Saturday Evening Race to the Top

Saturday morning I awoke to the most colorful, layered sunrise sky I have seen from my new apartment (I apologize for not capturing that gloriousness in a photo – will do next time!).  For some unknown reason, I sat up with a start early-ish this lovely weekend morning. Perhaps because the time was 7am and my body usually experiences the 6am wake-up alarm of the M-F routine, or because Saturdays are reserved for the group run, which commences promptly at 8am, and a little worry may have crept into my sleeping brain that I might soon be missing something important.

Last weekend, Saturday’s agenda took an unusual path.  I was meeting my sister for breakfast in the suburbs, and going to a baby shower a little farther yet from home.  And I was nervous.  Why, you ask?  Because I was driving outside of the city…

To most people, this will seem a little dramatic.  But to tell you the truth, I was a little terrified.  I have only had my driver’s license for a little over a year, and a car to drive for less than three months.  (Yes, I am a grown adult and nearly 32 years of age – I’m just a little late to jump into the vehicle game).

and I had NEVER driven on the freeway alone…

I knew the easiest, and most time effective, method of getting to my destination meant driving on one of those multi-lane, 50 mph and faster highways with crazy people speeding, merging, and darting around me.  I was…

TERRIFIED!

My morning progressed slowly, meaning by the time I walked out my door, I was running late, and since the back roads were going to take about 26 minutes, I needed to save myself ten minutes and take the highway.  So I sucked it up, got in my car, and drove right onto the highway ramp.  I drove my little car down the big, scary road, and you know what?  It really wasn’t that bad, after all.

Also, I am eternally grateful for the little voice in my phone that tells me where to go.  (Thank you Apple!)

I had a lovely breakfast with my sister, we discussed baby shower details – Yes, I am going to be an Auntie! – and then we decided to wander and shop at a surprisingly nearby mall.   (There is a possibility I have missed this from my teen years).  It’s incredible how close things become when you can drive to different locations in mere minutes.

New adorable flats in hand (the Jeffrey Campbell “In Love” flats – a la Miss Meers, my favorite shoe boutique from the college years), I hugged my sis and was off to a friend’s baby shower.  We played games, munched on some delicious food, and guessed if the baby was a pink bow or a blue bow.  They had been keeping their little one’s gender secret for many weeks… and the reveal came just three and a half weeks before baby is expected!  I picked a pink bow to pin to the board, and … I guessed right! Woohoo!  (Yes, I am very proud of guessing correctly – two of three recent births… one still TBD).  I am very excited for this little person to join the lives of my good friend and her husband, and can’t wait to meet her!

After all the congratulating and asking to be notified of when and how it goes, we all left in our vehicles… I was excited to get home and get to my run!

I really wanted to catch the view of Portland before the sun set, and since I was heading out the door after 5pm, I knew I had little time.   Choosing to take the most direct route to my favorite overlook of the city, I went straight up the hill… as fast as I could without making myself sick, that is.  And the view was lovely, of course.

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On my way back down the hill, and toward the waterfront, the sky turned red…

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Once I reached the waterfront, the sun was fading from the sky, and night began to envelop the city.   A blue hue fell over the water and clouds.  I was greeted by a very large flock of birds floating near the water’s edge.

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The night was beautiful.  Dry, quiet, and water so still; a mirror reflecting the city back upon herself.  Dazzling even to those who hadn’t just run eight miles, I’d wager.

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In the next few weeks, I will be increasing again, training for the Newport Marathon.  It’s crazy how quickly these dates catch up to us – this marathon at the end of May will be my “longest run” (or one of my longest runs) in preparation for a 50K in July – The Siskiyou Outback.  Part of me can not believe I have chosen to challenge my mind and body in that race, the other part is thoroughly excited.  🙂

A shorter race is upcoming before these two long races. In March, I’ll be tackling the Shamrock with a bunch of friends, running the 15K.  I have never actually run in this race, despite having registered on two separate previous occasions.  I look forward to finally running amidst all the green attire and silly Leprechaun get-ups.  Thinking about this race, I’m wondering if I should have some kind of strategy for race day.  I’d love to hear from you – how do you plan for race-day?  What is your strategy?

All my best to you out on the trails, roads, puddle jumping, and sliding through snow…
Happy running!
~Alaina

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Find this and other motivational quotes Here (credit Runnersworld.com)

How I Met Olympic Runners (attending the G.O. H.A.R.D. Group Run)

Yesterday, a friend and I were able to attend a group run event at our local Fit Right Northwest store.  The activity was for G.O. H.A.R.D. (Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day) Organized by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano (check out Run the Edge for more details and to learn more about these guys).

On the Facebook event page, it states:
“Every runner deserves a hug.  A real hug.  The kind of hug that says, ‘Even if I don’t understand why you do it, I appreciate and recognize your effort.’ ”  

While I did not realize until a couple of days before the run that there would be literal hugging and bead exchanging (and I needed to register), I knew I wanted to go to this event.  I replied to the Facebook invite very shortly after the event was created because I saw that Kara Goucher would be there, and  I immediately invited my good friend who sets out each run with the hope of running into Kara.  (Now was our chance!!)

So we went.  And with close to 200 runners in attendance, it was awesome!

Proper hugging technique demonstrations
Proper hugging technique demonstrations
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Meeting Kara Goucher!
Meeting Adam Goucher.
Meeting Adam Goucher!
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The store packed with runners (and huggers)

It was quite the evening.  Besides meeting Kara and Adam Goucher (American Olympians), we saw KGW NewsChannel 8 celebrity, Brenda Braxton, out for the evening to enjoy the community run.  I even had the pleasure of exchanging a bead with her (and a hug!).

The evening was a success, and a blast.  I look forward to next year’s G.O. H.A.R.D event, and hope that even more of the community (come on out!) will join to celebrate and support each other in this habit in which we all find so much joy, the pursuit of running.

with joy,
~Alaina

A month of firsts: marathon training, pace runs, and … swollen feet?

Sunny Day!
Joyful, sunny day!

Tomorrow morning, I’ll get out in what will probably be a very wet and rainy morning to get my 6 miles, and near one hour, of ‘pace’ running in for the week.  As a runner who is new to training for a race, and with no goal time in mind for this event, I do not really know what to aim for in a pace.  I’ve read something about doing a 5K and taking that time and doing some math… and in the end you end up with a marathon “goal time and pace”…

How have you trained to a ‘pace’ for your races?

Over the past week, I have found that wearing my favorite pair of shoes is becoming… uncomfortable.  It seems that I am either sliding around in the shoe more on the downhill, or suddenly, my feet are larger than they were previously.

Have you found that your feet swell (and stay swollen) when running with greater frequency?  (and more importantly… will none of my summer heels fit, either?)

This weekend I was able to get out and run – not with the usual group of gals, we were all off on our own due to schedule conflicts this week, but I ran on my own on one of my favorite routes, taking my time, taking pictures… Catching all the lovely I could spot and giving it immortality in the digitized world:

Absolutely gorgeous river views...
Absolutely gorgeous river views…
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Little one, singing me a song ‘hello!’
Can you see the big bird?
Can you see the big bird?
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Here he is; I love his frosted, fluffy feather beard.
One last glance back down the river.
One last glance back down the river.

A big thanks to all the runners out there sharing their knowledge and experience.  I really appreciate your openness, and the time you have spent researching to determine what works for you.  I feel so lucky to be a part of a community that is so willing to teach one another about our sport!

I have run 57.9 miles for the month of June (thus far), and filled about 20 of those in the past week.  I plan to do weekly updates from now on as I continue this marathon training adventure… Look for a post this weekend for the end of training week 4!

with joy in running (and all things),
~Alaina

Great run; bonus images!

Today’s run took place after work; getting out to door early to run before the coffee had perked seemed a little too much effort today.  Fortunately for me, as the day wore on, the weather improved, leaving me with party cloudy skies and a lovely 55 degrees outside. 5.65 miles later, this is what I have to show for my time outdoors:

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The Portland sign, leaping above the high water.
Blue Heron sighting - thanks to the gentleman quietly observing her, I was alerted and joined in the gawking.
Blue Heron sighting – thanks to the gentleman quietly observing her, I was alerted and joined in the gawking.

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I hope you enjoy my run as much as I did!  It was the perfect route for testing my newest gear: New Balance Minimus WR00.  A review will follow later…

What is your favorite time to get out and run?  Are you a fan of pouring rain, bundled  in layers, or do you lean toward tanks and sunshine?  Morning or Night?

Happy running!
~Alaina

Longest Run in 2013 & Bridge Moved!

Last Saturday, with a few girlfriends, I tackled 9.5 miles in below freezing temperatures.  The run was on a momentous day – the Sellwood Bridge in Portland was being moved to make way for construction of a new bridge.  We started our run at the park near the base of the bridge to get a glimpse of the beginning of the momentous move.

Ominous foggy morning...
Foggy morning…

We took a peek at the beginning of our run to check progress (very minimal at 8am – we don’t think they had started moving yet), and we were off!  I was a little nervous about doing this run; I have not run more than 8.5 miles in over three years, so in my mind, this was going to be a pretty serious physical challenge. Deciding to brave cold, and numb toes, I wore my Vibram Komodosport LS (now KMD Sport LS) because my experience with them on long runs has been fantastic.  I have felt no knee pain the entire time I have been wearing them, and the only discomfort has been the cold on my feet (which I found through experimentation, I experience the same numbness with a regular shoe if it is very cold out, as well).  My toes were only numb for the first mile this week!  The body sure does know how to adapt.

Along our route on Saturday, we saw some pretty spectacular nature scenes:

Frozen spider web!
Frozen spider web!
Beautiful parks...
Beautiful iced parks…

We entered into some farm country along the last leg of our path before turn around; we saw horses, heard some crows, and to our right we were blessed with a lot of foliage to gaze into (the left was a somewhat busy road).

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Out on the newly paved path to the 4.75mile mark!

At our turn around, we took a little carbohydrate in gel form.  We each had a different variety: Clif Shot, Gu, and Honey Stinger, which we followed with a sip of water and headed back.  The first half of the run felt like quite some distance, probably due to the frequent mild uphills on the “out” portion of our jaunt, which, incidentally made the return “back” much more speedy.

Once we returned to the park, site of the start of our run, and viewing area for the Sellwood Bridge move, the fog had cleared a bit, and there was quite a gathering of folks to watch the momentous move.  We figured they may have moved the bridge 6-12 inches since we left (it was hard to tell a difference at that point).  In the end it was a success!  (You can read about it here or here).

Watching and waiting to see the bridge move.
Watching and waiting to see the bridge move.
A beautiful, crisp morning!
A beautiful, crisp morning!

Post-run, I felt great, and hungry!  We went to The Hazel Room on Hawthorne for brunch.  Great atmosphere, good coffee, fantastic food.  Sunshine was pouring in the window of this little tea-house and it was the perfect place to celebrate a successful 9.5 mile run!

Delicious breakfast of chilli, fried egg, and cornbread at
Delicious breakfast of chilli, fried egg, and cornbread.  Yum!

I am unfortunately missing the long run today with my friends as I am out-of-town on vacation, and coincidentally, came down with a cold as soon as I arrived in (lately not so sunny) California. Sleep, rest, and recuperation are on the menu for me here, but I plan to jump back in the shoes and hit the pavement next weekend.

To the Saturday’s Run group, I hope you all have a great run!  See you next weekend!

with Joy in running,
Alaina

A Reason to Run

“It’s important to remember that each footstrike carries you forward, not backward. And every time you put on your running shoes you are different in some way than you were the day before.”

– John “The Penguin” Bingham, Author and Runner

I recently joined a mass of runners for an group run organized by Portland Running Company (PRC). It was an event I had been looking forward to for three weeks, ever since the email announcement landed in my inbox. A run from their SE store to Peacock Lane for holiday light viewing, returning to the store for hot cocoa and shoe shopping.  What could be more enticing?  I found myself extremely motivated at work, efficiently completing my tasks for the day to leave work on time to get to this event.  I had asked a few friends if they wanted to join me, but in the end made the trek to PRC solo.

When I arrived, the store was packed! I had never seen so many people gathered for a fun, friendly, short, easy group run.  I was ecstatic!  Walking through the door to donate the jackets I brought with me, I was giggling with excitement.  So many people in bright running clothes, fluorescent yellows and reflective stripes, beanies and headlamps, and flashing lights being passed out to clip on to clothing for added safety.  I was surrounded by my people!  Or rather, like-minded persons who appreciate running, safety, and camaraderie.  The anticipation was almost as high as pre-race giddiness, but we were all there for fun without the time chip and anxiety of competition.

Halfway to Peacock Lane I found myself in conversation with another runner, and it made the experience even more enjoyable to share the joy of the lights (as my new friend had never been to Peacock Lane, and I had not visited since my childhood). The run was four miles, which we swore could not have been more than 3 because it was so easy and so much fun.

Holiday House
One of the many homes decked out for the season on Peacock Lane.

Post run, I decided to take advantage of the offered discount for jacket donation, and found myself purchasing a pair of Saucony Kinvara 3, in a brilliant colorway.  I have been running in my Vibram shoes for most of the year (the Komodosport LS or the KSO), and the past few times I have noticed how uncomfortably cold my toes are at the beginning of my run.  I do not wear socks with my barefoot shoes, so the chill of the concrete (most of my runs take place on the sidewalk) seeps right through.  On the Peacock Lane run, I found my feet were cold, and toes were numb, for the first two miles.  Eventually, my toes and feet were warm again, but then quickly the run was over.  For the winter, I have decided some insulation between my foot and the ground may be beneficial, and as I add miles to my training program, switching between barefoot running and running in a moderately minimal shoe sounds appealing.  I took them out for a jaunt this weekend.

Admittedly, after barefoot running, wearing a “real” running shoe feels very different.  I was able to try on several pair of shoes at Portland Running Company, and this Saucony Kinvara felt most light and natural on my foot.  The footbed is accommodating, but not overly wide. There is some midline arch support, but it is not too noticeable as I wear them.  The most surprising part of the shoe I am aware of while running is the heel cup and the top heel edge.  The back of the shoe is taller than the Vibram shoe, and much more structured, therefore I was able to feel it against the back of my achilles.  Overall, I really like these shoes.  Perhaps they are not as minimal as I would like (any suggestions for a real racing flat?), but the Saucony keeps my foot much warmer, ending the search for a shoe to keep my toes from going numb from cold.

And look at them. They are so cool!

New Kicks: Saucony
New Kicks: Saucony Kinvara 3

I have long been looking for a way to become ready for running and train more seriously. I now realize that you can’t “look for a way” to become ready.  It happens. Running is something you simply do, and when you are finally making time for the activity and it is a normal routine to put the shoes on and pound some pavement, that is when you can really begin training.

Last week, I ran four times, logging 15 miles.  I know this is a pretty minimal amount of mileage for a runner, but for me, this is the beginning of a great change.  A great challenge.  I want to run a marathon next year, and I intend to set goals (a.k.a. shorter races along the way), a training schedule, and keep a log to help myself reach this goal.  My grandpa was kind enough to give me a couple of well-loved, and highly recommended books for training purposes:

Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.

To start the year of 2013 on the right foot, I am signed up for Portland’s First Run 2013, a 5K at midnight on the 31st. I am hopeful that a couple of friends may join me (wink, wink to all you running buddies out there) to bring in the New Year at a trot, but if not, I am sure I will make new friends out on the course.

Wishing you all joy in running!
~Alaina

Symptoms of Being a Runner

Sunday, September 9th, 2012 I ran my first race in two years.  It is hard to believe that much time had passed since my last personal running challenge.  Looking back, my last race was the Pints to Pasta in September of 2010, and to re-initiate myself in the world of (semi) competitive running, I gladly signed up to run the PtoP 2012 race.  It’s my tradition to run this race (like eating dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory on my birthday).  This time, I ran in my Vibram Fivefingers KomodoSport LS, taking them out for their first race!

Pints to Pasta 2012 Gear – laid out by the door so as not to forget any items.

This race had the usual challenges; the main one for me was a bus re-route (due to the very race I was trying to get to as a participant).  Fortunately, I met a very kind driver that morning who was willing to make a quick (if not entirely on her route … or legal) stop to let me and another racer out near our destination.  I quickly started up a conversation with my new-found running-mate, and made friends with this runner, Liz.  She was very sweet, had run the race before, has completed a marathon, and her stories of success inspired me.  I now have greater desire to sign up for more races.  And to wear the shirt to work the next day as bragging rights.  🙂

Liz and I, waiting for the race to start so we can warm up!

We were waiting with a crowd of 1585 runners.  And they all wanted coffee!

Mass of runner-bodies near the free coffee tent.

Our race started promptly at 8am, and we were off down the hill!  I love that technology has brought us the timing chip – there’s no mad rush to cross the start line when the race begins.  Everyone just shuffles slowly to the line and then picks up the pace.  Much less pushing and shoving takes place, and the event keeps a more relaxed feel, preventing unnecessary pre-race injuries from elbows and stumbling into others.

My intent for this run was to take is easy; my run pace of late has been comfortably in the 8’15” – 8’45″/mile pace, so I assumed I could probably keep in that range relatively easily.  I wanted to take pictures to document for myself, and for you, what this race looks like.  The first two miles are pretty much all downhill.

The line of runners extending farther than the eye can see.

Giggles burst out from behind me when I took this photo.  I loved it!  No one expects a runner to be photographing as they race!  I was having a blast, probably near the 1 mile mark, and at this point, I thought I’d take more pictures…  But as I continued down the hill on the course, I decided to run and look around, forgetting the camera in my belt, focusing more on the act of running and encouraging my running-mates instead.

I have a long history as a runner.  I ran cross-country in high school for only one season, for reasons I will need another blog post to explain, and loathed every moment of it.  I developed a ritual before practice: make sure lunch is consumed and digesting 3 hours before practice, stop drinking water 1 hour before practice… I was beyond nervous every day, and developed these neurotic habits that I honestly kept practicing half-way through my college years.  I had a love-hate relationship with running; it was mentally the most difficult thing I could do, but it gave me a great connection with the runners in my family.  It wasn’t until two years ago that I finally started feeling that metal block melt, and running ultimately became something I wanted to do – just for me and for joy.  (And I no longer have the limitations regarding food and liquid consumption pre-run.  Food is energy, and water is necessary!)

Now I have new “runner” symptoms or tendencies.  For example, when I see people running, out for their daily workout, and they’re really putting in effort, I find myself cheering and saying (or rather, yelling) “Go, Runner!”  …and I get emotional.  My sister was at the race on Sunday with her cross-country team; they were supporting the racers, handing out water to runners at the first aid-station, and when I heard their claps, cheers, and saw all the hands holding out cups of water… I admit it.  I giggled, choked up, and got teary-eyed.  At mile two. So you can imagine what I looked like crossing the finish line…

Biggest, goofiest smile, Ever.

I cannot say how wonderful it was to finish and have someone there cheering me on through the funnel at the Finish line.  My Gran-ma came to snap my photo, give me a hug, and say congratulations.  (And then we went to breakfast)!  She is so sweet, and I appreciate her so much for getting up early and being present to watch me grin like a fool at the end of this race.  I was the 542 racer to cross the finish line on Sunday.

Happy hug pics!

As it turns out, I finished with a 10K time of 55’06”, knocking four minutes off my last 10K race time.  Right on the money per my guess, and a new PR.  I’ll be setting a new goal for next year!

I am so grateful for the support of my friends and family, and for Run with Paula Events and Portland Running Company for putting on such a great race!  Come join me in 2013 for PtoP!  And check out the other Run with Paula events (I’m a big fan of the Go Girl Trail Run)!

Happy Running!
~A