by Aaron Vinten

Sometime you race with grit, and sometimes you race with gratitude. A professional endurance athlete is a unique creature of hard work, relentless determination, self-confidence and god given genetic talent.  We love to see them push the limits of what's possible, break records, and climb to the top of the podium and rightfully claim their place to bask in the glory.  It takes a lot of grit for an athlete to reach that pinnacle and it is totally epic to watch.  We adore and admire them for the their abilities. "GRIT: (ɡrit/) Courage and resolve; strength of character." Then there is the little guy or gal. Those who make up the hundreds of thousands of amateur age-group endurance athletes who participate in 1/2 marathons, marathons, Tough Mudders,  Xterra races and IRONMAN races all over the world.  They, too, have grit. They pour copious amounts of time, effort, and dollar bills into training and racing. In return, there are no national anthem medal ceremonies, no sponsorship and endorsement money, and they STILL wake up every morning wondering if somehow, maybe just maybe, the genetic talent fairy came to bless them overnight. But no, a seven-minute mile still feels like hell. Truth is, like most people (and even most professionals athletes), we are all just grateful for the ability to get out there regardless of how fast we may be able to go.  There are so many who can’t and there is something so addictive about how it feels when the legs start burning and lungs start breathing fire. You get to know what it really feels like to be really be alive!

"GRATITUDE: (ɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/) The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." If you want to see a display of gratitude, I think you should meet Doris Steere, a member of Team Wattie Ink.  I met her recently at the Chris Bagg Coaching Group/Wattie Ink. training camp in Bend, Oregon. At the time, I was happily chopping away in the kitchen and Doris was prepping for IRONMAN 70.3 Coeur d'Alene.  Her nose to the grind.  She was all business out there on her workouts, never missing a beat.  She was focused, prepared and ready to put out a PR performance...until the time came...and it wasn't meant to be.  

“I spent many months training for this particular day.  I visualized the start line, the finish line, and all the moments in between.  I pictured the podium and me smiling on one of the blocks.  I ate ALL THE FOODS (anyone who trains under CBCG Coaching Group knows what I mean). I couldn't NOT race, but in the middle of night on race eve, I came down with a crippling migraine. I couldn't open my eyes, much less think about racing. But I went down to transition, determined to try. A volunteer told me I had permission to stay in transition after it closed as long as he waited with me. He did. He encouraged me to get into my wetsuit and start and to just "see what happens." I knew that's what I wanted to do, but I also couldn't even stand upright to walk out of transition. I heard the gun go off for the pros.  I maneuvered my way to the beach confused and unclear where to go. I was still carrying my wetsuit.  I saw the 29 and under wave go off and watched the next two waves start.  I began to try to put my wetsuit and was soon again back in the fetal position on the ground, head pounding.  I missed my wave. More friendly spectators tried to help me and by the look on their faces I must have looked awful.  I finally stood back up and that's when I knew my day was over, not ever even having started."

When I heard that Doris had to pull out from Cour d'Lane 70.3 because of debilitating migraines on raceway morning, I was so bummed for her.  I know the level of effort that goes into preparing for a race like this and also the disappointment when you're forced to accept that today you won't be racing. 

“It was over before it began.  I tried to stumble my way back to transition, but kept getting turned away and another kind gentleman found me and helped me walk and then started shouting for medical.The next part is foggy, but I ended up in a golf cart being transported to medical, which shouldn't even have been open yet.  The tears started coming and then I was hysterical.  I was their first "patient" and I'm sure I gave them quite a story.  While there's not much that can be done, they let my lie down and gave me something for the nausea. They gave me blankets and after a long while of being unable to move, I asked for help getting to the sun where I collapsed into another chair.  I remained there until the lead runners started coming through. I had the best seat in the house for watching the athletes start their run and I watched the first big swell of age groupers begin their 13.1 miles when I decided it was time for me to figure out how to get back to my bed. I had been in medical for several hours. Getting back to transition and retrieving my bike took another solid hour. I somehow powered myself a little over a mile back to the house and it felt like the hardest thing I'd ever done.  I knew I made the right choice by not getting into the water, but the overwhelming feelings of disappointment overpowered any sense of rightful doing.”
If you think this was the end of the story for Doris, you're wrong. DORIS DOESN’T GO OUT LIKE THAT!  THIS GIRL HAS GOT SOME GRIT.  After returning back to Seattle, Doris sulked, maybe cried a tear or two of disappointment & frustration, then sucked it up and did what any reasonably minded triathlete would do…she started to map out a mock 70.3 race around her new home town. You can’t waste all that fitness, right DORIS? HELLS BELLS NO!
“My coach, Chris Bagg, has been with me through all the ups and downs of training and racing and I think he sometimes knows me better than I know myself.  He asked how I'd feel about doing my own "race" of sorts and going through all the motions of race day without all the rigamarole.  I jumped at the chance and almost instantly I felt better — I had something to focus on, something to look forward to. I immediately reached out to my friend and Wattie Ink. teammate Rosanne for suggestions of where I could do such a thing (I'm still new to Seattle and I haven't quite figured out how to ride a bike around these roads).  She not only said she'd help, but she offered to be my "race director" and asked if she could be in charge! I gladly passed her the baton and she created course maps (measured exactly) and devised a complete plan of logistics. This girl rocks. My boyfriend, Marc, raced Mont Tremblant the same day as I was supposed to race CDA and was planning on racing NY Tri the following weekend, but after my mishap he cancelled on NY and flew in early to "race" with me instead.  I'm so thankful for my tribe and for all they did to make this day what it was.”
TIME TO GO RACING, DORIS!
No medals, no finish line photos and no cheering crowd.  Just a triathlete racing with the air in her lungs and the gratitude in her heart.  Gratitude for simply having the ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep on trucking.  I wasn’t able to be there while Doris was out doing her mock triathlon, but I would have loved to have been able to make sure that she came home to a fantastic meal. Doris mentioned that one her favorite things are the bowls at a restaurant called Cafe Gratitude here in Los Angeles. I knew instantly what we were going to make for her and share her story right here on the blog. We like to call it,  Doris Steere’s Grit & Gratitude Bowl.  Bowls like this are such a great way to get into plenty of carbs, proteins and vegetables, perfect for a recovering triathlete. The creative options here are literally endless. The idea behind building your bowl is to create balance by starting with a based of brown rice (or your preferred starch as quinoa, white rice, farro or wheatberries), a protein, a vegetable, something a sweet, something pickled, something cooked, something raw,  something fatty (hello, avocado!), something tangy and something—well just about anything. The list goes on and the possibilities are endless. You can use many things you already have in your fridge. For Doris, we started with a blend of quinoa & brown rice and roasted up some eggplants, shiitake mushrooms & sweet potatoes. Then added in some raw carrots,  picked cabbage,  avocado, sesame seeds, sliced almonds and pan fried tofu and finishing it off with a sweet lemon tahini dressing. Let’s make DORIS STEERE’S GRIT & GRATITUDE BOWL!

STEP 1: PRINT THE RECIPE

Print this EASY recipe card below and follow along with all the pictures.  If you don’t see the card below, CLICK HERE! SERVINGS: 2 BOWLS INGREDIENTS: 1 Cup Brown Rice (cooked),  2 Medium Sweet Potato (Roasted),  2 Small Japanese Eggplants,  1 Quart Shiitaki Mushroom (sliced),  1 Small Pickled Red or White Cabbage (Store Bought),  1 Sliced Carrot,  1 Package Tofu (Extra Firm),  2 Tbls Sesame Seeds,  1 Tbls Smoked Paprika,  1/2 Tbls Garlic Salt, 1 Package Vegetable Shoots LEMON GARLIC TAHINI:  1/4 Cup Tahini Paste,  1/2 Cup Water,  2 Juice & Zest of Two Lemons,  1 Clove Garlic,  2 Tbls Honey,  1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves, Salt & pepper To Taste DIRECTIONS: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cook rice as indicated on packaging. 
  2. Put the chopped sweet potato, eggplant and mushrooms into a bowl, and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast @ 400 until cooked through. 
  3. While the rice and vegetable are cooking, make the tahini dressing by combining all the ingredients into a food processor and blend for 30 seconds until well combined.  Adjust with additional water or lemon juice if needed.  Reserve to the side.  
  4. Remove the roasted vegetables and rice from the oven when cooked. Reserve to the side. 
  5. In a frying pan, add the avocado oil over medium high heat.  Add chopped tofu to the pan and cook until slightly crispy, 3-4 minutes. 
  6. Bring your bowls and all your ingredients in front of you. Add rice and desired amount of toppings into your bowl.  Drizzle with Tahini dressing and EAT!!!

STEP 2: GATHER YOUR INGREDIENTS

This recipe isn’t complicated, but each ingredients requires a little attention so that it can bring something unique to the bowl.  With that said,  it will require you to do a couple different cooking techniques such as roasting the vegetables, pan frying the tofu and blending up the tahini dressing.  Not too bad right?!

STEP 3:  ROAST THE RICE & VEGETABLES 

To start,  pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and cook the brown rice as directed on the packaging.  Alternatively, if you dont have a favorite way to cook rice, try doing it this way...add the rice to a medium size pot and toast the rice in a bit of olive oil over a high heat.  Roughly 1 minute.  Then add in the required amount of water as indicated for your type of rice, bring it to a boil and cover with a lid.  Place it in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and fluff with a fork.  If the rice is cooked through all the water will be absorbed.  To roast the vegetables,  chop and add into a bowl.  Season with salt, black pepper and olive oil.  Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until softened.  Remove and set aside until ready to build the bowl. 

STEP 4:  MAKE THE GARLIC TAHINI DRESSING

While the rice and vegetables are roasting in the oven, start preparing the tahini dressing and tofu. To make the dressing, add water, tahini, lemon juice, honey, parsley, garlic into a food processor. Blend for 30 seconds or until all in ingredients are incorporated together.  Adjust with more water to lemon juice as required.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Set aside until ready to build your bowl.  To make the crispy tofu, add avocado oil to a frying pan over high heat.  Add in the chopped tofu  and cook on each side until slightly crispy.  Season generously with smoked paprika and garlic salt. Turn the heat off and keep the tofu in the pan to keep warm.  

STEP 5: PUT IT ALL IN A BOWL

Grab a couple bowls and bring all the ingredients out in front of you.   Slice the avocado and carrots.  Gather the pickled cabbage (or sauerkraut) and vegetable shoots within close reach.  I choose to make a puree out of the cooked sweet potatoes. You can either keep them in a whole roasted or blend them up in a food processor or blender.  Layer in a some of the brown rice (and sweet potato puree if blended) and load in your toppings as desired.  Try to build a nice balance of flavors and textures allowing all the ingredients a chance to shine and also get mixed in.   Finish with a drizzle of the lemon tahini dressing and BOOM, TIME TO EAT.    Doris Steere's Grit & Gratitude Bowl!  A balanced blend of brown rice, savory eggplant, shiitake mushroom, pickled cabbage and a sweet tahini dressing.  A great meal to cap off a great race or hard training day.  Healthy, nourishing, and wholesome. Real food for real athletes.