As some of you know, I am nearing the end of training for the New York Marathon on November 7th. This week marks the last gruelish of runs (21 miles)—three weeks from the big day.
Training has been rough. I still haven’t found the right shoes, since my favorite kind no longer exists. I have been fighting with allergies and asthma for the first time in my life (thank you Albuterol and my chiropractic brother’s magic pill supplements—if you live around the twin cities, check him out: Chaska Lakes Chiropractic). And finally, I just can’t stand thinking about my ‘self’ so damn much. Every cough, ache and bout of fatigue has me worried every day that I won’t do well on my long run, and then what? Knowing full well I am far from competitive material, a marathon brings out your most competitive self, even if directed at no one but you. Goals suddenly manifest, whether the intent was to keep it light and fun or not. The closer you get to the start line, the more invested you become. The more every sniffle and sneeze worries you.
Some things you cannot control, like the weather on race day. Other things, you can, such as nutrition, hydration and recovery.
Personally, one of my favorite parts throughout this whole process has been the pre-run dinner. I have learned that the best way to prep for these never-ending runs (and they are… I may never stop to walk, but I give new meaning to ‘casual stride’) is to make a delicious, simple meal paired with the perfect wine (oh, hell yes…I still have a healthy glass the night before my long runs—isn’t it actually sacrilege to eat pasta without the accompaniment of wine?).
This year, I have created a little tradition to make a clean, pure pomodoro sauce on the eve of runs over 10 miles long. Not to get too symbolic here, but there was a little more logic beyond the mere carb-load aspect of this dish. Pomodoro may be the simplest preparation of tomatoes in sauce form. I love uncomplicated, unadorned recipes like that. Don’t get me wrong, I like the occasional duck three ways as well. But simplicity—minimalism—has its own appeal to me. I discovered this interest in high school, drawn to Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian paintings. I find I am compelled to the same purity in winemaking. Growers who take it back to traditional methods—who try to get by without machines, pesticides and gadgets. Finally, to get to the point already, it is for this reason—simplicity—that I am so into running. I love all kinds of sports from rock climbing to kayaks, cycling to volleyball. Running, however, only requires shoes, mental endurance and perhaps an ipod shuffle. You can run anywhere, anytime, and any season.
And so, with purpose, I eat pomodoro.
First, I grab fresh pasta, a head of garlic, a bunch of basil and the highest grade imported chopped tomatoes (San Marzano or Pomi, for example). Note: Chopped. Not crushed or diced. If no chopped option, buy the best whole tomatoes you can and clumsily chop them yourself). I also like to carb it up a step further and bathe some fresh sliced boule in a layer of butter and garlic for the side. Just throw it in a preheated oven at 375 for about 10 minutes.
To make a classic pomodoro, cover a heated pan with good olive oil over medium heat. Add 3-4 cloves of finely sliced (not chopped) garlic to the oil until they become quite soft (maybe 5 minutes). Try not to brown them, unless you are a fan of ‘fire-roasted’ flavors in your sauce. After the garlic is softened, add the tomatoes, a liberal dose of red crushed pepper and some salt (you can add more later to taste once the sauce is more evolved. Let it simmer for a good 20 minutes before you add anything else.
After it’s had some time to become, add some chopped basil (I don’t know—a couple tablespoons?). Add salt, pepper and more red crushed to taste. Let simmer a few minutes longer while you boil up the pasta and bake the garlic toast. Serve with some fresh sliced basil.
Oh yes, and for the wine. It is my humble opinion that a simple, rustic Italian dish be paired with a traditional Italian wine. Sure, you could revel in Brunello and Barolo, but remember, if this is for training, you shouldn’t have too much vino the night before an important run. That’s why I reach for the Chianti. Not only is it considerably less expensive than some other Italian options, but it truly is a perfect match in acidity, weight and fruit to tomato sauce. Particularly, I find that younger Chiantis that show a bit more fruit and a little less oak tend to shine when singing a duet with spaghetti.
It’s not the most imaginative pairing, but my God it is good.
A few I love to sell:
-2007 Fattoria di Lucignano Chianti
-2006 San Felice Chianti Classico
-2007 Poggerino Chianti Classico
-2007 Cavallina Chianti Classico
-2007 Poggio Bonelli Chianti Classico
-2005 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico.
So wish me luck. After this Sunday, it’s a lot of rest, a lot of recovery… and a bit of wine for my spirit.