Friday, June 28, 2013

Toughin' It Out : Tough Mudder Whistler 2013

Photograph by Stephanie Martin, Seven Photography © 2013

“Obstacles are placed in our way to see if what you want is really worth fighting for.”
And the Tough Mudder orange head band was definitely one worth the fight.

Having trekked 18 kilometres through mountainous terrain and overcoming 20 mentally & physically enduring obstacles that included tanks of ice, trenches of mud, pools of water, walls of fire, or tall objects to climb…you now know that the coveted Tough Mudder orange head band means more than just showing up and crossing the electrically charged finish line. It represents mental grit, determination, and/or physical stamina. To me, it meant that and just a little bit more.

After four months of training 2-4 days a week with fitness coaches, I felt physically ready. My colleague, Dan, also decided to join me which helped eased any fears I had of running it alone.

Photograph by Stephanie Martin, Seven Photography © 2013

On event day so many emotions and thoughts raced through my head; I was nervous, excited, and a little scared but quitting wasn't an option. I was at the point of no return and the best I could do was put one foot in front of the other and deal with whatever I was going to deal with when I got to them.

That’s exactly what happened when I got to the second obstacle, the Arctic Enema. Dan and I jumped into waist deep ice water but I couldn't get up the nerve to dunk my head under water, under a wood plank, to pass to the other side – despite Dan’s encouragement. I couldn't stay in any longer so I got out and broke down wondering how I would ever get through the rest of the course. My fellow Mudders, including Dan, expressed their support and not to worry about it. But of course, I was disappointed in the fact I wasn't able to follow through.

Photograph by Stephanie Martin, Seven Photography © 2013

On our jog to the next obstacle, Dan gave me some great advice, “Forget that obstacle. Let’s get ready for the next one. You should never live life looking back because you’ll never see what’s in front of you at that moment.” Then I realized it wasn't just that obstacle I was looking back at, I had been looking back at many past mistakes wondering what I could have done different.  It was as if at that moment, I turned around and started looking ahead of me and I was going to give the next obstacles my all.

The next 8 obstacles were challenging but luckily not as mentally taxing as the Arctic Enema. I finally felt like I was in a groove and had hit my stride…until I came to the Electric Eel. I had seen this one before near the start line and it didn’t look fun. A 20-foot long shallow pool of water with a multitude of live wires, just inches above that you had to crawl through. There was no way to avoid them. I was terrified. My head went to the scariest scenario I could imagine and stayed there.  I could not mentally overcome the thought of being electrocuted in water and I broke down - again. At that point, I considered skipping it but I knew I would have regretted not pushing my limits. After all, that’s what we were there to do. I was then reminded of what my Grade 12 art teacher once told me when I went to him for advice about dropping out of art school; He said, “Look at all the work you did, and have done, to get to this point. Don’t throw it all away. At least get your diploma, then decide if that’s the direction you want to take.” Based on his advice, I stuck it out and became the graphic designer I am today.

While the Electric Eel may not have been as life-changing as that ‘art school’ moment, I knew that if I didn't do it I would have regretted not trying. So after 15 minutes and some coaching from Dan and a few of the Tough Mudder staff, I dove into the shallow pool of water and moved as fast as I could thinking that with each inch forward, I was that much closer to the end. On the other side, Dan was there to high five me and I felt I had just finished climbing the highest mountain. But then it hit me…that was just the half-way point.

With new-found confidence I pressed on, knowing I wouldn't have to tackle that one again. It could only get better from here. By that point, my mental grit was getting stronger but my physical body was taking a toll. Up steep inclines, hurdling over large tree roots, navigating miles of thigh-deep mud, I wondered how my body would hold up. Having gone from no physical challenge (aside from my training) to Tough Mudder, it was no surprise my body screamed at me to stop. Slowly but surely, I kept going. If Dan had to drag me across that finish line, I was going to get there.

A kilometer away from the finish, we could hear the music and crowds, I could smell the beer, I could feel the warmth of that orange head band across my forehead, but we still had one obstacle to pass before all that good stuff – Electroshock Therapy. Yes…more electrocution. Dan and I stood a few feet away arm-in-arm, looked at the end point, and ran like hell through the muddy pathway being stung by electric shocks. I even got elbowed in the face from the girl beside me being electrocuted but I didn't care. We finished!!

Photograph by Stephanie Martin, Seven Photography © 2013

After exchanging a heartfelt hug and congratulations, we walked up to get our orange head band and throw back a refreshing free beer. We were also able to connect back up with our supporter, photographer, and friend Stephanie for some celebrations. We could finally relax and reflect on what we had to go through to get here; Demons were tackled, bruises were earned, new bonds of friendship were formed. In addition to that, Tough Mudder not only represented that achievement, it meant a shift in perspective, better physical health, and overcoming the notion this was something I could never do. It made me wonder how else I could surprise myself.

That, in itself, is always worth fighting for.

Photograph by Stephanie Martin, Seven Photography © 2013

The black and blue aftermath... 

 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Am I Tough Enough?


It feels like it was yesterday that I was preparing myself for a trip of a lifetime; finalizing my train itinerary, booking tickets to museums & galleries, trying not to over think and listen to that little voice in my head that said 'what exactly do you think you are doing?'

Well, it would appear I'm back in that place again. Although this time the focus isn't on a trip abroad but a physical and mental trip leading up to the toughest event on the planet; Tough Mudder.

While this was an event I broadly heard about through friends and colleagues, it never once entered my mind that I should, would, or could do it. I hated PE in high school, I dislike playing any kind of sport, and was far from - what one would call - athletic, so why the hell would I have any business or interest in such an event? As time passed though, I got a little more curious about it and realized this was not only an event to test ones physical abilities but mental ones as well. In essence, this was a challenge people took on to push themselves and face fears rather than do it for sport or to win a trophy for being the best. This fact, alone, intrigued me.

Could I train & live up to the challenge? Would I be disciplined enough? Would I face my fears & do it anyways? So...I registered! Now I have no choice.

Taking my trip last year was one of the best experiences of my life. Leading up to it, there was a lot of doubt & fear swirling about in my mind like a bad storm on the horizon. People around me said, 'Wow, I would never do that. Scary!' But, despite the voices, the fears, and all the reasons not to, I kept on. That, in itself, was a challenge. Actually being in Europe and living in the moment...that was the easy part!

And that's what it's all about isn't it? The expectations and anticipation are generally more scary than reality. If only we could hush those voices, doubts, and fears more often and listen to our hearts more. Where would that take us? How different would our lives be?

Well, I will find out eventually. A month into training for this new adventure, I am already wondering what it is I got myself into. After almost dying in my very first training session, having an unpleasant encounter with a trainer who thought I had no place being there, and friends who wonder why I would put myself through such torture, I have every reason to believe the little voice in my head that says 'Ok, enough. Time to get back to reality.' But that other voice says 'Keep going!'. And each time I do, it gets a little better. Surprisingly enough too, I'm actually enjoying the process of training, working towards something, and physically seeing the change in my body in the meantime. I can see why some get addicted!

Despite my optimism, I know training will get more intense and I will have many more reasons - I'm sure - to be discouraged and quit. But knowing what great things came from my trip abroad, I will carry that knowledge with me through Tough Mudder - or atleast leading up to it - and push through. This too shall pass so, again, it's time to make the most of the moment while it's here and peel back yet another layer of the onion to find out what lies just beneath the surface.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Order up!

I'm happy to announce that Travels of a Free Spirit - Europe 2012 (the book) is ready for the world to see! Since landing in Vancouver, I have been plugging away at it slowly but surely and am excited to finally be able to share it with you.

The design approach was to take my audience on a 'journey' through the book as if they were travelling with me through Europe; Moving, experiencing, discovering, and uncovering. To achieve this, I kept the design clean and simple with focus on large photographs and journal entries. Can't forget the lovely white space I weaved in there to give ones eye a break and the supporting quotes to further inspire a potential journey of your own.

Creating this one has inspired me to create more photobooks that capture a more unique perspective of life so we'll see what other editions I decide to put out there in 2013.

Enjoy!

To purchase, please follow this link:
http://www.blurb.ca/bookstore/detail/3831883

Monday, August 13, 2012

Happy New Year!

While some people's "fresh start" comes with ringing in a new year, mine will come with my one year anniversary of being single - which happens to fall a couple of days after my birthday. And yes, I'll be celebrating - damn skippy! - but I'll also be reflecting on the year that has past and the year ahead.

At the beginning of my "new year", I was in a hole so deep, I sought therapy to try to get out of it. My heart had been shattered along with my hopes, dreams, and my direction. Who was I? What was I going to do with the rest of my life? How will I survive without my life partner? When you lose someone you consider to be your best friend and who you hold so closely to your heart, it feels like the world as you know it, has just ended.

As the months went by, I slowly picked up the pieces and (as you know) I decided that this would be the year that I would explore, make bad decisions, take risks, try new things, and get out of my comfort zone - along with getting out of my own way. Reflecting on that year, I can see where all of that has taken me, all it has taught me, all of the people it has opened me up to. From terrible choices and shameful mistakes (which I will not publicize) to euphoria's and moments of pride & gratitude, I have finally got back the person I had really lost...me.

Of course this anniversary, makes me think of my ex - who (according to a source) is happily in a new relationship. They seem to be a lot more compatible than we ever were too. Had this been months ago, I would have wondered "why not me?" but now I can't help but say "I'm truly happy for them." Being out in the dating world, I know the challenges of finding someone who you click with and is looking for the same things you are in life so I can honestly say, "Good for them" without being snide or hateful. I never thought I'd feel that way - EVER - so it's nice to know I'm moving past the hurt I once felt and wishing him the best in life. That comes with knowing who you are, what you really want, and of course, time. Had we met now, I hate to say, I probably wouldn't pursue a relationship with him due to the fact we want & need different things. Hindsight's a bitch.

I also realized, I didn't have to become single to do the things I wanted to do. Nor does anyone. I just had to be brave enough to choose it, to take the steps to achieve it, to not let anyone stop me. It's a tough thing to seize moments that you have always feared to face. I was lucky enough to get that window of opportunity.

"Sometimes we are forced in a direction we ought to have found on our own. What we do, does not define who we are. What defines us is how well we rise after falling."

So with this new year, I will ring it in with some good cheer, good friends & family, and with a whole new list of things to do, see, and learn.

The biggest epiphany of the year: Sometimes our biggest hurts are our best lessons.
And that life is one big irony.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Travels of a Free Spirit : The Book

Since landing in Gastown a few weeks ago, it has been a whirlwind of adventure and exploration. The European traveller in me has been reawakened and I am thoroughly enjoying the perks of being so close to so many amenities and friends, and truly appreciating my short, 10-minute walk to work.

While my weekdays are mostly filled with work, my evenings (during the week) are open to exploring the neighbourhood, shopping, sitting in cafes. My weekends tend to be a little more lively, venturing to other parts of Vancouver, having dinners, drinks, and letting lose at a dance club with friends. Life as a local is so carefree, simple, spontaneous; Everything my free spirit could have asked for.

With the spare time I have, I will be concentrating my efforts on a travel book that is a compilation of my journal entries, blog posts, and photos. And if all goes well with this one, I hope to create a Gastown edition.

But for now, here is a sneak peak of the intro page of the Europe 2012 book.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Home sweet home

There was a time not so long ago where I never felt settled in my home life. I never felt like I could kick my shoes off and relax the way I really wanted to, have friends over when I wanted, decorate how I wanted. The places I rented always felt "borrowed" and temporary - as if any minute we'd be picking up and moving somewhere else.

I absolutely hated this feeling.

I remember last spring I woke up one morning and said to my ex, "Let's get rid of everything and start fresh." Of course he didn't feel the same and felt it was wasteful or, worse, crazy. My justification was, "We'd be donating or selling everything so we really had nothing to lose." He still didn't get why we needed to put ourselves through all that hassle. Then again, he was always the logical (safe) one. Whereas me...well, I have crazy ideas and tend to follow them. In art class (for example), I would spend hours on a painting, see it to completion, and then white wash it so I could start again. For the record, my second "go" was far better than the first.

But I digress...

My point of view at the time was that the furniture we had been using, came from relationships past - hand-me-downs from a time when we didn't have the cash to buy something WE liked. We were older now, years into the relationship, and had some cash reserves in the bank. I felt it was about time to start building our home life the way we wanted. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we never got there.

Funny enough though, a year later, I still felt that need of cleansing myself and starting from scratch. So I did and decided Gastown would be where I settled. Not only is it minutes from work but it's around the corner from some of the best eating, drinking, and shopping spots in town. I start to wonder why I didn't do it before. But I know why I didn't and it's ok. The point is, I'm here now and I can't put to words how amazing it feels to be in a place that suits me so well. From the cobblestone streets to the colourful characters who roam those same streets, nothing has felt more right. It's eclectic, it's artistic, it's vibrant, it's home. Finally.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One step at a time

In Europe I was taught to put one foot in front of the other instead of my usual pace of jumping leaps and bounds. There was really no other option but to live moment to moment.

Turns out this is true in life as well. Who knew?!

As my furniture was being taken away on Saturday, I noticed my cat was exhibiting some strange behaviour; Coughing, laboured breathing, panting. At first I thought it just might be a really bad hairball but since he hadn't touched his food, I knew it wasn't. After calling the vet to explain the symptoms, they told me to bring him in ASAP so I packed him up and flew to the ER clinic in a cab.

At the ER, they rushed him to the back while the front desk took my information. I had no idea what was happening but I got the sense it wasn't good. A few minutes later, the vet gave me a quote on what it would cost to diagnose his potential heart condition and get him back to good health since he was in very critical condition. I looked at the large number and was shocked at how much a little animal costs to heal. Even still, money was no object as I didn't know what the issue was so I agreed to carry through with treating and properly diagnosing him. It took all night and most of the next day to successfully stabilize his condition and be diagnosed with congestive heart failure. It's something he was born with, is 100% irreversible, and will shorten his life greatly. Luckily, he can still live a couple more happy years with the help of a daily medication. As she continued to explain everything I had to do to keep him in good health, I was overwhelmed to the point where I felt I was being buried alive. This little life was in my hands - literally. Without his daily heart pill, he will die. Talk about pressure!

My cat wasn't the only thing running through my head; I had just rid myself of ALL of my furniture. With the rest of my money going to take care of my Tucker, I had no monies left for new furniture. I was furniture-less - of my own doing too.

It's been an emotional few days but such as life I guess. Change is always hard - no matter what form it comes in - so I will embrace this adversity as I have previously and look forward to the opportunity to learn and grow stronger from it - one step at a time.