Saturday, July 18, 2009

Carbo Loading

Almost 10 years ago I ran the New York City Marathon. It started out as the most exhilarating experience. As I pounded through the boroughs, thousands cheered when I ran by. That's because I kept pace with four 50-something Brits dressed like the Teletubbies, and yes they carried purses.

Thankfully, the screams weren't all for Tinky Winky. I had a lot of supportive family and friends who followed me along the route and kept my spirits up. I had trained for five months and felt great. But in the Bronx, my legs began to feel numb, my mind clouded over, and my stride went from confident to baby steps. My body was so fatigued, I couldn't imagine running eight more miles.

I had hit the wall. Big time.

Hitting the wall is the term for what happens when the body loses too much glycogen. It's a common occurance during a marathon and can be alleviated by consuming more carbohydrates before and during the run.

To this day, I don't know how I made it through the final hills of Central Park to the finish line. With a quarter mile to go, I even got my legs back and sprinted to the end, where my family was like, "We were worried, the Teletubbies finished 40 minutes ago."

But when I look back on the experience now, I don't think about how a bunch of men twice my age, wearing pastel-colored fur from head to toe, smoked me. No I don't think about that at all. Really, I don't.

What I realize is that I was not eating nearly enough leading up to and during the race. I trained during a hot and sticky summer while living in an apartment with no a/c. While I stuck to the training schedule - and I credit this for the mental fortitude to push through my pain - it kind of killed my appetite. I lost a lot of weight. I can't say that I minded being able to fit into my skinny jeans, but in hindsight this was a big red flag that I was burning way more calories than I was consuming.

Plus I was eating a lot of processed crap, like Rice-a-Roni (a food staple in my 20s), and I made little effort to eat the right mix of protein and carbs, which is essential if you want to perform well in a marathon or other endurance activity. It's not that I didn't know what to eat, it was more that I thought my body could handle it. I was wrong.

I am proud of finishing the marathon, but I don't plan to run another one. I don't think my body is cut out to run 26.2 miles. Nothing should be that painful. Maybe it would have been different if I had eaten better. I think so, but I'll never know. In the meantime, I have run some halfs, 10-milers, and my favorite distance - the 10K, which is 6.2 miles.

In fact I have a 10K coming up in about nine hours. That's what inspired me to make this dish tonight. I clipped it from the August 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine, with a few substitutions.

Linguine with Squash and Chickpeas (the magazine calls for zucchini, I used yellow squash)
3/4 bag of linguine
2T olive oil
2 squash (the mag calls for 3 small zucchini), cut into thin half moons
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 t crushed red pepper
grated asiago cheese (the mag calls for parmesan)

Cook the pasta; reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water; drain; return pasta to pot. While you're cooking the pasta, heat the olive oil in a skllet, add the squash and salt. Cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chickpeas, garlic, and red pepper, and cook for 2-3 mintes. Toss the pasta with the reserved water and mix with the vegetables. Add grated cheese.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I brought two zucchinis and a bag of sugar snap peas on my trip out west. The first zucchini made it into the veggie fajitas on the first night of a camping trip in the Olympic mountains. I snacked on a few before they went into the pot, and they tasted so good! But then again, food always tastes good after a long hike. The second zucchini went into the mac and cheese on night #2. Yum!

After the camping trip, I stayed at Rachel's in Seattle. She has a gorgeous backyard with the most amazing garden. It felt like my own private CSA. I snacked on plump, juicy raspberries and crunchy sugar snap peas. It helped make up for the fact that I had to abandon some of my CSA veggies at home before the trip.

On the last leg of my journey, I visted Emily, Ben, and Oceanne in Sausalito. We had a delicious dinner at the Michelin-rated Japanese restaurant Sushi Ran. But I must give a shout out to Ben for his inventive "French pizza." On homemade dough, he topped the spinach, corn, and onions - with three eggs.


Late Start

My first summer CSA delivery came and went a week and a half ago. Lots of greens - lettuce, spinach, green garlic, zucchini, sugar snap peas, mint, as well as mushrooms, rhubarb, and strawberries.

I was so happy to see all of those fresh vegetables after such a long, cold winter - finally! But it seemed like my CSA got a late start this year. Since I get a half share, I only pick up every other week. This year I am in the second group, which means I started the second week instead of the first, so I think that's why it felt later to me.

Unfortunately, my delivery came two days before a weeklong vacation to the west coast to visit some friends. I didn't have much time to eat all the goods, so the first night I made a 3-course meal: my favorite strawberry and feta salad, sauteed chicken with spinach and green garlic, and a rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

I always think of the early CSA deliveries as very green and leafy, but that night belonged to the ruby red stalks of rhubarb. I made the recipe straight from the Homegrown Wisconsin CSA newsletter. It truly satisfied. The oatmeal in the crust gave it an extra crunch, although I will go easy on the sugar next time.

Rhubarb Crisp Bars (from Homegrown Wisconsin)

Top and bottom crust
1 Cup flour
3/4 Cup oatmeal (uncooked)
1 Cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup butter (melted)

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon butter (softened)
1 egg (beaten)
2 cups rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

Mix flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, and butter until crumbly. Press 1/2 into greased 9” square pan. Add rhubarb. Beat egg. Blend sugar, flour nutmeg and butter. Add beaten egg, beat until smooth. Pour over rhubarb. Top with other half of crumb mixture. Press mixture down lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Great with vanilla ice cream!


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