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

Countdown Begins: Five Days ‘Till the Newport Marathon

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This morning, Brandi and headed out to Fullerton to watch my Mom’s fiancé play a match of Racquetball.  It was the first time I have ever watched him compete in his sport, and I tell you – the man is focused, fair, and very respectful for this game and his opponents.  He is a great athlete to watch, and a fabulous source for inspiration.

As the Newport Marathon quickly approaches, I am finding myself under-enthusiastic about running this race.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is nagging at me, this race is close to the beach (which I love), my Grampa will be there with me, and we get to enjoy the surf, sand, and sea for one more day before heading back into town to return to ‘real life’ – a.k.a. My day job.

Part of my hesitation about this race is that for some reason, I feel less prepared than I was for St. George last year.  But frankly, I used the same training g program.  At this point in time, I am prepared in just the same way as that race seven months ago, and in fact, I am faster than last year.

So what is keeping me from the excitement?  The anticipation?  

Overall, I know I am not as prepared as I wanted to be.  In my mind, before training began, I wanted to max my weekend workout run at more than twenty miles, to get in more weight truing, and practice yoga twice each week to maintain (and re-gain) flexibility.

The truth is, I hope that after today, I can harness some of the energy I saw this morning at the Racquetball match.  Those gentlemen really know how to have a good time, and how to concentrate on the task at hand.

How do you stay motivated until you race?
Have you ever felt simply exhausted and let that “I don’t care” mentality creep into your mind?

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With hope for fun runs to you all,
~Alaina

Running. Meditation. Strength.

runnersworld.com/quotes
runnersworld.com/quotes

For the last several years, I have wanted to learn how to meditate.  No matter what I try, where I sit, the time of day, I just never seem to have the ability to quiet my mind, remain open, and just be.  It is so hard to be present with … the silence.  Nothingness.  Patiently waiting for … for whatever is supposed to actually happen when you are meditating.

Over the last year, I have come to realize, for me, running is my meditation.  It is a time in my day when I am usually on my own, the rhythmic pounding of left, right, left… looking for traffic, simply observing the world and being present.  I can run for hours and simply enjoy BE-ing in the world, moving on my feet, smiling for no reason other than … I am.

I have not run since Saturday, and I am feeling that … yearning of wanting to get out and move my body.  I miss the quiet spaces I find while putting in my paces around the waterfront.  I am so grateful tomorrow is a run day!  Being on the taper, I think I will feel the difference – lacking the extra mileage, and for the first time, I feel like NOT running will be harder than running every day.  It’s funny how things change.  🙂

Happy Running!
~Alaina

The Effects of Running Long: Reflections on Life

IMG_9957When I decided to run 20 miles, I knew I would be out and in the world for a few hours, running circles around the city.  Last Sunday when I set foot into the sunshine of mid-afternoon, I encountered masses of Portlanders navigating the waterfront path getting their weekend physical activity: Running, Walking, Biking, and I even spotted a family on roller-blades!  As a side note, I choose to run without musicMusic is super distracting, and because half of the time I happen to be on city streets where there very likely will be traffic, I decided it was the safer bet to keep earbuds away from my ears, and I can keep myself from becoming roadkill.

Consequently, ears open to listen for squealing breaks, a honking car, the click or ring of a bell on a bicycle, I end up accidently-on-purpose eavesdropping on many bits of different conversations.  If the conversation is relevant, and heading in my direction, I may jump in and chat a bit with my stranger runner-buddies.  Sometimes, as I found out yesterday morning, I may be in more of a chatty mood than the runner next to me, and she may say, “well, I think I’ll turn here” turning right as I continue straight… and after she already declared her destination, and I knew we were headed in the same direction…  Well, she apparently was not interested in a new buddy, and prefered to get back to her solitary run.  Which I totally understand.  (Note to my runner friends – Please just ask for some peace if my chattiness is just too much for 6am.  I will still enjoy my time running with you).  🙂

Last Sunday, as I was rounding the East waterfront on the long stretch which normally is quite desolate, I was surrounded by people.  And as two bikers came up from behind me at a steady, yet not too fast, pace, I was able to hear the gentleman telling his friend: “I wonder if someday I’ll have kids, and, like, be boring.”

When I heard this particular gentleman in all spandex-y bike gear riding at a mild (yet quick) pace with a lady in similar garb, I laughed.  Chances are, this man will never be boring, and my guess is, having children would only increase the level of his interestingness.  True, he may have a little less time for his favorite activities, but from what I have learned from friends having children is that they are so incredibly taken by their kids – so incredibly fulfilled having these little people in their lives that I can only adore and admire them for the journey they have chosen.

After my initial giggle at my eavesdropped glimpse of a conversation, I started thinking…

What if I never have kids and I’m … unable to ever connect on that level with my friends or my sister who have embraced motherhood?  

Truthfully, I have never felt the gnawing pull of “the biological clock” to have children as many of my girlfriends have experienced.  And at 32, I am beginning to wonder if I have a clock that will tick and someday make me crazy for kiddos, or if I will just glide through life happy as a clam, happy as I am.  The cool aunt-to-be.

It’s a funny thing – discussing Motherhood and having babies with family and friends, they’re always quick to reassure you that you will one day have your own kids with the classic line: “not to worry, you’ll meet someone someday, and have kids of your own.”

Well… what if I don’t?   (anyone else hear the crickets?)

Would that make me boring?  These days many couples are choosing not to have children or even adopt, these days.  Living life free, and free from worry of procreation in order to carry on the family name.  They can travel, work crazy hours, have many hobbies, move to a different state or country, and not feel tied down or have to uproot a child from their life at school.  All of these variables can make a person start thinking crazy.  I mean, really, I’m not even sure I want a baby.  Ever.  Is that bad?

If I let myself ponder the idea… I am captivated by one thing specifically: there is that bond. That special recognition that you see between a baby and her Mother.  They just have that … something.  The twinkle in the eye as that slow, wide mouth grin spreads over that little one’s face and he reaches toward Mama’s face… It’s enviable.  To have someone in your life to love and be loved by so unconditionally…  And to be able to show that little person the world, nurture them, and teach them that their dreams really can come true… Wide eyes full of possibility.  Simply awe-inspiring.

At this point, who knows what my future brings.  I know there is something about having this relationship with a tiny person, and I am very happy to get to explore it (a little) vicariously through my friends with babes, and in my new adventure as an auntie.  Today, I am content as I am: Single, childless, pondering life’s possibilities, and free to stay up until midnight writing a blog post and get up early with the sun to go for a run.  🙂

Happy running!
~Alaina

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Running vs. Racing – Pleasure or Prowess

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When I tell people I am a runner, they often seem to immediately assume that I am fast.  And for some reason, I am always quick to jump in and tell them just how not-fast I am. I plod along comfortably, breathing easy, taking in the world around me, and simply enjoying the movement of my body through space.

I think my explaining stems from the desire to let everyone know “yes, you can run, too” regardless of speed, just setting foot outside your door is wonderful, healthy, and it can be fun! For years I hated running.  Until my first high school cross-country meet, the fastest mile I ever ran was an 8:30 min/mile pace set when running one mile in third grade.  The faster mile I ran in cross-country was the first of a 5K race; Mile one was 7 minutes, Mile two was 10 minutes, and mile three was 13 minutes.  No consistency, and I certainly started that out too fast.  I have yet to meet the third grade pace and maintain it for over a mile.

I am not one of those runners who checks their pace on their wrist to see if each mile is coming in at the same pace.  I run by feel. If I am out of breath, starting to heel strike, or feeling uncomfortable, I know I need to slow down to be able to maintain energy levels for longevity.  My goal has not ever been to race.  It is to relax, keep moving, and enjoy…

The more running literature I read – blogs, articles, books – and conversations I have with other runners, I learn that I have a very different perspective than my peers.  In fact, I would call it an extremely abnormal point of view and desired outcome for Races I enter.

Sometimes I wonder, am I just content to be running at the same pace indefinitely?  Is there anything wrong with that?  

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Could it be that I do not have the motivation that others feel driving them to accelerate?  Or that I’m missing some gene that makes you want to push yourself?  I will admit, there have been only a few times that I have really pushed myself – and neither of those times was during the Marathon I ran last year.  Yes that was hard, and I ran a whole marathon distance of 26.2 miles, but as far as speed is concerned… I kept it easy.  I pushed myself to pass other racers in the last half mile stretch of the Pints to Pasta race a couple of years ago, and that was fun!

I guess, overall, I have never really attempted to race.  Not against myself or other racers.  Perhaps my delight in the well-known, comfortable easy pace is partially due to my hesitation to step foot into the unknown.  What if I lose my stride, and start to heel-strike, again?  What if I injure myself?  

What if… I CAN go faster?

What would that be like?

One of my greatest fears – throughout my entire life – has been succeeding.  Doing something well enough that other people notice.  Raising expectations.  Being authentic.  Being vulnerable.  Letting myself be seen, heard, and known.  So, I have always done well – but never really allowed myself to excel – at anything.  I stop before I move beyond good to really good.

I love dancing, and shortly after moving to Portland, I got quickly immersed in West Coast Swing and Blues – getting to the point where I taught a “Mini” Blues lesson (after knowing the dance for only three months!).  Less than two years later, I stopped going dancing.

I also love singing, and recently took lessons with some amazing teachers at the Transformational Voice Institute, and I have learned SO much, improved greatly, and then abruptly stopped taking lessons – and have not pursued any other singing venues since.

Now, I run.  A solo activity.  Running at my pace, there will be no comparisons with other runners.  I’m not fast enough to really compete.  I do truly enjoy getting out each day to do my duty pounding the pavement – my movement meditation, but I wonder if running is now my activity to help me hide from my other great loves, desires, heart callings by easily making it priority over the others.  What would my life be like if I could make time for all of these wonderful activities?

Do you find yourself choosing one activity over another that really calls to you?
How do you decide which to prioritize?

Tomorrow I have another five miles in the morning … Meeting a friend super early on the other side of the river, so I am off to bed before midnight for the first time in a week!  (If I were out dancing, I would not be home until after midnight – West Coast Swing Wednesdays go late!).

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Please, have courage to do what you love with gusto.  Feed your heart and your spirit with joy, and allow yourself to succeed!  This is SO important. To being authentic…!

with joy and heart,
~Alaina

Gratefulness and A Delicious Recipe

Sometimes, the only thing that really matters in life is your state of mind.  At the end of the workday today, I needed a little reminder of the good, so I started going through my ‘I-am-grateful-for‘s’ and felt my body relax, my mind clear, and the smile return to my face.  Today really was a great day.

Today is day six of the 30 for 30 push-up challenge, and I already feel stronger.  I no longer stop after ten and wait a while before going back for another ten, and then another ten.  Instead, I am completing two sets of 15 with a short break in the middle.  Makes a girl wonder why she didn’t take on a challenge like this earlier…?

Steel Bridge 5/6/14

My morning runs are short and sweet this week – 5 miles: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in preparation of the 20 mile long run this weekend. Due to my sister’s Baby shower (omigodImgoingtobeanauntie!) Saturday, I will be modifying my schedule to do the run on Sunday.  I haven’t covered this much distance since last year’s training prep for St. George in September, and although I am a little nervous about the distance, I no longer harbor any fear of not finishing.  I know I can, and that mind game is finally over.

In the interest of getting a little more sleep tonight than I have in the last five (consequences of starting a blog post at 10:45pm), I am here to share my absolute favorite made-up (Baked!) dish.

As the Farmer’s Markets return to the neighborhood parking lots, I find myself craving the end of summer already, if only to have some lovely yellow squash again!  You are getting this recipe (well, a list of guidelines to create a dish – recipes are more scientific and precise than the list that will follow below) well in advance of the availability of the vegetable, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

Squash Dish

Baked Delicata Squash:

– De-seed and cut 2-3 delicata squash into small pieces
(seeds may be soaked in sea salt & water and baked for a great crunchy snack!)
– Place squash pieces in baking dish
– Chop onion (to your desired amount – maybe 1/3 onion?) Spread over squash
– Sprinkle a handful of raisins (plus or minus) over squash
– Sprinkle with a handful of almonds
– Sprinkle with cinnamon (as desired)
– Dash of Nutmeg
– cut butter into slim tabs and place on top of the squash (this may be substituted with EarthBalance or other oil substitute)

Cover dish with foil and bake in oven at 350 degrees until squash is soft.
I kid you not, this will taste like dessert.  So.  Good.  This squash is so naturally sweet, no sugar is needed.

What is your favorite way to prepare Delicata Squash?

Happy eating, training, and nourishing – I am so grateful to be able to write this and share with like-minded people.  🙂
~Alaina

Sunday: Rest, Recovery, & Resolve

Yesterday was a very socially demanding day, and today I awoke feeling a little low on energy.  My morning was slow; I made a breakfast of eggs, kale, some prunes, and french press coffee with a touch of honey.  Taking it easy, I moved slowly through the paces of the day waking late (after eight am!), cooking, cleaning, and regaining energy and finding my balance.

Next week, another commitment heavy weekend awaits: I have a 20 mile run to complete, and we are throwing a shower for my sister – in a month she is due to have her first child, and I will officially be an auntie!  I spent time with my aunts this afternoon discussing the final details and preparations, and it was nice to see and connect with some lovely ladies in the family.  I found the time with them really grounding after yesterday’s play-day full of commitments.

I drove myself home (for the first time driving on I-205 alone in my little Smart Car!), stopped at Target (the power went out while I was in the store – there are certainly no windows – pitch blackness for about ten seconds), arrived to the quiet calm of my apartment and cooked my favorite dish for this week’s lunches: baked sweet potatoes with apple.  With all the rain coming down today it just felt like the right thing to cook.

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Sweet potatoes, fresh garlic, onion, Gala apple, a little fresh rosemary, olive oil, a dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of sea salt… Delish!

While prepping and baking, I noticed that after living in my apartment for three whole months, I find myself still feeling the restlessness that I experienced days after moving in and starting to settle.  I have still not completely “moved in”.  I have a few small piles – items which are organized, but I have not yet found them a home.

In order to combat the chest-constricting stress I feel when these piles come into my line of sight, I resolved today that I will have piles put away by Friday this week.  Primarily for myself – this feeling of uneasiness cannot be healthy to experience each day – but also due to family coming into town this weekend for my sister’s shower.  I really value them and their opinion, and want them to like my place if they see it!  (and I would love it to look organized and well – decorated).

How long does it take you to settle into a new home?
Do you find this takes longer than you initially desire the process to take?

Here is to Nourishing self through relaxation, recovery, and resolving to de-stress!
~Alaina