Category Archives: health

The Last Step

“Imagine that you are taking your last step. And someday you will be taking your last step. You’ll eventually have one last breath.”

I was practicing walking meditation downstairs of the dharma center during a day long retreat meditation this weekend, taking the teacher’s words of advice into every stride.

I could feel the soft carpet below my feet and the cool basement air on my skin. My gaze was watching each careful step that I took as I cradled one hand in the other just below my belly. I could hear my jeans brush together as one leg passed in front of the other.

With each step, I felt my heel land then slowly roll onto my mid foot. Then onto the balls of my feet. I sensed each toe plant before my heel would rise. As my foot lifted off, I could feel my knee rise and bend, the extension of my fascia, my bones creaking in my ankle and the second toe being the last contact with the ground.

My eyes blinked gently. My breath was easy.

The room still had that brand new smell of a new building with fresh furnishings.

The more aware I became, the slower my steps became. I was mindful of every movement and everything my senses could detect.

If this were my last step, I wanted to grasp everything in the moment that I could. I wanted to be submissive to the whole experience and I wanted to appreciate all that I could.

Looking back on this practice, what would you think or do if you were to actually take your last step or your last breath? How would you feel? Would you take everything in with pleasure or would you have an immediate regret take hold? Would you wish you had done things differently or wish you had said something you never did? Would you wish you were somewhere else? Would you be happy? Would you feel accomplished with your life? Would you feel fulfilled?

It could be a morbid thought but it could also be an eye opening realization. My recommendation is to reflect on your life and to imagine taking your last breath.

Be alive and mindful with everything you do. The purpose of your life is this moment and each moment that follows. Appreciate all that is around you and never take anything for granted. If you aren’t happy and fulfilled, then make a change.

Each unfulfilled step you take is one less you could be taking in the life you want. And you only get so many steps in life.

Wherever you are right now, take a step. Observe everything around you. Would you be okay if it were your last or will your next step be the first in a new direction, a new life, a new beginning?

Antelope Canyon 55K 2016

My friend, Norb, handed me Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on The Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis the night before we were running the Antelope Canyon 55K in Page, AZ. I immediately stretched out on my bed and opened it up.

While reading the Introduction by Warren Doyle, a quote grabbed my attention. After letting it soak in, I read it aloud to Norb because I thought it was fitting to ultras and to what was to come the next morning.

“Don’t fight the Trail. You have to flow with it.”

This sparked an insightful discussion and Norb made the comment that the quote not only pertained to ultras, but to life as well.

This has been what I have been trying to acknowledge and welcome into my life. And as we flow with our experiences, it’s our attitude toward those moments that decide whether life has been positive and fulfilling or negative and frustrating.

I knew that this race was going to be a mental test because of the amount of sand that we were going to run through. The kind of sand that’s deep, loose and that makes you feel like you are losing ground, not gaining, the effort you put in.

It would be extremely easy to get lost and caught up in your goals if you didn’t go into this race with an open mind.

That’s why I had no goals for this race. In addition, it was my first race of the year and first since getting over knee pain at the end of last year. All I wanted was the pure enjoyment of running and flowing with the course.

It didn’t take more than a minute into the race that I could feel sand in one of my shoes. But I expected that and I didn’t want to worry on it so much that it would take away from the experience.

The course was a figure 8 design taking us around Horseshoe Bend, down into Waterholes Canyon and all the way around the Page Rim Trail that overlooks Lake Powell.

For me, it seemed like everything happened beautifully.

We reached Horseshoe Bend as the sun was rising, the slick rock burned red from the fresh rays and painted a reflection of vibrant orange on the Colorado River far below. I wanted to drink the moment longer, but a few glances at a time were all I could afford without risking a fall.

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From there, I found myself in rhythm with another runner as we wound our way along the cliff’s edge, trying our best to spot and follow the course flags.

We arrived to the Waterholes aid station together, but left separately.

Dropping down into the Waterholes slot canyon I was all alone and in complete awe with the geological features. I ran with my finger tips gliding over the smooth and cool rocks to both of my sides. It felt unreal, yet tangible at the same time to sense the passage of time in one moment. Even though I was in a race with hundreds of people, being alone gave off the feeling of this being my very own adventure.

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Climbing out of the canyon the course featured a long desolate stretch with nothing but more sand under foot. I was aware of the build up of sand in my shoes but I didn’t want to stop to dump them just yet. I didn’t feel any issues yet but I knew I should do something soon. So I decided I would dump them after I finished the first loop of the figure 8.

I heard the course was mostly dirt trail on the last loop. I figured it would be perfect and only necessary to have to clean out my shoes only once.

At the mile 21 aid station, I took both shoes off and took both inserts out. I poured out the sand and slapped the inserts on my legs to get as much sand out as possible. I slipped the inserts back in and both shoes back on and was on my way…but I noticed no difference.

I realized that the sand that was bothering me was in my socks. It was enough packed in, that it made it feel like I was running in shoes a few sizes too small. I did my best to push this away from my mind.

Beginning the last loop I was joined by another runner and his presence was just what I needed.

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I knew around mile 26, that my feet were destroyed and that they were only going to get worse. Both of my big toes felt like they were on fire at that point. But sand aside, I was having an awesome time.

We kept together the last 11 miles and were feeding off each others consistent and steady movement. This allowed for the last stretch to be easier than it should have been. Not that it was by any means easy at the end, it was a grind and a battle to keep convincing myself to keep running.

On the last quarter of a mile, I felt that he deserved the better placing of the two of us. When he picked up his pace, I happily watched him cross the finish line from behind.

I was 12th place in 5:37.

After taking my shoes and socks off, I immediately went to the first aid tent. One big toe had a few normal sized blisters and the other had one that was caked with sand and covered the entire inside area and a little bit under the nail.

Overall, this has been the most content with a race I have ever been. Other than a few parts climbing over rocks and one small steep sandy hill, I ran the whole thing. Which was all I asked from my body.

Reflecting back on my race and the others that placed before me, I wondered why people race or run ultras. Each person will have their own reasoning. But thinking on myself, I’ve realized that I do these to go against myself.

Me vs. Me

To see if I can overcome mental and physical obstacles. To see if I have grown and progressed. To see if I have learned from the past. To see if I can kill my old self and transform into my new self.

Obviously I want to improve my times and placing the more I do these races. But comparing myself to others is not how I define my success and accomplishments. I only want to compare myself before the race and after the race. The in between, how I adapt to the elements and persevere during mental and physical low points, is how I measure my personal endeavors.

And as I further to develop myself inwardly and outwardly through running, my hopes are that what I learn will spread to all other aspects of my life allowing me to flow with life, not fight it.

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*Photo credit: Norb Lyle

Taking Chances

Life is about taking chances on the things you want out of it. One chance after another. Things won’t always go your way or the way you expected them to go. Eventually though you’ll realize things didn’t happen for a reason and the things that did happen were meant just for you. One chance after another will put you just where you are meant to be in life. Once you realize that you’re where you’re meant to be, a unique satisfaction and contentment washes over you with pure joy and gratitude.

 

 

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step up

My goal is to ____________________________.

Fill in the blank with your goal.

Now tell yourself this as much as you need to:

It’s time. It’s time to step up. I want it and I want it so damn bad. I know it will be tough as hell, but I know that is part of the process. If it wasn’t tough then my goal is too easy. It will be hard and that’s how it should be. The harder, the better I will be on the other side of success. I may fail…many many times. No matter how many times, I will keep working my ass off. Out of failure, lessons learned will be stepping stones towards my ultimate goal. Nothing will stop me. I won’t hit the snooze button because I know the moment I wake up I get to chase my goal, my dream. It will hurt. It will suck. I am ready for that. There may be blood. There will be stinging sweat. I will lose my breath. But when I catch it, I will be a new animal. I am on a fucking mission. I am more than determined. I can be great and I have the greatness in me to achieve whatever I want. I will come out on top no matter what. I’m ready to rise up. There will be times that I feel like quitting. But I can’t. I can’t because this goal…this goal is my life.

“Something deep in the human heart breaks at the thought of a life of mediocrity.” —C.S. Lewis

So, how bad do you want it?…

Much Needed

“Movement is the essence of life.” -Bernd Heinrich

Over the last few days I have noticed, from a mental standpoint, how much I need running in my life. I have been witness to a slight deterioration in mental health that I believe to be a result from simply not running. Not moving.

For a few days, I almost felt more lost in life than if I were to actually be lost on a run.

It’s too easy to say what your love is when you have it. But it’s not until you don’t have it, that you realize how much you really need it and appreciate it. Because what you love is part of your identity.

It’s your life.

Your passion is essential to your life. As much as food, water and shelter.

I guess all of this answers if I am mentally ready to get back into running.

I have taken two weeks off from running and the fact that I moved to a trail running town, have combined to create a longing to get back to running.

I recently read in a book, about doing what you love and finding out what motivates you (I believe it is called Drive), that you should take a note card. On the front of it write the answer to the question, “What makes you excited to get up in the mornings?” On the back of it write the answer to the question, “What keeps you up at nights?”

And if you ever feel that life isn’t what it should be, then you remind yourself of your answers and do more of those things.

Running with the sunrise is my answer to the first question.

Though I did not get up that early today, I did begin my recovery process with a short run then a long morning hike. My happiness rebounded from the expansive views, fresh air and great company I had along the way.

And as I look back to earlier in the day, it was perfect and exactly how I wish to spend all of my days.

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Running From The Darkness

I want to begin this by saying that my intentions for what I am about to write is to not receive sympathy from anyone. Nor do I want people to look at me from a different perspective.

Writing this could be the hardest thing that I will ever write about. And as someone who loves to write, it’s just part of me to want to get it out and express experiences.

I tend to bring up that I had difficulty finding myself and finding what I love to do after I graduated college like it was some unique and hard adversity that I had to over come. Mentally, for me though, it was and seemed to be a long and trying process.

I can be hard on myself a lot of the time. In reality though it doesn’t even compare to what others have gone through or are going through.

But one of the most dark times in my life came around this past Thanksgiving.

I’ve mentioned in my journey that I have felt purposeless, useless and insignificant many times, bringing on feelings of being completely lost and depressed. All of those negative emotions almost got the best of me then.

I woke up from an afternoon nap and I shed a few tears because of what I was thinking. I didn’t want to go on anymore.
The thought of suicide crossed my mind because I felt I had nothing to look forward to and nothing to even live for.

If it were as easy as just holding my breath, I would have done it.

Laying there I knew I needed help. And this wasn’t the first time that I thought about this but it was the most vivid thought I had of it.

Not knowing how to word it or even who I should reach out to, I decided to open up to my mom.

I told not what I had thought but I expressed how lost I felt and that I felt that I didn’t have a purpose.

In efforts to cheer me up, she said that I had a lot going for me. That I was smart, educated and athletic.

The last word was what stuck with me.

At that time I hadn’t ran in a few weeks and I had no goal to strive for. But for the past few months I had something on my mind…Bighorn 100.

Later that night, I committed to signing up and for the first time in a while I had something to look forward to. Something to wake up for. Over the years, and especially during the harder times, running was the only thing that got me out of bed. And once again, I was going back to doing just that.

Running gives me movement and measurable progress, which I think are essential to the human spirit. It also gives me an immense sense of accomplishment, each and every day.

I wake up, go to sleep, and every hour in between I think about running. I even think about running when I’m running.

It’s my passion and purpose. It gives me the chance to be the best possible person I can be and I will put all of my heart into my training.

In a way, the Bighorn 100 signifies life for me.

I am running from a darkness that I vow to never enter again. I am running towards the immense beauty that this world has to offer.

I can guarantee you right now, that not a single person will have more heart and drive than me at the start of the race because of where I came from and where I am today. I am happily living my dream right now and nothing will stop me from reaching my goals.

All of this has been on my mind for some time now. I guess my heart and mind has been wanting me to get that experience out of me. So finally sitting down to write this out will hopefully set me free and not weigh me down.

I have no idea if not wanting to live anymore is normal. I would imagine many people have maybe given it some thought before or maybe not. And like I said before I don’t want any sympathy. I wanted and needed to open up about something.

Maybe I needed the mental closure. I feel like it was just the right time to get it out and also for people to see why I want others to live like there is no tomorrow as well.

Going through those emotions has made me who I am and I am grateful for going through that.

I now feel that I approach things with more purpose and heart. It’s my new driving force and part of the fire the burns inside me. At one point I didn’t want anymore of this life, but now I am so fucking happy and grateful I am alive!

That gratitude is my why.

My motivational and inspirational posts might be redundant but there is a reasoning behind it. And now everyone knows.

Every moment and minute. Every day and year. All of that only comes once in your life. Never again. Every heartbeat and every breathe is a miracle in itself.

We don’t get these things ever again. Keep that in mind.

You will never experience this moment ever again. And the next moment could possibly be your last.

Take chances. Go after what you want. Speak your mind. Share your feelings. Listen to the voice inside you and go all out reaching for your dreams.

Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart. Embrace everything that comes your way with all of your heart. Whether that is love, work or crafting your passion, do it with all that you have to give.

Live, love, laugh, smile, hug, high five, kiss, hold, sing, dance and everything else, do it with all of your being.

With the right mindset, the best moment of your life could be this present moment.

Don’t stop living