Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 131
Cycling 3,000 miles around the UK [on a bamboo bike] with world record-holder Kate Strong
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 131. World record-holding vegan cyclist Kate Strong is on the show to talk about being a plant-based athlete, her upcoming Challenge 3000 and more.
Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina. Your go-to no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. I'm recording this just before the episode comes out and I can tell you that September is always a super busy month for us fitness professionals. So if you've been thinking about leveling up your fitness and plant-based nutrition, check out our coaching programs at Karinainster.com/coaching and make sure you submit an application for one of our available spots ASAP.
Today, I'm excited to speak with Kate Strong, who holds three World Records in cycling. She's a World Champion Triathlete and a purpose-led coach and consultant. She also describes herself as passionately plant-based and her favorite vegan meal is Tarka Daal, which is a lentil curry. Here's our discussion.
Hi Kate. Thanks so much for speaking with me today and coming on the show.
Kate Strong: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me, Karina.
Karina Inkster: I'm excited to hear about your background and we're gonna talk about a challenge that you have coming up that sounds super exciting, but I would like to jump into your vegan story. So how did you come to veganism? What is the deal with plant-based eating? Later on, I want to talk about how you fuel your training and being a plant-based athlete, but just to get the origin story, how did you come to veganism in the first place?
Kate Strong: It happened about eight years ago and with total honesty, it was about my health. I was struggling in sport with Asthma and I couldn't run faster. My legs felt fine, but it was my lungs that were letting me down. At the time I owned a hospitality business. So I met loads of amazing people who were passing through the hotel and the restaurant and the people who looked the healthiest, the people who I was naturally drawn to kept saying to me that I was eating too much dairy and that's what was holding me back. So one day I just completely eradicated dairy overnight and within a week I was running faster and breathing cleaner. I felt more alive. My skin was clearing up as well. I had some eczema that just sort of disappeared and even my eyes went blue. So I was releasing a lot of toxins and that sort of blew my mind and opened me up to how else this food that I've been told is healthy to me was impacting me in other ways. Within a few short months I was a hundred percent plant-based.
Karina Inkster: That's amazing. So has it expanded into other areas for you now?
Kate Strong: How can it not! I look back and I'm not ashamed of how ignorant I was because it's obviously a journey. I'm a Reiki master, so I'm very much into sentient beings and their wellbeing and protecting our beautiful cousins from a different species as well as the environmental footprint. It just makes sense on so many other levels and I’ve connected the dots, but I wish it was a little bit earlier if I have to be honest.
Karina Inkster: I think that's how most of us feel right. If only I went vegan earlier!
Kate Strong: Yes, exactly.
Karina Inkster: Well, it's never too late on the other hand as well. Usually what happens is someone goes vegan for one particular reason and then in the long term more and more reasons start showing up and it just becomes this all encompassing lifestyle, which it sounds like it is for you.
Kate Strong: A hundred percent. Even my partner is a hundred percent vegan and yet more and more of my friends and my circle are seeing the reasons why. It's really great to see how many people are seeing the light.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. So did your partner go vegan because of you going vegan?
Kate Strong: No. He tried for January and just never went back.
Karina Inkster: Well then look at that.
Kate Strong: I'm always mindful. I want him to choose his own path. He's a hundred percent vegan from his own accords and he really endorses it and loves it for his own reasons as well.
Karina Inkster: Oh, that's awesome. See, you never know. He came to his own decision, but I'm sure that you were a background inspiration there.
Kate Strong: Well, I just made sure that the fridge was full.
Karina Inkster: Ah, yes, of course.
Kate Strong: We weren't relying on our beans on toast that we first started with because we didn't know how else to cook. I just helped accelerate his taste buds into the new world of being vegan.
Karina Inkster: Hey, there's nothing wrong with baked beans on toast, but if that's all you're eating, then maybe!
Kate Strong: Exactly.
Karina Inkster: Very cool. So let's start talking about fueling your training and what you do with your crazy feats of endurance. What's the deal with your World Records? First of all, you're a record holding athlete. So tell me and our listeners what these records are.
Kate Strong: It’s not very exciting! It's the furthest distance on a static bicycle. So the bikes you usually get in gyms, in one hour, in 12 hours and in 24 hours. So I actually have three World Records.
Karina Inkster: That's amazing. How is that not exciting? Any world record is exciting!
Kate Strong: The photos are the same except for my facial expressions.In the beginning we’re smiling by the end, there were a lot of tears. So that's the only thing you can tell that time changed.
Karina Inkster: That's hilarious. Well, congrats to you. So when, when did that happen?
Kate Strong: That happened at the end of May in 2021 so just over a year ago.
Karina Inkster: So how did you decide to do that as a World Record attempt?
Kate Strong: After my triathlon adventures stopped, I was looking for another way to keep me growing. I love setting myself almost impossible, large challenges because it holds me accountable to a bigger game than I'm currently playing. So I was looking on the Guinness World Record site and I noticed there's quite a lot of records for men, but there were less and less ones for the equivalent for women. So one of them was the furthest distance on a static bike in 24 hours. There was a man's record, but no woman’s and I thought, well, if I could do that, then it's also a great way to be a positive activist and a nod for gender equality and open up the conversation about making sure that we have equal and fair representation in different sports as well, so that's why I chose the 24-hour records and the one and the 12 hour I did together to stop people asking me where do I get my protein!
Karina Inkster: Did they shut up after that? Or they like, okay, well she's good.
Kate Strong: No!
Karina Inkster: Unfortunately it never stops. It's been 20 years for me and it still doesn't stop.
Kate Strong: And the anemic questions excetera and collagen and you know, I'm 43 and I'm still going strong. Yet here we are still questioning my micronutrients and macronutrients intake.
Karina Inkster: Well, everyone becomes a professional dietician as soon as you tell them you're vegan right?
Kate Strong: Yes. I never knew more about my food though since being vegan than I do now so I am very grateful for those questions.
Karina Inkster: That's a good point actually. I also feel the variety of foods we eat most of the time is actually greater after we go vegan.
Kate Strong: Totally. We can't just rely on the meat and two veg. We have to be innovative and creative.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Very cool. So how do you think about fueling your training then? What does your training look like? You've got a challenge coming up that I wanna talk about, but just on a weekly basis, are you doing a certain number of sessions or a certain distance on the bike? What does that look like?
Kate Strong: It's been pretty fluid to put it politely. I've been on vacation for about three weeks so I've barely touched the bicycle. I've done quite a bit of swimming, but that's nothing to do with what I normally do. So for fuel, I'm very much intuitive. I go with what I feel, as long as I get a spectrum of weird and wonderful fruit and vegetables, I don't really pay attention. I'm at a good weight. I feel energized and I trust my body.
Karina Inkster: Amazing. What would you say to someone who's just starting out? Maybe they're already an endurance athlete, but they want to go vegan. So the veganism piece is new to them and they might not feel like they have a grasp on this intuitive side of eating. Some people literally don't know where to start.
Kate Strong: I think pay the most attention to just before and just after your training. So I don’t know how long those training sessions are, but anything lower than two hours, we're pretty okay in not fueling. Hydration yes, but fuel, you'll know better than me Karina because I know that's something you really excel at, but as long as I pay attention to making sure that I had my cheat drinks and fuel food before doing my training, like making sure I drink orange juice before eating a meal because it helps with the iron intake. Making sure I stay away from caffeine, things that we know stop and inhibit intake of certain macro and micronutrients and then afterwards have that smoothie, make sure I get some fresh fruit into me as well, blue breeze. So yeah, just pay attention to those two moments and you can get away with other meals being a little less disciplined.
Karina Inkster: That's a good point. Maybe if folks are doing longer training sessions that require fueling during the sessions, maybe that would be a little bit more nuanced at that point, but most of our clients are not doing crazy endurance training, so it doesn't really apply to most folks.
Kate Strong: Yeah and practicing our training sessions. When I was 24 hours on a bike, we had no idea how I would react 10 or 12 hours later because I just didn't have the time to train for that. My maximum session was nine hours before doing the 24 hour attempt. So I, you know, just in my training sessions I just overload. How many dates can I eat? How many walnuts can I eat? You know, how much fiber can I take on before I feel like I'm gonna explode. You know, practice till the failing points so we know what that feels like and just take a step back when it's actually race day.
Karina Inkster: interesting. So the longest session that you did before the 24 hour attempt was nine hours. So how did it feel doing 18, 20, 24?
Kate Strong: I can't remember. I was in a world of pain.
Karina Inkster: I Bet. I can only imagine.
Kate Strong: In the first hour, my vision was imagining what the end of the 24 hours would look like. So by the end of it, my team had a system that every hour they'd tell me my new training target for that hour, how far I had to cycle to be able to be on track for the goal of the World Records. By the end of the 12 hour, they were breaking it down into 30 minutes, then 15 minutes, then five minutes then minute by minute just to get me through the pain. It wasn't just the mental breakdown, but physically I was also sort of hurting in quite a lot of points. So to just focus on, can you get through this minute? Do it again. So my vision got a lot shorter.
Karina Inkster: Wow. That's incredible. My friend, Susan Simmons is a marathon swimmer, actually an ultra-marathon swimmer. She was on the podcast, not that long ago. And she just yesterday made an attempt to swim the length of a lake here where I live in Powell RIver in BC. 50 kilometers is how long the lake is and she made it to 35. So she's done absolute, ridiculous distances before, but it was the nutrition for her. It was a big deal where it just wasn't digesting properly. I'm sure she will tell her own story, but it was nutrition in this case and I think for something like that, most of us mortals are not doing a 24 hour swim or a 24 hour cycling session so that becomes very detailed at that point but I think what you're saying for regular training pre and post makes sense.
Kate Strong: During that session, I actually wore what we usually wear when we're tracking our blood sugar levels.
Karina Inkster: Smart.
Kate Strong: So we could see my peaks and troughs. Typically when it was in a trough, I felt like mentally I was going to give up so that's when they needed to feed me a little bit of sugar or some sugared ginger to pick me up mentally, because I could then push through whatever I was going through. So food definitely plays a huge role in our emotions as much as our physical output as well.
Karina Inkster: I always wonder about the logistics of these things. Like how do you go to the bathroom? Dare I ask!
Kate Strong: Happy to share because Livestreamed it. You can actually replay and see.
Karina Inkster: No way.
Kate Strong: I always wanted to make sure that the journey to success was shared. A lot of people see the successes, this beautiful finished product, but I wanted to make sure that people saw the tears and the mess and the mistake and the disorder that entirely needs to be present to create this. So for number ones, I didn't stop. We had a towel underneath me because it was obviously on a static bike. I've got the machinery and some poor volunteer had the great task of changing the towel.
I did stop for number two’s and because of the fiber, I also had a physio at hand to massage my stomach to help things move because everything was slowing down digestively wise as well. So they were on hand to make sure nutrition was moving to the right spots and I could keep taking on food as much as letting it flow through me.
Karina Inkster: See, these are all details that I'm always curious about because never will I do a 24 hour long exercise session. It’s not in the cards for me.
Kate Strong: I completely concur with that decision.
Karina Inkster: So tell us about your upcoming challenge. Challenge 3000. What’s the deal?
Kate Strong: So off the back of originally Triathlon was about competing against others, which was where I sort of found myself in my mid thirties in sport. Then I stepped into competing against myself with the World Records and now seeing the power of sport as a way of collaborating and connecting. So Challenge 3000 is all about connecting with others, using my sport. So I'm cycling 3000 miles around the coastline of England, Scotland and Wales in a bike I'm making out of bamboo.
Karina Inkster: A bike that you're making.
Kate Strong: Yes, I have Six pieces of bamboo that I'm strapping together with some Hemp fabric and crossing my fingers that it doesn't melt.
Karina Inkster: Wow. That's incredible.
Kate Strong: Along the way, I'm leaning on strangers, staying with their homes, planting 3000 trees and also carrying out 30 sustainability activities, be that visiting rewilding in sea grass areas along the coast, I've got involved with the humane leagues. I'm also going to be visiting some factory farms to show the dark side of what we think is humane and how we desperately need to stop this immediately and also beach cleanups. I’m trying to get as many people engaged with this climate conversation as possible, hopefully with hope at the forefront with also the reality check of making sure we're doing the right thing along the way and fueled by plants.
Karina Inkster: Oh, of course. Fueled by plants.
Karina Inkster: Well, what an incredible initiative. So when is this happening?
Kate Strong: I start on World Environment Day, which is the 5th of June, 2023. So I still have a little bit of time to prep.
Karina Inkster: So how long is that going to take, 3000 miles? You have all these other things happening too.
Kate Strong: I've given myself three months. So breaking that down, it's only 33 miles a day.
Karina Inkster: Wow. So presumably you'll have a team that's with you.
Kate Strong: I'll be doing it alone. It's just me and my bike and my tent. I might have a documentary crew that follows me, but otherwise I'll be filming it myself and hopefully learning how to edit along the way as well. So lots of skills I need to learn as well, not just cycling.
Karina Inkster: What an adventure. Well, we're going to have to do another conversation post Challenge 3000, because definitely we're all going to want to hear about that.
Kate Strong: Well, we could do it during as well! Just drop that seed of thought in.
Karina Inkster: Or like a Q and A with some listeners or something where you're doing one of your environmental activities! So many options.
Kate Strong: We could fill the room at a vegan festival and we could dial you in and do a Q and A that way as well.
Karina Inkster: Oh, that'd be awesome. Do you have any vegan festivals in mind? I mean that's generally a good month for that kind of stuff.
Kate Strong: So I've only just decided my route. So now I can start looking at logistically what is happening along the way and we can actually create our own as well. So, you know there is so much possibility.
Karina Inkster: Yeah. How cool is that? So it'll be June, July, August?
Kate Strong: Maybe a bit of September depending on a few things and how much my boyfriend misses me.
Karina Inkster: No kidding. I'm always thinking about the logistics. That was the first thing I thought of. You're going to be away from your partner for so long.
Kate Strong: Well he can always join me.
Karina Inkster: Ah, the open invite. Huh? Is that how it works?
Kate Strong: Exactly.
Karina Inkster: That's cool.
Kate Strong: The plan is to get as many people to join me on different legs as well. It's about that connectivity and doing it together. I really admire people like myself who get World Records and World Championships, but there is a disconnect to normal life and so this challenge is all about bringing the extraordinary into our ordinary daily lives. So I'm there to learn as much as I can as well as hopefully inspire a few people as I go.
Karina Inkster: Oh, you will undoubtedly. What a cool project. Well, we're going to need to connect about this a little bit closer to the day. So you mentioned in one of your points to discuss the connection to nature. So I assume something like the Challenge 3000 where you're doing climate action and you're on a bamboo sustainable bike and like all these things are connected there, but what do you mean when you talk about the importance of connecting to our bodies, but also to nature?
Kate Strong: I noticed this as a woman when I was 17. I was put immediately on a contraceptive pill and pulled out of my natural rhythm and pulled out of listening to my body and forced to reach my peak mentally at certain levels when my University professors told me to and the same for my body physically and I disconnected from myself because we forget sometimes we are actually creatures of nature. We're not protecting nature. We're protecting ourselves.
We're not connecting to a tree or a plant or to an animal, we're connecting to another part of ourselves. So I suppose the older I get and the less toxins I'm putting in my body and the more aware I am of my environment, the more I realize that we have all the answers within ourselves, but also to give ourselves permission that if it's sunny and we feel like we want to work 10 hour days work 10 hours. But if it's dark and cold and winter, and we want an output of four hours, then brilliant, do four hours. Focus on how big is our glass and give a hundred percent of the size rather than forcing the same glass size every day, day in and day out.
Karina Inkster: Ooh, that's a good analogy.
Kate Strong: Thank you. To look at nature more as a way for us to learn with it and flow with it rather than force a certain box around what we think it should And shouldn't turn up to. The answers are around us. I'm looking outside at my grass and my trees and I could learn from them rather than looking at it like a master slave situation. They could give me some lessons as well. So giving me time to just be in nature and hear what's happening around me and what comes up is just as important as that training program or that nutrition plan that we also have in our lives.
Karina Inkster: Right. So how do you balance that concept of listening to ourselves, more connecting with nature with having something like a rigid training plan like if you have a race? You were doing triathlons for a while, when you were prepping for your 24 hour challenge on the bike. I assume the training there is pretty set in stone. I mean, there's always room for changing things around, but how do you balance having something rigid like that with a goal or an end date and then also try to be in touch with how you're feeling?
Kate Strong: Yeah it’s always tough. It’s like the yin and yang symbol, you're never on one side, your feet are always on both sides and you're never really getting it right but you're also not really getting it wrong either. Every week I always have a freestyle training session so that I can listen to my body. It could either be a crazy 200 mile cycle if I'm feeling energized or it could be an extra session sleeping in bed. It gives me complete freestyle to just say, what do you want to give yourself? What is the greatest reward to say thank you for? To your feet for all the effort it's done and for your hands who have pulled or held onto your handle bars for so long? What does your body need at that moment? That one session allows me to listen and give my body what it wants rather than me forcing an outcome.
Karina Inkster: That's brilliant. I think more people should have a flex day where it might mean an extra sleep in session, or it might mean a 200 mile cycle if that's what you feel like although I'm going to tell you right off the bat, that will never be it for me, but okay.
Kate Strong: We never know so it's just waking up and that's how we listen to our body. That's how we can start intuitively giving ourselves what we need and allowing that freedom some weeks we might need to just rest a little longer. It's been quite stressful. There's been a few emotional triggers which just take time to process. It's okay. It all impacts us. So honor that path as much as the physical.
Karina Inkster: I think it's easier said than done for a lot of folks. I mean, ideally we would be waving a magic wand and everyone would be in touch with how they're feeling and what they need, but with a lot of societal constraints, for example you must work eight hours a day, because that's what you're paid to do. There's a lot of expectations that we don't necessarily have a ton of control over perhaps. Maybe it's a balancing act.
Kate Strong: It's always a learning curve, you know? I say this as if I do this every day but I still carry guilt about not doing things because of the way I was brought up, and because we make meaning out of everything. Me sitting down having a Netflix binge when my partner's cleaning the house is immensely hard for me because I just want to get up and help him. I feel guilty that I'm not doing it. It's about not making meaning of these things and learning to better communicate with the people who actually do interact with us and finding out how we can upskill that communication and let go of trauma we are still carrying from the past but you know the meanings as I'm talking about.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. So is this part of the reason why you're no longer doing triathlons because you're more focusing on competing with yourself?
Kate Strong: Yeah, I found that I'm not a very competitive individual. I just want to live a life without a glass ceiling. I realize that if I don't aim to be the best, I can't find out what me being my best looks like. I just didn't perform well with that pressure or that constant comparison of others. I used to run marathons in 3: 45 in Iron Man triathlons. So to not do that in the next race, it opens up a lot of judgment for me to criticize myself and I've worked through that judgment, but I don't excel in that competition environment anymore. For me, sports is about fun and connection and that's really where I've evolved through too.
Karina Inkster: That's an interesting take. I like that. I think a lot of us are inherently competitive with ourselves, meaning we have high expectations for ourselves and we're always trying to do better, but that doesn't necessarily mean comparing ourselves to other humans.
Kate Strong: I think we're our worst enemies. You know, if I had a friend who talked to me like I talked to me, I wouldn't be friends with him.
Karina Inkster: That's a good point. So were you doing all sorts of different lengths of triathlons? Is this way in the past or fairly recent?
Kate Strong: My relationship of nine years broke down just six days before the wedding actually in 2012, so I started Triathlon in 2013 more to give myself permission to look after myself. It was a way of being selfish, but still having an excuse to be selfish and I I did quite well, I think, because I had a fire in me to prove something. So I became age group National Champion in Australia and went on to be age group World Champion as well. This all happened within 14 months of taking up the sport so within two years I've been in seven World Championships in Triathlon at every distance except Iron Man but that one wasn't meant to be. I've completed three Iron Men, but couldn't get higher than 10th so I never qualified.
Karina Inkster: Well, 10th is still amazing. Come on.
Kate Strong: Yes but I found my glass ceiling naturally, because I aimed to be the best and my best was World Champion in Long Distance, not World Champion in Iron Man. I'm very at peace with the effort I put in but also knew that it was time to move through that. It was becoming a have to, and I do things because I want to not because I have to.
Karina Inkster: Right. That makes sense. Very cool. So how does your work with clients happen? Do you do one on one coaching with folks who are everyday folk? Do you train athletes? What's the deal there?
Kate Strong: I mostly work with the mindset. I can write training programs and things like that but for me it always comes back to their attitudes and their hunger and what's happening between their ears. So that's what I love working with and finding out why they think they need to coach or why they're procrastinating on certain elements and unraveling that because I see longer lasting change. So I do work with one to one clients and with Challenge 3000 coming up, I'm moving a little bit into businesses and corporations as well because organizations and brands want to be connected. I only work with sustainable brands and brands that are making a purposeful change and difference but again, it's about helping the team transition into that green world and letting go of the fear of “well, if we're not selling plastic X or single use Y how can we still make money?” It's about that mindset of letting go and believing that the right thing will eventually be rewarded if they can't see it initially.
Karina Inkster: Oh, very cool. I didn't even think about that aspect of this challenge where there's brand connections, company sponsorships. You could have a team for that I'm sure.
Kate Strong: And just social media which I seem to have to be on, but I’m still very confused! What is an Instagram real?
Karina Inkster: Oh, I'm with you. If I had to use social media to get leads for my business, I would be screwed. Me and my coaching team just use it to show that we're real humans but you know, I like having some fun, for example posting some cat photos. I feel we need to have a presence if we're going to be online coaches or if you're going to do something like a Challenge 3000 that takes part in a certain part of the world, but also involves worldwide folk. You’ve got to have some kind of online presence, but do you need to be on social media 24/7? Probably not.
Kate Strong: Me watching you post your cat videos is not helping my business there but they are very cute!
Karina Inkster: It's not helping my business either, by the way!
Kate Strong: So Challenge 3000 is logistically just think about the roots. Think about where I'm going to stop. How am I going to get fed? Where can I shower? These simple things. How can I wash my clothes? What clothes will I be wearing? What, if it rains? What if it's sunny? Oh gosh, there's 1,000,001 questions. So I’m slowly unraveling all of them and hopefully will have it all figured out within 10 months when I get on my bike.
Karina Inkster: Oh, I'm sure. By then knowing, knowing your track record, you'll have all the details sorted out.
Kate Strong: I love a good spreadsheet!
Karina Inkster: I have a friend who was on the podcast recently, who is like my spreadsheet genius. So if I ever need any sort of calculations or formulas or spreadsheets, I'm like, “Hey Holly, can you make a spreadsheet for me?”
Kate Strong: Brilliant.
Karina Inkster: We all need that person in our lives so spreadsheet guru is a good title to have actually.
Kate Strong: Well, if ever Holly says no, you know who to call!
Karina Inkster: Well, thank you for that. Amazing. So Kate, is there anything that we have not gone over or do you have any messages for our listeners? Any topics that you wanted to touch on?
Kate Strong: I just want to reiterate again, the Challenge 3000 is about connection so anyone who wants to get involved, anyone who wants to join me for five miles or for a 50 miles cycle it's a no pressure distance, or take part in those social activities. This is truly about us remembering we're not alone and that we can make a difference. So please get in touch and get involved. It could be remote, virtual, or in your own neighborhood. You can inspire me to carry on as well.
Karina Inkster: Oh, that's awesome. So do we learn more about that on your website or is there a separate website for the challenge?
Kate Strong: It's all on my Katestrong.global website, which I have created and managed myself. Also social media, Instagram and LinkedIn is where I double down on my time.
Karina Inkster: Perfect. Awesome. Well, so great to speak with you, Kate. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Kate Strong: My pleasure. Thank you so much. I'm looking forward to us working out how we can get connected again next year, along the route.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Let's do it, Kate. Thanks again for joining me on the podcast. Check out our show notes at Nobullshitvegan.com/131 to connect with Kate and to learn more about her Challenge 3000. Thanks for tuning in.
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