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Running with Heart

The snow crunch beneath my feet. Shooting stars blaze across the sky. Then a sunrise that makes you stop to gaze in amazement. My breath is visible as my heart pounds in its chamber of my chest. A smile beams from ear to ear.

The feelings are indescribable, but to attempt to put words to the moment; gratitude, elevated, free.

My last few runs have become emotional for me. Not only because of the elegance of the natural world but of the visualizations my mind conceives. I’m not sure if where my thoughts run to is considered the runner’s high or not. Usually every run, I can become so deep in thought that body and mind completely separates.

Fantasy becomes a reality. Even if it’s for a few seconds, I am living in an alternate existence and the story is so vivid.

I have been dreaming about my upcoming 100 mile race. The pain and suffering. The cramps and desire to quit. The personal triumphs and the determination to never give in. The aid stations and encouragement from volunteers. The need to dig deep and push forward no matter what. All the highs and lows.

I’ve also wondered what it would feel like crossing the finish line. What it would feel like being the first to cross the finish line. Whether that becomes true or not in the future, at the next one or one ten years down the road, I will know that not a single person there will have more passion as me. No one will have worked as hard as me. No one will want it is bad as me.

If you believe it, you can achieve it.

When I come to from these thoughts while I run, I feel that lump in my throat and eyes water up. Even I inspire myself to strive beyond what I think capable and push further towards my dreams.

I run with my heart. Plain and simple.

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The Most Annoying Saying

I’m going to assume, with it being the holiday season and people taking vacations or/and spending time with family and friends, that you will hear someone say or you might even say it yourself…”back to the real world tomorrow.”

What the hell does that even mean?

Back to the real world?

It’s as if that indicates you just left a make believe dream. Did you not go home for the holidays and hold your Mom, who you haven’t seen in six months, and feel the love and family bond that binds you two? Did you not laugh, smile and even argue about pure nonsense around a holiday feast on Christmas?

Was your beach vacation not real? Did you not feel the warm sand between your toes and taste its grittiness when you took a sip from your soda can not realizing a breeze blew it all over your belongings?

Did all of the photos you posted on Facebook with your best friends, your new gifts, your lover, you family, your cherry pie dessert with ice cream dumped on top, your kids re-enacting Frozen or your front yard covered in snow Christmas morning, did all of that not happened? Was it not real life?

If someone were oblivious to the saying, they might think you were meaning it in the opposite manner. That you were leaving an uncomfortable and miserable situation or job to go live.

But we have it back forwards for some reason!

When someone says “back to the real world” it’s always in a negative tone. If you think the “real world” or “real life” is supposed to be your desk job staring at a screen all day, or bossing people around to sell insignificant shit to the public, or dealing with an asshole that bosses you around to sell more insignificant shit, or take customer service calls from people who are pissed that their cable is out and find it your direct responsibility that it’s raining and lightening outside, you need to wake the fuck up!

Seriously, if you say “back to real life” after a vacation or weekend, you need to take a hard look at how you are spending your time.

Are the things you experienced not real and did they that not happen in the world? Why do we only take our two weeks of vacation a year, to actually live?

85 percent of Americans hate going to their jobs.

Why would you want to spend life in such a miserable way? Why would you consider that the real world?

Your real world should be spent doing what you enjoy. It should be around people who make you feel alive. It should be passionate and doing what you care so much about.

It should be you daily duty and intent to be fully alive.

“The goal is not simply to ‘work hard, play hard.’ The goal is to make our work and our play indistinguishable.” -Simon Sinek

Acclimating to Winter

A snow storm came through in the early hours of Christmas morning leaving about three to four inches of fresh and untouched snow for me to run on. And it was still coming down when I took off down the road.

The sidewalks were indistinguishable from the streets, I decided to run in the middle of the road. Down Main Street. It was so calm and silent, I could hear the traffic lights buzz and click as the colors turned, when I passed underneath.

Making my way past the heart of the town, I followed a path on the side of the road towards the foothills. I’m not sure if this is for people to exercise on or if it’s for people to snowmobile on when conditions are too harsh to drive. There are markers indicating each quarter mile, which make me believe it’s for exercising. But whatever it’s for, I run based on time not distance.

I went 30 minutes one way, up and down rolling hills and made my turn around. I guess I never noticed it because it was on my back, but as soon as I turned around a punishing wind ripped at my face. My senses went from dormant to heightened at the flip of a switch.

The beauty of the flakes diminished as each felt like it was chipping on any areas of exposed skin.

The headband I have, is versatile. Once it became apparent that the run back wasn’t going to be pleasant, I briefly stopped for a moment to mess with and reposition the head gear. I thought about unrolling it. Then you can put it over your head and pull it down to the neck, like a neck warmer. You can then grab the back and pull it over your head, to make it as a hood. And in that position, you can grab the front and pull it over your face to make it into a face mask.

But when I stopped, I felt that there was a frozen layer on the outside and I figured it would be sweat dampened on the inside. I decided to leave it as a headband because I could end up making the rest of the way home more miserable.

Occasionally I would hold a hand up to block the wind and frozen precipitation for any amount of relief. I was looking forward to retreating to my safe haven at the end of the run.

Walking in the door was welcomed and a deep respect and appreciation was born for Mother Nature.

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The snow continued to fall until the early afternoon. And when night fell, the temps fell too.

Saturday I awoke to a windchill of -4. Planning ahead, I left for my run with the Headgator situated as the face mask.

Immediately, breathing became a challenge. My Georgia lungs haven’t fully adjusted to the elevation of 4,600 feet, where my runs begin. And now trying to breathe through synthetic material limited my oxygen. I pulled the face part down to my chin.

Every five minutes or so, I would become aware of how cold my face was and attempt to run with the front part pulled back over my nose. It would either slip down or the long up hills made me decide that getting the proper amount of air over warmth was more important.

As the run went on, one of my nostrils was about to completely freeze up. My face was just about immobile.

I found it comical thinking about all the extreme conditions people run in, undermining the power nature can inflict.

I was within a half mile from my place when I passed another runner. He said “we’re the crazy ones!” And he extended his fist for a friendly and encouraging fist bump.

I went straight to my bathroom mirror when I returned home. My nose was solid white. I first thought it was frost, but a second take on it, I realized it was the skin that was about as white as the porcelain sink.

I had no idea what to do or think. As I stared at myself in the mirror, my color slowly phased out the death and blood returned to normal circulation. It took about 5 minutes for it to look normal again.

Another run that was eye opening. Nature can be marvelous at one minute and life threatening the next. Not that I thought I was about to die. But the forces that can take shape by the natural world are nothing short of incredible.

What I need is a ski mask with the eyes and mouth cut out. That way I can still breathe and also have my nose and the rest of my face covered. The next few days I don’t think I will see temperatures in the double digits. I think one day the high is 0.

All this is a new experience for me. With that are new lessons and a stronger heart to succeed.

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Running in the Dark

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I’m going to place running on a trail in the dark, as one of the scariest things to do.

I’m my mind, every rustle in the bushes could be a mountain lion ready to pummel me in an instant. Every black mass could be a moose ready to stampede me at any moment. Every white…what the fuck is that?!

Oh, just a sign on the trail.

Running in the dark can make a grown man freak the hell out. But once I emerged out of a black forest darker than the night sky, the fear melted away and bliss opened up. A pre dawn sky filled with countless stars and the Bighorn mountains silhouetted the distant background like a backdrop of a Broadway show.

The windchill pricked my face at every possible chance but it only seemed to enhanced the stage I ran across.

Finishing a run before your neighbors wake up brings an appreciation few experience. Finishing a run before the sun wakes up brings out a gratefulness for life itself and an acknowledgement that so few get to feel that pure and simple understanding.

I can’t think of a better way to begin a new day and it almost makes it impossible to have a bad day. It sets the tone for how you handle the ups and downs that life presents.

I don’t think I’ve settled into a new job as quickly as I did today on my first day at the newspaper. Once I got past awkwardly standing around waiting for people to show up (I was the second to arrive. An intern was the first) and getting over the nerves of people listening to me make phone calls, I felt comfortable and right at home.

My boss’s wife offered a place for me to spend Christmas, which was perfect because I was planning on being by myself. I was given a Canon camera to complement my writing assignments and was even given a key to the office. Lunch was paid for and I savored a veggie sandwich on fresh herb dill bread from a local cafe.

One of my two stories I wrote a few weeks ago for my test to be hired, was published in the paper today. Seeing my name in print was gratifying and it was also a surprise because I forgot about writing them.

I was worried that sitting at a desk all day would dig up old feelings of feeling caged and chained up. Then I realized that if I wasn’t there, I would be spending my day the exact same way, reading and writing.

I know it was only my first day, but I enjoyed it.

You Have to Change. Do Something New

“Most people they raise a family, they earn a living, and then they die. They stop growing, they stop working on themselves, they stop stretching, and they stop pushing themselves. Then a lot of people like to complain but don’t wanna do anything about their situation. But people who are running towards their dreams, life has a special kind of meaning.” –Les Brown

The local YMCA has reverted a racquetball court in the building’s basement into the exercise class room. They offer yoga, Insanity, HIIT, Pilates, and many others in this room. When I went to the strength and stretching class this morning for the first time, I didn’t expect I would not only be the only guy but I was also the only one under 60. Talk about not fitting in!

Immediately though a lady got me one of those giant workout balance balls, another grabbed me a mat and another asked if anyone in the class if they’ve seen Interstellar (side note: one of the greatest movies ever). I felt right at home.

The class is designed around yoga and Pilates concepts to help strengthen, stretch and increase your range of motion. Other than two or three stretches after a ran, I would say I don’t do what I could be doing.

These ladies killed it! I couldn’t touch my toes for the life of me. I was shaking like hell doing sit ups on the big blow up ball. I couldn’t do a downward dog for the life of me. And I hope no one saw me catch myself when I rolled off the ball trying to attempt a bridge on it.

My day was wide open and I was taking it off from running as well, I decided to head back a few hours later for the HIIT (high intensity interval training) class. This would be my second time attending this one, but the leader said she changes the circuits up every time, so I was bound to do something new.

As I’ve shared before, I’m huge on core workouts but got too stuck in a monotonous routine that I had to switch it up.

Today I picked up dumbbells for the first time in I don’t know how long. I’m a natural type of person. Lifting weights has never been my cup of tea because it has never appeared natural to me. I’ve been told that I should do light weight training for my running, but I feared for some reason that I would become too bulky.

When I lifted the 5 pound dumbbells off the rack, I didn’t know my arms were about to get rocked. But in a good way, hopefully.

I did burpees, dumbbell plank rows and lateral raises all for the first time today among other exercises. My sweat showered the court floor, face burned red and veins bulged from the skin’s surface. Everyone in the class was grunting with every rep at the end.

When I set my lofty goal for the Bighorn 100, I knew I was going to have to do everything I could possibly do. I’m going to have to work harder than I’ve worked before and do things I haven’t done before. It is necessary that I stretch my limits, step out of my comfort zone and push myself whenever I can.

I think any type of growth signifies living. And to get what you want out of life, you’re going to have to make a change. Whether significant or minuscule, something new needs to be done to get the results you want. Especially if you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, but still getting the same outcome.

To grow, you have to change.

You won’t set a half marathon personal best if you haven’t done speed work.
You won’t graduate with honors if you don’t study.
You won’t get a job promotion if you can’t get your work done on time.
You won’t perform in front of a sellout crowd if you don’t promote the show.
You won’t lose ten pounds if you don’t turn off the tv and get off the couch.
You won’t win the lottery if you don’t play.

You’ve got to put in the work. You’ve got to change things up. You’ve got to grow.

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” -Abraham Lincoln

Running is the Cure

The worries and hesitation that gripped me after my job acceptance waned as my steps accumulated on my run the next morning and extending into my weekend runs.

Long paved country roads and dirt paths brought me to panoramic landscapes. Massive meadows with long dried grass waving in the wind, snow patched mountains and rolling foothills offered harmony which accompanied gratitude and contentment.

I wondered why I allowed such fear of a new direction in my life to take hold. Maybe anxiety of the possibility of losing my freedom of how I choose to fill my days resorted to these feelings.

Enthusiasm for what is to come extinguished my initial thoughts.

The clarity that running brings to life’s trivial problems is fascinating. Confidence, fearlessness and self honor absorb and root into your core with each drop of sweat poured out. Readiness for each opportunity or challenge is a side product that builds at your foundation from the exertion of self propulsion by foot.

The miles compiled or pace aren’t what matter but the fulfillment and serenity actualized are.

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