The Effects of Running Long: Reflections on Life

When I decided to run 20 miles, I knew I would be out and in the world for a few hours, running circles around the city.  Last Sunday when I set foot into the sunshine of mid-afternoon, I encountered masses of Portlanders navigating the waterfront path getting their weekend physical activity: Running, Walking, Biking, and I even spotted a family on roller-blades!  As a side note, I choose to run without musicMusic is super distracting, and because half of the time I happen to be on city streets where there very likely will be traffic, I decided it was the safer bet to keep earbuds away from my ears, and I can keep myself from becoming roadkill.

Consequently, ears open to listen for squealing breaks, a honking car, the click or ring of a bell on a bicycle, I end up accidently-on-purpose eavesdropping on many bits of different conversations.  If the conversation is relevant, and heading in my direction, I may jump in and chat a bit with my stranger runner-buddies.  Sometimes, as I found out yesterday morning, I may be in more of a chatty mood than the runner next to me, and she may say, “well, I think I’ll turn here” turning right as I continue straight… and after she already declared her destination, and I knew we were headed in the same direction…  Well, she apparently was not interested in a new buddy, and prefered to get back to her solitary run.  Which I totally understand.  (Note to my runner friends – Please just ask for some peace if my chattiness is just too much for 6am.  I will still enjoy my time running with you).  🙂

Last Sunday, as I was rounding the East waterfront on the long stretch which normally is quite desolate, I was surrounded by people.  And as two bikers came up from behind me at a steady, yet not too fast, pace, I was able to hear the gentleman telling his friend: “I wonder if someday I’ll have kids, and, like, be boring.”

When I heard this particular gentleman in all spandex-y bike gear riding at a mild (yet quick) pace with a lady in similar garb, I laughed.  Chances are, this man will never be boring, and my guess is, having children would only increase the level of his interestingness.  True, he may have a little less time for his favorite activities, but from what I have learned from friends having children is that they are so incredibly taken by their kids – so incredibly fulfilled having these little people in their lives that I can only adore and admire them for the journey they have chosen.

After my initial giggle at my eavesdropped glimpse of a conversation, I started thinking…

What if I never have kids and I’m … unable to ever connect on that level with my friends or my sister who have embraced motherhood?  

Truthfully, I have never felt the gnawing pull of “the biological clock” to have children as many of my girlfriends have experienced.  And at 32, I am beginning to wonder if I have a clock that will tick and someday make me crazy for kiddos, or if I will just glide through life happy as a clam, happy as I am.  The cool aunt-to-be.

It’s a funny thing – discussing Motherhood and having babies with family and friends, they’re always quick to reassure you that you will one day have your own kids with the classic line: “not to worry, you’ll meet someone someday, and have kids of your own.”

Well… what if I don’t?   (anyone else hear the crickets?)

Would that make me boring?  These days many couples are choosing not to have children or even adopt, these days.  Living life free, and free from worry of procreation in order to carry on the family name.  They can travel, work crazy hours, have many hobbies, move to a different state or country, and not feel tied down or have to uproot a child from their life at school.  All of these variables can make a person start thinking crazy.  I mean, really, I’m not even sure I want a baby.  Ever.  Is that bad?

If I let myself ponder the idea… I am captivated by one thing specifically: there is that bond. That special recognition that you see between a baby and her Mother.  They just have that … something.  The twinkle in the eye as that slow, wide mouth grin spreads over that little one’s face and he reaches toward Mama’s face… It’s enviable.  To have someone in your life to love and be loved by so unconditionally…  And to be able to show that little person the world, nurture them, and teach them that their dreams really can come true… Wide eyes full of possibility.  Simply awe-inspiring.

At this point, who knows what my future brings.  I know there is something about having this relationship with a tiny person, and I am very happy to get to explore it (a little) vicariously through my friends with babes, and in my new adventure as an auntie.  Today, I am content as I am: Single, childless, pondering life’s possibilities, and free to stay up until midnight writing a blog post and get up early with the sun to go for a run.  🙂

Happy running!
~Alaina

Trains, Bridges, and Bicycles, Oh My!

This morning as I headed out for my morning run (one whole hour later than I usually step outside), I felt good.  My legs certainly needed some shaking out, the sun was bright in the sky, temperature low at about 50 degrees, and I just had that positive feeling in my bones that makes you feel light and joyous.

Everything was perfect.  Until I got to the tracks, and there was a train.  And the train was not moving. I have had a few encounters with this train in the last few months, and one would assume that I remember it will be there right around seven o’clock every morning!  But I have yet to remember this mildly important fact, and frequently find myself on an adventure to “get around” the train and down to the waterfront.  Today, I decided I would go over the Broadway Bridge Ramp at Lovejoy, and back down onto Broadway for a little variety.  The lights were not in my favor, so I ended up crossing the bridge.

And apparently, I was on the wrong side, as herds of bikes passed me… I was going upstream.  Possibly an annoyance for the many people on wheels pedaling their way to work, but I was overjoyed – I had the best view:

I ended my run back in the neighborhood – cutting it short at 4 miles instead of 5 (tiny pangs of guilt for not doing my planned number of miles, and truthfully –  overall, I’m happy I got outside!).  I walked the last couple blocks to my favorite coffee shop.

This morning was so gorgeous; I feel like it has been weeks since I was able to capture a few great photos, and today… I feel like I got my Mojo back.  🙂

How do you deal with road blocks? Do you wait for them to clear, or stride out on a new path?

Here’s hoping tomorrow’s potentially adventurous route brings another batch of beauty to behold.

with joy,
~Alaina

The Last Long Run – 20 miles, Done!

My plan for this weekend was to run 20 miles on Saturday and take it easy on Sunday… and, due to baby shower madness, I delayed my run to Sunday (Mother’s Day).  This was my last long training run before the Newport Marathon – I needed to get these miles in no matter what, and I was not sure when I would be seeing my mother who is in from out-of-state.  So just as I started to worry that I was either going to have to sacrifice the run, or sacrifice seeing Mom, everything fell into place.

I hit the road at about 3:15pm, knowing I would be running for about three and a half hours.  Fortunately for me, my Mom is also a runner, and she was game to meet me for the last 8.5-9 miles and spend some quality time together.  We planned a meeting place, time, and ran into each other on the South Waterfront a little after 5:20pm to complete finish the back-half of the 20 miles together.

On normal run days, I run in the morning, and today was bright and sunny – and warm!  I have not run in such warm weather in about a year, and I noticed a marked difference in how my body reacted.  I was thirsty every half mile, sweating after only a half mile, had sausage fingers starting around three miles, and overall just felt a little hot, especially when there was no shade to help me out!  Obviously, it was a beautiful day!!!

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful person to spend time with running (and incredibly grateful for the genetics she has passed on to me!).  Supportive, realistic, fun, strong, encouraging, and everything that Moms are supposed to be.  We finished the evening with a great dinner at Dick’s Kitchen.  … and dessert, Yum!!!

Thank you, Mom, for spending your evening with me.  I really enjoyed our time together.

until tomorrow… Happy Running, and Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms, Aunts, Grandmas and Great-Grandmas!!!
~Alaina

Early Morning Adventures in the East

Early this morning I dragged myself out of bed, crossed the river, and ran with a friend on the East side… And although I felt I needed two more hours of sleep when I got in my car, five minutes into the run, we were having delightful conversation, and the area had my full attention: it was truly beautiful.

Going somewhere new for my early morning run was (literally) a wake-up moment.  Running in a new location is so refreshing!  Also, it showed me how used to my area I have become with drinking fountains everywhere; I’ve stopped carrying water on runs that will take less than an hour… And forgot water this morning!  Oops.

I am so grateful for the brilliant and beautiful running terrain available in Portland.  I feel very lucky to live in such a lush, green region of the world with water so readily available.  Thank you, Mr Simon Benson, for your many Bubblers around this gorgeous city.  You make training for marathons much easier.

Until tomorrow, happy running!
~Alaina

Running vs. Racing – Pleasure or Prowess

When I tell people I am a runner, they often seem to immediately assume that I am fast.  And for some reason, I am always quick to jump in and tell them just how not-fast I am. I plod along comfortably, breathing easy, taking in the world around me, and simply enjoying the movement of my body through space.

I think my explaining stems from the desire to let everyone know “yes, you can run, too” regardless of speed, just setting foot outside your door is wonderful, healthy, and it can be fun! For years I hated running.  Until my first high school cross-country meet, the fastest mile I ever ran was an 8:30 min/mile pace set when running one mile in third grade.  The faster mile I ran in cross-country was the first of a 5K race; Mile one was 7 minutes, Mile two was 10 minutes, and mile three was 13 minutes.  No consistency, and I certainly started that out too fast.  I have yet to meet the third grade pace and maintain it for over a mile.

I am not one of those runners who checks their pace on their wrist to see if each mile is coming in at the same pace.  I run by feel. If I am out of breath, starting to heel strike, or feeling uncomfortable, I know I need to slow down to be able to maintain energy levels for longevity.  My goal has not ever been to race.  It is to relax, keep moving, and enjoy…

The more running literature I read – blogs, articles, books – and conversations I have with other runners, I learn that I have a very different perspective than my peers.  In fact, I would call it an extremely abnormal point of view and desired outcome for Races I enter.

Sometimes I wonder, am I just content to be running at the same pace indefinitely?  Is there anything wrong with that?  

Could it be that I do not have the motivation that others feel driving them to accelerate?  Or that I’m missing some gene that makes you want to push yourself?  I will admit, there have been only a few times that I have really pushed myself – and neither of those times was during the Marathon I ran last year.  Yes that was hard, and I ran a whole marathon distance of 26.2 miles, but as far as speed is concerned… I kept it easy.  I pushed myself to pass other racers in the last half mile stretch of the Pints to Pasta race a couple of years ago, and that was fun!

I guess, overall, I have never really attempted to race.  Not against myself or other racers.  Perhaps my delight in the well-known, comfortable easy pace is partially due to my hesitation to step foot into the unknown.  What if I lose my stride, and start to heel-strike, again?  What if I injure myself?  

What if… I CAN go faster?

What would that be like?

One of my greatest fears – throughout my entire life – has been succeeding.  Doing something well enough that other people notice.  Raising expectations.  Being authentic.  Being vulnerable.  Letting myself be seen, heard, and known.  So, I have always done well – but never really allowed myself to excel – at anything.  I stop before I move beyond good to really good.

I love dancing, and shortly after moving to Portland, I got quickly immersed in West Coast Swing and Blues – getting to the point where I taught a “Mini” Blues lesson (after knowing the dance for only three months!).  Less than two years later, I stopped going dancing.

I also love singing, and recently took lessons with some amazing teachers at the Transformational Voice Institute, and I have learned SO much, improved greatly, and then abruptly stopped taking lessons – and have not pursued any other singing venues since.

Now, I run.  A solo activity.  Running at my pace, there will be no comparisons with other runners.  I’m not fast enough to really compete.  I do truly enjoy getting out each day to do my duty pounding the pavement – my movement meditation, but I wonder if running is now my activity to help me hide from my other great loves, desires, heart callings by easily making it priority over the others.  What would my life be like if I could make time for all of these wonderful activities?

Do you find yourself choosing one activity over another that really calls to you?
How do you decide which to prioritize?

Tomorrow I have another five miles in the morning … Meeting a friend super early on the other side of the river, so I am off to bed before midnight for the first time in a week!  (If I were out dancing, I would not be home until after midnight – West Coast Swing Wednesdays go late!).

Please, have courage to do what you love with gusto.  Feed your heart and your spirit with joy, and allow yourself to succeed!  This is SO important. To being authentic…!

with joy and heart,
~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

Grateful days – 11.5 mile Trail Run and 100 Posts Completed

This morning was quite the treat – the Saturday Run group met at one of our favorite spots: Leif Erickson Trailhead at the top of Thurman to do a trail run.  This run was unique because we ran the entire length of the trail.  A first for us all, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to view some new scenery.  The farthest distance I have run out this trial was to mile marker 6 (a total of twelve miles out-and-back).  Today’s trip was an uphill run, out one-way.  Grey, cloudy, and toward the end of the run, a bit rainy.  I think the moisture only enhanced the greenery around us, filling the air with soft pitter-pats of rain soaking into the ground, the calming scent of Earth, and helping us to feel more connected and alive in the outdoors.

This was my longest run since last year’s St George Marathon, and it felt good to get out and do some extra mileage.  With another marathon coming up in May, I am starting to feel the need to be more strict with my training schedule, as I have yet to fully commit to running 20+ miles per week.  When I think back on last year’s training schedule, the time commitment sounds significant when I add up the hours, but since I ran before work on weekdays, it felt less so because I was done with the required mileage before I even started the work-day.  How do you manage marathon training?

Next week is the Shamrock Run!  I have signed up for this race two times previously, and been unable to attend the actual event.  This year, I am looking forward to tackling the 15k on the Terwilliger hill, and joining in the sea of runners dressed in Kelly Green, embellished with Shamrocks.  Will I see any of you out on the road next Sunday?

On another note, today is a very special post for me – this is my 101st post!  Never did I imagine that I would be able to keep writing about running for so long.  I have discovered running is a pretty interesting sport, with many sights worth seeing, places to explore, and distances to conquer!  I want to thank all of you for reading and responding to these entries; not only has this been a great outlet for writing and sharing the beauty I see while getting distance under my belt, I have also made some great connections with like-minded folk near and far.  I am humbled to know that there are 100 of my friends, family, and acquaintances who choose to read the words on these pages.  You inspire me to keep writing, and I cannot thank you enough for that gift.

All my best to you on this wonderful Saturday.

with joy and gratitude,
~Alaina

Saturday Evening Race to the Top

Saturday morning I awoke to the most colorful, layered sunrise sky I have seen from my new apartment (I apologize for not capturing that gloriousness in a photo – will do next time!).  For some unknown reason, I sat up with a start early-ish this lovely weekend morning. Perhaps because the time was 7am and my body usually experiences the 6am wake-up alarm of the M-F routine, or because Saturdays are reserved for the group run, which commences promptly at 8am, and a little worry may have crept into my sleeping brain that I might soon be missing something important.

Last weekend, Saturday’s agenda took an unusual path.  I was meeting my sister for breakfast in the suburbs, and going to a baby shower a little farther yet from home.  And I was nervous.  Why, you ask?  Because I was driving outside of the city…

To most people, this will seem a little dramatic.  But to tell you the truth, I was a little terrified.  I have only had my driver’s license for a little over a year, and a car to drive for less than three months.  (Yes, I am a grown adult and nearly 32 years of age – I’m just a little late to jump into the vehicle game).

and I had NEVER driven on the freeway alone…

I knew the easiest, and most time effective, method of getting to my destination meant driving on one of those multi-lane, 50 mph and faster highways with crazy people speeding, merging, and darting around me.  I was…

TERRIFIED!

My morning progressed slowly, meaning by the time I walked out my door, I was running late, and since the back roads were going to take about 26 minutes, I needed to save myself ten minutes and take the highway.  So I sucked it up, got in my car, and drove right onto the highway ramp.  I drove my little car down the big, scary road, and you know what?  It really wasn’t that bad, after all.

Also, I am eternally grateful for the little voice in my phone that tells me where to go.  (Thank you Apple!)

I had a lovely breakfast with my sister, we discussed baby shower details – Yes, I am going to be an Auntie! – and then we decided to wander and shop at a surprisingly nearby mall.   (There is a possibility I have missed this from my teen years).  It’s incredible how close things become when you can drive to different locations in mere minutes.

New adorable flats in hand (the Jeffrey Campbell “In Love” flats – a la Miss Meers, my favorite shoe boutique from the college years), I hugged my sis and was off to a friend’s baby shower.  We played games, munched on some delicious food, and guessed if the baby was a pink bow or a blue bow.  They had been keeping their little one’s gender secret for many weeks… and the reveal came just three and a half weeks before baby is expected!  I picked a pink bow to pin to the board, and … I guessed right! Woohoo!  (Yes, I am very proud of guessing correctly – two of three recent births… one still TBD).  I am very excited for this little person to join the lives of my good friend and her husband, and can’t wait to meet her!

After all the congratulating and asking to be notified of when and how it goes, we all left in our vehicles… I was excited to get home and get to my run!

I really wanted to catch the view of Portland before the sun set, and since I was heading out the door after 5pm, I knew I had little time.   Choosing to take the most direct route to my favorite overlook of the city, I went straight up the hill… as fast as I could without making myself sick, that is.  And the view was lovely, of course.

On my way back down the hill, and toward the waterfront, the sky turned red…

Once I reached the waterfront, the sun was fading from the sky, and night began to envelop the city.   A blue hue fell over the water and clouds.  I was greeted by a very large flock of birds floating near the water’s edge.The night was beautiful.  Dry, quiet, and water so still; a mirror reflecting the city back upon herself.  Dazzling even to those who hadn’t just run eight miles, I’d wager.

In the next few weeks, I will be increasing again, training for the Newport Marathon.  It’s crazy how quickly these dates catch up to us – this marathon at the end of May will be my “longest run” (or one of my longest runs) in preparation for a 50K in July – The Siskiyou Outback.  Part of me can not believe I have chosen to challenge my mind and body in that race, the other part is thoroughly excited.  🙂

A shorter race is upcoming before these two long races. In March, I’ll be tackling the Shamrock with a bunch of friends, running the 15K.  I have never actually run in this race, despite having registered on two separate previous occasions.  I look forward to finally running amidst all the green attire and silly Leprechaun get-ups.  Thinking about this race, I’m wondering if I should have some kind of strategy for race day.  I’d love to hear from you – how do you plan for race-day?  What is your strategy?

All my best to you out on the trails, roads, puddle jumping, and sliding through snow…
Happy running!
~Alaina

Day 27 of NaBloPoMo: Daily Writing is Coming to an End!

I have a hard believing that I have been posting almost every night for twenty-seven days for NaBloPoMo (I admit I have missed two, or possibly three).  This is the most frequent posting I have ever attempted, and it really hasn’t been easy.  Getting the time in each day has been a challenge, and usually, I end up in front of my computer, late at night, trying to hit the “Publish” button before the clock turns over to twelve o’clock am on the following day.  And I succeed… about half of the time, the rest are posted a few minutes late.

To my fellow NaBloPoMo-ers, how do you work this event into your day?

Admittedly, I am starting to enjoy the frequency and find it a nice way to wrap up my day.  Sort out all the thoughts and happenings and how I want to think about things is the main point of repeatedly sitting in front of this computer.  I have finally decided that an earlier attempt during the day can be very beneficial.  (and I have yet to start that practice).

Overall, posting this often is like learning to drive a car.  You do not just go out for one lesson at two o’clock pm during the daylight and then finish all other lessons at nine o’clock pm in the dark.  Your attention span, observational skills, and sight will all be impaired just a little due to how tired you are.  As are my blog posts; they’re short, not as well-written, and rushed to meet the deadline.  After this month is done, I know I will need to focus on a plan for blogging at a rate (and time of day) more reasonable for my lifestyle.

I’ll leave you with a running quote that so applies to this subject:

to all, have a good night, and happy running!
~Alaina

A Moment in Time; A Little Rhyme

The past few days of NaBloPoMo, I have found myself reviewing old drafts and stumbled upon this (rather long) poem I wrote on July 11, 2012.   Some of you may know that from time to time I will write a little prose.  In fact, poetry is the reason I started a blog three and a half years ago.  By no means am I studied or practiced at the art, but from time to time I find myself typing words without thought, and often, the jumble that comes out seems to have some sense hidden in the layers and somewhat simple rhyme and meter.

Having an outlet to truly share these words was what I thought I needed at the time, yet here I am, stumbling across a bit of writing that I chose to hide in the “Draft” archives of this website instead of letting it be heard.  So, belatedly, here it is, now for public reading.  As much as I try, I cannot remember the inspiration for these words, yet in reading them now, they create a rise of feeling in me.

Please feel free to express your feedback on this writing.  Constructive criticism is also welcome.

Renew

For every day lived and each sweet breath released
For moments bombarded with noise, and those in peace
For times in oppressive loneliness, and those in open oneness

For each opportunity to turn a leaf
For that final release of heartfelt grief
For genuine clarity and heady acceptance

For everything that has ever been
For the unknown we have kept within
For time I spent away from you…

This time I will start anew.

A brand new day to bring the sun
A new life to express joy and have fun
A time to be who I have meant

A chance to bring the world new light
A time to observe like birds in flight
A day in this life is not just a day

We choose to lead the way.

To the top of the hill, to the crest on the breast
To jump from the cliff, to leave all the rest
We know not the calling, no need to ask why
We simply choose to know we can fly

Light shows the way, light brings us home
We no longer need all that space to roam
With a unified voice, we lift our faces toward the sky

Out pours the song, “now hear our cry!”
The world is not ending, that is not yet near
It is a new beginning for all that will hear.

Listen: Do you hear those notes?
The song in the distance?
The thrum in the throats

Of thousands of people not willing to sit
Waiting for those who would put fire to the pit
They ignore the present and look to the past

See how it spins them round so fast?
They’re blind to all the truth to be seen.
So lost and scared, they know not a thing.

They repeat what they hear, and it’s all lost in fear
No one is out there helping.

So hear my call, dear friends on the mound,
We are needed, we must now sound

Our voices together, unified and light
To diminish the hate, and stop the fight.
We are one, we are, we are!

Knowing this; we can go far
To bring peace, administer joy.
So jump in, and join our ploy.

“We are the world”, he once sang
We are the future, their voices rang,
Here in the present we are, I say.

Do not fear this simple state.
In every moment there is a gate
Which lends us to authenticate.

Be as your heart calls unto you,
It is the only thing to do!
We are. Forever. Faithful. True.

by Alaina Shea 7/11/12
(last two verses added 11/25/13)