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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth’s Extreme Athletes: Students’ Feats of Endurance

One writer talks to students about their feats of endurance, from triathlons to backcountry skiing to cycling.

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Twenty-five percent of Dartmouth students are varsity athletes, and 75% of all students participate in athletics, including club and intramural teams, according to Dartmouth Admissions. While most students who are not on a varsity team might hit the gym or try their hand at an intramural sport, some push their limits and look beyond conventional means to stay fit.

This winter, Tommy Bevevino ’24 participated in Last Skier Standing — a backcountry skiing competition that takes place at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine. During the event, which lasts until there is only one remaining skier, participants attempt to skin up a 1,100-foot vertical drop and ski a lap down every hour. The winning participant this year skied 76 laps, equivalent to more than three continuous days of skiing.

“If you take longer than an hour [to complete a lap], you time out and you’re out of the competition,” Bevevino said. “You just keep going until you can’t go anymore.”

Bevevino woke up at 5 a.m. on Feb. 9 — the Friday of Winter Carnival — and drove alone to Maine for the competition. 

“I got there, and I realized everyone else had a crew, which makes a lot of sense because there’s a lot of logistics to handle,” Bevevino said. “It’s pretty lonely if you don’t have the crew … I started skiing at 10 a.m., and I went for 26 hours.”

Bevevino trained at the Dartmouth Skiway, skiing every day for three weeks prior to the competition.

“I was doing an uphill lap every day for two or three weeks at the beginning of the term,” Bevevino said. “I probably skied 30 days of uphill laps before the competition.” 

While intense skiing requires winter weather, other students completing feats of endurance do so when temperatures are warmer. For instance, Vaishnavi Katragadda ’24 said she and two other members of the Dartmouth Triathlon Team — Ellie Sullivan ’24 and Andy McBurney ’23 — completed the 70.3 Maine during 22X, Katragadda’s and Sullivan’s sophomore summer. The race is a half Ironman triathlon consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.

“I did [an Ironman] the summer after freshman year, and that was the best athletic experience that I’ve had,” Katragadda said. “I wanted to do another one and figured that sophomore summer would be a good time to train for one, since I was only taking two classes, and there were a bunch of other people on campus to train with.”

Katragadda, McBurney and Sullivan trained together with the help of the triathlon team’s coaches. Because of the intensity of the race, Katragadda said she often did multiple workouts in one day. 

“With my schedule, I was able to get up and do one of my workouts before classes,” Katragadda said. “Then we’d do another practice before dinner, because a lot of times with half [Ironmans], you have double workouts since there’s three sports and also strength training … to do.” 

Lauren Heller ’26, another member of the triathlon team, is currently training to race the 70.3 Maine this summer.

“Being part of a team has really inspired me to push my body to its limits, and this has been something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Heller said. “Especially since I’m going to be here over the summer … it gives me the perfect opportunity to really focus on my training.”

Heller noted that because the extra training can put a strain on some other aspects of her life, she has learned to “prioritize the things that are the most important, which are practicing, recovery and [academic] work.” 

“[Training for a half Ironman] does sacrifice other parts of my life, but I’m willing to make that [sacrifice] until it happens,” Heller said.

While Heller and her teammates have the supportive structure of the triathlon team and their coaches, they do not get the same institutional support that a varsity team would receive.

“We don’t really have any resources … other than club sports and tri team, which does offer a lot,” Heller said. “We aren’t given the same sorts of things that the varsity athletes are given, in terms of access to more physical trainers or better facilities to train in.

One student, Bond Almand ’26, is going beyond merely completing these endurance feats. Almand, who is a member of the club cycling team, is currently training to set the world record for the fastest cycle journey of the Pan-American Highway during his upcoming off term this fall. The route stretches from the northern coast of Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina, with the current world record being 84-and-a-half days. 

“Two continents, 13 countries, four deserts, six mountain ranges, two jungles, all 11 biomes, seven of the 10 most dangerous cities in the Western Hemisphere, the most remote regions of the world … hottest desert on earth, windiest region of the world, driest desert in the world, rainiest area in the Western Hemisphere,” Almand said. “What’s not to love?”

Almand said he is currently doing “anywhere from 50 to 80 hours a week of training.”

“If I’m not in class or studying, then I’m cycling,” Almand said.

While Almand doesn’t intentionally schedule his term around cycling, his current class schedule has made it easier for him to fit in his training. 

“This term, I only have Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday classes, so I have four-day weekends every week,” Almand said.

When the weather gets below 15 degrees, Almand takes the back wheel off his bike and puts it on a stationary trainer — similar to a Peloton bike. 

“Over half of my training during winter term was done on the trainer, sometimes 30-plus hours a week,” Almand said. “I can watch movies, do my schoolwork and cycle on a virtual platform called Zwift.”

Almand said the winter weather did pose some problems for his training, as he often had to cycle through snow and ice.

“Around week five of winter term, I started going on long overnight rides on the weekends regardless of the weather,” Almand said. “I actually got a lot of frostbite that I am still trying to heal. I would battle severe hypothermia on the bike and while camping in the snow overnight.”

Since Almand is training for the Pan-American alone, he has to rely on his internal drive and his passion for cycling to stay motivated.

“I’ve always been the type where I set a goal in my mind, and I can’t really stop until I give it my best shot to achieve that goal,” Almand said. “[The Pan-American is] all I think about. When else am I gonna have a whole 84-and-a-half days to do nothing other than this trip? This is my one shot, at least for now.”