Wednesday, January 29, 2014

a side of life

Snowfall had blanketed the bluegrass once again and was accompanied by some blustery winds. These were not the most favorable conditions for a trail run, yet I still managed to trudge along making tracks through the snow for nine miles. There was the initial realization that running in four plus inches of snow was going to be difficult, and then the beauty of the morning settled in. Every tree stood in stark contrast against this ocean of white and the skies were the deepest blue I had ever seen. I jumped over frozen creeks while listening to the trees creak in the wind like old joints in desperate need of oiling. I noticed as I approached one of the frozen creeks a small sparrow came out from underneath the ice and flew away, which was a peculiar beauty all of its own. The snow became deeper the further I made my way up the mountain, which as you can imagine, made my trek more difficult. My efforts were not without reward with the beauty that awaited for me at the top; the view of our small artisan town covered with snow was breathtaking. What a wonderful adventure this was to run through the snow on a cold wintery morning. There I was doing what others would never dare, embracing the opportunity to experience life from a different angle. You see, this is a rare world with plenty of opportunities for each of us to experience, and no, I'm not talking about watching the Grammy's. Life is often found on the fringes of those places and activities most would never dare to tread. It was there on the side of that mountain with the cold winds whipping across my face as I trudged through what was now six inches of snow that I got to experience the raw side of life. Being alone with the challenges of the elements had brought a sense of urgency for me to press on in hopes of discovering a side of life few ever find. This was an indescribable moment strangely wrought with emotions, and as I crested the mountain I instinctively knew I had silently met with life face to face.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Something Worth Quoting

The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it - Anon


Friday, January 24, 2014

Love where you are at

Kentucky is an amazing state, err, Commonwealth. It is no surprise out of all Kentucky has to offer that I enjoy the scenery the most. There is just something the way a huge crag of limestone looms over the tops of bur oak trees that truly takes my breath away. There is something to be said about following a winding creek along the valley floor and discovering a gem of cascading water as if it were welcoming you to Kentucky. The meadow ponds surrounded by bluegrass is truly a site to behold, but the welcoming and farewell of each day presents a canvas that would make Michael Angelo himself jealous. Kentuckians by and far are truly a breed all of their own, kindhearted and thoughtful traditionalist, but not without problems of their own. You see, of all the places I have lived I have fallen in love with Kentucky the most. It's not so much of a geographical location as much as it is loving where I am at in life. I have lived in questionable areas and in places of sheer sweltering heat, and now I reside in the great commonwealth of Kentucky. The one thing I have learned over the years was that wherever I happened to be living at the time, well, there I was. Sounds funny I know, but what I mean is that a new location never made anything better like one would think. A new neighborhood with new friends at a new job would surely make things a whole lot better, but it never did. How come? Well, because whenever I arrived at a new location my problems were soon to follow. Why? Because I was there. The change needed to be within me and not my geographical location. It basically comes down to the art of living life. Life is precariously unpredictable capable of dishing out both the good and the bad all in the same day, but the question is whether you will allow life to beat you down or embrace the good with the bad. You see, life is an adventure worth the living and there is nothing standing in your way to experience it right now right where you are at. You see, for me every moment is a memory in the making, an opportunity to engage in life, and I dare not waste it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Say a hearty yes!

"Big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure." Joseph Campbell


As one of my favorite quotes I have discovered that most people would dare not risk going on their adventure. Albeit fear or laziness they unknowingly opt to watch life unfold from the safety of their comfort zone (aka the couch). Nowadays many people stare into the pale blue light of Facebook and Candy Crush for the ultimate prize of frittering their lives away. That picture on Twitter of pure green waters nestled among ancient pines is only a dream for most people, an unreachable destination only admired from their smartphones without realizing pictures do no justice for the real experience. People have basically settled. They don't seem to realize that it is impossible to capture life through pictures on the internet. Life must be experienced and embraced. If you cannot breathe it in or experience the scents of life it just might be photoshopped. It is perfectly okay to say that hearty yes to your adventure; the only person you need permission from to do so is you. Life is out there for the taking and all you have to do is say a hearty yes. Go ahead, your life adventure is waiting for you. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Darn Tough Socks

I am not endorsed by Darn Tough Socks nor am I being compensated to write this post. I am just an average endurance athlete who just loves to run. I run not for the competition but for the adventure. I average about 40 miles a week running around the eastern Kentucky mountains. The terrain here can be very technical at times and the last thing I need to be worrying about are my feet, so I basically require a top notch combo of trail shoes and socks to meet my running needs. After discovering the right shoe for me I toyed for years on discovering the right sock, which basically led to me to settle for an adequate sock. On a recent trip into the city I visited an outfitters store where the sales clerk highly recommended Darn Tough socks, and at $15 a pop I skeptically purchased two pairs. The next day I ran 12 miles and immediately fell in love with these socks, but the real test would be over time. It has now been two months and 328 miles later and I am a firm believer that Darn Tough socks are hands down the best sock on the market. No kidding! They are marvelous at wicking away moisture and they have an amazingly snug fit, which basically means no blisters or hot spots. Toe seams? None. Cushion in the right areas? Yes. Breathability? Of course! No questions asked lifetime guarantee? You got it! Synthetic materials? Nope, they're made of merino wool. Worried about that? Don't be. They are truly an amazing sock well worth the money. Run on my friend...


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Motivation

This is my transitional week in my preparation for an up coming trail marathon, which basically means I am increasing my mileage (and I can certainly feel it). As the mikes increase within any transitional week there also comes the need for some motivation:


There was a young man who wanted to make a lot of money, and so he went to a guru. He told the guru he wanted to reach his level of greatness. And so the guru said: “If you want to be on the same level I’m on, I’ll meet you tomorrow at the beach.”


So the young man arrived at 4:00 a.m. He had on a suit, but he should have worn shorts. The old man grabbed his hand and said: “How bad do you want to be successful?” The young responded: “Badly.”


So the old man told the young man to walk out into the water. It was waist deep. The young man thought: “This old man is crazy.”


The young man said to himself: “I want to make money and this guy has me out here swimming. I didn’t ask to be a lifeguard. I want to make money.


Then the old man said: “Come out a little farther,” and the young man did so.


As the young man was up to his shoulders in water he again thought: “This old man is crazy! He’s making money, but he’s crazy.”


The old man said, “Come out a little farther.”


The young man obeyed, but wavered as if he might turn back.


So the old man said: “I thought you said you wanted to be successful?”


“I do,” said the student.


So the old man ordered the young man to come out even farther, and when he did he pushed the young man’s head under water and held it down. Although the young man fought, the old man would not let him up. Just before the young man passed out the old man raised his head above the surface and said: “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”


I don’t know how many of you have asthma today, but if you ever had an asthma attack before and you’re S.O.B. — you’ve got shortness of breath — and you’re wheezing, the only thing you’re trying to do is get some air. You don’t care about no basketball game. You don’t care what’s on TV.  You don’t care about anybody calling you. You don’t care about a party. The only thing you care about when you’re trying to breathe is to get some fresh air. That’s it. And when you get to the point where all you want to do is be successful as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.


~Eric Thomas

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Red Carpet versus Muddy Trails

The top news story today was that the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards had gotten wet due to some sprinkler system malfunction. Panic ensued  as organizers attempted to dry out the carpet before the movie stars arrived, well because, we certainly cannot have them walking on wet carpet. In retrospect to our recent arctic thaw followed by a significant amount of rainfall this seemed a bit ridiculous. The trails have been nothing short of a soupy sloppy muddy mess with zero opportunities of avoidance, unless of course I opt for staying at home to watch someone else engage in a sports activity (but where's the fun in that?). Isn't it rather funny that someone would not even dare walk across soggy carpet while I'm out there trudging miles through the muddy backwoods? The worth of differences is found in the destination. The red carpet leads to a world of make believe whereas the soupy sloppy muddy trail leads to the top of the world; well, at least to a mountaintop with breathtaking views. 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Worth the face plant

Running the trails during the day in the summer months poses enough risk all of its own much less running in the dark with icy snow packed trails in the middle of winter. The decision to brave the elements of the later came off the heels of an extreme arctic blast and my restless spirit was more than ready to be set free, so off I went bearing my headlamp into the winter darkness. I could say the early morning air was crisp and vibrant, but really, it was a damn good morning for a frosty trail run. I noticed as I rounded the outer trail before heading back into the woods that the down tree covering the trail had been removed, and though I was scanning the trail with my headlamp I experienced the sudden impact of meeting the frozen ground face to face. I must admit that I was a little jarred by this unforeseen acrobatic feat, and upon my investigation of the newly cleared trail I discovered that a fragmented branch frozen to the ground was the culprit of my demise. With caution freshly imprinted on my mind I slowly resumed my adventure into the woods. As I followed the icy snow packed trail to the mountaintop I discovered an absolutely stunning view. There I stood overlooking the lights of our little artisan town just as daybreak began. The eastern mountains were ablaze with the sun creeping over its edges. The leading edge of the sky displayed several hues of red that transitioned into the deepest color of purple. Slightly above the skyline was the outline of the blackest clouds one could imagine as if they were billows of smoke. The mountains were afire and it was absolutely gorgeous. As I stood breathless gazing at the scenery before me I was able to easily surmise that it was well worth the face plant. 


Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Dreadmill

Old man winter has taken over the region forcing me to live in an arctic tundra for several days. The cold has been brutal and unrelenting to the least and has done a fair job at keeping my eager spirit indoors; I mean, who can honestly go out and run in subzero temperatures? Not me! So on day one of this arctic blast I opted for a crossfit day at the house; if you're not familiar with crossfit check out Spartanrace.com/wod. Anyways, on the second day of this arctic blast I was once again forced to stay indoors. In order to stay on track for my marathon preparation I mustered up everything I had within me to take my run to the treadmill, or what I would prefer to call the dreadmill. There have been studies on the differences between running on the treadmill versus road running, and even though I tend to agree that they are absolutely not the same, I dislike the treadmill for much greater reasons; the insanity factor. There I was in a confined area running in place going nowhere. There was no scenery, no breeze, no birds, no squirrels, no fresh air, no trees, no clouds, no sun, and absolutely no motivation. There I was running in a musty gym with a mirrored wall right before me and a television hanging directly overhead. Can you say "ugh"? It was awful and you should be feeling sorry for me. The only positive factor was the last time I ran on a treadmill was nearly two years ago and it will likely be another two years until I do it again. 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The places I run

The morning was crisp and cold when I took off running down the unfamiliar trail. These moments often provide for a more adventurous run because of the unknown awaiting before me, and today did not disappoint. Usually unfamiliar trails here in Kentucky yield monstrous climbs averaging a mile or more straight up a side of a mountain, but today I was greeted by a well groomed rolling trail instead. The snow covered pathway zigged and zagged lazily through the forest valley leading me through creek beds and pines before taking my breath away when I arrived at the frozen waters edge. The trail continued along the waters edge of what eventually became a massive lake that shimmered and glistened at me through the pines. As the miles progressed I was gradually engulfed by the peacefulness most everyone pursues and the calmness that followed was unrelenting. This was the moment when I arrived at the place where the affairs of the world could never touch me, a place where I am as free as I ever could be, a place I plan to revisit often. 


Friday, January 3, 2014

No New Year Resolution Required

It's that time of year again where we begin to see those trendy New Year resolutions. The yearly usuals are those hopeful 24 hour attempts to quit smoking along with the ever present desire to lose weight. I certainly commend every worthy attempt, but all too often people fall off the wagon as quickly as they got on. This is also the time of year when there is an influx in gym memberships which ultimately meet their demise by mid-March with the declination of gym attendance. These yearly observations has led me to surmise that New Year resolutions simply do not work. I think this is likely due to people forcing themselves into trying to accomplish goals they think they ought to do rather than desiring to simply do them. For example, there is a huge difference between needing to lose weight versus wanting to lose weight. The same applies to chocolate cake; I have to go without versus it's not proper fuel for my body. You see, it ultimately comes down to a lifestyle change. You either truly want to or you don't. At one time I was an overweight smoker who enjoyed eating fatty fried sugary foods while watching two DVDs a night. Then one day I simply grew tired of my lifestyle and made the simple little decision to do something about it. Over the next several years I made some little changes along the way that eventually ballooned into a huge lifestyle change for me. With grit determination I was able to quit smoking before gradually changing my eating habits without any diet plans involved. I began to participate in some menial outdoor activities which eventually led me into the gym to improve my physical condition. Before long I grew tired of the gym and fell back in love with the running of my youth. It wasn't much longer after that when I suddenly found myself training for my first marathon. I have sense graduated to running the trails and cannot seem to stop running through the Eastern Kentucky mountains. You see, my lifestyle change was not born on a New Year resolution, but instead it developed from a genuine desire to simply change. There was no special formula, just a simple step by step approach that gradually got me to where I am today. Happy New Year!