Pandora’s Box of Rocks… how’s that for the name of a trail race? The “rocks” part is no joke. I became well acquainted with many last weekend during my first trail half marathon through the rugged Texas hill country. It was awesome. I much preferred it to road racing. The challenging, constantly changing terrain, the gorgeous views, wildflowers, wildlife (ok all I saw were some cows)… it was a combination of my two loves: nature and running. Not to mention, you’re expected to run at a slower pace due to steep climbs up rock faces and descents down jagged paths, hurdling over fallen trees, and refueling at the buffet-style aid station food spreads. It’s just a different type of challenge than the intense PR-driven, Garmin-scrutinizing, pee on yourself rather than stop for the sake of time races. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still do those (I haven’t peed on myself… yet), but it was a perfect change of pace, literally. The ultimate goal of a trail race is just to finish.
I went with some fellow running club mates from Austin’s very own Al’s Ship of Fools. Al has run well over 100 marathons, with no intention of slowing down. He and his lovely wife compete somewhere in a marathon every month. My first week in Austin, I Google-searched local running groups, went out for a practice, and fell in love with this welcoming group representing all skill levels. That was two years ago and I’ve been doing track workouts, hill repeats, and long runs ever since. There is a subset of trail runners in the group, the off-roaders as I like to call them, and I decided to see if I could hang.
The weekend involved camping, swimming, and a cast-iron skillet berry cobbler, in addition to an incredibly scenic trail run. There was a great sense of community among the runners after spending long hours on the trail and then drinking beer by a campfire. My contribution was quinoa salad, which turned out to be a hit. Quinoa packs a punch of nutrient dense protein, complex carbs and fiber. I made a batch the night before which kept pretty well. It wasn’t quite as popular as the cobbler, but there wasn’t much left over either.
makes 8 to 12 servings – may be cut in half
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 4 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups red, seedless grapes, quartered
- 1 cup sliced raw almonds, toasted
- 1 cup kale, finely chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring water to boil, stir in quinoa and pinch of salt, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until most liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Uncover and set aside. **note: quinoa has a translucent outer ring when done.
2. In large bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in oil.
3. Add quinoa and toss to combine.
4. Mix in grapes, almonds, and kale, toss again.
5. Serve at room temp or chilled.