Stop and Smell The Roses

Ever have one of those days?  I mean one of those days, when you wake up late, an hour of your day that you thought was still available already gone, and you just can’t really motivate yourself to put on your running shoes? For me, today was one of those days.  The sun was shining brilliantly into my apartment, and all I really wanted was to sit and relax, read a book, and bask like a cat in the sun rays beaming through my windows.

But…

I needed to run.  My legs were twitchy.  It had been more than two days, and I could feel my body craving the exercise even though my mind wasn’t in sync.  So, I pulled an old trick out of my hat.  If I go for a run, I get to reward myself with a latte.  Hm…

Moments later… the shoes are on, I drop off my Keep Cup at the coffee shop (trying to save the world, one paper cup at a time) so I can easily stop and get the coffee to-go guilt-free on my way home post-run, and I’m on my way!  Let the running commence!

My plan was to traverse downhill the first half of my run, and return on the uphill because I primarily find myself doing the opposite due to the lay of the terrain near my home.  As they say, “The best laid plans…”   I found myself running uphill.  And then up a very steep hill – with glee! – anticipating what I would find at the top:

The International Rose Test Garden

The morning air was chilly, but the sun was warm on my back and the garden lent a delightful perfume to the air.  This was absolutely worth running straight uphill for a mile; the garden was unexpectedly still blooming, and gorgeous.

To my surprise, the gardens were filled with people!  I did not expect that anyone got up before ten to walk in the Rose Garden.   Understandably, they are taking advantage before the Portland rains befall us and proclaim: “Winter is coming…” with her 40 degree temperatures and torrential downpours.  If there be sun, get out and enjoy!

As soon as I started my jaunt this morning, I knew this garden was where I wanted to end up; to spend a few moments peacefully meandering and smelling each rose in turn.  Each one unique with fragrance all its own.  I adored this white beauty:

I need to return to the garden soon and get her name.  I dream of the someday, when I live in a house with garden space, rather than my upper floor apartment with no strip of land to plant, with this lovely variety of rose perfuming the breeze as it sweeps through my yard…  Truly beautiful to admire and an extremely enjoyable bouquet.  This was a very welcome unanticipated deviation from the normal run route.

Each time we get out and run it is for a purpose, with a goal in mind, whether that is training for a race, to gain speed, increase our mileage, or maintain fitness, and we take these things seriously because they matter to us.  But once in a while, it’s important to stop and smell the roses.

Happy (rose scented, joy-filled) running!
~Alaina

Cause for Pause

Every so often, in a fleeting moment, a thought or idea will strike and send our mind spinning.

Today was such a day, while minding my business, doing my job at the 9-5, I was suddenly reeling due to an epiphany.

In the past few months, I feel that I have finally started to hit my stride (pun intended) not only in my  running pursuits, but also in my extra-curricular life – goals and desires that I aim to meet, to please me.  Reduce stress, run, read, make time for creativity, finish abandoned projects, and pursue my heart’s happiness and desires.

Tonight, I finished putting a lamp together that I purchased a few months ago.  Wednesday, I finished crocheting a blanket that I started in college… many years ago.  But today, when frustration was clouding my brain, wondering why it is that I’m not getting what I want out of my career, I had a sudden realization.  I am not putting energy into what I want.  I am putting energy into what I think others will want from me.  Of course I’m not attracting what I want!  I am not actively pursuing it!

I immediately realized I needed to take responsibility for my career momentum and put it back into my own hands.  I know what I need to do, but not necessarily how to proceed.  Sometimes the most difficult part of the process is just taking that first step, not knowing whether you are at the edge of a precipice above a canyon and sure demise, or above a clean lake on a hot day, refreshingly cool and welcome when you finally make that jump.

So here I am, at my computer screen, typing away at the blog where I have become a runner, a writer, and where I get to share myself with the unknown.  And hopefully, put something positive out into the world, attracting more of that good to me.

My new plan of attack?  I am going to make a schedule for myself after work hours.  I schedule each hour down to the minute while I am at work, why am I not as structured in my own time?  I need to plan time to do the things that bring me joy.  So, my friends, you can expect to hear more from me (as this writing brings me great happiness), and not just about running (although, recently I was advised that everything is related to running – thanks, Grampa!).  I plan to share my insights, learnings, musings, and goal achievements with you.  In part, I do this to keep myself accountable (such as the 2 for 20 for 22 Post did for my running habit), but I also would like to encourage you to share your battles, wins, and lessons learned.

How do you attract your dreams into reality? 

What challenges have you recently overcome?

Candy Corn and Redefined (and Unrefined) Writings

Tonight, on my way home from a quiet, comfortable dinner with a good friend at a sidewalk bistro table, we walked by the grocery store to get a few necessities for the work-week, and were caught off guard by the barrage of orange  and purple candy bags stacked throughout the entryway and along the aisles.  Could it be that Halloween has already arrived?  In mid-September?

Very quickly it was obvious Halloween is taking over the grocery store.  My inner five-year old’s eyes went wide, and a grin spread across her face…  She (and I) had to find candy corn!

I have had a personal allowance of one bag of candy corn pumpkins per year, for the last six years.  This has been my one vice and indulgence during the Halloween Holiday candy frenzy craze.  And I have been ok with that.  I’m not proud of this choice, but I figure this one divergence is not a terrible calamity to my state of health.  And to tell you the truth, tonight, I was so excited, my inner five-year old tore open the bag, and I was eating a pumpkin before I set foot outside the door to head home.  Just like being a kid again…  When I arrived home, after consuming a handful of candies, I tied the bag off with a twist-tie to enjoy at a later date.  Only moments passed, and suddenly, my heart was racing, I couldn’t sit still, I felt like crying, and taking a nap.

Holy cow!  THAT is what corn syrup does to me.  I completely forgot.  Over the past year, I have been making much more conscious decisions concerning which foods I eat and those I abstain from, and corn syrups and refined sugars live right at the top of the eliminated foods list, among other super-processed items.  I cannot say that my body has not had a similar response before, but wow… This may be the first time I truly experienced and acknowledged how strong the reaction is and how it affects me physically and mentally.

Have any of you noticed these types of reactions when you deviate from your health conscious diet choices?  Have you noted any specific foods that really get you crawling out of your skin?

Two years ago, when I started this blog, my intention was undefined.  I would simply post something, about anything, perhaps a poem, whenever I felt the need or desire (which was very infrequent).  Over the past few months “Living & Loving Life” has morphed into a running blog.  As much as I am a runner, and gain great joy from sharing my experiences, there are so many other things I would like to write about and share from my life’s experience.  Lately, I have found myself hesitating when I want to write about anything unrelated to running.  I feel that to deviate from this subject will mean breaking the unwritten contract I have with the community of people who have chosen to read my words when they relate to hitting the pavement.

My eternal optimist tells me that perhaps a change in topic will be an opening to reach others who may read this blog, but have not chosen running as their personal physical pursuit.  Maybe you, too, can relate to the tale of candy corn and the childlike response (the high and the crash).

Tonight, my conclusion is this: I will continue running and writing, but I will let my mind settle on the day’s notable topic, allowing my fingers lay a foundation of words wherever my thoughts may wander.

And I am not going to eat any more candy corn!

From the uphill morning run six-mile journey; the sun rising below the hill, beyond the bridge, behind the tree.

Symptoms of Being a Runner

Sunday, September 9th, 2012 I ran my first race in two years.  It is hard to believe that much time had passed since my last personal running challenge.  Looking back, my last race was the Pints to Pasta in September of 2010, and to re-initiate myself in the world of (semi) competitive running, I gladly signed up to run the PtoP 2012 race.  It’s my tradition to run this race (like eating dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory on my birthday).  This time, I ran in my Vibram Fivefingers KomodoSport LS, taking them out for their first race!

Pints to Pasta 2012 Gear – laid out by the door so as not to forget any items.

This race had the usual challenges; the main one for me was a bus re-route (due to the very race I was trying to get to as a participant).  Fortunately, I met a very kind driver that morning who was willing to make a quick (if not entirely on her route … or legal) stop to let me and another racer out near our destination.  I quickly started up a conversation with my new-found running-mate, and made friends with this runner, Liz.  She was very sweet, had run the race before, has completed a marathon, and her stories of success inspired me.  I now have greater desire to sign up for more races.  And to wear the shirt to work the next day as bragging rights.  🙂

Liz and I, waiting for the race to start so we can warm up!

We were waiting with a crowd of 1585 runners.  And they all wanted coffee!

Mass of runner-bodies near the free coffee tent.

Our race started promptly at 8am, and we were off down the hill!  I love that technology has brought us the timing chip – there’s no mad rush to cross the start line when the race begins.  Everyone just shuffles slowly to the line and then picks up the pace.  Much less pushing and shoving takes place, and the event keeps a more relaxed feel, preventing unnecessary pre-race injuries from elbows and stumbling into others.

My intent for this run was to take is easy; my run pace of late has been comfortably in the 8’15” – 8’45″/mile pace, so I assumed I could probably keep in that range relatively easily.  I wanted to take pictures to document for myself, and for you, what this race looks like.  The first two miles are pretty much all downhill.

The line of runners extending farther than the eye can see.

Giggles burst out from behind me when I took this photo.  I loved it!  No one expects a runner to be photographing as they race!  I was having a blast, probably near the 1 mile mark, and at this point, I thought I’d take more pictures…  But as I continued down the hill on the course, I decided to run and look around, forgetting the camera in my belt, focusing more on the act of running and encouraging my running-mates instead.

I have a long history as a runner.  I ran cross-country in high school for only one season, for reasons I will need another blog post to explain, and loathed every moment of it.  I developed a ritual before practice: make sure lunch is consumed and digesting 3 hours before practice, stop drinking water 1 hour before practice… I was beyond nervous every day, and developed these neurotic habits that I honestly kept practicing half-way through my college years.  I had a love-hate relationship with running; it was mentally the most difficult thing I could do, but it gave me a great connection with the runners in my family.  It wasn’t until two years ago that I finally started feeling that metal block melt, and running ultimately became something I wanted to do – just for me and for joy.  (And I no longer have the limitations regarding food and liquid consumption pre-run.  Food is energy, and water is necessary!)

Now I have new “runner” symptoms or tendencies.  For example, when I see people running, out for their daily workout, and they’re really putting in effort, I find myself cheering and saying (or rather, yelling) “Go, Runner!”  …and I get emotional.  My sister was at the race on Sunday with her cross-country team; they were supporting the racers, handing out water to runners at the first aid-station, and when I heard their claps, cheers, and saw all the hands holding out cups of water… I admit it.  I giggled, choked up, and got teary-eyed.  At mile two. So you can imagine what I looked like crossing the finish line…

Biggest, goofiest smile, Ever.

I cannot say how wonderful it was to finish and have someone there cheering me on through the funnel at the Finish line.  My Gran-ma came to snap my photo, give me a hug, and say congratulations.  (And then we went to breakfast)!  She is so sweet, and I appreciate her so much for getting up early and being present to watch me grin like a fool at the end of this race.  I was the 542 racer to cross the finish line on Sunday.

Happy hug pics!

As it turns out, I finished with a 10K time of 55’06”, knocking four minutes off my last 10K race time.  Right on the money per my guess, and a new PR.  I’ll be setting a new goal for next year!

I am so grateful for the support of my friends and family, and for Run with Paula Events and Portland Running Company for putting on such a great race!  Come join me in 2013 for PtoP!  And check out the other Run with Paula events (I’m a big fan of the Go Girl Trail Run)!

Happy Running!
~A

Motivation

For the past few months, I have been getting out on the road, doing the two to five-mile shuffle at least three times each week.  This for me is a great improvement in consistency over my last two years as a runner.  It’s not that I have put myself on a schedule, so much as I like to run.  So I get out and do it when my legs are itching.  (Tomorrow morning, it’s on!)

But I have no goal set.  No pace to hit, no mileage to train up to, no real structure to my workout regimen.  So, when I wake up, I base my distance on time available before life activities begin (work, family gatherings, appointments, etc.) … and on fear.  I haven’t run more than five miles in… Well, truthfully, I cannot remember the last time I ran more than five miles.  Running in my new shoes, I get nervous about injuries if I run farther.

But let’s be serious for a moment.  I can (and have) run five miles, no issues, in my Vibram Fivefingers KomodoSport LS.  Why should adding one mile cause fear to creep into my bones and tense my legs?

I admit, I have a running injury.  We all do, right?  We did something at some point, where maybe we weren’t really listening to our bodies and we pushed just a little too hard, for a little too long, and maybe it was while we were going downhill, and now our knee hurts when we “run more than five miles”.  Okay, MY knee hurts – more specifically, it has been painful in the past – when I increased my mileage.  What reason does this give me to refrain from at least trying a greater distance?  Every part of my leg is functioning without complaint right now, and I am smarter, more attentive, and running with a much better foot fall, stride, and pace than anytime in my past.  

So how do I push myself through the fear and past my five-mile mark?

I sign up for a race!  I will be running the Pints to Pasta 10K Race this weekend, truthfully one of my FAVORITE races in Portland.  I ran it in 2009, 2010, and due to a lack of consistency, skipped 2011.  It is certainly time to get out and do this race again.  The course is lovely; a great downhill to start us all out at a good clip, crossing the bridge into downtown, running along the waterfront (beautiful!), and finally ending at the Old Spaghetti Factory, my childhood favorite restaurant.  Wonderful memories flood my mind when visiting this family style restaurant of many birthdays and celebrations.  I still enjoy the Mizithra Cheese and Browned Butter (A la Homer they called it, when I was a kid), on my adult birthdays.  I just no longer ask to sit in the Caboose.  😉

So, this Sunday, I will complete a 10K, in my favorite Five Fingers, and see what my pace is at the end.  If how I’ve been running recently is any indication, I will surely come out of this race with a significant PR.  Times to beat:  2009 – 59’17” overall time, 9’32” per mile, 83 out of 216 in my age division, 947/2032 overall.   2010 – 59’13” overall, 9’32” per mile, and finishing 119 of 304 in my age division, 1252/2528 all runners.  Until now, I wasn’t aware that I had achieved nearly the same time on both those races!  For this year’s race, I’m going to guess conservatively, say I run about 9 minute miles, I’ll be crossing the finish with about 55’48” chip time.  Should be fun to see how it turns out!

Please note, I will not be running this full-out as a race.  I do truly enjoy this run. It is stunning; I like to take the time to look around, breathe in, and just have fun.  My purpose of signing up for this race is to see where a good dose of fun and much improved technique get me on a fast, downhill 10K.  Are you up for a race?

Come join me!

Bridge view on the waterfront.