Clearing Clutter: An Education in Pieces

This season of Summer passed much more quickly than I expected.

I have spent a lot of time inside this summer. Inside at work, in my house, exploring the inner space of my mind. 

One tends to learn a lot when they take the time to listen. 

This has been the case for me.  After breaking my toe, abandoning “getting back in to dancing” (the activity that caused me to break the toe), taking time off from running (due to the toe fiasco), and going on a solo trip to Sisters, Oregon, I had a lot of time to think and ponder what was really important for me. I even started reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, and am working on completing the workbook – which has created space for more inner contemplation (more on this soon, when my words form into something more solid and communicable).

But this time of solitude and reflection was interrupted.

I reconnected with an old flame on my way home from Sisters – and that is going great. I went back to work for a week. Then, with a week to prepare and buy a plane ticket (and thank goodness for AirB&B by the way), I had the good fortune to join a good friend on a trip to Italy, where I hiked the hills of El Cinque Terre, and ate bread like nobody’s business. (Chocolate croissant and cappuccino for breakfast daily. I know what you’re thinking: “But you’re gluten-free!” You’re right, I am … In America. In Italy, I ate croissant, pasta, and bread consequence-free. The experience was incredible, and I will never forget the focaccia bread pesto topped pizza in Manarola…).

While away, I heard from my Mother that my Grandma was not faring well, and a friend passed away. By the time I returned home, I spent 24 hours in my city, and while not yet unpacked from my recent trip, grabbed my bag of toiletries and a few clean t-shirts, and headed North with my sister to be with my family for a week through Grandma’s transition. Then home for five days, then North again, to spend more time with family, which was quite wonderful and healing. Another week home, and word of my Grandpa’s passing.

Another visit with family (again, therapeutic), and my weekends have been spent working on building a relationship, trying to get back into running, dwelling in the past, and thinking about the future.

Somehow, I left self-reflection behind and began exclusively focusing outward again.

Every time I find myself yearning to work on the Desire Map workbook, I put it off until later.
But when is “later?”

I know that the practice of reflection and taking time for myself makes me all that much more available to other people who are important in my life. The challenge is actually making time for myself. 

I make time for (some) chores, sleep, and occasionally cooking. And I made the promise to myself to schedule time for painting, dancing, writing, singing, all the artistic endeavors that keep me sane, happy, and feeling fulfilled, and have not yet made these activities a priority in my daily life. Heck, they’re not even priority in my life on a monthly basis.

I have been slowly removing things from my home – creating space.  For some reason, this feels necessary in order to start creating art again. I need a clean slate and the clutter (of things and thoughts) is driving me insane.

Fall cleaning is in full force in this house.

This weekend, the special man and I are headed to the coast – staying in the cabin from my childhood, and I am really looking forward to being away from all the clutter of my daily life to take some time turning inward, and to be present. I am taking my workbook, with the intention of working on those important things again. Time to re-center my focus on the here and now.

How do you get yourself back on-track after de-railing life happenings?
What activities keep you centered, happy and feeling whole?

Have a great, heart-full weekend, my friends.

with love,
Alaina

August’s First Run – Getting Outside With Friends (and a small fix for a Big Oops!)

I made a mistake! Somehow, while I was still composing my thoughts, I accidentally posted the drafted beginning of a blog entry, and it was seen by people…
and I feel  a little… naked. (Yikes!!!)

Fortunately, blog posts can be moved back to “Draft” (who knew, and Hooray!!!), so you will see a better version of the story you may have started reading and thought, “Hm… This does not seem to have a true ending” because… well, it is not yet finished! I’ll get those thoughts corralled and edited, and out to you all soon. Thank you kindly for your understanding while I remove, edit, and complete that entry.

Today, I want to share with you the run I had the pleasure of going on with my friends (nice and early to beat the heat) on Sunday. We started at a track, quickly made it to a trail for an intensely UPHILL climb, we passed the Zoo, and the beautiful Rose Garden, and made our way back into the city to finish our gorgeous, wooded, challenging, and fun run.

We started  in the trees, and headed for the clouds…

Beautiful clouds, creating a sanctuary of cooler air… Ahh…!!!

Toward the end, we may have gotten a little silly.

(Seriously… click here for the short, silly video)

Note: It is important to cross the road as a group and stay visible to traffic… We made the process a little more fun. (Ha!)

All in all, this being my first eight mile run experience in over three months, it was great! Although my quads felt like they wanted to remove themselves from my body and take a nap nearing the last half mile after all that up and down, I really, really enjoyed this run.

And spending time with those wonderful women.
(My synchronized running team). 😉

How did you move your body this weekend?
What is the goofiest thing you’ve done during a workout?

As always, wishing you fun on the run!

with Joy,
Alaina

Early Mornings – Catching the Sunrise

The past month, finally (nearly) finished with the painting that needs to happen in my home (yes, there will be a before and after post), I have been able to muster the energy to get out and run before work. (Less late nights with a paintbrush in hand). My-oh-my the glory of moving.

And not a moment too soon!

There is only about a week and a half of running days left until the Peterson Ridge Rumble, and three of my friends and I will be tackling the 20 mile distance.  After running 19 miles on Sunday, I have no doubt we will all finish.  It is likely to be a gorgeous race day.

I have been putting so much effort into my home (yes – an apartment) that I have been neglecting not only my daily moving meditation (running), but also my written outlet – as well as providing fabulous city pictures to all of you (I am not trying to bribe you into moving to Portland, but seriously.  It’s pretty great here).

Here are a few from my most recent running adventures:

Stillness in the early hours of dawn on the Waterfront.
Glassy river reflections of clouded skies…
The view from a run up Terwilleger some weeks ago…
The only clear shot I got on my birthday morning, 10 mile run. Mt Hood in the distance!
The white-out fog, enveloping the city on my way home from the 10 mile run.
Beautiful sun rays peeking through the trees on this Sunday’s 19 mile training run. (This is about two miles before I did a Superman due to some unknown tree root or rock).

I am looking forward to adding a couple of races between now and Fall.  I think I will sign up for the Portland Marathon this year for the first time, so October is filled.

Any suggestions for Spring and Summer NW area races that you have loved within a few hour’s drive of the Portland Metro area?

Many thanks for your input!

Happy Running, friends!
~Alaina

Sugar Free Two Weeks Complete: The Return to Normal Eating Conundrum

I feel as though at this moment, I have every right to celebrate and jump with glee – I made it through two weeks without eating anything with sugar.  No added sugar, no starchy-stuff that would convert to sugar, no fruit.  I feel fantastic.  My body is de-puffed, and all of my clothes fit better than ever (nice little side-bonus of not eating anything that makes your body react).

And now, fourteen days later, I get to add items back into my diet!  I met with my coach over the weekend, and she sent me home with my favorite apples – Gala – and this is going to be the first thing I add back into my diet.  I am so excited to get to eat my favorite fruit again!

… and I am terrified to learn how my body feels after I eat sugar again (albeit from fruit!).

I am truly afraid to eat an apple. 

The Gala apple. Poison or no?

So even though I have already decided that the apple is my first exploration into fruit sugar again, I left it at home when I went to work today (apples at lunch were almost a daily practice pre-cleanse).  I am so comfortable knowing that what I am eating now does my body NO HARM, fear of reaction has caused me to not even try a bite.  Somehow, I have turned into Snow White.  Although, I suppose, she went ahead and dug into that apple.  Whereas I fear the post-delicious-‘crunch-slurp’-bite-of-apple coma.

Clearly, this is a little dramatic.

Eating an apple will not kill me.

But the fact is, for two weeks, I have been headache free, felt very even energy daily, and to put it quite bluntly, I have had no issues with gas or digestion.  And now… I’m afraid that I may soon find the very foods that were my staples before experimenting with no sugar may be foods I need to continue to eliminate (or that my body is still working on fighting bacteria and I need to continue the diet).  A fact that may indeed be true, and is a little disappointing to think about.

So, I will proceed with caution, care, and at the pace of a snail.  Only one new item per 3 day period.  I get to eat apple today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.  And then I have to decide what add back next… Blueberries?  Yams?  Carrots?  Beans?  So many choices!  (Presuming all goes well and I do get to keep adding items back to my diet).

For now, I will only test the effects of the apple on my system.
Here goes nothing…

To eat or not to eat the apple, that is the question.

(Will somebody please find me Prince Charming just in case I take a bite and slip into a coma?)
Thanks in advance. 🙂

with love and light, and to your health!
~Alaina

Hitting the Trail – A New Perspective on Running

Sunday, day two of weekend workout 50k training, I decided to use my “short” run wisely and head into the hills.  It was a double-whammy of hill workouts, this weekend; time to change it up, strap on my new trail shoes, and head out the door for some real, butt-kicking, rock and tree-toe obstacle-full muddy trails of fun.  In my brand-new shoes.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger – my first pair of “real” trail shoes.

The soles of Nike Zoom Terra Kiger have an amazing sticky rubber.  When I tried them on in the store, I sounded like I had just come in from the rain with rubber sneakers on – Super squeaky!  On my mile and a half trek over pavement to the trail, running in these was mildly difficult.  On the one hand, they offer tremendous light support, and on the other – it is SO much more support than I am used to, as I generally wear the Nike Free Flyknit (which may almost feel like being barefoot in comparison).  The girl working in the shoe department was aghast that I ran marathons in the Free – apparently it is not designed for that kind of work.  I like taking the ordinary and making it  extraordinary.  I love my Free’s.

As much as wearing the Terra Kiger on the pavement was giving my calves and hamstrings a stupendous workout, as soon as I hit dirt in these bad boys, it all made sense.  They have enough support to keep your foot solid on the ground, and they feel incredibly stable, yet the sole is light and flexible enough that you can still feel the rocks and dips and bumps in the trail.  My first run in these shoes was eight miles long, five and a half on trails, and I came out of this test run completely unscathed: No blisters, raw spots, or extraordinary soreness.

Yes, I do believe the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger will work for my 50k (Siskiyou Outback, here I come!)

Although the day started out overcast and with a slight chill (which I was grateful for near the end of this run), the forest was gently bathed in a wash of soft, cool light.

The view from the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion gave me a pleasant reprieve – a place to catch my breath, take in the city, and stop to smell the roses.

The descent down the hill was, of course, much quicker than my climb up to the top.  (This is the stuff negative splits are made of, right?)  51 minutes up, and 43 minutes down.  I was cautious, and took more care to watch for obstacles on the downhill leg of my journey, especially after the warning from my 50k running-mate that morning, complete with a picture of her bleeding knee, offering sage advice: “do try to pick up your feet.”

Overall, it was a great insight to a different type of running.  Trail running is so much more active.  I tend to get in a zone on my daily run, pleasant smile on my face, looking around, observing my fellow runners, saying good morning, and generally feeling at peace, quietly plodding along with joy.

On the trials, the “zone” is a totally different place. It requires focus, constant attention to detail in your surroundings, and persistence.  Less than halfway up my climb, I was out of breath, quads and rear burning with the effort, pulse beating, and my heart beating at my breast as though it was going to jump from my chest in a fit of agony and lay panting on the ground.  I effectively learned on Sunday that I might be a little out of shape for a race that takes place on trails.

But you can bet that I’m not going to let that little fact deter me.  

To all my fellow runners anticipating your next race: Here’s to hill training and working through the pain, because on the other side of that discomfort lies a greater level of fitness.  And satisfaction!

How do you train for a trail race?
How many of your work outs per week do you devote to hills and trails?

with joy in running (and breaking through past limitations),
~Alaina

2014 Newport Marathon Race Recap

The Newport Marathon was fantastic.  Arriving at the start line, it was great to be in a “small” crowd of 1,000 people.  I don’t think I have ever participated in a race with such a cozy, community feel.  I came across a fellow blogger at Move Eat Create at the start.  She has been training so hard, I knew that I would see her on the course later (and that she would be passing me on my way out, while she was on her way back). And I did, and she did coming in with a truly great time.  Congratulations, on a great race, my friend!

I always start a race on a cool day with a long sleeve on, but despite the cloud cover and the slight breeze, Saturday morning was warm.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I left my long sleeve with my jacket in my drop bag. . .

Thank God that I did!

The clouds burned off about an hour and a half into the race.

And it was beautiful…!

A short while into the race, about half a mile after the maze of neighborhood that was the first three miles, I met a few new friends, and quickly discovering that they will be running the Siskiyou Out & Back (the 50K) in July!  I got caught up talking with them, and decided to keep pace.  I knew it was a little faster than I could probably maintain for 26 miles, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  My lungs were content to keep the pace, but my legs… my legs need more training.

By mile 12, I let my new-found friends take the lead, and kept moving forward solo.  Looking for my Grampa the whole way, especially after mile 13.   He started the race at 6am with those walking the marathon, so he had an hour lead on me.  I did not cross paths with him until the turn around at mile 15!  We had a Big Hug moment, and stuck with each other and chatted for a little while.  A few minutes into conversation, he said “It is such an honor to run with you, and to be passed by you!” and encouraged me on.  So, I did go on.  In the end I only beat him to the finish by a few minutes, as I walked a lot of the last six miles.

So, I learned I need to stretch.  Stretch more.  Stretch at all.  I’ve been neglecting my muscles, and it shows.  Lesson learned.  

Have you ever experienced an unexpected slow-down during a race?  I’d love to hear your story.

One of the most remarkable things about my experience at this marathon in Newport was that I had no head game.  I had no doubts about finishing, no moments of dislike that I was still running.  I enjoyed myself through the pain.  Regardless of the tightening of this band that made me limp, hop, and walk more times than I could count, I would keep breathing, countdown, look up, smile, and run on again.

Two days past race day – I’m a little sore, but  I have a smile on my face and I am still lovin’ life!

Happy Running!  🙂
~Alaina

Eight Hours Until Race Time!

Yes, I know, I should be sleeping… 

But I had to share with you – I am so excited to be running the Newport Marathon with my Grampa.  We had a lovely drive out to the coast, and a wonderful dinner where we met a lovely girl who lives in the first building I called home in NW Portland!  In the same unit one floor down!  We live in a a small world, full of surprises.

The drive out was gorgeous: blue skies, old barns, and grand views of the ocean.

The old Air Museum

When we arrived at our hotel, we discovered the most perfect view from our room:

I want to share so much more, but since I am posting from my phone (which is a little more challenging and time consuming), as well as getting up in five and a half hours, I must bid you goodnight, my friends.

Sweet dreams, and have fun running tomorrow!
~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!)

Fair Weather Runner No More! … Or Not

On Tuesday last week, after my first weekday run, I decided I had finally succeeded as a runner: I no longer shy away from running in uncomfortable weather!   Tuesday morning was cold and wet … very wet.  I felt proud of myself for getting out, completing five miles in heavy rain, and rather enjoying myself.

Puddle jumping with the Geese!

I was ready to declare to the world: I am no longer a fair weather runner!

… and then I woke up Wednesday morning to a sunrise blackened by heavy cloud-cover and the sound of hail hitting my windows…  And the only thought going through my mind was: “I can run at work today”.
On the treadmill.

Immediately I was upset with myself.  It felt like I was cheating!  And that was not the end of it… when I decided to do my run – on the treadmill – the sun broke through the black sky and taunted me as I looked out the window from my stationary running machine.  I nearly got off the track and got outside, but the threat of hail and heavy rain kept me sequestered indoors.

I run in the rain all the time!  It seems rather silly (or dare I say, shameful!) that I would avoid the outdoors simply due to the threat of inclement weather.

Do you find yourself avoiding your outdoor workouts when the conditions are less than favorable?  

Fortunately, this week the weather has turned and given a nod to Summer… into the eighties, beyond my wildest imaginations for end-of-April in Oregon.  Unbelievable.  I ran at sunrise without a hat for the first time this week, and in a t-shirt this morning!  (I like to stay warm, generally that means long sleeves, hat and gloves in the wee hours of sun-rising).

And it has been so Beautiful!

I am loving the early sunrise, heavy foot traffic on the waterfront, and reflections in the river I have come to know so well in the last six months.

This weekend, we return to rain, and I resolve to get out and run!

Happy running!
~Alaina

Grateful days – 11.5 mile Trail Run and 100 Posts Completed

This morning was quite the treat – the Saturday Run group met at one of our favorite spots: Leif Erickson Trailhead at the top of Thurman to do a trail run.  This run was unique because we ran the entire length of the trail.  A first for us all, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to view some new scenery.  The farthest distance I have run out this trial was to mile marker 6 (a total of twelve miles out-and-back).  Today’s trip was an uphill run, out one-way.  Grey, cloudy, and toward the end of the run, a bit rainy.  I think the moisture only enhanced the greenery around us, filling the air with soft pitter-pats of rain soaking into the ground, the calming scent of Earth, and helping us to feel more connected and alive in the outdoors.

This was my longest run since last year’s St George Marathon, and it felt good to get out and do some extra mileage.  With another marathon coming up in May, I am starting to feel the need to be more strict with my training schedule, as I have yet to fully commit to running 20+ miles per week.  When I think back on last year’s training schedule, the time commitment sounds significant when I add up the hours, but since I ran before work on weekdays, it felt less so because I was done with the required mileage before I even started the work-day.  How do you manage marathon training?

Next week is the Shamrock Run!  I have signed up for this race two times previously, and been unable to attend the actual event.  This year, I am looking forward to tackling the 15k on the Terwilliger hill, and joining in the sea of runners dressed in Kelly Green, embellished with Shamrocks.  Will I see any of you out on the road next Sunday?

On another note, today is a very special post for me – this is my 101st post!  Never did I imagine that I would be able to keep writing about running for so long.  I have discovered running is a pretty interesting sport, with many sights worth seeing, places to explore, and distances to conquer!  I want to thank all of you for reading and responding to these entries; not only has this been a great outlet for writing and sharing the beauty I see while getting distance under my belt, I have also made some great connections with like-minded folk near and far.  I am humbled to know that there are 100 of my friends, family, and acquaintances who choose to read the words on these pages.  You inspire me to keep writing, and I cannot thank you enough for that gift.

All my best to you on this wonderful Saturday.

with joy and gratitude,
~Alaina