Sunday, April 29, 2012

Illinois Marathon 2012 Race Recap

Yesterday I ran my second marathon.

The day started just before 5am when I woke up to pouring rain and thunderstorms outside. Great. I knew that rain was in the forecast, but hoped and prayed that there wouldn't be any.

I got my stuff all ready and ate my Clif bar and we got on the road. By the time we left the hotel, it was only sprinkling outside. 

I met up with my BFF Talen before the start and we were able to do a nice little 6 minute jog warm-up together. It was so much better to have someone to stand around and be nervous with. Also - the rain had completely stopped, which was so so awesome!

Trying to stay warm before the start.
Pretty soon it was time to start, so we bid farewell and I lined up with the 3:15 pace group (7:27 pace) and she lined up with the 3:25 pace group. 

And then the gun went off and we started running! The start of a marathon or half-marathon always seems so anti-climactic to me. So much excitement, and then all of a sudden you are walking, then jogging across the start line. Just felt like we were going out for an easy run.

The first couple miles were a bit crowded, and I tripped a couple times over people's feet. No big deal though. By about mile 4 it had thinned out a bit and our 3:15 pace group had a pretty big group. (At least 30 people. Mostly men.) I just tried to get in the zone and make a little conversation with those around me. I met a super nice fellow runner named Jill, and we talked for a bit which was great.

Before we knew it, we were to miles 8-9 which wound through a beautiful park, and I was expecting to see my Business Man and my mom there. And there they were! I felt super strong here, and gave them a big smile, although you can't really tell from the picture.

That's me!
The miles kept truckin' along, and I was just in the zone with the pace group. It felt a little fast, but I wasn't keeping track of the splits exactly. I guess a couple of our miles ended up being in the 7:0x range, which is quite a bit faster than 7:27! I'm a firm believer in even splits, not going out too fast to "bank" time. But... at this point I would have rather been running with the pace group than to slow down by myself. So I stuck with them.

We went through the Half in 1:36:49, which is a 7:23 average. So a little fast. I still felt really good at this point. The half-marathoners broke off from the full course at mile 12.5 so our group had thinned down a bit. 

Somewhere around mile 17, I was just running along... and a runner came up behind me yelling "Sara!" It turned out to be another college teammate, John! I couldn't even believe it. I didn't even know he was running the marathon! So we chatted for a few minutes, but I was starting to get tired from talking, so he ended up going on his merry way. (He finished in a 3:12! Go John!)

At mile 18, I saw my Business Man and my mom again. I still felt pretty good here, but I was getting tired. I was having difficulty eating my sports beans, because my fingers were so numb that I couldn't get the bag open or get them into my mouth. 

I continued on, staying in the nice little pace group bubble, until mile 20. We went through the 20-mile mark in 2:27:24, which is a 7:22 average. So we were still quite ahead of pace. I was starting to hurt though. Before I knew it, the pace group (still about 15 strong) was about 50 meters ahead of me. "How did that happen?" I thought to myself.

Instead of trying to sprint to catch up, I just concentrated on moving forward. By mile 21, my legs had gotten that dead feeling where they just did NOT want to go anymore. Also, the wind had picked up and was pretty brutal. At this point, I busted out my iPod that I had in my pocket, just in case. And I'm so glad I had it. Although it was quite the feat to get it out of the pocket and playing and the headphones into my ears, because of how numb my fingers were. (Why didn't I just put my gloves back on?! They were tucked into the front of my capris. Who knows.) 

I walked through the last couple water stops, and once I hit mile 23, I stopped for a one-minute walk break. I ended up stopping for a total of three one-minute walk breaks. Yes, I wish I would have continued running, but those walk breaks might have saved me. It definitely helped knowing that I had less than half an hour left.

Once I hit mile 25, I told myself that I had to run the rest of the way. It took me about 11 minutes to run the last 1.2 miles, but I was NOT going to walk! I knew I had fallen way off pace, but was still hoping to finish in the 3:20-3:25 range. 

I'm the person in black about to cross the line.
Finally, we were nearing the stadium, and I knew we were close! Once we turned into the stadium, I tried my hardest to sprint across the 50-yard line, but I'm sure it was a slow jog. But I finished! 3:22:15.

Pretty far off my lofty 3:15 goal, but I was still SO ecstatic! A 20-minute PR! A Boston-qualifying time! I was all smiles. Except for the intense pain all over my body, hehe. 

I turned around to wait for Talen to come in, and she came flying in with the 3:25 pacer in a lightning 3:24:18! I am so proud of her. She had a great race. 

So happy to be done!
We got our medals and met up with our families & friends. And started to talk about Boston. (Girls' trip next April?!)

Race bling.
All in all, it was a great day. No rain, and the course was great. Super flat, and there were spectators EVERYWHERE! All the neighborhood streets had people out, the college students were all out, and everyone was super supportive. Lots of funny signs too.

For myself, I am still definitely learning the marathon. It is a tough race. Once I get tired, it is so hard for me to keep pushing. I've also noticed that once I get really tired I completely stop taking in any fuel because I don't feel like messing with it. From mile 21 on, I had no beans, no gels, no gatorade. I'm sure that would have helped! 

Last year, at Flying Pig, I had a miserable last 10 miles. This year, it was only the last 5 miles that were miserable. Hopefully, I can continue to learn to push past those feelings of exhaustion and figure this race out. Because I will get that 3:15, someday! I'm not giving up. 

Just one more thing to share - last night my mom & I went to my favorite ice cream place in my hometown for one of the best ice cream creations in the world. Puppy Chow Wizard. Yes... a knock-off blizzard with chunks of peanut butter chocolate puppy chow. Holy moly, it was so delicious. 

Mmmmmm, so good.

Look at that smile. I was exuding so much happiness that the camera couldn't even focus.

As for today? I am definitely feeling like I ran a marathon yesterday. I hope to get out for a short walk at some point to loosen up the muscles. I've got my cousin's bridal shower to attend this afternoon here in our hometown, but then we will be traveling back to the Bean Town this afternoon! I'm looking forward to taking a week easy to rest my legs and get geared up for some speedy short summer races!

Thanks again for all your support during this training cycle! It means so much to know that I've got so many people behind me. :-D

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Illinois Marathon 2012 - Goals

So... the marathon is rapidly approaching. As in 62 hours until I toe the start line. 

Am I excited? YES! 

Am I nervous? YES!

Am I ready to just get the darned thing over with? Absolutely YES!

So let's talk goals for the Illinois Marathon. 

Love this quote.

My training cycle this spring has gone really well. I've PR'd in the 5km, 4-mile, and half-marathon, all while training for this marathon.

I've completed several long runs - two 18's, a 19, two 20's, and a 21. Along with a handful of 15-17 milers. And I have felt strong! (Unlike a lot of my training runs for last year's Flying Pig.) I think the secret to my great long runs has been the fact that I've had running buddies. I've also gotten the hang of mid-run fueling, which has helped a lot.

At the finish of the Columbus Half-Marathon last fall.
So, based on my training cycle and recent PR's, I've decided to go for a 3:15, which is a 7:27 average pace. Wowza, seeing that in print makes it seem so fast! Several reasons have led me to decide on 3:15, as follows.

  • Using my most recent half-marathon PR in March, I should easily be able to run 3:08-3:10 according to the Runners World and McMillan Running calculators.
  • There is a 3:15 pace group. I have had awesome experiences both times that I have run with a pace group and I want to run with a pace group. 
  • A lot of my long runs were under 8-minute pace and they felt easy. So 7:27 pace is not that far off.
  • The last 6 miles are gonna hurt regardless of how fast I'm running, might as well make it worth it?!
My current PR is 3:42, so I know that dropping to 3:15 is a lot! However, my first marathon  was pretty awful (in terms of how I felt, my training, etc...), and I know I am capable of much more. Comparing this training cycle to last year's training cycle is like night and day. Two completely different experiences.

Now... will I still be happy with a slower time? Yes. I understand that if the weather does not cooperate, or something crazy happens, 3:15 might not be possible. As long as I break my PR of 3:42, I will still be satisfied. But a girls' gotta dream, right?!

16 weeks of hard work... I'm ready to push myself and see what I can do!

My running buddies stopped by last night with a surprise for the race. Since they won't be able to cheer me on, they made me signs for my Business Man to hold up during the race! Glitter and all! :) I've never had a sign just for me before, so I was super excited.

Thanks Jim, Amy, Emily, & Jocelyn! :-D
Gah! Can't wait to come back and give a race report! 3:15 or bust!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

IL Marathon, week #15

Getting closer! 6 days to go until the marathon.

This was my second week of taper and I'm not gonna lie, I'm getting antsy. I just wanna RUN this race already!

I wanted to get in around 35 miles, but got in 40. My only 'speed' workout was a 5 mile GMP run on Wednesday, in which I averaged 7:24 pace. It felt pretty easy, which is a good thing. 

I gotta say... it's pretty crazy when your 'long run' of 9 miles seems like nothing. 

Weekly Rundown 4/16/2012-4/22/2012
Mon - 5.5 miles easy
Tues - 7.7 miles easy
Wed - 5 miles @ GMP (7:24 avg); 7.3 miles total
Thurs - 5.4 miles easy
Fri - 5.5 miles easy
Sat - 9.1 miles LONG plus 4 striders
Total - 40.5 miles

This week, it's all about rest. Which is hard. Well, not hard running-wise, just hard mentally. But it will totally be worth it! I'll definitely be popping in with a Goals post, once I have my mind wrapped around it.


Other notables of the weekend...

My Business Man & I finally saw Hunger Games Friday night, and loved it. I read the book last weekend and needed a few days to process before seeing the movie. Now I need to get my hands on book #2.

Yesterday, I made cookies. Not just any cookies. Turtle Cookies. I took my favorite Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and added chopped Ghiradelli milk chocolate caramels and pecans. Oh my... these were fabulous.

This afternoon, after church, my Business Man took me to BWW's for lunch. Swoon. 

Rockin' a new haircut as well.

Why are you so tasty?
That menu doesn't lie - "So many sauces..." that I forgot that I usually order mild, not medium like I did today. My mouth was on fire!! Good thing our waitress brought enough ranch so that I could use half a cup per wing. I'm sure my arteries are loving this meal. (No worries... I did have some fruits and vegetables in my other meals for the day.)

Well, that's it for now! Off to go put sheets on the bed and do other exciting grown-up things. Happy running! Or resting if you're in taper! :-D

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Since I'm in my taper for the marathon, I've got a bit more time on my hands. It's been glorious. Amazing how much free time you have when you're not running 55-60 miles a week.

I already got my run on this morning (5.5 miles nice & easy!), so I had a wiiiiide open afternoon. Naturally, I found myself in the kitchen baking up a storm.

Every Friday at school, a teacher signs up to bring breakfast goodies to share with the rest of the staff. Donuts, bagels, whatever they feel like sharing. Tomorrow's my day.

So, instead of stopping by the grocery or Panera, I decided to make some home-baked goodies for breakfast. I love scones, so I thought I'd go that route. First I whipped up a batch of my absolute favorite scones in the whole wide world, Cream Scones. (A cranberry-orange variation.)

But then I got to thinking... not everyone likes a sweet breakfast! You know, there are actually people out there who go straight for the sesame or cheddar bagels instead of the cinnamon crunch. (Definitely NOT me, I go for the sweets all the way.) So I set out to find a savory scone recipe.

And here's what I found - Bacon Cheddar Scones

Oh yes... and you can't go wrong with these. How could anything with 1/2 lb. bacon, 1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, and a stick of butter be bad? (I feel like I'm channeling Paula Deen here.)

I just had to sample one fresh out of the oven, and they are fabulous. Light & flaky, with pockets of cheese, crisp green onions, and crunchy bacon. They reminded me very much like a Red Lobster biscuit, but better, because bacon is involved. 

I served them for dinner tonight along with a large salad. Although, I'm not gonna lie, the scones kinda stole the show. (Cheesy bacon goodness > spinach? Who would have ever thought?)

[Click to PRINT]

Bacon Cheddar Scones

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water


Preheat oven to 400*F. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture is crumbly and the butter pieces are about the size of small pieces. Add cheese, and stir until combined.

Mix in green onions, bacon, and 1 cup buttermilk into the flour mixture. Stir by hand with a spatula until all the ingredients are incorporated. If it seems to dry, add an additional 2-3 tablespoons buttermilk until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and pat into an 8-inch disk. Slice into 10-12 wedges. Place individual wedges on baking sheet lined with parchment. (Or sprayed with cooking spray.)

For egg wash, combine egg and 2 tablespoons water in small bowl. Lightly brush egg wash over scones with a pastry brush.

Bake scones in preheated oven 18-20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Source: from Annie's Eats, adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Orange Peel Chicken (and musings on the Boston Marathon)

So yesterday was a pretty big day in the running world. The Boston Marathon.

At school, I asked each of my classes with a big smile, "Do you know what today is?!?!" 

Here's a few of their replies... "your birthday? national cupcake day? national 'don't give us homework' day?" (Hmmmpph... in your dreams!)

"No," I said, "The BOSTON MARATHON!" And then I proceeded to educate each of my classes on one of the most prestigious marathons in the entire world. They were most surprised by the $150,000 prize money for first place. 

During one of the class periods, about 3/4 of my kids actually had to leave to go to an assembly, so can you guess what the rest of us did?

Oh yes... Boston Marathon coverage, live, blown up on the Smart Board. The best day ever. My kids kept asking me if I was racing, would I be in the lead pack? Haha... oh children thanks for boosting my ego by even considering that thought. (Don't worry, we were back to algebra a few minutes later.)

Next year, hopefully my students will be able to watch me at Boston! Just gotta qualify first. I can only imagine the sub plans now... "Hook up Smart Board; go to Boston Marathon live stream online; instruct children to cheer for their teacher." Juuuust kidding.

Anyway, enough about Boston, onto some good eats.

Last week, I made a point to try a few new recipes, Orange Peel Chicken being one of them. My Business Man loooves all Asian cuisine, so I knew he would love this. And he did.

Orange Peel Chicken - tender chicken pieces with crisp broccoli and red pepper, all tossed in a sweet orange garlic sauce. With the orange zest and vegetables, this meal tasted so fresh and vibrant. I served it up with some brown rice, but it would also probably be good tossed with some Asian noodles. We'll definitely be making this again!


[Click to PRINT]

Orange Peel Chicken

  • 1.5 lbs. chicken breast , diced
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 oranges, zested & juiced
  • 6 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch broccoli, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice


For sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, 4 of the green onions (save the remaining for garnish), and the orange zest. Saute about 2 minutes until garlic is fragrant.

Add soy sauce, orange juice, orange marmalade, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Bring to a bubble, and continue simmering until sauce thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Once it has thickened, turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in another large skillet, and stir fry broccoli and red pepper over medium-high heat until crisp tender. Remove and set aside.

When vegetables are done, coat chicken with cornstarch. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large skillet, and add the chicken. Cook on medium heat about 5 minutes, then flip chicken pieces and cook another 5 minutes or so until tender. The cornstarch should make a somewhat crunchy coating.

When chicken is done, combine chicken, broccoli, red peppers, and water chestnuts with the thickened sauce in the large skillet. Serve over cooked brown rice. Garnish with remaining green onions.

Source: Adapted from PBS Food

Sunday, April 15, 2012

IL Marathon, week #14

First week of taper, done.

Not much was different about this week - just a cut-back in overall miles for the week (48 for the week) and a shorter long run.

I got in a solid 6-mile tempo run on Tuesday, averaged 6:40 pace. I actually almost look forward to tempo runs now, which is something that's never happened before. 

My other big workout of the week was my long run, 14 miles with the last 3-4 miles at GMP. I decided to tackle this run alone, because as much as I love running with my running buddies, they won't be at the marathon! Mentally, I needed to do a tough long run on my own so that I know I can do it come race day.

I ran a big 10-mile loop back to our house, so I could do my GMP miles on my usual tempo route where I know the mile markers. I hoped to hit 7:27 pace, as that would put me right at 3:15 for the marathon. (Which I know there is a pace group for.)

After my 10-mile warm-up (hehe... 10 miles... as a warm-up? have I gone mad?), I picked up the pace straight into GMP. It was a little tough the first mile or so, but then I settled in and actually had to slow myself down. I hit 7:20, 7:15, 7:20, and 7:13 for those last 4 miles. It was tough, but totally do-able. I was not completely fatigued or worn out at the end; I felt like I could keep going. I think that's the point of the workout! A lil' confidence booster.

Weekly Rundown 4/9/2012-4/15/2012
Mon - 7.2 miles easy
Tues - 6-mile tempo @ 6:40 avg; 8.3 miles total 
Wed - 6.4 miles easy
Thurs - Rest
Fri - 7.3 miles easy
Sat - 14.5 miles LONG; last 4 @ GMP (7:17 avg)
Sun - 4.2 miles easy
Total - 47.9 miles

So I'm feeling great! Ready to head into week #2 of the taper... hoping to get in about 35 miles total. As for speed, I might do an 800m workout, or I might just try to get in some more GMP miles. I'd like to nail that pace down so it's muscle memory.

13 days to go! Happy running all!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Last Friday Night... [Adventures in Traveling]

Last Friday night, my Business Man and I started the journey home to visit our families for Easter. It's about 390 miles, and usually takes about 6 hours. No big deal.

Well, usually, it's no big deal.

Until we hit traffic about 120 miles from the Bean Town. And sat there. And sat there. And sat there some more. We moved 2.5 miles in 2.5 hours. No joke. We had one opportunity to make an [illegal] U-turn about 20 minutes in, but we thought that it would certainly clear up soon. Hmmmph.

Now, I wasn't too upset at first, because I was busy reading my book for book club next week. That is, until it had been multiple hours, and I started to get hungry. Like Iran21milesthismorningandcanonlyeatsomanyReeseseggs hungry. Yes... the one time I didn't pack a cooler full of snacks is the time we get stuck in traffic for 2.5 hours. Let's just say I wasn't the most pleasant person to be in a car with.

Finally, we made it up to another [illegal] U-turn spot, and I told my Business Man we were turning around and finding another way, or else. (Or else, what? Who knows!)

So, we turned around, got off at the closest exit, and took some country roads to the nearest restaurant. 

Where did we end up? A lil' place called Pizza King.

We were a little unsure of the place from the parking lot, but I saw food, and that's all that mattered. 

We went in, seated ourselves, and were instructed to place our order via the telephone at our table. Interesting.

Pretty retro.

"Yes, I would like one of everything, please and thank you."
It was actually pretty fun. All the waitresses had to be at least grandma-aged; they were pretty cute. And the pizza was pretty darn delicious.

Cut into squares, just the way I like it. Perfect for having "just one more little piece."

After filling our bellies (and finally taming the hunger beast), we got back on the road and safely made it home... turning our typical 6-hour drive into a 9.5-hour drive. Oh, well, such is life.

Question: Does anybody have any crazy road trip stories?

In other news... my latest recipe post is up at the Rays Supermarkets blog! Click on over to find a recipe for Glazed Strawberry Fruit Salad. It's one of my favorites this time of year!

Monday, April 9, 2012

IL Marathon, week #13

Lucky #13... fortunately week #13 was good to me!

Last week was the biggest week of this training cycle, and to be honest, I'm glad it's over! While I definitely felt BA with my workouts and mileage, I am ready for a cut-back week.

I put in 62 miles total, which is a weekly mileage personal record. Never been in the 60s before! (And I'm not sure I'll ever be there again. :-P) 

I had a really great track workout - 4x1600m that went super well. (Aside from the whole locking myself in the stadium and having to climb a 6 foot fence to get out. Heh.)

I felt strong on my long run, which was supposed to be 20 miles but ended up being 21.4. The last big long run of this training cycle. Funny that my 14-miler on the schedule for this week seems like nothing. 

As for next week, since I'm three weeks out, the first week of taper is here. I'll be cutting my mileage a bit, down to just 45-48 miles this week, along with a 13-14 mile long run. I'm also hoping to get a tempo run in and some MP running. 

Weekly Rundown 4.2.2012-4.8.2012
Mon - 8.2 miles easy
Tues - 4x1600m w/ 800m rest (6:17, 6:19, 6:17, 6:15); 9 miles total
Wed - 6.5 miles easy (am); 4.2 miles easy (pm)
Thurs - Rest
Fri - 21.4 miles LONG (7:52 avg)
Sat - 5.4 miles easy
Sun - 7.6 miles easy
TOTAL - 62.3 miles

In other news, we traveled home for the weekend to spend some QT with our families for Easter. My mom & I headed to the local running store because they opened in a new location, and we wanted to check out the new store. Plus, I was due for a new pair. (Funny how when you're putting in 50-55 mile weeks, your shoes only last you about 2.5 months before they hit 500 miles.)

Anyway, since I've been wearing the Mizuno Wave Creation for about 7 years, I decided to get fitted again because who knows if I might be better off in a different shoe? The technology has certainly developed a lot since I was last fitted for a running shoe, and it was pretty fun. I had my feet scanned with this neat laser thing and they put a picture of my feet up on a screen to see how I pronate, etc.

See my feet up on the screen?
It turns out I'm pretty neutral, and after trying a few different pairs (Nike & New Balance), I settled on the good ole' Mizuno Wave Creation. Yes, I'm back in the same exact shoe. At least I know it works for me. 

I also was coerced into purchasing some 'real' running socks - aka tech socks with no cotton. Oh my, where have these been all my life? My feet feel so much better in them. If you haven't tried running in tech socks yet, I definitely suggest that you do.

Other notable pics from the weekend - only the craziest ice cream that my mom & I found at the grocery store. Which we definitely purchased and devoured. Yummmmm.

"Soft rolls of peanut butter cookie dough folded into chocolate ice cream swirled with Denali Moose Tracks fudge." 
And the classic Easter egg cake. My grandma makes this cake, which is baked in an old ham tin, every year. About a half a slice gets eaten, every year. But it's tradition. It wouldn't be Easter without the egg cake. I don't like coconut, so that's my excuse for not eating the egg cake. I definitely helped out with the jelly beans on the side though.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring break, full of running & baking... [Carrot Surprise Muffins]

Ahhhh... sweet sweet Spring Break. I've been waiting for this all year long. Well at least since we came back from our long weekend in February. Hehe. This year we only get 3 days off school (compared to last year's entire week), but we are done with school before Memorial Day. So it's definitely worth having a shorter break.

So what did I spend my first glorious morning of not having to be at school by 7:45am? Oh... just waking up at my normal time of 6:20, but going for a 20 mile run instead of going to work. As much as I love teaching, running will always win in the "more fun" department. 

21.4 miles of running & rainbows makes for a happy girl.
I met up with my running buddies Jim, Amy, & Kevin for a long run. Kevin is training for a 100-mile ultra marathon which is crazy, and Jim & Amy are always game for a long run. We ran around town for a bit before running Kevin home (out in the country) and then running the 5+ miles back into town. 

We accidentally misjudged our route though, and ended up with 21.4 miles instead of 20. Whoops?! With an average pace of 7:52, this was a great confidence-boosting run before taper. 

Highlight of the run? Running through the mall around 8am with all the 'morning walkers'. Our mall opens every morning so that people (mostly of the older generation) can come and get their walk on before the stores open. So naturally, we thought it would be fun to run a loop through the mall. And it was. I'm just glad the Cinn-a-bon wasn't open yet because I don't know if I'd have been able to leave.

I bought my first ever pair of running crops yesterday, and tested them out on today's run. They are perfect! Can't believe I waited this long to get a pair. They were perfect for the temps this morning, mid-30s. Usually I'd wear shorts but then complain about being cold the whole time. Absolutely love them.

Lovin' the new crops. It's incredible hard to take a picture of your lower half with your phone. Just sayin'.
The start of spring break also means that I spent some time in the kitchen yesterday, whipping up some delicious Carrot Surprise Muffins for my Business Man to share with his employees today. (Oh, and for us to eat, too.)

Cream cheese filling, front & center. 
I tried to think of something creative and 'Easter-y' and these fit the bill! Pretty much a twist on carrot cake that you can justify eating for breakfast because it's a muffin. (NOT a cupcake. A muffin.)

The recipe comes from my Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor book by Anne Byrn, so it starts with a cinnamon-swirl bread mix. It's then doctored up with freshly grated carrots, maple extract, and a cream cheese filling! The cream cheese filling really takes these muffins over the top. They're moist, full of cinnamon-maple flavor, and of course they are healthy for you because they have a serving of vegetables. 

A word to the wise - buy whole carrots, not baby carrots... they are much easier to grate. Baby carrots just turn into carrot nubs too quickly and then you almost grate your fingers off. And they make a big mess.

Ahhh! Carrots!

You mix up the batter, then place a small dollop of cream cheese surprise in the center of each muffin before baking.

Ready to bake!
Warm, fresh carrot muffins with a cream cheese center. I'm thinking you might need to make these for your Easter Sunday breakfast. 

[Click to PRINT]

Carrot Surprise Muffins

  • For the cream cheese surprise
    • 4-oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the muffins
    • 17.5-oz. package cinnamon swirl muffin mix
    • ½ cup milk
    • ¼ cup vegetable oil
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon maple extract
    • 1 cup freshly shredded carrots


Preheat oven to 400*F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners.

For cream cheese surprise, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg. (Save the remaining beaten egg for the muffins.) Blend until smooth. Set aside.

For muffins, place the muffin mix in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Reserve about 1/3 the cinnamon-sugar packet for topping the muffins. Add 2/3 the cinnamon-sugar packet to the muffin mix. Place milk, oil, egg, remaining beaten egg, and maple extract in the well of the muffin mix. Stir with a fork to combine and break up the egg yolk. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together with a spoon just until combined, about 20 strokes. Add the shredded carrots; stir another 10 strokes just to combine. The batter will still be a little lumpy, that's ok!

Scoop about 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup, filling it 3/4 full. With a back of a spoon, make a small well in the batter in the center of each muffin. Dollop a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the reserved cinnamon-sugar.

Bake at 400*F for 18 to 20 minutes until muffins spring back when lightly pressed with your finger. Let cool at least 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups. Enjoy!

Source: from Anne Byrn's Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor

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