Archive for February, 2013

Dennis Ball, Lead Pacer and Support Team Member


Dennis Ball grew up in the mountains of Colorado but didn’t get involved in endurance sports until he moved to New York in 2003. Since then he has competed in everything from turkey trots, Ironman, to many ultra-distance running events. Dennis has a passion for endurance sports and it was this passion that inspired him to go back to school. Currently Dennis is finishing his degree in nutrition at Queen College and will be graduating this spring. When Dennis is not running or studying he works as a running coach for TriLife Coaching.

Quick Facts:

  • Home: New York, NY
  • What got you into running? My friend Jasmine Pierce called me one day and asked me if I wanted to run a 5k with her. I thought why not and ever since then running became a part of my life.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I first met Nikki when I was the coach for The North Face Endurance Challenge in NY. I had to speak on a guest panel with her. I was very nervous and she could tell but she helped put me at ease.
  • Why did you become involved in Nikki’s Long Trail expedition? I became involved with this expedition because I believed in the purpose and message Nikki wanted to send with this project. Endurance sports are a lifestyle to me and they have a very transformative power. I hope that this project will inspire people to become active as well as bring more attention about equality in sports.
  • Greatest inspiration: When people realized that they are capable of more than they thought they were.
  • Proudest moment: It will be this May when I graduate from college!
  • Biggest fear: Running into a mountain lion
  • Favorite food on the trail: Gatorade’s Carb Energy Chew
  • Best adventure: By far The Long Trail
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: 1) I am currently applying for my dietetic internship and my number 1 choice is in Bozeman, MT. 2) I am a vegetarian that hates eggplant. 3) I cheated on my vegetarian diet during Nikki’s Long Trail expedition. Shhhh.

Patrick McLaughlin, Sound Recorder / Still Photographer / PA / Wilderness Adventure Guru

Quick Facts:

  • Nickname: Pat
  • Home: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • What got you into filmmaking? I have always been interested in telling interesting stories. I began college as a screenwriting major, but graduated with a degree in biology, and I currently work in West Africa as a conservation biologist. Like filmmakers, scientists are essentially just telling stories, trying to understand and convey what they learn about how the world works. I have always wanted to have a foot in both worlds, to help convey science through film instead of just statistics and specimens. As a scientist, broadening your audience beyond other scientists is vital to both conservation and education. To that end, I have always had a keen interest in filmmaking.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I met Nikki the day before she began her epic Long Trail attempt, in the middle of the woods of Northern Vermont.  
  • Why did you become involved in the making of the film? Jaime and I spent some time leading a National Geographic Student Expeditions trip in Tanzania this past summer. She told me about Nikki and the Finding Traction film, and I was just blown away by the entire story. Knowing that I was looking to gain more experience in filmmaking, Jaime graciously offered me the chance to join her crew. The chance to be a part of such an amazing project was an easy decision, and quite an honor.
  • Greatest inspiration: I guess it’s a tie between Forrest Gump and Gandhi
  • Proudest moment: Becoming an uncle 
  • Biggest fear: Questionnaires
  • Favorite food during field production: Dried Mango
  • Best adventure: Driving a 1983 Ford Fiesta from England to Mongolia
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: 1. I study frogs, 2. I like bacon, and 3. I type with 2 fingers.
  • What’s Next? I am leading a research expedition this month in West Africa. We’re looking to document primate abundance in the remote tropical forests of Bioko Island, one of their last strongholds in the region where they are protected from hunting. Additionally, we will conduct extensive surveys for new species of amphibians and insects, while also inventing new and creative ways to cook SPAM.

Andrea Cady, Doctor, Chef and Support Team Member

Quick Facts:

  • Nickname/Trail Name: Wench. Or little wench.
  • Home: Pittsford, Vermont initially.  Bozeman, Montana now.
  • What got you into running? Runner parents in the 70s.  High school XC running on trails in VT.
  • How did you first meet Nikki?  Our moms taught junior high together and decided we each needed a female friend.  I was 11 and Nikki was 10.  We built a fort in the woods together and she seemed pretty cool.
  • Why did you become involved in Nikki’s Long Trail expedition?  Chance to hang out in the woods and cook and help Nikki.
  • Greatest inspiration: changes month to month.  Right now it’s my love of new soup recipes.
  • Proudest moment: Tuckerman headwall in leather laceup tele boots and wood (3 pin binding) skis, 1995ish.  Followed Nikki up.
  • Biggest fear: same headwall, same trip.
  • Favorite food on the trail: jerky.  Soup’s good, too.
  • Best adventures: life with a poodle, and a boyfriend who taught me how to kayak and mountain bike and dirtbike.
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: (1) the farthest I think I’ve ever run at once is about 18 miles,  (2) when we used to pretend we were the Beatles when we were 12 Nikki was Ringo and I was George Harrison, and  (3) the most helpful advice I’ve received is “Never criticize your own cooking”.
  • Ambition / What’s Next? Would eventually like to find a job as cook/ physician on a South Pacific dive boat or private yacht.  Anyone hiring?

The film was funded!