Anne Hart had many thoughts running through her mind last Saturday. At one point all she could think about was barbecue chicken, asparagus and freshly baked bread with butter.
Contrary to what you might think, Hart wasn’t participating in one of her many culinary projects. Instead, she was rollerskiing 100 kilometers.
Hart was joined by her Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 teammates in the third-annual 100 k Ski-A-Thon on Sept. 20. A clever mix between a fundraiser and an over-distance workout, the event is a way for the team to reap both physical and financial benefits over the course of 62.1 miles.
“We always welcome donations, but it’s easier to ask people for money if it is paired with an event,” Hart explained in an email. “We wanted something that is out of our normal training regimen, and also demonstrates our commitment to skiing. The 100 K was the perfect event for both of those goals.”
The 100 k Ski-A-Thon has proven to be one of the team’s biggest individual fundraisers of the year and especially helps non-U.S. Ski Team athletes pay for unfunded racing and travel.
“Our 100 k ski is very important to us because it allows our athletes to get to the races that they need to go to. It doesn’t cover everything, but it does make a huge dent in things and it allows them to be in a good place where they don’t have to make tough decisions,” SMST2 Head Coach Patrick O’Brien said in a phone interview.
The Ski-A-Thon wasn’t always a fundraiser. Andy Newell, who has been with SMS since his high-school days, remembers skiing 100 k with the program’s then-head coach Sverre Caldwell (now program director) when he was younger.
“Sverre liked to do things like that just to ‘show us we could’ and it was always pretty inspiring to do that as a high school kid,” Newell wrote in an email. “Nowadays 100k is still long but easily doable without any real preparation, we all do normal training the day before I still had a double session 4 hour day leading into it.”
While the 100 k workouts of Newell’s high school days were without much fanfare, the 2014 Ski-A-Thon attracted the most attention to-date. A full team SMS T2 athletes participated in the event including Newell, Hart, Ben Saxton, Simi Hamilton, Paddy Caldwell, Sophie Caldwell, Erika Flowers, Annie Hart, Annie Pokorny, and Jessie Diggins.
Hamilton, who is still suffering from the lasting effects of an August ankle injury, was able to rollerski the entire 100 k. He said that while he is still unable to run, he was happy to participate in the “great adventure.”
The athletes were joined by U.S. Ski Team men’s coach, Jason Cork, Sverre Caldwell, and a mix of parents, relatives and friends who attended the event to help with logistics and encourage the athletes as they skied over the New England pavement.
This year’s course started in Vermont but mostly traversed the back roads of New York. Unfortunately for the athletes, a strong headwind for most of the ski made progress slow. However, the men were able to finish around the five hour and 45 minute mark while the women were roughly half and hour behind.
For Hart, the most challenging part of the Ski-A-Thon was pushing through the “dark periods” where she felt the length of 100 k start to take it’s toll.
“I would be lying if the thought of sitting down on the side of the road and just waiting for a van didn’t cross my mind at least once,” she joked. “But then we would have a little break, eat some sugar and espresso and get back rolling.”
Newell said that the Ski-A-Thon is not only a great opportunity to build both funds and fitness, but that it was also an important team building exercise.
“One of the coolest things about the 100 k is that it really feels like a team challenge,” he said. “We cheer each other on during the ski and will loop back to the girls.”
During the event, the team participated in what Newell called a “secret skier” gift exchange in which members would surprise a fellow teammate with a treat at some point in the day. Newell was Hart’s “secret skier” and presented her with ice-cold seltzer water at the finish.
O’Brien, who biked over half the Ski-A-Thon to break the strong winds and encourage his athletes, said that while there’s nothing “magical” about the number 100, there’s something to be said about participating in a six-hour workout.
“It is a really, really big OD (over distance workout),” he said, pointing to the fact that his athletes would need some extra rest in the coming days.
Despite the length of the Ski-A-Thon, no one from the Stratton team was overly exhausted at its conclusion. The only true challenge of the day was when the team’s van suffered a flat tire 15 minutes away from its return to Stratton.
The team made a quick tire change and returned to their small Vermont town, both tired and content. Now that the Ski-A-Thon is finished, the Stratton skiers will partake in some well-deserved rest before they enter the next block of fall training.
“We really do have the greatest team, and I am so happy I get to spend painful days and not so painful days with them,” Hart said. “But now it’s on to the next block of training.”
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.