Vegan Ironman Not Iron Deficient

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(Yeah, that’s a pretty stupid title.)

Inside Triathlon is running a feature called Coast to Coast where an Oregon man named Barry Holman joins two friends for a two week, 900-mile trek from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Little Rock, Arkansas as they train for a triathlon. Barry’s vegan and has a funny story on
Day 12:

Can’t kill “The Vegan”

I’ve developed a nickname on this odyssey. It’s “The Vegan.” I don’t eat any meat or animal products (dairy, eggs, etc.). It’s not a huge deal for me; I’ve been eating like that for more than three years, and it predates my first Ironman. But it freaks out a lot of people who think I might tip over at any minute from a meat deficiency. Gordo isn’t a reactionary and was curious about my eating. I’d even call him vegan friendly because when I’m cooking he always asks, “Can you make a little extra of that? I’d like some.”

Still, he was pretty sure that at some point I’d crack from fatigue. About my fifth day he said to me, “I thought you’d blow up after the third day. That’s usually when the guys on Epic Camp [the 12-day camps he and 1988 Ironman Hawaii champ Scott Molina organize] crumble. But you’re hanging in there pretty well — better than I thought a vegan would.”

With only two full days of training left (my flight leaves at 12:30 on May 5, so I’ll only get in an early swim and run), Gordo felt as though I’d made it through enough of the training for him to give me an assessment of my strengths and the areas I need to address to improve. He started the conversation by saying, “We’ve thrown everything at you we have in terms of volume, and you just absorb it and bounce back. I’m really amazed, especially given your diet. I keep saying to Clas, ‘What are we going to do? We’ve tried everything and we just can’t kill the vegan!'”

I think I pretty well failed at concealing a big smile when he said that, because on days seven to 10, when things were feeling pretty dark, I wrote a note to myself that I was, “Carrying the weight of Vegandom.” A ridiculous self-absorbed fatigue-induced delusion, I know. I was, however, concerned that if I had a day where I simply couldn’t go on physically or mentally that it might be perceived as a weakness not as much in me as in the way I eat. The upside of that particular delusion was that it was a really great motivator and gave me something outside of the deep fatigue to focus on.

This is a good accompanying story for a piece I wrote on one of my other web sites about ultramarathons (imagine a marathon, but stretched to 100 miles) and vegan “ultramarathonner” Scott Jurek. Jurek is also featured in this month’s Herbivore.

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