Posts Tagged ‘Craftsbury’

Spring is the time for recovery, summer is the time to put in the work, fall is for fine tuning and winter is racing. People are often surprised when we tell them that we do the bulk of our training hours in the summer months. We build a solid foundation of aerobic fitness and strength with long hours of rollerskiing, running, biking, hiking, and lifting. We work hard and we keep it fun.

For over five years, I have spent my summers split between training in Lake Placid, New York with the National Biathlon Team and in Craftsbury, Vermont with the Green Racing Project, my home ski club and a place I love dearly. Since they are only three and a half hours apart I can go back and forth often during the year.

Training with the National Team
IMG_1139.JPGExploring the New York Adirondack mountains early summer with the team and Andrea

IMG_1145.JPGNormally we travel to Bend, Oregon in May to get in some skiing but we stayed east this year due to lack of snow. Instead we did a road biking camp near Middlebury

IMG_1149.JPGLunch break, post bike ride

IMG_1171.PNGOne major benefit of Lake Placid is training at a shooting range attached to a rollerski loop

Training with the Craftsbury Green Racing Project

IMG_1168.PNGAlright, maybe we should rollerski longer if we have this much energy post workout

IMG_1170.PNGHelping out with an introductory kids’ biathlon camp

IMG_1155.JPGOn the road in Greensboro

IMG_1157.JPGDoes anybody else out there still love animal crackers?

IMG_1165.JPGWe normally shoot only biathlon rifles, but for 4th of July celebrations Craftsbury biathletes have a tradition of cross training by shooting a wider variety of rifles, shot guns and pistols.

Adventures Elsewhere

June was a busy month for weddings. Two former Craftsbury teammates got married in Wisconsin and two former biathlon teammates got married in Idaho. (Congrats to the happy couples!) Hannah and I spent a week in Idaho doing a high volume block of training between the weddings. Many thanks to Mikey Sinnott and his family, the Sun Valley ski team, and the folks at Elephant’s Perch for welcoming us!

IMG_1167.JPGSkiing with the Sun Valley team

IMG_0008.JPGEveryone told us Sun Valley’s wildflowers were the best they’d seen in years. I might have been so distracted that I flipped over the handlebars. Twice. (credits for these last pics: Hannah)

IMG_0001.JPGTime in the mountains is good for the soul

IMG_0016.JPGHan and I on the summit of Hyndman Peak


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Although the new training year is well underway, I’d like to take little time to look back on the month of April. For a professional ski racer, it is our vacation month, the one time of year when we can stop thinking about training or racing for more than a couple days at a time. Most athletes will travel somewhere exciting or find a part time job. After four months in Europe this winter, I wanted to stay close to home.

April in Craftsbury was extremely quiet. With the ski trails melting and the lake not yet ready for rowing camps, the Outdoor Center shut down for a month. The parking lots emptied, the dinning hall closed up, and the residents of our team house at Elinor’s dispersed. I felt like the entire trail network, the lake, the dirt roads, and all of the local plants and animals were my own private world.

My favorite part of living at the Outdoor Center in the spring off-season is seeing lots of wildlife. For example, every morning at breakfast, I would hear the unearthly gobble of a big old tom turkey from the bottom of our field. (He conveniently vacated the neighborhood, of course, just days before hunting season opened on May 1st). Wondering what other wildlife might be out and about, I began taking early morning and late evening “wildlife” walks around the trails. I startled deer who took off bounding with white tails blazing high. From the Black River swamp, I flushed prehistoric-looking great blue herons. I heard barred owls hooting from the cedar trees, the courtship drumming of ruffed grouse, and coyotes yipping far away. On warmer days, a mighty chorus of spring peepers cried out from wooded vernal pools, where they left globs of gelatinous egg masses. On my excursions, I sometimes stopped by patches of edible wild ramps and fiddleheads and picked a few for dinner.

My biggest fear walking around the woods at night is not bear or moose, but that I’ll literally run into a porcupine. They can’t see, hear or smell, at least not very well. One evening, I stood 15 feet away watching one obliviously gnawing on some sticks at the forest edge. He slowly foraged towards me, not sensing a human in the vicinity. He would have bumped into me I think, had I not backed away from the threat of his quills.

Following the last Spring Series races, I continued to ski the 1.5 km loop and only gave up when the trail’s mud sections outnumbered the skiable slush sections. I stopped to take a picture of the melting ski trails and inadvertently captured a rare creature on camera, one I never had a good glimpse of before:

By the time I realized that the bobcat was there, he was disappearing into the woods.

One day Eric Hanson, a ski trail groomer at Craftsbury and the Vermont state loon biologist, invited me to help install nesting platforms on a couple of local lakes. These platforms can facilitate higher rates of loon reproductive success, especially in lakes that have little natural hummocky habitat or in lakes with high water level fluctuations. The platforms are basically floating log rafts tethered to cinder block anchors. Decomposing cattails, muck, and low shrubs are added on top to provide nest building materials and protective shelter. Transporting the rafts to their chosen site was a challenge; it involved balancing them over a canoe’s gunwales or towing them though the water at a snail’s pace.


After installing one nesting platform, we encountered a trio of loons. We watched them for awhile and saw some wing beating, an aggressive territorial behavior. Loons will fight other loons of the same gender for the right to breed on a lake.


As I write this, I am once again far away from Craftsbury in pursuit of my ski dreams. This time I am in Bend, Oregon, another beautiful and wild place, where there is still plenty of snow for skiing. The US and Canadian national ski and biathlon teams are all here, as are many other athletes, including some Craftsbury GRPers. We are putting in lots of on-snow hours which will serve as foundation for the rest of the year’s training. Stay tuned for future updates and pictures.

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Although it may be blasphemous for me to say this since I am a snow-loving skier, spring is my favorite season.  The world feels like it is waking up.  Critters start to move around more, and everything in nature seems happy to be alive.  I start to see ducks paddling about in half-flooded yards, and woodchucks basking in the sunshine.  Even the inevitable rainstorms and resulting mud are welcome signs for me.  Following a downpour, I can almost watch the plants grow.  The earliest flowers, such as Coltsfoot, emerge alongside melting snow patches, and the budding trees create a verdant carpet inching up the mountainsides day by day.  As spring matures into summer, the Vermont landscape could be described a sponge painting with dabs of every possible shade of green, from yellowy birch to dark pine.

I must admit that I missed a couple of weeks of spring in the northeast to witness the wonders of the west.  I flew out to Colorado to visit fellow biathletes Lanny and Tracy Barnes in their hometown of Durango.  Another of our teammates, Andrea Mayo, who trains with the Maine Winter Sports Center, came along too.  The Barnes shared their love of all things outdoors with us, including  fishing, turkey hunting, hiking, hot springs, and mountain biking.  One day we journeyed over to Mesa Verde National Park and toured the ancient cliff dwellings in a snowstorm.  We spend a week camping high on a mountain pass so we could access the snowpack for crust-skiing before the sun softened it midmorning.  When we weren’t busy skiing or biking, we went treasure hunting.  We bushwhacked in search of deer and elk antler sheds, and we walked under the lift lines at Purgatory Mountain Resort looking for goggles, poles, cameras, and iPods dropped by alpine skiers during the winter.  Sometime in the next few years, the Barnes and I dream of unicycling in the famous Iron Horse bike race, which climbs over the 2 passes between Durango and Silverton, CO.   One afternoon, I started my training for this future adventure by unicycling up Coal Bank Pass.

Partway through my Colorado trip, I got some very exciting news.  I’ve been accepted onto the Green Racing Project’s (GRP) ski team, based out of Craftsbury, Vermont.   I’m psyched to move back to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where I’ll continue to train as a biathlete.   I’m still on the National Biathlon Team (and will travel to several National Team training camps), but as a GRP athlete, I’ll lead a more balanced lifestyle that allows me to contribute to the local community.  A couple of years ago, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center revised it’s mission statement to “promote participation and excellence in lifelong  sports,” such as skiing, and to “use and teach sustainable practices.”  As a GRP athlete, I’ll be working on projects related to the Center’s mission.  Some projects I may be part of include maintaining a garden for the dining hall, planning a Kingdom Lakes Trail network through nearby towns, building maple sugaring facilities, starting an orchard, improving the biathlon range, and replacing the Center’s heating system with a more sustainable boiler unit.  The lifestyle of a professional athlete can be quite bland outside of training and this is something I have struggled with the last couple years.  I think being part of the GRP will be intellectually engaging, and provide me with a meaningful focus to balance all the training and racing.  For more information about the GRP, check it out: http://www.craftsbury.com/grp/grp/home.htm

Our crazy crew in Durango (from L to R, me, Lanny Barnes, Tracy Barnes, and Andrea Mayo, photo courtesy of Lanny)

My first ever broken ski. We spent hours finding jumps in the crusty snow. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I busted a ski (check out my right ski, behind the foot). Luckily, it was an old beater pair that I’d had for 10 years.

Mesa Verde's Park Ranger Jo shows us Cliff Palace and describes the Ancestral Pueblo Peoples that lived there. They ate wild game, as well as corns beans, and squash farmed on the plateau above, and they found spring water under the cliffs. Very few of the inhabitants survived past age 30- I guess I'd already be past my prime.

Learning about turkey hunting and trying out the 12-gauge. (Photo: Lanny Barnes)

Who are those turkeys anyway???

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When I returned from Europe after a disappointing Olympic Trials in mid- January, my coach gave me a simple instruction: “Enjoy winter!”  So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I went home for several days to find adventures in northeastern Vermont.  I played “blob” tag with Bill Koch League kids (graded school age) and helped out at a paintball biathlon clinic that introduced kids (and kids at heart) to the sport of biathlon.  I spent some time with my family, which included an afternoon of ski bushwhacking around fields and woods with my father.  We found parts of town that I hadn’t known existed.  I also spent several days in Craftsbury with my friends Hannah and Chelsea and the rest of the Green Racing Project (GRP) team.  One afternoon, after a late strength workout with Hannah, I skied back to the GRP team house by moonlight.   The team lives in a beautiful old farmhouse right off the trails.  In all the years I’ve trained at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, I had never experienced any of the trails at night.  The moon shone through the woods, throwing dappled shadows over the ski tracks, and the air tasted still, cold and crisp.

An aspiring paintball biathlete takes aim.

Skiers of all ages came out for the paintball event.

My father and our dogs on our Tour de Barton exploration.

During our Barton bushwhack, we came across several interesting tracks in the fields. It looks like an owl or a hawk found some dinner.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center is well-known in the rowing community as well as the xc ski community. The GRP team and I cheer on some rowers doing a ski time trial for cross training.

One of the best parts of that first week back in the states was the sunny weather.  You can’t get better winter conditions to play in than 20 degrees with blue skies and lots of snow.  Unfortunately, a few days later it rained.  Hard.  By then I had returned to train in Lake Placid.  I have never seen so many trees down on a ski trail and the crew up at the Mt. Van Hovenberg trails spent two hard days running around with snowmobiles and chainsaws to clear them.  Luckily the rain turned the trails into a skating rink and didn’t melt all the snow.  Ice makes a solid base that prevents the grooming machines from churning up dirt and rocks.  With only a couple inches of fresh powder on top, icy trails make for beautiful skiing.

Last weekend I raced my first ski marathon at Craftsbury.  Ski marathons are usually 50 km long.  I don’t think I had ever raced more than 15 or 20 km before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I made sure to eat a lot the day before and during the race I paced myself and took a lot of feeds.  I felt really strong and had a lot of fun.  After several weeks off from biathlon racing, I am excited to tackle the rest of the season.  We have NorAm competitions in Jericho, VT this coming weekend and Lake Placid, NY the following weekend.  Through these races I hope to qualify for U-26 World Championships later this season in Estonia.

The night before the marathon I also competed in some Dash for Cash sprints. Here I am warming up. (Photo from http://www.nensa.net)

Before leaving Europe, I got to watch the men's biathlon World Cup relay in Ruhpolding. As you can see, the World Cup scene is very exciting. During my last race in Europe, an IBU Cup sprint in Nove Mesto, CZE, I placed 20th. It was my best international result to date and I look forward to making the next jump up to the World Cup level (hopefully by next year).

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