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?

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...


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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

World Championship Bronze

Historic Team USA performance at the 2015 FIS World Championships in Falun, SWE
Two weeks ago I watched live one of the most impressive athletic performances ever as Caitlin Gregg and Jessie Diggins skied against the best in the world to historic World Championship Bronze and Silver medals.  The first ever Women’s distance podium at a World Championship in cross country skiing. I am so impressed with both of these women. 

Caitlin in the leader's chair at World Championships! (with me in the background) 
As Caitlin’s husband I perhaps know better than anyone how special her performance really is and what she has had to overcome.  At some point I feel her story may need to be turned in to a book or even a movie.  

“I am so proud of Caitlin and what she has achieved, but I am even more proud of how she has achieved it” –Brian Gregg

Proud World Championship Bronze Medalist
Several of the world’s best cross country skiers are millionaires or even multimillionaires supported by national teams with budgets of millions of dollars.  I believe our national team, the US Ski Team, has a budget of roughly $700,000.  It is a testament to the hardworking Team USA staff and techs that we are able to compete with the top ski nations such as Norway and their budget of perhaps $7 million. 

One of my favorite movies is the film Money Ball based on the true story of the Oakland As 2002 season and their innovative approach to competing with the top teams on a significantly smaller budget.   They decided that they can’t use the same approach as their competitor’s, so they focus on developing their own approach through math and statistics.  In the end they ended up winning the same number of games as the New York Yankees, but the Yankees spend 1.4 million per win and the A's spend 236,000. 

In the 15 years since Caitlin’s first World Junior Championship she has never received direct financial support from the US Ski Team.  8 years ago after competing at the 2007 World Championships Caitlin was told she was too old for the US Ski Team and their pipeline. Caitlin lives, trains and competes on a yearly budget of less than $30,000.  How is that possible? well for one we live in a house that cost $25,500 in an area with one of the lowest cost of living in the country, she cooks almost every meal from scratch, we spend a lot of time researching every purchase and expense, and a ton of families have hosted us through home stays and loaner cars throughout our travels.  Honestly we still feel that we lead a very luxurious life despite sharing a single car and training on bikes with down tube shifters.  I believe Caitlin is the first cross country skier ever to win a World Championship medal without ever having been a member of the National Team.  Although we hope that credential may be added next year.  We are very proud of Caitlin's success as a bit of an outsider and the inspiration we hope it gives others who may be just outside the traditional pipeline to success.

Caitlin coached me to the 2014 Olympic Team.  Unfortunately she was not selected to the team.  Instead of becoming discouraged and quitting she came home, shared my story with our kids at the Boys and Girls Club and set her goal on making the 2015 World Championship Team. 
Over the seven years Caitlin and I have been with In The Arena we have worked over 2,000 hours with a lot of kids.  Most of them coming from lower-income families.  I am so happy for the hope that I know Caitlin's bronze medal will bring in to these kids lives encouraging them to dream big, work hard and believe.

Caitlin sharing her Dala Horse and World Championships with a group of Swiss kids

Thehigh of the World Championships Bronze medal in the 10 km Freestyle was met the next morning with the blow of not being selected for the freestyle 5km leg in the 4 x 5km relay.  We have a very strong group of USA Women and I don’t envy the coaches who makes the decision of who starts and who cheers on the course.  We turned the day in to a positive with one of the coolest training sessions I have ever had as an athlete.  With the World Championship course open one hour before the race we skied together and execute Caitlin’s interval session in front of over 40,000 yelling fans.  The fans in Falun are serious and many recognized Caitlin and cheered her by name around the course.  We were absolutely flying and it was incredible to share in that experience together.  

The Swedish Fans are amazing.
After cheering Team USA on to a strong 4th place finish we packed up and traveled down to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the Engadin Ski Marathon.  

Caitlin Back in Bronze in the Engadin Ski Marathon
Caitlin had another historic race  with a bronze medal in the Engadin Ski Marathon with the best ever American womens' finish in a three way sprint tor the top woman within a huge pack of men.   Anouk Faivre (5th in the 10 km Freestyle at World Championships) won the sprint over Ritta-Liisa Roponen who (18th in the 10 km Freestyle and 8th in the 15km Skiathalon at World Championships).   

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am one very proud husband.  The last three years, my training has been the focus of our relationship and this year has been Caitlin's year. Unfortunately she had shingles this Fall so wasn't able to capitalize on her World Cup start opportunities as last years Super Tour winner.   She amazed me with how positive she stayed, she set up a plan that involved taking three weeks off from racing in mid winter to just train.  She wrote our her training plan, made minor adjustments based on her feelings during workouts and got the job done.  Coach of the Year?

While Caitlin has been the primary focus, I am also feeling great.  After a great start to the season, but a poor US Nationals we decided to put the US National 50km as my next focus event. I finished in the lead men's group in my first Engadin.  Next up we have both been granted discretionary starts by the US Ski Team for the Hollmenkollen World Cup 30/50km in Oslo, Norway.  We are ready to capitalize on the opportunity.  A huge thank you to all the supporters and members of Team Gregg, although we are only two racers we have one of the biggest and best team of people behind us.

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