Hitting the Trail – A New Perspective on Running

Sunday, day two of weekend workout 50k training, I decided to use my “short” run wisely and head into the hills.  It was a double-whammy of hill workouts, this weekend; time to change it up, strap on my new trail shoes, and head out the door for some real, butt-kicking, rock and tree-toe obstacle-full muddy trails of fun.  In my brand-new shoes.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger – my first pair of “real” trail shoes.

The soles of Nike Zoom Terra Kiger have an amazing sticky rubber.  When I tried them on in the store, I sounded like I had just come in from the rain with rubber sneakers on – Super squeaky!  On my mile and a half trek over pavement to the trail, running in these was mildly difficult.  On the one hand, they offer tremendous light support, and on the other – it is SO much more support than I am used to, as I generally wear the Nike Free Flyknit (which may almost feel like being barefoot in comparison).  The girl working in the shoe department was aghast that I ran marathons in the Free – apparently it is not designed for that kind of work.  I like taking the ordinary and making it  extraordinary.  I love my Free’s.

As much as wearing the Terra Kiger on the pavement was giving my calves and hamstrings a stupendous workout, as soon as I hit dirt in these bad boys, it all made sense.  They have enough support to keep your foot solid on the ground, and they feel incredibly stable, yet the sole is light and flexible enough that you can still feel the rocks and dips and bumps in the trail.  My first run in these shoes was eight miles long, five and a half on trails, and I came out of this test run completely unscathed: No blisters, raw spots, or extraordinary soreness.

Yes, I do believe the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger will work for my 50k (Siskiyou Outback, here I come!)

Although the day started out overcast and with a slight chill (which I was grateful for near the end of this run), the forest was gently bathed in a wash of soft, cool light.

The view from the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion gave me a pleasant reprieve – a place to catch my breath, take in the city, and stop to smell the roses.

The descent down the hill was, of course, much quicker than my climb up to the top.  (This is the stuff negative splits are made of, right?)  51 minutes up, and 43 minutes down.  I was cautious, and took more care to watch for obstacles on the downhill leg of my journey, especially after the warning from my 50k running-mate that morning, complete with a picture of her bleeding knee, offering sage advice: “do try to pick up your feet.”

Overall, it was a great insight to a different type of running.  Trail running is so much more active.  I tend to get in a zone on my daily run, pleasant smile on my face, looking around, observing my fellow runners, saying good morning, and generally feeling at peace, quietly plodding along with joy.

On the trials, the “zone” is a totally different place. It requires focus, constant attention to detail in your surroundings, and persistence.  Less than halfway up my climb, I was out of breath, quads and rear burning with the effort, pulse beating, and my heart beating at my breast as though it was going to jump from my chest in a fit of agony and lay panting on the ground.  I effectively learned on Sunday that I might be a little out of shape for a race that takes place on trails.

But you can bet that I’m not going to let that little fact deter me.  

To all my fellow runners anticipating your next race: Here’s to hill training and working through the pain, because on the other side of that discomfort lies a greater level of fitness.  And satisfaction!

How do you train for a trail race?
How many of your work outs per week do you devote to hills and trails?

with joy in running (and breaking through past limitations),
~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

Snow Day on Repeat; More Snow, More Miles

Last night, as I went to bed, I decided to let myself sleep in as long as my body would let me, regardless of the fact that Saturday is traditionally the group long run day.  Of course, I woke up promptly at 7am and decided at twenty after I would throw my clothes on and run out the door to meet my friends on foot at 8am… two miles away, for an eight mile run.  In the snow.

Fortunately, I made it on time, and I am so happy I got out of bed to meet them – It had snowed again overnight, there was hardly any traffic, and it was gorgeous.

The Hawthorne Bridge
Hidden track of Duniway.
Up the hill on Terwilliger.
View from the hill.

City view from the top deck of the Steel.
On the Eastbank.

Toward the end of our run, it really started snowing heavily.  I had a wonderful time walking home through all the white flakes of fluff.

We were lucky to have one more day of glorious snow; we are currently experiencing freezing rain, and it seems the conditions tomorrow will be best suited for staying indoors.

What are your favorite snow-day adventures?

Be safe and stay warm, everyone!

with joy,
~Alaina

A Snow Day Run

Over the past few days it has snowed.  It snowed a little on Monday and again on Tuesday, and while it looked pretty floating in large white balls of fluff, the air was warm enough that it all melted away moments after it hit the ground.  Then, on Thursday, after a very cold, dry Wednesday, the weather reports were all over the board, as is usual when there is a potential for “winter weather” in Portland.

And then… at about ten in the morning… tiny, white flakes began falling from the sky.
The snow did not necessarily stick, but was blown around by incredible gusts of wind. 

When I decided to leave work at twelve thirty in the early afternoon, snow was piling up, the wind was crazy, and the temperature was around 20 degrees (with a ‘feels like’ six degrees!).  Needless to say, in a location where drivers are inexperienced with the white stuff falling from the sky, a half hour commute turned into nearly three hours, much of that spent waiting for a bus in ‘blizzard’ conditions.  I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate at one of my favorite coffee shops close to home, and on my walk after the fortifying hot beverage, snow-covered the ground.

Snow was predicted for varying amounts of accumulation, and to my delight – there were measurable inches by the end of the day!  Which of course meant that today I was probably going to skip the commute to the office and work remotely.

And I did – delighted to sit at home at my desk, and gaze out my single-pane window at the snow-covered city.

After a few hours of sitting, staring, and finishing some work, my legs could not sit still any longer, and I had to get out and run!

I layered up (three wool shirts!), headed out the door and quickly learned that running on lightly compacted, powdery snow is very much like running on dry sand.  Challenging and so much fun; I found myself giggling every two minutes as I would slip or slide.  And of course, I took pictures!

It was a beautiful morning…

During this morning’s run, there was no precipitation, in fact the sun starting peeking out from behind some clouds.  At noon, it was snowing again… and it has not stopped!  I am looking forward to walking out into a dreamy, white winter wonderland to get my morning cup o’joe, and plan which direction my feet will take me on the Saturday long run…

Where do you like to run when the weather is … compromising?
How do you stay warm?  I thought about a scarf today to cover my nose, but decided against it as it could have been uncomfortable.

Keep warm, and have fun getting outside!

with joy in running (and the unexpected),
~Alaina

Sunday’s Run: Cloudy with a Quartet of Birds – So Very Portland.

Sunday I went out for an early evening run.  The day had been bright, and I was seeing a soft, warm glow of the beginnings of sunset when I decided I needed to pull my shoes on and head outside.  It was cooler than I had expected, and I was happy I bundled up, heading to the waterfront to visit the well-known bridge loop.

The sky was putting on quite a show, varying in light puffs of cloud to the dark menacing threat of storms.  I had a ball capturing the many different beautiful faces of Portland clouds with my iPhone (which thankfully, did not shut down this time!).

Those birds! So funny…

The run felt great – to get out and be able to photograph the little things that catch my eye make each experience of lacing up and getting going two hundred times more exciting.  The world we live in is so beautiful, and I cannot stop admiring her.

I am looking forward to the long run with Saturday’s Run group of gals.  Secretly, I am hoping it will be foggy … That would make for a gorgeous photo story!

What is the weather like where you are?  Do you have to wear special gear to get out in the snow?
I’ve heard something about putting screws in the soles of your shoes for ice and snow… Does that work?

Happy running everyone!
~Alaina

Cold Days: Fingers Become Icicles and the Appearance of the Little Circle of Doom

The last couple weeks have been cold.
I mean Cold!

I have recently acquired my first OMNI-HEAT Down-jacket from Columbia Sportswear, and I am loving every second of wearing this blanket from heaven.
I can not believe it took me so many years to get one of these jackets.  It is a total game-changer!  See it here!

I have also learned the effects of the cold on my regular habit of picture-taking on my run… three-quarters of a mile in, one picture snapped, then – the screen goes black and the little circle of doom spirals, sputters, and disappears as my phone shuts itself off. 

Does anyone have a solution for this iPhone “it’s too cold out to function” shut-down prevention?  How do folks in Alaska and North Dakota use cell phones or smart phones if they just shut off when it is cold?

Needless to say, I haven’t been getting many scenic captures in the past few weeks.  Fortunately, the weather has warmed a little, my life is calming, I’m feeling the breathing room, and I’ll be able to get out and share the view very soon.

Here are a few pictures from a run when the temperature hit the teens; the sun was setting and I was able to get in a few pictures in the first 8 minutes of my run before the spiral appeared in blackness and my phone took a nap:

I plan to find a solution so I can continue my favorite pastime of iPhoneography while running, and until then, you may find more words here than images.  I welcome any thoughts or advice you can offer!

I hope everyone is staying warm, and having fun tackling the elements, whatever they may be where you run!

with joy,
~Alaina