Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hello hello.

So I've decided to transition into a sewing-focused blog, find me here:

Still running.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fall happenings - and it's not even Thanksgiving yet!

Fall is without a doubt my favorite season. It's beautiful, the weather is exciting and unpredictable and it seems to bring a feeling of new-ness (I will always associate Fall with the start of a new school year, new books, new clothes, new me). Scott and I have been particularly busy this Fall, namely to squeeze in as much as we could before his scheduled third surgery in late October. But thanks to some insurance red-tape, his surgery has been moved to January and we are continuing to fill Fall with as much as possible.

In September I turned 28 (!) and enjoyed seeing my parents the weekend prior. We had a good time showing them around Indy and southern Indiana. My brother gifted me his old Nikon DSLR and I've been trying to catch some good snaps!

In October Scott and I went on a one night backpacking trip in Deam Wilderness. I've never done any backpacking before but I loved it! We ended up hiking in about 8 miles, setting up camp, then hiking out the next day. It was so nice to be lost in nature for an extended period of time. It really highlights how removed we are from it in daily life.

Fall 2015



Later in October we found ourselves in Philadelphia/New Jersey for 1) Scott's cousin's wedding, 2) the Runner's World Half Marathon that Scott was running, and 3) Tamerlaine Farm Animal Sanctuary for their Oktober fest.

The half-marathon was so fun to be a part of. Last year this time Scott was on the cover of the December issue after winning the cover contest. They offered him a free entry into this race and it happened to fit into our schedule. Scott ended up placing 9th and smashing his goal; running a 1:20:02 on a hilly course. From there we headed over to Tamerlaine Farm; a farm animal sanctuary run by friends of ours. To be clear, this is a farm that houses animals that have been rescued from farming operations; headed to slaughter, or otherwise living in awful conditions. Some of the roosters had been dumped on a busy highway, an enormous pig Artie was living in a bathroom in NYC, and dozens of chickens had been rescued from the Kaporos ritual. This was something I'd never heard of before now, but it is a Jewish atonement ritual that takes place before Yom Kippur. Chickens are used to 'transfer evil' into, then they are swung around the head while fully alive, and then their throats are slit. This barbaric ritual is still legal in NY because religious freedom is protected under law. It absolutely enrages/confuses/saddens me that something like this is allowed because of archaic traditions that fall under the umbrella of 'religion'. I should note that this is only done by a very devout sect of Jews; most do not slaughter chickens in the street.

Many of these chickens are typical industry chickens; breed to grow so fast their legs break under their abnormal weight and to over produce eggs at a rate that causes ovarian tumors. Many of these chickens have injuries and difficult lives even after rescue - and end up dying prematurely.

It was an emotional experience to say the least. The chickens were curious and affectionate and friendly. I am just so happy there are people like the owners of Tamerlaine out there to provide a haven for these guys.

Fall 2015

Fall 2015

November has continued to be a busy month; last weekend Scott paced the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and ran a perfectly paced 3:05 marathon. 

Fall 2015

And last night we were again gifted tickets to our friend's six course plated vegan Thanksgiving dinner. The food was INSANE. So fancy and flavorful and beautiful.... 

Fall 2015
Main entree: Seitan roast over turnips with roasted carrots and brussel sprouts. 

I'm still looking forward to Thanksgiving in two weeks where we plan to host friends for a vegan pitch in and I'm currently taking another sewing class (garments this time!) so hopefully more sewing projects will follow.

So clearly Fall remains the best season.

Monday, September 7, 2015

First attempts at sewing

I did it, I finally made something on my sewing machine! I've been attempting to make a collared shirt out of muslin (practice fabric) for a while but kept getting stuck at steps. After realizing that this was probably too advanced for a first project, I started with a dress pattern that had the words "EASY" on the front. Much better choice.

The pattern

As you can see, the McCall's 7118 is a simple dress with minimal fitted areas. Essentially a sack dress. I chose to do the version A with straight straps. According to my measurements I cut a 12 from the pattern (for those not familiar to sewing these are different from store dress sizes. I am typically a 4-6 in dresses). In hindsight I probably could have cut a 10, but you have to learn some how.

I chose a woven cotton fabric for this, bought 2 yards and 1 yard of fusible interfacing. I pre-washed the fabric, pressed it, then cut out all my pieces. First the interfacing was fused to its respective pieces, and the straps were stitched. The back pieces went next, then the back facing. Facing confused me a little bit (for you non-sewers this part attaches the straps to the back and gives it a nice finish, also adds support) but the back was quite simple. Attaching the front facing is where I ran into challenges.

Back straps in the correct direciton and facing. 
My first mistake was that I attached the straps in the wrong direction. Where they were supposed to curve inward, mine curved outward. This meant that to attach to the shoulder they were going to have to cross, rather than lie flat. I though maybe I could squeeze by and just cross them (like in version B) but nope - not enough fabric. I ended up taking out the straps, flipping them, and then re-stitching them to the facing. Once this was corrected, I attached them to the front of the dress with the front facing.

The front facing was very curved; convex and concave curves. To finish the bottom edge I took it really slow since I am not yet that great at sewing anything other than a straight line. It wasn't too bad. After I attached the facing to the front of the dress and flipped it inside out I was sure I made some other mistake. The fabric pulled and bunched and would not lie flat. However, after watching a youtube video I learned how to fix this by sniping to the seam line at the curves and to take out a lot of bulk at the seam. There is still a little pulling in the strap.

Completed front facing.
From here it was mostly easy street. I stitched up the sides and then the hem and was done! Or so I thought. The first fit was much too loose around the torso, even for a loose fitting dress. I ended up taking in the side seams by about 0.5 inches each which solved the problem! It still doesn't fit perfect... but I not going to worry about that! 

I also don't know that much about finishing seams (making them neat and tidy so they don't fray) so most of mine are raw. I've messed around with a little bias tape, and french seams, but right now I'm fine with it as it is. Honestly I am just excited I made a thing! A thing that I can wear!!

Oh right, about that. I didn't do a lining so it might be a little see through in the light, but it is a black fabric and I'm not really concerned. So here's the final product:

ChiChi wanted in on the action.
The back.
In total it took me 3 days, maybe 6 hours total? Now what do I make next?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"I'm a runner"

I initially started this blog to talk about running - but lately I haven't been doing much of that. I've done some sporadic trail running, but otherwise I've been much more interested in cycling, HIIT, or yoga.

And I'm totally cool with that! Wait, no. I'll rephrase - I am mostly cool with that.

Sometimes having an 'identity' kind of sucks. At work everyone knows that I run, so that is a common thing they bring up. "Are you training for anything?" "Did you run today?" And so on and so on. Same with acquaintances, family.... even my doctors. People get that one little detail about you and file that away. Its no fault of theirs, I do the same thing with other people. But lately I've been left to answer those questions with an "....uh not so much". And then I quickly feel the need to explain why, and blah blah blah.

Which I suppose is what I am about to do here.

Anyways. I haven't been running much because I don't feel like it. That's all. I'm letting go of the labels and just doing and being how I want. Running can become an activity where I don't feel like I am good enough sometimes. I feel that I know so much about it; what is a fast pace, what is a slow pace, what is high mileage. All those little qualifications get stuck in my head and then I start comparing myself to other runners and its all downhill from there. But cycling and yoga I know next to NOTHING about. And it's great! I love being a novice. I have absolutely no expectations for myself, no PRs to look back on, no sense of fast and slow. I leave every session of yoga or time on the bike trainer proud of myself just because I did it.

Admittedly part of my need to always run in some manner had to do with weight. I was constantly concerned that if I stopped running I would gain weight uncontrollably. But that hasn't appeared to happened (I wouldn't know since I no longer weigh myself). Regardless I am really getting over the idea that thinness = the end all be all of life. It's really such a waste of time.

With all this in mind, I am still going to be running in some capacity. I signed up to be a Girls on the Run coach this fall for pre-teen girls in the area! It's fantastic organization that aims to build confidence in young girls through activity. They even made a point in the training to emphasize that they don't care if the girls run, just that they are moving in some way. I know that I spent a lot of time in middle school worrying about being 'cool' and wearing the right clothes and trying to fit in. It would have been really nice to have some activity with friends devoted to confidence building. Especially now since all kids have Facebook and smart phones by age 13 (really, WTF?! I am so so glad Facebook didn't exist for me until college and iphones until graduate school).

Currently I am in NJ with Scott's family relaxing, eating banana whip and doing yoga everyday. And all the yoga here is apparently hot yoga. Holy smokes do you sweat a lot! So who knows maybe I'm on a path to be a spandex-y yoga fanatic. I knew my long arms were useful for something.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ubiquitous Cancer

Sorry for the radio silence - things lately have been a whirlwind; both at work and home. I was in the process of writing a long post about the Hawthorn Half day I participated in a few weekends ago, but in light of recent events it seems insignificant. This past weekend a friend of ours died of cancer. It's been so devastating and impossible to reconcile with the idea of 'right' and 'fair' that we have in our minds. I realize that those concepts are man made and have no meaning in reality.

I met Chelsea almost exactly one year ago. Her and her boyfriend, Alan, have been close friends with Scott for many years, overlapping in both the vegan community and running community. The day I met Chelsea really stands out in my mind because it happened on a day I was experiencing a deep low. I even wrote about it here. I was struggling with depression slowly creeping back over me, tangled up in anxiety and self doubt. This was before I started seeing a therapist again, but that day - simply meeting Alan and Chelsea turned it all around. We saw Alan briefly at an aid station of the ultra he was running. Chelsea was there with their dog to provide support and cheer him on. After Alan departed again, we hung out with Chelsea for a while and I got into quick conversation with her about science, nutrition and our obsessive running partners. She was so easy to talk to, friendly, laughing... all brightness.

I learned later from Scott that Chelsea had survived lymphoma a few years prior. But last fall, as a side effect of the radiation she received - a sarcoma developed. Surgery happened and was quickly followed by chemo, then another chemo when there was no response. Some of her treatment occurred in the hospital adjacent to my research lab so Scott and I were able to visit multiple times. Chelsea remained positive, sarcastic and humorous when we saw her, exactly the same as when I met her last May.

When chemo still didn't illicit a response, she was referred to my own boss's genomics clinic - a new clinical trial where the patients tumor is sequenced to see if there are more targeted medicines that can be used. The amount that my work and personal life overlap is not something I am fond of.

Scott and I were able to visit Chelsea last Thursday, and she still was able to laugh at the socks Scott brought her that said "fuck this shit" and "I don't know, I'm high".

I spent this entire past weekend at work, racing to finish some sequencing we're doing for genetic markers for congestive heart failure, a rare but dangerous side effect that results from the chemotherapy adriamycin. Chelsea received this during her first treatments, and did experience rare heart damaging effects of this drug. I felt angry that science failed her. That technology itself was to blame for the sarcoma. But it also brought everything full circle - though my day to day research might seem insignificant, it ultimately aims to improve the quality of life of patients. Maybe this is just me trying to find meaning when there is none.

I only knew her briefly, but her impact was great. Chelsea - we are going to miss you.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Race Recap: 2015 Cape Cod Ragnar - Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power

Photo cred: Chris Cooney/The Vegan Zombie
Last weekend was a whirlwind. An amazing, fun, exhausting and eye opening whirlwind. I participated in the 2015 Cape Cod Ragnar with a huge group of over 40+ ethical vegans. I was pushed to my limits physically, made tons of new friends and had an experience of a lifetime. But first, what is a Ragnar?

I'd never heard of Ragnar before Scott did his first one in 2013. A Ragnar is a relay race of roughly 200 miles; point-to-point, for a team of 12 runners. Or 6 if you're an ultra team. We had three teams this year for Strong Hearts Vegan Power after the first two years garnered so much interest. Each runner is assigned a number (1-12) which designates which legs they run. The first 6 runners pile in van #1, the last 6 pile in van #2 and once the first runner starts the race is non stop. Someone from your team is running until the race is over. Meaning we run through the night and get very little downtime. I was runner number 3 in my van, so I ran legs 3, 15 and 27. Not all legs are equal distance or difficulty. My legs were 6.3, 4.0 and 9.4 miles, respectively, for a total of 19.7 miles in less than two days.

The aim of running as a team of vegan runners wasn't just to have fun. We organized this to benefit Tamerlaine Farm; an animal sanctuary run by one of the team members. Tamerlaine has rescued dozen of chickens from a Kaparot ceremony (a ceremony in certain Jewish communities where chickens are waved in the air and then slaughtered brutally, this is for some reason still totally legal in NYC), factory farms and school hatching projects. Recently they just welcomed two pigs to their farm and continue to expand. Our team shirts boldly stated "FOR THE ANIMALS" on the back and "VEGAN POWER" on the front. People immediately knew who we were and what we stood for. As someone who has not ever participated in any sort of activism this was thrilling to be a part of.

I was on Team C, van 1 and we started around 8:45 am Friday. I was excited and nervous for the race to start. I knew I could run all those distances, but I'd never done so much consecutively. But excitement really prevailed as there were so many people to meet and stories to share. My van was full of amazing people doing such diverse things. A musician, a nurse, a personal trainer, the owner of Strong Hearts Cafe, the director of the podcast Our Hen House..... seriously amazing people. I was so impressed with how we all have approached veganism in different ways, but shared the same message.

Our run kicked off with Carrie, a personal trainer who had such great enthusiasm and positivity, and happened to be celebrating her birthday. We quickly hoped in the van and drove to the first exchange ahead of her to prepare our second runner. Carrie came in strong and we sent of Michael and headed to the next exchange. Which meant I was up next! Michael's first leg was a shorter one so I didn't have too much time to get nervous, but I did anxiously bounce around at the exchange waiting for him to come in. When he did we had what I would say was the 'perfect slap' (the baton in this was a slap bracelet, a dangerous dangerous slap bracelet) and I was off. I had just over a 10K to cover. It was maybe around 10 am at this time and it was sunny and warm. I felt really strong for the first half of this run that took me along some suburban streets. Eventually the hills started to take a toll on me and I found I slowed down but finished with an over all pace of 8:45/mi for the 6.3. My leg finished on a steep downhill and I passed the slap bracelet to Joel. Ok, first leg done. I was happy to have it out of the way. That last 9.4 mile leg kept jumping to my mind. "Can I do that?" "How can I do that after running all this!?" "I'll be fine." "When will I sleep?"

I caught my breath, jumped back in the van and got interviewed by Jasmin of Our Hen House for their weekly podcast about my experience being a vegan scientist. I'll put the link below - I don't sound too rambly thank god! There is something about living in close quarters with people that turn you into instant family. I was constantly laughing in my van, even when I thought I might pass out from lack of sleep. Our next exchanges went smoothly - much due to the excellent navigation of our driver Molly who always kept her cool. We were never late to an exchange once! When our 6th runner passed off the bracelet to runner 7 (the first runner of van 2) we finally had a good 4 hour break before we needed to start our second legs.

We found a great park on the route and had a picnic lunch. Joel, being a restaurant owner, provided us with a complete gourmet spread of vegan sandwiches and snacks. I had NO complaints about my van placement. Ha. After replenishing calories we all spread out languidly in the park, taking naps, observing wild turkeys, stealing toilet paper from the park bathroom (desperate times people)...Jasmin conducted a few more interviews and I tried to take a small nap in the van. Not too successful.

Before we knew it, it was time for us to start our second leg. We headed over the the exchange point where van 2 would finish and Carrie would start again. By now the sun was going down and we were required to put on all our safety gear. Headlamps, reflective vests, blinkers. It also became surprisingly breezy and cold at this point and I cursed myself for not bringing any sort of blanket or pants. I think it was about this point that I started to get nervous about continuing to run and it being cold. I also felt nervous to run in the dark, even with all the precautions. I am not sure why my anxiety started to get so high at this point - I'll say it was probably due to the accumulating fatigue.

It was dark at this point (maybe around 8 or 9 pm) and I was just not sure of my abilities. Once Michael came in to the exchange and gave me the bracelet I took off with a vengeance. Half to get it over with, half to warm up my body. I knew this leg should be easy. It was 4 miles pretty much all downhill. I told myself to just run it as fast I could so I could try to get some sleep right away. Most of this run was on sidewalks so I really didn't have much to worry about but there were some very dark turns where I would hold up my blinky protectively for cars. This leg was probably the best leg for me since the chill in the air was actually great once I got going. I finished it up with about a 8:40 pace and handed off to Joel again.

Here is really where I think delusion sets in. I think I mostly stayed in the van through the next few exchanges since in my mind I figured any second possible I should try to be sleeping. I didn't know how I was going to run 9.4 miles with little to no sleep in between. How do people do this race?! How do people do ultras?! I don't really recall getting any actual sleep at this point since we were still very on the move. Once our last runner came in for the second time we had a moment to relax. Since it was Carrie's birthday we had a mini celebration with cupcakes from Strong Hearts. I don't think a cupcake has ever tasted so good to me. The sugar was all my body wanted at that point. Pure energy, nothing hard to digest. I then conked out in the backseat of the van for what I guess was 2.5 hours before I had to prepare for my last leg.

Starting my last leg around 5:30 am. Photo cred: Jasmin Singer
I was SO nervous at this point. I felt spent but I had my longest leg to go. I hadn't really eaten much other than cupcakes and lunch seemed so far away. It was still cold out and I couldn't remember that I would warm up while running. I just knew I was cold then and I didn't like it. The sun rose just before I started off my last leg so I was mostly running through the hazy morning air. Michael came into the exchange still looking strong, maybe fatigued, and handed me the bracelet. I took off at a much more reserved pace than my other legs. I knew this leg was just about staying upright. I needed to keep my pace easy and consistent to finish it at all. The cold wind slapped me awake before I knew what was happening and I actually enjoyed those first quiet 3 miles a lot. Pace maintained around 9:05-9:10 and I got to take in some really scenic views of Cape Cod houses and the coast. I slowly passed people - which gave me confidence that I could endure this leg. But then of course; hills. What looked like nothing on the elevation chart proved to be constant undulating hills through these sleepy streets. My next two miles were much slower, but still I felt I had energy in the tank. Once I hit mile 6 and turned onto a paved running path I started to really start feeling fatigue. My left knee started to feel a little too much and it worsened with every step. I knew my form was suffering as I got more and more tired, but I had to keep pushing.

At 1.7 from the finish I was dragging. I had NO more energy in my legs. I couldn't make them turn over any faster. My knee was wobbling. I had given my team estimated pacing of 9-9:30/mi pace. I knew I was well off that now and they were probably wondering where I was. I tried to muster any last reserves here, but it really didn't help that these last two miles were a gradual incline. I tried to pace with an older man that was still trucking but I couldn't keep up. This is what it must feel like to run a marathon or an ultra. Complete energy depletion. In hindsight I should have absolutely taken a gel or calories of some sort with me. I was a good 10-15 minutes off pace at this point so I texted my team to let them know I was having some issues but I was close. Joel, the runner after me, immediately ran out to me with water. He met me at about 0.7 miles to go, and took off on his now extended last leg. I never intended to make him run extra, but from what Jasmin tells me he didn't even hesitate. This is what I mean with my van became family. I shuffled into to exchange point to my teammates and collapsed into the van. I was done. Done running. Such a bittersweet end.

I refueled and started feeling back to normal relatively quickly. It was really just my body saying "No more. We're tired." Our van finished up the final handoff to van 2 and we were DONE! We were now free to head to the finish line and meet up with other team members, some of whom had already finished the whole race. Our Team A was purposefully organized to include the fastest runners so it was more competitive (naturally Scott was on this one) and they ended up coming in third place OVERALL and first in their division. There were over 500 teams and they came in THIRD. Our B team came in a few hours later and our C team (my team) about 1.5 after them. When our last runner crested the hill to the finish and all 40+ of us slowly joined her, until it was a massive mob of vegans. I couldn't have felt more love or pride over my new group of friends. We were so supportive and positive for one another.

And then, the aftermath. So I mentioned before this was the most I'd ever run at one time. It was a new experience for me to feel complete shutdown of my body. Not to mention after effects. I winced every time I got into a car or use stairs. My knee had to be treated with care. But the worst for me was dehydration. When we finally got back to our hotel room I had a massive headache almost to the point of tears (I told you this kind of made me delusional) and could barely eat dinner. All I wanted was a shower and bed. We all fell asleep by 9 pm.

Once those basic needs were met (food, water, sleep, shower) I rejoined the human race. We met up with a group of teammates the following morning for amazing vegan breakfast in Boston and by sheer coincidence - I saw my mom on Mother's day! She happened to be in New Hampshire, a 1 hour drive from Boston that weekend, so I was able to have a brief visit with her and my grandparents.

Last weekend was epic in all meanings of the word. I would do it again in a heartbeat and wish I had more reasons to hang out with this amazing group of people.

Just about everyone before the start. Photo cred: who knows!

Click here to hear my lil' interview on Our Hen House: Episode 279: “Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”

Friday, May 1, 2015

Race Recap: DINO Series 5k, Town Run Trail Run

Town run trail run 2015

Last weekend was another race in the DINO series. We missed the second race at Eagle creek; instead we headed down to brown county for those trails and delicious vegan food. This race was at Town Run - a place I would never know existed were it not for this race. The entrance to the park is an unmarked dirt road turn-off from a busy road filled with big box stores and shopping malls. I was so surprised this was here right under my nose.

Naturally, there was rain the previous night and light drizzle as we got there so the trails were pretty muddy and slick. A considerable improvement over the first race, but as you can see above; still required some caution. The 15K went off first, and then the 5K ten minutes later. Per usual I situated myself a little back from the start line as this was a single track course and I wanted to let as many fast people pass as possible.

The course was really fun; lots of gentle undulating hills and no gnarly roots to worry about. I felt really good for the entire race. Going up hills I felt strong and down I felt like I was about ready to fly. The first mile I spent a lot of time carefully passing people but I finally seemed to find a place that put me mostly by myself. For the entire last half of the race I was coming up on a 9-year old boy who would intermittently sprint and walk. When he'd hear my steps getting close he'd sprint away, then tire a little. I eventually caught him and told him "you're making me work hard! good job." The final stretch of the course snaked up a hill and then popped out of the woods - where the same boy out sprinted me in chute. You win some you lose some. Final time: 29.14. Thank goodness it was under 30 minutes.

I waited around for Scott to finish the 15K where he came in 4th I believe. Once he stopped we quickly realized his knee was bleeding a lot from what he said was a total wipe out. He had mud on his eyelids.

Once the results were posted we found we both came in first place in our age groups, and I was 8th in the women's race. And I set another new trail PR! We spent the rest of the day painting our bedroom and devouring Thai food.

This weekend we are going to spectate the Mini like we did last year and next week is Ragnar!! I can't wait to meet everyone and have a great time running and eating. If you want more info of what a Ragnar is, and why 36 vegans are running it check out our website here:

To the front!