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Trials of Miles

*Kyle checking in.

Miles of trials, trials of miles. This term comes from my all time favorite book, Once A Runner. I consider this book the Bible of the endurance athlete. I have yet to find a book that captures the mindset of an endurance athlete better than John L. Parker Jr. does in this book. I could write a whole paper about this book, but I will stick with my favorite concept, the trial of miles. In the book, this term defines the relentless amount of work it takes to become an elite runner. “The new runner would find it more tedious than he could bear. The aweful truth would begin to dawn on him: there was no Secret! His days would have to be spent in exactly this manner, give or take a mile or two, for longer than he cared to think about, if he really wanted to see the olive wreath up close.” I get goose bumps just typing that out. Ultimately, what drives me in skiing is the constant pursuit to better myself, one workout at a time. I understand it is a long game. Some days won’t go well, but they all accumulate, hours and hours, years and years of training to build the best version of myself. People who know me well know I am not one to sugar coat things. The weather out East the last few weeks has been rather miserable. We have had more rain than I have seen in my lifetime over such a short period of time and when it’s not raining it’s somehow even more humid and hot than the Twins Cities, which up until this point I thought had some of the worst training weather to deal with in the summer. But despite the weather, we have trained well here in Stratton. The miles of trials continue. At Northern Michigan, the men’s team had this attitude engrained into their training and I truly believe that is why we were so successful. Now it is great to be on a team where the men AND women share this montra. As we push ahead towards the year, the trial of miles is about to become a little easier. At the end of this week, we will be heading to New Zealand for three weeks of skiing. I cannot express how excited I am for three whole weeks of training on snow in the summer. On top of that, New Zealand is incredibly beautiful and also the back drop for my favorite movies, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have no doubt when we get down there, the SMS T2 members will be ready to seize every day as an opportunity to get a few hours closer to the best version of themselves. Embrace the miles of trials and you will reap the benefits. Happy training!

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Hopped in the App Gap hill climb put on by Nensa. Great event! Very thankful to have my teammate Simi encourage me all the way to the top. He was resting for his 50k mountain running National Championships race the following day where he finished an incredible second place.
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The boys putting in work despite the ever present humidity. Better together. 
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A very literal trial of miles. Uphill run test pain train led by SMS teacher and ridiculously fast runner David Sinclair. 
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A sneak peak at the Snow Farm.
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The End of Summer Push

*Alayna checking in
It’s crazy to think that we only have one last week of summer! Next week we all head down to New Zealand to greet Winter with open arms for some great training on snow. As yummy as the current fresh berries and garden veggies in Vermont might be, I think we’re all excited for some cooler temps and a break from the humidity. After just about every workout this week we’ve been able to wring out our training clothes due to either sweat (GROSS!) from the 95% humidity or to the pouring rain from the ruthless afternoon showers. So, we’ll have one more week of this, escape for a little winter adventure, and then HOPEFULLY come back mid-September to a few crisper mornings- keeping my fingers crossed.
Upon this realization that summer is almost over I’ve done a bit of reflecting on what I have accomplished thus far. As one who usually classifies myself as a “distance” skier, I’ve been really excited about the progress I’ve made in some of the speed/sprinting workouts we’ve done, one of my major goals for this year! I’m not saying my super fast teammates have magically rubbed off some of their fast twitch on me, although that would be nice, but I have become so much more comfortable skiing well at higher speeds. I’ve been able to pass Coach Pat during a speed, turn around after, and hear him say, “Alayna that actually looks pretty darn good!” This is something new to me and I’m excited about it! Now I just have to learn how to transfer this over to real skiing on snow…. Good thing I have plenty of opportunities for that coming up soon!
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Some super sweaty bounding intervals up Stratton Mountain earlier this week.
We ended our last big training block before New Zealand with a race at the Nensa App Gap Challenge. This race was a 5k skiathlon. The juniors started in 30 second intervals while the elite skiers started after everyone in one big wave. We skate skied 2.5k up to the base of Mad River Glen, switched to classic skis, and then skied another 2.5k to the top of the App Gap. Quite the butt burner! It was a super hard race with some relentless climbing, but it was great to put on a bib and really go for it. Nensa did a ton of planning and logistical organizing for this event and we all enjoyed a great celebratory BBQ at Green Mountain Valley School after the race. Huge thanks to Nensa and to GMVS! Ready now for a week of rest and packing before a big trip!
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Kelsey and I chasing down some of the Junior boys!
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So happy to FINALLY see the top of the App Gap (and finish line)!
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Great to run into the UVM coaches at the event (Perry Thomas- Patrick Weaver not pictured).

RUN, Run, run

*Simi checking in.

“What did you made?” asked one of our coaches, Jason Cork, after I uploaded my heart rate data and GPS file to my training file. I had just completed the “Pemi Loop” in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and my heart rate graph looked similar to a cross-section of peaks in the Himalaya. The Pemi Loop is a classic 31 mile rugged single track adventure that climbs and descends nearly 10,000 vertical feet. The majority of the terrain is ridiculously punishing, and it’s almost impossible to average a pace faster than 13 minutes/mile as you run down waterfall sections of trail, traverse exposed granite slabs above hundreds of feet of cliff, and navigate relentless boulder-strewn climbs on your way to the seemingly never-ending chain of 4,000’ and 5,000’+ summits that dot the loop. With heavy rain in the forecast for last Friday, I had decided ahead of time that I was just going to “take it easy” and scout the loop for a possible time in the future when I would see how fast I could run it when I was really pushing things. I was okay with this idea when I started from the truck early Friday morning, especially since my stomach wasn’t totally cooperating with me and a big week of training had left my legs feeling unusually heavy and my breathing labored. But as I crested Mt. Lafayette (the high point of the loop at 5,260’) a few hours in, I was feeling more normal and I knew that I was still moving at a decent clip (the rain mostly held off all day). Deciding to go for it from there (the ~9-mile mark, with 22 miles left), wasn’t so much a decision to try to get the record as it was just a test to see how well my body could respond to several more hours of hard running on dicey terrain. With every mile, I felt stronger and more in reach of putting up a good time. Unfortunately for my body, I hadn’t been smart about fueling early and often, and the fuel level indicator hit “E” at 26 miles. Barely able to stand on my wobbly legs, I knew that I was in the midst of an epic bonk. So I found the nearest place to sit, which turned out to be right smack-dab in the middle of the trail in the dirt, and shoved a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into my mouth, the last of my remaining food. Feeling the sugar hit my blood steam almost instantly, I rallied to my feet and felt like I had just been reincarnated. I focused on the fact that I only had five miles left, put one foot in front of the other, and slowly made my way out to the truck. By the last 15 minutes of the loop, I was actually feeling great again, and I finished off the adventure with a couple miles at 7 minute pace. After I had stopped my watch and decided that 15 minutes off the record was still something to hang my hat on, especially after all of my poor-planning shenanigans, I planted myself firmly in the crisp water of the Pemigewasette River. Sitting in the frigid current, ringing my dirty undies out from 6+ hours of sweating, I remembered why those kinds of adventures keep me going as an athlete and as a human. You may ask yourself several times why you’re doing them when you’re in the middle of doing them, but when all is said and done, everything just seems to make sense. And then you eat 7,000 calories and call it a day.

My SMS teammates and I head to New Zealand to get on snow in 10 days. We couldn’t be more ready to get out of this humidity, get off the rollerskis, and start getting in tons of kms on real snow. Everyone is doing awesome, and the team has been functioning as one incredible family all training season. But before we head down to the southern hemisphere, I’ll test my running legs one more time with a 50 km trail race in central New Hampshire this weekend. Having never done any kind of running race like it before, I have no idea what to expect, but I’m pretty darn pumped for the adventure!

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The Pemi Loop.
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From a recent rollerski. High humidity, slow pavement, but still smiling. Photo: Jason Cork
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Dave Sinclair leading Kyle, myself, Paddy, and Ben in a recent uphill running time trial. Photo: Matt Whitcomb.

Individual but Team Sport

*Ben checking in.

On Sunday, the most famous bike race in the world crowned a new champion. After years of bad luck, and work as a domestique, or “servant” rider, for his team, Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France. His teammate, and the man who had won the three previous Tour de Frances, Chris Froome, finished 3rd. It was an incredible finish, but far from what we’ve come to expect from the winningest rider of his generation. I thought their relationship was the most compelling aspect of the Tour; after years of one rider serving another, their roles were reversed, and a champion was asked to become a windbreaker.

Skiing, like cycling, finds itself stuck atop the divide between a team sport and an individual one. The results we see printed out every weekend, are empirically and inescapably our own; yet anyone who has competed as a skier can tell you definitively that journey to any result was one made with the help of dozens of teammates and friends.

I submit that this divide is what informs and confounds so much of our endurance sporting culture. We are expected to compete tooth and nail for every spot, to leave everything (even our lunch) on the course if need be; the very nature of something like a 50 or 30 kilometer race is akin to physical torture, a test of what one athlete can endure above all others. Yet somehow, we all understand this uniquely individual test to be completely informed by everyone else around us. We know our teammates and friends help us to get where we are, but standing spandex clad in that starting gate, it would be a lie to say we felt anything but alone. How do we share and sacrifice in a world like that?

Let’s start by stopping to pretend it’s so easy. There are times when losing to your friends and teammates can be hard, in fact, it almost always is. I imagine that one of the only things harder than riding well enough to win a Tour de France, is risking that position to protect someone else’s. There are also few things greater than seeing someone you love, someone you’ve suffered with, find their success. These facts are baked into the foundations of endurance sports; In these sports we face the ultimate individual tests, while simultaneously knowing that we could not begin to face them without the help of others. There is no simple solution to syncretize these feelings, but acknowledging their existence makes everything feel a little more honest.

As I watched Froome assume the role of domestique for Thomas towards the end of this year’s Tour I was reminded of that duality. Of how hard competition can make it, sometimes, to untwist feelings of suffering and loss, and feelings of joy. There is an unavoidable eventuality in endurance sports, a moment in which Louisa Thomas says “exertion becomes indistinguishable from elation, and elation from exhaustion – that feeling of being intimately connected to the world and radically alone.” It is not any easy thing to reconcile, but there’s something comforting about enjoying a sport that makes you feel it all.

We ski through forests and roads, along ridges and valleys, our hearts thunder-clapping in our chests, inescapably alone and inescapably tied to those by our side. How can we compete like this?

One more time, I watch Froome wrap his arms around Thomas in Paris, and I see ebullient eyes and wistful smiles, a moment as full as life can make it, and I wonder if there’s any other way.

ben

A little Tour de France Recap from Kelsey!

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Taylor, Kasia, my cousin Marcy and me after the finish in Paris ! Allen Lim photo.   

Last year, I was in Norway when my brother, Taylor, raced in his first Tour de France. I watched from the couch, in between workouts, as he rode in a two-man breakaway for 201km of the 202km race on the 2nd stage. He got caught with 1km to go and while he didn’t win the stage, he did get into the coveted climber’s polka dot jersey for a day. I was kicking myself for not going to France last year because I didn’t know how it would work financially, logistically, and with my training schedule.

So this year, when Taylor was named to the team again, I knew I had to find a way to see my big brother race. Luckily our easy week after Lake Placid camp coincided perfectly with the last week of the Tour (Thanks Pat !!) so I booked it over to France in time for the second rest day. I linked up with my brother’s girlfriend, Kasia Niewiadoma (an awesome human and incredible cyclist from Poland), as well as the two guys who started Skratch Labs Drink Mix, Allen Lim and Ian MacGregor.

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Kasia and Allen in Carcassonne – they put a yellow decal on the castle for the Tour.

We started in Carcassonne, a beautiful town with a giant castle on the hill above town. From there, we went up to the French Pyrenees. Kasia and I then rode our bikes from the French Pyrenees to the Spanish Pyrenees. I got to ride up to the ski area where OPA Cup Finals were this year in Spain as well. And then we went to Lourdes. Kasia and I had a crazy day where we rode 65km to the start of the stage to see Taylor and then rode 85km to the finish – where we made it just in time to see him sprint for a top ten!

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Riding back from Baquiera Beret where OPA Finals were. Allen Lim photo.

Part way through stage 19, the Queen stage (aka the hardest stage of the Tour), Taylor had a freak accident where he went off his bike into a tree – breaking his nose and orbital bone. Now if my brother wasn’t already inspiring (or crazy) enough already, he then managed to finish the stage off the back and by himself  – with multiple fractures in his face – within the time cut. After, he went to the hospital to make sure he didn’t have any signs of a serious concussion, got cleaned up, and we joined him for a 10pm dinner. When you are 19 stages into a 21 stage Tour, I imagine it is almost impossible to even consider dropping out. So he didn’t. Smiling and joking, he knew making the time cut in the Time Trial the next day was going to be hard but he had his sights set on Paris. When he got to Paris, he didn’t just sit in the pack and finish it out – he got himself into a breakaway and had it not been for a mechanical problem, I think he could’ve been sprinting for the win!

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When there’s only one bike and you need to make it to the Finish in Paris. Teamwork makes the dream work 🙂 Ian MacGregor Photo    
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Taylor in the breakaway on the Champs-Elysees (you can see his black eye). Liz Arky photo.

Now that I’m back from my French bike training camp and settling back into the usual routine before we head to New Zealand, here are a few things I took away from my week:

  1. A croissant and a café au lait for breakfast is sufficient fuel for epic days of bike riding and spectating.
  2. TV does not do justice to how FAST those guys climb mountains – or ride the flats or descend for that matter.
  3. My public high school French education has stood the test of time and was pretty essential during this trip so thank you to Mme. Wojno for being a great French teacher!
  4. Sometimes you need to go be a fan-girl to remind yourself of the power of sport, how inspiring it is, and how lucky you are to get to do what you do.
  5. I have no idea how people (aka professional cyclists) race for three weeks straight, 3-6 hours everyday, but it does make me feel like we are all stronger and more resilient than we might initially believe.
  6. My brother is my hero. But I already knew that 😉
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 After one of the stages with Tay.
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It was so wonderful to see Liz Arky in Paris and introduce her to Taylor as well ! 

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Camp and Recovery…Equally as Important!

Ten days ago we finished our second U.S. Ski Team camp of the year and I was really psyched to have the majority of my SMS T2 teammates along for the ride. The camp took place in Lake Placid and while I have been to a handful of camps in Lake Placid before, this was the first in several years, so every workout felt familiar, but fresh. Sometimes it’s nice to take a few years off from going to the same place because when you go back, it’s easier to appreciate every workout and remember why it’s such a great place to train. Lake Placid camp was only nine days long, but we did intensity every other day and on the days in between we were able to get in some adventure runs in the Adirondacks and take advantage of the recovery resources the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center has to offer. I felt really good for Lake Placid camp and I think it was largely due to a solid summer of training so far with my SMS T2 team, a trip to France that left me feeling happy and fit, and being reunited with a big group of speedy women from the national team, SMS T2, and the Craftsbury Green team.

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Finishing off some hard DP intervals with Kels (Matt Whitcomb photo).
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Chasing Jessie through the ADKs.

I think it’s easy to go into power mode during camp and I was still feeling good at the end, but sometimes it’s smart to take rest before you need it and so our team had a recovery week last week with the goal of absorbing the big training block we had just done. I stayed in the Adirondacks for a couple days after camp and was able to do some rock climbing, one more running adventure and a lot of sitting in swimming holes and mountain lakes. I was eager to return to Vermont after almost a month on the road and get settled back into our routine in Stratton. We kicked off our last big training block before New Zealand over the weekend with a beautiful running OD in the White Mountains on Franconia Ridge. I have fond memories of doing this run during college and it has always been one of my favorites. It was extra special to share it with Alayna, who had never been in the Whites before! Everyone has been trickling back into the area over the last few days and we’re psyched to have the whole team back together for this next training block before New Zealand. The end of July hasn’t offered quite the same beautiful weather that June gave Vermont, but hey, we were probably getting a little too soft anyway!

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A day in the Whites! (Julia photo).

Train Hard, Study Hard

*Julia checking in

Summer term at Dartmouth has been really busy, between training a lot and taking hard classes. We have a great group of girls training together and working hard which has been really fun. Even though our group is great, I was missing my SMS teammates so I was excited to be able to miss a little class to join the camp in Lake Placid for 4 days and train with the team again!

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Back to mixing it up with the team which was so fun! (PC: Matt)
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Catching up with Ko on a run at camp 🙂
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Goofing off while slacklining with Jessie one evening. 

This summer I have been focused on trying doing everything in moderation, balancing training, school, and time with family and friends. The long sunny summer days have made it easier to get up early for 7am practice everyday and fit training twice a day in between classes.

A typical day at school for me looks something like this:

6:35 am- Wake up, yawn a little, eat overnight oats for breakfast (so you can sleep 10 minutes longer instead of having to make breakfast)

7:05-9:05am- Workout

9:30am- Second breakfast and coffee, the best part about 7am training!

9:30am-12:00pm- Do homework and meet study group before class

12:00-12:45- Physical Therapy/ Body Care

12:45pm-2:00pm- Class

2:00pm- 3:30pm – Workout

3:30-6:30pm- Class

6:30pm – TBD: Dinner, homework, swim in the river, and hopefully go to bed at a reasonable time…?

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There have been a lot of early alarms this summer. Earliest alarm so far was 3:30am to sunrise run up Moosilauke, which was totally worth it!

One of my favorite things about sophomore summer at Dartmouth is our long OD run/hikes in the White Mountains! It is really fun to run a different trail every weekend, hitting the most scenic trails and ridges in the east…and we have been really lucky with weather which has been an added bonus. I have also tried to get out on my mountain bike when I can since there are so many fun places to ride straight from school or very close to school and it is a great way to mix up the modes of training.

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Southern presidential traverse, my favorite!
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Our awesome training group at Dartmouth this summer!
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As a Little Bellas ambassador, KO and I helped out with one of their mountain bike rides in Hanover!

I am looking forward to the second half of summer since there are many adventures I still want to do. I am really excited that at the end of the term I will be able to head to New Zealand to join up with SMS T2 and USST for a training camp between terms!

 

Lake Placid camp, part two

Well, there’s definitely no way to entertain you better than KO letting you in on the secrets of camp and “Fat Roy”, the possibly pregnant house cat at our awesome rental house. So, you should probably go back and read the latest blog post if you haven’t already. I’ll just talk workouts instead. Because we’ve been doing quite a few of them at this camp!

Big train of girls on a distance double pole! (photo from Matt Whitcomb)

Often, our team training camps are two weeks, because of the travel involved getting to snow or a camp location. Once you get there…may as well stay a while and make it worth it! But since this camp is more local and a short drive away for SMS, Craftsbury, and the US Ski team members on both teams, we made it a shorter but more intense camp. With a 9 day camp, we’ve been doing intervals every other day, and in between doing some fun long runs in the Adirondack mountains, speed work or easy distance training.

Hiking up Mt. Marcy with the girls!

Some of the key workouts for intensity included a skate team sprint, which was super fun! We partnered the older athletes with the younger ones, and my partner was Lina with the Craftsbury team. We also did some super hard double pole intervals, which was challenging but great in a big group of girls changing leads.

Lina coming in for the tag (photo from Coach Pat)

This morning we did a long run up and over Mt. Marcy, and the views were spectacular with a clear day!

Me, Ida and Sophie

Ida, Sophie and I hiked our pink wigs supporting Kikkan to the top and did a happy dance for her there!

Sophie crossing the “Indiana Jones” bridge

A few of the group made it a longer loop and went over to Avalanche lake, which I love because of the narrow boardwalk along the side of the cliff over the water.

What a cool place to run!

Check back in later to hear the next team member’s update!

Jessie

 

Lake Placid Camp Update

*KO (Katharine Ogden) checking in

I have been told that blogging is not my strong suit. And by that I mean I have a tendency to forget to do it – so much so that this is my first update on the sms blog, despite having been on the team for two years (I know, I know, you guys have been desperate to hear all my spicy takes, but never fear: the time has come)… Ultimately, please bear with my lack of blogging experience!

At this point, we’ve been in Lake Placid for about 6 and a half days. Time flies when you’re hanging with some cool girls. (Time also flies when you spend the whole midsection of the day napping, pro tip.) Thus far, the highlight of the camp has been meeting the chubbiest Maine coon cat I’ve ever seen. The jury is still out on what his/her name is but he/she is currently referred to as Fat Roy, fondly named after the Caldwell’s cat, Leroy. Here is a pic of him.

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Most importantly, though, it’s been a blast training with a big group of really cool women. We have all of the east coast national team girls here as well as Steffi Boehler from Germany, the Craftsbury GRP girls and the SMS T2 team. We have been terrorizing the Lake Placid pavement, clad in neon in a long line. It has been pretty great!

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After begging Pat for the whole camp we finally got to go mountain biking. Not sure there is anything better than ripping some single track in a train of badass women. For real. It is the GREATEST.

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Some other important updates:  

  1. We have eaten 4 family size bags of peanut m&ms so far with no sign of slowing down.
  2. Popular opinion is split on whether Fat Roy is pregnant or not.
  3. Kelsey, Sophie and I are all sleeping in a row in beds separated by about a foot of space. No one has migrated in the night so far but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
  4. I got to be partners with Ida Sargent in a team sprint. #fangirling
  5. At the preschool daycare camp I work at the 3-4 year olds eat frozen Chobani gogurts for snack. Turns out olympians eat those too – our freezer is full of them!

Whelp, guess you all can go ahead and call me a blogger at this point!

Sincerely,

ko

Switching It Up

When I found out our teammate, Erik’s wedding was in France in early July, I decided to make a little trip of it and head over for a couple weeks before our camp in Lake Placid. I wanted to visit the Salomon headquarters, my good friend and French skier Anouk, and have time to explore the area of Villard where the wedding was. I was able to do all of these things, get in some good training, spend time with friends, and return psyched to hop into camp with my teammates!

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On an adventure with Anouk!

When I arrived in France, Anouk picked me up at the airport and we had an awesome visit to the Salomon headquarters in Annecy together. After that, we went to Chamonix for the weekend, which is where her boyfriend’s family lives. We jumped in the 10km running race of the Mt. Blanc Marathon weekend and went on a beautiful running adventure in the mountains. After a couple days in Chamonix, we made the beautiful drive to her hometown of Pontarlier, which is practically on the Swiss border. Pontarlier was equally as beautiful in its own way and reminded me a lot more of Vermont with its rolling green hills and farm fields. We ate delicious French food, logged some easy volume training, and spent our downtime playing with her 15 month old son Even. After four days in Pontarlier, Simi picked me up and we headed to Villard for the wedding. Villard was yet another beautiful French town and the training there is incredible. They have a top of the line rollerski track and the mountain running is unbeatable. The morning of the wedding Simi and I went for the most beautiful run I’ve ever been on in my life.

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All smiles 🙂

I hung out with the boys for the first few days of boys’ camp in Villard before flying back to our women’s camp in Lake Placid. It was an amazing trip, but I’m happy to be back training hard with my teammates and looking forward to a productive week in Lake Placid!

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Simi on the ridge.