Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

     After big races, I've been known to go through a bit of a low spell. It seems I get focused on some event for so long that when it's over, regardless of a positive or negative outcome, doldrums hit. Fortunately, I'm not alone in this as several of my friends have expressed similar feelings of "post-partum depression for ultrarunners."


     Fans of the Dan Patrick Show will be familiar with the term "Passion Bucket," coined by UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel.  I love the concept and am reminded of this article speaking to the importance of "maximum enthusiasm." The term is pretty self explanatory, though "Joy Jug," "Vim Vial," or "Bliss Bottle" may be used in substitution. In any case, it seems around this time following a big race, my Oomph Urn is usually empty. Luckily, some time off last week allowed me to return to my southeastern roots, rejuvenate the spirit, and refill my Pep Pail.  


     Since moving to Colorado over three years ago, I've only revisited North Carolina one other time. During this most recent trip, I was able to do a great number of things that geographical distance precludes me from doing at other times of the year. I caught up with folks I hadn't seen in 10 years to celebrate a friend's wedding in Asheville. I spent some valuable time with grandparents and other members of the extended family. I visited the Atlantic Ocean. I wished my brother and his fiancé well as they made their move eastward. I continued working to build an adult relationship with my parents. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I did some running. Not training mind you. But running. On the very first trails I ever plodded over.


I returned to sunlight suffocating rhododendron tunnels on the Mountain to Sea Trail,












to the single-track shrouded by fog, and the half-track overgrown with foliage.













I scrambled across the Looking Glass monolith to peer into the vast emerald sea below,













slid down 60 ft of rock slab to plunge into a mountain pool,


and followed the Art Loeb trail at sunrise in search of Cold Mountain.
























I tip-toed with dad through Nettles that sting and Ivies that poison to show him the joys of trail running,















and cruised barefoot across desolate and then overcrowded stretches of beach until my feet blistered.


Enjoying the moment. Savoring the moments. 


     To some, the Appalachian Mountains are the less impressive brother to the Rockies. They don't offer dizzying vistas or summits with 5-figure altitudes. Intimidating names west of the Mississippi like the Mount Massives and Sawtooth Ridges compete with the gentler, almost comical Grandfather Mountains and Charlie's Bunions of the east. Indeed, the Appalachian Mountains are a more understated range but that does not negate their beauty. Rather, their appeal is merely of a different quality. More intimate than ostentatious.


     This theme has resonated with me and I've found renewed enthusiasm upon my return to Colorado. Though I've signed up for more races and have some exciting adventures brewing, I'm trying not to put them on such a high pedestal and treat them like a "once in a lifetime opportunity." I'm guilty of forgetting this, but in reality, we are treated to a "once in a lifetime opportunity" every day, in all that we do. As such, I'm reminded to take the time to enjoy, and be grateful for my immediate surroundings just as much as those grand vistas.      


    My pitiful attempts at dancing at the wedding left much to be desired. Going to have to study this video carefully before the next opportunity presents itself. Until then, keep that Fervor Flask filled!



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Comment by Katie Benzel on July 25, 2013 at 9:53am

Brandon, thanks for this. The Appalachian Mountains were my first mountain chain, too, and it did me good to see these pictures. :)

Comment by Brandon Stapanowich on July 25, 2013 at 7:53am

Thanks CJ! And good advice!


Comment by CJ Hitz on July 25, 2013 at 7:39am

Great post Brandon!  I wouldn't try the dance moves in that video within the first few weeks after a 100mi race...might pull a hammy :-)

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