Monday, February 23, 2015

A Big Thanks to my Teammates!


Everyone knows how much hard work goes into reaching your goals. Words such a dedication, persistence, perseverance and sacrifice are among a few of the terms used to describe the scenario involved with performing your best. There is another element, that has often be referenced in Nordic Skiing in the past but that I wanted to highlight on the Eve of my 2015 World Championships Debut (I am racing the 10K tomorrow!), that is the role of teammates.


As I look back on this past year of training and racing I can't help but remember the workouts and adventures that involved my other LNR teammates. Sure there were plenty of solo efforts that were probably integral in my success but for some reason I can't think of them now. All I picture is the hard work and effort put in by everyone on the group training days. Even when I was hundreds or thousands of miles away, I remember seeing the photos and reading the posts about what the LNR athletes were doing and how they motivated me to do my best that day too!



As the results poured in from the early winter races I was fixated on how the "Team" was doing and almost looked forward to seeing their successes (I include Brian in this group too) than I was about my own upcoming World Cups. It was the greatest feeling knowing how hard everyone had worked together over the spring, fall and summer and seeing the results show that effort as well.











When I came back from a less than stellar World Cup period 1, it was amazing to get the group together again in Houghton, Michigan and prepare for what we would soon realize was an incredible week of racing.





I can remember on a few of our longer workouts talking about our goals for the season. All the girls knew I was shooting for the 10K here at World Champs and now that it is only a day away I can't help but feel their support and encouragement even though I have been gone for so long!







I look forward to representing our LNR team and Team USA tomorrow. It's a wonderful feeling knowing how many people make these opportunities and dreams possible. I look forward to helping the rest of the LNR crew (including Brian) continue to reach their goals and dreams too!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Heading to the 2015 Nordic World Championships!

I am very excited about heading to 2015 World Championships in less than a week! Below is an interview from one of the media sources (Fasterskier) for Nordic Skiing here in the US!




Questions from Landar Karath:

1. This is your first World Champs since 2009. How does it feel to return to arguably one of the biggest events in Nordic ski racing?
I am very excited about the upcoming opportunity to represent the US and all of my supporters and sponsors on the "World Stage" again. I have a lot of awesome teammates and coaches with Loppet Nordic Racing who helped me reach this goal and I am happy to represent them as well. 

2. When did you find out you made the team and how did you feel once you got the news? 
I found out I made the team a few days before the official announcement and I was beyond ecstatic! 

3. What did you think your chances were to make the team? (I remember you said earlier this season that you heard a rumor it was just USSTers who would be chosen.) 
Honestly...I wasn't sure. I've heard a lot of rumors regarding team selections and size over the past couple of years and I realized that it is completely out of my control. The only thing I can do is focus on skiing my best.

4. Were the 2014 Olympic selections on your mind this season? How did any of those feelings factor into this year's quest to be on the World Champs team? 
Yes and No. I had a pretty incredible season last year and felt strong from beginning to end. Olympics or not I had a blast and will always remember 2014 with fondness!I learned a lot about why I love this sport and why I choose to continue committing so much time towards it. I approached this past summer and fall knowing I had a great opportunity to learn from racing the fall World Cups. Although I wasn't 100%, I still came away with some of the best experiences of my racing career (even if the results didn't show it). 

5. You and Brian unfortunately were not able to compete together at either the 2014 Olympics or this year's World Champs. Is there any disappointment there? Will he remain in the U.S. while you're competing?
We try to look at everything in a positive way...which means that Team Gregg has successfully put athletes on the past two Olympic/ Championship Teams! Obviously we would love to go together but we need a goal for 2017 right! Brian will stay in the US and race one of the most important events for our sponsors, the American Birkebeiner. We love the Birkie and it has always been a great event for us.

6. Now that you've made the team, what are your goals for Falun? Is the 10 k freestyle a target? 
Yes the 10 K Freestyle race is my target event. I have been preparing soley for that race for the past month here in Frisco, CO. Training is going well and I am looking forward to getting back to Sweden!

7. You mentioned in Houghton that you were still feeling the effects of ill health (shingles) and travel in the form of fatigue. How is your health now? How is your skiing feeling as you ready for World Champs? 
I am feeling so much better now. I would say that all of the symptoms and lingering fatigue are completely gone now. I have been able to put in one of my best mid-season training blocks ever this past 6 weeks and I am really looking forward to racing again! I have had a really positive response to training at altitude in the past and we had to get a little creative about how to keep my sea-level speed and power up at over 9,000 ft but I am feeling good about the hard work and rest I have put in.

8. Will you race in Ă–stersund this weekend? If so, what are your goals for the race(s)? 
I will not be racing in Ostersund this weekend. I heard it was an option a bit too late for me to take advantage of the opportunity. My training, racing and travel plans were already lined out to have me head over just as the Championships start. I love Ostersund and have had good races in the past there. Last time I was there was the 2008 World Championships for Biathlon.

Watch for me and the entire US Team live from the LLBean Falun App!!!




Sunday, January 25, 2015

Community

The week after US Nationals in Houghton, MI was an awesome combination of rest, rejuvenation and more time with the local Midwest XC Ski community. Brian and I returned to our pre-nationals camp headquarters in Hayward, WI. We have been so lucky to stay with countless families and individuals each time we visit and we cannot thank each of them enough! 

The snow on the Birkie trail was awesome and the vibe, with just over a month until the American Birkiebeiner, was even better. Brian and I spent a few days planning an outlining the remainder of our race season and where we would travel for training and racing. It's a long process as this is the time of year when we are waiting to hear about international race opportunities (World Championships in Falun, Sweden) and we are guessing a bit on what is the best approach to make sure we are ready for whatever decision is made.

After a few days of planning, organizing and recovery we were both anxious to get out and start building a base for the remainder of the season so we can finish the year out strong. We started putting in long hours on the Birkie Trail and enjoyed the company of the famous Ski and Tea Ladies! It was their 7th anniversary and they have always been huge supporters of healthy, active women! I am very grateful for all of their support over the years and it was great to celebrate such an awesome milestone with them on Friday morning. 


The Ski and Tea Ladies ready to ski!

Brian and I also spent Saturday morning preparing for and racing the Seeley Hills Classic race. It's a 42K (well only 38K this year) and 21K classic only race and  it is put on by Dennis Kruse of Seeley, WI! The event is always a blast and the stone trophies with Metal skiers are the coolest prizes at any event. Each age group podium finisher gets an awesome handmade plate as well! We proudly display our trophies and eat off our plates from year's past! The race itself was a bit of a challenge as Brian and I decided to try and wax our own skis! Wow! That was hard! We tested base layers, top coats and kick waxes galore. We were at the venue two hours before race start and by the time we started the race I was happy to finally just get going! We gave ourselves a B- for the day. We were competitive but it was so much work and we still didn't quite nail it as our skis seemed to have a little too much kick for the mostly flat second half. Oh well, it was a good way to really learn to appreciate how hard our coaches and wax techs work to get us such incredible race skis when it counts! I had fun skiing with Natalia from the CXC Team and catching up with so many faces I hadn't seen since before I left for the first World Cups in October.

Signing our picture cards
The very next morning Brian and I were up early to ski the 46K Birkie Tour Event. We had a great time skiing and sharing stories with tons of people from all over. It was a great way to enjoy the trail without the pressure of an important race. After the Tour Brian and I stayed around to volunteer for the Hayward Nordic Kids that afternoon. There were 145 kids at the event and everyone was having a great time on skis. Brian and I enjoyed leading the Timber Wolves through a series of drills (and spills!).


Back on the trails at Theodore Wirth.

After a very long day we packed up our stuff and headed home. It was great to be back in my own bed even if it was only for two nights. I had only been home for one night since mid-October and it was very refreshing to feel grounded (and get some laundry done and pack new clothes!). Brian and I were up early the next morning and joined a number of the LNR kids for a beautiful day of skiing on the Theodore With Trails. Minneapolis doesn't have a ton of snow but we are lucky to have such a great area right outside our back door to train. 

Although I was only home for two nights I spent one evening with our neighborhood block leader Bobbi at the 4th precinct for an opportunity to meet and talk with the new head investigator for the 4th precinct. There has been an increase in crime lately in our area and many are concerned not only about their safety but also how the situations will be handled. Minnesota Public Radio was there and it was great to bring up the importance of keeping the kids in North Minneapolis engaged and receiving attention for their positive actions rather than negative. It takes a lot of effort but the kids are willing to listen if you truly show you care. We are excited to have multiple police officers from the 4th Precinct come into the Boys and Girls Club this fall and start an interaction and dialogue with the kids in a positive situation! 

Sunny Colorado!
Brian and I boarded a plane for Colorado and are now training well at 9,000 ft. I have always responded well to altitude and I am excited to have so much sunshine and great terrain.

Beautiful Sunsets
We are putting in big hours up here and often finish our second workout well after dark. I am pretty psyched we got these huge headlamps because they make the whole experience way more fun. Brian apparently found the local coyote on one of his night skis but I haven't been able to find him yet! Here's to more K's and hopefully good news tomorrow!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

US National Championships

This past week was the US National Championships in Houghton, MI. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan (or "Da UP" is one of my favorite places after living there for 5 years while I attended Northern Michigan University. The snow was plentiful and the people extremely friendly! I have been excited for these National Championships for a few years now!

Another perk of having the championships in Houghton is that Brian and I can drive to them rather than fly like we usually do! We spent Christmas in Hayward so it was only a 3.5 hour drive for us! The drive is beautiful and both ways we had good weather and good roads!

We rented a small house near the ski trails and I enjoyed catching up with everyone who I hadn't seen in months! The races were held on the Michigan Tech trails and feature some of the best courses I have ever skied. The terrain is great and the grooming even better! Each day brought a number of challenges with cold, snow or wind and each day the volunteers and staff at the venue rose to the occasion and delivered a great event!
Skiing the courses with the LNR ladies!

The week started with Team Gregg's favorite event the distance skate race! This year the races were 10K for women and 15K for men. The women skied a 5K lap while the men skied a 7.5K lap. Brian went first and I dropped him off while I went home and rested up before my own race. I watched both the live feed and the live timing tirelessly while he was racing. I truly feel that I get more nervous for his races than my own lately!!! Although Brian was feeling good he didn't have the race he was hoping for. Any number of factors could have been the reason but he was quick to put it behind him and help me with my race!

Looking so professional!
For my race I was faced with a dilemma that I haven't had before with my Madshus Skis! I couldn't decide which pair to race on. Usually I am very good at knowing and feeling my fleet of skis and can pick my race pair in a matter of minutes! This day however, I was having a really hard time. Brian helped and after almost 30 minutes we had both decided on a great pair! We worked with our home club Loppet Nordic Racing and it was fun to train and warm-up with my teammates for the first time all season! Brian was a huge helped by giving feedback to LNR and making sure all of us ladies had lightning fast skis for our races.

The LNR Ladies after an amazing day of racing!
The Loppet Nordic Women crushed it in the skate race taking 3 of the top 30 results and placing all 6 ladies in the top 50 in the Nation!!! The most amazing part of our results was that 5 of those girls (obviously not me!) are still juniors!!! I was so proud of how fast these girls skied and was honored to represent such a great club with a 1st place finish! I love what the Loppet Foundation does throughout the year and throughout the Twin Cities and I couldn't be more thrilled to partner with them!

Excited about my 5th National Championship!
For the next couple of races I had to sit on the sidelines. With my realization that my shingles virus had got the best of me this fall, I wanted to be smart and not push my system too much. I sat out of both the Classic Sprint and the Distance Classic races. I love to race and this was a very hard decision! Instead I turned my attention to my husband and teammates and spent hours running around in the snow at the stadium making sure they had everything dialed in for their own events! I love how much Brian and I help each other. On the day of his 30K I was up early to ski and then went out on course and helped him with feeds (drink station!) and extra poles. On the day of the sprint I ran around with extra coats and help dial in the race skis  for all the starters! Needless to say, although I did not race myself, I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day!

I did race the Skate sprint and had a blast all day long! Since LNR left Brian and I asked my Alma mater Northern Michigan University for wax support! I was psyched to work with my Collegiate coach once again!
Don Hurst! NMU's first XC Ski Coach! Still out at the races cheering and bringing us Wildcats good luck! 

 Both Brian and I had great qualifiers with him getting 7th and myself winning! The rest of the day went by very fast and as soon as Brian was knocked out of his heats he joined me to help with my races! I was able to ski strong all the way through the day and ended up 2nd overall! My skis were ridiculously fast and I cannot thank Sten, Hokken and all of the athletes on the NMU squad for helping out Team Gregg!

2nd place in the Skate Sprint

Brian and I stayed in Houghton one more day so we could have dinner with the Michigan Tech Ski Team and join the Women's Team in a fun filled day with the local community! This year was primarily focused on girls but we are excited to spread the word and get more boys involved next year! Brian had a blast hanging out with Blizzard the Michigan Tech Husky mascot! Over 20 girls came out for the event and we had over 10 ladies helping out from the University! We spent the morning playing games, do skits, skiing and playing ski games, eating healthy snacks, taking about and sharing our goals in life and answering questions about what it takes to be successful either in sports or school (our Both!).

I have to send a huge Thank You out to Deedra Irwin (who also qualified for U23's, Alice Flanders and Amy Haggenmiller for all of their awesome support and help with organizing such a successful event!

Playing Ninja and Wah! Both new games for me :) I am excited to play with with the youth at the Boys and Girls Club back home in Minneapolis!
The Michigan Tech Women's Ski Team with me!

Everyone with Blizzard!!!

Brian and I are now back in Hayward preparing for our next set of races and planning the rest of our year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Art of Pushing Your Limits...

Everyone knows that being an Elite Athlete, or trying to be one of the best in the World at anything, takes a lot of effort and sacrifice. Brian and I have been training and competing to try and reach the highest level for many years and this is certainly nothing new to us. Each year we try to figure out how we can get a little stronger, a little fitter and ultimately even faster! This year was no exception for myself, with World Cup start rights as my first races I was psyched to give it my all this spring, summer and fall to try and make a statement about being selected for the World Championship Team in February.

Racing the World Cup 10km Classic in Davos, Switzerland


Team Gregg was a smashing success last season with our final tally of results placing us second behind APU on the overall Super Tour list for teams! We were successful on the course and off the course by having our most productive year with the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club, participating in local practices with the youth and adult members of the community's we visited and thanks to our sponsors and supporters have managed to stay afloat financially so we could do it all again this year.

Both Brian and I love to be involved with our sport in as much as possible. We feel so grateful that we are able to continue racing in this sport we love, the sport that kept us focused in high school, allowed us to put ourselves through college and has since taken us around the World and allowed us to meet incredible people and make some of the best friends possible.

Team Gregg functions with a delicate balancing act of putting our energy into our training, our advocacy and fulfilling our obligations to our amazing sponsors (who are truly the best!) I thought I was doing a great job of training harder than ever, doing more for my sponsors and giving back to the community more frequently. See this entry.

Turns out there is a limit to what the human body (or at least this human body) can handle. I could tell I was flirting with the edge. I told Brian that I was close to falling off but I stayed positive and pressed on. I knew I would be in Canmore for almost a month and I could take some time to try and rebound by not having as much going on and truly focusing on just training and recovery. I took it easy for a few days prior to my big travel to Europe, but still felt a bit run down.  Unfortunately things got worse and when a painful rash broke out on my neck I went to the doctor in Finland and was diagnosed with SHINGLES! Shingles is an extremely painful and debilitating rash that left me miserable and exhausted.  A round of antibiotics got rid of the rash and I tried to stay positive, and put my all in to every race.  I had great training and wax support from Brian Fish and learned so much by being surrounded by some of the best athletes in the World. I learned a ton, never complained and sucked up my pride by entering events I knew were going to be a bit "rough" on the results list.

Brian and I are now in Hayward, WI preparing for US Nationals in Houghton. Although I didn't race well in Europe there is still a chance that I can qualify for World Championships with some good results next week. I know my training was good this fall and I am sure that the fitness is there. I am feeling much better with each passing day and I am hoping the fatigue from the Shingles virus is behind me now!



Monday, December 1, 2014

So much to be Grateful and Thankful for...

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the upcoming Holiday Season I just wanted to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of my family, sponsors and supporters!!! I am happy to report that despite a number of health scares for my family and friends in the past year that everyone is stable and happy once again! I love hearing from everyone and I am already looking forward to seeing you all soon! I hope everyone who reads this is having a wonderful start to winter and I send my best from overseas :)

I am loving my time here in Finland! Although dark, the weather has been very mild and the snow plentiful so training has been very pleasant. Logistics have been smooth and I am feeling very good. While on the World Cup the USST stays at some of the nicest hotels/ condos I have ever been to! They get 3 catered meals a day with a variety of healthy and tasty choices. Sometimes I have to laugh to myself when people start complaining about the coffee or lack of variety because I think of where I was last year at this time! I was alone in a $30/ night hotel in Bozeman, sick and eating out of a microwave. Which I realize is also much better than some of the kid's situations back in Minneapolis who we work with at the Boys and Girls Club. 
I am so grateful to get this opportunity to travel the World and to get a taste of the incredible cultural and regional difference each place offers! 

Today we pack up and head to Lillehammer, Norway. This will be my first time to this race venue and I am very excited! Although we will be traveling to a new country, the trip is fairly relaxed and straight forward. We are so lucky because the incredible US World Cup staff packs up all of our wax room and all of our personal ski gear!!! All I have to worry about is making it to lunch by 11:30 and then rolling my duffle bag to the shuttle pick-up!!! Once there we (the entire team and remaining staff not driving the cargo van) get a ride to the airport for our flight. I don't even have to check a ski bag!!! When we arrive in Oslo we will be picked up by another shuttle that will take us directly to our next hotel in Lillehammer!!! When we arrive I am guessing dinner will be ready and waiting for us. Life on the World Cup is pretty cushy!!!

This past weekend I got to watch Brian race his first events in West Yellowstone. In contrast to my travel experiences so far, Brian has been working like a dog before his first events. He has been hosting clinics, working at the expo and sorting through all of his fleet and running his own travel logistics. He is truly amazing in that he can do so much and still perform!!! He was 8th in his first race and then 2nd in his second event!

I am so proud of him!!! I almost get more excited for his races than my own at this point. I am so thankful that we can be living this lifestyle together even if it is many thousands of miles a part! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hello from Finland

Beautiful ski at Moraine Lake Rd. in Lake Louise with Emily Nishikawa.
I know I have been to Europe a number of times before and even raced in a number of World Cups in the past...but for some reason this year feels different. I think the biggest difference is that I usually have a really solid start to the year and by the time I have qualified to compete in Europe I am a bit tired and not at my best anymore. The tough part is qualifying to get to Europe and still saving some in the tank to perform well again and again over here!

That being said, these are by far the hardest World Cups of the year with over 100 athletes starting sometimes. The fields are not only big but they are also deep, with many of the host nations bringing a large contingent of highly competitive athletes just off the National or World Cup team who are still plenty fast!

My last day in Canmore was filled with waxing and packing! I have a lot of new Madshus skis this year and I made a huge effort to put as much wax as possible in them so that they were ready to race once I got to Europe!
Beautiful View from the Wax Cabin #5 we rented all month.
My awesome Madshus fleet!
Team Gregg is psyched to have amazing support from Toko. We usually start with warm soft (like NF red and NF Yellow) waxes to saturate the bases and then add the LF Toko Blue to harden the bases up and get them ready for early season dry cold snow!
Skis are looking nice and shiny.
I was able to put multiple layers in all my skis and zero (same wax on all) each pair before I left. This was how much wax I had left at the end of my month on Frozen Thunder!
My travel started out by saying goodbye to Canmore, AB after a month of skiing on Frozen Thunder. I decided to try and estimate how many laps I skied while I was there and how many kilometers total I got in. 250 Laps of a 2 kilometer loop = 500 K. That is being a bit conservative as I was there for 30 days, took 4 days off, and averaged about 12-15 laps per day! So the real number is more like 750 kilometers!!! Which can make you pretty dizzy after a while. I was impressed with my own ability to get up every morning and get after each session with as much enthusiasm as the first day on snow. I must say that having such great company from the numerous athletes also training on Frozen Thunder made a huge difference! So many awesome people invited me to join them for workouts and each day felt like I had tons of people to ski with!

Olympic Biathletes Rosanna Crawford (Chandra's sister) and Brendan Green with myself (missing Brian) all represent Vector 450, a supplement to help build immunity.
After finishing my last ski I packed up the rental car, returned all the borrowed items and took off for Calgary. My flight was early in the morning and I didn't want to be rushed so I booked a hotel in Calgary for the night. It was a great way to get a good light sleep, I LOVED the pillow so much, and start the trip as fresh as possible. When booking my tickets to Europe this year I knew I was going to stay in Canmore until I left and Brian was able to get me trip that actually came through Minneapolis. We were even able to get a ticket with a 5 hour lay-over, usually not a good thing, which allowed me to leave the airport and go home for a bit. Initially Brian was supposed to be in Washington but changed his ticket last minute which meant he could pick me up and drop me off at the airport!!! We had a wonderful lunch date and a nice visit before we each started our fall/ early winter racing tours (Brian is headed to West Yellowstone).

We are going to miss each other this next month!
My flight across the ocean was awesome because I had an entire row to myself, which meant I could lay down and sleep the whole way! I was a bit tired from the early morning so sleeping was no problem. The flight "flew by" (HAHAHA) and I was in Paris before I knew it. Connecting through Paris is a bit of a hassle but I made it through what seemed like 3 security check points and onto my Finn Air flight to Helsinki soon enough. The third flight was also smooth and relatively quick with the addition of blueberry juice for all on board! I have really learned to appreciate all the little cultural specialties more since I have been traveling with Brian. I used to try and stick to my typical diet and meal options when traveling to avoid changing to many things, but Brian always seems to love trying new things and I am glad he convinced me to as well!

My new friends from China and Finland on the flight to Helsinki.
In Helsinki I met up with Brian Fish (who is over here as Reese Hanneman's and my coach and wax tech for period one) and the rest of the US Ski Team for our last flight to Roveniemi, Finland. Again the flight was easy and I enjoyed meeting a couple from Cleveland who was bringing their 4 children to Santa's Village in Roveniemi (the home of Santa Claus) for a visit! Talk about dedication and an awesome trip for their kids!!! Once in Roveniemi we still had a 3 hour drive to Mounio but I fell asleep and can't say there was much to see as it was already pitch black outside.

The rooms in our Cabin at Olos are very comfy and warm.
This morning I awoke once again excited to ski on a man-made loop (this time it is about 4k!). I am pretty happy to report that I am feeling good (I am a bit jet-lagged) but really looking forward to my final workouts before my first race in a little under 2 weeks at the Kuusamo venue a few hours from here. I am alone in my cabin now, but Kikkan Randall and Jeff Ellis will be joining me on Thursday. The food is good, the beds are comfy and the darkness doesn't seem so bad. The skiing is excellent and it is great to be working with Brian Fish again on technique and ski selection (My classic skis were flying this afternoon).

The ski tracks are right outside my bedroom window. 

Reese wondering how his bag drawstring got caught through the whole in his tip???
Stay tuned for more frequent updates and photos from my first time starting on the World Cup tour!

Fasterskier did an article about me heading to the opening World Cups too. You can read it here.

Also, if you didn't know I like to spend my time drawing...you can see how I put it to use when working with the kids at the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club.

Face paint medium! 
The requested Yoshi was a big hit!