Sunday, February 22, 2015

Owl Creek Chase and American Birkebeiner

I have had a little mid-season break from racing after a planned training block and an unfortunate race cancellation.  Thankfully I was able to add in a race to my schedule in preparation for the Birkie and that is one of my favorite races, the Owl Creek Chase.  The Owl Creek used to be a regular stop on the Super Tour as well as the college race circuit.  The race has become smaller and less competitive in the last few years but it always a fun event.  I am super impressed with Steamboat Winter Sports Club Coach Josh Smulin who waxed and coached his juniors for over three hours in the morning before hopping in the race.
1st Place Owl Creek Chase
Double Win for Team Gregg and a Madshus Sweep on the women's field.
The Owl Creek served as a great tune up race and a cap to our altitude block.  We were met with some pretty awful traffic and weather on our drive to the Denver Airport but were able to get Caitlin on her flight to Sweden.  The Alpine World Championships at Beaver Creek had just concluded and every team seemed to be on either Caitlin's Iceland flight or the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt which checked in right next to it.  This group of skiers don't travel light and the airport crews were slightly overwhelmed.

I was happy to have Caitlin aboard her flight to Europe and for myself to head home to Minneapolis and then to the American Birkebiener.
Love these smiles

Unfortunately I came home to a 28F house.  A guest had accidentally turned the heat off and the AC on.   Usually I can control the temperature wirelessly through my phone, but a squirrel had eaten the internet connection.

Thankfully everything worked out just fine.  The house eventually heated back up and the water starting flowing and draining.  I did have one pipe burst at 4 am on Tuesday but it couldn't have been in a better place and I was able to fix it for under $5.  A big potential disaster avoided.

Here are some photos from the Birkie.  Text will be coming after I arrive in Sweden.

Thanks, Brian

Birkie Expo

Sunday, February 8, 2015

BMT Lemonade

The Boulder Mountain Tour is one of the largest ski races in the western United States.  It is a scenic and fast 34.3km with 1100 vertical feet of drop from Galena Lodge.  I am a big fan of hilly courses and I have always thought that I would enjoy the race even more if it were run backwards.  Still, the race has a huge history and this year was the 40th anniversary race.  Not to mention the race puts forth one of the better prize purses in US Ski Racing: 1st- $2500, 2nd - $1000, 3rd - $500.  

First day in Sun Valley, with plenty of Sun
Testing skis at the finish line of the race prior to the big day
Meeting old friends and new friends at the Bliz sunglasses booth at the expo.

Signing posters
We love ski racing and sharing the excitement and nerves with all the other racers.  Testing skis and various wax combinations and how well they might help your current level of fitness.  The big question mark for the weekend was the weather on race day.  The forecast called for an 80% chance of rain on Friday, howerver that turned out to be just blue skies and sun.  Saturday called for 100% chance of either rain or several inches of snow.  We woke up to the sound of rain pounding down on the roof.  The conditions were certainly on the nasty side of things.  I immediately was thankful to have the rain poncho I had teased Caitlin about picking up the night before.  As we prepared for what would certainly be a wet and cold race we received the phone call that everyone hates to get on race morning.  The Boulder Mountain Tour was cancelled due to weather and road conditions.  Over 12 trees had fallen on the course and the last 6 km of trail were closed due to high avalanche risk.  

I am pretty sure Sun Valley only has about one day during the winter where you couldn't hold the race and sadly the timing couldn't have been worse. This was a lose-lose situation as the racers were without a race and the race organizers essentially had all the costs of putting on the race with out the satisfied end product of a bunch of happy racers.  

As professional ski racers the majority of our income comes from race winnings, win schedules and sponsorship.  We took a huge loss this weekend.  A race isn't won until you cross the finish line and anything can happen in a race, but it is a real bummer to not even have the chance to race. 

What is one to do?  We decided to help make things a bit more positive for the organizers and other racers.  It turns out the skiing at the start was great up at the start near Galena Lodge.  We hosted a free clinic for BMT racers with fellow elite racers Lauren Fritz and Torin Koos.  

Although short notice we had over 50 participants who had a great time learning how to become more efficient for next years Boulder Mountain Tour.  Today we did intervals to make up for not racing this weekend and will return to Colorado for another week of altitude training. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Skiing with the Community

Caitlin and I dropped down to Hayward, WI after US Nationals for a week of training on the American Birkebeiner Trail in perfect mid winter conditions.  After a solid few days of training the weekend kicked off with the Seeley Hills Classic 42km.  This is one of my favorite races and one that I have won twice.  The competition was really good this year with Matt Liebsch and Tad Elliot also in town.  We finished in the same order as in the American Birkebeiner in 2012 with Tad taking the win ahead of Matt and then me.

Race Organizer, Friend, and Champions of skiers Dennis Kruse
On Sunday we skied the Birkie Tour which is a non competitive, fully supported tour of the Birkie trail.  We both opted for the 45km freestyle tour and it was a blast to ski a big loop with friends and plenty of food and drink along the way.  It was amazing how many people were out for the tour and it was fun to be able to chat while we skied relaxed and enjoyed the north woods.

Heading to the start of the Birkie Tour felt very similar to heading to the start of the race

Skiing with Travis and Vince

Caitlin having fun on the Birkie Trail

Touring Life Link III's Koala Helicopter and Air Ambulance
We decided to go big for the weekend and after a quick recharge from our 3 hour ski we met up with 145 kids from Nordic Kids.  This group of kids were amazing in how fearlessly they took on the challenges we presented them.

Can you make it to me in less than 5 kicks by gliding on your 1 ski?

Caitlin signing Autographs for the kids after our ski
After a busy two months of racing we decided that we needed to take a break from racing and put in some needed training time.  My results and feeling the last two weekends have left me realizing that I need to put in a bit more distance and threshold skiing and fewer harder efforts.  We are doing a little high altitude training camp now in sunny Colorado.

Yes, let's take that trail.

Monday, January 12, 2015

US Nationals Championships in Review

Selfie with Blizzard the Husky and Head Michigan Tech University Coach Joe Haggenmiller
Last year I had my best ever US National Championships with a 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 8th (sprint) place finishes.  This year my goals were podiums and I finished the week disappointed with a top finish of 11th in the Classic Sprint and poor results for me in both distance races with a 14th and 21st.  On the bright side my Classic Sprint finish is a personal best classic sprint finish at Nationals and I qualified 7th in the Freestyle sprint which is a strong qualification position for me.

A close finish in my quarter final.  I actually finished 3rd, but advanced to the semi finals as a luck loser since I had the fastest time of all the 3rd place finishers.
After the 2010 Olympics, and our engagement, Caitlin made it one of her goals to help me make the 2014 Olympic Team.   Competing as a husband and wife duo is awesome, but it is not easy.  Success as an elite level athlete requires a ton of support from sponsors, friends, family and community.  It is rare to have two elite level athletes be in a relationship who are both still competing.  We are often tired, stressed and hungry at the same time which makes supporting each other even more draining.  A huge advantage we do have as a married couple is our ability to know how best to support each other.  We know the words of encouragement to say at the right time, we know how we can be the most helpful during training or recovery.  We also get to be together throughout many of our travels, races and training camps.  One thing that we work towards is excellence in everything that we do.  One of the safeguards that we put up is that we name one of us as the priority going in to each year.  This allows the decision of who does the dishes when we are both absolutely exhausted a little bit easier.  Over the last 4 years, and especially the 2013/2014 season Caitlin has made me the priority.  She did a pretty amazing job of this, supporting me to the Olympic Team and numerous wins.  She didn't do too shabby herself winning 3 American Birkebeiner titles and 2 more National Championships.  She even made a real good case for herself to make the 2014 Olympics last year when she won the 20 km Freestyle race by an unheard of 3 minutes 36 seconds.  This year that margin was the difference between 1st and 21st in the Women's 20 km Classic.  Caitlin won the Overall Super Tour last year which granted her World Cup start rights for the first 4 weeks of the season.  This year Caitlin has finally been the priority.   

Caitlin winning the 10km Freestyle National Championships

A huge highlight of the week came through supporting Caitlin to her 5th National Championship. Caitlin was diagnosed with shingles a few days before her first World Cup this Fall and put on anti-biotics.  She was cleared to race, however she did not perform at the level we had seen this summer or were expecting.  She returned from Europe slightly discouraged and tired.  She took a number of days off before returning to really easy and short training.  Back in 2008 US Nationals were in Houghton and Caitlin won the 5km freestyle.  This win was a big one as all the National Team athletes were also there.  The 10 km Freestyle is one of Caitlin's best events and it is her goal race for the 2015 World Championships.  Then men raced the 15 km Freestyle first and unfortunately my race did not go well.  We became worried about our ski and wax choice and spent the 2 hours prior to the race working with our wax team on ski and wax selection.  Thankfully Caitlin started near the back of the A seed (as opposed to bib 1 which we both were last year).  It is advantageous to start near the back because you can receive splits on your competitors.  I ran all over the course to give Caitlin splits at three different locations.  I like to think that my yelling and screaming made a difference as she skied herself to a 12 second win over Rosie Brennan who has had an impressive season and has won nearly every race she has entered this year.

The race took a lot out of Caitlin and she decided to not race the Classic sprint the next day.  Feeling that she was on the edge, she made the smart decision to sit out the 20km classic race as well and focus on winning the freestyle sprint.  She won the qualifier by over 2 seconds and went on to advance to the A final where she made a tactical mistake in her final heat which required her to pass the other 4 girls in the final 400m to secure 2nd.

We are back in Hayward now to take some time to absorb last weeks racing and prepare for the second half of our season.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Canadian NorAms and Holiday Training Camp

After over a month apart with Caitlin racing on the World Cup and myself on the SuperTour/NorAm it is hard to take the smile off of my face now that I am back with this girl.
Caitlin and I enjoying freshly groomed snow on the Birkie Trail 
In the summer of 2006 I loaded up my 1982 Volvo station wagon with everything I owned in Alaska and drove to my new home in the northern Wisconsin.  My brother had told me about this awesome race he had done in the Cable-Hayward area and other than that I didn't know much.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life.  Writing this blog from Cresthill Resort I am basically at home.  Scott and Kay Wilson stepped up and offered Garrott Kuzzy and me a home at Cresthill Resort when our original plans .  You couldn't ask for a better year round home base with the Birkie trail just down the road and fantastic roller skiing and biking from the door and the refreshing lake to greet you upon return.  The proof is in the fact that both residents of Cabin A are now both Olympians.  Although it took me an additional quad to catch up to Kuzzy (2010).  This trip is the first time I have been back in Hayward since Sochi and it is fun to get to share the stories and experience of the Olympics in person with the many people throughout the community who helped make my Olympic dream a reality.

Evening ski with Mary and Scott
The majority of my professional career has been spent training from Cresthill and around the Hayward-Cable area.  I could argue that I know the Birkie trail better than any other current elite racer.  It is great to train again on the trail and to see the many changes and improvements that have been made over the years.  One change that I am not so sure about is that Scott and Kay's granddaughter Mary is no longer a little kid.  It has been fun to watch her grow up over the last 8 years.

This year is the first Christmas we have spent with Catlin's family and it was great to enjoy the cabins at Cresthill Resort with her Mom, Dave, and Grandma.  After her Mom's two strokes she is doing remarkably well and the chance to be in the cabin overlooking the lake had a really positive effect on her.  Dave cooked us up a fantastic Christmas feast of tenderloin and Grandma is just impressive cruising around on the snow and ice at age 85.  

Testing skis with Dad at Soverign Lake, BC
The NorAm races in Whistler were moved to Soverign Lake, BC last weekend and that worked out well for me.  I really enjoy racing at Soverign and is just a 4.5 hour drive from the Methow.  My Mom and Dad were able to drive up and help out at the race.  Chad and Alieta also came to help as well.  They left Seattle and drove through the middle of the night, arriving at 5am in the morning.  I race well with the family at the races and the added support paid off with Kris and I going 1-2 in the 30km Freestyle.

The medals were actually made of chocolate

I am often asked, "What is Team Gregg.?" Yes, Caitlin and I compete as Team Gregg, but honestly Team Gregg is the huge team of people behind us that make this ski dream possible.  Team Gregg is a family, but not everyone's last name is Gregg.

Tara and I at the Rossland NorAm
Tara and Simon came up to support me at the Rossland NorAM race. I feel very fortunate to have family members and supporters and so many of the races.  

Next up is the US National Championships in Houghton, MI with the first race on Jan 4.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

West Yellowstone Season Opener

The Super Tour season kicked off this weekend in West Yellowstone, Montana.  The season opener is especially exciting as athletes have been training all spring, summer and fall and the races offer the first glimpse on how all that training and work will play out in the race season.  I have training more this year by myself than in any other year, and it is great to see that I am right in the mix.  Caitlin and I went with a strategy that had my training load pretty high throughout the summer and fall.  I had more than a few training sessions with friends where I really got worked.

Racing to 2nd place in the 15 km Freestyle interval start.
Over 3,000 skiers take over West Yellowstone, Montana for the Yellowstone Ski Festival.  It is a fun way to kick of the season with so many others who share the passion for the sport.

Ski with an Olympian: Race Course Preview
On Wednesday I did a free group ski with juniors from Minnesota, California and Utah.  We skied the 5km Race Loop and discussed how best to race it.  I remember doing the same thing with Olympians Laura McCabe and Leslie Hall.  It is fun to think what kind of impact little things like that might impact the next generation of ski racers.

Team Gregg Family living out of the hotel room for the week
This marks the 11th Thanksgiving I have spent in West Yellowstone.  I am very thankful to have some of my family here in town to celebrate it with.  The Team Gregg crew is the A team for sure and it makes me proud what we can all accomplish together.  

Olympic Mom putting the finishing touches on Team Gregg's new Bjorn Daehlie jackets

Team Gregg is more than just Caitlin and myself.  The Team Gregg family was sewing on patches, programming split timers, taking splits, snapping photos, cheering, providing splits and more.  Here is a video Chad put together of the Sprint race.  I had a strong day and one of my top sprint results in the last few years.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Arrived in West Yellowstone

Just finished a fun 20 km cruise on the Rendezvous Ski Trails here in West Yellowstone, MT.  Daylight joined us for the first half of the ski before I had to switch on my headlamp.  There is snow in town already which is fantastic and I found the skiing to be quite good.  A few more inches would make things a lot better.  I used my training skis and didn't pick up any scratches, however there a few areas where some taller grass or young trees are poking through along with a few chunks of frozen dirt.  The crew here in West Yellowstone has done a really great job of buffing out the trails and the festival will certainly be in town this year.  We broke the drive up in to a day and a half, which went smoothly with  the exception of a slight delay when the truck had a flat tire just a few hours down the road from Minneapolis.  

I first came to West Yellowstone as a senior in college in 2005 and have been making the pilgrimage here every year since to kick off the ski racing season.  Many great memories here in town including proposing to the perfect girl, skiing in to old faithful, qualifying  for the Olympics, introducing the ski world to Team Gregg and many Thanksgiving feasts with friends and family.  

Skiing on snow in Minneapolis
This year I delayed my arrival to West Yellowstone as the Twin Cities had groomed trail snow skiing It is pretty rare to have such great ski conditions in central Minnesota in early November and is fantastic for skiers and the ski industry.  When it first snowed I was actually bummed because the in between season of too much snow to roller ski and not enough snow for a quality snow ski intensity session is the worse for training.  I adjusted my Tuesday interval workout to bounding, but then had to adjust it again when the park I planned to do intervals in was closed for a deer hunt and I had to switch to pavement running.    The pavement just destroy my legs as I was not used to the running load especially on pavement. Thankfully the next day I discovered the Elk River crew was grooming and the skiing there proved to be fantastic.

My Marwe roller skis have been put to rest for the season.
After a great 19 day camp in Canmore I came home to Minneapolis for a week of sea level intensity and some speaking commitments.  I had the honor of being the guest speaker at the Winona Ski Dinner to help raise money for the skiing programs in Winona.  I had never been to this awesome little community on the river but had heard many great things.  The Winona group is a passionate one and I look forward to returning with my skis and snow on the group.
Presenting to the Edina High School Team
Minneapolis woke up white last Monday to greet the first day of practice for Minnesota High School Skiing.  I gave a talk to the Edina High School team about goal setting and my Olympic experience.  To my delight the Nordic team at Edina High had 180 kids registered and paid on the first day or practice which is so cool.  My high school barely had that many kids in the entire school.  

For my third speaking engagement I gave a free Toko Wax Clinic at Hoigaards.  It is great to see so many people embracing the snow and picking up or updating their ski equipment.  I had fun sharing my experience as a waxer and teaching others how best to care for their skis.

I am now in West Yellowstone and am excited to catch up a bit on my recovery and get the race season underway.