Bugsplat: Desensitization by Trail Running


When I first began running four years ago, there were things I would not do:

  • Run in the rain

  • Run in the wind

  • Run if it looked like it might become windy or rainy

  • Run if there was anyone who might see me

  • Run before breakfast

  • Run if it looked buggy

  • Run if I felt tired/achy/sick/bloated/lethargic…

I would also not run without each of the following items:

  • hat

  • headphones

  • sunglasses

  • hydration pack

  • tissues

  • snacks

  • mosquito repellant

  • clothes coordinated (down to the socks)

I also had strange little pre-running rituals, such as using the bathroom multiple times, re-tying my laces at least twice, and peering out the window to make sure there really, really wasn’t anyone on my road. I admit, sometimes I used binoculars.

I used to wake up in the morning and think cute thoughts like: I wonder if it will be a good day for running?

I find it funny, the things to which I’ve become desensitized:

  • Bugs: In Star Wars, Hans Solo has to program the Millennium Falcon before engaging the hyperdrive, so they don’t collide with objects in space. Trail running is like that, only YOU are the ship, and BUGS are the objects to be avoided. Sometimes, however, there’s a collision or an unavoidable swarm, and you find yourself picking insects from your sweaty body.

  • Weeds: Countless times I’ve chosen a trail which looks like a groomed golf-course, only to find myself ankle-deep in flora that pokes through my socks and sticks to my shoes. The only thing to do is to pick up the pace.

  • Mud: A sloppy trail no longer stops me. In fact, I don’t quite trust running shoes that aren’t dirty.

  • Sweat: I used to wear sweatbands around my wrists; now I just wipe my brow with my sleeve, if I have one. Sometimes sweat drips right down from the ends of my braids.

  • Non-standard WCs: When you run through the countryside, you don’t always have restrooms available. The more trail running you do, the better you get at finding concealed areas.

  • The Weather: It is ALWAYS a good day for running, because even if raindrops pummel you in the face like pellets from a vindictive child’s bb gun, you come away stronger. Besides, a marathon is NOT a fair-weather friend: unless there’s a hurricane, she will be there for you, rain or shine.

  • Perfect clothing: All I ask these days of my running apparel is that it fits well, is non-chafing, and doesn’t add weight to my body as I sweat. While color-coordination gratifies my OCD, (and I admit, I DO try and keep my favorite outfits clean & easily accessible) if my hot pink socks are the only ones available, I will wear them, ignoring the fact that they clash with the red stripe on my knickers.

  • Early hours: My alarm chirps at 5am, whereupon, I roll out of bed, sneak into the kitchen to start the coffee, and then I quietly get dressed by the light of my window. I like to run at 5:30 because there are no tractors, no cars (if I have to use the paved road), and the entire countryside is mine. Not only is the incredible sunrise worth the effort, I can continue my day as teacher/mama/wife guilt-free.

  • People/tractors/cars: If for some reason I have to run later in the day, the only thing I do not wish to share the trail with is the manure truck, which MUST be avoided at all costs–even if it means adding a couple miles to my route.

  • Forgetting things: While it IS good to be prepared (I make a list for long-run days), there are mornings when I simply dart out the door, leaving technology (and a few other random things) behind. If I forget something, I continue on my run without getting worked up about the absence of niceties. Though gadgets can be useful, it is good to unplug once in a while and listen to your body during training–to know what a 9 minute mile feels and sounds like, rather than what it looks like on an ambivalent computer screen.

While I’ll never be an Olympian, I feel I have been happily desensitized to things that used to hinder my runs; and God-willing, I will continue to learn more about myself as a runner, as the years move swiftly past.

Recipe of the Week: Tastes Like Chicken Apricot BBQ Tofu

This week’s recipe is adapted from the cookbook Veganomicon. It is NOT a Dr. Fuhrman recipe and is most likely  just beyond the limits of his Eat to Live plan.

While I cut out all the oils and changed the soy sauce to tamari, the ingredients that push this recipe over the Eat to Live edge are the molasses and (pure) maple syrup. I’m sure with a little experimenting, the molasses could be substituted with dates, but I haven’t tried that yet.

However, this is a great-tasting recipe that my entire family enjoyed. As Libby happily exclaimed, “It tastes like chicken!”

Success–I have now sufficiently altered my 8 year-old’s taste buds.

The Raw Materials

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds fresh apricots (6-8, depending on size), pitted

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground coriander (I crushed the seeds by hand, because using the mortar & pestle makes me feel gourmet)

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

2 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

1 tsp liquid smoke

2 packages Extra-Firm Tofu, drained & pressed (I cut mine into triangular patties–not too thick)

The Method

While you are working on the glaze, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In your dutch oven (or a saucepan), water saute onions over medium-high heat until browned (7-10 minutes). Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add 1/2 cup water to de-glaze the pan. Add the apricots, black pepper, ginger, and coriander. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the sauce is boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and let cook for about 10 minutes, until the apricots are mushy.

Uncover and add the molasses, maple syrup, tomato paste, tamari, and liquid smoke. Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring often and mashing the apricots to a gelatinous goo.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Transfer to food processor (or blender) and puree until smooth.

Slice your pressed tofu and dredge in tamari, coating both sides. Place slices in a 9 x 18 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the slices and bake for 15 more.

When the tofu is done baking, smother with BBQ sauce and return to oven for 15 more minutes.

Remove from oven and serve with veggie of your choice.

We went with sweet corn, and because of the slightly Asian taste to the glaze, I also roasted some mushrooms to serve as a side. This would be excellent as a sauce for any stir-fry.

For convenience, pre-make the sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.

Guten Appetit!


6 responses »

  1. Very good article. I am laughing about your ritual of using the bathroom several times before you leave. I do that before going on a long car trip. Being “unplugged” and down to the basics shows that you are really a true runner now..or in the Zen way..you ARE the “running.”

    I will try your recipe tomorrow. It really sounds delicious. Tofu and apricots are really high in nutrients.

    I really enjoy your articles. They are full of adventure, humor, helpful hints and life! Please continue writing and sharing your life with us.

    • It’s very liberating to not to be distracted by all the little things and exciting too as I look forward. I’m hoping to try a mountain marathon next.

      Happy running!

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