Taking the Top Deck on Saturday’s Run

Saturday morning was one of those, when you just don’t want to drag yourself out of bed and hit the road… A morning when the desire to pull the covers over your head and turn off the alarm and just sleep until you wake up naturally from thirst or hunger is all you want…

But despite your reluctance, you get up, get out, and run.

And it was a beautiful morning, full of dynamic clouds, catching up with friends, and taking a trip across the top deck of the Steel Bridge on foot for the first time in my Portland life.  Turns out, the view from up there is pretty nice.I am so grateful to live in such an inspiringly beautiful city.   She makes early morning long runs… easy.  🙂

Happy weekend long-running!
~Alaina

Saturday’s Run: a.k.a. “Get Your Rear in Gear”

Last Friday, when the weekly email came from our local run-planning-expert, I scanned the email to find our starting point, check the distance, and was thrilled with the scrumptious words and double-digit numbers my eyes brought into focus.  We were starting at the Farmer’s Market (and ending there – fresh breakfast, anyone?), and doing 10-11 miles.  Perfect!  The initial email had no map of the route or elevation map, so I just planned to follow the group, no biggie.

Later that evening, a second email with more details arrived to my Inbox, and again, I paid it little heed, knowing I would do an extra 1-2 miles prior to the run, I was focusing on going to bed so I could get up a little early.  To be honest, I am happy I didn’t look to closely at the route or see the elevation map, or I would have been a little more nervous about the words at the end of the message that declared: “This is going to be a butt-burner!”

Yep.  And, man oh, man, that was no lie!

The day started with a beautiful sunrise…
Halfway through our run, we were off the pavement, and onto trails…
…which soon became muddy and slick as the rain poured down on us!
We saw a little Newt! (I know it looks like a worm, but do you see his little legs?)
After the first summit to reach the Vista Bridge on the way out, the second summit up the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, we found that getting up Vista really was another LONG uphill…
The view was TOTALLY worth it.
By the time we saw our destination, stomachs were growling, mouths watering; we knew we would be at the Market shortly!

We all made it to the end of this run.  A day later, I felt soreness I have not felt in… Months, truthfully, probably not since last year’s marathon at St. George.  I learned that my ‘hills’ on my daily run are nothing compared to what we conquered Saturday.  And that was only (I say only because I know what I am up against in July for the Siskiyou Outback) 400 feet gain/loss (albeit three times!).  

In June, I plan to tackle some serious hills, and some altitude.  Does anyone want to join me for some long runs at Timberline?

After our run, and perusing the Farmer’s Market, I made my way home and took a bath.  The first bath I’ve taken in over five months, and the first in this new home.  I love this tub, and I do not know why I ever “forget” or do not make time for baths.  Self care is SO important!  (and it was SO deliciously relaxing…)

Next weekend, we are being treated to a flat course.  For this, I am grateful – I am scheduled to run 17 miles, and I do not know how I would make it through 17 miles of hills like last weekend!

What distance are you tackling this weekend?

Until next time, Happy running!  And always remember to treat yourself with care.  🙂  You deserve it!!!

with joy in movement (and in rest),
~Alaina

First Run in the New ‘Hood

My legs were itching. The last adventure outside with my running shoes on my feet was on Saturday, and I was dying to get outside again.  Today, I had great intentions, taking my clothes to work, with the plan that I would go out for a 3-5 mile run around noon.  As it often does, life got in the way.  Circumstances at work prevented me from taking the time for myself.  I found myself glancing at the clock after three o’clock and wondering where the day had gone.

Still determined, I changed as quickly as I could and headed out my door with running shoes on and no specific desire to follow a route. As it was after dark, I chose to put on my reflective vest and headlamp and head out down busy streets where the streets were bathed in lamp-light, and plenty of people were driving by.

With the holidays coming, there are evidently decorations already enhancing many homes around town:

It was a lovely, chilly and clear night.  There was some fog, but otherwise no precipitation.  A great first run in the neighborhood.

Lunar Luster

I am already looking forward to my next opportunity for exploration.

How often do you find and try new routes?  Do you drive to new locations to shake up your routine and escape monotony?

as always, 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

Why I Run

On an especially gorgeous day like today, it is hard to imagine why someone would even consider the treadmill.

This is why I get outside:

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Green space…

 

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Incredible knobby trees.

 

Sweet scents.
Sweet scents.

 

Luscious light.
Luscious light.

 

Fabulous filters for sun-gazing.
Fabulous filters for early morning sun-gazing.

 

A world a-wash in hues of green.
A world a-wash in hues of golden greens.

Knowing that each and every day, even if the route I choose to follow is the same path I’ve pounded for several consecutive work-outs, I will see something new worth noting is a marvelous motivator.  A moment, a shadow, a bloom, a highlight previously overlooked will trigger a pause, a moment of admiration paying my respects to nature, saying ‘thank you’ then continuing on, is enough to get me out of bed each day.

What motivates you to get out and start your day?  

~Alaina

 

The Inevitable

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At some point, it happens to all of us.  We don’t think about it, we don’t plan for it, we get so used to going out and living our life in the routine we have developed that it doesn’t even cross our mind as a possibility.  And then, inevitably, it happens when we are absolutely unaware of any chance of it occurring…

This Saturday, it happened to me.

I was out on a long run with a group of ladies, in a beautiful Portland neighborhood – great homes, a view of the forested hills and the river – I was putting my iPhone back in my belt pouch after taking the this photo:

The city in the distance.
The city in the distance.

When … Bam!  I hit the ground.  In less than a second, my position was changed from running to completely stopped after a very short slide onto concrete.  After landing, I slowly came to the realization I was no longer in motion, I recall looking around, picking up my phone and bus pass that had been thrown from my waist belt in the sudden motion, when I recalled the unsettling crack sound my knee made when contacting the sidewalk.  I was lying on my stomach, propped by my right hand, left arm outstretched, legs fully behind me… Yes, I fell.  I fell while running.  To my credit, it was not level ground; the sidewalk jutted up nearly three inches where my right toe made contact sending me flying Superman style before gravity brought my human body to the concrete Earth that was once below my feet.

As I slowly picked myself up from the ground, my running mates, who were all ahead of me and heard me fall, suddenly at my side, inquiring about my well-being.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine”

“No, really are you ok?  You fell pretty hard.”

“Yeah, I’m alright. [looks at knees]  Well, mostly.”

“Your knee.  It’s swelling.  Why don’t we walk it back from here.”

I was trying to make sense of the mix of emotions running through my head.  I couldn’t feel my knees.  They were stinging a little but it wasn’t that bad.  I ran through a list of positives.  I was grateful for wearing capri pants rather than shorts, and my knee scrapes weren’t too bad.  I was grateful for my hands being unscathed since I still had my gloves on, even though I was wearing a tank top.  I was tremendously grateful for being out with my friends on this run.  They were full of helpful information: remember to ice and take ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, I could sue the people who own that house with the tree-root induced bump (although this is not my intention or desire), and they were encouraging that it wasn’t my fault as my frustration with the fall turned to anger at myself and yes, I started to cry.

6.5 miles into an 8 mile run, and crash, boom, done.  The negatives found their way in to my train of thought.  Now I was making everyone else walk.  And I would have to delay the start of my “serious” marathon training to heal. Not to mention the fact that I may have actually really done damage to my cartilage.  I felt defeated, that I had stopped our forward motion, pissed that I had screwed up the rest of the workout.  Why on Earth did I fall!?!?

I had experienced the runner’s worst nightmare: damaging my legs.  Worse yet, my knees.

Fortunately for us, the weather was gorgeous, and the walk back to our starting location was a very nice distraction and an exercise in staying positive.  I got to speak more with my running mates, observe the neighborhood, and we met this adorable puppy:

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And it has been an interesting reminder to take better care of my body.  I move more slowly.  Tonight I took a bath to ease tight muscles.  I choose clothes deliberately so there is less friction over my knee (I have learned I really like very long skirts… And I could really use one that stops above the knee!).  And every night for the next month this is what the end of my evening will look like:

Ice to reduce swelling!
Ice to reduce swelling!

Well, minus the band-aid.  The knee covered by ice is turning a lovely blue-purple, getting more colorful each day.  This event has acted as a reminder that my “normal” condition – healthy, able-bodied, and active can be changed in a second has renewed my appreciation for how I am living.

Have you experienced set-backs in your work-out routine?  Do you feel you have to back up your training schedule when something like this happens?

I am very grateful for being healthy and that my body will heal itself, and climbing up the four flights of stairs to my apartment will once again be easy in a few more days.  With icing and taking care, there’s even a chance I’ll be running again in a couple of days.

And hopefully, I won’t try to fly like Superman again anytime soon on my outdoor adventures.

As always, with joy in running (even when we fall),
~Alaina

A Post Long Overdue… The Hood River Run!

A couple of months ago, a weekend vacation was planned for some birthday celebrating among good friends.  While on this vacation, a Saturday happened to pass.  The day of the long run.  Here is my (unforgivably belated) story of the long run exploration of Hood River countryside:

On a weekend excursion, some running buddies and I took to stomping some new trails out in Hood River.  Usually, our group leader plans an out and back route, but this particular Saturday we decided to play it by ear and see which road caught our eye and called our feet.  Our tentative plan was 8-10 miles…  I was hoping for closer to eight, since I had missed the long run the previous weekend, but with no definitive plan, we were at the mercy of Hood River’s roads, our feet, and the willingness of legs to keep moving.

The landscape was breathtaking.  The weather was Perfect.  We could not have picked a better time to get out for a run.

Starting in a neighborhood with lovely old homes and local wineries...
Starting in a neighborhood with lovely old homes and local wineries…
Up the hill we went toward the mountain!
We trucked up the hill toward the mountain!
We were treated to some spectacular views.
We were treated to some spectacular views.
Found our way into the countryside...
Found our way into the countryside…
Passed some lovely rusted roofs and craggy trees...
Passed some lovely rusted roofs and craggy, old trees…
Glimpsed a view of yet another snow-covered peak! (Mt Hood)
Glimpsed the tippy-top of yet another snow-covered peak! (Mt Hood)
Passed an orchard, waiting on Spring's arrival.
Passed an orchard, waiting on Spring’s arrival.
Saw that we had, in fact, left Hood River when a traffic sign indicated we were about to enter.
Saw that we had, in fact, gone some distance when a traffic sign indicated we were about to (re)enter Hood River.
Cute House!
Cute House!

And shortly after becoming only slightly lost trying to cross ravine, followed by a steep downhill, and a set of very long stairs, we were back at our starting point – and ready for brunch!

My friends will tell you that I do take in the atmosphere on our long runs; or rather that I become extremely goofy and the affect of endorphins on my system is like a kaleidoscope filter that makes even the most unappealing mud puddle a fantastically brilliant mirror of the gloriously colorful world around me.  I am a snap-happy photographer on each and every run, with the most beautiful model ever; the landscape.  I hope you enjoy the pictures; I take great pleasure in my on-the-go iPhoneography.  🙂

Do you find yourself marveling at the glory of the world after each run?
What is your “running filter” ?

With joy in Running (and taking photos!),
~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

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

Becoming Me

As I rose early this morning to meet my Aunt in another part of town to run, I found myself in doubt.  I had agreed to help her, as she is new to running, and coach her on the all-important form and stride; I really wanted to help my wonderful Aunt get out on the right foot and have those notes of wisdom from an experienced runner to help her prevent any possible injury she may incur solely from something simple like form.

But as I made my way out the door into the misty morning, I found myself asking critical questions of my ability:
– Do I really know what I am talking about?
– Am I really qualified to give this advice?
– What if I tell her something that is not true and causes her to develop bad habits?
… and finally,
– Why am I doubting myself?  What am I really afraid of?

I have been running for over fourteen years.  Until this year, it was not an habitual practice, and I think that is the focal point from which my doubt originates.  I have it in my mind that only those who run frequently and with some kind of schedule are “real” runners.  In contrast, I like to sing, and have performed in public, but do not have a band nor do I have any repeating gigs or schedule, yet I do call myself a singer.  Why do I have trouble claiming runner?

When I pushed the “Publish” button on my last post, I have to admit I was a little shy.  That may very well have been the first time I claimed the title and called myself a runner, really believing it to be true.  I’m sure coaching my Aunt and advising my friends will only help me to grow, and identify myself as a runner.

This year, my 30th in life, has led me through a great deal of self-exploration and change; learning about those things which are important to me, and making the choice to pursue activities that I am passionate about.  I love to run.  I love to sing.  This is who I am.

Thanks to all of you out there, my friends and family, who believe in me.  🙂