Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

Moving Past the Piñata

When we finished the Rev3 last week, it was near midnight.

We were in small-town Virginia.

And we were hungry.

The race-sponsored bbq had ended when the sun went down and the race-sponsored breakfast was still nine hours away.

And did I mention we were in small-town Virginia?

You may be able to guess where this is going…

We drove the fifteen miles from the race site to our motel, and along the way stopped at the only restaurant with its lights on.

Yep, that’s right – the 24-hour McDonald’s.

Now, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’d never in my life eaten McDonald’s food.

Sure, there may have been a diet coke here and there when Brent stopped for burgers on a road trip.  And I do remember a cone of softserve in the Lima, Peru airport.

But for all intents and purposes, I was a McDonald’s virgin.

So what did this newly-minted semi-reluctant omnivore do?

No, I didn’t dive in with a double cheeseburger or a Big Mac (I confess, I don’t even really know what a Big Mac entails).

But I did order a plain grilled chicken sandwich (with tomatoes and pickles, of course).  And let me tell you – once I got past the fact that it was McDonald’s, it was good.

I’m still wrapping my head around this whole meat-eating affair.

It’s been almost a month since that first turkey sandwich, and I’ve been working hard to integrate animal protein into my diet.

That may sound funny – working hard – but really, after avoiding it for more than twenty years, it doesn’t feel even remotely natural to reach for meat.  I have to actively remind myself to eat it.  Each time, it’s a conscious decision to turn away from the hummus sandwich or veggie chili and go for the chicken or turkey.

At first, I wasn’t sure it was worth it.  But the proof, well, the proof is in the poultry.  In the last 3+ weeks, I’ve had more energy in general, and more power in training and racing.  My muscles have been less sore, and my recovery much swifter.

Last weekend, after our 16-hour Rev3 outing, I expected to wake up Sunday morning in pain, especially since I’d failed to stretch post-McDonald’s run.  But aside from a bit of stiffness, I felt fine – and by Monday evening, I was antsy to start training again.

I know I can’t totally credit the chicken sandwich.  It helps that I’ve actually been training for adventure racing, instead of operating on the assumption that marathoning with a few long rides thrown in will get me through these races with no consequences.  I’m stronger on bike, and steadier on foot.

But still, if the chicken clucks…

I became a vegetarian in 1990, after a Spanish class piñata incident.  To celebrate the Day of the Dead, my teacher had hung a giant blue bull in the middle of the room.  As I watched the boys pummel the papier-mâché into submission, I made the association with hamburgers, and until this year, have avoided meat ever since.

There are elements of vegetarianism that still speak to me, namely the issues of sustainability and human rights associated with food production and consumption, and I have every intention of remaining conscious of the types of meat I’m eating (even if the occasional post-race McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwich sneaks in there).

But I have to say, I think all you omnivores out there are onto something.  So, for now, count me in.

If anyone wants to give me lessons in how to actually cook the stuff, let me know!

And for the record, I’m still not ready to tell my grandmother.  It would just give her far too much satisfaction.

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10 responses to “Moving Past the Piñata

  1. Kari w/ Jogging with Fiction April 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Hahaha, fantastic last line.
    Everytime I read your meat posts it makes me wonder, but I still can’t do it. I generally don’t really like meat, either, so that doesn’t help. I know what you mean about having to try, though. After a while it’s like there’s no such thing as meat, so it’d be weird to go back to eating it.

  2. Laurie April 27, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I was getting ready to say that you are entirely wrong, but then I remembered I ate a hotdog and 8 strips of beef jerkey. But that’s more because I was craving salt than meat. And I’ve had more energy for training for the past two years or so (since about May of 2009 when I decided to go for Boston) without meat other than during post-marathon feasts.
    I guess what it comes down to is that every body responds a bit differently to how it is fueled, so if it works for you, it works for you.
    But long live spinach and chick peas!

    • Abby April 27, 2011 at 9:58 am

      Thanks for not telling me that I’m dead wrong – that would have made me sad. And don’t worry; I have every intention of eating lots of spinach and chickpeas!

      • Laurie April 27, 2011 at 10:12 am

        Also if you ever need a post-race burger in NYC (you know, for all the adventure races that finish there) might I suggest Five Napkin Burger (or maybe it was just three napkins, I forget). Best burger ever.
        For me, stopping meat 99.99% of the time happened about a month before I started running so I don’t know anything else. It came at a time when I was dedicated to getting myself in shape and staying that way so for me the two go hand and hand.
        Speaking of running, I am failing at getting out the door to go for one this morning.

  3. Mallory April 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Haha you are too funny!!!! McDonald’s isn’t THAT horrible. It is my guilty pleasure from time to time.

  4. Denise April 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    wow, i can’t believe it!!! sounds like it’s making a big difference. i’m sorry you had to have McD’s but i guess it’s good you liked it. i don’t know if i could have done it myself. that place just scares me.

    • Abby April 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      I have to say, I think that “like” is relative – a lot of things taste uncharacteristically good after 16 hours of racing and far too many protein bars and electrolyte gummies 🙂

  5. Shelly April 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I grew up on a dairy farm. We had an abundance of beef. Red meat in general was the focus of the family plate. Well, everyone’s but mine. As a child I saw a cow get slaughtered (I was hiding). By my grandfather. A cow I “knew.” After that I refused to eat meat esp. red meat. Not so great for a sickly severely anemic kid who was taking iron tables daily. Today I do eat so meat and even (very rarely) red meat. I focus on fresh local fruits and veggies then add protien. I eat that way for my health knowing that the conditions in the “meat” industry continue whether or not I am a part of it. (I do try to purchase meat from local known farmers so I know their farming practices)
    Glad you are able to be open to changing your views on things. So many people are not.

  6. Angela Kidd April 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I don’t eat a lot of meat but it’s weird, sometimes I just crave it. I always want a hamburger after an Ironman. I just trying to listen to my body and eat meat when I think it’s telling me to eat meat. I almost NEVER eat McDonalds, but when desperate also go with the grilled chicken sandwich. Now Burger King, that is a fast food place with few acceptable options.

  7. Tasha @ Voracious April 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

    HAHAH! I know what you mean about not telling your grandma. Telling people who were so skeptical and not so nice about my veganism was positively miserable. I would just hide behind the doctor’s excuse – I have to! I would say.

    When it gets right down to it, you feel better, healthier, stronger, so you are doing what is right for you. It is amazing how our bodies tell us so clearly what they need, and how drastically that changes. As we’ve talked about before, when I was first back to eating meat, I craved it constantly. Now it’s mellowed out, but I definitely need it regularly. And yes, the feeling of energy and strength is incredible – I’m so glad to have it back!

    By the way, I answered your question in my blog comments! 🙂

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