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Published on July 17th, 2011 | by Sweet Sherry Pie

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Breakfast (AND Lunch AND Dinner) of Champions

I can already tell you that this post is not turning out as I had originally planned.

Monday November 8th, I returned from 4 days in Chicago where the Gotham Girls All-Stars competed in the WFTDA 2010 National Championships. It’s the big tournament for all the marbles. After all the regional playoff tournaments, the top 12 teams in the country (actually, in the world) compete for first place, bragging rights and a big-ass (also very HEAVY) trophy- The Hydra.

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The original plan was to gross everyone out with endless pictures of all the “athlete gruel” I forced myself to eat over the past weekend during the tournament.

You see, usually when we travel for tournaments, the team opts to shack up in extended stay hotels where we can have our own little kitchens and cook meals specific to what we each prefer to eat during competition. At the risk of sounding like someone trying to sell $800 juicers on early morning cable – and I want you to picture me all hyper with a track suit on saying this – maintaining optimal athletic performance and sustained energy during tournaments depends greatly on the foods you consume before, during and after the competition. I love sports jargon.

Seriously though, those kitchenettes are great, and a lot cheaper than eating out 3 meals a day. All you need is one trip to Whole Foods and you are ready to prepare an entire weekend’s worth of…

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… ATHLETE GRUEL!!!!

Ahh athlete gruel. It’s a one bowl meal that is high in carbohydrates, protein and vitamins. The carbs and protein are great to fuel your body pre game, and the protein and vitamins are essential for muscle regeneration post game. What makes up an athlete gruel varies from person to person depending on taste and preference – wheat bulgur, quinoa, soba, oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, peanut butter, honey, chicken, tuna, tofu, spinach, edamame, kale, bananas, adzuki beans – basically anything that is convenient to eat, easily digestible, and again, has lots of protein and carbs.

Sometimes, like in the athlete gruel pictured above, I go a step further and use herbs and spices that have holistic properties that might come in handy. Tamarind is a natural anti-inflammatory, cumin is good for digestion and ginger helps upset stomachs. Luckily, they also taste good together because you can trust me when I tell you that athlete gruel needs all the flavor help it can get!

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On top of 4 days of athlete gruel, for the week leading up to a tournament, at least for me, it’s a strict diet of oatmeal breakfasts, nutritional lunches, bland dinners and protein shakes galore.

Needless to say that by the end of the final game we are not counting down the seconds to victory or defeat, but to sweet sweet junk food. That final buzzer sounds and its like a zombie onslaught of sweaty derby girls hunting for pizza, cheese fries, beer or whatever else we can get our saturated fat-deprived hands on. Screw the athlete gruel! At the conclusion of a derby weekend, there is always a junk food destination in mind.

In Portland, we kicked ass and headed right to Voodoo Doughnuts and left with sugar shock. 2010 Regionals? Grabbed our medals and beelined it to the afterparty where we stood first in line waiting for them to wheel out the catering trays. 2009 regionals in North Carolina? Damned if we weren’t cheek deep in BBQ and fancy popsicles before I could even get my skates off.

And now Nationals! This would be food blog gold! My chance to take you from the lowest low to the highest high! Feel for me as I force yet another meal of athlete gruel down my throat and wash it down with a chalky electrolyte drink! Mmmmmm! Cry tears of joy when Gotham hoists The Hydra high and savors the first bite of a well-deserved Chicago deep dish pizza! Hooray!

But no. The universe and Chicago had other plans. Other, tastier plans.

This time, there were no kitchenettes. We had a mini fridge and a microwave. There were no rented cars and trips to Whole Foods. Armed with only one huge container of athlete gruel that I made at home and a bag of trail mix, we would be forced to do the unthinkable: eat out. The athlete in me was not so happy. The fatty, on the other hand, was elated.

And to make matters worse, every time I thought I had a good, empathy-fetching flow of athlete gruel pictures going, it was interrupted by an above average meal at one of the local restaurants. Wasting no time, it started with my first meal on Thursday night:

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Dammit. That was good food. And good for me too. Friday morning, I was convinced it was a fluke and started on my mission of food misery again. There was athlete gruel for breakfast.

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And there was athlete gruel for lunch.

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Just as I thought I was getting ahead in the bland food war, it was dinner time and – what? We were going for Thai? Crap. I love Thai food.

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Fine. I graciously accepted my Friday defeat. But not tomorrow. Not Saturday. Saturday would be all mine.

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SATURDAY, 6:30 AM. ATHLETE GRUEL.

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BAM! Beat that, tasty Chicago! Not just athlete gruel, but athlete gruel before the sun even rises! I am sure to win the day! And for Saturday that didn’t mean just food. There were games to be played.

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By 11 am, we had beaten Texas 151 – 52. The day was in an upswing. It was not even noon, and I was excelling in both of my weekend competitions. And now it was lunch time. We had to eat light because there was a second game in the afternoon. So we ordered some simple Japanese food and guess what?

It sucked! Thank god there was plenty of athlete gruel left!

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I was feeling great. Two gruel-tastic meals in a row and a decisive win on the track. It seemed as if the tasty food streak was finally over and I could get on with my blog mission and back to some ass kicking.

But Chicago wasn’t done with me yet.

Our afternoon semi-final game was against Rocky Mountain Rollergirls.

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It was a battle. Both teams played fast, tough and smart. The final score was Rocky Mountain 133, Gotham 79. Despite our massive rally in the second half, Rocky Mountain handed us our first loss of the 2010 season, and our run for first place and The Hydra was over.

But it was ok, I had another war to win. It was dinner time.

Showered, bruised and tired, Swede Hurt and I took advantage of our other roommates going out to dinner and decided to sprawl out in our hotel room. We were lazy and got food delivered so we could watch bad television and carb up in our pajamas. Our final game the next day was against our long time rivals, Philly’s Liberty Belles for third place.

Saturday night’s dinner choice? Italian. I was fairly certain that this contest would be mine. The world is full of mediocre Italian cuisine and while it may be perfectly edible, it’s hard to get excited about something you can make easily in your own kitchen – probably better – for a fraction of the price. If I want to eat great Italian food, I’ll go to my parent’s house. I ordered the baked cavatelli with cheese. Go ahead Chicago, wow me.

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Wait a minute… this is handmade cavatelli! And… and really tasty sauce. NO! NO NO NO. Dammit, it’s amazing! This is all wrong! My fortune cookie told me that I would triumph! THIS DAY IS NOT GOING WELL AT ALL! AAARRGGH! MMH! Ehh. Heh. Ooooh! Cheese! Mmmmmmm… this is really good… must keep eating… can’t stop…

I had lost twice in one day. But for some reason, most likely the pasta, I went to bed satisfied and happy.

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Upon awakening Sunday morning, I stole a couple of longing glances at the leftover cavatelli still in the container next to my bed. It was after all, breakfast time. I bet I could still eat it… it’d be fine… it’d only been a few hours that the cheese has been sitting out… I thought better of the situation and instead indulged myself in one last bowl of morning athlete gruel.

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I was excited and oddly motivated knowing that the next meal I’d have would probably consist of the best of the worst: whatever the nearest snack bar offered, probably cheap stadium beer and something with fake cheese. But first, we had to lace up our skates one last time.

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The Philly game went swimmingly. Urged on minute after minute with the thought of how great that first end of the season beer tastes, the Gotham Girls tore ahead without looking back and ended 2010 with a massive 162 – 51 win over Philly, and the honor of being third place in the nation!

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And there’s only one way to celebrate that…

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After all the excitement and awards ceremony was over, we quickly showered and got ready for the real celebration – the part of the weekend where we sit in a restaurant and drink beer and shove deep dish pizza in our mouths until they roll us out the door.

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So maybe my plot to eat nothing but brown mush all weekend for your reading entertainment didn’t quite work out the way I originally planned, but I ate well and enjoyed it. And maybe Gotham didn’t go home with the insanely weighty Hydra trophy this year. But I have another medal to add to my trophy collection – placing third out of all the derby teams in the entire nation with a season record of 11-1 is no small feat! And Gotham is still the most amazing team in the world. After all is said and done, I couldn’t be happier.

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Because third place sure tastes better than athlete gruel!

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