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Frames From The Weekend 4/17/2015 – 4/19/2015

And I’m back in New York! I’ve been struck with the (expected) homesickness but spring has sprung here in Manhattan and it’s doing a great job in improving my mood.

FFTW Spring2

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

My week at home was fantastic, busy but so much fun! I wish I actually took the time to blog about it because I had some pretty stellar highlights including hanging out with the parentals (always a joy…yes I’m a child for life), spending an evening & staying overnight at my sister’s apartment in the city, and spending an entire day shadowing surgeons!!! Yup, I got to see two actual surgeries. In person. Five feet away from the operating table. It was easily the coolest thing I’ve done in a while. Grey’s Anatomy has nothing on real life.

Friday

{Friday: I casually worked from home in what turned out to be a very busy day due to my day off on Thursday. My mission for the evening was simple – pay a visit to my favorite mommy friend (who is pregnant with #2!) and her precious baby girl, who just turned 2 years old a few weeks prior. The weather was perfection! We walked around the neighborhood and stopped by a park where I couldn’t resist unleashing my inner child on the swing set.}

Saturday

{Saturday: I finally slept in for the first time all week, enjoyed some coffee with frothy whole milk, and then drove into the city to meet up with my lovely ladies for brunch at Beatrix in River North. The food was delicious and our endless conversation about life and our upcoming trip to India was even better. The bride-to-be had already asked me to be a bridesmaid but she made it official with a lovely bridesmaid gift filled with photos and other goodies! If you thought I was excited about visiting India before, please imagine that excitement now amplified x1000. I seriously cannot wait for the wedding! Afterwards, we all drove to Evanston for a BBQ for a bit before parting ways. Up next on the agenda was a quick trip to Bloomingdales with my mom. My mission was to try on a Canada Goose coat, which I intend to buy in the upcoming months in preparation for January in Europe. I ended up buying the cutest black Marc New York jacket for….$45!!! It was originally $250 so I think I win at life. My parents and I ended the evening hanging out on The Bed (AKA my parents’ gloriously comfy king bed) watching The Imitation Game. The movie received mixed reviews from my mom and dad, but I decided that I liked it.}

Sunday

{Sunday: I flew back to lovely NYC after one last breakfast at home with my parents and Dasha (who looks quite unhappy that I attacked her with endless kisses). I was welcomed back into bustling New York City with blooming trees and colorful flowers. I unpacked and immediately walked to the grocery store to stock up on essentials and non-essentials including ice cream and chocolate. Oops. Whatever. My evening = couch + Kardashians + tea.}

I’m certainly looking forward to getting back into the groove of things. This includes minimal dessert and a few attempts at running. I ate allllll the cookies and candy and sweets at home, and even snuck in a few more yesterday. It’s time to get rid of this vengeful sweet tooth once again (yea right…) I’ll do my best to actually blog this week, but no promises. Who knows what’s in store for all these lovely spring evenings!

Good luck to everyone running the Boston Marathon today!!! I’ll be watching live somehow, cheering you all on!

♥ Irina

Frames From The Weekend 4/10/2015 – 4/12/2015

Oops I did it again, I neglected my blog, got lost in the game my busy days. As I always say: better late than never!

FFTW Spring2

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

I flew back to Chicago on Sunday morning. I actually had a 4-mile race that morning but obviously had to skip out because of my knee. Yes, it still hurts. No, it’s not improving. I have no idea what to do about it, it’s truly tragic.

Moving on to happier things, let’s quickly review last weekend before we actually start this new one today!

weekend

{I worked from home on Friday and snuck in a quick shopping trip during lunch to a local boutique to pick up a shirt I’ve been lusting over for weeks – a classic Saint James striped top. It’s so chic, so French (made in France, duh), and so flattering despite being unisex. Totally worth the splurge! All I wanted to do after work was cuddle up on the couch with a movie, but instead I hopped onto a cross-town bus and made my way to the Upper West Side for a quick apartment viewing. My dream still came true afterwards though – I arrived back home, made a huge bowl of popcorn, and watched Interstellar. Oh my gawd you guys, this movie was phenomenal!!! I love love loved how accurate it was with all the physics (wormholes, “time travel”, black holes, time as a dimension, multiple dimensions, etc.). It was basically my nerdy physics-loving dream come true and I found myself completely engrossed in the entire movie wishing it would never end.}

weekend

{All I remember about Saturday was volunteering at the free clinic in the morning. Seriously, I don’t think I really did anything else? Sunday was much more eventful – I sadly skipped out on a race thanks to my bum knee and made it bright and early to LaGuardia for my flight back to Chicago. It’s so nice to be back home! We had a fantastic traditional Orthodox Easter brunch with the entire family – dyed eggs, cheese and deli meat appetizers, rack of lamb, Russian stuffed peppers, piroshki (my fave), and dessert. I missed my mom’s cooking so much!}

I’ve got some really crazy exciting news: I’M GOING TO INDIA!!! My close friend is getting married and my lovely group of ladies and I (bridesmaids!) are heading to New Delhi during Christmas for a 2-day wedding, followed by a few days of touristy activities. After New Delhi, I’m flying out to Amsterdam and staying in Europe for two weeks and eventually flying out from Barcelona! It’s going to be crazy awesome….three+ weeks of traveling! I’m thinking Amsterdam > Brussels / Bruges > Paris > Barcelona. Epic.

And with that, I’m out for the day! Just a few more hours before my weekend officially starts.

Have you seen ‘Interstellar’? Thoughts?

All recommendations for India and Europe are welcome!

♥ Irina

Frames From The Weekend 4/2/2015 – 4/5/2015

Oops…this post is coming up quite late in the week but I’ll take full responsibility for this procrastination. I’ve been a super lazy blogger and that’s that.

FFTW Spring2

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

My sister flew in last Thursday and we had a stellar weekend together! Delicious food, a trip to Coney Island, Russian brunch at Brighton Beach, and so much walking. It was perfection!

weekend

{My sis arrived on Thursday evening and we immediately set out in search of food. After strolling around the UES for half an hour, we stumbled upon a cozy French restaurant. Dinner consisted of steamed artichoke as an appetizer and a delicious seafood paella for the main course. I don’t even remember the name of the restaurant but it was delicious! We promptly passed out from exhaustion after arriving back home.}

weekend

{Rainy Friday weather did not stop us from making the hour-long trip to Coney Island and Brighton Beach! We were on a mission to visit Little Russia and dine on some authentic Russian food. Needless to say, mission accomplished! We skipped out on the many fun rides at Coney Island and instead spent the time strolling through Russian stores and sneaking into bakeries for freshly baked desserts.}

weekend

{Food glorious food! We settled on having lunch at Skovorodka, a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach that my parents and I had previously been to. And then we ordered sooo much food! Pickled mushrooms, borsht, fried potatoes with mushrooms, meat-filled crepes, and cherry dumplings. Everything tasted freshly-prepared, authentic, and oh so delicious. Despite our full stomachs, we couldn’t resist stopping into one of the many bakeries and picking up our favorite Russian desserts. Gimme gimme gimme!}

weekend

{Saturday morning started bright and early – my sis and I were supposed to run the Scotland Run 10K together in Central Park, but my knee was (is) still bothering me so my sister ran it for both of us instead. It was difficult watching all the happy runners line up in my beloved park, and I was really looking forward to running a race alongside my sis, but thus is life. Instead, I was Sasha’s #1 cheerleader and cheered her on multiple times along the course. Sadly, my knee hurt worse than ever after all the walking and continued bothering me the rest of the day. But this didn’t stop us from making our way to The Fat Radish for a delicious brunch – French-press coffee, celery root pot pie, and a tomato + chickpea skillet with eggs. We stopped by Doughnut Plant on the way back for three mini doughnuts. I’m actually not a fan of doughnuts but decided to give them another chance….and once again decided that I really dislike doughnuts!}

weekend

{After a few lazy evenings of staying in, my sister convinced me to dress up and enjoy NYC nightlife. We hopped into a cab and made our way to Dear Irving, a beautiful speakeasy near Gramercy Park. I sipped on the most fabulous Old Fashioned I’ve ever had while we chatted. A short visit to Rose Bar, an old favorite of mine, followed. And then we returned home for another great night of sleep. Everything was closed the following morning because of Easter, so we walked around the UES for a bit before a sushi lunch at Haru. My sis left in the early afternoon and our awesome staycation came to a close… Come back soon sistah!}

This is my last week in town before I head back to Chicago for Russian Easter and many reunions with family & friends. I’ve got a lot planned for the full week I’m home, it’s going to be a busy one!

♥ Irina

2015 NYC Half Marathon Recap

Alternative title: the time I walked an entire half marathon

The NYC Half Marathon was held on March 15th through the streets of Manhattan. It started in stunning Central Park, winded directly through glitzy Times Square, and rerouted along the Hudson River via the Westside Highway before ending in Wall Street.

I battled knee pain the entire week leading up to the half marathon and was about 75% sure I would drop out of the race. Saturday, 12 hours before the race, I went to the race expo to pick up my swag bag. It was truly a low point for me. The excitement was palpable and all the happy people made me feel much worse about my injury. And then it only got worse! My knee suddenly started hurting even more and I hobbled around the expo with tears in my eyes, mainly from devastation and the belief that race day simply wasn’t going to happen.

NYC Half Marathon

In pure desperation, I actually ended up getting my knee taped up with KT Tape by a professional. And then I hobbled back home, plopped myself down on my bed, iced the heck out of my knee, and waited patiently for my mom to arrive and ease my sorrows.

NYC Half Marathon

(Ignore all that “dirt” on my leg, that’s from the KT Tape spray glue!)

The discussions began once mom arrived. We chatted over dinner featuring our beloved freshly baked bread from Maison Kayser (I told you I’m obsessed with this place, check out all their breads here but be prepared to drool). Hey, I was carbo-loading just in case!

Maison Kayser bread

Eventually, we decided that it was worth at least attempting the race, the caveat being that I would strictly walk the entire thing. Yup, I was planning on walking 13.1 miles. This terrified me more than running the distance. How do I pace myself? Will the runners hate me because I’ll be in their way? Will I make the cutoff time? What if I’ll be in pain? The answer to the last question was simple – I wouldn’t push through the pain and would simply step off the course, hop into a cab or subway, and go straight home.

The race start was in Central Park close to my apartment, so I slept like a log (pressure was off!) and woke up at a reasonable hour on Sunday. And then I checked Facebook and saw that runners were supposed to show up at least 40 minutes before race start! I shot out of bed in panic and started a condensed version of my pre-race routine – coffee, toast + peanut butter + banana, stretch, get dressed, head out. We hopped into a cab to avoid aggravating my knee from excessive walking and quickly made it to the southern edge of Central Park.

NYC Half Marathon

There were mobs of people running left and right trying to figure out which entrance to go through, and I was one of them just minus the running. It took about 20 minutes to get through security and another 15 minutes + 0.5 miles to actually get to the start corrals. I decided to stay with Wave 2 despite knowing I wasn’t doing any running, but I went into a much slower corral. The race cutoff time was 3 hours from when the last runner crossed the start line, and Wave 3 started 20 minutes after Wave 2. This meant I had about 3.5 hours to make it to the finish line without getting booted from the course. Make sense?

NYC Half Marathon

We crossed the start line around 7:50AM and I attempted to jog for ~20 seconds before settling into a brisk walk. I’ll be honest – it was mentally so tough seeing all the runners slowly distance themselves and jog away happily. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to run through my beloved Central Park, hills and all, but I didn’t want to risk hurting my knee so early in the race. Speaking of my knee, the pain stayed away. Interestingly enough, walking at a certain brisk speed (between 13:30 – 14:00 min/mile) didn’t bother my knee at all, so that’s what I stuck to the majority of the time.

NYC Half Marathon

I came armed with an audio book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mind Kaling, which helped the first few miles pass by quickly. Walking along the path I’ve only ever run on was such a unique experience…a total change of perspective. A great analogy for life, huh.

5K Split: 40:49

I actually jogged a few times during the first hour, but only for ~30 seconds at a time per mile and only on uphill portions (downhill = knee pain). A few brief moments of panic occasionally hit me whenever I thought about how far I still had to go. Self doubts plagued my mind on and off…until I hit 6 miles and the course steered out of Central Park in the direction of Times Square.

NYC Half Marathon

Wow. With the streets clear of all cars and pedestrians, the normally annoying flashing lights of Times Square seemed like a stunning sparkling oasis in the distance. It was a sight to see!

NYC Half Marathon

The streets were filled with people screaming words of encouragement as we neared the great lights. And then I couldn’t resist any longer, I had to run!

NYC Half Marathon

I ran for almost a minute among the bright lights before having to give up and walk again. My knee was officially slightly aggravated so I set into my speedwalking pace of ~13:30 min/mile.

NYC Half Marathon

10K Split: 1:22:09

The remainder of the route took us on the highway along the Hudson River. My Garmin was consistently off by about 0.2 miles, most likely due to the fact that I walked strictly along the outer edges of the route. My knee actually started bothering me more often and I would occasionally stop to stretch. My hamstrings were also super tight. Every mile felt like a mental barrier broken though, and I knew the end was in sight! I would still sometimes get anxious about finishing in time, but turning around and seeing all the people behind me provided so much comfort.

NYC Half Marathon

I also got hungry at this point and snacked on some dried figs I brought along. I never get hungry during races, so this was an interesting sensation!

15K Split: 2:05:21

Hitting the 10 mile marker was a huge mental milestone! Double digits still make me giddy, even to this day, but walking 10 miles was a brand new sort of accomplishment. I immediately knew I was going to finish, and a sense of relief washed over me. I started wondering if I could finish in under 3 hours and spent much of the time doing mental calculations for fun.

NYC Half Marathon

My knee was officially hurting at this point but I wasn’t about to drop out after the 2+ hours I already dedicated to the race. I definitely would’ve dropped out if my knee felt this way from the start, but the end was near and I was determined to cross the finish line. I wasn’t limping or wincing, but my knee was not happy.

NYC Half Marathon

20K Split: 2:49:47

The end was near! I heard a familiar voice screaming my name as we turned the corner towards the finish line. My mom was there to see me to the end! She had been tracking me via the Glympse I sent her, so she was able to show up right in time for my finish. I told her there was no need to spectate along the course since I was walking, but having her at the finish line was everything I needed in those final moments. Did you know my mom is the greatest?? I tried so hard to jog the final 0.1 mile but it was physically impossible. This sucked. So much. But somehow I found the strength in me to actually jog the final 5 seconds across the finish line!

NYC Half Marathon

And then I was done…under 3 hours!!!

NYC Half Marathon

I put on my sunglasses and cried. This was the first time I ever cried after a race. I felt all sorts of emotions (happiness, excitement, fear of injury) which, combined with knee pain, completely overwhelmed me. I actually stumbled into the medical tent and had my knee checked out before heading out to find my mom.

NYC Half Marathon

Final Time: 2:59:03 (13:40 min/mile pace)
Place: 18888 / 19436
Age Division (25-29): 2272 / 2324

Lower Manhattan is notoriously cold because it’s surrounded by water, and the skyscrapers create freezing wind tunnels. Needless to say, I was so so so cold while searching for my mom in the mob of people. We received awesome post-race swag bags filled with water, Gatorade, pretzels, and an apple, so I snacked happily.

NYC Half Marathon

Pros:
• Race course – The route is phenomenal! You get to see some of Manhattan’s prime spots including Central Park, Times Square, the Hudson River, and Wall Street. The busy streets are cleared and all yours to conquer!
• Post-race swag bag – It was filled with a water bottle, Gatorade, pretzels, an apple, and other small goodies.
• The medal – I love the simplicity and elegance of it! Flashy race medals are nice but this one is stunning.
• Aid stations – There were plenty of water + Gatorade stations (every 2 miles or so) and one fueling station that handed out GUs.

Cons:
• Pre-start security checkpoint – Even though the line went fairly quickly, the entrance to Central Park was a bit of a mess. I got redirected to the farther entrance because of my start corral when in reality I honestly could’ve just gone into the nearest one with no problem.
• Finish line – It stretched on forever! The long chute out onto the streets felt endless, and the windchill didn’t help.

NYC Half Marathon

(Celebratory flowers from mom!)

Would I do this race again? Abso-f*cking-lutely! Assuming all goes well and I’ll run all races in the Five Borough Series this year, I’ll have guaranteed entry into the 2016 NYC Half Marathon. And I WILL run it next year!

♥ Irina