Let the Training Continue: On to the 50K Ultra-Race!

Lovely Newport Beach-y clouded skies.

Twenty-one days ago, I ran the Newport Marathon.  With joy in my heart, and a skip in my step, I moved my way over those 26.2 miles with a smile.

After returning from my little vacation to Vegas and LA, three days later to driving to the coast to spend the weekend at the beach running the Newport Marathon, I was completely prepared for a calm, quiet week (and weekend) at home.  Monday and Tuesday passed uneventfully, I even signed up for an online workshop on Creative Visualization for Wednesday evening.  Much to my surprise, I received a text from my sister – she was at the hospital… and going to have a baby!  And there went my quiet, relaxing week…!

After a long evening, and an even longer morning, watching, helping, and cheering my sister on, my niece came into the world at 5:55am.  She is amazing.  The most adorable newborn I have ever seen – and her mother was incredible.  I did not know what to expect watching her go through this process, and beyond being one of the most amazing experiences to be present for – watching a life coming into the world – I saw strength and bravery in my sister that was simply awe-inspiring.

The Cutest Baby on Earth.

Needless to say, after a sleepless night, I slept a little that morning, worked the afternoon, and crashed Thursday night.  Friday they went home, and I spent time each day this past weekend with my sister and brother-in-law and my little niece.  Sunday morning, I woke up thinking “why does it feel like I haven’t had a weekend at home in weeks…?”  Well… three weekends, not at home, Alaina.  That’s your answer.

And somehow, three weeks after my last race, without missing a beat or losing my stride, I am continuing on – training for another race.  A bigger race.  An Ultra. 50 Kilometers somewhere up on some mountain in Southern Oregon.  I might die.  But chances are, if I train enough and don’t hurt myself, I’ll end up having a lot of fun on the Siskiyou Outback.   And I’ll get to see my friends from the Newport Marathon!  As well as see my very good friend Cass, whom I have not seen in so long (and I am sure she will totally kick my butt in this race).

Today was my first ever 26 mile training run. TRAINING!  It is so weird to think that today, I ran a marathon… and it wasn’t a race.  Ha!  Who knew I would ever reach this point.  The cool thing is, if it had been a marathon, it would have been a PR!  I clocked in at 4:40 for today’s run, and after a marathon three weeks ago that was 5:02, that feels pretty good.  Oh, and it was beautiful.  And I am sunburned.   (oops, forgot sunblock…)

Geese! Adult and fluffy! – I had to detour around a couple of very protective Momma’s who did not want to let me pass on the sidewalk…
Convention Center silhouette at the Steel Bridge

My run was perfectly lovely – 10 miles solo to start at 6:15, the next 5 miles with my girlfriends, peaking around garage sales in the neighborhood, another 4.5 miles solo, and the last 6.5 with my Mom.  We finished with brunch at a little breakfast diner in Sellwood, and then headed back to garage sale for good deals!  This day leaves me feeling extremely satisfied… and exhausted!

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of running with a friend from high school – I anticipate great conversation which should make 10 pretty easy…   (Can 10 miles be easy the day after 26?  Here’s hoping…!)  Then it’s a baby visit day.  So excited to snuggle that little one again!  I still can’t believe I’m an Auntie!!!

Have you ever trained for something more than a marathon?  

How did you keep up your pep on the “difficult” (aka VERY HIGH MILEAGE) weeks?

Happy Running, everyone!
~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

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

The Taper & the Distance Flip

There is something about marathon training that manages to make the long runs easier, and the short runs harder.  Suddenly, running for anything less than an hour seems so insignificant.  A three-mile run sounds so silly, and you can almost feel yourself thinking “this is such a waste of time”… 

Tomorrow morning, I have a short run scheduled.  Part of the “taper” plan.  Yeap….

Who knew that one day I would be here;  in a place where I felt more comfortable running eight miles than two.  Okay three.

I am no longer awe-struck by double-digit runs others tell me about that fall within the teens or under the 26 mile mark.  The remarkable feats that catch my attention are those of the triathlon type, or when someone is training tells me they are running double digits two days in a row.  Which… I am about to start my new adventure in doubling up on the weekends, in just a short week and a half.

I have decided to literally jump right in to the 50K training the weekend of my marathon (allowing all goes well race day), I will be taking on a 6-10 mile run the day after running 26.2.  I am not sure how my body (or my mind) will take this.  I am certainly very curious about this, and definitely interested in giving it a shot!

What has been your greatest challenge when training for a race?

Have you ever found yourself loathing the short run, and longing for more miles?

As always, my friends, Have a great run.
~Alaina

The View Out My Blurry Window

I was very happy this morning to be able to stay in and snuggle under the covers for a couple extra hours, savoring sleep on this last day of the weekend.   The day was rainy and I don’t mean the usual Portland rain – There was thunder, and many downpour moments.   It was a wonderful day to stay in.

Of course, many hours later, the sun shone her light a little upon the damp Earth… Just to remind us it is Spring and not Fall.

I keep thinking about the level of training I am about to embrace for the 50K in July… and savoring today as a rest day, a day off from social commitments, and a day to really just be in my skin, in my home, immersed in my own thoughts was truly a blessing and totally necessary.   I keep forgetting that I need to take time for me, and I do believe I was starting to feel the effects of this choice.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t go anywhere?  You have to stay in … just to think?

My day was rounded out by the daily email from Runner’s World:

runnersworld.com/motivation/quotes

There is so much truth in that statement.  I know I have finally beat my opponent for the 26.2 mile races, but I fear that the battle will resume when I start pushing past that distance.  Training for the Siskiyou Out & Back 50K is going to be trying, but I am ready for the challenge.   🙂

Happy Rest Day!
~Alaina

Carbo-loading, OSF, and My Favorite Meal. Ever.

A runner’s tradition, the pre-race (or pre- long training run) dinner often is thought of as the “carbo-load” meal.  Of course, recent studies have shown that spreading this out over a few days (meaning: eat more carbs and store more energy, a few days prior to your big run/race event) is actually more helpful for storing that energy.  Despite this fact, there always seems to be a pasta feed somewhere within the 24 hours before a big race.  Pasta, spaghetti, meatballs, lots of marinara, and rolls to soak up all that extra red sauce – filling, delicious, and satisfying.

Well, I can’t say that I don’t fall for the same old dinner trick and participate in some grain-carb consumption.  I mean, who wouldn’t?

My absolute favorite place to get my pasta dinner is at the OSF – The Old Spaghetti Factory.  (Now offering Gluten Free pasta options!!!)

Growing up, my Dad’s family took relatives to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner, and so it became an individual tradition for me, as well.  Since graduating from college, I can say I have celebrated more birthdays there than any other location.  We continue to go to the OSF as a big family group on Grandma’s birthday.  These days, I choose the atmosphere of the bar (dark, polished wood, and much more quiet) upstairs over the caboose my sister and I always wanted to sit in during our youth.

A few years ago, I paid a visit to the restaurant on my own – It was a rainy, miserable day, I worked late, and did not feel like cooking, so took myself out for a bite.  I always get the “complete meal” (soup or salad, comes with sourdough and delicious garlic butter, coffee/tea/milk, and a scoop of ice cream!), and when the waitress came to take my order, without looking at the menu I answered “the A la Homer”.  She looked at me, and said “you have been coming here for a while, haven’t you?”  When I glanced at the menu the next time I visited the establishment, I noticed they no longer called out my favorite meal with the Homer reference, it is simply called “Mizithra Cheese & Brown Butter”.  Yep, I’m a regular.

I know what you’re thinking – The Old Spaghetti Factory’s Butter and Cheese dish?  That’s your favorite meal?
My answer is – Yes.  I know this is not the healthiest choice, and I definitely sometimes feel like I need to eat some green vegetables, but… It feels like home.  Butter and Cheese on pasta, OSF style, is familiar, comforting, and downright tasty!

In fact, I missed this dish so much when I went to college I sent the restaurant an email asking what kind of cheese they used!  Someone was kind enough to respond, and also included the recipe of how to make pasta “A la Homer”!  I was shocked and delighted to be honored with such a gift.  (The cheese can be found at Whole Foods, New Seasons, and occasionally Fred Meyer).

I now make the dish at home as often as I visit the big, blue roofed OSF.  (But it still tastes better on location.  I just don’t have the technique!)

What is your favorite restaurant?  

Do you have a place that you visited often growing up that has become tradition?

Enjoy the pasta feed, and happy running!
~Alaina

(For those of you who enjoy indulging in Pasta and Beer – Check out one of my favorite races: Pints to Pasta 10K  It is mostly downhill, and you get a pasta feed and free beer at the finish!  The weather is usually beautiful, the race is quick, and the people are great).

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

Running vs. Racing – Pleasure or Prowess

When I tell people I am a runner, they often seem to immediately assume that I am fast.  And for some reason, I am always quick to jump in and tell them just how not-fast I am. I plod along comfortably, breathing easy, taking in the world around me, and simply enjoying the movement of my body through space.

I think my explaining stems from the desire to let everyone know “yes, you can run, too” regardless of speed, just setting foot outside your door is wonderful, healthy, and it can be fun! For years I hated running.  Until my first high school cross-country meet, the fastest mile I ever ran was an 8:30 min/mile pace set when running one mile in third grade.  The faster mile I ran in cross-country was the first of a 5K race; Mile one was 7 minutes, Mile two was 10 minutes, and mile three was 13 minutes.  No consistency, and I certainly started that out too fast.  I have yet to meet the third grade pace and maintain it for over a mile.

I am not one of those runners who checks their pace on their wrist to see if each mile is coming in at the same pace.  I run by feel. If I am out of breath, starting to heel strike, or feeling uncomfortable, I know I need to slow down to be able to maintain energy levels for longevity.  My goal has not ever been to race.  It is to relax, keep moving, and enjoy…

The more running literature I read – blogs, articles, books – and conversations I have with other runners, I learn that I have a very different perspective than my peers.  In fact, I would call it an extremely abnormal point of view and desired outcome for Races I enter.

Sometimes I wonder, am I just content to be running at the same pace indefinitely?  Is there anything wrong with that?  

Could it be that I do not have the motivation that others feel driving them to accelerate?  Or that I’m missing some gene that makes you want to push yourself?  I will admit, there have been only a few times that I have really pushed myself – and neither of those times was during the Marathon I ran last year.  Yes that was hard, and I ran a whole marathon distance of 26.2 miles, but as far as speed is concerned… I kept it easy.  I pushed myself to pass other racers in the last half mile stretch of the Pints to Pasta race a couple of years ago, and that was fun!

I guess, overall, I have never really attempted to race.  Not against myself or other racers.  Perhaps my delight in the well-known, comfortable easy pace is partially due to my hesitation to step foot into the unknown.  What if I lose my stride, and start to heel-strike, again?  What if I injure myself?  

What if… I CAN go faster?

What would that be like?

One of my greatest fears – throughout my entire life – has been succeeding.  Doing something well enough that other people notice.  Raising expectations.  Being authentic.  Being vulnerable.  Letting myself be seen, heard, and known.  So, I have always done well – but never really allowed myself to excel – at anything.  I stop before I move beyond good to really good.

I love dancing, and shortly after moving to Portland, I got quickly immersed in West Coast Swing and Blues – getting to the point where I taught a “Mini” Blues lesson (after knowing the dance for only three months!).  Less than two years later, I stopped going dancing.

I also love singing, and recently took lessons with some amazing teachers at the Transformational Voice Institute, and I have learned SO much, improved greatly, and then abruptly stopped taking lessons – and have not pursued any other singing venues since.

Now, I run.  A solo activity.  Running at my pace, there will be no comparisons with other runners.  I’m not fast enough to really compete.  I do truly enjoy getting out each day to do my duty pounding the pavement – my movement meditation, but I wonder if running is now my activity to help me hide from my other great loves, desires, heart callings by easily making it priority over the others.  What would my life be like if I could make time for all of these wonderful activities?

Do you find yourself choosing one activity over another that really calls to you?
How do you decide which to prioritize?

Tomorrow I have another five miles in the morning … Meeting a friend super early on the other side of the river, so I am off to bed before midnight for the first time in a week!  (If I were out dancing, I would not be home until after midnight – West Coast Swing Wednesdays go late!).

Please, have courage to do what you love with gusto.  Feed your heart and your spirit with joy, and allow yourself to succeed!  This is SO important. To being authentic…!

with joy and heart,
~Alaina