Rice Balls

Trail runners often ask me what they should eat when they have upset stomachs caused by too much sun (heat exhaustion) or too much sugar (nausea, vomiting or diarrhea). The answer is rice balls (onigiri).

I eat rice balls when I need a quick pick-me-up, and I also eat them when I can’t eat anything else. They are portable so you can take them in your pack, or store them in your aid station drop bag. American ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek (in his book Eat & Run) says white rice is:

  • Great for cooling your body
  • Packed with carbohydrates
  • Soft and easy to digest
  • A great source for electrolytes and salt

Rice balls can be made in any size or shape, and can be eaten plain or with seaweed for added flavor.

Rice Balls

1 cup Japanese rice (we use Kokuho Rose)
1 1/4 cups water
Nori seasweed (we use Costco’s Kirkland Roasted Seasoned Seaweed)

Cook the rice in water using a rice cooker, or on the stovetop (bring to a boil over high heat, cover pan and simmer for 25 minutes). Remove from heat to cool slightly.

Rice can be formed into any shape you want … three common shapes (rectangles, triangles, round balls) are in the photo below.

  1. Fill a small bowl with water and wet both hands.
    – If you are using a plastic container (i.e, rectangle or triangle) to shape the rice, wet the sides of the container (water helps to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands or the container).
  2. Salt your hands.
    – If you are using a plastic container, salt the the bottom of the container.
  3. Use your hands to form the rice into a bite-sized ball.
    – If you are using a plastic container, press the rice into the container. Salt the top of the rice and then flip over the container to release the rice.  If necessary, cut the rice to the desired size.
  4.  If desired, wrap the nori sheets around the rice. If two pieces of nori overlap, use water to seal the two edges together.
  5. Store the rice balls in a container or ziploc bag.
  6. Enjoy!

Trail Treats

It’s trail running season again (Yeah!!) and in order to sustain hours of fun exploring familiar and unfamiliar terrain, I need to pack some portable energy.  Although I could purchase energy bars, I prefer homemade treats so I ask my wife to make Eat More Bars!  I love these bars because they are delicious and can be customized to include whatever you want.  So here is the recipe … hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

Eat More Bars

1 cup corn syrup
½ cup peanut butter
2 cups chocolate chips

Heat in a pot to bubbling (full bubble). Remove from heat and mix in remaining ingredients.

1 cup crushed peanuts, almonds or walnuts
½ cup shelled sunflower seeds
½ cup rice krispies (gluten free or regular)
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

Spread on cookie sheet lined with parchment (or wax) paper. When cool, cut to desired size (I like small bite-sized pieces). Store in fridge.
Tip: Rather than using a knife to cut the bars, use a pizza cutter for easier and quicker cutting.

My Favorite Snack

Both road and trail runners often ask me what I like to eat as a snack before, during or after a run.  The answer … the marvelous mini muffins my wife makes.  I love these muffins because they give me a good boost of energy while being small, portable and delicious.  So here is the recipe … hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

Easy Gluten Free Oatmeal Muffins

2 ¼ cups gluten free rolled oats (or regular rolled oats)
½ cup chocolate chips (or unsweetened coconut flakes)
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or coconut palm sugar)
4 Tbsp. melted butter (or melted coconut oil)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease wells of 24-cup mini muffin tin (or 12-cup standard muffin tin).

Mix oats, chocolate chips, salt, cinnamon, and dried cranberries in large bowl.  Add maple syrup, butter, mashed bananas and eggs, mixing to combine after each addition.  The batter should be thick but soft. Divide evenly among muffin wells and smooth tops with a spoon or spatula.

Bake until muffin edges are brown and muffin centers feel firm when gently pressed, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.  Store at room temperature up to 3 days or in fridge/freezer for longer storage.

The Standing Athlete – Nose to Toes

Let’s get your musculature organized while standing so that we can replicate it when running. This 5 minute video (courtesy of Kelly Starrett of www.mobilitywod.com) will get your feet straight, butt tucked, abs engaged, shoulders/blades aligned, and head up (and out off…)! This mental exercise and will be exhausting (but with big payoffs). As my wife/coach tells me: “Make Better Choices!”

Your queues are:

  • Feet straight ahead
  • Butt squeezed (relax to 20% engaged) to correct your anterior pelvic tilt (butt tucked)
  • Abs squeezed (relax to 20% engaged) to further support that pelvis and bring the rib cage down slightly
  • Shoulders externally rotated (palms out) with some tension in the shoulder blades
  • Head up and just move your eyes to look downward

This can help with lower back pain for most adults. This is also a primary focus when you start to get fatigued in longer runs (you release the abs and glutes which allows you to hang off that anterior pelvic tilt – butt sticking out). The lower back needs to work hard along with the hamstrings covering for the lazy glutes.

So, if you hear me calling you “Lazy Ass”, you know to “Tighten-up” and get focused for better running.

Addendum: Here is a video of some mobility exercises to help relieve back spasms before you pop meds.

Knee hurts? Take 3-6 weeks of hip exercises and call me in the morning

It is all about the hips. Many of the lower body pain problems in running are due to weakness or inability to activate muscles in the hip complex. These hip exercises are recommended by Dr. Reed Ferber of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary. Based on his studies, he found that 6 weeks of these exercises solve 92% of runner knee pain issues. I have found that most runners will see a significant reduction in knee or IT Band pain after about 3 weeks (your mileage may vary). I am not a doctor so I recommend you see a professional  (but I know most runners hate seeking professionals, or you can do these non-running exercises while waiting to get an appointment…).

Here are the recommended exercises for those who are experiencing pain, or would like to prevent pain and dysfunction (i.e. All Runners!). You can perform them while watching TV or YouTube cat videos.

If you can only do just one exercise, make it this one.

Take-aways from expo speakers (for runners)

Ryan Hall – 2 time Olympian, American record holder for the marathon.
I picked up his book in 2011 “Running with Joy” which he wrote while training for the Boston marathon – I liked it and re-read it during my training for Boston 2012.

  • Even the pro’s (with all of their supports) struggle with injuries like Plantar Faciitis – he ran through it during the trials to qualify for the Olympics, but the compensations caused a hamstring and quad/knee issue. During the Olympic marathon, he had to drop out due to the hamstring problem. He ended up taking 6 weeks off to deal with the issues. So, you will pay the “piper” at some point – the earlier option is to solve the pain issue before it compounds with additional problems.
  • His mother-in-law trained for a marathon at age 55 without consulting her pro-running daughter and son-in-law (she probably thought her kids would call her nuts – although all runners are a bit nuts). Her longest run was 13 miles (following my researched recommendation of limiting long runs to under 3 hours). She had an enjoyable experience without being beat-up in training.
  • Regardless of how training went, or the results of lead-up races, it is a clean slate at the starting line of a race. Wipe those thoughts out of your mind and think about the good days in training. He has experienced winning and PR performances after weeks of poor training or miserable lead-up races. You still need to run a smart race and listen to your body’s feedback.

Ben and Steph Bruce (America’s power running couple):

  • When asked about getting through those tough spots in a race – you need to ask yourself who you want to be in that moment: a competitor or a quitter. The suffering is temporary, but the regret of not putting in a full effort will last forever. Don’t just decide to be tough on race day; you need to practice it in training – that last repeat or the end of a tempo run or feeling sluggish on that long run. In preparing for the race, visualize that tough spot at 20 miles and ask yourself those questions now so that you have the scripted, automatic answer at that low spot. Find a mantra that works for you that is internal: “I can do this. I will do this” or external like: “Honor the people that have been supporting me”. Consider dedicating each mile to someone important in your life and you can’t let them down. Write it on your pace band and stay focused. Remember: “pain is temporary, but Internet results last forever”.

Rock and Roll Phoenix Marathon 2015 – Friday expo and Ryan Hall

Friday: Expo dayRyan HallSoooo, as I was interviewing Elite Marathoner Ryan Hall at the expo…  I asked him what differences he has experienced with new coach Dr. Jack Daniels. He said that Jack is very down to earth, but very detailed and prescriptive in his training plans. Jack’s VDOT system is very interesting. As Ryan likes to experiment, Jack will work with him to make adjustments and monitor the performance changes. Jack is very humble and will say “I don’t know”, when he doesn’t know. An example was when Ryan did not do very well in a race and it surprised both Ryan and Jack. When Ryan asked Jack what he thought went wrong, Jack replied “I don’t know”. Ryan appreciates the honesty and the humility in the coach. I also asked what did not work so well from Jack – he said that Jack wanted to have 3 easy days between each hard workout, but Ryan found he works best with just 2 easy days between, or he feels sluggish.

Other Ryan stories:

He was about 15 minutes late for the interview, and when he arrived he shared his story: He just spent 2 days flying back from Ethiopia and had a short run this morning. He was catchingup on his jet lag, so he set the alarm for 3:15 in his hotel and had a nap. His phone starts ringing at 3:30 – he set the alarm for AM and not PM – so don’t let that happen to you on race day! 🙂 He knows a lot of running routes from airports when he has layovers – he especially likes LAX as there is an In-N-Out Burger, one mile from the airport and he runs there to eat. Frankfurt has some amazing wooded trails next to it.

He LOVES coffee and is very particular in how it is made – he does not allow his wife to make it as she just throws the stuff in… Ryan roasts his own beans and uses a pour-over coffee maker. He has a special tea pot that heats the water to precisely 204 degrees F (the perfect temp to properly make coffee) and he has a precise ratio of coffee to water. When Ryan is heading to a city, he searches Yelp for the best coffee shop in the area. He only allows himself caffeinated coffee on hard workout days (so having 3 easy days between hard workouts deprived him ofanother day without coffee…).

Ryan also talked about his mother-in-law running her first marathon at age 55. She got a plan of the web (her daughter and son-in-law are elite distance runners… I assume she didnt’ want to bother them) and she said things were going well, even with her longest run being 13 miles… Ryan thought to himself (oh my), but said that she should focus on enjoying the experience (OMG). Thankfully things worked out well for her and she had a great day. [Take away – don’t kill yourself in training and limit your long runs to something acceptable. Note that the elites rarely go over 20 miles, and they are still done in about 2 hours]

Ryan talked about his bout with Plantar Fasciitis and trying to run through it with race obligations and the Olympics coming up. It ended up causing more problems in his hamstring and knee due to the compensations. He finally had to take some time off. [Take away – even the Elites with all their support, have to deal with these types of injuries]

When asked about how he deals with “lows”, he said that when you get to the start line, it is a new day for everyone and the slate is clean. Regardless of some bad warm-up races or some rough training periods, there is still the opportunity for greatness.

…and Ryan said he had to get a selfie with me!Ryan Hall selfie