This Thursday I return to the difficult-to-spell state of Massachusetts to give a talk on vegan sports nutrition in Boston. It’s in collaboration with the Boston Veg Society and the Strong Hearts Vegan Power running team before they take on the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay! There’s a $15 vegan buffet option at the host restaurant, Walnut Grille. Please RSVP here for the dinner. The talk is free! There will also be a Q&A panel with some of the runners on the team. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about vegan nutrition- especially for curious friends who want to know how to eat plant-based and stay active. Can you still get enough protein? You sure can! Come learn how.
Plant-based and Powerful: How Vegan Athletes are Defying Stereotypes
We make these videos to show the various ways veganism can work. We don’t preach one style of eating or body shame; we want plant-based eating and fitness to be accessible to the most people. Showing the interesting stories of athletes in a professional way has never been done. We believe activism and education can be positive, fun AND make a difference. It’s a lot of work to make these and both Sasha and I have invested a lot of time, energy and our own money into this project. So we are seriously indebted to the people who believe in us and have supported us financially!
As you probably know, the No Meat Athlete book came out this month and I’m very excited to be a co-author. I’m especially happy right now to announce that I am jumping on some of the book tour with Matt! I’ll be doing the Southern California, Arizona and Austin events.
If you live in one of these areas, I’d love to see you at an event. Have an omnivorous friend who is interested in vegetarianism? Bring them along. And as time allows, I can schedule private consultations in these cities if you are interested in working with me one on one.
Also, I’m taking recommendations for your favorite places to eat and drink coffee in these cities!
I am well aware that it is already Spring and this is a ‘favorite of 2012’ post, but hey, better late than never, right? I take a lot of photos. Some end up on facebook or instagram but most never make it off of my phone/camera. I was looking through all 1400 of them and thought I’d pick some of the ones I like best from last year.
Thanks for reading (and looking!) and thanks to everyone who was a part of this madness!
Our Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes Series has a very special 10th episode today. We travel to the Badwater Ultramarathon, which has been called the most demanding and extreme running race on the planet, and ‘spend the day’ with fruitarian Michael Arnstein. Mike has a 2.28 marathon PR and sub-10 hour ironman results, which is super impressive, but not nearly as impressive as his positivity! Which is put to test during this 135-mile run in temperatures near 120 degrees. He has so many great things to say and he really captures the spirit of this race and what it’s like to run 135 miles. Without further ado, here’s Michael Arnstein’s attempt at Badwater:
How crazy was that! He endured through the night and just when you thought he might not make it, he finishes top 20! Among many great quotes, here is my favorite,
“When you embrace the struggling, you just learn how to accept it and appreciate it. Because the good times are only really great when the bad times are pretty tough.”
Our Day in the Life series has given us some great experiences with exceptional vegan athletes. But I have to say, none have been as unique as spending a weekend with raw vegan modern pentathlete Justin Torellas. Five seemingly unrelated disciplines combined to make the only sport created specifically for the Olympics! I’m somewhat familiar with raw veganism but Justin’s diet surprised even me! This is someone who casually said, “I want to go to the Olympics” and only then discovered modern pentathlon. A raw vegan attempting to qualify for the Olympics in an obscure sport he’s never done? Not as crazy as you’d think. Watch and be amazed! We were.
Justin: You make competing at an elite level seem like a walk in the park with your casual 5 minute mile running pace! And your honesty about your personal struggle with riding horses is very admirable. Unfortunately Justin didn’t qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Modern Pentathlon but his attempt is nothing short of courageous. And he did give us his salad recipe. I’ve included the nutrition analysis in case, like most people, you think iceberg lettuce is mostly water and doesn’t have any nutrients!
Justin’s Giant Salad
2 heads iceberg lettuce
1 pound cherry tomatoes
8 ounces bean sprouts
1 T tahini
Juice from 2 lemons
Directions: Chop lettuce, juice lemons, mix (don’t you love raw recipes?). And look at this nutrition profile. More than half of your day’s iron in only 455 calories! And 24% of the calories in this salad are from protein.
dietary fiber 29g
vitamin A- 227%
vitamin C- 215%
vitamin K 592%
You are probably wondering how Justin gets enough calories if he is eating this salad for dinner. He does it by eating often throughout the day. He was sipping (or gulping if it was post-workout!) a banana smoothie or munching on fruit constantly. Like he says, he loves to eat. If you are a raw vegan and training several hours a day you need to eat often. I recommend more variety in one’s diet, but he has been vegan a very long time and seems to have found a diet that works for him. Thanks for sharing your day with us Justin!
Our Day in the Life series continues with another Boulder-based athlete, Megan Hebbe. Megan takes us cross-country skiing, where I proceed to make a fool of myself! Megan does mega mileage and takes her training very seriously, but still manages to have fun with it. She even put up with me crashing all over the mountain. See for yourself in this fun episode:
Megan’s Tips for High Mileage Running
Wear the right shoes! Very important because you are spending A LOT of time on your feet! Work in recovery weeks. The “graph” should look like a mountain range, not just a straight linear progression. Increase for 2-3 weeks then take a recovery week. Focus on either increasing mileage OR increasing speed, not both at the same time. Ideally, the off-season is spent building up base and then you start adding speed work.
Make time. I am a morning person, so I like waking up at 5am or even 4am to get my run in. Second runs of the day can be done during lunch or after work. Thirty minutes is a great length for recovery, just enough to get circulation going, but not a significant time drain. Mentally it’s nice to do a chilled out pace. “Oh, 75-year-old dude is passing me? Whatevs, I’m on mile 12 of the day!”
Sleep and recover. I have my protein drink right after every run and because I get up early I go to bed early. If my body wants a nap, I work it in. Listening to one’s body is crucial. Rest is the most overlooked, crucial aspects of training. Epsom salt baths and ice baths are also great for recovery.
Speed work. Only really necessary immediately before and during race season. Once race season really gets into swing, most races are your speed work!
Self massage. Tennis ball, plantar fascia ball, softball, foam roller and massage stick all work wonders.
The major thing is loving it enough to be really dedicated! Like many coaches say, social life, career/school and training are a triad. One can either be okay at all three or do really well at two. The third thing suffers, which is often social life. You have to be okay with that.
Megan’s Gluten-Free Lavender Cookies
These gluten-free cookies are a fun way to get those extra calories for those extra miles.
1.5 cups rice flour
0.5 cup coconut oil or margarine
0.5 cups sweetener like coconut palm or other minimally processed sugars
1 tablespoon lavender flowers
Replace one egg with commercial egg replacer, ground flax seeds or chia gel
Optional: 1 tablespoon lavender flowers for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.
Cream together the margarine and sweetener. Blend egg replacer into the mixture. Stir in the lavender flowers and the rice flour. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls on to cookie sheet.
Bake till golden, about 15 minutes. Remove cookies and decorate with additional lavender flowers, if desired.
Thanks to Megan for getting me on skis for the first time in my life! Lastly, if you want to know more about iron for vegetarians, check out this post I wrote for No Meat Athlete. Thanks for watching and let me know how these cookies turn out!
I hate quitting anything. But there I was at mile 63 of the Zion 100, about a quarter-mile past Aid Station #7, alone on a dirt road walking hobbling, in circles. It was just after 1am, over 19 hours into the race. I knew Donovan was ‘only’ 7 miles away at Aid #8, waiting patiently to pace me the last 30 miles. My fuzzy brain calculated some fuzzy math that said it’d take me 2.5 hours to walk that short distance. The crazy thing is that I considered it. I had wanted to quit at the 51.5 mile aid station but when I walked up to the volunteers I just couldn’t get the words out (I asked for peanut butter on a tortilla instead). In my stubborn brain it was easier to carry on than to say the words ‘I quit’ aloud. Now I was paying for that decision, 4 hours and only 11.5 miles across Gooseberry Mesa from there.
When a volunteer’s truck rolled up to me I was facing back toward the aid station. He asked if I was alright and I heard myself say, ‘I am done.’ His eagerness to help me out made me realize I probably looked pretty sad standing there alone in the middle of the night, facing the wrong direction. Once in the truck we started passing other runners and I hung my head low- I didn’t want to be recognized by anyone I had run with earlier. Partly because of my pride, but also because I didn’t want them to be discouraged by seeing a fellow runner fail. Every endurance athlete talks about not letting their crew down- it’s a significant motivating factor- so when I saw Donovan I felt a pang of sadness and my first vocalization was to apologize. But, like any good crew member, he knew what I had gone through and that if I had quit I must have been in pretty bad shape. And I was.
Running 100 miles has been on my mind for over 5 years now- since the first time I helped at the Badwater Ultramarathon. I ran some 50k’s last year, then a 50-miler I was signed up for got canceled. Then I hurt my groin- which it turns out was from yoga and not running- and I basically stopped running. Getting to those longer distances always seemed just out of reach. Then February of this year I ran the La Jolla 50k in Malibu and felt really good- except for my foot. Did I not train enough? Post-race runs still bothered it. I was already signed up for the Zion 100- maybe I could switch to the 50-miler? But I did what every over-committed, busy person with too much on their plate does- nothing. Oops. Thirty-five miles a week had been my goal- I never even got close. My test run was 22 miles one night and then 13 five hours later two weeks before the race. And I decided to go for it! Like Shawn, who I ended up running the first 35 miles with, said, ‘Might as well start the 100-miler and see how far you can really go.’ Yeah, I like that.
The Zion 100 is a brand-new race and the course is much harder than the 7850 feet of elevation would have you believe. Sixty-five percent is on single-track trails, much of it technical, and only 5 miles are paved. The rest is dirt roads and double track. Giant slick rock is everywhere- in many sections spray-painted circles on rocks marked the course. Sandy sections contrasted the rocks- both equally hard to get a groove on.
My trip started on Wednesday when I rode 36 miles to a train to meet up with Donovan and Megan who was catching a ride with us to Las Vegas- where we’d spend the night before getting Ronald’s vegan donuts, which is pretty much a mandatory stop. Thursday was race check-in since the race started on Friday morning- something new to me. Is this an ultra-runner thing? The race organizer was thoughtful enough to post free camping spots on the site and Donovan and I took advantage of one just 5 miles up the road from the start.
When I stood there at the start and looked around I immediately felt out of place. Am I really here? Trying to make it back to this spot 100 miles and at least 24 hours later? Yes, I am! When the trumpet sounded I raced off at a blistering 12-minute mile pace. I had met Shawn at check-in and he found me before the first climb and we’d end up running the first 35 miles together talking about everything from his experience at the Copper Canyon 50-miler (RIP Micah True) to our favorite places to eat.
Donovan met me at mile 35 where I arrived in just over 8 hours- right where I wanted to be. It was warming up, but I felt good. I had been keeping a slow but steady pace. Shawn and I ran everything but the hills. Him and I got split up here, but it wouldn’t be the last I saw him. The next 10 miles were hot and exposed trails that transversed the desert in the mid-day heat. But I felt good! I ran nearly all of it and was passing people regularly. Too fast? At the mile 42 aid station a lot of people were sitting down in the shade- no way could I do that. I had only sat down once and that was to get the dirt out of my shoes.
And here’s where my story takes a turn for the worse. My elevation increased, 1500 feet in one mile to be exact, but my mental and physical state headed in the opposite direction. I was hydrated. I had eaten. My motivation was high. But something happened on that climb. It was one of the steepest trails I had ever been on. There were points where I could reach out and touch the trail in front of me. I got to the top and a water-only aid station and I laid down on the ground. I was out of it. No!
I drank some unexpected, delicious electrolyte slushy and I got up and pushed on. The trail was mostly on slick rock- I ached for my mountain bike. I was becoming more aware of my feet- hot spots were now turning to blisters. I was getting annoyed by little, unchangeable things, a sure sign of mental and physical fatigue. Why is this ribbon here? It should be over there!! I recognize this and take some deep breaths. Shoot some more photos and be thankful to be where I am right now. It helps everything but my feet.
And not long after this the slight pain in one of my toes becomes a sharp pain and I’m forced to limp. Wtf? I sit down and take off my shoe and sock and what I see turns my stomach. Two of my toes are totally black, which isn’t new, but they are both surrounded by huge blisters. One of which is behind my toe, closer to the top of my foot. One runner stops, takes a look and makes a face like I had just dropped a piece of pizza on the ground cheese-side down. He runs on. I contemplate my options. Two more runners stop and one is an MD! He tells me what I already know- the toenail has to come off. They count down and I start to pull. They both moan, I pull harder- it doesn’t want to come off. The last vestige of healthy skin holds on. It finally snaps off in my hand and I get light-headed. The doctor’s friend teases him for being grossed out- I thought you were a doctor? [photo at bottom of post!]
I still managed to run a few of the miles into Aid Station #6 at mile 51.5. I had told myself I was quitting here. But then I went out to the viewpoint and realized I didn’t have it in me to tell them I was done just yet. I had carried my headlamp since mile 35, I might as well use it, right?
It’s now getting dark and I’m headed out for one of the most technical, confusing sections of the course. I put some motivating music on my headphones and work toward my second wind. I pace with a few other runners and their pacers, we get lost, we find the trail, go up and over so many big rocks I think we’re going in circles….and then I fall off of their pace. I eat and it doesn’t help. I get passed. The pain medicine has done very little for my feet that are aching like I’ve never felt before. My arches, achilles, toes, tendons, everything hurts. And now my knee does. Shoot. A few more lonely, slow, agonizing miles and this is where my story picks up where I began just past Aid Station #7.
I don’t regret my decision to quit. And yes, I do feel very accomplished for doubling the farthest I’ve ever gone. What is hard to accept is that I never reached physical exhaustion- my feet and knees quit first. It’s a frustratingly simple thing to overcome- just get more running miles in! I’m mad at myself for not respecting the distance and only getting a dozen or so runs done in the months leading up to the race. What did I think would happen? Sometimes stubborn people like me need to be standing alone on a dirt road in the middle of the night in order to learn these lessons. I guess if I was the type of person to figure this out ahead of time I wouldn’t be putting myself in these situations. At least I know this about myself?
See the results here (pdf!). When a Badwater winner takes 26 hours you know it’s a hard course!
A few questions I’ve gotten:
What did you carry?
I carried my phone, headphones and a few gels in my shorts pockets and sunglasses for the day and a headlamp for night. My only water was one 24-ounce handheld which was plenty for all but one section where I ran out early in the day.
What did you eat?
Mostly bananas, peanut butter on tortillas and potatoes. Gels for between aid stations.
Did you use drop bags?
Donovan was going to pace me for the last 30 miles.
How much did you actually run?
Most of the first 45 miles- except the really technical sections or steep hills. Less from 45-63.
I cannot even imagine this. What’s it like?
Imagine a long hike with aid stations where you run the flats and downhills! And remember it’s for fun. That helps. It wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t imagine running double digits! You’re looking at someone who brought two clif bars and two gels on a 10k cause I was worried I’d get hungry!
Did this make you more or less stoked on running? Will you try the 100-mile distance again?
More stoked! I can’t wait to start running again and I’m already signed up for the Oil Creek 100 in October. Plenty of time to train and run some 50-milers or 100k’s, right?
As I’ve said before, we are so fortunate to have been there to capture Donovan’s experience running 100 miles. Sasha’s short film is so damn motivating! Everyone had smiles on their faces when it ended and we had a number of great questions about veganism, ultra-running, filming and our project. The excitement in the room makes me think we need more events like this. Thank you again to everyone who came and participated in one way or another- we could not have done this without you. If you missed it and still haven’t seen it, you can always watch Day in the Life episode 5 online. Meanwhile keep your eyes out for our next episode!
I am so stoked to announce our first ever Day in the Life screening! On Sunday April 15th at 630pm at The North Face in Beverly Hills [map] we’re showing a special edition of Donovan’s episode where he runs his first 100-mile race. A Q&A with Filmmaker and co-creator Sasha Perry, ultra-runner Donovan Jenkins and myself will follow.
-Free food samples from The Veggie Grill! Both The North Face and Veggie Grill have been super helpful in making this event not only great, but free. These will be samples, not a meal. Looking at you Jack Lindquist.