Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Welcome Surprises

There are things known, and things unknown. And in between are The Doors." - Jim Morrison

Forced transition. Sudden metamorphosis. Expedited evolution. Accelerated transitional states. Welcome ambiguity. Unexpected rebirth. The inflection points in our lives that, while in the moment, feel like gravity itself has abandoned its rules, and only in retrospect do we realize these are the turning points that shape the core of our being. Can we appreciate these moments devoid of compass or destination? Can we realize that within the stranglehold of numbing shock and anxiety lies the foundational serenity to reflect, deconstruct, embrace, and explore? The Phoenix dies only to rise again, no? And most importantly, can I finally devote the training time to knock off that marathon PR?

In case you haven't picked up on this...I have recently become unemployed again. ;-)

On the spectrum of "YES, FUNemployment! Let's go run every day!" to "Sorry, kids, it's Saltines and ketchup tomato soup for dinner again", I am (gratefully) on the former end of the spectrum this time. But unemployment carves an undeniable hole in your self-worth, no matter how it comes, or how welcome it is received. I always find it fascinating to see how trail running (and other parts of my life) try to fill that hole, and what I can learn about myself by acknowledging the patterns.

I found trail running in 2001, soon after my first bout of unemployment. I was burnt out from the Silicon Valley fast track, lacking life balance, and Mother Nature was happy to provide me with miles of ever-changing terrain to regain my footing. Trail running replenished my soul through hours of exploring, finding my place in nature, and bonding with my dog. I had to find my footing again before climbing the career ladder.

I got back into a new company, but one that struggled to find its way, and it ended in 2005 with some of my peers faulting my performance for not getting the company back on track. Holy crap, do I suck? Ah, the gravel-toned voice of self-doubt. Once again, the trails provided a remedy, but this time through races. Start, finish, all that matters is who is fastest on the day. It was wonderful to have a contest so simple that one could not deny or question the results. I had some good races, some great personal performances, and a supportive group of peers doing the same. I didn't need a job, title, or respect of work peers to acknowledge my worth...I could find fulfilling adventure on any given Saturday.

Soon after, I would be looking to trail running to be the constant in my life rather than a source of boundary stretching. I founded a company early on in the mobile industry, and it turned out to be a career roller coaster of epic proportions. The crazier it got at work (or at home for that matter with kid #1, Sophie Jane), the more I looked to trail running for some consistency. Rain or shine, I could find the same group of humble warriors willing to run a course they had done dozens of times before, if only just to have one more set of great stories to share. Ah, the relief I would feel to know each adventure would start, end, and we could celebrate our achievement! It was my source of perpetual bliss.

My next visit to Unemploymentland came just as kid #2, Quinn, arrived at the scene and forced Christi and I to get some MAD scheduling skills. Once again, trail running was there to help. I could no longer assume long runs would happen on the weekend, or jump into a race the day before since we had "nothing on the schedule". There was ALWAYS something on the schedule, and if it wasn't running, then running wasn't going to happen. When I only had small blocks to train, I wanted to make the most of it and actually train. Guess what? It turns out you get faster. And it feels good to push your potential, both in training and in races. Once again, trail running provided immediate feedback and satisfaction in the whirlwind of life.

So what now? How will trail running help me at this juncture? I guess we will have to wait and see. NYC Marathon is coming up, but it's a bit too close to think about PR's. I am lucky to have my girls as an outlet (cross-training?), and the opportunity to feed my curiosity by working with some very smart people on some amazing technology projects. I guess I'll just find the right pace, enjoy the ride, and see where it takes me.

Hmmm...maybe Mother Nature is already helping out... ;-)

Hope to see y'all on the trails, especially around 11am on a random weekday!

- SD


  1. Joblessness needn't cut a hole in your concept of self. I, for one, am enjoying my own stint to the hilt. Do good stuff that you enjoy and that you think others might enjoy and you'll get repaid in time. This holds true especially in the world of technology.

    From my brief interactions with you in SD, it's clear that you're a sharp, innovative, and resilient individual.

    Enjoy the non-traditional path. Good things will come to you. I'm sure of it.

    1. Thanks, Kieran! I hope I can get as fast as you. ;-)

  2. I will have to say this post really hits home. I wrote a similar post back in June. Last year I lost my job after 12 years with a company 3 months off, employed at another company for five months and let go, out one more month before I ended up at my current company for the last seven months. But running has been a great outlet to overcome the stresses, especially now my kids are old enough to join my wife and I in our runs/races. With your talent you should be back in no time. You can find my post here:

    1. That's a great blog post. Stress sure does introduce a lot of new training obstacles. It sounds like you are back in the swing of things!

  3. On the scale of s#!t happening, unemployment is well down below health problems. Enjoy the extra chances to hit the trails while you can!

    1. So true. I would take unemployment over a bad case of plantar fasciatis any day!

  4. ... and don't forget that you will also have more time on the Duc :-)

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  6. I really needed to read these words, as I was just the victim of restructuring after 7 1/2 years. I too am embracing this as a new adventure. I admit I am excited to do something different, but also embark with some trepidation. I have enjoyed being inspired by your many race recounts and interesting articles and this was the first time I was inspired to write. I would love to connect on some fitness related venture. Keep on running!


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