Friday, May 27, 2011

An Open Letter to Dog Owners

Dear Dog Owner,

<-----You are not an exception to this sign.  I know that you may be under the assumption that your dog is your child, your baby even.  You might wipe it's paws and spoon-feed it puppy chow, but regardless of how adorable, loveable, kind, or spoiled your little Fido, Trixie, Spot, or Fluffy might be, both of you are still obligated to obey basic park rules, you know, like not smoking or littering. Taking into consideration that most dogs can't read, this responsibility falls to you.

Since some of you are are clearly confused as to how to interpret and properly implement this sign and it's ONE SENTENCE instruction, I am generously offering my assistance.  Consider me your interpreter through this complicated and technical process.  If my 5 and 6 year olds weren't asleep at the writing of this post, I'm sure that either of them would be able guide you through this reading comprehension exercise as well.

1. Attach the clippy end of leash to your dog's collar.

2. Hold handle or loop end of leash in your hand.

3. Keep your dog under control, AT ALL TIMES.

Following these 3 simple steps will ensure that you, your precious pooch, and ALL THE REST OF US have a pleasant visit to the park.

For those of you who may be tempted to fudge one or more of the aforementioned instructions, let me shed yet a little more light on the subject.  The rest of us out using the jogging/exercise trail, bike path, or playground do not consider you compliant with the above rule simply because you own a leash.  Not even if you have it in your hand.  In order to be in good standing with Step 2, you must first (and always, while in these type of public spaces) abide by and fulfill Step 1.  Simply walking down the path with your leash in one hand and your bag of dog crap in the other (which will heretofore be referred to as a "crap-bag") while your dog charges down the trail unattached physically to a responsible human, does not in fact, ensure that you are in good standing with park regulations.

In conclusion, if after reading these clear and concise directions you still find yourself unable to comply, I lovingly, kindly, and strongly suggest, as one dog owner to another, that you stick to exercising your canine companion in your own back yard or perhaps it might be prudent to take your dog and your crap-bag to a location where such behavior is excepted and condoned like.... oh.... i don't know...... A DOG PARK maybe??? 

Note:  If you are the dog owner who found it necessary to SCREAM repeatedly for me to STOP because the perceived aggressive motion of running toward you, on I might add, an exercise trail with specific instructions to RUN, upset your UNLEASHED dog, I hope this written annotation of the park rules is as helpful to other dog owners as my verbal explanation (given rapidly yet succinctly between my 800's) was to you.

Further Note:  If you are the owner of the UNLEASHED doberman/boxer mix who, this very afternoon came charging at me and my 1 year old son in the baby-jogger, while you stood frozen on the adjacent trail and watched, I am in your debt, as the act of fleeing your excessively loud dog, enabled me to run my first ever sub 8 minute mile. I do apologize for anything I may or may not have yelled in your general direction.

Sincerely yours,


Further Further Note: This public service announcement was not brought to you by a middle aged, dog-hating cat-lady, but by a fellow dog lover who spent many a good morning running with a beautiful (and LEASHED) Australian shepherd, and who now absolutely adores her very spoiled (but still leashed) little dog.  But as you can tell from this picture of him with our youngest daughter Cole, he's not much of a running partner:

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Monday, May 23, 2011


We haven't gone on a family vacation since... well.... four years and three children ago.  The last time we took the kids to the beach we were a typical family of four and our life looked very different. As a disclaimer of honesty, I will tell you that the humanity in me wants to pretend that who I am today is who I've always been, but it's important to turn around and face the past... for me to turn around and face the person who used to walk around in my skin, living my life.

When people don't believe me about what I used to look like, it is a picture taken on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk four years ago that I show them.  I was at least 75 pounds heavier than I am now.  Two years prior to the picture being taken, I had given up the vegetarian diet that had been a part of my identity since I was a child.  If you would have told me four years ago that I would be a plant-strong runner who trains for marathon distance races, I wouldn't have believed you.  I'm sure that Nate, who was raised by second generation  butchers and only began running this past year, would also have been surprised by the turn our lives have taken.

So what does vacation look like now? How do we make it work not only as plant-based runners mid-training, but also as the parents of five children?  Here at home we've worked out the challenges of this lifestyle.  We have our favorite grocery store with the ingredients to make our kids favorite meals. We are lucky enough to have a vegan restaurant downtown, only 10 minutes away, and we know which other restaurants are both kid and veg friendly. We have our training plans adjusted to fit the craziness of our lives. We have a vegan bakery within walking distance that makes excellent energy bars and other good running food. So what do we do when we venture out of the comforts and familiarity of home?  Here are the things we did, the things things that worked, and the things we learned:
This was probably the easiest part of the trip. It took us approximately 10 hours to get from our home in Northeast Ohio to our condo in Ocean City MD.  Not only do we have kids who love their veggies, they are also exceptionally good travelers. A stocked bag of snacks, bottled water, and sippy cups got us from point A to point B nicely.  Carrots, hummus, Lara Bars, and trail mix were all easily consumed by big and little hands alike.  For the babies, we opted for Plum Organics baby food in a pouch. It has a twist off top that allows older babies to feed themselves.  (Warning, this can be a little bit messy!) Having healthy finger food at the ready meant that we weren't eating gas station / rest stop food or anything out of a vending machine.  It also meant that our time lost for stops was kept to a minimum, (as minimum as they could be with five kids needing potty breaks and diaper changes).  We tried only to stop when we needed to pay an astronomical amount of money for gas, or to purchase copious amounts of coffee. By a stroke of sheer luck, we stumbled across a smoothie place that made delicious fruit/veg smoothies with chlorella, and spirulina and had a delicious lunch as we drove.

We ate breakfast and lunch everyday in our condo. Mostly fresh berries & bananas for breakfast, salads, pita, peanut butter, veggies for lunch. Cooking/cleaning for 7 was not on my vacation agenda, so we stuck to easy raw foods.  At a local grocery store we found a bottle of dark chocolate, dairy free chocolate sauce.  I planned to eat it with berries on the balcony with Nate after the kids were all tucked in bed, but we broke it open first thing in the morning and had it for breakfast!  The kids thought it was a serious special occasion!

Like most other people, we like to eat out and planned to do so for several dinners. We had a few epic fail restaurant experiences during our first few days.  We thought we had done adequate research, we had read customer reviews, and picked out several restaurants that seemed like they would be a good fit for our large veggie lovin family.  Unfortunately, this did not work out as planned. Let me just say that we are not high maintenance restaurant goers.  We ask polite questions, order the best plant-based options, with hopefully a minimum number of special requests, and we tip really really well.  The first restaurant (one that we had read great things about) was not serving their full menu that night.  The menu was so limited that I couldn't even order a salad. Anther restaurant that we had intended to visit was closed for the week! After two days of similar experiences, I broke down and bought all the ingredients to make a huge pot of our favorite soup and we ate that for the next few days.  We did eventually come across a Mexican restaurant that had great vegetarian options and pleasantly accommodated our special requests (they charged a premium for them, but it was worth it!)  and we found a breakfast shop that made smoothies and veg-friendly wraps. 

 There were more options for running than I had originally expected.  The boardwalk had mile markers for runners and wasn't crowded until the weekend. Plenty of runners took to the sidewalks down Coastal Highway.  Nate and I stuck to simple and peaceful runs along the beach.  It was a new experience to learn to run in the sand!  Since it was pre-season, the beach was almost completely deserted no matter what time you took off on a run.  With all the kids, we obviously couldn't run at the same time.  We would alternate, one of us going first thing in the morning while the kids were still asleep and the other going at nap time.  This arrangement ensured that we both got our runs in, but the workouts never got in the way of our primary goal of spending time away as a family. 

The week wasn't perfect.  Our restaurant experiences definitely left something to be desired.  Next time I will do our grocery shopping here at home for both cost reasons as well as food preferences (and I hate being lost in a new store)!  We didn't stick to our training plans as diligently as we would at home.  On the last night, we walked the boardwalk and treated the kids to a funnel cake, which is not a food that would appear on their plates any other time.

But you know what?  There is more to life than training and food.  We played hard, laughed hard, and slept well. We climbed and ran and splashed.  I've had some delicious gourmet meals in my life, but they pale in comparison to the joy I felt while sharing a simple, but somehow decadent breakfast of berries and chocolate with my sleepy-eyed kids.  Running makes my life infinitely better, but even running along the beach at sunrise doesn't compare with watching the expressions on five little faces as they stared out across the sand, most of them for the first time, and saw the ocean.

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