Note: I wrote this post to appear on USANordic.org. In it, I outline our great fall of training in Slovenia, Austria and Germany.
Summer competitions ended way back in early September for the USA Nordic Combined Team, after the fast and furious 8-day Summer Grand Prix tour. Since then, no one has rested on their laurels; we’ve been busy putting in the work to make this winter a success.
This summer, we decided to spend much more time overseas, where we could train amongst other athletes and on many of the venues that we compete at in the wintertime. We rented an apartment in Planica, Slovenia, which we made our home-base for a month and a half.
Early into the trip, I made the following video highlighting some of our training. Check it out!
From our home in Planica, we lived as total athletes: training twice a-day, cooking nutritious meals for ourselves and enjoying the abundant opportunities for training nearby. At the complex in Planica, just up the road from our apartment, we jumped on a HS105m and HS138m. The venue also has a hilly and technical 2km rollerski loop, which we skied countless times in intervals and two test competitions. Next to the track, we also got on snow every week at the newly built indoor ski tunnel. This was an awesome opportunity to get snow training in during the summer – something that we usually can’t do until it snows in November in Park City. Rollerskiing is pretty close, but there’s no way to replicate the real deal without actually being on snow.
Team members Ben Berend, Jasper Good and I, along with juniors Grant Andrews and Koby Vargas, were in Europe since the Summer Grand Prix. Some of the team has been back in the states, but we all reunited for the final week of prep training. Stephen Schumann and Ben Loomis went back to Park City to sneak in a little school. Both of them are still in high school at the Winter Sports School. (Ben will be graduating at the end of the school year in November. Stephen (16), will be off for the winter, until starting his Senior year next April.)
Bryan Fletcher also spent most of the summer at home – for a good reason – the birth of his first daughter with his wife Nikki! Ellery Fletcher was born happy and healthy on August 29. Taylor also flew home for a couple weeks after SGP to visit his new niece.
From Planica, we were able to take a few trips to other venues. After Taylor came back over, we headed to Ramsau, Austria in late September. It was great to practice on this hill, where we have a World Cup every December. We also jumped on the large hill in nearby Bischofschofen, and Grant Andrews and Ben Berend both set personal records in one morning! Beckett Ledger, a promising junior from Lake Placid, was also with us for this time. He missed out on the junior camp in August due to a broken toe, but was able to train with us for two weeks – and jump on 5 different hills in this time!
We finished off the training block with a great jumping camp in Oberstdorf, Germany, with the entire team fully united for the first time since August. Bryan, our experienced veteran, flew over to join us, and on the jump hill we could tell that he’s been working just as hard as the rest of us!
We all traveled back home on October 20th. Now we countdown the days until winter! Bryan, Taylor and Ben Berend will start the season at the World Cup in Ruka, Finland on November 24th. In December, the entire team will be competing internationally, either in Klingenthal, Germany at the Continental Cup or at the World Cup in Ramsau.
Before you go, here are a few pictures and videos from our training.
Note: I wrote this article for the American Birkebeiner Birch Scroll Newsletter this fall, but wanted to share it with everyone here
In the final week of August, the international Nordic Combined community unites after a five-month hiatus from competition. This year, over the course of 8 days, we competed in five Summer Grand Prix (SGP) competitions in three locations: Oberweisenthal, GER, Villach, AUT and Oberstdorf, GER. In the moment, these competitions feel almost like any World Cup, but unlike the World Cup season, they quickly wrap up, and its back to training before the real season begins.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an important experience. After months of isolated training, SGP is usually our first good look back at the level of our competitors. On the jumping hill, we almost always have new rules, new equipment, and new techniques to try out. On skis, we can’t reproduce the pack-racing so common in Nordic Combined without a huge competitor field to race against. For me, I love getting back in the competition mindset, and there is no way to recreate a real competition without getting a start. Without this opportunity, it’s a long time from the end of the winter competition season until the start of the next in late November.
For those that race in the Birkie, rather than an eight month break between seasons, you might be looking at 364 days without racing. Then, suddenly, you’re back at the start-line, remembering again how it really feels to have the race ahead of you. However, I’m sure many people take advantage of the Birkie Trail Run or the Fat Tire Festival to get a start on the very trails that the Birkie ski races are held on. As a young teenager, I had the opportunity to race the Birkie Trail Run and Kortelopet in the same year. Sure, the Korte was bigger, but I took the imagery of racing on those trails from one race to the next. The exciting feelings of getting a race start can be replicated in the summer.
I came away from this year’s SGP tour disappointed with my results, but I quickly came to a realization. My coach, Nik Huber, helped boost my spirits with the statement that I needed to hear: in the season, “nobody remembers Summer Grand Prix.”
To quote an old cliché, “skiers are made in the summer.” But, I’ll add to that, skiers are made in the summer, but they’re measured in the winter. Competitions in the summer are important, fun and valuable, but they’re part of the bigger picture.
Knowing this, I kept my sights on my long-term goals after SGP and switched back into work-mode as soon as I could. After a good night’s rest, but just 12 hours after the final race in Oberstdorf, I was back training on the jump hill, feeling reinvigorated and literally counting down the days to the World Cup Opener in Ruka, FIN. From there, we drove to Planica, SLO, where I’m staying with most of my team for a solid block of training. We’re living for an extended time overseas, training at one of the best complexes in the world. With the addition of a couple trips to nearby venues, we’ll be in Planica until late October. It’s an opportunity to put in some really fantastic training time, and with the right focus, I'm confident that I can make huge gains leading into the winter. I’m grateful for my opportunities to compete in the summer (and anytime for that matter) but I’ve got my eyes on the prize: my goals for the World Cup season. For the Birkie community, if you’re like me, I hope that you’re using summer to get all that much more excited for the temps to drop and snow to fly.
This isn't the first time I've said this... but sure enough I've been too busy to blog as much as I should and I'm off on another exciting Europe trip.
Since my last post, the main event was US National Championships, right here in Park City, UT. I'm assuming if you follow along, you've already had the news on that. If not, a very quick recap. I had a very solid day, which was good enough for fourth place. After two years on the podium, it wasn't what I was hoping for. However, the important takeaway was that we have to have a great day to get onto the podium at Nationals. That's a very good thing. Taylor Fletcher did have a great day, and he got his first Championship victory. His brother, Bryan, was strong as usual and took home silver. Ben Berend broke through with a spectacular performance - jumping to first and giving the Fletchers a real run for their money. I highly recommend reading his insightful blog about it here:
Ben Berend - A Day I Will Never Forget
In July I finalized a new sponsorship with the American Birkebeiner. I'm proud to represent the "Birkie" - the race and driving force that inspires Nordic skiers from the Midwest and around the Nation. As you can see, they're my ski top sponsor. Still looking for a head sponsor for the coming winter!
After Nationals, we had a week of jumping focus with both coaches Martin Bayer and Nik Huber in town. I really like working hard on jumping right after a competition week, probably because I feel more relaxed but just as motivated. After that, we dove into our third intensity week of the year. These weeks are tough! Two-a-day interval sessions, at least one time trial and hopefully enough recovery to maximize the training effect. In my case, I think I pushed a little too hard, or came in under-recovered, because I came down with a bit of a cold towards the end of the week. Better now that later - but definitely a sign of needing some good recovery.
Here's a short video at the end of the race during our intensity week. Not my finest skiing, but those hills will have that effect. I caught Bryan by skiing hard over the top, but he got me in the sprint. (And to be fair it was a staggered start, so at this point he had already made up time on me. Bryan's in pretty good form this summer!)
As I write this I'm in Oberweisenthal in Germany preparing for the Summer Grand Prix competitions. After flying over on the weekend, we met up with the junior team, which has been over here training in Slovenia, Austria and Germany for the past three weeks. This weekend we have a team sprint and an individual, so six of us will get starts in the SGP. Then we'll head to Villach, AUT for a midweek competition, and then we'll finish with two more competitions in Oberstdorf, GER. Stay tuned and look for our results coming up.
We're working hard and should be ready to compete strongly this weekend. SGP is always a great opportunity to check our level before we head into the fall.
After SGP, I'll be staying in Planica, Slovenia with most of the team. Jasper, Ben and I are staying overseas until October 19. It'll be the longest I've ever been in Europe in the summer, and an awesome opportunity to get great, focused and consistent training in.
Finally, you may have noticed that USA Nordic has been increasing the amount of content and media posts in the past few weeks. I've been helping to keep this going consistently. (Another reason why I might not be as consistent posting on here.) You'll definitely get more frequent content by following all of USA Nordic's outlets:
We sent out a newsletter last Friday highlighting recent updates, which is available here. We'll keep those coming about every two weeks from here on out. If you're not on it, you can sign up right here on the form below.
USA NORDIC MAILING LIST
Not that I'm counting the days, but I realized that I have one month left in Park City until mid-October. Per usual, time flies and the seasons change before I know it. For now, I've settled into a good rhythm of consistent training.
I've primarily been in Park City since the last time I wrote, with the exception of a quick trip to New York and a week in Steamboat Springs.
We had a really successful camp in Steamboat over the Fourth of July. I was impressed with how close all of us are at the moment. The juniors, Ben Loomis and Stephen Schumann are right up there pushing the rest of us, which is awesome! In fact, Ben lead the way on the HS75 jump hill and skied to third during the Mainstreet race, behind the Fletcher brothers. Stephen, only 16, posted one of the fastest times of the day on a brutal uphill time trial shortly before we left for Steamboat. Some serious motivation to be gained from this! And now I really understand how motivated Bryan and Taylor are from their fierce sibling rivalry.
In addition to our training schedule in Steamboat, we spent an evening with many of our supporters, fans and family. Steamboat is definitely the heartland of Nordic Combined in the US, making it a great place to reach out to our community. Although it is tough to be constantly asking for support from the same group of people, we're fortunate enough to have a community that sees our value and continues to help us meet our needs. And, we try to bring in a few new people to our fundraisers from outside the community.
I couldn't think of a better example of this than Tim Krumrie, who I met at our Octoberfest fundraiser last fall, and who returned to give some support this summer. Tim's background is a little different than anyone else who was there: he played for 12 years in the NFL and made one Super Bowl appearance. On top of it all, Tim grew up in a small town just outside of Eau Claire, and lived in Eau Claire during much of his career. He and his wife say they decided to move to Steamboat because nobody would care that he was an ex-NFL player there. Considering how many Olympians that town has produced, there's some truth in this.
Our camp in Steamboat was also my first opportunity to work with Nik Huber as our new jumping coach. Nik is Austrian, but is most recently coming from 5 years with Norway's Nordic Combined team. When he was looking for a change, we jumped on the opportunity to add him to our team. As he made clear, there aren't too many secrets to this game, and we're mostly doing the right things, but having his experience, perspective and attitude will be a huge boost to the team. I think his ideas mesh really well with Martin, our other coach on the jump hill, so we'll have great continuity going from one to the other.
Back in Park City, we sent some far jumps on the large hill in Park City before gearing up for another big intensity week. Last week was actually a bit lighter than most of our intensity blocks, but we still had two days of double intervals sessions, one time trial, one threshold-interval session, and two more level-4 intensity sessions! I was pretty happy to have my best race in far too long - a good sign of things to come! Meanwhile, Taylor continued to set the bar with another record for our Soldier Hollow race course.
One way that we make these big intensity weeks manageable is by adding a lot variety. In addition to skate and classic rollerskiing, we did one session of coordination challenging "soccer intervals," a bounding session up the ski resort, and had I got out on my mountain bike for an on-my-own session.
As always, I'm staying busy with classes at DeVry and evening shifts waiting tables at Adolph's Restaurant. Taylor, Bryan and I went to another fundraiser last week, this one for the Utah Olympic Legacy. The UOL manages the Olympic Park, where we jump, and as of this year, owns Soldier Hollow, home of the Olympic cross country ski trails. It was a good reminder of how lucky we are to have these facilities, which are among the few Olympic complexes in recent years that actually have had continued usage.
Next week is Springer Tournee and US Nationals already! Yes, 2017 Nationals are just one week from Saturday. Follow USA Nordic on Facebook and Twitter to keep up of the latest news.
Finally, my supporter OutThere is doing a fundraiser for its athletes. Purchase a ballcap from them here and $10 goes to your favorite OutThere athlete.
Where am I?