321 GO!

Wendy Larsen: Overcoming the Odds with a Boston Marathon and rollDisney Champion

September 27, 2023 Carissa Galloway and John Pelkey Season 1 Episode 13
321 GO!
Wendy Larsen: Overcoming the Odds with a Boston Marathon and rollDisney Champion
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Just imagine what it would feel like to cross the finish line of your first marathon. But let's raise the bar even higher; visualize doing this while combating a rare primary immunodeficiency disease, Ehlers-Donlowe syndrome, and recovering from a life-altering car accident! Our guest, the extraordinary Wendy Larsen, did exactly that and even seized a triumphant win at the Boston Marathon on her 50th birthday. Wendy, a champion hand-cyclist, will share with us the highs and lows of her journey, her struggle with weight, and her fight to be seen as an able-bodied athlete despite her physical challenges.

Wendy will also recount her adventures during the Race Across America and Race Across the West, and how she found a supportive community in the runDisney family. So, buckle up and join us for a voyage of inspiration, resilience, and triumph against all odds.

Now, picture yourself setting a goal and smashing it to bits. In the second segment, we'll be discussing just that - the thrill of setting achievable targets and the satisfaction of hitting them. The journey, as we will explore, is just as important as the destination. We'll share the camaraderie with fellow athletes, the appreciation of our victories, and the resilience we gain from each tumble and fall. We'll also delve into the health benefits of vegetarian diets and the role of fiber in our dietary regimen. 

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John Pelkey:

Welcome to 321 Go the Podcast. I'm John Pelkey.

Carissa Galloway:

And I'm Carissa Galloway and we're bringing you stories from start to finish to keep the everyday athlete motivated to keep moving towards the next finish.

John Pelkey:

Carissa. Today we have an incredibly inspirational athlete who overcame tremendous odds to become one of the best female marathon hand cyclists in the country. Her story is ridiculously amazing Carissa, the legendary Wendy Larsen.

Carissa Galloway:

Yeah, we're also going to talk about vegetarian diets and healthier you and we're going to open the mailbag to answer a question about race and dehydration. And again to all of you, thank you for listening. Please subscribe. That helps us get better rankings. It helps people find us. Thank you for leaving the reviews, for rating us, and then email us your tips for your first friend, disney Race or Dopey. We want to share them. Let's do this. What is up, mr Pelkey? We are in the midst of real fall now, not pretend fall, real fall.

John Pelkey:

And for those of you who don't live in Florida, that means that we've gone from the average temperature of the day being 97 with 80% humidity to 96 with 80% humidity. It doesn't feel very fall, though, I will say. Carissa, I was up early this morning. I have dogs and for me early is, you know, prior to eight, and there was a little cool breeze blowing little bit of a cool breeze. Take it where you can get.

Carissa Galloway:

I know We'll take any little things. I was up at Ironman Maryland last weekend, so I was running when it was quite chilly, 60 some degrees out there. It was really reminded me, and you being a Virginian as well, just like, oh, this is, you know this is what it's supposed to be.

Carissa Galloway:

It was really nice to kind of be as close to home as I felt in a long time. But you know the pumpkin patches, the cornfields, the things I grew up in a relatively rural area that I really missed. So it was nice to be up there. But before John, before I was there, I was in France.

John Pelkey:

You were, you were traveling the globe.

Carissa Galloway:

I was doing them, I was like using my little planner and I was writing things out and I was like, how many days ago was that? You know, as we're recording this, it was in France nine days ago and I've already announced another Ironman and I've come back. But Nice, france we tense it a little bit should be on every, but not just Nice. The French Riviera should be put on your travel bucket list.

John Pelkey:

I have not been there. I've been on the Spanish Riviera, been to Spain on the coast, the Costa del Sol but I have not made my way to the French Riviera yet, though that might actually be, might be in my future, possibly.

Carissa Galloway:

No, because of all the traveling I know you're doing a lot of Tuscany, a lot of Italy.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, we're doing. We have a friend actually who's having her 50th birthday and she wanted to do that in Tuscany, so we're going to do that. But then I have a couple of other job opportunity things that might take me to Nice, among other places, but I don't want to let's not put that bad juju to put that out there at this point. I'm not going to do it.

Carissa Galloway:

I'm just jealous now because I wasn't working.

John Pelkey:

Okay, yeah because it's been all of nine days since you were there.

Carissa Galloway:

And I don't have any other international trips until February when I go to Dubai and Kenya. So I'm really really lacking, Minus the 10 days I'll spend in Hawaii for work. I'm so sad for you. No, it sounds bad, but it's really.

John Pelkey:

How do you get there? How do you do it? I mean, honestly, the obstacles. You know I'm not going to be out of the country until I go to Kenya and then Dubai. And there's the Hawaii thing. That's not really out of the country, though there are a handful of Americans who probably still don't know that Hawaii is a state. But I mean, come on, honestly, I'm not going to. I will be going to Florence and Tuscany in the summer and I may actually have some other international travel in there. You're Come on. I always hope so Stop it.

Carissa Galloway:

But Nice was, I was not working. That was actually a little vacation trip for me because Western, as you most of you know, raced in the Iron man World Championships.

John Pelkey:

Yes, he did.

Carissa Galloway:

So that was a lot of fun. He did a great job. That was a challenging course. It is brutal, it is beautiful, he said, but man, he said it was hard, he climbed. I mean, just imagine this he climbed on a bike going about five miles an hour. So think about what a good athlete Western is. For an hour and a half he was climbing up 8,000 feet of elevation.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, no, I know, I Hard to wrap my head around it. And, by the way, I talked to Western about this and he was telling me where the bike path was. The bike path, as I said, it's not a bike path. The roads what they were racing on, and not only is it an uphill climb, I mean, it's like cliff riding. Oh yeah, it's right for a guy with height issues like me, it was disturbing.

Carissa Galloway:

Yeah, it's very, very, very impressive what he did. And just to finish it, I'm nervous. I'm a nervous wreck and that was part of the reason why I wanted to go. I was supposed to announce Iron man Wisconsin that weekend but I just couldn't have my husband racing on this bike course. It's part of the Tour de France. It's very. The bike of an Iron man is scary for everybody. So I was just I needed to be there for feeling like a supporter, for feeling that like I had to see, I need to see him get off that bike because that bike is scary. But the day started and we've talked about this before. My husband loves to swim in a wetsuit. Make some more buoyant. The Iron man has a regulation where if it's above 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit, you can't legally wear a wetsuit. You can, and not in a world championship, but in other races you can start at the back. There's always funny things, but the water temperature the night before was like 75.6.

Carissa Galloway:

So they thought it was going to be wetsuit legal. So we wake up. I text Paul Kay, the world championship Iron man announced. And I'm like what's the temperature? And it was over. And he sends me a screenshot of our manager saying Paul, please announce this, it is not wetsuit legal. What's the last thing's like? Should I still bring my wetsuit? Are you kidding me? I just see you the official. I mean, that might change. I'm like it's not going to change, but this is how it works. You know how it works.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, temperature generally during the day rises until a certain point, so I'm not thinking the temperature. The sea is going to get colder, very salty.

Carissa Galloway:

So buoyancy was helpful. Yeah, and a great swim. I went to the beach club for seven hours while he was biking. Yeah.

John Pelkey:

That was fun. That was fun.

Carissa Galloway:

Lots of topless people at the beach club, lots of very well dressed people.

John Pelkey:

Let me ask you this question because the beach in Spain that I went to was a topless beach. Actually, I think it could be a nude beach, I don't know there was.

Carissa Galloway:

I don't know the difference. There's not signs, there's not like picture signs.

John Pelkey:

As always, I was wearing a long sleeve, long pant, onesie zip up thing so no one could see this body, but the percentage of people that I wanted to see showing as much skin as they were was pretty minimal. It was pretty minimal. There were a lot of people out. There was like I want to cover up a little bit.

Carissa Galloway:

I feel like at this beach club now it was only 30 euros to pay for a chair, which might seem like a lot, but I thought this was a fantastic deal because you just got a beach chair the whole day as long as you were there service.

John Pelkey:

That's about $40. American I'm not sure what the exchange rate is right now. I was happy to pay this.

Carissa Galloway:

They were all really good, every one of these beach clubs extremely good looking, amazing shape, like they had couture bathing suits on. They were men in their little Gucci and Fendi Speedos. I felt high fashion.

Wendy Larsen:

I was misplaced.

John Pelkey:

I had a.

Carissa Galloway:

Marshall's bathing suit on A step up from my target bathing suit. I was striped. I felt like I was very French Riviera, but I had a great time. Weston had a great time. It was a lot of fun.

John Pelkey:

Now, weston and I talked about the course a lot. We talked about the bike ride particularly, and there were also speed bumps on the road, because it is a road that people traverse A lot of things that made it even harder than just the distance. When people hear Ironman, they think, well gosh, it was 110 miles on the bike. 112 miles on the bike, it's like, wow, that's bad enough, but it's not 112 miles around an oval track, it's 120 miles and there's a lot of climbing, a lot of obstacles. When he was telling me about the speed bumps, it just it frightened me Again.

John Pelkey:

I take my hat off to anybody who can finish one of those things. My question was going to be did he have a target time that he was going for? Was he just? I know he wasn't. He said, look, I'm not among the elites, I'm not going to win this thing. Did he have a target time at all? Or was it just? I want to get to the finish and feel good about having done it and not, you know, warn myself out to the point that it ruined the next two weeks of my life.

Carissa Galloway:

So that's exactly what he did. I think that's a good point to bring up to kind of talk to people listening that are thinking about dopey and they're thinking about marathon and even you yourself thinking about running a race. So he did Ironman quarter lane. He did really well but he went so hard on the bike that he was just destroyed on the marathon and, as we said, ironman is a different beast so he was absolutely miserable. So he went into this race knowing like I want to finish but I don't need to be miserable. So we talked with Tim O'Donnell and you remember he mentioned he's working with tri dot training.

Carissa Galloway:

So, Westin met with the tri dot guys. Some stuff may be coming in the future that I can't really talk about yet, but they have a predictor so they can look at his other times and say, hey, on this course, this bike course is so hard it's probably going to take you seven hours. Now normally it's taking Westin five, maybe six hours for a bike. So what was good about that is that he didn't spend the whole time feeling like I'm so slow. Why am I so slow? Why you know I'm going to take forever. Like you know how that can happen.

Carissa Galloway:

When you're running, you just you beat yourself up based on a watch which doesn't know the terrain, doesn't know how you're feeling that day, doesn't know. So because he came in with a mindset knowing it was going to be a long day, he wasn't chasing a time, he just wanted to finish and be able to look up to look around to appreciate where he was, because that was the whole reason he went. So he just went with that mindset. So the bike was whatever they predicted. He was right there and on the run he started out a little hot and then he just was like I just want to have fun and finish. It was the three loop run, so I got to see him.

Carissa Galloway:

It was. It's hot. I mean the thing about Ironman. You're starting a marathon at 3pm or 2pm, so it's extremely hot. So he just went with a mindset to finish. He looked so happy out there on the course where a lot of people, as I was watching, did not look.

John Pelkey:

I wouldn't use the word happy. He didn't look and he looked great at the finish. I mean, he looked a lot better than I looked at the end of my 5k, quite frankly, and I think we all would expect that he did, and he's a really good athlete, but I applaud him that he could put that mindset in that today is a day to enjoy Kind of.

Carissa Galloway:

I guess he almost treated it like a training adventure.

John Pelkey:

Yeah Well, I think that's also an important you know you made an important point. I'll just reiterate that that most of the folks that we have talked to and I mean you're a veteran marathoner and Weston is a veteran track athlete at a lot of different distances, and all the folks we talked to come in with a plan Just come in with a plan and come in with a, with a, with a plan. That is an achievable goal. We could all like I could go out and I'm, you know, I'm going to attempt to 10. I'm going to finish a 10k sometime during this run Disney season. I could say, boy, I want to do that with seven minute miles. Yeah Well, well, that's a great plan, john, it's also. You're going to fail miserably.

John Pelkey:

Come in with a plan and again, failure is not a destination. If you, if you fail to meet your plan, that's, that's all right. You, the fact that you put a plan forth and you attempted to follow it through, because I know as well as anybody I was doing the run walk method on the on the 5k and it's like one minute of a run, 30 seconds of a walk and I ran straight for seven minutes for the first set it's a good thing, because you know your mind and the adrenaline and I could see how that works. But, yeah, make a plan for yourself. People are doing dopey and that's why we want you folks who are listening to this If you've run dopey and you remember your first or your second, or where you really found where you found your lane in that, let us know. Let us know how you did that, because we have so many people doing it for the first time. And coming up with a, with a positive plan, so that you get to the end of the race and you're not just miserable, is important.

Carissa Galloway:

Yeah, and I think Brittany said something Brittany Sharpenow, at one of our podcasts and this. I don't want this to come across as mean. It isn't and it actually, when I get to the end of it, I promise it has a good, a good message. But we were talking to her about her disappointment at the world championships, right, and she said, the end of the day, I realized nobody cares. And I mean that in a way of if you are stressing yourself and getting down on yourself because you wanted to run a 230 and you're on pace for a 240.

Carissa Galloway:

Guess what? At the end of the day, I just mean I mean it's nobody cares, no one's looking up your time. Like Weston could have done a 12 hour, I think he did. I don't even know what he did 13, something like that, it didn't matter. It doesn't diminish the accomplishment of getting out there and doing it. And if you let yourself get into that black hole where you're only focused on time, you miss everything out there on the course, you miss engaging with the other humans, you miss like you kind of miss the inner.

John Pelkey:

I miss every, but now listen, I know it was raining. It was raining and there was not a lot of rain. Yeah, I know, it's a better story.

Carissa Galloway:

But anyway, my point being that I don't mean nobody cares, but I mean like, in the big scheme of things, you go tell someone you finished a 5K, you go tell somebody who finished a 10K, they're not focused on your time, they're focused on your achievement and that is an achievement. So Weston, let's say he did a slow Ironman, world championships, one of the hardest bike courses in the world. Nobody cares. We're proud of him for finishing and raising money for a great charity. So that's my spiel. But thanks, brittany, I do. I think about that when I'm running and I feel slow and I'm just like nobody cares.

John Pelkey:

I'm still doing it. Yeah, I know. And that doesn't mean that if you run and you don't achieve your goal, that you, yeah, look back and say you know, where did I, where did I not follow my plan to get to my goal? Great. But be proud of yourself for committing to it and doing it, Because there, as I always say, easy to sign up, but then you got to show up. You got to show up yeah, and that's the hard part, frankly, yeah.

Carissa Galloway:

Well, we've been chatting for a while, john, but quickly, what's you know? We're talking about me. What's been going on with you?

John Pelkey:

Well as you. As you know, I have committed to running a 10K have you started this training yet? No, no way I actually I have started. I haven't started the the Galloway method, training up to my 10K, but I am doing two miles on the treadmill every day, just keeping getting my body up.

Wendy Larsen:

That's good, that's really good.

John Pelkey:

It's been. We've talked about this on the show before. My eating habits are actually pretty good. They're not bad for a 59 year old American male I think I do pretty well. My cheat days sometimes get a little ridiculous cheat days. I go full on Belushi and Animal House sometimes on my cheat days, but but I eat pretty well. My exercise, my consistency with exercise, is not always great and that's being very kind to myself. So I'm trying to get up to just a consistent exercise in my consistent two miles on the treadmill, a little bit of weight training, little court training just to get myself into mediocre shape. So then, once I start my the plan that I have up to the 10K, I I'll start at a better place. My, my, my floor is going to be higher this time than my floor was when I started training.

Carissa Galloway:

That's really good You're, you're seeing the big picture and you're focusing on it and I think adding in that exercise, that base you know, is going to be really good for you when you get out there, because the first two miles will be won't feel taxing to your body. You already know your pace and then you'll just kind of be kind of be adding on. Yeah, that's good and, truthfully, I feel better.

John Pelkey:

I feel better when I do it. I just seem to forget that on a college football Saturday, when my lovely wife is not here to tell me that I need to do things and I'm on the couch from the beginning of game day at nine until the pack 10 rest in peace. The pack 10, pack 12 rest in pack. Whatever, it's gone, it's gone. People, next year, it's all gone until those games are off at 1, 32 o'clock in the morning and you can only imagine what, what sort of feast I allow myself through that day every Saturday at your house.

Carissa Galloway:

Well, you got any but you do need your joy, John, and that is your joy. So, but maybe if you do a little halftime, even a one mile, I've thrown a crew to tape plate.

John Pelkey:

I've thrown a crew to tape plate in the in the refrigerator, so that that you know the pizza rolls aren't every 45 minutes.

Carissa Galloway:

I mean, it's so much easier for men to just jump on the treadmill because for a woman, if I'm watching TV and I'm gonna go jump on the treadmill, there's a sports broad, there's a hair tie, there's lots more that goes into it. You could just just go.

John Pelkey:

Well, I was working towards needing that sports bra, so that's one of the reasons there's some exercising going on.

John Pelkey:

Well, if you need a good brand, Actually, as you look at me and I'm pointing to my left, there's my treadmill is on that side, and then there's this, this Medieval torture machine to my right, which is an elliptical, which is really what I need to get on because it strengthens your core and that's one of the places where I really really need work and and my hip flexors and everything, because my balance gets bad when I get tired and it's a lot more work. But because it's a lot more work, there's the other side of me that really, now that I mentioned pizza rolls, really wants them. That is like a Little treadmill. It's your friend over there. So, as I stare at that elliptical, that that'll that'll come into the mix as well. So, yeah, I'm committed on your joints.

Carissa Galloway:

So let's go less, less impact. Yeah, I don't I think one mile and then 10 minutes on the elliptical.

John Pelkey:

I don't need your help.

Carissa Galloway:

They're right there I.

John Pelkey:

Will work towards that. I'm gonna. I'm gonna accept the praise through the fact that I've gotten on the treadmill now. I will. I will move in the direction of the elliptical. It's only about five and a half six feet apart, but in my mind, that's, that's. That's longer than that 112 mile bike.

Carissa Galloway:

Well, look, we got. We got crudité and we got treadmill and we are just, we're taking the wins for the week.

John Pelkey:

All right, good, good. I salute myself with my fifth cup of coffee.

Carissa Galloway:

All right. Well, we have talked a long time, so we have more things we're gonna chat about. But I we want to get into this interview because it's amazing. But before we do, we want to thank our sponsored travel nation. So if you're dreaming of a magical, stress-free run, disney race weekend or another vacation, don't let the travel planning overwhelm you. We want Katie McBride, with travel nation, to take care of everything for you and, john, you know I love using a travel agent time-saving, stress-free, all the things and the expertise Katie brings. So reach out to her today and you can embark on your own journey with seamless experiences and unforgettable moments.

John Pelkey:

That's right, and you can reach out to Katie at www travel, katie McBride calm, that will be in the notes. I won't try to spell it out again and we'll have the website of the show notes, as I just mentioned. Look at that redundant, redundant and have a wonderful trip, because traveling feeds your soul. People.

Wendy Larsen:

It's time for the goods. Let's get on to the interview.

John Pelkey:

Our guests was told for most of her life She'd never be able to participate in sports due to multiple medical issues and was once, in her own words, a hundred pounds overweight. Then, in 2021, she won the Boston Marathon women's hand-cycling championship and set the women's course record while doing it. And then she repeated that victory in 2022 and also broke her year-old record and won the New York City Marathon that same year. And Chris said, those are just a few of her many accomplishments. Welcome to the pod. How are you and where are you?

Wendy Larsen:

Thanks so much for having me. I am at home right now, not out at a race in any crazy location. I'm at home in League City, texas, which is down south of Houston on that kind of the Texas Gulf Coast.

Carissa Galloway:

So yeah, well, wendy, we want to start at the beginning, because something that I I In I don't know if the words enjoy, but I know when we see our role Disney athlete or our adaptive athletes, sometimes when we we dig into what they've gone through and what they've overcome, there's so much inspiration in that for people to Never stop believing and never stop pushing and never stop learning what they're capable of. So we know that there's been a number of medical issues that kind of made it hard for you to participate in athletics. There was a rare condition that affects your immune system. So can you kind of tell us a little bit about you and and your journey to get to be the champion that you are today?

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah, so I have a really long, complex story. I'll try to keep it as short as possible, but I was born with the rare primary immunodeficiency disease, which means I was born without a fully functioning immune system. So growing up I was in and out of hospital, constantly spent a lot, a lot of time at Texas children's with doctors trying to figure out what was wrong with me and this, and that I do get my immune system from a Monthly immunoglobulin infusions. So what that means is people go, they donate plasma, they extract antibodies from the donated plasma and then I get that as a monthly infusion and that's how I have my an immune system. Without it I wouldn't have an immune system. So that's kind of that in a nutshell.

Wendy Larsen:

I also have a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Donlowe syndrome, which means all of my joints are super, super unstable. All of the connective tissue in my body is very weak. So my ligaments and tendons, instead of them acting as rubber bands and stretching out and popping back into place, they just stretch out. So things dislocate, things get real unstable and it actually eventually led to a spinal cord injury in my spine because my spine was so unstable and I had one vertebrae slipped down on top of another one. I've had to have pelvic floor surgery because basically all of my organs slipped out of place and they had to go in and put them back where they belong. I have Mitral valve collapse because the valves in my heart, they're made of connective tissue and so they get a little floppy. So that's kind of the two main rare diseases that I have.

Wendy Larsen:

And growing up I was always told my joints and my bones were too weak for me to play sports or participate in sports. I would try to do something, I would get injured. Doctors would tell me not to do that, that my body couldn't handle it, that my body was too weak, and over time I just kind of started to believe that. You know, you're supposed to listen to doctors, so when they tell you stuff like that, you start to believe it.

Wendy Larsen:

In 2006 I was in a horrific car wreck. I almost lost my right leg and the. I spent three weeks in the trauma center in Patient. I had about 15 surgeries to reconstruct my leg and, and you know, I couldn't walk at all for a time. And when the surgeon finally released me as parting words said very sarcastically Well, you might walk again, but you're never gonna run a marathon and that was kind of the trigger in Me that set me off, and at that point I think it just I'd had enough and I decided Well, at this point, what do I have to lose? Watch me, I'm gonna run a marathon.

Carissa Galloway:

So I started training, and at this point you're training as on your, on your feet, as an able-bodied Body.

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah, well at first, because I was in a wheelchair. It took me about a year to relearn to walk, so I was on my feet, able-bodied athlete, and I say able.

Wendy Larsen:

But I don't know what the right term is there, but you know, I don't know either, because I Grew up not being labeled as disabled and I didn't know growing up I was disabled and that was a weird thing for me too, because there was this stigma and I think nobody ever wanted to label me as that. But you know, it was just, it was a different time and so, anyway, so I learned to walk again. It took about a year and I started training to run a marathon, you know, learned about the Galloway method, got out there, did my walk, run, walk intervals and, and my big goal I Kind of set for myself was to do the Disney Princess have marathon. And I did a couple of local races in Houston I did the Houston half marathon and the. The goal and Kind of the deal I made with myself was that if I could get through and finish the Houston half marathon, that I would do a big girls trip to Disney World and do the princess house and. And so I did that. And you, at the time I was incredibly slow, I was one of those back of the Packers. I never knew if I was gonna finish a race or not, but by golly I was gonna get out there, I was gonna give it my best shot, but I did finish that first Princess Half Marathon.

Wendy Larsen:

Over time my health started to deteriorate further my diseases the EDS it is a degenerative disease and it started to take its toll and my joints became more and more unstable. My knees were dislocating. I developed something called POTS, which is a dysregulation of your blood pressure and heart rate that can cause you to pass out when you stand up. So I was having a lot of those issues and I had been doing a lot of the Disney races and at the same time I was going through a lot of physical therapy and I was being very stubborn about it and, to be honest, I was a danger to myself because I was trying to go out and run and train and I was passing out and falling and I was a danger to myself. But one of my physical therapists at that point suggested hand cycling and just from there it just kind of all completely turned around and took off.

Carissa Galloway:

Can I ask you when you were oh sorry, john, I just want to ask, when you're doing the Disney Half Marathon and you've already listed all the things that you've overcome in terms of your joints and your immune, and that you've taken control of that and now you're most likely was it painful for you to finish those ones? And where did that motivation for you to say no, I'm finishing. Come from? How did you do that?

Wendy Larsen:

You know, there are days that I still have no idea how I did that, but honestly, I'm just stubborn. I'm just that stubborn and I think over the years I've just gotten to the point where I've realized that either I could lay around the house and I could gain 500 pounds and be bedridden, or I could get up, I could tough it out and I could go out and I could fully participate in life and enjoy every moment and you just kind of you learn to roll with it.

Wendy Larsen:

I have a very high pain tolerance and I think that's because I have always been in pain. I don't know anything different. I've never had a pain-free day, and you know it is what it is. But I think that's also. It's not that I don't experience pain, but I have a very high tolerance for it. So that has also helped along the way that I'm just one of those people that you know. I just I've resigned myself. This is how it's going to be and I'm not gonna let it stand in my way. I literally thought I was about to cry just listening to you.

Wendy Larsen:

Say that because you're crazy that is right you had a choice to stop and to give up on pushing forward.

Carissa Galloway:

And you've chose to push forward and push forward. So much, right, John? Well, yeah, that really leads to what?

John Pelkey:

because I wanted to jump ahead and we wanna talk about your hand cycling career and all of that. But I wanna jump back to that moment, that epiphany moment apparently, that you had with your surgeon saying what he did he or she sorry, don't wanna down with the patriarchy. Down with the patriarchy. Many people would have taken that as kind of just a okay, well, I can lead a life of leisure as best I can. You took it as gauntlet throne and I know it wasn't intended that way by your doctor. Where did that come from? Was it just simply all the years of having to deal with with what you dealt with, that you finally said you know what? I followed all the rules and I don't feel fulfilled.

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah, I really think it was. I think I had just reached my breaking point somehow. And to have that one more doctor just look at me and say that very off the cuff, very sarcastically. I was like mm-mm, no, you are wrong and I'm going to prove you wrong. But yeah, it was just that one moment that it just I think I just reached my breaking point. I was tired of doctors telling me I was not capable of doing stuff and I was tired of not believing in myself and I was tired of thinking, oh, I can't do this, while I watch all of my friends go out and do these amazing things and run marathons and all of this other stuff. And I wanted to prove to myself and I also wanted to prove to those doctors that didn't believe in me and didn't think I could do these things that yeah, I can. And I don't know, I don't know why. It was that specific moment, but it was that specific moment that it just I reached my breaking point and I was done.

Carissa Galloway:

I was done, I was gonna go out and live my life and you have lived and you have, as we're gonna get to, set records and broken barriers. But that started when you transitioned from running to hand cycling. So how long did it take for you to kind of learn how to hand cycle? I guess we don't know. What does that change like? What is that learning curve like, and how long until you felt comfortable and you were ready to cycle, and how long until you knew you were pretty darn good.

Wendy Larsen:

So I took to the hand cycle very quickly, I think, because I had been trying to run through all of this stuff that I really never should have been able to do as much as I was doing anyway, but I was pushing through and doing stuff that in theory, I never should have been able to do. So when I got on a hand cycle the very first time I got on a hand cycle, it was a wow moment for me. It was this feeling of freedom and feeling like I was actually working with my body instead of against my body, and I fell in love completely, totally, at over heels in love.

Wendy Larsen:

The first time I got on a hand cycle, it was just this feeling of freedom and flying and, oh my gosh, I can go fast in this, instead of being that very last person to cross the finish line and having the balloon ladies chasing them and being passed by the balloon ladies, because it happened.

Wendy Larsen:

You know I have a unique perspective on that because I have both been passed by the balloon ladies and been swept and I've also finished in first place. So the first time I got on a hand cycle, fell in love with it and I immediately just I started spending as much time as my body would let me on my hand cycle, and I had to. You know it's a process. You have to train those muscles, you have to build your endurance. Your body has to make those adaptations in order to be successful. So it took some time, but the very first time I did a full marathon, I actually qualified for Boston, which I wasn't even aiming to do. I didn't even know I had done it until later that day and somebody texted me and say, hey, do you know? You qualified for Boston. So that was kind of surreal.

Wendy Larsen:

But I continued for about three years, just you know, getting slowly better and better and better. And then it was actually during COVID that I realized I'm like you know, I'm pretty good, but I could be really, really good if I worked with a dietician and lost some weight and worked with a professional coach and got some professional coaching. And so during COVID, because I have such a weakened immune system, it was a long time before we were able to do anything and the only thing I could do was get on my hand cycle. So I just spent hours, and hours and hours on my hand cycle and that was really when I realized okay, I can take it to the next level if I get serious about it and build the right team around me.

John Pelkey:

We wanna get back to your weight loss issues, because that's an amazing story in and of itself, but I wanna jump to competing as a hand cyclist versus competing as a runner, because you're presented with a lot of different challenges. These courses aren't always built without tight corners and those things that make it difficult. And now you're also dealing with an equipment issue. It's not just of these four types of shoes. What shoes do I have to purchase? So can you talk about those challenges moving into that discipline? Because, as much as it seems the same for people, you're going the distance, sure, using different muscles, there's really a lot more that goes into hand, cycling and salaried things outside of just that part.

Wendy Larsen:

Absolutely so. When you are trying to do a race in a hand cycle or a push rim chair, you face a lot of challenges that runners just they're not aware of. It's not intentional, they just they don't know. So we have a hard time stopping. We can't just stop on a dime. We have a very difficult time turning. I always tell people my hand cycle has a worse turning radius than my car does, literally so my car has a better turning radius than my hand cycle does. It's really really difficult to turn. It's really difficult to make really sudden moves. So, especially in running races, when you are in with a bunch of runners, it is really really hard to navigate through crowds of people and if somebody cuts over and cross you in front of you it can be really bad. So ideally we like to have bike guides in front of us during races and they help to make sure that your path is cleared, make sure runners know that you're coming up behind them so you don't have issues with them crossing over in front of you. Most races will start the wheeled athletes ahead of the runners to give us a little bit of a head start so we don't get mixed in with the runners as much. So I am at a level in my hand cycling that I don't have to worry about that anymore. No runner is going to pass me, but most of those athletes are going to get mixed in with the runners and it does get to be a problem. So we have that aspect of things to deal with.

Wendy Larsen:

But then we also have the mechanical side of things. Adaptive equipment is ridiculously, ridiculously expensive. It is not covered by insurance, it is hard to come by. You can't just go out to a running store or a bike shop and buy a wheelchair, a racing wheelchair or a hand cycle. They have to be custom ordered and they can take five or six months to get in, and that's after you get the funds together to be able to even afford it.

Wendy Larsen:

So then during races we have to worry about flat tires or brake issues, mechanical issues that runners don't necessarily have to worry about. So there's always the possibility that you're going to be stuck over on the side of the road with the mechanical issue. And, by the same token, if I have a mechanical issue and I'm over on the side of the road, I can't walk. So it's not like a cyclist that can get off their bike and walk their bike somewhere, walk their bike off safely. So because now I'm in my hand cycle, I can get out of my hand cycle and I can sit beside it, but I can't walk and carry my hand cycle off the road safely somewhere, I can't stand up to work on my equipment, that sort of thing. So I mean there's so so many different layers and it is a giant learning curve and it does take time to figure out how to make all of these things work, to be a successful athlete and to be able to fully participate in the events that you want to participate in.

Carissa Galloway:

Yeah, I mean again, you're obviously overcoming so much to just get to the start line and all the things that all of our World Disney athletes and chair athletes all over the world go through just to get there. I think that it's important to help people understand that if you see them on the side of the road, maybe ask them if they need a little assistance or just be super aware of when they're coming. They cannot get out of the way and I think that's really important and we try to reiterate that as much as we can. Let's go back to when you're winning your first Boston marathon. John alluded to it and you did too.

Carissa Galloway:

With your medical issues. You did struggle with your weight even when you started running. When you won your first hand cycle Boston Marathon, you said the day you left home for that race, you finally hit your target weight loss, which was around, I think, 100 pound weight loss, which is remarkable. A lot of people are in weight loss journeys. A lot of people have other issues, maybe not the level you do, but can you tell us a little bit about that weight loss journey?

Wendy Larsen:

So I was one of those people. I struggled with my weight my entire life growing up. I think part of it was because I wasn't as active as I wanted to be and even into my 20s and 30s I didn't exercise, I didn't work out because doctors were always telling me not to do it. So then you don't and you don't exercise and you don't work out and I had not really prioritized it and I had not prioritized my health because I was in a different headspace, then Well, you were surviving, you were basically you know what I mean.

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah, to say you didn't prioritize your health.

Carissa Galloway:

You were prioritizing your health. You spent so much time on your health.

John Pelkey:

The different aspects of it, so don't count yourself out.

Carissa Galloway:

You were putting a lot of energy into a lot.

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah. So I tried just about everything and nothing was working. And I finally found a registered dietician here in Houston and she works with a lot of athletes, but she also works with a lot of people that have different health issues. So I have a lot of very serious food allergies. That's actually a comorbidity of both the primary immunodeficiency and the EDS. I also have gastroparesis, which affects your digestion, so a lot of different stuff like that. So I found a registered dietician. She's amazing, amazing.

Wendy Larsen:

She was the one that was finally able to really pinpoint what I needed to do in order to lose this weight but yet still be able to perform as an athlete, and I still work with her to this day.

Wendy Larsen:

I will never give her up because I will need help with this until the day I die Not at my goal weight, but I still need help with the sports nutrition side of things because it is so intricate and so involved at the level I am performing now. So it was absolutely having a registered dietician and, chris, I know you're a registered dietician and I will preach until the day I die to people that are having issues losing weight Find a registered dietician. They are the ones that are going to have the most knowledge about nutrition science and how it affects the body and be able to work with your individual needs and really tailor your nutrition to you as a person or as an athlete. So, yeah, that was the key, though it was working with my dietician and just sticking with the plan and eating a whole lot more fresh fruits and vegetables and all of that, just prioritizing it.

John Pelkey:

All right, I have to ask this question because you can't believe everything you read on the internet machine from what I understand. But is it true that there was another reason to celebrate the day you won your first Boston Marathon? And if so, because, frankly, if we wrote this in a script, it would be. Your script would be turned down because it was just simply not believable. The day you won your first Boston Marathon was what else?

Wendy Larsen:

It was my 50th birthday Come on. And the really crazy thing about that is that was the year that the Boston Marathon was moved, so normally it's in April. That year it was in October because of COVID, so normally it wouldn't be anywhere near my birthday. They just happened to change the date of the Boston Marathon that year and it landed on my 50th birthday. So I mean, you can't write a better story than that.

John Pelkey:

You can't write that story. No one would accept that as a story. Don't tell me. The universe does not have a sense of irony.

Wendy Larsen:

I know I have the birth certificate and the race results to prove it. Yeah, so it was my 50th birthday, I won Boston and I set a course record that day too, so yeah, yeah, oh, by the way, oh, by the way you know.

Carissa Galloway:

Now, when you cross that line one, you set a record. You're celebrating your birthday, did you and I think you have a little bit of that talking about stubborn competitive mindset? Did you say I'm coming back and I'm defending? Did you have that moment where, like you just won? What are you gonna do next? I'm gonna do it again. You know well.

Wendy Larsen:

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. As soon as I finished, I'm like oh yeah, I'm doing this again, so I did.

John Pelkey:

And, by the way, broke your record as well, the next year.

Carissa Galloway:

Yeah, I wanna talk really briefly about the Boston Marathon, because they have always made a huge push for inclusivity in terms of all levels of athletes. What does that mean to you?

Wendy Larsen:

I mean it means everything to me to have races that are really inclusive, that you know include hand cycles and push rounds and duos, and visually impaired athletes and mobility impaired athletes. All of that Because, you know, all we want to do is we want to be included, we want to be able to go out there and race with our friends and our family and be a part of it. So, and it hasn't always been the case that races and still to this day, it's still not always the case that races are inclusive and welcoming to adaptive athletes. So, yeah, I mean it, just it means so much because otherwise, you know, it would be a matter of me sitting at home and just, you know, watching all of this on TV and seeing friends. You know pictures and videos and posts about it and knowing that it's something that I just wasn't allowed to be a part of. So that's all we really want is just to be included and respected as athletes.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, and there are, sad to say, and I you know, logistically there are obviously issues with this, but there are a lot of races that don't recognize hand cycle winners, and I would say even even our run Disney race, and that has to be a little bit discouraging at this point.

Wendy Larsen:

It is. It's a weird place to be as a hand cyclist because technically, a hand cycle it is adaptive cycling, not adaptive running. Push rim is adaptive running technically. Where this becomes an issue is 95% of hand cyclists are not going to be able to compete with able-bodied upright cyclists. A hand cycle you simply cannot get the same power from a hand cycle that you can in upright bike because you think about the muscle mass in your arms compared to the muscle mass in your legs and there's a huge difference. Your thighs, you know all of those muscles they're twice as big as the muscles in your arms. So it's not a fair comparison. And hand cyclists they're just gonna be so much slower than bikes. So if we go to cycling races, you won't even see the rest of the field and you'll be back there by yourself all of it. Nobody wants to do that.

Wendy Larsen:

A lot of people will say, well, you should just be in a push rim. The problem with that is most of the people like me that kind of start out running races that then need to transition to being an adaptive athlete. You're in a very weird position when you are using a push rim wheelchair. So you have no back support. Your legs are tucked up underneath you. You're using your core a lot, so you have to have a stable core, a stable spine. So for me, because my spine is super unstable, my hips are very unstable, my knees are very unstable, it would cause major, major issues if I tried to race in a push rim. And that's one of the things my PM and R doctor, who's incredibly supportive of me, is told me all along is you cannot race in a push rim, you have to be in a hand cycle, because that position gives me the back support that I need to be able to safely compete. So then you have this issue. Well, if you're a hand cyclist, what are you supposed to do? You can't be in a push rim. That positioning will not work with your disability.

Wendy Larsen:

But then cycling races. You can't go join a mainstream cycling race because the vast majority of hand cyclists will never be fast enough to do that. So then you have hand cycles and you know marathons, half marathons, that sort of thing. So For me, I have gotten to a point where I am now able to go compete in cycling races, but that's not necessarily normal. Most hand cyclists are going to be in marathons, half marathons. So yeah, we all wish they would recognize us and give us awards, because we're out there doing the absolute best we can, doing what we can based on the type of disability that we have, and working our butts off every bit as hard as the runners or the push room athletes or anybody else out there. So it's yeah, it is frustrating, but that's kind of, you know, one of those things. All we can do is just continue to advocate and advocate and try to make people understand how hard we work and why we are hands up.

Carissa Galloway:

I will say for us, I think there's an awkwardness because, you know, john and I aren't usually at the finish line as much anymore, but when we used to be, you might have heard me explaining to people this athlete's going to be our first athlete across the line. They're not going to get a banner because they have this, and then we're having to justify why someone oh, we're going to celebrate them, but then this person gets confetti and everybody's going to yell a lot louder and it always it does feel uncomfortable. So I want how can we better support you as announcers?

Wendy Larsen:

I think, just recognizing us as congratulating us, and recognizing us as the first place hand cyclist to finish. This is our first hand cyclist to cross and then, you know, advocating for us with friend Disney when you get the opportunity, you know. But just recognizing us as you know, legitimate athletes, I, you know, I train well. I probably, with my training, which is it is the exception I probably train harder than anybody else out there. So just because we're in a hand cycle doesn't mean we're doing it because it's easier, because I assure you it's not so, you know. It's just that recognition and not just blowing us off thinking, oh, what they're doing, it must be easy Because they're so fast they're just already done.

Carissa Galloway:

It must be easy, and I think that's I'm so glad that you're sharing all this, because I know that our listeners and our and John and I included in all of our announcers we will be better supporters, because it is easy to say, oh, this person did a 5k and you know however many minutes, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah, but to know what it took to have the courage to get there and to finish their ace. Thank you, wendy, for making us all better for that.

Wendy Larsen:

You're welcome. It's good to have people that are eager to learn and listen. Yeah, absolutely. We can ask for it.

John Pelkey:

Everybody is presented with a different challenge and I think we should celebrate everyone who works their way through that challenge to finish first, second, third or finish at all. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Though I will say, ed Rondes, we do have some people who do their best to be the final finisher, because they can be very, very celebrated. Hey, listen, recently you took another challenge Race Across the West. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Wendy Larsen:

I don't know if I can talk about it a little bit, but I can talk about it a lot.

John Pelkey:

That's fine too.

Wendy Larsen:

Okay, so I guess you're going to have to go. I won the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the same year and I needed a new challenge. I needed a bigger challenge. I love my training, I love the long distances, so I started looking into doing more cycling races with cyclists instead of running races, and my coach and I came across the cycling race called Race Across America and the companion race to it, race Across the West. These races are ultra cycling, ultra endurance races. Race Across America is considered the most difficult ultra race in the world.

Wendy Larsen:

Race Across the West starts in Oceanside, california, and it ends in Durango, colorado. It's 925 miles and it has 56,000 feet of climbing. Oh wow. And this is. It's not a stage race. This isn't like the Tour de France, where you get to go sleep in a hotel every night. You race around the clock nonstop, and so I am just crazy enough or stupid enough, I don't know that.

Wendy Larsen:

I decided I wanted to do this. So no female hand cyclist has ever done this race before, or race Across America or anything. No hand cyclist at all has ever done race Across the West. So yeah, I decided that's what I was going to do and I asked my coach and he said yeah, I think you can, if any. I think his words to me were if any female can do this, it's you. So I said challenge accepted. So we started training for it and I got it created together and we devoted the whole year to nothing but Race Across the West, basically, and June 11th I took off from Oceanside, california, and six days later I was in Durango, colorado. Wow. So it was the most difficult thing I've ever done and also the most amazing and most epic thing I've ever done.

Carissa Galloway:

That is just so impressive. The continual, the distance, the altitude, everything that's just an amazing accomplishment. I want to jump back a little bit to Run Disney because when you set that Boston record I remember seeing on the Facebook groups and everything so much support for you. What do you love about Run Disney races?

Wendy Larsen:

It's the people. I mean it's the people and the support hands down. So I haven't been participating in a lot of Run Disney races because I've been so, so focused on training for Race Across the West. But those are my people, the Run Disney people, the Role Disney people, those are my people and they always will be so.

Wendy Larsen:

Even during Race Across the West one of the Run Disney groups, they had a thread going for me where they were all running along with me and they would post their daily mileage and dedicate those miles to me until they got to the 930 miles that I was doing and they were constantly commenting and checking in with my husband, who was my crew chief, and texting and all of that.

Wendy Larsen:

So one of the things that my husband and my crew was doing, we had a headset so I could communicate with my crew in the chase vehicle behind me and when I'm climbing those just insane, insane climbs and up into the Rocky Mountains, my husband is on my headset going through some of those comments and posts in the Run Disney groups and reading them to me and that helped so much, so so much, get me through some of those really tough days. So it's such an amazing supportive community and to me people love the medals and the character stops and all of that, but for me it's the people that's really what it's all about. So in fact in January I'm not registered for Marathon Weekends, but my husband and I did just recently book a room so that we can come cheer for everybody and see everybody Marathon.

John Pelkey:

Weekends. That really is something that's unique because we know other athletes who do the same thing or they volunteer because they're not going to be running that year for whatever reason. You're right, it's absolutely. It really is a remarkable community and we learn more and more how remarkable year in and year out, and I think it's really a great way to get out to Chris and I during COVID to do some video just encouraging folks for races that they put together.

Wendy Larsen:

I guess I listened to the videos that y'all put together during COVID. Oh yeah, oh yeah.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, it really is remarkable. All right, Now you are in a unique position for this. What advice would you give to people who might be interested in hand cycling, either as a first sport for them or as a transition? Somebody like you who transitions from running. What's the best advice you could give them, because there just seem to be so many pun intended moving pieces involved in that change.

Wendy Larsen:

There are, and I think probably the most difficult piece is actually finding a hand cycle to begin with. So there are different organizations out there that have loaner hand cycles available to get you started, and it really depends on where you live, where in the country. Achilles International is a great organization that has chapters worldwide and they often have loaner hand cycles. So I usually that's my first go to when people ask me this question, I ask okay, where are you? See, if you have an Achilles International chapter near you, if you do get in touch with them because you don't want to spend $10 or $20,000 on a hand cycle until you know if this is something that's going to work for you, so you can find a loaner hand cycle of some sort to get started in. I really think that's the best way to go. There are also Facebook groups where you can buy and sell used hand cycles, so that's another good avenue to get started with. And then you just have to be persistent and reach out to other people that are hand cyclists or coaches or volunteers with Achilles International until you find somebody that can answer some of those questions for you.

Wendy Larsen:

Unfortunately, it is difficult in some areas to find a lot of support and a lot of help. If you're in a major city it's a lot easier. I'm in the Greater Houston area so we have resources here. But if you're in a smaller town it's not always that easy. So I spend a lot of time answering questions and helping new hand cyclists. But it's people that reach out to me, that somehow know to reach out to me, and a lot of times people don't.

Wendy Larsen:

So it's, but it can be difficult. It can be difficult and you have to be persistent. And if it is not working and you're not finding the resources you need, you have got to be persistent. You've got to be a go-getter and you've got to keep working to find the help. Find organizations that can help, find people that can help and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're afraid to ask for help, you're not going to go very far, because it's not. I wish I knew every person out there that needs help, but I don't know. If you reach out to me and ask for help, I'm happy to help, but you just have to make sure you go ask for help. Find that help.

Carissa Galloway:

Well, thank you for being that great resource for people, and I know we've had other run Disney athletes and I make that transition. I know Don I believe Bronwyn as well kind of made that transition in there too, so a shout out to them. I want to know from your viewpoint we ask this question of everybody in the podcast and we get such an amazing variety of just truly emotional, sometimes funny, all different across the spectrum answers. What is the most inspiring thing that you have seen at a race?

Wendy Larsen:

So I'm going to go in a very different direction, because I'm around adaptive athletes all the time. Everybody out there has some incredible, amazing, inspiring story and I just I can't single one out. So I'm going to go in a totally different direction and say it was the places that I saw during race across the West, the landscapes. We were out on these little roads in the middle of nowhere and going through Navajo Nation and Monument Valley and the deserts of Arizona, and it was the most awe inspiring landscapes and scenery that I have ever seen.

Wendy Larsen:

I think it was actually the day that we hit Monument Valley and I dropped down into Monument Valley and I'm just looking around me and it is literally the real life. Radiator springs and I just started bawling as I'm riding along. I just was just so inspired. The beauty of being out there and the appreciation that you have for the landscape and everything around you and the opportunity to be in the middle of it and on me my tiny little hand cycle and all of this majesty around it is inspiring. It is really an inspiring moment for me.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, all those great John Ford westerns filmed in Monument Valley. I mean something we've all seen forever, and then to see it in real life.

Carissa Galloway:

Is it in forest gump when he's running? Does he run through there?

John Pelkey:

Yes, yeah, oh yeah.

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah, yeah.

John Pelkey:

Wayne's movie the searchers, and when he opens his door out into Monument Valley, it's one of the great shots in the history of Cinema. Well, I'm listen, wendy, I'm sure a lot of people are gonna want to follow your story and I we buried the lead about this, but your story will actually be coming to the screen in the form of a documentary. If you could tell us a little bit about that and then let us know where people can follow your story outside of the documentary okay.

Wendy Larsen:

So back in the spring a Graduate student at NYU reached out to me about doing his graduate thesis About my story and race across the West, and we chatted back and forth and I got more information from him. And so he has been down in Texas off and on since March I believe, doing a lot of interviews with me, filming me, interviewing my doctors, just following me around everywhere my day-to-day life and following my training and how I train, all of that. And then I had a film crew that actually went out to California, met me out there and Followed me through out race across the West. They got all of the good and bad and, you know, because it was not all, it was not all Rainbows and roses, let me assure you it was ridiculously hard and they, you know, they filmed all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly.

Wendy Larsen:

And then he's actually back in town this week. He is, you know, doing follow-up interviews and, you know, doing the two-month check, a check in with me to see how I have recovered from all of that. So, yeah, it's been interesting. He's making a documentary about it and the movie will premiere in February in New York City at a student film festival at NYU and then from there it will likely make the film festival rounds, but we don't have any information on that yet, so shout out to the NYU Tisch school and I have some friends who have kids who've gone there.

John Pelkey:

They do amazing work. When you say a student project, folks, this is as professional as it gets.

Wendy Larsen:

Yes, yeah, it's, I did a lot of research into it. This is actually part of the news documentary program and very specific to documentary filmmaking and Incredibly highly respected and like these student films they're putting out are winning all kinds of crazy awards.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, it's the tie, it's the cream of the crop, it's. It's really the top among a couple of handful of places that they do.

Wendy Larsen:

Yeah, and he's been so professional and taking so much Care to learn about me and my story. It's been. It's been Really cool to see how the process so far has evolved and there's still a lot more to go. So you know they're they work with the graduate music composition students that are in their screen scoring and A graduate program to actually score the film, so it will have a professional score for the film and everything. So yeah, it's, I'm excited about it and it'll be interesting for me to see because I know, you know, he was interviewing my crew along the way and I have no clue what all of that was about and what my crew was going through, because part of their job was to Keep any issues that came up from me, so I was focused on writing and nothing else. So I'm sure there will be stuff I'll see that I didn't even know happened.

Carissa Galloway:

So I'm excited about it. Yeah well, we're excited to see it. Make sure, let us know when it's out, let us know how we can share and support you. But, wendy, thank you for sharing with us just a little bit of your journey. I feel like we barely scratched the surface on all you've accomplished and I know that there will be so much more to come. But we look forward and I know the athletes look forward to seeing you cheer everybody on at Disney in January, and we will be keeping our eyes on you as your journey continues to grow and inspire. So, wendy Larson, thank you so much for joining us on 3, 2, 1 go.

John Pelkey:

Thank you.

Wendy Larsen:

I appreciate you're having me All right athletes.

Carissa Galloway:

Here's the dream time to shape up your diet, harissa. Give them the goods. All right. Today we're gonna talk about a topic that I know we're gonna talk about more because there's so many facets of it to talk about. We're gonna just scratch the surface of Vegetarian diets, john. What is your thoughts on a vegetarian diet?

John Pelkey:

Well, as you know, when I married, when I started dating my wife, she was a pescetarian, only ate seafood. She didn't eat a red meat, pork, chicken, any foul, and we've actually changed that up. We generally only do turkey and chicken and Seafood, fish and seafood. So I I wish quite honestly, like many things in my life, I wish that I could switch to a vegetarian diet, because I, you know, one of my passions is animals and the way that we treat our livestock and that, I think, is in many, many instances, reprehensible and a side of the, the health issues, those social issues are important to me. So we try to do two vegetarian meals per week At a minimum and I am in favor of it, though I do know that there are a lot of things involved which you're gonna tell us about yeah, and I think a lot of times what you're doing is exactly the right thing.

Carissa Galloway:

I think our American diet is we create meals. We grew up thinking about how do we cook. Meat was the first thing, and then we built everything around it. So sometimes it's just that mental shift and how do I plan my meals and eat if I'm not including meat? And I think for me too that's a challenge. So for you and for other people out there, it is okay to do Meatless Monday only or do two sort of meatless meals.

Carissa Galloway:

A lot of that's called the flexitarian diet. So one I think is like let's go with that, let's let go of the stigma. I mean they're all vegetarian or I'm not. It's okay to be in that middle range, striving for more meals as well.

Carissa Galloway:

But when we look at it through a health lens, I do say and I have said this for years that I think there may be a time where that you know how many years in the future is the primary diet is that we see that there's so many benefits of that vegetarian diet because Science shows that there's a reduced risk of chronic diseases. So if you are getting in a well-balanced vegetarian diet, it's going to lower your risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, and that's because plant-based diets. They're usually lower in saturated fats and cholesterol. They're higher in fiber, antioxidants and essential nutrients, which leads to better health outcomes.

Carissa Galloway:

Vegetarian diets, when done correctly and I'm going to put a big asterisk there can help with weight loss. It's not as simple as cutting up meat and you're automatically going to lose weight, because sometimes what happens is people put in more processed foods. But if you are getting in that well-balanced diet that we're talking about and not overly relying on carbs, it does help in weight management because it's lower in calories and saturated fat as well. And then I talk a lot about digestive health, because, my goodness John, when our gut feels good, don't we just like we're less grumpy, like out of the gate?

John Pelkey:

Right. One of the things I've noticed growing older is people talk about oh you know, if you have a couple of drinks now, it takes a while to With your hangover to get over it, or something like that. I find, as I get older, if I overeat in any way, that is, I feel worse than I would, you know, as a college student, going to a beer party or something. So, yes, my gut Speaks to me more often than I care to admit.

Carissa Galloway:

I mean this is off off the rails a little bit, but do you feel like I especially do? As we go through dopey, like by the end of it my stomach is like what day is it? When are we eating? Why are we eating like? I have to be really conscious about fiber particularly.

John Pelkey:

Right, we talk about lack of sleep and we always bring that up. People ask what's the most difficult thing. We always bring up lack of sleep, but Nutrition and eating would be a close second.

Carissa Galloway:

Yeah. So vegetarian diets, though my point being is that they help with digestive health because they are so rich in fiber, which supports healthy digestion, prevents constipation I'm a dietitian, I'm allowed to talk about all these things and supports the gut microbiome, which we've talked about with probiotics. That connects then to immune and mental function. So a lot of benefits the plant-based diet and we're not gonna go pick sides of this. But if I, if you need another reason, if I can impart on you another reason for Thinking about adding in some more plant-based meals its environmental sustainability. Animal agriculture Contributes so much to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and water pollution, so when you're choosing vegetarian meals, you're reducing your carbon footprint and that takes less land, less resources to think about just just the earth and picking some vegetarian meals. And, as you said, there's other animal reasons as well. But if you're on track to thinking about more vegetarian meals or you just want to learn more, look at your diet and see where you could Add in more plant-based foods. I'm happy to help you do that.

Carissa Galloway:

We always talk about healthier you. It's my 12 week online nutrition course. You sign up, there's online modules and videos, you can watch meal plans, but right now I'm doing a fall bonus. So when you sign up, you're gonna get a three-day free meal plan. When you sign up, email me and let me know hey, I want a vegetarian meal plan, or hey, this is what I want to focus on in my meal plan. You're gonna get that three-day meal plan just for you, along with all the other meal plans and recipes that are in healthier you, monthly Q&A chats with me, as well as support in the galloway training hub. So go to gallowaycoursecom, sign up with code podcast and get your meal plan today.

Carissa Galloway:

Athletes listen up it's mail call time. Announce a free present.

John Pelkey:

All right, thank you, sarge. Today's question comes from Diana. Via Instagram, she's training for a first-half marathon. Congratulations for committing to that Diana. She wants to know what should she have on her in terms of nutrition or hydration for race day. Should she have a hydration vest, and which snacks? What snacks should she bring?

Carissa Galloway:

Well, diana Kudos, for training for your first half and for thinking about nutrition. I say it over and over again you can't recover from poor nutrition choices during your race, so you're doing great. What you should have on you in terms of nutrition hydration a race day is what you've been training with. So when your runs go over that 45 60 minute market home, what are you drinking and what are you eating? You're gonna want to bring that with you. I don't think necessarily, if you're concerned about water, that you'll need to wear that hydration vest. I would maybe bring a bottle of water for you to have with you on the bus and while you're waiting. We do have pre-race water, but I always like to make sure that I'm covered myself, and then there should be ample water stops where you'll be able to stop and get hydration. The thing to really think about is what nutrition am I going to take during that race, because we do have some on course at Disney. It's, it's well researched. It's race nutrition that works, whether it's sport beans, whether it's honey stinger, you know whatever it happens to be, because it does sometimes change From year to year based on who our sponsors are.

Carissa Galloway:

But my recommendation is bring the race nutrition You've been training with, and bring enough to have for the entirety of the race. Probably a little snack of that, whether it's half a banana or your goos. Choose honey, whatever 15 minutes before the race and then in 30 minute increments as it goes on. But do what you've trained with, diana. If you're training with a certain food, if you're training with that, make sure you're having it. The only time I would say you want to bring your hydration vest is if you're is there's a specific Hydration beverage you're using, whether it could be genuine. Can liquid IV anything like that noon and that's what you want to use? Then you would want to bring your own vest, but I don't know this answer. Check with the Disney regulations as to what you are able to bring and wear with you. John, did you ever, you know, go on a long enough training, run or walk or hike where you needed nutrition during that? I don't mean that in a negative way, I just I'm wondering.

John Pelkey:

Wow.

John Pelkey:

I'm the queen of backhanded slap if you ever done anything that would require that you you eat anything, you out of shape? I have never actually gone on a run, but the the furthest I've ever run is 3.1 miles, so I've never done anything and I had to hydrate throughout that. But I did actually follow your advice prior to the race, having a banana, had a little power bar with me just before I started, so I haven't done that, but I may have to. Well, I'm gonna have to look into that in the future as you as you up the up the ante.

John Pelkey:

Well, thank you Yep. Thank you Diana great question.

Carissa Galloway:

That's the block training train, that hydration nutrition. Send me a message on Instagram if you have any questions and for all of you out there, we want to tell your story, we want people to get to know you. We want to know the why behind you can email us at 321 go podcast, at gmailcom. Send us a message on Instagram at 321 go podcast. We will share your story. And I want to shout out Holly and Jordan To run Disney runners from Central Florida and they were out there doing the 29. Oh 29 snow basin event. So well done, ladies. And don't forget. If you've got tips, send them to us, rate us, review us, keep sharing the podcast because we want more people to get to hear great stories like Wendy's.

John Pelkey:

Yeah, and if you have tips for people running their first dopey because I know we have a lot of folks out there who have done that a Number of times or their first run Disney race or race in anywhere, their first 5k, 10k, whatever, if you think you have good tips, please let us know those. We may feature them and discuss your tips on a future episode. Who knows, also share your story that you might hear in a future episode, as Carissa said. Once again, email us at 321. Go podcast at gmailcom. As always, everybody, thanks for listening.

Inspirational Athlete and Travel Adventures
Achieving Goals and Overcoming Failure
Overcoming Rare Diseases and Achieving Goals
Overcoming Pain and Breaking Barriers
Challenges and Successes of Hand Cycling
Weight Struggles and Marathon Victory
Inclusivity and Recognition in Adaptive Sports
Ultra Cycling Race With Supportive Community
Support and Power of Vegetarian Diets
Benefits of Incorporating Plant-Based Meals
Sharing Tips and Stories for Races