Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Training Update #2

Another week of trail running training is in the bank, and what a week it's been! My trail running mileage tally since June 1 has hit 265 as of today. The most recent miles have been especially hard-earned. After a nice tempo run late last week, I squeaked in a superb but challenging 14-mile trail run at the Mohonk Preserve on Saturday morning, less than 12 hours before Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene hit New York.

What happened next is probably all too familiar to many of you. There was no trail running going on for the rest of the weekend. On Monday, I tentatively ventured out for an interval workout, sticking to paved and gravel roads, for fear of what shape the local trails might be in. Today I discovered what a wise choice that was.

I woke this morning at 5:00am and drove in the pre-dawn darkness to the town of Beacon and the base of the Beacon Incline. From there I'd trail run up on Fishkill Ridge. Along with the Shawangunk Ridge, it's my favorite trail running spot in the mid-Hudson Valley. Fishkill really makes you work for it. Once you're on the ridge, the trail running is glorious - moderate ascents and descents, scenic views from bald summits, forested trails.

But getting up onto the ridge is not nearly as pleasant. From the base of the Incline, it's more than 1,200 vertical feet to the higher points of the ridge, including one stretch of trail that gains roughly 1,000 vertical feet in just a mile of distance. In other words, it is steep!

I've run Fishkill many times, and each time I'm amazed at just how unrelenting the ascent actually is. Steep. Rocky. Roots. Technical. Light rock scrambling in places. I have yet to reach a level of fitness which allows me to genuinely run the entire ascent without "down-shifting" to a power hike for at least a section of trail.

Today it was particularly gnarly. Note to self: Trail run 12 hours before a hurricane? No problem. Trail run 3 days after a hurricane, before trail crews have had a chance to do even a smidgen of trail maintenance work? Might want to think twice about that. Sections of trail were washed out or otherwise badly eroded. Streambeds and ravines were scoured. Trees were down across the trail in many, many places. In one location - on a saddle between two rounded summits - it appeared as if a flood had torn through the entire forest floor, completely evaporating any semblance of trail. Having passed through there before on prior runs, I continued in the direction I knew the trail went, finally finding a trail marker on a tree after some 50 yards or more.

Needless to say, my pace was slow. Not that I'm complaining. Far from it. In the grand scheme of things, the mid-Hudson Valley came away comparatively unscathed from Irene. A bit of "inconvenient" trail running doesn't hold a candle to the devastation seen in the Catskills to our west, Vermont to our north, Massachusetts to our east, and Long Island to our south.

As I stood atop Lamb's Hill, and then Bald Hill, with the light of sunrise just striking the summits of the Hudson Highlands, the scene was gorgeous. The Hudson River was far below, and in the valley just to the north, banks of fog and cloud obscured the forests and farmlands, with higher rounded mountains peeking up into the sky. Glorious. Then my eyes returned to the trail before me. The difference between the macro and micro view was striking.

At times like these, I'm wanting to share some good news, and gladly, I have some to offer. We're now close to $1,200 raised in support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, thanks to your help! This brings me to 24% of my goal of raising $5,000 ($100 per mile) in the 2nd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge. Please visit the fundraising page and consider making a tax-deductible donation today. Every dollar helps the gluten-free community! There are just 3.5 weeks to go until the race, and the NFCA could use your support!

Today I'm giving an extra big shout out and thank you to the first Sustaining Sponsor of this year's Challenge: The Gluten-Free Bistro.
They've stepped up and made a generous donation to the NFCA, and I couldn't be happier. Kelli and I have been fans of The Gluten-Free Bistro for a while now. For one, they're based out of Boulder, Colorado, a town near and dear to our own hearts.

But more importantly, they offer great gluten-free products. We first reviewed their pizza crust back in December 2009, and we were fans. More recently, in May of this year, we reviewed their all-purpose flour blend. To summarize, if you're looking for a pre-mixed, store-bought all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, we think the GF Bistro blend is one of the best on the market. Not only does it perform very well in baking, but if you caught our Great Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend Nutritional Comparison at the beginning of the year, you'd also know that the GF Bistro flour blend performed superbly there as well. Check out their website, and give their products a try. You won't be disappointed.

Here's some more food for thought about the Gluten-Free Bistro, fittingly related to athletics. If you're a fan of pro cycling, then you might know two facts: 1) Colorado-based Team Garmin-Cervelo won the team competition at both the Tour de France and the just-completed USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and 2) they're gluten-free. But did you also know that Garmin-Cervelo is fueling their elite gluten-free performance with The Gluten-Free Bistro's products? Oh yes. Pizza crust. Pasta. Waffles made with the flour blend. If that's not a testimony, I don't know what is.

And finally, on another note related to gluten-free nutrition and athletics: last week, in Training Update #1, I talked about different training techniques. This week, I'd like to talk briefly about endurance nutrition, and my specific nutrition plan for the ultramarathon. (If you want more specifics about GF nutrition for athletes than I go into here, be sure to check out my free archived NFCA webinar, "Nutrition and Training for the Gluten-Free Athlete.")

In endurance racing, I like for my nutrition to follow the rule of "Twigs, Sticks and Logs." It's an analogy for different foods that burn (provide energy) at different rates. Twigs are simple carbs that metabolize easily and quickly for instant energy. Sticks have more complex carbs, and maybe a little protein or fat. They don't burn as fast, and can help to moderate blood sugar spikes from the Twigs. Lastly, Logs are heavier in fat (an excellent source of energy that takes your body longer to convert).

How does that translate into actual foods I'll eat on race day? My smorgasbord of race food will look something like this:

GU energy gel packets
Fresh fruit (peeled oranges, bananas, apples)
GF baked treats (choc chip cookies, scones)
GF toast (incl PB&J and/or ham sandwiches)

Sports Drink

The list is roughly ordered from Twigs to Sticks to Logs. The last three items separated from the main list are for hydration and electrolyte replacement. (The salt from the bacon will help this, too.)

Based on the distance of the race, the spacing of the aid stations, my intended race pace, and last year's experience, I know that I'll hit an aid station roughly once every hour, and that I'll be running for approximately 11 hours straight. It's important to keep calories going in, in order to avoid a major bonk. So... I'll be eating and drinking pretty much the whole time. While I'm running, I'll wear a Camelbak with water, and carry several GU packets to suck down on the go. In aid stations, I'll swig a sports drink and eat a bunch of "real" food, before setting out on the trail again and repeating the sequence.

This is similar to last year, with one major change. I learned last year that the flavor profile of my foods tended to be too sweet on the average. By the end of the race, the last thing I wanted to eat was another super sweet GU packet. This year, I'm striving for a better balance of sweet and savory foods, hence the addition of things such as meatballs.

Importantly, like the cyclists of Garmin-Cervelo, earning top-notch finishes in major races while eating a gluten-free diet, I'll show that the right gluten-free foods can fuel your body to maximum performance. If everything goes according to plan, of course!

- Pete

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Foto: Images from a Gluten-Free Garden

Before you say anything about the title of this blog post, let me get this out of the way: Yes, I know "gluten-free garden" is pretty much a given. Unless you're row-cropping wheat, barley, or rye (and seriously, who isn't these days?) chances are pretty darned high that you have a gluten-free garden. We certainly do. But I decided to title the blog post that way anyway. Okay? Good. Now let's move on!

Over the course of the summer, we've shared some of the ups and downs of our experience as novice gardeners. We've also shared a good number of garden-infused recipes. Shrimp pasta salad. Zucchini Stir Fry. Caramelized Onion and Sweet Corn Salsa. Zucchini Pancakes. Cilantro Hummus. Zucchini Cupcakes. (Can you tell we initially had a bumper crop of zucchini?)

But with the exception of a photo here or there of zucchini, or cilantro, or basil, we haven't shown you much of the garden...or more importantly, our harvest from that garden. I've been meaning to. Don't get me wrong. Other blog posts seemed to keep taking priority.

However, with Hurricane Irene setting the Northeast squarely in her cross hairs, we're expecting to get tropical storm-force winds here in the mid-Hudson Valley this weekend. Frankly, depending on how strong we get hit, I don't how much garden there will be left to show you next week. It was potentially today's Friday Foto, or never.

And so here you are: a representative sampling of our garden harvest over the course of the past three weeks or so. I hope you enjoy seeing our garden's bounty as much as we've enjoyed eating it!

San Marzano, Roma and Beefsteak tomatoes

Sweet corn

Swiss chard
A typical harvest basket, which we collect about once a week - plenty of lettuce, some Swiss chard, some ears of corn, carrots, beets, jalapeno peppers

Cilantro gettin' all coriander up in our house
We're still waiting on a few crops to finish maturing. The winter squash are about ready to harvest. The bell peppers are getting close. We're optimistic we might get some Brussels sprouts. All in all, it's been a glorious first season for us, and hopefully Irene won't bring it to a close earlier than expected.

- Pete

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Product Review: Surf Sweets Gummy Snacks

Everywhere I turn this week, it seems "back to school" is the theme, and understandably so. It's that time of year. Today is freshmen move-in day at Vassar College, where I'm a writer and editor for the alumni magazine. Erin at the blog Gluten-Free Fun has posted a great five-part series about being gluten-free in college (including round-ups of what other bloggers are saying on the topic). And tonight the NFCA is hosting a webinar, "Importance of School Nurse Education & How-to Strategies for Parents of Gluten-Free Kids."

With all of that in mind, we thought we'd post a review of Surf Sweets Gummy Snacks, which seemed to us a kid-oriented gluten-free snack that just might find a home in a lunch box, or locker, or desk. The company kindly sent us some gratis samples to review, and overall, we think the snacks are pretty darned good.

We sampled two varieties: the Gummy Bears and the Sour Berry Bears.

First, the ingredients. These puppies contain no high-fructose corn syrup (or any corn syrup, for that matter), no GMOs, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no gluten. They're flavored with natural fruit juices. They're colored with natural ingredients such as black carrot juice, turmeric, and annatto. They're sweetened with organic tapioca syrup and organic evaporated cane juice. They're gluten-free, and processed and packaged in a nut-free facility.

A single snack pack contains 10 gummy bears, a serving size of about 25g. Each serving has a scant 80 calories, negligible sodium, and 13g of sugars. Not bad.

Second, the taste. We thought both versions tasted great. They were perfectly chewy (the sour version was softer than the "regular" gummy bears). The Gummy Bears had bright, delicious, fruity flavors. The Sour version was pleasantly sour, and didn't have the extreme pucker factor that some sour treats do.

Our one major critique was the inconsistency of flavor distribution. Of the three flavors - red, orange and yellow - some snack packets had all red and orange, but no yellow; some had all orange and yellow, but no red; and some had a genuine mix of all three flavors. (In theory, there are actually six flavors of gummy bears - cherry, grapefruit, grape, lemon, strawberry, and orange. We could only detect three...presumably cherry, orange and lemon, though the yellow gummy didn't taste particularly lemon-y to us, though it was still very good.)

At the end of the day, though, we thought the Surf Sweets Gummy Snacks were great for their genre (gummy snacks). They're tasty, made with ingredients we like, and appealing to the kiddos. They're not the type of thing that Kelli or I eat, even occasionally, but when our daughters ask for a fun kid snack, one like their cousins or friends are having, we'd feel more than comfortable saying, "Go ahead, sweetie. Grab a Surf Sweets snack pack."

- Pete

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Training Update #1

The Shawangunk Ridge, viewed from atop the Near Trapps at the Mohonk Preserve
I looked at the calendar today, and had an important revelation: the Virgil Crest 50-mile ultramarathon is exactly one month from today! Let the countdown begin.

As you hopefully read last week, for me it is the 2nd annual gluten-free ultramarathon challenge, which I'm competing in to raise money for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Whether you're gluten-free, or know someone who is, their work benefits us all. They help get sick people diagnosed and charted on a course to a healthier future via a gluten-free diet. They educate members of the medical community. They train members of the restaurant industry. And the list goes on.

I'm very happy to report that we've broken the fundraising ice and already raised $650 in support of the NFCA. This number is 13% of my stated goal of raising $5,000 (exceeding last year's $3,600), which equates to $100 per mile. Whether it's $5, or $50, or whatever, every donation helps. Won't you join me? Pretty please?

The Millbrook Ridge trail en route to Millbrook Mountain
In the 8 days since I announced the 2nd annual gluten-free ultramarathon challenge, I'm also happy to report that I've logged 42 solid miles of trail running training, including a great 13-mile run at the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park last weekend.

With just 4 weeks to go until the race, these last weeks of training will be super important. I'm planning two more weeks of hard trail running, a third week of easier trail running, and a final week of rest in preparation for the big day.

If you caught my NFCA webinar, "Nutrition and Training for the Gluten-Free Athlete," I'm putting much of what I talked about into practice. Each week, my training incorporates a variety of techniques and principles:

Early morning training - I do the vast majority of my running first thing early in the morning, before I've even had breakfast. In this way, my muscles start out relatively glycogen depleted, and they run out of primary "fuel" faster. As a result, my body is forced to start recruiting fat for energy. Teaching your body to more readily and efficiently recruit fat for energy pays off big dividends in an endurance event.

Long, slow distance - I do typically two of these runs per week. For me right now, LSD means doing 10-15 miles on rolling trails at a 9-11 minute per mile pace. This slower but longer method of training improves cardiovascular endurance and fat-for-energy recruitment. (As a point of reference, my target race pace is going to be 12 minute miles, which should allow me to finish in my desired 10-11 hour window.)

Tempo - I do typically 1-2 of these runs per week. At this time, I'm typically doing 6-9 trail miles at a 7-8 minute per mile pace. With a tempo run, I'm attempting to run at my lactate threshold, the point at which lactic acid begins to build up in the bloodstream and muscles faster than it can be broken down. By staying close to, but just below that threshold, my body will slowly push the threshold higher, increasing the distance, speed, and relative exertion at which I switch from aerobic to anaerobic activity. For endurance events, staying aerobic is key to surviving the long haul.

Interval - I do 1-2 of these runs per week, usually 4-6 miles, with a one mile warm up and a one mile cool down. The intervening miles involve alternating periods of 1 minute sprints and 1 minute 30 second jogs. By intentionally pushing my body into the anaerobic region, and then returning to the aerobic region to partially recover, I'm reaping all sorts of benefits. But this type of training takes its toll. You've got to really want to do it. Doing a 60 second sprint after you've already logged 2.5 miles of alternating sprints and jogs is surprisingly taxing.

Looking northeast along the Shawangunk Ridge to Skytop in the distance
I'm hoping (and expecting) that all this targeted training will pay big dividends. For one, I want to do well in the race. At least as well as last year. And it looks like doing that is going to be tougher this time around. The 2011 edition of the VC 50-miler is shaping up to be more competitive than 2010. Already, race registration is more than 20% higher than it was last year, and we're still one month out from the event.

If I'm going to hang, I've got to be ready. Final weeks of training, here I come! (It doesn't hurt to have the positive motivation of fundraising for a great cause in the back of my mind, either!)

- Pete

P.S. In next week's training and fundraising update, I'll talk about how I'm planning for my race-day gluten-free nutrition plan to be similar to, and different from, last year's. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Foto: Shrimp Pasta Salad

As summer has marched along, today's Friday Foto recipe - shrimp pasta salad (with basil, baby spinach, tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette - has vaulted into our weekly rotation of go-to meals. It's not particularly descriptive to say this, but it just tastes like summer. The fresh flavors of the basil, spinach and tomatoes. The brightness of the lemon. The fact that it's a warm or cool salad, as opposed to a hot meal. All of it combines to make a family favorite that's a perfect counterbalance to the hot days of summer.

It also happens to be a healthy, well-balanced meal. Especially so for athletes-in-training, like me. The carbs from the whole grain brown rice pasta. The protein from the shrimp. The iron from the spinach. The lycopene and antioxidants from the tomatoes. I'll probably eat a healthy dose of this recipe in the week leading up to the big race at the end of September.

Speaking of which, have you checked out my fundraiser in support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness? I'm calling it the 2nd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge. We've broken the ice with the first donor. But I have a long way to go to reach my fundraising goal, all in support of a great organization that benefits the gluten-free community. Will you help me get there? I hope so. Please take a moment to visit the page, and make a tax-deductible donation, if you can. Thank you in advance for your support!

Shrimp Pasta Salad
Makes 4 entree servings

1/2 lb GF pasta (shells)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
1/2 ounce fresh basil, chiffonade then lightly chopped
4 ounces baby spinach
9 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, strain, set aside.
2. Add the minced garlic to 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and saute until fragrant.
3. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook until done.
4. Put the spinach, basil, and tomatoes in a large bowl.
5. Add the cooked pasta and cooked shrimp, and toss. (The latent heat from the shrimp and pasta will lightly wilt the spinach.)
6. Add the lemon juice, remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, and a touch of salt and pepper. Toss again.


This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, refined-sugar-free, soy-free.

- Pete

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Restaurant Review: Z Pizza, Boulder, CO

As I recently mentioned, earlier this month we spent 8 days back in our old haunt: Boulder, Colorado. What a gluten-free paradise that place is. I knew it when we lived there, but I appreciate it even more now that we're based out of New York's Hudson Valley. Returning to Boulder made being gluten-free so darned easy...and tasty.

Of course, it turned into a bit of a culinary vacation for us. We ate at our favorite Indian, our favorite sushi, our favorite farmer's market vendors, and the list goes on (and on and on).

To our somewhat surprise, in the 9-plus months since we journeyed east, the dining scene has changed a bit, including the opening of a new Z Pizza location directly adjacent to a Jamba Juice at the 29th Street Mall. Never one to miss an opportunity to down a slice of pizza - especially a "new" one we could review here on the blog - I rounded up some friends and we made our way to Z Pizza for lunch one day.

Every pizza - all thin crust - is made to order. You can of course get a standard tomato sauce and cheese pizza (with pepperoni, photographed above). But Z Pizza also offers an impressive (and delicious-sounding) range of other flavors. Consider the Napoli: roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh rounds of tomato, a touch of Parmesan, and fresh basil. Or the Thai: peanut sauce, mozzarella, red onions, cilantro, carrots, bean sprouts, and serrano chiles. Or, for one more example, the ZPQ (pictured below): bbq sauce, mozzarella, bbq chicken, roasted peppers, red onions, fresh rounds of tomato, cilantro, and sweet corn.

Are you drooling yet? If not, you might need to have your salivary glands checked.

The ingredients themselves are something of a point of pride for Z Pizza. The use Wisconsin skim mozzarella, organic tomato sauce, and fresh veggies. Good stuff. (They also offer dairy-free / vegan cheese options... more good stuff!)

Almost any pizza can be ordered gluten-free. Prices vary by location, but in general, you can expect a $3 surcharge per pizza for the GF option. And one more thing: the GF option is only available for size small pizzas. No mediums or larges. A small is about 10-12", and feeds 1-2 people.

When the pizzas came out to our table, they looked and smelled great. The crust was light and chewy and...strangely familiar. It turns out Z Pizza sources its gluten-free pizza crusts from Venice Bakery in California. VB, in turn, supplies a number of major brands with their GF pizza crust, including BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, where I've had it before, hence the strange familiarity.

Overall, the pizzas were very good, though they stopped shy of reaching "great" status. The ZBQ pizza was creative, bright and colorful, full of flavor. The pepperoni pizza with mozz and red sauce was devour-able, a classic combo of flavors. The VB crust held up very well - it was easy to pick up a loaded slice of pizza and not at all worry that the slice would crumble or wilt in your hands, leaving the toppings in your lap. (I should also note that the staff in this location were very knowledgeable and helpful as we contemplated flavors and placed our orders.)

But the pizzas were tiny, which made their normal cost plus the $3 GF surcharge seem expensive. They were also surprisingly greasy. This caught us off guard, given the fresh ingredients, skim mozzarella, and MSG-free pepperoni.

Overall, though, Z Pizza earned high marks from us. It was nice to be able to basically order any pizza on the menu, and simply swap in a GF crust. The quality ingredients were great. A larger pizza size option would be even better. The printed literature in the store, combined with the in-the-know staff, gave us peace of mind and enabled us to feel comfortable and confident that we could eat a safe meal there.

I still remain partial to the from-scratch pizzas we make at home, but if meeting a friend for lunch, traveling on the road, or desiring the convenience of a pizza I can simply buy and eat fresh, I wouldn't hesitate to look for the nearest Z Pizza.

- Pete

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Product Review: Luna Protein Bars

Image courtesy LunaBars
In between all my training for the upcoming Virgil Crest 50-Mile Ultra (and the 2nd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge) we've been getting outdoors as a family. A little rock climbing here and there. Some camping. A bit of beach and surfing and boating. And, of course, plenty of hiking (including, most recently, a trek to the top of Millbrook Mountain in the Gunks in NY, followed by a hike/climb to the top of 11,800-foot North Diamond Peak above Cameron Pass in the Colorado Rockies).

In the backcountry, especially, my food preferences once partly included a stockpile of gluten-free energy / protein / snack bars. Maybe chocolate peanut butter, or mint chocolate. I'd throw 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) in my pack, stash one in the cargo pocket of my shorts or pants, and eat them as my hunger dictated.

In more recent times, I've gravitated toward carrying fresh and from-scratch foods - fruit, nuts, peanut butter, homemade sandwiches, chocolate, etc.

But when the folks over at LunaBar contacted me offering to send gratis review samples of their gluten-free Luna Protein Bars, I happily accepted. It would be like revisiting an old friend.

Luna, in case you didn't know, is the women-oriented version of the CLIF Bar (guys can happily consume these bars, too). Earlier this year, they made the move to make their entire line of 5 flavors of the protein bar line gluten-free. Chocolate. Chocolate Peanut Butter. Mint Chocolate Chip. Cookie Dough. And Chocolate Cherry Almond. Luna sources GF ingredients, maintains good manufacturing processes, and tests their bars to ensure their gluten-free status.

Each bar weighs in at roughly 180-190 calories, with 12g protein and 3g fiber. There are no artificial sweeteners, no trans fats, and no GMOs. 35% of the ingredients are organic. So far, so good!

But what about taste and texture?

First, Kelli's reaction. She wasn't enamored with any of the flavors. By her own admission, though, she's never much been a fan of these kinds of bars, past or present. So I wouldn't consider this a negative on Luna's part. It was more representative of Kelli's categorical perspective on this type of food.

My reaction was considerably more positive. For texture, I've taken to calling the Luna Protein Bars the "Goldilocks" consistency... neither too soft and chewy, nor too firm and crunchy. In other words, they were just right. In the recent 90 to 100 degree F heat we've had here in the Hudson Valley, the chocolate coating didn't hold up well, melting inside the wrapper. But I don't know any chocolate that could withstand the kind of heat much of the country has recently dealt with. I'd be curious to see how firm the bars get in the winter cold while skiing or snowshoeing. For most uses, though, their texture was spot on.

As for flavor, I chose the mint chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, and cookie dough as real standouts. Each had a good balance of complementary flavors - mint and chocolate, or chocolate and peanut butter, or cookie dough and chocolate. Yet, in no case were the flavors too strong or overpowering. The bars delivered on their flavor promises, without having flavors that proved too subtle or too "in your face." Again, for my palette, they were just right.

The chocolate flavor was fine. Nothing special.

The chocolate cherry almond was the only flavor I didn't care for. The cherry notes were detectable, but the almond flavor got lost. Both Kelli and I had trouble finding it among the flavor profile.

At the end of the day, I'd say that Luna has come up with a winning product in its protein bars. I'd definitely buy these and stash a few in my backpack. If you're looking for a tasty, healthy, compact snack - for hiking, for travel, for the office - one that's small enough to stash in a backpack, or a purse, or a desk drawer, Luna Protein Bars should definitely be on your radar.

- Pete

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2nd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge

In the media, there's been a lot of talk about races lately... who's entering them, who's dropping out of them. Especially when it comes to the GOP race for the 2012 presidential candidate. Most recently, Tim Pawlenty is out, and Rick Perry is in.

Well, I thought I'd get in on the action and announce a race of my own: the Virgil Crest 50-Mile Ultra. I'm officially registered for what I'm calling the 2nd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge.

For those of you who've been around No Gluten, No Problem since at least last summer, you'll remember last year's Virgil Crest 50-Mile Ultra, which I ran to raise money for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. The event is an ultramarathon distance trail running race. It covers 50 miles and 10,000 vertical feet of cumulative gain. That's roughly the equivalent of running back-to-back marathons, off-road, while climbing to the top of the Empire State Building 8 times.

In 2010 (there's a photo of me just after crossing the finish line below) I took 7th place, in a time of 11 hours 43 minutes. Most importantly, with your support, we raised nearly $3,600 for the NFCA!

Well, now I'm at it again, and once again I'm asking for your help to support the NFCA. As with last year, I've created a FirstGiving fundraising page. Please take a moment to visit the site and consider making a donation in support of a great organization and great cause near and dear to the No Gluten, No Problem community.

Across the finish line at the 2010 VC50
There are just under 6 weeks to go until the race (which takes place on Saturday, September 24, 2011), so my fundraising window is more limited than last year, when I posted weekly training updates throughout the summer. 

I would have registered for the race sooner, and started the "public" fundraising earlier, but I've been waiting. My back-to-back stays in the hospital this past spring really did a number on me. I didn't train at all for 1.5 months. When I finally resumed training, at the beginning of June, I realized that my body was weak and fatigued. I'd lost a lot of fitness. It would take a lot of work to regain that ground and prepare for the VC50.

And so I waited. I waited to see how the training progressed, how my body felt. Finally, my body is feeling good. I'm feeling on track that I'll be ready for the race come September 24. Since June 1, I've logged 190 miles of trail running training. I'll put in probably another 4 weeks of hard training, tallying an additional 150 miles or so, before I taper in the 1-2 weeks leading up to the race.

Last year I was overwhelmed by your outpouring of support, and I hope the same happens again this year. Let's beat last year's $3,600 fundraising total. Bloggers, please consider sharing this challenge with your readers. Whether you're gluten-free, or know someone who is, the NFCA's work benefits us all.

I believe in them enough that I'm willing to "punish" myself for a second year in a row with the 50-mile ultramarathon. (I do, however, enjoy the punishment, as crazy as that may sound...)

In addition to the fundraising goal, I've also set some performance goals for myself. I'd like to repeat my Top Ten finish, and if I'm feeling really good on race day, I'd like to try and crack into the Top Five. And I'd like to finish in sub-11 hours.

Only time will tell if I'm successful. This year's training has been so different than last year's. There were, of course, the hospitalizations, and the need to recover from that experience. I don't have as many mountains and hills to run here, so I'm worried about how I'll handle the race's 10,000 vertical feet of ascent (and 20,000 vertical feet of elevation change). And I've employed a different training regime (I won't bore you with the particulars... I'm just curious to see if it works as well compared to last year's regime...).

So, once again, please join me and support the NFCA. Give as much or as little as you can or want. Every little bit helps.

- Pete

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cookbook Giveaway Winners Announced!

Just over one week ago, in celebration of this blog's 3rd birthday, we announced a giveaway of three copies of our new cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes, courtesy of our publisher, The Experiment. Today we announce the winners!

In the Blogger/Feedburner giveaway, the winner is Christina from Vancouver, BC.

In the Facebook giveaway, the winner is Amanda M in Chicago, IL.

And in the Twitter giveaway, the winner is Karen W (@kwilson99).

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered. For the three winners, please email me with your full name and mailing address, so that we can send your copy to you!

- Pete

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Foto: Zucchini Stir Fry

After a spectacular trip to Colorado, we're back in New York and back to blogging here on No Gluten, No Problem. Last month, we posted two zucchini recipes in Friday Fotos - one for zucchini pancakes, the other for zucchini cupcakes. As has been this summer's theme, such recipes are inspired by the bounty of our community garden plot.

Alas, today's recipe for Zucchini Stir Fry - rather than being yet another ode to our ongoing zucchini harvest - is instead a eulogy. For our cherished organic zucchini plants are no more, the victims of insects and disease.

Earlier in the season, several plants recovered well from a bout with powdery mildew. A little while later, however, it was clear that two of our five plants had something else going on. When it became apparent that they weren't going to make it, I pulled them out and removed them from the garden, for fear that their problem might spread to the remaining healthy plants. For a few more weeks, those three plants held on. But finally, they have yielded. The culprits are both striped and spotted cucumber beetles, and the bacterial wilt they carry and transmit to zucchini and other similar plants. Sigh.

And so our regular and abundant harvest of zucchini has come to an abrupt halt. (We have one left in the fridge, which we plan to turn into one final tasty recipe...)

There is joy amidst our zucchini melancholy, though. Last night with dinner we ate the first broccoli from our garden. We've been snacking on carrots. Kelli harvested some 40 stalks of Swiss chard. We'll pick some corn tonight. The garden is feeding us, and we're learning much. The journey continues, even if the zucchini chapter has come to a close for this year.

Zucchini Stir Fry
Makes 2-4 servings

6-8 oz tofu (about 1/2 a standard package), patted dry, diced small
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp tamari wheat-free soy sauce
1 lb zucchini, diced small
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 c cold water
1 tsp sesame oil

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over high heat in a wok or saute pan.
2. Add the tofu and 1 tbsp soy sauce, and saute until the tofu is golden brown and slightly crispy on the edges. Remove the tofu from the pan.
3. Add the second tbsp olive oil to the pan. Add the vegetables, and saute until they begin to soften.
4. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining soy sauce, dry sherry, brown sugar, cold water and cornstarch.
5. Pour the sauce over the vegetables, and add back in the tofu. Simmer until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are the desired texture. (We like to leave the zucchini a bit "al dente" for some extra "tooth.")
6. Add the sesame oil, remove from the heat, and serve over rice.


This recipe is: gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, vegetarian, vegan.

- Pete

P.S. Don't forget that today (Friday, August 12) is the last day to enter the giveaway to win one of three copies of our new cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Foto: Cupcakes Cookbook Giveaway!

As you can tell, it's been a light blogging week for us. We're on the road traveling for vacation. That said, we couldn't resist doing our weekly Friday Foto. But instead of a recipe, we're doing a cookbook giveaway! Why?

Last week we wrote about Charlotte's first birthday (and some party planning tips to go along with it). But we were so focused on Charlotte's special day that we totally overlooked another birthday...that of this blog! Back on July 24, No Gluten, No Problem celebrated its 3rd birthday!

In honor of the occasion, we're giving away three copies of our new cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes, courtesy of our fabulous publisher, The Experiment. (You can also check 'em out on Facebook and Twitter.)

There are three ways you can enter to win a copy. (Best of all, you can "double" or "triple" up on your entries, in order to increase your chance of winning.) Here's how:

#1 - Subscribe to No Gluten, No Problem's Feedburner feed. (If you already subscribe, great!) Then leave a comment in this blog post and let us know about your favorite cupcake flavor, or the cupcake from the cookbook you're most excited to try.

#2 - "Like" us on Facebook. Then "like" or comment on today's status update. (Again, if you already "like" us, super!)

#3 - Follow us on Twitter. Then re-tweet today's entry. (Ditto for if you already follow us.)

You can enter using any one, two, or three of these methods. The giveaway will run through the end of next Friday, August 12. We'll announce the winners on Monday, August 15. Good luck!

- Pete