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.