Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Feeding the Runner: Fall and Oats

In the bible of running, Once a Runner, Quentin Cassidy lives by the mantra, "If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn." As much fun as that philosophy may be, it's not the approach most runners take these days. With that in mind, here's the newest installment of my occasional posts on healthy recipes for runners (and other people too). Bon appetit!

As I posted yesterday, Sandy (or Frankenstorm) has necessitated a lot of indoor time in front of the TV enriching my brain. It turns out, however, that there's only so much reality television self-enrichment one can handle in a day so I turned to cooking for a little distraction.

Normally I'm a cold breakfast kind of guy. I like cold cereal, iced coffee, granola and yogurt mainly because these things are quick to prepare. It turns out, though, that not only does being trapped inside due to a hurrican mean that hot breakfast sounds good, it also means you have all the time in the world to sit in front of the stove.

Since last year's visit from that unwelcome guest Irene, I've had a few canisters of steelcut oats sitting around (though I'm not sure why that's what I decided to buy when I heard a hurricane was coming through). Yesterday, I got a little creative and decided to mix some fall flavors into those oats and the result was surprisingly delicious.

While steelcut oats take a while to make, they make great letfovers and are extremely filling. You might be able to make something similar with rolled oats, but don't steelcut oats sound a lot more badass?

Anyway, I recommend this recipe even if you aren't faced with a natural disaster anytime soon.

Pumpkin Spice Steelcut Oatmeal
Adapted from my really bored self

4 cups boiling water
1 cup steel cut oats
4 tbsp pumpkin butter*
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 or more tbsp of maple syrup
1/4 dried fruit

Bring four cups of water to a boil and stir in your steel cut oats. Add in your pumpkin pie spice and dried fruit. I like to add the dried fruit early (I used a mix of cranberries and raisins) so that they soak of liquid too.

Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the pot, for roughly 25 minutes. Kind of like risotto, you can add extra liquid as needed and the oats will continue to slurp it up.

Finally, add the pumpkin butter and maple syrup to taste (obviously you can add more than I did if you want it sweeter), keeping on the stove for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Spoon into a bowl and serve with milk, cream, more syrup or any other toppings you feel like. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days, though you will likely need to add more liquid when reheating.

*You can use puréed pumpkin, but the flavor won't be as strong and you'll need to add extra maple syrup for sweetness. You can also make your own pumpkin butter if you're really ambitious; I wasn't.

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Unscheduled Rest Day

Well, Frankenstorm is fully upon us here in Harlem and after taking today off, it doesn't look like I'll be running tomorrow. Normally I would be freaking out about two days without running but for once the taper crazies are working in my favor.

On Saturday I did my final pre-NYC double-digit run, 12.4 miles including the final 10 miles of the marathon course. I had planned to take Sunday as a rest day but since it seemed unlikely I'd be running the next two days  I snuck in an easy 5 last night. Again, I worked it the final miles of the course, getting in one of the last runs in Central Park before the Parks Deparment shut it down.

Right now NYRR expects everything to go on as planned and so do I. Last year they had to deal with the aftermath of a freak Halloween snow storm that damaged nearly 400 acres in the Park, leading to the loss of approximately 1000 trees. The Central Park Conservancy worked around the clock and by the time runners began to arrive for the festivities later in the week the Park was ready to greet the world.

As for me? I'm keeping myself busy with cleaning, reading, and cooking. Oh who am I kidding? I'm glued to the TV watching images of the carnage around the tri-state area. Stay safe everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Runner's Guide to the Bridges of the New York City Marathon

Since the New York City Marathon is just over a week away, I figured I would take a break from Friday poetry to post something that could potentially be useful to runners. For those readers not running New York, I'm sorry, but poetry will make a triumphant return in the near future.
During the course of the New York City Marathon, runners visit three different islands (Staten Island, Long Island, and Manhattan Island) with only the briefest of visits to Mainland, U.S.A. In order to get from island to island, runners pass over 5 different bridges, two that are somewhat well-known and three that get short shrift. Because I like to mentally divide the course using the bridges, I present to you my runner's guide to the bridges of the New York City Marathon.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
Length: 13,700 ft
Type: Double-decked suspension bridge.
Year Opened: 1964

The Verrazano Bridge marks the start of the marathon, carrying runners nearly two miles from Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. For blue and orange runners on the top, it provides sweeping views of New York Harbor; for runners on the bottom…forget the views and stay in the middle. The bridge also forms the biggest hill of the race, something to remember when you encounter the Queensboro

Pulaski Bridge
Length: 2,810 ft
Type: Bascule bridge (a.k.a., drawbridge)
Year Opened: 1954

The Pulaski Bridge, named after a Polish general in the American Revolutionary War, connects Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens. It crosses Newton Creek, one of the most polluted bodies of water in America. But you don’t care about that. You care about that fact that the Pulaski Bridge comes at the halfway point in the race. Congrats! Only 13.1 more miles to go.

                                                 Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge
Length: 3,724 ft
Type: Cantilever truss bridge
Year Opened: 1909

While the Pulaski Bridge marks the halfway point in the marathon, for many runners the race truly begins on the Queensboro Bridge. That's because runner's must climb roughly 130 ft as they cross the East River before beginning their descent to Manhattan's 1st Avenue. As you get closer to Mile 16 and Manhattan you begin to hear the crowd. The trick is in enjoying the crowd's energy without speeding up and wasting too much of your own.

Willis Avenue Bridge
Length: 3,212 ft
Type: Swing bridge
Year Opened: 2010

After 109 years of service, the Willis Avenue Bridge was replaced in 2010. The roadbed of the old bridge was made of open steel grating prompting marathon officials to cover it in orange carpeting for the race. With solid deck that no longer requires carpeting, the new bridge may no longer stand out for its odd appearance but it’s still notable to runners because it comes at Mile 20, the point when many runners hit “the wall.” It also carries runners out of Manhattan and into their final borough, the Bronx.*

Photo credit: Steve Boyle Photo

Madison Avenue Bridge
Length: 2,893 ft
Type: Swing bridge
Year Opened: 1910

The shortest and second-oldest bridge on the course, the Madison Avenue Bridge carries runners out of the Bronx, depositing them on 5th Avenue in Manhattan at Mile 21. Yes, the Madison Avenue Bridge connects to Madison Avenue too, but since that’s not part of the marathon, who cares? If you make it over this bridge you know you're going to finish the race!

* After the Bronx, runners return to Manhattan, but by that point they have already run through all five boroughs.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feeding the Runner: Spicy Veggie Burgers

In the bible of running, Once a Runner, Quentin Cassidy lives by the mantra, "If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn." As much fun as that philosophy may be, it's not the approach most runners take these days. With that in mind, here's the second installment of my occasional posts on healthy recipes for runners (and other people too). Bon appetit! 

As a vegetarian one of the questions I get asked the most is, "What about bacon? I mean, bacon and eggs, bacon ice cream, bacon wrapped tator tots..." The question I get asked the second most? "How do you get your protein?" Well, this recipe is one of those ways. 

The ingredients ready for some mixin'!

These veggie burgers are a mix of high quality carbs and protein so they're great after a run when you want to replenish your system (they also have a lot of fiber, so maybe not the best meal too soon before a run if you know what I mean). 

I swear it tastes better than it looks.

Of course, if you don't run (and even if you eat meat) these are still a satisfying treat. I like these over a bed of mixed greens and roasted beets but you can certainly pop one on a satisfying bun with the topings of your choice. 


Spicy Veggie Burgers
Adapted from Runner's World

1 can black beans (15.5 ounces)

1/2 c. cooked quinoa

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tbls nutritional yeast

1 tbls dijon mustard

1 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

Cook your quinoa according to the instructions on its packaging. While it's cooking rinse your black beans well with cold water.
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.

Using your hands or a fork, thorough mix the ingredients, mashing the beans so that they form a paste that holds the mixture together.

Scoop out individuals patties of your desired size between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick. In a skillet over high heat, cook the patties in 1/2 tbsp of oil oil on each side (be careful not to burn them!).

Transfer the patties to a baking sheet or casserole dish and place them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 Sleepy Hollow 10k Race Report

This weekend I did the 3rd Annual Sleepy Hollow 10k. In 2010 I participated in the inaugural running of this race and it was really cool to see how it's grown. In 2010 there were around 250 runners; this year there were nearly 900! In 2010 there were 2 porta-potties at the start; this year there were at least 10. The best part is that even with such phenomenal growth, the race has retained it's small town community appeal.

The race t-shirt.
With the New York Marathon just two weeks away, this was a tune-up race, but I was still really excited for it. I signed up for the race with one of my running friends, Helen, who happens to have a car so we got to drive to the start. Living in NYC, driving to any race is a huge luxury and it was sure nice to rock out to quality tunes on the way.

Packet pick-up was a breeze in spite of the larger numbers and they also had a bag check. After changing into our racing flats, Helen and I did a nice warm-up mile through the neighborhood. By the time we got back, the starting line was looking crowded so we hurried to find spots near the front. It looked like a faster crowd than before but I still figured we'd do pretty well overall.

Me, on the final hill.
After the national anthem and an appearance by the headless horseman, we were off. The first mile, as I remembered, has a lot of downhill and it was tempting to go fast--I did, cruising through in 6:06. After mile 1 there's a significant downhill (that becomes an uphill later) before the course passes the Old Dutch Church and turns into the residential neighborhood of Phillipse Manor.

This section, the bulk of the race, is full of turns and hills. Just looking at my splits you can see how steep the hills were. Mile 2 was a speedy 6:08, while miles 3, 4, and 5 were 6:28, 6:27, 6:29 respectively. No matter how much downhill there was in a given mile it couldn't completely make up for the steep climbs.

For much of the race I was running with or near three runners from NYAC, a guy and the two lead females. They were friendly and we chatted a bit, plus I got to pretend that the applause for the lead females was also for me (though there was plenty of cheering for everyone).

By the time we finished mile 5, most of the hills were out of the way. That's how I managed a 6:08 mile 6 (my same pace for that mile in 2010!). Of course, the steep downhill from just after mile 1 becomes a steep uphill at the end of the race as we return towards the finish. I knew this hill was coming and had mentally prepared for it but it still sucked. You could hear the cheers from the finish line, though, which helped a bit.

Just after I crested the hill another runner edged past me. I was having none of it so I surged and managed to pass him again just before crossing the finish line. Good enough for a 39:15 finish, 13th place overall, and 3rd in the my age group.

My friend Helen crossed a couple minutes after me and we headed in search of the delicious donuts I remembered from 2010. There were plenty of them, though we restrained ourselves and did a cool-down along the course so we could see more of the costumes. We even saw a celebrity of sorts:

We both had a ton of fun and I highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a good time (though definitely not a PR). Of course, the caramel apple I had later in morning may have been even better than the race itself.
That's my happy face, I swear!

While the weather was a bit warm for a race, it was perfect for exploring Sleepy Hollow and neighboring Tarrytown. All in all, a great fall day!

Note: The first three photos in this post are from Rivertown Runners; the last two photos in this post are from my friend Helen.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Blue Line Run, Improvised

This weekend was all about running for me. Saturday I did the Sleepy Hollow 10k (expect a race report with some great photos in the next day or so) and Sunday was Front Runners' Blue Line Run. Front Runners has been putting on the Blue Line Run for some time now, but this was the first year that it was a full partnership with my team, the Dashing Whippets, and North Brooklyn Runners.

The Front Runners coach telling us to "Be cute!"
What is the Blue Line Run, you ask? Basically, it's a supported long run on the final 20 miles of the marathon course. Folks from each of the three teams volunteered to staff aid stations along the way, operate cars as mobile bag checks, and serve as bike marshals. I was incredibly impressed with the organization and planning that went into this--with over 200 participants it was a lot of work!

Anyway, the run was great, but in Williamsburg someone told us the pedestrian path on the Queensboro was closed* so we doubled back over the Williamsburg Bridge and took 1st Avenue all the way up to rejoin the course at 59th Street. It was a valuable reminder that no matter how well your advance planning, you really do need to be ready for anything come race day.

Because of the extra miles we ran doubling back into Manhattan we also skipped the Bronx part of the course--in other words, our 4 borough tour was cut in half. Still, I got in 17 miles, had a lot of run running with teammates and some new runner friends, and got to enjoy a beautiful Sunday. I have no complaints and I'm really getting excited for November 4.


* Throughout the rest of the day I heard conflicting stories so for all I know the bridge was open, but with the 7 train not running into Manhattan, there's no way I was going to test this.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Different Kind of Friday Poetry

Friday has rolled around and once again the mood feels right for some poetry. While I love haikus, I figured I would switch things up a bit today with some limericks. Don't worry, there's no one from Nantucket in these so they're (relatively) clean.

A Difficult Double Life

There once was an amateur jogger,

Who dabbled a bit as a blogger,
But the blogging was tiring,
The jogging perspiring,
So he gave up both tasks and drank lager

A Marathon World Record

There once was a race with a urinal trough
That set a world record with the length of its slop
But the stench and the sight
Gave some runners a fright
So this world wonder eight, it was stopped*

P.S. Sorry about the formatting on the poems. For some reason I couldn't get it quite right.
*Starting in 1998, NYYR began set up a 290-foot open trough "urinal" near the marathon starting line at Ft Wardsworth. According to the New York Times, "race organizers always thought the trough was a tad disgusting," so around 2006 the discontinued the practice, replacing this world record breaker with a string of porta-potties.