Chapter 2 – A Change of Heart
Not long after my 5k accomplishment, and subsequent realization of a budding enjoyment of running, Pro-Activity launched their PACER (Pro Activity Conditioning and Endurance Racing) team. PACER is a social club/athletic team founded on the belief that with courage and perseverance (and an enthusiastic cheering squad!) ordinary people can do extraordinary things. In the year following its founding, I bore witness to some remarkable accomplishments including training for and completing 5k’s, 10k’s, half-marathons , marathons, and a 50 mile trail race, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, summiting Mt. Washington, and smashing PR’s. The feat that I was privy an insider’s view of was Nick’s quest towards completing his first half marathon in Virginia Beach in September 2009. At the time, we were still “enduring” a long-distance relationship which meant only seeing one another on the weekends. In the months leading up to the race, our nightly phone calls came after increasingly intense training runs and our Saturday morning sleep-ins, coffee, and SportsCenter viewings were replaced by “long runs.” The memory that sticks with me most from this time was when on a miserably humid, drizzly afternoon in August I drove Nick across town and left him on the side of a desolate farm-side road so he could run the 11 miles back to my parents’ house. I remember watching the countryside tick by out my car window, slowly turning over to our small town’s quaint main street, and then back to countryside again. All the while I was thinking “I can’t believe he’s going to cover all this distance by running!” When, well over an hour later, he ascended the steep crest of my parents’ driveway the combination of sweat and rain could be rung out of his clothing. Even after a shower and fresh outfit the bloodshot eyes and gray pallor were remaining evidence of his efforts. I clearly remember struggling to figure out why anyone would ever subject themselves to that level of exertion and assuring myself that I certainly never would (yes… this is foreshadowing).
Then came race day and as an official PACER “loudmouth” I had a strategic cheer zone on the grassy divider where the racers were passing their mile 4 and mile 11 marks. I was well prepared with noise makers, a camera, and runner tracking text message alerts, but no amount of foresight could have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster that I would experience that late summer morning. I watched Team Hoyt members pass by, runners and disabled partners both beaming ear to ear, Team in Training participants proudly running in memory of loved ones, brave cancer survivors and war veterans. Runners of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who were all aiming to achieve personal greatness. When I saw Nick at the “reunion area” post-finish line my heart was swelled with pride and admiration. Nick, and every other runner who crossed my path that day, had truly inspired me.
When all was said and done and Nick and I were a couple hours into our lengthy trek back home, I finally asked the question that had been weighing heavily on my mind. “Soooo how far would I have to be able to run in order to even consider training for a half marathon?” I squeaked. “About 5 miles. Why you want to run one now?” he baited. “Ummm, I dunno. We’ll see how I feel in the morning,” I replied in a most non-committal fashion.
And what did that next morning bring? Me, at the gym, putting in my first 5 mile run.
To be continued…
And now for a snack break…
At the most recent race expo I attended I stumbled upon a Larabar booth and felt an instant surge of excitement at the thought of free samples of one of my favorite grab-and-go foods. Larabars have enjoyed quite a bit of publicity recently, especially after being featured on The Biggest Loser, but my first taste came as a result of perusing the “bar” section of Whole Foods in search of a wholesome source of sustained energy for those days that I was exerting a lot of energy while running. The allure of the bar is that it is a pure fruit and nut bar with each flavor containing no more than 9 ingredients (some as little as 2!) As a result they are gluten free, vegan, and free of any colorings, additives, or preservatives. To boot, they are simply delicious. There are 20 different flavors, most of which I have at least sampled, but the Peanut Butter and Jelly variety is my hands down favorite. I am not one to typically scoff at high price tags on healthful foods, but I am always up for the challenge of recreating something with the added bonus of cost efficiency. When I came across Jen’s recipe for a mock up of the Cherry Pie flavor I decided that was my foray into making my own. Using her nut and dried fruit ratios and the label’s ingredients for inspiration I whipped up (more like chopped, pureed, scraped, repeated) my very own Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.
The benefits rundown:
- These bars are loaded with heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats
- Peanuts are a great source of concentrated protein (20-30% protein!)
- Dates are rich in potassium which for runners is essential in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance
- The combination of dried fruits and nuts result in a nice blend of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and copper
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
1 1/4 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 1/4 cups dried strawberries
1 1/2 cups peanuts
Line a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place dates and strawberries in a food processor and pulse until a gooey semi-paste has formed. The mixture will be very sticky and it takes quite a bit of pulsing to achieve the right consistency (some fruit bits, but not large chunks). Scoop the fruit paste into a large mixing bowl. Pour the peanuts in the food processor and pulse to coarse bits (do not over-process). Empty the peanuts into the mixing bowl with the dried fruit. Knead the dried fruit and peanuts together until combined and evenly distributed (I found using my hands to be most the most effective means of kneading). Transfer the the mixture to the prepared pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate the mixture until it is firm to the touch, approximately 30 minutes. Invert onto a cutting board and slice to desired size.