I’m thrilled to write my first post as a Verde-sponsored athlete, the first of many in which I’ll share my philosophy on ultra running, my approach to fueling well for the long haul, and my adventures (and misadventures) from the trail. I hope these stories will inspire you to find your own wild and push the limits of what’s possible in your life, in whatever form your passion takes.
I began running ultra trail marathons—any distance over 26.2 miles—in 2012. Though I’m still a relative newcomer to the sport, I’ve been a runner and an outdoor athlete for as long as I can remember. I ran my first race, a 10K, at age seven, on a rolling, winding strip of asphalt at the foot of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
From the start, I fell in love with the simplicity of running, the freedom of being able to move unencumbered through nature. I’ve always taken a holistic, natural, and intuitive approach to training and racing. Eating well is a huge piece of the endurance puzzle, and my nutrition education has been an ongoing journey. Like many, I was conditioned to believe that carbohydrates—the big pre-race pasta dinner!—are an athlete’s best friend. But over the past four years, I’ve discovered that eliminating or radically limiting processed foods, alcohol, added sugar, dairy, and most grains enables me to run farther, faster, strong, and recover more quickly between runs. In short, to do more of what brings me joy in my life.
Just as important as what I cut out is what I added in: lots of vegetables and fruits, protein, nut and seeds. These are my secret weapons for long days on the trail. And they are what led me to Verde in January, when I completed my first three-day cleanse.
At the time, I was recovering from a broken kneecap sustained during a freak running injury in September 2014. During the 14 weeks it took my patella to heal, my recovery strategy included distance swimming at the pool, Pilates mat workouts at home to build core strength, eight hours of sleep every night, acupuncture from the amazing Dr. Sharada Hall, pre-dawn skiing up the Santa Fe Ski Basin, and plenty of mood-boosting fresh air and vitamin D.
I also knew that nutrition was essential to a fast and full recovery. I needed high-calcium, high protein, healthy foods to heal my bone, and plenty of vitamins and healthy fats. And I knew where I could get these all in one place: Verde.
I’d never done a multi-day juice cleanse before, but once several years ago I’d eaten just fruits, nuts and veggies during a weeklong DIY re-boot, and I’d felt sluggish, ornery, and weak. I’d lagged way behind in my usual workouts, with barely enough energy to make it to the top of the mountain. This time, I’d just been cleared to run again and only had the fitness to run a few miles at a time. I figured it didn’t matter if juicing made me slow. Hobbled by my recently-broken knee, I was already slow.
How wrong I was!
At home, inspecting the nutrition labels, I was amazed to discover that Verde Juice is packed with protein, good fats, fiber, and essential vitamins. I had no idea I could get 12 grams of protein from a bottle! The next morning, I drank my first Almond Chai before heading to the pool. I’d built up to swimming a mile and a half each during each workout and was gradually increasing my distance to two miles. That day I felt so strong, and swimming seemed so effortless, that before I realized it, I’d swum two and a quarter miles, on a single bottle of Almond Chai.
I was hooked.
During the cleanse, not only was I never hungry, but I also had some of the best training sessions I’d had in months. I felt stronger, clearer in my head, more energetic, and increasingly hopeful about my return to ultra running.
Since then, I’ve been fueling my trail runs and cross-training with Verde juice. My favorite pre-workout juice is still the Almond Chai. The wheatgrass-kale-and-black-tea (just half a cup, Kelly assures me, as I’d largely given up caffeine) combination is pure power in a bottle. For my recovery drink, I swear by Eastern Roots, which is loaded with turmeric, shown to help reduce inflammation, and beet-based Apple Cleanse. Spring Green and Hydrating Sweetness help me rehydrate after a long, intense effort on the trails. Thanks to Verde, I now have the science and nutritional know-how to trust that I’m getting the nutrients I need when I need them most.
Fueled by Verde, I’m feeling bullish about my short and long-term ultra running goals. I’m training for a 50K in June and a 50-miler in the fall, prepping for a 42-mile, 11,000-foot-vertical ascent speed record in the Grand Canyon, and prepping for my first 100-mile race in early 2016. Running, like life, is a journey, and I know that Verde will help me keep sight of the bigger picture: to enjoy a lifetime of running and exploring the backcountry on my own two feet.
Trail running will always be much more than a competitive sport for me. It’s the way that I explore my world, a conduit for creativity and adventure, and a way to give back and inspire others, including my two young daughters. Running helps me do all of these things more gracefully and mindfully. I hope you’ll join me on this journey onto the trails and into the far reaches of human possibility, #fueledbyVerde!