I suppose that one perk of being in a very small sport (relatively speaking) is that we have an easier time controlling our exposure to each other and to the Coronavirus in general. Compared to a soccer team or a football team with dozens of athletes, our team currently in Park City includes 6 athletes and 2 coaches. Our small size has allowed us to function surprisingly similar to the way we would in a season without the Coronavirus while still taking the measures necessary to stay healthy. These past few weeks of training have been productive and hard, but to be able to train with the team has been great.
As you can expect, we haven't done any traveling yet this summer which has meant lots of training in Park City and at Soldier Hollow in Midway, UT. Our team hired (or re-hired?) a new jump coach, Chris Gilbertson, and he has been with us since the middle of July. Chris (aka Gilbo) was the US Nordic Combined jump coach in the era of Bill Demong, Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, and the Fletcher brothers when they had a lot of success at the World Cup and Olympics, so Gilbo knows what it is like to taste victory and wants this era of athletes to be even better than our predecessors. So far, I have really liked Gilbo's coaching style and I think with the necessary work this summer and fall he can help us all jump at a much higher level next season. We've started making changes and I really like the direction that our whole team is moving in with a new coach.
On the cross country side of things, we've been able to train as a team together for most of our intensity sessions while still doing most of our easy workouts on our own to try and keep ourselves healthy and limit our exposure to the Rona. We've done a few time trials (TTs) down at Soldier Hollow and I was happy to see improvements between our first TT and the second. My teammate Taylor Fletcher, who is known for being one of the fastest skiers out there, is skiing insanely fast at the moment, which is motivating myself and my teammates to step up our game. It still is only August so even though I'm not feeling like I'm skiing at my top level now, I've still got a few months to improve before the winter season starts again.
And that's about it for now! Without travel or any major training camps, life has been pretty calm compared to a normal year of competitions and trips. But being in Park City for the summer definitely has its perks! We've spent a lot of time jumping at home, which gets a bit boring, but I'm still grateful that we're able to jump as much as we have been. And I've been able to do a lot of training in town roller skiing, running, and biking, which is always fun. I have avoided almost all public places and events this summer, which has allowed me to prioritize staying healthy and making sure that I can train without putting myself at risk. My biggest exposure to possible Rona has been going to work, but I view that as necessary because I still need to pay for this sport. I'd love to be a fully funded athlete with sponsors and organizations funding my training, but for now I need to work in order to compete, but hopefully that will change soon.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Welp, every single thing about 2020 has been different than every other year, so it makes sense for the training year to be different as well. With all of the craziness happening in the world, starting with the coronavirus outbreak (and nightmarish handling of the disease by the US government), followed by the protests and riots against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States, my training has felt extremely insignificant compared to everything else happening in the world. I've been very limited in my social media presence because I feel that what I am doing doesn't need the same attention as the national and international crises that we are experiencing, so if you've been wondering what my spring has been like, this post is going to be my sparknotes summary of the last three and a half months.
Starting with the end of the season, my teammate Grant and I made it home from Europe the day after Trump banned all Europeans from entering the United States. We were in the middle of Russia (literally the middle) on Wednesday when we got news that Trump was barring all travel from Europe starting Friday. With no clarity on how the travel bans were going to impact us, we both thought that we were going to be stuck either in Russia or Central Europe until the travel ban ended. Luckily, we were able to fly home on Saturday and made it home without issues. I spent the mandatory 2 week post-travel quarantine at my dads house and watched lots of Netflix and did schoolwork.
Following the 2 week isolation, I started doing some ski touring with my friends and teammates (with appropriate distancing) and some cross country skiing. This year was the first year since I started skiing 18 years ago that I haven't skied in a ski resort all year, since they were closed when I came home.
We started our training year again in April, but instead of doing team training like we usually would, almost every session was done on my own. Something new this year was that I also wrote my own training plan for the first part of the year, so it'll be interesting to see if that pays of later in the year.
Our first official team training session didn't happen until June 1, and we kicked our team training off with a brutal session: the Agony Hill TT. Any nordic athlete in Utah has probably done Agony Hill TT in their career so they know how steep and terrible it is, but if you haven't heard of it, it is just under a 1 mile course with 1,200 feet of climbing. Within the first minute of the TT, my heartrate was at 195bpm, and I peaked at 208bpm. That was the highest my heart rate had gone in about 9 months. With only 5 of us running, and each of us starting 1 minute apart so that we were never too close to each other (for Covid purposes), it was an individual TT. But, everyone set a new PR so thats a positive! My teammate Taylor was fastest at 13:28, I was at 13:51, and the rest of my team was between 14:30 and 15:50. Overall a great day for all of us I'd say!
We also got to start jumping as a team again, though that also looks different than a normal year. We all change outside from the trunks of our cars, can't share a seat on the chairlift, and aren't allowed to do normal immotation jumps with our coaches, but we are jumping at least! I'm guessing that we'll spend a lot of time jumping in Park City this summer but I think I'm looking forward to it!
And that's how coronavirus has changed the spring. We won't be travelling to Steamboat Springs for the 4th of July this year, for obvious reasons, so I get to spend the 4th in Park City for the first time in probably 10 years! After that, the rest of the summer is up in the air for travel and competitions, so we are very much playing it by ear for the summer. Oh well, stay tuned!
It seems like it was the middle of the summer yesterday, but we're already through the first period of competitions for the 2019/20 winter season. My team and I started the winter with the "snow premiere" event in Falun, SWE in mid-November. This was my first time in Sweden, and while it didn't exceed my expectations of being a winter wonderland (it was rainy and warm most of the week), it was great to get back on snow that early in the season. We were able to jump on the K90 in Falun, and they groomed out about a 1.2km loop of snow near the cross country stadium and the ski jumps. It wasn't nearly as much snow as we had hoped for, but at least it was snow. Plenty of other teams were still jumping on plastic and roller skiing while we were in Sweden, and being able to get on snow as early as possible gave us an advantage.
Following the week in Falun, we travelled to Lillehammer, NOR for another week of solid training. In Lillehammer we were greeted by snow, cold temperatures, two functional ski jumps, and dozens of kilometers of cross country skiing. Additionally, we began to work with our teams new ski jumping coach, Gregor Linsig. Gregor has been coaching since I was born, and needless to say he knows a lot about ski jumping. We're all super stoked to have him with the team and all see the potential for big improvements on the ski jumping hill. Once our week of training in Lillehammer, NOR was finished, four of my teammates flew home and myself and Taylor Fletcher flew to Ruka, FIN to kick off the world cup season.
The competitions in Ruka are the first World Cups of the year for both Nordic combined and Cross Country skiing, and the Mens ski jumping world cup has their second event of the year here as well. This was my first time starting the season on World Cup which is both really gratifying and kind of stressful. It is gratifying in the sense that I made it, this is the top level of the sport. All of the training that I had done during the summer had paid off and earned me a spot on the World Cup team. It is kind of stressful in the sense that I made it, this is the top level of the sport. The people I am competing against are World Cup winners, Olympic and World Champions, Crystal Globe winners. It is extremely hard to not put extra pressure on yourself when you compete at that level. Of course you want to do your best, which usually means trying harder, which usually leads to doing worse. I 100% experienced that. None of the progress that I had made during ski jumping training the week before was prevalent during competition in Ruka because I think I was trying too hard. I wanted to prove that I belong at the World Cup level, which I believe on a good day that I do. However, for that opening World Cup weekend, none of my good days happened, and that showed on the results sheet.
Following disappointing weekends during both the Ruka and Lillehammer World Cup weekends, my coaches and I decided it would be more beneficial to return home to Park City a little bit early and compete at the Continental Cups that occurred this past weekend. Immediately following the decision to come home, I felt that I had failed. I was devastated that I hadn't even done well enough to stay at the competitions. After giving it a few hours of thought, I realized that the biggest thing that I had lost during the opening World Cups was my confidence, and that was also the biggest thing that I could gain by coming home to the Continental Cups.
I had a bit of a rough first day during the Continental Cup. I was only able to jump to 32nd place and ski up to 25th. This was also my first full 10k race of the season, and my first hard session after being at altitude after a month at roughly sea level.
The following day we did a mass start race, where all athletes start the cross country race at the same time and then compete in the ski jumping competition afterwards. I skied with a lot more confidence during the mass start and skied the 12th fastest time, less than a minute back from the winner. During the competition I had a jump that I was more pleased with and finished the day in 11th, my best mass start result! On Sunday, I had my best-feeling competition jump and started the race in 21st place. The race on Sunday was perhaps the most aggressively I have ever skied during a race. I skied exactly how I wanted to ski and didn't let anyone else get in my way. I finished the day in 10th place, with the 5th fastest time, and was happy to end the week on a high note. I'm hoping to build on those results and feelings when the Continental Cup season resumes after New Years!
If I had to guess I'd say that I've spent the last 7 years in Steamboat Springs, CO on the 4th of July. As an athlete, you become very accustomed to traveling and spending time away from home, but luckily since I've spent so much time in Steamboat over the years it almost feels natural to be there, especially on the 4th of July. This year was no different. My teammates and I put in a pretty productive few days of training and had a blast with the competitions that the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club puts on every year.
Perhaps the most valuable part of our annual camp in Steamboat is the Fish Creek Time Trial that the US Nordic combined team has done every year since 2007 (before I even knew what Nordic combined was). Since we do it every year, it is super easy to track progression in our fitness and see how much we improve each year. We started the TT this year super early, mostly because of the heavy traffic on the road and partially so that we can finish early before it is too hot. We started this year at 7am and follow a reverse-order start list with the younger, less experienced athletes going first and working backwards until the top level national team athletes. I was seeded at 2nd to last, just in front of Taylor Fletcher who has put up the fastest time for 9 of the last 10 years. I felt like I started well, but at about the halfway point of the course there are two super steep hills that we refer to as "the wall". I hit the wall and had a very pukey feeling in my stomach, and had to slow my pace a bit to keep me from blowing up super hard before the finish. Even with the pukey stomach feeling, I was able to finish in 24:43, the second fastest time of the day and only 4 seconds slower than last year. Taylor put up the fastest time at 23:50 and my teammate Stephen had the 3rd fastest time of the day at 25:32.
What was more impressive than our team's results was all the up-and-comers that did the time trial this year! We had 11 athletes from the Junior National Team and Fly Guys camp participate which is a huge step in helping make these kids faster!
Summertime and summer training are well underway here in Park City. Climate change is still 120%, undeniably real, but at this point in the summer we have been blessed with cool temperatures and only a few days jumping into the 80°s, which has been absolutely wonderful because I hate the heat and I hate how sweaty I get in that heat. Not to worry though, I'm sure in a few weeks we'll be back at the normal summer temperatures and I'll be saying "Holy wah, I can't wait for winter to come back".
Shortly after we returned from our on-snow training camp in Bend, OR we got back on the ski jumping hill in Park City. It is always exciting to get back on the hill for the first time in a season and this season was no different. Our head ski jumping coach, Jan Matura, flew to Park City from his home in the Czech Republic to be with us for the first jumps of the season. The combination of Jan and our team director, Nick Hendrickson, on the jump hill was super beneficial and I'm happy that our team has such a dedicated staff that genuinely wants us to improve. An added bonus for the first jumps of the year was having Stephen Schumann, one of my teammates and best friends, back on the hill for the first time since he unfortunately blew out his knee last July. We still don't have our full team at the moment, but it was great to have a strong group of us back on the hill for some productive training sessions.
Kind of new this summer as well is an increase in the amount of running that our team has been doing. We've already done over 20 hours of running training this year which has been a nice change up from roller skiing. With the great snow year that we had in Park City there is still a bunch of snow up high on the trails, and we've hit snow on a few of our runs. I made a vlog of one of the recent runs that we did and you can check that out at this link.
We also made our first trip
Hello, people. I told both myself and whoever reads this that I was going to be more active with posting updates to let you know what I've been up to but I have done a terrible job of that. So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to start with a paragraph to wrap up the winter and then start fresh with what I've been up to this spring. Here goes somethin'.
I finished out the winter by competing at the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria and then at the Continental Cup Finals in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. World Championships in Seefeld was my first big championship event (aside from World Junior Championships) and it was overall an unbelievable experience. I didn't have quite the results I was hoping for but I also went into the event mostly looking to gain the experience of competing in that scale of an event. I ended up finishing 45th in the individual event and skied to 10th place in the team event. Nothing special results-wise, but getting the chance to represent my country and compete in front of 13,000 people was a great experience that I'm happy I got to have at just 19 years old. Next time I'll be there to win.
After World Championships I competed at the Continental Cup Finale in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. I had a pretty bad weekend and had some bad jumps and below average races. I think I was a bit burned out after a long season, but thankful that I got the chance to travel and compete at that event. I finished 21st overall in the Continental Cup Rankings, much higher up than the 110th place from last year!
Here are some pictures from the World Championships event (Courtesy of Romina Eggert).
Springtime to now:
The day after I came home from spending three months in Europe I drove with a friend down to the desert of southern Nevada to go on a rock climbing trip. It was a super nice change after finishing out the winter in icy, cold Russia. We did a few days of rock climbing and met some new friends, and overall I had a blast! Here are some photos from that week.
After I came home from the desert I got to spend a lot of time backcountry skiing which is a new activity for me that I really enjoy. Skiing at the resorts is still super fun, but I really enjoy the exploration that backcountry skiing brings. I took an avalanche course as well so that I gained some knowledge in order to stay safe in the backcountry.
We started our next training year in the beginning of April with a new coach and a revamped team spirit. We are all looking forward to the future and are excited to work our asses off to be the best team in the world.
Currently we are on our first team training camp of the year in Bend, Oregon. We come up here to ski on snow at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center as well as bike on all of the sweet trails in the area. This is one of the most fun camps of the year and I'm psyched with how it has gone so far! We'll be here for about another week and then its back to Park City to dive into more training at home. Like I said at the start of this, I will try my best to be a little bit more frequent with my posts! In the meantime, here is a vlog from our Bend camp.
What’s up, sports fans? I don’t know if anyone actually follows along on these blog updates, but if you do I’m sorry for the long gap between posts. Needless to say I have been super busy with training, school, life, and vlogging and blanked about keeping my blog up to date. But here we go.
The last time I posted was the beginning of September. To keep you from getting bored reading about the last 3 months of my life, I am going to do a recap of each month in 3 sentences each. Here we go.
My team and I came home from Europe on September 1st after an awesome camp of competing in Summer Grand Prix. We did a lot of jumping, bike riding, and all raced in the Red Bull 400 in Park City, where USA Nordic had 5 athletes in the top 10! After having a nice mental break from travel and competition during a month at home, we headed back to Europe for our final camp of the summer.
Our final camp of the summer essentially felt like 4 week-long camps in one; we spent a week jumping and training in Slovenia, a week in Ramsau, Austria skiing on a glacier (or what was supposed to be a glacier thanks to good ol’ climate change), then we went to Croatia for a week, and finally spent a week in Germany training on the ice track in Oberstdorf, GER. This was a really tough camp for me both physically and mentally, and I really struggled to keep up my normal positive attitude in the last few days of our trip. This was really tough for me also because it made me feel like I was not where I needed to be this close to the start of the real competition season.
I used November as a month of reassurance that everything that I had done throughout the summer was worth it. I dug myself out of the hole that I was in during October and had really strong intervals, a strong race in West Yellowstone, MT, and then boosted my mentality back to above normal. I went from questioning my life in October to being to excited to compete again all in the span of three weeks!
And thats how we made it to December! It’s only the 4th day of the month but its already been an eventful December. The first weekend of the month was spent in Steamboat Springs, CO for Winterstart, the first competitions of the year for both ski jumping and Nordic combined. I’m happy to say it went well! I was able to keep my head in a happy place and jump and race really well. I took the win in the Nordic combined race and finished 2nd in the Ski Jumping competition as well. Needless to say this got me excited for the rest of the winter! I’ll be traveling home for about a week and then headed right back to Steamboat to kick of the Continental Cup season. Stay tuned!
There is a common idea that the world's best athletes train and focus on their sport 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Yes, it takes an immense amount of focus and drive to be a professional athlete, but the idea of training 24-7 is incredibly misleading. With anything you do, if you don't give yourself a break you will burn out. This is no different for professional sports. Don't get me wrong, becoming a world class athlete takes years of commitment and dedication to your chosen sport, but with as much training as it takes, it also takes a large amount of rest to get the most out of the training that you do.
For myself, the training season essentially spans from April to March, with usually a 2-3 week break in between seasons. That means that outside of the 2-3 week break in the spring, Nordic combined dominates my time for the rest of the year. With the exception of the occasional-to-frequent afternoons off and typical-to-expected Sundays off from organized training, we pretty much train twice a day, most days. While my team does a good job of keep training interesting (usually by going for cool workouts, keeping each other entertained, and making sure that we don't get too repetitive), I still find it hard sometimes to keep myself from getting mentally/physically drained throughout the year.
This season, I have made rest and recovery a higher priority than I have in the past. Admittedly, I have done a terrible job of resting in the past. Last summer, for example, I took courses at the University of Utah, worked full time as a zip line/ropes course guide, and trained full time as an athlete which was wayyyy too much to put on myself. I was pretty cooked at the end of every day, and it took realizing how awful I felt to make myself change. So, this summer, I worked less, only took one class online, and prioritized spending my off days off.
Off days are super important when you spend as much time training as my team does. Not only is it a physical break, it is also a mental break. Having a day, or even just an afternoon, to not think about what your next training session is, if you’ve eaten enough food to make it through the session, if your equipment is dialed for the day, or making sure you have enough sunscreen is a much needed mental break that doesn’t seem like much, but is so, so important.
In the past, on off days/afternoons I used to pick up shifts at work. I figured I wasn’t missing training so I might as well make some money. This year, I’ve prioritized not making that mistake. Instead of sitting in the 100 degree sun for 8 hours, I have been sitting on my couch or in my bed, away from the sun and the tiring heat. It is weird to spend so much more of my time trying to take it easy, but it has been much needed and I have been able to tell a difference in my overall energy level.
Taking it easy has given me time to do other things with my time. I have more time to work on my online college courses. I am also trying to teach myself German which has not been easy. Overall, making taking it easy a priority has boosted my energy levels and lowered my stress levels, which has understandably made me much more happy and productive. I can’t wait to see how the extra rest in the summer pays off in the winter!
You don't have to be a genius to realize that Nordic combined is not a popular sport in the United States. At our National Championships this year, literally the biggest event in the country, we had a whopping 9 athletes finish the race. I have skied in races in which there are not enough skiers to fill up a complete podium, and races where the only spectators are a handful parents and coaches. It can be a bit challenging to stay excited during events when the crowds and athlete fields are so small, but that all changes when you step up to the world stage.
Over the past week I have been competing in a series of Summer Grand Prix competitions throughout Central Europe. Summer Grand Prix (SGP) is essentially the equivalent of World Cup competition, however it is not tallied into the overall ranking for the season and is treated as it's own circuit that is a bit more laid back and less high-stakes than winter World Cup competition. Nevertheless, the worlds best athletes take part in this exciting week of competition which means the level of competition is still about as high as it can get.
This is my first time competing in SGP, and at the world cup level. Needless to say, the best in the world are freakin good. After having some good, quality training at home with just myself and my other 5 teammates, coming to compete in central Europe against the world's best was a massive change of pace. In the first events in Oberwiesenthal, GER there were a total of 53 athletes on the start list, just a few more than the 9 we had at US National Championships. I jumped close to the back of the field, but even from there, racing is super exciting. Right out of the start everything is very fast paced. Athletes fight for positions and try to work together to stay in the race. I was happy to hold my own throughout the race and finish in 38th place. 38th may not sound too stellar, but I was happy with it for my first competition at this level.
Since Oberwiesenthal was my first SGP, I didn't know quite what to expect. I found out quickly how high the level of the sport is, but even more importantly I found out how fun it is to race in front of that many people. The race course goes directly through the city center, and pretty much the entire course is lined with spectators and coaches cheering on the entire race. It is super motivating to have so many people cheering you on, and definitely makes you push it a little bit harder than you would without the crowd!
The second stop of the SGP tour was in Villach, AUT, a familiar location that I have jumped and raced at many times. Once again, a huge field of 53 competitors started in the competition, which made for another exciting event. I didn't have a jump that I was very happy with, but jumped to 39th place. Having raced on the course before, I knew where I could push the pace and try to make up time. I had a pretty solid race and managed to ski up to 33rd place, finishing just 20 seconds behind the coveted top-30 (who score points). I may not have scored points, but I was happy with the way that I pushed it during the race and was able to make up a few spots, which are good signs for the winter!
After the first two stops of the Summer Grand Prix, I am pretty content with how things have gone. I have not had the best jumps in the world, but I have also never jumped at a world cup level before. The best in the world are good, like really good, at Nordic combined. It is tough to get beaten by so many people, both mentally and physically, but I look at it as a step in the process. I didn't expect to enter world cup level competitions at the top. But, to hold my own and be able to fight for every second at the finish line, I take it as a good sign that the training that I am doing is working. At the beginning of the summer, I did not think that I would ski in Summer Grand Prix, let alone be just 20 seconds away from the top-30. If I can continue to make incremental changes to my jumping and skiing, I think that I can continue to surprise myself throughout the rest of the summer and the winter competition season.
Follow along as I post updates about training, traveling, competing, school, and life in general.