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.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

On Snow Training Camp

Thank you to our incredible sponsors and supporters.  The last two weeks I have spent training, eating, and sleeping and am so grateful for this opportunity.  Although we have great internet at our little studio here in Canada, being out of the country and away from home has allowed us the luxury to focus almost entirely on our training.  We are training on the 2km loop that is 'Frozen Thunder,'  last years snow stored through the summer under wood chips.  The temperatures have been warm here in Canmore, AB sometimes as high as 60 F.  Surprisingly the man made snow has held up well, but I do hope we get some colder temperatures and more natural snow soon.  

The loop takes between 6-10 minutes so 4-5 hours of training each day makes for a lot of laps.  There are so many talented skiers here to follow, watch and mimic technique from though that I find myself easily entertained.  

My training camp in Canmore is brocken in to two blocks.  The first block of 8 days focused on volume with some L2 skiing to focus on technique as well as two races.  I felt good skiing distance, but the races didn't go so well.  I skied pretty quickly on my distance days to focus on technique and I think that left me a bit tired for the races. I look forward to being sharp for the races in West Yellowstone.

Laundry Day at our Canmore Studio

Caitlin does a great job finding some fantastic deals on lodging.  One of the ways we are able to do such a long (3 week) training camp is that we are able to find affordable accommodations.  This little studio was only $40/night and we have two beds which helps us maximize our recovery.  I have always enjoyed living in small spaces, especially after living in my brother's yurt.  Small spaces require you to be simple, clean and organized.  

Caitlin carved me the coolest nigh light ever for Halloween.  I also got a bag of my favorite canadian candy, wine gums.  

Waxing and Testing our ski fleet

Thanks to a donation from Stephanie through our Fundly campaign  we were able to rent one of the wax rooms here at the Canmore Nordic Center.  This has been huge in allowing us to wax and test our fleet of skis.  The opportunity to have a world cup level wax room, located basically on the trails is pretty huge.  We have really good skis and we do our best to take really good care of them which while we are testing in dirty snow means at least an hour of waxing each day.  I am certainly jealous of the other teams up here who all have wax techs.  Many teams have one tech for every 2-3 athletes.  I actually really enjoy waxing and working on skis though.  Plus I have been able to catch up on some great pod-casts. 

Photo Credit: USSA

My second block of training is nine days and focused on intensity.  I have been fortunate to be able to join the Canadians for some of their workouts including a skiathalon 2*25 min L3 and a 10*1min L4 session.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healthy Teeth, Warrior Dash World Championships, and Fall Camp

I have had a hard time deciding which I like better, the monkey or the dragon.  Both have great smiles.

Soon to be Dentist Audrey and a few of her friends at the Boys and Girls Club.

We had a nice treat at the Boys and Girls Club last week with a visit from the University of Minnesota dentistry students.  Our good friend Audrey Weber is in her second year of dental school and organized a visit with seventeen of her classmates to come teach the kids more about their teeth and dental hygiene.  The kids had a lot of fun learning the proper way to floss and brush their teeth,  dressing up as a dentist, making tooth molds, and more.  A big thank you to Audrey for organizing the afternoon and helping make the smiles at the Club even better.

Kids earned entry to the Dental activities though some physical fitness games such as knuckle push ups.

Caitlin and the crew staying active while they wait their turn to meet the dental students.

Playground Training
Ski training took a bit of a back seat to some running and obstacle training these last two weeks.  Caitlin qualified for the Warrior Dash World Championships last April and a few weeks ago I was approved to compete in the race as well.  The race promised a unique and fun challenge as well as $100,000 in prize money.  Our Minneapolis training group came together for a little practice interval session at the playground at French Park.  We had to start real early so that we wouldn't scare the kids away.  Thankfully at 7:30 the temperatures were just above freezing and we were able to complete our workout before the younger kids came to play.

Fall, my favorite time of year in Minneapolis
One of the prettiest 5km Road Races I have ever done is the Historic Riverfront 5 km from Boom Island Park in Minneapolis.  One of several 5 km races in the metro the weekend after the Twin Cities Marathon.  The colors are at their peak in the Twin Cities and the course runs from Boom Island Park along the east bank of the Mississippi, crosses the stone arch bridge and returns up the west bank and back over the Plymouth bridge.  On the start line I noticed one of the other women looked extremely fit and vaguely familiar.  One of the other runners asked if she did many running races and she mentioned she did more triathlons.  It then hit me that it was World Champion Gwen Jorgensen, now Gwen Lemieux.  One of my ITA teammates Sara Groff is a triathlete and I have become a big fan of Triathalon and watching her and Gwen race.  We ran the first two miles of the race together and I just barely got her by the finish line.

Caitlin, Gwen (Jorgensen) Lemieux, Pat Lemieux and Me
It is pretty fun to meet one of your heroes in person.  It is also pretty cool that a little neighborhood 5km would have 3 of the Twin Cities Olympians.

Olympic Slideshow and Ice Cream Social with the Minnehaha Academy Ski Team.

Caitlin and I on the road for our Fall training camp
It has been great to be at home for over two months but I am excited to start my fall training camp.   I love everything I do in and with the community at home but am ready for some training and recovery time with minimal distractions.

Caitlin and I post Warrior Dash World Championships

Check out Caitlin's blog for a recap of our Warrior Dash World Championships.  We were dissapointed to leave with a goose egg of prize money to support our ski season but the smiles and memories were awesome.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Make Skiing a Family Affair

Family skiing has been a theme the last two weeks here in Minneapolis.  One of the great benefits of not traveling for any camps the last two months is the chance to be a greater part of the Twin Cities community.  

Hanging out before the North Minneapolis Middle School Ski Night 
The North Minneapolis middle school programs had a kickoff event to start of their season.  In addition to the standard logistics and planning for the season the event was targeted at connecting with the parents of the kids in the program.  One of the programs that The Loppett foundation is offering is the opportunity for parents of kids on the team to come and take ski lessons for free.  I think this is a great way to really grow the sport.  My start in skiing really came from getting out as a family and going skiing and to have everyone embracing winter is a great thing.

Hiawatha SkiKlubb MYSL Clinic
Sticking with the theme of family skiing we did a clinic with the Hiawatha SkiKlubb.  The clinic was for kids and adults.  We warmed up together and then split up into a kids and adult group.  Participants had to pay attention as when we came together the kids taught the adults how to improve their downhill tuck and the adults taught the kids to double pole.  
One of the goals of the club is to make it so skiing isn't a 'drop off event' but rather a chance for both kids and adults to get in a workout and have fun.  

Loppet Foundation Member Event: Canoe
Caitlin and I helped host the September Loppet Member Event.  The perfect Sunday evening became even better with a surprise catered meal for participants.  After dinner we enjoyed the sunset as we paddled the chain of lakes.  My twin brother and my sister-in-law were in town and her family joined for the event too.  Although it is always fun to eat with family, it is even better to be active.

On my way to a new course record for my 10 km Time Trial.
Training has been great as well as I finished off my last big volume week of the year complete with a test on my 10 km time trial.  I performed the time trial last year on the exact same day and this year I was able to better my course record by 5 seconds.  I am real happy with that as I was slower in my early August test.

Hiawatha SkiKlubb Clinic #2
Tonight's clinic with the Hiawatha SkiKlubb felt a bit more like Fall as we huddled close together to stay warm.  After a brief talk about goal setting and everyone writing down 5 of their personal goals down we got to the workout and no one had to worry about being cold.  We are all excited for winter.

A huge thanks to our community and sponsors who make this ski racing dream a reality.  Last year we had our best seasons to date thanks to a successful community donation campaign through Fundly.  If you would like to support our ski racing and community efforts please donatate or spread the word about our campaign