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

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

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

When There’s Sun, Go for a Run!

As the end of March in the Pacific Northwest brings in a new season and runners rejoice in knowing they will no longer need to layer up to head outdoors, I remain hesitant, frequently checking the forecast prior to each outdoor adventure, unsure whether I will need to don my hat, long sleeve, pants and gloves.

Spring in Portland is rarely predictable.  When I glanced at the temperature prior to yesterday’s after-work hike/run uphill I was a little shocked.  64 degrees … The first thought to pop into my mind, “Wool certainly is not necessary today.”  I have become entirely dependent on my Icebreaker Wool long sleeve half-zips over the course of this chilly winter, and was rather dubious to think that I could get by without.  In fact, I dared to go bare-armed in a tank top!  Wind swept over my arms and brushed the hairs until they stood up, a phenomenal feeling I have not experienced during months of dark, damp, and cold.

Tank weather!
Tank weather!
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Fremont bridge at a distance.
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Industrial area just beyond the river.
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Flower waiting to be captured on film.
Tank weather!
My View.

Thursday evening was a beautiful time for a run.  To tell you the truth, I have enjoyed running in the cold enormously!  I did not know until this year how much fun I have while running.  Nevertheless, photographs usually turn out better in Portland when there’s a little sunshine.  🙂

The Saturday long run is on the docket to tackle in the morning.  The weather is supposed to be amazing, and we are starting from the Farmers market… Saturday is definitely getting a good start out the door on the right foot!

One last order of business: Marathon update!  I am planning to run the St. George marathon with my Grampa this year, allowing that we both get in to the race (it is a lottery entry).  Date set for October 5th, in Utah.  Now I need to get serious about my training schedule…

Happy running!
~Alaina