Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 16


Traversing the Telluride via ferrata climbing route

Week 16 proved atypical. For one, we spent a good part of the week in Telluride, where I was on assignment for several magazines. For another, I decided to take much of the week off from training. After a series of very hard weeks, my body was feeling weary, and I decided to dial it back, rest and recover. Looking ahead, I'm hoping this will allow me to put in two hard weeks of training during Weeks 17 and 18, and then taper my output in advance of the race on September 25. And so, here are last week's modest stats:

Training Days: 3 (To Date: 53)
Rest Days: 4 (To Date: 59)
Body Weight: 149 (Net Gain/Loss: -11)
Running Days: 1 (To Date: 41)
Running Miles Logged: 11.6 (To Date: 434.5)
Average: 11.6 (Short = 11.6, Long = 11.6)
Cross-Training: Hiking, Climbing

One of the nice things about taking some time off last week while we were in Telluride was that it allowed me to cross-train by enjoying other activities. Training for an ultra distance race has been so all-consuming that it has left little time for other sports I love. In Telluride, I reconnected with my roots, in a way. We went for a nice hike up the Bear Creek Trail (with Marin providing some excellent training weight in the backpack carrier). I also climbed the Telluride Via Ferrata route in the San Juans Mountains west of town. It was a spectacular day in the mountains. Both activities (and the trail running, too) were reminders of why I love Colorado and the outdoors.

The rest period, I think, has been as good for my mind as for my body. I'm feeling energized and motivated to resume training tonight. With the race less than a month away now, I can sense the training winding down, and I'm feeling more and more focused on race day itself.

Finally, I'm happy to report more progress on the NFCA fundraising front. My total is now up to $1,860, which brings me to 37% of my goal. Huge thanks go out to Barbara S., Aaron G., and Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery for your generous donations! We're in the home stretch now. If you haven't made a donation, please consider doing so today and visit my fundraising page! Thanks everyone for your ongoing and continued support!

Featured Donor




This week, I'm highlighting Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery for their generous corporate donation to the NFCA. Check back tomorrow for a post about a great gluten-free bread launch dinner I attended in Denver last week to celebrate Rudi's new gluten-free offerings, and keep an eye on NGNP in the coming weeks for an official review of their breads!

- Pete

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Foto: Ancho-Agave Shrimp

As evidenced by last week's Friday Foto, lately I've really been enjoying a) grilling, b) with scratch marinades and sauces that, c) are infused with different chile peppers. One week ago it was chipotle chiles (in a BBQ sauce). This week it's ancho chiles in a garlic-lime-agave marinade.

The recipe gets some spice and smokiness from ancho chiles (with a little added kick from red pepper flakes). Meanwhile, the acidic tanginess of lime juice is balanced by sweetness from agave nectar. The result is a delicious naturally gluten-free marinade that pairs wonderfully with shrimp.

Here's how to make it:

3 large garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 3 limes
A shy 1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp ancho chile pepper powder
A dash each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 lb 30-count shrimp, raw, peeled, deveined

1. Whisk together all ingredients through and including the agave nectar in a medium bowl.
2. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Skewer for grilling. Retain the leftover marinade.
3. Preheat your grill on high, then drop the flame to medium or medium-low.
4. Grill the shrimp for 6 minutes. At the 3 minute mark, drizzle the shrimp with half the remaining marinade.
5. Turn the shrimp, and grill for 6 more minutes. Again, at the 3 minute mark, drizzle the shrimp with the second half of the remaining marinade.

Enjoy!

In this instance, we simply served the ancho-agave shrimp over some leftover brown rice we had from a previous dinner. But you could easily get creative and serve this shrimp over salad, or in seafood tacos, or in lots of other fun ways.

- Pete

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Product Review: Bakery on Main

Fiber Power Triple Berry Granola

Bakery on Main, based in Glastonbury, CT, is a natural foods company offering basically two types of gluten-free products: loose granola, and granola bars. They're made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, with gluten-free ingredients, and are in-house tested for gluten. All good things.

The products are now available in most states, and the website has a convenient store locator so you can find a retailer near you.

Granola Bars

The granola bars are made from a base of rice (rice syrup, crisp rice, rice flour), corn, soy and a variety of seeds (sunflower, sesame, flax). They come in three flavors: peanut butter chocolate chip, extreme trail mix, and cranberry maple nut.

On the average, the bars are quite tasty. They're chewy (though sometimes a little sticky to hold in your hand sans wrapper), and have a nice blend of flavors. But, the individual varieties themselves lack uniqueness. All three granola bar flavors pretty much taste like the same thing. For the peanut butter chocolate chip, both the peanut and chocolate flavors are too subtle. The cranberry maple nut sometimes tastes a bit like cranberry, but tastes nothing like maple (and in fact, maple is not even listed on the ingredients). And the extreme trail mix tastes most like sunflower seeds. In fact, for all three flavors, the seeds - and especially the sunflower seeds - came through strongest.

Again, the granola bars don't taste bad. In fact, they're quite good. But don't set your expectations based on the flavor listed on the wrapper.

Extreme Fruit & Nut Granola

Loose Granola

The story is much the same for the granola, which tastes like a drier, crunchier, loose version of the bars. The one standout is the Fiber Power Triple Berry Granola, which stands apart from every other granola and granola bar we tasted. It has nice berry flavor, and the use of GF oats make the base for this one different than the others. Even so, it's a bit too dry and cake-y in the mouth for my taste, and I most enjoyed it coupled with a tall glass of water to wash it down.

Bottom line: Bakery on Main offers up tasty options for both loose and bar-form gluten-free granola. Sure, the flavors all taste relatively the same. But don't sweat it. At least this way, if your local supermarket is out of one flavor, you know you can go with another without deviating too much from what you already know and like!

- Pete

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 15

The spectator-lined finish line of the Pikes Peak Ascent
at the summit of 14,115' Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs

Isolation versus community. In training and racing, there's a balance to be struck between the two. Oftentimes, I train in a kind of vacuum. I don't belong to any local triathlon or running clubs, and I don't have any training partners who put in the kind of miles I'm running these days. And so I end up trail running alone. Not that I mind. Being out on the trails early in the morning - often when I'm the only one out - leaves me with my thoughts, and offers opportunities to sit back and appreciate the beautiful mountain environment I'm running through.

But at times, this can also present a challenge. There's no one but me to push myself. No one to talk to and share a camaraderie with. For me, trail running - at least over the last few months training for the upcoming race - hasn't had much of a social component.

This past weekend, however, I traveled to Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs to cover the Pikes Peak Ascent race for Trail Runner magazine. And being there...amidst the world-class runners, spectators, and the sheer energy of the event...was at once inspiring and energizing. I was reminded what it means to be a part of a community of like-minded athletes who share the same passion for mountain running.

That reminder has valuable cross-over for those of us in the gluten-free community. If we let it, going gluten-free can - at least at times - be an isolating thing. But we have to remember that we are part of a vibrant, loving community. Whether through blogs like NGNP, or through Celiac and gluten intolerance support groups, or whatever, there are wonderful ways in which we can connect with one another. As with every other aspect of life, living gluten-free becomes a balance of the personal and the public.

But enough said about that. Without further ado, the weekly stats update:

Training Days: 3 (To Date: 50)
Rest Days: 4 (To Date: 55)
Body Weight: 148 (Net Gain/Loss: -12)
Running Days: 3 (To Date: 40)
Running Miles Logged: 33.7 (To Date: 422.9)
Average Run: 11.2 (Short = 5.9, Long = 21.8)
Cross-Training: None

Training this week was not what I planned it to be. My schedule seemed to conspire to ensure otherwise. A last minute mid-week three-day trip to NY and NJ; just 1.5 hours of sleep on Friday night; covering the Pikes Peak race on Saturday. All of it made squeezing in my runs difficult, and left me with less energy than I would have liked when I did.

By Sunday morning, when I was headed out for my long run of the week, I was spent before I even left the trailhead. My intention was to run a 33+ mile route on trails. I'd do it by running a series of 5 to 7-mile loops that all radiated out from a central hub trail junction.

This arrangement proved a motivational hurdle. The hub trail junction was just half a mile from the trailhead where my Jeep was parked, and so each time I ran through that hub, it was tempting to just turn for home, knowing the car was so close. For another, the day got way too hot way too quickly. A hot wind made it even worse. As I ran, I felt as if I could feel the dry, hot wind sucking moisture from my body. I ended up having to return to the Jeep 7 miles ahead of schedule in order to refill my water and pick up more food. Motivating to head back out on the trails was even tougher once I was actually back at the car.

Motivating for such long-distance runs is often a key challenge of racing. Experienced marathoners like to think of a marathon (26.2 miles) as a 20 mile run with a 10k (6.2 miles) tacked onto the end. Once you hit the 20-mile mark, you forget everything you've already done and simply focus on a very manageable task...running a basic 10k. But what do you do in an ultra race? It's not exactly comforting to think of the Virgil Crest Ultra as a 20 mile run with a 30 mile run tacked on to the end of it.

Ultra running is indeed a mind game. It's a game of mind over matter, and using your brain to push your body past known limitations. I knew this going into training. But I'm learning even more about it now through experience. I'm especially trying to discern the subtle difference between pushing on through benign pain and running through an injury. Those are two very different things.

At mile 22 (technically, mile 21.8) I called it quits. My body and my mind just didn't have it that day. I was tired from the previous week. The heat and wind and sun were unbearable (more than 80% of the route has no shade whatsoever). And my knees were beginning to ache. While I was disappointed to not do the intended 33+ miles, I think I made the right choice by listening to my body.

Back at the trailhead, another trail runner had also just returned to her car, also calling it quits because of the heat. She'd only be out on the trails for 10 minutes before throwing in the towel and turning around. Suddenly, I didn't feel so bad about my own run, which was just shy of 4 hours.

Finally, on a fundraising note, huge thanks this week go out to the Brinkman family, Gribble family, Lisa D. and Laura R. for your generous donations. I've now raised almost $1,500 for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, which brings me to 30% of my goal! Thank you! I only have one month to go before the race, and I'm still a long way from my goal. Please consider making a donation! Visit my fundraising page today!

- Pete

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Foto: Chipotle BBQ

For a while now, I've been wanting to make a scratch barbeque sauce infused with chipotle flavor; kind of give it a Southwestern or Mexican twist. Recently, I pulled the trigger and made it happen (as usual, over country-style pork ribs...so delicious). The sauce has a nice balance of sweet, heat, and acid, and the chipotle flavor is surprisingly prominent, without being overpowering. But consider yourself warned: it has some serious kick. If you're sensitive to spicy food, or prefer a milder barbeque sauce, in the recipe below don't be shy about cutting back on the black pepper and the chipotle powder by as much as 50%.

Here's how to make it:

Heavy 1/3 cup ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp chipotle powder

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. Voila! Chipotle BBQ sauce.

If making something like country-style ribs, reserve half the sauce for drizzling over the cooked meat later. Use the other half to marinate the pork and brush while grilling. Makes enough for 4 country-style ribs.

Enjoy!

- Pete

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 14

3.5 months down. 1.5 months to go! The big race is rapidly approaching, and the stats keep building:

Training Days: 3 (To Date: 47)
Rest Days: 4 (To Date: 51)
Body Weight: 151 (Net Gain/Loss: -9)
Running Days: 3 (To Date: 37)
Running Miles Logged: 43.4 (To Date: 389.2)
Average Run: 14.5 (Short = 6.7, Long = 30)
Cross-Training: None

Week 14 was a pivotal one in several ways. My weekly mileage total has been in the 30s for weeks, and at last, I've kicked over into the 40s. In addition, after knocking on the door of the 30-mile threshold in a single run for weeks as well, I finally did it. On Saturday, I pulled off a 30-mile trail run. (Strictly speaking, this is also the first time I've officially run a marathon, 26.2 miles) Yahoo! What's more, it felt pretty darned good. Granted, the elevation gain was fairly modest, but I still cranked out the run at a 10:30 per mile pace (in just under 5 hours 15 minutes), about 1.5 minutes per mile faster than my target race pace. Of course I was exhausted at the end of the run, but I was still able to function as a human being, and even chase Marin around the house that afternoon. The next day I wasn't sore at all, save for a bit of tightness in my hamstrings and a wee bit of soreness in my knees.

It's remarkable to think that a few short months ago I was running 3 or 5 miles at a time, and now I'm running 30 miles at a stretch, and basically doing a marathon every weekend, plus training during the week. I don't mean this as a boast. I'm truly amazed by it...to see how far I've come and just what my body and mind can handle. I'm also hoping that by sharing not just my probable success at the upcoming race, but also the progress I make training along the way, that I can inspire you - especially the newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease and other gluten-related conditions - to show just how strong your body can become once it heals on a gluten-free diet.

Unfortunately, on the fundraising front, I have no news to report. I received no donations this past week in support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Please take a moment to visit my fundraising page, and make a donation today! They're a great organization with a great mission and a great cause that benefits all of us here at NGNP. Thanks!

- Pete

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Foto: Penne a la Vodka

Penne a la vodka is an Italian dish (or Italian-American, depending on who you talk to) with a variety of reported origins. Regardless of how it began, all agree on one thing - it's made with penne pasta, heavy cream, vodka, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes bacon or other meat. My Aunt Connie has made a classic version of this dish for as long as I can remember, but thanks to my decades of lactose intolerance, it was always a bit too creamy for my personal taste. A funny thing happened recently, though...I got a craving for Connie's penne a la vodka. So Kelli and I went into the kitchen and created this version that's both gluten-free and lighter on the cream. It has a nice tomato flavor, subtle vodka notes, a little heat from red pepper flakes, and a little smoke from bacon. The combination is divine.


Here's how to make it:

3 strips bacon, diced small, uncooked
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 tbsp vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp dried basil (approximate)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (approximate)
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound GF penne pasta (Tinkyada)

1. Saute the bacon until it's done, but not too crispy.
2. Add the onions and garlic to the bacon and drippings. Saute over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic.
3. Add the vodka to de-glaze the pan and burn off the alcohol (about 2 minutes).
4. Add the tomatoes, simmer for 5 minutes, then puree the sauce with a handheld immersion blender.
5. Add the cream and spices, simmer for 5 minutes, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it out by adding a little bit of reserved pasta water.
6. Toss with GF pasta (boiled until al dente and strained) and serve.

Enjoy!

- Pete

P.S. As you've surely noticed, our photos include more than just penne pasta. We didn't have enough for dinner one night, so we added some rotini as well. Flexibility!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Product Review: Lundberg Family Farms Brown Rice Couscous

Couscous is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine. I consider it a type of pasta, though it's certainly unique and different from any other pastas we might traditionally think of. It is commonly attributed as having originated among the Berber people of north Africa, and around much of the world today, it is taken as a given that couscous is made from wheat (and thus, NOT gluten-free). However, throughout parts of Africa, there are also long-standing traditions of couscous made from millet, as well as sorghum and rice.

Before companies like Lundberg started making and selling gluten-free versions of couscous, the standard GF work-around was either to a) do without, or b) pulse brown rice in a food processor to make small granules, and then dry roast those granules in the oven before steaming or boiling the rice-based couscous. Now, companies such as Lundberg offer a convenient option for ready-to-cook couscous.

Lundberg Family Farms has been family owned and operated since 1937, and is big into sustainable farming practices (such as organic farming methods, environmentally-sensitive methods, renewable energy, and has a strong stance against GMOs). We're big fans.

The brown rice couscous itself comes in four flavors: Plain Original, Savory Herb, Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil, and Mediterranean Curry. All are made in a GF facility, are organic, GMO-free, and all but the Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil are also vegan.

The stove top cooking instructions are easy to follow and produce consistent results every time. Kelli and I were immediately impressed with the texture of the brown rice couscous. It was quite similar to my memory of wheat-based couscous, and the flavor wasn't far off, either.

The Plain Original flavor contains nothing but organic roasted brown rice. Beautiful in its simplicity of ingredients. But to our palettes, it also tasted on the bland side.

By contrast, flavors such as Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil, and Savory Herb, were very tasty, complemented by straightforward ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, dried onions, garlic powder, parsley and other common foods. Good stuff.

However, my one gripe is that the flavored versions of the couscous also contain autolyzed yeast extract. In the food industry, it's known as a "flavor enhancer." For all intents and purposes, it's pretty much interchangeable with MSG, which we're not fans of. (If you want to avoid the autolyzed yeast extract, you can always use the Lundberg Plain Original flavor and add your own seasonings to it... easy enough.)

In the final analysis, we were pleasantly surprised by both the taste and texture of Lundberg's brown rice couscous. The AYE not withstanding, there's a lot to love about this product, and it makes a wonderful pantry addition for rounding out your GF dinner menus with Mediterranean dishes.

[UPDATE: 8/17/10 - Apparently, we weren't the only ones with concerns about the autolyzed yeast extract. In response, Lundberg eliminated the ingredient from their entire line of GF brown rice couscous. The updated product started shipping August 1, 2010. Hooray! Give Lundberg an extra star for good performance.]

- Pete

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Defense of Hot Dogs

Summer is in full swing (and has been for a while now), which means that hot dogs are being cooked and eaten at ballparks and grills across the country.  But as much as Americans love a good hot dog, we often vilify them.

Within the gluten-free community, we cast a leery eye in the direction of hot dogs because, as a processed meat product, they hold the potential of being a hidden source of gluten.  (Thankfully, there are many tasty GF hot dogs out there, and hot dogs that previously contained gluten are frequently being reformulated to be gluten-free.)

Just as much so, we criticize hot dogs for being a "mystery meat," stereotypically made of all the unmentionable parts of animals...pig snouts and turkey feet.  This is, of course, a gross exaggeration over the reality (at least, I hope it is!).  But even if it's the honest truth, shouldn't we be praising hot dogs for this quality?  I'll explain...

Those of us who ascribe to the "ethical meat eating" camp believe that, when we take an animal's life in order to eat it, we have a responsibility to use that meat as much as we can.  Which means using as many parts of the animal as possible.

This runs counter to the modern-day supermarket meat-buying experience.  The way talented butchers parse chicken and turkey and pork and beef into convenient cuts allows us to pick and choose exactly what parts of the animal we want to buy and eat.  We can be selective.  And so Kelli and I tend to buy chicken breasts, and ground turkey, and sometimes pork tenderloin or country-style ribs, and less often, certain cuts of beef (like skirt or flank steak).

I suppose the hope is that enough supermarket customers will by enough cuts of meat that a "whole animal" will get used.  But the reality is that Americans prefer certain cuts of meat, and parts of an animal will go waste.

But what about a whole roaster chicken, you might ask?  A whole chicken is certainly an improvement...you get the breast meat, and the thighs, and legs, and wings.  But even a supermarket whole chicken has been cleaned of parts we might otherwise use.  In the United States, as a whole, we're pretty bad about cooking with offal (organ meats), and we certainly don't use things like chicken feet, which you'll find everywhere in markets throughout parts of rural Mexico, for example.  (I remember about 10 years ago, when I went on a mountaineering expedition to rural Mexico to climb some of the high volcanoes - including El Pico de Orizaba, the 3rd tallest peak in North America - I bought some chicken from a market butcher, and she happily gave me the organ meat.  It was the first time I ate chicken hearts.)

For these reasons, Kelli and I have talked about buying a half a cow from our local rancher, which would include all sorts of cuts, including many we wouldn't buy if we went to the supermarket and pick and chose what cuts we wanted to buy.  But investing in half a cow requires the space to store it, and at least for now, we don't have a chest freezer.  So we still haven't pulled the trigger on buying half a cow.  (We also, frankly, don't eat that much red meat...)

At any rate, this is where the noble hot dog comes into play.  Hot dogs, in theory, take parts of the animal that otherwise might go to waste, and turn them into a tasty food beloved by the American public.  As strange as it might sound, while an an Applegate Farms hot dog made of whole cuts of meat and no mystery meat ingredients may be a good thing, a run of the mill hot dog made from all the unmentionables might be even better.

- Pete

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 13

Here's the weekly breakdown:

Training Days: 2     (To Date: 44)
Rest Days: 5     (To Date: 47)
Body Weight: 149.5     (Net Gain/Loss: -10.5)
Running Days: 2     (To Date: 34)
Running Miles Logged: 31.7     (To Date: 345.8)
Average: 15.8     (Short = 11.6, Long = 20.1)
Cross-Training: None

Repetition and routine.  One flows naturally from the other.  Repeat a given process, a given pattern of steps, enough times, and it becomes routine, second nature.  I've been reminded of this over the course of the past week.  With Charlotte's arrival, Kelli and I have "re-allocated" some of our domestic roles.  This applies especially to Marin's needs.  Whereas Kelli usually handled Marin's bedtime routine, that has now come under my purview.

The routine is unfailingly faithful to a set of steps followed in a particular order: We read a book, usually while Marin lays on her lamb Pillow Pet. Then, as she grows tired, we move to her bedroom, where she climbs into her toddler bed. I turn on a fan, and then a humidifier, and then a CD player with soft children's lullaby music. Finally, as Marin drifts off to sleep, I sit in the glider in the corner of the room until she's out for the night.  Any deviation from this routine is immediately noticed by Marin, who will point out the step we skipped, and who will wait until we've corrected the error and all is right again in the world before we can resume the bedtime routine.

Routine creeps in in other parts of life as well.  When Kelli and I go rock climbing or ice climbing or mountaineering, we always follow the same routine: checking that one another's harnesses are fastened correctly; that the gates on carabiners are locked; that we've tied knots into the ends of our rope on rappel, even if we're certain the ropes will reach the ground.  That's because routine keeps us safe, especially in a high risk environment like rock climbing.  In an emergency, or if we're fatigued, or if we're escaping from a route in bad weather, we fall back on our habits, and habits are formed by repetition and routine.  When it matters most, we want to make sure we're doing everything as safely as we can.  Which is why we adhere to our routine, even when the risk isn't as palpable and the danger doesn't seem as immediate.  Routine keeps us safe.

This is a useful reminder for the gluten-free lifestyle... The way we routinely check the ingredients label on a product we've bought four or five times before.  The way we ask a server at a restaurant if the dish is gluten-free when it's brought to the table, even though we discussed the gluten-free nature of the meal when we ordered the food in the first place.  These little things become part of the unfailing routine of the gluten-free lifestyle, precisely because they help to keep us safe. They are the culinary and gastronomic equivalent of always tying knots in the ends of our climbing rope when preparing to rappel. 

It's also a useful reminder for training and endurance racing.  The repetition and routine of training week after week, month after month, helps to keep me safe.  I learn at what pace I can reasonably run over what distance.  My body learns how to cope with the physical demands of trail running such ridiculously long distances.  My GI tract learns how to digest food and absorb calories while simultaneously putting out enormous effort.  And by learning how my body responds to running 20 or 30 or more miles, I also know when my body is reacting in negative ways; when normal exhaustion or a harmless ache or pain becomes a concern about an actual injury.

Such was my experience on Saturday morning, when I headed for what was supposed to be a 31 mile trail run with 6,000+ vertical feet of elevation gain.  I started out feeling quite strong, the miles ticked by initially without too much ado.  But sometime around mile 18 or so, I began to feel a strain in the arch of my right foot.  This was not part of the routine.  In fact, it was a deviation from it.  And that put up a red flag for me.  I pulled out my cell phone, placed a call to Kelli for a pickup, and pulled the plug on my run after 20 miles and about 4,000 feet.  I didn't want the nuisance of the strain to progress to a full-blown injury.  As much as I have a training plan I'm trying to stick to, I also have to listen to my body.  The pounding it takes putting in these kinds of miles demands that I take care of it the best I can.

And so I rested Sunday, and will rest today.  The foot is feeling good, and tomorrow I'll head out for a moderate run to assess how it's doing.  (I have a feeling I'll be in good shape...)

Finally, my NFCA fundraising total is now up to $1,315, or 26% of my goal.  Many thanks this week go out to Derek K. and Jaimi S., Logan C., Seneca M. and New Planet Gluten-Free Beer, and David. N for their generous donations.  If you haven't made a donation yet, please help me support the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness!  Visit my fundraising page and make a donation today!

- Pete

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Foto: Pupusas

Pupusas are a traditional El Salvadorian dish made with corn flour dough and stuffed with cheese, beans, meat or other fillings.  In some places, specialty versions are made with rice flour and even wheat flour (a gluten no-no).  But prepared in the traditional way with the classic ingredients, this is a dish that's naturally gluten-free.

We were first introduced to pupusas by an El Salvadorian food vendor at our local farmers market.  We enjoyed them so much, we had to come home and make our own version so that we could indulge more often.  In order to actually form the pupusas, a ball of corn flour dough is pressed with the thumb to make a deep indentation.  The filling is added, and the indentation is closed to seal in the filling.  Then, the ball is flattened in a tortilla press.  

For the life of us, we couldn't get this method to work.  Something always went wrong (usually resulting in the pupusa breaking open and leaking the filling).  Instead, we utilized an alternate technique that seemed to work pretty well in its own right.  Here's how to make gluten-free pupusas:

Start by preparing dough made from masa harina (instant corn flour, of which a popular brand is Maseca).  Combine corn flour and water (and a pinch of salt) in a ratio of 1.5 parts corn flour to 1 part water.  Form the dough into balls slightly larger than the size of a golf ball.  Press the dough balls into "corn pancakes" about 5-6 inches in diameter.

There's obviously a lot of wiggle room on the filling.  For this version, we mashed some canned black beans, and seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried cumin.  To the beans we added whole corn kernels and some chopped cilantro.  (We also made some that included some shredded quesadilla cheese.)

To assemble the pupusas, lay out the first corn pancake.  Add a thin layer of filling, leaving a border of dough around the edge.  Lay a second corn pancake over the top, and press the edges together to seal in the filling.  Pan fry the pupusas with a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan or skillet, turning halfway through.  You want to pan fry them enough so that the dough cooks and the filling heats through.

To finish off the dish, you can add a dollop of sour cream, a spoonful of salsa, a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro, or even a cilantro slaw.

But no matter how you prepare them, pupusas are a delicious dish that adds variety to the wonderful selection of gluten-free Latin American dishes available to us.

- Pete

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 12

The ultimate endurance event... childbirth

Since we obviously have big news this week, let me dispense right away with the formalities of my usual weekly stats update:

Training Days: 2     (To Date: 42)
Rest Days: 5     (To Date: 42)
Body Weight: 149.5     (Net Gain/Loss: -10.5)
Running Days: 2     (To Date: 32)
Running Miles Logged: 34.7     (To Date: 314.1)
Average Run: 17.3     (Short = 9.7, Long = 25)
Cross-Training: None

Week 12 started off typical enough.  A planned rest day on Monday.  A moderate 10-mile trail run on Tuesday.  Tuesday was also the due date for our second child (which is why I've been running with a cell phone for the last few weeks...).  As the day wore on, it appeared that we would have to wait a bit longer for Baby Bronski #2 to arrive.

This pregnancy was different for Kelli than last time around with Marin.  As most of you know, although I'm gluten-free for medical reasons, Kelli is voluntarily gluten-free.  Strictly speaking, if she wants to have some gluten here or there, she can do so without any overt ill-effects.  But as we moved into the third trimester, Marin's pediatrician gave Kelli strict doctor's orders: go 100% gluten-free.  She'd read a newly published journal article from a study that showed that gluten consumed by a mother during the third trimester of a pregnancy can have a negative effect on the health of the soon-to-be-born baby.  With Marin's and my sensitivities, we weren't taking any chances, and Kelli went fully gluten-free (which wasn't much of a stretch, since she basically was GF already, except for the occasional meal at work...).  

I haven't yet found the citation for the new study, but it adds to a growing body of evidence that shows that gluten consumed by the mother can either come through in the fetus, or in the breastmilk, to produce negative health effects.  For example, I came across an intriguing 20-plus year old study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that looked at pregnant and lactating rats.  Rats were fed a diet where their 13% of their protein came from wheat gluten, wheat gluten plus amino acids, or casein plus amino acids.  They were fed the diet from conception through day 15 of lactation.  In the group of rats that were fed gluten, on Day 1 of lactation they were nursing 48 babies.  By Day 15 of lactation, only 2 pups were still alive.  By comparison, the rats that were fed a gluten-free diet with casein-based protein were still nursing 47 pups on Day 15 of lactation.  Something to think about.

Charlotte, circa 24 hours old

As Mother Nature would have it, Tuesday almost was the day of arrival for Baby Bronski #2.  Kelli went into labor that evening.  Around 12:30am Wednesday morning, we went into the hospital.  And by 2:54am, Charlotte had arrived.

Just as this pregnancy was different from the last, so too was this hospital stay different from even Marin's stay in the same hospital roughly one month ago.  Whereas last time we had to meet with someone from nutrition services to try and figure out what gluten-free foods they could serve, this time around they seemed to have overhauled their menu.  Boulder Community Foothills Hospital now offered a gluten-free cheat sheet with a pretty nice sampling of menu options, including several new additions - gluten-free frozen dinner entrees from Amy's Kitchen.

Mom and Baby both came home from the hospital on Thursday afternoon, and are doing great.  We've already noticed a stark contrast between breast feeding with Marin and breast feeding with Charlotte.  They are of course two different little people, and lots of factors might contribute to the difference.  But Kelli and I are both convinced that her 100% gluten-free diet, and its subsequence impact on her breast milk, is a major reason.

It goes without saying that I took pretty much the rest of the week off from training.  And that's okay by me.  Those first hours and first days with "my ladies" - Kelli, Marin, and now, Charlotte, were priceless.  Kelli's sister, Karla, flew in from Texas to help out with Marin while we were in the hospital.  On Saturday, Karla's last day with us, I did take advantage of the extra helping hands to head out for a long run...25 miles.  I wasn't about to leave Kelli all on her own with a newborn and Marin just days after giving birth. 

So now, the trick becomes...how to squeeze in training with work AND caring for two little ladies.

On a final note, my fundraising is now up to $1,185, which is almost 24% of my goal.  Huge thanks this week go out to Jared S. and Nancy V. for your generous donations!  Please help me reach my goal of raising $5,010 for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.  Visit my fundraising page and make a pledge today!  Thank you!

- Pete