiencing since being in Atlanta.

Koala Crispies Treats with Peanut Butter Morsels

1/2 cup Earth Balance
1 pkg marshmallows, organic if you can find em....but good luck
1 box gluten free Koala Crispies Cereal or any organic Cocoa Crispies cereal
1/2 package Peanut Butter Morsels

Melt the Earth Balance, add the marshmallows and melt them, stirring so it doesn't stick. I had it over medium heat. Most of you have made rice crispies treats at least one time in your life, so I have absolute faith you can make these successfully. Once the butter and marshmallows melt, add in the entire box of koala crispies and then after a few more minutes of letting it all cool, mix in the peanut butter morsels. They will will get partially melty, partially not. Put them in a greased pan and flatten. Let cool and then cut into squares....then attempt to not eat them all.

A few pictures of the delicious meal I mentioned in my last post....still no recipe, sorry :)!

And lastly, I just got an email from my friend Dan, whom I did the impromptu 50k with and he sent me this video!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Catching up

Ok, so the "I'm going to be better about blogging" thing didn't actually pan out, but hey, that's how life goes. Alot has been going on.... lots of running in preparation for the 100k World Championships, including killer runs on the Silver Comet trail (37 miles at 7:01min/mile) and other nice long runs around Atlanta... oh yeah moving "temporarily indefinitely" to Atlanta for work, traveling back and forth across the country by car (made it from SF to ATL in 38 hrs, stopping only for a 2 hr nap on the side of the road), working, working, working....the passing of my grandma... more running, more working. I was going to do a video blog and post some pictures of this amazing meal I prepared for my dad and fran which included sweet potato mash, heirloom green beans with truffle salt, mixed baby green salad w/ a homemade balsamic onion confit dressing...but that will all have to wait. Sometimes I feel like I barely have time to think, let alone blog, but hey, when life gets in the way of blogging, that's a good thing :)

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