Uncertainty: The Long Road to Joy

August 25, 2014 § 10 Comments

jungle

photo credit: Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

I was uncertain, but kept going. 

Never have I been sure of where “my place” is in society.  What my job will be.  Who I may meet.  What kind of affect my presence in this world will have on other human beings. If any.  On animals.  On plants.

I was uncertain, and put one foot in front of the other…

College changed my thoughts of my desires measurably.  From science to art, I found myself conflicted yet full of conviction.  What did I want?  Did it matter?  I needed simply to finish.

Through uncertainty, I made choices.

Graduation came, and my only desire was to live on my own in the city I knew, yet was unacquainted with the reality of city-life.  I moved with a light heart and an open mind.  I chose to go left, rather than right.  Chose to eat cheesy pasta.  To dance until the wee hours of dawn when even the city sleeps.  To nap on my lunch break.  To see the good in every man.  To not have a car.  Someday, I would find my calling.  For now, I had my city.

Through uncertainty, I searched for things to feel better.

Finally finding a career, I settled into routine.  Over time, realizing a feeling that I has set upon an aimless path.  A growing sense of panic within my chest.  I chose to move.  Find a better home.  Go for a promotion.  Get a new computer.

Feeling lost, I searched for clarity.

I sought mentors.  Joined groups.  I sang, chanted, did deep, personal work.  Hired a coach.  I found myself writing.  Finally followed my heart and started a blog.  I yearned for connection.

Now, seeking myself, the path is clearing.

I spend less time with social media.  I shop less.  I practice yoga.  Cook delicious, colorful, healthy meals for myself.  I practice gratitude.  I am happier, lighter, and finally feel a connection.

To me. 

Seeking that which is outside for comfort and happiness, only draws us further from our true selves.
When we look within, we come to know happiness.

I continue on, uncertain of my direction, and finally sure of myself.

May each of you find your heart this day, and share a little more joy with yourself and with all those you touch. 

with love and light,
~Alaina

(Inspired by The Daily Post Writing Prompt – Build your own)

A New P.O.V.: Bliss and Gratitude

August 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

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For a week and a half, I have been experimenting with eliminating sugar, starch, dairy, soy, all non-fibrous grains, beans…  Pretty much everything except for protein and vegetables in order to sort out some digestive conundrums.  And truthfully, this has made running more difficult – the source of nutrition my body once found to convert quickly to energy is not available, and I have only run twice in the last week!  I have however, chosen to create an intentional practice of yoga while my body is learning how to move again with a different energy source.

And somewhat astonishingly, throughout this giant change of diet, I have not been lacking – I definitely do not miss sugar (although occasionally I crave a dessert or some fruit at breakfast).  I have been preparing and cooking Every Single Meal for myself.  This is a big change for me (I like to go out and socialize with friends at places where they make food for you), and I am finding such great pleasure in spending this time – doing something good for Me.  I do believe this two and a half week change is going to make a lasting impression on the way I eat for the rest of my life.  This will be a change to better my health, and a shift to buying products with a higher consciousness of the food I choose to support and the effect my purchases have on people, animals, and the planet.

The parking lot - late evening at work (a.k.a. Everyone else already went home).

The parking lot – late evening empty parking lot at work.(a.k.a. Everyone else already went home).

Over the last few hot, beautiful sunny days I have found myself in a very different state of mind.  I feel mildly euphoric and incredibly grateful for the life I am living at this moment – regardless of whether or not I worked exceptionally late that day.  I find myself running into genuinely happy people of all walks of life, and enjoying my life in the city more each day (this includes the grey, bearded, homeless men smoking on the sidewalk early in the morning who politely apologized for their colorful conversation as I ran by.  They were lovely gentlemen).

This shift is awesome.

I am lighter, happier, more productive with my days, and sleeping incredibly well at night – and waking before my alarm every single day.

Isn’t it amazing how a small change of habit can dramatically change your perspective and the entirety of your surroundings?

What are you doing each day to feel good in your own skin?
How has this changed how your day-to-day activities?

~ with love, light, and delight ~
Alaina

Siskiyou Outback 50k – Glorious, Long, and Unbelievably Happy

August 6, 2014 § 12 Comments

The Siskiyou Outback is a long race, and a much bigger deal than the credit I gave it leading up to race day.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  Thank God, I have some self-restraint.

The evening before the race, everyone went to bed early…  I was staying with a friend (who convinced me to do this crazy thing), and around 10 o’clock, I was really feeling the need to talk with someone from home – family.  Somewhat for reassurance about the run (my Mom is a runner, too), but also just to talk with someone back home.  You see, the week before the race, my Grandma passed away, and although I knew the service would happen when I returned home, I was still missing that time spent with loved ones, bonding and remembering.  I was playing tough when I really just wanted to wander down memory lane and let the tears and laughter flow.

But by golly, I had paid for this race, run three weekend-absorbing, 26 mile “training-runs” and spent over 45 hours during the previous two months running on trails, in the sun, and hitting the pavement at all hours of the day to meet the demands of this schedule.  I had a plane to catch and I would be on it.  My family was very encouraging and urged me to go, so Thursday evening, thirteen hours after clinging to my cousins in a group hug while we watched Grandma transition, I was at the airport, taking my shoes off, and placing my baggie of travel toiletries in the grey, plastic bucket on the conveyor belt.

My friends and I stayed in a beautiful house outside of Jacksonville on a hill.  … Maybe you could call it a small mountain.  The view was spectacular:

View just before sunset from the hill house.

View just before sunset from the hill house.  That small bump in the distance is Mt Shasta.

By race morning, I had pulled myself together.  My wits were somewhat about me, and at 4am I was eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and putting together my pack with the water bladder for the first time.  Yes.  For the first time, EVER, on a run I carried a water backpack. I’ll tell you now, honestly, it was the best decision I have EVER made. I carried the Mountain Hardware Fluid™ Race VestPack, with no discomfort, chaffing, and I was able to carry water, two small bottles with Nuun Strawberry-Leomnade electrolyte (another thing I had never tried on a long run), 7 Cliff Shot Mocha (my favorite) & 3 Honey Stinger Gold Classic Gels, three food bars, a hat, and my gloves (also emergency TP).  So, counting those things up… at least two NEW to try on the longest race of my life.

What can I say?  I’m a rule-breaker.

Oh, and before dawn, the sky looked like this:

Before sunrise; subtle glow.

Before sunrise; subtle glow.  Single star on the horizon.

We all piled in the car just before 5am so we would have a little time at the start for Bib pick-up, potty-stops, and disrobing to bag-check.  We were on top of a mountain. I couldn’t believe the view:

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Mt Shasta view from Mt Ashland – up in the Siskiyous

Who wouldn’t want to stare at this at 6 o’clock in the morning?  Needless to say, I was happy I got up, and thrilled I signed up for this race (thanks, friend!).

When the race began, for the first time in all of the races I have attended, I was not nervous.  Moments before the start, I ran into my friends from the Newport race!  I was so happy to see them, I nearly missed the starting countdown!  My friends were up ahead of me, and I let them take off without me.  For this race, speed was not a goal; finishing was where my sights were set.

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So I started out easy.  Taking in the beautiful scenery:

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More than half-way through the 50k trail race, and still smiling!

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Looking forward down the trail (note the drop off to the left). There was a bee hive in the side of the hill to the right, I stepped out of the way of a runner, and unknowingly into the danger zone…

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IMG_1472The trail went on forever…!  I knew I was running nearly 32 miles, yet there did come a time when I began to wonder how far I was from finishing…

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IMG_1475By the time I reached this grass-filled field, it was hot.  The temperature was hot, the air was dry, people were suffering heat-stroke and dehydration, and I kept plodding along, slow and steady.

IMG_1476When I finally reached the road where we started the race at mile 1, I knew we were close.  Since this last bit was a measure of a climb, I took it easy and let myself walk slowly up the hill to the top.  Up ahead, there was a man, also taking his time coming up the hill.  I realized my pace was a little faster than his, and caught up to him about 50 feet from the crest.  We chatted, and when we came up to the top, I let him know I was going to start to “trot” on in nearer to the finish.  He said: “me too” and took off at a quicker stride than I wanted to muster at that point in time.  I hollered after him, “You go, guy!  I know you’re going to cross that finish before me!”  And suddenly, there it was: I saw the finish line just around the bend.  Music was blaring.  And I wanted that finish line.

I took off; how I had a sprint left in me after plodding across the distance on trails over rocks, up and down hills with a grade I’d rather not dwell on, I do not know.  As I quickly came up alongside my friend from the last hill, he glanced at me with a little shock, and abruptly increased his speed.  We ran, neck in neck, to the finish, both grinning ear-to-ear.  I was delighted to be able to inspire a little speed out of a fellow 50k runner.  So happy to have met you at the end!  I don’t know if I would have kicked as hard without the friendly competition.

Finishing with my last kick partner.

After the race, the shoes came off… it was time to rest, eat good food, and relax.

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Dirtiest feet I have ever had, in all my running years. Nice job!!!

… And shower.  :)  Never have my legs been a color other than what nature gave me, after a race; that day they were dirt brown.  All that dust on the trail certainly has a way of finding its way between the toes…!

Overall, I feel good about my results.  I finished.  And I felt good crossing that line.  I never felt nauseous (despite new hydration methods), had no chaffing problems (despite the new bag), and kept moving the whole race.  I was smiling, happy, and energized!  (Previously, at the finish of a marathon I have been grumpy and irritable. This is a vast improvement).  So, after finishing with a time of 7:40:40, as 194/208 runners in the 50k (27/30 in my age group), I can say I am not fast, but I finished strong.  After my pre-race comments of “after this race, I need a break,” I am certainly look forward to training for the next one.  (And I am excited about a new challenge: Yoga teacher training!)

Here is to happy running – regardless of speed, rank, or time.  :)  Get outside, and enjoy!
~Alaina

Fabulous Stormy Weather – and My New Favorite Capris

July 15, 2014 § 1 Comment

Sunday, the forecast called for 91 degrees and sunny.  Arguably, this was a great day to get out early and run it out to beat the heat.

But I wasn’t really feeling all that ready to pull on my spandex and running shoes when I woke up before seven am.  I loligagged, checking email. perusing Instagram, making coffee, eating a light breakfast, and finally, after nine o’clock, feeling ready enough to walk out and get some miles under my belt, a deep, rumbling growl came from the sky, ending with a loud Clap!  Thunder!

IMG_1085When I looked outside upon the threatening storm, I only had one thought:

“Is it a bad idea to go run in the forest when there is a storm coming? … Or a really good idea?”

Fortunately for me, after a few sprinkles, and some laughter-provoking bellows from the sky, the sun broke through, providing great glimpses of gold along the wooded trail in the forest.

IMG_1087Half-way through my run, I met the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion, a wonderful historic home that was celebrating their 100th year with cake at 2pm!  I was about three and a half hours early, so instead of eating cake, I took in the view of the city.

IMG_1088Due to the heat we have been having, the sky was pretty hazy, and the cloudiness only contributed to the murkiness of the air.  Despite those factors, it was still gorgeous!

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A beautiful rose in the garden at the Pittock Mansion. She smelled wonderful!!!

I made it back home in record time – apparently the repetition helps with trail navigation when it comes to anticipating rock and tree obstacles – and not a moment too soon!  The clouds once again took up their song, singing in that lovely, rumbling bass…  And soon erupting with rain and large chunks of hail.  Timed that run perfectly.  By accident.

On this particular run I wore my trusty trail shoes the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger  (I am loving them, and it’s not just me!  They got a great review from Runner’s World, as well!)  I love how comfortable they are: supportive and flexible while being a low-top.  Not to mention the great color (Dark Chino/Light lucid Green-Black-Turbo Green combo makes me happy to strap in).

I also wore a new pair of Nike Capris: The Nike Legendary Tight in the fantastic Turbo Green/Obsidian/Black color (which nicely matches the shoes).  These tights have a super high waist and fit phenomenally.  They are incredibly comfortable. I honestly felt less jiggle, there was no muffin top over the waistband (there is no elastic band at the waist – just great fabric), and, at the risk of sounding completely silly, it almost felt like I wasn’t wearing any pants.  

They’re that comfortable.  I suggest you give them a try.

For any of you wondering, these are my own words, I am not sponsored by Nike nor was I given free product.  I bought these items, and truly love them.

Do you have a favorite shoe (past or present) that you cannot live without?

Here’s to happy running, staying cool, and avoiding getting hit by lightning!
~Alaina

The Last Marathon; 50K Prep

July 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I ran my last marathon.

Well, I don’t exactly mean that literally, but this was the last marathon distance run I will complete before running the Siskiyou Outback 50k at the end of this month.  And I can tell you very plainly – I am ready for the taper.

I laid in bed for an extra hour this morning debating pros and cons of an early run, and trying to convince myself that I wanted to get up, throw on my shoes, and go run up some major hills in the forest.  And even after a small breakfast and some coffee, my body and brain both responded a resounding: ‘No F-ing way!’  (My eyelids slowly drooping back to the closed position post-breakfast, after I found myself, once again, lying on my bed). 

Today, I am exhausted.  It is my last day of high-volume running, and now my time on the trail (for the marathon follow-up of ten miles) is moved from this morning to an evening adventure (once it is no longer nearly 90 degrees outside).  I was pretty useless until about noon, when I stopped reading and social-media flipping to cook a real meal because my stomach was growling.  Perhaps that small breakfast is good on normal days, but it is possible my body required a little more caloric intake today to feel fully prepared to do … anything.

Running 26 miles, I am learning, is (quite understandably) taxing.  Each time I run that distance, I somehow manage to forget how much time my body wants post-run to simply rest.  And eat.  And eat again.   Surprisingly, the actual act of running has become much easier.  26 miles feels like what 12 miles did a year ago, and 12 miles is no longer a daunting figure having become a routine training run that is reminiscent to how 5 miles affect me one year ago.

The body adapts, and truthfully, the amount of recovery time is likewise reduced for these long runs; I now feel much better at 4 o’clock in the afternoon the day after my marathon run, whereas after the St. George Marathon last year, I went out for a very short 1.5 mile jog-hop the day after my race and three days post-race I was still sore and waiting to feel “normal” again.  It’s almost unfathomable – I will run 10 miles today after 26 yesterday.

…How did I get here?
When did running for a couple of hours become “the norm”?

My running buddy and I discussed this ‘funny’ notion while out tackling hills in yesterday’s sunshine.  Saturday morning really was perfect for a long, long, Long run.  :)

Grain Mill & Boat Waterfront 7/5/14

Early morning start – 6am at the waterfront is extremely peaceful.

Terwilliger path 7/5/14

The pathway along Terwilliger was so Green! Lovely, warm light, and decadent shade for such a distance run.

Tryon Creek 7/5/14

Brief stop at Tryon Creek to refill the water supply – Sun blasting through to heat up the day.

Terwilliger/Tryon 7/5/14

On the back half, headed uphill out of Tryon Creek State Park, back into town. Enjoying every succulent moment of shaded pathways near Terwilliger.

I am so grateful and feel blessed that I get to spend great portions of these long distance Saturday mornings with good friends to share stories, encourage each other, and generally make the workout a really good time.

A big shout-out to my running buddies (near and far) & Saturday’s Run group:  Thank you SO much for being runners.  My life would not be the same without each and every one of you.

Here’s to running healthy, happy, and strong!
(…And I’m off to tackle the next ten…!)

Happy running!
~Alaina

Hitting the Trail – A New Perspective on Running

July 1, 2014 § 5 Comments

Sunday, day two of weekend workout 50k training, I decided to use my “short” run wisely and head into the hills.  It was a double-whammy of hill workouts, this weekend; time to change it up, strap on my new trail shoes, and head out the door for some real, butt-kicking, rock and tree-toe obstacle-full muddy trails of fun.  In my brand-new shoes.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger - my first pair of "real" trail shoes.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger – my first pair of “real” trail shoes.

The soles of Nike Zoom Terra Kiger have an amazing sticky rubber.  When I tried them on in the store, I sounded like I had just come in from the rain with rubber sneakers on – Super squeaky!  On my mile and a half trek over pavement to the trail, running in these was mildly difficult.  On the one hand, they offer tremendous light support, and on the other – it is SO much more support than I am used to, as I generally wear the Nike Free Flyknit (which may almost feel like being barefoot in comparison).  The girl working in the shoe department was aghast that I ran marathons in the Free – apparently it is not designed for that kind of work.  I like taking the ordinary and making it  extraordinary.  I love my Free’s.

As much as wearing the Terra Kiger on the pavement was giving my calves and hamstrings a stupendous workout, as soon as I hit dirt in these bad boys, it all made sense.  They have enough support to keep your foot solid on the ground, and they feel incredibly stable, yet the sole is light and flexible enough that you can still feel the rocks and dips and bumps in the trail.  My first run in these shoes was eight miles long, five and a half on trails, and I came out of this test run completely unscathed: No blisters, raw spots, or extraordinary soreness.

Yes, I do believe the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger will work for my 50k (Siskiyou Outback, here I come!)

Although the day started out overcast and with a slight chill (which I was grateful for near the end of this run), the forest was gently bathed in a wash of soft, cool light.

lower Macleay 6/29/14

Lower Macleay 2 6/29/14

Pittock Mansion view 6/29/14The view from the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion gave me a pleasant reprieve – a place to catch my breath, take in the city, and stop to smell the roses.

Pittock Mansion Rose 6/29/14

The descent down the hill was, of course, much quicker than my climb up to the top.  (This is the stuff negative splits are made of, right?)  51 minutes up, and 43 minutes down.  I was cautious, and took more care to watch for obstacles on the downhill leg of my journey, especially after the warning from my 50k running-mate that morning, complete with a picture of her bleeding knee, offering sage advice: “do try to pick up your feet.”  Lower Macleay 6/29/14 downhill

Overall, it was a great insight to a different type of running.  Trail running is so much more active.  I tend to get in a zone on my daily run, pleasant smile on my face, looking around, observing my fellow runners, saying good morning, and generally feeling at peace, quietly plodding along with joy.

On the trials, the “zone” is a totally different place. It requires focus, constant attention to detail in your surroundings, and persistence.  Less than halfway up my climb, I was out of breath, quads and rear burning with the effort, pulse beating, and my heart beating at my breast as though it was going to jump from my chest in a fit of agony and lay panting on the ground.  I effectively learned on Sunday that I might be a little out of shape for a race that takes place on trails.

But you can bet that I’m not going to let that little fact deter me.  

To all my fellow runners anticipating your next race: Here’s to hill training and working through the pain, because on the other side of that discomfort lies a greater level of fitness.  And satisfaction!

How do you train for a trail race?
How many of your work outs per week do you devote to hills and trails?

with joy in running (and breaking through past limitations),
~Alaina

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

June 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

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!)

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View from the International Rose Test Garden

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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.

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The cool, long down-hill.

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The prettiest grate that you ever-did-see.

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A brief appearance of Sun Beams at the end of our run.

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Set-up beginning for the Blues Festival weekend, with blue tents popping up on the waterfront.

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SE Portland

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

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    Siskiyou Outback 50KJuly 26th, 2014
    My first trail race. The longest race I've ever done... at the highest elevation I've ever attempted. A test of strength, courage, and patience.
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