Monday, December 29, 2008

What I learned from injury. Part I

I've been away for a while.

For more than a year, I've been nursing a mystery left hip injury that no one has been able to figure out. The injury first appeared in October 2007 after an especially long and hard road season. Two months into the cyclocross season, the pain was excruciating. I played tough guy and finished out the 'cross season. Despite the limitations, I won a collegiate conference championship and placed 28th at the US Cyclocross National Championships - my best result at Nationals ever.

I took a month off and hoped that the hip would heal. It didn't. I trained on it through February 08 in preparation for the road season, and it only got worse. The pain progressed from just being in my hip to full blown sciatica that radiated from my lower back to my left foot. At its worst, I couldn't sit, walk, or stand comfortably.

My doctor ordered a series of tests: MRI, X-Ray, EMG, blood tests, and bone scan. Each one showed nothing wrong. I started Physical Therapy and saw some relief of my symptoms but the underlying cause of pain still eluded us.

I got bounced from specialist to specialist. The orthopeadist wanted it to be my spine. The sports med specialist who worked with cyclists wanted it to be vascular. When it wasn't what they wanted, they lost interest.

For the first time in my racing career, I missed the entire road and cyclocross seasons.

It was hard to sit on the sidelines.

I trained just enough over the course of the summer to maintain my fitness but once September came, and it was apparent that I couldn't race cyclocross, I lost all hope in cycling.

I have been fortunate enough to work with a persistent and compassionate sports medicine doctor who has stuck with me. Finally, in September, with the help of a dynamic ultrasound they diagnosed the injury. It is a hip flexor injury. My psoas minor is very, very unhappy and has been so for a while.

It took almost a year for the correct diagnosis. It's taken even longer to see positive changes in my recovery. In the second part, I'll explore what I learned from being so injured for so long and what I'm doing to come back to cycling.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ironman Louisville

I am racing tomorrow. You can track my race at Ironman.com
I am bib #1649.
Whole Foods Buffet in Louisville was lame. not veg freindly.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Just Three Days Left...

to Vote in the 2008 Veggie Awards!


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VegNews is just three days away from closing the 2008 Veggie Award polls, so now is the time to get out the vote! Some of the categories are very close, so let your voice be heard and vote for your favorite vegetarian people, places, and products today.


I would LOVE if you could vote for me under the "ATHLETE" section a few pages in. Keep in mind that you do not have to vote in every category. THANKS!!

All ballots are entered into a Grand Prize Drawing for a chance to win these great prizes:

Grand Prize: NEW YORK CITY URBAN GETAWAY
Second Prize: GLAM GIRL GOODIE BAG
Third Prize: MARSHMALLOW MADNESS GIFT PACK
Plus, Weekly Giveaways! VEGAN COOKIE SMORGASBORD

Click here to vote NOW.



P.S. Polls close at midnight on August 31. Vote now while you have a chance to win these fantastic prizes!

THANKS so much.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ever wonder how the rest of the world views meat?

I was just forwarded this link from a cycling buddy here in Belgium. The website is from Holland.

http://www.nationalecarnivorenenquete.nl/

Once you click on the link, you will see information about an organization that is studying meat consumption. On the right is says, " are you also crazy for meat? Check out the question below and let us know what meat is your favorite."

below a question that asks, " what piece of meat you would like to go for?"

For fun do also click on the non-vegaburger. Then click on the fork and hit the cow with it.

It is the first pro-veggie environmental campaign (climate-control stuff, etc) i've seen so far. But i would guess there are more to come this side of the planet.

Take your napkins out and enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My First "Real" Marathon - by Bethany

Yesterday was my first "real" marathon, although I have actually run the marathon distance 4 times in Ironman Triathlons, and further in 2 ultra marathons, I have never actually properly raced the 42.2km distance at an official marathon.

I don't like the idea of the big crowds of the city marathon's, so the Gold Coast Marathon never really appealed to me, despite it's popularity for fast times. So I chose a local race, the Hunter Valley Winery Marathon, even though it is a difficult and slow course (but beautiful!). The timing was also good for me for this event, although I thought I may have risked over doing it in the lead up by doing a 25km race 4 weeks out then a 32km race one week out! So much for tapering! However I played it smart during the weeks between, sticking to mostly 30 minutes runs with a few 60 minute trail runs thrown in. And it seemed to work!

I was quite nervous in the lead up. Everyone I know who is into distance running has these great marathon time bench marks, and it felt strange not to have my own. I really wanted to do well, but also to have realistic expectations. Judging from the times I had been running in training and comparable events this year I decided that to aim for 3 hours and 50 minutes was going to be a stretch on this course, but one I thought might be possible if I ran a smart race and the Running Gods were kind to me. So I lined up knowing that under 4 hours was achievable and that I would be happy with that if 3:50 was asking too much.

It was a very cold morning, with the car thermometer saying 2 degrees, but having done a quite a few cold races this year it didn't bother me at all. As long as I stay warm right up to the start and I keep my gloves on so my hands don't get cold I seem to be OK. Being only a small race with 89 entrants in the marathon, it was very relaxed at the start and it was good to chat to friends and meet new people from Coolrunning, this really stopped me from getting nervous, and I didn't even have a "race belly" that morning.

When the "Go!" was given we trotted off through some of the lovely back paths of the Hunter Valley Gardens, and out onto the course with everyone chatting away and sorting themselves into their rhythm. I went through 3kms with two Coolrunning friends, Eagle and Anth, in 15 minutes, and reminding myself that this was above my goal pace, I let them pull ahead.

Over the first lap I concentrated on setting my own pace and forgetting about other people, and worked on running the hills strongly, then relaxing down the hills an on the faster sections, few as they were, to make up time. The back section of the course, which was 2 laps, saw us head out on a long out-and-back section of rough-ish but hard-packed unsealed road. I felt strong and stretched out on the way to the turn around, then when I could see people ahead coming back the other way I decided to count the number of women ahead of me. I was very shocked to soon realise that I was actually in 4th place! With 3rd being a Coolrunner (Lakeside) who had mentioned to me before the race that she had a current ITB injury. At this stage she was looking strong, but I decided to do my best to keep her in my sights.

After the turn around point, runners from the Half Marathon event started to appear on the course, so for the next few kilometers, along the long slight uphill drag (which was going to be nasty on the 2nd lap), I did my best to look strong and keep a watch for the people I knew who were doing the Half. At around the 17km mark we joined a section of the course being used by the 10km Race, and there was a lot of people all pushing their hardest. This carried me along well and I think I definitely ran this section too hard, it was difficult not to with so many 10km racers passing, but at 2kms to go I was encouraging some men who were struggling, then as we got in sight of the finishing area, I think I discouraged them after all when I told them to go ahead and give it their all for the finish, they seemed a bit dismayed that I wasn't actually in their event, but the marathon.

I saw Hubby Brett and some friends spectating at the side of the course as I came into the race compound, passing them by I jokingly asked if it was a bad thing to set a Half Marathon PB time in the first lap of a marathon, as I had actually come through for my first lap 6 minutes faster than my goal time! I ran past the finish line at 21.1kms and onto my second lap in a time of 1:49! Which is about 3 minutes faster than any previous Half Marathon I have run.

On the second lap it was suddenly very lonely with only a few other marathon runners ahead. Instantly I started to feel tired and the legs were starting to feel heavy. I could see the 3rd placed female nearer ahead than before, but I told myself that I didn't have to catch her and pass her too quickly, as I was making ground on her as it was. I was conscious of other women catching me from behind, and was almost certain that at any time all the other women who had ran a smart first lap would suddenly come charging past me and off into the distance. Onto the steepest hill in the course the people in front of me started to walk the hill, which spurred me on to run the hill as strongly as I could, and I moved into 3rd placed female in the race! At the top of the hill the marshal told me I was 3rd female, but all I could think about was getting some electrolyte drink at the aid station.

Into the aid station and none of the volunteers were ready for me, so I had to ask which drinks were the electrolyte and stop to get them myself! After all that I ended up with water, but drank it down and set off disappointed but determined not to be cranky! For the next hour I was running in 3rd place, still with my fear that any moment I would be swapped by all the other women, but I focused on staying relaxed even though I knew I had slowed down quite a bit. When I felt bad I told myself that the others would be feeling bad too, and hurting just as much.

Out to the far turn around point and I did my best to put on a smile and wave to the runners I knew who were ahead of me as they passed back in the opposite direction. Around the turn point, and I lady who I had seen quite a way back on the first lap was all of a sudden behind me, and the next section was always going to be the hardest section of the course, the long slightly uphill slog of rough road. I had only taken 4 gels with me, thinking there would be gels provided at the aid stations, with High Five being a major sponsor, but there wasn't, and I was really feeling like I had hit complete glycogen depletion. I was determined to try and hold onto the lady behind me when she passed, in case I came good again and she hit a bad patch, but when she eventually did pass me she was moving too well, and had obviously ran a smart race. I was desperate for some sugar and wished they had flat coke on offer like they do at Ironman races, but I made do with 2 cups of electrolyte at each aid station, even though this only equated to about a mouthful each.

At the top of the out-and-back section, with about 4kms to go, I gathered my courage (or gave into my fear perhaps?) and had a look behind myself. I was really relived to see no one in the near distance, but told myself that I was in no way allowed to relax and slow down! I kept telling myself that the faster I ran the sooner it would be over. I was shuffling more than running now at times but focused really hard to lift my feet, and finally the last section appeared and I knew I was home in 4th place overall. I saw Brett and started to cry and feel like I couldn't breath, but then it passed into sheer relief as I ran down the finish slope and across the line in 3:52. 2 minutes slower than I had wanted, but not disappointed, as the course was really hard and I never dreamed I would ever finish a running race in 4th place! I had also placed 2nd overall in my age category, and received a lovely bottle of local wine as my award!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My First Triathlon

On Saturday, I completed my first triathlon! I did the Milkman Triathlon (I know, Totally Not Vegan), a beginner-friendly sprint distance event hosted each year for the past twenty-four (!) by the town of Dexter, New Mexico.

Because it was my first event, I had a lot to to say about it! Here is my multi-part report:
In a nutshell, I finished, had a great time and am now testing out training for an Olympic distance event scheduled for the end of September!

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Moment in a Vegan Athlete's Life

My road season has been quite up and down lately. I started racing a few weeks ago, much later and more out of shape than most of the other racers due to a slow recovery from a really bad concussion I got during cyclo-cross season. (Unfortunately my diet doesn't protect me from knocks on the head!)

When the racing is going well, it's easy to assume everything i'm doing is correct - training well, eating well, making all the right moves during the race, etc. But when the bad days occur, I've always been a bit of a drama queen. Luckily it's usually balanced a bit by an athlete's innate ability to be in denial of everything that is amiss.

What happened to me this season was something that's never happened before. When the races went bad, I didn't attribute any of it to my diet. It's not that i have been overwhelmingly unsure of my vegan diet for sport in the past, but i think recent events made it so that my diet didn't even enter my mind. It was no longer in the forefront of my mind.

A major difference compared with years past is that i am no longer constantly questioned about my diet. Thanks to an increasing amount of forced public awareness regarding correct diet - due to increasing rates of heart disease, cancer and other illnesses - combined with the growing number of plant-based athletes, I feel I'm no longer viewed as a freak (for my diet at least!) There will always be naysayers (until another seventeen mad-cow-disease-type catastrophies occur squelches - or kills - them all) but the direct assaults on me have greatly dissipated.

The slowing of "in my face" attacks combined with my own extensive research backed by "field experience" over the years has helped solidify my confidence in my diet.

By the way, many of the pro teams are now starting to accommodate the riders who opt for a more healthful diet. Soymilk is popping up at most team breakfast tables here in Belgium, along with non-meat sauce for pasta at dinnertime. Maybe soon the French will catch on and offer more than just French bread to vegan racers!! (Last year, while racing for a French Pro Team, i had to subside mostly on French bread while contesting the Womens Tour de France. )

Anyway, I'm thrilled that my choice of foods is becoming a non-factor. Now all focus can be directed where it needs to go - on the racing!

As of yesterday, I think i'm back on track. I even found myself at the front a few times chasing down breaks!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bonelli Olympic Distance Triathlon

On the day before this race, I rode 47 miles, rounded on 19 cardiac patients, drank a Corona.... and still I had my fastest Olympic triathlon yet!

That said, this was not my "A" race. It's a concept that I'm getting used to. My "A" race will be Vineman 70.3, my first half ironman distance triathlon, which is in *gasp* six weeks.

Swim -- Don't ever put on sunscreen and then use the same sunscreen covered fingers to wipe out your goggle lenses. Baaaad idea. After a lot of rubbing, the lenses were clear. This was a small race, so maybe only 50 or 60 women, I think. The good thing is that there were fewer thrashing limbs to contend with in the water. However, on the flip side, I'm used to following a pack of swimmers, so I had to use a little more effort to make sure I was swimming in the correct direction.

Bike -- Three loops. I think the women were the last olympic distance wave. So, men who were on lap 2 or 3 on the course whizzed by. On my third lap, the quantity of cyclists on the course had thinned out, and a police officer directing traffic asked me, "Are there many more behind you?" "Yes there are," I responded, in deluding myself that perhaps many others at my pace or slower were still out there. How would I know how many people were behind me anyway? My bike wouldn't go into the small chain ring, which would have been helpful on a couple of hills, but wasn't a huge problem.

Run -- Due to a last minute course change, someone told me that the run was only 5.3 miles, not 6.2. Ack, ruin my celebration of beating my best olympic tri time!!!! Whatever. The run went better than my last run, but due to the small size of the race and the fact that I was in the last wave, I ran mostly alone. However, I did chat up an Australian guy who will be doing Vineman 70.3 next month also.

The End -- Never good being the last group to finish. I had to yell at some guy to get out of my way as he was meandering across the finish chute as I was sprinting in. And they ran out of Boca Burgers. Lately places are running out of veggie burgers -- are vegetarians taking over the world?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The North Face 100km Trail Race


Following the Six Foot track race in March I sat down within days and wrote my race report. It seemed to come easily to me and for once I was able to write what I considered to be a race report worth putting on the blog. Now, 2 weeks after The North Face 100 I am still struggling to find the motivation to write about my experience. I can't put my finger on what it is that seems to be blocking my train of thought about it.....it was a fantastic experience, and in many ways beyond explanation. The Blue Mountains in themselves are a mind-blowing landscape and the difficulty of the trails is really something that needs to be experienced to be believed.


Just to finish my first 100km race is something I am really pleased with, and I have recovered very well also, just a little niggle with the extensor tendons on the top of my right foot, from my shoelaces being tight I think, but otherwise I have been running again since the Thursday after, restricting myself to 30 minutes a day and a few rides, for the two weeks post race. I'll be back into it again tomorrow, training for a marathon in 8 weeks time.

My goal was sub 20 hours (the race cut off was 30 hours), for any competitors finishing in under 20 hours there was an award, but with about 300m to go I watched 20 hours tick by and finished in 20:03. To miss out by 3 minutes is disappointing. I made a big mistake in not eating enough, and drinking no where near enough. I only got through 6 liters in 20 hours!

It was often lonely out there and this style of event forces you to be quite self-sufficient. I found myself on occasion thinking how strange it was that my mind could be so completely blank for so many hours, just focusing on the rhythm of my legs, and the complete silence that is there in the mountains, barely any bird noises even.

I do not cope well with cold weather, it wasn't cold as cold goes, but for some reason my body seems to over react to cold. The range for the day was just over 8 degrees Celsius, to 2 degrees, with quite a strong wind blowing. My Gortex Windchill Calculator tells me that in 2 degrees, with a wind speed of 20km/h, the windchill is -7 degrees, and it did feel like -7! I had the best gear, in Icebreaker thermals, a Polar Fleece and a North Face jacket, but damn it was cold. And when I get cold I am miserable. I'm not sure if it was the cold, but around the 70km mark I started to feel nauseous, and had a headache. I'd had a few pieces of dark chocolate and a Red Bull drink at around 70kms and felt very sick, then I couldn't eat or drink at all in the last 30kms.

What I ate and drank:
Start to 15kms - 1x Fruit bar
15km Check Point #1 - Banana and 2x cups Endura electrolyte drink
15-36km - 1x Muesli bar and some pieces of dark chocolate + electrolyte drink
> 36km - total of 2L of Electrolyte from my Camelbak
36km Check Point #2 - Fruit bun and re-filled Camelbak bladder with Endura
36km - 53km - Another muesli bar, fruit bar and some chocolate
53km Check Point #3 - 2x Jam sandwiches and topped up Camelbak with water
53km - 66km - Small packet of plain potato chips
66km Check Point #4 - Cup-a-soup veggie soup and small tin of baked beans
66km - 86km - Can of Red Bull energy drink, muesli bar and some pieces of chocolate
86km Check Point #5 - nothing, gagged on a fruit bun, a few mouthfulls of soup, but couldn't stomach either.
86km to Finish.....nothing :(

I would be interested to see a breakdown of what other competitors ate. In particular the 5 female competitors who all went past me at the 95km mark! Although having said that I noticed that a lot of the women had done Trailwalker before, so they were more experienced than me at this distance. But I should have known better, I don't know why I wasn't having gels every hour in addition to the food I was eating! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! I carried 4 gels in my pocket the entire race!!!

So that was what didn't work.....what did work was my fantastic crew, my husband Brett and good friend and running coach Paul, and I managed to not spend too long at each CP, just doing what I had to. I think the training I had done was pretty good, of course I could have done more hill work as usual, and the only other thing I could have done to make it better was to have had some training runs over the course with the other Coolrunners who were competing, especially a night run. If I had not have trained the way I did I am sure I would have not recovered as well as I have.

My shoe/sock combo worked really well. I didn't get any blisters or hot spots! I started out in my New Balance 782 trail shoes and Injinji socks, with Sports Shield teflon powder in the socks. At the 53km mark, CP #3, I changed into my Merrel Overdrive trail shoes, and Bridgedale socks, again with teflon powder in them. I loved that the Merrel's are the Gortex model, and my feet didn't get wet in the fords we had to cross, I was lucky the water level was low enough not to go over the height of my shoes. However I did roll my ankles A LOT in the last 30kms, perhaps from fatigue, but also perhaps from the hieght of the heel of the Merrel's. I have done this wearing them a few times in training also, but never in the NB shoes. Perhaps next time I should just take my orthodics out of the NB shoes and put in a more comfortable innersole, as I am sure it is my orthodics that make my feet hurt so badly once the distance builds. I was able to jog ok on the smoother trails and few road sections coming out of CP #5, but my balance and ability to negotiate the technical and rough bits was terrible! There were a number of people using poles in the race, and I am definitely going to include poles in my kit for my next 100km race, they would certainly help stabilise me I'm sure. Plus take some of the work off the quads on the steep sections.

Now I am really looking forward to another chance at the 100km trail race distance! This time in Queensland warmth! The Glasshouse race is in September, so fingers crossed, I will be having a shot at redeeming myself. In the meantime I am looking forward to my first "real" marathon, at the Hunter Valley Running Festival Marathon in July. I've not run a marathon before that wasn't part of an Ironman Triathlon!

Photos of The North Face 100 can be found in the photo gallery on the website.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Triathlon adventures

Thought I'd pass on an adventure I had this past weekend: A double century on Saturday and a half-iron triathlon on Sunday. It's on my blog nowhip.blogspot.com. Note that it is in two posts, so you have to scroll down and read the earlier one if you want to get some of the background. I eat exclusively vegan and my friend/teammate/co-conspirator is completely raw vegan.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Adventure Racing Aussie-style.

The Pulsettes (that's me in the blue shorts)




Yesterday was my first attempt at an adventure race, and a teams event, when I competed with two friends Zoe and Simone in the AROC Paddy Pallin Adventure Race.

For complete novices at this type of event we had nothing short of a brilliant day. We were very lucky with the weather, the only time it hadn't rained for any length of time in the past few days was for the day yesterday while we were racing.

The first two sections involved running, problem solving and navigating our way to checkpoints, then down to the water for the paddle. I was pleased to see a lot of boats remaining, and about a dozen groups could be seen in the distance on the water. The paddle was tough because it was windy out in the middle of the lake, but we overtook four teams and no one overtook us! We were thankful for our pre-event practice at Manly a few weeks previously. During the paddle we had one checkpoint to visit which saw Simone scamper up a headland and back to the kayak, then it was across a bay to another section of navigating our way around to checkpoints and answering questions at each. At this stage we were in the thick of it, with many teams all at that stage of the event.

About 3 hours had already passed, and it was time for the mountain bike section of the course. It was a fantastic course, really good to ride, and I think the ride was were we did all the damage. It was insanely muddy! At times we were carrying our bikes through knee deep mud and even waist deep water at one stage. It was really hard on the legs because it was so boggy, but we definitely had the upper hand on many teams in fitness. At one section halfway into the ride we had a rogaine were we had to jump off our bikes and scramble down into gullies to find checkpoints, then we were running back up out of the gully and all these men were trudging up the hill, saying "go girls". It was the same on the bike, we were riding hills that people were pushing their bikes up, but my legs gave up from lack of bike fitness after a while, training for a 100km trail run does nothing for your quads! I was conking out halfway up some climbs, but Zoe and Simone would just be pedalling past everyone, I was so impressed with their riding! Then while they waited for slow me to catch up they were able to check the maps, so I felt really slack that I wasn't able to do anything to contribute on the bike other than just try my hardest to keep up!

It was so exciting the last section, as we were counting down the time and still managing to get the last 2 checkpoints and then before I knew it we were riding a section of awesome single track as fast as we could back down to the finish line.

So many people were saying it was a lot harder than last year and many of teams didn't make the cut off time. At a total race time of 5:33 hours we were 3 minutes late back, with the time limit at 5.5 hours, but we got all the checkpoints and answered everything correctly, and were thrilled to place 2nd in the women's team race, out of a total of 29 women's teams!

We are talking about next year already, and hopefully I won't have to wait another 12 months before I get the opportunity to race as the Pulsettes (for Pulse Triathlon Club) along side Zoe and Simone again. In the mean time I am going to learn how to orienteer with the local Orienteering Club!

A big thank you to our crew, coach Dani and bike handler Brett (who cleaned both my bike and Simone's when we got home!) and cheer squad Clint.

Event Photos are available on the AROC website.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Training & the Brain

I've come to the conclusion that training for athletic endeavors is 75% mental and 25% physical. There are two major ways in which my head seems to always get in my way. First, especially when I'm working out by myself, I wimp out or don't push myself hard enough. This happened today when I kept working in one minute walks during my morning run. Ugh. Why did I keep doing that? I didn't really want to walk but my brain kept saying, "Oh, just walk for a minute. It will feel so much better. I promise . . . " And, then, I'd stop and walk. Ugh, that sucks!

This first mental problem of mine though is no where near as bad as the second. The reason for that is that I usually don't work out by myself. I'm either training with my women's tri group or riding with a friend. And, one of my strengths is that I will listen. Hence, if my women's tri coach tells me to do something, I just do it. I don't really think about it. I don't even consider not doing it. If I'm there doing a workout with him, I just do what he says. This, however, leads me to the second, and previously stated, worse mental problem.

I have the hardest time actually making myself workout. I seem to always be able to find excuses. It has been the case recently that I've been working so much that finding time to exercise is difficult, but that is also bullshit. Triathletes are busy folks and the rest of them figure out ways to train. I just lack motivation, will, something. As I ran this morning, I thought of Vegan Run Amok. She's training for her first sprint triathlon and simply does not miss a workout. She's got a plan and she follows it, every, single, day.

I lack motivation. Vegan Run Amok has mentioned a few times that fear is motivating her. She wants to make sure she can finish her first tri. Other athletes just seem to love what they do. What else explains marathoners, ultra runners, and ultra cyclists (is that what y'all are called?). Y'all must love it or something? The weird thing is that I love it too when I actually make myself do it. When I'm swimming, running, even cycling, I like it during the exercise, but I guess I don't like it enough that the feeling gives me the motivation to make sure I'm working out at much as I should.

What got me out of bed this morning to run was that I'm starting to get a little soft around the middle. Now, we can't have that! ;) That might motivate me for awhile, but hopefully my waist will shrink quickly and I'll need something else to motivate me. Anyone have suggestions? Any ideas how to increase motivation, commitment, or will? I need help!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Canberra Marathon



I am not a marathon runner. I like the long slow trails of a 100 miler. So when it came to figuring out what pace to run at the Canberra marathon on Sunday i had no idea. I looked at my PB set on the flatter course of the Gold Coast 3 years ago and looked at some of my race times back then and made a guess. i am about 4kg heavier now and Canberra is a hillier course so I was a bit worried it was all going to end in disaster.

Well I told myself I would just work it out on the day but in my head I really wanted a 3:15.

The day came and I went for it. I ran out way too fast had no idea where the 3:15 pacer was and did not have a watch on so I was just running out of control. Then the 3:15 guys caught me and I just hung on. 7km I felt out of my league but was just too stubborn to let go. 14km I started to feel good and was happy with the pace. 26km the pacer moved away but I still felt in control and would not be overly upset with a 3:16. 28km started to tire but knew there was something left in the tank. I just looked for someone running at the pace I wanted and hung on. It was good to just use their shoes as a focal point and try to keep my form. In my head I was hoping to get through the 35km mark ok and if possible dig deep at the 38km mark and push hard for home. 35km passed and then at the 38km mark I saw the 3:15 guys about 400m away. It was time to find everything left in me and drive for the finish line. I told myself "you have suffered for this long and if you push yourself for just a little longer you will get a PB. If you go soft now you will be cranky with yourself for many months to come. So suck it up princess and get running!" It was tough and it was a long 4km but as I hit that final stretch and could see 3:15 still on the clock it all felt so good. Net time 3:15:29.

I felt tired, very sore and a bit emotional so I disappeared into the hall for a bit and just sat there giving my body and mind a moment to let all the pain and suffering go. Then it was time to get out there to enjoy and watch the other runners cross the line.

I really liked running the marathon. It is so different from slow beauty of a long trail ultra but I can see the appeal. The Gold Coast Marathon is 12 weeks away I wonder if I can run any faster?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Exercise as Meditation

[Cross-posted on my home blog The Potato Vine]

One of the things I like best about exercising is that it keeps my head on straight. When I get out of the routine of incorporating several workouts into a week, I just get off in a lot of ways. I'm just generally not as good of a 'little one' as I am when I'm working out. Absent regular exercise, I end up drinking more alcohol and can be prone to bouts of depression. (Don't worry not super severe.)

When I am exercising though, everything seems to look a little brighter. I feel better about myself and generally more positive. Research shows that part of this can be explained by the endorphins that are released when we're working out. I think I get other benefits though as well. When I'm training, my mind can't obsess. It has to quiet down. I have to count my yards if swimming. If biking in a group, I have to be very focused on what every one else is doing around me and how safe our conditions are. If I'm running, I'm either thinking, "Okay, now sprint for this straight away, " or "high knees, high knees, high knees," or there is just silence.

You simply can't think about much else when you're pushing your body hard. Your body forces you to focus on the minute, to focus on yourself, to focus on just being there. That is something we need to do more of. We need to be in the moment more often. So, I'm grateful that exercising helps me do that and I look forward to my workouts partly because they feel like meditation sessions.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Six Foot Track Marathon, by Bethany


Whilst training for my first Ironman Triathlon back in 2002 I first heard about the 45km Six Foot Track Marathon, while I thought the volume of running training our coach was giving us was pretty tough, a girl in our squad was doing what seemed to me at that time to be an insane amount of training for what was supposedly a run that was only 2.8kms further than the regular 42.2km marathon. Little did I know! Fast forward to 2008 and I am lining up for my first attempt at the SFT.

Our weekend started well with a lunch time trip with my husband Brett down to the Blue Mountains. On arrival at Katoomba I went straight to the race check-in before the crowds arrived, we then spent a pleasant afternoon sitting in the sun at a coffee shop next door to our motel. We drank good coffee, shared a pot of peppermint tea and giggled to each other about some interesting locals. Dinner was delicious pasta with some training partners from home, Marcos, Anthony, Ingrid and Doug, where the boys motivated themselves by talking of estimated race times and goals, while Ingrid and I reassured ourselves by saying “we just want to have a fun day!”

As usual pre-race, I was unable to do much more than doze for an hour or so at a time, and my restless sleep was not helped by the fact that the fog and mist that had descended upon Katoomba had developed into a storm that seemed to be never-ending. I did my best to reassure myself that it didn’t matter if it was a wet race, and that the Cox’s River was not going to wash tiny Ingrid away. Midnight, 2am, 3am, 4am, and finally it was 5.30am and time to get up.

7am and I donned my emergency poncho to keep me warm and went outside to meet the group. Brett and Doug set off for a training run before their drive over to Jenolan Caves to “crew” for us, and we set off in good spirits for the walk down to the Skyway to catch the shuttle buses to the start at The Explorer’s Tree.
At the start line Ingrid and I moved towards the front and lost track of Marcos and Anthony, Ingrid had a Wave 2 start to get ready for and I found some Coolrunning friends to chat to, then found Tim (Sporty Vegan), who I was hoping to do my best to run with, as he was expecting to run a time similar to my goal time of 5 hours and 30 minutes, and is an experienced SFT runner. With a few minutes to go until the Wave 3 start time I was feeling cold and nervous, but concentrated on staying next to Tim for the push at the start.

The countdown began and I started my watch with 2 seconds to go, then we were off, over the edge and down into Nellie's Glen. With dismay I watched Tim’s Coolrunning cap disappear into the distance and clung to the edge of the track, trying to watch my footing while my eyes began to water furiously as they often do when I start running (not because I run fast, it’s just a weird thing they do). Before long I found myself right at the back of the group and we came to a standstill as the single file section of steps began.


The descent down Nellie's Glen


Out onto the fire trail into the Megalong Valley and my legs were feeling really shaky from the steep descent, having dropped over 400m in altitude in under 6kms. I tried to get into a rhythm and make up some ground to see if I could see Tim ahead. I passed quite a few people who were running in pairs and small groups chatting happily. Suddenly I began to loose all my confidence, I figured that these people I was passing probably knew something I didn’t and I should just forget about catching Tim and run my own race.

Across Megalong Road at the 8km mark I knew I was on pace at 50 minutes. I grabbed some gels at an aid station and continued to reassure myself that I was doing ok and the next section was a familiar part of the course from a training run the previous month. Through the fields and deeper into the valley onto the narrow single track towards the river I was feeling a little better and got into a nice pace, occasionally passing people, and pulling aside to let the first fast runners of Wave 4 through. The turn-off to the suspension bridge passed on my right and suddenly from behind I heard a familiar voice calling me, I jumped to the side of the track and let Marcos through, he was flying along and we exchanged declarations of love as he left me in his wake.



Crossing Cox's River


The river crossing was uneventful and Tim’s earlier advice to lift my feet up worked because my shoes stayed free of river sand. I was over the timing mat in 1:41, one minute ahead of my planned 1:42 for this section. However my nemesis was ahead of me and I told myself to forget about times and splits for a while and just do my best up the climbs. I’m not a strong hill runner, let alone fast hill walker, and walking these hills at the speeds people do in this race is something that has to be seen to be believed. I put my head down and focused on the ground ahead of me. Up and up and up, I did my best to shuffle along when it wasn’t too steep, and tired not to get discouraged at the number of people gliding past me. I marveled at some “more experienced” women as they passed me running while I was trudging and swore to learn to run hills like that. My nose was running and I was getting really cold as the hill climbed higher and higher towards the Pluviometer. A few times I needed to pop my ears as the altitude increased.

About a kilometer from the "Pluvi" I heard another familiar voice, my friend Allison, one of Australia's most accomplished female ultra runners, was behind me, striding her way to the top. I looked at my watch, knowing Allison had started 15 minutes behind me in Wave 4, and discovered that I was now 13 minutes behind my schedule for a 5:30 hour finish. I wasn’t surprised by this as I knew the hill was to be my big weakness, and I just focused on getting the legs running again as best they could now that the steepest part of the climb was over. At the aid station a volunteer with a fabulous sense of the ridiculous was dressed up in a tropical themed bikini, hula skirt and blond wig. Complete with grin from ear to ear and sizable beer-belly he was thoroughly enjoying his duty handing out drinks to tired runners and bringing a smile to their faces. I requested a Pina Colada but made do with coke and water.

19kms to go and the ugliest part of the race began. It was heads down for everyone as the path appears to flatten out but rudely continues to beat runner’s legs into submission with seemingly endless rolling hills. I was starting to feel really cold and this wasn’t helping my legs. I forced myself to keep shuffling and started to think of some of my favorite song lyrics, singing them to myself in my head and trying not to look at my watch.

At the highest point of the course, about 1200m altitude I was nearing the Deviation and starting to feel pretty good. I looked at my watch and saw that I was actually back on target pace for this section, I started to feel really relieved and quite emotional, I was going to make it ok, but knew I couldn’t make up the 13 minutes I’d lost to the Pluviometer.

Through Deviation, and suddenly ahead on the trail I recognize Marcos leaning against a tree with cramps, he turned to limp off again as I approached and I squeezed his arm and told him to jog with me, which he did. Luckily another fellow running head heard me talking to Marcos and offered his cramp spray. The spray was too late for Marcos unfortunately, but he was able to continue on as best he could and not let the cramps beat him. I debated staying with Marcos, but figured he wouldn’t want me to lose time on account of him.

4.6kms to go at the next check point and time was beginning to come to a standstill for me. My left calf is cramping and my quads are shaking like never before. Again I am feeling really emotional, from the thrill of being only 4kms from the finish, but also from wanting it to be over already and from the pain in my quads and calves. Despite the pain I am in, I am happy that I am feeling really coherent and quite fresh energy-wise, but am beginning to loose my temper with my legs which will no longer do what I tell them to!

A spectator tells me it’s 2kms to go and time slows even more as I descend onto the most notorious part of the trail, the descent into Jenolan Caves. At times I feel like screaming because I can’t even run downhill anymore and there are rocks under my feet the size of tennis balls and even the size of my feet. To the right is a steep drop off and I think if I fall now I might roll down there and never be found! So I hug the left hand side of the track, stopping to let faster runners though and trying to ignore the agony of my quads. I listen hard for any sound of the finish line and begin to catch glimpses of Caves House down in the valley below.

Finally the handrail and cobblestone pathway appears and I say to my legs, “move, move, move, this is it!” A big ball of emotion clogs up my chest and throat and I struggle to breath for a few seconds, then I see the stairs in front of me and Brett, Doug and Ingrid are calling out to me! I fly down the stairs and around the corner to the finish line, high-fives along the way to hands reaching out to me and into the finish chute. A volunteer places my medal around my neck but I can’t move for a few seconds because my legs have started to shake so badly. I am finished.

The Finish
I have a little cry at the finish line and a lovely volunteer worries about me because I feel so cold, but I am ok. I am finished. The volunteer stands with me until Brett finds me, and all I can say to Brett for 5 minutes is, “that was so hard, that was so hard.”
5 hours and 48 minutes and I am very happy with my time, my goal of 5 hours 30 minutes was a stretch with my lack of hill strength, but I know exactly what I need to do for next year. More hills!


Enjoying my post-race hot chips
Salty carbohydrate goodness - Yum!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Protein from Manitoba


In the fall I moved to a new town, got out on my commuting bike once or twice before the snow hit, and subsequently haven't been out on my bike at all this winter. The local bike shop is having their first "spring" ride this Sunday (about 30km on cross bikes I think), and so, after being fed up with riding my trainer in my basement since January, I've been trying to get in the saddle and get my legs used to the grind again.
Increasing my activity level has made me want to insert a bit more protein in my diet, and so I've turned to Manitoba Hemp powder. Initially I hated it (very coarse stuff), and was regretting the fact that I wouldn't be able to use Vanilla Whey powder anymore. I guess I've forced myself to get used to it though, because now I'm just mixing it in with my bran flakes and not batting an eye at it.

Anybody have any other vegan protein powder ideas? I know Mr. Brazier has an extensive line of vegan stuff, but it is also pretty darn expensive.

For you bike nuts, have you seen the 7 lb bike story in VeloNews? This guy in Germany took the lightest bike materials available, like $15 000 dollar wheels and Campagnolo Record components, and shaved them down until, all together, the bike weighs in at 7 lbs!

And this has nothing to do with veganism, but have you all seen the Ethicle search engine?
ethicle
This is the google search engine, but the Ethicle version generates donations at a penny per search to groups like Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, Amnesty International, PETA, and a few others.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

who the hell's tim?

Hi i live in Australia, about 1hr south of Sydney in a coastal town called Kiama. I am 45, I have a 7 year old son and I run ultra marathons. I think I have run around 60 or so in the last 6 years. I have been vegetarian the greater part of my life and vegan for a few years now. My best running would have to have been last year. I ran the Western State 100 mile, the Glasshouse 100 Mile, the Great North Walk 100 mile and the Coast to Kosciuszko 246km 150 mile). I am not anyone special i just love what i do. i think the greatest gift is to find your passion and be able to immerse yourself fully in it.

Does being vegan help me do all this?

Originally I did not really know. but then the other day I was talking to my partner and she reminded me of the time I ran three ultra marathons in 3 weeks or last year how I ran a 45km trail run the weekend after the Glasshouse 100 mile. So i guess being plant powered helps in the recovery process. But that is not why i am vegan it is just an added bonus.

I think this blog is a great idea and am so glad to be part of it.

Saddle Chat

This is a repost from my blog. For those of you who have already read it, sorry for the repeat.

There's tons of research regarding the preferred saddle type that pulls in every direction. Some say cutaways or noseless are the way to go as they are designed to relieve pressure in sensitive areas. Others say standard saddles work best as the pressure is uniform. It really all boils down to personal preference and what works for you.

Right now I have a cutaway which I'm sure would be comfortable if my bike was the appropriate fit (the top tube is too long which leads to over-extension and poor saddle position). Prior to this saddle I had the standard saddle that came with my Felt S32 which was not comfortable for longer rides.

Gel seat covers should be avoided as they end up putting more pressure in the soft spots. The sit bones push the gel forward instead of cushioning the area, doing exactly what you don't want it to do, creating more discomfort. An uncomfortable seat could be due to too much padding or not enough support in the right areas.

Cycling technique can be the root cause of crotch discomfort rather than saddle. Some useful techniques to reduce crotch pressure while cycling:
  • Ensure your saddle is roughly horizontally aligned, or only slightly nose up. The nose too upwards aligned will directly increase the perineum pressure, while a downwards alignment will reduce the sit bone support of your pelvis, again resulting in an increased perineum pressure.
  • Make it a habit to stand up occasionally, such as on hills and when accelerating if you have stopped cycling or slowed down.
  • Adjust how you sit from time to time. For example, try to sit closer to the rear when cycling on hills and only sit on the nose for brief periods.
  • Try to sit up now and then without leaning forward as much.

Other tips to relieve pain:

  • Chamois cream. I'm a fan of Assos but there are a ton of other varieties on the market.
    Upgrade to a suspension seat post if you're taking a beating on your rides. These posts provide an inch or so of travel and help to soften the blow.
  • Ride more. The more time you spend in the saddle, the more you condition your body to take it. Sounds counter-intuative but works.
  • Always ride in clean shorts and spend money on quality pairs. The nicer shorts are more expensive for a reason. More padding, better design.

And finally, seat fit measurement for a road bike:

  • Make sure there is proper leg extension between the saddle and the pedals. Place your heels on the pedals and adjust the saddle height so that your legs are fully extended on the down stroke, yet your hips don't rock as you pedal.
  • The horizontal tilt of the saddle fits your riding style and integrates with the other fit factors. You're going to feel different pressure depending on where you're resting on the handlebars. Adjust the tilt to be most comfortable in the position that you ride most. See first bullet point under cycling technique.
  • Make sure the distance between the saddle and the handlebars is proper. Check this by placing your hands on the brake hoods and looking down through the center of the handlebar which should obscure the front hub. If the handlebar is ahead of the hub, you are more aerodynamic, and if it's behind, you should be more comfortable. Adjust bar reach by moving saddle forward or back and/or swapping stems. If you weigh over 250 pounds, you must attach the seat post clamp at least 1 inch from the most forward position on the frame.
  • The height of the handlebars in relation to the saddle provides for the proper angle to minimize shoulder and arm stress. Set the handlebars lower than saddle height to be more aerodynamic (Very hard to do with any noseless saddle), and level with or higher than saddle height to be more comfortable.)

To all the experts out there, please comment if you have any other advice or tips. I for one, would love to hear it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New SV Feature: Google Calendar

Hey SV Bloggers,

I just added a new sidebar to include a list of some of the races/events we're doing this year.  I plugged in a few that I knew of off-hand, but I'll work on getting everyone calendar access so you can put in some of your own—not that you have to, of course!  I just thought it might be fun to give people an idea of the kinds of events we do.  

Plus, it inspires me to think about the fact that Bethany is going to be running 45 kms in a couple of weeks.  Who knows, maybe I'll be so inspired that I'll get off my couch and run, um, 4.5 kms or something ;-)

-Jen

Not 247 lbs, but definitely a vegan athlete!

Hey, check out this awesome interview with a real professional vegan athlete, our own (soon to post here, I hope) Christine Vardaros!  Click here to see the interview on CTodd.  Christine, or "Peanut," talks about how she got her nickname, how she got into bike racing & cyclocross, and how her vegan diet helps her recover from workouts faster than her meat-eating counterparts.  

Plus, she shows us what's in her fridge!  (Am I the only weirdo who loves to see in people's fridges?  A few months ago, one of the tri magazines had a feature in which they posted pictures of Desiree Ficker's fridge and I was beside myself—it wasn't vegan, but it was actually pretty close!)



Monday, February 18, 2008

Biking How I Hate Thee

Yes, I'm a tri wanna be who pretty much hates cycling and I'm turning to y'all for some help. Both running and swimming I'll get a hankering for if I've been too lazy to work out in awhile, but I never think about cycling. I never want to get on the bike. It doesn't matter how nice it is outside or who I'm riding with (okay, that does matter a bit), I'm never really excited about cycling.

I've decided that a major reason for this is that I started cycling with basically Olympic-like cyclists who I could absolutely never keep up with and therefore consistently felt like an idiot and had absolutely no fun. This experience after many many times basically made me feel like I suck so bad that I think we could understand why I wouldn't be excited to get on the bike. And, don't be thinking that I'm exaggerating about their prowess because I'm not. The women I train with aren't normal. Last year my group sent more women to Nationals than any other tri group in the nation (or so my coach says so if that's wrong blame him). Seventeen (!) of the women I trained with qualified for and competed in Nationals.

You're likely thinking so why don't you just cycle alone? Do people really enjoy this? Do they do it? I don't know anyone who cycles/does training rides by themselves. Plus, I don't know as much about the bike as I should. That's embarrassing to admit, but there it is. For example, I theoretically can change of flat, but never have really had to do it myself. Not to mention, there really aren't places around where I live that you feel terribly safe riding by yourself. You head out of town and it gets real rural real fast and not a little bit freaky. I have done some rides by myself out of necessity when training for an event, but they've been few and far between.

I guess I'm just looking for stories of how others got inspired to like cycling. Was it immediate? Did it grow on you? Any recommendations for how I can get myself to like it more or at least just do it more?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Rocket and B12

While I ate my lunch I caught a bit of the Roger Clemons Hearing on steroids. I didn't see much and I was following CC. What I did see was when Clemons was asked if he was a vegan, in referance to his b12 use.
"I don't know what that is". Was Clemons response.

Based on his response I would assume he is not vegan. If this is the case, is there any need for him to receive b12 injections? or.....is b12 the new slang for 'roids? If this is true, should we be careful about tossing around this term at the events we participate in.

Just wonderin'

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Carb:Protein ratios

I have just started back to training (as opposed to exercising irregularly for health) and have been ravenous. It always happens that my appetite picks up after a week or two of regularly training. However, with trying to get all of the protein that I need (I weigh about 55kg and need around 80g of protein/day, ie. 1.5x my weight) I find that I'm also eating a lot of carbohydrates. Do you guys have any ideas for getting more protein without all the extra carbs? I know that carbs are important... I just find that I gain a bit of unwanted fat when my appetite picks up like this and I think a lot of it is attributed to my increase of carbs. It probably doesn't help that it's cold here and my body is storing up to last the winter!

Also, I am going to buy some Vegan protein this weekend (I just checked on the VeganEssentials website and I can get it cheaper online than at the stores by my house... oh how I hate markups!). So that should help. Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

vegan bike saddles?

Hey, all you vegan bike riding peeps, I have a question for ya.  I was just about to purchase a long-lusted after Terry damselfly sadddle for my road bike when I noticed that it was made out of leather.   Boo!  After some cursing and pouting, I started looking around for a vegan alternative.  What saddles do you use?  I tend to prefer narrow and firm (gee, that sounds dirty) and HATE the Bontrager gel seat that came with my bike.  Suggestions?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Workout Buddies

Last week was great for my training thanks to a visit from an old workout buddy. Well, she's only 26. I guess I mean a long-lost workout buddy. She left me in Cali and moved to the hinterlands of Minnesota. I shiver just thinking of it.

Anyway, I had absolutely no difficulty working out almost everyday that she was in town. We'd pick a time, I'd pick her up, and we'd be working out in no time. Of course, it helped that she didn't have a car with her so I knew if I didn't pick her up, she'd be deprived.

It works the same way with my running. My partner, CC, asked if he could run with my women's running group and my coach said sure. CC loves it! Whenever there is a scheduled run, no matter how much I try and talk him out of going, he finds a way to get me there. Amazing.

Given their tremendous power, I've decided I need more workout buddies! Does anyone else find that having people to workout with is a major motivator? How did you find your workout buddies? Can you share them? Any suggestions for ways to replicate that motivation even when a buddy isn't around or training that particular sport/discipline?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lies & Vegan Athletes

[Also posted on my home blog. I see that Matt has already posted on this and Vegan Run Amok had some great comments. I suspect lots of us have something to say about this article.]

I have to admit to wanting to absolutely scream at the top of my lungs right now so I'll attempt to calm myself to write this post about an INCREDIBLY important topic. Lies, lies, and more lies. Mis-education, deliberate or otherwise, vast ignorance, and blind stubbornness are all things that I see at work when people talk about vegan athletes. Why can't we please have people who actually know about veganism talk on these topics? Instead, the Wall Street Journal decided yesterday to run a story about Tony Gonzalez being a vegan and how it did or did not affect his ability to play football. [Thanks Mom for telling me about this story. As you might suspect, I'm not a regular reader of the WSJ.]

First lie and/or piece of misleading information presented in the article, Mr. Gonzalez is NOT a vegan. Despite the fact that the author refers to him as a vegan numerous times, he is not a vegan. Tony Gonzalez eats fish and chicken. He is not even a vegetarian! What the hell, people?! Do you not know what a vegan is? Please read my my past post on this topic. You are in no way a vegan if you eat animals. Sorry. Can't be vegan. Not vegan. No! Is that sufficiently clear? It is like calling people who don't eat cow, but eat all other animals, vegetarian.

Hence, while the WSJ article claims to be about how vegans can or cannot be serious athletes, it is not at all about that. It is about how Gonzalez has chosen to avoid some animals and animal byproducts. I am very happy about that choice. I think it is good for him, the environment, and for animals. It is important, however, that we realize that he is not and can not be a poster boy for vegan athleticism, because (as I've now said a crazy amount of times) he is not in fact a vegan. My mom knew this immediately. She said the article mentioned he ate salmon, which made no sense to her if he was supposed to be vegan. Yeah Mom! She totally gets it now.

Next. His diet seems to be no where near varied enough. Where's the soy, tempeh, quinoa, seiten? Does he even know about these products? I can't tell you how many times beefers have asked me what quinoa, tempeh, or seiten was. Today everyone seems to know about soy. Where's the flax in his diet? How varied is his bean intake?

Pasta. That is what they show us he eats! Great way to feed into stereotypes. He apparently eats pasta, smoothies, and fish. Doesn't sounds like any vegan athlete I know. Can someone who is smarter than me and famous contact Gonzalez? I think if someone actually gave him the information he needed, he would make different choices and may actually become a vegan. He needs lots of calories. So how about avocados, chick peas, and coconut milk?

I was glad to see that sports nutritionist Nancy Clark didn't say it was bad to be a vegan, but I don't agree with her comment that it is "harder" to get calcium, protein, vitamin D, and iron. It isn't harder. We just eat different things. I guess if you eat at a cow restaurant for dinner every night and can barely eat anything on the menu, then yeah it would be harder. Most of us, however, don't eat at the serious beefer restaurants for every meal.

One good thing to come out of the article was that it shows casual conversations can make a real difference. Gonzalez started thinking about his diet after a man on a plane sitting next to him told him about The China Study. That is rad for a few reasons. First, kudos to the guy for talking with Gonzalez about it and kudos to Gonzalez for actually thinking about the information (and eventually reading it)! Maybe we often make a difference and never even know about it. Maybe our answer to our coworker about why we're vegan might actually make a difference. Maybe the fact that I'm bringing delicious desserts to my omnivore book club tonight might make them all run out for spinach! He! He!

Another repugnant statement that so many people (including the WSJ author) make when talking about athletes making the choice to go vegan is that eating vegan is a "risk." Huh? Eating rotting flesh isn't a risk? Eating animals that have been injected with so many hormones that they have brought on early puberty in girls isn't a risk? Eating animals that have so many antibiotics in them that the drugs have lost their effectiveness for humans (among other reason) isn't a risk? Eating animals that have repeatedly been subject to recalls because of E. coli and other bacteria isn't a risk? Y'all are crazy.

Oh, and the football season Gonzalez reduced greatly his animal and animal byproduct intake, he just happened to break the all-time reception record. Why didn't that lead the story? Instead, it was the last paragraph of the article.

The 247-pound vegan

The 247-pound vegan

'has long been the fringe diet of young rebels and aging nonconformists.'
I guess you get what you would expect from the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another Introduction

Veg*Triathlete was nice enough to ask me to contribute to this group blog. I hope she doesn't come to regret it ;) I'll give you a quick background on my sportiness and veganess.

I never ran a mile until I was 30 years old. I'm now 33. The year I turned 30 my friend had died of cancer just a bit before he turned 40 and it really freaked me out. I decided I needed to pay more attention to some preventative health care. I went for a full physical and found out that I had very high cholesterol. I wasn't sure exactly what to do with that knowledge considering I hadn't consumed a bit (that I know) of cholesterol since I went vegan in 1997. Of course, genetics play a major role here. My mom also has high cholesterol. I'm pretty anti-medicine so I decided I needed to do everything I could possibly do before I turned to being on pills daily for the rest of my life. [Of course, I realize that some folks absolutely must be on a medicine for a variety of reasons and am not in anyway second guessing that or other people's choices.]

Because I'm nerdy, I picked up a variety of books and read that based on your height and body frame, if you are within a particular weight range, it was with over 90% certainty that you would not develop heart disease. To be honest, I'm not even sure that knowing what I know now that I even believe that any more, but it got me off my couch! In order to get my weight within that magical range, I had to lose 20 lbs. I never saw myself as a fat person, but I also had never felt good about my body, been active, or very healthy overall.

I set out to change. I signed up for a gym membership. I started taking aerobic classes, yoga, pilates, and lifting weights. I would combine a walk and very slow jog on the treadmill. At the end of my workouts, I would rinse off and then float in the therapy pool, which is set at 97 degrees. Oh, yeah. I loved to be in the water but didn't know how to really swim other than the regular kid's underwater breast stoke.

My workouts largely consisted of what the gym trainer had told me to do - 30 minutes cardio and then a weight routine. I started to jog more on the treadmill though and realized I really liked the stationary bike. My only goal though was a weight goal and the weight was definitely coming off. I was losing on average 2 lbs a week. I was feeling great but realized that I'd have to set a new goal if I was going to maintain my new found healthy lifestyle. Once I had reached my 20 lbs lost, what would keep me going?

About the time that I was realizing that I'd need a new goal, I found out that an acquaintance was a real life triathlete. I was so impressed. She encouraged me to make a triathlon my new goal. What the hell? What ya talking about crazy lady? I had just run my first mile ever in my life! I don't know how to swim! I don't even OWN a bike! How the hell could she think I could complete a triathlon? She was pretty insistent though. She explained about the existence of spring triathlons and encouraged me to simply pick a race and work towards it. That was March 2005.

I bought a road bike. I joined a women's triathlon training group that has a coach. He taught me how to swim. I ran my first 5K in June 2005. I completed my first sprint triathlon in August 2005. It was a wonderfully supportive women's only race in Santa Barbara, California. I sobbed when I exited the ocean swim because the feeling of accomplishment was so overwhelming. My mom even flew out from the East Coast to see me do something we all would have never believed I could do.

Since that time, my training has waxed and waned. I've done several other 5k runs and a half marathon. Haven't yet done a 10K so that is my most current goal. I did several other sprint tris and my first Olympic distance triathlon in September 2006. In October (or was that also September?) 2006 I completed every mile of Cycle Oregon (amazing, but hella hard). In 2006 I hurt my knee and pretty much let 2007 get away from me. My friend KG (not Kevin Garnett, although that would be cool) told me I let myself go last year. With friends like that . . .

If I could do this stuff, anyone can and I hope will! I'm excited to contribute to this group blog. It is great to be among other sporty vegans, but mostly I'm hoping it will help keep me on track. After all, I won't really be able to post much if I don't get myself the hell out there, right?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vegan-Friendly Coaches and Coaching

One of the more interesting things that has come out of conversations with lots of junior cyclists (racers under 19) is that often they've been discouraged from going or staying vegan by their coaches . Most of the time these coaches have little or no actual training in nutrition.

I imagine this holds for many aspiring athletes over 19 as well.

With the growth of personal coaching through the internet, many people who have never been coached are hiring coaches to help guide them through their training.

What I'm interested in is finding vegan-friendly coaches or coaching services.

My experience is limited the very (very) small world of cycling, so I welcome hearing from athletes from all sorts of sports about their experiences.

I've been lucky and have worked with coaches from Cycle-Smart since 2004. Cycle-Smart president, Adam Myerson is a pretty outspoken vegan and his coaches are all very supportive of my dietary choices.

Adam has also written a few articles on vegetarian sports nutrition from his own experience as a supplement to the Cycle-Smart training manual.

The Vegetarian Athlete, Part I: Rules of the Road for the Meat-Free Cyclist

The Vegetarian Athlete, Part II: Micronutrients


The Vegetarian Athlete, Part III: Eating on the Road


More Articles


So, if you're coached, or have been coached, what has been your experience as a vegan athlete? Was your coach supportive? Unsupportive? Any recommendations for those in the market?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Heart Rate Training

I finally broke down and picked up a heart rate monitor. In this circumstance, I'm a slow adaptor. Do any of you have any tips or recommendations for heart rate training? I'm multi-sport and the heart rate monitor is water proof so I can wear it in the pool. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hi! from an Aussie Trail Running Vegan


Firstly thank you to Veg*Triathlete for the invitation to contribute to the Sporty Vegans Blog! I hope I can be a valuable member of the team and have something worthwhile that I can contribute that will help or inspire people, and perhaps the process of contributing, and reading the thoughts of other vegan athletes, will help and inspire me to be my best also.

Ok, I little about myself is probably the best place to start….

I’m a 30 year old vegan Aussie girl, living on the mid north coast of New South Wales, Australia. I guess I’ve got a pretty extensive sporting resume, having competed in state and national level Road Cycling, then progressing to Triathlon. My time in Triathlon covered more events than I can list here, but most notably, 4 Ironmans (with a PB of 11:42), approximately 25 Olympic Distance, Half Ironman and long course events (with a Half PB of 5:20) and a place on the Age Group Team at the World Duathlon Championships in 2005.

In February 2007 I began exclusively running, after becoming disillusioned with the number of injuries I was continually battling as a triathlete. Running was always my weakest discipline, but the one which I enjoyed the most. I didn’t have any specific plans for some time, simply to be thankful that I could run at all, after having 2 stress fractures in as many years, one of which opened in to a fracture requiring a back slab cast for 6 weeks. So I got myself into a good routine running 4 days a week, for an hour a session. Fast forward to September 2007 and I decided that I needed some goals again, my running was going well and I was injury-free, so I decided to enter two events, the Six Foot Track (www.sixfoot.com), a 45km ultra-marathon held exclusively on trail, and because of my fascination with ultra running, I am planning to compete in The North Face 100 (http://www.thenorthface.com.au/100/).

Now I think I’ll leave it at that for today, that’s quite enough about me, however if anyone has any questions about my vegan diet, racing or training, either for my previous triathlon experience, or my current training as a long distance / trail runner, I’d love to help out!




Thursday, January 10, 2008

Doubt and the Vegan Athlete

I think like most endurance athletes I work on doing everything possible to improve my performance. I train smart. I rest smart. I eat well. I sleep well. I invest in decent equipment.

Nonetheless, like most endurance athletes, I hit a rough patch now and then where I just don't feel fast or fit. My race results might not be where they should be. I might not be seeing the gains I want to see during training and doubt creeps in.

I start to second guess my training.

I start to second guess my racing schedule.

And most troubling, I start to second guess my diet.

This is something I haven't heard a lot of vegan athletes talk about, and I wonder why. It seems pretty normal to me that when one spends a lot of time focusing on doing everything right in order to be the best possible athlete one can be that these sorts of doubts would creep in. Add to that comments from teammates, coaches, or competitors that, "maybe you'd do better if you ate some meat," and it produces a little bit of doubt.

If this is something that we all go through, how do vegan athletes manage dietary doubt?

In my case, I think about the fact that if I wasn't vegan it's likely I would not be an athlete at all. So, rather than impede my performance, which I don't think veganism has done, veganism enables me to do what I love to do on a daily basis. Even in the times when things aren't coming together, I'm finding it helpful to think that even a bad, bad day on the bike as a vegan is better than not being on the bike at all.

How does everyone else deal with this?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Resources

This is probably old news to most of you, but I wanted to share a few vegan athlete nutrition and training sites that I frequent:

http://www.veganathlete.com/
http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/athletes.htm
http://www.organicathlete.org
http://www.beginnertriathlete.com
http://www.bicycling.com
http://www.enduranceplanet.com/
http://www.swimplan.com/index.php?pg=wel1
http://www.usms.org/articles/articledisplay.php?CATID=2

With an Ironman in my future, nutrition and training has taken the spotlight. I had the opportunity to speak with an Ironman a few months ago and he gave me a lot of valuable information that may be helpful to you. I've pasted the highlights below, the remaining info can be found on the above link.
  • Never eat in transition. Wait to take nutrition until you are 5-10 minutes into that leg of the race. If you eat before then there is a good chance you'll get sick.
  • Take in nutrition every 30 minutes, at least. As an endurance athlete you need to take in enough to keep your performance strong (Me, being the silly girl that I am was cutting my nutrition intake down to facilitate weight loss)
  • What you eat the night before a hard training session matters more than what you eat that morning. It takes about 8-12 hours for your body to metabolize the nutrients.
  • This may not be true for everyone but he had better hard training days when he consumed a higher amount of protein the night before. A 1/2 block of tofu or the equivalent.
  • Alternate your speed work and distance work; you cannot do both at the same time. Ideally you want to build a solid base of distance and then work on speed.
  • Add at least one sprint run workout a week to your regimen. It will help you get faster. Try a 10 second sprint, 30 second walk set 10 times. Or a pyramid where you sprint 25m, walk 25m, sprint 50m, walk 50m up to 200m.
  • Bike fit is critical to a good race. Some people like a loose fit while others like it tighter, play around and find out what's best for you.
  • All those fancy aerodynamic helmets and zip wheels don't help you on race day. Studies have shown that those only help if you're maintaining 30+ mph speeds.
  • Rotate your focuses. I.e. focus on swim one week, run the next, and bike the following week. This can be done in monthly rotations as well.
  • The fastest runners have the shortest steps. The elite racers have about 120 foot falls per minute while the average runner has 80. Improve your turnover by doing high stepping drills.
  • A lot of triathletes are now moving towards the natural body movement training. This means instead of hitting the weights they do a series of push ups, crunches and pull ups. Start with 15 of each and do 10 times.
  • Never skimp on sleep. Get at least 8 hours; this is when your body recovers from a hard workout.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My way late, waaay too long introduction

Hi guys! I've been promising Jen for, like, a month that I would post my introduction really soon! Eep. But here it is, finally. :)

I live in the Desert Southwest with my significant other and our two cats. I'm a technical writer and am also involved in local efforts to get our city and surrounding communities to no-kill.

I've been a vegetarian since I was 15 and a vegan since my 32nd birthday. I'm sure I would have become a vegan earlier had I known the why and how. Kids growing up today not even remembering the world before the internet have no idea how lucky they are. :)

To describe me as "sporty" is probably a stretch. I wasn't very athletic growing up - I was more of a hiker if anything and really more of a reader and writer than that, even.

When I was in my mid-twenties, though, I taught pre-K through 6th grade EFL overseas for a couple of years. I loved my kids, but because I was pretty young, and didn't speak the local language well, and taught the "fun" classes, they would do their gleeful best every day to Wear. Me. Out. And as my host government frowned on small-child-icide, I instead started running 8 kilometers every day after class, up and down the mountain.

Since returning to the states, however, I've been at best an intermittent runner. How I ran injury free for those two years - in bad shoes, on a rocky, unpaved, half-eroded road and knowing nothing about stretching or foam rolling - is a big mystery to me because nowadays I'm always getting sidelined by injury. I guess the obvious answer is that I was younger then, but I don't feel that much older now. It's only been, what, thirteen years? Fourteen? Not that long in terms of world or even personal history, really, but biologically significant nonetheless, apparently.

Other things that get in my way are:
  • Lack of time, real or perceived
  • Boredom
  • Frustration
I'm determined to tackle the lack of time issue this year and am developing a concrete plan for that. (Writing shorter posts would probably be a start, ha!)

Boredom has been more or less solved already by my discovery last year of podcasts. Now I can learn interesting stuff even while I'm running!

Frustration, though... that remains a challenge for me. In 2007, I undertook a real training program for the first time with the goal of finally running a sub-30:00 5K. I made some progress in that direction, but it upset me that the progress was so unbelievably slow and it upset me even more when I ended up injured yet again in November, as this scuttled any chance I might have had of running a sub-30:00 by, I don't know, February even.

This past August, though, this article on women runners appeared in the New York Times, a helpful reminder that if I just keep at it, I almost certainly will get faster, even if it takes a long time.

And more recently, my friend Pirate linked in this great blog post to this article. It cites an 8-year study of runners and non-runners conducted by the Stanford Arthritis Center, one of the findings of which was that even though "about 40 per cent of the runners experienced a running-related injury over a one-year time span," over the long haul, "runners made fewer visits to the doctor, spent about 33 per cent less time in the hospital, missed half as many work days, and - as expected - had lower blood pressures and resting heart rates, compared to non-runners."

Combining the two, the following lesson emerges:

Even if it takes awhile and even though injuries will happen, RUN... and you'll end up faster and healthier.

So that's my rather lengthy mantra for 2008.

Which I hereby condense as follows:

RUN!

:)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reader Question about Weight Loss

A reader recently posted the following question:

"I am training for my second attempt at the Ford Lake Placid Iron Man in 2008. In race nutrition is what prevented me from finishing it in 2007 - I overloaded my body with calories in too short a timeframe.
I weigh more now than I did training for this years race and wondered if a Vegan diet might help me get the nutrition I need while helping me lose weight.  Thought?"

First of all, congrats for taking on an IM!  I hope your second attempt is all you want it to be.  I have a two part answer to your question about using a vegan diet to lose some weight.  It is possible to use a nutrient dense plant-based diet to lose weight while simultaneously fueling your body with the nutrients it needs while training.  That said, the key is eating nutrient dense food.  Losing weight is ultimately a matter of taking in fewer calories than you're burning, and just because food is vegan doesn't mean it'll make you lose weight.  It's possible to eat a "junk food" vegan diet, which won't help you.   The advantages of using a plant-based diet to lose weight is that if you're eating primarily whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and veggies, you're easily going to meet your body's needs for balanced sources of protein and carbohydrate, and (if you're preparing your foods without lots of added fats) lower your fat intake.  As CPB has pointed out on this blog before, the healthy high carb  intake is great for endurance training.  Another advantage is that the high fiber intake will help you feel full.

Some of the best books on the subject, in my opinion, are Dr. Joel Fuhrmann's Eat to Live*, Dr. Colin T. Campbell's The China Study, professional IM triathlete Brendan Brazier's The Thrive Diet, and Davis & Melina's Becoming Vegan (there's a helpful chapter for Vegan Athletes).  

Best of luck!  Keep in touch and let us know how it goes!

*A note about Eat to Live: While I recommend Furhmann's explanation of how a plant-based diet is healthy for your body, I would not recommend following his 6-week plan to the letter while training.  He's anti-snack, first of all, and I think snacks are crucial when you're in training mode.  As far as I can tell, it's the only way to get in enough calories.  His general principles, however, strike me as sound, and he provides some great recipes.