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In Their Own Words: Alice Oshima ’15

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Alice Oshima ‘15 interned with the Harlem Community Justice Center in New York City.

What did you do?

This summer, I interned with the Harlem Community Justice Center, which is part of the umbrella organization the Center for Court Innovation. Inside the Harlem Community Justice Center, there is a housing court, a family court, a re-entry court, and a youth court. The housing, family, and re-entry courts operate as legitimate New York State courts, but with a specific focus on restorative justice. The youth court on the other hand, which is the program I was working with, works outside the court system and relies of referrals from precincts, the law department, and schools. For my internship, I worked with my supervisor and two other interns to facilitators the trainings of the youth court members. I lead ice-breakers or warm-ups before most sessions—one of the most popular of which was the Enneagram personality test. I facilitated the introductory training, as well as trainings on appropriate sanctions, perceptions and assumptions, and jury deliberation. These lessons were based on the youth court training curriculum created by the Center for Court Innovation, but I was encouraged to make any changes or additions I saw fit. In addition to these curriculum-based trainings, I helped facilitate a session on feminism and gender roles created by a fellow intern. I also began developing curriculum for workshops on mental health and teenagers, and race and the criminal justice system, but was unable to finish and facilitate them due to time. I researched and compiled a list of suggest videos for the training sessions or for the coming year—this list included TED talks, spoken word poems, and documentary clips.

What did you learn?

Before this internship, I had very little knowledge regarding the logistics of our criminal justice system, as well as the flaws with this system. From leading training sessions, and watching my supervisor and fellow interns lead sessions, I learned a great deal about how the court system works and the possibilities offered by restorative justice, but also about some of the shortcomings of the current restorative justice projects available. The internship also gave me experience modifying curriculum, teaching lessons, and in general, working with young people. These experience was very educational, as well as fun! But it was also my first time doing any of these things, and so with time, I think I would have gotten better at making the lesson plans even more dynamic and fully engaging all of the youth. Although I feel I made progress, as a teacher, there is still a lot a lot of work for me to be done.

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of my future plans, I do not plan to specifically focus on restorative justice as a career, but I plan to be involved in social activism for my lifetime and engage with the mass incarceration of predominantly black and Latino men in this country, and the major flaws in our criminal justice system in general, are issues that I hope to continue to be work with in the future. I also am highly considering either being a New York City public high school teacher, or working with high-school aged youth in some other capacity, and so the experience I gained working with that age group will definitely be valuable.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

Are Republicans Racially Biased Against Obama?

Categories: Midd Blogosphere
For several reasons I haven’t said much about the role of race in the current presidential election.  The primary reason is that it is a difficult issue to address empirically, and in contrast to many blogs, my intent at this … Continue reading

Goshen Gallop, v. 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Once again, on Saturday afternoon it was time for the popular local trailrunning race, The Goshen Gallop!  The good news was that this year’s relatively dry conditions would make for good footing onwhat were more typically muddy trails.  The bad news was that Saturday was HOT!  The temperatures were probably hovering around 80 at the start of the race, but this, combined with a lot of climbing, didn’t bode well for any personal bests from this middle-aged runner.  So, I donned one of my oldest t-shirts from this race, and drove up to the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen.  My Goshen Gallop t-shirts make up some of the oldest surviving t-shirts in my collection – I first ran this run race in 1989, when it was held in September, rather than its now customary mid-July running.  My first Gallop was a memorable race – the remnants of Hurricane Hugo had just passed through the northeast, rendering the usual trail course impassably wet – given the typical mud on this race course, I can’t begin to imagine what the trail conditions must have been like!  So, the race was forced to the dirt roads of Goshen.  Since then, however, the race has been held on the same course on the Blueberry Hill ski trails on every year that I have run the race.

The race started off heading south on the Goshen-Ripton road for about a half mile, before making a sharp left turn into the trail system.  As the trail switchbacked up the side of Hogback Mt., I had the opportunity to chat with another runner named Andy, who I recognized from previous races.  As it turned out, he had actually taken a chemistry course from me in my first year or second year of teaching, roughly 25 years ago. I had no memory of his enrollment in any of my courses, but he was adamant, and I know from experience that when I meet up with former students, they ALWAYS remember how they did in chemistry.  The race crested the hillside of Hogback Mountain as we ran past perplexed wild blueberry pickers ( the berries were wild, the pickers probably not), and pausing for a quick sip of water at the first water station, Andy pulled ahead never to be seen again until the finish line.  After the short descent to the water station, climbing resumed as the trail angled back towards the inn.  About a half mile before the 5 km mark where the race returned to the inn there was a very overheated dog lying there panting alongside the trail, looking like it was in trouble.  Apparently, the dog had decided to try and run the race, and had overdone it by this point.  Many of the runners alerted the workers at the half way point, so we all went on assuming that the dog would be tended to.

About half of the runners stopped at this point, planning on only running the 5 km race, making this an excellent introduction to the pleasures of trail racing for neophytes.  The rest of us took the sharp right turn, temporarily bypassing the tempting swimming hole, and headed immediately up the steepest climb of the run.  At this point, the heat was starting to get to me, so I had to do a few short sections walking, but I took comfort in the observation that I was not the only middle-the-pack runner in the same state.  The trail climbed steadily to the 6 km point, where it did a series of gentle ups and downs for the next km or so, before a pleasant descent on the Steward trail until it joined a the forest service road connecting the Sugar Hill Reservoir with the Goshen-Ripton road.  The race headed towards the latter destination, and finished with about a mile on this dirt road before ascending one last road climb up the the by now very welcome finish line in front of the inn.  There was no personal best to be had on this day, but it was fun as always, especially after a lot of water, for drinking, as well as swimming – the aforementioned swimming hole behind the inn beckoned!  I was also relieved to see that the running dog was being administered to, and was recovering.

Cooling off in the swimming hole

While this race was originally advertised as a 10 km race, then as a 10.2 km race, my GPS measured it at 10.6 km. This was fine, as nobody in their right mind would expect to run anywhere near their normal 10 km pace on a trail race like this, with all of its climbing, descents, and summer heat. The excellent post-race picnic meal, prepared by the inn’s kitchen finished off a great afternoon.

Google Earth of the Race Course, from the west

Altitude Profile of the Race

 

PS: After I posted this race description, I found another racer had posted her insights on the race. These can be viewed at: http://www.dirtinyourskirt.com/2011/07/moosalamoo-goshen-gallop-post-race.html

A Run (Almost) to the Top of Vermont

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The header for this blog describes it as “A blog for runners in and about Addison County, VT”.  While all of my previous posts have been describing runs in Addison County, this posting chronicles a run not far from our fair county, in the “Vail of Vermont”, Stowe.  Since a drive to Stowe isn’t that big a deal, and this run involves a well-known Vermont landmark, I figured I might as well include it.  I was looking around for a more epic run to finish off the summer, and I learned of “The Race to the Top of Vermont”, a charity race in support of the Catamount Trail, in which a few hundred endorphin-crazed runners and mountain bikers compete up the Mount Mansfield Auto Road to the saddle between the two prominent summits (aka “The Nose” and “The Chin”) of our own Vermont high point, Mount Mansfield.  While I enjoy running the hills, I had only attempted a run of this magnitude once before in my life, and it HAS been a few years since my run up Jay Peak….

The last Sunday in August was a perfect day for a race like sort – warm at the base of the mountain, cool, but not too cold at the top, with the perfectly cloudless azure skies of the sort that one expects in Colorado, not Vermont.  I must confess, looking up at the summit from the start line did get my heart pounding, even before the starting gun went off.

I had never hiked on this side of the mountain during the summer prior to this race, preferring the trails up from Smugglers Notch or Underhill for my frequent hikes to the summit. Nonetheless, I had descended much of the route many times in the course of the Stowe Derby, a cross country ski race from the top of the Lookout Chairlift on Mansfield finishing in the village of Stowe. Even though it has been a few years since I last competed in this little bit of downhill mayhem, I was pleasantly surprised by how well my memory of the Auto Road served me, albeit from a very different perspective – it always looks steeper going uphill.

I chose a conservative pace at the start: Some of those who took off like a bat out of hell were passed by as they fell by the wayside, and some were never seen again until the finish line. I chose an initial strategy of running the straightaways, and “power-hiking” the steeper pitches around the countless hairpin turns. I must confess that as the run got closer and closer to the summit, my fast-walking sections became more numerous, and of longer duration – this was a very tough route! Fortunately, most of the other “middle of the pack” competitors had similar issues. While most of the dirt road course was shady, as it got higher up the mountain and crossed ski trails more frequently, every bend in the trail seemed to bring on an even more spectacular view.

View from the trail

The finish line, where there is a small parking lot for drivers, while a few hundred vertical feet and about a mile from the true summit (“The Chin”), sure felt like the top! Prior to the start of the race, I had delusions of maybe finishing the run with a jog across Mansfield’s spectacular above-timberline ridge and bagging the actual summit, but in recognition of the fact that I still had to get myself back down the mountain on increasingly wobbly legs, I decided to save the ridge run for another day.

(Almost) Summit Finish Line

The only disappointment of the day came when I thought that I might instead take the short walk to the summit of the “Nose” the secondary summit just above the top of the Auto Road where the prominent radio towers are located. The trail to this bump on the ridge had a barrier across it claiming it was closed due to new Federal safety rules on radio frequency exposure! Most people know that there have been increased concerns expressed about radio wave exposure due to publicity about possible health risks from cell phones. What most people don’t know is that the claim that radio waves can cause cancer actually flies against some of the most basic laws of physics, which Einstein figured out in 1905, and are well understood by beginning college chemistry students.  There are many aspects of cancer which are not understood, but one thing is certain – to cause cancer, you need to break chemical bonds, and the energy generated by radio waves is only a tiny fraction of a percent of that necessary to do this. Saying that prolonged exposure to radio waves, or exposure to higher intensity radio waves can cause cancer is tantamount to claiming that if you stand on the Maine coast throwing baseballs for extended periods of time, one of the balls will eventually land in Europe. So….a scenic point in Vermont is taken away from us based on voodoo science.

Enough of the rant of the day…..Most trail runners know that the climb up is harder on the lungs, but the descent is actually tougher on the legs. I thought I had enough strength left in my legs to do the descent as an easy jog, but discovered about halfway down that this was not the case, making the last mile or two of descent more of a fast hike than a running descent. I tried to get down promptly however, given the barbecue lunch awaiting me at the post-race party. All in all, this run was 4.3 miles each way, or 8.6 round trip, with a 2500 vertical foot climb and descent. What a day!

Altitude Profile

Google Earth Projection of the Route

The Middlebury Maple Run

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

After a few good long runs last week, I succumbed to temptation and ignored common sense by registering for The Middlebury Maple Run, a half marathon (13.1 miles) which attracted about 200 runners in its inaugural running last year, and filled up with 500 runners this year.  I don’t usually write up road runs for this column, but my hunch is that a lot of the runners who enjoy the trails would also enjoy this event, which draws upon the support of a wide variety of local businesses, and is planned and staffed by many of my friends who are among the town’s diehard runners.

Sunday morning was perfect for a long run – the low front which had threatened the day’s weather stalled to the west, giving us a cool and breezy bluebird day.  I like to arrive at local races like this at least an hour before the start.  This leaves plenty of time to stretch out and chat with running friends and acquaintances prior to the start.  For example, I had the pleasure or meeting a member of  the Long Trail Running Club Meetup group, a group of primarily Chittenden County trail runners with whom I have corresponded but never met.  For many of the racers today, this race was the first time they had ever entered a race of this length, and the opportunity to do a run like this without traveling proved to be just enough inspiration.  While I had not planned to run this race until Monday of this week, I was really looking forward to the opportunity to run on my home turf with 500+ other runners.  While races of this size are common in some parts of the country, Vermont’s miniscule population and plethora of sporting activities usually makes for much smaller fields in most similar athletic events.

Prerace networking

Prerace networking

The race started at 9:00 am sharp at Porter Hospital, and headed down South St., passing cheering spectators on Main St. before cutting through the Marble Works, and heading out towards the Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge.  One of the great pleasures of this race was how it wound through the village and brought out healthy crowds of spectators, and all of the local runners enjoyed the motivation of their friends and/or family calling out their name as they ran by.  The north winds kept my speed (a word very generously applied) in check until the race headed south back into the village along Sheep Farm Rd.

The course then wound through the Middlebury College Campus past another high concentration of cheering spectators at the half way point on Old Chapel Rd., before leaving campus back towards Porter Hospital.  The last section of the course was made even more interesting due to the fact that while heading out past Porter on South St., the race leaders were doubling back in the opposite direction towards the finish line.  It is always inspiring to see stronger runners, and as I approached the turnaround point, I could see the runners just ahead of me who might just be catchable.   Reversing direction back  into the final few miles to the finish, it became apparent why the the previous few miles had been relatively fast and easy – what was once a stiff tailwind became a much more challenging headwind.  While this initially seemed a setback, the cool wind in my face actually was refreshing, and helped make the finish more attainable rather than less, just a little slower!

After surviving the last challenge of the race – Middlebury’s version of “heartbreak hill” at mile 12, it was time to put my head down and finish this event.   Thinking it was easy sailing from this point on, I slowed my pace almost imperceptibly as I entered the home stretch into the Porter parking lot.  As luck would have it, another gentleman in my age group (the full head of gray hair was a giveaway) caught me with my guard down and streaked by just a few yards from the finish line.

As I sit back writing this blog on Sunday night, rigor mortis is definitely creeping into my legs.  Nonetheless, this proved to be a very well run and friendly race on a near-perfect day, and I look forward to running it again next year.  I have a hunch that this race will soon become a regional favorite, especially if it proves feasible to further increase the size of the field.  Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers – it is events like this which make Middlebury a special place to live!

Google Earth of Race Route

Google Earth of Race Route