Early Mornings – Catching the Sunrise

The past month, finally (nearly) finished with the painting that needs to happen in my home (yes, there will be a before and after post), I have been able to muster the energy to get out and run before work. (Less late nights with a paintbrush in hand). My-oh-my the glory of moving.

And not a moment too soon!

There is only about a week and a half of running days left until the Peterson Ridge Rumble, and three of my friends and I will be tackling the 20 mile distance.  After running 19 miles on Sunday, I have no doubt we will all finish.  It is likely to be a gorgeous race day.

I have been putting so much effort into my home (yes – an apartment) that I have been neglecting not only my daily moving meditation (running), but also my written outlet – as well as providing fabulous city pictures to all of you (I am not trying to bribe you into moving to Portland, but seriously.  It’s pretty great here).

Here are a few from my most recent running adventures:

Stillness in the early hours of dawn on the Waterfront.
Glassy river reflections of clouded skies…
The view from a run up Terwilleger some weeks ago…
The only clear shot I got on my birthday morning, 10 mile run. Mt Hood in the distance!
The white-out fog, enveloping the city on my way home from the 10 mile run.
Beautiful sun rays peeking through the trees on this Sunday’s 19 mile training run. (This is about two miles before I did a Superman due to some unknown tree root or rock).

I am looking forward to adding a couple of races between now and Fall.  I think I will sign up for the Portland Marathon this year for the first time, so October is filled.

Any suggestions for Spring and Summer NW area races that you have loved within a few hour’s drive of the Portland Metro area?

Many thanks for your input!

Happy Running, friends!
~Alaina

First Run on the Second in 2015

After a long break from running and exercise – any serious movement – after being sick for a whole week, I was thrilled to have a cool, clear, crisp morning to get outside and Run!  With this new year, I am starting at square one, so I went out for a two-mile run.  Short and sweet, and absolutely stunning!

Frozen Pond
Tracks
Frozen!
Broadway Bridge
Boat
Fremont Bridge

It was such a beautiful morning.  I couldn’t have asked this fair city for better sunshine, temperature, or reflections.

I am so happy to be running again!

Tomorrow commences Saturday runs with my running buddies.  It has been far too long since I spent the mornings chatting and laughing and pounding out the miles with those lovely ladies.  I look forward to another beautiful run, and a few more miles, tomorrow.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, enjoying your exercise of choice!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

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

The Effects of Running Long: Reflections on Life

When I decided to run 20 miles, I knew I would be out and in the world for a few hours, running circles around the city.  Last Sunday when I set foot into the sunshine of mid-afternoon, I encountered masses of Portlanders navigating the waterfront path getting their weekend physical activity: Running, Walking, Biking, and I even spotted a family on roller-blades!  As a side note, I choose to run without musicMusic is super distracting, and because half of the time I happen to be on city streets where there very likely will be traffic, I decided it was the safer bet to keep earbuds away from my ears, and I can keep myself from becoming roadkill.

Consequently, ears open to listen for squealing breaks, a honking car, the click or ring of a bell on a bicycle, I end up accidently-on-purpose eavesdropping on many bits of different conversations.  If the conversation is relevant, and heading in my direction, I may jump in and chat a bit with my stranger runner-buddies.  Sometimes, as I found out yesterday morning, I may be in more of a chatty mood than the runner next to me, and she may say, “well, I think I’ll turn here” turning right as I continue straight… and after she already declared her destination, and I knew we were headed in the same direction…  Well, she apparently was not interested in a new buddy, and prefered to get back to her solitary run.  Which I totally understand.  (Note to my runner friends – Please just ask for some peace if my chattiness is just too much for 6am.  I will still enjoy my time running with you).  🙂

Last Sunday, as I was rounding the East waterfront on the long stretch which normally is quite desolate, I was surrounded by people.  And as two bikers came up from behind me at a steady, yet not too fast, pace, I was able to hear the gentleman telling his friend: “I wonder if someday I’ll have kids, and, like, be boring.”

When I heard this particular gentleman in all spandex-y bike gear riding at a mild (yet quick) pace with a lady in similar garb, I laughed.  Chances are, this man will never be boring, and my guess is, having children would only increase the level of his interestingness.  True, he may have a little less time for his favorite activities, but from what I have learned from friends having children is that they are so incredibly taken by their kids – so incredibly fulfilled having these little people in their lives that I can only adore and admire them for the journey they have chosen.

After my initial giggle at my eavesdropped glimpse of a conversation, I started thinking…

What if I never have kids and I’m … unable to ever connect on that level with my friends or my sister who have embraced motherhood?  

Truthfully, I have never felt the gnawing pull of “the biological clock” to have children as many of my girlfriends have experienced.  And at 32, I am beginning to wonder if I have a clock that will tick and someday make me crazy for kiddos, or if I will just glide through life happy as a clam, happy as I am.  The cool aunt-to-be.

It’s a funny thing – discussing Motherhood and having babies with family and friends, they’re always quick to reassure you that you will one day have your own kids with the classic line: “not to worry, you’ll meet someone someday, and have kids of your own.”

Well… what if I don’t?   (anyone else hear the crickets?)

Would that make me boring?  These days many couples are choosing not to have children or even adopt, these days.  Living life free, and free from worry of procreation in order to carry on the family name.  They can travel, work crazy hours, have many hobbies, move to a different state or country, and not feel tied down or have to uproot a child from their life at school.  All of these variables can make a person start thinking crazy.  I mean, really, I’m not even sure I want a baby.  Ever.  Is that bad?

If I let myself ponder the idea… I am captivated by one thing specifically: there is that bond. That special recognition that you see between a baby and her Mother.  They just have that … something.  The twinkle in the eye as that slow, wide mouth grin spreads over that little one’s face and he reaches toward Mama’s face… It’s enviable.  To have someone in your life to love and be loved by so unconditionally…  And to be able to show that little person the world, nurture them, and teach them that their dreams really can come true… Wide eyes full of possibility.  Simply awe-inspiring.

At this point, who knows what my future brings.  I know there is something about having this relationship with a tiny person, and I am very happy to get to explore it (a little) vicariously through my friends with babes, and in my new adventure as an auntie.  Today, I am content as I am: Single, childless, pondering life’s possibilities, and free to stay up until midnight writing a blog post and get up early with the sun to go for a run.  🙂

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

The Last Long Run – 20 miles, Done!

My plan for this weekend was to run 20 miles on Saturday and take it easy on Sunday… and, due to baby shower madness, I delayed my run to Sunday (Mother’s Day).  This was my last long training run before the Newport Marathon – I needed to get these miles in no matter what, and I was not sure when I would be seeing my mother who is in from out-of-state.  So just as I started to worry that I was either going to have to sacrifice the run, or sacrifice seeing Mom, everything fell into place.

I hit the road at about 3:15pm, knowing I would be running for about three and a half hours.  Fortunately for me, my Mom is also a runner, and she was game to meet me for the last 8.5-9 miles and spend some quality time together.  We planned a meeting place, time, and ran into each other on the South Waterfront a little after 5:20pm to complete finish the back-half of the 20 miles together.

On normal run days, I run in the morning, and today was bright and sunny – and warm!  I have not run in such warm weather in about a year, and I noticed a marked difference in how my body reacted.  I was thirsty every half mile, sweating after only a half mile, had sausage fingers starting around three miles, and overall just felt a little hot, especially when there was no shade to help me out!  Obviously, it was a beautiful day!!!

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful person to spend time with running (and incredibly grateful for the genetics she has passed on to me!).  Supportive, realistic, fun, strong, encouraging, and everything that Moms are supposed to be.  We finished the evening with a great dinner at Dick’s Kitchen.  … and dessert, Yum!!!

Thank you, Mom, for spending your evening with me.  I really enjoyed our time together.

until tomorrow… Happy Running, and Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms, Aunts, Grandmas and Great-Grandmas!!!
~Alaina

Early Morning Adventures in the East

Early this morning I dragged myself out of bed, crossed the river, and ran with a friend on the East side… And although I felt I needed two more hours of sleep when I got in my car, five minutes into the run, we were having delightful conversation, and the area had my full attention: it was truly beautiful.

Going somewhere new for my early morning run was (literally) a wake-up moment.  Running in a new location is so refreshing!  Also, it showed me how used to my area I have become with drinking fountains everywhere; I’ve stopped carrying water on runs that will take less than an hour… And forgot water this morning!  Oops.

I am so grateful for the brilliant and beautiful running terrain available in Portland.  I feel very lucky to live in such a lush, green region of the world with water so readily available.  Thank you, Mr Simon Benson, for your many Bubblers around this gorgeous city.  You make training for marathons much easier.

Until tomorrow, happy running!
~Alaina

Gratefulness and A Delicious Recipe

Sometimes, the only thing that really matters in life is your state of mind.  At the end of the workday today, I needed a little reminder of the good, so I started going through my ‘I-am-grateful-for‘s’ and felt my body relax, my mind clear, and the smile return to my face.  Today really was a great day.

Today is day six of the 30 for 30 push-up challenge, and I already feel stronger.  I no longer stop after ten and wait a while before going back for another ten, and then another ten.  Instead, I am completing two sets of 15 with a short break in the middle.  Makes a girl wonder why she didn’t take on a challenge like this earlier…?

My morning runs are short and sweet this week – 5 miles: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in preparation of the 20 mile long run this weekend. Due to my sister’s Baby shower (omigodImgoingtobeanauntie!) Saturday, I will be modifying my schedule to do the run on Sunday.  I haven’t covered this much distance since last year’s training prep for St. George in September, and although I am a little nervous about the distance, I no longer harbor any fear of not finishing.  I know I can, and that mind game is finally over.

In the interest of getting a little more sleep tonight than I have in the last five (consequences of starting a blog post at 10:45pm), I am here to share my absolute favorite made-up (Baked!) dish.

As the Farmer’s Markets return to the neighborhood parking lots, I find myself craving the end of summer already, if only to have some lovely yellow squash again!  You are getting this recipe (well, a list of guidelines to create a dish – recipes are more scientific and precise than the list that will follow below) well in advance of the availability of the vegetable, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

Baked Delicata Squash:

– De-seed and cut 2-3 delicata squash into small pieces
(seeds may be soaked in sea salt & water and baked for a great crunchy snack!)
– Place squash pieces in baking dish
– Chop onion (to your desired amount – maybe 1/3 onion?) Spread over squash
– Sprinkle a handful of raisins (plus or minus) over squash
– Sprinkle with a handful of almonds
– Sprinkle with cinnamon (as desired)
– Dash of Nutmeg
– cut butter into slim tabs and place on top of the squash (this may be substituted with EarthBalance or other oil substitute)

Cover dish with foil and bake in oven at 350 degrees until squash is soft.
I kid you not, this will taste like dessert.  So.  Good.  This squash is so naturally sweet, no sugar is needed.

What is your favorite way to prepare Delicata Squash?

Happy eating, training, and nourishing – I am so grateful to be able to write this and share with like-minded people.  🙂
~Alaina

Fair Weather Runner No More! … Or Not

On Tuesday last week, after my first weekday run, I decided I had finally succeeded as a runner: I no longer shy away from running in uncomfortable weather!   Tuesday morning was cold and wet … very wet.  I felt proud of myself for getting out, completing five miles in heavy rain, and rather enjoying myself.

Puddle jumping with the Geese!

I was ready to declare to the world: I am no longer a fair weather runner!

… and then I woke up Wednesday morning to a sunrise blackened by heavy cloud-cover and the sound of hail hitting my windows…  And the only thought going through my mind was: “I can run at work today”.
On the treadmill.

Immediately I was upset with myself.  It felt like I was cheating!  And that was not the end of it… when I decided to do my run – on the treadmill – the sun broke through the black sky and taunted me as I looked out the window from my stationary running machine.  I nearly got off the track and got outside, but the threat of hail and heavy rain kept me sequestered indoors.

I run in the rain all the time!  It seems rather silly (or dare I say, shameful!) that I would avoid the outdoors simply due to the threat of inclement weather.

Do you find yourself avoiding your outdoor workouts when the conditions are less than favorable?  

Fortunately, this week the weather has turned and given a nod to Summer… into the eighties, beyond my wildest imaginations for end-of-April in Oregon.  Unbelievable.  I ran at sunrise without a hat for the first time this week, and in a t-shirt this morning!  (I like to stay warm, generally that means long sleeves, hat and gloves in the wee hours of sun-rising).

And it has been so Beautiful!

I am loving the early sunrise, heavy foot traffic on the waterfront, and reflections in the river I have come to know so well in the last six months.

This weekend, we return to rain, and I resolve to get out and run!

Happy running!
~Alaina

Saturday Evening Race to the Top

Saturday morning I awoke to the most colorful, layered sunrise sky I have seen from my new apartment (I apologize for not capturing that gloriousness in a photo – will do next time!).  For some unknown reason, I sat up with a start early-ish this lovely weekend morning. Perhaps because the time was 7am and my body usually experiences the 6am wake-up alarm of the M-F routine, or because Saturdays are reserved for the group run, which commences promptly at 8am, and a little worry may have crept into my sleeping brain that I might soon be missing something important.

Last weekend, Saturday’s agenda took an unusual path.  I was meeting my sister for breakfast in the suburbs, and going to a baby shower a little farther yet from home.  And I was nervous.  Why, you ask?  Because I was driving outside of the city…

To most people, this will seem a little dramatic.  But to tell you the truth, I was a little terrified.  I have only had my driver’s license for a little over a year, and a car to drive for less than three months.  (Yes, I am a grown adult and nearly 32 years of age – I’m just a little late to jump into the vehicle game).

and I had NEVER driven on the freeway alone…

I knew the easiest, and most time effective, method of getting to my destination meant driving on one of those multi-lane, 50 mph and faster highways with crazy people speeding, merging, and darting around me.  I was…

TERRIFIED!

My morning progressed slowly, meaning by the time I walked out my door, I was running late, and since the back roads were going to take about 26 minutes, I needed to save myself ten minutes and take the highway.  So I sucked it up, got in my car, and drove right onto the highway ramp.  I drove my little car down the big, scary road, and you know what?  It really wasn’t that bad, after all.

Also, I am eternally grateful for the little voice in my phone that tells me where to go.  (Thank you Apple!)

I had a lovely breakfast with my sister, we discussed baby shower details – Yes, I am going to be an Auntie! – and then we decided to wander and shop at a surprisingly nearby mall.   (There is a possibility I have missed this from my teen years).  It’s incredible how close things become when you can drive to different locations in mere minutes.

New adorable flats in hand (the Jeffrey Campbell “In Love” flats – a la Miss Meers, my favorite shoe boutique from the college years), I hugged my sis and was off to a friend’s baby shower.  We played games, munched on some delicious food, and guessed if the baby was a pink bow or a blue bow.  They had been keeping their little one’s gender secret for many weeks… and the reveal came just three and a half weeks before baby is expected!  I picked a pink bow to pin to the board, and … I guessed right! Woohoo!  (Yes, I am very proud of guessing correctly – two of three recent births… one still TBD).  I am very excited for this little person to join the lives of my good friend and her husband, and can’t wait to meet her!

After all the congratulating and asking to be notified of when and how it goes, we all left in our vehicles… I was excited to get home and get to my run!

I really wanted to catch the view of Portland before the sun set, and since I was heading out the door after 5pm, I knew I had little time.   Choosing to take the most direct route to my favorite overlook of the city, I went straight up the hill… as fast as I could without making myself sick, that is.  And the view was lovely, of course.

On my way back down the hill, and toward the waterfront, the sky turned red…

Once I reached the waterfront, the sun was fading from the sky, and night began to envelop the city.   A blue hue fell over the water and clouds.  I was greeted by a very large flock of birds floating near the water’s edge.The night was beautiful.  Dry, quiet, and water so still; a mirror reflecting the city back upon herself.  Dazzling even to those who hadn’t just run eight miles, I’d wager.

In the next few weeks, I will be increasing again, training for the Newport Marathon.  It’s crazy how quickly these dates catch up to us – this marathon at the end of May will be my “longest run” (or one of my longest runs) in preparation for a 50K in July – The Siskiyou Outback.  Part of me can not believe I have chosen to challenge my mind and body in that race, the other part is thoroughly excited.  🙂

A shorter race is upcoming before these two long races. In March, I’ll be tackling the Shamrock with a bunch of friends, running the 15K.  I have never actually run in this race, despite having registered on two separate previous occasions.  I look forward to finally running amidst all the green attire and silly Leprechaun get-ups.  Thinking about this race, I’m wondering if I should have some kind of strategy for race day.  I’d love to hear from you – how do you plan for race-day?  What is your strategy?

All my best to you out on the trails, roads, puddle jumping, and sliding through snow…
Happy running!
~Alaina