Fueling a MTB Stage Race w/Uri Carlson

September 12, 2016

If you’ve visited our Mobile Kitchen in the past year and enjoyed a big savory rice bowl, or a tantalizing little cookie, our dear friend, Taste Agent and Culinary Staff Member Uri Carlson, has probably had a hand in whipping it up for you. Quiet, poised, determined and unassuming, Uri is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and coaches clients on whole foods nutrition, whipping up creative healthy recipes by day, and racing as an up-and-coming mountain biker/downhill rider in her free time. Most recently, she and a teammate from the Juliana Bicycles team completed BreckEpic; a technical 6-day mountain bike stage race in the backcountry of Uri’s hometown of Breckenridge Colorado. Not only did Uri know the terrain well, but she was able to return home each night to cook and fuel their race. As you can imagine, the result was an absolutely delicious, monumental adventure!

It takes a special type of person to attempt a race like this in the first place, and yet another very special type of person to reflect on the inevitable trials, tribulations, road bumps and rewards associated with a huge challenge like BreckEpic and say “...oh man, it was amazing!” But that was precisely Uri’s response. Her enthusiasm isn’t without realism, though. “During a big stage race like this, you have to be ready for nothing to go as planned or expected and be okay with that. There's a lot that can happen over 6 days. Even if one day or a few hours go terribly wrong, you have many more of those hours ahead of you that can go just right. That said, I remember it was pretty hard not to have fun, crack a smile and enjoy yourself out there. Now as the days go by, I remember more of the good things and less of the hard parts. I’m almost to the point where I think I’ll do it again.”   

What were the hard parts? There was at least one detrimental crash, one hole put in an elbow. There was a handful of flu symptoms, a few stitches and more surprises than they could count spread out across the six days of racing. Another “hard part”? Getting in enough calories. One may assume that, if you’re riding that far, for that many days, over such unforgiving terrain that you’d naturally devour everything in sight and joyfully so. But that wasn’t true for Uri. “I was pretty surprised when I realized the calorie deficit that I was building up throughout the week.” Uri says, “I was burning an average of 3,000 - 4,000 per day, but I wasn't eating nearly that much.” She had a difficult time eating a complete breakfast before each day’s stage, and so had to do most of her caloric heavy lifting at dinner. “I was surprised how much I had to try to make myself eat even when it came to dinner. I found that variety was key. Multiple flavors and textures, such as a bit of sweet, salty and sour with some crunch and tender was more enjoyable than, say, a few slices of the same kind of pizza. Salt and vinegar potato chips with a recovery shake became my favorite "meal" of the day! It sounds weird, but you never know what you’re going to want to eat, and you just have to take what you can get and roll with it.”

Even if devouring ample calories was “hard,” Uri made fueling up deliciously easy. “One night we had apricot marinated chicken over white rice with a simple cabbage slaw that was really satisfying because it covered a lot of flavor bases.” says Uri. “Another night, we had a big pot of soup with mashed potatoes and that was amazing. I always remember a quote I read from Allen Lim a few years back, something like, "just because it's the worst thing for you if you're sitting on the couch all day, doesn't mean it can't be the best thing for you while you're riding your bike". So, I was pretty psyched to put as much butter and salt as I wanted on my potatoes.” Satisfying, and soulful, they also fueled their race with good clean recipes that were easy to make and store. “Most days we enjoyed a chia seed pudding with homemade granola and peaches, which was a good go-to because we made a batch in advance and just had it in the fridge all week.”

And, the flavors didn’t stop when it came to fuel on the bike. “I've always found that I can eat a lot more calories to fuel my performance if I'm eating real food.” says Uri. Instead of packaged bars, she opts to make her own food options from scratch. “My favorites are Skratch Cookies (pretzels + chocolate chips or raspberries and lime zest) and super simple rice balls. For BreckEpic, I added some olive oil, Braggs and shredded parmesan to leftover rice, formed them into balls and wrapped them in Skratch Paper.” she adds. “ The saltiness {of the rice balls} is super satisfying, just what your body needs, and the texture makes them easy to eat.” What if you don’t have time to mix up something elaborate? “Grab a baguette and slather it with some jam and a slice of salty cheese,” Uri chimes, “you won't regret it!”

What’s her advice for others looking to make ride foo from scratch or complete a mountain bike stage race deliciously? “Experiment with what your body craves. Listen to your cravings and eat as much as possible.” she says. She’s shared a few favorite recipes below for you to get started with below!

Uri's Chia Seed Pudding

Uri likes to make this pudding with coconut milk, but you can substitute with any other milk, depending on how creamy you like your pudding.

1 can full fat coconut milk (shake before opening to prevent separation)

3/4 C milk of any type – cow, almond, soy, etc.

1/2C + 1-2Tbs chia seeds

2 T maple syrup, agave or honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the coconut milk into a large flat-bottomed bowl or dish (such as a Pyrex). Sometimes the coconut milk will be clumpy from fat/water separation, so whisk until smooth. Add chia seeds and immediately whisk until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to incorporate. Now, the chia will start to expand and absorb the liquid, so make sure you have some extra space in the dish! Let the mixture sit out on the counter for at least 20 minutes, mixing every 10 minutes or so to ensure the chia absorbs without clumping. Then, cover and leave in fridge overnight to settle. Enjoy for breakfast or a snack, topped with fruit, granola, nuts, etc. Serves 6-8.

Sweet Potato Noodles

The loose recipe below displays the components Uri pulls together to make this satisfying dish; she encourages you to experiment with for yourself when it comes to specific ratios, tasting constantly to find a dish with flavor you crave. Spiralizers to prepare the sweet potatoes are readily available online and in kitchen supply stores.

2 med sweet potatoes, spiralized

olive oil and salt (for roasting potatoes)

one yellow onion, caramelized

roast chicken breast (would probably be good with roasted/grilled tofu as well)

fresh pesto

parm cheese or goat cheese crumbles

a handful of pine nuts or pumpkin seeds as a garnish

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Start by spiralizing the sweet potatoes, toss them with olive oil and salt, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast the potatoes until they are tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and transfer them to a large bowl. Mix with the caramelized onions, chicken breast, pesto, cheese and pinenuts or pumpkin seeds to taste. Serve and enjoy immediately!

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