Back to nature for a moment. At any of the Olympics, did you spot interesting birds or have any other nature experiences?
By definition, the summer Olympics are always held during the hot summer in some massive city somewhere and I was always on a rigid schedule of eating, sleeping and training before the Games began. I was a different version of me during those times. One great experience I had with birds while competing was in Indianapolis. I was there for the Olympic Trials in 1988 and I was in my hotel room on some crazy high floor. Of course, the window would only open the allotted amount which I could hardly bear. One night I heard a sound and I knew what it was but could hardly believe it. I looked out the window and saw a huge group of nighthawks swooping and soaring and feasting on mosquitos. I ran out of my room, down the hall to the elevator and got outside as fast I could to marvel at their antics. I was so happy to see something real in the midst of the hotel experience.
When and why did you take up rowing? What do you like about it?
I started rowing in the autumn of 2006 when I was looking for something to do. Everything seemed to pale in comparison with running and subsequently nothing held my interest. Sculling was the first thing I found that spoke to me as running always has. I like moving my body through time and space and rowing and running are psychological siblings that way. Both sports reward the mindful, passionate athlete who grooves on being amidst nature. Rowing and running are both challenging sports that force the athlete to hold a mirror up to their effort and motivation. There’s nowhere to hide in either sport and the starkness of the effort is always revealed. I raced the Head of the Charles in my 1x last October and it was an incredibly exciting and fun experience.
You’re now the director of Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s running programs in Vermont. What do you do in that role and how much do you run these days?
I am in charge of all aspects of the running programs and I also coach each week alongside my fantastic staff of coaches. I like thinking of ways to challenge the runners who come to Craftsbury and this year that will include summer biathlon racing (running and shooting). During the course of a week we do a track session, hill workout, fartlek and tempo work and a long run. The athletes learn how to improve how they approach their training and racing. We hike, bike, circuit train and do yoga. The best part of a Craftsbury week is the camaraderie and fun the athletes have. The second best thing is jumping off the docks into Big Hosmer Pond for a perfect post-run swim.
I am a daily runner with Towhee albeit only on trails now. I have no injuries or aches and pains these days. I like to think that part of my longevity as a happy healthy runner was from being smart while I was an elite athlete plus the fact that I am a trail runner now. My long runs are about 10 miles and the rest of the time I run as I feel. I still marvel at the freedom of not having to do workout X in Y amount of time. No more tyranny of the stopwatch! I do still find it hard to resist chasing down a pony tail if one is in front of me! That being said, I stopped running races when I retired and I only race in my 1x sculling shell.
Describe how you try to combine running with observing nature.
Being in nature is where I feel most at home. When I’m running, I’m not birding. I’m NOT a birder. I am observing everything though. On this morning’s run I saw wildflowers, fresh moose tracks, heard baby sapsuckers in their cavity, watched two ravens soaring, listened to a phoebe singing relentlessly and spied a blue headed vireo snug in her hanging nest. I also saw evidence of a porcupine chewing on a bark tree. I heard a broad-winged hawk, red-eyed vireo and a chestnut sided warbler, too. So there’s always plenty to see and hear but so few people really see and hear what’s around them. It’s always there.
Either near your Oregon home or back here in Vermont and Maine, which you visit frequently, do you have favorite birds or bird-watching spots?
I’m a real fan of raptors and accipiters as well as songbirds. Oh, I really like waterfowl, waders and owls, too. Hmm. I’m not too discriminating, I guess. What I like most is being in a habitat I love (forest, marsh, meadow clearing, pond or river) and observing its inhabitants conducting their lives. It’s like I am privileged to be able to observe the subtle habits and ways of these beautiful winged creatures.
Are you looking forward to following any particular event or athlete at the London Olympics?
The 5k, 10k and marathon always interest me. This year I think the women’s marathon will be uber fascinating.
What would you like to accomplish—as an athlete or a person—in the decades ahead?
I’d like to remain open and passionate about what I find beautiful in nature and athletics. I enjoy being old enough to know what I want and healthy enough to pursue it.