Meals on Wheels: Perpetuem Rice Cakes

As my training sessions grew longer, I started to realize that the energy gels, chewy things, drink mixes and other forms of over-priced sugar weren’t working out for me.  Even with constant refueling, my stomach was always growling with hunger because I was craving real food.  Worse yet, I felt like I was going to… ahem, explode… when I had to start running off the bike.  So I decided to start eating solid food while riding my bike.

First, I picked up some Picky Bars from Sports Basement to try.  It was a smart move by Jesse Thomas to plaster the logo all over his race kit (he’s the company’s CEO) because I never heard of these things until I watched him fly through the finish at Wildflower this year.  Picky Bars are made of dates, nuts, chocolate, other yummy things and just the right amount of cinnamon.  They made my mouth and tummy happy so I signed up for the Picky Club to receive a shipment of 18 bars every month.  I get 9 each of the vegan varieties, All-in-Almond and Smooth Caffeinator (you’re singing Smooth Operator in your head now, aren’t you?).

Then, one of my genius training partners recommended eating potatoes on long rides.  I pack 2-3 baby potatoes per hour on the road.  I prepare them the night before by boiling in salted water until they’re al dente then I lightly coat them in olive oil and roast them in the oven for a few minutes.  Let them cool overnight, throw them in a plastic bag, and you’re good to go.

On a long ride a few months ago, someone mentioned the rice cake recipes from The Feed Zone Cookbook.  They’re sticky rice based squares, not dry rice cakes you buy in the cereal isle of the grocery store.  I did a little googling and found a lot of pages with the bacon and eggs rice cake recipe (no thanks!).  Then, I found this apple cinnamon recipe and whipped it up immediately.  The result was delicious and easy to eat on the bike.  Rice cakes are great because you basically make a pot of sushi rice and throw in whatever you like.  I started experimenting in the kitchen and made a batch with coconut butter, coconut flakes, cacao nibs, and almond meal that turned out great.

Yesterday, I had the idea to incorporate the Perpetuem powder that’s been sitting untouched for months.  Unfortunately, I took the rice off the stove too early and it wasn’t sticky enough so it turned out more like rice pudding.  I’m spending a lot of time on the bike trainer these days  so I can still eat it while I ride!

How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? Umm, like this!

Here’s the recipe I used.  I hope it will inspire you to come up with your own awesome flavors and share them here!

Perpetuem rice cakes

1 1/2 cups sushi rice
3 cups water
2 tbsp salt
2 cups (8 scoops) Caffe Latte Perpetuem
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts (I used raw, but you can use roasted if you prefer)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1 tbsp cinnamon

Rinse rice in a mesh strainer under running water for a couple minutes, until water runs clear.

Combine rice and water in medium sauce pot, over high heat.  Once water comes to a boil, add salt, reduce heat to low, and cover.  Cook until water is completely absorbed, about 20 minutes.  **Important: make sure all water is absorbed and rice is sticky before removing from heat**

Stir in remaining ingredients.  Transfer mixture to a greased 2 qt glass baking dish and spread evenly.  Allow rice to cool before cutting into individual pieces.

Check out this video a tutorial on wrapping your rice cakes.

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Race Report: Grape Stomp Half Marathon

Another wine stopper medal to add to my collection! The cool grape looks like a unwrinkled California Rains. Which makes sense, since raisins are dried grapes…

This morning, I ran the Grape Stomp Half Marathon in Livermore.  I know this sounds completely contradictory to my last post about taking a break from racing.  So here’s the deal…

A few months ago, there was a schwaggle deal to register for the race for only $39 so I impulsively decided to sign up.  I planned to treat it as a fun run and I figured it would be a good way to ensure that I got in a longish run every once in a while during the fall.

Last weekend, I ran slow 10 miles but otherwise, I haven’t run farther than 6 miles since Vineman.  Before the race, I expected take it easy and cruise along at about a 9:30/mile pace.

Fast-forward to this morning, the race start was delayed and I was standing around freezing, I seriously contemplated getting back in my car to drive home and go back to sleep.  Fortunately, my cheerleader/sherpa/personal heater BF was there to thwart my escape plan. As we were wandering around the start area/expo, the start of the race was announced and without much warning I started my 13.1 mile journey through the Livermore wineries.

With the usual congestion at the start, the it felt like I ran the first mile at a snail’s pace.  Soon the mass of bodies thinned out and I started to cruise along at a sub 9:00 pace without much effort.  I changed my strategy to focus on heart rate, keeping it between 160 and 170 bpm, regardless of pace.  Around mile 10, I realized I could set a new half marathon PR if pushed a little harder so that’s what I did.  Fortunately, the rest of the course was downhill and I hauled ass to the finish.  I crossed the line at 1:56:22, 2 minutes faster than the PR I set at Rock Roll San Jose last year, which was a much flatter course than the Grape Stomp.

I was pleasantly surprised at my performance today.  As I was adding this race to my results page, I noticed that today was the 5 year anniversary of my first half marathon,  which I ran 2:46:53.  It was very satisfying to see that my hard work is paying off!

Photo credit: Evan Pilchik Photography

The course

Elevation, pace, and heart rate data

Mile splits

UPDATE: Oops!  I completely neglected to discuss my nutrition before and after the race… When I woke up at 5am, I ate a sprouted wheat bagel with avocado, tomato, and a generous sprinkling of sea salt.  I ate a banana when I arrived at the race site around 6:30.  During the race, I carried a water bottle and two All-In Almond Picky Bars, taking a bite every mile.  This worked pretty well as I didn’t feel hungry or have any cramping.

Napa Valley Marathon 2011: A Post-Mortem Report

I admit that calling this a “post-mortem” is a wee bit dramatic (if not insensitive) because I finished the race and didn’t die (FYI, there were no fatalities). However, I was very disappointed with my performance that day and it has taken two weeks for me to gather the motivation to write about my experience.

Since I haven’t posted any updates during my marathon training, I’ll provide a brief summary of the last four months… When I registered for NVM in October, I estimated my time would be about 5:00. After consulting a few pace calculators, I realized my goal time should be closer to 4:30. I was pretty consistent with my training, with a few exceptions. In December, I slacked off when I went to Europe with my family for 10 days, logging a total of 11 miles (a 4 miler and a 7 miler along the beach in Barcelona). In February, I was in Boulder, CO for a week when they were having record low temperatures and got sick, forcing me to spend a week in bed. I managed to avoid any serious injury, but the two weeks prior to the race, my right ankle and foot started to hurt when I walked. Thankfully, those issues cleared up a couple of days before the marathon.

The race day forecast called for a heavy dose of rain, but most of the recent weather predictions were wrong, so I remained optimistic. To be prepared for most weather outcomes, I packed several race day outfits.  The picture below is a good illustration of my ability to pack lightly.  My stuff is the pile on the left, B’s is on the right.  I was running a marathon and he was merely working on his PhD thesis.

I carry a lot of baggage…

Saturday morning, we loaded the car and dropped Dylan off at her doggie “slumber party”, and started the two-hour drive to Napa.  The first stop was at the hotel, but they didn’t let us check in before 3:00 (LAME!).  Next stop was the race expo.  I’m not one to linger around the vendor booths or attend speaker sessions and this was no exception.  I picked up my bib, long sleeve technical shirt and goody bag (I opted for the duffel) then spent a few minutes trying to find the car and left.  After the expo, we drove to the Franciscan Estate to pick up my wine club shipment then headed to St. Helena for lunch.  We opted for a Mexican restaurant where I ate a huge veggie burrito and way too many chips.  It was finally late enough to check in at the hotel so we went back down to Napa to unpack.

To avoid stomach issues during the race, I didn’t want to eat anything after 5pm and I wasn’t going to eat anything with gluten (so a gigantic bowl of spaghetti was not an option for me).  Unfortunately, social engagements derailed these plans and my “dinner” ultimately consisted of two bananas and two oranges.  Although fruit is full of carbs, I think most would agree that mine was a terrible pre-marathon dinner!  I went to bed around 9:00 and hoped for the best.

At 4:00 am, the wake-up call and alarm clock sounded simultaneously and I hopped out of bed.  I pulled back the curtains and saw that it was raining.  After allowing a few expletives to escape, I recomposed myself and donned my “rainy day” race outfit.  I stuffed 4 cherry chocolate Clif Shots and a handful of Endurolytes capsules in my pants pockets, creating unsightly bulges on my thighs.  In my stylish fanny pack, I stashed my phone and extra socks (both in plastic bags to stay dry).  The pocket of my water bottle holder carried a mini tube of Glide and lip balm.  Finally, I packed a change of clothes in my NVM duffel that smelled like someone filled it with gasoline.  After the gear was assembled, I nudged B out of his slumber and he drove me to Vintage High School to board a stuffy school bus to take me to Calistoga for the start.  My original plan was to walk over to my teammate’s hotel until the 7:00 am start, but the bus ride was longer than I expected and there wasn’t enough time.  I dropped my bag, survived the long port-a-potty line and waited for K to arrive as we planned to run together.  A handful of FMRC members were racing Napa this year and I was happy to see a few familiar faces in the final moments before the starting gun.  I found K and her support crew and a few minutes later, we were starting our first marathon!

We were both aiming to run a 10:00-10:15/mile pace after a slow first mile.  Of course, we started out way faster than intended and had to slow down.  Most of the course is on the winding Silverado Trail, notorious among runners for its canted surface.  I have a history of IT band issues so I ran in the bike lane because that was the most level part of the road.  In the end, I added 1/3 mile because I didn’t run the tangents.  The extra distance was a small price to pay for avoiding injury.

The rain soaked my shoes and socks and I was starting to get hot spots on the bottoms of my feet despite a generous application of Glide.  At the mile 12 aid station, I changed into my dry socks and ditched my arm warmers and gloves then we were back on the road.  At the half, my feet started to cramp and I realized that I wasn’t taking my Endurolytes often enough.  Despite corrective action, I was losing steam and by mile 14, K was pulling ahead and I was running solo.

Shortly after passing the 16 mile mark, I pulled off the road to stretch my legs.  When I grabbed my foot to stretch my quads, my hamstrings cramped up so I gave up on stretching and walked the next mile.  For the last 8.something miles of the marathon, I was a run/walker.  Before the marathon, I was confident that I could at least run 22 miles before I would need to talk walk breaks.  I became angry at myself because I knew that I could perform better.

Digging deep in the last miles of the race.  Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

As I finally approached the end, I was surprised to find B on the side of the road.  When he told me there was only a quarter-mile left, I gathered all the energy I had left and bolted for the finish.  5 hours, 24 minutes, and 59 seconds after I crossed the starting line, the marathon was finally over.

Missing my goal time by 55 minutes really hurt my confidence.  I’m especially frustrated because I know my performance would have been much better if I ate a real dinner the night before and was more diligent with my nutrition on race day.  I hope that I will eventually take pride in the fact that I finished, regardless of the time.  I certainly learned some important lessons that will help me in the future.

The end of a long journey.  Photo Credit: MarathonFoto