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Way Back When…

NYC: 1 Year Later

I’m going to start this off by saying that moving to NYC was easily one of my best decisions yet. It’s astounding to see how quickly the transition has impacted my life and self-development. I essentially dove in head first – moved with a few suitcases in tow, no place to live, and no friends to call my own – and what an adventure it has been.

Central Park

Let’s be real for a bit though – life is never all glitter and gold. I’ve certainly had my downs in the city that never sleeps. It can be a crazy cutthroat place that will chop you into pieces if you let it. I’ve discovered that the phrase “when it rains, it pours” completely rings true to New York – the good and the bad both seem to come in waves on any given day. It’s a city of extremes with little middle-ground.


I had a few major worries when moving to New York City. Most of us are well aware of the reputation it has – outrageously expensive, stressful, full of mean/angry/unhappy people, difficult to establish friendships, a cruel place to date in – the list goes on. While I certainly agree with many of the stereotypes, I must declare with full unbiased honesty that they’re simply an inaccurate representation of the city. New York is a place that allows you to get whatever you want out of it…if you work hard enough to do so. NYC doesn’t change for anyone, but it’s so versatile and pliable that you can establish your own life out of what’s given (if that makes any sense). That’s what makes New York so unique. The only requirement is to come here with an open mind and zero expectations.

I still consider myself a total newbie in mighty Manhattan. In my one year here I feel like I know nothing about the city but 13 months later my daily life is more-or-less grounded and comfortable. Overall, it took me about eight months to truly feel at home here, but I put in the effort and made it work.



Current residence: Upper East Side

Favorite place to run: Central Park reservoir, East Promenade

Favorite nightlife spot: Meatpacking District (I know I know…it sounds so elitist but I love the atmosphere)

Favorite restaurant: The food scene here is insane, absolutely insane. The options are endless and sometimes even overwhelming. My current two favorite restaurants (because I can’t choose just one) are Flex Mussels and Maison Kayser. Delicious!

Favorite thing(s) about NYC: Ahh so much! As great as all the “typical” things are about New York, my heart skips a beat over the small stuff – the fruit stands all over the city, the sight of the beautiful skyline when crossing any majorstreet (this is one of my favorite things ever), Central Park, endless people watching opportunities, countless rooftops, the different personalities of each neighborhood in Manhattan, the way the city constantly reminds me of Russia (another reason I’m so attached to the city). I can go on and on!

Least favorite thing(s) about NYC: I suspect I get shielded from many of the “worst” qualities of New York because I often work remotely, but I certainly hate crowded subway cars and rush hour in general. I also hate how dirty my feet get in the summer after stepping outside. The drivers here are despicable too…they never stop honking!

Central Park

Most shocking experience: This is difficult to pinpoint but I had a few while on the metro including having someone sit on instead of next to me while trying to hit on me. It was partially my fault though because I unwisely chose to take the subway home at 2AM. Sorry mom, never again I swear.

Best experience: I don’t think I can identify just one single experience as “the best” but I’ve had some memorable nights that typically revolve around great friends, rooftops, and a drink in hand. Manhattan is easily the most fun city I’ve ever been to, and the nightlife is perfection. Other great memories include the various visits from family and friends – Christmas with my parents, my first half marathon in NYC with a surprise trip from my mom, New Year’s Eve with the bestie, my sister and I pampering ourselves during the entirety of her stay in January – I love experiencing the city through the eyes of others.

Worst experience: There isn’t any particular moment that was absolutely horrible, but I would say that I hit a bit of a depressing slump around the seven month mark. I’m sure being smack-dab in the depths of a brutal winter had something to do with this, but January and February were rough. An overpowering feeling of being lost and sad took over for a few weeks before I took matters into my own hands and started making changes. Good things come to those who put in the effort, and this was certainly the case with me. I ended up quickly meeting an amazing group of friends and the rest is history.

Random New York quirk I love: I noticed that everyone wears sunglasses everywhere, indoors and outdoors alike. This made me extraordinarily happy because I basically live in my sunglasses – on the subway, in grocery stores, while shopping. But now when I come back to Chicago I suspect people think I’m weird because no one seems to do the same…but maybe I’m wrong? #Iwearmysunglassesatnight


On Chicago vs. NYC: I don’t want to make any enemies here because this question is truly an opinion, but I will say that I personally prefer New York to Chicago. It’s the perfect place to be a young, wild, and free twenty-something. I always tell people that this city is too much fun…to the point where I can’t fall asleep some days because I’m too excited about who knows what. I totally understand why it’s the city that never sleeps. New York possesses this incredible energy that I’ve never felt anywhere else. It ends up infiltrating every cell in your body and you either vibe with the city or you don’t. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Chicago and always will, but the only way I see myself moving back is for family/friends/school.

Thoughts on NYC expensiveness: I’ll be the first to admit that New York is insanely expensive, but it’s totally manageable. I discovered that everything except for the rent is comparable to Chicago prices. I manage my finances very well and haven’t felt troubled by this as a result. The way I see it, I’m paying for the experience and it’s 100% worth it to me. To each their own.

Thoughts on living solo: First and foremost, I love living alone. I’m a private, introverted person and thrive in my own space. Living far away from my family and hometown however, isn’t always easy or pleasant. I’m a homebody who has a wonderful relationship with my parents and I didn’t mind living with them for two years after college graduation. While moving hundreds of miles away was far from stress-free, the opportunity to fly back often for work has made the transition significantly easier. Plus, I love being financially independent!

Central Park

Thoughts on the residents of New York: They’re easily the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Everyone has a unique story on how they came about living here, and the one thing that ties us all together is the drive we had when pursing the relocation.

Thoughts on friendships: Maybe I got lucky here but I’ve met some of the greatest girls and established solid friendships with them almost immediately. It took a while though, almost eight months, before I realized that friendships won’t simply float into my lap themselves. They require effort, much like everything else in life. I wrote an entire post on this, check it out!


Thoughts on dating: Non-existent…but the blame falls on me and my lack of effort in this department.

Thoughts on myself: I feel limitless here. It’s an incredible, powerful feeling that’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before. New York brings a cool, sexy confidence out of me. I’m enjoying seeing the transformation of who I’m becoming in this wildly influential city. The key is to not lose yourself, and I found that to be easily avoidable by maintaining my roots. One of the most exciting aspects of moving to another city without knowing anyone is the opportunity to reinvent who you are. This doesn’t mean you should suddenly transform your personality and become a stranger to yourself. You should, however, explore the dusty parts of your personality while still staying true to you. I’ve done exactly this and am invigorated by it daily.

Thoughts on my future here: Ahhh here is where things get blurry. I am far from ready to move away from NYC. I absolutely love living here and can see myself establishing roots. But my future plans may not end up intersecting with New York, so I try to avoid thinking about this until the time comes. No point in stressing out over the unknown right?

me myself and I

And so here I am, excited for what the next year in New York will bring. It’s a truly incredible experience to actually live life. Some days I’m crossing the street and a wave of unexplained excitement washes over me. It happens at least once a week. I like to believe that this feeling is a sign of what’s to come…that the future holds incredible surprises for me. Whether NYC is part of this or not is irrelevant; my move to the city is a stepping stone much like all decisions in life.

Some nights as I stand above the concrete jungle that is now my home, music blasting and drink in hand surrounded by the people of my generation embracing the moment, all I can think is “this is life.” Every moment, morning noon and night, makes up the adventure of my days. Every minute, good or bad, feels somewhat significant. Life is beautiful here even on the worst days, but the city itself is only part of the equation. Leaving Chicago and moving out East has changed my overall outlook on everything. New York became my reality because it’s the city that worked best for me. This is always a personal choice and in no way does it mean that New York will be the answer for you. It might not even be the long-term answer for me! I urge you to find a place that makes you feel limitless as well.

That’s enough blabbering for now. Let’s check back in another year!

♥ Irina

2014 JPMC Corporate Challenge Run Recap

I ran the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge back on June 5th and am only now writing about it. Better late than never right? I almost skipped out on writing this recap but decided that I want all my races documented for future reference.

JPMC Corp Challenge

For those who are not familiar with it, the Corporate Challenge is a unique race in that you run as part of a team (i.e. the company you work for). The Corporate Challenge takes place in many major cities across the United States. It’s a great way to meet new people from your corporation and spend a wonderful evening representing your career. Plus, it’s always fun to bump into friends from other companies!

JPMC Corp Challenge

I spent the day calmly working from home and set out towards Central Park around 6PM. I love conveniently located races!

JPMC Corp Challenge

The entire park was closed off and already buzzing with swarms of people. Due to the large number of participants, the race was actually split into two days – Wednesday 6/4 and Thursday 6/5. A few hours prior we also received an email stating that the race was actually shortened to 3.3 miles from the originally planned 3.5 due to some park constraints.

JPMC Corp Challenge

I arrived early and walked over to my designated corral about 15 minutes before the start time. However, it took an additional 10-15 minutes for our wave to cross the start line.

Mile 1
8:21 min/mile
The first mile took place on the west side of the park. People were passing me left and right but I was determined to treat this as a calm training run, so I ignored all temptation to actually race. This didn’t last very long and I eventually made an effort to maintain a sub 9:00min/mile pace. I felt crowded and sweaty but my legs felt fine.

Mile 2
8:11 min/mile
I started worrying about knee pains after entering the second mile, but luckily they never came. We hit the turnaround point right before the dreaded Harlem Hill and set out down the east side of the park. I was already fatigued and more than ready to stop running. My sunglasses started annoying me so I ended up having to carry them in my hand the remainder of the race, which was highly annoying. Beside this, nothing eventful happened during the second mile.

Mile 3
8:17 min/mile
This final mile was the ultimate reminder of why I hate short distance races. I attempted to speed up just to cross the finish line as soon as possible but my body wasn’t having it. My bladder also made its presence known and I couldn’t wait to hit the port-a-potty. It did help to be very familiar with the course since I run along it weekly, and I knew that running downhill near the end of the race would be a nice break for my legs.

Final 0.3 Miles
7:37 min/mile
I experienced a major burst of energy during the final kick for the first time in my running career and it was incredible. Out of nowhere I exploded with speed and power near the finish line and glided to the end. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I don’t remember much else of this last sprint but I do remember happily crossing the finish line and chugging two full cups of water before heading straight to the port-a-potty. My Garmin also showed this final stretch to be 0.4 miles instead of 0.3 miles. I grabbed a banana and started the walk back home.

JPMC Corp Challenge

Final Time: 27:51 (8:27 min/mile pace)

Overall the race went smoothly. I struggled a bit but it was fun to run with a sea of people through my beloved Central Park. The official pace and the pace shown by my Garmin had a huge discrepancy (Garmin = 8:12 min/mile) and I suspect that perhaps the race was slightly too long, which messed with the final pace calculation. Anyway, this is why the paces shown above for each split are confusing…

- Has a “team spirit” vibe that makes you feel proud of your company
- Evening race: it’s nice to run at sunset, especially when temps cool down
- Tech tee: it’s a nice material and definitely wearable (in fact, I always see people running in it around Central Park)
- Location: I love races held in Central Park but this might be a highly personal opinion

- Evening race: I added this as both a pro and con because many people prefer early morning running
- Crowded: despite being split into two days, the race was still quite crowded
- Skewed distance: not only was the race shortened from 3.5 miles, but the distance shown by my Garmin was 0.1 miles off from the apparent 3.3 miles

JPMC Corp Challenge

Although I’m not a huge fan of extremely large & crowded races, I would participate in the Corporate Challenge again just for the social aspect of it.

♥ Irina

Marathon Training (Week 12)

Here’s the deal – I’m no longer running the New York City Marathon. It hurts my body, mind, and soul to reveal this but it was truly the best decision given the circumstances. I’ll go into more detail later, but basically the decision was brought on by nagging pains and stress from fundraising. I’ve really failed on the fundraising aspect and pushed it aside to make room for a few other major life happenings. Luckily, my marathon plans are still in full force. I’m now registered for the smaller, more flexible Hartford Marathon on October 11th. I’m still fundraising for it (please donate here!) but without the added stress of a monetary minimum. Yes I’m bummed but the stars simply didn’t align this time. The Hartford Marathon offers a half marathon and 5K option as well as deferrals if needed, which is a relief for me with all the random aches/pains I’ve been experiencing.

Previous weeks:
Marathon Training (week 1-3)
Marathon Training (week 4)
Marathon Training (week 5)
Marathon Training (week 6-9)
Marathon Training (week 10)
Marathon Training (week 11)

Central Park

{reunited with gorgeous Central Park at long last}

WEEK 12 (7/21/2014 – 7/27/2014)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday7 mile run 4 mile run (38:26 min @ 9:37 min/mi)
Wednesday60 min Cross-training Rest
Thursday4 mile pace 7 mile run (1:09:14 @ 9:54 min/mi)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 15 mile run (2:30:49 @ 10:03 min/mi)
Sunday45 min bike Rest
TOTAL = 26 miles

Thoughts: One word – heat! I know I’ll regret saying this in a few months but I am so ready for cooler temps. Tuesday’s run was cut short because my body couldn’t handle the 90°+ degree weather and extreme humidity (damn Chicago). It got to the point where my heart/chest was hurting and I simply had to stop running for my own health. The seven mile run absolutely killed me as well. I woke up early after flying back into NYC the night before and set out into the heat in a sleep-deprived state. Needless to say, I stopped to rest almost as many times as miles I ran. No shame, my health comes first and my body kept demanding breaks.

The highlight of the week was the 15-miler, which came with its own bundle of ailments on top of a new PDR. The arch of my left foot ached like crazy and I had to stop a few times to stretch out and lower my heart rate. The arch pain in particular really has me worried because my mind immediately thinks of a navicular stress fracture (god please no). I went to the podiatrist yesterday and he seems to think the source is muscular. We both agreed that one week of no running is on the agenda for next week with an MRI to follow if the pain persists. I’m obviously upset but the marathon is still 2.5 months away and the time off will do more good than harm. I’ve also been battling with extreme dehydration during runs and can’t quite figure out how to avoid this (help!!!). I apologize for all the complaining…in the end I’m grateful to run! Now let’s hope these knee/shin/arch pains subside.

♥ Irina

Frames From The Weekend 7/25/2014 – 7/27/2014

This past weekend was a solid balance of good and bad. I’ve gotten accustomed to “sacrificing” my social life for marathon training and find myself looking forward to a calm night in before the following morning’s long run, but sometimes I can’t help missing fun Friday nights out in my favorite city.

FFTW Summer

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

But as I previously mentioned, this new schedule provides a good balance. Saturdays are for running and socializing!


{Friday: The alarm clock was set for 6:30AM the following morning so I opted to stay in and relax at home. I hit up the grocery store to restock my fridge and ended up having great snacks as a result – yogurt parfaits out of martini glasses, goat cheese, egg + avocado toast, and way too much fruit (kidding…no such thing). I also gave myself a pedicure because my toes needed some loving from all the running-related damage.}


{Saturday: I dragged myself out of bed around 7:00AM and set out on my long run an hour later. The temperatures hovered in the mid-70s with clouds but the humidity made me feel dehydrated almost immediately. The first half of the run went great. I ran around Central Park and crossed over to the Upper West Side for 1.5 miles along the Hudson River. Things got painful, literally, at the halfway point. The arch of my left foot started hurting and got progressively worse with every step. I should’ve stopped running but desperately wanted to get home and continued to push along. Long story short, I made it the full 15 miles but am now extremely worried about my foot. A visit to the podiatrist is in order hopefully this week. In the evening I primped myself for a night out with a lovely group of ladies. In retrospect the 4-inch heels probably weren’t the best idea, and nor was the 3-hour dancing session in said heels late into the night. My night didn’t start out very well – I had a major wardrobe malfunction and had to travel to the UES and back down to West Village via taxi ($$$) to save time – but it ended great!}


{Sunday: Despite going to sleep way too late (or early in the morning I guess…), my internal clock still forced me up before 9:00AM. I bummed around the apartment for a few hours icing my foot and catching up on reading before setting out for a stroll to T.J. Maxx just because I felt like it. I couldn’t resist hopping into the local grocery store to pick up a few foodie favorites.}

I can’t believe we’re on the verge of August already. I’m sure we’re all in agreement when it comes to the absurdly fast passing of 2014. The next two weeks are going to be quite eventful – Chicago, one week off from work, Lollapalooza, my birthday. I’m trying to stay positive despite the growing worry about this new running injury so here’s to being optimistic!

Have you ever had a wardrobe malfunction that forced you to go back home and change?

What’s your favorite post-run meal?

♥ Irina