Monday, April 30, 2012

Just another run

Last night was one of those runs in which I tell myself, this is why I run! I don’t frequently get the chance to run sans stroller and knowing I was about to get 3.5 miles just to myself was tantalizing. The prAna outfit I won during ladies night at a big-box running store had just arrived in the mail so I threw on my Sugar Mini Skirt for a test spin. I instantly could tell this skirt was not going to let me down. I took off towards the Silver Strand pathway and waited for the GPS to connect on my Motoactv watch. Clouds were full and low-hanging which caused my Motoactv watch to fail at getting a connection for the first time since I first used it a couple weeks ago. I pressed play on whatever tunes had synced onto my Motoactv and got going.

I almost never run with music. The only times I have found it useful were in the exceedingly rare times I have performed speed work or hill repeats. Come to think of it that type of training hasn’t happened since 2009. Within seconds of turning the volume up as the sun was setting rapidly, my thoughts were brought back to my regular trail just off H Street in Chula Vista, back when I had the freedom to enjoy 10+ miles of night running on a whim, back when my dog could run farther than me. Now my dog cannot run a mile without getting exhausted and without her I dare not run around San Diego alone at night. Now any run longer than 3 miles takes a little bit of planning and runs longer than 6 miles take considerable planning. I let myself sink into the music instead of dwell on life changes.

A strange thing happens when listening to music while running and it often is the reason I tell others don’t run with music—you don’t pay attention to your surroundings nearly as much. But tonight the Silver Strand pathway that bores me immensely was rather enjoyable. I am so familiar with this mile’ish long dirt path that even though the sun was setting and the trail was rapidly becoming engulfed with shadows I was able to zone out within minutes instead of miles. I love that transcending feeling when you run without thinking of what your body is doing and your mind is a million miles away. It is one of the main reasons I run, to reach that level of what I consider my meditative state.

It was short lived as I had to cross the street to the naval gate. After greeting the gate guys and showing them my dependent ID, I strode across the parking lot to drop off the Redbox rentals due. Then I took my shoes and socks off and tenderly made my way to the beach. I probably shouldn’t have tried barefoot running after scrapping the leather-like layer of yuck off my feet earlier that day which now left my pads tender. But the beach was just on the other side of the building so I simply shortened my stride until touching the sand.

After crossing the berm the crashing waves made me pause. Something about waves can turn me instantly zombie-like as I stare out and take it all in. The waves were so loud I could barely hear my music. I cranked it up a couple notches, drew in one long purposeful smell of ocean air then took off with a shoe in each hand. The sun had already set and, of course, I never thought to bring a light—or my dog. I cruised on, squinting down just to where my feet were landing and forced myself to run in the soft sand. Definitely not tuned in yet to sand. I couldn’t hit that meditation state this time as I focused intently on my path. I felt things under my feet I couldn’t quite pinpoint. I should have just kept going but instead I stopped to get a closer look. Dead crabs and piles of bird skeletons and feathers. My stomach turned. Who knows what else was out there that I was stepping on. I did the best I could to steer clear of anything that didn’t resemble sand and ignored any squishy sensations or crunchy sounds under my feet.

I made my way past the gross obstacles and saw a couple holding each other tight and remembered many nighttime walks with my guy out here. I kept running instead of dwelling. Turns out music is a wonderful distraction.

Soon I could see the palm trees and boat masts which meant I was almost done. I was slightly disoriented though and couldn’t quite manage the right path from the shore to get to the bay side and stumbled in and out of the wildlife preservation area. Oops! Eventually I found the right path and once my feet left the soft sand my stride again got chopped in half in order to get across the crushed up  and slightly painful shells and over the highway. I had forgotten the code to the gate so when I saw a car about to enter I picked up my pace so I could sneak in. As I shamefully pussy-footed over the parking lot and picked glass shards out of my feet I can only assume the look on the gentleman’s face when he saw me meant I looked a bit…crazed.

I ran the last stretch of beach, now on the bay side, with an even quicker stride. The thorns from the weeds were killing my feet at this point. I killed my music, picked the thorns out, and came inside my house to a little girl who was well aware I was home and it was bedtime.

What a great run!
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to "Love Your Mother Earth"

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day. Events are hosted all month long all over the nation in support of cleaning up our act and in turn cleaning up the Earth. As I type this I’m watching WALL-E as a reminder of what can happen if I don’t do my part to help (we should NEVER allow this to happen by the way). I have been on a path to becoming an active eco-conservationist (pretty sure I made that up but I’m going with it!). I want to set a good example for my daughter in her growing years so that being eco-friendly is second nature to her and not a complete lifestyle change.  Here are my favorite ways to be an ECO-FRIENDLY PARENT: cloth diapers, cloth wipes, diaper free, natural cleaning and beauty products, get your child involved in Earth Day, buy local and/or organic products, lessen our consumption of beef, use with non-dairy milk, breastfeed, commute and "run" errands.

Cloth Diapers
Thanks to the popularity of the green movement you can find eco-friendly products and alternatives everywhere. Diapers are no exception to this. For parents, especially first timers, deciding how to handle a child’s elimination can pose an overwhelming challenge. Before we go into eco-friendly elimination handling here are some things I discovered along the way.  
  • It can take up to 500 years for a disposable diaper to break down, keeping in mind disposables only break down and do not decompose and forever leave plastic in our precious ecosystem.
  • Parents who use cloth diapers typically have babies who are toilet trained a year earlier than parents who use disposables.
  • Estimates show a single child can go through as many as 5,000 to 6,500 diaper changes from birth to being toilet trained (the average age in the U.S. is now 2.5 years old). 
Can you imagine what all those used sposies would amount to?  There's an image floating around the internet that represents 5,000 disposable diapers. It makes me wish I had started cloth diapering from the start.

Where exactly does a parent begin when trying to find a diapering solution that fits with the family needs, time and money allowances, takes the child’s health into consideration, and perhaps still offers some fun along with it?

Thankfully I have a cousin who already took the dive and tried out all sorts of systems and different wash methods. Her guidance lead me to gDiapers, a hybrid cloth diaper with the only Cradle to Cradle certified 100% biodegradable refill. The greatest resource you can use to find out about gDiapers is their very own website such as this simple little “how it works”.

Source: via Lacy on Pinterest

1)       Outer layer: gPant – the cute part! – This is intended to be reused multiple times.
2)       Middle layer: gPouch – a waterproof liner that protects the outer gPant from getting soiled allowing it to be reused. Depending on the soil level you may reuse the gPouch as well and simply insert some fresh fluff. This is a unique feature of hybrid diapers as other types, such as all-in-ones, are only intended to be used once. Less to wash = water preserved!
3)       Inner layer: Fluff of your choice which is inserted into the gPouch. There are two types: gRefills or gCloth. gRefills are 100% biodegradable and can be flushed, composted, or tossed.  gCloth inserts are made of microfleece and hemp/cotton and can be washed and reused over and over again. I personally use a 100% cotton prefold that I fold to fit but that is what is so great about gDiapers – versatility!
Cloth Wipes
If you are going to take the plunge and become a cloth diapering mama then it is worthwhile to consider also using cloth wipes. I repurposed my daughter’s flannel receiving blankets by cutting them into wash cloth sized wipes and with the help from a friend sewed up the edges to prevent fraying. For my wipe solution I use Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion and mix it according to directions in a travel sized spray bottle. To use simply spray the handmade wipe and spray the bum, wipe and toss in your wetbag or dry pail. Easy-peasy and saves from buying and tossing single-use wipes loaded with chemicals.

If you aren’t interested in cloth wipes gDiapers has you covered here too with their biodegradable gWipes. They are the best smelling wipes I’ve ever smelled, probably due to the coconut derived mild skin cleanser.

Diaper Free
Cloth diapers easily trump sposies (short for disposables).  As great as cloth diapering is, however, there is a trump card that reigns over it: using no diapers at all! Diaper free baby, natural infant hygiene, elimination communication (EC). No matter what your preference in what to call it they all refer to the same thing. Babies are born with a natural instinct to prefer not to sit in their own urine and feces. Babies, even as newborns, offer us cues to assist them in not doing so, and it is up to us to decide to listen and act upon those cues or let them get accustomed to soiling in a diaper and doing traditional potty training at a later age. Once you pick up on the cues, it is as obvious as knowing the cues of when your baby is tired or hungry.

My start to EC came after my daughter was diagnosed with a UTI/probable kidney infection. I was determined to change my daughter’s diaper immediately upon soiling from then on so that she would have minimal exposure to bacteria. Soon I noticed that I could tell when she was going and then soon after that I noticed signs that she had a need to go. After some Googling I came to find out about the diaper free baby method and thought what harm could come from trying it out. Anything was better than sitting in a hospital with a sick baby.

I allowed my daughter to go completely sans diaper with the intent of closely monitoring her elimination patterns for 2 to 3 days.  Within 3 hours my daughter peed over a toilet. I was hooked! I quickly took notice which facial expressions she made when she peed and pooped. Surprisingly her best smiles were when she peed – go figure! There were obvious patterns like needing to relieve herself before a nap, after nursing, and right upon waking from a nap, and then the rest were in timed intervals ranging from 30-60 minutes. Once I started allowing her to no longer sit in a dirty diaper – ever – amazingly she started clustering her peeing pattern.

ECing has been a rocky road for us as we have had more UTIs and a minor corrective procedure to go through, but I credit ECing for keeping me in tuned with my daughter’s health. I’ve been able to tell immediately when she has had a UTI and could get her to a doctor before it had a chance of messing with her kidneys again. I’ve also been able to avoid having to put her through getting cathed a couple times because she will pee in a cup for me (with assistance from my husband that is).  We currently continue to EC with cloth diapers as a backup. Some days I can only have 1-3 misses (soiled diapers) and other days I may have 6 like with this past week when she had 3 molars start erupting. Major events like that can really throw elimination patterns out of whack! With ECing though I have gone from having to wash diapers every 2-3 days to only once a week. That, my friends, is a lot of water saved. ECing may not work for everyone, but it has been worth it for us.

Natural Cleaning and Beauty Products
Do away with harsh chemicals and seek out cleaning and beauty products derived from nature. After all, everything that washes down our drains end up back in our lakes, rivers, and oceans eventually.

I clean just about everything with vinegar. Mix a solution of half vinegar and half water and use it to clean practically everything: sink, toilet, shower, countertops, floors, windows. If you are worried about your home smelling like vinegar have no worries. As soon as vinegar dries the smell dissipates. A friend told me about adding orange peels to the vinegar solution for a more pleasant citrus smell. Turns out lemons and oranges can be used as natural cleaners as well.  For really dirty spots you can make a paste using baking soda and water and scrubbing it in with some elbow grease. Baking soda is a fantastic aid in the laundry room as well.  Don’t forget to use cloth wipes for cleaning and skip paper toweling. Avoid using ammonias and chlorines when possible which are not only harmful to you and your family but harmful to the environment.

There is also the infamous ‘poo-free method for washing hair that uses baking soda, but I was not able to master it with my naturally curly hair. During the ‘poo-free trial, however, I did discover just how great weekly apple cider vinegar rinses are in treating dry scalp which I am chronically prone to. I no longer buy facial cleansers and instead use the oil cleaning method for washing my face (use equal parts olive oil and castor oil, massage onto face and drape a hot washcloth over your face for a minute to steam your pores, then wipe clean). Last but certainly not least is coconut oil. I have only been using it for a couple of months now but goodness all-mighty you can use it for everything!!

Get Your Child Involved in Earth Day
Set an example for your kids to follow. Bring the whole family out to a cleanup group and work up a little sweat for good old mother Earth. She’s absolutely worth it. I promise! Contact your local community centers or try a Google search to see if anyone has already organized a cleanup you can participate in. If you can’t find any start your own! 

In San Diego my dear friend, Megan, and I brought our kids to the RECYARD on base and participated in a naval base cleanup. I haven’t helped in a cleanup in years and I must admit it felt GREAT. Our small group of 15 collected a total of 111 pounds of trash including cigarette butts, plastic, scrap metal (including a muffler), and much more. It may seem like a small amount but looking at the pile of garbage we collected and how much better things looked after made it worthwhile.

My friend, Megan, taking a "no excuse" approach to helping out

Milla is doing her part which is LETTING me do mine 

This is what I'm talking about! Get your kids involved!

Mostly cigarette butts - disgusting!

There is no lack of trash cans around so there is NO EXCUSE for this
Buy Local and/or Organic Products
Discover your local farmers market so you can choose local produce or check out the organic section of your local grocery store. You’d be surprised how some organic produce costs practically the same as the pesticide-laden produce. Plus the closer the produce originated from the place you buy it from, the less gas it cost to get it there. This reminds me…if possible try to find companies that use green shipping when making online purchases.

Lessen our Consumption of Beef
Every year more and more cattle in the U.S. are being raised in feedlots in order to keep up with demand, and the environmental impact of that is astounding. Cattle and other hefty mammals compact soil with each step which in turns contributes to runoff, taking away our topsoil and creating gullies because the soil can’t absorb water when compacted. Wildlife that threatens to harm cattle are quickly dealt with even though we continue to encroach and their territory and take away their food. According to a wonderfully written article by Steve Boyan Phd, cattle produce nearly 1/5 of global methane emissions from their….uh-hum…cattle farts, and methane is 24 times more potent to the climate than carbon dioxide.

I am not suggesting you stop eating beef, which would be hypocritical. I eat me meat. I love a juicy burger once in awhile. What I am suggesting is we explore alternatives to a fatty diet filled with beef and look at lessening our beef demand. Substitute ground turkey or ground chicken in place of ground beef in your favorite recipes. Take a look at vegan recipes and try having meatless dinner at least once a week. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy what so many delicious vegan recipes have to offer. 

Use Non-Dairy Milk
Another way to decrease our cattle demand is to decrease our dairy usage by using alternatives like coconut milk and almond milk.  A company called So Delicious makes wonderful dairy free products including yogurt and ice cream derived from coconut milk and almond milk.  Not only is consuming beef and dairy products leading to a demand for cattle that in turn is impacting our environment but consuming dairy products is really quite difficult for many of us. Rob Dunn’s article about milk goes into great detail just how troubling digesting milk is. I have noticed a huge decline in stomach issues since switching to coconut milk and almond milk and soon plan on adding hemp milk into my flexitarian lifestyle.

Breastfeeding is a clear winner over dairy derived formula in being eco-friendly category with no transportation costs, no need to use energy to heat, and for those who go straight from tap creates less waste than those who bottle feed. It also provides an immunity boost and can fill in the nutrition gaps during teething or illnesses. Have you noticed that Target, the department store chain that was recently in the center of a nurse-in action, even refers to their breastfeeding section as “natural feeding”? But what about mother’s who can’t or choose not to breastfeed? There are options for them as well if they want to avoid using formula.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies is a network where moms can donate and receive breastmilk. As an oversupplier I used their Facebook milksharing network to find a local mom to donate my extra milk to. It was an incredibly rewarding, heart-tugging experience!  Other alternatives that could be looked into, but do require a good talk with a doctor and lots of research, include using almond milk, coconut milk, and even goat’s milk.

Commute, "Run" Errands
This one is quite simple in theory. The first couple of times it takes a bit of time to work into your schedule but you will soon get into a groove. If you live near where you work consider hanging up the car keys for the day and walk, run or bike to work. Leave early so you can take your time and not sweat too bad (for the sake of your co-workers). You can always pound it on the way home. Bring baby wipes or better yet cloth wipes with your own solution of course and wipe down before starting work. One year I had a work commute that was 3 miles roundtrip and another year I had a commute that was 12 miles roundtrip and mixed up if I ran, biked, or took my vehicle. I loved the double whammy of saving gas and getting a workout in at the same time.

It doesn’t have to stop when you have kids either. For instance two days ago I needed dog food. I decided to run the 3.5 miles or so to the grocery store with my daughter in her stroller, bought and loaded the 18-pound bag of dog food in the undercarriage basket, headed to the park so my daughter could play, then ran back home. I have a new respect for moms that have two (or more!) kids in duallie strollers. If you don’t think you have the time I encourage you to find a way to make the time so you and your kid can get some fresh air.

An 18-pound bag of dog food fits perfectly under our BOB stroller
“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.” – The Great Law of the Iroquois 
Seven generation sustainability was introduced to me in grade school. I know it is vital to Earth’s sustainability that each generation thinks about the consequences of their actions towards future generations. I have said on many occasions that we are really screwing up this planet. Remember how I said disposable diapers can take up to 500 years to dispose? If the average generation is 25-30 years then the sposies I used will remain for 16-20 generations. That’s an incredible impact on my part for future generations to deal with.  

We all can do something…what will you do? 

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

First Dance with Trail Demons: Oriflamme 50K

It's been just over a week since I ran my first ultramarathon. I hesistate to call myself an ultramarathoner though until I finish my first 50 mile run. My prep for this was shameful, and my body paid the price. I ignored a 5-pound weight drop in the week leading up to the run mainly because my milk supply never seemed to suffer so it didn't seem to warrant serious thought. My daughter was getting plenty of milk, and I was able to leave plenty of milk behind for while I was gone. I was letting stressors from my personal life ruin my appetite though, and I'm certain I was dehydrated before even setting foot out in the Laguna Mountain range. Not to mention since my last long run of 15 miles 6 weeks prior to this run I basically stopped running (jokingly referring to this as an "extended taper"). Thank goodness running amnesia takes place so quickly because I sure as heck felt like I was a failure during this run and yet here today I'm fantasizing about 50 mile and 100 mile runs! 

Carrying on with my run we go!

Total Distance: 31.4 miles
Time: 8:01:06
Elevation Gain: some 4700 feet (taken from a running companion's GPS summary)
Starting Temperature: 31° F
Ending Temperature: 64° F
Quote of the Day: “I'm still moving forward, right?” AND "The pain is only temporary."

Pre-run Consumption
·         Steel cut oats with coconut-almond milk and 1/2 banana
·         Coffee with coconut-almond milk 
·         Mayesa, Cacao Mint

Run Consumption
·         ½ Honey Stinger Waffle, Vanilla
·         ¼ banana
·         ½ Honey Stinger Waffle, Vanilla
·         ¼ banana
·         Mayesa, Cacao Original
·         ½ Honey Stinger Waffle, Honey
·         Mayesa, Cacao Mint 
·         Some coke and a handful of plain chips
·         Approximately 160 oz water
·         12+ Metasalt Capsules

Immediate Post-run Consumption
·         2 slices of pizza
·         Slice of chocolate cake
·         Fritos
·         1½ bottles of Peroni
·         ½ coke 

After arriving at the Sunset Trail Head I quickly went to register at the start line, changed into my gear, and dashed back to the starting line. No standing around for me as they were already counting down upon my approach - 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! I didn't even have my pack strapped on yet as I headed out on my first 50K journey. On the single track the gentleman I was nestled behind unnerved me a bit. It was dark when we started, and my knuckle light was shining right behind his path lighting his ankles just enough for me to see him roll them three times. We hadn't even gone one mile. I made it a point to pass him at the S1 crossing.

The single track to the jeep trail was familiar from my preview run and that was pretty comforting. Every other race I have ever run has started off on completely new ground for me. I found a comfortable cruise and took only quick glimpses of the sunrise. Nothing beats a sunrise over the mountains. The sun was heating things up quickly. Thankfully the bite in the air was waning. Running through heat pockets in between bushes was a wonderful sensation. I've run through pockets like these before but not to this degree. After a quick pass through the first aid station I made my way down the rocky jeep trail. I struck up a conversation with a man (blasted I can't recall his name) who was an ultrarunning veteran. In fact, he ran this very course the day it was canceled due to the winter storm a few weeks prior. I was in awe as he described the wicked conditions and how that did not deter him. He was also experienced running the PCT50 so I picked his brain about his strategy to conquer it. I would be a fool not to take his words to heart, especially considering how this run would end up.

At the bottom - didn't make it this far on the preview run
I started struggling on the course at the bottom of Oriflamme Canyon. My legs were not tuned in to sand running. Anytime I do a beach run I avoid the soft sand and skirt along until I touch something firmer so running on soft desert track killed me. I. Hate. Soft. Sand. But I couldn't blame the sand when others so easily floated past me. Tie together the soft sand with the false flat and this quickly turned into a power struggle. I was exerting an awful lot of energy trying to navigate the sand. I pressed on though because at the time it didn't feel that tough. My ignorance was shining far too brightly to worry about it any further.

First time running on desert terrain

Breezing through the second aid station only to empty my shoes (I need to get some Dirty Girl Gaiters!) I entered Box Canyon. I had to stop for a moment to take in the beauty of it.

Box Canyon
At 15.7 miles in I reached the turnaround point. I had to avoid looking at the family and friends waiting for their runner well aware that my daughter would not be in the small gathering. Other than missing her I was feeling super fantastic. I had no clue that I would not be able to run the distance back.

Halfway mark
Running the soft sand down was easy-peasy at first. I returned to the second aid station and emptied my shoes again while graciously letting someone refill my water. Shortly after taking off I ran into some Dirt Devils, complained about the sand, then pressed on. Not even a half mile later, somewhere between mile 18 and 19 I think, I went from cocky to humble in a second flat. My muscles crapped out on me with a sudden DERP! I've only had minor muscle cramps during runs that did nothing more than threaten my pace so when my whole lower body shut down I was completely stunned. I kept walking knowing full well if I just stood there I would be in more trouble. I slapped at my leg muscles. I had no idea muscles could get that hard. The amusement quickly faded though as the pain crept through every muscle fiber. I kept walking forward even though the muscle seizure was relentless. I slammed more water and completely ignored my salt pills at this point. To be honest I can't remember the last time I took any. I rubbed my aching lower back and was taken aback by how damp my back was under the camel back, totally oblivious to the fact that the desert was wicking away my sweat before I could register that I was in fact sweating like a mad woman. 

So oblivious. So terribly oblivious to what was happening. 

I started to sink into a deep hole. I questioned everything about my training. I questioned why I thought I could handle something so immense. I questioned why didn't I just freakin' walk from the beginning. Then I questioned the one thing I did not want to think about during the race...I questioned why my marriage failed. To ruminate on this topic left me feeling horribly defeated. There was nothing left to fix, nothing to gain from thinking about it and yet it plagued my mind. I kept telling myself shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! I was totally consumed in thought but at least I could still will myself forward.

I started the ascent and let my pace dwindle to barely moving, pushing through the pain as fast as my body allowed. Somewhere during the death march a lady passed by and asked how I was holding up just like everyone else that was passing me (people really look out for you on trail runs). I was choking back tears while trying to convince her I was fine. She was not fooled. I assured her I really was fine. She offered ginger chews. She was so kind. I again assured her it wasn't my stomach or anything, it was these darn mental demons in my head. She smiled and said it probably wasn't all mental as we were walking up a wall at this point and with that she continued on leaving me behind with my demons. 

Demons? What the heck was I referring to when I sputtered that out? I suppose I had many demons that day, many challenges to face. For instance, the pain demon kept trying to get me to quit, to surrender, but I kept pushing. At one point I welcomed the demon of physical pain because it was more bearable to deal with that then that stubborn demon that reminded me of my failed marriage. Physical pain is only temporary after all. 

Shortly after hitting the home stretch my muscles gloriously relaxed (I swear it was the combination of Coke and salty potato chips that saved me!). I even felt like I could run and did so for maybe 3/4 mile until deciding to walk most of the way. 

It all came to an end at 31.4 miles in 8:01:06. I foolishly forgot sunscreen (very reminiscent of a Christmas Eve bike ride with friends in Africa in which I ended up utterly fried - when will I learn?). Other than the sunburn I actually felt pretty good afterwards.  Boiling it down the Oriflamme 50K was really a supported training run, one in which I learned a lot from. I have just under a month before my first 50 mile trail run. Ready to take it on!

Back home nursing my 14-month-old
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