I’m back in Planica, Slovenia, where I last wrote from. Since then, I spent some time in Stams, Austria and Oberstdorf, Germany, training and competing.
After training in Stams with the younger crew from our team – Ben Loomis, Grant Andres and Stephen Schumann – and some of the junior development athletes, I headed to Oberstdorf for a start in the Summer Grand Prix. Stams, just outside of Innbruck, is over the beautiful Fernpass from Oberstdorf, nestled in the Bavarian Alps. I had the unique opportunity to jump in both Austria and Germany the day before competing – training in Stams, then fore-jumping in the first day of Grand Prix in Oberstdorf. I don’t know about you, but I thought that was pretty cool.
In Oberstdorf, I was eager to get back into the mix of competing. I put down a good enough jump in a tough jumping competition to be in the fight for points. Unfortunately, I was also the only one of my teammates to race, after Ben Berend and Taylor Fletcher were disqualified and Bryan opted to rest his irritated knee, but I used this as extra motivation to represent us well. The race, which started at 8:30 pm, was an exciting 6 laps around the dark city streets below the jump stadium. Having not raced in a pack in 6 months, it was quite a shock to the system to be in a massive group of athletes fighting for points and struggling to hang on with the fastest skiers. I didn’t feel immediately comfortable in the group, and to be honest, its not my favorite race course, but I enjoyed the moment and knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity. Spurred on by a huge cheering section, I managed to finish in 28th, nabbing my first high-level points in two years. Despite all the German fans and European coaches, it almost felt like a home race with coaches, most of my teammates and a squad of juniors and Youth Cup competitors from the US cheering me on. I definitely used their excitement and encouragement to dig deeper than I could have otherwise.
If you’ve been following our social media since Grand Prix, you probably think that we’re part time mountain climbers. I can assure you that we’re working hard on the jumps, in the gym and on our rollerskis, but we have taken advantage of our surroundings more than ever these past few weeks. The day after racing in Oberstdorf, we hiked the nearby Nebelhorn peak, which has a tram servicing the resort running full time. Knowing that we had a solid recovery week ahead and wanting an extra challenge, I opted to run down rather than take the tram. I wouldn’t recommend this option if you want to be able to walk normal the next few days, but now I know that it is possible to descend on foot faster than the three-part tram ride. If you didn't see it already, check out the movie I made with pictures and the fly-through from my GPS watch.
Back in Slovenia, we’ve been exploring the mountains here as well on our distance workouts.
Last weekend, my teammates Grant, Ben, Jasper and I stood atop Triglav, the tallest mountain in Slovenia. We ascended the 2000 vetical meters from the valley floor in thick fog and occasional rain and gusting winds on the final ridgeline to summit. Most of the other hikers out there were decked out with heavy rain gear, packs for overnighting in the surrounding mountain huts, and Via Ferrata safety gear. (Via ferrata equipment allows users to clip into to fixed cables along non-technical but admittedly hairy sections of the trail). On the descent, as the fog cleared and we could see the sheer cliffs falling all the way to the valley below, we understood the rational for their equipment as necessary for anyone with a moderate fear of heights. We were able to travel light, with just our small packs, knowing that there was a mountain “hut” below the summit, where we stopped to warm-up and refuel with coffee, crepes and water for our packs. After around 5.5 hours on the trail, we jogged into the trailhead where we began, feeling surprisingly fresh and immensely satisfied. Now, we've been told that we should apply for Slovenian citizenship, as apparently summiting Triglav is what it takes to be considered a "real" Slovenian.
Below is a gallery from Triglav, and a video that Jasper made similar to my Nebelhorn one.
Since last weekend, it’s been cool and raining more or less non-stop, which isn’t ideal for jumping and particularly pleasant for rollerskiing, but we really can’t complain. For one, the wreckage left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have provided a good dose of perspective. We're lucky to not be affected by the weather for any longer than the amount of time we spend out in it. In addition, we always have the ski tunnel here to ski in. It can be mind-numbing to spin 30 - 50 laps around the underground loop, but it’s awesome to be training on snow and a savior when its 40 degrees and raining.
We also lucked out with mostly dry conditions for our grueling intensity session this week: 8 x 10 minutes intervals at steady state. In total, it takes nearly 3 hours and we covered over 47 km in this single workout. Our coach was there to test our blood lactates with a portable machine, and each test gave us the "good" news that we could keep pushing harder, as we were still within our zone. Despite popular belief, training at low elevation isn't necessarily easier, as we are just able to push harder with the increased oxygen density.
I’ve been working hard on the jumps, knowing that this is where my biggest improvements can be made. All of our team is making great strides on the hills here. Ultimately, the best part about training in Slovenia is the jump facilities. It’s really important for us to jump on modern, low-elevation hills in Europe, and to get on a variety of different jumps. That’s really the only way to get prepared for the World Cup tour where you compete on a new hill every weekend.
Here’s a quick video I made of jumping in Kranj and Planica with my GoPro a couple weeks ago.
Thanks for all the support that allows me to be here. Next week, we'll go to Ramsau, Austria, to jump at two different venues and ski on the Dachstein glacier. Stay tuned for updates, and in the coming days you might be hearing from me asking for your support. Thank you for being a part of the team!
Where am I?