9 Ultra-Helpful Tips for Making the Leap from Marathoner to Ultrarunner

Note from Matt:  Last year when I chose the course for my first 100-miler, one of the criteria I looked for was “fair.” I didn’t want the easiest, flattest course around, but at the same time, it is 100 miles, so why make it tougher than it needs to be? 

Next month, Doug Hay will be running his first 100. But in choosing his race, he didn’t look for “fair.” Instead, he went with the race that most inspired him, the Massunutten Mountain Trails 100 — which happens to be one of the toughest on the East Coast. Not a coincidence.

This choice perfectly sums up Doug’s passion for ultrarunning and trails. And it’s the reason I asked him to answer a question that people ask me all the time these days: “I’ve run a marathon, but now I’d like to run an ultra. Any advice?”

Above all, the difference between marathoning and ultrarunning is the mindset, and Doug’s post will help you to understand that shift. 

Here’s Doug.

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When it comes to running ultramarathons — any distance over 26.2 miles — most people don’t have a clue where to start. The distance sounds so much longer, the courses so much tougher, and the word “ultra” that much more hard core.

I know that before running my first ultra, I worried about things like:

  • If I train for an ultramarathon, will I end up rotting alone somewhere deep in the woods?
  • Will training for an ultramarathon take over my life and piss off all my family and friends?
  • How do I even begin training for such a distance?

Questions like these were filling my head with doubt, and I know these same doubts are common based on the questions I get from runners and readers.

The good news is that the leap from marathoner to ultramarathoner isn’t as big as most runners believe. With a few key distinctions and (maybe) a little extra mileage, you can be well on your way to adding “ultra” to your running accomplishment list.

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Introducing the No Meat Athlete Community Site (Plus a Handful of New Speaking Events)

NMA badgeLast month, No Meat Athlete quietly turned five years old. I’d have loved to have planned a big hoopla giveaway extravaganza, but alas, I’ve been working on something better.

In five years, we’ve done some pretty neat things, not the least of which are putting some 20,000 “Runs on Plants” shirts out into the world, a book, and a book tour.

But without a doubt, my favorite moments in these past five years have been the stories: Wendy’s story, Tom’s story, Katie’s story, Susan’s story, to name just a few.

But these are just the ones that have made it onto the blog. During the book tour, I heard dozens, maybe hundreds more, in person. And of course many, many more on social media. (My favorites are when people randomly run into each other wearing NMA shirts and then become friends.)

What’s really remarkable, though? All these stories and connections have happened without a place for them to happen.

But finally, we’ve built that place.

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Engine 2′s Rip Esselstyn on No Meat Athlete Radio

Podcast Radio2You can’t get far into the plant-based world without hearing Rip Esselstyn’s name, and seeing the ubiquitous Engine 2 brand he’s created to help people eat Plant-Strong.

Walk through any Whole Foods, and you’ll see Engine 2 foods everywhere.

In those same Whole Foods stores and any Barnes and Noble, you’ll find Rip’s books, The Engine 2 Diet, which started it all, and his newest, My Beef With Meat.

And if you’ve watched Forks Over Knives, you’ve seen Rip there too, using his arms to pull himself up a firepole. (You know — “Real men eat plants, real men eat plants …”)

The Engine 2 story is well-known by now. The son of whole-food, plant-based diet advocate Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Rip challenged his fellow firefighters in Austin, Texas, to try a 28-day challenge on a plant-based diet. The results were spectacular, and the Engine 2 engine was set in motion.

What’s less known, though, is that Rip was a “no meat athlete” long before it was cool (it is actually cool, right?). Before Scott Jurek starting winning ultras, before Brendan Brazier wrote Thrive, before Rich Roll burst on the scene — and long before some chump started selling running carrot t-shirts — Rip was a professional triathlete, fueling his career with what would become the Plant-Strong diet.

I had the immense pleasure of hanging out with Rip for a day when my book tour brought me through Austin, where co-author Matt Ruscigno and I gave a lunch presentation at Whole Foods headquarters before eating E2 bowls from the store with Mr. E2 himself.

For a giant in the movement, Rip is laid back and a ton of fun, making this lifestyle seem not just appealing and energizing, but approachable. It comes through in this latest episode of NMA Radio, where he’s our guest.

Enjoy!

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • How Rip convinced a group of firefighters to go plant-based
  • The best way to adopt a plant-based diet
  • How the Engine 2 Diet resonates so well with men
  • Rip’s career as a professional triathlete
  • The Engine 2 food philosophy
  • How Rip is spreading the plant-based word with recipes and food products

Click the button below to listen now:

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Links from the show:

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In Defense of Inconvenience (and Why I Ditched My Smartphone)

Three days before I left to start my book tour last fall, I begrudgingly traded in my old phone (the one with the huge extended-life battery that always falls out, and that I usually hold together with a rubber band) for a smart one.

I had resisted for years, fearing that with 24/7 access to email, Twitter, and the like, I would become a miserable drone of a dad. Of a husband. Of a person.

But I needed the iPhone for the book tour. To use that nifty Square card swiper to sell books and shirts, to navigate from one state to the next, to book hotels on the go, and (crucially) to stay in touch with my wife and kids via Skype. In this case, the phone would help us to feel closer, not more distant.

I asked the sales rep at the Verizon store what my options were for when the book tour was over and I wanted to go back to my old phone.

“Once you get used to a smartphone,” he laughed, “you’ll never want to go back.”

The Inconvenience of a Plant-Based Diet

Something I often say about a vegan diet (that many other vegans seem not to like) is that it’s inconvenient — but that its inconvenience is its strength, when it comes to health.

I’ve come to believe that the best diet for any person is the diet that will cause him or her to make the best food choices. And that, far more than the replacement of animal products with plants, is why this diet has made me the healthiest I’ve ever been.

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Cream of Tomato Soup from the Oh She Glows Cookbook

ohsheglows 822x1024The day the long-awaited Oh She Glows Cookbook showed up on our doorstep was an exciting one indeed.

My wife and I do a lot of cooking at home, and time permitting, we make as much as we can from scratch — staples like almond butter, hummus, almond milk, and vegetable stock. Foods that of course you can buy, but it just feels better (and it’s usually cheaper, too) to make them ourselves.

And if there’s one blog that has helped us find our way along this less-trodden (these days), do-it-yourself path — and one blog that seems to turn up whenever we Google “how to roast pumpkins” or “oil-free vegan pancake recipe” — it’s Oh She Glows, by Angela Liddon.

Though we haven’t met in person, Angela has become an online friend of mine. I jumped at the chance to get a review copy, knowing major points would be scored on the  home front (as they always are when advance copies of cookbooks show up) but also genuinely excited to see how Angela would distill her considerable natural cooking chops and hundreds of recipes on her blog into a cohesive, comprehensive book format.

To nobody’s surprise, she has done it beautifully, with rustic, DIY elegance.

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Kill Your Microwave — How and Why I Got Rid of Mine

iStock 000003055108 SmallAdmission: I really wanted to call this post Kill Your Microwave … Before It Kills You!

But I didn’t. Because that’s not why I killed my microwave. I don’t think microwaves are dangerous, nor do really believe that microwaving your food necessarily destroys the nutrition therein.

Living without a microwave is weird, yes. Inconvenient, sure. But somehow, I love it.

Think microwave-freedom might be for you? Here’s everything you need to know.

Why Give Up the Convenience?

For thirty years, I never lived in a home without a microwave.

Like just about every kid who grew up in the 80′s, I have fond memories of Hot Pockets, TV dinners, Toaster Strudels, and personal pizzas coming out of that magic (if constantly dirty) black box after a minute and thirty seconds or so. Even the two fires I started in the microwave (one when I forgot to add water to my Top Ramen, the other when my sister and I tried to reheat a bagel the first time we stayed home alone, and had to evacuate to the neighbor’s house) make for good stories.

I’m not on an anti-microwave crusade. If it’s unhealthy, that remains to be seen — emissions may or may not be any worse than what our cell phones and laptops throw off, and even the “common knowledge” that microwaves destroy more enzymes and nutrients than other cooking methods has been largely refuted.

So why get rid of it?

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S’nuts! A Healthy, Smoky, Vegan Snack from Asheville’s Plant Restaurant

When it comes to healthy, plant-based food options, we’ve come a long way in the past few years.

But one area that’s apparently still lacking bigtime: snacks.

I sent out a survey to the NMA newsletter list a few weeks ago — mainly to get some feedback about what features you’re looking for in the upcoming community site — and in doing so I asked about your frustrations with fitness and diet (which, it turned out, was also a pretty good way to generate blog post ideas).

One of the most common problems, at least when it comes to food? Not enough vegan snacks!

The No Meat Athlete post about 24 healthy vegan and vegetarian snacks is a perennial favorite, but today I’m excited to share one of the snacks I almost always have on hand — an amuse bouche I discovered at a local Asheville restaurant that’s simple, healthy, and incredibly tasty.

Speaking of Asheville, though, I owe you an update …

Why We Love Asheville

Two years ago, my wife and I decided to pick up and move our family away from a comfortable home amongst family and friends in Maryland. We wanted adventure, and to try a place more befitting of our lifestyle, and we found it in Asheville — a small city in the mountains of western North Carolina that’s known for its arts, craft beer, vegan-friendliness, family- and pet-friendliness, running and hiking trails, and (for lack of a better term) laid-back hippie vibe.

I get a surprising number of emails from readers considering a move themselves who ask about our impression of Asheville now that we’ve been here close to two years. In short: we love it.

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Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli, from Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Get ready to party like it’s 2009.

One of my main reasons for starting this blog, back in that ancient day, was to share plant-based recipes that I found fit for athletes. And for several years I did just that, but soon I started to enjoy writing other types of posts. Recipes, I figured, were best left to cooking blogs (like my current favorite, Oh She Glows).

But I miss those days of kitchen experimentation, so starting with this post, I plan to share new recipes now and then, whenever I find one that’s especially delicious, healthy, and easy to make.

First, an announcement …

… and it’s a big one. Susan, Doug, and I — along with Wendy, the newest member of the NMA team — have been working hard on building something special for the past few months.

That something special is a No Meat Athlete community site. With not just forums and other ways for members to connect (both online and in person, if they wish), but also a place where we’ll feature interviews and stories of No Meat Athletes kicking ass in the world — sometimes pros and elites, but often regular, everyday people from our amazing community. And all with the friendly, welcoming vibe that’s too often lacking in other approaches to sharing this message.

The new site isn’t quite ready yet — right now we’re incorporating feedback from over 1,400 people who gave us their input — but should be within the next two weeks, and you can be sure I’ll let you know.

(And by the way, we’re trying to come up with a name for the community blog — if you’ve got an idea, submit it in the comments section of this post. If we choose yours, you’ll win a No Meat Athlete shirt and book!)

Ok, enough with the teaser. Recipe time!

Isa Does It

isadoesit 242x300If pressed to name just one, go-to cookbook that my wife and I use at home (when not in Eat to Live mode — see the postscript below), it would be Appetite for Reduction, written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, with nutritional input from No Meat Athlete co-author Matt Ruscigno.

Appetite for Reduction is Isa’s healthy, low-fat cookbook, though quite honestly, that only just occurred to me — I figured the name was just a meaningless Guns ‘n’ Roses reference. And if you think about it, there’s no higher praise for a low-fat cookbook than not realizing it’s low-fat!

So when Isa asked if I wanted to check out her latest, Isa Does It, of course I said yes. It didn’t hurt that I scored major points at home when the book showed up on our doorstep while I was away on my book tour — and my wife, Erin, has been cooking her way through the book ever since.

Isa Does It, while of course vegan, isn’t specifically about healthy cooking, the way Appetite for Reduction so clearly is (at least for those who get puns). And when just a few minutes ago I asked my wife what she thought was premise of Isa Does It, I realized that yet more wordplay had gone over my head.

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