As the title of this post suggests, I have been extremely busy. After the team returned to Park City from Steamboat, testing began. We went through a series of tests to gauge how our bodies are performing. My Vo2 max test was very promising and gave me a glimpse of one of my highest numbers ever. After testing, we had a few weeks to train and prepare for the annual Springer Tourney Competition and US Ski Jumping National Championships in Park City. This consisted of endurance training plus many jumps on the big 120 meter hill.
Springer Tourney is always one of the more exciting weeks summer has to offer. Ski Jumpers and Nordic Combined skiers from all around the country gather in Park City to compete and have a good time. One definite highlight of the week was coaching some of the younger kids. Each member of the national team got assigned about 5 kids for a morning on the jump hills. This was a good experience for me because after skiing I want to become a coach. It was cool to see my kid’s progress and learn some new things on the hill. Most importantly though, they were having a blast! Also it was amazing to see how much our sport is growing. There are so many more kids competing now then when I was a young skier.
Saturday August 2nd was our first competition. This consisted of jumping the K90 then racing up the Utah Olympic Park on our roller skis. As I've talked about before, I sometimes let my head get the best of me in the ski jumping. This was one of those days. I was feeling confident going into the competition round but ended up trying WAY too hard. I ended up with an 83.5 meter jump, which was good enough to start me in 2nd place. Bryan Fletcher threw down a huge 92.5 meter jump and had a giant lead on the cross-country course. Congrats to Bryan Fletcher on the win, he managed to hold off his brother Taylor and Brett Denney who finished 2nd and 3rd. I came across the line in 5th place then collapsed onto the hot pavement. I was over a minute faster than last year but 5th place isn't where I want to be. Patience is key and I need to be patient with this whole progress.
Sunday August 3rd was US Ski Jumping National Championships. This is a huge event and takes place on a huge jump, The K120. I have always struggled with the bigger hills. Growing up in Steamboat I didn't get exposed to them very often. In fact, the summers would be spent jumping a K68. Here in Park City I have gotten more session on the K120 than ever before. This gave me a lot of confidence going into the event. In one of my earlier blog posts I said, "All my top performances have come from an underdog mentality". Well as Nordic Combined skiers up against the top Ski Jumpers in the country, we were the underdogs. I had no expectations for the competition besides wanting to have solid jumps. My first jump was 120.5 meters then I followed it up with 117.5 meters. This was good enough for a 6th place finish. I take improvement very seriously. To me the goal is to always be in a better position than I was before. Last year I placed 17th at US Ski Jumping Nationals so this years 6th was a huge step forward. Big congratulations go out to the podium of Christian Friberg, Nick Alexander, and Kevin Bickner. Also my teammate Bryan Fletcher had a solid day placing just outside the podium. Here is a great article written in the Steamboat Today about the event
On top of the testing, training, and competing, I have also been working and taking college classes. I was dishes at the Red Banjo Pizza three nights a week. My teammates Michael Ward and Taylor Fletcher work there as well so it’s a good time. I also recently enrolled in DeVry Online College. After taking about a year and a half off from school, I decided it was time to continue my education. It has been weird getting back in the habit of doing homework and managing my time with school. I’m really enjoying it though.
Upcoming plans include a US Nordic Combined fundraiser in Aspen from August 14th to the 19th. After that I will be headed to Steamboat for the Steamboat Springs Stage Race.
Thanks for all the support! – Ben Berend