The Long Up-Hill a.k.a. Running from SE Portland to the Zoo

Saturday my friends chose a challenging run full of hills.  Or one really long hill.  Starting from the flat lands of the close-in East side of Hawthorne across the bridge, through downtown, up Washington Park, and finishing (the first half of the run) at the top of the Portland Zoo parking lot.  The morning was surprisingly cloudy and cool.  I had been watching the weather forecast all week, anticipating the weekend’s delightful sunshine, but the little yellow ball of glowing happiness kept moving to the right, just one more day… every day.  As a native Oregonian, I suppose I should not be surprised by the peek-a-boo sunshine, especially since we have not yet reached the glorious Fourth of July after which Summer officially begins in Portland.  (We’re almost there!!!  Can you feel it??)

The path of great gains in elevation lead us past the well-known International Rose Test Garden, wherein visitors can gain a pretty perspective of downtown cityscapes while filling their noses with Eau de Rose Varieties.  (These roses smell so good!)

View from the International Rose Test Garden

We learned that bunny rabbits have a strong affinity for the rose petals, as well, but they find them much more edible than most of us humans.

The cool, long down-hill
The prettiest grate that you ever-did-see.
A brief appearance of Sun Beams at the end of our run.
Set-up beginning for the Blues Festival weekend, with blue tents popping up on the waterfront.

Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back into the SE Industrial area.

I am so grateful that we went out and trekked our way up this never-ending hill.  It inspired me to endeavor to conquer more aggressive hills, on trials, with rocks and tree-roots, and mud (more on this soon).  I have resolved to make at least one of my weekday run adventures on dirt, with many hills.  With the Siskiyou Outback quickly approaching, I need to get a little more serious about proper true hilly trail running.

Does anyone want to run around Timberline with me?  🙂

The last few months have been a little frustrating.  I have found myself both loathing running and relishing the time spent solo, pounding the pavement.  My body has definitely adapted to the increased mileage on the weekends, yet I still find myself lacking the energy to get up and go on weekdays.  My new secret weapon for the long run is major carbs Friday night.  I tend to have a fairly simple diet of protein, fruits, and veggies, and over the last few weeks have found in order to keep up energy and stamina, I apparently need to add a few more calories than my normal diet provides.  (Who am I kidding?  When you burn an extra 3000-5000 calories per week, of course you need to eat more!)  

I guess there is an adjustment period to learning exactly how to eat MORE food.  (As I write this at 10:30pm, my stomach is growling…  Time to have a late night snack!)  Before the Newport Marathon I was baking bread for snacking on, and I think it may be time to do so again.  This coming weekend is conveniently another 36 mile weekend, and our famous fireworks holiday.  I plan to go to bed very shortly after all the loud popping noises cease.  🙂

To my friends: I hope you are adjusting to summer training, feeding your body well, and finding joy in the everyday…!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

Trains, Bridges, and Bicycles, Oh My!

This morning as I headed out for my morning run (one whole hour later than I usually step outside), I felt good.  My legs certainly needed some shaking out, the sun was bright in the sky, temperature low at about 50 degrees, and I just had that positive feeling in my bones that makes you feel light and joyous.

Everything was perfect.  Until I got to the tracks, and there was a train.  And the train was not moving. I have had a few encounters with this train in the last few months, and one would assume that I remember it will be there right around seven o’clock every morning!  But I have yet to remember this mildly important fact, and frequently find myself on an adventure to “get around” the train and down to the waterfront.  Today, I decided I would go over the Broadway Bridge Ramp at Lovejoy, and back down onto Broadway for a little variety.  The lights were not in my favor, so I ended up crossing the bridge.

And apparently, I was on the wrong side, as herds of bikes passed me… I was going upstream.  Possibly an annoyance for the many people on wheels pedaling their way to work, but I was overjoyed – I had the best view:

I ended my run back in the neighborhood – cutting it short at 4 miles instead of 5 (tiny pangs of guilt for not doing my planned number of miles, and truthfully –  overall, I’m happy I got outside!).  I walked the last couple blocks to my favorite coffee shop.

This morning was so gorgeous; I feel like it has been weeks since I was able to capture a few great photos, and today… I feel like I got my Mojo back.  🙂

How do you deal with road blocks? Do you wait for them to clear, or stride out on a new path?

Here’s hoping tomorrow’s potentially adventurous route brings another batch of beauty to behold.

with joy,
~Alaina

A Case of the Mondays … Or Post-20 Miler Fatigue?

Okay, I can’t necessarily blame the exhaustion I feel right now on running 20 miles.  I had a jam-packed weekend.  Dinner out with friends after working late on Friday, baby shower and family dinner on Saturday, house chores and 20 miles running on Sunday… Not enough sleep, and I am starting to feel the effects.  I am going to be grateful for the next two weeks of “taper”.  Fewer miles to run = more time to sleep! Today my legs are exhibiting some signs of use in the form of that “ugh” stiffness that you feel after sitting for too long, and mild soreness.  No limping or hopping around, just a slow start after a complete stop.  🙂 Okay, yesterday, I did not consume a normal amount of nourishment – I had consumed about 1.5 meals by 2:30pm and then went out to run 20 miles.  Hard to keep the pace when your energy is low.  Overall, I was not consistent.  I was thrown by the heat, and was slow and fast alternately (probably depending on when I hit shady spots!).  I averaged somewhere between a pace of 10:45 – 11 minutes/mile.  Not exactly what I was thinking I would do, but hey, I ran 20 miles in 70 degree heat!  (Yes, that is hot compared to the usual 45-50 degrees of six o’clock in the morning). I was pleased to get to go to dinner tonight and take it easy with a friend at one of my favorite restaurants in Portland – The Sweet Hereafter.  Nice atmosphere (before it gets crowded – this place can get a little noisy on those Thursday/Friday/Saturday nights), tasty food, and great drinks.  And all Vegan (if you’re into that – I just happen to love the Jamaican Bowl.  SO delicious!)

Beautiful long stems and candles…. all about the atmosphere!

It is so refreshing to know that summer is on her way bringing blooms of all kinds – and I will just have to remember to run before the sun takes over the sky and heats up the black, city pavement.

Such a pretty array of flowers.

As I write this I am fighting a losing a battle with my eyelids, so I shall bid you all good night! Happy Running! ~Alaina

Morning Motivation

Sometimes, it’s difficult to want to get up early on your first day off on a long weekend to go run 19 miles…

Fortunately, on a day like today, when I know I get to join great friends for the majority of the miles, and end with brunch at my favorite restaurant, the prospect of running a great distance becomes exciting rather than foreboding. Plus, it is extremely important to get outside and enjoy these last days of light layers of clothing before we are bundled into the rain and darkness of fall and winter.

And it helps when the sky greets you with this:

I hope everyone has a lovely long run today, and a wonderful, safe holiday weekend!

with joy,
~Alaina

Family of Runners

The more I run,I learn that running is not just something that I do, it is a part of who I am.  There is a freedom and a joy that comes from running that I find satisfies in a way that no other activity or endeavor can match. When I get outside, head high, feet light and quick, smile blazing on my face, I know I am free. I am on my path and no one can move me. I am a runner. I can do anything I decide to do.

As I sat in my post-12 mile trail run Epsom Salt bath Sunday afternoon, reading the end of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, the story brought bubbles of joyful giggles and tears to my eyes.  I thought, this is what running is about.  It’s not about the competition, or your next PR, or beating this person or that, it’s about community, cheering one another on, and the camaraderie at the heart of every runner.  We are in this together, and we are invincible when we embrace the joy of running, and move forward on the course with our teammates.

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of running with my Grampa.  My scheduled run was to be 15 miles, and Grampa was planning about ten, so my plan was to do five prior to meeting up.  As it turns out, I ran two prior to meeting Grampa at the trailhead to tackle ten miles on Wildwood, which later turned into 12 miles on the trail, my morning run netting a neat 14 miles.  I decided to allow myself a break in mileage due to increased difficulty of terrain.  I have never run more than a 10K on trails.  It was beautiful out, but my goodness.  I knew I would experience some soreness after that run!

We ran uphill toward Pittock Mansion, and while taking in the city view, Grampa pointed to the next hill over and let me know we were running over there, up past the zoo.  It was a fabulously cool day.

The trails were stunning.  Lush, vibrant greens surrounded us on the hard-packed dirt trails.  The trails were dirt, gravel, and filled with random tree root or rock protrusions, which kept my eyes trained on the ground before me, and somehow my eye was still pulled to take pictures of the gorgeous surroundings.

We had so much fun running up and down those trails; I learned the route and where to pop off the trail for water stops, and we talked about life and adventures.

When we arrived at the Pittock Mansion for the second round, we found a garden party out of the past overlooking the city…  The attending parties were stunningly attired, and I couldn’t resist a portrait of this couple, which they graciously allowed me to photograph.

On the way back down, the sun had finally broken through the clouds, and the light all around was like liquid gold filtering through the trees.  By this time, it was nearing noon, and the trails were filled with people out for a jog, walk, hike, with strollers, dogs and walking sticks, everyone was on the trail in the forest enjoying the outdoors.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to run with my Grampa.   I feel very lucky to get to go on this marathon journey with my family, training with my friends, being a part of the greater running community.  It is awesome!

Me and Grampa

Keep your head up, a smile on, say hello to your fellow running-mates, and enjoy the run!
~Alaina

A long, lonely run, and a song.

Last weekend, due to having a full schedule, I found myself running not on Saturday as usual with my running buddies, but on Sunday, and all on my own.  I wasn’t sure how my body would react to the distance, and I had no idea how I would personally do on my own for a distance greater than six miles.

And I was running eleven miles.

Alone.

In general, I adore running by myself.  I can go out for an hour and fully entertain my mind with wandering thoughts and sights I see along the way.  But two hours running sounded a little daunting. To make matters worse, I left after 8:30am on a very warm day.

Fortunately, I had a plan.  I decided to run into the forest.  Yes, I live near Forest Park in Portland, and it is an amazingly wonderful resource for runners in the summer months.  I highly recommend a nice jaunt through the park to any visitors who like to run or walk in the woods.  The temperature had to be at least 5 degrees cooler on the trail, and I was no longer alone, on the street with the sun beating down on the top of my head; the breeze was perfect, shade was plentiful, and the air smelled fresh and green.  I was here:

Due to the heat, and due to the fantastic weather, the trail was packed with runners, walkers, hikers, and those occasional bicyclists.  Literally everyone and their dog was in the forest on Sunday.  Each corner I turned, a new face sprung up before me to acknowledge, send a smile and hello and encourage me to keep going.

By the time I had turned around for the “back” portion of my “out and back” trail run, I was starting to feel the lack in conversation.  I found myself feeling a tad jealous of (and annoyed with) those runners with earphones who were entertained and not saying hello to their fellow runners (me).  And then I remembered to eat my Cliff Shot (I’m a big fan of the Mocha)… Fifteen minutes later…

I was singing while I was running!

I have to admit, I am known for sporadically singing a tune or two, but this was a little out of the ordinary.  But I guess when you put me on a trail by myself, with no one around… spontaneous performances may occur.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

And consequently, I now believe that Broadway is definitely in my future because obviously if I can run and sing, I can dance and sing.  Right?  😉

All in all, I found that it is possible to run more than six miles on my own, and I have finally faced and beat the Forest-Park-downhill-knee-pain demon.  I finished that entire downhill pain-free.

Week 4 of Marathon training is complete! I finished the week with 24.5 miles, making June’s total mileage 77.8 miles.  I do not think I have ever run so much.  The consistency feels wonderful! 

How do you get through the long, lonely run?  

Do you sing on the open trail?  😉

As always, with joy,
~Alaina

The Inevitable

IMG_3886

At some point, it happens to all of us.  We don’t think about it, we don’t plan for it, we get so used to going out and living our life in the routine we have developed that it doesn’t even cross our mind as a possibility.  And then, inevitably, it happens when we are absolutely unaware of any chance of it occurring…

This Saturday, it happened to me.

I was out on a long run with a group of ladies, in a beautiful Portland neighborhood – great homes, a view of the forested hills and the river – I was putting my iPhone back in my belt pouch after taking the this photo:

The city in the distance.
The city in the distance.

When … Bam!  I hit the ground.  In less than a second, my position was changed from running to completely stopped after a very short slide onto concrete.  After landing, I slowly came to the realization I was no longer in motion, I recall looking around, picking up my phone and bus pass that had been thrown from my waist belt in the sudden motion, when I recalled the unsettling crack sound my knee made when contacting the sidewalk.  I was lying on my stomach, propped by my right hand, left arm outstretched, legs fully behind me… Yes, I fell.  I fell while running.  To my credit, it was not level ground; the sidewalk jutted up nearly three inches where my right toe made contact sending me flying Superman style before gravity brought my human body to the concrete Earth that was once below my feet.

As I slowly picked myself up from the ground, my running mates, who were all ahead of me and heard me fall, suddenly at my side, inquiring about my well-being.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine”

“No, really are you ok?  You fell pretty hard.”

“Yeah, I’m alright. [looks at knees]  Well, mostly.”

“Your knee.  It’s swelling.  Why don’t we walk it back from here.”

I was trying to make sense of the mix of emotions running through my head.  I couldn’t feel my knees.  They were stinging a little but it wasn’t that bad.  I ran through a list of positives.  I was grateful for wearing capri pants rather than shorts, and my knee scrapes weren’t too bad.  I was grateful for my hands being unscathed since I still had my gloves on, even though I was wearing a tank top.  I was tremendously grateful for being out with my friends on this run.  They were full of helpful information: remember to ice and take ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, I could sue the people who own that house with the tree-root induced bump (although this is not my intention or desire), and they were encouraging that it wasn’t my fault as my frustration with the fall turned to anger at myself and yes, I started to cry.

6.5 miles into an 8 mile run, and crash, boom, done.  The negatives found their way in to my train of thought.  Now I was making everyone else walk.  And I would have to delay the start of my “serious” marathon training to heal. Not to mention the fact that I may have actually really done damage to my cartilage.  I felt defeated, that I had stopped our forward motion, pissed that I had screwed up the rest of the workout.  Why on Earth did I fall!?!?

I had experienced the runner’s worst nightmare: damaging my legs.  Worse yet, my knees.

Fortunately for us, the weather was gorgeous, and the walk back to our starting location was a very nice distraction and an exercise in staying positive.  I got to speak more with my running mates, observe the neighborhood, and we met this adorable puppy:

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And it has been an interesting reminder to take better care of my body.  I move more slowly.  Tonight I took a bath to ease tight muscles.  I choose clothes deliberately so there is less friction over my knee (I have learned I really like very long skirts… And I could really use one that stops above the knee!).  And every night for the next month this is what the end of my evening will look like:

Ice to reduce swelling!
Ice to reduce swelling!

Well, minus the band-aid.  The knee covered by ice is turning a lovely blue-purple, getting more colorful each day.  This event has acted as a reminder that my “normal” condition – healthy, able-bodied, and active can be changed in a second has renewed my appreciation for how I am living.

Have you experienced set-backs in your work-out routine?  Do you feel you have to back up your training schedule when something like this happens?

I am very grateful for being healthy and that my body will heal itself, and climbing up the four flights of stairs to my apartment will once again be easy in a few more days.  With icing and taking care, there’s even a chance I’ll be running again in a couple of days.

And hopefully, I won’t try to fly like Superman again anytime soon on my outdoor adventures.

As always, with joy in running (even when we fall),
~Alaina

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!

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!

Dancin’ in the streets

Last summer, while enjoying the delightful warmth and sunshine gracing the greater Portland area, I stumbled upon two people dancing.  Mesmerized by this attractive young couple, I had to pause in my day to enjoy their performance during that last hot weekend at the Saturday Market.  The mere fact that there were two people dancing on the streets in Portland would generally be enough persuasion for me to stop and appreciate the couple enjoying life and each other; these two took it to another level, generally one kept to circus tents.  Their legs went on for days, for they were on stilts.  I can’t imagine that walking on two pegs rather than a whole foot (heel, arch, ball, and toes) is easily achieved, but they made it look natural.  They moved effortlessly and with such grace that I think I stood gawking for near half an hour.

I hope that one day, I can be as much of an awe-inspiring example for some other person.  A few iPhone snap-shots of the dance:

Their fun-having was so infectious, members of the crowd delighted in their involvement, showing as much enthusiasm as was demonstrated.

I look forward to these sun-filled summer days when revelers can once again delight in dancing outdoors.