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Race Recap: Ragnar Adirondacks 2016

img_1565“It’s been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song…”

No this isn’t a rendition of Sinead O’Connors “Nothing Compares 2 U” but it is an ode to those that have become a part of my family, the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team.

You see, this past weekend I ran my third Ragnar Relay and second with the team. Rather than it be on Cape Cod like the previous two, and be on familiar territory being a native and all; this one was held in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. Nothing could have prepared this flat-lander for what was to come, but my training had as many hills as I could find and the incline was always on when using the treadmill.

img_1467We had an early start for the race, 6 am on Friday morning, so many of us came into the area early to get some sleep. A group of us was staying at Jess and Andrews house (thank you for the hospitality) and while we were all headed that way it was decided we would try to concoct vegan Big Macs. We were all given certain things to pick up on our way and for what ever reason we still ended up with extra Chao cheese.

Casey popped the burgers into some pans, I created the “special sauce”, shredded some lettuce (after Caseys valuable tip) and sliced some buns up. We had a variety of patties to choose from such as Field Roast, Gardein and even some Beast Burgers from Beyond Meat. I love those one’s so my Big Mac was merely ginormous and was super filling. We had also brought stuff for s’mores but by the time we had all gorged on vegan Big Macs we were full and people were starting to think about bed. That was a great idea since we had to be up early so we all crashed.

img_14753:45am-4:00am came waaaay to soon but we were up and at em and headed off to the starting line. It was awesome to see so many people I had met from the Cape Cod Ragnar and to meet people who were coming in for their first race with the team. We all found our teams, were given our race gear and plans were put into motion about how the next 24-30 hours or so would play out. At this point, after chatting and catching up with teammates, it was time for C team van 1 (Rachel, Evan, Christine, Jeanine, Molly, our driver & Captain Melissa and myself) to head over to registration and get checked in, watch the safety video and prepare for our first runner to get going.

Originally I was supposed to be runner 1, but due to an unforeseen injury from a fellow teammate, I switched to her leg which was six. She then had to pull out completely so the legs were arranged a bit and we took on another runner as she moved into the van driver role. The way this team, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, operates is amazing. Even when the most minor thing happens, or major, it gets ironed out quick and is given no more thought; it just gets done. We had runners on other teams go down and again, the slack was picked up and it went off without a hitch.

img_1494After seeing runner 1 off the race was officially on for us. If you’ve never run a Ragnar this is where the fun, and chaos, begins. We swiftly got back to our van and headed of to the next exchange. When our van was on the clock this is how it would go. Drop a runner off at an exchange and then drive to the next where the nest runner would wait for the slap bracelet to be handed off and then on to the next. Each van had 6 runners and 1 driver. After the 6 from that van ran, the slap bracelet was handed off to the second van of 6 making 12 totals runners per team. When our van was off the clock we would head to the next major exchange to chill, clean up, eat, recoup or whatever it is we needed to do.

After our first leg, we had an injury. Rachel had rolled her ankle at one point during her leg. Sam taped her up and we were unsure if she could continue on. Somehow she muscled through and ran her second leg, even claiming two kills in the process. After that though it was decided that she was out and we would have to figure out what to do for her last leg. In order of runners, Christine ran before Rachel and I after. Christine and I decided to split her last leg in half and share it. So how easy that was, we got it done!

img_1644How did my legs go? Amazing! My first run was just a bit over 6 miles and I just kind of took it easy as I knew I had a nearly 9 mile run later that night. The Adirondacks are beautiful so the run was relaxing. My second legs had a few hills, quite a few actually. It killed me running up them but going down? I set new records for myself. I have never run anything faster than a 7 minute pace for more than 20 second sprints. As I was bombing down a hill I peaked at my watch and saw I was going 6:24! What?? So I grabbed my phone and took a pic, at that point I had slowed to 6:37 but that was still way flippin’ faster than I had ever run before.Of course I’m not an elite runner, so keeping that pace was a dream. I went back to my usual 9:00-9:30 pace and settled in.

My third leg was just in the morning. It was just about to hit 7am and that was when you didn’t have to wear all the night gear, I was grateful for that. Again, I settled in to a good pace and powered through my last run. There were some absolutely gorgeous sites to see as I ran this leg. It seemed that the trees color was changing a bit more on this side of the Adirondacks so it made it even more spectacular. There was a spot that had a great downhill and I miraculously achieved another sub 7 pace for about 30 seconds and that felt refreshing as the morning was quite chilly. I’d have layered up but by the time the 6 miles was up I was sweating and would not have wanted to carry a sweatshirt with me the whole way. After my leg, we handed off to van 2 and then headed off to the finish line to wait for all the teams to come in.

img_1523The finish line was in Lake Placid where they held the Olympics some time ago. There was still signs that they were held there as the ski jump was still up and even the spot where the Olympic flame was lit. It was probably even more beautiful than, in its Olympic glory and all. It wasn’t too shabby though and was the perfect place to have a Ragnar party!!

They had some of their sponsoring vendors there such as Nathan and Nuun. Each runner gets a meal ticket and we were blown away that there was a veg option that we didn’t have to ask for anything to be changed or taken out. I even had a coffee at the pop-up cafe and they offered me coconut milk; the world is changing folks!

While we waited for our van and the others, A team came blasting in with a time of just over 22 hours garnering them 3rd overall and 1st in their division. Who said vegans were slow and unhealthy?? From what I can tell on the prelim results the other van results are:

C = 30:31:46 (my team)
B = 31:06:38
D = 31:28:05

I loved running this race and couldn’t be happier with those that were selected to share the van w/ me. You guys are all my dear friends from here on out, thank you for the laughs (#jesusjumpedup) and thank you for the amazing memories.

teamcfullWhile I’m writing my thanks let me add to it some of the most important folks and that Joel, Laura, Dana and any other admin that helps to set all of this up. After creating and helping admin an enormous OCR team I can only imagine what you guys are doing between registration, collecting money for that, gear order, getting contributions from vendors, etc. You guys are all amazing and we do what we do because you set it all up. We couldn’t do it without you. We couldn’t spread the message of ethical veganism the way we do unless we had you standing behind us. Thank you!

I’d like to also thank all the businesses/ companies that sponsored Strong Hearts Vegan Power. Your support is amazing and the team is proud to be partners with you!

Financial Sponsors

Little Anthonys
Louisville Vegan Jerky
Our Hen House
Sweet Earth Natural Foods
Vegan Outdoor Adventures

In-Kind Sponsors

GU Energy Gels
Healthy Living Market & Cafe
Health Warrior
Munk Pack
Louisville Vegan Jerky
Natures Bakery
The Herbivore Clothing Company
Primal Strip
Skinny Pop
Sweet Earth Natural Foods
Raw Revolution


Are you ready for Ragnar?

vestAs I prepare for my third Ragnar Relay I feel just as scatter brained as the first. I think that’s normal for any race though, you want to feel prepared both physically and mentally. I can’t help too much with the mental aspect, that’s all up to you, but what I can share is what has worked for me in the past and what I plan to bring for this upcoming Ragnar Relay in the Adirondacks. I’ve got some recommended stuff and then my complete packing list at the end of this post. This is a ton of info, try not to over think it like I did on my first.

Here we go:

There are these three core necessities which each runner needs before Ragnar will even officially let you start.

  1. HEADLAMP: Make sure you have a decent headlamp. I’m serious, do not cheap out here. One of your three legs will be late at night and there will be small gaps where your headlamp will be providing you with the only light. This has to be wear you spend some money. I use a Princeton Tec remix and it’s been great. It’s not super expensive, $30, but it’s a quality product that I’ve used in the rain, while running Ragnars and in -20 degree weather in the mountains of Vermont.
  2. blinky-lightBLINKING LIGHT: Ragnar recommends that Nathan brand strobe light and it’s what I went with as well. For $10 you can’t go wrong and it fits the criteria. Again, don’t skip out, it’s only $10!
  3. REFLECTIVE SAFETY VEST: My first Ragnar I brought along my cable guy safety/ reflective vest figuring I could save a few bucks. I saved some bucks alright, and dealt with a much more baggy and bulkier vest than need be. The second time around I purchased a Nathan brand reflective vest that had much less material and was just as reflective and safe as the monstrosity I wore the year before. Again, Ragnar recommends the Nathan brand vest and for good reason, it works!

Those are just the basics. Remember, you are going to be in a van with 5 other people (possibly 6 if you have your own driver) for 24 hours. There are items you will need for yourself and items you will need for your van mates. Your van mates have their own list of stuff they are bringing for themselves, it will look similar to the one I’m about to share. But, I also said you need to bring stuff for them. Here’s my two lists for them and for you.

nuunList #1; For Your Van Mates

  • DEODORANT: No, you don’t need to bring a stick for them, bring a stick for yourself so they do not have to smell you. Nothing worse than a stinky teammate that leans on you in the middle of night and tries to catch a couple z’s on your shoulder and stinks to the high heavens. It’s gross and slightly disrespectful. You share the same space and would expect the same of them, right?
  • WIPES: This is similar to the need for deodorant. You are going to get sweaty and nasty, it’s inevitable. The best things you can do for your van mates is to minimize that filth. Some Ragnar stops have showers, if you can’t use one or maybe feel uncomfortable, find a stall and wipe down with a baby wipe. I have more to come on this after the race as I’ll be trying out something new, but the fact remains; keep the stank to a minimal level.
  • TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE: Do I really need to explain this? Hygiene people, keep it real.

stripsThat’s a short list but besides food, can be the most important for those you are spending the weekend with. Speaking of food….

List #2; For you

  • FOOD – It’s only 24 hours, don’t over do it. Remember, the space in the van is going to be limited. Our van has been chatting and each person is bringing a particular item. For instance, I’m bringing a few containers of water and Nuun electrolytes. Another van mate is bringing trash bags, while another is bringing sandwich stuff. You also want to make sure what you bring can endure 24 hours in a warm van. We are bringing a cooler, but even with that things can go awry in 24 hours. It’s only 24 hours though, you can still eat decent and healthy (vegan). I know we always try to get at least one hot meal when our van is not on the clock. Don’t over think it.
  • WATER: Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. Your body is going to be put the ringer and the least you can do for it is to stay hydrated, your recovery between runs depends on it. You can choose to add electrolytes to your water if you like, just be aware of the ingredients and that you are not poisoning yourself with unnecessary additives and dyes.
  • glideCLOTHING: Duh, right? You are not going out for a week, it’s 24 hours. Keep in mind though, you are running three times though so bring at least a couple of pair of shorts and undershorts. Back to hygiene for a sec, bring a plastic bag to put your stinky clothes in. You’re going to want a sweatshirt and maybe some pants you can put over your shorts while you wait for your next leg. You want to be comfortable while you wait, there is a ton of down time.
  • SHOES: Obviously you need a good pair that are going to make it through your three runs, but you also want to bring a second pair for the in between times. Heck you may even want flip-flops to let them barking dogs breathe a bit. Point is, you’re not going to wear the same shoes you are running in.
  • TECH: It’s the world we live in, so make sure you bring what you need to stay busy and that you bring stuff to charge it with or else you are out of luck. Most of the vans that are rented have tons of adapters to plug into, or you can share time.

headlampSo, those are the just the basics. You’ll see in my list below that it’s pretty much based on what you prefer. You get the general idea though right? Think there’s anything to add? Comment below.

Here’s my list

  • The 3 Ragnar essentials: Vest, blinking light and headlamp)
  • Hygienic Items: Deodorant, wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste)
  • Food: Like I mentioned, our van has been talking and we are each bringing a particular item to share, I’m bring the water and electrolytes. As a runner on Strong Hearts Vegan Power we are also afforded samples from our sponsors. Food is not going to be an issue). I’m also bring a couple baggies with single servings of protein powder. While nutrition will be somewhat on point, with all the running I need to add in the protein. It’s taken me too long to gain weight, I’m not looking to lose any.
  • beanfieldsClothing: 3 pair of running shorts, 1 pair of warm-up pants, 3-4 pair of socks, 3-4 pair of underwear (2 of which are compression shorts), of course I’ve got my SHVP gear (tech tee, singlet and sweatshirt). That’s it, basic stuff. No need to complicate things.
  • Shoes: I’m bringing my pair of running kicks and a pair to loaf around in. I’m skipping the flip-flops for this round as it’ll be much colder in the Adirondacks at the end of September compared to Cape Cod in the late spring/ early summer.
  • Tech: TomTom GPS watch, headphones, my phone (obviously) and phone charger with dual input.
  • Incidentals: Body Glide (friction sucks), comb, toilet paper, Kleenex and maybe a small bottle of ibuprofen for any pain or headaches. I am also bringing my massage/ roller stick. It’s an awesome tool to keep the blood flowing and helps in recovery between runs, it’s essential for me.

I’ve said it a ton of times, keep it simple and do not over think this. If you have issues head over to Facebook and ask some Ragnar veterans what they think. This is my third, like I said, and I’d be happy to help as well. Just comment below!


Trading Up!

ragnartatI don’t know about you, but when I was younger I did a ton of stupid sh*t and that includes bad tattoos. Over the past few years I’ve been working on getting the easy one’s covered. I still have a half of a sleeve that is garbage to me, and is supposedly fixable. I don’t have the $1000’s it’s going to cost right now.

So, I’ve covered the mistakes with things that mean a lot to me and tell the story of my personal evolution.

Over the past couple of years I’ve run the Ragnar Relay here on Cape Cod. So what better thing to do than to have one of my mistakes get covered by a triumph. The thing is, the mistake was on my knee and in order to
cover it, I would have to have part of my knee cap done.
Yeah… it was, ummm, fun?!

vegantatI had no intention of getting a second piece done today, but the Ragnar logo only took 35 minutes and I had booked an hour. So, I had Josh (from Spilt Milk Tattoo in Hyannis, MA) freehand the word “Vegan” on my ribs. Was it the best spot? I guess today was my day to be a glutton for punishment. Anyway…

It made sense to get this tattoo because with the Ragnar logo a negative part of my past was going away. It was time to add something that was a positive in my life and making the decision to go vegan a few years ago is up there with one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

So yeah, that’s how my day went today. How about you?

Race Recap: 2016 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay

13256262_10208991995055083_2079768877071564274_nIt’s taken a few days (a week) to digest this years Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. Ever since running it for the first time last year, I knew I had to run it again in 2016. I’m sure I’ve told the story more than a few times but let me preface this post with how I first met Strong Hearts Vegan Power and how I ended up running with the team.

They were impossible NOT to spot on the course. The very in your face design on the gear was 100% noticeable. The other racers were buzzing about them; who were they and what was their deal? It was at the last major exchange (Nauset High School) that I was able to approach the team. I walked up to Peter Nussbaum (I also met Julie Henderson, Scott Henderson and Kathleen Froico), introduced myself and asked how I could get one of the cool shirts the team was wearing. “You have to run with the team to get one,” he said. So, my next question was an obvious one, “how do I run with the team?”

Fast forward a year I got the opportunity.

It’s been a long time since I was really nervous to run a race. I’m somewhat of an introvert so to have to introduce myself to people I didn’t know at all was, well, it was a daunting task. I arrived to the Park and Ride in Rockland where we were meeting up to leave our vehicles and then divide into our vans before heading to the start line. I recognized some faces so I went to say hi. I recognized some faces from Facebook and Instagram, so that helped break the ice a bit. The one thing that was clear, especially among us new to the team; we were pumped to get our team gear!

Kaitlin was handing out all the gear. Besides the race itself, this was the moment I was waiting for. She handed me some gear and it was magical, no fuck that, it was MAGNIFICENT! I unrolled it and slid on my new hoodie. I felt like a damn superhero! Not only did I have the power to pound pavement three times in 24 hours but I had to power to be a representative for those that lack the voices to represent themselves; the animals. That’s truly why, like the badass vegan superheroes we were, we had all assembled.

IMG_0222In a flurry I met teammate after teammate and was soon introduced to those in my van, which was the B Team, van 1. Our driver/ navigator, and seemingly most important person, was Meghan. The other 5 were Skott, Jay, Laura, Suzie and Lia. We instantly got along and it seemed like the next 24 hours should go off swimmingly. It did.

After sending off Laura on her first leg we all piled in and it was off to the races (pun intended). What I really like about Ragnar is all the searching. Yes, we know where they are going and where we are supposed to go, but it kind of feels like a treasure hunt of sorts. You follow the clues and there’s the exchange, and most of the time; your runner. It went on like this for a bit until it was my turn to go.

My first leg was through the town of Marshfield and was 7.3 miles. That was better than 12.8 I had started out with last year; that was a leg killer for sure. I cranked out my 7.3 the best I could, handed off to Jay and he took off. After his leg it was off to our first major exchange in Bourne, the Gallo Ice Arena.

After devouring all sorts of yummy food, including Tofurky sandwiches on Pretzilla buns it was time to figure out the plan for the next few hours until our first runner had to get back out there. The rain had started to settle in and we were all going to try to get some rest since our second set of runs would be in the middle of the night and quite possibly in the rain. Mine would be at 3am, and was 5.5 miles, so I needed some z’s. The ladies took the sleeping bags into the arena and the guys stretched out in the van. It was less than an hour later and some jokester thought it would be funny to mess with the handles of the van and jiggle them. I was awake after that, until I started to slowly slip back under and then… the girls were back. Huh? It seemed another jokester thought it would be funny to pull the fire alarm and ruin it for everyone. So, until they could clear the arena of any hazards, no one was allowed in. Needless to say, not one of us got any sort of true restful sleep.

After a bit we got Laura over to the exchange point and off we were again. My leg was until we hit the Cotuit area but it came sooner than I had hoped. I had rolled out my quads a bit, as they were tightening up after sitting in the van for a while. I had to get some food in me besides the pumpkin seeds and trail mix I was snacking on so I devoured a bag of Rhythm Superfoods Ranch Kale Chips for some green fuel. At roughly 3:30am Suzie passed me the slapband and my run was on. I didn’t take my headphones this time as I wanted to be aware of my surroundings, especially at that time of night. The run was fun, but it was Friday the 13th and my mind played a couple tricks on me. As you can imagine, I heard things in the woods and freaked out.  You’d think my pace should have been better as I felt like I running a million miles a minute, but alas, that was not the case.

IMG_0072As I ran through a very desolate downtown Osterville it was a sight I’m not used to seeing as a Cape Codder. Osterville is usually bustling, even in the off-season. But all the stores were closed, there were no cars parked anywhere or driving anywhere for that matter. The only people who were awake and alert were other Ragnarians. I handed off to Jay and headed back to the van. Minus Meghan, they were all out cold. I stayed up with her so we could find Jay at some points to cheer him on and get through the waning hours of the night. Lucky for him the sun was starting to come up and he caught that second wind. After he passed the slapband to Scott Spitz of Van B we were off to Harwich and the Monomoy High School.

I have not been back to the school since I graduated in 1992. It was much different back then. Heck the building isn’t even there anymore, it was demolished and rebuilt for the new regional school, Monomoy, which is shared by Harwich and Chatham. It is a beautiful school, with all sorts of green tech, etc.

I don’t remember much here except falling asleep, finally.

I woke up to see Laura off on her third and final leg and the treasure hunt started all over again. My third and final leg would go from Orleans into Eastham, an area I know very well as it’s where I work most of the time. I was pumped to get this leg as it went down Bridge Road and went across a beautiful bridge over a marsh. It’s one of my favorite spots. A short bit after the bridge my wife and boys caught up with me. I really needed to see them and the boost they gave me with their cheers and encouragement was more welcomed than I thought possible. While this leg was only 4.6 miles, it was brutal as there were a couple decent hills and my legs were shot. I needed to see them. I shuffled quite a bit but picked up the pace where I could.

I finally made it to Arnold’s Clam Shack, the next exchange, handed off to Jay and was done!


We met Jay over at Nauset High School, the next major exchange and, going back, the place that started it all for me and Strong Hearts Vegan Power. I felt accomplished, the team felt accomplished. We took a team photo and headed off to Provincetown to meet the next van when they got there.

When their runner arrived we all followed them toward the finish line and crossed together. It was absolutely mind numbing how great it felt. But at the same time, I knew from last year, that the high would pass and I would start missing the team soon.

After the last team came in we all went back up to the Park and Ride for an award ceremony and to say our goodbye’s. It was bittersweet to see my truck there, I knew it was over. That said, in that very short period of time we spent as a team I feel like I made some really good new friends. And that’s not just our van alone. I f*cking love everyone we met. This was where I was meant to be for the period of time, I felt it in my mind and in my heart. Both were full as I headed back to the Cape and home. I was excited though, it would only be another 24 hours until we were all reunited again, at Maple Farms Sanctuary, the beneficiary for all the funds we raised at Ragnar. That post is coming soon. I’m already at 1,600+ words and this is a blog, not a book.

Below is a small album of the 24 hours, and a great video by Rachel.



It’s the most wonderful time, of the year… Ragnar week is coming!

No, it’s not Christmas in May. It is time for the Ragnar Relay to invade Cape Cod again though, and to me, that’s nearly as good as Christmas. Last year was my first and it was so much fun. Running 3 times in 24 hours was just a side effect, the awesomeness of Ragnar is spent traversing the 192 mile course with a team of 12 broken down into two vans of six.

Last year was so much fun. I knew all the guys I was sharing the van with as we had been racing obstacle courses for a while as part of the New England Spahten team. Most of the guys on the team I had known since the team began in 2012, so we had quite a bit to talk about. The camaraderie was as solid as it gets, and at the end of the race we were like brothers.

This year is different though and while I am excited, I am super nervous. Minus social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, I really do not know any of the people I am running with. I’ve been talking to some of them since the last Ragnar though, that’s how I knew about them. Ironically, one of the teammates I will be in a van with is friends with a family that I consider part of my own family. That sounds more confusing than it is… Point is, it could be awkward; or you would think it would be.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s going to be at all. You see, we have more than racing in common; we share moral and ethical values. A couple of years ago I went vegan for my health, but like any choice or life change, once you head down a path your eyes open to much more. We adapt and evolve with each change we make. I went what I thought was “plant-based” but that lifestyle morphed into veganism. And while they may seem so much the same, they are not as close as you might think.

This year at Ragnar is going to be much different from last because of veganism. You see, the team is very outspoken and while they wear their emotions and consciousness on their proverbial sleeve, they also wear it on their chest. If you are around Cape Cod next week you will see us, dressed in mostly black with bold white lettering on our gear that proudly says, “Strong Hearts Vegan Power,” we will most certainly be one of the most noticeable teams.

Last year the team was heckled here and there with the usual “BACON” cat calls, but for the most part people seemed interested in hearing the message. The folks at SHVP are not the preachy vegan types, they are willing to take the time to explain factual information, not just regurgitated one liners from documentaries. When I approached them they were nothing but welcoming.

So, maybe I’m not as nervous as I thought. I do know these people, they are me.

Bring it on Ragnar, SHVP is coming!

ps. Check out this video from last years Ragnar and SHVP.