Run Like the Wind 24 hour run

After passing on this race to do a rowing marathon that ended up getting canceled due to freezing temperatures, I discovered that the Run Like the Wind race had also been canceled.  Searching online to update my bio, I discovered that this race was to be held in February, just three weeks away. I had done very little run training, so the mere idea of standing on my feet for 24 hours seemed daunting. There was a 12-hour option, which I had won two years ago, but the temptation to defend my 24-hour title was offsetting much of my fears. With just these three weeks before race day, I hit the road with my best running shoes to get a 5-, 8-, 12-, and 16-mile run in the days leading up to this. I am a firm believer in avoiding overtraining, so even with a few weeks to prepare, I needed to be fresh before this long event. Standing at the event sign-up table, I decided to go for the full 24-hour event. There were many who had signed up for the 3- and 6-hour times as well, so I would need to keep my ego in check, letting them pass me on this one-kilometer loop until their events timed out. Many would agree that the real race in an ultra is the last half, so pacing is crucial. With a total of eight runs under my belt since the prior year’s win and seven additional pounds of fat and muscle on my frame, this was going to be a challenge. Brenda Carey and Brian Acree  joined me, doing the three-hour event. It was great to have these great friends to run with for the first quarter of the event. There were also some familiar faces from last year’s race here. I had my cooler loaded up with an electrolyte drink that would serve as my only form of sustenance for the next 24 hours. Solid food does not sit well in my stomach when running these events. There were 15 people signed up for this event, and many more opting for the shorter times, making this the biggest crowd in the last four years I have raced this course. This is still a small race compared to the Rocky Raccoon 100 I have also done twice. That race has close to 750 athletes running either the 50- or 100-mile distance. the Run Like the Wind offers a more intimate setting, so great conversations frequently occur. I really love sharing stories during these longer races. I’m a social person, so a full day, turned night, then day again is a lonely prospect without good company. The race took off with a familiar cheer, and we all headed down the soft, mulch-covered trail–a surface that really saves your body’s joints by softening the jarring impact that a street race would impose. Brenda and Brian looked great as they cruised ahead while I tried my hardest to run a very easy pace. In an ultramarathon, most people, barring the elite, take walk breaks to conserve their energy resources. I include a brisk walk about one third of the time, stopping only to do a quick bottle fill-up. During a race I never wear a watch, preferring to run inside my body’s intuition but always staying aware to keep my body moving so my average pace does not dwindle from a longer break than absolutely necessary. Brenda and Brian had strong finishes to their three-hour mark, leaving me with just 18 hours to go. I met a great guy named Jason, who proved to be excellent company the remainder of the race. He was attempting the 24-hour too, and our running pace was similar, so hours passed by as we shared different topics of conversation. He consumed an almost completely plant-based diet, so my veganism, the problems with Monsanto, the cattle industry, and environmental pollution were deeply addressed. His father sold cattle for a living and wanted him to take over the business, so that moral dilemma came up as well. As the 12-hour mark came around, I was starting to feel my undertraining. I was in third place and kept an even pace despite the broken-down feeling that was creeping up on me. Jason was hurting, too, but holding first place. He had never completed an event longer than 100 kilometers (62 miles), so we had celebrated his success with a loud roar. I eventually passed the second-place athlete around the 70-mile mark and, soon after, Jason, as he was stopping to eat and rest his legs. I tend to stay strong in these longer events as others start to fade. I’m not sure if this is a mental or genetic advantage, but I’m honored to possess it. Jason’s goal was to pass the 100-mile mark by 10 a.m., when the clock ran out, so I cheered him on as I passed by. With an hour left on the clock, Jason showed a surge of energy, fighting to reach the 100-mile mark. It was truly amazing to see him come alive after such a reserved period. Brenda had showered and come back to the race to cheer me on and get photographs for Vegan Health and Fitness magazine. I was feeling sore but pretty strong, finishing with 171 laps (106.25 miles). This was not the 115 .32 miles from last year’s race, but considering the lack of training and extra body weight, I was stoked. Brenda took pictures, and the crowd, albeit small, were much appreciated with their cheers. Brenda has been such a great friend and supporter since the first time we met at the PlantBuilt show in July 2013. I have since been helping out this great publication with my photography skills, covering events from cooking shows and restaurants to health expos and races. It’s an honor to help this magazine with a talent that I, as a child through young adulthood, had envisioned as a career. Since turning vegan almost two years ago, I feel that working with her has instilled a stronger purpose and outlet to reach athletes considering a plant-based diet. Jason ended up with 154 (95.70 mile) laps. I really hope he returns next year to make the 100-mile mark, or even win.

Still smiling after 24 hours and defending last years title with 106 miles

Still smiling after 24 hours and defending last year’s title with 106 miles

 

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Three days till the Texas Shredder Bodybuilding show!

Over eight months vegan/gluten-free, and my body is feeling really strong! My old lifting records are being broken even as I have leaned down to sub-4-percent body fat. I will hit the stage around 3.6 percent, which will show a lot of muscular detail without sacrificing any fullness. I’m not the thickest guy out there, so I must rely on symmetry and conditioning to place well. I’m at my all-time best with three more pounds of muscle than I had in 2011 at a lower body fat percentage. The Texas Shredder Bodybuilding show is on April 13, and I’m ready to strut my stuff. Tomorrow is my last day of cardio; then I get to take it easy and cruise onto the contest stage at 9 a.m. Saturday morning.

The last few days of contest preparation involve dietary salt removal, carbohydrate loading, and a little dehydration. I’m not an extremist in any of these three dietary changes, but a big difference in physique can result when this method is done properly. Every person responds slightly differently to these adjustments, so trial and error with plenty of note-taking is a must to dial everything in. It may take a few shows before an athlete figures out the right formula for his/her body, which may explain why it takes a few attempts to win a competition. This will be around my twelfth body building show; I have placed second in my weight division three times and once won my division, but not the overall trophy.

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I am setting my focus this year on getting a win at a show that offers a pro card for the overall champion. I’ll be doing another show in seventeen days that offers this pro card, and have two others this year as well. I have my hands full this year! Here are some pictures that my good friend Teri took of me last weekend when she helped me with posing. She is an awesome coach and a great person.

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One of the best things about being vegan is that I can eat tons of food and still lose weight! Below is one of my awesome salads made with all-organic ingredients. I start with a big bowl of mixed greens, then mix in a low-calorie dressing and nutritional yeast. For this salad, I added steamed cauliflower and broccoli with a home-grown tomato, almonds, apples, and pears. Sometimes I’ll add  tofu or quinoa and lentils for some extra protein. My main source of protein has been plant-based protein powders. I have been using PlantFusion (AKA NitroFusion) for the entire diet phase as well as for my ultra-marathons the last few months. I love this brand because it is not gritty tasting like the others I have tried (really tastes like the whey I used pre-vegan) and it has an almost identical amino acid profile to whey. I mix it with almond milk, water, coffee, or tea depending on the time of day.
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Wish me luck! I will need it with all of the incredible athletes who have been showing up at these events over the last several years. Natural body building has been growing rapidly, and I love being in the mix. I was at the Texas VegFest last Saturday and met some fellow vegan bodybuilders who generously asked me to join them at the Naturally Fit Super Show. Get ready to see some herbivore beef on the stage July 26-27 with Team Plant Built! Check out www.plantbuilt.com and www.nitrofusion.us  for more info. If you are interested in information about a plant-based diet, Christy Morgan (AKA the Blissful chef) has a program specifically engineered to meet your needs www.WellnesReboot.com.

Would love to hear from you if you have any tips on vegan nutrition for athletes. Leave it in the comments!

The race results and 5 months plant based

Happy post-New Year, everybody! One of my biggest resolutions this year was to continue my quest as a vegan, attempt to beat my old race times, and place better at the next natural bodybuilding show. Well, the first goal of beating my last 12-hour race time at the Run Like the Wind race went extremely well. It is run on a one-kilometer wood chip trail, and your laps are counted by an electronic sensor. I actually signed up for the 24-hour race this time. I not only beat my 12-hour race time by two kilometers but went on to win the 24-hour race. It started on Saturday at 10:30 am and ended on Sunday at 10:30 am. I felt great most of the time with no urge to take a break. I just ran and power walked till the clock ran out. There was a discrepancy on the lap counts, so I did not realize until the next day that I was just one lap away from breaking the course record! Next year I plan to crush it.

Currently I’m gearing up for the last big race of my self-imposed season. It’s called the Rocky Raccoon 100 and will be held in Huntsville, Texas, on February 2. I took a solid recovery after my last race, focusing more on weight training. My weight lifting has been great between training runs, except that I’m struggling to make solid lifting records. This is probably because my caloric consumption has been slightly lower and my sleep has frequently been under seven hours a night. I’m sure that all of the running has sapped my caloric banks as well. I am being very diligent about getting enough protein, and my muscle mass has stayed intact as my body fat has decreased. I’m loving the NutroFusion protein powder right now. I am stuck at work a lot and sometimes forget to pack enough food. This stuff mixes really well and tastes like chocolate milk.

                                                     Right after 115.32 miles. A little dehydrated but still cocky

Something I’ve read about vegan athletes is that their creatine consumption is much lower than that of a meat-eating athlete. Creatine is a molecule that is manufactured in the body from three amino acids. It’s essential to producing ATP, which is responsible for muscle contraction. Natural bodybuilders commonly supplement their diets with creatine as I have in the past, but have not since my vegan adventure. It will be interesting to see if my lifting improves after adding creatine to my diet again and dedicating my full resources to weight lifting for the Naturally Fit Super Show on July 26 and 27. Either way, the running is great–and most importantly, I’m really happy that no more animals are being harmed by my appetite or lifestyle.

This experiment was to dedicate myself to a plant-based diet for one year, but I now feel sure that I will never eat an animal product again for ethical reasons, no matter how my performance is affected. I feel sorry for the creatures I have harmed in the past and now have a desire to improve the lives of these living beings from this point forward. My life sure has improved  since this plant-based decision.

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If you’re interested in transitioning to plant-based eating, my girlfriend, Christy Morgan (AKA The Blissful Chef), has a one-month wellness program that is designed for this purpose. For more info check out  Wellnessreboot .com. Here’s to eating and lifting like a gorilla!!

The Run Like The Wind 2012 Outcome

What a great experience! When I started this plant-protein experiment on September 1, I knew my first race would be Run Like the Wind. My goal was to beat my mileage for the 12-hour race, but I went ahead and signed up for the 24-hour race. Last year I did 60.76 miles in 12 hours. Not only did I beat my mileage, I went on to win the 24-hour race.

I had a great night’s sleep and a great attitude the morning of the race. Robert Cheeke and Ben Benulis ran the 3-hour race, so I had good company for a while. They were actually running faster than I was, because I signed up for the the 24-hour race and needed to play it smart for that distance. Robert won the 3-hour race, also setting a new course record! Ben had a great personal best by running 18 miles. His prior longest distance was 13.1 miles, so he rocked.

I took it nice and easy for the first six or seven hours because it was around 80 degrees during the day. My body is not crazy about hot running. I kept pounding my Vitalyte and NitroFusion chocolate protein powder drink mixed with plenty of ice. Christy was documenting this race with grace and precision too :0). She needed to film a video for her wellness program, so had to take off for a bit while my friend Pascal took over camera and drink-filling assistance. Christy returned and filmed till 11:30 pm.

As the night air cooled, my energy level elevated and the running got stronger. I actually like to run alone, so I killed it solo till the morning light emerged as a deep golden backdrop to the overhead arbor of trees. I started the race in sixth place out of fourteen 24-hour contestants but was in first place and holding strong now. The race director was super pumped, telling me that I was coming close to a course record! I was running this race from the inside out, not really worrying about other people’s performance but my own, so it was great news to hear. Only six out of the fourteen finished the race. It’s interesting to note  that almost everyone who finished was over 40 years of age, so this distance is a testament to using an intelligent pacing strategy and paying attention to the body’s needs.

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I had already beat my last year’s 12-hour race win by two laps, so being first in the 24-hour was just gravy. Christy returned with a beautiful smile that elevated my spirit. I was told that I needed about five more miles in the last 35 minutes of the race, and it was then that I knew that the course record was not going happen. I was 25 kilometers ahead of second place, so I was plenty happy either way. Christy and Pascal took turns running pre-victory laps with me, and I got to cruise across the finish line with lots of great friends cheering me on. It really is awesome to have such amazing friends who are willing to hang out and support me in a ridiculous adventure like this. This race marked my thirteen-week journey as a vegan, and I cannot believe what a powerful impact it has had on my running. My recovery during training and endurance in the race were at an entirely new level. Not bad for a 44-year-old dude.

It turns out that there were a few laps that the sensor did not pick up, and I had been only one lap away from tying the course record. Ouch!! I wish I had known. I could have definitely cranked out a couple more laps for a new record. Next year, I’m going to kill this course. Next up, the Rocky Raccoon 100 on February 2. It’s on!!

My Vegan Experience Post 2 months

It has been two months since I went head-first into the humane world of plant-based eating. I can think of only positive things to say about this experience. My recovery after exercise is much better. I am getting ready for a 12-hour race on Dec. 8, and yesterday I ran 17 miles–my longest training run since a seven-month layoff from last year’s race. I feel so much better after a long run like this than I did last year! My knee and ankle joints feel less “creaky,” and the muscle soreness has subsided at a much faster rate. I have been gluten-free for two months as well, so this may also play a factor in my well being.

The higher fiber intake is finally working with my digestive system. No more frustrating gas attacks. I am also continuing to lose weight. I was about 187 pounds when I started this journey and am now about 181. My strength is good, so I feel that this loss is almost entirely from fat. It’s interesting that when you eat nutrient-rich foods, your body loses its appetite for junk food. I never ate horribly, but I feel that some micronutrients might have been lacking and my appetite was spurred by an attempt to get them.

I’ve been eating the most delicious food. Miss Bliss cooks for me all the time and we eat the most delicious food at local restaurants in Austin. I never get bored with vegan food! I’m fine with just lentils and quinoa, but it’s exciting to know how many amazing food options I have available to me. Below are some portobello fajitas Christy made that I gobbled up. She also made me gluten-free brownies! I’m so lucky.

I have been waking up feeling refreshed after six or seven hours of sleep. Two months ago, I would have needed seven or eight to feel the same way, and I was taking daily naps after work. This is more proof in my mind that my recovery is substantially better. It is really great to have an extra hour or two of conscious life a day! That’s 15.2 days a year! No more naps for me!

I am really looking forward to sharing month 3 of this plant-based journey. I will be two weeks away from the race, and hopefully will be strong and injury-free to kick some ass. It also makes me feel really great that I have not hurt any beautiful animals since. I’m feeling my compassion and honesty with this world growing stronger. Yay!!!

The Tough Mudder & Teamwork

On October 7 I entered a “Tough Mudder” adventure race with Christy, Ben, and Josh. Josh drove down from Dallas the day before the race and stayed with Christy and me. Ben met us at my place, and we started our epic (1-hour) journey out of Austin to the race site. This event is basically an obstacle course on steroids. We were told by some friends that a man had been helicoptered off the course the day before because he was shocked in the head by the “Electric Eel” and went into seizures! The Electric Eel is an obstacle that involves crawling on your knees and elbows in the mud through a maze of hanging electrical wires that zap you if you accidentally touch one of them. Jesus, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Click here for a photo of Christy drenched in the mud pit!

It was 12 miles long, which did not pose a problem for me in relation to running, but some of the other obstacles really slowed things down. It was also really cold!! We swam through water and trudged through mud. We were wet practically from the start. There happened to be a cold front moving in, so the combo was brutal, especially with the never-ending wind. I have run much harder races before, but this one takes the cake for “interesting.” I think I’ve had my fill of knee-bruising wall climbs and elbow shredding in the claustrophobia-inducing “Tube Crawl.” The Electric Eel will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Here’s the team post-race after devouring Thai food at Tatiya’s.

I have to say that the single most impressive thing about this event was the camaraderie. This is one of the biggest reasons that I prefer ultra-marathons to shorter races. When you travel a distance that requires you to walk certain amounts, you end up getting into conversations with people you might otherwise have never met. There is a kinship produced from challenging the same course together, and you end up wanting to help your new friend complete the distance. I carry extra headlight batteries, ibuprofin, electrolyte capsules, nipple band aids (trust me, you need these), and something sweet to eat if your friend starts to bonk out from carb depletion. In the “Tough Mudder,” everyone makes sure that their fellow humans get over, under, and through the obstacles as well as make the distance to the finish line. I love it. Now, time to train for my 12-hour “Run Like the Wind” race in two months and the Rocky Raccoon 100-miler in four months. I might need some help getting through these :0). “Ouch!” and “Yay!” at the same time!!

My recovery has been much better since this shift in eating. I trained legs heavy the day after the race and today I feel great. Not the usual lethargic energy and deep, bruised feeling I usually have. Things just keep getting better as I near 44 years of age.

Journal: Trip to Portland and one month vegan!

Happy World Vegetarian Day!! 

I was in Portland for a long weekend and found that the food choices for this new diet were much more abundant than in Austin, TX. Not to say that Austin does not have great restaurants, like Counter Culture and Bouldin Creek, and delicious options at non-veg restaurants (like Titaya’s and Elizabeth Street Cafe), but Portland is packed to the brim with vegan and gluten-free options. It is really great to have so many choices, and I am seriously not missing meat or dairy products in the least.

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The Northwest VegFest at the Portland auditorium was fantastic. Vegans sure are a nice bunch! Christy Morgan (AKA The Blissful Chef) gave a great presentation on higher-protein foods for the active person or athlete. I cruised around the festival and made so many new friends and tried many delicious new food products. Most notably Robert Cheeke, Ed Baur, and many other vegan athletes, plus cookbook authors Robin Asbell and Jill Nussinow. We ate our faces off in Portland, and I didn’t gain a pound. We walked and took the bus everywhere, and the weather was perfect.

Austin devouring his meal at Blossoming Lotus

My workouts continue to be strong and my recovery is great. I feel less tweaky in my shoulders after difficult chest and shoulder workouts. I noticed that this milky or chalk-like coating I used to see on my tongue when I brushed my teeth is clearing up to reveal a healthy pink color. I suspect that dairy was the culprit. My weight is stable at about 185 pounds at about 6% body fat despite my increase in food intake. I guess vegetable-sourced protein does process more efficiently than meat. My skin feels a little thinner (in a good way), which I think might be a result of cutting my dairy and gluten as well. Dairy and gluten restriction is a common practice in bodybuilding a week or two before competition. Even omnivore bodybuilders know a mild allergy to dairy and wheat could show a slight puffiness under the skin, hiding hard-earned muscle definition.

Lastly, the soreness I have after long runs is decreasing. That is probably the best part of this dietary change! I have read that many vegan athletes experience this same benefit. I definitely welcome the advantage, because I have a lot of training to do this year with a natural bodybuilding show, a 12-hour foot race, and a 100-mile foot race ahead.