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.
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!
Where am I?