The simple truth is that summer training can be a grind. But this is what we need to do to prepare for the winter season, and now that we're six months from a date with the Olympics, we want to make sure we do everything we can to be ready.
So we hit the gym every day except Sunday, doing weights, stair intervals, cardio; you name it. Three days a week we jump at Utah Olympic Park, on the K90 (normal hill) and the K120 (large hill). In Sochi we will be jumping the K90, but 99 percent of the girls who jump the normal hill are more than capable of jumping the large hill. This is the first time women's ski jumping will be held at the Olympics, so hopefully by the next Games, in 2018, we will have a large-hill event as well as a team event -- just like the men.
Temperatures have skyrocketed into the lower-to-mid-90s in Park City during the day, which makes jumping in our foam-like suits not the most comfortable experience. Our summer jump training mimics almost exactly what we do on snow in the winter. But instead of landing on snow, we land on plastic turf that looks like green, uncooked spaghetti that overlaps.
Some of the team, including me, have side jobs, too, so it's common for us to leave training and go straight to work for a few hours. I'm a waitress at a barbecue restaurant on Main Street in Park City. We try not to work too much, though, because a late night working in a restaurant isn't the best for recovery, especially if we have to be up by 7 a.m. the next day. After a hard workout and a big night at the restaurant, I am exhausted by the time I get home -- both mentally and physically. My legs ache and my feet throb, but by the morning I am ready to go again.
But fortunately, it's not all work all the time. Park City in the summer is one of my favorite places because of the gorgeous weather and the many things to enjoy outside, like barbecues, concerts and farmers' markets.
And my older sister got married earlier this summer, right here in Park City. It was great to avoid traveling, but she doesn't live in Park City, so a lot of wedding responsibilities fell on me. Of course, I would do anything for my big sister (wink, wink) and I was happy to be a part of it all. I had to schedule my training around the three days of wedding activities, so I packed a week's worth of gym sessions into three days so I could be in 100 percent wedding mode on the big weekend.
I'm glad I did, because her gown, the flower girl dresses and our bridesmaid dresses weren't delivered on time and we had to emergency-shop for new gowns two days before the wedding!
We went to every bridal store in the Salt Lake Valley and managed to find five bridesmaids gowns that were similar to the ones we had originally ordered. We bought two new flower girl dresses and Shannon found a gown at a boutique in Salt Lake that needed only minor alterations.
The morning of her wedding was her final dress fitting and I went with her. I'm not an emotional person, but when she walked out in her gown and it looked perfect, I actually cried. Then I laughed and told her she looked ugly and the only reason I was crying was because I was relieved everything was finally ready to go. (Joking, of course, though believe me, there was a lot of relief that it had come together!)
Next up, we're on the road again. Our Visa women's ski jumping team has two big European trips planned for August and September for summer Grand Prix competitions and training. I'm so excited to get back into competition mode, and to see the other jumpers we travel with all season long but don't get to see in the summer. Our team is pretty close with the Norwegian jumpers and we generally keep in touch during the offseason, so it will be good to catch up with our friends.
It's not lost on any of us that this year is an important one, and that there are only six months left until the Sochi Games and our Olympic debut. But for me, every year is important. I am always doing everything I can to better prepare myself for the upcoming season. Last week we ran a few physical tests and the results showed that I'm the strongest I have ever been. I broke my personal record in the jump test, with a vertical of 60.4 cm. I am thrilled about that and it only makes me want to work harder, every day. We'll survive this daily training grind, because competition is just around the corner, and we want to be at our very best.
Jessica Jerome, 26, is a World Cup ski jumper and member of Women's Ski Jumping USA. She's a 10-time national champion and has two sixth-place finishes in world championship competition. Jerome helped lead the effort to get her sport into the Olympic Winter Games, where it will debut in Sochi in 2014.