Siskiyou Outback 50k – Glorious, Long, and Unbelievably Happy

The Siskiyou Outback is a long race, and a much bigger deal than the credit I gave it leading up to race day.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Thank God, I have some self-restraint.

The evening before the race, everyone went to bed early…  I was staying with a friend (who convinced me to do this crazy thing), and around 10 o’clock, I was really feeling the need to talk with someone from home – family.  Somewhat for reassurance about the run (my Mom is a runner, too), but also just to talk with someone back home.  You see, the week before the race, my Grandma passed away, and although I knew the service would happen when I returned home, I was still missing that time spent with loved ones, bonding and remembering.  I was playing tough when I really just wanted to wander down memory lane and let the tears and laughter flow.

But by golly, I had paid for this race, run three weekend-absorbing, 26 mile “training-runs” and spent over 45 hours during the previous two months running on trails, in the sun, and hitting the pavement at all hours of the day to meet the demands of this schedule.  I had a plane to catch and I would be on it.  My family was very encouraging and urged me to go, so Thursday evening, thirteen hours after clinging to my cousins in a group hug while we watched Grandma transition, I was at the airport, taking my shoes off, and placing my baggie of travel toiletries in the grey, plastic bucket on the conveyor belt.

My friends and I stayed in a beautiful house outside of Jacksonville on a hill.  … Maybe you could call it a small mountain.  The view was spectacular:

View just before sunset from the hill house.  That small bump in the distance is Mt Shasta.

By race morning, I had pulled myself together.  My wits were somewhat about me, and at 4am I was eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and putting together my pack with the water bladder for the first time.  Yes.  For the first time, EVER, on a run I carried a water backpack. I’ll tell you now, honestly, it was the best decision I have EVER made. I carried the Mountain Hardware Fluid™ Race VestPack, with no discomfort, chaffing, and I was able to carry water, two small bottles with Nuun Strawberry-Leomnade electrolyte (another thing I had never tried on a long run), 7 Cliff Shot Mocha (my favorite) & 3 Honey Stinger Gold Classic Gels, three food bars, a hat, and my gloves (also emergency TP).  So, counting those things up… at least two NEW to try on the longest race of my life.

What can I say?  I’m a rule-breaker.

Oh, and before dawn, the sky looked like this:

Before sunrise; subtle glow. Single star on the horizon

We all piled in the car just before 5am so we would have a little time at the start for Bib pick-up, potty-stops, and disrobing to bag-check.  We were on top of a mountain. I couldn’t believe the view:

Mt Shasta view from Mt Ashland – up in the Siskiyous

Who wouldn’t want to stare at this at 6 o’clock in the morning?  Needless to say, I was happy I got up, and thrilled I signed up for this race (thanks, friend!).

When the race began, for the first time in all of the races I have attended, I was not nervous.  Moments before the start, I ran into my friends from the Newport race!  I was so happy to see them, I nearly missed the starting countdown!  My friends were up ahead of me, and I let them take off without me.  For this race, speed was not a goal; finishing was where my sights were set.

So I started out easy.  Taking in the beautiful scenery:

Looking forward down the trail (note the drop off to the left). There was a bee hive in the side of the hill to the right, I stepped out of the way of a runner, and unknowingly into the danger zone…
More than half-way through the 50k trail race, and still smiling!

The trial went on forever! I knew I was running nearly 32 miles, yet there did come a time when I began to wonder how far I was from finishing…

By the time I reached this grass-filled field, it was hot.  The temperature was hot, the air was dry, people were suffering heat-stroke and dehydration, and I kept plodding along, slow and steady.

When I finally reached the road where we started the race at mile 1, I knew we were close.  Since this last bit was a measure of a climb, I took it easy and let myself walk slowly up the hill to the top.  Up ahead, there was a man, also taking his time coming up the hill.  I realized my pace was a little faster than his, and caught up to him about 50 feet from the crest.  We chatted, and when we came up to the top, I let him know I was going to start to “trot” on in nearer to the finish.  He said: “me too” and took off at a quicker stride than I wanted to muster at that point in time.  I hollered after him, “You go, guy!  I know you’re going to cross that finish before me!”  And suddenly, there it was: I saw the finish line just around the bend.  Music was blaring.  And I wanted that finish line.

I took off; how I had a sprint left in me after plodding across the distance on trails over rocks, up and down hills with a grade I’d rather not dwell on, I do not know.  As I quickly came up alongside my friend from the last hill, he glanced at me with a little shock, and abruptly increased his speed.  We ran, neck in neck, to the finish, both grinning ear-to-ear.  I was delighted to be able to inspire a little speed out of a fellow 50k runner.  So happy to have met you at the end!  I don’t know if I would have kicked as hard without the friendly competition.

Finishing with my last kick partner.

After the race, the shoes came off… it was time to rest, eat good food, and relax.

Dirtiest feet I have ever had, in all my running years. Nice job!!!

… And shower.  🙂  Never have my legs been a color other than what nature gave me, after a race; that day they were dirt brown.  All that dust on the trail certainly has a way of finding its way between the toes…!

Overall, I feel good about my results.  I finished.  And I felt good crossing that line.  I never felt nauseous (despite new hydration methods), had no chaffing problems (despite the new bag), and kept moving the whole race.  I was smiling, happy, and energized!  (Previously, at the finish of a marathon I have been grumpy and irritable. This is a vast improvement).  So, after finishing with a time of 7:40:40, as 194/208 runners in the 50k (27/30 in my age group), I can say I am not fast, but I finished strong.  After my pre-race comments of “after this race, I need a break,” I am certainly look forward to training for the next one.  (And I am excited about a new challenge: Yoga teacher training!)

Here is to happy running – regardless of speed, rank, or time.  🙂  Get outside, and enjoy!
~Alaina

The Long Up-Hill a.k.a. Running from SE Portland to the Zoo

Saturday my friends chose a challenging run full of hills.  Or one really long hill.  Starting from the flat lands of the close-in East side of Hawthorne across the bridge, through downtown, up Washington Park, and finishing (the first half of the run) at the top of the Portland Zoo parking lot.  The morning was surprisingly cloudy and cool.  I had been watching the weather forecast all week, anticipating the weekend’s delightful sunshine, but the little yellow ball of glowing happiness kept moving to the right, just one more day… every day.  As a native Oregonian, I suppose I should not be surprised by the peek-a-boo sunshine, especially since we have not yet reached the glorious Fourth of July after which Summer officially begins in Portland.  (We’re almost there!!!  Can you feel it??)

The path of great gains in elevation lead us past the well-known International Rose Test Garden, wherein visitors can gain a pretty perspective of downtown cityscapes while filling their noses with Eau de Rose Varieties.  (These roses smell so good!)

View from the International Rose Test Garden

We learned that bunny rabbits have a strong affinity for the rose petals, as well, but they find them much more edible than most of us humans.

The cool, long down-hill
The prettiest grate that you ever-did-see.
A brief appearance of Sun Beams at the end of our run.
Set-up beginning for the Blues Festival weekend, with blue tents popping up on the waterfront.

Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back into the SE Industrial area.

I am so grateful that we went out and trekked our way up this never-ending hill.  It inspired me to endeavor to conquer more aggressive hills, on trials, with rocks and tree-roots, and mud (more on this soon).  I have resolved to make at least one of my weekday run adventures on dirt, with many hills.  With the Siskiyou Outback quickly approaching, I need to get a little more serious about proper true hilly trail running.

Does anyone want to run around Timberline with me?  🙂

The last few months have been a little frustrating.  I have found myself both loathing running and relishing the time spent solo, pounding the pavement.  My body has definitely adapted to the increased mileage on the weekends, yet I still find myself lacking the energy to get up and go on weekdays.  My new secret weapon for the long run is major carbs Friday night.  I tend to have a fairly simple diet of protein, fruits, and veggies, and over the last few weeks have found in order to keep up energy and stamina, I apparently need to add a few more calories than my normal diet provides.  (Who am I kidding?  When you burn an extra 3000-5000 calories per week, of course you need to eat more!)  

I guess there is an adjustment period to learning exactly how to eat MORE food.  (As I write this at 10:30pm, my stomach is growling…  Time to have a late night snack!)  Before the Newport Marathon I was baking bread for snacking on, and I think it may be time to do so again.  This coming weekend is conveniently another 36 mile weekend, and our famous fireworks holiday.  I plan to go to bed very shortly after all the loud popping noises cease.  🙂

To my friends: I hope you are adjusting to summer training, feeding your body well, and finding joy in the everyday…!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

The Taper & the Distance Flip

There is something about marathon training that manages to make the long runs easier, and the short runs harder.  Suddenly, running for anything less than an hour seems so insignificant.  A three-mile run sounds so silly, and you can almost feel yourself thinking “this is such a waste of time”… 

Tomorrow morning, I have a short run scheduled.  Part of the “taper” plan.  Yeap….

Who knew that one day I would be here;  in a place where I felt more comfortable running eight miles than two.  Okay three.

I am no longer awe-struck by double-digit runs others tell me about that fall within the teens or under the 26 mile mark.  The remarkable feats that catch my attention are those of the triathlon type, or when someone is training tells me they are running double digits two days in a row.  Which… I am about to start my new adventure in doubling up on the weekends, in just a short week and a half.

I have decided to literally jump right in to the 50K training the weekend of my marathon (allowing all goes well race day), I will be taking on a 6-10 mile run the day after running 26.2.  I am not sure how my body (or my mind) will take this.  I am certainly very curious about this, and definitely interested in giving it a shot!

What has been your greatest challenge when training for a race?

Have you ever found yourself loathing the short run, and longing for more miles?

As always, my friends, Have a great run.
~Alaina

The View Out My Blurry Window

I was very happy this morning to be able to stay in and snuggle under the covers for a couple extra hours, savoring sleep on this last day of the weekend.   The day was rainy and I don’t mean the usual Portland rain – There was thunder, and many downpour moments.   It was a wonderful day to stay in.

Of course, many hours later, the sun shone her light a little upon the damp Earth… Just to remind us it is Spring and not Fall.

I keep thinking about the level of training I am about to embrace for the 50K in July… and savoring today as a rest day, a day off from social commitments, and a day to really just be in my skin, in my home, immersed in my own thoughts was truly a blessing and totally necessary.   I keep forgetting that I need to take time for me, and I do believe I was starting to feel the effects of this choice.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t go anywhere?  You have to stay in … just to think?

My day was rounded out by the daily email from Runner’s World:

runnersworld.com/motivation/quotes

There is so much truth in that statement.  I know I have finally beat my opponent for the 26.2 mile races, but I fear that the battle will resume when I start pushing past that distance.  Training for the Siskiyou Out & Back 50K is going to be trying, but I am ready for the challenge.   🙂

Happy Rest Day!
~Alaina

Marathon Training vs. The 50K

Today, I finally decided it might be in my best interest to look up a 50k training plan, as I have a race in two months. And since this is the first one I have done… I needed outside input and advice. Let me just say, I am now feeling a little worried.

I did not realize that I needed to be doubling up on my long runs on the weekend. Not to mention the mid-week 10 miler! Fortunately, I have one marathon distance race planned, and may be signing up for another in July … And doing a 10 mile run each Sunday, post-marathon…?

Training for the Siskiyou Out & Back will be a little more grueling than Newport has been. I guess this is the time in my life when I will really start getting in fantastic running shape.

Have you trained for an “ultra” race?

How did you tackle the mileage?

I’d love to hear from you!

Happy running!
~Alaina

(PS Publishing from the WordPress App is super handy when updating the software on your computer!)

Saturday Evening Race to the Top

Saturday morning I awoke to the most colorful, layered sunrise sky I have seen from my new apartment (I apologize for not capturing that gloriousness in a photo – will do next time!).  For some unknown reason, I sat up with a start early-ish this lovely weekend morning. Perhaps because the time was 7am and my body usually experiences the 6am wake-up alarm of the M-F routine, or because Saturdays are reserved for the group run, which commences promptly at 8am, and a little worry may have crept into my sleeping brain that I might soon be missing something important.

Last weekend, Saturday’s agenda took an unusual path.  I was meeting my sister for breakfast in the suburbs, and going to a baby shower a little farther yet from home.  And I was nervous.  Why, you ask?  Because I was driving outside of the city…

To most people, this will seem a little dramatic.  But to tell you the truth, I was a little terrified.  I have only had my driver’s license for a little over a year, and a car to drive for less than three months.  (Yes, I am a grown adult and nearly 32 years of age – I’m just a little late to jump into the vehicle game).

and I had NEVER driven on the freeway alone…

I knew the easiest, and most time effective, method of getting to my destination meant driving on one of those multi-lane, 50 mph and faster highways with crazy people speeding, merging, and darting around me.  I was…

TERRIFIED!

My morning progressed slowly, meaning by the time I walked out my door, I was running late, and since the back roads were going to take about 26 minutes, I needed to save myself ten minutes and take the highway.  So I sucked it up, got in my car, and drove right onto the highway ramp.  I drove my little car down the big, scary road, and you know what?  It really wasn’t that bad, after all.

Also, I am eternally grateful for the little voice in my phone that tells me where to go.  (Thank you Apple!)

I had a lovely breakfast with my sister, we discussed baby shower details – Yes, I am going to be an Auntie! – and then we decided to wander and shop at a surprisingly nearby mall.   (There is a possibility I have missed this from my teen years).  It’s incredible how close things become when you can drive to different locations in mere minutes.

New adorable flats in hand (the Jeffrey Campbell “In Love” flats – a la Miss Meers, my favorite shoe boutique from the college years), I hugged my sis and was off to a friend’s baby shower.  We played games, munched on some delicious food, and guessed if the baby was a pink bow or a blue bow.  They had been keeping their little one’s gender secret for many weeks… and the reveal came just three and a half weeks before baby is expected!  I picked a pink bow to pin to the board, and … I guessed right! Woohoo!  (Yes, I am very proud of guessing correctly – two of three recent births… one still TBD).  I am very excited for this little person to join the lives of my good friend and her husband, and can’t wait to meet her!

After all the congratulating and asking to be notified of when and how it goes, we all left in our vehicles… I was excited to get home and get to my run!

I really wanted to catch the view of Portland before the sun set, and since I was heading out the door after 5pm, I knew I had little time.   Choosing to take the most direct route to my favorite overlook of the city, I went straight up the hill… as fast as I could without making myself sick, that is.  And the view was lovely, of course.

On my way back down the hill, and toward the waterfront, the sky turned red…

Once I reached the waterfront, the sun was fading from the sky, and night began to envelop the city.   A blue hue fell over the water and clouds.  I was greeted by a very large flock of birds floating near the water’s edge.The night was beautiful.  Dry, quiet, and water so still; a mirror reflecting the city back upon herself.  Dazzling even to those who hadn’t just run eight miles, I’d wager.

In the next few weeks, I will be increasing again, training for the Newport Marathon.  It’s crazy how quickly these dates catch up to us – this marathon at the end of May will be my “longest run” (or one of my longest runs) in preparation for a 50K in July – The Siskiyou Outback.  Part of me can not believe I have chosen to challenge my mind and body in that race, the other part is thoroughly excited.  🙂

A shorter race is upcoming before these two long races. In March, I’ll be tackling the Shamrock with a bunch of friends, running the 15K.  I have never actually run in this race, despite having registered on two separate previous occasions.  I look forward to finally running amidst all the green attire and silly Leprechaun get-ups.  Thinking about this race, I’m wondering if I should have some kind of strategy for race day.  I’d love to hear from you – how do you plan for race-day?  What is your strategy?

All my best to you out on the trails, roads, puddle jumping, and sliding through snow…
Happy running!
~Alaina