A Reason to Run

“It’s important to remember that each footstrike carries you forward, not backward. And every time you put on your running shoes you are different in some way than you were the day before.”

– John “The Penguin” Bingham, Author and Runner

I recently joined a mass of runners for an group run organized by Portland Running Company (PRC). It was an event I had been looking forward to for three weeks, ever since the email announcement landed in my inbox. A run from their SE store to Peacock Lane for holiday light viewing, returning to the store for hot cocoa and shoe shopping.  What could be more enticing?  I found myself extremely motivated at work, efficiently completing my tasks for the day to leave work on time to get to this event.  I had asked a few friends if they wanted to join me, but in the end made the trek to PRC solo.

When I arrived, the store was packed! I had never seen so many people gathered for a fun, friendly, short, easy group run.  I was ecstatic!  Walking through the door to donate the jackets I brought with me, I was giggling with excitement.  So many people in bright running clothes, fluorescent yellows and reflective stripes, beanies and headlamps, and flashing lights being passed out to clip on to clothing for added safety.  I was surrounded by my people!  Or rather, like-minded persons who appreciate running, safety, and camaraderie.  The anticipation was almost as high as pre-race giddiness, but we were all there for fun without the time chip and anxiety of competition.

Halfway to Peacock Lane I found myself in conversation with another runner, and it made the experience even more enjoyable to share the joy of the lights (as my new friend had never been to Peacock Lane, and I had not visited since my childhood). The run was four miles, which we swore could not have been more than 3 because it was so easy and so much fun.

Holiday House
One of the many homes decked out for the season on Peacock Lane.

Post run, I decided to take advantage of the offered discount for jacket donation, and found myself purchasing a pair of Saucony Kinvara 3, in a brilliant colorway.  I have been running in my Vibram shoes for most of the year (the Komodosport LS or the KSO), and the past few times I have noticed how uncomfortably cold my toes are at the beginning of my run.  I do not wear socks with my barefoot shoes, so the chill of the concrete (most of my runs take place on the sidewalk) seeps right through.  On the Peacock Lane run, I found my feet were cold, and toes were numb, for the first two miles.  Eventually, my toes and feet were warm again, but then quickly the run was over.  For the winter, I have decided some insulation between my foot and the ground may be beneficial, and as I add miles to my training program, switching between barefoot running and running in a moderately minimal shoe sounds appealing.  I took them out for a jaunt this weekend.

Admittedly, after barefoot running, wearing a “real” running shoe feels very different.  I was able to try on several pair of shoes at Portland Running Company, and this Saucony Kinvara felt most light and natural on my foot.  The footbed is accommodating, but not overly wide. There is some midline arch support, but it is not too noticeable as I wear them.  The most surprising part of the shoe I am aware of while running is the heel cup and the top heel edge.  The back of the shoe is taller than the Vibram shoe, and much more structured, therefore I was able to feel it against the back of my achilles.  Overall, I really like these shoes.  Perhaps they are not as minimal as I would like (any suggestions for a real racing flat?), but the Saucony keeps my foot much warmer, ending the search for a shoe to keep my toes from going numb from cold.

And look at them. They are so cool!

New Kicks: Saucony
New Kicks: Saucony Kinvara 3

I have long been looking for a way to become ready for running and train more seriously. I now realize that you can’t “look for a way” to become ready.  It happens. Running is something you simply do, and when you are finally making time for the activity and it is a normal routine to put the shoes on and pound some pavement, that is when you can really begin training.

Last week, I ran four times, logging 15 miles.  I know this is a pretty minimal amount of mileage for a runner, but for me, this is the beginning of a great change.  A great challenge.  I want to run a marathon next year, and I intend to set goals (a.k.a. shorter races along the way), a training schedule, and keep a log to help myself reach this goal.  My grandpa was kind enough to give me a couple of well-loved, and highly recommended books for training purposes:

Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.

To start the year of 2013 on the right foot, I am signed up for Portland’s First Run 2013, a 5K at midnight on the 31st. I am hopeful that a couple of friends may join me (wink, wink to all you running buddies out there) to bring in the New Year at a trot, but if not, I am sure I will make new friends out on the course.

Wishing you all joy in running!
~Alaina

Holiday Traditions

As I sit here, at my home work-space, at 12:34pm Christmas Day, life is oddly quiet.  The rush of traffic is minimal on the busy street outside my window, the radiators are silent (and the air quite cool), nearby neighbors’ apartments are silent, and I keep the peace contributing only the click-clack of my fingers on the keyboard.  A very quiet, calm, holiday.

My refrigerator starts to hum, and reminds me of my chores.  Dishes to wash, food to put away, sweeping, clean the tub, mend some clothing… all the little tasks that run daily through my mind demanding attention on this day traditionally spent with family.

This is an odd perspective for me; I don’t know if I have ever spent a Christmas morning alone.  As a child, we were always together with stockings to open and sticky-buns to munch on.  The past couple years, I was fortunate to be invited to other’s homes for the holiday.  Today, I managed to sleep in and upon waking, made coffee, eggs, sliced up an apple, and started catching up on my email (a list of over one thousand messages un-read.  I have apparently been very busy the last few months).

Traditions are a funny thing.  They have a way of getting inside, planting roots, and becoming an expected event each year.  I never thought I had any attachment to specific events on the holiday, as I come from a very extended family with different celebrations each year, but now that the day is upon me, and I am sitting alone in my studio, I realize the one tradition I miss is sitting with my family in the morning, smiling and sharing the gift of being together.

Fortunately, I have wonderful people in my life and I get to go spend an early dinner with family.  Rather than delaying my arrival to close to dinner time, I am going early because being with people whom I care about and who care about me on this day of family, food, and being grateful is of utmost importance.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has come into my life.  I do not thank you often enough for helping to encourage, support, and shape me into the person I am today.  You are always in my heart.

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Happy Holidays!

Love,
Alaina

Weathering Storms

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As we near the end of the Mayan calendar, and amidst the many recent tragedies, the arrival of the holiday season, and the eve of the New Year, I find myself reflecting upon the events of this last year, and realize that I have struggled and conquered many different challenges in a very short time.  Sunday night, the wind was howling outside. The storm was unlike any that I had seen pass through Portland for at least a few years, and I almost expected my windows to collapse inward from the pressure, as I could have easily folded under many of the great forces that blew across my path this year.

Yet I knew the windows would hold.  They leaked and allowed a bursts of air through the cracks in the aged caulking, but they are strong and built to withstand the gusts and downpours testing their stability.

I, too, remain standing after the wind has past, the dust settled, and life has moved forward.  This year, I have learned to stand up for myself and ask for what I want and need. I finally realized my worth in the workplace. I gained confidence in my abilities. I lost loved ones. I turned thirty. I am beginning to understand how much of my being is devoted to being creative, and accepting the responsibility to create; working with my hands brings me happiness – it’s time to stop procrastinating. I finally took my last steps toward independence and pursued driving lessons, passed my driver’s test last week, and I am now a licensed driver.  I moved three times, finally settling into my favorite building downtown.  I set up a workspace, so I have room to be creative. I learned and performed a choreographed dance routine with a group of dancers for the first time in my adult life.  I am learning about the logistics of starting a small business.  I started running with purpose, again. I am reconnecting with great friends with whom I had lost touch. And I cannot believe all of this and more happened in the space of twelve short months.

Yet after all this growth and change, I find myself in a place of discontent.  I am progressing, but not yet satisfied and happy with this level of personal growth.  I find questions such as: “How do I know what drives me?” “What brings me joy?” “What are my next steps?” circling in my head for hours.  I still feel a great sense of… something missing, a gnawing need for a great shift in my life, a sense that there is something bigger I am supposed to be doing, and I do not know which direction to walk because I do not know what I need to pursue. I feel like I am standing at the edge of some great discovery, looking out over a great, wide canyon, but I am unsure whether to jump from the edge or traverse across the great divide on a more methodical route, with ropes and carabiners to prevent my fall.

And every time these thoughts and questions return, I come back here, to write and allow the process to guide me.

Perhaps through writing, drawing, and baking – creating – I will find the answers I seek revealed in the outputs of these endeavors.

Midnight motivation

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Do you ever have one of those nights? You get tired early, but you’re still doing your laundry and washing dishes and all of the sudden: Bam! Ideas start running through your head and you start to really focus and puzzle over your life’s current challenges. And you don’t know whether to turn it all off (including the lights) or forgo a good night’s sleep and take action (and copious notes)?

This evening, I was folding my laundry, a mundane task accompanied by television watching, when my head was suddenly spinning with thoughts of new projects to start, ways to finish others, an outfit to wear tomorrow to work… And I knew I could let myself stay up and work out a master plan and have that great sense of accomplishment.

Deep down I know that if I let myself stay up, no way will I go running in the morning as I have planned. Daydreams set aside for the evening, I choose to put my hobby (important to my pursuit of happiness) first. As i climb into bed, I know choosing to get up early and hit the pavement will be more satisfying than a late night and projects started that I won’t finish.

At least for today. 🙂

Happy running!
~Alaina