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…?

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

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

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

 

The Taper & the Distance Flip

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There is something about marathon training that manages to make the long runs easier, and the short runs harder.  Suddenly, running for anything less than an hour seems so insignificant.  A three-mile run sounds so silly, and you can almost feel yourself thinking “this is such a waste of time”… 

Tomorrow morning, I have a short run scheduled.  Part of the “taper” plan.  Yeap….

Who knew that one day I would be here;  in a place where I felt more comfortable running eight miles than two.  Okay three.

I am no longer awe-struck by double-digit runs others tell me about that fall within the teens or under the 26 mile mark.  The remarkable feats that catch my attention are those of the triathlon type, or when someone is training tells me they are running double digits two days in a row.  Which… I am about to start my new adventure in doubling up on the weekends, in just a short week and a half.

I have decided to literally jump right in to the 50K training the weekend of my marathon (allowing all goes well race day), I will be taking on a 6-10 mile run the day after running 26.2.  I am not sure how my body (or my mind) will take this.  I am certainly very curious about this, and definitely interested in giving it a shot!

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What has been your greatest challenge when training for a race?

Have you ever found yourself loathing the short run, and longing for more miles?

As always, my friends, Have a great run.
~Alaina