Olympic 50 km

Wow it has been an exhausting last 24 hours. I don’t have much time and I’m heading on a short vacation, so this won’t be a long post.

Yesterday was the Olympic 50 kilometer skate mass start, the last race of the Olympics. Because the course was so challenging, my coaches and I thought the race would split up and string out. Consequently, my plan was to ski near the front so I was on the right side of the blowup. For 45 kilometers I did just that. I was rarely outside the top-5 places. On the big hills the pack did string out, but every lap it came back together. The snow was extremely fast. The winning time for the race was under an hour and 47 minutes. That is crazy fast for 50 kilometers. The fast snow made for a huge draft effect and played a factor in almost 30 skiers still being in the lead group with 2 kilometers to go.

When we hit the final massive uphill I didn’t have anything left. I could barely make it up the hill. I got beat by every single skier that was near me with two kilometers to go. I ended up in 26th place. Full results are available here.

After the race I was very disappointed. It felt like I was a long ways from winning or even being on the podium in one of these races. My coach Zach Caldwell and I had to have the discussion about whether we think it’s still possible for me to get to the top of the sport. We discussed whether I should give up on skiing and move to the next stage of my life.

It was challenging because I executed the plan as well as I could have, and I did not get the result I was hoping for. In one sense executing the plan is a huge success. That is the only part of the equation that I can control on race day. On the other hand executing the plan well and not having a good result is hard to swallow. It means I’m just simply not good enough yet.

Zach, along with my coach John Callahan, were not as discouraged as I was. They said, “OK, so you’re not good enough yet. However, you’re a hell of a lot closer than you were last year at this time. This was not your Olympics. You didn’t need to be there yet.” They absolutely feel that I’m still on track. They believe I can win races at this level, and they don’t think it’s that far away. I trust them completely, and I’m starting to feel better about things as well. I still believe I can have good results in the remaining World Cup races this season, and I’m really looking forward to another great summer of training. The prospect of taking another step forward for next season is exciting.

Besides the racing, there were a lot of logistics to deal with at the end of the Olympics. Of course all of the big picture stuff was taken care of for us, but I had to pack all of my personal stuff. I sent a ton of stuff home. U.S. Nordic Combined coach¬†Greg¬†Poirier was generous enough to take a full duffle bag full of stuff back to Park City for me. On top of that I shipped a box on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s ship back to the U.S. We were told not to expect those boxes till June. We were allowed to keep our comforters from the Village, so I put that in the slow box.

Box Sending Home on USOC Slow Boat

 

The venue was looking more and more ready for the paralympics. They put ramps around the waxing complex.

Ramps Around Sochi Olympic Waxing Complex

 

For yesterday’s race there were giant Sochi.ru letters in the middle of the stadium.

Giant Letter in Middle of Sochi Olympic Stadium

 

After the race they were in full disassemble mode. Here is the blimp coming down.

Sochi Blimp Coming Down after 50km race

Crews were out disassembling the camera stations.

Crews Disassembling Camera Stations after Sochi Olympics

The spectator access to the venue was a little funky. They had to take a tram up then a chairlift down to the venue. Here’s the line to get back up the chairlift to the top of the tram after the race.

Spectator Line Departing Olympic Sochi 50k

After the race I was exhausted and out of it. I had not even begun to pack my personal bag before the race, and it was a serious challenge afterwards. It took me three times as long as my teammates.

Noah Hoffman Olympic Duffle Packed after Sochi 2014

 

Eventually I made it onto the bus down to the Coastal Village. The bus went from secured zone to secured zone so we didn’t have to pass through security again. To ensure nothing had left or entered the bus in-transit, They taped every single entrance and exit, including the emergency ceiling exits, with a tape that can’t be removed unless it’s broken.

Emergency Ceiling Exit Taped on Olympic Secured Bus

 

The outside compartments and doors were all sealed as well. The bus certainly wasn’t going to be stopping for a bathroom break.

External Sealed Exits Sochi Secured Bus

 

When we arrived in the Coastal Village we had a short time to look around. It was gorgeous and much more what I envisioned an Olympic Village to look like. It was WAY bigger than the endurance village.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Village

 

It definitely didn’t feel like the WINTER Olympics.

Warm Temperatures in Sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Village

 

My teammate Brian Gregg and I borrowed bikes from the U.S. Olympic Committee to ride to the dining hall. Here’s Brian:

Brian Gregg Riding Bike in Sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Village

 

Unlike the Endurance Village, many of the facilities in the Coastal Village are temporary. Here’s the recreation center:

Sochi Olympic Coastal Village Recreation Center

 

The dining hall was also temporary.

Temporary Dining Hall in sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Village

 

There was a full functioning, free McDonald’s in the dining hall. I got a Big Mac just so I can say I did.

McDonald's in Sochi 2014 Olympic Dining Hall

 

Many of the things were the same to what we’d had all week, but in much larger quantities.

Large Drink Bins in Sochi 2014 Olympic Dining Hall

 

The choices of different nationalities of food were the same.

Olympic Dining Hall Coastal Village Sochi 2014

 

There were huge bins of fresh fruit.

Fresh Fruit in Sochi 2014 Olympic Dining Hall

 

And a dessert bar.

Dessert Bar in Sochi 2014 Olympic Village

 

The sun was setting over the black sea as we rode back to the USA building.

Sunset in Sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Village

 

Next it was time for closing ceremonies. I was so tired but excited at the same time. Here are Ida Sargent and Brian dressed up and ready to go.

Ida Sargent and Brian Gregg  Heading to Olympic Closing Ceremonies

 

The protocol was very similar to the Opening Ceremonies. We walked by the ice arena that had just held the gold medal game. The score was broadcast on the rook of the building. It’s an incredible sight.

Hockey Score on Roof of Sochi 2014 Arena

 

Here I am (left) with my friend Nolan Kasper about to walk in to the ceremonies.

Noah Hoffman and Nolan Kasper at Olympic Closing Ceremonies

The ceremonies were incredible, but I don’t have time to post more pictures now. I figure that most people saw them on T.V. anyways. Walking into the stadium was very cool but not as special as walking during opening ceremonies. I think some of the expectation had gone. I liked the fact that we didn’t walk as countries, rather as one large group of athletes.

After the ceremonies we went back to the dining hall for a midnight snack. We then boarded buses to the airport. At 3:50 a.m. our charter flight to Munich departed. I slept for most of the flight, but it has been a challenging night.

I’m now in Munich, and I’m heading on a short vacation to Salzburg, Austria for the week. On Friday I’ll meet my team in Lahti, Finland, and I’ll race the 15 kilometer skate World Cup there on Sunday. I am not going to blog this week while on vacation. I’ll post updates again after the races in Lahti and for the remainder of the season.

Thank you for the incredible support throughout the Olympics and the entire season. I am so luck to have so many followers and fans.