Powerman Zofingen

Team USA - missing a few

Team USA – missing a few

I hadn’t traveled to race at an ITU World Championship event for Team USA since 2012 so it was time to get back out there and explore. Powerman Zofingen has long been on my bucket list. Known as the “Kona of Duathlon” there is a reason this race has kept World Championship status for so many years. Since its first year in 1989 Powerman Zofingen offers a challenging yet breathtaking course in a spectacular, friendly and inviting environment.

Switzerland is just as beautiful as I had imagined – and as everyone had described it. As usual I only wish I had more time to explore instead of solely focusing on my race. The challenge came with the training leading up to race day. Once I stepped outside my hotel in Olten I wanted to break loose and spend hours admiring what the countryside had to offer. Whether running through the historical section of town over cobblestone streets and onto the rolling roads on the outskirts, or riding through the neighboring towns – each more fairy-tale-like than the last – I wanted to stay out all day and play! How could I keep the volume and intensity in check when every time I saw a hill on my bike I just had to climb it and find out what was at the top? I’m pretty certain I squealed with delight more than once while out riding. At one point I passed a network of running trails in the woods and couldn’t decide if I was relieved or disappointed that I wasn’t carrying a pair of trail shoes on my bike. I would’ve ditched my bike in the woods and set out for hours. But that’s enough about how enchanted I was with Switzerland – let’s get on to the race! (you can see my photos from Olten and Zofingen here)

Race morning was definitely chilly as I left my hotel in the dark and hopped on the train for my 10 minute ride to Zofingen. Knowing this race has a history of inclement weather I erred on the side of caution and packed just about every option available for race day. The forecast called for a chance of showers but the time frame was short and as the sun came up I had my doubts that we would face any bad weather at all. I knew that first 10k was going to be fast and I would surely warm up quick. Arm warmers and gloves would definitely overheat me which would then cause me to be very cold on the bike, so I opted to race with my kit and nothing extra.

When it comes to World Championships Zofingen is a very small race. This means that instead of having starting heats we all start at once. It was great to have all of the Team USA women starting together and helped to calm my nerves a bit. However it was intimidating to start right behind the elite women knowing I would have to fight the temptation to chase them. As AC/DC’s Thunderstruck blasted through the speakers it was time to line up and start this long day of racing ahead of us.
Powerman startThe gun went off and without even sizing up the competition I went to the front (#tothefront). At least I exercised restraint and did not push to catch onto the elite field that wasn’t far ahead. Almost immediately a Belgian athlete joined me and instead of feeling the need to get away from her I was thrilled to have someone alongside me. The first loop of the 10k run starts uphill and then continues to get steeper. I was feeling strong and in control. Once we leveled out the elite field disappeared into the trails and I was content to hold a steady and manageable pace. With a majority of my running and racing on trails this year I felt right at home on the gravel trails in the woods. Before long we were descending the 2k back into transition before heading out onto loop 2. This is when Ms. Belgium made her move and I let her go – the mantra always playing in my mind “race your race.” I kept her in close range for the 2nd loop and as we got into transition one of my strengths showed itself as my fast transition had me heading out on the bike right alongside her. With a straight, flat shot out of town it wasn’t long before I passed her and I was right where I wanted to be – leading the amateur race. Time to race scared :)

I didn’t have a chance to preview either the run or the bike course before the race but with three 50k loops to tackle I would use the first loop to settle in and see what this course was about. What I wasn’t expecting – the long flat sections of road where you could settle into those aerobars and just hammer! It felt awesome! I was smiling and having a blast. The sun was disappearing and the rain was starting but it was very light and I wasn’t too worried about it. I was cold but it was bearable – I was having way too much fun to let a little bad weather bring me down. The climbs also weren’t as daunting as I was expecting as they twisted and turned through both wooded hillsides and open countryside showcasing some views that were worthy of taking my eyes off the road. For those who don’t know my state of mind while racing, I hardly ever notice anything around me because I am super-focused. On this course I was soaking in a lot of the beauty surrounding me.

Powerman bike

Of course I’m smiling – look at these views!

At the halfway point on the bike there was an announcer and a crowd of spectators there to lift your spirits after the longest climb. It was great to hear the announcer cheering me on as he told me I was the first amateur. The highlight of my ride came around the 40k mark of that first loop. On a swooping downhill into a turn I noticed a race official and a small crowd of people. As I got closer I saw a helicopter sitting in the field right along the road. Once I approached that spot the helicopter lifted off and flew above me, following me along the road. After some time shadowing me he flew to my right and spun around to face me. It was such a cool experience I had goosebumps. I arrived back in town feeling great and excited to head out for round 2.

Loop 2 brought worse weather – it started to pour this time causing turns to be taken with some caution. My spirits were still high as I thought to myself there is still plenty of time for this rain to stop and the roads to dry :) I was definitely very cold and wishing I would’ve worn those arm warmers and gloves… On the first descent I was shaking uncontrollably and even screamed “woo hoo” out loud to let it out. Being cold is a great reason to work harder on those climbs right? Soon after that halfway point I was passed by an athlete from Denmark. She passed me and then slowed down, so sure enough I passed her back once I caught back up to her. It wasn’t long before she passed me again and this time she stuck with it. Within minutes she was out of sight. I was certain I would not see her again on that bike course. I finished loop 2 still hitting my goal pace. Time to tackle it once more!

The third time around I was starting to feel fatigued. Luckily the rain had stopped and the roads were drying quickly which was a major help. My main focus was to maintain a solid effort on the final 50k and not let anyone else pass me. I was definitely ready to get out of that saddle and of course I had Ms. Denmark on my mind. Exactly how big was the gap she put on the bike? Would I be able to reel her in at all on the run?

I entered transition happy to be off the bike with the added thrill of the 2nd and 3rd elite men alongside of me. Once out onto the first 15k loop I realized we were running the finish of the first 5k loop. Oof! This meant a good 2k climb to wake up those running legs. After climbing for what felt like an eternity we emerged into a park which offered views of the town. I felt like I was running on a CX course – following the white tape that outlined the lanes as we wove all around this park like it was a maze before heading back onto the wooded trails for one small loop. Heading back into the maze the 2nd time I was starting to see the next females behind me. It was hard to get any sense of how far back they were but seeing the competition always sparks that fear in me. I was looking forward to hitting the 13k mark knowing I would have the 2k downhill back into transition. While it was too early to attack that downhill and trash my quads I found that I could barely pick up the pace at all – it felt like I was slowing down! This is when I started to panic. I had another 15k to run on this same loop – how could I be feeling so bad so soon? Coming into transition to start the 2nd loop I used the cheers of the crowd to rally me into a better mental state for loop 2.
Powerman runBack to that first long climb. Was I walking? No. Did it look like I was walking. I’m sure it did. I knew I needed to maintain a pace similar to the 1st loop to secure the gold medal – I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. At that moment my stomach started growling. I nailed my nutrition as planned – the same as I did for American Zofingen and as I had practiced in training. My body was obviously in need of more fuel though. At the first aid station I grabbed a section of a banana and the relief was almost immediate. I suddenly felt like myself again and was picking up the pace. I figured if my stomach had been growling I was probably at quite a deficit so I continued to grab banana at every aid station in addition to taking my gels on schedule. That was just what I needed! The beauty of a long race is that sometimes you have the time to recover from an error. I’m very grateful that my stomach gave me the signal I needed to salvage that run. I was able to enjoy the rest of the race and this time on that final downhill 2k I could kick it into gear knowing the finish line was near.

Running back into the “stadium” for the finish was anti-climatic because, as those who watched the live feed know, the elite flower ceremony was taking place as I was finishing. The crowd was quiet and all eyes were on the podium. I was just happy to see that finish line knowing I was under my goal of 8 hours. As I turned the final corner there were some USA spectators cheering me on as they held out a flag for me to carry across the line. Unfortunately I didn’t see this until I was passing them and I didn’t have it in me to turn around and grab it. I was ready to pass through that finish line and head straight to the bathroom :)

Team USA had an excellent showing at Zofingen taking home quite a few medals! It was great to make some amazing new friends and reconnect with others – that is hands down the best gift I’ve received from this sport.

Medal ceremony

Medal ceremony

Some of the athletes have raced there more than once. I was proud to say that I had no desire to come back and do it again. I checked it off the list. Done! I will honestly say that at first I was disappointed to be competing at a World Championship event with such small numbers. After racing I had a different outlook knowing that this race is a whole different monster – there’s a reason why the numbers are low – and I was out there competing among the best. On the flight back to the states the next day I was already thinking about what an amazing experience that race was, and then my thoughts turned to how I could improve on my performance now that I know the course and discovered a major error in my fueling. By the time I arrived home I was ready to sign up for 2016 :)
Finishing time – 7:53
10k run – 37:24
150k bike – 4:51:20
30k run – 2:21:20
8th Overall Female
2nd Overall Amateur Female
1st in 35-39 Age Group
Calories burned – 9,500


#Power2Push – Run Across America

mapI met Shaun Evans last June at the inaugural Vegan Power 50k. As I held on for the first 2 loops I quickly learned how amazing this man is – not only as a runner but also as a father. I was in awe as he told his story and his plans for the summer of 2015. In 65 days his family will cover 3,205 miles – they started in Washington and will complete their journey in New York City. I am honored to have met him and now I’m even more excited as I watch his family traverse the United States spreading love, hope, and the message of inclusion each and every day.  On July 3rd Shamus kicked off the adventure by taking the first steps out of the Pacific Ocean.

Shamus kicking off the journey in the Pacific Ocean

The journey begins with Shamus taking the 1st steps from the Pacific Ocean

The family’s goal is to reach Citi Field in New York on September 1st. I want to share their story with you in case you have not yet heard about the Evans’ family – I invite you to follow along by following their Facebook page and if you are inspired donate to the cause for which they are raising funds, Ainsley’s Angels. Currently they are donating 25 running chariots but the requests keep rolling in! With each chair costing $1,000 any donations will help substantially.

The Evans' family "home" for the summer - they named her Peggy :)

The Evans’ family “home” for the summer – they named her Peggy :)

Shaun and his wife Nichole live in upstate NY where they are raising their 2 sons, Shamus (9), and Simon (7). Shamus was born with cerebral palsy and as a result he relies on a wheelchair as his primary means of mobility. Shaun has been an avid runner and in 2013, with the help of Ainsley’s Angels, Shamus was able to obtain a running chariot that enabled him to participate in running events and races with his dad. That August the duo competed in a 6 hour ultra marathon completing 45 miles. Together they won this event – Shamus pulling Shaun along with his enthusiasm. After this event Shamus developed the idea that if he and his dad ran that distance every day of his summer vacation they could make it about 3,000 miles. After his parents helped him calculate this distance he asked how far 3,000 miles could take them. Shaun and Nichole showed him a map of the USA and they could see the “lightbulb moment”. Shamus’ mission to run across the USA was born. To further his idea, Shamus said to his dad “when we run across the country, we should donate chariots to other kids like me so they can feel what it is like to run and know what it’s like to have the wind in their faces.” Shaun was sold and the training and planning began!

Shaun and Shamus - a strong team!

Shaun and Shamus – a strong team!

Last night ended in Midland, SD and today they will run to Presho, SD where their total mileage will be about 1600 in 28 days! Their next chair presentation will be in Sioux Falls, SD on August 3rd with another on August 4th in Worthington, MN. These boys are flying! I had a chance to check in with Shaun and his family to see how their journey is progressing.

You’ve been putting in high mileage daily and looking super-strong – have you encountered any challenges? Running at elevation up to 9,000 feet sapped my energy and I was working to stay hydrated.  We have also been running in some hot weather (mid to high 90’s or even 100+) by the time we finish each day so we use lots of sunscreen.  I drink nearly a case of water every day!  Consuming enough calories has also been challenging at times balancing getting enough fuel and avoiding feeling bloated.  Fatigue has also been setting in so when we finish our daily mileage I try to balance getting enough rest with spending some time with the family and occasionally taking in a few sites (Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Lewis and Clark Caverns, Space Needle)

If you hit any tough spots in your day, what helps you get through them?  Without a doubt Shamus pulls me through the tough spots.  I also have an amazing pit crew in my wife Nichole, Simon, and Shamus who keep me fueled, hydrated and upbeat.  Nichole does an amazing job preparing all my food and drinks, taking care of the boys and keeping them entertained (when one isn’t on the road with me in the chair), setting up camp, breaking down camp, etc day after day after day!  In addition, I have the kids along the way that are receiving our chair donations to pull me along and inspire me to keep hitting my daily goals of mileage.

Evans Family Strong!

Evans Family Strong!

What has been the most rewarding part of your run so far? Donating the chairs is what the mission is all about and seeing the joy in the child’s and their family’s faces is the ultimate reward, as is seeing Shamus light up when we get going fast.  As far as running rewards, Running up the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming and feeling strong running at 9000’+  I knew then that all of my training, simulating altitude, and putting in tons of miles leading up to this summer had paid off.  The view throughout the mountains was incredible!

What are you eating to fuel your runs while on the road? Nichole makes me a lot of shakes.  In the beginning I was eating a lot of simple carbs (pretzels, breads, bagels, etc but my mouth was getting sores so we have switched to more liquids.  The shakes consist of healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado) with a mix of vegan protein supplements(Vega) vegan Shakeology, and mixes of various fruits and vegetables with almond milk.  I have also been fortunate to have LARABAR as a sponsor so I consume bars or Renola pre run, on the run, and post run for good clean fuel.

What has been your favorite food to refuel?  I love Peanut butter so I often cover LARABARs in peanut butter and raisins and eat those with my smoothies

I would love to hear from Shamus – what is his favorite part of the journey so far? And is there anything he is looking forward to seeing or doing?  Shamus loved visiting the Space Needle in Seattle (He loves going up tall buildings and is the thrill seeker of the family, loves roller coasters, water parks, etc).  He also enjoyed visiting Yellowstone, likes running through the little towns, visiting with the people, stopping into restaurants, and telling our story.  He also said he loves the chair presentations and giving the chairs as gifts to other kids.  He also loved Mt Rushmore.

Shaun and Shamus finishing a run

Shaun and Shamus finishing a run

And Simon sometimes joins you right? What is his favorite part?  Simon likes to read on the run (while I run he brings his books.  He read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and is now working on the 5th book as well as a biography about Teddy Roosevelt and The Isle of the Lost.  He loved visiting Mt Rushmore in South Dakota and the Hot Springs in Wyoming.  He and I have seen some great sites while running including an antelope jumping over a 6 foot fence right in front of us…he spotted the antelope as we ran through rural Wyoming, and pointed it out to me, we then watched it jump together.

Shaun running with Simon

Shaun running with Simon

What do you think is the biggest misconception about children who face mobility challenges? oftentimes people look at Shamus in a wheelchair and immediately jump to the conclusion that he also has cognitive limitations.  Sometimes they speak to him like he is a baby.  While children with mobility limitations or communication limitations MAY have cognitive impairments it is not always the case.  Shamus and lots of other kids out there dream BIG and we aim to help them to achieve those goals and dreams.

Your mission is very clear. With a brief statement, tell me what you would like everyone to learn from your run across the US?  Our goal is for individuals with disabilities, physical or otherwise, to be included and involved in life as fully as possible.  We aim to provide equipment to individuals to allow them to be active participants in road races, triathlons and other sports.  We also are seeking individuals who want to help us spread the mission or provide legs for individuals with disabilities to become Angels with Ainsley’s Angels of America

What an inspiring family and amazing cause! Best of luck as you continue to strengthen your bonds and create memories that will last a lifetime – not just for your family but for the countless lives you are touching along the way!

I look forward to their daily updates to track the progress they are making and to see the children they are presenting chairs to along their route. I know we can all use some positivity and inspiration in our daily news feed! If you wish to follow along here is where you can find them:


To make a donation towards the purchase of a running chariot for a child whose wish is to experience the exhilaration of running, visit their crowdrise site.

#Power2Push #TogetherWeShall #RollWithTheWind #AcrossAmerica #RunAcrossAmerica

#TrailsRoc 0SPF – a humbling day

Gathering for the start. Photo credit: Ben

Gathering for the start. Photo credit: Ben

When Eric Eagan of #TrailsRoc invited me back to run the 0SPF 1/2 marathon trail race in Victor New York it didn’t take much twisting of my arm. I had a great time last year – the trails are well-maintained, the terrain offers a little bit of everything, and the race crew and volunteers make you feel like family. And yes, when you can go to The Red Fern in Rochester for a post-race meal…it’s a no-brainer! This year fellow Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammate Sean Scott joined me which was an added bonus!

Last year I was able to take the win and a new course record after racing the 2 previous weekends. I was fully prepared to beat last year’s time – this year I had almost a full month off from racing and with this race falling in the middle of a new build phase I was feeling strong! Perhaps I felt too confident because I failed to focus on some key components. So the race turned into a humbling experience – one that is needed from time to time to remind you that races don’t always go as planned, even when you go into it feeling 100%.

When we arrived in Victor the skies had cleared and the sun was shining bright! Turns out some pretty crazy storms greeted them early in the morning making the #TrailsRoc crew work extra hard to ensure the trails were ready for the racers. But along with those clearing skies and bright sun came humidity. What is the #1 thing I always pay attention to the week leading up to a race? The weather! Especially where heat is concerned. I can never guarantee how I will fare on a hot day but I can at least take some important steps to prep my body. Leading up to 0SPF I knew that there was a chance of storms, but I never even bothered to look at the temps and consider that this could be a prime condition for high humidity. I guess I figured the race was short enough that it wouldn’t matter. When we slip in our planning we are quickly reminded of it :)

In fact, when the race started I still didn’t think I would have an issue. Talk about being over-confident! In the first mile I was feeling overheated but we were also exposed to the sun for most of it and I knew soon enough I would be in the shelter of the trees, settled into my pace, and my body would calm down. By mile 2 my face felt very flushed and my head was throbbing like it was going to explode. Mile 3 came and I had to succumb to walking runnable hills – not because my legs were failing me but because running up them caused my temps to soar even higher. I was stepping off to let people pass me by this point – there was a lot of single track and I felt bad holding people back. I played my usual game when things aren’t going well and convinced myself that I would reach a point where things would improve and I would feel like myself again. My first point was 3 miles but obviously that had passed with no improvement.

Photo credit: Mike Lesher

Photo credit: Mike Lesher

I then told myself that after the turnaround I would feel great and negative split the race. Okay, sometimes the self-talk can be a little too far-fetched ;) I was able to hit the turn-around still in 2nd place but the next few females were not far behind. Hitting those hills on the return I was close to crawling – I actually doubted my ability to walk up the steep ones as I was feeling a little dizzy. I filled my Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest with 1.5 liters of water thinking this would be more than enough for 2 hours of racing but it was draining quick. There were aid stations on the course but they did not provide cups (and the racers were well aware of this – thank you #TrailsRoc for avoiding unneccessary waste!) I knew that with my pack I would not need to stop for water but I now realize that in hot races I rely on dumping water over my head at every opportunity. I could have very easily packed my collapsible cup provided to all athletes at the Vegan Power 50k and solved this problem very easily. Another lesson learned!

I arrived at an aid station and the wonderful volunteers offered ice. I didn’t have to think twice about stopping for some! They were kind enough to shove a huge chunk down the front of my shirt and it felt amazing. At this point I was walking and jogging whenever I felt the urge. My GPS sounded off the 9 mile mark and I laughed at how much further I still had to go at this pace. Yes I laughed – at this point I was totally fine with how my day was going. No one ever wants to have a bad race but once it goes wrong there is nothing left to do but chalk it up as another learning experience! My finishing time was over 15 minutes slower than last year. That’s over a minute per mile slower! OOF!

Not a total loss though because I finished the race (in 5th place), I got to enjoy the company of some awesome runners, and you better believe I still had that post-race meal at The Red Fern – rainbow sprinkle donut sundae and all :) And it snapped me back into race mode – or more importantly race preparation mode. With Escarpment coming up this weekend you better believe I am prepping for heat and humidity!

Thanks again to Eric Eagan and the #TrailsRoc crew for inviting me and hosting a top-notch event! If you are not familiar with this group – check them out! They are a non-profit organization promoting trail running, maintenance and preservation. The proceeds from their events support the maintenance of trails and their conservation efforts – a worthy cause to all of us.


And of course…here’s your race video to learn more about the group and the event!

All the good things

It’s been a great weekend – here are some highlights:

Scott Jurek’s Masterpiece
Of course we all know that Scott Jurek completed his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail yesterday in record time – he now owns the FKT (fastest known time). He completed 2,160 miles in 46 days, 8 hours and 8 minutes. Incredible! The finals days had been described as “a nail biter” and people said they were “at the edge of my seat” as they tracked his journey. I also saw plenty of “I don’t think he’s going to make it” and “there’s no way he can make it.” Psshhh. For those of us who followed Scott Jurek prior to this epic adventure we knew that when the going gets tough, that is when Scott shines. There was no way he was not going to break the record. There is a lot we can learn from him – from his mental toughness and never-give-up attitude to his strong determination to chase his dream. I hope that everyone is inspired to set their own goal and work like crazy to achieve it. He is an amazing athlete with a race resume that cannot be touched. Congrats Scott!

Photo taken from Scott Jurek's Facebook page

Photo taken from Scott Jurek’s Facebook page

We are the Strongest Hearts
The much-anticipated video has been posted! Strongest Hearts creates a web series highlighting vegan athletes. There are plenty of great videos to check out that are informative and fun :) The Strongest Hearts crew joined Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power at this year’s Cape Cod Ragnar to document our adventure. Here is the result:

Thank you Strongest Hearts for spending time with us and for showing the world what vegan athletes are capable of.
strongest hearts

Personal Update
Today starts week 2 of my build to Powerman Zofingen in September and I couldn’t feel better – both mentally and physically. Mentally it’s great to be focusing on one race again. Racing American Zofingen long course, Cayuga Trails 50 miler, Eagleman Ironman 70.3, and Vegan Power 50k back-to-back was challenging and exciting, but also tough in more ways than one. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out how to mesh my training for these different events, and I enjoyed the process of trying to recover and switch gears completely in a short amount of time. It was definitely a learning experience and most of all I loved proving to myself that I could handle it. However the result was that I went into each race not in top form as I wasn’t able to train solely for any of them.

My mileage going into the 50 miler was nowhere near what it should have been. While working a full-time job there was no way to hit the mileage needed to be competitive in that field when I had to work on hitting the minimum volume I needed on the bike as well. I relied on my bike training to make up for the lack of running mileage but it cannot replace the time on your feet. The result was that I held 2nd place for 33 miles before barely hanging on to 4th to finish. At Eagleman my swim was horrendous, and while this was nothing new for me I don’t want to even admit how little swim training I did before the race. When swimming was the smallest portion of all of the racing I was doing, it definitely got pushed aside…a lot. By the time I got to the 50 k I knew that I would be fine volume-wise but I think what drained me the most was racing in crazy heat at Eagleman only 6 days prior. I was happy to be finished and onto a 2 week break with minimal training.

And now I am happy to be following a strict plan leading up to Powerman Zofingen. I thrive on regimented training and without having to juggle, second-guess, make changes on the fly I can simply put my head down and do what I do best – train! I have 2 trail races coming up in the next 2 weekends but they will be more for fun. I am 100% working towards Switzerland now – a bucket list race for me and a World Championship. I feel recharged and ready to go!

I hope everyone else is having a great season of training and racing with some goals to look forward to!

Scott Jurek’s #AT Appalachian Trail #FKT attempt

This post needs little introduction as most in the running community are aware that Scott Jurek, who is known as one of the greatest ultrarunners of all time, is currently attempting his most ambitious adventure yet – he is aiming for the FKT (fastest known time) on the Appalachian trail. He is running the 2,160 mile trail from Georgia to Maine. As of this post he is in New Hampshire and closing in on the record.

A recent debate has sparked due to a comment made by another accomplished ultrarunner, Marshall Ulrich, on Facebook:


“Diet is everything, I make no bones about saying Vegan and multiday doesn’t work, many of us discovered this long ago adventure racing, mountaineering and recently running across America, 3063 miles in 52 days, losing only 4 pounds eating anything and everything that my body told me to. Scott is losing muscle mass and has no real food (fats and proteins) to replace it. Having said that, I wish Scott all the luck in the world and I consider him a good friend. p.s. I used to be a vegetarian YEARS ago.”

As he argued his stance throughout the thread he becomes more insulting and you will start to see why it caused friction. While I realize this was probably an attention-grab and I am only giving him more attention by posting my thoughts, I would like to share some of my views as this is obviously a topic I care about. Marshall was sharing his opinion and I support that. However I find the argument both laughable and sad. Laughable because while he feels that a vegan diet doesn’t work, vegan athletes will go about their business training and racing and proving people like Marshall wrong. Sad because there are still people out there who are completely misinformed. Here are some of my opinions on the topic:

1) As I mentioned above Marshall’s remarks reflect his opinion and he is entitled to that. However in his responses to some of the comments made he is citing his opinion as fact rather than evidence-based findings. I feel that in order to have a meaningful discussion about the topic you should do some research first.

2) He lost credibility with me simply by saying “Scott is losing muscle mass and has no real food (fats and proteins) to replace it.” If a plant-based diet doesn’t consist of “real food” I must be thoroughly confused…

3) Marshall mentions that during his Run Across America he lost only four pounds. That is great for him! He is judging Scott’s health based on a picture. While I do not intend to do the same, I did search for multiple pictures of Marshall and it is my opinion that he has a different body type than Scott. Comparing how Scott’s body handles a multi-day event to how his own body fared would be like comparing myself to Shalane Flanagan.

3) Marshall ran across the US on roads. This is an amazing accomplishment and I applaud him. I am not in any way downplaying his athleticism. However Scott is running the Appalachian Trail which arguably produces a different amount of wear on the body. So again this is like comparing apples to oranges. I don’t think I need to explain this any further.

4) I find it disappointing that Marshall felt the need to make this comment during Scott’s run. Scott is not only tackling a major goal and dream of his but he is also crushing it! He’s a fellow athlete – why not show support and keep your negative comments to yourself? To me being a professional athlete isn’t only about your accomplishments, but how you conduct yourself – how you treat your fellow athletes and fans. I feel like these comments are in bad taste.

5) I find it odd that the focus is on his vegan diet and not a question of “is he eating enough?” Newsflash: you can get enough calories/fat/protein on a vegan diet! Are we seriously still having this discussion? That argument has been squashed long ago. Why are we fixating on it?

6) Finally, what I will never, ever understand is why anyone feels the need to bash the vegan lifestyle. We are not hurting anyone with our choices. Our actions come from compassion – compassion to animals that we view as fellow beings who deserve our respect, and compassion for our environment that we wish to protect.

And with that I wish Scott continued success on his journey. I think everyone can agree that it is awesome to witness what he is accomplishing – vegan or not. I also look forward to watching Team USA at the Women’s World Cup Final tonight as I support all fellow athletes who exemplify passion for their sport, determination, and talent.

I would love to hear your thoughts :)


VP50k15_captionLast June I raced the inaugural Vegan Power 50k (how could I pass on this event?) and finished 1st female overall. The award for this finish was pretty sweet – a 1 night stay at the nearby Red Robin Song Guesthouse. Since it is located a 1/2 hour from Pittsfield State Forest where the race takes place, why not stay there the night before this year’s race? I knew it was a vegan bed & breakfast, an animal sanctuary, and a beaver rescue. Other than that I had not heard anything about it and was excited to check it out. Now that I’ve experienced it, the actual “race” part of this report will have to wait as I tell you just how awesome it was!
RedRobin_AnimalSanctuary_Logo_sm-300x228Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary is located on a remote back road in West Lebanon, NY nestled on 85 acres of land. The house is beautiful, inside and out. They have 3 guest rooms that can be reserved – each very comfortable and tidy. We had the Pelican’s Roost.

Our cozy room

Our cozy room

Jeff and Lisa are as friendly as can be – they are super-accommodating and happy to share their beautiful haven with their guests. After showing us around the house we took our dinner outside to sit at one of the picnic tables surrounded by animal enclosures. It was hard to focus on eating when I wanted to run around like a little kid visiting all of the animals who were anxious for attention from these new guests. I spent some time getting to know the donkey, goats, sheep, and of course…CATS!! Then I wanted to learn more about the beavers, and Lisa was more than happy to share.
donkey goatSome interesting facts I learned about beavers:
1) beaver babies are raised by their parents for 2-3 years, which is why rehab is very important. Most of the beavers they receive are orphans turned over by trappers. It turns out beaver fur is still a hot commodity (seriously people?!?). Some trappers turn the babies over to rehabbers. I thought this was odd but it makes sense – they want the babies to be raised and returned to the wild so that they can be trapped again as adults :(
2) beavers are territorial and only 1 beaver family will occupy a body of water.
3) beavers cannot be released over state lines. NY beavers must stay in NY. So along with the two statements above, finding locations to release beavers proves to be difficult. If anyone in NY has water on their property and would like to host a beaver family, please get in touch with Jeff and Lisa. Private property is the preference so that the released beavers won’t find themselves in a trap again.

Lisa showed us a pond on their property where 2 of their beavers (Whittle & Timber)were released and had just started their own family. She brought them some apples in hopes that they would come on shore and we could meet them. Since they already ate and were unsure of these new strangers standing nearby we only saw them swimming around to check us out. Still very cool! As if I wasn’t already in love with everything about this place we returned to the house to see Jeff cradling a 7 week old beaver in a towel in his arms. That baby made the cutest noises!

Not the one we saw, but one of their equally adorable babies

Not the one we saw, but one of their equally adorable babies

Okay before I get to the actual race, let me just say that I was pleasantly surprised when I wandered downstairs at 4:30 am on race morning to find that Jeff & Lisa were already in the kitchen preparing an abundance of fresh fruit and oatmeal, which appeared to be the breakfast of choice for all of us (the other 2 rooms housed racers as well). Bananas, mangoes, grapes, blueberries and strawberries filled the table – talk about hospitality! I think they were a little disappointed that they wouldn’t be preparing their standard vegan breakfast extravaganza for us, but that’s all the more reason to go back for another visit :)

Onto the race…
One of the aspects of ultra/trail running that people love is the feeling of community. At the Vegan Power Ultra that sense of community is ten-fold when we all share the common interest of racing for a cause dear to our hearts. We arrived at Pittsfield State Forest bright and early and I was already excited to start seeing familiar faces. Race directors Ana, Mike and Jake were all smiles with warm welcomes as they know almost every runner by name. I was excited to see returning friends that I met at last year’s race along with fellow Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammates who joined this time around. And of course my circle of friends expands as I meet new racers.

As for the race itself, I’ll try to keep it brief. I could tell during the first lap – the first mile even – that it was an off day for me. My whole body felt fatigued, I didn’t feel smooth, and things just weren’t clicking. It was awesome to run that first mile with friend and fellow Strong Hearts Run Club teammate Jason Mintz who later went on to win the race! After mile 3 I convinced myself that it was just going to take a bit longer for me to warm up today due to the racing I’ve been doing and lack of training in between. This seemed to work temporarily and I finished loop 1 just under my target time of :45. As soon as I started loop 2 I realized I was fooling myself with this “warm-up” theory, and that today would be about endurance and mental focus. The focus was to just keep moving forward, preferably as fast as I could manage :) For a good laugh, my lackluster performance was pointed out to me on loop 3 when an athlete passed me and said “C’mon…I’m never supposed to see you during a race. Unless you’re lapping me like you did last year.” Touche.

Photo credit: Ben Kimball/Northeast Race Photo

Photo credit: Ben Kimball/Northeast Race Photo

Each loop got consecutively slower but I still managed to defend my title as first overall female – with a time quite a bit slower than last year. Now came the real treat of the day – cheering on and hanging out with friends. And of course the amazing post-race vegan feast. I’m no stranger to Baba Louie’s delicious pizza and they kept us well-stocked!

In addition to this being an awesome race in a great location with amazing people who know how to do it right, the proceeds from the race go to Catskill Animal Sanctuary. In return they provided some sweet awards for the overall finishers: a one night stay at their guesthouse, a 1-year family membership, copies of the Director’s two books: Where the Blind Horse Sings and Animal Camp, and a Catskill Animal Sanctuary water bottle :)

All in all it was a perfect day. The race nearly doubled in size from last year and I’m sure it will continue to grow each year. You better believe I will be back!


Ironman 70.3 Eagleman – A goal missed isn’t always a failure

emanlogoOn Saturday as I picked up my packet and racked my bike in the sweltering heat of Cambridge, MD I definitely questioned why I had chosen to do this race. It is well-known for brutal conditions – heat being the number 1 offender. Back in the day I used to love racing in the heat – did I really think I was going to enjoy it this time around? Sunday’s forecast looked much better than today’s though – I believe the high was set to be 84 with possible storms, meaning possible overcast skies. Even though 84 was still hot these conditions would be mild by Eagleman standards. So I focused on why I chose this race.

I’ve done Eagleman twice in the past. It was my first 70.3 distance back in 2005 – when the race was organized by the now defunct Columbia Triathlon Association and you hoped to earn the coveted bronze eagle head. I snagged one that year – for the 1st Overall Female 1st Timer. You don’t see awards like that anymore!

My triathlon career started in MD in 2004 and I have done multiple races in Cambridge. I ran my first marathon in Cambridge in 2005 as a relay runner for Chesapeakeman (now Ironman Maryland). Coming back to race Eagleman this year was partially a nostalgic decision. My mom now resides on the Eastern Shore as well so it was also a chance to spend some time with her in accommodations not too far from the race.

Race morning arrived and I was surprisingly calm. For once I was racing a 70.3 with little pressure put on myself. I was not looking to secure a slot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I was not feeling 100% – not even close. I had strong doubts that I was fully recovered from the Cayuga Trails 50 two weeks prior. Sure I always aim for the best possible outcome and I was going to put my best effort out there but I did not have high expectations. This course does not play to my strengths – it is pancake flat on both the bike and the run. My goal for the day was ~ 4:45.

Despite driving to the race site on a dark rainy morning where the only light in the sky was from flashes of lightening, by the time I made it to the transition the skies were clear and the sun was making an appearance. I had an hour wait between the time transition closed and my wave went off so after a quick peek at the swim course I plopped myself down in the parking lot to wait. It was a non-wetsuit legal swim which I had been mentally preparing for all week. Long gone are the days where those words caused instant anxiety. I had my trusted TYR Torque Elite Swimskin – which may provide more mental assistance than actual advantage ;)

At last the women’s 35-39 age group wave was underway. The start was not super-aggressive which was a relief. I vowed to focus on settling into my pace from the get-go instead of going out too hard like I normally do. Not only did I accomplish this but I was feeling relaxed and actually in the mid-pack, which for me is a huge deal! After making the first turn it definitely looked like the outer buoys were a bit out of line. Not uncommon for a swim. The rules were to keep the buoys on your right so that’s how I swam. As we neared the next buoy I saw a few athletes cutting the course instead of swimming further out to go around the buoy. Frustrating, but oh well. By the next buoy I saw that practically the whole field was now cutting the course. I couldn’t hear any whistles from the swim marshals in the water like you usually do if someone is swimming off course. I guess I’m just a stickler and would rather be a good example to others rather than follow the flock. I’m not going to cut a course and ignore the rules simply because “everyone else is doing it”. One other girl from my wave came with me as we struggled to get around the buoy that was drifting further out as we approached. We both popped up seeming somewhat confused and she said “I thought we were supposed to keep the buoys on our right!” I confirmed that we were and we continued on. The swim into the finish felt like an eternity – the tide was strong and my poor swim ability was no match for it :) My watch confirmed this as I stood upon reaching the very shallow section far from the shore line. The long trudge to the beach made time tick by even faster.

A shallow swim exit. Photo credit: Zachary Rose

A shallow swim exit. Photo credit: Zachary Rose

Swim time – 46:48
Swim place – 30
(it’s okay that you’re laughing right now)

I was counting on the bike to be my strength today. I had major doubts on what my run could produce. With the little running I did between the 50 miler and this race my legs always felt very heavy. Therefore I avoided running at any effort and did the bare minimum in mileage hoping that when race day arrived the legs would be ready to go. I immediately felt good on the bike and attempted to settle into a steady pace. The bike course was very congested. And for a very long time. It wasn’t until the halfway point that it started to thin out slightly. Nutrition and hydration went as planned – with ~225 calories per hour, I drank both of my bottles on the bike throughout the course while also grabbing a bottle of water at each exchange to guzzle and squirt into my helmet and onto my body. I was slightly behind my goal bike split but I was happy with my effort considering what my legs had in the tank. I felt steady throughout the 56 miles and continued to pass females in my age group right through the end.

Photo credit: Zachary Rose

Photo credit: Zachary Rose

Bike time – 2:33:56
Bike place – 6
(When I got out onto the bike course I set a goal of passing 20 females in my age group. I knew I would need to pass more than that but I didn’t want to aim too high. I was fairly certain I was at 20 when I passed the 50 mile marker, so I then aimed to pass 1 girl per mile in the last 5. So close!)

Now came the true test. The run is normally where I shine. Today it is where I melted. I was pleasantly surprised that my legs did not have that heavy, uncooperative feeling that I was dreading from the previous 2 weeks of training. What I did notice was how oppressive that heat felt as soon as I got off the bike. Was it really only 84?? And for those who have not experienced Eagleman, there is no shade on that run. I hit mile 1 at 7:17. A bit off pace but I told myself this was fine. It’s better to ease into this run. I would focus on keeping it under control until the turn-around and work to negative split the course. Time to fall into my aid station ritual:

– 2 cold sponges, squeeze over my head, place one down the front of my tri suit, the other down the back
– 2 cups of ice – one down the front of my tri suit, the other down the back
– 2 cups of water – 1 over my head and 1 to drink
– 1 more cup of ice to eat

Mile 2 was 7:12. Still doing okay. But damn that heat! I quickly realized that my idea to “slowly ease into” and “negative split” the run were laughable. Mile 3 – 7:33, mile 4 – 7:51, mile 5 – 8:06. You get the idea. It only gets worse from there. At this point I knew that my goal time was way out of reach and it was time to focus on finishing. The moment you realize you’re not going to reach your goal can be pretty mentally defeating. I am proud to say that today it wasn’t. I was just so focused on getting to that finish line I had no care of what place I would end up in. Perhaps it would’ve been harder to swallow if other athletes were out there crushing it, looking great and having a blast. But you didn’t see much of that. Sure some people looked better than others but we were all suffering together.

I made it to that finish line with a finish time of 5:07:31. Quite slower than my original goal time of 4:45, but the success came in finishing, and heading directly to that med tent all on my own :)
emanfinishRun time – 1:44:12
Run place – 3

I was shocked to find out that my effort earned 3rd in my age group. I was not shocked to find out that the actual temperature at the finish was 97 with a heat index of 123! It was tough to “cool down” after leaving the comforts the med tent provided so I didn’t stick around long. I declined a slot for the World Championship (that’s not my goal this year), grabbed my award, and loaded my burnt to a crisp body into the air conditioned car headed back to a cooler NY. No sense in delaying my taper for this weekend’s 50k :)
EmanDespite the tough conditions Eagleman is still a great race. You gotta give it to those volunteers – they are out there often longer than we are. They’re enduring the heat along with us, they’re getting sunburn like we are, but most importantly they are keeping us as safe as they can. With over 2,500 athletes on the course that is not an easy task. I tip my hat to all of the athletes who toughed it out, all of the spectators who stood by to cheer, and to the volunteers who make our experience a great one.