Monday, July 19, 2010

From the Archives: Preparing for a Day of Fasting

From sundown Monday until sundown on Tuesday I will be observing the Jewish day of fasting called Tisha B'Av. Translated, Tisha B'Av means the 9th day of the month of Av. While not as holy as Yom Kippur, Tisha B'Av is a sad and solemn day on the Jewish Calendar. We mourn the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second by the Romans in 70 CE.

I will not be working on Tuesday instead, I will spend some time in synagogue praying and reciting mournful poems (called dirges). While I am home I am allowed to use the air conditioner in my house. Not eating and drinking for 25 hours is hard, especially when it's hot out. But there is a way to prepare so the fast is not unbearable. I've re-posted this article several times since I've started this blog usually right before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar and Tisha B'Av. I'll re-post it here with some modifications for this year.

To learn more about Tisha B'Av, click here.

Preparing for a Day of Fasting

A question I hear over and over again from co-workers and others who have never fasted for 25 hours is "how do you prepare for a fast?" Over the years, I've figured out what and how to eat the day before the fast.  As a runner, I couldn't help but  notice some similarities between the way I prepare for a fast and the way I fuel for a long run or marathon.

It may come as no surprise that the main component of a pre fast meal is complex carbohydrates. A group of Israeli doctors studied 5 men and 8 women between the ages of 19 and 64, all healthy. All spent their fasts indoors and staying mostly in air-conditioned rooms. The researchers wanted to know whether the discomfort of a food-and-water fast could be influenced by the composition of the pre-fast meal, and if so, what basic nutritional components would promote the easiest fasting. Their findings, summarized below, were published in the September issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal.

They found that the protein-rich meal created most discomfort and side effects during the fast. Weight and blood pressure decreased at the end of the fasts that followed each of the three types of meals, and heart rates increased after the high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals but not after the protein meal. There was a 40 percent increase in blood urea nitrogen and more excretion of sodium and creatinine after the high-fat meal and least after the high-carbohydrate meal.

Water is better conserved when one eats a meal high in complex carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, beans, and other pulses. When protein breaks down, however, more water is excreted as urine to eliminate nitrogenous metabolic products from the body. (source article: Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2001)

Now that I've mentioned some scientific findings, here is how I will be preparing for the fast:

During the day:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  • I ate a substantial breakfast of cereal , fruit, and whole wheat toast
  • I will eat a light lunch in order to save my appetite for the pre fast meal
Pre Fast Meal:

  • Potato soup. This is one of my favorite soups. It is a hearty, "stick to you bones" kind of soup. Soup is also hydrating and filling.
  • Israeli Couscous
  • Grilled Salmon. On Yom Kippur I ate chicken. We eat fish before Tisha B'Av because it is forbidden to eat meat or poultry between the first day of Av and Tisha B'Av. The reason is that during this time the sacrifices and wine libations in the Holy Temple ceased. 
  • Assorted steamed veggies
Since I am not a coffee drinker, I do not have to worry about caffeine withdrawal. If you do drink coffee, start cutting back a few days before the fast. Also, do not drink alcohol with your pre-fast meal since alcohol causes your body to get rid of water.

Lastly, I wanted to briefly mention the post fast meal. The key here is not to eat too quickly. I usually start with a glass of orange juice. The tradition in my family is to eat cold noodles with cottage cheese. My dad and wife like to include cinnamon.

"One who mourns Jerusalem will merit to see her happiness, as the verse (Isaiah 66:10) promises: 'Rejoice with her greatly, all who mourn for her'"—Talmud Taanit 30b.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More of the Same

Today was another hazy, hot, and humid summer day in the Tri-State Area. Temperatures at 6:00 a.m. were in the low 70s but with the heat index it felt like 85. I ran the same route I last week, an out and back to the Oradell Reservoir. This time, I kept things slow and, instead of focusing on pace, I focused on good form. This strategy helped but I still felt deflated at the end. Even several hours after the run, I felt woozy and sluggish.

Someone on Facebook asked why I don't just run on a treadmill inside where it's air conditioned. 1) I don't have one at home, 2) I do belong to a gym but there's no way they'd allow me to hoard a treadmill for hours, and 3) I'm not sure what's worse, running long outside in the heat or on the treadmill where the only thing to look at a TV screen showing the same episode of SportsCenter over and over. 

What bothers me more is that this extreme heat is affecting family plans. We talked about going to Governor's Island or the Bronx Zoo but when we heard that a heat advisory was in effect all day, we scrapped those plans and Mrs. and Lil Ansky went bowling. We didn't think it was good idea to be walking around outside for several hours in the heat.

I've had enough!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is It Winter Yet?

I know I'm not the only one Tweeting, blogging, and Facebooking about how the summer heat is affecting our running and overall state of mind. I, for one, had enough. I haven't had a quality week of running in about 3 weeks. Every run, including those indoors on the treadmill, has been a struggle.

Last Wednesday, I went up to the company gym for some mile repeats. Even with the AC on at full blast, it was still incredibly stuffy in there. I set the treadmill to a 6:53 pace, which is about 5 - 10 seconds slower than usual. I thought I was going die. I started wheezing and couldn't get enough air into my lungs. After I recovered, I decided to slow the treadmill down to a 7:08 pace for the next one. A little better but it felt harder than it should have. I got through 3 intervals and called it quits.

Yesterday's long run was another disaster. I left the house at 6:15 a.m. and wanted to run for 2 hours. At first, I felt pretty good and I thought I was in store for a solid long run. Wishful thinking. Once the sun came up over the horizon, the wheels came off. The last 3 miles of my run were 9:19, 8:59, and 8:59. I drained 40 ounces of fluid on what ended being as 12.56 mile run. Usually 40oz. lasts me 15 - 18 miles.

After the Van Cortland 2 x 2 mile relay last Thursday, I was chatting with Amy about running with asthma. She mentioned that her asthma is worse in the winter months when the air is drier. I am the exact opposite. My asthma is much worse during the summer when it's hotter and more humid. Even with 2 puffs of Albuterol, speed and tempo workouts are tough. I simply cannot get enough air into my lungs. In the cooler weather, the inhaler gets put away (I still take my daily maintenance medicine).

The other thing we both mentioned is that, during the winter, if you are dressed properly, you should not feel cold. If you get warm, you can always take off a layer. When it's 90 and 90% humidity, you can be running naked and there's very little you can do to feel cooler. I know plenty of you that, despite the complaints about the heat, prefer it to the cold. For me, winter cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: "Running Dark" by Jamie Freveletti

"Running Dark" reunites us with Emma Caldridge, the ultra-runner/chemist, whom we first met in "Running From the Devil." The action starts on the very first page when a bomb goes off while Ms. Caldridge is running South Africa's Commrades Marathon. In the ensuing mayhem, Emma is injected with some sort of wonder drug that boosts her endurance and allows her to finish the 56 mile race without the least bit of fatigue.

In the ensuing pages, an intricate tale involving Washington power brokers and a cruise ship under siege by Somali Pirates is woven. My hangup from Ms. Freveletti's first novel, "Running from the Devil" was that I felt many of the scenes were repetitious and far fetched. Every time Ms. Caldridge found herself in danger she was able to use her knowledge of botany and chemistry to narrowly escape.

Clearly Ms. Freveletti has matured as an author. "Running Dark" is well written and suspenseful. Ms. Caldridge's chemistry background is featured once at the climax of the book. I definitely recommend picking up a copy of "Running Dark." You will not be disappointed.

Special thanks to TK for providing me a copy of the book to read and review.  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Race Report: Van Cortland 2 x 2mi Relay

Last night I teamed up with Joe for a 2 x 2 mile relay in Van Cortland Park. It was all about trying something different and having fun. Joe is a big advocate of runners trying something out of their comfort zone every so often. Cross country is definitely out of my comfort zone and I was a little apprehensive before the race. Thankfully, what ever fears I had were washed away when I arrived at Van Cortland Park. Everyone was just milling around and the atmosphere was light and peppy.

Just before the start, Elyssa, who teamed up with Amy, said to me these races hurt because you just try go as fast as you can.That's exactly how I felt when I finished the 1st leg.

Once a I caught my breath and cooled down, Joe asked me if I would try another one. I thought about it for a moment and replied with a "yes, as long as my work and life schedules permit." I had a good time and met some fellow running bloggers and/or tweeters.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Healthcare Nightmare

Those are the words Mrs. Ansky used to describe someone she saw at Sandy Hook Beach on Tuesday. For some reason I did not see her but Mrs. Ansky mentioned to me on the way home that she saw a morbidly obese (again, her words) woman with a cigarette in one hand and a regular Coke in the other. She also mentioned that her boyfriend, who was overweight but not obese, lit the cigarette for her.

 Mrs. Ansky, who is a Registered Dietitian in a nursing an rehabilitation facility, and I can't imagine how much money and time it would take the healthcare system to treat this woman because of the poor choices she is making. What goes through this woman's head when she looks in the mirror every morning? Does she care that she's out of breath before she leaves the house each morning? What do her parents and boyfriend think?

Way too many people are "forced" to get healthy after a potentially life threatening medical situation. I have a work colleague that was "forced" to get healthy only after needing stents to clear out clogged arteries. Thankfully, he stopped smoking, is now eating healthy and exercising. I can't help but ask myself if he would have made those choices if stents were not needed. I can only hope that this woman from the beach decides to get healthy on her own before some life threatening condition forces her to.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th, 2010

I have to admit July 4, 2010 was probably one of the best Independence Day holidays I've had in a while. I spent a lot of time with family and friends. Every July 4th there is parade down one of the main streets in my town. Even though I live a mere 8 miles from New York City, July 4th still has a very small town feel in my town. Residents line the curb and some of the parade groups throw candy to the children. Here are some pictures from this year's parade:

Later in the evening, we went to a local park for a fireworks show. There was small town aura as children played on the playground, played ball and threw frisbees while their parents set up folding chairs and blankets. Everyone clapped, ooohed, and ahhhhed as the fireworks lit up the sky in celebration of America's 234th birthday.

Thank you to everyone that has helped preserve our freedom and way of life.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Observations From Recycling Day

The first Friday of every month is recycling pick-up day in my part of town. Newspapers are tied up in neat bundles and a month's worth of glass and plastics are piled high in extra trash cans or similar receptacles. Many of these bins are placed on the curb without covers so it's easy to peek in if you're out walking the dog, heading work, or like me, out on a run. Let's just say you can learn a lot about the people around you by peeking into their recycling bins. Here is what I learned:
  • The wine drinkers: I was amazed how many bins were filled just with wine bottles. I know red wine has it's health benefits but people are knocking off  1 - 2 bottles per day.
  • The aluminum can beer drinkers: REALLY? I had no idea folks in my 'hood drank Keystone Light.
  • The soda and juice drinkers: maybe it's me, but I find soda disgusting. Even when I was younger, I was never much of a soda drinker. I just never liked the taste. I see so many bins filled with empty soda (not all diet) bottles. Then there are the bins that are filled with huge jugs of juice drinks. I enjoy a glass of 100% pure orange juice with my breakfast but that is not what I'm seeing the bins. I'm seeing drinks such as Tropicana Twister. According to Men's Health, one 20oz. bottle has 340 calories and 60g of sugars. I'm not a fan of drinking your calories and the sugar content is just nauseating. .
As for what's in my recycling bin, there's the occasional bottle of wine and scotch but for the most part, mine is filled with water bottles, Gatorade (used only by me for running related activities), canned vegetables (beans, mushrooms, etc..), and tomato sauce jars.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Totals for June 2010

Number of Runs: 15
Total Distance: 89.26
Total Time: 12:53:25

Average Distance: 5.95 miles
Average Time: 51:33
Average Pace: 8:39/mi

June was a tough month for me. I struggled to find my running mojo. I thought running some shorter races  would make running fun again, but they didn't. Maybe it was the events I picked, each one had their issues. I got lost during the GWB Bridge Challenge, the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge was OK this year but is always tough to have fun at, and it was a brutally hot evening for the Wall St. Run.  It also didn't help that, overall, June was a brutally hot month. I had to cut several long runs short and speed workouts were tough.

July will be all about increasing my mileage and getting ready for the Bronx Half on August 15.