First Race of 2015 – Syracuse Half Marathon

syracuse halfThat title sounds so exciting, but unfortunately my performance was not ūüėČ But hey – you gotta get that first race of the season out of the way! So why not do it surrounded by some of your greatest friends – who both shared the race course with you and stood on the sidelines in less than ideal weather to support the team. Although I wasn’t thrilled with my race I wasn’t down about it because I knew this race was going to be a test of my fitness. I’ve been a hermit this winter – enduring most of my miles on the treadmill. I have only done one speed work session outside. And craziest of all – I haven’t raced on the road since…gulp…the beginning of September! And that was a 5k.¬†This race would be interesting…

Last year I found myself ill-prepared for the race conditions after traveling to Syracuse with only my racing flats that have zero tread on them. The slick, snow-covered roads did not agree with my attempts to run hard. Instead I opted to have one amazing race experience by running with one of my dearest friends Kate. You may remember our finishing shot – I know I sure do – I love this photo of shared friendship!
syracuse half finishHowever this year I came prepared. And true to Syracuse fashion I awoke Sunday morning to look outside and see a fresh blanket of snow. It wasn’t nearly as daunting as usual – maybe I’m just used to waking up at Marc and Amy’s on race morning, taking a look outside, and contemplating throwing the covers back over my head to sleep right through the race. I also think that my mental state going into this race was “no expectations”. I set out to pick up my teammate Jeremy on the way downtown and it started as a slow drive on the slippery back roads. Soon enough the sun came out and it looked to be an awesome day ahead. The only other challenge was to survive the cold – the temps were in the teens and the wind chill took a good 10 degrees off that. But hey, I had my inov-8 Trailroc 150’s this year so I knew the terrain wouldn’t be an issue.

I was happy we arrived early because the Oncenter was jam packed. Bathroom lines were an issue as well as simply navigating through the building. Luckily they announced a 15 minute delay but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to get the full Strong Hearts Run Club/Strong Hearts Vegan Power team into the group shot ūüė¶ So here we are in two parts.

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I

Ray, Jeremy, Joel, Peter, Sean, Suzie and I


Carrie, Julie & Scott

It was time to step outside and I had no time for a warm-up. I’ve gotten used to skipping my warm up for trail and ultra races, so I didn’t stress too much about this. But damn it was cold! The sunshine helped but I was ready to get started. The gun went off and what do ya know – I wasn’t slipping! I feel like I had a smile on my face because this race was already an improvement over last year. 2 girls led the charge and I simply concerned myself with settling in to a comfortable pace. I did not think that winning was on the table today, so I did not pressure myself to go too hard or chase anyone down.

When I hit the first mile I wasn’t happy with my split, but I also wasn’t surprised.¬†To put a positive twist on it I convinced myself that maybe all of this ultra running has taught me to pace¬†better. Perhaps I was¬†going to ease into this race and get faster as I go. Well I was wrong there, but it was a good practice in positive mental attitude ūüôā I was able to pass the girl who was in 2nd place¬†early on, but the leader was¬†far ahead and there was no chance of me¬†gaining¬†ground on her. At mile 3 a spectator told me she was 400 meters ahead¬†and although I always appreciate receiving feedback like that, I knew it wasn’t going to make me go any faster. There was a definite highlight of this race – passing one of the female traffic enforcers she simply said to me¬†“Go kick those guys’ asses.” It was very blunt – no excitement in her voice – it made me laugh ūüôā

The course was in great shape considering the prior day’s weather – thanks to the race crew who spent the morning salting for us! Although my pace was slower than I would have liked to my surprise I was staying consistent. At some point past the halfway¬†mark I could hear that there was another girl closing in on me. When she made her pass I offered her words of encouragement – she was looking strong! One blatant error I made was opting not to take in nutrition. I normally would during a half. I was wearing my super-bulky-warm gloves and my gel was zipped into my back pocket. The thought of taking off a glove to get it seemed way too challenging. I justified this by deciding it would be a glycogen-depleting run. However I don’t think you should practice this during a race ūüôā Honestly I don’t think it hurt me – it was lack of fitness that got me that day – plain and simple.

Within the last 2 miles another girl passed me. Coming into the last mile I thought I may be able to catch her but I didn’t put in any effort to do so. I simply maintained. I picked the spot where I would kick and when I arrived decided I didn’t have it in me to kick yet. I picked the next spot, and again realized it wasn’t there. I wasn’t passing anyone, and I surely wasn’t anywhere near a PR, so I finished my race satisfied with my effort for the day. I don’t think I left it all out there, but anytime I thought I¬†should try to¬†go harder I kept the thought of this weekend’s marathon in the back of my mind.

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

Hitting the finish line. Strong Hearts to the front! Photo credit: Kendra Murphy

I finished in 1:26:47 – minutes away from my PR but I will take it for an early season race in cold weather. I was the 4th overall female and placed 1st in the 35-39 Age Group. It always feels great to be back out on the race course and today was no different! Now I have a better idea of where I stand fitness-wise and it’s time to build off that.

All of the Strong Hearts crew had a great race in less-than-ideal conditions. A special shout-out to Suzie who completed her first half marathon! She’s been training hard for this day and she killed it! #strongheartsrun #tothefront

Joel finishing with Suzie

Joel finishing with Suzie Photo Credit: Thad Jackson



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



Years Vegan: 8
Theme song: Run the World РBeyoncé

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 ūüôā 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



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



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



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



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 РNew Paltz, NY

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

VP50k finish

Me ūüôā

Well obviously I’m back again ūüôā 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



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! ūüôā 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 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 prot√©g√© – 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 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



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



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 Caf√©, 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 ūüôā

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

Coming Attractions for 2014

It’s been way too long since I have checked in, so let me¬†just fast forward to where I am now and what lies ahead for 2014!

The big news is that I have moved to New Paltz, NY as of February 1st! ūüôā

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Lancaster County is a wonderful place. I was lucky to have ridden through the beautiful countryside, run on some of the most amazing trails, and make many¬†wonderful friends. So why leave? Sometimes you just feel stuck, and that is¬†what I was experiencing. It was time to move on and create¬†new amazing adventures. Most of you who know me well know that I can’t sit still for too long. So I followed my heart and it led me¬†to where I am today! I have many fond memories of my time in Lancaster, and I will be¬†returning often¬†to¬†revisit some of my favorite¬†places (and people of course).

New Paltz –¬†I had visited the area a few times in the past 6 months and it was not hard to fall in love with this place. Located near the Catskills, it is home to¬†the Shawangunk¬†Ridge which includes the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve. This means¬†bunches and¬†bunches of trails to run on which makes¬†me squeal like a little girl ūüôā With¬†the 20+ inches of snow¬†that landed over the past week I haven’t had the opportunity to get out on the bike and explore, but from driving the area I know that my bike and I will¬†spend hours¬†together – a big smile on my face the whole time. Hurry up¬†Spring!! With a gym, a pool, and multiple vegan food stores and restaurants within walking distance, I’d say I hit the jackpot!

Beauty surrounds New Paltz

Beauty surrounds New Paltz

New Paltz is also home to the infamous SOS¬†Triathlon and American Zofingen Duathlon. And it’s also not far from Escarpment.¬†To any of my friends who are planning to do any of these races,¬†want a weekend training somewhere new¬†and exciting, or just want to visit me – you are more than welcome ūüôā

A look ahead at my race plans – I am very excited about the progression of my 2014 race schedule. Here is a sneak preview:

1) I have a number of road races on the calendar where I will join my favorite crew РStrong Hearts Run Club. Every time we race together I meet new awesome people that I am honored to call my friends. We have created a community that is both full of positivity and motivation. Join us on Facebook to keep track of our events, and hopefully you can join us at one of them!

Strong Hearts to the Front!

Strong Hearts to the Front!

2) Team Strong Hearts Vegan Power is coming back in 2014 Рbigger and badder! We are currently fielding teams for Cape Cod Ragnar Relay and Adirondacks Ragnar Relay. We made quite the impact last year and it was our maiden voyage. In 2014 we plan to step it up a notch as we share our message: For the animals, for the earth, for your health. Go Vegan! If you are a vegan who loves to run, check out the video below to get a taste of our adventures. And get in touch if you want to join us in 2014!
ragnar crew

3) Duathlon Worlds takes place early in the season this year. Although duathlon wasn’t my focus in 2013 and I did not attend the National Championship, I competed in 3 duathlons which placed me 1st in the national rankings for the 35-39 Age Group. This *should* qualify me to attend this year’s World Championship in Pontevedra, Spain. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to race for Team USA again this year!

4) Racing short course early in the year allows for a nice transition to longer course racing. I plan to¬†compete at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse again this year. Last year’s heat got the best of me on this awesome course so I want to redeem myself in 2014. If all goes well I would like to earn a slot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship – another race where I need to redeem myself ūüôā This year the Championship is in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec and I have heard nothing but great reviews of that location.

5) Next I will increase the volume steadily for my final phase. 2013 brought me much success in trail racing and I plan to continue that streak this year with various trail races scattered throughout my calendar. After tackling my first 50k without properly training for it, this year I plan to race Blues Cruise again to take a nice chunk off my time. The big goal for 2014 is to race the JFK 50 Mile Run in November to round out my season. I’m really looking forward not only to the training, but experiencing such a legendary event.

Wait…there’s more – I am very excited that I will be a part of Team Inov-8 again in 2014! My loyalty to the Inov-8¬†line¬†is unwavering – since first trying their shoes in 2012 I knew they were the perfect match for me. And since then my love affair with the brand has been blossoming. Tri shoes, road shoes, trail shoes, off-trail shoes, fitness shoes – they have it all! Each and every pair I own has a distinct purpose in my arsenal, and each and every pair puts energy into my step as soon as I slip them on. On top of that they have an expanding line of apparel and packs which continue to impress me. Inov-8 knows what an athlete needs to perform at their best and they deliver an exceptional product that not only outperforms the competition, but also provides a level of comfort¬†which is crucial. I can’t wait to try their newest addition to the family, the Tri-X-Treme 245.
tri shoeCheck out what Inov-8 has to offer – you may find your new true love. If you have questions about any of their products or about natural running in general¬†don’t be afraid to ask¬†ūüôā

I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead this season. And I hope to cross paths with all of you during this year’s adventures. Until then, I better get to training!