My First Ultra Marathon (Attempt): Why I Don’t Eat Meat. (Part 1)

“Any idiot can run a marathon, but it takes a special idiot to run an ultra-marathon”
Dean Karnazes

You should have seen the face on my waiter at the Mexican restaurant, “So, wait? You don’t want any meat?” He paused, bewildered.
“That’s right.” I said.
“No steak, Nate?” He burrowed harder into his investigation.
“That’s right, the vegetarian plate.”
He beamed, “So… no chicken?” His eyebrows danced along with his shoulders and smile. He also snickered.
“Nope, and no fish either.”
“What about—”
“No cheese.”
He grinned hard enough to split his face into two pieces.
I returned his enthusiasm remembering previous conversations with this server, where he told us he is a member of a vegetarian church. He must have assumed I was a fresh recruit to their flock.
“I’m training to run for a long time.”
His smile turned to apprehension.
“Why, you in trouble?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”

Two years earlier, my boys and I sat on the deck of a cruise ship, chowing down on two-and-a-half-foot-tall ice cream cones; because if you didn’t know, cruises are eating festivals. When you get hungry, you eat. When you get bored, you eat. When you get sleepy, just eat. It’s like being trapped up in a Golden Corral for 3 days. My biggest weakness on the cruise was the free, self-serve ice cream stations littered across the ship. I couldn’t help myself. “I brought you some ice cream, Lt. Dan!” I came home from vacation, a zombie.
Three months later, I sat on the recliner with a bag of Cookout in my lap; it was my second trip that day to the mecca of cheap hamburgers and chicken tortilla wraps, and $1 milk shake add-ons. My wife was telling me all about a new fad diet called Keto. She had been researching it and that night we watched a movie about it. In the video, they showed how this new diet could alter my mood, reignite my tastebuds, and make my “dad belly” to go bye-bye. So on July 18th, 2018, I started a bacon-based diet, and it was as tough as dried dog crap to do. But, two weeks later, I had dropped 14 pounds and felt wonderful! Soon after, my doctor informed me that my blood sugar, or A1C, measured right under the diabetic level and she expected me to stay on the low-carb diet as long as possible. I would lose 40 pounds and my wife would even become pregnant after 10 years after losing almost 70 pounds.
But my diet change wouldn’t last. When she found out we were pregnant. I gave up on Keto. I gained back the weight, and my mood went to doo-doo, once again. And although, I pulled myself back together in October and shed 20 pounds, I knew I couldn’t sustain “The Way of the Bacon” forever.
When I was a teen, I read the book, Ultra-marathon Man by Dean Karnazes. Now, Dean is a total carnivore, but he inspired me to be a long-distance runner one day. And in my twenties, I lost 70 pounds and ran three times a week for many months. But after a freak moped accident and three months on the couch, my weight had returned.
Six months ago, I caught the running bug again. I was already down 20 pounds from Keto and was walking a lot while I worked, so it didn’t take long to see my milage creep up. I started reading, which is my go-to when I’m learning or obsessed with a topic. First, I read Finding Ultra,by Rich Roll. This dude spoke about going from an overweight 40-year-old to being an ultra marathoner and ironman endurance athlete. His big take-away? People who don’t eat animal products can train better, recover faster, and preform better than carnivores. The book didn’t remove all flesh from my fork, but fewer animal parts found their way into my mouth afterwards.
I then read Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. And, again I faced yet another athlete, one of the best ultra-marathon runners in history, telling me to cut the animal products and I will go further.
Then I watched a few documentaries: The Game Changers, From the Ground Up, Forks over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. These also concluded with the same answer.
So there I was, explaining to my waiter why my meal would look so naked tonight. And here I am now, the man who once pouted all night because his wife didn’t fix a meat entrée for their meal. A man who has uttered hundreds times, “I gotta have some meat when I eat.”, still four months later, not eating meat, and not wanting to either. Will it help me finish my race? I hope so. Will being plant-based make me feel like a better person? Maybe. Does going vegan make me less sore, run further, and feel stronger? I think so.

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