We’re Baaaack…Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power!

vegan worldThis is the true story… of 12 runners… picked to ride in 2 vans… work together to run 196.2 miles and spread their message of compassion…to find out how bad-ass you can be… when people stop supporting cruelty…and embrace living vegan… Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power!

Taking on Ragnar Adirondacks for a 2nd year. Here’s the line-up:

Becca “The Shark” Wellner – Syracuse, NY

becca

Becca

Years Vegan: 8
Theme song: Run the World – Beyoncé

Returning for her second year on Team Strong Hearts Vegan power, Becca is going to get this party started for us. I promise we didn’t invite her back for the pumpkin half-moon cookies she’s baking. That’s just an added bonus 🙂 Becca’s strong determination and great attitude are essential to this team. Heck, she raced Reach the Beach just last weekend as a “warm-up” for this event. How about that for dedication?

“I returned for another year because the experience last year was so incredible. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people that went from strangers to close friends in 26 hours. I love the message we’re putting out there to the other teams and spectators and how we present it. Very excited to experience this all over again!”

“Monster” Mike Pease – Syracuse, NY

Years Vegan: 20

Mike

Mike

Don’t let the size of this guy fool you – the tall man can run! What fuels him? Throw some trash talk his way and watch what he can do. He’s returning this year with a vengeance – best stay out of his way. Rumor has it he’s been practicing his wrist band handoff (slap!) to avoid any further skull-crushing collisions.

Mike is also the owner of the Terri Restaurants in NYC. If you’re visiting the big city and are looking for something quick and healthy, stop in!

“I wanted to do the Ragnar with the Strong Hearts crew again because it was great motivation to train. I loved being part of a team that supports and counts on each other to compete in such a mentally and physically challenging event. And of course, showing people that vegans are badass mofos doesn’t hurt either!”

“Sergeant” Mario Mason – Syracuse, NY

Years Vegan: 18
Theme song: Born From Pain – Earth Crisis

Mario

Mario

One thing I know is that if you are showing any signs of weakness on that course, Mario will call you on it. This PGA golf pro and father of a 3-year-old vegan warrior has no tolerance for slackers. Go big or go home. Let’s get this guy a bullhorn! And he’s learning from the best – this year he’s being coached by the legendary Scott Spitz. Mario showed his grit last year by tackling the monster hill with a never-quit attitude – like a man possessed. I have no doubt he’s returning this year with even more fire. (see what I did there? #morefirerun)

“I am running on this team again because last year was awesome and also because it has given me a reason to train – I don’t want to let other people down and I love competition. The team also needs a jerk who will yell at people who are walking during their leg, and I feel that I can fill that role nicely. I also really like surrounding myself with people who eat a vegan diet because flesh eaters disgust me.”

“Rabid Man” Aaron Bell – Saint Simons Island, GA

Years Vegan: 4
Theme song: Hocus Pocus – Focus

aaron1

Aaron

Aaron may seem like a gentle giant with quotes such as “I like big dogs”, but don’t let him fool you. Aaron is so bad-ass he pops Nuun tablets like pez (note: no one on Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power endorses this use of Nuun). Water?!? Pssshhh – he’ll slap that water right out of your hand. He’d rather foam at the mouth to make sure all the other runners know he is all business.

“I’m returning because it’s an excuse to run in sub-100 degree heat! Seriously, I had an absolute blast last year and any way to do something I love, with the people I love, promoting a message I LOVE, is awesome.”

Jeremy “Birdman” Ritz-Totten – New York, NY

Years Vegan: 2
Theme song: Joy to the World – 3 Dog Night

jeremy

Jeremy

The first new recruit to the team. Although I have yet to meet Jeremy, I can tell by looking at his training that he is going to be an excellent addition. This guy can run some miles, and he runs them fast. On top of that he has a crazy amount of enthusiasm which is going to fuel van 1 for sure! Excellent recruitment Aaron. Welcome to the team Jeremy – I’m looking forward to seeing you fly through that course!

“I chose to be a part of the team for the challenge of doing a relay. I’ve only been seriously running for a little over a year. I joined this team by invitation from a high school friend (Aaron), but look forward to the camaraderie of competing in a compassionate and kick ass way with fellow vegan runners.”

Laura Kline – New Paltz, NY

Years Vegan: 9
Theme song – Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

VP50k finish

Me 🙂

Well obviously I’m back again 🙂 Ever since our team parted ways last year I couldn’t wait to do it again. Running, compassionate friends, vegan food, lots of laughter – that’s my idea of a good time! The impact we made and the attention we attracted at last year’s Ragnar far exceeded my expectations. With a solid crew of vegan ambassadors surrounding me – I will do it again and again. I can’t wait to make more memories and crush some more miles this year!

Kate “Glitter” Paice Froio – Cortland, NY

Years Vegan: 1

kate

Kate

Among Kate’s many super-powers, shooting glitter from her heart is one of my favorites! And what better way to spread the message of compassion – with bursts of glitter! 🙂 One of the most passionate, dedicated women I’ve ever met – this super-mom, super-wife & super-career woman adds an equal amount of commitment towards her running – encouraging others each and every step along the way. Her smile will brighten your day – so look for her on the course working hard but showing you she’s having the time of her life!

“As most vegans would say, the only regret they have is not doing it sooner. I couldn’t agree more. Three years vegetarian and one year vegan, my plan is to be the light for my friends and family, to show them being vegan is not extremist in any way. It’s a gentle and loving way to live.

I am inspired each day by my Strong Hearts Run Club and Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammates. I decided to run Ragnar ADK to mark my first full year of veganism. It’s a celebration of life and I wanted to share this experience with a core group of vegans who propel forward a mission of cruelty-free kindness and true vegan power.”

Sean “Liveabetes” Scott – Syracuse, NY

Years Vegan: 5
Theme song: Bolt Thrower – K-Machine

sean goat

Sean

Sean was an integral part of the team last year as the driver for van 1. But this year he’s about to show everyone that his talents extend beyond the steering wheel. The stank of that van was not the only thing to infect Sean – he caught the running bug too! And since then he’s been improving with leaps and bounds. Another Coach Scott Spitz protégé – he has become unstoppable. Hand over those keys Sean – time to crush some souls on the race course!

“After driving the male sweat lodge known as Van 1 last year I got fired up. I had been running a little before then but nothing consistent, and a 5k here and there. Seeing what these guys and gals were doing – something got me going. I broke through the limits I had for myself – the idea of “can’t” and the notion of “too much for me” went away. Joel initially asked if I wanted to run last year and I thought he was insane for asking me. But now my perspective is different: being vegan, as well as a life long diabetic, combined with how much further I am mentally now as opposed to this time last year I know for a fact I have the discipline to do this and a lot more. Being with Strong Hearts Run Club has motivated me and supported me, and as much as I prefer to go my own way it’s great to be a part of something putting a positive message out there knowing what it can do.”

Peter “The Protector” Nussbaum – Montague, NJ

Years Vegan: 6
Theme song: Firestorm/Forged in the Flames – Earth Crisis “Because it reminds me of Scott and no song (or person) motivates me better than that song and that person does.”

Peter

Peter with Yuri

When Peter’s not out clocking miles he’s protecting our fine feathered friends from slavery and abuse. He and his wife have been rescuing chickens and roosters to live out their lives at their ever-expanding sanctuary, Tamerlaine Farm. He may have a gentle demeanor and an enormous heart, but he will unleash hell in the Adirondacks!

“Last year I joined the team to meet and run with Scott Spitz whose writing was instrumental in motivating and educating me as a newly vegan runner six years ago. This year I am running for Scott. It is really that simple… Well, Scott and the animals of course! The new shirts sum it up well… Vegan for my health, for the planet, BUT MOSTLY FOR THE ANIMALS. How could I pass up the opportunity to run with an awesome bunch of like-minded people? I can’t wait to wear my new team shirt!”

Jonny “Hero” Rieth – Kennesaw, GA

Years Vegan: 20
Theme song: To Hell With The Devil – Stryper

jonny

Jonny

AKA “Freedom Fighter”. Suspected terrorist on your Ragnar course? Jonny will sniff them out and stomp them. What goes in – Newman-O’s and Vega Sport Gels. What comes out – an endless string of hilarity. Jonny may provide non-stop entertainment to his van mates, but when it comes to running he is all business. He takes his running, and his message, seriously. Something tells me he’s coming back even stronger this year. Terrorists be warned. America!

“I just moved from Grand Rapids, MI to Kennesaw GA so I don’t really know what the hell is going on. I know I’m vegan and I’m a solid runner. I’m part of this team because it’s 100% badass!”

Kaitlin “Krusher” Long – Albany, NY

Years Vegan: 10
Theme song: Firestarter – Prodigy

Kaitlin

Kaitlin

Another new addition to the team, Kaitlin is not new to Ragnar racing. In fact, any race/challenge you throw at this woman – she’s going to tackle it head-on! Fire jump? Barbed wire crawl? 10 foot wall? Nice try. Nothing will stand in the way of Kaitlin accomplishing her goals. And that is exactly what she has been doing with her running. Our third teammate coached by Scott Spitz, we hope to make this Kaitlin’s best Ragnar yet!

“I really love being a part of this team just because of all the support between the coaching from Scott to just the friends I’ve made. Running on an all vegan team has to be one of the biggest honors so far of my running career. I chose to be a part of this team so I can improve. Iron sharpens iron and I look up to all of you so much that it’ll be an honor to be running the same race with you all.”

“Captain” Joel Capolongo – Syracuse, NY

Years vegan: 21
Theme song: Who Dares Wins – Path of Resistance

Joel with Dylan

Joel with Dylan

Leader of this crew, owner of the team’s namesake – Strong Hearts Café, and bad-ass runner to boot! Joel took what was a celebration of his 20 year vegan anniversary and turned it into an awesome opportunity to spread our message and create lifelong memories for a group of 12 vegan athletes. Not to mention the lasting impression we left, and will continue to leave, on countless others. After ADK Ragnar 2013, Joel has taken his training to another level and his results show it! Joel’s going to be bringing it home for the team this year, and I know we all can’t wait to cross that finish line behind him!

“I chose to be a part of, and to organize, the team again because last year was such a great time for everyone involved, myself included. I like pushing myself to constantly better myself physically and mentally. The work that goes into training for a race like this fulfills that need and keeps me striving to achieve greater things.

More than that though, being a part of this team allows me to be an ambassador for veganism. We had countless conversations last year with other teams and spectators about veganism and the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of a vegan lifestyle. If just one person decides to go vegan because of the presence of our team, then mission accomplished. The attention we receive at events like this is nice, but the potential we have to really win over people’s hearts and minds to choose a more compassionate lifestyle is what really makes participating in this event worth it for me.”

Look for us out there on the course next weekend – our shirts will be bold and our enthusiasm will be unwavering. Make sure to say hi and throw some encouragement our way- we may just have some vegan treats to share 🙂

This one’s for you Scott Spitz. We’ll unleash hell for you this year, but you better start training for 2015! More Fire!

SHVP2014back SHVPFRONTragnarlogo

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Canadian for a day – 5k Road Race Championship

torontoToronto! A city I’ve heard so many great things about but had yet to visit. This was the host city of the 2014 Canadian 5k Road Race Championship. As an American, this wasn’t a race I had any reason or interest to compete in…until…my long time friend and fellow athlete Shari Boyle suggested it as the innagural race we compete in together. Over years of friendship we have often talked about racing together. Shari focuses on track running throughout most of the year while I on the other hand have been devoting my time and attention to longer distances. A 5k was a great compromise 🙂

Here's a picture of us enjoying bananas. Because, why not?

Here’s a picture of us enjoying bananas. Because, why not?

The B&O Yorkville Run has traditionally attracted fast runners. We’re talking way outta my league runners. Which meant this was a nice race to go into with no pressure and a field competitive enough to possibly pull me along to a PR. It was a great opportunity to run my own race, test my legs, and enjoy a trip to a new city spending time with a great friend.
vegfestAs an added bonus it also happened to be the weekend of Toronto Vegfest – which is  the largest Vegfest. This is like a dream come true for a vegan but a curse for a runner who is racing the following day. We checked out the vendors, had a few samples, and I may or may not have snagged some goodies from Apiecalypse Now for the drive home Sunday…
apiecalypse nowBack to the racing… Deep down I wanted a PR. However I haven’t raced an “open” 5k since January of this year – in the snow. My training definitely hasn’t been geared towards 5k racing so I wasn’t sure what I could do. That made it exciting 🙂

It was a perfect day for racing – sun was out but it wasn’t too warm or too cool. I arrived at the race site and met up with Shari for a warm-up run. It was so cool to finally run with her – I was having so much fun catching up that it took my mind off the actual race. The course was somewhat rectangular with a modest downhill start and a slight but steady “uphill” in the middle. Turns out Shari races like me – go out hard and hold on 😉 We decided this was the perfect course for our type of racing. We would take advantage of that fast start for sure!

It was time to line up and I still wasn’t nervous – ready to go out and see what I could do. I lined up with Shari because I knew absolutely no one there. They set us loose and sure enough the pace was fast! So many females ahead of me, but that’s what I was expecting and it didn’t concern me. For once I was racing myself.

My one regret is that I didn’t keep track of my splits. I didn’t take the time to check what my goal kilometer pace should be so I didn’t bother even hitting the lap timer on my watch at each marker. Although it would’ve been nice to know my pace, it was also refreshing to race totally by feel. Because of this I was more aware of how I felt the whole race and that ended up being what made it most memorable. I didn’t run a PR, I didn’t run a sub-18, but I felt steady and strong the whole way. I was able to pass 2 women – both of whom ended up being in my age group. I had a strong kick through the finish which first surprised me, then made me feel kick-ass, but then had me pondering – did I run hard enough the entire race?

Note to self: if you want a finisher pic, make sure to pass the dude in front of you.

Note to self: if you want a finisher pic, make sure to pass the dude in front of you.

Overall I was happy with my race and my effort. Running all these long, slow miles – mostly on trails – with very little speedwork had me thinking I would come up empty at this race. My result just fueled my training fire!

Shari ran along with me the entire race and her strong showing earned her 3rd overall master! A great result…and she got the BIG check!

Cha-ching!

Cha-ching!

I didn’t think Americans were eligible for awards at the Canadian National Championship, but sure enough they called me up to the stage as the first overall female in the 35-39 age group.
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Yeah! Not only did I get to race with Shari, but we got to share the stage too 🙂
awardsI’m excited that we’re going to make this an annual tradition. Not necessarily in Toronto, but we’ll find a 5k to race every year. Fun adventures ahead! For now, back to ultra training (although I still want a 5k PR before the year is over…)

Finish time – 18:04

Provincetown Whales – A Northeast Adventure

logo1I had been looking forward to last weekend’s trip for quite some time. And despite the travel issues we had getting out to the cape on Friday, Plan B went into effect and we left New Paltz for the 2nd time late Saturday morning. Phew – the trip was still on!

I had no doubts that the whale-watching adventure would be amazing. As I got to “know” Skott a little more over the past few months my excitement grew. It is obvious that he has a very deep passion and excitement about what he offers through Provincetown Whales. This isn’t your average whale watching trip, and I will explain why.

Stroll along the beach in P-town

Stroll along the beach in P-town

Once we arrived in Provincetown and checked into the hotel we set off on foot to explore downtown and grab a lovely dinner at Tiny’s. During this time I received a message from Skott – he was changing the location of where we were meeting at 8:30 the next morning. Why is this special? Because Captain Mike is extremely knowledgable and knows where the whales are going to be. With only 5 other passengers besides Skott and the Captain it is very easy to make this last-minute change which was only going to make our trip more enjoyable. They explained that because of the smaller boat they have more flexibility in where we can go. Those bigger whale watch trips can only leave from their dock and don’t have the range to explore in the short period of time they offer. We had 5 hours, yes 5 hours, to explore. And because we had the prime starting location and the intel on where the whales where spending their day it meant more to be seen on our trip. Makes me wonder if the other tour boats got to see much at all…

Tiny's had great vegan options

Tiny’s had great vegan options

Once we all met at the dock and exchanged some quick introductions we quickly boarded and set off. The weather was perfect and the scenery was beautiful on our way out to the ocean waters. We passed two big herds of seals on our way out as well – sunning themselves on sandbars. Very cool to see!

Our vessel and crew

Our vessel and crew

Before we knew it we were 3 miles out and already seeing whales! Here are 2 whales that were feeding right in front of us. We learned how to spot when whales were near. First you see the feeder fish along the surface – dark rippled patterns on the water – sometimes right up to the boat. Then you see the birds. Those birds sure are smart – they know that when the whales surface they can swoop in to grab whatever escapes the whales’ mouths. Seeing the circle of life in a natural environment is sweet.

Photo credit: Danny Bent

Photo credit: Danny Bent

Yes! First whales of the day with hours left at sea. That’s when it became surreal. I mentioned that the weather was perfect – not only could we see for miles but it was also so calm and quiet that we could hear for miles too. Suddenly we’re looking around and there were spouts everywhere! We were surrounded by whales! (insert child-like squealing here) We could see spouts, we could hear spouts, and then we got to see the highlight of the day – whales breaching! This was by far the coolest thing to see. Unfortunately we were never close enough to get good pictures of this. We would see a whale breach and then head towards their direction hoping to see more of this behavior, only to arrive and see another breach somewhere else. Oh the struggle of having so many whales to see 😉

What was most spectacular about witnessing this behavior is that we were seeing it in the whales’ natural environment. Not at SeaWorld where these beautiful creatures are confined in way-too-small tanks and forced to perform for people. Over the past year SeaWorld has received major backlash and has seen a sharp decline (woo hoo!) thanks to the documentary Blackfish. I’m sure most of you have seen it by now, but if you haven’t I definitely recommend checking it out. It really drives home the point of why Provincetown Whales is so special. When you see the whales in their natural environment just doing what they love to do you have a better understanding of why places like SeaWorld are so bad. Multiple times throughout the day we encountered a mother with her calf. The way it should be!

Let’s take a moment and check out these awesome flukes 😉

Photo credit: Danny Bent

Photo credit: Danny Bent

Photo credit: Danny Bent

Photo credit: Danny Bent

 

Photo credit: Danny Bent

Photo credit: Danny Bent

What more can I say? We saw a lot, we learned a lot, our faces hurt from smiling – what a day! New friends made and an experience that will last a lifetime. Luckily it doesn’t have to. We will definitely take another trip with Provincetown Whales next year! At $110 per person it may cost a bit more than the larger carriers but the experience is unmatched. An intimate group of people, a longer time on the water, and top-notch expertise. No profit is made on this trip – the money pays for chartering the boat and fuel. The point of this trip is to raise greater awareness of these spectacular mammals.

Thank you Skott!

Thank you Skott!

I’ve posted links to Provincetown Whales, but also feel free to follow on Facebook where you will find more pictures from the trips as well as dates for tours. He still has a few spots open on some of this season’s trips and he may add more if there is demand. If not, stay tuned for next season – I know I’ll be waiting anxiously to book my next excursion! If you’ve always wanted to go on a whale watching adventure, I highly recommend Provincetown Whales. If you’ve taken a whale watching trip in the past and were disappointed, I highly recommend Provincetown  Whales. If you’ve never thought about taking a whale watching trip, I urge you to try something new. You will thank me 🙂
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