Cake, Batter, and Bowl

Pumpkin Pasta Bake

Main Dishes, Races

So, it’s time to spill the beans on a little secret – I’ve been training for a half marathon! I’ve resisted saying anything about it on my blog until now because I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself, but now that the race is over, I’m ready to share my experience! I’ve grown to really enjoy running and I’m having a great time picking new races to challenge myself. The week after my triathlon, I started a 10 week half training plan and signed up for the Harvard Pilgrim Maine Coast Half Marathon in York, Maine, after I completed my first 10 mile run in October. I picked this particular race because part of the course winded along the beach and the race was all women, which I thought would make it a really supportive environment.

During my training I had run 11 miles twice, and 12 and 13 miles once, so while I was pretty nervous at the starting line, I knew that I should be able to finish. It was chilly at 42˚F, but I’ll take cold weather over hot any day when it comes to running! My goal was to listen to my body, not take it out too fast, and finish strong. I also secretly wanted to beat my 13 mile training run time of 2:06. The first mile or so I felt really clunky, and kept thinking, what have I gotten myself into? I have to run 12 more miles, this is crazy! But, I settled into a groove pretty quickly after that, and was enjoying myself by mile 3 when I saw Apolinaras cheering for the first time. Miles 4 to 6 were full of steep hills and definitely the most challenging part of the course. I tried to just concentrate on my breathing going up the hard ones and slurped on a gel as soon as they were over. Then I focused on getting to mile 8, where I knew I’d see Apolinaras cheering again. Here’s an action shot – haha, my running pictures are always so goofy looking!

Miles 9 to 12 went by a bit more slowly and there were several gradual slopes, but I still felt pretty strong and even managed to sip down some Gatorade at one of the aid stations without spilling all over myself. At mile 12, I checked my ipod and it said it was 11:48 am. The race was supposed to start at 10:00 am (of course I forgot to check the time on my ipod when we actually started, but I figured it was close), so at this point I realized I had a fair shot at breaking 2 hours. So, I boogied it to the finish line as fast I could. I’m not going to lie – it felt like the longest 1.1 miles ever! But, the cheering crowds really pumped me up and I even managed to pass a few people. When I rounded the last corner and saw the clock was still under 2:00 and the big grin on Apolinaras’ face, I actually got a little teary.  This shot is much better – I’m grinning from ear to ear because the finish line is in sight!

I didn’t think I’d be so emotional at the finish, but I think it stems from the fact that when I started running on a regular basis in January, I was in awe of people who did half marathons and never thought I was capable of doing one myself. My official time was 1:58:12, which is 9:02 per mile – yay, I did it!

After the race Apolinaras and I checked out a nearby lighthouse and marveled at the 20 or so surfers riding the waves. We had lunch at the Stonewall Kitchen Cafe, which was tasty, and picked up a few fun items from their store.

Then we went home and I devoured everything in our fridge. Well, not quite everything, but definitely the last bit of this yummy pasta. I mixed shells with a healthy dose of pumpkin, ricotta, mascarpone, and parmesan, and then baked it in the oven after topping it with mozzarella cheese – definitely the perfect dish for carbo loading! I think my next big goals are to do an Olympic triathlon next summer and hopefully one of the Disney half marathons with my Dad at some point. Can’t wait!

Pumpkin Pasta Bake
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:
1 pound package large pasta shells
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 15-ounce cans pure pumpkin puree
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Heat oven to 350˚F. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to a large pot.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet and sauté shallots for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add cooked shallots to a large bowl with the pumpkin puree, ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese, parmesan cheese, and salt, and mix until smooth. Mix in cooked shells. Place mixture in a 13×9-inch pan and sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly on top. Bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes or until mozzarella cheese is melted and bubbly. Makes 9 servings.

Nutrition: 406 calories, 13.9g fat, 3.3g fiber, 22.2g protein per serving
Cost: $0.94 per serving

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