Snow Day on Repeat; More Snow, More Miles

Last night, as I went to bed, I decided to let myself sleep in as long as my body would let me, regardless of the fact that Saturday is traditionally the group long run day.  Of course, I woke up promptly at 7am and decided at twenty after I would throw my clothes on and run out the door to meet my friends on foot at 8am… two miles away, for an eight mile run.  In the snow.

Fortunately, I made it on time, and I am so happy I got out of bed to meet them – It had snowed again overnight, there was hardly any traffic, and it was gorgeous.

The Hawthorne Bridge
Hidden track of Duniway.
Up the hill on Terwilliger.
View from the hill.

City view from the top deck of the Steel.
On the Eastbank.

Toward the end of our run, it really started snowing heavily.  I had a wonderful time walking home through all the white flakes of fluff.

We were lucky to have one more day of glorious snow; we are currently experiencing freezing rain, and it seems the conditions tomorrow will be best suited for staying indoors.

What are your favorite snow-day adventures?

Be safe and stay warm, everyone!

with joy,
~Alaina

A Snow Day Run

Over the past few days it has snowed.  It snowed a little on Monday and again on Tuesday, and while it looked pretty floating in large white balls of fluff, the air was warm enough that it all melted away moments after it hit the ground.  Then, on Thursday, after a very cold, dry Wednesday, the weather reports were all over the board, as is usual when there is a potential for “winter weather” in Portland.

And then… at about ten in the morning… tiny, white flakes began falling from the sky.
The snow did not necessarily stick, but was blown around by incredible gusts of wind. 

When I decided to leave work at twelve thirty in the early afternoon, snow was piling up, the wind was crazy, and the temperature was around 20 degrees (with a ‘feels like’ six degrees!).  Needless to say, in a location where drivers are inexperienced with the white stuff falling from the sky, a half hour commute turned into nearly three hours, much of that spent waiting for a bus in ‘blizzard’ conditions.  I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate at one of my favorite coffee shops close to home, and on my walk after the fortifying hot beverage, snow-covered the ground.

Snow was predicted for varying amounts of accumulation, and to my delight – there were measurable inches by the end of the day!  Which of course meant that today I was probably going to skip the commute to the office and work remotely.

And I did – delighted to sit at home at my desk, and gaze out my single-pane window at the snow-covered city.

After a few hours of sitting, staring, and finishing some work, my legs could not sit still any longer, and I had to get out and run!

I layered up (three wool shirts!), headed out the door and quickly learned that running on lightly compacted, powdery snow is very much like running on dry sand.  Challenging and so much fun; I found myself giggling every two minutes as I would slip or slide.  And of course, I took pictures!

It was a beautiful morning…

During this morning’s run, there was no precipitation, in fact the sun starting peeking out from behind some clouds.  At noon, it was snowing again… and it has not stopped!  I am looking forward to walking out into a dreamy, white winter wonderland to get my morning cup o’joe, and plan which direction my feet will take me on the Saturday long run…

Where do you like to run when the weather is … compromising?
How do you stay warm?  I thought about a scarf today to cover my nose, but decided against it as it could have been uncomfortable.

Keep warm, and have fun getting outside!

with joy in running (and the unexpected),
~Alaina

Cold Days: Fingers Become Icicles and the Appearance of the Little Circle of Doom

The last couple weeks have been cold.
I mean Cold!

I have recently acquired my first OMNI-HEAT Down-jacket from Columbia Sportswear, and I am loving every second of wearing this blanket from heaven.
I can not believe it took me so many years to get one of these jackets.  It is a total game-changer!  See it here!

I have also learned the effects of the cold on my regular habit of picture-taking on my run… three-quarters of a mile in, one picture snapped, then – the screen goes black and the little circle of doom spirals, sputters, and disappears as my phone shuts itself off. 

Does anyone have a solution for this iPhone “it’s too cold out to function” shut-down prevention?  How do folks in Alaska and North Dakota use cell phones or smart phones if they just shut off when it is cold?

Needless to say, I haven’t been getting many scenic captures in the past few weeks.  Fortunately, the weather has warmed a little, my life is calming, I’m feeling the breathing room, and I’ll be able to get out and share the view very soon.

Here are a few pictures from a run when the temperature hit the teens; the sun was setting and I was able to get in a few pictures in the first 8 minutes of my run before the spiral appeared in blackness and my phone took a nap:

I plan to find a solution so I can continue my favorite pastime of iPhoneography while running, and until then, you may find more words here than images.  I welcome any thoughts or advice you can offer!

I hope everyone is staying warm, and having fun tackling the elements, whatever they may be where you run!

with joy,
~Alaina

Wintery Days on the Run

Out on the waterfront with my friends for our weekly run, I could not help but admire the stillness of the river.  Each bridge, the treeline on the water, and clouds reflected on the surface of the water a secret world hidden inside its flows.  The cool temperature and shapes of the high, light clouds reminded me that winter would soon be upon the city.

The Holiday Steam Engine

We caught a few sprinkles of rain, and beyond that the morning was perfect.  I got home in time to bake a cake for an evening celebration of Thanksgiving with friends.  I am so grateful for these wonderful people in my life.

Happy running, and wishing you all a happy holiday season!

Thursday’s Run; Pre-Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving day, pre-family gathering, in the early afternoon, I decided to head out for my first run to the Esplanade from the Eastside of Portland.  Although it was chilly out, it felt warm with sunshine beaming down from bright, blue skies.  My route was simple, and enchantingly beautiful along the river.  Many couples were out for a stroll around the river, their to-go lattes in one hand while the other was held in their partner’s.  Families and fellow runners with their dogs were also enjoying the afternoon sun.  The day couldn’t have been better.

I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving – with family, with friends, or simply spending quality time alone, enjoying yourself!  I give thanks that I am able to run, alone with my thoughts, in such a beautiful city.  I am so grateful for my friends, family, and for all of you reading this, for giving more purpose to my joyful hobbies of running and iPhoneography.

with many thanks,
~ Alaina

Saturday’s Run: Sellwood to Springwater

Saturday’s long run was happily, for my lately less often used legs, slightly on the shorter side at 8 miles.  Mostly flat (with a nice bit of a hill at the beginning and end), we ran out of the neighborhood in Sellwood onto the Springwater Trail, traveling the opposite direction of our usual Springwater run that starts at OMSI.

The day was chilly, damp, and cloudy, yet it did not rain except to sprinkle mid-run as a cool off.  This run is one of our favorites: post-run, we go to the Portland Juice Press, grab some delicious, fresh juices, hydrate, and munch on home-made snacks before splitting up and going home.  I got my favorite juice, “the OM” (hazelnut milk, date, vanilla bean, sea salt), and “the GURU” (apple, beet, carrot).  Totally recommend this place if you haven’t tried them, yet!

This was the perfect re-initiation into regular running.  Just what I needed.

Getting back in the game, on new territory.

And it’s on.

Kicking off the commitments, I will run my second marathon in May: the Newport Marathon.
Officially registered tonight!

When is your next race?

Saturday’s Run: The Terwilliger Challenge

Yesterday’s long run was one I joyfully anticipated; after receiving a warning that this would be steep, this also indicated to me there would be great opportunities to satisfy my iPhoneography Instagram habit (ok… addiction).  I was beyond pleased with the great company of eight ladies on this uphill trek, the phenomenally perfect weather (sunny and cool), and the spectacular views we were given on the hilly terrain of our 10 mile run up from the East side to  Terwilliger.

The beginning - Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge.
The beginning – Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge.
Climbing up Terwilliger with the ladies. Great Sunshine!
Climbing up Terwilliger with the ladies. Great Sunshine!
Small city through big trees.
Small city through big trees.
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Miniature bridge.
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Up and up and up…!
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Near the peak and turn-around.
Driving downhill.
Downhill drive.
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Second river crossing and last bridge view en route to the finish. (There is a clear reason we call it “Bridge City”).

I have long been afraid of running any extended distance downhill.  A few years ago, after experiencing a great deal of pain in my left knee on a four mile downhill, I let the experience influence my decision to run based on ups and downs in elevation.  This week, I consulted my running expert advisors (Mom and Grandpa) after experiencing some of this pain last week, and was advised by Grampa to run and walk the downhill distance.

Shout-out to Grampa – it worked, Thank you!  I was able to comfortably move at a quick, gravity influenced downhill run, alternatively walking to rest the running muscles.  I kept up with my run group by passing them at a run, they caught up while I walked, and finally, when the terrain levelled out, kept pace with the group.

As I sit here, pain-free in my neighborhood Coffeehouse, enjoying the warmth of the atmosphere, looking out on the cool, cloudy day, I am forever grateful for the day we were given yesterday full of sunshine, good conversation, and with great running buddies.  Thanks gals!

with Joy in running,
~Alaina

Longest Run in 2013 & Bridge Moved!

Last Saturday, with a few girlfriends, I tackled 9.5 miles in below freezing temperatures.  The run was on a momentous day – the Sellwood Bridge in Portland was being moved to make way for construction of a new bridge.  We started our run at the park near the base of the bridge to get a glimpse of the beginning of the momentous move.

Ominous foggy morning...
Foggy morning…

We took a peek at the beginning of our run to check progress (very minimal at 8am – we don’t think they had started moving yet), and we were off!  I was a little nervous about doing this run; I have not run more than 8.5 miles in over three years, so in my mind, this was going to be a pretty serious physical challenge. Deciding to brave cold, and numb toes, I wore my Vibram Komodosport LS (now KMD Sport LS) because my experience with them on long runs has been fantastic.  I have felt no knee pain the entire time I have been wearing them, and the only discomfort has been the cold on my feet (which I found through experimentation, I experience the same numbness with a regular shoe if it is very cold out, as well).  My toes were only numb for the first mile this week!  The body sure does know how to adapt.

Along our route on Saturday, we saw some pretty spectacular nature scenes:

Frozen spider web!
Frozen spider web!
Beautiful parks...
Beautiful iced parks…

We entered into some farm country along the last leg of our path before turn around; we saw horses, heard some crows, and to our right we were blessed with a lot of foliage to gaze into (the left was a somewhat busy road).

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Out on the newly paved path to the 4.75mile mark!

At our turn around, we took a little carbohydrate in gel form.  We each had a different variety: Clif Shot, Gu, and Honey Stinger, which we followed with a sip of water and headed back.  The first half of the run felt like quite some distance, probably due to the frequent mild uphills on the “out” portion of our jaunt, which, incidentally made the return “back” much more speedy.

Once we returned to the park, site of the start of our run, and viewing area for the Sellwood Bridge move, the fog had cleared a bit, and there was quite a gathering of folks to watch the momentous move.  We figured they may have moved the bridge 6-12 inches since we left (it was hard to tell a difference at that point).  In the end it was a success!  (You can read about it here or here).

Watching and waiting to see the bridge move.
Watching and waiting to see the bridge move.
A beautiful, crisp morning!
A beautiful, crisp morning!

Post-run, I felt great, and hungry!  We went to The Hazel Room on Hawthorne for brunch.  Great atmosphere, good coffee, fantastic food.  Sunshine was pouring in the window of this little tea-house and it was the perfect place to celebrate a successful 9.5 mile run!

Delicious breakfast of chilli, fried egg, and cornbread at
Delicious breakfast of chilli, fried egg, and cornbread.  Yum!

I am unfortunately missing the long run today with my friends as I am out-of-town on vacation, and coincidentally, came down with a cold as soon as I arrived in (lately not so sunny) California. Sleep, rest, and recuperation are on the menu for me here, but I plan to jump back in the shoes and hit the pavement next weekend.

To the Saturday’s Run group, I hope you all have a great run!  See you next weekend!

with Joy in running,
Alaina

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

A Dream of White

Last night, sleep was broken by sudden awakenings – the kind a child experiences on the eve of a big event or holiday. My subconscious, hyper-aware of every sound that penetrated my single-pane windows, acted as an alarm system, jolting me to the sound of… Rain. So hopeful for the white fluff of winter, I would go to the window to check for any accumulation… Only to find none.

Nearly half way to work, it began to snow. And by the time I was almost there, the world was blanketed in white! Joy filled my inner child;I snapped as many photos as my frozen fingers would allow. Delayed gratification, and a happy – if chilly – start to this Tuesday morning.

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