1 Olympic Plaza

In trying to come up with more travel posts, I realized that I have a whole slew of photos from the Olympic Training Center that I've never posted here. And even though I lived there, it's still a tourist attraction/travel destination! I myself have taken the tour, oh, three times now? So yeah, here we go -- a travel post about a tourist attraction I used to live on. How weird is that?

In case you're new around these parts, I guess I should explain: the U.S. Olympic Committee and a bunch of Colorado Springs-based NGBs (national governing bodies) have an internship program, and all accepted interns receive room and board at the Olympic Training Center. It's the same OTC where Olympians like Michael Phelps and Apolo Ohno have trained, and where dozens of national team athletes currently live and train full-time. (Don't get too excited, though; athletes get the prime, newest housing, while interns are housed in a barrack-like dorm building at the farthest corner of campus. It was like being back in the freshman dorms in college, hah.) I was an intern with USA Volleyball so I got to slum it at the OTC for seven months last year. ;) It was one of the coolest things ever, even if dorm life was questionable and dining hall food got kind of old after awhile. I mean, driving past the Olympic rings multiple times a day? Writing your address as 1 Olympic Plaza? Thinking of all the legendary athletes that have streamed through this place in the last 40 years? Crazy. CRAZY. While I'm definitely glad to be living in an apartment now, I'm so incredibly grateful for my time as an OTC resident.

The following pictures were all taken between May and December of 2013, all during my time as a resident, and all in chronological order, from my very first day to my very last day. So join me, if you will, in reliving a little chunk of my life. :)

While the tour doesn't give visitors quite as much of an inside peek as I just gave you (you're welcome, America!), it does take you inside most (if not all) of the training facilities. And there's a pre-tour video presentation that makes me weep every time I see it. So if you're in the Colorado Springs area, I highly recommend swinging by! Tours cost $5, but if you go with a USOC employee -- ahem, me! ;) -- you get in for free.

If you're interested in seeing one of my more recent trips back to the OTC, click here. :)

Travel Tuesday

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Miracle Monday: Buzz Schneider

Miracle Monday

Ohhh my gosh, are you guys as ready for this as I am? I mean, I've only mentioned Buzz on this blog, like, once. Or twice. Or three times. And hey, remember that time I met him and got my phone stolen on the way there but he was so wonderful that it was still pretty much the best day ever? Okay so maybe I love Buzz a teensy bit. And in a few minutes, you will too! ;)

Buzz Schneider


+ Buzz grew up in a tiny little town on the Iron Range, up in northern Minnesota, which meant he was playing hockey pretty much by default, as hockey's a way of life up there. But his town was so small that there wasn't all that much depth of talent on his high school team, so it was carried almost entirely on Buzz's shoulders. He played defense during his senior season (because his coach wanted him to be able to spend more time on the ice) and he still led his team in scoring. But his talents weren't only limited to hockey; in football, he played quarterback, defensive back, and kicker. And in baseball, he played third base and outfield. In fact, he was so good at baseball that he was getting Major League interest. But he decided to play hockey at the University of Minnesota instead (Herb Brooks recruited him without ever seeing him play, his reputation was that amazing) and also played college baseball his freshman year.

+ At Minnesota, Buzz was one of the stars on Herb's first of three NCAA championship teams, in 1974. He first played on the U.S. national team in 1974, and was on the team for the '75 world championships, where he became one of the first people ever (ever!) to score a hat trick on legendary Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak. He left school after his junior year to play on the 1976 Olympic team, which finished fifth. (Buzz was the only guy from the '76 team to also play on the '80 team!)

+ After the 1976 Olympics, Buzz turned pro... well, sort of. He'd been drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1974, but due to a management change he ended up in their minor league system (so still Olympic-eligible) and was traded around a whole heck of a lot. He was getting offers to play in Europe but Herb desperately wanted Buzz for the Olympic team, so he convinced him to stay stateside by all but promising that he'd make the roster. And, uh, that was a great decision! On the Olympic team Buzz played on a line with fellow Iron Rangers Mark Pavelich and John Harrington on the famous Conehead line, and in the pre-Olympic season scored 34 points in 54 games. But the Olympic tournament is where the Coneheads truly shined, as they were the highest-scoring line! In seven games, Buzz scored five goals (tied for the team lead!) and three assists for eight total points. His numbers included two goals against Czechoslovakia, in addition to the first goal against the Soviet Union and Vladislav Tretiak. (Remember that hat trick in 1975? People said that "Buzz had Tretiak's number." Tretiak is one of the best goalies in hockey history. Casual.) He was also so well-liked by his teammates that he was inches away from being voted team captain. Everyone loved him!

+ Buzz's epic Olympic performance got him an upgraded offer in Europe, so after the Olympics he was off to play professionally in Switzerland. He played on his fifth world championship team (uh, seriously) in 1982 and by 1983 was well on his way to making his third Olympic team. He actually made it as far as Colorado Springs for Olympic team tryouts! But unfortunately, his back went out, and a national team doctor told him he was at the end of the line. So he retired, right before the Olympic roster was named. He would've been the first American ever to play on three Olympic teams, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. :(

+ After he was forced out of hockey (can you tell I'm really bummed about that?), Buzz spent almost two decades selling tractor-trailers. He got into real estate in 2001 and started his own real estate company (no big deal) in 2005. That was going really well, but he put it aside in 2009 when he got a call from the U.S. State Department asking him to go to Turkey to help develop its hockey program. For real. He taught a school for their development program for two months and returned to Minnesota, thinking that was it. But it wasn't long before they called him back, and he spent six months as the head coach of the under-18 team and the general manager of the national team. How amazing is that?! And he says he formed great relationships with the kids he worked with and that several of them still email him. If that doesn't say something about what kind of person Buzz Schneider is, I don't know what does!

Also, his son Billy played him in Miracle and it's kind of my favorite thing in the world.

Also also, I can personally attest that he's the nicest person alive. I can't understand how a real person can exude so much warmth. And please note that on January 11, 2013, Buzz Schneider's day was made by ME when I told him I named my car after him. (I'm going to hang my hat on the fact that I made his day for the rest of my life, let's be real.)

Buzz Schneider

I'll stop now before I just keep talking forever. So now you should watch this interview, because I'm pretty sure the reporter is as geeked out about Buzz as I am. :)

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My Favorite Olympic Memories

It's been way too long since I've gone full-on Olympic geek on this here blog. So it's about time I get around to changing that! The timing's kind of funny, since I'm sure everyone else linking up with Fan Friday will be talking about football... but variety is the spice of life, amirite?

Earlier this week, the Twitter account for the potential Boston 2024 Olympic bid tweeted asking about everyone's favorite Olympic memories. Well, their first tweet on the subject actually said "moment," not "memory," so obviously my answer was the Miracle on Ice. And let's be real, the Miracle on Ice is never the wrong answer, to any question in any situation. But when Boston 2024 started asking about memories instead of moments, it got me thinking. What ARE my favorite Olympic memories? I certainly have a ton of them. So I thought it'd be fun to go through each Games that I remember and pick my favorite from each one. :)

My favorite Olympic memories
salt lake city 2002 sarah hughes

The ladies' figure skating long program was on the night of my 11th birthday. When I was a kid I was the BIGGEST figure skating nut, so my cousin Molly slept over and we stayed up late to watch it. Because of the Utah/New York time difference, the final programs weren't on until close to midnight (which was a big deal to a couple of fifth graders!). Sarah Hughes was my girl -- she was from Long Island just like me! -- and Molly and I got so intense rooting for her. She was fourth going into the long program, absolutely knocked her skate out of the park, and we were absolutely dying as the rest of the skaters performed. When she won, we shrieked and jumped around and threw our pillows in jubilation. (I know, we were ridiculous. And adorable. And it was awesome.)

athens 2004 closing ceremony

I have surprisingly sketchy memories from Athens. I think I was actually on my first-ever trip to London, which might explain why my recollections are fuzzy and/or nonexistent! I do, however, remember when the Olympic flame was put out during the closing ceremony. The cauldron was on top of the stadium, and a little girl on the ground blew it out as if it was a candle on a birthday cake. I'm not sure why that stuck with me, but it's still one of my favorite closing moments!

torino 2006 apolo ohno

Yet another Games I have precious few memories of. Man, where was my brain? This was when I first fell in love with my man Apolo Ohno, and discovered Shaun White (il Pomodoro Volante, the Flying Tomato!)... and I know I watched the U.S. men's curling team win bronze, and was utterly perplexed by Johnny Weir, and was thrilled about Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto... but I don't have that one standout moment. Let's pretend I remember watching Apolo's perfect race, shall we? I know exactly how it would've gone, too: screaming my throat raw, digging my fingernails into my face, you know the drill.

beijing 2008 opening ceremony

I spent most of these Games in Italy (with Molly, again! Are we noticing a pattern here?), so I watched very little of it. However, I'll never forget watching the opening ceremony with my mom. I wasn't really sure what to expect from it, but within about 15 seconds we'd fallen completely silent and were just flat-out dumbstruck. We seriously didn't say a word, and just sat there in slack-jawed awe for the entire first segment. I still don't have words for it. I think we glanced at each other during the first commercial break and had a "hahaha, okay, holy crap?" moment.

vancouver 2010 zach parise

I have so many phenomenal memories from Vancouver, because it was the only Games I got to watch while I was at college. So I literally watched Olympic coverage all day, every day, and did so surrounded by some amazing people. I could make a whole list just from Vancouver memories, but my favorite is a no-contest: the men's hockey gold medal game. I watched in a friend's dorm room with a group of people. It was freshman year, and in freshman dorms all doors are open at all times, so you could hear all the TVs on the floor were playing the game as well, each a second or two off from each other. My friends and I were yelling at the TV the entire game, on the edge of our seats, watching the clock tick down to a U.S. loss... until, at the last possible second, we heard frantic yelling and cheering from down the hall. A split second later, our TV caught up, and we watched Zach Parise score the tying goal. So we were screaming and celebrating, and suddenly some guys from the room next door stampeded in to see what happened -- their TV was even more delayed than ours was! They were so anxious to see the goal that they ended up completely missing it! It was the craziest celebratory moment, coupled with the hilarity of dorm life, and I'll honestly never forget it. :)

london 2012 opening ceremony

I had spent four months as a London 2012 Ceremonies volunteer from February-June, so by the time July 27th rolled around I was jumping out of my skin with excitement. I avoided all social media on opening ceremony day to avoid "spoilers" before it aired in primetime... even though I literally knew the entire ceremony from all the rehearsals I'd gone to. I spent the whole ceremony wrapped in a blanket on my couch, fighting back tears. I was a part of this ceremony. It was being run by people I knew and loved. I'd watched those performances come together, been there when those groups convened for the very first time and learned those first beats of choreography. This was quite possibly the coolest experience of my life. (And it didn't hurt that earlier in the day, a fellow volunteer sent me a picture of my name in the program!)

sochi 2014 meryl davis and charlie white

Due to the time difference and my craaaazy work hours because of it (ah, the perks of working for the USOC during Games time!), I watched copious amounts of coverage during Sochi but did it all alone. While my friends went about their normal lives in the land of the living, I was peeling myself from my bed at 3 a.m. and gluing myself to the TV hours before the sun even thought about rising. And honestly? It was the coolest thing ever. I'll never forget watching the USA vs. Russia men's hockey game (two words: T.J. Oshie!), but I'm pretty sure my favorite has to be when Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first ice dancing gold medal for the U.S. My heart was racing, I was sweating like crazy... I was literally a nervous wreck. And then they won, and I cried. (LISTEN, Sochi was a long, emotional two weeks!)

Wow, I just noticed that all of my favorite summer Olympic memories are from the ceremonies, and all of my winter Olympic memories are from competition. Whoops? I foresee that changing in Rio 2016, though. I'm preparing myself to be seriously emotionally compromised by volleyball and expecting our teams to bring home a gold medal or two (or three? or four?)! ;)

It's kind of cool to look back at my life and notice all these Olympic road marks. But that, really, is another post entirely!

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A Snowy Weekend in Breckenridge

I don't know about where everyone else is living, but here in Colorado, the weather can't make up its mind during these transitional seasons. The summer is like a sauna and the winter is like living in a freezer... but then it snows in May, it's 80 degrees in October, and I find myself scraping ice off my car in the morning but taking off my jacket in the afternoon. It's so frustrating. I'm dreading another few months spent in a polar vortex (especially because here they don't plow, sand or salt the roads when it snows!), but I'm more than ready for mother nature to just commit already! 

That being said, I very much enjoyed looking through these wintry photos. :)

As you may or may not know, last year I spent seven months as an intern with USA Volleyball and lived at the Olympic Training Center with the rest of the interns in the USOC Intern Program. As a part of the deal, each intern class gets to take a fully funded trip, generally to one of the lovely mountain towns only a few hours away. We pick the location, find the place to stay, figure out our own food situation and schedule, etc. Basically, the USOC gives interns money to travel and we do with it what we wish.

Now, this is kind of a double-edged sword, as I've heard stories of intern trips that were rather mediocre. And I missed out on my summer intern class' trip... but the fall class totally knocked it out of the park. We stayed in this fabulously luxurious cabin in Breckenridge in mid-November, so everything was cozy and snowy and Christmas-y. We spent some time walking around town, played in the snow (and some of the braver souls went hiking and skiing), lounged around, watched movies, drank tea... and there was some other stuff drank as well, though yours truly remained sober and tried to make sure nobody wandered off into the frozen forest. (Yeah, I'm the mom friend, and I make no apologies for it! I also just don't like alcohol, so that helps.)

That little creek was literally right out back behind the cabin. Speaking of which, can we talk about this place?

I wish I had more pictures of the inside, because it was basically perfect (as you can see) and I want to live there.

Since I'm no longer an intern (instead I'm a temp -- baby steps, folks), I no longer have the USOC paying for me to spend a weekend in the mountains so I probably won't get to reprise this particular getaway this year. I might have to find some more local places to get my wintry fix... or maybe I'll just hibernate. I don't know, man, they both sound pretty tempting!

Travel Tuesday

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