Back "Home" in Slovenia
I finally had a spare moment to sit down and write yesterday. Not to say that I haven’t had a chance to post an update in the many months since I’ve been on here, but it hasn’t been a real priority in a while. Today, the greater struggle is bouncing from cafe to cafe searching for a wifi connection that is strong enough to put a post together.
More than ever, this summer flew by. It was broken up nicely by periodic trips and camps: Moab for a “Mental Conditioning Camp” with all of USA Nordic, on-snow time in Bend, OR in late May, Steamboat for a week over the Fourth, and the annual Springer Tournee right before coming over here. Between training, DeVry courses, working at Adolph’s Restaurant and the occasional catering gig, I don’t get much for downtime when I’m in the US. Which is fine – boredom would kill me.
Now that we’re in Europe for a lengthy camp, life is less hectic. Grocery store runs are the extent of errands to be run. The time between morning and evening training sessions is spent with our feet up, “recovering hard,” exactly as athletes should.
Along with the rest of my team, I’ve been at our Euro-training base since flying over a week ago. We’re not in the same apartments that we rented for two months last fall and some of us last winter, but it still always feels like we’re kind of home here in Planica, Slovenia. For the time being, we fix our own breakfast and lunches in the team apartment, and then have (surprisingly great) dinners cooked for us in the hotel every night. When we move back into our usual apartments, we’ll be cooking all our own meals, which actually makes the stay more enjoyable and homey in many ways. Grocery shopping is a different experience here than in the US – small stores, extremely reasonable prices, no need to pay more to get “the good eggs," lunchmeat that probably isn't cancerous, fresh bread (that doesn’t stay fresh for a week), quality muesli and surprisingly good produce.
We eased into training here just enough to acclimate to the time change, but have been at it pretty hard already. Everybody has been psyched to get on the Planica jumps, which are smoother, bigger and provide a lot more pressure under our skis than our home hills. (The jumps in Park City are nice, but the thin air at 7000ft location means that they have significantly less pressure than any jump in Europe).
The Junior National Team joined us on Thursday, after arriving from a week of training in Austria. We’ve been doing most of our sessions with them since, meaning we have a big rad crew out turning heads in Slovenia. Yesterday we drove over a pass in our vans and had our coaches drop us off for a point-to-point double pole rollerski. The ski back was almost 35km, virtually all on bike path, first in Austria, then through Italy, and eventually into Slovenia. One broken pole amongst the juniors – but otherwise no complaints on a training session like that.
Sunday was our off day, and although we still jumped, we spent most of the day lounging at a nearby lake just outside of Kranjska Gora. Besides jumping into the freezing cold water, it was luxuriously relaxing. I realized that I probably spent more time reading and laying on the beach in that afternoon than I did all of my entire time in Hawaii this spring.
On Saturday we held an inter-squad competition to determine who would be heading to Germany for the start of our Summer Grand Prix circuit. Since starting the summer season off in good form I’ve been struggling more on the jump hill over the past weeks. I’ve made improvements since coming over here, but still put myself at a pretty tough disadvantage to start Saturday’s 10km race. Much of the race played out in front of me on the tight and technical 2km rollerski track. After overtaking Ben Berend, who led the jumping, the Fletcher brothers established a clear lead. Farther back, I moved from past Grant and Stephen and the fight for fourth was on between Jasper and I. Jasper skied really strong for the third and fourth laps, and on the following and final lap, I was only able to cross the line in fifth, six seconds behind Jasper.
All-in-all, it was a good day for the team; we all threw down huge improvements over our times on the same course last fall. Taylor set our course record by nearly a minute and a half, and I improved by over two minutes. We’ve been putting a big emphasis on maintaining V2 technique in our training so far this summer, and it looks like it’s going to pay off.
Below are some pictures from training and the race. Most of them are from Ben, who's unfortunately not back to jumping after a broken collarbone in early July.
Later after the race, I reinvigorated with a quick evening recovery run that turned into a bit of an adventure – just the sort of thing that I thrive off. I left the dirt road that I was on in favor of a stream bed, and before I knew it I was hopping from rock to rock, then scrambling up sections of waterfall in the middle of the stream. I could have spent that hour running on a flat path, but honestly I think this sort of workout from time-to-time makes me a better athlete – and at the least a happier person.
The results of Saturday’s competition mean that I won’t be starting in the Grand Prix in Oberweisenthal, Germany or Tschagguns, Austria. But because of how close we were, I’ll most likely be in for following events in Oberstdorf, Germany on August 25th and 26th. I’ll be excited to see how my teammates do in the first events, and in the meantime the rest of the team will be getting great training in. Grant, Stephen, Ben (Loomis) and myself will stay here in Planica until next Monday, then head to Stamms, AUT, just outside of Innbruck, for a few days before Oberstdorf. We’ll continue training with the Junior team, under newly appointed coach Tomas Matura – formerly our COC wax tech and generally awesome dude from the Czech Republic.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and expect more frequent updates from me in the near future. I’m in Europe until early October, so there should be lots of great training, competition and experiences ahead.
Where am I?