A Plant Based Triathlon & What Happened Along The Way

This past year has been a journey from vegetarian to vegan, from three miles on the run to seven miles, from not biking in over a year to biking 45 miles in a day and planning a 10 day bike trip through the UK, from swimming 1300 yards to 3000 yards and out into the ocean. In November of 2013 I signed up to complete a triathlon, 10 months before the actual event, and I was determined to feel ready for it in time. In the end I finished two triathlons this year - one in training and the actual race I signed up for, swam three open water swims, started biking 14 miles each way to work, and have spent hour after hour pounding the pavement. And I honestly don't think I would have been able to do it all as happily and excited as I have been without changing my diet to plant based.

I'm not saying plant based is for everyone - I wish it were, but I know some people just won't be able to do it. And that's fine. Do what makes you happy, do what makes you succeed, do what makes you feel good. But if you're curious about it or feel like you've been constantly hitting a wall try it for a week and see how you feel. That's all it took me. One week in January - I thought I'd just give it a go and see how I felt. Then one week became two, then a month, then several months. Sure I've had some dairy and fish in between, nobody is perfect, nothing is perfect. The triathlon was on Sunday - Monday I was back to making smoothies in the Vitamix and eating a lentil and veg curry for dinner. I didn't just switch to eating a plant based diet for the triathlon, I switched for good. And wow, do I FEEL AMAZING.

There were many reasons I decided to go plant based this past January, but the true motivation was to be able to complete the Olympic distance triathlon (swimming one mile, biking 22, running six) by September 21st. After running two half marathons and having that training kick me in the butt I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to train in multiple sports day after day, sometimes twice a day, and recover for the next hard workout. I was a little fearful of going plant based worrying like everyone else worries about it: would I get enough protein, calcium, iron, vitamins, and minerals to keep my body going day after day? Luckily, I came across Rich Roll, Matt Frazier and Brendan Brazier to prove that its totally possible to train with a plant based nutrition plan AND to improve as an athlete.

An athlete. That's really hard for me to say. I've never been an athlete. I was a swimmer, sure, I could definitely say that, but even though I've ran two half marathons (slowly) and biked to worked several days out of the week, I wasn't an athlete. Athletes are super humans: Venus and Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Diana Nyad, Marianne Vos, Shawn White, Lindsey Van. I certainly wasn't an athlete. Sure I swam, biked, and ran, but I wasn't an athlete. I'm not fast, I don't win, I haven't mastered a training plan or coach people. I'm just me, chugging along. But I think I can start calling myself an athlete. At least a Triathlete.

But it doesn't matter what I call myself. I do these things for other reasons than winning and competing. I do them to experience the world from a heightened point of view. I'm hyper-aware of my surroundings when I'm out on my bike. I'm hyper-aware of my body when I'm out running. And I'm hyper-aware of my thoughts when I'm swimming. I swam in icy Lake Tahoe and had an exhilarating experience looking back to the shore and over the mountains from in the lake. I swam in the murky and cold waters of the San Francisco Bay, and had the most amazing view of the sun setting on the city and the lights glowing through the darkened night sky. I biked all over the East Bay of San Francisco seeing things I'd never be able to see from a car window. And I've gone down sidewalks and roads I never would have before on runs because they weren't part of my destination. I've gotten up early morning after early morning to see the sun rise and experience the first quiet moments of the day and have skipped hours of sitting in traffic because I was able to cruise along on my bike. I've slept better than I EVER have before.

And yes, I've officially swam one mile, biked 22, and ran six and then got a medal for it. Yes it was amazing, yes I feel incredibly proud of myself, and yes I'll definitely do another one, but I think the journey to the triathlon has been more important, more exciting, and more rewarding than that 3+ hours I spent out on the course on Sunday. I am a triathlete. I am plant based. But I am also ready to continue on this adventure. This triathlon was only the first journey point. There are going to be countless others. And I can't wait to see what happens along the way.