Quinoa carrot cake cookies (and Pikes Peak Ultra 30K)
I’d almost forgotten how much I love trail running. Not just on my own, but as a participant in an official group event, competitive or not. I’d just about forgotten too, how much I enjoy these gluten-free, vegan, oil-free (or not, if you prefer), lightly and naturally sweetened, easy on the digestive system cookies. That is the loose stretch of a connection between the recipe and narrative of this post. Sorry the record of the race experience is the dominating presence by far. It was my first official run event in two years after all. First, about those "cookies". They're more like breakfast bars, but cookie shaped. I love them. They’re currently one of my favorite portable on-the-go breakfasts/snacks/lunches, and little F likes them too. They may taste a little more cookie-like and less like energy bites with the inclusion of coconut oil, but I prefer them without. You could totally give them a sweet treat lift with a bit of glaze if you wanted to. And the race connection? They’re good pre-run fuel. Generally, I prefer to go on empty. Even my former fave of banana and peanut butter was too much for the odd long run I tested it on in this last build up. But race day, I wanted to have a little bite beforehand, and carrot cake for breakfast works a treat. (Here's where you skip the rambling race record to recipe below.*)
Living in Boulder County, perspective can become a little (a lot) warped. It’s not uncommon for people to ask questions along the lines of “How many ironman distance triathlons are you doing this year? How many ultras? ” within a minute of being introduced. When I tell people here that “these days I am only doing a 50K or two a year” the immediate response is often nods of understanding, if not a questioningly raised eyebrow confirming I’m a slacker. So it’s easy to feel hesitant when it comes to logging race memories for “just” 30K, especially when coupled with average ability. But it was such a beautiful, perfectly challenging course, and kind of a breakthrough mentally, in its way. Besides that, I had the best cowbell crew I could have ever wished for.
When I originally signed up for the Pikes Peak Ultra 30K, held in Colorado Springs from Bear Creek Regional Park, I intended to run the 50K. Typically, the longer I go the more competitive I can be, and to a point the less nervous too. But early on I realized too well how unprepared I would be for the 9000 feet of elevation gain in that event, let alone the altitude. Little F is a stellar household helper, but without family nearby Dave and I continually alternate to accomplish a number of things, workouts in particular. There just isn’t time to get into the hills or up high the way I’d like to, and training efforts need to be efficient even when sustained. For that reason, the week approaching this event I started to take on a few more jitters than I expected, become a little crankier, clouded by feelings of niggling aches and fatigue.
But it’s hard to drown in anxious anticipation the way I used to when a little person keeps you laughing and on your toes. Heading down to the Springs the afternoon preceding, we were caught in a pounding freak storm on the highway in a 50 minute delay caused by a crash. It would have been frustrating--it was, for Dave as generous driver both ways--only little F and all “the guys” (stuffed animals who comprise ‘the class’ when playing school) were so wowed and gleeful we couldn’t help but be a little bit delighted, too.
Race morning, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Lightly misting, but temperate. Just right for running. Not too chilly for a singlet, but not hot, just pleasant. The previous day’s rain had the effect of making the trails feel firm and grippy, not muddy or loosely gravelly. Dave had prepared me for mentally taking the course in thirds. Side note--my amazing husband solves problems, assesses situations, and prepares ahead of time so very exceptionally. Sometimes I wonder idly by how much his skills are superior to mine, and whether I’m secretly far more crafty and opportunistic than I am willfully conscious of when it comes to taking shortcuts in letting him dig in so well on my behalf. (Thank you, thank you, darling Davy!)
The first segment was a solid 5.5 mile climb of about 1600 feet right out of the gate. Competitors weren’t as chatty as my experience in 50Ks; I guess the distance being that much shorter really made a difference. Still, the trail running vibe has a different intensity to road, one that feels more laid back and friendly even as everyone strains and suffers. Nearing the close of the ascent, I started talking with an older guy who it turns out is clearly related to mountain goats. “Your walk-run strategy is working great for you,” I said to him, striking up conversation after miles of leap frogging. He was a modest, convivial man. Not talkative, but not reserved either. I don’t know what his background is, but just from the mile or so we ran together I was impressed by his genuine appreciation for being out there and for the way he without doubt plugs away with passion and keeps on showing up.
The middle third of the course, began with a descent on singletrack, sharp in spots, where my running companion dusted me for many miles and where I internally berated myself a bit for how my descent can let me down. At least when it comes to anything close to technical. But the trail was shadowy and beautiful, with mist hugging the peaks all around us. And I knew (from Dave’s preparation, not mine again), I just needed to focus on getting to mile 12 and the top of the next big hill before a major boost in momentum. While on a stretch of steep road connecting trails, Dave and Little F happened to pass by in the car on their way to a hike. “Go Mommy!” I could hear little F whooping even as they rolled down the hill behind me. “Mommy’s fast!” No caffeine infused gel could have possibly given a better, more lasting lift than knowing my little boy was proud of his mama in that moment.
The final section was mainly the beginning in reverse. As cautiously as I approached the middle descent, my legs were all about letting it rip and pounding down the 5.5 mile (mostly) descent to the finish. I knew my quads would pay the price--they were already sore--but it was fun to try to fly. Especially knowing my fast little sprinter was waiting to jump in on the finishing stretch.
About that “breakthrough”--there were two things. One, the biggest hurdle was definitely getting to the starting line but not in terms of training. That part I loved and looked forward to. It wasn't the actual signing up, either (because Dave , ever supportive, did that for me, too--thank you, honey!!). The challenge was getting over the guilt and the fear that has been present in my mind since Dave’s injuries forced him to give up something that has been so special to share. Even as he has found the same kind of satisfaction in mountain biking, I still feel the shadow of what might be, if I do too much. At this point I’m guessing that won’t ever go away. Because, aging/practical reality/a number of things. But it’s so liberating to be able to relish getting out there again, owning the joy of just showing up.
Another notable aspect came from a semi awkward moment of irony strangely freeing, in the final ½ mile or less. A woman had passed me on the ascent early on, about ⅓ of the way in. We were cordial, greeting each other with breathless nods of “good job” and minimal eye contact. I didn’t expect to see her again, but in the final mile I found myself closing in on her. By the time we were 800 yds from the finish, I had to pass her, and in my head I felt conflicted. On the one hand, she’d managed to be ahead of me for all those tough miles. It seemed kind of unfair somehow, in a laid back event like this, to go by her. On the other, I did pull her back on my own efforts, so why not? When I pulled alongside her, I couldn’t help myself. “I don’t really want to pass you,” I said. “Want to finish strong together?” “Let’s,” she responded, surprised. “Thank you.”
The story could have ended there with some nice warm fuzz. Only what actually happened is that she took off at a strong clip I didn't feel up for trying to match. I was happy with my performance, busy looking out for little F and his promised sprint to the finish together, and totally in touch with internal gratification and contentment. That was the breakthrough. I’ve always done my best in all areas when I can focus on finding out what the best is I can do on the day, without thought of others. This was no exception. Admittedly, I secretly knew I probably wasn’t in her age group, something she couldn’t have been sure of. Who knows but I would put more mojo in had I not had that knowledge. But it was strangely liberating not to, and not at all like losing. The feeling was validated all the more when, to my surprise, I was handed the prize for first place Master’s female at the finish. That felt amazing. Big hugs from my two stalwart supporters, even better. Can’t help but admit, I can’t wait to pick the next one and go again. But I can choose smart, thinking long-term healthfulness, and wait, too.
Quinoa carrot cake breakfast cookies
- 1 cup quinoa flour
- 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
- 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed/flax meal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded carrots (lightly packed)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 ripe banana, mashed
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce OR ½ cup applesauce and OMIT coconut oil, below
- 2 tablespoons liquid coconut oil *optional
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (optional but recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together quinoa flour, quinoa flakes, oats, flaxmeal, baking powder, salt and spice. Stir in walnuts and raisins.
- Add remaining ingredients to bowl and stir to combine. The dough will be sticky.
- Spoon cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Keep chunky or lightly flatten with the back of a spatula.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before serving.