Buttons Running New York City Food Travel DIY Beauty

Way Back When…

Frames From The Weekend 10/17/2014 – 10/19/2014

Hai friends! Did you have a good weekend? My sister from another the same mister flew in on Thursday night and spent an amazing weekend with me here in NYC.

FFTW fall2

(Link up to ‘Frames From The Weekend’! Read the official “rules” here.)

We had such an amazing time together! The weather surprised us with two days of warm bliss, which made the entire weekend even more enjoyable.

sister weekend

{After a simple breakfast of egg + avocado toast, my sister wandered around the Upper East Side while I worked the first half of the day on Friday. After I called it quits for the weekend, we walked over to the Metropolitan Museum and took the elevator straight to the 5th floor rooftop. Um, hello beautiful views of Central Park! I can’t even imagine how stunning the view will be once the leaves start changing in a few weeks. The weather was perfect and so afterwards we continued our UES adventure with a quick lunch at a nearby cafe.}

sister weekend

{My sister was pretty insistent on visiting one of the famous dessert places on a list she found online, so our next destination was in SoHo – Dominique Ansel Bakery, home of the famous cronut! Of course all cronuts were sold out but that didn’t stop us from enjoying two unique creations – a cookie shot and a roasted marshmallow on a stick. The cookie shot glass was made out of an actual cookie and held fresh milk! The marshmallow wrapped around a block of vanilla ice cream coated in chocolate, and the marshmallow was torched for us on the spot. Both were interesting but a bit too sweet for our liking. We continued exploring SoHo and the West Village and eventually hit my beloved Meatpacking District. At this point the sun gave way to the night and our stomaches were ready for more food. We settled in at a cozy restaurant nestled on a small street corner, Marcelleria, where we promptly ordered a cheeseboard and bone marrow with a side of wine. People-watching, delicious food, and sisterly bonding…it was a perfect Friday night!}

sister weekend

{We both happily slept in on Saturday and started the lazy morning off with a delicious homemade quiche made by my sister and a few episodes of ‘Sex and the City’. I’m normally not a lover of quiche (or any sort of eggs + milk mixture) but it was delicious! We polished off 75% of the entire pie! It was tough but somehow we managed to get dressed and waddle out of the apartment straight to Central Park. And so began a four-hour adventure around upper Manhattan. We walked all the way to the upper Upper East Side (past 96th street) and took a short coffee break at DTUT before crossing Central Park to the Upper West Side. Once there, we strolled down to Barney Greengrass to buy a few slices of smoked salmon for a light lunch at home. And finally, after crossing through the park again back to the UES, we stepped into my welcoming apartment and promptly collapsed with exhaustion.}

sister weekend

{My sister pulled together enough energy after our walk to put together this beautiful spread of smoked salmon (the one we bought at Barney Greengrass), goat cheese, tomatoes, onions, capers, pickles, and toasted bread for a light lunch to hold us over until dinnertime. It was so so good! We crashed again for a few hours and then convinced each other to dress up and head out for my sister’s last night in Manhattan. It was already almost 10PM but we still hopped into a cab and zipped to the West Village with one destination in mind – The Spotted Pig. We were greeted with a 1.5 hour wait and promptly walked out in search of a better dining spot before my sis convinced me to return because “she had a good feeling.” She was right…there were two open spots at the bar! We ordered steamed mussels, sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi, and a beets & greens roasted salad. Everything was delicious! A bit salty but tasty nonetheless. Midnight struck by the time we finished with our dinner. We decided to check out a few of my favorite lounges in MePa for an hour or so before heading home to sleep. It was a great night!}

My sister left early on Sunday and I had the rest of the day to be extraordinarily lazy. I did muster up the energy to grab a huge cup of chocolate and pumpkin froyo from 16 Handles before promptly crashing on the couch to watch Harry Potter. It was a wonderfully indulgent weekend and now I’m ready to relax a bit before Thanksgiving rolls around. This is usually the time I start freaking out about how quickly the month passed by, but I’m really loving October. The marathon, a visit from my parents, and sister weekend have helped make the month an unforgettable one and it’s not even over yet!

♥ Irina

2014 Aruba Vacation (Part 2)

When we last left off I mentioned my parents’ and my adventure driving around Aruba. One morning we rented a basic car and set out with multiple destinations in mind.

Aruba

Having the opportunity to safely leave the hotel and explore the island was one of the many benefits of vacationing in a safe location like Aruba. The fact that it’s possible to drive around Aruba in it’s entirety is an even cooler benefit! We started our adventure on the calm side of the island, which plays host to all of the hotels and resorts.

Aruba

Here the ocean is a pristine wonderland with crystal clear water and minimal waves.

Aruba

After marveling at the basic beauty of the desert-like terrain, we drove up to an old lighthouse atop a large hill.

Aruba lighthouse

It was dusty and windy but my attention shifted towards the many cacti populating the grounds!

Aruba

Aruba cacti

Gorgeous right? The juxtaposition of a deep blue ocean and sharp green cacti is phenomenal.

Aruba

We hopped back into the car and continued our adventure to a nearby old church. While en route we made a quick pitstop on a deserted road because I couldn’t resist taking some photos in the cactus forest!

Aruba cactus

I’m clearly easily amused.

Aruba cactus

But really though, how awesome are the cacti?!

Aruba cactus

I’ve never actually been so close to one!

Once I got that out of my system, we continued driving through the dusty unpaved roads until we reached the old church.

Aruba church

There really wasn’t much to see though, so we quickly moved on to our next destination.

Aruba

At one point we hit a minor roadblock…

Aruba donkey

…why did the donkey cross the road?

No worries though, the donkeys were kind enough to quickly clear the road for us!

Aruba

One of my favorite parts of the drive was seeing all the unique and colorful homes. It’s often tough to immerse yourself in a new culture but our car rental allowed us to see how the locals lived.

Eventually, we made it to the next stop on the agenda – the rough, unexplored side of Aruba.

Aruba

Here there were no hotels or visitors enjoying the ocean. The rough waves and strong rip currents wouldn’t allow it.

Aruba

But oh how beautiful!

Aruba

We continued driving along the dirt road until finally reaching the Natural Bridge.

Aruba Natural Bridge

My parents might’ve gotten a bit too close to the vicious waters…

Aruba Natural Bridge

…because a powerful wave crashed into the cliff and generously sprayed them!

Aruba Natural Bridge

I obviously thought it was hilarious.

Aruba Natural Bridge

Hey, I had to take at least one vacation selfie!

Aruba Natural Bridge

Aruba Natural Bridge

Having gotten our daily dose of salty air and ocean sprays, we stepped into a tiny local store nearby for a bathroom break. I couldn’t resist purchasing a pretty evil eye, which now hangs by my apartment door:

Aruba Natural Bridge

At this point it was growing later in the day and my stomach started growling in protest. We planned on driving to our final destination, Baby Beach, for a quick swim before returning to the hotel. As small as Aruba may be, the beach was all the way on the other side of the island! We had quite a ways to drive.

Aruba donkey

More friendly donkeys greeted us along the road:

Aruba donkey

I kind of adore them!

Aruba donkey

We finally arrived at Baby Beach but we were all too starving to swim. There weren’t many food options in the area so we had to settle on Big Mama Grill.

Aruba Big Mama Grill

At least the decor was fun and festive!

Aruba Big Mama Grill

My mom and I ordered a fish platter to share while my dad feasted on a burger fresh from the grill.

Aruba Big Mama Grill

With full bellies and a newfound energy, we set out for a quick dip in the gorgeous lagoon-like Baby Beach. Sadly, I didn’t capture a photo of it but it was lovely! I laid out on the warm sand for a bit while my parents continued swimming and then we decided to call it quits for the day and head back to our hotel.

But on the way back we had a minor change of plans…

Aruba grocery store

You see, Aruba has to import most of it’s produce. This means that foods like fruit and fresh vegetables are a rare-ish commodity. You can only guess how much I missed fresh produce after a few days of island fever!

Aruba grocery store

It was approaching dinnertime and we had no reservations for the night, so we decided to simply load up on groceries to feast on in our cozy hotel room.

Aruba grocery store

Dinner was simple – we had an assortment of deli meats, cheese, vegetables, and salad. I also finally got a dose of fresh avocado!

Aruba grocery store

And of course we didn’t forget dessert!

Aruba grocery store

Aruba grocery store

Aruba grocery store

And so concludes our wonderful day of exploration. I might’ve already mentioned this but I loved Aruba. I didn’t even expect to enjoy it as much as I did! It might be pricey but it’s definitely a place worth visiting at least once in your life (or more).

Aruba

See you soon, Aruba!

♥ Irina

2014 Aruba Vacation (Part 1)

Oh Aruba, thank you for giving my family and I a much-needed and unforgettable vacation. I don’t want to bombard you with too many photos so I’ll split the recap into two posts. Despite forgetting my DSLR at home (!!! so much sadness), I still managed to utilize my handy iPhone camera and ended up capturing many beautiful photos.

My parents flew into New York late Friday night, spent the night in my apartment, and we set out to Newark together at 4AM the following morning. Luck was on our side as it seated us in the roomy exit row. The 5-hour flight flew by (no pun intended) and we soon spotted the tiny island of Aruba sitting in the middle of the gorgeously blue Caribbean Ocean.

Aruba

And when I say “tiny” I truly mean tiny – the island is about 20 miles in length and 6 miles wide!

We were greeted with dry heat and a plethora of cacti scattered all around. A taxi whisked us away to our hotel, the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.

Aruba lunch

After refueling with a fresh seared tuna salad and some of the best bread I’ve had in a while, we changed into our bathing suits and plunged into the warm waters of the ocean.

Aruba

The water, oh the water! The Caribbean Ocean didn’t disappoint. I’ve never swam in such pristine waters before.

Aruba

Aruba is different than other tropical destinations like Mexico and the Dominican Republic in that it doesn’t embrace the all-inclusive approach. Of course there is an all-inclusive resort on the island, but most visitors prefer to stay in regular hotels and take advantage of the freedom to safely explore the areas outside. Unlike Mexico / Bahamas / Jamaica / Dominican / etc. where it’s unsafe to wander out of your resort, Aruba is incredibly safe. In fact, we even rented a car one of the days and drove all around the island! But that’s a post for another day.

Aruba Marriott Stellaris Resort

Our hotel had a few great restaurants on premise, so we made reservations to a popular one called Simply Fish for that evening.

Aruba Simply Fish

We dined directly on the sandy beach with the ocean only a few feet away from us. The candlelight, calming ocean, and sandy ground made the entire experience unforgettable. The restaurant specializes in fresh fish caught that same morning and prepared in a manner of your choice. It’s pricey but worth it.

Aruba Simply Fish

We opted to share two fresh fish dishes, one grilled and another blackened to a tasty crisp. As expected, the fish was fresh and flavorful!

After dinner my parents headed to the casino (my mom secretly loves gambling) and I walked back to the hotel to crash early. Hey, my idea of a relaxing vacation includes sleeping as much as my heart desires! The next morning we woke bright and early and set out to the local breakfast buffet. My daily morning tradition became a breakfast of a hardboiled egg, cheese, and turkey breast with a side of fruit and nuts. And multiple refills of coffee!

Aruba breakfast

Lounging around at the beach all day was next on the agenda. I spent plenty of time floating in the water in pure bliss and ended up with a nice, healthy tan. I usually hide from the sun but my paleness had recently reached an unhealthy-looking shade of pasty white.

Aruba

Oh and these lizards where everywhere!

Aruba lizard

Don’t worry, they’re harmless…

One morning we hopped into a taxi and headed to Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad. A short $10 taxi ride later, we approached the colorful downtown.

Oranjestad Aruba

There were plenty of mainstream stores but we were more interested in the locals selling authentic, handmade goodies.

Oranjestad Aruba

I hunted for memorabilia to gift to family and friends…

Oranjestad Aruba

Oranjestad Aruba

…and even purchased a small present for myself

Oranjestad Aruba

The one of many nice things about Aruba is the weather – it’s consistently hot (close to 90°F) but not humid. We took a break from shopping and cooled off with fresh coconuts:

Oranjestad Aruba

The brave man relentlessly hacked away at the coconut!

Oranjestad Aruba

After we sucked them dry, the man cracked open our coconuts and carefully carved out the fresh coconut meat for us to munch on.

Oranjestad Aruba

It was delicious!

Aruba fresh coconut

We walked around and continued to explore the small downtown before heading back to the hotel.

Oranjestad Aruba

Now let’s chat about a favorite topic of mine – food! The restaurants in Aruba really were exquisite but expensive (and that’s coming from someone who lives in Manhattan). Of course I craved seafood and always gravitated towards the fresh catch of the day. Our first night dining at Simply Fish was the perfect example of the many delicious offerings on the island. One of the most highly regarded and popular restaurants in Aruba is Madame Janette. One evening we caught a cab and arrived 10 minutes later, in time for our 7PM reservation (reservations are highly recommended at most restaurants in Aruba).

Madame Janette Aruba

We walked in and were seated in a semi-outdoor space. The trees were dripping with warm lights that sparkled as the sun started setting. A delicious bread basket with a side of pickled onions and whipped garlic butter arrived at our table as we perused the menu.

Madame Janette Aruba

Madame Janette Aruba

I ended up ordering a Madame Janette classic – the almond grouper. Oh my goodness it was so delicious! I must try to recreate it at home.

Madame Janette Aruba

My mom opted for a juicy piece of steak called ‘Madame’s famous Burgerloin’. It was phenomenal as well and we all continuously stole bites from her plate. My dad’s choice, the Schnitzel, shocked us when it arrived at the table.

Madame Janette Aruba

It was ginormous!! There was enough food to easily feed four people. Needless to say, we took the majority of it back to the hotel as leftovers.

Another evening we decided to dine at Aqua Grill, mainly because I desperately wanted oysters and lobster. We also had a gift certificate so the meal ended up being reasonably priced. I started my meal with a half dozen fresh & juicy oysters on ice.

Aqua Grill Aruba

We settled on sharing plank salmon, lobster tail, and red snapper for our main course.

Aqua Grill Aruba

My parents weren’t fans of the lobster (it tasted a bit bland) but the plank salmon was delicious! Quite possibly the best dish of the night.

Aqua Grill Aruba

Overall, I probably wouldn’t recommend Aqua Grill to Aruba newcomers. It was our least favorite restaurant and the high prices didn’t help change our opinion.

One of our favorite restaurants was one we discovered on our last night in Aruba – Le Petit Cafe. That evening we were strolling around nearby hotels and stopped by a large shopping center.

Aruba shopping center

I was starving at this point and we ended up randomly choosing the nearby restaurant. Great decision! The restaurant is known for serving fresh fish on a hot stone, giving you the opportunity to cook the fish yourself. I ordered salmon and was basically in heaven the entire time.

Aruba Le Petit Cafe

Aruba Le Petit Cafe

I highly recommend visiting this restaurant! The fact that it’s walking distance from most hotels is also an added bonus.

Alright enough about food. I swear we didn’t just eat our way through Aruba! Other evening activities included enjoying nightly drinks (tea for me) and live music in our hotel lobby.

Aruba Marriott Stellaris Resort

But not before taking a few photos from our balcony!

Aruba Marriott Stellaris Resort

I was really focused on catching up on sleep during this vacation, so my evenings often ended shortly after hanging out in the lobby with my parents. Most nights I would watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy before crashing…shhh!

Aruba Marriott Stellaris Resort

The plan worked – I felt extraordinarily better after a mere two days in Aruba. It’s amazing what a relaxing vacation can do for the mind, body, and soul. I even had enough energy to continue marathon training thanks to a fabulous hotel gym and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on an iPad.

Aruba Marriott Stellaris Resort

And what’s more relaxing than seeing the sun set over the Caribbean Ocean?

Aruba sunset

The sunsets in Aruba were absolutely breathtaking.

Aruba sunset

It took us a few nights to actually make it in time to watch this fleeing beauty, but we made it.

Aruba sunset

Our trip to Aruba had so many highlights but one of the best days was when we rented a car and spent the day driving around the entire island. This post has gotten long enough though, so I’ll save that adventure for another day!

♥ Irina

2014 Hartford Marathon Recap

I ran my first ever full marathon this past Saturday, October 11th in Hartford, Connecticut. The Hartford Marathon took place in the state capital and provided scenic views of many city landmarks.

Hartford Marathon

My parents and I rented a car for the weekend and set out to Hartford late Friday afternoon. I was indifferent about attending the race expo but still hoped to attend at least some of it before it ended at 7PM that evening. My hopes where shattered when our drive, which should’ve taken 2.5 hours max, ended up taking 4.5 hours! The traffic was insane and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen bad traffic, trust me… I kept my cool for most of the drive but panic set in when we all started having legit concerns about making it to packet pickup before it closed at 9PM. We definitely cut it close! I ran in at 8:30PM, snagged my bib and long-sleeved race shirt, and we drove to our hotel for the night (Fairfield Marriott in Manchester).

Hartford Marathon

All the anxiety made me lose my appetite for the evening and my “dinner” ended up being a bunch of grapes with a scoop of peanut butter. At least I managed to force-feed myself some food instead of going to sleep on an empty stomach!

Speaking of food, my fueling approach was as follows:
Monday – Wednesday: I ate as I normally would but added in a few extra carbs in the form of pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, and my Recovering Runner’s Rice Crispy Treats
Thursday: This was my carbo-loading day where I ate plenty of bread, pasta, cake/candy, and fruits, and supplemented my meals with chicken and eggs. I avoided dairy completely but still ate greens.
Friday: I ate my normal breakfast of a fried egg over avocado toast. Lunch was a simple bowl of chicken, sweet potatoes, avocado chunks, and a fried egg. Dinner was…non-existent (see notes above). I avoided all veggies/greens.

Hartford Marathon

I felt oddly calm in the days leading up to the marathon, but anxiety hit as soon as my head hit the pillow on Friday night. I tossed and turned for almost 1.5 hours until my mom finally gave me Valerian around 1AM. 4.5 hours of sleep was good enough for me! I woke up at 5:30AM and started my morning routine with a simple breakfast of peanut butter + banana slices + honey over toast (I used Ezekiel sprouted whole wheat) with a side of coffee.

Hartford Marathon

(pardon the hideous chipped nails)

Nerves started getting the best of me and my stomach made this known. Hey, at least I didn’t have to worry about having to do a pitstop during the marathon! (TMI)

Hartford Marathon

The weather report was exactly as I expected – rain rain rain and more rain! I eventually settled on wearing shorts, a long-sleeved top representing Fred’s Team (the organization I was fundraising with), my Brooks waterproof jacket, a hat, my FuelBelt, and Brooks PureFlows. I lubed up, said a little silent prayer, and it was time to go! We arrived on scene to Bushnell Park, parked the car, made a quick Port-a-Potty pitstop, and walked towards the start line.

Hartford Marathon

It was already drizzling outside and I felt slightly cold, but the rain didn’t really bother me. I hugged my parents goodbye and lined up with the other runners at 7:50AM. At this point I made a sudden decision to start fueling and ate half of a Shot Blok while waiting to start.

For those wondering, my fueling strategy was simple: I would take half of a Shot Blok (already pre-cut) every 2 miles with water and consume 1 salt pill every hour. This totaled to ~6 full Shot Bloks (6.5 to be exact) and 4 salt pills (1 salt pill was taken before leaving the hotel). I alternated between the Citrus and Chocolate Cherry Shot Blok flavors to spread out the doses of caffeine from the cherry flavor. I also carried water with me and took sips every half mile.

Hartford Marathon

The gun went off at 8AM on the dot and we were off! There were about 2,000 marathon runners total but it took me only five minutes to cross the start line.

Miles 1-5
I immediately noticed that my legs felt great – no lead-leg syndrome! I guess there really is something to this whole taper thing because my legs definitely felt fresh and weightless. It continued to rain but my hat helped me quickly forget about it as I set into a comfortable pace that hovered around 10:15 min/mile. Heartburn hit at mile 2 and continued to bother me for the remainder of the hour until finally disappearing. We ran through the town and settled onto more residential roads before running a few gorgeous miles along the river. My Garmin soon stopped matching the mile markers and I noticed it marked each mile about 0.1 miles before the actual marker (it would eventually grow to a 0.2 mile difference). I honestly don’t remember much of this course segment because I was focused on assessing how I felt and whether my current pace was maintainable.

Miles 6-10
Believe it or not, these were the toughest miles of the entire race. The arch of my left foot started hurting around mile 5, which immediately flooded me with extreme anxiety. And when I say extreme I mean extreme. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced during a run. Negative thoughts of dropping out filled my head and my heart rate shot up to the point that my heart was actually physically hurting. I know, the pain sounds scary but it runs in my family and isn’t a major reason for concern, I promise. However, it felt crippling at this point and I was holding back tears of stress for miles. The arch pain felt serious at times and each painful step threatened to shoot me into a full-blown panic attack. I never felt the need to stop (and never did during the entire race) but battling against my own mind was extraordinarily tough. I considered swapping out my shoes for the Saucony Cortanas and decided that I would ask my parents to bring them for our second reunion if the pain didn’t go away by the halfway point.

Miles 11-14
Hitting double-digits was a huge mental barrier-breaker. My left foot continued hurting and my right foot soon joined in the fun, but I did my best to shift my attention towards seeing my parents. We planned on our first reunion being at the halfway point, so I kept my eyes peeled at mile 13. I approached a large group of people and immediately spotted my parents screaming my name! Oh what a mood booster and motivator! Words can’t express how thankful I was (and still am) for my parents’ support. It was only after passing the 14 mile marker that I realized my foot pain completely subsided and I was essentially running pain-free…no shoe swap was necessary. Talk about a mental mind f*ck! I should also mention that at no point did any other part of my legs hurt. This was pleasantly surprising considering I struggled with occasional knee pain this entire training cycle! No complaints though, I’m incredibly grateful. I relaxed a bit after seeing my parents and even allowed myself to speed up a bit for the first time all morning.

Hartford Marathon

Mile 13.1 = 2:14:01 (10:14 min/mile)

Miles 15-19
For whatever reason, mile 16 felt like a significant milestone for me. I spent the first portion of the race pleading with the universe to get me to mile 16, and hitting that point felt amazing. It was the first time I actually allowed myself to even think about that glorious finish line. This part of the course was much livelier since it was the out-and-back portion, and being amongst larger crowds gave me an added boost of energy. I was dancing along to the random music blasting from homes along the course, waving to spectators, and finally enjoying myself. Yup, it was still raining and the long residential roads were slightly hilly but seeing the pretty red/orange/yellow trees glistening with raindrops actually made me quite happy! I was feeling good, really good, but was still cautiously optimistic. I kept telling myself to prepare for the possibility of hitting the wall after mile 20 just in case, but my instinct told me this wouldn’t happen. I continued fueling with half of a Shot Blok every 2 miles and gradually began speeding up.

Hartford Marathon

Mile 20 = 3:20:49 (10:03 min/mile)

Miles 20 – 24
In short, I essentially ran this race backwards with the toughest portion being the first half and the easiest being the last 6 miles. Crazy right?! I’ve always heard that the race truly starts at mile 20 and braced myself for the worst, but luckily the worst never came. I had never run more than 20 miles and worried about hitting the wall immediately upon seeing the 20 mile marker (irrationality at it’s finest) but burnout never hit. I have no idea what came over me but I continued to speed up with every mile and was passing people left & right! It was insane. I saw my parents again at mile 20 and blew them a kiss before speeding off…gosh they’re the best! The last 6 miles flew by the quickest and I found myself aiming to finish under 4:20. What would’ve been an unreasonable goal earlier in the race became a possible reality thanks to the negative splits I was now running. I was on fire! I told myself that 22 miles was another major milestone, and then did the same with 24 miles upon passing the 22 mile marker. The only downside was that my legs started feeling a bit numb from the cold rain, but I was in the final stretch and didn’t care too much. I ate my last ½ Shot Blok at mile 22 and 24, sipped on some more water, and sped up towards the end.

Hartford Marathon

Miles 25 – 26.2
My Garmin beeped at mile 25 but it was consistently off by 0.2 miles (I think I weaved around too much) and so I found myself eagerly waiting for the actual 25 mile marker. I picked up my pace as soon as I saw it and kept telling myself that this was the final stretch. I was about to be a marathoner! But no marathon simply lets it’s runners off the hook that easy, and the small city of Hartford decided to throw in one final hill right at the start of mile 25. The race course had plenty of smaller hills that didn’t really bother me but this one was a steep highway ramp and a bridge, and my legs felt the climb. I did my best and actually quickened my pace…I just wanted to be done at this point! I could hear the finish line festivities and eventually sprinted the final quarter mile to the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I spotted my parents cheering me on and used the elation I felt at that moment for one final surge towards the end. The announcers called my name as I crossed the finish line (although I didn’t hear it) and I was done. Oh the glory, I was a marathoner!

Hartford Marathon

Final Time: 4:19:41 (9:55 min/mile pace)
Place: 1375/2407
Age Division (25-29): 74/155

My Garmin showed the crazy distance of 26.53. I clearly did a lot of weaving around and running in the middle of the road! (which I did)

Hartford Marathon

My splits are shown below for those who are curious. Keep in mind though that my Garmin was slightly off which likely skewed the paces.

Hartford Marathon splits

The overall time was still pretty accurate although I forgot to stop my Garmin a few seconds after crossing the finish line. Speaking of finishing, I honestly felt like I could’ve run another 3-4 miles! Incredibly, I still somehow had fuel left in me. I’ll keep this in mind next time I consider an ultra (kidding, I think)…

Hartford Marathon

I found my parents almost immediately after crossing the finish line and we snapped a few celebratory photos.

Hartford Marathon

Seeing my parents so proud meant everything to me. Everything. If only I could always make them that happy!

Hartford Marathon

Side note – I downloaded the Glympse app for my phone and sent a ‘glympse’ to my parents so they would always know where I was in real-time (thank you Kim for this suggestion!). The app has a maximum tracking time of four hours and unfortunately I wasn’t able to re-send a ‘glympse’ because it was too wet/rainy outside to use my phone. But my parents loved this app and said it was incredibly useful!

The pain & soreness really set in about 10 minutes after I finished the race. I suddenly felt the cold raindrops on my skin and the shivers passing through my body. My feet ached with each step and I was desperate to take a hot shower. At this point I grabbed some food and hobbled back to the car with my parents.

Hartford Marathon

Hartford Marathon

The steamy shower was a dream come true! I assessed the damage done and was happy to discover only a few minor blisters, one slightly bruised toenail, and no chaffing. I was barely able to force myself out of the shower but we had to check out of our hotel by 2PM (they kindly gave us a 1 hour extension). My appetite still hadn’t returned but I forced myself to eat a can of anchovies with a slice of bread and an apple on the side…gross but so delicious I swear! Fun story – I actually accidentally brought those anchovies in my bag (we had just gone grocery shopping before driving to Hartford) and oddly enough they ended up being the perfect recovery food for me.

Hartford Marathon

At this point we were all exhausted and eager to return to Manhattan, so we loaded up the car and hit the road. Luckily, the trip only took 2.5 hours this time! I snacked much of the way…

Hartford

Pros:
• Fueling & amenities: there were water/Gatorade & Port-a-Potty stops at almost every mile! But Gu was only handed out once on the course (not sure if this is normal or not for a full marathon)
• Admission: I paid $95 for this race which isn’t too steep for a marathon
• Post-race goodies: there was an entire booth that gave out grilled cheese, bagels, warm apple pie samples, granola bars, milk, and bananas to runners! Reusable water bottles were also given out to runners near the finish line.
• Easy to spectate: it was fairly easy for my parents to spectate along various parts of the course because the race was on the smaller side, and it was also easy for me to spot them
• Flat course: there were a few hills but nothing too crazy
• Small race: I never felt crowded while running and felt like I had my choice of where to run
• Entertainment: there was plenty of entertainment and live music along the course, including random people blasting music from their homes

Cons:
• Minimal crowd support: I suspect the endless rain scared many of the crowds away, but I don’t expect large crowds to gather given that it’s a small town
• Uneventful race route: much of the race was incredibly boring, especially the parts along the highway

I kept debating on whether the Hartford Marathon was a good choice for my first marathon and have officially decided that yes, it was a great first race indeed. It’s true that while I enjoyed the calmness surrounding the smaller race, there were many moments where I really needed the screams and support from spectators. In the end though I’m incredibly happy with my choice for marathon #1 regardless of it’s size. The entire experience was so positive and went so well that I’m secretly fearful it set the bar too high for future marathons. But 26.2 miles no longer feels as daunting as it did, and I’m itching to sign up for marathon #2 (and #3 and #4….) now that I know I’m capable of conquering the distance!

Irina