My First Van Trip

Going down to Maryland for JFK meant I also got to spend the weekend in my van. I was mostly prepared for it, meaning it was a test trip and I would learn more of what I needed and what I don’t as I went.

I did not need a stove or heating for this excursion because it was warm enough down there to sleep in my sleeping bag and use a bit of the car heat before I went to bed. I didn’t plan on cooking and brought my standard peanut butter and jelly for my meals the day before and morning of.

I was most nervous about the bathroom situation, because I go frequently and often during the night. I bought an RV porta-potty and decided I would see if I needed it. Before this, I had gotten a bucket and biodegradable bags, which I planned to go in if I couldn’t go outside during the night. This ended up being what I used. I am good at getting into the correct position so going over a bucket wasn’t an issue. I simply then tied up the bag and put it in another bag outside, which I then disposed of the next day. I also had odor eliminator in the van and had no problems.

The only thing I need to work on is being more comfortable changing the bed and chair position. It would have been much easier to eat from my passenger side chair swinging around than on the floor from where I did. I also could just move the bed up, but it was late, dark and I just wanted to not screw anything up and not have a bed. I wanted to sleep before the race, and I was able to do that.

Overall, I had a good experience going down there. When I woke up, I would turn on the heat to warm the van while I got ready. I ate breakfast in there before the race, but on the morning after the race, I was on a mission to find biscuits so that happened.

When I get more things in there I will need to be conscious of things moving around. That did happen a bit but I wasn’t too concerned as it was sleeping bags and such. As I sleep in it more, I will learn what I need.

Any questions about van life?

When I Decided Not To Identify As a Vegan

When I think about my four years as a vegan, on the whole, it was amazing. I met some great people, expanded my cooking abilities and tried tons of different foods I probably would not have thought of eating before.

I also felt like I was making an ethical choice that was good for the animals, the planet and my body. I still believe that is true.

Becoming a vegan oddly helped me eliminate the food rules I still had from darker times in my past. When I went vegan I decided that if it was vegan, I would eat it. It did not matter what it was, if it was vegan, it was fair game. Coming from a past where I went through a period of food extremism, this was tame. This was liberating.

Just make the ethical choice, you cannot go wrong.

But, as I’ve written about before, although this started as a choice to liberate my mind, help animals and the planet, started to actually backfire on me. Part of this was my fault, actually, all of it is if you think that the body you are given is your fault.

What I did wrong:

I did not take a B-12 supplement for the first three years as a vegan. During that time, I spent a year of it essentially eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches as I thought I didn’t have the time or the want to really to cook. Sure, I could have ordered food, but I am also frugal so I don’t do that.

Part of my history with extreme food rules, meant that I was tired of thinking about food in the nutrient sense. I say that loosely, because I am a certified holistic health coach, so I get that nutrients and food is important, but largely for myself, I don’t think about it very often. I know what is healthy, I know what tastes good, I try to eat food that is more on the tasting good side than the healthy side. I never have been a calorie counter and still never will, however if I am honest, sometimes I don’t get enough in. I try, but I don’t focus on it and not having sufficient overall calories means you probably aren’t getting all the nutrients you need.

I was intentionally blind to these things for four years.

When I started working with Inside Tracker, part of that was a big step in opening the door to look at my food specifically and making it more nutrient sound. They had options and recommendations for vegans, which I followed, got healthy, and started running well again.

Too soon, I got complacent. I started neglecting all the things my diet needed, not in a restriction sense, but in an “I don’t want to think about this and just eat whatever” again. It was fine for a while, but then the niggles, the fatigue, the digestive issues began to come up again. Time to try again, and keep on the path this time.

Green Lakes was a turning point. It wasn’t my training, it wasn’t my resolve, I simply could not walk. Now whether that was due to nutrient deficiency or the knocking I took at Escarpment, I will never know, but coming home in the car with my dad, again explaining why I don’t eat eggs to him, I had to pause.

Why don’t I eat eggs? Why am I doing this?

Part of being vegan for my was the community aspect. Four years ago I had very strained relations with my family, isolated myself from things essentially because I just didn’t trust people. Hearing the Rich Roll podcast every week gave me community. I heard his interview with Gene Bauer, researched it and transitioned to vegan. As soon as I did, I found this amazing (mostly online) community of accepting people who all aligned with my morals. Do the least harm you can, start with what you eat. Everything is ok as long as it’s vegan.

It’s very black and white thinking and it seems very safe. Oddly, I think that people, including myself, like things to be set in stone. No gray areas. Even if it’s constricting (which some people claim veganism is) it also provides a safe place, a barrier between you and those who are different. I could identify with other vegans. I finally had a community.

Of course, the environment and animal welfare is and continues to be important to me. It always will, but there is a gray area in there that I must acknowledge.

The Gray Area

My gray area started when I worked on my family relationships. I started to have a real-life community of people who love and accept me. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s something I am not willing to give up. They have not pressured me at all to not be vegan. They just ask questions.

I started to feel like crap, and was tired of it. I started to question the choice I made to cut out some foods that can really be beneficial to health (for some people). Eggs can be a fine food when the quality is high and you respect where they came from.

Spending more time with other people allowed for so many opportunities to connect, often over food. It was very liberating, when I made the choice to stop reading labels and allow some eggs and dairy into my diet, to just eat. My friends and family no longer have to ask if something is ok. I don’t have to ask the barista or whomever if something is vegan, which they often don’t know, and then I’m just like, “ok, coffee please.”

Call it lazy, call it whatever you want, but the relationships I have now, and how I want to represent myself and be with people is worth some dairy in things and no label reading.

If you think that is lazy, here is another ringer: if it’s free, I’ll eat it. I hate seeing so much food waste. So even if the sandwich has meat in it, I’ll pick out the meat (usually, sometimes I don’t because that’s another gray area) and thank the universe for this gift. I’ve tried so many delicious things from my work that I would never have gotten to try if I drew the hard vegan line. I commend people who do, but part of my journey has meant I need to be more flexible.

Flexible

When I decided to not be vegan anymore, it was kind of traumatic. I felt as if I was losing my identity. These feelings signified to me that this was the right decision. I have not broken any laws (but to be honest, animal agriculture should be against the law) with the free-range eggs I’ve eaten a few times or the dairy that is in desserts that would be thrown away. I simply am being more flexible. I am living in the gray area. I did not do this because I missed cheese (still don’t really like it as much as everyone else) or meat (just no). I have made the decision to be more flexible in my life. I have decided that there is no label that can define me perfectly, because I am myself, one of a kind.

If that makes people disappointed, uncomfortable or angry, that is part of being the the gray area and being flexible. I refuse to please people while I know I am hurting myself.

I did not give up being vegan to please my family or friends, I gave it up because it was not serving me anymore.

Inside Tracker Blood Test #2

A few months ago, I got my first blood test from Inside Tracker. After which, I made some lifestyle and eating habit changes, took a break and saw some good results.

I took a month off from running.

I ate more nutrient and calorically dense foods.

I gained about 15lbs.

I came back to get second in the Cayuga Trails marathon, win Many on the Genny and have the courage to leave a job that was stressing my body and causing sub-optimal performance and fatigue.


I was feeling pretty good until Escarpment, which I completed, but I begin started a cascade of little niggles, that turned into bigger problems leading to a pinched nerve and foot issues at Greenlakes. After that race, I took a step back and started to look for more answers.

I saw a chiropractor. I changed my stretching and mobility routines, I didn’t run and I did other things. I spent more time with family, I was more present at my job, I got a van.

I didn’t run for almost a month, allowing my body to dictate my return. I shifted my priorities to other things, but kept up with recovery work.

One thing I hadn’t thought about for a while before Greenlakes, and oddly before my dad asked about free range eggs and why I don’t eat what comes from our chickens, I largely forgot about my Inside Tracker test and my at-risk levels.

Here I was, unable to walk, sad and tired. Sure, I was happy in my job and knew I was in the right place, but something was off and I was ready to fix it.

So I started eating eggs again, once every few weeks. I also stopped reading labels or asking what was in things. I let my parents and friends make and give things to me and I ate them. I took a very relaxed attitude to this, and felt a lot of pressure lift.

I got serious about my supplementing and now am compulsive about taking all my vitamins everyday.

I realized that I want to be able to run for life and be healthy and happy doing it, so I will take care of my diet and recovery outside of running.

Well, I feel better, am at peace with whatever fitness I have, running or not, and what do you know, my levels have improved.

My B-12 is great.


My testosterone to cortisol ratio (indicating overtraining) is in the correct range.


These were two things I was concerned about.

My vitamin D and Iron are still at risk, so this is the next hurdle.


Then I will tackle magnesium. I’m trying to work on sleep and just need to find my secret sauce.


I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

One thing I don’t know very much about is my low white blood cell count. I had a lot of inflammation, however I had just come back from a run, which increases inflammation and temporarily suppressed immune function. This will be in my focus along with vitamin D and iron.

What I started doing began to work, time to try a bit harder. I am discussing my test with the Inside Tracker team shortly and getting their recommendations as to how to proceed.

#blooddontlie

Any questions?

Better than before

This past month, I’ve had to reevaluate who I thought I was. Whenever I’ve gone through a life change or a bump in the road, it’s both depressing and invigorating. Note, I do not get depressed nor do I suffer from that mental illness, I am using it as a describing word in this context.

Having this lingering injury, which is getting better and I have run a few times this past week, actually has broadened my horizons in other aspects. Also, I’m not going to lie, disconnecting from the vegan community and therefore spending less time on social media has given me more time to get interested in other stuff.

For example, I’ve never really been interested in organic or local food. Not to say I didn’t appreciate it, but largely I didn’t care very much where my veggies came from as long as I was eating them. Well, spending a lot of time on the bike gave me a big excuse to watch Netflix documentaries which made me aware of their importance. More on that in some other post. Not only that, but I kind of started to get interested in growing some of my own food.


This is such a shift and really surprising in my mind, because I grew up on a farm and actively admitted it was not for me. I just wasn’t interested and when I was of age, left for another job (make ice cream all summer? Sure!) 

Taking a step back, I wondered if this interest was due to simply being bored or the glorification farming gets in my community. Not to bash people, but most of us don’t understand how hard farming is. We see the beautiful bounty and don’t get it that it took a lot of work and most of it sucks. 


Early mornings, cold temperatures, stubborn animals, equipment that breaks, manual labor, all of it is disguised when those hardworking people show up at the farmers market smiling and offering us delicious food. Those people have a gift, and not everyone has it. Do I?

Honestly, I have no idea, but I love reading about it and can see myself out in those fields and growing healthy food. Whether that’s another unrealistic ideal or not, I’ve decided to scratch the itch and start an indoor garden in my apartment. Not only does it seem doable, it might scratch the itch enough for me to say I’m doing what I can and I’m happy with that.

I am better than before.

Coming back to this lingering injury, I’ve been able to improve myself in ways outside of running, but also have taken time to work on my imbalances, flexibility and core which I had been lacking before. It’s not that I didn’t take time to do them, it’s that I’ve changed the cool down and stretches to better serve me. I’ve made the things I’m doing serve my running rather than wearing me down.

For example, my job is very physical, so any strength training or heavy lifting I’ve done before serves no purpose except it makes me sore and ripe for injury. My job is my lifting, my gym work is about form, balance, mobility and strengthening ancillary muscles. Taking more time to relax or do some easy cross training appeases my need for movement and makes me happy.

I may not be at the same level yet, but in many ways, I am better than before.

A Line in the Sand

I’m not sure how to follow up my last post. I knew what I was in for regarding how I felt and what I chose to do. I know I am letting people down. I know others feel I can remain vegan and fix myself.

Maybe that is true. I don’t know.

I am feeling better lately, that being due to the massive doses of B12 I am taking, eating more in general, not feeling as stressed or including eggs and a bit of dairy, I am unsure what the reasoning is.

Thankfully, even my vegan friends have been, well, not mean I guess is a way to say it. They are sad, rightly so. They feel I have not done my due diligence in being a vegan athlete. Rightly so. Although I got myself here accidentally, an accident is still my fault.

One thing that one close friend said to me struck a chord. It drew a line in the sand for me and I feel as though I must express those feelings.

They said that if they had to sacrifice running or being an athlete to remain vegan, they would do so in a heart beat.

How honorable a thing. I do not say this lightly that I admire that.

For myself, I do not feel the same. If I was unable to pursue my passions and hobbies because being vegan made me sick or unable, I would not be vegan. I choose my health over being vegan. That is my line in the sand. I am not ashamed of that, nor do I look down on others who take the opposite approach.

If that means I was never a true vegan, that is what it is, however by choosing that lifestyle for over 4 years, I saved many animal lives and I am happy for that. That matters.

That said, I still believe, and this athlete proves true, one can be vegan and a high performing athlete. It is tricky and takes more planning than I gave it, but it can be done. I also say that being vegan is a very compassionate and desirable way to live. There is some validity to the fact that you cannot be pro-environment and at least mostly plant-based. A vegan diet is very healthy when done appropriately.

However, I stand by my decision in my last post. I am not vegan right now, no matter how uncomfortable emotionally that makes me feel. Thank you to those who have reached out, from both sides of the issue.

Onward.