We drove to Park City for the second time of the summer on Sunday. Starting tonight, the week gets going with a jumping competition, followed by a roller ski race tomorrow. This is part of the Springer Tournee, an annual tournament that Park City puts on. Friday we have the first leg of National Championships, with a competition on the big hill (K120). Nordic Combined and small hill nationals will be in Fox River Grove, IL, this September. The Ski Team just got back from a trip to Germany and France, so basically everybody is here, with jumpers from the East, Central, and west. It'll be a busy and fun week, but this is just the start of things.
After Park City, we're back in Steamboat for all of three days before heading to Europe for 4 weeks! We're going to into Prague, and train in Slovakia, Poland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The best part is that we'll be training and competing alongside the Czech team for the entire time. I'm sure we'll be able to learn all from them. I'll make sure keep you posted along the way!
For the last few weeks my team has been meeting with a sports psychologist as part of our training program. The psychologist, Luke Brosterhous, has a fair amount of experience working with skiers (given that he lives in Steamboat). As an athlete he was actually a PGA tour golfer. It might seem a little odd to have a golfer coaching ski jumpers, but the two sports really have a lot in common. Golf and ski jumping movements are too short to really think about, both are simple in theory, but require complete composure to execute consistently. In short, this guy knows his stuff - and comes off more as professor or doctor than a "shrink".
The first session started off with concentration exercises - basically a form of meditation. All you have to do is sit and think about nothing but your breathing, but it's not at all easy for a guy like me. From this base of mental training, we moved into imagery. Any athlete can benefit from this, but in a sport like ski jumping, when you can only practice the movement a handful of times a day, imagery can be a huge tool. I also like to use imagery to practice pacing and pushing the limits on the XC side.
Luke talked about a study where the researchers looked at interviews of superior athletes after winning championships, looking for the key mental state for success. I would have thought that it would be confidence or determination, but the feelings that the athletes spoke of most was gratitude. Those that were simply happy to get the chance to compete, to show others there best, were able to outperform their competitors.
To help establish this state of mind, Luke gave us a pre-competition perspective exercise. For this, we imagine ourselves training and competing, and slowly pull back our mind's view until we were looking down from space, seeing millions, billions of people just trying to find water, food to eat, or a way to earn money. The idea is not to diminish our hard work, but to feel grateful for the opportunities that we have.
Last week, Luke told a story from when he taught golf in India a number of years ago. While walking to the course everyday, a couple local boys started to follow him. He could tell that they were pretty poor kids, but couldn't communicate with them much. A few times he let play with his clubs as he walked. One day, no one else was going to be at the golf club, so he asked the kids if they wanted to come in and hit some balls for a bit. They looked at him as if he had just asked them to go to the moon, and actually teared a little as he brought them in. At the time, Luke wasn't really sure how to react - it was only golfing, but these kids were absolutely overjoyed to spend an hour in a driving range. I know I certainly wouldn't be that excited about it, and when I think about it, everyday I take hundreds of things for granted that these kids may never experience.
That was quite a busy birthday celebration. The 4th of July, and the week leading up to it, is always one of my favorite times in Steamboat. Starting last Monday we held another camp with the Ski Team. It was a fairly normal week of training, but it's more fun when we're alongside the Team.
In the past years we've always had some pretty intense "Juniors" vs. Ski Team full-field soccer games. The seem to result in bitter feelings our side, and occasionally have been known to end in bruises, sprained ankles, and sore heads. They're a big deal though. Last year, we held a soccer practice before one of the games. This year, however, no one was hurt, and we, the juniors, evened up the series for this year with a decisive 3 - 1 victory. It probably helped that the Ski Team's head coach, DJ, wasn't there, as he's possibly the most skilled and competitive soccer player of everyone.
Besides soccer games, and the usual biking, jumping, rollerskiing, weights, etc, we also raced another time trial this week. It was the same one we did earlier in June. Although I still didn't finish exactly where I would of like to, I was a half a minute faster than last time, and all you can ask for is improvement.
A little patriotic body-paint for the race.
Competition started on Sunday morning with a jumping comp. These results determined the start order for the rollerski race on the 4th. This race is different from anything that we do - it's a 2km sprint race up and down Lincoln Avenue, downtown Steamboat Springs. I've never been much of a sprinter, but I still had fun and enjoyed the big crowd lining the streets. My teammate, Michael Ward, finished 2nd, which was pretty cool, behind Todd Loddwick and ahead of Olympian and World Championship team members Taylor and Bryan Fletcher.
After the race we had an elimination longest standing competition. This was by far the highlight of my weekend! I haven't done well in a long-standing for a while, but I had a really good feeling about this one. I even went so far as to tell my coach and some of the other skiers that I was going to win, not out of cockiness, but more of a, "why not?"
The format was 4 rounds of jumping where they cut the field down from the original 30-some to 24, then to 12, and to the final round of 6. Each age-class had a different gate cap - or limit to the amount of allowed inrun speed. This sort of evened out the playing field, and allowed the spectators to see a lot of long jumps, as the gate-caps were fairly generous.
For the final two rounds I was immediately after Ben (my 13 year-old brother). He put down some pretty big jumps throughout the rounds, and on the last jump he went 74.5 meters - the farthest so far. At the top, we all knew we had to up our game. There was a little headwind and I pulled off a good jump, and somehow managed to land at 77 meters. I actually fell in the grass but made it past the "fall-line" without touching.
It was a pretty fun competition to win, especially because I edged out my brother and was awarded the pot that the generous crowd had contributed! Those few jumps were probably some of my more exciting and most confident competition jumps I've had.
Where am I?