27 May 2013

I love juice!

Yesterday was the release of Arrested Development Season 4. I made cornballs and frozen chocolate covered bananas. We watched about 5 episodes while Maple had a sleepover.

This week was an almost-perfect training week. Over 36 miles and no unexpected rest days. I haven't had one of these in quite a while. My posterior tib tendon bugged me on one run so I cut it short, and that was a great decision. Usually once it starts acting up, it gripes at me for half a week or more, but this time I nipped it in the bud and it was fine the next day. I dealt with 95% humidity during my speedwork, which caused my mile splits to be a bit slow, and I added an easy half mile in the middle of my 4-mile tempo run (also during the humidity wave). But these minor workout edits were a good thing, and I stayed in the flow of my training.

Maybe it's because I've been running consistently for a few years now, or maybe it's because I have a coach, but whatever the reason, my approach to training has changed this year. For the first few years, I was paranoid that any day off, planned or not, would knock me off track. On my days off, I felt like I wasn't a runner anymore, I was a slacker, an imposter. If I felt a niggle, I ignored it and kept running on it, desperate to stick to my schedule. I injured myself twice that way, even causing permanent damage in the form of a tendon nodule that I think is the reason my ankle flares up once a month or so.

Nowadays, I feel fine about taking an extra day or two off if I am sick or dealing with a little ache. It still annoys me and brings out my bitchy side, but I am much better at listening to what my body is telling me. When I step back and think about it, I'm asking a lot of my body, and my body is doing a lot for me. I'm almost 40, I have MS, and I'm still out there running hard almost every day. I'm proud of that.

Juice! For his birthday three weeks ago, Sean got a juicer. Every morning he makes green juice with some combination of kale, parsley, ginger, pear, celery, apple, orange, lemon, and honeydew. In addition, we've been eating really well - almost entirely whole foods and plant-based. And in the past three weeks, my long runs have been easier, faster, and stronger than ever. I didn't start eating better because I necessarily thought it would help my running, but I think it has!

I finally finished The China Study, and I highly recommend it. If you need any data to convince you that eating plants will improve and protect your health, check out this book. And if you have any questions along those lines, leave a comment and I'll answer it with info from the book. I'll be doing a giveaway related to it soon, so stay tuned!

In the next couple of months, I have a few races coming up. A 5k in June, a half marathon in July, and a mile race in August. The half is a hilly mofo in Vermont, and although I expect to run it much faster than last year (when I used it as a long run/test of my healing IT band and ran a 2:19 or something), I doubt I'll be improving on my 1:56 from April. I hope to PR at the shorter races. My 5k PR is around 25 minutes and my mile PR is 6:59. Even though I love halfs and marathons, I'm really looking forward to these shorter races. I'm too slow to ever be really competitive at short distances, but someday I might have to face up to the fact that I like them better than the four+ hour slogs. Either that or I have to start bringing the slogs down to 3+ hours!

20 May 2013

Health and Happiness

Okay Boston, enough with the germs. Apparently it wasn't enough that I had that little MS incident a few weeks ago, because last week I had yet another cold - my fifth one of this season. I took 2 days off from running, which wasn't so bad actually. You can run faster when you're constantly taking days off. It's like a neverending taper. Anyway, I'm feeling much better now and hoping I can get a good string of days and weeks of training in. Besides, it's getting too warm for colds.

I'm still reading The China Study, and I've got my next nutrition book queued up: Whole, also by T. Colin Campbell. And I'm reading anything else about nutrition and autoimmune disease that sounds vaguely interesting. Like this article about gut flora by Michael Pollan in the Times:
Keeping the immune system productively engaged with microbes — exposed to lots of them in our bodies, our diet and our environment — is another important ecosystem service and one that might turn out to be critical to our health. “We used to think the immune system had this fairly straightforward job,” Michael Fischbach, a biochemist at the University of California, San Francisco, says. “All bacteria were clearly ‘nonself’ so simply had to be recognized and dealt with. But the job of the immune system now appears to be far more nuanced and complex. It has to learn to consider our mutualists” — e.g., resident bacteria — “as self too. In the future we won’t even call it the immune system, but the microbial interaction system.” The absence of constructive engagement between microbes and immune system (particularly during certain windows of development) could be behind the increase in autoimmune conditions in the West.
Speaking of sickness and health, this happened yesterday:

Sean's wedding ring broke on Friday night. We've had our cheap but sweet wafer thin gold bands for 9 years or something, even before were actually married. It was time for some real ones.

After we got the rings, I surprised Sean with a spontaneous vow renewal in the town common. Our officiant was very young but utterly professional:

There's some happily ever after up in this gazebo.

It was so nice marrying this guy again.

13 May 2013

The China Study

In 2001, I was hiking 15-20 miles a day on the Appalachian Trail and eating a strictly plant-based diet Three years later, I was eating lots of dairy and not exercising at all. In The China Study, Campbell writes that casein turns on tumor growth but plant protein does not. So what does that have to do with me? I don't have cancer, but I do have multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your own cells. Immune system attacks mean inflammation, so when you are having a severe MS relapse, you are given massive IV doses of steroids to calm the inflammation.

I don't know much about biology (ha) but I think tumor growth is related to inflammation. Is that true? If dairy protein can "turn on" cancer growth, might it also turn on other kinds of inflammation? I'm always looking for ways to explain my MS. This is probably stupid. Most people say that you didn't do anything to cause your disease, that sometimes bad things happen randomly. And although I believe in the randomness of bad things, I also think there are many times when you can find the cause if you look hard enough.

This is a long winded way to say that I'm eating plants. I'm enjoying a renewed focus on my diet and I'm drinking lots of green juice. I'm feeling great, except that I've got yet another sore throat, thanks to one too many Maple-coughs in my face. This New England winter will not die.

I started training last Monday like I intended, and I was able to do all 34 miles on my schedule last week. My tempo run was a little slow (I'm blaming the 86% humidity), but my longish run yesterday was fabulous. I've never done a long run so fast (9:22 average pace for 8 miles) that felt so effortless.

Last week also brought this awesomeness:

Nope, that's not Photoshop magic. I got to meet up and have lunch with my coach Erin! She's even cooler in person. A few days later, she ran the Providence Marathon, which coincidentally was the first marathon I ran (last year). Maple and I drove down to spectate with this, lovingly made by Maple and her friend Ella:

Then we went out to a vegan Asian restaurant for lunch. I had menu overload. It's pretty uncommon for me to be able to order anything off the entire menu. Here's maple enjoying her favorite - miso soup:

Then we got home and I made vegan cheese (and pizza):

For Mother's Day, Sean got me a purple iPod shuffle for running, and Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen cookbook. And Maple wrote me a cinquain!

She calls me Por-e-Por sometimes, I have no idea why. I was a little worried about the fact that when she thinks of me she thinks of shopping, but then she told me that those were supposed to be things she enjoyed doing with me.

Until next week, I hope you all have sweet moments and kick ass workouts.

05 May 2013

Spring in Boston, Plant-Based Whole Foods, and Getting My Act Together

It's spring in Boston.

Today is Sean's birthday. We went downtown, had two rad meals, and walked around the museum.

I'm still recovering from my micro MS relapse. Apparently it always takes three weeks to get back to normal, no matter how mild the relapse is. This week I've been able to run 15 miles, which is good when I consider that I have active MS, but not great when I think about my big running goals. Coach Erin says the rest won't hurt me, and I actually believe this. The 15 miles were spread over four runs and were mentally and physically tough. It was like running through water.

Since we got back from Utah, I've been obsessed for the umpteenth time with plant-based whole foods. It helped that I was once again completely stopped up in the GI region. Travel tends to do that to me. I've been vegan or mostly-vegan for about 13 years. I know that a plant-based whole foods diet is the best way to treat my disease and keep me feeling good, but for the past few years my diet has been guided by marathon training (hundreds of pop-tarts) and the desire to be flexible and fit in with other humans (yes I can eat with you at the Cheesecake Factory). I'm lazy.

This week, I was desperate to get things flowing, and to take care of my fragile nervous system. For two days I ate only fruit and veggies, then I added grains on the third day.On the 4th day I ate pizza and woke up with a pizza hangover. Bet you didn't know there was such a thing.

It's been fun eating differently. I've been making messy salads during lunchtime meetings at work, eating whole avocados every day, drinking green smoothies and juice, and eating weird stuff at weird times. This morning I had crushed tortilla chips for breakfast. I needed carbs before my run!

My nutrition obsession led me to watch three food-related documentaries: May I Be Frank, Hungry for Change, and Crazy Sexy Cancer. Watching these movies with Sean was so much fun. I love a well-done uplifting doc about personal transformation. May I Be Frank was definitely the best of these three. It's about a middle-aged guy who turns his life around with the help of some amazing guys from Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco. I highly recommend the movie, as well as Cafe Gratitude if you live in California. I also bought The China Study for my Kindle. It's full of science and citations and it's hard to imagine reading it and ever eating animal products again, but of course, I have.

I also spent a lot of time this week working hard on The 15-Step Bullshit Free Goal-Setting Formula. First of all, I am proud of supporting cool people who do great things, like Nicole of Second, this formula whipped my scattered ass into line by getting me focused on what I really want for the next 6 months (and beyond), and writing down the concrete steps I need to take to accomplish those things. I'm pretty excited about it right now, and I'll let you know how it's going after a month or so.

I am hoping to return to regular training this week, but it might not happen and that's okay. My body is the boss right now.