Outdoor Nation Recap

This past weekend, courtesy of the folks at Merrell I attended the Outdoor Nation Summit in New York. In addition to camping out in Central Park (literally creating a tent village) the 50 or so attendees (the other ON summits have ~200 people) spent the majority of the weekend learning about non-profits (as in, how to start/run one) grant money,  and creating plans to encourage young (which ON defines as ~16-28) people to get outside.

The attendee’s were broken down into 5 separate groups, based primarily on location (although my Jersey-centric group had a few locational outliers) with the intention of creating projects designed specifically to encourage people to GTFO through whatever means possible. The projects ranged from urban farming, to social-networking, databases, to literally creating space.

The project I was directly involved in should be launched in ~3 weeks, and primarily focuses on using social networking (facebook, blogger twitter etc) to incentivise people to bring their friends out. Focusing the lack of mentorship amongst outsiders, we’re hoping to motivated the experienced to share the wealth of information, using a combination of prizes, and competitions, the plan is to mobilize those of us who are regularly outdoors to take those among us who aren’t along on our adventures.  More on this later as the project fully-develops (we’re in the process of determining the official name, branding, and creating a logo before the official launch).

The most inspiring part of the summit was hands-down, the diversity. Usually when you think of the “great outdoors” in the parks and recreational sense of the word, you’re thinking of a bunch of crusty old white dudes hiking slowly through our national parks (and getting aggravated when they’re passed by a half-naked tarzan in split-shorts). But, this collection of people was as American as could be. Every demographic was well-represented, socially, economically, racially, and I think that’s arguably the most encouraging part of the whole thing. Getting out has no barriers, and with some luck, ON will succeed in their mission.

OH, and Merrell gave everyone a free pair of Mix Master 2’s!

Yoon was very excited about his free Merrell Mix Master 2’s

VERY excited


Carlos, the Jester

Brandon

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Enjoy the Mountains

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. — Jack Kerouac

I understand that it’s unbelievably clichè to begin any posting by quoting an author, and even more trite to do so by quoting Jack Kerouac, but he makes a very valid point in this quip from Lonesome Traveler. Kerouac is emphasizing the grand importance of not only self-reliance, but the joy of the wilderness, and this was in 1960. If Kerouac had to emphasize the importance of the outdoors then, well before iPads, iPhones, Wireless internet, HDTV, Xbox, and the litany of other technological distractions we’re privy to in the current generation, how are we to encourage the importance of life outside?

Next weekend I’m attending the Outdoor Nation summit in NYC, courtesy of Merrell, who have chosen me to be among a small handful of delegates attending these summits across the nation. So myself, annd approximately 70 other 20-somethings will find ourselves camping in Central Park, getting to know each other, and brainstorming. Fundamentally, the purpose of these regional summits is to gather young people to generate ideas and projects to encourage our peers to spend more time in the outdoors, reaping the benefits of the woods and mountains, and helping to preserve what is left of our great unadulterated forests.

John Muir once said “Climb the mountains and enjoy their good tidings.” In going outside, and participating in true outdoor distraction-free travel, we can as individuals, discover our strengths, our weaknesses, and more importantly, come closer to the realization of what it truly means to be human.  About a year ago, I decided to backpack through the White Mountains, into the Mahoosuc’s via the Appalachian trail. Compared to the folks who hike the entirety of the footpath, this was a miniscule trip, but by dumb luck, I found myself placed inside of the “bubble” where the Northbound Hikers (who typically start in Georgia in March) and the Southbound Hikers (who start in Maine in June) cross paths. This, by default gave me the opportunity to converse with a wide variety of hikers, all there for their own personal reasons. While the hikers were as individual as could be, they all had a handful of things in common: their love of the woods/mountains, a huge amount of pure guts, and that joie de vivre that you can only get by spending the vast majority of your time outside.

In running, I’ve found similar traits to be prevalent. Trail runners, when they come across each other on trail, seem to always acknowledge each others presence, often stopping to chat for a bit (something I’ve never experienced on the pavement…) and moreso, even within a race, the sense of comraderie is a huge contributing factor to the overall vibe. Outdoor people seem to all know that we’re part of some sort of club, while our activities may vary, the intention is the same, a pursuit of peace, both inner and outer, and the overwhelming desire to embrace our humanity by submitting to nature.

“In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” (John Muir) So go out, run, walk, hike, kayak, climb, do whatever you can to get yourself outside, and reap the benefits, they’re free, and will always give you more than you’re seeking. In fact, do one better, and take a friend with you, preferably someone who’s unfamiliar with whatever activity you chose, be it hiking, running, kayaking, or climbing, they’ll thank you for it.

Take a Buddy!

First day back on the hill in 6 weeks…

Rebuilding

After spending the better part of May sitting on the couch complaining about how nice the weather is, I think I’m starting to turn the corner in my ITBS healing process. Unfortunately (for me) the only reliable way to properly recover from an overuse injury such as this is plain and simple rest. Of course, like any over-zealous 20-something, I managed to fail in my original attempt at resting, making it about 14 days without running before I restarted, only to run 6 miles of trail on my 3rd day back, successfully re-aggravating my condition (although much less painful than the initial flaring, so the resting wasn’t for naught). So, after that I decided that my best bet was to refrain from running for at least another 10 days, but begin cross-training as soon as things felt normal again (in a day to day walking stair-climbing sense of normal).
So this time around, I’m approaching my return to running in a very different manner. I’ve never been a fan of weight lifting, or the gym in general, but the obvious weaknesses in my hip abductors, as well as the relative weakness in my core yields a breakdown in my running form over a long mountain race, which is fundamentally unsustainable without some sort of intervention. So, following my mother’s advice (note: she’s a personal trainer, which makes her maternal concerns/advice a good deal more valid[or at least I’d like to think it does]) I’ve joined a Gym. Yes, I have begun to lift things up and put them down. My primary goal is, in the short-term, to salvage as much strength/fitness as possible through a combination of strength training, and low-impact cardio. In the long term I’m hoping to build more strength overall to stave off late race fade, and postpone the inevitable breakdown in form late in a race. With some luck (and diligence) this should help to reduce the likelihood that I find myself laid out again after a long racing effort, and should in turn reduce my injury rate in the long term.
As far as actual running is concerned, my plan as of now, is to begin running lightly in the upcoming week, increasing my mileage at an uncharacteristically prudent rate for at least the first few weeks while utilizing my new-found gym access to build some additional strength. I’ve also begun applying twice-daily therapeutic ultrasound to my IT band, which helps repair tissue on a cellular level by increasing blood flow, and breaking down scar-tissue. With some luck, I’ll be able to salvage some late summer race plans, and fully take advantage of a couple of New England trips I have planned in the next month.
Bonnaroo is happening this weekend, so here are some Jersey bred guys to kick off the summer.

Bear Mountain Video

This is of course, inherently self-serving, (but isn’t the point of a blog self-serving anyhow?), but Dave has just posted the video from the NF 50 over at the Highlands Hashers blog.

Thanks Dave!!!

Frustration

Any high volume runner knows what I’m talking about when I tell you that the inability to run is ineffably frustrating. Putting aside any race plans, and any other associated fitness goals, the real issue is that there’s a tremendous part of my day to day life that’s simply… missing. The smell of the mornings fresh air, the sense of depletion after a run, the joy of a prolonged sweat, all of this seems to be infiltrating my thoughts, memories of what seems like a past life (although it’s only been a few weeks since I was running healthily). In fact, it’s much like getting sick, where after a few too many days of illness, you begin to forget what healthy feels like…  More omnipresent, is the longing for that time spent truly alone. Having the opportunity to tune in, and listen to my body, both the joys and the pains of distance running. Even more, the chance to truly let my thoughts go through my head at their own speed, and simply observe them. So while it’s annoying to think that my fitness is slowly reducing, this pales in comparison to the mental aspect of not being able to hop on trail first thing in the morning (and often times, last thing in the evening) and leave it all behind for a while.

My knee is starting to feel better, in fact, it’s MUCH better than it was when I originally began resting(I’ve now taken 14 of the last 18 days completely off from running). When it first started to act up, I couldn’t make it more than 3/4ths of a mile or so before the pain began to become unbearable, whereas this past Monday, I ran 6 miles on trail(AT, at Sunrise Mountain), without it being beyond a nagging discomfort, and last night I ran 3 miles on the roads, again testing it out, finding the pain bearable, but certainly concerned that a light 3 mile jaunt would still cause some aggravation. With this in mind, I’ve decided to take another ~8-10 days off from running, concentrating on icing, stretching, compressing, and starting to integrate ultrasound therapy. Hopefully this will allow my IT band to fully heal so that I can get back to the trails soon, and retrieve the part of my life that’s been missing for the past month or so.

In other news, I’ve been selected to be a Merrell Delegate for the upcoming Outdoor Nation Summit in NYC. I’m not sure how much Merrell wants me (or any of the other delegates) to divulge about the perks of being sent on their behalf, but the bottom line is that they’re covering my expenses, and have provided me with a generous amount of apparel in exchange for my participation, blogging on their behalf, and a couple of conference calls with their outdoor people. Basically the purpose of the summit is to gather a sizable amount of 20-somethings in a room to discuss ways to encourage more people to get outside, get on trail, and be healthier, so I’m every much looking forward to it.

Gino chased by Bob

John crosses a stream

Jeff doing some downhill