It's a bit strange to be sitting here and writing a recap for World Juniors. For one thing, that means the season is nearly over, and for another, it's fairly difficult to sum up the whole week in one entry. In short, it was an awesome week. A few things didn't go as planned, but the experiences where awesome and I had one day in particular to be very proud of.
The week kicked off with a bang Monday night at an impressive opening ceremonies. All the teams were bused down to the hockey rink from last year's University Games. After a cool presentation of all the countries flags and a couple speeches, they brought in the Atatürk University Dance team for an epic performance. The "dance" lasted over an hour and included (from what I interpreted) a wide variety of Turkish dances, a planned marriage, a shocking unveiling of women in soldier uniforms, and some incredible drumming at the end. The organizers and city of Erzurum made it quite clear that they were incredibly proud to be hosting these championships and would do all they could to ensure the athletes had a great time.
Before our first competition we had a couple days of official jump training and some time to ski the course, although our whole team had already been here and knew what to expect. In the evenings, we had down time to hang out with the rest of the US team - jumpers and XC skiers, as well as some of the foreign athletes that I've gotten to know.
Our first event was the individual comp with a 10km race. I wasn't completely satisfied with my jump, which put my in 36th place, the points spread was pretty close, so I really wasn't that far out. I moved up steadily throughout the race, constantly fighting through spastic packs of skiers.
I ended up going over the last big climb in 10th, but really had nothing left in my tank and finished the race in 12th. No matter what, I was really happy with my race and am quite satisfied with a 12th at my first ever World Championship event. Mattia Runggaldier, an Italian, took home the gold, after skiing a really impressive race and putting down the fast time. I was the third fastest skier of the day, which I was also pretty happy about.
We've known all winter that we had a real chance at getting on the podium in the team event if we were all on our game. Unfortunately, we weren't quite there. We put down solid jumps - Erik especially, and started the 4 x 5km race in 7th, just 32 seconds out of the podium. Michael "scrambled," or lead off, and skied a hellova leg to put us in 3rd, right ahead of Finland. We hung on for a while, but there's a lot of fast skiers out there and we were a little handicapped with Erik being sick and at this point I was pretty congested as well. I anchored, but the combination of skiing alone and being sick didn't work out - not to make excuses - but I didn't ski a great race and started and finished in 8th.
Saturday, the last day of competition wasn't really my day. I was congested and coughing a lot, so I didn't have the usual confidence in my racing. As a result, I put a lot of pressure on my jumping and tried way too hard to go far. I should know this by now, but trying harder just doesn't work in ski jumping. So I jumped myself out of the race, especially because it was a 5km. I started in 42nd, over 2 minutes out of the lead. I was a little discouraged and frustrated at the start, but I skied the hardest race I could. I ended up 34th, and had the 18th race time. One of the pluses of the race was I had a strong finish and won a photo finish. I always like to practice my lunges to the line and that may have been the first time I was actually in a photo finish.
On Thursday, we went and watched girls jumping competition. Sarah Hendrickson threw down two deep jumps to win a silver medal. She's been lighting up the World Cup this year and really deserved the medal! It was the second silver for the US, we soon found out, as Noah Hoffman had just finished 2nd in the U23 15km classic race for cross country.
Friday and Saturday we also got to watch the men's skate portion of the "skiatholon" event before our races started. The junior's raced a 20km (half classic, half skate) and the U23's a brutal 8 lap 30km. I was absolutely blown away at the level of skiing in these races. The winning time for the 20km was under 50 minutes and 30 seconds. My 10km time, to give some perspective, was 25:58, and that wasn't after classic skiing and switching poles and skis mid-race!
On Sunday, I spent some time resting my lungs and body, and then had an awesome day in the city getting a bit of a feel for the Turkish culture with my parents. I'll put more up on that tomorrow, but that's it for now!
As to be expected, we encountered a few hiccups along the road, but made it into Erzurum with all our gear last night. No matter how you do it it's a long journey to get here. We flew to Munich on Thursday/ Thursday night and spent the day in Munich. (Actually in the Munich airport hotel, the Moevenpick). The highlights of Friday included the epic breakfast buffet at the hotel, and continuing the traditional of always seeming to get lost when we're in Munich while going for a run from the Moevenpick.
Yesterday we flew to Istanbul and then to Erzurum. We had almost 5 hours between flights, but needed most of it when we realized that our second flight was out of a different airport! Apparently there aren't any direct flights from the main Istanbul airport to Erzurum, which our coach didn't realize that when he booked our tickets. Anyways, it worked out just fine. The airlines arranged for a van and a driver for us to pile into, and we got a bit of a tour of the city on the hour long drive to other airport. However, it would have been nice if we had known this ahead of time. The Swedish Ski Team was on the same flights as us, and after getting their bags, took a bus from the airport, rode on a ferry to an island for lunch, drove around the city a bit more, and then arrived at the next airport. Someone on their team is organized.
It was a bright sunny day in Erzurum today. They have a lot more snow since we were here at the beginning of the year, so the cross course is awesome. We're staying at a different hotel than last time, but I'd say it's even nicer. About half the teams are staying here - which is a lot of people between Jumping, Combined and Cross Country. It's fun to be able to hang out with the cross country team and see some of the other athletes from around the world. Tomorrow things get going with official training in the morning and opening ceremonies at night.
We've been in Steamboat for almost a month now, which feels like forever, with as often as I'm used to being on the road.
The first thing I did since getting back was the DU Invite, a nordic race at Devils Thumb Ranch, CO. Cliff, Michael and I drove over for the day to get some experience in a mass start against some tough college racers. In the chaos of the start I ended up breaking the basket of both my poles - but no the tip itself. Fortunately, the trail was so hard-packed that it really didn't matter at all, but I was pretty lucky not to break a pole instead. The so-called "15km" race ended up being a brutal 17 km that took over 50 minutes, which is about twice the time it typically takes to do a 10km. It was really important to work my way up towards the front at the beginning of the race, and although I would have liked to get farther up sooner in the race, I was pretty happy with my performance and ended up 12th. After the race, I talked with a Norwegian who had just got over to attend and race for DU second semester. He was from the city of Trondheim, which has a major jumping complex and program. It turned out that he was friends with a lot of the Norwegian Combined skiers that I've gotten to know while competing. I thought it was pretty wild to run into somebody who knew people that I know from across the world!
I also got the chance to get up on the mountain for a day with Spencer and Tyler. Although the mountain was a little bare by most standards, it's still a blast to be up there on a bluebird day. I learned to tele ski last year, and can lay down some decent turns, but the next day is always a bit of a struggle getting out of bed.
Here I'm racing in the Junior National Qualifier the weekend before last. It was a warm day so I decided to bring out my one-piece lycra suit that I where under my jumping suit.
This last weekend was Winter Carnival, which is Steamboat's excuse to celebrate winter for a week. To an out- of-towner, it feels like New Year's or 4th of July, with parades, a light show and fireworks at Howelson. But to locals, it's as natural as any other holiday on the calender. Saturday we participated in the 100m downtown nordic sprint races and some of the younger skiers stuck around to do the skijoring behind horses next. Later that night, we jumped at Howelsen and put on a show for a crowd. After us, a procession of glow-stick lit alpine skiers ski in unison down Howelsen Hill, and then comes the "lighted man." This is another crazy tradition where somebody skis down the face while fireworks shoot of from his body.
Now we have a few more training sessions before we make the trip back to Turkey for World Juniors. Tomorrow we'll do one more race to keep our body going fast. We head out Thursday, spend one night in Munich, and will be in Erzurum by Saturday night. The week after that should be a fun one!
Where am I?