Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Putting my money where my mouth is

As some of you know, for my thesis project I'm designing a restaurant centered around the principles of sustainable agriculture. That is to say, food that is organically and sustainably raised and produced, and local to extend 150 miles from Richmond. Some might say that organic and sustainable are the same, but after reading Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, he makes a very valid point that there is a significant difference in not just scale, but also footprint, of how the food is raised. If it's true that on average our food travels about 1,300 miles from farm (or factory) to our plate, that distance comes with considerable unseen "costs" that in days of increasinglyt scarce oil, may become unbearable in years to come.

Much of my research started with looking at the slow food movement, and chefs who work to promote "slow" foods and production in their restaurants. Chief among these chefs here in the US is Alice Waters. She has founded a non-profit organization that is looking to promote more healthy eating in public schools in a novel way: by teaching children to grow the food and prepare it, you instill in them an appreciation for their work, and a greater appreciation of the value of digging in the dirt. Several schools in the Berkeley area have implemented this type of program, with the food grown on former playgrounds being incorporated into daily menus.

Other reading on the topic of eating seasonally and locally included Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. Those two books prompted me to question the quality of the food I was finding in my local Ukrops, Fresh Market, and Kroger supermarkets. Asparagus, blueberries, and grapes available throughout the year, but at what cost? Is it cheaper to buy those grapes knowing they may have been grown with DDT, when you factor in the possible health issues of consuming those pesticides? What about how much it cost to get them here, and what the farm worker was paid to harvest them? These are hard questions, and while my bleeding liberal heart told me to abandon all trips Ukrops, the realistic side of me knew that I couldn't at this point commit myself to eating that way immediately. So I've done the next best thing. I've bought a share of a CSA.

CSA's are wonderful things: you purchase at the beginning of the season a share of a farmer's produce, and I had the option--which I took--of including free-range eggs, chicken, flowers, and goat cheese. (In my book it's worth it for the goat cheese alone!) I found a cooperative of about 3 farms from two neighboring counties, and one outside Charlottesville that delivers on a weekly basis to a local market here in town. While it seemed steep to write a check out in advance for all that food, I know it will be worth it in the long run. I may have to come up with creative ways to get my kids to eat things like beets, but my daughter's budding interest in the culinary arts should give us some good times in the kitchen and improve my nutrition during peak training months. To find a CSA near you, check out LocalHarvest. Bon Appetit.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

TriGirls Rock Shamrock!

Many congratulations to the TriGirl half-marathon finishers:
Bethany L - 2:08.51
Caroline P - 1:34.38
Cathy D - 3:57.55
Charlotte M - 2:33.42
Cindy D - 2:04.34
Deanna L - 2:26.20
Deborah M -2:13.44
Dianne S - 2:27.06
Jackie R - 2:04.41
Jill B - 2:09.36
Joan G - 1:58.00
Lynn D - 2:08.27
Margo S - 3:28.20
Mary T - 2:09.33
Mary Beth E - 2:55.51
Megan L - 1:50.52
Melissa F - 2:04.06
Molly W - 2:08.20
Sandee G - 2:14.35
Sharon D - 2:08.34
Teresa D - 3:15.43
Trish P - 2:17:05

And to our marathon finishers:
Patty H - 4:26.31
Prissie N - 4:03.44
Ann N (her 1st!) - 6:26.13
Kate B - 5:03.07
Anna Beth M - 5:03:39
Kate T - 5:01:28

I wish I could have been there with you all!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Eye on the Prize"

The talk Wednesday night in the locker room after Master's was focused on this weekend's race. I think there are at least 10 TriGirls running various distances, most the half marathon. I will be sitting it out. As other races come up this spring, especially White Lake with over 30 TriGirl and Maramarc folks running, it will be hard to be on the sidelines. I won't be the only one sitting out Shamrock--I just learned of TriGirl Cyndi's diagnosis and won't be alone in my misery. Walking Joey home from school today, I stopped to chat with a neighbor--she's a great athlete, runner, mom, and full-time OB-Gyn. She asked why I'm persuing an Ironman. "It's so hard on your body, and you run the risk of serious injury," she said. But then I talked about the inspiration of my friends, watching them all cross that finish line last year, and she knowingly nodded. "It's out there and you want it," she said then warned me to be careful and listen to my body.

Coach Blake has offered me a new perspective on my position (and now Cyndi's too) being an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience. I can make a very deliberate and careful choice--to keep training, risking worse injury, or to take the time to heal properly and come back stronger. His exact words to me were, "Keep your eye on the prize." And Ironman Florida is my prize. The focus I can afford to give now to my physical therapy, will pay dividends this fall. Yes, Kent (my physical therapist), I will try to back down on the spinning and running....and I promise I will quit when I feel pain.

With spring break ending this weekend, and under orders to take training more easily, I am once again going to be spending all my free time in the studio. Our outside critique last week went well, but there is much refining to do on my design, models still to be finished (or just made), and many, many drawings to produce. On Tuesday I was able to go up to the design center in DC to hear Roger Thomas, the design director for all Wynn hotel properties, talk about his inspirations. The man, like many talented designers, takes a sketch book everywhere. He made the point that even if his sketches aren't perfect, they capture and convey more about the time and place he was, than the actual detail of the object he hoped to draw, enough so that the detail of a stone wall he saw flying by in a car in Italy is transformed into a mosaic wall in a restaurant in Vegas. Later that afternoon, in perusing old pen and ink drawings for sale, one that was smaller than 3" caught my eye. It was a masterful little drawing of the piazza San Marco in Venice, complete with people sitting in a cafe in the foreground and a crowd in front of the arches of the Doge's palace in the distance.

Time and patience....and practice. If I wasn't trying to train for an ironman, I'd want to learn how to draw like that.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pesky problems

Here it is just one week before the Shamrock half marathon, and due to my sporadic running and attempts to up my milage, my IT band is letting me know that I'm not doing things right. I have a doctor/PT appointment for Wednesday morning--Kent, my therapist who worked with me after my ACL surgery, is warming up his thumbs to work out all that bad juju. Didn't I just post something about him looking forward to seeing me more? Coach Mark agrees that with the larger prize out there this fall, the prudent course of action is to take it easy now, resolve the IT issue and then build back up slowly starting in May.
On a separate note, I've always lamented that despite my swanky bike and wheels, I'm still slow as molasses on the bike--at least when we're cycling outside. Inside I'm FAST. Yeah, right. But I've been trying to use the indoor cycling training to improve my cadence, especially in the higher gears. I was pleased as pie yesterday when Coach Blake commented on a perceived improvement in my cycling. I hope it makes a difference when we get back outside.
Today we start back in the pool with Som. Yey!

Monday, March 3, 2008


This weekend was spent in the studio, finishing floor plans and renderings for our big crit session on Tuesday. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday I was there late (usually about 1am), Friday night I worked at home until 1:30 after a two hour break for family game and movie night. I have had to revise my plans for the Shamrock half marathon March 16th. If I show up for it, which right now looks doubtful, the goal will be to just finish the thing. My sights for now have to be set on getting through the next two months--April 24th is the opening night of the exhibit showcasing our graduate projects. The following week I defend. Then, I can get back to things like seeing my family, sleeping, and training (in that order).