A week or so ago I was vacationing in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho when my girlfriend brought up doing a Ragnar. Their team was down two runners, which meant they’d all be running extra legs if they couldn’t get more participants. I used to be a runner. I ran track in high school. After I lost all my weight I loved getting outside and running in the Spring and Fall. Unfortunately I am not a fast runner, so the idea of doing anything more intense than a 5K, frankly, scared the living sh*t out of me.
But I considered it. I’ve been wanting to get in better shape. I work out regularly, do all sorts of outdoorsy type stuff when it’s warm enough, but I’m not in the same shape I was a couple of years ago. I thought – for a moment – that training for a Ragnar would be a good way to get back into the shape I wanted to be. I was gung ho. As soon as we got home from the trip I went to the store and purchased some appropriate outdoor winter running gear, laced up my tennies, and headed outside. That night!
And, guess what, I wanted to die! I kept telling myself it would get easier, that the more I ran the easier it would get. I even looked up strength training exercises specific for runners. I mean, hell, if she could do it so could I, right?
I finished at a 12 minute mile. I was so sore I could hardly sit down the next day. Okay, it was the act of going from standing to sitting, but still. But I was determined. I kept running, but the best I could get my time was an 11:30 minute mile. Everyone told me, “We don’t go for time, we just go to have fun.” Well, as nice as that is, I still don’t want to be the last one out on the trail while everyone else is back at camp kicking back with a beer. That’s like high school all over again.
Yesterday I was running and I realized I was all tight. I made it a point to keep my head up and shoulders back, but something still felt…off. There’s a yoga instructor (via video) that I’ve tried a couple of times, and she refers to what she calls “a tiny little package” when you’re supposed to scrunch yourself in all tiny. Even with head up, shoulders back that’s still how I felt. So I opened it up. I lengthened my stride. I wasn’t trying to run faster, just more open.
I shaved a minute off my mile that day. I still wanted to die, but 10:30 is a lot easier than 11:30, and I still have 12 weeks to train until the event.
Life is that way sometimes, isn’t it? You think you’re doing everything right, you’re doing what you’re told or maybe what you’ve done your whole life, when suddenly you have an epiphany and you find a totally different, more efficient way of doing the exact same task. It’s liberating.
As an added bonus to training for a Ragnar, I haven’t had a desire to put icky things in my body. Sure, I sometimes have a square of dark chocolate in my coffee and I might munch on a handful of banana chips after dinner, but I don’t crave the chocolate covered raisins (one of my new weaknesses) or any of my other cravings. There’s something about that mind-body connection that’s just, I don’t know, powerful. My mind knows my body needs to train, so – for now – it’s backing off on the terrible cravings.
I’ve had an eggplant in the refrigerator for a little while and needed to use it before it went bad. All the recipes I could find online were for – you guessed it – Eggplant Parmesan. Well, I can’t do cheese, so that wasn’t an option, but I wanted something different than the usual beef over eggplant or eggplant stacks. I don’t do almond flour, and when I make cashew “flour” I always end up with some nut chunks, and this just seemed like it might work well for the eggplant. It did, and so much more. The middle was almost gooey like cheese, and the flavor was just delicate enough that it wasn’t too rich or overpowering. Don’t be intimidated by the cook time, most of it is inactive so you can prepare the rest of your dinner, read a book or do something else you enjoy. Just don’t go too far – they can burn if you’re not watching them. The best part? They’re Whole30 compliant. Just remember when planning the rest of your meal that the cashews are going to cover your fat, and be sure your marinara sauce is Whole30 compliant.
1 medium eggplant
2 cups raw, unsalted cashews (or other nut of choice)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
2 eggs, beaten
1⁄2 jar marinara sauce (check labels for Whole30)
Slice eggplant into 1⁄2 inch slices. Sprinkle each side lightly with salt and set in a colander for at least 20 minutes to allow the salt to draw the water out of the eggplant. Combine remaining ingredients except eggs in a blender or food processor. Pulse or blend on low until cashews become a fine powder. Scrape the sides frequently as necessary. Don’t worry if a few lumps of nuts remain, as this will add texture to the dish.
Beat eggs in a shallow dish. Pour cashew mixture into a separate shallow dish. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg, then dip into the cashew mixture, pressing firmly on each side to get the nuts to stick. Arrange in a single layer on parchment paper. Repeat with each slice until you have a full baking sheet (mine held about 15 slices). Save any remaining eggplant for another dish.
Bake for 15 minutes, flip with a spatula, and bake another 15 minutes. While eggplant is baking, heat sauce in a small saucepan until just starting to simmer. Serve eggplant hot topped with marinara sauce.