Quick and Easy Chicken Sausage Pasta

Happy Monday and for anyone who is doing Chicago, a very happy race week!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Here in Chicago, we had some dark and chilly weather mixed with some high winds and rain on Saturday morning for our final group run.  Incredibly, we had a really great turn out.

Saturday was also awesome because Rock and I got to run together for the first time in months.  We did about 5 miles at what I would consider my half marathon pace.  With the wind at our faces and covered in a chilly rain, it felt great to be back and with my husband too!

Today I have a quick little recipe for you.  It is perfect if you are looking for a little carb loading before race day (although you really don’t need pasta to take care of this).  It is also a very quick recipe I threw together the other night.  As you might have noticed with my recipes as of late, everything is about quick and easy.  With a baby (and a dog who cries when the baby cries) I am all about trying to get back in the kitchen but also get something done before the crying begins.


Although I am generally not a huge fan of sausage, I love chicken sausage.  The one I chose was a chicken and gouda sausage and it was delicious and a lighter take on the usual Italian version.  We also made this a few nights later with some venison sausage that my brother gifted to us.  It was amazing!


Chicken sausage (or any sausage) sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

Mushrooms, sliced

1 Onion, diced

1 bottle of nice marinara (or two cans of diced Italian tomatoes)

1 bottle of left over red wine

Olive oil (I used some delicious truffle oil that my mom brought back from Italy…yum!)

Pasta of choice (we used Orecchiette and rotini)


Put a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium high heat and cook sausage all of the way through.  Add the veggies and continue to cook until slightly tender.  Add the marinara.  Then add a few tablespoons of left over red wine to the jar and swirl to get everything off of the sides.  Pour into the marinara and allow to simmer for a few minutes.  The red wine will give your jar of sauce a really great flavor!

Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil and cook your pasta of choice.  I liked the orecchiette or rotini because it holds the sauce in each noodle just like a little spoon.  Once done, drain.  Add the sausage and sauce to the pasta and let simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine.


Trust The Taper

Holy smokes!  As I am about to send out this post, marathoning has gotten super real again, you guys.  I registered for Grandma’s Marathon 2016 yesterday.  I shall heed my own advice when the time comes.

So the taper…..This is the part of training where some athletes fall back in love with training (it’s awesome) or they start to hate training all over again (they can’t stand it).  Truth is, some runners love seeing the decrease in their mileage as the race approaches.  Others start to feel antsy or panicky as they find themselves on their feet a lot less.

Many athletes ask me how they will possibly finish a marathon if they have two weeks where the mileage seemingly disappears.  The key is, you have to trust the taper.  It is there for a reason.  It is just as much an integral part of your training as the building up of mileage was, or those long weekend runs, or the speed work.  It is a proven portion of training; almost a scientific method.


While it was necessary to build your mileage, endurance, and ability to use glycogen more efficiently.  It is also just as important for your body to now rest and repair.  The amount of time you would find yourself tapering for is generally around two weeks, and this is the perfect amount of time to allow your body to restore itself without loosing endurance.

If you find yourself questioning if that time “off” will leave you out of shape for the big race, it is important to step back and examine the situation.  Just about every athlete from beginner to elite, tapers.  They do it for a reason and you have to trust that.  You are not a super hero.  Your body won’t be the only one that loses its endurance and at the same time your body isn’t the one super power force that won’t get injured by powering through.  Trust the process.

This doesn’t mean you should sit on the couch all day and just kick your feet up.  Short and easy runs are still necessary to maintain endurance.  And staying on your feet a bit is important too.  Go out and go for a walk (maybe to get ice cream?!).  Go ahead and do an easy bike ride or a nice restorative yoga class.  You will most definitely be out of shape come race day if you take two weeks off and just sit around eating that ice cream

PatrickSawhill7.6.Dealing with the tail end of some injuries or aches?  Go ahead and take a little extra time off.  Skip a run if your legs are really achy.  Get a massage.  Wear those compression sleeves at night.  Let your body heal and repair.

Make sure you use this time to get lots of sleep, hydrate a lot, and eat really well.  Try to get an extra half hour to an hour of rest each night.  This will help when you can’t sleep the night before the race.  Drink lots of water to get that body prepped for race day.  Eat lots of bright red and green fruits and veggies to help the body repair.

And then relax and trust the process.

What is your best taper advice?

Good luck to everyone running races this weekend.  A special good luck goes out to Chantelle who is running the Wineglass Marathon!

Mini Victories Set The Way For a Full Marathon Finish

This past weekend we had the opportunity to have an awesome athlete visit with our running team.  Getting the chance for first time marathoners to hear from someone who has completed multiple full Ironman triathlons is a really great opportunity.  And although I have been running for years, I love to gather new ideas from any experienced athlete I get a chance to chat with.  There is always so much for us to continue to learn.

We were discussing mental techniques that we like to use to get through a long endurance event such as a marathon or half marathon.  However, these “tricks” can be used at any distance from 5k’s to ultra marathons.

The best trick and one of my favorites is to break a race down into sections.  Looking at a marathon as the entire 26.2 miles can be very daunting.  This especially true at the start, or at times during the race when you find yourself struggling.  Breaking a race into segments makes it easier to wrap your mind around the event.  Looking at it in quarters or 5 mile pieces allows you to focus on the more immediate task at hand.  This also helps you to celebrate small victories along the way.  It is much easier on a mental level to say to yourself, “Great I just got 6 miles of this race covered,” instead of, “I have 20 more miles to go.”


In almost any long distance race you will find certain miles to be more difficult than others.  It is important to remember that those hard times will usually pass.  However, if you are in full 26.2 mile mode, it can become rather scary.  This is when you might think, “I am only 5 miles in and my stomach is cramping.  How will I manage another 21?”  Instead, you can look at this as you already have five under your belt and let’s focus on getting through that next five.  If you start worrying about mile 15 or 20 too early, you might want to scratch your eyeballs out!

Give yourself something to look forward to.  It was suggested that if you do not have a big PR that you are working towards you might want to allow yourself to walk through the aid stations.  This gives you something in the near horizon to reach for.  Many large races, like the Chicago Marathon, have aid stations every 1.5 miles or so.  That means you only have to run that next mile and a half before you can look forward to a brisk walk as you get a few sips of water or fuel in.  This is particularly great if you are a first time marathoner and are focused on just being able to finish.  Don’t sweat the time goals and just make it your goal to get to that medal at the end.  Allow yourself these walk breaks, which also give your body a rest as you use different muscles in a different way for a block or two.


If you find yourself in a rough patch, remember that the next mile can be completely different.  And when you stick it out and start to feel better, give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate pushing through that tough time.  Use that as a way to remember that if things get difficult again later on in the race, you know that you can push through and feel better.

The idea of enjoying these mini victories is a great one that I highly recommend taking with you to race day.  There will be miles that are tough.  But by giving yourself little things to celebrate along the way, you might find you gain the mental boosts you need to push through.

What are your mini victories that you like to celebrate?

Slow Cooker White Bean Soup

I have finally accepted that fall is here (although the weather lately isn’t very fall like).  And with that, I had a hankering the past few weeks for bean soup.  Not just any bean soup, I wanted something nice and thick and almost stew-like.  But I also didn’t want to spend a lot of time hanging out over a stove.  So many demands!

So I looked at a few different recipes online and then decided to whip up my own version.  There are oh so many things to love about this recipe.  Not only is it simple and makes your whole home smell fantastic, but it is also very friendly on the budget.  I made this recipe for under $10 and it lasted us for at least six big meals.  This is also a vegetarian recipe with the option to add a little meat too.



1 1/2 lbs. dry white navy beans

6-8 chopped carrots

4 stalks chopped celery

1 large onion diced

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 can tomato paste

Dash of salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon each of dried parsley, basil, thyme

8 cups of water

Optional: Diced pancetta


Give your beans a quick rinse.  Add all of the ingredients into your slow cooker and set it for 8 hours on low.  You can speed this up a bit and do 4 hours on high, but I think it is so awesome to let those flavors sit in there and really combine.

This is a great vegetarian/meatless meal.  However, I love the added flavor that ham can bring to a bean soup.  But I am lazy and didn’t want to find a chunk of ham so I grabbed a package of diced pancetta and this was the perfect addition.  I just threw it right into the mix and let the flavors combine.

I also added a little parmesan cheese on top at the end for a nice salty addition.

What other soups do you like to make in the slow cooker?  Are you starting to get in the mood for fall too?

18, 20, or 22 Miles: Pick Your Poison

The other day I wrote a post about how you can finish a marathon with your longest run being 20 miles.  However, many training plans call for something different and I felt it was important to briefly discuss these various distances.  Some training plans call for as little as 18 miles for your longest run while others call for 22-23 miles.  Below is a breakdown of these different runs and why they might or might not work for you.

The 18 mile long run:  The biggest and most popular proponent of the “less is more” theory is the Hanson brother’s team who work with many successful elite runners.  Some of their plans might even only go up to 16 miles.  One of their main reasons for this approach is that a 20 mile run could add up to 40-50% of an athlete’s weekly mileage and this isn’t necessary and perhaps too much for your body.  They follow the belief that instead of looking at an 18 mile run as eight miles short of a marathon, it is better to consider them to be more like the last 18 miles you would experience during the race.


Many coaches prefer this method because they feel 20-22 miles during a training session is far too much mileage and can lead to injury.  This might be a more beneficial approach for a beginner or a runner who tends to get injured with higher mileage.  However, as the Hanson’s have clearly proven, this method works incredibly well for top elites as well.

The 20 mile long run:  From my experience this is the most common long run you will find on a traditional training plan.  As I noted in my previous post, this distance will properly prepare you for race day while avoiding too much mileage and lead to injury.


I personally think this is an ideal long run distance and prescribe this for almost all of my runners.  Some prefer to have two 20 milers in their plan and although I don’t feel this is necessary, it can certainly help you feel both physically and mentally more prepared.  In my opinion this is a distance that is achievable for beginner through advanced runners.  It is just far enough to make you question your sanity, but not so far that you risk pushing your body too far.

The 22 mile long run:  To be honest, I am a huge fan of having one of these on my own personal training plans.  I like to have a 20 miler a few weeks before this epic run.  I do however, think this is best to be used for athletes who have comfortably built up to 40-60 mile weeks before beginning training and do not seem to have injury issues associated with higher mileage.


While I prescribe this in some training plans, I tend to reserve this for more advanced/experienced marathoners and athletes looking to set PR’s.  If you are looking to simply finish your first marathon or enjoy running several marathons per year for the sake of running them, this would definitely be an overkill.

Pick your poison:  There are so many ways to approach training for any race.  As you can clearly see from the above information, there are many different ways to train for a marathon and achieve success.  I believe it is important to determine what your individual goals and physical capabilities are.  Remember that the hardest part of marathon training is more often than not, avoiding injury.  With keeping that in mind, it is essential that you never over extend yourself.  A properly laid out and periodized plan will help get you to the race, regardless of which long run you choose.

What is your preferred longest run during training?

How You Will Finish a Marathon After Running Just 20 Miles

This past weekend we had our epic 20 mile training run for the Chicago Marathon.  I am happy to report that the entire team did incredibly well.  We were so proud of them when they finished!

Now that is a fine looking group of runners!

Now that is a fine looking group of runners!

One of the most common questions I get after finishing a 20 mile training run is, “Where will the rest of the miles come from?”

This is a totally fair question.  Sure you completed 20 miles (maybe even 22 on some plans) but how do you know your body can handle those remaining 6.2 miles?


Simply put, if you have followed a training plan and you ran your 20 miler properly, you now have enough endurance to complete the entire marathon distance.  If you were to run the full 26.2 miles before race day you would further risk injury by pushing it too hard.

The key to doing a proper 20 mile run is to take it nice and slow and carefully fuel and hydrate.  Remember that these runs are meant to be done 30 seconds to a minute slower than your planned racing pace.  Aim for a conversational pace during your run and don’t push yourself too much.  The more time you spend on your feet, the more your body will be prepared for the full racing distance.  Your mantra should be: There is no rush!

Once you have completed the longest run on your training plan it is the essential for you to mentally prepare yourself for race day.  Trust your training and have confidence in it.  It is common to question yourself and your ability to complete the full race or to finish at your planned pace.  Continue to remind yourself that you have done the training and you will be fine.  After all, running is 110% mental.  The body achieves what the mind believes!



Did you do a long training run this week?  Anyone training for a fall marathon or half marathon?

Tackling Your 20 Miler

This coming weekend is the epic 20 mile run for many people who are training for Chicago.  Others will be doing theirs soon for other upcoming marathons.  Whether your training plan calls for your longest run to be 22, 20, or 18 miles I wanted to share some of my own helpful hints to get you through those miles.

Break it down in your head.  If you start thinking about this long run as one giant trek, you are going to mentally drain yourself long before your body is exhausted.  You need to remember that if you followed a typical training plan you have slowly built your body up over the last few weeks to handle these longer runs.

Remember when 15 miles seemed daunting?  When tackling 17 miles seemed impossible?  At this point you have likely already accomplished those and you probably surprised yourself with how well your body handled those miles.  The key is to trust your training.  Trust that the plan you were on has helped prepare you to be where you are now.


Play mind games.  Sometimes instead of thinking of, “1 mile down, 19 more to go,” I do little math games in my head.  I might say things like, “We just hit mile two.  If I were to head back now I would already have 4 in the bank.”  Or I think of miles in terms of numbers of songs.  Usually I can get approximately 3 songs in per mile.  So I might hit the 10 mile marker and figure I have the opportunity to pick my favorite 30 songs to get me through until the end.  As I continue I count down how many more songs remain.

Don’t forget to fuel and hydrate.  In some ways this long run is your chance to have a dress rehearsal for the big day.  Now is your opportunity to make sure you eat the breakfast you plan on for the race.  Don’t forget to bring your fuel on the run and to hydrate as you go.  Do it just as you plan to on race day.  This will help prepare you for what to expect on race day and hopefully boost your confidence about your game plan.

Be your best running buddy.  Expect that some miles are going to suck.  Others will be great.  But definitely plan on having some tough ones along the way.  This is the chance to be your own coach.  Talk yourself through the hard times and be your own best friend.  Don’t get down on yourself but instead coax yourself along and remind yourself of all of the positive things you have done along the way.  Simply saying things like, “Good job,” or “You have totally got this,” will subconsciously push you past what you might think is your limit.


Misery loves company.  Enlist the help of friends or a running group.  Especially in larger cities or areas with running communities you might find that local running stores or programs have group runs.  Don’t hesitate to join one.  There are almost always pace groups for everyone and if I know anything about runners we are a loving and accepting breed.  We are always happy to have others join us, regardless of what your pace might be.  Having company along the way makes the time go by much faster and will definitely make your run easier.

Turn a negative into a positive.  If things don’t go as you had hoped, remember that it is okay.  A bad run can be a great learning experience.  Now you know that you can make it through and if you find yourself in a rough patch on race day you know that it will get better.  Use this experience as a way of knowing you can get through anything.

Anyone doing their long run this weekend?  What is your best advice for surviving the long run?

We Were On A Break!

Hello friends.  Apologies for my absence, but we have been away for the past few days and trying to enjoy the summer that we missed for the last couple of weeks.  Due to my pregnancy we were not able to get away much this summer or spend any real time at the lake.  So we took the past week off and headed up to our lake house.  Unfortunately the weather in the days leading up to our trip were hot, hot, hot.  But as soon as we arrived at the house, the weather turned cool and wet.  We managed to enjoy ourselves anyway.

Little Mary had her one month appointment and has gained over two and a half pounds and is weighing in at 8 pounds 6 ounces.  Good stuff!  We have been enjoying showing her around the lake and the woods and slowly introducing her to Louie.


One thing I love about Northern Michigan is the woods.  I grew up there climbing trees and riding my bike all over the place.  It has been fun showing Mary around the woods and Louie might just love it even more than Rock or myself.

Louie is also mad about hanging out on the dock.  Much like me he likes to lounge in the sun, which I find pretty humorous considering he is covered in a coat of fur.  Whatever floats your boat!

9.11.1 9.11.3

On one of our adventures we ended up on the property behind my parent’s house.  In the days before Mary was born there was a massive storm that came through Northern Michigan.  It ripped down so many trees and left thousands of people all over the area without power for days.  It was truly a devastating storm.  On one particular walk Rock took Louie through the trails and when we met up with them later he told me I needed to go check out the trees.  My pictures don’t even begin to do it justice.  You can actually see a path where the storm came rolling through.

Break1.1 Break1.2

I absolutely love running in this area.  It is quite and you can change up your running adventures and run on streets or trails or even cross country ski paths.  It has been a lovely change up for me and the loss of humidity has made running so much more enjoyable.  What a relief!

Besides the running and walking adventures we have just been enjoying small town living.  We visited the local Junior Varsity football game and watched our little friend Aubrey on the cheer leading squad.


We ended the weekend with two great highlights.  First, I was able to run a great 7 miler back near my old pace.  It felt incredible and I almost was in tears when I finished.  For a few weeks I have struggled with my endurance post pregnancy.  I felt like myself again and started to see some real progress.

And then there was the Cow Pie Classic.  This is a great fundraising event held each year to benefit the local varsity basketball team.  You basically purchase lottery tickets and the team marks off an entire dairy pasture into squares.  Those squares are numbered and if the cow leaves a “pie” on your square you win the big prize.  It is a hilarious time and little Mary got to dress as up as the baby cow.  It was absolutely a blast.  Rock even jumped into the festivities and was competing against a group of kids to find quarters in buckets of mud.  I told him I had a few in my purse if he needed one that badly.  What a mess!



Ever been to a cow pie fundraiser?

One Pot “Burrito Bowl”

When I was in college this was a recipe staple for me.  I prided myself on making this up and used it for cheap and easy meals and also because it was a great filler yet still quite healthy.  I have since then revamped it thanks to my knowledge of spices and seasoning, which helps to make it even more flavorful.


As a new mom with a one month old (can you believe that?!) I love this recipe because everything goes in one skillet and from start to finish takes only about 15 minutes maximum.  You can mix and match your favorites and I swear this is a heck of a lot like the burrito bowls you would get at Chipotle.  You certainly can’t beat that.

Double this up and store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and you can get several meals out of this one.


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can black beans

1 can of corn (or hominy)

1 jar mild salsa

1 packet steam in bag rice

Taco seasonings (I like to use a pinch of chili powder, cumin, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, and Smoked Tomato Seasoning from Spice Merchants and a tablespoon of brown sugar).

Optional: Shredded cheese, plain Greek yogurt, guacamole, cilantro, any other yummy veggies you can think of.


Cube chicken breasts and add to skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil.  In a small bowl combine your seasonings and mix.  Sprinkle over the chicken and allow to cook through and for the brown sugar to caramelize.

Drain the beans and corn and then add to the skillet along with a jar of salsa.  Allow everything to simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors.

Then some place rice in bottom of a bowl and then top with “burrito mix.”  Top with cheese, guacamole, cilantro and anything else your heart desires.

Side note:  This is a wonderful way to get filling veggies into your diet.  If you are vegetarian this dish would be delicious without meat or with seasoned tofu.  Rock also put his inside a tortilla and had an actual burrito.  Nothing is better than a super simple dinner!


Mary gives this one a thumbs up!

What would you add to your bowl?

Good For You!

A week ago Rock and I were out all day and pulled up to our street around 8:30pm. It was dark and quite and there was a guy running down the street covered in sweat and wearing a fuel belt.  Following closely behind him was a girl on a bike.  I looked over at Rock and asked, “Do you think they are together?”  I commented that it seemed like something you would do during marathon training, recruit your partner to ride along in the evening to get your long run in for the week.

I made my usual comment that I do whenever I see someone out running, “Good for him!”  I use this a lot.  When I see someone struggling in the heat of the day to get their run in, I don’t say that it would make more sense to run in the early morning or later in the evening when it is cooler.  Instead, I know that sometimes schedules don’t always cooperate and the only way we can get a run in is to hit the pavement in the brutal heat.  Good for you for getting out there.


Later that night, Rock went to take the dog outside one last time before we went to bed.  At 10:30pm he walked back inside and asked me if I remembered that guy I saw running earlier.  Of course.  Rock had just watched him and the girl on the bike pass by heading back in the opposite direction we had seen them going earlier.  They had in fact been out for a very long run; at least two hours.  We were both impressed and also proud, for a guy we didn’t even know.

When I see someone who doesn’t necessarily look like a natural born runner, or someone who appears to be struggling, I am proud of them for getting out there.  Running isn’t easy.  In fact, it is often quite hard.  It is difficult even for the elites.  They struggle to get through runs or to finish a race too.  When you first begin, the whole notion of going out for a run can be incredibly daunting.  When you feel like jogging along is awkward or painful, it would be easy to throw in the towel.  Good for you for pushing through.

This past Sunday morning I was sitting on the couch in the wee morning hours feeding our 3 week old.  It was still dark out and I was struggling to keep my eyes open as I gave her a bottle.  I heard a group of people going past our window chatting loudly.  At first I was annoyed.  Who were these rude people chatting so loudly on the sidewalk so early in the morning?  Then I realized that it was my exhaustion that made me feel that way.  There is nothing wrong with chatting as you pass by on the sidewalk.


Initially it reminded me of leaving my apartment in NYC to go to work on Sunday mornings and seeing inebriated people on the sidewalks stumbling home from the bars.  But then I noticed that these weren’t drunks on the street.  It was a familiar upbeat, chatty banter.  It was groups running by on their way to the track for a morning training session.  As I sat there trying to wrap my head around this in my state of new baby exhaustion, I had to smile.  Good for them!

This is a common phrase in our house, in the car, or on a run.  I cannot tell you how many times we look at each other and simply nod in agreement, “Good for them!”  It is a sense of pride we have for our sport, an acknowledgement that this is difficult.  It is a familiar camaraderie that we runners share.  When we meet someone and find out they are a runner, something in us changes and we become friends without needing to know much else.


We get it.  It hurts at times.  It makes you sweat and smell pretty bad.  There’s the blisters.  Sometimes it makes body parts jiggle in ways we wish it wouldn’t.  Other times it makes us chafe in ways we really wish it wouldn’t.  But the truth is, we are getting ourselves out there.  We are pushing through the aches, the pains, the jiggles and the chafes.  And that my friends is awesome.

Good for you!