I arrived at “Elinor’s,” as our farmhouse-turned-athlete-compound is known, in the first week of June. My first impression of my new home was highlighted by Hannah’s remarkably good paintings of local scenery, which line the living room walls, and ‘infused’ by the distinctive smells of stale chain saw gas and sweat mingling in the stairwell, emanating from the drying racks outside of Pat and Dylan’s Man Cave room. With this impression, I began an endless list of firsts. Not surprisingly, my transformation from college runner-skier ( I put “runner” first on purpose) to Green Racing Project skier required a major overhaul of the intensity, variety, and quantity of my daily athletic commitments. What I did not expect, however, was the extent to which my lifestyle outside of training would change upon moving to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (should’ve known!).
My first workout of the summer, with my new team and my new coach, was an 80-minute classic roller-ski the morning after I moved in. I am a novice (though not outright first-time) roller-skier, and in the beginning, I spent about as much time roller-skiing as I did filming my teammates from Pepa’s passenger-side window, as they skied for twice as long as I could. Ah, those were the good ol’ days. Within the first week, I tried rowing, ski erging, hill bounding, and Pepa’s ab-wrenching hill jumps for the first time. “And on the 7th day,” I slept for 10.5 hours and began a 20-day bout with semi-paralysis which required that I sit myself up in bed each morning using my arms. By the end of June, as NENSA’s junior development camp was underway at the Outdoor Center, Pepa thought I was ready for my first roller-ski intervals. Of course she was right; I managed to evade both physical catastrophe and mental ruin, staying ahead of most, if not all of the J2 age group participants. In early July, I survived my first “speed week,” comprised of at least seven (7) interval sessions, including my first 15km running race. Admittedly, the comments section of my training log from that particular week contains the entry, “OMG HORRIBLE,” but hey, I made it. It had been a struggle for me to finish those 80-minute roller-skis when I first came to Craftsbury, but on the last Sunday of July, I completed a 3-hour and 45-minute death march roller-ski odyssey to Lake Willoughby, closing out my first “volume week” with a grand total of 20.1 hours of training success. The comments for that day were “Felt good! Surprise.” I am capable now now of things that I never would have thought possible a year or a month ago, or even yesterday. Most days, in fact, I find I do at least one impossible thing before sitting down to lunch!
My days and hours off from ski practice have been flooded with a torrent of exciting, new activities and opportunities to learn. Writing this blog entry is undoubtedly the most time I’ve spent indoors since coming to Craftsbury. In the garden I have learned to seed, weed, water, identify, harvest, wash, and store no fewer than 15 kinds of edible plants. Thank you, Anna Schultz! I fulfilled a life-long dream by assisting in the care of 4 piglets at Hosmer Point, the summer camp down the lake which is newly affiliated with the Outdoor Center. I fed them at least once every day, and cried honestly upon their recent demise. Brian Gluck, the Outdoor Center’s carpenter and maintenance guru, taught me that every life form is worth crying over, and also how to put on a metal roof. In the evenings, after spending some quality time with my porcine friends at Hosmer Point, I often partook in whatever absurdity was underway at camp. Most notably, perhaps, was my on-call appearance at Carnival Night as a gypsy fortune teller. I knew I had succeeded when two weeks later, on the last night of the session, a camper confided to me: “My fortune came true!…About the treasure!!” I can only hope that my achievements in gardening, farming, and fortune telling might be equaled on the trails come wintertime.
My first impression of Elinor’s hasn’t changed; it has been supplemented by gems like that time we stayed home and cooked local beef and artichokes and sweet corn in the middle of the summer and sat around the campfire in the yard eating it all, and how on days when we were up early enough we could see the cloud of morning mist floating in the valley between our house and the Creek Road, and the way the house smelled when our ingenious Vermonter girl teammates made and preserved 10 jars of pickles during hurricane Irene, and by finding scrawled messages by the communal phone like, “Pat your uncle Bob called he says congrats on the big win.” It is true that the deer flies were abominable (and immune to deet) for approximately three weeks in the middle of July, and it seems that the power goes out for a day or so at least once a month here, and the staircase scent did for a brief time become truly intolerable due to an unfortunate and critical misunderstanding of our septic system’s layout. But for the most part, the grass isn’t greener on any side that I know of. Here’s to hoping that my summer of firsts was the first of many. Happy Fall!