Everyone has their own theory on how to best prepare for a big race. One camp: Eat a lot of carbs the week before, but carbo-loading the night before is a bad idea. Another group: Eat as you normally do, changing nothing from the way you have been training. Traditional opinion: Carbo-load. There are so many schools of thought, and I have no real opinion. I am, however, a firm believer that friendship and support the night before a big race is the best medicine.
That being said, I invited all of my Boston friends running the half-marathon over for a homemade pasta party the night before our half-marathon. Some were running their first race, while others have run half and whole marathons (one even qualified for Boston!) We made fresh pasta, enjoyed a good meal, swapped stories from previous races and tips for race day. We laughed and joked, getting nervous energy out before the big day and bonding over our collective goal of running 13.1 miles.
Before my friends arrived, I started on the pasta sauce. I roasted some garlic in the oven, then chopped that and sautéed it with some onions. I added whole, peeled tomatoes with the paste they were canned in, and let it all come to a boil. I used the immersion blender to get a nice smooth base, and then added one more can of tomatoes, as well as some salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaves for seasoning. To make it sugar-free, I added a few spoonfuls of apple sauce, simply to cut the bitterness of the tomatoes. I left it uncovered and let it continue to simmer, allowing the whole tomatoes from the last can to break down into chunks. The sauce came out perfectly, and was really easy to make!
Rolling out pasta for 10 people is a big job, but many hands make light work! It was fun to show my friends how to make the dough, then roll it first into sheets and the cut it into strips. For a basic pasta recipe, see here. As they took over the rolling process, I pulled together a simple veggie side of kale with Balsamic vinegar, white beans and dried cranberries. The cranberries were an afterthought, but really made this dish. I will definitely make this again – over cous cous or quinoa, this would be a perfect weeknight meal for kale!
Everyone left full and happy, ready for our big race! I have shared the recipes from the evening, pared down into normal family sized meals. Feeding 10 hungry athletes required 3x this amount! This post is scheduled to go up as I am running. Wish us all luck and I will be back tomorrow with the race day recap and results!
Question: Have you run a race before? What are some of your pre-race traditions?
Classic Tomato Sauce
adapted from here, for 1 lb pasta
2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, packed in paste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
2 cloves roasted garlic
Wrap garlic cloves in foil and roast in toaster or conventional oven at 350 degrees for a half hour. Mince the roasted garlic finely, along with the onion. Saute in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until the onions begin to soften. Add the red wine vine vinegar and one of the cans of tomatoes. Allow to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Using an immersion blender, create a smooth base for the sauce. Add the second can of whole tomatoes, including the paste. Add the apple sauce and season with salt, pepper, parsley and a bay leaf. Allow to simmer uncovered until the sauce begins to thicken. Occasionally, use your spoon to break the whole tomatoes down into chunks. Serve over cooked pasta, fresh or dried, with fresh chopped basil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Kale with White Beans and Cranberries
serves 2 as a main dish (with a grain) or 4 as a side
1 bunch kale
1 can white beans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Roast the garlic as instructed above. Mince, and saute in a large pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the kale from the stems and tear into bite sized pieces. Rinse well, and add to the saute pan. Add the rinsed beans and Balsamic vinegar, cover with a lid, and allow to steam for 4-5 minutes. Add the cranberries and stir to combine. Serve hot, alone as a side dish or over a bed of cous cous or quinoa as a main dish.