Sunday, June 14, 2015

Live High Train Low

Tomorrow I head home to Minneapolis after nearly 5 weeks of living at 8,200 feet.  I have had some of my most focused training since the Olympics and it has been great.  I haven't been moving super quick since I have been training high but I have been absorbing the training well and I think it will set me up for a strong racing season this winter.  I have been able to push the volume and recover well with the ability to focus nearly 100% on training.  I am looking forward to coming home, but it sure is nice to be away from the many distractions of home.


Me, Blair and Caitlin after speaking at the ACIST sales meeting in Chicago
Caitlin and I took a quick trip to Chicago for our rest day to speak with the ACIST sales team.  We have shared our story often and incorporated goal setting, working hard, working smart and working consistently however this was our first presentation to a group of adult professionals.  We had a great time with Team ACIST and took advantage of a day at sea level for a hard track workout.  We were able to run to the track in 20 minutes on the crushed limestone path outside our hotel.
8 x 800 m at 2:30 pace
This trip is the first one we have taken in a long time without two 50-70lb bags each.  It sure is nice to travel with only a carry on.  

Leading the Team Soldier Hollow junior crew for their Saturday distance session
Last fall I did an open ski for juniors prior to the first Super Tour of the year in West Yellowstone, MT.  Many of the kids were from the Soldier Hollow ski team.  Caitlin and I led a distance ski walk session with the junior team on Saturday.  Their coach and our friend Morgan Smyth just had knee surgery and is recovering.  Morgan has been pretty creative with the kids, driving a golf cart to coach them on the roller ski workout and meeting us before the hike for some drills in the parking lot.


Enjoying the view from the top!
Where's the snow?
I am excited to see our dog Lahti tomorrow and return to the house.  Next week is my second super volume week of the year and it will be fun to explore my favorite routes around the Twin Cities.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Altitude Camp

Caitlin and I have had good luck with altitude training over the years.  Most recently with our altitude camp at 9,000 feet in Frisco, CO leading up to the 2015 World Championships.   We have received a lot of guidance and direction from personal experience, research, Randy Wilbur with the US Olympic Committee, and Olympic Champion Billy Demong.  Altitude training will be a key part of our training plan this year.  We are excited to be be living at 8,150 feet in Deer Valley, UT for a four week camp to kick off the ski season.  The last two weeks we have been training with the US Ski Team and it has been fantastic.  I have always been a fan of training with athletes who are faster than you and the entire US Ski Team A and B teams were in town for the camp.  
Noah Hoffman and I post 5*6 min L4
It is fantastic to train with the National Team crew and I found myself pushed in pretty much all of the workouts.  Last year I did not do a group training camp in May and it lead to a slow start to the training year.  It is great to get be back in full on training mode.  The first day of camp was actually my first day off of antibiotics and a nasty sore throat that kept me sidelined for the first two weeks of May.  A big focus for Caitlin and I is double pole this year.  This became a larger goal after getting destroyed in two different double pole interval sessions by the other guys.  I do look at this as a positive though, because it means I have a lot of room to improve in this area.
Enjoying a 4 year wedding anniversary ski on the roller ski track at Soldier Hollow
One of my favorite places to race is at Soldier Hollow, home of the 2002 Olympic Cross Country ski races.  There is a 5 km paved loop that follows the ski trails and flows just as if you were skiing on the trails with snow on them.

Nitrogen Bath
One of the big names in altitude training is Jim Stray Gunderson.  Many of the papers and studies on altitude training have been done by him and he lives here in Park City and works out of the USSA's Center of Excellence. I have really enjoyed talking with him about altitude training and look forward to dialing in our altitude plan with him.  He performed a hemoglobin mass base line test on us to help us see what kind of response our bodies have to the altitude during our weeks here.  He was helping a runner recover from a training session with what I can only describe as a nitrogen bath.  He asked if we wanted to give it a try.  You stand in this dunk tank and liquid nitrogen is pumped in making it super cold but only for a few minute burst.  I honestly had to google it when I returned home:  http://iceboxtherapy.com/category/pain-management/  I felt great the next day for training, but I think an ice bath might be a bit easier.

Caitlin and Antje Harvey with their World Championship Bronze Medals
Over the last 9 years, Caitlin and I have been sponsored by Toko gloves, wax and tools.  Ian Harvey is the US Brand manager for Toko and he and his wife Antje live in Heber, UT near Soldier Hollow.  We joined the Olympic duo for lunch between training sessions.  It was pretty fun to see Caitlin and Antje with the bronze medals.  The medals are identical designs, even though they were earned 30 years apart.  Both of the girls are a little shy about showing off their medals, but I find it hugely inspiring.  One of my goals here in Park City is to get to see Billy Demong's gold medal.  Naively I didn't even realize that Antje had 4 Olympic medals from the '92 and '94 Olympics in biathlon.  Caitlin knew her history though and Antje pulled out the box with them so we could admire them.  They are beautiful.


I am so excited for this season.  I have had a good last two weeks of training but it is clear to me that I am not in very good shape right now and have a lot of work to do this summer in training and recovery.  The good thing is that I am hungrier than ever to put in the the work and enjoy the rewards.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Impact

I have had a lot of wonderful people and programs that have impacted my life.  My personal experiences are what have motivated me to pursue having a similar impact on others.  Effect and influence is a difficult thing to measure.  A few things happened this week that make me feel pretty good about the impact of my In The Arena projects.  

Gregory won the prize for running the most miles in Run Club this Spring.  Over the last six weeks he ran 43 miles.
This week marked my final week in Minneapolis for the school year as Caitlin and I are headed out to Park City, UT for her first US Ski Team camp.  Typically this would also mean the final week of Run Club.  New this year though, volunteer Kim has offered to continue running practices for the kids on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.  Kim called us two weeks ago to see if she could join her child at run club and for the 5 km race.  She has been awesome and a huge motivation to us and the kids.  Our friend Will has also offered to help with Run Club and it makes me so happy to see the program continue while we are away at training camp.

Caitlin and Kim
The second thing that really made me smile were the comments left on my last blog post by the kids in Kaktovik.  Due to some technical issues I am not able to publish the comments in the traditional sense but here they are:

Lydia K:
I had fun skiing with you out by the snow fences. I fell a few times,
but I liked going up and down the hill. It was nice to ski with twins
because I am a twin, too. Ms. Deb and Mr. V took us skiing on
Wednesday. I'm glad we have skis at the school. Are you planning to
come back to Kaktovik next year?

Lenora K.
Thank you for coming to Kaktovik to ski with us. You, Chad and Andrew
are all really good skiers. I miss you. I liked when Chad held my hand
and I was the secret weapon out by the snow fences. We still have snow
by the fences, but the tundra snow has melted behind teacher housing
and the school. I liked it when Officer Ben came and watched us ski.
Will you be coming back to Kaktovik next year? I hope so.

Michael L.
I really like cross-country skiing because you taught us new things
like going down low and through the poles. My favorite thing was going
downhill from side to side. Are you going to come visit again. Ms. Deb
took us out a few days ago and I won the race around the snow fence.
Thanks for teaching me how to ski.

JD T.
Thank you, Brian, Chad, and Andrew for taking us out skiing. It was
super fun and awesome. I hope you can come back again. I really liked
it when you took us almost all the way to the dump. I'm glad you left
skis here for us to use. Ms. Deb took us out the last week of school.

Still skiing in Kaktovik in mid May.
It is great to see the familiar faces of the kids and to see that they are using and enjoying the equipment that SkiKu left for them at the school.  The smiles tell the story and the impact for the kids.

Spring has arrived to Kaktovik
To the kids in Kaktovik: Here is how we "roller ski" so that we can go skiing when there is no snow.  It is fun, but real snow is better!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Polar Bear, Fast Kids, Sleepovers

The last two weeks of April have seen fantastic weather and incredible experiences. I finished up the second half of my SkiKu week teaching skiing in the Alaskan village of Kaktovik.  The community there is just amazing and it was hard to leave.  The kids all told us they hoped the weather would come in and we would be able to fly out.  I am amazed at how well the kids have progressed in our 5 days on snow with them and their second year with the SkiKu program

Final day of teaching skiing in Kaktovik, AK
We had some fun races to cap off a great week. The kids have 25 pairs of skis, boots and poles that will remain at the school for them to use.  We had several of the teachers out skiing this week too and they have promised to take the kids out this Spring.  Keep in mind that ice is out in the Ocean around July 4th.

Traditional MukTuk (Whale Skin and Blubber)
One of the teachers brought some Muk Tuk to the community dinner.  I can't say I am a huge fan, although it was very fascinating to try.  It is quite chewy.  The Boys and Girls Club kids liked Caitlin showing them photos of my Alaska trip.  I brought a small chuck of blubber back with me, but I accidentally left it in Paul's truck.  Sorry buddy, I did double bag it though.
Polar Bear Tracks.  A goal of mine for a long time has been to see a Polar Bear in the wild. Here are his tracks.  He was first spotted 5 houses down from ours, but we only ever saw him from a long distance away on the ice through binoculars. 
Our final morning in town we were awoken with a phone call that the Nanook was just a few houses down from ours.  I don't think I have ever dressed so quickly at 4:30 am in the morning. It was helpful that it was completely light out.  A pretty fun way to celebrate Earth Day.  I am happy to teach skiing anywhere in the world, especially on snow in April, but I had requested Kaktovik knowing there was a small chance of seeing a Polar Bear.  Many of the native villages still hunt and eat polar bear, but they do not kill the bears in Kaktovik.

An overnight back country ski tour with Chad and Paul
Back at the Club on Monday after the red eye flight.  Pretty wild the contrast between Alaska and Minnesota
Wednesday Run Club Practice
Wednesday LNR Junior Practice
Thursday Fast Kids Practice
Sharing the same training hills, trails, and exercises with a World Championship Medalist
Passing out numbers pre-race
Boys and Girls Club on the start line of the Endurance United: Go Spring 5/10k Race





Sunday, April 19, 2015

Kaktovik, AK: Polar Bears and 8 Months of Winter

SkiKu Coaches: Me, Chad and Andrew at the Anchorage Airport
After a nice two weeks at home I am back on the road again searching for snow.  I am currently sitting in the school in Kaktovik, AK.  The sun is still high in the sky at 8 pm and the snow is still accumulating with temperatures about 12 degrees. It is awesome!  Conditions for skiing are great and the kids are super excited for their second year of SkiKu here in the village.  About 30 pairs of skis stay here in the village and we have an additional 30 pairs that we flew in with.

Andrew challenging the group on day one with some balance exercises before heading outside.
Skiku’s mission is to create a sustainable Nordic ski program in communities throughout Alaska.  Currently the program provides equipment to schools and a week of instruction each year.  The kids have been looking forward to SkiKu's return to Kaktovid and ran up to greet us as we entered the schools.  Giving us big hugs despite having never met this particular trio of coaches.  Last years group of coaches: Rosie, Lars and Jonas did a great job.

Polar Bear tag, watch out for the twins
We are in Polar Bear country here in Kaktovik, AK.  Polar Bears are my favorite animals and it is cool to see their natural habitat.  The kids are well educated in Polar Bear or 'Nanuk' awareness.  Today during practice we even had Officer Ben come out to be on bear watch.

Fresh powder on day 1 made for magical fresh tracks


I love working with kids and the opportunity to do so with skiing is great.  Even better is the fact that I am out of competition season so I can put 100% of my energy in to the kids.  I fell asleep last night at 9 am and slept 10 hours.

Despite being the weekend we still have over 30 kids meet us at the school to ski each day!
The kids in Kaktovik are unbelievable.  Perhaps the best behaved kids I have ever worked with.  They are so excited to ski and so supportive of each other.  I love the sense of community in the village.   We have a huge spectrum of abilities and yet the more advanced kids help the beginners.  I cant help but smile all day long.

Chad the Penguin heading down the hill as a trio

Chad and Andrew out for a morning 'coaches' ski

Checking out the whale bone pole at the end of the airport runway

Not the 80 degrees of Minneapolis, but I prefer this weather!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Final Race, Home Sweet Home and Run Club

50km US National Championship American Podium (Noah Hoffman 1st, Erik Bjornsen 2nd, Me 3rd)
My 2014/2015 ski racing season concluded last week with the 50 km Freestyle National Championship.  This is one of my favorite races and one that I have been focusing on for the second half of my ski season.  I finished on the podium as the third american, but I actually finished 8th overall in the race with the foreigners mixed in.  I am content with the result but was looking for a stronger finish.  I had a better result two weeks earlier at the Holmenkollen World Cup 50km that I was looking to match at the US National Championship.

One of my favorite things about racing the circuit together with Caitlin is getting to help her with her race preparation and watch her race.  She was still on the fence about racing the 30 km after hitting her head and having headaches for the prior week but she had two days headache free and went ahead with her original plan of racing.  The snow had transformed more than we predicted the day before so we introduced a new pair of skis to test before the race.  They felt great in the transforming snow and she decided to race on them.  Thankfully Fredrick and the University of New Mexico had an Iron and he was able to burn in some JetStream Yellow 2.0.  I still wasn't sure that Caitlin was going to race until the gun went off.

She took the lead a few hundred meters in and I was happy to see that she looked relaxed and confidant.  Her skis looked competitive on the downhill too which is a great testament to Fredrick as he is a one man show competing against teams with a greater ability to test multiple waxes, skis and structures.  I couldn't believe it when they came back into view in the field 4 km into the race that she had a 30 second lead.  Her lead extended to 40 seconds at the 5 km mark.  It is a gutsy move to make a break so early in a race and I spent the next 25 km skiing from point to point cheering Caitlin on and giving her back splits.  It was really fun to ski her ski so well and cap off such a strong season. Only on the last lap did I finally relax as she had a 2:41 second lead.  I know that the 30 km freestyle is perhaps her strongest race and I was really sad that she wasn't selected to the Olympic Team in Sochi for it despite winning the 2014 20 km Freestyle National Championship by 3:36.  

Her win in the 30 km should put her in the top 30 distance FIS points ranking too, which is one of the objective criteria for the National Team.  We won't know this for sure until the FIS list closes on April 26th.  We had hoped that a medal at the World Championships would be part of the objective criteria but that is only the case for World Junior Championships or U23 World Championships.  For now the National Team coaches have told us that it will be discussed when they meet in several weeks.


30km National Championship Podium: Caitlin Gregg (1st), Liz Stephen (2nd), Sadie Bjornsen (3rd)

Caitlin and I stayed out in Sun Valley for a few days for a photo shoot with Madshus and for a school visit on Monday.  It sure is great to back home in Minneapolis.  The weather greeted us with a high of 82F our first day back.

Caitlin sharing her World Championship bronze medal with the Boys and Girls Club kids


It is Boys and Girls Club Week this week since it is Spring Break for Minneapolis schools.  We had Run Club practice each day.


Destinee, Azaria and Kayla


Charting our miles run in the Club.  The kids are off to a great start on day 2.  You need to run 3 miles to get in to Run Club and make the board.  The board is a source of a lot of pride at the Club.

While in Sun Valley, Caitlin found the perfect running race to kick off Run Club.  The Timberwolf 5km and 1/2 mile with Crunch, the Timberwolves NBA team's mascot.  In addition to a fun run, each racer receives a ticket to the Timberwolves game on April 15th.  It will be the first NBA game for many of us.  Plus as an added bonus I received a basketball signed by all the Timberwolves for winning the 5 km race.  The Timberwolves signed ball will be the prize for the runner who runs the farthest in Run Club this Spring.  

Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club kids for the Timberwolves Fun Run

Monday, March 23, 2015

Holmenkollen Opportunity

"Lose Yourself"
Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
Yo

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down,
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's choking how, everybody's joking now
The clock's run out, time's up, over, bloah!
Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked
He's so mad, but he won't give up that
Easy, no
He won't have it, he knows his whole back's to these ropes
It don't matter, he's dope
He knows that but he's broke
He's so stagnant, he knows
When he goes back to his mobile home, that's when it's
Back to the lab again, yo
This whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him...

-Eminem


One of my favorite songs over the last two years has been  'Lose Yourself" by Eminem.  Caitlin put it on my phone a few days before the 2014 National Championship 30 km.  I had a great race, finishing 2nd just a few seconds off of the win.  The race essentially put me on the Olympic team. I then flew over to Europe a few hours after the completion of the race to race the period 2 World Cups.   They were my first World Cup starts since 2010 and I knew that if I was going to the Olympics in Sochi and I needed the additional experience.  I took the opportunity, however my first race was terrible and then I caught a cold.  Still, looking back I don't regret taking the opportunity.  

Caitlin and Me at the Holmenkollen World Cup.  Note: A special thanks to the National Nodic Foundation (NNF) and Bjorn Daehlie who helped fund and support the Holmenkollen World Cup weekend.

Opportunities are out there.  They may simply be an invitation to a training camp, a specific workout, a chance to meet a specific person, an entry in to a race, finding yourself in the break at a race or any countless variations. The key is to be in a position to capitalize on the opportunities that come your way.  My focus over in Europe has been supporting Caitlin and racing the Engadin Ski Marathon. After a strong race at the Engadin I was given the opportunity to start the Holmenkollen 50 km freestyle World Cup. The course is hard with a lot of climbing and in my opinion is perfect for me.  My focus the second half of the ski season has been on long distance skate races and the Holmenkollen fit right in with the focuses of my training.


Gear all set up the night before, although I should have had my boots set out too as
I had to double back to get them on race day
My goal going in to the race was to finish in the World Cup points which is the top 30.  Unfortunately the USA men have struggled in distance this year and Simi Hamilton is the only one who has scored any World Cup points with a top 30 in a prologue during the Tour de Ski.   The mass start is seeded based on FIS points and I started 64th of 65 men.  At least the only direction to go was up.

I felt strong throughout the race, pacing off of my teammate Noah Hoffman the first 16 km of the race.  Although I did drop from the main pack I felt that I paced the race well.  I am most happy about skiing the final 10 km well and catching a number of other racers.  I didn't know what place I was in, but I just put in my head that if I passed the next skier or group of skiers up the trail that I would be top 30.  I ended up finishing in 35th, one minute out of top 30.  Although a minute seems like a lot of time, in a 50 km it is just over a second per kilometer.  This was a strong result for me and improves on my 39th finish from the last time I raced Holmenkollen in 2010.  Plus it is one of the stronger distance results of the US men this season.


Caitlin signing autographs for kids after her 30 km Holmenkollen
After my race, the focus went back to supporting Caitlin for her race.  It is pretty fun to be a part of what she has accomplished these last few weeks.  She raced much of the 30 km in the top 10, although faded a bit in the final 10 km to finish a still impressive 19th.  Her scoring of World Cup points also gives the US Ski Team an additional distance World Cup start for next year.


Several ticket changes but great to have our European Race block extended to include the Holmenkollen World Cup
Caitlin and I are now in Sun Valley, Idaho for the final week of ski racing of the season.  This week hasn't been the best for us with Caitlin suffering from a concussion that materialized after a feeding incident at the Holmnekollen.  I have felt good but did not classic ski or sprint well.  We are regrouping and focusing on our marquee events the 50 km and 30 km freestyle National Championships on Thursday.  The last two years has all been about being prepared to capitalize on the opportunities.  A huge thanks to everyone who has come together to help make year two of Team Gregg even better than the first.

Caitlin and the New Mexico ladies.  Fredrick and the University of New Mexico crew has played a key role in the success of Team Gregg.  Always fun to be around them.