Erika Flowers: Community Week


“Springtime” in Montana … aka still winter

Montana residents often joke that the state has two seasons: winter and road construction. Come mid-May (or in some unlucky years late June), the last bits of melting snow give way to cracked roads and minefields of potholes. Soon after, a small army of orange machinery dominates the landscape only disappearing after the first flakes start to fall a short 3 months later.

Construction season in Vermont

Although I am not in Montana during the construction season this year, I am finding that this same expression holds somewhat true in southern Vermont. At the very least, the potholes and frost heaves in Vermont this spring should give Montana roadwork a run for its money. This past week has been all about building…but more than just roads. Here’s a little recap of some of the other things we have been helping build this spring.

Ready for the springtime build

Building Fitness and Confidence:
This spring Sophie and I have been working with Girls on the Run for our second year in a row. The program helps young girls prepare for 5km run while building confidence, friendships, and a healthy lifestyle. Two days a weeks we join a group of girls from FloodBrook Elementary school for a few hours of fun running, games, stretching and lessons about teamwork and the community.

FloodBrook Girls learning about advertisements and brainstorming ideas to create their own.

Running with these girls is definitely one of the highlights of my week and each one of them brings a unique energy and enthusiasm to the day!

This one made my day! An advertisement for “Olimpian” Sophie aka Doph with her teammate Erika aka Ruka. Even though the girls sometimes forget that I am not an Olimpian, they definitely help make me believe its possible 🙂

This week we also helped run a water station for the Shires Marathon to apply some of the program’s lessons about community service.

Mile 22 Girls on the Run water stop

Building a Playground:
The SMS T2 team also had the opportunity this week to help build a new playground for the FloodBrook Elementary School. On Thursday, Sophie, Andy and I joined a crew of almost 100 other volunteers begin construction on the new structure. The site looked like this when we started:


Lots of volunteers ready to build!

And by Sunday afternoon it had been completely transformed:

This is only about half of the playground which was too big to capture in one photo.

Sophie and I started by constructing a small sign that we put together in a matter of minutes. Feeling pretty good about ourselves, we embarked on a slightly more ambitious project, building the “look-down.” This second project turned into a nearly two hour venture that finally ended with the help of John Ogden, Andy, and a few of the other crew-men.

Our pride and joy… the infamous “look down”

The energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers made the work go quickly though and I was really excited to be a part of such a cool and community-based project.

Awesome shirts for all the volunteers!

Building Girls in Sport:
On Friday I headed up to Freeport, Maine with Annie Pokorny to help with a Fast and Female event featuring Kikkan Randall at the L.L. Bean flagship store. Fast and Female aims to empower women through sport by building confidence, leadership, and healthy lifestyles. I always really enjoy helping with the Fast and Female events and jumped at this latest opportunity to travel to the coast of Maine for a double “Power Hour” day.

Welcome to Maine! I made sure to pick up some tasty lobster while in Portland. This guy was named Orange.

Due to some torrential rain storms the first event took place inside the actual L.L. Bean Store where we weaved through racks of clothes, jumped up and down flights of stairs, and got our heart rates going while imitating every sport in the winter Olympics.

Giant conga line through the L.L. Bean store


Just a little shopping run
Annie and I found some time to do a little shopping ourselves. As it turns out you can actually fit an entire person into the trademark L.L. Bean large tote.

We finished the morning with some introductions by the ambassadors and an inspirational talk by Kikkan who encouraged the girls to dream big and believe in those dreams.

Kikkan helping inspire the next generation
An awesome group of ambassadors to help with the event. Big thanks to L.L. Bean for hosting and providing cool hoodies and shirts for the girls!

After lunch it was time for round 2 and we did the whole thing again with a second group of girls. In total over 200 girls attended the event!

Outside for the afternoon sesh
Practicing our Olympic ski jumping

Building Community:
The construction season has more than a few parallels for nordic ski training. Our race season is built around the winter months and the rest of the time we focus on building. Building strength, building endurance, filling in the weak spots, and preparing as best we can for the next race season. However, the “construction season” is about more than building fitness. It is about helping build those same communities that support me, the SMS T2 team, and sport of nordic skiing. From young girls who send notes of encouragement, to local businessesfriends and family who offer financial support, it is an entire network of people that help make us successful as individuals and as a team. Thanks to everyone who helps us do what we do!

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