Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Quesadillas and Red Cabbage Collide

First thing's first: I. Love. Food. In fact, I think it's one of the most glorious and potentially underrated reasons to start running. I know I'm not the only runner who feels this way. Looking back on my highest mileage months during my Vermont Marathon buildup, I remember this startling revelation: I'm always going to be hungry. Cereal and banana for breakfast. Oatmeal and yogurt at 10:00. Almonds and apricots at 11:00. A full lunch. A frozen waffle and pretzels around 3:30-4:00. THEN, I'd get my run in. After that, all bets were off. I walked around the house with my mouth hanging open, jaw unhinged, prepared to chew and swallow whatever happened to fall into it. And the best part? I couldn't keep weight on. To say my bones were slippery would be an understatement.

But like a pregnant woman, it wasn't so much the quantity, but the random cravings. Back then, it was sausage. The Monday morning after my long runs, the only thing I could think about was a greasy sausage patty with one egg over medium snuggling up to it, both neatly resting between an english muffin (pause to wipe away drool).

Where was I? Ah, yes. As the mileage odometer continues to climb, I'm seeing - or rather tasting - those same cravings. There will always be a special place in my heart for the sausage, but last night it was something completely different. I'm embracing the old adage, "Give your body what it wants." Well, last night, my body couldn't decide what it wanted, it just knew it wanted many things.

I pulled double duty last night. Following yet another 9-5 day of training, I cranked out a 6.5 mile recovery run after work to clear the mind-numbing haze that had settled. By the time I got back to the house, it was time to pack up my hockey gear, chug some gatorade and shovel in a peanut butter sandwich before heading out to my game. Normally I play on Thursday nights, but I filled in on a friend's team for their absent goaltender. I couldn't bring myself to let a running workout slip away, however.

When the final buzzer sounded (a 5-3 victory I have to mention), I climbed into the car and my only thought (after, "do we have any biofreeze at home?") was "what is for dinner!" Mind you, it was 9:45 by the time I got home. Nothing was defrosted. My wife had fortunately gone on a cooking blaze this past weekend and made a crock pot full of red cabbage for the week. It has bacon in it...need I say more?

But I couldn't subsist on red cabbage alone. I wanted, check that, I needed a salad brimming with walnuts and carrots. More carbs, though. Oh, dear God, there's brown rice in the fridge. Yes, yes, that'll do.

I pulled the fridge open and started grabbing everything out of it whilst chugging a chocolate milk protein shake. That's when I saw it: tortillas, salsa, cheese, green onion. How could my brain have missed this? Probably too delirious with hunger. While the red cabbage turned in the microwave, those tortillas sizzled on a hot pan, cheese melting in between. Only the laws of physics kept me from eating faster.

Mattie eagerly watched this unique culinary display with intrigue and perhaps some reluctance, as if she knew the potential G-I dangers. Still, she followed me down to the basement as I balanced a plate perfectly divided into thirds: red cabbage smoking, brown rice steaming, spinach salad (yes!) overflowing with carrots and walnuts, and, the coup de gras, a quesadilla perched atop it all.

I feasted. And once the plate was completely licked clean (not much exaggeration), I tottered upstairs, head heavy with satisfaction and sleep coming on. Up one more flight, I slid under the covers with my book and woke again only briefly to my wife coming home from class.

When I woke up the next morning, I found my stomach in good shape, and my body demanding more...cereal this time. Red cabbage for breakfast would just be ridculous. Although did I mention it has bacon in it?

What do you crave after hard workouts...or any time after runs?

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