Local Dirt: Tour de Daniel’s Pond and Lake Parker

Welcome to our new blog segment, ‘Local Dirt’. The Northeast Kingdom abounds with secluded dirt roads, class IVs, and trails ripe for exploration, and we’re looking forward to sharing our favorite routes as we discover them! In these segments we will provide adventure summaries, route suggestions, and mid-run photos to help inspire your next outing.

Our first installment takes us to our neighbor to the east, Glover. This 15 mile loop circles Daniel’s Pond and Lake Parker while traversing long sections of seldom traveled class IV road along the way. Below we offer a summary of the route as run on May 18, 2019, followed by suggestions for future endeavors.

Distance: 15 miles
Max elevation: 2,022′
Elevation gain: 1,622′
Terrain: Varied. Long stretches of flat, long stretches of climbing.
Conditions: Overcast in the high 40s, lovely running conditions.
Map and Strava

Route: Park at the Daniel’s Pond Public Access parking area on Daniel’s Pond Road just off of Shadow Lake Road. Set out from Daniel’s Pond with a left turn onto Shadow Lake Road. After a stretch of gradual downhill, take a left onto Perron Hill Road, directly across from Hinman Road. Perron Hill road is a class IV road and has no road sign, but the turn is obvious when you see the sign for Hinman Road opposite. Perron Hill is runnable and made up of mostly loose gravel. The road descends before following a flat stretch to a small beaver pond with a makeshift bridge to the left. After bypassing the pond, begin the steady climb up and over Perron Hill. At the crest of the climb the road emerges out of the trees and turns to dirt road.

A beaver pond at low point of Perron Hill. The bridge is sounder than it looks!

While Perron Hill soon veers to the right, continue straight onto Young road, another unmarked class IV. After a short climb, Young Road flattens out and passes through farm fields with views of the rolling hills beyond. At the intersection with Parker Road, turn right and follow this winding flat dirt road towards Lake Parker. Parker Road opens up alongside the lake just around mile 4, offering a beautiful run down the east side of Lake Parker to Parker Pie at the northern end. Take a left at the end of Parker Road onto the paved County Road before reaching Parker Pie. Stop in for a fuel break or simply wave as you cruise on by – whatever the day’s adventure calls for!

Running through the fields on Young Road.

From Parker Pie continue on County Rd for short paved segment before turning left onto West Short Road. This dirt road steers the loop southward back along the west side of Lake Parker. At approximately the 7 mile mark, turn right onto King Road. King Road (quickly) climbs up to Tanglewood Farm. Shortly after you pass the farm on your right, take the next left onto the unmarked Bickford Lane. You will soon turn left again onto the unmarked class IV section of Philips Road. This begins a beautiful secluded stretch of climbing with views looking down towards Mount Pisgah, Burke, and the Willoughby region. This end of Phillips Road looks like a tractor road that is seldom traveled, and at times it may feel like you are on the wrong path. Continue on, until the climbing eases and the road veers left and comes to a gate. Continue onto the dirt road section of Phillips road. There is a road sign to confirm you are in the right place!

Parker Pie fly-by! The promised land of pizza in the NEK.
Setting out onto Phillips Road.

Back to well-traveled dirt road, Phillips Road descends for close to a mile. Turn right onto to Beach Hill Road to begin the final climb of the run and to reach the high point of the route, 2,022′ at the top of Beach Hill. After the steady ascent of 1.5 miles, be sure to look back for one last view of the mountains around the Willoughby region. As you begin the descent down the other side of Beach Hill you will be further rewarded by phenomenal views of Jay, Belvidere, and Mansfield to the west (right). Enjoy the long descent to Andersonville Road and turn left, bringing you quickly to the next left turn onto Daniel’s Pond Road. The last two miles on Daniel’s Pond are gradually rolling, offering a gentle return to the start.

Looking back from the high point of the run on Beach Hill Road, 2,022′.

Heidi’s Helpful Hints:

  1. I highly recommend starting and ending at Parker Pie in the Lake Parker Country Store. Besides the obvious incentive of post-run feasting, the route would also begin and end with gradual terrain and place the bulk of the climbing mid-run. This makes for welcome warm-up and finishing terrain.
  2. Though there are very pleasant miles of flat around Lake Parker – a rarity here in the NEK – there is still a substantial amount of climbing on this loop and many of the climbs are long. Be sure to pace yourself on the hills and to enjoy the relaxing flats!
  3. This loop could easily be broken into two shorter loops. With a start at Daniel’s Pond, turn left rather than right on Parker Road to connect to Beach Hill or Bear Call Rd for a shorter 8.5 or 6 mile loop, respectively. With a start at Parker Pie, bypass the turn onto Beach Hill and continue on Phillips Rd, which then turns to Parker road and continues around the lake for a 7.5 mile loop.
  4. Try the loop in the clockwise direction! This would allow for sweeping views on the long open descent on Phillips Road down to Bickford Lane and King Road.
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Running to Sculling Camp

To scull in Craftsbury is to run in Flagstaff – devotees flocking to the home of expert coaching, elite athletes, and an ideal training setting. I have never been particularly drawn to the sport, but life in Craftsbury undoubtedly spotlights the mystical allure of sculling. After trying it out once last summer, I never managed to get myself back out on the water for subsequent attempts. This year, as the ice finally melted and the sculling bustle began, curiosity again took hold. Troy, our Director of Sculling, generously allowed me to join his first week-long camp of the season. And so to sculling camp I went!

On the first morning of sculling camp, I ran the four miles from my house to the Center, arriving energized for our 7:00am session. On the second morning of sculling camp, I again ran the four to the Center, arriving decidedly less energized for the pre-breakfast session. On the third morning of sculling camp, I drove. Ever the runner, I was hesitant to replace my sport with another, even if only for a week. But as the fatigue of camp life quickly took hold, I surrendered myself to the world of sculling.

Attending sculling camp as a novice is an exercise in patience, humility, and resilience. The key: accepting the awkward and abandoning fear. Sculling is a very technical sport, and requires a hefty mix of coordination, power, and precision. As a runner, I am fairly unpracticed in all three components. Beyond the odd soreness of my lats, hips, and core, the focus needed to execute an effective stroke was mentally exhausting. For me, running frees the mind. Running is my time to think through problems, process emotions, and stimulate creativity. Some days running is a chance for thinking to stop entirely. While heading out for a run is simple and mindless, learning to scull was thinking-intensive.

This intimidating learning curve of skill acquisition turned out to be one of my favorite parts of sculling camp. As a beginner, learning to scull felt akin to learning a new language. Not only was there quite literally a whole new set of vocabulary to absorb, but also a new way of moving and understanding my body. With its full-on schedule three sessions a day plus workshops, sculling camp mimicked an immersive study abroad program for language acquisition. And I can tell you – it works! There were several dock talks or small group sessions when I was sleepy or otherwise not fully engaged, but bits of knowledge were still sinking in. On day three I realized I had picked up concepts I didn’t remember focusing on. On day four I noticed that readying my boat to launch felt surprisingly easy. By week’s end, I put enough strokes together to complete the camp’s lake-long ‘Head of the Hosmer race’ – and with only a moderate amount of flailing!

Camp was a great reminder that our minds and bodies will only get better at what we regularly practice; running everyday will make you a good runner and skiing all winter will make you a good skier. While such consistency is satisfying, sculling camp highlighted how refreshing and energizing it can be to step out of the expected and into the unfamiliar.

As running camp director, spending a week as a camper was, in many ways, a reconnaissance mission. Taking off the leader hat and swapping it for the camper cap allowed me to personally experience a week in the shoes of a camper. The week showed me the basis of what camp is all about: A welcome change of pace and departure from typical routine. Amidst the busy routines of our daily lives, it’s rare we have the opportunity to try a new activity or indulge in our favorite sport for week. Even when the opportunity does arise, we often hesitate for a myriad of reasons or excuses. The reality is a shift in routine can be unsettling, even exhausting. The new is always uncomfortable, but we only grow when we embrace this discomfort; the elation achieved and perspective gained is well worth the energy, nerves, and uncertainty.

Am I an avid sculler now? No, but I do have a new-found appreciation for the sport and respect for the people who subscribe to it. The sport requires not only an impressive amount of strength and focus, but also fortitude to cope with volatile conditions on the water. Some of the sessions during camp were cold, rainy, and windy. Being caught in a heavy downpour on the middle of Big Hosmer and fighting a headwind back to the docks was enough to make me vow to never complain about a wet or blustery run again. Looking ahead, my goal this summer is to scull at least once a week, with the hope to stay in touch with at least some of what I learned at camp. I may be a fair-weather sculler, but I now recognize the joy of gliding over glassy waters on a clear, crisp morning row.

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Local Skier Records 153 Consecutive Ski Days This Season

It’s no secret that the Northeast Kingdom had an awesome winter in 2018-2019. Here at the COC, we were lucky enough to have bountiful, consistent snow starting in early November and lasting well into April, which is certainly not always the case in our ever-warming climate. At the end of the season, Barton resident and Mark Guilmette emailed us with a cool stat: this year he broke his record for the most consecutive ski days in a season, with 153 days in a row, and 160 total in the season. His previous record of 140 days was last season, and he flew past that this winter! We always love to hear about locals who have endless enthusiasm for the sport, and we certainly appreciate Mark’s gratitude towards the Outdoor Center. Here’s a little summary of a chat we had with him, including his winter, how he got into nordic skiing, race plans, and more.

Early season skiing at the Outdoor Center during Thanksgiving (Photo Instagram @craftsburytrailconditions)

The Streak
Mark started his ski season at the COC this winter on November 14th, his earliest ever start to the season. The streak didn’t start officially until 2 days after Thanksgiving, and from there, he skied every day of the winter until April 25th. His last day of skiing at the COC was April 14th, which was also the latest COC ski day he’s experienced. After that, he finished the season at Willoughby State Forest. Combined with 5 days of skiing before Thanksgiving, and 2 days near the end of April, that made for 160 days in his ski season. He skis every day after work, and on the weekends gets in longer skis. For context, I counted up the numbers of days that a Green Racing Project skier would do during the winter season (with the benefit of early season snow in Canada, but alas, including days off at least once a week), and only got to around 120. Extra impressive on Mark’s part!

The Winter
Mark lives in Barton, exactly 9.3 miles from the Center. When weather prevented him from driving to the COC to ski (which happened a lot this season), he skied on the 11 acres of trails on his property. His best ski of the season was a 20 degree day where he skied the COC perimeter trails under blue sky with fresh snow. The worst ski happened on a day when rain made the trails very icy and even with metal edged skis it was difficult to get an edge. Still a ski day though! Mark has a few favorite skis to do at the Center. One is the perimeter, which includes the Lakeside Trail, Max’s Pond, Ruthie’s, Bohen’s trails, Sam’s to Elinor’s, Duck Pond, and Murphy’s field. Another favorite route does a Figure 8 on the Common and Village Trails. Of course, he also likes to ski the Highland Lodge Connector, but with a long loop at Highland first and then finishing with Grand Tour.

December 14th and “mid-winter” conditions! (Photo @craftsburytrailconditions)

The Skier
Mark met his wife on the Appalachian Trail in 1981 and she introduced him to Nordic skiing later that year. Prior to that, he had only skied once before, but over the years he started to ski more and more, and in his words “be a little more athletic about it.” In 2004 Mark skied the Craftsbury Marathon for the first time. He has since done the Marathon two more times, skied in the American Birkebeiner, and hopes to compete in the Norwegian Birken soon. He also gives back to the ski community a lot! Beyond volunteering at most ski events at the COC, for the past eight years Mark has served as a guide for visually impaired skiers at New England “Ski-for-Light” events. He owns 13 pairs of skis and during the winter he considers the COC a home away from home, where most of the staff know him from his frequent ski visits.

According to Mark, “it’s 180 days ‘til skiing at the COC. Hopefully not more!” We share his sentiment and can’t wait to see him on the trails next season!

March 14th, skiing onto Great Hosmer Pond (Photo @craftsburytrailconditions)
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Sculling coaches remember Norm Graf

As we prepare to embark on the 2019 sculling season at Craftsbury, we asked our coaches to share remembrances of Norm Graf, legendary rowing coach and Craftsbury’s sculling director from 2003-2012. Norm passed away last fall at the age of 92.

My relationship with Norm Graf spanned 5 decades. Whether he was Norm or Coach depended on the context of our interaction. Likewise, he inhabited many roles: mentor, motivator, confidant, friend, role model, antagonist, professional foil, father figure, innovator, and keeper of the rowing spirit. Words like these describe not only my experiences with Norm but also the experiences of countless others who were lucky enough to have known him. His influence on the Craftsbury Sculling Program was timely and profound. His character, insights, commitment to excellence, and overall demeanor created an expectation and level of professionalism that has become the standard for the sculling program that we enjoy today. Norm is iconic and will not be forgotten. – Ric Ricci

Norm had this distinctive grace and way of looking at you, seeing you. After a challenging coaching session, he gently took me aside and asked how things were as he’d picked up some quiet body language. That’s when Norm told me that women were tougher than men gave them credit for. The right words at the right time from someone I greatly respected – his words sincere and forthright. Another marvelous memory of Norm – his infectious laugh and laughing so much with him that you ended up gasping for breath, ribs sore. – Maura Conron

Over the span of 20 years, beginning my first year in college running through my late 30s, Norm was a beloved mentor and friend. His influence on my personal and professional development was extraordinary. Professionally, as a teacher, leader, and coach he was exacting in his expectations, uncompromising in his standards, and inspirational in his messaging. Personally, as a friend, (grand)father-figure, and partner-in-crime, he was hilarious in his repartee, joyful in his socializing, and a master at pouring wine. Since his death, I find myself regularly recalling his most-familiar, habitual mannerisms: his dramatic throat clearing before a declaration or command; his tendency to bark names at a shocking volume (I was never Kevin, but rather KEVIN); his Marceau-level pantomiming of an aspect of the rowing stroke; his radiant smile as he shared bottles of his homemade wine; his squinting eyes and a hand covering his belly as he convulsed with laughter. Norm Graf; a man in full.  – Kevin MacDermott

Norm was a magnet. Where he was, I was drawn to. Whether it was the launch, the lawn in front of Tamarack with Pattie, a table at wine and cheese: his presence was a comfort. I was very lucky to receive his mentorship as a sculler, a coach, and a man. Those moments at wine and cheese will stay with me forever. In between socializing with campers, picking right up wherever we left off last, me as a sponge, soaking Norm’s wisdom up, one conversation at a time.  – Ed Slater

What I will always remember about Norm is how gracious he was, and what an attentive host. Making sure that the non-sculling spouses at Craftsbury’s camps were entertained and having a good time was something he attended to without fail. Whenever I went by his room at the Outdoor Center after a long day at the waterfront, he would invariably ask “would you like a glass of wine?” and if he could see or sense more than baseline fatigue he would add “or maybe vodka?” Norm loved dogs, and his own talent for picking up on the moods and difficulties of others and knowing when to offer a kind word, a relevant story, or just to be silent and present for you seemed to reflect a canine sensibility, something that he shared with his black Labrador, Pattie – not that she ever offered any words or anecdotes – they were as well-matched, temperamentally, as man and dog ever were.  – Troy Howell

Looking back on all the good times and years I spent with Norm at Craftsbury – on the water, in the coach boat, or at morning coffee –  I reflect on how he made a strong impact on me as a sculler; he helped me nail down my bladework and “spit the watermelon seed out” to catch acceleration after the release. Every stroke I take on the water has a little bit of Norm’s voice in my ear. When coaching with Norm, and as his assistant director in the early days of his leadership, he was incredibly supportive of my development as a coach and all my professional endeavors. He wanted all his athletes and fellow coaches to succeed. He inspired us to excel, to hold on to the passion of coaching, enjoy all the rowers we work with, and keep the fun in it. Norm filled a very special part of my life. I will think of him often and even ask his advice from time to time. – Marlene Royle

I coached with Norm at COC and Wesleyan. I also raced against his Trinity Lightweights when he was at Trinity and I at GWU. We won the race and received all the betting shirts from other teams but not Trinity. When I got to Wesleyan to coach, I met Norm and told him I never received my hard earned shirt years earlier. A month later I had the shirt.  – Amy Wilton

By far, my stand out memory was the ‘capillary’ speech he gave to the entire Trinity squad in front of Bliss Boathouse as we went into “Training” each Spring… a seemingly endless period of no alcohol designed to expand and preserve our capillaries and aerobic capacity… which we broke with great glee after returning to Campus following the Dad Vail. – Bob Reichart

I always loved Coach’s empathy. Who can forget how when watching an oarsman do an erg piece from a few paces away, he would jerk back at every stroke? It’s no wonder he went home exhausted. He must’ve done twenty pieces a day. – Andy Anderson

Row2k Tribute to Norm

Craftsbury interview with Norm from 2006

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A remembrance of Russell Spring

This past weekend, the Center hosted a celebration of the life of Craftsbury founder, Russell Spring, who passed away last summer at the age of 92. As we prepare to embark on the 2019 sculling season at Craftsbury, we asked Ric Ricci, sculling associate director, to remember Russell’s impact on the sculling program.

Russell and Janet took ownership of the former Cutler Academy in 1975, turning it into what would become the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. They both enjoyed being in the out-of-doors and believed that interaction with the natural world was enjoyable and essential for the development of body, mind, and spirit. Outdoor recreation in Vermont was all about skiing in the winter. But what to do in spring, summer and fall? Russell was aware of rowing as a sport, having spent his undergraduate years at Yale. His original idea was to make the Center available in the spring for rowing teams to train during their spring break. However, this wasn’t a viable idea, as spring training for college teams takes place in March when Hosmer is still frozen! Seeking professional advice, Russell reached out to Jim Joy from Wesleyan and Norm Graf from Trinity. Jim Joy answered the call and while skiing on the lake with Russell, Jim realized that Hosmer would be an excellent sculling venue because the hills along the lake protected the water from wind. In the summer of 1976, Jim Joy ran a two-week training camp for aspiring scullers – which subsequently evolved into the program that we know today. 

Russell was an accomplished skier and instructor. He had limited knowledge of sculling but understood that sculling, like skiing, was most enjoyable when scullers learned good sculling technique. He also saw sculling as a lifelong sport with aesthetic qualities that transcended the competitive arena. Because Russell was not a sculler, he wisely did not try to micromanage the sculling program. However, he was a good judge of people, and because he had taught skiing in Europe, he hired coaches who had good teaching and coaching skills as well as engaging personalities. Russell also paid careful attention to the feedback from the guests and tactfully gave the coaching staff constructive feedback and/or sincere encouragement. 

Russell had outstanding people skills and a high degree of emotional intelligence. Although Russell graduated from Yale, he was not comfortable promoting the traditional elitist connotations of sculling and rowing. To that end, he encouraged a broad range of diverse coaching styles and different ways of thinking about the sport. He also wanted the Center to serve a broad range of men and women with various levels of ability. The Center was not going to be solely for aspiring Olympians! 

For Russell, life was all about the process and the journey. He loved to interact with guests at meals and was eager to get feedback from a variety of people. He was an excellent listener and a keen judge of people. He was an avid reader and loved to exchange ideas. He was a devotee of the philosopher, writer and psychologist Joseph Campbell and on many occasions encouraged his employees and friends to “follow their bliss”. He was fiercely independent, strong in his beliefs and loyal. Always an accommodating, gracious host but also an astute businessman, he believed in the business model that “small was beautiful”. Russell’s work laid the foundation for everything the Center is today, and his legacy is present in all that we do.  

Russell’s Obituary

A 2014 interview with Russell on founding COC

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Snow Storage 2020: Scaling Up

UVM grad student Hannah Weiss gathering data at the snow pit, spring ’19.

UVM Geology professor – and Craftsbury member – Paul Bierman has been working with students and the Center to bring snow storage to Craftsbury, similar to what’s done in Canmore, AB and other Nordic ski venues. UVM grad student Hannah Weiss has recently published a paper on her work in the project which underpins 2019’s efforts to scale the snow saving up to a point that we can cover several kilometers this November. Paul summarizes the paper for laypeople below.

Knocking down the snow piles into the storage pit.

Any of you who have skied around Lemon’s Haunt could hardly have missed the pile of snow in what used to be Wilbur’s pond over the past month. This is next November’s base. If the science pans out (and we think it will – any bets out there?), there will be enough snow left in the fall to lay down a solid base on several kilometers of trail whether or not November is cold like 2018 or warm like some of those unmentionable years before.

Some of you might remember summer 2018’s little snow piles buried under wood chips – those were a test project between UVM and the Outdoor Center. They worked (well, sort of, we still had enough snow in October when the first flurries flew to make a couple iceballs or even a small ice man). But that was not their purpose – rather, they let us test how to store snow effectively in a climate as warm and humid as Craftsbury in the summer. All the data collected last summer are now compiled in a paper that Hannah Weiss, the UVM graduate student doing this work as part of her thesis, just submitted for publication. Read a draft of that paper here.

What did we learn – in a nutshell:
• Three layers of insulation is way better than one or even two. To save snow, cover it with an insulating blanket, then a layer of wood chips, they a space blanket to reflect the bright summer sun.
• Dense snow is way more durable than lighter snow. Lucas, Eric, and Keith have done an amazing job with a new set of energy efficient snow guns that take only pressurized water, not air, to make snow. It’s not the powder that they make up on the soccer fields, no, this is more like solid April crud that falls just above freezing and brings down powerlines. It’s dense, about 5 times denser than the fluffy stuff of January. That’s good for storage because it won’t settle much in the pile and it takes more energy to melt dense snow than the same volume of the fluffy stuff.

Lidar measurements of snow volume.

So keep an eye on the pile this summer. We hope to have a series of temperature sensors live on the web so you can see how it’s doing and we’ll do our best to update the project website with what we learn. And you can send any questions to me and to Hannah.

Paul Bierman, UVM Geology and Natural Resources

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A case for multi-sport training

For many reasons – ease, efficiency, enjoyment – we runners are  inclined to run and only run, opting against the myriad of other exercise programs. No other activity quite compares to the feeling of hitting a rhythmic stride mid-run or relishing a jubilant post-workout runner’s high. I myself have subscribed to the run-only routine for most of my adult life. Though I might mix it up a bit depending on the season, my go-to 6 days a week has consistently been running.

Many seasoned coaches and athletes have spoken of the importance of cross-training and purposeful time away from running. Rationally I always understood this concept, but I rarely sensed sincerity behind the words. To me, it seemed most people felt obliged to encourage cross-training all the while knowing that nothing develops running fitness better than more running. In my view, cross-training inevitably remained confined to the injured-runner’s routine; it wasn’t something a healthy runner devoted much time to.

And yet, I am making an earnest plug for embracing a multi-sport training routine. As with so many things in life, I had to arrive at this understanding through personal experience. Five months ago, I sustained a significant overuse running injury, side-lining me not only from marathon training but also from all physical activity for eight weeks. The shock of this – my first serious running-related injury – was a huge wake-up call. Here was tangible evidence I had pushed my body past its limits and undeniably run too much. At the height of this training cycle, I was running high mileage and sticking to the road as much as possible. Strength work, cross-training sessions, and even trail running grew less and less frequent. At one point I remember finishing a routine 10-mile run, euphoric as always, but aware that my body didn’t feel strong; I felt primed to run fast for long distances, but weak overall. Weeks later, my injury revealed just how weak I was – fit and fast, but frail. I finally understood how running everyday can make you fit but in a very limited and specific way.

Enter center stage: the multi-sport cross-training approach. Since returning to activity post-injury, I have made a point to establish a dedicated strength routine and to mix up my aerobic training. My first month back to exercise was spent gradually re-introducing my body to cross country skiing, spinning, and strength sessions. Cross country skiing is a great low-impact, endurance workout alternative to running and strengthens the stabilizing muscles we long distance road runners so often neglect. Plus, it’s a fun way to get outside and moving in the snow! As for spinning and strength, neither are activities I particularly enjoy, but I can now appreciate their value in developing more complete fitness.

In the following weeks I began running again. As I added in a run of 3-6 miles two or three days a week, I continued cross-training and doing strength. In these first few weeks back to running, completing the rolling six mile loop I had once considered a short easy day was now a significant effort. Most runs felt like a grind, no matter how easy I went. I stuck to my new routine of skiing, running, and strengthening, still genuinely thrilled to simply be back moving. And then on a bright & sunny first day of spring, I ran 8 miles and felt fantastic. Despite running only an average of three days a week for the past six weeks, I felt like my running legs and fitness were coming back

Now, as I gradually increase my mileage and continue skiing as much as winter allows, I can feel myself growing stronger in a full-body, holistic way. Through a more varied routine, I am consistently reminded that working broad muscle groups and changing up the targeted aerobic stimulus has many rewards. I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed significant running speed or mobility. The minimal running-specific fitness I might be missing out on is a balance worth finding for the sake of injury prevention and running longevity.

The takeaway: If you want to enjoy running throughout your life, I highly encourage you to get creative and prioritize cross-training. Find cross-training activities you enjoy, or can at the very least tolerate. Embrace variability and attaining a more holistic, rounded fitness. When you’re itching to skip the cross-training session and just go for a run instead, remind yourself that consistency is the key to lifelong enjoyment of sport, and varied training is essential to maintain such consistency. Hold the long-term vision close when your short-term mindset nudges you to click off more miles. Make it intentional, not out of necessity by injury. I fully believe you will feel your best and run your fastest times off of a multi-sport training approach.

Heidi testing out the ski legs in one of the Center’s weekly Tuesday Night Races!

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Spring-ing back to running!

Creek Road: Still lined with snow!

Spring has officially sprung! Though we still have impressively high snow banks and miles of beautifully groomed ski trail here in the Northeast Kingdom, the Gregorian calendar has spoken: spring is here. And as the sun shines brighter, the days stretch longer, and the roads grow muddier, spring fever is beginning to take hold at Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

I say it at the start of every season: There is something about seasonal shifts that elicit a visceral sense of excitement. These transitions effectively act as nature’s reset button; they offer a welcome change of pace and invite us to switch up our routine. Perhaps you engage in a wardrobe re-shuffling, a switch from warm to chilled breakfast, or a change-up in exercise regimen. For us runners, the coming of each season brings its own character – the post-run swims and sunset adventures of summer; the crunching leaves and cross country races of fall; the frozen eyelashes and clothing layers of winters; the muddy shoes and track races of spring.

As a New England runner, I hold a particular fondness for the start of spring. I smile as fellow runners begin to dot the roads, eagerly emerging from their winter hibernation. It’s as if we can all sense the same call to hit the roads. There is something about the warm breeze hitting your face and the smell of fresh mud that ignites an intense need to get out the door and RUN! Our bodies know it’s the time of year when we can finally shake-off the hat, ditch the wind pants, and abandon the extra warm knee-high socks. Layering season be-gone!

Whether you skied, treadmilled, swam, or plain relaxed during the winter, it’s important to take your time getting back into running. A controlled re-entry is key. A graduated move toward more consistent running is necessary in order to effectively ease your body back and avoid injury.

Here are some basic pointers for a successful return to running spring plan:

  1. Be patient! This may sound obvious, but we all know how tempting it is to jump right back in to running everyday. Remind yourself how “not normal” running 5 days a week has been for the past couple of months. Start with every other day, or every third day. Maybe follow a walk-jog protocol for the first couple of weeks (e.g. jog for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and so on).
  2. Ditch the watch! Don’t expect to hit the paces you were hitting during the peak of fall racing season. Let your body lead the way and go by feel. Don’t let your watch dictate how you feel during – or after – the run!
  3. Give your calves some extra love! If you’re a skier, you know all too well the calf and shin soreness that comes with starting back to run. Budget in some extra rolling and stretching time for your calves post-run, and think about adding some light calf activation exercises to your dynamic warm-up routine. Pro tip: do calf raises throughout the winter! This exercise is simple, doesn’t take long, and will keep the calves worked during lower impact months.
  4. Embrace the spring mud! Mud is your friend; a nice squishy soft surface for you run on. Lace up an old pair of shoes and muck it up!
  5. Be kind to yourself! Remember – your running legs will come back, they always do.

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Craftsbury Running Coach Spotlight

Each month, we’ll be featuring a short interview with one of our summer running coaches. First up, Sam Davis, a USATF Certified Level 2 Endurance Coach, as well as an RRCA Coach.

Sam, at age 23, running the Stowe 8-Miler in 1984

What made you decide to coach runners?
About 15 years ago, I was approached about teaching the advanced marathoning class for RunVermont which puts on the Vermont CIty Marathon. I never really felt that I had anything to offer others as far as how to run a marathon. I decided I needed to start learning as much as I could about the subject, so I began reading all about marathon training. Over time, I had people approach me and ask if I would ever consider coaching them individually. I decided to get formal training training from USA Track and Field as well as Road Runners Club of America and still continue to study coaching. The rest is history!

What is one piece of running advice you wish you could share with your younger self?
I pushed myself all the time when I was young; high mileage and hard workouts, but never learned the value of rest and recovery. I believe I trained too hard without letting up. It’s a wonder I had the successes I did despite the lack of proper rest!

Where is your favorite place to run? (Besides Craftsbury of course!)
Any dirt road! Beyond that, my favorite place to run is anywhere with my wife, Patty or my dear friend and long time running partner, Randy Sightler. To me, it’s all about the company you keep.

Do you have any pre-race superstitions or routines?
I did have a superstition of wearing the same pair of socks to every race I ran. The main routine I have is to find a quiet place to warm up and be alone with my thoughts. I visualize how I want the race to go and it helps me lock into a racing mindset.

When you’re not running or working with runners, what do you enjoy doing?
I have a fairly busy life with work, running and coaching, but I do find time to relax and play piano.

What is the best thing about coaching at Craftsbury Running Camp?
The best thing about coaching at Craftsbury is getting together with folks who have a shared love of running. The bucolic setting provides a great escape from the grind of everyday life and helps to create a greater learning environment for the runners who attend.

Sam chatting with Meb Keflezighi
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2019 Craftsbury Marathon Through our Masters’ Eyes

            This year’s Craftsbury Marathon, held on February 2nd and 3rd, drew more than 500 unique competitors to the festivities. Many of the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club’s own Masters participated in the two-day long Marathon Festival. This group of athletes ranges from their 30’s to their 80’s and often train under the tutelage of coach (and Marathon Director) Ollie Burruss as well as various guest helpers. This year, I wanted to see what the race was like from a Master’s perspective. I reached out to several of the CNSC Masters to see what they had to say about the race.

Start of this year’s classic marathon (Photo: John Lazenby)

           A little background on my interviewees: Lindy Sargent did the 50k classic race, has participated in the Marathon on and off since the 90s, and is mom to Olympian and GRP skier Ida. Peter Harris did the 33k classic and skate and has done the more than 20 Craftsbury Marathons! Gina Campoli did the 33k classic and has completed the Marathon “countless times over the years starting in the early 80s.” John Brodhead was the Marathon race director for 35 years and raced the Marathon once during his Director tenure when Allison Van Akkeren was his assistant, and has raced it two times since his retirement several years ago, for a total three races.

Lindy and daughter Ida at 2016 Super Tour finals (Photo: John Lazenby)

           One of my first questions to the participants involved exploring their marathon history. Everyone astounded me by the broad range of other marathons which they had completed! Lindy’s first ski race ever was when she was in her mid 20’s and was a 60k from Blueberry Hill in Ripton to Brandon. The race was shortened the next year to 40k due to cold and since then she has become a “Craftsbury Marathon Only racer,” but, editor’s note: Lindy is an avid Tuesday Night Race competitor.

Peter has completed numerous marathons and is a Worldloppet Master, which means he has done ten marathons in ten different countries! Read more about his latest accomplishments over here.

Gina and John completed the Norwegian Birkebeiner as part of their honeymoon in 1984. One of Gina’s favorite international marathons is the Italian Marcialonga, which is in Val de Fiemme, Italy. Gina and John also did a long race many times in the 90’s and early 2000s in Quebec that went from Camp Mercier to Mt. St. Anne (which, according to my research, is about 65k)

Peter at this year’s Marathon (Photo: John Lazenby)

           Then I dove in to questions more specific to the Craftsbury Marathon, such as favorite parts of the course and the weekend as a whole. It seems that the Bohen’s/ Dante’s Loop area is a crowd favorite. Peter explained that he enjoys Dante’s Loop so much because it is “beautiful, skiable, and marks the top of the loop,” while Gina and John enjoy the descent from this spot down the bottom of Ruthie’s.  It was far harder to nail down the least favorite part of the course; I got answers such as “liked it all,” “I have no least favorite part…it is all great,” and “no least favorites, love it all.” I’d say that’s a good sign! Lindy and Peter did both harken back to the “great point to point years.” Lindy explained that after the course changed from point to point to a lap race that she skipped it for a few years, but she “likes the course now.”

John bundled up for this year’s marathon (Photo: John Lazenby)

The atmosphere of the weekend is also sought after and relished. Peter admits that his “second favorite part is visiting with friends after the race about how their ski went, and [his] favorite part is relaxing and recovering afterwards.” John and Gina’s favorite part of the weekend is the skiing, while John added that his is “having someone else be in charge of the race!” 

Gina at one of this winter’s Tuesday Night Races

I wanted to get a sense of what different people did for Marathon training and if they felt most prepared for any particular part of the race. Everyone talked about the great skiing this year and being able to ski a lot. Peter talked about doing “longish” uphill intervals to get ready for the Sam’s Run ascent. Lindy’s definitely elicited a smile from me, when she said “ha, ha – I’m the wrong type of ‘racer’ to ask these questions, I guess!! I actually think I’m more of a hopeful ‘finisher’ than well prepared racer :)” (smiley face and all).

John also discussed the goal of finishing, saying that he was so familiar with the terrain that even without being able to do a lot of long distance training this year, he knew that if he didn’t start too fast, there was a good chance of completion. Gina explained that she has “heart arrhythmia challenges and this was a very long race for me, so I had to go very slow in the beginning and was very happy to just be able to ski a portion without problems.”

Peter, along with Linda Ramsdell and Elinor Osborn after some “longish” uphill intervals in 2016.

I concluded my questioning by asking about next year’s race and if anyone already has plans to participate. Lindy said “I can always promise to start as long as I don’t have to promise to finish,” while Peter said that “unless I am away, I will likely to continue to do the marathon as long as I am able.” Gina and John said that it depends on their schedule and training, though I can imagine it’s likely that we’ll see at least one of them toeing the line next year!

I think that Lindy summed up the weekend nicely by saying “thanks so much for excellent grooming, feed stations, camaraderie, timing, everything!!!” The Marathon Weekend truly is special and a focal point of so many people’s winter season. A big thank you to Lindy, Peter, Gina, and John for being willing to chat with me as I tried to “shine some light on the older generation who loves skiing,” according to Peter.

Lindy is often dons the volunteer bib, so it is great to see her sport the racing bib sometimes too!

Thanks for John Lazenby for sharing some of his awesome photos with us!

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