Friday, September 16, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 6

I got up this morning at 5:20 for my typical Thursday morning run. I wasn't sure how I would feel, but I was pretty good after my slice of bread with peanut butter and half a banana. It held me pretty well through all 8.5 miles of my run as well, so I was pleased (I think I may have found a new pre-run snack!). When I showed up for the run, my friend Elizabeth presented me with a Gu, but I politely declined, telling her that if I were really on food stamps, I wouldn't be a member of the running club, and I probably wouldn't have friends who could give me extra Gus (which are something like $1.20 each!). She joked about "accidentally" dropping it and other funny things, but it was a great way to get the group talking about the Hunger Challenge! One of my friends said, "I can't believe you're doing this and training at the same time!" But I explained that I'm actually getting enough calories. Plenty of carbs, in fact! They're just not the calories that I'd prefer to be eating (like fresh fruits and veggies). We also talked about the poverty level in the U.S. and other similar current issues, so I was happy to see that the challenge provided food for thought.

Déjà vu?
Breakfast was oatmeal again, which was nice and filling, and since we didn't have any more nectarines, we opted to eat the two extra hard-boiled eggs. Instead of eating them at that point, though, we saved them for a mid-morning snack, which was even better, because it helped stretch the calories out a little longer.

For lunch, we went with egg salad sandwiches and some of the tomato soup that Stephen made. I also brought the leftover "pico de gallo" that I made for dinner last night because we'd already priced it out, and it was going to go to waste. It was a nice addition to the egg salad! I ate half of the soup with my sandwich and was plenty full, so I saved the rest for later. I chatted with Andrea at lunch again - they had a dinner party on a budget, and had friends bring food that stayed within the allowance as well. Sounded like a fun idea! We also got a few of our coworkers talking about the Challenge, which brought up some of the same issues that we discussed on the run this morning. Our office volunteers at the SF Food Bank a couple of times a year, so lots of our coworkers are familiar with what goes on there, but this just takes it to a whole other level.

I worked a little later than usual, but I managed to space out the rest of my snacks (some snickerdoodles, a banana, and the rest of my soup), eating the banana just before I headed home. I have to admit that as I was leaving the office I noticed that I could still taste the onions I'd eaten at lunch. I didn't have a toothbrush or toothpaste in my desk drawer (I think I must have taken it out when I was traveling somewhere), so I was really conflicted about what to do. I didn't figure that gum was part of the budget, but I finally decided that, for the sake of my fellow passengers, I would have a piece of gum. I mean, have you ever sat next to that person on the bus? The one with the really awful breath that makes you turn the other way before you can breathe in? I didn't want to be that person. I'm not considering it cheating since I did it for the sake of others. :) Who knew a piece of gum would create such an issue?!?

Probably the most vegetables we've had all week!
Stephen and I got home at about the same time, so we started cooking dinner pretty much right away. I made some buttermilk biscuits, and he took charge of the tuna patties - tuna, cornmeal, flour, onion, and a little mayo - and we reheated the rest of the tomato soup and collards. And yes, we only used one can of tuna. :) Altogether it made for a really nice meal, and we were more than satisfied with the amount and selection of food.

As I was calculating the costs of the different ingredients, I had to price out the wheat flour because that was already in the pantry. I also checked for the price of the buttermilk to see if there was a discrepancy between there and what we'd paid at Whole Foods (I was sure it had to be cheaper at Safeway). I was very surprised to find that both ingredients were cheaper at Whole Foods! The flour is what surprised me most - it's $2.99 for a 5 pound bag at Whole Foods, and the cheapest one at Safeway is $4.69!!! That's a huge difference, especially when Whole Foods is so often referred to as "Whole Paycheck"! The buttermilk was similar - $1.79 at Whole Foods and $2.19 at Safeway. These differences combined with the deals we got on produce at the Asian market in the Richmond yesterday just go to show that you really have to make sure you're getting the best deal. I know that I'll definitely be more careful about it moving forward, even when I'm not on a crazy tight budget!

Here's today's breakdown:

$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = 2 hard-boiled eggs
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.44 = oatmeal (4 half cup servings)
$1.44 total for breakfast

$0.60 3 hard-boiled eggs
$0.40 2 large slices bread
$0.25 2 small slices bread
$0.18 2T mayo
$0.03 1T mustard
$0.82 2 servings homemade tomato soup

$0.20 1 large slice bread
$0.19 1T peanut butter
$0.08 1/2 banana
$0.44 snickerdoodles
$0.30 2 bananas
$0.10 1 carrot

$0.82 2 servings homemade tomato soup
$0.75 2 servings collard greens
$0.36 2 whole wheat biscuits
$1.00 1 can tuna
$0.12 1/2 cup cornmeal
$0.04 1/4 cup flour
$0.12 3T oil
$0.20 1 egg
$0.10 1/4 onion
$0.27 3T mayo

$8.71 total for the day
$39.81 for the week (still a little surplus!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 5

Seeing a pattern here?
This morning started with another oatmeal breakfast. I'm still convinced that this is the best way to go, because I felt full a lot longer. Unfortunately, we're out of nectarines, so we didn't get any fruit this morning. We're definitely having to make some tough decisions. Since we were out of nectarines, we decided to each have an egg with breakfast, but in trying to save the $0.04 that it costs for a tablespoon of oil, we ended up with some sorta crunchy fried eggs (sorry, sweetie!). I'm just glad I didn't ruin them completely - that would have been a total waste ($0.40 is a good chunk of the budget - can't afford to lose it!). 

We packed lunches again for the day. I didn't really want bologna sandwiches again (even though S was a sweetheart and made them for us - thank you!), so I took the leftover Tuna Mac from last night along with the other half of a pear, a banana, and two snickerdoodles. Stephen took his two bologna sandwiches, a pear, and two snickerdoodles. I did a much better job of spreading things out today - I held off on the pear until after 11:00, and I didn't eat lunch until 12:30 when I'm usually eating at 12 on the dot. 

Yay for leftovers!
I spent most of my lunch break chatting with my coworker Andrea, who's also doing the Hunger Challenge. I wish I'd planned better, because the meals she's eating sound a lot healthier than the ones I've been eating. Shopping at the markets in the Mission seems to be key. The produce is a lot cheaper there, and we could have gotten a lot more fresh veggies for our money. Andrea also calculated what she had been spending on food, and she's going to donate the difference from the week to the SF Food Bank. I think it's an awesome idea! After the reading the NYT article about the poverty level in the U.S., she also decided to divide that amount of money by the Federal Minimum Wage and volunteer that number of hours at the SF Food Bank. Very cool idea, and I wish I'd come up with it (but I might just copy it!).

Yummy snacks and my trusty pink water bottle
Today was a lot better in the food rationing department. Since I ate lunch a bit later, I also managed to hold off on eating the cookies until later, having one before my 2:30 meeting and one after. I saved my banana all the way till 4:15, when I was getting ready to go home. I met Stephen on the way there, and we walked home from the bus stop together. He had a better day too, spreading his two sandwiches out over 1.5 hours, but the cookies didn't do too much to tide him over throughout the afternoon. We decided to split a peanut butter sandwich when we got home because we knew it would be a while until we'd be able to eat - I had a video conference for work, and he was going to look at an apartment. 

Only thing missing was some Tapatío!
Stephen got home just as I was putting the rice on for dinner, and he had just bought a bunch of produce at a little Asian market in the Richmond, so we did a little food prep while dinner was cooking.  He did an amazing job shopping - 5 ears of corn for $1.00 and 6 pounds of tomatoes for $0.59, among other great finds!!! I fried up some onions and bacon to add to the beans that we still had left over from Days 1 and 2, and then I chopped up some more onion and tomato to make some "pico de gallo" (wish I'd thought about cilantro before he went to the store!), which really spiced up the beans and rice. We had some corn with it too - lots of starch, but better for us than the Tuna Mac we had yesterday. :) 

After dinner, we walked up to Whole Foods to buy some more bulk oatmeal and cornmeal. On the way home, I realized I hadn't gotten the quarters I needed for laundry, so I asked Stephen if he had any. He stuck his hand in the pocket of his fleece to check, and pulled out a chocolate chip cookie! He had grabbed two of them on the way out the door, and then put one in his pocket because he wanted to eat it, but needed his hand free. He somehow forgot about it and found it an hour later on our walk home. Hilarious!

When we got home, we sat down to plan out tomorrow's meals. Let's just say we totally got into it, arguing over spreadsheets (Stephen is a whiz at Excel - I prefer pen and paper) and whether or not we could afford a second can of tuna to get some more protein. It got pretty tense for a bit, but thankfully we were able to laugh it off once we realized how silly it was. Thing is, for most of the people living on this kind of budget, there's nothing silly about it. It's serious business making sure that you're getting enough nutrition and staying within the allotted budget. After a couple of days, we're even more convinced that it would become second nature if for someone who is constantly living under strict budgetary constraints - walking into any store, you would generally know how much your typical purchases are going to cost you (except maybe those that are more variable like milk or fruit), and at a quick glance, you would know if a certain product was something you could buy. Not that it makes things any easier. I'm sure that part of this "being used to it" includes skipping complete aisles at the grocery store, not even thinking about getting that cereal your kids like, or foregoing healthy fruits and vegetables in exchange for other, more filling foods that are less expensive. The Food Bank helps solve some of these problems, but there is no reason that anyone in this country should have to face these issues on a daily basis. Now if we could just get the government to get their act together...

Here's today's breakdown:
$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = 2 eggs
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.30 = oatmeal (2/3 cup each)
$1.30 total for breakfast

$0.62 turkey bologna (4 slices) (S)
$0.50 bread (4 slices) (S)
$0.31 cheese (1 oz) (S)
$0.02 mustard (2t) (S)
$0.66 Tuna Mac (J)
$2.11 total ($3.41 overall)

$0.25 pear (S)
$0.12 1/2 pear (J)
$0.35 banana (J)
$0.19 peanut butter
$0.25 2 slices of bread
$0.16 snickerdoodles (2 each)
$1.32 total ($4.73 overall)

$0.33 Pinto beans (1/4c dry) 
$0.23 bacon (to flavor the beans)
$0.15 Cheese (1/2 oz)
$0.40 Corn (5 ears for $1!)
$0.31 Rice (1/2 cup dry)
$0.06 tomatoes ($0.59 a pound!)
$0.05 3/4 of an onion
$0.24 Corn tortillas (2 each) 
$2.03 Total for dinner  ($6.32 overall)

$0.08 2 snickerdoodles (J)
$0.18 2 chocolate chip cookies (and some pocket fuzz) (S)

$6.58 total for the day
$30.47 for the week (beefed up the surplus again!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 4

Tasted like peaches and cream!
Today's oatmeal breakfast was much more satisfying than yesterday's Cheerios. I'm glad we decided to go that route, because more than three hours later I was just getting hungry. I also really like oatmeal, so I don't mind having it on a regular basis. Granted, I'd like it better with blueberries, but I'm not going to be picky. :) It was plenty tasty with raisins and that half of a nectarine!

I finished baking the Snickerdoodles this morning, so there's an abundance of yummy cinnamony, sugary goodness sitting in the kitchen that's pretty tough to resist. Fortunately, they're only 4 cents each, so it's not a big deal.

The last of our tasty pork stew
The morning was spent working from home, taking conference calls and just trying to get things done. Stephen had to go do a volunteer project for work in the afternoon, so we shared our last two portions of pork stew and cornbread (fortunately, he had the brilliant idea to add more water to the pot last night, making for a lot more broth to soak up with the cornbread!). It was delicious, as usual! Stephen packed up his snacks for the trail (some popcorn and cookies), and headed out, while I stayed home to continue working for the afternoon (not implying at all that S wasn't working - in fact, he came back from the volunteer project and continued to answer emails long after working hours!).

I also prepared some low-budget Tuna Mac for dinner, knowing that we were both planning on running in the evening, and that we'd be too hungry to actually make dinner when we got home. There was a recipe on the box of mac and cheese ($0.75) that contained milk, cream of mushroom soup, and tuna, but I went ahead and made up my own thing. Rather than making the mac and cheese by the box directions, I cut out the margarine to save a few pennies. First, I added some extra whole wheat pasta to the pot to make our meal go further. Then I used half of the amount of margarine that was called for ($0.07) along with some flour ($0.02) and milk ($0.33) to make a very thick béchamel sauce to substitute for the cream of mushroom soup that we didn't have (and which would have cost $0.58 more than the sauce I made). I mixed that in to the mac and cheese, added a little bit more milk and the tuna, some salt and pepper, and we had a pretty tasty meal ready for dinner.

While I was preparing our dinner, I made the mistake of eating my two cookies way too soon after lunch, leaving very little for me to snack on between 1:00 and my afternoon run. We had already budgeted everything out for the rest of the day, and I knew we'd be cutting it close at the end of the day, so I had to be careful with the snacks. This is when I realized that working from home is a lot harder when you're on a budget because there's all kinds of food sitting around the house that you can't eat! I'm sure there are plenty of moms who deal with this if they're home during the day, taking care of kids, preparing food for others, etc. If I eat a little bit more than I should, we risk going over our "budget", but I can't even imagine the pressure faced by those who actually suffer from hunger. If they eat just a little bit more than their allotted amount,  it might be their child who doesn't get enough food at the next meal.

I saved some popcorn until mid-afternoon, but as we all know, a little baggie of popcorn doesn't do much more than satisfy the need for something crunchy/salty! At some point in the afternoon, I couldn't think of anything other than food, so I looked for something cheap and healthy to eat. I settled for half of a pear ($0.12), which was good for a while, but then the other half of that pear sat in the fridge and taunted me for the rest of the afternoon (I was so desperate, I actually tweeted about it!). Not to mention, there was also a huge plate of snickerdoodles sitting in the kitchen. So much for not obsessing about food!
Yummy pre-run snack!

When 5:00 finally came around, I broke out my lovely little half of a peanut butter and banana sandwich (our pre-run snack), and then ran over to Kezar Stadium. The first few miles were pretty tough, but then the sandwich caught up with me and I felt much better. I did the warmup and drills with the group, and then sent them off to do their speed work while I did another mile and a half of easy running on the grass. We all gathered for planks, and I was still feeling good, so I ran to the bus, putting me at about 9 miles for the evening (more than usual, and I had a good spring in my step at the end), but then I had to wait for the bus. I missed the 43 Masonic, so I ran up to catch the N Judah, which would take me to the 49 to get home. The N wasn't a problem - just a few minutes' wait, but when I got the 49, the bus that was supposed to come never did. I'm pretty sure the only thing that kept me sane during that whole period was Angry Birds. I also realize that if I were actually living on food stamps, it's pretty certain that I wouldn't have Angry Birds to distract me (I probably wouldn't have gone on a 9 mile run with my running club either, although there are some good programs out there for inner-city youth, so who knows). Point is, I couldn't just step into Walgreens or some other store and get a Muscle Milk ($3.29!!!) or even a banana, which is what I would have done under normal circumstances. As a running coach, I'm always reminding runners that it's really important to eat something small right after a run - this is when the muscles need to repair themselves and store energy for later. Here I had no choice but to wait.

I now realize that many of the people standing around me at the bus stop on Market and Van Ness were probably feeling the same way, except that this is their life, not just an experiment that they "get to do" for a week. Hunger is a challenge that they deal with every day. I'm pretty ashamed to admit that I was so cranky and hungry that this thought didn't even occur to me in the moment. I've gotten so used to having what I want when I want it, that in the midst of doing this Hunger Challenge for the purpose of raising awareness about those who are less fortunate, I didn't even stop to think that I've got it good. I knew I was going home to a warm home and a hot meal; that it was just a matter of time before I'd get home and eat. Only now, as I'm writing this blog has this actually occurred to me, but as the week continues, I will make it a point to keep this in the forefront of my mind.
Collards and Tuna Mac - so good!

Because of our budget, I had planned for him to eat two servings and for me to eat just one, but he was super sweet and gave me a couple extra spoonfuls of his. The collard greens he made were really tasty, and it was nice to finally have some green vegetables! We had each had a couple of snickerdoodles for dessert, and went to bed feeling full. We're pretty damn lucky.

 Here's the breakdown for the day:

$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = nectarine
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.44 = oatmeal (4 half cup servings)
$1.44 total for breakfast

$0.58 for cornbread
$1.97 for stew (see yesterday's post for the breakdown) 
$2.51 for lunch

$0.20 for popcorn
$0.12 for half of a pear
$0.48 for snickerdoodles
$0.80 for snacks

$0.25 for two slices of whole wheat bread 
$0.19 for 2T of peanut butter
$0.35 for a banana
$0.79 for our pre-run snack

($0.75 for mac and cheese
$0.23 for 3oz whole wheat pasta
$0.66 for milk
$0.07 for margarine
$0.02 for flour
$1.00 for tuna
$2.73 for the full Tuna Mac recipe)

$2.04 for three servings of Tuna Mac
$0.75 for collard greens
$0.16 for 4 snickerdoodles
$2.95 for dinner

$8.49 total for the day
$23.89 for the week (our surplus had dwindled to just 11 cents!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 3

I'm not gonna lie, I was a little bit nervous about how Monday would go. I'm used to having cereal with yogurt and berries and a substantial cup of coffee before heading to work. Mid-morning snack is usually a banana and some string cheese (or something similar). Not today. Today we got Honey Nut Cheerios (the really huge box was on sale for $3.33!) and half of a banana. One cup of milk and one small but strong cup of coffee (much better than yesterday!). We each had 3 servings of Honey Nut Cheerios, which is a decent amount, but seeing as how I've still got the hunger mechanism of an Ironman triathlete, I was pretty dang hungry by mid-morning.

The banana definitely made this meal!
$0.90 Cheerios (3 servings ea.)
$0.44 milk (1c ea.)
$0.24 coffee (2 servings ea.)
$0.35 banana (1/2 ea.)

$1.93 total

I broke into my popcorn snack at about 10:30 (great idea, Stephen, and only 20 cents!), thinking that I would save some for the afternoon, but I pretty much devoured it within a few minutes. I'm not looking to trade jobs because I know I've got it pretty darn good in my cubical here, but something tells me I wouldn't be thinking about food quite so much if I were up and moving around during the day. This is probably a temporary thing, though, because normally if I'm hungry, I can just grab one of my snacks from the fridge or desk drawer, or go to one of the many nearby food establishments here in the FiDi. This has also become a bit of a bad habit because oftentimes I'll just eat because I'm bored, not because I'm actually hungry.

Not a bad little treat, but not very filling!
Stephen also made a good point - we're not exerting any kind of physical energy here at our computers. Many people who are on food stamps are working hard labor or are at least on their feet all day long, so while food might not always be on their mind, they're definitely in need to more calories because of their activity levels at work. Unfortunately, the calories that they're getting are often not of the healthy variety, they're the easy kind, which may be filling, but they're not nutritious.

By the time lunch rolled around, I was so hungry that I totally forgot to take a picture of my lunch until I'd devoured (daintily) my carrot sticks and half of my turkey bologna sandwich. I decided to save the nectarine until a little bit later so that I could stretch out my lunch for as long as possible. We did a good job of planning our lunch by packing it all up last night - I made three turkey bologna sandwiches (one for me and two for Stephen) with two slices of whole wheat bread, two pieces of bologna, 1/2oz of cheese and a tsp of mustard on each. Since Stephen got two sandwiches, I added some carrot sticks and a nectarine to my lunch.

So hungry I forgot to photograph the carrot sticks!

$0.93 turkey bologna (6 slices)
$0.75 bread (6 slices)
$0.46 cheese (1.5 oz)
$0.04 mustard (3t)
$0.10 carrot
$0.40 nectarine
$2.68 total ($4.81 overall)

This brought up a minor point of contention last night as we were preparing for today's meals - when Stephen told me he'd like two bologna sandwiches, I was like, "Esssscuse me??? Why do you get more of the budget than I do???" ($1.45 for him, $1.22 for me). Thankfully, I didn't say that out loud, because I realize the poor guy has 6 inches and 60 pounds on me, so he obviously needs to eat more than I do. I've been offering him more beans and more meat when we've shared meals because I've always expected him to eat more, but the prospect of making him a SECOND sandwich came as a bit of a shock to me.

This has to be really difficult for families that are on food stamps - kids will have to go without at times, but I'm sure the parents are the ones who more often have to skimp on their meals so their growing children get enough to eat. I know I can get pretty cranky when I'm hungry, so I'm sure this creates a lot of bad feelings amidst an already tough situation.  

By the time I left the office, I was getting pretty hungry again. I had done a fairly good job of rationing out my food for the afternoon, but I think I could have done a better job. Next time, I'll cut my sandwich in half, I think! I ate one cookie right after my carrot sticks and sandwich at about noon, then waited for about an hour and a half to eat half a nectarine. Half an hour later, I ate the other cookie, and then at about 3:40, I ate the other half of the nectarine. I still can't believe that I managed to only eat half of that thing at a time, but it was definitely a good call on my part!

After work, Stephen and I chose to walk home, which might not have been the best idea, because we were both clearly hungry and a little bit out of sorts. It did, however, give us the chance to stop at Cala Foods to pick up some mayonnaise and collard greens to finish off some of the meals we've got planned for the rest of the week. As soon as we got home, we put the stew on the stove and heated up the cornbread. The stew, like last night, was great, and the cornbread was a real treat. I made sure to serve up a few more potatoes in Stephen's bowl than in mine so he wouldn't go hungry. :) We also treated ourselves to a chocolate chip cookie.

I can't get this picture to turn, and I don't care anymore!

$0.58 for cornbread
$1.97 for stew (see yesterday's post for the breakdown)
$0.18 one cookie each
$2.73 total ($7.72 altogether)

After dinner, I also made some snickerdoodles (one of my favorite cookies!) because someone posted the recipe on my friend Andrea's Facebook page (she's also doing the challenge). At 4 cents a cookie, I couldn't resist! We've got kind of a bad cookie habit going on here, but considering that we're still running and that it's really our only treat, I'm not too worried about it. We each had 3.5 snickerdoodles and 1/2 cup of milk (two cookies before we went to see a show at the Fringe Festival, and 1.5 afterward!).

Stephen gives the cookies his seal of approval!
It was a challenging day at times, and I feel like we're totally food-obsessed, but I think it will get easier as we get used to it. Though we were up a little bit today, we're still doing well on our $4.00 per day budget going by a weekly basis:

$8.62 total for the day
$15.40 for the week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 2

It's Day 2 of the Hunger Challenge, and so far things are going pretty well.

Thank God it's Sunday, because the morning started with a frantic scramble to figure out how much a serving of coffee costs. Not sure that's something I could handle on a Monday morning. :) Anyway, if you make an actual serving of coffee, it's $0.06, which isn't too bad. Thing is, an actual serving of coffee is only two teaspoons of grinds and 6 oz of water, making for some rather weak coffee compared to what we're used to. We opted for two servings each this morning, and we were pretty satisfied with the result - tomorrow we may need to reduce the water a bit so it's a little stronger and more enjoyable. 

The nectarine put it over the top - definitely a bit of a luxury!
The rest of breakfast consisted of some oatmeal (1 cup of oats each), raisins (18 raisins each - those little buggers are pretty pricey!), a little bit of sugar, half a nectarine each (pretty expensive at $0.40 each, but I didn't want them to go to waste since I bought them last week), and half a cup of milk each (for the coffee and to cool down the oatmeal.

So excited the natural PB was on sale!
$0.12 = (36 raisins)
$0.24 = coffee (4 6oz servings)
$0.40 = nectarine
$0.22 = milk (1 cup) 
$0.02 = 4 tsp sugar
$0.44 = oatmeal (4 half cup servings)
$1.44 total for a pretty tasty breakfast

After breakfast, we had to run some errands, and we decided to go for a little trail run up at Tennessee Valley, so we opted for a quick PB&J snack on our way out the door. 

$0.25 for two slices of whole wheat bread 
$0.19 for 2T of peanut butter
$0.10 for 1T blackberry preserves
$0.54 total for a PB&J (which we split) ($1.98 altogether)

After our trail run, we were pretty much bonked and desperate for lunch, mostly because it was close to 3pm by the time we got home. Didn't plan that one too well! We had already planned to have some more beans and some of the cornbread that Stephen made last night, so it didn't take too long to heat things up. Since Stephen obviously needs more calories than I do, I gave him some of my beans (I don't think I could have possibly eaten any more of them even if I'd tried!), and I used a few more cents to add some margarine and honey to my cornbread.

Starting to get desperate for some veggies...
$0.66 for the beans
$0.58 for the cornbread
$0.02 for 1/2T margarine
$0.05 for 1tsp honey
$1.31 total for lunch ($3.29 altogether)

We each also had a mid-afternoon chocolate chip cookie ($0.18), so that put us at $3.47 for the day.

I was particularly looking forward to dinner, a vegetable and pork stew that Stephen made last night. It turned out to be pretty freaking fantastic! It's probably going to be our only fresh meat of the week, but it will last us for three meals, so that's great. When we were shopping yesterday, we went straight for the clearance meat first, to see what was available. Most of it was a scary greenish-gray color, so we didn't go there, but we did find this one nice little package of pork that was cut up for stew. We'd already planned to have stew on the menu, so it worked out well for us. Beyond that, we bought a bag of carrots and a bag of potatoes. Add water, salt, pepper, and a little bit of vegetable oil to brown the pork, and voila! Add to that some cornbread to soak up the broth, and you have yourself a mighty fine dinner. Thinking back, I sort of wish we'd bought that head of cabbage to throw in there, but considering the amount of beans we've eaten in the last two days, maybe it's better that we didn't. :)
Very tasty, and filling too!

So, for dinner we had:
$0.66 for the potatoes
$0.28 for the carrots
$0.98 for the pork
$0.01 for the vegetable oil
$0.58 for the cornbread
$2.51 total for dinner, bringing us to $5.98

Milk ($0.44 for 1/2c each) and cookies ($0.36 for 2 each) for dessert brings us today's grand total to $6.78!

I have to say, after only a day and half, it's starting to get pretty exhausting. I assume that you would start to get to know what and how much each person can have after doing this for a while, but it seems like all we've talked about all day is food. I can see how this would be really tough to deal with day after day - having to plan so carefully while already dealing with so few resources. Definitely makes you think.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

San Francisco Food Bank Hunger Challenge - Day 1

A couple of days ago, a coworker of mine posted the Hunger Challenge on Facebook. The idea is to live on a food stamp budget for a week, to put yourself into the shoes of someone who truly faces hunger on a daily basis. The average daily food stamp budget in the state of California is $4.72 a day. That's $33.04 a week (there was actually a temporary increase to $4.72 from $4.00, so that leaves us with $28 a week - we'll try to stick to that, but we're not sure how it will work combined with our athletic endeavors). I don't know about you, but I regularly spend more than that on a meal if I'm going out with friends. It really made me think about the kind of money I spend on food and the difficulty that many people must face when it comes to feeding themselves and their families.

So I talked Stephen into participating with me (actually, he was in as soon as I mentioned it), and we started planning for our week. Now, I'm going to admit that we're cheating just a little bit. We're both training for big endurance events, and we both have to do really long runs next Saturday morning (20 miles for me, 30 for Stephen), so we decided to start this Saturday night so that we could have a good recovery meal after our long run next week.

We went shopping this evening, taking special care to price everything out, from the price of a single serving to the price per ounce. Now I know it's not really the idea of the challenge, and I'm sure it would be different after a while, but it was kind of fun figuring everything out and trying to get the best deals on everything.

Stephen had already made some pinto beans (yay for bulk foods!), so we planned to eat those tonight. Thankfully we didn't have to do a lot of preparation because somebody was cranky by the time we got home from the grocery store (okay, I was too!). :) We put together quite the nice little meal, given our limits. The costs for the two of us were as follows:

Not too shabby, right?

$0.66 = Pinto beans (1/2c dry) 
$0.31 = Cheese (1/2 oz ea.)
$0.33 = Corn (1/2 ear ea.)
$0.44 = Canned tomatoes (1/4c ea.)
$0.05 = Serrano pepper (1/4 ea.)
$0.24 = Corn tortillas (2 each) 
$2.03 Total for dinner 

I was looking for ways to keep things interesting, so I also made some chocolate chip cookies. Most of the ingredients are the of staples that people would have around the house - at least sugar and flour, and I think they'd still be reasonable purchases on a food stamp budget (since you probably wouldn't be buying all of them at the same time). My half recipe of chocolate chip cookies works out to $1.77, which is $0.09 per cookie. Add a half cup of milk for $0.10, and you've got a decent bedtime snack for just $0.38 per person!

Our grand total for today was $2.79, leaving us $6.65 for next Saturday (or $5.21, if we stick to the $4.00 a day plan). Not a bad start, but it'll be interesting to see where the week takes us!

Friday, September 02, 2011

IM Canada Training with M2

Last August when I signed up for Ironman Canada, I was excited about the prospect of training with a big group of athletes (and I wouldn’t be the only girl!). I knew that most of the group would be training with Michael McCormack (AKA M2), whose spin class I had been taking for about a year, and I knew that his workouts were supposedly epic. Man, was I in for a surprise!
Over the course of the season, our M2 crew of 25+ did insane workouts – spin classes that left us all wobbly-legged, hill climbs that would make even hardcore athletes cringe, and trail runs and century rides that are definitely not for the faint of heart. The best (and worst) part of all these adventures was that you never knew what you were going to get. The workouts were almost always worse than they sounded (and they sounded BAD), but just as I’d been told, they always ended up being epic.

Besides participating in the Silicon Valley Int'l Triathlon, the Double Dipsea, and Vineman 70.3 races, training adventures included:
  • Off-roading on the road bike (this would be the same ride where M2 told me to “stop being a chickenshit”, something that I have striven to remedy ever since!)
  • Riding the Solvang Century route with the new boyfriend in July in 100+ degree temps and ridiculous headwinds (and we still like each other – thank God he’s as crazy as I am!), followed by a substantial (and also hot) trail run in Montaña del Oro along the Rattlesnake and Badger trails
Honey Badger don't care...
  • A double BoFax/Seven Sisters loop. 5000 feet of climbing in about 50 miles - ‘nuff said.

  • A swim-bike-run Tahoe weekend, which included taking a conference call on a 20-miler to Tiburon on Friday, swimming in the Trans Tahoe Relay ACROSS Lake Tahoe with five of my teammates on Saturday and a cycling trip around Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Enjoying a cold one after my second swim leg
  • An epic 19-mile trail run near Mount Tam. You don't need a map…it’ll be obvious. Flow along the lake, cross the dam and go down the hill with the river on your left. Turn up a trail on the right (think it has the word “Oat” in it). Gnarly climb, you’ll know it. Dumps out at the golf course then flow toward meadow Bon Tempe area and back toward 5 Corners. Yeeeaaaahhhhhh…If I hadn’t brought my trail map, I’d probably still be wandering around somewhere near Alpine Lake, begging Cokes off of poor, unsuspecting picnickers…

Just before getting dumped out at the golf course
  • The Shasta Summit Century – 10,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles, and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life (even after IM Canada!)
Gorgeous view of Shasta from the top of the third, and hardest climb
  • Hill repeats at Limantour. The saddle sores from Shasta hadn’t healed by the time we did this lovely ride!
There are hills, we will go over them. Well, up them. Twice.
  • A swim from Alcatraz in ridiculous chop. Picture swimming in a washing machine.
That's the city in the background. I swallowed a lot of sea water that day.
  • A time trial from Stinson Beach to the top of Mount Tam ONE week before Ironman
The M2 crew at the top of Tam, looking sharp in our matching kits!
  • And for good measure, a trail run to Alamere Falls (where I damn near killed myself climbing down the scree to get to the beach), followed by a swim in Bass Lake, which was amazing apart from the “SWIMMING LIZARD!!!”
Scrambling down to the falls, and this was the nice part!
Every workout was hard. Every workout left me feeling like a total badass. Every workout was 100% worth it. And come race day, I felt more than ready to tackle Ironman Canada!

Friday, May 20, 2011

100th Running of the Bay to Breakers

Ah, Bay to Breakers. One of San Francisco's finest events, and also one of the most ridiculous. Nobody knew what would happen this year: ING pulled out after last year's debaucle - trash and urine and a plethora of drunken idiots made the community rather unhappy with the race, and ING didn't want to put up with it any longer.

After months without a sponsor, Zazzle, an unknown, decided to put their name on the 100th running of the race. I'm not going to lie, I was really skeptical about it. What could a company like Zazzle possibly know about running a huge race like Bay to Breakers??? Well, as it turns out, they knew a lot more than most other race sponsors, or they at least lucked out in hiring the right people.

All the talk about cleaning up the race had people freaking out in the weeks before the event. People were working out new ways to hide their alcohol and to avoid the "drunk tanks" along the course (excessively drunk people would be made to hang out in the tents and sober up before being sent on their merry way). People complained about not being able to party, about the early race start, and about the lack of floats allowed on the course.

Upon arrival at the race start (which was very easy, thanks to special early buses), several Road Runners gathered near our corral to take pictures and say hi before the race. Things seemed to be pretty normal, but this is usually the case. Most of the drunkies don't make it that far downtown before heading onto the race course.
JV helps me attach my tail
As Head Coach of the Road Runners - I had to dress as a Road Runner! Beep! Beep!
JV and Steven. It was JV's 7th Anniversary, so she went as a blushing bride.
Running 101ers, ready for their first race!
SFRRC members before the race
JV, Steven and I had returned from the RRCA National Convention the previous night, and vowed to complete our whirlwind weekend by running the race together. As we headed into the start corral, the tortilla tossing began, and (my only complaint) we got stuck in a strange bottleneck between Corral A and the sub-seeded corral. We ended up much farther back in the start than we should have, which resulted in a lot of bobbing and weaving through the crowd.

With Cameron, JV, and Steven in the start corral
JV's first proposal of the day - he wanted to snap a photo with her!
Alllllmost across the start line
Otherwise, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, taking in the costumes, and running on a drunk-free course (which had been blocked off with metal barricades). The thing that impressed me most is that they finally took my idea of adding port-a-potty urinals - basically, a handicapped port-a-potty without a door, converted into a pee trough. How do you keep people from peeing in the neighbors' front yards? Make sure they have somewhere to go! And it sounds like it went off without a hitch. The Kenyans did their thing (actually, Moroccan Ridouane Harroufi won in 34:26, and Kenyan Lineth Chepkurui was #1 woman for the third year in a row in 39:12), the neighbors were happy, people had fun, and hopefully the race will continue well beyond its 100th year.

The best part? Upon reaching Ocean Beach, we were treated to a rainbow over the water. And a downpour. Fortunately, it was over quickly! We walked up to Footstock, collected our medals and some post-race goodies, and then headed on home. Workout done by 10:00am, and not a drunk in sight by the time we made it out of there. Success!
Rainbow at the finish!

Very cool B2B medal!
JV gets ANOTHER proposal!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Wildflower Long Course 2011 (AKA F#$&*n Wind!!!)

SF Tri's campsite
Friday morning before the race, Katya picked me up, we got some groceries, loaded up the bikes and headed down to Lake San Antonio. We made a quick stop in Salinas for some lunch, where I had my typical pre-race turkey sandwich at Subway, and then made our way to the campsite. When we got there, we were pleased to see that Faith and Dan and Paulo had set up our tents (thanks, guys!), so we unloaded the car a bit, said hi to everyone, and then went down Lynch Hill to the transition area to check in. I had forgotten what a long walk it is down there, but it was nice to stretch the legs after having been in the car all morning. We didn’t feel like hanging around down at transition for too long, so we picked up our stuff and took the shuttle straight back to the campsite to get settled and prepare for race morning.

Most of the evening was spent getting my bike ready, getting situated in my tent, and just relaxing. Katya and I had gotten some prepared foods at Whole Foods so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking at the campsite – we shared some tasty orzo pasta salad, butternut squash, and I had some salmon. I don’t remember if I had one beer or two, but I wasn’t feeling it at all. More than anything, it probably just helped me sleep better. We spent some time chatting with other club members and turned in at around 10:00pm. Fortunately, it wasn’t very cold – nothing like training weekend – but I decided that I would bring along my down comforter as well as my sleeping bag. I just wrapped myself up in that bad boy and slept on top of my sleeping bag. It made for a nice soft bed, and I slept really well (except for that damn crying baby at the campsite next to us! Really, who brings a baby to Wildflower race weekend???).

Heading down to transition!
Race morning
First priority – coffee. Then breakfast, bathroom, and gear. I probably should have gotten up a little bit earlier, because I felt pretty rushed to get down to transition. Fortunately, when I actually got down Lynch Hill and into the transition area, things moved a little more smoothly. I set up my stuff, got body marked, and stood in the bathroom line. Ran into Tony Pelosi from SFRRC, so chatting with him took my mind off of the race for a bit. I wasn’t feeling stressed until I realized that I had forgotten my Gas-X (my trick to avoid air bubbles in my stomach from the swim). Crap. Oh well. I was just going to have to deal. Made it down to the water just before our wave start, but with enough time to warm up. A quick swim out and back, and I was ready to go.

Coming out of the water
 Swim – 41:47
The gun went off for our wave, and we were off. The first little section out to the buoy wasn’t too bad. The typical jockeying for position and avoiding of arms. I got hit or kicked in the goggle, and was sure that I’d end up with a black eye or something, but I came out of the swim unscathed. Worse than the kick to the face was the wind. On the way out, it wasn’t too bad – we had the wind at our backs, and even though it was a little bit choppy, we were getting a bit of assistance. When we turned around, it was a totally different story. The waves were just about face high, so every breath and every sighting attempt left me with a face full of water. There was no avoiding it. I told myself to just suck it up, and eventually made it to shore, feeling pretty beaten up. Thanks to all the water in the face, I spent a good chunk of the bike trying to burp up all the air I’d ingested to avoid intestinal issues later on (which, thankfully, were mostly avoided!).

Bike – 3:50:19
T1 was easy and pretty uneventful. Probably could have fumbled less, but I managed to get through quickly enough and onto the bike. The ride out of transition was fine, although I’m not super comfortable on all the curves in this section, especially when there are faster people trying to pass on the left. I was actually relieved to get to the first hill, and while it was tough, I made it to the top MUCH more easily than the last time around. The new bike is a dream, and makes climbing those hills so much easier!
Heading out on the bike

Out on the course, it was a little bit windy on the section out of the campgrounds and onto Interlake Road (which is where I saw the first and second place guys already heading back in from the bike!!!), but I wasn’t too worried. The wind kept up on the way out to Jolón Road, whipping through the valleys and making for some nasty crosswinds, and when we came into the clearing just before the turn onto Jolón, I knew we were screwed. We were riding into a stiff headwind and about to make a 90 degree turn, which meant we’d be fighting crosswinds for the length of Jolón, all the way to the turn toward Nasty Grade. Ugh. The crosswinds were definitely nastier than Nasty on this particular day! Add to that, a convoy of huge trucks from the nearby Army base, and it made for some very dangerous road conditions. The gust of wind coming around one of those trucks picked a cyclist up and blew him into another guy, ending both of their races and requiring an ambulance and a helicopter to get them to the hospital.

I spent 15 miles fighting the crosswinds and holding on for dear life as big trucks would pass us, sometimes, causing us to slow down, as they took up more than their fair share of the road and couldn’t climb a hill for crap. I spent a LOT of time cussing the wind and truck drivers on this particular section. It was also a bit disheartening to see so many ambulances patrolling the course – I get the feeling a lot of people had a really bad race day.

At the turn for Nasty Grade, things improved some, and the stress level came down. I started to regain some strength here, and was feeling pretty dang good by the time I got to the beginning of the climb. I just kept spinning, and when I got to the steep section, I used an M2 trick, standing for 5-10 seconds every so often to give my legs a break and gain a bit of momentum. This year, I was the one PASSING people on Nasty Grade instead of being the one getting passed. A small victory on a really crappy bike ride, but I could definitely see an improvement over a few years ago!

The back section of Nasty Grade sucks – more climbing (with crosswinds!) and a long, scary descent. I played it safe, but still probably got above 40mph going down the hill. From there, it was a piece of cake into the campsite. I came into transition feeling pretty dang good. Switched my shoes, threw on my hat, and headed out on the course.

Coming through the SF Tri campsite, feeling good!
Run – 2:22:50
The first section of the run is a lot of rollers, but there’s also a good amount of shade. I did my best to run the tangents and to take advantage of any downhills. I was still feeling good when I got to the back half, and I think I managed to run up the entire hill on the road by SF Tri’s training weekend campsite. This is the beginning of a pretty exposed section, so I took it easy. I had been planning to walk most of the uphills on this portion of the trail because it’s hot and steep. I slowly ate a Gu as I trudged up the hills, which brought me back to life by the time I got to the top of the screaming downhill that drops you out along side of the road by the park entrance.
Trying to hold it together at mile 11

By the time I got back into the park, I was feeling great, and I flew through the campsites, thanks to cheers from Tony’s rogue Lube Stop (finally, the Vaseline I’d been looking for for the past six miles!) and the GGTC and SF Tri aid stations. I kept flying on the next trail section, and then quickly downed another Gu as I approached the aid station at mile 9.

Aaaaaand that’s where the fun ended. I knew I should have taken the Gu more slowly, but it was too late. I spent most of the next four miles feeling exceptionally pukey, and so I did a lot of walking, trying to avoid losing the Gu and anything else that might come up with it. I lost a lot of time (and a course record) thanks to that stupid Gu. From now on, I’m sticking to Chomps/Clif Blocks or eating Gus much more slowly.

Finish - 7:03:05
I managed to push it a bit on the way down Lynch Hill. I just wanted to be done at that point, but even running down the chute was tough with that Gu sloshing around in there. I steered clear of the food tent, knowing that I was in no shape to eat anything, and instead walked down the hill to the transition area to get some money for a Coke. I ran into my friend Pavel (who’d had a great race), who took one look at me and said, “You don’t look so good – are you okay?” He accompanied me to the store and made sure I got my Coke, and as I regained my composure, we ran into a couple other SF Tri members and headed down to the water to soak.

By the time I made it back to the campsite, I was basically feeling like a real person again, and was able to sit down to dinner with the rest of the group. We spent most of the evening recapping the event and having a few beers before closing up shop and going to sleep. It was a rough day for most – in general, because of the wind and/or stomach issues, tweaky injuries, and other unfortunate events. Given the bad experiences this time around, I’m sure most of us will be back next year to get our revenge on Wildflower Long Course – I know I will!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Presidio 10

I signed up for the Presidio 10 at the last minute, not sure if I was better off just doing my coaching duties at the tent or actually running. As an RRCA 10 mile National Championship Race and Western Regional Championship 10k, I knew I wanted to be there to represent the SFRRC in some way. However, I’ve spent the past four months nursing a nagging hamstring thing – not a full blown injury, but right on the edge of one – that was keeping me from running too hard or doing too much hill work. I’ve been feeling good for the past few weeks thanks to PT, but since I haven’t been doing the speed training, I wasn’t sure about signing up because I didn’t want a crappy time on my athlinks account!

Finally, Coach Matt convinced me to take it easy on the first half of the 10-mile course and then kill it on the downhills/flats in the later miles of the race. That sounded more reasonable than trying to gut it out in a 10k (which probably wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere near my PR). So I signed up on Thursday for the Sunday race. I had done the 10 mile course in 2008 in 1:22:28, which wasn’t particularly fast, but was a good start for where I was in the season. Given my recent setbacks, I didn’t think I could get anywhere near that time, but that was the lofty goal I would be aiming for (or at least near!!!).

On Saturday morning, I went for a nice, fairly hilly bike ride in Marin with some SF Tri friends: SF – Mill Valley – Panoramic Highway – Stinson – Hwy1 – SF. It was a gorgeous day, I felt great on the climbs, and I didn’t really feel tired afterward, so I was very happy with the ride. I spent the rest of Saturday with the RRCA crew at the Sports Basement. Ultrarunner NancyHobbs gave a couple of trail running seminars, and Jean Knaack (Executive Director) and David Epstein (Western Region Director) of the RRCA were in town for the Presidio 10 and California state meeting. After the meeting, we all had dinner together. Coach Bailey and I shared a bottle of wine, which probably wasn't the brightest idea, but we called it a night before it was even dark (stayed out just long enough to catch the end of the Giants game at the restaurant's bar), so there was plenty of time to sleep it off.

Dinner with the RRCA crew (courtesy of Simone Adair)
Coach Bailey picked me up bright and early (and she even brought me a latte!!!), and we got to the race with plenty of time to spare. I was feeling a little bit tired, a little bit gross from breakfast/coffee/the previous night’s wine, and totally unprepared, but because I had pretty low expectations for the race, I stood at the start line feeling ridiculously calm. I ate a Gu, and before I knew it, we were off and running.

Listening to the National Anthem before the race start
A short little jaunt out Crissy Field, and then we headed right into a long uphill mile. I felt pretty strong until we got to the top of Lincoln, and then I had a moment where I thought “Holy crap, I don’t think I can keep this up!” Fortunately, I saw some fellow SFRRCers at the first turnaround and they got my head back in the race. We came back down through the batteries on the Coastal Trail, which I flew on. It was obvious that a lot of the runners weren’t used to running on trails because I passed a ton of them. I guess all the trail running has definitely been paying off – thanks, M2!

From there, we ended up on the west side of the Golden Gate Bridge, which felt like a long slog. That first uphill section on the bridge was pretty painful after the previous hills, and I spent most of it wishing I were flying across it on my bike instead of trudging up it on foot. I got passed by a few people, but I told myself I’d catch them or someone else on my way back down the hill. After crossing under the bridge, I regained my kick going up the other side, and used some psychological warfare to leave a couple of people in my dust. This kept me entertained and I gained some extra confidence by passing people, especially the guys!

Flying down that last hill from the bridge
I really kicked it into high gear on the downhills from the GGB down to Crissy Field. This is where I finally managed to catch the annoying Lululemon chick that I’d been tracking since the beginning of the race (nothing against Lululemon!). I’m not sure what she said at the start, but something about her made me want to kick her ass, so I spent several miles trying to catch her, then blew right by on the way down the Lincoln bike path. A few seconds later, I hear this breathing behind me, and I’m thinking, “Oh great, now she’s going to catch back up!” Thankfully, it turns out, it was my friend Anne, who had apparently been trying to catch up with me since the first little out and back in the Presidio. I had seen her wave to me at that point, but I didn’t know who it was (I was so focused that I just saw the arm stick out, but didn’t have time to catch the face that went with it!). Anne and I chatted on the way out to Fort Point, but I let her go ahead after the turnaround. I knew that I just needed to keep my pace and I would be in range to finish in about 1:22.

The last two miles were totally flat, along Crissy Field to the Little Marina Green, around the lagoon, and back to the Sports Basement. The wind was at our back while we were headed east, but as soon as we turned around, there was a nasty headwind. Again, to take my mind off of things, I surged ahead of the woman that was running next to me with about a half mile to go. I knew it was early, but I decided that I had to crush her mentally before we got to the final kick so that I wouldn’t have to outkick her at the finish line. I knew I would have an advantage if I could stay ahead in the wind. That would surely kill her spirit, on top of getting passed! (I sound so mean in this post – I think I was just using other peoples’ suffering to drown out my own!) At one point, I remember that I couldn’t hear her breathing over my shoulder anymore, so I knew I was safe. The finish line was just ahead, so I started my sprint, and even managed to chick a couple of guys (who I never thought I would catch!) on the way into the chute.

I didn’t quite beat my previous time, but I was only 17 seconds off, with a finishing time of 1:22:45. Considering the lack of training and yesterday’s long bike ride, I was more than happy with my performance. It was tough, but it felt really good to run hard, and I look forward to more runs like this (and faster!) in the near future!

After the race, I hung out in the RRCA tent, chatting with fellow RRCA members, and recruiting for SFRRC. It was absolutely freezing out there – the fog rolled back in, and we were pretty much in a wind tunnel where our tent was set up. RRCA rep George leant me his Dolphin Club swim parka, so I managed to stay warm. I’ve gotta get me one of those…I’m almost considering suffering through the icy swims just so I can get one! Can’t forget to mention that the post-race breakfast burritos, pancakes and cocktails were amazing – one of the many reasons why the Guardsmen rock at putting on this event!
We stayed a while to listen to the awards ceremony – lots of great performances out there, in our club as well as others – but it was too cold to hang out much longer than that. Unfortunately, the cold drove most of the crowds away – gotta love that unpredictable SF weather! Fingers crossed for warm weather at this race next year because I’d love to come back to enjoy my Bloody Mary and some sunshine afterward!!!