In the sport of Nordic Combined, there's always a first trip to Europe. I can remember how excited I was that first time over the pond. However, I never really imagined a trip to the Middle East until the past year or so - when they announced that the 2012 World Junior Championships would be in Erzurum, Turkey.
World Juniors aren't until late February, but we're heading over there now to compete in a Continental Cup - with the added bonus of getting a feel for the hill and race course. After Turkey, we'll head back to central Europe to compete in another COC in Szczyrk, Poland. We leave Saturday, New Year's Eve, but I haven't even ventured to total up the hours of travel ahead of us. Here's the itinerary:
Steamboat Springs to Denver (van ride)
Denver to Washington Dulles
Dulles to Frankfurt
Frankfurt to Prague
Prague to Istanbul
Istanbul to Ankara
Ankara to Erzurum
So that makes 6 flights and then we'll be there! Fortunately we'll spend a night in Prague to break up the travel.
The last couple weeks we've been training in Steamboat, recovering from the races in Park City and getting ready for the rest of the season. I was supposed to go home for Christmas right after Lake Placid, but when that was cancelled, changing flights was so difficult and expensive that I just stayed here. Fortunately, a couple of the family's in Steamboat took me in for Christmas celebrations. One highlight was on the day after Christmas. I went with Erik Lynch's family to a hockey rink in Kremmling - about an hour away. We played a solid 2.5 hours of hockey (with a lunch break between). I also got up on the mountain and tele skied the day before - so waking up Tuesday my body was pretty unhappy. But it's fun to go out and do something different! I can't say I've done much more than skate around on a lake since I ended my hockey career as a ten year-old.
I'll let you know how the travels and competition go - provided that I have internet. It should be quite an experience!
Join the tour and be a member of our team at the Nordic Combined World Cup finale in Oslo, Norway March 5—11, 2012. It's a bit spendy, but it would be quite an experience! Check out the links below.
The last two days of competition in Park City were even more exciting than the weekend. I set a career best each day and learned a lot along the way.
Tuesday morning we woke up to an inch or so of fresh snow and more coming down. The snow definitely affected the jumping; although it was fair for everyone, most jumps were shorter and everyone was very close together starting the race. For me, an 82m effort (not a long jump for most competitions on a K90) was good enough to start in 26th. It was nice to start the race in the top 30 for once. I skied most of the race with Nick Hendrickson and in the last lap broke into the top ten and ended up 6th, with the 4th fastest race time. Taylor Fletcher kept the podium streak alive with a 2nd place.
Here's a link to a brief Ski Team article about the day:http://usskiteam.com/news/fletcher-podium-again-soldier-hollow
Results are here: http://www.fis-ski.com/pdf/2012/NK/4078/2012NK4078ROF.pdf
Wednesday I was feeling good in the jumping again and uncorked my best ever jump in a major event: 91m, which put me in 8th after the jumping. I knew I could jump that well, but starting that high up was a little shocking and totally new to me. Dave Jarrett, the US Ski Team head coach, told me before the race that even though I was going to be in a position that I'd never been in before, not too think about that during the race, just to know that I deserved to be up there and to just get to the finish line as fast as possible.
Pretty early into the race I was third in a pack chasing down the lone leader. It didn't take long to pick off the early numbers who make a habit of jumping far but skiing back into much higher places. Going up the climb on the third of five laps we had the leader all but reeled in, but the pace was agonizingly slow and faster skiers were coming from the back. I went for it and picked up the pace. Before I knew it, finishing the lap I had a 10 or 15 second lead on 2nd place. It probably wasn't the smartest move tactically, but it was fun while it lasted and I felt like I had to try. Halfway into the fourth lap I was caught by a group of three, and the rest of the race was about the hardest thing I've done to try and hold on. I finished 5th and was for the first time the top American. Not quite the podium, but still I can't say it wasn't a successful couple of days.
And if you've really got a lot of time and want more detail than I'm giving you here, read this article on Fasterskier by Kerry Lynch: http://fasterskier.com/2011/12/nordic-combined-continental-cup-kicks-off-with-five-days-of-racing-in-utah/
Saturday we had a 2 man x 4 laps each of 2km team event. I raced with Brett Denney, and after the jumping we started a bit back in 16th. We clawed our way back up to finish 7th, just behind Erik Lynch and Michael Ward's team. Taylor Fletcher and Nick Hendrickson got the US on the podium with 3rd.
Today we had another individual race. I skied up from 37th to finish 17th. I had a good jump and a solid race until I hit the wall going into the last lap only a few seconds back from the top ten. To have a mediocre performance and still end up in the top 20 is a great sign of how much farther ahead I am then I was last year.
Speaking of improvements, our team had another great day as a whole. Taylor Fletcher threw down an incredible race to ski from 30th into first, and then keep going to win by 20 seconds. Erik Lynch, (who's 17 and trains with me in Steamboat), skied from 27th to an impressive 7th, Nick Hendrickson was 8th, and Michael Ward had a personal best finish of 14th.
Where am I?