This weekend marked the end of my internship in Denver, Colorado. Basin Holdings, one of our team sponsors, offered the opportunity to our team this spring. I was immediately interested and jumped on the chance to try something new and gain some experience in the workforce.
It was an interesting and fulfilling six weeks– and certainly all new to me. I worked for WB Supply, an oilfield supply company and one of the many firms that make up Basin. It’s nothing glamourous, and in theory a relatively simple business. WB is the middle-man from the manufacturer to the corporations doing the drilling and pumping. However, it’s a highly competitive industry. In the current market especially, it takes a tightly run ship to stay afloat. WB Supply is approaching 45 years in the industry, so they are clearly doing something right to have steadily grown through countless booms and busts.
I spent most of the first week of the internship up at one of their supply stores in Fort Morgan, which is a small, rural town northwest of Denver. From there, I gained an appreciation of the operations at a grounds level. The rest of the internship was at the office in Denver, where I created a couple of big reports and presentations, as well as helping with day-to-day issues with invoices, pricing, etc. As much as I learned from actual application, I also gained a lot from listening in and observing. The general principles that enable success in this business carry over to any industry. I saw much of the success coming from strong relationships – between WB and its vendors and customers, and also within the company. The president of WB works at the Denver office, and she told me how she worked her way through virtually every part of the company. She understands the situation far better than someone sitting in an office hundreds of miles away might otherwise. The macro takeaway for me was that in any environment, the more that you can see from all perspectives, the better off you’ll be.
I didn’t slack from my training during this time either. My weekdays were always busy, starting with a strength or plyometric session in the gym at my apartment complex. In the evenings, I would run, rollerski or ride on the considerable network of bike paths throughout the city. I found plenty of places to train, although pounding the pavement through suburbs and the city sure made me appreciate the luxury of living right against world class mountain trails in Park City. On the weekends, I headed for the mountains of Golden and Boulder, where I found plenty of trails and mountain passes to explore. Finding new places certainly helps make up for the monotony of training alone.
I was able to meet up with some family in the area, including my cousins Tim and Krista who both grew up in Wisconsin, but now live happily in Boulder. Once you play in the mountains, it’s hard to go back… They’re a big running family, and I joined them for a 10-mile race in Boulder one weekend. At the end of my stay, Tim, Krista and my Uncle all ran a 50km mountain trail race. It looked like fun – in a way – but I stuck to my rollerskis for that day. As crazy as it sounds, there are some definite similarities between Nordic Combined and ultra-running; at least, they’re both small sports, extremely challenging, and generally provide more intrinsic rewards than anything else. You could say it takes a special sort of person to choose either path. But from my perspective, ultra running is even crazier than Nordic Combined. And we have the Olympics…
Like always, the time flew by, and now it’s a bit of a shock to find summer here already. I’ve been enjoying getting back to training with the team. We’ll get back on the jump this week, which will be great after nearly three months away from the hill. The week after that, we’ll start to really “pay our dues” with some hard sessions for our first intensity block.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, sorry for the irregularity of postings. As you can say, I’m generally a busy guy!
After competing in Norway the weekend before last, we traveled back down to Europe and a week of training in Slovenia. Although we’re all anxious to get back to competing on the World Cup circuit, this week of training turned out to be really productive. This weekend we start back up with the first World Cup of the New Year in Chaux-Neuve France!
Planica is one of my favorite places to train. We were there for a camp this fall and it was great to get back on the jumps on snow. They're modern and somewhat challenging hills, but the super smooth inruns and high flying profiles make them some of my favorite hills to jump. It’s pretty sweet to wake up in the morning and have the choice of two hills (K95 and K125) just right up the valley.
Winter still hasn’t fully hit Slovenia yet, but fortunately they had enough snow made for a challenging loop of skiing. By the end of the week I had close to 95km – some 50 laps – on the loop. Surprisingly, most of the sessions went by pretty quickly. It helps to have a specific plan to break up and focus the session.
The Cross Country World Cup happened to be in Planica for a sprint weekend while we were there. On Saturday and Sunday we went right from jumping to the race course and watched the action from the sidelines. The races were high paced and really exciting to spectate. It was cool to get a good perspective on how fast those top sprinters are – especially before we skied our own race on the course after them. We just did a small “practice” comp to keep the speed up, but I gained a real appreciation for how much speed the cross country athletes carried on their sprints on the same tracks.
I put up a quick video that my coach shot in some of our interval sessions.
Some pics from the XC spectating:
We also ran into some of our own cross country skiers in the weight room on Monday. Periodically throughout the winter our World Cups are held with them, and other times, like this, we happen to just be in the same place at the same time. (Although usually if it's not for a competition, we run into other US Ski Team athletes at the airport hotel in Germany).
Yesterday we traveled to France - across Italy, over a corner of Switzerland, and just out of the French Alps to the city of Pontarlier, France. The scenery through the Alps, north of Torino and between Chamonix and Zermatt, was spectacular. Nothing makes an 8-hour drive go by like a couple hours in some of the coolest mountains around.
Pontarlier is a surprisingly large city about 45 minutes away from the small town of Chaux-Neuve, where we’ll compete. This competition was originally scheduled for the last weekend, and after it was pushed back, the organizers had to scramble to find new accommodations for all of the teams. Most of the area surrounding Chaux-Neuve is farmland dotted with small rural towns, so I’m not shocked that this was the closest city they could find with open rooms.
I’m psyched to get this weekend going tomorrow with official training and PCR/qualification. The next two weekends are pretty high pressure, as we need to get some more points in order to keep the rest of the season alive. But last year I had my best result here in Chaux-Neuve, and I think I’m up for the challenge!
You can read more on the current status of our team and startrights from this recent FasterSkier article: http://fasterskier.com/blog/article/for-u-s-nordic-combined-quota-spots-and-more-on-the-line-as-world-cup-restarts/
In case you missed it, FIS gave me the opportunity to share some writing. The following post is also on their website.
Also, I made a little video from our trip up to Norway. You may need to watch it on a desktop if it does not play on mobile.
FIS Guest Blog: Unpredictability
Due to the very difficult weather situation that brings a long competition break this winter, FIS Nordic Combined is breaking new ground on its website, usually dedicated to competition reports, news and interviews with the top stars. Instead of asking about sports related matters, we gave the word to our athletes themselves: what is on their minds at the moment, how do they view and handle the situation and related "deeper" issues like positivity, the spirit of competition or climate change? In the first edition, Team USA's Adam Loomis writes about unpredictability.
If I’ve learned one thing so far this season, it’s that nothing is predictable. We saw this the first weekend of the circuit, in Ruka, Finland. We arrived early in the week to find perfect wintery conditions: plenty of snow, cold temps, and calm winds. By the weekend, however, a warm front blew in – and kept blowing. The strong winds prevailed, preventing even a single round of training, much less the completion of a full jump competition.
In Lillehammer, the next stop, and the defacto season opener, after one competition on the big hill, we moved down to the normal hill. This meant a quick change to a very different hill, and those that were ready for this excelled.
Fast forward two weekends to Ramsau, where the prodigy Norwegian Jarl Magnus Riiber stole the spotlight of both competitions. While we first saw Riiber’s talent in full form last winter, his performance in Ramsau brought fresh light to how high the level of jumping can be on the Nordic Combined circuit. Despite his dominance on the jump hill, through four separate competitions, we’ve had four different athletes at the top of the World Cup podium.
Thus far in 2016, challenging conditions and schedule changes have been the unfortunate story. Athletes and coaches found themselves making quick adjustments to their plans, searching for the places with good snow for training, such as Seefeld, Austria. Back in the US, we were lucky to have incredible winter conditions for training in Park City, UT.
After the announcement about Schonach, our “younger” World Cup team (Jasper Good, Ben Berend, Michael Ward and me) flew to Munich, rather than change our tickets for a second time. From Munich, we pushed onward to Høydalsmo, Norway. (9 hours of driving through Germany, one night at a hotel, three more hours to the tip of Denmark, a “short” 4 hour ferry ride to Larvik, Norway, and then three more hours to our hotel).
Høydalsmo held a Continental Cup – as planned – but now without a World Cup that weekend, it got a whole lot harder. Numerous World Cup athletes were amongst the 67 starters, including Finland’s Ilkka Herola, who already has a podium this season from Lillehammer, and Maxime Laheurte, a French veteran of the sport with multiple podiums. These two athletes in particular seemed likely to take the competition by storm, but as it turned out, only Maxime reached the podium, with a third place on Saturday.
It is evident that one cannot take anything for granted in this sport. Plans will change, upsets are the norm, and there’s no guarantee that a so-called “World Cup athlete” will always beat a Conti Cup skier. On a personal level, I started the weekend with relatively strong jump performances, but after a disappointing race on Saturday, I struggled to bring the same mindset into Sunday’s competition. Rather than be psyched about my improvements on the jump hill, I lingered for too long upon failing to meet my expectations for the race. In hindsight, I should have known that everything fluctuates, from year-to-year, week-to-week and day-to-day. Rather than worry about the factors that aren’t going as planned, we can all be better by appreciating what we have going well for us.
Take the winner of the second day in Høydalsmo, Franz-Josef Rehrl for example. Last winter in Høydalsmo the jump competition was cancelled due to too much snow (yes that can happen). Fortunately, we still had a provisional jump to use for the afternoon’s race. Franz, however, took the extra time waiting at the jump hill as an opportunity to go powder skiing behind the ski jumps. He came back into the changing room some time later, fully covered in snow, grinning and, luckily, with his 2.6m long jump skis still in good shape. While I’m not prescribing this as a pre-race routine, it says something about a skill that winners have. They adapt and make the best of what is in front of them.
This winter may or may not become the norm for years to come. But certainly, as athletes, we will only have to get more accustomed to varying conditions and changing schedules. At the end of the day, anytime we get a big group of Nordic Combined skiers together; it makes for a great competition. When you let go of the bar, or charge into the start of the race, it doesn’t matter where you are, or what it’s called. The opportunity to compete is a beautiful thing.
The last time that I wrote was after the cancelled competitions in Ruka, Finland. Since then, I competed in the next two scheduled World Cup weekends in Lillehammer, Norway and Ramsau, Austria. In Lillehammer, warm temperatures and wind continued to be a factor, but at least this time we were still able to compete. The first competition day was scheduled to be a 4-man team event, but a windy morning prevented yet another jump competition. Fortunately, we had a good and fair provisional round from the day before for exactly that reason. Using the provisional round's jumping results, we then kicked off the season with an individual race. This certainly wasn't the first time that we've used the provisional to race, and it goes to show the importance of making this round a good one.
On Sunday in Lillehammer, the jury moved us down to the K90, again citing worries of windy conditions. I missed the timing for my competition jump and started my move uncharacteristically early. I was too far back to have much of a chance to ski into points. The day before, I had a chance at finishing in the points, but didn't have a particularly strong race to make it happen. And so after the jumping on Sunday, I was determined to at least put down a fast race, fighting for every position, regardless of where that put me at the finish. I skied a smart and (what felt like) strong race but in the end I only moved up to 43rd. The day before I had finished 37th, with the 27th time rank. Surprisingly, my XC time rank was one spot back on Sunday from the day before. Comparing this to the last year in Lillehammer, where I skied the 11th fastest time, this was disappointing and somewhat baffling.
With the first weekend in the books, there was nothing to do but move on and look forward to the next competitions in Ramsau. The following day, my teammates and coaches went home, while I stayed in Lillehammer. The following weekend was open on the World Cup schedule, and I use the opportunity to get in some training. Some of the others competed in Park City at the opening Continental Cups (COC). With my team gone, I stayed with two Norwegians brothers: one a current Nordic Combined skier, the other a student, having just recently retired from his ski career. This was a cool opportunity to live, cook, train and share stories with these generous members of the Nordic Combined family.
During my "week off" I cheered from afar for our team in the Park City Continental Cups (COCs). It wouldn't have made much sense for me to travel back to Park City for the week, given that I wasn't going to compete and would have to be back in Europe after just 6 days at home. However, while watching the success of our team, I was wishing I was home to see the races unfold. Taylor competed each day with the goal of finishing in the top-3 of the COC overall at the end of the weekend, and thus earning us an additional "wildcard" World Cup spot for next period. He succeeded in this mission in an impressive way, climbing the podium each day from 3rd, to 2nd to 1st on the final day.
Taylor was not alone in having a successful weekend in Park City. On Day 1, we had 6 guys in the top-30, including my 17-year-old brother, Ben, who earned his first points with an impressive 16th, and 15-year-old Stephen Schumann, who has to be one of the youngest guys to ever score points for the US. The following day, both Bens (Loomis and Berend) jumped extremely well, and started the race in 3rd and 4th place. Ben Berend stayed in the top-10 and finished a career-best 8th, while my brother shattered all expectations when he finished in 4th, just a few seconds off the podium. Needless to say, I was super pumped for the guys. When Taylor took the win the following day, Ben Berend continued to improve and came in 6th, and once again we had a total of 6 Americans within the top-30.
There wasn't much time for celebrations after the Park City COC's. Taylor, Bryan, Michael and our coaches hopped on a plane the day after the last race to meet me in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then from there we drove to Ramsau, Austria.
Just as it was last year at this time, Ramsau was completely barren of snow asides from the jumps, a few alpine runs and the race course. Fortunately, this year they had plenty of snow made and we were able to race on a full 2.5km loop. (Last year we were confined to a 1.5km flat loop in the field.)
In Ramsau, I jumped at the similar level to the first day in Lillehammer, which put me in the low 40's both days to start the race, but within striking distance of the points group. On Day 2 especially, I had a full opportunity to crack the top-30; although I started in 43rd, I was just 25 seconds behind 30th at the start line. I did what I could to move up through the ranks, which is something I've become accustomed to. I can normally rely on strong XC skiing, even when jumping doesn't go well. However, when it came time to really go, my legs just didd't have it, and I felt like I was already sprinting before the pace even picked up significantly. I watched despairingly as the "better skiers" - a group I would normally put myself in - skied away with apparent ease as I struggled to keep my speed up on the long climbs.
I ended up with two 40th place finishes in Ramsau. Disappointing, yes, but perhaps not as far off as it would seem. It's worth noting that I qualified for each of the 4 days of competition so far. Last year at this time, I was only inside the top-50 in qualification once after my first 4 chances.
Now, I'm back home, with the family for Christmas week. After a few long weeks on the road, it's great to be home. I'll use this week as a chance for recovery and easy distance training. This should be key to get my body rested up and ready to go again in just a couple weeks.
I would be leaving for Klingenthal, Germany right away on next Monday, but the organizers already cancelled, so we have an extra week until we start back up. (You guessed it, warm temps and no snow). One of the few places with good snow right now is Park City, and they seem to have plenty of it. After this week in Wisconsin I'll head back to Park City for a week of training. Hopefully by then the weather will start to turn in Europe, as the next few weekends on the schedule are still up in the air.
Once we leave for Europe next go-around, we'll have a pretty packed schedule for the rest of the season. I'm looking forward to going back to some of the places where I did well last winter, including Chaux-Neuve, Trondheim and Val de Fiemme. There's still plenty of chances ahead to make this season a great one! Watch for us to be starting again on the 8th of January in Schonach, Germany.
Where am I?