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.