The Shoe Made of Old Bottles, Tires & CDs—That’s Breaking Distance Records

“It’s good for anything up to a half marathon or so.”

When I asked the Brooks sales reps at the Marine Corps Marathon about the Green Silence, that’s what they told me.  Light, fast, and minimal—just not meant for long distances.

Brooks Green Silence Black Kelly Green 1 300x134I didn’t let it deter me.  I had fallen in love with the Green Silence when I learned about it this summer: Not only is it all of the above, and in my opinion a perfect minimalist alternative to barefoot-style shoes for road running, but it looks awesomely-weird and is eco-friendly.  More on that later.

Good for a marathon and (way) more

Long story short, I wore them in the marathon the next day.  If people can run a marathon barefoot, there’s no reason I can’t do it with a pair of flimsy shoes, I figured.  And in this case, I was right.  No problems other than the (unrelated) IT band issues I expected, and even those could have been far worse.

But get this—after I got home, I found a card in the shoebox listing some of the features of the Green Silence, including the fact that Scott Jurek (everyone’s favorite vegan ultrarunner) wore them at the 2010 AU 24-Hour World Championships.  But he didn’t do much there—he only ran over 165 miles and set a new American 24-hour record.

Let me repeat that.  24 hours, 165 miles.  And yet the Brooks people told me the Green Silence isn’t really for anything more than a half marathon!  Now, I realize Scott Jurek is superhuman—but that doesn’t mean his feet don’t hurt like yours and mine.  And it’s not like he’s a huge barefoot guy, either.  So why Brooks sells the Green Silence as a short-distance shoe, I have no idea.

CD’s, Tires, and Bottles…Oh My!

I knew the Green Silence was eco-friendly, but I didn’t know how or why when I bought them.  Here are just a few of the remarkable “green” features they boast:

  • The laces, meshes, and webbings are made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • The heel counters (the plastic pieces that reinforce the back of the shoe) are made from recycled CDs.
  • The outsoles are made from 30% used tire material.
  • The sockliner foam is fully biodegradable.
  • The packaging is 100% recycled material, with chlorine-free tissue, water-based inks and adhesives, no silica packs, and only minimal stuffing.
  • Brooks uses 50% less material to make the Green Silence than is used in standard shoe manufacturing.

Pretty neat, huh?  I don’t consider myself much of an environmentalist, but even I found this all pretty awesome.  A nice bonus for a shoe I’d probably wear anyway.

Where the rubber meets the road

So all of this greenness is great.  But it doesn’t matter much if the shoes are terrible.  Fortunately, they’re not.  Here’s my personal experience with the Green Silence.

The first thing I noticed about the Green Silence (other than the funky look) was the weight.  They weigh 5.9 ounces, only about 20% more than Vibram Fivefingers.  The upper of the Green Silence is really flimsy—nothing like the stiff material that most shoes are made of, so there’s really no breaking-in to be done to these.

The sole is shorter than that of most running shoes, and the heel isn’t built up much higher than the front of the sole.  These two things were important to me—I wanted a shoe that was a lot like barefoot running or running Vibram Fivefingers, but with just slightly more cushioning, since I find road running in Vibrams to be uncomfortable after a while.  I want these shoes to be my everyday road shoes.

When I put on the Green Silence for the first time to test them out, I noticed that I ran differently.  I naturally landed on my midfoot rather than on my heel, something that I’m still not convinced I even do in my Vibrams.  (I have no idea why the Green Silence should encourage midfoot running any more than the VFF’s, but for me, that’s how it is.)  I could definitely feel the lack of cushioning though, even walking around the expo—if you want a soft feel when you hit the ground like most fancy running shoes give you, the Green Silence are not for you.

green silence laces image 225x300My only complaint about the shoes is the lacing.  Rather than running straight up and down the top of the shoe, the laces curve along the top of the foot.  I’ve found I have to tie the laces pretty tight, due either to this curvature or the flimsiness of the shoe, and by the end of a long run the tops of my feet hurt from the tightness.  I also found that my toes hit the front of the shoe a lot, leaving me with a not-so-pretty nail situation after the marathon.  (Maybe getting a larger size shoe would have prevented this.)

So that’s my take.  Anyone else run in the Green Silence yet?  I’d love to hear if your thoughts are the same as mine.

All I know is this is the first time I’ve been excited about a shoe in a good while (especially one that doesn’t have individual toes on it!). If you decide to buy a pair from Amazon using this link, I’ll get a cut and we’ll all be winners. icon smile

Looking forward to hearing what the barefoot crowd, the racing flat crowd, and the environmentalists think of these babies.  I know you’re out there, so chime in.

“good for anything up to about a half marathon.”
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Don’t Let This Mental Mistake Ruin Your Race

Today I want to talk to you about goals.

No, not life goals and all that self-improvement stuff (though I must say I’m still enjoying the taste of all the Tony Robbins Kool-Aid I drank at a fantastic seminar this weekend).  Instead, I’m talking about the goals you bring into a race, particularly a marathon or half.  And sometimes, the goals you invent during that race.

A Sure-Fire Way to Ruin a Race

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Being old is cool, but finishing like this is not

Ever wonder how to wreck a perfectly good race, and make a day that could have been wonderful turn out to be miserable?

Easy. Here’s how.

  1. Start with a reasonable time goal in mind.
  2. Get all pumped up when your adrenaline surges a few miles into the race.
  3. Change your well-thought-out goal to a new, faster one, based on the fact that you “feel good today.”
  4. Crash and burn, shuffle/walk the last few miles, miss your original goal, and have a terrible memory of the day.

Seriously, I’ve done that so many times.  And I bet most of you have too.

A Rule of Thumb Worth Remembering

I learned something interesting while reading Run Less, Run Faster that’s helpful in combating this all-too-common occurrence.

Here’s the idea.  Imagine that on race day, all your training has resulted in a single race time you have inside of you that you’re capable of running, if you pace yourself perfectly and nothing goes wrong.  Let’s say, for example, that you’re running a marathon and your true (but unobservable) ability is a 3:28:00.

Here’s the interesting thing.  According to Run Less, Run Faster, for every minute you run the first half of your marathon faster than that pace, you’ll lose two minutes in the second half.

Let’s put this in terms of a real race. (Any similarities to the Marine Corps Marathon I just ran are entirely coincidental.  Really.)

So we’re saying your true ability on a given day is a 3:28, but you don’t know it.  You just know you have a goal of 3:30.   Let’s say the first few miles of the race go well, and your adrenaline convinces you to that you’re far more awesome than your “modest” 3:30 goal would indicate, so you decide that today is your day to run a 3:20.  You run that pace for a while, and hit the halfway point at 1:40 (four minutes faster than the 1:44 you should have run it in based on your true ability).

In these terms, the two-minutes-slow-for-every-minute-fast rule means you can plan on running the second half in 1:52, eight minutes slower than your ideal 1:44 pace.

The result?  You hate yourself as you shuffle/walk/limp/crawl through the second half, crossing the finish line in 3:32 (missing your original “modest” goal) and kicking yourself for letting your adrenaline get the best of you like that.  Oh yeah, and your whole day sucks.

One Goal and One Goal Only

I have no idea how many people’s races, especially first ones, are ruined this way.  Even with some experience, I still do it, almost every time I race.  The one time that sticks out in my mind where I didn’t make this mistake was when I qualified for Boston.

Why?  Because on that day, qualifying for Boston with a 3:10 was the only thing I cared about.

I couldn’t have cared less that day if I ran a 3:05 or even broke three hours entirely; that wasn’t why I was there.  If my head were some kind of weird video game where qualifying for Boston was worth 100 points, then running a 3:05 would have been worth 101 points.  Almost no difference.

But a 3:11 would have been worth absolute zilch, and that’s why there wasn’t even a hint of temptation to run faster than my goal pace.  My half splits were almost identical, and I crossed the line in 3:09:59.

So that’s your solution: Pick one goal.

Pick one goal and care enough about it that there’s zero temptation to go faster and risk f’ing it all up because you get swept up in the excitement of race day.

Pick a time that matters to you, and that you think you’re capable of, and just stick to it.  It’s so funny how easily convinced we are to run faster on race day when we’ve been planning on something else for months.

If it’s your first race and all you want to do is finish, a time goal is a pretty terrible idea.  (That’s how I ended up walking the last eight miles of my first marathon.)  Make finishing your goal, take it easy, and if you have a bunch of energy left to sprint the last three miles, well, you’ll be one of a select few whose first marathon ends that comfortably.

If it’s not your first race and you have a time in mind, but there’s nothing exceptionally meaningful about it, then think ahead about how much risk you want to take.  If you think you can run a 4:05, but breaking four hours would mean the world to you, then trying it might be worth the risk, if the idea of bonking and running a 4:20 doesn’t sound all that much worse than a 4:05.

But in most cases, I’d say err on the side of slowness in the first half of the race.  Think about it: Knowing you held back too much early on is still a pretty good day.  You finish strong, kick the ass of the last few miles, and can’t wait to get back out there and see what you’re really capable of.  When you consider the alternative of going out too fast and hating every minute of the last six miles of your marathon, even if these two strategies happen to result in the same finish time, the choice is pretty clear.

What do you think?  Do you play it safe, or always push it no matter what you decided going into the race?

This post is part of a series of posts designed to teach you how to run long and strong.  Go check out the rest!

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Put Down Your Phone and Drive (Before You Kill Me)

This is a guest post from our resident no-meat triathlete, Susan Lacke.

Are you reading this article on your cell phone right now?

iStock 000010832097XSmall 201x300If so, are you behind the wheel of a car?

Please. Put down your cell. NOW. Get to your destination. I promise, I’ll still be here when you come back. Go on.

Seriously. GO.

It seems strange, writing about your driving habits, when most of my articles on this site are about locomotion using the two-wheel variety or the old school hoofin’ it. But now, more than ever, I’m intimately familiar with how 2,000-pound four-wheeled vehicles impact the physical activity of every athlete.

I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Again.

I’m not sure what happened. First I was riding, and then I wasn’t. I was on the road, then I was in someone’s lawn. I was upright, then I was faceplanted in the grass. I was satisfied with a  great workout, then I was crying, scared, and hurting.

This is the third time it’s happened to me. What hurts the most is not the broken ribs. It’s not the concussion. It’s not the road rash and bruises. It’s my faith in humanity.

You see, when I’ve been hit while cycling, the drivers didn’t stop, but just kept on going. When talking with a police officer, I asked why this might be — the answer? They probably didn’t even realize what happened, or, if they did, simply didn’t want to get caught and admit they weren’t paying attention behind the wheel.

When I heard that, it took every ounce of strength I had to maintain my composure. I wanted to have a meltdown. I wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and shake them. I wanted to scream: G-dammit-how-do-you-hit-another-person-and-not-know-it-what-the-hell-ARE-YOU-AN-ASSHOLE-OR-JUST-STUPID-GAAAAAAAAAAH!

Ahem. Pardon my French.

Distracted driving is growing at an alarming rate. In your car, you probably multitask: You drink your coffee, eat your snack, check your e-mail on your BlackBerry, change the music on your iPod, talk to your child in the backseat, read the billboards on the side of the road, daydream, and text. You read about the texting-while-driving accidents in the news and “tsk-tsk-what-a-tragedy” but rest assured that it would never happen to you. You’re a much better driver than that.

Right?

Except for those times when you’re reading an e-mail on your phone and look up and quickly notice the car in front of you is stopped, causing you to slam on your brakes. Or those times when you’re looking for a specific song on your iPod and look up to realize you’re in the oncoming traffic lane. Or those times when you space out and realize you have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of driving.

I’m not really a fan of using scare tactics to make a point. But let’s face it: I’m scared. In a matchup between car vs. bike, the vehicle with heft, seatbelts and airbags beats a simple ultralight bike and helmet every single time. I could be dead. I should be dead. All because someone wasn’t paying attention.

It’s been three weeks since my accident. The road rash is almost all gone, and I can finally take deep breaths again without it hurting too much. But I still can’t bring myself to get back on the roads. I’m terrified.

I’ve written before on how you can stay safe while running, cycling, or swimming. Now, my plea has nothing to do with your participation in any of those activities.

When you drive, promise me you’ll remember you are operating a piece of machinery that weighs thousands of pounds. If you haven’t been hit by a car before, take it from me: You feel every single one of those pounds when you’re hit.

Put down the cell phone. You can wait until you get home to text your friend that you LOL’d (You know weren’t really laughing out loud anyway). You can pull over to the side of the road to call your spouse back about what kind of wine you’d like to pick up for dinner. You can read No Meat Athlete when you’re not behind the wheel of a car. When you’re driving, make that one task your priority. Everything else can wait.

I’ll get the confidence to get back on the road one of these days. When I do, I hope you see me pedaling away in the bike lane.

Really, I hope you see me.

I’d like that.

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What Tony Robbins and Firewalking Have to Do with Running Marathons

The other day, I did an interview at BlogcastFM.com.  It’s mainly about blogging, so if you’re a blogger or you’re just interested in what goes on behind the scenes at NMA, go check that out.

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Coals and marathons aren't so different

But the reason I’m bringing it up is because in the beginning of the interview, we talk about Tony Robbins seminars, and how to make sure your excitement after one of them doesn’t just fade away within a week or two and then you go right back to sucking at life.  And since today I’m headed up to New York to return to Tony’s Unleash the Power Within seminar, I figured that’d be a good tie-in.

One reason not to hate on Tony

Really, I understand that a lot of people think Tony Robbins is corny or a cult leader or that he looks like a giant with a scary face.  And that is totally cool with me.  We all learn differently and are motivated by different things, so I try to temper my nerd-dom and not write about him too much here.

But the truth is that I found the motivation to start this website just three days after I went to my first Unleash the Power Within last year (which is also where I was convinced to stop eating meat, so you should at least like Tony for promoting a mostly-plant-based diet).  And my life has changed drastically since I changed my diet and started this site.  So in that way, when I say the event was life-changing, it’s not an exaggeration.

So anyway, I’m headed back again this weekend, and I’m going with my wife, Erin.  Tonight we’ll walk across coals, as nearly everyone does to kick off the weekend at Unleash the Power Within.  That might not seem like something to look forward to, but it is.

Getting past “No f*$&ing way”

The point of the firewalk, as it’s called, is to get you to break through a fear.  To demonstrate to yourself that you’re capable of doing something which on some level seems impossible (walking across a bed of coals, in this case).

Before I did it last year, I knew intellectually that I could do it.  Lots of other people do it, so surely I could too.  So since it didn’t seem impossible in that sense, I thought it wouldn’t affect me much.

But let me tell you, when you’re actually standing there in front of those coals, all of that intellectual knowledge that plenty of people have done this goes out the window.  It’s just you and 15 feet of red, 1200-degree coals, and at that point, some part of you says “No f*$&ing way.”  But by that point, it’s time to go, and you just have faith and do it.  You storm across those coals, and a few seconds later, you’re across.

And then in some way, you’re different for having done it.

It’s such an obvious parallel to running a marathon, or a half, or a 100-miler.  It’s just that those are drawn out over many weeks of training.  Or if you prefer, over the 2 or 4 or 30 hours it takes to run one.

It seems impossible to your friends and family, and on some level, it seems impossible to you.  But you have faith that you can do it.  So you train for months, sometimes to the detriment of other things.  And then even when it’s time to do it, some part of you still says “No f*$&ing way.”  But then you do it, and when you cross that finish line, you’re different because your circle of “possible” just got a little bigger.

So you see?  My obsession with Tony Robbins isn’t so different from your obsession with running. icon smile

Alright, I’m out.  I have a few guest posts for the rest of this week and part of next, and I’ll try to check in early next week after I get back.  And if I seem a little different, now you’ll know why.

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5 Things I Learned During the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon

Yesterday, I had the immense pleasure of running the Marine Corps Marathon with my brother-in-law and former Marine, Kevin, with the goal of helping him run a 3:30.

kevin and matt running image 300x225We didn’t hit our goal, but it sure didn’t feel like a failure.  On a day when the weather was perfect, on a beautiful course that ran by national monuments and with aid stations staffed by uniformed Marines, our 3:33 represented a PR by seven minutes for Kevin.   For me, the success was in finishing the race, given some uncertainty about my knee that threatened to ruin such a perfect day.

MCM also represented a big change from the races I’ve been running: This was my first actual marathon in over a year.  After months of intense speed training to qualify for Boston last October, I shifted my focus to ultrarunning, and found a lot of relaxation in longer-but-slower running on quiet, crowdless trails.  (At 35,000 people, MCM was also the biggest race I’ve ever run.)

Rather than a standard mile-by-mile recap, which I can sum up much more briefly with “monuments, marines, crowds, knee pain, and lots of warm-and-fuzzies,” I figured I’d just list some things I learned during this race which was so drastically different from everything I’ve run for the past few years.  So here you go!

5 Things I Learned at MCM 2010

Crowds are a blessing and a curse.

Cheerleaders and bands on the sides of the course.  Huge crowds of people at big street corners screaming and cheering.  Even better, seeing your own supporters among them.  These sorts of things give you chills and a surge of adrenaline that you just don’t find in smaller races.

Not so nice is having to shuffle along in a huge crowd after you’ve run 26.2 miles.  Especially with a jogging stroller.  Or the subway being so crowded that you have to walk most of the two miles back to your hotel after the race.

You can run through a lot of pain if you’re willing to pay for it later.

At least three times during this race, my knee hurt so much that I thought I had to stop.  But just at the point when I was ready to tell Kevin he was on his own for the rest, the pain would lessen or go away.

If I were running this race by myself, I probably would have stopped.  If I didn’t know exactly what this injury was, I definitely would have stopped.  But I dealt with IT band syndrome in my other knee a few years ago, and I know that it’s something I can handle.  I’ll be sore and unable to run for a few days, maybe even weeks, but in this case, it’s worth it.

After a year of running ultras, I’ve gotten slower but can handle a lot more.

kevin and matt finish image 225x300I knew deep down that focusing on running far, not fast, over the past year had made me slower.  But I didn’t have proof of that until this race.  Sure, if not for the knee issue, I think I could have run faster.  But definitely not 3:10, and probably not 3:20, either.

By the same token, I couldn’t help but be struck by how easy handling the marathon distance has become.  After 10 minutes of blissful motionlessness and a bag of pretzels after we finished, I realized that this marathon hadn’t obliterated my body the way they used to.  I couldn’t have run any faster, but I could have gone much farther.

Powerade is really good.

In learning to run ultras, I’ve made an effort to consume fewer sugars and train my body to stay in a fat-burning state for longer.  This isn’t about weight loss; it’s about having far more energy in the form of stored fat than in your glycogen reserves (even if your mother tells you you’re all skin and bones).

But a marathon is short enough that you can burn sugar the whole time and keep replenishing it without your stomach totally revolting.  (For me, it starts to revolt after about three hours of eating sugar, but in a marathon, that’s manageable.)

So I must admit that I really enjoyed drinking sugary, red Powerade at almost every aid station.  I think it could have been Kool-Aid and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

There’s something to this whole buying-bigger-shoes trend.

Brooks Green Silence Black Kelly Green 1 300x134I first heard of it from Stu Mittleman, but it seems it’s catching on with others.  For the Vermont 50-miler I went with shoes a size bigger than I normally wear, and even though it was my first run in them, I came out of that race without a single blister.

This time, I again bought brand new shoes the day before this race.  Not something I recommend, but you gotta live a little, right?

I got Brooks’ Green Silence; they’re eco-friendly and extremely light.  But I didn’t buy them big, because they’re so flimsy and light that I worried my feet would slide around in them too much.  As a result, I got a bunch of blisters on my left foot.

But besides that, I loved the shoes. I’ll write more about them in a future post.

Thank-yous

holden carrot costume image 225x300Huge thanks, as always, to everyone who volunteered at the race, and of course to our supporters, Erin, Colleen, Joel, and Holden.  (Holden dressed as an NMA-carrot for his first Halloween!)  And just-as-huge thanks to all of you who donated to support the Semper Fi Fund for injured Marines.  Our team raised over $18,000 dollars (the most of any team, so we got some sweet Camelbaks as a reward), and entire fund raised over $400,000.

And of course, thanks to Kevin for the opportunity to be involved with the Semper Fi Fund and to run this special race.  Next time, we’ll do 3:20!

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When Uncertainty Threatens to Ruin Your Race

Two nights ago, I got shot while I was running the Marine Corps Marathon.

There I was, running alongside my brother-in-law (who happens to be a former Marine), to try to help him break 3:30 for the first time.  Only I didn’t finish the race, because I got shot in the stomach.  And then he didn’t finish in 3:30, and it was all my fault.

As you’ve probably guessed, it was only a dream.  But pacing my brother-in-law to a 3:30 is exactly what I’ll be doing this Sunday.

When I mentioned my dream to my fellow Twitter nerds in the morning, someone linked me to an article about how they’re tightening up security at the MCM because of recent shootings.  Weird.

More interesting, though, was someone else’s response: “Jungian psychology says we’re everyone in our own dreams, so you’re afraid of sabotaging yourself?”

Hmm.

Could there be any truth to this?

My first thought was, “No way.”  I can run a 3:30 marathon.  Twenty-six-point-two miles has been around the halfway point of my last two races, not the finish.  And the last marathon that took me longer than 3:30 was back in 2007.  True, I haven’t done much speedwork since my 3:10 BQ race a year ago, but I’d be shocked if a year of running ultras made me a slower marathoner by more than twenty minutes.

But there’s something else here. This is the first race where if I screw up, it’ll affect someone besides just me.

With that, there’s been more anxiety.  To give myself confidence that I still have a 3:30 in me, I intended to take it easy for two weeks after my 50-miler with a few 8-mile runs, then do a fast 15 or so.

Only that fast 15 didn’t happen.  First my plan got messed up when someone asked me to fill in for them at the Baltimore Marathon relay, which would be only six miles, but fast enough to make my fast, long run the next day hard.  Then I got sick and didn’t run at all that weekend.

Okay, fine. Next weekend then.  A little close to the race, but it would work.  Except that on a quick four-mile run last week, something in my knee started grabbing.   The same feeling I had in the other knee two years ago that ended up being IT-band syndrome.

I haven’t run since then, because I’ve been scared.  My knee was sore for the next day or two.   I’ve figured that rest is better than testing it again.

So that’s where I am now, and it kinda sucks.

I bet you’ve been here before

I’m not unique in going into a race with some uncertainty—if you’ve trained for a marathon or two, you probably know the feeling.  As the training intensity increases and the mileage accumulates, there’s almost always some little injury worrying you before race day.

And it puts a damper on your excitement, sometimes by a lot: Everyone’s gearing up for a big race, with the tapering, the traveling, the expo, and the pre-race meal.  And yet there’s this thought in your mind that it’s all going to be for nothing because you might not finish.  And that you’ll be stuck with the t-shirt of a race you didn’t really run.

The worst part: It’s not because you haven’t trained well enough, but simply because you’re uncertain as to what kind of mood your ankle/knee/hip is going to be in when it matters.

Let me be clear: Marathon training doesn’t have to be that way.  I used to think it did, but I’ve learned in the past two years that it’s very possible to build a solid mileage base, maintain it, and run long distance races without those nagging and more-serious overuse injuries we’re all familiar with.

But in this case, I’m back in that uncertainty boat, even if this knee issue ends up being nothing at all.  Going into what should be an awesome, emotional day—how many people get to run the Marine Corps Marathon alongside a former Marine?—it’s hard to really relish the excitement because of the thought that I might not finish.

If my experience with little injuries like this has taught me anything, it’s that playing it super-safe and not running at all isn’t the answer.  Before I learned to train correctly and this happened more often, I was successful in managing the pain with adrenaline, walk breaks, and anti-inflammatories.  If I’d have chosen to skip those races instead, I’d have missed out on a lot of marathons that turned out perfectly fine.

On Sunday, walk breaks won’t be an option, unless they’re part of my brother-in-law’s plan.  Which leaves me with the adrenaline, anti-inflammatories as necessary, and a little faith.

Faith that everything will hold up for 26.2 miles. And faith that I won’t get shot.

Marine Corps Meetup

I’m planning on hanging out after the race for a while and hopefully meeting up with some of you who are running it.  Haven’t figured out exactly when and where yet, but I’ll update this post with that information for any who are interested.

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A New Vegan Cookbook from an Ultra-Endurance Athlete

Scott Jurek.  Brendan Brazier.  Robert Cheeke.  These and a handful of other vegetarian and vegan athletes are the people we point to when someone challenges us on whether it’s possible to be a successful athlete without eating meat.

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Rich at the 2009 Ultraman World Championships

To our stockpile of animal-friendly ammunition we have a new name to add: Rich Roll.

Maybe this ultra-endurance athlete (more on what that means in a minute) isn’t new to you, but I discovered Rich’s story only recently, in my search for an overlap between veganism and the Paleo diet.  And what a story it is.  Rich was a competitive swimmer at Stanford, but he gave it all up in 1989, subsequently battling a drug and alcohol addition and becoming 50 pounds overweight.

Fast forward to 2006, when at age 40, Rich went vegan.  Two years later, he became the first vegan to complete an Ultraman.  That’s a three-day race consisting of a 6.2-mile swim and a 90-mile cross-country bike ride, a 174.1-mile road bike ride, and a 52.4-mile double marathon!  And a year after that, Rich finished 6th overall at the Ultraman World Championships.

How cool is that?  Even with all that my own experience of going vegetarian has shown me, with the Boston-qualifying and running four ultras this year after never having run more than a single marathon in any given year before I changed my diet, it’s still really comforting to hear that there are people at the very top of the endurance sports universe who are doing it with a plant-based diet.  And not just vegetarian—most of these athletes are vegan.

Makes you want to go out there and do something special, doesn’t it?  Check out Rich’s blog and be inspired.

Rich’s New Jai Seed Cookbook

COOKBOOKCOVER2 300x229Rich has a brand new e-cookbook called Jai Seed, which he co-authored with his wife, Julie Piatt. Rich was generous enough to send me a copy to review, and I was surprised when he described it to me as a “coffee table type” cookbook.  You know, big, colorful photographs with a very artistic feel—not standard e-book fare by any means.

But you know what?  It really works well.  The book is beautiful; you can see this in the video preview Rich made for the book.

Now, art is great and all.  But for me, what really matters in a cookbook is the recipes.  So what are they like?

How Jai Seed is Like (and Unlike) Thrive

The best way I can describe Jai Seed is in comparison to Brendan Brazier’s Thrive.  You probably know that I’m a huge fan (like, stalker-level) of Thrive for the wealth of information it contains and the smoothies and running fuel recipes.  Thrive introduced me to so many new ingredients and dietary principles for maximizing energy, like taking it easy on the gluten, incorporating raw foods, and sprouting beans and seeds.  And that’s why I always recommend it when people ask me for a good vegan nutrition resource.

But what I don’t love about Thrive is the actual lunch and dinner food in the recipes section.  I can appreciate the meal plan as a benchmark of health to which to compare my diet, but the fact is that I just love cooking too much to enjoy the Thrive food day-in and day-out.

Jai Seed is like Thrive in that it incorporates powerhouse ingredients like kale, chia, beets, pumpkin seeds, maca, coconut oil, and little (if any) wheat.  And it’s clear that Rich values cooking foods in a way that retains their nutrients, just like Brendan Brazier does.

The difference is that in the spectrum which has health at one extreme and taste at the other, Jai Seed sits slightly closer to the “taste” side than Thrive does.  The use of some higher-temperature cooking, even grilling, and more common ingredients makes for food that’s approachable to new vegetarians and vegans, and very family-friendly.

An obvious example that jumped out at me immediately: In Jai Seed, the salad dressings are based on organic olive oil, rather than on a healthier-but-definitely-less-tastebud-pleasing EFA oil blend or hempseed oil.  I realize the shift is slight and that one could easily make substitutions, but I think this little distinction really captures the difference in feel between the recipes in the two books.

At 10 bucks, Jai Seed is an absolute steal.  If I had bought this book for 20 or 30 dollars, I’d probably be a little disappointed to find that many of the smoothie recipes rely on a Vitamix, the 450-dollar blender that’s on my wish list but which I haven’t been able to justify the purchase of just yet.  But if you’re willing to use a juicer in conjunction with a normal blender, you can probably approximate most of Jai Seed‘s smoothies that way.

quinoa pilaf image 300x225

Holiday Mixed Grain Pilaf with Red Chard

Yesterday I made Holiday Mixed Grain Pilaf with Red Chard.  Hearty and healthy, and easy to make.  Today it’s Veggie Burgers, with Veggie Nachos and Lasange also on my to-make-soon list.  Jai Seed has me more excited about cooking than I’ve been in a long time since I went vegetarian, and that fact that it’s vegan is icing on the cake.

Jai Seed is available for instant download at Rich’s website, Jai Lifestyle.  No affiliate relationship here, just a cool cookbook from a vegan Ultraman that I figured you’d want to know about.

For more, visit:

RICHROLL.COM

http://www.richroll.com

JAI SEED COOKBOOK – INFO & ORDERING

http://www.jai-lifestyle.com/cookbook

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New Vegetarian Running E-Course (And It’s Free!)

Two posts in one today!  In a minute, I’ve got a great new Indian curry recipe to share with you.  It’s made with black-eyed peas instead of the more-standard lentils or chickpeas, so it’s kind of fun.  But first…

A New Course for Runners Interested in Going Vegetarian

Allow me to gloat, for just a second.  icon smile

No Meat Athlete has grown up quite a bit recently in terms of traffic.  We’re at almost 3,000 subscribers, but the bigger deal is that over 60,000 unique readers visit the site every month!

Perez Hilton I’m not.  (Although if that’s what you want, I suppose I could try.)  But for this stupid little site I run out of my mom’s basement (not really), it’s pretty cool to know that I’m reaching that many people with the message that “vegetarian” doesn’t mean “weakling.”

But here’s the thing: Of those 60,000 people every month, a lot of them are visitors from Google.  They hang out for a little while, view 2.09 pages each, and if nothing hooks them, they leave.  That’s a lot of potential runners-on-plants who are slipping through the cracks.

I don’t really care about losing the ones who end up here accidentally in their searches for meat porn or “no meat at lent” (yes, No Meat Athlete now slightly outranks Jesus).  But for runners with even the slightest interest in seeing what going vegetarian could do for their energy levels, endurance, and durability, I wanted to have something to help nourish that idea and keep them coming back.

Introducing ‘The Vegetarian Endurance Advantage’

So that’s why I created a new free email course on the essentials of vegetarian training, called The Vegetarian Endurance Advantage.  You know, the potential benefits, a shopping list and diet plan for vegetarian endurance athletes, pre- and post-workout foods, protein and other nutrition concerns, and some stuff that’s a little more fun.  Totally non-preachy, and all based on improving performance.

So why might you, someone who has been reading for a while, be interested?  Well, two reasons:

  1. It’s designed to be a standalone resource, rather than making people click all around the site.  So while the content is stuff I write about on the site, its more organized and targeted, and probably more useful.
  2. I’ll keep adding to the course for a long time, so the material will become more in-depth as time goes on.  I’ll also send regular email updates with additional content to anyone who is signed up; it’ll be the start of an email newsletter.

So that’s it.  If you’d like to get the course in your inbox, enter your email address in the form in the RIGHT sidebar (the one on the left is for subscribing to posts).  After you confirm your subscription, you’ll get the first email right away.

And of course, I’d really appreciate it if you share this with anyone who might be interested in going vegetarian to improve their running.  As always, THANK YOU!

On to the Curry…

black eyed pea curry image 300x225Remember how during the infamous 7 Things that Suck About Being Vegetarian post, I wrote that I didn’t enjoy cooking quite as much as I used to?  That was probably the most-disagreed-with point of the entire post, but several people were nice enough to offer suggestions.

More than one person suggested getting into Indian cooking, and that really sounded like something I could do.  On the recommendation of about 12 people on Twitter, I got Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (my Amazon affiliate link) from the library.  And—BAM!—I was back, baby.

51dLRAaSaEL. SL500 AA300 So I was really excited when my friends at Wiley sent me a copy of their new cookbook, Anjum’s New Indian, by Anjum Anand.  It’s not a vegetarian cookbook, but I’d estimate that about half the pages in the book are dedicated to meatless recipes.  It’s real, authentic Indian cooking, something I’ve never done at home and always figured was strictly the domain of restaurants.

But this black-eyed pea curry, the first recipe I tried, was fantastic.  It reminded me of the chickpea dish I always order, chana masala, with the obvious and welcome difference of black-eyed peas instead of chickpeas (much as I love them, I eat them all the damn time).

So it was great.  I reduced the chile powder amount by little bit and served this one along with some whole-wheat naan (roti) that I bought, and it was perfect.  Just enough heat and great flavor.  Anjum says it works just as well with rice too, if that’s your thing.

I hope you give this one a try to shake up your routine a little bit.  I’ll post a few more recipes from this book as I make them, so look for those soon.  Enjoy!

Black-eyed Pea Curry Recipe

(From Anjum’s New Indian, Anjum Anand, John Wiley and Sons, 2008.)  Serves 4-6.

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 green chiles, left whole or slit
  • 1 small-medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1-and-1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp pure red chile powder
  • 1 tbsp ground corander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled
  • 2 cups of black eyes peas, drained and rinsed
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stalks, chopped

Heat the oil in a medium-sized nonstick saucepan.  Add the bay leaves and fry for 20 seconds, then add the cumin seeds and fry until they sizzle.  Add the green chilies and onion and cook until well browned.

Meanwhile, using a blender, make a paste of the ginger and garlic with a splash of water.  Stir into the pan and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until you can smell the cooked garlic.  Add the powdered spices and salt and stir for another 30 seconds or so before pouring in the tomatoes.  Cook over medium heat until the oil leaves the masala, around 12-15 minutes.

Add the drained beans and mix well in the masala.  Cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in 1 cup water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes.  Take 2 tablespoons of the beans out of the gravy, mash well and stir back in.  Stir in the fresh cilantro and serve.

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