Sunday, October 23, 2016

Family Time!!! The Team behind Team Gregg

The Team Gregg Crew at the 2016 Canmore World Cups
Brian and I are so lucky to have such an awesome family. They are our biggest fans when we are training, traveling and racing, they always take it to another level.  It's great to have their moral support and encouragement when we are struggling with results or not qualifying for teams but it's what they do, often behind the scenes, that really makes the difference!

The Team Gregg Crew at the 2016 Birkie (Kelly, Kurt and Chad were still on course)
I never thought that someday my mother-in-law would be yelling technique advice and telling me to stay with Brian during intervals.  Plus videoing and monitoring how my lactates turned out! But that's what Jan Gregg does! Her coaching advice is straight forward and to the point "you gotta keep up!" She hiked up and down the 4 minute climb filming us for an entire workout last week offering support whenever we needed it.
Happy interval Crew!
Brian warming up for the workout.
Brian giving the thumbs up about his 14.0  lactate
Checking my lactate and letting Jan know where they were :)
Jan telling us which way to go! Seems like she is having fun too!
Jan is also responsible for making our uniforms look good. She is a master seamstress and we have a lot of sponsors to represent. Jan has helped us put patches and Team Gregg logos where ever we need them. She has been known to work late into the night before race day to make sure we look good on the starting line and the podium.

My sister-in-law Alieta Gregg, who also flew in from Washington last week was out on a bike at 32 degrees filming and cheering as Brian and I completed a different intensity session. Her husband, Brian's Brother Chad was also out on his bike during the workout continuously speeding up to get a good shot or following alongside to get a great video clip, possibly working harder than we were, just to support the team. It was early in the morning, cold and probably pretty boring but they came out and pushed us anyway!
Intervals up the Coulee hill in Afton with Chad following behind.
Liet was introduced to this go go go lifestyle by Chad many years ago and has learned Jan's two important sayings..."You gotta keep up" or "You gotta speak up." Liet has embraced the former and jumps in full speed ahead. She has been to countless races and events to cheer for us but she also has her own list of events now under her belt. Liet has finished 4 American Birkebeiners and numerous other races keeping up just fine! When she isn't racing herself I owe a lot of my Birkie feeds to Liet and her driving skills on race day. Liet's enthusiasm and attitude is contagious and just what you need when you are having an off day!

Liet always excited to represent!
Excited to represent the spectators too!
Always smiling
Even after a day of supporting our intervals, Chad was excited to come and hang out with Brian and I for more training while he and Liet were in town. He woke up on Sunday morning thinking he was headed out for an easy hour jog to cheer on the Marathoners. Almost 25 miles later he became a bit quieter but never complained! Chad and Liet work full-time and just finished moving into their first house in the Methow Valley but that doesn't matter when it came to supporting us.

2 hours into the run Chad was starting to get nervous but Craig and his cow suit made him smile!
2 hours later we were still running but there were no cow suits anymore.
Chad is obviously very close to Brian and there is no denying that Brian trains and races his best when Chad is around. Thankfully Chad spends most of his vacations chasing Brian and I around the World!
Chad enjoying the Olympics as only a twin can!
Anyone who follows Team Gregg is probably aware of our logo, two outlined skiers overlapping with the words Team Gregg beside them. Our artist and graphic designer is Tara Gregg, Brian's sister, and we owe our branding and color scheme to her. She has provided us with countless opportunities to get our logo onto most of our gear, including our new car, and we love everything she does!
Tara Showing her Team Gregg/ USA pride.
Tara modeling the Green Theme Jacket!
Tara is also a great supporter when it comes time to race and she is not afraid to jump in for ski testing or waxing when needed.

Jim, Brian's father, is the silent observer who we lean heavily on when it comes time to give splits. He is direct and honest without sugar coating any of the details. Jim will hike out to the farthest part of the course to relay any information we need. Jim's calm and straight forward approach is very effective for Brian and myself and we often find our best events are when Jim is out on course.

Jim thinking about where to stand for Brian's race.
These are the good days to be a part of the Team!
Team Gregg at the Sochi Olympics

The other part of Team Gregg - The Compton side :)

For years my uncle Kelly would remind me that if I made the Olympics he would be there to watch. He started telling me this back in 2002 when I was still in College and every Olympic year that passed and I didn't race he would ask when I was planning to go? Easier said than done! In 2010 my dreams became a reality and I was able to race in the 2010 Olympic Games. A man of his word my uncle was there and he made it possible for my mom, dad, brother and grandmother to attend as well. It was the first time in almost 21 years that my mom, dad, brother and I had seen each other together. To say that wasn't an incredible experience and opportunity is truly an understatement.

"Coach Kelly," Kurt and Brian at the Quebec City World Cups.
When I missed the Olympics in 2014 Kelly and his wife Fran encouraged me to keep racing through Falun, Sweden because they wanted a reason to visit. When I made the 2015 World Championship Team they were the first to congratulate me and let me know they would be there to cheer me on! When they watched my one and only race in Falun, the 10K Skate, they couldn't believe how much fun they were going to have for the next couple of days!
Sharing stories with my family after an incredible race in Falun.
My sister Camille and Fran representing in their matching US Ski Team Jackets!
Since my Olympic debut Kelly has now competed in 3 American Birkebeiners, the Lake Placid Loppet, the Great Race and has a number of other World Loppets on his list of goals! Both Kelly and Fran followed the entire US Ski Team and myself through the Tour de Ski last season and most of the Tour de Canada! These guys have truly embraced a sport over the past 7 years to a level they probably wouldn't have though possible!!! Their home in Truckee, CA has become one of our favorite training camps and their support during those camps is hard to beat anywhere in the World!!!

Fran and Kelly sending me off to Norway for a summer training camp last year!
Unlike the Gregg crew my siblings do not cross country ski! They live in Brooklyn and Los Angeles and have completely different lifestyles then myself. That doesn't stop them from rallying and jumping right in whenever we are together! The morning before my wedding my little sister ran 5 miles with my friends and me without ever complaining or needing a break. The most amazing part is that she had never ran over a mile before!?!?!
My sister Camille and brother Calan at our training camp in Truckee! They are two of the 3 LA siblings, Travis was MIA!
Calan proving that I am weak compared to him.
My NYC brother Gavin showing that he can keep up despite a totally different kind of lifestyle.
Camille is never afraid to jump right into my workouts with me :)

Last year I got a surprise visit from my dad at Super Tour finals. It had been 6 years since he had seen me race but unfortunately I was acting as coach and support crew for the races instead. None the less he came out to the venue and cheered for the entire field of women and men during the grueling 30 km Classic and 50 km Skate races.
My dad and I wearing our sunscreen!
My dad has been battling Melanoma for the past two years and has taken a turn for the absolute BEST! I woke up one Saturday this fall to a photo he sent me of his race bib!!! My first 5K was the caption! I couldn't believe it but as the weeks past he continued to run and race more and more! My dad is now placing in his age group and increasing his mileage and pace every week! This was probably one of the proudest moments of my life so far! He is working hard and overcoming his illness which brings the biggest smile to my face!

Unfortunately my mom is also very sick and hasn't been able to come and watch me ski since the 2011 American Birkebeiner. She still watches the live feed and tries to figure out where in the world Brian and I are based on our Facebook posts!
Visiting with my mom after getting home from a training camp!
Last but certainly not least is Brian! Where do I begin! We have been an awesome team for the past 7 years! It's been an amazing journey together that we never take for granted. We feel so lucky to be able to share all of the ups and downs of training, traveling and racing during this time in our lives. Although we are planning on trying to compete at the World Championship and Olympic level through 2018 we love talking about our plans for life after full-time training and traveling. We have some fun plans and ideas that we cannot wait to start and continue being a team for the rest of our lives :)

Representing Team USA at the World Cup together.
Playing coach for Brian and feeding him during the 50K.
Brian playing coach for me and giving me split information during a race.
Sometimes we embrace when the racing doesn't go well.
Sometimes we embrace when the race goes very well.

Friday, October 14, 2016

More than Athletes

Nothing inspires me more than sharing my passion and love of sports with the kids I work with in North Minneapolis. Coming in a very close second is following the journey of other athletes who also share the same desire to give back despite the rigors of daily training, traveling and competition. Zoila has always been one of MY biggest role models. She embodies the essence of a true champion and I am honored to call her a fellow In-the-Arena teammate and friend.

I follow Zoila and her In-the-Arena Community Service Project in Alamosa, CO. She just missed qualifying for the Olympics in the Marathon in 2008 but that hasn't stopped her from believing in herself and the opportunity she has to make a positive impact on the youth in her community. A few weeks ago I noticed that Zoila was coming to the Twin Cities to race the Twin Cities Marathon! I was so excited to finally meet her in person and watch her run!

Excited to meet Zoila and watch her run! Planning our route to get maximum cheering in.
My goal was to cheer Zoila on from as many places as possible during the Marathon. Luckily I had a 4 hour + run planned for that day which meant we had plenty of miles to cover ourselves! Chad, Brian's Twin brother, joined us for the adventure and helped us get Zoila to the finish line with a big smile on her face :)
I love making signs for people. In-the-Arena means a lot to Zoila and she raced in an ITA jersey so we wanted her sign to represent all her passions.
Our first cheering spot just past 2 miles into the race. It was a cool morning and perfect conditions for the event.
We loved watching the top runners but also enjoyed seeing many other friends racing as well!
We ran to mile 17cheered and then moved to Mile 21. Mile 21 is a tough one because that is where the hills start and the effort sets in. Here Zoila gets her game face on!
Zoila was amazing! She finished as the 7th woman overall and was the second American woman across the line! It beautiful to watch her run and I was energized the whole way for my own workout. In all Brian, Chad and I managed to cover 24.5 miles ourselves while cheering for most of the 10,000 marathon runners along the way! It was an awesome day for cheering and training :)
Zoila and I met up for lunch the following day and I was so honored to give her the poster I made for her.
Our Run Club program has come to an end for the year at the Boys and Girls Club and we crushed our goal of running 2,000 miles as a club! We are so proud of our kids and have already started looking at the schedule for next spring! We still have our neighborhood projects going strong however and the biggest success this year has been getting the kids out biking in Theo Wirth Park. We have partnered with a lot of great organizations, businesses and individuals to help connect the neighborhood kids with bikes, helmets and healthy snacks. 

Below is a day in the life for the Thomas Ave. North Training Club.  Brian and I strive for consistent and ongoing connections with our youth. We do plenty of single day appearances and events but we truly feel there is a greater connection and success with long term exposure and programming. It certainly isn't easy but it's definitely worth it. We do everything from running sprints around the block to relay races, building jumps for our bikes and taking trips to the nearby playground and of course...getting over to Theodore Wirth Park to search for wildlife :)
Time to get some helmets for the new bike owners.
Jazeer seems to think he always needs to wear his helmet. 
Thanks to Venture North Bike Shop and the American Neurological association for providing free helmets for the kids.
Checking out the bike tuning station outside the shop.
Brian making sure the bikes are ready to go.
The kids are very influenced by their surroundings. Amir checking his own bike.
We have collected a few bikes from some friends and neighbors which we have connected with the kids who we feel help keep the neighborhood clean and participate in healthy outdoor activities.
Heading out down the block.
Exploring the paved trails near Theo Wirth.
The goal is to teach the kids how to get to Theodore Wirth Park from their doorsteps on their own. We always travel the same and safest route to get to the park and we have identified the central meeting location near Wirth Lake should we get separated. When Brian and I aren't in town to bring them ourselves, we have encouraged their older siblings to also join so that the can continue exploring all that Wirth has to offer. So far it's working great!

Would it be better for my recovery if I wasn't spending over 500 hours a year volunteering and giving back? Maybe. I could nap more, spend less late nights planning my training and focus more time on myself but I know that would not make me a better athlete in the long run. I have found a way to balance my community outreach, my club outreach my sponsor obligations and my training. Most importantly, I absolutely love all of it! I have been bringing the neighborhood kids over to Theodore Wirth on a regular basis and run while they bike. My distance/ recovery pace is the exact same speed they can bike and I get my workout in while they experience something new exciting.
Walking the bikes on the Wirth Lake boardwalk.,
Adventuring onto some single track trails!!!
There have been tons of studies on recovery and how to maximize it for elite athletes. I have found that surrounding my athletic goals with civic goals is the best for me. I love knowing that at the end of my racing career some of my best memories will be of the time I spent giving back while also training and racing at my absolute maximum. Zoila's story truly encompasses this concept. Her journey is one of the most inspirational I have ever heard. Watch her video below to learn more about who she is and what she does!