Four Miles in Las Vegas; Also, Running with Grampa

This morning was so wonderfully, the whole day felt fantastically indulgent.  I slept in until about 7:30 (which is totally out of the norm, and was amazing), had a couple of cups of coffee and chatted with my aunt for about an hour and a half before my Grandpa appeared and we went out on our 4 mile run.  The weather was perfect: Clear and sunny and not too warm, probably staying in the low seventies.

We were able to run without water (the air is so dry here, I would carry water on a two-mile run if it weren’t available) because a mile from our starting point we arrived at a park with two very lovely water fountains, some delicious shade, and a rubberized walkway encircling the park.

We ran & walked the distance – and it was truly a wonderful run, and great time spent bonding with Grampa.  I am so grateful for my family that supports me in my crazy pursuits, and a big ole thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for putting me up on this vacation!

I bid you all goodnight – have a great Friday!
~Alaina

Thursday’s Run; Pre-Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving day, pre-family gathering, in the early afternoon, I decided to head out for my first run to the Esplanade from the Eastside of Portland.  Although it was chilly out, it felt warm with sunshine beaming down from bright, blue skies.  My route was simple, and enchantingly beautiful along the river.  Many couples were out for a stroll around the river, their to-go lattes in one hand while the other was held in their partner’s.  Families and fellow runners with their dogs were also enjoying the afternoon sun.  The day couldn’t have been better.

I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving – with family, with friends, or simply spending quality time alone, enjoying yourself!  I give thanks that I am able to run, alone with my thoughts, in such a beautiful city.  I am so grateful for my friends, family, and for all of you reading this, for giving more purpose to my joyful hobbies of running and iPhoneography.

with many thanks,
~ Alaina

Cool, Crisp, and Crunchy: Saturday’s Run in the Forest

Saturday, the cool morning air smelled clean, fresh like a snow-fallen day.  The wind was blowing, gusting and swirling around me as I huddled in my jacket, hood raised despite the lack of rainfall to protect my chin and neck from the cutting air.  The city was aglow with the warm peach hue of the rising sun.  It was a beautiful day for a long run in the Park.

The trails were blissfully open, full of color of the fallen leaves, and crisp with frosted mud and crunchy ice-covered puddles.  The whole of Portland seemed to be out for a run in the forest that day, taking advantage of what is sure to be one of the last sunny weekends of Fall on our way into Winter.

The gorgeous gals of Saturday’s Run.

We went out for an out and back run of eight miles, which is lovely on the trails; the photographer in me wants to explore some more territory, so I may encourage a divergence from our usual path for the next run in Forest Park.  Despite the repeat in terrain, I was able to catch some pretty magnificent moments.

It was the perfect day for a run.  I enjoyed every minute of being blinded by sunlight, especially since experience tells me we will soon be running in pouring rain each day.  Love Portland winters!

Where did you run this weekend?

Saturday’s Destination Run

Last Saturday morning I woke with great anticipation; our Saturday’s long run was planned out-of-town and was a trail run.  One of the ladies in our group had offered to host a run on her side of the river, in Vancouver, and to feed us afterward!  (I love running and then eating!)

When I went to meet one of my gal friends to carpool to our destination – I had seen the moon rising in the sky the night before, and saw it on its way to rest that morning:

The full Moon about to sink into the fog…

My carpool buddy soon retrieved me and we headed up North.  After a few minutes chatting, more people arriving, we ended up with a very large group of runners – I think there were ten of us!  We all decided to put our shoes on, and head out into the dense, damp fog.

We were treated with a trail run that headed through the WSU-Vancouver campus and nearby neighborhoods.  The cool chill in the air kept us cooler on the steep hills and shrouded the fields and forests in a grey mist.

Early morning fields.
At the crest, heading down.
So much color, all around!
Passing over a small stream.
Trails through unexplored, foggy meadows.
There were little (bouncy) bridges everywhere!
River crossing.

By this point, I had no idea where we were, and was grateful to be following the leader.  🙂

A break!

The clouds finally began to lift on our way back up the hill, and the sunshine was beautifully blinding.

It was such a pleasure to run somewhere I had never run before and simply take in all the beauty. It was a difficult run (much more so than I originally thought – must remember not to compare training runs to St George), and extremely rewarding to end up back at a warm, dry house, and eat a delicious breakfast!

What has been your favorite ‘out of town’ run? 

Do you frequently seek out new trails to spice up your training?

Wishing you all a Happy Long Run weekend!

~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

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

A month of firsts: marathon training, pace runs, and … swollen feet?

Sunny Day!
Joyful, sunny day!

Tomorrow morning, I’ll get out in what will probably be a very wet and rainy morning to get my 6 miles, and near one hour, of ‘pace’ running in for the week.  As a runner who is new to training for a race, and with no goal time in mind for this event, I do not really know what to aim for in a pace.  I’ve read something about doing a 5K and taking that time and doing some math… and in the end you end up with a marathon “goal time and pace”…

How have you trained to a ‘pace’ for your races?

Over the past week, I have found that wearing my favorite pair of shoes is becoming… uncomfortable.  It seems that I am either sliding around in the shoe more on the downhill, or suddenly, my feet are larger than they were previously.

Have you found that your feet swell (and stay swollen) when running with greater frequency?  (and more importantly… will none of my summer heels fit, either?)

This weekend I was able to get out and run – not with the usual group of gals, we were all off on our own due to schedule conflicts this week, but I ran on my own on one of my favorite routes, taking my time, taking pictures… Catching all the lovely I could spot and giving it immortality in the digitized world:

Absolutely gorgeous river views...
Absolutely gorgeous river views…
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Little one, singing me a song ‘hello!’
Can you see the big bird?
Can you see the big bird?
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Here he is; I love his frosted, fluffy feather beard.
One last glance back down the river.
One last glance back down the river.

A big thanks to all the runners out there sharing their knowledge and experience.  I really appreciate your openness, and the time you have spent researching to determine what works for you.  I feel so lucky to be a part of a community that is so willing to teach one another about our sport!

I have run 57.9 miles for the month of June (thus far), and filled about 20 of those in the past week.  I plan to do weekly updates from now on as I continue this marathon training adventure… Look for a post this weekend for the end of training week 4!

with joy in running (and all things),
~Alaina

The Inevitable

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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

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 Post Long Overdue… The Hood River Run!

A couple of months ago, a weekend vacation was planned for some birthday celebrating among good friends.  While on this vacation, a Saturday happened to pass.  The day of the long run.  Here is my (unforgivably belated) story of the long run exploration of Hood River countryside:

On a weekend excursion, some running buddies and I took to stomping some new trails out in Hood River.  Usually, our group leader plans an out and back route, but this particular Saturday we decided to play it by ear and see which road caught our eye and called our feet.  Our tentative plan was 8-10 miles…  I was hoping for closer to eight, since I had missed the long run the previous weekend, but with no definitive plan, we were at the mercy of Hood River’s roads, our feet, and the willingness of legs to keep moving.

The landscape was breathtaking.  The weather was Perfect.  We could not have picked a better time to get out for a run.

Starting in a neighborhood with lovely old homes and local wineries...
Starting in a neighborhood with lovely old homes and local wineries…
Up the hill we went toward the mountain!
We trucked up the hill toward the mountain!
We were treated to some spectacular views.
We were treated to some spectacular views.
Found our way into the countryside...
Found our way into the countryside…
Passed some lovely rusted roofs and craggy trees...
Passed some lovely rusted roofs and craggy, old trees…
Glimpsed a view of yet another snow-covered peak! (Mt Hood)
Glimpsed the tippy-top of yet another snow-covered peak! (Mt Hood)
Passed an orchard, waiting on Spring's arrival.
Passed an orchard, waiting on Spring’s arrival.
Saw that we had, in fact, left Hood River when a traffic sign indicated we were about to enter.
Saw that we had, in fact, gone some distance when a traffic sign indicated we were about to (re)enter Hood River.
Cute House!
Cute House!

And shortly after becoming only slightly lost trying to cross ravine, followed by a steep downhill, and a set of very long stairs, we were back at our starting point – and ready for brunch!

My friends will tell you that I do take in the atmosphere on our long runs; or rather that I become extremely goofy and the affect of endorphins on my system is like a kaleidoscope filter that makes even the most unappealing mud puddle a fantastically brilliant mirror of the gloriously colorful world around me.  I am a snap-happy photographer on each and every run, with the most beautiful model ever; the landscape.  I hope you enjoy the pictures; I take great pleasure in my on-the-go iPhoneography.  🙂

Do you find yourself marveling at the glory of the world after each run?
What is your “running filter” ?

With joy in Running (and taking photos!),
~Alaina