Sunday, December 30, 2012

Revisiting the Passion and Drive Within

This week is the US Cross Country National Championships in Midway, UT. Brian and I have been here with the CXC Team since the 26th of December. Since we spent so much time at altitude last month the acclimating has gone very smoothly.

This coming weeks marks the end of 5 and 1/2 months on the road for me. Next week Brian and I will be home again, although we did make a brief stop in last November, and sleeping in our own beds. I love this lifestyle but I miss my dog, my home and my neighborhood.

Skiing is such a unique sport and I have spent many many years trying to grasp what draws me to it. I have spent the better part of 14 years competing at US Nationals, yet I can't believe it has been that long!!! In those 14 years I have learned a lot about the sport and even more so about the people who compete in it.

When I first started skiing I liked it because my friends were going to join and all the cute soccer boys were also joining. I knew the coach from running and knew his passion was unmatched by any other coach at the school. When I started Cross Country Skiing a lot of my teammates were just like me. Some came from single parent homes, some had many siblings, most had parents who didn't ski themselves...etc.

As I have moved upward through the levels of skiing all the way to the World Championships and the Olympics, the differences began to grow bigger and bigger. Very few athletes had divorced parents, or single parents, very few paid for their own equipment, and even less paid for their own way to the Olympic Games. As I walked into the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver, Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics I smiled because I had "Done it."

I had proven to myself that a child from a broken home without much financial support can reach the pinnacle of their passion. I was happy and I was proud! Now don't get me wrong...I had plenty of help and support along the way, hundreds of individuals were a part of my success and I will always remember them and what they have done for me. But I was able to break done barriers and leap over hurdles that seemed very strong and very high.

One of those barriers was paying for college. I always knew I wanted to go to college and I always knew I would have to figure out a way to pay for it. When I told my parent's I would get an athletic scholarship I think they believed me and I know that was the last time they thought about  how I would pay for it. I didn't know any different. I thought all young athletes paid for their equipment and got rides from friends to events, raised money for the Junior Nationals and worked the whole time. Surely, I thought, everyone paid for college on their own.

I was wrong. I quickly figured that out after the first day in the dorm rooms when I realized I missed the memo on furniture and "other stuff" to make the room feel like home. I sat in my empty room with my blanket, pillow and a bag full of training gear and sneakers. I guess I didn't need to spend much time decorating so I went out for a run...

I just found out last week that I will be inducted into the NMU Athletic Hall of Fame. Once again I am excited and proud. As I think about my siblings and parents and all their struggles I realize how lucky I was to be living my dream.

The message left on my phone informing me of my induction made me think long and hard about what it really meant. I immediately thought of the kids Brian and I work with in the neighborhood and how we really emphasize the need to follow their passions and dream big. I am excited to get back to North Minneapolis and share photos and stories about my time in the yurt up in the mountains of Washington. I am excited race this week and remember how far I have come and how motivated I am to share my passion and drive with all those I meet.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Snowing!!! A LOT!!!

The morning drive to training
After a whirlwind few days of travel I arrived back in the Methow Valley. One thing is for sure, the beauty of this place is protected by the fact that it takes so long to get to! Now that I have been settled for a few days, training has resumed and I am preparing for the second phase of races this year.

At this point I have been training for 4 months and I am starting to feel very strong. I often find that I can get in shape quickly and be racing fast for the first two months of the season, as well as the fall, only to fatigue and struggle with the end of the year. This year I am hoping things will be different!!! Right now my training brings me to about July in a regular training year and I usually start to feel very good in August!!!

Although the early World Cups are over and I did not set any personal bests I am feeling good about the upcoming races, including US Nationals and the Tour de Twin Cities!!! I love Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic Venue and I miss being at the Bungalow  in Minneapolis. These are my two motivators for good preparation.

Right now I will be in Winthrop through the 26th of December and enjoying my 4th Christmas at the Gregg house! The skiing is fantastic here in the Methow Valley and as I type this the snow is falling like crazy. Brian reported a foot of snow on the highway and we had to park the car at the bottom of the road. Tomorrow morning we will ski out to get to it!!! I have the day off and I look forward to catching up on Thank Yous from the World Cup weekend and finalizing my Christmas gift making!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quebec City World Cups

Kikkan!!! Taking a victory lap after an amazing double victory weekend!!! So fun to be a part of!
 The Quebec City Sprints were absolutely AMAZING!!! This was my first World Cup event since the year of the 2010 Olympics. I have qualified for World Cup Starts the past two seasons but due to financial constraints I have had to forgo accepting my starting spots. This year thanks to CXC and their Elite Athlete Fund I was able to Qualify and Start these races!!!
The Parliament Building.
The Streets of Quebec City. The City is very European feeling.
The Quebec Sprints were held in Old Town Quebec City. This proved to be not only a fantastic venue for racing but also for spectating. We literally raced just below the steps of the Parliament Building. Apparently on Friday while were we were all huffing and puffing along the course during the Team Sprint, the parliament was still in session. I wonder if they felt a little distracted??? 

 Not only did I get to compete...I was also able to stay at the World Cup hotel. As silly as it may seem, this is a big deal! The past couple of World Cups I have done I have stayed with friends or friends of friends. This can be nice for the local experience but logistically being in the same location as everyone else makes the whole day much easier! The Hilton was located just steps from the start line and every meal was a buffet and always warm!!! I had a wonderful time catching up with my fellow Americans who have been racing on the World Cup this fall and the other Americans who I compete against in the Super Tour but never get to relax over a cup of coffee with!
Fans climbing the fences and walls around the course.
During the races the Fans were INCREDIBLE!!! This was only one section of the course near the start/ finish. The entire course was this packed and the noise and cheering was the best I have ever heard!!!The trail was approximately 800 meters and we skied it twice for each sprint. The course twisted and turned with a large bridge and even a drop down (sort of jump) for excitement. I have to say it was one of the most fun courses I have ever skied!!!

The first turn of the course with the Parliament Building in the background.

The fans yelling and cheering along the finishing stretch.

Kate Fitzgerald, myself and Lauren Fritz happy to be at the World Cup.

The Jumbo-Tron a few blocks away for spectators at the Equipment Expo.
There was an Awesome showing of USA Fans!!!
The entire weekend was a bag of mixed results. Kikkan and Jessie won the Team-Sprint event on Friday which was a huge deal. Becca and I were 18th. I felt like I skied well and left everything I had on course. For some reason I find it much easier to push myself to the limit when I am racing with someone else counting on me. During the individual Sprint I also felt great but failed to move on to the heats. Again Kikkan skied incredibly and WON her second race of the weekend.
Klister the Canadian Ski Team Mascot and myself out for a jog the night before the race :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Season Begins!!!

Pete Checking my range of motion in my injured hamstring. Thanks to Pete it is fully functional again :)
The past two weeks were a whirl-wind of travel and training. Once Brian and I finished up in Minneapolis we flew to Chicago for a weekend Super-Fit Clinic hosted by four of the CXC Team athletes. Once the clinic was over Brian and I boarded a plane for Seattle. Once in Seattle we picked up Chad's (Brian's twin brother) car and drove to the Methow. After one night in the yurt we were back to training and preparing for our upcoming season.
Pete working on my "always" tight hip flexors!
This fall I have been working with Pete Dickinson from Winthrop Physical Therapy. He has been an amazing asset to my training and recovery. Pete is not only a great Physical Therapist, he is also an avid Nordic skier himself. It is common for me to have Pete show up to some of my intensity and speed sessions at the track so he can get in a workout himself. The benefit of having a PT on hand while you are being coached on new technique yields incredible results. I can remember Scott telling me to open my hips more during speed repeats and I was trying as hard as I could to change my body position. Pete called me over and started working on my hip flexors and sent me back to the workout. Incredibly I was able to nail the technique and drop my times significantly!

Pete and his wife Janice own and operate Winthrop Fitness as well, they allow me to workout in the facility whenever I need to. Their generosity is so fantastic and I look forward to racing fast this season so I can send them a few more World Cup/ World Championship bibs for their wall!
Me and my great equipment provided by my current sponsors! Thanks to all of them for keeping me skiing fast!
After leaving Winthrop I felt ready the next stage of my season. Race Time!!! I am currently in West Yellowstone, MT preparing for the next couple of days of race prepping before my season kicks of this Friday the 23rd of November with a Skate Sprint. I am really excited to get the season started and to have Scott join me in another day. It's been fun to get on snow and hang out with my CXC teammates but I really miss having Scott around at my workouts. Brian and I both keep in touch with Scott multiple times a day which helps Scott know how we are acclimating and adjusting to snow skiing at altitude!!!
Skiing in snowy Montana and Loving it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Brian and I are back in Minnesota!!! We are holding a Ski Clinic and Super Fit event at Finn Sisu! Stop by and say hello if you get a chance. We have spent the past couple of months training in Washington State, and while it is beautiful there and totally inspiring, nothing beats coming home! The Midwest has been my home for the past 13 years, 8 of them here in Minneapolis!!! Whenever I am in the area my favorite things to do are 1) Visit Ahvo 2) Ski with the Vakava Crew 3) Ski Intervals in Edina 4) Train with Piotr and his numerous workout groups (always guaranteed to be painful but fun!) 5) Ski with the local juniors! Especially the Loppet Nordic Crew!!!
This Saturday I had the opportunity to check a number of my favorites off the list. A few brave Loppet Juniors and Tom Carlson came out in below freezing temps to rollerski the infamous River Road Hill in Afton, MN. The hill is a good 40 minutes away from my house but the drive is always beautiful and the hill never disappoints. This time Beth Cork came out and drove the van down for us so that our recovery was short and safe :) Thanks Beth!!!

The Crew before the workout began
 Giving a few pointers on V1 Technique before we start. We also went over the fun van loading and unloading drills that are necessary for the workout to be smooth and efficient! We "Nailed It."

Ready to begin!
The Workout was 6 X 4mins of uphill skate skiing with 4mins of recovery between. Most of the crew did either 4 or 5 because they are not as old as I am ;)
This workout is not one that Scott has had us do this year but it is a workout I have been doing for years and therefore have times, heart rates and lactates for. I always believe in progression and checking in with where you are at. I am happy to report that I skiing well and feeling strong. My times were great and my hear rates were the lowest I have seen on the hill. It is fun to see this kind of progress when training my training is so different from years past.

Ready to start another!
The "Fun" van ride to the bottom. Ingrid said she skis up the hill just so she can riide do in the van each time! Love it!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fresh Tracks...

A beautiful panorama cannot even come close to capturing the beauty of these mountains!    

Brian in his element.
Loving the 4 hour ski imitation workout knowing the real thing is only a few weeks away.

This photo could have ended with a serious whitewash to the looser.
Instead I gave myself one!

And we decided to kiss instead.

Less than 30 minutes away Brian enjoys his well earned Mazama Store Baguette in a t-shirt!

Sundays are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Brian and I use the morning as an opportunity to get out into the high mountains and go for an adventure. This week brought the excitement of possible snow on the ground and we both couldn't resist the desire to play in it! We headed 30 minutes north to Rainy Pass and were psyched to find almost 4 inches on the ground. After two hours of moose-hoofing (ski imitation bounding) we were at Cutthroat Pass 7,000ft and plowing through over a foot of fluffy powder! We were some very happy winter athletes! We posed for some photos and then descended down the mountain in another snow squall. When we reached the bottom we went and checked put Rainy Lake to see if there was skiable snow along the paved path. After analyzing the conditions and looking at the weather forecast it looks like we could be skiing on Tuesday!!! We are thrilled. Training has been going very well, Brian is the fittest and fastest I have ever seen him, and the race season starts in just a few weeks! Coming to the Methow to join Brian this fall has been one of the best decisions of my life, after of course saying YES :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adventure Day

Yesterday was a good day! Brian and I both got to sleep on till 8:30AM which never seems to happen! We then pack the cooler, loaded up the car and headed up to the mountains for an adventure!


My Guide[/caption] Brian grew up here in the Methow Valley and he knows it like the back of his had. I am lucky enough to be married to Brian and have my own mountain guide at hand everyday! Brian gets very excited about heading up into the high country!

The Views are absolutely amazing on all sides and the weather was perfect! Brian and I both opted to bring our light-weight Salomon Tech jackets which were good sun and wind protection. After long climbs we could simply wrap them around our drink belts and continue to move fast.


Brian "cruising" he doesn't even sweat when he runs with me!

Gorgeous running at 7,000 feet

I on the other hand just try to keep up!

Especially when things get technical. After yesterday's run I now have a new level of comfort when running in the mountains!

One of the three peaks we reached. This one had beautiful views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shukstan.

After a long day in the mountains we were excited to rinse off in the swimming hole.

As you can tell it was a little colder than we expected. After "icing" our legs and bodies we headed back to the yurt to make meatloaf for dinner with the Gregg Family! Such a good day and I feel like the luckiest girl in the World!!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Methow Valley Living + Training

Sprinting up one of the many steep hills here in Washington

 I have been in Washington State for 3 weeks now and I can tell that my training here has been making a difference. Brian and I are working with a local coach and learning all kinds of new approaches to training. After 8 years of living in the Twin Cities and training the same way, both my body and mind have enjoyed the new regime.
Brian leading the way along the Mazama Community Trail with the Cascades in the Distance.   

 Brian and I were together for a little over a week before he had to take off for a training camp in the Midwest again. I loved having him around to bring me to some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever witnessed on a run. Without him here I mostly run alone and freak out about the wildlife I see along the way. My wildlife encounters have quadrupled this year and it is a direct result of me traveling to Colorado and Washington instead of staying in the Midwest. Needless to say I am still not sure I have the correct protocol down for when I encounter a bear.
What a girl from the City does when she sees a Bear!
The Methow Valley is filled with Horses! It seems like most people own a horse and some own 50! I enjoy watching them in the fields while I am running. I came across these two pregnant mares who were lending each other a hand, or mouth, for some itchy spots they couldn't reach on their own. Clever Teamwork!
I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine :)
 Brian and I together in the Methow Valley has been great for the local ski team kids. We usually get to train beside them on the track or in the gym a few days a week. There is no better way to learn then by surrounding yourself with those who are better. The young athletes have jumped in with us willingly and I think the results will show the great benefits from or training together.
Trail work for the Local Methow Valley Ski Team
 No life in the North Cascades would be complete without living in a round tent, otherwise know as a Yurt! Brian and I are staying in a 300 SQ/FT yurt that chad, his twin brother, has lived in for the past 5 years. Chad got a new job in Seattle and offered the yurt to us for a place to stay. The yurt is incredible because you never realize how small a space you can live in until you live in a really small space and it WORKS!!!
My new Residence for the next couple of weeks!

Inside "Yurt Life" Everything has it "special place" in such a small space!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Colorado Dreaming

 Hello From beautiful Colorado! I am currently at my first full training camp of the year in Telluride with the CXC Team. It's been a great camp so far filled with mostly distance training in the form of long hikes/ runs and roller skiing. Colorado is absolutely beautiful and despite the additional 8,500 ft of elevation I am starting to feel really good. I think the key has been the amount of water/ sports drink I have been drinking and the opportunity to relax between training sessions and soak up the hard work I am putting in.
Most of the team is comprised of junior athletes from the Midwest and primarily girls! I have had a blast hanging out with them and providing perspective about life as an elite athlete. We have a super talented team this year and I look forward to hopefully traveling with these girls during the winter as well.

The View from the top!


A break for lunch near the peak of Lizard Head.

The all-important balancing pose.        

I will be here in Colorado until Thursday and will then join Brian in the Methow Valley. It feels so good to have completed my work and school last week and to now be able to relax and train again!

OH Yeah!!! I had such a blast finally getting to WATCH the Olympics here in Telluride. Congrats to all the Amazing ITA athletes who Competed:)


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Games in London are On!

I made a guest appearance at the City of Lakes Loppet Adventure Camp to talk to the campers about my experience at the 2010 Games and to share the excitement of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

I am usually quite happy to not have a television, but it has been tough to not watch the Opening Ceremonies and first few days of competition live.  My days are still super busy as I wrap up my final week of Physiology.  My favorite study break is to stream the video highlights for the days competition and read articles about the different athletes.  I love learning everyone's story and their struggles and triumphs towards becoming the best.

I look forward to joining my CXC teammates in Colorado for an altitude training camp at the end of the week.  I hope the place we are staying has a television. Best of luck to my In The Arena teammates as they compete in the next few weeks: 

Kristin Hedstrom, women’s lightweight double sculls: Sunday, July 29th (heats) at 5:50am ET; Tuesday, July 31st (repechages) at 5:10am ET; Thursday, August 2nd (semifinals) at 5:30am ET; Saturday, August 4th (finals) at 5:00am ET

Sarah Groff, women’s triathlon: Saturday, August 4th at 4:00am ET 
Lea Davison, women’s mountain bike: Saturday, August 11th at 7:30am ET

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gregg Center of Excellence

On the outside our house is a simple 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 674 square foot bungalow.  The house feels way bigger on the inside with a full basement which we quickly transformed into the Gregg Center of Excellence.  Similar to the multi-million dollar USSA Center of Excelence in Park City, Utah but basically the Craigslist version.  Don't let the dirty walls scare you, most everything you need is in it for good solid training.
Angela on the treadmill.  Perfect for those super hot days or late nights.

Mellia and the squat rack

This gym is for working out, not hanging out!

The newest addition a Conept 2 Ski Erg for specific measurable double pole training.

Working out can be fun!

The neighborhood crew earner their new (lightly used) running shoes after their workout.  Huge thanks to Santi and Carolyn, Fox Rivers Sports, Salomon and Gear West for the shoes.