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 :)