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 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!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Training in Canmore on a budget!

For the past two weeks Brian and I have been living and training in Canmore, AB. We flew here straight from California and hit the ground skiing the very next day! I love those kinds of seasonal transitions. We are lucky enough to be able to buy a $10,500 house in Minneapolis which allows us flexibility when the racing season comes to leave for extended periods of time. We have great friends and a wonderful support crew who watch/ stay at our place and take care of Lahti, our husky, while we are away. We could not do what we do without them and we will always be willing to return the favor someday!

Another way Team Gregg makes the most of our traveling and racing is finding really great deals along the way. Brian (and his twin brother Chad) are masters of airline travel. We make the most out of every mile and credit card perk we can so that our travel days are smooth and super affordable.  We also tend to get great deals on rental cars but it is getting trickier with all of the skis and equipment we travel with. Now we like to make it a game to see how many pairs of skis, luggage bags, giant carry-ons and Costco groceries we can fit into our compact rental. So far it has worked every time :)

Once we get to our location I like to pride myself on finding great deals for lodging. Brian also likes to comment that if I book the place to stay and it is small...I won't complain ;) This training camp is a perfect example of this! I found an apartment studio room for us to rent for $36 a night! That's about a 1/3 of what most places cost in Canmore!!! Yes it is small but we are pretty good at living in small places and by European standards it is quite large! We really enjoy staying with families when we travel but a month can get a bit long with two athletes so we try to break it up between hotels and homes.

Secret closet to store skis! 
Drying laundry AND making dinner in the bedroom!

We stopped at the local thrift store and bought a pressure cooker pot and a crock pot!

We don't go out to eat so we save a lot of money and I think we eat healthier too!
Laundry time and all out of Team Gregg clothes :( 
 Since we are here in Canmore for so long we decided to rent a wax room for Team Gregg. Thanks to a generous donation we were psyched to have a place to change, wax and spend time between long training sessions!
Team Gregg's wax room! Thank you sponsors!

We had a few less World Cup wax techs than the US Ski Team (about 5) but we put in the hard work and feel great about our new fleet of skis so far!
Brian skiing with the mountains behind him. (Noah Hoffman photo)

We have been skiing a ton. Brian got in over 24 hours last week and I was able to get over 24 hours this week.

Not all of the training has been on snow. I love running on the World Cup Cross Country trails and the Canmore Nordic Center! 
We have also been rollerskiing a bit!
Continuing to build on our strength, power and speed thanks to Matt at Horsepower Strength!
 One of the best parts about being in Canmore is the number of new training partners I get to train with. There are so many talented athletes in the area that I never seem to have a hard time finding someone to join for an Over distance ski, an afternoon run or a hard interval set!

Three time Olympian in Biathlon Zina Kocher!

Rocky Mountain Racer and World Cup Skier Andrea Dupont!

Olympian Biathlete Rosanna Crawford lending a hand to first time skier Emma!

Happy for some fresh snow!

Tonight Brian and I had a fun date night! We joined fellow Loppet Foundation Member Katie Bono, who is now a big-time climber here in Canmore, and her boyfriend Cody at the Banff Film Festival. We watched a great film about Alpinist Jeff Lowe and his battle with technical terrain as well as his current battle with ALS. I loved the film and it was great to have Jeff Lowe appear in person at the end of the film!

Less than 4 weeks until Team Gregg's first official races of the season. I am lucky that I missed the Olympics so that I was able to secure the World Cup start rights for this fall through the overall Super Tour leader. Obviously Brian wasn't so lucky ;) and he has to start his season in West Yellowstone and shoot for the period 3 start rights we both had last year! We are both feeling great and looking forward to the season!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Warrior Dash World Championships!!!

This past weekend Brian and I pack up our bags to start our winter racing season...first we made a quick stop in Sacramento, CA though. Earlier this summer I won a free entry into the Warrior Dash World Championships by winning the Southern California event. My sister and I raced it while I was visiting her and my other siblings after last year's Super Tour Finals in Anchorage, AK.

Brian was going to come and join me for support but then decided he would Dash for the Cash too! First place was $30,000! We figured that it would be an awesome experience and we had no idea how we would do but we would never know unless we tried! One part of my racing career I have always embraced is the opportunity to support myself and my ski racing to the fullest before ever asking for help with funding. I am very proud of how hard Brian and I work to make this the reality and how grateful we are when we come up short for a major event and our great supporters are there to help us go all the way!

The Warrior Dash event this past weekend was nothing new for me, I have been competing in multiple sports to support myself for many years! In College I competed in Cross Country Running in addition to Nordic Skiing so that I could maximize my scholarship and put myself through school. In 2007/ 2008 I enjoyed the opportunity to compete in Biathlon and learned a ton about Nordic Skiing by working with the incredible US Biathlon coaches and traveling on the World Cup circuit with them. So it comes to no surprise to those who know me that I would enter an event to try and make some money to support my upcoming World Cup season!

Making More Mud!!!
Once word got out that Brian and I were headed to CA there were a lot of family members, most of whom lived in CA, that wanted to come and watch the action. Brian's parents, brother and sister-in-law also came to find out what the race was all about.

To describe the course I would have people think about the most difficult Cross Country Running race EVER! Than throw in 12 obstacles, including mud, tires, walls, more mud, balance beams, water and finally more mud! It was unbelievably fun but also exhausting. It's one thing to complete the obstacles when you are fresh or even running at an easy pace but after sprinting hard for 2 miles it makes some of the smallest rope ladders seem to last forever!
Brian after his race.
The event was mass start and the competition was by invitation or qualification only. Brian was lucky to get in without having to compete in a previous event based on his running times and previous racing resume! The Olympic starts certainly helped! The caliber of athletes who showed up were amazing and it was fun to meet many of them on the walk through of the course the day before. Brian raced first and I was able to see him finish and get a quick course report from him! He finished 12 overall and told me he couldn't believe how hard the course was.

Fire, balance beams, water!
Swim, crawl, get stuck! It was all possible in this obstacle!
Just a little mud out there! My shoes weighed about 10 pounds each!
 My race went okay. I have been feeling a little tired lately and I think all the events, clinics and appearances as well as some of my hardest training ever, finally caught up to me. I was a bit slow off the line but picked gals off as we ran almost a mile straight up hill. I reached the bottom of "goat wall" a super steep section just after the mile in 9th place and moved up to 4th just over the top. I was pretty stoked! Although the top two girls had taken off I could see the next ladies just ahead of me at the first obstacle. I rolled as fast as I could and sacrificed knees and elbows on the hard ground! By the next obstacle I could hear a girl climbing quickly on the rope beside me and as I through my leg over the top of the wall to climb down I witnessed her just jumping off the whole thing! Yikes! These girls weren't messing around. I managed to catch her again but as we entered the mud pits I hesitated. I watched as some of the girls who were just ahead were leaping as hard as they could to span the gap over the mud only to then see, and hear them, miss the other side and come crashing down into the mud. I jumped, missed, and found myself waist deep in some seriously thick mud struggling to just get out of the first pit! I watched as two girls jumped over me and left me fumbling around in the muddy hole. I finally made it out and proceeded to jump the next two only to fall into and climb out of the next three. 

The rest of the race went well from there on out. I spent most of the next few obstacles side by side with Clou Godbout, a Canadian Biathlete and recent winner of the Spartan World Championships! I managed to gap her on the net tunnels thanks to my practice on the nets with Brian, Matt Liebsch, Sven Krouese, Andy Brown and Josh Doubert at French Park last week!!!

I could never make back up the time I lost in the first muddy obstacle and finished 7th overall which was still pretty fun. I will definitely be back next year for more of these events! Unfortunately the money only went down to 5th place so both Brian and I left without any cash for our ski season but a pretty fun adventure to talk about for a long time!

Before and After the showers!
Chad and Liet
Team Gregg Cheering Crew!

We boarded a plane at 6 AM this morning and have now settled in to our place here in Canmore, Canada. Tomorrow we will be skiing!!! I love that I get to spend these trips with my husband and that so many of our adventures are together! We are both pumped to get on snow even if it is only a few kilometers. We look forward to getting out and training with the local ski club here as well. The weather is great and I know there are some sweet mountains to climb around here. Right now I am enjoying my day off from training and stretching A LOT of sore muscles I never knew I had!