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.

honeymere

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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Guess Who’s Back?

Well, it’s been quite the hiatus but I am back and ready to train.  The wrist is fully healed, my legs are nice and rested, and I am antsy for another go in the Hudson.  Consider this my formal promise – in writing, no less – that I will be swimming, biking, and running (crawling?) my way to another New York City Triathlon finish line in July.  And you all get first row seats to my training!  (Sorry – I’m not sure what contest you lost, but I’ve seen worse consolation prizes 😉 )

This year will be a little different.  While Team in Training remains an organization that is very near and dear to me, I will now be fundraising  for Farm Sanctuary.  As stated on their website: “We rescue, rehabilitate, and provide lifelong care for hundreds of animals who have been saved from stockyards, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. At our three shelters, 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.”

I mean, come on!  How could you not love this place??  I’ve visited their sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY and fell in love with all the animals – animals who are living the lives they are meant to be living.  Check out some of these beauties:

0B4FD1CC-E2F8-4828-94EF-9B3BD5311550.JPG9F051586-B77F-43FF-8F01-8A1A8D4A9889.PNG81FDBFC0-B16B-4209-849D-1C603911FE94.JPG

What also makes Team Farm Sanctuary great is that we are a team of vegan athletes – proof that one can be healthy, strong, and competitive without eating meat or using and exploiting animals in the process.

Stay tuned!  We’re in for quite the ride together 🙂

6 Weeks Left!

Just about 6 weeks until the big day!!  It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up so quickly.  Crunch time is upon us, ladies and gents.  Time to begin panic mode or beast mode. Which one will it be?

(Beast mode. Obviously 😉 )

So, remember that big swimming adventure I totally hyped up in my last post?  Well…. we didn’t go because the thunderstoms last weekend would have messed us up,  BUT we rescheduled and are going for real in a few days. Don’t you worry – swimming is still going to be turned up to the next level!

Before the storms hit last weekend though, we had a different kind of adventure – a “leisurely” bike ride in New Jersey.   And we learned a couple things along the way:

1. Bike racks are super awesome, but even the easiest one can take over an hour to install, even with instructions (that were only pictures and didn’t makes any sense) and 2 YouTube videos (though now we are pros at it).

photo 1

Now THAT is a fine looking bike rack!

2. Even if you are in the best shape ever (which I am not claiming to be) biking hills are killers on the ol’ gams.  My legs were burning and tired and dead by the end of that ride!

Seriously, it was no joke and the hills on the Alpine trail are brutal at times! It was great though – even without padded bike shorts on (noted, and I will not be making that mistake again) – and we called it a day after almost 23 miles of nonstop hills (mountains?) and some terrifying minutes a busy street with the tiniest bike lane ever.

photo 2

She’s alive!!!

Aside from that it’s been swimming and running, swimming and running.  Oh, and lots of swimming and running, too.  Here are a couple highlights:

What better way to strengthen those legs and build up some speed than some hill running, right?  So, the day after we biked up the Jersey equivalent of Mt. Everest, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to run 4 miles of Harlem Hill in Central Park – just up and down, up and down. If you know Harlem Hill, then no explanation needed. If you aren’t familiar, let’s just say it is no picnic – especially on a humid afternoon in the middle of they day. But, while the way up took effort (like a gasping for breath, sweat flying everywhere, whole body kind of effort) the way back down was actually fantastic, and I was happy with my splits. (And even happier for the downpour that happened right after I finished!)

photo

 

Ok, where are we? Biking, check. Running, check. Now on to swimming.

The other day was a milestone in this year’s tri training: the day I successfully swam a full mile. Yea!! I feel good in the pool and ready for the open water swim on June 13th. Except it is probably going to be super cold in that ocean. And I need to get a new wetsuit. Ok, maybe I am not quite as ready as I think I am!! 😉

That’s all for now, folks! Stay tuned for an update about that fabulous swimming trip and to hear about my introduction to the mile high club. (The Mile High Run Club. Get your head out of the gutter.)

I’ll keep doing the training if you all keep doing the donating. Deal? All this is for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – a great cause! – so please help me out in any way that you can.
http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Thank You!!

thankyou

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!

Little of This, Little of That

Yikes! It’s been a while since the last time I wrote! Don’t worry – my time has been training-filled and full of learning experiences. Since my last blog entry – the NYC Half – I have done 2 more half marathons! Last month was the More Shape Women’s Half Marathon, which was 2 laps around Central Park. Great race, boring route.  I know, calling Central Park boring makes me sound like a brat, but after the scenic-filled NYC Half, that park just seemed uneventful.  And 2 times on Harlem Hill was no walk in the park.  (Bad pun?  Is that even a pun?  Whatever, it’s staying.)  Here are some highlights:

IMG_2565-4 The race was sponsored by Shape Magazine, whose parent company is Meredith! It was nice to see my name plastered all over the place during packet pick-up and I pretended to be a celeb – the Meb Keflezighi or Deena Kastor of the race.

IMG_2579-1 Just me, my race, and my Nathan.  (Not that Nathan, sillies.  My other Nathan – the cool little running belt I got from my mom!)

IMG_2587 Here I am debating what to have for brunch when the race was over.  Tofu scramble with all the fixings? Toasted sesame seed bagel dripping in (tofu) cream cheese and Earth Balance?  Definitely a Bloody Mary.  Or a Mimosa sounds good.  I always want mi-more mimosa.

CP3 Done!  Apple in my hand and brunch on my mind (still).

CP4 Not bad for a “boring” course, right?!

 

Ok, all caught up on the Women’s Half?  Good!

Now on to the next one:
Last Saturday, over 26,500 of us tackled the Brooklyn Half Marathon – the biggest one in the country! Another spectacular event put on by New York Road Runners. The humidity (76%) and 15 minutes of rain could have thrown us all into a frantic state of disarray, but we pulled through!

Actually, I really hate to say this, but this race had a lot of casualties – many more than I am used to seeing. Probably because of the humidity?  I saw so many people fainting.  A seizure, maybe even 2.  AND heard that there was a heart attack right behind me.  I (along with some guy who was running near me) had to veer off couse one time to flag down a police officer for someone who needed serious medical attention, and helped to wave down EMT on at least 2 other occassions.  It was scary.  BUT all that, the humidity, and the rain aside, it really was a good run.  The Brooklyn Half is one of my favorite races and I had been looking forward to it for a while.

BKprePacket pickup.  No sleep ’til Brooklyn!!

BK1 DADA DADA DADA DADA BATMAN.

BK2Champions.  Warriors.  Winners.  (or just 3 people ready to go back to bed.  We had gotten up at 4:45am to get to the starting line for 7am.  By 9:30am we were far from home, tired, sore, and maybe a little delirious.  But we were done!)

What’s next on the agenda? A lot of swimming. It’s time to step up my game a bit and show that water who is boss. TNT group training sessions in swimming have continued to be extremely helpful and valuable. Even though I did most of the swim practices last year, I am still learning tips and tricks that have helped my form and overall execution of the stroke and I feel surprisingly calm, cool and collected in the water (a welcome change from this time last year). Regardless – there will be plenty goggles, open water swims at Coney Island, and Body Glide in my immediate future, and I am perfectly fine with that!

Although I have a high commitment to my training, I still need some motivation to keep me going sometimes. Your donation to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) fundraiser is just what I need to push me through rainy days and mental blocks, to get me pounding the pavement, into the water, and spinning those wheels. Your donations helps me to realize that this is all for something bigger, and I thank you!

http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Click on my fundraising page and please consider making whatever contribution you can. No penny is too little, and no dollar is too large- everything will help to make a positive change.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”  – Anne Frank

Coney Island, Take Two: Redemption

July 19 – the second open water swim with my Team in Training (TNT) crew. We all know about the first one and how that went, so – even though I swam great in the Hudson a few weeks ago – I started the trek to Coney Island that morning with an uneasy feeling in my stomach and nerves that were acting like I was on my way to the guillotine. I originally planned to meet some TNT folks and ride my bike to the beach with them, but decided not to at the last second because I wanted to just concentrate on the swim and not worry about being tired from the ride, where to stash the bike while I swam, and the logistics of getting back to the city after the morning at the beach was over. Instead, I met other team members at the last car of the Q at Union Square at 6:30am. One of the guys on the train with me was in the tapering phase of training for an Ironman that he was doing in 8 days in Lake Placid. I guess his 2.4 mile swim was a bit more intimidating than my 0.93 mile swim. What a show-off. (Seriously though – that is so impressive and I hope to get there one day, too!)

When we got to Coney Island, I immediately wished that I had a sweater and was glad to put on my wetsuit. It was 7:20am, cloudy and chilly and I was shivering from either the air temperature or my nerves. Or both.

Such a little drama queen, right?

TNT1 (Stolen from TNT team member Karen R. S.)

We pulled on our wetsuits on the boardwalk and then headed onto the beach for a Mission Moment – a reminder of why we are doing this in the first place. A team member gave a bit of background about her battle with cancer and chemo as a kid, and then talked about how she had run into her hospital roommate years later on a subway in Boston. Both were doing well, working impressive jobs and living. She emphasized living, saying that it’s not all about the money and effort that goes into treating and finding cures for cancer, it’s also about the lives that are given back when the cancer goes into remission. The lives that can then live to do great things and potentially change the world – which is something that they may not have been able to to without organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and donations through Team in Training. And how every penny is valuable, useful and appreciated.  (Don’t forget to visit my fundraising page and read more about my story: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri14/meredith)

TNT2(Stolen from TNT team member Amanda A.)

Then it was time for the water. It was a bit warmer than last time, and this time around we just swam on our own within the group – no buddies to swim with. I high-fived one of my friends while we told each other than we would be fine and we ventured into the water, just after one of the coaches gave us all a warning that there were tons of jellyfish lurking about.

For some reason it is hard for me to breathe out at first when I put my face in the open water. Maybe it’s the cold or the movement of the current or something, but I have to really force myself to breathe that air out for the first 3-5 times before I settle into it. But I think it could also be some kind of natural response to something – I find that I hold my breath way more often than I should when I am punching in Muay Thai, lifting at the gym, or even hitting a tennis ball.

We jumped right into swimming – no acclimating to the water or slow warmups like last time. We swam in a rectangle – out pretty far, then parallel to the shore, then down toward the shore and back parallel in the shallow part until we got to where we started. To be honest, I kept my head above the water for a lot of this drill. But I concentrated on my form, specfically my arms, and slowed myself down when I felt myself overdoing it Otherwise I would be totally exhausted by the time I finished. “Keep your head down, little girl!” I heard a friend yell out to me. Oops, I had been spotted and called out. Couldn’t let that happen again! We did a few more drills in that rectangle and broke into smaller groups so that we could start in 15-second intervals like we would do on triathlon day. I was feeling alright. Still nervous, still a little anxious, but good. (And proud of myself, too.)

Then the coach told us that we would swim the rectangle for 40 minutes straight and that at no time were we to be in water where our feet could touch the bottom. I can’t imagine what the expression on my face must’ve looked like when he said that, but a wave of panic swept over me. 40 minutes? In the ocean. With the waves. In a place where I couldn’t touch the bottom. With the jellyfish. And the tons of other swimmers all around me. Ok. Maybe triathlons aren’t my thing. Maybe I got a little overzealous with this whole idea and am just not ready. Maybe I’m a duathlon girl. Let me run a marathon instead. An ultramarathon, even. Is it too late to bow out gracefully? Tell everyone that I was just kidding about this whole thing? Admit defeat and move on?

I swear I’m not always such a drama queen, but the thought of 40 minutes nonstop in the ocean brought out a 6 year old scaredy cat and I felt stuck between fight or flight. Luckily I am not one to admit defeat easily and was definitely not going to be the person to bow out. No way. I’ll fight over flight any day. The mantra that the coaches have been telling us since day one, drilling into our minds and repeating over and over again in weekly training emails came into my head. I am strong. I am alive. I will thrive. Not just survive.

I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. I am strong. I am alive. I will thrive. Not just survive.

I had this.

There’s nothing scary about the water. When I was a kid I would’ve given anything to be Ariel from the Little Mermaid and could spend days in the water. Maybe I didn’t have the cool mermaid tail but I had an awesome wetsuit. Lycra superhero (as one of the coaches put it). I got to the beginning of one of the lines and was in the 3rd group to enter the water. We swam out to where one of the coaches was treading water and acting as a buoy and went around him. Then all the way to the other side of the embayment where another coach was also treading water making sure that no one cut any corners. Back down the short side of the rectangle and then all the way back to where we had started. And repeat. I settled into a calm rhythm of stroke, breathe, stroke, breathe – turning my head for a breath on every left stroke. I passed some people, others passed me, but at no time did I try to compete with anyone. As far as I was concerned it was just me in there. (At one point though a family began their day at the beach and I had to swim around the grandma as she waded or did her Silver Sneakers water exercises or whatever she was doing.)

I loved being a little mermaid, but after some time I wondered how much longer until those forty minutes were up. I had done several rectangles and had no idea if 8 minutes had passed or 38. I was also a little nauseous from all the movement of the waves combined with continuously turning my head to breathe. I started the short leg of the rectangle and heard the coach whistle and yell that 40 mins were up – time to get out of the water!

Phew!

I got out of the water, quickly tried to turn my water legs back into land legs, reunited with my crew and got out of my wetsuit. I was freezing and shivering and my head was a bit dizzy, but I was smiling and ready for the 5 mile boardwalk run. I threw on my shoes, turned on the Nike+ app on my phone and ran. Since most of us had our race gear on under our wetsuits so that we could practice swimming in what we would be wearing on the actual day, the boardwalk was covered with purple LLS and TNT race tops, shorts, headbands, you name it. It was pretty amazing actually. I can only imagine how many more of us will be there on the actual day.

TNT (Stolen from TNT team member Karen R. S.)

So – the swim was a success, the run was great, and all that was left was fries from Nathan’s and a cold Coney Island Mermaid pilsner. Done and done.

Triathlon day is less than 2 weeks away and I feel ready. I am so excited to wear my purple, to jump into the Hudson, to get the adrenaline rush that comes with races (which I can only imagine is intensified for triathlons), to be a part of something bigger than I am, to swim, bike and run for my grandma, for the fighters, survivors and victims of cancer. To be able to say, after months of training, that I am a triathlete.

TNT3

Aside

Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 Miler

Sunday was the 12th annual Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 mile run at Central Park. Achilles International is a nonprofit organization that pairs able-bodied volunteers with disabled runners so that everyone can participate in main-stream athletics. I know some people who have volunteered with Achilles and all have described their experiences with them as pretty unforgettable.

The race started at 9am that morning and as of that time it was 74 degrees with a humidity of nearly 60%. As I was on my way to the park that morning, I went down the checklist to see if I had everything that I needed for this race:

– Nike+ watch? Nope.
– Phone? Still plugged into the wall and sitting on the windowsill.
– Music? Unlikely since all my music is on my phone on that windowsill.
– Earbuds? No, but I didn’t have a phone to plug them into anyway.
– Runner number 4929? Not today. I was running this one alone.
– Vivobarefoot sneakers? Of course!
– Race bib? Yes! 3667 was already pinned to my shirt.

I had the things that I absolutely needed so I was all set. No phone, no gps watch, no problem – I could rough it. It would be like camping, but with a lot more running. (Or camping while running away from a bear, maybe?) It was “only” 5 miles and I would be done before I knew it.

I got to the beginning of the race about a minute after the starting horn sounded, but there were still a ton of people waiting to cross the starting line and so I shimmied my way into the crowd and felt like I was missing something. I went to turn on my music, but remembered I didn’t have any.  My right hand instinctively went to my left wrist to start my Nike+ watch but it landed on my bracelet that I always wear instead. No sign of my watch anywhere. Alright then – I guess the only thing left to do was just run. And so I started to run.

There were so many Achilles guides in their bright yellow shirts, and a ton of runners in wheelchairs, handcycles, with prosthetic or amputated limbs. Some were training to be guides, too – there was a girl running while wearing a mask over her eyes while being helped by a guide. Kind of makes you never want to take those legs, eyes and everything else you’ve got for granted again!

The course started around 67th street on the west side of the park and went counterclockwise around the southern loop of Central Park, up the Cat Hill, through the 102 Street Transverse back to the west side, and then straight down the west side of the park back to where we started. Pretty straightforward and nothing I’d never done before.

Achillescourse

When we got to the Cat Hill, I happened to be near a runner whose right leg and arm twisted extremely inward, forcing him to move his body in a strange direction each time he ran on that leg. The hill must have been incredibly tough for him, but he didn’t show it. The entire way up the hill he repeated “This hill has nothing on me. It’s got nothing. Nothing on me.” Each time he said it he smiled, and he made it (pretty exuberantly, I might add) to the top of that hill. He had an energy about him that made me glad that I happened to be in that particular spot at that particular moment to see that particular victory.

Because I didn’t have my Nike+ watch and have grown very reliant on it to check my pace, I had no idea how fast or slow I was going. I thought I was taking it easy, especially because my legs were tired and kind of screaming at me after my 25 mile bike ride and 0.5 mile swim the day before, but I really had no way of really knowing so I just kept chugging along. I know that I picked up the speed the last mile or so. It was very hot and humid out and I kept thinking about the fruit that was waiting at the finish line and wanted an apple more than anything.  Seriously, at the moment, nothing in the whole world sounded better than an apple.  They ended up handing out peaches and bagels. I grabbed a peach after picking up my medal and a bottled water, and oh man – it was better than an apple.

According to the official results from New York Road Runners, I finished the 5 miles in 40:49 – an 8:10 pace. Not bad for a lazy Sunday while roughing it without modern technology! While I was somewhat surprised to see my time (I had estimated that I was around an 8:30 pace, but really didn’t know), I have also seen a big change in my running lately.  Everything else, too, but mostly my running.  Maybe it’s all the training starting to come together. Maybe it’s the whole vegan thing I’ve been doing for the last month (after months of research and a relatively slow initial transition). Maybe it’s other things. Maybe it’s all of those things.

But whatever it is, I like it.

achilles