This last camp was one of the shorter overseas trips I’ve had in quite a while, but we made our time count. We flew over to Germany on the 23rd for just 11 training days. Our coaches designed the camp with a dual focus on high quality jumping and high intensity cross country training. In this short block, we packed in 7 jump sessions, three strength/plyometric sessions, 6 interval workouts on rollerskis, 2 races, and 2 level 1 runs.
Oberstdorf is one of the best places to be this time of year, particularly because they turn on their refrigeration system on the inruns and ice over the track. Despite landing on plastic, we get half the feelings of winter jumping with the smooth, ice track before launching. There’s also a challenging roller ski course just outside of town, where we spent most of our afternoons.
These sessions were our last before we wait for snow to fly, so it was important to dial things in and cement the improvements we’ve been working on all summer. Ideally, by this time of year we’re not making big changes, just fine tuning and setting a good level before the season. However, I went into this camp with some work to do, but I was able to make some big changes throughout the week.
A big part of my ability to make positive changes this trip was an increased focus on the flight phase of my jump. Throughout this summer, my takeoff has gotten fairly consistent. Although sometimes lacking in power or perfect timing, my technique is generally close enough to where I should be able to fly. I came to realize that working to get into an effective flight position is going to be the most beneficial thing that I can do.
Jan Matura, our newest coach, was instrumental in helping me make these changes. Jan came on this summer, primarily to build and alter our jump suits, but he’s stepped into more of an all-around coaching role. Jan just finished up a very successful 15-year career as a ski jumper for the Czech Republic. He’s got a couple World Cup wins under his belt, and has been to four out of the last five Olympics – dating back to Nagano (’98) in his days as a Nordic Combined skier! Add in that his cousin, Tomas, has been working with our team for five years now (first as a wax-tech, now as a coach), and Jan is a perfect fit for us. Jan shared his experience and knowledge from the ski jumping circuit to provide new insights for the entire team. He meshes great with our other coaches, Tomas Martin and Martin Bayer. It felt like they have been a team for ages.
The biggest challenge of this trip was managing the heavy cross country load. We jumped nearly every morning and then hammered out intervals in the afternoon, ranging from 8 x 5 minutes near race pace to 10 x 1 minutes at maximal effort. Whether long and grueling or short and sharp, all our sessions on rollerskis were demanding! Our coaches threw in two races, one in traditional Nordic Combined format off a jumping competition, and another, our last workout of the trip, a mass start. It’s one thing to manage this training load as an endurance athlete, but the real key is to be able to stay fresh, or at least ignore tired legs and still make improvements on the jump.
Amazingly, our whole team seemed to be having better and better sessions as the camp went on. It wasn’t until the last day of jumping when all our bodies seemed to give in. We were hoping to end the trip with a rad session of only far jumps, but tougher conditions and tired legs made things a little more difficult. It was almost uncanny the way we all felt the fatigue, like we had held it at bay until the last minute, and could do no more now. That said, I can still jump with less than 100% strength, and it’s actually an important skill to have in the competition season. It just takes some willingness to acknowledge and accept how my body feels and then focus on what I’m working on.
Packing in this much training, especially while trying to focus on jumping and high intensity cross country training, was definitely a risk. Obviously, jumping at a higher level is the priority for most of our team, but we needed to include this block of training for cross country as a part of our pre-season prep. We didn’t have time or energy for much besides eating, training, technique analysis and sleeping – the true athlete life. This kind of focus is what it takes to maximize training benefit.
We stayed in apartments, rather than a hotel with a meal plan, which ends up being a bit more work but is far more cost effective. Our coaches helped with doing most of the grocery shopping and the cooking. Normally, I’m all for helping in the kitchen, but this trip is was nice to recover after training while the coaches worked on dinner. Tomas was head chef, whipping up some killer meals every night.
Small German towns like the one we stayed in outside of Oberstdorf offer little in the form of distractions. We did indulge in celebrating Halloween, with some candy to share and a horror movie night. Next year, maybe we’ll come prepared with costumes to wear on the jump. (Nick Mattoon showed us up in this department, jumping with a shark suit back in Park City).
As usual, the trip ended with a shuffle of gear. We needed to organize for what we were leaving over in Europe for the winter, skis to get stone-ground in Germany, tools and wax in the appropriate vans, and our own duffels packed for the trip home. There's no way to travel light when you have gear for two sports.
Now we're back in Park City, continuing to prepare for winter and hoping for snow and cold temperatures. Taylor, Bryan and Ben Berend are heading back overseas in just over a week. They'll compete in the opening World Cup in Ruka, Finland. I'll be back in Europe in 30 days to start my season on World Cup in Ramsau, Austria. In the meantime, some of us will be racing against cross country skiers in West Yellowstone over Thanksgiving weekend. Following that, we'll have Winter Start, a prep competition in Steamboat Springs. I'll keep you updated on how the early season goes!
Where am I?