How I Met Olympic Runners (attending the G.O. H.A.R.D. Group Run)

Yesterday, a friend and I were able to attend a group run event at our local Fit Right Northwest store.  The activity was for G.O. H.A.R.D. (Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day) Organized by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano (check out Run the Edge for more details and to learn more about these guys).

On the Facebook event page, it states:
“Every runner deserves a hug.  A real hug.  The kind of hug that says, ‘Even if I don’t understand why you do it, I appreciate and recognize your effort.’ ”  

While I did not realize until a couple of days before the run that there would be literal hugging and bead exchanging (and I needed to register), I knew I wanted to go to this event.  I replied to the Facebook invite very shortly after the event was created because I saw that Kara Goucher would be there, and  I immediately invited my good friend who sets out each run with the hope of running into Kara.  (Now was our chance!!)

So we went.  And with close to 200 runners in attendance, it was awesome!

Proper hugging technique demonstrations
Meeting Kara Goucher!
Meeting Adam Goucher!
The store packed with runners (and huggers)

It was quite the evening.  Besides meeting Kara and Adam Goucher (American Olympians), we saw KGW NewsChannel 8 celebrity, Brenda Braxton, out for the evening to enjoy the community run.  I even had the pleasure of exchanging a bead with her (and a hug!).

The evening was a success, and a blast.  I look forward to next year’s G.O. H.A.R.D event, and hope that even more of the community (come on out!) will join to celebrate and support each other in this habit in which we all find so much joy, the pursuit of running.

with joy,
~Alaina

Struggling with Time (a.k.a. How Do I Post My Blog Entry Before Midnight on Workdays?)

In the very beginning, I knew committing to NaBloPoMo was going to be a stretch, which was precisely my motivation for joining the movement.  I started with an enthusiasm, joy, and a need to fulfill the promise to post daily.  Now I find myself at my computer, after eleven o’clock each evening trying to summon the words to share with the readers of this blog.

I have found myself in some decidedly unexplored territory.  From a girl who writes about running, I have taken some rather interesting departures from running location, route, and shoe type with views along the way to Personal Reflection, Fear, and Vulnerability.  Slightly different content from the typical “Hey, I’m training to run a marathon” post.  

Changing the topic of discussion here has felt a little awkward; the posts mentioned above do not necessarily fit in with the flow from previous chapters of this narrative.  One tends to wonder about the response of readers when figuratively jumping ship from the huge, steady barge to a small, wooden paddle boat.  I could even got as far to say I feel a little guilty diverting and straying from the steady winds which have kept my sails filled and the ship steady in the past.

The exploration of new topics, and sharing a different perspective has actually been liberating.  Feeling very hesitant at first, I am now more interested in continuing to mix up my messages, whether it be contemplations on life, or the play-by-play of my next run, be certain you will find something of interest to read (hopefully).  

To my fellow bloggers, and frequent post-ers; Do you aim to stick to a common theme for your Blog?  Or do you write whatever comes to mind?

happy blogging!
~Alaina

Day 11: Challenges in Daily Writing and Thoughts on Fear

Not two weeks into NaBloPoMo, my drive to write is waning.  Last night, exhausted after a long weekend of catch-up after a week of travel out of the country, I decided sleep was more important than posting.  I had actually started a post, and neglected finishing my thoughts.

… and I’ve been thinking about this with a little regret all day long.

I chose to join NaBloPoMo, and commit to writing everyday on my blog for a simple 30 days, and I didn’t take the time to sit for ten minutes and get some words on ‘paper’?  I admit, I was disappointed in myself for not keeping the schedule.

Throughout my life, I have eagerly committed to projects, groups, activities, and often found myself … slacking, letting go, giving up half-way through these projects due to lack of interest, frustration, or… fear.  Fear of doing something wrong, making something look bad, or worse, becoming visible to the rest of the world and possibly being rejected. 

I admit, this is going a little deeper than a miss on a blog post, but hear me out.  I am literally dying inside to paint.  The urge and need and desire to use water and a brush to make something beautiful on paper is slowly tightening its choke hold around my neck, and I fear if I do not soon grab a brush and just go for it my larynx will be crushed and I will suffocate.  But the cold, heart-stopping, hand-stilling fear keeps me from even trying to paint.

It is an irrational fear.  Excepting me, no one will see these paintings, at least for now.  There is absolutely noting to be afraid of but fear itself.  The feeling is difficult to work through, and understandably keeps many of us from really trying to dance, sing, go for that dream job, or simply paint.

The thing we must learn is that by waiting, postponing, not doing these activities that we desire (that very likely will bring us great joy – or a great lesson), we put off learning more about our own nature, and allowing ourselves to fully embrace who we are in this moment, denying ourselves happiness.

To be perfectly honest, I have no fear about sharing my thoughts with you, the reader of alwayslovinglife.com, and I am happy to be able to say what I need to, for my own growth as an individual and a writer.  Blogging is not scary for me.  Here I am, putting myself out for the world to read and judge (if they can find me), and this does not give me cause for pause at all.  But sitting down with a brush and a pad of paper alone can almost cause my teeth to chatter in cold, hard fear.

I think that these feelings can be a good compass.  When we feel irrationally fearful of something that we desire, it shows us the degree to which it matters to our heart, the level to which we will feel rejected if our art/song/words/thoughts/choreographed dance are not accepted by others.

So, on this day, Monday the eleventh of November, 2013, I vow to paint before the end of the month.  I also vow to complete a blog post each day this month because these things matter to me, can cause a little fearfulness, and in their doing, hopefully, will always bring great joy.

What has your fear kept you from accomplishing?

with joy,
~Alaina

A Surprise from St. George

When I chose to run the St George Marathon, it was solely to have the experience of running a race with my Grandpa.  The benefit of running with Grandpa was that I could do my first Marathon with a very experienced runner who could coach me, and keep me from running myself out too fast in the beginning.  It was a super-duper win-win situation.

Then half-way through my training, I started thinking… what if I want to go faster?  Or conversely, what if I can’t keep up with Grandpa?  Both of these fears kept me consistently on my training schedule, although I never pushed myself to go faster.  After all, I didn’t want to get too fast.

Of course, the actual Marathon experience turned out much differently.  My Grandpa didn’t run due to unforeseen circumstances, and I was disinclined to run too quickly for fear of overdoing it in the first half of the race, so speed was not an object.  I took the race nice and easy – kept a slow pace.   Kept a smile on my face, and let myself skip whenever I had the energy burst to hop into the air.

Smiling for the camera!

And St George was tough.

There were so many hills.  Ups, downs, curves, and it just kept going down and down and down at the end.  My ankle, knee, and hip joints were all talking to me at mile 22.  I was ready to walk at that point, just to stop that form of pain.  And by the time I reached the finish corral, I was grinning like a fool, happy to be finishing.  Once I crossed those time points, I was done.  I wanted nothing more than to force down a protein bar, some water, get a shower and sleep.

No Way would I do that again.

… or would I?

A few days ago I received a large envelope in the mail.  It was from the St. George Marathon.  I couldn’t think of what they might be sending me, so I opened with curiosity to find…

I won an entry into the 2014 St George Marathon.

Shock, followed by hilarity and laughter.  Of course I won an entry to next year’s race, I already decided I wasn’t going to do it again.  I have already planned that I will run the Newport Marathon in May, and Portland Marathon in October.  The latter race coinciding in dates with St George, which will make running them both quite difficult.

I see this race entry as an opportunity of sorts, to try to really run the St. George race after all the unfortunate circumstances (for details, read Marathoner) of my first attempt.  At the same time, I could give the entry back to someone who has not yet had the opportunity to run this long, ‘downhill’ marathon, and run in my own city.  And I am surprised to find myself torn.

My current solution, sleep on it!

What would you do?  Would you run the same race again?

always with joy,
~Alaina

Colorful Leaves, Sunset, and Reservoirs: Running Again, at Home

This afternoon I had the great pleasure of running during the daylight hours, when the skies were fabulously rain-free, and I went exploring with a friend.  Can it get any better?

Fall in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, with moving, work being absolutely crazy, and business travel this past week, I did not make time to run for two whole weeks!  I missed it!

Trails on Tabor
Color *Pop*
Peek-a-boo view
Sunset
Reflection

This time away from home, and moving from a very familiar neighborhood into unexplored territory made me very nervous about running at dusk or in the early morning pre-dawn haze.  I had so much more freedom in my old, familiar “home zone” this new space on sidewalks and around all these houses is intimidating.  I really enjoyed my first experience out running with a buddy, conversing and looking around.  I think I’ll learn to like this area, very much.

With any luck, in the future I will not let a little fear keep me from doing this thing that I love so much: Running.

with joy,
Alaina

Saturday’s Destination Run

Last Saturday morning I woke with great anticipation; our Saturday’s long run was planned out-of-town and was a trail run.  One of the ladies in our group had offered to host a run on her side of the river, in Vancouver, and to feed us afterward!  (I love running and then eating!)

When I went to meet one of my gal friends to carpool to our destination – I had seen the moon rising in the sky the night before, and saw it on its way to rest that morning:

The full Moon about to sink into the fog…

My carpool buddy soon retrieved me and we headed up North.  After a few minutes chatting, more people arriving, we ended up with a very large group of runners – I think there were ten of us!  We all decided to put our shoes on, and head out into the dense, damp fog.

We were treated with a trail run that headed through the WSU-Vancouver campus and nearby neighborhoods.  The cool chill in the air kept us cooler on the steep hills and shrouded the fields and forests in a grey mist.

Early morning fields.
At the crest, heading down.
So much color, all around!
Passing over a small stream.
Trails through unexplored, foggy meadows.
There were little (bouncy) bridges everywhere!
River crossing.

By this point, I had no idea where we were, and was grateful to be following the leader.  🙂

A break!

The clouds finally began to lift on our way back up the hill, and the sunshine was beautifully blinding.

It was such a pleasure to run somewhere I had never run before and simply take in all the beauty. It was a difficult run (much more so than I originally thought – must remember not to compare training runs to St George), and extremely rewarding to end up back at a warm, dry house, and eat a delicious breakfast!

What has been your favorite ‘out of town’ run? 

Do you frequently seek out new trails to spice up your training?

Wishing you all a Happy Long Run weekend!

~Alaina

Marathoner

Beginning with a forty-five minute ride, just long enough to allow the nervous butterflies to settle, on a no seat-belt, cold leather, rattling windows, I-rode-in-this-vehicle-everyday-my-6th-to-8th-grade-years classic yellow school bus, I arrived at the starting line at 5,240 ft of elevation, for the St George Marathon at 5am, with 59 of my classmates, er… fellow runners.  🙂

With a 6:45am start time, and 7,600 runners to transport 26.2 miles outside of town, early arrival at our shuttle-busses was encouraged with prize incentives, and I was game to get to the start early, to relax, drink some hot coffee, and mentally prepare myself for the long run ahead.  A fellow runner and smart-phone owner provided us with a temperature update as we arrived in Central, Utah, the starting location of our race, and informed us that it was 27 degrees.  Hm. “Okay,” I thought, “maybe I should have worn a pair of sweats…”  Stepping off the bus, I was hit with 20 mile an hour sustained winds pushing me back down the hill, away from the start.  I laughed.

The race volunteers were prepared with mylar blankets, gloves, and hot beverages for those of us early up on the hill.  I will be forever grateful for those shiny plastic blankets.  Who knew that one thin layer would keep my upper body so warm for so long?  I quickly made friends standing behind a trailer to stay out of the wind, sipping my hot coffee; we had plenty of time to get to know one another and relax that chilly early morning.  There was no Moon, and the race would not begin until dawn broke.

Just as the sun started adding a blue tint to the dark black of night, occasionally through gusts of wind, I could hear someone singing the National Anthem.  The race was about to begin!  Unfortunately, I was in line for the restroom.  You know, before the race, when everyone decides to make one last potty stop?  I was in back of that line.

In fact, this race wins the medal for “The Most Unfortunate Circumstances”  at the start of any race I have ever participated in.
1. I started coming down with a cold the Wednesday before the race.
2. The eggs I cracked and started to cook for my pre-race meal had worms in them… Ew!  (The up-side? There were more eggs, sans worms.  I cooked and ate those ones!)
3. It was cold and SO WINDY!!!  I stood two hours, bouncing and dancing around to keep my legs warm (my feet did go numb) before the race began.
4. I made it through the pre-race restroom line with plenty of time to spare only to discover my ‘Moon time’ had begun, go figure, right before the longest race I have ever done; I laughed (What’s a girl to do?)  Fortunately, I found a kind, prepared woman who saved my day with some equipment.

After all of the obstacles, I somehow managed to get through the restroom line again, strip off my warm layers, drop them off at the U-Haul, and then had to wait a few minutes (I had time to spare!) to cross the start line with the 4:45 pace group at about five till seven, exactly where I wanted to be in the mass of runners.

Even when the unexpected happened again and again on race day, everything worked out fine!

Sunrise on the Mountains.

The course was beautiful.  Spectacular.  I met a runner moving at my pace before I had even run a mile, and we decided there at the beginning to stick together for the full 26.2.  We were constantly amazed by the amount of aid stations on this course.  The St George Marathon was incredibly supported.  While the overall event is largely on a deserted (beautiful) highway, every two miles there was a fully stocked and staffed aid station, and after mile 19 they appeared every mile! 

Utah’s mountains and rolling rocky hills were a sight to behold.

Sun rising over the hills.
Having fun with my new friend! (photo credit to the great, happy photographers at zazoosh)

Yvonne, my new marathon friend, kept the positive vibe the whole way, and I am SO grateful that I met her and that she chose to spend most of the race with me!  She has so much stamina, and a great athleticism that she has yet to fully step into.  (Let’s just say she had a 3 mile kick and left me 10 minutes behind in the dust…  Amazing!!!).  I fully expect that when we meet for our ‘destination marathon’ she will totally kick my butt.  😉

One of the first big hills.
First glimpse of Snow Canyon, a dramatic sight of white rock amidst outcroppings of red.
The sun was so bright! And the sky so blue!
A much appreciated, long, slow downhill.
Stunning red rock cliffs all around St George.
Still smiling…! (photo credit: zazoosh)

All I wanted at the end of that race was my protein bar (above, in hand), a shower, and a nap.  I was exhausted!  (and a little cranky).  

But…  I did it!
I ran the St George Marathon. 

I ran a marathon…

I am a Marathoner.

Thank you Grampa for all your encouragement and advising: while training, before the race, and after (how to stretch, shake-out, and teaching me to get the pictures so I can remember this event forever and post them in my blog). 😉  I had a great experience doing this race, regardless of all the unexpected surprises.  Thanks also to Mom for answering all my other training questions.  Without you two, I probably would have still made it, but certainly would have been less confident about running so far.  I hope to have the opportunity to run a marathon with both of you, soon.  And thanks Granma Cj for all your support, insight into your marathon experiences, your lightheartedness and giggles, helping me get the ‘right’ color of nail polish for the race, and feeding me and making me well again post-race.

Thanks also to all my runner buddies and Saturday’s Run group!  You are not just the gals I run with, you’re great friends, and I am so lucky to have you all in my life.

So, here’s to the next race!

Where is your next race?  
For me …?  Something at sea-level… 🙂

with joy in running,
~Alaina

The Time is Near: Running My First Marathon

In exactly 10 hours, the race will start, and I will be on my way down the hill to from Central, Utah to St George, Utah; 26.2 miles with a climb in the first half, and a descent to make any downhill runner excited about the split.  This is the St George Marathon.

Beautiful, rocky Utah.

I flew into Vegas and my grandparents and I drove up to Utah.  Unfortunately, I do will not have the pleasure of running with my Grampa as he will be resting due to an injury (silly runners, getting injured), but I feel extremely blessed that he is here with me and he and my Granma will be cheering me on throughout this race.

This marathon has morphed from a chance to try something new, and run with my family, to a true test of self-will.  I will be out on a mountain, on my own.  Albeit, there will be nearly 7500 other runners on the highway with me, but as they are unknown, it will be my own strength and perseverance that bring me down the mountain and across that finish line.

And I am truly thrilled to be given this opportunity to prove to myself:
I CAN!

For many years I have been told that there comes a time in a person’s life when you stop putting up with other people’s issues, pick up your own feet, and choose to take steps forward in life to achieve your goals – really living life and creating your own path.

I have finally reached that point.

Training for this marathon has taught me I am so much more capable than I ever imagined at running – and my eyes are now open and seeing the rest of my life, and I am taking chances, making gains, and truly feeling happy with where I am headed for the first time in many years.

So thank you, Grampa, for getting me to sign up for this race.  Because of your love of running, and the lessons I’ve learned, I am choosing to live, rather than just living.  

And that is one of the greatest lessons a person can ever learn.

Thanks to all my friends and family for all your wonderful support along the way.  I appreciate all of the love and encouragement you have shown me.  I am truly blessed.

Good Luck to everyone running races this weekend!  You will do great!

with joy and delight, Goodnight.
~Alaina

Running and Goals: Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Running and completing a marathon is a challenge, no one will ever deny, and one that many runners choose to pursue.  This hurdle they jump is a kind of right of passage.  A runner’s status changes after this test; they are no longer just someone who runs for exercise.  They are now called a ‘Marathoner.’  People look at marathon runners in a different way; they’re not just crazy runners, but really crazy runners!

Training for the upcoming St George Marathon has been a serious change of pace for me.  I have committed to running four times per week, a level of dedication I have not had since my high school junior year on the cross-country team, and the most encouraging thing about it is I made this commitment to myself – without a high school coach telling me I wouldn’t get to race if I didn’t show up for practice.  It has been a great test of will and courage to break past each “longest distance” barrier, only to learn that after all… it really wasn’t that hard.  If I just try, and do, then I can achieve. This weekend I will run 20 miles, and the only thing I am worried about is being wet the whole way (it is supposed to rain), and that I might – might – for the first time while training, get blisters.  A relatively minor concern in the grand scheme of running 20 miles.

A very good friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article that got her to thinking about some of her life choices, and it had the same effect on me.  From Psychology Today, written on January 27, 2011 by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D,  The Trouble with Bright Girls, tells us “bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.”  

As a young girl, I was encouraged by my family and told I could do and be anything I wanted to be.  The world was my oyster.  And yet, from the six-year old dream of being “an artist”, my goals molded into something much more practical than the painter I imagined and I find myself sitting behind a desk, at a computer, working for a large company.  Which is fine.  It’s great, actually.  It just wasn’t my dream.

So now, as I am training for this marathon, and I am learning that by putting effort and practice into this goal, I can develop the ability to be a marathoner.  And therefore I can extrapolate that if I put forth as much effort as it has taken to be able to run 20 miles into the six-year-old Alaina’s dreams… Perhaps they will come true, too.

It is remarkable how many of us end up in careers we never expected to be our mode for living, and while I love what I have learned and what I am doing, there is a part of me that yearns to spend an entire week, day after day, secluded in a room, painting landscapes.  And I have never painted a landscape in my life.  My college drawing courses were simultaneously the most difficult personal test of my ability, and the most liberating task I had ever given myself.  Now it is hard to imagine where to begin…

How do you find a way to start living your childhood dreams?
Can you remember who you wanted to be when you were little?
When did you let go of that dream?  Why?
Do you plan to come back to your youthful dreams, and take action to achieve them?
or… Are you living your dream?
I would love to hear from you!
sending joy and wishes of delight in pursuit of your dream…
~Alaina