“There simply is no pill that can replace human connection. There is no pharmacy that can fill the need for compassionate interaction with others. There is no panacea. The answer to human suffering is both within us and between us. -Dr. Joanna Cacciatore
Picture by Ali Hoover:
I learned a lot in the last 2 weeks of my life, but especially the last few days. I was put on a bus with 23 other individuals that I had never met for 3 1/2 days while we traveled to 3 states and ran 3 different trails. We didn’t know what we had in common besides a passion for running, a love for Lululemon and a heart for inspiring others. Come to find out – if you take 24 strangers and drop them in the middld of the woods and tell them to go do something they love…well, that’s all you really need to make for a completely life changing few days.
I knew this trip would be amazing, but I didn’t know quite how amazing… In fact, I’m still crying. As I type this, salty streams run down my face. Oh the tears I’ve cried the last few days… They are tears of gratitude. They are bittersweet tears from having to say goodbye to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They are tears of pure joy.
For awhile I haven’t been feeling much. I’ve been in a funk. I’ve been overbooked and over-worked trying to juggle jobs and passions and relationships and ideas for the future. I numbed out knowing that it would be easier to go through the motions, not have to really feel anything, and do the best I can and get through it. I’ve been thinking of all of the things that society says I should have by now that I don’t… Ummm…that’s no way to live.
The shift started to hit me with BQing the Geneva marathon… breaking the barrier of FEAR that I couldn’t do it and then proving to myself that the human spirit is truly one amazing thing. Then came this adventure… This trip where RUNNING – a solo sport – brought some people together in a serious way. Take a bunch of people that love running, and put them in some woods with no expectations of a race, no clocks, no time limits…and it’s magic.
Day 1 – Amazing. Best birthday ever. Mt. Cheaha, 2407 ft of elevation, 6 miles – the highest point in Alabama.
We met in AL, we talked, we drove and we ran. But let me back up a little… Sarah came to pick me up that morning, and then we picked up Mandy… oh Mandy… Little did I know that this girl would end up being my roomie, my trail buddy, my twin, part of my poop troop, and a heart that I will always hold dear.
So, day 1 happened to be my birthday, and it was just made extra special by being introduced to some people that would change my life. Look at these amazing people…
Below is a picture of me and Aaron (picture by Ali Hoover). What an amazing man!! He took the time to know everyone, what they did, what they do now, where they are from. We had some amazing conversations on the trails, laughs, poops (haha)… he’s a standup guy with a caring heart for others and for Christ.
After the run we headed to dinner. We were presented a beautiful backpack with a water bottle, a journal and letters from a few folks at each of our stores. They sang happy birthday to me, and I got a special dessert… I’m not sure how this birthday will ever be topped. That night we stayed at the beautiful Serenbe, which is a sustainable farm, and I had to share a bed with a girl that I had just met…but it worked out just fine. 🙂
Day 2 – Humbling. Mt. Springer, GA, 4100 ft of elevation, 17 miles.
This day proved to be the hardest for me, and the most impactful and humbling. We woke up in AL, had breakfast at Serenbe and then drove a ways into Georgia to get to our next run.
I was nervous – knowing that I get super dehydrated, I decided to try an electrolyte drink that I had had before, but it had been awhile…and a taste of salt. I would tell my clients – BAD IDEA!! Don’t try something new on days like this. I thought though – it’s not a race…so I should be fine.
We ran somewhere between 17-18 miles and 4100 ft of elevation. Not even half way, I went into what we will call “GI distress” and then over half way, more GI distress coupled with puking. A lot of puking. Like until there was nothing left. Two people got stuck with me and didn’t leave me in the woods during all of this – Julio and Kelly. They saw me at my worst. While I was heaving anything that was in my system out of my body… I thought – I just ran a MARATHON A WEEK AGO at not a slow pace and was FINE, WHAT is wrong with me?!! I was broken down to not much, but they never left me. If I took anything from this trip it was to be reminded of what community really means, and how we are not supposed to make this journey alone. Accept help and support from others – it’s okay.
I feel like God had to break me down – ALL the way down… to where I didn’t have anything left – inside or outside… I’m glad He let me BQ because it gave me the confidence I needed going into this adventure, but I haven’t been that empty, yet that FULL in a very, very long time. It was the epitome of breaking you down to build you up. Needless to say, day 2 was an eye opener. Also, I would like to point out – I wasn’t the only one with “GI distress” and everyone who had it or left their mark on the trail was inducted into the Poop Troop. Hey, you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself, right?!
That night we stayed on a 14-acre house/resort. We grilled out, had a bonfire and s’mores and sat around laughing and telling old stories, making up some new stories, and forging more friendships until about 1am. Thank God I felt fine by then and was able to stomach 2 s’mores. 🙂
The next morning we made a community breakfast, packed up and headed out to our final destination.
Day 3 – Magical. Mt. Mitchell, NC, 3800 ft of elevation, 6 miles.
This was the perfect end to a perfect trip. Steep, technical, rooty, misty, beautiful. I stayed with a group who mostly hiked it, and we enjoyed every second. For it is in these times when you have nothing but everything you need, and friends that share a passion – that you are your true self.
We hiked, we talked, we took pictures, and we made it to the top where it was chilly and foggy. While we were up there, the clouds started to break and blue sky shown through…it was perfect.
We headed back to the cabins, showered up and headed to dinner. At dinner we each stood up and told what the trip had meant to us, and what we learned. The tears started flowing and didn’t stop for quite some time. In fact, not until 2 days later…
Day 4 – Bittersweet. We got up, packed everything up, loaded in and hit the road to a local coffee shop where we had breakfast and then Mandy and I said our goodbyes. More waterworks. My heart was a little broken wondering when I would see these awesome people again, sad that this journey was over, but proud to have been a part of it and excited to see what the future holds with some of these people. Mandy, Sarah and I drove back to Nashville, and Mandy and I cried the whole way while we shared memories of the last few days and moments that opened our eyes. When I had to say goodbye to her – I felt like a little piece of me had left too – THAT is the kind of connection I had with this gal. The connections that all of us made this week were indescribable.
“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” -Fred Rogers
I had many eye-openers this week. Some were by myself in the middle of the woods – where I was left to look at my life and ask myself what I’m missing, what’s holding me back, and be grateful for all that I do have. Some were moments in the bus laughing with everyone, feeling a little car-sick, some were losing anything I had in my system and gaining everything in perspective.
I am so thankful for Lululemon. Most people think it’s just spandex and yoga pants, but this company stands for SO. MUCH. MORE. It’s a way of life, it’s confidence, it’s perseverance, it’s challenge, it’s growth. They push the people involved in the company to be better, to evolve, to seek their dreams and their true potential, to connect with others who share a common life goal and a passion, which is exactly what Elevation was, what it is and I’m sure what it will continue to be…and for that – I am very, very thankful.