It's finally, no already, that time of year. I’ve hung up my jump suits; race skis wait with storage wax, and a duffel bag with a handful of remaining items refuses to unpack itself. After nearly 4 months of weekly travel and competitions, we were all more than ready to get home and relax for a bit. If I let myself tally up all the time in a van, on a plane or sharing a euro hotel bed, it was, to say the least, enough. We spend the last week dreaming of all the food we'd eat (namely burritos and burgers) and the days of Park City sunshine that lay ahead. Yet at the same time, a part of me didn't want the season to end. It seemed like it just began when I start looking back at the days of competition.
I had all the opportunities that I could ask for this winter. I competed in every weekend of World Cup, raced twice at World Championships, and skied in one Continental Cup. The only races that I sat out were 4 World Cup’s that I didn’t qualify for and can’t say I wasn’t given the opportunity for.
In many ways, this was the best season of my career to-date. I improved my jumping, consistently raced in the top third, sometimes quarter, of the field in terms of race time. Most importantly, I broke into the points on three occasions. My last competition of the season, in Trondheim, Norway, was a great example of how the whole year went. I had one of my best competition jumps in terms of execution, but the field was extremely tight and I was all the way back in 44th after jumping. From the start, I tried to keep up with Taylor, who skied the fastest time of the day, and ended up skiing up to inches away from the points, finishing in 31st in a photo finish. So, in reality, I had a solid day on both sides for my own level, certainly performing far better than I would of a year ago, but yet, I was just shy of points. In short, it was a good day, but I wanted more.
That’s how I see this season, I’m happy, but I wanted even more. I worked towards the goal of finishing in the top-50 of the World Ranking List, which is a criterion for nations quota and A-team status. In the end, I fell in at 55th. Happy, but never satisfied, is a phrase for a good athlete’s mindset that I once heard a coach say.
The above gallery is from Trondheim and below is Oslo. You won't hear any complaints from ending our season in Norway. I didn't compete in Oslo, which was right after Tronheim, and only for the top-30 in the season standings, but the Holmenkollen is a spectacular event to spectate. The Nordic Combined 15km season finale was right before the 50km for the cross country skiers. Year after year, the crowds at Holmenkollen rival any World Championship race, with rowdy Norwegians lining the race course, some of them even camping out nights before at the prime spots.
After just a day at home, Bill, Bryan, Taylor, Ben and I spent the better part of two days participating in a corporate retreat with Basin Holdings. Basin came on this year as a big sponsor of USA Nordic Combined. It was a great opportunity to develop relationships and learn from each other. All the Basin guys were really interested to learn from us, as elite athletes. But from my perspective, these guys (and the one brave girl in the bunch) were the elites to learn from and an honor to be around. The CEO, who put the initial plans for the trip together with Bill Demong, obviously understands that we could both learn from each other, and from the chance to expand our usual horizons. The highlight for most everyone was learning biathlon down at Soldier Hollow, and then racing in a team relay. None of them were cross country skiers before that morning, but they sucked up the thin mountain air, raced their hearts out and demonstrated just as much desire to win as any athlete.
We had organized discussions of teamwork, innovation, commitment, focus, and other ingredients to success in any pursuit. But we also had more casual, relaxed conversations over meals and developed relationships that we hope to continue to build. After a long season with a very small group of people, I came away from this incredible opportunity with fresh perspectives on the idea of success.
As I realize that the notion of putting my feet up is a challenge in itself, it’s already time to get excited about next year. During the season, I try to keep thoughts away such thoughts like: “we should have done this, next year we’re going to train like this.” But now, I’m free to evaluate, scheme, dream and plan all I want. Mapping the road for the next season, and the years to come, is one of my favorite parts of this time of year.
Now I’m taking this time “off” to rest and decompress, while also addressing goals from last year and writing down new goals. Goal setting is incredibly important, but perhaps the most important (and often over-looked aspect) is taking the time to assess which goals where accomplished, which were not, and finding explanations.
Next week we’ll be back into organized training, starting with strength and treadmill testing, then moving into building up a strong base of strength and low-end endurance work. It's nearly time to get back into running and biking shape, but while the last of the meager snowpack lasts, I'll try to spend as much time on skis in the backcountry as possible.
Where am I?