4/3/2 IT is a BIG deal

Western States is known for its sizzling heat. This weekend should be no exception.

Pertinent timing to talk about IT, especially considering hot temperatures across the globe have received increased attention recently.

Surprise! Repeated days of over 95F heat cause devastating and deadly impacts. I’m not talking about ultrarunning.

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IT is climate change. IT is the most important reason I run. Talking about the impacts of climate change, about what’s it’s doing to our Earth, to our home, needs more traction. I don’t care if people think they know it all already. IT is constantly growing in magnitude. Thus our conversations about it, about what we can do should follow suit.

For many of us who don’t live in coastal communities or at high elevations, we won’t see extreme climate change impacts for a few more decades. This isn’t the case for people who live in tropical coastal communities or in desert environments, like Sub-Sahara Africa.

“As the coastal cities of Africa and Asia expand, many of their poorest residents are being pushed to the edges of livable land and into the most dangerous zones for climate change. Their informal settlements cling to riverbanks and cluster in low-lying areas with poor drainage, few public services, and no protection from storm surges, sea-level rise, and flooding.”

After studying coral ecology in places like Bermuda and Palau and living in coastal southern Thailand for over year, these communities immediately come to mind when I think climate change.  

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Sand bags preparing for impending sea level rise in southern Thailand.

I envision homes slowly creeping underwater. Stilts and sand bags can only do so much. I envision potable water becoming more and more difficult to access. I think of the increasing severity of tropical storms, which is one of the most frightening and deadly impacts of climate change.

Remember Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines, Vietnam, Micronesia and Southern China in 2013?

The death toll was between 6,300 to over 10,000, in the Philippines alone. Almost $3 billion in damages resulted. If this doesn’t seem like a lot, remember that the GDP per capita of the Philippines is under $3,000. In the U.S. it’s $55,800.

From a humanitarian perspective, it is horrifically unfair that poor, coastal, developing countries will be disproportionately affected by climate change. They will consistently have to deal with storms like Haiyan. Thousands of people will die. Community repair is devastatingly expensive without developed infrastructure.

Concerning Sub-Sahara Africa, food scarcity is the number one problem. If a 1.2-2 degree C increase in temperature happens, farmers will lose 40-80% of cropland for maize, millet and sorghum. This means hungry people.

These reasons, among others, are why I find it morally wrong for a country like the U.S. to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. As one of the largest emitters of total carbon dioxide and per capital, the U.S. plays a critical role in the future of climate change mitigation.

WHAT CAN WE DO

Now I could go on and on. But I won’t. I wholly admit that I am not doing anything other than trying, on a daily basis, to lower my carbon impacts and to heighten the impact of conversations about global climate change.

Even such small actions have an impact.

Whether it’s choosing to eat less or no meat, biking and using public transportation as often as possible, saying no to anything new I don’t need, committing to never buying a new car, voting for government officials that have track records of caring about our climate. Telling current public officials how much climate change mitigation means to me. All of this makes a difference.

VOTING

Since November of last year, I’ve never felt so woke to the power of an individual. I’m not just talking about the frightening type of power. I’m also referring to the power of people like you and me.

We have to believe that we can, in fact, impact a family living in Micronesia that’s preparing to move their house inland due to storms and sea level rise, by taking an extra hour to research which of our Senators care about climate change.

Look up if your state has Senators up for reelection in 2018. What are the incumbents’ take on climate change mitigation; look up their take on the protection of public lands, while you’re at it. Colorado doesn’t have Senators up for reelection until 2020. That’s when Republican Cory Gardner comes up for re-election. Now a simple google search tells me that Gardner doesn’t know if he believes humans are causing climate change. He is also pro-Keystone Pipeline and pro-fracking.

What does this mean for global climate change? Nothing good. I will not be voting for Senator Gardner’s re-election in 2020. I strongly urge you all to look up the same issues, or any issues you care about for your state’s Senators. Here’s a list of contested Democratic seats you should be aware of.

The same goes for governors, i.e. gubernatorial elections, and representatives, i.e. house elections. Next round of those is also 2018. Look up your state. Get excited to exercise your vote!

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To come full circle, I was recently interviewed by a graduate student performing research on the mindset of endurance athletes. He asked one particularly interesting question: “Do you fall into a state of depression or darkness after a big event like a 100-mile race?” Now in theory, I would like to think I’m as mentally committed as the Olympic athletes who can’t think of anything but that their one event, or in my case, of Western States. That there is nothing afterwards.

But, that is far from the case. I’m already thinking about the importance of the 2018 elections! Sure next week, I likely will have trouble walking and won’t be able to stop eating. But that’s just a tiny piece in this big puzzle of running and of being concerned, active humans. I look forward to my races to push myself, but also to shed light on the importance of our power as individuals. Running is very powerful, as is voting. 

 

 

6/5 I’ve lost count

I’ll I know now is Western States is on Saturday and it’s going to be sweet. Very, very sweaty, but also sweet.

This story isn’t necessarily inspirational. It’s just normal, and normal can be great when tapering.

Last night, I recharged my batteries at my parent’s house, where I’m lucky to live only 40 minutes from. Before dinner, my Dad says, “Let’s check the worms.” We go into the basement to “check the worms.” The worms are basically a home compost system. They eat compostable food waste and crap out nutrient rich fertilizer.

We moved the worms and their compost dirt from one giant plastic container to another, leaving just their poop for us to take outside. We then raked the 30-pounds of worm poop fertilizer into the soil surrounding the many vegetables and flowers in my parents’ garden (espeically the beautiful light purple stevia flowers, which my dad’s bees adore).

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The point of this story?

1) Yep, my hands still smell like earthy poop.

2) Nothing beats some home-grown normalcy.

Benefits of a taper mean you have to slow down and not be on top of a mountain all the time, going from workout to computer to workout, or not be driving back from some godforsaken state park at 3am on a Monday morning.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for everything. 🙂

But yesterday, I was grateful to have time with my parents and my other older brother, Scott, who is interning at a Public Defender’s office in Colorado this summer. Most likely, Scottie will end up a Public Defender if he stays on this track. Thinking about his crazy intense trial-by-fire work, about my Dad’s worms, about the state of the world’s bees, about how ungodly nice my Mom is, making me ice bandanas for this weekend, I can’t help but tear up. I’m so grateful. Tapering makes me emotional.

I’m going to go look at the course map now. Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 18.18.20Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 18.23.21

 

 

8/7: A short film and graphic novel.

First, here’s a tearjerker that anyone, runner or not, should appreciate. Thank you to my TNF teammate, Hadley Hammer, for showing it to me. Hadley is a professional big mountain skier–she skis the big, steep, remote lines that would make anyone who’s remotely human cringe with fear. She’s a boss. She also ran the New York Marathon last year, very casually. So anyways, enjoy watching this.

http://thenewjock.com/blog/if-this-doesnt-make-you-cry-youre-probably-not-human

Second, looking for a new medium? A type of book that’ll make you feel like you’re in a video game, but also in a romance novel? Saga, the graphic novel, is a must-read. It’s a cosmic escape with a very human relationship depicted at its core.

I’m in a book club in Boulder with mainly runners, and very fast ones to say the least, and Saga was my choice this month. We discussed it last night, and I was stoked to hear actual debate on the worth of a art plus words medium versus a standard words-only book. Some prefer words-only, as they argue art leaves you, the reader, no room for creative imagination. I see their point. I also love graphic novels because for me, and others, the art creates a new baseline of a scenario or world. Then personal creative imagination can spiral from there. Some people we surprised at how graphic Saga is. It is indeed graphic, but no more than a P-13 movie.

Anyways, my brother Scott exposed me to Saga when I was a senior in college. I clearly was craving an element of escapism at that point in my life and I fell hard and fast for otherworldly graphic novels. I procrastinated schoolwork to read all of Saga and Watchman, some of Sandman, and others. I regret nothing.

After exposing my book club to this beautiful, exciting medium, I figure I’d share it here as well. No better way to prepare for a big race than to leave this reality and spend some time in another universe. I’m sure I’ll travel to planets depicted in Saga at some point on race day. Enjoy!

Note: Saga, at it’s most frequent, comes out in chapters, and those are really more like collectors’ items. They are single chapters a la a comic. The way to read Saga, in my opinion, is to rent or buy volumes, which contain six chapters. Or, now that it’s already on its seventh volume, you can start with book one, which contains three volumes, or 18 chapters. Whatever you do, just should probably just start reading! 🙂

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10 / 9 : This Person Deserves Two Days

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I missed a day, err two days. I was celebrating my older brother Eric’s 28th Birthday! On Flag Day, June 14th, nonetheless. This is symbolic because Ewic, affectionately, is serving all of us as a Captain in the Army. Ewic has taken a unique, hard-fought path to where he is today in the military. And actually, he’s studying away in Ft. Bragg North Carolina, so we didn’t celebrate in person. Regardless, he is whom I’ll be thinking of a lot of States. Here’s why.

I won’t go into detail of his military career, as I don’t even fully understand everything. So many acronyms. But there are some parts we can all understand.

As a freshman at West Point, Eric got through BEAST, the introductory summer camp that’s full of obstacle courses way less fun than Tough Mudders. This alone is an impressive feat. The attrition rates are high. It’s a big deal to sit in a classroom as a freshman at West Point because it means you got through BEAST. And Eric just happened to do it with a torn ACL.

He didn’t say anything going into BEAST because he knew he’d get kicked out if West Point knew an incoming freshman, or plebe as first-year’s are called, had a torn ACL. He would fail the initial physical test if he revealed his knee pain and got an MRI. He couldn’t risk that. So he mustered through the 7-week physical training camp that ‘turns civilians into cadets.’ And afterwards found out he had a torn ACL—likely from a lacrosse game injury from senior year in high school—and got it repaired during school once he passed that initial course.

Fast forward five years, past a deployment in Afghanistan where Eric was only 25 years-old, in charge of a lot of men, and suffering two tragic losses of Justin and Aaron.

Fast forward more years to RANGER School. RANGER makes BEAST look puny. This is a three-month long course with some of the hardest physical and orienteering challenges people in the army have to go through. Eric graduated from a winter course—winter RANGER is touted for its difficulty due to the many nights spent sleeping outside in Georgia in the cold.

And guess what? He did it with another torn ACL.

Fast forward to Ft. Carson (Colorado Springs, CO) where Eric was a Lieutenant, in charge of a lot of men still—they called him “Army Mom”—and then he headed back East to North Carolina to start the Q Course. This is the school to become a Green Beret. That’s where he is now. This school towers over BEAST and RANGER combined.

The amazing thing about the training to become a Green Beret is how multidisciplinary it is. Green Berets are the humanitarian special forces. They train in unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. But, what makes them unique amongst other special forces groups is they have to learn a local language and culture and train with foreign troops. They often are truly imbedded, all in order to stop the bad guys.

Seeing what Eric has sacrificed to get to Q-School is insane. He says that what I do (running ultras) is crazy and way harder than what he does. Good one, Eric!

The day-to-day focus you need to grind through these army schools, let alone a deployment, is awe-inspiring. And that he’s doing it for our country. It’s because of people like Eric and other military members that we get to run Western States so freely, without a worry worse than if our ice will melt or not.

But, through all of the military ladders and physical feats he’s gone through, Eric has stayed true to his roots. He drives a Prius and tells people in the military to recycle. He gave his young charges at Ft. Carson a book locker, after he noticed so many enlisted 18- to 22 year-olds play games on their phones all the time. He studies his job. He reads books on the cultures he’s going to stay with, outside of his schoolwork. When he’s home in Colorado, he wears Avalanche and Broncos fleece pajama pants. And never really talks about what he does; he’s humble to a fault. Did I mention he recycles in the military?

My other older brother Scott and I joke: “Eric is the best person. Ever. The nicest, kindest, strongest, most generous.” Except it’s not a joke. Ask any of his friends what Eric has done for them. He will bend over backwards to help a buddy in need out. He’ll fly anywhere on a dime, when he has time off, because he values being with friends and family practically more than anything. He spent four days in Palau with me when I was there for a summer. Now, Palau is in the Pacific Ocean, basically as remote as it gets. But Eric wanted to see me and he had time off.

Heck, Eric sent my Mom and Dad flowers on his birthday, to thank them for their birthday gift to him!

Anyways, Eric, Happy Birthday. Thank you for being the best person we know. I’ll run thinking I’m you at Western States. What would Eric do? 🙂 Eric_army

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A happy time at West Point Sandhurst competition. 
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Colorado standard. 
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In Palau, where Eric kindly agreed to snorkel on a very exposed open reef wall with more than a few sharks. My mom is crying out of frame. 
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Action shot at home. 
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Eric has visited me in many, many places whenever he’s had time off. Lots of non-army adventures are important! 
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Before Eric left for the Q-school, his Ft. Carson men gave him an “Army Mom” bumper sticker, for his climate change mitigation -approved Prius . 
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Note sent with flowers to our parents, on HIS birthday! My other brother, Scott, and I couldn’t believe it. We can’t keep up! 

12: I’d have to run 100 States to comprehend issues facing our world today.

Today, enjoy a comical, but poignant video.

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I know that at some point during States, I will think about all of the men and women who cannot afford health care in this country, let alone the women who lack access to affordable birth control. I’ll think about how unfair and wrong and embarrassing it is: for the greatest country in the world to treat so many of its own disadvantaged people as if universal health care is not a right.

UPDATE: Not one states supports the proposed American Health Care Act. 

Plus, recall the global Gag Rule that Trump reinstated in one of his first human rights defying acts. Broadly, the Gag Rule prevents the U.S. from funding any organization that even mentions the word abortion.

“To receive American funding for any of their family-planning work, in other words, groups would have to promise that they wouldn’t even speak of abortion—hence the nickname that the policy’s exasperated critics soon coined: the global gag rule.”

This rule is archaic and barbaric. If you care to read more in depth, please do. Here’s a start: 68,000 women die every year trying to end abortions unsafely, on their own, because they have no other options. When women have access to family planning care, they are much less likely to perform an unsafe abortion. Abortions have actually been shown to increase with Gag Rule restrictions.

Let me summarize further. Trump’s executive order that reinstated the global gag rule will stop $8.8 billion for family planning programs, including those related to AIDS, malaria and child health. About $6 billion of that supports programs for HIV/AIDS services, primarily in Sub-Sahara Africa.

This doesn’t sound good, right? It’s not. Let us recall that over one million people died from HIV-related causes in 2015, and almost half of a million people died from malaria in 2015–the vast majority of these deaths are in Sub-Sahara Africa. Pulling U.S. aid to organizations that are consistently saving lives through family planning, contraception, abortions when necessary, HIV and malaria prevention and treatment is inexcusable. If you are pro-choice, that’s wonderful. It’s not my business. But, when it comes to aiding preventable deaths that rank in the millions, U.S. aid is all of our business.

I think I’ll need to run 100 Western States in order to fully comprehend how wrong this particular executive order is.

What can we do about it?

1) Run like we mean it. Realize how freaking privileged we are.

2) Vote in every election, local, state-wide, and federal, using our BRAINS.

3) Talk about it. Whatever riles you up. This riles me up, because it’s wrong.

4) Donate nationally, or internationally to organizations proven to improve and save lives.

 

13: Light, Competition and Comparison

13th day of States

I skipped yesterday. This works out if we want Day 0 to be the day of the race. Sure, you could say I did this on purpose.

At a Running Mindful Meditation retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in rural northern central Colorado—at 8,000 feet, mind you—this past weekend, I participated in group meditation and motivation discussions. I took away a collection of invaluable tidbits and reminders. I’ll share two today.

Light

The retreat drew classic Type-A overachievers, people who love to trail run and wanted to learn more about meditation and yoga, people recovering from cancer, an Iraq veteran, the list goes on. The stories shared were vulnerable, intense, eye-opening and beautiful. Hearing that multiple people had recovered from pain, both physical and emotional, through meditation, mindfulness and a healthy dose of running was inspiring. We all left with a renewed appreciation for why we do this stuff.

Additionally though, we talked about motivation. Motivation in the rawest sense.

“What is my motivation?” retreat leader Marty Kibiloski asked us to contemplate before a meditative trail run.

Mike Sandrock, another retreat leader, asked, “Motivation for what?”

“Just what is my motivation? You decide what the question is. What is my motivation in my relationships? What is my motivation for running? What is my motivation for working? What is my motivation for competing? Whatever you want to explore and find answers to, ask that question.”

I started the run unsure of what motivation question I wanted to answer. Usually, I default to “What is my motivation for running?” But today my meditative, open mindset was flowing, so I left the question open ended, “What is my motivation?”

Within minutes of the 10-minute contemplative run, I knew my answer:

“To spread light.”

This answer has multifaceted meaning, as today was the first day my meditation practice has taken a spontaneous leap forward.

Usually when I meditate deeply, sitting, not running, my mind goes to a very blank black, blank space. Sort of like an infinite darkness in outer space. Today though, I saw bright white, a light, for the first time ever while deeply meditating. I immediately thought of the word compassion.

Thus, when only an hour later during the “what is my motivation?” run, I received the answer “to spread light,” something—I’m not sure quite what, albeit vague, mystic, and personal—clicked. I’m stoked for the guidance. I’ll think of it during the hottest part of States, for a start.

Competition vs. Comparison

Another point more related to running, is something Rock pointed out.

The difference between COMPETITION and COMPARISON:

Competition is healthy. It pushes all of us to be our best selves. It’s a self-driving quest for greatness, independent of how you stack up to a fellow racer other than how each of you push THYSELF. Yes, there are winners and losers overall, but the competition, sans comparison, is within yourself and the venue of a race.

Comparison, on the other hand, can be a self-destructive jackhammer. Comparing yourself to your fellow competitors:

1) takes the fun out of the whole race or competition because it often ignites unnecessary anxiety, jealously, feelings of inadequacy, self-hatred.

2) gives unwarranted value to attributes unrelated to the competition, i.e. appearance, body-rippedness, clothing, net-worth, past race accolades.

3) often ignores human attributes that are invaluable: kindness, camaraderie, and sportsmanship.

I love to compete more than most things. Yet, in the past, I’ve struggled with comparing myself to my competitors more than out right competing. What if my quads looked more like hers? How come she has those shoes? How many miles did she run this week?

These types of thoughts are so pointless! They take the focus off why I’m competing in the first place: to push myself to its limit. Nothing about my competitors matters other than we are out there together, pushing, driving, shredding, laughing, crying, and sweating our balls off to be our best. End of story. Stop comparing and start competing.

Thank you, Marty, Rock, yogi/meditation Guru Allie, and all of my fellow retreat-goers. Let there be light.

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On public lands…

This is the simplest, yet most meaningful form you may ever fill out.

http://monumentsforall.org/

Here’s my comment:

Secretary Zinke,

I’m not sure if you’re aware of your job description. I know Trumpey boy can get a bit confused, too, and he probably wasn’t sure of it when he nominated you in the first place. That’s okay. There are many of us Americans, millions actually, who are here to help you with your job. I know it’s crazy that millions of us with our own jobs are willing to help YOU! But we are! We care about our public lands THAT much. 

It’s part of your job to protect public lands that have multifaceted use, historical significance and ecological significance, not to mention they support the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. I know you might want to help out some of your oil boys getting rich over private acquisition of some of our public lands, but that’s not part of your job, is it now? I highly recommend a weekend trip outside with your boys, bring your boss along while you’re at it, and maybe you can feel for yourself what it is millions of us Americans are MOST PROUD of in this country. 

Please do your job. 

Thanks,

Clare Gallagher 

Boulder, Colorado 

14th Day of States: “On Giving a Fuck”

Do you feel paralyzed, unproductive, stupefied at what it is you’re trying to do or actually doing, overwhelmed by insignificant obligations, overwhelmed by the fragility of our world and our inability to do anything to change what’s so messed up?

Well, you, too, can read the first chapter of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson. Better yet, allow me to summarize.

Disclaimer: I’ve only read the first chapter because I believe wholeheartedly the value of the words and I highly doubt there’s anything F-worthy in the rest of the book.

I put off reading this book—one of the three self help-themed books gifted to me this year; don’t worry, I’m not that offended—because I thought it looked cheeky, self-indulgent and un-literary. Boy, I was wrong. Some key points follow.

“Here’s a sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a fuck. You must give a fuck about something…The question, then, is, What do we give a fuck about? What are we choosing to give a fuck about? And how can we not give a fuck about what ultimately does not matter?”

Not giving a fuck about adversity, failure, or embarrassing yourself in order to do what you believe is important—to give a fuck—is key. Say “Fuck it” to everything unimportant in life, and reserve fucks for what truly matters. Friends. Family. Causes. Purpose. Goals.

“If you find yourself consistently giving too many fucks about trivial shit that bothers you—your ex-boyfriend’s new Facebook picture, missing another two-for-one sale on hand sanitizer—chances are you don’t have much going on in your life to give a legitimate fuck about. And that’s your real problem. Not the hand sanitizer.”

“Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what’s truly fuck-worthy.”

So what do I give a fuck about? Making the world a better place. How the fuck can I help contribute to the mitigation of climate change?

I’ve decided for one, I’m going to give fewer fucks about how I feel every minute second of the day related to running and training. Spending less time worrying about what I could be doing or what I should be doing training-wise and spending more time brushing up on the state of our coral reefs, of my state’s public land issues, and better educating myself on the things I proclaim to care about is number one. Running is too simple to give too many fucks about. I want to stay motivated to run and explore by foot and that means caring less about the psycho-element to running.

Two, accepting that everything, more or less, sucks. In Buddhism, this is referred to as “samsara”—the never beginning or ending cycle of birth, mundane existence, and death, with nothing too awesome in between. I’m going to remember that we live in an icky and beautiful and horrific samsara. Any positivity of life then becomes a jackpot of joy.

These thoughts have come at a fortuitous time, as I head to the woods for a weekend meditation retreat. It was in college when I felt similarly overwhelmed, paralyzed, and confused about what I should be doing that I discovered a Buddhist meditation group. It chilled me out big-time. Gave me purpose. Encouraged me to move to Thailand three days after graduating. Needless to say, the effects of those 30-minute afternoon sessions and silent retreats are still flowing through my veins. This weekend, I similarly look forward to honing in on what I should give a fuck about.

Cheers to our mad, mad, mad world.