Recipe: Glycogen-loaded burritos

Carbo loading” is a term familiar to anyone with a glancing interest in or knowledge of running. Eating carbohydrates helps stock your muscles with lots of glycogen, the chemical that keeps them humming over the course of an endurance event, whether it be a long race or a long run.

Here’s one of my favorite carbo-loading recipes, Chicken and Goat Cheese Burritos. I originally found this on Three Fat Chicks. There are lots of other good recipes there. But I’ve since modified it a bit to bring down the sodium, make it spicier (I like really hot food!), and add more carbs:

Chicken Goat Cheese Burritos
Serves: 4

recipe ingredients
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
8 whole wheat tortillas
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed thoroughly and drained
1/2 cup (3 oz.) soft fresh goat cheese, broken into small chunks
1.5 cups cooked brown rice

recipe directions
Cut chicken into 1/2- by 3-inch strips. Seal tortillas in foil and warm in a 350* oven until hot, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, heat them in the microwave for a few seconds just before serving) Meanwhile, place beans, tomato sauce, vinegar and spices into a 1-quart pan and cook covered over medium-high heat until bubbling, about 5 minutes. If too dry, add a little water or chicken stock. Bean mixture should be moist, but not soupy. Spray a pan with PAM and heat it over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, stirring until meat is no longer pink in center, about 6 minutes. Lay tortillas flat. Toward 1 edge, fill each with 1/4 of the chicken, beans (including most of liquid), rice and cheese. Fold over sides and roll up tightly to enclose.

Tip: These burritos travel very well. Just freeze them, then put them in a cooler with ice for the trip. Since I was nervous about eating strange food, I ate them the night before my half marathon in April (I got a room with a fridge and a microwave), and I was well-fueled for the race the next morning.

Caveat: If you’re not used to eating beans, you should experiment with eating these during a time when you don’t have a critical event coming up. If you have trouble with beans, there are two things you can do to remedy the problem. The first is to eat beans more often. Your body may get used to them and be able to process them better if you eat them regularly. If you’re not a big bean fan, you can always try Beano, which contains the enzyme that your body needs to digest beans without discomfort.

Tracking your progress

Once you make a running a habit, you’ll probably want to chart your progress by keeping a running diary. The best one I’ve found to date is Running Log. Best of all, it’s free! You’ll need Excel, but what with the Microsoft hegemony being what it is, who doesn’t have access to that these days?

My favorite feature is the way it tracks mileage on your shoes. If you rotate several different pairs (which you should if you’re a daily runner, since allowing the midsoles a day or two to “rebound” helps your shoes last longer), this program makes it a lot easier to keep track of the miles so you know when to retire a pair.

In addition to its overall usefulness for tracking training and race runs, weight and mileage trends, the spreadsheet has some other fun features, like a chart that shows you how close you are to the equivalent of running around the earth — or to the moon! Somehow, my total mileage looks very unimpressive when placed in that context.

Full review of Running Log (and link to download) at RunningTimes.

Today’s haiku

Without warning, a
Suspended vortex of bugs
The midges of May

Walk like an Egyptian? No, eat like a Kenyan.

To make running less grueling, eat more gruel. Or, at least, that’s the message in a study of Kenyan runners’ diets. Is this the nail in the coffin for low carbohydrate diets? No, just more fuel for the dietary flame wars on’s Carbo Canteen message board.

Full details and a delicious gruel recipe on

Old guys rule!

Check out this guy. 95 years old and running marathons. I want to be him in 50 years. But I might have to trade wine and beer for ginger curry. I’m hoping the turban is optional.

Someone should tell him about this site. Too bad they don’t sell tech tees.

Westchesterites: Downloadable library audiobooks are coming

Like lots of runners, I have an MP3 player. Believe it or not, it’s not an iPod. I’m a fairly loyal Mac user, but the cost of an iPod is daylight robbery! Besides, I wanted something with an FM radio and a decent belt clip.

I have a Creative Labs Muvo TxFM and I like it very much (although I often wish I’d sprung for the 1GB model instead of 512MB). I also tricked it out with a pair of noise-canceling headphones from Shure (but I don’t wear them outside because they really do block out all sound…very dangerous). These are perfect for hiding the sound of my treadmill, so I can actually hear what I’m listening too. Also good for blocking out the white noise on commercial airliners.

Anyway, while perusing the Westchester Library System’s web site today, I discovered a pilot program for downloading audiobooks from the library. This is exciting stuff! So far, I’ve been using interlibrary lending to get my books on CD, then a laboriously ripping them in iTunes into MP3 format in order to get them onto my player. With this program, life (or at least this aspect of it) promises to get much easier.

My favorite recent audiobook “read” was Stiff by Mary Roach.

How to guarantee a race award

I ran in the Bronxville 5 Mile race this morning…and won my first award! First place for gender/age group, which netted me a hideous plastic trophy.

In the few races I’ve run, where I’ve placed in my gender/age group has depended on the size of the race and the quality of the competition. I’ve come in anywhere from the top 40% (big half marathon) to the top 10% (little 5K). My times are improving, but I’m not exactly straining the mantlepiece with the weight of awards.

Well, today I am a champion. My secret? Run in a race that almost no one runs in and that is scheduled on a major holiday weekend when most people are out of town. It’s that easy! 95% of the people doing the “fun run” were just running the 2.5 mile race. I’m not even sure how many of us ran the full 5 miles, but it did seem like the award:runner ratio was very high.

My time sucked, admittedly. I won’t even post it here. That was owing to the fact that it’s warm, extremely humid and the race is very hilly.

It will be interesting to see how my time compares in this race next year. I was the second or third woman to come in (not sure), so maybe I’ll make it my goal to be the first one in 2007.

Now it’s time for pizza and beer. Yay!

Postscript: It turns out that when I ran the course earlier in the week, I ran it backwards, which was a lot hillier. Going in the opposite direction front-loaded some of the most brutal hills and gave the most of the last mile or so a slight downgrade. I flew down that on the second lap, although some guy I’d passed earlier managed to pass me 20 yards from the finish line. I hate that!

Tips for beginner racers: Bib location

If you’re wearing a timing chip on your shoe, your can put your race number (aka “bib”) anywhere on your body that you like. But if you’re not wearing a chip, the bib goes on the front of your body. This is because the nice people at the finish line need to know who you are when you cross it so they can record your time correctly. Most people pin the bib to their shirt, but you can also pin it to your shorts.

If anyone can tell me where the runners pin their bibs for a nudist race, I’d love to know.

Today’s haiku

A choc’late bunny
A shocking vacation snap
A runner is born

My running history: Part 1

Like lots of people, I have a checkered running past. Here’s the first installment.

I was not a runner as a kid. In fact, I hated taking track and field in high school. It seemed like a form of torture, with a never ending selection of activities that seemed designed not to be interesting or fun, but merely to cause physical pain and spiritual misery. Jumping over hurdles, running 100 yards so fast you wanted to puke, leaping over a bar with a huge, bent pole. What was the point?

So, I rejected running as a youth.

It’s odd that I did this, considering that my father took up running in the early 70s, when I was around eight years old, and through the 70s and 80s ran seriously, completing several marathons. Did I ever bother to ask him about his running? Of course not. I just thought my dad was crazy. What kid doesn’t?

During the late 80s, I was reasonably athletic, mostly owing to the fact that I had no money and no car and usually lived far from where I worked and from the public transportation required to get me there. So I did a lot of walking. I also bought a bike and tooled around on that sometimes. But I was basically a clueless blob. But I was thin (see the “no money” part above), if not healthy.

At the dawn of the 90s, I fell in love and, as so many people do, became fat, happy and “settled” over the subsequent years. I was no stranger to large bags of Doritos (Cool Ranch Flavor), Boston Creme Donuts and mashed potatoes. Like a lot of people who gain weight slowly, I wasn’t really aware of how I looked most of the time. But I’d see myself in a photo and think, “Sweet Jesus, I’ve gotten fat!” — at which time I would resolve to do something about it.

And I would try. I bought some running shoes and tried to run. But my knees would hurt and I’d give up after not seeing dramatic weight loss after 6 weeks (never mind that I’d not bothered to change any of my eating habits). I did this two or three times over the years.

Then a confluence of events that served to change my attitude happened. I ran into a few people I’d not seen in a while who had previously been fat and who had since gotten into shape. I was impressed and saw the possiblities. I also had taken up hiking, which was enjoyable, but often very difficult given how out of shape I was. I wanted to be a better hiker. And on my birthday in 1999, some visiting family members bought me a big honkin’ chocolate Easter bunny. The giant bunny was the last straw and psychological turning point. I decided that after I ate the bunny, I would commit to becoming fitter. And so, my running career was born in the spring of 1999, just after my 34th birthday.