Yesterday was New Recipe Night at our house. We have New Recipe Night at our house because we are fortunate enough to have good eaters. Well, maybe not so much fortunate as if you don’t eat what Mom makes, you don’t eat. Trust me. Joe has, on several occasions, sent any one of the kids to bed if they make overly critical comments about what’s for dinner. Honestly though, our kids are generally amenable to trying new things, but only if Mom makes them.
Last night’s new recipe was Chicken with Roasted Almonds and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. One of the steps involves, go figure, toasting the almonds. I was trying to pay close attention to them, but as it always is with those kinds of things, as soon as I took my eyes off of the pan, the almonds got overcooked. Thankfully, I had plenty more sliced almonds, so I tossed out the first batch and tried again, but that got me thinking…
I realized in toasting those almonds, that I too am currently overcooked. No, I don’t have a wicked sunburn from lolling beside the pool; I’m just mentally, and probably a bit physically overcooked. Joe and I are racing in Racine 70.3 in two and a half weeks. At this point, I’m not going to cram any more fitness into my body, but I do need to maintain what I’ve got so my long and intense workouts continue.
I knew something was up when I didn’t even look forward to my eleven mile run on Monday. I was, in fact, dreading it. That was my first clue because, as you all know, I love to run. Yes, once I got out there and started running I did feel somewhat better mentally, but I was physically tired for the rest of the day. I like when exercise energizes me. I don’t like when it wears me out.
I felt like this at the end of my marathon training and when I raced Racine 70.3 in 2010. I didn't feel like this before Augusta 70.3, but I had other things on my mind before that race, namely doing what I needed to do so that I would have another season of racing, among other things. I didn’t enjoy the last few long runs, swims and bike rides, and I was just looking forward to getting each race over with! That’s how I feel right now. I just want the race to be over with, to check the box as it were.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly fortunate that I’m able to race, especially that I’m going to race with Joe this year. I’m just nervous and tired of my workouts having to have a purpose. I want to swim, bike and run when I want to and for however long I want to, not when and how my training schedule dictates I do. I want to do well; I want to better my time from two years ago before breast cancer was part of our lexicon and lives. The only pressure on me is that which I put on myself. Joe is proud of me for just getting out there and racing. He loves me regardless of if I place first or last. The feeling is mutual.
Joe and I have very different race goals, but part of me still wants to “measure up” to him. Whereas I just want to finish and better my time from 2010, Joe wants to race and race HARD. He’s willing to put forth the effort necessary to make that happen. I am not. It’s partly because I feel guilty taking that much time away from the kids to train, and partly I just don’t want to work that hard. Seriously.
When people learn that I’ve done several half-Ironman races, they generally ask if I’m ever going to do a full Ironman race. The same holds true for when people find out that Joe has done four Ironman races. My responses are always the same – “Heck no! I don’t want to work that hard!” Or, if I’m feeling a bit sassy, “No. I’m only half-assed.” Saying that always makes me feel a little bit like I’m giving up, but then, I know my injury-prone body’s limitations. I’m not willing to risk permanent injury just for bragging rights, no matter how snazzy the medal or the venue is.
Joe is fortunate enough to not have those same limitations so he puts it all out there, pushing his body to the limits. I am amazed at what he can do. I get such a thrill watching him race just like when he flies. The sky and the road are his domains.
I’m still not sure what my domain is, but I think it involves a Word document and a computer keyboard. When I write, I am willing to take the time necessary to put forth a piece I’m proud of. When, as Joe says, “the muse is upon me”, the world stops, well, temporarily at least. I am a mom after all and we mommies can’t completely check out, but I will admit that sometimes I do spend HOURS writing and re-writing and editing.
So, if writing is my “thing”, why do I train and race? Why do I allow myself to get overcooked? Good question. The most obvious answer is that it’s a good way to keep fit, and considering how vital my fitness was to my recovery and to my long-term outlook, it’s something that I can’t afford to not do. I don’t have to race; I could just train, but if you’re not training for something, it’s a slippery slope to not training one day to many days and then doing nothing at all. Let’s face it, humans are a lazy bunch and I’m no different from the rest.
And so, I train and race and get overcooked. I will probably get worse before I get better. The good news is, like the almonds, I’ve got more in me and my family will still love me, even if I am slightly overcooked.
Today I will do my last long ride before the race. Tomorrow will be my last long swim and Monday will be my last long run. Each day is another day closer to my race, one workout closer. I know on race day I will be excited and nervous, ready to get going and ready to get done. I’ll be ready to see what my body can do, if all the cooking has paid off. I know I will not be a contender for any awards, but when I cross the finish line and hear Joe yelling my name and smiling, I will have my reward. The overcooking will be worth it.
P.S. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested. It earned five out of five thumbs up in the Matchette house.
Chicken with Roasted Almond and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
2 c. pomegranate juice
4 thin-sliced chicken or turkey breasts
¼ c. + 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
¼ c. chopped tarragon
½ c. sliced almonds, toasted
1.) In a large sauté pan, bring pomegranate juice to a full boil. Cook until reduced to ½ cup, about 7-10 minutes
2.) Toast almonds in a small sauté pan
3.) Preheat grill/grill pan/broiler on high. Coat chicken with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill or broil until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side, to an internal temperature of 170 degrees F.
4.) Combine pomegranate reduction with tarragon and the ¼ cup olive oil; season to taste with salt and pepper.
5.) Spoon pomegranate vinaigrette over chicken and sprinkle with almonds. Serve with mashed sweet or regular potatoes and green beans.