The One Month Feat; and Noticeably Different Feet

A couple of days ago I glanced down, looking at my feet.

And it was like I was gazing down at a stranger’s.  They looked… grown up.  Strong.  Beautiful.  …And yet, so alien.

I have arches.

IMG_2284
Look at the lift at the inside of those feet!
IMG_1478
Flat-footed pre-Yoga Teacher Training (and dirty speckled, post Siskiyou Outback 50K race)

Throughout my entire life, I have had the flattest feet of anyone I have ever known.  And now, after completing five weeks of nearly daily physical yoga practice, my feet are strong! It’s incredible how quickly the body adapts to the changing physical demands we ask it to accept and work through.

I used to think that running strengthened my core quite a bit – breathing is hard work when you are running 20 miles over the course of three and a half hours.  Certainly it takes some strength to accomplish this task!  Yet, now, not only is my core tremendously stronger, and I feel shy saying this, …I actually have some definition in my abs…!

Part of the changes I am noticing is due to the fact that I did a cleanse (no sugar/starch) for nearly one month.  AMAZING transformations happen when you eliminate sugar and anything with more than 5 ingredients or containing any preservatives or unpronounceable compounds.  I have never felt so good.

But.  (Did you know that was coming?)
Everything is not all hunky-dory.  Nope.

About two weeks ago, my thighs started going numb.

Weird, right?  The tops of my thighs, and the skin covering them, all going numb.  This is something I have noticed for years if I found myself laying on my back when waking up in the morning.  I would just roll to my side and all would be well, feeling returning to my upper legs.

Now, I found myself in a lunge pose in a yoga class – and the top of my back leg went numb.

A couple of days later, at a standing meeting around a desk at work, both legs went numb on the thigh.  And over the past week, it has become a daily occurrence of sleeping/waking legs.  So frustrating. I finally went for some body work – and apparently I had some tight muscles, and even after releasing the fascia from the muscle tissue and detaching things that had adhered together and become stuck, I am still experiencing the same darn numbness.  At this point, I am pretty sure the cause is a ligament in my hip crease area stretching over a nerve and cutting off feeling.  Now, I simply need to locate the point and figure out how to bring more flexibility and release the tension on this ligament so it stops pressing on the nerve…

I knew this yoga journey would teach me new things about myself, stamina, strength, and health of the mind, body, and soul.  I did not think I would be given incentive to learn about nerve paths in the body.  A somewhat uncomfortable, and totally interesting experience.  (My legs are feeling numb less often, now; I am paying close attention to any changes, please do not worry about me!)

This journey is helping me to look at my life – practices, choices, ways of living and consuming in this world – and make conscious decisions about how I choose to live.  I had no idea that my mind would be challenged to change.  Nor did I know that my body would change so much – my feet starting to look like a yogi’s.

This will be an interesting journey, indeed.  

Have you ever started a new activity to be faced with unforeseen challenges?  Was it something totally off your radar?
How did you approach that roadblock?

I would love to hear your story!

as always, with joy,
~Alaina

Sugar Free Two Weeks Complete: The Return to Normal Eating Conundrum

I feel as though at this moment, I have every right to celebrate and jump with glee – I made it through two weeks without eating anything with sugar.  No added sugar, no starchy-stuff that would convert to sugar, no fruit.  I feel fantastic.  My body is de-puffed, and all of my clothes fit better than ever (nice little side-bonus of not eating anything that makes your body react).

And now, fourteen days later, I get to add items back into my diet!  I met with my coach over the weekend, and she sent me home with my favorite apples – Gala – and this is going to be the first thing I add back into my diet.  I am so excited to get to eat my favorite fruit again!

… and I am terrified to learn how my body feels after I eat sugar again (albeit from fruit!).

I am truly afraid to eat an apple. 

The Gala Apple.  Poison or no?
The Gala Apple. Poison or no?

So even though I have already decided that the apple is my first exploration into fruit sugar again, I left it at home when I went to work today (apples at lunch were almost a daily practice pre-cleanse).  I am so comfortable knowing that what I am eating now does my body NO HARM, fear of reaction has caused me to not even try a bite.  Somehow, I have turned into Snow White.  Although, I suppose, she went ahead and dug into that apple.  Whereas I fear the post-delicious-‘crunch-slurp’-bite-of-apple coma.

Clearly, this is a little dramatic.

Eating an apple will not kill me.

But the fact is, for two weeks, I have been headache free, felt very even energy daily, and to put it quite bluntly, I have had no issues with gas or digestion.  And now… I’m afraid that I may soon find the very foods that were my staples before experimenting with no sugar may be foods I need to continue to eliminate (or that my body is still working on fighting bacteria and I need to continue the diet).  A fact that may indeed be true, and is a little disappointing to think about.

So, I will proceed with caution, care, and at the pace of a snail.  Only one new item per 3 day period.  I get to eat apple today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.  And then I have to decide what add back next… Blueberries?  Yams?  Carrots?  Beans?  So many choices!  (Presuming all goes well and I do get to keep adding items back to my diet).

For now, I will only test the effects of the apple on my system.
Here goes nothing…

To eat or not to eat the apple, that is the question.
To eat or not to eat the apple, that is the question.

(Will somebody please find me Prince Charming just in case I take a bite and slip into a coma?)
Thanks in advance. :)

with love and light, and to your health!
~Alaina

An Explanation of the Long Absence: New Directions

Beautiful sunset on Cape Kiwanda.
Beautiful sunset at Cape Kiwanda.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven’t posted for a while, and I am here today to share with you.

Before I flew South to run the Siskiyou Outback 50k, I received an email from my favorite yoga studio.  They announced their next Teacher Training event would be starting in September… and I decided to reach out to these lovely people (because I did not meet all of the specified requirements) to ask if I would be able to be considered for the program.  Fortunately, based on my commitment to running, and the athleticism therefore gained, they enthusiastically said yes!  I gleefully paid the deposit to hold my spot in the class and went about my summer of the big run and the many, many weddings.

After I returned from Ashland and the Siskiyou mountains, I started attending weekly social events; I attended four weddings and a funeral this August (one wedding was in September), kind of ironic.  Each event was lovely, and time flew by!  Before I knew it, weeks had passed without a blog post, and I was starting yoga teacher training!

I have now completed my first week of training.  And Oh.My.Goodness.  I am simply exhausted!  When you decide to go through teacher training, yes my fellow yogi – you, I highly recommend that you fully mentally prepare yourself for not having much of a social life.  20 hours of class and study and then some on top of a 40+ hour work week is a lot.  Not to mention the fact that I also have hired a coach to help me figure out my next steps in life, which is a lot more personal research, growth, and homework of activities and planning.

Sometimes I find myself wondering: “Why am I doing all of this now?”

Each time, my answer remains the same – there have been some major catalysts for change in my life over the last two years, and finally I made the decision to jump in head first – dive in to all the things I have wanted and neglected.  My patience had run out, and it was time to just go for it.

I cannot remember when I decided I wanted to go through yoga teacher training.  My first ever class was a PE credit in college.  And I loved it! That class was such a stress reliever.  I felt amazing after yoga (and SOOOO relaxed!).  I remember getting breakfast and then taking a nap before my next class.  Ah… those were the days… But there is something about yoga that has always had a strange and wonderful pull on my heart.  I feel lighter, happier, and more … complete, at peace, and open to be in a joyful state.  I am always prepared after a yoga class to get out and interact with other human beings, as I know that my mind is in a much better state to receive and impart information.  Here I am, finally taking initiative in my own life to achieve what my heart has desired for so long!  Wow!

I am following my heart’s desire!!!

For the first time in my life, I am making choices to move toward purposeful living.  Currently, I am on a cleansing diet – no sugar, caffeine, gluten-filled grains – and this, too makes each day challenging. I spent the late evening hours Friday baking, and Saturday morning I was cooking up a storm making future dinner or lunch dishes.  I am learning to cook and eat in a very different manner, and although this diet is recommended for 14 days, I think I am on my way to a significant change in the way I eat post-cleanse.  I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who eats odd, healthy foods, and now here I am, due to current ailments and a doctor’s recommendation, learning how to be who I have admired for so long.  (More dreams into reality).

What I have learned over the first week of yoga classes is that I need a lot more alone time while I am working and learning.  I can feel my body getting stronger already, and my mind is processing so much information, surely growing as well, and just needs more rest.

On that note, please forgive me if I am not posting about running as much, as you may see the content of this page change a little to discuss yoga and the personal transformative process that comes out of this training.  I have so much to learn in the next ten weeks, and it is hard to believe I it is possible to learn all that is needed in this short time, let alone the fact that my final exam is teaching a full 60 minute class!

I saw this on my way to the first day of yoga training.  The Universe leaves us messages in the funniest places.  :)
I saw this on my way to the first day of yoga training. The Universe leaves us messages in the funniest places.

Until next week, happy running everyone, and if you get a chance pop into a yoga class (especially Yin!).  It is so great to stretch those tight muscles!

with love, light, and delight!
~Alaina

Uncertainty: The Long Road to Joy

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

IMG_1033

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

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:

IMG_1460
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.

IMG_1462

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

IMG_1459

IMG_1463

IMG_1468

IMG_1467

IMG_1465

IMG_1469

IMG_1471
More than half-way through the 50k trail race, and still smiling!
IMG_1474
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…

IMG_1477

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…

IMG_1464

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.

IMG_1479
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

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!

IMG_1093
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