Superman and Angels; An Episode of the Morning Run

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This summer during marathon training, mid-week was my medium length run; I was headed out the door to get in seven miles before work.  I had been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall the night before this run, and read of these runners “kicking up their feet” …  I started thinking about my stride and realized it is primarily a shuffle.  Not much lift in the back, slide forward to the next foot and keep movin’ along.  So, I decided to work on my “kick” just to see what it felt like, and boy… it makes a difference!  I found that I have more spring, when the leg goes back, there’s more momentum for it to swing forward, and I think that overall it increased my pace, or at least increased my turn-over.

I was about half a mile into my seven mile run in the city, and while passing a restaurant, decided to check my form in the window, and … Bam!  I found myself sliding down the sidewalk, six feet from where my right toe hit one of the infamous pieces of sidewalk lifted by a root of a beautiful Portland tree.  I was practicing my Superman, and once again learned that it is true, I do not have hidden wings, and I cannot fly.  Unfortunately, I found myself in a similar situation splayed out on the sidewalk only a few short months ago, and the memory of that injury had not totally faded.  On that occasion, I was laid up with a swollen knee-cap for a week, icing every night, and was not able to return to my regular running schedule for over a month.

I cautiously tested out my limbs, slowly stood up, and recalled that unlike my previous encounter with pavement, there was no loud “crack!” when I landed this time, as I had magically fallen on a downhill slope which somehow let me catch most of my weight with my arms, and slide on my side a little rather than hitting my knee directly. The only noise I heard was the “ssssssshhhhhhh” of my shoes catching on the cement as they slid down the sidewalk.  I took that as a good sign.  I was determined to finish the run I had just begun, so after a couple careful steps, I gingerly tested out a jog, found my legs to be fine (except the quarter-sized raspberry on my left knee), so I continued on toward my daily hill climb.

As I was nearing the turn off to head up the hill, I found myself pacing with a woman who was running in the middle of the street.  I gauged her to be in her fifties or early sixties, and she was keeping an outstanding clip. I decided to let her know I appreciated her pace and hollered “You’ve got a great pace going!”  She looked over, and immediately grinned – “Well thank you!  That’s quite a compliment for someone of my age!”  We got to talking, and it turns out she is from Texas, used to flat terrain, has been running every day for many years, and has recently started working out with a trainer to build muscle to keep her bones strong.  She was peppy, friendly, and just the person I needed to run into that morning after another fall to keep my spirits bright.  And what an inspiration!

We chatted, introduced ourselves, and went our separate ways mid-hill, I was turning around, and she was continuing on up to the top.  Pleasant, happy, and genuinely joyful was this woman from Texas.  Any morning I want to meet the day with some cheer, I know where to run to meet up with this lovely lady.

I may have discovered I was not Superman, but that Wednesday morning, I met an Angel.

The people in the world that bring us joy make life that much more wonderful, and help us appreciate being on this planet.  Shine your joy, and help others find their light.

With joy in running, and in all things…
~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

Cause for Pause

Every so often, in a fleeting moment, a thought or idea will strike and send our mind spinning.

Today was such a day, while minding my business, doing my job at the 9-5, I was suddenly reeling due to an epiphany.

In the past few months, I feel that I have finally started to hit my stride (pun intended) not only in my  running pursuits, but also in my extra-curricular life – goals and desires that I aim to meet, to please me.  Reduce stress, run, read, make time for creativity, finish abandoned projects, and pursue my heart’s happiness and desires.

Tonight, I finished putting a lamp together that I purchased a few months ago.  Wednesday, I finished crocheting a blanket that I started in college… many years ago.  But today, when frustration was clouding my brain, wondering why it is that I’m not getting what I want out of my career, I had a sudden realization.  I am not putting energy into what I want.  I am putting energy into what I think others will want from me.  Of course I’m not attracting what I want!  I am not actively pursuing it!

I immediately realized I needed to take responsibility for my career momentum and put it back into my own hands.  I know what I need to do, but not necessarily how to proceed.  Sometimes the most difficult part of the process is just taking that first step, not knowing whether you are at the edge of a precipice above a canyon and sure demise, or above a clean lake on a hot day, refreshingly cool and welcome when you finally make that jump.

So here I am, at my computer screen, typing away at the blog where I have become a runner, a writer, and where I get to share myself with the unknown.  And hopefully, put something positive out into the world, attracting more of that good to me.

My new plan of attack?  I am going to make a schedule for myself after work hours.  I schedule each hour down to the minute while I am at work, why am I not as structured in my own time?  I need to plan time to do the things that bring me joy.  So, my friends, you can expect to hear more from me (as this writing brings me great happiness), and not just about running (although, recently I was advised that everything is related to running – thanks, Grampa!).  I plan to share my insights, learnings, musings, and goal achievements with you.  In part, I do this to keep myself accountable (such as the 2 for 20 for 22 Post did for my running habit), but I also would like to encourage you to share your battles, wins, and lessons learned.

How do you attract your dreams into reality? 

What challenges have you recently overcome?

Motivation

For the past few months, I have been getting out on the road, doing the two to five-mile shuffle at least three times each week.  This for me is a great improvement in consistency over my last two years as a runner.  It’s not that I have put myself on a schedule, so much as I like to run.  So I get out and do it when my legs are itching.  (Tomorrow morning, it’s on!)

But I have no goal set.  No pace to hit, no mileage to train up to, no real structure to my workout regimen.  So, when I wake up, I base my distance on time available before life activities begin (work, family gatherings, appointments, etc.) … and on fear.  I haven’t run more than five miles in… Well, truthfully, I cannot remember the last time I ran more than five miles.  Running in my new shoes, I get nervous about injuries if I run farther.

But let’s be serious for a moment.  I can (and have) run five miles, no issues, in my Vibram Fivefingers KomodoSport LS.  Why should adding one mile cause fear to creep into my bones and tense my legs?

I admit, I have a running injury.  We all do, right?  We did something at some point, where maybe we weren’t really listening to our bodies and we pushed just a little too hard, for a little too long, and maybe it was while we were going downhill, and now our knee hurts when we “run more than five miles”.  Okay, MY knee hurts – more specifically, it has been painful in the past – when I increased my mileage.  What reason does this give me to refrain from at least trying a greater distance?  Every part of my leg is functioning without complaint right now, and I am smarter, more attentive, and running with a much better foot fall, stride, and pace than anytime in my past.  

So how do I push myself through the fear and past my five-mile mark?

I sign up for a race!  I will be running the Pints to Pasta 10K Race this weekend, truthfully one of my FAVORITE races in Portland.  I ran it in 2009, 2010, and due to a lack of consistency, skipped 2011.  It is certainly time to get out and do this race again.  The course is lovely; a great downhill to start us all out at a good clip, crossing the bridge into downtown, running along the waterfront (beautiful!), and finally ending at the Old Spaghetti Factory, my childhood favorite restaurant.  Wonderful memories flood my mind when visiting this family style restaurant of many birthdays and celebrations.  I still enjoy the Mizithra Cheese and Browned Butter (A la Homer they called it, when I was a kid), on my adult birthdays.  I just no longer ask to sit in the Caboose.  😉

So, this Sunday, I will complete a 10K, in my favorite Five Fingers, and see what my pace is at the end.  If how I’ve been running recently is any indication, I will surely come out of this race with a significant PR.  Times to beat:  2009 – 59’17” overall time, 9’32” per mile, 83 out of 216 in my age division, 947/2032 overall.   2010 – 59’13” overall, 9’32” per mile, and finishing 119 of 304 in my age division, 1252/2528 all runners.  Until now, I wasn’t aware that I had achieved nearly the same time on both those races!  For this year’s race, I’m going to guess conservatively, say I run about 9 minute miles, I’ll be crossing the finish with about 55’48” chip time.  Should be fun to see how it turns out!

Please note, I will not be running this full-out as a race.  I do truly enjoy this run. It is stunning; I like to take the time to look around, breathe in, and just have fun.  My purpose of signing up for this race is to see where a good dose of fun and much improved technique get me on a fast, downhill 10K.  Are you up for a race?

Come join me!

Bridge view on the waterfront.

Morning Run – New Shoes!

Previously, almost jokingly, I mentioned the possibility that I would end up getting one of the “Sportiest” looking pairs of Vibram shoes to continue on my journey of running.  To speak honestly on the appearance of shoes, when it comes to running, I don’t usually go for the wild, loud, bright sneakers; I prefer a more subdued, quiet, classic looking shoe.

… these shoes have Coral pops on them.  And a bright white stripe over the forefoot.

And I love them!  May I introduce you, dear readers, to the Vibram KomodoSport LS:

I pulled my brand-new shoes out of their box this morning, and took them for a short test run.  Conscious that there was more toe room, I was a little nervous about tripping myself with my shoe, and became cognizant of how much I was raising my toes before each foot hit the ground due to this fear.

Early morning light

Halfway through my run, I made myself push “reset” on my mind-set.  “These are no different from a traditional shoe,” I told myself when I paused to do push-ups at the park.  “You don’t need to run any differently.”

Early morning, empty park.

Once I got myself back on track, I began to notice how free the Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS feels, even though it has a lot more tread on the sole than the KSO.  I was able to run un-inhibited, quick as ever, and the shoes are very comfortable.  I did learn, for some reason unexpectedly, that since the material used in this shoe is more like a traditional running shoe, the foot had less breathability than the shoe I have favored over the past year.  And, to be completely honest, since I was barefoot (I always run barefoot in my KSO’s), there was more moisture held within the shoe (yes, my feet got sweaty).  But this should not have been a surprise!  I am used to the feel of wearing a water-sock with an incredibly breathable mesh upper, so this real shoe feel caught me off guard.  I can be content with the need to get some toe-socks to fit inside my shoes.  You can find yours made by injinji or SmartWool (both found at REI).  I look forward to trying those both out!  I have never owned a pair of toe-socks, and it appears my time has come.

Overall, if you are interested in a minimalist running shoe with toes, I would recommend this shoe.  The drawcord laces are great for getting a snug fit, and the sole is constructed in such a way that you are given the tiniest bit of arch support.  I’m pleased as punch that I bit the bullet, got the shoe, and now get to explore how we will work together.

Happy running adventures!

Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport LS in Black/Coral

Cinderella & Shoe Choices

Evening run hilltop view.

Nearly two months into my journey of becoming a runner, I find myself in need of new shoes.  Not unlike Cinderella, I have an old pair of shoes I always wear: 2-year-old Vibram KSO‘s that I love and are perform reliably well every time I get outside.  In fact, tonight I was able to go out for a brisk run, concentrating on my form and turnover, and managed to run 1.75 miles with nearly an 8 minute/mile pace.  This is the fastest I have run… possibly ever.  These shoes have helped guide me to keep my bodyweight centered over my feet, avoid heel strike, and shorten my stride.  Needless to say, I am struggling with the idea of replacing them, yet I am well aware the rainy season is soon to come over the horizon in multitudes of clouds and torrential downpours, and these shoes have so little tread, I tend to slip on wet surfaces (especially running downhill – and I deal with hills on a daily basis). So, I’m wondering if you, my fellow runners, readers, and bloggers, might have some advice to give if you’ve been assimilated into the “minimalist” running movement, and are enjoying your new-found foot freedom, as I am.

The important attributes I’m looking for in a shoe include:

  • Super lightweight sole (I’m used to the Vibrams – and I really like that barefoot feeling).
  • Enough room in the toe-box for my foot to spread out (my feet are a little on the wide side).
  • A minimal sole, with good tread.

I’ve been encouraged toward the Brooks Pure Grit which looks amazing, but it might be a little narrow for my foot.  I’m really curious how the Vibram BIKILA runs; I was able to try one on today, but the fabric in the upper feels more restrictive than my KSO.  Again, I’m looking for more traction to reduce slippage on wet concrete as well as protect my feet when I run on more rough terrain (rocky trails).  As far as the Vibram brand goes, I may end up trying out the most sporty looking shoe they have, the KOMODOSPORT LS, but I am not particularly fond of the toggle and drawcord system for tightening.  I am surprised by the aesthetic of these barefoot shoes with toes; the tend to blend in with the traditional running shoes on the wall!

One last option I’m considering is Merrell.  After their line of barefoot shoes recently hit the market, a buzz started, and I’m curious to try them out.  Has anyone given the Barefoot Train Lithe Glove a try?

Now, I’m not half as barefoot as Cinderella was after her fancy ball, but I do feel unbalanced and wary considering whether to go back to the traditional tried and true running shoe of old (pre-minimal), or to move forward into the shiny new sporty shoe with toes, and see how my feet, legs, and body respond to distance running in such a bare-bones shoe.  I intend to increase my mileage throughout the rest of 2012, and keep on running through Winter snows and Spring showers of next year, so a shoe investment is definitely in order.

Do you have any other “barefoot” shoe suggestions for me?  What is your favorite shoe for distance running?

Thanks for your input in advance, and happy running!

Becoming Me

As I rose early this morning to meet my Aunt in another part of town to run, I found myself in doubt.  I had agreed to help her, as she is new to running, and coach her on the all-important form and stride; I really wanted to help my wonderful Aunt get out on the right foot and have those notes of wisdom from an experienced runner to help her prevent any possible injury she may incur solely from something simple like form.

But as I made my way out the door into the misty morning, I found myself asking critical questions of my ability:
– Do I really know what I am talking about?
– Am I really qualified to give this advice?
– What if I tell her something that is not true and causes her to develop bad habits?
… and finally,
– Why am I doubting myself?  What am I really afraid of?

I have been running for over fourteen years.  Until this year, it was not an habitual practice, and I think that is the focal point from which my doubt originates.  I have it in my mind that only those who run frequently and with some kind of schedule are “real” runners.  In contrast, I like to sing, and have performed in public, but do not have a band nor do I have any repeating gigs or schedule, yet I do call myself a singer.  Why do I have trouble claiming runner?

When I pushed the “Publish” button on my last post, I have to admit I was a little shy.  That may very well have been the first time I claimed the title and called myself a runner, really believing it to be true.  I’m sure coaching my Aunt and advising my friends will only help me to grow, and identify myself as a runner.

This year, my 30th in life, has led me through a great deal of self-exploration and change; learning about those things which are important to me, and making the choice to pursue activities that I am passionate about.  I love to run.  I love to sing.  This is who I am.

Thanks to all of you out there, my friends and family, who believe in me.  🙂