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My ‘Eat to Live’ Challenge

11 December, 2013 - 12:18

Five years ago, a 10-day challenge led to my eventual decision to go vegetarian (and to start this blog).

A few years later a 30-day vegan challenge, which I completed successfully, actually taught me that I wasn’t ready to go vegan yet. But when I was ready six months later, that month-long experiment was probably to thank.

Why should we do uncomfortable challenges like these, with food or anything else? For me, the answer is clear: you might just discover something you love, when you learn that actually doing the thing is easier than worrying about how tough it surely must be.

But even if your experiment doesn’t lead you to change your life, a challenge around something so near-and-dear as food will almost certainly teach you something about yourself.

And so …

My Latest Challenge

For several years I’ve long been intrigued by the “don’t eat extracted oils” philosophy. Because if I’m honest, oil isn’t a whole food, and I’m fond of saying that I eat whole foods.

I also knew that I ate a lot of salt, woke up every day with an urge for a small, strong cup of coffee, and enjoyed a single (usually strong) beer almost every night.

I was comfortable with all of these things, citing moderation, lots of exercise, and no tendencies toward serious addiction (when it comes to ingestibles, at least).

And yet, I must not have been 100 percent comfortable with these choices … because I’ve always been fascinated to hear about people who enjoy these things, like me, but deliberately choose never to indulge in them.

So, almost two years removed from any restrictive diet challenge, I decided it was time for a new one.

Enter Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

I first came across Joel Fuhrman when I found his book Disease-Proof Your Child, which somehow led me and my wife to Super Immunity – currently the nutrition book that I recommend to anyone who will listen.

Only in this backdoor manner did I find out about Eat to Live, his #1 New York Times bestseller. When on my book tour several people told me they had followed the the Eat to Live plan and lost 20, 30, or even 60 (a woman last week in Raleigh!) pounds as a result, I was deeply curious, even though I had zero interest in losing weight.

Why? Because the point of Eat to Live isn’t weight loss. It’s health. And I found Dr. Fuhrman’s scientific approach in Super Immunity so appealing, so sensible, and so convincing that I didn’t want to just pick and choose a few elements to incorporate before slowly returning to my set point. I wanted an immersion, to understand what “eating to live” really feels like.

The ‘Eat to Live’ Plan

Fuhrman pulls no punches. With an internet full of incentives for people to tell us what we want to hear — that some hot new study shows that salt, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, saturated fat, etc. are somehow good for us — Fuhrman recommends only what his years of intense research and medical practice have taught him.

And those recommendations, predictably, aren’t quite so much fun to eat (or tweet).

The diet he believes to be the healthiest possible for achieving your ideal weight and maximizing longevity and resistance to disease, and the one I’ve been eating for the last 10 days, includes:

  • Less than 5 percent animal products*
  • No added salt (not even the unprocessed kind)
  • No added oil (not even unheated olive oil)
  • No refined sugar of any kind, and no syrups, nectars, or juices
  • Minimal alcohol
  • Minimal caffeine
  • Fewer grains (even whole), more raw vegetables, more beans, and more raw nuts than I’ve ever eaten for any length of time

*Fuhrman isn’t sure whether “no animal products” is healthier than “a tiny amount of animal products,” pointing out that the longest-lived populations have always eaten a small but non-zero amount of them (and it may be that B12 is the reason for this). Being vegan, I’m of course not eating any animal products.

The first and last bullet points are no problem. The last represents a shift, but not an unpleasant one.

The biggies, for me, are the salt and the oil. This is the first time I’ve cooked without oil for sauteing, and most definitely the first time I’ve abstained from all salt.

Fuhrman is slightly less rigid with alcohol and caffeine. He says that while consuming none at all is best, a small amount (one glass of wine a day, one cup of coffee per day) is probably alright. I’ve not yet chosen to limit the coffee beyond my usual 10 ounces in the morning, but for this challenge I decided to limit alcohol to two drinks per week total — a big change from one drink per day that has basically become an after-dinner ritual for me.

Finally, I’ve made a few small modifications to the plan because I’m worried about losing weight. I’m eating more than Dr. Fuhrman suggests for most people — I eat snacks between meals (fruit and raw nuts, mainly) and more fats (in the form of avocados and nuts) than the standard plan allows for.

The First 10 Days

Eat to Live is supposed to be a six-week long strict plan, followed by a slightly more lax version that allows up to 10 percent of your calories to be exceptions to the above (even animal products, if you’re so inclined). But because of holiday plans, as well as my concern over losing weight when I’m already thin and — let’s be honest — my fear of how tough this diet would be, I’ve decided to do just three strict weeks. Like with any other challenge, when that time is up, I’ll reevaluate and decide where to go from there.

Here’s what I’ve observed so far on the Eat to Live plan:

1. Not consuming oil is really quite easy. For salads (which we eat all the time on this plan, often as meals and usually with beans), we make nut-based dressings which are pretty good. And who knew that water-sauteing actually worked? I’ve always had a hangup about cooking with anything but oil, but now that I try it, water works just fine. Keep in mind: this isn’t gourmet food; just practical, healthy food that gets the job done.

2. Not adding any salt is really tough. In fact, not being able to add salt just about ruins the experience of eating for me. Nothing tastes like anything, and Mrs. Dash is a poor substitute. I find myself getting depressed around 3:00 pm when I think about dinner and remember that it will taste like air (until my taste buds adjust, I hope). But that’s what’s great about challenges like this — I’m reminded of an emotional attachment to food that I always want to deny, and made aware of just how accustomed I’ve gotten to salting my food, when for most of human history we have not added any salt to food. (Fuhrman points out that a day’s worth of food naturally contains 600-800 mg of sodium, by comparison to which the U.S. daily recommended intake of 3500 mg seems absurdly high.)

3. Skipping the nightly beer is tough, and I think about and crave the flavor and aroma of hops each night (I usually drink hop-bomb IPA’s). But this hasn’t been nearly as difficult as the salt.

4. Fortunately, I haven’t lost any weight and I don’t feel any less energy from not having oil in my diet. I’ve been running but not intensely, so it’s hard to tell if there’s been any impact there — I’d be excited to see how such a high-nutrient but lower-calorie diet works for sports.

5. Ultra-healthy cooking is extremely simple. While there are some more involved recipes, my favorite Fuhrman-approved dishes are the ones where we water-saute or steam a bunch of vegetables, throw in some beans (homemade with no added salt), and top with a quick nut-based, raw sauce or dressing. Easy and quick, with minimal cleanup.

6. Frozen fruit makes a great dessert! Blend it with some dates, unsweetened almond milk, and sometimes cacao powder, and it’s a really nice treat to look forward to that helps me get through saltless dinners. I’d be fine if I never ate vegan ice cream with added sugar again.

7. My normal diet is not nearly as healthy as I thought. Even without being 100 percent convinced that a moderate amount of oil and salt are unhealthy, eating so strictly has made me realize just how often I make unhealthy exceptions in my usual diet. The times I get a Naked smoothie or juice from the coffee shop, the times I drink two cups of coffee or two or three beers, the times I add salt to my food before I even taste it, the times I go all day with only one or two pieces of fruit, the days I skip the salad … when you put them all together, they add up to a lot of slips, even within a single week.

I’ve learned a lot in 10 days. Right now, I’m still in hell-no-I-could-never-eat-this-way-forever mode … which, of course, is why it’s called a challenge. But I’ve got another two weeks or so until it’s time to decide what to take and what to leave from this experience, and who knows how I’ll change in that time. And that — how I’ll change — is exactly the point. I’ll let you know.

Two Fun PS’s

1. Huge congrats to Leo Babauta and Scott Dinsmore on finishing their first 50-miler last weekend in San Francisco! Read what Leo learned from the experience.

2. My sister Christine (who used to write Sweet-Tooth Friday dessert posts for No Meat Athlete) started a blog — about a novel approach to writing a novel. (Thank goodness she didn’t make that her tagline.) Totally unrelated to plant-based fitness, but hey, she’s my sister. If you have any interest in writing a novel, it would mean a lot to me if you’d check out her blog. Maybe a good 2014 goal for somebody?

Hope you have a great one. Any Eat to Live veterans out there? I’d love to hear how it went for you, and what elements you’ve hung on to.

Crazy Goals, Running, and the Plant-Based Diet: A Live Recording of My Book Tour Talk

3 December, 2013 - 07:30

What else is there to say? The book tour is done (today is the final event), I’ve written what there is to write about the adventure, and I’m pretty well stoked for the next chapter for No Meat Athlete.

2014 holds some major changes for NMA, the biggest in the five years since I started this little blog. While there’s a lot I can’t unveil quite yet, I can tell you that one change, for me, is a big shift in what I personally do. A shift away from the roles of managing, emailing, accounting, and more emailing, and a return to the simple job of making things — blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, webinars, and a lot more that Doug, Susan, and I have in mind for the next year and beyond.

And what has brought about the desire to make that change is, of course, the experience of the past two months … meeting literally thousands of readers from all across the country, listening to their stories of change, and being inspired to focus again on the things that really matter for this blog. And for this movement.

So in this final post about the tour — and trust me, it’s been amazing but it’s with great pleasure that I move on — I’m pleased to share a live recording from our event at Bearded Brothers in Austin, Texas. You’ll hear me and co-author Matt Ruscigno give what became our standard talks, so that you can get a small taste of what the events were like, in case you couldn’t make it out to one.

Hope you enjoy it — and even better, I hope you use it.

Here’s what to expect in this episode:

  • The best parts of the book tour
  • Matt Ruscigno’s talk at Bearded Brothers in Austin, TX
  • My talk at Bearded Brothers in Austin, TX
  • The “easy” trick for becoming comfortable with what scares you
  • How Doug actually took my advice and put it into action
  • Doug’s plans for his 100-miler
  • The importance of “burning desire” when it comes to habit change

Click the button below to listen now:

Download audio file (nmaradio19.mp3)


If you’re a fan of NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Links from the show:


Make December Your Best Month

29 November, 2013 - 10:48

With Thanksgiving  finished — and I hope you had a great one — we move into what for my entire life has been my favorite season of all.

No, not the “Black Friday through Cyber Monday” shopping season. Not even just Christmas. But instead, the entire final month of the year, as we head towards a brand spanking new one.

Why December is My Favorite Month of the Year

It’s only since I’ve been an adult that I’ve come to realize that New Year’s Eve and Day are my favorite days of the year. But, considering the total geek for goal-setting I’ve grown into, this isn’t surprising at all.

While I used to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s reflecting on the past year and putting plans in place for the next, I’ve in recent years expanded those behaviors and that mindset to stretch through the entire month of December.

To me, it seems natural, primal, and in tune with nature — take time during the cold, barren months of winter to plan, so that when it comes time for massive action in the spring and throughout the summer, you’re ready.

Sure beats overeating and getting loopy at holiday parties (though I won’t say I never do those …).

Having treated the past few winters this way, it seems a habit has been formed, and now when the chill enters the air, a sense of possibility is what comes to mind.

If you’re into New Year’s “resolutions” — and I’ll of course remind you that January 1 is arbitrary and that the “clean slate of a new year” effect is almost meaningless — I do believe you dramatically increase your chances of success by using December as a month to get a head start on those resolutions. If not by action, then at least by serious planning and anticipation, so that when the calendar changes, it brings with it a feeling of importance rather than the sense that this resolution will meet the same, silent end so many others have.

So that’s why I love this time of year. And while I’m not saying you need to go into a special goal-setting cave or shun the occasional overindulgence of the holidays (I watch almost no TV throughout the year, then suddenly become a fiend for awful ABC Family movies like Holiday in Handcuffs), I encourage you to start thinking about your goals and the changes you’d like to make now, instead of waiting until the afternoon of December 31st to start thinking about how next year will be different.

And so with that, in hallowed Black Friday tradition …

Special Deals to Get You Jump-Started

Here’s what we at No Meat Athlete have for this weekend, through Cyber Monday — aimed at helping you get a head start (or just a boost of extra inspiration) on whatever big changes lie ahead for you in 2014:

1. Book/ebook combo packs at over 35% off — a signed copy of the new No Meat Athlete print book + either the Marathon Roadmap or Triathlon Roadmap, priced at over 35% off the combined total regular prices. And as a bonus, you’ll get access to the special goal-setting workshop described below.

2. Exclusive goal-setting workshop when you buy 3 copies of No Meat Athlete: To encourage you to gift the new No Meat Athlete book this holiday season, just buy 3 copies of the No Meat Athlete book (from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooksIndiebound, your local store … anywhere EXCEPT the No Meat Athlete store) and you’ll get access to a special live webinar at the end of December, where I’ll walk you through the goal-setting process I use each year to tackle big, “unrealistic” goals — plus answer any questions you have (about anything at all). Just forward me a copy of your receipt (matt@nomeatathlete.com) and I’ll give you the details!

(And by the way, ebooks work too — the NMA book is available as an ebook, on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks. Amazon even has a special program called Matchbook that allows you to get the Kindle version for $2.99 if you’ve bought the print version!)

3. 25% off everything in the No Meat Athlete store. Shirts, magnets, stickers, ebooks, and even signed copies of the No Meat Athlete print book.

Have a great weekend! And amidst all the shopping, if that’s your thing, take just a few minutes and start to think about what you’d like to change and what you might accomplish next year if you’d let yourself believe that you could … and go into 2014 with engines fired up and raring to go, rather than playing catch up from the very start.

40 Cities, 50 Days: My U.S. Book Tour Recap

27 November, 2013 - 13:07

The 3-foot tall poster my wife and kids used to keep track of me.

Just like an ultramarathon, it was both exhilarating and exhausting. There were times when I looked at how far I had left to go before I could sleep again in my own bed, and — feeling completely overwhelmed — I did what dozens of ultras and marathons have taught me to do.

Focus on the next step. And then the next. And then the next.

And, just like that, I went from city to city for a month and a half. Instead of aid stations, they were hotel rooms. Instead of long hikes up hills, they were 8- and 12-hour drives. And instead of downhills, the fun parts that ended too quickly were the events themselves, where I met hundreds and hundreds of No Meat Athletes and felt anything but alone.

I’ve been back home with my wife and kids for two weeks now. I’ll hit the road next week for two more events nearby (Raleigh and Charlotte, NC), but it sure feels like I’m done. And like every ultra I’ve finished, while I’m glad to be done, I’m especially glad to have done it.

Was it Worth It?

I really saw the country, for the first time. I connected in person with so many online friends I’ve made in the four and a half years I’ve been blogging. And I introduced a lot of new people to No Meat Athlete and to my new book, of which I’m extremely proud.

But if I’m honest with myself, the book tour came at a tremendous cost, in four areas that I can think of:

  • I was away from my family for more than a month. Not only did this mean missing them; it meant my wife had to watch our toddler and infant all by herself. (Tougher than a book tour, IMO.)
  • Financially, it cost a lot more than it earned. Hotels, gas, and food came to $100-$150 per day. And although selling books and shirts at events helped mitigate this cost, I definitely didn’t break even. But more people than I could have imagined paid for my meals when we went out and offered to host me in their homes, which I’m incredibly thankful for, even though I didn’t always take them up on it.
  • I didn’t have time to do any other work. So while I was on the road working harder than ever, the appearance online to a casual No Meat Athlete reader was probably that I was slacking off!
  • It was more stressful and more uncomfortable than life at home, and I had to give up a lot of healthy habits. I rely on reading every day to keep me sane, and though I brought a huge stack of books with me, I barely found time to crack open one of them.

Despite all that … Yes, it was 100 percent worth it, without a doubt. Here’s why:

The Highlights (in Rough Chronological Order):
  • Being a guest on the Rich Roll podcast, mid- DC Vegfest
  • Catching up with Jason Fitzgerald and Gena Hamshaw in DC
  • Running 39 miles of the 200-mile RAGNAR DC relay, as part of an ultra team with 5 good friends
  • Seeing my whole family and lots of friends at the Great Sage event in Clarksville, MD
  • The NYC event at JackRabbit and run in Central Park, where the 70 or 80 available tickets went quickly, my first “big” event, and getting a drink with Evan Thomas later on
  • Speaking at the Humane Society’s main offices and being introduced by Compassion Over Killing founder Paul Shapiro
  • Running with the Crooked River Trail Runners on the same trail system in NE Ohio where I ran the Burning River 100 this summer — and meeting a high school freshman runner named Noah, whose parents drove him 2 hours to the event
  • Meeting longtime online friends Joel Runyon and Erin A.M.G., as well as Chicago Diner owners Mickey and Jo at the Chicago Diner event (on the day of the marathon)
  • Colorado Springs, where I hiked The Incline on a snowy morning with Dave Burgess, before and after being treated with incredible hospitality by Dave and his wife JL Fields (of JL Goes Vegan)
  • Being pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of Nebraskans at the Omaha and Lincoln events
  • Having my wife and kids fly out to spend a few days with me in Seattle (and doing touristy stuff like visiting the first Starbucks in Pike Place Market)
  • Herbivore Clothing and two meals in Portland, plus a drink with Mike Pacchione, who helped me prepare my talk before the tour
  • The beautiful, solitary drive through the Redwood Forest and along the Pacific coast from Oregon to Mendocino, CA
  • Staying at the Stanford Inn by the Sea (and eating at the resort’s all-vegan Ravens Restaurant), where I met author and nutritionist Sid Garza-Hillman, his family, and the Stanfords themselves, and where Sid and I recorded this podcast
  • Eating dinner at Millennium in San Francisco with the owners, Ann and Larry Wheat
  • The Samovar Tea Lounge event in San Francisco, where Leo Babauta, Samovar owner Jesse Jacobs, and I did a panel discussion about change — I had watched a lot of interviews and discussions that took place here (like this one with Tim Ferriss), so it was very special to be part of one
  • Lunch, coffee, and a walking tour of San Francisco’s Mission District with Leo Babauta, a friend and huge personal inspiration and teacher of mine
  • Making it to San Diego on Halloween night, just in time to trick-or-treat with my little Ironman (the superhero, not the triathlon) — my family flew from Seattle to San Diego to meet me there
  • Being on Osher Gunsberg’s podcast, drinking this delicious kale shake, and riding his tandem bike to get lunch (and another smoothie) along the beach in Venice, CA
  • Dinner with Nicole Antoinette in L.A.
  • A brutal, verge-of-puking, boot camp workout with Gut Check Fitness in San Diego
  • Hanging out with Susan Lacke, Doug Hay, and Matt Ruscigno all at once in Arizona, and having Doug and Matt join me from Phoenix to Austin
  • Being interviewed on Tucson’s Morning Blend show
  • The food in Austin, TX — including dinner with Christy Morgan, lunch with Rip Esselstyn, and a food truck “bacon cheeseburger” that was the most disgustingly delicious vegan thing I’ve ever eaten.
  • Speaking at Whole Foods Headquarters in Austin and playing poker later with Rip and friends
  • Meeting two more people with (real!) NMA carrot tattoos
  • Closing down a honky-tonk bar in Nashville with Ray Cronise and Steve Kamb, after a fun event at Fleet Feet Nashville and hanging out with Jeff Sanders, Matt Ragland, and Brett and Amber Morgan
  • Speaking to family and new friends at Malaprops in Asheville

Of course, I’ve got to mention that there were so many more people and great experiences than these. To keep this highlight list relevant to you, I haven’t listed all the people I met and spent time with who don’t have an online presence and who you probably don’t know, but trust me, there were a lot of them. And the people were the best part of this trip: more than anything else, hearing their stories of the incredible changes they’ve made, due to running and especially eating a plant-based diet, is what kept me going.

How I Ran, Ate, and Slept

Running: There was RAGNAR DC, of course. Then a lot of the events were at running stores, and often we’d go for a 3-5 mile run as part of the event. On a few mornings in some cities, I went for runs with friends. Oddly, all of that happened during the first half of the tour, and I didn’t run at all during the second half, nor since I’ve been home. I’m itching to get back out there, but can’t easily get motivated without a big goal — I’m working on that.

Eating: I wrote a post that describes how I ate for the first half of the tour (the short version: Whole Foods, Chipotle, and lots of raw trail mix and fruit). Once I hit the west coast, I started going out to eat at restaurants a lot more often and had some amazing meals (some healthy, some not) with great people (all healthy).

Sleeping: I rarely booked a hotel more than a few hours in advance. Each afternoon when I got to a new city, I found a hotel on Trip Advisor, Hotwire, or the Hotel Tonight app and booked it. On the second half of the tour, when Matt Ruscigno and Doug were with me, we stayed with friends of Matt’s for a few nights in Phoenix and Austin, which was great. I stayed with relatives occasionally, and although I planned on doing some camping, I never did.

What I Learned

I’m still processing the whirlwind of events, and I suspect that the most valuable things I learned as a result of this expedition will be sub-conscious — improvements to my self-confidence (for planning, undertaking, and completing something so big), to my ability as a public speaker, and to my level of comfort in being the center of attention signing books, meet-and-greeting, and whom people come out to see. As an introvert and pretty shy person, these things do not come naturally to me, but one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book tour is that the way to become comfortable with an uncomfortable situation is simply to put yourself into that uncomfortable situation night after night. Which isn’t so different from the idea of creating accountability when you set big goals — it took only a few minutes to announce on my blog that I was going to do this book tour, and once I hit “Publish,” then I had to speak and mingle and sign books night after night … and after a week of doing these uncomfortable things, they became easy. And fun, even.

I learned also that I absolutely hate having a smartphone. I can’t wait to get rid of it after the remaining two events next week. I resisted the smartphone for a long time, but finally got an iPhone for this tour — for the maps, the hotel apps, the photos and social media updates, and the Square card swiper. I don’t deny that these things were essential for doing a tour like this in the world we now live in, but I think the fact that I resisted for so long gave me a good perspective. I noticed that with the phone I was distracted, frequently checking in on email, Twitter, and Facebook after each “real-world” activity, as if checking in on the phone was my center, my happy place, my set point that I needed to return to after each meal, talk, stop for gas, etc. I noticed that I’d get out my phone with the aim of doing one small task, then lose 20 minutes or even an hour accomplishing next to nothing, when in the past I’d have spent that time thinking and enjoying myself. No, a smartphone is not for me.

I learned that by default I’m an optimizer, when often it’s better to be a satisficer. I first learned about the concept from the Happiness Project, but didn’t apply it until this tour. Example: at first, it took me a really long time to choose hotels. I would find one that seemed decent, then keep looking for a better option, to be sure that I made the best choice possible (optimizing). But after I realized how much time, stress, and second-guessing this required, I started just picking the first one that met my needs (satisficing). Believe it or not, it was hard to get myself to do this, but just seconds after the satisficing decision was made, I felt better for it. I’ve noticed this phenomenon in a lot of other areas of my life (restaurant menus are an obvious example, assuming you’re at a restaurant where there’s more than one option for you), and I’m happier as a result of satisficing more often.

And finally, I learned that all of *this* matters. I met so many people who enthusiastically shared their stories with me — stories that involved dramatic weight loss, health improvements, the discovery of a compassionate side, and the conquering of (or sometimes, the commitment to conquer) an utterly ridiculous, unreasonable goal and all the self-discovery that entails. And as a result, when I have those moments where I ask myself, “Does this silly blogging thing really matter?”, I’ll have this experience to back up the belief that yes, it absolutely does.


Not in any particular order. If you’ve got some good ones from an event you attended, please share it with me on Facebook so I can have a big collection!

Malaprops in Asheville, my “hometown” event.

At Life Alive Cafe in Boston on the day of the book’s release.

At JackRabbit in NYC, wearing my new Rich Roll Plant Power shirt.

Running RAGNAR DC.

With Tom Giammalvo and his cousin Mike in Boston.

Morning Blend in Tucson.

Lincoln Running Company.

Red Dirt Running Company in Omaha.

Colorado Springs.

At the Ann Arbor District Library.

With JL Fields in Colorado Springs!

Anthony in Sugarland, TX.

Nikki in Lincoln, NE.

Sid Garza-Hillman speaking before me at Whole Foods Oakland.

At the top of The Incline in Colorado Springs with Dave Burgess.

That Pacific coast I mentioned.


With TJ Ernst, who helped make the Omaha event happen.


My little guy in the Asheville Barnes and Noble — this text brightened my day from across the country.

With my little girl in Seattle.


With my buddy Erin A.M.G. at the Chicago Diner, post-marathon (for her).


Not exactly the World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn, but …


With co-author Matt Ruscigno and Rip Esselstyn at Whole Foods HQ in Austin.

Fleet Feet Nashville, the last event before getting home to Asheville.


That’s it! Have a happy Thanksgiving, and look for a new podcast next week with a live recording from one of my talks — so that even if you couldn’t make it out to an event, you can hear it.

5 ‘Easy’ Steps for Making Your Unrealistic Goal a Reality

18 November, 2013 - 12:34

With the book tour just about wrapped up, it’s great to be sitting at my own desk in my own house writing a blog post again.

The tour has been amazing. So many roads, people, stories, hotels and cities, and so many delicious meals (especially once I hit the west coast). There are still a few events left, including Charlotte, Raleigh, and my hometown of Asheville this Thursday, but these and the remaining dates in Raleigh and Atlanta (maybe) are short drives away. The hard part — all 11,000 miles of it in my Hyundai Elantra — is over. The goal, achieved.

Yes, this self-supported book tour was like any other goal. It started as a speck of an idea that hit me on a run one day, a ridiculous and unrealistic idea. Then the day of intense, excited research to answer the “Is this possible?” question — knowing that no matter what the facts were, I’d somehow bend them into the shape of “Yes.” Finally, going public with it and creating the accountability. At which point it became real … then the rest was just details.

I’ve got plans for a book tour wrap-up post with photos, links, stories, maybe even a recording of my talk … but this is not that post.

My talk each night focused on three topics: running, the plant-based diet, and setting big freaking scary goals. Far more than the other two topics, the ones I thought were a safe bet, it was the talk of goals that people really cared about.

And so with this post I want to share, in a nutshell, what I said about goals while on tour. It’s exactly what I’ve done with just about every goal I’ve accomplished, from qualifying for Boston to the 100-miler to the book tour itself. The steps are obvious, I think, but important enough that they’re worth hearing from as many angles as you can.

1. Think really big.

If I may, an excerpt from Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek, which perfectly sums up “thinking big”:

Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming …

If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.

Unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve for yet another reason. Having an unreasonably large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal. Realistic goals, goals restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort.

The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits.

My example: After I set the goal of qualifying for Boston (starting from a marathon time of 4:53, an hour and forty-three minutes too slow), it took me almost four years to run a second marathon. My shins would not cooperate, and shin splints became stress fractures became abandoned training plans. During this time, a physical therapist friend took a look at my legs and told me, essentially, “Matt, you’re just not built for running marathons. Pick a different sport or get used to being injured and frustrated.”

Had my goal been simply to run another marathon and improve on my 4:53, I’m 100 percent certain I would have quit here, with three years of failure to show for it. But the Boston goal was so much bigger than that, my mental picture of success so much more inspiring than simply a second medal, that quitting never crossed my mind.

2. Ask: Does action flow from it?

It should. From the minute you set that big goal, you had better be buzzing with enthusiasm and itching to start. If the excitement doesn’t keep you up at night because you can’t stop thinking about it when you’re lying in bed, then this goal isn’t it.

I can admit that it’s possible the goal is too big — if the goal is beyond crazy and you believe on the deepest level that you simply will not be able to make it happen, you won’t be motivated to do anything. More likely, though, it’s not big enough, and something more “unrealistic” is what you need to get that kick in the pants.

3. Give yourself time.

Simply put: We overestimate what we can achieve in a year and massively underestimate what we can achieve in a decade.

Again, from my experience:

Every single marathon I trained for after I set the Boston goal, I told myself at the outset that this would be the one where I ran a 3:10 and qualified. And for seven years before I was right, I was wrong. I had overestimated what I could achieve in a short time, and as a result, it took me longer to get to Boston than it should have. It would have been smarter to set a course that would take 2 or 3 years, with intermediate goals along the way, than to tell myself each time that “this one is it.”

On the flip side, had you told me 10 years ago when I first set that Boston goal that within a decade I would not just qualify for Boston but also run a 100-miler, I’d have told you that was impossible because nobody can run 100 miles. I had no idea that anyone even ran more than 26.2.

Give yourself time. How you grow and what you learn will compound, and in a few years you’ll get to a point that’s hard or impossible to imagine now.

4. Create massive accountability.

Once you’ve set your crazy goal, the single best thing you can do is take an action, right away. This gets it out of your head and into the physical world, before it can evaporate when the stresses of everyday life do what they’re best at.

If your first action is one that involves other people, so much the better.

Start a blog and write about it. This is the single best thing I did for my personal growth and my ability to achieve goals. At mile 22 of my Boston-qualifying race, I felt the same feelings I had every time before, where the wheels are starting to come off and it becomes more painful to keep pushing than to ease back and face the realization that today is not your day. The difference was that this time, quitting was more painful, because people were watching. So I kept going, and discovered that I had more than I had ever accessed before.

But don’t just start a blog. Also tell your family. And your friends. And Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and everything else. Best of all, get a partner who is equally motivated to go after an equally unrealistic goal, and promise to hold each other accountable each and every day.

If you want to take the island, burn the boats.

*Yes, I know that Derek Sivers said in a TED talk that announcing your goal makes you less likely to achieve it, because it satisfies some part of your personality that thinks announcing it is the same as actually doing it. But I’m not talking about just announcing it — key here is involving other people, deeply and on a day-to-day basis (a blog is great for this), who will take an active and relentless role in reminding you when you’re not doing what you promised them you would.

5. Get to work.

Obvious, I hope. I put this here only because too many people (and I’ve been guilty of it) have the idea that, by visualizing their goal and repeating incantations in their head and “acting as if,” they’ll make magic happen. I’m not saying these things aren’t valuable tools, but if they don’t lead to actual work being done, then they’re not any good.

So what’s my goal?

People asked me this during the Q&A after my talks. A lot. 

And my answer is that I don’t have one right now — honestly, this book tour was it. As soon as I finished my 100-miler, the tour was all I could think about, and actually being on tour consumed every last bit of mindspace I have.

I used to tell people (and myself) that you should have your next goal ready before you accomplish your first. This way, I said, you’d prevent yourself from slipping into a rut.

I don’t believe this anymore. I’ve learned that when I force a goal, when I set one just because I should and it doesn’t give my butterflies and doesn’t keep me up at night, then I don’t care enough about it to make it happen.

So now I wait for that inspiration to hit, as I’m sure it will once I come down off this most recent high.

Breaking 3 hours in the marathon would be pretty exciting to me. The Badwater 135 is more exciting, but longer-term and more of a burden for my family.

In time, another speck of an idea will come. Then the day of frantic research and bending the facts to convince myself that I can do it. Then the accountability.

But this is beside the point. My hope is that you’ll take this post as “permission” to think about a goal that’s more unrealistic than what you’ve allowed yourself to think about before, and then go make it happen.

Trust me — the fear of failure thing is overrated. When people see that you’re serious — that you’re going to do it no matter what – well, that’s a lot different from watching you try once, fail, and then give up. You’ll find, if you stick with it, that your failures (and there probably will be some, but just call them “feedback”) won’t entertain your friends, they’ll inspire them.

PS — For some inspiration, see my friend Doug’s announcement of his new goal.

No Meat Athlete Radio: ‘Approaching the Natural’ with Author Sid Garza-Hillman

29 October, 2013 - 03:06

Last week — after the most beautiful drive of my life along the Pacific coast from southern Oregon to Mendocino, California — I had the pleasure of spending a night at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, an (all-vegan!) eco-resort.

I was only there for one night — 18 hours in total — but in that short time I had two amazing vegan meals at the resort’s Ravens Restaurant, a fire in my room’s fireplace, and a view of the Pacific Ocean from my balcony (sliiightly different accommodations from the roadside motels I’ve been staying in for most of the rest of the book tour).

It was all arranged by Sid Garza-Hillman, director of the Stanford Inn’s wellness center and author of the fantastic book Approaching the Natural. And someone I’m happy to call a friend after hanging out for a few days in Oakland and San Francisco, where Sid joined me in speaking at two of my tour events.

But the truth is that Sid and I became fast friends long before we met in person — our approaches to health and the active, plant-based lifestyle are so similar in their simplicity and affinity for small steps over big leaps, that it was only natural that we’d connect.

All of this, of course, is a long way of introducing a new podcast episode that Sid and I did together. We lit a fire at the Stanford Inn, sat down without any plan, and talked for an hour (or so) about health, what’s “natural” for human beings as a species, and why “approaching” that ideal — slowly and one step at a time — is the best strategy for sustainable health. We recorded it to use on both of our podcasts (check out Sid’s here).

Hope you enjoy it!

PS — As the tour enters its second month, the most common question I’ve gotten has become, “How’s the tour going?” The short answer is that it has been both incredible and incredibly hectic. The fact that it took me a week and a half just to get this episode published should give you an idea … so ignore our asking you to “come out to our San Francisco event,” unless you’ve got a time machine.

Here’s what Sid and I talk about in this episode:

  • Moving past the diet paradigm
  • Making gradual improvements in diet and fitness
  • Balancing technology in your day-to-day life
  • Finding the best calorie source
  • Does eating healthy make you happy?
  • Honesty and eating habits
  • Viewing mileage differently
  • The importance of creativity for a healthy life

Click the button below to listen now:

Download audio file (nmaradio18.mp3)


If you’re a fan of NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Links from the show:

Vegan on the Road: How I’ve Eaten Healthier than Ever While Driving Across the Country

24 October, 2013 - 09:29

It took three weeks and 5500 miles, but yesterday, I hit the unofficial halfway point of my book tour – Seattle, Washington.

Fun place, by the way, with tons of vegan-friendly restaurants. And as I head down the west coast and back across the southern half of the country, I’m looking forward to more food options than I’ve had so far.

And believe me, when you’ve spent most of the past week driving long, barren stretches through states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Nebraska, you appreciate options.

To be honest, I’ve never found eating vegan while traveling all that difficult. But the constraints of the past three weeks — owing to the fact that I’m in a car — have made it more challenging. The three big ones:

  • I’m in a new hotel every single night, always without a kitchen and often with no fridge or microwave.
  • The car is packed so tightly that there’s no room for a cooler.
  • I’m without my beloved Blendtec — I left it for my wife and kids — or any blender, for that matter.

Finally, this is all on a budget — I’d go broke if I ate out at restaurants for all or even most of my meals. Selling books has helped to offset some costs of hotels, gas, and food, but this tour is a labor of love, not something that’s financially profitable by any means. So I’ve really got to keep an eye on my food cost.

Yet at the same time as I’m trying to keep costs down, it’s extremely important that I eat well. The book tour has been far more exhausting than I had prepared for, and if I weren’t eating better than ever, I think I’d have crashed long ago.

Yes, you read that right – even under all these constraints (in fact, because of all these constraints), I’m eating as healthily as I ever have, perhaps even more so.

Here’s how.

The Real Way to Eat Vegan While Traveling

Traditionally, the advice about eating plant-based on the road has taken only two words to dispense:

Happy Cow.”

And it really is all you need — assuming you’re on a short trip, and you don’t mind paying restaurant prices in exchange for getting a taste of the local vegetarian and vegan scene.

But that’s not my situation. In most places I’ve driven through, there is no local vegetarian and vegan scene. So instead my focus has been on practicality, value, and health, rather than on fun or fancy or exciting food — and that has made all the difference. (See what I did there? Robert Frost, road, less traveled, etc. )

The Key: Foods Over Meals

Recently I’ve started learning from Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who advocates a plant-based diet entirely for health reasons.

A big idea I’ve learned from Dr. Fuhrman is that “the salad is the meal.” Interpret salad loosely here … the idea is that instead of worrying about eating a traditional “square” meal and getting your vegetables on the side or in a salad, you do far better by basing your entire diet on the foods in that salad. 

And that’s the trick that has helped me not just survive on the road, but thrive, by eating fresher, more whole, and more raw.

Forget the square meal. Forget about identifying the protein, the carbohydrate, and the fat. Fill up on the handful of foods that you consider to be the healthiest on Earth. And redefine “meal” to mean exactly that.

For Dr. Fuhrman (at least, in my interpretation), these foods are:

  • Cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits, especially berries
  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms

Fuhrman uses the mnemonic acronym GBOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, seeds) to remember these foods.

This is how I’ve eaten over the past three weeks. Combine whole, fresh foods, focusing on the GBOMBS. Do it in a way that fills you up and that you don’t get sick of, and you win.

What this means, for me at least, is that I end up eating a nearly raw diet until noon each day, and many days even longer than that.


Here’s the procedure I’ve fallen into, and it works.

a) Stock up on raw trail mix (raw nuts and seeds and raisins) and fresh fruit, especially oranges, bananas, apples, strawberries, and raspberries — foods that can last a few days without refrigeration. Eat this stuff for breakfast in the mornings, and snack on it throughout the day. (And really, what else are you going to find for breakfast that’s plant-based and not just a bunch of wheat? Certainly nothing in the hotel spread.)

b) Whenever you’re near a Whole Foods, stop at it. Head to the salad bar and make a gigantic salad that includes dark leafy greens (usually kale), chickpeas or black beans, whatever seeds they have (usually sunflower and pumpkin seeds), and whatever other veggies you’re in the mood for — for me it’s usually cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, and roasted mushrooms. I’ve stuck mainly to Whole Foods’s oil-free dressings, though I’m not anti-oil by any means.

If it’s meal time (even breakfast), I eat about half of this salad immediately and half for my next meal. If it’s not meal time, I still get the salad and save it until next time I’m hungry.

c) For hot meals, usually just dinner but lunch if I’m lucky, it’s one of three things:

  1. A burrito or bowl from Chipotle, with brown rice, black or pinto beans (they’re vegan now!), onions and peppers, guacamole, tomatoes, and medium or hot salsa.
  2. Something from the Whole Foods hot bar, or one of their built-in restaurants at larger stores. You’ve got to be careful here, because even though it’s Whole Foods, there are plenty of prepared-food options that are less-than-healthy. Mostly I stick to cooked vegetables and grains.
  3. A meal from a local vegetarian- or vegan-friendly restaurant, found either via Happy Cow or recommendation from friends on Twitter or at my book tour events.

That’s it. I can think of almost nothing I’ve eaten that doesn’t fall into one of those three categories, except for the fruit, trail mix, and salad.


I can anticipate a few:

How can you say Whole Foods is cheap?

I can get a huge salad, including beans and seeds, that will last for one or two meals, for 10 bucks. This isn’t cheap, but not that expensive either for a meal (or two meals) on the road. It’s entirely organic and I consider it the healthiest meal I eat each day, so it’s worth it. Sometimes I get the fruit and trail mix from Whole Foods too, but you can also get these (and even the salad, though not often with so many organic veggies) at most regular grocery stores.

In all, breakfast and lunch of fruit, nuts, and this mega-salad cost $12 or so, total. This is less than half of what I’d pay to sit and eat at a restaurant, and these meals are as healthy as they come.

Trail mix, fruit, and salad doesn’t sound like a breakfast.

No, it doesn’t. But it’s almost exactly the same ingredients as what’s in my smoothie when I’m at home. Eating this way took only a few days to get used to, and I love how it feels. So I’ll likely take this “raw until noon” habit home with me.

Do you really think Chipotle is healthy?

I do, if you get a bowl and avoid the white-flour tortilla. It’s beans, rice, and vegetables, which is a lot like a typical dinner I’d eat at home. The vegetables aren’t organic (as far as I know), but on the road, I’ll take it.

As for variety, if I were eating at Chipotle every day, my diet would be lacking. Thankfully, I’ve only eaten at Chipotle two or three times per week. I try to vary the contents of daily Whole Foods salad tremendously, by changing up the vegetables that I get in it each time, as well as buying different fruits and making different trail mixes from the bulk sections of stores to add to the variety in my diet on the road.

The Secret: Inconvenience is a Great Thing

That’s really all there is to eating on the road. It’s affordable, practical, and really not that hard, once you get used to it.

The key, of course, is throwing out your preconceived notion of  a meal, and accepting that combining fresh, whole, and often raw foods in a way that fills you up is just as good as any hot, “square” meal. In fact, I think it’s better: as I alluded to above, I truly believe that being so constrained in my choices is a tremendous blessing in disguise. And I’ve noticed this even when I’m not traveling: having to plan and prepare is the major reason I eat far better as a vegan than I ever did as an omnivore or even a vegetarian.

PS — A Special Fall Deal on any No Meat Athlete Roadmap!

This tour has been an incredible experience, and it’s hard to believe it’s only halfway done. I’ve met so many people, many of whom are longtime fans of the blog, but also so many who had never heard of No Meat Athlete until the print book came out.

And so for everyone who has bought the print book as their introduction to NMA and this lifestyle (and are hopefully inspired to do something special with it), I wanted to make it easy to go deeper and train for a big race — whether that’s a half marathon, a marathon, or a triathlon.

From now until Wednesday, October 30th, I’ve made each of the three Roadmap programs available at 35% off the regular price. I only do these sorts of deals once or twice a year (last time was for the first day of spring, over seven months ago), so if you’ve had your eye on the Roadmap systems, now’s your chance to grab one on the cheap!

You can find out more about each Roadmap and the special pricing here.

The Healthy (But Practical) Plant-Based Diet — A Typical Day

17 October, 2013 - 10:03

Two and a half weeks into my book tour, things are finally becoming routine.

I’ve mastered the last-minute hotel search, figured out how to eat healthily while traveling, and gotten used to answering many of the same questions over and over in interviews and Q&A sessions.

One of the most common questions: What exactly do you eat during a typical day? 

Several people have expressed surprise that I didn’t include this in my book. The reason? Mainly, I didn’t include my typical day’s diet because the book is not about me. There are so many ways to “do” a plant-based diet; my way is just one of them. The book provides a framework and my favorite recipes, but there’s plenty of flexibility for the reader to swing towards raw or oil-free or even a vegetarian-but-non-vegan diet. I think of No Meat Athlete as a “gateway book” that gives people the tools to try out a healthy, practical plant-based diet, so that once they’re on board, they can take it in the direction that works for them.

But since people are curious, I’m happy to share here what I eat most days (when I’m at home, not on the road).

My Typical Day’s Diet

I eat according to a few simple guidelines (e.g., until I feel mostly full), and of course my meals and snacks vary, day to day. My focus is on practicality and health, and one of the amazing things I’ve found since going vegetarian and then vegan is that as I get further and further away from the processed-food world, my palate has adjusted so that those two aims coincide amazingly well with the goal we all have of eating food that tastes good.

7am — Just about every day, I start with a smoothie. The Perfect Smoothie Formula is the template I use, but not super-strictly. My smoothie starts with a tablespoon or so each of chia seeds, flax seeds, raw walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, and usually includes frozen berries, frozen broccoli, spinach or baby kale leaves, a banana, ice, and water.

I used to add flax or coconut oil and hemp protein powder to my smoothie, but this year I’ve shifted heavily towards whole foods and I’ve found that I do just fine without any of those supplements. I make the smoothie in my Blendtec, which does a good job of grinding all the nuts and seeds at once with everything else (if you don’t have a Vitamix or Blendtec, you can grind the nuts and seeds into a powder in a coffee grinder, then add that powder to your smoothie).

8am – An Ezekiel sprouted whole-grain English muffin, usually cinnamon-raisin, spread with a tablespoon or two of raw, homemade almond butter. With this, I drink one 10-ounce cup of coffee, usually Counter Culture, ground in a hand-crank grinder and prepared as a pour over. I go through phases where I switch to green tea, and I think this is healthier than coffee, but I like coffee and always find myself coming back to it, even after weeks or months without.

10am – Fruit, usually an orange but occasionally an apple, a banana, or berries. Often I’ll have a few handfuls of raw-nut trail mix (“Strider’s Snack” from Whole Foods).

12pm – With few exceptions, my lunch is leftover from previous night’s dinner, reheated in a pan or steamer depending on what type of food it is (we ditched the microwave last year). See the 6pm meal for examples of what typical dinner/lunch might be.

I don’t know where my wife and I would ever find the time to actually cook lunch from scratch, so we always make a double recipe for dinner to make sure there’s enough for lunch the next day.

3pm – Along with the morning smoothie, an afternoon salad is pretty much a constant in my diet. I blend baby kale, spinach, spring mix, arugula or whatever else we have around and top with some combination of fresh tomato (when it’s in season), avocado, green onion, celery, carrot, hemp hearts, and sunflower seeds. Sometimes I add chickpeas or black beans, but not always. For dressing I used to always use a little bit of olive oil with apple cider or balsamic vinegar, but recently I tend toward oil-free dressings based on tahini or nuts (often using one of the recipes in Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity).

If I’m not in the mood for salad in the mid-afternoon, I eat homemade hummus with either a whole-grain pita or some broccoli or other raw vegetable that we have on hand, and save the salad for right before dinner — and sometimes, the salad is the dinner!

4pm – I usually run in the late afternoons, and depending on how I’m feeling, I eat some fruit, drink some fruit juice, or pop a few fresh dates for a quick boost of energy a few minutes before I head out the door. If the run is less than an hour, as most are, I don’t eat anything during it. When I get back, I eat more fruit or perhaps some hummus as a quick-post workout snack.

6pm – Dinnertime. We like to try new recipes as often as we have the time for, and mostly we cook from Thrive Foods, Appetite for Reduction, Clean Food, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, and Let Them Eat Vegan. (See this list of my favorite cookbooks.)

We choose meals that are fairly quick, based on whole foods, and kid-friendly. Dinner could be lentils and rice, a hearty soup, a pasta dish with beans and greens added to the sauce, tempeh or tofu stir-fried with vegetables, black bean tacos or burritos, or a simple Indian or Thai dish. Some nights when we’re short on time, dinner is just a huge salad with beans (usually crisped in a pan). Our son won’t eat salad yet, so on these nights we heat up a few Gardein tenders for him or give him a sandwich of almond butter or hummus on Ezekiel bread. (You can find recipes like these and many more on my recipes page — some are from the early days so they don’t necessarily represent how I eat now.)

Side note: Though I try to eat most meals with my wife and kids, dinner is the one time when we always eat together. We’ve also been doing the whole “go around the table and everybody say what they’re grateful for” thing before we eat, which is fun with our toddler, and a good thing for us grown-ups too.

7pm – A beer or glass of wine. Almost always just one, and when it’s beer, I try to keep it low ABV. That’s not always easy, because the beers I tend to like are usually 6-7% alcohol.

Although we as a country are fond of sharing articles that say alcohol is good for us, I don’t believe it. I think alcohol is the most unhealthy part of my diet, but it’s a small indulgence and I don’t think the harm from one drink a night is much. Barnivore is what I use to determine if a beer is vegan.

9pm – Dark chocolate. Just a small piece, usually 85 or 90 percent cacao. You’ve got to check to make sure it’s vegan, but most brands of chocolate this dark are.

Also check out a post I wrote a few months ago called 10 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day for a few other small things that I try to include each day, like Brazil nuts and a B12 supplement.

The Key to Lasting Change

If you’re new to a plant-based diet, or just trying to make yours even healthier, then I hope this is helpful! Coming up on five years as a vegetarian and three as a vegan, my diet is still evolving, and looks drastically different than it did when I started. The key for me has been extremely slow, gradual change. Rather than trying to suddenly cut out a bunch of bad foods and add a bunch of healthy ones all at once — which so often results in failure — make just one tiny change at a time (assuming your health situation isn’t dire, of course), and you’ll be surprised at how quickly these tiny changes stack on top of each other to move you toward whatever “ideal” is for you.

Being on the road has changed my routine, for sure, but not by all that much. I’m working on a post about how I’m managing (and honestly, eating more raw food than I even do at home!), so look for that soon.

PS — If you’ve had a chance to read the No Meat Athlete book, I’d really appreciate it if you would leave a review on Amazon. Thanks so much!

The First 10 Days of the No Meat Athlete Book Tour

10 October, 2013 - 06:23

Speaking at JackRabbit NYC. Photo courtesy Ben Ko.

Wow, what a week! It’s been 10 days since I started my book tour, and I’ve had two events each in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Ohio, plus Boston and New York City.

If all that weren’t enough for 10 days, I took a two-day “break” to run the RAGNAR Relay in DC on an ultra team … which meant running 40 miles of our team’s 200 total. In 90-degree heat. From a smelly, crowded, always-moving van. Over the course of 28 hours. Fun times!

Actually RAGNAR was a lot of fun, even if doing it in the middle of the book tour wasn’t my best idea ever — see Doug’s RAGNAR recap if you’re interested in more about how our team did and Doug’s do’s and don’ts.

The No Meat Athlete RAGNAR DC team. 28 hours, 199 miles, 1 seriously disgusting van.

Being on the road has been fun, too. I’ve met so many great people and longtime fans of No Meat Athlete, and every event feels just like hanging out with friends — exactly what I had anticipated, and the reason I wanted to do a book tour in the first place. It’s been especially awesome to see, in the flesh, people who have made major changes in the past few years as a result of this lifestyle – WendyTomShane, and Greg (who paced me for the last 35 miles of my 100 this summer), for example.

At Life Alive Cafe in Boston, with Tom Giammalvo and his cousin Mike. (Click image for Tom’s story.)

What I was unprepared for is how little time there would be for anything else. Mornings are an hour or two of writing, email, or running with a friend, then it’s into the car to drive to the next city, and soon enough it’s time to do the event, grab some food or a drink with people I’ve met, then to bed to do it all again.

Even getting up a blog post is tough, but being on tour has generated lots of new ideas for when I do have time — eating vegan while traveling, for example, has reached a whole new level of challenging, and how I’m managing (quite well, thanks) will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.

At Park + Vine in Cincinnati, with Susie Crossland-Dwyer, owner of Studio S fitness center.

NMA Around the Internets!

With all of this going on, it’s been hard to properly share the many interviews, book reviews, recipes, and book giveaways that people have graciously published since my book has come out. In these days when I can’t write quite as frequently as I’d like, there’s plenty of me all over the internet, so please check these out!

Signing books in NYC after a run in Central Park. Photo courtesy Ben Ko.

Amazon Update, and the FINAL Chance to Get Bonuses

Something of a fiasco occurred last week with Amazon — if you had pre-ordered my book there, you likely got an email from them last week saying the book would not be delivered until November or December. That was due to a stock error, which has now been fixed, and as of today, Amazon finally says “In stock”!

Thanks for your patience — believe me, this mix-up has been incredibly frustrating for me, too. Nothing has pained me more on this tour than when a loyal reader who has pre-ordered the book can’t get it signed at an event because it hasn’t arrived yet.

Last week I had planned to announce an extension of my pre-order offer for just a few days, to say thanks for all the support. But to avoid further confusion during the fiasco, I’ve kept quiet until the issue was resolved. Which is now.

So here’s the deal, one last time: Buy or order the book by the end of the day tomorrow — that’s Friday, October 11 — and forward me a copy of your receipt (matt@nomeatathlete.com). To say thanks for being an early-adopter, I’ll send you 6 great bonuses, three of which are ready now, the other three of which are in the works. (And if you’ve already ordered and sent me your receipt, thanks — look for an email today about the bonuses.)

Click here to learn more about what I think is a pretty incredible package of stuff!

One more from Park + Vine in Cincinnati.

And thanks, once more, for helping this book do as well as it has these first few days. We’re reaching so many new people with this message as a result, and I know a lot of good will eventually come of that.

Hope to meet you at an event soon!

The No Meat Athlete Book is Out Today (Saying Thanks)

1 October, 2013 - 11:28

Today, the first day my book is officially available in stores and online (serendipitously, World Vegetarian Day), is a surreal one indeed.

I’m typing this post from the passenger seat of a car, driving to Boston for the second stop on my book tour, in just a few hours. Even that phrase — “my book tour” — feels very odd to actually say or write.

But it’s underway, and the faces, names, and stories of the people I met last night in the small town of Media, PA made it feel very real, reminding me why I decided to take on this tour in the first place.

The book is at the top of several categories on Amazon. All morning I’ve been doing phone interviews and email interviews and scheduling new ones, amidst excitedly reading early reviews of the book on blogs — some of my favorite blogs, no less. It’s like a dream, and one that I’m doing everything I can to appreciate while it lasts.

It is beyond incredible that all this has happened. And while I’m feeling lots of different emotions right now — giddiness, nervousness, excitement, fatigue, missing my wife and kids — the one keeping me centered and integrated is gratitude.

Gratitude that so many of the blogs, podcasts, magazines, and people I’ve reached out to have been so eager to help the book reach new readers. Gratitude that the message — one that is so meaningful to me — is being spread in a new way. And gratitude, of course, that my book and the scary, crazy, who-do-you-think-you-are idea to do a self-supported, self-organized tour across the country, is being so enthusiastically embraced by No Meat Athlete readers.

It’s convenient and easy to call it “my” book. But just as I don’t want to be called “the” No Meat Athlete (I’m only one of many), it doesn’t feel like the book is “mine.” On the front cover alone, there are three names! Open it up, and gracing the inside covers you’ll find pictures of the 40 or so others, kicking ass in their own way in their No Meat Athlete shirts. And in the book, there’s of course plenty from me and co-author Matt Ruscigno, but there are also contributions from 23 experts, chefs, and readers. The book is not mine, but ours.

I used to skip the acknowledgements page at the beginning or end of a book. I still don’t really read it, but I force myself to at least skim it, because more often than not it leads me to someone else, someone who influenced the author and whom I can learn from.

Which is why I’m posting the acknowledgements page from the No Meat Athlete book here — in hopes that you might discover a new source of information and inspiration in someone who has inspired me.

Thank you to my mentors and inspirations, in writing, entrepreneurship, and (in several cases) veganism:

Seth GodinTony RobbinsLeo Babauta, and Tim Ferriss. What I’ve learned from you — not just what you teach, but the way you teach it — is the foundation for everything I do.

Sonia Simone, Brian Clark, Tony Clark, Jon Morrow, and everyone at Copyblogger Media. It’s easy to look at No Meat Athlete’s history and pinpoint the exact moment when I started learning from you all, and to this day I continue to do so.

Caitlin Boyle, whose support in the early days of No Meat Athlete made all the difference.

Karol GajdaGena Hamshaw, and Robert Cheeke, without whose examples I might never have found the inspiration to become vegan. Brendan BrazierRich Roll, and Scott Jurek, the pinnacles of what’s possible that I always like to point to, all three of you generous supporters of No Meat Athlete from early on. And Douglas Hofstadter and Richard Dawkins, the first to (very likely inadvertently) plant the seed in this one reader’s head that maybe I didn’t want to eat other thinking, feeling beings not all that different from me.

The No Meat Athlete team, who somehow make this operation seem halfway legit: Susan LackeDoug Hay, and Erin Frazier. We can get back to normal now.

Charlie PabstBren DendyJenny Leonard, Christine Hein, and Kevin McCarthy, all of whom have helped to make No Meat Athlete look sharp. Alright, cute.

The experts who contributed their collective wealth of knowledge to this book: Matt RuscignoBrendan BrazierJason Sellers, Christine Hein, Mo Ferris, Jason FitzgeraldRobert CheekeMeredith MurphyEd BauerErika MitchenerSara Beth Russert, Hillary BiscayAdam ChaseLeo BabautaGena HamshawMike Zigomanis, and Susan Lacke.

The readers who were kind enough to share their stories to inspire others: Tina Žigon, Pete DeCapite, Greg Watkins, Tom Giammalvo, Janet OberholtzerTori Brook. Hearing stories like yours is the best part of this gig, bar none.

Recipe testers for this book: Tim Frazier, Vickie Craven, Christine Hein, Bren and Joe Dendy, Pete and Kristin DeCapite.

My family: Mom, Dad, Christine, Erin, Holden, and Ellarie. You’re the reason for all of this.

Supporters of No Meat Athlete from day one: Colleen and Joel Baldwin and Pete and Kristin DeCapite.

Jamie Halberg, who helped me keep my head on straight throughout the daunting task of writing a “real” book.

Marcus Leaver, Cara Connors, Winnie Prentiss, Kevin Mulroy, and everyone at Fair Winds Press, for your help in making this project a reality and reaching far more people with this message than I could ever do on my own.

Last and most important, the No Meat Athlete audience, including but extending far beyond those who contributed photos for the inside covers of this book. Without you to support, share, interact with, and care about our work, No Meat Athlete would be a long-ago abandoned blog with a few recipes and a clever name — and I would still be a guy searching for something meaningful to do.

Thank you all. So much.

No Meat Athlete Radio: How to Find the Time to Do Everything You Want

26 September, 2013 - 11:53

Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be. — Peter Gibbons, Office Space

Shortly after I started this blog back in 2009, long before I added ultramarathons and kids into my life, a lot of people started asking me: How do you find time to do it all?

Back then, “it all” meant marathon training, eating a vegetarian diet, not flunking out of grad school, writing a blog, and being a husband.

I never thought it was that much, honestly … I always had plenty of time to do nothing; time to just be.

But now that two young kiddos are part of the picture — along with a 100-mile ultra, a new book, and a 40-city tour to go with it — this year there hasn’t been so much time to do nothing. I have a new understanding of “busy,” something I’m never proud to be.

So with that understanding — and the skills and tricks I’ve learned for accomplishing a lot of different goals without going insane — I’m ready to take a decent shot at answering the How do you find the time? question.

That’s what this episode, number 17 of No Meat Athlete Radio, is about. Doug and I sat down and talked about how we manage to balance fitness, healthy eating, and family life (because that’s all pretty important, you know) along with all the extraneous stuff we want to do.

Here’s hoping you’ll  find a nugget or two that’ll help you handle what you’ve got on your plate, or maybe even add something more — even if that something more is just some precious quiet time to yourself, with which to do nothing.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The classic time management tip: important vs. urgent
  • Is multitasking really any good?
  • The power of turning “shoulds” into “musts”
  • Choosing to spend time on activities that create more time
  • Being efficient with your workouts
  • My plans for running on the book tour
  • Time-saving tips for eating a healthy plant-based diet
  • Meal planning strategies when you don’t have much time

PS — We had some audio issues this time around that made the sound a little bit distorted at times. Sorry about that!

Click the button below to listen now:

Download audio file (nmaradio17.mp3)


If you’re a fan of NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Links from the show:

Thanks for listening!

How Joe Took 55 Minutes Off His Marathon to Qualify for Boston — at Age 51

22 September, 2013 - 12:27

If ever a season has punched me in the face to say, “Hey idiot, notice me!”,  fall did it today.

With planning for the release of the book and the cross-country tour to accompany it, the past month has been the busiest of my life — I’m ashamed to admit that I’m far beyond out-of-touch with the weather and the season and so many things that matter. I take no pride whatsoever in being busy, but without any experience in the book-launch-and-tour department, it happened.

But today — coincidentally or not, the same day as the autumnal equinox — I looked out the window and noticed that fall had arrived. Erin roasted some sugar pumpkins from our garden using this method from Oh She Glows, and tonight I’ll use some of the output to make risotto (without the butter or cheese, though — that recipe is from before I was vegan).

Football is on, an evening run is planned, and pumpkin ale is in the fridge … fall, I am noticing (and appreciating) you.

But what does fall have to do with the title of the post? Quite a bit, actually.

Perhaps my strongest association to this season is that of qualifying for Boston. It was at the Wineglass Marathon in October, in upstate New York with fall in all its glory, that I qualified, after putting everything I had into it for seven years. As emotional an experience as it was, it’s no surprise that every year when the colors turn and the wind gets a chill, I’m reminded of that day and that proud accomplishment.

The interview I’m sharing today is with my friend Joe, whose Boston-qualifying story is strangely similar to mine. Like me, Joe ran his qualifying race at BQ-friendly Wineglass. Also like me, Joe’s first marathon times gave no indication whatsoever that he’d ever do any more than spectate at Boston.

And of course, Joe credits his vegan diet with a big part of his enormous improvement, just as going vegetarian helped me close the 10 minute gap between myself and a Boston bib.

Joe Richardson, ready to cross the line and call himself a Boston qualifier.

The big difference is that while I did all of this in my late 20′s, Joe qualified at the age of 51! At an age when most runners think decline is inevitable, Joe took 55 minutes off his previous PR marathon and earned himself a spot in Boston (which he’ll run in 2014).

I hope you enjoy the interview. In it, I pick Joe’s brain about his diet, what it was that made him think that he could get to Boston, and the training that made it happen. But mostly, I’m sharing it so that it will inspire you — especially if you’re like Joe or me, and qualifying for Boston seems so impossible but some part of you won’t let the crazy idea go.

Click the button below to listen to the interview:

Download audio file (joe-interview-full.mp3)

or download the MP3 to your computer (you may need to right-click and “Save Link As”).

Want more Boston goodies?

At the beginning of the interview, you’ll hear me say “Hello, Run Your BQ members and prospective members …” That’s because (a) Joe is a Run Your BQ member and (b) this interview is part of a new free series of audio calls, videos, and articles that Jason Fitzgerald (from Strength Running) and I put together to help runners get faster and to introduce them to Run Your BQ.

If you’re interested in getting the rest of the series, check out “How I Took 100 Minutes off My Marathon to Qualify for Boston” and download my report about the mental approach I used to improve by so much. After that you’ll get an email each day or so, until the series is complete or you unsubscribe (which you can do at any time, of course). And just so you know, along with all the content in the series, we’ll also send you some info about Run Your BQ and how you can join.

With that, I’m back to enjoying this beautiful day and the start of a new season — hope you’re doing the same.

Announcing No Meat Athlete Book Tour Dates & Locations!

19 September, 2013 - 11:31

Leaving your college dorm at midnight, to drive seven hours each way. For a sandwich.

Using your dishwasher to create a floor-to-ceiling foam party in your (carpeted) living room.

Planning a 40-city book tour all by yourself.

All things I’ve done that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight weren’t my best ideas ever.

But when it comes down to it, I can’t honestly say that I regret any of them. Not even the foam party, which resulted in moldy carpet and four sick roommates.

As for the book tour, I definitely don’t regret the decision to do it … just the heroic attempt to plan it myself. Thankfully, my mom (yep, my mom) stepped in and saved me from a nervous breakdown last week, and I’m pleased now to announce that the schedule is just about set.

No Meat Athlete’s big splash this weekend

After I announced the bonuses for pre-ordering my book (which comes out October 1st, less than two weeks away), things got crazy.

That same day, the Huffington Post republished a fun No Meat Athlete post, and ess hit the proverbial fan, in the best way possible.

Hundreds of you bought the book, and helped No Meat Athlete to reach #53 on the Barnes & Noble Top 100! It spent three days at #1 in Amazon’s Running & Jogging category, even reaching #1 in Individual Sports.

And although it eventually fell from these spots, I had to remind myself: the damn thing is not even out yet! Who knows what will happen then. Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful for all of you who have pre-ordered and helped make that all happen. Thank you.

If you plan on buying the book but haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and don’t miss the pre-order deal.

Announcing the tour dates!

Without further ado, whining, gloating, or advertisements — wow, brilliant post you’ve crafted so far, Matt — let’s get to the fun part: the tour dates!

I’ve created a new page with all the dates, venues, and locations. I hope you’ll try your best to make it to an event, because:

(a) I’m so pumped to meet No Meat Athlete readers, and

(b) it will suck to high heaven if I’m 2,537 miles away from my family and talking to an empty room, before heading out for a run all by myself. No pressure, or anything.

A few things to note about the tour schedule:

  • You’ll see that a handful of venues are still TBD (so actually, there is another minute of planning …). Consider those “Save the Dates”; if nothing else I’ll plan informal meetups in those cities, but hopefully I’ll line something up for each of those (and many have things in the works already). If you’ve got ideas, let me know!
  • I created a Facebook event page for most of the events, if the host didn’t already do so. If you’re interested in coming to an event, please use that event’s Facebook page and RSVP or click “Maybe,” so that you get updates about it. Letting us know you’re coming (even if there’s a chance you’ll have to bail) is extremely helpful for estimating how many people will show up.

Check out the full book tour schedule here.

That’s it! I know I’ve pitched a fit about planning this beast, but I’m beyond excited to actually start the tour. It’s tough to explain just how much anticipation I’m feeling … I can’t wait to hit the road, meet a lot of amazing people, and spread this message that I believe is so important.

I hope I’ll see you out there.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the No Meat Athlete Book (Plus 6 Fantastic Pre-Order Bonuses!)

11 September, 2013 - 09:09

My goal today: Write a “My book is almost out!” post without being sappy, self-indulgent, and giddy like a schoolboy.

Believe me, that’s not easy, because with all the work that has gone into the book, it’s impossible not to be pretty amped up and emotional that it’s finally here.

The official release date is October 1st, just three weeks away. And a few days before that, I’ll be hopping in the car to start what has somehow turned into a nearly two-month long tour of the U.S. to support it. It seems things are about to get interesting.

Although I’ve mentioned the book here several times, I haven’t yet taken the time to explain who it’s for, what’s inside, and why I’m so proud of it. So that’s what I’m going to do today.

Oh yeah, and I’ve also got some amazing bonuses that I’ll send you when you pre-order before the official release on October 1st. And that’s not just marketing-speak — I really do think these bonuses are pretty darn special, and I think you’ll agree.

So here goes. If I get too deep into the self-gratification bit, punch me in the forehead.

The Big Risk I Took that Might Totally Backfire

Early on in the writing process, I made a decision that I knew could blow up in my face. But it’s a decision I stand by, and I want to share it with you.

In almost five years of blogging and writing, everything I’ve learned tells me you should write to a specific, small group of people — so that they can take one look and say, “This is for me.”

What you aren’t supposed to do is try to please different groups of people: as the maxim goes, if you’re writing to everybody, you’re writing to nobody.

So the safe, easy thing would have been to write this book only for the No Meat Athlete audience, people who are already on board. Assume everyone is already vegetarian or vegan, and help them to take their nutrition to the next level. Assume everyone is already active and fit and has no trouble getting themselves out the door to train, and help them maximize their performance.

I could have done that, and I think the book would have done pretty well. But at the end of the day, if I’d have narrowed the aim that way, I would have had to live every day knowing that I took the easy way out. Instead of the one that really mattered.

So I had to ask myself what I want this book to do. And the answer was simple: I want it to change the world. (I should aim higher, I know.)

The only way I’d be happy with the months upon months of work that went into this would be if I knew that it was advancing our plant-based movement in a big way, and reaching people whose health depends on it.

I wrote this book with three goals:

1. I want to show athletes who aren’t yet vegetarian — but who are just curious enough that the title of the book intrigues them to pick it up — that this diet can absolutely work for sports. And that there’s a very good chance they’ll find it helps them to perform better, like it did for me.

2. I want to help people who are already vegetarian/vegan/raw, but not active, to get in shape and discover the tremendous power in doing something they used to think impossible — whether that’s losing weight, running a half marathon, or something way bigger. And in the process, to help obliterate the stereotype that vegetarians are weak and preachy.

3. I want to give people who are already plant-based, already athletes, more tools to take both pursuits to the next level. I don’t pretend to have all the answers — certainly there are people in the audience who are stricter and more serious about nutrition than I am, just like I write to faster runners and more accomplished athletes in the No Meat Athlete audience. But — and this is absolutely key — writing “for” so many people involves making a big bet. And that’s a bet that those people in the third group (you, very likely) will help the book reach those in the first two groups, those who need it.

In short: If you’re a reader of my blog, then yes, of course it’s for you. Chances are you’ve found something in my approach that you like — maybe the simplicity, maybe my honesty, maybe the non-preachiness and down-to-earth-itude — and I can promise you that the book has all of those elements.

But you’ll probably also find some parts that aren’t quite for you. If you’re already vegan, you won’t need the “Transition to a Plant-Based Diet” page, but you’ll probably learn a lot from the sports nutrition chapter and enjoy the 50 simple vegan recipes. If you’re already a half marathoner, you won’t need the “Run Your First 5K” plan, but the half marathon plan might help you improve on your PR (or see below, for how you can get a marathon plan too).

The bet I’m making, though, is that you won’t let that stop you from supporting this project — because you understand that this is also about introducing new to people to this incredible, healthy, compassionate, sustainable way of life.

Rest assured, I’m not asking you to “buy this book for the cause,” I promise. There’s a ton of good content inside (you can see what some people you’ve probably heard of have said about it here), and I want to add even more, for you. Which brings me to the fun part of this post — how I’m going to make sure that even if you’re advanced in both your diet and your fitness, this still feels like it’s “for you.”

Special Bonuses for Pre-Orders …

So here’s the deal. Pre-orders are very important for getting bookstores to stock the book. But they’re also likely to come from the diehard fans, which means this is an opportunity for me to say “thanks” in a big way. So I want to make it an absolute no-brainer.

If you order the book before the official release date of October 1st (from any store you want), just forward me a copy of your receipt (matt@nomeatathlete.com) and I’ll set you up with what I think is a pretty sweet bonus package.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • Private access to a series of 3 live webinars with me, where we’ll go deeper into the key areas of the book. The first one will be about habit change and setting big goals, the second one about plant-based nutrition, and the third about fitness and running. And I’ll leave plenty of time for your questions, so that you can ask me anything you want and get an answer right away.
  • New, unreleased “Formulas” recipe ebook — a brand new ebook with 10 formula recipes, in the style of the Perfect Smoothie Formula, the  Ultimate Energy Bar Formula, and the Veggie Burger Formula.
  • Ebook of the best cut material that couldn’t fit into the No Meat Athlete book — including 25 recipes and an entire chapter on making the plant-based diet fit your lifestyle that had to be cut at the last minute, to fit this thing into 256 pages.
  • Nutrition call with co-author Matt Ruscigno, MPH RD – a brand new, unreleased MP3 audio call between me and co-author Matt Ruscigno, where we really drive home the most important aspects about plant-based nutrition for sports, in more detail than we could in the book.
  • The 26.2-mile training plan from my Marathon Roadmap system — the plans in the No Meat Athlete book are for a 5K, 10K, and half marathon. But because I expect that many of you who read my blog are beyond that (or plan to be!), I want to also give you a marathon plan too.
  • A signed, full-color book plate*, personalized with your name (or someone else’s, if you’re into that).

*What’s a book plate, you ask? Yeah, I just learned too. It’s a sticker, made just for this purpose, that I sign and personalize with your name, then mail out to you to stick in the front of the book. You know, if you want my dumb signature messing up a perfectly good book.

Again, all you’ve got to do to get all this for free is pre-order the book, before October 1, and email me a copy of your receipt. Then, as soon as everything is ready, I’ll get it out to you. I’m still pulling it all together, but I should have most of it ready by October 1st, when the book comes out.

And of course, if you’ve already pre-ordered (thanks!) this stuff is for you too. Just send along your receipt and I’ll get it all out to you as soon as it’s ready.

So that’s what I’ve got for you. I sincerely hope you’ll find all of this more than worth the 14 or 15 bucks the book costs — it’s a very special offer, and it’s a way to say thanks for all of your support.

Pre-order the book at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, or Qbookshop, or ask your local, independent store if they can pre-order it for you.

(Yes, I know the cover is displaying weirdly on some of these sites right now. We’re waiting for that to be corrected in the next few days, but don’t worry, your book cover will look like the image in this post.)


Lots of people have had questions about the book, so this FAQ is my attempt to answer them. Not all of these Q’s are actually FA, but many are. And I thought the others would be helpful for you.

Q. How is this different from your Roadmap ebooks?

A. Back in the days before e-readers, people used to write sentences down on paper and bind them together in a beautiful, portable format, brilliant not just for its ability to capture a message that was long enough for the author to fully develop an idea, but for its shareability: You could hand it to a friend and say “check this out,” or sit it on a coffee table to lubricate awkward conversations when guests come over (or create them, depending on the guests!).

That’s what this is. It’s a book.

I kid, I kid — and yes, it’ll be available as an ebook — but personally, I think it’s best as a real, physical book. Why? First, because training plans and recipes aren’t always so easy to read and use when they’re in electronic format. And second, the inside covers are decorated with full-color photos of tons of people doing awesome things in No Meat Athlete shirts! Which I like because it makes it more obvious that this whole thing isn’t about me, it’s about us.

And the other obvious difference: my Roadmap ebooks are designed to get you to achieve a specific goal, like running a half marathon or marathon on a plant-based diet. While training plans are a part of the book, I think of it as more of a lifestyle manual. The breadth is much greater than in the goal-focused Roadmap ebooks.

Q. Where can I read reviews of the book?

Most online stores won’t allow any user reviews until the book is actually out. But I set up a book page on this site, where I included the endorsements that are inside the actual book, from some pretty incredible people in the plant-based fitness and vegan cooking worlds. Read what they had to say here.

Q. Why does the cover look funky on some of these online stores?

Yeah … no idea. Something got screwed up when they uploaded the most recent version of the cover, and it’ll be fixed soon. Rest assured, the cover on your book will look like the image in this post.

Q. Who else contributed to the book?

A. I asked Matt Ruscigno to co-write the book with me. He’s a registered dietitian whose clients are primarily vegan athletes, and Matt R. is an accomplished ultra-endurance athlete himself. He has three times finished the Furnace Creek 508, a 508-mile bike race across Death Valley (once in the top 10!), as well as multiple iron-distance triathlons, ultramarathons, 24-hour and 100-mile mountain bike races … the list goes on.

More than all that though, the reason I asked Matt R. to help me with the book was for his nutrition chops. Besides holding a Masters degree in public health nutrition, he has been the Chair of the vegetarian arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and worked with Isa Chandra Moskowitz on her bestseller (and one of my family’s favorite cookbooks), Appetite for Reduction.

As much as I believe in my own understanding of nutrition, I wanted to work with a credentialed professional like Matt R., so that you could have confidence in the nutrition advice.

Plus his name is Matt, so you can pretend we’re the same guy who is way too into this stuff.

And a lot more people pitched in, too:

  • Brendan Brazier wrote the foreword
  • Leo Babauta from Zen Habits contributed a few sections about making habit changes stick and barefoot running
  • USATF-certified coach Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running helped with the 5K and 10K training plans
  • Jason Sellers, the chef from my favorite gourmet vegan restaurant (Plant) shared recipes for several dishes on Plant’s menu
  • Gena Hamshaw from Choosing Raw wrote a section about raw food nutrition
  • Other pro and well-known plant-based athletes wrote short sections: Robert Cheeke, Hillary Biscay, Mike Zigomanis, Susan Lacke, Adam Chase, Ed Bauer, Erika Mitchener, Sara Beth Russert, and Meredith Murphy
  • Several amazing NMA readers contributed their inspiring stories of change

I am, of course, humbled and grateful for all the help and to be able to mention these names.

Q. What’s the book about?

A. The book is divided into two sections, the first devoted to plant-based nutrition for athletes, and the second devoted to running and fitness. Throughout both sections, my mission was the same: present my approach to this entire lifestyle, grounding in simplicity, non-judginess, and — really — fun. All with the foundation of habit change principles to make sure that these changes are easy to make and that they last.

The nutrition section includes chapters about why I think a plant-based diet is the best one for your health, the planet, and the animals we share it with; a quick-start guide to this lifestyle, an in-depth guide to sports nutrition with a plant-based diet, cooking advice, and 50 delicious, healthy, substantial and simple recipes.

The fitness section is presented in the context of running, since that’s what I know, but my hope in writing it was that you could apply the principles — goal-setting, habit formation, what to eat around workouts, and the general approach to the training — to other sports. But when it gets into specifics — form and precise workouts — those specifics are about running. This includes a training plan for 5K and 10K distance, plus two half marathon training plans for different goals and levels of experience.

Q. Is this a cookbook?

A. Only partly. There are over 50 recipes in the book, all vegan, most of which have not been published anywhere else. They’re the recipes that I actually eat, day in and day out, plus a few recipes that some pro plant-based chefs contributed.

I chose the recipes I did because they are simple, healthy, and substantial. I wanted food that people would actually make and enjoy, and be comfortable cooking for friends who aren’t vegetarian or vegan, without them seeming weird. I went for healthy, but not so “health-foody” that your family won’t eat it.

In a past life I was a total food nerd, so I do my best to make my food delicious, but that actually isn’t my main point. My goal in choosing recipes was to select the ones that are most useful for busy, active people, who want to eat well without making a tremendous ordeal of it.

Q. What’s this I hear about a book tour?

A. It’s true! I am doing a book tour during October and November, across the entire contiguous United States. It’s totally DIY and self-financed, and I hope that demonstrates to you just how much this book means to me. Plus I think it’ll be pretty fun to run with and talk to lots of NMA readers.

I’d love to meet you in person if you live anywhere near where I’m coming. I’ll publish the full schedule in just a day or two.

Q. Will there be an ebook? And if I pre-order that, will I still get the bonuses?

A. Yes, and yes. The ebook is not yet available for pre-order, but once it is, the bonus offer is good for that version too. You need to order before October 1 though!

Q. If I pre-order the physical book, when will I get it?

A. The official release date is October 1st, so you should have it within a few days of then, at the latest. I’ll have most of the bonuses ready by then, too, but some, like the webinars, will take place in the subsequent months. I’ll email you with the webinar schedule as soon as I know it.

Q. Will the bonus webinars be recorded?

A. Yes. If not by me, then certainly by the NSA. (Okay, seriously, by me.)

Q. How do I get all that pre-order stuff again? (Okay, you got me. Nobody has actually asked this, since I just announced the pre-order deal.)

A. Just forward me a copy of your receipt, at matt@nomeatathlete.com. I’m putting together everything right now, and I expect to send most of the bonuses by the release date of the book, October 1st.

Q. Where can I pre-order?

A. Barnes & NobleAmazonIndieboundQbookshop or your local independent store. Most should be able to do it. And if you’re in a country besides the U.S., these places, including local stores, should be able to help you get a copy.

Thanks. Again. For your support and your attention over all this time, which means the world to me.

Vitamin B12 and the Case For (and Against) a Plant-Based Diet

5 September, 2013 - 08:23

The other day, Jeff D. asked some great questions in the comments section of my post 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Vegan:

What are your thoughts concerning the inability to get B12 naturally on a vegan diet? It’s necessary for the body but a vegan diet only seems to get B12 through fortified foods and supplements.

Also, what about grains? It seems that a vegan diet relies on a lot of grains (bread, pasta, cereal, etc.). Recent research and acknowledgement of our anthropological history point to the idea that our bodies were not meant to process grains (especially gluten-based ones).

Grains are a topic for another post (check out The Paleo Diet Debunked?, by my friend Steve — a Paleo proponent but whose view on grains is almost identical to mine).

Right now, let’s stick to the B12 question; it’s a common one. Often, it takes a more argumentative and challenging tone, like this:

If we were really meant to be vegan, then why would we need to supplement with B12?

There’s little doubt about the presupposition: a vegan diet, without supplementation or fortification, is deficient in vitamin B12. Some will argue that you can get B12 from chlorella or “dirty produce,” and that before modern agricultural practices there was more B12 in the soil, but that’s not the discussion I want to have here.

My assumption in this post is that you can’t get B12, in the necessary amount, from a vegan diet unless you supplement or eat fortified foods. So …

How can one say we’re meant to be vegan?

My answer to this question often surprises the person asking me, and it might surprise you, too: I don’t think we’re “meant” to be vegan.

If there’s anything we’re meant to do, from an evolutionary perspective, it’s “reach reproductive age and have kids that do the same.” On whatever diet our environment affords us.

And, you must admit, our bodies are pretty remarkable in their ability to do this — to survive, and often thrive, on a huge range of diets.

Just look at how many people eat the Standard American Diet — it’s called “standard” for a reason. Anyone who thinks about their food agrees that the SAD is horrible, yet most people who eat that way don’t have any problem living long enough to have kids and to care for those kids until they’re old enough to care for themselves.

Less extreme: look at pro athletes, and what a vast range of diets they have. Whether in endurance sports, mainstream sports, Olympic sports, or combat sports, you can find someone on top of the world eating whichever diet you’re searching for. Paleo, vegan, fruitarian, fast food … you name it, someone (in a relatively small pool of elite athletes) is doing it.

The criteria for deciding which diet is best

So meant is a confusing term. Is the diet that maximizes longevity the one we’re “meant” to eat? Or is it the one, say, that makes us perform the best in sports, or the one that gives us six-pack abs?

Most of us aren’t pro athletes or even serious athletes. We do the sports we do in order to enrich our lives, but that’s it. And abs, well, we know you can have those for three easy payments of $19.99, and they’ll even throw in some Mighty Putty. So we’ll leave that be.

For me, and I suspect most other people, longevity is what we’re after.

Let’s look at the question from that perspective: What populations of people live the longest, and what do they eat?

Dr. Joel Fuhrman devotes a small section in his excellent book Super Immunity to this question. And his answer is:

The longest-lived societies in history — such as the Hunzas in central Asia, the Abkhazians in southern Russia, the Vilcambans in the Andes of South America, and the Okinawans in Japan — all ate very little animal products but were not completely vegan. As we drift considerably up from the occasional use of animal products, to include animal products in significant amounts, we see evidence that more heart disease and most cancers become more prevalent.

Of course, the source Fuhrman cites for this last assertion is T. Colin Campbell’s famous China study (not the book but the study itself), one that has drawn criticism, like many longevity studies, for mistaking correlation for causality. (Namely: people who choose plant-based diets tend already to make healthier choices, making it tougher to determine whether it’s the diet or their healthy lifestyle in general that is responsible for their longevity.)

But Fuhrman later describes the Adventist Health Studies, which were designed so as not to make this causation/correlation mistake. The population studied, the Seventh Day Adventists, is almost completely free of alcohol and tobacco use and lives a nearly uniformly healthy lifestyle, with one exception: half are vegetarian, and half eat small amounts of meat.

As it turns out, the study found that the vegetarians lived longer than those who ate small amounts of meat, but other factors like whether or not someone ate nuts and seeds actually had a larger effect on longevity than whether that person was vegetarian or near-vegetarian.

But back to B12 …

So if the healthiest populations in history have mainly eaten diets that include a small but (importantly!) nonzero amount of meat, what does that tell us?

To me, it says our bodies our great at thriving on plants, but there’s something in animal products that we need and can’t get elsewhere without supplementing. And that something is what we know as B12.

So the question remains:

If B12 is the only reason we used to need meat, and we can now supplement with B12 and avoid meat entirely, do we maximize health by doing so?

Studies like the Adventist Health Study, mentioned above, point to “yes,” but still with some hesitation over causality versus correlation. But the differences between a vegan diet and a near-vegan diet appear to be tiny, so tiny that I think they can be ignored (when it comes to health, not ethics, of course).

Even pro-vegan Dr. Fuhrman actually believes that a 100% vegan diet can result in “suboptimal levels” of other nutrients, like DHA, EPA, iodine, and zinc. But eating more animal products as a way to get these nutrients leads to increased heart disease and cancer rates, according to his research.

(This is why I like Dr. Furhman’s work, by the way. He avoids dogma and doesn’t let ethical leanings color his understanding and advice about health  – I’m not even sure what his ethical stance on veganism is. When a scientist can’t admit a single fault of his or her diet of choice, that sounds an awful lot like religion to me.)

For me, the take home message, and (finally) my answer to Jeff’s question, is:

I believe that a diet with a very small amount of animal products, like what we see in the diets of the longest-lived societies, is extremely healthy. It’s clear that we need B12, and if there were no other way to get B12, then in general, I would consider a diet with a lot of plants and a very small amount of meat to be the healthiest possible type of diet.

Fortunately, for those of us with ethical reasons for wanting to avoid animal products, we can now do so healthily, by supplementing with B12. I haven’t seen any good evidence that a plant-based diet of mostly whole foods, along with a B12 supplement, is less healthy than any other diet — some studies show that a vegan diet might actually be healthier than a whole-food based diet that includes a tiny amount of meat, but to me it’s not clear that the difference is significant.

Whole foods, mostly plants

Eat whole foods, eat lots of plants, and whether you choose to eat a small amount of meat or not won’t make much difference in the healthfulness of your diet.

Ethically, it makes a dramatic difference, and that’s why I choose to be vegan. But arguing about whether a whole-foods based diet that includes a small amount of meat is healthier than a whole-foods, plant-based diet seems to me like a waste of time, when other factors make a bigger difference in health — like nuts and seeds in the Adventist Health Study, for example.

Worse, the argument unnecessarily widens the gap between whole-food vegans and whole-food omnivores. We’re both in the healthy minority, and I wish we’d embrace that instead of quibbling over whose diet is healthier. Again, that’s not to say there aren’t ethical grounds for disagreement, but if that’s what the argument really comes down to, don’t pretend it’s about health.

If you agree — and I’m well aware that many people don’t — a good place to start is with these two posts, one by me and one by Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness. They’re written in much the same vein, just from opposite sides of the vegan/Paleo line.

1. Why Paleos and Vegans Should Stop Hating Each Other

2. The Paleo Diet Debunked? (Jeff and anyone else wondering what I think about grains, I agree with Steve’s take on them)

As always, I’m interested to hear your comments. I may not like arguing, but I learn something whenever I write a post like this and people chime in from different sides.

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

30 August, 2013 - 06:05

Gene 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.

Here’s are a few of the topics we talk about about in this episode:

  • Farm Sanctuary’s humble beginnings (and how it was funded at first by vegetarian hot dog sales)
  • The gentle approach (rather than the in-your-face one) to animal activism
  • How the vegan movement has changed since Gene started out in the mid-80′s
  • Gene’s progression from half marathon to marathon to Ironman
  • How Gene fueled his Ironman
  • Eating healthily and training while traveling

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Vegan

28 August, 2013 - 09:07

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:

1. The jokes will never stop.

So get used to them, and understand that they don’t necessarily indicate a lack of respect.

My dad’s favorite line, when he tries some of our food: “This would be great with some meatballs!” It’s a joke, of course, and the fact that he says it so often has itself become a joke.

But just about every family or friendly gathering yields a joke from someone who must think they’re the first to make it. “Want me to throw a steak on the grill for you? Oh, that’s right … hahaha!”

An uncle once presented me with a single piece of iceberg lettuce on a plate and announced, for everyone to hear, “Hey Matt, look. Dinner!” I actually smiled at that one.

Get used to the jokes. Laugh them off, or take the opportunity to explain how important your diet choices are to you. Up to you.

2. Giving up the cheese isn’t nearly as hard as it seems.

I’m not saying that losing the cheese is easy. Life without cheese takes some adjustment, especially if you rely on it as an essential part of the few vegetarian dishes you can order in “normal” restaurants.

I thought I’d miss cheese as an appetizer, with a glass of wine or a beer. But it didn’t take long to discover that when I replaced the cheese with nuts or crackers, these foods were just as satisfying for their saltiness between sips, and I felt a lot better ten minutes later.

I thought I’d miss cheese on pizza. I quickly found that cheeseless pizza wasn’t nearly as good as the real thing, but it did the job, and over time, I came to tolerate (and even like) Daiya. Now, vegan pizza is just pizza in my mind, and I haven’t lost a thing.

As it turned out the key to giving up that last bit of cheese — which I clung to for months — was simply deciding to do so.

3. Being vegan doesn’t have to be more expensive, but it will be.

If you do the math, there’s no reason eating vegetarian or vegan should be more expensive than eating meat.

At three, five, or eight dollars a pound, meat is one of the more expensive items you’ll buy in the grocery store. So if you just replace it, say, with beans that cost a dollar per pound, you’ll bank some serious coin.

And yet, I now spend one and a half times or twice as much as I used to on groceries. Why? Because being vegan has led me down the ultra-health-foodie road. I shop at farmers markets and co-ops and Whole Foods more than I ever did before I was vegan, and I pay extra for organic. Going vegan led me to learn more about food, to the point that I’m scared not to be hyper-selective and skeptical about what I buy.

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage by now: “Pay for it now, or pay for it later.” The money we spend on the healthiest food possible is an investment in our future health that will pay off down the road.

4. Most of your meals will be one-dish wonders.

Believe it or not, this has been the toughest part for me — I lost a lot of my interest in cooking when I cut meat and then dairy out of my diet. (I realize I’m in the minority when I say this; most vegan chefs I’ve talked to didn’t discover their passion for food until they went vegan.)

Here’s what happened:

First, vegan food took a little more work to prepare. Second, without meat or cheese to supply lots of protein and fat without carbohydrate, there wasn’t the need to balance it with a high-carb side dish to keep this runner going.

So instead of making two or three different dishes for dinner, I shifted to one-dish meals: pastas, stir-fries, gigantic salads, smoothies, and a grain, a green, and a bean all in one pot.

It was a matter of practicality and simplicity, which, although less “gourmet,” fit perfectly well with other shifts in my lifestyle precipitated by my change in diet.

5. You will impact many more people than you realize.

I didn’t expect friends and family to change as a result of my decision. I didn’t set out to change anybody.

But — completely aside from this blog — I’ve had at least a half dozen friends excitedly tell me about how they eat less meat now. Some have become pescetarian, vegetarian, and even vegan.

People notice, even when your approach to influence is of the “quiet” form.

So …

6. Be prepared for a feeling of responsibility, and the compulsion to hold yourself to a higher standard than before.

There’s a stereotype that vegans are skinny and weak. And it’s a deserved one, because so many vegans have always been exactly that.

As the plant-based fitness movement grows, this is beginning to change. But keep in mind that even though you are aware of this shift because you’re so closely involved in it, most people have no clue about this. To them, vegans are still skinny and weak, by necessity.

Of course it’s your choice whether you want to play into this stereotype or make yourself a stark counterexample. For me, it has been the latter.

The reminder that I’m an ambassador (as anyone who is vegan is, wittingly or not) has been a big part of my drive to stay fit, to go after ultrarunning accomplishments and to make an effort to keep on at least a little bit of muscle, even when running and my body type make that tough.

The need to be an example goes beyond fitness, of course — for instance, I try hard to be the opposite of the stereotypical “preachy” vegan, too. Many vegans find their identity in being preachy, which is cool, but it’s not for me.

7. No matter how much you try to not make it a big deal, it’s gonna be a big deal.

I haven’t met vegans who are more laid back about it than my wife and I are. We don’t try to get people to go vegan, we’re supportive when people tell us they’re eating more whole foods even when their diet is more Paleo than vegan, and neither of us is the type that enjoys debating about how anyone “should” eat.

And yet, even with such a relaxed attitude and an avoidance of anything that could be considered pushy, I’d estimate that after we went vegan, we started eating dinners with family and friends about half as much as before, maybe even less.

Being vegan is a big deal, whether you make it that way or not. Some people will think you’re judging them and won’t dare try to prepare a meal for you, even if only because they’re afraid they’ll do a poor job of it. Others just don’t want to make the effort, and that’s totally understandable. And while there’s no reason we couldn’t invite those same people over to our place just as often as before, I can see how a vegan dinner would be unappealing to less adventurous eaters, and as a result I think I extend the invitation a little less often than before (note to self: I need to work on this).

8. You will be pleasantly surprised at who your biggest supporters are.

The flip side of eating less meals with friends and family as a whole is that it will become delightfully obvious who thinks it’s really awesome that you eat this way, who will go out of their way to make sure you’ve got something to eat at any event they host, and who will be eager to try your food and ask you intelligent questions about how you eat.

This has meant a ton to me. It’s a new and wonderful quality you’ll discover in people you already know well and love — and when someone treats you this way, you feel recognized, respected, and loved in return.

9. Sometimes it feels lonely, but you are not alone.

I’ve never had a strong desire to “cheat” for pleasure. More often that desire has been rooted in convenience or not wanting to make a scene, and tiny allowances in these situations are something I recently decided to take more seriously and abstain from entirely.

But over the past two years, there have been a few points where I felt like I was alone in the way I chose to eat, and those moments were tougher than any fleeting desire for gustatory pleasure or convenience.

I’ve gotten through those times by reminding myself that I’m not at all alone. Thanks to the connections technology affords us, there is a huge and supportive community that will make you feel ecstatic about your choices, whatever they are. You only have to look for these people — and sometimes, you don’t even have to do that. (You know the joke about how to find the vegan at the dinner party, right?)

Long-term, it has been this connection with people of similar mindsets, in person but mostly online, that has made moments of doubt increasingly rare.

10. You don’t have to get weirder when you go vegan, but you will.

The fun part. Being vegan has changed so much else about me, encouraging me to explore my uniqueness and pushing me towards and beyond the edges of what’s considered mainstream … from ditching the microwave to putting broccoli in smoothies to owning very few things.

There’s no reason that I had to become vegan before I embraced weirdness. And there’s no reason the choice to go vegan has to be the choice to go weird (outside of your diet). But for me, that’s how it worked out.

And I love it that way.

Yay? Nay?

I’ve learned — mostly from blogging about my journey — that in many ways I’m not the typical vegan. So I expect that there will be plenty of agreement and disagreement with this post, and I’m looking forward to hearing it. Let me know what you think!

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

23 August, 2013 - 11:06

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.

Thought #1: It wasn’t that hard.

If you’re a runner, especially a marathoner or ultrarunner, then you know the feeling. During the race, you’ve never done anything harder. But just three, maybe four days later, the memory of the pain has all but evaporated, and you entertain the idea of doing it again. Most of the time, you actually do.

I once read in Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness about a phenomenon that explains this mysterious disappearance of the painful part of the memory: our brains are wired with a bias towards the end. There’s no way my brain, for example, could store all 28 hours and 40 minutes of my race. So it instead chooses a few snapshots, a few highlights, and puts them in a box labeled “Burning River 100,” to be looked back upon and cherished for years to come.

But the tricky part is that one of those highlights, the most significant and best remembered, is the end. And from a survival perspective, this makes sense — if we want to learn from an experience, so that we can make a judgement about it and decide in the future whether or not to repeat it, we should pay attention to the end result above just about anything else.

The last few minutes of my race, of course, were pure emotion. Triumph, delight, gratitude. The love and praise of family, hugs from my children, parents, and wife, and eyes heavy with held-back tears of joy.

And so I remember the experience as a good one. One to repeat.

Which all explains my desire, at times, to do this again. But when the rational part of my brain has time to catch up in such moments, I’m reminded that I don’t want to put such a strain on my family and crew next time. A course like Umstead, eight identical 12.5-mile loops where I might drop a bag of food and fend mostly for myself (not to mention finish in much less time, I hope), is appealing.

Thought #2: Where’s the limit? (Is there a limit?)

At mile 85 or so, I remarked to my pacer, Greg, something like the following:

What’s really mind-blowing to me is that before this, there was no evidence to suggest that I was capable of running any more than 50 miles. Even in the 12-hour race, I only made it 53 miles or so, and I stopped then with 45 minutes to go, unable to fathom running another mile. So how, after 85 miles today, am I still running?

The obvious answer, of course, is that I had paced myself. Instead of running the first marathon in four and a half hours, the way I had in the 12-hour race, this time I ran it in five and three-quarters hours — about 25% slower.

But that doesn’t fully explain it. After my first 50-miler, I asked an experienced ultrarunner friend how anyone possibly runs a hundred miles. His answer: “It’s a mindset thing.”

During that first morning of the hundred, I constantly reminded myself that there was a good chance I’d still be running at this time tomorrow morning (which, as it turned out, I was). When I hit the 35 mile mark, it occurred to me that if I were running a 50 with this same mindset, it would be a remarkably easy race, even if an extremely slow one.

That’s when I realized my friend was right. It wasn’t just running the slower pace. It was this manner of thinking, of holding a different, much more distant target in my head, that made it possible.

The natural conclusion — well, natural perhaps for a person with whatever disorder causes you to think this way — is that 100 miles isn’t my limit. I can’t help but think that one day I could go a lot farther.

And in this way, I now understand, just slightly better, what compels the crazies to run 200-mile relays without a team, run across the country, run across Death Valley in the middle of the summer, and do just about anything extreme for no other reason than that it’s extreme.

I’m not saying I’m going to become one of them. Yet.

Thought #3: Certainty is immensely powerful.

Stories abound about Roger Bannister, the sense of certainty, and the four-minute mile.

Supposedly, what allowed Bannister to do what had never been done before was his sense of certainty — he played the race out in his mind, over and over, until he believed with every fiber of his being that he was capable of running a mile in four minutes. And then he went out and did it.

The kicker? People had been trying to break the four-minute barrier for hundreds of years. Just two months after Bannister did it — now that there was proof it could be done, hence, complete certainty — John Landy did it and Bannister repeated the feat. In the same race, no less.

Shortly thereafter, dozens more men did it (so go the stories — I haven’t seen an official list). Nowadays, strong high school runners run four-minute miles.

It’s a nice story. I don’t know that I completely buy that certainly played such a role that some say it did, but my 100-miler provided me with another example.

I wrote about it in my recap: at about the halfway point, after an insanely muddy three-mile stretch of trail that took me over 90 minutes to navigate, I gave serious consideration to quitting. It didn’t last long though, and within 30 seconds after the thought entered my mind, it occurred to me that I was not going to quit if I was able to keep moving forwardNot that I “shouldn’t” quit, but that I couldn’t, as if it wasn’t even my decision to make.

I’ve never had another moment like this. It was as if this truth had existed long before this race began, and it took coming to the crossroads to actually understand what had already been decided. Here at mile 50, when the knowledge that I had no choice but to finish this race finally did surface in my conscious mind, it was strangely and immensely freeing.

In the weeks leading up to the race, and even as I lay awake in bed the night before, I had wondered again and again if I would finish. At mile 50, that question was answered. And once I knew the answer — “Yes, of course you’re going to finish, dummy! What other option is there?” — the second half of the race became little more than a formality.

Miles 51 to 100 were incredibly tough, of course, running through the night on trails that were still muddy and slippery, with every inch of my feet and legs aching, my toes screaming with blisters. But never again did I even consider that I might quit. Because now I understood: it simply wasn’t an option.

This illustration of the power of certainty is what will stay with me — the nugget at the core of all the training, planning, logistics and execution that has made all of that effort worthwhile.

What’s next

In October, I’m running the RAGNAR relay in DC as part of an ultra team, where each of our six team members will run between 25 and 39 miles. That will be fun, even if (or perhaps especially because) it happens mid book-tour: the thirty hours of relay madness are sandwiched between book events in Philadelphia and DC, one the night before the relay starts and the other the day it ends.

But RAGNAR isn’t really “what’s next.” Whatever that is won’t be something that I can accomplish just by maintaining fitness. I’ve learned — and I’m completely aware that this is a defect, not a virtue) that I don’t do well when I let myself bask too long in goalless glory.

I’ve been told several times, “You should just relax.” Enjoy things the way they are; run a few times a week to stay in shape and keep the endorphins flowing.

But that doesn’t work for me. And it’s not that I’m so driven that I simply must have an inspiring goal at all times — it’s that I flounder without one.

I’ve gone over ideas in my head. Learn to swim, get into triathlons, do an Ironman — perhaps with my wife, Erin. Run two more hundreds, so I meet the bare minimum requirements for applying to Badwater, even if actually getting accepted over other (far stronger, more qualified) runners that apply would be a long shot. Maybe the application committee likes bloggers?

These ideas, though, require a tremendous amount of time. The nature of endurance sports, I suppose. And so I’ve started thinking about goals that would require me to increase the effort, without increasing the time and the miles …

… which has led me back to the marathon. Breaking three hours was a goal of mine, for just a few days after I qualified for Boston, before the grittier, slower-paced world of ultrarunning seduced me.

Maybe, just maybe — and if I’ve learned anything about myself as a runner, it’s that I know this is subject to change — a marathon time that starts with “2″ is what I’ll try to chase down next.