Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scary & Exciting

Well, this past month has been both exciting and scary. Scary because I haven't had a job since October 9th, and I am rapidly running out of money. I have applied for unemployment, but they are in such a back log that it might take a month and a half to receive any money. I have never been without a job as an adult, but I find being in this position a blessing because I now have the opportunity to try something I would never have tried if I had a job. And, that is to start my own business. That is the exciting part.
I have launched Berkshires Dog Runner! It is a dog running service, much like dog walking, only faster.
Nothing would make me happier than to make a living, running. And, maybe if I can get in really great shape over the winter, I can supplement my income by winning a lot of races in the spring!
My diet has been about 50% raw these days. Not anywhere near where I would like it to be. But, stress, as you all know, will make you consider unhealthier options just so you can feel better in the moment.
I think my next race will have to be the Adams, Turkey Trot coming up in a couple of weeks. I ran it last year, and came in third. So, we'll see how I do this year. I know I'm faster than last year, but I'm also about ten pounds overweight.
Anyway, I'll compete as best I can.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When I was planning to move to New York City, I was thinking about my blog name. It couldn't be Berkshires Raw anymore, right? I thought of other names I could change it to, but I didn't like any of them. Until I thought of, "My Hearts in The Berkshires- Raw" I liked that, but then it suggested that my heart would not be in the same place as the rest of my body. Not good! That's never good no matter what you're doing: where you live, work, relationships etc. And, when I got to NYC, would I be able to be "there", and not pine -no pun intended- for the hills and trails I love to run in?

I know happiness does not come from anything outside ourselves, but since I don't claim to be a Buddha, I can realistically assume that my surroundings could effect my happiness.

Anyway, that's a lot of blah blah blah, just to say I'm happy to still be here in the Berkshires.

So, what's the next thing? I believe it's going to be the snow shoe series. I'm really looking forward to it.

My friend, Chrissie, and I ran 8x 200m yesterday. I had some of my best times, and I felt quick.
Here are the times:
1) 32
2) 34
3) 33
4) 33
5) 33
6) 35
7) 33
8) 34

Monday, October 12, 2009

"every little things, gonna be all right"

I hardly know where to begin. My life in the past two months has been a roller coaster ride: from separation, to moving plans to another state, to new job, to girlfriend, to no job, to no girlfriend, to not moving, to not having a place to live at the end of the month. And, I'm trying to navigate all of this with a positive attitude, a smile on my face, and faith that the universe has a plan for me that is greater than the one I was trying to manifest; because that plan has completely crashed to the ground. Which brings me to my favorite phrase: God laughs at our plans.
OK, because this is mostly a running and raw foods blog I'll swiftly move to those topics. The good news is my running is getting better and better! DON'T ASK ME HOW!! Before my meltdown, and after the mountain series, I was putting in a lot of good training for the Rochester Marathon. I was running about 70 to 80 miles a week. The training was intense, and I was getting very good results. In fact, I ran a 8 mile mountain race up MT Greylock, and beat Tim VanOrden by thirty seconds or so. (Sorry to mention that, Tim)
I thought I could run the marathon in about 2hr 45min. But,in the last two months because of everything I was trying to navigate, plus stress etc., my training has been spotty at best. But, I have run two 5k races in the past three weeks and Pr's both times. In fact, in this past Sunday's race, I ran the first mile at 5:07. That's a PR for a mile by about 12 seconds!?!
And it gets weirder as I have gained some weight, my diet hasn't been all that great, and I have never slept less. This is the new training method I should submit to a running magazine: BLOW YOUR LIFE TO HELL AND GET FASTER IN TWO MONTHS!!.
Oh, and here is the better news: I won money for both of those races! Actual money, not a mug, not a little trophy, but real money. Life is good, right?
Anyway, thanks for hanging in there while I have been distracted, and thanks for all of the thoughts and prayers you have sent my way.
"Don't Worry, Be Happy"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Coming Soon To A Blog Near You

I'm so sorry that I haven't posted anything in awhile. There's so much going on in my life that my little blog has had to take a back-seat for a time. Please know, that I will be writing new posts soon, and maybe even more posts than I have done in the past.
With all that's going on I'm still trying to keep my fitness up as best I can. I look forward to the fall running season even though it doesn't look like I'll be doing the marathon in September.
Thank you for everything.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I've almost hit my one year anniversary! One year ago next week is when I decided to run again, and train for the Turkey Trot in Adams MA. What a glorious year it's been since I took that first run. I remember, I just wanted to run for twenty minutes. Now, I can do twenty mile runs. I have already posted that story, "Raw Journey" so I won't bore anybody with more details, but I feel reflective now that a year has passed.
I feel a little lost now that the mountain series is over. Those races, and the training for them consumed my thoughts and energy for months. Now, I've got to look for the next thing, which I believe will be a marathon in September. My friend, Chrissie, has been training for this marathon in Rochester, NY since February, so I think it will be fun to go out there and support her, and run the race myself. And, of course, if I'm going to run a marathon, I might as well try to qualify for Boston, as well.
So, I'm running more mileage, and trying to up the overall training. We'll see how it goes. I'm very optimistic that I can qualify for Boston. That would be amazing considering, once again, that I've been at this for a year. My shoulder now hurts from patting myself on the back.
I've found some great trails around Kripalu! Beautiful! It's easy to run for an hour or two when one is out in the woods enjoying nature. It really doesn't feel like work at all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I hate to say this, but I haven't run since the Cranmore Hill Climb. Results here:

I've done nothing but sleep for the past three days. Each day has been the same, get home from work, then fall asleep on the couch. Today, I didn't even make it to work. Oh well, it is what it is.

Tim, his father, and I drove up to N. Conway, NH and arrived early Saturday evening. After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, Tim and I drove over to the mountain and walked the course. This was the first time I had been able to get an idea of what a course looked like prior to a race. From the top of Cranmore you could see MT. Washington and the rest of the White Mountains. It is really beautiful. Getting a look at the terrain helped calm my nerves a little bit. I've been feeling slower and slower as the series has gone on, and as the races get harder and harder, I was spending too much time in my head fretting about what was to come.

The race is two 5k loops with a total gain of 2400 feet in elevation. Because we climb the mountain TWICE it would be a huge mistake to go out too fast in the beginning. But, sure enough, when GO! is given, people of every mountain running ability go out like a bat out of hell. It's just crazy. We hadn't even hit the 1K point, the real climbing hadn't even started, and there were people in front of me stopping to walk. I went out very slowly, and got boxed in early. Which was fine by me, it's a long race. The best guys run this race in about an hour. There's plenty of time to move up the mountain, and pass the over-exuberant.

I had a great climb up the mountain the first time, and I was feeling excited about where I was and how I was doing. But, then the downhill came after we hit the summit, and zapped all of the energy I had in my legs. Those of you who don't know, for many mountain runners, the downhills are worse than the uphills. They kill your quads, blister your feet, and sprain your ankles. And, if you take it carefully down the mountain, you get passed by everybody! The trick to downhill running is to run as if you have no regard for your personal safety, whatsoever. That's a trick I haven't mastered yet, so my legs take more of a pounding because I'm breaking as I go forward.

When I reached the base I was toast! My race was effectively over, and now it was just about finishing. Back up the mountain to do it all over again, I just put my head down, and put one foot in front of the other. Slowly up the mountain, I felt the mugginess in the air. The racers were now spread out over the mountain, it was quiet, and there was nothing but the mountain and my thoughts.

The second descent down the mountain was worse than the first. I was beaten literally and figuratively. I gave a nice final effort at the base, but I think it was just for show. Once I crossed the finish line, I slithered away, and looked for a place to sit down. I don't want to write this, but at that point I probably could have cried. I don't know why or how I managed not to, but I kept it together. Tim came over, noticed my facial expression, and said, "What's that face for?" I just shrugged my shoulders. He told me that I did very well, and that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I appreciated the words, but let them pass right through me.

I've decided to skip this weeks race, and rest up for the finale at Ascutney. The best five of the six races of the series are used for the point totals, so I can miss Loon and hold my spot in the top ten. And, I'm still third overall in my age group.

I'm glad that I've taken this break. I can hear my running shoes calling me back, and my mind is clearing. And I'm beginning to miss the wonderful trails out there in our beautiful forests.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wow, I can't let this article go without comment. It comes from the AP, and was in the Berkshire Eagle on Wednesday. It's called "Disease Prevention Often Costs More Than It Saves". The first couple of paragraphs says it all.

By CARLA K. JOHNSON AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- When it comes to health care spending, an ounce of prevention is seldom worth a pound of cure. Take Mrs. Jones, a hypothetical 55-year-old obese woman at risk for diabetes. It costs $900 a year to hire a personal lifestyle coach to help her lose weight and prevent diabetes. Suppose that the coaching works for Mrs. Jones, and she is spared diabetes and all the resulting health bills.
But research shows that for every person like Mrs. Jones, six other people just like her get nothing out of such a program. They either don't lose weight or get diabetes anyway or wouldn't have developed it in the first place. The yearly cost of the prevention program for those six people: $5,400.
That's probably more than Mrs. Jones' health bills from diabetes would have amounted to.

...Right off the bat, this article doesn't make any logical sense. First of all, since when did any medication, CURE diabetes? Someone should inform the American Diabetes Association that there's been a pharmaceutical cure for diabetes! I think it would be news to them. Secondly, When, in this world, will everybody pre-diabetic be assigned a life-style coach? I don't know what planet this writer is from, but I can tell you, it's not this one. I tell you what though, if that were true, life style coaches would be the hot new industry to get in to, as there are about 24 million Americans with diabetes. And, if Mrs. Jones spends her own money on a life style coach, that would sound to me as if she were taking some responsibility for saving her own life.

Also, why would somebody put a price tag on good health? That's the big question here! Sure, you can add up all sorts of costs like a membership to a gym, running shoes, water bottles, organic foods, anything you want. But no matter what you spend on your health, it is far "cheaper" than poor health, and a life on medications.

If the "Doctor" from this article doesn't know that, she should take a quote from The Six Finger Man from "The Princess Bride": "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything".

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cold And Fast

On Thursday night, the Third Thursday street festival held it's first Green Mile race on North Street in downtown Pittsfield. Tim and I planned to make this a night of good speed work. We left the car at the Taconic track where we planned to do some intervals after the race, and ran toward the Colonial Theatre to meet our friend, Chrissie. On the way, we ran by the Dancing Vegan take out shop. It's amazing that Pittsfield has it's own vegan take out, but I worry about their location -in the middle of nowhere- in a very unvegan neighborhood. On the day of their grand opening they didn't even have a sign on their building. I thought they were either crazy or geniuses. I think the jury is still out.

After we picked up,Chrissie, we kept up our warm up. It was raining and cold, and a good warm up was essential. I was dealing with a couple of issues that I thought were going to hinder my attempt at a personal best time. One, was a huge bruise on my arse that I got from a botched attempt to jump over a fallen tree a few days prior. Second, my left foot began to cramp up ten minutes before the race. The bruised butt felt like a pin cushion bouncing around in my ass, and now I was limping a little with the foot cramp.
Tim, asked me what I wanted to do for a time. I knew he wanted to hear a fast number, but I had already started to dial down in my head. I said sheepishly, "5:20". Which would beat my best mile to date by two seconds. Inside, I was thinking that I would settle for a 5:30.
We line up for the race, and I'm trying to remember that this race is going to be over quick, so I shouldn't save anything out there on the road. I've been doing longer, harder races up mountains, so I was afraid that I would set a slower pace for myself.
Runner's set! Go! Everyone bolts off the line like it's a 100m dash! Almost a quarter mile into the race, Tim knows that I'm right behind him, so he yells back to me that I'm going really fast; so I smartly back off the pace a bit. Now at the half mile mark I was running very comfortably. So comfortably that I was worried that I wasn't running that fast. It seemed fast, but I wasn't sure. Let me see if I can go faster. I was thinking of my running form, and trying to figure out if everything was working properly. What's my turnover like? Should I extend my stride a little? Of course, at this point in the race there's only about a quarter mile to go, and this is where I got stuck. I know I can't sprint all out for a quarter mile, but I don't want to save anything either. I knew I had a lot in the tank, but I wanted to get closer to the finish line before letting it completely fly.
With about two hundred yards to go I gave it all I had. I could see the clock in front of me without making out any of the numbers on it. If I could have seen the clock from there it would have read something like 4:50. So, as I got to the finish line I was very happy to have run a new personal best 5:19. Of course, I'm only happy for about ten seconds, because now I'm wondering if I could have done even better. Man, we're all such knuckleheads. Never satisfied or grateful for what we have accomplished.
Tim, took third place overall, and first in his age group with a great time of 4:41! What did he win? A five dollar gift certificate to the Dancing Vegan! It's not raw, but it's still cool. Actually, we stopped there on the way back to the track, and asked them if they have any raw dishes. They were happy to say that they do carry some raw onion bread, and usually have some raw salad dishes available.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Does A Runner S**T In The Woods?

After, Pack Monadnock, the legs were feeling very tired. And, not just the legs. I would go out for a run and start breathing heavily right away, and not feel better at any part of the run. I was just plain tired. And, the bad thoughts came creeping in, thoughts like: What are you doing this for? I would have to think for a few seconds for the answer. In the space between those seconds is a lifetime. Who are you now? What are you trying to prove? All those illusions and games my monkey mind plays with me. The insecurities pop up like the devil on my shoulder telling me to just quit. And, day after day, as the running didn't get any easier, I wondered if the body was telling me: "You've had it. You did well for awhile, but now it's over."
Of course it's not over. I'm just getting started, but those are the mental battles that show up now and again. Which is why a meditation practice is so important for me. When these thoughts pop into my head while I'm sitting, I recognize them, I label them for what they are, and then I let them go.
We are so hard on ourselves. Most of us would not have a person in our lives who would talk to us the way we talk to ourselves.

Twelve days after Monadnock I started to feel a little better, but I had know idea how I would do at Northfield.
This USATF Mountain Series is hard and grueling. I just starting running last August and now I'm racing in VERY tough races almost every week. Oh, and did I say, that the races get harder as the series goes on.
Anyway, due to some miscommunication, I picked up Tim a half an hour later than I should have. We barreled down Vermont and Massachusetts country roads trying to make it to the race before the start. We pulled in with about twelve minutes to get our numbers, get to a bathroom and warm up for the race. Oh, and I needed to pick up new trail racing shoes from innov8, as well. -Yes I was pulling another rookie move: wearing new shoes for a race.- Now, for those who are squeamish, you should skip to the next paragraph. I got my number and noticed the bathroom line was quite long, and so I said to Tim: "Is there another bathroom here?" And, he said, "Yeah, the port-o-pottie is next to that tree." Oh man, I don't like doing number 2 in the woods. I don't like doing number 2 anywhere but my house. I'm kind of a no poop in public kind of guy. But, as they said in Ole Yeller, "I got it to do". What's funny is, while I'm doing my business, I'm thinking, being a raw vegan, if a Ranger sees this, is he going to think it's human or a bear, or something?
OK, now I'm feeling better. I start to warm up with my new shoes. They feel fantastic. Great! Five minutes of warm up, and it's line up for the race.

I'm just going to say that I ran a pretty good race. I came in 20TH overall, and the legs and body felt fine. I think I did well by taking it fairly easy between races, which gave my body time to recover.
I am still third Master in the series behind Tim and Dave Dunham, which I think, is pretty good, if I can say so myself.
Stay Positive!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tough Week

It's been a hard week. That's a good thing. No injuries, just tough hard running all week. On Tuesday, Tim Van Orden and I ran up Mt. Equinox in VT. which happens to be the highest elevation climb that I've done. At the summit, the view was absolutely stunning! It was like Christmas Town up there with the evergreens. At the base it was, I think, 75 F., and on top of the mountain it was low 40's. Burr.

On Wednesday, I ran eight miles in the morning, then did a "little" mountain run with Chrissie Constable on October Mt. When I say "little" I don't mean that to sound like some glorified hill, I mean it just didn't have the grade that Tim and I have been doing. It is an excellent work out. If you live in the Berkshires, check out the Switch Back Trail and try it for yourself.

On Wednesday I did an easy five miles, but on Thursday we burned up the track with some 200m repeats.

I was so happy to do this work out because I felt like I was getting away with having an easy interval day. Oh, no! It was some of our hardest track work yet. Here are my times:

1) 31

2)31 1/2

3) 32

4) 32

5) 32 1/2

6) 34

7) 35

8) 35

9) 35

10) 35

On Friday, I did an easy five miles again. Took Saturday off because of the race on Sunday. The 10 mile Pack Monadnock Race is a race conceived of in hell. It is a very hilly road race with a mountain thrown in at the end. For a good description of the race from one of the legends, read Dave Dunham's blog:

Check this out if you want to see the grade of Pack Monadnock (Jim Johnson's times on the graph) :

I am basically pleased with my effort at Pack Monadnock, as I came in 22ND with a very decent time. Although, I can tell you that I made a couple of rookie mistakes. One, I wore racing flats, which destroyed my legs, and two, I was not properly hydrated.

Also, mentally it was a very challenging race. It took everything I had to stay positive during the run. I felt awful, and I didn't care about anything except for it to be over. My mind went to places I didn't want it to go, but I got through it. For the results:

I want to say here that I am incredibly blessed to have the love and support of the best team ever: My wife, Ginger , and Tim.

All in all it was tough, but a very rewarding week.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Raw Food Passion

Check out my friend, April's blog, and see us holding a Raw Chocolate Mousse Pie! Yummy.
Oh, and get her smoothie and juice book, "Healthy Indulgence". I definitely recommend it.

Raw Organic Chocolate Mousse Pie

For this recipe, you will need a food processor.
Making the mousse pie takes no time at all, but the only thing to remember is to soak your 3 cups of cashews at least an hour before you are ready to put this recipe together.

For the crust:Process 1½ cups dry cashews and ¼ cup of dates until crumbly. Spread the mixture over a pie pan and press down to form the crust. Set aside.

Combine all the following ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth:
3 cups soaked cashews
¾ cup water
¾ cup honey
¾ cup coconut oil (just warm enough to be liquid)
4 tablespoons raw cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour contents into the pie crust and refrigerate until it becomes solid. Easy and delicious.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I ran the first race of the N.E. Mountain/Trail Racing Series this past Saturday in Princeton, Ma. on Wachusett Mt. The course ran up the mountain for about a mile and a quarter on paved road. Then leveled out onto a trail for approximately the next 3/4 of mile. Then we moved onto a single track trail with a down hill lie. This part was the most fun and the most dangerous as we swished through the trees like skiers down a mogul. All the while trying to keep our feet from hitting a rock or root the wrong way. Which is precisely what I did. I got a little airborne and landed as if I were diving into a pool of soft pine needles -lucky for me.
I started the race conservatively. I hadn't run any of these mountain/trail races before, so I didn't know what was in store for me. After the initial euphoria of starting the race, I let the lead runners go and tried to settle into a nice comfortable pace. At the top of the first climb the better runners were clearly gone, and so a second group formed. After clearing the single track trail, non too bruised, the course turned much more vertical as we worked our way up the mountain to the three mile mark. That stretch of mountain was just the kind of work Tim, and I have been training to tackle. So I adjusted my form, and went about the grind of getting to the top of this, approximately 20% grade trail. There were two runners, that I could see, in front of me. I passed both runners as the mountain took it's toll on them. One of them was reduced to walking.
At the three mile point, it was all down hill from there, literally. It was a wonderful feeling soaring down the mountain after the previous climb up. It was time to just let it rip. I was passed by only one runner-I'll fill in the name when I see the results- the rest of the race. He just had better down hill technique than I have, and I couldn't catch him.
Overall, I placed 17Th out of, I believe, 320 runners. I felt pretty good for my effort, and I felt as though I represented Running Raw well.
After the race, we talked to other runners with Tim occasionally taping his conversations with the camera for future videos. We handed out raw raisin buckwheat cookies which went over very well. Even to the non-raw runners who tried them.
As for, Tim Van Orden, he had a "photo" finish with three runners and came in fifth place overall and first master.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Raw Journey

I haven't sat down and encapsulated my raw "journey" yet. Most of these "journeys " sound like some "born-again" christian testimonial. Like all testimonials, they start with the prodigal son story: The poor heathen living in sin, or in this case, fat and out of shape. Then in their darkest hour, they are saved, and live life righteously thereafter. Or, as it may be, a healthy life, with a purpose, and a nice glow on their cheeks.

I'm going to tell this story as a runner would, because that is who I see myself as today, a raw vegan runner. But, I had not been a runner for many many years, or as I will sometimes say, it was: "Many beers ago".

As a kid, I identified myself as a runner. That's what I did. That's what I did better than the other kids in the neighborhood. I ran home from school, and beat the buses home. I ran in the woods in front of my house, without shoes, so I could feel the forest floor on my feet. I was unbeatable at tag. I was in a constant state of movement.

When I got to high school, I ran cross country and track, and I did pretty well. I was good, but I wasn't great. I had laid the foundation as a kid to be great, but when my teens hit, it was hard to stay focused on running. I got severely depressed at times. I sometimes got involved with the party scene. Running became a chore. And even though I still ran, it was only because I was good at it, that I kept it up.

Still, I was good enough to win all but one race my senior year in track, and I came in third All Western Ma. in cross country. But, when high school was over, running was over too. I just quit. I used to say that I didn't like running, that I only did it because I was good at it. I've come to realize, that was a lie.

It's hard to believe that a person can live another twenty three years without the thing in their life that makes them feel special, and what gives them a purpose, but that's what I did. During that time, although I was a vegetarian, I was not a healthy person.

I moved to New York City in my early twenties to write plays and poetry. I was an all-in buyer of the bohemian, demon-filled writer guy, hell bent to ruin. I lived in the East Village, and I drank, and wrote at the darkest bars. My Dylan Thomas impression was spot on. I took my running ability and flushed it down a bar room toilet. I would have to live with the fact that I did not give my best to running, and that I "sacrificed the gift". Steve Prefontaine would not have been impressed.

Of course, most of that has changed as I have gotten older, I got married, had a kid etc. While still living in NYC I frequented the Village Zendo, and began a meditation practice which has become a very important ingredient in my daily life.

I support myself by working in the food industry. I trained on the job to be a pastry assistant twenty years ago. I have a degree from the French Culinary Institute. I have worked for the pre-eminent wedding cake maker, Sylvia Weinstock, as her head baker, and I am currently the bakery manager at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Ma.

I should say that my weight had always been an issue as an adult. I am a baker, for goodness sakes. I became a pastry chef because I like sweets, a lot! Still do. So, my weight, for the most part had hovered between 195 and 210. That's not great when you're only 5'9". Things only got worse when I got to Kripalu and had all of this buffet vegan food everyday. Yes, you can be fat and vegan at the same time, trust me. As time went on, I got up to 235 pounds. My blood pressure was high, and I just wasn't feeling that great. I should also admit that I didn't like being the overweight baker at a yoga center, where most people walking around, are looking more fit than me.

I became conscience of a raw vegan lifestyle about four years ago, from an article in a magazine. It was a Q&A with Juliano. I thought he was nuts, and I quickly dismissed the whole thing; but the seed took root somewhere in my head. I remembered Juliano talking about the amazing health benefits one got for being raw vegan. I started to do a little research, and everyone was saying the same thing. You'll feel great all the time. You'll have more energy. You'll get sick less often or not sick at all, as some would say. So, I was curious.

Then, two years ago, I said I would try it for a month. That's it. No promises after the month. Just a month. I was extremely skeptical that it would make any difference in my life. But, I was very serious about giving it a shot, for that month.

I still remember the first day I ate as a raw vegan. After lunch, I had more energy, rather than the sluggish feeling I had become used to after eating a meal. After a week, I remember feeling really good! Exceptional, as a matter of fact. I didn't have a blender, or a dehydrator or a spiralizer or anything at this time. I was just eating food in a totally different way: The way it was meant to be eaten! What a concept! Just don't cook it. Crazy, right.

Even before my maiden month was over, I knew I was never going back to cooked food. After seven months I lost 70 pounds, and I had never felt better in my life. Then almost a year ago, I was browsing YouTube for raw vegan videos, when I came upon, Tim Van Orden. He was like the Running Ghost Of The Past coming back to haunt me. It was like he was saying, "Michael, you can still do it. You can still be a runner". Then I thought, you know, I feel good, let's see what's possible. So, I set a goal. I would run the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in North Adams. I had about three and a half months to train for it. All I wanted to do was put in a good effort. I came in third! First, in my age group.

Now I try not to put limits on myself, or say I can't do something. It's all possible, and now that I am training hard to get back to where I was twenty three years ago, I know I will get there. The "Prodigal Son" has run home.

Monday, May 11, 2009

For the past month and a half I have had the immense privilege to be training with Tim VanOrden. And, I can tell you that I have gotten stronger and faster within that short amount of time. But, more importantly, I ran the smartest race I have ever run a few weeks ago at the Race-For-Research 5k in Springfield, Ma., due to his great coaching.
As some of you know, I have been running again since this past August, after not having run in twenty three years! At the beginning, my goal was to be competitive again in some local races, and to just stay fit. But, as I have gone on with this journey my goals have changed to: Let's see what's possible. Is Tim right? Will I gain an advantage by being a raw food vegan, and can I get back into the shape I was in when I was eighteen?
So far the answer is pointing to, yes. It's all possible! I still have a long way to go, but I have no doubt that I will get there.
At the Race-For-Research in Forest Park, on the 26Th of April, it was an unusually hot day. By 9:00 is was 80 degrees. That was a bit concerning, due to the fact that my training had not acclimated me to that kind of heat yet.
Running in this race to support our friend who is fighting a very aggressive rare form of cancer: Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, was my wife Ginger, our friend Chrissie, Tim and me. My goal in this race was to set a much faster personal record for a 5k than I had run before. To help me do this, Tim (who had won a race the day before) graciously agreed to pace me during the race.
I have to tell you that I have never really run with a strategy before. Especially as an eighteen year old, it was: Gun goes off, run as fast as I can, for as long as I can. That's it. And, on this hot spring day, that would have been a very poor strategy. But, old strategies die hard.
The first mile was flat with a little downward slope, so we got into a comfortable cruise, nice and easy. At the first mile marker I was way behind four guys in their late teens and early twenties. The old strategy in my head wanted to kick in and go after them as hard as I could. But, Tim said, "Back off. There are hills coming. We'll catch them". I didn't believe him. I was even more doubtful when we hit the first hill, and he told me to back off some more. Now I'm convinced I'm toast. But, Tim said, "When we get over the hill, we'll really go."
And that's what we did. By the second mile mark we were gaining on the guys in front of us.
Then another hill. Once again, we slow down, taking small steps, conserving our energy.
Tim knows Forest Park well, as he has raced there many times before. So he knows there is one more hill three quarters of a mile before the finish line.
Just before that hill we pass one of the runners. Going up the hill there are two runners directly in front of us, and we're gaining on them fast! When we get to the top of the hill, it's a quarter mile flat race to the finish.
Now, we have the fresh legs, and we're kicking it into another gear. We blaze past two of the twenty year olds, almost at full sprint. There is only one more runner in front of us, and we're gaining on him. At this point he can hear us, and he knows he's in trouble, but he holds on and gets to the finish line just before we catch him. As soon as he crosses the line, he loses his breakfast. Ouch.
A great race! I got second over-all, and first place in my age group. Obviously, Tim could have won the race at any point, but was a good friend, and let me take second.
And the goal was accomplished, as I broke my best time by thirty seconds!

Since that race, my training has only gotten more intense. So we'll see what happens in the upcoming months.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Conversation

Here's a conversation I just had on facebook. I think it's amazing that, Lisa, a mom with no vegetarian back-ground, wants to support her 15 year old daughter to become a vegetarian. Incredible, right? Of course Lisa has questions, everything she has learned tells her that her daughter will not get enough protein or nutrients, but she is open-minded enough to want to support her daughter. I think she's a wonderful Mom!!
michael, i have a question for you
chelsea is 15 and wants to be a vegetarian
do you think she's too young
no of course not.
we are born vegetarians
she showed me and victor a you tube on why to become a was quite interesting
I'll ask you a question: When you see a dead dear on the side of the road, do you think about getting out of the car to open it's belly with your mouth? Or, rather if you saw an apple truck, would you think about eating an apple?
yea, i hear you....definitely the apple.
when she showed us the video, it was heartbreaking seeing the animals
of course! We cook meat to make it palatable. If we didn't, we wouldn't eat it.
I know, you make perfect sense. I just hope if Chelsea decides to do this she sticks with it...
she'll need help from you, because she'll be pressured by everybody who thinks they know better. You'll have to help her by giving her a balanced diet. You can be a junk food vegetarian as much as you can be a junk food carnivore.
she's behind me and said she might request you for a friend...i told her she could learn a lot from you...and of course i would
i would be honored
help her with anything she decided to do, that's what us moms do
you're a great mom!
i try
I have started a meet up group for Raw Vegans. We're going to have our first get together on Mother's day. It would be great if you and our daughter came. Or the whole family for that matter.
I can't on Mother's day, Victor is having a party at the Portuguese club and I'm staying home with Nicole...she's bed bound...but let us know the next time
I will. If you would like, google Berkshires Raw Meet Up and join the group.
ok thanks i will. but she wants to know what a raw vegan is.
A raw vegan is a person who eats only uncooked vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
oh OK. ill let her know. thanks
I know it sounds incredible, but I believe that's the way we're supposed to eat. I work 8-10 hours a day, then I train 1-3 hours after that every day, and I feel fantastic!
wow...and you have great energy..
michael, it's always a pleasure talking to you, but i have to get going...thanks for the to you soon.
talk to you soon... bye

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meet Up Group

Hey Everyone, Tim VanOrden my wife Ginger and I have formed a raw vegan meetup group for the Berkshires of Ma., southern Vermont, and Albany NY area. This is going to be a fun group. Sure we'll have pot-lucks, but we also plan to do other fun and exciting things, as well. I would love to meet as many raw vegan friends as I can, so if you're in the area be sure to drop by at one of our meetups.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Intentions

Well it happened again as it inevitably will from time to time. The question: "Raw vegan, huh? What do you eat? Grass?" Sometimes I play along, and say: "Yeah, I steal from bird feeders, or I graze on my front lawn." And, of course, this is not the persons fault who doesn't know how they would eat if everything didn't come cooked, wrapped, boxed and packaged, but rather it is the fault of the good-intentioned.
It seems as though the more social developers try to make our life "better", the more it gets screwed up. I'm thinking of Monsanto, bioengineering food to produce more food than we ever could organically. If we could control nature, we could feed millions of more people. Good intentions, right? Disastrous results. I'm thinking of fish farming. Same thing. I'm thinking about scientists torturing billions of non-human animals in experiments in a desire to cure diseases nobody needs to have been afflicted with if they ate properly in the first place. I'm thinking about the debate on universal health care. Great idea, right? To me, it sounds like health care cooked, wrapped, boxed and packaged. The idea seems to be, lets all pay billions of dollars into a pool, and the people who are healthy will pay for those who get sick. Nice idea, right? But, is this the dog trying to catch its tail. Government (our taxes) give subsidies to the factory farms like Monsanto and Archer-Daniels Midland etc.; companies that make people sick in the first place, then we pay the government health insurance money, which in turn pays the medical and pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, nobody is cured from anything. All of this is done with "good" intentions.
When people fool with Gods' natural laws bad things happen. I'll try to tell a story that I heard from Pragata a Qigong teacher.
God was walking the Earth a long time ago, and came upon a farmer surveying his farm. God said,"Behold your many blessings and wonderful bounty."
And the Farmer said, "God you sure know a lot about the Earth and all it's many creatures, but you don't know anything about farming."
And God said, "Why do you say this?"
The Farmer said, "Throughout the year it is a struggle. Sometimes it will not rain when I need rain, and my fields go dry. Sometimes all it does is rain, and my fields are flooded. Many of the insects you have created eat my stocks and leaves leaving my plants barren.
If you would give control of these forces to me, I will show you how to farm."
So, God agreed and gave the Farmer the ability to control the weather and the insects. And so it was, when the Farmer needed rain, it rained. When he needed sun, the sun shone brightly. And, not an insect ate from a single plant.
The Farmer was very pleased, as it looked to be his most bountiful harvest ever!
Then God appeared to the Farmer and said, "Bring me a shaft of wheat so I can see your handy work." So the Farmer bent down to pull a shaft of wheat, but the wheat disintegrated in his hand. He then raced to other plants on his farm, and sure enough, they crumpled in his hand.
The Farmer said, "I don't understand! everything was perfect. "
And God said, "You took away the struggle which contains the life force from your farm. Everything was perfect so the plants didn't need to be strong, so they withered and died in your hand.

As a t.v. commercial once put it: "It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature". They were selling margarine, which was later found to make people sicker than butter.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Me Man Very Smart

I'm dealing with my first runner's injury: tendinitis in my ankle. Consequently, I have had to take three days off from running. I had planned to run a 5k race this coming weekend, and have already payed for it, so I am hopeful that I'll be good enough to go.
I am icing, and believe it or not,even stretching to help the ankle. I read that this particular injury needs proper rest or it can become a chronic problem. So, in my warped world, three days is proper rest. We'll see.

I wanted to write about a story in the news I read the other day. It was about a caged monkey in a zoo that stored up rocks in the morning to throw at people later in the day. Now the geniuses in the science & news world were amazed that this monkey was able to plan his rock throwing idea ahead of time.
Hundreds of thousands of years living with monkeys on this planet, and they think that's a discovery? Boy, you know we are out of touch with nature and our natural world when this is news.
My basset hound knows when I leave for work in the morning so he can get on the couch. And, he knows what time my wife wakes up so he can jump off. A miracle!!!
Of course, they never asked: "What could be upsetting this monkey?"
I don't know, maybe he doesn't want to live the rest of his life caged and exploited!!!
Maybe this little playground they built for him doesn't come remotely close to the life he should be living. Maybe after throwing his feces at passersby for a long time, he finally thought, "I'm going to throw something heavier at these meatballs, they don't seem to get it!"
They've probably already honored his ingenuity by dissecting his brain.
Lord help us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I want to apologize for how boring my blog looks. My 11 year old daughter was making fun it the other day. I know it's not the most beautiful, but the truth is, I don't really know how to make it much better. She offered to help, but I'm afraid with her help, I'll have pictures of horses and penguins all over the place.
I was thinking the other day, actually most days, of how blessed I am. And, one of the ways I am truly blessed is being a part of the vegan raw community. Nothing in my life besides my family has brought me so much joy. And, although I don't personally know many of you out there, I feel a great connection to all of you. I also believe, most raw vegans are incredibly compassionate, spiritual people, filled with loving kindness.
I just wanted to say, thank you, for all the nutrition information, the inspiring stories, the great recipes, your love for the environment, and your love for all humanity and the non-human animals in the world. You are all beautiful people.
And, if my blog is about us, then it must be beautiful too.
Sort of.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Winter Training

Hi, a brief check in just to say how things are going this winter, training wise. I have been engaged in a training program for a half marathon in April.
I have never run a race longer than a 10K, so I'm a bit intimidated. And, I have never done the mileage in training that I am doing right now to get in shape for such a race. In fact, yesterday I ran 14 miles. And, I did that on a tread mill! I must be insane!! Plus, I haven't run 14 miles since 1985!
In fact, almost all of my training has been on the tread mill this winter. As much as it sucks not to be outside, I have gained a lot by working out this way: 1) I have never been good at keeping a steady pace, which this training has taught me to do. 2) It keeps me honest. When you set a goal, you set the speed, and you do the run. 3) Negative splits and tempo work are easy to orchestrate on a tread mill.
On the other hand, this winter's training hasn't been all that easy. Last week, I felt a little burnt out, and didn't come close to the training I wanted to do, but this week I feel pretty good; and so I'm off to a good start.
I still weigh more than I should at 157, but I'm optimistic that I can get down to where I need to be.
A couple of weeks ago, I got down to 153, and thought I was on my way to 150, but alas, the mind and it's insecurities took over and I went back to 157.
I am going to try to incorporate more yoga in the up-coming months. I used to go to yoga class every day, but it has been difficult work-wise to find the time with the training. Still, I think it would benefit me tremendously emotionally and spiritually to find my practice again.
I think it would be amazing to incorporate the raw vegan diet, yoga, and race training all together. The thought of it gives me chills.
Thanks to you who care enough to read this, and many blessings.