Published on February 18th, 2014 | by Phyl Newbeck
Reader Athlete – Lindley van der Linde
By Phyl Newbeck
Residence: Burke Hollow
Family: Husband, Tiaan; children, Stella, 3, and Linden, 5; dog, Digby
Occupation: Teacher at Burke Mountain Academy
Primary sports: Nordic skiing, trail running, and mountain biking
An elite Nordic skier in high school and college, Lindley van der Linde stood on the podium at Junior Nationals, earned NCAA All-American honors, and was honored as a Sports Illustrated athlete of the week, Ski Racing Magazine’s female junior skier of the year, and USA Skiing junior athlete of the year. She hasn’t slowed down as an adult, winning the Craftsbury Marathon twice and coaching at the Nordic Junior Nationals.
VS: Why is Nordic skiing your passion?
LVDL: I’m lucky that my parents encouraged us to try different sports. My father was an Alpine skier, but he got us into Nordic skiing. I don’t know if I enjoyed it because I was good at it or vice versa. While a lot of girls my age were playing with dolls, I was outside mowing lawns and raking. I was always active and that gave me the strength for the endurance sports I was drawn to. I feel lucky that I found that at a young age.
VS: You’ve had an incredible skiing career. Tell us about some of the highlights.
LVDL: At the peak of my success, I was in Sports Illustrated as an athlete of the week and a USA Skiing Junior Nordic athlete of the year. When I was growing up, Nordic skiing was just classic, but I learned to skate ski when I was in eighth grade through the Bill Koch program and that gave me an advantage. I learned about Eastern Cup races when I was in high school and was one of the first girls in my age group to qualify in New England. I podiumed at Nationals in every event, including the relay.
I enjoy pushing myself hard, and winning was just the icing on the cake. My parents always asked if I was having fun and whether I was learning something. Even in college, I loved going to the starting line. Sometimes I think back and wish I’d pursued racing after college, but in the early ’90s there was no support system. When I graduated, I was concerned about not being financially dependent on my parents so I worked at boarding schools where I could teach and coach. I’ve been lucky to be a part of a sport with such great camaraderie. Athletics is still a big part of my life.
VS: What discipline and distances do you prefer?
LVDL: When I started skate skiing, I was ahead of the curve, but now I’m better at classic. I also prefer the longer distances. After teaching and coaching at high levels, I got into marathon racing. I stopped when my husband and I decided to have children, but now that they’re older, I have more time. Last year I did the Stowe DerbyIt’s hard to balance things with children, and sometimes a race is the only time I get to be out on skis for more than an hour. My exercising keeps me sane in this crazy life of balancing it all. It’s very therapeutic and fun because when I’m in shape, I can push myself. I still get joy out of racing, but I have other interests as well.
VS: Let’s talk about some of those. How did you end up hiking in Ecuador?
LVDL: After college, I taught in Maine, and another teacher wanted to bring some students to climb Chimborazo so I signed up to be a co-leader. I didn’t realize what I was getting into. You get acclimated in the different villages and then hike to base camp and leave in the middle of the night. I get altitude sickness, and I threw up on the way up so I had very little energy left on the way down. Thankfully I could use a rope and slide and use my ice axe as a brake. I haven’t done anything like that since.
VS: You also delivered a sailboat to the Caribbean?
LVDL: I re-met my husband at our 10-year high school reunion. I was about to go to medical school, but he had this plan to sell the sailboat he was living out West, and he invited me to come along. I deferred medical school for a year, and we drove cross-country and sailed from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean. Again, I didn’t know what I was getting into. There was a hurricane, and we were stuck in Bermuda, and I was seasick the entire time and became emaciated. That’s when my husband proposed, and I decided to skip medical school so we could both continue teaching and have similar schedules.
VS: When did you start mountain biking?
LVDL: I got my first mountain bike in 1989. It’s a really great way to train in the offseason, and it’s also just fun. Lately I’ve been doing more races like the CircumBurke. It’s part of how we ended up in Burke. I grew up going to Vermont in the summer and Tiaan is from here. We were looking to move to Vermont from New Hampshire and fell in love with the Northeast Kingdom. In addition to the outdoor opportunities, I fell in love with the community. I’ve never felt as close to a community as I do here. This place has it all.
VS: How do you find time to work, exercise, garden, and raise pigs, chickens, and children?
LVDL: I have a lot of energy. Sometimes it’s hard, but for the most part, it brings me a lot of joy to do all those things. My kids come first and then my job. This summer was hard because I was taking a professional development course at night, but I’d get up at 5 a.m. to exercise. It made for a long day. It’s not really exercise but more “me time.” If I can fit that in, I can do everything better, and I’m a much happier person. I am now in a good place with a schedule that allows me to balance my family, homelife, work, and play. Sometimes I have to combine my interests, but my kids are reaching a very fun age where they can join me. If I go for a run on the trails, my five-year-old can mountain bike beside me, and I’ve attached a pole to my daughter’s Skuut (a pedalless bike) so I can push her while I run or ski.