So, I’m racing next weekend. And in case I haven’t complained often and loudly enough, I will mention it again: I hate racing.
I love to run. Love, love, love to run. Can’t get enough of it. But I hate to race. I do it only because I don’t want to be called a “jogger”, or someone who “runs for exercise”. Call me shallow, but that’s the truth.
I’m a runner, damn it.
Part of the reason I hate to race is that I hate to plan. I don’t want to think about splits, or shoes, or, the worst, my ‘fueling strategy’. But as much as I like to wing it, I have had to face up to the truth that, after about 50 miles, you can’t just ignore reality. You have to eat. You have to drink. You have to reapply Vaseline.
These hard truths of racing have sent me on a quest to find foods that give me energy, aren’t too sweet (I drink Coke and eat gummi bears for a straight sugar bomb), and don’t make me want to hurl. This is where Racing Cookies come in. Okay, so maybe these aren’t really racing cookies, but since Killian calls his carrot (or is it zucchini?) cake “Energy Cake,” I feel like I can call these whatever I want. They have carbs, they have fat, and if you add some sort of nut butter, they have protein. See? Racing Cookies.
Actually, Dorie Greenspan calls these cookies Speculoos. And though I know it is complete lunacy to change anything ordained by Dorie, I felt like changing the name might just be okay with her if she knew what we needed them for. Running ultras should exempt us from some of the basic rules of baking, don’t you think? I mean, clearly we have exempted ourselves from some of the basic rules of hygiene, nutrition, and general self-efficacy when we race, right?
I’ve been experimenting with different types of treats before/during/after I run for awhile, now. Some have worked well (peanut butter and chocolate blondies), but others, not so well (I’m looking at you, Gullah Cake – frosting, it turns out, doesn’t hold up well in the heat. I know, Duh.). The key is finding treats that hit just the right note at just the right mile. Chocolate, as much as I luuuuuuuurrrrrrve it, never works unless you are running in the Arctic. It melts. And gets goopy. And gets all over your hands, and your bottles, and then when you try to wipe if off on your sweaty shirt, you end up smearing it all over your sunglasses when you try to clean them two miles later. Or so I’ve heard.
So, no chocolate.
Fruity treats are good, but also tricky because they can be sticky and cause a mess (see above). I made a Mango Coconut Tart that was DELISH post-run, but impossible to enjoy during a run unless I decided to use my refrigerator as an aid station (which I have done before, but found to be slightly impractical). Frozen fruit treats, like Cherry Lime popsicles, are the-best-thing-I’ve-ever-eaten-at-50-miles, but also impractical. Sigh.
Where does that leave us, friends?
It leaves us with Racing Cookies. Let me say this up front (or in the middle, it would seem): I am not a fan of gingerbread or ginger snaps. They feel like punishment cookies. Or like the cookies they would give you at the end of mandatory after-school choir practice. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? Bleh.
But these little ginger gems are different (probably because Dorie invented them). They don’t smack you upside the head, screaming, “I AM MADE OUT OF GINGER AND I SMELL LIKE A DRAWER SACHET!”. No, they’re more like, “Hey, you. Try something that’s not super sweet but will give you a little pick-me-up.”.
These cookies are what you want when you don’t know what you want, you know what I mean? You’ve hit that point in your race where you are questioning your will to live, and you know you need to get some calories, but all you want to do is GET THE F*%#K OFF THIS COURSE! Have your crew slather one cookie with peanut (or almond) butter, top it off with another cookie to make a mini-sandwich, and off you go, saved from having to think about your “fueling strategy” for another 45 minutes.
And if all else fails, you can hurl them at your crew when you throw your last tantrum before you finish TRIUMPHANTLY! Or so I’ve heard.
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Speculoos – Baking Chez Moi)
2 cups AP flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¾ ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt (Dorie uses ½ teaspoon, but I like my treats a little saltier when I race, for obvious reasons. If you are just going to munch on these, drop back to ½ teaspoon.)
8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses (Dories calls for light, I used dark and didn’t think it was too strong)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt together in a bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the brown and white sugars and beat again, about 3 minutes.
Add the egg. When it is blended, add the vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes.
Add in the dry ingredients on low and mix until well blended.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, pushing down on it until it is flat against the cookie dough. Refrigerate overnight (or freeze for at least 3 hours).
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop out dough in 2 inch balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 12 – 14 minutes, or until jut starting to brown slightly on the bottom. Do not overbake these cookies or they will be hard as a rock.