Open Faced Power Peppers!!

Some of the farmers on the central coast are still holding on to those last rays of summer and not yet giving up on bell peppers, so I couldn’t resist buying them last week. But this meal started out like many: I had a few bell peppers that had been asking to be eaten before I left them in the fridge too long, and carrots that were looking a little soft. I started throwing ingredients together and some how emerged with this asian-style stuffed pepper that happened to be total power, vegan, and delicious!

Ingredients

2 Medium Carrots, diced                                                3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced

3 Bell Peppers, cut in half lengthwise                            2 T Olive Oil

1/2 c Walnuts, chopped                                                 2 T Rice Wine Vinegar

1 1/2 c Lentils, cooked                                                   1 T Soy Sauce

1/2 small Anaheim Pepper, minced                              A few pinches of Brown Sugar

2-3 T Chili in Oil Sauce (found in most asian markets, a salty and slightly spicy condiment)

Heat oven to 375 and mix all the ingredients in a bowl before putting them inside the peppers. Cover with foil and cook for 35-40 minutes, until the peppers are well roasted. Enjoy!

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Do you have strong bones?

Kristen and I got the opportunity to head back home this weekend, something we had been desiring for awhile. We hadn’t seen our families since Christmas and the only chances we had had to get out of SLO were on Poly Escapes trips (Poly Escapes is awesome but it’s still work). Basically we were just happy to be headed north, back to the land of childhood, canyons and cows. For me, Saturday was a lazy day with my parents. We explored the local hills and river trails on foot and mountain bike, and just had a really nice day of hanging out. I had a little down time in the morning and decided to do some research.

I enjoy searching around online (Google Scholar is awesome) and seeing what I can learn about various topics. I came across something that I thought was pretty relevant to me as a runner and just generally as an active, health-conscious person. There was a 12 month study done way back in 1997 at the University of Melbourne on “bone mass and bone turnover in power athletes, endurance athletes, and controls.” The study looked at trained power athletes (sprinters, jumpers, hurdlers), trained endurance athletes (middle- and long-distance runners), and control subjects (non-athletes), all aged 17-26 years. If you want all the specifics, click here.

strong, happy bones!

What they found over this year-long analysis was that both power and endurance athletes had higher bone mineral density (BMD) than the control subjects in their lower limbs. On top of that, power athletes also had higher BMD in the lumbar section of their spine as well as their upper limbs. Endurance athletes did not. So what does this mean for a runner? Well, it means that while endurance specific training makes you a very efficient foot traveler, it also means that you are likely lacking overall body strength, not just in muscular structure but in bone structure as well (this becomes obvious when you see an elite endurance runner or cyclist, but is less apparent when looking at an elite adventure racer).

Personally, I do not see myself becoming a Jurek-level ultrarunner. I do however see myself working to become at least a “decent” runner, but also a “decent” cyclist, adventure racer, skier, traveler, or any other activity I might become interested in. And for those combination of pursuits, I think I could benefit from the strongest bones possible in my lower back and arms, as well as my legs. As life and training progresses, strength training makes sense to me. High mileage is of course necessary (and should be the focus) when preparing for a very high mileage race, but full-body strength training should not be neglected. Muscles = protection. Strong bones = reduced injury. Full body strength = versatility and adaptability in multiple pursuits (good when you have athletic A.D.D.). So if you’re just a runner, then cheers (seriously) to you and your incredible mindset and talents. But if you’re like me, grab some friends and get strong!

P.S.-Over the 12 month period, “modest but significant” increases in bone mineral density were seen in all subjects, athletes and controls. Does this mean that as we age (to a point), our bones continually get stronger? I hope so! That sounds wonderful:)

SATAN!…peanut butter?

Curious much? Ya we were too! How in  the hell (pun definitely intended) are you supposed to pronounce s-e-i-t-a-n? And why does it look like a giant loaf of peanut butter? And how could something look like a loaf of peanut butter when peanut butter doesn’t even come in loaves? And neither do peanuts. And neither does butter!

The peanut butter loaf, aka Seitan!

Well apparently, Seitan is a fake meat made from wheat gluten. It can be made a bunch of different ways, but our version (“chicken style”) included wheat gluten, garbanzo bean flour, nutritional yeast, canellini beans, onions, garlic, and soy sauce. As I type this in the library at Cal Poly I’m eating some of Kristen’s first batch. It feels more like a combination between bread and meatloaf, making for a consistency that I’m really enjoying. And even though it’s meant to be recooked in your favorite dish, it’s getting later in the computer lab and my prolonged procrastination from papers and studying is making this particular loaf of protein quite tasty!

But it can also look really tasty, because it is!

Hopefully I can avoid eating the whole thing though. The block she gave me is about 1/2 pound and has over 50 grams of protein built into it…slightly more than my body can absorb in one meal I think. But despite my possible protein overdose, I highly recommend this stuff. If you’re looking for a solid homemade meat alternative that’s not all processed and shipped then definitely check it out! Our recipe came from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. Kristen made about 4 and a half pounds, enough to last her a week or two (as long as I don’t come over and gobble it all up with Sriracha!). And it’s incredibly versatile.

I’m thinking satan seitan will be joining us for dinner quite often from now on! PS-I am in no way sorry for that super hoaky word strike-through back there!

Resolutions

A new year can be really exciting. A chance to start something new, give up something old, or have a good excuse for doing just about anything. 2011 is going to be big year for Cody and I, calling for drastic resolutions and tough goals.

I woke up about a month ago to news that has quite possibly changed my life. I had been chosen in the lottery for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. In high school on a random Saturday night in June when there was nothing better to do in the small foothill town of Auburn, I used to sit with Kristen and watch the top Western States runners finish at our high school track. Sitting there in the bleachers under the bright stadium lights, I began the thought process I believe to be common in humans when witnessing such a feat. Wild (and not all that inaccurate) imaginings of what those people must have gone through in the past day. Not surprisingly, as I lay in my warm bed that night and thought of the other runners who were still on the trail (and still would be when I got up in the morning), I felt a teeny tiny spark. It was small and feeble and flickering heavily, but it had its root somewhere deep inside me. From then on, no matter how hard I tried, I could find no reasonable method of extinguishment. There was only one thing that could to be done. And it had to be done.

With a relatively small ultrarunning career under my belt, I’ve got Western States looming above me just 7 months away. I’m having runner’s knee issues and I need a solid plan. First: give up something old. I just turned 22 and was never much of a rebel in high school, so drinking I guess is still pretty new to me. But hey, I’ve come to really enjoy a good beer (But who am I kidding? I’m in college and the cheap stuff’s good too!).

It won a Blue Ribbon

No more, no matter how many blue ribbons it has!

And I know it may be sacrilege in the ultra, trail and mountain community to give up the Sacred Nectar, so please forgive me in advance. It’s not that avoiding the occasional beer is going to somehow make the 100 mile distance easy, but when I set my mind to something, I prefer to commit entirely. By giving up drinking at least until Western States, I’ll be developing a unified lifestyle with one goal: finishing that damn race (and having “fun” doing it!).

So on top of a healthy diet, no alcohol and major attempts at developing a solid sleeping schedule (we’ll see how well my last two quarters at Cal Poly play into that plan), I’ve come up with a program. Crossfit during the week, road trips to various mountain ranges on the weekends for long, hilly days. The Miwok 100k will serve as a gauge for both Kristen and I in May. I’ll spend a week or two at our friends’ house in Las Vegas after I graduate for heat acclimation, and then I’ll shuffle forward for probably close to 30 hours to end up on a rubber track that I used to despise running the mile on in PE. Only this time I’ll have a buckle in my hand.

I know I’m rambling, but I can’t talk about all this without mentioning why I’m even here writing this. To be true, it’s all Kristen’s fault:) Kristen is the entire reason I got into running at all, let alone ultrarunning. Every success I ever gain and every mile that grows my soul (that’s what running does), I owe to her. Thank you Love!

For me, I wasn’t quite lucky enough to win a spot at Western States this year. I’m still aiming my sights high, though. I’m registered for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July. While I so wanted to get into Western States, I’m really excited to be looking at a 100 mile race at all. When I first started thinking about the possibility of doing an ultra, I knew that I would one day run 100 miles. I’ve always gone into my previous races with the thought that these were merely stepping stones before I reached my ultimate challenge. It feels a little strange that this is actually going to happen. I don’t know if the nerves have really hit me yet. It still seems so surreal that my dream may actually come true.

cow

I don't eat these guys anymore, or drink their milk.

Before I can run 100 miles, I know I have to get serious with not only my running, but with how I cross-train and with what I choose to fuel my body with. I’ve been vegetarian for over 5 years now and I love it. My body feels wonderful and healthy, and I love that I can make less of an impact of the environment based on my food choices. As my New Years resolution, I decided to take this one step further by becoming vegan. I typically eat this way on my own anyways, since most animal products are either too expensive, too high in saturated fat for my liking, or both. The one area that I know will be a challenge for me is sweets. I’m the type that can never resist cookies if they’re in the same room as me and I spend a ridiculous amount of time at the frozen yogurt shop, Yogurt Creations. But I really think this is the right step for me to make. Not only am I taking a stronger stand on my dedication to the Earth, but by cutting out food products that tend to weigh me down or make me feel bad, I know I can take my training to the next level. For all of you wondering, I also practically never eat processed foods and I try to eat a diet based on almost entirely whole grains and lots fruits and veggies, which I know plays a large role in my performance.