I finally had a spare moment to sit down and write yesterday. Not to say that I haven’t had a chance to post an update in the many months since I’ve been on here, but it hasn’t been a real priority in a while. Today, the greater struggle is bouncing from cafe to cafe searching for a wifi connection that is strong enough to put a post together.
More than ever, this summer flew by. It was broken up nicely by periodic trips and camps: Moab for a “Mental Conditioning Camp” with all of USA Nordic, on-snow time in Bend, OR in late May, Steamboat for a week over the Fourth, and the annual Springer Tournee right before coming over here. Between training, DeVry courses, working at Adolph’s Restaurant and the occasional catering gig, I don’t get much for downtime when I’m in the US. Which is fine – boredom would kill me.
Now that we’re in Europe for a lengthy camp, life is less hectic. Grocery store runs are the extent of errands to be run. The time between morning and evening training sessions is spent with our feet up, “recovering hard,” exactly as athletes should.
Along with the rest of my team, I’ve been at our Euro-training base since flying over a week ago. We’re not in the same apartments that we rented for two months last fall and some of us last winter, but it still always feels like we’re kind of home here in Planica, Slovenia. For the time being, we fix our own breakfast and lunches in the team apartment, and then have (surprisingly great) dinners cooked for us in the hotel every night. When we move back into our usual apartments, we’ll be cooking all our own meals, which actually makes the stay more enjoyable and homey in many ways. Grocery shopping is a different experience here than in the US – small stores, extremely reasonable prices, no need to pay more to get “the good eggs," lunchmeat that probably isn't cancerous, fresh bread (that doesn’t stay fresh for a week), quality muesli and surprisingly good produce.
We eased into training here just enough to acclimate to the time change, but have been at it pretty hard already. Everybody has been psyched to get on the Planica jumps, which are smoother, bigger and provide a lot more pressure under our skis than our home hills. (The jumps in Park City are nice, but the thin air at 7000ft location means that they have significantly less pressure than any jump in Europe).
The Junior National Team joined us on Thursday, after arriving from a week of training in Austria. We’ve been doing most of our sessions with them since, meaning we have a big rad crew out turning heads in Slovenia. Yesterday we drove over a pass in our vans and had our coaches drop us off for a point-to-point double pole rollerski. The ski back was almost 35km, virtually all on bike path, first in Austria, then through Italy, and eventually into Slovenia. One broken pole amongst the juniors – but otherwise no complaints on a training session like that.
Sunday was our off day, and although we still jumped, we spent most of the day lounging at a nearby lake just outside of Kranjska Gora. Besides jumping into the freezing cold water, it was luxuriously relaxing. I realized that I probably spent more time reading and laying on the beach in that afternoon than I did all of my entire time in Hawaii this spring.
On Saturday we held an inter-squad competition to determine who would be heading to Germany for the start of our Summer Grand Prix circuit. Since starting the summer season off in good form I’ve been struggling more on the jump hill over the past weeks. I’ve made improvements since coming over here, but still put myself at a pretty tough disadvantage to start Saturday’s 10km race. Much of the race played out in front of me on the tight and technical 2km rollerski track. After overtaking Ben Berend, who led the jumping, the Fletcher brothers established a clear lead. Farther back, I moved from past Grant and Stephen and the fight for fourth was on between Jasper and I. Jasper skied really strong for the third and fourth laps, and on the following and final lap, I was only able to cross the line in fifth, six seconds behind Jasper.
All-in-all, it was a good day for the team; we all threw down huge improvements over our times on the same course last fall. Taylor set our course record by nearly a minute and a half, and I improved by over two minutes. We’ve been putting a big emphasis on maintaining V2 technique in our training so far this summer, and it looks like it’s going to pay off.
Below are some pictures from training and the race. Most of them are from Ben, who's unfortunately not back to jumping after a broken collarbone in early July.
Later after the race, I reinvigorated with a quick evening recovery run that turned into a bit of an adventure – just the sort of thing that I thrive off. I left the dirt road that I was on in favor of a stream bed, and before I knew it I was hopping from rock to rock, then scrambling up sections of waterfall in the middle of the stream. I could have spent that hour running on a flat path, but honestly I think this sort of workout from time-to-time makes me a better athlete – and at the least a happier person.
The results of Saturday’s competition mean that I won’t be starting in the Grand Prix in Oberweisenthal, Germany or Tschagguns, Austria. But because of how close we were, I’ll most likely be in for following events in Oberstdorf, Germany on August 25th and 26th. I’ll be excited to see how my teammates do in the first events, and in the meantime the rest of the team will be getting great training in. Grant, Stephen, Ben (Loomis) and myself will stay here in Planica until next Monday, then head to Stamms, AUT, just outside of Innbruck, for a few days before Oberstdorf. We’ll continue training with the Junior team, under newly appointed coach Tomas Matura – formerly our COC wax tech and generally awesome dude from the Czech Republic.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and expect more frequent updates from me in the near future. I’m in Europe until early October, so there should be lots of great training, competition and experiences ahead.
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
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