sprout for joy

emerge, spring up, grow


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Pandora’s Box of Rocks quinoa

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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.

cobblertent

sunrise

Ingredients:

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

Steps:

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.

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will run for pizza

091My favorite joke about runners goes:

How do you know if someone ran a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Well, guess what? As of a few weeks ago, the 2014 Austin Marathon is in the bag! It’s my third marathon, second one in Austin, but the first one I actually felt prepared for. Considering the 90% humidity and warm temps on race day, after training for months in arctic cold weather (for Texas anyway), I have to say I was pretty pleased. I didn’t make my secret goal time of 4 hours, or my public goal time of 4:10, but I did shave off 25 minutes from last year, and that felt good.002

My very first race ever was a half marathon in Athens, GA in October 2011. Before that race, I never believed I could run 13.1 miles, and then I watched myself do it. For me the next logical step was to apply that thinking to a marathon, something I definitely never thought I could do, or would even want to do. I belonged to the group of people that asked, “why would anyone in their right mind want to do that?!” But I realized, I just never thought I was someone who could. I proved myself wrong with the half marathon, and my instinct was to keep pushing myself. After all, the thought of losing the fitness I’d gained seemed like a waste, and what was another 13.1 miles? (um, a lot)… Some people I know call that being crazy, I like to think it just means I’m a runner.

In any case, I was hooked. Running just suits me. The cliché metaphors for running and life are endless, but I love every single one of them. They’re just true. Training for a marathon is a growth process that demands pushing through pain to make your body and mind stronger. It’s taught me focus and patience. It’s impossible for me to enjoy a long run if I think about how much farther I have to go. All I need to do is focus on the next step, and eventually I’ll get there. I always know I can take at least one more step, which is what makes a marathon possible. It’s the training I love, not the actual races, which involve so much pressure on one particular day. Races provide an end goal, but I’m not out there trying to qualify for Boston, I’m there to test myself against myself.

But okay, enough corny metaphor stuff… I’m really here to talk about the dark side of marathon running. It’s actually quite ugly and unexpected. I mean, no one told me the lower half of my body would swell up like a puffy marshmallow, that my feet would throb inside my shoes for days, or that the last thing I’d feel was athletic and fit. Swollen, throbbing, and puffy. Even worse, overly emotional and moody, just great. But even worse, plagued by a voracious, constant, and unforgiving appetite. I was however inspired to make this great pizza, which I proceeded to eat in one sitting, no plate needed. I told you it was ugly. And here comes the crazy part… I can’t wait to do it all again. Portland 2014, here I come. 🙂

Ingredients:

thin crust pizza dough

1/2 cup pizza sauce

1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into half-ring slices

3 oz. spicy tempeh, cut into slices or cubes

2 stalks of kale, separate leaves and chop

3 baby Bella mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, more if desired

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350, or according to directions on dough package

2. Spread thin layer of sauce over crust

3. Spread tempeh and vegetables evenly over crust, then sprinkle cheese evenly across

4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned around edges

Serves 2-3, or 1 with marathon appetite

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