Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sadako Sushi

In accordance with my blog title, yesterday I ran 8 miles, and today I had some sushi.

It was pretty phenomenal.

My favorite sushi place in Ann Arbor is Sadako, right on South University. They offer the best in price, selection, location, and awesome lunch specials.
Each meal starts out with a generous portion of salad with carrot ginger dressing and miso soup.
The number one reason I go to Sadako is the wide selection of rolls. Although I am a vegetarian, I still do eat fish, and Sadako's selection does not disappoint. I generally try to go for some sort of veggie roll (usually less than $5!) and a spicy or salmon combo roll.
Sadako also offers deep fried rolls, which rank pretty close next to creme brulee on the food nirvana scale. I didn't get any today, but a deep fried california roll is the easiest way to my heart.
The best part about sushi is the leftovers. I think I know what I'm having post-strength training today.
 Run far, eat sushi.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training Week 4

Another week of training for the Philly Half Marathon has come and gone!

A look back: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.

Week 4 started out with an incredibly humid long run! For some reason, the last few Mondays have been over 90% humidity and start out pouring rain. The 7 miles went well though, and I love the new trail routes I've discovered.
The rest of the week was pretty straight forward:

M- 7m long
T- Strength training for runners
W- rest
R- 4m tempo (2 middle miles @ 10K pace)
F- 2m + yoga
S- rest
S- 2m

total: 16 miles

I was supposed to make this week a 20-miler, but I'm having a hard time fitting in all of my running with my research time. All of my runs this week were done during incubation periods or before/right after/on the way to lab. Science definitely comes first, but it's certainly making training difficult!
Another thing that's cramping my style: all of this dang rain! For the 4th week in a row, I'll be knocking out my long run (8 miles!) today in the rain and humidity. Yuck!
Happy training and have a good week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homemade Salsa

Homemade salsa: just do it.
With an abundance of fresh vegetables from my CSA, I set out to make my own salsa for the first time. This is the peak season for tomatoes and peppers-- to make your own, grab some from the farmer's market or your local co-op for the best flavor.

Start with your vegetables, chop roughly and add to the food processor.
The only thing you must do first is peel the tomatoes. It's incredibly easy! Just boil for one minute,
then submerge in ice water.

Slice and take out the seeds and water, then add to your food processor.
Process until desired consistency is achieved.

This salsa is so fresh and delicious! The sweetness of the tomatoes really offset the spicy peppers.

Serve with chips,
or over tempeh fajitas.
Just do it!

Homemade Salsa
Prep time: 15 minutes

Makes about 2.5 cups

1/2 yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 jalepeno pepper
1 Anaheim hot pepper
4 ripe heirloom tomatoes

1) Chop peppers and onions and add to food processor.
2) Bring water to a boil and add tomatoes for one minute. After one minute, drop into ice water to stop cooking.
3) Peel tomatoes and chop into rough chunks. Remove seeds and watery flesh. Add to food processor.
4) Pulse the food processor until salsa reaches desired consistency.
5) Enjoy. Keeps in the fridge for over a week.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training Week 3

This week marked my third full week of training for the Philly Half Marathon. Woohoo!
A look back: Week 1, Week 2.

I kicked off this week with my Monday long run. A rainstorm broke out just before I left, so it was a fairly unpleasant 6 miles. But I got it done!
Tuesday brought the return of my Strength Training for Runners class and I was sore for the rest of the week! Wednesday I ran a pretty new route with my fast friend. Friday brought early morning sprints (6x400 at 5K pace) and a Yoga for Athletes class. I was sore come Saturday!

M- 6m long
W- 3m run
R- rest
F- 2m run (6x400m with 0.25 w/u and c/d)
S- rest
S- 3m run
total: 14 miles

This week, I step it up a bit more, starting with my 7 miler in an hour! Combined with extra runs and speedwork, I might even hit 20 miles this week. Wish me luck!

What are your workout plans this week?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is it Ethical to Eat Bananas?

This is one in a series of posts designed to make you think critically about our food economy and the way industrialized food has changed our diets and palates in America. I ain't tryin to hate, but to educate. Hyperlinked text are sources.

Where do bananas come from? 
No really, where? Michigan? North Carolina? Florida? No matter which supermarket you step into in the US, you can always find a pile of bananas for a cheap price. They're a staple of many of our diets and the saviors of runners everywhere. But where do they come from?

The answer: Latin America, well over 2,000 miles away, depending on where you live in the US. Bananas need a tropical climate and rich soil to grow, and the most common place for bananas to be grown is in the middle of the rainforest.
From our stance in the comparatively frozen North, we eat over 28lbs of bananas per person per year. Consider first, the amount of rainforest space it takes to produce that many bananas. Unfortunately, massive plantations by Dole and Chiquita have downed over 50,000 hectacres of rainforest, just in Costa Rica alone. Combined with the effects of monoculture (depletion of the soil by constant farming of just one crop) and the extreme use of pesticides (208 chemicals at 44kg/hectacre), we are rapidly destroying one of the most beautiful places on earth, just for our eating pleasure.

Unfortunately, the environmental destruction of a banana does not stop there. How much fuel does it cost to fly a plane one way from Costa Rica to the US? Once the bananas make it to the US, how much trucking fuel is used up transporting these imported fruits across the nation? It's no secret that we are running out of fossil fuels, but it might be surprising to hear that all of the transportation costs for these companies are tax deductible, ie: tax dollars are paying to have our bananas shipped to us from a hemisphere away.

The carbon footprint of a banana is astronomical, and something I feel a little shocked to have been supporting by eating my 28lbs of bananas per American per year.

Why are bananas so cheap?

A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store and I was astounded to see bananas on sale for 19 cents/lb, while local Michigan apples (presumably more in season and shipped less) were going for 80 cents/lb. How are bananas, clearly not very cheap to produce or transport, some of the lowest-cost foods in the produce section?
The answer, lies in the poor treatment of workers. Like the meatpacking industry, the growers of bananas are far underpaid and exposed to horrid working conditions. Many fall ill in the presence of the extreme levels of pesticides, and there are even a few cases of men becoming infertile due to pesticide exposure.

Another horrifying figure is that while banana exports constitute up to 41% of a Central American country's exports, the country only retains 11.5% of the retail value profits, with the other 88.5% of profits being given to foreign companies--aka Dole and Chiquita. In short, the US is exploiting these countries for their banana exports. 

What can you do about it?

All of these numbers are indeed scary. I want to mention that in no way am I judging or trying to represent as a purist; I love bananas just as much as the next American (exhibit A). But how can we best exercise our buying power to keep both the health of the Earth and the banana workers in mind?

  • Stop buying bananas-- this is obvious, but a quick way to limit your consumption and support of these companies
  • Look for bananas under the Rainforest Farms or Rainforest Alliance brands. They'll usually have a sticker with a frog or a rainbow on it. These bananas will likely cost more, but came from an environmentally and ethically sound background
  • Buy local fruits-- although bananas aren't native to Michigan, apples, peaches, grapes and berries are. Choose local!

In light of all of these facts, what do you think? Is it ethical to eat bananas?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

3 Bean 6 Pepper Chili

Just two years ago I was studying abroad in New Zealand and was a meat-eater. I despised beans and even picked around the beans in a chili my host family made for me (I was so rude!) because I couldn't stand the texture.

Fast forward 2 years later to a vegetarian, healthier me:
Ohhhh baby.

This chili is one of my favorite meals ever, and I was inspired to make it after receiving tons of gorgeous peppers in my CSA bag this week.

As all great recipes do, this one starts with sauteeing a whole onion and 6 (or more!) kinds of peppers.
I used:
 minus a few chili peppers in the upper left, plus a green bell pepper.

Then added in the canned goods, including 3 types of beans..
and set to simmer while I showered post-workout. As a side note: we started up our Strength Training for Runner's class today and I was absolutely drenched after. Hurts. So. Good.

After about 15 minutes, add some spices.
Serve and enjoy with a fall brown ale.

I ate two bowls. Okay, maybe three.

Plus, this monster pot makes tons for leftovers and lunches throughout the week.

I love the fall.

3 Bean 6 Pepper Chili
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1 whole yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
Any assortment of hot peppers as desired, chopped (wear gloves when chopping hot peppers!!)
1 15oz can diced tomatoes (or chopped fresh tomatoes!!)
1 10oz can tomato sauce
1 8oz can tomato paste
1 15oz can black, pinto, and/or kidney beans
Salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic salt, to taste

1) Chop vegetables and sautee over medium high heat for 10 minutes, until brown.
2) Add canned goods, making sure to rinse beans first, and stir
3) Simmer 15 minutes over low heat
4) Add spices, to taste
5) Serve, preferably with a rich dark beer

Monday, September 12, 2011

Philadelphia Half Marathon Training Week 2!

It's that time again: let's recap my training for the Philadelphia Half!

Week 2 (unlike Week 1) went really well, the weather was nice and cool on Monday and I knocked out 5 miles at a great pace. Later on during the week, I had a strength workout, a speed workout, and another 3 mile run.
M- 5 mile long run
T- weights
W- 30 minute tempo (3.2mi)
R- 3 mile run
F- off
S- UM game (we beat Notre Dame!!)
S- 2.75m run
total: 14 miles

I've really been loving my speed workouts this training cycle! This week I did a tempo run on the treadmill: 5 minute warm-up, 10 minutes gradual build in speed, 5 minutes at 10K pace, and 10 minute decrease. Overall, 30 minutes of speed!

The speed workouts are already paying off, too: my 3 miles on Thursday were super fast! Wahoo.

Up next for this week: same mileage as last week, but back to speed repeats on the track. I'm excited.
And, long run Monday has come around again-- 6 miles on the schedule tonight!

How are your workouts going?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Breaking Up with My Running Shoes

For a runner, there is nothing more essential or important than a good pair of running shoes. Beyond the necessity for maintaining good form and injury free, my running shoes are my ticket to nirvana. With my shoes I can travel to a stress free place, a world of puddle-jumping, philosophizing and bliss.

When all else falls apart, I still have my running shoes.
For my entire life, I've been a Mizuno girl. My first pair of Mizunos I got when I was in 9th grade track and went to the local running shop. Since then, I've been hooked on the stability and wide footbed they provide.

Over the past few years, I've had 4 pairs of Mizunos, usually the Wave Inspire model.

I ran my first 5K in these,
my first half marathon in these,
and my first marathon in these.
I've had a long-term relationship with my Mizunos. Unfortunately, now the time has come to move on to a shoe that appreciates me just a little bit more. I absolutely loved the Wave Inspire 6 model. When Mizuno redesigned the shoe for the 7 version, I got huge blisters, lost toenails, and bruising every time I ran. After my foot injury, I started to feel discouraged and dreaded my afternoon runs.
I can't take that kind of abuse from my running shoes. It's just not fair.

A few weeks ago I went to the running store again and tried on over 15 pairs of running shoes (thank you, Running Fit!) and did a head to head test with the Wave Inspire 7s and Brooks Ravenna 2.

Let me introduce you to my new lover:
Brooks Ravenna 2.

They're soft, they're comfy, they cushion and support without leaving any hot spots or bruises on my feet or ankles.
And I fully expect them to carry me right back to nirvana.

If you're looking for a more technical breakdown of the types of running shoes and how to get fitted, check out this fantastic post by Caitlin: If the Shoe Fits.

What kind of running shoes do you wear? Do you switch between models, or stick with brand loyalty?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's the point of this blog, anyway?

As I reach my 100th blog post, I wonder if this blog is headed in the direction I want it to go. Originally, my blog focus was on sharing my grad school life with friends and family, coming up with quick recipes, and documenting my running journey.

Along the way, I began to blog about things that were more important to me. Environmental effects of meat and dairy. Human rights and factory farming. Meat and infectious disease.

These posts took more time, and sadly generated little discussion. I still love talking about running and my weekend adventures, but compared to more important topics, these things seem "fluffy."

I want to pull in the reins and come back to the topics I care about more. This blog is meant to not only inspire people to live a healthy life, but to encourage discussion and critical thinking about food, exercise and more dilemmas we face every day.

Some upcoming posts I have brewing:

  • Animal cruelty from the perspective of an animal researcher
  • Why should we care about endangered species?
  • The ethics of bananas
  • The great vaccine debate
  • Food additives that aren't bad for you 
  • Why having gay parents made me smarter
  • The books and documentaries that changed my thoughts about America

I'm excited to go back to writing about causes I'm passionate about!
Is there anything else you'd like to see on the blog?

Monday, September 5, 2011

How to Survive Your First Year of Grad School

At the football tailgate and student government picnic this weekend I met so many new first year students. Just last year I was starting my first year in grad school, and while it's been a lot of work, it's been so much fun. Graduate school is different from undergraduate work, but requires a lot more balancing to stay sane. Here's how:
Rule 1: Work hard, play hard
There's no doubt that you will be working your ass off in grad school. Between classes, research and instructing or otherwise being a grad assistant, you will be busy. Even though it's hard work, the fact that you are now pursuing your ultimate passion in life will propel you through most of the work. After you've finished working for the day, take some time to play, too. Go for a beer, watch a movie, wander around your local arboretum or enjoy some local sports with friends. Just be ready to crash in bed and do it all over again the next day :)
Rule 2: Eat like a grown-up
Now that you're out of undergrad, people are going to start expecting you to actually act your age. This means: eating plants, preparing meals and having friends over for dinner. Nearly every grad student I know is strapped for cash, so make it work by buying frozen veg (just as healthy as fresh!), avoiding pricy takeout by packing your lunch and having granola bars and dried fruit in your desk at work. Your body will thank you, and people will be impressed at your love of prunes. (maybe that's just me...)

Rule 3: Make time for exercise + sleep
Part two of taking care of yourself in grad school means taking care of your physical health. Engage in daily exercise to give your brain a break, for stress relief and to get outdoors. Join a rec sports team with your department, train for a half marathon, or sign up for a group fitness class. Pack running shoes and clothes in your backpack for quick 45 minute breaks between classes or experiments to get in a run or a weight session. And please, get some damn sleep after your day. No one likes a cranky grad student.
Rule 4: Schedule the hell out of yourself
Between class, work, research and exercise, you're going to need a way to keep track of it all. Last year I had a paper planner and several to-do lists, but quickly realized Google Calendar is the way to go. Set up a color coded system for classes, work, experiments, bar nights and especially schedule your exercise and fit it all in. Use to-do lists and text message alerts to keep yourself on task, and check your calendar the night before to see what you need for the next day. Stay organized, stay sane.

Rule 5: Mentoring matters 
Being a new grad student, you're going to have so many questions. Finding a mentor is crucial for maintaining a clear understanding of your expectations and for having someone to vent to when it all seems like it's piling up. Seek out an older grad student and take them out for a beer. Share stories of struggles and get advice on good mentors, classes to avoid and what really rocks at your university. I was lucky enough to find my awesome 5th year grad student friend Dave and he's taught me and helped me navigate the first year of grad school. You can't go it alone!
Rule 6: Just be YOU
Finally, the most important part of grad school is to not lose sight of yourself. In the first weeks, you'll be meeting so many people and it's hard not to compare yourself to them. Remember that everyone got into your program because they deserved to, and for the most part, everyone is entering on the same level. Try to keep sane by avoiding the comparison trap, walking away from situations where people are being overly cocky or negative, and finding a solid group of chill people to hang out with. You were admitted to the school for a reason: the department has faith in YOU.
 If you're a first year, congrats on your admission and good luck for the coming months! If you're not a first year, what other advice do you have for first year grad students?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week 1: Philly Half Marathon Training

This week marked my first week of training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon!
Even though I started out sick, I ended up getting a decent amount of mileage in.

How it went down:

M- Rest
T- 2.2 miles and weights
W- 5x400m @8:20 pace
R- rest
F- Strength training for runners
S- Football!
S- 3.25 miles

total: 6.75 miles

Tuesday was my birthday! I enjoyed some birthday pancakes and hit the road for 2.2 miles (for turning 22!)
Wednesday I had my first speed session and announced my training plan on the blog. It was short but sweet.

Saturday brought the best thing ever: Wolverine football. And we won, too!
 This week, I have more running and speed sessions planned (click to see my training plan spreadsheet). Tomorrow I kick it off with a Labor Day 5 miler. Here we go!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Half Marathon Training for the Football Obsessed

Ever since I signed up for the Philly Half Marathon, I've been both excited and a little concerned. You see, I love fall for many reasons, not the least of which is college football season.
How could I fit in long runs for a half marathon and still manage to hit up all of the Big Ten football games this fall? Michigan has home weekend games every weekend in September and a few in October. Given my passion for tailgating, I knew Saturday and Sunday long runs were out of the question.

So here's the plan I came up with (click to bring up in Google Docs). I based the plan mostly off of Hal Higdon's Intermediate half marathon training program (love Hal's plans-- I've used them for all of my races!).

A few other things I'm trying to incorporate this time around:

-Speedwork. In order to achieve my next PR, I need to ramp it up on the speed workouts! Last night I did my first one: 5x400m (0.25 mile) at 5K pace (8:40min/mi) with rests in between. Hurts so good.
-Extra/'junk' mileage. I'm hoping by adding another day of running per week, I'll become more fit, and thus faster when the race comes around.
-A few longer runs. Most half training plans have you build up to 10 miles or 11 miles before the race, and that's it. While that was great for my first two half marathons, I know I need a bit more distance under my belt to rock 13.1 in Philly this time around.

By placing my long runs on Monday and focusing on quality workouts during the week, I have given myself clearance to have a great time on football Saturday's and recovery on Sunday.

Bring it on, September. And GO BLUE!
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