Win a Pair of Brooks Running Shoes and Shorts Just for Reading No Meat Athlete!

Ready for this?

In No Meat Athlete’s best giveaway yet, one lucky reader is going to be fully outfitted from the waist down in Brooks apparel (minus the socks; you’re on your own there).

7b46047a6757e4164b6ec9ee5423c391 300x142Brooks Running and FEED Company are giving away not just a PAIR OF BROOKS RUNNING SHOES, but a PAIR OF BROOKS SHORTS as well!

FEED Company is marketing a new video about Brooks’ DNA technology and the new Glycerin 8.  The video is not just some boring ad; it’s a LOST parody.  I’ve never seen LOST, so you’ll have to watch it and tell me if it’s funny.  The DNA and SAC technologies are intriguing too, even if far from the minimalist-shoe philosophy that seems to be popular these days. (Brooks makes some more minimalist shoes, too.)

So, about that giveaway…one winner will get to select any style of Brooks running shoes AND any style of Brooks running shorts.  Can’t beat that, can you?  The shoes alone would have been enough for me to wet my running shorts.  (With sweat, of course.)

So here’s what you need to do to enter.  Two options: You can leave a comment about the video, or you can visit brooksrunning.com and tell me what shoes you’d pick if you won.  (I run in the Brooks Defyance; I’ve actually bought the same shoe four or five times in a row now.)

I’ll select a random winner next Tuesday (9/21/10) at noon Eastern.

Bonus: Double your chances of winning!

In the past, I’ve shied away from offering bonus entries in return for tweets or Facebook shares, because I didn’t want the contest to be unfair for those who aren’t social media nerds like the rest of us.

Here’s the solution.

I’ve put together a little survey that will take you less than two minutes to fill out.  It’ll help me decide what direction I want to go with this site, so your participation ensures that your voice is heard! (Not to mention the DOUBLE CONTEST ENTRY!)

So, if you want double your chances of winning the Brooks running shoes and shorts, simply take the survey and tell me that you did when you leave your comment (gotta love the honor system).

Or, if this is your first time at the site or you’d just rather tweet or share on Facebook, you can do that instead.  Either one works for me.

In summary: Click here to take the survey, or share this post on Twitter or Facebook with the buttons on this site. And then when you leave your comment about the video or the shoes you’d choose, let me know to count you twice in the drawing.

Good luck, and thanks for helping me out!

522 Comments

 

Why, Really, Do You Run (or Do Whatever it is You Do)?

A few weeks ago, I wrote on Twitter that I was (just barely) starting to think about the possibility of signing up for a 100-mile run.

Toby, who has a way of keeping me honest when I get these crazy ideas, asked whether it was because I really want to do a 100, or if it just seems like I should do one because it’s the logical next step after a 50.

iStock 000010873637XSmall 300x300The answer was that I really want to do a 100, someday.  Like 26.2 miles and 50 miles once were to me, 100 miles is a distance that seems and sounds impossible. And the idea of doing something like that charges me up, inspires me, and plain makes me feel alive.

But then I asked myself a harder question.

Why?

Try this.  Take an activity you spend a lot of time on, or something you have a lot of emotional stake in.  Then ask why you do it or care about it.

Once you come up with an answer, ask why that matters to you.  Keep on asking why, and see where it gets you.

When I was a kid, I was a big baseball fan.  Whether the Orioles won or lost had a significant impact on how happy I was, the same way many of you are either having a good or bad Monday depending on how your NFL team started the season yesterday.

But when I asked myself why I cared about how a bunch of grown men played baseball, I couldn’t come up with a reason.  Most of them weren’t really from my town.  They weren’t my friends.  And win or lose, I could take no responsibility for the outcome.

My conclusion was that rooting for a pro sports team wasn’t worthy of so much emotion and time.  The decision to stop caring about it wasn’t necessarily a conscious one, but it happened over time.  I still root for local teams today, but unless I’m betting on a game, I really don’t get attached to the outcome the way I used to.

The point isn’t that caring about pro sports is wrong.  If watching your team win is something that fills you with pride for whatever reason, great.  In that case, asking why will probably help you enjoy their wins even more.  But the point is that if you’re going to put a lot of time and emotion into something, it had better be something that really does matter to you.

Why I like running far

When I first thought about it in this way, running 26.2 or 50 or 100 miles seemed like a pretty dumb use of time.  Running that far to end up in the very spot you started seems like an incredibly pointless endeavor.

The training certainly isn’t much fun.  It’s the most relaxing and least painful way I know to stay in shape, but if it weren’t for the race at the end of it all, I wouldn’t do it.  (Trust me, I can think of more enjoyable things to do with a morning than to spend five hours running 30 miles to get ready for a race.)

So it must be the race that makes it worth it, right?  Nope.  The actual race isn’t fun, for me at least.  It’s a little exciting at first, but inevitably it gets hard and I can’t wait to be finished so I can sit down and drink a beer.

So, why do it?

I suspect everyone’s reasons are different, and I’m interested to hear yours. 

But here’s why I do this stuff: There is nothing that feels better than doing something I used to think was impossible.

Intellectually, we know that lots of people run half marathons or even 100 miles or walk across coals or jump out of planes or start businesses that succeed.  But some part of us, let’s call it our gut, simply does not believe these things can be done.

And when you work hard and eventually do one of them, you are living proof that your gut was wrong.  Then all of a sudden, your horizons expand.  Things that used to seem impossible don’t anymore.  You become willing to take new risks, commit to new things, and to put yourself out there and your name on the line.  You have a new reason to get out of bed, because now there’s more stuff available for you to do with your life.

Then you find something in a whole new class of impossible.  And then one day you do that more impossible thing, and your eyes are opened even wider.

That feels good.  That’s why I do this stuff.  What about you?

This Saturday, I got to see vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke speak at the D.C. Vegfest.  The audience wasn’t a crowd of athletes; it was a bunch of vegetarians who I’m sure were mostly there to get some good food and meet like-minded people.

So Robert’s talk wasn’t really about weightlifting or sports.  Instead it was about passion, about making the most of your time on this planet and leading a life that you’re proud of, whether that’s through fitness, service to others, or loving animals and the earth.  He summed it up with a Mark Twain quote that he mentioned in my interview with him the week before:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Robert lives by this quote every day, in the way he works his butt off to spread the ideas of veganism, fitness, and plain old caring about what you do.  And caring about what you do starts with understanding why.

If NMA seems a little bit fluffier than usual today, it’s because I’m still high from listening to Robert speak and getting to hang out with him for a little while.  If just a little of that has rubbed off on you, then I’m happy.

Extra, Extra

  • Big congrats to NMA writer and now-Ironman Susan Lacke, who finished Ironman Wisconsin on Saturday!
  • At the D.C. Vegfest on Saturday, I got to meet my blog-buddy and fellow vegetarian runner, Emily from the Front Burner.  Check out the guest post I wrote for Emily last week, 5 Warning Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein.
  • HUGE giveaway coming up on NMA tomorrow.  Like, seriously, the biggest yet.  Miss it and you’ll hate yourself.
31 Comments

 

Ironman Wisconsin is One Day Away—And I am Not Okay with This

This is a post from Susan Lacke.  When we were first introduced to Susan, she had just run her first marathon, barely a year after resolving to run her first 5K.  I was both shocked and inspired when she casually mentioned that she’d be doing her first Ironman triathlon in September.

Well, September is here, and that Ironman is tomorrow.  Susan will be representing No Meat Athletes everywhere as a shining example of how quickly change can happen when you take charge of your diet and lifestyle.  Wish her luck!

I’m doing a *&^%-ing Ironman.  I am not okay with this.

For the past year, I’ve spent the last 20 percent of my time training for Ironman, 40 percent of my time ensuring I have adequate food, sleep and health for Ironman training, and 100 percent of my time praying to every god imaginable.

“Dear God, if you will calm the waves in this open-water swim, I promise I’ll donate my next paycheck to some needy third-world orphan.”

“Allah, help me get up this mountain. My legs are sick of pedaling. If you could send a nice tailwind, that’d be great.”

“Mother Nature, my alarm’s set for a 4 AM run, so if you could start a thunderstorm around 3:55 so I can sleep in, I would LOVE that.”

“Buddha, gotta ask you a favor…I’m sick of training. Can you arrange for me to get hit by a car so I have a reason not to do this damn race?”

I never got the calm waters. The tailwind never happened. I live in the desert, so a thunderstorm was too much to ask for, apparently. I did get hit by a car (Thanks, Buddha!) but apparently I wasn’t specific enough…the extent of my injuries only kept me out of training for one day. Dammit.

For the last year, I’ve said I’m going to do an Ironman. I’ve trained for this race. But I don’t know that I really believed it. It seemed so surreal, like some thing that was going to happen in some far-off day.

That day is almost here.

When I checked in for Ironman Wisconsin this week, it initially felt like any other race I’ve done. They smile, ask for your name, check your identification, make you sign your waiver, and give you a couple goody bags.

Then they put a blue wristband on you which identifies you as an athlete for the race.

A little plastic wristband, like you get at a carnival if you’ve been identified as tall enough to ride on the Gravitron, or after the bouncer checks your ID at a concert and determines you’re old enough to drink.

Minor. Cheap. Ordinary.

It doesn’t have superpowers or anything. It only means the person wearing it is going to do an Ironman this weekend.

They put one of those wristbands on me. ME.

OH-MY-GOSH-I-AM-DOING-A-*&^%ING-IRONMAN. I am not okay with this.

I was so not prepared for that moment.

The strangest club I’ve ever joined.

Since getting that wristband, I’ve been particularly sensitive to the color blue. As I venture through the race setup, grab a bite to eat at one of Madison’s restaurants, or even try to escape Ironman for a few minutes by doing some window shopping, I see that color on wrists everywhere. My gaze instinctively shoots from the wristband to the eyes of the person wearing it. Every time, they’re looking right at me, too.

With that look, we don’t need to exchange words. Our eyes say it all:

OH-MY-GOD-I-AM-DOING-A-*&^%ING-IRONMAN. I am not okay with this.

We’re part of this strange club, where members share the same feelings of excitement, fear, apprehension, and pride. Whether they’re Ironman newbies like me or veteran triathletes with multiple Ironman competitions under their race belts, there’s a definite buzz going through the air from pre-race jitters.

They’ve had the same prayers.

I shared my training experiences with some of my fellow athletes, and was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one with asinine prayers. We laughed nervously and silently admitted we still wished a car had hit us so we wouldn’t have do the damn race. In the backs of our heads, we still wonder what the hell we were thinking when we signed up for this race a year ago.

One fellow athlete, a native of Wisconsin, shared the same stories but had a different approach. Those choppy waters, those hard cycling climbs, the 4 AM runs, those workouts we didn’t want to do (but did anyway)…they weren’t obstacles to torture us. They were opportunities for us to become stronger triathletes. It was because of those difficult training events that we should know by now that we can and will finish the 2.4 mile swim, the 112 mile ride, and 26.2 mile run. We’ve done it before, and will do it again on race day.

You can, too.

Whatever your goal, quit thinking of it as something on the horizon and start treating it like something you can and will do. Quit complaining about your obstacles and start seeing them as opportunities.

I’ll be taking this approach on race day. If I have a slow swim, that’s okay; It just means I’ll have more energy for the bike. If I need to walk during the run, that’s fine; It’s an opportunity for me to slow down enough to take in some more calories to fuel my way to the finish.

Forget the obstacles. They don’t matter. Bring on the finish line.

Oh my gosh.

I’m doing an Ironman.

And I’m strangely okay with that.

19 Comments

 

Easy Vegan Chipotle Mole Sauce

I love a good challenge in the kitchen, but nothing has intimidated me like homemade mole sauce—the epitome of Mexican cuisine with layers of flavor from sweet peppers to spicy chocolate.  Mole is so popular that Wikipedia mentions three times in one article that ninety-nine percent of Mexicans have tasted it, so how hard could a homemade version be?

mole photo 300x225Well, every recipe starts off explaining how it takes three generations of women to grind the spices, weeks to order the zillions of specialty dried peppers from Mexico, and to be truly delicioso, hours and hours simmering on the stove.

Finally, I had enough.  Must I be the only gringa who doesn’t get to eat chocolate for dinner? I was already taking the chicken out of the dish, so I decided to take out the fuss too.

Easy Mole Sauce Fit for the Atleta sin Carne (That’s You, No Meat Athletes!)

With sweetness from raisins and thickness from nuts, mole sauce has “athlete” written all over it.  Plus, whether you prepare it with some browned seitan or a can of beans, this meal also packs a nice protein punch, especially when served over its amigo rice.

Instead of taking the time to rehydrate dried peppers, I used a can of chipotles in adobo.  You should be able to find this at your regular grocery store now.  A whole can is pretty spicy, but I keep it in a tupperware in the fridge for up to a month, adding a teaspoon here and there to all sorts of dishes.

To seal the no-fuss deal, I whittled the spice list down to the four essentials, and cut the simmer time down to only about twenty minutes—just enough to give the sauce some depth.  If you don’t feel like pureeing the sauce, make sure to chop or grind the almonds and raisins very fine and you should be good to go.

Enjoy, my no-carne amigos!

Vegan Chicken Mole

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo (1 teaspoon sauce, 1 teaspoons chopped, deseeded pepper)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 oz unsweetened vegan baking chocolate

Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat.  Fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, almonds, and raisins, and fry for another 5 minutes.  Add the salt, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and oregano; fry for 2 more minutes or until fragrant.

Add the chipotle in adobo, tomatoes with their juices, and vegetable broth.  Heat to boil, then add chocolate and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat and puree mixture with immersion blender.  Heat the pureed sauce for 5 minutes more.

To serve, add 1 package of browned seitan or can of beans and heat through.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over rice.

11 Comments

 

3 Ways to Get Strong Again (Without Joining a Gym)

As runners, we have all kinds of convenient excuses to not do any strength training.  Some of my favorites:

  • Running keeps me in plenty good shape, why should I do anything else?
  • I don’t want to injure myself with weights.
  • Big muscles will make me slower.
  • The Kenyans don’t lift!

I’ve used all of these at one time or another.  As a result, I’ve just run a lot.  And now I’m scrawny.

As it turns out, most of those excuses are bullshit.  Running does keep you in good shape, but it doesn’t do much for your upper body, appearance-wise or in terms of strength.  And while it’s probably true that when you first start out with weights, injury is a risk, a friend of mine who recently came in 18th at the Badwater Ultramarathon (yes, that’s 135 miles through Death Valley) tells me that he thinks strength training actually prevents him from getting injured now.

For me, it’s time to get back in shape.  But not just any strength program will do.

3 Things I Don’t Want in a Workout Program

When I ran my first marathon, I was really into lifting.  I was 25 pounds heavier than I am now and most of it was muscle.  Relatively speaking (and greatly exaggerating), I was a beast.

While I don’t want to be that guy again (have you seen his marathon time?), I do want to be stronger.  That means more bodyweight exercises and less grunting and contorting myself into the worst form possible to pound out a 1- or 2-rep set on the bench.

I also don’t want to join a gym.  My wife and I like to workout together, so we’d need a gym that can watch our baby. I’ve found those to be both rare and expensive, so I need something I can do at home with minimal equipment.

And I don’t want it to take a lot of time.  Running is still my focus; anything else is supplementary.  Three days a week is all I’m willing to give to strength training.

Programs to Get You Strong Without a Gym Membership

But I’ve managed to start down the path to getting strong again, without joining a gym or committing more than about three hours a week to strength training.  How?  I’ve found three programs, two of which I’m already doing and treating as a buildup to the third, which I’m going to start shortly after my next 50-miler in Vermont.

So here’s what I’ll be doing for strength training for the next several months.  All are quick, gym-free, light on equipment, and (I think) compatible with ultra training.  That last part remains to be seen.

Please note!  The links to products here are affiliate links.  That means I make money if people buy from them.

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups

book 300x234Equipment needed: none

Time required: 10 minutes, three days a week

I first met Steve Speirs at the HAT 50K this March.  I knew him only as a DailyMile guy with a damn fast HAT time; I later found out he was the creator of the 100 Pushups program and winner of the 2009 Cayman Marathon.

Steve believes that the pushup alone can make you a better runner, as it is (surprisingly) somewhat of a full-body exercise, especially as you do variations that focus on core stability.  I just believe that doing 100 pushups sounds badass, hardcore, or both.

While the book is the most comprehensive, the free website and the $1.99 iPhone app both contain full 7-week programs you can use to work your way up to 100.  I’m on Week 2 of the book’s program, and already doing way more pushups than I did the first day.

The best part: Each workout takes literally less than 10 minutes.  5 sets of pushups with a minute rest in between each set.  It’s so little that you can even do it along with another program.

Which brings me to…

Core Performance Essentials

51CNXPJKDQL. SL500 AA300 Equipment needed: stability ball and dumbbells

Time required: 30 minutes, three days a week (plus cardio days)

I credit the the Core Performance Endurance program with turning me into a “serious” runner.  It was with that program, focused on core strength and proper form in all movements, that I developed the stability and muscle tone to stop getting injured so that I could train consistently enough to call myself a runner, athlete, or what have you.  (And it helped me get my marathon under 3:30 for the first time.)

Problem is, my wife and I did that program for so long that we got really sick of the workouts.  So we’ve turned to Core Performance Essentials, which is the same idea, but with new workouts, less required equipment, and crammed into half an hour a day, three days a week.  There are separate cardio days, but I’ll substitute my normal running workouts for those.  And there’s regeneration too, based mostly on foam rolling, the goal of which is to keep your muscles soft and pliable.  Trust me, you can feel that it’s working (i.e. it hurts).

We’re starting the second week of Core Performance, and progressing quickly through the workouts.  It’s time-based, so you move to the next workout as soon as you can complete the circuits in the previous one within the 30 minutes.  I suspect in 8 or 10 weeks we’ll have reached the end, at which point I’ll be ready for…

Rebel Fitness

RebelFitGuide280Equipment needed: dumbbells or stability bands and a pullup bar

Time required: 30-45 minutes, three days a week (plus easy exercise days)

I recently discovered a site called Nerd Fitness, whose goal it is to “help fellow nerds, desk jockeys, and average Joes level up their lives while still doing the stuff they love.”  It’s the type of stripped-down approach to fitness for busy people that’s right up my alley.

Steve, the owner of Nerd Fitness, recently released the massive Rebel Fitness Guide.  It contains six different workout routines, which you move through at your own pace (Steve recommends spending four to eight weeks with each).

The Rebel Fitness guide is actually aimed at people looking to lose weight, which I’m certainly not.  So how come I can’t wait to get started?

Because the exercises are awesome.  Crazy stuff I’ve never done.  All different kinds of squats, lunges, pushups, pullups, kicks and other bodyweight exercises, plus a few with dumbbells or bands.  Organized into supersets and circuits for speed and efficiency.  And complete with interval training after most of the strength workouts.

I just don’t see how you could do this stuff and not get strong.  And yet the program doesn’t involve huge weights, which is great, because I’m still not sure that heavy weights and ultramarathon training can peacefully coexist.

Like I said, the program is massive.  I can’t begin to tell you about all the stuff that’s included, but you can check out Steve’s site to learn more and even see a free preview of the guides.

Vegan month is on!

Oh yes, I’ve been eating vegan for seven days now.  Eating at home has been simple—almost no different from how I ate at home anyway, minus the honey.

Eating out has been tougher, but twice I’ve eaten out and been fine.   However, at two parties already I’ve eaten dairy.  It was served to me as part of a meal that was prepared specially for my wife and me as vegetarians.  And, quite frankly, I refuse to be the guy who turns down vegetarian meals that people were considerate enough to make for me.  I suppose I need to do a better job of communicating that I’m trying the vegan thing this month.

How’s is going for those of you who are trying out a vegan diet with me?

27 Comments

 

The Complete Spectathlete’s Guide to Cheering Like a Champ

I’ve mentioned before that Ironman Wisconsin (next weekend!) takes place on my home turf.

This means lots of friends and family members have told me they’ll be venturing out to Madison to cheer me on. Some I haven’t seen since high school, which is kinda cool. And some of you amazing readers are even saying you’ll be making it out to the race…which makes me feel really special!

It’s also quite petrifying. Seriously. I do NOT want to let anybody down.

Why we call them ‘spectathletes’

iStock 000006673611XSmall 300x199 Spectators often have just as much at stake as the person doing the actual race. Most of you probably have friends and family members who have bent over backwards to support your training.

Perhaps they’ve said “Go ahead and do your long run, honey — I’ll watch the kids this morning.” Maybe they’ve been understanding when you’ve departed from Girls’ Night Out at only 8 PM, since you have to rest up for your early morning run. You’ve probably canceled plans with them in favor of training, racing, or recovering.

It’s likely they’ve seen you at your sweatiest, your hungriest, and your grumpiest.  And yet, they’re still there.

They deserve that finishers medal just as much as you, and that’s why they’re called “spectathletes.”

Don’t be surprised…

If your spectathletes are gearing up for race day just as much as you are.

Spectating, though, can be confusing or overwhelming for first-timers. If they could, they’d drive behind you every mile of your race, cheering you on with airhorns and cowbells. Some might not understand just why they can’t do just that.

Others may be bummed they only saw you once or twice on the race course, or become frustrated when they can’t find their racer in the huge mass of humanity known as the Finishing Chute. Print this article out and share with your incredible spectathletes to make race day just a little bit easier for them (and you).

Before the Race

Know the route. Most race maps have a website which provides information on the course. Select one (or, if it’s a longer race, two or three) spots where you want to watch your athlete. Some races even have guides specifically for spectathletes!

Ditch the car if you can, and follow the rules of the race. If you plan on traveling to multiple spots throughout the race, make sure you are aware of any road closures which may impede your ability to get to those spots. Always, always, always pay attention to the police officers directing traffic, and never move the barricades, even if “just to squeeze through.” No. No. NO.

Get your plan together. Coordinate with other specathletes for day-of-race logistics. Facebook is a great way to do this, as you can just create an event and invite your friends and family…it’s all in one place!

Build confidence. As someone preparing for a race, the worst thing anyone could say to me right now is “You’re going to be so FAST!” I know for a fact I won’t be fast at this Ironman. It’s my first. My only goal is to finish. I have 16 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds to get to the end, and if I need to, I will milk every last second of it. Most racers have the same goal, so unless your racer is in the elite top 1 percent of athletes vying for a medal, find other ways to boost your athlete’s confidence.

Offer to buy him something special, like a pair of special “race socks.” Make a sticker for her to put on her bike handlebars to inspire her. Write your athlete a letter or leaving notes in his shoes, SPI-Belt, or gear bag. Some suggestions:

  • “You’re such a stud/studette!”
  • “I am so proud of you.”
  • “You make spandex and sweat stains look sexy.”
  • “You are so strong/focused/athletic/amazing/(fill-in-the-blank…)”
  • “You can do this.”
  • “There are cupcakes (or beer/tacos/favorite food) at the finish line.”

During the Race

Carpooling is your friend. Race days are usually chaotic, especially at the start and finish areas. The fewer vehicles you have to wrangle together, the better it is for everyone.

Prepare for a lot of downtime. Spectating can be incredibly boring if you don’t prepare for the downtime. Bring things to do…especially if you’re going to be waiting for a long time for your racer  to come by. With Ironman competitions, it’s not uncommon for spectathletes to have tents with lawn chairs, charcoal grills, and beer. It is an all day event, after all!

Stand out from the crowd. It’s easier for your racer to spot you if your crowd has something to distinguish themselves from the rest of the beer-guzzlers. I’ve asked my cheering contingency to wear No Meat Athlete t-shirts on race day. (So if you see a bunch of crazy people wearing running carrots in Madison, WI September 12 — they’re with me…and I couldn’t be prouder!)

You also can make signs in a specific color scheme, but be aware there might be other spectathletes behind you — make sure you aren’t blocking their view. Sidewalk chalk messages on the race course, where permitted, can also be a great pick-me-up for the racer.

There’s more than one way to support racers. One of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me in a race was hand me a Kleenex. It was one of those crisp fall days where everyone’s noses were running, and mine had been dripping for miles. That Kleenex was a lifesaver.

I’ve also had people hand me washcloths with ice water on hot days and Vaseline on plastic sticks at mile 20 of a marathon. If you live on the race course and it’s warm out, consider running a garden hose with a sprinkler on one half of the road for hot racers to run through (a popular spectathlete move here in Arizona) or a table with mini-cups of beer and Bloody Marys (almost every race in Wisconsin has at LEAST one of these).

After the Race

Get sweaty. Most racers really want a hug and a kiss at the finish line, but don’t want to gross you out. The best thing you can do is smile, wrap your arms around your racer, and be proud to wear some of the sweat that rubs off on you. It’s the smell of greatness, people!

Make it memorable. The finish line is a place where people feel amazing. They’ve just accomplished a goal, and they’re riding a remarkable high. You can make it better with something special — tell your racer you love him, surprise her with something special or unique to mark the occasion, or share a touching sentiment or inside joke to make the event that much more meaningful.

Celebrate! Your athlete may or may not feel like eating or celebrating immediately after the race, but you can bet later that day or the next morning there there will be a meal of epic proportions on the agenda. So toast the occasion with a special meal — and don’t forget to order dessert! Racers and spectathletes alike have earned it!

Thanks to all the special spectathletes out there. You guys are a truly amazing breed of athlete.

20 Comments

 

No-Fear Vegan Stevia Banana Bread

Running fuel is defined by how much energy it packs—usually in the form of sugars.  Quick acting sugars for an immediate boost, and slower-burning sugars to keep you going.

banana bread 2 300x225So while dates and agave nectar fit the energy food bill, what about the rest of your day?  When you’re looking for a snack to nibble on over coffee or a sweet bite after dinner, you probably aren’t looking to “fuel up.”

For times like these when you’re just sitting around, pro triathlete Brendan Brazier recommends swapping the agave for stevia. And he’s right—stevia is a great idea.  There’s no sucrose to cause an unnecessary spike in blood sugar, and no extra fructose hanging around to process into triglycerides.

So why, then, is there a very full jar of stevia staring me down from my pantry?

Three Hurdles of Baking with Stevia

Three things always intimidate me about using stevia. Let’s address each one head on, in hopes of making the stevia universe a heck of a lot less mysterious!

1.  How much stevia to use

I am only going to say this once: Do not follow the conversion chart on the back of the jar.  Repeat: Do. Not. Follow. Chart.  (Ok, that’s twice I said it, but it’s that important!)  Since there’s no standard potency from brand to brand or from liquids to powders, it’s up to you to use just as much stevia as you need.

Most of the time, the amount I am happy with is a 3 times less than what the chart recommends.  The best idea is to start with just a little—like 1/8 to a 1/4 teaspoon—and take it from there.  There are no eggs to worry about in the recipe below, so in this case you can taste as you go.

2.  Keep it from tasting bitter

In The Kind Diet (Amazon affiliate link), the biggest complaint Alicia Silverstone has about stevia is the taste.  Somehow, it’s so sweet that it ends up tasting bitter and harsh.  I prefer the less concentrated stevia that is mixed with the natural fiber inulin, like Sweetleaf SteviaPlus.  My solution to take the bitter edge off (besides not using too much, see #1) is choosing complementary flavors.

In the recipe below, the stevia enhances the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and coconut flakes for a much warmer flavor.  It’s also good paired with orange juice, like in my Orange Currant Brunch cake.  If nothing in the recipe has a sweet profile, I suggest adding just a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.

3. Fill the gap

When you take the sugar, agave, or dates out of your recipe, it’s important account for the volume of what’s missing.  In this recipe, the bananas work double-duty: first for flavor, and second for bulk.  Another great filler is cooked and pureed cauliflower, which has a creamy neutral flavor.  About a half cup of “filler” works in a standard size recipe.

So now there’s nothing left to be afraid of with stevia!  I hope you try my recipe for Coconut Banana Bread for sweet snacking anytime, and let me know what you think.

Vegan Coconut Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp stevia (I used SweetLeaf SteviaPlus)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut (reserve 2 tbsp for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8×4 loaf pan with parchment paper and grease lightly with baking spray.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the oil, stevia, coconut milk, flaxseed, bananas, vanilla, and lime juice.  Beat until bananas are mashed and mixture is smooth.

In a seperate bowl, mix together the baking soda, salt, flour, and 1/2 cup of coconut.  Add dry ingredients to banana mixture, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl to incorporate.

Spread batter into prepared loaf pan, and bake 20 minutes.  Carefully remove pan from oven and sprinkle with the reserved 2 tablespoons of coconut.  Return to oven and bake 40-50 minutes more, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  If the coconut topping browns to quickly, tent the banana bread loosely with aluminum foil.  Let cool before removing from pan.


16 Comments