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VegFest Speaker Spotlight: Ruth Heidrich, PhD

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April 30, 2012

Ruth Heidrich, PhD, is a vegan ironman triathlete and breast cancer survivor. Following is a preview of Ruth’s story and food philosophy for athletic training. To hear more from Ruth, check out her two talks, "A Race For Life: From Cancer to the Ironman" and "Senior Fitness: Challenging Aging” at this year’s VegFest, September 22 and 23.

Q. How did you become an ironman triathlete? Who or what inspired you most?

A. At the time of my diagnosis of breast cancer, I'd already been running marathons, so I was quite fit and found it hard to believe that I could have cancer. It was confirmed by a number of second opinions, so I wondered, perhaps cynically, whether being even fitter would make a difference when, by coincidence, I happened to see one of the first ever Ironman Triathlons on TV. I decided that being even fitter couldn't hurt, so decided to add swimming and cycling to my usual exercise routine. As for my doing the Ironman myself, I thought that since I already had the marathon part handled, all I had to do was get competitive in the swimming and cycling. I had also just enrolled in the vegan diet research study conducted by John McDougall, MD, and was already seeing the benefits of the improved diet, such as more energy, more endurance, better sleep, elimination of my arthritis, to say nothing of the reversing of the cancer (hot spots on the bone scan faded, bone pain stopped and liver enzymes normalized). When I found out that, at that point, no woman as old as I (age 47) had ever done an Ironman, plus no cancer patient either, I decided that this was going to be my challenge: to show that the vegan diet was powerful enough to not only beat the cancer but also to complete the Ironman Triathlon! And to show that it wasn't a fluke, I did it again the following year, and again for a total of six times, plus keeping up with marathons and even doing a number of ultra-marathons.

Q. With Northwest VEG’s upcoming Race for the Animals, we're talking a lot about eating the right foods before and after an athletic event. What are some of your favorite pre- and post- race meals?

A. Since I don't eat before a race, there are only post-race meals, which are no different from any other meal, although at race finish lines, there is usually a fine array of fresh fruit such as bananas and oranges, which I do load up on. These are perfect for replenishing the carbs that have been burned up in the race. All my meals, including the dinner the night before a race, are basically the same, as I concentrate on leafy greens, fruits and veggies, and, therefore, am "carbo-loading" continuously.

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