Sometimes You Just Do (Crazy) Things: Scott Jurek, Western States Warrior

Scott Jurek has been my hero for years. He has dominated the grand daddy of all ultra marathons unlike anyone else. And considering how deep the field is these days, probably no one ever will. When I first became interested in a vegan diet a few years ago I was very curious about athletes that were vegan. Was anybody even trying? After all, there is a tremendous stigma in the athletic world that animal foods are necessary for top performance. While amateurs like me are one thing, I wanted to know if anyone at the elite level was successful on a vegan diet. After all, if the health benefits are so profound, then there should be some athletes seeing results.

Enter Scott Jurek. He began ultrarunning after a career as an amateur nordic ski racer. All cross country ski racers spend a lot of time running since there is more good running weather than skiing weather. Jurek hated running, that is, until he liked it. Inspired by his friend Dusty the “Dust Ball”, he began ultrarunning and realized that not only was he good at it, but that he loved it. But he still ate a SAD diet. Before he rose to the top at Western States, he made the gradual switch to plant based, vegetarian, to vegan. He went raw for a while. But he got tired of chewing and went back to cooking his food. The result? Seven consecutive wins at Western States just as the whole sport blew up. He’s got other good results too, but as a Californian and lover of the Sierra, that’s the one that matters to me!

Here is Jurek on the benfefits of a vegan diet:

“The better I ate, the better I felt…. Muscles I didn’t even know I had popped out. I was eating more, losing weight, and gaining muscle- all on a vegan diet. My recovery times between workouts and races got even shorter. I wasn’t even sore the day after 50-mile races. I woke up with more energy every day.”  (Eat and Run, pg.109)

So I sampled some of his favorites:

Indonesian Cabbage Salad

Tempeh with Brown Rice (both with red curry sauce)

I modified it to use cashew butter instead of almond butter, which Jurek had modified from the traditional peanut butter. I think peanut butter would be better. I used rice vinegar as called for, but then added lime juice for more tang. The red curry paste wasn’t hot enough, so I added sriracha. Overall, the sauce was too thick and rich for my taste. Since I follow the recommendations of Dr. McDougall and Dr. Esselstyn, I avoid oils, and limit high fat plant foods. This was a bit much, especially for the salad. I would cut the nut butter in half, add more lime, and heat. Otherwise, it was a tasty combo that will make for good leftovers. The leftover cabbage salad will be layered with noodles and mixed greens for lunch tomorrow.

Cabbage Salad:

shredded cabbage

grated carrot

thinly sliced red pepper

chopped cilantro

pumpkin seeds (I didn’t have any sunflower seeds)

MIX  the veggies in the proportion that looks best to you. I just eyeballed it and adjusted it as I went, as per normal.

The Red Curry Sauce

1/2 C cashew butter (too much, too rich)

1/2 C water

1/4 C lime juice or rice vinegar (lime is better)

fresh cilantro

2 T agave (a little too much maybe?)

1 T red curry paste (high end as printed, not enough)

1 t onion powder

1/2 t each garlic and ginger powder (more convenient, but fresh would have been better)

sriracha to taste (I like heat, sambal oelek would be more traditional, or fresh chiles)


Cut one 8 oz. package of tempeh into thin strips and pan fry until done, about 4 minutes a side. Arrange on top of cooked brown rice. Drizzle a little tamari and lime juice on the tempeh. Dab a little of the red curry sauce on each tempeh strip. Serve with the cabbage salad and enjoy!

Go out and crush your next run.

About vegpedlr

Plant powered off-road triathlete
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6 Responses to Sometimes You Just Do (Crazy) Things: Scott Jurek, Western States Warrior

  1. I appreciated that even though many of Jurek’s recipes use a little oil, they are overall pretty McDougall-friendly. And I’m blown away that he grinds his own flour for multigrain pancakes.

    • vegpedlr says:

      Yes, his diet and recipes are pretty standard vegan, and adaptable. I’ve listened to him interviewed, and he is unconvinced in the value of a no added fat diet. As for oil, he believes traditional cold pressed oils are OK, it’s the modern chemically extracted oils that must be avoided. He is also sponsored by Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil. I liked the Indonesian dish, although the sauce was too rich. I need to lighten it up, or just use less. I liked his tofu “cheese” spread on Jeff’s burgers. Next up I’m going to try his onigiri, or rice balls. I would like to find some “real” food I can tolerate while training, and white rice might be the ticket.

      • I heard Scott interviewed on an ultrarunning podcast where the host seemed to really push the idea that a no-oil diet was unnecessary, and seemed relieved that Scott didn’t advocate for oil-free. Of course, if you can even finish much less win a 100 mile race, you can stand to have more fat and concentrated calories than the average sedentary American…

      • vegpedlr says:

        Yeah, I have heard the same thing on No Meat Athlete. He certainly has worries about the calories, but there may be other reasons to avoid oil. I’ll steer clear as much as I can.

  2. Debbie says:

    I just read his book about a month ago. I’m a new runner and his book was very inspiring. I have no plans to do an ultra but his life is still motivating.

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