Homemade Granola Bars

I run, therefore I eat.

I do the cooking and a majority of the eating in our house. I have become a fairly ingredient conscious person, so I appreciate when foods contain ingredients that I can pronounce and count reasonably easy. If you look at most running or race fuel, that’s not generally the case. If I want to run my best, I must eat my best.

I’ve started collecting some recipes and I’ll share them once a week or so here. I really enjoy Alton Brown’s granola recipe, and I’ll post that later. However, I will post his granola bar recipe first.

These are great pre or post run but I’ve found that they tend to fall apart if I try to use them on the run. Enjoy!

Ingredients

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup
6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed
1 -ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries
Directions
Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Bike Trail or Rabbit Trail?

Yesterday, in a divinely coordinated circumstance, my brand spanking new trail shoes came in the mail yesterday (Montrail Rogue Racers – review to come after a few more trips). Today, I was planning on running trails! So, this morning, I ran at Lime Creek Nature Preserve just north of Mason City. It was hot and humid (think dog breath humid) but my training plan said 55 minutes of hills today. So I did it.

I’ve had some good runs on those trails before and this was no exception. It’s a beautiful combination of hills and  some flats, dirt, gravel and grass, and trees and open spaces. There is an active mountain biking community that carves single-track trails all through the nature center, and I love running on those. The switchbacks, hills, roots, and rocks make for an exhilarating run while not being too dangerous or crazy. 

One of many single-track trails at Lime Creek.

Getting onto these trails can be tricky. Often, the only clue is a slight break in the brush on the side of the trail. The trouble is that, being a nature center, these breaks in the brush aren’t caused exclusively by bikes, but by animals as well. I can’t even begin to count the number of deer, rabbits, and other animals I’ve seen there. They also carve nice trails throughout the preserve, but there is one major drawback to their serpentine trails: they don’t loop back to a main trail! They run the same, feel the same, and often look the same…until they don’t. Suddenly, you’re nowhere near a trail and you realize that the deer that cut this path between the trees don’t depend on the trail as much and you do. I have followed what I thought to a be a bike trail only to find myself knee high in weeds and plants that I could only pray were not going to make me itch for the rest of the week. What started as a path of adventure and fun quickly turned into a hike of shame, silently retreating back to better ground.

On the way back, I’ve always noticed signs that should have stood out to me. Sometimes it’s a log in the path that no bike could easily jump. Other times, they get extremely narrow, so much that a bike’s handle bars would catch the branches on the sides. Every time, I wish I would have paid more attention.

I wonder if that’s happens to a lot of us. We set out for an adventure, we see a small trail head off the path, and take it with all the gusto we can muster. Of course, we assume we’ll be able to get back to the path pretty easily should anything go wrong. We won’t turn back, because we’re sure that we’ll end up back on sure footing. But sometimes the bike trail is a rabbit trail. Sometimes we’re fortunate and we don’t make it too far before we realize the signs and turn around before we invest too much time and energy into something that wouldn’t get us anywhere. Other times, we end up taking it to the end and then back tracking or trying to find our way back to the trail. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the run and miss the signs. But that doesn’t mean we are excused from them. As you go throughout your life, pay attention to those signs. They make the difference between a timid, embarrassed retreat and a leg full of poison ivy you’ll have to keep from itching the whole way back the car. 

Happy running and happy trails!

Mantra Monday :: Psalm 86.16

This is the start of what I’d like to call Mantra Mondays. This is a challenge for me and you as you run (and every other time during the week) to think about, repeat, and use these short sayings as a way to motivate us when, let’s face it, we just want to quit. Sometimes it will be Biblical, other times a segment of an inspirational quote, and sometimes it will be something from the still functioning corners of my mind. I will quote it and try my best to unpack it so, in the end, it will hopefully have the same impact for you that it has for me. I’ll do my best to keep it short. After all, we’ve got some miles to put in!

Here we go:

Turn to me and be gracious to me;

give your strength to your servant

 

–Psalm 86.16 (NRSV)

This Psalm, written by David, is a prayer for help from his enemies. Heaven knows he had quite a number of them and probably deserved most of them, if we’re honest. Hopefully, as you live, you aren’t in danger from physical enemies trying to attack you. I guess I’ve been lucky, in a way, that I have been, and continue to be, my own worst enemy.

Here’s how it can apply to you if you’re not just running away from someone: In the midst of wanting to quit and feeling our strength failing, we naturally want to call on something greater than ourselves. When we reach our limits, we want to call on something, someone who does not share our limitations. Find that thing, cling to it, and let that strength be your strength when yours won’t cut it. Let David’s prayer be your mantra this week.

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I ran my first marathon. I didn’t even remember until my wife reminded me. It seems pretty wild, for sure. I don’t mean to be sentimental, so I’ll just suffice it to say that it’s been a wild, life changing year. Here are a few pictures of each of my marathons:

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University of Okoboji Marathon – Arnold’s Park, IA – 7.19.13

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On the Road For Education Marathon – Mason City, IA – 10.13.13

Run with my buddy, Vic.

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Rock ‘n Roll USA Marathon – Washington D.C. – 3.15.14

Featuring my buddy, Ted.

What’s the Weight?

The only people I know who are more interested in weight than runners are runners who are actually trying to lose weight. I’m not at that place anymore, but at one time I was. But the thing about runners is that they worry about weight differently than a majority of the public. Instead of body weight, they worry about the weight of their shoes, water bottles, race nutrition, and even clothes. If you a non-runner how important a few ounces on a pair of shoes, the answer would probably be a blank stare or perhaps an eye roll. Ask a runner, and you may need to find a place to sit while they explain their personal shoe weight theories or philosophies.

Today, I did a 16 mile run, as per my training plan. I did so with a hydration backpack, which I have never done before (don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll bore you later with my personal hydration philosophies relatively soon). As soon as I strapped on that backpack and cinched it up, I realized that I couldn’t ignore that weight as I ran. I changed the way felt I should run. My legs strained under the newly added 2 liters of water, which affected the way I felt, especially at the end of the run. As I messed with straps on the move, I began to ask myself this question:

If this weight needs such constant tending to in order to keep it from slipping, chafing, and getting in the way, in general, why don’t I do that with the weight I carry in my normal, daily life?

We all carry weight, a burden of responsibility or shame or guilt or fear. However, if you’re like me, we can easily pick up too much and try to run with it. At what point do we put something down? At what point to we have to take off the backpack and rearrange the contents? My guess is that we all carry a little too much and refuse to tend to the task of carrying it. Even a life with time to spare, like a backpack with room still in it, needs to be adjusted, tightened, and lived with. In our culture of bootstraps and carrying on, we can try to ignore the load. But here’s the kicker, many of us are carrying too much. We aren’t meant for that to be our burden. So, without carrying on (yes, that’s a pun) too long on this subject, I ask you the same question I asked myself:

What are you carrying and are you tending to your load, or ignoring it and letting it take control of you?