Monday, December 14, 2015

Better and Better

This past weekend was a great way to hit the refresh button for me. After almost a month on the road I was joined by Brian for the World Cup weekend in Davos, Switzerland. We feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be chasing our dreams together.

Aside from a rocky start to my first World Cup races I have been having a blast being a part of the US Ski Team and love hanging out with my teammates on and off the trails. It seems like we always have a great result on the team with each race so there is always a reason to cheer and celebrate!

 Even though I am surrounded by great supportive teammates I also really enjoy seeing my friends from all over the world who also compete on the World Cup! I simply love learning about their lives and how the balance competing at the highest level with the rest of life. I hope to stay in touch with these awesome ladies for a long long time!

The races in Kuusamo were a bit of a blur. I was able to give it my all, especially in the 5K Skate, but my body didn't respond the way I was accustomed to! I was happy to have the courage and tenacity to leave it all out on the course and I am proud of my efforts. After the last race of the weekend I started the process of recovering and reversing "off" feeling I was having. 

After two weeks of heavy and lethargic legs I was psyched to start feeling a bit more like myself in Lillehammer. I used some advice from Sten when I was in racing in college at NMU. He always encouraged us to never under estimate the power of rebuilding easy volume back into our training to aid in recovery and regeneration. With his advice I spent each day skiing incredibly easy and avoiding all intensity. The following weekend my 15K skiathlon went well and I was able to ski my best classic portion ever on the World Cup. This was important because Tom and I have been working a lot on my classic skiing this fall and after 4 years with a torn left hamstring, I am finally able to use my left leg completely again pain free :) Even more importantly I scored my first World Cup point of the season!

 After Lillehammer we traveled to Davos at an altitude of about 5,000 ft. After only racing once in Lillehammer my body was feeling pretty good so in addition to extremely easy sessions I was able to do one threshold session on the race course. Having Brian around was so much fun and although we enjoy being together on the World Cup we are still very focused on our training, recovery and racing.

 Brian flew over to Europe after a successful weekend in West Yellowstone and he was psyched to test his fitness on the World Cup. He felt like although his result was not what he wanted he still raced as well as he had the weekend he was in Yellowstone. He left today with a renewed appreciation of the fitness level on the World Cup and a strong motivation to prepare for US Nationals in a couple of weeks!

My race went well and I was able to ski into the top 20 for the first time this season. Although my body was feeling better I am still not 100%. I am looking forward to Toblach next weekend and another classic start as well as the Tour de Ski in only a few weeks. Hopefully all this volume training I have been doing along with some recovery over Christmas will keep me fresh for the grueling week of racing during the tour!

Last but not least, it was great to have a coach with me on the World Cup for the first time ever!!! Tom did a great job assimilating into the USST group and was a huge asset to many of the results throughout period one so far. Tom headed back with Brian today and will be supporting him in the US for the next couple of weeks including US Nationals. Thanks to everyone who have made these opportunities possible and stay tuned for more race reports and results from the entire team!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Less than two weeks till Sweden!!!

After an incredible training season which include half of my time at home and the other half up above Park City, Utah (plus a short stay in Truckee and Norway) I am now 10 days away from flying across the Atlantic for my first season as a member of the U.S. Ski Team!!! It was sad to say good-bye to some members of the team who will be staying in the U.S. for the start of the season in hopes of qualifying for some World Cup starts (Brian is in this boat too!) but also exciting to realize that we will have some Super Fans back home cheering us on!

The Team!!!
My fellow rookies Julia (left) and Katherine (right) have been really fun to get to know. Although there is 15-17 years between us we still have a ton in common and I love absorbing their contagious excitement and attitudes!!! I can't wait to see these girls on the World Cup circuit soon!
Head Women's coach Matt Whitcomb and the "rookies"
Before leaving I had one last altitude block in Park City. Last season I found that a few weeks up high in altitude (Frisco before World Champs, etc...) made a huge difference in my fitness and this year we decided to try it throughout the preparation period. I think the time living up at Deer Valley (8,300 ft) worked really well and as soon as I returned to the condo we have been renting (much thanks to the generous owner who has helped make the location ideal and affordable) I immediately felt like I could acclimate quickly and easily. This was a huge bonus as we had a number of intensity workouts and a Mini-tour at the end of our USST Camp combined with lots of long workouts and hard strength sessions throughout. 

Start of my sprint heat! Photo: Tom Jorgenson
Our USST Camp (plus lots of other speedy club skiers) came to an end but Brian, Tom and I stayed for another 5 days to complete a solid 3 weeks of living up high. Since our camp ended with the Mini-Tour we opted to take advantage of the remaining days with so many beautiful places to train and we put in an additional 18 hours of mostly volume training to absorb all the intensity. I felt great for the Mini-Tour and practiced all of my recovery, refueling, racing and re-focusing strategies that I have been working on this fall. We have a number of "Tours" on the World Cup this season and I think the format will really suit me well! One of my biggest goals is to get an opportunity to compete in the Tour de Ski this coming January!!! Without an Olympics or World Championships it will be a huge focus for many athletes!

Training around Park City Photo: Tom Jorgenson
First, however, I need to start the season with a bang! I have been feeling great lately and Tom, Brian and I have been spending countless hours on planning our training, working on technique and reviewing our sessions to make sure we get the most out of them.
Following Tom and learning how to glide!
Classic skiing has been a huge focus for me this summer and fall and after Norway I knew I still needed lots of technique and power application work. This most recent camp confirmed that our hard work is paying off! I still have a ways to go before I consider myself a classic skier over a skate skier...but I am happy that I can finally use my strength and fitness when I need to go fast.
Climbing one of numerous canyons we skied for our volume block. Photo: Tom Jorgenson 
Although skating is a strength of mine, there is always room for improvement. Tom has helped me refine and dial in my skating even more and I cannot be more excited. This fall has been all about technique and speed development. I have been putting in a lot of accelerations and speed varying workouts in hopes of increasing my overall neuro-muscular comfort and ability to deal with lactate acid during races. We had a skate a sprint during the Mini-Tour and I was really excited about how good it felt!
Still climbing! Lots of V1 Photo: Tom Jorgenson
Since we have been focusing so much on changing gears and adapting to undulating terrain (thank you Mid-West terrain!) we decided to throw in a few canyon climbs! We skated up Big Cottonwood Canyon and classic skied up Immigration Canyon. Getting into a rhythm and just working on V1 and striding felt amazing. I really like to climb and these were some epic workouts to put in our bank of training hours and technique focus, not to mention they had some of the most beautiful backdrops and scenery I have ever seen!
Still climbing but now surrounded by snow :) Photo: Tom Jorgenson

Working with Tom has been incredible! Each workout (even distance sessions) has a goal and purpose. 
My camp was a huge success thanks to the awesome support of Brian, Tom and all of our amazing sponsors and partners! Brian has been working very hard on our sponsor-ships, partnerships, fundraising and the business side of Team Gregg while Tom has been focusing on helping us have our best season's yet. I have been working hard too, but for the first time the majority of my energy can be focused on training, recovering and preparing for the start of the World Cup season. Thanks to the countless individuals who have donated to our Fundly Campaign we are stressing much less about the costs of the upcoming race calendar!

Ready to start racing! Photo: Tom Jorgenson
The season is fast approaching and I am feeling more prepared and more confident than ever before. I am headed home to Minneapolis for my final sea level preparation phase and some serious packing. As much as I love traveling and training in so many beautiful places, nothing compares to my favorite training routes and training buddies in the Twin Cities. Thanks for following and I promise to leave it all out on the courses this winter! My season will start with FIS races (Classic Sprint and 10K Skate) in Galivarre, Sweden on Nov. 21st and 22nd and for many reasons...I love training and racing in Sweden :)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Halfway through the Fall Park City Camp

We are already halfway through the annual Fall Park City Camp. This year, like most, brought fantastic weather for the first week with sunny skies and mild weather. We were able to log a fairly big week with two intensity sessions, two strength sessions, a speed session and two OD's all while adjusting to the higher altitudes. Once again Team Gregg is staying up at 8,300 ft. where we have been staying on and off throughout the summer and early fall. Returning to altitude has never been easier and I am glad the time and money we spent to stay out here is paying off.

Annie Hart and I representing the Power House at the USSA Center of Excellence.

Pistol Squats around the World! 
Working with Max the past 6 weeks allowed me to increase my testing scores across the board! I was stronger, more flexible, more powerful and leaner!
Working into some classic striding speeds with a headless horseman "watching."
Skating through Park City with perfect weather.
The past month and half has been the best training block of my career. I have been working up to 6 days a week with Tom and I can feel the difference it has made in my technique and motivation to push myself. Tom is out here in Utah with Brian and me and I couldn't be happier to have the consistency of the same coach at each workout.

Tom and I out on the trails above Deer Valley.
Although the focus of the camp has been on preparing for the upcoming season just over a month away, I have also been catching up with my US Ski Team teammates and other athletes from clubs around the country. It's been great to join so many top athletes and each day has been a important learning experience. Everyone has been spending quality time together during training but it has also been fun to connect at team dinners. It's been fun to hear about all the incredible things this group of athletes do outside of their training and racing lives!

The US Ski Team women minus Julia Kern.

Training as a big group makes me happy.

Amazing classic ski up American Fork.

We were able to stride for over an hour of the workout!

Approaching the top after almost 3.5 hours.
Next week will included a few more intensity, strength and speed sessions before we finish the camp with a mini-tour on rollerskis! Then it's back to Minnesota for 10 days before Tom and I head over to Europe for the on-snow camp and FIS races in Sweden the week before the World Cup!

Thanks to all the amazing donations Team Gregg received through our Fundly campaign and the willingness of the USST to be open to the idea, Tom will be joining me for not only the pre-season camp in Sweden but also the first 3 races on the World Cup!!! I have been traveling and competing on the World Cup, at the World Championships and at the Olympics but never had my own coach at any of the events. I am beyond excited and grateful that this opportunity came together this year!

Monday, September 21, 2015

World Cup Fundraising Campaign

Sitting in the "hot seat" at the 2015 World Championships

This year has been unlike any other for me so far. Starting off the new training season as a member of the US Ski Team brought a ton of excitement and energy to my goals and expectations. Training has been solid all summer and as we roll into fall I am feeling more and more excited about the upcoming World Cup season with each workout!

Back in May I was named to the B-Team on the US Ski Team after a historic finish in the 10 K Skate at World Championships. As a member of the B-Team I have access to national team camps and the USSA Center of Excellence and the staff there.  I am responsible for all of my training and travel expenses, just the race season alone will cost over $25,000 in travel and lodging.  One of the reasons for this is that on the World Cup the standard rate is $130/day for room and board. This far exceeds any of our previous season's budgets where I have been able to do home stays with families on the road and keep costs low.  A thousand thank yous to all of you who have invited us in to your home, sometimes for weeks on end. The National Nordic Foundation (NNF) has stepped up big time to help offset the cost of many of the camps and big races but there is still a need.

Brian and I spent the majority of our spring and summer securing sponsorship's, applying for grants and working with our In-the-Arena project in North Minneapolis. Our sponsors are fantastic and have allowed us to train this summer for success this winter.  I have trained more hours than I ever have before, plus have but an even greater emphasis on recovery to absorb that training.  Last year my recovery was the first thing to go, and it resulted in being diagnosed with shingles just before my first World Cup race.

My community and supporters are awesome and I am asking for your support to help us reach our goals for the upcoming race season. Of course my goals are only half of the equation! Team Gregg has two athletes working hard to reach historic results and although Brian will be starting his season domestically his goals are to qualify for the World Cup and finish in the top 30.  Last year he had the 2nd best US World Cup result of the season with a 35th place.

We have a fantastic new coach, the best equipment and sponsors in the industry and hundreds of hours of preparation leading into this next season. Now we need your help to go all the way! Our goal is to raise $50,000 to make this ski season happen at the elite level. We know it sounds like a lot...but as we get faster we are traveling more and more and our seasons get more expensive. The major goal for this season is for me to make the Red Group and move up to the A-Team and for Brian to secure the Overall Super Tour lead so that next year we are set to succeed at the 2017 World Championships in Lahti, Finland.

Working at the Hoigaard's Annual Tent Sale. Fitting skis, boots and poles while sharing inspirational stories with everyone who came in!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

New Coach!

After returning home from Norway I found myself looking at my training plan and not really feeling like I wanted to get out and train. I was tired, hungry and pretty content to just "chill" out for a bit. I quickly recognized what my body and mind were telling me and listened. I erased my plan and decided to let the week unfold each day.  I ended up taking 3 days off and some other days were as little as 30 min run but I didn't regret or feel bad about missing a single workout.  As the end of the week approached I was asked to lead a group LNR practice in Afton and intervals were on the schedule. I woke up excited to see everyone again ready to get after it again. The workout was not super hard but just enough to get my heart pounding and blood moving after a break. I was back!

Double Pole LNR Interval Group in Afton
My week of super low training allowed my body and mind to recover, refocus and refuel for the second half of the training season. My low hours also allowed me to reflect on the first half of my training season and what my game plan would be to improve upon my weaknesses from Norway. I decided that an area I really had to focus on was my stretching and mobilization. I knew I had tight hips and upper back but I never realized how tight they were until I started working out at the Powerhouse gym (the same gym where Annie Hart has been training and getting ripped!). I spend a good amount of time now smashing, rolling and using pressure point release tools to try and reduce the years tightness from my lack of stretching. Aside from just using the weights to get looser I have also been lifting them to get stronger! I was impressed with Annie's improvements this year and since I am going to be in the Twin Cities for most of the fall I figured I would give the Powerhouse a try! Wow! I am sore beyond belief but I am also feeling great!?!? The gym is also right down the street from my mom's apartment so I get to visit her after my workouts which is a bonus!

I am smiling but this HURTS a lot!!!

Working on my range of motion and flexibility (t.his also HURTS!).
Earlier this summer Brian and I were searching for more consistent wax support. We loved working with some incredible individuals and teams for wax support over the past two seasons. These individuals and teams helped us win races like the Birkie and qualify for the World Cup, World Championships and the Olympics, but it was obvious we were also dealt a bit of luck having such great service at so many venues for so long. It was time to hire our own wax tech. We tried a number of leads without success and saw a post from Tom Jorgenson who had just stepped away from coaching at St. Olaf college here in Minnesota. We contacted Tom and asked if he would be interested in working with Team Gregg for the upcoming season. We also mentioned that we could use a little help from a coaching standpoint. Tom agreed to work with us but we were also already on the road for another 5 weeks so we would have to meet once I returned from Norway.

I am a pretty big proponent of the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I am stubborn, not keen on criticism and very apprehensive about change. Over the past couple of seasons I have found that I have been able to succeed without the input or support of a personal coach. Whenever I work with different groups or teams around the world I always appreciate feedback and new ideas but I am always the one who took it or left it and figured I was on the right track, especially after Falun. 

Fast forward to today and I have been working with Tom for the past week while Brian is back at altitude in Utah (I decided to hold off on some altitude to work on technique and make sure I am really recovered for the upcoming hard fall training). I now "Get It." I now understand what a coach can bring out in an athlete and why athletes who find a good match with a coach are unstoppable.  I don't think I have ever had a bad coach but I also don't think I have ever had a coach who understood me so well and could inspire me do be my absolute best everyday. I wake up motivated and ready to push myself to a higher level, I finish workouts feeling like I have made progress and more than ever I am excited about the upcoming season. I have made huge technique gains this past week and I am sure I have heard the same ideas from other coaches but somehow everything "clicked." I still have lots of room to improve technically (which is a good thing because it means I have room get faster!), but I am also looking forward to improving my fitness working with Tom as well. I realized that writing my own training means I do what I like to do and that is usually what I am already good at. So far Tom has helped me make little adjustments to my training approach that I know will make a big difference this winter. More to come soon!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Norwegian Summer Adventure

The crew heading out for a run with the Fonna Op (uphill running race) course in the background!

My last minute travel to Norway for the USST Camp and the Toppidrettsveka Rollerski Race Series was a fantastic decision. Throughout the summer I have only been able to train with the other ladies on the US Ski Team or the US Ski Coaches at "Official Training Camps." With only one camp on U.S. soil so fat this year in May (with a lot of testing thrown in) I was down to less than a week of technique and opportunities to be with the team. Brian and I made a big effort to live part time in Park City this summer (I was there for over 9 weeks!) but without official camps I found myself training mostly with the Local Wasatch Junior program and the Nordic Combined Team (both of which were awesome!!!).  I have an entire season on the World Cup this year and lots of technique to work on so the only option was to travel across the pond to Norway. Originally I was very nervous about the costs (especially since Brian and I had invested so much to be in Park City for so long and because I am on the B-Team) but thanks to the National Nordic Foundation and Brian's awesome ability to find flights, I was able to make it work out perfectly.

Psyched for the opportunity to do some intervals with someone! Liz and I did an L-4 skiathlon workout on the trails in Knyken!
The races here in Norway were also an important opportunity for me to participate in. With only 7.5K of skating in the 4 day series I knew I would have my work cut out for me racing against so many top athletes in classic skiing. I soon realized that my fitness is great right now (it can always be better but there is still time before the season starts!) but my classic technique needs quite a bit of work. My double especially was a huge limiting factor for me on the last day of the event. I found myself with plenty of energy and power but no way to transfer it to the endless flat double poling on the course. I hammered the steep uphill on every lap only to lose contact on the gradual ups/ downs and flat sections. When I looked at my watch after the race my average heart rate was only 156bpm, considering I did get it up to a max of 185bpm in the race it was obvious I was loosing a ton of time when I couldn't use my legs to propel me. Luckily we had a great PT named Laurie who was with us the entire time and she pointed out some major posture issues I need to correct in my double pole so that I can transfer my power much better and ski much faster. I have a lot to work on between now and the season but I am excited to get going. 

I am a master at taking my own lactates now!

We started out Classic Skiing and then switched to skating.

Feeling strong on the skate portion of the workout.
The other days of racing were a bit of a mixed bag for everyone on the team. It seemed as though everyone had a least one good race or event! My highlight came in the second half of the Skiathlon when I was able to hammer on the skate leg and have the fourth fastest time of the day behind Weng, Johaug and my teammate Liz! I was able to move up to 11th in the race but my poor first lap of classic required me to pass almost 20 people throughout the race. In my own defense (and the rest of the US Team) we were told to start conservatively on the first downhill and not leave our starting position until the bottom of the course. I was already put on warning for turning a bit too aggressively (Skating too many steps) in the Classic Sprint so I was really trying to follow the rules. Apparently no one else listened though and I soon realized what a mistake I had made when I was in last place at the bottom of the course. Lesson learned!!!

The first day of competition was a 5K uphill run followed by a classic sprint in the afternoon. It was a long day but I think I nailed my energy and recovery perfectly! The uphill run started off a bit slow for me but by the steep middle of the course I was feeling great and was able to pass about 10 girls. I was reeling in the next group of 4 women as we neared the top but was unable to close the gap before the finish. I ended up 9th (quite a ways out from first) but not too far from top 5!

The afternoon Classic Sprint was a race I was not too excited about because I have never been a strong classic sprinter but it was a good practice event and a bit of a mid-season reality check. I felt good but realize that I need to start focusing on shorter and harder classic double pole intervals. I feel like my strength is good but my stamina in double pole is really lacking and combined with the above posture problems I have no chance against the top women in the world on a fast flat course right now. I did make it into the rounds which is a first for me over here in Europe and quite a bit different than in the US. It seems as though the rounds in the US are usually really slow until the final 100 meters. Here and on the World Cup the women take it out hard from the gun and keep pushing up until the end. I much prefer going hard from the gun but I need to be able to get going at the speed first.

Fun to have fans over here in Norway!

Sophie after crushing her Classic Final!

Classic Sprinting in Aure

The start!

Just a few of the fans in Aure

Outside of the races I had a lot of great training opportunities with my teammates along some of the most beautiful roads I have ever skied on! The Vistas were filled with fjords, lakes, mountains, cute Norwegian houses and lots of farms with sheep and cows. Occasionally we found ourselves skiing alongside the cows and hoping they didn't do anything crazy at the last minute!

Sophie unimpressed by the cows

The cows checking Jessie out post workout

The final day of the races were held in Trondheim (downtown) and the crowds were amazing! over 50,000 people watched the races!!! That just blows my mind! Skiing is HUGE here!!! It was awesome to be recognized and asked for autographs and photos while I was walking down the streets and cheering for the U.S. boys!

We spent an extra day in Trondheim to ensure we are recovered before we head back over to the US! Luckily Connor Boldger from Wisconsin is working at the Olympic Sports Lab and Complex here in Trondheim so he gave a running tour through some trails and bogs and let us into the training facility to use the weight room!
The running crew overlooking Trondheim

Norwegian bogs and fjords on our run!

Walking into the Norwegian equivalent of the COE (this one is open to the public which is really cool!)

The GIANT treadmill at the training center

The camp is now over and I have one more day of exploring on my own before I head back to the US (tickets were way cheaper on Tuesday for me.) I am really excited to get home and see Brian and my Husky and sleep in my own bed. I am also excited to get to work on the second half of the preparation period before the first World Cups start in Kussamo in late November!!!