Last Saturday I had a rare day of rest, no training sessions on my agenda. I was resting up for the half marathon race on Sunday and the weather was absolutely miserable, cold, dark, and rainy. Oddly enough, I was in a great mood all because I began my day with a visit to an organic market not far from home. I’ve never been to The Village Market at Toronto Waldorf School. This market has a different vibe than my usual spots. Certainly there were a good number of farmers and local producers but their main vegetable purveyor seems to be a reseller carrying a lot of organic produce from the US. Personally I place higher priority for local than organic but I made an exception when I saw a fresh bunch of black kale (also known as Tuscan kale). I looked up Melissa Clark’s recipe for Raw Tuscan Kale Salad not too long ago and couldn’t get it out of my mind. Apparently, I couldn’t keep the salad out of my mouth either once I put together this simple mixture of kale, olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, lemon juice, garlic, Aleppo pepper, and toasted bread crumbs. The dressing is reminiscent of a Caesar salad dressing with similar flavour but using raw black kale totally changes the dish. All the little “bubbles” on the leaves made the kale ribbons effective carriers of the highly flavourful dressing.
Like most athletes, I have very specific requirements for my pre-race dinner. I do not subscribe to the pasta-feed school of thought because any race under two hours is not long enough to call for carb loading. I prefer a meal consisting of complex carbs, some lean protein, and a huge salad. The raw Tuscan kale salad played the role of huge salad amiably. As for the complex carbs, I enjoyed a couple pieces of Sweet Potato Cakes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The recipe first appeared in his column The New Vegetarian on The Guardian.These pan fried patties are made with mashed sweet potatoes, green onions, red chile peppers, and soy sauce, served with a yogurt sour cream cilantro dipping sauce. It’s a nice twist on Jewish latkes. The recipe called for steaming and draining the sweet potato chunks to keep the patties from being excessively moist. It was not at all an issue when I made it because of the way I cooked the sweet potatoes. I used a microwave steamer (here’s one from Tupperware) which not only cooked fast but also effectively kept the vegetable from drying out. I split the 1kg of sweet potatoes into two batches, each batch taking merely 7 minutes on high power. My pre-race meal was completed with turkey meatballs for some lean protein. Vegetable with vibrant colours is my rule of thumb for nutrient-rich food and I’m so glad we’re not deprived of them even in winter.
So how did my pre-race meal measured up? The race on Sunday went exceptionally well. I was full of energy during the race. As my first running race, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number of runners at the event. This early season event has a reputation of cold weather and snowy condition and this year it certainly lived up to its namesake Chilly Half. Or as my friend KiteBoy calls it, truth in advertising. The race began at below-freezing temperature not counting wind chill. The course was covered in slush and puddles from previous night’s snow. We were late to the start line thus began the race at a blazing pace in hopes of catching up to our pace bunny. When we finally caught up to her, we both felt confident with our faster pace that we took off for the rest of the course. I finished 6 minutes under my aggressive goal time so have plenty of reasons to celebrate. You can take a look at my race data and “watch” my race unfold. As soon as I crossed the finish line, KiteBoy and I wasted no time lining up for the post-race nosh. Doughnut and canned chili never tasted so good.