Guest post: The no-meat newbie

When I first “met” Susan via email after she ordered a No Meat Athlete shirt, she told me she would be running her first marathon the next day.  Afterward, she sent me her race recap and mentioned that a fall Ironman triathlon was next on her list.  Must already be an accomplished swimmer and cyclist, I figured.  When she told me more, I was so motivated by her story that I asked her to write a guest post to share it with you.  If it doesn’t make you want to get out there and move, check your pulse.

February, 17, 2010: A day that will go down in history.

You see, on February 17, the No-Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier, called me “inspiring.” ME. Me who trips over almost everything, sings loud and off-key songs from the 80’s to her dogs, and has a tendency to embarrass herself without even trying. “Inspiring?” Frazier must have been high. There was no other explanation.

If you had told me three years ago that I’d be inspiring to a vegetarian endurance athlete, I’d have looked at you like you were dense. My jaw would have dropped open, probably revealing a half-masticated corn dog. No way would I inspire those filthy-hippie-fitness-freak types. I had so many bad habits, I made Lindsay Lohan look like Shirley Temple.

But that was 2 years and 70 pounds ago. That was the moment I became a vegetarian. I know I make it sound simplistic, like a televangelist preaching the Gospel of Carrots (“Ohhh, praise ‘da swee’ baby carrot! Deliver us from evil pork! In quinoa’s name, a-VOCADO!”). But really, it didn’t start out easy. I had to consciously make healthier choices, but then something amazing happened: once I started a little bit of the healthy lifestyle, things kind of snowballed from there. I gave up meat, started focusing on eating whole foods, and slowly began to get rid of a lot of my vices. I lost 30 pounds in the process.

That weight loss was one major reason I started working out. One lifestyle change led to another: My New Year’s resolution for 2009 was to run (not walk) a 5K, which I did in May of 2009. Of course, once that was done, the momentum was there. I needed another challenge. And then another. And then another.

Did I become a filthy-hippie-fitness-freak-type? Heck, no. I set my alarm every day for 4:30 AM with the best of intentions of working out, but my snooze button is so easy to reach. There are days when I eat potato chips. I often roll my eyes at the gym rats grunting as they bench press. And people, I try to be good, I really do…but if you tell me to give up cupcakes, I will drop-kick you. Don’t even scrunch your nose at my god-given right to drink a pint of good beer – last I checked, there was no meat to be found there.

But…I also look at how far I’ve come in the last 2 years, and that reminds me to stay focused on being healthy. I’ve done some more 5Ks, small triathlons, three half-marathons and lost another 40 pounds. This past weekend, I completed the Lost Dutchman Marathon. Nothing I have ever, ever done compares to the feeling I got when I crossed that finish line. I didn’t do anything impressive. My time was 4:32:31, hardly a Boston qualifier. But I have a swagger in my step that says That’s right. I’m a marathoner. Don’t act like you’re not impressed. Two years and 70 pounds ago, I would never have thought I’d have that swagger.

I encourage you to find what gives you that swagger. It doesn’t have to be related to running. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a goal about vegetarianism. But pick one small lifestyle change; perhaps you’ve thought about giving up soda, taking a Zumba class, or kicking that smoking habit once and for all. I defy you to even try keep it from snowballing into bigger and better things. You just can’t stop it.

Where’s my snowball rolling? Shortly after my first 5K, someone I love finished his 12th Ironman Triathlon, an endurance competition that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Compared to him, I felt like a chump…and I was jealous. While watching the competition, I saw so many different types of people cross the finish line and began to wonder, “Well, if they can do it, why can’t I?” Naïve thinking? Heck, yes. But I was inspired. I started thinking more…and then decided to stop thinking and just start doing. So I got a coach, got a game plan, registered for Ironman Wisconsin 2010, and dived into training. My friends and family, like everything else I’ve done in the past two years, think I’m absolutely nuts. However, they’re nice enough to at least smile when they say it…and tell me they’ll be there to cheer me on. I’m a lucky gal.

My goal for Ironman is, once again, not to do anything impressive…it’s just to finish. That’s my only desire. When my butt gets to the end, I will swagger across the finish line. And then I will have a cupcake and a pint of beer. After all, I really don’t want anyone mistaking me for a filthy-hippie-fitness-freak type…



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  1. Susan! You go girl!!! You are an inspiration. There is no way around it. Get use to it.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Carriage House Cafe, Ithaca – Review =-.

  2. Matt’s right, you are an inspiration! Bravo! And good luck in the Ironman.
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Vegan Bean Goulash =-.

  3. Oh, come on.. filthy-hippie-fitness-freak types are cool! :)Great write up Susan, I have yet to run more than a half, great job on your full!
    .-= Caleb´s last blog ..Raw homemade shot bloks – chocolate flavored with some zip =-.

  4. Congratulations, Susan! I am SO proud of you and even more inspired! I’m a fellow member of the -70 lbs. club (we need t-shirts!), I am so impressed at the way you’ve completely transformed your life!

    When I signed up for my first half, I got the smiling “you’re crazy” from friends and family, too. Isn’t it fun to impress the heck out of them? 😉
    .-= Kara (@ Kara’s Marathon)´s last blog ..My exciting news! =-.

    • Agreed — t-shirts are in order!

      Thanks for the positive note…it’s always nice to hear I’m not the only crazy one. 😉

  5. Way to go!
    .-= AndrewENZ´s last blog ..Weigh-in post #8 2010: Onderland! =-.

  6. Susan, what a great story! I am from Milwaukee and cheered on a friend at the Wisconsin Ironman a few years ago. You are going to have a blast!

    • You’re from Milwaukee? I just moved to Phoenix from the Bay View area! Come cheer again this year if you’re up for it — I’ve told Matt I envision a sea of NMA t-shirts at Ironman WI this year. 🙂

  7. What an inspirational story! 70lbs is an incredible amount of weight to lose. Congrats on your first marathon!
    .-= Jesse N.´s last blog ..Meatless Monday – Pizza =-.

  8. Wow – what an inspiring post (and well written, btw! got a blog, susan?) Best of luck with the Ironman!
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..Did someone say $7.8 million For The Kids? We Are! =-.

    • Heh, I am new to a lot of things…the blogosphere included. So, no, there’s no blog…but I’m kicking around some other column ideas with Matt, so stay tuned. Maybe you’ll hear from me again.

  9. Susan – Amazing story! You are truly an inspiration! I want to run a marathon and your story is helping me realize that I can do it, too!

    Matt – Thanks for introducing us to Susan! Your blog continues to be a great resource for inspiration, motivation, and information.
    .-= Becky´s last blog ..For the Love of Beans =-.

  10. Yeah Susan! Congrats on all of your accomplishments…you are an inspiration!

    Good luck with your Ironman! You are going to ROCK!
    .-= Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)´s last blog ..My trip to AZ =-.

  11. Awesome story Susan!

  12. OH that was a great post and you’re funny too miss susan!
    .-= RunToTheFinish´s last blog ..Challenge 7: Days 1-10 =-.

  13. You are awesome! What a great story! As a former non-runner myself, I related to several things you said, and I am preparing for my first half marathon on March 27th!

    I also love your writing style…you made me laugh out loud several times while reading this! 🙂

  14. wow! An ironman…I truly don’t know how they do it! Awesome story!
    .-= Mary (Food Fit and Fun)´s last blog ..The End of the Pledge =-.

  15. Awesome & Inspiring! I love how you said to let it snowball. That’s how I’m feeling right now since I gave up alcohol. I’m rolling towards a better life. Thanks for sharing your story.
    .-= Bonnie @ Salad Craze´s last blog ..Great Weekend! =-.

  16. That definately is inspiring! It’s stories and amazing people like you that motivate me to push myself harder and towards goals I didn’t think I’d be able to accomplish.

  17. Susan rocks and writes like no one’s business! Good luck with the training–I’m sure you’ll attack it with the same gusto as the cold beer and cupcake that await you at the end.
    .-= Laura Georgina´s last blog ..I Got The Magic Thread… =-.

  18. Love reading this post! You are such an inspiration, Susan! Looking forward to hearing how the Ironman goes. Please keep us posted!

    Thanks, Matt, for introducing us to Susan!

    Peace and happiness lends to my swagger.
    .-= Alisha´s last blog ..Why are more girls being born than boys? =-.

  19. WOW!! What a story!

    I am SO SO inspired!! You sound like an amazing person and you definitely have a way with words… I would love to know more I hope you will let us know how the ironman goes!!

    Matt, Thank you for sharing this GEM with us!!


  20. LOL ‘I made Lindsay Lohan look like Shirley Temple’. Susan you are hilarious and inspirational, and it is stories like this that make people get off the couch! All the best in your racing journey and escapades : )
    .-= Lindsey Graham´s last blog ..Countdown to COP =-.

  21. Go You! Wow, you are inspiring, because all it takes to inspire is having the balls to say, “I can do that!” 🙂 When’s the race? Come back with updates!
    .-= LindsayRuns´s last blog ..kinda random =-.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate as I came to running after becoming a vegetarian and setting out to lose weight and get healthy– 80 pounds later both running and food have transformed my life. I love your statement about finding what gives you swagger. Be it through running or vegetarianism or whatever, there is a calling to make the most of our everyday life. Run on!

  23. A fantastic post, thanks for this Matt and Susan.

    I can relate to this in many ways. I am considerably overweight. I started running 4 months ago, I would do 5 mins and then have to stop.

    Now I am working with Bob Glovers handbook and running 20 miles a week. I have lost almost 20 pounds.

    I also combined this with a juicing fast. Thats how I stumbled onto this blog, I was reading up on Hemp Powder. I now drink a lot of juices as meal replacements and thats really helped.

    I have not drank any alcohol in two months. For a single 35 year old professional male thats quite a feat 😉

    You are right everything snowballs when you start to run and get a bit of confidence. MY pace is awful but I have signed up for a Half Marathon here in Stockholm, Sweden.

    I am a flexitarian, am about 70% meat free….not made the big plunge just yet! need more info..
    .-= Shane´s last blog ..8 kilos down 7 kilos to go! =-.

    • Hey Shane, great story. That kind of stuff is so great to read, and I think a flexitarian diet is such a sensible way for people to lose weight (and eat, in general). 20 miles a week is awesome, especially if you are considerably overweight, as you say. As you might have already noticed, losing weight helps so much with your running efficiency. So even though there’s nothing wrong with running an “awful” pace, you will notice it gets considerably easier as you continue to lose weight. But I don’t think you should call your pace awful! Slow doesn’t mean bad, fast doesn’t mean good. There are lots of people capable of running fast who run slowly because they enjoy it more. Stu Mittleman, for example, used to hold records for like 500- and 1000-mile races. Now he runs a 12-minute pace every day because he loves the way it feels.

  24. Nice job, very inspiring! 70 pounds? Dang! that’s a lot of dead weight! You will do great in Madison and I will find a way to be there to cheer you on.

  25. This girl is great!! There is NO shame in “just finishing”, and I don’t know sometimes I’m more impressed by “slower” runners because they run for 4+ hours rather than doing it quicker.. aka imagine how much harder that must feel!

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