A very special announcement

An inspirational quote from The Office‘s Michael Scott:

When I retire, I don’t want to just move to some island somewhere. I want to be the guy who gives it all back. I want it to be like:

‘Hey… who donated that hospital wing that’s saving so many lives?’

‘I don’t know. It was anonymous.’

‘Well, guess what. It was Michael Scott.’

‘But how do you know? It was anonymous.’

‘Because I’m him.’

Every year when I set goals at New Year’s, I always include a goal of giving to a charity whose cause I sympathize with.  And almost every year, it doesn’t happen.  I get caught up in other stuff, that goal takes a backseat, and by the end of the year I find myself in no position to make the donation I had hoped to make.

This year, it will be different.

I set the goal of giving 1000 dollars this year to help animals, and to make sure it happens, I’ve decided to give all advertising revenue that I earn from this blog’s pageviews in 2010 to [UPDATE: I had to delete the name after they asked me to, saying it was a legal issue and would require too much paperwork to comply with the laws].  That means that every time you load a page on No Meat Athlete, you will have helped protect animals just a little bit.

At this blog’s current readership levels, 1000 dollars is about what it earns from ad revenue in a year.  If the amount falls short at the end of the year, I’ll make up the difference.  On the other hand, if the amount exceeds 1000 dollars, which I fully expect it to as the blog continues to grow, I will donate that entire amount.  So there’s potential for it to go way beyond 1000 dollars!

linus and sascha photo 300x225I realize that there’s a difference between public giving (i.e. announcing it on your blog) and private giving, the latter being the more clearly altruistic and noble of the two.  But this isn’t about being the best person I can, it’s about donating as much as possible this year to help make sure animals are treated the way they deserve to be.  And by making it known that this blog’s pageviews help that cause, I believe I will generate more such pageviews than if I kept it a secret.  Ergo, more more money to help animals.  Making it public also makes it impossible for me to procrastinate on the goal since I’ll have hundreds of readers to hold me accountable.  (Telling other people about any type of goal, by the way, is a great way to make sure you keep it.)

So that’s the plan, and I can’t tell you how great I feel about it.  Putting my donation resolution first is something I should have done all along, rather than waiting until I was in a financial position to do so (which, as a grad student, I won’t be for a while!).  But I can imagine it’s very easy to rationalize, no matter your financial situation, waiting until you are just a little better off before start giving.  And then it never happens.

In the next few days, I’ll try to find some way of keeping track, on the site, of how much we have raised, so that you can see the good that your reading No Meat Athlete is doing.  And I’ll make sure I find a good way to prove to you that the money is not being deposited in the jar marked “Matt’s post-run beer fund.”

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas to make this even better.  And thank you for reading my blog and making this possible.  Any other bloggers want to join me?

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P.S. Since this post has nothing to do with running, check out my new post on Running Shorts about “Fat Ass” races, like the one I just ran.

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Embracing the Suck: My First Ultra

It wasn’t pretty, but I made it.

Five hours and thirty-four minutes after I started, in temperatures that never got out of the twenties and fierce winds that numbed my face at times, I crossed the finish line of my first trail race, the PHUNT 50K, and officially became an ultramarathoner.

The group I run with (called RUT, short for “RASAC Ultra Team”) uses the phrase embrace the suck to describe the mindset required of an ultrarunner.  I think it’s more often applied to the misery one must endure to complete a 100- or 50-miler, but during the last eight or so miles of my 50K  — “only” 31 miles — I got my first taste of true, unmistakable suck.

In hindsight, there’s no reason why I should have expected anything less.  My oral qualifying exam at school, the holidays, soreness from a new weight training program, and helping out with finishing our basement to make room for the baby limited my December training to 40 miles — less than my weekly average during the month of November.  My longest and hardest December run, a hilly 15-miler to get back in the swing of things, took place less than a week before the 50K and left me sore until last Thursday, just two days before the race.

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Somehow I had convinced myself that it would be ok, that trails are softer than roads and a nice slow pace would make for an easy introduction to the world of ultras.  But when my legs got prematurely heavy after only about 15 miles yesterday, the realization that I was less than halfway finished made it painfully obvious that there would be plenty of suck to embrace if I were going to finish this thing.

I have my friend, Ginn, and my “support crew” — my wife, Erin, and my dad — to thank for making this day a success, and not what it easily could have been, a bailout after about 20 miles.  Ginn, who was running the marathon-distance option, ran with me until our courses split off at about the 23-mile point (en route to taking second place in the marathon category!).  It would have been extremely difficult for me to finish the race after I started hurting if I had been alone for the whole thing — the loneliness and uncertainty of whether I was even on course during the final eight miles made that the hardest part of the day.  Well, that and the few-hundred-foot incline at about 20 miles that was so steep we had to pull ourselves up most of the way by grabbing onto the trees and literally climbing.

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And without having Erin and Dad there to give me extra clothing (thank you, Recovery Sock armwarmers!), exchange my shoes (my new ones gave me blisters after 10 miles, not surprising considering I had only worn them once before this), and to simply be familiar human faces and voices in the stark lifelessness of the woods and wind-exposed fields in January, there’s no way I would have made it.

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Our dogs came along too, and clearly had an extremely hard day:

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I felt alternately terrible and elated during the final, lonely eight miles, at times wondering why I was doing this and at others, becoming overjoyed with a feeling of accomplishment and anticipation of finishing.  I knew there was hot soup, cold beer, and lots of congratulations and stories of others’ days waiting for me.  And at this point I realized what embracing the suck means.  Doing it sucks, having done it is ecstasy.  You suck up doing it to get to the having done it, and when the ecstasy wears off, you do it all again.

I kept going, and for a while, it did suck.  But eventually, I forgot about how much it hurt and managed to just put one foot in front of the other.  Walking some steep uphills, and eventually even the steepest downhills, but always pushing forward.  And, sure enough, I finished.  And then I was happy.

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And to think this was only a 50K.  I can only imagine the suck of 50 miles and beyond.  I have at least two more 50K’s, in the next two months, before I do a 50-miler, and I hope to do those much faster than this one by being more prepared and pacing myself better.  And speaking of 50-milers, you can read about my goal of doing one this year at Running Shorts, where Megan and I recently posted our resolutions for 2010.

What I ate, and a giveaway

As promised, I have a prize pack of the drink I used yesterday to give away to a reader.  But first, here’s what I ate, since it’s kind of funny to me.  I tried the no-sugar thing for a while, but soon realized that wasn’t going to work for me on this day, and the aid stations had such tempting stuff!  I’ll get there one day.

  • Handful of almonds
  • 6 pretzel twists
  • 2 cookies
  • Handful of potato chips
  • 2 Fig Newtons
  • 1 orange
  • 2 cups sports drink
  • 1 whole wheat bagel
  • 4 Gu Chomps
  • 40 ounces water with Nuun electrolyte tablets

And the last one is what I’m giving away!  Nuun is a sugar-free electrolyte tablet that you drop into your water to get everything sports drinks give you, without the sugar, of course.  Note carefully: the point is not to run calorie-free.  Nuun allows you to get the electrolytes you need while getting your calories from wherever else you want, sugar or not.

The company sent me a bunch of different flavors to try, as well as some water bottles and stickers.  Erin and I have been drinking water with Nuun every day; we are both hooked on the stuff!  It tastes really good, and has come in especially handy over the holidays in the morning when I’ve woken up feeling just a little under the weather from the previous night’s festivities.  And all the flavors we’ve tried are great.  It comes in citrus fruit, lemon lime, tri-berry, orange ginger, banananuun, and kona cola.

If you haven’t tried Nuun yet, I recommend it, especially if you’re trying, like me, to get away from relying on sugar during your long runs.  You can get it at most running stores, at Nuun’s website, or you can win it here.

So, the giveaway: one winner will receive a Nuun prize pack, consisting of a Nuun water bottle, a Nuun sticker, and two tubes of Nuun (12 tablets each), in citrus fruit and tri-berry flavors.  As always, enter with a comment, no linking or tweeting necessary.  What fun is it if you have to do all that?  Get your comments in by Friday, January 8th, and I’ll announce the winner after that.

Thanks to longtime NMA reader and Nuun rep Tracy for approaching me about the Nuun samples!

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Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Happy New Year!  Hope things didn’t get so crazy on New Year’s Eve that you couldn’t enjoy what is, in my humble opinion, the most inspiring day of the year.  I kicked back a few strong stouts (like 8.5-12.5% alcohol), courtesy of my sister, but I started this morning with some apple/pear/carrot/ginger/beet/orange juice from our new juicer, and that pretty much took care of whatever slight cobwebs inhabited my head to start 2010.

Changin’ it up

As you know, I did a lot of thinking last week about goals, resolutions, and the like.  And I thought a lot about what I want to do with this blog going forward.  I have a surprise I’m excited to tell you about, but I haven’t quite worked out the details, so that one will have to wait for another day or two.

But I also realized something.  I really enjoyed writing the post about inspiring books for my last post of the year, more than I’ve enjoyed writing any other in a long time.   Ever since I qualified for Boston in October, I’ve felt like my ability to inspire with my blog posts has dropped off a bit.  And as a result, so has my drive to write daily blog posts.  I think this is to be expected; qualifying was such a huge goal for me that it’s not easy to top!

So I’ve decided to change the blog a little.  I want to write better posts, more thought-out posts that are interesting to write and (I hope) entertaining to read.  This means they probably won’t be daily; I hope to write at roughly the same 3-4 posts-per-week rate I’ve been doing recently, but with more time spent on them.  I would like to become a better writer too, and though pictures of food certainly have their place on this type of blog, I don’t want the lack of one to prevent me from feeling like a post is worth publishing.

In a nutshell, I want the blog to be more substantial and inspirational, less food-and-training-diary.  Still lots of running stuff, giveaways, product and book reviews, and of course, vegetarian recipes (and food pictures).  And I hope I can bring about more changes in others this year, particularly in the way people think about eating animals.   And Sweet-Tooth Friday won’t go anywhere; in fact, you might be seeing a lot more of Christine — another surprise announcement coming soon!

So maybe you’ll notice the change; maybe you won’t.  I know I’ll have a lot more fun writing it, and I hope that translates into a better blog for you.

My first 50K tomorrow!

In 10 hours from now, I’ll have started running my very first ultramarathon —31 miles.  And hopefully, in another five hours, I’ll have finished.  Since it’s my first, I’m not at all concerned about time — that’s what she said! (Wait, what?)  But I figure five hours is a reasonable estimate.  It’s supposed to be a high of 29 degrees tomorrow, so that should make it interesting.  And pregnant Erin and my dad will be there to watch me run, be my support crew, and take pictures and videos!

I’m really looking forward to it, and just a little nervous.  I’m excited to rock my new trail shoes.  A little risky to wear new shoes, but what the hell.  Also, the drink I’ll have in my hydration system is one I’ve been trying out over the past few weeks since the company sent me a buttload of samples.  And I have some extra samples and a little prize package to give away to one of you, so look for that along with my race recap!

Off to get some z’s before the big day!

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