Sunday, January 25, 2015


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!