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.

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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
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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.

Homegoing.

photo: Geof Little

This was the last weekend before Dartmouth homecoming.

It was a coincidence that before I spent most of the weekend elsewhere. But after all, in order to come home to Dartmouth, you have to leave first.
So I went to my real home in Lyme.

We Hanover High graduates are made fun because we could do our laundry for free if we wanted to, but the truth is that most of us get sucked into campus life and don’t spend much time with our parents.

I only go home about twice a term, and it’s usually on a moment’s notice. Sometimes I don’t even bother to warn my parents I’m coming (hi Mom and Dad).

I’m not the only one. A lot of my friends on the ski team are from Vermont and are grateful to be able to go home if they want to.

Freshman Sophie Caldwell headed back to Peru, Vermont this weekend to recuperate after being sick ever since she arrived at Dartmouth.

When Sarah Van Dyke had mono three years ago, she went to her parents’ house in Stowe, because it was nicer to spend all day in bed there than in a noisy dormitory.

Illness is one of the most obvious reasons to go home. There’s nothing quite like sleeping in a quiet house, in your own bed, with your parents and making sure you take your cough medicine and eat enough meals.

But it’s not the only reason we seek comfort outside our dorm rooms and apartments.

Kristin Dewey and the women of the Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority met, greeted, and deliberated over potential new members until 4 a.m. on Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday.

By the time Saturday rolled around, Kristin wished she could go home to recharge. Unfortunately, our Sunday morning practices made it impractical; while I can drive down from Lyme by 8, she would have had a challenge.

“I think going home on a weekend or something is a really good way to relax and chill out and kind of re-group,” she told me. “I only go home if I have free time to hang out with my dog and my family… I’m glad I live close by.”

Pavel Sotskov’s family just moved from Gilford, New Hampshire to Meriden, where his father is the new athletic director at Kimball Union Academy. Even before the move, Pavel spent the majority of his weekends with his parents.

“I tend to relax more when I am at home – I can sleep in and get a good breakfast cooked. On the other hand, most of the time I don’t get as much work done… I get carried away with stuff I want to do at home, from going to the store to tinkering with bikes.

“If I didn’t live so close I probably wouldn’t go home as often, but I think it’s a convenience that I might as well use.”

As I left my apartment on Saturday, Hannah Dreissigacker asked, “are you going home? I’m so jealous! It’s going to be beautiful up there!”

And she was right. Our family has the kind of house you are probably familiar with: an old farmhouse with a barn that’s sinking into the ground, miles and miles of decaying split-rail fences and crumbling stone walls, and more grass than our animals can possibly mow.

I spent Saturday afternoon sitting in a field across the driveway, with my dog, Bravo (who is only partially mine after four years of college), sitting next to me watching over the farm.

When I looked up from the biology papers I was reading, I could see across the valley to Thetford, where the hills were blanketed in color.

Did I do as much work as I might have on campus? No.

Elsa Sargent would head home before final exams and finish her term papers days before the rest of us. I’m not so focused. To me, mental recovery is more important.

Hannah and I discussed how a lot of students forget that there is a “real world” outside of campus. Maybe going home isn’t the best way connect with the real world, but at least you get out of the Dartmouth bubble.

Hannah hails from Morrisville, Vermont, but her family has a farm in West Fairlee. “It is my absolute favorite place to escape to.  I like going there with friends to pick apples or tap the maple trees for sugaring, and it reminds me that school is not really that important after all.  The only problem is that it makes it hard to go back to classes.”

Right, classes. Maybe I should have spent more time on them this weekend.

Is there an I in team?

The college experience includes more than just one student, one professor or one friend. College, in most cases, is a group activity. And my group includes a cast of characters I spend a lot of time with: my teammates.

Teammates are like family. You can’t pick them, but you have to love them.

Athletics can make these relationships tough, especially in individual sports where one athlete’s success is automatically someone else’s loss.

We only send six women to each varsity race. There are a lot more than six talented women skiing at Dartmouth.

The worst team squabble I’ve seen was in my biostatics class last year. Three of us, who all thought we deserved the sixth spot, were sitting next to each other when our coach announced the team selection over e-mail.

One of us was named. The other two were not. One girl complained loudly about how unfair the selection was, since she thought she deserved it more. We tried to stay mature, but didn’t succeed. When we returned to histograms and correlations, two of us had hurt feelings.

It’s hard to compete against your friends.

But while we bicker occasionally, most of the time we have fun. Those same two girls and I have been on countless bike adventures, cooked experimental dinners, and helped each other with homework and boy problems.

Some of my favorite experiences at college have been with my teammates.

There was that time when Pat O’Brien’s father picked us up after a ski race and there was a dead deer in his truck.

Katie Bono, who’s from the city, didn’t like that. She’d never seen stiff, bloody legs sticking up from truckbeds in Minneapolis, and she didn’t want to put her skis next to dead animals.

Another time, Pete Van Deventer, Pat and I skied through the streets of West Yellowstone after the first snow, and then snuck into a nice hotel to use their pool, water slide, and hot tub.

I’ve spent sunny days on spring break digging sugaring lines out of the snow at Hannah Dreissigacker’s farm. My summers have passed working with Susan Dunklee ever since she suggested I apply for her job when I finished my freshman year.

I’ve visited my teammates houses and met their families. Susan’s mother sewed me a fleece blanket, and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess’s mother taught me how to shoot a gun. I’ve seen Pete’s sheep and played Lucas Schulz’s family’s piano.

In short, I guess we know each other pretty well.

It’s hard not to, when at races you cramp seven men and women into a hotel room to save money, and you drive out to Michigan in a minibus together to avoid paying for plane tickets.

You also live with them. Both of my housemates, Kristin Dewey and Nils Koons, are on the ski team. Three other skiers live down the stairs.

For years, our building has served as a hub for the ski team. We gather for dinners, birthdays, movies, and fresh-baked cookies and apple pies. Any team member can sleep on our sofa if their bus gets into town at 2 a.m.

I didn’t know Kristin very well before this year because we’re in different classes and we’ve both had our ups and downs on the ski team.

If I’m skiing fast, it seems natural to spend a lot of time with other skiers.

If I am disappointed and frustrated with racing, sometimes I want to get as far from the team – physically and emotionally – as possible.

As a senior, I am realizing that there are a lot of people at Dartmouth I wish I knew better, and a lot of friendships I wish I had started sooner.

But even if my teammates aren’t the first people I want to see, I know that they will be.

We’ll get together early Thursday mornings for our required yoga class, on Fridays for time trials after we’ve stressed out about school all week, or on Sundays at 8 a.m. for a long workout after we’ve stayed up too late dancing.

And I know that, whatever our differences or whatever each of us thinks is our place on the team at that moment, we will laugh, joke, gossip, and, well, love each other as we ski and run across the Upper Valley.

the last first day.


Tomorrow, I will begin my senior year at Dartmouth College and with it my final season of collegiate ski racing.

Although winter sports teams can’t hold official practice until the first day of fall classes, the reality is that we are all deep into our training seasons.

Training started in April for me. I began lifting weights in the gym and going on short runs and long easy rides on my road bike. Even though I grew up in Lyme, there are corners of the Upper Valley which are still unfamiliar, and my bike is the best way to find them.

In May the runs lengthened to one or two or hours, often in the hills of Norwich with teammates and friends. We watched the deciduous trees leaf out across the valley from the top of Bragg Hill Road, and we tried to stay dry while negotiating the mud and streams on the trail from Tilden Hill to Beaver Meadow Road.

Summer came and while the sophomores stayed on campus and practiced daily with Ruff, the men’s coach, the rest of us scattered across the country to places like Park City, Utah; Morrisville and Orleans, Vermont; Crested Butte and Durango, Colorado; Worcester, Massachusetts; Bend, Oregon; and a large, green bus or a slim bicycle criss-crossing the United States.

My teammates told me stories from camps with regional development teams, practices with high school teammates and coaches, and visits to see each other.

There is a book titled The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I haven’t read it, but it must describe my training pretty well, because I never had a partner.

I worked 40 or more hours a week on my senior thesis project, time spent outside observing and measuring plants. It was stressful to be responsible for my own research and results.Training was one of the things that kept me sane.
I’d rollerski out from Crested Butte along Highway 135, starting in the cold at 6 a.m. before the sun came over the hills and before the cars were on the road. The coffeeshop was my reward for getting out of bed, and I’d finish with a mocha before scrambling off to work at 8:30 or 9.

Those early mornings gave me time to think about things at a slower pace, to organize my life, and to maintain an emotional existence instead of becoming a research robot. In the field, the plants had all of my attention; training gave me the time to plan weekends and trips, and to get over it when my boyfriend broke up with me.

Eventually, we started coming back to Hanover, one at a time, to lead freshmen trips or to move into apartments before taking one final vacation. Only a few of us have been here consistently over the last few weeks – those of us with lab or office jobs to pay for rent, tuition, and new skis.

We train in small groups, rollerskiing out along Route 10 after work, or on our own, hitting up our favorite running trails before official practice dictates our routes.

Tomorrow all of this will end. Not only will we spend the day in classes, exercising our slightly musty minds – I’ll be learning about the environmental applications of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) – but at 2 o’clock, we will all assemble in Robinson Hall and do the same workout.

Just like classes, practice means tests. You can no longer fool yourself into thinking that you’re in better shape than you actually are. There are time trials and strength testing, especially in the first week. Maybe you’re right where you want to be, or maybe your teammates are leaps and bounds ahead of you – now you get to find out.

Before the first practice of every year I get little butterflies. I feel like I have to prove myself in these early weeks and I’m nervous for our first time trials. Sometimes I want so badly to do well that I sabotage myself. I know that for me, staying in it mentally is 90% of the race, but even knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to stay tough.

My teammate Minal Caron said, “I was nervous freshman year. But testing just is what it is, and you’ll always have excuses, so I don’t worry about it that much anymore.”

Yes, I’ll always be able to make excuses if I do poorly. Most athletes could take up side careers as professional excuse-makers. But nervousness is another degree of excited, and I’ve always thought that if you aren’t at least a little nervous, then there’s something wrong.

So I’m ready, senior year. Bring it on, butterflies and all.