Cycling McKenzie Pass, Oregon

McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

Greetings!  Last weekend I took a glorious break from the never-ending Portland house hunt and headed out to Sisters, Oregon with a friend.  We went to ride our bikes over McKenzie Pass, which is a scenic bikeway in Central Oregon.  The road is closed during the winter and in spring it first opens just to cyclists, providing a car-free exploration of this beautiful region.  The forest varies from one side of the pass to the other, from high desert ponderosa pines through 2,000 year old lava fields and a finale through lush green forests with waterfalls.  Here’s a promotional video about the bikeway from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department 🙂

We left Portland Friday afternoon after work and camped at the Olallie at McKenzie Bridge campground, which is located off McKenzie Highway 126.  The campground was really nice and the site we stayed in with some friends is located right next to where the Olallie Creek meets the McKenzie River.  There are few things better than sleeping in a tent next to a rushing river!  ❤

Olallie Campground at McKenzie Bridge, OR - scottileona.com

We started the ride around 12pm from Eurosports bike shop in Sisters – I had some brake issues that needed to be addressed before hitting the 4,000 foot descent.  Note to self: don’t rush out of town for a long ride without checking over my bike for needed repairs!  Despite my last minute repair needs, the guys at Eurosports were super helpful and replaced my back brakes, fixed my front ones, and cleaned out the gunk that had built up from rainy rides to work for a very reasonable price.  🙂

The initial ride up to the Dee Wright Observatory gives you a 2,000 foot gain in elevation, but provides epic views of the surrounding mountains.  We made a pit stop at Windy Point to check out Mt Washington and lava flow that leaves you feeling like you are standing on another planet.  Dee Wright Observatory is a castle-like structure that sits at the summit of McKenzie Pass and is made of lava rock.  From the top, you can see Mount Jefferson, Cache Mountain, Dugout Butte, Black Butte, Bluegrass Butte, Black Crater, North Sister, Middle Sister, Little Brother, Condon Butte, Scott Mountain, Belknap Crater, and Mount Washington.  In clear weather, you can also see Mount Hood and a few other peaks, however it wasn’t quite clear enough for us to clearly make out Hood.  Still, that is quite an impressive list of mountains!

Windy Point, McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, OR - scottileona.com

After taking in the views and munching on a snack at Dee Wright, we began the trip down the pass.  We passed more lava fields before hitting the really exhilarating part of the ride – steep declines and switchback turns!  We barreled down the mountain on a road flanked by dense trees and the shade was a relief from the sun exposure we had on our way up.  We made a pit stop at Proxy Falls.  Proxy Falls is a beautiful waterfall that is 226 feet tall and doesn’t feed into a stream.  The water from the falls pools at the bottom and sinks through porous lava at the foot of the pool – pretty neat!

Proxy Falls, OR - scottileona.com

Proxy Falls, OR  - scottileona.com

According to MapMyRun, we rode a little over 41 miles and the falls added about 1.5 miles of hiking.  Not too shabby 🙂  I am stoked I checked out that part of this part of Central Oregon and was left with an even longer list of places I’d like to return to!

XoXo,

Scotti Leona ❤

Hood to Coast 2014!

course-map

Every year since 1982, runners have been piling into vans and taking turns running 197 miles from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon.  The relay race involves staying up all night, taking brief naps (if you get any sleep at all!) on the ground or in a van, and being crammed in that van with 6 other people and their belongings.  Sleep deprived and sore, participants must navigate all types of roads to meet their runner at exchange points and send out the next team member.  The race has grown to 1,050 teams with each team having 12 runners, some who have travelled from all over the world to participate.  Each member chooses a “leg” between 1-12, each varying by distance and difficulty.  Van 1 starts at Timberline Lodge and runners 1-6 complete their first legs.  At the end of leg 6, runner 7 from van 2 is tagged in and van 1 drives ahead to the end of leg 12 and rests until van 2 arrives.  This back and forth happens three times until runner 12 crosses the finish line on the coast of Seaside.

Starting line at dawn on Mount Hood

Starting line at dawn on Mount Hood

The logistics of Hood to Coast are mind boggling and most runners are pushed to their limits as they pound the pavement on open highways and breath the dust of gravel country roads.  It sounds completely insane and some (including my other half) wonder why the heck anyone would PAY to put themselves through such torture.

Those white dots are runners!

Those white dots are runners!

All done with a very dark and dusty leg 21!

All done with a very dark and dusty leg 21!

It’s hard to explain the answer to that question except by saying…Hood to Coast is some SERIOUS FUN!  I love the physical challenge of running on various terrain and various times throughout the day and night.  I love the camaraderie that is so quickly built between team members who are in this crazy thing together, all with the goal of taking care of each other and getting to that finish line.  The last two years I have done Hood to Coast, I have been on teams where I have only known 1 or 2 people before race day, and by the end of those two days together in a van, I have made 5 incredible friends.  I love the kindness I encounter from the other teams we see along the way.  Even the elite runners who are flying past me in the middle of the night offer encouragement and congratulations.  I also love seeing Oregon in a way I normally wouldn’t.  Driving to the coast is one thing, running various points along the way is another.  People get really into making the race fun and some of the team names crack me up.  A few of my favorites from this year include:

  • Scrambled Legs and Achin’
  • At Your Cervix (I think this was a group of ladies from a gynecology office.  They also had some really cute team shirts.)
  • Run?  I Thought You Said Rum!
  • The Agony of Da Feet (This won the award for the best team name)

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This year I ran leg 9, which means I completed legs 9, 21 and 33.  Here is what Portland Running Company has to say about Leg 9:

photo-25“Teams would be advised to put their strongest runner on this leg of Hood to Coast. Leg Nine’s runner encounters a scene from the Great Dustbowl in his or her second stage, and the third stage is eight miles long, which is, well, just plain long. Stamina, fortitude, and confidence are essential for this runner.”

Me?  The strongest runner?  Last year I struggled to finish my Hood to Coast legs.  I hobbled around the house for days after it was over.  I have spent the last year doing p90x, p90x2, and running lots of miles and it paid off in a huge way. Despite having a tough set of legs, I felt amazing the entire race this year.  My calves weren’t cramping, my IT bands weren’t tight, and I didn’t have to push my mind beyond its limits.  I felt so strong going into my last leg of the race and finished feeling over the moon!  I may not have the abs I want, nor the fastest half marathon time, but I have made huge progress in my strength and stamina over the last year.  Don’t forget to use varied ways of testing your fitness and progress.  I have found it very important to measure success in many different areas.  It is encouraging to see growth and change and its important to not get hung up on one or two ways of measuring progress.

Crossing the finish line as a team at Seaside, OR

Crossing the finish line as a team at Seaside, OR

If you have been thinking about running a relay race, I would recommend you give one a try!  It’s a hectic, exhausting and completely exhilarating experience!  See you at Hood to Coast 2015 🙂

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Get Outside!: The Health Benefits of Hiking

The drive from Portland to Bend

The drive from Portland to Bend

Hey hey!  We are two days into our recovery from Memorial Day Weekend and I hope you had a relaxing weekend filled with friends, food, and fun.  Nick, Reymie (the dog), and I headed out to Bend, OR for the first time.  Bend is known for its high desert climate and its close proximity to the Cascade Mountain range, as well as its many craft breweries and its dog friendliness!  In fact, Dog Fancy Magazine named Bend “DogTown USA” in 2012!  When we heard amazing hiking, a huge cycling community, craft beer and a love for dogs, we knew this was a city we needed to visit!

IMG_4449On Sunday we hiked around Tumalo Falls in Deschutes National Forest and managed to find some of the last bits of snow.  Snow makes Reymie super hyper and she had a blast catching snow balls!

Reymie catching snowballs!

Reymie catching snowballs!

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On our way back to Portland on Monday, we stopped at Smith Rock State Park and hiked around there.  Wanting a good workout, we chose the trail named “Misery Ridge Trail” and it did not disappoint!  We left with that calm feeling you get after spending time in natural spaces and sore legs and glutes!

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That evening I was reading the latest Fitness Magazine and came across this fun fact:

“Being physically active in green space outdoors improves mood and strengthens self-esteem, both of which are major motivators, according to research from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom.  Even better: It takes only five minutes to reap the feel-good benefits, so do a lap around a park.”  – Fitness Magazine, June 2013.

Hiking and many other outdoor activities can be a regular part of your cardio workouts and exercise routine.  Regular aerobic exercise (defined as “exercise that increases the need for oxygen,” so it gets your heart rate up) has many many health benefits including:

Family portrait :-)

Family portrait 🙂

  • Reduced depression
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Improved muscular fitness
  • Lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and colon and breast cancer
  • Improves arthritis
  • Relieves back pain

Doing “moderate-intensity” aerobic exercise, where you can talk but you can’t sing during the activity, for 2.5 hours a week leads to most of the benefits listed above.  You can spread that 2.5 hours throughout the week or dedicate one weekend morning to a brisk walk through your neighborhood or out in the nearest natural area. Of course, the more time you spend doing aerobic exercise, the more health benefits you will reap.

Hiking can burn 370 calories an hour (more or less depending on how quick you are walking and your age/weight/height/etc) and makes you work almost every part of your body, including your legs, core, arms, and back, and improves your balance.  In addition to the physical health benefits of hiking, it also promotes a general sense of well-being and can have a huge impact on your mental health.

Walking and hiking causes the release of endorphins, which are natural tranquilizers and “feel good” calming chemicals.  It also releases adrenaline from the body.  If adrenaline isn’t released, it accumulates and causes muscle tension and feelings of anxiety.  Studies of walkers have shown immediate decreases in tension, anxiety and blood pressure, regardless of how fast or slow the participants walked.  In the University of Essex study mentioned above, 75% of the people that engaged in outdoor activities such as hiking saw reduced feelings of tension, anger and depression and 68% of study participants reported increased levels of self-esteem.

Now that it is almost summer (in many parts of the country, it already IS summer!), get outside!  Go for daily walks with your kids, pets, partners or friends.  Take your lunch break at work outside and find a grassy area to sit and eat.  Look up nearby hiking areas here and explore on the weekends.  Seek out vacations and get-aways that offer a lot of outdoor activities.  Going camping is way cheaper than staying in hotels in far away cities, so its a great way to get out of town on a budget.  Not only will your mind thank you, but your work out routine will have an added boost of excitement and newness which will keep you engaged and motivated.  ❤

For more information, see: The Good Hiker, American Hiking Society, and Live Strong.

All SMILES in the park!

All SMILES in the park!

Running in Santa Barbara and the Vernonia Half Marathon!

Today was the Vernonia Half Marathon, the race I have been training for over the last 10 weeks!  After such a magnificent run last weekend in Santa Barbara, CA, I was skeptical about experiencing an equally beautiful course this weekend, but Vernonia, OR did not disappoint.

My training for this run was better than my previous runs.  I was consistent, mixed in a lot of cross training with p90x and Insanity, and didn’t let school, work, or the rain become an excuse to slack off.  I also learned to recognize progress and not allow my perfectionism to get in the way of appreciating my hard working body.

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101N, driving to my grandparents’ house

Breakfast at Grandma and Papa's

Breakfast at Grandma and Papa’s

As mentioned above, I got the opportunity to sneak in a training run in Santa Barbara while visiting my family there, and it really made me fall in love with running all over again.  After 9 weeks of running about 4 times/week, it was starting to feel like a bit of a chore and some days, I wasn’t running simply because I wanted to.  Do you ever feel like being tied to a schedule makes activities just a part of your ever-growing to-do list?  That is what happened during training this time around.  The run in Santa Barbara, however, gave me sweeping views of the ocean and mountains, a calm quiet atmosphere with the soothing sound of the ocean, and an adventure through the town where I met the love of my life.  Nick and I met while attending college at UCSB and revisiting it with him is always filled with nostalgia.  After the run, we did some push ups on the grass and got smoothies at a local favorite, Blenders in the Grass.  The rest of the day was spent with my grandparents, mom and cousin.  It was a centering and rejuvenating weekend, for sure.

A laid back run with lots of time to take pictures

A laid back run with lots of time to take pictures

Always being silly.

Always being silly.

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The Vernonia Half Marathon did not have incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, but it provided a beautiful run along a paved path surrounded by green mossy trees and a lake.  Unfortunately, I did not get many pictures of the course because I was concentrated on knocking out my best time for 13.1 miles!

On the bus from the parking area to the starting line.  When was the last time you were on a school bus?!?

On the bus from the parking area to the starting line. When was the last time you were on a school bus?!?

I had set out to complete this half marathon in 2 hours or less and after the first 9 miles, Nick and I were definitely on track to do just that.  However, a short time after passing mile marker

Walking to the starting line.

Walking to the starting line.

9, I was painfully reminded that I had obtained some pretty gnarly blisters last weekend while running in Santa Barbara and I had forgotten to put mole skin on those spots for this run.  For some reason, I got blisters on the insole of each foot last weekend and, because they had healed quickly last week, I completely forgot about them!  Although I had forgotten, my feet definitely did not and at the crucial part in the race, my insoles were on fire and each step was becoming increasingly painful.  As usual for me, when one thing goes wrong I immediately start thinking the entire project is ruined and my mind went into self-doubting, quitter mode.  The last 4 miles were a brutal combination of growing blisters and Debbie Downer thoughts, until Nick patiently walked with me, listened to my frustrations, and said, “This is just for fun and you are doing amazing.”  He also reminded me not to push so hard that I can’t do another run and I started to feel better although I could feel the minutes ticking closer and closer to that 2 hour mark I had set for myself.

Super gross foot picture!  It hurts a heck of a lot worse than it looks.

Super gross foot picture! It hurts a heck of a lot worse than it looks.

We ended up finishing in 2 hours and 11 minutes, which is by far the fastest I have run 13.1 miles.  I completed the Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon in October 2012 in 2 hours and 24 minutes, and although this course was a lot less hilly, I am still so proud of those 13 minutes I shaved off my time!  Looking at my splits, I am also stoked about how the race started out and am ok with the abrupt slow-down at the end given the pain I was in.  This was “just for fun” and I continue to learn things about long distance running to apply next time!

After the race, we met up with some friends who just completed a two day bicycling excursion for some beers (none for me, I had work this afternoon/evening!) and ridiculously huge burritos!  I am now hobbling around work with bandaged blisters and a tight IT band, but am feeling accomplished and looking forward to my next fitness adventure: p90x 2!  …and maybe another race 🙂

Refueling to the extreme.

Refueling to the extreme.

Appreciating Progress

Dave's Killer Bread Good Seed Bagel, cream cheese, capers, smoked salmon and lemon pepper.

Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed Bagel, cream cheese, capers, smoked salmon and lemon pepper.

I woke up Sunday morning amped about my long run in my half marathon training schedule.  My training schedule called for 12 miles, which is the longest run until the race.  I have reached week 7 of my 10 week schedule and in the next few weeks leading up to the race, my runs are a bit shorter.  Because Sunday’s run would’ve been the closest distance I will run to 13.1 before the big day, it was my opportunity to test out my pre-run meals, clothing, chews or gels, and gauge where I am in my timing.  So with great anticipation, I prepped delicious oats and half a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, picked a good Slacker Radio Station on my phone (lately, my running mix has been courtesy of the Of Monsters and Men Slacker station), and headed out for my half marathon test run.

Mile 1 went by with ease in 8 minutes and 49 seconds.

Mile 2 was similar.

Mile 3 slowed down a bit to 9 minutes 37 seconds.

Then things got ugly.  My legs felt like lead and my ab workout from Saturday left my core, especially my hip flexors, too fatigued to traverse the hilly neighborhoods I had chosen.  By Mile 6 I was at a 10 minute 15 second pace and negative thoughts about my ability to even finish a race started to creep in.  By the time I got to 10.5 miles, I was walking frequently and my mind and legs were on fire.  I was worried if I continued to push with poor form I would injure myself and that would really put a wrench in training.210

I finished the run at 10.8 miles and an hour and 50 minutes.  I felt defeated and frustrated about my time and my inability to finish.  I was angry and immediately began to go through all the ways I may have messed up in the last 7 weeks.  After the anger and frustration subsided, I realized mentally beating myself up was not going to help me improve my running or prepare for this race.  What would help, however, was reflecting on things I might do differently before a long run.

  1. Sleep: I worked until 3am that morning, and although I slept for 8 hours, it was still not my normal sleep schedule.  My work schedule has really been throwing me off, leaving me exhausted during my work week and I can definitely feel a difference in my natural energy level on the nights that I can go to bed at a more reasonable time (10pm).  The few days and night before the half marathon, I will not be working so I can get sleep at the times that feel most natural to my body.
  2. Exercise:  I missed a 4 mile run on Friday of that week, so I moved it to Saturday and decided to do sprints during those 4 miles.  I also did p90x Ab Ripper X prior to that run.  When I woke up Sunday, I had the usual soreness in my core from doing those workouts.  This soreness, however, was just enough to make my muscles fatigued quickly and I learned my lesson in taking rest days before a long run.  The day before the half marathon, I certainly will not be doing any strenuous exercise.
  3. Inner Peace: When I started to slow down on Sunday, my mind immediately filled with thoughts of self-doubt.  I thought about how “unprepared” I was and I recounted all the miles I might have missed in the last 7 weeks and which muscle groups I should have been strength training.  I truly believe these thoughts made me quit long before my legs were ready.  It wasn’t until I was home and stretching that I was able to think about the multitude of positive changes I have seen in my body and my fitness.  I realized that taking time to appreciate how far I have come already will be the most important thing I do as I finish training and run that race in 3 weeks.

IMG_3626When I started to take stock of all the progress I have made, I remembered that just one week prior, I had completed the Portland Shamrock 15k (9.3 miles) SIX MINUTES and 18 SECONDS faster than I did in 2012.  That is a huge improvement!  Also, I was upset about not finishing 1.2 miles on Sunday after already running 10.8.  When I put things into perspective, I felt a little ridiculous about being such a downer on myself, and started to appreciate the hard work I have been putting in to my fitness and health.  This appreciation led to a new confidence in my ability to not only complete this upcoming race, but dominate it!

Don’t forget to appreciate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, and continue to look forward to just how far you’ll go.

With love ❤

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Half Marathon Training

I just started training for my third half marathon.  For each one, I have always followed this 10 week training schedule:

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This schedule is for individuals who can run for 30 minutes without stopping prior to starting.  For those who have very little to no running experience, there are 20 week or longer schedules out there to help you prep for those 13.1 miles.  I simply Googled training schedules and found a wealth of information!  I am still doing p90x and some Insanity, and this time around I am concentrating more on my speed so I’m trying sprints and interval runs as well.  I’m still figuring out how this will all work, but I’ll let you know when I nail down the perfect schedule!

Training hard last summer

Training hard last summer

I’ve never thought of myself as a “runner.”  You know the people who will run for fun or those who

can simply run for hours without much training?  That was definitely NOT me!  Yet, I continue to sign up for half marathons and other “fun runs” because I love the challenge and the reward.  Signing up for a run forces me to buckle down and stick to a training schedule, which produces some amazing results in a relatively short amount of time.  Over time, however, I have come to enjoy running as a form of stress relief, as a way to carve out time to clear my head and listen to music.

 

A group of coworkers motivated each other to complete the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon in Oct. 2012

A group of coworkers and friends motivated each other to complete the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon in Oct. 2012

I have several friends who love to run, so running can either be social and a way to spend time getting fit with others, or something I can do alone in a challenge to beat my previous times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the Fremont Bridge during Portland's Bridge to Brew Run in 2012

View from the Fremont Bridge during Portland’s Bridge to Brew Run in 2012

Seeking out runs in other cities has given me the opportunity to explore gorgeous parts of Oregon that I may not have seen otherwise.  Various runs around Portland have let me see my own city from new and exciting points as well!

Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon

Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of running buds at the Shamrock Run 2012

Thousands of running buds at the Shamrock Run 2012

It also doesn’t hurt that many of the runs in Portland end in super fun gatherings that involve craft beer, live music, and folks dressed up in all kinds of costumes!

 

 

I will be running the Shamrock 15k on St. Patty’s Day (March) and the Vernonia Half Marathon in April.  I will keep you posted on my training!  🙂

2012 Shamrock run medals were bottle openers :-)

2012 Shamrock run medals were bottle openers 🙂

Insanity and p90x Hybrid

 

the-deluxe-insanity-workout_2I started Phase 2 of an Insanity and p90x Hybrid today, and boy, does it feel amazing!  I have completed both programs on their own and wanted to do something a bit different.  I am in between training for half-marathons, and to improve my speed and stamina for my next run I decided to combine the weight training I get with p90x with the high intensity cardio conditioning from Insanity.  A bonus to this decision is that I get to workout in my warm apartment instead of pounding the pavement in this chilly Portland winter!

 

So far, I have experienced days where I am just so sore and tired, I feel like I can hardly do the jump tucksP90X-Fitness-Guide and switch kicks Shaun T demands, but just over this short amount of time I have seen a huge difference in my ability to keep up with all of the work outs and I can feel and see my muscles getting leaner and stronger!  Progress pictures coming soon!

Here is the schedule I have been following:

Insanity and p90x Hybrid