No Meat Athlete Radio: Farm Sanctuary Co-Founder and Ironman Gene Baur

Podcast Radio2Gene Baur would be pretty darn cool if he were “just” the co-founder of Farm Sanctuary.

Through his work there, Gene has become a published author and speaker, and a respected leader in the vegan, vegetarian, and animal advocacy worlds.

But when I go from admiration to downright jealousy is when you add, to all of Gene’s other accomplishments, the fact that he’s also a marathoner: after speaking at our pre-race No Meat Athlete dinner before the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA marathon and half, Gene proceeded to run the marathon faster than anyone in our group, en route to qualifying for Boston on his first try.

Oh yeah, and now he’s an Ironman, having completed his first one last month, in under 12 hours — breaking four hours in the marathon, following the 112-mile bike and 2.4-mile swim. No big deal.

It was a pleasure to have Gene as a guest on No Meat Athlete Radio. In this episode, we talk a bit about Farm Sanctuary and its mission, then compare how we trained and fueled our recent races — Gene’s Ironman and my 100-miler, which coincidentally took place on the same weekend.

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Vegan

How do vegans possibly do it?

Even after I became vegetarian, I turned this question over and over in my mind. I knew that I wanted to quit eating animal products but just couldn’t imagine making it work. I had even tried a vegan diet for a month, only to learn in the process that I wasn’t ready.

The commitment to officially say “I’m vegan” was a decision I deliberated about for a long time. In the end, it took two full years before I completely cut out eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. But when the time was finally right, there was no question about it.

Two and a half years later, now that this once extreme lifestyle now feels familiar, I have just enough perspective to wish I could go back and give my pre-vegan self (or someone else in my shoes) a few pointers.

So whenever they give us the promised time machines and jetpacks and I get the chance to go back and talk to that guy, here’s how I’ll help him prepare:

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What I Learned Running 100 Miles (And What’s Next)

Judging from the way things look, you wouldn’t know that almost a month has passed since I ran my 100-miler. (Like the fact that I’m still writing about it …)

Remnants of seven different blisters still blemish my feet — no longer painful, but clearly visible. My Hokas are still caked in mud; I’ve had no use for them. They’re really meant for long runs, which I haven’t thought of doing, much less actually done, since.

And my gear bag — no use for that either, right now — still gives the appearance that today is race day, save for the handheld water bottle, which I’ve learned is slightly more pleasant when you clean it out instead of leaving sports drink in it to fester for weeks on end.

But it’s not just my feet, my shoes, and my gear that are frozen in post-100 contentment: my brain is still stuck in the state of satisfied exhaustion it was in during the days right after the race.

No urgency to think about what’s next, just wallowing in the afterglow of an accomplishment that took so much preparation. And filled with a sense of awe, not so much at what I achieved, but at what the human body and spirit — anybody’s, not just mine — are capable of.

Warning: I have no real plan for this blog post. I’m writing it mainly for myself, to put a bow around my first hundred and move on. But if you get something out of it, great!

What has stuck with me

There have been three themes, if you will, that I keep thinking about as I replay in my mind the abridged version of a race that took more than an entire day.

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Announcing the No Meat Athlete Triathlon Roadmap

It was a curse word and a triathlon that brought me to No Meat Athlete.

As a new vegetarian, and even newer triathlete, I was a bit lost. Whenever I’d Google “vegetarian triathlete,” the results were sparse and not at all helpful. I only knew one plant-based person — who chastised me for being “only” a vegetarian — and one triathlete, an omnivore who chastised me for thinking I could do a triathlon on a diet that was, as he said, “completely stupid.”

Though on opposite ends of the spectrum — one vegan, one omnivore — their bottom line was the same:

I was doing everything wrong.

At first I’d shrink away, full of self-doubt. Sometimes, I’d even shelve my triathlon ambitions altogether. But one day I decided that I didn’t need anyone else’s answers; I only needed to find my own.

I was going to be a triathlete, I was going to do it as a vegetarian, and anyone who told me I couldn’t could just go eff themselves.

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The One True Secret of Endless Motivation (And 12 Ideas for Finding Yours)

matt on bridge

The final “point 2″ of my Boston-qualifying marathon.

People often ask how you stay motivated. For getting in shape, running a marathon, or tackling an endeavor entirely unrelated to fitness.

I’ve never really had an answer.

I was a motivation machine when I was training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I was so focused on the goal — obsessed even — and that alone proved to be an endless font of giddy-up. I couldn’t answer the motivation question, because I didn’t have a problem staying motivated.

The 100-miler was different. The idea of training for it overwhelmed me so much that the first time I signed up for one, I never even started training! Ultimately, it took a two-year plan, knowing that tackling a hundred would first require me to get back into marathon shape, then back into 50-miler shape, and finally into the uncharted territory of whatever 100-miler shape was.

Staying motivated for two years wasn’t easy. I call myself a runner, but I don’t have whatever the it is that compels other runners to religiously put their miles in, running just for running’s sake.

Instead, I’m prone to violent ups and downs. Seventy-five straight days of running, then a month of almost none. That feeling where all you want to do is run, followed by the struggle to get yourself out the door at all.

How to Stay Motivated

That was 100-miler training, for me. In hindsight, I’m amazed that I made it happen.

But in the process, I discovered the secret to staying motivated. Ready? Here goes:

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