North Atlantic Ocean
Date: TBD 2018
"Find a challenge, go through the process of becoming someone capable of completing it. Finish that challenge with others, and sit around telling the stories of preparation and race execution. Find inspiration for another adventure and growth opportunity, get excited, and go for it."
I grew up the oldest of 3 kids, with two younger sisters, on the shores of Lake Michigan (Muskegon, MI). Had a pretty great childhood with loving and supportive parents that gave me a lot of freedom to make my own decisions and explore my surroundings with a lot of independence. In a lot of ways I was probably a typical type A kid, with a lot of interests and reluctant to focus my efforts to just one or two of them. I excelled in music, even considered a career in the symphony (was an all-state bassoon player in Michigan). I ran cross country and track. I was involved in a Scandinavian youth group, and lived in Denmark my junior year of high school as an exchange student. And I really loved being in school and learning new things!
Given my interest in learning, I decided to follow an academic career path. I finished my undergraduate work at the University of Michigan with a BS in Biology and continued on to earn my PhD from Emory University in biological anthropology, where I specialized in nutrition and human evolution (working to understand how our relationship with food had changed over the past couple million years and what that meant for dietary recommendations today).
I took my first job out of graduate school as a tenure-track professor at Purdue University. I could give a very long winded explanation about why it didn’t ultimately work out, but the short answer is that I was becoming a one dimensional person and it didn’t feel very comfortable. I’d always found the most fulfillment pursuing a variety of interests (physical, intellectual, and spiritual) and as a professor found myself pressured to go all in on a narrow slice of intellectual life. I’m now teaching high school biology and coaching rowing. Again, in an environment where I can explore a variety of interests and bring what I learn into my students' lives.
I found ultra marathon running about 10 years ago as a way to explore: the natural environment, the human built environment, the limits of human endurance, and my own psyche. I found myself embedded within a wonderful group of fellow explorers in Atlanta, and one challenge led to another inspired by their stories and adventures.
I learn something from each adventure, about myself and the world around me. You know, the kind of knowledge you can’t just read about in a book. And the pursuit of those adventures and that kind of knowledge has become a bit addictive :) I suppose it isn’t just what I learn about myself that’s interesting and compelling, but the growth that occurs throughout the process of training for and then competing in the events. I love the process of growth, which is perhaps why I’ve been so fulfilled as a teacher and coach, helping others fully engage in their own processes of growth.
The North Atlantic Solo Row is really just a result of that evolutionary process playing out over the past 10 years. Find a challenge, go through the process of becoming someone capable of completing it. Finish that challenge with others, and sit around telling the stories of our preparation and race execution. Find inspiration for another adventure and growth opportunity, get excited, and go for it. I’ve repeated that cycle dozens of times and it’s led me to run several 100 mile ultra marathons, the 153 mile Spartathlon in Greece, a 3100 mile stage race across the USA, and now I’m looking to switch gears a little bit from running to rowing.
I’ve been a rowing coach for about 10 years now. Even while I was running all the ultra marathons I was coaching college and high school rowing. I rowed all four years in college but after 10+ years of running after graduating in 2003, I’ve lost a fair bit of overall body strength and fitness, and was interested in finding an adventure that would allow me to build some of that back. I first heard about others rowing across an ocean several years ago, but the idea didn’t really stick. It wasn’t until about 2/3 of the way through our Race Across USA in 2015 that I tripped on the idea again, and it stuck!
It Takes a Village
I probably have Roz Savage to thank for the initial seed, but I’ve since found a lot of rowing and ocean crossing inspiration from the books written by or about John Fairfax, Tori Murden McClure, Alex Bellini, and Bernard Moitessier. When it comes to inspiration more broadly though, I drink it in from a variety of sources. I can get fired up watching cartoons and listening to pop songs. It’s all good!
#liveforaliving in motion
If money wasn't an object, what would I change?
If money were no object, I think I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now. Life is good!
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