Flu shot controversy

I visited a travel nurse earlier this week in preparation for my trip to Argentina and Antarctica. As the appointment progressed, we went through the usual questions and answers.

When are you leaving? How long will you be there? What are you doing when you get there?

All very perfunctory. She checked my vaccinations. Typhoid. Hep A. Tetanus. Check. Check. Check.

As she was closing up her travel nurse binder, she said, “And I assume you’ve already had your flu shot this season.”

I stared blankly at her.

Flu shot? I really don’t believe in the effectiveness of the flu shot. I know this is as controversial as a religious or political topic, and people have strong opinions one way or the other, but I’m strictly going only on my own personal experience.

In the past, when I got the flu shot, I got sick. When I didn’t, I didn’t get sick. I’m not twenty-something either, we’re talking about decades here. Every year in the past twenty years, except for one, I’ve avoided the flu shot and never contracted the flu.

The exception was when I spent a freezing winter night celebrating my niece’s February birthday at a Chicago hotel where we both swam in the communal swimming pool and then slept in the same room. I got sick, she didn’t. I’m not even sure it was the flu but I was down for the count for three days. So for argument’s sake, let’s say I got the flu.

I got the flu shot once and got the flu. I didn’t get the flu shot the other twenty years and maybe got the flu once. I like those odds.

So when the travel nurse incorrectly assumed I had the flu shot, I shook my head.

“I really don’t believe in them.”

She tried, unsuccessfully, to halt her eyes in mid-eye roll, but I saw what she was doing. Inhaling deeply, like one would begin a sigh or speech to a small child who had colored on the couch, she said, “Think of it like a seatbelt. You wouldn’t get in your car without buckling up, would you?”

I didn’t make the connection, but nodded half-heartedly in some form of agreement.

“Look, you’re going to be in a foreign country – two foreign countries – with lots of people from all over the world and you’re going to be on a ship for many days. One ship with hundreds of people is full of germs. Wouldn’t you rather travel knowing you’re protected?”

I tilted my head from side to side considering her points. I still didn’t understand the shot as a seatbelt analogy. I think of it as a needle that is injecting actual flu inside my body. It’s not even letting my epidermis fight it off like it should. It’s going right through it, invading my body with someone else’s dead flu cells.

Hey, I’m not an anti-vaccine person. I strongly believe in getting vaccinated, but the flu shot is different. Intuitively, for me only, something doesn’t feel right about it. After going back and forth for more time than I think she wanted to spend on it, I acquiesced.

Fine. I’ve never been on a ship, maybe there’s something extra buggy that I’m unaware of and this will ward it off as she promised. So I did it. The needle pinched and the contents burned inside my arm. After it was over, I worried I made a mistake.

Later that night, I noticed a red crescent on my arm where the shot had gone in. It ached and was heavy, but that’s often no different than any other shot so I tried to forget about it.

At 3am, I woke so super thirsty I had to get out of bed to down some water. The next morning my arm still hurt and I felt tired and achy. The travel nurse said I might so I tried to forget it as I got ready for work.

At work, I felt worse. I ended up leaving early to come home and rest before dinner. By the evening, I had a sore throat, cough, swollen and watery eyes, and heavy lungs. On top of it, I had a bad attitude. I knew it. Stupid shot. I went to bed early and visualized my body fighting off the flu, staying strong and healthy.

This morning, while feeling the painful, even sorer throat, waterier eyes, and heavier lungs, I thought long and hard about the email I would send the travel nurse. Boy, would I tell her.

But in the end, I didn’t want to ruin her weekend, even though my weekend was at risk. Snowshoeing with flu symptoms is not only uncomfortable, it seems irresponsible.

Plus I have to get my six-mile long run in this weekend and how I am going to do that feeling like this? Grrrr! 

I’m bummed, but staying hopeful that I’ll rebound between now and tomorrow’s departure time. The mountains are calling.

Send healing mojo. 🙏⚡️🏃‍♀️


Bulletproof update

As some of you know, I started intermittent fasting on December 27, 2018. For me, this meant eating during a nine-hour period of time, so fasting for fifteen hours, each day.

Upon strong urging from my trainer, Chris, I started using the Bulletproof coffee concoction as a supplement to the fast on January 7, 2019. 

Making the bulletproof coffee took a few tries to get it right (and drinkable). The first time I added raw cacao powder on Chris’s recommendation, but couldn’t handle the chalkiness and decided to forego the added antioxidants it promised. 

I also had to play around with the amount of butter, oil, and collagen until my stomach could handle it. I started with half the recommended amount and upped it little by little over time.

The second, third, and fourth coffees (in as many days) proved to be really enjoyable once I figured out how to make the coffee while keeping it nice and hot. 

I found blending actually cooled the coffee down because of the room temp oil and cold butter. So I brewed a shot of the coffee, tossed it into the blender with the butter, collagen, oil, a little more hot water, and mixed it well. Then I poured the concoction into a coffee mug, which filled it about halfway. I added more hot water to fill the mug, and the result was a perfectly smooth, steaming cup of coffee loaded with collagen, butter, and oil. (Still waiting for the face to breakout but it hasn’t happened yet.) 

Of the past ten days, about half of them included the coffee concoction. I had been traveling, so while lugging my blender, butter, oil, and collagen around might have made me a more committed dieter, I prefer to travel light so left it all at home and skipped it. 

Even though the three-hour time difference and busy work schedule made it challenging, I stuck to the nine-hour eating window.

All in all, I enjoyed – and continue to enjoy – the fast. I feel tighter and less bloated. My jeans fit great. This could be caused by my eating a little cleaner in general, i.e., no gummy candy, but I have had a snack pack of potato chips here and there. (Gummy candy is my weakness. If I have a little, I’ll have a lot, so I’m avoiding it all until after the race.) 

With the intermittent fasting and avoiding gummy candy, I find myself simply eating less. It’s like the perfect diet for a minimalist. When I do eat, I’m hungry but my stomach is smaller so less feels like more. Just like minimalism. I’m not tired or weak. Actually, I feel really good and strong eating less. 

While traveling, however, I had a dark night of the soul. 

Usually after eating my final meal of the day, I crave candy, especially gummy candy. On the last night of the trip, something changed. I went from casually craving candy to let-nothing-stand-in-my-way-to-get-it craziness.  

It surprised me how hard it was to will myself not to go to the store or worse just tear into the bag of Haribo gummy bears in the mini-bar. Everything in my body, down to a cellular level, insisted on gummy candy that night.

I really needed to think and rethink about why I wanted to stay gummy free: Running a strong race in Antarctica and training injury-free. Like a mantra, I repeated it over and over in my head, and maybe out loud, too.

Eventually, the terrible craving passed and I was able to trust myself to stand without running out of the room and down to the Walgreen’s. Instead, I brushed my teeth, undressed, and got ready for sleep. The war was won. Good gal 1 – Crazy craving 0. 

Back to intermittent fasting. For the first few weeks, I found myself sleepy around 1pm or 2pm. That eventually passed and instead I felt energized, even motivated, to do a run or get in a few pushups or sit-ups at the office, when no one was looking.

During this experiment, I noticed how I genuinely appreciate the food I’m eating when I sit down for a meal. I’m more selective with good foods, except when I picked up the aforementioned snack pack of potato chips. (Potatoes are the most misunderstood vegetable in my humble opinion.)

Another side effect of the fast has been the feeling of a slight hunger pang at night when lying in bed before sleep. It’s not particularly strong or painful or scary. Instead, it’s somewhat comforting knowing that my body is entering ketosis and will burn fat through the night. 

It’s worth mentioning, I’ve continued with the vitamins I take regularly (or don’t, depending on if I remember). Those include a multi-vitamin, iron and vitamin D. I also take a dosage of Airborne (a mass of vitamins) whenever I feel the start of cold or sore throat. I swear by the stuff. 

So that’s how the Bulletproof and intermittent fasting experiment is coming along. I’m still unconvinced the coffee concoction is doing anything other than briefly alleviating my appetite with butter and caffeine during the morning portion of the fast. But I’m not half of the way through my little experiment yet, so we’ll see how it progresses.

Will give an update in another week or so. Until then 🙏.


Antarctica race training

The half marathon in Antarctica is two months away. My longest training run has been a five-miler on a trail with 564 feet in elevation gain. I was gassed.

As mentioned, I’ve been out of long distance running shape for quite a few years now. Getting back into it has been tough. 

Training has been progressing but not without issues. I had knee pain when I switched from road shoes to trail shoes. My trainer recommended starting with a dynamic-stretch warmup before hitting the pavement, which I’ve done. It’s helped, but the knee hasn’t been the same since. It still feels a little weak and achy after runs.

I’ve had dozens of sore muscles, cramps, aches, pains, and knots. Plus countless moments full of fear, doubt, and uncertainty. This trip and this race are no joke. The conditions are harsh and luck, if there is any near the south pole, will favor the prepared. 

On race day in Antarctica, the anticipated temperature will be anywhere from 0 °F to 34 °F. That’s a huge range. It’s the difference between a soggy, muddy run above freezing or a can’t feel your face while loping atop slippery, frozen rock run if it’s closer to 0 °F. Winds can be as powerful as 40mph and gusts even higher. 

A couple of the big challenges training in the Bay Area for a freezing cold race in the arctic include preparing my body and testing my gear in expected race conditions.

It’s fairly mild where I live so locating a windy, frozen tundra has been problematic. The Antarctica course is snowy, rocky, and muddy. We don’t have too much of that either, just a little rain every now and then, and that’s only because it’s winter. 

The good news is I’ve been traveling outside the golden state to prepare myself for the blustery conditions. Before New Years, I spent several days in Iowa where it was both cold and windy, and I got in several miles in cold weather gear. 

Recently, I was in New York City and knocked out a freezing cold training run through NYC’s kind, flat, and relatively dry running path along the Hudson River. 

There are a couple additional winter trips I’ve planned to help with training (and fun) this winter, like Pinecrest, CA for some snowshoeing, skiing, and, of course, running.

And, although global warming and climate change have made this even harder to predict, a few weeks before I leave for Buenos Aires, I plan to do the longest training run in my hometown of Chicago, which should be perfectly freezing, windy, and snowy (if not muddy) in late February.

More to come as we get closer to race day. My training goals have never been so frosty. 


Becoming bulletproof

Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels

My personal trainer, Chris, has been nudging me, slowly at first but a little more aggressively after the New Year, to get into intermittent fasting (IF) and the whole Bulletproof thing. I’ve been resisting as it seems like a crazy movement and, candidly, another fad. I say this having not attempted it nor knowing much about it. So I promised I’d try it if only to prove that it doesn’t work.

First, what is intermittent fasting? There are a few different definitions out there. But for our purposes, it’s limiting our eating window to ten, nine, eight, or down to as low as six hours per day.

The Bulletproof Diet recommends six hours, but that seems like something we can work up to. If you’re interested, there is a ton of information (and rules) available to go all-in on the Bulletproof Diet. I’m simply starting with the fasting and coffee concoction, as that seems to be enough for Chris, and plenty enough for me. 

Just before the New Year, I began intermittent fasting, and started with nine hours. The toughest part about it for me – being an up-well-before-dawn kind of gal – was pushing out breakfast to 9am or later so I could finish my last meal by 6pm. I continued to have an americano (10 calories) at the crack of dawn, which made it easier, but it was an adjustment.

By the time 9am rolled around, I’d been at work for a couple of hours, so it was awkward and strange to eat a healthy and tasty (and definitely not smelly) breakfast there. 

Beyond the brands selling products that support the intermittent fasting diet, there’s not a ton of objective research published. One of the most reasonable and updated articles I came across from Harvard Heath said it best, “Avoid snacking or eating at nighttime, all the time.” Seemed simple enough. 

The best good side effect reported in the study from the same article showed that IFer’s have a better metabolism and less hunger overall over time. However, all participants in that study were men.

Women can respond differently to IF. Obviously, if you’re pregnant, don’t fast. I’m not a doctor, but that seems like a bad idea. Other side effects that can affect women include late or no periods, feeling cold, irritable, hungry (no kidding), and low energy, and, really, those last four can affect men as well.

My sense is if it starts to feel more than a little uncomfortable, like really bad, then stop and adjust to what your body needs. We’ve got fabulous intuition, use it.

Now, let’s talk about the Bulletproof Diet. Beyond intermittent fasting, according to my trainer, the kicker to increased energy, vitality, and performance is to incorporate the Bulletproof coffee concoction. It’s also supposed to make the fast a little less painful, or fast-like, I guess.

As you might know, my first attempt at trying Bulletproof coffee failed miserably. What I learned later is you can brew Bulletproof coffee like any other coffee. But you need to add in a lot stuff, mainly fat, fat, and more fat to make it Bulletproof. I still feel like a lot of this is gimmicky, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Preparing to start this diet, I had to spend –  invest – over $50 (beyond the coffee itself that was on sale) just to make it trainer-approved Bulletproof. The supplements he recommended that differ slightly from the website include unsalted, grass fed, organic butter; raw cacao powder (good antioxidants); MCT oil; and collagen protein.

I’m kind of expecting to get fat, bloated, and break out with all of the oil and collagen and butter in this thing. But, hey, that’s the fun in trying something new and a little crazy. 🤓

The plan is to stick with it for three weeks assuming I can tolerate it and see what happens. If you feel so inspired to go all in, let me know how it goes. I’ll be cheering you on from the still-eating-granola-and-rice sideline.


Hello, 2019

This morning I woke at 5:50am, pulled on a hoody, rolled out my yoga mat, and did about six minutes of morning yoga. Yep, starting slowly. I followed that up with 15 minutes of meditation. So far, so good.

Then I brewed a pot of bulletproof coffee. It wasn’t until I took my first sip did I realize it’s not really for brewing. It’s supposed to be pressed. Whoops. That’s what I get for not reading directions.

My trainer had mentioned he loved it, so when I saw it on sale I picked it up and thought I could just brew it like I would any other ground coffee. Um, not so. Well, I did, but it was awful. I didn’t bother popping in a lump of coconut oil or butter because I can only handle a little bit of change at a time. And I’m glad I didn’t. That lump of fat would have forfeited my intermittent fasting, which I had planned on doing until 8:30am. After a few sips of drinking the not so good stuff, I tossed it and made my usual americano. Oh, how familiarity feels so good.

That there is a lesson on why we have so much strength at the beginning of the year – or morning – to keep a newly made resolution and almost none after a few days, weeks, or months. We make mistakes and look and feel foolish. Plus, it’s easier and more comfortable to go back the way we were. Even though the changes were better for us, we lose the willpower or drive or whatever it is that keeps us moving in a new direction even though it’s uncomfortable. The good news is even when we try new things unsuccessfully we learn new stuff. Bulletproof coffee is not meant to be brewed. Okay, got it.

Last year, I resolved to become minimalist. For the most part, I did. I reduced my possessions by over sixty percent. I didn’t buy anything that wasn’t consumable all year. That is, until the end of the year in mid-October, when my willpower was exhausted and I bought all the things. I utterly failed.

When I had my shopping breakdown, I bought, among other things, $120 trail shoes, a $150 SmartWool sweater, and a new Jeep. A couple of months later, I returned (or in the case of the Jeep resold) them all.

This year, I want to continue down the minimalist path, but more moderately. I have less stuff so it’s not about reducing so much as it is about not buying stuff just to buy stuff. Lesson learned. No more unnecessary purchases because no more depriving myself. I’m taking the middle way.

Hello, 2019. This year will usher in a few exciting things for me, namely the half marathon in Antarctica. During that trip, I’ll visit Argentina, Ushuaia, and sail the Drake Passage – all of which are on my bucket list.

I’m also excited to get back to developing a yoga practice. Adding that into my morning routine, before meditation, will be interesting. When I had a proper practice, I did it in the evening. I’m not opposed to going back to evening, but I thought mornings would help me with my meditation practice. It’ll be a bit of a challenge, but I’m excited to see what I can do and, in return, what it can do for me.

Of course I have other goals around finances, career, contribution, and community, and they’re just as important to me. But making it to Antarctica would be the pinnacle of the year. Completing the half marathon would be the cherry on top.

Come to think of it, I better hit the trails today. Training has begun. 💪


Antarctica

It was 2014 when I sent my application in for the half marathon taking place in Antarctica. A couple of months later, I was waitlisted without an estimated date or time for acceptance. My assumption was it would take a year. It seemed reasonable, like most marathons, a year or a little less is about when they open. But not this one.

Four years later, I got the green light to send in the rest of my deposit. The race folks confirmed I would be running in the 2019 race. A full five years later. But, hey, it was official. I had a room on a ship going to Antarctica, and this would be my final half marathon.

The problem with such a long waitlist is I’m no longer in the marathon-running shape I was in back in 2014 or 15 or even 16. I’m older and slower and have really started to enjoy not running for hours, not training during what were supposed to be slow weekend mornings, not enduring a foam rolling after the run. No more ice on my knees and piles of sweaty running gear filling up my laundry hamper.

Come on, I tell myself, trying to get motivated, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. How can I not take it on, and try to enjoy it regardless of how old I feel, or how old I really am? Maybe with all of this training and running to come, I might feel younger again. But deep down I doubt it. It’s more likely, I’ll feel older.

So I’m starting slowly. I’ve signed up to work out with a personal trainer once or twice a week depending on our schedules, just to give myself a base level of fitness. I have a history of getting injured while training and I think it’s because I’m not really that fit before I jump right in to running longer distances. I’ve been working with the trainer for about three weeks now.

I’ve also signed up for the first 5k I’ve attempted in so, so long. It’s a hilly up and down, out and back trail race. Training for that has also begun. Training, meaning, I put on my shoes and attempt to meet the distances, but mostly I’m tired and winded.

Regardless of my fitness level, I am excited about visiting Antarctica. Not many people get the opportunity to visit that continent. For me, Antarctica will be my seventh and last remaining continent to step foot on. I’m pretty stoked.

Now, I just need to get that running and fitness thing moving in the right direction. I’ve missed a couple of training runs already this week. It’s time to get in gear or I’ll never know what it was like to complete my last half on the most remote continent in the world.