Four years ago, barely a month after beginning training at my new job, my mentor turned to me in the middle of washing glass beakers and asked, “This is random, but do you run?”
“Yes,” I replied, somewhat hesitantly, and felted compelled to add, “Well, more like jogging than running.”
“That’s okay!” she answered. “Would you want to run in a relay race in Oregon in three weeks?”
She continued on to explain that nine other people from the department, about half of whom were in our group, would drive up from Northern California to Portland on the last Thursday in June. After spending the night, they’d run to Eugene—180 miles away—from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning, in less than 24 hours. Although I had yet to meet a single soul besides her, I completely surprised myself and agreed!
Because we lived in the flattest town known to mankind—our only “hills” were freeway overpasses—I planned to end a few of my runs with the stair stepper machine at the gym to prepare for the steep inclines on two of my segments. But with only three weeks to train, the butterflies in my stomach threatened to burst right out my bellybutton as we drove the 10 hours up north.
What was I doing? What was I think? Had I gone insane?
The next morning in Portland, we split up into two cars based on our assigned rotation order. (12 runners x 3 legs each = 36 legs total. No way would we each run 15 miles straight!) With only one runner on the road at a time, the rest of us chased behind in the vehicle, stopping in the middle of the runner’s leg for water breaks, and rolling down the festively finger-painted windows to cheer like crazy lunatics for our friends—and other teams too!
Once our car (runners 1 through 6) completed our first legs, we deviated from the freeway and careened about random dirt roads in the Oregon countryside, eventually pulling over in the middle of a half-plowed cornfield to chat with some older gentlemen. They were flying remote-controlled planes that were bigger than me!
After they generously demonstrated a few models’ antics in the sky, we happily thanked them and bumped along on the gravel paths again until we found a small outcropping of buildings, including one very dodgy-looking Mexican joint. Our stomachs, practically empty after all of that running, demanded food, so we ordered whatever sounded good at that ravenous moment. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas… Between the six of us, we must have sampled everything on the menu.
Less than two hours later, the time for our second legs rolled around in the early evening, and we all moaned and groaned our way through our routes—not from the heaviness of the food, but from the spicy salsa and its ensuing heartburn!
After that round of running, and after our third eerily peaceful 3 am one too (with the most gorgeous twinkling starry skies I’d seen in years!), we stuck to dried fruit and bland granola bars to give our worn-out stomachs a well-deserved break. But we managed to finish the 180-mile race in just over 23 hours without any injuries or accidents, and we all slept like babies that night in Eugene!
At the end of our interesting weekend of food, most of us wanted something fresh and familiar as we drove home on Sunday. With no strips malls in sight—or even regular restaurants—we nixed the fast food stops and pulled into a grocery store parking lot instead.
Most of my new friends ordered from the deli, but I wandered around the refrigerated section as they waited for their customized gourmet sandwiches. Eventually I found exactly what my body craved: a fruit and yogurt parfait!
So now four years later, after many of my runs and morning workouts, I still want a yogurt parfait, but because I prefer to add a little extra protein to satisfy my muscles, I recently started creating these Chocolate Raspberry Protein Parfaits. The rich chocolaty morsels, combined with the slightly tart berries and lightly sweetened yogurt, practically tastes like dessert—making these the perfect healthy bribe to help me run a little faster!
For the big protein boost, I turned to these Double Chocolate High Protein Life Choice snack bars I found on the cereal aisle at Walmart. Full of decadent chocolate flavor and at least 20 grams of protein per bar, they’re a sweet and healthy way to sneak in extra protein!
In these parfaits, I diced the Life Choice bars fairly small, about the size of regular chocolate chips. But I’ve also started carrying one in my purse whenever I’m running hours of errands or driving home to visit my parents. On these warm summer days, the chocolate coating starts to melt a teeny bit, and the center softens to match the texture of brownies. It’s one seriously divine nutritious snack!
To make these parfaits, I sweetened a little protein-packed Greek yogurt with Stevia (but feel free to substitute your favorite sweetener instead!), then layered it with fresh raspberries and with these chocolaty nuggets of Life Choice Protein Bars. With my wide-mouthed ramekins, I could only make two layers, but you can easily create more with narrower serving glasses!
Although I savored one for breakfast and another the following day for lunch, these Raspberry Chocolate Protein Parfaits tasted more like dessert than a healthy meal. Always a big plus in my book! Those soft brownie-like chunks combined with the juicy berries… Pure bliss in a bowl.
Thank goodness I bought two boxes of the protein bars—and two pints of raspberries too!
*Note: This post was sponsored by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All text, images, and recipe are my own.