Yesterday I awoke in the dark early-morning hours to run my third half-marathon in a year. It was a beautiful day — warm and sunny — and the course took us through Golden Gate Park down to the Great Ocean Highway for about five miles (endless, it seemed) before looping back into the park to finish. I must admit I did not train as well as I should have, and I purposefully was not running for time because of it. I must also admit that it was pretty hard, and today a majority of my muscles whine in protest each time I stand up.
Around mile six I felt the first hunger pangs strike, and began fantasizing about what kind of food I would eat when I finished. When I do a long run, I almost always crave salt, and I knew I had a big bag of Kettle Chips Salt & Pepper waiting for me at home in the kitchen cabinet (what I would have given for a few as we rounded the turn at mile 10, with three long miles still to go!). I thought about what I’d have for brunch later on (eggs, toast, potatoes — filling things for my empty belly), and what I planned to make for dinner.
As I ran through the miles, the Pacific Ocean crashing and blazing in the sun to my right, I began thinking more elaborately: would an avocado mousse be strange or delicious? It had been a long time since I’d made any sort of soufflé; put that on the mental list. If only I’d not eaten all of that chocolate pudding! What kinds of things would I grow if I had my own garden (heirloom tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries — fruit! — potatoes, lettuces, herbs) and what I would make with them. All of these were distractions to the burning question of why am I doing this to myself, again?
When I ran my first marathon back in October 2006, I ate what was probably my weight in Boca Burgers over the course of a few months. After I did a long run, often even before I took a shower, I’d slap one in the microwave, toast a bagel, strap the ice pack securely to my knee, and pile on cheese, avocado, and mayonnaise before devouring in about two seconds. On my longest excursions, on country roads that seemed to go on forever, I’d promise myself a smoothie, or a big pile of portabello mushrooms as a reward for logging the miles. Food became even more pleasurable because I was so hungry all the time, my appetite sharpened by my body’s exertion.
While 13.1 miles is certainly nothing much compared to 26.2, it still burns a lot of calories, and after the race was over yesterday I was starving. I dashed home, showered, and flew to brunch, whereupon I immediately ordered a large, fresh-squeezed orange juice — orange juice that may have been the most delicious orange juice ever consumed. Then I ate a big plate of huevos rancheros, sampled little muffins with butter and jam, and enjoyed my first cup of coffee in weeks. Satiated for the moment, I came home to prepare a feast of roasted vegetables (cauliflower again and potatoes), snapper, green beans, and vegan chocolate cake.
Obviously, I believe a big run deserves a lot of eating.
Today I am a bit sore, but the feeling of accomplishment lingers. I plan to make more vegetables tonight for dinner — lots of spinach, and a fresh salad — to nourish my exhausted muscles. I don’t think I’ll go for a mousse anytime soon, but I have my eye on a green garlic soufflé that will be on an upcoming menu for sure. I surely don’t need to run a half-marathon to treat myself to decadent dishes, but I think they taste all the more delicious for the effort made to get there.