we are the heroes of our own stories

21 09 2009

today I’m having one of those days where my mind is in a thousand different places, dipping into and out of alternately happy moods and melancholy ones.  Work continues to be a challenge for me, mostly because I’ve had such a difficult time filling one pivotal position on my team.  What that means to me:  I’ve got to do that job in addition to mine, which in turn leads to my primary job responsibilities taking longer.  It’s not that I don’t have support at work.  My coworkers, for the most part, are great – but each of them has his or her jobs to do as well.  So that brings it back to me.

Whenever I find myself in this sort of mood, it doesn’t take long for me to begin searching for some sort of inspiration, at least momentarily, in a song, or a quote or some other form to lift me through to the next upswing.  I’ve got this bank of songs in iTunes that I can always count on for a pick-me-up, and I keep a book of quotes that resonate with me in my office.

But today, after 9+ hours of staring at a computer screen, no amount of Ben Taylor or Amos Lee or Ari Hest seemed to be the ladder out of the doldrums and I decided to just work through it.

Thing is, after all’s said and done, I discover, over and over, that looking outwardly for inspiration is completely in the wrong direction.  Even though I seem to forget this just as quickly, we all have the inspiration we need right inside of us.  Or, as I saw it written once, we are the heroes of our own story.

I’ve spent the past few years trying to hone the skill of doing this – of gaining inspiration through my own strength, history, inner-thoughts, whatever you want to call it.  For a long time, figuring out how to do this, or if it was even possible for me, seemed to be a struggle.

Luckily for me, I’ve had a few great teachers and companions to go along the path with me.  I’ve also had the good fortune of discovering something that I can do whenever I want, and that clears my mind and uses my body so that I can take time to go wherever I need to go and find that lift I need in that moment, at that time.  Running has, for me, opened the door to the space I need to be strong when I need to be.

But it’s also given me a clearer vision to see things happening around me for what they really are.  Now it doesn’t always work, and sometimes people get to me.  Sometimes it’s a customer interaction at work.  Sometimes it’s getting cut off on the road.  It might even  be someone in front of me at the grocery store line.  Not too long ago, I would have gotten pretty upset or angry at that stuff, and let myself really take it personally or even lashed out at someone over it.  That still happens occasionally, but more often than not, I’m able to stop, see the situation, and accept it.

I guess one thing I’m learning more and more is acceptance.  For me, that doesn’t mean that I have to be “OK” with any particular situation, but it’s important to accept the situation “is what it is.”  I think that working so hard at trying to “correct” or “make sense” of situations really contributes to frustration, anger, desperation (you name your -ation).  For me, striving to be accepting of each situation and working to be nonjudging of each makes each situation easier to experience, and eases the intensity of my reactions to each, with the hope that, eventually, the reaction goes away.

So, here I am again, at the end of a day, realizing that there will be a situation at some point tomorrow that may push me, bring me down, or tie me up in knots.  And here I am in this moment, knowing that I have the tools to deal with that situation.  And all I have to do is remember to: breathe, think, accept, and not judge.  Seems simple enough right?  We’ll see.

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2 vans, 12 runners, 28 hours, 208 miles, and lived to….

16 09 2009

What a great running weekend.  For the second year in a row, I got to participate in the Blue Ridge Relay this past Friday & Saturday.  The race is a unique relay that starts in the Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia and ends in Downtown Asheville, NC.  Teams range from 6 people to 12 and it usually takes 24 – 34 hours.  This year, I was a member of Triple M.A.D Punch for the second year in a row and had so much fun!

Blue Ridge Relay 2009 052

At the end of my first leg, with sunscreen in my eyes. ouch.

Ours is a 12-person team.  We’re split into two teams and have two vans that get us from leg to leg of the race.  I drove van 2 this year so we started on Friday around lunch.  I was running leg 10.  My first leg was an 8.2 mile leg that covered about a 2600 ft. elevation gain.  I’d spent the last 6 weeks or so doing some pretty gnarly hill training with Eric, a friend and fellow member of the team, so I felt pretty good about the run.  But dude, it was hot and about half way into it, the heat got to me.  The scenery is always awesome on this run and I really enjoy it.  As usual, a couple of dogs ran along with me for part of the leg.   I passed on to my partner and finished the leg in 1:10.39 at an 8:24 average pace.  Whew.

We finished our first set of legs and got to have dinner in Blowing Rock, which is a cool town.  I recommend it to anyone who’s ever in the NC Mountains.  It was cool and the food at the restaurant was good.  Glidewell’s has great sweet potato fries and the servers were really accommodating.

We got to our next exchange point and expected to get a few hours nap before Van 1 arrived to hand back off to us.  We knew we were running a bit ahead of our expected pace, but we weren’t sure if the evening would bring a slow down.  I got about a half hour nap before we were being woken up.  Van 1 had smoked it!

Eric prepping for his night leg.  Yes - it is that cool.

Eric prepping for his night leg. Yes - it is that cool.

My leg two was scheduled to be run at about 1 am.  Yep – 1 am.  There is nothing in the world like strapping a headlamp on, attaching blinking LEDs to your body and barreling off into the darkness in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. Frankly, the beginning of the night leg is always quite creepy, but once I settle in, there’s not many experiences like it. Every sound is amplified, both external and internal. You feel your breathe more succinctly and even in the perfect darkness, your vision sharpens. Leg two was a 6-miler that I finished at a 7:53 pace.

After we finished our second leg, we turned it back over to Van 1 and headed to the final exchange zone to try to catch more than 1/2 of sleep.  It took about 45 minutes to get to the church where we would camp, but I was so glad to find it.  We got there around 2:30 am and we actually got to sleep for about 4 hours.  Most everyone camped out under the stars.  I slept in the van.

Jess crushing it on her first leg - and that's with almost no training!

Jess crushing it on her first leg - and that's with almost no training!

My last leg was a short one, 4.2 miles, fairly flat till the end, with a little uphill, but it kicked my butt!  I guess being cramped in a van for 24 hours before, eating mostly all snacks (lots of peanut butter, power bars, gummy bears and almonds) plus two longer runs in the previous time had its affect on me.  Finished it in 33 minutes, 7:53 pace.

This event is so much fun, but there is no feeling like finishing your last leg and handing the bracelet off to your partner for the last time.  That is a GREAT feeling.  Eric brought it home, running down the mountain and into Asheville just before noon.  All-in-all, we finished in 27 hours, 54 minutes, 24th out of about 100 teams, over an hour faster than last year, which is awesome – except that it sets us up for higher expectations in 2010.

Triple M.A.D. Punch - Postrace and happy, 27 hours later!

Triple M.A.D. Punch - Postrace and happy, 27 hours later!

The celebratory lunch at the Mellow Mushroom was awesome and everyone was in great spirits, which is more than I can say at some points in the run, especially during those big climbs.  For my money, this is a great run.  It’s well organized for the most part, the volunteers are super-friendly, and the churches and fire departments that host the exchange zones are so hard-working and nice.  If you’re looking for something different, something fun and a new challenge, check out the Blue Ridge Relay.