Clearing Clutter: An Education in Pieces

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This season of Summer passed much more quickly than I expected.

I have spent a lot of time inside this summer. Inside at work, in my house, exploring the inner space of my mind. 

One tends to learn a lot when they take the time to listen. 

This has been the case for me.  After breaking my toe, abandoning “getting back in to dancing” (the activity that caused me to break the toe), taking time off from running (due to the toe fiasco), and going on a solo trip to Sisters, Oregon, I had a lot of time to think and ponder what was really important for me. I even started reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, and am working on completing the workbook – which has created space for more inner contemplation (more on this soon, when my words form into something more solid and communicable).

But this time of solitude and reflection was interrupted.

I reconnected with an old flame on my way home from Sisters – and that is going great. I went back to work for a week. Then, with a week to prepare and buy a plane ticket (and thank goodness for AirB&B by the way), I had the good fortune to join a good friend on a trip to Italy, where I hiked the hills of El Cinque Terre, and ate bread like nobody’s business. (Chocolate croissant and cappuccino for breakfast daily. I know what you’re thinking: “But you’re gluten-free!” You’re right, I am … In America. In Italy, I ate croissant, pasta, and bread consequence-free. The experience was incredible, and I will never forget the focaccia bread pesto topped pizza in Manarola…).

The best pizza ever.
The best pizza ever.

While away, I heard from my Mother that my Grandma was not faring well, and a friend passed away. By the time I returned home, I spent 24 hours in my city, and while not yet unpacked from my recent trip, grabbed my bag of toiletries and a few clean t-shirts, and headed North with my sister to be with my family for a week through Grandma’s transition. Then home for five days, then North again, to spend more time with family, which was quite wonderful and healing. Another week home, and word of my Grandpa’s passing.

Another visit with family (again, therapeutic), and my weekends have been spent working on building a relationship, trying to get back into running, dwelling in the past, and thinking about the future.

Somehow, I left self-reflection behind and began exclusively focusing outward again.

Every time I find myself yearning to work on the Desire Map workbook, I put it off until later.
But when is “later?”

I know that the practice of reflection and taking time for myself makes me all that much more available to other people who are important in my life. The challenge is actually making time for myself. 

I make time for (some) chores, sleep, and occasionally cooking. And I made the promise to myself to schedule time for painting, dancing, writing, singing, all the artistic endeavors that keep me sane, happy, and feeling fulfilled, and have not yet made these activities a priority in my daily life. Heck, they’re not even priority in my life on a monthly basis.

I have been slowly removing things from my home – creating space.  For some reason, this feels necessary in order to start creating art again. I need a clean slate and the clutter (of things and thoughts) is driving me insane.

Fall cleaning is in full force in this house.

This weekend, the special man and I are headed to the coast – staying in the cabin from my childhood, and I am really looking forward to being away from all the clutter of my daily life to take some time turning inward, and to be present. I am taking my workbook, with the intention of working on those important things again. Time to re-center my focus on the here and now.

How do you get yourself back on-track after de-railing life happenings?
What activities keep you centered, happy and feeling whole?

Have a great, heart-full weekend, my friends.

with love,
Alaina

August’s First Run – Getting Outside With Friends (and a small fix for a Big Oops!)

I made a mistake! Somehow, while I was still composing my thoughts, I accidentally posted the drafted beginning of a blog entry, and it was seen by people…
and I feel  a little… naked. (Yikes!!!)

Fortunately, blog posts can be moved back to “Draft” (who knew, and Hooray!!!), so you will see a better version of the story you may have started reading and thought, “Hm… This does not seem to have a true ending” because… well, it is not yet finished! I’ll get those thoughts corralled and edited, and out to you all soon. Thank you kindly for your understanding while I remove, edit, and complete that entry.

Today, I want to share with you the run I had the pleasure of going on with my friends (nice and early to beat the heat) on Sunday. We started at a track, quickly made it to a trail for an intensely UPHILL climb, we passed the Zoo, and the beautiful Rose Garden, and made our way back into the city to finish our gorgeous, wooded, challenging, and fun run.

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I remembered to take pictures after we had jog/hiked up the first steep hill.

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We started  in the trees, and headed for the clouds…

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The view crossing the freeway.
Beautiful clouds (creating a sanctuary of cooler air... Ahh...!!!)
Beautiful clouds (creating a sanctuary of cooler air, ahh…!!!) and a view into the city from the Rose Garden.

Toward the end, we may have gotten a little silly.

(It is important to cross the road as a group and stay visible to traffic… We made the process a little more fun).

All in all, this being my first eight mile run experience in over three months, it was great! Although my quads felt like they wanted to remove themselves from my body and take a nap nearing the last half mile after all that up and down, I really, really enjoyed this run.

And spending time with those wonderful women.
(My synchronized running team). 😉

How did you move your body this weekend?
What is the goofiest thing you’ve done during a workout?

As always, wishing you fun on the run!

with Joy,
Alaina

Early Mornings – Catching the Sunrise

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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:

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Stillness in the early hours of dawn on the Waterfront.

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Glassy river reflections of clouded skies…

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The view from a run up Terwilleger some weeks ago…

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The only clear shot I got on my birthday morning, 10 mile run. Mt Hood in the distance!

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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 unknown tree root or rock).
Golden 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 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

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

Hitting the Trail – A New Perspective on Running

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

2014 Newport Marathon Race Recap

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The Newport Marathon was fantastic.  Arriving at the start line, it was great to be in a “small” crowd of 1,000 people.  I don’t think I have ever participated in a race with such a cozy, community feel.  I came across a fellow blogger at Move Eat Create at the start.  She has been training so hard, I knew that I would see her on the course later (and that she would be passing me on my way out, while she was on her way back). And I did, and she did coming in with a truly great time.  Congratulations, on a great race, my friend!

I always start a race on a cool day with a long sleeve on, but despite the cloud cover and the slight breeze, Saturday morning was warm.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I left my long sleeve with my jacket in my drop bag. . .

Thank God that I did!

The clouds burned off about an hour and a half into the race.

And it was beautiful…!IMG_0492

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A short while into the race, about half a mile after the maze of neighborhood that was the first three miles, I met a few new friends, and quickly discovering that they will be running the Siskiyou Out & Back (the 50K) in July!  I got caught up talking with them, and decided to keep pace.  I knew it was a little faster than I could probably maintain for 26 miles, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  My lungs were content to keep the pace, but my legs… my legs need more training.

By mile 12, I let my new-found friends take the lead, and kept moving forward solo.  Looking for my Grampa the whole way, especially after mile 13.   He started the race at 6am with those walking the marathon, so he had an hour lead on me.  I did not cross paths with him until the turn around at mile 15!  We had a Big Hug moment, and stuck with each other and chatted for a little while.  A few minutes into conversation, he said “It is such an honor to run with you, and to be passed by you!” and encouraged me on.  So, I did go on.  In the end I only beat him to the finish by a few minutes, as I walked a lot of the last six miles.

So, I learned I need to stretch.  Stretch more.  Stretch at all.  I’ve been neglecting my muscles, and it shows.  Lesson learned.  

Have you ever experienced an unexpected slow-down during a race?  I’d love to hear your story.

One of the most remarkable things about my experience at this marathon in Newport was that I had no head game.  I had no doubts about finishing, no moments of dislike that I was still running.  I enjoyed myself through the pain.  Regardless of the tightening of this band that made me limp, hop, and walk more times than I could count, I would keep breathing, countdown, look up, smile, and run on again.

Two days past race day – I’m a little sore, but  I have a smile on my face and I am still lovin’ life!

Happy Running!  🙂
~Alaina

Eight Hours Until Race Time!

Yes, I know, I should be sleeping… 

But I had to share with you – I am so excited to be running the Newport Marathon with my Grampa.  We had a lovely drive out to the coast, and a wonderful dinner where we met a lovely girl who lives in the first building I called home in NW Portland!  In the same unit one floor down!  We live in a a small world, full of surprises.

The drive out was gorgeous: blue skies, old barns, and grand views of the ocean.

The old Air Museum
The old Air Museum

When we arrived at our hotel, we discovered the most perfect view from our room:

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I want to share so much more, but since I am posting from my phone (which is a little more challenging and time consuming), as well as getting up in five and a half hours, I must bid you goodnight, my friends.

Sweet dreams, and have fun running tomorrow!
~Alaina