This month we chose a very special runner as November's Runner of the Month. A local and Steeplechaser who is not only pushing to run her longest distance nearly every weekend but a women who practices a vegan lifestyle while doing it. She is a true delight to share your miles and smiles with on or off the trail. The Steep has embarked on running her first 50K this year, currently training for her first 50 mile race and has had the opportunity to be a pacer at this year's Grindstone 100. (Have a good feeling there is so much more to come from this Steep!)
You might be be asking yourself "so what is Vegan anyway?"
Better yet, "how can you only run simply on just plant based vegan diet?"
Well, Joanne Cappocia helps to answer these questions and gives us her perspective on how this whole "vegan thing" really works. The up and coming ultrarunner provides helpful and easy tips to successfully integrate this diet into an active lifestyle.
So here we go! Let's open our minds and appetite to learn a little something from this month's Runner of the Month, Joanne (aka "Jo") Cappocia.
How many years have you been running? How did you get started into running?
Hmmmm... I started running in the Fall of ‘96. The guy I was dating, at the time, was a runner. I never thought I could run until I tried and I've been running ever since.
At first, I ran shorter distances and my running was on and off for a long time. I ran my first half marathon in May 2009 (Zooma Annapolis) and it wasn't until I started running with the Steeps in the Fall of 2011 that I started running more aggressively and consistently.
You finished your first ultra this year (Catoctin 50K). How did that go for you?
CAT50K was amazing! It was as challenging as it was exciting. My goal was to finish in 8 hours and I crossed the finish line at 7:58. Can’t wait to do it again next year and hope to see some improvement! I was mostly blown away by the aid stations, I never experienced such hospitality and helpfulness, the volunteers were awesome! This was an incredible experience that I hadn’t planned on doing, I just started running trails in May, and my new trail running partner encouraged me to train for it and with his help I did it!
How and why did you decide to become vegan?
I've always been what I consider a "healthy" eater but I wasn't always sure what “healthy” was. In today’s world, with the current food supply and the Standard American Diet (SAD), it’s hard to decipher. The more I read about eating for your health and optimal performance, the more I learned. I was mainly vegetarian but had some digestion issues most likely caused by stress. Right around that time I read an article in Runner's World, April 2012, featuring Scott Jurek. After reading the article I bought his book, "Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness". That did it! I was convinced that a vegan lifestyle, a plant-based diet, was for me. I changed to a complete plant-based diet practically overnight and it's the best thing I ever did for my overall health/wellness, athleticism and happiness.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this? how do you get enough protein?
The question I always get when people learn I'm vegan is, how do you get enough protein? My answer is, I eat a lot of plant-based protein! Plant-based protein is abundant and so much healthier and humane!
Who or what motivates you?
Doing what I love motivates me. I love to run and eat healthy. Running is my favorite social activity and I'm always inspired by other runners especially my running buddies, the Steeps! They keep me motivated, consistent and pushing for more. And trail running has taken this to a whole new level. As some of you may know, I’m loving the trail!!
What's a typical day of eating look like for you? (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc...) Any recipes you would like to share?
Oh my gosh! I don't think there's enough room to share it all here but I'll do my best. I'm a grazer so I eat all day long to sustain my energy and my appetite and I think it’s good for the metabolism too. And of course I drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, seldom will you ever see me without a big cup of H2O. I start my day with an 8 oz. glass of water to “wake up” my body and have a delicious and nutritious Vega One nutritional shake.
Breakfast: Smoothies and juices are great
on the go! I like to add almond butter to my smoothies and hemp protein to my juices. Otherwise it’s sprouted tofu scramble, blueberry pancakes, Q’ia (Nature’s Path superfood breakfast cereal) with bananas, strawberries and hemp or flax milk and Ezekiel toast with avocado, nut butter or fruit spread.
Mid-morning snacks: Apple, banana, pear, orange or Vega bar
Lunch: Nourish bowls (see The Simple Veganista), tempeh wraps, quinoa & broccoli salad with almonds, pomegranate, quinoa & kale salad, bean salads, there are so many varieties of salad to choose from. I like to add humus, beans, avocado and sprouts to my salads and sprinkle them with hemp hearts and pepitas.
Afternoon snacks: Veggies & hummus, trail mix (nuts, seeds, goji berries and other dried fruit), apple, banana or Vega bar
Dinner: Lunch and dinner are always interchangeable. This time of year soups are great especially after an evening run in the chilly night air; autumn harvest soup, sweet potato, corn & kale chowder, creamy shiitake & chickpea soup, and savory black bean soups are some of my favorites. I also like lentil mushroom burgers, hemp burgers and black beans & rice for dinner (or lunch).
Sweets: Chococado tarts and Scott Jurek’s chocolate bars
Recipes: My favorite recipes come from various sources such as; “Clean Food, A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source” by Terry Walters, “Crazy Sexy Kitchen” by Kris Carr, “Thrive” by Brendan Brazier and “Eat & Run” by Scott Jurek, as well as the following Web sites:
(I know Rich Roll is also a good source but I just haven’t gotten into him yet)
The Simple Veganista
My favorite Breakfast Smoothie
When I don’t have time to make my own meals, my favorite place to eat (and shop) is the Common Market. They have many delicious vegan delights to choose from at the hot bar, cold bar, sandwich bar and juice bar.
What foods give you the most energy?
Scott Jurek's Spirulina Drink. I always have this green drink before a long run (20 miles+). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Zp0LCm9BWI
To get me through a long run I also use Tailwind, Vega Sport bars, Kit’s Organic Fruit & Nut bars and Recharge.
Have you found any issues going into the longer distances and eating vegan? Or do you think eating this way only benefits your running?
I think my plant-based diet propels me forward, it's all clean burning, provides excellent fuel and is easy to digest so the body doesn’t have to work on digesting food it can concentrate on using it for fuel to run. I think of food as fuel, very tasty fuel. The main thing is to keep fueling (eating & drinking) along the way, fuel properly beforehand (have enough calories to start with) and refuel afterward to replenish. Eating a well-balanced, plant-based diet means consuming a variety of high-quality (I prefer organic) foods like vegetables, greens, sprouts, legumes, tempeh, beans, nuts, grains, etc. on a daily basis. It’s also an anti-inflammatory type of diet so it helps with quick recovery too.
What is your favorite race distance to run?
I don't think I've run it yet. Stay tuned...
What is your next goal/ race?
Stone Mill 50 Miler - Nov. 15, 2014
If you could give someone looking to make the change into a healthier lifestyle whether it be signing up for a further distance race or making a change to a more vegan diet. What advice would you give them?
As far as diet goes, be mindful and intentional, think about what you’re putting into your body and why. Eat whole foods (real food, not processed) and know where your food is coming from and what it is you’re actually eating and how it will affect your body and overall health and performance. Do some exploring and be open to trying new things. You may not get it right the first time but keep trying and it will come.
As for running, build up your mileage gradually and be patient with yourself. Run with others, join a group (like the Steeps training groups), they'll hold you accountable and keep you motivated and consistent. You can learn from each other and push each other to new levels of performance. Training with others is helpful and fun!
As for both diet and running, read as much as you can and talk to as many people as you can who are already doing it and getting it right and apply those things to yourself. When it comes to training and eating healthy I don't think there is a “one-size fits all” so you have to try things out. Use the things that work and don't worry about the things that don't. Most importantly, keep showing up and keep moving forward in all that you do!
I’m not an expert but I do have some experience with this topic, I know what works for me and I continue to learn something new every day. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new and helpful. Wishing you miles of smiles, good health & much happiness!