What Makes a Race Great? (And a Recipe)

I am plagued by another respiratory bug.  For it being such a mild winter here in Kansas City, it has been surprisingly brutal for my family.  We have all been sick for much of the past few months.

Still, I got out and got in a great 4.25-miler on Sunday (my youngest son’s birthday!) during a quiet snowfall.  I timed it right (finished just as the roads were starting to get a bit slick), wore the appropriate amount of clothing (is there anything better than a toasty core and a cool breeze on your face?), and had the roads to myself.  It was a perfect run with less soreness after, which encourages me.  I’m shooting for 5 miles this Sunday, which would be my first 5-miler since last September.  These are baby steps, yes, but I’m so scared of injury and also have been attacked by a vicious strain of laziness.

We’ve been busy volunteering at the rehab center and living life to the fullest…


I mentioned in my last post that I am on the committee for the Trolley Run here in KC.  We meet once a month to talk about race planning, and I’ve written a few blog posts for the race (some really spectacular stuff…look for my upcoming gem of a post where I discuss why beans and booze are bad the night before a race.)

Yes, it’s unpaid, how did you guess? 🙂

SO, here is my question to you, blog readers.  I feel like as a new member of the committee, I haven’t contributed much, and I would like to offer some original suggestions.  This group of people is spectacular, and the race is a well-oiled machine in its 27th year, but I would like to be able to contribute some new ideas as an avid recreational runner (avid if you don’t include the last five months, amiright?).

Thus far, I did suggest a new incentive for signups in the first 48 hours–a drawing for a free ride to the starting line.  I thought that would motivate me a a runner to sign up early, not having to worry about transportation and catching the shuttle bus (runners park at the finish line and shuttle to the start.)  Other than that, though, I haven’t said much, and I would like to help.

So I am asking for your thoughts on what makes a race great.  Obviously we can’t control the weather, and much of the logistics are set in place, but I would love your thoughts on any little things that you find make a race enjoyable.  What do you love and appreciate about a race?  Could you share any great experiences you’ve had during races that we could implement?  What makes a great vibe?  What makes you want to run a race again year after year?

I hope you’ll take the time to share your thoughts and experiences.  It could be something major, or even something small…like maybe you love a kickoff song that sends the first wave out, or a small thing that volunteers do during the race.  I welcome all ideas, suggestions, and recaps of special race moments.  I would like to do my part to help this fabulous race committee!

As a token of my appreciation, I offer this AMAZEBALLS recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.  It appeared in our KC Star Food section many years ago, but I don’t think it’s available online.  Some local Italian sportscaster said it was his grandmother’s famous recipe.  All I know is that it’s easy, spectacular, and one of the few things I can cook to make HH ignore the dust bunnies in the house and not regret marrying me.

Spaghetti Sauce

This freezes well (cool it completely first!) and makes a nice big batch of sauce (about 6 cups.)  I start the sauce and then begin the meatballs once the sauce is simmering for 45 minutes, and they finish cooking at just the right time.  The sauce is fairly spicy, so you might want to decrease the red pepper flakes if you aren’t feelin’ it.

  • 2T olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2T minced garlic
  • 1t red pepper flakes
  • 1T oregano
  • 1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Heat olive oil in a pot over med-high heat, then add minced onion.  Cook until onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Stir.

Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and water.  Cover and cook 10 minutes on medium.  Add basil and simmer on low 45 minutes, or until flavors are blended.


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (please don’t use Kraft!)
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1.5t salt
  • 1.5t oregano
  • 1.5t basil
  • .5t black pepper
  • .5t garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Combine beef and pork in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, oregano, basil, pepper, and garlic powder.  Add to the meat.  Beat eggs with milk and add to meat.  Mix well.  Shape into 1.5-inch balls.  Place an inch apart on shallow baking pan/sheet (I spray mine very lightly with Pam first.)  Bake at 375 degrees F 20 minutes or until done, turning once.  I typically cook mine about 23 minutes, because my colon fears underdone pork.

Toss in with your sauce and treat yo’ self!

Happy running and eating!  I hope you’ll leave your race thoughts and comments!



Stuffing My Face: Quinoa

There’s not much I like better than coming home from a way-too-short run and eating like I just ran a 15-miler.  I’m making quite a habit of it lately.

National Running Day was yesterday, which I celebrated by talking the talk, so to speak (donning the gear) and then running errands with the boys all day until I ran out of time to run and had to start cooking dinner (two hours of my life that I’ll never get back, thank you very much.)  

I compensated by going out hard this morning…trying to rediscover my long-lost friend Speed.  I found the elusive little shit about a half-mile in, hiding out on the other side of the tiny slope I detest and like to call a hill.  We ran together for awhile, he and I, until I hit 2.5 miles by the house and decided I was hungry.  Yep, I called it at 2.5 and decided food was more important.

I feel like a loser.

BUT I was feeling the call of my new food discovery, and it could not be denied.

I talk about eating food a lot on this blog, but I don’t share the healthy recipes that other runners’ blogs do and go on about fresh produce and stuff.  This is because I am lazy.  I don’t like to cook, I’m terrible at it when I try, and I’m just not good about eating my veggies.  Cooking is like cleaning for me…each time I do it, I lose a little piece of my soul.

When I decided to run the marathon, I anticipated that the training demands would force me into eating better and cooking more.  That never happened.  I certainly managed my hydration much better and thought a lot about what I was eating (and when I could justify stuffing my face again), but I just relied on my food staples.

Bananas.  Almonds.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Carbs of any sort.  Meat.  Tostitos for salt.  Eggs out the wazoo.  Spinach.  Clementines.

These are not foods worth writing about.  Everyone knows they are good for runners, and I’m hardly going to publish a post on PB&Js, though I could long sing the praises of Bonne Maman cherry preserves.  But did you know that quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a nutritional powerhouse for runners?

Further, did you know (this is the exciting part) that Costco sells it in microwaveable pouches that cook in 90 seconds?


(The picture is a little blurry because I was eating with one hand and taking the pic with the other…too hungry to put down the fork and focus on the task at hand)

Take it from me…it’s good.  What else could pull me away from a tempo run, right?  Um, right.

Sacred to the Incas, quinoa was left behind by the Spanish explorers, who instead loaded their ships with corn and potatoes and who I feel are responsible for at least 5 of the 10 pounds I could stand to lose.

Quinoa has twice the protein of cereal grains, plus it’s a complete protein, which means it has the right amino acids for building muscle.  It has healthy fat and has carbs, though not too many.

Stolen from this article:

You name it, quinoa’s got it. It’s a complete protein that contains all eight essential amino acids, it also is rich in calcium, iron, fiber and potassium, and is an excellent source of folate, magnesium, vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, potassium, and riboflavin. And all for 222 calories a cup.

Quinoa also is gluten-free, so it’s a good choice for people with celiac disease or those who are sensitive to gluten, wheat and other grass-based food products.

Did I mention that if you buy it in the cute little pouch you’ll be eating it in less than two minutes?  You can also buy it raw and cook it yourself, but you’ll be costing yourself at least 5-10 minutes, and who has the time for that?

It’s yummy enough to bring even the most dedicated runner inside the house!

Here are some recipe links that I’ll probably never get around to: