Tradeoffs = happy me.

Bruce's Trail on Rabbit Ears Pass, Steamboat, Colorado.

On Bruce's Trail, Steamboat, Colorado.

I am a very lucky girl. My fall term is over, even though my classmates will be toiling away for another two weeks.

Even before school started in September, I had a vague idea that maybe I could finish school early and head west to ski. During the first week of classes, I talked to my professors, and a few weeks later bought plane tickets to Denver, Colorado.

Once I had my tickets and the dream seemed to be a reality, I had to get to work to finish projects and labs. The only way I could justify having my own ski camp was to finish my schoolwork before I left, and to do a good job.

Now I can look back on my last week of school and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over. There were a few nights when I came home from the computer lab so late that all of my housemates were in bed. Hopefully those days are gone for good.

There was nothing I wanted more than to be able to work in the comfort of my apartment, with a cup of tea and maybe some cookies or bread in the oven.

Unfortunately, the computer software I was using for my Geographic Information Systems project doesn’t run on the Apple operating system, so my MacBook and I were out of luck. Plus, the two monitors attached to every computer in the lab made running multiple programs much easier.

When I finally left the lab for the last time Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t sad. It was fun to play with maps, but the hours and hours of creating, combining, and analyzing datasets made it much less so.

I gave a “final” presentation on my last day, the same day when my classmates were presenting their progress reports. I wish the presentation had gone a little better, but I had finished working with my data the night before and didn’t have much time to come up with conclusions. This is not out of the ordinary for many college students, but I usually finish my work with plenty of time to spare.

After class, I said goodbye to my professor and promised him I’d e-mail in my final paper as soon as I could, It was surreal to realize that there was nothing left to say; I was free!

Now I am just thrilled to be skiing and I don’t mind that my free time is spent writing papers and working on my thesis. There’s no snow here in Granby, but it’s only an hour and fifteen minutes to Rabbit Ears Pass, where the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council grooms 5 kilometers of trails. There’s great snow cover and I haven’t seen a single rock.

I’ve skied close to two hours each of the last two days. There are three loops, and I ski them over and over again. I see every other person there several times, and I’m getting very familiar with the ups and downs and corners.

My aunt, who is hosting me, is somewhat incredulous that I keep wanting to ski the same loops every day instead of going biking with her. I don’t mind the repetition, though. This is one of only a handful of places in the country with skiing, and the snow is fabulous.

But despite my bliss, I’m a little bit lonely out on the trails. I’ve been thinking about the last few workouts I did before I left, and missing having teammates to train with.

Wednesday afternoon was the last running “OD”. No, we don’t do drugs; it stands for “over-distance”, our longest workouts. We parked our bus at the Marion Cross School and set off into Norwich.

It was a small group due to conflicts with classes and labs, and we all ran together up Bragg Hill Road. Ida Sargent and I were the only ones who were familiar with the run, and after a while we were being asked, “Does this hill ever end?”

Just like any other workout, we kept plugging along and eventually made it to the top of the hill with its huge houses and beautiful views. The wind howled and Ruth McGovern ran with her hands over her ears because she hadn’t worn a hat. We used the architecture, fences, and paint-color choices as a lesson in what is or is not old-style New England.

On our way back on Beaver Meadow Road, I waved to friends as they drove home from work. Erika Flowers said, “If we stay out here any longer, you’re going to see everyone you know!”

We looped up Brigham Hill Road and down Tilden Hill Road, but the run was still the shortest one we’d done all season. We didn’t mind; it was cold and we were all stressed and sick of dryland. We climbed back into the bus for the short drive back to campus, chatting about classes, plans, and gossip.

Just like everything, my solo training camp is a tradeoff. I’d rather be skiing here than rollerskiing in the below-freezing weather in Hanover. And the fact that I’m done with school is totally worth the miserable week I put in earlier. To me, it’s worth missing my teammates for a few weeks, especially since I get to visit with my favorite aunt.

But when I return for a team camp in Quebec in mid-December, having my team around me will truly feel like coming home.

Piney Relays.

someone else.

Women's nordic team at the ski banquet last spring. Note my awesome bike-jersey tan; it's perfect for formal occasions. Photo credit: someone else.

Monday was our only practice of the year with both nordic and alpine athletes. It was part relay race, part teambuilding. I assumed that meant “easy,” because even the best of the alpine skiers, the All-Americans who can lift twice as much weight as we can, aren’t the quickest runners.

At 2:45, we “nordies” ran out to Oak Hill. After doing weekly intervals there all fall, the jog out is getting a little too familiar. The “pineys” took a bus out instead of running, and I was jealous.

When we arrived, we toured the three race loops. We would have to run each one twice.

The first loop curved up the hill leading out of the stadium, crossed the parking lot, and dropped down to Storrs Pond. Another was an out-and-back on the first hill of the 10k loop. The last was “tree slalom,” winding up and down small, steep hills and narrowly avoiding the big white pines.

We divided into teams of three, with a nordic and an alpine boy and one female skier. My teammates were also seniors, making our team unusual. After all, we were supposed to be making connections with skiers we didn’t know. Sean is a nordie and Michal (pronounced MEE-how) was in my freshman dorm, so we had a head start and could get down to the serious business of racing.

We decided that I would lead off the relay, which consisted of each of us running the first leg, one after the other, and then the second, and so on. I felt like I was back in my high school cross country days as I lined up in the start box.

It was a mad dash up the hill, with runners of us slipping in the mud grass as we tried to get traction. Entering a section of thorny bushes, one of the piney girls darted in front of me to get on the single-track path. I was dismayed. How could I let a piney beat me at my own game?

Along the flat of the parking lot and the access road leading to Area One, I stretched out my stride. It felt good.  Despite the fact that I quit the Dartmouth cross country team after two worse-than-mediocre seasons, I’m in the best shape of my life and that ironically means I’m running faster than I ever did when I raced.

I dropped Corinne Rotter and caught one of the straggling boys, pushing to beat him to the tag zone. When Sean took off, we were solidly in the middle of the pack.

I leaned over to catch my breath and remembered I had five more loops to go. The uphill had not felt good. I chatted with Hannah Dressigacker, who agreed that her legs felt heavy, and had experienced a piney scare of her own. We agreed: we weren’t as fast as usual!

The week before had been a “special intensity week,” with the Moosilauke time trial Sunday, 4 x 4 minute intervals Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and a 5 kilometer rollerski time trial on Friday.

Despite time off and easy distance over the weekend, we hadn’t fully recovered. Training plans depend on having a different focus from week to week, varying the stresses on a skier’s body and forcing it to adapt. Sometimes, you are going to feel tired and slow, but that’s part of the plan.

The teams were in a different order when I started my second leg. I chased down the piney girl who had started in front of me, even though I sometimes felt like I might as well be walking up the hill. Boys who started behind me flew by almost as if I was standing still.

The race wore on and everyone tired. Michal thought he would throw up after every loop he finished; luckily, he didn’t.

When I wasn’t racing, I enjoyed watching the other skiers tackle the tree slalom course. The boys tried to cut the corners as close as possible. A few fell while trying to make quick turns, and they loved to cut each other off and pass on the inside.

It was especially entertaining to watch Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess, who gets quite competitive, attempt to pass 5-foot-1 Alice Bradley, who tried sabotage to hold him off.

The peanut gallery kept track of what was going on. Coaches, injured athletes who had come to spectate, and resting competitors laughed at slips and falls and cheered their teammates as they came into the tag zone.

At the end of the day, Sean, Michal and I finished in the middle of the pack. The race was won by a team of eager freshmen who had somehow amassed a huge lead. I was exhausted; the workout had been far more difficult than expected.

The pineys got back into their buses, and we started jogging back to campus in the gathering dark and cold.

I think the relays achieved their goal of teambuilding. Maybe I can’t remember the names of all of those freshmen boys on the alpine team, but at least I can recognize their faces when I see them on campus.

Culinary adventures, or not.

someone else.

Ski camp is one time when we can cook whatever we darn well please! Mont Saint Anne, Quebec. Photo credit: not me.

I considered last week to be a victory. I can think of only three meals that I ate at the Dartmouth Dining Service (DDS) facilities over seven days.

Why was this a victory? It’s simple: health. When I cook at home, I eat better.

It is certainly possible to eat healthy food on campus. But it is much more possible to do the opposite.

Walking into Food Court, you will often see football players lined up at the grill, awaiting their daily dose of grease: fries, burgers, chicken nuggets, or pizza.

As my housemate Kristin Dewey notes, Food Court provides you the most “calories per dollar” if you’re trying to be economical.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the best place to eat. Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess complains, “I feel gross after eating at DDS… like I’m leaking grease out of my face.”

Maybe Food Court is okay for the football team, but as Kristin says, “It depends on your sport. Runners and skiers can’t carry around too much extra weight!”

I worked hard to lose more than 10 pounds last spring, and I certainly wasn’t eating at Food Court during that time.

That’s the thing: we skiers need a lot of calories, but they have to be the right ones. “DDS can provide a quantity of calories, it’s true,” says Dakota, “but the problem is that when you are entirely missing certain parts of your diet, like good raw vegetables, eating more doesn’t make up for that lack.”

In addition, “The food that is served in significant quantities isn’t very good,” laments Pete Van Deventer. “DDS tends to serve primarily steamed vegetables that lose a lot of their flavor.”

Let me make something clear. I’m not saying that DDS isn’t trying, or that they’re not doing a decent job with what they have to work with. But when you’re trying to feed thousands of students, a drop in quality is to be expected
When I do have dinner on campus, I tend to eat at the Pavilion, which serves Kosher and Halal food. Relatively few students eat there, and the smaller batches lead to better meals.

Unfortunately, the higher quality food is “expensive to eat in the volumes that I need,” says Pete.

Besides the way the food is prepared, we want to know what we’re eating and where it came from. Three of us took Suzanne Friedberg’s “Food and Power” course last spring; this is stuff we care about.

I really admire the Farm to Dartmouth program, in particular, and wish its scope could be expanded. It only accounts for a small portion of the food that DDS serves.

Hannah Dreissigacker has made a goal of eating no meat from DDS this year. “I’m not a vegetarian, but I’ve been trying to only eat meat that I know the source of, not the crazy hormone-antibiotic-corn stuff that I know is what I’m getting from DDS.”

This is a view shared by quite a few members of our team. Ida Sargent says, “I’m used to eating a lot of natural lean protein and it’s hard to find on campus.” To me, locally sourced beef tastes better than the industrial kind anyway.

This might make me a snob. But I’m trying to take care of my body and give it what it needs to train 10 or 20 hours a week. Dakota says, “As an athlete, I value the ‘quality’ of a calorie first.  If I put junk into my body, I should expect it to run like junk.”

The solution is clearly to cook for ourselves.

A stock meal at my house is pasta – usually tortellini stuffed with cheese or spinach – tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chicken sausage, a variety of vegetables, and parmesan cheese.

This simple meal only takes 20 minutes to prepare. I get carbohydrates, vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables, protein, and some fat to hold it all together. Plus there’s leftovers for lunch. Oh, and it tastes really good.

I would love to talk more about the delicious things we cook, or maybe about our four-student bread co-op, but here’s the point that every person I talked to agreed on, summed up by Ida: “I think I’ve eaten a lot less DDS [since moving off campus] because it’s more expensive. I can cook the same thing at home for a much cheaper price and it usually tastes better.”

Dakota gave me three or four examples (including sandwiches, salmon, and a whole chicken carcass), with dollar amounts, of how much more cost-effective it is to buy ingredients and put them together yourself.

Pete noted that he liked local vegetables and cooked them so they were “tasty,” not steamed.

Kristin simply said, “DDS overcharges for everything.”

But here’s the kicker: even when we don’t eat DDS, we still owe the college money. Every Dartmouth student is required to have a meal plan, and the smallest amount you can pay each term is $655. That’s even if you have an apartment and cook your own meals. If we don’t use it up, let’s just say there aren’t refunds.

So maybe last week was a victory for my health and my taste buds, but my checkbook will still be punished.