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Month: April 2017

Trails, on Bike and Foot

Trails, on Bike and Foot

This final weekend of April marks the beginning of true “crunch time” for my academic work. Having submitted rough drafts last week, I now have a series of upcoming deadlines that will propel me to the end. I will turn in my secondary rough draft of my critical thesis to my advisor by Monday evening for his final revisions, complete my creative thesis by Wednesday, submit my completed critical thesis the following Monday, and defend my creative work later that day. Later that week, I will finish my final woodworking project and defend my critical thesis. And then I will be done.

Safe to say, I cannot let a day go by without making progress toward these goals. This weekend, however, I was not willing to pass up a few opportunities to see new trails and to enjoy the simple thrills of springtime in Vermont.

On Friday afternoon, the warmest day of the spring yet, I rode my mountain bike around Blueberry Lake in Warren, VT with Maddie and another friend, and we had a blast getting lost down dirt roads and ATV trails, crossing streams, taking in panoramic views of the Mad River Valley, and zipping down Prickly Mountain Road, which is lined with some of architect David Sellers’ finest work. We did our best to earn our dinner at Mad Taco in Waitsfield, and I even stumbled upon the elusive Lawson’s Triple Sunshine IPA – the best “triple” IPA I have ever had.

Sunday featured my first race of the year and my first ever trail race. The 10k mountain run at Sleepy Hollow in Huntington, VT featured just under 1400 feet of climbing, nearly 300 participants, and some light sleet at the start. What a difference one day can make in the weather – only in VT! The course was titled “The Dark Side” and certainly presented its challenges. I found the three major climbs to be brutal but rewarding, and I gained the most ground on the field on the steep descents. Overall, I placed 36th, and Maddie came in a couple minutes after me in 47th. She earned the prize, though, taking home 5th for women and 3rd in her age group!

Though I do not have an extensive racing calendar planned for the spring and summer, I know I will be competing fairly regularly up until my Germany trip. It was great to start the racing season off with a grueling course and a decent result. The Middlebury Maple Run is a week from today, and Maddie and I will be teaming up to defend our title in the mixed-relay category!

Theses Rough Drafts and a Family Weekend

Theses Rough Drafts and a Family Weekend

I am in the midst of finalizing my theses rough drafts and am finding it ironic that a rough draft has to be finalized at all, considering it is only a rough draft. But of course, the more presentable and polished the rough draft is, the easier it will be to achieve a final draft. And so I write, or I think about writing while I write a blog post. I do so while watching the greens and blues of a vibrant spring day, checking the scores of the Boston sports teams, and dreaming up post-graduation plans.

While the thesis work has consumed the majority of my time (hence, fewer blog posts), the past week or so has not been without highlights:

I built a cutting board and continued to dream up woodworking projects.

I presented my website titled The Stories of Alistair MacLeod at Middlebury’s Spring Symposium. The site pays homage to MacLeod – the focus of my critical thesis – and explores the geographies of his life and his stories. The mapping component of the website combines my interests in literature and cartography, and the cumulative product is a unique foray into digital storytelling that is atypical of an English thesis project.

I got to spend quality family time with my parents, my brother Sam, and my grandparents. We all stayed in Westport for a night – Sam to play in a soccer recruit camp at Middlebury, my grandparents to check up on the house after their two months in Florida, and my dad and I to sit in on preliminary summer staff meetings at Camp Dudley. We enjoyed some time in the new Leadership Barn and heard a detailed explanation about the new high ropes course that Dudley is adding – complete with a 400-foot zip-line and a giant swing that will soar over the lake.

And just this morning, I rode to Vergennes and back with Maddie, enjoying new roads, new views, and a coffee break at Three Squares Cafe.

Maple Street, Vergennes

As I turn back to my writing, I look forward to other events in the near future. I have two upcoming races, plans to mountain bike as soon as the trails open, and some IM Golf sessions that begin this week. And more momentous occasions lie in sight, too. The completion of my theses, the defenses, senior week, graduation parties, ADKs in June, a tentative trip (more details to come!), and the final send-off to Germany. I feel just as much excitement for the little moments as I do the huge celebratory events, and be they big or small, I will continue to write about them – mindful of how lucky I am.

More Questions than Answers

More Questions than Answers

Vermont has transitioned from Winter to Spring since I last wrote, and with it, I feel the end accelerating towards me. I am on track, continuing to garner compliments on my thesis progress from both of my advisors and to make time for fun activities on a daily basis, and yet I find myself teetering more frequently than I would like.

Events have passed by in a blur, and I hope to capture the most meaningful snippets in this post. Below are two photos from “Winter” – the first, from my final visit to Craftsbury over Spring Break (I think that brings my total Craftsbury days to five –not bad considering the distance from Middlebury); the second, from the April Fools’ Day snowstorm that dumped eight inches of wet powder on Westport.

Two days later, I was out on my road bike for the first time, and now that it has reached 75 degrees two days in a row, it is officially Spring. When I delineate in this manner, it all sounds so easy. But the first week-and-a-half of the second half of my final semester has been anything but straightforward. My thoughts exist in multiple planes and temporalities, seemingly at all times. Between two theses and their upcoming deadlines, woodworking projects, and the temptation of springtime activities, I have enough to crowd my vision – but that is just the present and nearest future. I am also considering my bucket list items and all of my commitments before graduation, the logistics of my post-graduation plans before I leave for Germany, and finally the reality of moving to New York and beginning my job there. It is not stress that I feel, but rather a desire to not let anyone down, especially myself. Every day that is unproductive or strays from the plan that I outline feels like a blow to this goal.

But I am moving forward, even if I allow myself to relish in long lunches on the Atwater patio, spend extra hours in the wood shop, or drink a beer on a weeknight. And I am allowing three facets of my life to spur me onwards. First, my fingers continue to write. The lulls in motivation to do so are there, but every day I am able to write something, and when I sustain focus, the results are impressive, even to me. Second, I have a new pair of running shoes – The Freedom ISO from Saucony (pictured below). They are the best running shoes I have ever owned, and they will be put to the test in races this spring, beginning with two that I have signed up for at the end of April and first weekend of May. With a spring in my step, I am getting fitter and faster. Third, and most notably, Maddie and I have signed a lease for an apartment in New York. We will be on the first floor of a newly renovated building on 58th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, and though the space is significantly smaller than our setup in the Townhouses on campus, it will be the first time we can call a space our own. We are particularly jazzed about the location (both of us can walk to work), the tiny-house concept applied in the design to maximize the utility of the space, and the small patio out back for sitting in the sun or grilling on the weekends. There will be many details to come about the apartment, especially as I begin to build furniture for it, but for now, I am thrilled to know that come September, Maddie and I will be settled into New York life together.