Friday, June 20, 2014

Morning Run at Biltmore

Neil and I are in Asheville, and he has a conference on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. I dropped him off this morning dressed to run, and took the opportunity to take a quick three mile run. The estate doesn't open for tours until 8:30, so the roads were pretty calm. It was a beautiful three miles, on rolling hills next to crops, forested areas, and a sheep pasture. Plus, look what I saw on my drive out:

The Biltmore: a massive palace in the middle of Asheville, NC

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dogs' First Camping Trip: Crystal Coast

It is always nice to take an impromptu camping trip, but difficult to do for those with dogs. This past weekend, we decided to test out car camping with the dogs on my first trip out to the Crystal Coast.
Rocky, Trudy, and yours truly.
We left Friday in the mid-afternoon, hit a bit of traffic, but arrived in the Croatan National Forest at a free primitive campsite around 7. Rocky and Trudy were a bit confused, but coped just fine with being leashed to the bench we sat on while we ate, and sleeping in the (covered) bed of the truck.
Siddie Field Campsite
Saturday morning after breakfast, we found a nearby trail, parked in a shady spot, and left the pooches with plenty of water and vented, screened windows for a short hike. We took the Neusiok Trail from the Pine Cliff Recreation Area down the beach to where the land ended. We walked along the gorgeous Neuse River on a gorgeous day, angering an osprey on a nest by walking above 100 feet away along the way (sorry!).
Neusiok Trail
After the hike we rejoined the dogs and made a nice lunch at the picnic area. Rocky enjoyed his beloved past-time of picnic bench-sitting, and we ate pretty tasty sandwiches and a green smoothie (car camping has its perks).
Look at that tasty sandwich!
We ventured out toward the coast, spending a bit of time reading at Atlantic Beach. The sky looked ominous despite the zero percent chance of rain, and the wind made it up to 15mph, so we packed up and went to dinner in Beaufort. After grabbing a beer with a friend from Duke, we made our way back to the campsite.
Rocky looking out over the river. 
Sunday morning brought wind, making cooking difficult. We drove to another part of the Forest, where the ecosystem changes, to walk along boardwalks above marshes. Since this trail, the Cedar Point Tideland Trail, is much shorter, we took Rocky and Trudy on their first "hike."
Cedar Point Tidelands Trail
After about a mile and a half of boardwalk and crushed granite, we finished and poured the dogs some water in the shade. They seemed tired, but happy. Another trip into Beaufort for lunch and a nice walk, and we headed back to Durham.
Rocky and Trudy, thirsty dogs!
All in all, the dogs did wonderfully on their first camping trip. I'd prefer to backpack, of course, but if we want to get away for the weekend and it isn't too hot, it is nice to be able to bring them along!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Adjusting to the South

Anyone who has been to the South knows that summers are dreadfully humid (I hope you could hear me saying the word dreadfully in an accent, while swooning). When I arrived and got started running, I searched and searched for summer races, only to find options scarce. Once May's heat and humidity began, I knew why.

While I'm no stranger to the heat (hello summer marathon training in Sacramento's heat), the humidity really takes the cake. My dehydration-enduced headaches have an earlier onset. I need more salt and electrolytes. I sometimes want to quit.

Instead, I'm trying to adjust.

In that vein, I was interested to see Runner's World tweet this article from last summer, on the science behind running in the heat and humidity. Anyone who has talked to me about running knows that I geek out on the science and physiology of running. I calculated out my ideal carb and protein intake during my last all-out training season. I know the proper Gu to time ratio by approximate body size. I . know why cramps happen and how to avoid them.

Apparently, on my evening run tonight from Fullsteam Brewery around Duke's East Campus, I will be putting out more effort for a slower pace and burning a higher ratio of carbs to fat than I would in cooler weather. As the article surmises, I'd rather put out more effort overall, so the difference isn't worth fretting over. But it is good to know.

A quick plug: the run tonight is put on by Bull City Running Company and Fullsteam, and is adorably called the Fullsteam Ahead! run club. It is a super fun, relaxed run, with the option to grab a nice cold beer afterward!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thin Shaming Is Wrong, Too!

Print and social media abound with discussions of women's bodies, how they are judged and viewed, and how they should be. Catch phrases like "fat shaming," "body acceptance," and "realistic body image" are thrown around. Mothers bemoan the unrealistic standards the media feeds impressionable daughters. Athletes coin terms such as "strong is the new skinny." Articles poke fun at beach chair leg gap photos posted on Instagram, likening them to hotdogs.

This discussion certainly isn't new; the backlash against Barbie I recall from childhood could certainly be compared. What does seem new, though, is the near victory today of the "body acceptance" camp, and the burgeoning backlash against thin women's bodies.

Before I jump in here, I want to start by saying that I am all for body acceptance. People come in all shapes and sizes, and should not be demeaned or marginalized for how they look. Hence, my qualms with much of the body acceptance discussion in the media.

Just in the past week, I've read a number of uplifting articles about instances of body acceptance. The heartwarming Kickstarter campaign by Taryn Brumfitt in which she seeks to create a world where her daughter can love herself, no matter her shape and size, is a great example. A woman who struggled with her weight, Taryn "achieved" the ideal of thin, only to feel just as lousy about her body as she had before losing weight. She wants to create a movement that helps women embrace the bodies they have. This movement, and the documentary she is seeking funds to create, will be a tool to stem the tide of decades of derision of women's bodies that don't conform to the popular media representation equating female beauty with thinness. Sign me up!

The discussion, however, is not entirely so heartwarming or uncomplicated. Sure, women like Taryn are fighting the good fight, seeking to create a more welcoming and kind culture for all women. However, far too often this discussion veers into the very hurtful rhetoric that it eschews, attempting to make the case for acceptance of all bodies by casting stones at certain women's bodies.

Photo credit: Swimsuits for All
Case in point: today, an article shared widely described a swimsuit company's ad campaign featuring a re-make of the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition featuring "plus sized models." This article, though not on an exceedingly reputable website, has all the hallmarks of the winning debate. With taglines like "sexy curves go beyond a size four" and "a really healthy image for young girls," the article showcases a series of photos of lovely plus sized women modeling swimsuits that flatter their bodies.

What's not to like?

Well, the article shares the thoughts of one of the models. In the same breath, the model states that "not everyone has to be a stick insect, and not everyone has to be big. You can be you and that's fine."

Let's break this down. First, we are excited to see representation of women's real bodies and hear that "you can be you and that's fine," which creates a culture for positive self-image of real women and girls. Positive self-image is a great aspiration, but should not be sought by demeaning one body to lift up another. By characterizing non-"big" women as "stick insects," the commentary in this article shows that it is not about acceptance at all.

The body acceptance movement seems to be about accepting bodies of all shapes and sizes, as long as those bodies don't represent the popular media portrayal of "thin as beautiful." Apparently, thin women (and girls) have had their day in the limelight, and now must be cast aside the way that "real women's" bodies have been for decades.

Casting thin women as "insects" is just a repulsive as casting plus size women as "fat." Both terms have less-than-savory mental images. It can be left to the beholder which one is more gross: a bug-eyed non-human pest or a congealed cooking substance. The fact remains that both terms are a value judgement.

You may be thinking, wow, this is a lot of ranting about just one article! Unfortunately, this article is a representation of how people who "accept" women's bodies also reject thin bodies in the same breath.

I've experienced this firsthand many times. I've had my eating habits criticized, and my weight used as a reason to dismiss an argument I was making, all while at work. To wit:

"What, are you on the Kate Moss Diet?" Asked of me, at work, by someone who saw that I was only taking half a sandwich from the catering tray. You know, because someone who is 5'2" needs a full footlong meat sandwich.

"Well, you only weigh 90 pounds." Said to me at work in response to something I said, to dismiss my comment. When I replied that I weigh substantially more than that, I got stares and repeated questions until I divulged my actual weight. No one would ask a non-thin woman what she weighs, at work no less.

I may be thin, but I still have feelings and insecurities. I'd suspect that many thin women suffer the same body image issues as larger women, even though we are closer to the "ideal body" the media have taught us to seek.

I'm also a good example of the fact that many thin adult women were not thin children or teens. Many of us worked very hard to be healthier (in our case thinner), just as many "average size" or "plus size" women do. Halfway through college I was 20 pounds more than I am now, on a 5'2" frame. I ate too much pizza and didn't exercise. I thought losing weight was a lost cause. Then I discovered running, and got down to a healthy weight for my frame (around 115). And just like everyone else who has lost weight, I work hard to stay in shape. I can't eat whatever I want and stay 115 pounds.

This is my long-winded way of saying, let's all be more thoughtful when we make public statements about accepting ourselves and other women for who we are. We should all celebrate healthy bodies, no matter the size. But we shouldn't do so by putting down other women. That brings us right back to where we started, and doesn't get us anywhere.