There’s nothing like dinner with mom.
Followed by vegan cannoli from my good friend Danielle’s bakery, Vegan Treats.
Quite a lot has changed since I was vegan teenager. Always nice to slow down and reflect.
There’s nothing like dinner with mom.
Followed by vegan cannoli from my good friend Danielle’s bakery, Vegan Treats.
Quite a lot has changed since I was vegan teenager. Always nice to slow down and reflect.
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!
Not sure. Scott Jurek has a good explanation.
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?
What can you do today to work toward your life goals? Do you have life goals?
I struggle with these questions
every day every hour of my life. And I know I’m not the only one. Often, I wish I had more answers to these questions. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of working, answering emails, preparing food, paying bills and all of the other must-do’s of today’s society and miss out on how we can build.
Some people say, ‘Choose your goal and work hard every day and you’ll get there.’ But that often doesn’t work for me. I’m not Type-A nor am I super goal-oriented. I never said to myself, ‘I’m going to study nutrition for 7 years and then become a vegan RD’ or ‘I will ride cross-country and do double centuries in order to prepare for the Furnace Creek 508 in X number of years.’ My brain just doesn’t work that way. If yours does, congrats! I’m envious. It’s an exceptional ability to do so.
But I’m fortunate to have had the experiences and end results I’ve had. And the privilege and time to be writing about them for an audience! One of my main reasons for having a site like this is to motivate people. I see so many folks struggling with what they want who are so close. But they are caught up in the mundane day-to-day I mention above and they simply cannot see the steps to get where they want to be. Or don’t have the confidence to take them. And with reason! It’s not an easy task. My advice here may be counter-intuitive, but these have been helpful lessons in my life and maybe you can learn from them?
If you want to do more, do less.
Be unrealistic in your dreams, but realistic in your everyday.
Ask yourself what you truly want. Do you want to ride a mountain bike for 100 miles or do you want to have ridden 100-miles? Do you want to become an MD to help people or for people to think that you’re smart?
What is the feeling you desire and can it be obtained any other way?
This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg but questions worth asking. You can dive a little deeper and follow one of my favorite twitter feeds, Zen and Tao as well.
I’m off for my own adventure right now and cutting this short, but I’ll leave you with two music videos that are as obscure as they are amazing: a Reggae track about what vegans eat and a Hip Hop track about getting back into the gym. Get stoked!
I’m an endurance athlete through and through. I don’t know if it’s my bike touring background or just my mental state, but something keeps me in zone 3! I’ve tried recently to expand my racing, mostly through cyclocross, and this inevitably leads to shorter races in general, and the Idyllwild Spring Challenge this past Saturday, specifically.
Before this my only mountain bike races shorter than 100 miles were Vision Quest, which is ‘only’ 56 miles, but has something insane like 11,000 ft of climbing (there was snow in Orange County that year), 12 Hours of Temecula, where I rode 94 miles and the Boggs 8hr last year. Ha! I just love the long stuff…
I scheduled this race because Nicolas signed up, but then he couldn’t go. I emailed the race organizer and she was exceptionally cool about the registration stuff and before I knew it Marissa, Smokey the dog and I were in her car early Saturday morning heading to the mountain town of Idyllwild for my first ever cross-country mountain bike race.
Endurance racers get a lot of credit. ‘You rode how far?’ But racers like Steevo turn themselves inside out weekend after weekend and that’s something I can’t wrap my mind around. I was thinking ‘this is a short race’ but I went out like it was a 2.8 mile race and not 28 miles. At the top of the first climb I was seeing stars and gasping for air! Was it the heat? Am I that out of shape? Oh yeah, we’re at 5000 feet! That helped calm me down. As soon I caught my breath I went balls out. Again. I don’t know if it’s because of where I started in the Open Class pack, but I just didn’t see many people. That makes ‘racing’ harder. Where am I? Where are the other single speeders?
The course was superbly marked, there were volunteers at every potentially confusing turn and after the third big climb, about half-way through, the rest was rolling, mostly downhill technical single track. This is why I’m here! SO fun. Dustier and looser than I thought Idyllwild would be, but still super fun. I started to finally catch people and for a long-ish downhill doubletrack section I used the single-speed skill of tucking behind a geared bike that was tearing it up! She pulled me along until we hit a flatter section and I could pedal again. Suddenly we were passing people left and right. In my blurry-visioned, dehydrated state I was using my last bit of focus beyond trying to stay upright to see if anyone we passed was on single speed.
We finished by returning down the climb pictured above. When I crossed the line I had no idea where I had placed. I just knew that every muscle in my body was sore. I even had crashed in a soft section and the sting of scrapes and bruises was now apparent.
I hydrated, washed off in a sink and then we hung out for the raffle. I love raffles! Legalized gambling. When results were posted I was surprised to see that I got 3rd out of 4 people in the Open Single Speed Class…..and I’m pretty sure the guy I beat was on a fat bike! The results page hasn’t been updated yet to see where I placed against others in the Open Class. Overall though I’m stoked for the experience and Idyllwild Cycling put on a great race. They even had dog-sitting and proceeds went to the local Living Free Animal Sanctuary. Get out there if you get the chance!
We headed into town for eats, stopped at the health food store (somethings never change) and then got falafel at a super friendly Greek spot before heading out of the mountains and back toward the coast. My post-race fatigue is somehow different. More intense and less of a generalized tiredness? I guess that would make sense considering that is the difference between this race and what I usually do. So for all of you endurance racers, get out there to do a shorter race and turn yourself inside out!
Is veganism dangerous for kids? If you read the recent NY Times Op-ed you might think so. Fortunately there are experts who can point to the real science. In my first contribution for my friend Joshua Katcher’s site, The Discerning Brute, I wrote about the response from Registered Dietitians and the vegan community- and how her article isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Last weekend I had the privilege to ride the Mt Laguna Bicycle Classic, a fantastic AdventureCORPS century in East San Diego County. I rode the pre-ride in 2009 and the 2010 event- somehow finishing in just over 6 1/2 hours. How the heck did I do that? I guess the woman at the aid station who said, ‘I thought you were fast?’ when I leisurely rolled up on the far end of the bell curve knew something I didn’t. And this was before I broke a spoke on my rear ksryium wheel and borrowed a friend’s bike to finish…
As always Chris Kostman took a million photos, most of which are available on the results page. Now it’s no secret that AdventureCORPS helps out my bike club Swarm!, as does Swarm! help at most AdventureCORPS events so what I’m going to say may seem bias. There are a few things that separate a great event from a decent event and AdventureCORPS does them all. Here’s an incomplete list off of the top of my head:
-Clear communication before the event- what the course, aid and start/finish will look like and what participants need to know and have.
-Well-stocked aid stations with friendly, knowledgeable volunteers- not just partners of participants who don’t know anything about cycling, the course or the food/supplements being offered.
-Energetic volunteers! It makes such a difference to have people out there who are stoked. Most AdventureCORPS volunteers have done the events- it makes a huge difference.
-Food at the end that isn’t the same as the snacks at aid stations. Home-made Filipino food with vegan options? Hell yeah!
-Lots of high-quality photos, clearly organized and available for free!
It was a great way to spend my day and my first century since my bike tour last summer! Geez…
This morning the Stagecoach 400 Bike Packing Race kicked off in Idylwild, CA. I really wanted to do this race. I started the motions, was mountain biking more but then just didn’t get my stuff organized. What kind of organization? See my post before I attempted the Arizona Trail Race. My DNF there really has had a huge impact on me- a year later and I haven’t even finished writing about what happened. Even though this course is much more rideable, I still had my concerns and was only willing to show up at the start if I had pre-ridden all of it. But I didn’t get it together in time. Maybe next year? Meanwhile follow the brave souls who are riding this year including Jill Homer, who I link to often, on the Track Leaders Map.
Have a great weekend and I hope Spring has sprung wherever you are and that you’re enjoying these longer days. I know I am!
Thanks to everyone who came out for the first ever Day in the Life screening. Over 70 people joined us! Many thanks to The North Face for not only providing the space, but donating 2 $50 gift cards to the raffle. Just by showing up you had a 1 in 35 chance of walking away with $50 to spend at The North Face! We’d also like to thank Veggie Grill for giving us a great deal on the delicious food and Golden Saddle Cyclery, Moth Attack Bikes and Ergon Bike Ergonomics for donating to the raffle.
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!
Guilt is a strong emotion that plays a role in our everyday lives. It’s an emotional function that shows us the difference between our life and the life we want to live. It can lead to action, but too often I see guilt as a negative.
For example my clients tend to be ahead of the curve. They are thinking about their own diet and its effect on their health. They are eating a plant-based diet of predominantly whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. And they are motivated to make any needed dietary changes, but yet some are plagued by guilt.
Guilt-Producing Food Choices That Aren’t As Bad as You Think
Snacking. Eating snacks throughout the day increases your metabolism and keeps you from overeating at meal time. Don’t hesitate to snack on healthy foods.
Eating any form of sweetener. Yes, on average Americans eat too many added sugars and this has deleterious health affects. But are you adding a small amount of agave or maple syrup to an otherwise plant-based whole-food meal? If so, don’t sweat it.
Eating late at night. For many people, eating at night means eating additional, unneeded calories, mindlessly snacking and just making poor nutrition choices in general. But those are different than if you have to eat late because you worked late or took extra time in preparing a great meal. Evaluate what you are eating at night and if you need it, eat and don’t feel guilty!
Eating fat. General nutrition recommendations are to eat low-fat or at least less fat. But the general population is not eating a predominantly plant-based diet. If you are, then the rules are different. Plant fats behave very differently from animal fats; they can be beneficial where animal fats are problematic. Read this fantastic interview with Dr. Walter Willett for an overview of this idea. [Note that trans-fats are technically plant-based, but I'm talking about naturally occurring plant fats. Trans-fat replicate animal fats in foods and in humans]
Eating any refined grain. Yes, we should all eat predominantly whole grains. But that pizza topped with veggies and tomato sauce? Dig in. And there’s some evidence [here's a random abstract] that compounds in whole grains interfere with nutrient absorption. This isn’t a go-ahead to get most of your calories from Chicosticks and Peanut Chews, but, as I’m saying over and over in this post, what are you eating most often? If it’s whole grains then don’t stress the occasional refined grain.
Eating processed foods. ‘Processed’ is one of those terms like ‘toxins’ or ‘cleanse’ that are so broad they have lost any real meaning- yet I hear them all of the time. So much of the food today has little resemblance to its origination and the negative health effects are well-documented. But at what point is something too processed? Fruitarians say that eating anything that kills the plant is detrimental. And I think that some textured vegetable protein products are so far from soybeans that they have lost most beneficial properties. But recently at a dinner someone tried telling me that tofu is too processed. Too processed? Check out these step-by-step instructions (with photos!) on how to make tofu at home and see that tofu maintains much of the integrity of the original bean.
Eating soy. Soy is nutritious, cheap, versatile and safe! See this exhaustive paper by superstar RD Jack Norris that cites over 130 studies.
Eating fake meats. Most of us grew up eating meat and we enjoyed the taste. Some vegetarians now abhor even the idea of meat and that’s fine; I’m not about to talk someone into eating fake meats. But for the rest of us: the occasional meat analog is quite satisfying. Should you rely on them for most meals? No, definitely not. Should you focus on whole foods like beans? Yes. Just don’t feel guilty about the times you want to dig into a nice vegan pizza topped with veggie sausage.
Some of you will read this and think about how you never do any of these and why would anyone? Congrats to you because you are definitely an exceptional person. I wouldn’t advise you to do otherwise. But for most of us the above are real-life examples of how we balance good nutrition and our desire for certain foods. My point is that the evidence in the nutrition field isn’t precise enough to say there are benefits to never doing the above. What you eat most often is what really matters. With the assumption that you are already eating a plant-based diet of predominantly whole grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables. The guilt that we feel and the stress of trying to be perfect are worse for us than doing any of the above!
Can you work on feeling less guilt? I hope so! Thanks for reading and I hope this is helpful. Have a great weekend and maybe I’ll see you Sunday night at our Day in the Life screening?