I almost wrote up a 30,000 word post, but instead I'll put up 30 ish pictures and a few words to summarize the highlights of the past few weeks.
For a sobering touch, we'll start with the Dachau Concentration Camp. That's where I spent my last afternoon in Europe about a month ago. Makes you appreciate... absolutely everything.
On a lighter note, spring was kind enough to greet me upon return to the states...
Late March flowers out the back door.
After a week of easy training at home in PC, I road-tripped out to Truckee, CA for a final week of racing at Spring Series. Spring series is the US finals for cross-country skiers - no jumping, so a change of pace and relaxed atmosphere for us NC guys. Spencer Knickerbocker, Tyler Smith, Aleck Gantick and I compromised the Nordic Combined portion of the field.
Yep, those strange lines in the picture above are classic tracks. It had been four years since I had raced in a classic race, but I've classic skied more this winter than ever, so I did manage to survive the two classic races. Barely.
The final race of the series was a pursuit style hill climb up Sugarbowl Ski resort. The only way to scout the course was on alpine skis. It was quite a sight watching a whole field of Nordic skiers work there way through the rental line and down the hill in spandex and Rudy's.
The hill climb treated my team and I pretty well - it helps to be a light and quick guy when you're going up a wall of an alpine hill. I was psyched to be 25th on the day, out of 100 some guys.
Our digs at Truckee - thanks to the very generous Flynn family!
Here's us above Donner Pass and Donner Lake. At the end of the day, no matter how our races went, at least we didn't have to discuss eating each other. (That's a bit harsh - we all had a lot of fun and some of our best races of the season.)
After Spring Series, Tyler, Spencer and I drove down to Yosemite National Park to spend five days in paradise with my parents and brother. I'm not sure if I'd want to go there in the summer, because it must be crazy busy, but Yosemite has some of the most stunning scenery that I've ever seen.
45 miles miles on foot in 4 days was a good way to kick our legs into running/hiking shape. And in a place like Yosemite, it's pretty impossible not to be out exploring every day. Here's a handful of pics.
We completed the road trip by looping back home through Vegas. A couple hours there and one excessive dinner-buffet is about all the time that I needed there. We got right out of dodge and spent the night camping in Zion before driving the rest of the way to Park City.
Now back in Park City it's been backcountry skiing and road biking time. And back to work for me - where I've recently been promoted to server. Next week, school starts at Westminster for Maymester and Devry Online!
Thanks for your time!
This weekend I had my first taste of World Cup action in Lahti, Finland. Unfortunately, I wasn't at the level I wanted to be. The results haven't been there for much of this year, but the best thing I can do is step and learn. So...
1. A start is a start. Regardless of the result, anytime I get the opportunity to compete against a word class field is more experience in the bank for the next time.
2. I’m healthy. That’s always a great thing, and too often I underappreciate the beauty of good health.
3. Experiencing the excitement at World Cup. In some ways, World Cups are just another competition, but the vibe from the crowd, competitors and TV cameras bump up the energy in the atmosphere to another level.
4. I can hang. In my first world cup start, a team sprint, I was skiing most of the laps with Armin Bauer, an Italian who had the 3rd fastest time the day before. I hung with him for all but the last two legs, and still stayed within 5 or so seconds a lap.
5. An observation that I made while watching races: yes, the fastest skiers looked like the fittest, but they were also the gutsiest. In the individual Nordic Combined race on Saturday, no man was gunning to ski fast than Taylor Fletcher, who was the 2nd fastest skier (.5 seconds behind first) and the fastest on Sunday. And while watching the girl’s 10km classic race, Therese Johaug of Norway (2nd overall in world rankings), was absolutely in the red zone halfway into the race. She’s got the fitness to keep up her technique at this rate, but up close, I could also see desire as a defining factor.
6. Learning from the best. It was awesome to spend the weekend with Bill Demong, Bryan Fletcher and Taylor Fletcher. I train with them for most of the year at home, but it was much more valuable to see and learn from the ways that they prepare for and execute in a World Cup.
7. The chance to do what I’m doing. In my surreal world of competition, it seems like everybody’s a world champion, Olympic medalist, or has a handful of World Cup podiums to his name. But if I take a step back, the reality is that just the chance to compete in a World Cup puts me among a pretty small group of highly fortunate individuals.
8. Glorious distance skis through the woods like I’ve had the last two days, which give me the time to relax and just be grateful.
9. The supporters that I have. Again, I’m just truly lucky. To have the support crew around me from my parents to extended family to NNF supporters and coaches, I’ve got quite the team around me.
10. And most of all, right now, I’m more motivated than ever to work towards my potential, and I truly believe that I can be just as good as any of the guys that seemed so much better than me last weekend.
Competition starts tomorrow here in Hoydalmo, Norway, but it’s already been quite an experience just getting here. Brett Denney, Nick Hendrickson, Michael Ward and I started the journey up from Austria on Sunday morning. We missed out on watching Kikkan and Jessie’s gold medal performance, but we did break up our ten-hour drive to watch our boys ski to bronze in the nordic combined team event. Somehow we managed to pull into an Autobahn Rasthof, find a TV and switch to Eurosport within seconds of the race start. And that was an exciting race to watch! The lead pack of 6 fighting for the podium on the anchor leg consisted of more world champions and Olympic medalists than a Norwegian ski team reunion and Billy really pulled through to get on that podium.
We spent Sunday night an hour away from Kiel, the German port city on the Baltic Sea. Monday morning, we pushed off for the 20-hour ferry to Oslo, Norway. The boat that runs this route is basically a cruise ship, so it’s really a break from travel once you’re on the boat. Along with the usual German and Norwegian tourists were biatholon and alpine servicemen travelling up to their own races in Norway. The biatholon circuit had a World Cup in Oslo, Norway this weekend, and the alpine world cup races are in Kvitfjell. Waiting to drive onto the ferry, we caught up with a couple of the US alpine staff that we know from back in Park City. It’s weird how often we run into people we know over in Europe.
Upon arrival to Oslo on Tuesday morning we met up with our coach, Greg Poirier, and our new wax-tech for the trip, Bill Brooker. They had just flown in from the states and we gave them no time to jetlag. Rather than head straight for Hoydalsmo and wait around for official training, we spent the night in Oslo and got in some awesome training. That first night we jumped Holmenkollen – which is the large hill – all by ourselves, under the lights, above the city lights of Oslo. That was cool. All too often we take the opportunities for granted in this sport, but we definitely did not let this opportunity go under-appreciated.
Holmenkollen at dusk.
The King's palace in Oslo.
Wednesday morning we jumped Oslo’s K95, Midtstubakken, on a wonderful blue bird day. (Those of you who watched 2011 World Champs will remember that fog and clouds are the norm in Oslo, and sunshine is a blessing). We also got a great ski in on the Holmenkollen trails. I don’t think we made it to the end of the 2000-kilometer trail system there…
Currently we’re in Hoydalsmo. We took Thursday as our usual rest day but stayed busy watching more world champs. I had to take a break to complete a final for an online course – but hey that’s the beauty of online classes – you choose the time.
After fueling up on fresh bread and brown cheese, we had a solid official training today and then topped off the day with Norwegian salmon. Now we’re ready to rock for another great weekend of Continental Cups! Thanks to all the support from NNF and our community who make this possible!
Brett, Michael and I watching the first round of the ladies ski jumping. US Ski Team photo.
Well this is a bit late but better late than never.
A brief summary of the comps in Planica:
First, the complex: Planica is best known for its ski flying hill. This fall, however, they finished rebuilding and renovating their normal and large hill. They literally had too much money in the budget and couldn’t spend enough of it on the complex. Hard to believe, but true. One example of the extravagance is indoor escalator that runs beneath the K125 inrun and down to the K95.
The big hill – which we competed on – was so much fun! Unfortunately results weren’t great this weekend. None of us were off by too much technically, but on a hill like that small miscues can turn into big issues. Saturday we did all race really well and Nick led the way in 25th with the 7th fastest race, Michael was 26th with the 5th fastest time, and I was 29th with the 4th fastest time. Sunday, I led the way but was 33rd – no points for us.
Craig Ward (Michael's dad) took some great photos in Planica. All of the ones of us racing are from him.
We didn’t have any competitions this weekend, so we stayed and trained in Seefeld, Austria. Our “rest week” ended up being pretty busy and flew by – mostly because of our trip to Predazzo. On Friday morning we drove the short 2 hour trip down to watch Nordic World Championships in Predazzo, Italy. First we watched the normal hill individual combined – where Bryan led the way with a solid 14th place.
The real highlight of the week was watching Sarah Hendrickson win a World Championship gold! It really was incredible to be a part of the team cheering her on to the top spot in the world.
Another highlight from Seefeld was skinning up one of the nearby alpine mountains with one of our Austrian friends who lives nearby. Trying to carve the steep icy hill coming down was not easy, but it was a whole lot of fun and a pretty great way to get in some training.
Sunday we started the journey up to Norway. From Seefeld it’s close to ten hours of driving to Kiel, Germany, on the North Sea. And then we hop on a ferry for 24 hours and arrive in Oslo. We did manage to find a Autohof to grab lunch and turn on Eurosport exactly as the Nordic Combined team race started. Team USA brought in their third medal with a very stellar bronze. Earlier on Sunday, Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggens won gold in the team sprint. What a weekend for the US!
It is very much a winter-wonderland here. No jumping up in Planica yet but we were able to jump down in Kranj today - which is about 30 minutes away and much less snowy. Here's a few pictures.
Week one of six or seven is in the bag. We’ve all got a lot ahead of us. But here’s a quick update of the happenings so far.
The team – consisting of Coach Greg, Michael Ward, Nick Hendrickson and I – flew over last Monday to meet up with Brett Denney in Munich. We drove straight to Seefeld, Austria for a little pre-camp. Seefeld – just outside of Innsbruck – is your typical Austrian nordic and alpine ski town consisting of endless trail networks, abundant snow and happy, outdoorsy tourists. We had two solid jump sessions, a couple sweet afternoon skis, and then it was off to Eisenerz.
See the big mountain in the background of the jumps? We stood on top of it this summer.
More Seefeld beauty.
Eisenerz is a quiet old mining town that shows a different side of Austria. The only tourism around seemed to be backcountry skiing. I have to say, jogging to the hill in the mornings I was a bit jealous of the 50 some alpiners gearing up to shred some limitless pow. In Eisenerz there seems to be two types of weather – cloudy and snowy or sunny and still snowy. Anyways, we’re here to compete, not just to hike around and enjoy the vistas.
The biggest news from the weekend is, unfortunately, bad news. Brett Denney fell on the landing hill on his first competition jump. He’s a bit banged up and was out for the weekend. Our team has had pretty decent luck avoiding injuries, but when it happens it’s really sad to see someone sit out. It makes me appreciate my good health. We’ll find out soon whether or not he’s able to compete this next weekend.
A snowy view in Eisenerz.
In terms of results, I had a 24th and 19th place finish, Nick skied into points the first day to finish 29th, and Michael was just a bit out of points in the 30’s. Eisenerz’s hill is pretty hit or miss, too put it one way. Most people don’t love it, but it’d be boring if the hills were all the same. I had some a couple real good jumps in training and fell a short of my high expectations in the comps, but it was still a solid way to start the trip.
Craig Ward photo (and flag).
Another picture of me from Craig.
Today we left Eisenerz and drove to Planica, Slovenia, where we’ll compete this weekend. Along the way we took advantage of the US Ski Team doctors in Schladming, Austria, where Alpine World Champs are currently going on. (Congrats to Ligety and Mancuso for bringing in some medals – we just got into Planica in time to see Ligety take the gold in the combined).
It sucks to have to go to see doctors anytime, but considering the need, it was pretty lucky that we could see these guys. Brett took a concussion test and as soon as they compare it to his baseline we’ll find out his return status – cross your fingers. Nick also got a little work done on a sore knee.
Now for a couple days of great training in Planica and we’ll be ready to rock this weekend.
Last but not least, a big thanks to everyone supporting us, especially through the NNF, which is picking up a big part of the tab for this trip. We really couldn’t do it without the support and are extremely grateful to the opportunities that we have.
This has to be the first January that I've spent every night sleeping in my own bed since that bed was a cradle. It's been a little strange. But that's not to say that it hasn't been a productive month. Training has been good here in Park City, and after one more practice competition this weekend, I'll be more than ready to leave for Europe on Monday.
As I mentioned earlier, I head over on Monday morning along with Brett, Nick, Michael and coach Greg. First we'll compete in Eisenerz, Austria and then Planica, Slovenia. (Unfortunately, no, we won't be jumping the massive ski flying hill in Planica - we'll be on the HS104). After Planica we'll spend a week off just outside of Innsbruck, Austria during which World Championships will take place a couple short hours away in Predazzo, Italy. After that, we head up to Scandinavia for 3 more weeks of competition to complete the season. 5 solid weekends of competitions lay ahead!
It's been a while since I've posted, so I'll try to give a quick summary with lots of photos.
My focus for the first part of the season was on the 3 Continental Cup's (COC) here in Park City. If any of us did really well at the COC's, we could earn a chance to ski in January World Cups in Europe.
Unfortunately, I did not meet my expectations and was aways off from earning a World Cup spot. My teammate Michael Ward, however, had an awesome weekend, with a career best 2nd place the first day, and will be heading to overseas next week to ski in two weekends of World Cups.
Thanks to my Dad for taking some great pictures at the COC's. Here's a few below.
Todd Lodwick jumping towards his 3 victories, and thus earning back his World Cup spot.
Michael getting his first podium - with teammate Todd Lodwick.
I spent Christmas week at home - which was especially nice after being stranded in Steamboat last Christmas. The best part of the week was just hanging around with my whole family and enjoying far too much good food. I also got to go one of Chippewa Valley Nordic's practice. I always enjoy seeing my old coaches and the up-and-comers from back home!
The rest of us B-team'ers will stay in Park City for the rest of the month and prepare to compete in COC's in February and March.
Last week we had the opportunity to race in US Cross Country Championships - which happened to be right next door in Soldier Hollow this year.
Here I am racing in the 15km Individual start. Sarah Brunsom (USSA) photo.
Sarah Brunson photo.
With over 200 guys racing - basically every serious US cross country racer except for the few that are currently on World Cup - the competition was tough. I was 64th in the 15km and am fairly satisfied with that day. Brett was our best NC guy at 37th. Erik Bjornsen, the winner on the day, was exactly 4 minutes faster than me. That's a lot of time, but hey, he doesn't ski jump.
A panorama of the stadium at SoHo.
Spencer Knickerbocker as the one NC boy in the classic sprint.
The season is finally underway. It was a short weekend over in Steamboat but a pretty good time nonetheless.
My first day there I worked with some of the junior Midwest NC'ers on skinny skis. They got plenty of jumping in that week but the Central coaches tend to forgot that there are two parts to the sport for these guys. But watch out - we've got some talent coming up!
I stayed at a friends house with my mom and brother. I'm lucky that Ben travels to the same places as me -otherwise I would almost never see my family.
Photos from Karyl Loomis.
We raced at night on an 8 lap 10km course. It made for an exciting race to ski and for the spectators. The trick was keeping track of the laps and staying upright.
Ben, Ben and Finn, rep'ing the Central race suits.
Showing off our big guns. Photo credit: Michael Ward.
Nick stayed in front to get the win, I came in second, and Brett skied a wicked fast race for 3rd. The juniors from Steamboat showed us up in jumping - luckily we can ski fast, but we'll need some longer jumps in the competitions that really matter.
Now we hope for some cold weather and snow here in Park City. For the time being just about the only ski is up Park City mountain. I decided to have some fun and skin up on my tele skis Monday.
Not a lot of snow - but just my ski tracks and the hoof-print's of the moose that ran away from me here.