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

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

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

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

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

A Surprise from St. George

When I chose to run the St George Marathon, it was solely to have the experience of running a race with my Grandpa.  The benefit of running with Grandpa was that I could do my first Marathon with a very experienced runner who could coach me, and keep me from running myself out too fast in the beginning.  It was a super-duper win-win situation.

Then half-way through my training, I started thinking… what if I want to go faster?  Or conversely, what if I can’t keep up with Grandpa?  Both of these fears kept me consistently on my training schedule, although I never pushed myself to go faster.  After all, I didn’t want to get too fast.

Of course, the actual Marathon experience turned out much differently.  My Grandpa didn’t run due to unforeseen circumstances, and I was disinclined to run too quickly for fear of overdoing it in the first half of the race, so speed was not an object.  I took the race nice and easy – kept a slow pace.   Kept a smile on my face, and let myself skip whenever I had the energy burst to hop into the air.

Smiling for the camera!

And St George was tough.

There were so many hills.  Ups, downs, curves, and it just kept going down and down and down at the end.  My ankle, knee, and hip joints were all talking to me at mile 22.  I was ready to walk at that point, just to stop that form of pain.  And by the time I reached the finish corral, I was grinning like a fool, happy to be finishing.  Once I crossed those time points, I was done.  I wanted nothing more than to force down a protein bar, some water, get a shower and sleep.

No Way would I do that again.

… or would I?

A few days ago I received a large envelope in the mail.  It was from the St. George Marathon.  I couldn’t think of what they might be sending me, so I opened with curiosity to find…

I won an entry into the 2014 St George Marathon.

Shock, followed by hilarity and laughter.  Of course I won an entry to next year’s race, I already decided I wasn’t going to do it again.  I have already planned that I will run the Newport Marathon in May, and Portland Marathon in October.  The latter race coinciding in dates with St George, which will make running them both quite difficult.

I see this race entry as an opportunity of sorts, to try to really run the St. George race after all the unfortunate circumstances (for details, read Marathoner) of my first attempt.  At the same time, I could give the entry back to someone who has not yet had the opportunity to run this long, ‘downhill’ marathon, and run in my own city.  And I am surprised to find myself torn.

My current solution, sleep on it!

What would you do?  Would you run the same race again?

always with joy,
~Alaina

Back to the Pre-Marathon Routine, and the Saturday Long Run.

Fall!

Nearly two weeks ago, I ran a marathon.  Not just any marathon, but the St George Marathon; one of the fastest fall marathons at elevation with great down (and up) hills to bring you to the finish faster.  I ran a race for which I was only mildly prepared.  I knew I could run the whole way.  I had no doubt I would finish, that was a given.  Throughout the months prior, I stuck to my training like the glue that keeps the sole on my shoe.  Each run I checked off on my training log was essential to my success in the race, and without the commitment to run, I knew everything could fall apart.

At first, I was only running to get it done.  To make sure I could keep up with my Grandpa, actually.  Part of me wanted to run because I’ve really come to enjoy the activity, and the other part just wanted to avoid failure.  So I ran, right on schedule for the allotted amount of miles each day.  Over time, that schedule became routine, and despite my initial intent to simply achieve the goal of completing the training, I started to enjoy the routine.

For the first time in my life, I was running out of habit and really looking forward to each morning when I strapped on my shoes and got out to run.  Before daybreak.  In the pouring rain.  Watching the sunrise!  

I adore my early morning running meditation.  Just me and quiet, pre-dawn world.  (and my iPhone for those photo-worthy moments)

Grey morning looking toward the Burnside Bridge.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of running with the Saturday’s Run group again.  It was nice to be back in Portland, running nearly at sea level, seeing my friends, and touring my city and her river.  The weather was typical of Portland: a grey, fall morning, but at this time in the season, the foliage is a sight to behold.

Looking down toward the river from Terwilliger.
Looking out over the East Side. Look at that red!
Greens and Yellows…

My friends planned to do 11 miles, and I only wanted to do eight (I mean, I did 26.2 the Saturday before so I didn’t need to do 11, right?) so I ran and chatted with them for four miles then turned around to head home.

Whereupon, I promptly decided to take my favorite route along the river (a.k.a. the long way…).

The Hawthorne.
The Steel.
The Fremont.

Apparently, the long way home on a tour of Portland Bridges.  I love running the waterfront, and ended my “eight mile run” with 10.2 miles.  Go figure.  I guess some things really stick.  I love running longer distances now.  Anything less than five miles seems … like a warm-up.  I ran four miles on Wednesday, and wanted to keep going.  I had to stop myself so I would get to work on time!

Do you long-runners out there feel the same way?  What is the shortest distance you run?

Heading into another weekend, I find myself looking forward to an early Saturday morning.  We are going somewhere new this weekend!  I’ll report back with a full account of this new trail run, in Washington!  (We are sometimes adventuresome!)

Have a wonderful Friday everyone, and as always, happy running!

with Joy,
~Alaina

Marathoner

Beginning with a forty-five minute ride, just long enough to allow the nervous butterflies to settle, on a no seat-belt, cold leather, rattling windows, I-rode-in-this-vehicle-everyday-my-6th-to-8th-grade-years classic yellow school bus, I arrived at the starting line at 5,240 ft of elevation, for the St George Marathon at 5am, with 59 of my classmates, er… fellow runners.  🙂

With a 6:45am start time, and 7,600 runners to transport 26.2 miles outside of town, early arrival at our shuttle-busses was encouraged with prize incentives, and I was game to get to the start early, to relax, drink some hot coffee, and mentally prepare myself for the long run ahead.  A fellow runner and smart-phone owner provided us with a temperature update as we arrived in Central, Utah, the starting location of our race, and informed us that it was 27 degrees.  Hm. “Okay,” I thought, “maybe I should have worn a pair of sweats…”  Stepping off the bus, I was hit with 20 mile an hour sustained winds pushing me back down the hill, away from the start.  I laughed.

The race volunteers were prepared with mylar blankets, gloves, and hot beverages for those of us early up on the hill.  I will be forever grateful for those shiny plastic blankets.  Who knew that one thin layer would keep my upper body so warm for so long?  I quickly made friends standing behind a trailer to stay out of the wind, sipping my hot coffee; we had plenty of time to get to know one another and relax that chilly early morning.  There was no Moon, and the race would not begin until dawn broke.

Just as the sun started adding a blue tint to the dark black of night, occasionally through gusts of wind, I could hear someone singing the National Anthem.  The race was about to begin!  Unfortunately, I was in line for the restroom.  You know, before the race, when everyone decides to make one last potty stop?  I was in back of that line.

In fact, this race wins the medal for “The Most Unfortunate Circumstances”  at the start of any race I have ever participated in.
1. I started coming down with a cold the Wednesday before the race.
2. The eggs I cracked and started to cook for my pre-race meal had worms in them… Ew!  (The up-side? There were more eggs, sans worms.  I cooked and ate those ones!)
3. It was cold and SO WINDY!!!  I stood two hours, bouncing and dancing around to keep my legs warm (my feet did go numb) before the race began.
4. I made it through the pre-race restroom line with plenty of time to spare only to discover my ‘Moon time’ had begun, go figure, right before the longest race I have ever done; I laughed (What’s a girl to do?)  Fortunately, I found a kind, prepared woman who saved my day with some equipment.

After all of the obstacles, I somehow managed to get through the restroom line again, strip off my warm layers, drop them off at the U-Haul, and then had to wait a few minutes (I had time to spare!) to cross the start line with the 4:45 pace group at about five till seven, exactly where I wanted to be in the mass of runners.

Even when the unexpected happened again and again on race day, everything worked out fine!

Sunrise on the Mountains.

The course was beautiful.  Spectacular.  I met a runner moving at my pace before I had even run a mile, and we decided there at the beginning to stick together for the full 26.2.  We were constantly amazed by the amount of aid stations on this course.  The St George Marathon was incredibly supported.  While the overall event is largely on a deserted (beautiful) highway, every two miles there was a fully stocked and staffed aid station, and after mile 19 they appeared every mile! 

Utah’s mountains and rolling rocky hills were a sight to behold.

Sun rising over the hills.
Having fun with my new friend! (photo credit to the great, happy photographers at zazoosh)

Yvonne, my new marathon friend, kept the positive vibe the whole way, and I am SO grateful that I met her and that she chose to spend most of the race with me!  She has so much stamina, and a great athleticism that she has yet to fully step into.  (Let’s just say she had a 3 mile kick and left me 10 minutes behind in the dust…  Amazing!!!).  I fully expect that when we meet for our ‘destination marathon’ she will totally kick my butt.  😉

One of the first big hills.
First glimpse of Snow Canyon, a dramatic sight of white rock amidst outcroppings of red.
The sun was so bright! And the sky so blue!
A much appreciated, long, slow downhill.
Stunning red rock cliffs all around St George.
Still smiling…! (photo credit: zazoosh)

All I wanted at the end of that race was my protein bar (above, in hand), a shower, and a nap.  I was exhausted!  (and a little cranky).  

But…  I did it!
I ran the St George Marathon. 

I ran a marathon…

I am a Marathoner.

Thank you Grampa for all your encouragement and advising: while training, before the race, and after (how to stretch, shake-out, and teaching me to get the pictures so I can remember this event forever and post them in my blog). 😉  I had a great experience doing this race, regardless of all the unexpected surprises.  Thanks also to Mom for answering all my other training questions.  Without you two, I probably would have still made it, but certainly would have been less confident about running so far.  I hope to have the opportunity to run a marathon with both of you, soon.  And thanks Granma Cj for all your support, insight into your marathon experiences, your lightheartedness and giggles, helping me get the ‘right’ color of nail polish for the race, and feeding me and making me well again post-race.

Thanks also to all my runner buddies and Saturday’s Run group!  You are not just the gals I run with, you’re great friends, and I am so lucky to have you all in my life.

So, here’s to the next race!

Where is your next race?  
For me …?  Something at sea-level… 🙂

with joy in running,
~Alaina

The Time is Near: Running My First Marathon

In exactly 10 hours, the race will start, and I will be on my way down the hill to from Central, Utah to St George, Utah; 26.2 miles with a climb in the first half, and a descent to make any downhill runner excited about the split.  This is the St George Marathon.

Beautiful, rocky Utah.

I flew into Vegas and my grandparents and I drove up to Utah.  Unfortunately, I do will not have the pleasure of running with my Grampa as he will be resting due to an injury (silly runners, getting injured), but I feel extremely blessed that he is here with me and he and my Granma will be cheering me on throughout this race.

This marathon has morphed from a chance to try something new, and run with my family, to a true test of self-will.  I will be out on a mountain, on my own.  Albeit, there will be nearly 7500 other runners on the highway with me, but as they are unknown, it will be my own strength and perseverance that bring me down the mountain and across that finish line.

And I am truly thrilled to be given this opportunity to prove to myself:
I CAN!

For many years I have been told that there comes a time in a person’s life when you stop putting up with other people’s issues, pick up your own feet, and choose to take steps forward in life to achieve your goals – really living life and creating your own path.

I have finally reached that point.

Training for this marathon has taught me I am so much more capable than I ever imagined at running – and my eyes are now open and seeing the rest of my life, and I am taking chances, making gains, and truly feeling happy with where I am headed for the first time in many years.

So thank you, Grampa, for getting me to sign up for this race.  Because of your love of running, and the lessons I’ve learned, I am choosing to live, rather than just living.  

And that is one of the greatest lessons a person can ever learn.

Thanks to all my friends and family for all your wonderful support along the way.  I appreciate all of the love and encouragement you have shown me.  I am truly blessed.

Good Luck to everyone running races this weekend!  You will do great!

with joy and delight, Goodnight.
~Alaina

Countdown to St. George; the Last Run of Summer

Love this view – River sunrise

Last Saturday, I finished the longest training run I need to complete before running the St. George marathon. The run was 20 miles.  I completed this run solo, due to scheduling conflicts with my running buddy friends.  I was nervous, running late (as I had a cousin’s baby shower to get to at 1pm, and I knew I would be running for about 4 hours…), and when I got less than half a mile down the road, I remembered that I had a raw spot on the back of my left heel from a poor fitting pair of flats the previous day.  I was pretty sure that was a bad start, and did not bode well for the next 19.5 miles.  Fortunately, my favorite local coffeehouse had a first-aid kit with the perfect little round band-aids.  I was saved!

I finished the run in three hours, 40 minutes (and some-odd seconds).  With an overall pace of about 11 min/mile, I am now confident I can run the St George Marathon two weeks from today.

This morning, I was fortunate to be able to run with three friends, and the mileage was much less (only 12… I can’t believe I am saying only!).  The weather report was full of warnings: possible thunderstorms, hail, excessive amounts of rain, but when I woke this morning the skies were cloudy yet non-threatening.  

Fountain at sunrise.

The water on the river was notably calm and smooth.  I could not stop admiring it’s remarkable mirror-like quality.

Looking back toward the city from the Sellwood Bridge.
The Steele Bridge.
The City.
The Hawthorne Bridge – watching the storm roll slowly over the city.

I was lucky this morning; 20 minutes post-run, the sky darkened and the hills blurred seconds before hail began pelting my windowsill.  I narrowly avoided the storm, and will be forever grateful that I have not yet experienced hail while running.  With the change of seasons, and the reliably unpredictable weather in Portland, I’m sure I will be initiated to hail sooner than later.  🙂

Wishing you all glorious and joyful running!
~Alaina