Two weeks ago, most of my team competed in the High Uintas 10,000, a 77 mile race from Kamas, UT to Evanston, WY. As the name implies, it climbs up to over 10,000 feet from around 6000 at the start. The one climb was from mile marker 20 to 30, and from there it's high speed downhill and then flat into Wyoming. If the race had ended at the top of a climb, I might have been able to win my category (Cat-5, which is for bikers without a lot of races or points under their belts). However, I got away in a group of 3 with another off the front on the climb, and we flew through the flats as we caught up with a group of the Master (older) racers that started ahead of us. I ended up 3rd in Cat-5. I need to work on my final sprint!
On Sunday, some of the coaches and athletes from across the US Ski Team put on a hillclimb up around Sundance ski resort. The race was just under 9 miles long and ascended 2800 vertical feet - all uphill, which is exactly my style on a bike. A huge alpine skier or an older coach can't compete with the Nordic guys up a climb like that, so they made it interesting with a handicap system based on power testing on a stationary bike and a shorter bike time trial in PC, or in my case, they said tough luck and threw me in. Below is the start list. The first athlete to start is still rehabbing from a serious knee injury. The next two are PT interns. Sasha, one of the alpine coaches, hung on for the win. I started with Bill Demong, who's Mars heritage is more debatable than it used to be.
Tad Elliot (Nordic) is still one of the best mountain bikers in the US, despite being fully committed to cross country skiing and no longer racing for the national bike team. Taylor Fletcher (Nordic Combined) and Noah Hoffman (Nordic) aren't here, but they caught up soon and finished 3rd and 4th respectively, behind Sasha and Tad. Bill and I couldn't handle there attacks in the last mile or so, but Bill still put on a strong attack at the top to beat me out for 5th.
It was kind of a good thing that a non-Nordic athlete won; that was how the handicap system was designed. Tad finished within 30 seconds of Sasha, and asides from a few stragglers, everyone was surprisingly close at the finish.
A huge thank you is in order to Sundance Ski Resort! Not only did they let us race up there road, but they also fed us at their fabulous breakfast brunch. After the race, of course.
USSA and ski racing photographers were filming the entire event. I felt like I was racing in the Tour de France with the camera car alongside us! I'll post the link if they put together a video, so stay in-tune.
Having just completed Rookie Camp, it's safe to say that I'm fully initiated into USSA (United States Skiing Association). Starting Thursday and ending Saturday afternoon, my teammates Erik Lynch and Michael Ward, 40 other athletes and I were thrown into everything that we should know as we make the step up to the national team. It was a pretty cool experience to meet the other athletes and to learn about all that USSA has to offer.
Rookie camp was especially big this year - 43 athletes out of 189 total athletes on the US Ski and Snowboarding Team. A lot of the new athletes are part of US Freeskiing, which just became a branch of USSA last fall after Halfpipe and Slopestyle skiing and snowboarding received the approval for their Olympic debut in Sochi. They named the A team in December, but the B teams for both the Freeskiing sports are all new athletes. Some of the slopestyle and pipe athletes are already experienced veterans, while one boarder is 13 and two or three were 14 to 15! It's hard to imagine being named to a national team as a middle schooler, but those little punks must be able to huck!
Nancye Rahn, the team's athletic manager, kept us on schedule and plenty busy. I didn't think to take any pictures, but I found a handful posted up on twitter. The first picture below is in the conference room, where we spent most of time, listening and interacting to presentations.
Throughout the camp, we covered everything from USSA's academic and career programs, to nutrition and sport psychology, to financial planning, doping control and community involvement.
Below, X-Game medalists Bobby Brown and Grete Eliason participate in a mock press conference during our communication and media training.
Team building at the National Ability Center. (I know, typically a 4-way tug-of-war battle is not what you think of as a team building exercise. It proved a point though: we didn't get very far pulling in separate ways.)
Here's a list with traits of success that one of the groups came up with during the career planning session. The idea is that as athletes, we are setting ourselves up for success, we just need to acknowledge the skills we learn in sport and then apply them to real life.
And we had some time to play basketball and soccer. I am most likely not about to drain a big jumper here.
All in all, it was a great time really getting to know athletes from other disciplines and USSA as an organization. I came away with a better appreciation of the resources that are available to me. I'm excited to be part of something that is first and foremost dedicated to being the "Best in the World" in skiing, but is also committed to creating well-rounded individuals in all aspects of life.
Finally, real ski jumping today! We've been slowly working our way up from the smallest of hills, and today we had the privilege of jumping on the K90 in Park City. As I mentioned in my last post, two weeks ago we started with the basics on the K20 meter. I think it was a productive way to start the season and focus on some fundamentals, like simply jumping hard. Not that I wanted to stay on the little hills too long, but it was a fun time.
One of the funniest comments I overheard the first day on the 20 was from Bryan Fletcher. "This is going to be weird," he said, "the last hill I jumped was Planica." Planica, as in the K185 ski flying hill that until the opening of Vikersund last winter, was the biggest ski jump in the world.
After the 20 and eventually the 40, we drove over to Steamboat for a three day camp of jumping on the K68 there. That hill is a great jump to train on, but it definitely still feels pretty small. Getting on the 90 today was a lot more fun!
The Norwegian Nordic Combined team arrived last weekend and trained with us today. At the moment they are arguably the best NC team in the world and are especially good jumpers. It was fun to watch them fly, but the take away from a good jump is that it's really simple when done right.
I've been pretty busy lately and haven't been able to get a lot up on here. Last week I started online classes through Westminster College in Salt Lake. I'm just taking two classes, Psychology and Philosophy, but summer classes cover the same material as semester classes in about half the time. I better understand human behavior and thoughts a bit more by the end of the summer!
Where am I?