Commitments: Heart, Soul, and Feet – Time for Some Nourishment

Over the past few months, I have found myself (finally) making commitments to do the things that are enjoyable for me on a semi-consistent … let’s say, weekly basis.  Tonight, for example, a lovely weekend-eve Friday night, I got home around 5:30pm after work, put on my Pj’s, poured a short glass of white wine, and snacked on a random assortment of foods including cheese, apple, gluten-free pretzels, carrots, prunes, and salami.  Okay, and a little ice cream.  I was relaxed, comfortable, and just enjoying the peace of being home.  

To be honest, I knew I wanted to write tonight, and I did not want to spend time cooking… and in the end, did not eat a very healthy meal by my standards.  (Can I even call it a meal?)

Truthfully, I eat this way frequently.  Although, generally in a more organized “here is the pu-pu platter” kind of assorted fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses manner.  Chopping and not cooking is easy, delicious, and I have to say, I think there is something to eating raw that I might like to explore.  I have so much energy when I snack on whole foods!

I do not know when or how it happened, but at some point in my young adult life, I started fantasizing about eating healthy foods.  I was terrible at it in my teens, and my early 20’s.  Dorm food and low budgets do not make for choice selections in the grocery aisle.  I find myself now, reading the ingredients on any food that comes pre-packaged (or on any health and beauty item – there are so many unrecognizable items in face cream!  I mean, really! Do you want …. “whateverthatis” on your face and in your body???)

My turning point came in 2009, when I signed up with a trainer at my local 24 Hour Fitness.  I was relieved when I found out I would be training with a woman – a girl, in fact someone my age.  She had spunk, was super cute, strong, funny, and knew just what to say to get me to do what she wanted.  In less than two weeks, I was on a very regimented work-out schedule, keeping a food (and “how are you feeling”) journal, and pushing physical boundaries I never thought I would be touching.

It’s true, in two months I had lost a significant amount of body fat, gained 7 pounds of lean muscle and I was working out with such focus and intensity, the only time I was approached by a man at the gym it went like this:  Him  – “You look like you’re working hard.” (slight smile on his mouth).  Me – “Yes, I am.” (Matter-of-factly)  Him – ” . . . (crickets) . . . ” (turns and leaves).  I scared him away.  …Must learn how to appropriately engage in conversation with interested men… oh, well.

Over time, I lost my enthusiasm for the gym.  The things I really kept in practice are in regards to food.  Portion size, variety, the importance of having lots of colors in your food, frequency of meals to keep up the metabolism… all of these have had a tremendous impact on my energy level, how I feel in my body, and combating tiredness.  The greatest impact was unintentional – I was instructed not to eat carbs (ie: bread and wheat) except in the morning. Oatmeal or sprouted wheat toast were ok in the early hours when you are kick-starting your body.  By following this advice, I learned how much my body dislikes wheat, and I am so grateful to have been given this knowledge before any number of physical consequences reared their ugly heads.Despite all my training and the lessons I have learned, I am constantly striving to eat better.  I want to eat more vegetables.  I want to eat less sugar, in fact, perhaps eliminate all processed sugar from my diet.  I want to cook more of my meals.  I want to eat local foods that I purchase at the farmer’s market to support local business, and make Earth-healthy choices (closer food equals less fossil fuel consumption in shipping goods).      Making these changes takes time, energy, planning, prepping, and spending time at home cooking rather than choosing social occasions eating out.  Lifestyle change – difficult, important, and definitely possible.

So this month, I am choosing to Nourish my heart, soul, and continue to honor and nourish my feet and legs with running (especially with a Marathon and a 50K coming up in the near future).  For my heart, I am participating in a 30 push-ups/day for 30 days challenge inspired by a couple of very cool ladies over at It’s A Marathon AND A Sprint, Colby and Tina (arm and core strength are good for the heart, right?).  For my soul, I am committing to writing every day for the month of May, following the BlogHer prompts for “Nourish” NaBloPoMo.  I love that they have put together a “Write Your Heart Out” theme for every month!  Whenever you decide to pick up the pen, you can find support of other writers, getting their Blog on.

Here’s to writing, running, pushing-up for dynamite shoulders, and eating like we’ve always dreamed so we can feel that good.

Happy Nourish-ing…
~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)

Cool, Crisp, and Crunchy: Saturday’s Run in the Forest

Saturday, the cool morning air smelled clean, fresh like a snow-fallen day.  The wind was blowing, gusting and swirling around me as I huddled in my jacket, hood raised despite the lack of rainfall to protect my chin and neck from the cutting air.  The city was aglow with the warm peach hue of the rising sun.  It was a beautiful day for a long run in the Park.

The trails were blissfully open, full of color of the fallen leaves, and crisp with frosted mud and crunchy ice-covered puddles.  The whole of Portland seemed to be out for a run in the forest that day, taking advantage of what is sure to be one of the last sunny weekends of Fall on our way into Winter.

The gorgeous gals of Saturday’s Run.

We went out for an out and back run of eight miles, which is lovely on the trails; the photographer in me wants to explore some more territory, so I may encourage a divergence from our usual path for the next run in Forest Park.  Despite the repeat in terrain, I was able to catch some pretty magnificent moments.

It was the perfect day for a run.  I enjoyed every minute of being blinded by sunlight, especially since experience tells me we will soon be running in pouring rain each day.  Love Portland winters!

Where did you run this weekend?

Superman and Angels; An Episode of the Morning Run

This summer during marathon training, mid-week was my medium length run; I was headed out the door to get in seven miles before work.  I had been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall the night before this run, and read of these runners “kicking up their feet” …  I started thinking about my stride and realized it is primarily a shuffle.  Not much lift in the back, slide forward to the next foot and keep movin’ along.  So, I decided to work on my “kick” just to see what it felt like, and boy… it makes a difference!  I found that I have more spring, when the leg goes back, there’s more momentum for it to swing forward, and I think that overall it increased my pace, or at least increased my turn-over.

I was about half a mile into my seven mile run in the city, and while passing a restaurant, decided to check my form in the window, and … Bam!  I found myself sliding down the sidewalk, six feet from where my right toe hit one of the infamous pieces of sidewalk lifted by a root of a beautiful Portland tree.  I was practicing my Superman, and once again learned that it is true, I do not have hidden wings, and I cannot fly.  Unfortunately, I found myself in a similar situation splayed out on the sidewalk only a few short months ago, and the memory of that injury had not totally faded.  On that occasion, I was laid up with a swollen knee-cap for a week, icing every night, and was not able to return to my regular running schedule for over a month.

I cautiously tested out my limbs, slowly stood up, and recalled that unlike my previous encounter with pavement, there was no loud “crack!” when I landed this time, as I had magically fallen on a downhill slope which somehow let me catch most of my weight with my arms, and slide on my side a little rather than hitting my knee directly. The only noise I heard was the “ssssssshhhhhhh” of my shoes catching on the cement as they slid down the sidewalk.  I took that as a good sign.  I was determined to finish the run I had just begun, so after a couple careful steps, I gingerly tested out a jog, found my legs to be fine (except the quarter-sized raspberry on my left knee), so I continued on toward my daily hill climb.

As I was nearing the turn off to head up the hill, I found myself pacing with a woman who was running in the middle of the street.  I gauged her to be in her fifties or early sixties, and she was keeping an outstanding clip. I decided to let her know I appreciated her pace and hollered “You’ve got a great pace going!”  She looked over, and immediately grinned – “Well thank you!  That’s quite a compliment for someone of my age!”  We got to talking, and it turns out she is from Texas, used to flat terrain, has been running every day for many years, and has recently started working out with a trainer to build muscle to keep her bones strong.  She was peppy, friendly, and just the person I needed to run into that morning after another fall to keep my spirits bright.  And what an inspiration!

We chatted, introduced ourselves, and went our separate ways mid-hill, I was turning around, and she was continuing on up to the top.  Pleasant, happy, and genuinely joyful was this woman from Texas.  Any morning I want to meet the day with some cheer, I know where to run to meet up with this lovely lady.

I may have discovered I was not Superman, but that Wednesday morning, I met an Angel.

The people in the world that bring us joy make life that much more wonderful, and help us appreciate being on this planet.  Shine your joy, and help others find their light.

With joy in running, and in all things…
~Alaina

Struggling with Time (a.k.a. How Do I Post My Blog Entry Before Midnight on Workdays?)

In the very beginning, I knew committing to NaBloPoMo was going to be a stretch, which was precisely my motivation for joining the movement.  I started with an enthusiasm, joy, and a need to fulfill the promise to post daily.  Now I find myself at my computer, after eleven o’clock each evening trying to summon the words to share with the readers of this blog.

I have found myself in some decidedly unexplored territory.  From a girl who writes about running, I have taken some rather interesting departures from running location, route, and shoe type with views along the way to Personal Reflection, Fear, and Vulnerability.  Slightly different content from the typical “Hey, I’m training to run a marathon” post.  

Changing the topic of discussion here has felt a little awkward; the posts mentioned above do not necessarily fit in with the flow from previous chapters of this narrative.  One tends to wonder about the response of readers when figuratively jumping ship from the huge, steady barge to a small, wooden paddle boat.  I could even got as far to say I feel a little guilty diverting and straying from the steady winds which have kept my sails filled and the ship steady in the past.

The exploration of new topics, and sharing a different perspective has actually been liberating.  Feeling very hesitant at first, I am now more interested in continuing to mix up my messages, whether it be contemplations on life, or the play-by-play of my next run, be certain you will find something of interest to read (hopefully).  

To my fellow bloggers, and frequent post-ers; Do you aim to stick to a common theme for your Blog?  Or do you write whatever comes to mind?

happy blogging!
~Alaina

Living Life, Minding the Present; Be-ing and Vulnerablilty

Many of my years as a child, growing into adulthood in my teens, and pressing further into my life as a career-person, aware and contributing to society, have been spent in a constant commentary with Ego.  It has taken a lot of reading (my large collection of self-help novels is yet to be unpacked in my new apartment), listening to motivational speakers, and connecting with others to finally recognize this aspect of myself.  I used to identify my “logical, critical thinking” with reasoning, and I am beginning to see this as the opposite.  This past year, I have been un-training myself to trust “reason” and let go, attempting to learn to listen to my subconscious and intuitive thinking.

Man, is it hard!

For someone who has always analyzed every situation, weighed the pros and cons, and rationally chosen the direction to walk down a path, choosing to feel my reaction and to literally go with my gut has been a challenge.

On the other hand, freeing my mind and following my body’s response has been extremely liberating.  I can still see my mind go into analytical mode, and I am nowhere near as good at this as I would like to be, yet, I am getting better at acknowledging the thoughts, and letting them go.  The physical response to words, actions, ideas, thoughts, anything introduced to your surrounding is always present.  

Since making the choice to live this way, I surprisingly have more time in each day.  Being less in my head has freed my hands to do other things, and my mind can better occupy time with thoughts of the here-and-now, rather than floating off into the oblivion of the unknown future questions and hypotheses.  I feel relieved and happy to have time to write more often!

Have you felt yourself shift?  Do you notice a difference in space and time when you stay present?

One of the side-effects of staying present is not having the time to prepare and protect.  One is forced by nature to remain vulnerable in each setting because nothing else is important.  We are able to truly experience our feelings (feel the gut reactions!) and process them in real-time, not wondering what may come next or how that will affect us.  We are free to Be.  What a wonderful way to live!

Now, I’m no Guru, but I have listened to the advise of a few of these knowledgable people, and hope I have gleaned enough to start making a difference in my life.  When I want to talk with someone, I will call them.  If I am pulled to respond to a text in a longer format to convey that I care, I will.  

Most importantly, I have learned, when someone has significance in your life, to let them know.

This holiday season, I am going to take a cue from a good man, Evan Sanders at The Better Man Project, and write to my loved ones.  Writing is a much more expressive, and eloquent, method for communication for me, and I want to let each and every special person in my life know that I appreciate them.  Because you really never know when your next opportunity will come.  (Thanks, Evan, for the brilliant idea, and reminder).  

Today’s top three:  Be present with those you love, wear your heart on your sleeve, and follow your intuition.  

with love, light, and delight,
~Alaina