Category Archives: passion

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?

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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

Your Path

Follow your path.

The destination is all the same for everyone here, you might as well make your journey as unique, incredible and worthwhile as possible. Follow your curiosity from one thing to the next. If material possessions are weighing you down, rid yourself of them to be free to do whatever you please. Don’t let your current situation hold you back from being who you are meant to be. Don’t be scared to fly, to open up, to live life on your own terms. Everyone who has broken free was scared too. They’re on the other side of fear, cheering you on with a helping hand and a guiding voice to let you know that the views are amazing and that everything will be just fine if you step out of the cage. Life is never easy no matter which direction you choose, so you might as well choose your own path. Follow your heart. Follow your dreams. See where they take you. You won’t be disappointed. Trust in yourself. Trust that everything will be fine and that everything will work out. Out there is a world so beautiful. So beautiful you can’t even fathom. Whatever it is that you want or want to do, I say go for it. It is your story, your journey. Remember, the destination is the same for everyone, so there’s no need to dwell on it. Dwell on the possibilities of what could or might happen. If everything happens for a reason, then your reason for being alive is to…

Follow your path.

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The World is Waiting

The world needs your gift, your dreams. The world needs you to do amazing things, to show others what’s possible in a lifetime. The world needs your special talents that you have yet to tap into. The world needs you to take a chance on what you have always wanted to do. And there is no better time than now. Go for it because the world is waiting for you.

Go For It

Take a chance and go for it!

Something is on your mind. I know there is.

No matter where you are in life, there has always been something that you have always wanted to do. Go do it for once and get it off your mind.

Don’t worry about every tiny detail and every expense it might cost. That’s just fear holding you back and that’s all in your mind.

 “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” -Jim Carrey

Go after what you want for once.

There is no better time than now.

Go for it…
…and don’t look back.

Passion to Profession

As I was formulating and collecting my thoughts for this post I realized it is mainly two concepts that could be divided into multiple posts, but I decided to try and articulate my thoughts together. And hopefully I can receive some feedback to help answer and/or find a creative way to make something happen from these two concepts.

I have been thinking for some time now and asking myself these questions but have never openly shared my thoughts in a conversation until today. Once the conversation ended, my mind continued running on its own.

I stayed the night at a family of friend’s house. The husband/father, Norb, of the household is a farely new running budding of mine and we have developed a solid bond lately. Him and his family helped out at my attempt at the Bighorn 100 and will help me out in my redemption 100 coming up soon.

I woke up this morning and made my way upstairs to the dining room table and joined one of his daughters. She was on the computer working on getting things ready for graduate school that she begins in a month. I grabbed an issue of Trail Runner Magazine out of the bathroom to read at the table.

After flipping a couple of pages, Norb came upstairs. And as he did I read a little blurb on a guy that we met just before the start of Bighorn. The guy, 21, biked from Vermont and arrived in Wyoming a few days before the race and then ran the 100 mile race.

With excitement I shared this with Norb and this is when the discussion began and my thought began to whirl on these ideas…

“Did he do that for anything?” Norb asked.

I knew what the question had meant. After Norb fell in love with trail running he decided that he was going to run 100 ultras before he turns 100 years old. And for each race that he does he donates $100 to the Alzheimer’s Association. He just ran the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler for his 21st ultra. (Check out Norb’s blog here)

“It doesn’t say.” I said.

“I feel like if you’re gonna do something like that you should do it for something.” He said.

“I actually want to bike across the country too and for me it’s because I really want to do something like that. But I see what you mean.”

“Well yeah, one reason why I do ultras is to help people out and it’s another thing that keeps me going.”

This is when I brought up that I have been wanting to do something similar with my running and doing it for a cause. But I feel bad just thinking about asking people for money.

When I did my second half marathon, I raised money for Paul Newman’s organization for children with life threatening diseases to go to summer camp. I felt a little uncomfortable asking people multiple times for donations and that has been what’s held me back from doing it again.

So I told him that I have been trying to think of a unique way but I haven’t thought of anything of how I could use my running to help out in some way other than just raising money because it seems like that is the only way people are doing it these days. Not that is a bad thing at all but for me to alleviate that feeling of guilt, I believe I need a more different and creative approach.

But that idea hasn’t hit me yet!

Running and really all athletic pursuits are extremely selfish. While satisfying your individual happiness you are completely removing yourself from family, friends, your community and society as a whole.

While you are completely enveloped in your own world you could be helping out the world and others in this world.

Some ideas popped in my head as the conversation flowed to something else. Would selling bracelets be a different approach for me to raising money similar to the Livestrong foundation? Or selling running branded apparel with proceeds going to a certain organization?

But then I was thinking about how I literally have no money beyond food and rent that I wouldn’t be able to start such a thing as those ideas. Which left me back as square one of trying to think of ideas.

How can I combine running and also help out a cause, without blasting social media with a link to donate? And that’s what I have been thinking a lot about lately…

Which brings me to another, somewhat similar concept and that is how do you turn your passion into a profession? And for me that is running.

Of all the things that I can think about, athletic passions are the only things that are difficult to build a life on.

If you’re passionate about playing an instrument, you can play at a venue for money. If you’re passionate about making clay pottery, you could sell your creations. If you’re passionate about photography, you could sell your prints. If you’re passionate about cars, you could open your own mechanic shop. And the list goes on.

But when you are passionate about a sport, you can’t just sell yourself because there is no product or service to provide. There is no other way than going professional in some sports or getting sponsored in others.

And I do get it, sports do not provide a benefit to an outsider other than entertainment value. That’s why professional football players are rewarded with such enormous contracts. And when it comes to running, it provides an even less entertainment value.

How does one take running and turn it into a profession? I am constantly asking myself this.

And for the very few times I have asked others on how to get sponsored or have read articles online on how to get sponsored, they all have mentioned one commonality. And that is, that it is not all about winning races.

That tends to make me feel better about my chances. So then if it’s not about winning, then how can you turn your passion for running into a profession?

Or is just pure running not enough to support oneself financially and is that something that I flat out need to accept?

What I mean by that is, will I need to do something connected to running? Like coach or race direct or work in a running store?

Is my dream day of running all just a dream, unless I get fully sponsored?

Is there a way to actually combine these two concepts?

I know in a way there has been no overall point to this post other than me writing out my thoughts on how I want to combine running and helping out a cause and how I want to run to the point where I could do what I love for a living. Maybe I’m thinking out loud for ideas to come my way from other people and other runners.

Hopefully some day I’ll have brilliant ideas that will come to fruition. Until then I’ll keep running and dreaming

Fight Every Day

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As many of you remember, Stuart Scott was an anchor for SportsCenter on ESPN for 20+ years until he passed away at the beginning of this year after battling cancer for 7 years.

Looking back, he’s probably the first celebrity or public figure to make me tear up after hearing about his death.

As far back as I can remember, I watched him every morning before school to watch all of the previous day’s homeruns and slam dunks.

His fight against cancer hit mainstream after his deep and moving speech when he received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY awards.

Hit play if you haven’t seen it:

Just before his passing he finished writing a book, Every Day I Fight, about how he made his way to ESPN and all of his complications with cancer.

One thing that really stood out for me while reading it this weekend was that he stayed true to himself. He was who he was.

That’s what made him so entertaining to watch on TV.

He even says in the book that he commentated just like he was talking with his friends while watching a game. And if you ever watched SportsCenter with him, you couldn’t have agreed more.

That’s why people loved him. He was who he was.

Another thing that came to mind while reading his story, was why is it that people change their behavior when they find out they have cancer?

I loved reading about his new perspective on cherishing each moment that he experienced. Not that he didn’t before but not knowing if it would be his last with someone made each moment that much more special.

But what I was thinking was why wait to hear we only have a certain amount of time left? We are all going to die.

Let me repeat that. We are all going to die.

Let that sink it.

Some people go to bed at night to never wake up. Some drive off to work and never return home. Some get cancer and are told they have five years to live.

Do you ever get into a deep conversation with friends and someone asks, “what would you do if you only had six months to live?” Or some form of that question.

Why don’t we live like we have a certain number of days? Why do we put things off that we really want to do?

This might sound crazy, but imagine your doctor just told you that you have x number of years left. What would you do?

Maybe we should start living as if that were the actual case. Because all of our chances of living are zero.

The imagine that I posted of Stuart jumping rope, says a lot. But what I really love is that it shows strength, especially after knowing that he went straight to the gym after each chemotherapy treatment. It also shows that he never gave up living despite what he was going through.

Even though a lot of us will have no idea what it’s like to go through life with cancer, we should fight to live for each day as we had only a certain amount of time left alive. Which is the most true fact there is.

Whatever you want in life, fight for it.

Fight every day for it.

And just like Stuart, just be you.