My Past, Present, and Future

Hello friends,

Over eight months ago was my last rambling in this lovely space, and I feel … stuck at how to begin telling you about the major transformation my life has taken in such a short time.

It’s like these stairs in my new neighborhood…

There have been challenges.
Physical pain.
Heartbreaking loss.

After it all, I have continued to climb this hill, and find myself in a very happy place.

I now own a home. I am finally running again! And a new sense of purpose is subtly finding a place in my mind, rolling off my lips, and it is finally time to make space for this new adventure on a page.

After the broken toe (and spirit), the healing solo vacation, and buying my first home, I now know what I need to do.

While I was on the journey through Yoga Teacher Training two years ago, I found myself contemplating creating (what I thought was) a new career: healthy lifestyle coach. I found so much joy in talking with my peers about what they really wanted to do and encouraging them to step forward, plus I was exploring cooking and baking without sugar, with success! And I really want to share my ideas and recipes with you, my friends.

So this is when I get to tell you: I am starting a new project.

Alwayslovinlife has fulfilled her purpose for the time being. She will stay here, and perhaps I will visit from time to time with notes or pictures from my running adventures (because I do plan to have many more).

This is a new adventure to share my real life with you (not just the running highlights):
– Recipes created without added (processed) sugar (using REAL FOOD)
– Reduce/reuse/recycle ideas and DIYs (Save the Planet!” because I have always been that   way. And now I have a house that needs furniture and fixing – on a budget!)
– Relevant ideas regarding mindfulness & self-care. This is a practice that is difficult for me to maintain, so I am asking you to help hold me accountable.
– And more developments to come, once I catch my stride in the new space!

That’s the scoop! I am happy to finally have the processed enough of the stuff of last summer/fall/winter, and have the mental clarity (and drive!) to start moving forward again. One step at a time.

Look for another post coming soon regarding where to find more updates from me in the near future!

(To all you friends and family that I have been talking about starting that food blog: Yes – it will be live within a week!)

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and patient with me as I spent time with myself, in my mind, in workbooks, staring out windows, and painting furniture to work through my grief for all this change, and process how to make my next steps. I appreciate all of you so very much.

Much love,
~Alaina

You Only Live Once; The Big Shift

This week, it happened.

I have had a green juice every morning this week.

I followed that juice with a no sugar added chia pudding if still hungry.

Chia pudding, pecans, almond butter, and strawberries

Each lunch and dinner was made by me, in my kitchen, so I knew exactly what was in each delicious bite.

I slept blissfully well on a new mattress that was delivered on Tuesday. (This is the first NEW mattress I can remember having … in many, many years. Why go for this now? Because I’m worth it. And sleep is SUPER important).

My body is sore from re-entering the world of yoga, and I am feeling more light and happy from running more consistently.

I have made an ENORMOUS shift.

The past two and a half months have been a time of … introspection. Without the ability to get out and run and walk around my neighborhood (putting in miles just for the sake of wandering), I was consequently being rather sedentary and feeling the effects of food more acutely, as well as (to be perfectly honest) seeing them on my form.

And then it hit me.

While I know I have the power to make the choices that are best for Me, I was still ignoring all of the self-awareness and knowledge I have gained in the past year. 

Somehow, I felt that because I could not follow my regular work-out routine, I could let my usual “how I eat well” go by the wayside, as well. Sure, I knew when I was eating that gluten-free ice cream sandwich that I would experience physical consequences later that day… or the next… And yet… Acknowledging when your choices are bad does not make you feel better. 

Some may argue: But you only live once!

And I have to say, I agree. Wholeheartedly. 

We only have ONE life to live. ONE body to nourish and move with in this life.  ONE Chance to make a difference in the world in which we live.

SO I ask you one question:

Why the heck is “YOLO” a Reason, a Rationality (a JUSTIFICATION!!!) to do things that will CAUSE HARM to our one and ONLY vessel allowing us to be here on Earth?

Granted, eating Ice Cream is certainly not the end of the world, but for me, sugar is a known adversary, and after the amount of reading I have done about substances that your body does not digest well, learning that they can get into the blood stream, and quite literally beat up your veins on the inside, WHY do I still choose to eat the things that cause me unfathomable damage?

So I started this week with a new intention: “You Only Live ONCE”.

I am feeding myself with vegetables and fruits that will help sustain and heal my body rather than simple sugars that can beat me down. I want to be (and feel) my Best, as much of each day as is possible. This week has been remarkable emotionally and physically, and I want that good feeling to continue. What does that mean for me?

I am giving up processed sugars. 

I am happy to say that although I have not been 100% this week (more like 90% – the evening dessert craving has bewitched me a time or two, and even the dairy-free ice cream was not consequence-free), I know I make this change pretty easily (must do more baking with fruit). Of course, there are always times to make an exception: for example, Grandma’s house for the Holiday dinner because you don’t want to offend family. For my own cooking,  there will be no sugar added. Last night I successfully baked an apple crisp without any added sugar (just banana for the crumble!).  Such a wonderful discovery (and triumph!).

I am giving up alcohol.

I know. This one is tough for most people to understand. I admit, I enjoy a nice cool drink from time to time on a hot summer’s day, but to give you a little perspective: I purchased a few bottles of alcohol – a couple of years ago (um… more like 4 years) and they still remain unopened in my cabinet. Whenever I buy a bottle of wine, I’ll open it for a glass and forget it is in my refrigerator. Plus, there’s the fact that I cannot get myself out of bed in the morning to run after having just ONE drink. (That is probably the most important part). I am perfectly happy having a glass of soda water with lime, or a hot latte. Friends, please do not be upset with me for not joining in the consumption of alcohol, this is for my health (and sanity – running is super important to my emotional state. Also, I have some bottles of liquor to give away…).

Both of these things mean consuming MUCH MORE whole foods, less abrasive vein-invaders, and overall, feeling …

Pretty much like a million bucks.
(And who doesn’t want to feel good?)

Now I put the question to you: what does “You only live once” mean in your life?
Is it an excuse to try whatever you want because you’re young and your body can “take it”?
Is it your motivation to keep working toward that PR?
Or is it just a silly phrase the kids are using these days?

I always love hearing how you’re working through your own personal battles, so leave a comment and help to start a conversation below.

Thanks for reading, and have a happy, healthy, fun and free weekend!

with Joy,
~Alaina

Training Without a Goal Equals Random Length Runs and Mild Confusion

Sometimes we do things and then realize how silly we are, right?  Such as running only once (maybe twice) a week while “training” for a 20 mile race…

Apparently, (according to my most recent history of recorded runs in the months of February, March and April) I no longer feel that 20 miles is a huge challenge.  I know if I stay hydrated and bring enough nutrition, I’ll be fine.  My legs will carry me over the distance.  Sure, I’ll be a little tired and sore for a couple of days, but that’s true after any hard workout (including yoga). So, while watching each day of the week pass, the only real training I was doing was in the form of a long run on Saturdays, which is fortunately coordinated by a dear friend, and I love catching up with the girls on the weekend, so I make it a point to attend.  During the week I got out once, maybe twice for two to six miles.  My total weekly mileage may have reached (almost) 35 miles (only on one week of training – and that included a 19 mile Saturday run).

What happened to my drive?  And the clarity I felt when preparing for my first 50k? At that point in time, my only concern was being able to accomplish that goal – to finish running 31.8 miles without injury.  And I trained hard.  I got out for every single run in my training plan. And now what? I had a race planned; a goal with a date printed in ink on my calendar, why was I unable to motivate myself to get running in a way that would have helped me complete this challenge more efficiently?

Maybe it was the distance20 miles is an odd number. I don’t know if there exists a training plan for races between half marathon and marathon distance. (…This feels like a terrible excuse – cancel that). Whatever the case may be, I am changing my strategy.  It’s time to get races on the calendar, and to plan my workouts – because not only do I want to be better prepared and efficient during my next race, I want to be better at running. Stronger, maybe even faster.

Fortunately, despite my lack of training or strategy, The Peterson Ridge Rumble went well. The weather was great, and although the terrain was primarily dry, dusty, and rocky, I was able to get a few good shots:

The beginning of the race started with a mob of runners on a rapidly narrowing trail.
Sun shining down in the cool morning air.
Some very tall trees.
This is the first time I have let someone take a picture of me during a race. I think that is Black Butte directly over my head.
Loved that giant, rocky protrusion.
This snag stood out with her bright red wood.
Rocky Trails
Not sure how this little guy got here… not super friendly, is he?
The only water seen on the entire 20 mile trek. Very close to the beginning/end of the race.
Best shot of the mountains. They look so much farther away through a camera lens!

Ultimately, I have learned that I need to plan ahead in order to meet any training goals.  I was able to finish the race a bit faster than I expected, in 4:15 by my watch (4:20 by the website – I stopped for at least 5 minutes for picture-taking in the first half, and toward the end of the race, I just let the clock keep running. Ah the life of an iPhoneographer runner).

Tomorrow evening I intend to do some research, detail which races I will sign up for and run for the rest of the year, and create a running/workout schedule to follow.

Because – speed. And consistency. And all good things that putting energy and focus into something you love will do to improve your results.

Now, I would love to hear your “ah, hah” moment.

Have you ever realized you were not doing yourself any favors by cutting  yourself slack while training? (0h, boy!)
And what did you do once you came do that conclusion?

Do you have a favorite weekly workout schedule?

I am strongly considering running long on both Saturday and Sunday – I just love getting out for a while on my day off – it feels so good to spend time out enjoying my run without the rush of “I have to get to work” or “I need to get home and cook dinner” clouding my brain.  What are your thoughts on doubling up on the weekend? 

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend run! (I’m getting out tomorrow!)

with joy,
~Alaina

Back At It: How it Feels to be an Out-Of-Practice Runner

Two weeks ago, I decided to commit to get back into the habit and lifestyle of being a Runner again. I found a marathon training program and another for a 50k, which I intend to work through, back-to-back.  And you know, as an experienced runner, you know you’re supposed to ease back into running if your mileage is not up where you “need it to be” for your training.

Last week’s view at the start of last Saturday’s run: My first 8 mile run since last year.

… So of course (as an experienced runner) I decided to jump right in.  Head first.  I ran seven miles to work with a friend Thursday for the first time ever (pretty cool to get to run to work), and went out yesterday for my first 10 mile run since … Well, honestly, sometime last September.

Now here I am, beginning Week 5 of 18 in Marathon training (I skipped the first two weeks because I’m already a runner, after all), making an all-natural and organic home-remedy from Simple Green Smoothies of lemon, ginger and honey, hoping with all hopes that this will kick the sore throat I am beginning to develop before it becomes a full-blown-sickness-thing.

I am overdoing it, and it is showing up in my body.

photo credit:
www.simplegreensmoothies.com

The classic conundrum now begs my attention: how do I make the choice to slow down, scale-back, and let my body heal when I have goals to meet?  

I am registered for the 20 mile race at the Peterson Ridge Rumble happening April 12th.  I’m excited, nervous, and thrilled to have a goal distance to train toward.  And now I’m afraid I’ll fall behind.  Because I started behind.

The past two weeks have been … stressful, to put it lightly.  I moved two weeks ago, I’m looking for opportunities to move forward in my career, and I am feeling my way through a transition in perspective in life, and finally learning what is really important to me.  

And believe me, it has been one heck of a long haul.

I find myself experiencing moments of jealousy.  People that I work with that are really happy doing what they love: how did they find their path so quickly?  The entrepreneur friend who has opened a coffee shop, or a boutique, or is a designer creating art and making a living: these people are my heroes, and it is incredibly inspiring to see them succeed at business they passionately worked toward.  

How did they manage to do these fantastic things so early in life? 

And why do I feel so behind in the game?

I have always been successful at what I put my mind to, and I am immensely grateful for this ability.  In college it was easy because you had to choose one thing to study and get your degree. And I’ll admit, after graduation and landing a “real job” I didn’t feel the need to pursue anything in particular besides enjoying life in that moment.  Now I find myself unable to find my focus;  to choose one thing to put my energy toward and tackle.  Except…

I know I want to run.  And race.

And putting my mind and body out there in the elements, asking it to perform like it did last summer post Newport Marathon, pre-Siskiyou Outback, without a proper gradual increase is causing a mild rebellion.  So, despite my brain yelling at me to get out and run, I am going to sleep in tomorrow, have an easy morning, and head to the office.  Drink tea instead of coffee, and eat wholesome foods to nourish my body and soul back to health.

Sometimes it is hard to listen to that little voice in your head, urging you to do what is best for you.

Right now, I choose to listen to the murmurs, and hope to all grace and goodness that soon I’ll get the message that all is well and I’m free to run circles around my currently un-trained running self.  With any luck, whispered tidbits of wisdom will float through my mind and begin guiding me, providing a sense of focus for my soul to settle and commit to a purposeful pursuit.

Letting go of the anxiety of not knowing and using the logical brain to think everything through, and beginning to allow the guidance of feeling to take over is my new objective.

I would love to hear from you, your thoughts and what is working for you on your journey through life:

How do you feel your way through life?
How do you know when you are being guided?
When did you discover your greatest desire and passion?

Thanks so much for taking the time to ponder possibilities, share successes, and contribute to this magnificent conversation about life and the pursuit of passion.

with love and light,
Alaina

Siskiyou Outback 50k – Glorious, Long, and Unbelievably Happy

The Siskiyou Outback is a long race, and a much bigger deal than the credit I gave it leading up to race day.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Thank God, I have some self-restraint.

The evening before the race, everyone went to bed early…  I was staying with a friend (who convinced me to do this crazy thing), and around 10 o’clock, I was really feeling the need to talk with someone from home – family.  Somewhat for reassurance about the run (my Mom is a runner, too), but also just to talk with someone back home.  You see, the week before the race, my Grandma passed away, and although I knew the service would happen when I returned home, I was still missing that time spent with loved ones, bonding and remembering.  I was playing tough when I really just wanted to wander down memory lane and let the tears and laughter flow.

But by golly, I had paid for this race, run three weekend-absorbing, 26 mile “training-runs” and spent over 45 hours during the previous two months running on trails, in the sun, and hitting the pavement at all hours of the day to meet the demands of this schedule.  I had a plane to catch and I would be on it.  My family was very encouraging and urged me to go, so Thursday evening, thirteen hours after clinging to my cousins in a group hug while we watched Grandma transition, I was at the airport, taking my shoes off, and placing my baggie of travel toiletries in the grey, plastic bucket on the conveyor belt.

My friends and I stayed in a beautiful house outside of Jacksonville on a hill.  … Maybe you could call it a small mountain.  The view was spectacular:

View just before sunset from the hill house.  That small bump in the distance is Mt Shasta.

By race morning, I had pulled myself together.  My wits were somewhat about me, and at 4am I was eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and putting together my pack with the water bladder for the first time.  Yes.  For the first time, EVER, on a run I carried a water backpack. I’ll tell you now, honestly, it was the best decision I have EVER made. I carried the Mountain Hardware Fluid™ Race VestPack, with no discomfort, chaffing, and I was able to carry water, two small bottles with Nuun Strawberry-Leomnade electrolyte (another thing I had never tried on a long run), 7 Cliff Shot Mocha (my favorite) & 3 Honey Stinger Gold Classic Gels, three food bars, a hat, and my gloves (also emergency TP).  So, counting those things up… at least two NEW to try on the longest race of my life.

What can I say?  I’m a rule-breaker.

Oh, and before dawn, the sky looked like this:

Before sunrise; subtle glow. Single star on the horizon

We all piled in the car just before 5am so we would have a little time at the start for Bib pick-up, potty-stops, and disrobing to bag-check.  We were on top of a mountain. I couldn’t believe the view:

Mt Shasta view from Mt Ashland – up in the Siskiyous

Who wouldn’t want to stare at this at 6 o’clock in the morning?  Needless to say, I was happy I got up, and thrilled I signed up for this race (thanks, friend!).

When the race began, for the first time in all of the races I have attended, I was not nervous.  Moments before the start, I ran into my friends from the Newport race!  I was so happy to see them, I nearly missed the starting countdown!  My friends were up ahead of me, and I let them take off without me.  For this race, speed was not a goal; finishing was where my sights were set.

So I started out easy.  Taking in the beautiful scenery:

Looking forward down the trail (note the drop off to the left). There was a bee hive in the side of the hill to the right, I stepped out of the way of a runner, and unknowingly into the danger zone…
More than half-way through the 50k trail race, and still smiling!

The trial went on forever! I knew I was running nearly 32 miles, yet there did come a time when I began to wonder how far I was from finishing…

By the time I reached this grass-filled field, it was hot.  The temperature was hot, the air was dry, people were suffering heat-stroke and dehydration, and I kept plodding along, slow and steady.

When I finally reached the road where we started the race at mile 1, I knew we were close.  Since this last bit was a measure of a climb, I took it easy and let myself walk slowly up the hill to the top.  Up ahead, there was a man, also taking his time coming up the hill.  I realized my pace was a little faster than his, and caught up to him about 50 feet from the crest.  We chatted, and when we came up to the top, I let him know I was going to start to “trot” on in nearer to the finish.  He said: “me too” and took off at a quicker stride than I wanted to muster at that point in time.  I hollered after him, “You go, guy!  I know you’re going to cross that finish before me!”  And suddenly, there it was: I saw the finish line just around the bend.  Music was blaring.  And I wanted that finish line.

I took off; how I had a sprint left in me after plodding across the distance on trails over rocks, up and down hills with a grade I’d rather not dwell on, I do not know.  As I quickly came up alongside my friend from the last hill, he glanced at me with a little shock, and abruptly increased his speed.  We ran, neck in neck, to the finish, both grinning ear-to-ear.  I was delighted to be able to inspire a little speed out of a fellow 50k runner.  So happy to have met you at the end!  I don’t know if I would have kicked as hard without the friendly competition.

Finishing with my last kick partner.

After the race, the shoes came off… it was time to rest, eat good food, and relax.

Dirtiest feet I have ever had, in all my running years. Nice job!!!

… And shower.  🙂  Never have my legs been a color other than what nature gave me, after a race; that day they were dirt brown.  All that dust on the trail certainly has a way of finding its way between the toes…!

Overall, I feel good about my results.  I finished.  And I felt good crossing that line.  I never felt nauseous (despite new hydration methods), had no chaffing problems (despite the new bag), and kept moving the whole race.  I was smiling, happy, and energized!  (Previously, at the finish of a marathon I have been grumpy and irritable. This is a vast improvement).  So, after finishing with a time of 7:40:40, as 194/208 runners in the 50k (27/30 in my age group), I can say I am not fast, but I finished strong.  After my pre-race comments of “after this race, I need a break,” I am certainly look forward to training for the next one.  (And I am excited about a new challenge: Yoga teacher training!)

Here is to happy running – regardless of speed, rank, or time.  🙂  Get outside, and enjoy!
~Alaina

Fabulous Stormy Weather – and My New Favorite Capris

Sunday, the forecast called for 91 degrees and sunny.  Arguably, this was a great day to get out early and run it out to beat the heat.

But I wasn’t really feeling all that ready to pull on my spandex and running shoes when I woke up before seven am.  I loligagged, checking email. perusing Instagram, making coffee, eating a light breakfast, and finally, after nine o’clock, feeling ready enough to walk out and get some miles under my belt, a deep, rumbling growl came from the sky, ending with a loud Clap!  Thunder!

When I looked outside upon the threatening storm, I only had one thought:

“Is it a bad idea to go run in the forest when there is a storm coming? … Or a really good idea?”

Fortunately for me, after a few sprinkles, and some laughter-provoking bellows from the sky, the sun broke through, providing great glimpses of gold along the wooded trail in the forest.

Half-way through my run, I met the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion, a wonderful historic home that was celebrating their 100th year with cake at 2pm!  I was about three and a half hours early, so instead of eating cake, I took in the view of the city.

Due to the heat we have been having, the sky was pretty hazy, and the cloudiness only contributed to the murkiness of the air.  Despite those factors, it was still gorgeous!

I made it back home in record time – apparently the repetition helps with trail navigation when it comes to anticipating rock and tree obstacles – and not a moment too soon!  The clouds once again took up their song, singing in that lovely, rumbling bass…  And soon erupting with rain and large chunks of hail.  Timed that run perfectly.  By accident.

On this particular run I wore my trusty trail shoes the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger  (I am loving them, and it’s not just me!  They got a great review from Runner’s World, as well!)  I love how comfortable they are: supportive and flexible while being a low-top.  Not to mention the great color (Dark Chino/Light lucid Green-Black-Turbo Green combo makes me happy to strap in).

I also wore a new pair of Nike Capris: The Nike Legendary Tight in the fantastic Turbo Green/Obsidian/Black color (which nicely matches the shoes).  These tights have a super high waist and fit phenomenally.  They are incredibly comfortable. I honestly felt less jiggle, there was no muffin top over the waistband (there is no elastic band at the waist – just great fabric), and, at the risk of sounding completely silly, it almost felt like I wasn’t wearing any pants.  

They’re that comfortable.  I suggest you give them a try.

For any of you wondering, these are my own words, I am not sponsored by Nike nor was I given free product.  I bought these items, and truly love them.

Do you have a favorite shoe (past or present) that you cannot live without?

Here’s to happy running, staying cool, and avoiding getting hit by lightning!
~Alaina

The Last Marathon; 50K Prep

Yesterday, I ran my last marathon.

Well, I don’t exactly mean that literally, but this was the last marathon distance run I will complete before running the Siskiyou Outback 50k at the end of this month.  And I can tell you very plainly – I am ready for the taper.

I laid in bed for an extra hour this morning debating pros and cons of an early run, and trying to convince myself that I wanted to get up, throw on my shoes, and go run up some major hills in the forest.  And even after a small breakfast and some coffee, my body and brain both responded a resounding: ‘No F-ing way!’  (My eyelids slowly drooping back to the closed position post-breakfast, after I found myself, once again, lying on my bed). 

Today, I am exhausted.  It is my last day of high-volume running, and now my time on the trail (for the marathon follow-up of ten miles) is moved from this morning to an evening adventure (once it is no longer nearly 90 degrees outside).  I was pretty useless until about noon, when I stopped reading and social-media flipping to cook a real meal because my stomach was growling.  Perhaps that small breakfast is good on normal days, but it is possible my body required a little more caloric intake today to feel fully prepared to do … anything.

Running 26 miles, I am learning, is (quite understandably) taxing.  Each time I run that distance, I somehow manage to forget how much time my body wants post-run to simply rest.  And eat.  And eat again.   Surprisingly, the actual act of running has become much easier.  26 miles feels like what 12 miles did a year ago, and 12 miles is no longer a daunting figure having become a routine training run that is reminiscent to how 5 miles affect me one year ago.

The body adapts, and truthfully, the amount of recovery time is likewise reduced for these long runs; I now feel much better at 4 o’clock in the afternoon the day after my marathon run, whereas after the St. George Marathon last year, I went out for a very short 1.5 mile jog-hop the day after my race and three days post-race I was still sore and waiting to feel “normal” again.  It’s almost unfathomable – I will run 10 miles today after 26 yesterday.

…How did I get here?
When did running for a couple of hours become “the norm”?

My running buddy and I discussed this ‘funny’ notion while out tackling hills in yesterday’s sunshine.  Saturday morning really was perfect for a long, long, Long run.  🙂

Early morning start – 6am at the waterfront is extremely peaceful.
The pathway along Terwilliger was so Green! Lovely, warm light, and decadent shade for such a distance run.
Brief stop at Tryon Creek to refill the water supply – Sun blasting through to heat up the day.
On the back half, headed uphill out of Tryon Creek State Park, back into town. Enjoying every succulent moment of shaded pathways near Terwilliger.

I am so grateful and feel blessed that I get to spend great portions of these long distance Saturday mornings with good friends to share stories, encourage each other, and generally make the workout a really good time.

A big shout-out to my running buddies (near and far) & Saturday’s Run group:  Thank you SO much for being runners.  My life would not be the same without each and every one of you.

Here’s to running healthy, happy, and strong!
(…And I’m off to tackle the next ten…!)

Happy running!
~Alaina

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

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

2014 Newport Marathon Race Recap

The Newport Marathon was fantastic.  Arriving at the start line, it was great to be in a “small” crowd of 1,000 people.  I don’t think I have ever participated in a race with such a cozy, community feel.  I came across a fellow blogger at Move Eat Create at the start.  She has been training so hard, I knew that I would see her on the course later (and that she would be passing me on my way out, while she was on her way back). And I did, and she did coming in with a truly great time.  Congratulations, on a great race, my friend!

I always start a race on a cool day with a long sleeve on, but despite the cloud cover and the slight breeze, Saturday morning was warm.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I left my long sleeve with my jacket in my drop bag. . .

Thank God that I did!

The clouds burned off about an hour and a half into the race.

And it was beautiful…!

A short while into the race, about half a mile after the maze of neighborhood that was the first three miles, I met a few new friends, and quickly discovering that they will be running the Siskiyou Out & Back (the 50K) in July!  I got caught up talking with them, and decided to keep pace.  I knew it was a little faster than I could probably maintain for 26 miles, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  My lungs were content to keep the pace, but my legs… my legs need more training.

By mile 12, I let my new-found friends take the lead, and kept moving forward solo.  Looking for my Grampa the whole way, especially after mile 13.   He started the race at 6am with those walking the marathon, so he had an hour lead on me.  I did not cross paths with him until the turn around at mile 15!  We had a Big Hug moment, and stuck with each other and chatted for a little while.  A few minutes into conversation, he said “It is such an honor to run with you, and to be passed by you!” and encouraged me on.  So, I did go on.  In the end I only beat him to the finish by a few minutes, as I walked a lot of the last six miles.

So, I learned I need to stretch.  Stretch more.  Stretch at all.  I’ve been neglecting my muscles, and it shows.  Lesson learned.  

Have you ever experienced an unexpected slow-down during a race?  I’d love to hear your story.

One of the most remarkable things about my experience at this marathon in Newport was that I had no head game.  I had no doubts about finishing, no moments of dislike that I was still running.  I enjoyed myself through the pain.  Regardless of the tightening of this band that made me limp, hop, and walk more times than I could count, I would keep breathing, countdown, look up, smile, and run on again.

Two days past race day – I’m a little sore, but  I have a smile on my face and I am still lovin’ life!

Happy Running!  🙂
~Alaina