First Run on the Second in 2015

After a long break from running and exercise – any serious movement – after being sick for a whole week, I was thrilled to have a cool, clear, crisp morning to get outside and Run!  With this new year, I am starting at square one, so I went out for a two-mile run.  Short and sweet, and absolutely stunning!

Frozen Pond
Tracks
Frozen!
Broadway Bridge
Boat
Fremont Bridge

It was such a beautiful morning.  I couldn’t have asked this fair city for better sunshine, temperature, or reflections.

I am so happy to be running again!

Tomorrow commences Saturday runs with my running buddies.  It has been far too long since I spent the mornings chatting and laughing and pounding out the miles with those lovely ladies.  I look forward to another beautiful run, and a few more miles, tomorrow.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, enjoying your exercise of choice!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

The Long Up-Hill a.k.a. Running from SE Portland to the Zoo

Saturday my friends chose a challenging run full of hills.  Or one really long hill.  Starting from the flat lands of the close-in East side of Hawthorne across the bridge, through downtown, up Washington Park, and finishing (the first half of the run) at the top of the Portland Zoo parking lot.  The morning was surprisingly cloudy and cool.  I had been watching the weather forecast all week, anticipating the weekend’s delightful sunshine, but the little yellow ball of glowing happiness kept moving to the right, just one more day… every day.  As a native Oregonian, I suppose I should not be surprised by the peek-a-boo sunshine, especially since we have not yet reached the glorious Fourth of July after which Summer officially begins in Portland.  (We’re almost there!!!  Can you feel it??)

The path of great gains in elevation lead us past the well-known International Rose Test Garden, wherein visitors can gain a pretty perspective of downtown cityscapes while filling their noses with Eau de Rose Varieties.  (These roses smell so good!)

View from the International Rose Test Garden

We learned that bunny rabbits have a strong affinity for the rose petals, as well, but they find them much more edible than most of us humans.

The cool, long down-hill
The prettiest grate that you ever-did-see.
A brief appearance of Sun Beams at the end of our run.
Set-up beginning for the Blues Festival weekend, with blue tents popping up on the waterfront.

Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back into the SE Industrial area.

I am so grateful that we went out and trekked our way up this never-ending hill.  It inspired me to endeavor to conquer more aggressive hills, on trials, with rocks and tree-roots, and mud (more on this soon).  I have resolved to make at least one of my weekday run adventures on dirt, with many hills.  With the Siskiyou Outback quickly approaching, I need to get a little more serious about proper true hilly trail running.

Does anyone want to run around Timberline with me?  🙂

The last few months have been a little frustrating.  I have found myself both loathing running and relishing the time spent solo, pounding the pavement.  My body has definitely adapted to the increased mileage on the weekends, yet I still find myself lacking the energy to get up and go on weekdays.  My new secret weapon for the long run is major carbs Friday night.  I tend to have a fairly simple diet of protein, fruits, and veggies, and over the last few weeks have found in order to keep up energy and stamina, I apparently need to add a few more calories than my normal diet provides.  (Who am I kidding?  When you burn an extra 3000-5000 calories per week, of course you need to eat more!)  

I guess there is an adjustment period to learning exactly how to eat MORE food.  (As I write this at 10:30pm, my stomach is growling…  Time to have a late night snack!)  Before the Newport Marathon I was baking bread for snacking on, and I think it may be time to do so again.  This coming weekend is conveniently another 36 mile weekend, and our famous fireworks holiday.  I plan to go to bed very shortly after all the loud popping noises cease.  🙂

To my friends: I hope you are adjusting to summer training, feeding your body well, and finding joy in the everyday…!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

Let the Training Continue: On to the 50K Ultra-Race!

Lovely Newport Beach-y clouded skies.

Twenty-one days ago, I ran the Newport Marathon.  With joy in my heart, and a skip in my step, I moved my way over those 26.2 miles with a smile.

After returning from my little vacation to Vegas and LA, three days later to driving to the coast to spend the weekend at the beach running the Newport Marathon, I was completely prepared for a calm, quiet week (and weekend) at home.  Monday and Tuesday passed uneventfully, I even signed up for an online workshop on Creative Visualization for Wednesday evening.  Much to my surprise, I received a text from my sister – she was at the hospital… and going to have a baby!  And there went my quiet, relaxing week…!

After a long evening, and an even longer morning, watching, helping, and cheering my sister on, my niece came into the world at 5:55am.  She is amazing.  The most adorable newborn I have ever seen – and her mother was incredible.  I did not know what to expect watching her go through this process, and beyond being one of the most amazing experiences to be present for – watching a life coming into the world – I saw strength and bravery in my sister that was simply awe-inspiring.

The Cutest Baby on Earth.

Needless to say, after a sleepless night, I slept a little that morning, worked the afternoon, and crashed Thursday night.  Friday they went home, and I spent time each day this past weekend with my sister and brother-in-law and my little niece.  Sunday morning, I woke up thinking “why does it feel like I haven’t had a weekend at home in weeks…?”  Well… three weekends, not at home, Alaina.  That’s your answer.

And somehow, three weeks after my last race, without missing a beat or losing my stride, I am continuing on – training for another race.  A bigger race.  An Ultra. 50 Kilometers somewhere up on some mountain in Southern Oregon.  I might die.  But chances are, if I train enough and don’t hurt myself, I’ll end up having a lot of fun on the Siskiyou Outback.   And I’ll get to see my friends from the Newport Marathon!  As well as see my very good friend Cass, whom I have not seen in so long (and I am sure she will totally kick my butt in this race).

Today was my first ever 26 mile training run. TRAINING!  It is so weird to think that today, I ran a marathon… and it wasn’t a race.  Ha!  Who knew I would ever reach this point.  The cool thing is, if it had been a marathon, it would have been a PR!  I clocked in at 4:40 for today’s run, and after a marathon three weeks ago that was 5:02, that feels pretty good.  Oh, and it was beautiful.  And I am sunburned.   (oops, forgot sunblock…)

Geese! Adult and fluffy! – I had to detour around a couple of very protective Momma’s who did not want to let me pass on the sidewalk…
Convention Center silhouette at the Steel Bridge

My run was perfectly lovely – 10 miles solo to start at 6:15, the next 5 miles with my girlfriends, peaking around garage sales in the neighborhood, another 4.5 miles solo, and the last 6.5 with my Mom.  We finished with brunch at a little breakfast diner in Sellwood, and then headed back to garage sale for good deals!  This day leaves me feeling extremely satisfied… and exhausted!

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of running with a friend from high school – I anticipate great conversation which should make 10 pretty easy…   (Can 10 miles be easy the day after 26?  Here’s hoping…!)  Then it’s a baby visit day.  So excited to snuggle that little one again!  I still can’t believe I’m an Auntie!!!

Have you ever trained for something more than a marathon?  

How did you keep up your pep on the “difficult” (aka VERY HIGH MILEAGE) weeks?

Happy Running, everyone!
~Alaina

Running to the Beat of My Own Drum

This quote arrived in my email inbox from Runner’s World this Thursday evening, and at first made me chuckle… Then I thought, you know, this is really true.  I love getting out and running and looking at the world around me.  I people-watch, see wildlife, photograph this beautiful city I have the great pleasure of living in, and sing songs in my head to my heart’s desire (or out loud, depending on how many miles I have covered and if I’m getting that runner’s high … There’s a possibility that I can pass for a crazy person after 12 miles; a happy, smiling, singing crazy person, but … a little different nonetheless).

It’s funny to sit here and know that in about 36 hours I will be on my way running 26.2 miles.  I feel like I am in denial that I will be doing this race at all this time around.  Maybe because the circumstances surrounding last year’s St. George race really did not start off well (story here: Marathoner), and this time my Grandpa is going to do the race with me.  Which is fantastic!  The weather in Newport will be a perfect 50 degrees, not raining, cloudy with sun… What more could a Portland girl want?

I know with everything that I am, that I will run faster than I did in Utah seven months ago.  I still claim to not have a goal pace, although I do think that 4:40 finishing time is my new target.  And while this clocks in at a whole half hour faster than my previous marathon (I think) I am pretty sure I have it in me.  Regardless, I go forth into the unknown of this race, without expectation or need for a specific outcome.  Because I still want to have fun (and take pictures!).

I run to finish with enthusiasm and joy for the sport!  I do think that there may be a turning point when my ego is inclined to begin racing rather than allow me to run and enjoy, and I am grateful that I have not yet reached that point.

Do you run in organized events to race?  Or is it a run for fun with thousands of your peers?  Has your point of view changed?

Happy Running!
~Alaina

Keeping Promises: May Blogging & Arm Strength

I am a little bit surprised by the fact that I have stuck to it and written a blog post, and performed 30 push-ups every day for 28 consecutive days as of… whenever I post this tonight.  I have previously attempted a blog streak, although I feel at that time I was less successful.  Posting solely an image, reflecting on some mildly interesting event, and hoping that the brief jot would sufficiently fulfill the daily requirement and satisfy my own need to create and express.

As I learned in November, putting in a little effort turned out to be just that: a little satisfying.  And each time I knew I was kind of … well… only putting in a half-effort, and that hole would appear in the pit of my stomach reminding me that the content I put out into the world of the Internets was less than.  So, as my posts come later and later this May, edging into the wee hours of the morning, it is because I am learning that making a quality post each day is quite a stretch.  And I would rather be satisfied with my post and miss a little sleep than feel that pit form in my belly.

Despite the difficulty coming up with the next post, I am thoroughly enjoying every moment spent composing.  I have also learned that I am naturally a night owl… Or at least, I kick into creative overdrive in the late evening.  Which is difficult to honor and maintain when getting up at 5:30 or 6am every day to get in the morning workout.

Do you find yourself compromising on sleep to exercise and satisfy your creative side with artful activities?

“Burning the candle at both ends” as they say…
And currently, loving it!

I hope you were all able to do something that brought you happiness today!

Joyfully,
~Alaina

Countdown Begins: Five Days ‘Till the Newport Marathon

This morning, Brandi and headed out to Fullerton to watch my Mom’s fiancé play a match of Racquetball.  It was the first time I have ever watched him compete in his sport, and I tell you – the man is focused, fair, and very respectful for this game and his opponents.  He is a great athlete to watch, and a fabulous source for inspiration.

As the Newport Marathon quickly approaches, I am finding myself under-enthusiastic about running this race.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is nagging at me, this race is close to the beach (which I love), my Grampa will be there with me, and we get to enjoy the surf, sand, and sea for one more day before heading back into town to return to ‘real life’ – a.k.a. My day job.

Part of my hesitation about this race is that for some reason, I feel less prepared than I was for St. George last year.  But frankly, I used the same training g program.  At this point in time, I am prepared in just the same way as that race seven months ago, and in fact, I am faster than last year.

So what is keeping me from the excitement?  The anticipation?  

Overall, I know I am not as prepared as I wanted to be.  In my mind, before training began, I wanted to max my weekend workout run at more than twenty miles, to get in more weight truing, and practice yoga twice each week to maintain (and re-gain) flexibility.

The truth is, I hope that after today, I can harness some of the energy I saw this morning at the Racquetball match.  Those gentlemen really know how to have a good time, and how to concentrate on the task at hand.

How do you stay motivated until you race?
Have you ever felt simply exhausted and let that “I don’t care” mentality creep into your mind?

With hope for fun runs to you all,
~Alaina

Running. Meditation. Strength.

Credit: http://www.runnersworld.com/motivation/quotes

For the last several years, I have wanted to learn how to meditate.  No matter what I try, where I sit, the time of day, I just never seem to have the ability to quiet my mind, remain open, and just be.  It is so hard to be present with … the silence.  Nothingness.  Patiently waiting for … for whatever is supposed to actually happen when you are meditating.

Over the last year, I have come to realize, for me, running is my meditation.  It is a time in my day when I am usually on my own, the rhythmic pounding of left, right, left… looking for traffic, simply observing the world and being present.  I can run for hours and simply enjoy BE-ing in the world, moving on my feet, smiling for no reason other than … I am.

I have not run since Saturday, and I am feeling that … yearning of wanting to get out and move my body.  I miss the quiet spaces I find while putting in my paces around the waterfront.  I am so grateful tomorrow is a run day!  Being on the taper, I think I will feel the difference – lacking the extra mileage, and for the first time, I feel like NOT running will be harder than running every day.  It’s funny how things change.  🙂

Happy Running!
~Alaina

The View Out My Blurry Window

I was very happy this morning to be able to stay in and snuggle under the covers for a couple extra hours, savoring sleep on this last day of the weekend.   The day was rainy and I don’t mean the usual Portland rain – There was thunder, and many downpour moments.   It was a wonderful day to stay in.

Of course, many hours later, the sun shone her light a little upon the damp Earth… Just to remind us it is Spring and not Fall.

I keep thinking about the level of training I am about to embrace for the 50K in July… and savoring today as a rest day, a day off from social commitments, and a day to really just be in my skin, in my home, immersed in my own thoughts was truly a blessing and totally necessary.   I keep forgetting that I need to take time for me, and I do believe I was starting to feel the effects of this choice.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t go anywhere?  You have to stay in … just to think?

My day was rounded out by the daily email from Runner’s World:

runnersworld.com/motivation/quotes

There is so much truth in that statement.  I know I have finally beat my opponent for the 26.2 mile races, but I fear that the battle will resume when I start pushing past that distance.  Training for the Siskiyou Out & Back 50K is going to be trying, but I am ready for the challenge.   🙂

Happy Rest Day!
~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

Gratefulness and A Delicious Recipe

Sometimes, the only thing that really matters in life is your state of mind.  At the end of the workday today, I needed a little reminder of the good, so I started going through my ‘I-am-grateful-for‘s’ and felt my body relax, my mind clear, and the smile return to my face.  Today really was a great day.

Today is day six of the 30 for 30 push-up challenge, and I already feel stronger.  I no longer stop after ten and wait a while before going back for another ten, and then another ten.  Instead, I am completing two sets of 15 with a short break in the middle.  Makes a girl wonder why she didn’t take on a challenge like this earlier…?

My morning runs are short and sweet this week – 5 miles: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in preparation of the 20 mile long run this weekend. Due to my sister’s Baby shower (omigodImgoingtobeanauntie!) Saturday, I will be modifying my schedule to do the run on Sunday.  I haven’t covered this much distance since last year’s training prep for St. George in September, and although I am a little nervous about the distance, I no longer harbor any fear of not finishing.  I know I can, and that mind game is finally over.

In the interest of getting a little more sleep tonight than I have in the last five (consequences of starting a blog post at 10:45pm), I am here to share my absolute favorite made-up (Baked!) dish.

As the Farmer’s Markets return to the neighborhood parking lots, I find myself craving the end of summer already, if only to have some lovely yellow squash again!  You are getting this recipe (well, a list of guidelines to create a dish – recipes are more scientific and precise than the list that will follow below) well in advance of the availability of the vegetable, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

Baked Delicata Squash:

– De-seed and cut 2-3 delicata squash into small pieces
(seeds may be soaked in sea salt & water and baked for a great crunchy snack!)
– Place squash pieces in baking dish
– Chop onion (to your desired amount – maybe 1/3 onion?) Spread over squash
– Sprinkle a handful of raisins (plus or minus) over squash
– Sprinkle with a handful of almonds
– Sprinkle with cinnamon (as desired)
– Dash of Nutmeg
– cut butter into slim tabs and place on top of the squash (this may be substituted with EarthBalance or other oil substitute)

Cover dish with foil and bake in oven at 350 degrees until squash is soft.
I kid you not, this will taste like dessert.  So.  Good.  This squash is so naturally sweet, no sugar is needed.

What is your favorite way to prepare Delicata Squash?

Happy eating, training, and nourishing – I am so grateful to be able to write this and share with like-minded people.  🙂
~Alaina