Friday, September 25, 2015

The Vegan Ironman

Hello my name is Andrea and I'm a vegan triathlete.

So being vegan and a triathlete I get a lot of questions about how I train and what I eat.

Yes, I do get enough protein. Believe me I have actually calculated it out. I don't want to go into too much detail but we as north americans eat too much protein. I highly encourage everyone to figure out how much protein your body needs regardless of whether you are vegan or not.

Ok back to my story...
Since completing my first Iron Distance I have had more and more people ask me about how I did it being vegan and all. These people are not questioning my health, they are genuinely curious in hopes of doing it for themselves. So I figured instead of writing this over and over on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and all of those other sites I thought I would give the whole low down in one go and just share my link when I get asked.

So to start off I have been vegetarian for 7 years but a couple of years ago I was not able to lose my pregnancy pounds and I just lacked energy and other things. I went to my Naturopath and she suggested getting off of dairy. By doing so it turned me into a vegan by default. I don't really love eggs and that was really the only thing left so no eggs meant I was officially going vegan. I didn't lose as much weight as I would have liked but I did start feeling a lot better. When I was training for sprint triathlons I felt fabulous. So I kept increasing my distance. 
Fast forward to this year and I signed up for my first Full Distance (aka. the Ironman distance). I never put much thought into my food because I ate pretty good food regularly. I eat a whole foods diet limiting processed foods. My kids don't even know what fast food joints are. They've never even stepped inside a McDonalds. 
After I started adding big loads into my training I was finding I was not recovering as quickly as before and I was getting really tired. So having troubles with Iron and B12 in the past I got checked. Levels are all normal. So I was then asked are you eating enough? This one baffled me. I never counted calories. That's the beauty of being vegan. When you eat good, whole foods you never really eat too much. High density foods with low calories. So I started tracking my foods. Turns out I was not eating enough. I was lacking more then 2000 calories a day. So here is what I recommend and what I use to make training and racing long distances on a whole foods/ vegan diet.

Get informed: 
Brendan Brazier is a former triathlete and fully understands the needs for proper nutrition. All of his books are awesome. Check out his website(s):

Scott Jurek-

So these 3 men have filled me with great knowledge on training for endurance on a vegan whole foods diet. I recommend reading any and all of you can from them. 

Next up is trying new things (but not right before a race). I've been playing around with foods for the last 2 years. What works what doesn't work. I cannot eat solid foods during hard training sessions or racing. I can only take in liquids or gels. Big factor- I HATE GELS!
So for 70. 3 and full distance I do liquids on the bike and gels on the run.  
For my liquid fuel I use Endura + Carbo Pro. I have an exact amount I mix just for me. It works beautifully but it was through trial and error.

If you can actually take in food do it. 

After any ride or run workout I always refuel immediately after. I'll take in some Vega Recovery Accelerator 
I actually use a lot of Vega products. I use their performance protein in my morning smoothies and I also like their protein bars for a quick on the go snack.

For runs I do use Gu's but I don't love them. I usually have to gag them down. This summer I was introduced to Torq Gels and fell in love. 

They actually taste good. Although I've had people tell me Gu's taste good, I beg to differ. If I can't get Torq gels (I do have to order them online) I will use Gu's. They are now vegan and I can tolerate the Rootbeer ones.

So that is pretty much what fuels me during my races. I do have some weird things I also like to use. There is a vegan jerky out made by Primal Strips
I actually ate one coming out of T2 at Penticton, here's the proof

Totally mowing down on it. I seriously love these. They are super high in protein. 10g in that little strip and its got salty goodness. Be careful though if I wasn't used to it I could see getting some stomach cramps. 

So that covers heavy training and racing. What do I eat the rest of the time?
My husband claims I ate more then 2 teenage boys. I would have to agree. My portion sizes were huge but keep in mind I was doing 6-8 hour bike rides, 3 hour runs, 90 min swims, yoga, strength. I was burning a lot of calories. 

Here's a sample of what I eat in a day:

Breakfest- large smoothie. Vega protein powder, spinach or kale, almond milk (unsweetened), frozen fruit. Sometimes I'll though in extras like macca powder, chia seeds, oats. I switch up my flavours day to day. I also make a double batch and put the rest in the fridge for later because lets face it I'm going to be hungry again.

Lunch- Some sort of salad. Pastas salad, hearty chopped salad, veganised potato salad, greek salad with tofu feta cheese. Basically lots of greens (kale, spinach, mixed baby greens), lots of raw veg (carrots, beets, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini), a homemade dressing.

Dinner- Rice bowl (again use imagination: rice, quinoa, buckwheat groats, wheat berries), protein (tofu, tempe, seitan, beans), cooked and raw veggies, a homemade sauce.

Desert/ Snacks- I occasionally have desert but to be honest this also falls under snacks. Because I have kids I bake a lot of homemade treats and they are healthy enough to be classified under desert or snack. I have pretty much veganised all of my favourite treats. Cookies, cakes, brownies, fudge, ice-cream, I have even mastered vegan meringue cookies. Yes a lot of these contain sugar but again I try and make it a bit more healthy by using palm sugar or organic cane sugar.

I have a ton of cookbooks to help me when I'm in a rut and I surf the net for new recipes too. Pinterest is awesome for finding some interesting vegan recipes. 

I'm also lucky in that I have 2 very good friends who are also vegan. 1 is an ultra runner and the other a fellow triathlete. We also brainstorm recipes and training ideas with food.

If I can leave you with the best advice it would be always have a fridge full of fresh foods, and a pantry full of staples. We have a large cabinet in our garage full of canned beans and a large bag of brown rice. It's easy and quick to throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and call it a rice bowl. 

I also have a rice cooker that allows me to cook any grain, I put it on and I can leave the house and go do some training.
A good blender also helps. When you make a smoothie every day and your blender burns out every year, you learn pretty quick to just spend the money on a good one. 

Now before I end I am going to be honest, I don't like calling myself a vegan. I love animals but I'm not an activist. I grew up eating meat and I am a firm believer that it isn't fair for me to judge because I once ate meat. I also choose health over anything else. If I am at a race or somewhere away from home and there is no options I will have eggs or dairy (I would never eat meat it really just grosses me out). I don't like it, but when you are training the upmost important thing is to refuel. Guaranteed I always pay the price, I feel awful afterwards so I always do my best to plan ahead and insure I have proper food to eat. 

Also, this post is to help those try to train as best as they can as vegans/ whole foods diet. Please do not leave rude comments. This is not to convert people it is only my way of giving a bit of info on how went about doing it for myself.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Gory Details Part II

Big day 4am. Alarm goes off. I'm a little groggy from drugging myself so I could get a little more sleep then the night before. I need coffee pronto. My fabulous husband is in charge of coffee and kids. I just need to get myself ready and out the door. WE don't need anything forgotten because we know that has never happened before (note extreme sarcasm). 
For breakfast I had a pre made smoothie ready to go, coffee, and a banana that I'll eat 30 min before swim. 
Kids were in for a treat today. Because we felt guilty having them sacrifice their entire day to mommy my husband took them to Tim Hortons for breakfast. 
Everyone is ready. Off to the race site.

I arrived at 5:10am. I wanted to ensure I could check my bike, drop off my special needs, use bathroom, get wetsuit on and eat my banana and of course check in with all of my buddies.

I honestly cannot even begin to explain how truly blessed I was feeling. I had so many friends here supporting me. So before I forget a big shout out to all of my support at the race:
Steph, Rikts, Johny, Colleen, Danna, Wendy, Gretchen. My awesome Soas Sistas that reassured me all weekend: Laura, Jackie, Jenna. You 3 kept me so strong when I needed an extra lift. And of course my family- Jordi, Sadie and Lola.

These lovely ladies did many swims and rides with me.

Once things were settled I had a chance to just be with myself. Take it all in. I'm doing a full distance triathlon. I'm really doing it!

So I wandered down to the water start and got in for a bit of a warm up. I chatted a bit with some of the swimmers and got myself ready to go.
To be honest the start was really uneventful. I couldn't really hear what they were saying on shore and next thing you know the cannon went off. So I just swam.
My swim wasn't awesome but it was good. I did 3.8km in 1:12:24 (unfortunately my official time says it was substantially longer but according to my garmin and my husbands iPhone the 1:12:24 was more accurate.
Out of the water and into transition. I've never done a race where I have to grab my bag head into tent and then to find my bike. This was all new to me and I liked it. I didn't have to fight for space by my racked bike.

Unfortunately my T1 transition was not so fast. I definitely took my time and I couldn't get my arm warmers on and I really needed them today. It was cold out.
So 20 min later I resurfaced. My friend Johny thought maybe I took a dip in the hot tub ; )

I was feeling super positive and really enjoying things. Because the halfers started 30 min after us we were all emerging at the same time. The bike course was a little crowded to begin with.

It was really hard having all of the halfers whizzing by me in those first 20 km or so. I wanted to keep up so bad but I could hear my coach Jasper in my head to listen to my heart rate and it will work itself out. So I did, and it sucked. I could not get my heart rate down. I don't know if it was the excitement of being out on the course, trying to keep up with the halfers or battling against the most brutal headwind I've ever encountered. Seriously, this girl is from Pincher Creek, Alberta. Windiest place in the WORLD! When I saw my average pace I started crying.
Basically we had a headwind from Penticton all the way to Osoyoos. I kept peddling and felt like I was going nowhere. Once we turned at Osoyoos and headed west on the number 3 I started feeling a little better. Everyone warned me about Richters Pass, I was a bit worried. So I do what I do best and just road. I actually passed a ton of people over the pass. No one believes me but Richters Pass was the easiest park of my ride. I kid you not. This is how brutal the wind was. Best part about Richters Pass? 

This special lake. At the top and to the left there is this bizarre looking lake. I had never heard about it. I took a mental note of it to ask the husband and kids about it later on. Surely they had seen this place too. It is called Spotted Lake. Apparently there is all sorts of history. This lake has massive healing properties (should made a pit stop there) and people from all over the world come to bath in it. 
Turns out husband and kids did not see it, they were too busy looking for me.

Once I got over Richters Pass I was feeling a bit better about myself. I mean who doesn't love passing people on the so called hardest part of the course? Then we hit the rollers. When I hear "rollers" I think short easy climbs that then turn into downhills and you have enough momentum to ride into the next hill. Nope! These are not your normal rollers. Lets be honest folks, these are just plain old hills. They are not rollers. There I said it. Anyways, it sucked. Shortly after I came to special needs. I needed a fresh application of HooHa Ride Glide. I needed to switch out my fuel and I needed to go to the bathroom. If you are sensitive to lady type discussions I advise you to skip ahead. For those of you that don't care I discovered in the port potty that I got my period. Awesome! I was not supposed to get it for a few more days. Nothing like adding insult to injury. So after dropping a few f-bombs I gathered myself and just continued on. What else is a girl to do.
Once I got through special needs on the bike one of the guys that I saw a lot of out on the bike course got a flat right before special needs. I felt so bad for him we were only 60km left to go. Unfortunately I couldn't wait for him so off I go all by myself. 
Last big climb of the day is Yellow Lake. Honestly it wasn't that bad, I was still feeling the effects of that brutal headwind. These hills had nothing on it.
Jordi and the girls were waiting for me right at the beginning of the climb. My husband could tell I was not happy. 

Yes that is an unhappy person.
Pretty much after Yellow Lake it's all downhill. I clocked speeds over 70km/hour. Unfortunately it still didn't help me with my overall time. What should have taken me 6:30:00 took me 8 hours. I was feeling pretty deflated.
Once I handed my bike off I headed back into the tent for T2. I was a little more speedy this time around but did have a small tea party with fellow competitor in my age group Andrea Oliver. We both got our periods today. How awesome is that? Same name, same age group, same day for menstruation. Awesome!
Off I go on the run. My goal was to run the first 21km without stopping. 

The one thing I have discovered about doing long distance in triathlon is that after a long bike ride I actually look forward to getting out on the run. 
I was looking pretty awesome in all of my Soas gear. Seriously best trisuit ever. I know lots of women change in and out of stuff during long course but with a Soas trisuit it isn't necessary. Absolute comfort the entire time.

Running through town was definitely a highlight. My friends and family were at different spots so every few kilometres I saw a friendly face. 

I was super happy to see the family.
Once I passed through town and out towards OK Falls things started creeping up on me. My quads were starting to seize up a bit. I wanted to walk badly but I am a very stubborn woman and I vowed no walking before 21km. Once I got to special needs I switched out my water bottles (next time I don't think I will use my running belt. It was a lot of extra weight that I was regretting later on). I did have some other goodies in there but I really didn't need anything else. I had my Torq Gels and my bottles with Nuun. That's all I needed... at least that's what I thought.
Once I hit 26km it all started falling apart. I missed my family, I hadn't seen them since the 14km mark, things were hurting and my stomach was starting to get very angry. Next thing I see is my truck drive past honking at me. They didn't stop, I started crying. I slowly slogged away another kilometre and low and behold the family is at the side of the road cheering me on. I burst into tear again. (Pretty sure I got out an entire year of emotions today).
I tried telling my husband I can't do it. I can't carry on. He is my rock, and he assured me that yes I can continue and I will. So I did. The last turnaround was at 29km. As I headed back to town feeling like I was dying my other friends showed up. The trio raced the half as a really and they were patiently waiting for me to get back to town. They were beyond amazing. They supported me, encouraged me, believed in me. They kept me going.
Since I was taking so long during the run, ahem, I mean walk Jordi and the girls ended up offering their volunteering services. Some of the aid stations were thinning out of volunteers. I was so proud that they stepped up to the plate.

Super duper volunteers.

So after about an hour of walking (attempting to run every so often and then realizing I was still walking faster) something snapped deep inside me. I was still in a lot of discomfort, I was still exhausted, I was still emotionally drained but a switch went off and I felt the urge to run. So with about 6km left to go I slowly started running, gaining momentum as I got going. For the last 5km I somehow started running a 6min/km pace. How did I do that? I have no idea. I had tunnel vision and my only focus was that finish line. It's funny, when you get into that zone you really don't see what's going on around you but I could hear people cheering and I could hear people saying "wow look how fast that girl is running". It wasn't until after the race that I realized they were talking about me. Sure it wasn't that fast but in the grand scheme of long distance races at 14 to 15 hours into the race it was a lot faster then the rest of the people out there. When I got to that peach I kicked it up further. A volunteer yelled out that I must not have left it out all on the course looking so good. Ha! If she had only known I just walked for what seemed like forever. I ran hard, I was afraid if I even slowed down a second I would collapse. 
I came in at 15:09:13
2 hours slower then my coach and I anticipated. It was a very tough day. I did it. I finished despite all unforeseen circumstances.

I would have had my family run across then line with me had I known they were right there. Jordi said he was so close he could have touched me, he said I was still in the zone until I was over that line.

The fabulous Laura Siddall promised me she would be waiting for me at the end and she kept that promise even though I was a few hours late.

Despite all of the pain I somehow still managed a smile.

Even Challenge Penticton noticed I kept on smiling... they even tweeted about it.

And of course the bling. That medal is huge!!! 

I can't say I was happy with my time, I'm not going to lie I was disappointed but I was not the only one. Remember my new friend Andrea that I hung out with in T2? Well she came in 3rd in our age group. In fact the top 3 in my age group were all Andrea's. That's right in our age group we were the only 3 that actually finished. All the Andrea's are hardcore!

Now before I sign off there is a lot more to this day then meets the eye. I was dealing with other issues on top of the pre race stress. However the support I had made up for it.
I want to thank everyone who help me achieve my first Iron distance race.
First and foremost my awesome coach Jasper Blake from B78 Coaching. He took me on with only 2 months before the big day. He is AMAZING!!!
Marilyn Arsenault who has been coaching me on my running for the past year. 
Soas! Seriously awesome team and Stephanie makes the best tri suits on the market amongst other fab products. My team mates have been so amazingly supportive. Best group of ladies ever.
Again my family. My husband has been so supportive throughout this entire journey. He has even learned how to do laundry!
My parents who came out to visit and I put them right to work as soon as they got here.
All of my friends that have pushed me to keep going, watched me swim in the pouring rain, listened to me bitch and complain on the days I was just too exhausted to realize my life is actually pretty darn awesome: Sandra, Steph, Rikst, Dale, Colleen, Jake, Valerie,Wade, Margo, Amanda. There are so many more people that have just touched me on my journey. Really every little bit helped.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The gory details part 1

Well I did it, I completed my very first iron distance triathlon. It was quite the journey so I'm going to do my race recap in 2 parts. Brace yourself it's a long one...

I started the week off with my 37th birthday. Not a great time to celebrate since anxiety was high and my diet was consisted of limited sweets and no alcohol. What a party pooper. Not only was I still training but I also had to work. It was one of those weeks that we were beyond busy. To top everything off the Okanagan was super smokey from all of the wild fires. I wasn't even sure I was going to get to race. Needless to say my week leading up to my big race was not relaxing in the least bit.
I managed to get the trailer packed, food prepped, and kids organized. The husband picked me up Thursday right after work and we hit the road to get the ferry.
Once settled for the night my husband shows me a sore on his foot. Let me rephrase that...
my husband showed me a massive infection on his foot. Great! 10pm Thursday night in the middle of nowhere. We are off to an awesome start.
Wake up Friday to hit the road bright and early. Husbands infected foot looks even worse. We made the joint decision to just get to Penticton pronto. He can see a doctor there.
As we drive in to the Okanagan we are seeing and smelling the smoke. This isn't looking good.

We are told it's looking better then it was the previous weekend. That is good news. We pull into the campground and I send husband to the doctor pronto. The girls and I hand at the trailer to regroup. (Yeah I'm freaking out a bit). Luckily my sweet girls recommend a pedi. they are so smart.

This was exactly what I needed. Feet up with some hydration. Life is good. Luckily the husband made out ok too. He got back just in time.
We stayed at the same campsite as my friends one of ladies was racing the half. I am thrilled to know these awesome ladies. They came over to welcome us and give me the low down on all that was happening.

After some visiting and checking out the husbands gross foot it was time to wander over to package pick up. I guess I was so overwhelmed I didn't take a single photo. 
Knowing today was a bit of a stressful day I had to get some extra rest. I went to bed at 8pm so we could be at the kids race for 6:30am.  I COULD NOT SLEEP. I tossed and turned all night. Usually this is the night I sleep like a baby and get plenty of sleep. Not today. My husband ended up drugging me at 2am so I could get some amount of sleep. I got a total of 3 hours... not good.

Off we go to the kids triathlon bright and early. They were so excited. The weather was good and there was such a good atmosphere. Big sis was up first and she did awesome. Big smiles right through to the end. 

Little sis up next, I never know how she will react. She's kind of like a powder keg, you never know when she's going to blow. She surprised us all but going in on her own and she did awesome! 

The kids got a shirt, medal and of course treats and big hugs from the super awesome pro triathlete Laura Siddal
I can not boast enough about this woman. She is so kind, supportive and generous. She volunteered a boat load of her time this weekend at all of the Challenge festivities. Top notch athlete and one of my team mates from Soas 
After the races it was my turn to get a bit of training in. Short swim and short bike ride. I'm feeling a little tired but I'm ready for the big day.
Back at camp I decide I better get things ready. I need to prepare all of my nutrition and my special needs bags.
I had no idea how much stuff I needed to prep until I had it all laid out. For anyone interested here's my gear:
race swim cap
timing chip
body glide 
pre race fluid (water with Nuun)
Biker helmet
bike shoes
cycling jacket
2 bottles of Carbo pro mixed with Endura
1 bottle of water + Nuun
Special needs bike (more chamois cream, 2 more bottles of Carbo pro/Endura, 1 bottle water + Nuun, Miss Vicky's chips)
Race number belt
fluid belt with water + Nuun
Special needs run ( water + Nuun, extra socks, vaseline, blister bandaid, chips, extra gels, warm shirt)

I believe that is it! Now that I look at the list it really is substantial. No wonder I kept freaking out thinking I was missing something.

After I got all of my gear organized I got to head out for lunch with my bestie. This girl has known me since grade 1. That's right if you do the math I have been best friends with this girl for 31 years. She is one of the most special people in my life. She knows me better then anyone (well she's actually tied with my husband and they have a lot of fun with all that knowledge of me). It was amazing to get to see her and have her support. 
She had a little something for me.
This beautiful wing. It was so touching that I'm pretty sure I had a little something in my eye. I absolutely cherish it.
Our visit was way too short but I had to get back to race headquarters to get my bike into transition as well as my transition bags. 
After I got everything settled I ran into yet another fabulous Soas sista!
This chick is awesome! She gave me support earlier on in my training when I needed some advice. Unfortunately again not enough time to hang out but so glad I got to get one last chat in before the race.
I also got to see the wonderful Jenna from Soas as well but we weren't very smart and forgot to caption the meet up. She too is another amazingly wonderful person. Calmed me down when I needed it, gave me some tips and advice as well. I honestly cannot say enough about the Soas team. All of these woman are absolutely fantastic. All strong, supportive and just great people. <3 all of your lovely ladies!!!

So after racking the bike, getting hugs and well wishes from my Soas Sista's, listening in on pre race meeting I was ready for a nap. Back to the trailer. I did put my feet up for a bit while my children ran rampant around the campground but that's what camping is about right?
Of course I could not snooze so instead more prep for the race. 
Tattoo time!
This was the first race I have done where we get tattoos. So of course the girls had to help me. They are pretty much pro's when it comes to temp tattoos.
Pretty good job I think. So after dinner I drugged myself in hopes of a better sleep. 4:15am is going to come pretty quick I think.
Here's hoping to a very good night sleep!