Every so often, we get an exclusive interview with a Birkie champion. This year, we asked some Q&A-type questions with Minneapolis’s own Caitlin Gregg, 2011 and 2013 Birkie champion and 2010 Olympian (oh, and she won the national distance race this winter by minutes and was left off the team in Sochi; we’ll get to that).
Caitlin will be running a Fast and Female session on Sunday morning, and you should totally go to that … if you’re a girl between 9 and 19. (Us old guys are shut out.) And check for her at the finish in Hayward, she may well be up on the podium.
Caitlin was gracious enough to respond to a bunch of questions, so without further ado, Superwoman Caitlin Gregg:
BirkieGuide: So, yeah, how did it feel to be left off the team but have Brian make it? That must have been hugely bittersweet.
Caitlin Gregg: Obviously it was a bummer but I immediately realized that it meant I would be home for the Birkie! I am also so pumped for Brian to be there! I just hope they have enough women to race the 30K at the Olympics.
BG: Not making the team means getting to ski the Birkie. 50k instead of 30k = more skiing! It’s certainly consolation, but a silver lining nonetheless.
CG: Yeah, I am very excited to be racing another long distance skate race. I trained all summer and fall for the 30K skate so I didn’t spend much focus on sprinting or classic skiing at all. It’s been tough this year because I have only had two skate races 10K or longer! I have been doing a lot of Skate sprints on the World Cup which is basically my 30K pace! I love the last 20K of the Birkie too so I am psyched to get in as much Skate skiing as possible on Saturday!
BG: Speaking of which, why do women ski a 30k instead of a 50k in the Olympics? They don’t run a half marathon for women in the summer Olympics?
CG: I think it is so that the men do not have to be compared to Marit or Therese! I love looking at the results sheet and seeing which guys I beat at the Birkie! [Editor’s note: I have yet to beat Caitlin in a race, and doubt this will be the year.] I have already been getting some smack talk from some who beat me last year. I am looking to DESTROY them this year!
BG: Are you waking up at stupid o’clock to watch the Olympics?
CG: Not really. I got up wicked early to watch Kikkan and the USST ladies race in the sprint race but then I got sad and really tired. I have tried to watch Brian a few times but I keep falling asleep. I got sick this past week which didn’t help ward off the sleepiness. I watch all the replays though
BG: Also silver lining: Birkie should have perfect conditions, Sochi might well be a 30k in slush. What do you think of putting the Olympics somewhere with no winter traditions just because they paid a lot of money?
CG: The money side of the Olympics is pretty ridiculous, it doesn’t really matter what the weather is for sports that are indoors but it certainly tales away from the quality of races when the snow is so inconsistent and temperatures are way higher than we ever race at! Brian and I were super fortunate to work with Madshus skis this year and we knew the conditions could be crazy at Sochi. We asked for a great variety of skis, which we tested on the Eagle Glacier, and we are confident we have skis for all conditions. That being said, I also have my Birkie pair of skis picked already too!
BG: What have you thought of the Olympics so far? Results-wise, US-team-wise, venue/course-wise (some of that course looks pretty gnarly/dangerous).
CG: I am super excited for athletes like Sophie and Jessie! Their results were just incredible!!! As a whole though, the team seems to be struggling to meet expectations again. I am not sure why. I trained specifically for the Sochi course. Lots of 5 min uphill skate repeats, lots of uphill skate time trials, lots of volume and altitude work. I feel like I was really ready for that course. The gnarlier the better!
BG: You pretty obviously have The Fever. How excited are you about the race, and about anything in particular?
CG: My fever was is so bad. All I can think about is the race I have a feed bag filled with gear that is bigger than my suitcase. I have my skis zeroed for testing! I wear my Birkie sweater everywhere! I have learned the more you embrace the whole event the more you get out of it! [Not going to lie, but Caitlin’s fever might one-up mine, plus she’s won the whole thing. Twice.]
BG: What are your plans for after the Birkie this year? Any other big races? Does Kincaid even have any snow for Spring Series?
CG: After the Birkie I will be hosting a Fast and Female event! I am super excited about that! Then I head over to Finland for the remaining World Cup races with the USST. I am psyched to meet up with the team and hear about their experiences! After World Cup finals I will head straight to Alaska for the Super Tour Finals. No word on snow conditions yet, but I love Alaska in the spring! Brian and I are also participating in Nana Nordic this year which will cap off an incredible season for the two of us!!!
BG: How are you liking living in Minneapolis down the road from Wirth? Nice digs?
CG: Our House in North Minneapolis is awesome! We couldn’t be happier with the house, the location and the community! We feel like we live in the best place in town Training from our door is ideal, we have the GCOE (the Gregg Center of Excellence) in the basement, we live very close to our jobs at the Boys and Girls Club, we have awesome neighbors!
BG: Down the road, are you [and Brian] looking towards 2018? Or doing something other than full-ish time ski training?
CG: Right now we will both be racing again next year and if all goes well, there is no reason for us to stop! We are having an absolute blast this year and we love doing what we do! 2018 is not our of the question! If we do take a step back we will be involved in coaching at some level. We have learned even more than ever this season and we feel we have a lot to offer the next generation.
BG: Anyone you want to thank for helping you out this year?
CG: It’s a list, but here goes:
BG: Thanks, Caitilin! We’ll see you on Saturday in Hayward, because you’ll be way ahead of us before then. Have a great ski!