Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why I’m Vegan

My friend, Ranger John, asked me during one of his Dark Forest podcasts in December to explain why I’m vegan. I promised to do that, unfortunately it wasn’t as prompt as I promised! But, being that I am approaching my one year anniversary of veganism, it seems appropriate to share my story. I am going to break this into several different postings because there is a lot of information to share.
Dad, Dick Thompson
Last week Vegetarian Times magazine had a contest on Facebook to win a vegan cookbook by drawing five random answers to the question, “Tell us why you went vegan in 6 words or less.” My entry was this, “Dad, Grandmother blood cancer, ergo vegan.” I didn’t win a cookbook, but my answer sums the impetus of my change to vegan lifestyle. My Dad, Dick Thompson, died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008. He had been in remission for almost three years. His first bout with lymphoma were tumors in one of the sinuses behind his left eye and in the right atrium of his heart (extremely rare). Chemotherapy put him into remission, with the caveat from physicians that remission would only last three years. In just under three years, a different type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma appeared in his brain, also an extremely rare presentation, and proved fatal. My dad’s mother, Grace Arney Thompson, died from leukemia and multiple myeloma in 1987.

Paternal Grandmother, Grace Thompson

Lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma are all blood cancers, originating in the bone marrow or lymphatic tissues and are considered to be related because they involve cells with similar functions and origins. Blood cancers are not generally considered hereditary cancers, however, as noted by Inherited, Families are more likely to have a hereditary cancer syndrome if there are multiple generations of affected family members with the same cancer (or associated cancers).” I haven’t undergone testing for inherited gene mutation for blood cancer—but I found such a strong paternal family history of blood cancer to be alarming.

In 2009, Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski signed House Bill 2420, adding 12 types of cancer to occupational disease presumptions for Oregon career firefighters, including the blood cancers leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This law went into effect January 1, 2010, adding Oregon to just over half of the states to adopt presumptive cancer bills. How compelling must the evidence be to lead lawmakers to adopt such legislation? This was in addition to the fact that year after year, the majority of firefighter Line of Duty deaths in the United States are due to heart attacks (see US Fire Administration).

I didn’t need any more of a wake up call—I can honestly say I was scared! I can’t change my genetics, and while I could change my job, I love being a firefighter and didn’t want to leave it. I started to research cancer risk reduction. February 2010, Mother Superior (my mom) and I took a mother-daughter trip to the Oregon Coast. During the trip, mom shared information she had just read in The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, regarding the impact of the consumption of animal protein on cancer risk. I bought the book and read it in one day, couldn’t put it down. I embarked on a massive personal study of the link between food and cancer and found study after study that pointed toward decreased incidence of all types of cancer with significant reduction or elimination of animal protein consumption. In addition to cancer reduction, a whole foods, plant-based diet was also found to reduce, even reverse Type II (adult onset) diabetes, which my father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandmother were diagnosed with. Other close paternal relatives have been diagnosed as well, including one with Type I (juvenile) diabetes. My father's diabetes was not due to obesity and required insulin injection. The cardiovascular benefits are extremely compelling too, risks of which I have from my maternal genetics (hypertension and hypercholesterolemia). This struck me. In thinking about it, I related it to a car, in that its performance changes based upon thefuel you put in it, in fact, you can kill a car with the wrong fuel (diesel vs. gasoline).

So Mother Superior and I decided to try it. At the same time, Gresham Fire promoted a voluntary program called PHLAME (Promoting Healthy Living: Assessing More Effects)  that I and my station crew decided to participate in, which included dietary study and changes, as well as health screening and fitness assessment. It was a perfect storm, of sorts, for dietary and lifestyle changes for me.
The next blog will cover the Science Behind Vegan Diet

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week 2 Recap

Unfortunately I didn't get quite as much training in this week, not really sure why... I ended up being on vacation the whole time, and maybe my brain thought I was on training vacation as well. Whatever it was, I'm back in the saddle saddle!

I did, however, get a few road cycle rides in, thanks to one of my brakes seizing up on my car!! We finally had some sunshine and it was wonderful to be on the bike outside again, though a little chilly at 35 degrees during my morning ride from Les Schwab to home.

I have been rounding up training resources, however. I attended a Portland Triathlon Club Newbie Coffee Hour in North Portland and met some great people, mostly women, varying from newbie to several full Ironman tri experience. The majority were from the westside of Portland, but will be great to ride with them occasionally for different scenary. Did meet one woman from Vancouver who had been a competitive swimmer at Purdue, which will be a great resource for my swim training; she is interested in cycling together.

I contacted the Tornadoes Swim Team, a competitive swim team in Vancouver that has Masters Swim practices. They have a couple people they are working with for tri training; I'm waiting to hear back from their coach on working into the training program. I'm very psyched about that!

Also found the Vancouver Run Club meetup and Clark County Running Club for some running groups. I've been inspired to look for running clubs by my friend, Manager John, who has been Twittering and Facebooking about the club runs he's been doing in the other Vancouver (BC) in his marathon prep. I really don't like to run alone, doesn't feel safe to me, especially on trail runs, which I love, so it will be nice to have people to go with and will get me to different places I might not know of or go alone to otherwise.

During the PTC Newbie Coffee Hour, I met Bonnie Crawford, who totally amazed me. Check out her blog at and read her story. Very inspiring!

So, this week is off and rolling. Have my workouts set up for the week. I have found that interspersing Zumba (which I love and look forward to) seems to be a great incentive for me, and gives me some cross-training from the running, cycling, and swimming and a great workout.

So here's how I think this week's workouts will shape out...

Monday: Zumba
Tuesday: 5K Run
Wednesday: AM Swim, focusing on treading water drill, breathing drill, and beginning swim drill (Warm up 4x25m, Main Set: 4x25m, Cool down: 50m. Boot camp PM.
Thursday: Yoga
Friday: 3K run and rest
Saturday: Maybe Boot camp (see how I recover from Wednesday!!)
Sunday: 12-15 mile road cycle with Christine

I feel like I'm totally forgetting something, but dunno! Seems like enough!

I've added more links to my page, including some on nutrition for vegan athletes. Check'em out!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Great First Week!

Well it has been a busy and productive first week of Tri training! I was reflecting on it today while sitting in the car getting the oil changed, wishing I had my laptop with me so I could capture my stream of consciousness at the time...

24 Hour Fitness was a great decision for me. Working out with my friend Donna has also been a great move. Having a place and a partner helps me motivated and helps battle whatever excuses I could come up with to not train, i.e. it's too rainy or dark or cold to run or cycle outside, etc. Besides that, the classes have been great and have introduced a lot of variety into my training other than running, cycling, and swimming.

Speaking of swimming...I realized this week during my pooltime that I have no idea how to do the swim training! This is probably why I didn't actually do any swim training last year in my Tri prep, I just didn't admit it before. I have a plan, however, to fix this. I purchased a book, The Triathlete's Guide to Swim Training, by Steve Tarpinian; apparently I'm not the only person with this issue. It has a lot of information for the beginner triathlete and great training plans. And, as luck would have it, a member of PTC (Portland Triathlon Club) is hosting a Newbie Coffee Hour at their home Saturday, so I should get some good information and guidance there. I'm really looking forward to this newbie meeting since I got sleeted out of the monthly PTC meeting last week.

So last week's stats, 5 training days, 2 rest days (my body made sure I got those rest days, believe me), included running, swimming, weight training, Zumba (way fun), yoga, and Boot Camp (way, way, way intense and a butt kicker). And....I've lost seven pounds! I'm not posting all the training details because they are all logged on my Facebook page from MyFitnessPal updates.

Lastly, I've also been working on my personal energy/spirituality, which I think is an essential part of this. I attended a wonderful experiential class last night that focused on being present and mindful with yourself, so important, and so often missed. In fact, as I layed on the floor breathing, feeling my heart beat, I wondered why I didn't take the time to do that more, time for my self. And I don't mean time for myself, the time spent busily doing things for me, but time for my SELF, my soul, my energy. It was an important realization for me, something I will work on more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Plan....or, planning to plan!

I am now a member of 24 Hour Fitness! There is a beautiful facility exactly 3 miles from my house, close enough for me to run or bike to, and it's on the way to (and from) work. I haven't signed up before because I have been able to exercise by running and biking just fine, adding P90X and yoga for floor work....however I don't own a swimming pool, and this club does! I thought about just joining one of the several City of Vancouver swimming facilities, but they are further away, and frankly, I thought it would be too easy to avoid that way!

Besides, my friend Donna, who has been training for bodybuilding competition, goes here, and what better motivation than a gym nazi workout partner?

So I did a Zumba class the first night, and WOW loved it! Salsa dancing + aerobics = heaven! Today will be Yoga and 10K treadmill run.

Tonight, barring snow, I will head to Portland to the Triathlon Club meeting. I'm really hoping it won't snow, ready to get this show on the road, meet new people to help, get training plans, ideas, etc.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Date is Set...Iron Girl Triathlon June 26, 2011!!

So I did it! I signed up.

It's not the first triathlon I've signed up for, that was last year, but this will be the first one I actually complete! It's not that I probably couldn't have done the Girlfriends and Dudes Tri in July, I mean, I'd been running and cycling, and how hard could it have been to swim the Columbia River downstream in a wetsuit--I could have floated down the course if I was tired! But a major life change in the midst of training got into my head, and as I've realized, running is as much, if not more, of a head thing as a body thing.

So I'm dusting off Slow Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams for a reread. Posted a request for a training partner in Vancouver on the Portland Triathlon Club group and have had a couple of replies to respond to. Will head to the Tri club meeting the 11th for more support.

So what have I done to train so far? Well, I've painted the downstairs and upstairs Hey, it's got to help...I broke out in a sweat even! Seriously, I'm doing some research on a training plan and hope to get started Monday. No, I am not procrastinating, I am preparing for battle!

Excited to add my first triathlon to my 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathon, Muddy Buddy, Portland Bridge Pedal, and Portland to Coast accomplishments. Have some other adventure races on my mind for this year so stay tuned!