Strides

You don't have to be IN IN the Alps to find beautiful skiing in Switzerland. I recommend Einsiedeln, just an hour from the Zurich main station.

You don’t have to be IN IN the Alps to find beautiful skiing in Switzerland. I recommend Einsiedeln, just an hour from the Zurich main station.

In the beginning, I really loved classic skiing, much more than skating.

I didn’t learn how to cross-country ski in a competitive sense until high school, and for the longest time skating was so hard: sure, I was fit, and I succeeded at it the way every high school runner-crossover does in the beginning.

But even through college the idea of doing a 2-hour OD skating was exhausting. My balance was bad, so V2 was the opposite of relaxing. My technique was bad, twisting to the sides and wasting a lot of energy. All this wasted movement made it tough for me to skate easily at a true “level one” with a low heart rate (especially going up Oak Hill….).

It wasn’t until after college that I began to get some acceptable skate technique, thanks to video session after video session with Pepa Miloucheva in Craftsbury. I began to get more efficient, and to really enjoy skating. I even ditched my former attitude that I could only ever do well in classic races.

In the past three years, things have gotten way more extreme. I initially moved to Sweden for my masters and never skated once in two years, instead vastly improving my double-poling. But then I moved to Switzerland for my PhD. I have barely classic skied at all because most of the citizen races as skating.

When I was home I also got to go skiing with my buddy from college, Courtney! She was staying a house nearby for a few days. It was super awesome to catch up! She picked me up at our farm before we headed out.

When I was home I also got to go skiing with my buddy from college, Courtney! She was staying a house nearby for a few days. It was super awesome to catch up! She picked me up at our farm before we headed out.

In addition, I have to take the train to ski so I don’t have much way of knowing snow conditions before I arrive at the trails. After all that travel, I just want to hop on my skis and go. I got lazy. I didn’t want to have to test hardwax or klister or, yikes, klister cover, after a long train ride. I didn’t want to bring a box of wax with me. I didn’t particularly want to sticky bring klister skis back on the train, either.

Was I just making excuses? Yes. But I think this is part of being a busy adult with two jobs: things that only take five or ten minutes, like applying kickwax when you get to the trailhead, seem like unnecessary, insurmountable, stressful obstacles. If I owned some of the nifty new waxless skis, maybe I would have classic skied more often. But I don’t. So I took the simple route and just skated. My skis might have been fast some days and slow other days, but they always worked.

I can’t believe that I had come to this. I had been a classic-skiing purist, shunning waxes skis, raving about the beauty of the classic technique.

But during these years of skate skiing in Switzerland, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. For a girl who once said, “skating is so unnatural, I mean, look at evolutionary history, our bodies were not ever under selection to make this sort of movement!”, hopping on my skis and taking off always felt immediately exhilirating, washing away whatever work burdens I had been carrying on my shoulders.

Over the holidays, I returned to New England and volunteered coaching with my old club, Ford Sayre, at the Eastern Cup race weekend. The head coach sent out assignments for the weekend. I saw mine and froze: “Evan, Tim, Chelsea: classic wax testing, application”.

It had been a long time since I had classic skied – I estimated I had only done so maybe five times in the last two years – much less tested wax or tried to predict what would work best in a given set of conditions. I wondered if I remembered how to do either.

On the Friday afternoon of the race weekend we arrived before the van with the athletes. It was incredibly cold, maybe 0°F, maybe colder? We had special green on our skis. I hit the trails.

I instantly remembered: what a joy it is to classic ski, in nice tracks, on wax that kicks! It was so easy! So effortless!

I remembered back to my last year in Sweden. There wasn’t much snow in Upplands. I went to one marathon, a seeding race for the Vasaloppet, where it was raining – so slushy. Clearly klister skiing. I didn’t have any klister in my small traveling wax box, so one of the guys in my club convinced me that it would be fine to just go on skate skis and double pole 42 k (being a tall Swedish man, this didn’t faze him). He turned out to be wrong, wrong for me at least. The first 10 k felt okay and then after that? It was a long way. I hated it. I hated skiing for a few days after that.

Pow day at the best trails in NH. Second one around the loop.

Pow day at the best trails in NH. Second one around the loop.

And then later that winter, I did the 90 k Vasaloppet despite being utterly unprepared. I’ve written before about how that turned out.

Maybe more than moving to Switzerland, these memories of skiing slowly and painfully in the deep slush, hating my life and regretting my decisions had been traumatic enough to turn me off classic skiing.

This was nothing like that. It’s joyful! I automatically remember how to shift my weight. It turns out, it’s not something you forget. It’s like riding a bicycle. Once you’re good at it, it sticks with you. Thank God.

And I remembered why I used to love classic skiing. Striding is my jam. And it still is.

As I cruised around the Craftsbury trails, my old familiar stomping groups, I was happy. For a few loops. I hadn’t brought very beefy gloves with me from Europe though, so after a while I began to sense the precursors to frostbite. By the time the van with the kids showed up, I could barely ski another loop before I was forced back into the touring center, huddling in defense, to catch up with my old friends on the staff and try to breath life back into my fingers.

Over the holiday break, I got in some more classic skiing. I had new skis to test out and, for once, there was plentiful snow in the Upper Valley. I could ski all my favorite spots. (On skate skis, too.)

Taking these long, easy skis was one of the best parts of vacation.

After my first work week back from holiday vacation, I headed on a train to go ski early on a Saturday morning. In my single-pair ski bag were classic skis with blue kickwax. I had a great day.

Moral of the story: always have a few good klisters in your possession. Otherwise you might accidentally turn yourself off of something that you love, and you won’t remember what you’re missing until a former coach orders you to race wax a bunch of high school kids’ skis.

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the Eastern Cup experience.

High school racing trips mean high school kids cooking. Read about the Ford Sayre kids' experience with skiing on the team's blog.

High school racing trips mean high school kids cooking. Read about the Ford Sayre kids’ experience with skiing on the team’s blog.

I started cross-country skiing in an organized way when I was 15, a sophomore in high school. Before that I had grown up skiing on fishscales, clomping around on the trails behind my grandfather’s house, which were groomed by a devoted local skier (Mike Smith, town hero!) and his snowmobile. We knew that skating existed and every once in a while my mother would try it for ten strides or so, but her skis were classic skis from before skating was even invented and so it wasn’t very practical. As for me, I lived in ignorance.

But in high school it became clear that my career as a basketball player wasn’t going anywhere. I joined the ski team because I had run cross-country and many of my friends skied. It seemed logical. Besides joining the high school team I also enrolled with the Ford Sayre club, a local program with a higher racing focus which practiced two times a week.

By the end of the year I entered my first regional races: the Eastern Cups in Hanover (on my home course at Oak Hill) and Holderness, New Hampshire. I finished last and second to last. Luckily things improved in subsequent seasons!

I raced many more Eastern Cups with Ford Sayre, then with Dartmouth, and then with the Craftsbury team after graduation. And after I stopped ski racing seriously, I kept going back to the first Eastern Cups of the season when I was home for Christmas to coach for Ford Sayre, my original club. At the first big races of the season things are always a little hectic so they are happy to have an extra helper on hand. Each year I get to check in with the kids who are coming up through the program, and it’s a blast.

Racing in Craftsbury at the Eastern Cup in 2013. (photo: Adam Glueck)

Racing in Craftsbury at the Eastern Cup in 2013. (photo: Adam Glueck)

(Sometimes I race, but this year with the 1 k manmade loop I didn’t feel the need to. Once you’re old, you can be a fair-weather racer, so to speak.)

This year I was particularly excited to go to the Eastern Cup because it was in Craftsbury, Vermont, on my old stomping grounds. With so little snow in Europe, I was excited to bring my skis home and go for long distance skis around my favorite Craftsbury trails – finally, some good training! My boyfriend was also coming to help coach, and he had never been to the Outdoor Center or that area of the Northeast Kingdom. I was doubly excited to show him the trails.

….. then I actually took a look at the snow situation in New England. Craftsbury did an amazing job pulling off races at all, especially since it rained two days before the races and reduced the snowpack on the manmade loop down about as low as it could go. But a kilometer was as much as they could muster. My boyfriend and I brought our running shoes and explored the trails that way. It was still fun.

What I love about Eastern Cups is that they have something for everyone – from top seniors vying for international race spots who treat the races as training tests, down to high school athletes jumping in their first regional races – and that the entire ski community of Eastern North America shows up. I could catch up with so many old friends in one place, and trade cards and Christmas presents too! I would have loved to go for a ski with my friends who are now coaching full time, but we stuck to chatting on the side of the trail given the conditions.

Ford Sayre coaches Scottie Eliassen (right) and Dennis Donahue under the wax tent in 2014.

Ford Sayre coaches Scottie Eliassen (right) and Dennis Donahue under the wax tent in 2014.

A ski race is a ski race is a ski race, and one of the things that has gotten me through my 2 1/2 years in Europe is that you can show up to ski anywhere and things are basically the same and people are friendly and nice. But the Eastern Cup is particularly familiar, whether it is Pavel Sotskov’s announcing or walking by tables full of food for various clubs and college teams where athletes, coaches, and parents all congregate post-race.

I also particularly enjoy going with Ford Sayre. Every year it’s a reminder of what I learned from the club about how to be an athlete. Before every race, each athlete has to come check in with the coaches to talk about two (no more, no less) specific objectives for the competition – be it a technique cue, something about pacing, a mental aspect, or just the process of the race from warm-up to cool-down.

At the end of the day, the athletes cook dinner and we all sit around a big table as a team. Each athlete says one thing that went well for them, and one thing that they want to improve on in the next race. Then the coaches do the same thing.

The club always has a good system of setting short- and long-term goals, and revisiting them when appropriate. It teaches athletes early in their careers to have purpose and to do things for a reason. That’s something that carries through to everything else you do in life – I regularly set goals for my academic life, some which I want to achieve in the next months and some which I want to achieve two or five years from now.

This year’s group was particularly awesome and respectful, and super fun to work with. It’s great to be hanging out in the house with kids who are so smart and have so much interesting to say! In a lot of years the only athletes in the club are from Hanover High School (so Hanover and Lyme, New Hampshire, and Norwich, Vermont, and sometimes surrounding towns). This year there are four high schools represented and a home-schooled athlete as well. That made things a lot more interesting, and it was amazing how well everyone got along on their first real race trip.

There’s also always the comedian of the group, and always one athlete who was quiet the first three years I showed up to coach but suddenly has become the group’s ringleader. People change so fast in high school, both athletically and on a personal level.

So my annual Eastern Cup trip is a reminder: sports are a good an essential things for kids to do. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to get their kids to do sports! As many as possible!

And coaching? That’s a pretty good, fun, and rewarding thing for grown-ups to do, too.

holidays at home.

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I’m sitting in the airport waiting to head back to Zurich. It was a whirlwind trip home for the holidays – since I got to spend “so long” (really, six weeks) at home this fall and since I just barely started my new job/PhD, I felt like I couldn’t justify demanding a really long Christmas break. So I was in the United States for just one week. Two and a half days traveling with the Ford Sayre ski team as a coach to the first Eastern Cup competitions of the season at the Rikert Touring Center outside of Middlebury, Vermont, and the rest of the time at home in Lyme, New Hampshire.

Leaving is always incredibly hard for me because I have such a tangible sense of home at Highbridge Farm, and in New England in general. I went to Middlebury almost immediately after arriving, and our little team stayed in a giant rambling old farmhouse in Rochester, Vermont, down the hill from the Snow Bowl. It was a part of the state that had never even occurred to me – up on a hill away from the valley, out of sight of the road I usually drive when I go in that direction. But it was in so many ways exactly Vermont and reminded me of why I was so happy to be back in New England for the holidays.

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And the NENSA Eastern Cup always reminds me, too. It’s the same community that I skied in all the way through high school, college, and my semi-professional “career”. It was really fun to see all my old friends, especially since so many of us are coaching now! A highlight was standing out on the side of trail during Sunday’s 15 k mass start with my old teammate Lauren Jacobs, her cheering for the Maine Winter Sports Center skiers, and me for the Ford Sayre athletes. And of course both of us cheered for a lot of other people too.

glueckIt was also nice to watch Adam Glueck, a 15-year-old I coached quite a bit when I was home this fall, get on skis for his first races of the season. Adam was third in the interval-start 5 k on Saturday and then skied a very smart race on Sunday but lost a group sprint in the 5 k mass start and finished fourth. It was also fun to reconnect with skiers I’ve coached at previous opening weekends, like Sara Spencer, Erik Lindahl, and Colin Pogue, and meet some of Ford Sayre’s wonderful new athletes. They all have such great attitudes, focused on having fun and learning and having a good time more than anything else. I think they will be great lifelong athletes.

It was a a beautiful weekend for ski racing, and especially after the grim winter we’ve had in central Europe so far, I was soooooo happy to be able to do some skiing!

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And, then, lunches with friends, dinner with my grandfather on Christmas eve, and Christmas dinner with just my parents at home. I love spending time in our farmhouse and I could stay there, probably forever. Well, probably not. That’s why I don’t live there now. But I’m always so content to stay there.

On Christmas, after opening presents, we went on a nice walk all around our property, up to the top of the hill and then down to the brook on the other side. After the nice weather of the weekend, it had rained hard and most of the snow had melted. The brook was running higher than I have ever seen it before – the place we usually walk across on stones was probably a foot under water, the current was running strong and fast, and I imagined how the beaver dams at the outlet would possibly deal with this. It has been an unusual year weather-wise, but even so, I never regret the opportunity to walk around our land and note what’s going on. I wish I was a better naturalist.

My mom took these few photos:

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When we got inside we read books we had received as gifts, and cooked up a giant ham that our friend Tim had given us (live in New Hampshire or Vermont and need an excavator? Call Northwoods Excavating!). Mom made maple-glazed parsnips from Nigel Slater’s Tender, we ate lots more veggies from Cedar Circle Farm, paused for our annual Christmas game of Parcheesi which my mom narrowly won over a late surge from Bravo the dog (we take turns playing for him to make it a four-person game), and culminated with a Shaker Lemon Pie.

And that’s it, I guess. It’s strange to leave and not have any idea when the next time I’ll be home might be. It might very well be next year at Christmas – and if so, I’ll make sure that after an entire year away, I have more time to spend in my favorite place.

Times They Are A-Changin’.

Notes: First of all: I’m sorry. I owe you a post about Oslo. It might come, someday. I’m so scared to post a crappy post about an amazing trip that I haven’t posted anything at all. I regret it. Second: Rather than make that mistake twice, here’s a hasty post about leaving Craftsbury. So at least you have something long and self-pitying to read while you wait. Third: And no, just because I’m quitting ski racing doesn’t mean that Make It Someday will disappear. Like everything else in my life, it will simply change.


I am not a crier. I would say that on average, I cry perhaps two or three times a year. I’m sure that in my 23 years of life here, there have been some years when I didn’t cry at all.

But so far in 2011, I have already cried twice. I’ve used up my quota of tears, and I’m at risk of regressing to the days when I was a small child throwing fits in the grocery store.

The first time was on January 25th. It’s not like I wrote down the date; I remember it because it was the Tuesday before the Craftsbury Marathon.

For a long, long time, I had been wondering if I would keep ski racing after this season. I’d discussed it with a few of my teammates and in every conversation, I had said that I thought I would know when the time came to leave. What I meant is that my results would bad enough or good enough to guide my decision. But so far, that time hadn’t come. My results so far had been far from strong, but I’d also had very few races where I felt good. I was sure that if I felt good, I could ski faster.

But I finally realized that I didn’t want this question to dominate my season. I had to choose one way or another and get it over with. So after thinking for two days, I decided: I wasn’t going to keep on.

(So to Anders, who said he was “mad at the people who fired me”: I guess you can be mad at me. I fired myself.)

In my season and a half with the GRP up to that point, I hadn’t had a single result that had jumped out and grabbed anyone’s attention, especially not my own. I was fitter, stronger, and a better technical skier than when I graduated from Dartmouth. I trained better: longer on distance days and faster on intensity days. I was more coordinated and I had developed fast-twitch muscles for the first time in my life. But when I got in races, for whatever reason, the promise shown in training didn’t pan out. It’s something that Pepa and I have never figured out – I just should have been racing much faster than I ever did.

If I hadn’t improved with the GRP in two years, I didn’t think a third year would do the trick. Plus, I felt guilty taking up the incredible resources that this team had to offer when someone else – someone who was developing and improving – potentially had to leave skiing because they couldn’t find support for their racing career.

I toyed with applying to a different program because I was confident that I hadn’t reached my potential as a racer. But in the end, I felt that my time was up. When I became part of the GRP, I felt like I held a winning lottery ticket in my hand. I didn’t want to become addicted to gambling, so to speak; I didn’t want to be one of those racers who hangs around forever, racing to mediocrity and always hoping for the mythical result that would justify their ever-lengthening commitment to skiing.

In some ways it was like a huge weight was lifted. I could race for the rest of the season just for racing’s sake, for the fun of it all, without worrying about how my results or my FIS points would set me up for next year. I could really enjoy skiing in a way that I hadn’t before, not since high school, before the days when I put pressure on myself.

But I cried, too. I love skiing, and I love racing. Even though I had made my decision and I knew it was time to move on, it was hard to give up something that I loved so much. That’s where the tears came from, a realization that simply loving racing wasn’t enough to let me stay.

I decided to make the next eight weeks the best weeks of my life as a skier. I planned out some races I was excited about. I wasn’t going to mess around, now that these were my last chances.

That very weekend – the weekend of the Craftsbury Marathon – I competed in a mini-tour in Orford, Quebec. While I certainly wasn’t winning or setting any records, they were the best races of my career with the GRP. I felt like I was skiing well. I was “in” each race, responding to what was happening around me, attacking, making things happen. I had a ton of fun. I immediately wondered if I had made the right decision. What if every race could be like this? Wouldn’t that make it worth staying?

But I think that part of the reason I skied well was that I wasn’t worrying about anything. I didn’t change my mind – instead the races reinforced my commitment to leaving the sport.

After races in Stowe, Vermont, and then in Gatineau, Canada – both of which were fun but unspectacular, results-wise – my season veered away from its planned course.

I headed to the Midwest, where the SuperTour races I was signed up for in Madison were canceled due to political protests. After an unexpected training weekend, I raced the American Birkebeiner, which was supposed to be something for fun – I’m not a strong marathon skier – but had suddenly become the focal point of the trip.

I also got the opportunity to travel to Oslo, Norway, to help FasterSkier cover World Championships, most-expenses-paid. With few races in New England in early March, it seemed like a no-brainer to go. And it turned out to be the best trip I’ve ever been on.

But I didn’t really train while I was there. I skied, but it was the opposite of training; practically all of my skiing was in that grey zone where you are going hard, but it’s not a quality workout.

Then I came back to the U.S. and got a cold. Too many late nights, too little eating, too much drinking, and that not-training all added up to poor health.

By the time the Spring Tour rolled around – the last races of my career – I was in a bad spot, athletically. In the last month, I had done one race, which was a marathon, one set of max intervals in late February, one aborted threshold workout in which I felt terrible, and a set of thirty-second intervals to wake up.

I was not in shape to go hard. And it showed in the first two races. Yikes.

I had had this idea that I would finish my career with a bang. I think, somehow, I had believed that all the karma from anything good I had ever done as a skier would come back to me, and I would go out in a blaze of glory; maybe I’d even win a race.

Obviously, this is not how things work. Especially when you haven’t been training.

The last race of the tour was the best, in a number of ways. I just went out and skied. I caught a few girls in the pursuit, I raced as hard as I could, and I basked in the sun. Then I continued to bask in the sun during the men’s race, and during the post-race barbecue, and during the second ski that I made myself go on through the fields on Sam’s Run, and as we sat around in the yard drinking beer, our last activity as a team before Matt and I left. By that night, I had a vicious sunburn.

It was the best way I could have ended my career as a “serious” racer – even better than if I had won. On a perfect spring day, I was reminded of the best things about the ski world: camaraderie, community, and fun.

And when I left the assembled chairs, crates, and logs where my teammates were sitting in the sun, still drinking beers to celebrate a season well-done, I was sad to go pack up my few remaining belongings.

I had thought that since I had decided to leave two months ago, I would have had time to sort out these feelings. I didn’t think it would hit me all of a sudden as I left my now-empty room and carried the last box out to my car. But it did hit me, and I started crying for the second time in 2011.

Craftsbury has been my home for two years. Not since high school have I lived in a single house for as long as I lived at Elinor’s. Nor have I lived with the same people for so long, or felt as much part of a single place. For all the ups and downs, the adventures and bonfires, the frustrations and disagreements, the good races and the bad, this had been my place, where I belonged.

Saying goodbye to a place that has affected you so much is impossible, even if you’re excited about what comes next.

I kept crying as I gave my teammates hugs, wished them luck, and promised that I’d see them again. After briefly putting myself together, I cried as I drove by the Common for a last time, and then shed my final tears – perhaps for the year – as I turned off of South Craftsbury Road, onto Route 14, and towards the future.

racing sick.

This is a nice bench, isn’t it?

The bench is where I belonged this weekend. Maybe not this particular bench, considering that it is out in the cold, but a different bench, a metaphorical bench, a bench where you sit and are not subbed into the day’s athletic competition.

I took this picture on Thursday. I had been sick, and still had a head cold. On Wednesday, I had walked around on my skis for twenty minutes, enjoying the small amount of snow we had on the trails and imagining that I would be better soon. But on Thursday, I wasn’t better. In fact, I was worse. For my “workout”, I went for a nice walk to the end of the road. If your workout for the day is a walk, you know you’re in trouble.

By Friday I was feeling a little better, and on Saturday, I was ready to race – I thought. But even then, I was hedging my bets. “Oh, I’ll just race the sprint qualifier, and sit out the heats so that I can make sure to be healthy for Sunday’s race,” I told myself (and my friends). Sprinting isn’t what I’m good at, but Sunday’s mass start classic race seemed to be designed exactly for me.

And as I was cooling down from the qualifier – which went mediocre-ly – I thought to myself, “well, now I’ve skied more than I have in the last four days combined! That can’t be good.” But I was excited, too. I hadn’t skied particularly well in the qualifier but I felt that if I just got in the heats, I would ski better, and perhaps I could do pretty well.

So, I decided to ski the heats.

What was I thinking!?

My quarterfinal itself didn’t go too badly. I got off to a great start – which is shocking, really, because I’m not the quickest skier. I spent most of the race sitting in third. The pace felt slow and even easy until the last 200 meters or so. All of a sudden I got very, very tired. The finish line was right there! But I didn’t have any gas left in the tank (had I had any to start with?). The girl who had been behind me in fourth sprinted by me like I was standing still. I ended up 18th on the day, not my best Eastern Cup result for sure but not a complete disaster given the circumstances.

The race had been special in a way, because as I said, I’m not the quickest skier. I’m pretty bad at sprinting. But I had been really engaged in the race, and I think that tactically I had skied very well. With 400 meters to go, I was right where I needed to be – in contact with the leaders and a ways ahead of the fourth-place skier. If I’d had a bit more in me, I could have fought for a place in the semifinals. It was really good practice, and exciting for me to be excited about sprinting.

But it came at a cost. I went home immediately after my heat was over, took a hot shower, and crawled into bed for a nap. When I woke up, I felt like absolute crap and was coughing and coughing and coughing.

I immediately realized I had made a big mistake.

Falling asleep that night was terrible. My throat hurt, my nose was running, and I was still coughing even though I had been doing my best to combat and alleviate all these symptoms. I was sure I was going to wake up in the morning feeling worse than ever – and that’s not a thought that helps you fall asleep, let me tell you.

But I woke up feeling okay. Sure, I was coughing up nice yellow stuff, but I felt okay. Having not learned anything the day before, I jumped in the van with my race suit on.

“If you feel bad at all, you shouldn’t race,” my coach told me when we got to Jericho.

“But I want to race! Mass starts are so fun! And I want to do a mass start before the one at Nationals. I need the practice. I’m just going to see how it goes….”

“Okay,” she said, shaking her head. “But if you feel bad at all, drop out. Even if you are in the top three, if you feel bad, drop out. We need only high quality workouts right now.”

So, off I went, testing my skis, warming up, chatting with all my ski racing friends who I hadn’t seen in a year. I love racing! Why would I give this up if I didn’t have to?

I was seeded 20th in the mass start, so was stuck in the third row. As soon as the gun went off, I was fighting to move up in the pack. I had made up a few spots in the first couple hundred meters when I came around a downhill corner and of course there was a girl sprawled in the middle of the trail. I chose to take the outside route around her and came perilously close to going over the side of the trail into a ditch. But I didn’t! That really got my adrenaline going and for the next kilometer I was on fire, working my way up into the top eight or ten, where the pace was slow and we were all skiing comfortably, albeit all over each other’s skis.

Then we got to a hill.

Adrenaline can only get you so far. As I said, the pace was slow, but when we got to this hill, I could barely move. It was like my legs were part of someone else’s body, not my own. I was working really hard to go very slowly, and it felt terrible. Really, really terrible. I remembered that I was really tired. So I decided to drop out, just like Pepa had said.

Now, once you decide to drop out, there are some logistics to figure out. This hasn’t happened to me very often – this was only the second race I had quit in my entire life – but you can’t just stop skiing. I mean, you can, but then you’re out in the middle of the course in the middle of a race. No, it’s much better to ski to somewhere close to the stadium and then drop out, so that you’re not stuck out there.

I was contemplating where to drop out when I came around a downhill corner and, since I wasn’t paying attention, of course I crashed. Complete yard sale. So I decided that would be a nice place to drop out, actually.

My race was over. I think I had made it two kilometers.

Even if you know it’s the right thing to do, dropping out doesn’t feel good. I was able to joke about it a bit, telling people that I had won the race because I “finished first”. But after using that line a couple of times, it didn’t seem funny. I was sad, frustrated, upset. Why was I sick? I always get sick and it makes me feel like everything I have done for the last nine months has been pointless. I’m ruining all my hard work and preparation. It’s a pretty depressing situation, really.

So now I’m at home, sitting on my bum and drinking tea. I’m hoping I’ll get better, but if the past is a guide, it’s going to take me a while. Which is bad, bad news indeed.

Kids: don’t race when you’re sick. Or even when you’ve been sick, or think you might be getting sick, or feel funny at all. It’s dumb. Don’t do it. Stay on the bench.

Friendship is a wonderful thing.

There is only one deeply unsatisfying aspect of life in Craftsbury, Vermont, and it is the lack of social opportunities. To put is bluntly, I have no friends. Sure, I have my teammates, who are great, but we spend pretty much every hour of every day together, and sometimes we get on each others’ nerves. We share so much that there are some things we can’t share.

Some people would find this admission surprising, since I have a reputation as a self-sufficient recluse. But I miss having friends, darnit.

Luckily, this year two of my dear friends from Colorado have come to visit me. I say that they are from Colorado, but they aren’t, really; that’s just where I met them. We were all summer people, woven into the community even though we’d head back to our respective homes when September rolled around.

Laura Rolfe was my cabin-mate the first summer I lived in Colorado. We had a tiny mining shack to ourselves: one room downstairs, with a kitchen and a bed, and half a room upstairs. The refrigerator was in the entry-way, we caught a million mice, and we even had a bat fly around at night one time. It was an amazing summer.

Both Laura and I (we’re on the right in this picture) returned to Gothic the following summer, but then she left for California and spent the next three years caring for her aging grandfather. I meanwhile went about my self-absorbed, busy college life, and then my self-absorbed, isolated life as an athlete.

This fall, Laura was preparing to move to Hawaii and decided to do a road trip across the country to see all her friends before she left. Amazingly, I was able to convince her to take a detour almost all the way to Canada to come visit me in northern Vermont. This was a big training week for me, so I was afraid I was going to be a terrible host – tired, boring, busy – but I was so excited to see her anyway.

Laura arrived on Monday night and we whipped up a simple dinner: fresh pasta with garlicky salmon and spinach, topped with goat cheese, and a side of warm baguettes. We had a lot of catching up to do, because we hadn’t even really stayed in touch over the last few years. I told Laura about life as a skier, the pros and cons of living in the middle of nowhere, and how I spent my spring break, and she told me about nursing, her new boyfriend, and all of the friends she’d seen so far on her road trip.

I had to rollerski the next morning, but we spent the afternoon walking around the Center. I showed her the bread oven, the compost shed, the new solar panels, and the boathouse. We sat on the dock and enjoyed the calm surrounding the lake. I worried that I was being boring, but Laura soaked up the atmosphere and didn’t seem to mind. Craftsbury is a good place for contemplation, and it was a beautiful fall day.

After that we watched the other girls do a biathlon workout, tried shooting some guns, and sat around and talked more.

It was so good to see her and catch up. Our lives are so different now. Laura is moving to Hawaii! She really is. I’m so excited for her. But it means that we won’t be able to see each other for another long time. And this is sad. Laura is the one who taught me all sorts of amazing things. She showed me how to make an envelope out of a picture in a magazine. She gave me what is still my favorite collection of folksy music. She drank tea with me every night and played gin rummy. She did my makeup for Gothic prom that one time. Laura taught me a lot; she is a great friend, a wonderful person, and I think she taught me how to be more of those things, too.

Thanks for coming to visit, Laura. I may have seemed subdued, but that’s what life gives me these days. Seeing you meant the world to me.

A fun, blustery day on the Long Trail north.

Our team suffers from a certain lack of adventurousness in our training, I would say. We rollerski in approximately three places; every once in a while, we’ll venture out for a longer point-to-point, but this happens literally three or four times a year. If we need to do a long run/hike, we go to Stowe and Mount Mansfield. We do the same running workouts around the ski trails or around the lake every week.

So many times, one of us (or even two of us) have wanted to go somewhere new, but the rest of the team, tired from a long week of training already, has argued that it’s too much of a drive, too much of a hassle. I’ve been on both sides of this argument.

Every once in a while, though, we break out of the mold. Today Lauren and I decided that, goshdarnit, we were going to explore the Long Trail going over Jay Peak. It would have been easier to do with support, and with an extra car to make a point-to-point, but no matter; we were going to go anyway, even if it was just a self-supported out-and-back. We were aiming for 3 to 3 1/2 hours of running and hiking.

And so after a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Outdoor Center – French toast, bacon, yogurt with raspberries and dried fruit on top, cantaloupe, tea – we set out in the silver 4Runner, northbound.

When we arrived at the Long Trail crossing on Route 242, it had turned blustery. I was nervous that it was going to be a long, cold hike. But after only 5 minutes of jogging, we were plenty warm and shed our long-sleeve shirts. I was impressed with the trail – while there were certainly some steep, rocky sections, much of it was a nice, dirt path, and the grade was gradual enough that we were able to run in many places. As we rose higher on the mountain, we were able to look south over Green Mountains.

All of a sudden, the trail entered a giant rockpile with two snowmaking pipes on top. After scrambling over this odd collection of items, we were dumped out onto a ski trail, where we could look East towards Jay as well.

We were immediately pummeled by the wind, but we took a few pictures before putting our long-sleeves back on. I think my favorite part about the landscape was the combination of dying yellow grass and fading wooden snowfence. Many alpine ski trails (ahem Stowe, I’m looking at you) are covered in taller plants which need to be bushwhacked. These trails were just soft, billowy grass. With the gray clouds overhead, I felt like I was in northern Britain or something. Or something.

After appreciating the scenery, we crossed the trail and scrambled along the white-blazed rocks that would lead us to the summit.

The wind up here was even stronger. We felt a bit like we might blow away. Or at the very least, our hats might blow right off of our heads. At the summit, clouds seemed to be flying by and there was barely a view. We hurried down, past the summit lodge and back onto the alpine trails, and began to head down the north side of the mountain.

After the trail went back into the woods for a short period, it popped back onto the ski trail briefly, and this is where our adventure began to get strange. There were two trails heading into the woods. Neither showed any evidence of white blazes. We ventured down the ski trail a bit further, but became convinced that this was the wrong move. The first unblazed trail ended at a small pond 100 feet into the woods. The second, well, it was covered in orange tape and warning signs: ski area boundary.

Then the signs got bizarre.

Huh?

The next sign was special, too:

It’s not just the photo…. 95% of the writing had disappeared from the sign. But as best as we could tell, it said, “This is the place that if people get lost they spend the night outside. Is it worth it?”

I felt a little bit like we were in some horror movie: Long Trail Gone Wrong. To make matters worse, the white blazes were very few and extremely far between. We still weren’t completely sure if we were even on the Long Trail or some other weird side spur. But we continued on down the side of the mountain and eventually made it to a shelter, where we saw some other hikers. We knew we were in the right place.

On our way down, Lauren had really slipped on some wet rock and kind of tore up her leg. We both began to trip more. Oops, it turns out we were both really tired! How did that happen? Well, a long week of training, not quite enough sleep, and yesterday when we were supposed to have the afternoon off after a glycogen depletion workout, I had gone down to Stowe and hiked Mount Mansfield with the rowers. Was this the best idea for recovery? No, and my quads and calves were punishing me for it. But it had been a beautiful day and I had needed to fulfill my spiritual yearning for the mountains. Plus, getting out of Craftsbury, with people I don’t spend every minute of every day with, is always a bonus.

Anyway, we passed the shelter and kept running for a bit, then decided we should probably turn around and head back to the car. In our exhausted state, who knows how long it might take us?

Going back up the mountain, we saw an additional sign that really clarified what was going on with this section of trail:

Right! So all those people getting lost were in the winter! Which would explain why they were so concerned, because getting lost in the winter would be a huge bummer. All of a sudden, things made sense. I even hypothesized that maybe the trail wasn’t blazed because they didn’t want skiers trying to follow it.

Anyway, we eventually hiked back up the section of ski trail (my calves were seriously questioning my instructions at this point) and found a nice older couple to take our picture at the top. We got to enjoy the yellow grassiness one more time before jogging back down to the car, where we more or less collapsed. Neither of us wanted to move any part of our body in the near, or distant, future.

It was a great morning, no matter how tired we felt. I can’t wait to try running that same section from the north side, perhaps when I am less exhausted. In any case, we were thrilled to go somewhere new, somewhere that lived up to and even surpassed our high expectations.

Finally, I swear we didn’t try to coordinate our clothes…. we just accidentally turned out matching!