It's been a pretty exciting and fun few days of life this past weekend! Last weekend I , along with my teammate Kevin Bickner, got the chance to travel to Copper Peak, MI to run a Red Bull 400 race, which turned out to be a really really awesome time. Then, directly from Copper Peak, I flew out to Bend, Oregon to meet up with the rest of my Nordic combined teammates for a two week training camp. This week definitely put me fully back into athlete-mode!
Kevin and I got the opportunity to do the Red Bull 400 race at Copper Peak thanks to the support of Red Bull and USA Nordic. Copper Peak is what I would call a "dormant" ski flying hill. I say this because it could be a functional ski jump with financial and community support, however before last weekend the last competition on the hill was in 1994. The Michigan and USA Nordic communities want to revive this hill to have a functional ski flying hill within the US. USA Nordic and Red Bull flew Kevin and I out there to essentially be athlete representatives of ski jumping and Nordic combined with in the US, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity!
I had previously ran and won the Red Bull 400 race in Park City last September. The race starts at the bottom of the ski jump and you run 400 meters directly up to the top of the hill. 400 meters sounds quick, however my winning time in Park City was 4:25, which is more than 4x slower than a flat 400m race. Due to the success there, they thought it was a good idea to bring me out to Copper Peak.
Compared to the last time I raced a Red Bull 400, I was not nearly as in shape. Last September I was in the middle of the high intensity training that we do to get ready for the winter competition season, so I was feeling really fit and strong. This time I was only three weeks into the training year and had taken lots of time to take it easy and live life outside of training, so I was not thinking that I was in the shape that I needed to be in to succeed in the race.
Kevin and I flew into northern Wisconsin on Friday afternoon and drove up to Ironwood, MI where the race and hill are located. After having dinner with some really awesome media representatives from Red Bull and other publications, it was time to focus on Saturday's race. Luckily, Red Bull was a super generous host to Kevin and I, so we got to hang out in the Red Bull athlete trailer and really take it easy all day before the race. I was in the 13th of 18 qualifying heats, meaning that I got to see the bulk of the field run before I had to. There were a few guys far ahead of the rest of the field, so I knew that if I could just have a solid qualifying race I could be in the hunt in the final heat (the top 25 qualifier times get to race in the final heat). When the starting gun went off in my heat, I put my head down and just ran like I did the last time. To my surprise, I turned around about half way up and was completely alone. So, from there to the top, I walked and took it easy to save my energy from the final. I qualified in 3rd which I was more than stoked about.
For the final heat, I felt a little bit more pressure to do well than I had in the past. Lots of the people that I had met that day were rooting for me and I felt like I had to do well to make them happy and proud, a feeling that I don't have too much. I like to race for myself, not others, because when I feel the need to impress others I am more easily disappointed in the results. However, I still knew that I could have fun with it even with that extra sense of pressure.
In the starting area, I chatted with some of the other racers and had some laughs before the gun went off. I worked my way to the front of the pack of 25 so that I wouldn't get stuck behind anyone. I managed to make it about 200 meters up in the front of the group, and then Ian Torchia, a cross country skier on the US National team blew by me. I knew he was a badass athlete regardless, and the fact that he won the qualification by 30 seconds meant that he was the main contender for the win. When he passed me, I didn't have it in me to stay with him and I had to watch him rip up the jump to the top. Behind him, a rad dude named Matt passed as well, however I stuck behind him for another 100 meters or so before he dropped me. I made it to about 350 meters, turned around, saw no one too close , and made it to the finish in 3rd. It's hard not to be stoked on 3rd at such a popular event!
I had a blast running the race and talking to Ian and Matt after the race. They are some serious athletes, and I was stoked to stand on the podium with them!
I want to say another sincere thank you to all of the people at Red Bull that made it possible to come to the event! I had a blast, and hope to do it again in the future (maybe even as a Red Bull athlete?)
Now, I am sitting in a hammock in Sunriver, Oregon after a large training week. I am a pretty wordy guy, so we'll talk about this training week next time!
Well, my old cross country coach used to say that skiers are made in the summer, and he is absolutely right! Our new training year started a few weeks ago, and for this time of year we focus on doing lots of long, easy workouts. This is to build a "base" for the rest of the year. Essentially, we give ourselves a huge endurance platform that we can continue to build upon for the rest of the year. Also, we are not yet ski jumping at this time of year, so that makes it a lot easier to do lots and lots of biking, running, and hiking (and a little bit of roller skiing) without having to worry about being too tired to ski jump.
This marks my first summer of being on the national team. That means that I have switched teams, switched coaches, switched training plans, and switched gyms, among other things. As you can guess, this is a pretty substantial transition, and one thing that has been nice has been having a group of people to train with. For last year, I didn't always have a training partner (mostly in the fall), and this year I've only done workouts by myself by choice. Having people to train with is one of the biggest motivators because it turns a 2-hour run or a 5-hour bike ride into a 5-hour conversation with your buddies. This may not sound like much, but it keeps me from getting into my own head and saying "why are you even doing this, Jared?". So, with my transition to the national team, one of the things I am most stoked about is being able to train with people all (or at least most) of the time.
As we kick off the new year of training, I am also going to try to keep my blog more updated. I think that this will help me and anyone who actually reads this (honestly not sure if anyone does) keep track of how I am feeling throughout the year. When you train as much as Nordic combined athletes do, it is easy to overwork and burn yourself out. My hope is that by updating how the year goes on this website, I will be forced to think more in-depth about how I'm really feeling. If that interests you, please continue to check back!
This past weekend marked the first weekend of Continental Cup (COC) for the season and my first COC in almost 2 years! The COC circuit is one of the highest levels of Nordic combined competition in the world, and after this weekend it is easy to see why! This weekends competitions were all held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and consisted each day of a ski jumping competition on the HS75 followed by a 10-kilometer cross country race, for three straight days of brutal competition.
On Friday, we had more scheduled jumps than the other days. This is because before any FIS event, there is a requirement for official training rounds as well as a provisional competition round, or PCR (the PCR is used if we are unable to complete one of the ski jumping competition rounds later in the weekend). My jumps on Friday were not as good as I know I am capable of. I had issues with the timing of my jump as well as the direction in which I used my power. These issues combined put me into 39th place after the ski jumping competition, 1:49 seconds back for the start of the race. A few of my teammates had a much better day on the hill, including Ben Loomis who jumped to 2nd place just 6 seconds back! The cross country side of the sport has always been my strong suit, so I was feeling confident going into the race still.
Friday’s race was a night race under the lights at Howelson Hill around a 2k loop. Friday’s race, along with the weekend’s races as well, had awesome crowds of spectators lining the hills and in the stadium making it a really fun environment to race in. As I said I started in 39th place. One of my Estonian buddies, Kail Piho, started right behind me and we were able to work together for most of the race. He and I traded off the lead for 4 of the 5 laps until I couldn't keep up with his killer pace. Throughout the entire race, we had coaches, friends, and wax-techs yelling our positions to us every lap. Each lap our rank progressively dropped… 39th, 37th, 33rd, 32nd. Going into the finishing corner, Jed Hinkley yelled as loud as he could “I think you’re 29th or 30th!!” Knowing that, I gave every ounce that I had to finish strong, not knowing whether I had met my goal and scored points, or been just behind. For about 30 minutes following the race, people were asking me how I had done. I kept saying “I think I was 30th”, to which people responded with pure stoke. 30th place in the Nordic combined world means that you score points, which are crucial for your overall ranking and qualification for other events. In the US Nordic combined world, a single COC point gets you a spot on the national team, a chance to compete at US Olympic trials, and a good chance of qualifying for the World Junior Championships, so not knowing if I had scored a point after the race was very stressful few minutes for me. It wasn’t until we were eating dinner and the results were uploaded. I had finished in 30th place and scored a point!
That set my expectations high for the next two days of racing. Knowing that I was able to score points on Friday meant that I knew I was able to do it for the next races as well. Saturday was another below average ski jumping competition for me as well. I didn’t nail the timing and I jumped forward instead of up. I jumped to 41st place, but still only 1:58 back. I had one of the worst races of my last few seasons, so I was only able to ski up to 33rd place. Knowing that I didn’t have the race I wanted meant that I knew I could be close to points on an off day, which is encouraging for the future.
For Sunday’s competition, I once again didn’t have the best jump, putting me in 38th place and again 1:56 seconds back. I jumped again near Kail Piho, who I had skied with on Friday and knew that I could keep up with on a good day. On the first couple laps, I felt good and knew that I was just a few places back from being in the points. Kail and I moved up quickly and were within striking distance of the group within the top-30. However, after 3 days straight of racing, I was completely gassed towards the end of the race. Frustratingly, I spent the last lap in 31st place, and was unable to bridge the gap into the top 30, finishing just 4.2 seconds back from scoring more points. I now can confidently say that 31st place is the worst in the world.
This weekend’s COCs gave me confidence and knowledge for the rest of the season. I am confident in my ability to score points if I have a good jump. I now know that I can be one of the top-20 fastest skiers in a COC, which is a level that I have never been at before. I also am aware of the tiny mistakes that I made both on the hill and on the course that kept me from being in the points. For the rest of the season, I will be damn sure that I ski over the top of the hills, instead of giving up half way over and sacrificing seconds every lap. But I did meet one of my big goals for the season, which was to score COC points. I left a lot of room for improvement (29 places to be exact), but having the stress of scoring points lifted off of my shoulders will help me to be more relaxed in future competitions which will only help me to jump and race better! Now I am home in Park City to train before US Olympic Team Trials on December 30th. Stay tuned!
Team USA's Results for the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday):
Ben Loomis: 5th, 5th, 5th
Ben Berend: 18th, 24th, 18th
Jasper Good: 10th, 8th, 12th
Stephen Schumann: 16th, 15th, 20th
Grant Andrews: 36th, 30th, 27th
Tucker Hoefler: 42nd, DNS, 41st
Beckett Ledger: DNR, 40th, DNS
Aidan Ripp: DNS, 42nd, DNS
Bennett Gamber: DNS, DNS, 43rd
Jared Shumate: 30th, 33rd, 31st
Follow along as I post updates about training, traveling, competing, school, and life in general.