Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Does It Take To Run A 50 Mile Trail Race?

I am running my first 50 mile trail race in about ten weeks: The North Face 50 at Bear Mountain, NY.  I consider myself to be a complete newbie when it comes to running ultra's.

To date I have participated in two running races, the Dam Half Marathon and the Seashore 50k.  After the rock covered hills of the Dam Half, I was sore for two days but it was nothing I couldn't deal with. After the flat 50k my hip flexors were non-functioning and my calves and achilles tendons were tied up in knots. I couldn't lift my legs to get out of the car. I spent the Monday after the race shuffling around work like a crab missing more than one leg. I almost fell over when I sneezed as my hip flexors couldn't deal with the force of the explosive exhalation. Basically I felt like I got hit by a truck.

Finishing straight at the 2011 the Seashore 50k - My legs are in a world of pain.

Not wanting to experience the pain felt after the 50k, I have been mulling over ways to prevent pain both during and after an even tougher 50 miles. To areas of training that will be the key to my success include:

1. Downhill running - During the last 5 miles of the 50k my quadriceps protested and the slightest loss in elevation. Luckily for me the race was almost pancake flat and I was able to survive and finish. At Bear Mountain, however, the course has 7,000 feet of elevation loss. This means a lot of eccentric stress on the quadriceps muscles and potentially crippling weakness during the race coupled with a huge amount of post race muscle soreness. I will need to work on both volume of downhills run as well as technique or rocky, slippery slopes.

2. Food Intake - I like to run on an empty stomach. I like to think I am teaching my body how to burn fat for fuel. I don't like the feeling of food jostling around my stomach. I don't care for sticky, syrupy sweet energy gels. Unfortunately, ultra running requires food. And lots of it. Wait to long to eat and your day may end sooner than planned.

Race day also brings two undeniable facts: Pre-race nerves and the too fast start phenomenon. Both of these scenarios can lead to improper usage of fuel early in the race which can spell disaster as the day progresses.

Over the next few weeks I will discuss the physiology behind downhill running and how to prevent muscle soreness. I will also look at strategies to help with race day nutrition to help keep both body and mind functioning.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sous Vide

I have used the term sous vide in a few posts usually describing a chuck roast or other fatty, tough cut of meat. If you have no interest in food or cooking techniques you may be asking yourself, "sous who?"

First of all I am a sous vide novice. I don't have a proper food sealer. I may be risking some type of bacterial disease by not following proper time and temperatue, but I have made some tasty beef short ribs, chuck roasts, and eye round roasts.

Sous vide is French for "under vacuum".  You seal a piece of meat in a plastic bag and cook it for 24-72 hours in hot water. The beauty of sous vide cooking is that you get perfect results every time. There is no guess work to oven temps, lids off or on, or temperature of simmering water. Set the time and temp and then walk away.

What sets sous vide above other cooking techniques is not it's simplicity (I feel like i'm performing so act of trickery by getting food so good without laboring over the hot stove) but rather the fact that you can have the best of both worlds. A chuck roast in the crock pot will fall apart and taste great when sauced properly but is by definition, overcooked. A chuck roast cooked for 48 hours at 140 degrees, however, will be simultaneously tender and juicy. The fat will have melted but the muscle fibers will not have dried out because they never went above 140 degrees. This means you can transform a cheap cut of meat to rival the texture and flavor of an expensive steak.

I'm sure to have the science wrong but trust me once you go sous vide you won't go back.

I use the sous vide magic temperature controller. It is accurate to 0.3 degrees. It can be attached to any rice maker or crock pot if you so choose.

This is the Fresh Meals Magic submersion heater with air circulator. This enables me to cook in a vessel as small as a normal cooking pot or as large as a bathtub (although that might send the electric bill through the roof).

Place the circulator in the cooking vessel or in this case my old lunch box.

Seal the grass fed chuck in a zip lock bag.

Submerge in the water and shut the lid.

Now all you need to do is wait!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Beef and Tomatillo Salsa Tacos

Homemade corn tortillas. Chuck roast cooked at 140 degrees for 24 hours and thinly sliced. Homemade tomatillo salsa from last season's harvest. Homemade mozzarella. Diced avocado and rice.

So much for a recovery meal. 4.5 hours running followed by insanse food prep means it's time to eat again. Oh and I had 4 of them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recovery Dish

Left over chhicken with baked sweet potato fries topped with avocado, salsa, and fresh ricotta.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chipotle Potato Salad with Avocado, Bacon, and Fresh Ricotta

The avocado craze continues in the form of a potato salad that will make you forget your grandmother's nasty mayonnaise laced dish with the hastily dice celery. This potato salad takes the cake. The smokiness of the chipotle peppers mixed with the creaminess of the fresh ricotta and avocado makes a positively delightful side dish.  No holiday gathering will be the same without it. You will long for it. You will talk about it. And most importantly you won't forget to make it, share it, and eat it.

2 pounds red creamer style potatoes. Cooked until soft
2 avocados diced
1 C. fresh ricotta - the store bought blob will never do. Skip the ricotta if not using fresh.
6 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled
1/2 red onion finely diced
2 T. pureed chipotle in adobo
1/4 C. sour cream
2 T. lime juice
Salt, fresh ground pepper, lemon zest