Watermelon, pickles, potatoes, bananas … these sound like prime summer-time picnic foods right? Believe it or not, these foods are often used as fuel in an ultramarathon event (which is considered any distance over 26.2miles).
They are also foods that Australian Elite Ultrarunner Lucy Bartolomew says she enjoys both on and off the trails.
Lucy just recently ran the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, her first 100 mile distance placing third female overall. Lucy is also plant-based. I met Lucy briefly when I was in Squaw Valley days before the big race. I was stoked to see a passionate plant-based ultrarunner toeing the line in what is one of the most iconic and difficult 100 milers in the country. I thought it would be fun for her to share what she eats, what she cooks and how plants are fueling her through miles, elevation and life.
Congrats on your Western States performance! How has recovery been?
Thank you! Recovery has been great! We pretty much flew out straight after the race to Mexico and since then I have swapped my Salomon running shoes for a surf board and I am embracing the taco and cheap tropical fruits that are available here!
How long have you been plant-based?
I have been plant based for 3 years with 2 years before that vegetarian!
You run and race a lot, were you at all worried about your training and following a plant-based diet?
I have this attitude that does well in the sport I am in, where I will stick to anything and make my own decision on what is good or bad for me. When I first went plant based I had a lot of people tell me I would not be able to run and perform, “Tell me I can’t and I’ll show you I can,” was my response. I also really love nutrition and cooking so I read a lot, listened a lot, played a lot in the kitchen and really enjoyed the creativity side that comes with meeting this lifestyle. The only effects it had on my running and life was positive.
What is your favorite pre-run and post run meal?
Pre Run: I usually like to keep it pretty light before a run. I choose watermelon a lot of the time because it hydrates me, gives me sugar and is easily digested so I don’t have to wait too long to head out the door.
Post Run: Smoothies! I am such a big fan of smoothie bowls and the greener the better! I will use 3-4 frozen bananas, any green I can find, some greens powder from Amazonia and top it off with berries, nuts and seeds. I call this ‘Shrek Poo’
What did you fuel with during Western States?
When I race I typically will use fruit at the aid-stations and carry with me gels and shot-blocks to get me through. I use SPRING energy gels which are super natural and like a fruit smoothie and Clif Bar Shotbloks (editor’s note, Lucy is sponsored by Clif Bar, Salomon and a few others). I had never raced 100 miles before so it was new to me to come into an aid-station and eat sweet potato, hummus and pickles but it was super fun to roll into a buffet and load up before hitting the trail again.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about eating plant-based and being an athlete?
That you can’t get everything you need. That your protein will be deficient. It really can be so easy and so simple! I travel heaps and not every day is perfect but every day I try and do my best.
I follow you on Instagram and I know you love to be in the kitchen. Where did this love of cooking stem from?
My Mum was a great cook but never really understood meals without the meat component so I was left to get creative and use what was in the house and make it work. I now cook most nights I am home for my family and it is so rewarding to see them enjoying this food and then sharing it on Instagram to let others enjoy too!
Do you like cooking for those who may not follow a plant-based diet? Do you try and win them over the plant-side or do you just wow them with amazing meals?
Oh yes, for sure! My family is my number one target to impress but even as I travel and stay in other family’s homes, I might not be able to have the funds to pay them for letting me sleep on their floor, but I will always cook them a meal and I am usually always asked for the recipes. I keep it simple, flexible to what is in the house and tasty!
Finally, I know you are traveling and racing all over the world and you are easily maintaining a plant-based diet. For those who may think it’s ‘too hard’ when you are out of the comfort of your own kitchen, what advice do you have for staying the course and eating plant-strong?
I like to carry some staples around with me. I always have quick oats, nutritional yeast and some greens powder in my bag. These things allow me to create a lot of things when I can find some fruit and vegetables wherever I am and I can’t live without them! You just have to be a little prepared.
What’s next for you?
I went into Western States with no plans after because I didn’t know how it would affect me physically, mentally and emotionally so I have a lot of spare time to just rest, recover and rebuild. I plan to stay in the USA until the middle of August where I will race the TransRockies multi-stage race and then I will fly to Chamonix in France and do some racing in Europe.
I know you come up with some amazing mouth-watering recipes, would you mind sharing one with our readers?
Sure! There is a Baked Falafel Recipe in on my website that’s delicious!
Thanks Lucy for your time!
Lucy’s Falafel Balls and Turmeric Miso Dressing
1 can of garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin (you can add anything here: paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or the juice of 1 lemon)
3 cloves of garlic
A bunch of fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, coriander etc)
1/2 cup oat flour (take 1/2 cup of oats and grind in a blender to make oat flour)
Add herbs, garlic, lemon juice, spices and salt and pepper to a blender or food processor, mix to combine.
Add chickpeas and pulse until incorporated but still slightly chunky. You want to maintain a good texture.
Transfer to a bowl and add oat flour and mix until a dough is formed… you can taste here and see if it needs more of anything: like pepper or spice! Roll into ball or patty shapes.
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) and place falafel balls onto a tray with baking paper into the fridge for 15 mins while the oven warms.
Bake for 30-40 min, turning half way.
An alternate method is to put in an air-fryer at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Shake tray and return for another 8 minutes at 400.
Serve over greens and top with a Turmeric Miso Dressing (recipe below)!
Turmeric Miso Dressing
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup water (start with 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
A few twists of some ground black pepper
2 teaspoons miso paste
1/2 cup walnuts (or use a nut butter of choice)
Add ingredients as listed into a food processor or blender. Blend away adding more water until you reach a desired consistency.