Training Without a Goal Equals Random Length Runs and Mild Confusion

Sometimes we do things and then realize how silly we are, right?  Such as running only once (maybe twice) a week while “training” for a 20 mile race…

Apparently, (according to my most recent history of recorded runs in the months of February, March and April) I no longer feel that 20 miles is a huge challenge.  I know if I stay hydrated and bring enough nutrition, I’ll be fine.  My legs will carry me over the distance.  Sure, I’ll be a little tired and sore for a couple of days, but that’s true after any hard workout (including yoga). So, while watching each day of the week pass, the only real training I was doing was in the form of a long run on Saturdays, which is fortunately coordinated by a dear friend, and I love catching up with the girls on the weekend, so I make it a point to attend.  During the week I got out once, maybe twice for two to six miles.  My total weekly mileage may have reached (almost) 35 miles (only on one week of training – and that included a 19 mile Saturday run).

What happened to my drive?  And the clarity I felt when preparing for my first 50k? At that point in time, my only concern was being able to accomplish that goal – to finish running 31.8 miles without injury.  And I trained hard.  I got out for every single run in my training plan. And now what? I had a race planned; a goal with a date printed in ink on my calendar, why was I unable to motivate myself to get running in a way that would have helped me complete this challenge more efficiently?

Maybe it was the distance20 miles is an odd number. I don’t know if there exists a training plan for races between half marathon and marathon distance. (…This feels like a terrible excuse – cancel that). Whatever the case may be, I am changing my strategy.  It’s time to get races on the calendar, and to plan my workouts – because not only do I want to be better prepared and efficient during my next race, I want to be better at running. Stronger, maybe even faster.

Fortunately, despite my lack of training or strategy, The Peterson Ridge Rumble went well. The weather was great, and although the terrain was primarily dry, dusty, and rocky, I was able to get a few good shots:

The beginning of the race started with a mob of runners on a rapidly narrowing trail.
The beginning of the race started with a mob of runners on a rapidly narrowing trail.
Sun shining down in the cool morning air.
Sun shining down in the cool morning air.
Some tall trees.
Some tall trees.
The first time I have let someone take a picture of me during a race.  I think that is Black Butte directly over my head.
The first time I have let someone take a picture of me during a race. I think that is Black Butte directly over my head, and we were about halfway done, at ten miles.
Loved that giant, rocky protrusion.
Loved that giant, rocky protrusion to the right of the trail. (It was massive once we got around to the back of the great outcrop).
This snag stood out - bright red wood.
This snag stood out – bright, golden-brow wood amidst dusty grey.
Rocky Trails.
Rocky Trails.
Not sure how this little guy got here... not super friendly, is he?
Not sure how this little guy got here… not super friendly, is he?
The only water seen on the entire 20 mile trek.  Very close to the beginning/end of the race.
The only water seen on the entire 20 mile trek (not unexpected in this dry climate). Very close to the beginning/end of the race.
Best shot of the mountains.  They look so much farther away through a camera lens!
Best shot of the mountains. They look so much farther away through a camera lens!

Ultimately, I have learned that I need to plan ahead in order to meet any training goals.  I was able to finish the race a bit faster than I expected, in 4:15 by my watch (4:20 by the website – I stopped for at least 5 minutes for picture-taking in the first half, and toward the end of the race, I just let the clock keep running. Ah the life of an iPhoneographer runner).

Tomorrow evening I intend to do some research, detail which races I will sign up for and run for the rest of the year, and create a running/workout schedule to follow.

Because – speed. And consistency. And all good things that putting energy and focus into something you love will do to improve your results.

Now, I would love to hear your “ah, hah” moment.

Have you ever realized you were not doing yourself any favors by cutting  yourself slack while training? (0h, boy!)
And what did you do once you came do that conclusion?

Do you have a favorite weekly workout schedule?

I am strongly considering running long on both Saturday and Sunday – I just love getting out for a while on my day off – it feels so good to spend time out enjoying my run without the rush of “I have to get to work” or “I need to get home and cook dinner” clouding my brain.  What are your thoughts on doubling up on the weekend? 

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend run! (I’m getting out tomorrow!)

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

The Best of Intentions, Rain, and A View

As I sit here in the nook of my kitchen, on the radiator warmed bench at eight o’clock in the evening on Thursday night, I know I should be packing.  My intention for the evening was to make at least one trip over to my new apartment (yes, to those of you who know me, I am moving again) to transport some of the little things that I can fit in my pint-size vehicle.  But when I got home from work, my stomach growling – reminding me I need to eat, I got out the leftover soup which is basically the last bit of food left in my refrigerator, and set it to warm on the stove.  Immediately, the desire to bake biscuits to go with my dinner hit me.   I found a recipe to reference, throwing together a mish-mash of different gluten-free flours to make this last-minute addition come to fruition.

This week at work has been a little overwhelming, and trying to spend my evenings working to move my home… It really brings up the urge to bake!  I get so much joy out of creating food, and somehow it is incredibly relaxing, so I tend to give in when inspired (last night I made cookies).

Now having eaten my delicious, purple soup (this is what happens when you throw all the vegetables in your fridge into a pot with some water and rice, and one of the veggies is a purple cabbage), and indulging in three gluten-free biscuits with lavender pear fig jam, I listen to the falling Splat! of the rain draining off the roof of my building, and the desire to go anywhere has vanished.

I really am looking forward to this new place; somehow I feel like this is some kind of “reset” button on my life, and I am excited to see what kind of changes come out of this new home.

I will, however, miss this view:

city view PDX

I guess I’ll have to go running uphill in the morning to find my own view!  Like this one: (unfortunately for me, the lot overlooking this section of Portland is now for sale – fortunately for the future home owner, there is an incredible city-scape laid out before the lot)

Pre-dawn lights from Tuesday's early run
Pre-dawn lights from Tuesday’s early run

So tonight, at 8:38pm, warm, fed, and pretty tired, although deterred by the rain, I will make my trek.  One small trip, if only because I promised myself that I would, and I know it will provide me a small sense of accomplishment (and avoid all those upset-at-self feelings).

How do you stay motivated when the rain has you down?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and welcome you to leave a comment below.

with joy,
Alaina

P.S. As I wrote that last line committing to venture out in the wet, it started pouring.
…Where are my boots…?

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 BridgeIt 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

 

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:

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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

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

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