Great run; bonus images!

Today’s run took place after work; getting out to door early to run before the coffee had perked seemed a little too much effort today.  Fortunately for me, as the day wore on, the weather improved, leaving me with party cloudy skies and a lovely 55 degrees outside. 5.65 miles later, this is what I have to show for my time outdoors:

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The Portland sign, leaping above the high water.
Blue Heron sighting - thanks to the gentleman quietly observing her, I was alerted and joined in the gawking.
Blue Heron sighting – thanks to the gentleman quietly observing her, I was alerted and joined in the gawking.

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I hope you enjoy my run as much as I did!  It was the perfect route for testing my newest gear: New Balance Minimus WR00.  A review will follow later…

What is your favorite time to get out and run?  Are you a fan of pouring rain, bundled  in layers, or do you lean toward tanks and sunshine?  Morning or Night?

Happy running!
~Alaina

A Reason to Run

“It’s important to remember that each footstrike carries you forward, not backward. And every time you put on your running shoes you are different in some way than you were the day before.”

– John “The Penguin” Bingham, Author and Runner

I recently joined a mass of runners for an group run organized by Portland Running Company (PRC). It was an event I had been looking forward to for three weeks, ever since the email announcement landed in my inbox. A run from their SE store to Peacock Lane for holiday light viewing, returning to the store for hot cocoa and shoe shopping.  What could be more enticing?  I found myself extremely motivated at work, efficiently completing my tasks for the day to leave work on time to get to this event.  I had asked a few friends if they wanted to join me, but in the end made the trek to PRC solo.

When I arrived, the store was packed! I had never seen so many people gathered for a fun, friendly, short, easy group run.  I was ecstatic!  Walking through the door to donate the jackets I brought with me, I was giggling with excitement.  So many people in bright running clothes, fluorescent yellows and reflective stripes, beanies and headlamps, and flashing lights being passed out to clip on to clothing for added safety.  I was surrounded by my people!  Or rather, like-minded persons who appreciate running, safety, and camaraderie.  The anticipation was almost as high as pre-race giddiness, but we were all there for fun without the time chip and anxiety of competition.

Halfway to Peacock Lane I found myself in conversation with another runner, and it made the experience even more enjoyable to share the joy of the lights (as my new friend had never been to Peacock Lane, and I had not visited since my childhood). The run was four miles, which we swore could not have been more than 3 because it was so easy and so much fun.

Holiday House
One of the many homes decked out for the season on Peacock Lane.

Post run, I decided to take advantage of the offered discount for jacket donation, and found myself purchasing a pair of Saucony Kinvara 3, in a brilliant colorway.  I have been running in my Vibram shoes for most of the year (the Komodosport LS or the KSO), and the past few times I have noticed how uncomfortably cold my toes are at the beginning of my run.  I do not wear socks with my barefoot shoes, so the chill of the concrete (most of my runs take place on the sidewalk) seeps right through.  On the Peacock Lane run, I found my feet were cold, and toes were numb, for the first two miles.  Eventually, my toes and feet were warm again, but then quickly the run was over.  For the winter, I have decided some insulation between my foot and the ground may be beneficial, and as I add miles to my training program, switching between barefoot running and running in a moderately minimal shoe sounds appealing.  I took them out for a jaunt this weekend.

Admittedly, after barefoot running, wearing a “real” running shoe feels very different.  I was able to try on several pair of shoes at Portland Running Company, and this Saucony Kinvara felt most light and natural on my foot.  The footbed is accommodating, but not overly wide. There is some midline arch support, but it is not too noticeable as I wear them.  The most surprising part of the shoe I am aware of while running is the heel cup and the top heel edge.  The back of the shoe is taller than the Vibram shoe, and much more structured, therefore I was able to feel it against the back of my achilles.  Overall, I really like these shoes.  Perhaps they are not as minimal as I would like (any suggestions for a real racing flat?), but the Saucony keeps my foot much warmer, ending the search for a shoe to keep my toes from going numb from cold.

And look at them. They are so cool!

New Kicks: Saucony
New Kicks: Saucony Kinvara 3

I have long been looking for a way to become ready for running and train more seriously. I now realize that you can’t “look for a way” to become ready.  It happens. Running is something you simply do, and when you are finally making time for the activity and it is a normal routine to put the shoes on and pound some pavement, that is when you can really begin training.

Last week, I ran four times, logging 15 miles.  I know this is a pretty minimal amount of mileage for a runner, but for me, this is the beginning of a great change.  A great challenge.  I want to run a marathon next year, and I intend to set goals (a.k.a. shorter races along the way), a training schedule, and keep a log to help myself reach this goal.  My grandpa was kind enough to give me a couple of well-loved, and highly recommended books for training purposes:

Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.

To start the year of 2013 on the right foot, I am signed up for Portland’s First Run 2013, a 5K at midnight on the 31st. I am hopeful that a couple of friends may join me (wink, wink to all you running buddies out there) to bring in the New Year at a trot, but if not, I am sure I will make new friends out on the course.

Wishing you all joy in running!
~Alaina

Stop and Smell The Roses

Ever have one of those days?  I mean one of those days, when you wake up late, an hour of your day that you thought was still available already gone, and you just can’t really motivate yourself to put on your running shoes? For me, today was one of those days.  The sun was shining brilliantly into my apartment, and all I really wanted was to sit and relax, read a book, and bask like a cat in the sun rays beaming through my windows.

But…

I needed to run.  My legs were twitchy.  It had been more than two days, and I could feel my body craving the exercise even though my mind wasn’t in sync.  So, I pulled an old trick out of my hat.  If I go for a run, I get to reward myself with a latte.  Hm…

Moments later… the shoes are on, I drop off my Keep Cup at the coffee shop (trying to save the world, one paper cup at a time) so I can easily stop and get the coffee to-go guilt-free on my way home post-run, and I’m on my way!  Let the running commence!

My plan was to traverse downhill the first half of my run, and return on the uphill because I primarily find myself doing the opposite due to the lay of the terrain near my home.  As they say, “The best laid plans…”   I found myself running uphill.  And then up a very steep hill – with glee! – anticipating what I would find at the top:

The International Rose Test Garden

The morning air was chilly, but the sun was warm on my back and the garden lent a delightful perfume to the air.  This was absolutely worth running straight uphill for a mile; the garden was unexpectedly still blooming, and gorgeous.

To my surprise, the gardens were filled with people!  I did not expect that anyone got up before ten to walk in the Rose Garden.   Understandably, they are taking advantage before the Portland rains befall us and proclaim: “Winter is coming…” with her 40 degree temperatures and torrential downpours.  If there be sun, get out and enjoy!

As soon as I started my jaunt this morning, I knew this garden was where I wanted to end up; to spend a few moments peacefully meandering and smelling each rose in turn.  Each one unique with fragrance all its own.  I adored this white beauty:

I need to return to the garden soon and get her name.  I dream of the someday, when I live in a house with garden space, rather than my upper floor apartment with no strip of land to plant, with this lovely variety of rose perfuming the breeze as it sweeps through my yard…  Truly beautiful to admire and an extremely enjoyable bouquet.  This was a very welcome unanticipated deviation from the normal run route.

Each time we get out and run it is for a purpose, with a goal in mind, whether that is training for a race, to gain speed, increase our mileage, or maintain fitness, and we take these things seriously because they matter to us.  But once in a while, it’s important to stop and smell the roses.

Happy (rose scented, joy-filled) running!
~Alaina

Morning Run – New Shoes!

Previously, almost jokingly, I mentioned the possibility that I would end up getting one of the “Sportiest” looking pairs of Vibram shoes to continue on my journey of running.  To speak honestly on the appearance of shoes, when it comes to running, I don’t usually go for the wild, loud, bright sneakers; I prefer a more subdued, quiet, classic looking shoe.

… these shoes have Coral pops on them.  And a bright white stripe over the forefoot.

And I love them!  May I introduce you, dear readers, to the Vibram KomodoSport LS:

I pulled my brand-new shoes out of their box this morning, and took them for a short test run.  Conscious that there was more toe room, I was a little nervous about tripping myself with my shoe, and became cognizant of how much I was raising my toes before each foot hit the ground due to this fear.

Early morning light

Halfway through my run, I made myself push “reset” on my mind-set.  “These are no different from a traditional shoe,” I told myself when I paused to do push-ups at the park.  “You don’t need to run any differently.”

Early morning, empty park.

Once I got myself back on track, I began to notice how free the Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS feels, even though it has a lot more tread on the sole than the KSO.  I was able to run un-inhibited, quick as ever, and the shoes are very comfortable.  I did learn, for some reason unexpectedly, that since the material used in this shoe is more like a traditional running shoe, the foot had less breathability than the shoe I have favored over the past year.  And, to be completely honest, since I was barefoot (I always run barefoot in my KSO’s), there was more moisture held within the shoe (yes, my feet got sweaty).  But this should not have been a surprise!  I am used to the feel of wearing a water-sock with an incredibly breathable mesh upper, so this real shoe feel caught me off guard.  I can be content with the need to get some toe-socks to fit inside my shoes.  You can find yours made by injinji or SmartWool (both found at REI).  I look forward to trying those both out!  I have never owned a pair of toe-socks, and it appears my time has come.

Overall, if you are interested in a minimalist running shoe with toes, I would recommend this shoe.  The drawcord laces are great for getting a snug fit, and the sole is constructed in such a way that you are given the tiniest bit of arch support.  I’m pleased as punch that I bit the bullet, got the shoe, and now get to explore how we will work together.

Happy running adventures!

Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS in Black/Coral

Slipper Located and Acquired

Last Thursday, post 20 minute nap after a long work-day , I made my way down the stairs and out into the advancing twilight of evening for a quick run.  I strapped down the velcro tab on my Vibram KSO, picked up my toes and took off!  Half a mile later, I stopped at my local REI.  I decided to make my shoe purchase errand a short run.  (Really short).  But after half an hour of conversation with a very helpful sales associate, I didn’t even know which shoe I wanted to try on my foot.  I decided to run home, the long way (a two-mile run still didn’t seem like much), and try another day.  I was pleased to see that I kept a rather swift pace up, this late in the evening, arriving home to see sub 8’10” average pace.

Saturday finally rolled around and my day was stacked with activities.  The morning run, a trip to the farmer’s market, go find a spiralizer (to make spiral zucchini “noodles” for a wheat and grain-free pasta dish.  I found Helen’s Spiral Slicer on sale at Kitchen Kaboodle), and do various other home-keeping tasks.  I had no time to get new shoes.  Therefore, after a wholesome breakfast of gluten-free granola, coconut milk, a banana, some frozen blackberries, and a cup of coffee (and time for the meal to settle), I once again strapped on the KSO’s and went for my morning run.  I ran my favorite loop, down around the waterfront.  It was such a beautiful day!

 

The cooler morning air, bright sunshine, swimming geese, and multitude of other runners kept me motivated and moving at a quick clip.  When I finished my route, hit the “End Workout” button on my Nike+ App, I was rewarded with the female voice letting me know I had completed four miles at an average pace of 8’15″/mile.  I cut 45 seconds per mile off my run wearing the KSO’s rather than a traditional tennis shoe.

That did it.  SOLD.

My next shoe will be a Vibram toe-shoe.  I am now a believer.  Evidence points to the fact that I move faster, and with more ease, wearing these shoes than any other conventional running shoe I have tried.  I decided to look into the shoes with some extra tread for the probability of rain soon to come, and the option of trail running and sparing my soles the pain they would otherwise endure on the small rocks and tree toes that are scattered across most of our trails.

Tonight, I went back to REI (they have quite an array of minimalist shoes), told the sales associate exactly what I was looking for, tried three different pairs, and came home with one. They have a little more room than the previous pair.  Admittedly, I went up a size. It was brought to my attention that I have been wearing one size, or possibly two sizes, too small in this shoe. With the intention of committing to longer runs, and possibly wearing wool toe-socks this winter to keep my feet warm, the extra space provided is rather logical.  We always go up a size for running shoes anyway, why not with a minimalist toe-shoe?  When I first purchased the Vibram KSO I was directed that it should really fit the foot snugly.  I now understand this instruction makes sense if you are boating, or possibly rock climbing, in these shoes, as the close fit will assist you.  But be advised, if you’re going to use your Vibrams to run, the feet swell, and buying a size up as you would for traditional running shoe purchases is smart. Your feet will thank you later.

Tomorrow morning, my new shoes and I are going to get acquainted.  I’ll let you know how the run goes, and whether the shoes pass muster!

Happy running!

Cinderella & Shoe Choices

Evening run hilltop view.

Nearly two months into my journey of becoming a runner, I find myself in need of new shoes.  Not unlike Cinderella, I have an old pair of shoes I always wear: 2-year-old Vibram KSO‘s that I love and are perform reliably well every time I get outside.  In fact, tonight I was able to go out for a brisk run, concentrating on my form and turnover, and managed to run 1.75 miles with nearly an 8 minute/mile pace.  This is the fastest I have run… possibly ever.  These shoes have helped guide me to keep my bodyweight centered over my feet, avoid heel strike, and shorten my stride.  Needless to say, I am struggling with the idea of replacing them, yet I am well aware the rainy season is soon to come over the horizon in multitudes of clouds and torrential downpours, and these shoes have so little tread, I tend to slip on wet surfaces (especially running downhill – and I deal with hills on a daily basis). So, I’m wondering if you, my fellow runners, readers, and bloggers, might have some advice to give if you’ve been assimilated into the “minimalist” running movement, and are enjoying your new-found foot freedom, as I am.

The important attributes I’m looking for in a shoe include:

  • Super lightweight sole (I’m used to the Vibrams – and I really like that barefoot feeling).
  • Enough room in the toe-box for my foot to spread out (my feet are a little on the wide side).
  • A minimal sole, with good tread.

I’ve been encouraged toward the Brooks Pure Grit which looks amazing, but it might be a little narrow for my foot.  I’m really curious how the Vibram BIKILA runs; I was able to try one on today, but the fabric in the upper feels more restrictive than my KSO.  Again, I’m looking for more traction to reduce slippage on wet concrete as well as protect my feet when I run on more rough terrain (rocky trails).  As far as the Vibram brand goes, I may end up trying out the most sporty looking shoe they have, the KOMODOSPORT LS, but I am not particularly fond of the toggle and drawcord system for tightening.  I am surprised by the aesthetic of these barefoot shoes with toes; the tend to blend in with the traditional running shoes on the wall!

One last option I’m considering is Merrell.  After their line of barefoot shoes recently hit the market, a buzz started, and I’m curious to try them out.  Has anyone given the Barefoot Train Lithe Glove a try?

Now, I’m not half as barefoot as Cinderella was after her fancy ball, but I do feel unbalanced and wary considering whether to go back to the traditional tried and true running shoe of old (pre-minimal), or to move forward into the shiny new sporty shoe with toes, and see how my feet, legs, and body respond to distance running in such a bare-bones shoe.  I intend to increase my mileage throughout the rest of 2012, and keep on running through Winter snows and Spring showers of next year, so a shoe investment is definitely in order.

Do you have any other “barefoot” shoe suggestions for me?  What is your favorite shoe for distance running?

Thanks for your input in advance, and happy running!

Summer Fun

Today I’m taking time away from running writing.  This blog is my avenue for expressing all the joys and interesting things I learn and do that make me happy (which often involves running).  But today, it’s about family, relaxing, and… Berries!

I have always been a fan of blackberries.  When I was growing up, my Dad’s family would all go to the coast and hang out together at “the Cabin”.  Not more than a quarter-mile down the main road, was a gravel side-road lined with a huge hedge of blackberry bushes.  My Grandma would send “the cousins” (my sister and I, and all the other four girl cousins) out on a walk with a few large Tupperware to get blackberries so she could make cobbler for dessert after dinner.  I always loved that cobbler…

So, this evening, I spent time with a different set of grandparents, and when G-ma said we were going to pick berries, those old memories came flooding back.  This time, we walked further, my cousins didn’t join us, and we weren’t at the salty-air beach, but it was a perfect evening.  Pleasantly nice and warm, and the breeze picked up making the journey quite enjoyable.  Quality time for girl talk with G-ma along our route, picking berries mindlessly, and laughing as cars drove by, the driver honking or cat-calling.  Thank you, gentleman.  Glad to know we’re a nice looking pair.

Aren’t we cute? 🙂

We’re not making cobbler tonight (turn the oven on when it’s 90 degrees out? No, thank you!), but I did learn from G-ma how to freeze berries properly!

If you want to have berries to munch, but like them frozen, and really don’t want to have them become a large clump-berry-cube, the trick is to lay them out on a cookie sheet, spread with space between each berry, so they freeze singularly.  This makes them much more easy to handle as a refreshing, frozen snack on these ninety-plus degree days.  You may layer the berries with a sheet of foil or wax paper in-between to keep each layer separate if you have a bucketful to freeze.  Once frozen, you can put them in a container of your choosing for more manageable storage.

Read to freeze!

My berries are washed and in the freezer… Can wait to pop one of those frozen beauties into my mouth tomorrow!  Happy Summer berry-picking!