Wild Rumpus Sports

Staying on the Treadmill of Life!

We used to do VO2 Max tests quite often. Twice a year, in fact, at the US Ski Team’s headquarters in Park City, Utah. Then the specialized roller ski treadmill belt broke, and, well…you can still do the test on the new treadmill…BUT. The resistance is very different, so you no longer have consistency in the variable of how long you can remain skiing until exhaustion. And for me, that was the only one that mattered. It mattered because it tested my mind, not just physiological markers that might perhaps indicate success in sport. To my way of thinking, how resilient your brain is is the most important marker of success in sport. You could be ridiculously gifted, but that doesn’t really matter if you quit.

Demonstrating the fun roller ski pump tracks for that NENSA brought for the SMS kids camps back in Stratton! (photo from Justin Beckwith)

For those of you reading and thinking “I’m not into science-y test stuff”, hang with me! It’s pretty straightforward. While breathing into a tube that measured the gases you breathe in and out, you’d roller ski on a treadmill that stayed at a fixed speed (pretty easy when it was flat), and every minute the incline would go up one percent. Obviously, I’m sure there’s a very long and very complicated scientific procedure and explanation for this test, but just go with me here, I’m not that far off.


The objective was to ski until exhaustion – until you couldn’t keep going. At some point, your body would reach it’s VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen your heart, lungs and muscles can process and use while exercising. Otherwise known as your personal measure of aerobic capacity. Otherwise known as The Test to determine if you will Win and Be Grand In Your Sport! Just kidding, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. But it can still be a fun number to find out.

Getting to help send off the younger SMS campers in style! (photo from Kelsey Phinney)

With the treadmill ratcheting upwards every minute, your outlook on life in general got worse and worse the longer you stayed on. Things went from “wow, this is SO easy. I’m amazing.” to “WHY am I even doing this, again? Why does it matter?” and finally to “I’m quitting this sport…as soon as I finish this test”. Funnily enough, the test was only about 11-12 minutes. You sure can pack a lot of agony and self-doubt into a short amount of time.


We were hooked up to a sort of climbing harness that would catch us when we fell off the back of the treadmill. And it was a point of pride to fall off the back. If you grabbed the bars at the top of the treadmill, you were SUCH a weenie, because you clearly could have kept battling it out until you slowly got pulled to the back of the huge treadmill.


The test was hard. It was SO hard. And the annoying thing is that you could quit whenever you wanted to. I mean, you were supposed to be tired, but even the worst actor among us could feign a collapse and fall off the back of the treadmill whenever you decided that enough was enough, you were DONE being a lab rat. But this is where our sport gets almost comical in the amount of pain we put ourselves through. Even though you could fake it and fall off or pretend to be 100% exhausted, you’d see people really truly run themselves into the ground way past the point where the VO2 max data had been collected.


I would refer to the VO2 max test as “the stubbornness test” for exactly this reason. The treadmill was going to win. It always wins. But you got to decide how long you wanted to hang on, even knowing the definitive outcome. That’s sort of messed up, you know? Messed up, or stupid, or brave, or sort of romantically poetic. However you want to look at it.

Seeing the campers faces light up when they passed around the Olympic medal was a really fun moment for me, because it only means something when you share it! (photo by George Forbes)

So why am I waxing nostalgic about the test that would haunt my nightmares? Because ever since the Olympics, I feel like my life is on the VO2 max treadmill (except not painful). It’s going by so quickly! I mean, this summer has absolutely flown by. It’s increasingly important as I desperately try to be a “real adult” to figure out that balance of ski training, life, and rest so that I can hang onto the treadmill of life as long as possible. And just like that darn treadmill test, when things feel stressful, I need to remember that it doesn’t last forever! 12 minutes on the treadmill can feel like eternity, and so can a hard or uncertain week in life, but that doesn’t mean I need to doubt myself. When I was younger I used to think “no way do the best skiers in the world ever have doubts or tough times! They probably have it all figured out!” NOPE. Everyone has moments where they’re still not sure they’re doing the right training, or balancing life quite as well as they’d like to. But the thing is, we’re all learning and growing day by day, getting better one step at a time.

This sweetheart of mine keeps me grounded when I start to get stressed.

One fun little detail that added a hurdle feature onto my treadmill happened last January, a month before the Games. My condo where I live in Stratton got flooded when a pipe burst in the floor above mine, so for about 3 days it “rained’ inside my place. Yikes! It had to get town down to the concrete slab and restored, and the ensuing battle with insurance to actually be paid the full amount has been an absolute nightmare…that is still ongoing. I had no idea how much stress that I could experience from this, but as it turns out, being an adult is straight up ridiculous. I eventually had to just laugh at myself. The good news is that I got to move into my place a few weeks ago, and Forbes Construction (based out of South Londonderry) did an absolutely amazing job! I love the new place, and while moving is exhausting both mentally and physically, I’m on the happy side of moving now.

Even if my life outside of training can feel a bit busy sometimes, this crew is the best and makes every day so motivating! (photo from Simi Hamilton)

So what did I learn from all this? As much as I’ve love to believe that I’m SuperWoman and I can handle anything, adding in the little “extras” that life throws at you (like moving) can mean that I have to find another way to restore the balance of training super hard and resting enough. It’s important to account for the little stressors that I can’t control, and focus on the things that I CAN control. So this summer has been testing my creativity and commitment to keeping that balance, which is a very good thing for me in the long run! And the treadmill of life is always going to be moving, so it’s important to relax and enjoy the ride!

Finding the balance between training hard and staying focused and also having fun and enjoying the ride!

And now I’m in New Zealand for a 3 week training camp, and although I’m here to ski my face off, it feels like a dream vacation! I’m ready for more “camp life”; the simple rhythm when we all train long hours twice a day, eat a ton of great food in between, and sleep as much as possible. I love getting to hang out with my teammates and I love the easygoing atmosphere of the Snow Farm. I love the countryside and mountains. I love the people. Good Lord, I’m ready to permanently move to New Zealand! I just love everything about that Country. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos so that my next blog will convince you, too, that you should be moving to NZ on the next available flight.

Loving the sunshine and mountains at the Snow Farm in New Zealand! (photo from Kelsey Phinney)

Body Issue(s)

This is a blog post I wasn’t ever sure I’d write. It can be scary to reveal the less glamorous parts of ourselves to others, the parts we’re sure that nobody will love. But it is precisely because of this that I knew I needed to write this post. It takes a different form of bravery to open up to others in the hopes of helping, but it’s the most important kind of bravery I hope to possess. ~ This spring, I posed for the ESPN Body Issue. That is something I never thought I’d do! For those of you wondering, I had an all-female closed set for the photo shoot, and it was incredibly empowering. ~ Admittedly, I mostly figured I’d never get asked or have to consider it since cross country skiing isn’t a “famous” enough sport, but times, they are a-changin’! But the biggest reason I never…

Finishing a fun week!

It’s been an awesome, solid week of training here in Stratton! Now that we’re all back in one place (well, almost, but we get Alayna here tomorrow and then the family will be together), it’s been awesome to get back into a rhythm of regular training. We usually do interval sessions and strength (in the afternoons) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a longer over-distance training session on Sunday, and in between we have some easy distance training or speed sessions. Sounds simple, and we like to keep it that way, especially when we’re building up to more and more hours! The face you make when the hurdles are juuuuuust a little too close together! Julia, Kyle and I led foot agility for the juniors this Thursday (photo from Sverre Caldwell) A pretty cool thing about our program is that the senior SMST2 athletes lead the juniors in agility warmups before…

Please jump in

This year’s Bend camp is going down in the books as one of the very best. Despite it being the 3rd lowest snow year that they’ve had, the skiing held out until the very end of camp. We had some awesome klister skiing and easy kicking conditions to work on improving our technique in! This camp is all about getting back into shape and laying down solid volume to build a base for the rest of the summer. It’s also about getting the team back together after spring break to start the year fresh! The girls working together in intervals with a pretty amazing backdrop! (photo by Bryan Fish) A huge, warm thank you to the staff of the Mt. Bachelor Nordic center for their hospitality in keeping the trails open for us, their awesome grooming and keeping the trails clean in fast-melting conditions, and their great support of the…

Busy little bee!

My plan to have a quiet, boring spring went sideways faster than you can upload your google calendar. But it’s been exciting, too! You can’t always control how things are going to go, and sometimes you need to roll with what’s happening in the moment. “Oh, you thought you’d wash the dog hair off these clothes, did you?” Not including the post-Olympic media tour or phone interviews, since the last race of the season I’ve done over 25 events for sponsors, schools, open community events and appearances. It’s been only 50 days since that last race in Craftsbury. People have asked if, and how, my life has changed since the Games. My answer is that nope, my life is the same and I’m still a dork! I’m just a much busier dork with a little more on my plate, and a few more chances to inspire others and speak up…

Things I learned

I’m still learning how much racing and training my body can handle during the season. It’s such a fine line! A little too much and you’re too tired and can start racing “flat”, which isn’t a fun feeling. It feels like no matter how hard you push, you can’t get your body to cooperate and go with you, and you’re missing that last racing gear. At the same time you don’t want to miss any more races than you need to. Racing is so much fun! It’s addicting, and it’s hard to step away for a break even when you know it’s the right call. Racing for the first time since the Olympics in Drammen, Norway (photo by Ophira Group)   What I’m learning is that every year as I get older and add a few hundred hours of training under my belt, my body can handle more and more….

Looking back on the Games

I tagged Kikkan, pulling my arms above my head and gliding straight to protect myself and my poles from any tangles or crashes. Turning a 180 around the fence surrounding the pit crews, I was still gliding towards Jason and Marek, our techs, when I leaned down and unclipped my bindings, hopping off my skis as they were still moving, jumping right into a jog. They each caught a ski and immediately clamped them to the bench, furiously re-applying powder and brushing them out in under 2 minutes as Kikkan skied her lap. It was an incredibly efficient system, the pair of them working seamlessly as a team. I loved the little details of how the team worked together, fitting all the moving parts into place like cogs on a watch without missing a single beat. Getting the tag from Kikkan!Photo: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski & Snowboard Every time I came…

Brave Enough

“I write down my goals so that when I get them, I’ll know I was brave enough to want them.” -Alexi Pappas It can be incredibly hard, goal setting. It takes guts to admit that you want something so badly it hurts, and then put everything you have towards getting…

Tour life – the good, the bad, and the smelly jackets.

It’s tradition for the girls to come back up the mountain and cheer on the boys in the last stage of the Tour de Ski. We always get to race first, which must be truly horrible for them (sorry boys), because they have to sit and wait all day for…

Seefeld Holiday Camp!

World Cup period one racing just…flew right by! How does that happen? Racing every weekend, I just slip into the strange but weirdly predictable World Cup rhythm. Travel Monday. Train tuesday (usually intervals and strength). Distance training wednesday and thursday. Friday is race prep; testing skis with my tech, doing…