#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:

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

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

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#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.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

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:

ulrich

“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 🙂