Gretchen McKay

Late-bloomer running coach leaves no runner — and no funds — behind

Audrey Burgoon’s come-to-Jesus moment came at mile 18.

It was her first marathon, in San Diego in 2006, and her training partner of four months had just hit the wall. Seeing him falter, she burst into tears. She did not know how to run by herself. Her coach asking why she was crying only made her feel more like a failure.

Turned out, she was running so fast, she was on pace to qualify for the Boston Marathon. On her first race. She just needed to keep going.

She says, “You don’t know your potential until you push yourself,” a philosophy she’s taken to heart in the 100-plus races she’s completed over the past 13 years. She’s preached it to the hundreds of charity runners she’s coached to the finish at Pittsburgh Marathon events.

From participant to coach

Ms. Burgoon is 56, lives in Mt. Lebanon and is a textbook late bloomer. The Alaskan-born military brat moved all over the country before her parents settled in Pittsburgh in 1983. Sports as a kid? Never. The Penn State University grad took up exercise only in her 40s, after watching Richard Simmons “Sweatin’ to theOldies” in a TV commercial during a New Year’s Eve party and realizing she’d packed on some pounds.

She eventually worked her way through the entire library of his tapes, and the extra weight melted away. By fall 2005, she’d made so much progress that she hired a trainer, who one day suggested doing some track work at Mt. Lebanon High School.

So ignorant was Ms. Burgoon about running that she thought a quarter-mile lap around the track was a full mile. But she was fast, and her trainer sensed potential. She decided her new goal was to run a marathon.

A flyer from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society turned up in her mailbox on the very day her friend’s child was diagnosed with leukemia. For a spiritual person who doesn’t believe in coincidences, the moment was profound. She had to run.

The Pittsburgh marathon at the time was on its five-year hiatus, so her first race with LLS’s Team In Training would be in San Diego. It was such a fun experience and she was so good at fundraising that she eventually became one of the charity’s volunteer coaches. In 2009,  the year the Pittsburgh Marathon returned, she helped coach the team that would raise thousands of dollars through the first Run for a Reason program. She’s kept at it, raising more than $114,000 for various organizations over the past decade.

 

Charity runners, says Ms. Burgoon, often are stigmatized as being less serious than “real” runners, especially when fundraising is a way to gain entry into a race without a marathon-qualifying time. “But they’re athletes like everyone else,”  she says.

Helping others make the transition

Justin Schell of Squirrel Hill first got to know Ms. Burgoon in the mid 2000s when she helped train him for his first half-marathon in North Park. The lymphoma survivor had just left his job as an accountant and was eager to shed the 40 pounds he’d put on sitting behind a desk.

One thing that struck him about her was the amount of time she invests in her runners, even though she works full time as senior administrative director at Asbury Heights in Mt. Lebanon. She even cooks for her team, as weekend training runs always are followed by one of her homemade breakfasts.

“She remembers learning to feel the discomfort of exercise,” he says.

Still, if people complain they don’t have the time to train, she doesn’t hesitate to call them out, he says. In the nicest possible way.

Hannah Camic of Elizabeth Township remembers how happy she was when the soft-spoken coach found her at the exact moment of her breaking point during the 2016 Pittsburgh marathon.

Ms. Burgoon had become a coach for Pittsburgh’s Run to Cure Cystic Fibrosis team. Ms. Camic was born with the disease, which can cause her lung function to drop when she runs. By mile 23 during that race, unable to breathe, she was fighting for every step.

As always, Ms. Burgoon was running back and forth on the course, looking for strugglers. She told Ms. Carmic, “Know you can do this,” and repeated it as she ran beside her for the next 3 miles, until the finish line was in sight. Then it was back onto the course to help some of her other 150 runners.

That means she runs more than her runners do, sometimes up to 40 miles during a race. “I’m a running coach who wants to run.”

Double the impact

Mary Pat Joseph of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation asked Ms. Burgoon to be the nonprofit’s Run for a Reason coach in 2014. She doesn’t have to fundraise, but she’s already raised almost $10,000 of her $12,000 goal for this year — more than anyone else.

Ms. Joseph has experienced her work ethic first hand — and with a broken wrist — when she ran her first half-marathon.

“Her message of accountability and personal responsibility resonated,” she says. “There have been many times since when I remembered her words when I fall short.”

She lauds her coach for helping her and hundreds of runners attain goals they never imagined, all while helping further other causes.

“She teaches life lessons.”

Chronic bowel disease doesn’t deter Pittsburgh runner

Lauren Moran of Bloomfield puts on a belt that keeps her stoma bag in place before going for a run. Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette

A love of running did not come naturally to Lauren Moran.

If anything, the Baldwin native considered moving her legs forward in anything faster than a slow crawl as punishment — and she was on both the soccer and track teams in high school.

“I hated to run,” says Ms. Moran, 34, of Bloomfield. “For me, it was always the worst part of sports.”

She held firm to that belief after graduating from Edinboro University with a communications degree in 2004, and her friends started signing up for weekend 5Ks. “I just never had an interest,” she says.

Even if she had, Ms. Moran’s body might have resisted. The summer after her freshman year in college, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a severe form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Ten years and three major surgeries later — the last of which left her with an ileostomy bag — Ms. Moran has turned her body’s betrayal into motivation. Looking to get healthy, she decided to train with a runner friend for the 2014 Great Race. Crossing the finish was such an emotional high that she ended up running a leg of the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. She’ll be on a relay team again this year with family members May 1, helping to raise awareness of Crohn’s.

Her friend and mentor, Emily Winn, is running the full marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America in her honor.

“It’s come full circle,” says Ms. Moran, associate director of alumni relations at Duquesne University. “I’m in a whole new place because of running. My body can do different things.”

Learning to cope

There’s no one test that identifies Crohn’s disease with certainty; its symptoms “fit” a number of GI disorders, including celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

While no one knows for sure what causes Crohn’s, heredity and a malfunctioning immune system are thought to play a role. Stress and diet can aggravate the symptoms, which include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fatigue.

It wasn’t until her weight plummeted 15 pounds that Ms. Moran’s mother insisted she see a doctor. A “million” tests later, she was finally diagnosed.

Named after the physician who first described the disease in 1932, Crohn’s can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, That means its severity and symptoms can vary from patient to patient. A chronic disease, it can develop at any age for the estimated 700,000 Americans who have it, although it’s most common between the ages of 15 and 35.

Ms. Moran didn’t think her diagnosis was a big deal; this was the era before smart phones and computers, so information was hard to come by. “I couldn’t understand why my mom was so upset,” she recalls.

Doctors advised watching her diet to see what foods triggered symptoms and started her on medication. By the end of her junior year, she was getting Remicade infusions every six weeks, but she got worse instead of better. In 2006, while a grad student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, she had to have surgery to remove about 12 inches of her large intestine.

Recovery was tough but within a few weeks she was well enough to take a job in Florida. With maintenance drugs, she stayed healthy for the next few years. “I thought, ’This is great!’” she says.

Lauren Moran of Bloomfield goes for a run. In college, Ms. Moran was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette

One step forward, two steps back 

Only it wasn’t. By 2013, the flare-ups were bad enough that simply willing herself to get through the day didn’t cut it. Realizing another surgery was likely, she decided to move back to Pittsburgh to be close to family. Three months after starting her new job at Duquesne University, she was in so much pain she couldn’t sit. Once again she went under the knife.

When she woke up from the 11-hour surgery, she had a colostomy. In addition to the physical recovery, Ms. Moran faced the emotional burden of dealing with a colostomy bag. It was a huge hit to her self esteem.

What if it leaked? Would she smell? How often would she have to empty it, and what if her stoma (the opening on her belly) made a funny noise? How would she wear a bathing suit? And what would it mean for dating?

“There’s so much stigma around it,” she says.

Yet Ms. Moran kept her concerns to herself. As Ms. Winn, 27, of Lawrenceville, notes, ”She’s not the type of person to complain.”

Which is how she came to start running six months after the surgery. Finally feeling good and able to eat different foods again, Ms. Moran realized it was time to get some exercise if she didn’t want to pack on the weight. Ms. Winn had just run the 2014 Pittsburgh Half Marathon and was bugging her to start running with her. With some trepidation, she agreed to train for the Great Race that fall.

Exercise might seem like a bad idea for someone with major stomach issues, but according to several studies, regular workouts can lead to less fatigue and alleviate some symptoms of IBD.

At first, she couldn’t even log a mile along the North Shore and would only run solo. “But Emily kept pushing me and after about a month, I was able to meet her in the Strip District for runs.”

She slowly improved, and that September, with a running belt keeping her stoma bag in place, she ran the Great Race 10K. Tears flowed when she crossed the finish.

“It was such an emotional year, and I never thought I could run,” she says. “It was a huge accomplishment.”

One more challenge

While a stoma is insensitive to pain, the race left her with some bad bruising around the colostomy site and a sore belly. Later that fall, doctors gave her devastating news. the rest of her colon would have to come out.

“I’d come so far that year, and felt healthy,” she recalls. ”I couldn’t believe I had to go through this again.”

In January 2015, surgeons converted her colostomy to an ileostomy, an operation in which doctors make an opening in the lowest part of the small intestine and bring it outside the body. They also removed her rectum.

Recovery was extremely hard, but what kept her going was wanting to run again. “Lauren is not the type to dwell on the bad stuff. She always wants to enjoy the moment,” says David Doyle, a friend since high school.

A month out, she could walk 10 steps. By March, she was jogging again, with a new goal: Running the last leg of the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon relay. Not only did she finish, she gave it her all.

“It was awesome,” says Ms. Winn, who ran alongside her. ”I was exhausted but she was this little ball of energy.”

A stoma bag keeps Lauren Moran’s ileostomy in place during a run. Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette

Ms. Moran had so much fun that she decided to train for a sprint-distance triathlon at North Park three months later. She’ll run the marathon relay again this year and is also gearing up for her first Olympic-distance triathlon this summer.

Her body has been through so much, but it’s also proven to be resilient, Ms. Moran says. She has to be careful about hydration. But running has played an integral role in her recovery. She hopes by going public with her disease, she’ll create hope for others.

“Other college students will go through this,” she says. “I want them to know they can still lead a healthy life.”

She’s even come to appreciate her stoma.

“How can something that keeps me alive not be beautiful?” she asks.

After family members’ suicides, woman heals her emotional wounds through running

Amy Jacobson of Penn Hills jogs along Madison Avenue on Pittsburgh’s North Shore during a training run with Steel City Road Runners. Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette

For months after her older brother Allan’s suicide in November 2002, Amy Jacobson was numb. It was as if the Maryland college student had fallen into a big black hole of nothingness where the only emotion that churned inside her body, after the initial shock wore off, was total detachment.

Allan had been the brainy kid in the family, and his death a month shy of his 25th birthday in their parents’ basement seemingly came out of nowhere. It was only in the unforgiving glare of hindsight, she says, that her family realized he’d been desperately unhappy. Adding to her family’s distress was the fact that her father, who’d become a paramedic after retiring from the Navy, had found him but couldn’t revive him.

To allow herself to feel, Ms. Jacobson now realizes, would have been to acknowledge the anger, guilt and shame so many suicide survivors struggle with after the death of a loved one. But that’s a recognition of today’s 34-year-old self; back then, the fact her brother had taken his own life simply didn’t compute.

“You get lost,” she recalls. “Our lives completely fell apart.”

But worse days were to come.

Six months later, her baby brother Sam — the life of the party who’d always seemed so confident and sure of himself — met the same tragic end. Then in July 2004, her father also died by suicide, sending her into what would eventually be diagnosed as active post-traumatic stress syndrome. “My life continued to unravel.”

This past autumn, she started the long journey of healing her emotional wounds in a way she never could have anticipated: with a random 1.6-mile run along Rodi Road in Penn Hills that would lead to her signing up for the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 1.

Running as a lifeline

Growing up, Ms. Jacobson didn’t have an athletic bone in her body. Sam was the natural athlete, a daredevil who excelled in everything from soccer and football to wrestling and cross country. She was too shy to put herself out there.

“I never had the confidence to try out for anything,” she says.

Which explains why the immense pride the Penn Hills secretary felt after that first run on Oct. 11 proved so overwhelming as to be addictive. True, she probably walked as much as she ran. And when she did pick up the pace, “I was slower than a turtle in peanut butter.” Yet it got her so fired up about running she’s now training with Steel City Road Runners to compete in her first 13.1-mile race. She’ll also run a 5K the day before as part of the Pittsburgh Marathon’s Steel Challenge.

“Running has become my lifeline,” she says. “It has given me a reason to push on.”

Climbing out of the darkness wasn’t easy. As a survivor, Ms. Jacobson says, people expected her to be strong, especially for her mother. She was anything but.

Amy Jacobson of Penn Hills with her brothers Allan, left, and Sam.

“My life was out of control,” says Ms. Jacobson, who moved to Pittsburgh from West Virginia five years ago, not knowing a single soul, and now works for an accounting firm. “I couldn’t regain my grip, and I had no idea what I was going to do, or why I got up in the morning. I wasn’t living. I sure as hell wasn’t happy.”

Ms. Jacobson’s encounter with suicide sounds exceptional. Yet it’s more common than you might think. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S., says David Brent, endowed chair in suicide studies and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. More than 41,000 Americans take their lives each year. And many more attempt it — approximately 12 people harm themselves for every reported death by suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The risk is higher for family members of people who commit suicide because suicide typically doesn’t happen in a vacuum, says Dr. Brent, who directs the Services for Teens at Risk suicide prevention program at Pitt and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. Most often it co-occurs with issues of drug or alcohol abuse, impulsiveness or psychiatric conditions such as depression or bipolarism, all of which often run in families. Even so, the “absolute” risk of suicide for relatives is still statistically low, he says.

“Genetics isn’t destiny,” he notes.

Learning to be sensitive to changes in mood or behavior can make one more resilient, says Dr. Brent. So can grief therapy, along with lifestyle changes that help minimize stress, such as getting some exercise.

‘Runner’s high’

Ms. Jacobson says she instantly felt better when she put foot to pavement. The first few times she ran, in fact, she cried.

“Everything that I’d kept bottled up was released,” she says. “That feeling of accomplishment, of doing something I never thought I could do, it’s indescribable.”

There might be a word for it: endorphins. Experts have long recognized that exercise eases anxiety and improves mood because it makes your body release these morphine-like chemicals, says Howard Aizenstein, a professor of psychiatry at Pitt.

The effect is two-fold. In addition to reducing one’s perception of pain, endorphins can trigger a feeling of intense well-being during and after strenuous exercise that runners sometimes refer to as a “runner’s high.”

“They’re like natural opiates in the body,” says Dr. Aizenstein, with a drug-like effect that people can get addicted to.

Studies suggest exercise can also lead to an increase in the gray matter in the hippocampus part of the brain, which correlates with improved cognitive function. Exercise also presents opportunities for socialization and can boost self-confidence when people set, and achieve, goals.

In Ms. Jacobson’s case, running also has helped her shed more than 70 pounds she’d packed on after being diagnosed at age 19 with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal endocrine disorder that leads to weigh gain, infertility and other problems.

Like many new to the sport, she started small last fall, jogging just enough to make signing up for the Jingle Bell Run on Dec. 13 not seem totally crazy. She surprised and amazed herself with a 34:34 finish. It was so incredible, that when she won entry into the half marathon during a week of giveaways, she decided to go for it. She started 2016 with a Steel City group run on New Year’s Day.

The running community, Ms. Jacobson says, has been an integral part of her road to success. “They’re so supportive and welcoming. For the first time, I feel a sense of belonging.”

It’s inspired her to pay it forward. This spring she started volunteering for the Western Pennsylvania chapter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org), a nonprofit. She’s committed to raising $5,000 for the 14th annual Out of the Darkness Walk in Pittsburgh on Aug. 27. “I want to take what I’ve learned and give back to others,” she says.

Which is considerable. Through running, she says, she’s learned you don’t have to accept what’s handed to you, that even when you feel like giving up, you can go on.

“It’s a metaphor for my life,” she says. “I have my ups and downs, good runs and bad, but no matter what, I keep putting on my running shoes and getting out there.”

So whatever her time on May 1, even if she has to walk some of her way to the finish line, she’ll feel victorious. Sam, she says, would be so proud of her.

“All of my hard work and persistence will have finally paid off, and I will be able to say that anything is possible as long as you don’t give up.”

Teacher with cystic fibrosis gears up to run Pittsburgh Marathon

Hannah Camic gets a look when she’s running that flies in the face of the chronic lung disease she was born with. She doesn’t smile so much as she glows, as if lit from within.

This is no small feat when you’re double digits into an early morning workout that could include as many as 20 miles before some Pittsburghers have had their first cup of coffee. It’s an absolutely amazing one when you consider her lungs are in constant battle with the thick, syrupy mucus that’s a hallmark of the cystic fibrosis she was born with 32 years ago.

Or that every time she’s in a group she puts herself at risk for life-threatening infections through cross-contamination.

Getting enough air can prove difficult, so she coughs. So much and so hard at times while she runs that a week before the Elizabeth Borough resident was to compete in her first Pittsburgh Marathon last May she bruised her ribs.

“I was the sickest I’d been in a year,” recalls Mrs. Camic, who teaches chemistry at Bethel Park High School. Her airway was so obstructed, she felt like she was breathing through coffee straws. “In my heart, I didn’t know if I should run.”

Her head was a different matter. She’d gotten so many encouraging messages while training with Pittsburgh’s Run to Cure CF team — during which she raised more than $19,000 for research — that to not lace up for the 26.2-mile race was, well, unimaginable. So despite her family’s reservations, and with coach Audrey Burgoon lining up support along the course, she went for it, knowing she’d labor for every breath as though the wind had been knocked out of her by a punch to the chest.

She was “beyond disappointed” with her time, but she finished, spurred on at the end by her younger brother, Levi, who ran alongside her the last four miles.

“Given how sick I was, it was somewhat miraculous, and I don’t say that about anything I do,” she says. “However, I did not feel that sense of accomplishment, joy and pride that I had experienced in other races and that I used as mental motivation throughout my training. But as you know, you just run the best you can with what you’re given, and I did do that.”

Or, you try again, as she did three weeks later at the Buffalo Marathon — and took 12 minutes off her time.  In all, she’s completed 52 races since her first 5K in 2013, all with her doctors’ blessing.  She’ll run her second Pittsburgh Marathon on May 1 with a time goal of 4:30 and fundraising goal of a little more than $12,600, bringing her three-year total to $50,000.

For someone with CF to cross the finish line, she says, is therapeutic in more ways than one. First, running is a good form of therapy in that it helps her lungs to clear out the gunk and stay strong. Perhaps more important, it allows her to deal emotionally with her disease.

“It’s a mental thing,” says Mrs. Camic, who logs upward of 30 miles a week. “When I’m out there running, I’m defeating cystic fibrosis,” a genetic condition that worsens with age. Life expectancy is about 38 years.

Mrs. Camic isn’t the first to heal the body and soul through running; there’s something about crushing miles that can make someone who feels bad, mad or sad suddenly feel better. But her resolve — many would call it grit —  is something for the record books.

It’s tough enough for any working mother to find the time for marathon training. Mrs. Camic has to work around a schedule that also includes four hours a day of treatment.

Hannah Camic reads a book while taking treatment for her cystic fibrosis in her home in Elizabeth. Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette

Every day at 4 a.m., she straps on a life jacket-like compression vest that vibrates, helping break up the mucus. It runs for 1½ hours. While it’s shaking, she uses a nebulizer to inhale a fine mist of four mucous-thinning medicines into her lungs. Afterward, the equipment has to be cleaned and disinfected.

She also takes “lots and lots of pills,” and when she’s sick, the list grows.

She repeats the process following dinner. If  her 5-year-old daughter, Noelle, is awake, they lie together or play games. If not, she watches TV, reads or grades papers. Sometimes she dozes during treatment, and her husband, Ed, takes over.

Depending on the day, her lung function can go up or down anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent after treatment. Regardless, she never misses a run and also cross-trains with weights and yoga. Even on days when she has a line threaded into a vein in her chest to administer antibiotics, she puts shoe to pavement — She figures she’s logged at least 100 miles with the tip of a catheter taped to her arm. A few weeks after last year’s Buffalo race, for instance, she had to get a line to treat an infection.

“Why not double up and have running be my medicine, too, and get that double boost?” she asks.

As for any runner, sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes two miles feels like 20. What propels her forward, she says, is Noelle. “She’s my motivation to keep going.”

Success, she adds, is even more appealing when the odds are against her. ”The greater the challenge, the greater the feeling of victory.“

Ms. Burgoon, her coach, chalks her success up to a runner’s ability to overcome adversity. “Some people who aren’t athletes look for excuses. She looks for a reason, and performs. Her positive approach to life in ingrained in her.”

Hannah Camic runs with her training group in Pittsburgh. Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette

Exercise, says Dr. Michael Myerburg of UPMC, who specializes in pulmonary disease, is the perfect treatment for people with CF because it can slow the rate of decline in lung function. In fact it’s so important, that it’s “one of the things we review when we see CF patients at clinic,” he says.

“Breathing heavy is a really good stimulus to clear mucus and keep the lungs clear,” he says. “So we really push exercise with everybody on every visit.”

Although she played soccer in high school and cheered at Bucknell University, Mrs. Camic never thought much about running until three years ago. Like many 20-somethings, she had a lot of weddings on her calendar and wanted a way to get in shape. A friend at school suggested the treadmill; one mile later, she decided to train for a 5K. “I got addicted,” she says. And she’s competitive for her age group, logging a respectable 7:27.33 this past July at the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile.

The stats on CF, Mrs. Camic admits, can be scary. That’s why fundraising for research is so important to her and also why she went public with her story last year; until then, no one but close friends and family knew she was ill.

“I have never wanted special treatment or to be viewed as a sick person.“

Her wish in joining the CF team and  sharing her experiences is that she’ll provide hope and encouragement to those affected by the disease. “I want to show them that having a family, a job and a very happy, fulfilling life is possible.”

While researchers have made tremendous progress in the treatment of some CF patients, they’ve not yet been successful with Mrs. Camic’s particular mutation. She could be looking at a lung transplant.

But when she’s running, some of those fears and sadness about the future fade away.

”Focusing on negatives does zero good for me,“ she says, ”so I try to focus only on the positives and those things that I can control. After all, cystic fibrosis or not, no one is guaranteed tomorrow.“

26.2 Food: How to eat right while training

An occasional series on how to fuel for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Most serious runners will stop at nothing in the race to maximize performance.

High-tech trainers that keep your feet happy while logging serious miles, the latest fitness watch or app that provides feedback in real-time, specially formulated goos and chews that promise to energize your body for hours — any edge you can get, you’ll take.

What it really boils down to, though, is healthy eating, before, during and after your workouts.

To do your best in an endurance event such as the UPMC Pittsburgh Marathon on May 4, you should be maintaining an appropriate nutrition plan not just the week or so before your race but throughout your training. And yes, that includes weekends, when diets easily can go the way of the devil.

One mistake some runners make going into a marathon-training program — and maybe the reason they decide to attempt the 26.2-mile race in the first place — is to use the race as a vehicle for weight loss, by fueling runs on a reduced-calorie diet. I mean, hasn’t it been drilled into our heads that the key to taking off extra pounds is to consume fewer calories than you burn?

I know that was my plan when I signed up this winter for my first full marathon: To shed that small but still irritating spare tire I’d been carrying around since the holidays.

Working with a nutrition coach provided by my Highmark insurance, I learned that might not be the best idea.

While the body recovers pretty easily after the 13.1 miles of a half marathon, it’s a different story with the grueling 17- to 22-mile workouts marathon training entails.

“It’s very damaging to the body,” my registered dietitian, Andrew Wade, told me. “Your muscles tear during those long runs.”

By restricting calories, you prevent muscles and other vital body systems from recovering or performing properly, he explained. Not only that, but also the muscle fatigue that comes from running farther than you are used to can linger, often for days. Deny your body the energy it needs during this tired state, and you’re at a higher risk for many of the overuse and impact injuries that can vex a runner.

Pig out whenever you feel like it as a reward for all that hard work, on the other hand — and God knows you’re famished after running for three-plus hours — and you can sap your energy while playing crazy with your digestion system. Especially if you fill up on refined, processed goodies instead of natural whole foods. Don’t know the difference? Think McDonald’s vs. grilled chicken and brown rice whipped up at home, or a handful of mixed nuts or a cup of yogurt with homemade granola instead of Oreos or a bag of potato chips.

One way to avoid this sabotage is to eat a small number of calories (primarily carbs) as soon as your stomach feels back to normal — say, a whole-wheat bagel with peanut butter or a smoothie made with fruit and yogurt. A glass of low-fat chocolate milk also will take the edge off. Then, when you’re ready to eat a “real” meal, you won’t be tempted to overdo it.

What’s a good way to stay on track the 231/2 other hours a day?

A meal plan that helps you break the day’s food into countable calories and into grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates can help organize and motivate runners who want to think more seriously about what they put in their mouths in the weeks leading up to a race.

For instance, a runner my age and size (don’t ask, because I ain’t telling) should be taking in between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day, with an additional mostly-carb 400 calories split into the meals before and after a workout on easy training days (approximately 100 calories per 10 minutes of exercise). For long run days (more than 90 minutes), I get to add an additional 200 calories per hour of exercise.

I know. What an absolute pain to have to marry math with food. Even Mr. Wade acknowledged good nutrition is a “complex topic” that can be very difficult to navigate; it took more than a week of scribbling every last calorie down to get the hang of it, and that was with recipes that provided nutrition information. I’m sure food editor Bob Batz, who sits within earshot, has gotten pretty tired of me debating aloud the merits of quinoa vs. brown rice.

But once I got used to putting pen to paper, well, it really has made me more conscious of making healthful choices.

Especially since Mr. Wade stressed the plan he gave me was a “perfect world” list.

“Your main priority should be your pre- and post-exercise meals [mostly carbs with some protein] and your intra-exercise snacking,” he said. “The rest of the plan is just healthy lifestyle suggestions, and an idea of how many calories you need without exercise.”

In other words, don’t eat junk.

And if you go overboard at lunch or dinner, or mindlessly spoon in the Haagen-Daz while you’re watching TV? It’s OK to stray here or there with a few extra calories, so long as you make up for it by cutting back on future portions.

“It’s not cheating if it’s accounted for,” Mr. Wade reassured me, “as long as you’re eating good foods most of the time.”

Runners differ, of course, on energy sources. Tim Lyman, a running coach at PNC YMCA, Downtown, swears by a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich on whole-wheat before a long run and a whey protein shake after. But during workouts, he only recharges with Gatorade. As for the rest of his training diet, well, whatever.

“I’m pretty sure I ate an entire box of cereal since last night,” he told me one morning.

Then again, he’s 28, and has that long, lean physique that makes you think he could nosh on Big Macs 24/7 and still manage a sub-three-hour marathon, the lucky dog.

Me, I’ve had to learn to eat better in the morning (a glass of OJ provides a quick source of carbs) and work in an afternoon snack that doesn’t come from the vending machine. Along with thinking about portion control, I’ve also learned to identify foods I can eat easily while I’m running to keep my energy level where it needs to be at mile 15. Dried apricots, dry cereal and pretzels, to name just a few.

It’s a daunting journey, this marathon thing. But I’m learning it still can taste delicious, even if you’re wearing the muffin top instead of eating it.

Butternut squash oatmeal

Feel free to play around with the spices in this carb-rich, tummy-friendly breakfast dish from Nick Fischer, in-house dietitian for Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. He says, “It’s only oatmeal, so if you mess it up, start again.”

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup rolled oats (instant are fine)

2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger

1/4 to 1/2 cup pureed butternut squash

Add water and milk to a small pot and bring to a boil. When liquid is boiling, add remaining ingredients and stir until everything is evenly mixed and distributed. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until the oatmeal is at the desired consistency. Stir often.

If cooking in a microwave, put water, milk and oats in microwave-safe bowl and cook on high (power level 10) for 2 minutes, or until desired consistency. Then add in the rest of the ingredients. The reason that we add the spices, sugar and pumpkin after cooking in the microwave is because you can’t stir while it is being cooked. Also, it is easier to stir the pumpkin into a hot liquid rather than a cold liquid.

Serves 1.

— Nick Fischer, Fischer Nutrition

Nutrition: 215 calories, 38 grams carbs, 10 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 6 grams fiber

Breakfast Smoothies, Three ways

Healthy, easy to make and oh-so-portable, smoothies are a terrific pre- or post-workout drink. For added protein, substitute Greek yogurt, or a scoop of vanilla whey-protein powder (available at health food stores). I swapped a little orange juice for the sugar. If you want to use fresh fruit, that’s fine — just add a handful of ice cubes.

1½ cups plain low-fat yogurt

1½ cups frozen strawberries and 1 sliced banana OR 3/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks and 3/4 cup frozen mango OR 11/2 cups frozen blueberries and 1/2 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for seasoning

Pinch salt

Place ingredients in blender. Process on low speed until combined but still coarse in texture, about 10 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue to process until mixture is completely smooth, 20 to 40 seconds. Season with extra sugar to taste and serve. Serves 2.

— “The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook” (America’s Test Kitchen, April 2014, $29.95)

Nutrition: 230 calories, 43 grams carbs, 10 grams protein, 2.5 grams fat, 4 grams fiber

Curry Egg Salad Sandwich

Swapping low-fat Greek yogurt for mayo in this tasty egg salad not only lowers the fat content but also adds protein.

1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons golden raisins

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 scallions, sliced

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper

4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

2 whole grain bagels, cut in half

4 slices avocado

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

In bowl, stir together yogurt, raisins, mustard, scallions, curry powder, salt and pepper. Gently stir in chopped eggs.

Divide egg mixture between 2 bagel halves. Top each with an equal amount of avocado and cilantro. Top with remaining bagel halves.

Serves 2.

— “The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes” (Rodale, Oct. 2013, $26.99 or $9.24 Kindle edition)

Nutrition: 421 calories, 51 grams carbs, 22 grams protein, 9 grams fiber, 17 grams total fat

Quinoa Pilaf with herbs and lemon

Paired with grilled chicken breast or fish, this makes for a quick and healthful meal for tired or time-challenged runners; I made it at 9:30 p.m., after a taxing speed workout. Toasting the quinoa gives it a rich, nutty flavor — my daughter accused me of “cooking with peanut butter” when she got a whiff. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat (24 grams per serving), and it’s also rich in anti-inflammatoryphytonutrients.

1½ cups prewashed quinoa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

1 small onion, chopped fine

3/4 teaspoon salt

13/4 cups water

3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Toast quinoa in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa is very fragrant and makes continuous popping sound, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer quinoa to bowl and set aside.

Return now-empty pan to medium-low heat and melt butter. Add onion and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and light golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, stir in water and quinoa, and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until grains are just tender and liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Remove pan from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff quinoa with fork, stir in herbs and lemon juice and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

— Cooks Illustrated, Jan./Feb. 2014

Nutrition: 384 calories,59 grams carbs, 13 grams protein, 7 grams fiber, 10 grams total fat

Beef and snow pea stir-fry

Pasta is classic runners’ food. Satisfy your need for noodles with this Asian dish, which comes dressed in a (slightly) spicy peanut sauce. If you don’t eat red meat, feel free to substitute chicken or firm tofu that’s been pressed and cut into 1-inch chunks.

Salt

9-ounce package soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti

1 tablespoon canola oil

3/4 pound sirloin beef, thinly sliced into 2-inch pieces

1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed

1/2 cup Peanut Dressing (recipe follows)

8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat. When it boils, salt the water and add noodles. Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add snow peas and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add peanut sauce, water chestnut and cooked noodles. Toss to coat everything with sauce.

Serves 4.

— “The Runner’s World Cookbook: 150 Ultimate Recipes” (Rodale, Oct. 2013, $26.99 or $9.24 Kindle edition)

Nutrition: 538 calories, 67 grams carbs, 35 grams protein, 15 grams total fat, 8 grams fiber.

Peanut Dressing

1/3 cup peanuts

3 tablespoons sesame oil

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons sugar

Juice 1/2 lime

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend/process for 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy.

Makes about 1/4 cup dressing.

Quick Caribbean chicken

Perfect for those times when you need a really quick meal to bring you back to life. I added chopped red pepper and canned pineapple for extra color and crunch.

12 ounces chicken, cut into thin strips

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1 medium sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (I cut it into small chunks)

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1/3 pepper)

1 small banana pepper, seeded and chopped

3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

2 unripe bananas, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup canned or fresh pineapple chunks

2 cups hot, cooked brown rice

Season chicken with salt and red pepper. In a large, nonstick skillet, cook chicken in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Add sweet potato, chopped red pepper and banana pepper. Cook and stir for 5 to 6 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink and potato is just tender.

In a small bowl, stir together pineapple juice and cornstarch; stir into chicken mixture. Cook and stir gently until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in bananas and pineapple chunks, if using. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Serve over cooked brown rice.

Makes 4 main-dish servings.

— Adapted from Recipe.com

Nutrition: 326 calories, 50 grams carbs, 20 grams protein, 5 grams total fat, 4 grams fiber

Shrimp with Israeli Couscous, Spring Peas, Mint and Lemon

The most popular seafood in the U.S., shrimp is a lean source of protein. It’s also a good way work into your diet selenium, a mineral which may help reduce the joint inflammation that runners can experience from training.

2 lemons

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups almonds, blanched

3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 bunch mint leaves (about 1 cup)

1 pound Israeli couscous

1 pound large shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined

2 cups fresh or frozen spring peas

Salt and ground red pepper, to taste

For garnish

1 bunch mint leaves

1/2 cup toasted almonds

Zest and juice 1 of the lemons; reserve the zest. Make a pesto by combining the lemon juice, pamesan cheese, almonds, 3/4 cup olive oil and mint.

Boil liberally salted water in a large pot. Add couscous and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add shrimp and saute quickly, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add peas and continue cooking. Add 1 cup pesto, followed by the couscous.

Juice the second lemon and season the couscous with the lemon juice, salt and ground red pepper. Finish with the mint leaves, reserved lemon zest and toasted almonds.

Serves 6.

Nutrition: 650 calories, 77 grams carbs, 32 grams protein, 24 grams total fat.

— “The Athlete’s Palate Cookbook” by Yishane Lee and the editors of Runner’s World (Rodale, $13.09 Kindle edition)

Low-Cal Oatmeal cookies

It’s just not a meal without something sweet for dessert, don’t you agree? I need chocolate to get through the day, so mixed 1/2 cup of chocolate chips into the batter, adding about 400 calories (or about 10 calories per cookie).

The first time I made these cookies I substituted mashed banana for the applesauce and my running group gobbled them up. But I think they’re better with the original recipe, especially if you ditch the Splenda for real sugar to get your family to eat them, too. Perfect for a quick after-run pickup.

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

1 cup dark or golden raisins

1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

1/2 cup reduced-calorie, trans fat-free margarine

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup Splenda

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with cooking spray.

In another large bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in oats and then the raisins and nuts.

In another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together margarine, granulated and brown sugars and Splenda until well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in applesauce, vanilla and chocolate chips. With mixer at low speed, add dry ingredients in 2 batches, just until blended.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Bake until crisp and lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

— Adapted from “The Men’s Health Big Book of Food & Nutrition” by Joel Weber (Rodale, $26.99)

Nutrition: 84.7 calories, 11.8 grams carbs, 1.9 gram protein, 3.5 grams fat.

 

Pittsburgh marathoners get help up The Hill

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For a city that’s as famous for its big hills as its 400-plus bridges, today’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon will offer its 27,700 runners a fairly level course. Which is not to say it won’t have its challenges.

Chief among them is The Hill, that daunting stretch of pavement marathoners and relay racers face when they make a right onto Forbes Avenue after crossing the six-lane, 1,662-foot-long Birmingham Bridge from the South Side.

Many a runner has lost momentum, if not faith, on this long, slow climb into the heart of Oakland, which begins at about mile 11.5 and continues for close to a mile.

“If you’re not expecting it, it can really, really break you,” said Norm Dastur, a lawyer who is running his third Pittsburgh marathon. “You have just separated from the half marathoners and are looking to settle in. And then you’re looking at that hill.”

This year, though, the dreaded ascent just might seem a little easier.

As the 6,300 marathoners turn off the bridge onto Forbes, more than a dozen volunteers wearing Asics shirts and encouraging smiles will be there to greet them. Half will be stationed at the bottom of the hill and the other half about midway up; all will spend three or so hours jogging up the hill, again and again, alongside those who appear to be running out of steam.

Organizers are always searching for ways to improve the 26.2-mile course, which winds its way through several city neighborhoods before bringing runners down Liberty Avenue through Bloomfield and the Strip District for the big finish on the Boulevard of the Allies (between Stanwix Street and Commonwealth Place, just short of Point State Park).

Looking at it this year, they realized the hill into Oakland was among the race’s more quiet and empty stretches — a prime spot, said Chelsea Hamilton, event marketing manager for Dick’s, to “provide a little support for runners.”

What they came up with was the idea to gather a group of volunteer “hill runners” who’d be willing to put their athleticism to good use to help keep them motivated through this difficult part of the race. An ad was posted on Craigslist and they also reached out to True Runners, the specialty running store that sponsor Dick’s is testing in Shadyside, and running groups such as People Who Run Downtown. They ended getting 15 takers.

Among them will be 25-year-old Danielle Millett of Regent Square, who runs with Pittsburgh Sports League’s running club, and Cathy Connor, 47, of McCandless, who last month did the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, competing in both the Boston and Big Sur marathons.

Both have experience pitching in: Ms. Millett, who’s a software engineer at Google, has volunteered at the annual runners expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, while Ms. Connor, who’s a graphic artist, designed this year’s T-shirt for the Sole Survivors, a group of athletes who have run in every Pittsburgh marathon since the first race in 1983. Both were intrigued, they say, by the chance to do something a little different.

“It just seemed like fun,” said Ms. Millett, even if it also would be something of a challenge, since she and her fellow volunteers have no idea how many times, or how fast, they’ll have to sprint up and down the hill.

“I wanted to give back, and thought this would be a great way to support my friends,” added Ms. Connor. A veteran of more than 100 races, including 15 marathons, “I also want to help get new runners up and over the hill.”

With just a 150-foot change in elevation, the hill isn’t as dramatic as, say, the run up McArdle Roadway to Mount Washington or up FedEx Drive in Coraopolis, two regular workouts for Mr. Dastur, 40, who trains with In Motion Athletics, a local marathon training group affiliated with Elite Runners & Walkers in Robinson.

But it’s not insignificant, either.

“That’s the point where I put my head down and block things out,” he said.

Adding to the hill’s bad reputation, said Kristina Powell, 25, of Mount Washington, who’s run the marathon twice, is the fact there’s no shade, “and the sun is beating down on you.”

Also, there’s the element of timing.

With Shadyside, Point Breeze, Homewood, East Liberty and Highland Park still on the horizon, Ms. Powell said, “You realize you’re not even halfway. There’s still more hills to come.”

Any extra help, then, “is a good thing.”

Not every runner will need or want the company during the climb, acknowledged Ms. Hamilton, who also is adding music, balloons and banners along this stretch of the course to help motivate the marathoners.

“All of the volunteers are runners themselves, so if someone is in headphones or running full out, they’ll be able to gauge that,” she said.

“We don’t want to be a distraction,” agreed Ms. Connor. “Just to help push the ones who need.”

But her guess is the majority will feed off the volunteer hill runners’ energy.

That feeling is shared by 34-year-old ultramarathoner Lucas Marsak, a seeded runner from Monroeville who finished last year’s Pittsburgh Marathon in 2:47:36 (35th overall) and hopes to set a personal record on this year’s course. Every race, he said, has spots that test you. But the crowd and volunteers always pull you back into a good place.

“They help you tap into your reserves and let you know you’ve got more inside than you think you do,” he said. “They put you in the frame of mind of ‘I can do this!’ ”

The volunteer hill runners, he said, can’t help but be part of that “awesome variable.”

 

Three ways to refuel after a marathon

Gluten-free Banana-Nutella Muffins/Gretchen McKay

 

So you’re among the thousands of Runners of Steel who participated in the Pittsburgh (or another city’s) Marathon. Or maybe you’re one of the many spectators who got up at the crack of dawn to cheer the record-breaking number of entrants on. Bet you’re hungry.

The average runner burns about 100 calories per mile, which when you’re talking an endurance event like a full marathon amounts to an entire day’s worth of calories over just a few hours. No one’s going to blame you, then, if the bagel and banana provided at the finish don’t suffice. Racing works up an appetite. You need a real food, and plenty of it.

Here, we offer a few athlete-tested recipes, including one that’s gluten-free, from this year’s field of world-class elites. All are easy to make, with delicious results.


 

Gluten-Free Banana Nutella Muffins

PG tested

Nutella and bananas. Need we say more?

This recipe comes from ultrarunner Devon Crosby-Helms, who came in 37th in the women’s marathon in the 2012 Olympic Trials. A personal chef who earned a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Pittsburgh, the San Francisco resident is gluten-intolerant, so she devised the muffins using gluten-free flour mix.

If you’ve never enjoyed a bakery product made without “regular” flour, you may be in for a pleasant surprise — samples brought into the newsroom disappeared from the food table in about 30 seconds.

I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour, available at Giant Eagle Market District stores. If you like your muffins on the sweet side, use the ripest bananas you can find, as the only sugar in this recipe comes from the Nutella.

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, plus banana slices for topping
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place paper liners in 12 muffin tins.

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl or stand mixer. In food processor, combine ripe bananas with butter, egg, almond milk and vanilla and process into a smooth paste. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add chocolate-hazelnut spread and stir until incorporated.

Pour batter evenly into muffin cups and top with banana slices. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and store in a plastic container. Enjoy with more Nutella.

Makes 12 muffins.

— Devon Crosby-Helms


 

HOMEMADE GRANOLA

PG tested

This crunchy granola is a favorite with marathoner/personal chef Devon Crosby-Helm’s clients. “They call it ‘crack,’ ” she says, because it’s so addictive. Spoon it on top of yogurt or ice cream for a nice post-race treat, or do as I did and simply eat it by the handful.

I substituted almonds for the walnuts and honey for the agave nectar, and also threw in some chopped dried pineapple; next time, I might add a handful of chocolate chips after the mixture has cooled. “Good for you” never tasted so, well, good for you.

  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats or gluten-free oats (to make the recipe gluten free)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup peanut or neutral oil
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup diced dried apricots
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried berries
  • 1 cup dried cherries

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss oats, shredded coconut and walnuts together in a large bowl. Mix oil and agave together and stir into oat mixture. Spread out evenly on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. (My granola mix got crispy in about 30 minutes.)

Remove mixture from oven and mix in remaining ingredients and let cool. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 24 servings.

— Devon Crosby-Helms


 

THREE BEAN CHILI

Chili is always a good way to refuel after a long race, says Jeffrey Eggleston, who won the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon and is in town this weekend to defend his title. This vegetarian version, made with three different kinds of beans, is one of his favorite recipes. He says the addition of dark beer (he likes home-brewed dunkelweisen) is essential, as it’s a good source of B vitamins.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 zucchini squash, chopped
  • 2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 to 2 Hatch chile peppers, seeded and diced, if you can find them
  • 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 12-ounce bottle of your favorite dark beer
  • 15-ounce can kidney beans
  • 15-ounce can black beans
  • 15-ounce can pinto beans
  • Sea salt and crushed black pepper, to taste

 

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion until they become translucent. Season with bay leaves and spices; stir for about 1 minute, until spices become fragrant. Add zucchini and peppers (plus any other vegetables you wish).

Once vegetables are cooked through, add the diced tomatoes, beer and stir in the cans of beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve chili in bowls with cornbread and a cold brew.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on appetite.

— Jeffrey Eggleston