How has your summer been so far? A stranger recently asked me.
I spared him this recap. The summary: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Venice, Italy, and then all over the Dolomites, which a large mountain range in Italy.
The in-depth version: In the glorious month of June, I spent a whopping three nights in Colorado. So what follows are the other places my feet were fortunate enough to land.
In Princeton, New Jersey, I caught up with college friends at an annual reunion. I was reminded of how wonderful East Coast running is, and I even explored the Appalachian Trail for the first time. I ran some extremely rocky miles near the Delaware Water Gap, on the Pennsylvania – New Jersey border.
Then I spent seven consecutive days in seven cities at Patagonia stores touring this moving, motivating and magical film: takayna.
At the Patagonia Meatpacking Store in New York City, a group and I ran on the West Site Highway, talking trail running, living in the city and how you can still get out to the wild in less than an hour. Bear Mountain State Park, people!
In New Haven, Connecticut, I learned about the booming trail scene—and ran with a group where two people ran their first 5k ever! The CT trail running scene is raw; there’s a 169 Town Society, which means you’ve run a race in the 169 towns in Connecticut. Along with the growing number of trail runners, there’s a growing push for land conservation and regenerative agriculture. Additionally, organizations like the Denali Foundation are continuing the charge to get more kids involved in Earth-loving initiatives. After the film screening, I stayed with my wonderful Aunt Jean and Uncle Jim in New London and a took a dip in the icy Thames River before heading back west.
In St. Paul, Minnesota, I learned that the Mississippi River starts in Minnesota! I also talked about the Enbridge pipeline, Line 5, that the state of Michigan has the power, and moral duty, to shut down. So if you live in or care about the Great Lakes Region, watch this filmand please, please take action. The Twin Cities also blessed me with a family visit from my wonderful, very athletic second cousins and a new trail running family that’s very convincing that the Superior Fall Trail Race is the most beautiful in the country…
Then at the Patagonia store in Boulder, we hosted a packed house of familiar and oh, so friendly faces. Such a respite from my hours in airports. Wildlands Restoration Volunteers were in the house, urging Boulderites to join the 3,000 volunteers who’ve helped maintain and restore Boulder, from post-flood efforts to wetlands restoration.
A Fortuitous Encounter
En route to the Patagonia Outlet in Salt Lake City, Utah, I met Senator Cory Gardner, in the flesh. He was on my flight and I almost passed out, as I think about him—how he does and doesn’t do his job on a daily basis. I mustered up the courage mid-flight to ask him about my number one concern for Colorado: the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act. He was quick to say that he “cannot support it because the National Guard opposes this bill because of HAATS training. As soon as the wording can be worked out, we’ll support it.”
This was frustrating to hear because all of the public knowledge says that the wording of the bill has already been okay-ed by the National Guard. I told Senator Gardner this, but he said he wasn’t aware yet of any approval.
I asked my brother who’s in the military about this reasoning, and he said it’s likely not a problem to choose a different landing area for the HAATS helicopters, not to mention, Senator Bennet’s office has confirmed the National Guard is not, in fact, opposed to this bill. Senator Gardner using ‘military training’ as a scapegoat for his lack of support, in fact dilutes the importance of actually reserving the reason ‘military training’ when it’s truly necessary! I gave Senator Gardner a receipt with my same message written down and sat back down. A moot conversation.
But, as I exited the plane, Senator Gardner stepped out of line waiting for his bag, “You know, I’m not stopping this bill from getting a hearing.” He must have assumed that I don’t understand how bills and hearings work in the Senate. “Yes, I know that.” I paused. “But will you vote for it if it were to get a hearing?” I could tell he was taken aback at my direct question that showed I knew what I was talking about. For if a state wilderness bill doesn’t have support from both of the state’s two senators, how can the rest of the Senate be expected to vote for it? They will look at the consensus within that state! So I asked Senator Gardner this, knowing that if he didn’t vote for the bill, he would essentially kill it.
“I’d have to look into it more. Not if it impedes the military training.” I grimaced. “But we would need you to vote for it. And like I said on the plane, according to Senator Bennet’s office, the National Guard doesn’t oppose this bill.” “Okay, well I need to see a statement on that.” I thanked him for his time and walked away.
Needless to say, this encounter riled me up. I’ve been working with Conservation Colorado to try to get a statement from the National Guard that says it doesn’t oppose the bill. Why is something so simple, so difficult? In the meantime, I plan to run 200 miles that connects the patches of this bill this fall. In order to showcase these mouth-watering Colorado landscapes, garnering more attention to Senator Gardner’s lack of support. Yes, 200 or so miles. No one said ever said conservation is easy!
Anyways, at the Patagonia SLC store, I learned about a fascinating non-profit called Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. This organization spreads awareness about the harmful health effects of pollution. SLC has some of the worst air quality in the entire country! And to think that the state government is consistently one of the most closed-minded state governments with regards to climate change mitigation—what gives here?
Utah is my neighbor and my playground. I love running and exploring the vast wild places of Utah almost as I love doing the same in Colorado. BUT, I am not going to stay quiet about how long it took for the Utah government to acknowledge climate change, and in turn, how the vast majority of Utah residents are voting. I know there are countless individuals and groups working to make Utah a more progressive and innovative state. But we need more movement from the traditionally conservative constituents. We need more people to feel the effects of pollution and to do more to change Utah’s approach to climate mitigation.
Check this out for future reference–what strikes as abnormal?
Also while in SLC, I was called out on a Strava description I posted about a Lyft ride I took to a trailhead. I wanted to run on the amazing SLC trails the morning after I showed the *takayna *film. I wrote something in my run description explaining my complete dismay at how this driver truly believed, “Native Americans wanted Trump to take away that Bears Ears. I hear it on the radio everyday.” I countered him withfacts that disproved this, but he wouldn’t budge.
This conversation, too, became moot. Of course, he was a great driver, I gave him 5-stars and tipped him. He can disagree with me, but what I’m aghast at is the ignorance of facts. Facts about how large Utah’s outdoor recreation industry is and facts about what the 5-tribe coalition of Native Americans do in fact want: management and federal protection of Bears Ears.
So, if you live in Utah, I encourage you to speak up more. In many ways, your state is ground zero for the spreading of falsities about Native American lands and about the economic powerhouse that is the outdoor recreation industry. I love Utah and I want Utah to be fairly governed and justly protected. And I don’t mean to offend anyone through my storytelling. I elaborated on my Strava description to make the source of my frustration more clear and to ensure I didn’t generalize all Utahans.
But, I will not stop asking questions when I’m traveling, nor will I stop sharing these stories. We need to talk about topics like this more. If I raised some eyebrows, then so be it. Let’s raise more eyebrows in Utah so that SLC could maybe one day not breath such polluted air.
Last stop: Reno, Nevada. I learned about the booming outdoor recreation scene, the local Tesla factory, and the vast trail network from Reno to Tahoe. The Nevada Conservation League of Voters showed up, encouraging people to register to vote. I finished my tour feeling inspired.
Starting Up Again
I breathed for 48 hours in Colorado and then flew to Venice, Italy. After realizing Venice is a collection of tiny raised land masses—not to mention extremely vulnerable to sea level rise!—I headed north to the Dolomites with a team from Patagonia. We hiked to a Refugio—a team of designers, developers, marketing wizards, product people and trail running ambassador, all extremely fit and extremely psyched on making the best trail running products.
I can’t not mention that at Patagonia, it’s never even a question if new products are made with recycled fabrics like, nylon and polyester. Those fabrics comprise your rain jackets, running shorts, athletic t-shirts, sports bras, to name a few items. I can’t help but ask myself, When will every brand adopt the value of actually caring about the environment? As a consumer, you can make a statement by buying gear that’s recycled (and still the best), or better yet, by fixing old gear. Old fashioned consumerism is so old! Patagonia is the trend because it is a *smart *company with more than just gear, it has values. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll continue to say it: if Patagonia can be ‘all-in,’ we can do with how we consume, conserve, reuse and reduce.
It’s worth mentioning that larger brands who have ‘sustainability’ lines like recycled shoes or recycled plastic bottle tee-shirts, while those are awesome, necessary efforts, these bigger brands aren’t actually making as great of a positive impact as they could be with just one line. For these big brands like Nike, adidas, The North Face, Reebok, to make an impact, they should commit the majority of their lines to be made more sustainably. I talked at length about this with some of the Patagonia designers; it’s one of those nuances of ‘sustainability’ that is often overlooked. Just another reason where knowing the bigger picture of your products and gear is valuable. Ask more questions!
After a few days of rest at my friend Martina’s home in a small village southeast of Cortina, called Cadore, I was back in the Dolomites epicenter, Cortina, giving a talk at the Patagonia store on my running and environmentalism journey. I’ll share my presentation in another blog!
After talks, I often have much bigger efforts. I raced 74-miles with 20,000-feet of vertical gain from Friday night into Saturday afternoon in the Lavaredo Ultra Trail. I vomited for the first time ever in a race. I sprained my ankle repeatedly, lost vision in my left eye, lost liquid out of my backend, couldn’t eat, tried to smile through the ‘shit,’ and finished 9th. I achieved my ultimate goal of finishing because to be honest, I questioned whether I would do Lavaredo. Only a month after World Championships and with my travel schedule, it was difficult to get proper training in. Regardless, my ultimate goal is to race UTMB at the end of the summer, and I needed this 5-point race.
I recovered back at Martina’s place in Cadore, and gave another talk at an Adventure Outdoor Festival in a town close to the Austrian border, called San Candido. I’m dealing with a knee injury from smashing my patella on an iron cable from a via ferrata (iron rope climb) in the week after my race. Embarrassing to have injured myself *after *my race, but alas, I’m only human.
So after all of this, I’m quite ready to be home. I wish I could say home in Boulder is a peaceful oasis of pure recovery. It’s close, but not quite. This week, I’ll be moving for the 8th time in 12 months. I bring these frequent moves upon myself, as I make rash decisions quite frequently about relationships and about what’s convenient. Moving this many times, along with my travel schedule, hasn’t been conducive to my ultimate goal: to get more people to give a crap about our sick planet. She needs us more than ever. And before I can ever feel even the slightest bit productive with this goal, I am learning that first I must take care of myself better by valuing recovery more. So, here’s to the rest of an earthraging summer.