What do we love?

On my morning run today, knowing I might need some external motivation, I listened to last year’s interview with Sally McRae by Julia Hanlon on Julia’s Running on Om podcast. My tired legs may have yielded somewhat slower miles on that run, but Sally’s thoughtful reflections on her Western States 100 training led me onward through my 12 miles, and brought my thinking inward to reflect on this question: what do we love?

Some answers come easily.

    

Some do not.

The more I run, the more I seem to have conversations about things like passion and purpose, goals and direction.

Most recently, I told a friend that I wasn’t yet done becoming who I wanted to be. On reflection, what I think I really meant was, ‘I haven’t yet done all I can to be the best person I can be, and I want to take my time and enjoy the ride.’

We all follow very different paths, for sure, but for me it has often been a literal path — frequently uphill, nearly always layered with soil and lichen-covered stones, under a sky that is more often than not threatening rain.

What we all share, however, is that there is a path. And even when look ahead to see what’s next (I mean, of course we do!), it is the act of being on the path — and learning to acknowledge and love every step along the way — that is essential to keep us both rooted and moving forward. To quote a dog from a book that helped me through a particularly challenging moment in my life, “that which you manifest is before you.

When I ran in the 7.6-mile race up the Mount Washington Auto Road with some of our student-athletes, staff, and friends last weekend, I could not have been more proud to see my students come up the last 22% grade to the finish line — I could see them becoming more confident, becoming more self-assured, and becoming stronger with every. tired. step.

As I start the last hard training block for my Arctic Trail run, I have to keep my eyes steadfastly on today — on this run, this mile, this training session — while also planning for the 500-mile adventure I have ahead of me. Balancing those two — the moment and the thing-that-comes-next — is, for me, one of the hardest parts of training.

But it helps answer my question:

I believe we have to love the process of becoming — whatever path we choose to follow.

The Sterling Skyrunner extended family atop Mount Washington

progression

Dragon and I finished up a long training block yesterday with a run back and forth across the Presidential Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains — earning a 1000 mile badge from Run the Year 2017 and racking up a classic 8-week progression.

 

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Never before have I cherished an upward trending graph so much. 🙂

This week will see something of a decrease in mileage and vertical feet in preparation for Saturday’s Mount Washington Road Race. I’ve completed this race 4 times before, and I’m cautiously optimistic about my training this time around. Now it’s mostly up to weather, wind, and hydration.

After that, it’s 4 weeks until wheels up to Scandinavia!

I celebrated my run with Dragon by making a little video 🙂

Still looking for ways to help support Climate Run?

There are three ways!!

  1. Head on over to Atayne’s Climate Run Store and buy an Arctic Trail shirt. $10 from each sale goes directly to support Climate Run.
  2. Buy a Climate Run Skida Hat! Choose from all sorts of colors and sizes. Use my PayPal donation page to make your purchase & I’ll be in touch about styles. $15 from each sale goes to support Climate Run!
  3. Donate directly through the Climate Run GoFundMe Page!

8 Weeks until the Arctic Trail Run & Matching Fundraiser!

On the morning of August 1st, I’m planning to head out from Sulitjelma, Norway on the Nordkalottruta, bound for the Swedish border and my first campsite midway between the two lakes, Vastenjaure and Akkajaure, approximately 40 miles beyond the start of the trail.

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Vastenjaure photo by Magnus / salgo1960

With only 8 weeks to go, I’m settled into a training routine of between 60 and 70 miles of running a week, with a few short races remaining on the schedule for June and July. Combine that with cross-training, logistic planning, and working out the kinks in my camping setup, and suddenly there’s a whole lot to do!!

I was very excited to receive a Live Your Dream grant from the American Alpine Club late last month, and, in these final weeks of planning and prep, I am hoping to match the $750 from the AAC to complete my fundraising in advance of the Arctic Trail Run.

How can you help?

There are three ways!!

  1. Head on over to Atayne’s Climate Run Store and buy an Arctic Trail shirt. $10 from each sale goes directly to support Climate Run.
  2. Buy a Climate Run Skida Hat! Choose from all sorts of colors and sizes. Use my PayPal donation page to make your purchase & I’ll be in touch about styles. $15 from each sale goes to support Climate Run!
  3. Donate directly through the Climate Run GoFundMe Page!

I am so grateful to those who have already supported Climate Run: Sterling College, The Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Skida, Atayne, The Catamount Trail Association, The Northwoods Stewardship Center, Protect Our Winters, The Craftsbury General Store, Adventure Scientists, and many other organizations and individuals.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

We’ll Always Have Paris

When the Paris Climate Accord was first made public in late 2015, I wrote that some of my greatest hopes for the agreement were not necessarily in the non-binding limits to greenhouse gasses, but in the language describing the role of people — social systems, communities, traditional knowledge, and indigenous cultures.

You can read these two paragraphs below — but in the meantime, as the  President has decided to singlehandedly withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, it is increasingly important to make change on the local and regional level and commit to doing what we can as individuals, communities, educational institutions, businesses, and local governments.

As of today, 10 governors, 82 mayors, and many business leaders, colleges, and universities have joined together to continue to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement”

We must take the lead to demonstrate that individual action can have a substantial and tangible impact, despite sweeping political pronouncements. There are many resources available to you:

Call your governor, mayor, or city council.

Talk with local businesses.

Make your voice heard.

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If you’re interested in reading more, the two sections I am most drawn to in the Paris Agreement are, one, Article 7, Paragraph 5:

Parties acknowledge that [climate] adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.

The second is Article 12:

Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.

Article 7 recommends a decision-making process vastly different from the one we are engaged in here in the U.S.: an inclusive, “participatory and fully transparent” process that acknowledges the complexities of climate issues and their roots in a combined system of social, economic, and ecological practice.

Article 12, in its entirely, is dedicated to a participatory education process and demonstrating the vital role played by individuals and the diverse communities affected by climate change–and not simply those largely responsible for it.

 

 

Reindeer and Climate Change

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During my run north along the Arctic Trail in August, I will pass through substantial sections of Norway, Sweden, and Finland en route to Kautokeino from Sulitjelma.

The trail’s 500 miles, which traverses much ofSápmi, the homeland of the Sami, can be divided according to countries, border crossings, biomes, topography, habitations, and, maybe most interesting, by reindeer herding districts. The route I’m following passes through 25 separate named herding districts, each of which supports the structure of a complex and dynamic cultural/ecological Sami tradition of herding semi-domesticated reindeer.

As I’ve been tracing the Arctic Trail on its route through much of  the different districts in Norway, Sweden, and Finland (the full list is at the end of this post), I have been falling in love with the names — the language delineating placenames, relationships, and a complex system of ecologies, cultural customs, tradition, regulation, and contemporary political boundaries.

The principal goals of the multi-year Climate Run project are to

(1) bear witness to changing ecologies and cultures in the face of a rapidly changing climate

(2) cultivate conversation and build community around climate resilience

(3) change the narrative about climate change from one of resistance to one of resilience.

One way that I plan to engage in these conversations is by understanding the impact of climate change on reindeer herds across Sápmi as well as Sami adaptations to traditional practices made necessary by ecological change. Reindeer herding has been and continues to be an essential component of Sami identity, economy, and cultural tradition. By some accounts, up to 40% of all of Norway’s land is open to reindeer herding, and there are an estimated 700,000 reindeer across three northern Scandinavian countries. With a Sami population of just over 58,000, that’s more than 10 reindeer per individual!

Sami herders have already noticed significant changes in foraging patterns and the predictability of seasonal changes, which has led to an actual decrease in individual reindeer size — for example an average 12% weight loss over the past 16 years among reindeer in Svalbard.

Heikki Hirvasvuopio describes the problem on the mainland this way:

During autumn times, the weather fluctuates so much, there is rain and mild weather.This ruins the lichen access for the reindeer. In some years this has caused massive loss of reindeers. It is very simple – when the bottom layer freezes, reindeer cannot access the lichen. This is extremely different from the previous years. This is one of the reasons why there is less lichen. The reindeer has to claw to force the lichen out and the whole plant comes complete with roots. It takes . . . extremely long for a lichen to regenerate when you remove the roots of the lichen.

As we move into a political era of renewed climate change skepticism, and, as of this writing, the U.S.’s continuing role in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement is doubtful, it’s ever more important to demonstrate the real tangible impacts of a changing climate on not only global systems but on something as simple — yet devastating — as a reindeer’s ability to reach its food source — and the far-reaching impact this regional issue can have.

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Here’s a listing of the twenty-five herding districts along the Arctic Trail, listed from South to North through Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

Sjonkfjell
Svaipa
Semisjaur-Njarg
Luokta Måvas
Tuorpon
Hellemo
Frostisen
Skjomen
Sirkas
Sörkaitum
Baste
Girjas
Laevaas
Gabna
Altevatn
Dividalen
Tamok/Rosta
Talma
Saarivuoma
Lainiovuoma
Könkämä
Käsivarsi
Cohkolat ja Biertavárri
Fávrrosorda
Guovdageainnu cakcaorohat

Live Your Dream

I am super excited to share with everyone that the American Alpine Club has awarded me a Live Your Dream grant for the 2017 Arctic Trail Run.

The goals of the grant, which is supported by The North Face and other regional organizations, are to empower athletes “to dream big, to grow, and to inspire others.”

I am honored and humbled to have this support to help me build on my dream & share my experience as widely as possible.  I’m also excited to be an ambassador for the AAC during the process of this year’s run.

I wrote in my application back in February:

The goal of completing the 500-mile Arctic Trail Run in 12 days will push my abilities as a mountain and trail runner beyond anything I have experienced before. In doing so, I will also be able to draw increased attention to the critical issues facing cultures and ecological systems around the world from our changing climate.

The main goals of the Arctic Trail Run are:

  • Bearing witness to climate change
  • Fostering individual and community resilience
  • Working to change the narrative about climate change from resistance to resilience.

Thank you to everyone for the ongoing support — only 1,675 hours left before the run starts on August 1st!

Goals

One of the season’s first forays onto dry trails at Cady Hill, Stowe, Vermont


With the transition from the spring to summer semesters here at Sterling College, the trails have dried out, the sun rises earlier, and it’s been easier to find a few more hours in the week to focus on training. The Sterling running team has started 5:00 am summer practices three times each week, which has helped add more miles and more hill workouts into my weekly regimen.

Some students are starting out and running trails for the first time, some training for the upcoming Mount Washington Road Race, and some have longer term goals. Each person’s goals are unique, of course — from running a mile to completing a race to running across a small (or medium-sized!) country — the actual goal doesn’t matter.

What matters more is that we find meaning and intention in the goals we do build, and keep close those whose strength can help support us. A good friend recently asked me how I could find such focus on resilience and hope. So much so that my vehicle for doing so — running — has become a central part of my life — and the processes of training, planning, organizing, mentoring, and sharing stories of both adventure and climate.

When I leave for Norway in mid-July, I know that I’ll have the support of family, friends — so many new friends who have helped to support this work. I’m looking forward to meeting with new friends along the Arctic Trail and during stops in Svalbard, Tromsø, Bodø, Kautokeino, and elsewhere.

My goal, huge as it may seem, is at its heart really simple: I am just trying to figure out the best way that I can contribute to building meaningful communities and having thoughtful conversations.

And running has become a way for me to do just that.

From a recent training run on Mount Elmore, Vermont

The Intensity of Experience

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Running the last stretch to Cadillac Mountain’s summit

We’ve all been there — a few extra moments to linger on a mountaintop, taking the long way home, waiting for the sunset, or staying one more night before heading home from an adventure.

It can be hard to admit when our cherished, blissful, and sometimes profound and life changing moments end and it’s time to let go and move on to the next thing. But they never really leave us, of course; our memories of places, people, the colors of the sky, the taste of salt in the ocean, the feel of wind against your skin, the sounds of songbirds — the places not only all persist within us, but they grow like the first green shoots of trout lily and trillium spear through the matted layers of last year’s leaves — blossoming radiantly precisely when they’re ready and needed.

This past weekend, a contingent of Sterling’s Skyrunners and I made the 6-hour trek to visit our friends at the College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island. We all made new friends and spent hours together running up and down granite outcroppings, ledges, and summit with names like Conner’s Nubble, South Bubble, Huguenot Head, Champlain, and Cadillac.

And of course, we ran across Sand Beach together 🙂

Sometimes it seems as if leaving something so profound only to return to our quotidian routine is to somehow slough off the very things we sought in the first place. We are nothing if not made up of these moments, but they grow stronger still if we share them — share the stories of our summits, scrambles over rocky ledges, and (really, really quick) swims in a cold northern sea.

If adventure is a way to meet the world head-on and see how we become permeable to the vast complexity of the nonhuman — then giving voice to those adventures, however small or grand they may be, is a way to build communities of compassionate, reflective, and engaged individuals who understand that there is only this one world we share, and every day we share the adventure of living here, together.

 

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The COA Black Fly Runners and Sterling Skyrunners on Sand Beach, Acadia NP

 

Skida Hats! A new way to support Climate Run

I’m super excited to have partnered with Skida to bring you lightweight Climate Run hats in so many amazing spring colors. Each hat is made right here in Vermont by the fantastic folks at Skida, and each one has a sewn Climate Run label so you can show your support.

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These are perfect for cold morning & evening workouts and are a cool way of joining the Climate Run team and showing your support. Want one? Just head over to my Paypal donation page. Each hat is $30, and once you click submit, I’ll be in touch and get your color preference & shipping info.

If you want to add more to help cover postage, or are just feeling extra generous, please feel free 🙂

Note that there are two different sizes: Women’s, which are a bit smaller and men’s, which are larger. The snowflake Skida logo denotes the women’s styles and the mountain logo the men’s.

Thanks so much!

3,000 hours

There are just under 3,000 hours left before I set out on my 500-mile run on the Arctic Trail in northern Scandinavia in August. I like thinking about the time in hours: I can visualize and wrap my mind around an hour pretty easily, whereas 4 months can seem a lifetime away.

If I think about the hours I spend training each week and the hours it takes to plan out this event, then thinking in hours gives me perspective, gives me pause, and also motivates and inspires me to make the most of each and every one of those hours.

But, I won’t spend all of them training (or racing 😉 ).

will work hard to balance an increasingly intense training schedule with spending time with my wife and son, teaching, coaching, playing with our dogs, and taking care of myself.

I am an athlete, ultrarunner, and advocate for climate resilience, but I am also human, and sometimes that’s what is most important to remember.


Today, for example, Orion (my 12-year old son) and I teamed up with one of his friends to take 7th place in the 6th annual Mud ‘n Ice Quadrathlon (a local affair consisting of a 9k nordic ski, 4.5-mile run, 3-mile paddle, and 11-milebike). My week’s mileage may have taken a dip, but I wouldn’t have traded the day for anything else.