The Shamrock Shuffle was held on Sunday, April 2nd in the heart of Chicago. I last ran this race in 2012, less than one year after first starting running, and finished it in 47:28 minutes (9:33 min/mile pace). I had high hopes of making this my speediest 8K to date, but my body and I weren’t really on the same page. Oh well, it was still fun though!

I stopped by the expo a few days prior to race day but didn’t stay long. It was decently sized though and looked to have some interesting booths to explore.

I gotta say, it’s so nice to live within walking distance of Grant Park. I woke up around 6AM, ate some toast + PB + banana with coffee, got dressed in all black (totally on theme with the green right? oops) and ran over to Grant Park. I had 6 miles scheduled for my half marathon training, so I covered 1 mile to Grant Park and barely made it in time for the Wave 1 start.

I kind of wish I waited for Wave 2 instead because I ended up entering the Wave 1 corral with only 2 minutes to spare (no joke) and didn’t have a chance to go to the bathroom beforehand. Running with a full bladder sucks! I was greeted with a sea of green as we waited to start. It took me almost 20 minutes to cross the start line. Luckily, the weather was perfect – 50’s with overcast skies.

Miles 1-3
I really should start training myself to become a morning runner again because it took forever for me to feel awake. I was just not feeling it at all the first few miles and decided early on that I wasn’t going to actually “race” this race. My Garmin lost reception and remained wonky the entire race, so I never actually knew my pace. Anything under a 9 minute mile (based on my Garmin) felt challenging, so I eased up and ran by feel.

Miles 4-5
I finally started feeling better around the 3.5 / 4 mile mark, which is generally how long it takes my body to actually warm up these days. At this point I started speeding up and pushing myself into the challenge zone. I felt pretty strong throughout the race but really hit my stride near the end (sadly). The last 0.5 miles featured a slight uphill climb which made me cringe but didn’t cause much torment. I sprinted at the end and crossed the finish line in 42:34 minutes, and only then did I remember that my 5 mile PR was 42:35. Now, an 8K is a tiny bit short of 5 miles, so I’m hesitant to call this a new PR, but whatever. That 1 second though…ugh!

Final Time42:34 (8:34 min/mile pace)
Place: 4,060 / 20,003
Age Division (F, 25-29): 321 / 2,337

Pros:
• Race course – Nothing beats running down the wide streets of downtown Chicago! Although it sucked to lose Garmin satellite reception almost immediately…
• Water stops –  It was nice to have multiple water stops despite the short distance
• Swag bag – I love the material and the emerald green color of the tech tee, and the green hat is adorable (although I don’t think I’ll ever wear it)
• Medals – I’m not sure when they started giving out medals for this race (they didn’t when I ran it in 2012) but I’m always thrilled to receive more race bling!

Cons:
• Cost – I paid $50 for the race, which is pretty steep considering the distance
• Race photos – Perhaps others did not have this problem, but there were no photos identified of me. Annoying, although I’m sure I would’ve looked horrific in them as usual.

Overall, I think this is a great race to start one’s spring running season. I may just run it again if I’m still in Chicago this time next year!

♥ Irina

Another trip to Colorado in the books! I flew out to Denver last month to visit my sister for four nights at high elevation and it was wonderful. My sister is moving this month and I knew this would probably be the last chance I had to hang out in snowy Colorado.

But…it wasn’t snowy at all in Denver. In fact, it was in the 70s! In February. My sister, niece, and I decided to take advantage of this oddity, so we drove out to Red Rocks for a short hike.

The weather did not disappoint, it was beautiful. Gisela was fussy because she skipped her nap, so we only made it a bit over 1 mile before heading back to the car.

I was Gisela’s carrier, and let me tell you…hiking with a 1-year old is hard! I consider it to be solid cross-training 😛

I eventually passed this small chicka to my sister and conquered the remaining trail solo alongside them.

But it wasn’t the added weight that ended up killing me. It was actually the climb back up on 589591710945 stairs in the amphitheater! My sister and I both woke up the next morning with unbelievable soreness in our calves. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from any sort of exercise. Stairs…I must add them into my workout routine.

We decided to drive to a local park afterwards, where I ran 2 quick miles and then played with my niece.

She’s so much fun to watch! A baby’s fascination with the world is truly a beautiful thing. May we all enjoy the smallest joys like babies do.

And then it was time for lunch! My sister whipped up homemade taco bowls and we feasted like queens. I must recreated these at home because yes, they are as good as they look. Inside = chickpeas, ground beef, avocado, roasted onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.

My sister’s husband’s brother and his wife flew into town that evening and we ended the night chatting away before bed.

The next morning we loaded up two cars and drove to snowy Vail, where it was nearly 40 degrees colder! The change in scenery was surprisingly welcome, and the views did not disappoint.

We were staying in a nice lodge within the small city, and conveniently spent the afternoon exploring.

Vail is such a cute, quaint town with so much character. There were shops and restaurants everywhere, and the mountainous backdrop made the entire experience feel like a winter wonderland.

After a scrumptious lunch at the base of the mountain…

…we hopped onto the gondola and made our way to the top.

Those views though…

I know right?!?

Jaw-dropping, heart-stopping beauty.

We had an early wakeup call the following morning, so our day ended with pizza and a movie in our hotel. Our plan the following morning was simple: my sister and I would spend a luxurious amount of time eating breakfast and then hanging around the city and eventually going snowshoeing, while the remaining three would go skiing.

It was my first time snowshoeing and I loved it.

We spent an hour walking around the top of Vail Mountain, stopping occasionally to snap photos and take in the stunning views.

It was quite a workout!

And then our time in Vail came to an end and it was time to drive back to Denver for our final night together before I flew back to Chicago. Once again Colorado did not disappoint! I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I’m sure I won’t be able to stay away for too long.

♥ Irina

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