Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sweet Summertime

Gosh, summer is flying by. How have I already been off school for a month already? I've been busy doing all my favorite things - running, baking, spending time with friends & family, laying out by the pool. It's pretty much pure bliss.

Running-wise, I'm gearing up for the Freedom 5km here in the Bean Town on the 4th. Last year, I ran 20:05, but hadn't been training much. Well, I was training, but not really for speed. I think I've come pretty far since last July and am gearing up for a PR (sub-18:50). 

I've been running 1-2 speed workouts a week as well as a 10-12 mile long run. On Monday, I set out for a 5-mile tempo run at goal pace of 6:35-40 pace. I nailed it and finished with a 6:32 average (which is almost how fast I raced the 5km last year!) The best part is that I felt awesome the entire time. So I am very excited about the 5km a week from today.

Baking-wise, I've been making lots of cupcakes. Surprise, surprise. I'm actually trying to build up a little business here in the Bean Town - Sara's Sweets. If you live around here, go 'like' my facebook page! (And order some cupcakes, too. You won't regret it. Hehe.) I've got some exciting things up my sleeve that I will share soon. 

Vanilla raspberry mini's

Yesterday, I discovered a new store in the Bean Town, called Artistic Creations. Which has an entire section devoted to baking materials & cake decorating supplies. How did I not know about this place until yesterday?! They also had quite the Vera Bradley selection. I will be back... as soon as I sell some more cupcakes.

Cupcake liners galore!
And since this post couldn't get any more random, I will just share with you the huge task I have to complete today by 5pm. I've got 270 pages to read before book club tonight. Better get crackin'. Good thing today will be the perfect pool day. :) How I looooove the summertime.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Steamboat Classic 15km 2012

Saturday, I ran one of my favorite races in the whole wide world. Or at least the Midwest... I haven't really raced anywhere else. (Now, if anyone wants to sponsor me for a marathon in Hawaii or Oregon, that opinion might change...)

The Steamboat Classic is regarded as the "World's fastest 4-mile' and "Illinois' Toughest 15km", so I knew I was in for a butt-whooping treat. 

Last year, I ran the 15km with some of my college girlfriends, and we kept it easy at a conversational pace so we could enjoy the run. 

This year, I was in it to race. Because it is so hilly, my only goal was to run at least faster than my half-marathon PR pace (6:54 average). Only 9.3 miles versus 13.1... should be a piece of cake, right?

Talen came down Friday night to hang out and cheer me on at the race. She couldn't run because the Monday after we ran the marathon, she had some loose pieces of cartilage surgically removed from her knee. Ouch! She has only been given the okay to start running this week, and didn't think it be wise to start out with a 15km. (I wonder why?!)

We all (my parents, Talen, and I) got up super early to make it over to Peoria for the 7am start time. As usual, the temps were already in the mid-70s by the time the race started. (Figures, on Wednesday of last week, I was waking up to temps in the 50s.) It just wouldn't be Steamboat without the heat and humidity.

The start!

The course runs 2 miles out to the park, then up into the park for two 2.5 mile loops, and then the 2 miles back down to the start. Right at the start of the loop in the park there is a MONSTER hill. Like huge. Plus, there's a few more rollers throughout that loop.

Around mile 5ish

I knew I needed to start out conservatively to save my energy for the hills. It's hard, because the 4-mile and 15km start together, and it goes out fast. It's really easy to get caught up with the crowd and forget that many of them are just running 4 miles, not 9.3.

Cruisin' toward the finish

I don't have my exact mile splits, but I do have the 5km splits.

  • first 5km - 21:20 (6:52 avg) --> included the first big hill
  • second 5km - 21:40 (6:59 avg) --> included the second big hill
  • third 5km - 20:55 (6:44 avg) --> more downhill than up

I ended up finishing in 1:03:55, which is a 6:52 average. Just under my goal pace of 6:54, woot woot! I was ecstatic. 

Feeling great after, minus the buckets of sweat pouring out of my body.

I am not used to running hilly races. It was hard for me to judge my effort level since I couldn't rely on my mile splits. (My second time up the big hill was a 7:36 mile split, yikes!) I much prefer to run even splits, but you can't always do that.

Talen & I headed out for a quick cool-down jog together and then got our hands on some food. I have never seen nectarines at a race before, and they were so refreshing!

You bet I downed that Diet Pepsi after my nectarines... breakfast beverage of champions.

There were also TONS of extra granola bars. They were telling us to take as many as we could. Alright, don't have to tell me twice. Now I don't have to put granola bars on my grocery list for the next two months.

Then it was time for awards. I ended up placing 3rd out of 362 females. How exciting! I could see the 2nd place girl throughout almost the whole race, but couldn't catch up to her. 1st place was about 2.5 minutes ahead. She was smokin' those hills.

Top 10 women.

I just love this race. I'm not sure why, because it's pretty hard. Perhaps it's the unusual distance? Knowing there's good competition? I dunno. I've established a life goal to break 1:00:00 someday for the Steamboat Classic 15km. It will happen... might be 5-10 years, but it will! :)

So how does one spend the afternoon after a tough race? Poolside. We spent the afternoon soaking up the rays in my parents' neighbor's pool... pure bliss.

Girly time!
Oh, and a side note... my Business Man wasn't there to cheer me on because he was attending a bachelor party in Chi-town. I'm surprised I still managed to race well without my paparazzi. Heh.

Monday, June 11, 2012

That time where I baked a wedding cake

You probably have come to the conclusion that I like to bake. Just look at the plethora of baked goods recipes compared to savory recipes up on my Recipage.

This past weekend, one of my friends got married. She asked me several months ago if I would bake her wedding cake

You see... I have never wanted to bake a wedding cake. They always seemed so intimidating and scary. What if it collapses on itself? What if I can't get it to look good? What if it's too hot and the icing turns all droopy? There are just too many variables with a wedding cake, and too much pressure.

I asked my friend, "Are you sure you don't want cupcakes?! Those are so easy!" She and her fiance really wanted a cake.  Since it was only for 85 people, I accepted, and considered it to be a challenge.

I got some Wilton 3-inch deep cake pans in three sizes - 6", 10", and 14" so I could do a 3-tiered cake. The first task was to bake the cakes. (The easy part.)

The 14" tier was chocolate, the 10" tier was red velvet, and the 6" tier was carrot cake. I also made a half-sheet pan of white almond sour cream cake. I lined each of the bottom of the pans with parchment so that the cakes would flip out easily and not fall apart.

White almond sour cream sheet cake in the back, carrot cake in the front.

Then, I had to frost and fill them. The 6" carrot cake was by far the easiest. Because it was so small, I cut it into two layers very quickly, frosted between, and frosted all around the outside.

Ran out of frosting halfway through the red velvet...

The red velvet cake and chocolate cake proved to be a bit more challenging to cut into two layers. But I had quite the set-up with lots of cardboard cake circles that helped all the cakes stay in one piece.

I think I made 4 double batches of vanilla buttercream total over the course of the day. Wowza!

The hardest part was getting the frosting on the outside to be smooth. I found that dipping my icing spatula in hot water and going over the rough spots helped a lot.

Thank goodness for TV trays! I don't know where I would have set all these cakes otherwise.

Assembling the cake wasn't too bad. I took a piece of white foam board and cut it to a 16-inch square to act as my cake board.

I also cut a small bit of kitchen cabinet liner so that my cake wouldn't slide around on the cake board.

Since wedding cakes often have multiple tall tiers, you can't just stack them on top of each other and hope for the best. You have to put some sort of support inside the cakes to keep them from collapsing - the most common is wooden dowels. 

Well... I do not have wooden dowels just lying around, plus they would be super hard to cut to the right height. So I googled the heck out of "substitutes for wooden dowels in wedding cakes" and discovered a pretty genius alternative. Plastic drinking straws.

No, those aren't birthday candles, they're straws!

Because they fill up with cake when you insert them, they actually are almost as sturdy as dowels. (Would I use straws for a 6-tier cake? Probably not. But for a 3-tier, they worked just fine!) For the bottom layer, I inserted 5 straws into the cake, and then cut them to the same height as the cake.

Then I was ready for the second tier! The tiers were pretty easy to stack, since they were each on their own cardboard round.

Almost there!

After inserting 3 support straws for the second tier, I added the top tier.

All decorated!

Then I spent quite a bit of time trying to smooth out the icing, and did some very simple decorating. My friend gave me free reign as for decorating, and I figured that simple was good. (Especially for my first wedding cake.)

My next dilemma was "How do I store the darned thing?" I don't think tupperwares exist that would be large enough to hold a wedding cake.

Tucked away in its nice little box for the evening.
So I rigged up a special box by cutting two boxes and binding them together with packing tape. That way, once I got to the reception site, I could just cut away the sides of the boxes and not have to reach down into the box to try to pull the cake out.

Here's the fun part - the 70 minute drive to the reception site. I told my Business Man that the cake would be sitting on my lap the entire time, and he would need to be an incredibly cautious driver. (Have I mentioned the time we were transporting 150 cupcakes and almost got in a car accident?! Cupcakes all over the car. Ay ay ay...) Besides turning into a popsicle from having the A/C on full blast, the drive went smoothly.

My attempt at a car picture with the cake.

Once I got to the site, I finished up the cake by attaching the purple ribbon, per the bride's request. I think it turned out really well!

The wedding was beautiful, and I was happy to help a friend out on her big day. 

I also managed to snag the last piece of red velvet cake... and if I do say so myself, it was moist & delicious. No dry wedding cake here!

So, thank you Susan, for getting me out of my comfort zone and getting me to make my first wedding cake!

My Business Man & I at the reception
Now the question is... would I do it again? Yes, but probably not anytime soon. Heh. It was definitely a labor of love. :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Herb Jay River Run 5km... [and 480 cupcakes]

Is it really only Wednesday? This week has been crazy busy!

Cookies & cream batter, yum

My Business Man's business is celebrating its 90th birthday this week... so he recruited me I volunteered to bake 40 dozen cupcakes for him to deliver to local businesses to celebrate. Yes, 40 dozen, as in 480 cupcakes. That's a lot of cupcakes in my little kitchen. (With only one oven. And just three cupcake tins.)

Dining room table full of cupcakes

Boxes ready to go

It was loads of fun, but I will admit I'm a bit relieved that I don't have to bake cupcakes today. ;)

Clockwise from top left - Nutella with Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting, Red Velvet Cheesecake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, Monster Cookie with PB Buttercream, Cookie & Cream with Vanilla Buttercream, and Lemon Supreme with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.


Now onto the running...

Last night our local YMCA hosted a 5km - the Herb Jay River Run. I wasn't sure if I'd be up to racing after baking for 10 hours straight, but by the time 6:00 rolled around, I was more than ready to get some fresh air. (Just not sure how fresh my legs would be after running around like a crazy person in the kitchen all day.)

The course was on the riverwalk trail here in the Bean Town, which has several little rollers. The temperature was perfect (about 60*F), but it was pretty windy. 

At the start
The course was an out-and-back loop, so the first mile had the wind at our backs. Then we did the loop, and the last mile was straight back into the wind. My splits definitely reflect that.


  • Mile 1 - 6:00
  • Mile 2 - 6:17
  • Mile 3 - 6:16
  • 0.1 nubbin - 0:39, for a finish time of 19:12

Finishing... uphill.

All in all, I'm happy with my performance... only 22 seconds from my lifetime PR on a day when I wasn't really mentally or physically prepared to race. Bonus - the course was the accurate length and I didn't get lost or confused on where to go! Heh.

Amy, myself, Kristi
A lot of my running group/friends came out, so it was good to see everyone out and about on a random Tuesday night! 

I picked up an award for one of my friends who had to leave early, so I let my Business Man pretend he received 2nd overall male for a moment. (The boy can dream... right?! Haha.)

Today's plans? A simple recovery run... it is National Running Day after all. And then I'm thinking an afternoon at the pool sounds mighty fine. As long as it warms up out there! What's up with this 60*F weather in June?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scott Huysman Memorial 5km

It's officially 5km season! I had high hopes of running my first 5km of the summer last weekend, but ended up with a big wedding cupcake order so I had to wait until this weekend to toe the starting line.

Yesterday I ran the Scott Huysman Memorial 5km, in conjunction with the St. Gerard parish festival here in the Bean Town. The race was slated for a 10am start time, which I first thought would be unbearable. A June race? At 10am? Talk about HOT! Fortunately for us, a rainy cold front moved in Friday and conditions were perfect for racing. About 60*F and sunny.

Me & one of my running buddies (Kristi) at the start. She rocked it out in the 5km and then went down to Columbus for a mud run that afternoon! So BA.

I didn't really have a plan for this race - just run fast. (Isn't that pretty much how all 5km's are? A dead sprint from start to finish?) It wasn't a very big race, so I settled in pretty quickly after the gun went off. I found myself in 5th or 6th place, and made it my mission to pick off as many guys as I could. 

Ready, set, GO!

The race had lots of twists & turns... I was so glad that there was a lead bike to follow, because otherwise I would have had no idea where to go. We never passed a 1-mile marker, which I thought was a little strange, but not all races have mile markers. Soon after that, we passed the 2-mile marker, and my split was a 10:55 (5:27-pace)! Outrageous. This was when I began to think something was fishy. But I kept racing.

Sprinting to the finish... thanks to my Business Man for being my personal paparazzi.

Before I knew it, we were finishing up, and I ended up crossing the line in 18:02, first female. I was happy with my performance, but had a feeling that something wasn't right. Not that it's not possible, but could I really have just PR'd by 48 seconds?! After only a few weeks of post-marathon base training. Hmmmm...

Well, it turns out the lead bike took us all the wrong way! We completely missed the first mile marker, and the course only ended up being 2.98 miles. Haha... I wonder if I will ever run a race in the Bean Town where I don't get lost or run extra. (Evidence here - the [almost] 10km.) At least this time, everyone ran a short course, and not just me. ;)

What can I say? At least I got in a good solid effort. My average pace turned out to be 6:03, which is right at my PR. It just makes me more excited for the next 5km. I'll be ready to rock & roll.

Well, I'm off to soak up my rest day in the sun... we've got a beautiful day here in the Bean Town. Happy Sunday friends!

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