“Any idiot can run a marathon, but it takes a special idiot to run an ultra-marathon”
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?” He snickered as his eyebrows bounced along with his shoulders.
“Nope, and no fish either.”
“No cheese either.”
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 sons and I sat on the deck of a cruise ship, chowing down on two-and-a-half-foot-tall ice cream cones. On a cruise, when you get hungry, you eat. Bored? you eat. Sleepy, just eat. It was like being trapped in a Golden Corral for three days. My biggest weakness on the cruise was the unlimited, self-serve ice cream littered across the ship. I couldn’t help myself.
“I brought you some ice cream, Lt. Dan!”
Unfortunately, I came home from vacation, a bloated zombie.
Three months later, I flopped into the recliner and laid a huge bag of Cookout in my lap; this 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 rattling on about a new fad diet, Keto. She had been researching it for weeks and that night she showed me a movie about it on Netflix. In the documentary, they showed how Keto could alter my mood, reignite my taste buds, and make my “dad belly” go bye-bye.
On July 18th, 2018, I started a bacon-based diet, and it was as tough as dried dog crap to sustain but I pushed through; 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 ultimately lost 40 pounds and my wife would even become pregnant, after 10 years of infertility, from losing almost 70 pounds.
But this diet change wouldn’t last. When we found out we were expecting, 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 this past October and shed 20 pounds on Keto, 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 returned.
Six months ago, I caught the running bug again. Since I was still down 20 pounds from Keto and was walking a lot while I worked, it didn’t take long to see my mileage creep up.
I started reading, which is my go-to when I’m learning or, more accurately, obsessed with a topic. First, I read Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. He went from being an overweight 40-year-old to becoming an ultra marathoner and Iron Man endurance athlete. His big take-away? People who don’t eat animal products can train better, recover faster, and perform 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 super-athlete, one of the best ultra-marathon runners in history, telling me to cut the animal products to run further.
Then I watched a few documentaries: The Game Changers, From the Ground Up, Forks over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead (you can find most of these on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video). These movies all concluded with the same answer as the books.
So here I am now, a man who once pouted all night because his wife didn’t fix a meat entree for dinner; a person who has uttered hundreds times, “I gotta have meat when I eat.”, still four months later, not eating meat, and not wanting to either.
Will sustaining plant-based diet help me finish my race? I hope so.
Will vegetables and grains make me a better person? Maybe.
Does going vegan make me less sore, run further, and feel stronger? I think so.
Check out my new Facebook group for ultra-runners who weigh over 200lbs, otherwise known as Clydesdales! Find fellow husky runner’s weight-specific gear recommendations, injury mitigation strategies, fueling options, and more!