April Vacation & Ocean Plastic

In Maine for April Vacation!

The weather is, uh… well it’s only snowed once up here. It’s good to be at the ocean any time of year, and with a cold wet spring like this one, t-shirt weather in May (MAY, New England, NOT JULY) will feel even more joyous. Like how good it feels to stop running after a half marathon. Without the half marathon, stopping isn’t so special.

That t-shirt weather is going to feel pretty special this year.

I’ve fit in a couple workouts despite vacation week. Turns out my kids are more than happy to hang out and watch me do treadmill intervals if it means iPad time. If they’re going to have some screen time anyway, I might as well get my miles in while they do it!

The storms and high waves this week brought up more than the usual amount of trash onto our beach – and larger things. I hauled not one, but two dilapidated lobster traps out of the ocean Wednesday morning. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me after reading “Maine Voices: A million lost lobster traps wash debris ashore” in the Portland Press Herald.


Part of the trouble with lobster traps is that they continue catching lobsters and other marine life after a storm yanks them from their lobster buoys.

But another problem is the plastic parts all over the traps. As I learned watching A Plastic Ocean, plastic doesn’t break down in the ocean so much as it breaks up. The corrosive salt water, sun, and wave action breaks plastic pieces like the lobster trap door and all the pieces of plastic holding the metal sides together, into small pieces. Those pieces are porous, and chemicals and toxins stick to their surfaces. Marine animals eat the plastic and if the accumulating plastic in their stomachs doesn’t kill them, sometimes the toxins on the plastic will.

Read this 2016 article from CNN about albatross dying from stomachs loaded with plastic. It’s devastating.

Not only that, if you and your loved ones are eating sea creatures, you’re consuming the toxins that are attached to the plastic they’re eating and accumulating in their fatty tissues. Mercury isn’t the only concern when it comes to seafood anymore. NPR wrote an article about How The Plastic In the Oceans Is Contaminating Your Seafood.

It’s scary stuff if you’re a parent feeding your kids what you’ve been told is “brain food”.

How can you help?

Well, this isn’t going to be very popular with some of my fellow Mainers, but eat less lobster (and less seafood in general) for one. Maine has plenty of delicious foods besides lobster. Try a vegan potato based donut at the Holy Donut, pick blueberries in season at one of the many beautiful pick-your-own farms, or get Maple Syrup at a tapping party. Or maybe you want to try some Maine seaweed – there’s an ocean product that’s not part of the plastic-eating food chain!

You can also help keep plastic out of the ocean by refusing single-use plastic items. Say no-thanks to straws, bring your own water bottle and reusable bags, and try to buy bulk foods that aren’t sold wrapped in plastic.

And if you see trash on the beach, why not bring a bucket and pick it up? My mom fills buckets and buckets with trash all year round on the beach. I have no doubt that she has single-handedly hauled a dumpster’s worth of trash off the beach where it won’t wash back into the oceans. She’s a hero, and she had the sand between her toes and the scent of the ocean surrounding her when she did it. (It can be a good gig.)

Now, the traps don’t fit in a bucket, so I reached out to the local police station who put me in touch with their Marine Resource Officer so we can try to get these off the beach before they wash back in.

That helps, too.

Round-Up: Contradictory Articles on When to Foam Roll

Because… Monday.

Wait, it’s Tuesday.

Out of curiosity, I decided to research when I should be foam rolling. Before? After? Directly after? Hours later? There’s plenty of contradicting advice out there, and not many articles cite their sources. Where’s the data? Who took a group of runners and had them foam roll before or after or several hours after and then followed their rates of injury, recovery time, and performance? The expert being quoted, what studies have they read, or does their expertise consist of anecdotal evidence from clients enjoying a placebo effect because they want it to be working?

Time magazine did the best job of citing research studies in its article about foam rolling. If you have time for one article, it was the most informative and interesting.

But while reading a lot of articles that say slightly different things might seem like an exercise in frustration, it’s helpful to look for common themes. All these articles agreed that foam rolling can be beneficial, that good posture using the foam roller is important to prevent injury, that rolling too hard (think pain instead of discomfort) is not helpful, and that you shouldn’t roll out your lower back because you can cause injury.

And most articles admitted that there might be different benefits to rolling before or after your workout.

When you read just one article on a topic there’s a chance you’re reading an outlier and if you read five more articles the information in the first would contradict the general consensus. That’s fine if it’s a ground-breaking article that adds important new research to the body of information and is going to actually shift the consensus… it’s not so good if the article is written by an “expert” somewhere with a controversial opinion that isn’t based on a wealth of evidence.

I found the same thing when reading parenting books. Rather than feeling frustrated by the contradictions, I felt empowered by the amount of consensus I found.  The contradictions offered me flexibility in areas where positive outcomes had been demonstrated from a variety of different parenting techniques.

So when you have a question, like “when should I foam roll” maybe it’s not such a bad thing to read a variety of articles to get a feel for where there’s agreement vs. where people just aren’t sure and perhaps you should see what works best for you. (And what the definite NOs are so you can avoid injury.)

And if you read something “groundbreaking” make sure you check out the research behind it so you’re confident there’s ample evidence of the benefits and low risk of injury before you go out and ice your calves to the point of frost-bite or overhydrate on a run.

Happy truth-seeking!

Will with my orange foam roller in the background.

Foam Roll Before:

Foam Rolling? Do It Right By Avoiding These 10 Mistakes from Runner’s World

Should I Foam Roll Before or After a Workout? from Outside Online

Foam Roll At Bedtime:

The Right Time to Foam Roll from Men’s Health

Both or Either:

Should I Be Foam Rolling Before My Workout Instead of After? from Women’s Health

You Asked: Should I Use a Foam Roller? from Time Magazine

Articles About Foam Rolling That Tell You Everything Else You’re Doing Wrong But Not When to Do It:

5 Foam Rolling Mistakes to Avoid from Huffington Post

The 4 Mistakes You’re Making When Foam Rolling from Runners Connect

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Snow Day Traditions

I grew up in Maine, and we had our share of snow days. Back then you had to listen to the radio or watch the scrolling cancellations at the bottom of your television to find out if there was school. I remember lying in my bed listening carefully for the G’s, on red alert after they said “Gardiner”, hoping Gorham would be next.

On snow days we liked to start the day on the couch in pajamas drinking hot chocolate watching Kevin Mannix discuss how much snow we were going to get. If he was wearing a sweater, it meant it was a serious storm.

Nostalgia has me wondering what my kids’ memories will be.

Which snow day rituals will stand out?

They love snow days so much it’ll be hard for them to pick.

And I love little rituals that make life feel special, so we’ve given them a lot to choose from.

I love bringing them to the library the day before an anticipated snow day so there’s plenty of new reading material.

I love telling them they can wear their pajamas all day on snow days… even if a friend comes over.

I love watching them play outside, and going for a family walk down the snowy street on the snow days when Greg is home.

I love watching family documentaries together in the afternoon (Blue Planet II is amazing), or building a fire and playing crazy eights, spoon, or 21 while Greg and I enjoy a nice bottle of wine.

I’m oddly bad at remembering to make hot chocolate.

All these rituals give my kids something to look forward to for snow days beyond “no school”. Snow days aren’t just exciting for them because of the absence of rushing out the door in the morning or sitting through writer’s workshop. Snow days mean the presence of all these beautiful and fun family events that they look forward to.

And the more library visits, pajama mornings, snow forts and afternoon card games we have… the more likely it is that those will be their cherished and beloved snow day memories.

Like our peaceful mornings growing up cuddled on the couch watching the snow fall while Kevin Mannix made projections in his sweater.

Long Run Drama

I stood in the kitchen decked out in my running gear wiping away tears and trying to explain why I was crying.

I was about to head outside for a long run, my longest run outdoors since 2016.

It needed to go well.

I’ve been bored on the treadmill. Inconsistent. Frustrated with the competition between my memory of me as a runner with the reality of me as a returning runner.

The only way I could get myself to put in three miles on the treadmill the other day was by playing games with myself to see how high I could get the built-in heart rate monitor. 198 BPM. Running at 8.1 mph on the treadmill for 55 seconds at 2% incline did the trick. I drowned out the voice reminding me that this was slower than Greg’s marathon pace. (Just kidding, I didn’t drown it out, I saved it for my next blog post.)

If you’re a cardiologist or other heart or fitness expert I’m curious to know whether this game is even a good idea.

So there I was, in the kitchen, feeling like this was a critical run because I needed outside to be the magical cure for my running rut. Greg, ever fantastic, carefully herded me out the door with the right combination of reassurance, empathy, and podcast recommendations. A tricky exercise, getting a nervous runner who is crying in your kitchen to leave for their run. I’ve never had to do it. He even mapped out two routes for me and talked pros and cons while carefully pretending he wasn’t aware that this was yet another procrastination tactic.

I chose the second route. (More scenic.)

I ended up listening to The Gun Show, a fascinating history of the NRA and how it essentially got taken over in a coup in the seventies to become the political monster it is today. It was fascinating. I already said that. I think anyone who lives in the United States should give it a listen. (And it’s not a hard political sell on anything, it’s just what it says, a history.) https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/gun-show/

There were moments when I wondered if I should be listening to the calm, dulcet tones of Rich Roll (a long run podcast staple of past years) but some of his episodes are more intriguing than others, and with a long-form style you need to surf for the ones that are most interesting to you. So Sean Rameswaram it was.

You’re wondering how the run went. (I hope.)

It was great.

It was slow, but it was STEADY. No long agonizing walking breaks of defeat. No cramping. No wardrobe failures.

By mile 6 my legs felt that overall fatigue I remember from so many long runs in the past, which made me feel like I was really doing it – I was getting back into half marathon training. This is what I remembered.

I ran 8 miles, putting me back on track to hit 6 or so 10+ mile runs to prepare for the Maine Coast Half Marathon in May. The last time I ran the Maine Coast Half it was an utter disaster because I’d been triathlon training and I thought I could wing it. One does not “wing” a half marathon. (Or at least I certainly don’t.)

So.

Here I am. I got back outside, and I ran for 8 miles, and it was beautiful and not boring and then I came home and Greg had taken the kids grocery shopping, poured me a beer, and made lunch.

Nothing to cry about.

The struggle is real. That run doesn’t look like much on paper, especially compared to past years. But it broke through an emotional barrier I hadn’t realized existed until I stood in the kitchen surprised at myself for tearing up over an upcoming run.

If 8 twelve minute miles in a row are what it takes to get my confidence back, so be it.

Because with confidence, I can move forward.

After I have this beer.

 

We made our own soy milk and tofu!

I love tofu, and I mean love. Not to be a stereotypical vegan, but it’s one of my favorite foods. It’s warm and satisfying and a beautiful palate for whatever flavors you throw at it.

It’s good in a creamy tomato spinach sauce. Or Jerk style. It is delicious covered in a peanut-y pad thai sauce. Or just marinate it in your favorite BBQ sauce or a light combo of maple syrup, tamari and apple cider vinegar and bake it to go into sandwiches.

It’s delicious.

But it’s sold in a plastic carton or package, and my soy milk comes in cartons… I wonder how many our family consumes in a year, and what the waste we create looks like? I wonder how recycleable those cartons are. Our town won’t recycle the soft plastic anymore.

So I decided we should try making our own!

It’s work, but a lot of it is hands off. The first step is actually homemade soy milk – you can’t make your own tofu from most store-bought soy milks because the additives prevent it from separating into curds and whey.

Will this replace our store-bought tofu and soy milk? I can’t imagine it will… but just like my homemade bread occasionally reduces our bread purchases, this is a fun way to reduce our use of plastics and make a food staple from scratch.

Andrew loved helping!

Here’s a video of the process that I created on Instagram:

 

You can find a lot of helpful instructions online, including this recipe from ChefSteps and this Huffington Post How-To.

Wondering what to do with leftover Okara? This Okara “Crab Cakes” recipe was recommended to me by someone in the Zero-Waste Vegans Facebook Group. Yup, that’s a group. There seems to be a Facebook group for everything! They can be an incredible resource for crowd-sourcing information and solutions from like-minded people. (Especially well-moderated ones that maintain a positive atmosphere.) I’ve gotten great tips from Plant-Powered Families, a FB group created by Dreena Burton, and I’m in some running groups and a local group for my town as well. (Coyote sightings, where to find the best pizza… it’s a source of fabulous info.)

I hope you are having a fabulous Monday, and that if there’s something in your life that’s been bugging you, you can find a solution!

Cheers, to home-made tofu.

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