Monday, December 12, 2011

The Injury That Shall Not Be Named...Until Now



WARNING!  This post contains language that may offend.  It's necessary language considering the topic but it is a little off color and describes personal body bits.


The standard long distance running site gag is of a panting dude, white running singlet saturated with sweat and stained with rivulets of blood originating from the poor guy's nipples.   The pain on his face is real.

Here's the thing, this isn't a joke.  Not when it's happening to you.

If you're just starting in on the long distance journey, you have NO idea how many freaky places can chafe.  I'm telling you, the options for chafe are ENDLESS.

I have scarring above my breastbone that is so severe, someone once asked if I'd participated in a Lakota Sun Dance chest piercing ceremony.  Imagine the surprise and confusion when I revealed I was sporting permanent chaffing injuries from the Honolulu Marathon.

My particular chafe region is irritated by the constant rubbing of my "seam free" singlet against my skin.  And while the manufacturer promised that their moisture slicking, $100 flat-seamed miracle running tank was engineered to prevent any and all chafing, I have scars that prove otherwise.

Other common areas afflicted by the ugly rub are the inner thighs, between the toes, the nipples (we've discussed this already), underarms, the upper back where errant tags rub, rub, rub their way to painful irritation.  If there's friction, there's an opportunity for chafe and when there's chafe, there's pain.  For women, a well-made sports bra eliminates nipple irritation, hence the predominance of men with the injury.  Few men wear running bras.

And there is another injury particular to men that's due to the "dork dangle."  If men don't secure their junk on a long run with a cup or tightey whiteys, I needn't elaborate on the potential pain awaiting you.

A few precautions will save you from unneeded chafing, pain and scarring:  (1)  wear moisture whisking clothing built for runners.  I know the idea of wearing natural materials probably appeals to you immensely but nothing is worse than running in a cotton t-shirt that retains the moisture, becomes weighted down and then proceeds to rub against you in a criminal manner.   (2) Secure your valuables.  Spend good money on a well constructed running bra built for your specific frame.  Throw out bras that are losing their elasticity.  And men, no boxers and no commando.  Put away your tackle.  (3)  Lube up.  Smother your vulnerable bits with Vaseline  or BodyGlide.  For long runs, I store travel Bodyglide in my running fanny pack for reapplications.

Take away this one little irritant and you'll be able to concentrate not on the pain of chafing but the screaming in your hammys and achilles instead.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lost Music

Changing socks, shoes and pants at the 8 mile marker

I run with music.  It motivates me.  A single song can provide the push I need to finish the last few miles of a marathon.  One perfect melody can transform my dead legs from jelly to electrified pistons.  I'm dependent, addicted to tunes that provide a lyrical aid to help me finish long distance journeys.

At the runner's holding stall of the New York Marathon this November, I had my earbuds firmly in place, bass driving a beat into my legs, urging me to the slow shuffle that would take us to the start line. I queued up my first song and hit play to urge my bop over the strip that would trigger the tracker on the chip attached to my racing bib.  But with my first stride across the start, I felt a tug at my ears and then an alarming quiet.  No music.  I took a peak behind me and saw my i-pod on the ground, in the process of being pulverized under the feet of a sea of thousands of runners.  The soundtrack I'd painstakingly constructed to pull me along the 26.2 miles through New York's boroughs was lost forever.

Let this be a lesson to everyone, if you become dependent on music, you'll be utterly lost when it disappears unexpectedly.  Thankfully, when musical disaster struck me, I hit the runner's ultimate musical motherlode:  The City of New York.  Through each borough, music and cheers envelope you in a live wall of sound.  This one day of the year, when miles of the city are shut down to traffic, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Harlem all become a vibrating street party, a celebration of the glorious city that never sleeps and the outrageously generous inhabitants who spend their morning and afternoon lining the streets, urging thousands and thousands of runners to the finish.

Had I shut myself off, barricaded myself with music, I'd have missed one of the most touching experiences of my life.  The beauty of the city and it's people carried me straight through to the end, across the finish line.

Finished.

So enjoy music on your runs but take time to listen to the reality that sings around you.  You'll be a better runner for it.


----

And now a recipe to help you to the finish...

Watercress Soup

This is a soup packed with nutrients and energy.  It's insanely delicious, which should be a crime for a soup that is so damn healthy.  Add a poached egg and you have the perfect meal





INGREDIENTS
(makes 2 servings)



2 large bunches Watercress or any other type of "cress"
1 large potato, very thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups low sodium, organic chicken broth
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
salt to taste
paprika to taste

1 large egg

PROCEDURE

-Place watercress, sliced potatoes and garlic sliced in a large stock put.  Cover with the chicken stock and milk until just covered.

-Simmer over medium-low heat with the lid on for approximately or until the potatoes are tender.

-Carefully pour the soup into a blender and blend until the soup is smooth and no large chunks of watercress or potato remain.

-Return to stock pot and season with salt to taste.  Keep warm

-To poach the egg, bring water and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a simmer in a small pot.

-Crack an egg into a teacup, make sure not to break the yolk.

-Using a spoon, stir the water to create a whirlpool.  Gently lower egg into the water and poach until the whites become opaque and no longer runny.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to the soup bowl.

-Ladle the soup around the egg into the bowl.

-Sprinkle the top of the soup with a pinch of paprika.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Curried Lentil Stew: Complex Carbo Load


There's one smidgen of wisdom that I've kept with me from my childhood years strapped to the yolk of our family's adherence to the macrobiotic diet:  complex carbohydrates are your friend because they burn slowly.  This is especially important if you're a distance runner.

The concept that whole grains, especially combined with nutrient rich beans like garbanzos, lentils and black beans along with a hefty dose of leafy veggies, are the backbone of a healthy diet was sledge hammered into me from elementary to high school.  It's a testament to the unholy rigidity of the macrobiotic diet and my genetically predisposed addiction to simple sugars and butter that it was in the sphere of diet (not boys, booze or general tomfoolery) that  I rebelled as a young one.

But I've got to hand it to my mother, a marathoner herself, she knew a thing or two about fueling for the very long haul.  And if I didn't appreciate her complex carb and whole grain wisdom as a kid, I certainly benefit from it today when logging double digit days.  It was pure happenstance that this became my go-to meal the night before a long run or a race.  After years of running, I knew it couldn't be a mistake that every time I made the lentil stew for dinner the night before, I'd have an outstanding run the following morning.

Of course I've meddled with her recipe to comport with my general food sensibilities and with my own particular running needs:  Chicken stock for flavor.  Curry, turmeric, garlic and onion to work on my ITBS swelling and coconut oil for all it's wonderful coronary and taste benefits.  But no matter my additions,  the concept and intent are all there.  So is the love.

Curried Lentil Stew
(serves 8)

I play with this recipe depending on what's in the pantry and the veggies I've got on hand that need a home.  Some days I add a serving of whole wheat penne to the mix.  More often, I add short grain organic brown rice.  I've been known to poach a chicken breast, shred it by hand and stir it into the pot.  Or chop up that languishing, single chicken sausage that never made it to the breakfast table.  I crumble the last nub of goat cheese over a steaming bowl for a tangy and creamy kick.  If it's in the pantry, I'll add a 1/4 cup of organic coconut milk to Thai it up a notch.  You get the idea, this is in Aesop fable of a soup.  Stick to the underlying recipe, play a little with what's on hand and you'll end up with something delicious.

INGREDIENTS

Du Puy Organic Lentils (16 ounces)


1 organic yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 organic carrot, finely diced
1 organic stalk of celery, finely diced
2 tablespoons of curry powder (plus a tablespoon extra of straight turmeric powder if you're feeling in need of an extra boost)
4 cups organic LOW SODIUM chicken stock
2 tablespoons Organic Virgin Coconut oil
1 can organic diced tomatoes
1 scotch bonnet pepper, minced (optional)
1 organic red pepper, finely diced
1 bunch organic broccolini, stalks removed (or 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

TO SERVE
brown rice or whole wheat penne
poached eggs

PROCEDURE
•Melt coconut oil in a large, heavy saucier pan.  Add onions, garlic, carrot and celery and saute over medium heat until tender.  Add lentils, curry (and turmeric if using) and scotch bonnet peppers and stir  until the lentils are coated.
•Add the chicken stock.  Simmer until the beans are tender but not breaking apart.  (NOTE:  it's imperative that you use low sodium stock.  This may be a matter of contention for some but I've found it to be very true:  adding salt at the beginning of the cooking process of a dried bean keeps the bean from softening and insures a crunchy texture no matter how long you cook.  The same is true for adding acids too early into the process.  Wait until the beans have reached the perfect tenderness and then add salt and acids to the mix).
•Add the diced tomatoes (drain any excess liquid if they are excessively juicy), apple cider vinegar, diced pepper and broccolini.  Stir over low heat just until the broccolini turns bright green.  Season to taste and serve with brown rice/ penne and a few poached eggs.  Run like hell on wheels in the morning.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Late Summer Salad

I always begin the gardening season with such wonderful intentions.  I lie down to sleep in early spring with visions of elephant garlic and heirloom veggies in my head.  I awake in early fall with the dread of having to harvest and somehow consume or preserve thousands of tomatoes that have chosen to ripen simultaneously while a lone cucumber clings to the vine, it's brothers and sisters lost to Irene's wrath.  And that handful of beans, barely enough to grace a dinner plate.

But wait!  I have a plan!   I'll make a huge bowl of pasta salad and feed my runs for days to come while I cling to the last tendrils of summer, in disbelief that the fall racing season is coming fast upon us (faster than my finish times, dammit).

Late Summer Salad

(8 to 10 servings)

INGREDIENTS

1 pound 100% whole wheat organic fusilli (I use bionatureae)
1 organic red pepper, finely chopped
1 cup organic french green beans, cut into thirds
5 small organic heirloom tomatoes
1 organic cucumber
1 ear fresh sweet corn, kernels removed
1 4.5 - 5 ounce container bocconcini (those tiny balls of fresh mozzarella) cut into quarters
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of freshly grated pecorino
5 leaves organic basil, julienned
salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE

•Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.  Add fusilli, stirring occasionally, and cook until just al dente (about 10 minutes)
•While the pasta is cooling, add the fresh corn kernels and finely diced red pepper to a large bowl.
•Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon and transfer to the large bowl with the corn and red pepper.  Keep the pasta water and bring back to a simmer.
•Blanche the green beans for about 2 minutes in the pasta water and drain.  Add to the bowl with the pasta.
•Pour the olive oil and vinegar over pasta and toss.  Season to taste (keep in mind that you'll be adding a salty cheese at the end, so under season to compensate), toss again.  By adding the olive oil and vinegar to the pasta while it's still warm, the pasta absorbs more of the yumminess.
•Making sure that the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the tomatoes, cucumber, basil and bocconini.  Toss.
•Sprinkle the salad with pecorino and toss.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another Version of the Long Run Cake in Runner's World!



What fun to chat with Runner's World and talk running AND baking.  Two of my favorite things!  I revamped the Long Run Cake for the October issue.  Check it out for a great feature on marathon running chefs and so much more!

As requested, here's the Peanut Butter frosting that was left out of the magazine.

PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING FOR THE LONG RUN CAKE

for 12 (1 1/12 " x 3" mini loaf pans)

INGREDIENTS



(2) 8 oz. packages organic cream cheese frosting (room temperature)
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup creamy organic peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)
pinch of salt

PROCEDURE

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together all ingredients until smooth.  That's it!  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Mutti. A Day to Celebrate Prevention...So We Can Run Another Day.

Mom, less than 9 years before she was taken by cancer.
Tomorrow is my mother's birthday.  It is for her that I'm running.  It is because of her that I am here to run.

She was an opera singer and a vocal arts professor by profession.  A doting mother by nature.  An avid runner and health food nut by choice.

Doctors exclaimed at her overall fitness, remarking at her astounding health and conditioning for a woman in her late 50s... aside from the pesky fact that she had colon cancer.

She died April 4th, 2000.

To celebrate the day of her birth, I'm getting a colonoscopy.

I hadn't planned on getting scoped on that particular day, I'd made no special request when I called to make the appointment.  It was simply the first available date and who was I to say no when it fell on such a fortuitous day?

Because my lovely mother died of the disease, I am at risk and no matter my relative youth and overall health, my doctors have insisted upon regular gut checks.  This will be my second.  No one has questioned the need or the benefits of early detection...of prevention.  My experience is entirely different from my mom's.

I try not to dwell on this part of her story, the consistent inquiries to her general practitioner, questioning why she was experiencing pain, discomfort, bleeding only to be dismissed as paranoid.   And when at long last her physician recommended a colonoscopy, they found a cancer so virulent and pervasive that her chances of survival were virtually cut in half had they detected the cancer at Stage One.  Had she simply been given a routine colonoscopy at 50, I'm pretty convinced we'd be running marathons together today.

So do me a favor, be pro-active about your health.  Live to run another race and celebrate another birthday by taking a few days out of your year to get yourself well and truly checked out.

And while you're at it, donate to the American Cancer Society in honor of the sons & daughters, the brothers & sisters and the mothers & fathers who were taken too early.