By Vega Blogger Nicole Antoinette founder of A Life Less Bullshit
It was May 1, 2011 and I was supremely out of breath. Hunched over the treadmill bar, gripping my side cramp and sucking in deep gulps of air, I looked at the display panel and saw that I had done it — I had just run for two consecutive minutes.
“One day down, 167 more to go,” I thought. Because in exactly 24 weeks, I would be attempting my first half marathon. Me, the girl who had never played sports or done anything even remotely athletic. Me, the girl whose mother described her as “more likely to sprout wings and fly to the moon than to ever run around the block.”
And yet there I was, hanging off the side of the treadmill, committed to somehow getting from two minutes to two miles to ten miles to 13-point-crazy miles.
Cake is Better than Running
For the next 24 weeks, I took things one day, one run, and literally one step at a time. My inner dialogue from that first training cycle went something like this:
Is that a blister? It feels like a blister. WHY IS RUNNING SO HARD? I’m going to eat a lot of cake after this. CAKE IS BETTER THAN RUNNING. Are we there yet? Ugh, carrying water is annoying. Ooo, I love this song! I wish my thighs would stop rubbing together. Is that another blister? Holy wow, if I keep going for one more mile it will be the farthest I’ve ever run in my life. Everything hurts. Why does everything hurt? Oh man, I’m on fire today. Look at me go! I AM A SPEEDY SPEED PRINCESS! AND SPEEDY SPEED PRINCESSES GET CAKE!
When race day came, I had been training for 24 weeks, and I was also 24 weeks sober. In dramatic fashion, I had quit drinking and started running on the same day, and standing at that starting line at 6:30am, when it was just barely light outside, I thought about how six thirty in the morning used to be a time I only ever saw on the tail-end of a very long night of very hard drinking. I looked around, surrounded by a crowd of over seven thousand runners, and shook my shoulders, bounced up and down a little bit, and bent down to tie and retie my shoes with the same strangling panic you feel when you’re tightening your airplane seatbelt during stomach-dropping turbulence. This thing’s secure, right?!
And then I did it — I ran my first half marathon.
The plan all along had been to do the half marathon as a personal challenge, as a bucket list item, and then to go back to my normal life. But somewhere during the 24 weeks of training, “normal” took on a whole new meaning and I found myself registering for a second half marathon. “You know, just to prove to myself that the first one wasn’t a fluke,” I told people.
A second half marathon turned into a third, which turned into a fourth, and even though I was training hard and seeing the kind of big performance gains that come from starting as a complete beginner, I felt like I was more tired than I should be. I had trouble recovering between workouts, and (if I’m being honest) I was still using running as a nutritional get-out-of-jail-free card. I was running a lot, so I could eat whatever I wanted, right?
From Processed to Plant-Based
Here’s what happened next:
I found Brendan Brazier, and Thrive, and Vega, and it showed me an alternative to the animal protein, processed energy gels, and white bagels that seemed to surround runners at every turn. I had just registered for my first full marathon and (always one for big life changes) I decided to switch to a plant-based diet for the duration of the 16-week training cycle I was about to start. “Just, you know, to check it out. But only for 16 weeks!” I assured people.
Just like with running, I never thought I’d stick with a plant-based diet. It was an experiment, something to play with, and back then I’d be the first to tell you that I would “just die” without a daily dose of both cheese and milk chocolate.
Guess what? I didn’t die. Guess what else? I didn’t know it before changing my diet, but the way I was eating before was making me feel pretty lousy. Only I didn’t realize that there was any other way to feel. I figured people always got stomachaches after eating, and that energy crashes were just a normal afternoon thing. Once I changed my diet, though, I finally realized what it’s like to feel good (who knew!!) and I also noticed how much more quickly I was recovering between workouts (bonus!)
I’ll never forget the first time I tried the Vega One Nutritional Shake. I was standing in the middle of my kitchen, sucking it down, and I just couldn’t believe that something I had only mixed with water was a) that healthy, and b) actually delicious. I had expected it to taste like dirty chalk, just like every other protein powder/smoothie mix I’d ever had, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I eyed it in amazement, thinking: “WHAT IS THIS SORCERY!”
16 weeks of marathon training and delicious smoothies later, I was hooked.
Between then and now, the most impactful change hasn’t been in how I eat, but in how I think about food. Before Brendan and Vega and the Thrive lifestyle, I was always playing a game of “how much can I get away with?” Meaning: how much crap food can I eat without feeling sick and totally messing up my training? Now, the question isn’t “how much can I get away with” — it’s “how good can I possibly feel?” This mindset shift put me at the top of my game, which is exactly where I’m going to need to be to attempt my next challenge: a 3,000+ mile run from Los Angeles to NYC.
Dude, wouldn’t it be crazy if…
The idea to run across America started the way most big ideas start, with one person looking at another person and saying, “Dude, wouldn’t it be crazy if…” It’s been just over three years since I first started running and two years since I switched to a plant-based diet, and now here I am, slowly and deliberately building my mileage so that I’m ready to put my hands in the Pacific Ocean on March 1, 2015, turn around, and then run all the way to NYC.
I have absolutely no idea how the next eight months of training are going to feel. I have no clue what the five months of running across the US will be like. I can’t possibly predict how this will change me. But I do know one thing: the anchor in making this dream a reality is the food-as-fuel principle I’ve learned through Vega, and nutrition is my #1 training priority.
It’s true that this terrifyingly crazy goal will be accomplished one step at a time, but it’s also true that it’s going to be done one scoop (of Vega Sport Performance Protein Powder) after another. And since there will be a heck of a lot of nights where I’m sleeping out in the middle of nowhere during this journey, it’s a good thing that all I need to make Vega One is some plain ‘ol water, huh? :)
About Nicole Antoinette
Nicole Antoinette wants to live in a world with less BS. She helps people change their stories – the ones they tell about themselves, to themselves – so they feel safe about changing their habits and, ultimately, their lives. She’s the founder of A Life Less Bullshit, an online powerhouse that provides simple, actionable, and powerful strategies for ditching what you think should want in favor of what you actually do want. Sound intriguing? Sign up here for free weekly tips for a BS-free life.