It downpoured across much of the Northeast on Wednesday. Those at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in northern Vermont hardly noticed. Owner Judy Geer called it “drizzle.”
That morning, about 20 Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP) athletes and coaches participated in the second annual Roll-Run-Row race, which pitted the some of the nation’s best nordic skiers against top-tier rowers. All belonged to the same program, but the idea was to have some competitive fun while pushing individuals out of their comfort zones.
This summer, the Outdoor Center started an elite-level rowing team similar to the nordic one. The result was an increase in high-level athletes for a total of 14 skiers and five rowers, most of which live and train there.
According to Geer, the skiers spent time before the race teaching the rowers how to rollerski. In turn, the rowers provided some pointers on Hosmer Pond. The field included one rower, Peter Graves, who represented the U.S. at the London Olympics this summer as well as Lynn Jennings, a three-time World Champion in cross-country running.
The race itself involved point-to-point rollerskiing, running and rowing legs, which took the winner, rower Kyle Lafferty, about 30 minutes to complete.
Craftsbury’s nordic coach Pepa Miloucheva estimated the uphill rollerski was about 2 kilometers long, the run was about 3.5 k, and the row was about 2 k with two 90-degree turns.
“There were some big gaps between the winning and last times in the rollerski and the rowing legs, but was a hard effort for all for sure,” she wrote in an email.
There were no gender or age categories; finishers classified as overall. Craftsbury skier Clare Egan placed second and Gordon Vermeer represented the nordic guys in third.
Vermeer is one of four newcomers to the Craftsbury’s elite cross-country team. This spring, he graduated Dartmouth College and, like his teammates, began the transition to full-time training.
According to Miloucheva, she couldn’t ask for much more from athletes like Vermeer, including former University of Vermont (UVM) grads Alex Howe, Caitlin Patterson and Amy Glen.
“The new athletes this year are great,” Miloucheva wrote. “All were able to adjust to the new training regimen without a problem and make some good fitness and technical improvements. … We have a big team this year, but it has been great to see them challenge and enjoy pushing each other, during practice.”
Some highlights this summer included hosting the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) Regional Elite Group and J2 national camps in Craftsbury, and training with the U.S. Ski Team in mid-September in Lake Placid, N.Y. According to Miloucheva, most of her athletes have stayed healthy and avoided serious injuries, and enjoyed a productive and busy training season.
“Right now we are into a hard training block before we leave on our first big trip this winter,” she wrote of the entire team’s departure for on-snow training in Canmore, Alberta, on Oct. 25. “[We’ll go] straight to Yellowstone from there for the first [SuperTour] races of the season.”
A few weeks ago in Lake Placid, FasterSkier caught up with two CGRP rookies: Patterson and Glen. Here’s what they had to say about their season so far:
FasterSkier: What’s it like being part of a new team?
Caitlin Patterson: It’s been great. I think it’s easy to get used to the atmosphere of the team. It’s a good group of people and the training is similar to what we’ve done before.
FS: But it’s got to be different from college skiing, right?
Amy Glen: It’s definitely different. Your job is your work now. And then we do work [at the Outdoor Center] in our free time, but it’s more, like, for fun almost.
FS: How’s the transition to full-time training?
CP: For me it hasn’t been very tiring at all, probably less so. In past summers, I was doing a lot more. Last summer I was working almost a full-time job and training full time and this is a lot more laid back. At Craftsbury, we eat all our meals in the dining hall so we don’t have the food-prep piece, so it’s been pretty relaxing.
FS: How did you approach two weeks of training in Lake Placid with the U.S. Ski Team?
CP: I think it’s kind of a fun opportunity to train with other people. It doesn’t really matter if your first, even in [a] sprint situation, or certainly not in a workout. As long as you can have fun and talk to some people who you haven’t seen in a while or maybe get to know some of the juniors who are here, that makes it fun. To ski on different terrain, that helps keep the excitement up.
FS: What are some of your goals for the racing season?
AG: Ski as fast as I can.
CP: Changing to a new training program coming out of college, you have high expectations, but you can’t be unreasonable about it. It’s not the end of the world if things don’t go quite as well as they could. But I’d like to be optimistic that it should go well for all of us because of the training program.
There’s the early season races and then West Yellowstone and Bozeman and leading up to the World Cup, certainly it would be great to qualify for those. I think for any of us on this team, it’s a realistic possibility. From there hopefully we have some Europe trips planned and nationals and U23’s for any of us still in the age group. All sorts of fun stuff.
FS: How would you describe your team?
CP: Lots of humor on a daily basis. Everyone’s really serious about training, too, but we can be serious at the same time as your having constant competitions. The guys are having a lot of competitions, strength and whatever else. I think we laugh a lot and have good fun with it.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.