Tag Archives: goals

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

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

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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Winter Training #goals

This winter has come on cold and fast. When our running team came back to campus from the TARC Winter Fells Ultra 50k in Massachusetts on December 3rd, there was plenty of snow to ski on and a forecast for temps of -10 F. Around here, winter comes as a relief — it’s the season we wait for all year, and much of our holiday planning centers on being where winter is at its best.

That said, all of this makes training about a multi-stage ultra in August even more difficult. The appeal of nordic skiing and skimo (both great cross-training), time in the gym, and planning logistics for the Arctic Run itself can all take focus away from running workouts and a steady ramp up of mileage.

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Following Freyja on our backyard 6 miler

As hard as it may be to get out the door when in full-on conditions, it is honestly the support I feel from everyone as I continue the Climate Run project that plays such a big role in both keeping me accountable and reminding me that the goal is so much larger than just being able to run endless miles. It’s about sharing stories, (hopefully) inspiring others, and building community grounded in ideas of experience, vulnerability, and resilience.

I truly depend on the support I get, all of it — whether logistical, emotional, or financial — to help me get out the door and keep putting the miles in.

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Looking toward the Lapporten (Lapland Gate) in Abisko National Park, Sweden

Even though it’s still quite far off, I can hardly wait to be on the ground in Scandinavia, logging miles through remote and striking landscapes, like the Lapporten in Abisko National Park (about 250 miles into my run), learning about the impact of climate change on these places and on the people I meet, and coming back to share what I learn with as many people as possible.

Until then, though, I put on winter layers, hat, gloves, neck gaiter, microspikes, and headlamp, and head off into the afternoon dusk.

If you’re at all able to show your support through a donation, however small, please take a minute to visit the Climate Run GoFundMe page.

Thank you.

 

 

What’s Next…?

 

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Den längsta resan är resan inåt.
               -Dag Hammarskjöld

I talked about Climate Run: Iceland this morning with about thirty middle school students at the Albany Community School here in Vermont. Among the questions they asked during and after my slideshow was “what was your favorite part?”

I had just answered another question — “was it fun?” — by saying that overall the whole experience was life changing, incredible, and, occasionally even fun. Lots of the actual experience running was not what I’d call fun (…maybe Type II Fun). So it was harder still to come up with one favorite part.

This was the first time I’d been asked that, so I thought for a second before answering.

“This right here. Talking with all of you.”

Right now, my greatest adventure is sharing the story of Climate Run: Iceland and having many profound, moving, and motivating conversations about climate change, resilience, endurance, and vulnerability. I’m excited to keep up the momentum this message has begun.

All that said, though, I have been training hard all fall and winter–with the help of my coach, Jack Pilla–getting ready for a lot of terrific events over the coming year, but here are four of my standout distance races for 2016:

March 19-20
24 Hours of Bolton ski mountaineering race (approx. 80-100k ascent & descent).
Bolton, VT
Note: This race is a fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport. Please visit my giving page if you’re interested in helping out. 

April 16
Traprock 50 km trail race
Simsbury, CT

June 4
Cayuga Trails 50 mile race
Ithaca, NY

August 20
Leadville Trail 100 Run 
Leadville, CO

…and Climate Run 2017? I’ve whittled it down to a short list. Stay tuned! 🙂

2015: A year of intention

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
                Anne Hillman

638330DA-2957-46FB-933E-52D8D48022082014 ended with some wild swings of the weather pendulum–each one carrying with it its own seasonality, memories, and sense of place. Late autumn brought an early winter, with temps in the 10s and 20s and snow through late November; the week of Christmas, by contrast, saw rain that stripped away much of our snowpack, and in the Boston area where we visited over the holiday, late December sun and temperatures of nearly 60 degrees.

The New Year now sweeps us along a blustery wind that has burnished the frozen landscape to a mirrored icy sheen.

My social media feeds have lately resonated with a chorus of resolutions, reflections, and predictions, and many of us seek a regrounding or reinventing at this natural transition from darkness of the winter solstice to the brighter days of winter and spring.

January is something of a milestone for the Climate Run project–6 months until the Kjölur Run across Iceland; 23 training weeks–a plan for more than a thousand miles of running, 40 days each of cross training and nordic skiing; and maybe even a rest day or two!

It’s hard not to look ahead at what I have planned for 2015 (not without a little anxiety, to be sure : ), though I’m taken by Anne Hillman’s poem–and Parker Palmer’s weekly column that it anchors–to think less in terms of absolutes and quantitative milestones and more about the how and why of why I choose to do the things I do.

Too often, perhaps, running–like so much of what we do–is measured in quantities of miles, kilometers, minutes, hours, vertical gain, heart rate, and so on. All these measures are important to help meet training and race goals, to be sure, but what good is it to chase a number if has lost its meaning when I finally reach it?

It has helped me lately to think about choices in terms of intentions rather than goals:

What do I hope to achieve by reaching my goal?

Why choose this particular path?

How will it affect me and those around me?

What are your intentions for this new year?

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