Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: In Running

Well, 2012 has come and gone. I haven't been able to blog as much as I would have liked (hello, life!), but thought it would be fun to look back at my year 'in running'.

The Numbers
  • miles logged: 2561 - not including tomorrow's run... planning on 6 or 7 more to finish the year!
  • races run: 14
  • highest mileage week: 62 - training for the IL Marathon
  • pairs of shoes gone through: 4 or so
  • money spent on running shoes: don't even want to think about it
  • Clif bars consumed: probably 250 or so, love those things! 
  • number of miles run with my Business Man: oh, about 2. :) I'll turn him into a runner someday... though he did run his first 5k! (with no training)

Overall, it was an awesome year for running. I was really blessed to see a PR in every distance from the 5km to the marathon.

I started the year by pretending to be in college again with an indoor 5km... luckily I was able to hold my own and broke 19 minutes for the first time! (Debating whether I should run this race again in 2013...)

18:50 PR

In March, my Business Man & I traveled to Chicago and I 'got lucky' with the Get Lucky Half the day after St. Patrick's Day on the Chicago lakefront. The 80*F+ temps weren't so lucky though.

1:30:14, paced by two awesome pacers!

The IL Marathon in April was exciting and fun... I hung out with the 3:15 pace group until about mile 21 when they were all-of-a-sudden 50 meters ahead of me. I still don't know how that happened. 

That time I convinced Talen to run a marathon, too. Oh wait, I did it again this year for Boston. Ran a 3:22 PR.

I ran my favorite hilliest & hottest race in June - the Steamboat Classic. For as long as I can run, I will go back to Peoria the third weekend in June and run Steamboat.

63:55, but not the fastest 15km of the year.

The tastiest race was by far the Pumpkin Classic 10km... I surprised myself quite a bit here with my performance. Guess those pumpkin donuts served as good motivation.

38:58 PR

And I finished up the fall racing season with a trifecta of races three weekends in a row. Half-marathon, 15km, half-marathon. Though I wouldn't suggest setting up your races that way, I was a bit fatigued at the end.

Post-Columbus Half - 1:27:09 PR

I'm a little exhausted looking back at this year of running. Just gotta gear up to do it all over again! I've started training for Boston in April, I will definitely be back to give weekly updates. (If only to keep myself organized. :-P) I am very excited to see what 2013 will bring!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 2: Chocolate Pixies + Tuesday Tangents

Tuesday Tangents:

  • A few weekends ago I traveled to the grand ole' state of Illinois to celebrate one of my BFF's bachelorette party. She gets married in less than 2 weeks! We had lots of fun. We'll leave it at that.

  • On the drive there, I stopped in our college town to run my favorite 3-mile route from back in the day. Yes I'm one of those people who packs running clothes in their car for instances such as this. Totally fun though.

  • While driving back to the Bean Town, I passed a truck on the highway. Carrying a treadmill. And then spent the next 20 miles wondering if it would be possible to run on the treadmill while driving down the interstate. Physics friends, help me out??

  • My friend Kristi came to visit us here in the Bean Town this weekend with her two wee ones. We had loads of fun... though we didn't quite bake as much as we did last year. Something about entertaining a 5 month old + 3 year old makes regular activities take three times as long. Massive kudos to Kristi, I don't know how she does it.
Girly time on the couch.

We went downtown to Modo Media and Pears Avenue and had some fun with at their Christmas photo session, haha. Cora was a bit of a grump and didn't want to wear a Charlie Brown headpiece, wonder why??!

  • The countdown to Christmas break has begun. Though we are now down to just 8 days... that picture is from last week.

  • And I am finally sharing Day 2 of the Christmas Cookie Challenge a week after I posted Day 1. I will get them all posted by Christmas, I swear! (Says the girl who barely has time to think. Though this little cold I developed fortunately? unfortunately has me confined to the couch today.)

Chocolate Pixies are a Christmas classic that my mom has been making ever since I can remember. They're rich and fudgy and go great with a little bowl of ice cream. They're also so perfect for Christmas because they look like they're covered in snow!

They do require a bit of planning, as the dough has to chill in the refrigerator overnight. And just a warning, your hands will get messy when you roll them into balls. There's no escaping it.

Chocolate Pixies

Servings/Yield: 4 dozen cookies

  • 4-oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • powdered sugar

In large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla, melted chocolate; mix well. Add flour, salt, and baking powder; mix until thoroughly combined. Chill dough in refrigerator overnight.

Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar, and place on cookie sheet.

Bake at 350*F about 10 minutes until cookies are set.

Source: family favorite

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 1: Rocky Ledge Bars

It's been a busy couple weeks. We've had LOTS of time spent with family & friends, which is always awesome. I can't believe it's already December... time to whip out the mixers and baking sheets and get cookie-baking!

I debated whether to do the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies here on the blog this year, considering it's been 85 years since I last posted a recipe. But I figured, "why not?!" It gives me a good excuse to try out 12 new recipes. 

For day numero uno, we've got Rocky Ledge Bars. One of my fabulous teacher-baker friends introduced me to these bars and they're absolutely delicious. [Side note: She is also a cupcake queen and our students always tell us we should have a makeshift 'Cupcake Wars' at school... haha. As long as the students provide the $10K prize, I'm in.]

These bars are a twist on a basic blondie, with a buttery brown sugar base.. They're loaded with all sorts of goodies - semisweet chocolate, butterscotch chips, white chocolate, caramel, and marshmallows.

They're the perfect type of dessert that you just need one little sliver. And then one more little sliver. And then just a bit more. Until you've eaten an entire row. Whoops.

Happy baking, and stay tuned for days #2-12 in the days leading up to Christmas!


Rocky Ledge Bars

Servings/Yield: 48 triangles
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • cups flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 18 soft caramels, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350*F. Line a 13x9-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla extract; mix until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder, and salt; mix until just combined. Fold in half of each of the chips, marshmallows, and caramel pieces.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan; top with remaining chips, marshmallows, and caramel pieces.

Bake until top is golden brown and bars are set, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack; refrigerate until set.

Remove bars from pan and cut into triangles. Store in airtight container.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life lately [according to Instagram...]

Life is crazy, but awesome!

I've been capturing what I can on my phone; here's a little update. :)

A few weeks ago, my parents came out to visit and we headed over to Cleveland to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Who knew there could be TWO ENTIRE FLOORS dedicated to the Grateful Dead?! My dad was in heaven. It was actually pretty neat to see the artifacts and read the background of the band, considering I pretty much grew up listening to the Dead.

We bought a second fridge. I abso-freakin-lutely LOVE it. Perfect for stocking up at Sam's Club. Or when I have 12 dozen cupcakes to store and they all have to be refrigerated. 

I came up with some tasty Thanksgiving cupcake flavors. This is my favorite - Pecan Pie. Butter yellow cake filled with pecan pie filling and topped with fresh whipped cream. Definitely a knife & fork cupcake.

I had an order for 125 cake pops. If you've ever made cake pops before, you know that's a lot of cake pops. It was so much fun! Luckily we had a Friday off school for parent/teacher conferences so I set up the card table in front of the TV and cake-popped the day away!

Love this photo of red velvet cake batter. I'm getting really excited to come up with some exciting holiday cupcake flavors because...

Christmas is COMING! Also evidenced by this fantastic new coffee creamer. The first morning I tried it, I literally smiled all the way to school as I sipped my coffee. (Granted the drive is only 4 minutes, but 4 minutes of smiling is a great way to start the day!)

My gym got a new treadmill. Touch screen. And it goes downhill! Talk about making running easy. ;) Actually, I'm looking forward to some killer hill workouts on this puppy this winter to prepare for Boston.

I stole this new flavor of Clif bar from my mom's pantry - delicious! Why are there only 5 flavors available in the good ole' Bean Town?

Last weekend my Business Man and I traveled home so I could attend my high school BFF's baby shower. (She's the first one! So excited for her & her hubby!) Of course we had to stop into the place where our love first blossomed... and buy some candy. My Business Man was convinced he didn't need any, but then when I went to find the bag of candy later, it was half-gone! Wonder how that happened?? ;)

I had been hoarding magazines for weeks leading up to the drive home and back to the Bean Town. As I was reading my Rachael Ray Christmas magazine (only the best edition of the year!), I came across this Smell-O-Vision ad. Hmm... the pumpkin pie recipe actually smelled pretty good. I can't quite say the same for the squash & bacon recipe.

That's it! I'm off for Thanksgiving break and so excited for a few days of R & R. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reflections on a Training Cycle

To say this fall has been busy is an understatement. Full-time teaching job + part-time bakery business + training 55-60 miles a week + random other activities that life brings... keeps me on my toes! I'm loving every second of it though. :)

To sum up this fall training cycle in a sentence - it rocked. It was the first time I really ever put a plan together myself (I usually just use SmartCoach on, but a girl can only take so many mile repeat workouts. Seriously, I think that's the only type of speed training they've ever assigned me.) 

Start of the Columbus Marathon - I ran the half.

I was nervous that it would be too much/not enough/not the right kind of speedwork/too aggressive/not aggressive enough. Ya know what I mean? Turns out, it worked for me. 

I topped out at about 60 miles a week, and most weeks had two speed workouts and a 12-15 mile long run. I made sure I got one solid speed workout, and if I happened to get the other one, great, if not, no big deal.

The first half of the cycle focused on SPEED. Lots of 400m & 1000m workouts at 5k race pace, alternating with 5-6 mile tempo runs about 15-20 seconds slower than 10k race pace.

The second half still had the tempo runs, but some more funky speed workouts. My favorite was probably the 4x200m, 3x1k, 4x200m. Enough excitement to keep me going! I also had a few GHMP runs, which were good confidence boosters.

About smack-dab in the middle, I raced the Pumpkin Classic 10km, and saw a huge PR. 

The last three weekends were full of races - Hands 4 Haiti Half Marathon, the Cheerfund 15km, and the Columbus Half Marathon. Not sure I will ever try to race a half, then a 15km, then a half, three weekends in a row again! It was a little insane!

At H4H, I really surprised myself with a 1:27:37 half-marathon PR (6:41 avg)... totally wasn't expecting that.

A week later, I ran the Cheerfund 15km in conjunction with my Business Man's annual college Friends' weekend get together. (And he ran his first 5k! Woot woot!) I ran a 1:01:54, a 2-minute PR.

Doesn't he look like such a natural?! Seriously... if I could only convince him to run more than twice a year, haha.

I was nervous for Columbus, because I knew I was going in on tired legs. Even with the taper, and running only easy the week before, I knew my body might rebel. I decided to just go out at a 6:40-pace and see how long I could hold it.

My Business Man caught me in action! So good to see him around mile 8ish.

Well, I ended up with about a 30-second PR, and ran a 1:27:09 (6:39 avg)! So, I was very happy indeed. I averaged 6:36 for the first 10km, and definitely hit a bit of a wall around mile 10, but still was so happy to finish where I did.

Post-race high :)

And then... I RESTED! Last week was full of resting up and sleeping in. Well until 6:45am, somehow I couldn't convince my principal to give me a week off to 'recover' from my fall training cycle... hehe. 

I got back into running this weekend, and had an awesome group run on Sunday morning with my run group. My legs are feeling great. I am very much looking forward to building up my base over the next couple months, and then hitting it strong for Boston at the end of December!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

That time I wasn't REALLY going to race... but you know how that normally goes

The end of my training cycle is coming near... just 2 weeks to go. That means RACE TIME!

I had three races scheduled for October:

  • Oct 6 - Hands4Haiti Half Marathon
  • Oct 13 - Cheerfund 15km
  • Oct 21 - Columbus Half Marathon
The original plan was just to run the Hands4Haiti Half as a training run. It's a really small, no-frills race here in the Bean Town, and I thought attempting a PR would be difficult. I was just going to go out and get my long run done (and maybe win. Seriously, last year the winning time was 1:35.) Then, I would taper, and race the 15km and Columbus Half all out.

Well, here's how it went down. I carb-loaded like a champ Friday night (mmmm, pizza) and woke up Saturday morning ready to roll. I warmed up and made it to the start line. After chatting with some of the other runners, the race finally started. (15 minutes late, whoops.)

Chillin' at the start. We thought it was funny that mostly women were at the front. Girl power!

Two women took it out fast, at least it felt fast. Not what I expected. I hung with them, and we went through the 1st mile in 7:47. "What?!" I said. "No way!" Fortunately, one of them had a Garmin, and that first mile marker was way off. We had actually gone through the mile closer to 6:40. At that point, I did a little mental freaking out, because OMG that is so fast! And I'm not supposed to be 'racing'!

I stuck right with the two women for the first couple miles, but eventually they pulled away. I kept checking my splits from mile to mile, because I couldn't rely on the overall time. I was consistently in the 6:35-6:40 range. "This is nuts," I kept thinking to myself. "How can I be running this fast? I am not tapered; this is 15 seconds per mile faster than my PR!"

But I kept rollin' with it. I guess I had decided to race, hehe. It was kind of a good thing that I couldn't really rely on my splits - it caused me to run by feel. And I felt good. I kept expecting to hit the wall, or majorly slow down... but I didn't.

Sprinting to the finish, thanks Business Man.

Even the last two miles didn't feel like death like they usually do in a half-marathon. Which makes me think I could have picked the pace up a bit. The next girl was far enough ahead of me that I knew I couldn't catch her, so I didn't have much motivation. 

We had to finish the last 0.1 or so straight up a hill, and I felt awesome! I cruised into the finish with a time of 1:27:37, a 6:41 average! That is an almost 3-minute PR, which is hard to believe. My previous best time was 1:30:14, back at the Get Lucky Half in March. 

Will I ever be able to clear this from the watch? Welp, already did. Had to get my recovery run in this morning!

I am so thankful for the two women who set the pace at the beginning. If they hadn't done that, there's no way I would have run as fast as I did. [Funny side note: Only one man finished in front of all three of us! The overall results went 1st male, 1st female, 2nd female, 3rd female, then the rest of the males. Isn't that awesome?! Girls rock!!]

Exchanging race stories at the finish... these girls are BEASTS!
I'm still kind of in a state of awe... I was not expecting to run that well at all. My goal time for Columbus was going to be to run 6:45-pace. Looks like I need to re-evaluate!

All smiles.

These next two weeks will be filled with lots of recovery miles, foam rolling, and getting lots of sleep so that I can recover well and hope for another PR attempt at Columbus in 2 weeks. I am still trying to decide whether to race the 15km this coming weekend or treat it as a training run. Suggestions?

My Business Man and I spent the afternoon after the race at a local apple orchard, picking lots and lots of apples. Such fun. :) Now what to do with the 25+ apples in the kitchen... apple cupcakes?!

Why are you so high up, apples??

Sunday, September 16, 2012

That time I ran a 10km and really surprised myself

This weekend, my Business Man & I traveled home to visit our families. It has become our little tradition to head home the weekend of the Pumpkin Fest - the cooler temps have usually just arrived, there's pumpkin goodies all around, and of course, I get to race the Pumpkin Classic 10km. It's the perfect way to kick off fall.

We got home late Friday night, and after a short night's sleep, we were up bright & early for the 10km. I know I haven't been blogging much about my training this fall (slacker!), but I've been putting in lots of hard work. Long runs, interval sessions, tempo runs. I was really excited to race yesterday morning, to see what kind of shape I was in. (I hadn't raced seriously since July 4.)

My momma came along to walk the 2-mile, and my Business Man came to cheer us both. (My dad had to work, or he would've been there, too.) The weather was perfect - 50s and sunny, perfect for racing.

Mom & I at the start, looking excited!

Last year I ran 40:53, so my goal for this year's race was to break 40:00. It seemed pretty daunting, like one of those "someday" goals, but I thought I'd give it a try. Little did I know.

I decided to try to run 6:25 splits, because that would give me a little wiggle room if I needed it toward the end.

Here's the splits: 

  • Mile 1 - 6:14
  • Mile 2 - 6:22
  • Mile 3 - 6:21
  • Mile 4 - 6:19
  • Mile 5 - 6:14
  • Mile 6 - 6:13 plus the last 0.2 in 1:15.
For a final finish time of... 38:58! A 6:17 average. Seriously, I was flabbergasted with myself. I was 1st female and 9th overall.

Post-race excitement. 

I felt so relaxed the first three miles of the race. I kept wondering to myself, "How can I possibly be running these splits?! I feel so good!" I told myself to keep it relaxed through mile 4, and then I would try to pick up the pace.

And that I did! I start to really put the pressure on once I hit mile 5... thinking "less than 8 minutes to go, give it everything you've got!" The race felt so controlled, relaxed, and steady, which is not a typical race experience for me. 

You know we celebrated with pumpkin donuts. So yum.

This just makes me so darn excited for the rest of my fall races. Bring it on!

The race was just the start to an all-around fabulous day. We spent the morning gallivanting around the festival and stopped at a pumpkin farm to pick out some pumpkin cuties. Can't wait to put these on our porch!

Talk about pumpkin overload.

We spent the afternoon with my Business Man's fam, and even got to go see his little sister perform in a marching band competition. Brings back such great memories... straight back to that 15-year-old puppy love. (My Business Man & I met during marching band in high school - seriously, one time at band camp. :-P)

We spent the evening catching up my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins over the best pizza in central IL - Monical's. And they even felt pity for us and sent us home with all the leftovers. Not complaining here. 

Seriously the best weekend ever. So happy to spend time with all the people I love. 

Gotta celebrate a good race, right?!

And the Pumpkin Pie blizzard wasn't too shabby either, heh.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Life lately

Isn't it funny how sometimes you just get a little carried away with life and your blog goes a month without an update?!

I've been super busy ever since we got back from Colorado... between baking orders for Sara's Sweets, training for the Columbus Half-marathon, and getting back into the swing of school. (We've already been back for 7 days... just 173 to go! Heh.)

Systems of equations, anyone?

School started last Tuesday, and we have had some pretty big changes. Instead of 95-minute blocks and semester classes, we now have 50-minute periods and classes that last all-year long. It's been a bit of an adjustment, but I like it so far. (Except for the whole four different preps at the same time. That's a lil' rough.) I've got several of the same students from last year, and they're a fun group.

We're also acclimating to the new Common Core standards which is loads of fun. (Or not.)

Some beautiful sugar cookies to lessen the blow of heading back to school... I mailed some to my BFF Talen and tried to surprise her, but she was unable to check her mail for a week. Cookie fairy FAIL!

Running has been going well - I've been meaning to get some sort of training recap together. I'm currently in week 6 of 13 for the Columbus Half. I'm getting in an average of 55 miles a week, with some crazy speed workouts. Just last week, I ran a 6-mile tempo with a 6:32 average, which is just insane to me. I can remember when running a 4-mile tempo at 7:00-pace was a miraculous feat. I am so, so excited for my fall races. (I'm also running a 10km + 15km this fall.)

I also ran a 5km the first weekend in August, and was the first female. I unfortunately did not get to take home that honkin' trophy, but I did take home a $25 Olive Garden gift card. Which was way better in my opinion. :)

Because I've been so busy, I've made a commitment to getting all my runs in before school. Which requires a 5:30am wake-up time. So far, I'm 7 for 7! It supposedly takes 21 days to make something a habit, so hopefully by the middle of September it will be second nature. It also probably helps that I've been going to bed at 9:45pm like a lil' old granny. 

On the foodie front, I've kept busy with my Rays blogging gig. (Check out recent recipes here.) I've even done a couple in-store demos, which is super fun. I could talk to people about food all day.

Sara's Sweets has also been a lot of fun. I just love baking cupcakes for people... everyone is always so happy when you give them cupcakes! 

My favorite Toffee Crunch... well one of my fav's.

And here's some exciting news on the cupcake front - I will be making cupcakes + desserts for a new restaurant opening here in the Bean Town! The Met will be a gathering place featuring wine, beer, spirits, and small plates. The owners are currently refurbishing an old building downtown, and it is so neat. I cannot wait for it to open.


Shooting this video was so much fun... when else do I get the chance to ramble on about cupcakes as much as I please? Love it. 

[Random side question: Any suggestions on what else to toast with the kitchen torch? Besides creme brulee. I'm at a loss!]

What else have we been doing? Just soaking up the last few weeks of summertime weather, with lots of trips to Pete's ice cream. We also had my favorite visitors last weekend, so much fun. :)

Sweet Maggie

Mom & I at the Dierks Bentley concert! Plus random dude in the background.

I hope to be back before another month passes by!

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