Race Recap: 2015 Cape Cod Ragnar – Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power

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Photo cred: Chris Cooney/The Vegan Zombie

Last weekend was a whirlwind. An amazing, fun, exhausting and eye opening whirlwind. I participated in the 2015 Cape Cod Ragnar with a huge group of over 40+ ethical vegans. I was pushed to my limits physically, made tons of new friends and had an experience of a lifetime. But first, what is a Ragnar?

I’d never heard of Ragnar before Scott did his first one in 2013. A Ragnar is a relay race of roughly 200 miles; point-to-point, for a team of 12 runners. Or 6 if you’re an ultra team. We had three teams this year for Strong Hearts Vegan Power after the first two years garnered so much interest. Each runner is assigned a number (1-12) which designates which legs they run. The first 6 runners pile in van #1, the last 6 pile in van #2 and once the first runner starts the race is non stop. Someone from your team is running until the race is over. Meaning we run through the night and get very little downtime. I was runner number 3 in my van, so I ran legs 3, 15 and 27. Not all legs are equal distance or difficulty. My legs were 6.3, 4.0 and 9.4 miles, respectively, for a total of 19.7 miles in less than two days.

The aim of running as a team of vegan runners wasn’t just to have fun. We organized this to benefit Tamerlaine Farm; an animal sanctuary run by one of the team members. Tamerlaine has rescued dozen of chickens from a Kaparot ceremony (a ceremony in certain Jewish communities where chickens are waved in the air and then slaughtered brutally, this is for some reason still totally legal in NYC), factory farms and school hatching projects. Recently they just welcomed two pigs to their farm and continue to expand. Our team shirts boldly stated “FOR THE ANIMALS” on the back and “VEGAN POWER” on the front. People immediately knew who we were and what we stood for. As someone who has not ever participated in any sort of activism this was thrilling to be a part of.

I was on Team C, van 1 and we started around 8:45 am Friday. I was excited and nervous for the race to start. I knew I could run all those distances, but I’d never done so much consecutively. But excitement really prevailed as there were so many people to meet and stories to share. My van was full of amazing people doing such diverse things. A musician, a nurse, a personal trainer, the owner of Strong Hearts Cafe, the director of the podcast Our Hen House….. seriously amazing people. I was so impressed with how we all have approached veganism in different ways, but shared the same message.

Our run kicked off with Carrie, a personal trainer who had such great enthusiasm and positivity, and happened to be celebrating her birthday. We quickly hoped in the van and drove to the first exchange ahead of her to prepare our second runner. Carrie came in strong and we sent of Michael and headed to the next exchange. Which meant I was up next! Michael’s first leg was a shorter one so I didn’t have too much time to get nervous, but I did anxiously bounce around at the exchange waiting for him to come in. When he did we had what I would say was the ‘perfect slap’ (the baton in this was a slap bracelet, a dangerous dangerous slap bracelet) and I was off. I had just over a 10K to cover. It was maybe around 10 am at this time and it was sunny and warm. I felt really strong for the first half of this run that took me along some suburban streets. Eventually the hills started to take a toll on me and I found I slowed down but finished with an over all pace of 8:45/mi for the 6.3. My leg finished on a steep downhill and I passed the slap bracelet to Joel. Ok, first leg done. I was happy to have it out of the way. That last 9.4 mile leg kept jumping to my mind. “Can I do that?” “How can I do that after running all this!?” “I’ll be fine.” “When will I sleep?”

I caught my breath, jumped back in the van and got interviewed by Jasmin of Our Hen House for their weekly podcast about my experience being a vegan scientist. I’ll put the link below – I don’t sound too rambly thank god! There is something about living in close quarters with people that turn you into instant family. I was constantly laughing in my van, even when I thought I might pass out from lack of sleep. Our next exchanges went smoothly – much due to the excellent navigation of our driver Molly who always kept her cool. We were never late to an exchange once! When our 6th runner passed off the bracelet to runner 7 (the first runner of van 2) we finally had a good 4 hour break before we needed to start our second legs.

We found a great park on the route and had a picnic lunch. Joel, being a restaurant owner, provided us with a complete gourmet spread of vegan sandwiches and snacks. I had NO complaints about my van placement. Ha. After replenishing calories we all spread out languidly in the park, taking naps, observing wild turkeys, stealing toilet paper from the park bathroom (desperate times people)…Jasmin conducted a few more interviews and I tried to take a small nap in the van. Not too successful.

Before we knew it, it was time for us to start our second leg. We headed over the the exchange point where van 2 would finish and Carrie would start again. By now the sun was going down and we were required to put on all our safety gear. Headlamps, reflective vests, blinkers. It also became surprisingly breezy and cold at this point and I cursed myself for not bringing any sort of blanket or pants. I think it was about this point that I started to get nervous about continuing to run and it being cold. I also felt nervous to run in the dark, even with all the precautions. I am not sure why my anxiety started to get so high at this point – I’ll say it was probably due to the accumulating fatigue.

It was dark at this point (maybe around 8 or 9 pm) and I was just not sure of my abilities. Once Michael came in to the exchange and gave me the bracelet I took off with a vengeance. Half to get it over with, half to warm up my body. I knew this leg should be easy. It was 4 miles pretty much all downhill. I told myself to just run it as fast I could so I could try to get some sleep right away. Most of this run was on sidewalks so I really didn’t have much to worry about but there were some very dark turns where I would hold up my blinky protectively for cars. This leg was probably the best leg for me since the chill in the air was actually great once I got going. I finished it up with about a 8:40 pace and handed off to Joel again.

Here is really where I think delusion sets in. I think I mostly stayed in the van through the next few exchanges since in my mind I figured any second possible I should try to be sleeping. I didn’t know how I was going to run 9.4 miles with little to no sleep in between. How do people do this race?! How do people do ultras?! I don’t really recall getting any actual sleep at this point since we were still very on the move. Once our last runner came in for the second time we had a moment to relax. Since it was Carrie’s birthday we had a mini celebration with cupcakes from Strong Hearts. I don’t think a cupcake has ever tasted so good to me. The sugar was all my body wanted at that point. Pure energy, nothing hard to digest. I then conked out in the backseat of the van for what I guess was 2.5 hours before I had to prepare for my last leg.

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Starting my last leg around 5:30 am. Photo cred: Jasmin Singer

I was SO nervous at this point. I felt spent but I had my longest leg to go. I hadn’t really eaten much other than cupcakes and lunch seemed so far away. It was still cold out and I couldn’t remember that I would warm up while running. I just knew I was cold then and I didn’t like it. The sun rose just before I started off my last leg so I was mostly running through the hazy morning air. Michael came into the exchange still looking strong, maybe fatigued, and handed me the bracelet. I took off at a much more reserved pace than my other legs. I knew this leg was just about staying upright. I needed to keep my pace easy and consistent to finish it at all. The cold wind slapped me awake before I knew what was happening and I actually enjoyed those first quiet 3 miles a lot. Pace maintained around 9:05-9:10 and I got to take in some really scenic views of Cape Cod houses and the coast. I slowly passed people – which gave me confidence that I could endure this leg. But then of course; hills. What looked like nothing on the elevation chart proved to be constant undulating hills through these sleepy streets. My next two miles were much slower, but still I felt I had energy in the tank. Once I hit mile 6 and turned onto a paved running path I started to really start feeling fatigue. My left knee started to feel a little too much and it worsened with every step. I knew my form was suffering as I got more and more tired, but I had to keep pushing.

At 1.7 from the finish I was dragging. I had NO more energy in my legs. I couldn’t make them turn over any faster. My knee was wobbling. I had given my team estimated pacing of 9-9:30/mi pace. I knew I was well off that now and they were probably wondering where I was. I tried to muster any last reserves here, but it really didn’t help that these last two miles were a gradual incline. I tried to pace with an older man that was still trucking but I couldn’t keep up. This is what it must feel like to run a marathon or an ultra. Complete energy depletion. In hindsight I should have absolutely taken a gel or calories of some sort with me. I was a good 10-15 minutes off pace at this point so I texted my team to let them know I was having some issues but I was close. Joel, the runner after me, immediately ran out to me with water. He met me at about 0.7 miles to go, and took off on his now extended last leg. I never intended to make him run extra, but from what Jasmin tells me he didn’t even hesitate. This is what I mean with my van became family. I shuffled into to exchange point to my teammates and collapsed into the van. I was done. Done running. Such a bittersweet end.

I refueled and started feeling back to normal relatively quickly. It was really just my body saying “No more. We’re tired.” Our van finished up the final handoff to van 2 and we were DONE! We were now free to head to the finish line and meet up with other team members, some of whom had already finished the whole race. Our Team A was purposefully organized to include the fastest runners so it was more competitive (naturally Scott was on this one) and they ended up coming in third place OVERALL and first in their division. There were over 500 teams and they came in THIRD. Our B team came in a few hours later and our C team (my team) about 1.5 after them. When our last runner crested the hill to the finish and all 40+ of us slowly joined her, until it was a massive mob of vegans. I couldn’t have felt more love or pride over my new group of friends. We were so supportive and positive for one another.

And then, the aftermath. So I mentioned before this was the most I’d ever run at one time. It was a new experience for me to feel complete shutdown of my body. Not to mention after effects. I winced every time I got into a car or use stairs. My knee had to be treated with care. But the worst for me was dehydration. When we finally got back to our hotel room I had a massive headache almost to the point of tears (I told you this kind of made me delusional) and could barely eat dinner. All I wanted was a shower and bed. We all fell asleep by 9 pm.

Once those basic needs were met (food, water, sleep, shower) I rejoined the human race. We met up with a group of teammates the following morning for amazing vegan breakfast in Boston and by sheer coincidence – I saw my mom on Mother’s day! She happened to be in New Hampshire, a 1 hour drive from Boston that weekend, so I was able to have a brief visit with her and my grandparents.

Last weekend was epic in all meanings of the word. I would do it again in a heartbeat and wish I had more reasons to hang out with this amazing group of people.

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Just about everyone before the start. Photo cred: who knows!
Click here to hear my lil’ interview on Our Hen House: Episode 279: “Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”

Re-cycle, up-cycle, spring-cycle

I am currently laying in bed with and all three of the kitties, enjoying coffee and slow Saturday mornings. The cats are thrilled with the change of season and have been spending as much time as they can watching the rain from the windowsills or following the birds. I also have been reveling in this weather and returned to running on the Monon after work (with about everyone else in Indianapolis), or heading down to Brown County with Scott to enjoy muddy trails. My relationship with running is going really well now. Since I’ve kind of stopped letting it define me and my worth, I’ve been experiencing a lot less anxiety about it. I also have a lot less to say about it (or blog about it) now since I am just running for enjoyment. Apologies if you came for the running talk!

Yesterday we got a dirt (ahem, “soil”) delivery for the garden. It’s coming along nicely! Again, all this work was done by Scott. Next to plant the seeds!

Garden progress

In other sustainable living practices, my sewing class wrapped up and I am completely hooked now. I made three items in the class; a pillow case, an apron and a tote bag. The woman teaching the class was fantastic, she really had so much knowledge about sewing and was incredibly patient with a total novice like me. Scott’s mother generously lent me her sewing machine and I’ve been messing around with it in my down time by making small stuffed animals for a few friends that have new babies. So far the babies approve.

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I’m really itching to start making clothing, but I haven’t settled on where to start at all. I’m considering buying my own machine with more garment appropriate features. Speaking of garments… today is another excuse for Sartorial Saturday! Though to be honest I think I wore this Tuesday. If you knew how many pictures I had to make Scott take to get this one good one….

April 6, 2015

With the exception of the shoes I can say this entire outfit was second hand! I didn’t even realize that when I put it together. The top is a thrifted Gap shirt, the skirt thrifted Target, the sweater is a thrifted Loft cardigan. And to continue with this theme, today I am hosting a “Clothing Exchange” with some friends. More upcycling!

 

Race Recap: DINO Series 5k, Mounds State Park

I mentioned months ago that I signed up for the entire DINO (Do INdiana Outdoors) 15K trail series. Due to the severe norovirus I got 3 weeks ago, I made the wise decision to drop down to the 5K. I am STILL not completely over this bug; major symptoms yes, but my digestive system is totally out of whack. So bad that I haven’t been able to run really at all. I can barely go grocery shopping with out needing to run to the bathroom so running was pretty much out of the question. But thankfully I am recovered enough now to run, but I was so glad I dropped down to the 5K.

DINO series, Mounds State Park
Recent snow melt and rain meant for an extremely muddy course for the day, but it’s trail running. That’s part of the package. My goals for this race were to complete it with out needing to stop for a bathroom break. Nothing more. I know that my body is kind of weak right now, my weight is probably down (but I don’t know because I threw away my scale, hurrah!) and my endurance is crap.

Report wise, I don’t really have much. It was muddy, and slow and full of stairs. I definitely need to work on strength/hills to really improve my trail run times. But overall it was a fun race, I finished in a not too embarrassing position (2nd in my age group FTW) and had fun spectating Scott in the 15K.

DINO series, Mounds State Park
Scott finished 4th in the 15K! And we both got age group awards annnnnd discounts to Runner’s Forum. Mostly I am just happy to be able to run again!
DINO series, Mounds State Park
Will update later with my time, but from my watch it looked to be around 32:xx. Meh.

Update: 32:02.6 final. Still Meh! But technically a new trail 5K PR. 

Going ons in the little white house

Life lately in the little white house is good. I’ve been happy to be away from facebook and instagram (for almost one whole week, gasp!) – it’s been a really nice way to quiet all the ‘noise’. Even if most people do so in jest, there is a lot of negativity and complaining happening online.

In lieu of carving out a life that is separate from what dominant culture dictates, Scott and I have been implementing more self-sustainable practices into daily life. For me this has been focusing on the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’, particularly when it comes to clothes. Excess in our culture is so apparent in our attitude towards clothing. I know personally I’ve almost come to treat things as ‘disposable’ after a year of wear, what with the constantly changing trends and decline in garment quality. Though I’ve always donated my unwanted clothing to places like Goodwill, it really doesn’t sit well with me – the constant turnover, constant purchasing…not to mention that they come from sweatshops. So I’ve resolved to shop thrift or consignment as much as possible. This is already working in my favor – I found a bunch of great things for incredibly cheap at the first shop I went to. I’m also really set on taking up sewing…

Scott has taken to turning our backyard into a vegetable garden. I can take no credit for this as I’ve only watched him work out in the cold from the comforts of the house. I have been putting all my banana peels in the compost… that counts right?

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I picked up a new pair of running shoes yesterday (I realize that this completely contradicts what I am trying to do in the previous paragraphs – I am a hypocrite, yes) and I am in love. They are NOT neon. Who knew you could find that. Oh and they feel great, but I haven’t had a proper run in them yet. I was actually disappointed in the Kinvaras I just wore out – they fit great, but the durability of them was pretty poor. I went with Adidas Adios Boosts. And they were on sale.

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Tomorrow we head down to Brown County for some trail running, good thing since my trail series starts in one month! We also get to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a fancy four course vegan dinner our friend’s restaurant is putting on. No complaints here.

Now I’m off to curl up in bed with the cats and watch The Fall on netflix as this week has been ridiculously busy at work and I can’t wait to turn off my brain.

Defining happiness

What do I want? For a question so simple I find I have an incredibly difficult time answering it. This past week I’ve tried to focus on happiness, and what that means to me. Does happiness mean achieving this ‘perfect’ image I have in my head of myself or living the life I want with out self-inflicted stress?

I’m finding it is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Perfection is an impossible and useless goal while the latter scenario can lead to complacency. I want to challenge myself, but I don’t want to burden myself with the unattainable.

Ok – enough existentialism for one blog post. I don’t want to get too serious. This week I ran, I did yoga, I did an art class, I did some tiny home improvements, I tried a new recipe. It was great. I pushed myself on Tuesday with a 7-mile run in the cold and dark, then I took it easy (relatively – ashtanga is not what I’d call easy) and did yoga Saturday morning.

So my conclusion is that I have no conclusions, but things are going well.

Mind games

I go back and forth between wanting to share really personal things about my anxiety and inner struggles here – but ultimately I think it is both cathartic for me and possibly helpful to people that might experience similar things. This also serves as a way that I can chart progress as well as remember previous states to learn from. So. With that being said this week was weird. I’ll start with the mileage…

Monday: 4.12 miles

Tuesday: 6 miles (2.5 WU, 10 X :30 on, :60 off, CD)

Wednesday: off

Thursday: off

Friday: 3.10 miles

Saturday: 4.54 miles

Sunday: 6.00 miles

Total miles run: 23.76

I’m finishing up a big project at work and ended up working more than I’d planned Wednesday and Thursday, and Saturday I had 9 miles on my plan but only made it 4.5. Not that I collapsed or anything, well, ok maybe mentally collapsed. I emotionally could not complete the run. Maybe it was compounded stress from trying to get things done at work or some critical thoughts I had the previous night, but I started feeling panicky 2 miles into my run, lost control of my breathing and heart rate and felt the overwhelming feeling that I was going to sob. It wasn’t due to some thoughts I was dwelling on in my brain – more a wave of ‘sickness’ that overcame me out of nowhere. I tried to suppress it for a while and get my rhythm back but I couldn’t. What I’ve come to conclude is it was a panic attack, which I hadn’t experienced since last July.

I ended up pulling off the trail and walking through some neighborhoods and embarrassingly – cried some. I felt incredibly ridiculous and weak. Eventually I collected myself and ran back to the car to wait for Scott, who instantly knew something was wrong as he never saw me again during his run. Once we were back at home I shut myself in the bedroom and cried for about 5 minutes. And then it was done. Out. Like a stomach virus that you need to vomit up. It’s fucking weird.

Sunday we met with the group run again where easily finished 6 miles, at just sub-9:00 pace, all while chatting with a friend.

So…. begrudgingly, I admit that I still have some personal things to sort through. Or am sorting through. Things that are intrinsically tied to running and image. How does one get out of their head?

Mini-training week 1

First week back to training was surprisingly smooth! I did start to feel fatigue set in mid-week but I seem to be recovering pretty well.

Monday: 3 miles
Tuesday: 5 miles (1 WU, 8:59, 8:40, 8:30, 1 CD)
Wednesday: 3 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: rest
Saturday: 8 miles (9:43/mile)
Sunday: 4.25 miles, 1 hr ashtanga

Total miles run: 26.25

My long run on Saturday was a bit slow – the first and last miles were covered in ice so I had to do a lot of careful picking as to not crack my head open. The middle miles I was more around a 9:15-9:20 pace which is just fine with me. Getting back to ‘fitness’ is kind of a new feeling for me, but I know I just need to keep up the routine and I’ll be back to my pace.

In unrelated news I bit the bullet and got a tattoo on Saturday. My first. I’d been thinking it over for about a year so I figured I was pretty committed. It was done by a friend of a friend up at a shop in Muncie and I am very pleased with the whole process. Nerves got the best of me when we arrived at the shop and I realized it was actually going to happen, not to mention the fact that I was electively doing something painful. And painful it was. But bearable – not sure how else to describe it. Brief seconds of pain while the line was drawn followed by an equally brief break from the pain. I got it on my ribs, which is apparently a notoriously sensitive spot so I guess it is downhill from there!

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A mouse. Related to my time working in a lab that directly used animals for research and how that cemented my choice to go vegan. For all the mice and laboratory animals still in cages. For all the farm animals with no freedom and painful lives. For all the animals used as entertainment or clothing against their will. Go vegan. Stay vegan.

Training update and recent revelations

I am FINALLY back to running. It seemed very touch and go there for a bit. I would run here and there, then get set back by a cold, then run again… then be stuck in bed…

And just as I was starting to get over the cold again I was struck down the day after returning from our Boston/NH New Year’s trip. It probably didn’t help that one day I ran in the slushy snowy rain around the city. I was basically bedridden for all of last week.

Anyways, with the assistance of doxycycline, I have prevailed! And just in time to kick off my 16-week training plan for the Mini-Marathon in May. The Mini is hailed as the nation’s largest half-marathon (which may or may not be true) and is the culmination of the city’s celebrations surrounding the Indy 500 race. I spectated it last year, and ran my first 10 miles in months if you remember, and am looking forward to racing it this year.

Official training began yesterday with 3 miles downtown from work. Scott advised me to start small since I’d been sick for so long – and that was fine with me. The mileage was fine, but the conditions were a mess. It was below freezing, ice was all over the sidewalks and the wind was raging. I took my 5 mile speed work to the treadmill today (1 mile WU, 9:00, 8:40, 8:30, 1 mile CD) and was pleased those were relatively comfortable miles.

Noticeably different to me was my experience on the treadmill. Not often am I running more than 4 miles indoors as that is about as long as I can keep my attention. But today I went in with the mindset of ‘training’ and the miles flew by. I was there to work. Not to work out. Not to keep a new year’s resolution. Not to read a magazine and fuck around on the elliptical. Having one successful ‘training period’ under my belt has really bolstered my confidence. I’ve chosen a more intense training plan this go (volume-wise) but I don’t have any of the fears I did last time. Mostly I’m just excited to see where I can go from here.

Another realization I came to was how different my attitude has been lately concerning my appearance. I’ve been reading Derek Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe and it really is putting dominant culture into perspective for me. It is much easier for me to reject beauty standards once I realize that they’re a tool to keep us as insecure needy consumers. And are a means to further oppress women, to limit our role to being pretty objects for men. I felt empowered on the treadmill knowing I wasn’t running to ‘look good’ or ‘burn calories’. I was there to fucking run.(Might’ve helped that I was listening to Sleater Kinney).

Oh! And I signed up for the ENTIRE Dino trail series. That is pretty much a trail 15K once a month starting in March. So yeah, 2015 is looking good!