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

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.
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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

Let the Training Continue: On to the 50K Ultra-Race!

 

Newport Reflection
Lovely Newport Beach-y clouded skies.

Twenty-one days ago, I ran the Newport Marathon.  With joy in my heart, and a skip in my step, I moved my way over those 26.2 miles with a smile.

After returning from my little vacation to Vegas and LA, three days later to driving to the coast to spend the weekend at the beach running the Newport Marathon, I was completely prepared for a calm, quiet week (and weekend) at home.  Monday and Tuesday passed uneventfully, I even signed up for an online workshop on Creative Visualization for Wednesday evening.  Much to my surprise, I received a text from my sister – she was at the hospital… and going to have a baby!  And there went my quiet, relaxing week…!

After a long evening, and an even longer morning, watching, helping, and cheering my sister on, my niece came into the world at 5:55am.  She is amazing.  The most adorable newborn I have ever seen – and her mother was incredible.  I did not know what to expect watching her go through this process, and beyond being one of the most amazing experiences to be present for – watching a life coming into the world – I saw strength and bravery in my sister that was simply awe-inspiring.

The Cutest Baby on Earth.
The Cutest Baby on Earth.

Needless to say, after a sleepless night, I slept a little that morning, worked the afternoon, and crashed Thursday night.  Friday they went home, and I spent time each day this past weekend with my sister and brother-in-law and my little niece.  Sunday morning, I woke up thinking “why does it feel like I haven’t had a weekend at home in weeks…?”  Well… three weekends, not at home, Alaina.  That’s your answer.

And somehow, three weeks after my last race, without missing a beat or losing my stride, I am continuing on – training for another race.  A bigger race.  An Ultra. 50 Kilometers somewhere up on some mountain in Southern Oregon.  I might die.  But chances are, if I train enough and don’t hurt myself, I’ll end up having a lot of fun on the Siskiyou Outback.   And I’ll get to see my friends from the Newport Marathon!  As well as see my very good friend Cass, whom I have not seen in so long (and I am sure she will totally kick my butt in this race).

Today was my first ever 26 mile training run. TRAINING!  It is so weird to think that today, I ran a marathon… and it wasn’t a race.  Ha!  Who knew I would ever reach this point.  The cool thing is, if it had been a marathon, it would have been a PR!  I clocked in at 4:40 for today’s run, and after a marathon three weeks ago that was 5:02, that feels pretty good.  Oh, and it was beautiful.  And I am sunburned.   (oops, forgot sunblock…)

Geese!  Adult and fluffy!
Geese! Adult and fluffy! – I had to detour around a couple of very protective Momma’s who did not want to let me pass on the sidewalk…
Convention Center silhouette at the Steel Bridge
Convention Center silhouette at the Steel Bridge

My run was perfectly lovely – 10 miles solo to start at 6:15, the next 5 miles with my girlfriends, peaking around garage sales in the neighborhood, another 4.5 miles solo, and the last 6.5 with my Mom.  We finished with brunch at a little breakfast diner in Sellwood, and then headed back to garage sale for good deals!  This day leaves me feeling extremely satisfied… and exhausted!

Tomorrow I have the pleasure of running with a friend from high school – I anticipate great conversation which should make 10 pretty easy…   (Can 10 miles be easy the day after 26?  Here’s hoping…!)  Then it’s a baby visit day.  So excited to snuggle that little one again!  I still can’t believe I’m an Auntie!!!

Have you ever trained for something more than a marathon?  

How did you keep up your pep on the “difficult” (aka VERY HIGH MILEAGE) weeks?

Happy Running, everyone!
~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

Running to the Beat of My Own Drum

RW Quote 5:29This quote arrived in my email inbox from Runner’s World this Thursday evening, and at first made me chuckle… Then I thought, you know, this is really true.  I love getting out and running and looking at the world around me.  I people-watch, see wildlife, photograph this beautiful city I have the great pleasure of living in, and sing songs in my head to my heart’s desire (or out loud, depending on how many miles I have covered and if I’m getting that runner’s high … There’s a possibility that I can pass for a crazy person after 12 miles; a happy, smiling, singing crazy person, but … a little different nonetheless).

It’s funny to sit here and know that in about 36 hours I will be on my way running 26.2 miles.  I feel like I am in denial that I will be doing this race at all this time around.  Maybe because the circumstances surrounding last year’s St. George race really did not start off well (story here: Marathoner), and this time my Grandpa is going to do the race with me.  Which is fantastic!  The weather in Newport will be a perfect 50 degrees, not raining, cloudy with sun… What more could a Portland girl want?

I know with everything that I am, that I will run faster than I did in Utah seven months ago.  I still claim to not have a goal pace, although I do think that 4:40 finishing time is my new target.  And while this clocks in at a whole half hour faster than my previous marathon (I think) I am pretty sure I have it in me.  Regardless, I go forth into the unknown of this race, without expectation or need for a specific outcome.  Because I still want to have fun (and take pictures!).

I run to finish with enthusiasm and joy for the sport!  I do think that there may be a turning point when my ego is inclined to begin racing rather than allow me to run and enjoy, and I am grateful that I have not yet reached that point.

Do you run in organized events to race?  Or is it a run for fun with thousands of your peers?  Has your point of view changed?

Happy Running!
~Alaina

 

Keeping Promises: May Blogging & Arm Strength

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I am a little bit surprised by the fact that I have stuck to it and written a blog post, and performed 30 push-ups every day for 28 consecutive days as of… whenever I post this tonight.  I have previously attempted a blog streak, although I feel at that time I was less successful.  Posting solely an image, reflecting on some mildly interesting event, and hoping that the brief jot would sufficiently fulfill the daily requirement and satisfy my own need to create and express.

As I learned in November, putting in a little effort turned out to be just that: a little satisfying.  And each time I knew I was kind of … well… only putting in a half-effort, and that hole would appear in the pit of my stomach reminding me that the content I put out into the world of the Internets was less than.  So, as my posts come later and later this May, edging into the wee hours of the morning, it is because I am learning that making a quality post each day is quite a stretch.  And I would rather be satisfied with my post and miss a little sleep than feel that pit form in my belly.

Despite the difficulty coming up with the next post, I am thoroughly enjoying every moment spent composing.  I have also learned that I am naturally a night owl… Or at least, I kick into creative overdrive in the late evening.  Which is difficult to honor and maintain when getting up at 5:30 or 6am every day to get in the morning workout.

Do you find yourself compromising on sleep to exercise and satisfy your creative side with artful activities?

“Burning the candle at both ends” as they say…
And currently, loving it!

I hope you were all able to do something that brought you happiness today!

Joyfully,
~Alaina

A Short Run and a Trip to the Beach: A Pictorial

The Tree

 

Look at that tree…  I mean, would you even guess that I took this running in L.A.??? 

This morning’s run was gorgeous.  The sun was out, it was 70 degrees, and I got to tackle a hill with drinking fountains on the way up, and a surprise at the top:

Oil!
Oil!
The view overlooking the valley.
The view overlooking the valley.
Gorgeous trees with fabulously vibrant, purple blossoms are everywhere down here: Jacarandas.
Gorgeous trees with vibrant, purple blossoms are everywhere down here: The Jacaranda.

Rose 5/27/14

 

I even found roses lining the sidewalks of homes in the area.  And their scent was so sweet!  Just like the roses at home.

After our morning workout, we went to breakfast and had some delicious eggs and bacon and headed to visit a good friend in Santa Monica.  On our drive in, there were some pretty amazing murals on the walls beside the road:

Horses
Horses

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Whales
Whales

The beach was full of people: using the bike path, catching some rays in the sand, and surfing in the waves.  The wind was blowing, and kites were flying.  With a smile on my face, I decided to go stick my toes in the ocean:

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Beach Day
Beach Day

This has been such a wonderful trip – spending time with Brandi is always good and getting to see her and just hang out like we did so many years ago is really … indescribably healing and relaxing.  She is my best friend, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share in each other’s lives despite distance between us and the different paths we have taken.  Friendship like this is hard to find.

Brandi: best friend since third grade.
Brandi: best friend since third grade.

Do you have a friend you keep in touch with from your early childhood? 

Does it still feel like it did all those years ago – free, easy, and always accepting?

Happy Tuesday, and Happy Running (and Reminiscing!),
~Alaina