Tag Archives: Iceland

Telling stories

Last Tuesday, I gave a presentation about Climate Run: Iceland at Sterling College. In many ways it seems like a long time since I finished my trans-Icelandic run in June 2015 — but sharing the story of my passion for running, training, and sharing ideas about embracing vulnerability as a way to build climate resilience — all of this helps me to stay connected with the experience and with all the people who I have talked with over the last year. And it gets me up at 4:00 am nearly every day to keep training for what comes next.

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One student asked me what kept me going despite some of the challenges I faced along the 150-mile run. I thought for a minute and then explained that I was never in it by myself — I had family, friends, and many people I’d never even met supporting me, following my progress, and wanting to share in my adventure. Even when I was 20 miles from the next nearest person in the middle of northern Icelandic tundra, I never felt completely alone.

I’m excited to have the chance to share my story on November 4th at 7:00 pm at the Whitney Community Center in Jackson, NH.

I hope you can join me for an evening of stories, pictures, and conversation about how we can build communities of resilience in the face of climate change.

 

 

 

Always learning: lessons from students

I’ve had a couple of terrific experiences with students over the past few weeks– from teaching a two-week intensive class titled Resilience, Complexity, and Flow at Sterling College–to meeting with hundreds of students at Cannon School in Concord, NC last week.

Each of these gave me a chance to have some powerful and important conversations about what it means to be resilient, and how being vulnerable can be a way to become more powerful in the face of a changing climate and changing world.

My Sterling class ended with a conversation about perception and the precarity of balancing between self and place. We are always, the students seemed to agree, both within the world and at its margins–there isn’t really any terra firma on which to stand and assess the world, as we are bound to it, ever in flux.

This didn’t mean, for most students, that there was no meaningful path forward. In fact, the path ahead seems clearer–in a world already pushing (and even beyond) the limits of social and ecological capacity and sustainability, by better understanding the complexity our world and by embracing our own vulnerability can we begin to build a more resilient future.

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After my presentation to middle school students at Cannon School, I was peppered with so many questions that we ran out of time! The students were so excited by my experience of running across Iceland and seemed to be looking for ways to connect Climate Run to their own experience of the world, that I could have talked with them all day!

It struck me that this was exactly why I was doing this–not only to share my experiences of endurance running and of seeing the effects of climate change firsthand, but to continue the conversation and to share and learn more about ideas of resilience and vulnerability from everyone I talk with–whether that’s a group of a dozen college students, or a room of 75 outdoor enthusiasts at the Green Mountain Club, or several hundred middle schoolers in North Carolina.

What I learn from each of these encounters can be just as meaningful and powerful as enduring hour mile after mile of unforgiving Arctic terrain.

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Rainbow from the top of Kaldidalur Pass

Climate Run hits the road!

I’m super stoked to kick off the Climate Run: Iceland tour with a show at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont on Thursday, Sept. 24th at 8:00 pm.

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If you are interested in hosting a presentation where you are, please get in touch! More info about Climate Run presentations.
 

Resilience and Rebound II: Heima

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The Quiet Path, Stowe, VT

I went running yesterday…for the first time in a month. After being back in the States for two weeks now, I’ve made 6 separate visits to doctors, specialists, and my PT to try to figure out what was actually happening with my lower legs. The good news has been (1) no stress fracture and (2) no tendonitis. The less good news is that there is still inflammation of the tibialis anterior on my left leg. That said, a week of low-medium intensity biking, walking, stretching, and PT set the foundation for a not-quite 2 mile jog yesterday. On grass, in the sun, by a stream. Lovely…but it’s hard to wait to get back into the mountains.

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at the end

A few days after I returned from Iceland, a co-worker asked me, “what does it feel like not to be running 150 miles?” I surprised myself; without even a second’s hesitation, I said, “Frustrating. Very frustrating.”

I think was I meant was (at least in part) that I was missing being immersed in the experience of endurance, finding solace amid physical and mental vulnerability—not to mention the volcanoes, glaciers, and hot springs! The more I let the emotions and ideas from the event marinate, new ideas to germinate and some begin take root. I realize that the run itself was only a small piece of the story; the larger part began the moment I stopped on the edge of Miðfjörður, leaned over my running poles, and smiled, exhausted, sore, and swollen.

How do I tell this story? In one way, of course, the run is the story, but even more it is the , the intertwining of resilience, rebound, ecology, and athletics — this is the narrative through which I can best share what I experienced, what I learned, and what I think was most valuable from all that went into Climate Run.

Toward the end of her wonderful book, Runner, Lizzy Hawker, describes running as a place where “I can experience life beyond the limitations of time and space…a moment where I can almost touch reality. A moment where everything seems to make sense. A moment where I think I understand. Fleeting, ephemeral, short-lived. But real.”

The story I want to tell is just this: those moments where the endurance of extreme physical, bodily challenge helped me to better see not only myself, but my connection to the complexities of the world and to begin understanding what resilience really is. Resilience–not as adaptation, not as resistance to change, nor as a way to escape being vulnerable, but rather resilience as an embrace of vulnerability to help us build

an entirely new ethical relationship with the human as an irreducible entity, and the world that is forever transforming to the creation of new ecologies (Evans & Reid, Resilient Life).

Or, as Lizzy puts it,

What is our concept of self, and can we trust it?

I would add,

What is our concept of self in the world? And how can trusting that help us make that relationship better?

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approaching Thingvellir

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.

Dispatches from Iceland #5: Þverfellshorn

Orion and I drove by the trailhead for Þverfellshorn late last week, and since it is one of the most accessible peaks in Iceland (only 15 km from Reykjavik), and offers a vertical gain of 780 meters in only about 5k, of course I had to go back this morning and run up. Here´s a bit of what it was like…

Dispatches from Iceland #4: Planning and mapping

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With only a week before the run, I spent much of this cold and rainy morning in a café across the square from the glass portal into the 871 Settlement Museum’s subterranean exhibit. Over a coffee and croissant, I counted miles, identified road crossings, and talked with family members and friends due to arrive in Iceland later this week.

The new route measures about 164 miles on the map, although I sense that some of the trail miles in the mountainous terrain around  the 803 meter high volcano, Hengill, will be a bit longer than the map lets on.

Most of our route-finding forays have been in the first 35 mile stretch; 130 miles will likely remain unknown to me until I get there next week. That said, the first sections are the most complicated with regard to route finding–mixing beach, gravel road, horse path, hiking trail, and pavement. I have set up 3 aid stations in that section where roads intersect with the route of the run.

Beyond the third stop at Þingvellir, the route follows Kaldidalur north to Surtshellir, Iceland’s largest cave, and then across a seldom-traveled stretch to the south end of Arnarvatnsvegur, which will take me toward the north coast, where I will wend my way to Þingeyrar and the north coast.

I’m anticipating 6 or so additional stops along that long section north of Þingvellir, with a couple giving me a chance to rest for an hour or two. So far, the weather outlook is typical of this spring’s chilly temperatures, but nothing too unusual for Iceland!

More updates soon…

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the trail north from Þingvellir

 

Dispatches from Iceland #3: Training Days

This weekend is Hatið Hafsins in Reykjavik, the Festival of the Sea, which Orion and I spent visiting ships, looking for puffins, and generally being caught up in maritime merriment.

Yesterday, however, we went to Rauðavatn, a lake just inside the Reykjavik city limits that has some great trails–although no map that we could find, so we took a turn or two down sandy horse trails before we found a nice loop over the park’s high point. Orion was kind enough to take a quick video of me on our training foray around the loop…

 

 

Only a week to go before I start the trans-Icelandic run. There are a few more training runs out on the trails I want to do early in the week before a geothermal-pool-soaked week’s end taper before Monday’s big day.

Dispatches from Iceland #2: Range finding

IMG_5322We spent much of this week searching out trailheads and routes along the Climate Run route through Þhingvellir National Park and farther south to the Atlantic coast.

Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that the Kjölur Road across which I had originally planned to run remains too snowy for a successful trans-Iceland run. With the help of some contacts here in Iceland as well as a fair bit of patient trail-finding with Orion, I’ve mapped a revised route.

IMG_5297The start and end points and distance are all more or less the same. The major difference is that I will be arcing to the west of the Langjökull icecap rather than to its east. This decreases a little elevation gain in the highlands and minimizes encounters with too much snow.

It has been terrific to have the time to ground truth at least the first parts of the run, and to have such a great helper alongside me 🙂 IMG_5335

Dispatches from Iceland #1: We are an expression of forces

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We’ve finally arrived in Iceland and settled into an Airbnb apartment in Seltjarnarnes, a few minutes from the city center. It already seems as though we’ve been gone from Vermont for many weeks, although it’s only been just nine days of travel, training, work, and food (!) in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

A tour of Scandinavia to be sure!

While at the Arctic Encounters conference in Copenhagen last week, I very much appreciated the hospitality of the conference hosts and the many new friends and colleagues both I and Orion made over the three days. In conversations about the Climate Run project, I kept returning an idea raised for me in Matthew Tiessen’s writing about affect and emotion:

“Humans can be thought of not as individuals, actors, subjects, or creators, but as articulations and expressions of their environments. Each of us is a site-in-process, a crossing, where forces come to play. . . . We are an expression of forces.

If we are intentional about the ways that those forces are expressed through our interactions with/in the world, then I think we can begin to realize not only our own potential, but our potential to interact proactively with the world around us.

In order to fully realize and maximize human performance — the goal of my friends at O2X — we need to realize that a runner’s body is more than just itself. We are each very much entangled in a web of complex systems — social, cultural, and ecological.

The world is not merely a space through which we run; it’s a system that includes the body in a complex ecology. A critical part of what I’m learning–and what I hope to share–through the Climate Run experience is the many ways we can contribute to building a consciously inclusive ecology.

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