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

Don’t even think about reminding me that I haven’t blogged in three weeks, I’m doing my best…except not really. I’ve been here and there and everywhere during this time, but I truly have no excuses for my absence.

My biggest adventure during this time was a trip to Colorado to reunite with my sister. It was an awesome trip, albeit one filled with sleepless nights and basically everyone catching a cold.

We spent time in Denver and in Vail, where we basically went from 70 degrees down to the low 30s! I’m still working on a recap post so stay tuned.

Other that this adventure, not much else has been going on in life. My friends and I went to Glazed Expressions recently, a BYOB painting studio, where we let loose our inner artist. I was pretty ambitious with my project, and it turned out shockingly well.

Here’s the before:

And here’s after it was glazed to perfection:

I know right?!? Even I’m surprised at how legit it looks. I totally want to return and do bowls painted as other fruits – oranges, lemons, etc. By the way this wasn’t my original idea…I have Pinterest to thank for the inspiration.

I also embraced my inner baker and whipped up a batch of these blueberry muffin vegan breakfast cookies, which were beyond delicious even though I replaced the dried blueberries with raisins.

I also had a craving for soft pretzels and ended up improvising using whole wheat pizza dough from Whole Foods. This dough is super rubbery and instantly shrinks, so my pretzels came out looking small and weird but tasted great regardless.

Now let’s talk running! I haven’t done any interval training since Valentine’s Day, and I finally dragged myself out to the lake. I was just not feeling it at all and ultimately ended up doing only 4 x 400m instead of the planned 6 x 400m. But I was incredibly pleased to discover that I ran these about 10 seconds faster than when I did them exactly one month ago! I love seeing progress, it’s so encouraging and it inspires me to keep pushing my limits (within reason of course).

4 x 400m Interval Workout (~3 min rest between each interval)
warmup: 0.25 miles in 2:05 min (8:12 min/mile)
interval 1: 1:34 min (6:12 min/mile)
interval 2: 1:32 min (6:06 min/mile)
interval 3: 1:38 min (6:22 min/mile)
interval 4: 1:34 min (6:12 min/mile)
cool-down: 0.25 miles in 2:20 min (9:04 min/mile)

I’ve also continued strength training, with a focus on squats + lunges + hip strength, and I’m almost certain this has contributed to my running gains. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such rapid (and visible) muscle definition in my legs, and I fully attribute this to doing weighted squats and lunges multiple times a week. Here are some of my most recent runs outside (I run so much slower on a treadmill and don’t keep track of those):

2/16/2017 – 2 miles: 18:03 min @ 9:00 min/mile
2/20/2017 – 3 miles: 26:28 min @ 8:48 min/mile
2/27/2017 – 4 miles: 34:51 min @ 8:42 min/mile
3/4/2017 – 4 miles: 36:30 min @ 9:06 min/mile

These numbers may not seem like much to many people but I’m incredibly proud of myself! I’m thrilled to see that I didn’t lose too much fitness during the two months I took off after the NYC Marathon, and I cannot wait to start formally training in 1.5 weeks for my half marathon. My half marathon PR is over 3 years old, it’s time for a new one.

That’s all I have for today, happy Tuesday!

♥ Irina

It’s Monday, yay! Just kidding, Mondays are never exciting. I hope everyone had a great weekend! I certainly did. I’m not sure what is happening with the weather lately but I’m not complaining at.all. 40 degrees in February? And possibly reaching the 50s and 60s next weekend? Um, yes please.

This weekend featured a casual Friday and a wild-ish Saturday. My friends and I started our night early at a fun tiki bar called Lost Lake, which featured fancy tropical drinks in awesome mugs.

One was even on fire!

Our large group stayed there for a few hours sipping our drinks and slurping up instant ramen noodles (we were starving and that’s all they had) and then we transferred to another local bar. Eventually we all made it back to the city center and danced all night at Joy District followed by Cuvée. I know I know, it was a super bougie night apparently (that’s how the River North area is in general) but we always have a great time there and I not-so-secretly love it!

I “accidentally” ended up staying out until the wee hours of the morning again and still woke up early for absolutely no good reason. By some miracle I dragged myself out to run along the lake – 4 miles with a 8:52 min/mile pace. The wind was INSANE the first half of the run, and it completely wore me down to the point that I had to take a short break at the halfway point to catch my breath. I hit up the gym immediately after and attempted to do squats and lunges, but my glutes were so sore from Thursday’s workout that I had to give up after only 2 sets!

While we’re on the subject of running, I tried out the new Brooks PureCadence 6’s and ugh. I don’t think I like how they feel! I’m so bummed because they are absolutely beautiful and by far the most attractive version I’ve seen. But for some reason they press on the top of my left foot and seemingly aggravate my mysterious injury. So I’m probably going to return them, and I already ordered a second pair of the PureCadence 5’s.

The rest of my Sunday was mellow – I hung out at home and watched the Grammy’s. Beyonce slayed. As usual. I thought her entire performance was so unique and beautiful and she totally rocked her belly. She reminded me of a fertility goddess. Sigh…#goals

I have my weekly Bachelor viewing with my girls tonight, which is my guilty pleasure and I adore it. And tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and for the first time in five years I’m not riding solo. And then I’m flying to Denver on Wednesday to visit the sis and my precious little niece for a few days! Cheers to a great week ahead.

Valentine’s Day plans?

Who watched the Grammy’s? Thoughts? Best and worst dressed?

♥ 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