Tayte Pollmann, on earthship architecture and sustainability, trail running and writing in Nepal, living with five housemates and the importance of Liège waffles
(Publication Date: 1.24.23)
Overview: In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, host Adam Williams talks with Tayte Pollmann. Tayte is a writer, trail runner, Nordic skier, traveler and, it turns out, a lover of Liège waffles, artisan cheese and many other things.
Adam and Tayte talk about a roving range of topics, including food and their shared love of living in the mountains, and memories they both have of their dads introducing them to Nordic skiing.
Tayte also talks about his experience of living with five housemates in a time and place when housing affordability has become increasingly difficult. They talk about earthship architecture and sustainability, and Tayte shares his thoughts on the concept of home.
Adam also asks Tayte about an exciting book project in the works for which he plans to travel to Nepal this spring. Among many other things.
SHOW NOTES, LINKS, CREDITS & TRANSCRIPT
The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.
Along with being distributed on popular podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via khen.org.
We Are Chaffee
Looking Upstream Host & Photographer: Adam Williams
Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray
Producer & We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin
We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby
Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom
Director of Chaffee Housing Authority: Becky Gray
Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service. Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.
[Intro music, guitar instrumental]
Adam Williams: Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a conversational podcast of humanness based in Chaffee County, Colorado. I'm Adam Williams.
Today I'm talking with Tayte Pullman. Tayte is a writer, trail runner, a traveler, and it turns out a lover of liege waffles, artisan cheese, and many other things.
(00:00:29): I happened to be a little more acquainted with Tayte's story at the time we recorded this conversation than I typically am with guests. I'll explain that. And with that being the case, this conversation has a little different flow, I think.
We talk about a roving range of topics, including food and our shared love of living in the mountains and memories we both have of our dads introducing us to Nordic skiing.
We talk about Tayte's experience of living with five housemates in a time and place when housing affordability has become increasingly difficult. That, of course, is an especially relevant topic on this podcast, which as a reminder, at the heart is focused on all the things that give us as individuals and as a community a sense of belonging and wellbeing.
(00:01:13): Housing opportunities are one of those critical pieces for having a sense of security and stability in our lives. We talk about earthship architecture and sustainability, and Tayte shares his thoughts on the concept of home. I consider Tate to be an optimistic and thoughtful person.
That shines through, I think, when we're talking about him finding his creative side and flourishing as a writer and a musician in the face of losing his identity as a professional trail runner, at least for now, due to a prolonged recovery from injury.
(00:01:41): As a writer, Tayte has an exciting book project in the works for which he plans to travel to Nepal this spring. And as a writer and runner and a traveler myself, I am super into this. So Tayte and I wind our way through that conversation too. But all in all, I think the ebbs and flows between the two of us, I think has made for a fantastic conversation that I am happy to share with you. So here it is, me talking with Tayte Pullman.
[Transition music, guitar instrumental]
(00:02:13): So welcome to Looking Upstream, Tayte.
Tayte Pollmann (00:02:15): Yeah, thanks for having me on.
Adam Williams (00:02:17): So I'm going to start, I guess for listeners, by bringing them in and letting them know, there's something kind of different in the conversation I think you and I are about to have than what we maybe have had, what I have had with some other guests.
And that's because you and I were connected by a mutual friend. His name is Peter Maksimow, for those in the trail running world, they definitely will recognize that name.
He had connected us because of our common interest in writing and running. And it was at the end of, I don't know what, it must have been an hour and a half long conversation over coffee, we thought we were just meeting as two friends in the same small town, and I happened to ask something about where you live, I think, and we found out we're actually neighbors, backyard neighbors. Is that how you remember it?
Tayte Pollmann (00:03:06): Exactly yeah. It was just funny too, thinking about that conversation and just the ease of, we were in that coffee shop for at least an hour and a half, and then have met up, what, once or twice since then. And yeah, this podcast, I feel like is kind of just extending that conversation of running and writing, two things I'm super passionate about.
But yeah, no, it was funny how this all connected. And yeah, you even ended up finding one of my housemate's cats in the backyard one time, too. It was just kind of a good way to connect pretty easily.
Adam Williams (00:03:51): It's funny how that can happen and we don't know our neighbors, how we tend to, I think, not really get to know too many of them. So, which by the way, this is not why you're on the podcast. You're on the podcast for the same reason anybody else would be.
But the amazing thing about this is because we've had those few conversations, and I think that first one is the shortest one we've had. We'll talk for two, two and a half hours and just have coffee and it's a great flow. And I've gotten to know a lot of really interesting things that you are into and including finding out when I knew where you lived and knew you were neighbors, that you're in a house with five roommates.
(00:04:34): And that especially is relevant to this podcast because as those who've listened in the past, this has to do with housing to some extent as a subtle undercurrent. This podcast is supported by the Chaffee Housing Authority in part, because there is a housing affordability crisis and all these sorts of things going on in our area and in plenty of others. So of course that perked up my ears as well as to, wow, you have a perspective besides all the cool things you have in your life and that you do. We'll get to that.
(00:05:12): I want to start with this. This is what's been on my mind and been amusing me to some extent since you said it the last time we saw each other. I don't know that you meant this with humor. You said, "Waffles are important to me," and it struck me as funny at the time, but I don't know, I just love it and I just want to know what is this waffle love about?
Tayte Pollmann (00:05:40): Yeah, there's definitely some backstory there that needs to be explained because it's a very particular kind of waffle as well. It's the liege waffles you can get at the Push and Pull, which is, it's bike shop, slash, what do you call it, a hangout. He has a bar now as well. It was just a bike shop, but then the owner, Joe Parkin, has turned it into this hub where you can get good Belgian beers, and he's brought in bands to play there.
And then the key is that he used to be a professional cyclist over for a team in Belgium, and he learned how to make authentic Belgian style waffles and started making them out of his bike shop with this super fancy waffle maker. I think it's like a $3,000 waffle maker or something like that, that he brought back with him. But yeah, it makes the best waffles I've ever had.
(00:06:36): And I mean, I'm one for sweets in general, and I think that maybe that's partially just because I'm so active with running or skiing or other things that I just find quick energy out of foods like that give me this good feeling where I'm like, "Okay I feel like I can do a few more miles now that I've eaten one of these." And then it's like this cycle where you eat one and then you go run, and then you're like, "Well, I guess I can have another one," and then keep going.
(00:07:06): But anyway, yeah, the key, if you want me to dive into the food experience of what it's eating one of these, it's this thing called pearl sugar that makes them special. And it's these little, they're just little pearls of sugar, basically. They would look like little pebbles, but they get mixed in with the dough, and then when you press it in the waffle iron, it ends up caramelizing the outside edges of the waffle. So you have this super unique kind of crispiness that a normal waffle wouldn't have.
Adam Williams (00:07:43): And this makes them important to you. At some point, you've had these enough and you're like, "I need to put this in my Instagram bio profile thing to let people know this has meaning to me."
Tayte Pollmann (00:07:54): Yeah, well, I guess I've always been a foodie. So having something that I appreciate, I feel like had to sort of be a descriptor of me on Instagram. That's why I put it at various times in my life. I've loved different things. I was very into olive oil for a while, and I would even subscribe to this thing called The Olive Oil Times where it tells you all... It's mostly articles from Italy and Spain or Greece, places where olive oil, they treat it's fine wine or fine chocolate or something like they're tasting, " Oh, this one is more fruity," or "This one's grassy," or whatever it is.
(00:08:35): Yeah, so with these waffles, I feel like once I had a taste of it and how unique it was, I just fell in love with it. And then I ended up hanging out at this place a lot, the Push and Pull, because to me, it really is a staple in this community for a hangout spot.
(00:08:55): It's one of the few places where, it doesn't just have an hour where it closes on a Saturday. If Joe, the owner, is having a good time, he's told me, "I'll stay as long as I'm having a good time." That could be up until 2:00 AM or whatever. And I feel like that makes it unique. As someone who loves music as well, I feel like he has a good taste and brings in unique bands that are different from just say the common bluegrass scene that typically exists here. So yeah, that part of it is great.
(00:09:33): And then, too, as far as more things that make the waffles unique, because I could go on about that all day. They are a dough and not a batter, which I think is also super special, because normally waffles are a batter, right? But a dough requires a lot more patience because you have to wake up. Well, for him, I think he told me he wakes up at 6:00 AM on the mornings, on Sunday, to go into the shop and then prepare the dough so it can rise. And then I think it might even rise twice, and then puts it in the iron and makes him up. Yeah, and I've definitely had a lot of them. Probably if you ask him, more than anyone ever. Record is six in one sitting. So if you have one of them, you'll appreciate what that means because one of them, it's basically eating a donut. It's a lot.
Adam Williams (00:10:37): Okay.
Tayte Pollmann (00:10:38): Yeah, there's a story, actually, if you want me to tell it, on Mount Princeton, with waffles. And I can't remember if we've talked about this. We've talked about so many running journeys, and this is one of them.
Adam Williams (00:10:49): Yeah. Well, I do remember you did a 24 hour Nordic skiing event, and you said you had a goal, was it to eat an average of one an hour, eat 24 of them as your fuel for that? Is that right?
Tayte Pollmann (00:10:59): Yeah. Well, so as an ultra ski competition in Leadville, and yeah, if we want to dive into that story, I can totally tell it.
Adam Williams (00:11:08): Well, and I want to bring people in who are not from this area, who are listening to the podcast and could be anywhere in the world, that we're talking about this community that you've referred to in the Main Street and the shop, The Push and Pull is in Buena Vista, Colorado.
So we are in the heart of amazing mountain country here. And where the kinds of endeavors that you have here, lie this ultra skiing, and you're a trail runner and all these things, where you can thrive in that sort of arena and grab waffles on the go.
Tayte Pollmann (00:11:40): Yeah. Well, and the Nordic ski scene is unique. It's something that I never grew up doing because access to skiing was... Well, I mean, I grew up in Salt Lake Valley where the skiing's some of the best in the world, but even there finding Nordic ski trails, I'd have to drive 40 minutes or whatever, but I used to live in Leadville, and it was just this beautiful thing, where I discovered it because I could walk out of my house, and it was on 7th Street, and you just walk a few blocks up and you can connect to this thing called the Mineral Belt Trail, which is a 12 mile loop that gets groomed.
So it allows you to skate, ski or classic ski or fat bike, walk your dog. It's just this great outdoor space. It serves as a bike path in the summertime or when there's not snow, which is what, only a few months out of the year for Leadville.
(00:12:41): But then, yeah, the rest of the time it's this groomed ski trail and plenty of people use it. And I remember, yeah, I think it was probably the second or third day that I moved to Leadville, I ended up renting some skate skis from the Cycles of Life shop there, and then ended up trying it out and then did the same next day.
And then on the third day I was so hooked, I was like, "Can I just buy these rental skis? I love them." And yeah, they were willing to sell them to me. And then I've had them ever since and have discovered the sport of Nordic skiing. And it's great too, an accessible way to ski in Colorado, because there's places like Vail that I think are, what, $250 a day, at least for a day pass. But you know, can just show up to the Mineral Belt trail. You don't need to pay anything.
Adam Williams (00:13:42): I've been there, last winter and tried to run, actually.
Tayte Pollmann (00:13:46): Yeah, people run it as well or snowshoe.
Adam Williams (00:13:49): And I really want to get into the Nordic skiing thing. I went with my family up in Leadville once last year, and in part because it was close to 40 years ago, I would go to the local golf course where I grew up in Missouri with my dad, who was really into cross-country skiing. But as a little kid, I wasn't. My toes would get cold. I had no interest in trying to keep up. He would blaze the path, the tracks with his skis, and I would try to stay in them to make it easier for me.
(00:14:24): At some point he was willing to let me just take my sled and ride alone down the hills of the golf course, and he would circle around and eventually come find me and things like that. And even though I didn't like it as a kid, since we live out here and we have these opportunities, I've really wanted to go. And I've actually wanted to see if you would be willing to tolerate my ineptitude and needing to practice and get out there somewhere.
Tayte Pollmann (00:14:52): Yeah.
Adam Williams (00:14:53): I put you on the spot. You'll, well, publicly say yes now, I guess.
Tayte Pollmann (00:14:56): Yes. But yeah, it's funny you bring that up because, yeah, I'm actually going to go. Two yeah, no, three of my housemates, actually, three of the five, they want to go try it today, actually.
Adam Williams (00:15:09): Oh, awesome.
Tayte Pollmann (00:15:10): They're going to go rent some skis, and I'm going to take them up there. But I thought it was also interesting too, that you brought up your dad being interested in Nordic skiing, because that is the same for me, actually. My dad was huge Nordic skier, or mostly just a big fan of Nordic skiing, just thought they're the coolest athletes in the world because they're this perfect balance of strength and endurance.
(00:15:38): And yeah, I remember even just being on some hikes with him, I was probably super young, maybe five or six years old, and we'd get to an uphill and he would pretend to use his arms as if he's pulling and skating, and he'd name some Nordic skier that he was impersonating or whatever. He's like, "I'll be this one, and you be this one." And it was almost like a game.
(00:16:04): And a backstory, too, on my name Tayte, it's spelled T-A-Y-T-E. It was actually a Norwegian spelling because my dad, well, he wanted to name me Thor, which is a very strong Norwegian name, like the God of Thunder, basically, Thor. And my mom was like, "Whoa, how about he doesn't have to live up to being the god of thunder, but we pick a different Norwegian name?" And so Tayte was the compromise. But, yeah.
(00:16:39): And it was funny though, because I was never actually pushed into Nordic skiing. Maybe just lack of access, but discovering it now has been really interesting because it's like, "Oh man, this is a big part of me, and I'm finding it now in my mid-20s."
Adam Williams (00:16:59): Well, from my perspective, that's finding it nice and early. There are plenty of things that, at least since moving out to Colorado, I've not started until my 40s. So I'm happy for you.
Tayte Pollmann (00:17:10): There's so many things to do in Colorado. It's funny. You could be a rock climber or you could be an ice climber. You could be a downhill skier, a Nordic skier.
Adam Williams (00:17:21): Kayaking, and all the things. Yeah.
Tayte Pollmann (00:17:22): Yeah, and just to be exposed to it. That's been a big thing about living here, because this is such a tourist hub for many of those outdoor activities. And I feel like it's a common point that brings people here. Most people you talk with, if they live here, they've got some interest in that, unless maybe they're just retiring here because it's a nice quiet mountain town. But I feel like even those people, they probably have some outdoor or active interest to be here.
Adam Williams (00:17:53): If nothing else, it's enjoying the view. It's like, "I like to be around mountains. I like to be around this river. Even if I no longer feel up to or never felt interested in pursuing those adventures, it's being adventure adjacent, at least."
Tayte Pollmann (00:18:10): Yeah, for sure. And that is something I have been lucky to have had for most of my life. Like I said, growing up in Salt Lake, it really is this city bumped up against the mountains. I could run from my house, which was in the suburbs, just a normal looking neighborhood, run about 15 or 20 minutes and get on a trail that could take me just endless places, like to ridge lines, 7,000 feet above me. I could encounter moose or deer or anything and just feel super wild. And yet the city is just right there.
(00:18:48): So I mean, here is similar with the access, but it is a very different feel and a feel that I like, actually, just not having a city down below you, and instead you have this, what, 2,500 person town? I think that's about what we are, right?
Adam Williams (00:19:05): Something. I usually think of it as 3000. 20,000 I think in the county, in Chaffee County. But what we trade in are having the amenities and the access so close to accomplish some things that you might want.
(00:19:22): I mean, even a movie theater, we have to drive a good hour, hour and a half to get to the nearest movie theater that's not a drive-in, which I do think is awesome because we have one of those outside of BV and I grew up with one. So for me, some of this stuff is the combination of the best of my memories as a child with the opportunities that I love for my two sons to have and all the outdoor stuff we're talking about.
Tayte Pollmann (00:19:47): Yeah, I mean, it's just different opportunities, right? Sure, we don't have a movie theater, but the drive-in is something really special, and especially if you've been there. And I remember when I saw it the first time, I was like, "Wow, this is on a wide open field at the base of Mount Princeton," which is one of the most beautiful mountains I've ever seen in Colorado. And probably the one that I've actually been to the top of the most, just have this love of that mountain is probably part of the reason I've stuck around here too.
Adam Williams (00:20:20): The first time that I went with my family to the drive-in here in BV, it was something short of a storm, I would say, but we had just inches and inches of snow piling up before and during and after the movie. So we're trying to watch through the snowflakes just pouring down, turning on the engine every now and then to defrost the windows. And it was, even though I grew up with a drive-in movie theater, this was unlike any experience I had ever had before. So it's an amazing place.
(00:20:53): With that in mind, let's circle back here. You're going to go out with three of the roommates to go skiing today, Nordic skiing. Let's talk about the roommate thing and the idea that, again, this ties into a really important topic here for many people, which is affordability. I don't want to put that on you, though. I don't know if you're choosing roommates due to affordability or if it's...
Again you, you've said that you are in your 20s. Is that something you socially appreciate, that community within the house? What is that experience like for you? And to whatever extent you don't mind sharing publicly how or why you came to that.
Tayte Pollmann (00:21:36): Yeah, and I think there needs to be some backstory here, because the roommates I live with, I met them because I used to live in a co-living space. It's an old church over on Gunnison Street that-
Adam Williams (00:21:55): Is that in Leadville?
Tayte Pollmann (00:21:56): No, it's here in Vista. And that was actually how I moved here from Leadville. So I was looking for a place to live. I think this would've had to been in spring of 2020, and there weren't many options available, but there was this for $650 a room month-to-month. So I'd never been to Buena Vista before, so I was-
Adam Williams (00:22:22): The house you're in now?
Tayte Pollmann (00:22:23): No, this was the church I'm describing, yeah. And yeah, I don't know the full history on when it was a church, but at some point it was an inn also because it still has Inn written on the side of the building. You've probably seen it before.
Adam Williams (00:22:36): Oh, okay. I know where you're talking about.
Tayte Pollmann (00:22:37): Yeah. But anyway, yeah, and it's a nice two acre plot with a view of the Collegiate Peaks right behind it and horse pastures and such. But anyway, not knowing Buena Vista, a month-to-month rental sounded like the way to go, right? It's like, "Okay, I'll move here and see if I like it."
(00:23:00): And yeah, then the only thing though was that you have, I think at the time it was five or six other people living in the space, and so there were shared bathrooms. Some rooms did have their own bathrooms if you paid a little extra, but I just wanted whatever the cheapest room was, and I think I shared with one other person., So it wasn't even really that bad. And then, yeah, two common kitchen areas and then nice backyard space, plenty of space to park, things like that. But again, yeah, I didn't know anyone.
(00:23:39): And when I moved there I learned it was people from all over, mostly people working locally. One worked at the hospital, another-
Adam Williams (00:23:51): In Salida?
Tayte Pollmann (00:23:53): No, actually just a little walk-in clinic here.
Adam Williams (00:23:55): Oh, okay.
Tayte Pollmann (00:23:56): Yeah, and then a few others just worked in various food industries and things like that around town. And then, yeah, I also started a job at the Jumping Good Goat Dairy at that time, too. And I don't know if we can dive into that story if you want to, but that's another big reason why I moved here was getting that job, because I thought that would be a really fun skill to learn how to make artisan cheese.
Adam Williams (00:24:24): Yeah, cheese. I forgot about that.
Tayte Pollmann (00:24:26): Yeah, that's an important part. I mean, waffles, cheese.
Adam Williams: Olive oil.
Tayte Pollmann (00:24:30): It's a foodie journey. Yeah. But anyway, to get back to describing how I met my roommates, so in the summer of 2021, I was still living in this church and there were five other housemates living there at the time. And we were told that the market obviously was really great then, and the owner of the place wanted to sell it, and we'd been informed that if it gets sold, we'd all basically just get kicked out on a whim.
And none of us liked that situation because it's like, what are you going to do? Especially summertime for a lot of these people they have... One was working for a rafting company, which is the height of your season. Could you imagine getting kicked out, and not having anywhere to be when your purpose is just to be there for the summer?
And so, all of us had actually really liked living together, and it was amazing. It was the best chemistry in the house that I'd felt since moving there in that spring of 2020, because there's just certain people that click better with others in living situations. We were all between the ages of 20 and 30, which I think is we blended well. And yeah, we had two from Louisiana, one from Ohio, another from the Midwest, and then myself coming from Leadville, but Utah before that.
And then, we basically told each other, if we can find a way to keep living together, we should make this happen. Because we've built something special, and we don't want to lose that because it is really hard to find, finding six people that all work together like this. Then by some luck, or whatever you want to call it, we found the house behind your house, which was for rent. It was a year lease, and it had six bedrooms, which is really rare to find a house to rent with six bedrooms.
And then probably, even more rare to have five housemates that you feel completely comfortable with, that you would move into this house, which was unfurnished too, and just make it work. And so yeah, we signed for the year, and that would've been September of 2021 to September 2022.
Adam Williams (00:27:19): Let's go back to the idea around why choosing that. Were you of the mind that you needed to continue in a roommate situation, in a co- living situation of some kind? If you could have found a space, a little house, something, an apartment, a condo, and rented it on your own, was that even feasible, or was that anything that you would want? Because just again, socially appreciating the chemistry of that group.
Tayte Pollmann (00:27:49): And that's a good question, and I feel like it's unique because of the chemistry of the group, and just how strongly we felt that we had something that was really working. It is really a cool experience, especially when you're younger, to be able to come back to the house, and feel like there's always something going on or at least an opportunity.
And I think that's the best part about this group, is that it's not like I come home, and I feel like I have to go do this or that, or that there's a party happening, but I want to just chill. But it's more just somebody's doing something interesting in the day, and if you want to be involved with that or if you want to just have a nice conversation with someone who you relate with, they're there. It's like a family unit. And I think that that has become really special.
(00:28:47): And that's not to say that I haven't had thoughts about what it would be like living alone. And I've actually had that more recently, thinking about next moves after the lease ends, which is something I might do is live alone. But as far as financially, at the time in the summer, and feeling the pressure of we might get kicked out at any minute, and the summer being a popular time in Buena Vista, you're not going to find much to rent on a whim.
I didn't even really consider it. I looked a bit on the various... What is it? Facebook groups for Chaffee County Housing. There was two of them or something, and didn't see anything in price range. And I just gave up within the first day or two of looking. I was like, "Okay, I'm not going to find anything better than what I have, and I'm definitely not going to find anything alone for a decent price."
Adam Williams (00:29:53): And the reason I, in my mind several minutes ago, transitioned and got off target here with thinking you were talking about the house you're in now, when you still were talking about the other one, was because you said you were paying 650 for a room in the co-living place. And if I remember right, you've told me before that's what you're paying for a room where you are now, presumably-
Tayte Pollmann (00:30:14): Plus utilities, but yeah.
Adam Williams (00:30:16): Okay. Yeah, presumably that's the division between six roommates, six bedrooms. And so, being where I am in life with family, and in our own house, we're not sharing with others. I'm out of touch, I guess, with what rent might be if you were to go out on your own.
Tayte Pollmann (00:30:37): Yeah. Here in Chaffee County, if I were to go out on my own? I would think for sure you'd be looking over a thousand, at least that would-
Adam Williams (00:30:49): For a small place, I assume?
Tayte Pollmann (00:30:50): Yeah. And two, when you get up to that much of a financial cost, I feel like then you start to just question the whole system more, and you go, okay, this is just not smart. I could be saving money, or I could be having a down payment on a house, or something like that.
This money's basically just going to no place of value for me. And still, that's the case now renting, but at least it's less, and at least I really enjoy the situation that I'm in with the other housemates. And that's what's been able to justify it for the time being. But yeah, eventually I don't want to be a part of that system, because it just doesn't make sense for your future. Then you can only do it for so long.
Adam Williams (00:31:42): So, in our previous conversations, here's one of the things I've come away with in my estimation of observations of you, is that you're a thoughtful, intellectual, optimistic person. And I describe myself as introverted, and I feel like have hopefully some similar qualities, in terms of that thoughtfulness and appreciation of just meaningful conversation.
This is why I do the podcast. Do you consider yourself, is introvert a way of thinking you have about yourself? And the reason I ask that, is because I've never been really very happy in roommate situations, and it's the best I can do to deal with a wife and two sons sometimes, or for them with me, to be fair. So, I wonder how that factors in, and if any of my description there feels true to you and if not, then set me straight.
Tayte Pollmann (00:32:48): Yeah, I would definitely describe the self as an introvert. But yeah, it is interesting then that you bring that up, because I've never thought too much about it. But yeah, I do live with five other housemates, and there is always commotion going on. But I feel like that I do spend a lot of time by myself, playing instruments, writing. Which is what I do mostly is write for work, and then spend time reading. But then, it's this feeling of, if you go to work at a coffee shop as a writer, I feel like having the noise of a coffee shop, or the motion of-
Adam Williams (00:33:33): The energy?
Tayte Pollmann (00:33:33): ... people walking around and the energy. And that's what I have in the house too, and that's really nice for me to be able to disconnect, especially when my work keeps me introverted to just be, okay, I'm going to change things up and go have a conversation with one of my roommates or go do something with them, and then I can go back to my space, which is... That's the key, I think, is that I have a space where I can just chill, and have things that I do alone. And run. Running's usually something I do alone.
Adam Williams (00:34:14): Yeah. I almost never run with someone, and it's not necessarily because I don't ever want to. But I find it's easier to figure out the schedule and to coordinate. If I have an idea or a plan, for what I want to do this week or today with a run...
Which interestingly neither of us can do right now, due to injuries. And yours being I think more significant and more long standing than mine. But I've not been running for several weeks. And actually, that's something I've been curious about with you.
(00:34:45): Because I mentioned optimist, and it can be so difficult to have, not just to the extent say being a runner, being an artist, being a writer, whatever it is, it becomes part of our identity, it's how we think of ourselves, it's how we talk about ourselves with others, maybe how they identify us.
And when that falls away due to injury, in the case of being a professional trail runner, which you have been, I'm curious how you've handled that emotionally besides physically, for the last couple years with that change in your life, and not who you are, but the labels that get used.
Tayte Pollmann (00:35:23): Yeah, that is definitely... Running is... The word identity, it I think stood out when you were talking, because that is a way that I've identified for a long time. In college I was an athlete in the NCAA. And so running, you're told you're a student athlete, and so that is your identity. You're there to study, and you're there to compete for the team.
And then after college, I was able to make somewhat of a career out of just trail running, and had opportunities to travel the world and race, which was really something I'm grateful for. And yeah, I still have the dream too. There's still a big part of me that has that desire to bring running back.
(00:36:12): And I actually have started running just a little bit. Which is something that over the years I've learned with injuries, is that especially when you're in a situation where you become super motivated, either internally or because you have a team, or for me being a professional runner, and then I would get injured, I would want to keep running. Because you see it as your identity and your job, and you're like, well, I have to make this work. Or if the injury's not that bad, can I still do this race that I was planning on doing in a month, or still travel to Europe and do this competition, or whatever it is.
(00:36:59): And that was something that, now I have a different approach about. It's more, I see the dangerous cycle of injuries now is what it is, where if you rush coming back from an injury, be it some of the most common running injuries are a stress fracture or you pull a muscle, or something like that.
Or for me, I had a lot of foot and ankle problems, like Achilles related, or bones in the feet just breaking, and various things like that, that you're able to push through a little bit, or somehow I find a way to hobble or... I don't even realize sometimes what I'm doing until it's too late, and then I end up seeing a doctor or a PT and they go, "You know you've been totally compensating, using your right leg instead of your left more." And that's led to other imbalances in the body, and it creates this dangerous cycle of injuries that's hard to get out of.
And that's where I'm at now, is that I've started to reintroduce running just a little bit, like 20 minutes at a time or less. And just really focus on the pieces that I sometimes neglect, such as flexibility, or strength work, or ensuring that muscles are firing properly, that I'm moving efficiently, and not just pushing forward, which is what I tended to have that mentality.
Adam Williams (00:38:35): Let me ask this, I think, to make this a little more relevant maybe for listeners who are not runners, because you are that thoughtful and I think reflective person that I mentioned before. I'm wondering how you take this thing that is your identity, and it's an emotional and mental blow. And you have been dealing with this longer, and it was much more your identity.
You were a pro doing this. And like you said, going through college and things, I've never had that level of competition as a runner. So for me, this has all been completely as a mid-pack hobbyist. I hate to use that word, but it's the truth in terms of my status as a runner. And I've been out for several weeks after the biggest year of running of my life, and I'm struggling emotionally.
I think anybody though has this experience when they have the ups and downs of life, and their identity with whatever it is, takes a hit. What have you figured out emotionally, about how to cope with this, which you've been doing for a couple of years, I think?
Tayte Pollmann (00:39:38): Yeah. For me, I had to let the running identity go. And in doing so, it's not giving up, but it's realizing that there are stronger pieces of your identity that exist underneath that. If you get rid of the running, what is it there that brought you to be the runner that you were in the first place? And what is it that still drives me to run in the mountains?
Because that was a big thing, when I finally had... I don't know if you'd call it courage or whatever the word would be, but to let go of something that I really felt so strongly was my identity, and to just give it up. But then to realize, hey, no, I still want to do this. I think that's super powerful, and a strength that I didn't have before.
(00:40:39): Because you could be wrapped into running for various things. You could just be doing it because people tell you, you're a pro runner and that's what you should do, or because that's what got you through college, whatever it is. But you have to really want it.
And I think letting it go, helped me realize that where I could say, I just really want to go back, and run up a thing like Mount Princeton. I really enjoy running to the tops of peaks, and that's part of how I ended up in Colorado. You have very clear goals of what it is you want to get out of your running when you come back.
(00:41:20): And I think that that's even more powerful than just being a pro runner, writing a schedule like, oh, I'm going to race here and race here just because that's what people want me to do, or my sponsor say I should do. That's great, but it also isn't really what you want out of the sport, or you could get away with not knowing. And for me, the key is figuring out just how much I actually do still love the sport, and would like to get back to it, and do it in a way that fits my identity better.
(00:41:57): And that's another piece too, is just discovering when you just take the label off of running, what are those pieces of yourself that made you a good runner? Whether that just be, I would think of optimism as a trait that I have in my life, that I am able to stand by, I guess, in many different times or low points. And that's something that, I think, that I saw more clearly after losing running.
Be like, "Oh. No, I think I am still a person who can be very positive about my direction in life, and going toward my goals even when something supposedly bad happens." I just have this perspective where, okay, I can't run right now, but there's other things that I could do that I could be working on, that will make me a better runner when I get back to it. Or other things I could do in the meantime, that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.
(00:43:07): I think finding my creative side was something new in the past two or three years, after suffering from some big injuries. And my writing and music, have come back and flourished in a way that I wouldn't have allowed them to otherwise.
Adam Williams (00:43:26): I think those stories, like what you just said about, it created an opening for you to dig deeper into something, or completely newly to creating, happens for some people in this way sometimes. And I'm thinking of the musician and singer, the singer-songwriter Jack Johnson from Hawaii.
If I remember his story correctly, he was pretty young when he was on his way to becoming a pro surfer. That it was his ambition. He was a surfer growing up in Hawaii. And it was only when he had an injury... I don't want to misstate it. For some reason, I'm thinking it was maybe a broken leg. I don't know if it was a back thing. I'm sure Google could give us the answer, if somebody out there's really that curious.
The point is, he picked up a guitar. And that's when, when he was set out of the ocean, he had no choice. And that's now what we know him most for. And the biggest, brightest ripples he has made on the world, is as a musician, a singer and songwriter. That's his purpose, much more than surfing might have been.
Tayte Pollmann (00:44:30): And that's, well, I can't speak for Jack's case, but the way I feel in losing one identity and gaining another, is just that there is something that flows naturally from one to the other. There's something in me that is the same, that's allowed me to succeed in the one thing and carried over into the other.
And that gives me a feeling, I haven't lost something. I'm not just throwing running away. I did definitely learn things about who I am, and it's strengthened parts of me that I carry over into music, or into writing, or whatever it be.
Adam Williams (00:45:10): That is such an amazing point. I'm glad you brought it up, because what we're talking about here is the essence of what we carry to no matter what it is we do. So, you are still the same person, whether someone calls you runner, calls you writer, or whatever. These deeper questions are things that I just find myself, over the years, just continuing to ponder and having to circle back to.
Tayte Pollmann (00:45:35): Yeah, well you're having a good conversation if you make it to a place like that, I think.
Adam Williams (00:45:42): I think it's never ending, the learning from these things, the processing of it. And I feel like I'm in an especially creative place, especially coming out of the last few years that we've all experienced. And now, with having running set aside temporarily for me, some similar things are happening. I'm spending a lot more time with writing, and making art, and doing the different things.
(00:46:06): So, I want to bring us back to this idea of home. You had mentioned this idea, you've started pondering when do I, and how do I probably shift from renting to maybe owning, or where do I sit down those roots? And I think that part of that question for you, has to do with a really interesting potential path that you have been on, related to earthships.
If people are familiar with those, I've seen some of them in Taos, New Mexico. And that also is where you have some background in that. And if you'll bear with me here while I pile onto this, I think that you seem to be pondering the concept of home, and what does that mean with deeper roots and longevity? Am I hearing that right? In previous conversations-
Tayte Pollmann (00:47:01): Definitely correct. And too, I feel like with a term earthship, we should probably define what that is for people, because I'll say it and people will be like, "Wait, did you say spaceship, or what are you talking about?" And it's really just, it refers to a style of architecture that started back in the 70s by a renowned architect, Michael Reynolds, based in New Mexico.
And basically what he did was, go out in the middle of the desert in Taos where he could find cheap land and no building regulations, and just practice and play. And I think it was his father, or someone in his family was very keen on just using recycled materials, or almost never got rid of anything for their whole life. Any can, from beans or whatever it was, they would just keep in the house, or outside in their backyard.
(00:47:59): And so, he got this idea of collecting garbage basically, and how do we use and recycle materials to make them useful again? And I think one of his first major builds that got him recognition on, might have been Time Magazine or something big in the 70s, was that he built a house completely out of steel cans, because cans used to be steel, and was sturdy than they were now.
And then from there, he started using other materials like tires, which are the go-to earthship thing. If you think Earthship, you were probably thinking a house built out of tires, because an earthship typically has 500 to a 1,000 tires in it, which okay is quite a few. And that's depending on the size. There have been way bigger ones constructed. There's one down in Ridgway, Colorado, built by the actor, Dennis Weaver. Had hired earthship as a company, to build him a home. And it's just ginormous.
Adam Williams (00:49:10): Where did all these tires come from? Are they working with manufacturers for things that are tossed out as defective, or where's this come from? It's a lot. I had no idea.
Tayte Pollmann (00:49:22): The idea is actually pretty genius, because tires are a problem for the world, in that people don't know what to do with them after they get used in vehicles, and they end up in piles, or end up starting themselves on fire. And Michael Reynolds, the architect who started earthship, he thinks always in terms of resources and what do we have available.
And for him, he thought that, okay, humanity has billions of tires that we don't know what to do with. And he just started reaching out, and finding that people would give them for free, like auto shops or whatever, that had them and didn't know what to do with them.
(00:50:00): They’re actually paying money to get rid of them. And so he just showed up with trucks and some friends to help grab all the tires and basically told these places, "Hey, we'll take them off your hands." And then he found this way to engineer them into walls. And what you do basically is you take a tire and you fill it with dirt from just dirt from the ground, basic dirt.
And then that makes the tire about, I don't know, maybe 200, 300 pounds when you fill it completely with dirt and you even sledgehammer the dirt into the tire so that the tire is completely bulging and sturdy when you're done. And then you move on to the next one and the next one and you build the wall completely out of tires and the wall is very soundproof and structural.
(00:51:02): They've done tests and things on them over the years because, like I said, this started in the '70s, so they've had 50 years now to kind of hone the craft of building with tires. Because he'll admit the first few builds that he did were probably dangerous or people couldn't live in them. But that was part of the point, is that you experiment and you do things out of the box so that you find better ways to live because most building materials now are not that great.
Or we just have set ways of doing things that aren't the most efficient means or aren't using basic energy from the sun, like harnessing solar, or they don't have the most efficient means of recycling water through the house that they could. He just wanted to think about these basic concepts of a home and how do we do them more efficiently and specifically too for off-grid living.
(00:51:57): Because where he was building these things out in the middle of nowhere in the desert of Taos, there pretty much were no wells, so he was finding the most efficient means to recycle water through the house so that you could use the least amount possible or collect rain water, have cisterns in the home, these various concepts, right? Evolving over the years. Yeah. And so if you go back to how I got involved with Earthship, I'd heard about the concept just through being interested in sustainable living and that Taos is not that far away. It's only about three hours driving from here.
(00:52:36): And so I had researched it online and found out that there was a whole academy that you can go through. Michael Reynolds has built this school basically to teach people about his building style. And it's also become a community in the sense that they as an organization will go out and do humanitarian builds in different parts of the world and teach people how to build, be it a school or different houses in a village, and usually using tires, but also materials from around the area that would make sense because every area is going to have unique... What do you call it? Resources, I guess, that you can use to build. So, no earthship will really look or work the same.
Adam Williams (00:53:36): I want to keep on with this thread that we're pulling at here with earthships. Appreciate the background, the history on it, but I think there's deeper... You've mentioned things that kind of hint at sustainability and how we use our resources and I'm wondering, I'm thinking there's probably a deeper feeling and awareness you have and what that means to you.
Tayte Pollmann (00:53:57): Yeah, I would say the biggest thing that struck me about earthships was just how much sense they made and how when I returned back to living in a normal suburban house, I started to notice the things that didn't make sense.
Adam Williams (00:54:19): Like what?
Tayte Pollmann (00:54:20): Just simple things. Think about a gutter that's sending water away from the house. You're like, "This is a very precious resource, water, especially in Colorado. And why is it that we aren't collecting the water? Why aren't we using it?" And that's what and earthship would do, right? And there's various laws in different places about water rights and things. But if you just forget laws, forget everything, shouldn't it make sense that the place where you live takes advantage of what nature just gives you and you find a way to use those things and water being one of those?
Adam Williams (00:55:02): Well, absolutely. And I would assume though, you mentioned water rights, huge, huge issue, I can't say I'm well versed in it, but I would have to guess that even staying within the laws on this subject, the rain that falls from the sky onto your roof and you contain within your system and can cycle through and make use of it multiple times, I'm not sure anybody else gets to own the water rights over that. I mean, am I wrong there?
Tayte Pollmann (00:55:02): Oh, but they do. Yeah.
Adam Williams (00:55:29): So, others can own the water that falls onto my house on property I own?
Tayte Pollmann (00:55:34): So I'm not sure exactly on the laws here, but I don't think if you wanted to just build a cistern in your backyard and collect rainwater in your house here, I think that would be illegal.
Adam Williams (00:55:46): To build the cistern?
Tayte Pollmann (00:55:47): Yeah.
Adam Williams (00:55:48): That's interesting. Okay.
Tayte Pollmann (00:55:49): Or I don't even know if you could find a way to connect it into your... If you, say, wanted to recycle it into your house, I don't even know-
Adam Williams (00:55:57): Into the existing structure.
Tayte Pollmann (00:55:58): ... if they would allow you to do that.
Adam Williams (00:56:00): Okay. Well, stipulating that... I think I'll speak for both of us, and correct me if I'm wrong, but neither of us are the legal experts on this, so I'm not going to try to take us further down that road. I've possibly already said something that didn't make sense.
Tayte Pollmann (00:56:13): No. And this is part of the issue because at this point I don't even think about if I wanted to build an earthship, building it within city limits. I just am already sort of committed to, "All right, this is going to have to be outside of city limits where regulations are less and I don't have to even worry about any of these things." Well, there'll still be things that you have to-
Adam Williams (00:56:36): Sure.
Tayte Pollmann (00:56:37): ... do according to the law, which makes sense. But there'll be a lot less restrictions if you pick something outside of city limits to build off... That's made for off-grid home living basically.
Adam Williams (00:56:50): Okay. Why is it so important to you... And by the way, I mean I'm asking questions out of curiosity and just so we go deeper. But I mean, I'm in the same place and I've never understood, we have the sunlight, we have technology for solar power, we have commonsense possibilities, and we don't use them nearly as much as we should.
And it becomes a political thing and a social thing. And then there's even just a habitual thing. We're all in the habits of building the houses we have. This is what's normal.
(00:57:21): I go with what's normal even if it doesn't make sense. So I'm with you in thinking that we should live in commonsense ways and make use of the resources we have well. But if you'll elaborate, what else are you thinking about in the bigger picture of sustainability and what the future is? And I guess with regard to the fact you've mentioned you're in your 20s, I've mentioned I'm in my 40s. We're talking about a difference of generation here and my sons are coming along not too far behind you, so I care about their future. What are you thinking about the future?
Tayte Pollmann (00:57:55): I think that it will be important that we have an awareness of nature and the way that it impacts our basic ways of life. I think that it's dangerous if we assume that nature is just this force outside of the city walls that does its thing and here we have our little bubble over suburbia where we get our electricity from the plant down the road and we don't know anything about it.
We get our water from the town and we don't know anything about how that works. And we've basically, for convenience sake or to be able to do other things, we've just sort of foregone the basics or even caring to inform ourselves about how they work. So, I think that that's a good step because that's the basics of life is what you're talking about.
If you're talking about water and your ability to stay warm or handle the elements with the structure or your ability to harness electricity or have internet, things like that, all things that you could take into your own hands.
(00:59:08): And I think that's what earthship does. Or at least having a concept about the ways in which it's done so that you can know, "Okay, I like the way my society does this actually, so I'm just going to let that be done that way." Or if you don't, you can be like, "Well, then I am going to take it into my own hands." And I think that just giving yourself that power and freedom is really important because, yeah, we are in a space where I would be worried about what the future brings.
And in terms of conservation or the environment or just if this lack of awareness continues, then I think that we might get to that point where we're like, "Oh shoot, we did kind of destroy all those forests or used all of that one particular resource and now it's not going to come back for the next generation."
(01:00:06): You don't want to be the one that is like, "Oh well, sucks for them." You want to make sure that the future is solid and that the cycles are sustainable. Because I think at its roots, most of how nature works is in a cycle that's healthy and just sustains itself and comes back. And I guess I've dove a little bit into Native American literature recently and is something I'd like to continue to explore more, but that is something really interesting. If you take a look at the peoples that were here before us and that were here for thousands of years and just living with these cycles of nature and having no problems.
We've only been here a few hundred years and it seems like we have a lot of problems with the way we're living and the land that we're living on and with us not finding ways to continue our lifestyles, right? Whereas these people that were here before us, they had this lifestyle, it worked with the environment, they could continue it, and they continued it on. And they had a lot of practices that we've sort of taken from them.
(01:01:21): I think fire mitigation actually is a Native American learned thing for us, like creating forest pathways that allow for healthy migration of wildlife and things like that. That I think their understanding of how to use medicinal plants or how to grow agriculture in the various regions of this country was well beyond our understanding. Or I think I read a quote from... I can't remember exactly which book it was, but it was basically that everything native here that has been used for agricultural purposes was already used by Native Americans.
There was nothing that we found as westerners when we moved here that they hadn't already found a way to use. So it's just that in its essence is kind of the Earthship mentality of like, "Wow, you understand the land where you live and you are using those resources to the max and as efficiently as possible and in a way that allows those resources to continue and not just end."
Adam Williams (01:02:29): Coming back to the idea of home, I really am curious to know what you're thinking about there at this stage in your life and what you've been pondering about getting out of the system of rent, and how do you make use of your resources personally to lead and build your future? What does home as an idea feel like to you? What is it you're looking to create and build for yourself and your future?
Tayte Pollmann (01:02:56): Yeah. And that's something that I don't even know the answer to yet. And part of that is because I found myself passionate about Earthships and off-grid living. There is a certain cost to that in that, like I mentioned before, you would probably have to live outside of city limits and push yourself away from society a little bit, which I go back and forth on if that's something I want to do, because I don't think I just want to be a hermit in the woods somewhere.
And so it's finding that right place that makes sense in terms of how much connection I still have to a community. And Buena Vista is a small community, but it is a strong group of people that have similar interests that I do, I think. We were talking about at the very beginning of this conversation that the people come here with the outdoors in mind and active lifestyles.
(01:03:59): And as long as I am able to find that sense of community still in connection with that, I think that that is something really important to me and something that brought me here in the first place. And if I still had that, it would definitely feel like home. In terms of physically what the place looks like, yeah, I have my mind on building an earthship, right? But maybe that's not until further down the road because I think that's a huge step to commit and buy land, right?
And find a way to build it because it's not something that can be built quickly, especially with just one person. I think I'm lucky to have connections in nearby areas with people who have worked on Earthships before and would kind of know what they're doing. But at this stage in my life, I am more interested in just finding ways to keep learning about Earthship and supporting its development rather than being ready to take the step and build one on my own.
Adam Williams (01:05:03): It seems like a really huge commitment, not even just in the sense of, "Well, I'm going to buy a house." We buy houses, we move years later, we change course on that somewhat easily. But when you're talking about something so specific as an Earthship and what that purpose of sustainability and the intention you have with that sort of house, that does feel like, to me, "I really intend to commit to this for an indefinite period, if not forever."
Tayte Pollmann (01:05:36): Yeah. Well, especially after putting all of that work into it and knowing that that is the place. I think that that's been the key for me, to just have a certain, I would call it, respect for the land. You'd be like, "Yeah, this is going to be the place. I see myself living there for the rest of my life," or for a longer period than most people maybe think of like, "Oh, I could buy this house, but I could always sell it," or it's easier to get loans on things like that too, than it would be for an Earthship. So, it's kind of less of a commitment.
Adam Williams (01:06:15): The flow of that market is different, the conventional one, because even if you had somebody, which probably is a smaller pool of buyers, who if you wanted to move from your Earthship, a smaller number than conventional, who would want to buy it? But then you wouldn't have another one to move to. So now if you're building your life around these intentional, sustainable decisions, where do you go then?
Tayte Pollmann (01:06:40): Well, I was going to bring up too, it's such a lifestyle, an Earthship. That's something I've noticed actually in Taos now, that that is basically the place for Earthships. Now that it has grown out of there, you will see them all over town, not just in where the visitor center is and the academy and all that.
Adam Williams (01:07:01): Within the city limits there now?
Tayte Pollmann (01:07:04): Well, at least nearby on the other-
Adam Williams (01:07:06): Okay, okay.
Tayte Pollmann (01:07:07): Yeah.
Adam Williams (01:07:07): Because otherwise where you're talking about with the visitor center, I've been there a few times-
Tayte Pollmann (01:07:12): Yeah.
Adam Williams (01:07:12): ... and that's a good ways north outside of town.
Tayte Pollmann (01:07:14): Yeah. But you'll find some for sale, actually. And I think it is kind of interesting because it's almost not something you can completely sell, or at least not without some stipulations because you do have to care for it and have a particular lifestyle.
You can't just be a person who goes in and thinks, "Wow, this architecture's really cool. I like what you've done with the bottle walls and using the recycled materials there." It's like, yeah, that's great if you like how it looks, but also you have to maintain the garden that's been built inside of it and understand that your ways of life might be a little bit different.
(01:07:57): Not to say that you're living in a stone shack or something, but there are certain things that you would be doing differently than in a conventional household. And so I would feel too if I constructed an earthship, there'd be a part of me that I would want to make sure that I built it myself or with the help from others and learn from friends who have built theirs, just because then you understand exactly what it was that you built and you also have a chance maybe to teach others through the process.
Adam Williams (01:08:29): You had mentioned before your time coming up with where you are renting with the roommates and being my neighbor, and that there is potential on the horizon of this changing and you no longer being my neighbor and no longer being with those roommates.
And one of the experiences that we've talked about before is something it's, I think, significant to you as a person, to you as a writer, to you as a runner, and feels like a life-changing traveling opportunity. Would you care to share more about that for us to dive deeper into what I assume you know what I'm referring to, and take us there with you? Because I think it's just so exciting.
Tayte Pollmann (01:09:07): Yeah. So if we want to dive a little bit into my writing career then, I think this is a good segue.
Adam Williams (01:09:14): Yeah, yeah.
Tayte Pollmann (01:09:15): So I started writing articles for the American Trail Running Association, which is, as you'd expect, an association dedicated toward promoting the sport of trail running in the US. But anyway, yes, I started out with just a small column called Tayte's Tuesday Trail Tips, where I was brought on by the organization to give training advice or just basically kind of tell what was going on in the mind of a young trail runner.
Because the organization felt like they had good perspectives on older runners and ultra running and trail running as a community on the whole is a little bit older just because it is sometimes a little more intimidating to get into some of these trail races, especially the longer ones, like a Leadville 100 that is 100 miles long and through the mountains at mostly 11,000 feet or more, and takes time for your body to adapt and years of training to get used to that.
(01:10:16): But I just sort of dove into trail running in college and had found some success, and the organization thought that my perspectives would be interesting for other younger people interested in trail running, who would want to learn about the ways that I train and things like that.
But over the years, yeah, the position has evolved to where now I find myself traveling to races to go cover them for the organization, basically race recaps or interview athletes. I get a lot of flexibility with what I write, which I think has been the best part. And just that the organization itself is run by some amazing people who have done just wonderful things for growing the sport of trail running.
(01:11:04): So, it's been nice to connect with those people and the various people that they know. And I feel like it's just opened my eyes to the world of trail running, which, sure, it's a small sport, but there are many incredible people who are very passionate about it and want to see it on the world stage, or just want to bring it into places where it hasn't existed before or to people that haven't had the opportunity to even know about it.
Because that's something, as a high school runner, right? You are going to be introduced to track running and to cross country running, and that's about it. You don't know anything about running trails or don't even know where you'd start to compete, right? Unless you're in a very specific pocket. Maybe there'd be some exceptions. If you grew up in Leadville, you'd probably know what the Leadville 100 is.
Adam Williams (01:11:04): Right.
Tayte Pollmann (01:11:55): But for most people, that's their experience if they're a young runner. They haven't been exposed to the trails. Yeah. All this to say that I've developed a career more as a journalistic writer, someone that does shorter pieces covering races and such.
But I was an English major in college and definitely have an appreciation for literature and longer works. And the novel is a form that has always intrigued me just because it's... Well, it's something that's scary too, which I have definitely learned in life that the more you push yourself toward those scary things, those are the things where you really discover yourself and learn more about what it is that is intriguing you to go to that dangerous place in the first place.
Adam Williams (01:12:48): Trail running is good for that as part of it, especially as you get longer and longer in distances, maybe.
Tayte Pollmann (01:12:52): Yes, definitely. And I think too, it's just being able to sit with an idea for longer. I'll write something on a race and, say if the race happened on Saturday, ideally they'd want the article as soon as possible. If I could finish it Saturday, great. Put it in drafts and then they could publish it Sunday or Monday or whenever. And it's nice for readers who want the immediate action. But from the writer's perspective, I just sort of dove in.
And maybe I did some background research before the race, or I had a certain theme or angle I wanted to weave in, but for the most part, it's a very short period that I'm thinking about that race. And the novel is something where you could be thinking about this same idea for a year or two years or however long you take with the writing process. And I think that'd be a different experience and a deeper experience that I'd be curious to try because I've never done it before. Yeah. And so I have an idea for a book.
Adam Williams (01:14:03): Well, let's go there. Because it's more than just being a book, I think, because it involves amazing travel and some of the connections that you've made through this work, which is more journalistic and with the association. So, take us there. We're heading to Asia.
Tayte Pollmann (01:14:22): Yeah. So, it really feels more like a mission. Yeah. Should I choose to accept it, right? But anyway, yeah. So to backtrack, I had this amazing opportunity, one of the best experiences of my life, back in 2018 to go travel to a race in India. And I was also a professional runner at the time, so I had been invited because this race wanted to bring a presence of international runners to... And the race directors... It was one of the best organized races I've ever seen, which is saying a lot because I've seen a lot of races in many places in the world.
(01:15:00): And he just had this vision that he wanted not just good runners, but people who could speak on the various platforms when they returned, to just share what the experience was like of trail running in India. Which I had no idea at the time that there was even a strong running community, let alone trail running community there in India. But it was about 2,000 people that showed up to this race, and it was in the middle of nowhere.
Adam Williams (01:15:35): Was this in the mountains, too?
Tayte Pollmann (01:15:37): Yeah. So the race director had this connection with what's called Coffee Day, which is kind of the equivalent of Starbucks over in India, so a big company. And through that connection, the race director was able to use these private lands, which were coffee plantations, and this jungle area in the mountains that was bumped up against National Wildlife Preserve or something like that, where Bengal Tigers are and cool stuff like that.
Adam Williams (01:16:10): Is this in Northern India?
Tayte Pollmann (01:16:11): It's actually in the Western Ghats region, so it's kind of Southwest.
Adam Williams (01:16:15): Oh, okay.
Tayte Pollmann (01:16:18): Because most people when they think mountains, if they know India, they think the Himalayas in the north. But this is more, if you can imagine a jungle-y mountain feel. I've never been to Hawaii, but I'd picture like that. It's super steep, but forested green, low-hanging clouds, views and such too, when you get above the forest. It was incredible.
And like I said, the logistics of bringing 2,000 people to this really remote spot, I was blown away by. Because I flew into Bangalore, and then from there, took a three or four-hour train ride, and then took an hour and a half Jeep ride, and then that was just to where I was staying, and then it was about another hour on a bus to get to where the race start was. So you're out there.
Adam Williams (01:17:17): That really throws off the routine of what you might be used to at home when you're training, and you know what all foods you need before and during and after a long run and all that stuff. It's a different world, in a way.
Tayte Pollmann (01:17:31): Yeah, but also an amazing chance to just try new things. I'd always loved the Americanized Indian food, going to a restaurant here. That's been one of my favorite cuisines. And then having it over in Southern India, actually, tasting Indian food for real, I was just blown away by the variety and the food culture.
When I think food culture, I usually think places like France or Italy, things where certain dishes are coming to mind when I say those places, like a croissant or twisting your fork in spaghetti noodles and a red sauce. But, yeah, this Indian food culture was just ... it blew me away by the amount of options, and just that the various regions have their specialties as well.
(01:18:20): Where I was at was known for having a little bit hotter foods and less cream-based curries than you'd find in the north. Which actually kind of makes sense, because the north would be colder, the mountains there, where something like a creamy saag curry might sound really good up there, but whereas this was more like-
Adam Williams (01:18:42): You're getting down to tropical toward the south.
Tayte Pollmann (01:18:44): Yeah, exactly.
Adam Williams (01:18:46): Which is why I presumed you were in the north because of the mountains, you mentioned the Himalayas, but also when I think of the south, I think of hot, tropical and beaches.
Tayte Pollmann (01:18:55): Yeah, no beaches, but yeah, definitely hot and tropical.
Adam Williams (01:18:59): Well, Kerala is a popular place that a lot of, at least Westerners and Americans, if they're going to go to India, and that's an experience they have in the south.
My experience personally is in the north with India, so that's what was coming to mind for me. I don't want to let us get too far away from the book. There's a big idea that I'm going to keep bringing us back to the book. Yeah, tell us about that, what you are building in this idea.
Tayte Pollmann (01:19:27): Yes. So from my trip to India, long story short, I was able to make a connection to this race director in Nepal, and I ended up traveling after the race in India, to Nepal to go basically just promote his race effort, to help set up some of the course or volunteer to, what would you call, scout out the route basically beforehand, find some good spots for photographers and videographers to do their thing.
And ended up having this life-changing experience where I was out in the Annapurna region in Nepal and just following these videographers and photographers who are local Nepalese people, along this route and just trekking around actually with them, both before and after the race because they were so nice they just offered like, "Hey, we're going to go hike over here if you want to come with us."
(01:20:29): And I had no plans, it was a one way ticket that I bought to Nepal, so I just basically stayed as long as I wanted and ended up staying there for about a month, just trekking to various places. Or I'd make a connection and this happened one time where the guy was like, "Oh, my brother, he lives in this village over here and if you go visit, I'm sure he'd be happy to see you and would take care of you."
And end up going to that village and had this incredible view of Mount Everest that I will never forget. But more importantly, never forget how his family took care of me, because I remember when I showed up, I was the only Western person in this, it was a super tiny village, probably know more than what, 15 or 20 people, and they invited me into their house and then even killed one of their chickens for me, so we could eat it for dinner, which was a really big deal.
(01:21:23): And then sent me on my way, I was trekking to this peak where I'd get this really good view, and sent me on my way with this traditional scarf that you wear in Nepal when you're out in the mountains.
Adam Williams (01:21:38): The hospitality of so many places and so many peoples around the world is just unbelievable.
Tayte Pollmann (01:21:43): It really is. Yeah, that's what struck me about both India and Nepal, was hospitality and community and yeah, that's part of the reason I find myself drawn back to that region of the world, is that value. And I think there's probably something to it in that a lot of our conversation has been on this idea of home, and I find myself really interested to explore that idea when I go back to Nepal, because I think their concept of home is super healthy, especially out in the mountain villages like that.
Adam Williams (01:22:20): Are you thinking in terms of what home means to them and community means there, or are you thinking also maybe in terms of you living there in an extended period sort of idea?
Tayte Pollmann (01:22:32): Well, that thought has crossed my mind too. I don't know at all what that would entail. I mean, I know certain expats who live over there, Americans and this one British guy I met last time and a Dutch person as well, who have made it work or they do part-time, where they live over there half the year and they live back in their home country the other part of the year, and I'd be open to things like that as well. I think I'll just have to really just see where this project takes me and that's what I want, is to just keep this idea of home in the back of my mind when I go there, because I definitely know that I appreciate the way that they live and the way that they respect and build community there is different than we do here, and it was not something, like a lens that I took with me when I went there the first time. It was just something that struck me as like, wow, this is a really cool way to live.
(01:23:29): And so I think going back, having that perspective now, it'll be interesting to start writing stuff down, and what I notice, and they may end up being a part of this book honestly, which we haven't even gotten to-
Adam Williams (01:23:44): We haven't. I love it, because this is how our conversations go is ...
Tayte Pollmann (01:23:49): You get a taste of what it's really like.
Adam Williams (01:23:51): It is. We take our time and we do wind through some things, but also for-
Tayte Pollmann (01:23:57): This is how I write too.
Adam Williams (01:23:59): ... for the sake of having asked the question and there's going to be someone listening to this besides ourselves: the book, what is this project? What's at the forefront that combines some of these things and running, and what is it you're going to be doing over there?
Tayte Pollmann (01:24:19): Yes. So trail running in Nepal is way more organized of a sport than most people would think. Most people don't know anything about trail running in Nepal. And I think what's really interesting is that Nepal could be seen as this destination place where people are going there to do these specific treks, like we're going to hike to Everest Base Camp.
Or with trail running in particular, there's races where you're racing along traditional trekking routes or they're going to guarantee certain things, like that you see this peak or that peak or whatever it is. And there is that set of, that's what it means to trail run in Nepal.
But there's also a really interesting story that isn't being told, and that's part of what I discovered when I was over there and that I'm really interested to write about, is that the local Nepalese trail running scene is really, really strong and the athletes are some of the best in the world and haven't really gotten the chance to show that.
(01:25:28): And part of that is just that Nepal, as a country, doesn't always allow its citizens to leave as freely as they might otherwise. But there have been a few exceptions, and if you follow these stories, you'll see what I'm talking about. And Mira Rai is one, she's a Naples runner who, she was a child soldier and then just so happened to sign up for this local race in Nepal and she destroyed everyone, the men included in this race.
And it sparked the attention of the community there, and there was a group that crowdfunded for her to go travel to a really big race over in Italy, and she was able to go travel to this race and she won the race. And Solomon, the shoe brand or outdoor brand, they sponsor a lot of professional trail runners, they noticed her victory there and they made her a professional athlete.
(01:26:39): And that was a huge deal, when she came back to Nepal, she was like a Michael Jordan because they don't have a lot of sports that they take national pride in. And trail running still is not quite to that stage, but it made a big statement. She made the newspapers and such and so much to the point where I've had race director friends in Nepal tell me that they're putting on a race and they'll get questions from people signing up, like, "Is Mira going to be there?" Just expecting her to be there as just a presence so that they can meet her.
(01:27:16): And I think that that's really cool, and also the fact that she's a woman, because in their culture there are very traditional roles for women a lot of the time, especially in more remote parts, where the idea of a woman still has very specific roles, you do this and this on the homestead and that's all you can do, and this is your way of life. And here she is, a professional athlete and not only that, but one driven to encourage other women to do the same.
And she started her own, she calls it some sort of, I can't remember the exact name, I think it's Mira Rai Initiative, you can link it, but it's basically a school for other women to learn about trail running and teach them the skills that they need to perform on the international level. A lot of which, many women, especially who grow up in the smaller villages, they already have the skills to be a good trail runner, and the men too.
(01:28:24): Just because if you can imagine growing up in a place at altitude in the mountains and you just get used to hiking on single track trails, just doing your daily living duties and then someone tells you, "Oh, there's a sport where you kind of do the same thing and you just race on these trails or you power hike them when it gets steep." And they're like, "Well, I kind of already do that every day."
They're going to be naturals at the sport. And there's other examples besides Mira, of success stories that Nepalese athletes have had, going up against international competition or really renowned runners coming to Nepal and getting humbled by the local runners. And I think that the story of the book, that's a big part of the mission, is that I feel that there hasn't been anyone to really tell that story for them, or anyone that's in a position that could.
(01:29:29): And that's what I kept thinking about the last few years, is that all of the people that I know and look up to as writers in the trail running community, or who have written books on trail running, I would be like, "Well, why don't they write this story?" And then a lot of it just comes down to connections or that they haven't been there like I have, and I feel like when I started writing things down, the story just put itself together.
I have a few different Word docs where I have outlines of people that I want to interview and talk to, or places that I want to make sure I get to, or races that I know about. And it all just came together in such a way that I thought, wow, I'm in a really good position to tell this story, so maybe I just should, maybe I shouldn't be afraid to give this to someone else or expect someone else to do it, maybe this is a sign that I just need to go over there and do this.
(01:30:29): And a lot of this too is logistics of navigating yourself through Nepal because that's going to be one of the harder parts of the book. And if I would've had to have thought about this project, not knowing anything about Nepal, but having this idea of telling the story, I don't think it would be possible, just because there's certain things that you have to go to Nepal to experience what I mean, like even just understanding how long it takes to get from here to there, or that if your flight is canceled because of weather or whatever it is, just certain things that logistically you just have to figure out or language barriers and knowing people that could translate for you or things like that.
Adam Williams (01:31:13): All of those things are barriers to people, like you said, why isn't this writer doing this already? And maybe it's because they haven't been there and maybe it's because they have. It might be that those barriers and those logistics, well, it just is true, it's not for everybody to handle that. And so something I really appreciate and even to some extent, am envious of is the work you have done.
This isn't just falling in your lap, you saw an opportunity that started connecting when you went over there as a runner initially, and then you've done the work and you've done the planning and the writing and the thinking, and there's so many connections that you have established. So I look forward to where this project goes, as a runner, as a writer, as a traveler, all these things that we have in common and why we have these conversations. I think it's going to be amazing and I look forward to seeing how this unfolds for you.
Tayte Pollmann (01:32:07): Thanks, [inaudible] well. And I feel like a big part of this too is that the Nepalese trail running community has been just incredibly receptive already to the ideas. And I think that's part of why I get excited too, is that I've reached out to my various friends and the only reaction I get is just that like, "Wow, yeah, we need to make this happen." And then they give me more people that I need to talk to or interview and it just keeps growing and snowballing. And that's part of how I know it's right too, is that okay, this has to be told, they want it to be told, so let's do it.
Adam Williams (01:32:44): And we've just found the back door into this idea of home over there. You're going to have so many people to talk to and this is going to be a project that can build over time, it's going to be home for some length of time anyway.
Tayte Pollmann (01:32:56): Yeah. Well, I've thought about that, is it's already grown to the point where one trip to Nepal, which I plan to do this May to basically the beginning of June, and part of that is it cycles around the Everest Marathon, is a race that I want to make sure that I'm at.
It's one of the most famous races in Nepal, that starts at the base camp of Everest, and that's at the end of May, so that's part of how I've planned this trip. But already I can tell you that, yeah, I'll probably need to go back over at least a second or third time to get all of the stories that I want into this piece.
(01:33:35): Or part of what I think will be interesting is that I want to do a lot of writing this summer after coming back from Nepal, and I think that will help steer me in a direction as well. I'll have this trip where I basically go, write a bunch of things down, interview a bunch of athletes, come back and see what it was that I did while I was over there, what content I have, and then start to piece together a story. And then once I have that story, then I may say, "Okay, what is the story missing? What do I need to go back for potentially?"
Adam Williams (01:34:14): This strikes me as something that is hitting you in the heart. This is something you feel, something you feel very connected to. It's not just that it's a matter of subject that's of interest, oh, it's running and I'm a writer, let's try to see if I can get a book and make my name through that. But rather it strikes me as something that you could be going back for years because it actually has meaning for you.
Tayte Pollmann (01:34:39): Yeah. Well, I think the word at the beginning that I used, is mission. I think that that's part of what I feel toward it more than anything, is that I like to have a very clear focus. I think that that's something as a runner that I've developed, see the finish line or the training for this race or whatever it is. And I think that just saying that I want to complete a book but not really feeling the passion of the story, I think wouldn't make sense for me. I feel like that mission has to come first and then I'm going to write about it as a way to understand it or to share these ideas with the rest of the world.
And too, just knowing why it's important, it's been now, what, four years or almost five years since I've been to Nepal, but I keep thinking about it, and I think that that's a big part of this too, is I go, "Okay, it must really mean something."
(01:35:40): And when I had this thought of what it means to write a novel and if I might want to try that one day, this was my first thought, was I need to go back to Nepal, and that was just something that I don't even know if I knew at the start what that meant, but the more I thought about it, it was like, oh, okay, it is the trail running scene there, that's the story, and that's what keeps drawing me back and makes me want to travel there. And it's something I would do, even if this weren't to get published, I would still want to go there and write all this down.
Adam Williams (01:36:22): Yeah, I think it's a fantastic measure of what has meaning to us and what projects we pursue in life. I've been working for many years to try to come to this place of understanding, of letting the feeling be the meaning and take me creatively and professionally. And I mean, that word in the sense of not necessarily about the money even, although that often comes with it, but professionally, in terms of what do we dedicate ourselves to more fully, it's not just a hobby, it is that mission.
Tayte Pollmann (01:36:53): Yeah. And this is a step into unknown territory too, because sure, I've been writing for a while, but it's in a very different way, traveling to races and writing these short articles, versus going after a novel or a longer form piece. I think that that's just a very different lifestyle and I'll have to explore new things about myself as a creative person and as a writer, in doing so.
I don't know one bit about publishing at the moment, or at least all I know is from word of mouth of other people who have published things, but I myself haven't started the process of what that's going to be like. And that's something I'm interested in learning how does one get the creative work out there, in terms of what I'm used to, is I have an organization that has these certain goals in mind and I write these articles and then they get out to the world and find their publication, but this is very different.
Adam Williams (01:38:02): Yeah, it is. But I have 100% faith in where you're heading and admire it. So thanks for sharing all of that with me, Tayte. And I suspect that we're just going to end this here, grab a cup of coffee and just keep talking. But I appreciate having you here to share so much with me today.
Tayte Pollmann (01:38:22): Yeah, thanks so much.
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Adam Williams (01:38:30): Okay. That was my conversation with Tayte Pollmann. If what he shared here today sparked curiosity and ideas for you, you can email comments to Lisa Martin, one of our producers at email@example.com.
We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or whatever platform you use with that functionality. We also invite you to share the Looking Upstream podcast with others on your social media pages and by word of mouth. Help us to grow the good, be part of the light the world needs.
Once again, I'm your host, Adam Williams. John Pray, engineer and producer. Thank you to KHEN Radio, our local broadcast partner in Salida, Colorado. To Heather Gorby for graphic and web design, to Lisa Martin, producer and community advocacy coordinator, to Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and to Becky Gray, director of the Chaffee Housing Authority.
The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Department of Public Health and the Chaffee Housing Authority, and it's supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities.
You can learn more about the Looking Upstream podcast and related storytelling initiatives at wearechaffee.org and on Instagram and Facebook at We Are Chaffee.
Lastly, thank you for listening and until next time, as we say here at We Are Chaffee, be human, share stories.
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