Happy summer training! The GRP skiers are in full training mode with the edition of four new skiers joining for a summer of training in Craftsbury. This summer the editions to the Elinor’s house are Johanna Talihärm, Alex Lawson, Leah Brams and Lina Sutro. Johanna is back for her third summer in Craftsbury. This will be Alex and Leah’s first summer and Lina’s second summer joining. To get to know the summer athletes a little better we asked everyone some short questions:
What is the most fun workout you’ve had so far?
The toughest workout?
Something unexpected about your summer in Craftsbury so far?
Favorite meal from the kitchen?
For Alex the grass speeds have been the most fun, double
pole intervals have been the toughest, and even
though she’s spent a lot of time here in the summer with the junior ski
program, she never realized how big of a community lives near and at the
center. Her favorite meal from the kitchen are the feta and spinach burgers.
Johanna also agrees that the grass speeds have been the most fun workout so far. For her, skate and no-pole intervals are the toughest and seeing a black bear really closely has been a very unexpected sight so far this summer. As far as best meal, it’s probably a tie between pizza day and sandwiches on Sunday!
For Leah a great distance ski with
Lina a couple days ago has been a highlight. The double pole intervals were
probably the toughest and yesterday she saw a mother bird eat its baby bird’s
poop! Lastly the tofu dishes are her favorite.
For me, Lina the rollerski workouts with speeds have been fun, especially when there is a big group all skiing together. The depletion workout we did last week was probably the toughest. My Favorite meal the kitchen makes is the black pepper tofu. And so far, the amount of bug bites I’ve gotten has been a little unexpected…was thinking it would be much worse.
So far, all four of us have had a really fun start to the summer and are looking forward to the next couple months of training and working!
In the ski world, May 1 is seen as a very special day; the start of the new training year! It’s such a special day that Fasterskier.com dedicated an entire article to it. May is the time for reflecting on the past year, acting on goals set for the coming year, and getting back in to the groove of training. Much of the GRP Biathlon team had a similar month to me, so I am going to chronicle that below. After a few days in Craftsbury, the month kicked off in earnest with a training camp in Bend, Oregon, followed by a quick trip to Columbus, Ohio (not great ski training there!), then home again to Craftsbury.
May 1: GRP friend/training partner/Estonian biathlete Johanna made a jaunt to Craftsbury for a few days. We went on a lovely hike up local favorite Mount Elmore, which got the training year started on a fun note in classic Vermont style.
May 5: Next up, I, along with Alex, Emily, Susan, Clare, Mike, met Kelsey and Liz, and many other USBA teammates in Bend, Oregon for almost two weeks of crust cruising, technique work, and mountain biking. We are all part of the National Team in one way or another (except Liz who just wanted some fun early season on-snow time), as either athletes, or in the case of recent GRP alum Mike, a National Team coach. I had never been to Bend but had heard lots about this place, making my expectations quite high-and they were definitely met and even exceeded! Bend did not disappoint with plenty of sunshines and seemingly endless skiing and biking.
“Crust cruise” is a somewhat ambiguous phrase and I think holds different meanings depending on what part of the country you are from. To me, a born and raised Vermonter, it traditionally meant darting through trees and perhaps a snow covered corn field in late winter or early spring. Out West, it is a whole other beast! We skied in the Broken Top Mountain area, and other than enduring a rather rough snowmobile trail for a few kilometers, we had untouched wide open expanses of varying terrain, including steep uphills, fast and fun downhills, and gently rolling flats. It was amazing and took adventure skiing to a whole new level!
In addition to adventure crust skis, we did a lot of technique with coaches Armin and Mike.
Most afternoons we went mountain biking. Again, the Vermonter’s conception is much different than the Western reality! The mountain biking in Bend was fast and flowy and really fun! Mountain bike is also a blast in the east, just different. I was impressed by all the people out on the trails, from young to old and everyone in between. One day a group of around 20 kids zipped by us, which was pretty neat.
Bend is also notorious for its tacos, just ask Ollie. One evening we went out for tacos and here is a picture to prove it.
Bend wasn’t all play and adventure! We did some porch TRX strength sessions-and what could be better than getting stronger and being outside?
May 16: After Bend, many of us hopped on a plane for Columbus, Ohio. What were a bunch of skiers doing going to Ohio? Crossfit! Concept 2 hosted a biathlon event at the Rogue Invitational Crossfit Competition, a competition where elite Crossfitters from around the world were vying for spots for the Crossfit Games. Here, current and former GRP biathletes were the Range Officers and several Concept 2 staff members were the technical masterminds behind this operation. We got the opportunity to teach top level Crossfit athletes how to shoot an air rifle, many who had never held any sort of gun before. We were amazed at just how appreciative and eager to learn all of the athletes were.
We were teaching/coaching on Friday and Saturday morning but also had some time to check out the other events that were happening before our event on Sunday.
On Sunday’s “race day,” we were range officers and our job was to load magazines, record hits and misses for the live stream, and reset targets. It was a rather high stress position, as lots of money was on the line for the winners, but it was really cool! You can check out the livestream here, starting around 35:00.
May 20: Then it was back to Vermont! Here are some photos of the second half of the month.
Gardening season is in full swing!
Spring time marks the return of the summer Tuesday Night Race series. This weekly event takes place late May-late August and has 5k run and 5k and 10k bike options and has seen nearly 100 racers before! It is a super fun community event that gets the community and Outdoor Center guests and campers out on the trails.
Community Fitness is a GRP-led fitness class that has a great group of regular attendees. It was awesome to get back to this crew after a few weeks away. I am constantly amazed at the improvements that these community members make on a weekly basis!
Training resumed as soon as we hit the ground in Craftsbury.
Community and youth involvement is a big part of being on the GRP and we get to bike with a bunch of different school and kid groups through the spring, summer, and fall. Watching these kids get stronger, braver, and faster is awesome and inspiring and definitely encourages me to try to do the same!
And now it’s on to June, where the training ramps up, the black flies get replaced by mosquitos, and we get faster and stronger!
Training after college can often be a very insular lifestyle. At Craftsbury we have the benefit of spending time with a lot of great people who are focused on keeping the center running or are at Craftsbury for other reasons. However, on our training trips even this outside influence is reduced. We spend our time rowing and then doing all the activities necessary to make that happen. We spend more time together and less time outside of rowing. Like most things this is good and bad. It can be good to narrow your focus, get more rest, and really zone yourself in for a block of time. However, sometimes with this level of focus, context can be lost and rowing seems just a tad too serious for those of us that often take things too seriously.
This trip I was able to branch out a little bit in very positive ways. While training on my own in Durham, NC, I had the good fortune to row with CHaOS Rowing, a club of masters rowers on Lake Jordan who really enjoy the sport. Several of them had past national team experience for a variety of nations and some were starting or continuing club rowing careers. I would train with them on Saturday and Sunday and I was always impressed by the way that everyone would get after it and have joy in the competition. It was really great to feel the competitive energy of people who have or have had careers completely outside rowing. There was no need to be competitive like those of us who have committed to rowing more full time. Yet, it was still there and seemed more positive for its lack of necessity. It created a sense of community to share the experience of competing and the amicability and jokes between pieces only added to the way that everyone attacked the next piece.
After I left Durham I met the whole team in Deland, FL. Because I was managing some forearm tightness I was not always doing two a days on the water. As a result, I looked around for a gym. The place that seemed to make the most sense was the local YMCA. In a very different way than the club at Durham I felt that athletics were forging a community. It seemed as though it was providing a no judgement zone for people to engage with their bodies and engage with each other. People were truly at the ends of every spectrum of physical ability yet the environment felt welcoming to all levels. There were a variety of classes and I got the sense that people went there to see their friends as well as workout. As someone aiming for performance, I felt like the relaxed environment helped me work hard free of stress or overthinking the work I had to do. I can’t say that I took as specific a lesson from here as from Durham but it did make me think about the community facet of the Craftsbury mission statement and how I can add to community engagement with how I go about things.
What a privilege it is to be a ski-racer: we train year
round for a sport that we love, a sport that is exciting, intimate with nature,
technical, and keeps our bodies healthy. When I was in high school, our coach
advertised cross-country skiing as “a lifetime sport,” a sport in
which you can compete for the rest of your life. For myself, I hope that the
structure and work ethic that training for cross-country ski racing instills in
me will transfer when my life is centered on something other than being the
fastest ski-racer or biathlete I can be. Cross-country skiing is a sport that
is worth sharing, and this April I had the privilege of getting to share the
sport in rural Alaska.
There are parts of the world where skiing can not only serve
as an avenue for athletic or character development, but also play a more
functional role in daily life. Think of the Arctic, where snow covers the
landscape more often than it doesn’t, where snow-mobiles (known simply as
“sno-gos” in the Arctic) pack down the snow-laden village streets,
and where success or failure in silently stalking caribou on a hunt can mean a
guarantee of food on the table, or not.
Skiku/NANA Nordic is an Alaskan non-profit that sends skiers
and coaches to the rural Alaskan villages to teach basic skiing skills for one
week each year. “Skiku” is the overarching name for the organization
(the name comes from combining the Inupiaq word for ice, siku, and the word ski)
while “NANA Nordic” was the original name for the organization before
their reach expanded beyond the Northwest Arctic Native Association’s region.
This year Skiku had 58 villages on the schedule. Between three and six coaches
are sent to each village for one week. While in the village, the coaches take
over the phys-ed classes during the day, provide after-school ski programming
(usually games and adventure skiing) for kids after school, and offer lessons
for community members as well.
This year I had the privilege of coaching with Skiku in the
village of Shungnak. Shungnak is located 355 miles inland of the Kotzebue
Sound, just southeast of Kobuk Valley National Park and southwest of Gates of
the Arctic National Park. Shungnak has about 250 residents, 95% of whom are of
Alaska Native heritage. In Shungnak I was joined by two other coaches, Harvard
University assistant coach Jeff Tucker and GRP summer athlete Johanna Talihärm (during the week, Jeff
received word that he would be joining the Craftsbury coaching staff for the
summer!). Although I had served as a coach with Skiku in the past, each village
is unique and I knew that Shungnak would be no exception.
A week before traveling to the Arctic I called the Shungnak
school principle, Roger, to introduce myself and make sure that the village was
prepared for their “ski-week.” Roger assured me that he, the village,
and the kids were ready. The kids love skiing, he had told me, and they are
pretty darn good, too. He talked about previous years, about how the entire
village had lined the village streets to watch the race at the end of the week.
“Because in Shungnak, It’s a ‘We’,” he had said.
Fast forward to our week in the Arctic, and it didn’t take
long for Johanna, Jeff, and I to learn what “It’s a We” was all
about. The community made us welcome, having put up welcome signs in the school
and providing us with all the resources we need, which made it a joy to share
as much as we could about skiing with them. We spent our nights sleeping in the
fourth and fifth grade classroom and our days on skis. After morning assembly
at 8:55am, we would prep for our classes by organizing gear or setting up an
obstacle course, treasure hunt, games, or the race course. When P.E. classes
began, we were fortunate that Shungnak’s students were easy to work with. As
long as we maintained structure and order, as was the way at Shungnak school,
the kids followed along. This allowed the three of us to get all the kids, as
many as thirty at a time (and nearly fifty on race day!) set up with equipment
and out the door in a matter of minutes.
Every day we took four separate PE classes out for an hour
each; ages ranged from pre-kindergarten to seventh grade, and abilities ranged
wider. Each day brought a new
theme (which always kept things interesting for both us and the kids): Starting
and stopping games, agility course, biathlon, treasure hunt, and racing. After
school we took all comers outside to play a game on skis (the most popular being
run, caribou, run and capture the flag) or on an adventure ski
either down the sno-go trail toward the next town, Kobuk, or through the
village streets. Although we had to be on the lookout for stray dogs and
speeding sno-gos, I always preferred going into the village, where interested
adults would glance up from their work on a sno-go to watch kids ski by, and
kids would call out, “look, Dad, watch me slide!” and then proceed to
share with you all about their family as we skied along.
It’s easy to think that we were the ones giving the kids a
special experience. And in a way we did. It was evident when we saw the joy on
their faces as they sprinted to the equipment line on the last day, when they
zipped down a hill without falling, or when one said “I croak”
(translation: I’m exhausted) with satisfaction after he crossed the finish line
on race day. But the reality is that they and Shungnak as a whole gave us arguably
the more valued experience, one that will change our perspectives on culture,
struggle, joy, and what is really important. It’s not just a privilege to
pursue ski racing, but it is also a privilege to share it.
Roger was really big on mottos. “It’s a We” was
the big one, but there were also “Education comes first” and
“Education is a job,” which were emblazoned all over the gym. At
first, I thought it was a little overkill. The phrases were everywhere. But by
the end of the week, I had bought in. Take “It’s a We,” for example. Roger
had come up with the phrase as a school motto, but the words were transcendent.
“It’s a We” represented Roger’s mission to increase the sense of
community in Shungnak. It was Shungnak’s brand. And they wore it well, both
figuratively, and literally. In fact, Roger had officially made the slogan a registered
trademark of Shungnak School, and it appears of every article of school
clothing, from teachers’ sweatshirts to basketball uniforms. Roger even outfit
us ski coaches (as well as other visitors) with our own ‘It’s a We’
paraphernalia, broadcasting the Shungnak identity beyond the Kobuk Valley. But
it was clear that the slogan wasn’t about sending an image to outside world,
but about uniting Shungnak internally. One of Roger’s biggest goals when he
arrived as principle eight years ago was to increase parent involvement in their
child’s education, to have parent and student pursue education as a job
together. He wanted families to stand up against domestic violence and alcohol
abuse, to make Shungnak a safe and healthy environment. He wanted the students
to serve their communities, for example fetching stove oil for neighbors or
chopping wood for an elder. This is what “It’s a We” stood for.
During our time in Shungnak we heard jaw-dropping stories
illustrating Shungnak’s transformation over the last eight years. We only got a
glimpse into Shungnak, but we could see the essence of “It’s a We” in
something as simple as skiing. For one, the school had bought into the ski
program: they not only have established an ongoing system to take the kids
skiing throughout the winter but have also purchased two laser biathlon
systems, Podiumwear warmup uniforms, and a wax box filled with a brand new Swix
T77 iron, waxes, brushes, and a “Swix CeraF” apron. Teachers and
community members were also enjoying the sport: we had four adults attend our
evening community ski lesson, including a mom who had been convinced by her
first and third grade daughters to give it a try. And the biggest sign of
support was when we saw the community turn out to watch the race on Friday
afternoon. Family members and friends lined up in front of the village store
and watched their kids race a challenging 3km in slushy conditions. For me,
that alone made it worth it, to see that skiing could contribute to the mission
of “It’s a We.”