It’s not quite spring but I’ve officially begun training for my spring half marathon – the Chicago Spring Half Marathon! Last week I “accidentally” spent hours doing research and creating what I deem is an elaborate training plan.

It’s certainly ambitious too…the paces the online calculators spit out for me are ones I haven’t comfortably conquered yet. Even the pace I’m “training for” (I use quotes because it’s my ambitious/motivational goal and not necessarily the realistic one) to run the half at – 8:30 min/mile – is slightly overreaching. But I know I won’t be too stringent with myself if I cannot hit all the required paces. The tempo run pace in particular practically killed me when I attempted it, but I’m remaining optimistic.

Highlights of the training plan:
– running 4 times per week: 1 easy run, 1 speed-work day, 1 tempo run, 1 long slow run
– strength training 3 times per week
– cross-training 1 day per week
– 2 rest days

I initially planned on 2 cross-training days and only 1 day of rest, but ultimately decided to err on the side of caution and avoid the potential of burnout. This is also the first time since 2012 that I’ll be running 4 days per week, with 2 back-to-back days. I’m nervous because this has almost always led to injuries in the past, but I’ve been feeling good so far *knock on wood* and believe that strength training + cross-training is keeping me healthy.

Speaking of strength training, this is a bit half-assed for me because I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. I lift weights, do weighted squats and lunges, and make sure to include some PT exercises (clamshells, leg raises, plank). And that’s about it. I’m open to suggestions!

On another note, the 200m and 400m interval speed form pace that the online calculator gave me (6:51 min/mile) feels a bit easy. I ended up changing it to be around the paces I ran the intervals last month, but I’m worried this will be too intense for my body. Thoughts? How do people usually determine how fast to run their intervals?

(dedication = running intervals on a treadmill because it’s snowing sideways outside)

This formal training should be fun, I’m so ready! Now, if only the weather would cooperate…

♥ Irina

Hello and happy Tuesday! We’ve been having surprisingly lovely weather these past few days in Chicago, and I’ve taken full advantage of it…by doing speed workouts! Ok so I only did one speed workout, which was yesterday, but it felt great wearing shorts and sprinting along Lake Michigan.

(recycled photo, but oh how I love it)

I’ll get back to this speed workout in a sec, because today I wanna chat about running. I stopped running completely after the NYC Marathon back in November because my left foot was destroyed. The cause of the injury is still a mystery to me. The X-ray was inconclusive and the orthopedic doctor didn’t believe that I had a stress fracture despite the lingering pain when walking. The pain persisted for a few weeks and the top of my foot (mainly on the front where the ankle connects to the foot…i.e when the foot bends) occasionally still feels weird, but I never ended up getting an MRI to confirm any diagnosis. And so the mystery remains…

(the prettiest view from my building’s gym)

Truth be told, I was super nervous to start running again. And so I put it off for 2 months until January rolled around and I decided that it was now or never. Thank goodness for the tiny gym in my building because I was not quite ready to hit the cold streets of Chicago. Although I did run 3 speedy miles while back home in the burbs last week…

I’ve now been running about three times per week, and my foot hasn’t bothered me much. I do believe that the shoes I ran the marathon in, Brooks PureCadence 4’s, somehow contributed to pushing oddly on the top of my foot. Nowadays I’m running in the Brooks PureCadence 5’s and don’t feel any pressure on the injury. The Brooks PureCadence 5’s got pretty horrible reviews but I personally don’t mind them at all. Although the new PureCadence 6’s were just released and mine are arriving in the mail today!

(Brooks PureCadence 6 – $110…$10 cheaper than older versions!)

I’ll let you know how they are…

So back to this wonderful (yet torturous) speed workout I did the other day. A certain someone insisted that he would run with me if we did interval training, and so I agreed. Note: 400 meters ≈ 0.25 miles

6 x 400m Interval Workout (3 min rest between each interval)
warmup: 0.25 miles in 2:05 min (8:08 min/mile)
interval 1: 1:39 min (6:16 min/mile)
interval 2: 1:48 min (6:56 min/mile)
interval 3: 1:47 min (6:52 min/mile)
interval 4: 1:45 min (6:47 min/mile)
interval 5: 1:47 min (6:52 min/mile)
interval 6: 1:43 min (6:39 min/mile)
cool-down: 0.25 miles in 2:16 min (8:56 min/mile)

Ouch. I’m surprised at how consistent my splits are, considering how lousy I felt after each one. That post-intense run nausea was oh so real and oh so brutal. But damn was it a great workout and an effective way to cover 2 miles. I probably would’ve given up had it not been for my workout buddy helping me hold it together. I love how much faster I already feel, and I secretly can’t wait to make this a weekly occurrence. The pain and torture are worth it!

I mentioned in my last post that I also >>> finally <<< added strength training and conditioning exercises into my daily life, as well as a few pathetic cross-training attempts, and I swear I’m already seeing improvements. I’m especially focusing on my hips because I’m 90% sure all my problems stem from my weak hips and messed up back (#scoliosis).

So what’s next on my running agenda? Well let me tell you! First up I have the Shamrock Shuffle on April 2nd (my first in so many years! last time = 2012). Then I have the Chicago Spring Half Marathon on May 21st, which I’m hoping will finally be my new half marathon PR (much overdue). The only other definite race currently on my agenda is the Chicago Marathon on October 8th!!! Woooooo I am so pumped for this one!

Who else is running the Shamrock Shuffle, Chicago Spring Half Marathon, and/or Chicago Marathon?

Runners, what cross-training and strength-training activities are your favorites?

♥ Irina

On Sunday, November 6th I ran the TCS New York City Marathon. This was a race of firsts, of random injuries, of a near-DNF, of more anxiety than enjoyment. It was a race that really hurt, but in none of the expected ways. This is the race that could’ve been, but wasn’t. But damn was it a hell of a race. What else could I expect from NYC, the city that would never let anyone off easy?!?

Beware, LONG post ahead!

NYC Marathon Expo

But let’s back up a few days to Expo day! This was the largest expo I’ve ever been to, and I had so much fun exploring the booths.

NYC Marathon Expo

NYC Marathon Expo

I’m superstitious and didn’t want to purchase anything related to the completion of the marathon, but of course I couldn’t resist buying the classic NYC Marathon running jacket. My goodness this is one of the biggest splurges I’ve ever made on running gear (and on clothing in general), but I felt it was important for me to have memorabilia from one of the most legendary marathons in the world. No regrets, this jacket will last me a lifetime.

NYC Marathon Expo

I loved the signature wall. It was so much fun reading the motivational messages written by others and leaving my own mark on it as well.

NYC Marathon Expo

NYC Marathon Expo

I also walked out with a few smaller purchases, including Lenny & Larry cookies, stroop waffles, and a cute headband that I ended up wearing on race day.

NYC Marathon Expo

I slept surprisingly well the night before the race…the best sleep I’ve ever gotten before a big race! I did end up taking 2 valerian root pills to help ease me into a deep sleep, which helped significantly. We also gained an extra hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings Time, which was awesome. I woke up at 4:45am feeling fairly awake and ready for the long day. I ate a piece of Ezekiel toast with almond butter and banana slices with a side of coffee before setting out to catch the Staten Island Ferry at 6:45am. My friend and I both arrived early, met up, and ended up hopping on the 6:30am ferry without issue.

2016 NYC Marathon

I am so glad I was with my friend during the entire commute to Staten Island (total of about 90 minutes with ferry, wait time for bus, and trip on bus to start village) and during the pre-start wait. We hadn’t seen each other since May and chatted endlessly catching up on life. This really helped ease some of my pre-race jitters and took my mind off of the fact that I had to run a marathon in a few hours.

2016 NYC Marathon

The start village was awesome. We arrived around 8am and made our way to the blue village. Bananas, coffee, tea, water, and free hats were available to all runners, which felt like such a luxury.

2016 NYC Marathon

Yup, we both looked like bums in our throwaway clothes but at least we were warm and comfortable! I brought a garbage bag with me, and we sat near a fence while waiting to start. I ate half of another Ezekiel toast + almond butter + banana sandwich about 2 hours before my 10:40am start time. The weather was perfect. My friend left me when Wave 2 started, and I was stuck waiting another 50 minutes for Wave 3 to start. I listened to music while waiting in the corral, which closed half an hour before the actual start, but later ditched the music and ran headphone-free the entire race.

I decided to break this recap down by boroughs. Keep in mind that the mile segments are estimates!

Staten Island (miles 1-2)
I loved the start! The gun went off and Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York New York’ blasted while the announcer gave shoutouts to all the cities and countries participating in the race. He even gave a shoutout to the Cubs! And of course I screamed and cheered loudly. And then we were off! It only took me about 2 minutes to cross the start line, and within minutes I was greeted with the glorious sight of the Verrazano Bridge. Thank goodness I was running on the top half of the bridge because I would’ve been devastated to miss the beauty all around me. I saw Manhattan in the distance (although I was on the right side of the bridge, which splits in two) and was in pure bliss despite the 1 mile climb up, which is actually the steepest part of the entire marathon course. I quickly noted that the top of my left foot was achy and it felt like my shoes were tied too tightly, but there was nowhere to stop and adjust. We hit the top of the bridge around mile 1 and began our descent into Brooklyn. My foot continued to bother me but I wasn’t freaking out yet as I patiently waited to enter the next borough.

2016 NYC Marathon

Brooklyn (miles 3-13.5)
Brooklyn greeted us with a sea of spectators cheering us on. It was so incredible! I didn’t expect to see so many people in Brooklyn, but it was packed and I loved it. I jumped off of the course right as we exited the bridge and retied my left shoelace thinking that the pain was coming from them being tied too tightly. Sadly, this didn’t help at all. I stopped a second time to retie them again, which obviously didn’t help. At this point I started realizing that this pain was something else…and the fear started creeping in. At least the Brooklyn spectators were highly animated, and many of them would call out my name (it was written on my shirt). This was SO awesome and encouraging, I loved it!!

I also quickly realized that I had to pee and began my search for an empty port-a-potty. I finally found one around the 6.5 mile mark, and ended up losing about 1.5 minutes. The pain in my left foot was so bad at times, especially during the downhill portions. What is the irony that running uphill felt so much better than running downhill? A cruel twist of fate. The pain got progressively worse, with shooting pains once in a while, and I was in freak-out mode. I started texting my mom and questioning my ability to finish the race. I kept pulling over to adjust my laces, but nothing seemed to help. I hopped into a medical tent near mile 13 and begged for Tylenol, which wasted about 1 minute according to my Garmin. And then we rounded the corner and set out towards Queens.

Queens (miles 14-15)
I barely remember the Pulaski Bridge, it was so short! Queens welcomed us with tons of screaming spectators. I haven’t spent much time in Queens and actually paid attention to my surroundings in hopes of forgetting about my pain and misery. It was encouraging to pass the halfway point but I knew I still had a long way to go. There were times where I couldn’t even remember what borough I was running in because I was so focused on my foot. Every downhill killed me and I kept pulling over and feebly attempting to change lacing. I’m pretty sure that I unintentionally altered my gait because of the pain in my left foot, which likely caused my right knee to compensate = pain pain pain! The irony is that I didn’t really have to deal with any pain in my right knee during the training cycle (it was my left knee that gave me grief). So yes, this was the race of the most random running injuries ever.

What kept me going at this point was getting to Manhattan and seeing my parents. The dreaded Queensborough Bridge was not so dreadful after all, and I felt really strong aside from my foot and knee pain. I had been fueling with half a Shot Blok every two miles (sometimes I took a full Shot Blok) and drinking water every mile (at water stops…I didn’t wear a fuel belt), and my energy levels were great. I kept trying to speed up but my foot and knee pain stopped me.

Manhattan (miles 16-19.5)
I expected to hear some crazy-loud cheering when we ran off of the Queensborough Bridge, but this was sadly not the case. The crowd was oddly quiet, although there were hundreds of people lining the course. But 1st Ave. rocked! I think this was my favorite part of the entire course…I was finally running in my borough and on my side of town! I was actively looking for my parents where we planned, but somehow I missed them 🙁 This was devastating, I really needed to see them for motivation! I was so bummed but tried hard to just shake it off. I was also continuously texting my mom during this time (and actually during a lot of the race), and told her to head over to mile 24 in Central Park.

2016 NYC Marathon

Bronx (mile 20-21)
The Willis Ave. Bridge into the Bronx felt like the steepest of the bridges, but the climb was super short and didn’t cause much grief. I hit mile 20 right as I entered the Bronx off the bridge and, believe it or not, I felt a surge of energy. No hitting the wall, no exhaustion. Just pure energy. I was dancing to the music and enjoying the energy of the people. I also tried to speed up because I felt great, but alas…my foot…my knee…but screamed nope. I think I stopped again to pointlessly adjust/retie my shoe and quickly stretch out my knee with no relief. We only spent 1.5 miles in the Bronx before returning to Manhattan. The end was fast approaching and I was shocked at how quickly the entire race was passing by.

Manhattan (miles 22-26.2)
We reentered Manhattan via the Madison Ave. Bridge and began the long uphill climb on 5th Ave. This was the first hill that felt truly challenging to me, most likely because it was in the final 6 mile stretch. I was still feeling great and started pushing myself to speed up and pass people, but my foot and knee continued to protest…mostly my knee though at this point since my foot mainly bothered me on downhills. I realized that my quads felt slightly shot at the end of the 5th Ave. hill right as we entered Central Park. I shook off the frustration with my knee and sped up once again. I’ve run hundreds of times in Central Park and know each and every bump and hill. This was my comfort zone! I focused on seeing my parents around the 24 mile mark and was so relieved to see them! My mom even gave me a hug 🙂 I think I became numb to the pain in my foot and knee because it almost felt as if I was…fine? I wasn’t though, and both pains returned at mile 25. The final mile is no joke – you leave Central Park and are greeted with a small hill when you reenter. And let me tell you, this hill hurts. Thankfully it was only during the final 1.2 miles that I felt myself slightly crashing. It wasn’t enough to stop me though, and I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I did it!!!

2016 NYC Marathon

This medal is by and far my favorite. It will forever serve as a reminder of my strength, perseverance, and ability to excel at anything I put my mind to…even if getting there is challenging and painful.

NYC Marathon medal

I could barely walk and yet all runners still had quite a ways to go before exiting the park (almost 1 mile!). This part was the most brutal…I was cold despite the heat blanket we were given, and all I wanted to was to receive my warm post-race poncho and meet up with my parents.

2016 NYC Marathon

Looking back, I have no idea how I managed to finish this marathon, let alone in the time I did. Aside from the bathroom break, quick stop at the medical tent, and retying my shoelaces a million times, I never stopped to rest or walk. I never felt the need to do so. I started considering dropping out fairly early in the race, and the thought continued until I reached mile 17. The pain in my left foot was brutal at times, and I would occasionally feel an incredibly painful shock go through my foot, which still terrifies me when I think about it. I totally thought I fractured it, it was that bad. But then I would think of all the people who wished me luck, those who texted and gave me shoutouts on Facebook, those tracking me live, and most importantly my parents who flew out to support me. Once or twice I may have even thought of the expensive-as-hell jacket I purchased, and how I really wanted to wear it as a finisher haha. And I just kept running, one mile at a time. Crossing the finish line felt extra special.

2016 NYC Marathon

Final Time: 4:26:34 (10:10 min/mile pace)
Place: 23583 / ?
Gender Place: 7201 / ?

(P.S. – the 2016 NYC Marathon was the biggest marathon in history!!! I feel so lucky to have been part of it)

Unlike last time, my Garmin actually showed the proper distance of 26.22 miles when I crossed the finish line. It was off by 0.2 miles up until mile 14, but I lost satellite signal on the Queensborough Bridge and my Garmin somehow ended up perfectly matching each mile marker after getting off the bridge.

2016 NYC Marathon

My spits weren’t very consistent, mainly because my moving time and average pace didn’t match since I stopped quite a few times. Thus the average pace shown below was usually slower than my actual average moving pace (which didn’t include the times I stopped running). Mile 6 (split 7) and mile 13 (split 14) are especially off because that is when I took a bathroom break and stopped by the medical tent, respectively. And mile 16 is completely off because my Garmin lost satellite reception.

2016-nyc-marathon-splits

Pros:
• Start Village: even though the wait to start was quite long, I loved hanging out at the start village with my friend – there was water, coffee, tea, bananas, and even free hats available for all runners! Such a fun atmosphere
• Transportation to the start: there are three ways to get to Staten Island, and all are easy and reliable, albeit time consuming
• Fueling & amenities: there were water/Gatorade stops at almost every mile! But fuel was only handed out once on the course
• Post-race goodies: everyone was given a bag filled with pretzels, water, Gatorade, a protein drink, and an apple
• Easy to spectate: I debated whether the spectator situation would be a pro or con and ultimately decided that public transportatin made this race fairly easy to spectate, although large crowds meant that your spectators had to claim their spots early in order to see you!
• Large race: this could be seen as a con for some people, but I personally loved the fact that this was the largest marathon in the world…the joy and excitement in the air was palpable and intoxicating
• Crowd support: the energy of the crowds throughout the entire race is unbelievable and unbeatable! wow wow WOW
• Race route: running through all 5 boroughs is obviously the greatest and unlike any experience you’ll ever have
• Post-race poncho option: the post-race poncho, given to those who didn’t check-in a bag at race start, is seriously the best thing ever – high quality, warm (it’s lined with fleece), hooded…I’ll be keeping it forever

Cons:
• Long wait until start time: most people arrive to Staten Island 2-3 hours before their start time, which can be tricky to deal with in terms of food/fueling
• Hilly course: while I wasn’t too bothered by the hills (bridges & Central Park), I saw many others struggling during each one…this can definitely be viewed as a downside of this incredible marathon
• Crowded: I felt quite congested during the first hour of the race, and there were parts of the race route where all runners had to slow down because of how crowded we were
• Admission: I paid $227 for this race which is obviously expensive, but don’t forget that this is the biggest marathon in the world! (and thus totally worth it in my opinion)

2016 NYC Marathon

(congratulatory flowers from mom and dad)

Overall, I’m still emotional about this race. It obviously did not go as planned. I keep wondering, what the heck happened?!? It’s a bummer that I had to deal with so much physical pain, because I felt so strong otherwise and believe that I could’ve easily PR’ed. I did not feel worn out when I crossed the finish line, and I certainly did not feel like I left everything out on the course. I still had so much energy left in me!

In all honesty I barely remember the race. I was barely paying any attention to the crowds and 95% of my thoughts were focused on the pain in my foot. It’s so unfortunate and upsetting, especially because the NYC crowds were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This was my dream race and it lived up to all the hype surrounding it. Despite everything though, I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced the race of my dreams. I’ll be back one day, NYC Marathon, and I’ll redeem myself. You can count on it!

♥ Irina

Well, I ran the NYC Marathon!!! I’m still overwhelmed with the entire experience, mainly because I have no idea what is going to happen with my foot injury. Yup that’s right, I struggled with random foot pain (top of my left foot) the entire race. And I do mean the entire race…from the moment I crossed the start line. I’m still trying to process everything and am waiting on doctor’s orders. I’ll detail everything out in my recap, but for now I’m going to relax a bit and bask in the glory of finishing the NYC Marathon!

Previous weeks:
NYC Marathon Training (week 1)
NYC Marathon Training (week 2)
NYC Marathon Training (week 3)
NYC Marathon Training (week 4)
NYC Marathon Training (week 5)
NYC Marathon Training (week 6)
NYC Marathon Training (week 7)
NYC Marathon Training (week 8)
NYC Marathon Training (week 9)
NYC Marathon Training (week 10)
NYC Marathon Training (week 11)
NYC Marathon Training (week 12)
NYC Marathon Training (week 13)
NYC Marathon Training (week 14)
NYC Marathon Training (week 15)
NYC Marathon Training (week 16)
NYC Marathon Training (week 17)

NYC Marathon medal

(One medal to rule them all)

WEEK 18 (10/31/2016 – 11/6/2016)
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5 mile run (45:27 min @ 9:05 min/mi)
Wednesday: rest (walked 10.5 miles because the Cubs won the World Series!!!)
Thursday: 2 mile run rest
Friday: rest
Saturday: rest
Sunday: MARATHON DAY!!! (4:26:34 @ 10:10 min/mi)
TOTAL = 31.2 miles

Thoughts: Sigh, what an adventure it’s been. Week 18 did not go as planned. I basically felt like sh*t during my 5 mile run, which was so discouraging. My stomach hurt so badly that I had to stop and let it chill out before I could continue running. I’m pretty sure the issue was that I ate dairy right before bed the night prior. Lesson learned…no dairy the night before a run. I didn’t plan on walking a total of 10.5 miles on Wednesday, but I ended up spending all day (and night) in the city and was almost always on my feet. I went to a local bar near Wrigley Field with my friends that evening to watch Game 7 of the World Series, which meant that I was literally standing on my feet for 6 hours. Yup…I didn’t sit down once from 6pm until the end of the game at midnight. When THE CUBS WON (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we all ran out towards Wrigley Field and strolled around embracing the craziness around us (post coming this week because it was the coolest experience ever). I was out until 2am and didn’t make it to bed until 4am. So yes, I spent way too many hours on my feet and I think this was the day/night that I messed up my foot (or aggravated an already-existing injury?) without realizing it.

My left foot was bothering me a bit the following day, but I was more concerned about my left shin, which had been achy for a few days. I opted to skip the short 1-2 miler I had scheduled on Thursday and instead gave myself 4 days of rest prior to Sunday’s marathon. I felt so sore after Wednesday, especially my calves and back, so I got a massage on Friday to release the knots. And then Sunday arrived and with it came running 26.2 miles through the 5 glorious boroughs of New York City. I survived, but barely. Stay tuned, recap coming this week!

On a final note, I wanted to give a huge shoutout to everyone who has been following my journey! Thank you for all your advice, encouragement, support, wisdom, reassurement, and kind words…I cannot thank you all enough for staying alongside me these past 18 weeks. THANK YOU!!!

♥ Irina