Category Archives: running

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!

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

 

In all things

I am honored to have been featured by several news organizations this week. Articles about Climate Run were printed in today’s editions of The Times Argus Newspaper and the Caledonian Record. Earlier this week, Vermont Biz, VT Digger, and USA Running all posted articles about the 2017 Arctic Trail Run.

In the Caledonian Record, I was quoted as saying,

“Climate resilience isn’t about just one intervention, or several. It’s looking at the entanglement of infrastructure, culture, policies, and ecology, and seeing what we can do to not just mitigate our impact but to build more intentional and resilient relationships between social and ecological systems.”

 

“It’s not about saving nature, it’s about saving us,” he said.

“Saving us” is about celebrating individuals, building whole communities, and fostering resilient relationships with one another and across boundary lines. If we can’t do that, then how can we even begin to take meaningful action with respect to our larger world?

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Sometimes it can be pretty hard to be out on a long run. Particularly on a cold mid-winter late afternoon in northern Vermont, it can be hard even to get out the door! But when my body warms up and I embrace the rhythm of the run, I’m reminded nearly every time that running isn’t just about the exertion and a means to push through to the finish.

Rather, I like to think of my running itself as writing a narrative of openness, acceptance, and understanding of my place in this larger world—as I run, I feel boundaries begin to blur, and I find myself on a gradient between self and world.

By looking at the landscape at a small scale—something that running (and walking, and skiing, and so on) almost always requires us to do—we can begin to make our connections to natural places at the same time more dynamic, more entwined, and more resilient.

Anything that underscores the tangible, real physicality of individual and community connections with ecological systems—through sport, endurance, and recreation—can be an essential foundation for meaningful conversations not just about ‘the environment,’ but about our communities and about ourselves.

What do I hope for? For no less than to use my experience to begin writing a new narrative that integrates communities and individuals more intentionally with the ecological future of our world.

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Goals vs. Expectations

I had planned a long run for yesterday, January 1, to start off the New Year — and the Climate Run 500-mile Challenge — on strong footing. Of the 14 or so miles I had planned, I finished just over 6, mostly because despite how stunningly beautiful the alpine scenery along New Hampshire’s Franconia Ridge, the 60 mph wind and 10°F temps added up to a bitter windchill through which I had no intention of running 3 miles of exposed ridgeline.

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Instead, I retreated down the trail to the relative security of the stunted spruce trees on the steep western slope of the ridge and reassessed.

I could keep with my plan and cross the ridge — not particularly wise or safe.

I could go the other direction through deep untracked snow — tried that. Neither fun nor really feasible given my running attire.

I could go back down and run along the snowmobile trail by the road — not really appealing.

Instead, I opted to run back down the Falling Waters Trail to the trailhead and I realized, doing the math as I ducked under branches and around the tight copses of spruce and birch along the trail’s steep upper pitches, that I’d already had a long run/nordic ski day of more than 17 miles only two days before. And the lack of a rest day (unless you count a November Project workout as ‘rest’). And the total week’s run/ski mileage of 53 miles was 20 miles more than the week before.

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I’d started the morning thinking, ‘Sunday…must be a Long Run,’ never really taking stock or reflecting on the depth or the rich variety of my entire week. It was a vacation week for the whole family, and that made the training schedule a lot more flexible — and full of skiing, running, mountains, gym time, and group workouts woven into the fabric of family and celebration.

It was no wonder I was feeling a little tired heading up my New Year’s Day mountain run!

Long term goals structure my year in broad strokes — to run the 500-mile Arctic Trail in August, to run 2017 miles in 2017, to PR a pair of ultramarathons this spring, to train with my Sterling team, and to work with the new Climate Run Team doing the 500-mile challenge.

Sometimes, though, reaching those goals can blind me to what I’m doing day to day. Of course, I keep track of all my workouts and share them on Strava, but occasionally I need (as I think we all need) some perspective.

Climbing a mountain is a great way to find some.

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Climate Run 500-Mile Challenge!

With just over 7 months until the start of the Arctic Trail Run, I want to share the fun of training with everyone else!

I’m also feeling more than a little inspired from yesterday morning’s November Project workout in downtown Boston — training is starting to ramp up, with increasing Sunday long run mileage, scheduled cross training, and some run/ski doubles mid-week — and I want to invite you to join me!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like fitness…

So, I’m inviting you to join the Climate Run Team! Starting on January 1st, 2017, I challenge you to run, walk, or ski 500 miles by August 16th as a way to get moving, get in touch with the world around us, and learn about how we impact the environment, climate, and help build a resilient self and resilient community.

500 miles?!?!

Yep! That comes to about 2.2 miles a day — or about 15 miles each week. See? No problem!

Where do I sign up?

On the Climate Run 500-mile Challenge Facebook Group. Go ahead and join, introduce yourself, make your intention clear and get going 🙂

Do I have to run?

Nope! Human powered activities like walking and nordic / uphill skiing work just fine. The more you can do on trails, the better!

How do I  record my miles?

First, you can record them on your own. I love using my Believe Training Journal to help me get a handle on my progress, and the prompts are really great.

Second, join the Climate Run Strava Group to record your miles and see how everyone else is doing.

Post goals, pictures, and inspirations on Climate Run Facebook Page to share your accomplishments!

Is that it? What else do I do? 

The mission of Climate Run is to engage bodily movement as a way to build resilience in the face of a changing climate. 

What does this mean? It means that by participating, you commit to learning about the impacts of climate change and sharing what you learn — both through your physical engagement with the world as you move toward your 500-mile goal — *and*  through what you read, see, and learn about the climate.

Why August 16th, 2017?

That’s the day I plan to reach the end of the Arctic Trail in Kautekeino, Norway, having run the 500 miles from Sulitjelma.

Will it cost anything?

Nope! Just a little time and dedication. Of course, if you choose to support the Climate Run project, that’d be awesome. And, in a few short weeks, there’ll be all kinds of great stuff you could get to show your support — including 100% recycled shirts from Atayne & Vermont-made hats from Skida.

Any other rules?

Not really. Just that your walk / run / ski is intentional and not just incidental as part of your everyday routine. Can you bike? Of course! I love biking. But those miles don’t count as part of your 500. Just walking, running, and skiing.

I’m super excited to share the training and goal-setting with as many people as possible! The more people who are involved in this project, the more we can change the story of climates, communities, and

Also, in a self-serving way, having partners helps me to stay focused and motivated on this long, long-term goal!

More soon!

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