Tag Archives: resilience

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

Hold fast your hope

For our second class meeting in Sterling’s introductory A Sense of Place course, we read the introduction to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, in which she writes:

The thing about a crisis this big, this all-encompassing, is that it changes everything. It changes what we can do, what we can hope for, what we can demand from ourselves and our leaders. It means there is a whole lot of stuff that we have been told is inevitable that simply cannot stand. And it means that a whole lot of stuff we have been told is impossible has to start happening right away.

Can we pull it off? All I know is that nothing is inevitable. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.

Her book, published only 3 years ago, presents a dire outlook for the global climate, but also an audacious hope that *this* could be the catalyst for global cooperation, collaboration, and community building that would build the foundation for a resilient future for both humankind and the environment.

When we read her words in 2017, however, it is a lot easier to feel that hope slipping away, and the potential for disastrous effects on the global ecosystem seems inevitable.

It is even more important, today, for us to build strong and resilient communities — through conversations, collaboration, and open transparent communication. We need to recognize that everything has indeed changed. This work is not easy, and the results are not quickly forthcoming, but it is essential.

As Klein writes,”a whole lot of stuff we have been told is impossible has to start happening right away.”

Time to get moving.

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Climate Run is a 2016 SHIFT Adventure Athlete Award Official Selection

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I am super excited to have been chosen by the great folks at SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) as an official selection for the 2016 SHIFT award in the adventure athlete category for my work with Climate Run.

Central to my ongoing work with Climate Run is to reframe the conversation about climate change as one of resilience — rather than our prevailing narrative of resistance — and build coalitions of athletes, outdoor professionals and enthusiasts, students, and teachers to make meaningful change in the ways we talk about and respond to climate change.

SHIFT works to “unite natural allies around the common goal of protecting our public land,” and I am proud and honored to be recognized as one of this year’s SHIFT adventure athletes!

 

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

Resonance

Over the past couple of months, I have been giving Climate Run: Iceland presentations around Vermont and the eastern U.S — from talks at Burlington, Vermont’s The Outdoor Gear Exchange, Mount Mansfield Nordic Ski Club, to a standing-room-only audience at The Catamount Trail Association, and to a packed auditorium at the Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, Ohio.

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descending from Hengill midway through day one

It’s always exciting to share my story of running across Iceland (which for me feels both recent and so very long ago), but I find even more rewarding the conversations that follow–about a range of topics grounded in concepts such as climate change, resilience, vulnerability, and endurance.

I’ve been asked, “what should we do” in the face of climate change? What roles should we as athletes play? How do you define resilience?

I have facilitated a conversation about the role of faith in climate conversations.

I have asked groups about how privilege can guide our thinking about vulnerability.

I have talked with students and faculty about how art, action, and science can help develop a resilient ecological and social relationship.

I have found that my story resonates with a range of different audiences — from skiers to conservationists to high school students — all of whom have different expectations and different relationships with and perspectives on the natural world.

John Meyer has recently written about the resonance dilemma, which points to the disconnect between systems as large and complex as the global climate with individual people’s actions. Meyer invites us to “imagine an agenda for environmental sustainability that emerges from everyday concerns and is … deeply resonant with the lives of” ordinary people.

I completely agree. In fact, Climate Run often resonates most strongly when I talk about the personal experience of being in the midst of wildness–and of realizing that as individuals we are inextricably part of a global ecology.

Nature can no longer be that place ‘out there.’ For the issues of a broader world to resonate with us, we need to recognize–and act as though–we are part of it all.

Of course, this is not at all a new concept, but it may be among the most difficult to act upon.

celebrating at the finish in Laugarbakki

celebrating at the finish in Laugarbakki after 150 miles

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.