19 November, 2013

Grain Free Feta Thyme Muffins

Good news from the marathon training front: firstly, my groin and hamstring niggles are gone. Secondly, the weather in Dubai has finally cooled down so much that running outside is pure pleasure. Thirdly, because of 1 and 2, I feel highly motivated to train for the Dubai marathon on 24 January and tackle that 3:10:00 finish time that I didn't manage in Berlin in September.

Now in a bit more detail: my groin injury is still niggling a bit, but it does not affect my running and it is really minor. It recovers within 24 hours after a run. My hamstrings get less and less tight during and after runs. I am not sure why this is. A funny thing happened though: A week ago, I went to a TRX class in the gym that was very heavy on the quads. I regretted doing it when I realized how tired my legs would be later in the day, as I had a marathon-specific interval training scheduled for the evening. The heavy quad session though balanced out the tight hamstring, e.g. when your hamstrings are sore, make the quads even sorer, and the hamstrings will be fine. I managed my intervals that evening absolutely fine, and haven't had serious hamstring problems since. Go figure.

It's the third week of the marathon training. I was able to ramp up my weekly mileage 43k in week 1 to 64k in week 2. For this week 76k are planned and I am right on track.

I do double sessions almost every weekday: my regular training runs plus core strengthening workout in the gym, which is either Pilates, TRX, circuit training or just some light weight lifting.
I can feel that my core strength is improving. My back, glutes and abs are often in that slight pain when you have used muscles in a different way or on a new level. Especially the abs leave me with some sort of pain that is very similar to hunger feeling.

I have had a good appetite in recent weeks. Good enough to be noticed on the scales. Nothing to worry about, as the marathon training and recovery need to be fueled properly. Harder weeks with more mileage or races are still to come. A little fluctuation of my weight during marathon training is normal.

The slight weight gain may even be caused by more lean muscle mass due to my strengthening program. After 2 months of strength training I do see more toning in the muscles of my arms, shoulders and abs. My overall weight is rather on the light side. Because I don't have much body fat on me, the improvements may be visible sooner. I have no clue as to how much this new muscle mass could add up. Do I care? Not so much. I am feeling great. I enjoy my running. I enjoy complementing it by core training and a good diet.

More savory dishes are being produced in my kitchen these days. I guess it's due to the increased loss of minerals through sweating while on my runs that my body needs to replace.
These muffins are the result of some fresh thyme that needed to be used up, an appetite for something savory and bread-like that's grain-free at the same time. I ate them all by myself.  I was entitled to because I am the only one marathon training in this house. You understand this logic, don't you?
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GRAIN FREE FETA THYME MUFFINS

(Print Recipe)

2 cups almond meal
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 large eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Yields 8
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Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease or line muffin tin.

In a bowl, combine almond meal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in olive oil and feta cheese. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Gently fold in the thyme leaves.

Fill batter into prepared muffin molds. Bake for about 20 minutes until muffin tops are golden brown.
Best eaten warm.
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06 November, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Teff Cookies

I went to a yoga class this morning. I'd like to share my thoughts with you that went through my mind during the last 10 minutes when we were supposed to be meditating.

How much of an addictive nature is necessary to be a long distance runner? My unscientific and tongue-in-cheek theory has always been that long distance running is for the untalented people. In my opinion, one needs talent and be at a young age to run well over short distances, e.g. distances between 100m and 3000m, as the fast-twitch fibres of the involved muscles are activated. The ability to use these is a genetic disposition, but also a capacity that deteriorates with age. Therefore, you will see many world class sprinters in their early 20s, whereas world class marathon runners can be well over 30.

Long distance running has got a lot to do with will power. You need will power to put in a huge amount of training. Will power that keeps you going when you get tired. It's the build-up of mileage that will eventually give you the endurance to run a half marathon or a full marathon. Once you have the endurance (and it doesn't come overnight, that's for sure), the speed will follow.

All this will happen in a time span of years. I only started training continuously and without further big breaks after my daughter was born in 2008. If I look at my 10k times since then, I can see the gradual improvement. Half a year after my daughter was born, my 10k time was 53 minutes. Five years later, my 10k PB is 41:22. Over the years, I have slowly worked my way up. Occasionally and with a bit of luck, I might even have the chance for a podium position these days.

So is it my addictive nature that got me here? Or simply the love of running? The kick that you get out of completing a tough session. The kick that you get that you beat someone in a race that used to be faster than yo.

Many runners I know that have been running for years or even decades will confirm that other runners are nutters. Oneself is, needless to say, always the big exception. They would run too often, too far, at crazy hours. Work, family life, social life and holidays are scheduled around the running and training for a particular race.

At times, common sense leaves the runner. Then they will run when injured. Sitting out an injury is not a runner's strength. A week might be OK, even two, but longer than that? They will get restless, will look for ways to speed up recovery. They will ice affected injury areas in the office, do strengthening and stretching exercises until they drop, wear compression garments underneath their work clothes. And then they will go for a run. Just a little one, very slowly. Just round the block, to see how the injury is behaving. And by doing so getting themselves back to Square One.

A physiotherapist once said to me that all the good work she is doing to injured athletes is being undone when the athlete goes for his next run.

My hip adductor injury that I suffered from during my Berlin marathon training is still there. In addition I keep on getting a tight hamstring on the same leg. I was prescribed complete rest after the Berlin marathon until all symptoms disappeared. I ignored this advice. The sore adductors and hamstrings are still bugging me. I took a 10 day rest from running. During that time I hit the gym everyday to strengthen my core, hips and upper body. After those 10 days of rest my training for the Dubai marathon was supposed to start. After the first run all my niggles were exactly were I left them. Those 10 days have done nothing. What is it now? Still love of running or my addictive nature taking over? My addictive nature doesn't let me rest. It sends me to the gym to work out like a lunatic. In my desperation to get over this injury as quick as possible, I seem to lose common sense at times. There is no shortcut to recovery. It needs patience and rest. Even my blurred mind can see that at times. At other times it sends me to the gym. Right now, my Dubai marathon training is at stake. I am not able to run as much as I want to. If I don't get the appropriate training in, I will not run in Dubai marathon. I am a sucker for PBs. If I don't have the chance for a PB, I will simply not run. That is quite a bitter pill to swallow. I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I have been cooking and baking again. I raided my pantry for ingredients and found an unused bag of teff flour. I had never baked with teff flour before. Cookies are a safe thing to try a new flour in. Chocolate cookies are an even safer thing, as the strong chocolate flavor might cover up unusual flour flavors. My kids loved them. That's the best compliment a cookie can get.
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VEGAN CHOCOLATE TEFF COOKIES

(Print Recipe)

1 cup teff flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 tablespoons boiling water

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup coconut sugar or grated jaggery

Yields 20-30
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Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Linebaking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl whisk together flax seeds and boiling water. Let stand for a few minutes.Meanwhile, sift together, teff flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream coconut oil and sugar/jaggery. Stir in flax seed mixture. Combine wet and dry ingredients. If the dough is very soft, form it to a disk and put in the fridge for 10 minutes until slightly hardened.

Roll balls of the size of a walnut out of the dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave about 2-3 inches space between the balls. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks.
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