At 28 years old, Vermont native and U.S. Ski Team A-team member Ida Sargent comes with a well-rounded perspective and end-game. Her results from last season’s final leg of domestic racing in at her home course in Craftsbury, Vt., speak to that premise. In a loaded field, Sargent placed second in the 1.5-kilometer classic sprint and second in the 30 k classic mass start.
On the World Cup, Sargent ended the 2015/2016 campaign ranked 23rd overall on the final sprint list. (Her best-ever overall final ranking on the World Cup was 22nd in 2013.) Since 2012, she’s earned 14 individual top 10’s.
Reached by phone in Craftsbury, Sargent, of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP), said she has focused her energies on high-quality training sessions this year, sounding like a mature athlete able to monitor when to rest and when to push.
“Just really doing a good job monitoring my recovery, making sure that I’m paying attention to how my body feels and when I can push it a little bit more and not being afraid to just doing a little more and knowing when to back off. Paying attention to those things,” Sargent said. “I am starting to have a much better read on my body and I am able to figure out what I need and trying to have the confidence to do those things and really focus on what I need myself.”
With experience, Sargent explained she believes she’s less likely to get mired in the training-numbers game.
“I think it is always something that is hard. You want to always do more and more and more and … you get this this feeling, but it’s just kind of like it’s easy to fall into the trap that more is better. And I think I’ve done decent amount of intensity and trying to really hit those and when its not working anymore I’m taking a break with that.”
This coming season, Sargent explained she is emphasizing the sprints but with an eye toward improving her distance skiing. She also thought of how to best position herself for the long World Cup calendar.
World Cup racing begins Nov. 26 in Kuusamo, Finland, and runs through March 19 with World Cup Finals in Tyumen, Russia.
“I am going to go home before Christmas which I am really looking forward to,” Sargent said. “Having a little time at home for Christmas this year to get that recharge, which is really important for me mentally. I will start the Tour de Ski [which begins Dec. 31 with a freestyle sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland] but will probably drop out after a stage or two.”
Also on Sargent’s radar is a master’s degree in public health. She started her studies this summer through an online program at the University of Vermont.
“At first when I completed my undergrad at Dartmouth, it was great, but at the end, I was ready to just ski full time. And was very excited to do that,” Sargent said of her motivation to pursue another degree (in addition to her bachelor’s in biology and physiology). “I think it always gets to me, especially later in the winter when you get towards the end of the season, and you aren’t training as much and you are peaking for races, and you are training only for an hour or an hour and a half a day — and when we are on the road during that time, it’s a lot of time to spend sitting in a hotel room. And, I’m not a big fan of TV and don’t watch that much of it. I do a lot of reading. I kind of felt like, I love ski racing and I love this lifestyle, there are so many other things I want to be doing. If I have the time, why not do some of it at the same time? So I think I’ll keep it very part time, especially during the fall when the training is a little bit more intense, … in the winter, when I am settling into hotel-room life. I think it will keep me stimulated to have something else going on.”
It’s also worth mentioning Sargent’s more elaborate response to question 14 listed below: If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
Like many endurance athletes across generations, Sargent was motivated by others chasing athletic dreams. Her’s was a perspective where doping wasn’t part of what she was witnessing on the ski tracks or athletic fields.
“When I was younger it was really just always so inspired by all the different role models that were competing and chasing their dreams and setting new records, chasing Olympic medals,” she said. “I was just continually inspired by one athlete after another. And wanting to be like that, it never crossed my mind. Maybe I was just really naive, but I always the last one to pick up on the potential dopers. I used to watch the Tour de France, and I was obviously very naive, but I was a Lance [Armstrong] fan to the end. I was like, this is such a great story.
“For me, sport has always been this inspiring pursuit and it’s only recently I’ve started to question,” she continued. “And seeing incredible performances like watching the 2016 [Summer] Olympics — it’s one of true, first times I would see an incredible world-record performance and the first thought through my mind wasn’t just, ‘Wow! Isn’t that amazing?’ but, ‘Hmmm, I wonder if that one is questionable?’ And so I just think it is really unfortunate that can even happen and I hope it doesn’t continue to a place where it becomes more commonplace and kids that are following in our footsteps and coming up to the junior ranks, are not seeing the sport as tarnished cheating and instead are filled with inspiration and passion and hard work.”
We asked Sargent to give our ’17 Questions for 2017′ a go. Here are her responses:
1. Biggest change in your life in the last five or so months since the ski season ended?
I started working towards my Masters in Public Health. I will be taking a couple online classes through UVM so while my focus will still be on skiing I’m looking forward to having some mental balance and using my brain again after a four year break from school. I was inspired by [U.S. teammate] Sadie [Bjornsen] who went straight from her undergraduate to masters classes and I’m looking forward to having some study hall time with her this year on the road.
2. Biggest change in your training?
I’ve focused on recovery this year in many different forms, from technique changes allowing me to find a relaxation phase, to better pacing and race strategy, to overall better recovery between training sessions through HRV monitoring. I usually am in go mode all the time but trying to maximize my recovery and improve efficiency this year which has already allowed me to train more than ever before in a way that I think is also improving the quality of the training.
3. Major areas of improvement you’ve seen so far?
I’ve made some big technique changes which will hopefully allow me to have more energy left later in the races.
4. Whom you’ve been working closest with this offseason (coaches or training partners)?
I’m a homebody so I like to spend as much time as possible at home in Craftsbury, VT. I spend enough time on the road in the winter so during the summer and fall, I like to be at home. I train most of the time with my Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates and Craftsbury coach Pepa Miloucheva. I’ve broken up the time at home, though, with all of the US Ski Team camps. When I’m travelling with the USST, I work most closely with Matt Whitcomb, the US women’s team coach.
5. Best trip in the last five months (and why)?
New Zealand with my USST teammates was incredible again this year. A little dose of winter in the middle of summer is always a bonus as a skier and NZ did not disappoint. The Snow Farm had awesome skiing conditions, good food, a very welcoming staff, and living right on the ski trails makes it very easy to train a lot.
6. Favorite cross-training?
7. Favorite non-athletic activity or pastime this summer?
Reading, drinking coffee, paddle boarding on the lake in the evening, gardening.
8. Song that was your jam this summer?
Summer time is the best for cruising the back roads, listening to country with the windows down.
9. All-time favorite race moment?
World Champs in Oslo in 2011 was my first World Champs and having thousands of people lining the courses for those races was unreal. I was totally blown away and loved every minute of it!
10. First thing you pack in your bag when you leave for Europe?
It used to be maple syrup but after it spilled in my bag a few times I’m a little more hesitant towards traveling with it. So now it’s probably my aeropress and coffee but some comfy sweat pants and my kindle are a close second and third.
11. Venue/event you’re most excited to visit this season?
I’m very excited to race in Lahti next winter. Anytime World Champs are in a Nordic country it’s certain to be a big show with tons of spectators and great racing. I’m also looking forward to racing the World Cups in Peyong Chang, South Korea. It will be very interesting to see a new part of the world and to get a feel of the area as we all prepare for 2018.
12. Who will win the men’s and women’s World Cup titles this year?
First names that come to mind are Charlotte Kalla and Alex Harvey.
13. Biggest sacrifice you feel you’ve made choosing this career path?
I sometimes wish I had a more normal job but I think I have plenty of time to be working a 9-5 so I’m going to embrace every moment of this wonderful lifestyle for the time being.
14. If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
Make sport a level playing field with everyone competing clean.
15. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Green Mountain Creamery Greek Yogurt with granola and berries and maple syrup on top. And of course a very strong cup of coffee on the side.
16. In 5 years, I’ll be ____?
Way too far ahead for me to plan. I’m just trying to figure out what is happening tomorrow!
17. In 50 years, I’ll be ____?
Hopefully healthy, active, and fit and still able to get outside to hike, bike, and ski with my friends!
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.