Fabulous Stormy Weather – and My New Favorite Capris

Sunday, the forecast called for 91 degrees and sunny.  Arguably, this was a great day to get out early and run it out to beat the heat.

But I wasn’t really feeling all that ready to pull on my spandex and running shoes when I woke up before seven am.  I loligagged, checking email. perusing Instagram, making coffee, eating a light breakfast, and finally, after nine o’clock, feeling ready enough to walk out and get some miles under my belt, a deep, rumbling growl came from the sky, ending with a loud Clap!  Thunder!

When I looked outside upon the threatening storm, I only had one thought:

“Is it a bad idea to go run in the forest when there is a storm coming? … Or a really good idea?”

Fortunately for me, after a few sprinkles, and some laughter-provoking bellows from the sky, the sun broke through, providing great glimpses of gold along the wooded trail in the forest.

Half-way through my run, I met the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion, a wonderful historic home that was celebrating their 100th year with cake at 2pm!  I was about three and a half hours early, so instead of eating cake, I took in the view of the city.

Due to the heat we have been having, the sky was pretty hazy, and the cloudiness only contributed to the murkiness of the air.  Despite those factors, it was still gorgeous!

I made it back home in record time – apparently the repetition helps with trail navigation when it comes to anticipating rock and tree obstacles – and not a moment too soon!  The clouds once again took up their song, singing in that lovely, rumbling bass…  And soon erupting with rain and large chunks of hail.  Timed that run perfectly.  By accident.

On this particular run I wore my trusty trail shoes the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger  (I am loving them, and it’s not just me!  They got a great review from Runner’s World, as well!)  I love how comfortable they are: supportive and flexible while being a low-top.  Not to mention the great color (Dark Chino/Light lucid Green-Black-Turbo Green combo makes me happy to strap in).

I also wore a new pair of Nike Capris: The Nike Legendary Tight in the fantastic Turbo Green/Obsidian/Black color (which nicely matches the shoes).  These tights have a super high waist and fit phenomenally.  They are incredibly comfortable. I honestly felt less jiggle, there was no muffin top over the waistband (there is no elastic band at the waist – just great fabric), and, at the risk of sounding completely silly, it almost felt like I wasn’t wearing any pants.  

They’re that comfortable.  I suggest you give them a try.

For any of you wondering, these are my own words, I am not sponsored by Nike nor was I given free product.  I bought these items, and truly love them.

Do you have a favorite shoe (past or present) that you cannot live without?

Here’s to happy running, staying cool, and avoiding getting hit by lightning!
~Alaina

The Last Marathon; 50K Prep

Yesterday, I ran my last marathon.

Well, I don’t exactly mean that literally, but this was the last marathon distance run I will complete before running the Siskiyou Outback 50k at the end of this month.  And I can tell you very plainly – I am ready for the taper.

I laid in bed for an extra hour this morning debating pros and cons of an early run, and trying to convince myself that I wanted to get up, throw on my shoes, and go run up some major hills in the forest.  And even after a small breakfast and some coffee, my body and brain both responded a resounding: ‘No F-ing way!’  (My eyelids slowly drooping back to the closed position post-breakfast, after I found myself, once again, lying on my bed). 

Today, I am exhausted.  It is my last day of high-volume running, and now my time on the trail (for the marathon follow-up of ten miles) is moved from this morning to an evening adventure (once it is no longer nearly 90 degrees outside).  I was pretty useless until about noon, when I stopped reading and social-media flipping to cook a real meal because my stomach was growling.  Perhaps that small breakfast is good on normal days, but it is possible my body required a little more caloric intake today to feel fully prepared to do … anything.

Running 26 miles, I am learning, is (quite understandably) taxing.  Each time I run that distance, I somehow manage to forget how much time my body wants post-run to simply rest.  And eat.  And eat again.   Surprisingly, the actual act of running has become much easier.  26 miles feels like what 12 miles did a year ago, and 12 miles is no longer a daunting figure having become a routine training run that is reminiscent to how 5 miles affect me one year ago.

The body adapts, and truthfully, the amount of recovery time is likewise reduced for these long runs; I now feel much better at 4 o’clock in the afternoon the day after my marathon run, whereas after the St. George Marathon last year, I went out for a very short 1.5 mile jog-hop the day after my race and three days post-race I was still sore and waiting to feel “normal” again.  It’s almost unfathomable – I will run 10 miles today after 26 yesterday.

…How did I get here?
When did running for a couple of hours become “the norm”?

My running buddy and I discussed this ‘funny’ notion while out tackling hills in yesterday’s sunshine.  Saturday morning really was perfect for a long, long, Long run.  🙂

Early morning start – 6am at the waterfront is extremely peaceful.
The pathway along Terwilliger was so Green! Lovely, warm light, and decadent shade for such a distance run.
Brief stop at Tryon Creek to refill the water supply – Sun blasting through to heat up the day.
On the back half, headed uphill out of Tryon Creek State Park, back into town. Enjoying every succulent moment of shaded pathways near Terwilliger.

I am so grateful and feel blessed that I get to spend great portions of these long distance Saturday mornings with good friends to share stories, encourage each other, and generally make the workout a really good time.

A big shout-out to my running buddies (near and far) & Saturday’s Run group:  Thank you SO much for being runners.  My life would not be the same without each and every one of you.

Here’s to running healthy, happy, and strong!
(…And I’m off to tackle the next ten…!)

Happy running!
~Alaina

The New Neighborhood

When I woke up this morning, I was stunned that I did not sleep past eight o’clock, when I suddenly realized, 7:30am is the old 8:30am.  So I did sleep in, and rightly so, after packing all morning yesterday, moving in the afternoon, taking a huge load of things to donate, a (somewhat) smaller load of clothes went to a friend, and finally returning to my old apartment to clean… getting back to my new place at 11pm.  At which point I had to find my bedding and eventually crawled into bed at almost one am.  Dear goodness, moving is tiring!

One last time; the view from the old apartment.

After checking my email, listening to my stomach rumble, and remembering the awful headache I endured all day yesterday after skipping my morning coffee, I decided it was necessary to check out my closest local coffee shop.  I set out for a short jaunt in the crisp morning air through the neighborhood.

For those with pets who like meat.

I passed our local pet food store, and continued up the street.

Jackpot!

The shop was relatively empty when I entered, but by the time I left, every table was taken, and there was a line at the counter.

“heart”

I looked up at the prices on the chalkboard in disbelief.  Coffee on the East side costs more than coffee on the West side…?  I was not at all prepared.  The fact that they did have a large slice of gluten-free pumpkin bread mollified my train of thought as I pulled off a piece of the crisp crust thinking… this is gluten-free?  This was just what I needed to get going on my room, and at least get partially unpacked before going to a late brunch with my roommate.

“Please do not disturb the roaster operator”

I walked back a different way, on quieter streets, and was immensely pleased with what I saw: an old man talking to his phone very loudly, a girl trying to find her car, countless beautiful craftsman homes, and trees with leaves of all shades of yellow, orange, red, and green.

My new friend, the neighborhood black cat.

It was a beautiful start to the day, made even more fantastic due to the hot latte I held in my hand as I strolled back home.  I can’t wait to go for my first run in this area!

I am very happy to have made this move.  Truthfully, I will miss my old apartment very dearly.  I regard it now as the place that I grew up.  I have learned so many lessons and begun to understand myself so much more since the first moment I lived in that apartment.  It is hard to let go of the sense of security that I think I feel peace holds for me, in my mind.  And yet, I feel totally at peace, happier that I have been in some time, living in this new space, and so thankful that everything has fallen into place.

with joy and peace,
~Alaina

… until tomorrow (I am participating in NaBloPoMo  – check it out!)

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

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

Slipper Located and Acquired

Last Thursday, post 20 minute nap after a long work-day , I made my way down the stairs and out into the advancing twilight of evening for a quick run.  I strapped down the velcro tab on my Vibram KSO, picked up my toes and took off!  Half a mile later, I stopped at my local REI.  I decided to make my shoe purchase errand a short run.  (Really short).  But after half an hour of conversation with a very helpful sales associate, I didn’t even know which shoe I wanted to try on my foot.  I decided to run home, the long way (a two-mile run still didn’t seem like much), and try another day.  I was pleased to see that I kept a rather swift pace up, this late in the evening, arriving home to see sub 8’10” average pace.

Saturday finally rolled around and my day was stacked with activities.  The morning run, a trip to the farmer’s market, go find a spiralizer (to make spiral zucchini “noodles” for a wheat and grain-free pasta dish.  I found Helen’s Spiral Slicer on sale at Kitchen Kaboodle), and do various other home-keeping tasks.  I had no time to get new shoes.  Therefore, after a wholesome breakfast of gluten-free granola, coconut milk, a banana, some frozen blackberries, and a cup of coffee (and time for the meal to settle), I once again strapped on the KSO’s and went for my morning run.  I ran my favorite loop, down around the waterfront.  It was such a beautiful day!

 

The cooler morning air, bright sunshine, swimming geese, and multitude of other runners kept me motivated and moving at a quick clip.  When I finished my route, hit the “End Workout” button on my Nike+ App, I was rewarded with the female voice letting me know I had completed four miles at an average pace of 8’15″/mile.  I cut 45 seconds per mile off my run wearing the KSO’s rather than a traditional tennis shoe.

That did it.  SOLD.

My next shoe will be a Vibram toe-shoe.  I am now a believer.  Evidence points to the fact that I move faster, and with more ease, wearing these shoes than any other conventional running shoe I have tried.  I decided to look into the shoes with some extra tread for the probability of rain soon to come, and the option of trail running and sparing my soles the pain they would otherwise endure on the small rocks and tree toes that are scattered across most of our trails.

Tonight, I went back to REI (they have quite an array of minimalist shoes), told the sales associate exactly what I was looking for, tried three different pairs, and came home with one. They have a little more room than the previous pair.  Admittedly, I went up a size. It was brought to my attention that I have been wearing one size, or possibly two sizes, too small in this shoe. With the intention of committing to longer runs, and possibly wearing wool toe-socks this winter to keep my feet warm, the extra space provided is rather logical.  We always go up a size for running shoes anyway, why not with a minimalist toe-shoe?  When I first purchased the Vibram KSO I was directed that it should really fit the foot snugly.  I now understand this instruction makes sense if you are boating, or possibly rock climbing, in these shoes, as the close fit will assist you.  But be advised, if you’re going to use your Vibrams to run, the feet swell, and buying a size up as you would for traditional running shoe purchases is smart. Your feet will thank you later.

Tomorrow morning, my new shoes and I are going to get acquainted.  I’ll let you know how the run goes, and whether the shoes pass muster!

Happy running!

The morning run

This morning I made a decision. I will not buy coffee unless I have done my morning workout. I know some of you are shaking your heads, rolling your eyes, or even laughing at me. Coffee may be a small thing to some, but for me, the ritual of saying hello to the barista and doing our polite, and fun, “how is your life today” dance has become a well integrated part of my adult existence. This interaction is perhaps even more important to me than the caffeinated beverage. I enjoy connecting with people. I also enjoy a warm coffee in hand as I ride public transit to work.

And if I know myself at all, this small resolution will be enough to get me up early enough to put my shoes on and hit the pavement every day.

Which is exactly what I want to do.

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The Sixth Day

In completion of my sixth day in self-inflicted training I find myself feeling … lighter.  My legs are no longer heavy in the morning when I run, nor are they sore after.

Each time I strap on my Asics to tromp down two miles, I pause in the middle to do the following exercises:
20 push-ups
20 sit ups &  20 oblique crunches (left and right)
20 triceps dips
20 rows

The fist three days, these exercises, which take less than 10 minutes to complete, caused soreness in all different sorts of muscle groups.  Now, that pain too, has vanished.

My challenge of 2 for Twenty for Twenty-two days, is no longer causing me great physical suffering.  Yes, my mind still protests when I wake at six am, and yes it is difficult to make that conscious choice to just get out the door.  But once I put on my shoes, water-resistant watch, and make my way down the stairs of my apartment building, it is easy to keep going.  My legs move automatically, I focus on my stride, watching traffic, and making it to my mid-point to do the next task of push-ups, sit-ups, etc.

On the way back, knowing I am more than halfway finished, I focus on my reward: a latte at my favorite coffee shop, Sterling Coffee Roasters.  I finish strong and happy with a sense of accomplishment at the very start of my day, and a warm cup of perfectly foamy, steamed milk with delightfully robust espresso to maintain momentum after the endorphins work their way out of my system.

I wonder how the feeling of this workout will change over time; a week or so from now, will the morning run again feel difficult, or will it be routine – on the way to becoming habit…?  As a runner who is still out of practice, I can only hope for the latter!

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