It takes some serious stamina to keep up with The Mirnavator! Aka Mirna Valerio, this Vermonter is an outdoors professional when she's not dividing her day as a mother, writer, diversity practitioner, singer, and coach. Generous with her time, we caught up with Mirna on the tail end of winter but chatted all seasons.
Hi Mirna! We’ve had a relatively dry start to winter with just a few dumps of snow and then it came storm after storm. How do you occupy your time in these cold months?
When I’m not outside adventuring -- even with the little bit of snow we had in the beginning of the winter, I spent a lot of time reading. Trying to read much more for pleasure than I have been in the last couple of years. My goal is 50 books this year, although I read plenty for work -- in preparation for my antiracism classes! Also, my son and I have been cooking more at home, which is a joy. He’s really into culinary, and I reap the benefits of his interests in very high falutin food!
We’re lucky here in Vermont to have a huge variety of ways to recreate and get after it just outside our front doors. How do you go about picking which adventure you’re up to on any given day?
Depending on what my training calls for (and I’m just now getting back into my first training cycle since my meniscus surgery in August 2020), there are so many things I can do. I’m not running a bunch of mileage quite yet, but I can hike. And since these are the um, Green Mountains, coach likes me to get some vert in. I love Irish Hill in Berlin for this. It’s straight up, without a break really, and straight down, in summer, fall, winter (with spikes, of course) and spring! So, lots of short hikes here in Montpelier, Stowe, Duxbury, Burke, near Bennington, and Bellows Falls. I hope to keep exploring the whole state on foot or on skis! Last year I took my first nordic ski lesson up at Stowe after a somewhat negative experience out west. Now I’m kind of obsessed! I also started downhill skiing again with my first lesson after 10 years at Sugarbush and now for the rest of the season at Bolton! I’m obsessed with this too. I love being outside, even if it’s for a walk to the supermarket, or to the bookstore. There’s nothing like fresh air!
OH I FORGOT ABOUT BIKES! I am also in love with cycling. After my initial injury, I had to find an alternative way to move my body outside so my coach said GET A BIKE. So, with the help of Onion River Outdoors, I started riding a Salsa Journeyman. I had never been on a gravel bike, but it immediately became my newest love. And then Salsa sent me a fatbike, the Beargrease, and um, they’ve created a monster!
You segued the popularity of your blog to being a best selling author. You’re a writer, you’re a diversity practitioner, a singer, a mother, you’ve been a Spanish teacher and cross-country coach, and not least of which, you're an outdoors professional. How do you personally manage the juggle of so many things that could pull at your attention?
I admit that I do not manage any of this well. I’ve alway been terrible at organization and time management and it hasn’t been until very recently that I hired a business manager to help me get my BEEEP together. This year my intention is to take on less work that doesn’t fulfill me and my core values, so it makes room for the things that are really important. I wrote ¾ of a novel in November for NANOWRIMO, dedicated a few hours most days to writing, gave a lot of keynotes ranging from diversity, equity and antiracsim to pivoting our businesses and personal lives in this pandemic, taught a lot of 4.5 hour long antiracism workshops, and tried to sleep a little more because I need it! Any my boy -- he’s a teenager so he can basically fend for himself! But it’s been awesome to be able to spend quality time with him as he figures out what his interests and passions are.
Endurance sports often boast about the robust aspect of community. Broadly speaking, how has your experience been with “community”? Given your diverse background, how has diversity played a role across sports, across geographies you’ve traveled, and across your time?
The outdoor community can be very embracing (if you’re already a part of it) and can seem very exclusive if you either don’t have access or experience. I’ve found a mostly welcoming community all over the world from here in the states to Canada to Europe to North Africa. Folks are friendly and generous, and we often have similar goals (to finish upright, under the cutoff, with enjoyment, and without injury!). I’ve had some great conversations and connections with all sorts of people. We all love being outside for VERY LONG PERIODS OF TIME, testing ourselves and our endurance, and feeling quintessentially human.
When you’re packing your go-bag for a weekend away, what are your must-haves?
- A run kit and trekking poles for the hiking and trail running possibilities!
- A cycling kit
- A bike, obviously, precariously thrown in the back of my car because who needs a rack? The learning curve has been high!
- Coffee UnTapped to put in my coffee because caffeine--on a recent trip to Hawaii, I brought several packs of this with me and it it carried me through several tough days of shooting. Coffee on coffee plus maple syrup and naturally occurring electrolytes and sodium for energy during a run in the hot, steamy heat of Hawaii? I’ll take it.
What are the top 3 tips for anyone out there to help expand inclusion in their athletic life?
- Broaden your circle in your non-athletic life. Nothing happens in a vacuum. We all carry our lived experiences and perspectives everywhere we go, even in our athletic pursuits. Invite people who have different kinds of lives and experiences to recreate with you (obviously when it’s safe to do so).
- LEARN. READ. OBTAIN KNOWLEDGE. HAVE CONVERSATIONS. ASK QUESTIONS. WITHHOLD JUDGMENT OF YOURSELF.
- If someone doesn’t have a particular outdoor skill, don’t shame them, show them. Everyone deserves the joy of being outside.
Thank you thank you thank you.