On Day three, I started to really feel it. Today, the trail took me until I couldn’t go any further without a little help from the Hatteras Ferry. It was a relatively short 17 mile run compared to what is coming.
It is only the third day of a two day trip, but running along the Outer Banks was becoming a bit predictable already. I see dunes to the left of me, scrub brush and dead birds to the right of me, and lots of road and cars in front of me and I head South.
I’d like to say that I stopped and admired the many splendid things on this portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail, but I didn’t. I really didn’t. I ran too fast. I didn’t stop enough to take pictures, and my observations were limited to analyzing the buzzing in my head. I was fixed and focused on accomplishing the big goal. I couldn’t settle into being. Not yet. I wasn’t nearly exhausted enough to let go.
The joy that I was feeling was movement. And isn’t that part of my goal? I keep telling everybody to “Keep Moving Forward”. Everybody moves in different ways and at different paces and maybe this is my pace today. On day three of this journey, my pace was blistering considering what I have coming up. I may not have been racing at a podium pace, but I wasn’t stopping to smell the roses (or bliss-out on the crashing waves) either.
My end goal for the day was the ferry. At the ferry, my run day would be over. The plan was to run 17 miles to the end of the island, jump into the RV, and then ride across the Hatteras Ferry over to Ocracoke Island, where we would find a place to camp for the night, and then start running again at the at the ferry dock the next morning. My role was to be the legs. The muscle. The physical vessel for whatever we’re trying to accomplish. I was also the face of Throwing Bones’ mission. I had to find a voice and I still didn’t know what it sounded like yet.
The run was sunny and predictably gorgeous. My body moved well, and I paused briefly at Buxton and Hatteras for selfies in front of the town signs. I changed into a MMRF tank top as I veered through Hatteras to the ferry, so that I could send pictures to the folks at the research foundation to let them know I was thinking about them. Before I knew it, the RV was right in front of me, Chuck stepped out, ushered me in and I was in an air conditioned apartment on wheels waiting for our turn to hop on the Hatteras Island Ferry. At least for today, part of my job was done.
I could tell that Dean, Chuck and Meidad were all trying to find their roles too. Where were they supposed to be? How much should they mother-hen me? Coach? Cajole? Berate?
Meidad stood out early as a really good cook. He fixed amazingly healthy and mostly vegetarian meals. I don’t think I have met a physician that was focused so much on a holistic preventative approach to patient care. Keeping me healthy might prevent me from being unhealthy? At the very least, less unhealthy? Where’d this guy come from?
I have never considered myself vegetarian or vegan, but as I have gotten older and more aware of how the food I take into my body affects me, I realize the value of eating a more plant-focused diet. I have read Rich Roll and Scott Jurek books that discuss in detail their own plant-based diets (with some decent research to backup their findings). Many other ultra runners and athletes that I admire have seen value in removing most if not all animal-based protein from what they consume. Considering that I have cancer and that I want to feel good for as long as I can, I should probably pay close attention to how I fuel it. For the next 1100-1200 miles it might be a good idea to observe what I eat and compare to what I do when I eat what I eat. There are so many articles and white papers available on this subject that I could write a book and never finish running across the state. For now, we’ll approach this topic simply, make an educated assumption and see how that goes.
My hypothesis is that while exerting myself for 6-12 hours per day, I will probably notice an increase in energy levels that are sustained for longer periods of time (between food breaks), while fueling with meat than if I were to only fuel with plant-based proteins and calories. Whether I should or not, won’t be something that I’ll be able to determine just based on how I feel. I feel confident that we all struggle with overeating, drinking too much and excess caffeine, alcohol and drug use because of how we feel at any particular moment. Sometimes we base how we fuel ourselves at home, in the car or at the office to boost how we “feel”. Those aren’t particularly good reasons to eat like that all the time, however.
Meat consumption has been linked to cancer risk. This isn’t breaking news. One Harvard study showed that “daily meat eaters have approximately three times the colon cancer risk, compared to those who rarely eat meat.” This isn’t just one study and it has been reflected in trial after trial over the years. Amongst scientists there isn’t much argument as to the value of reducing meat consumption for no other reason than health. But the question is, is it all or nothing?
Let’s assume that it is necessarily true that eating too much meat is unhealthy. Let’s also save the ethics of eating eating meet for another time. Can we, or should we include meat in what we eat?
Cancer is a pretty big theme in my life, so let’s look there first. While there isn’t much research on the increase of blood cancers, specifically, that are connected to higher meat consumption, it is all but conclusive that “meat, animal products, and other fatty foods are frequently found to increase risk [of cancer]”. In contrast, diets high in fiber, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer substantially. Not only to they make you gassy, but they clean you out. I always love a good fart joke. Okay, I’m a fan so far.
For nearly two years, I have eaten mostly vegetarian or entirely plant-based at times. I often supplement my diet at times with fish, but I haven’t had any difficulty avoiding dairy. Milk has always made me cringe a little, and cheese mostly makes me bloated. But before I started this run, I had given myself permission to eat whatever came across my mind. So, I was open. Cheese me. Meat me. Pink slime me. Whatever. I might regret this “open mouth” policy, but as far as I’m concerned, my life is about finding the right fit for me, right now.
Don’t assume that I have or even will come to a definitive conclusion by the end of this run. It seems unlikely. I’m no expert, and I can only report what read, what I hear, what I have witnessed and what I have personally experienced. I’ll track my eating habits a little. I most likely won’t be particularly scientific about it, though, and most days, I’ll probably just eat what I can when I can and will ask for second helpings most of the time. It’s not perfect and neither am I, but it feels awfully human.
Every learning moment is an opportunity to do life better. Every moment is a learning moment. Keep moving forward.