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.