Big Brad – Round Three

This year I had the pleasure of a third go at The Big Brad 50 mile. It’d been two years since I ran my first ultra and this is where it all started for me. These events have seriously evolved my thinking as to what is possible. I refer to it as, life as I know it now. I seem to go to and draw from places that I never knew existed. I gain strength from the depths of myself that have only been exposed to me during ultras and my ability to mine the knowledge from those places is what continues to draw me back. It’s fair to say I’ve become addicted to the growth that I feel occurs within me each time I undertake an ultra.

I want to start out light though. I’m just going to come right out and say it. For the first time ever…….. in an any race, at about 7 miles in, I had to go. Ya know……GO. I’ll spare the details by saying I made a quick visit to the woods and then picked up the pace for a couple miles to make up the time. Sorry, this is a first for me that I had to talk about. Only because I was proud of never having had to before. Seriously, I’ve run this distance five times and never had to poop.

Moving right along……..

Without fail there is one particular part of my body that seems to magnify with an issue. Thankful it was not my stomach, I was beginning to find out that today it would be my left calf muscle. It started to tighten and feel strange within just a few miles and by the time I hit twenty it was cramping and spasming almost steadily. I accessed the situation like this:

1) Am I injured?

2) Can I continue?

The answers were no………and yes. So rationally, the only choice was to continue. Digging into a place deep within, more than any ultra before, I welcomed it. And I pushed on harder, feeling the pain in every step. If you run ultras you must accept pain as part of the process. You must embrace it.

The thing about pain

Other than the calf muscle issues, the day was going really well. I found myself deep in the lull of the run. Staying in second place for most of the race, the day had distilled down to the essentials. Breathe, drink, eat, run.

Another thing I’ve become aware of during ultras is that problems usually come in numbers. At thirty-seven or so miles my next issue arose, literally. My heart rate suddenly skyrocketed. I could feel it happen and a quick assessment revealed my heart rate upward of 200 bpm. I was on an easy part of the course and was putting in a ten minute mile with no more exertion than before. I believe now it was the result of the caffeine in some of the gels I had. I had been regulating it well in the first half but really lost track in the second half. After meeting the first place runner just over a half mile from the thirty-five mile aid station and turn around, I realized it was still possible to catch him. So just before passing through that aid station for the last time I decided to eat a gel that had 100mg of caffeine to give me a boost to get back up over Bradbury Mountain for the seventh time and carry me through the last fifteen miles. I believe it is what pushed my heart rate up and for the first time all day upset my stomach. I slowed to walk for a period to get my heart rate down. It took longer than I wanted to do that and as soon as I ran again for a few minutes it shot back up. It went on for a few miles and it wore on me mentally as to what was going wrong. This is when I began to breakdown.

I was 42 miles in and the weight of 8 more was heavy given the “every step sucks” point that I had now inevitably reached.

Then I dove even deeper. A day of purpose and passion looked to come crashing to a halt.

I came to the point of not caring if I finished well and then to not wanting to continue at all. It’s funny thinking back as to how these thoughts could have entered my mind. I was in second place and on pace to run my fastest time on this course and possibly my fastest 50 mile distance. This is the place where real growth happens for me. This is where an ultra goes mental and even spiritual.

It’s a deep dive that has occurred for me in every ultra. The more I drive myself to compete and push my limits, the deeper they get. I’ve learned that the dive isn’t the end though. In fact, it’s the beginning of what I came for. I was in a deep dark place and I let out a big sigh when I caught a glimpse of the guy behind me. And for a minute I continued on the dive.

Then the guy coming up behind me, Tim, pulled me from the depths as he passed me. I was once again reminded of the amazingly kind awareness and energy of ultra runners.  As I stepped aside for him to go by he said, “Come on man, I’ve got two pacers, let’s go Evan.” He wouldn’t let me stay there.

I responded, “I don’t think so. I’m deep in the pain cave.”

He came back with, ” Ya, me too. Let’s go”.

He knew what I feeling. This was Tim’s first 50 mile race but he wasn’t new to the endurance game. In our conversations earlier in the day I learned he was an Ironman finisher. I assumed from then on Tim would be a competitor. I was right. And now it seemed as though he challenged my spirit to come out and play. Even though we had just met that day, the spirit of what we were doing came shining through. We began chatting and laughing, trying the best to lighten the mood of the obvious place of discomfort and exhaustion that both of us were in.

It was nice to run with someone else who was experiencing the same. It grounded me again and I found myself in the all too familiar place that I go during the last part of a 50 miler……I started running the numbers. Assessing the situation. After all, I was there to learn that day. Given my current time and distance left, I begin to negotiate the possibilities of how I could finish. I began to surface again. My heart rate had lowered and I came to the place of asking the question that changed the end of the day for me.

I asked myself, “how do you want this to end?”

I had no clue as to my pace at this point because my GPS watch died just before clicking 40 miles. But it still had the time of day showing. After some thought I became aware that if I really poured it on for 6 more miles I could still possibly sub 9 hour the course. This realization brought me back even closer to the very reason I was there that day. I wanted to know how bad I could suffer and keep on going.

It was the first time in a 50 miler that I was truly and openly inviting to the real learning experience of an ultra. I really wanted to know how far I had come with my mind, body and spirit.

Big Brad

32 miles in and having myself a little airplane fun as I crossed the road at the Lawrence Road aid station.

Just when things were starting to look up……it got even better. At 44 miles in, my pacer and crew, Steph, joined me. The only road section of the course, 1/4 mile pavement and 1 miles dirt, was in front of us before entering the woods again. Gathering an awareness of the energy she brought, I picked it up. We talked and laughed while we threw down what had to be a sub 8 minute mile on the dirt. There was no way she was going to let me finish easy. Her presence was a game changer.

The energy she brought made such good company I requested her to go the last 3 miles with me. I was happy she obliged. What she didn’t know was that it was the most difficult section of the course. I kept it as a surprise! I knew she could handle it. But what neither of us knew was what I was about to go through.

We blew threw the last aid station without stopping, me yelling, “TEQUILA!!!” when asked what they could get me. There was no way I was stopping now.

“Only 3 miles left” I told myself, “anyone can run 3 miles”.

And again I asked, “how do you want this to end?”

Shortly after asking is where I began my most enlightening experience yet. In this part of the course you cross the road and head up over Tyron mountain and then Bradbury mountain for the last time. The last mile is all downhill from the peak of Bradbury and something I always look forward to.

I continued the sufferfest that I had put myself in, having to increase the focus on my breath significantly as we went over, around and down Tyron. It was that very focus on my breath that made it happen. Basically, I floated over Bradbury Mountain.

It sensation began while heading up over it and it peaked when we crested the top. On Bradbury you come into a rock clearing and there is a clear view for miles. Absorbing the view for the last time that day, I felt the energy of the mountain pulling me downward.

Bradbury Mountain

As we headed down, my steps lightened even more and I became increasingly aware of the effortless feeling that had enveloped my body. I began to fly downhill.

I could hear Steph talking to me and I think I responded……maybe. LOL!

I had entered a place of consciousness that I had never been. I can only describe it as bliss. Ten minutes or so of an energy that I didn’t want to end. But it had too.

I crossed the finished line at 9:07. My fastest Big Brad yet and a good enough effort to earn second place.

 Big Brad 3

The Silver Shoe made by the kids at Pownal Elementary School

Thank you to all who drive me, inspire me and keep the fire of desire burning within me.

I Failed

In the spring, I attempted to run a Boston qualifying marathon time. I failed. The cutoff time for a 36 year old male is 3 hours, 9 minutes and 59 seconds. I crossed the line in 3 hours, 13 minutes and 16 seconds. 3 minutes and 17 seconds too slow.

Half way point

In the summer, I attempted my first 100 mile run in an effort to raise money for a family summer camp. Failed. I stopped at 51 miles with nagging hip pain.

51 miles

In the fall, I made my best effort to negative split(run the second half faster than the first) in a 50 mile trail race. Failed again. I ran the first half in 4 hours and 35 minutes. The second half in 4 hours and 59 minutes. 25 minutes off.

Big Brad

The last couple months I’ve spent some time contemplating what they meant. I was forming my opinion of them and deciding what significance they would have on my future. I asked questions like: Should I keep running? Was I meant to achieve these things? Was it worth all the time and dedication only to fail in the end?

I thought about just giving up.

But I believe great things are hard. They don’t just happen easily. If they did everybody would do it.

It’s not about what I did. It’s about what I will do about it.

Most people don’t continue to work on their dreams. They give up after failing to achieve them.

One moment of failure ends ups equaling a lifetime  of pain. A lifetime of failure does not come from one failure. It comes from giving up every time you don’t quite hit the mark you were aiming for.

We all have dreams within us. It just depends on whether we continue to ask that of ourselves with which it takes to achieve the dreams.

There are times that things are just not going to go right.

Anybody can be positive when things are good. The real challenge is when things get tough, when life isn’t going just right, when things are falling apart, real people come through in those times. They keep right on going. ~ Les Brown

Forget about your past. Don’t ask yourself what you did. Ask yourself what you are going to do!

All it takes is for you to believe. Just stay on task and work your plan.

See, I don’t really think I failed. These are just temporary inconveniences. They are not me. They do not define me. Unless I let them.

If I had not failed. I would truly be a failure. Because that would mean I did not try. I knew it would be difficult but I was willing to fail. So I could move forward.

Do you dare to fail?

“Do not take what you want….. with you to the grave.” Les Brown

Here’s what I’m not taking with me after this year.

1) A marathon.

2) A fundraiser that raised thousands of dollars for a summer camp.

3) A 3rd place finish in a 50 mile trail race.

So much of failing is an opinion. Shape your opinion by staying focused with intentions to continue.

One thing that none of us know is how long we’ll be on this earth. There is a saying in the sports world, “I left it all out there”. Meaning, I gave it everything I had. If you have one ounce of anything left when you are done, you may regret it.

There is one thing I encourage everyone to do. LEAVE IT ALL OUT THERE!!!!

Happy New Year and Cheers to 2015!!

Chasing The Unicorn

This year 32,456 people lined up to make the journey of the Boston Marathon. It is one of the most popular and well known running races on the planet and for obvious reasons, this year was extra special.

But personally, I don’t overly enjoy road running or big crowds so I don’t ever see myself running at Boston.

However, this year I pulled an old goal from my master list. A goal I had added to it last year. The goal: Run a Boston Qualifying marathon time, which is known as; chasing the unicorn (The unicorn is the symbol of the Boston marathon). I wrote it down after being inspired by Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete and his Boston qualifying adventure that began his blog and inspiring community. At the time I was new to goal setting, healthy eating and running so it made the list but got placed on the back burner after I found trail running and focused in on the Big Brad Ultra 50 miler.

So why this year?

Like I said, I’m not a fan of road running. Last year I found an amazing peace and comfort in the quiet serenity and terrain challenges of a woods trail.

Here’s why.

Just the thought of it made me uncomfortable. As I winced at the challenge of increasing my usual training pace by almost two minutes per mile, to come in under 3 hours and 10 minutes, I knew I had to try. I added it to my goal list and decided on the earliest marathon I could find.

It happened to be in the very town we live in, Fredericton, and it was also a Boston qualifier. Even better, being only a little over a mile from my front door, I could train on the exact course. Or so I thought. The course ended up being mostly covered by snow until the first week of May. So I did my training on the parts that I could access and threw in a few weeks of strength training (of which I did none of last year) as well.

So on May 11, Mother’s Day, I woke my wife up early, with a coffee of course, so she could give me a ride downtown for the 8 am start. She’s not only a good sport, she’s my biggest fan and supporter. It’s not always easy. Training takes a lot of time in our already busy family schedule and I couldn’t do it without her continual belief in me.

Over 2,000 people showed up to run and walk various distances from 5 to 42.2 kilometers. It was a big crowd and I situated myself toward the front in the under 5 kilometer pace area.

The race started with a loop through downtown before connecting onto the trail system that crosses the river heading north. The first half was fairly uneventful. I grabbed a few cups of water on the return back to town and at 16 kilometers downed the only food I was carrying, a bag of raisins(I still have never tried gels). I felt really good and I was familiar with every step of the course.

Once back into town and passing the start/finish line, I grabbed my handheld filled with coconut water from Shannon but passed on a banana (something I regret now) and headed back out of town for the last half.

Half way point

Just before the last turnaround I started losing pace, my exertion was increasing and mentally things started going downhill. This was the point that most marathon runners call “the wall”.

Even during the lows of the Big Brad Ultra last year, I had never really experienced “the wall”. I stayed just far enough away to know it was close but walked for periods to avoid it. The goal for that run was to finish. This time I had a goal with a time that I still intended to reach. That meant no walking breaks.

What I didn’t know was, it was going to get worse. A lot worse.

I grabbed two cups of Gatorade (as much as I stay away from all processed items, I knew it was necessary) at the next station trying as hard as I could to reverse the effects. I’m not sure anything could have helped me at that point but I was willing to try. I was no where near ready to give up. The occasional glance at my watch and the calculations in my increasingly foggy brain told me I still had time to reach my goal. I pushed forward focused on nothing but where I knew the finish line existed. It wasn’t far away.

“Just get there”, I told myself.

Life really distills down at that point. Breathe in, breath out. Right foot, left foot. All in slow seemingly exaggerated motion.

And then I noticed I was starting to weave.

I had less than a mile left when distilling was no longer working. The last glance at my watch revealed 3:09:58 and 26.21 miles(the inaccuracy of a GPS watch). Problem one; I was still a half mile from the finish line. Problem two; I was losing consciousness.

I took a few deep breaths and slowed to a walk. Then I stopped and leaned on the rail on the bridge that crossed the beautiful Saint John river. My head hit my arms. My goal had just slipped through my fingers.

“Just walk to the finish”, I told myself. A few more breaths and I lifted my head. My blurred vision focused in on a young lady that had stopped on her bike. It took me a moment to comprehend what she was saying.

“Do you need some water?”, she said. Followed by, “Are you OK?”

I can only imagine what I looked like. I had pushed my glycogen levels to the absolute lowest point they could be while still standing upright and the unexpected heat wasn’t helping.

I took her bottle and squirted my face. The cool water was a life saver. One small drink and I was ready to move again.

I handed her bottle back and murmured the best “thank you” that I could muster and began to run again. My feet felt like anvils and each step was everything I could give. One step at a time I approached the finish line.

As I rounded the last corner a photographer said, “Remember to smile when you cross the finish line”.

I really didn’t know if I had enough left to actually do that.

As I crossed the finish line it was all I could do to let the finishing medal be hung around my neck before stumbling off the course and collapsing on the ground. Soaking myself with some cool water, I finally managed a smile.

The collapse post marathon smiling

Sure, I made mistakes. That’s for another post.

No, I didn’t reach my goal.

But one thing was absolutely for sure, I had given everything that I had.

It’s all anyone can ever ask from themselves really; their very best.

But I also realize winning doesn’t always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself. ~ Meb Keflezighi

So stay tuned. It looks like I’ll be chasing the unicorn again.

You didn’t think I’d quit, did you? :)



Easy, Light, Smooth and Fast

Easy, light, smooth and fast was a philosophy shared by Micah True (Caballo Blanco) with Chris McDougall when he first ran with him in Mexico. Chris then shared it in his book Born To Run. I started applying it to my running and it made a world of difference. I stopped impacting the ground so hard, was less sore for shorter periods and started enjoying runs more. After all that, I also got faster.

“Think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a s**t how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forgot you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast” ~ Caballo Blanco, Born To Run

It was a lesson in the fact that things don’t always have to be difficult or complicated. I had been wildly researching running information and was spending countless hours sorting through it. I experienced the philosophy’s simple power after it made me a better runner and I knew it was a philosophy that could be applied to other areas of life. For instance, the smoothie :)

It’s a great way to get the nutrition of fruits and veggies into your body. The magic of the smoothie is something I picked up early last year. Even though I felt the beneficial affects of them quickly, it took me a while to feel comfortable making them. I choked down some fairly horrific concoctions in the name of nutrition. Here are some of the things I learned for myself and how easy, light, smooth and fast worked for me.

I Was Making It Too Complicated

I came to a realization that I was making my smoothies too complicated. I was analyzing carbohydrate to protein ratios, omega ratios and many micro-nutrients like calcium and iron. I was using way too many ingredients and it was taking a long time to get them made and put into jars for the day.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication ~ Leonardo da Vinci


If you over complicate things with too many ingredients or worry about having the right blender it may not be something you’ll enjoy and stick with. It makes it difficult, instead of easy. Just use the blender you have or buy one of the smaller or more affordable machines. By using the blender you currently have, if it’s like most, you’ll be forced to make smaller batches, or you’ll burn it up. And that good. It’s easier and if you decide it’s not a combo you really care for, your not stuck choking it down for two days.


Texture is a very personal choice. While I pushed down some pretty chunky smoothies in the early days, I prefer them to be smoother now. I’ve never even liked pulp in orange juice so this was a tough one for me. A combination of more blending time and a higher water to produce ratio gave me the results I was looking for.


I found the larger variety of ingredients I added into my smoothie, the heavier it seemed to become. I’ve had a few times I probably used fifteen ingredients, back in the analyzing days. What I found is this made it heavy feeling and the likely culprit was the high caloric density ingredients like nuts, seeds and oils.


If it takes more than fifteen minutes to make and clean up, it’s not fast. I’ve got my process down to ten or less. I was spending up to 30 minutes at times.

How I Made Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast Work For Me In A Smoothie

1) Five ingredients or less not including water.

The main ingredient is almost always an organic green of some kind. I also keep bags of frozen blueberries, strawberries, mango and other fruits in order to make it easier and faster when I choose to. Frozen add ins work really nice after a run in the hot summer sun too! They are the ones I usually use less or no greens in as well :)

2) I stopped using juices, nuts, seeds and cut out most oil.

I stopped using juices because they are not technically a whole food and so have been stripped of beneficial fiber. I prefer blending whole foods with water. If you use juice, I suggest at least getting actual fruit juice. There’s a lot of fructose-glucose water mixes out there. I get plenty of nuts and seeds in snacks, salads, stir-fry and other recipes. I do use a teaspoon or so of 3-6-9 oil, olive oil or grapeseed oil just to act as a defoamer.

3) I let the blender(I have a 900w Ninja) go for 2-3 minutes.

This gives it plenty of time to be a nice smooth consistency. I wasn’t giving it enough time before mostly because the blender is loud. I got over that.

4) If I follow 1, 2 and 3 it ends up being under ten minutes every time. And that’s fast.

Which is great if you have a crazy schedule. I make up extra so that I have some for later that day or the next morning. Having it ready to grab and go is as fast as it can get but I try not to let mine sit for more than 24 hours. I have before and they were fine depending upon the ingredients. If you use banana, I suggest consuming it the same day.

If your new to smoothies, I would suggest starting easy, light, smooth and fast. Add other things slowly as you find what you like and may want to rotate in.

There’s no need to rewrite the book here. There are literally infinite recipes and combinations of smoothies. I’ll share mine with you that I made yesterday.

3 cups of organic spinach

2 cups of fresh chopped organic pineapple

2 cups of fresh chopped strawberries

3 cups of cold water

Spinach Smoothie

It makes three 16 oz jars for the fridge and one to drink on the spot.

Find the combinations that works for you. Explore the produce isle more. Most stores today have hundreds of different choices.

When making your choices and your smoothies keep in mind, Easy, Light, Smooth and Fast!

Bottoms up!

PS. No Meat Athlete has a great list of vegetarian and vegan smoothies and sports drinks.

And I’ll continue to post some of my favorites :)


Do You See What I See

Last year I developed a habit.

No. I’m not talking about running :)

I’m talking about visualization.

Yes, you could say I’m a dreamer.

But I’m not the only one :) (or at least I shouldn’t be)

So I thought I would give you some insight into what has become a very powerful motivator for me.

Simplicity, Peacefulness And Personal Enlightening Of Positive Visualization 

I use visualization many times a day starting first thing in the morning. I start small and simple by taking just a couple minutes to visualize the steps that I will take today that are going to bring me closer to my goals. This is different from, and does not replace, planning and prioritizing. My visualization is a result of planning and prioritizing.

Here’s what I do:

Find a quiet place.

Close my eyes.

Take a few deep breathes.

Begin my day in my mind and think myself all the way through it.

It only take a couple minutes and I then have a clear focus in what I want from the day, which gives me a sense of peace.

I ask myself:

What will it look like, feel like, smell like, sound like, taste like?

I incorporate all my applicable senses.

I take it all in. In a sense, I create it in my mind. Actually with all senses :) I build an appreciation for it with some expectation but realizing it may not be without disappointment. I’ve learned to accept that as part of a learning mindset.

Let’s take a run for instance. I envision the trail ahead of me. The trees reaching toward the bright blue sky (I always stay positive, even if it’s raining outside), the path under my feet, the feeling of my pace and each step on the dirt and rocks, the smell of the clean fresh air, the quiet sound of the woods, the occasional scurrying animal and the feeling of rhythm in my breath and steps.

Now that I know what I expect it to be like and I’ve created the enlightened thought of what I’ll experience, I’m ready to get started. I’m excited to have the experience and I know it’s worth it!

In reality, my run might not go that way. That’s OK.

I also take some time to visualize my big goals. The unrealistic ones.

“To achieve the impossible, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.” ~ Tom Robbins

I visualized crossing the finish line of that 50 miler at least a hundred times, probably more. I had training runs that I constantly envisioned every detail of feeling and emotion that, I could only imagine, it would possibly be like. It kept me going.

I printed a map of the course the same day I registered and placed it in the front of my goal folder, where I reviewed it daily.

I could see it and I was willing to do anything to get it. That’s how I knew I wanted it.

The best part is that visualization leads me to continue thinking about who I want to be and what I want to do with my life.

You will most certainly not see what I see. You will however, see what you want to be.

Give it a try!

 Visualize on

“Once you put your mind to something, your body has no other choice really but to follow along.” ~ Ultra Herbivore


Spaghetti Without Meatballs?

What’s spaghetti……………without meatballs?

Is there even reason to live…….if you can’t have meatballs with spaghetti?

Well yes….and it’s pretty darn good too!


But that picture has meatballs!!!!

Not so fast!!!!

They are actually tasty impostors made from plants :) (and yes they have lots of protein)

So just because you’re vegan does not mean your spaghetti can’t have balls 😉

“Without Meat” Ball Ingredients- best prepared the day before

2 cups cooked white potato

2 1/2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups cooked basmati or brown rice

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup ground flax

1/4 cup water

2 Tbsp molasses

1 Tbsp oregano and basil

1 tsp coriander, paprika, salt and black pepper

1/2 tsp of natural liquid smoke


Mix ground flax and water together and set aside for 5 minutes so the flax can absorb the water. This is a great egg replacement and works in many recipes.

Mix and mash all other ingredients well, then mix in flax and water mixture. Set in the fridge overnight. I find it gives the ingredients more time to get to know each other :) and absorb the moisture.

This mix makes quite a portion so you may want to freeze some or cut the recipe in half. I just keep it in the fridge for a few days and make burgers with it.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat with a little coconut oil. Let the oil heat up almost to the point of smoking(but not quite).

Form the mixture into balls of the desired size and place in the pan. Turn the until browned all around and crispy on the outside.

Sauce Ingredients –

6 well ripened Roma tomatoes

1 red and 1 orange bell peppers

1 medium shallot

2 cloves garlic

1 cup water

1 Tbsp of dried oregano and basil

1 tsp coriander, paprika, salt and black pepper

Sauce Instructions-

Dice veggies and toss in a sauce pan on medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add seasonings. Simmer for another 30 minutes and remove from heat.

Place in a blender and blend to desire consistency. place it back in sauce pan on low heat until it’s chow time.

Now just boil your favorite spaghetti noodles(there are some great gluten free options out there now if you’re into that, which we are most of the time), or any other pasta, and pour on some sauce and add a few “without meat” balls.

This was the first time I had tried this and I have to say, It was a treat………..without meat :)



Stormy Potato Stew and Oatmeal Brown Bread

Everyone knows that winter in Atlantic Canada is tough. Blizzards are a normal occurrence. The thing is, it’s not winter anymore! We all seem to know that the first day of spring passed on the calendar except Mother Nature. Other than not being able to get an outdoor run, it was a great day. A day to stay home with the boys, relax, and cook of course.

The night before I had taken a look in the fridge at leftovers, something I seem to cook with a majority of the time. We had potato left from hollowing out some baked potatoes that we used to make potato skins. Hmmm, the humble beginnings of a potato stew.

I wake up the next morning and I have a message from a family member, Jessi. It was requesting the recipe from a creamy potato and bacon soup I had made a few years back for a family get together. Sadly enough, I never wrote a recipe down until late last year. I still sometimes don’t remember to keep track of stuff while I’m working on my latest concoction. I’m an on the fly cook :) but I’m getting better at it so I can share. Couldn’t help Jessi though :(

But when I checked the message, I remembered that a few weeks back Jessi had sent me a family Oatmeal Brown Bread recipe I had requested and hadn’t made yet. Bonus! Obviously now, I owe Jessi and dang good stew!

Regardless of your views on the universe, there’s no denying that this was nothing other than a series of clear signs to make some stew and bread. Thank you UNIVERSE!

Nothing works better on cold stormy days than a stew and home made bread. It doesn’t make the weather better, it makes everything else  better though.

Stormy Potato Stew and Jessi’s Oatmeal Brown Bread (I’m calling it Jessi’s because I have no idea whose recipe it is, but I’m giving her the credit for passing it on!)

Potato Stew 3

Potato Stew Ingredients-

1/2 red onion, 1/2 red pepper, 4 stalk of celery, 2 carrots, 1 clove garlic

5 brussel sprouts

4 cups of cooked potato, I had them already from baked potato but steamed or boiled would work too.

2 cups cold water, 1 cup warm water

2 Tbsp corn starch

1 cup of coconut milk(substitute can be made hear obviously but coconut worked awesome. If you haven’t tried coconut milk, you should!)

1 tsp dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, ground coriander, paprika, fresh ground black pepper and salt.


Place a medium sized sauce pan on low heat with a tablespoon of grape seed oil. 1/4″ dice the veggies(except the brussel sprouts) and mince the garlic. Add them to the pan and soften for 15 min.

Add 1 cup of cold water, stir and raise heat a bit to bring to a simmer.

Half and slice the brussel sprouts and toss them in.

Add 1 more cup of cold water, stir and bring back to a simmer.

Add 4 cups of chopped cooked potatoes and all seasonings. Stir and low simmer for 15 min.

Whisk together 2 Tbsp of corn starch into 1 cup of warm water. Stir into the stew.

Turn heat back to low and add 1 cup of coconut milk.

Now you need something to dip into it!

Jessi’s Oatmeal Brown Bread

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups boiling water

1 tbsp shortening

1 cup molasses

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp dried yeast ( I use fast raising )

1/4 cup warm water

8 cups flour

2 cups water

Add 2 cups boiling water to rolled oats and shortening, stir and let cool. Then add molasses & salt. Let stand for 1 hour (or until cool).

Meanwhile resolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add mixture to rolled oats. Add 2 cups water and flour. Mix and knead for 2 min. Let rise until double in size.

Punch down & divide into three greased pans. Let rise again & bake at 375 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I fully intended on following the recipe to the letter but because I was short on flour, I changed it a bit,  like almost everything. I was 3 cups short of the 8 for flour. So I put in two more cups of rolled oats and a cup of coconut flour. I also didn’t have bread pans so i just made two round loaves on flat pans. I was nervous but it worked.

Although the bread came out heavier, I think, than it would usually be, it is amazing and I discovered something about myself. If ever there be a scenario in which I am requesting a last meal, Jessi’s Oatmeal Brown Bread will be first on the list! Thanks Jessi :)

Oatmeal Brown Bread








There’s No Place Like Home

One of my family’s favorite meals is taco salad. But we’ve made some changes. Early last year I had to think of a replacement for the beef, pork or turkey that we had been using in taco salad (We do still occasionally make a small portion of taco meat at the request of a couple of our boys. I believe in informing our boys about healthy choices and giving them the freedom to make choices of there own. We have boys that already prefer the alternative substitute. I grew up the pickiest eater on the planet. Never would I have tried rice, beans and mushrooms with anything.) At first I thought beans and rice would be the perfect replacement. My first go at it was a raving success(minus the beans for everyone except me) with everyone and since then I’ve gotten more creative with the substitute, at least for myself.

We were away this weekend to an international conference. Which, for Shannon and I, was one of the most amazing weekends of our life(more on that in another post). The boys stayed with my Mom and Dad, aka Nana and Papa, and of course were spoiled as usual. In a good way. Bless them for having the courage to take on 5 young rambunctious boys!

The weekend was more than Shannon and I expected but we definitely agreed on one thing. It was nice to get home so we could fix our own food again. I’m not complaining about the restaurant food because it was amazing and I was pleased to see each place had options for me. But I don’t consume the same amount of food compared to when we are home. (I actually found myself 5 pounds lighter!) And I would lay a bet on the fact that our ingredients are of better quality sources. Of course, I can’t say that 100% for sure, since many restaurants have much better sourcing plans than they used to.

As soon as we arrived home, we began preparing the family favorite. Since we changed the ingredients it has been renamed by our son Joshua. It is now known as Rice-O Salad.

Rice-O Salad


2 cups(dry) of long grain brown rice

1 cup of cooked black beans

1 small can of whole kernel corn (find organic! most stores now carry it as an option)

1 small red onion

1 portabello mushroom cap

5 Tbsp of taco seasoning(if you make your own) or 2 packages from the store(which we used this time because we were out). That reminds me that we’ve been out for a few makings. Time to whip up some more!


Cook the rice per the directions but leave it a little under done. If not, it will get mushy.

Dice onion and mushroom.

Put a Tbsp of coconut oil in a pan on medium heat, soften the onion until translucent, then add the mushroom.

Add 1 cup of water and stir.

Add in corn, cooked beans, 2 cups of cooked rice and seasoning.

Stir and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

It’s ready to go!

Because everyone in our house is not a fan of beans and mushrooms, I save some rice in the pot I cooked it in and add water, corn and seasoning, for those picky ones :) that’s why I start with 2 cups uncooked. Some day maybe they’ll join me on the more complete version :) (If you don’t need to do this 1 cup of dry would work)

I fix mine with, tortilla chips, a heaping serving of my Rice-O filling, topped with spinach and field greens mix, tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers and a little hot sauce. An avocado on the side.

I love to travel and see new places but ……. there’s no place like home :)

Sweet Potato With Quinoa and Hemp Seeds

Sweet potato with quinoa and hemp seeds is one of Shannon’s favorite. Well, mine too :)

It’s super easy, quick and a great start to the day(it was for us yesterday) or spectacular for refueling after a hard workout.


2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 cooked sweet potato sliced 2 inches thick or so

2 cups of cooked quinoa

6 Tbsp of hemp seeds

3 Tbsp of REAL maple syrup :)

1/2 cup of almond milk

Place a pan on medium heat with 2 Tbsp of coconut oil and brown the sweet potato slices on both sides

Sweet potato quinoa 2

Remove them from the pan to a plate.

Turn heat to low and add maple syrup and almond milk, stir.

Add quinoa and hemp seeds and stir until they absorb most of the liquid and are warm through.

Add to plate.

Sweet potato quinoa

Be careful you don’t eat it all. Just kidding. Help yourself.

Serves 3-4 normally but I ate the rest after fixing Shannon’s :)

A great source of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.

I let mine settle for a bit and then went for an 8 mile, 1 hour run. I still had a lot of energy left so after picking Joshua up from school I went for another 4 miles.

What a beautiful day out there!

“If there’s something you’re thinking about doing to make your life better, what are you waiting for?” ~ Ultra Herbivore


Why I’m Quitting

Moderation is the key to everything. Right?

We’ve all heard it. Very likely used it ourselves more than once to justify something. I call it the “moderation justification”.

Personally, I’ve used it. But now I’m quitting. Here’s why.

The problem for me, is that I’m not a naturally moderate person. Latest case in point, ultra running. Settling for a half or even a full marathon would have been even a little aggressive for a moderate person who just started to run.  Second case in point, my plant-based nutrition. I’m not moderate about that. I jumped in both feet. I’ve rarely done anything moderately in my life and if I had taken a moderate path on this one, I would not have discovered what I did about myself. So when I know it’s good for me, I don’t seem to use moderacy as an excuse.

“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” ~ Oscar Wilde

If moderation is the key to everything, then we should advocate for moderate heroin injections? As long as we do it moderately, it’s good for us? I don’t think so. OK, that’s extreme but it proves my point.

Two points really, that I’m extreme and that moderacy is not indeed the key to everything.

Upon reflection of the items I have used it for, I was justifying doing something that I really knew wasn’t good for me. Even if I’m doing it at what I felt was a moderate level.

Example #1: Smoking cigarettes

Yes, up until the end of last year, I still smoked cigarettes. Moderately. And by that I mean less than a pack a week. Often weeks would pass that I didn’t smoke at all. When I did, I used the moderation justification. It made sense to me at the time. I had been good all week. I ate a ridiculously healthy diet and exercised for 15 hours or more. I felt I “earned” it. Amazingly contradicting considering the change in my lifestyle that was so much for the better me to then use it to justify something I knew was bad. No more.

The weird thing is that it wasn’t even that difficult for me to put them down. Especially once I stopped feeling like it was OK as long as it was moderate. The reasons I stopped are, 1) I knew they were never going to help me achieve my goals(fitness or financial) and 2) I no longer felt I needed them as a reward(I no longer looked at them as a reward either). Same as I don’t look at chocolate cake as a reward earned by a hard workout. Instead my reward is nourishment, recovery and preparation for the next workout.

Example #2: Drinking alcohol

During the month of January, Shannon and I completed a 30 day no alcohol challenge. I say challenge because we had become accustomed to having a beer or glass of wine or two at the end of the day, almost every day. There are certainly a number of studies showing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Moderate being 5 ounces of red wine. Ever seen a 5 ounce glass of wine? It looks like someone skimped on the pour. It certainly isn’t much. Anything more than that has not only proven to not be beneficial but actually unhealthy.

So what I thought was moderate, and possibly healthy, was not always what I stuck with. All too often, once or twice a week, a moderate drink or two turned into three or four. Occasionally, it turned into more than that. That would often rob me of a good training the following day as well as extend my physical recovery from training. Every time, I was upset with myself.

“Total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” Saint Augustine

I think that the excuse of “moderation is the key” is too often a reason to reward ourselves with something that is not even good for us. And I have a habit of not even keeping it moderate when I do that.

Just as bad, it’s also all too often why we only achieve moderately.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” ~Michelangelo

Moderation is not the key to everything.

At least for me it isn’t. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I’d go so far as to say that moderation is the key to nothing.

So I quit!

Quit symbol