Kalamazoo’s Ultracyling Champ: “I feel more energetic and healthier eating vegan.”

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Vegan Kalamazoo’s own Valerie Litznerski, who, a couple of weeks ago, won the Tejas 500 ultracycling race and so is currently the reigning female U.S. ultracycling champ. And she did it all on the power of plants! Valerie was kind enough to let me interview her, and I’m sure you’ll find her as inspiring as I did!

What is ultracycling?

Ultracycling races are 100 miles or more.  The UMCA has a series of races throughout the country and several international races that range from 100 to over 4,000 miles. Participants accumulate overall points and category points for standings.
How did you get started?
I got bored going to the gym.  My parents had bought me a nice bike years ago and so I figured that I’d take it outside. Every time I rode farther, it was so exciting to me.  I did my first century (100-mile) ride that year and my first race the next spring.
How do you train?
I ride a lot. 🙂  I followed a structured riding schedule and cross train in the fall and winter.  There are a few other vegan cyclists on the team that I am on, and it just so happens that we like to ride together too.
How long have you been vegan, and what inspired you to go vegan?
I’ve been vegetarian for 17 years and vegan for 3 years. I felt like dairy wasn’t contributing to my diet.  Ice cream was a major food group, especially after hot rides when I was feeling nauseous.  It just made sense to move on from that. I really appreciate having a smaller carbon footprint.  I believe that it’s completely unnecessary for  animals to be brought into this world and mistreated, just so that I can eat.
How has veganism helped you as an athlete?
It has made me more mindful and more informed.  I try to eat more organic and look for ways to limit processed foods.  That being said, I certainly indulge after long rides and have room to improve, but I feel more energetic and healthier eating vegan.
Any upcoming races?
By completing the Tejas 500, I qualified for solo Race Across America (RAAM). It is a dream of mine to do that race, but I have a lot of growing that I need to do personally and in cycling before I attempt RAAM.  I’ve dreamed about RAAM since I first learned what it was.  In the near future, I’m looking forward to competing in more 12- and 24-hour races and other 500 mile races.
What else do you do besides racing and veganism?

I look for opportunities to volunteer and give back. I’ve helped out at races and am the secretary of the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club.  I love being able to document and sometimes contribute to the ongoing discussion and activities that impact the future of cycling in this community.  I received mentorship from so many members of the club.  So taking on a position with the club is the least that I can do to give back. I also have the opportunities to work with other team members of Team Clark Logic in various volunteering activities.  The annual benefit for Open Roads in partnership with Intentional Yoga is a favorite.

Kudos to Valerie for her wonderful success! Also, check out VegOut Kalamazoo‘s interview with her.