Monday, April 25, 2011

My Food Philsophy

I've recently been lacking on blog topics, but something sparked what I hope will start lots of posts. I am very excited. Having used a Groupon for a delivery of organic produce made me think about my eating and food philosophy. Food has always so important to me, but as I have gotten older, I have learned a lot about food and how it reaches our tables. Through a class I took at Drexel and a few books I've read, I have learned to be more conscious about what I eat and purchase.

When I grew up, we had a lot of processed food in the house. Don't get me wrong, my mom also cooked with fresh meats, produce, and dairy (and a great cook she is!), but we had a lot of 100 calorie packs in the cabinet. I grew up to be concerned with calories and fat, but not so much ingredients. I still ate fairly healthy, but eating processed foods each day was not abnormal.

Staples in my house growing up
When I went to Drexel, I did a good job of still eating healthy and avoiding the freshman 15. I knew to eat veggies and fruit and never once got pizza, french fries, or a burger from the cafeteria. My sophomore year, I took a class that really changed me and my food philosophy. I love food and when I saw a class called, "Food Politics," I knew I had to take it. We discussed how food gets to our table, from traditional factory farm meat to smaller urban organic farms. I was in awe of what was going on in America's food system and felt that I needed to take a stand for what I felt was right (local and organic, when possible).

The Dirty Dozen
As a college student, it was a difficult place to be in. I wanted to start purchasing local, organic foods, but they are so expensive. When I can, I purchase produce that is organic (only in the Dirty need to purchase more than that!). I also have tried to limit my processed food purchases. After reading The End of Overeating, I learned even more about how even the simplest of foods are overly processed. If you look at the ingredients of a lot of foods, it's insane what goes into them! I've stopped buying baked chips (a lot have sugar in them, which baffles me) and candy, instead opting for kale chips and fruit to fulfill salty and sweet cravings.

Something I also feel strongly about is local organic farms. I feel that supporting local farms is a win-win on many levels. One, you are supporting a local business rather than a large corporation. Two, you know who is growing your food and how they are doing so. Third, you are eating seasonally and fresh, something we don't do anymore in this country. With the same produce all year round, we have no idea when is a normal produce's season. We get tomatoes year round, but they're only supposed so be around in the summer. We now eat mealy and gross tomatoes throughout a lot of the year that has been shipped from thousands of miles away. We're taxing the planet in order to get non-seasonal (and not as tasty) produce!

Greensgrow Farm
In order to continue my food philosophy, John and I signed up for the Greensgrow Farm Summer CSA program. Greensgrow Farm is an urban farm in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Starting at the end of May and going until November, every two weeks, we will pick up a box of local and fresh produce, as well as a local cheese and one dairy product. The cost is totally reasonable (comes to around $18 a week) and I get to enjoy all the fabulous perks of a local farm. I am counting down the weeks until we get to pick up our first box!

I guess to sum up my changed perspective on food, I could say I went from someone who cared about calories and fat to someone who cares about calories and fat, but is not willing to eat a bunch of chemicals to eat low fat or low cal. We're so caught up in fast, convenient food that we are not thinking about what we put in our bodies and/or what impact it has on the planet. I cannot wait to blog about what I get in my CSA share every two weeks and to continue my effort to eat as cleanly as possible.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

(Super Late) Pace Report: Philly 100 Miler

I have had this post half written for weeks now. Pacing the Philly 100 was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do mentally and it was up there in the hardest to do physically. I think I've had to distance myself from it to even want to write about it (which I still don't, but I have been out of the habit of blogging for too long).


This is nearly three weeks late...eeek. As a bit of background, I post daily on the Runner's World Forums. Through the Ultra Marathon thread, I met a guy named Jon, who gave me a lot of good advice my last training cycle. Last November, knowing I lived in Philly, he asked if I would pace him for the Philadelphia 100 mile race. I was super excited and said "yes." As the race has gotten closer, I helped him with logistics of the race and we discussed our training for our respective races.

Finally, race day came Saturday, April 2nd, and it was nothing like I could have expected. The race started at 6 am on Saturday, but Jon wanted me there at 7 pm. I got in 13 miles in the morning with Back on My Feet and just relaxed the rest of the day. When I got there, Jon wasn't feeling too great. He said his race was not going well from the get-go and he was really down about it. 13 hours in, he had covered around 58 miles, which is awesome, but still meant he had 42 miles left.

Mile markers on the course left from my 20in24 ultra 
Originally, I told him I could run three loops (~25 miles). When I got there and heard he had 42 miles left, as a pacer, it was daunting. Without knowing him well (only talked online), it was hard to know what would motivate him. When he told me that this was his third attempt at a 100 miler and that if he failed to complete this one, he was done doing them. I know runners say a lot of things when racing (like "I will never do this again," only to sign up for another race days later), but that seemed like a serious statement from Jon. I couldn't be the one to let him down, could I?! I knew then that it would be a very tough night, but that I wouldn't let him stop until he had finished 100 miles.

The first loop went fine as we were getting to better know each other. We talked about our jobs, significant others, running, and a lot of other things. I still was peppy as we finished this lap and moved onto the second. By the end of the second loop, we walked the last 1.5 miles with Keith Straw, a local ultrarunner who can be found running around in a pink fairy costume at races (not this time, sadly). He was a great person to hear talk about his experiences and I enjoyed the added company. When we finished our second loop, he had finished his 12 (we were at 9), so he left for home.

Fairy Keith!
With three laps left, it was pitch dark and the wind made it quite cold. I also had only brought some PB&Js, brownies, and granola bars (can you tell that I have a sweet tooth?). I didn't expect to be out there so long, so I didn't really prepare well (lesson #1 learned). I'd start out each loop either eating a few brownies or inhaling half of  PB&J, then have a sick stomach for about 30 mins. By the time we finished a lap, I was starving like I hadn't eaten in forever (each lap did take around 3 hours).

Each lap was mentally very difficult to get through. Although it was "only" 5 laps, that equated to 42 miles of walking. Running that distance would have been hard, but it would have been hours less time on my feet. I was really happy to help Jon, but having to push myself AND him to keep going when all I wanted to do was go home and sleep was mentally tough. I learned (lesson #2) that I when something seems too hard to seem fathomable, you can be underestimating your abilities. I surely was underestimating my physical and mental strength and so was Jon (his abilities, not mine).

By the time we got to the 4th loop at around 3-4 am, Jon and I were both exhausted. I started to fall asleep standing up and was walking all zig-zaggy. I did my best to hide it from Jon (later he told me I did a good job of hiding it...success!). Around this point, Jon said he needed to sleep for 7 minutes and he plopped down on the concrete path. He instantly fell asleep and did so with a smile on his face. I set my phone's alarm and got officially 3 minutes of sleep sitting against a pole. Lesson #3 learned was that I can take small naps and still feel refreshed. I always thought that since after ultras, my legs hurt too much to sleep, I wouldn't be able to take a nap, let alone take one and feel good. I was happily wrong.

Jon took another quick 5 minute nap later and then we were finally onto our last lap! The sun was starting to come out and as I had predicted, the sunshine woke us up and had us ready to finish. There was a regatta happening that day, so we had a lot of people watching that kept us entertained. You would think that after all of those laps, the last lap would go by quickly, but alas, it still felt like it went on forever.

Our goal, which we would reach no matter the circumstances!
The course was 8.4 miles long, so 12 laps equated 100.8 miles total. When we got the 3/4 mile left mark, I told Jon he had officially completed 100 miles. We stopped dead in our tracks and he gave me the biggest hug. Since he had worked so hard to finish the race, it was truly an emotional moment. We pushed through and finished the 100.8 mile race in around 28 hours (15.5 of them with me). I have never been so darn relieved to finish something in my life, especially since it felt like such an undertaking (and it wasn't even my race! Jon did so much more to get to the finish).

When we finished, Jon's dad was there to meet us. He asked me if I had ever met his son before and when he found I had only talked with him online, he was shocked that I would sign up to help him. One of the things I love most about running (especially the ultramarathon community) is the camaraderie that is infectious. You feel oddly close to other runners because they know what you have gone through and/or are about to go through. Even if you are competing with each other (maybe since I'm not an elite), people are friendly, generally want you to do well, and are willing to help you a lot.

Overall, it was a very tough experience for me and it wasn't even my race! It allowed me to know that more is possible than originally thought, mini-naps are good, and to be better prepared! So happy I was able to pace Jon to his first successful 100 miler and I cannot wait to one day complete my own!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Green monsters and chia seeds....delicious

I've been a terrible blogger. I've been swamped at work and by the time I get home, I cook dinner and go to sleep. I think about blogging a lot, but I haven't done it. I'm a chump. More blogging shall occur.

I follow a lot of health and fitness blogs. It is usually pretty awesome women who eat healthy and creatively and are fit as well. I really thank a lot of them for helping me branch out to try new foods. I've never been shy about trying new things, but reading what these women eats has allowed me to try a ton of new things. The first of those is a green monster smoothie. Green monster smoothies involve raw spinach in the mix of a normal smoothie. Don't freak, you can't taste it. It's delicious and an easy way to get in a serving of vegetables before 9 am. 

It is as delicious as it is weird looking.
I just made one after a long run and here's the recipe I used:

Tropical Green Monster Smoothie

By: Me!
  • 2 handfuls of organic spinach
  • 2 Tb of chia seeds (more on this later...)
  • 1 champagne mango, chopped (any other mango would work)
  • 3 frozen strawberries
  • 5 frozen pineapple chunks
  • 2 Tb shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1.25 cups vanilla hemp milk (can substitute regular milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc.)
Put the ingredients in the blender in that order (the lighter stuff goes in first so the heavy, frozen stuff weighs it down). Blend until smooth and enjoy!

It's that easy and it's so delicious. It is so easy to swap in and out items. It allows you to be creative and still get in some veggies. 

Okay, so you are probably reading that recipe and going, "What in the heck are chia seeds? You mean like the seeds from a Chia Pet?!" You are darn right I mean seeds from a chia pet. 
Who knew Obama had a green 'fro?!
Okay, so I'm not telling you to buy chia pet kits and use those, but they are the same seeds. Chia seeds are actually extremely healthy and easy to add into nearly every meal. I find myself throwing them into oatmeal and smoothies, but you can add them to salads, pastas, sandwiches, you name it! According to Wikipedia (which the boyfriend said is now actually more accurate than Encyclopedia Britanica, so I don't feel bad using it...), "In a one ounce (28 g) sample, chia seeds contain 9% of the Daily Value for protein, 13% oil (57% of which is ALA) and 42% dietary fiber, based on a daily intake of 2000 calories. The seeds also contain the essential minerals, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium" (link). Did you just read that? Those stats are fab! 

Overall, I am enjoying the other bloggers teaching me about different and new foods. If you're interested, please check out my blogroll on here to find some of them. And don't forget to try new things, everyone! You never know how delicious they can be. :D