I recently volunteered to lead some five mile training runs* for the Santa Monica Classic, which takes place on Sunday, May 3rd, and this past Saturday morning was the first of the series. It was also the first time I've run with a group in over four years. Even though I've been logging anywhere from 15 to 65 miles a week since my freshman year of high school (closer to 15 now that I'm no longer racing competitively), it's been a while (a long while) since I've been required to think about pace, mile splits or whether my running shorts match my top.
Given the long stretch of time that has passed since I've plodded the pavement with fellow runners, I wanted this first run back to go flawlessly. I wanted to be on target for the 8-9 minute mile pace. I wanted to be a strong and inspiring leader for the runners in my group. And I wanted to not go the wrong way like I did five different times when I ran the course by myself on Thursday night.
As many runners and competitive athletes know, some situations -- illness, weather, an innately poor sense of direction -- cannot be controlled. Others, like sleep, attitude and diet can be. While I was worried that even my obsessive study of the course map might not be enough to guard against missteps, I knew that I could at least control my energy levels by fueling my body right the night before the run.
Instead of digging around in the freezer for a frozen pizza or my bag of TJ's meatless meatballs, I whipped up a healthy whole wheat pasta dish with arugula pesto, chicken and veggies. The result was delicious, satisfying and more importantly, kept me from bonking at mile four. I led my amazing group of runners at a quick 7:45 minute mile pace, without making a single wrong turn. It was a great feeling, and I can't wait to get back out there this coming Saturday morning. Especially since I know I won't get lost. And especially since I know I'll be fueling my body with this delectable spring-inspired pasta dish again the night before.
*Note: These Saturday morning training runs also include 3-mile groups and another 5-mile group -- each at different pacing levels. Let me know if you are interested in joining and I can tell you more about it!
Loosely based on Arugula Pesto recipe on Simply Recipes
1 chicken breast, sliced
1 serving TJ's whole wheat spagghetti
1 zucchini squash, sliced in matchstick pieces
1 small vine-ripened tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roasted for apprxoimately 15 minutes in the oven
1/2 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese + extra for garnsih
1/2 cup packed arugula leaves, stems removed
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pasta water
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
Salt, pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup of water for the pesto. Meanwhile, saute chicken in 1 teaspoon olive oil and minced garlic in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat. When no longer pink, remove chicken and saute the zucchini and tomato until just tender. Add chicken back to pan. When pasta is ready, toss into bowl with arugula pesto. Coat well. Toss into frying pan with chicken and vegetables and stir until everything is swimming in a green sea of pesto. Serve immediately with lemon zest and extra Parmesan sprinkled over the top.
Combine arugula, roasted garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan, 1/4 cup pasta cooking water in a large bowl. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.