Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: Eating Animals

I’ve been a vegan for almost 4 years now. There are many reasons why one might choose this path, and for me it was to optimize health and athletic performance. The treatment of factory farmed animals didn’t really play into the decision, though I had read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation – both great books which paint a vivid picture of “life” on the factory farm. After reading these books, I did make efforts to connect with local farmers and started purchasing grass-fed, antibiotic-free, meat, poultry, & eggs from small local farms. However, because this was more burdensome and a lot more expensive, I also kept buying conventional meat in bulk from Costco’s meat department and whenever I ate out in restaurants. In continuing to spend money on conventionally farmed animal products, I was still contributing to the demand for cheap meat and even though it made me feel better about what I was doing, I realize now that “any plan that involves funneling money to the factory farm won’t end factory farming.”

Since turning vegan, it’s been nice to know that I’m no longer contributing to factory farming, but like I said before it was never the impetus for change and I didn’t think about it that much. Then the book Eating Animals came to me in the mail from a friend. I was intrigued so I started reading it and I couldn’t put it down! You should know that this book was not written by an animal-rights activist or hard-core vegan. It was written by a young omnivorous first-time father who wanted to find out more about exactly what he would be feeding his son should he continue to purchase animal products. I feel like the book is very objective and allows you to form your own opinions based on factual information presented. In my mind, the following reasons are more than enough to convince me that abstaining from factory farmed meat is the only viable conclusion.

Animal Cruelty
I won’t lie, it was not pleasant reading about the nitty gritty details of how factory farmed animals are treated; it’s downright shocking and disgusting. First of all, the animals I’m talking about should not even exist in nature. What I mean is that these farmed animals have been so meticulously and grotesquely genetically engineered over time to produce greater amounts of meat with less food in less time, that they literally are incapable of reproducing. Thus, it is a fact of biology that these animals should not even exist. They live their pathetic lives in overcroweded cages, are not free to engage in the natural behaviors of their species, are branded/clipped/cut all without pain killers, and don’t see the light of day until they are crammed onto the trucks to be taken to slaughter. Those that don’t manage to grow properly in the heinous conditions are simply killed or left to die because it would cost more for the farmer to continue to feed them. Of course the slaughterhouses are a nightmare and it’s commonplace for animals to be skinned or cut alive. The nature of the work often brings out sadistic behavior in workers who abuse the animals with physical force. I won’t elaborate on this because it’s only a google away if you want more details. It’s really hard to believe that so much cruelty occurs and so many people know about it, yet it continues to happen and is simply swept under the rug.

Ecological Impact
The book also talks a lot about the ecological impact of factory farming, which is staggering! Factory farming produces more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. Farmed animals in the US produce an incredible 87,000 pounds of sh*t per SECOND! Holy sh*t! That’s 130 times as much waste as the entire human population! Here is an excerpt of a story about a 120,000 square foot “lagoon” of nitrogenous pig waste:

A worker in Michigan, repairing one of the lagoons, was overcome by the smell and fell in. His 15-year old nephew dived in to save him but was overcome, the worker’s cousin went in to save the teenager but was overcome, the worker’s older brother dived in to save them but was overcome, and then the worker’s father dived in. They all died in pig sh*t.

In addition to excessive waste & greenhouse gases, we are clearing rainforests at an alarming rate to make more room to farm more livestock so that we can create more waste & more gas.

Health Impact
I’m not going to elaborate on this much because I’ve talked about it before and it’s not a focus of the book. But, in general science shows an undeniable correlation between the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the chronic diseases plaguing millions of Americans today, including the #1 and #2 killers – heart disease & cancer. The obvious link here is obesity, which is nearly impossible to achieve on a whole foods plant-based diet.

Economic Impact
One of the biggest problems facing the US today is the crumbling of our health care system. Drugs & surgeries are so expensive and are both treatments that do not remedy the underlying problems; rather they treat the symptoms. The cheapest way to prevent and reverse diseases that otherwise result in costly treatments (i.e. bypass surgery, dialysis) is to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet.

Medical Impact
It’s well known that bacteria naturally evolve and mutate to develop resistance to the antibiotics that we have against them. More and more strains of bacteria are becoming harder and harder to treat. This is not a result of humans overconsuming antibiotics – Americans consume about 3 million pounds of antibiotics per year. In comparison, 17.8 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to factory farmed animals! And this is not a situation where an animal gets sick and is then treated. The animals are fed antibiotics in their feed at each meal to prevent them from becoming too diseased to sell to consumers, which would otherwise be inevitable because of the close and dirty quarters that they inhabit. The lavish use of antibiotics in the factory farming world is setting the scene for the next global pandemic.

Hunger Impact
It is much much cheaper to produce a calorie of plant food than it is to produce a calorie of animal product. In thinking about ending world hunger, it would be much more cost-effective to feed people plant foods, rather than to try to solve the problem with meat. Compounding this problem is that more and more of the grain that could be used to feed hungry people, is being siphoned to animal farms to feed livestock. It’s a lose-lose.

Now, I think part of the problem with factory farming is educating people about the truth. IMO it’s really important that people realize where their food is coming from and how it is produced (raised, transported, killed, & processed). However, if you suggest that people should read books like “Eating Animals” or watch videos like “Meet Your Meat” you will likely be met with a lot of resistance. I think this is because people are content to exist in a state of ignorance. If they educated themselves on the topic then they’d be forced to make an ethical decision with taste/customs/traditions of food weighing heavily on one side of the scale. I don’t think anyone would actually condone factory farming and I certainly can’t think of a good argument to support it. No one thinks that it’s ok to abuse or mistreat animals, but then why is it so hard for people to demand the end of factory farming and insist on a more sustainable solution?

I’ll end this with a quote from the book that really resonated with me:

When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.

So, where do you stand? Do you? Doing nothing is a choice and a vote for factory farming.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Runners vs. Swimmers vs. Cyclists vs. Triathletes

Ahh, running, swimming, & cycling!  I've been fortunate enough to partake in all of these sports both separately and collectively.  I love all three and have met great people across all disciplines.  When you spend enough time with any one group you start noticing similar personality traits among the athletes of each sport.  I've been thinking lately about some of these characteristics and wanted to write a comparison of breeds.  Admittedly this is highly stereotypical, but is only intended for fun, so here goes...

Everyone knows that runners have type A personalities.  They are the highly-organized, goal-oriented, ambitious, fast-paced, achievers in life.  They have a tendency to get stressed easily, take things too seriously, and may even be workaholics.  However, runners have really good hearts.  They genuinely care about other runners and are always super friendly to other runners.  Exchanging a wave or a short pleasantry as you pass another runner is like a right of being part of the club.  Runners love to encourage people to get into their sport and will gladly help when it comes to developing training plans, planning a race schedule, or helping with pace work.  Runners love to run with other runners.  They have a pack mentality and like to push each others' limits in training.  They don't like to do pace work or threshold sets alone.  Runners are morning people who like to get up at the crack of dawn to run.  I think this is because they have so much other stuff to do that they feel the burning need to get that run out of the way asap.  Runners are obsessed with splits.  They can tell you 200, 400, 600, 800, & 1200 splits for any mile pace.  Runners are also obsessed with PRs.  They can tell you every PR they've ever had in every distance (and they can probably do this for at least a dozen other runners as well).  Runners like to make lists of races that they want to do and they like to collect medals.  Post-race festivities are a big part of running culture.  Runners love posting on Facebook because they get to relive the thrill of the latest run or race and they can also use it as a tool to encourage one another.  Runners are interested in nutrition and genuinely want to eat healthy.  Runners will never cut a run short (i.e. they can't finish at 5.9 miles if a 6 mile run was planned) and they will try to run through anything because they hate taking time off.  The biggest enemy of a runner is getting an injury.  When this happens it feels like the world is literally coming to an end and they can become uncharacteristically cranky and even go into depressed mode.  Runners tend to like older music, that which what they call "classic."  I would probably call it rock.  They also idolize Prefontaine, though note that this is not a criticism b/c he was pretty bad a$$.  Runners own countless pairs of running shoes and it's often hard for them to throw old pairs of shoes away.  Finally, and I'm only saying this because I've heard it directly out the mouths of multiple runners, runners often choose running because they are too uncoordinated for other sports. 

Though swimmers are the group that I have the least amount of experience with, I have found that they usually have a type B personality.  They are easy-going, have much lower stress levels than runners, are more patient, less rigid, and more likely to be reflective/explorative thinkers.  Like runners, swimmers are also morning people, although in this case it is by force not by choice, since practices start at 5 am.  Swimmers may be in a fog during the day due to chronic sleep deprivation.  When swimmers get the chance they love to have fun and are crazy partiers.  I think this stems from needing to let loose after countless hours of staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool!  They are not generally geared towards social media, unless it is for posting pictures of those wild nights on Facebook.  Swimmers are good at math because they can break down splits into 25s, 50s, 75s, & 100s easily without calculators.  Swimmers develop a high tolerance to cold after building up a sort of natural wetsuit to chilly pool water.  No matter what they always smell like chlorine - but this means they are always clean and they don't have to take real showers, right?  Despite wearing next to nothing, swimmers do not seem to care too much about body shape or worry about what they look like in a swimsuit.  When it comes to nutrition, they are usually terrible eaters, consuming whatever they can get their hands on.  They are not really concerned about nutrition and they really love pizza.  Because of the horrendous workouts that swimmers are forced to do, they have a misery loves company, warrior-like, no-excuses attitude about practices.  It's hard to make a swimmer mad, but some things that will really irritate them include hanging on the wall too long, taking extra rest in between sets, and not knowing the unwritten rules of sharing a lane.  Male swimmers shave their legs reluctantly; some females take pride in not shaving.  Swimmers are often terrible runners due to not using their legs for most of their lives (i.e. a youth swimmer might swim 2 hrs in a pool in the morning, sit at school all day, 2 hrs in the pool at night, and then lay down and go to sleep at night).  Finally, it's certain that swimmers may be further broken down by stroke, but I'm not experienced enough for that.  All I can tell you about this is that the breastsrokers are the real oddballs. 

Cyclists have the Type C personality, by which I mean they are just flat out crazy.  The most quirky people that I've ever met have been cyclists.  However, they usually have a good sense of humor and like to make people laugh.  They also tend to be good story tellers, with interesting backgrounds and lots of life experience.  Granted, maybe it just seems that way because when you ride with people for 4-5 hours each weekend there's a lot of time to talk (especially in comparison to being at a swim practice).  Cyclists are incessantly obsessed with their bikes.  They usually care more about their bikes than anything else, and this can even include the opposite sex. Cyclists are also obsessed with power:weight ratio and watts per kilogram.  They do not care about how much they can bench press or having a small upper body; rather they live and die by their power meters.  Cyclists are not particularly time-oriented.  They are perfectly fine with spending all day on the bike.  They enjoy getting lost and finding new roads to explore.  Rides are ALWAYS longer than planned.  The only thing that prevents cyclists' from spending more time and money on bikes is usually their spouse.  Cyclists take pride in the fact that they do not race for medals because this makes them feel more hard-core than runners.  Pride also comes from shaving their legs; they simply love this!  They also love getting in verbal arguments with motorists over who owns the road - whether this is fueled by endorphins or artificial testosterone probably depends on the Cat level of the rider.  Cyclists love to show off in the form of becoming KOM, dropping others on a ride, bunny hopping over road kill, or zooming around a turn at 30 mph.  Cyclists have a well-known superiority complex towards triathletes.  They love to criticize triathletes' bike maintenance skills and handling, especially the ability to descend.  In fact, the most shameful thing for a cyclist would be to be dropped by a triathlete.  Cyclists are not social media oriented, other than perhaps Strava (probably because it's another way for them to show off their prowess).  And lastly and very importantly, if you are to ever date a cyclist, know that no matter what you will always be second to Mr. Lance Armstrong.

You didn't think I'd leave out this bunch did you?  If runners have a type A personality, then triathletes have AAA personalities.  Sometimes, with their idiosyncrasies they could be almost considered neurotic.  The general public does not understand a triathlete:  why on Earth would someone want to spend that much time training?  Rather, it takes a triathlete to understand a triathlete and there is an unspoken mutual respect between triathletes for being able to do what they do day in and day out.  Yes, triathletes take great pride in the fact that they can do 3 sports when runners, swimmers, and cyclists can only do 1.  This is also why they have the best bodies of the 3 sports.  A triathlete's biggest concern is figuring out how they are going to fit in all their workouts for the week because the amount of training required to improve at 3 sports at one time is insane.  This makes having any other hobbies, a social life, a job, a family, or finding time to sleep extremely difficult.  A triathlete's life may be summed up by the bumper sticker "Eat, Sleep, Swim, Bike, Run, Repeat."  Triathletes are likely to become VERY stressed by missing even a single workout.  They almost always have a coach and like to be in constant contact with this person, knowing that their coach is scrupulously looking over every workout.  Triathletes are data freaks.  They love expensive, GPS-enabled watches that track every possible metric (strokes per minute, RPM, speed, pace, watts, heart rate, etc...).  Even more than the expensive devices themselves, triathletes love to upload all this data to computers to track every inch of progress.  It's not uncommon for triathletes to keep years of old training logs and to compare how fit they are at this time of season compared to last year.  Unlike cyclists, triathletes are obsessed with gear.  They will buy anything and everything that is supposed to make them faster.  This is especially true when it comes to products that increase aerodynamics.  If there's a new helmet that can shave 0.5 seconds off a 40K bike, triathletes will buy it.  Triathletes are also obsessed with getting to race weight.  Because of this they will often try all sorts of fad diets to drop weight.  Triathletes get huge satisfaction from hitting workout after workout.  They are totally ok with crushing hard workouts alone and do not need others to motivate them to #GTWD.  Spending over 3 hours on the trainer is like earning a new merit badge.  Triathletes are lovers of social media.  They have multiple accounts (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc).  They love to blog and read blogs.  It is one of the best ways for them to plan next year's race schedule or to do some recon on an upcoming race.  Triathletes also love to stalk times and splits of other triathletes; hence the invention of Athlinks.  Lastly, every triathlete wants to hear the words, "You are an Ironman" and be able to slap a "140.6" sticker on their car.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Does The Universe Give Us Signs?

Does the universe/a higher power/spiritual guides/our higher selves/the powers at be give us signs?  Are there unseen forces at work coaxing us to follow the right paths in life?  In my younger years I would have laughed at the notion of these questions, but now I think that they do deserve some thought.

Some people think the universe has an unlimited amount of material to work with to deliver a sign to you.  Some examples of a "sign" could be:

-You happen to notice a sign or image on a building/car/billboard that seems to be a message for you
-You are thinking about something and a particular song comes on the radio that seems to confirm your sentiments
-Someone you haven't heard from in a long time reaches out to you with information you were wanting/needing
-You have a dream that provides clarity on a confusing situation
-You randomly overhear a conversation that seems like it was meant for you
-You start noticing patterns, synchronicities, & coincidences in your life, often in the form of numbers

Other people think that things like this are completely random and just pure coincidence; instead it is our mind that seeks to find patterns and meaning and therefore we interpret something out of nothing.

Some things that happened to me recently are:

I started seeing all these license plates beginning with CAA.  I took note of this bc the conference that I played soccer in was the CAA.  I thought it was interesting though and brought it up with someone at work.  They remarked that they noticed a license plate starting with CAA the other day and took note of it because it was the same initials as a form that she had been needing to fill out but was procrastinating on.  She thought me bringing it up meant she really needed to get it done.  Because she believed in signs from the universe and had seen the same sign I thought it meant maybe I should try to figure out what it was saying to me.  But I got busy, didn't think of anything, and kinda forgot about it.  Then the next day I was driving home from work and got sideswiped while going into a turning lane.  The guy pulled over and when I went to write down his license plate I got chills for a second when I saw that his plate was CAA.  It almost felt like it was nudging me, saying, "hey I'm still here."  Unfortunately I still haven't figured out what it means and I know the logical person's answer would be that it means nothing other than probably a big batch of CAA license plates were all produced at the same time.
Here's another example with a more concrete conclusion.  I had been going back and forth debating about leaving my full time job and working on WINutrition full time at TOPS.  Obviously this has inherent risk and at the time was really stressing me out because I was trying to do 2 jobs at once.  I was driving home one day and was thinking about how leaving my more stable job might not be worth the headache.  I then pulled up to a stoplight and the car in front of me had a TOPS bumpersticker on it!  To me it said, "go with TOPS".  And let me also say that the entire time I have been in Wilmington I haven't seen a TOPS bumpersticker and I haven't since either.  So more time went by and I got to the point where I had to make a decision.  I was leaning towards TOPS but still felt a little nervous about it.  I was in someone else's bathroom and randomly picked up a magazine out of a pile. It was Outside Magazine and it happened to be a nutrition special on nutrition needs of athletes.  Coincidental.  The slogan on the front was "Eat to Win" which was even more coincidental bc that is the exact phrase that I have on my WIN website.  This said to me, "this is meant for you."  Then the real kicker was that I randomly opened the magazine and there was a sticker stuck in the page that I flipped to.  The the first line on it was "Quit your job."  So yes, it's official - I am going to be at TOPS full-time in March and I'm so super pumped!!!

The last interesting thing I've been noticing is series of multiple digits, especially 1s. Like looking at the clock randomly and it's 11:11 or 1:11. When I was driving up to VA with my brother over Christmas for example I randomly looked at the mile marker and it was 111, then later I looked at the clock and it was 1:11 am, then we got lost and I looked at the street address of a building and it was 111! This has continued to occur in many different ways.  For example, I was going to a patient's home and the address had been given to me by a doctors office. For whatever reason they gave me the wrong city and I pulled over once I realized there was no house with the number I was looking for on that street, I glanced up and was right in front of house #1111. This same day I noticed the mileage on my car was 111,111.1.  Another day at work, I was making coffee.  I looked at the clock on the coffee machine and although it was about 8 am, the clock was off and happened to read 1:11.  Later that day I glanced down at my watch, yep 11:11.  And that afternoon I saw 1:11.  Here's something I just saw yesterday on the back of a bathroom stall and I HAD to take a picture because I was like, really?!

And funnily enough, just as I was writing this, I looked up at the tv to see what sport they were showing on the Olympics and on the screen was a bobsledder with jersey #11.  Is this all a big coincidence or does it mean something?

There are a lot of metaphysical theories out there about the significance of duplicate & triplicate numbers and I won't go into detail on that, but it is interesting to google if you have some time to kill.  My favorite interpretation of the 111 phenomenon is that it's a sign that you are starting a new direction in life and that you are on the right track.  I've also heard people say "11:11, make a wish" which is kinda fun too.
So, I'm starting to believe that it is possible to receive signs from the universe (and I'm aware this makes me sound a little crazy - which in and of itself has not yet been disproven, haha ;)  But am I only perceiving more signs because I'm thinking about it?  Or have I been getting signs all along and been missing them?  What happens if the universe gives you signs and you choose to ignore them?  Do coincidences exist or does everything happen for a reason?  Do you think the universe gives us signs?  What kind of signs have you received?  Did you listen to them?  What was the outcome?  Would be interested to hear others' take on this topic :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Store D'Oeurvres

Let's be honest.  Who doesn't like going to Costco for all the free samples of food?  It's fun and makes grocery shopping more exciting.  However, I've always wondered how many calories one consumes on any given Sunday at Costco.  Can consuming these "store d'oeurves" really impact your diet, sabotage your weight loss plan, or affect your overall health? 

To shed some light on these questions, the last time I went to Costco I took a picture of every single sample that the store was offering that day.  Then for fun, I did a little analysis of nutrient content.  Here's what was cookin':

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle (0.5 oz)
60 kcal, 2 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 10.5 g carbs, 0.5 g protein 

Cackalacky Spice Sauce (1 tsp served on a tortilla chip)
20 kcal, 0.69 g fat, 0.84 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 1.99 g carbs, 0.22 g protein

Ancient Grains Cooked Freekeh (1/8 cup)
68 kcal, 0.31 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 13.5 g carbs, 2.75 g protein

DiGiorno Frozen Supreme Speciale Pizza (2" surface area)
41 kcal, 2.25 g fat, 0.776 g sat fat, 3 mg chol, 3.7 g carbs, 1.61 g protein

Pierre Signatures Frozen Grilled Chicken Sandwich (1/4 sandwich)
70 kcal, 2.2 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 7.5 mg chol, 8.8 g carbs, 3.8 g protein

Dee Amore's Frozen Potato Skins (1 piece)
100 kcal, 6.5 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 15 mg chol, 7 g carbs, 4.5 g protein

Better Bakery  Frozen Italian Style Meats Pretzel Melt (1/8 sandwich)
56 kcal, 3 g fat, 1.625 g sat fat, 11.25 mg chol, 4.9 g carbs, 2.25 g protein

Nathan's Beef Franks (1 cocktail-sized frank)
32 kcal, 2.85 g fat, 1.115 g sat fat, 6 mg chol, 0.4 g carbs, 1.19 g protein

Bel Gioioso Fresh Mozzarella (1 cubic inch)53 kcal, 3.93 g fat, 2.315 g sat fat, 14 mg chol, 0.39 g carbs, 3.9 g protein

Julian's Belgian Style Waffles (2" suface area)23 kcal, 0.71 g fat, 0.145 g sat fat, 1 mg chol, 3.6 g carbs, 0.54 g protein

Abuelita White Corn Tortilla Chips (1 chip)
15 kcal, 0.69 g fat, 0.084 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 1.99 g carbs, 0.22 g protein

Detour Caramel Peanut Protein Bar (1/8 bar)
16 kcal, 0.12 g fat, 0.124 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 2.74 g carbs, 0.87 g protein

Fruit Smoothie made from a Vitamix (2 oz)
33 kcal, 0.08 g fat, 0.017 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 8.31 g carbs, 0.23 g protein

Grand Totals:
587 kcal, 25.33 g fat, 11 g sat fat, 58 mg chol, 68 g carbs, 22.5 g protein

Ringing in at a grand total of 587 kcal, your weekly shopping trip is like adding an entire meal to your day.  These totals are assuming that you are only eating one of each item, and you know you have doubled back to a sampling station before hoping that the serving lady doesn't recognize you!  Now, if you add this 587 calorie meal on top of your regular 3 meals that day, this adds up to an additional 30,524 kcal each year (assuming one shopping trip per week), which is equivalent to 8.7 lbs of body weight!  This means you could potentially avoid gaining almost 9 pounds per year if you just said no to all the samples in the store!  Craziness!

And taking a minute to talk about the foods that are offered, you can see that the majority of these foods are processed foods.  It is very rare that you go into the store and they are sampling some of the fresh fruit - I love it when they do this btw!  Most of the items are frozen convenience foods that are high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.  In fact, 39% of total calories of this "Costco meal" are coming from fat.  This is way above the upper limit that the USDA sets for fat consumption (30%), which is way above what I believe to be optimal for human health and performance (<20%). 

From this entire menu, the only samples I'd recommend any of my clients trying are the fruit smoothie and the freekeh (aka green wheat).  I'm not knocking Costco at all here - I like Costco.  There are plenty of healthy foods you can buy in bulk at this store:  fresh fruits, fresh veggies, whole grains, canned veggies, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, frozen veggies, frozen fruit, 100% fruit juice, and non-dairy milk, to name a few. 

So next time you take a trip to Costco, try eating a healthy meal or snack before so the unhealthy store d'oeurvres aren't as tempting.  Bring a bottle of water or unsweetened tea that you can sip on as you peruse the aisles to keep your mouth & hands busy.  Also use it as an opportunity to look at the nutrition facts labels of the foods that are on display and think about whether you want to put these foods into your body and even more importantly, into your kids' bodies.  And last but not least, enjoy the free healthy samples that happen to be on display!  :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's Always Something

Just when I had gotten over the flu and was starting to feel optimistic again about my training, bam, now I have an injury.  It started a week ago on the 22 miler that I did.  I was feeling some tightness right below the right glute.  By the end of the run it had sort of migrated downward to the middle of my hamstring.  It was a little sore/tight, but I figured it would be weird if something wasn't sore or tight after 22 miles!  Here's what ensued after that:

Monday:  I took a day off, as per the usual.  Thought this would help my hammie.

Tuesday:  Ran 10 miles at aerobic pace and could feel my hamstring.  It was still tight, but not so painful that I couldn't run on it. 

Wednesday:  Ran 9 miles at aerobic pace through the winter wonderland.  Again, I could fee the hamstring, but it wasn't so painful that I thought I should stop.  However, at the very end of the run it started getting tighter and sharper, almost like it wanted to pull.  This alarmed me a bit, but I figured that it was just because it was pretty cold out and that the next day it would be fine.

Thursday:  Same story - could still feel it.  Was going to run 8-10 on the treadmill but after warming up for a mile decided to get off and try to stretch it.  I rolled my glute on a lacrosse ball and did some deep stretching.  Got back on the treadmill, ran another 0.5 miles and still hurting.  So, I called it a day and decided to take a few days completely off to rest it.

Friday & Saturday:  I didn't run, but did some light stretching and used a foam roller to try to loosen up my leg. 

Today:  I had an 18 mile run on my training plan today with marathon pace work.  I decided I'd try to run and if I felt good I'd do the pace work, otherwise I'd just try to get in the distance.  When I started running I could feel the tightness but it wasn't too bad.  However, instead of getting better, it started getting more painful and by mile 0.8 I stopped and called my coach.  He listened to me whine/cry about it, gave me a pep talk, and the following advice: 

*If pain is 0-3/10, proceed.
*If pain is 4-6/10, back off activity.
*If pain is 7-10/10, stop activity and don't start again until pain is <7/10.

*If pain lessens as the run goes on, proceed.
*If pain increases as the run goes on, back off or stop.

*Ice/heat/ice/heat the hamstring 3x/day.
*Take Motrin 2-3x/day.
*Start water running to maintain fitness.

So the first thing I did was an ice/heat cycle:

Leftover snow/ice came in handy!
Good excuse to get in the hot tub!

Second thing I did was go to CVS and purchase a heating pad, Motrin, icy hot, and some Dixie Cups to fill with water, freeze, & use as little ice massagers. 

Third thing was get all my swim gear out, drive to the YMCA and purchase a week pass to get access to the pool.  Wow, back in the pool again!?  I warmed up with a 250 swim.  I felt like a million bucks for the first 25; the next 225 was more like a few hundred thousand dollars in debt.  Swimming is hard.  But little did I know, water running is harder!  I put on the floaty belt and warmed up for a 50.  Then I did a ladder of 1 min hard, 1 min rest, 2 min hard, 1 min rest, 3 min hard, 1 min rest, 4 min hard, 1 min rest, 5 min hard.  My heart rate was through the roof and I was totally out of breath.  I'm pretty sure I looked like an idiot though, like I was trying to doggie paddle but failing miserably, ha!  There were a few people waiting on deck for a lane and I could read their minds, "Why is she taking up a lane when she's not even swimming!"  Actually, after 30 minutes of water running, I decided to swim for 30 min.  I did a mix of free, back, breast, paddles, fins, & pull buoy for a grand total of 1650.  No, it wasn't 18 miles with marathon pace intervals, but at least it was a good workout. 

So what does this mean for Quintiles and my sub-3 hr goal?  Well, 2 weeks off for being sick + another 2 weeks off for this injury certainly does not bode well.  I may end up dropping down to the half and using it as a training run for a different marathon, perhaps April or May.  I still want to break 3 but since being sick & getting injured has happened to fall right in the peak of this training phase, I may just have to adjust and pick another race.  We'll see how quickly this thing heals and how I'm feeling.  I'm hoping to be back to real running again soon, but in the mean time I'll be keeping it real in the pool.  Hey, it's fun to stay at the YYYYYY M C A!  Right!?