Moving back to Austin, Texas and reuniting with my gym’s rowing machine

Working as and editor and photographer at Vegan Health & Fitness magazine, I travel a bit. Brenda Carey, the editor in chief as well as my awesome girlfriend just got back to my hometown of Austin Texas after a long 1250 mile drive from our apartment in Miami Beach Florida where we spent the last 8 months creating articles of amazing athletes there. After arriving at my place here in Austin and getting some quality sleep, I was eager to use the Concept2 rowing machine at my old gym across the street. I have been very close to a world record in the 500 meter distance (actually breaking the record by a decent margin in a heavier weight class). I finished 2nd last year at this distance in the world at any age (I’m 46 years young), and am currently in 2nd this year.

Concept2’s online ranking system compiles the rowing times and distances from rowing teams all over the world, so I am definitely playing with the big boys when I rank with these guys! Concept 2 recently added a new time (1 minute and 4 minute) and  distance (100 meters) to their site and I was eager to take these shorter, more explosive challenges on.

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Just rowing 100 meters in 15 seconds flat to place first in the world at ANY age in the world (I’m 46) Vegan Power!!!

Yesterday I ranked 1st in the world in the 1 minute time with 367 meters and, today, ranked 1st in the 100 meter distance in 15.0 seconds and 4 minute time (all three placements are for ALL all age groups)!

Guess it’s time to attempt a new 500 meter world record soon.

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Completing my first dead lift “Selfie” picture! I had just 10 seconds to push the self timer and pick up 395 pounds ( my heaviest lift this year).

Looks like all of the Deadlifts, Leg presses and upright rows at the gym over the past 28 years has paid off!

I have lifted weights and rowed for the last three days and feel terrific!

the healing process is so much faster since I have become vegan over 3.5 years ago. I can now run, row and lift weights more frequently, making improvements faster

Update: Just broke my Deadlift PR of 385 pounds for 3 reps, 365 pounds for 7 reps and finishing with 315 for 16!

Life is good when you are vegan!

Moving to Miami Beach and starting the Vegan Beef Team

After almost eight years of living back in my hometown of Austin Texas, my girlfriend Brenda and I decided to move the magazine we produce to a new town. After some discussion, we decided that Miami would be a great place to land. We know some very successful vegan athletes and restaurants in that area that we wanted to cover for the magazine.

Vegan Health & Fitness magazine is Brenda’s baby which was born three years ago. I have been taking many of the photographs (including 6 covers) over the last year and a half of working for this beautiful creation and now have a column Vegan, Faster, Stronger. I would have never thought that my love for Brenda, photography, athletics and veganism would come together so precisely.

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The last two years I have been competing with the PlantBuilt team of all vegan athletes. This third year, I would have to pass because of the timing of this Miami trip. It was very hard to resist flying back to Austin for a third reunion with these amazing, wonderful athletes, but It just wasn’t going to happening this time around.

Brenda and I had discussed the idea of forming a new vegan team to further spread the message that muscle can be built easily on a vegan diet. Discussing names for a new team, I blurted out “Vegan Beef” and Brenda replied, “I’m Lovin’ it” and so the domain name with slogan were decided. Things happen fast in the VH&F office. I built a team of 18 athletes that week and had 10 confirmed for a show in Miami a few weeks later. The show was called The Night of Champions , and was the promoter, Dave Bogan’s first time getting a competition together. This was going to be interesting as this was my first time to assemble a bodybuilding team.

My team had just eight weeks to prepare, and I had the opportunity to do some on-line coaching for two of our members who were going to be competing for their first time on stage. One of my other online clients is a competitive stair climber. His sport inspired me to use our 33 floor building as an alternate form of cardio to the boring machines at the gym. I worked my way up to 600 flights of stairs for a great workout lasting a shade over 2 hours. I would take the elevator to the ground, hustled up the stairs to the 31st floor (there is no 13th floor, so I got 30 floors covered) and take the elevator down to start the process over again. This was almost a transcendental experience, listening to the song of my breath as a leg reached for the next step without thought. This was a very similar experience to the latter hours of an ultra-marathon, when thought is superseded by instinct. I think I will need to enter a stair race sometime this year.IMG_6806

When the show date approached, the contest tanning and venue changed, leaving the team in a bit of a panic. Many of the Vegan Beef Team members had flown from distances as far away as Canada, and paid dearly for tickets,hotel stay and entry fees, but somehow managed to keep a terrific attitude. At the golden hour, everything fell into place, and a couple of days later, we were meeting at the contest hotel, hugging and sharing stories as we loaded our bodies with carbohydrates and waited in the lobby for our polygraph (most drug tested shows require you to pass a lie detector) and spray tanning appointments.

That night, I laid a dark sheet on the bed to keep the tanning products from staining the underlying sheets. If you have ever been spray tanned for a contest, you know just how sticky and uncomfortable your skin feels just moving across the room, let alone attempting to sleep. I awoke, had a small sip of coffee, put on very lose clothes and drove over to the contest venue where the team gathered, eventually turning my nervous energy into excitement.

 

After a long day of cheering each other on as we competed in our respective categories, the judges were ready to announce the winners. Our small team of ten ended up doing very well!  Two of us won Pro-cards. Greg Moormann won his first competition and also the over-all in  the other classes to win his card. I got 2nd place to good friend and fellow vegan Will Tucker. One of our other members,Erika Reesa also won 2nd place in her first pro show and we took home the team trophy! This was an amazing evening. The feeling of competing with our team and proving to the entire audience that a winning physique can be build without hurting an animal was amazing. The Vegan Beef Team’s mission was complete ( that is until we do our next show 🙂 )

Vegan pizza and cake did not last long after at our post- show celebration in the hotel lobby.   IMG_6805IMG_6804

I just had to kiss our team trophy! I can’t wait to get another event set up in the next several months!!

More indoor rowing success

I had such a great time at the Naturally Fit Super show, winning my class, and getting to see our PlantBuilt team do such an amazing job showing the audience and other competitors how a vegan diet can create amazing, show winning physiques. Now, it was time to continue my quest up the indoor rowing ranks.

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Me at a scrappy, but more competitive weight of 165 pounds 

 

The concept 2 rower has now been the main focus of my gym workout. My girlfriend Brenda has also gained interest in this sport, so I officially have a training partner. I decided to continue my diet from the last bodybuilding show (when I weighed about 176 pounds) to a new goal weight of 165 pounds in order to compete in the light weight division, managing to hold the seasons world best time in the heavyweights for about two weeks in my age class, but know I will be a lot more competitive in this new Lightweight class. I’m currently 1st in the 1000 in the world at any age group (I’m now 46 years of age). The world record at this distance for my age group is 2:59, and I am currently at 3:09.2, so I still have a bit of work to do.

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The Lightweight 500 meter distance is where I seem to be more competitive. I’m currently 2nd in the world at any age and just 1 second away from beating the world record in my age class set in 2009 by an olympic silver medalist. I beat this time by .3 of a second when I weighed 172 pounds, but have been gaining my power back since making the lightweight class.

 

 

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I’m really looking forward to getting this 500 meter record, so I can start getting my body mass back for another round of heavy gym lifting. Yippie!! Looks like I will be moving to Miami with Brenda and Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine in February! also, in England for a 9 day (969 mile) bike ride, speaking at some UK Veg-Fests along the way in April as well. Yay!!  Bring it!! Vegan Power!!!

Making it happen

Our 2014 PlantBuilt team succeeded for our second year, winning a total of 12 1st place trophies and two Pro-cards (the best of the best), proving how a vegan diet can easily compare and improve on an omnivorous diet. We were a group of 31 vegans going up against 150+ omnivore competitors, so our team definitely drove our point home. I took first place in the Masters bodybuilding and 2nd in the Masters physique divisions. This was the first time I have won my class at a bodybuilding event. It was also a special moment for me being able to tell the audience (through the MC’s microphone) how my motivation was “no longer for myself, but the animals who have no voice.”  
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The Oct issue of Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine has a more specific run-down of the details. VHFMag.com

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  Dorking out after winning my Division in Masters Bodybuilding

Competitive indoor rowing

My skill level in “on-the-water” rowing continues to improve, but my true talent is in the sport of  “indoor rowing,” where my performances are really becoming competitive. I’m currently ranked third in the 500-meter, fifth in the 1000-meter, second in the 2000-meter, and eighth in the 5000-meter distances in my class in the United States and climbing the ranks. I am currently dieting for the PlantBuilt show, where I will share the stage with 31 other vegan athletes, but will likely continue to diet down after this show to an even more competitive weight class of 165 pounds for indoor rowing competition. I am currently 181 pounds and have been competing against larger athletes well above the 165-pound Lightweight cut-off (usually 200-230 pounds) and taller than my 5’11” height by three to eight inches.  Just being in the 92-96 percent bracket with these guys is very rewarding, but in the lightweight class, I would be in first in the 500, first in the 1000, and second in the 2000-meter in the world in my age class. I would also be only 1.9 seconds shy of a world record in the 500-meter distance currently held by an Olympic  silver medalist! ( My best time as of 6/23/2014 is 1 minute 25.4 seconds. Current world record is 1 minute 23.5 seconds).

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Right after setting a 500-meter PR of 1 min 25.4 seconds

I have about ten pounds of body fat to lose and can dehydrate three pounds without sacrificing my performance, so might be looking at a three-pound loss in muscle to reach this body weight goal. Being a die-hard natural bodybuilder for the past eighteen years makes the idea of muscle loss difficult, but this goal has been haunting me. There is also an indoor rowing event held every February called the C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints World Indoor Rowing Championship.  This competition brings some of the best rowers in the world to Chicago’s Boston University Agganis Arena to duke it out on the same Concept 2 machines that I have been training on, and will continue to train on for this event. Everyday brings a stronger motivation to push my body to a higher level. I’m living in the moment much of the time, but find myself slipping into the future, wondering what cool things will unfold before me.

 

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My current world ranking in the heavy weight division. I’ll be much more competitive when I move to the light weight division.

Team PlantBuilt 2014

It’s now only five weeks until the PlantBuilt team of all-vegan competitors hits the stage in my home town of Austin, Texas. Last year our team dominated the Naturally Fit Bodybuilding Show. Our 15-person  team really shined against the other 150 non-vegan athleteswinning two pro cards for overall wins, as well as many second- and third-place trophies. I won two second-place trophies, losing to another vegan competitor in one of the categories.  This year brings a team over twice the size, with a total of 32 powerlifters, bodybuilders, and figure, bikini, and physique competitors. This is the largest gathering of its type in history, and I’m proud to be one of these lucky members. I’m currently busy dieting for this event, with about six more pounds of fat to shed in the next five weeks. Rowing has been my main cardiovascular exercise, because this movement uses the entire body, burning a good amount of calories in a short time, and relates to a sport (indoor rowing) that I will continue to pursue after this awesome event. I’ve been competing in bodybuilding since 1996, so the number of shows I have completed escapes me (I believe this will be the fifteenth), but I’m still just as hungry to win, especially with such a good cause powering every repetition of every set of every workout at my gym. Since I decided to go vegan, every aspect of my life has improved, and I’m eager to help break some of the stereotypes commonly associated with plant-based people. securedownload-6We are not pale, unless we stay out of the sun–just like everybody else. We are not skinny unless we don’t exercise–just like everybody else. I can’t tell you how many times a person from my gym has told me that I need to eat a steak, as I stare at their less muscular, higher body-fat physique. Really!?

It’s going to be terrific to see my team again–members who are coming from all over the United States (a few from Europe) to prove this point as well. It’s also going to be great to meet the eighteen new teammates who were voted in by last year’s team members. I will also be busy photographing many of the events and stage action of the PlantBuilt team for Vegan Health and Fitness magazine and am honored to be on the cover of the July/August issue covering multi-sport athletes. I’m also actively writing a book about my life from sedentary fat kid to motivated athlete, sharing stories of my painful mistakes and lessons learned in order to reach a higher level of fitness and overall well-being.

 

 

 

The Texas Championships

About four months after I joined the Texas Rowing Center and their novice team, our coach, Saloni, started preparing us for the Texas State Championships to be held just four miles down the lake from our club. I signed up for four races, excited to try out my limited skill. In two of these events I would be in a solo boat, the races I was most looking forward to, because my performance would be completely in my hands. The other two races were in a four-person and an eight-person boat. Our team usually meets twice a week, but we moved that up to three times (Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) several weeks leading up to this event. One thing I really love about sharing a boat is the camaraderie we develop. These are friends I would seriously lend $100 to if they needed it. The reasons people join this club vary from getting back in the sport after a long layoff from collegiate competition to having a bad knee that keeps them from running to simply wanting to lose weight. Regardless of the reason, we are a tight group who have formed a strong bond. It is an amazing feeling when we are rowing in perfect synchronicity, placing the oar blades into the water, pulling the boat through the water, and releasing the blades out of the water to slide forward, catching more water, all in what seems like one machine. It is an extremely meditative experience, because if you let your mind drift, your performance will immediately show this loss of concentration, affecting the entire boat’s performance. This total focus has a way of shutting down a rambling mind and instilling a sense of peace. The day before this race, we all rowed boats down the lake to the venue and shuttled each other back in cars. My first event that day was in an 8-person boat with both male and female athletes (mixed 8+). We also had a cox whose job is to inspire, coach, and steer this massive boat. The nervous energy was high, but we had done our homework to get to this point and just needed to apply it. We gathered our oars, placing them next to the launching dock as many other teams were scrambling to get their oars and boats to and from this same point. Nerve-wracking to say the least, but we succeeded in walking our boat overhead through the safety check to the dock and locking our oars onto our boat. Stepping into the boat, we strapped our feet in and pushed off the dock, following the cox’s commands. We left early, so we had time to warm up properly for this upcoming “all-out” performance. The weather was beautiful, with slightly hot but not-too-windy conditions, so choppy waves would not be an excuse for bad blade work. The race promoters called our boat with four others to the starting podium, where each boat was backed up to a person who held the nose of the boat steady before launch. We sat in our boat with our oars in the water waiting for the “Go” command, only to have another boat make a false start, earning them a penalty. I guess they were even more nervous than we were. The race director raised his flag in the air, yelled “Attention!” and then whipped the flag down with a “Go!” We were off, getting a pretty good start. Our boat was a little wobbly from some ambitious rushing. A good start is very quick but not too powerful. The power is applied progressively over the first five strokes, then the stroke is lengthened with this power to grab even more water for further acceleration. The key to speed is smooth power. A choppy stroke will just upset the boat, causing the nose to dig into the water or tilt to one side, slowing it in the process. Our race boat started to run nice and smooth after this less-than-perfect start, allowing us to catch up to and pass one of our competitors. We still had another boat that was holding its second-place  position firmly. We pulled as hard as we could, coming side-to-side. Surging ahead for a brief moment, then back to a tied position. Just as the 1000-meter finish line appeared, they slipped out of our grasp to take second place. We had bronze, so it did not feel like a total loss, especially since the boat that just beat us was the advanced team from our rowing club. Not too shabby for an up-and-coming novice crew. My next race of the day was in a four man boat (M4x). We hadn’t had too much practice together in this boat but were all in good physical condition and hungry to row. Pulling the boat into the water, we made it to the warm-up area near the starting line for some good warm-up drills. Backing the stern of this boat into the starting podium, we waited as the announcement of our club and rival teams could be heard over the intercom. The “Attention” command was given as we leaned forward with our oars, locking them into the water. The flag dropped with a “Go,” and we were off to a great start. We were up against four experienced boats, so we had our work cut out for us. Already ahead of two boats from the start and closing in on the third, we continued to pull the boat slowly but smoothly to their side. The red buoys became visible, indicating the last 200 meters of this 1000-meter race , so we really dug deep, nudging ahead of that third boat for a second-place win. My two last races in a single boat (1x) came after the four-man race (4x). My inexperience combined with my exhaustion reaped me no wins, but I held my own against some great athletes. I am looking forward to showing my increased skill level and stronger physical endurance next year.