Running—From a Beginner 5K Plan to the Vegan Power 50K...Fueled by Homemade Protein Energy Bites

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The first time I decided to "become a runner" was in high school. I dragged my best friend (Teri, who now cycles in century races) out of bed, we put our hair up in scrunchies and set out. Only to stop after half a mile because we both felt we were on the verge of having a heart attack. I easily convinced myself I just wasn't mean to be a runner.

The next time I decided to try was in my early thirties. I fractured a bone in the bottom of my foot wearing Birkenstocks in Paris. I was also completely out of shape. Over the years I had slowly put on an extra 15 lbs and hadn't exercised since college. As soon as my foot was out of the aircast, I asked my husband if we could buy a treadmill so I could slowly start walk/running. I essentially created my own C25K (Couch to 5k) plan before there was such a thing. And you know what? It worked.

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Click here to download my free beginner 5K plan!

When I started running this time, I had an actual physical limitation other than my own laziness...a fractured foot that was healing. You really need to develop a base level before running and what's the best way to do that? Yep, by walking. It really is that simple. A good, realistic beginner running plan should start with walking, move on to intervals of running, and then on to mostly running with walking as needed. Yes, real runners walk. Don't let anyone fool you. Get your ego out of the way and the sky is the limit.

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A few months ago I decided to do something stupid. I signed up for a 50k trail race. I've run a 50k before, but have never run a trail race of any length. There was no way I was going to be ready for 31+ miles on any surface in that amount of time, especially after such a bad health winter/spring for me.  Remember, do as I say, not as I do. That's the downfall of being a positive thinker...you end up doing stupid things. The problem was, I found this specific race—a VEGAN 50k. How could I not try? So I got the blessing of my Endocrinologist. Well, she looked at me like I was crazy and told me to be very careful and at least double dose my steroids for the race. Sounded like a blessing to me. 

This was my first race over a half marathon since I was diagnosed. I was determined to do this, even though I hadn't trained properly for it. I absolutely thought I might end up DNFing (Did Not Finish). The beauty of the Vegan Power 50k in Pittsfield, MA is that it's a 5+ mile trail loop that you do 6 times. So really, every 5 miles you have a chance to refuel, get encouragement from your family, and decide if you want to quit. That is good...and bad. Luckily, I met Tara Mayo on the first loop and we just clicked. Tara is an avid runner, salon owner, and health coach in Burlington, VT. She is my dream running partner and we were both wearing pink calf compression socks—we were obviously meant to meet. We truly helped each other to the finish line.

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So what did I eat to sustain me for 8 stinking hours? Gu, peanut butter on gluten-free crackers, gluten-free pretzels, potato chips, watermelon and my homemade protein energy bites. Having real food on this ultra was the key for me NOT having stomach issues and throwing up, as I had in the past. The energy bites recipe was fun to figure out. Keep in mind, these bites really aren't for everyday eating. They are not meant to taste like snickers bars or carrot cake...those will come later. These aren't too sweet and actually taste really good. They are packed with plant-powered nutrition and energy to keep you going on your log run, hike, or cycling days.

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Cacao Cherry Protein Energy Bites (GF,V)
Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. pitted, dried dates
1/2 c. raw almonds
1 1/2 tbsp. hemp seeds
1 tsp. maca powder
1/3 c. Vega Sport Performance Protein mix (or substitute with your favorite performance mix)
1/2 c. cacao nibs
1/2 cup dried cherries
2 tbsp. liquid coconut oil
2-4 tbsp. filtered water (start small, add as needed to form into balls)

Directions:
Using a high powered food processor, pulse dates and almonds until they resemble course meal. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the water and pulse until it starts to form. Open lid and feel to see if it will stick together into balls. If not, put the lid back on, pulse and add a few tablespoons of water until it is just slightly tacky. Roll into 15 balls and refrigerate to harden. Store in freezer and pull out as needed!


Nutritional Estimations per bite: Calories 146. Total Fat 6 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 43 mg. Potassium 120 mg. Total Carbs 18 g. Fiber 3 g. Sugars 12 g. Protein 4 g. Vitamin A 1%. Vitamin C    2 %. Calcium 2%. Iron 3%.

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For most of us, walking a 5k is no easy feat. It took me 45 minutes to run my first 5k and I was third from the last. So you see, we all have to start somewhere. Set a goal and start small so that you can achieve it. There will be time for beating unrealistic goals later when you have a solid base.