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

Cool, Crisp, and Crunchy: Saturday’s Run in the Forest

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The Moon, still high in the sky, as I set out Saturday morning.

Saturday, the cool morning air smelled clean, fresh like a snow-fallen day.  The wind was blowing, gusting and swirling around me as I huddled in my jacket, hood raised despite the lack of rainfall to protect my chin and neck from the cutting air.  The city was aglow with the warm peach hue of the rising sun.  It was a beautiful day for a long run in the Park.

The trails were blissfully open, full of color of the fallen leaves, and crisp with frosted mud and crunchy ice-covered puddles.  The whole of Portland seemed to be out for a run in the forest that day, taking advantage of what is sure to be one of the last sunny weekends of Fall on our way into Winter.

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The gorgeous gals of Saturday’s Run.

We went out for an out and back run of eight miles, which is lovely on the trails; the photographer in me wants to explore some more territory, so I may encourage a divergence from our usual path for the next run in Forest Park.  Despite the repeat in terrain, I was able to catch some pretty magnificent moments.

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Beautiful sunrise through the trees.
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Frozen puddle!
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Sunglasses recommended.

It was the perfect day for a run.  I enjoyed every minute of being blinded by sunlight, especially since experience tells me we will soon be running in pouring rain each day.  Love Portland winters!

Where did you run this weekend?

Superman and Angels; An Episode of the Morning Run

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This summer during marathon training, mid-week was my medium length run; I was headed out the door to get in seven miles before work.  I had been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall the night before this run, and read of these runners “kicking up their feet” …  I started thinking about my stride and realized it is primarily a shuffle.  Not much lift in the back, slide forward to the next foot and keep movin’ along.  So, I decided to work on my “kick” just to see what it felt like, and boy… it makes a difference!  I found that I have more spring, when the leg goes back, there’s more momentum for it to swing forward, and I think that overall it increased my pace, or at least increased my turn-over.

I was about half a mile into my seven mile run in the city, and while passing a restaurant, decided to check my form in the window, and … Bam!  I found myself sliding down the sidewalk, six feet from where my right toe hit one of the infamous pieces of sidewalk lifted by a root of a beautiful Portland tree.  I was practicing my Superman, and once again learned that it is true, I do not have hidden wings, and I cannot fly.  Unfortunately, I found myself in a similar situation splayed out on the sidewalk only a few short months ago, and the memory of that injury had not totally faded.  On that occasion, I was laid up with a swollen knee-cap for a week, icing every night, and was not able to return to my regular running schedule for over a month.

I cautiously tested out my limbs, slowly stood up, and recalled that unlike my previous encounter with pavement, there was no loud “crack!” when I landed this time, as I had magically fallen on a downhill slope which somehow let me catch most of my weight with my arms, and slide on my side a little rather than hitting my knee directly. The only noise I heard was the “ssssssshhhhhhh” of my shoes catching on the cement as they slid down the sidewalk.  I took that as a good sign.  I was determined to finish the run I had just begun, so after a couple careful steps, I gingerly tested out a jog, found my legs to be fine (except the quarter-sized raspberry on my left knee), so I continued on toward my daily hill climb.

As I was nearing the turn off to head up the hill, I found myself pacing with a woman who was running in the middle of the street.  I gauged her to be in her fifties or early sixties, and she was keeping an outstanding clip. I decided to let her know I appreciated her pace and hollered “You’ve got a great pace going!”  She looked over, and immediately grinned – “Well thank you!  That’s quite a compliment for someone of my age!”  We got to talking, and it turns out she is from Texas, used to flat terrain, has been running every day for many years, and has recently started working out with a trainer to build muscle to keep her bones strong.  She was peppy, friendly, and just the person I needed to run into that morning after another fall to keep my spirits bright.  And what an inspiration!

We chatted, introduced ourselves, and went our separate ways mid-hill, I was turning around, and she was continuing on up to the top.  Pleasant, happy, and genuinely joyful was this woman from Texas.  Any morning I want to meet the day with some cheer, I know where to run to meet up with this lovely lady.

I may have discovered I was not Superman, but that Wednesday morning, I met an Angel.

The people in the world that bring us joy make life that much more wonderful, and help us appreciate being on this planet.  Shine your joy, and help others find their light.

With joy in running, and in all things…
~Alaina

Colorful Leaves, Sunset, and Reservoirs: Running Again, at Home

This afternoon I had the great pleasure of running during the daylight hours, when the skies were fabulously rain-free, and I went exploring with a friend.  Can it get any better?

Fall in the neighborhood.
Fall in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, with moving, work being absolutely crazy, and business travel this past week, I did not make time to run for two whole weeks!  I missed it!

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Trails on Tabor
Color *Pop*
Color *Pop*
Peek-a-boo view
Peek-a-boo view
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Sunset
Reflection
Reflection

This time away from home, and moving from a very familiar neighborhood into unexplored territory made me very nervous about running at dusk or in the early morning pre-dawn haze.  I had so much more freedom in my old, familiar “home zone” this new space on sidewalks and around all these houses is intimidating.  I really enjoyed my first experience out running with a buddy, conversing and looking around.  I think I’ll learn to like this area, very much.

With any luck, in the future I will not let a little fear keep me from doing this thing that I love so much: Running.

with joy,
Alaina

 

Back to the Pre-Marathon Routine, and the Saturday Long Run.

Fall color!
Fall!

Nearly two weeks ago, I ran a marathon.  Not just any marathon, but the St George Marathon; one of the fastest fall marathons at elevation with great down (and up) hills to bring you to the finish faster.  I ran a race for which I was only mildly prepared.  I knew I could run the whole way.  I had no doubt I would finish, that was a given.  Throughout the months prior, I stuck to my training like the glue that keeps the sole on my shoe.  Each run I checked off on my training log was essential to my success in the race, and without the commitment to run, I knew everything could fall apart.

At first, I was only running to get it done.  To make sure I could keep up with my Grandpa, actually.  Part of me wanted to run because I’ve really come to enjoy the activity, and the other part just wanted to avoid failure.  So I ran, right on schedule for the allotted amount of miles each day.  Over time, that schedule became routine, and despite my initial intent to simply achieve the goal of completing the training, I started to enjoy the routine.

For the first time in my life, I was running out of habit and really looking forward to each morning when I strapped on my shoes and got out to run.  Before daybreak.  In the pouring rain.  Watching the sunrise!  

I adore my early morning running meditation.  Just me and quiet, pre-dawn world.  (and my iPhone for those photo-worthy moments)

Grey morning, geese swimming.
Grey morning looking toward the Burnside Bridge.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of running with the Saturday’s Run group again.  It was nice to be back in Portland, running nearly at sea level, seeing my friends, and touring my city and her river.  The weather was typical of Portland: a grey, fall morning, but at this time in the season, the foliage is a sight to behold.

Looking down toward the river from Terwilliger.
Looking down toward the river from Terwilliger.
Greens and Yellows...
Greens and Yellows…
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Looking out over the East Side.  Look at that red!

My friends planned to do 11 miles, and I only wanted to do eight (I mean, I did 26.2 the Saturday before so I didn’t need to do 11, right?) so I ran and chatted with them for four miles then turned around to head home.

Whereupon, I promptly decided to take my favorite route along the river (a.k.a. the long way…).

The Hawthorne.
The Hawthorne.
The Steele.
The Steel.

 

The Fremont.
The Fremont.

Apparently, the long way home on a tour of Portland Bridges.  I love running the waterfront, and ended my “eight mile run” with 10.2 miles.  Go figure.  I guess some things really stick.  I love running longer distances now.  Anything less than five miles seems … like a warm-up.  I ran four miles on Wednesday, and wanted to keep going.  I had to stop myself so I would get to work on time!

Do you long-runners out there feel the same way?  What is the shortest distance you run?

Heading into another weekend, I find myself looking forward to an early Saturday morning.  We are going somewhere new this weekend!  I’ll report back with a full account of this new trail run, in Washington!  (We are sometimes adventuresome!)

Have a wonderful Friday everyone, and as always, happy running!

with Joy,
~Alaina

The Inevitable

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At some point, it happens to all of us.  We don’t think about it, we don’t plan for it, we get so used to going out and living our life in the routine we have developed that it doesn’t even cross our mind as a possibility.  And then, inevitably, it happens when we are absolutely unaware of any chance of it occurring…

This Saturday, it happened to me.

I was out on a long run with a group of ladies, in a beautiful Portland neighborhood – great homes, a view of the forested hills and the river – I was putting my iPhone back in my belt pouch after taking the this photo:

The city in the distance.
The city in the distance.

When … Bam!  I hit the ground.  In less than a second, my position was changed from running to completely stopped after a very short slide onto concrete.  After landing, I slowly came to the realization I was no longer in motion, I recall looking around, picking up my phone and bus pass that had been thrown from my waist belt in the sudden motion, when I recalled the unsettling crack sound my knee made when contacting the sidewalk.  I was lying on my stomach, propped by my right hand, left arm outstretched, legs fully behind me… Yes, I fell.  I fell while running.  To my credit, it was not level ground; the sidewalk jutted up nearly three inches where my right toe made contact sending me flying Superman style before gravity brought my human body to the concrete Earth that was once below my feet.

As I slowly picked myself up from the ground, my running mates, who were all ahead of me and heard me fall, suddenly at my side, inquiring about my well-being.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine”

“No, really are you ok?  You fell pretty hard.”

“Yeah, I’m alright. [looks at knees]  Well, mostly.”

“Your knee.  It’s swelling.  Why don’t we walk it back from here.”

I was trying to make sense of the mix of emotions running through my head.  I couldn’t feel my knees.  They were stinging a little but it wasn’t that bad.  I ran through a list of positives.  I was grateful for wearing capri pants rather than shorts, and my knee scrapes weren’t too bad.  I was grateful for my hands being unscathed since I still had my gloves on, even though I was wearing a tank top.  I was tremendously grateful for being out with my friends on this run.  They were full of helpful information: remember to ice and take ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, I could sue the people who own that house with the tree-root induced bump (although this is not my intention or desire), and they were encouraging that it wasn’t my fault as my frustration with the fall turned to anger at myself and yes, I started to cry.

6.5 miles into an 8 mile run, and crash, boom, done.  The negatives found their way in to my train of thought.  Now I was making everyone else walk.  And I would have to delay the start of my “serious” marathon training to heal. Not to mention the fact that I may have actually really done damage to my cartilage.  I felt defeated, that I had stopped our forward motion, pissed that I had screwed up the rest of the workout.  Why on Earth did I fall!?!?

I had experienced the runner’s worst nightmare: damaging my legs.  Worse yet, my knees.

Fortunately for us, the weather was gorgeous, and the walk back to our starting location was a very nice distraction and an exercise in staying positive.  I got to speak more with my running mates, observe the neighborhood, and we met this adorable puppy:

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And it has been an interesting reminder to take better care of my body.  I move more slowly.  Tonight I took a bath to ease tight muscles.  I choose clothes deliberately so there is less friction over my knee (I have learned I really like very long skirts… And I could really use one that stops above the knee!).  And every night for the next month this is what the end of my evening will look like:

Ice to reduce swelling!
Ice to reduce swelling!

Well, minus the band-aid.  The knee covered by ice is turning a lovely blue-purple, getting more colorful each day.  This event has acted as a reminder that my “normal” condition – healthy, able-bodied, and active can be changed in a second has renewed my appreciation for how I am living.

Have you experienced set-backs in your work-out routine?  Do you feel you have to back up your training schedule when something like this happens?

I am very grateful for being healthy and that my body will heal itself, and climbing up the four flights of stairs to my apartment will once again be easy in a few more days.  With icing and taking care, there’s even a chance I’ll be running again in a couple of days.

And hopefully, I won’t try to fly like Superman again anytime soon on my outdoor adventures.

As always, with joy in running (even when we fall),
~Alaina