Let’s Talk About Dairy

As we enter the second week of training, I really want everyone to know why Farm Sanctuary is so important to me and why organizations such as this one need to exist.  There are so many aspects of animal agriculture and factory farming that are kept in the dark – and for good reason.  Paul McCartney once said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be vegetarian.”  Well, as true as that was, he did not take into account the dairy industry.

So let’s talk about dairy – the milk in your cereal, the creamer in your coffee, the cheese you can’t live without.  It’s just a natural occurrence, right?  There is no harm in taking a little milk for ourselves… right??

Wrong.

Day by day, the the truth about the dairy industry is inching its way into public view; in fact, a popular cafe in London – one that was reportedly ranked one of the best in the city – recently announced they will no longer serve cow’s milk.  Surprising consumers, The Fields Beneath Cafe posted the following sign:

dairyscaryThe sign reads:

“LAST WEEK OF COW’S MILK

This is the last week we shall be buying, steaming and pouring cow’s milk into our espressos. We have the following alternatives:

OAT, ALMOND & SOY

OAT milk will be charged at the same price as cow’s milk, the others at 30p more as we’ve always done.

For three days from Friday this poster will be replaced with one explaining why. If you’re not going to be here for it, search on YouTube for the following five minute video:

“DAIRY IS SCARY”

We didn’t think it was either.”

The video that sparked such drastic change can be found here.

The 2015 YouTube video has been viewed more than 1.6 million times and explains the horrors of the dairy industry in 5 minutes. For those who are still with me and want the cliffnotes, here are some highlights:

  • Like humans, female cows only lactate when they need to feed their newborn.  In other words, a cow must be pregnant and give birth.  The dairy industry takes it upon themselves to gather sperm from bulls (I’ll leave the details to you, but that part is not much different from humans, either) and then insert it into the cows with their hands or a rod while the cows are confined in a “rape rack” – and yes, that is an industry term. These cows carry their babies and give birth only to have their offspring taken away within days – sometimes even hours. Males are typically sold and killed for veal since they cannot produce milk and therefore have little value in the industry, and females get to live like their mothers – confined and regularly impregnated by very unnatural means that wreak havoc on their bodies.
  • Mastitis – an infection of the udder – is so common on dairy farms that blood and pus regularly find their way into milk even after it is filtered.  This is so common, in fact, that there are actually regulations as to how many somatic cells are legally allowed into the finished product.  While these amounts differ around the world, the number in the United States is 750,000 somatic cells per milliliter.  That’s a lot of pus in each cup of milk.
  • After about 4 or 5 years of continuous milk production, cows who can no longer produce milk (called “downers”) are then slaughtered for beef.  What a life, huh?  Constant sexual exploitation, confinement, being treated as a commodity rather than a living, sentient being until their bodies literally give out.  Not to mention that the average life span of a cow is about 20-25 years and NOT  4-5 years.

The fact is that humans do not need cow’s milk any more than they need dog milk or rat milk, and data shows that the majority of the adult population is lactose intolerant anyway.  We do not need milk after infancy and our bodies are trying to tell us that.

Farm Sanctuary is home to many cows who were saved from the dairy industry – like Honey, who is living with her calf, Meredith. It is so rare that a dairy cow and her calf stay together, which is heartbreaking because cows are emotional beings who form bonds with their calves the same way human mothers form bonds with their children.  Without Farm Sanctuary, who knows where Honey and Meredith would be today.

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Please look further into this issue, as well as the atrocities of other aspects of factory farming, and donate to my triathlon fundraiser to help Farm Sanctuary: https://give.everydayhero.com/us/tri-ing-4-animals

Your donation will go a long way in helping Farm Sanctuary continue to provide  care, shelter, education about, and advocacy for animals who desperately need help.

 

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The Official Kick-Off!

Last night, amid vegan sandwiches and fantastic company, Farm Sanctuary’s inaugural NYC Triathlon team officially kicked off training season!  Here we are: plant-based, powerful, and passionate folks who are ready to put in some serious training to benefit an organization that we hold very close to our hearts.  unnamed (1)

Terri, an “[a]iry fast-food joint offering carefully sourced, vegan & kosher spins on casual comfort food” was kind enough to host our gathering and provide some pretty fantastic food.  (My favorites: their buffalo ‘chicken’ sandwich, crunch burger, and cold-pressed strawberry lemonade.  YUM!!)

The night was full of food, introductions, and an overview of our training plan.  We also got a surprise Skype call from Farm Sanctuary’s founder, Gene Bauer (who is quite the athlete himself – he is a regular triathlete and is currently training for his first ultra-marathon!).

Let me tell you a little bit about Farm Sanctuary and why we are so passionate and excited to be on their team.  Well, better yet – let Hilda start the conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ia5kLbRz9I

Since Hilda, Farm Sanctuary has become a safe-haven to thousands of abused, neglected, and tortured animals, most of whom were saved from stockyards, factory farms, and slaughterhouses.  They lived in perpetual fear and pain, and were doomed from the moment they came into this world – until Farm Sanctuary rescued them.  Since its inception 30 years ago, Farm Sanctuary has flourished.  With 3 current locations and a 4th slated to be opened next year in New Jersey (thanks, in part, to Jon Stewart!), nearly one thousand “rescued residents are given the care and love they need to recover from abuse and neglect. All of the animals enjoy nourishing food, clean barns, and green pastures each and every day.”  Not only that, Farm Sanctuary does a huge amount of education, outreach, and legislative work surrounding animal welfare and protection.

Please help us help the animals while keeping us motivated to get out there and train by donating to this special organization.  My boyfriend, Nathan, and I have a joint fundraising page and would be so appreciative of any support: https://give.everydayhero.com/us/tri-ing-4-animals

Until next time ❤

No Guts, No Glory!

Someone once said that “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Well, having had all three yesterday, I can tell you it is a true statement (though I prefer sweat and salt water).

Yesterday my NYC triathlon team and I took on Coney Island with a vengeance as we completed our first open water swim practice of the season.

7:30am, Coney Island, triathlete states of mind.

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(Picture stolen from TNT teammate C. Oh)

I had a new wetsuit to test out – Orca 5S, this year’s version of the fabulous one I had last year – and was excited to see how it compared.

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Just like last year, we got into the frigid water and acclimated ourselves to everything – the temperature, the waves, the murkiness, the flailing limbs around us – before we started actually swimming. And just like last year I had trouble putting my head into the water. WTF!? The amount of expletives going through my mind for the first 20ish mins was enough to make a sailor blush and I was at a total loss. I wasn’t panicking like last year, which was a plus, but I was frustrated, mad and confused as to why it was not as easy as I expected. So I swam with my head up.  Ugh.

Then it was time for a 30 minute continuous swim. Ok, I thought, do it like you know you can – like you’ve done it before – and get out of the water feeling good and confident, or continue being a scared little p**sy and this whole thing is for nothing and a waste of time. Up to you.

Good pep talk, right? But it worked and I tuned everything else out – the other people all around me (Boyfriend included because he was doing great and didn’t need me worrying about him), the waves, my foggy goggles, the sunburn that was inevitably going to be on half of my face because I am a left side only breather, all of it – and slowly but surly got my head in that ocean. And once I did, everything started working like it was supposed to. My body became horizontal which helped me to glide through the water better, my arms were calm, my legs didn’t kick in overdrive, my breath was rhythmic and natural, and I actually felt fantastic. (And that new wetsuit did an awesome job!) I remembered key swimming techniques that I had recently learned and just focused on those. By the end of the 30 minutes my hands were numb from the cold water but I felt good – which was a huge improvement from this time last year!

Little victories.  I’ll take them anywhere I can get them.

And speaking of swimming, last week Boyfriend and I spent two days at Hungry Ghost Guest House in New Paltz. Known as a vegan “active retreat”, Hungry Ghost is owned and operated by athletes/super awesome couple, Mike and Petra Trunkes, who encourage swimming, biking, running, and a variety of other outdoor activities (which happen to be a few of our favorite things!) We took about 5 hours of Total Immersion (TI) swimming lessons with Mike. Because the lessons are taught in a small pool with a wave machine that makes a current to essentially keep you in one spot, TI focuses on mindful practice so that changes and corrections in swimming can be made immediately. There were also mirrors on the inside of the pool and cameras so that we could watch our technique and immediately see what needed to be tweaked. Seriously – it was fantastic, Mike was a great teacher and the two were the best hosts!! (Not to mention Petra’s chocolate chip and banana pancakes with apple compote were out of this world!) I have a strong feeling we’ll be back in New Paltz very soon for an open water swim or tune-up before the triathlon. While we were there, we also took advantage of being so close to the mountains and ran around Lake Minnewaska. Here are some highlights:

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Ok that’s it for now! Please keep me motivated by donating to my fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as I continue to train. Right now I am 59% of the way to my goal and need your help to keep the momentum going. Let’s do this together! http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Thank You!!

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Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far.  Because of YOU I am 36% of the way to my fundraising goal of $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Because of YOU we are that much closer to finding a cure for cancer.  Because of YOU this lady – my grandma, my first dancing partner and swimming (among countless other activities) cheerleader – is still remembered and alive in our thoughts and actions.  (She rarely got in the pool and when she did she made sure to NEVER get her hair wet, but she loved watching us splash around!)

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If you haven’t already, please consider donating to my LLS fundraiser.  http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/meredith

In other triathlon news:  Swimming is about to get kicked up a notch – Boyfriend and I are going to take it to a whole new level!  Wait until you hear about what is going to happen over the weekend.  All I can say is that I am SO excited and will take a ton of pictures for you all.  It is just what we need to prepare ourselves for the first team open water swim at Coney Island that is scheduled for June 13th. (Yikes – that is coming up quickly…!)

Stay tuned!

It’s About That Time

Official kickoff for the Team in Training’s (TNT) NYC Triathlon team is in just about two weeks, which means one thing: the triathlon is just about 4 months away!!  While I cannot wait to jump into the Hudson again (and even more – I can’t wait to step out of the Hudson after!), I am excited for the opportunity to be able to once again fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).  Since I first came into contact with TNT and LLS last year, I’ve been pretty open about what sucked me into their mission.  I was only fourteen years old when my grandma died from non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and I wanted to make sure that she was still remembered, that what she went through was not forgotten, that it could be used to someway, somehow, change someone else’s life for the better, so that maybe some other little girl somewhere could have more time to spend with her own grandma.  And so here I am!

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But I am not doing this on my own.  I am just a small part of a team with the same goal of eradicating cancer once and for all so that our loved ones could live fuller lives and stick around with us for a bit longer.  Not a bad goal, right?

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Training for the triathlon will be just as eventful as last year, so you don’t want to miss any of these updates!  The NYC Half Marathon is coming up in less than 2 weeks, followed by a couple more awesome runs, some epic bike rides, (hopefully less traumatizing) swims in the ocean, and so much more – and you can have a front row seat to all the training successes, mishaps, and lessons along the way.  This winter has been way too cold and long, and adventures are calling my name.  Treadmills, stationary bikes and indoor pools: get ready to take five – I am heading outside!

Now, what can you do to help?  Every penny that is fundraised goes to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Want to see the impact of your donation?  Well, here you go:

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Here is my fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Thank you so much in advance for your donations, your support, encouragement, words of wisdom and everything else you all throw my way.  I really appreciate it all.

Alright, let’s go!

Did you miss these?

Awwww yeah. It’s almost that time again! I woke up to this pretty little email yesterday:

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Ok, almost time to stop slacking off.  Almost time to pick up where I ended in August.  Almost time to refocus and get back into training mode. It’s real again. (Seriously – they charged my credit card for the entry fee yesterday.  If that doesn’t slap you in the face, make it real and force you to feel that triathlete beast mode power slowly return, then maybe nothing will!)  I’ll officially get back into the pool in January, and the rest will follow shortly after.

So what have I been up to since the last triathlon, you ask?  Oh, you know, just taking it easy.

10 miles here…

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A half marathon there…

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A few epic bike rides…

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Lots of Muay Thai…

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And some hiking adventures to unknown corners of the world (ie: Vermont) 😉

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Since I got into the triathlon through the lottery, I’m in – I don’t have to go through a charity like I did last year to get entry.  But that would be selfish, right? That would be a waste of doing what I can to help better the life of someone in need.  And so I am going to team up with Team in Training again and, just like before, raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Last year I raised over $6,500 and am hoping to do the same in 2015.  Together, my TNT triathlon team raised over $1 million for LLS and had an amazing time doing it.  Let’s see what 2015 has in store.

Stay tuned – the ride is just beginning.

NYC Triathlon (part 1): The Build Up

It took me a while to write this because I didn’t even know where to begin! The triathlon is over and I not only survived it, but had an amazing time doing it.  It was so much fun and I kind of can’t wait to start training for next year!!  The weekend started on Friday with the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner where we gathered together one last time and basically patted ourselves on the back for getting through the training and making it to race weekend.  When we walked in to the banquet room all the mentors were lined up in the doorway with cowbells and cheering for us, which was actually pretty awesome. We heard from a cancer survivor (and fellow triathlete) who reminded us just how important the nearly 1 million dollars we had raised were to patients and their families.  And then some awards were given out. I was one of the top 10 fundraisers (which was a surprise to me!) and got a certificate and a TNT visor. At that point I had raised $6,320, but donations are still coming in and I am now up to $6,475 and counting! Thank you to everyone who donated. Seriously – it means so much to me. I have until the end of September to stop fundraising, so let’s get to an even $6,500! (You can donate here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri14/meredith)

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On Saturday I went to a mandatory briefing where we were told pretty much everything we would need to know for race day.  I thought it would make me a little more relaxed about everything, but by the end of the briefing my stomach was in knots.  And where there weren’t knots, there were butterflies fluttering around.  And where there weren’t butteflies, there were feelings of anxious uneasiness.  I picked up my race packet (which made the anxious uneasiness change over to excited anxiety), bought a triathlon t-shirt that had the names of all 4,000 participants, and went home to grab my bike and bring it to the transition area. I got some good advice to stop in at the bike shop before checking in my bike, which turned out to be a great idea because my front wheel was really loose and a bad pothole could have been disastrous!  It seems one can’t ride without a front wheel.  Live and learn, I guess. 😉  I also got some more air put in my tires by a shocked employee who could not believe that I was doing a triathlon with such an old bike.  He wished me luck and told me to stop in sometime to try out some “real bikes.”

My transition – yellow transition – was in the same place where we had met for alot of TNT group training bike sessions and where I’ve played wiffleball a few times so I was very familiar with the area. The field was pretty unrecognizable, though.  There were hundreds of spaces for bikes – most of which were already filled with the bike of a corresponding race number, and people were rushing around getting last minute things in order. I racked my bike (with help from a seasoned triathlete and super nice stranger who actually knew what he was doing and could tell I was clueless about the whole thing) and walked home with adrenaline building with every step.

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I had been too busy and overwhelmed with all the pre-triathlon stuff to really be excited before, but now it was real. Now there really wasn’t much else to do aside from putting my number tattoos on my arms (which I had almost forgotten about), making sure all my stuff was packed and ready to go (which it wasn’t) and going to bed early (which I didn’t).

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Ok – fast forward a few hours. Dinner was eaten, last minute supplies were picked up and I was excited, feeling like I could bounce off the walls and not the least bit tired. It was Christmas Eve x 10. My birthday x 50. The last day of school before an epic summer vacation x 100.  Time for number tattoos, which were carefully stuck to my arm like tattoos from a Cracker Jacks box.  I also wanted names on my arm so that I could look down at them in case things got hard during the triathlon – names that had inspired me to do this in the first place with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and TNT.  The cancer fighters.  The survivors.  The victims.  My grandma.  Her name was first, followed by three more, and the list ended with initials of a good friend – a survivor who helps motivate me every day.

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(I also tattooed this guy. 20140811-105715.jpg Check out those guns. 🙂 )

 
Then I set my alarm for 3:30am so that I could get to my transition by around 4:15am and tried to sleep.  Much easier said than done.  I slept for maybe 3.5 hours, jumped out of bed at the sound of the alarm and headed for yellow transition with one hand squeezing my boyfriend’s hand while my thumb on my other hand nervously played with a ring I had on. (Props to him for everything – for getting up so early, for making my tattoos and the names on my arm perfect, for just being there.)   We made there just around 4:30am and I ran into the transition area to make sure all my stuff was set up and ready.

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I got my stuff situated, met a few of my teammates, and we started the mile walk to the starting line.  I was in my corral with 2 of my teammates by 6am, and kept going from excited to nervous as we pulled on our wetsuits and talked about who knows what for the next 40 mins.

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One thing that kept me calm though was my fan club of 7 (and counting!) who were already assembled right on the other side of the fence cheering me on with posters and everything right at 6am!! I didn’t expect that – especially so early and in the cold drizzle.

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Ok – now it was around 6:40am and the line was moving.  I was freezing and ready to be in the water, but was really wishing that the rain would stop and the sun would come out.  There were 15 people in each 15-second wave, and so the line was moving quickly.  We were told to put our goggles on and make sure we were ready before even stepping onto the barge.  I was so happy to be with my 2 teammates because I think I would have been freaking out if I were in a wave where I didn’t know anyone.  Now we were on the barge – and waiting.  Waiting for the horn to sound.  Waiting to officially get this triathlon started.  Waiting for the plunge into the Hudson River.  It couldn’t have been longer than 10 seconds, but it seemed like forever.  I was ready, I was excited, and I knew my fan club had my back every second of the way.

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And then the horn sounded.