Chapter 5 – Hittin’ My Stride
Hadn’t the allure of crossing that finish line been dangling above my head for the past two years?!
Hadn’t I endured and recovered from two stress fractures attempting to get to this point?!
Hadn’t I vehemently stuck to a slow and steady two month training plan to ensure that I accomplished just this?!
Hadn’t I just completed my first half marathon at a pace that was nearly a minute and a half faster than how I had trained?!
The answer to all of the above… “Yes.”
So, pray tell, why the long face?
Because after suppressing my ego for the past few months, rationale me was exhausted and my ego took total advantage of this weakness and was rearing it’s ugly head in full force. I am young, I workout almost daily, I adhere to a healthful diet, I am strong-willed and dedicated to anything I set my heart to…. and yet I did not feel that my performance reflected any of those traits. I had completed the race, but my sense of accomplishment was far from complete.
So, what is a girl to do? Give up on the notion of ever being a runner all together? After all, my mother had insisted that “Maybe it’s just not for you.” more than once following my injuries… and aren’t moms always right?! Yeah right… I am far too stubborn for that. The logical answer of course was to train for another race and, even more importantly, better myself as a runner in the process.
It just so happened that the Rock and Roll Series was hosting their inaugural 10k in Prospect Park, Brooklyn in October. The timing, distance, and venue were ideal and so the very next day I registered. The first step towards betterment was to determine what “better” actually meant. Prior to my injuries I had been able to run 10 minute miles comfortably. So I decided that if I could run 6.2 miles in under an hour (just shy of that 10:00/mile pace) I would deem the race a success. I consulted with my personal coach/husband and was again presented with a training plan that had all the same conditions of the one I had just completed…with the exception of some leeway with my pace. Once again, I firmly adhered to the plan… diligently getting in each scheduled run and keeping my overachieving trigger in check. And once again, my final motivational push came the weekend before my race as I chased Nick around the woods of the Ramapo Valley as he achieved his latest personal feat… completing a 50k (31 mile) trail run. Personal coach, husband, and ultimate motivator all in one… luckiest girl ever!
Race day was one for the memory books before the event even began. Highway construction and an unexpectedly high demand for race day packet pick-up nearly prevented me from even making it to the starting line (amongst the hundreds of intense and angst runners waiting on the seemingly endless line I managed to find the only two guys laid back enough to let me casually cut into the queue). Meanwhile, after dropping me at the start, Nick had (unbeknownst to him) ventured into a less than desirable neighborhood in Brooklyn in an attempt to find parking and while sprinting from said parking spot back to the park had a firsthand encounter with a street shooting. Unscathed, but experiencing a serious adrenaline rush, he made it to my corral just in time for a final pep talk and good luck peck. It was a chilly morning and my stiff muscles (there had been no time for stretching) and bare skin were screaming in opposition, but by the time I was a couple tenths of a mile in I could feel myself loosening up and settling into a rhythm that was pulsing with determination. The race itself was two laps around the park and by the time I reached the halfway point I was not only on pace to reaching my goal, but ahead of it! That realization in and of itself was enough to propel me onward, but with each runner I passed and each tenth of a mile that ticked by I got an even bigger boost of adrenaline. Seeing Nick at mile 6 was the final catalyst as I turned the corner into the finishing stretch and was in (what felt like to me anyway) a full sprint. I blew across the finish line and as my stride winded down the pounding in my chest was no longer attributed to physical exertion, but to pride. I had surpassed my expectations (official time of 58:10, a 9:21/mile pace)… I had bettered myself as a runner and I could confidently say (even if just to myself) that I had accomplished something.
Fast forward another month and another bout of goal setting and training…I entered my fourth annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and PR’d by nearly 2 minutes by running a 8:25/mile pace. That made it official… I was back on the road to running and cruising it.
To be continued…
And now for a culinary journey with similar ups and downs.
Ahhhh… the elusive homemade veggie burger. This growingly popular alternative to the all American beef burger is now widely available in the frozen food section of most local supermarkets. While some brands (i.e. Amy’s Kitchen) have managed to appease my picky palate, the unpronounceable ingredients and scant evidence of their namesake, vegetables, amongst most of these prepackaged pucks has left me in search of a homemade version. Easier said than done my herbivorous friend. No other food has ever tested my culinary prowess and patience quite like the veggie burger has. In an attempt to avoid embodying Einstein’s definition of insanity (cue overused quote regarding doing the same thing over again and expecting different results) I have experimented with a variety of hearty vegetables, protein bases, and sticky binders. But, my attempts have repeatedly resulted in textural and flavorful failures…dry, bland, mushy, crumbly
burgers messes that no amount of condiment doctoring could save. I’ve poured my faith into my food blogger idols and placed trust in proclamations that their recipe holds the answer to the woes experienced by myself, and so many others, who are in pursuit of the evasive homemade veggie burger. And then after years of woefully scraping up the burnt crumbly remnants of my most recent burger bust the answer came from ultra-marathoner, author, and vegan advocate, Scott Jurek. As luck would have it I, the one who had chased this fleeting veggie burger dream, cannot even take credit for finally capturing it. Nick stumbled across the link to the recipe on Scott Jurek’s Facebook page and e-mailed it to me with a simple subject line of “Let’s try these.” Despite my doubts… I mean if the food blogger deities hadn’t led me to veggie burger euphoria how was some superhuman athlete turned amateur chef going to take me there?! Well… Mr. Jurek had me eating my doubts, literally. Because his recipe for Lentil-Mushroom Burgers, which resulted in a complexly flavorful patty that was moist, yet firm (they even passed the grill test!), was the key to unlocking the homemade veggie burger mystery. And now, as a reputable food blogger wannabe, I pass along the key to you… prepare for homemade veggie burger greatness!
The bonus of these burgers:
- Lentils – Lentils are jam-packed with protein, iron and B vitamins. The body uses B vitamins to generate energy to sustain running.
- Swiss chard – A serving of this jaunty nutritional overachiever contains more than a day’s worth of vitamins A and C. Vitamin C is required to make collagen, an important structural component of tendons, ligaments and bone. Further bolstering the nutritional value of swiss chard is huge amounts of vitamin K that are needed for proper blood clotting and bone health.
- Flaxseeds – Flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 has been linked to improved sensitivity to insulin and glucose metabolism. It can help to reduce inflammatory response in conditions such as osteoarthritis and possibly exercise-induced asthma. Researchers are currently investigating if omega-3 reduces muscular inflammatory response after an intense workout.
adapted from Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
- 1 cup dried green lentils
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 3 cups chopped mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped swiss chard (or other winter green)
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 12 hamburger buns
- condiments and accompaniments of choice
In a medium pot, bring 2 1/4 cups of water to a boil. Then add lentils, parsley, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1/4 cup chopped onions.
Combine walnuts, bread crumbs, and flaxseed meal in a small bowl and set aside.
In a separate pan greased with olive oil, sauté remaining onion and garlic, mushrooms, and kale for 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Remove lentils from heat, add Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar, and mash ingredients together (I used a potato masher).
In a large bowl, combine lentil mixture, sautéed vegetables, and bread-crumb mixture. Place bowl in refrigerator until mixture is cool.
Using your hands, form patties and grill (or pan fry over medium-high heat) until lightly browned and crispy on both sides, approximately 5 minutes per side. Serve on a toasted bun (or on their own) with your favorite condiments.
Makes 12 four-inch burgers.
Make ahead tip: Place formed patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with foil and place in freezer. Once patties are completely frozen use scissors to cut the paper between the patties and stack them in a large freezer container or bag. When you thaw them, leave the paper between them so they’ll be easy to separate.