Roots of character, creamy mashed parsnips and apple, plus Tuscon marathon round 2

Last weekend, we made a fairly spontaneous, last minute decision to run the Tucson marathon for the second time. Actually Dave made the decision and I went along, reluctantly. I was worried about Dave's injured calf, which hadn't had much time to heal. Besides, the first time in Tucson was a disaster. We hadn't trained for  the exceedingly steep downhills, and our quads were just macerated. Worse, I had major stomach trouble,  every pounding step making me feel like I was putting a meat hammer to my intestines. At the mile 18 aid station, I made the mistake of trying, for the first time,  Red Bull...and the story really goes downhill from there. Trust me, it's vividly mortifying.  Needless to say, our results were less than shining. Given the initial Tucson marathon experience, who would take on Tucson again, eight years later, and one week after having to pass on the fast course in Sacramento we'd trained for the past three months? Especially considering we had to bail on the original plan because Dave was injured.  And, having trained for an entirely different marathon, once again we hadn't specifically trained for those steep, brutal descents.

It's  probably crazy, but craziness is relative; we all occupy some sort of irrational space on a regular basis anyway. Crazy is what makes us fun, within...ok, reason.

We put faith in our Hokas. If anything could minimize quad damage this time, enough to keep the turnover going, it would be them. Nevertheless, I had serious misgivings. Actually, I was plain negative. Feeling mentally burned, I was content to hold off for a March marathon despite the lack of closure from the solid buildup. I was afraid Dave would push his fragile calf too hard, and the effort would prompt a string of other injuries. At the same time, there was no denying we were both in a rut. Maybe a marathon, and a weekend trip to the desert, would shake off the sullen shadows.

You know how sometimes an ironic twist in events is so anticipated, or longed for,  the true ironic ending ends up being the one wherein the writing was on the wall the whole time? I guess that's kind of how things transpired this weekend. Tucson's harsh descents pulverized our quads as much as before, and my gut was shredded by mile five. I was in fact prepared for a marathon, however (thanks to Craig), if not necessarily this one, and managed to pull out a 3:24...not my best but not my worst, and very satisfying all things considered.

For Dave, things transpired pretty much as we'd quietly feared. He was running great up to mile ten, when his damaged calf really revolted. Still, at the halfway point, he was in 20th position, locking in a 1:25. Unfortunately, things only got tighter, and the poor soleus was a catalyst for an awkward gait and series of additional, compensatory injuries. By the next relay changeover, a perfect opportunity presented itself for an easy, quiet DNF. I know that's what I would have done. That's not Dave, though.  Instead, he shelved his pride over time, and the integrity of finishing won out. I passed him at mile 20, where he was walking dejectedly. I nearly stopped to walk with him, but he wasn't having it. Amazingly, even after walking 10 whole miles near the end, he still crossed the line in 3:43. Not even close to a typical marathon time for Dave, but awfully impressive!

Today, thinking over Tucson round two, the biggest takeaway is the reminder that every action, decision, and embrace is a reflection of character. Our character is the root of how we live our lives, and any legacy we'll leave behind. Dave has the incredible, stolid kind of character that is remarkably able to put aside ego to complete what he promised to do. His brave finish reminds me of the many reasons why I love him so much. Yet, deep down I know, impressed as I am, I wouldn't have made the same choices. I would have waited until I was more healed to race a marathon. It's not weak, it's just different. But character isn't about making the same choices, it's about looking inward and discovering which choices are right for you, and standing by them...while keeping open to new information, and points of view. I can see why Dave needed to give Tucson a try, and appreciate too, how his boldness was also a gift to me, because I wouldn't have raced without him.

So, here's the part where I can't help but loosely connect some food pun, word play, or symbol, because this is primarily a food blog, and that's just how I think. What more natural connection than to go from roots of character to lovably sweet roots? Like parsnips. Which, really do make me think of Dave. Perhaps that's just because I'd never tried one until I went to England. Also, these succulent taproots, high in fiber and rich in B-complex vitamins like folic acid, panoethenetic acid, vitamin B-6, and thiamin, among others, are sweet and hardy, and I adorethem. Roasted foremost, especially with a very light honey or maple glaze, but also tossed in soups, stews, and casseroles. I even have a recipe for parsnip cupcakes I'm bound to try soon (will fill you in).

It may seem like a cruel sort of joke, given my association with Dave and his poor beaten calf, but this week I had to try Martha Stewart's parsnip and apple mash, and they are sooo worth it, especially if you're looking to an alternative to a creamy side dish like mashed potatoes or grits. The recipe only uses a little butter, which I cut back on even further, just a tad. This was lovely with farm fresh grilled sausages, our version of bangers and mash, without all the usual cream and fat; they barely need any seasoning to be delicious. This week, my stomach having taken another mashing itself, soft and simple=perfect.

Martha Stewart's parsnip and apple mash

  • 1 pound apples (such as Honeycrisp or Fuji), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine parsnips, apples, and water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until parsnips are completely tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor, add unsalted butter, and process until smooth. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper.