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 ❤

Entering the Home Stretch!

17 days – thats it! In 17 days I will swim a mile in the Hudson River, ride 25 miles and run 6.2 in the NYC triathlon in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! And I am ready (for the most part- I do plan to get out on that bike a couple more times for some long rides. But THEN I’ll be ready!). Swimming isn’t nearly as concerning for me as it was last year; in fact, it might be my favorite event now. Yes, even before running! (I can’t believe I just said that.)

Yesterday was the fundraising deadline and I am still a bit away from my goal. But the good news is that donations will still be accepted through July 8th so there is still some time if you haven’t already donated! Please click the link below and consider donating to such a great cause. Do it because everyone, in some way, is affected by cancer. Do it because swimming in the Hudson River is crazy and you support my insanity. Do it because it was just payday, or because you are SO happy that this is the last time you will read a post from me begging for money. Do it to change someone’s world. Every penny counts!  Here is my fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

And also watch this super short video of my experience from last year’s triathlon. http://magis.to/eisiTEQHAgd6LnEBDmEwCXh7?l=vsm&o=i&c=m

Two things stand out in that video:

1. I had SO MUCH FUN.  Those smiles are so incredibly real and I plan on having even more fun this year!

2.  I need to actually purchase race photos so not all my pictures say “proof” across them.

Ok, want to hear more about training?

On Sunday I ran in the Achilles Hope and Possibilities run, which is probably the most inspiring race on the NY Road Runners calendar. Achilles International was founded by Dick Traum, the first above-the-knee amputee to finish the NYC marathon! (actually, I think he was the first amputee, period.  Forget the above-the knee part!) He refused to let his disability hold him back and wanted others to feel the same and so he founded the organization.  According to their website, “Able-bodied volunteers and disabled runners come together to train in an environment of support and community. Within this community, runners gain measurable physical strength and build confidence through their sense of accomplishment, which often transfers to other parts of their life.”  Awesome, right?  And Jon Stewart hosted!

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The race itself was fantastic. 5 miles through Central Park with 3,317 other runners of all different shapes and sizes and abilities. This is one race that really encourages you to give it your all; we ran with runners with prosthetic legs, blind runners who were being led by Achilles guides, wounded war veterans, and runners with other physical impairments. Everyone. Together.

photo 1 A before picture – just seconds away from the starting horn!

It was a cloudy and humid 64 degree morning, but the spirit of the event made everyone forget about the looming thunderstorm that was threatening us and everyone seemed excited and happy to be there.  I know I was – and I was even happier when I realized that we wouldn’t be running Harlem Hill!  God that’s a great feeling.  I was happy with my overall time.  Here are my splits:

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And some obligatory after photos:

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Other than that, I’ve been running on my own and with Team in Training (TNT), swimming even more, and biking a bit – soon to be much more as we head into the home stretch. Despite having done TNT last year, I have learned so much during this year’s training. My coaches and teammates have had some invaluable advice and I am going into the triathlon with so much more knowledge and confidence than last year, plus the added advantage of having done it before.

I’m ready for you, Hudson River!!

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

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).

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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.

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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!)

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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

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

Runs and Waterfalls

A new training post on a Monday morning.  If that doesn’t brighten your day, I don’t know what will!! 😉

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far – I really appreciate it – but I still have a long way to go.  Please don’t forget to visit my fundraising page (http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith).  Every little bit helps the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society get one step closer to finding a cure for cancer, and also helps provide patients and families with much needed treatment and support.

The last month has been full of training… some swimming, some biking, some running.  Oh my!  March 15th was the New York City Half Marathon – known as one of the most prestigious half marathons in the country. Who knows though. I haven’t run  all the half marathons in the country (or anything even close to that) so I’m no expert on the topic. I can say, however, that it was one of the coolest ones I’ve been a part of!  And it was the first half marathon of 2015 so that’s always exciting.

I’d had a cold for the last few days leading up to the race, so this half started out strangely similar to my first half of 2014 – except this time I resisted the urge to chug DayQuil before I left the apartment. Live and learn, right? I’ll only (hopefully) make that mistake once.

It was almost 45 degrees when I arrived to the starting line at around 7:30 in the morning, which was like a heat wave from the frigid cold and rain from the previous few days. Somehow my expected pace got messed up and I was slated to begin in Wave 1, Corral 1 – right alongside the elite athletes who were predicted to run around a 6-min mile. Yeah right. I know I am competitive and always up for a challenge, but no thank you – not today, New York Road Runners! Instead I tried to sneak into the first corral of the second wave but was told it was closed and ended up in the Wave 2, Corral 2. Not bad. We were off in no time and I was running with people who were much more on my level – which was good because I would have probably tried to keep up with the super fast people and totally exhausted myself by mile 2.

The race began in Central Park in the 72nd street transverse and we ran counterclockwise, first tackling the Cat Hill before going to the east side.  I loved getting that hill done right at the beginning and I was so amped up and full of adrenaline that I barely even realized I was running on an incline. I waved to Boyfriend’s bro-in-law and nephew around 101st street and kept chugging along.

Central Park is not known for being a flat course, and I was beginning to notice the hills; after having trained all winter on a treadmill those hills (and the cooler air) took some getting used to! We exited the park at the northernmost part and went in a loop before re-entering just before the Harlem Hill – the worst part of the park!  The part that really lets you know what you are made of.  The part that could make or break the rest of the race. (That might be overly dramatic.) It seemed much longer than it had the last time I ran it and I wondered how NYRR managed to add what seemed like an extra half a mile of hill to Central Park without making the local news.  Sneaky bastards.  Once the hill was over (which turns out was its usual length. My bad. 😉 ) I knew that it was relatively smooth sailing from then on and there were no more major hills.

We exited the park at mile 6 at the south side and it was the coolest feeling ever. Times Square was in front of us – colorful, flashy, iconic Times Square – and both sides of the street were full of cheering fans with signs, cowbells, everything. Some of the better signs said things like “If a half marathon was easy it would be called ‘your mom’.” (no offense, Ma, but I laughed at that one), “Less Walken” (with a picture of Christopher Walken) “More cowbell”, and the usual “Run now, wine later”. The race was live-streamed and televised, and the media was out, along with huge TV screens so we could see ourselves, which was very cool.  Some people stopped to take pictures of themselves on the big screens, but I knew taking out my phone and snapping a pic would mess with my time.  Stupid competitive streak.  (But I did love seeing myself on tv.)

Here I am totally loving every second and taking it all in:

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We turned onto 42nd Street and headed west to the Westside Highway and I got cold from the wind off of the water.  I had my gloves on and was happy that I didn’t take my jacket off earlier when it ws a little warmer in the park.  Once we turned on to the Westside Highway, it was pretty much a straight shot down to the end.  I had read that once we saw the Freedom Tower we would know we were practically done, so I when I saw it a wave of calm spread through me – until I realized that whoever said that was wrong and I still had about 4.5 miles to go.  (Although I guess in the grand scheme of half marathons, 4.5 miles left is almost over, right?)  We continued down, through the Battery Park Tunnel (where I got a little claustrophobic for some reason and sped up just so I could be back outside), and down through the seaport.  One more turn and I would cross the finish line!

People always tell me to enjoy the moment when I cross the finish line and not worry about my exact time, and I usually think to myself something along the lines  of “Yeah, I know. I love that moment – I’m totally into it.” But I guess this is proof that I am all about stopping my Garmin. Damn it, photographic evidence! (This also may be the exact moment I realized I missed running a personal record by about 37 seconds.)

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It really was a great race and a pretty awesome way to officially begin training season.  Check out my bling!

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I have the More Women’s Half Marathon coming up on Sunday, and there have been some pretty great bikes and swims thrown in – including the first outdoor bike adventure of the year and some swims in the Carribean, near some waterfalls, and an essentially private lap pool in the middle of paradise (which I didn’t take advantage of nearly as much as I should have)!

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Not a bad way to train, huh?