26.2 FOOD

Eat to recover after Sunday's painfully long run

This is about the time, if you've been training for the Pittsburgh Marathon -- or live or work with someone whose every waking hour for the past few months has been ruled by running -- when all you can think about is how you cannot wait for it to be over.

Of course you're excited about lining up among the thousands on Sunday, and praying for good weather -- chilly at the start, not too sunny on that last torturous stretch down Liberty Avenue. But after cranking out so many miles over so many months, your body is pretty beat up.

Sunday, and the recovery that follows in the form of sleeping in and eating with abandon, can't come soon enough.

Especially for participants from the food and drinks industry.

Meg Coyne, who'll be running her first full marathon this weekend, estimates her "tired" level at about an eight on a scale of one to 10. But unlike so many racers who now are resting up and conserving energy, she didn't get to put her tired dogs up during this week's taper.

A waitress at Mad Mex Shadyside, the 27-year-old Washington, D.C., native spends upwards of 65 hours a week on her feet taking and relaying orders. Many are late into the evening -- that is, early into the morning.

It's an early night if she gets out of work by 2 a.m.; on weekends, it's not unusual for her to clock out after 3 a.m. As for "rest" days, well, there aren't any. "I've been doing my long runs on Sunday at 6 or 6:15 a.m.," she says, "after only two and a half hours of sleep."

Her boyfriend who is training with her, Jake Trethewey, is a line cook at Legume Bistro in Oakland and is similarly exhausted. "It's consumed everything we're doing," he says. "It's just running and working."

Preparing for Pittsburgh's 26.2-mile race through 13 city neighborhoods is tough enough when you've got a 9-to-5 office job. But imagine having to run at the gym on a treadmill, at midnight, after standing in front of a hot grill for eight hours. Or squeezing in the miles by running to work instead of taking a car.

Adam Neal, a 29-year-old sous chef at Ditka's in Robinson who will be running his fifth Pittsburgh marathon, has done both this season. But he's not complaining.

Such is the life of a marathoner when he or she works in the restaurant biz.

One of the hardest parts of training, says Mr. Neal, is getting used to not being able to run when you want to, in perfect conditions. "You can't just run on weekends when it's sunny. Sometimes it's in the dark, or in rain in rain gear" -- whatever his two-hour window allows for between work and caring for two young children.

To make the most of what little time he has to train, the Pennsylvania Culinary grad keeps in his car three gym bags filled with running apparel, shoes and homemade granola bars so he can go at a moment's notice. While he sometimes has to work late, "you never know when you might get off work early, so it's good to always have them with me."

On days when he makes the 6-mile run to work along the Montour Trail from his home in Imperial, he has to plan at least a day ahead, so he can leave an extra set of clothes to change into.

He used to run with a friend, but then he joined the Navy. So these days, he mostly runs solo, with just his phone for company. He tries for four or five days a week, depending on how crazy it is at work. "Actually, I run any chance I get because I don't always know when I'll be able to get out there again."

Only one thing is certain. "I'll take a few days off around the marathon so I can rest before and after. That's my vacation."

Ms. Coyne has it a bit easier in that she has a running partner. The couple's pace group, Fleet Feet's Marathon Training Group, has been a lifesaver, she says, because "it makes us accountable" when they'd rather stay in bed.

As in years' past, Big Burrito paid the registration for Ms. Coyne and dozens of co-workers running in the race. Many are raising money for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank through crowdrise.com.

"A healthy worker is a happy worker, and we believe in the Pittsburgh marathon," says Executive Chef Bill Fuller, who has raced in the past but is sitting it out this year because of plantar fasciitis.

Still, there's no rest for the weary. While she's taking the weekend off, Ms. Coyne will be back on the job on Monday, with barely 24 hours to recover. It's Cinco de Mayo, the restaurant group's biggest party day of the year.

Chef Fuller has no doubts she'll be up to the challenge, and not just because she has an "endless positivity."

As any cook, or waitress, who's worked a weekend double can tell you, restaurant workers regularly have to push it a little harder to find reserves of energy and strength they didn't know they had.

"There's this whole culture of suffering in the restaurant business," says Chef Fuller. "You get used to being on different schedules and being tired and maybe injured and still going on . . . They're just more attuned to suffering and persisting in suffering."

So what's the best way for anyone who's running the marathon to push through the pain afterwards? Because make no mistake, you will be hurting.

A good, nutritious meal that's light on your digestive system (the stress of a marathon on your body slows your metabolism for a few days) is a good start. Best is one that includes most of its total calories in carbohydrates to refuel your muscles, as well as some protein -- found in meat, dairy and fish -- for muscle repair.

Below we offer a few dishes that will get you on the road to recovery, plus a decadent cake to help celebrate your victory (find it a post-gazette.com/food). If you haven't already planned your pre-race menu, they'll also work for carbo-loading.

They're as tasty for non-runners, as well. See you along the course -- and at the finish line.

Mushroom bolognese

Don't eat meat? Mushrooms are a great substitute.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

10 ounces white button mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped very fine

1 medium onion, chopped fine

Sea salt and black pepper

1/4 cup red wine

2 cups 20-Minute Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti

Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until both are golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add red wine, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook until wine is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to boil.

Stir in marinara, and bring sauce back to boil. Lower flame to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes until sauce has reduced slightly. Right about now is a good time to get your dry pasta into the pot of boiling water.

Cook and drain pasta, then add to skillet with the sauce. Toss well. Divide pasta into 4 deep serving bowls. Serve with grated parmesan, if desired.

20-minute marinara

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in 2-quart pot over medium heat. Add garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and liquid, breaking them up in pot with fork. Add basil, season to taste with salt and pepper and stir. Reduce heat and let cook for 15 minutes. If not using immediately, let cool before storing in refrigerator.

-- "Homemade with Love" by Pennifer Perillo (Running Press, 2013, $27.50)

Marinated Beef and Veggie Kebabs

Protein-rich beef helps speed recovery after a hard run, so serve these kebabs -- which can be assembled in advance -- at your post-race celebration. For extra nutrition, pair with brown rice or whole-wheat couscous.

1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound top sirloin steak, trimmed of fat, cut into 11/2-inch cubes

1 red bell pepper, cut into 12 chunks

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 12 chunks

1 small eggplant, cut into 12 chunks

1 red onion, cut into 12 chunks

Salt and ground black pepper

Combine ginger, soy sauce, wine, honey, and oil in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal bag and shake to mix the ingredients. Open bag and add beef, peppers, eggplant and onion. Seal again and toss to coat with the marinade. Place bag in refrigerator and let it marinate for 1 hour, turning the bag over occasionally.

Coat a grill rack with cooking spray and preheat grill to medium-high. Assemble kebabs on 4 12-inch skewers or 8 6-inch skewers, threading a few pieces of vegetables between pieces of meat. Don't overcrowd the skewers. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill the kebabs over medium heat, turning once or twice, for 8 minutes for medium-rare or 11 minutes for well done, or until desired doneness.

Serves 4.

Nutrition: 377 calories, 19 grams carbs, 25 grams protein, 20 grams total fat

-- "The Runners World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes" (Rodale, Oct. 2013, $26.99)

Hunter's Chicken (Pollo Alla Cacciatora)

Come home to a trattoria-style meal after the race with this popular Italian ragout, which can be made a day ahead of time and reheated. Serve over pasta, or simply with lots of sauce and a crusty piece of bread.

3 tablespoons olive oil

12 chicken pieces (a mix of white and dark meat)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 oil-packed anchovy fillets (I used a good squirt of anchovy paste)

3 garlic cloves, quartered

2 small red onions, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 cup Sangiovese red wine

2½ cups chopped Roma or plum tomatoes

1/2 cup black olives, pitted

4 fresh bay leaves

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken to skillet and sear for 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate.

Add anchovies and garlic to hot skillet, using a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and anchovies are melted. Add onions, carrots and celery and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender and just beginning to turn golden. Stir in wine and cook for 2 minutes, until the scent of alcohol disappears. Add tomatoes, olives and bay leaves and stir well to mix the ingredients.

Return chicken to skillet and cover with tomatoes, flipping the pieces to coat them with the sauce. Partially cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, until meat looks ready to detach from the bones.

Discard the bay leaves and serve with a sprinkling of parsley.

Serves 6.

-- "Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen" by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar (Clarkson Potter; May 6, 2014; $32.50)

Scott's Sweet Potatoes with Garlicky Greens

Packed with carbs and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are a favorite food for runners; kale packs a huge supply of vitamins A, C and K. If you're worried about bad breath, cut back on the amount of garlic!

For potatoes

4 sweet potatoes, sliced in wedges

1 tablespoon olive or canola oil

1½ teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon rosemary

For garlicky greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and minced (optional)

1 bunch of kale, collards or chard, deveined and coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or tamari

For sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss potatoes with oil and seasonings. Arrange on a preseasoned baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and lightly browned.

For garlicky greens: Preheat skillet and olive oil. Saute garlic and pepper for 1 to 2 minutes. Add greens and salt. Saute for 5 to 8 minutes.

Serves four.

Nutrition: 230 calories, 38 grams carbs, 4 grams protein, 7 grams total fat

-- "Eat and Run" by Scott Jurek (Houghton Mifflin, June 2012, $26)

Mayan Chipotle Shrimp and Corn with Shells

Shrimp is high in protein and selenium, a mineral that aids in recovery. Here it's paired with nourishing pasta and canned chipotles in adobo for added heat. I didn't have fresh chiles so substituted dried New Mexican red chiles (reconstituted in hot water). Extremely yummy.

8 ounces medium gluten-free shells (I used whole-wheat pasta)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large red Fresno chiles, seeded and chopped (optional)

8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup fresh corn kernels, cut from 1 ear (I used frozen)

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

2 medium canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chpped

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, then drain well.

In large saute pan, heat olive oil, then add the onions, garlic, and chiles, if using. Saute, stirring, over medium heat, until onions are golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in corn, oregano, and chipotles and stir until heated through. Add pasta, sour cream and salt to the pan and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or chill for up to 1 day.

Serves 4 to 6.

-- "Gluten-Free Pasta" by Robin Asbell (Running Press, March 2014, $20)

Chocolate Tres Leches cake

Congratulations. You just ran 26.2 miles. Time to celebrate with no worries about calories!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, which falls the day after the Pittsburgh Marathon, we offer a chocolate version of a Mexican classic. It's fork-licking good.

For cake

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated natural cane sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For tres leches topping

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

7-ounce can evaporated milk

1 cup milk

For whipped cream

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup granulated natural cane sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa until combined. Separate the eggs and set aside.

Beat egg whites in a medium bowl on high speed until stiff peaks form but the whites are still glossy, not dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Add butter and sugar to a separate medium bowl and beat on high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Beat on high speed until thick and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. The batter will be very thick at this point.

Stir one-third of the beaten egg whites into the batter to loosen it up. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, making sure it is well blended and there are no streaks of egg white. Using a rubber spatula, gently spread the batter into prepared pan. Bake until a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 13 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the tres leches topping. Pour all the milks into a large measuring cup, or a bowl with a spout, for easy pouring. Whisk them together to mix well.

To make whipped cream, add cream and sugar to a medium bowl and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase to high speed and beat just until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Remove cake from oven, and use a metal skewer or fork to poke holes all over the cake, making sure to pierce it through to the bottom. Evenly pour the tres leches mixture all over the cake. Spread whipped cream on top. Cover with plastic wrap and let cake sit in fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight, to absorb the tres leches mixture before serving.

Makes 1 cake.

-- "Homemade with Love" by Pennifer Perillo (Running Press, 2013, $27.50)

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


Hot Topic