I Went Out Dancing! Now it’s Time to Take A Break. Um… Literally.

Yes! I went dancing!

Last weekend, for the first time in months – No, years – I got myself a ticket to a three-day dance event.  And I went out. Every.Single.Night.

It was delicious.

I had such a great time (once I got over the “I don’t know a soul here” shock).  I reconnected with friends from six years ago (when I was avidly involved in the dance scene), met some new friends, had many wonderful dances with great leads, and really got into spinning around the hardwood floor again. Simply divine.

I need new dance shoes.

The only pair I have are a pair I purchased when I went to a West Coast Swing event in Reno – I think I was in college, then. (a.k.a. It’s been a while – they’re old shoes now). So all weekend I was wearing these little lyrical sandals I got… also many years ago, in college. I think they were purchased for a Ballet class.

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Love these things – they have served me well for… Well, we’ll just say for a few years. 😉 (Photo credit: http://www.dancewearsolutions.com)

I was basically dancing barefoot, which is what many people who enjoy this type of dance do.  You’re low to the ground, you can move around easily, lets you get that rhythm in your knees… It’s a lovely way to feel connected.

Sunday night, I was so proud of myself.

I made it out to dances three nights in a row! I even stayed out till nearly three a.m. on Friday and Saturday (I was not able to meet my girlfriends for the Saturday run due to needing sleep.  Apparently staying out till 3 a.m. sets me back in a way that it did not used to in my mid-twenties.  And I can no longer sleep in until some ungodly late – morning hour due to repetition of awakening before six.  8:30 a.m. was not the “Sleep in” I was hoping for on Saturday).

Sunday I made a promise to myself. I would head home at midnight because I needed to be at work the next morning. At sometime around 11:30 p.m. I saw an old friend showed up unexpectedly, and at around 12:15 a.m. I got to dance with him. I love dancing with this man – he spins me quickly like a Westie (we met doing West Coast Swing many moons ago), makes eye contact, always keeps me from running into other couples, and I just feel like a good dancer when we’re on the floor together.

Toward the middle of that song, I noticed we were on the side of the room that had a bump in the floor – you know, where the slats of hardwood have popped up on one side and there’s a little lip?  Yeah, that one.  And I could feel my sandal catching on it every once in a while.  A bit of a nuisance, no real trouble… until… My toe caught on the little annoying lip.

I felt a little bit of a pop, which I thought was my toe merely ricocheting back toward the place in the middle of my foot where it belonged, and a minor bit of pain, but I ignored it and kept dancing (stay on the ball of the foot, keep the toes lifted to prevent that from happening again).  Thanked him at the end of the song, and went to sit for a minute.  I allowed myself one more dance then decided to head home (at around 12:25am – 25 minutes after my own imposed curfew).

When I got home, I notice some bruising on my toe.  And it was pretty painful. And I knew.  Despite the fact that it wasn’t really swelling. Despite the fact that it wasn’t pointing in a weird direction.

My toe was broken. IS broken. Yep –

Found some sticky tape from a first aid kit I have had since 2000.  Finally came in handy.
Found some sticky tape from a first aid kit I have had since 2000. Finally came in handy. (I am hiding the purple – I do not want to gross anyone out).

Time to take a break. 

I finally made it to the doctor today after one day of denial, and a second of no availability and she confirmed it for me. Fracture.

Which means… no running (or dancing) for 4-6 weeks. Or (gulp!) longer if pain persists.

I am not sure how to navigate this obstacle. I’m pretty sure this also eliminates any aerobics classes, yoga involving being on the toes, and excessive walking.

Serious lifestyle change.

So, I guess I have to … go to a gym.  And… ride a bike?  Use the rowing machine? Lift weights???

I haven’t done any of that in years. I guess it’s time to give those old friends a visit.

… Want to know the funny thing?

The fact is, I had been planning to increase my mileage and days/week running starting, oh… Now. And after my experience dancing last weekend, I was all ready to get back out to do some swing or blues every other week or so.

Yet, truthfully?  I have a seriously strong desire to create some kind of consistency in my life, start a daily spiritual practice (of some kind – still working out the kinks) each morning, and although I really want to incorporate running into this routine, I have been unable to get up at the same time each morning with any regularity, and maintain this practice. While on this train of thought, a lightbulb went off:

I manifested a broken toe.

So now, taking a break due to my blessed broken toe of fate, I will be working more on me – spiritually rather than physically.  This will be a … difficult change, but one I am finally ready to take on (and I kind of have no choice). Certainly this is a great opportunity to dive right in: why not take advantage whilst injured (before I’m all healed and back at it ignoring my wise inner voice).

Now where to start…?

My question for you, my dear runner/athlete friends, what is your favorite non-running (not a lot of foot movement) workout to do when injured?  (I’m entering new territory here, and I’ll take any advice you’ve got!)

Thanks so much and have a great time out there for me!  I’ll be thinking of y’all gliding through the air in the great outdoors… Happy running! And send photos!
~Alaina

P.S. Here’s a little silly for you from back in the day when I danced in a competition (this was for the first time ever – please be kind): Come Rain, Come Shine WCS Finals 3/9

Training Without a Goal Equals Random Length Runs and Mild Confusion

Sometimes we do things and then realize how silly we are, right?  Such as running only once (maybe twice) a week while “training” for a 20 mile race…

Apparently, (according to my most recent history of recorded runs in the months of February, March and April) I no longer feel that 20 miles is a huge challenge.  I know if I stay hydrated and bring enough nutrition, I’ll be fine.  My legs will carry me over the distance.  Sure, I’ll be a little tired and sore for a couple of days, but that’s true after any hard workout (including yoga). So, while watching each day of the week pass, the only real training I was doing was in the form of a long run on Saturdays, which is fortunately coordinated by a dear friend, and I love catching up with the girls on the weekend, so I make it a point to attend.  During the week I got out once, maybe twice for two to six miles.  My total weekly mileage may have reached (almost) 35 miles (only on one week of training – and that included a 19 mile Saturday run).

What happened to my drive?  And the clarity I felt when preparing for my first 50k? At that point in time, my only concern was being able to accomplish that goal – to finish running 31.8 miles without injury.  And I trained hard.  I got out for every single run in my training plan. And now what? I had a race planned; a goal with a date printed in ink on my calendar, why was I unable to motivate myself to get running in a way that would have helped me complete this challenge more efficiently?

Maybe it was the distance20 miles is an odd number. I don’t know if there exists a training plan for races between half marathon and marathon distance. (…This feels like a terrible excuse – cancel that). Whatever the case may be, I am changing my strategy.  It’s time to get races on the calendar, and to plan my workouts – because not only do I want to be better prepared and efficient during my next race, I want to be better at running. Stronger, maybe even faster.

Fortunately, despite my lack of training or strategy, The Peterson Ridge Rumble went well. The weather was great, and although the terrain was primarily dry, dusty, and rocky, I was able to get a few good shots:

The beginning of the race started with a mob of runners on a rapidly narrowing trail.
The beginning of the race started with a mob of runners on a rapidly narrowing trail.
Sun shining down in the cool morning air.
Sun shining down in the cool morning air.
Some tall trees.
Some tall trees.
The first time I have let someone take a picture of me during a race.  I think that is Black Butte directly over my head.
The first time I have let someone take a picture of me during a race. I think that is Black Butte directly over my head, and we were about halfway done, at ten miles.
Loved that giant, rocky protrusion.
Loved that giant, rocky protrusion to the right of the trail. (It was massive once we got around to the back of the great outcrop).
This snag stood out - bright red wood.
This snag stood out – bright, golden-brow wood amidst dusty grey.
Rocky Trails.
Rocky Trails.
Not sure how this little guy got here... not super friendly, is he?
Not sure how this little guy got here… not super friendly, is he?
The only water seen on the entire 20 mile trek.  Very close to the beginning/end of the race.
The only water seen on the entire 20 mile trek (not unexpected in this dry climate). Very close to the beginning/end of the race.
Best shot of the mountains.  They look so much farther away through a camera lens!
Best shot of the mountains. They look so much farther away through a camera lens!

Ultimately, I have learned that I need to plan ahead in order to meet any training goals.  I was able to finish the race a bit faster than I expected, in 4:15 by my watch (4:20 by the website – I stopped for at least 5 minutes for picture-taking in the first half, and toward the end of the race, I just let the clock keep running. Ah the life of an iPhoneographer runner).

Tomorrow evening I intend to do some research, detail which races I will sign up for and run for the rest of the year, and create a running/workout schedule to follow.

Because – speed. And consistency. And all good things that putting energy and focus into something you love will do to improve your results.

Now, I would love to hear your “ah, hah” moment.

Have you ever realized you were not doing yourself any favors by cutting  yourself slack while training? (0h, boy!)
And what did you do once you came do that conclusion?

Do you have a favorite weekly workout schedule?

I am strongly considering running long on both Saturday and Sunday – I just love getting out for a while on my day off – it feels so good to spend time out enjoying my run without the rush of “I have to get to work” or “I need to get home and cook dinner” clouding my brain.  What are your thoughts on doubling up on the weekend? 

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend run! (I’m getting out tomorrow!)

with joy,
~Alaina

Early Mornings – Catching the Sunrise

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The past month, finally (nearly) finished with the painting that needs to happen in my home (yes, there will be a before and after post), I have been able to muster the energy to get out and run before work. (Less late nights with a paintbrush in hand). My-oh-my the glory of moving.

And not a moment too soon!

There is only about a week and a half of running days left until the Peterson Ridge Rumble, and three of my friends and I will be tackling the 20 mile distance.  After running 19 miles on Sunday, I have no doubt we will all finish.  It is likely to be a gorgeous race day.

I have been putting so much effort into my home (yes – an apartment) that I have been neglecting not only my daily moving meditation (running), but also my written outlet – as well as providing fabulous city pictures to all of you (I am not trying to bribe you into moving to Portland, but seriously.  It’s pretty great here).

Here are a few from my most recent running adventures:

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Stillness in the early hours of dawn on the Waterfront.

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Glassy river reflections of clouded skies…

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The view from a run up Terwilleger some weeks ago…

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The only clear shot I got on my birthday morning, 10 mile run. Mt Hood in the distance!

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The white-out fog, enveloping the city on my way home from the 10 mile run.

Beautiful sun rays peeking through the trees on this Sunday's 19 mile training run.  (This is about two miles before I did a Superman due to unknown tree root or rock).
Golden sun rays peeking through the trees on this Sunday’s 19 mile training run. (This is about two miles before I did a Superman due to unknown tree root or rock).

I am looking forward to adding a couple of races between now and Fall.  I think I will sign up for the Portland Marathon this year for the first time, so October is filled.

Any suggestions for Spring and Summer NW area races that you have loved within a few hour’s drive of the Portland Metro area?

Many thanks for your input!

Happy Running, friends!
~Alaina

Back At It: How it Feels to be an Out-Of-Practice Runner

Two weeks ago, I decided to commit to get back into the habit and lifestyle of being a Runner again. I found a marathon training program and another for a 50k, which I intend to work through, back-to-back.  And you know, as an experienced runner, you know you’re supposed to ease back into running if your mileage is not up where you “need it to be” for your training.

Last week's view at the start of Saturday's run: My first 8 mile run since last year.
Last week’s view at the start of last Saturday’s run: My first 8 mile run since last year.

… So of course (as an experienced runner) I decided to jump right in.  Head first.  I ran seven miles to work with a friend Thursday for the first time ever (pretty cool to get to run to work), and went out yesterday for my first 10 mile run since … Well, honestly, sometime last September.

Now here I am, beginning Week 5 of 18 in Marathon training (I skipped the first two weeks because I’m already a runner, after all), making an all-natural and organic home-remedy from Simple Green Smoothies of lemon, ginger and honey, hoping with all hopes that this will kick the sore throat I am beginning to develop before it becomes a full-blown-sickness-thing.

I am overdoing it, and it is showing up in my body.

photo credit:  www.simplegreensmoothies.com
photo credit:
http://www.simplegreensmoothies.com

The classic conundrum now begs my attention: how do I make the choice to slow down, scale-back, and let my body heal when I have goals to meet?  

I am registered for the 20 mile race at the Peterson Ridge Rumble happening April 12th.  I’m excited, nervous, and thrilled to have a goal distance to train toward.  And now I’m afraid I’ll fall behind.  Because I started behind.

The past two weeks have been … stressful, to put it lightly.  I moved two weeks ago, I’m looking for opportunities to move forward in my career, and I am feeling my way through a transition in perspective in life, and finally learning what is really important to me.  

And believe me, it has been one heck of a long haul.

I find myself experiencing moments of jealousy.  People that I work with that are really happy doing what they love: how did they find their path so quickly?  The entrepreneur friend who has opened a coffee shop, or a boutique, or is a designer creating art and making a living: these people are my heroes, and it is incredibly inspiring to see them succeed at business they passionately worked toward.  

How did they manage to do these fantastic things so early in life? 

And why do I feel so behind in the game?

I have always been successful at what I put my mind to, and I am immensely grateful for this ability.  In college it was easy because you had to choose one thing to study and get your degree. And I’ll admit, after graduation and landing a “real job” I didn’t feel the need to pursue anything in particular besides enjoying life in that moment.  Now I find myself unable to find my focus;  to choose one thing to put my energy toward and tackle.  Except…

I know I want to run.  And race.

And putting my mind and body out there in the elements, asking it to perform like it did last summer post Newport Marathon, pre-Siskiyou Outback, without a proper gradual increase is causing a mild rebellion.  So, despite my brain yelling at me to get out and run, I am going to sleep in tomorrow, have an easy morning, and head to the office.  Drink tea instead of coffee, and eat wholesome foods to nourish my body and soul back to health.

Sometimes it is hard to listen to that little voice in your head, urging you to do what is best for you.

Right now, I choose to listen to the murmurs, and hope to all grace and goodness that soon I’ll get the message that all is well and I’m free to run circles around my currently un-trained running self.  With any luck, whispered tidbits of wisdom will float through my mind and begin guiding me, providing a sense of focus for my soul to settle and commit to a purposeful pursuit.

Letting go of the anxiety of not knowing and using the logical brain to think everything through, and beginning to allow the guidance of feeling to take over is my new objective.

I would love to hear from you, your thoughts and what is working for you on your journey through life:

How do you feel your way through life?
How do you know when you are being guided?
When did you discover your greatest desire and passion?

Thanks so much for taking the time to ponder possibilities, share successes, and contribute to this magnificent conversation about life and the pursuit of passion.

with love and light,
Alaina

First Run on the Second in 2015

After a long break from running and exercise – any serious movement – after being sick for a whole week, I was thrilled to have a cool, clear, crisp morning to get outside and Run!  With this new year, I am starting at square one, so I went out for a two-mile run.  Short and sweet, and absolutely stunning!

Frozen Pond

 

Tracks

 

Frozen!

 

Broadway Bridge

 

Boat

 

Fremont BridgeIt was such a beautiful morning.  I couldn’t have asked this fair city for better sunshine, temperature, or reflections.

I am so happy to be running again!

Tomorrow commences Saturday runs with my running buddies.  It has been far too long since I spent the mornings chatting and laughing and pounding out the miles with those lovely ladies.  I look forward to another beautiful run, and a few more miles, tomorrow.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, enjoying your exercise of choice!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

 

Lessons Learned in 2014 & Intentions for the New Year

Sunrise

2014 has been a year of discoveries.  Much of what I have learned has been due to self-exploration, understanding, and acceptance.  Pushing my body to new limits, learning how food affects my mind and spirit, and learning what really matters to me for the first time in over thirty years.

And this has changed my life. 

Permanent change, and change for the better.  Here are a few of the important lessons of 2014:

1. My body can travel great distances on foot.
I ran a 50K this year.  Holy crap!  Not only that, but leading up to race day my body was able to keep moving through 3 marathon-length training runs with a 10 mile run the very next day. I always knew I could do it, yet looking back on this feat feels really kind of awesome.  Makes a girl wonder what else she can do…

2. I am a runner who likes to do yoga.
After completing Yoga Teacher Training – and feeling stronger than I have felt in many years – I can honestly say I have no desire to teach yoga classes.  I really enjoyed the personal journey the experience of 200 YTT took me on, the new friends I was able to meet, and the new limits I was able to push past while learning the Ashtangas, and the broader and more considerate perspective I gained on life, how we treat one another, and my personal actions and their affect our planet.  It was totally worth the work, lack of social activity, and even the horrendous anxiety that I experienced that kept me from sleeping before each early morning class I taught.  The lessons I learned from Yoga beyond the moments, are immeasurable and invaluable, and therefore, this experience was highly important in helping me to change.

3. I may, in fact, be a good teacher.
Despite the fact that I am not interested in teaching Yoga, I love sharing what I know and teaching others about diet, exercise, and healthy habits. These are things I love to work on in my own life, and cannot stop talking about when asked – and I look forward to the opportunity to share my knowledge with others who are seeking ways to improve themselves.  Somehow, over the past year, people have started coming to me with questions.  I suppose this is how it all begins…

4. I LOVE running.
When I committed to yoga training, I knew I would have to cut back on running, and for the first week (maybe the first two), I made myself run three times during the week.  While attending four yoga classes, and eleven hours of teacher training AND working a full-time 40+ hours/week day-job.  And there was no way I could keep running in my habitual manner.  So I let go of running.  For more than three months. I missed it terribly.  Running is my meditation, my break from life, stress release, and a way to tour this beautiful city I get to live in, and I am SO happy to have the time in my day to re-incorporate running in my daily life.
Thank God!

5. Cooking delicious, healthy meals for myself is SUPER important.
I have always loved to bake.  And when I started cooking, I realized it was another form of meditation, to take good food and make a delicious meal for myself.  It is like this gift at the end of a long day to have the ability to spend time in the kitchen, singing, and dancing around while chopping onions and garlic. (Don’t worry – I put the knife down while I was dancing!)  Over the last five months or so, I realized not only is this a pleasant activity, it is vitally important to me to take the time and make meals happen.  I actually find I feel guilty when I buy my lunch in the café at work.  Cooking and Food Prep = Must Do (As much as possible) for sanity, to feel good, and to calm my mind.

6. I can make changes to how I live to become the person I want to be.
My mother can tell you that in the past I was a very disorganized person.  With piles.  I have always had piles.  Clothes in the corner.  Papers heaped on the desk.  I am now eliminating the piles. Organization is a new skill, and I am working to cultivate and keep this one going for years to come.  Shrinking stacks not only means donating unused or unloved items to charity, it also means finishing projects.  That dress I started five years ago, the painting started four years ago, the receipts I need to file, the blanket I intend to make for my niece for Christmas… (Do you have any of these things on your list that have been there, moving down in priority slowly over time?)  I am now checking them off (starting with the painting), and letting go of those that no longer call to me.  Freeing the mind and getting rid of clutter – I have much more important things to ponder over in that mind space, and worry and that nagging knowing that “I need to finish that project, and that, and that…” can stop.  Now.

7. It is ok to say “No”.
I will admit that for a lot of my life, honestly almost all of my life up to this past Spring, I have been a people-pleaser.  Always saying “yes” to every invite, all obligations involving friends, and putting myself second.  Or third.  Or fourth. Finally, 32 years (nearing 33) into my life, I have learned that I can consider my own needs and wants when making decisions.  And most of the time, I will feel better, other parties involved will not be concerned about my “no”, and the energy of the whole deal will just feel so much more clean.
Honesty –  To self and others, it’s totally the way to go.

8. Self-care is extremely, vitally important.
I have been experimenting.  With diet.  With exercise.  Learning what works.  (And learning what does NOT work).  And beyond learning that my body and sugar do not get along in any way, shape, or form, I have learned that it is incredibly difficult to maintain my own happiness if I do not prioritize myself Every.Single.Day. Feeding myself, drinking lots of water, getting in some form of exercise, and spending some time in meditation or reading – somehow furthering the strength of my mind – are essential activities that help me to live well.  In turn, taking care of myself allows me to be available to others when they are in need. It is incredibly simple, yet so hard to maintain.  This is why so many teachers and gurus have their own Daily Practice.  Do you have a daily practice? Has it become habit, or is it still a challenge from time to time to keep the routine?

9. I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up, but I know I’m getting closer.  Since landing in Portland after college, I have kept myself occupied taking lessons.  In retrospect, I have sought out one Guru after the next – first in dance lessons, then voice, then energy healing, and finally in yoga training.  Oddly enough, two of my Gurus have moved away in the last year, rather suddenly, and I certainly wanted to learn more from them … Yet, I feel almost as if this is the way things are supposed to be.  Kind of a little shove for me to start moving forward on my own.  Like the Universe is telling me “You’ve learned enough – now go do what you are meant to do.”  Being in this place – nudged to go out and do ‘my thing’ – is a little awkward, uncomfortable, and scary, but I’m learning to push through the discomfort and really share my perspective, knowledge, and who I am with others.

10. Running has taught me to stop worrying and take a chance.
I suppose it goes without saying that running any extraordinary distance of your own volition will teach a person something about themselves.  I have certainly learned that I am much more able-bodied than I have ever imagined.  And through the physical tests endured, I have learned that so much of what I used to fret about and stress over really is the small stuff. I’m not sure how I leaned that running, but when you are in a state of constant movement and all that really matters is nutrition, hydration, and putting one foot in front of the other, prioritizing is much more simple.

11. When you respect yourself, you make better decisions.
Last year, I went to an end of 2013/beginning of 2014 ceremony.  During this process together, we chose words for what we are letting go of in 2014, and what word we are claiming for the year to work on and hold as our intention for the year.  Honestly at this point I do not remember what word I let go of, but I chose “Self-Respect” as my intention for 2014 – and I have done pretty well on that account for the year.  It’s funny, you’d think that self-respect is pretty basic, and that everyone has that for themselves. For me, the process of learning to say “No” was a form of self-respect, and while I have made a few choices that went a little beyond what I really wanted, I have not done regrettable things this year.  Every choice was thought out, weighed, and carefully responded to from a place where I felt no nagging or pulling in my heart or gut.  Much more happiness this year.

Now here we are at the beginning of 2015 – a fresh start to choose to let go of something else, and a new word of intention for this brand new year.

For 2015, I choose Health for my word of intention.  I have been making small changes here and there throughout the past few years, and with the lessons I have learned in 2014, there are bigger changes I want to make (which I look forward to sharing with you soon!) that will have a big impact on my life – happier digestion, better energy levels, and overall feeling good in my own skin.

I will be letting go of material things – for the last 3 months of 2014, I made a promise to myself to not make any purchases that were not necessary.  And not shopping gave me so much more free time (not to mention saving me $$$ so I could spend on more important things, like Organic Kale), I intend to do the same for the entire year of 2015.  No unnecessary purchases of clothing or home items – and thrifting, consignment, and getting creative (literally – making things) will be where I do get things when I need them.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – three of my favorite words.  2015 will be a fantastic year!

What is your ‘word of intention’ for 2015?
What will you let go of this year to give yourself more freedom and happiness?

I’d love to support you on your new endeavors – Let me know in the comments below!

As always, move forward through each new day with Joy!
~Alaina

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