Vegan Powered Marathon

My First [?] Marathon

Unlike other people who have firm goals or charitable responsibilities to running the absurd distance of 42.195 KM, I really didn’t. In my ignorance, it appeared to be a realistic goal for someone who just started running. I didn’t even like running much.

I began by running the 10 KM Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer race back in Spring. It was full of the elderly and the young, infirm and pregnant. At this race, running had been dressed up with pink balloons and hip-hop music. It seemed fun and carefree.

It was pleasant and the temperature cool, so I figured, why not run more than four times that amount in one go? How hard could it be? Especially for someone who just started running and achieved more height than distance in every step? I didn’t properly understand what it took to run a marathon. That the training and nutrition would be on my mind all day everyday and that sunburn and chaffed arms would become a part of my life.

I truly thought that if I could run 10 KM in under an hour then I could run 42 KM in 4 hours, right?

Throughout the four months of training I had a lot of people ask about my nutrition. It’s true that friends only ask about your protein intake when you’re a vegan, because secretly they think I only eat lettuce and cabbage [Fortunately there are plenty of people debunking the protein myth savvyvegetarianVeganhealth]. I never had a problem getting adequate nutrition in my 4 years of being vegan nor during my training. For vegan inspiration or assistance I would sometimes visit No Meat Athlete or read general running magazines.

On Sunday September 9th, after tubes of vaseline, weeks of 6am starts and hours trying to get my blasted sensor to work (‘walk around to activate your sensor’ !!!) I did it.

For the disbelievers I provide evidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overly enthusiastic pre-run power stretch on the left and exhausted smile on the right.

Wearing those sunglasses the entire run left a bright white imprint across my nose. Note to self: next time wear waterproof sunscreen or run with an umbrella.

Play-by-play action

-0:15   Group stretch to PSY’s Gangnam Style completed, I eagerly jogged to the start line with a thousand others who were also bouncing up and down with anticipation. There were speeches. They were boring. I stood by myself towering above the other, almost all male, Korean runners. It suddenly got real. I’d already began reaping the accolades of praise and I’d made Dave spend his entire weekend on public transport so that I could do this ridiculous race. Now I had to run it.

0:00   Some guy, somewhere yelled “GO” then brightly colored smoke was visible above the power lines. I turned up my music, took a long calm breath and began to plod along with the others in slow motion, through the banners and towards the Demilitarized Zone, the 38th parallel between North and South Korea.

2 KM    They always say to ease yourself  into the start, don’t exhaust yourself too quickly. Well – I was sprinting. It was a PR of 4.54 per KM which is insane for an inexperienced marathon runner. At 2 KM, an old-timer (who was overtaking me at the time) suggested I slow down. I hadn’t even checked my brand new runners watch  when I quickly realized he was right. I was so caught up that I followed the ‘actual runners’. This was good in that I’d already made great progress and hey, every KM counts. But I became thoroughly discouraged as I fell back and had throngs of people overtake me.

3 KM   The 1/2 marathon runners began passing me by even though they had started 10 minutes later than I.

4 KM   A guy with a jump-rope, I kid you not, overtook me all the while jumping through the damn rope. I never saw him again.

5 KM – 10 KM   I had expected this to be the easiest part, and it was, in part due to my crankingheavywildfuntunes and the clusters of military men cheering us on. Every 800m or so a few dozen Korean soldiers in full dress would hoot and enthusiastically holler, “Fighting” or “Run, Run, Run”!! It was a good time to smile and embrace it all. As a foreign tattooed woman running solo, they responded particularly well to a high-five or reciprocal “Fighting!”. Their presence also prevented any walking which in hindsight was also good as I may have turned around and started running back.

12 KM   I saw a 50 year old in tightly wedged black spandex. This was new to me. I could actually see the bottom of her cheeks wobble with every stride. I don’t mean to critisise older bottoms (all women are beautiful), but with 50 years up your sleeve you may have spent 2 mins looking at your behind in the mirror before you decided that ‘exposed’ would be your marathon look. That said, I learned a lesson in what not to wear.

~13 KM   I ran through the massive old gates announcing my entrance to the DMZ. The entry checkpoint was manned with armoured guards intensely watching us bounce and smile with excitement. It must have been a strange sight to onlookers.

14 KM   Suffered high-five failure at the hands of Korean soldiers obviously taking their job too seriously for funny running antics. I liked the hooting and hollering kids from the start of race better.

17 KM   Ate half a mooncake at the pitstop, took another half for when I went around the corner so that fewer people would see me stuff my face and considered putting a third in my shorts for later. I didn’t.

18 KM   In the flow of things I began to take in the scenery. The path was a paved road around a town whose industry was rice, rice rice. The landscape was beautiful, an assortment of greens, vibrant and diverse. Wild Chinese herons were everywhere and the mountains in the distance where stunning. The sky was overcast (perfect) and the temperature a cool 20-23˚C. Pretty lucky for a first timer.

21 KM   Halfway point. OMG what was I thinking, I’m only halfway?

23 KM  I began living for the sign posts. Yeah yeah the scenery was beautiful and I was technically running through a war zone, but all I wanted was water. Roughly every 2 KM there was a sign daring us to make it another 200m to the oasis. What was thoroughly depressing was having to suppress the urge to gulp from the ice-bucket and instead sip 1/2 half a cup of cool clear heaven juice.

25 KM    My chest was heaving, my knees were in agony and I was greedily eyeing the cop-out van which enticingly cruised beside me. It probably suspected I would soon give-in any moment or worse, collapse.

27 KM   I turned my earphones to full volume thinking an assault on another part of my body may distract from the joint pain.

30 KM   I had been visualizing a balloon in my chest. As I inhaled I was inflating the balloon to its full capacity and then exhaling it until it was a shriveled piece of limp plastic. It was blue. I don’t know where I came up with this idea or why, but it appeared to keep me focused and reminded me to breathe. No matter that having said balloon in my lunges would’ve seriously impeded my running.

33 KM   Then I found a running buddy. I’m actually quiet a dick when it comes to running with others, the only exception being if they’re a good friend who runs at the same pace. If not, forget it. I find it difficult to chat with people when I’m working so hard on keeping my balloon blue, especially if they’re not huffing and puffing like I am. I begin to resent them for not be exhausted like me. If they run slower than me, I suddenly decide that I’m taking the racing aspect of the marathon seriously and they’re holding me back.

My running bud was of the former and what made it worse was that he, like I, had never run a marathon before. But unlike me, he swore he DID NOT TRAIN. He said he’d run 10KM the week before which was the longest he’d ever run. He had never heard of gel caps and wasn’t coated in vaseline like my shimmering bod was. Not fair, I say.

37 KM   I gobbled my 3 and 4th Tylenol and drank too much water. I could hear it slashing around in my tummy.

39 KM   I had decided at 22 KM that I needed a fabulous reward for all this movement so I decided to buy myself a gold watch. Absurd and overly lavish , I don’t need it and can’t afford it. Yet by 39 KM, I wasn’t just thinking it, I was saying it aloud with some profanity as enthusiasm.

40 KM   It actually felt like I was falling forward and not running. My torso was leading while my legs were (only just) able to catch me from falling. It’s the running style I fondly refer to as the ‘heavy breasted’

41 KM   Coca-cola! Hallelujah! Not something I would regularly drink but OMG was I grateful for that corrosive black sugar.

41.5 KM   I became so powerful that last KM that I actually broke into a sprint. I became emotional at seeing the finishing line, both relieved that it existed and that I had completed the whole marathon without cheating or getting shot.

42.195KM   Falling on Dave at the finish line, I was especially overjoyed to have finished  before a troop of heavily tattooed army recruits. Although I hardly had the energy to make it to the sidelines.

Highlights

  • Fancy medal on a bright green ribbon saying I ‘finished’ the marathon. I will be wearing it all week.
  • Being overtaken by a guy running while jumping rope.
  • Waiting for the countdown and getting a suspicious back rub from my neighbour.
  • Octopus-head-wearing-runner (damn that must’ve been hot!)
  • At the midway point, a Korean drum band playing us on although I suspect less enthusiastically then they had an hour earlier.
  • Finishing the whole thing without cheating and the bragging rights that go with it.

Low-points

  • My expectation of ‘running in the DMZ’ was that I’d be running next to wild deer, storks and squirrels like some Disney film. Didn’t happen.
  • Sharing a portaloo with male athletes, the less said on that the better.
  • Really really stiff and sore legs the day after.
  • I did not lose a single kilogram / pound / gramme. Nada.

According to the sophisticated shoe tracking device my official time was 4h 35m. I’m happy with that considering my goal was to not-die.

Will I run another race? Probably, but not another marathon as they’re pretty time-consuming and sore. Plus watching me use the handrail to move up and down stairs provides too much entertainment for my friends.

Bravo to all runners. You’ve got guts!

 

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Healthy Savory Muffins

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You’re going to love this one. A filling, nutritious and delicious low-fat muffin. There’s no added sugar, oil or soy and all flavors are natural. Impressed yet? It’s a full-meal muffin which I’ve been eating most days as a quick … Continue reading

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Disturbing Suicide Food

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Disturbing Suicide Food I recently discovered this term, having noticed the illogical trend a long time ago. Suicide food is the sickening practice of advertising animal meat by displaying pictures of animals self mutilating, eager to be eaten or wide-eyed at the … Continue reading

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This Has A Happy Ending

This Has A Happy Ending

Kittens for sale (as pets or meat?) at Busan market. 

For whatever reasons, animals in South Korea are not treated with the respect or kindness they deserve. You could argue that in most countries animals are subjected to excruciating pain in the name of food or entertainment. But it has been my experience in Korea that cats and dogs are deliberately beaten, tortured and even poisoned in a culture which is still new to the concept of animal welfare.

The popularity of keeping pets has risen, as a sign of affluence and as a marker of fashion.  Unfortunately so to has the number of abandoned and mistreated cats and dogs. The dissociation between cute kittens or puppies from the long-term commitments of their care has never been so prevalent. The neighbourhoods of Korea are home to an abundance of wild cats and their litters. More than once I have seen dogs tied to lampposts abandoned by their owners. In one case a sign offered him to anyone who’d take him. The sad reality is that it’s not uncommon for stray dogs to be sold into the dog meat trade.

So it will come as no surprise to hear that the government has insufficient methods to control these problems. Government pounds receive funds according to the number of animals they euthanize. I’ve been told it is 200,000 won per animal but I have no evidence. However, I do have it on good authority that due to overcrowding and finances animals are routinely killed before their one month ‘expiration date’. The month is supposed to give families the chance to find their lost pets. Add to this the lacklustre Animal Protection Act 2011 which to date has not prosecuted a single case of animal abuse, although significant evidence has been presented (such as the case of a dog being dragged to its death behind a moving vehicle). It is clear that animal welfare has a long way to go.

But good things are being done by amazing people to help these animals. No-kill animal sanctuaries care for the homeless and unadoptable, groups organize successful catch-and-neuter programs on public grounds and then there are the small stories of regular people doing amazing things. All three of these stories came to a happy conclusion in the past week.

Disco Kitten

This kitten has no name. Walking home from a night out, I heard a quick fire, high pitch, distress mew from a baby cat. The echo of the sound had me looking up at the 15-storey high medical building when I almost stood on a tiny ginger kitten on the stairwell. Through adrenaline and instinct he scattered up the stairs and under the tiniest gap in some shrubs. He was no more than 4 weeks old.

Having played this scenario before we went into action. David sought clean water and wet cat food while I monitored the surrounding environment. We lost visual contact but continued to hear the mews. leaving the food, we decided to visit in the morning.

The kitten had chosen an unlikely stronghold, little more than a square meter of grass on a busy street corner. Above was a pharmacy and 15 floors of hospital and below was an all-night singing bar. Oddly, when we visited in the morning we could clearly see cardboard hiding behind a sign acting as a bed and next to it a second foreign water bowl. Someone else had been caring for this kitten.

It wasn’t until that evening that the mystery was solved. The kitten remained but had some friends. Two korean women approached me when I attempted to put food out. The younger wore braces and a wheelchair. She informed me that they had been watching the cat for several nights, in shifts, and were trying to coax him out. They had already rescued his three siblings from the fate which befell their mother – poison. “Bad men” she said, and pointed to the apartments nearby. I understood.

I chose to focus on the very good that the women were doing and not the bad. Having seen the need to help an animal, even though it was difficult and thankless, they had taken it upon themselves to rescue this kitten and others.

Little Lady Yeorum

Jaye and Yeorum meet                                  Salome and Yeorum say farewell 

Salome found ” Yeorum” (Summer in Korean) when she was 9 weeks old, living in front of a store in Daeyeon. The owners of the store said she was damaging their clothes with her claws and that they couldn’t keep her in the house. They wanted to get rid of her but couldn’t find her a home so they kept her in a cage outside instead. The cage gave her room to move around, but the isolation and heat (32˚C 96˚F) was far from ideal. The truth is that Yeorum is a very sweet kitten, but like all kittens needs to play and be taught how to behave.

Salome took her to the vet where Yeorum was treated for parasites. Next she began a online campaign to find her a home.  Then Jaye came along. New to Busan, Jaye helped us celebrate a birthday one Saturday night.  When the conversation turned to animals and Jaye expressed her fondness for cats and desire to live with them – the room went quiet and eyes turned to Salome.  They talked for ages on Yeorum’s situation and the very next day, Yeorum found a new home with Jaye. They are both adorable.

 Jack – The Pot Bellied Beagle

Jack and John, his temporary caregiver

Beagles are known for their smarts and Jack is no exception. One day after school I stopped to say hello to a group of kids with a puppy. I asked whose he was and no one knew. After an exhaustive effort talking to shop owners we got a tip to visit a local vet . A 13-year-old student named Jay came with me to the vet.

We learned that Jack had escaped from the pound, a 10 minute cab ride away, and that we  should return him so he could be euthanized. Not likely. The vet looked him over. At 7-months-old he had alopecia, scabies, fleas, ticks and ear mites. My husband Dave joined us soon after, and although he had better things to do and had routinely spent large sums of money to help animals, he didn’t blink when I said I wanted to help. Jack began treatment. The vet was kind enough to lend us a cage for the next 5 weeks for free and my student stayed the entire 1 1/2 hours to ensure Jack was okay.

We have three other pets, all strays, and couldn’t risk bringing Jack home for fear of contamination. I called on good friends John and Erica who said ‘yes, we’ll take him’ even with all his nasties. John and Erica work longer hours than most and live in a smallish apartment with no air con. But they still said yes. 4 weeks and $US400 later Jack was healthy and significantly bigger. In comes Salome with her amazing connections and out goes Jack to Seoul with an excited Landi who takes him home on the KTX.

These people disrupted their busy lives to help animals. They travel long distances, cut short holidays, wake early and clean uncountable muddy footprints to secure them good homes. Stories like these restore my faith in humanity.

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Basic Vegan Nutrition

Basic Vegan Nutrition

I just had to share these brilliant vegan infographics with you. They are succinct and informative. Thanks PETA

 

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Top Tofu Marinade

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Top Tofu Marinade Time Prep: Overnight         Actual 1- 1 1/2 hour  Ingredients 5 tbsp rice vinegar 3 tbsp light soy sauce 2 tbsp dark soy sauce 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp granulated sugar 3/4 tsp chili paste 1 … Continue reading

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Hot Hot Summer

{Vegan} Patbingsu Recipe

It’s been a scorcher of a week here in Haeundae, Busan. The mornings are usually a little overcast at 28˚C with remnants of the evening’s breeze. This is when it is safe to leave the shade for all of two hours until at 10am when KAPOW it’s 31˚C or even 34˚C. Retreat to a cafe, to your apartment or even a karaoke bar to escape the unnaturally hot hot Summer.

Korean people have the right idea. They’ve come up with a cool dessert which costs pennies to make and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Here’s how you do it..

Time: 15 minutes   Serves: 1

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of solid ice

2 tablespoons of sweet red beans

2 tablespoons of sweet rice cake (see below)

1/2 cup of chopped fruit – I recommend pineapple, cherries and watermelon.

1/4 cup of soymilk

1/4 frozen coconut milk

These rice cakes are about the size of your thumb print and are covered in a powdered sugar to give a sweet taste. They are specifically designed for patbingsu and can be bought in South Korean supermarkets or any Asian market. 

Directions

TIP: I suggest you prepare the ingredients before you begin as you’ll want to eat the patbingsu immediately, before the ice melts.

1. Using an ice-shaver or sturdy blender, grind the ice into a small bowl.

2. Add a splash of soy milk and the frozen coconut milk. Frozen coconut milk acts as a vegan whipped cream or in this case a condensed milk substitute.

3. Spoon on the red beans, the fruit and sprinkle the rice cake. Add a spoon and prepare for an ice-cream headache.

Alter proportions and fruits to accommodate your taste. If you want to replace the soy milk with coconut milk it will taste great too. Stay cool.

 

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Delicious Tempeh Salad with {Vegan} Mayo

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 Delicious Tempeh Salad with {Vegan} Mayo I adapted this recipe from Food.com while looking for different ways to use tempeh. I’ll admit that I’m new to using this nutty brick – high in iron with a protein kick. The texture is … Continue reading

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Berry Grunts

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Berry Grunts  Time: 40 mins                      Serves: 4 individual or one mega monster Berry Filling
 4 cups fresh / frozen blueberries or strawberries ¾ cups raw sugar 1 tbsp. lemon juice … Continue reading

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Cruelty- Free Vegan Nail Polish

For me, Summer has always led to longs days at the beach and drinking cocktails on rooftop’s, barefoot and in sunglasses. So it’s in Summer that I’m most likely to pamper my toes (an otherwise neglected body part) and consider the shades they’re sporting.

Thanks to a variety of vegan nail polish colours made by cruelty-free companies, there are endless options available. This seasons palette appears to be inspired by the bright-hot-pop colours of the 80’s, but of course there is a plethora of options available to you.

When shopping, be sure to purchase from companies that are cruelty-free like OPI, Soltice or SpaRitual to encourage that good karma. Looking for inspiration?

And if you’re keen to check the products you already own you may find this helpful.

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