Week 12: T.J explains how he balances training and a vegan diet while on the road.

Written by: T.J. Murphy

Yesterday I returned from a one-week work trip to New York City. In terms of maintaining a solid training schedule and matching the running with a vegan diet, it was much easier than the previous trip to Las Vegas. Las Vegas was like being in prison where I had to figure out ways to train in my cell. Finding food that qualified as being vegan was even harder. I bought fruit from a Coffee Bean that also sold plastic-wrapped hummus wraps. This made up the bulk of my diet for three days. All of my running was on a treadmill. I know that early in the morning you can run up and down the Las Vegas strip. I had done that in prior years while visiting Las Vegas for Interbike, but I recall that I constantly had to dodge men armed with military-grade street cleaners violently sweeping the sidewalks. Perhaps this is one reason I’m looking forward to the Zappos.com Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon, because I’ll be able to rip right through the town with all of the cars and cabs temporarily exiled.

I lived in Brooklyn about 10 years ago, working near Union Square in Manhattan. It’s surprising how much the City has evolved in favorable ways for runners and cyclists. I used to pedal around Manhattan back then on a GT Mountain bike and at lunchtime I’d run along a ramshackle path that paralleled the Hudson river. I had my share of white-knuckle moments. Since then, there’s been a bike lane renaissance and the Hudson river running and bike paths are a joy to be on. I paid visits to fitness clubs like Asphalt Green on 90th and York and the Chelsea Piers Sports Center–two popular locations for triathletes because of their swimming and indoor cycling programs–and they too have made impressive renovations.

This past week I stayed at the Hotel Le Jolie in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Williamsburg is awash in hipster culture, which means that finding vegan restaurants and grocery stores was a breeze. There’s was also a synthetic running track just a few blocks from the hotel where I was able to do my track workout of the week, a session of 1,000-meter cruise intervals at tempo pace. The track is a fine track, and the weather–it was a weird week for early autumn in New York, with a tornado warning followed by tropical storm weather–happened to be OK during the time I chose to do the workout, but I wasn’t the only one out there, let me tell you. In the infield were no less than three football teams executing practices, and wedged into the remaining fragments of turf were soccer teams waiting out the football players by warming up for upcoming games. As you might imagine, running in lane one of the track required me to stay alert–careening and skittering soccer balls, soccer players, footballs and football players. This was just one dimension of the chaos: I shared the track with other joggers, runners, fat-tire cyclists, walkers, children at play, and one guy dressed up in full-camouflage fatigues and a massive rucksack who was force marching himself back and forth from the infield to the overburdened lane one. It was the brand of New York anarchy you see just about anytime you go for a run or ride in Central Park, and it was nothing if not festive. Still, I was glad to get out of there without a broken ankle. At one point, one of the soccer guys fired the ball straight up into the air where upon reaching its apogee had turned into a track bomb. There was a woman about 20 yards up ahead in lane 3 and it looked as though the ball was going to detonate on her. There was no use calling out to her as she was blasting an Ipod into her ears. It was one of those moments where you think you’re about to see a car crash and you physically brace for the impact as if you were in the middle of it. Thankfully the ball made contact about three yards behind her, and because she couldn’t hear the impact, she walked on completely oblivious to an event that surely would have required an ambulance.

I have one more leg of my road trip to train through. I leave for the Hawaii Ironman tomorrow where I’ll be contributing coverage to Triathlete.com. One thing you can definitely do is go running in Kona, where you join with the 1,800 triathletes tapering for race day on Saturday. For myself, Coach Greg McMillan has a key workout that I need to nail, a 14-16 mile long run with the last two miles at race pace. My goal for the LA Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on October 24 is to run under 1:35. From there I’ll have six weeks to really batten down the hatches and go for the sub 1:30 in Las Vegas. My workouts suggest I’m in 1:30-to-1:35 territory for my October 24 checkpoint.

My weight has stayed in the 174-175 territory the past few weeks. I still have a ways to go to get to my goal of 167. But right now I’m simply focusing on getting all my training done despite the traveling and getting whatever vegan food I can get my hands on.

On a final note, ultra-marathoning great Scott Jurek, and star character in the bestselling book “Born to Run,” is confirmed to be a speaker at the Zappos.com Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Expo on December 4. If you’re going to the race, don’t miss the chance to listen and ask him questions.


T.J. Murphy is a contributing editor to Competitor and the Editorial Director of Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines. Previous installments of his Burning Runner column can be read here. He can be reached by e-mail at burningrunner@gmail.com.