On the Eve of Christmas

As I sit alone at home this holiday eve, allowing myself one more day of rest after the illness that knocked me off my feet and kept me flat in bed for five days, I find myself contemplating what is important this day, and only one answer comes to the fore-front of my mind.

Family.  As I have always known and accepted, family is the biggest importance to me and always has been, but somehow over the years, the need to be with family has grown.  As has my strength in myself when I can not be with them (as tonight – one more day away to make sure the virus is passed and will not be passed on to loved ones).

This definition of family has evolved to include the many very good friends who have grown to mean so much to me throughout the years, whom I will not see this year as they are with their families.  These people who have made a great difference in my life, had an enormous affect on my life choices, and help me make sense of the direction I am headed, advising me, and encouraging me when I falter.

As over the years, my family has grown, I have found myself not even participating in gifting.  I know so many people who mean so much to me – each of them deserves a gift, yet the thought of trying to find something each person will like that is not just a gift to give something ultimately overwhelms me and I let go of the idea all together.  I want a gift to have meaning and be useful not just… collect dust until it is tossed in the new year.  Additionally, I often choose to avoid participation in the big commercial hubbub of the holiday.  So I resolve to make gifts… unfortunately, often too late to finish in time.  (Do you ever find yourself in this situation?) 

Alas, here I am on the eve of Christmas, grateful to be finally feeling well enough to get to spend time with family on the holiday.  Tomorrow I will bake my offering of cookies for the dessert after the family dinner.  My gift to the family with whom I get to share this holiday.  Made from the heart, with love, for each and every one of them holds a place in my heart forever.  As do those with whom I am separated by land, ocean, or circumstances this season.

And so, here I leave a note to all of my dear, precious – new and old – family and friends: Please know that each one of you is elementally irreplaceable in my life.  Without you, my life would be so different: your presence makes is so much more happy, more interesting, more fun, and fulfilling.  You are the best present I will ever receive in this life.  Thank you for choosing to be in mine.

Many wishes of great fun with family and friends this Holiday Season.

with Joy,
~Alaina

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

Road Trip with Grampa – Travel Day

Today we set out for our Southern destination of California from Las Vegas – and the day was incredibly beautiful.   We traversed plains and hills starting in dessert, and ending with some greenery.

We drove past a really incredible display of solar power collection… I have never seen anything like this:

Overall, it was a really wonderful, and relaxing, day of travel to be with family.  I am so grateful for the wonderful people in my life whom I get to share this marvelous adventure of living.

What are you grateful for today?

Happy Friday!
~Alaina

Four Miles in Las Vegas; Also, Running with Grampa

This morning was so wonderfully, the whole day felt fantastically indulgent.  I slept in until about 7:30 (which is totally out of the norm, and was amazing), had a couple of cups of coffee and chatted with my aunt for about an hour and a half before my Grandpa appeared and we went out on our 4 mile run.  The weather was perfect: Clear and sunny and not too warm, probably staying in the low seventies.

We were able to run without water (the air is so dry here, I would carry water on a two-mile run if it weren’t available) because a mile from our starting point we arrived at a park with two very lovely water fountains, some delicious shade, and a rubberized walkway encircling the park.

We ran & walked the distance – and it was truly a wonderful run, and great time spent bonding with Grampa.  I am so grateful for my family that supports me in my crazy pursuits, and a big ole thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for putting me up on this vacation!

I bid you all goodnight – have a great Friday!
~Alaina

Saturday Nourishment: Fun, Family, Friends

Today has been a long day. I awoke early to chase the dawn on a 12 mile run, met a friend for brunch, introduced two good friends and their little babies to each other, spent time catching up, attended a house-warming party for a friend where I played a group game of “salad bowl” (and for the first time in many years – enjoyed myself), and got half of the party to join me in performing thirty push-ups altogether, just moments ago. Still socializing, enjoying a quiet evening in good company. For the first time in a long time, I am having a good evening out without worry of tomorrow’s commitments, or when I need to go to bed.

To relax, enjoy, and just be in the present moment … Truly joyous!

How are you spending your weekend?

To hoping you find joy and surprise in all the little moments of your day,

~Alaina

New Beginnings

Dreamy view…

As I shuffle around my apartment, the one I found five years ago with the stunning view and immediately idolized as absolutely perfect, wrapping beloved trinkets, boxing up a mish-mash assortment of stoneware, and removing art from the soft, grey walls, I stand at the brink of a huge shift.  Leaving the home I always dreamed of, down-sizing and moving into the unfamiliar, my understanding of what my life looks like in the future is changed to a blank, forcing me to simply be present, here and now, knowing I am shifting.

For years, it has been my habit to turn on Sex and the City (on perpetual repeat) as “background noise” while I putter and clean or cook, and today is no different.  The episode currently playing “I Heart NY” is the one where Big leaves New York, leaving Carrie without her good friend, and the man she has loved.  I reminisce of my Big Love, years ago, my college flame… my Chad.  My best friend.  My biggest critic, and simultaneously the most encouraging person in my life.  When I was with Chad, I learned that I had a capacity for creativity that exceeded anything I ever dreamed possible.  And he knew it was in me.  

I do not think I would have finished my degree in Apparel Design if Chad had not been in my life.  Changing from Meteorology to Apparel Design was a huge leap – and I remained uncommitted to the field entering my senior year.  I really felt like I was goofing off – going so far as to say to others that I was majoring in “arts and crafts”.  yikes

What I didn’t notice while I was taking these Apparel courses was that I applied myself. I found myself thinking that the work was easy, silly even, but throughout each new class I chose to do the work.  I enjoyed what I was being asked to do, felt like I was good at it, and consequently, excelled.  When I was taking Physics and Calculus,  you would be hard pressed to find me with my nose to the book completing the mutli-variable story problems.  While enrolled in my Patternmaking class, you could find me at the studio classroom past midnight completing assignments, listening to Top 40, and singing my heart out.  I found joy in this path, and I only stumbled upon the idea of this as a career because of Chad. 

Chad was an Apparel Design major from the start.  Well, he also planned to major in German, added minors in Russian and Merchandise Management, and finished with another Bachelors in International Studies.  He was focused, driven, extremely intelligent, hilarious, my personal lecturer, and my best friend.  I adored him. 

Because of some personal differences and ideas, we went our separate ways, yet always remained friends. He went out-of-state to pursue his Masters in Apparel Design, and then moved even farther away to get his Doctorate – Graduating Doctor of Philosophy, Apparel Track: Product Development Emphasis.  Chad always did want to teach, and this summer after graduating he secured his first ever Professorship in Louisiana.

He came to town around the fourth of July this year, and I was fortunate to get to spend Wednesday evening over dinner with him.  Since it had been over a year since we last got together, there was a lot to catch up on, but his first order of business was going to the hat store.  He had been on a mission to get a hat for a while, insistent that I go with him to pick it, and schedules not aligning previously made this the golden opportunity.  We stopped at Goorin Bros to get the perfect “teacher” hat.  It looked like the kind of hat my Grandpa used to wear.  It was adorable, a fact I quickly reassured him of when his sister taunted him saying it was a “newsie cap”.  We went to a nearby restaurant for some food, and each had burgers and enjoyed the summer air at our little bistro table on the sidewalk.

While I sat with him listening to the all he has achieved over the years, and with the finality of reaching his goal, seeing how happy that made him, I found myself smiling and congratulating him.  I was so proud of him.  He had a tenacity that was contagious while we worked side by side in college, but it was not something I have ever had on my own.  Such a thirst for knowledge and the desire to help others in their learning, plus the skill to apply those two things together was truly admirable.  Chad was an incredible teacher, he taught me so much.

We said our goodbyes early that evening, ending with a big hug which I did not want to end.  It was so good to see him after so long.  There are those people in our lives who when we are with them, we feel at home, and Chad was definitely home to me.

The next day, he sent me a video of his nephew playing with his dog – so sweet.  I remember feeling bad that I couldn’t respond properly since I was out with friends for dinner on the fourth of July.  I still feel guilty for that.

The following Monday, I got a call from Chad’s oldest sister letting me know that he had passed away on Saturday of a heart attack.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  I was at work, furiously taking notes about where the funeral would be while blinded by tears, talking with a sister I did not know, and hearing that my friend was gone.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and speaking from recent experience, I know this to be true.  Chad and I dated for six years off and on throughout college, and he has become the man I have compared all potential suitors against for the last seven years.  I have not experience the same kind of relationship I had with him since ours ended.  And in July, I learned that I hadn’t given up on the idea of someday.

I was still holding on to the possibility that maybe we would be together again, and it would all work out… and as long as he was still in the world, I could imagine living on campus somewhere, teaching art while he teaches design, a vision of the life we could have had.  But here I was, forced to accept it could never be.  And it made me reassess some of my own beliefs and values.

Sometimes, I think, as single people, we get caught up in the specific things about what a person does.  We may have different habits, careers, or hobbies which make us logically incompatible, and we put less emphasis on how we feel when we are with someone.  When I was with Chad, I felt loved, cared for, appreciated, encouraged, and feminine.  In my later experience, I have gone on dates with other men with whom I have much more in common, yet in the end I end up feeling no connection, empty, belittled, and awkward.  The question becomes not what does someone do, but how are they with you, and how do you feel with them?

Lesson 1: Spend time with people who make you feel good being yourself, and for whom you do the same.

Lesson 2: Always make time for people you care aboutAnswer the email from Grandma, call your sister back, send a text with more than a ” 🙂 ” to the man who was the love of your life.

Because you may not have the chance to send another message.

These days, I’m learning to make time for friends, family, and myself, and I have seen a true shift in perspective in my own life and how I spend my moments alone or with others.  Quality time is certainly a priority.  And lastly…

Lesson 3: Spend time doing what you love.  Not all careers or hobbies sound practical, and the truth of the matter is, if something brings you joy, it will feed your soul and give you a sense of purpose that simply pursuing “making money” cannot fulfill.

Chad will always remain in my heart; the man I loved, whom I saw myself laughing with much later into life.  His dedication and enthusiasm will inspire me for the rest of my time on Earth to do my best, remain true to myself, and to always go after my dreams.

As I step out of my “dream apartment,” move across the river, and take stock of my life, I know that all will be well, as long as I continue pursuing my passion, and keep moving forward.

with love,
~Alaina

Thank you, Chad, for all you have given me.  You are dearly missed.

Chad and I, Freshman year.

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

Summer running, having a blast!

Overlooking the city, Mt Hood in the distance.

Hello, readers, bloggers, and runners!

Admittedly, I have spent far too much time away from my keyboard.  The past two months have worn on me; I have lost, learned, and through these experiences, I have come to conclusions which are guiding me to the center of what is important to me… But that is a blog for another day, as I am not quite ready to share my story.

This evening, I would love to tell you about this morning’s run!

I am now less than two months from Marathon day!  Today’s training schedule had eight miles slated; I plotted my course, and was out the door by 6:15am.  I wanted to savor the morning light, and get in what views I could, so my run started on a vertical climb to my favorite lookout.  I was greeted with the lovely scene above.

The sun was  just rising (tomorrow I plan to head out a little earlier to get a better look at the sun as it rises rather than after the event), and the light from that big ball of gas was blinding, highlighting everything within reach in a goldenrod hue.

I couldn’t get enough!  But since I had another six and a half miles to cover, I resumed my run.  My next destination was the Waterfront, and on my way I happened upon a beautiful bridge sightings:

The Fremont Bridge as seen from The Fields Neighborhood Park.
Broadway Bridge with the sun rising over the Willamette.

It was a glorious morning for this run.  I thought the route would be pretty devoid of runner traffic, but this day proved a busy time for runners.  (Probably due to the fact that the temperature was supposed to top off over 90 degrees, a fact of which I was unaware until mid-day).

Looking back across the water at “Big Pink”.

I finished my eight mile double loop with a time of 1:21, yielding 10’10” miles (including time spent photographing the world around me).  It’s pretty incredible to see that I am gaining speed even without training to be faster.

Last month rounded out with 100 miles covered in training, this month the dial is already turned to nearly 86 miles, and there are six more training runs to complete!  The plain truth that my human body is able to keep up with this training regimen, constantly amazes me.

This evening, I was talking with a friend who said that a couple of his runner friends mentioned that after training, the act of running is boiled down to a factor of time – time needed to complete the run.  I find myself thinking about running with that mind-set as well: How many miles do I need to do now?  And how many minutes do I need to accomplish this next run?

How do you feel about training when you are a month away from the marathon?  Is it draining?  Exhilarating?

Does running become tedious covering so many miles (and so many minutes), or does the monotony provide the freedom for the mind to make space and just enjoy?

As always, Happy running!
~Alaina

Holiday Traditions

As I sit here, at my home work-space, at 12:34pm Christmas Day, life is oddly quiet.  The rush of traffic is minimal on the busy street outside my window, the radiators are silent (and the air quite cool), nearby neighbors’ apartments are silent, and I keep the peace contributing only the click-clack of my fingers on the keyboard.  A very quiet, calm, holiday.

My refrigerator starts to hum, and reminds me of my chores.  Dishes to wash, food to put away, sweeping, clean the tub, mend some clothing… all the little tasks that run daily through my mind demanding attention on this day traditionally spent with family.

This is an odd perspective for me; I don’t know if I have ever spent a Christmas morning alone.  As a child, we were always together with stockings to open and sticky-buns to munch on.  The past couple years, I was fortunate to be invited to other’s homes for the holiday.  Today, I managed to sleep in and upon waking, made coffee, eggs, sliced up an apple, and started catching up on my email (a list of over one thousand messages un-read.  I have apparently been very busy the last few months).

Traditions are a funny thing.  They have a way of getting inside, planting roots, and becoming an expected event each year.  I never thought I had any attachment to specific events on the holiday, as I come from a very extended family with different celebrations each year, but now that the day is upon me, and I am sitting alone in my studio, I realize the one tradition I miss is sitting with my family in the morning, smiling and sharing the gift of being together.

Fortunately, I have wonderful people in my life and I get to go spend an early dinner with family.  Rather than delaying my arrival to close to dinner time, I am going early because being with people whom I care about and who care about me on this day of family, food, and being grateful is of utmost importance.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has come into my life.  I do not thank you often enough for helping to encourage, support, and shape me into the person I am today.  You are always in my heart.

IMG_0466

Happy Holidays!

Love,
Alaina

Summer Fun

Today I’m taking time away from running writing.  This blog is my avenue for expressing all the joys and interesting things I learn and do that make me happy (which often involves running).  But today, it’s about family, relaxing, and… Berries!

I have always been a fan of blackberries.  When I was growing up, my Dad’s family would all go to the coast and hang out together at “the Cabin”.  Not more than a quarter-mile down the main road, was a gravel side-road lined with a huge hedge of blackberry bushes.  My Grandma would send “the cousins” (my sister and I, and all the other four girl cousins) out on a walk with a few large Tupperware to get blackberries so she could make cobbler for dessert after dinner.  I always loved that cobbler…

So, this evening, I spent time with a different set of grandparents, and when G-ma said we were going to pick berries, those old memories came flooding back.  This time, we walked further, my cousins didn’t join us, and we weren’t at the salty-air beach, but it was a perfect evening.  Pleasantly nice and warm, and the breeze picked up making the journey quite enjoyable.  Quality time for girl talk with G-ma along our route, picking berries mindlessly, and laughing as cars drove by, the driver honking or cat-calling.  Thank you, gentleman.  Glad to know we’re a nice looking pair.

Aren’t we cute? 🙂

We’re not making cobbler tonight (turn the oven on when it’s 90 degrees out? No, thank you!), but I did learn from G-ma how to freeze berries properly!

If you want to have berries to munch, but like them frozen, and really don’t want to have them become a large clump-berry-cube, the trick is to lay them out on a cookie sheet, spread with space between each berry, so they freeze singularly.  This makes them much more easy to handle as a refreshing, frozen snack on these ninety-plus degree days.  You may layer the berries with a sheet of foil or wax paper in-between to keep each layer separate if you have a bucketful to freeze.  Once frozen, you can put them in a container of your choosing for more manageable storage.

Read to freeze!

My berries are washed and in the freezer… Can wait to pop one of those frozen beauties into my mouth tomorrow!  Happy Summer berry-picking!