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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NYC Tri, 2015 – Over Before It Began

I can’t believe I am writing this but here we go:

I had a little bike accident over the weekend and broke my left wrist in a pretty bad place (scaphoid) and fractured part of my right hand (trapezoid ridge).  Luckily the fracture in my right hand is too small to require immobilization but I have a cast on my left arm.  A giant purple cast.  Yup.

What can I say – when I do something I do it big.  Can’t take that away from me!

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The bad news is (if you haven’t already guessed) I have to watch the NYC Triathlon from the sidelines this year.  That’s it. To say I’m bummed is a gigantically huge understatement and it still hasn’t completely hit me yet.  No Hudson River. No cheering crowds. No finish line glory.  No heart beating and out of breath sense of accomplishment.  Six months of training and it’s over – just like that.

My first reaction was that I had nothing to show for all the hard work I put into the last 6 months, and hearing the doctor tell me that the triathlon was out of the question hurt so much more than the actual injuries. But looking back, I really did learn a lot.  My swimming is so much better and more efficient.  My running is faster.  Biking seems to have gotten the best of me for now but lessons were learned there, too – lessons that will stay with me and only help me after I get back on my feet.

Also, I had so much support from you all throughout training and, maybe most importantly, helped raise awareness and funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – $3,590, in fact!  Thank you, I am so appreciative.

But part of the deal was that I do the training and hard work and you donate, right?  I am working with Team in Training (TNT) to transfer to another event.  Maybe the NYC Marathon?  Maybe the Nation’s Triathlon in DC? I don’t know yet, and that will depend on how fast I heal and can get back into the swing of things.  I’ll know more in 2 weeks when I get more X-rays and a CAT scan.  Worst case scenario: I defer my NYC Tri entry to next year. If a donor feels a certain way about me not doing the tri this year, I can arrange for you to get your donation back – but please remember the cause; LLS is fantastic and really doing some great things.  And I’ll still do an event.  Just not the one in 2 weeks.

I guess that’s all for now, folks.  But stay tuned – you know what they say:

71b03d6c15efe2283c2db7073a724e20

I’m on it, and I’m coming back.  Today a spectator, tomorrow a finisher.  And in the meantime, TNT just got one more cheerleader.  I’ll be wearing my purple and cheering for my team!

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:

TNT

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!

“It’s Like Swimming in a Washing Machine.” : The First Open Water Swim

The first open water swim has come and gone.  I woke up at 5am on Saturday and jumped out of my bed, ready to take on Coney Island with a force that would even surprise myself.  I had a rhythm down when swimming in the pool and was excited to see it translate to the open water.  I headed out at 5:45 to meet a fellow TNT-er at the subway, picked up a few more along the way, and we made the nearly 1.5 hour trek to the ocean. 

We got there, met the rest of the team, pulled on our wetsuits and waited anxiously, excitedly, and nervously to hit the water. 

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 After splitting up into 3 groups, we ran in!  No swimming at first – just getting acclimated to the water (which was colder than I expected!)and getting loose (jumping around, putting our heads under the water, and shaking our arms and shoulders to release any tension).  So far so good.

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Then it was time to actually swim.  We picked buddies to swim with and headed back in.  I was nervous, but still excited – until I started swimming.  I put my head under and started going.  Stroke – the water was murky and it was hard to see.  Nothing like the pool.  Stroke – there were people’s feet kicking and arms moving all around me.  It was a little claustrophobic and reminded me of the scene in Titanic after the ship sank and everyone was crowded and flailing together in the water.  Stroke – I had heard that ocean swimming can be like swimming in a washing machine and I was suddenly aware of the waves and all that was different from the pool.  Breathe – I had forgotten to breathe out, so when I turned my head to take a breath, I couldn’t.  Then I think I forgot how to breathe altogether.  Alright, panic attack, I feel you coming.  Let’s just get this over with.  My buddy was calm, cool and collected and totally helped me out, but it was too late – I was too far inside my head and there was no turning back.  I kept trying though, but it was hard to push my head under the water, and my body was so tense.  I was frustrated and it showed.  After a little bit, I got out of the ocean to shake it off and headed straight to the head coach for advice.  So helpful.  He calmed me down, reassured me, and reminded me that I had done this in practice.

Ok, back into the water, where I was greeted by some TNT pals – some who were experiencing the same thing I was, and others who swam next to me and offered their own advice.  By the time the open water swim ended, I was just getting comfortable.  I left the ocean feeling let down, but confident that I could do it the next time. After the swim (and 5-mile boardwalk run that followed), we feasted!  We all gathered at one of the millions of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs where I had fries and calmed myself down with a good old Coney Island Mermaid.

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Here are some things I learned:

You will probably get hit or kicked along the way. There are a ton of people in that water – some pros, some beginners, all trying to reach the same finish line. With all the arm strokes and kicks, it would be a wonder if you made it through without any hits! Get used to it. (And for the love of God, don’t think about that scene in Titanic while you’re swimming!!)

Learn to sight. There is no thick black line at the bottom of the ocean to help guide your way like there is in the pool. (And if there is, the water is too murky and gross to see it anyway!)

Breathe.  Every time I felt an inkling of uncertainty, I held my breath. I forgot to breathe, which added to the whole panic thing. Breathing is pretty key. Who knew? 😉

Relax.  Much easier said than done, but once you remember everything (that you’re not going to drown, that your wetsuit is buoyant, that you know what you’re doing because you’ve done it in the pool, that breathing is kind of an important part of swimming, that slower and calm strokes will get you there faster and more efficiently than quicker, rushed strokes, that you’re not trying to race or keep up with anyone so it’s fine to just go at your own pace, that YOU’VE GOT THIS) you will relax. And you will be fine. And you will enjoy the swim.

Ok so maybe my first attempt at open water swimming wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was a learning experience and can only get better. The next ocean swim is in July so you can bet that I’ll be back out at Coney Island – wetsuit and all – working on my open water swimming before then. Whether it be by myself (near the lifeguards of course, Mom), with other TNT team members, or with other friends, I’ll be there. But at least I didn’t leave the ocean feeling completely defeated, so I guess there’s always that.  And I had a great day with my team!

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 I went to the pool this morning before work to make sure I still had it in me. We’re supposed to be able to swim 20 consecutive minutes before the triathlon, and I did 17 right off the bat pretty easily and ended up swimming a total of 40 mins.  Coney Island won’t know what hit it next time.

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Let’s talk about BRICKs!

This is the beginning of week 10 of triathlon training.  10 weeks in, 10 more to go. Halfway there.  Hump week, as one of the coaches put it.  At this rate August 3rd will be here before we know it – a thought that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. 

I’ve been working on BRICK sessions lately – biking and then going straight into running. (I think BRICK can be used when you transition from any event into another one, but we just use it for biking to running.)  I’m not sure where the term BRICK comes from.  (I also didn’t put any effort into researching it –  the most I did was wonder out loud in a group of people who thought about it for a second and then shrugged their shoulders.)  So I decided that it stands for “Bike and Run? Ick!!” When I think of biking and running without much of a break in between, my first thought is “Ugh” but I guess BRUGH sessions just don’t have the same ring. 

Running immediately after biking is… interesting.  I’m not sure my legs will ever totally get used to it, but at least I am learning what to expect.  Here’s how it usually goes:

The first few steps are wobbly, and I am pretty positive that there is a 98% chance that I am about to fall over, and I brace myself for a crash to the ground.  (It must be what Ariel from The Little Mermaid felt when she got her legs for the first time.)  Several seconds later I am less wobbly and the chance of me falling over is down to about 10%.  At this point, though, I still feel like I don’t have much control over my legs.  It’s a strange feeling – like my legs are slightly weighed down (maybe with… bricks!!??  Could that be where it comes from?) and I am trying to run while on a trampoline or in a bouncy house.  I tend to run faster than usual when starting the running portions of BRICK sessions, probably because my legs seem to be independent from the rest of me and they’re just doing their thing.  I have to really be conscious of my pace if I don’t want to crash and burn later on.

Today I did a 13 mile bike ride through Central Park.  Because it was Memorial Day and 85 degrees out, all of the tri-state area was there too – biking, laying out, walking, picnicking, BBQing, soaking up the sun.  To say it was crowded would be an understatement.  But 13 miles went off without a hitch (for me at least – some kid really wiped out on a Razr scooter), and I met Katharine by the reservoir, passed along my bike and helmet to her, and then started running. (Katharine did her own BRICK today and ran a 5k before doing a full 6.2 mile loop around the park on the bike!) 

I had intended to run 3 miles, but stopped at 2.  I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to do the full 3 miles, but sometimes those legs just need a rest! (And I am bad at remembering to schedule rest days.)  Besides, this also happened so it was hard to stay disappointed:

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A PR during a BRICK?  I’ll take it!!

Sugar, City Sports, Swag, Swims and So On!

Well, Easter left me in a sugar coma that seemed to want to stick around forever.  I don’t know what it is about Easter that makes it seem okay to eat about 3 years worth of sugar, but that’s exactly what I did on Sunday.  So, on Monday I skipped my workout and instead headed on over to City Sports on 5th Avenue to try on their newest line of CS by City Sports apparel.  I had been contacted by them to try out the line and was really excited! I spent some time with the awesome assistant manager and she helped me pick out some super cool stuff while we talked about running and triathlon training.  In the end, City Sports let me keep 2 tank tops, a pair of shorts, and capri-length running pants as gifts! It was much harder than I thought it would be to pick the bottoms because they all fit so well – I usually have issues with running shorts and tights because I am super picky, but I had about 5 that I wanted and choosing only 2 was no easy task!

I am not affiliated with City Sports in any way but I am a fan.  (Even more now!)   Check them out – they’re a Boston-based company that focuses on outfitting the ‘urban athlete’ and have a great selection of athletic gear. Thank you, City Sports (and SS)!!

I went to Muay Thai yesterday in my new CS pants and tank, and loved everything about everything.  The class was great, the clothes were great, not getting kicked in the face was great, and the playlist during the class was great.

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The CS pants are so soft – I think I kept absent-mindedly feeling my legs, but that’s fine as long as no one noticed, right?  The back of the pants have a nice little butt zipper, which I usually don’t really like because sometimes the pocket can bunch up and look a little lumpy, but this one didn’t do that.  Phew!  I kicked and punched my way through Muay Thai and was super comfortable – the tank stayed in place and I didn’t have to keep readjusting the pants.  I just concentrated on my form and tried to improve my technique.  Now if only I could learn to keep my chin down as I kick and punch.  One thing at a time, I guess.

We also squat jumped, push-upped, and jump roped (among other things) our way through class.  Since I started Muay Thai I realized something: the worst pain is the pain you feel when you’re jumping rope barefoot on the mat and the plastic jump rope hits your toes.  Holy. Moly.  (My toes got another beating last night when I took my pointe class, but it was a different kind of pain – a familiar one that I could tolerate.)

Today should have been a swim day, but I did 10 miles on the stationary bike instead.  The Yankees and Red Sox were playing and I needed to be parked in front of my tv.  Priorities, you know?

Since I took a few days off from working out for Easter and the inevitable sugar lull that followed, I feel like I need to step it up again.  I haven’t gone swimming yet this week so I plan to go tomorrow and Friday before work. (Now that I wrote it and it’s out there, I have to go!)  My TNT coaches said that we should be practicing our weakest event 3 times per week, and swimming (as we know) is definitely mine.  I swam with my trainer, Jr, (who is not affiliated with TNT) last Friday though and he was impressed by how much I had improved in the month since I last met with him.  It’s still a work in progress, but he said that my upper body is calm and relaxed and the motions are much more efficient. (Thanks to swimming lazily!)  My breathing is also better.  I still have to work on my kicking and lower body but Jr gave me some pointers, and the TNT coaches always have good advice.  Jr had me swim with flippers for a few laps to help with my legs and it was totally different!  It was weird at first, but I glided through that water at turbo speed (or like a sprinting turtle) and tried to figure out how to get my giant size 9s to act as my own personal flippers.  I felt like I could swim halfway to forever with those things.

Ducks are so lucky.