Conversation with Ben True

I recorded this conversation with my friend and former teammate Ben True yesterday evening. Ben and I were teammates on the Sun Valley Elite Team. Ben is one of the best 5000 meter runners in the world. His personal best time of 13:02.74 is 9th all-time for Americans. We touched on his start in skiing and running, what it was like to do 3 varsity sports throughout his Dartmouth career, the difference between running and skiing professionally, his brief foray into professional cross country skiing, what his training looks like now, the Olympics, performance enhancing drug use in sport and what he’s looking forward to for the next couple years.

Ben True

 

Conversation with Tad Elliott

I recorded a conversation this afternoon with my longtime friend and teammate Tad Elliott. We touched on his parallel careers in both skiing and biking, the health issues that he’s had to overcome, his focuses for this coming season, his view of US Men’s Skiing and what will come in his life after skiing. Enjoy!

Photo of Tad by Reese Brown.

Pemi Loop

On Wednesday my friend, ultra-marathoner and adventurist Andrew Drummond and I did the “Pemi Loop”, a 29.9 mile run/hike adventure in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We began at the Lincoln Woods Trailhead just past the Loon Mountain Ski Area on the Kancamagus Highway. Andrew had an obligation in the morning so we didn’t start until noon. Consequently, we ran the loop counterclockwise so that we were in the woods for the hottest part of the day and weren’t on the exposed Franconia Ridge until the evening. The route starts up the Lincoln Woods Trail to the Bond Cliffs Trail.

Because I committed to taking my camera, I took a ton of pictures.

We did a little photo shoot on top of the Bond Cliffs.

We were about an hour an 45 minutes into the run at the Bond Cliffs.

Andrew took this one of me:

And this one of me heading from Bond Cliffs up to Mount Bond.

Most of the loop has incredible views.

Here’s the Mount Bond summit pic.

The intimidating thing about the run is that you can see where you’re going from a long ways away. The big mountain in the background in the picture below is Mount Lafayette. Not only is Mount Lafayette where we were headed, it was still two hours from the finish.

We took a short detour in order to fill up water at the Guyot Shelter.

It’s a natural water fountain!

From the shelter we went up and over Mount Guyot.

We intersected the Appalachian Trail then headed up to South Twin Mountain.

This is looking back down the ridge we came up.

From South Twin we dropped down to the Appalachian Mountain Club‘s Galehead Hut and refueled on some delicious baked goods.

Our breaks were short, and soon we were on to Mount Garfield.

Here’s one on the summit of Mount Garfield that Andrew took of me.

We checked out Garfield Pond.

Then we headed up Mount Lafayette, the biggest peak of the day.

We were both still feeling good at the summit.

We met another group up there who offered  to take our picture.

I was very happy that the whole effort felt easy, and my energy never crashed.

From Lafayette it was mostly downhill.

We ticked off Mount Lincoln.

Then we went up and over Little Haystack.

The route finished over Mount Liberty.

And finally Mount Flume.

The far ridge in this picture is the one we had ascended earlier in the day.

This picture cracks me up.

We were on top of the final peak, Flume, at 6:45ish.

We were still smiling.

But our legs were very tired on the way down.

In total we were out for 7 hours and 38 minutes.

The post-run soak felt wonderful on our legs.

I highly recommend the Pemi Loop as a run/hike or backpacking adventure.

Crag Camp

After some big training last week, finishing with a 58 mile double pole roller ski over the Moosilauke Highway with Kris Freeman, I headed to the White Mountains to recover for the weekend. On Friday night I hiked into the Crag Camp hut and chased a porcupine up the trail for a while.

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Presidential Traverse

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running the Presidential Traverse, a famous ridge-line in the White Mountains here in New Hampshire. It has been on my adventure to-do list for a long time, and I was psyched to finally do it. I was joined for the trek by my teammate and good friend Kris Freeman, Kris’s brother (also an Olympian) Justin Freeman and backcountry skier/SkiMo racer/mountain runner/adventurer Andrew Drummond. Kris’s wife Amber Dodge Freeman, along with their Vizsla dog She-Ra, dropped us at the trailhead. We owe Amber big time because it was very nice not to have to do the car shuttle.

We began at the Randolph East Trailhead and ran Randolph Path/Howker Ridge Trail to the top of Mount Madison.

We were all psyched to be out.

We planned this adventure weeks ago and simply hoped for good weather, and did we ever get lucky. It was absolutely perfect running weather.

Apparently it was a good thing that we had a nice day.

The ascent to Madison took about an hour and forty five minutes.

There are trails going in every direction in the White Mountains, but the signage is really good.

One thing that is new to me is the fully furnished Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut system. In Colorado we have the 10th Mountain Division Hut System, which is amazing, but the AMC huts in the White Mountains are very different. To start with, they are much bigger, sleeping up to 96 people. Also, they are full service with permanent staffs throughout the summer. Even if you’re not staying overnight, they have hiking gear, food and beverages for sale. Our route yesterday took us past 2 of the 8 huts, as well as the full-service summit of Mount Washington, so I basically didn’t carry any calories with me. I simply carried a few bucks and got all the calories I needed.

Here’s a view from Mount Adams of Mount Jefferson (right) and Mount Washington.

Here are Andrew (left) and Justin:

Kris asked me to take this picture to highlight his continuous glucose monitor for his sponsor Dexcom.

The running was rugged. The route was only 19+ miles, but they were slow miles.

We crossed the cog railway tracks on the way to the summit of Mount Washington.

The summit was crowded with all types of tourists.

There was a line, which we decided to skip, to take a picture at the summit post.

We were still in good spirits as we continued onward.

Here is the pond outside the second AMC hut that we passed, the Lakes of the Clouds hut.

I would love to come stay in one of the huts at some point and relax in the alpine environment.

I was surprised to find that we did not dip back below tree line between each peak. We were up in the alpine zone consecutively for over 4 hours.

The views were continually incredible.

We could see where we were going for a long way.

I had not met Andrew Drummond before yesterday.

He is awesome, and I was psyched to get to know him. We were connected by a mutual friend, Eric Schenker from Craft Sportswear. Andrew and I definitely plan to do some more adventures together later this summer.

I would also love to get back onto the Presidential Ridge sometime soon.

It’s also been fun for me to get to know Justin better this summer. He lives in the Netherlands with his family. He and his wife are both teachers, and they are only back in New Hampshire during the summers.

Here are some of the maze of trails all over the Whites.

In total we did 7 peaks: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay (doesn’t count because it’s not high enough above the ridge), Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce.

Here’s the view from Pierce looking back at Eisenhower, Monroe and Washington.

We finished by running down Crawford Path to Crawford Depot, where we had left a car. In total we were out for six hours and fifteen minutes car to car. I can’t wait for another adventure soon!

Recovery Weekend

I’ve had a very chill and relaxing 3 days after finishing a big training block on Thursday. Saturday was an annual event here in Hanover called The Prouty, a fundraiser for cancer research and patient supportive services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Participants in The Prouty raise money then walk, golf, row or cycle in the event. I’ve heard about the Prouty for years. Many of my friends and east coast “family” participate in the century bike ride each year. I was hoping to ride with them this time, but it didn’t fit in my training plan. I was in dire need of this recovery weekend. It will remain on my list of events to do in the future.

Even though I wasn’t riding, I was honored to still be invited to the pre-Prouty dinner at Tim and Margaret Caldwell’s beautiful lakeside cabin.

They call it pond rather than a lake, but as a westerner, I cannot wrap my head around calling a body of water a pond when it’s bigger than any lake within 40 miles of where I grew up.

It was my first time at the Caldwell’s cabin, and I can’t wait to go back.

Plus, the crew was really fun

I love sweet breakfasts and I like to make them on my off days. Yesterday I had french toast.

I have been struggling to find balance in the last week between my social life and my training. I am capable of operating for days at a time on +/- 6 hours of sleep. I’ll stay up late each night doing something social then wake up early each morning to complete all of my training for the day before my next social evening. Needless to say, that lifestyle is not healthy. It also does not produce quality training.

When I get tired and don’t have much energy, my self control completely evaporates. I stop stretching, I eat more junk food and I mess around on my phone for hours late at night when I should turn it off and go to sleep.

I’m looking for balance between training load and energy management as well as balance between training focus and happiness/social life. It’s been a challenge as always, but I’m lucky to have an amazing team of coaches, friends and family to support me. In particular, I’m working to find balance in both of those equations with the help of my coach Zach Caldwell.

Finishing Training Block

First, Chris and Mary Osgood’s 4th of July party, which I talked about on Tuesday, exceeded all of my expectations. Mary is an incredible host.

She’s known for her baking skill.

She made a lot of bread for the party.

Mary’s daughter Emily also knows how to bake.

She was in charge of the cakes for the party.

Every year Emily comes up with a different theme for the cake decorations. (These are both this year’s cakes.)

We had a perfect evening for the party.

And most importantly, everybody had a great time.

I don’t have any pictures of training from the last several days, but today I finished up a big 11 day training block that included 48.5 hours of training, a trail running race and 2 other intensity sessions. It has left me pretty tired, and I’m looking forward to some recovery and a lighter block beginning next week.

Yesterday morning I did a skate roller ski intensity session with my coach Zach Caldwell in Putney. Because I was feeling tired before I even started the session, Zach and I were concerned that I wouldn’t be able to ski with quality. In an attempt to simplify the task for me, Zach sent me out on my warm-up without poles. When he caught up with me in the car 20 minutes later, he liked the way I was skiing. We decided that I would start the intensity without poles in order to preserve the quality of my skiing. We tried adding the poles back in for the third interval, but Zach felt it screwed things up so he soon stopped me and took the poles away again. With this strict oversight, we were able to have a productive session even when I didn’t have great energy. You can see a short video of me during the intervals without poles on my Facebook page.

The hardest part of the training block for me was driving back to Putney after intensity yesterday between sessions and still having 8 hours of training to do in the remaining 2 sessions. Yesterday evening I went for a 3 hour run on the Appalachian Trail and today I went for a road bike ride on a great 102 mile loop that Brayton Osgood designed for me. I’m happy to be done with the block.

Happy 4th!

This is my favorite holiday. To me, it’s all about hanging outside, in a backyard or park, with friends, playing cornhole or bocce or frisbee and watching a rugby or beach volleyball tournament. When I think of the 4th I think of picnics and perfect summer evenings, classical music concerts (thanks to the annual Aspen Music Festival 4th of July concert), parades and fireworks. I think of national pride and hometown pride.

For years I’ve heard about the Osgoods’ (one of my east coast families’) annual 4th of July party. It is much adored and talked about, and I am very excited to finally be able to attend. I came down to Putney yesterday morning, went for a bike ride with Brayton Osgood then relaxed at the Osgoods’ and helped get ready for the party. Brayton, Chris Osgood, Zach and Gunnar Caldwell and I loaded tables and chairs from the Grammar School.

When we got back to the Osgoods’, Chris and Zach got distracted by Chris’s new backhoe.

They decided to try to remove a stump.

Honestly, that kind of yard work has no interest to me. It’s not how I want to spend my time, and for that reason and others, I never plan to nor want to own land.

But I’m glad it made them happy.

Mary Osgood made us a delicious dinner.

This morning we did a little more party prep before I headed out for a two and a half hour classic roller ski. We are expecting more than 80 people this evening.

It looks like we’re going to have perfect weather. I can’t wait!

Update

Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been overwhelmed with trying to stay on top of a large training load as well as driving all over New England, and I haven’t had time to get enough sleep, let alone post a blog.

I’m in the middle of some big training. In the week ending yesterday I trained 32 hours including a classic intensity session with Tad Elliott on Tuesday and the Loon Mountain Hill Climb trail running race yesterday. Another notable session was a 5 hour, 54 mile skate roller ski I did alone on Wednesday.

Yesterday’s running race was much better for me than the Mount Washington Hill Climb. After a big training week, my energy felt a little suppressed and my legs felt a little tired, but I felt like I’d made large fitness gains from where I was two weeks earlier.

It took a little while to warm-up my tired legs. For the first 3+ miles, which are more rolling than uphill, I followed last year’s winner Brandon Newbould, who led from the gun. I stuck on his shoulder and tried to make it as easy as possible. The places where I struggled the most were transitions from downhills back to uphills. It took me a while to get tension out of my legs running uphill. Following Brandon didn’t feel easy, and I wasn’t at all sure that I could break away at any point.

Once we hit the first sustained uphill, I started to feel much better. I was transitioning often from running to walking, hunched over with my hands on my knees. I went around Brandon and started to gap him. It wasn’t a deliberate move, but I kept pushing when it was clear that he wasn’t coming with me.

The rest of the race was almost all climbing, and I felt strong. I was moving well without tension and I finished a minute and 40 seconds ahead of Brandon, who held on to second place.

The race effort felt reminiscent of two good mountain running races that I had last summer in Utah in the Cirque Series, also while I was under a large training load. The first thing my coaches did when I talked to them on the phone after the race was temper any sense of accomplishment that I was feeling by reminding me that I do not want to be in the same place I was in last year.

We are now putting together the plan for the next couple of weeks. We will not take the positive sign from yesterday’s race as an excuse to continue trying to push for more fitness gains, as we did last year.

I don’t have a ton of pictures from the last week. I have gotten out for a couple of great road bike rides with Brayton Osgood.

Our loops have included some dirt roads.

I’m getting the true New England experience.

I can’t get over how good the riding is out here. There are so many options for good roads!

And I love the views from the ride.

We flirted with some serious thunder storms, but Brayton is good at looking at the radar and planning our routes accordingly… and we’ve been lucky.

On a different note, I just got my first climbing rope ever. I’m very excited to put it to use when I have the opportunity this summer.

Here’s a picture from Loon just before the start yesterday.

After some torrential rain that washed out several roads and made my drive over to the I-93 corridor on Saturday night way longer than it needed to be, we got spectacular weather yesterday morning.

My plan is to continue to post regularly, unlike the last week.

Putney Intensity

Early this morning I drove down to Putney, Vermont, an hour south of Hanover, for morning training. First I went to physical therapist Todd Miller’s house to check in with him about the mobility exercises that I’ve been doing to lengthen my hip flexors, exercises that he prescribed for me a month ago. Todd was encouraged by the progress that I’ve made, and most importantly, he is still happy with the way I’m doing the exercises. I’m relieved that I’ve made progress because I haven’t been as consistent as I want to be about doing the exercises. Today’s check-in was encouraging and good motivation to do my work consistently.

After the PT session I went to my coach Zach Caldwell’s house for a classic intensity session with my teammate Tad Elliott, supported by Zach. This morning we were also joined by Isaac Freitas-Eagan, an up-and-coming junior athlete from the Putney/Brattleboro area.

The workout, after a solid warm-up, was three times on a set course on Patch Road. The course is point-to-point has a net gain in altitude. It took between eight and a half and nine minutes and has two distinct hills per interval. The first interval was very controlled, low threshold. The second and third were at race pace.

I had a bit of a discombobulated morning. I forgot my heart rate monitor chest strap, and Zach had to drive back to his house during our warm-up to get it. Despite the bumpy start, I pulled it together and had a great workout. Zach was pleased with the way I was skiing.

Here’s a little bit of video of the session. (I also posted this clip on my Instagram feed.)

There’s more video of me and Tad, including some in slow motion, on the Caldwell Sport Facebook Page.

After the workout I played a game of darts with Tad and with Zach’s son, Gunnar Caldwell.

Zach was busy building a sauna next to his pond.

I’m now back in Hanover.