Category Archives: team

Ambition

I completed my 12th ultramarathon race last weekend — the 32 mile TARC Fells Winter Ultra Trail Race just north of Boston, MA. It wasn’t my fastest race (not by far), but I had fun, finished it in good style, and was honored to share the experience with 5 of my student athletes from Sterling, each of whom pushed themselves to meet or exceed the goals they had set for themselves. They have so much to be proud of, and had a great close to the season.

Each year at about this time, I start seriously planning the coming year’s adventures — poring over maps, reading descriptions, checking airfares. The snow has started falling in earnest, and I’ve already been out skiing nearly a dozen times with the anticipation of dozens more.

But I can’t help but think, where will running take me in 2018? 

Sometimes looking forward, though, means looking both inward and back.

When I was first hired at Sterling College in 2006, I had the honor to work with Will Wootton, the College’s President from 2006-2012, and this week I had the great fortune to attend a reading of Will’s new book, Good Fortune Next Time, which weaves together heartfelt stories of horse-packing and wrangling with the administration of small New England colleges.

Just after I left the bookshop, I turned on the overhead light in my truck and paged through the index to see if I had made it into the book somewhere, and there I was, on the top of page 198.

I was floored. I beamed. I smiled broadly to myself.

Then my heart started to settle. Deep into the pit of my insecurities.

Was I really those things? Was I still that person? Did the words of this man, whose opinion I valued so much and whose perspective I so deeply appreciated, match with the person into whom I had grown in the years since he hired me as dean in 2007?

Ambitious. That word stands out more than any other on that page. It’s also the word with the most subjective meaning. Many people look at the kinds of things I do and can’t even begin to understand the drive to run hundreds of miles at a stretch or to connect running, teaching, advocacy, and love of the wildness of far-flung places to help build some sort of climate resilience.

Yet.

In its etymology, ambition refers to the ambit, the circuit one walks in order to achieve a goal (or solicit votes, support, or some distinction). Quite literally, then, endurance running is the very definition of ambition.

It’s often very easy for me to convince myself that the goals I set for myself are largely insignificant.

So, what will 2018 bring? Sharing that will have to wait. First off, I’m taking December off from training — the first extended break from active training since 2014. It feels important right now to step back and take in the larger picture and figure out how I can match my drive for doing with being the best person I can be.

Come January, I think I’ll be ready to see what ambit awaits.

Climate Run — Here we go!

Tomorrow morning I leave from the southern terminus of the Nordkalottleden just north of the old mountain mining town of Sulitjelma. Nearly a year of preparation – physical, logistical, mental, financial – all lead to this singular effort: to run the 800 kilometers of the Nordkalottleden in good style, with reasonable speed, and without injury or incident.

You can follow my progress on my online map here.

I could not have made it this far without the support I’ve had through the past year of training and preparation. I’m grateful beyond words to so many, and I am inspired by the dozens of people running and walking along with me for the next two weeks. I can hardly wait to get back and share all the stories!

But first, there’s work to be done.

See you all soon ❤

P

 

Ready? …Set? …Run!

The countdown is on — wheels up for Scandinavia on July 16th, and Climate Run 2017 gets underway on the morning of August 1st!

We’ve been scouring online and paper maps of Norway, Sweden, and Finland to make sure every one of the 800 kilometers is accounted for.

Much of the trail is visible in hi-res satellite photos, but it often disappears in low-lying woodlands and snowier highlands. Regardless, Den Norske Turistforening (DNT)Svenska Turistföreningen, and luontoon.fi all have fantastic map resources, which have been helpful in plotting daily mileage goals.

The Arctic Trail Google map is shared and accessible, too.

Those goals right now average 35 miles per day, with a long day of 41.6 and a short day of 30.6 over 12 days. However, only ground-truthing the route will reveal the reality of what I’ve spent month planning; there are just too many variables to try to account for everything in a schedule.

Join the 2017 Climate Run! 

Support and enthusiasm for this project have really helped to motivate the long weeks of training over the past year — from the 500-mile challenge to generous donations and in-kind support — and I’d love to keep folks involved even more while I’m on the run.

I will be running for 12-14 days starting on August 1st, and I’m inviting everyone who is able to run at least a little every day that I’m on the trail.

You don’t need to run 35 miles a day (but of course you can…), but here are some suggestions:

  • If you don’t usually run, try to run or walk at least two miles a day (28 miles total)
  • If you already run regularly, try to run 5 miles a day (70 miles total)
  • If you’re a marathon/ultramarathoner, how about 10 miles a day (140 miles total)

Whatever you choose to do, just

  1. Drop a #verbal and commit to participating — setting goals and having group accountability really works!
  2. Post updates, share your progress, and let people know what you’re doing and why!
  3. Check in on how Pavel is doing 🙂

I’m looking forward to having as many running partners as I can when I set off on August 1st! 

Thanks so much to LLB for this great idea 🙂 

 

 

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

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!

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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pride

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The Sterling Skyrunners competed at the Wolf Hollow Half Marathon and 5k this past Sunday — with Sterling runners placing 2nd, 8th, 11th, and others finishing in the top 20 and placing in their age groups. I ran a solid but relatively conservative race myself — taking more pride in seeing so many of my students push themselves up to and even beyond what they thought were their limits that day.

I am honored and humbled to be in a place where I can not only direct the program and coach the team but also spend my time training alongside some very gifted student-athletes.

When people ask me why I take on projects like Climate Run: Iceland last year or running the Arctic Trail next summer — and how I keep going through all the training and all the miles — these students are my greatest inspiration. I hope that I’m able to give them a little in return.

 

 

 

local steps & global reach

I was honored to give talks about Climate Run: Iceland at both Sterling College and at the Whitney Center in Jackson, NH over the past month — with great conversations and new ideas at every turn!

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While continuing to talk about Iceland and my upcoming 2017 Arctic Trail Run in Scandinavia, I’ve been ramping up the running with Sterling’s Trail, Mountain, Ultra Running Team. This coming weekend, 14 of us are headed to the Wolf Hollow 5k and half marathon in southern New Hampshire, and in two weeks, we will travel to Massachusetts to compete in the TARC Winter Fells 32 mile ultra run.

It’s super exciting to work with so many talented and passionate young runners — to help them reach their training or racing goals, sharing new experiences, and often, just trying to keep up!  Sterling is a small enough college that I see many of our student-athletes on the trails as well as in class and elsewhere on campus, and I love how often a conversation about running will be relevant in an environmental philosophy class — and vice versa.

Trying to keep pace with a team of 19 to 29-year-old runners totally inspires me to get stronger — and it’s great to feel myself moving forward in training while keeping both the near-term local goals as well as next summer’s 500-mile objective in sight.

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Dispatches for Iceland #6: Wesfjords Reflections & Recovery

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At long last–the finish at Laugarbakki with my brother Michal and brother-in-law Brion.

It has been one week since I completed my run across Iceland to bring attention to climate resilience, and I’ve spent much of that time recovering, replenishing calories with seafood, lamb, and skyr, and taking some tentative and recuperative steps on the trails, snowfields, and beaches around Isafjordur and Flateyri here in the Westfjords.

 

The Climate Run was easily the greatest endurance challenge that I’ve ever faced. I covered 240 km (about 150 miles) in just under 45 hours of running (and a few hours of sleep), climbed and descended a total of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet), ran solo stretches of up to 35 miles, and consumed a steady diet of Pocket Fuel and Nuun, both of which turned out to be essential pieces of the endurance nutrition puzzle for me — particularly on the long stretch of tundra north of the Icelandic highlands.

The project–from planning to preparation to completion–would not have been possible were it not for a dedicated support team here in Iceland: family and friends who provided logistical and emotional support, foot massages and wraps, delicious sandwiches and soup, and and-of-stage pacing without which I may well have curled up by the side of the trail many miles before the finish.

I am forever grateful and humbled by all the help I got both on the ground in Iceland and from the project’s many sponsors and supporters over the past year.

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Looking back towards Eiriksjökull across Arnavatnsheði

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Climate Run route changed from my original plan to run the Kjölur Route to a route a little farther west across the Kaldidalur pass. This route took me from the start on a beach of black volcanic sand near Thorlakshöfn, over the crater of the Hengill volcano, through the national park at Thingvellir, across the Kaldidalur pass, and over the Arnavatnsheði tundra and to Laugerbakki and Miðfjöður on the north coast.

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Cooling my heels in the cold water of the north

I am more than happy with the outcome. Although the route was a few miles shorter than originally planned, the terrain was more challenging and included more trail (and even off-trail) miles.

As I write this post in the café at Borea Adventures in Isafjorður, I finally have some time to start to put together some thoughts about what I learned about resilience, running, climate, family, and community–all of which I believe are essential pieces of the broader ecological system of which we are always a part.

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rainbow from the top of Kaldidalur

I have already presented on Climate Run twice–once here at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Isafjorður, and once at the Arctic Encounters conference in Roskilde Denmark–and I hope this run and the stories, pictures and video (thanks largely to the tireless work of Jill Fineis Photography) that come from it are just the very start of an ongoing and powerful story of climate resilience and of our relationship to place and to one another.