Good morning, afternoon or evening.
Why frustrated, you might ask? First off, let me go back a few years (or more) to the time when I WAS NOT Vegan or Vegetarian. It would be pre-2014. I was part of the huge throng of carnivores that "just knew" that as an athlete (& even an endurance athlete at that), PROTEIN was king & the best source of protein was from animals (you know, steak, chicken, turkey, eggs, etc.). I was "that guy" would would argue my case about the need for such meats in order to get adequate amounts of protein for my endurance endeavors. When discussing this with a vegetarian or vegan, I went right along with the rest in asking "So, where do you get your protein from then?" The heated discussion that ensued was a welcome battle of the mind & wit. Despite the good points that where discussed, I remained steadfast in my beliefs.
As 2013 was nearing an end, all of the reading that I had been doing for months about HEALTH, WELLNESS, NUTRITION, ETC. came to a head! As an engineer by degree, I am all about "the facts". And "the facts" were clearly telling me that my carnivorous lifestyle was directing me away from long lasting health & down the road of sickness & disease!
I am also NOT the type of person who dips his proverbial big toe in to check the water. Noooo, I just JUMPED IN cold turkey (pun intended). January 1, 2014 I was a vegetarian.
Well - - - - not completely cold turkey.
As a admitted Wine Snob, I have yet to find something that goes better with a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon than . . . . . . . . . . CHEESE!
Although I had also cut out most dairy (milk, eggs, sour cream & yes . . . even ice cream), I had a problem cutting out cheese! I mean come on folks - Cheese? Really?
As a new vegetarian, I now had a different view. I now understood my wife's frustration when nobody really though of her when we choose restaurants to go out to.
My running was not really affected as I was not eating meat & most dairy. This allowed me to partake of most (if not all) of the ultra fare offered during many of my ultra marathon aid stations. As a matter of fact, I had a 2 HOUR PR at the 2014 Prairie Spirit 100! Was it my new vegetarian diet? Unfortunately not however my point here is that it did not affect my ultra running negatively. In actuality, I do believe that my recovery was faster & with less muscle soreness.
Now back to the frustration part.
Being a vegetarian made me re-think where we went out for dinner & to scrutinize the menus more closely. I mean I DID want to eat more than just salad! In actuality, things were okay. Most cuisines had something that I could eat besides a salad.
As time marched on, I read more (E.g. The china Study & Whole) & watched more documentaries (E.g. Forks Over Knives, Fed Up, Eating, etc.) & realized that I needed to go Whole Hog; either all in, or all out! I needed to cut out ALL animal products - - - even my beloved cheese!
Once again, it was a cold turkey change. January 1, 2015, I went VEGAN!
I was totally stoked & excited about my newly discovered truth & I had not felt better. Herein though, was the beginning of my REAL frustration.
I realized that society DOES NOT LIKE VEGANS (or vegetarians either). Going out to a restaurant has now become a real chore, a real challenge to find something that I can indeed eat (besides iceberg lettuce or a tossed salad).
"Can I get this without croutons, without cheese, without salad dressing, without bacon bits, without . . . " You get the idea!
"Oh, that burrito has cheese sauce?"
Well, I have found a few places in town that are vegan friendly & now have black bean burgers, adzuki strips, grilled tofu or tempeh and a host of fabulous new favors.
I also found a great book; Feed ZonePortables that has enough tweak-able recipes that I could make vegan.
The Red Lentil & Rice Squares are perfect to throw into my hydration back for super carbs & protein during my long runs.
The real test was the 2015 rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Endurance Run this past January 31st. It was to be my FIRST ultra marathon as a vegan.
I will have to say that aid station fare at most ulras is not really vegan friendly. Although I was able to eat all the fruit that I wanted (E.g. oranges & bananas), I was not eating the ham & cheese or turkey & cheese sandwiches nor the hot chicken broth that they served in evening when the sun went down & the temperatures dropped! (Luckily they did have some veggie broth which "saved my bacon".) The Red Lentil & Rice squares that I had saved the day.
Although I ended up dropping at mile 75 due to lower back problems, I DID NOT have muscle soreness outside of what was normal nor did I have any intestinal issues. I did recover quickly however & even wanted to run long again the following weekend.
Oh yeah, as for my love for cheese, the feelings are still there, but I have found some great recipes for nut cheeses.
After learning that cheese is approximately 70% fat anyway, I wanted nothing to do with it.
I am still on a steep learning curve, so stay tuned!
Run On Vegan Warrior!