Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Blog i Wrote...

Hey Everyone!
Here is a contribution i wrote a few weeks ago to Huffington Post. I wrote it as i was flying to Death Valley end of August...

We were at 14,000 feet of altitude in the Altiplano, Bolivia. Seventeen-year-old Brandon had made his way from north of Saskatoon to be here with us -- his team. His team consisted of four other youth adventurers around his age. Each of them here for their own purpose and their own mission.

Brandon's purpose clear to him, maybe not to the others -- they couldn't know him, or know his life. How could they?

He was here on an honour run. Spirit would be here with him. This he knew.

His goal? Run 35 kilometres per day for six days. Doing the math, he would yield 200 or more kilometres in a week. He would reach a peak of 15,000 feet altitude by the final day of this endurance diatribe. That end was hard to come by. Running 35 kilometres is a difficult task at sea level, let alone at the base of some volcano high up in the Bolivian mountains, day after day. He was here to do this, accomplish this seemingly impossible task. Why?

Ask him and I am sure he would tell you that at the time he asked himself that very question. After one week he knew the answer: his greatness would not be defined by this run, but by his actions now -- by what he would prove to himself he was and we all are capable of. Of our OWN greatness. That is what determines our path... and future. A future that is confident in knowing he would exceed personal physical, emotional and mental limits to accomplish what most say couldn't be done. He had heard 'couldn't' so much in his life. First Nations youth have enough shit to deal with -- he had his own demons and was now facing them head on, on his terms.

The running was, as he puts it, the easy part. There was no convenient "this is so tough" description. But there was a purpose to this maniacal run across remote Bolivian mountains. His grandest of commitments? Share what he was learning about himself everyday to thousands of students around the globe that were following his every move.

No small feat when your feet are on fire and covered in blisters from running all day. Couple that with the burning lungs from high altitude running. Day after day. Meanwhile Brandon was a young man of few words or readable emotions.

He was so alive and bright during the team communications. Every day, like clockwork. Midway through the day, a live satellite feed was broadcasted into schools globally. Classrooms would appear on the monitor of the computer being used to communicate his expedition via satellite feed and video conferencing software called Digigone. School names would pop up, and questions would be asked of Brandon and his teammates from those schools who joined in on the conversation.

One day the name of Brandon's school in his First Nations community appeared on screen. They cheered to him as if he were a superhero, or legend. As far as they were concerned, and as far as I am concerned, he is. Brandon finished that day with deep knowledge that we are all capable of the extraordinary. That we are all capable of taking the seemingly impossible and making it possible.

As I write this I am on a plane heading for Death Valley. My goal is to run 300 kilometres from the north border of Death Valley in Nevada to the South boundary of the national park- off road. Nobody has ever tried and I guess there is a reason why! Brandon may not know it- but when it hits 125 degrees Fahrenheit and I think I can't take another step -- he will be the catalyst for me to move forward.

See you soon!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer 2011 Newsletter!

Death Valley

Last January when i started running the length of the Atacama Desert something almost stopped me in my tracks on the first day. The heat! Of course as many of you know -i do love the heat- but it can be a killer. When i started competing in ultra marathons in 2004 up until the time Kevin, Charlie and I left to run 7,500 km across the Sahara in November 2006 i always seemed to perform and have my best results in desert races....but there is something to be said about training and prepping for the heat. Not sure if you followed the Atacama Extreme expedition, but by day 15 i was seeing temps into the high 40’s and a high off 55 celsius!!! I promise you, that is hot!

In January 2012, if all goes to plan i will attempt to run the width of Saudi Arabia through the Rub Khali (Empty Quarter), a distance of 2,000 or so km. My back up plan is the Kalahari. Both hot, both requiring the best possible preparation.

An opportunity presented itself that i just couldn’t pass up. My buddy Will Laughlin had decided he was going to attempt a crossing of Death Valley in 3 or 4 days at the end of August. All off road, in the heat! He invited me to join him, and i accepted his invitation.

Will has done some amazing things- and i have been fortunate and honored to prepare his training programs for many of his adventures. He has run over 300km non-stop- running a relay race in Colorado...solo. He has won the Yukon Arctic Ultra and is the first person to run the entire La Ruta de Los Conquistadores mountain bike course in Costa Rica. His plan of running off-road north/south Death Valley will be incredibly difficult- but we’ll give it the best effort possible! Of course its going to be hot. Really hot. Here’s to hoping it provides a benefit to my prep for Saudi!!!! Stay tuned...

Expedition India

The Youth Ambassadors have been selected for the upcoming i2P India Youth Expedition...and everyone at Team impossible2Possible is pumped!!! The Education Team has been working around the clock to create the best Experiential Learning program possible for schools all over the world to participate in. The expedition takes place October 2-15, and schools have been registering from all over to participate. Remember, all of the programs are free- including the Youth Ambassador’s expenses. So register your school today at http://i2p.force.com/IndiaSchoolRegistration !

I just recently spoke in Arizona at the Apple Distinguished Educators Conference (btw i was accompanied by AmazonYouth Ambassador Sierra Smith), and i can tell you these amazing educators from across North America are totally pumped to be participating in the India Expedition, and the topic of the education program- World Health. Check it out at : http://impossible2possible.com/i2p

The Coolest Running Clothing in the World (we think so!)

i2P has recently announced a complete line of custom running gear- from shorts to arm warmers to tees to jackets. You have until first week August to get your order in, check out the catalog here! http://impossible2possible.com/i2p

Best part- proceeds go to supporting and funding Youth Expeditions!!!! So not only will you look cool representing- you will also be inspiring. Not only us- but the Youth Ambassadors you are supporting! Thank You (in advance!) for your support...and for being a member of Team i2P!!!

Catch you soon and enjoy your summer!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Newsletter!!! June 2011

Atacama and Beyond!

This past January/February i ran the length of the Atacama Desert in 20 days, averaging 60km per day! Thank you all so much for following along- and hopefully enjoying some of the videos! The day 7 "blister video" seemed to be the most popular! Somewhere around day 11 it dawned on me why no one had attempted this before, and why it would be the most difficult project to date for me...the terrain and heat were more then i had bargained for!!! The daily live video comms with students kept me going- i couldn't wait each day to update them and answer their questions. It also gave me an opportunity to start pumping them up for May's i2P Bolivia Youth Expedition! As most of you have figured out i do a major project to kick the year off in January, then the remainder of the year is dedicated to i2P Youth Expeditions and basically everything that is involved in creating these free Experiential Learning programs for schools-and free for selected Youth Ambassadors to participate. As a volunteer in i2P, i also spend a tremendous amount of time coaching runners everywhere-my main source of income, in order to buy diapers! (We have a new now 4 month old named Anika Ixa Zahab!) I have many amazing friends running their own incredible adventures this year! I have also been busy with other volunteer events such as visiting youth in First Nations communities, working with Ryans Well Foundation, and more. I love it!
This January, (you are hearing this here first!!!) i will attempt to run across Saudi Arabia- in particular through the Empty Quarter. A distance of 2000km...it will be a toughy!!! My back up plan is to span the Kalahari Desert, of course running!!! Both beautiful places- with an entire program of Exercise Science that will include daily blood tests conducted by Dr. Greg Wells. I head to Death Valley in August to join WIll Laughlin in an attempt to run 300km across the valley in 3 days. I am hoping this preps us both for our upcoming projects (he has something up his sleeve for next year).

i2P Bolivia....leads to i2P India!!!

The impossible2Possible team is dedicated to constantly evolving and raising the bar of our free Experiential Learning Programs. Just weeks ago 5 Youth Ambassadors ran an average of 35km per day for 6 days across the Altiplano in Bolivia! They ran at an average altitude between 12,000-14,000 feet the entire time!!! Each day they communicated with live video conferencing to students around the globe, and scientists (Dr. George Agnes, Dean Graduate Studies at SImon Fraser University and Dr. Greg Wells) conducted live chemistry and biochemistry experiments- in which schools were able to participate live and in sync. Each expedition has a specific educational topic (we have covered Water, Biodiversity, etc)- this time as part of the UN International Year of Chemistry we partnered with the UN to deliver an interesting curriculum to students from Elementary to University level! From boiling water to complex analysis of the changing biochemistry of these amazing youth running at altitude, all topics chemistry were discussed! Check it out at www.bolivia2011.com if you missed it.
Next up? India-home to one of the worlds fastest growing economies. We are visiting the Thar Desert region of India, this time the topic of our Experiential Learning program will be World Health. As our Youth Team runs 290km over the course of 7 days, students in classroom will be challenged each day to learn about quality and access to health care in their communities, as we learn about healthcare issues in this incredible part of the globe. Of course i am being brief- there is lots to come- and so many compelling pieces! Registration is now live for potential Youth Ambassadors to apply-and school registration is just a few weeks away. Remember- everything is free, and our generous sponsors provide the video conferencing software required for free to all registered schools. Make sure your school is in the know!!!


It was just a few weeks before i began my run across the Atacama Desert that i lost a very good friend and mentor-Patrick Doyle to suicide as a result of mental illness. He shared so much of his running knowledge and friendship with me, and if it wasn't for him i know i wouldn't be doing everything i am doing now. When i train on many of the trails i ran together with him (we usually ran at some ridiculous hour of the early morning) i often think of him, and reflect on all of the people i love in my life, and remember not to take them for granted. Life is too short- so live it to the max!!!
Till next time, keep running!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Expedition Bolivia! Crossing The Salar!

It seems just weeks ago that i completed running the length of the Atacama Desert from the Peruvian border to Copiapo. It took me 20 days averaging 60 kms per day in sometimes wicked terrain to do it. And temperatures....I have to be honest- the contrast shocked me. During the day it would get up to the 40's and at night drop down to near freezing. Thankfully, Canada Goose designer extraordinaire Spencer Orr had once again made magic happen. He made a totally packable lightweight down jacket (i carried around 20 pounds of emergency supplies including warm clothing and another 10 pounds of Gatorade on my back) that kept me warm enough to get decent sleep while in the desert night. Actually, last year when i crossed Lake Baikal in winter unsupported, Spencer worked his magic to create a pair of super warm super lightweight down pants. Now i had their "sister" with me to keep me warm at night in Atacama...a bright red 900 fill down jacket.

But its not just about keeping warm. Its putting in the miles that will get you there!!! As difficult as this project was, the day to day communication with students inspired me to keep going. And talk about inspiration...well, as i write this i am in the airport heading to Bolivia, where 5 Youth Ambassadors selected through my organization impossible2Possible will run 250 km across the Salara de Uyuni in Bolivia. I will be there to follow them, and watch as they share a comprehensive experiential learning program with students all over the world. Of course there will be live video conferencing, a live website and an awesome science based curriculum. But at the foundation of the project are five incredible young people demonstrating that we are all capable of the extraordinary.

Since running across the Sahara in 2006, and then other projects including an unsupported trek to the South Pole, i have learned and am convinced we all can do the "amazing" in our lives. Many people do not know that i began my athletic career in my thirties, and that i was once a pack a day smoker! This week i will once again be reminded that us...ALL of us can do unbelievable things in our lives. And seeing young people achieve that makes the rewards that much sweeter.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Starting Over ?

It seems like days ago although it has been over a month and a half since i completed my 1200km run across the length of the Atacama Desert. seriously, it was one of the toughest things i have ever done. Once i got home, our second beautiful baby girl was born, Anika Ixa- and then i was immediately on the go again, prepping and planning to take 5 amazing Youth Ambassadors to Bolivia through our non-profit impossible2Possible. Details of their expedition can be found on www.impossible2possible.com !
Anyhow- with everything happening after Atacama, and the beating my body took after the 20 days it took to cross the desert....i got very sick! Really sick. IV antibiotics and the whole deal.
Now, i'm not complaining- i am used to the 15 hour days volunteering for i2P. I LOVE it !!! And i love being a busy dad. But it sucks trying to get my body back in shape after these last 6 weeks!!!
Its all relative though, so many of my friends face real challenges everyday. They motivate and inspire me- so when i feel like i am running in reverse- i think of them....i get out of bed...and run!!!

Monday, April 04, 2011

On The Go !!!

I just returned from speaking in both Vancouver and Rotterdam! First, in Vancouver at the Engineers Without Borders conference- an AMAZING group of people doing extraordinary things, the audience was a mix of people, all engaged in making a huge impact in the world. The second event was in Rotterdam at Erasmus University where i was so proud to speak about impossible2Possible to another incredible group. Opening speaker was the Secretary General of NATO. More to come!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Only a few days left before we head to the Atacama Desert! I am packing like a madman, more to come soon!!!