I’m a big daydreamer. Fortunately, for the most part, this has been a helpful trait, but my family would probably tell you that there are some downsides – mostly on road trips. “Dad, you just missed our exit!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, I’d be able to buy a lifetime supply of HOKAs. While I’m a firm believer of living in the moment, I thoroughly enjoy my daydreaming detours, which provide me with the space to reflect, think and imagine.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about the last three years of my life. Three years ago, I had a horrific accident, on my birthday of all days, when my arm was impaled by a section of plastic PVC pipe. A few months later, I started my own company. My oldest son and I competed in our favorite golf tournament that summer, and I took my youngest son on a 100-mile bike ride up the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. My wife, Krista, and I enjoyed our best year of racing, finishing a 50k, 100k and two 100-mile races, logging nearly 2,000 miles of running. That was a wonderful year, even with my two surgeries (PVC pipe extraction in the spring and kidney stone removal in the fall). Ouch!
As 2019 wrapped up, I wrote an article for UltraRunning Magazine with renewed excitement about 2020 and what the year might bring. In February, we took a trip to Arizona to do a college tour for our oldest son, played golf in Tucson, hiked into the Grand Canyon and explored Sedona, totally oblivious that the world was about to change. The pandemic took a lot from us that year, and it showed no mercy. We closed our business office and went virtual. What was supposed to be a victory lap for my son’s senior year in high school was stripped away in an instant. We hunkered down, thankful to be living in a quiet place, in our small bubble. We spent a lot of time in the White Mountains that summer creating our own adventures, trying to stay safe and sane. We took on crazy challenges, including running 4 miles every 4 hours for 100 miles. We laughed, worried and cried. And we were the lucky ones.
As we rolled into 2021, I felt optimistic about a return to normalcy. I now realize this was not a realistic expectation. Our two biggest races were canceled: the Vermont 100 (COVID) and the Tahoe 200 (wildfires). Despite it all, we still had fun. We ran in the woods and hiked large sections of the Long Trail. We went on day trips, focused on finding the perfect swimming holes on hot summer days. We watched our sons flourishing into kind, thoughtful, young men. Krista and I celebrated our 30-year anniversary of our first date in high school (Pizza Hut, followed by a walk into downtown Burlington, capped off with dessert at Ben & Jerry’s). I may have listened to Vanilla Ice on my drive home, but don’t hate me, it was 1991.
Over the past three years, Krista and I have run approximately 5,500 miles. We’ve run in every conceivable weather condition imaginable, from 95 degrees and sweltering heat to perfect, crisp fall days of 65 degrees to 20 degrees below zero on icy roads and blizzard conditions.
We’ve tested our limits with 100-mile races in the mountains, overnight hiking expeditions in the remote wilderness and winter hikes up Mount Washington and the Franconia Ridge. I’ve been on the ultrarunning circuit since 2010 and have loved every mile of it, including all of the amazing people I’ve met along the way—fascinating, incredible people who share a love of the sport. However, if you asked me how I define myself, I wouldn’t say I’m an ultrarunner. Yes, it’s a slice of me and something I enjoy very much, but it’s not who I am.
I take great comfort in reflecting. It’s fun to relive and remember the highlights from these recent years and a way to constantly remind myself how much fun I’m having, even when times get tough. Reflecting on the past has helped me learn from my mistakes and hopefully not repeat similar patterns that don’t work. Most importantly, it helps me understand how quickly time continues to pass.
Now it’s time to look forward to 2022 and all of the possibilities that the new year brings. Krista and I have an ambitious racing schedule on the calendar. In April, we’ll be heading to the West Coast to compete in the Gorge Waterfalls 100k. A few months later, in June, we’ll tackle the Wild Horse 200 in Mid Wales. We’ll follow that up with the Vermont 100 in July, our beloved hometown race which last took place in 2019. We had an easy time filling up our racing calendar, and now all we have to do is train. Fortunately, I’ll be lacing up my shoes four to five days a week, through the ice, rain, snow and sun with my best friend and partner in life.
I’m also painfully aware that nothing is ever certain. These last three years have taught me as much. However, the older I get, the more I find myself leaning into uncertainty. This unpredictability is what makes life so interesting and reminds me of a lyric from one of my favorite songs: “And now, I’m glad I didn’t know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain. But I’d have had to miss the dance.”