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

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

Two words: thank goodness. Today is an incredibly emotional day for me. It’s the end of what was a very arduous year for my family and I. I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t been looking forward to this day since the early months of 2012. I knew early on (as my New Year’s Eve celebration foreshadowed) that 2012 would be a challenging year, but I had no idea just how much strain it would put on me and my loved ones. Today, instead of reflecting on the hardships and tragedies faced by everyone (nationwide!) this year, I want to shed light on all the amazing events that went down in the past twelve months. After all, the year wasn’t all dark and gloomy!

January

{January: I started a new career at a place that I considered to be my dream job at the time. Armed with a brand new professional wardrobe, I was ready to conquer the world! I spent four weeks in training where I met great people from all around the country, and many of us still talk to this day. I also spent time with my wonderful kitty and “enjoyed” winter.}

February

{February: Probably the most uneventful month of the entire year. The only honorable mentions would be my room transformation with the addition of a huge bed and my now-beloved bookshelf. I also started using a Kindle and slowly (key word being slowly) fell in love with it.}

March

{March: I ran my first race of the year, the Shamrock Shuffle! There were both good and bad consequences as my love for running returned but with it came shin splits and runner’s knee. This was also the month one of my close friends became another year older, and we celebrated with a Hawaiian-themed party. The final shoutout goes to the awesomely warm weather that came about this month…shorts and a tank? I’ll take it!}

April

{April: One of my best friends turned 24 years old and we celebrated at a Mediterranean restaurant with fancy drinks. Russian Pasha (our Orthodox Easter) also fell on a weekend in April this year, and festive eggs were a necessity. More oddly warm weather occurred in April, and my family and I made sure to take full advantage of it!}

May

{May: It all began with the purchase of a new car! This month was also filled with a lot of family and friend time. My mom and dad both celebrated their birthdays with plenty of food, flowers, and outdoor adventures. We also celebrated Mother’s Day out in Chi city over a scrumptious lunch outdoors. My husband-and-wife friends/couple both graduated in May as well, so celebrations surrounding that milestone also took place. The month ended with a trip to Michigan for Memorial Day weekend…one of my favorite trips of the entire year!}

June

{June: Another eventful month! It started with The Color Run with a group of co-workers, where we ran along Lake Michigan at our own pace and made sure to take plenty of colorful photos together. The following weekend two of my co-workers and I made our way to Vegas, and the trip turned out to be one of the wildest and most fun events I’ve experienced in a while! Later in the month my family and I celebrated Father’s Day with a delicious barbecue in our backyard. The month concluded with a reconciliation of my best friend and I after a major fight – we reunited on her birthday and rekindled our decade-long friendship over two birthday shots.}

July

{July: This was the month I ran my very first half marathon! It was painful but I made it through and got my medal at the end. The 4th of July was also another celebratory event this month, although my sister and I simply spent it together watching the Kardashians all night and eating fresh summer fruit. One of my old high school friend turned 23 this month, and we celebrated with a night out on the town with our old high school crew! The month concluded with plenty of Olympic-watching…I was obsessed!}

August

{August: The most memorable and touching month of the entire year. Three key events stand out in my mind: my birthday, my sister’s birthday, and our trip to Russia! You can check out all the recaps from our Russian adventures here: 1, 2, 3, 4. August was an incredibly special month – I never felt more blessed and grateful for my family than I did in the span of four weeks. August was also incredibly special because one of my best friends announced that she is pregnant with a baby girl and is due in March!}

September

{September: The month of running races! I ran three races this month: I Run Chicago 8K, Run For Blood 5K with my sister, and the Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5K in which I received a medal for placing first in my age division. I also finally bought Pinkie, my beautiful new iPhone 5…our relationship is still going strong and grows daily. Speaking of relationships, my parents celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on the 13th! The month ended with a farewell party for my engineering soulmate who is now officially living in Texas.}

October

{October: Ahh Fall finally paid us a visit! My mom and I made sure to take full advantage of the beautiful color palette and we spent an entire day hiking at Starved Rock. This was the month my pumpkin obsession came back at full force (no complaints though) and I started baking non-stop. I also hosted my very first giveaway on this blog and did something spontaneous that subtly changed my life – I purchased tickets to NYC! The month ended with a Halloween-themed 5K race where I dressed as a pink Superwoman and PRed.}

November

{November: A month I would consider life-changing all because of a spontaneous and short trip to the city that never sleeps – New York City! But let’s back up to the start of the month – my mom, sister, and I made our way out to Michigan for the second time this year. Although Fall was near its end-point, we still enjoyed the beautiful outdoors. Mid-November marked my second-to-last race of the year: Chicago’s Perfect 10K, which went very well! The following weekend my mom and I flew out to the Big Apple for two nights where we spent all weekend exploring the gorgeous city and eating delicious food. One week later we all got together as a family for a delicious (and healthy!) Thanksgiving feast. In the baking department, my major accomplishment was the Recovering Runner’s Rice Crispy Treats recipe, which I’m still obsessed with to this day.}

December

{December: And here we are now, the last month of the year. This past month has been fantastic. It all started with the conclusion of this year’s running season – the Santa Hustle 5K was my last race of the year. Although I can literally count on one hand the number of times I ran this past month, I don’t feel too guilty about my little break from running. I’ve been more social this month than I’ve been all year and I’m loving every second of it! I went to my first blogger book club early this month, where I finally got to put faces to all the wonderful Chicago blogs I read daily. I also set up our Christmas tree, which is an accomplishment in itself. I made sure to make plenty of time for my old friends and we had a few wild nights out together. Last weekend my family and I celebrated a low-key Christmas that featured a Russian-esque breakfast followed by a trip to the movie theatre. My friend (the pregnant one) had a much more eventful Christmas…she got engaged! The final noteworthy mention is my new hair color…I’m loving the dark brown with reddish tints!}

See? The year wasn’t all that bad now that I took the time to pick out all the happy events! It’s always easy to concentrate on the negatives in our lives and overlook all the happy moments throughout the days/months/years. This post has definitely helped put things in perspective for me, especially considering how much disappointment I initially felt when looking back at 2012. Every year will have its share of good and bad happenings, we just need to find a way to find our balance.

With that said, I suspect that 2013 is going to be incredible. I refuse to get my hopes up and my expectations high, but I can’t help but have a good feeling lingering in my heart.

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Let’s ring out the old year with a bang and ring in the new year with happiness, love and hopefulness. See you next year!

♥ Irina

Thanks for all the entries on the Yogi Tea giveawayEveryone needs some tea in their lives, and 6 boxes will last you quite a while (unless you’re me and those boxes will last less than a month). If you haven’t entered yet, you should do so immediately! Giveaway ends on Sunday night.

Who doesn’t love Thursdays? I know it may feel like a tease because Friday still stands in the way of the weekend, but at least it’s not Wednesday anymore…

Overall, it’s been a fairly laid-back week. No upcoming deadlines = a content and semi-relaxed Irina. Nothing eventful happened these past few days. I found a credit card at the train station which I promptly picked up, ripped into multiple pieces, and threw away in three different garbage cans. Just being a good Samaritan!

This post is pretty random, and to make it even more random I want to show you some of the excellent lunches I’ve had this week. Tuesday’s lunch was one of the most delicious take-to-work meals I’ve had in a while.

Monday: Kasha (toasted buckwheat), split peas, spinach, mushrooms, and a hardboiled egg

Tuesday: Grilled Portobello pita sandwich – whole wheat pita, massive bello mushroom, spinach, hummus, avocado, Swiss cheese and cucs on the side

Wednesday: Forbidden rice, split peas, cherry tomatoes, grilled bello mushroom, avocado, hardboiled egg, pickle (obsessed), and salsa sprinkled with spicy sunflower seeds and hot sauce

Since we can’t leave dinner out of the picture, here’s a photo of the tasty BBQ chicken + couscous mix that I demolished a few nights ago:

And in other food news: buckwheat bakes have made a return! Thanks to Miss Polkadot’s request for the pumpkin buckwheat bake recipe a few days ago, the craving came and refused to leave.

(Pumpkin Microwave Buckwheat Bake & Cinnamon Apple Spice Microwave Buckwheat Bake)

If anyone is interested in a recipe, please let me know and I’ll make sure to post it in the future!

I also went running this week…in the dark. I secretly have a fear of doing this (I watch too much Law & Order SVU), but it happened and I’m proud. It’s time to establish a running routine again to get in the groove of things for 2013.

Speaking of running, I’ve started putting together a list of races I plan to run in 2013.

Definites:
Shamrock Shuffle 8K
 – March
The Color Run – June (I want to run it with my sister! Sasha, are you down?)
Glo Run 6K– June
Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – July
I Run Chicago 8K – September
Corn Maze 5K Run – October

Maybes:
Chicago Polar Dash
– January (not sure what distance but either 10K or half marathon)
Soldier Field 10 Miler – May
Chicago Foam Fest – June
Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5K – September
Disneyland Half Marathon – September
Chicago Marathon – October
Nike Women’s Half Marathon – October
Schaumburg Half Marathon – November (on Thanksgiving Day! I LOVE the idea of running 13.1 miles and then gorging on delicious food.)

I’m not sure that 2013 will be the year of the marathon for me, but we’ll see how I feel when registration opens in February. However, I do want 2013 to be the year I do a destination race. If the marathon isn’t happening, then the Nike Women’s Half certainly is. The Disneyland Half comes in at a close second. Clearly, California is on my mind! I also want to get my body accustomed to longer distances, which is why there are a bit too many half marathons on the “Maybe” list. On a final note, I also want to run plenty of unique races and will be registering as they pop up on my radar! I clearly need to create a running budget/fund because my bank account is already shaking in fear.

Today will be a good day. I am *hopefully* running outside with my sis as this post is published. I spent the night at her place – we needed the sister time! I’ll leave you with one more photo of food (hey, at least it’s not more photos of me!):

(Delicious curry dinner made by my sister last night!)

And this:

(Please tell me someone else finds this hilarious? Sorry, I pulled this off Facebook and have no idea who to give credit to…)

What races do you have on your agenda for 2013? Please share! I need ideas. 

Anyone planning a destination race, and if so, where? A blogger’s getaway would be so much fun! Can we make it happen?

Who watched the Presidential debate on Tuesday? All of you better raise your hands!

♥ Irina