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!
Follow along as I post updates about training, traveling, competing, school, and life in general.