Tag Archives: Vans

PLANT STOCK 2017

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Genes are not our fate. Lifestyle matters most.” Dr. Saray Stancic

The above is a quote that I heard while attending Plant-Stock this year. Yes, I went to Plant-Stock again. It was my third time actually and I would go again in a healthy endothelial strong heart beat.

My first time at Plant-Stock was in 2015, I attended alone. It was one of the most amazing and eye opening experiences that I have ever had. I laughed, I cried and I met so many wonderful people.

So much so, that in 2016 I returned! In 2016 my trip to Plant-Stock included my friend Stonegate who was just as blown away as I was my first time. Again, we laughed, we cried and we met so many wonderful people.

This year, I brought Vans. Actually, I brought my whole family, kids and all but the kids ended up staying with the grandparents back in New Jersey, giving Vans and I our first solo weekend without kids in a very very long time!

We're FREE!
We’re FREE!

The crew at Engine 2 changed things up this year for Plant Stock! Instead of two fun filled amazing days, we really had 2 and a quarter days because they added an Banana Nice Cream Social on Friday evening.

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This was great because it gave everyone an opportunity to find the farm, see the parking, understand the layout of the property AND meet all their “online friends!” You know those people that you follow or communicate with on Instagram or Facebook but don’t really “know” very well. 🙂 Friday was perfect for this.

We ate banana ice-cream and were officially welcomed to the farm. We also saw a preview of the movie Big Change by Jason Cohen.

Saturday's Run
Saturday’s Run

Saturday morning came bright and early. I wanted to do the morning group run. We had to be at the farm by 7:00 am. Vans, who is injured and in a boot, was a trooper. He sat in the car while I ran.4I had the pleasure of running with a friend’s little girl for a good mile or so. She had a smile on her face the entire time.

Look at her go!
Look at her go!

It had rained the night before so the grass was super wet but I don’t think anyone really minded because the views were just gorgeous.7You had the option of running a 2.7 mile loop or doing a walk which I think was a little over mile. They also offered lake side yoga which looked amazing!36

Just like last year, the final portion of the run was climbing up to Tank Hill. 12Tank Hill is where last year, Josh LaJaunie was waiting at the top cheering everyone on as they made the steep climb up. This year, Josh is working on healing an injury so when I reached the top, there were just a few of us checking out the views.

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It was such a spectacular morning. The humidity wasn’t that bad and the sun was rising into a clear blue sky.

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Soon others started climbing the hill. I felt like it was such an momentous occasion that I needed to cheer them on until Tim Kaufman could get there and take over the reigns that Rip Esselstyn had assigned him. 🙂

Tim high-fiving people!
Tim high-fiving people at the top!

This truly is a fantastic way to start your day. I met some wonderful people. I talked with Josh’s mom briefly on our hike down the hill. She’s an amazing lady.

Kale and Oats for Breakfast! Photo by Vans
Kale and Oats for Breakfast! Photo by Vans

After the run you have time to clean up (bring an extra change of clothes, a towel and some baby wipes is my word of advice). Then you grab a breakfast of kale, oats and fruit and settle in under the 12,000 square foot tent ready to have your mind blown.

First up was Rip Esselstyn, followed by his dad Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who said, “Food, and food alone, can absolutely reverse heart disease.

Rip Esselstyn
Rip Esselstyn

Following Dr. Esselstyn was Dr. Saray Stancic, a doctor who I have not heard talk before but whose story I have heard about … but never first hand.

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Dr. Stancic is a physician who while in the midst of her 20 year conventional medical profession, learned that she had multiple sclerosis. She was blown away. She went from fast moving Doctor to needing a cane to help her walk. She was prescribed horrible medicines that left her in pain and sleepless nightly. She quickly went from Doctor to Patient. She wanted to change the cards that she thought were dealt to her. She did. Her story is captivating and inspiring. She continues to do amazing work at her clinic, Stancic Health and Wellness in Ramsey, New Jersey and is working on a documentary called Code Blue.

Following Dr. Stancic was Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine founder, Dr. Neal Barnard!

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He discussed The Cheese Trap, his new book and why cheese is so addicting. He is a charismatic speaker whose humor is welcomed. Many people often say that they could give up eating meat, but not cheese. Dr. Barnard explained not only why this is but also, how cheese is essentially killing our nation.

Milan Ross was a new-to-me speaker. His talk, The Change: Transforming Yourself and Your Body into the Person You Want to Be was hilariously funny and incredibly inspiring.

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Dr. Melanie Joy was also new to me. She discussed: Understanding the Psychology of Eating Animals for Effective Plant-Based Outreach and Communication.  I also picked up her book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows. It’s a very graphic and eye opening account of our agricultural industry.

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Also talking again this year was Adam Sud with his, From Pills to Plants story.

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Tim Kaufman aka FatManRants spoke as well. I briefly met Tim last year at Plant-Stock but this was the first time I have heard his full story.  He weighed over 400 lbs! But what struck me most, was his honesty. His wife had to tie his shoes. She mowed the lawn. He had all but given up, but thankfully he didn’t. His story will bring you to tears and will make you laugh. His beautiful wife and their inspiring and loving relationship will melt your heart.

There were SO many amazing speakers this year that I cannot possibly dive into all of them.

Some of the highlights for Saturday were: John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods (fascinating guy), Dr. Avram Cooperman and Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed (a REAL prince!).

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Dinner was on the property like last year.  A beautiful and elegant display set up right on the farm.

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Vans and I were fortunate enough to sit with Engine 2 Crew/Seven Day Rescue Coach (and all around amazing woman) Ami Mackey (no relation to Whole Foods John 🙂 ), my friend Mike from Molinski Photography (best photographer in Hudson NY) and some friends from home believe it or not that had traveled the 3,000 miles to see Plant Stock for themselves first hand!

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Dinner was lovely. We sat talking well into dusk before finally leaving the farm. This place has such a hold on you, that you truly never want to leave and you secretly hope that the Esselstyn family might not notice yet another person added to their clan. 🙂

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Sunday also started with a run/walk and yoga but Vans and I decided to take advantage of having NO kids and to sleep in just a little.

Much like Saturday, Sunday was oatmeal and kale and fruit for breakfast before the line up of speakers started. What I haven’t mentioned is that scattered throughout the day are breaks where you can take walks or shop at the on site vendors.

Vans had heard so much about Tank Hill and its views, that he just had to see it for himself, boot and all.

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Sunday’s line up of speakers was just as inspiring as the day before. Dr. Irminne Van Dyken was someone who I had never heard of before but had me instantly glued to my seat listening.

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I wasn’t the only one. Everyone sat completely still soaking up all that Dr. Van Dyken was explaining. No one got up, no one seemed to move. Which is kind of funny because her talk was about the gut biome, which is a serious and important topic but Dr. Van Dyken made it humorous! When you talk about the gut, you have to talk about bowel movements, which is often an embarrassing subject, but she made it okay and validated a lot of information for me. I really enjoyed her talk.

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Jane Esselstyn was next with her: Plant-Based Benefits: Above and Below the Belt talk.  This is who I want to be when I grow up. Jane Esselstyn is one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet but she can explain things like it’s no one’s business. Her talk inspired me. Motivated me. She used props that were fantastic and can help you explain to people why eating plant based is better for the body.

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Her talk brought tears of laughter to my eyes and to the eyes of all those surrounding me. Jane is also the mastermind behind some of the amazing recipes at both Engine 2 and for her own cookbook The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook along with her mom, Ann Esselstyn.

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Josh LaJaunie spoke on Sunday. He is another person that I had met last year, albeit briefly but whose story has touched and changed the lives of many. This year, he was doing it from the stage at Plant-Stock. Josh has lost over 200 lbs and has not only transformed his own life, but that of his family, his community and the many he has touched through social media. His story made us laugh and it made us cry. Josh is the real deal. I saw him talking to every single person that came up to him. His warm smile is welcoming and I think puts people at ease and makes him easy to talk to.

Ann

Ann Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn did their hilariously funny, From the Farm Table: A Lifetime of Plant Strong Living talk.

Other highlights from Sunday were: Ken Lander, Did you have a Heart Transplant; Eric Adams, Turning Pain into Purpose (and the Brooklyn Borough President); Alexis Fox (who I met at dinner and cracked me up – HAMSTER!! – inside joke, sorry) with Susan Benigas, Food + Medicine = A Bright and Bold Future and UFC Fighter, James Wilks.

And just like that, Plant-Stock was over. 🙁 They gave us food to go so that we didn’t leave hungry. Most sat and enjoyed their meals on the property. Vans and I had a long traffic filled drive back to New Jersey to get back to the kiddos.

Next year, there are BIG changes for Plant-Stock. It won’t be on the Esselstyn Family Farm! Instead, the geniuses at Engine 2 have planned, CAMP PLANT STOCK in August of 2018 AND another event called a PERFORMANCE RETREAT scheduled for June in North Carolina!

Photo from Engine 2
Photo from Engine 2

Both look absolutely amazing but the Performance Retreat is something that definitely has my eye. As a plant-based ultra runner, the number one question that I get is, “What do you eat to run so far and stay healthy?”  I would love love love to attend, but I will have to figure out the financial situation to make it happen.

Seven Day Rescue Crew in attendance
Seven Day Rescue Crew in attendance

Plant-Stock 2017 was another successful event. The largest Plant-Stock yet for the farm. A lot of the Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue group were in attendance. We were able to grab a quick photo. This is just a small handful of people whose lives have been changed tremendously by a whole foods plant based diet AND the folks at Engine 2 – for FREE! If you haven’t gone to the Engine 2 website, and haven’t signed up for the Seven Day FREE Rescue, do it now. All you have to do is try it for Seven Days! You can do anything for seven days, but can you change your life and your health? Try it and let me know. 😉

So that’s my recap from Plant-Stock. Hopefully next year I’ll have another. I am in no way associated with the Engine 2 group or the Esselstyns (goals right?). If you can attend at least one of the Engine 2 retreats, I highly recommend it. You won’t regret it, I promise.

♥ I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite photos from the weekend. ♥

Live Life. Love Life.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

THE beautiful and wonderful, Ami Mackey.
THE beautiful and wonderful, Ami Mackey.
Super Dad and amazing photographer, Mike Molinski!
Super Dad and amazing photographer, Mike Molinski!
Vans's Birthday Gift and all around awesome shirt from BeetxBeet!
Vans’s Birthday Gift and all around awesome shirt from BeetxBeet!
I finally got him here! Yes!
I finally got him here! Yes!
TANK HILL!
TANK HILL!
♥
Photo by: Mike Molinski
Photo by: Mike Molinski
Me. Being Me. At the Airport! Peace & Plants!
Me. Being Me. At the Airport! Peace & Plants!

 

 

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THAT DAM(N) RUN HALF MARATHON RACE REPORT (and a million other things)

The October love is still flowing strong. This past weekend was no exception. We squeezed in a lot!

Crazy is as Crazy does!
Crazy is as Crazy does!

The weekend started off with the school’s Harvest Festival on Friday night. I am giving the PTA props because they made some changes to the festival and it was well done. Vans helped with some set up too.

Just hanging around
Just hanging around

Saturday we found ourselves at the Loving Lane event down in Sacramento. Sally Edwards, aka the Head Heart is a dear friend of ours. Her nephew Lane Edwards was in a terrible accident about two years ago and was left with a C4 spinal fracture which has left him unable to walk.

Lane is defying all odds with the help of a huge team of trainers who are supporting his efforts to be able to walk again, on his own two feet.

We attended his event to help support LovingLane.org which is enabling Lane to continue with his therapy. Check out his website www.lovinglane.org and see how you can help.

Pinkhouse age 97
Pinkhouse age 97

Also attending Lane’s event was Pinkhouse, our 97 (soon to be 98 in December) year old friend who contributed by doing an indoor cycling ride for Lane! How is that for inspiration!?

Indoor cycling workout led by Sally the Head Heart
Indoor cycling workout led by Sally the Head Heart

Sunday morning came bright and early for us after the great day we had at Loving Lane.

A few weeks ago I ran into Coach Nikon (my old trail coach and friend). He is the Race Director for That Dam(n) Run – trail 10k and half marathon.

Pre-Race
Pre-Race

Coach Nikon invited Vans and myself to come out to his race AND he told us to bring our girls. He said that he and his daughter the Cheetah, would watch them while Vans and I ran. How absolutely perfect (and nice) is that?!

Trouble!
Trouble! Peanut, Squeaker, Cheetah and friends

I ran the half marathon and Vans ran the 10k. My race started first. After a few announcements from Coach Nikon, I was off and running.

Coach Nikon talking to the 10k Runners
Coach Nikon talking to the 10k Runners

The 10k runners followed yellow and black checkered ribbons while the half marathon runners followed pink and black striped. The course was well marked with ribbons and with flour on the ground. If you got lost, you clearly were not paying any attention.

Day of the Dead theme ALL over the place
Day of the Dead theme ALL over the place

I should note that Vans does not run much if at all. He’s probably run once this entire month. Needless to say, he was pretty stoked to find out that he was the winner of the 10k.

Here comes Vans!
Here comes Vans!

He was also pretty tired and really did not enjoy the uphill finish! ha!

Winner winner tofu dinner!
Winner winner tofu dinner!

He had a blast though and loved the challenging course. Hmm, maybe I’ll sign him up for the half next year?? 😉

Coach Nikon and Squeaker - TOTAL trouble here.
Coach Nikon and Squeaker – TOTAL trouble here.

My race was fun. I ran hard and had a great first half. Second half, after climbing the old dam hill, I slowly started running out of steam.

There was a young(er) girl who passed me at one point and who I stayed behind the entire second half of the race. She was running super strong.

She stopped at the last aid-station, about 1.7 from the finish and I grabbed her arm and said, “Nope. Come on! This is your race. You’ve got this, let’s go!” She followed and took the lead.

She asked if I wanted to pass and I told her no, this race was hers as she had been a super strong steady runner the whole day.

We turned a corner and saw the final stretch to the finish. It was completely up hill!!! I had been running steady for the last 3 or 4 miles with no walking … seeing that hill just knocked the wind out of me!

Best race photo EVER
Best race photo EVER

Vans snapped that photo as I was cresting the hill. I was giving Coach Nikon the evil eye with a bit of Jersey-attitude for throwing that darn hill in at the finish. FYI – You had to run the hill because EVERYONE was watching and cheering at the top. 🙂

It was a FANTASTIC race. Such a gorgeous day and a very well run event with amazing volunteers!

First in AG, 4th overall in the half - Vans was first overall and first in AG for the 10k
First in AG, 4th overall in the half  – Vans was first overall and first in AG for the 10k

We chilled at the finish line laughing and chatting with friends.  We didn’t really want to leave ….

Two little monsters!
Two little monsters!

but alas, we had promised the girls a trip to Apple Hill to get pumpkins since next week is Halloween. Where is time going?!

All the tutus and all the fairy wings = heaven for Squeaker
All the tutus and all the fairy wings = heaven for Squeaker

We stopped quickly at an orchard to get pumpkins, apples and look at the all the vendor booths. Squeaker found her happy place at a booth that sold tutus and fairy wings.

Next stop, was at our dear friends winery. Our peaceful happy place. The girls just love it here and so do we.

Sisters
Sisters

The girls run around playing while Vans and I chat with the owners and our friends, Ann and Paul (in between masses of people visiting the winery of course).

Peanut - love her
Peanut – love her

October is always an insane month for them. It is the busiest time of year actually. Vans and I are low maintenance and happy to sit and enjoy the views. We also love to help them out when they need it, carrying boxes, empty glasses or whatever they need. It makes us happy to help.

Happiness
Happiness

Needless to say, I am bummed this is the last week of October. It has been one amazing month and I have been so blessed and over-joyed with all that we have been a part of this month.

Next weekend is my plant-based cooking class and I am super excited about that. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, November isn’t looking too shabby at the moment. My trail-girls, Stonegate and Burning Girl and I have a little road trip adventure coming up which should be fun!

Life is just good all around.

Loving life
Loving life

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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BUFFALO STAMPEDE 10 MILE RACE REPORT

Home from Plant-Stock and trying to get back into our routine and into the swing of things.

One of those “things” was running the annual Buffalo Chips sponsored Buffalo Stampede 10 Mile race. I have been doing this race since we lived right on the course many years ago.

It is a road race, not a trail race which meant I had to dust off my road shoes and hoped they still fit.

Last time I wore these was for CIM December 2015.
Last time I wore these was for CIM in December 2015.

The morning was a bit chaotic so I ended up leaving the house solo and letting Vans and the girls sleep in. The plan was for the Peanut and Squeaker to run the kid’s free half mile race when my race was over. There was no reason to wake them up at the crack of dawn to drive down and wait.

Having left the house much later than I wanted, I arrived at Rio Americano High School, parked the car, RAN to the race area, picked up my race bib and schwag bag and then ran BACK to the car to put that all away. I then pinned on my number and raced to the starting area with about six minutes to spare. Whew!

The race started and I just tried to find a groove. I had no expectations for this race. I haven’t been running regularly enough nor have I done any speed work. I just decided to let whatever happen, happen and hope I lived to blog about it.

Mile 1 (8:13 pace) : Okay, that’s probably about as fast as I will be able to manage today…that’s fine. Good pace.

Mile 2 (8:14 pace) : Yup. Hey look there is Allyson! She’s running strong.

Mile 3 (8:00 pace) : Okay. That’s okay. Still seems manageable. You tend to run faster when chatting with people.

Mile 4 (7:51 pace) : Hmm, that was quite a jump but it is because I am running past my old house and while I know Vans and the girls won’t be there, I always speed up here thinking I’ll see them. Settle down. 

Mile 5 (7:58 pace) : Yup, slowing back down. Uh oh! What’s that? A giant turkey?! Oh geez, not again!

Mile 6 (7:49 pace) : Your pace is faster only because of the turkey, I am blaming the turkey on this one. Where did he go?

Mile 7 (7:58 pace) : Is that them!? Is that my family?! No. Man, there are a lot of tall skinny guys who have cute blonde little girls out on this course. 

Mile 8 (7:47 pace) : Just hang with these two guys. You’ve been behind them all day and they are setting a nice pace. BEEP BEEP! Hey! Look! It’s Vans and the girls! They made it. Now just stay steady. Don’t go crazy. 

Mile 9 (7:52 pace) : What!? My pace guys are pulling away! They must not want to be “chicked” at the last minute haha. Come on, you can do it, pick up the pace. Move past this group but keep it steady, you still have a mile to go.

Mile 10 (7:49 pace) : There they are! I see my family! They made it! Woo hoo you did it! Now don’t hurl, whatever you do, don’t hurl! Your kids are watching!

The Peanut cheering me on at the finish.
The Peanut cheering me on at the finish.

While I hadn’t set out to race this by any means, I did end up with a 17 second PR! Whoo hoo. I ended the race 6th in my age group (out of 60) and a sub 8 pace (per my Garmin – official race results have  me at about 8 mins).

After my race was the kid’s 1/2 mile free fun run on the track. Both the Peanut and Squeaker showed up ready to run. Squeaker’s best friend from her old daycare also joined them and it is total cuteness from here on out!

Squeaker and her BFF about to run!
Squeaker and her BFF about to run!

Ready set go! They all took off!

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Squeaker blew me away. She kept a great starting pace while all the other kiddos took off like a bat outta hell. Eventually, all the speedsters slowed down realizing that two laps, is kinda hard!

Even the Peanut was winded and tired but not Squeaker! That girl just kept going!

My little speed demon
My little speed demon

When they completed their two laps, Squeaker said, “Can we do it again!?” 🙂

And they did. She and her BFF walk/ran another two laps around the track bringing their distance to a full mile! She’s five! 🙂

Racing kids!
Racing kids!

It was so adorable to watch. I hope that we can get these three together again soon for another run.

The rest of Sunday was spent visiting with an old friend of Van’s and then home for a nice family afternoon.

I was pretty hungry after my  race and only had a few random things in the fridge.

Homemade Chipotle Bowl
Homemade Chipotle Bowl

I took some left over rice that we had in the fridge and I threw it in a pan with some lime juice and some veggie broth and cooked until warmed through. I added a bunch of cilantro and cooked it a little longer. I then layered the bowl. Steamed kale with vinegar on the bottom, my cilantro lime rice in the middle followed by some oil free roasted onions and zucchini. Some salsa to finish and voila, an easy homemade post race meal that really hit the spot.

I do say that was a perfect Sunday after a weekend of traveling.

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

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HOW NOT TO DIE – ON VALETINE’S DAY

So normally I really despise Valentine’s Day. Mostly because it reminds me that the day following this “celebrated holiday of love” is the day that my mom passed away at age 47 of a heart attack.

Ironic if you think about it actually. She died because her heart was weak and blocked and restricting blood flow – she died the day after we were inundated with heart shaped everything (that looks nothing like the real heart mind you) AND even more ironic because February is Heart Attack Awareness month – the leading killer of women in America.

So needless to say, I don’t “love” the holiday of love quite as much as most. Vans has always understood this and honored this part about me.

This year however, I learned that Dr. Michael Greger, author of the book How Not to Die and founder of www.nutritionfacts.org was speaking at Kaiser in Sacramento … FOR FREE. You had to reserve tickets in advance, which I did … for both Vans and I.

I later told Vans what I did and he was open minded albeit a bit sarcastic (when isn’t he) about going to hear Dr. Greger talk.

The Book
The Book

I am currently reading his book How Not to Die and have been to a few talks given by Plant-Based doctors before. Vans however has not. I don’t think he was sure what to expect. I know he thought we’d be the youngest couple there (we weren’t) and that it would not be a large crowd (it was more or less).

Dr. Greger
Dr. Greger

This talk was very inspiring and very eye opening. Since I am reading his book and have followed him and his research for a while, most of what he shared was not “news” to me but it was to Vans and even more amazing was the way in which Dr. Greger presented the information.

He is full of humor and sarcasm but yet full of knowledge, science based knowledge that is presented so matter of fact you can’t help but go, “He is so right!”

Talking about Heart Disease
Talking about Heart Disease

He is also great at explaining what and why certain industries are not sharing a lot of this information with the public. He drew the connection from smoking in the early 1940’s and 50’s to eating meat in modern day.

There was a time (not too long ago sadly) where DOCTORS prescribed smoking to patients and/or smoked themselves because they didn’t know any better. They were not taught in medical school that smoking was bad and studies (when they were finally conducted) were hidden from them. Not to mention the fact that the smoking industry paid pretty darn well on the side … fast forward, and the same is happening with the meat and dairy industry.

In Dr. Greger’s talk, he discussed the top 15 causes of death in America and how most can easily be prevented  and/or reversed by choosing a plant-based diet alone.

Needless to say, all of this was right up my ally. I love this stuff. I thought for a minute that I would turn to Vans in the middle of the talk to see him bored or uninterested but I have to say, it had the opposite affect on him. He was listening. Intently.

Vans has always known I am very passionate about nutrition and specifically a plant-based diet but I think now, he understands even more so. I don’t just pull all the things I share with him out of the blue … I research. I read. I study it and love it. I want my family to live it and see the rewards that I see from eating this way.

So for the first time in 22 years, I have truly loved Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day I honored my body by sweating, I honored my brain by filling it with plant-based knowledge and I honored my LOVES, Vans and my girls, by sharing this experience with them.

So as I write this, the day that my mom passed 22 years ago to the day, I am smiling. Of course I miss her terribly but I know she would be proud that I am using her passing, as a motivator to instill healthy habits within my own family and my own life. Would I love to have her here with me and meet my girls, of course. But I know, deep down, that she IS here and she IS with me. Smiling just as much as I am.

Thank you Dr. Greger for all the work that you do.
Thank you Dr. Greger for all the work that you do.

Happy Trails (Happy Heart),

~Trailmomma

PS: If you want to hear the same talk that we heard, click HERE – All of the proceeds from Dr. Greger’s books go charity as well as any money he makes from any speaking engagements! Pretty cool Doc. Pretty cool.

 

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2015 AMERICAN RIVER 50 MILE RACE REPORT

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When I signed up for the American River 50 Mile race (AR50) back in February, I had just had a string of really strong and powerful training runs. I was on a high. I felt the strongest I have ever felt. And then, a series of unfortunate events started happening one after the other. I was bit by a dog on a training run that caused me to tweak my back. I ran a really super hard 50k that was primarily down hill, something my knees and back really did not like and basically, I just started losing quality sleep little by little. In my head, I was falling apart so how on earth did I think I could run 50 miles? What was I thinking!?

Yet, I kept plugging at it little by little. I pretty much took my taper more seriously than I ever have before. The week of AR50 I ran 3 miles on Monday afternoon (it sucked), I ran 4.5 miles on Tuesday morning (ugh, again it sucked) and I ran another 4 miles on Wednesday afternoon (oh boy, shoot me now). Then, I rested. Completely. No stairs at work. I tried for quality sleep each night. I ate really well. I even decided to work from home the Friday before the race.

Working from home = less stress and more relaxed. Plus I got a ton of work done.
Working from home = less stress and more relaxed. Plus I got a ton of work done.

When Friday arrived, I was still super nervous. I had to go and pick up my bib and race packet and I knew the minute that I did that, my energy would change. If you have ever been at a packet pick up for a big race like this, you can just FEEL the energy of everyone that is there. You look at people and think “Wow, they are going to crush it!” or “Wow, they are running too?!” You just get sucked into the awesomeness of an ultra’s race scene. It is infectious.

I brought the Peanut with me as I had to drop her off at a friend’s for a sleepover. She wasn’t as impressed with packet pick up as I was. 🙂 Still, it was neat showing her everything and introducing her to people.

When I got home, all I had to do was make myself dinner. I had pre-packed my hydration pack, my cooler, and everything else that I had needed earlier in the day. I made some yukon gold potatoes for dinner. Simple. Easy. Nothing that would upset my tummy and I made sure to eat early enough so as to digest it all before laying down for sleep.

Slowly but surely, I started to get a migraine. It started slow and low on my head but by 7:30 pm, I was struggling to keep my eyes open due to the pain. I kissed Squeaker and Vans goodnight and crawled into bed close to 8 pm.

I woke up a few times during the night. I had that “late for the airport” feeling that you get when you feel like your alarm might not go off. But, eventually at 3;45 am it went off and I immediately hopped out of bed. I felt, rested. For once.

I changed, grabbed all my gear, filled my bottles and hydration pack and I waited in the garage for Pigeon and Missouri to pick me up on their way to the starting area. Due to some unfortunate planning on my part, Vans would not be able to see me throughout the day. He promised that he would be at the finish. This meant that I had to build myself my own little personal aid-station again for Beal’s Point and make it easy enough that Missouri would be able to carry it from the car to somewhere close to the course.

At the starting area cars were lining up in the lot and the sky was dark. There was an eclipse of the moon so it was exceptionally dark at the start this year and I didn’t bring more than a dinky little light. Ooops

Trying to get the eclipse
Trying to get the eclipse

The minute we arrived, Pigeon and I hopped out of the car and headed to the porta potties. The line was short (at the moment). When we were done, we loaded back into the car and for some reason, I buckled myself in. Missouri turns to me and says, “Are you afraid we’ll get into an accident just sitting here?” I looked at her for a minute not quite comprehending what she was saying and then I realized what I had done. HA! My mind was obviously occupied and not thinking clearly. 🙂

We had a good laugh about that for  while and that seemed to lighten the weight in my chest.

Soon however, it was time to head to the starting line. The race started at 6 am and it was still pretty dark outside.

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Pigeon had a flashlight with her but I only had the little light on my visor. It would do but it wouldn’t be great. We only had to run about 3 or 4 miles in the dark, that was my guess anyway based on the sunrise. Luckily, a lot of other runners around me had lights.

Here we go!
Here we go!

Without much hype, the race started and wave 1 began running up the 1 mile marina drive towards the trail. Pigeon and I were able to chat with Miss P and Blisters for a bit which was nice. Everyone seemed to have a nice nervous energy.

Immediately I just felt like what I was doing was work and not fun. In the back of my head, I still had a lot of doubt. My knee was achy and I just dreaded any downhills that I would have to face.

Pigeon took the lead on this section which is funny since last year I took the lead. She also scolded me last year for going out too fast so maybe she thought if she took the lead, she could keep me settled down. I was content to follow her. My mind was still not in the game yet.

Finally we reached the levee and the sun was up (or mostly up) and our lights were no longer needed. We had to run to Folsom Point where the first aid-station would be (at mile 4.97). As we were running down and around Folsom Point, the door of the restroom opened up and I ran straight in. Pigeon followed as the door next to that one also opened. We were amazed that there were no lines! Last year they had really long lines. I was happy to get this out of the way now instead of later.

We said ‘hi’ to the Fleet Feet crew manning the aid-station and then dropped down onto the road making our way to the parkway bike path. Here, the sun was rising and you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day.

There is that sun!
There is that sun!

When we dumped onto the bike trail, I had forgotten how much downhill there was on this little section. Paved down hill doesn’t bother my knees as much as trail downhill for some reason. Pigeon and I just kept running. We weren’t chatting too much. We did occasionally comment on the gear of some of the other runners. We saw some crazy things out there and it is always interesting to see how people prepare for runs like this. The announcer had said there were 350 people running their first AR50. That is awesome.

Pigeon and I just made our way down the path. She was being rather quiet, as was I. Last year I had my headphones in at this point so I started digging them out of my pocket only to realize they were in a complete knot. Pigeon decided she needed to duck off the trail to take care of some business somewhere around mile 11. I told her I would walk. I needed to keep moving. I had a feeling that if I stopped, I wouldn’t start again. My head and my heart were just not in this yet.

When Pigeon finally caught up to me, she was running with TiggerT!!!!!???? TiggerT just happened to be out running with the Java Joggers group when she just kind of ran into Pigeon emerging from some bushes! How funny?! TiggerT ran with us to the next aid-station at Willow Creek (mile 12.77).

I didn’t take any fuel here or get any water. This year I ran with one bottle on my pack and my hydration bladder filled with electrolyte water. I did eat some of my peanut butter banana cookies but they weren’t tasting so great so I stopped. Nothing seemed appealing to me which isn’t good 13 miles into a 50 mile race.

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As we were making our way to the Hazel Bridge, we saw that quite a few runners had gone off course and were running around the aquatic center parking lot. They looked at us like we had cheated but we had clearly followed all the ribbons. They must have been kicking themselves for adding at least a half mile to their legs.

As we crossed Hazel Bridge, I had that familiar feeling of relief. You see, at this point in the race, you start running TOWARDS Auburn and the finish line, no longer away from it. There is something to be said about this. It just switches something in your head and you feel better as you start climbing those crazy beautiful bluffs.

Coming down the back side of the bluffs.
Coming down the back side of the bluffs.

I just took my time going down the rockier sections not wanting to aggravate my knee. I had forgotten about the next aid-station, one of my favorites in this race, until we came upon it (Main Bar Aid-Station, Mile 16.98).

At this aid-station, they blast the best 80s music around and as we approached, super happy super sweet volunteers rushed to see what we needed just as Bonnie Tyler’s I Need a Hero started blaring from a radio near by. Awe yea!!!! I was starting to warm up and get a little excited …. I even started dancing like a fool calling to Pigeon to come on, hurry … WE NEED A HERO!!!!

Granted, she looked at me like I was crazy and laughed. I told her it was the music. It set me on fire a bit. We started running. Soon we came a cross a stray (oddly clean) porta potty. Pigeon needed to stop so I decided to stop as well. I didn’t have to but I tried and it worked out timing wise.

Next up was the Negro Bar (mile 20.18) aid-station where Diane Hanes and her FTR crew volunteer every year. Diane gave me a big hug when she saw me and asked how I was. I told her that honestly, today felt like ‘work’ to me, that I just didn’t feel like I was having a lot of fun yet. All she could say was “uh-oh.”

Pigeon and I took off. I did get a surge of energy as I knew that our next aid-station would be Beal’s Point which is mile 24.31 and where Missouri and hundreds of other people would be waiting to cheer on runners. Beal’s is a HUGE point in the race. Two years ago, it marked the half way point (sort of). Now it was mile 24.31.

I always run up the hill to Beal’s. I love the surge of energy you feel as you crest that hill and run down across the arches as they call your name. I spotted where Missouri had set up our camp. I refilled my hydration pack and ate a gluten free peanut butter and honey sandwich. I had to really force it down but I managed to eat the whole thing.

I also emptied the rocks and pebbles that had been gathering at the bottom of my shoes. This year, I didn’t change socks. I probably should have but I didn’t.

Off we were again. Pigeon needed to stop at the bathrooms before we left the aid-station. Once again, I decided to go too. Might as well. When she emerged, we made our way back onto the course and headed towards Granite Bay aid-station (mile 29.45).

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Last year at Granite Bay we were surprised by Missouri, TiggerT and Vans. This year, no one would be there. As were approaching the aid-station, Pigeon mentioned that her foot was hurting her. She hadn’t said a peep the entire day so it took me by surprise that she was having some discomfort.

She even said, “Missouri will kill me if I have to call her to pick me up here.” Wait. What? She went from “my foot hurts”  to considering dropping in a nano second. I couldn’t process it all just yet. We then spotted Dasie and Pigeon ran to talk to her while I made my way to the aid-station. I needed some food in my tummy as I was planning to take the Advil I had stuffed in my pocket. My knee was just starting to tweak a little bit and I didn’t want it to flare just yet. Not now.

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When I found Pigeon, Dasie was rubbing her foot. I started to stretch  my legs and squat to keep myself limber and from totally stiffening up. Pigeon I could tell didn’t know what to do at first. Her goal race is in four weeks. This race, AR, was just a training run for her. She was torn.

We were at that aid-station about 8 to 10 minutes when Pigeon laced up and thought she would start running but instead, she told me that she had wasted too much of my time already and that I should just go on and if she could, she’d join me but she wasn’t sure just yet what she’d do.

I told her, “Okay, I’ll start out walking just in case. Just don’t fly by me like last year!” 🙂 But, she never did. I did walk for a bit and then the trail started to develop into a nice rolling course. Something that was runnable. So, I just ran.

This is a critical point in the race as the next aid-station at Horseshoe Bar (mile 38.14) is 8.69 miles from the last aid-station. That is the farthest stretch between aid-stations in the entire race and it was getting WARM, on second thought, it was getting HOT and fast. I had started dunking my bandana in any ice buckets that I could find and would wash my face and neck. It just cooled me down and kept me present.

Alone, and full of fuel, I just ran. I started passing people. I am not normally one to pass people. I usually just settle in behind and ride the conga line but something took over. I just started saying, “on your left” whenever I could and would, bit by bit, pass runner after runner.

This section of the course is full of mountain bikers and I ran into a couple. I felt bad as they had no idea a race was going on. I also ran into quite a few horses out on the trail, causing me to stop and move to the side. It was busy out there!

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Steady and strong. I just kept running. My Garmin was slowly starting to lose its battery strength. I kept watching the charge get lower and lower and wondered if it would make the whole race.

My legs felt light as air. I had no aches or pains. I honestly felt like I was out for a nice easy jog. I couldn’t believe it. I tried not thinking about it as I didn’t want to jinx myself or trip and fall as I am apt to do while trail running.

I knew I was getting close to Rattlesnake aid-station (mile 40.94). I knew that once I reached that, I was in the single digits to the finish line. Last year at Rattlesnake, I could barely make it down the hill the pain in my knee was so excruciating. Now, I just ran down it, passing another runner (what the heck is going on?!).

I as entered the aid-station I got a huge “HI PAM!” from Legs which made me smile and then I saw Pigeon. She had dropped after all. She wanted to know what I needed. I kind of laughed, because I went from having no crew to having Missouri, Dasie and Pigeon all attending to my needs. I didn’t know what the heck to do! I told Pigeon I wanted ice in my pack. I dropped my water bottle since I had never even touched it and I wanted to lighten my load.

I was off running again. Dasie had made me a nice neck scarf of ice out of my bandana which felt amazing. Back up that steep hill I went and when I got to the top, I passed four more runners. Watch out, I was on my way to the finish line.

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Photo by Hassan

So it continued happening, I just passed runner after runner. When I got to Dowdin’s Post aid-station (mile 43,92) I just flew in, grabbed a few things and flew out.

Around mile 45, I came across Hassan who was pacing another runner in front of me. This runner let me pass and I said ‘hi’ to Hassan who immediately ran ahead and hid behind a corner and then started taking photos of me as I ran by! What a hoot!

Smiling the WHOLE time. Photo by Hassan
Smiling the WHOLE time.
Photo by Hassan

Hassan’s happy demeanor brought a new wave of energy for me and I just never stopped smiling. Well, I did stop smiling when I realized that I was running up behind Miss P. If I run into Miss P in a race, I know it isn’t good. She must be struggling. Sure enough, I didn’t get my usual smile and “Hey!” from her. She said it just wasn’t her day. She just wanted to be done and she let me pass. My heart broke for her. Miss P is an incredibly strong runner. It saddened me to see her not feeling well.

I motored on and almost yelled with joy when I was dumped off the trail and onto the final road that leads you to the finish line. I power hiked as much as I could up this gravel rocky road. Some parts I ran, just eager to get off the gravel. My power hiking has improved and it didn’t fail me now. One step in front of the other.

The Last Gasp aid-station ( mile 47.56) is hilarious. It is run by a bunch of young guys who wear spandex. It always brings a smile to my face.

Soon I reached the infamous 3 mile sign. I’ve taken a photo next to this sign every year.

Me and the sign in 2010
Me and the sign in 2010 – photo by my pacer
Me and the sign in 2014
Me and the sign in 2014 – photo by my pacer

This year, I was all alone. No pacer. No one to take my photo. So, I took a photo of the sign anyway.

The sign - doing it on my own in 2015
The sign – doing it on my own in 2015

I decided now was the time to find my easter candy. A handful of starburst jelly beans is what got me up the Damn Hill and those last 3 miles. I’d walk a few steps and run 10 times more. I ran into Annabella on the this section too. I said hi and just kept motoring on. I was determined. I knew that I could beat my old time. Part of me wondered if there was any way that I could get sub 10 hours (my dream) but my Garmin decided to die at mile 48.9!!!!! It almost made it!

My pace up this big hill was hovering around the 11 minute mile range. If you have been on this hill, that’s pretty good (in my book at least). Walk two steps then run 10 times more. Repeat repeat repeat.

I saw the hill that crests up to the top near the parking lot. I couldn’t muster the energy to run up this whole hill but darn it I tried! I ran down onto the street and then up onto the curb and then I just started running as hard as I possibly could. People were clapping and cheering and I just ran as hard and as fast as my tired legs could manage.

The girls were waiting!
The girls were waiting!
Run Girl Run!
Run Girl Run!
I did it!! I finished!
I did it!! I finished!
Someone was impressed with my medal!
Someone was impressed with my medal!
Pigeon was there waiting with a smile and a high five.
Pigeon was there waiting with a smile and a high five.

I had scored a 22 minute PR!!!! I finished in 10 hours and 11 minutes. Not too far from a sub 10 hour finish!!! There is hope ….

My girls
My girls

I felt pretty awesome. My body felt awesome. I mean, what the heck? I made it down to the canal and I rinsed off the poison oak and iced my tired legs and then changed into warm clothes and took advantage of the recovery boots at the finish line.

These things rock
These things rock

I was just on a complete and total high. I can’t believe what had started out to be such a hard and grueling task had ended up being so much fun.

Everyone was having fun apparently.
Everyone was having fun apparently.

My body had responded and came through when I asked it to. You see, I had had a nice talk with my body the night before the race. I promised that if it would get me through those 50 miles that I would honor it and rest completely for two weeks. Nothing but stretching, walking and sleeping. I plan to keep my word and not run a step, which will be hard but also somewhat enjoyable.

The day after the race was Easter Sunday. We went on a family hike around where we live. Nothing too grueling. Just some easy walking with Vans and our six year old and three year old and TiggerT.

My mini me
My mini me

Now, two days later, I feel amazing. I am not sore at all. Nothing! My knee doesn’t feel “right” but my muscles feel great. I really focused on nutrition this time around too. I didn’t drink any alcohol for the month leading up to AR50. I watched my sugar intake and I ate really well race week too. During the race I tried to take a salt tab about every hour and monitored my water intake too.

Now, with this race behind me, I am looking forward to running for fun. Vans asked that I not run AR again for a bit as it always falls during the Easter holiday making it hard on our family and I can understand that. Some day though, I will return.

But for now, I am content to get back on the trails when the time is right and to run with Pigeon, Stonegate and Burning Girl all of whom are training for the Tahoe Rim Trail races (Pigeon is doing the 100 miler and the other two are doing the 55K). Their training plans and runs will be vastly different so I will get a mix of everything.

I have a few “paid for” training runs on the calendar and only one race in late June (a marathon while on vacation). All of these are low pressure runs. Even the marathon is purely an effort to keep my mileage up while on vacation so that I can pace Pigeon in Tahoe in July.

I look forward to just running for me. Running for fun. Running to help someone else. Having lost that love and spark in the early part of AR really unnerved me. I generally love the first half of that race. However, I am glad that I finally found it and that it carried me to the finish line with a smile.

Easter 2015
Easter 2015

Happy Trails!

~Trailmomma

(You can read my 2010 AR50 Race Report here)

(You can read my 2014 AR50 Race Report here)

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