Note: I wrote this article for the American Birkebeiner Birch Scroll Newsletter this fall, but wanted to share it with everyone here
In the final week of August, the international Nordic Combined community unites after a five-month hiatus from competition. This year, over the course of 8 days, we competed in five Summer Grand Prix (SGP) competitions in three locations: Oberweisenthal, GER, Villach, AUT and Oberstdorf, GER. In the moment, these competitions feel almost like any World Cup, but unlike the World Cup season, they quickly wrap up, and its back to training before the real season begins.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an important experience. After months of isolated training, SGP is usually our first good look back at the level of our competitors. On the jumping hill, we almost always have new rules, new equipment, and new techniques to try out. On skis, we can’t reproduce the pack-racing so common in Nordic Combined without a huge competitor field to race against. For me, I love getting back in the competition mindset, and there is no way to recreate a real competition without getting a start. Without this opportunity, it’s a long time from the end of the winter competition season until the start of the next in late November.
For those that race in the Birkie, rather than an eight month break between seasons, you might be looking at 364 days without racing. Then, suddenly, you’re back at the start-line, remembering again how it really feels to have the race ahead of you. However, I’m sure many people take advantage of the Birkie Trail Run or the Fat Tire Festival to get a start on the very trails that the Birkie ski races are held on. As a young teenager, I had the opportunity to race the Birkie Trail Run and Kortelopet in the same year. Sure, the Korte was bigger, but I took the imagery of racing on those trails from one race to the next. The exciting feelings of getting a race start can be replicated in the summer.
I came away from this year’s SGP tour disappointed with my results, but I quickly came to a realization. My coach, Nik Huber, helped boost my spirits with the statement that I needed to hear: in the season, “nobody remembers Summer Grand Prix.”
To quote an old cliché, “skiers are made in the summer.” But, I’ll add to that, skiers are made in the summer, but they’re measured in the winter. Competitions in the summer are important, fun and valuable, but they’re part of the bigger picture.
Knowing this, I kept my sights on my long-term goals after SGP and switched back into work-mode as soon as I could. After a good night’s rest, but just 12 hours after the final race in Oberstdorf, I was back training on the jump hill, feeling reinvigorated and literally counting down the days to the World Cup Opener in Ruka, FIN. From there, we drove to Planica, SLO, where I’m staying with most of my team for a solid block of training. We’re living for an extended time overseas, training at one of the best complexes in the world. With the addition of a couple trips to nearby venues, we’ll be in Planica until late October. It’s an opportunity to put in some really fantastic training time, and with the right focus, I'm confident that I can make huge gains leading into the winter. I’m grateful for my opportunities to compete in the summer (and anytime for that matter) but I’ve got my eyes on the prize: my goals for the World Cup season. For the Birkie community, if you’re like me, I hope that you’re using summer to get all that much more excited for the temps to drop and snow to fly.
Where am I?