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

Hello again! Yes I’m actually back and trying extra hard to maintain this blogging habit. I truly missed this little old internet space of mine. So let’s just jump right into it, shall we? Chicago. Yes hello I live here now. My studio is perfection and I cannot imagine having to move out of this dream apartment anytime soon. I mean…check out this view:

Chicago

Yup, it’s magical and makes me happy daily. The studio is huge too, at least twice as big as my Manhattan one. Here’s a photo of the living space:

Chicago apartment

Chicago apartment

The hallway (not pictured) extends quite far back, the kitchen is fully updated, the bathroom is great, and there is so much closet space. My building even has a gym (yessssssss) and a pool. And to top it all off, the rent is significantly cheaper than what it was in NYC, even here in the Gold Coast (for those who don’t know, it’s a neighborhood in Chicago). What is this magical midwestern city with cheap rent and fancy yet affordable buildings in upscale neighborhoods?!?

I’ve been on the go since moving back in early December. Suddenly there is so much to do and so many people to see and I love every moment of it. I attended some holiday event a few days after moving in and savored the fact that I now live downtown and my travel time to meet up with my ladies is a few short minutes.

holiday party

I magically saw the holiday train the same week I moved back:

holiday train

And it was just as cool as expected.

holiday train

The best part is that I no longer have to feel major FOMO when I see my friends all getting together because I can now join in on all the fun!

holiday party

One of my friends threw a Christmas/holiday party and it was basically a reunion of our India crew, plus the parents.

holiday party

Ah I can’t believe my trip to India was a year ago, how is that possible?! It’s still one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and I hope to make it back there at some point in the near future.

Anyway, let’s see what else… I got to reunite with two of my old college roommates! Here’s a classic polaroid of me, my sophomore/junior year roomie, and her friend:

friends

We cute.

New Year’s Eve was surprisingly fun, despite my hatred for it. We bought tickets to a bar in Lakeview that hosted a wig party. Apparently they later cancelled the wig theme of the event, but we all chose to embrace it.

New Year's Eve

Now I’m dying to dye my hair red (pun totally intended) because I felt like a bombshell that night.

New Year's Eve

My closest high school friends and I did our annual Secret Santa gift exchange a few days into the new year.

Secret Santa potluck

Our menu featured a homemade Italian potluck followed by adventures out and about in the city.

Another highlight has been my official return to running! I took exactly 2 months off after the NYC Marathon, mainly from fear and subtle/lingering foot pain that never really went away, but I knew I couldn’t stay away forever.

running

This was my first run back at the start of this month, and it felt surprisingly great! I thought I would be completely out of shape and unable to run even 1 mile, but my fitness has been excellent. I’m slowly (key word SLOWLY) building up my mileage and running around 2 miles, 3 times per week. I’ve finally added strength training into my routine, as well as basic exercises for runners to keep my hips/knees/ankles healthy (squats with weights, one-legged squats, clamshells, plank, etc.). I’m not sure if it’s the added strength training or just my excitement to be back pounding the pavement (or treadmill, whatever), but I’ve been knocking out paces in the high 8’s low 9’s without too much trouble.

My first outdoor run took place in 55-degree weather (in Chicago, in January, yup), and I ran 2 miles with a 8:37 min/mile pace. This view probably helped:

Chicago

This past Sunday I ran 3 miles, my longest distance yet, with a 8:24 min/mile pace and it was awesome. I’m really hoping to finally focus on my speed this year, and this feels quite encouraging.

Ok I got a bit off topic because I love running so much. Before I end this random extra-long blog post I wanted to show you these pretty photos from two weeks ago. A few of my old coworkers from Spain and Argentina were in town and I reunited with one of them, who just so happens to also be a close friend. We spent an entire day playing tourist and eventually made our way to the Millennium Park ice rink:

Millennium Park

We also went up to Cindy’s Rooftop for (pricey) drinks and incredible views:

Cindy's Rooftop

You must go there if you’re in Chicago!

These are just some of the wonderful adventures I’ve had since moving back to Chicago. Even the most casual happenings have made me exceptionally happy lately – cozy visits home to see my parents and cat, weekly Monday night Bachelor viewings, last-minute happy hours and dinners with friends, impromptu movie nights turned Cards Against Humanity marathons – the list goes on and on. Damn, it feels good to be back.

♥ Irina

Hello again! I kept my promise and returned with another blog post. Let’s hope I can keep this up for the foreseeable future.

So by now hopefully you’re all aware that I’m no longer living in my beloved NYC (full post here). I’m living in the heart of downtown Chicago and loving every minute of it. I still miss New York but I’ve been keeping myself so busy that I barely have time to drown in nostalgia. All my friends are here, and for my first few weeks back I would be out every single night for dinner/drinks/etc. It’s so nice having a full social calendar again…something I deeply missed back in NYC! Not to mention, being close to my parents again is pretty great too!

I wanted to share some photos of my final days in NYC before diving into my Midwestern adventures here in Chi city. I made an effort to see all my closest NYC friends before moving, which involved plenty of reunions.

friends

(One of my closest friends at Columbia University)

friends

(My two besties from NYC…I can’t wait for them to visit Chicago! This was our last brunch at Tavern on Green, which was phenomenal if only for the pretty views of Central Park.)

ramen

(I finally got my fill of authentic ramen at Totto Ramen in NYC. It was beyond delicious!)

NYC Cloisters

(I visited the Cloisters at the tip of Manhattan right in time to view the spectacular colors of fall)

Moving out of my NYC apartment was so stressful! I rented a Uhaul and my parents came to help me pack. After much debate my parents insisted on driving the Uhaul back to Chicago together (they always enjoy going on long road trips together) and I would fly back. I am so so so grateful for their help because there is no way I could’ve packed and driven back solo.

moving from NYC

I just realized I never did an apartment tour of my tiny NYC studio, so I might have to do one for my Chicago studio. Which by the way is at least two times larger and significantly cheaper. Here are a few photos of my setup in NYC (so many memories, tear):

NYC studio

This is just the living space, AKA the bedroom, living room, and dining room all in one. I eventually hung up a huge mirror right above the little bench on the right. The kitchen (which was tiny but had plenty of cabinets and enough countertop space) and bathroom (which was renovated and quite nice) are obviously not pictured.

NYC studio

Anyway, it felt surreal to see my tiny precious little NYC studio as empty as the day I moved in 3.5 years prior. I had so many great memories here and it’s so special to me.

moving from NYC

(Left = moving in in 2013…24 years old! Right = moving out in 2016…28 years old!)

I already expressed my sentiments about Manhattan in my last post so I’ll spare you the love poem again, but I have to say how grateful I am for taking the leap of faith and moving to New York City at 24 years old. It was easily the bravest and wildest thing I’ve ever done. It matured and transformed me in ways I never thought possible and I wouldn’t change the experience for anything.

NYC

(Goodbye for now, my dear New York City)

My intuition is telling me that this is not a permanent goodbye. I have a feeling that NYC and I will reunite yet again in the future. For now though I’ll enjoy these next few months in Chicago…

Chicago

(Chicago, I’m home!)

It feels great to be back, freezing cold and all!

♥ Irina

Sigh, I’m ashamed of myself because I disappeared for 2.5 months without a word. I’m so sorry! Life took a whirlwind turn in November and is continuing to be as wild as ever into the new year (in the best way possible). The biggest update is that I moved back to Chicago in early December!!! And I’m absolutely loving it. I wrote this post a few weeks before moving back and decided that it’s still worth publishing. Stay tuned…I’ll be back again in a few days, promise!

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It’s a challenge when your urban love resides with (what you deem is) the greatest city in the world, but all your people…your most important relationships…are elsewhere. It’s a conundrum but something that I didn’t have too many issues dealing with while living in my #1 city. I worked so hard to move to Manhattan, and I savored every minute of my time here.

Manhattan

Here’s the painful thing about New York City though – it’s such a transient city. An expat city. People come and go so quickly, and it’s hard to build lasting relationships with others. Shortly after my closest NYC friend moved away in mid-October, I woke up one morning and just knew that it was my time to go as well. I had been fighting with the decision since summer but never felt stable on one particular choice. I missed home but felt I wasn’t ready to leave Manhattan.

Manhattan

I’m still not ready. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be ready. To me, New York trumps everywhere else. I love it with such fervor and passion that I know I’ll never find another city to take its spot. This city certainly isn’t for most people, but I feel beyond lucky to call Manhattan home for 3.5 years. I made it here. I don’t want to make it anywhere else.

Manhattan

But our intuition has a way of telling us when it’s ok to let go, and that’s exactly what mine did when my soul knew it was ready. I suddenly felt my time was limited – I have no idea what will happen with medical school, and I’m hoping to go abroad beforehand, so I desperately want to be close to those I love before the whirlwind adventures begin. I miss my people…my family and friends…so much.

Chicago friends

Impulsive. That’s what many often think of me, including my parents. But the truth is, I’m very strongly guided by my intuition. I consider myself very lucky in that I have such a strong inner voice, and even luckier that I’m brave enough to constantly listen to it even when rationality and logic dictate otherwise. It’s what got me to Manhattan, and now it’s gently telling me it’s time to go home.

Chicago

I’m listening. I’m obeying. I always do. Chi City! I’m comin’ home again.

♥ Irina