Running Trails, Eating Plants, and Sharing What I Pick up Along the Way

Running Trails, Eating Plants, and Sharing What I Pick up Along the Way

Sunday, November 2, 2014

011: From the Track to the Trail - 7 Tips to Help with Transition

Having recently transitioned to running (almost) exclusively on trails, I'm still experiencing the growing pains of this evolution. My background in running includes a decade of running on the track; it wasn't until a year after finishing college that I have running trails a shot.

I can only imagine that I'm not alone in being a post-collegiate runner who wants to keep running, but isn't familiar with training outside of the sacred oval office that the track offers.

1. The numbers on your watch don't mean the same thing. I was consumed with monitoring my pace while running track. Now I make sure not to look at my pace, because the numbers can be a bit depressing. Sure, I still run with my GPS watch and upload my runs to Strava, but I'm not as concerned about pace any more.

There are too many variables on the trails: elevation gained, terrain, and technicality of the trail. My favorite numbers to look at now are elevation gained; and I will certainly compare my numbers to yours once we're friends on Strava.

2. Get used to eating while you run. This was tricky for me. When I was training on the track I'd make sure not to eat within two hours of a workout; food wreaked havoc on my stomach while running, Now, while running 2-3 hours and beyond, I've gotten used to getting calories in me while on the run.

Gels and goos are popular among runners, and offer a quick way to get calories while satisfying your sweet tooth and not causing internal issues. I'm not about that life. I don't want to sacrifice my nutritional ideals for the sake of convenience. I eat a lot of dried dates or Clif Bars while running.

I anticipated that learning how to eat on the run would be much harder given my prior experience, but it wasn't so bad. This must be due to the lower overall intensity of a run, because I've not had any issues.

3. Racing isn't all about getting the "W" anymore. This is a broad generalization that isn't true across the board, but I've found it to be mroe true on the trails than on the track. Now, I was a mediocre middle distance runner on a good day, so I rarely had the opportunity to race for the win. I understand running to chase a PR and not paying attention to the guys taking the race out at a pace that I knew I couldn't maintain. I see this in trail races a bit, but it's hard to compare race times to other races of the same distances or even to a previous effort on the same course. There are just too many variables. Most runners tend to be in it for the experience and are happy to finish regardless of how long it takes.

4. Short shorts are only sort of short on the trails. This is kind of a funny one, but I'm used to seeing a lot of leg while training with my teammates in college. 1 inch inseams proudly displaying tattoos with our school logo were commonplace. The shorter the shorts, the better.

When I go on group trail runs I have the shortest shorts in the pack every time. This includes the females present. I'm not ready to give the short shorts up yet, and I hope you're not either. Just be prepared for this culture shock!

5. Trail running isn't quite as free as it seems. Track athletes are used to Nike using stars such as Ashton Eaton or Allyson Felix to tell us that we need the newest color of Frees, but I had different expectations for the trail running world.

Sure, the stars on the trails aren't as well known, and Nike isn't as big in this world (though I do have a pair of Nike Terra Kigers that I train in), but trail running isn't free. Flip through any issue of Trail Runner Magazine and you'll see ads for the newest shoes, hydration packs, supplements, gels, injury rehab tools, and various other over-priced gear. Don't forget about the high entry fees for races - which makes sense because of the aid stations, staff, permits, and crazy amounts of time that organizers put into planning these events.

I'm a pretty minimalistic trail runner; I don't have one of these fancy hydration packs, use supplements, or consume energy gels. I got my watch on eBay, and I hold a bottle in my hand for runs where I need it. This is partially because I don't want to pay for the fancy new things, partially because I can't afford the fancy new things, but mostly because I like the idea of running without a lot of stuff.

6. People who run trails tend to be older. After finishing my fifth year of college I was used to being the old guy when I ran with others. Now, I'm the baby when I run with groups. I love it. Not only do I get to learn from their experience and wisdom, but it's encouraging to know that I can keep doing this for a long time.

7. There is not right way to do this. This is true on the track as well. Different training philosophies, mesocycle lengths, how often to race, different amounts of cross training, etc. are common place in the track world. In the trail running world it seems like everybody does things their own way. There are different ideas about training frequency and intensity, nutrition while running and not running, necessary gear, what numbers to focus on on your watch, etc.

There are people who run dang near 100 miles a month who race 100 milers, and those who put in 100 mile weeks in preparation for marathons.

This is fascinating to me. I certainly don't have things figured out, so this gives me opportunity to experiment with different things and see what works for me. Don't be afraid to try something new and fail. It's part of the fun.

There's no way that I'm the first to write on this, and I imagine that I missed a lot, but I hope that this helps somebody make the leap onto the trails. If nothing else, I hope it was a fun read.

What did I miss? Was I completely off base in any of these thoughts? Feel free to share your feedback with a comment.

Not willing to hang these bad boys up for good yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

010 Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Roughly eighteen months ago I graduated from college with a fancy degree in mathematics. I'm still not "on my feet" financially, and the last thing I think about doing with my paychecks is investing. My focus lies on paying rent, paying friends back who helped cover my rent in the past, paying various other bills, and buying good, clean groceries.

I know people my age who put away a bunch of money for retirement each month, but they eat cheap, crappy processed foods. They're going to have much more money than me upon retirement, but how will their health look? I may get myself in trouble for saying some of these things, but I'm convinced that investing in long term health via nutrition and exercise is the most important temporal investment that we can make. What good is a bunch of money if you've neglected your body for decades and aren't able to enjoy activity with loved ones?

At this point in time I find the idea of being able to run around and play with my (great)grandchildren much more attractive than being able to send them a $100 bill in their birthday cards.

Do I think that my diet makes me invincible? Not for a second. I understand that I could end up in a nasty car accident on my way home from the coffee shop that I'm sitting in right now. I do believe that by controlling the things that I can control - in this case, diet and activity - I give myself a much better chance of having a healthy body for much longer.

There certainly is a need for balance here. If one becomes too consumed in their health it becomes an issue of selfishness, and that's not a good place to be. On the other side of the coin is the wonderful experience for your loved ones to have the able-bodied and able-minded you around longer than they would have had you not made the investment. This is anything but selfish.

Is eating a plant-based diet the best diet out there to achieve this long term health? Is running trails the best type of exercise? I don't know. Probably not. There are tons of different diets and exercise routines that encourage long term health. I choose to eat a vegan diet and run trails because it's a diet that promotes long term health and a form of activity that does the same. On top of that, it's fun, interesting, and it aligns with my values. I'd encourage you to find a diet and activity that does the same for you.

I'm not an expert in this stuff (I studied math, remember?), but I have enough of a background with these things to feel comfortable sharing a few ideas to help get the ball rolling towards this investment.

First, start eating whole foods, and stop eating processed garbage. The way I look at this may be too simplistic, but I know what I'm getting with whole foods (it's good), and I don't know what I'm getting with those chemicals we can't pronounce on the side of a box of Cheez-Its. They could be good, they could be bad - I go with the sure thing here.

Don't feel bad about spending money on good, clean food; it's an investment. It's true that sometimes real food costs more than the stuff scientists develop for us to eat - and that's okay. Put your money where your mouth is. Get it? If I can make this work on my budget, then I imagine that you can too.

Second, find something fun and active to do with other people, then make a habit of going and doing it.

Ultimately this is a quality of life issue. If you're not enjoying doing these things, then maybe reevaluate your activities and/or diet. This long term investment affects the here and now as well, and I believe it should be a positive experience throughout once you find the right fit for you.

Have fun!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

009 Interview With Productivity Coach/Vegan Ultrarunner Jeff Sanders

Hi friends, in an effort to continue to connect to the larger community of vegan trail runners, I'm going to be interviewing some people who I look up to. Today's post is my first interview experience, but Jeff put up with me and provided some great insight. I asked a bunch of running related questions, some questions about diet, and some other questions that I have a personal interest in. I enjoyed it, and I believe you will too. 

Among many other things, I'm a sucker for personal development. I've been listening to Jeff Sanders' 5am Miracle Podcast for several months, and it's inspired many positive changes to my daily life. His podcast is about much more than waking up at 5am; I'd encourage you to check it out if you haven't already. He does a much better job describing who he is and what he does, so here we go: 

First, please introduce yourself and tell us where we can connect with you more.

Hey there! I'm Jeff Sanders, host of The 5AM Miracle Podcast, which you can find at In addition to my weekly podcast episodes I also write a new blog post every week at about dominating your day before breakfast. I am a productivity coach, author, personal development fanatic, and avid marathon runner. I also eat a vegan diet filled mostly with raw fruits and vegetables. 

When did you start running? I seem to remember that it was during your time at Truman State, but did you run as you were younger as well?

Growing up I was active in many sports including soccer and track & field during high school. I was a sprinter and high jumper, but never a long-distance runner. I began running as a sport the summer after my junior year in college. I had just returned from a study abroad semester in Prague and I was desperate to lose weight and get healthy again. Running was my best idea to jump start my fitness and it worked. 

When did you decide to start ultra running?

I began running ultras after I had already run about 6 marathons. The more I ran, the more I wanted to run. Ultras are a natural progression from marathons.

When was your first ultramarathon? And are there plans for more?

My first ultramarathon was the Nashville Ultramarathon in 2010. I ran 50k (31 miles) and it just about killed me. I ran that same race again the next year and ran a bunch of ultras in training in the years after those races. I don't have an ultra on the calendar at the moment, but one of my bucket list goals is to run the Leadville 100, which is a 100-mile mountain ultramarathon in the Rockies of Colorado. So, I will certainly be in training for another ultra soon.

Why did you begin running ultras? What attracts you to the Lon distances and the trails?

I began running ultras because running is addictive and I wanted to push myself to see how far I could run before I hated it. Turns out that I start hating it around 35 miles, but that can improve with more running. I love running trails more than anything because I love being outdoors and it's more comfortable and challenging to run on dirt, as opposed to concrete or asphalt. I love long distances because I can transform my mind and body in ways nothing else can. It's incredibly powerful.

Did you dive right in to ultras or did you take it slow? For example, did you get "comfortable" or confident running half marathons before running a full, and the same with full marathons before a 50k, before a 50 miler, etc.

My very first race was a full marathon, so I didn't take it slow in the beginning. But, after that I did back track and build more endurance before I built up to my first ultra. I have a tendency to not train enough for my races, which makes race day very difficult and forces me to have to dig deep to finish the run. It's not a good strategy and I will be changing that going forward. Training makes a big difference and I want to be able to enjoy my ultras, not just survive them.

What percentage of your runs would you say are with other runners?

Zero. I only run alone because I don't know very many people who actually want to do what I do. Also, I prefer to run alone. I get the chance to think, clear my mind, and make plenty of mistakes.

Would you call yourself a "runner" as if it is part of your identity, or is running just something you do?

I didn't call myself a runner or a marathoner until after I had run 3 marathons. It was very challenging to think of myself as a runner for a long time because it wasn't part of my identity. Now, I am proud to say I am a runner and I love talking about it!

What are your favorite pair of trainers, and why?

I have a pair of New Balance 980s that are very comfortable and fun to run in. I normally don't like running shoes with a lot of cushion, but these are hard to beat.

What are some social barriers that you run into as a vegan and as a runner? Things like eating out with friends, being asked the same questions constantly, etc. This question can also be interpreted as what are the most annoying things about the lifestyle you chose?

The social barriers were tough at first. Now, the only annoying thing is meeting new people who think being vegan is dangerous or just plain weird. Fortunately, more people are vegan today than ever before and more options are available to vegans. My friends and family have no problem with my diet and going out is easy. I can find great vegan food at 99% of the restaurants I go to. 

What is your background as a vegan/vegetarian?

I ate a standard American diet for the first 25 years of my life. That means that I ate what most Americans eat: meat, cheese, processed food, fast food, and otherwise really fatty and unhealthy junk. In 2010 I read a few great books and watched the documentary Earthlings, which converted me to a vegan overnight. Now, more than 4 years later, I have tried just about every form of veganism in existence. I have been a vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, vegan, raw vegan, low-fat raw vegan, and even a junk-food vegan. Today, I eat a vegan diet with as much low-fat raw fruits and veggies as I can.

I've heard you say a few times that you follow Dr. Graham's 80/10/10 diet. What prompted you to make this choice other than reading his book? And how closely do you follow this diet?

I was initially inspired by Michael Arnstein, who is a very successful ultramarathon runner. Michael eats the 80/10/10 Diet and promoted it like his life depended on it. I was convinced to read the book, but I wasn't initially that impressed. Eating that much raw food seemed a bit extreme. I tried it for a few months, then stopped. Two years later I gave it another try and it stuck. I am a huge fan now of 80/10/10 and I really believe it's the healthiest diet on the planet. I follow 80/10/10 principles every day, but I wouldn't call myself a person who eats 80/10/10 because I do eat cooked food. My goal is to eat more than 50% raw fruits and veggies every day, which is easy with green smoothies and plenty of bananas.

What does a day of eating look like for you?

Every morning I start with 1 liter of water, a double espresso, and 64 ounces (2 liters) of a green smoothie. I snack on fruits until lunch and then I normally eat rice and beans or something similar. I drink an afternoon tea and snack on more fruits. Dinner varies, but I try to eat a salad along with either soup, gluten-free pasta, or another smoothie. 

What is your perfect smoothie recipe?

My favorite smoothies include all organic tropical fruits that are in season, ripe, and fresh. My favorite fruits are bananas, pineapples, and peaches. In my experience, nothing beats a pineapple and peach smoothie in July or August here in the US. 

What are you reading right now?

I just started reading Spark by John Ratey. It's a great book that makes the connection between fitness and brain health. In short, working out is better for your brain than your body and it's a really good idea to exercise consistently even if you're not training for a race.

Are you a fan of the mainstream professional sports in the US? If so, who are your teams?

I would not call myself a sports fan because most men in the US know A LOT more about sports than I do. I can't keep up with the conversations, so I don't even try. I do like to follow my hometown Missouri Tigers in American college football. I also like to watch baseball during the playoffs, especially if the St. Louis Cardinals are playing. 

What are some of your non-running and non-business related hobbies or passions?

I really enjoying backpacking and mountain climbing. Depending on the trip, climbing mountains might even be more fun for me than running. I also love international travel, so I try to leave the US at least once a year.

I don't believe you're a beer guy at this point in time, but I must ask what your favorite beer is right now?

True, beer doesn't like me very much. I have a lot of digestion issues with all the carbonation in beer. But, I do enjoy a great dark stout on tap whenever I can find one. I live in Nashville and there are plenty of great craft breweries in town with great vegan beer.

You've mentioned that you're involved in Christianity, would you say that running has impacted your spiritual life in any way?  

Great question. Running was one of the main reasons I reconnected with God and my spiritual journey. Running has a profound way to clearing my mind and allowing me to reflect on the beauty all around me. I can't help but feel closer to God when I run.

I want to thank Jeff for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this for me. Be sure to check out his podcast, and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook

Sunday, September 28, 2014

008 The P-Word and the 8 Worst Parts of Being a Vegan Runner

[More of a list person? Here you go:
1. People say/ask annoying things such as, "But where do you get your protein!!!?"
2. Fresh produce doesn't stay fresh very long. 
3. Fruits and veggies have lots of fiber. 
4. Injuries and bad weather are bad. 
5. Sweaty running clothes are smelly. 
6. Traveling light is tricky. 
7. Some people are mean. 
8. Eating out can be an adventure.]

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to the meat and dairy industries' marketing teams who have convinced too many US-Americans that we need insane amounts of protein in our diet. It's safe to say that I'm posed with the protein question on a daily basis. It's an annoying part of life that I've gotten used to, and I'm not even one of those loud or preachy vegans who makes sure everybody knows how I eat. 

I could sum this portion up by saying that "people will say/ask silly things," but I don't want to mislead anybody. Here's a short list of things I hear regularly:
"Aren't carbs bad for you?"
"I couldn't live without eating (some animal product)!"
"What do you even eat!?"
"You know, Jesus ate meat." Or some other religious statement about meat. 
"Vegetarian just means 'poor hunter' in some ancient language." 
"My food poops on your food!"
"Don't plants have feelings too?"
"Is chicken considered meat?"
"Wait, is (insert animal product here) an animal priduct?"
"How far can you run?"
"How fast can you do a mile?"
"Don't you know that running is bad for your knees?"
"Why do you insist on wearing those little shorts?"
"That's why you're so skinny!"

Now, I know that many people saying these things mean no harm, and I still love and respect them, but that doesn't make them any less annoying. There, I said it. 

I understand that the lifestyle I choose is foreign or "extreme" to many people, and I'm the first real-life example of a vegan that many people encounter. This sparks curiosity. I get that. I choose to live differently, so I can't be upset when I'm treated differently. 

Now that that's off of my chest, there are a few other inconveniences that I've run into, or continually run into. At the forefront is the juggling act of keeping fresh produce on hand without it spoiling. 

Make no mistake about this, I'm a smoothie guy. 

I regularly consume two or three 30 ounce smoothies a day. I will go on record saying that the Nutribullet changed my life in the best way. 

Each of my smoothies are made entirely of whole foods: fruits, sometimes nuts or seeds, and occasionally some vegetables. I'm able to freeze fruits before they spoil and use them for smoothies later on, but I'm often out of the fresh fruit that I'm craving. I'm on a tight budget, so letting food spoil is not a thing I want happening. That being said, I do believe that long-term health is an investment and I'm okay with spending a big chunk of my paycheck at the grocery store or farm stand, but that's a topic for another time. 

Eating a large amount of fruits and veggies means that I get a lot of fiber in my diet, and its effects are obvious. I understand that this apart of good health, but it can still be an inconvenience. For this reason I've been called a "salad shooter" by more than one person, and I think we can leave this topic alone now. 

Injuries and other circumstances that keep me from running are the worst. Awful weather, having to work late, forgetting running shoes on a trip. These things all happen, and it never feels good to give up a run. 

I'm a sweater. I sweat a ton. I can break a sweat by tying my shoes. Because if this, I've had roommates complain about smelly running clothes, and then turn around and give me a hard time for washing them in the shower or sink. There's no winning here if you're living in a place without a washing machine. 

Packing light while traveling is tricky. Bringing running clothes is essential, as is Body Glide and my calf sleeves. These are the necessities, and my daily clothes and toiletries get whatever room is left after these items are packed. I've travelled and brought all of my running clothes and forgotten to bring spare underwear. It happens. 

Traveling by plane also means an extended period of time without my Nutribullet. I've consulted the Google machine, and I've found nothing that that leads me to believe that I can get it past the TSA agents in my carry on. 

I began by sharing the annoying things that people say to me. But there are people who are just intentionally mean. Honking at a runner isn't funny. Neither is a screaming at them as you drive by. And, believe it or not, calling somebody a "fag" or some other awful insult isn't cool either. The people who do these things are in the minority, but it's not all that uncommon for these things to happen in my short jaunts on the road while I'm on my way to a trailhead. Please don't be that guy. 

Also, I'm not sure what about it is about  eating plants that makes people question my masculinity or heterosexuality, but that's a thing. 

Eating out with friends can be an adventure-that is, if they still invite you out. Some will feel a weird sense of guilt and not invite you out in fear that you won't find something great to eat. Invite your vegan friends to hang out with you; they still like being social, even if they eat differently. If they're smart they'll eat before hand, or bring a bunch of bananas to the bar, or even find something in the menu to eat. 

This isn't a complete list, but these are the most bothersome things to me. I can't tell you how much time I've spent reading food labels, or how much it sucks to disappoint somebody by turning down their home made sweets because you know they used eggs to bake them. 

Please don't read this post as a complaint or a "poor me" type of post. It's just an insider's view of this lifestyle to those considering it, or for those curious. In fact, this is more of a testament as to how much I enjoy this lifestyle that I put up with all of the little inconveniences and I'm still happy. 

Did I forget anything? What surprised you about these little annoyances? Feel free to share below. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

007 My Journey as a Runner/Veg(etari)an

[Hi friends, this is my longest post yet. If you don't want to read the whole thing, no problem. Here's a quick summary: in high school I was a (small school) all-state sprinter with injury problems. These injuries led me becoming jaded on competition and I quit running after one year of college track. A few years later, after transferring schools, I joined the track team and got hurt again almost immediately. This time, however, I wanted to keep competing so I moved up in distance so I could still be apart of the team. I stopped eating meat in late 2005, and only this past summer stopped consuming all animal products for ethical reasons. Now that my time running track is over, I'm running purely for fun and I'm falling in love with trail running and the dream of completing a 100 mile race one day.]

Growing up I had every intention of becoming a professional football player. I spent my Sundays watching my idol, "Prime Time" Deion Sanders. 

I attended small, private schools through high school and wasn't able to play school sports until seventh grade. That year I played football and basketball, and I ran track. Looking back I can see that I was the most mediocre guy on the football field and basketball court, but I showed a bit of potential on the track. I was the only seventh grader to run on the 4x100m relay team-one that included an eventual state champion/record holder and another guy who was an eventual collegiate all-american. 

This was great, because before I showed up to practice that spring, I didn't even know what track was. I did it because my dad was a runner in high school and he told me to do it too. 

Eighth grade was when I had my first taste of real success. Coming off of a big turnaround football season and a championship basketball season, I was ready to go when track season arrived. I went on to win every race that I ran that year. 

High school track began slow, but I eventually made the varsity relay teams by the end of my freshman year, and got early experience competing at the state meet, even if we did lean heavily on our all-state anchor leg. 

From this time on, I was a track guy. 

I tried football and basketball in high school, but I ended up breaking my collar bone playing football, and I was hardly good enough for freshman basketball as a sophomore. I should note that I got my big growth spurt early, and I contribute much of my success in middle school sports to this. By the time I was a sophomore in high school all of my peers had out grown me, and my advantage was gone. I'm about the same height now at 24 that I was when I was 13. 

It was also around this time that I stopped eating meat. I'm not sure what got into my fifteen year old mind, but I had made the realization that eating chunks of dead animals was gross, unfair, and unnecessary. 

There wasn't any sort of graphic PETA video or anything like that -- it just sort of happened. 

I was given a lot of grief for this decision by my then track coach, but when I continued to improve they stopped giving me a hard time. 

Eleventh and twelfth grade were focused on track, and when it was all said and done I had run in the state meet three of the four years, collected a box full of ribbons and medals, and earned a second place finish in the 4x100 meter relay in what I thought was my final race. 

It wasn't until a month or so after I graduated that I decided to run in college. I was convinced by my high school coach from ninth and tenth grade to run on a team that wasn't much more than a club team. In fact, I believe that I held school records for the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100 meter relay. This isn't because I was fast; it was because I was the first to run these events in the existence of the program. (side note: this program has grown dramatically since then, and has seen much success)

The truth is, my junior year of high school was my strongest on the track, and the next two years were filled with injuries, PT appointments, and disappointment. 

After just one year of college track, I decided to hang up my spikes for good and transfer to a community college without a track team to pursue academics and work. I was jaded and happy to be done with the living the life of an athlete. 

Oddly enough, as jaded as I was on competition, something inside of me wanted to give coaching a shot. Timing was right for me, and I became the sprints coach at my high school at 19 years old. I made a ton of mistakes, learned a lot, had fun, and finished the season with a handful of all-state sprinters, and a state champion relay team.

I was hooked. I knew from that point that I would coach track forever. 

It wasn't the success that the athletes were having, or the opportunity to create workouts that I loved; it was the daily interactions with the student-athletes. I got to be there for them, and walk through tough times with them. I coached another season of track, and I branched out to helping with cross country before I made my initial move to Santa Barbara. 

I transferred to a small NAIA school with a historically successful track program. I had the itch to compete again after coaching for two seasons, so I got in touch with the coach and he said he'd give me a shot. I joined the team as sprinter because that's all I had known. I quickly re-injured my hamstring, and had to face the music: sprinting wasn't for me any longer. My coach, who I admire greatly, presented me with two options: move up in distance and keep competing, or quit because my body can't handle the explosive nature of the sprints. 

I stayed on the team, made great memories with wonderful friends, and learned to love running. I ran two seasons of track and one season of cross country. My times and finishes wouldn't indicate that I was especially successful, but I gave it my best shot, and I picked up a lot of knowledge and wisdom along the way. 

Having a few years of coaching under my belt at this time, I clung to what Coach shared with us. I saved all of the handouts he gave us, and I regularly steal ideas from him since I've returned to coaching. 

This brings me to the summer of 2013, and I wrote about this time in more detail last month, but here's a quick summary: I was a new college graduate trying to figure things out, and I was running because I thought I was supposed to; it's the identity that I had built for myself. After months of wrestling with the question of why I was running I concluded, quite simply, that I was running because I can, it was fun, and because it gives me the joy of a little kid. 

It's now September 2014, and two overlapping passions have led me to eating an entirely plant-based diet and running on trails rather than roads, with a dream of completing a 100 miler one day. 

I've become almost obsessive over reading food labels and trying new things with my diet to optimize  my nutrition while giving up all animal products to do my small part in showing love to non-human animals and protecting the environment. 

Trail running is a whole new adventure for me. I was a numbers based runner, and my numbers aren't as pretty any more. My miles are (significantly) slower, and I'm not running as far due to elevation gains and technical trails. This was hard to swallow at first, but I'm enjoying the opportunity to get out in nature and explore new trails more than I did running fast on the same roads over and over. 

I'm learning a lot from trial and error: what kind of foods does my body like? What types of workouts can my body handle? When is it okay to walk while on a trail run? How much can I push this Achilles injury before it's unbearable? 

My twelve years of running have taught me a lot, and, as with most disciplines, I've found that the more I learn, the more I realize I don't actually know.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can share the chapter of my story where I went from 100 meter runner to 100 mile runner. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

006 Out of Control Intent

When creating Chasing Kale my goal wasn't to be overly personal, but I only know what I know; this post reflects my recent/current experiences.

I've made it no secret that I'm in a time of transition. I recently moved to a new city that I'm (re)acquainting myself with, I'm (re)establishing community here, I'm still not working (though I have been hired for an ideal position and I'm just waiting for the state send fingerprint results back), I'm seeking a new church home, I'm recovering from this Achilles injury, it looks like I'm going to be training for a new distance once I do return, and I'm experimenting with my diet trying to find what suits me best ethically, athletically, and practically (I'll probably share about this at some point).
I believe I've mentioned this before, but I'm a sucker for change.

Even so, having this much change happening at once leaves me wanting some resolution. I don't want everything to be resolved, because that's no fun, but I'd like some of it to be resolved.

I've been reading John Wooden's book, Wooden on Leadership, where he outlines his famed Pyramid of Success. Everything Coach Wooden says is golden, but two different concepts have struck a chord with me thus far. The first is to "control the controllables". Wooden didn't word it as such (in fact, I took this wording from Hall of Fame volleyball coach Judy Lovre from my time at Western Oregon University), but Wooden focuses on controlling what you can, and letting the score take care of itself. He never told his team to go out and win, rather he told them to go out and give their best effort.

They did, and Wooden has ten NCAA titles to show for it.

In my situation, I need to focus on what I can do rather than get upset with my Achilles, or with the state taking so long to process my fingerprints. What can I control here? Fortunately, not much. Yes, I do mean fortunately. Not having control relieves me of the stress of having to worry about getting stuff done.

It's not on me any longer; I've already done my part.

The second idea I'm stealing from Wooden is the idea of intentness. He uses this term to sum up diligence and determination, fortitude and resolve, or persistence. I'll add to this patience. Each of these are qualities I'm aiming for in each of my little transitions. At this point only one of seven of these current transitions have some resolution within sight-I'm starting work in the next few weeks. The other six have no end in sight, and this has left me frustrated, and discouraged at times. Even my watch was teasing me by trying to get me to run while I was intentionally taking a break in order to recover. This quality of intentness is one I can and need to show in a number of different ways towards my current challenges.

Intentness and controlling the controllables are not unrelated. Not even close. In my current situation I'm being intent to control what I can, giving my best effort and let the score take care of itself rather than waste my time worrying or feeling depressed.

I'm not going to try to connect these ideas to your running and/or veganism (which are, after all, the focual points of the blog); I'm sure you can do this yourself. I do, however, believe that these ideas can be encouraging to anybody in a transitional time, whether it involves running or not.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic; I'd love to hear them.

Quick note: the morning after I posted this, I received confirmation that I'll be starting work a week earlier than initially planned, and my schedule will be ideal to allow me to pursue a great coaching opportunity. Very excited about all of this. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

005 Running Irresponsibly

In strictly running terms, the past two weeks has been dreadful for me. I've not been able to get any sort of mileage in. As soon as I think I'm taking a turn for the better, the Achilles begins to act up again. Currently, I'm in day three of strictly no running. I'm disciplining myself in the worst way. As a coach, this is how I treat athletes who break some terrible rules.

The time off has found me (re)exploring the beautiful town of Santa Barbara. I've also had a lot of time to read. Currently, I'm reading a book about diet, a book about coaching, and, you guessed it, a book about running. I love having the opportunity to learn new ideas from experts in these fields; some of their ideas I'm adopting into my own life, and others I'm throwing away as soon as my eyes pass over the words on the page. 

Today's post comes from thoughts I'm developing from combining reading and the exploration of Santa Barbara. I'm looking into local races in the future, reading about the great trail runs that are so close, I'm seeing beautiful photos like the ones on Scott Jurek's Instagram, and I'm seeing race updates from iRunFar. I want in on this ultrarunning thing. 

Nothing in my background indicates that I'll be super successful at it. In high school I was an all state sprinter, and my time running in college saw me go no further than half a mile on the track. Not once did I complete an 8k (our standard distance) race in my lone season of cross country. But I still want to do it. 

Am I being irresponsible? I have somewhat of a "gift" in running shorter distances of 5k's and 10k's. I tend to place towards the top of my age group in local races, so why would I "waste" what I have to go on and try something that, on paper, doesn't look like it'll work out? 

I do have a history of making decisions that don't make sense on paper, and finding that they were great decisions. I moved abroad for 10 weeks with a group of people I hadn't met before; I moved to Santa Barbara (the first time), enrolled in a school I couldn't afford, and joined the track team after not competing for two years. My last two moves (the current one included) I signed a lease without having a job or much money saved up. So, it's a thing I do. I take dumb chances, and they always end up going great for me. 

Do I make the dumb chance to begin ultra running once I'm back from this Achilles injury? I was 5ish weeks into my twelve week training plan for a half marathon in October. Now, I'm not sure I want to do it because I'm missing so much time. I know I won't be at my best, and If I don't hit my goal, I'd be bummed. 

I'm not set on one way or the other. This fascination with ultrarunning could wear off before I'm even able to put foot to pavement (or trail) again. But the idea of it sure is exciting.

What are your thoughts on choosing which race distance to train for? I suppose that this ties in with my post from a few weeks ago. Do you make your choice on what to train for because you're good at it? Because you can win races? Because it's a challenge? To be social? Or because, on paper, it's not realistic? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

004 Dealing With Injury/Disappointment

This past week has been a big one for me. It's been filled with change-both positive and negative change. if you know me, you know that I love change; in fact, I crave it.

The most notable change is that I've moved 1000 miles south to the beautiful coastal town of Santa Barbara where I finished college a little over a year ago. I'm now surrounded by different people, establishing new routines, and looking for work. I love living here again. I can go to the beach daily, the weather is consistently perfect, and the people I'm in community with are very encouraging.

Even with all of these positive things happening to me I find myself dwelling on the negative: I'm unemployed and injured. I want to share some thoughts on the latter.

Last week's post was a fun one for me. The night that I wrote it I went out "sprinkler-dodging" for twelve miles in the dark-probably a bad idea, but it was fun. The last few miles of the run found my legs getting tired, but I kept going because I had to get home. I wasn't pushing the pace too hard-I was just cruising and enjoying the warm evening.

The Next morning I woke up with a sore left leg. Through some self-diagnosis and the power of Google, I've decided that I have a minor Achilles strain. I knew I was in a bit of trouble. Since then, I've been doing different strength exercises, icing, and resting.

Resting is what's killing me. I want to get out and pound the pavement. I know my fitness is good, but my leg can't handle it. This morning I went out for three miles, and that was a big victory. I've done a total of about eight miles since my twelve mile run ten days ago. My training schedule had me doing 34 miles last week, concluding with a twelve mile time trial.

This morning's run was spent experimenting with my stride and foot strike. I was trying to modify what I was used to to make running bearable. I have a background as a sprinter, so as I've made this gradual change to distance running I've kept my forefoot striking habits. I'm a big fan of the forefoot strike, and I'm very glad I developed the habit early, but it's putting a lot of pressure on this Achilles.

Earlier this summer I was getting up as early as 4:30 to squeeze my run into the day, and now that I have all day to train, I'm unable to get out there. When I do get out there, I'm training in heavy shoes with a large heel, working to strike with my mid foot, and I feel slow. I'm used to minimalist style shoes with little to no heel drop, forefoot striking, and being one of the faster people on the road. This is disappointing.

Now, in the grand scheme of things I know that my problems are minimal. I get that. But taking running away from a this runner hurts. I know that I want to do it. And I know if I push it too much it will push back my recovery time. I get that too.

I always try to find the good in bad situations. The good that I can potentially see here is that I'll have experience with this type of injury and I may be able to help somebody else out later on with what I'm learning. I imagine that more good will come out of it, but right now it's no fun.

I plan on having a post next week. Stay tuned.

How have you coped with running injuries? Did they leave you depressed? Or were you relieved in that you didn't have to run anymore?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

003 Why Run?

If you're anything like me, you get asked how come you run quite often. Many times I interpret this to mean "How come you insist on wearing those short shorts so often?" Regardless, I tend to respond by telling them I think it's' fun, which is always countered with some story about running the mile in P.E. class and how traumatic it was. I try to be sensitive to these stories, but I probably don't try hard enough.

I've heard lots of reasons as to why different people run. Some run to win medals, like the Spanish team who protests so they can receive a bronze medal for a fourth place finish at Euros-but I won't get into my feelings on this here. Others run for fun, to be social, to lose weight, or to collect finishers medals and t-shirts. Many run out of compulsion or obligation (i.e. parental pressure or scholarship dollars), and yet others have some deep philosophical reason as to why they run.

So, why do I run? I've struggled with this thought for a few years. Am I running towards something? Am I running away from something? Isn't running away generally seen as cowardly? I'm no coward, so I must be running after something, but what is it? I really struggled with these thoughts shortly after I completed my collegiate running career where I watched my teammates capture our school's first conference title while I was injured. I now had no races on the horizon, and I was just running because it's what I knew. I loved it in college, because I got to run with my teammates, talk about life (and nonsense!), but now I was alone in a city where my friends don't run with me, and I wasn't enjoying it at all. I ran because it's an identity I had created for myself and had some sort of obligation to hold to it.

And then I heard a podcast or read a blog, where the speaker/writer said they felt free when they ran. I'm sorry I have no idea who I stole this idea from, but their idea resonated with me big time. I don't have ro run. Running is an opportunity I have to get out and be like a little kid. I get to wear bright little clothes, run though parks, jump off ledges, and run through sprinklers. I've always felt a little robbed of some childhood experiences, and here's a chance to get them back a few decades later.

Funny thing is that once I embraced this mentality, I began to have this urge to run races again-and be competitive again. My training picked up a bit and I started running faster. I'm now following a training plan, and I 'm still thrilled to have the opportunity to run. This is wild for me, because by the end of college I hated racing. I loved going to practice with my buddies and working hard, but racing was filled with pressure, and, frankly, I wasn't very competitive at that level.

Turns out that running is simply an avenue for me to put being a "grown-up" on pause for a while to go out and play.

Why do you run?

Teammates and I shortly after getting our school logo tattooed on us

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

002 Long Runs

I mentioned this is my introductory post, but I'm training for my first (real) half-marathon, and I want to dedicate a post to it. I ran a half a few years ago, but I didn't train for it appropriately, and I was certainly in survival mode rather than in race mode. This time I'm devoting to a full twelve week training plan, and I have a goal in mind: sub-90 minutes. This boils down to about 6:50 per mile, and that's a pretty ambitious goal for me. I've chosen the City to the Sea Half Marathon in San Luis Obispo on October 12th.

My biggest surprise since starting this training plan has been how boring my training had been before. I was in a rut where all of my runs were just runs. No fartlek training, no tempo runs, no runs longer than five miles, no speed work, just boring runs along the same routes. Now, I've come to love my routes through downtown Salem and the four city parks that all within two miles of my apartment, but my running wasn't really that fun. I now look forward to Tuesdays (speed work) and Saturdays (long runs) because it shakes things up a bit rather than the same old thing. Matt Frazier shared his thoughts about this last month. When I read it I thought his post was nice, but it didn't click for me until I made the same realization for myself.

This training plan includes weekly long runs of up to fourteen miles. In high school my long distance runs were 400 meters, and in college the furthest I raced was 800 meters. This was a shocker to me. I'm three weeks in and I've completed long runs of eleven and twelve miles now, and I have a few more twelve milers before my fourteen mile run. I've found these runs to be the most satisfying of all my training. It gives me over an hour to get away and be alone with my thoughts.

One of these runs came this past Saturday, which coincided with my birthday. A few miles in I caught myself thinking about how lucky I am to have the opportunity to get out and run twelve miles. We spent the weekend camping in Central Oregon, and I ran the majority of the twelve on the beautiful Cascade Lakes Highway with gorgeous mountain views at every turn. Here I was on a run that I was dreading a few weeks prior, on vacation, on my birthday, and I was loving it. I couldn't get the smile off of my face. I'm learning to love long runs rather than just the idea of them.

In addition to adopting an actual training plan, I've recently changed my diet to one that is completely plant-based. There are both ethical and nutritional components as to why I chose this route, and I'm very happy that I made the leap. This is one of the changes I've made in the past year (past two months) that I've wanted to make foe a long time. I've eaten a meat-free diet for about eight and a half years before deciding to give up cheese, milk, and eggs completely. I've always envied those who could eat this way, thinking about how "bad ass" it was due to it's difficulty and the commitment required. Now I'm one of those bad asses, and I don't know that I've ever been this fit and energetic before.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. How do you mix up your training? How has your diet played a role in your training? Do you have any fun vegan recipes for me? Do you, like me, have a story of watching others do something you wish you were doing for years before you began to do it?

Monday, August 11, 2014

001 Dream Awake

As a season of my life draws to a close, I'm finding myself reflecting over the past year or so since I've been back in Salem. What have I done? Have I made a difference? How have a I grown? Why did I do these things? What do I want to keep and what do I want to throw away going forward?

This last question is both literal and figurative. I just turned twenty-four this past weekend, and only in the last year or so have I started pursuing a lifestyle that I want to live rather than conform to that around me. I now ride my bike far more often that I drive my car. I'm eating a vegan diet. I'm living very minimalistic. I am dedicating myself to my running and training for a specific race with a specific goal. All of these things have been attractive to me, but I was living my life half-way rather than diving in and making my story my own. I'm throwing away meaningless habits and adopting new ones.

I was never okay with being the odd one in a crowd, but now I am. I think part of this stems from being the kid who was fortunate enough to go to private school, but not coming from a background that "fit in" with my classmates. I put on a show. Sure, there were elements of me in there, but I wanted to show that I belonged to this seemingly exclusive club, and being myself didn't gain interest.

All this to say, that I've always envied those who blog and had a network of like-minded people to share ideas with. I want in. I'm not the strongest writer, and I'll be making myself pretty vulnerable here, but I'm pursuing another activity that I've always secretly wanted to do.

The aim of this is to share thoughts and ideas mainly about living an active lifestyle. More specifically, I'll probably write about running and eating a plant-based diet quite a bit to begin with, but I don't want to limit myself to just these topics. As this blog grows, I'm sure my ideas will too, and my posts will follow suit.