InterviewsNewsInterview with New USST Member Garrott Kuzzy

FasterSkier FasterSkierAugust 13, 2008

Garrott Kuzzy was named to the US B Team this spring after a season in which he won the SuperTour Sprint title, finished 9th in the freestyle sprint at the Canmore World Cup, and raced the the later part of the European World Cup circuit. Garrott trains and races with the Central Cross-Country Ski Association Elite Team (CXC). He graduated from Middlebury College in 2006 where he was an All-American cross-country skier. After growing up in Minnesota, he currently lives in Hayward, WI. He races on Salomon skis and boots.

FasterSkier: The last time I spoke to you was just following your 9th place finish at the Canmore World Cups — your were riding pretty high right then. Looking back on that result now, how has that race impacted you?

Garrott Kuzzy: Finishing in the top-10 in Canmore was certainly a highlight. I’m psyched that it happened in North America and I was able to celebrate afterwards with my teammates, friends, and coaches. That race changed my perspective on what’s possible as an American ski racer and has raised my expectations of myself. As a skier who didn’t have much of any sprint just three years ago, I’ve basically followed a plan very similar to what the US sprint crew is on and indirectly found myself getting a lot better at sprinting. That race probably played a big part in my getting nominated to the US Ski Team as well. For the most part though, that race hasn’t changed much of what I do on a daily basis. Having that finish gave me confidence in our training plan, so my training this year has been very similar to what I was doing last year.

FS: Has dealing with the responsibilities of the accompanying fame and glory been challenging 🙂 ?

GK: Ha. I did respond to a letter sent to me by a random fan in Europe asking for an autographed photo. That’s about the extent to which I’ve felt responsibility accompanying any fame. Otherwise, it’s been pretty mellow. I haven’t seen any paparazzi hanging around Hayward lately—I think you have to win the Birkie for that to happen. . .

FS: Following Canmore, you traveled to Europe and got some more World Cup racing under your belt. How did that go and how valuable is that experience heading into this season?

GK: There were several highlights from the Spring World Cups. Seeing Andy win the qualifier in Lahti and finish 2nd overall while Kikkan finished 5th was awesome.
The World Cup courses in Europe were probably the biggest shock for me. Not the terrain so much as the trail conditions, which were marginal for even the best courses. There was about a 50-50 mix of sugar snow and rocks on the trail in Liberec, the snow on the Stockholm city sprint course had chunks of asphalt in it, and the Holmenkollen trail was full of soot from all the campfires. For some reason, I’d always imagined that the courses on the World Cup were perfect. I’ve gotten a new appreciation for good trail conditions like those at Soldier Hollow or West Yellowstone.

As for racing experience, I was psyched to have made up ground on a couple teams in the 4x10km relay in Falun. I’m also happy to have had a strong final lap at the Holmenkollen in Oslo. However, I learned that you’ve got to be on top of your game to race well on the World Cup. In the future, I’ll be picking my races more carefully and really focusing on the races I start.

FS: You were nominated to the USST this spring. A year ago was that in your sights?

GK: Being on the US Ski Team has been in my sights since I started ski racing.

FS: What does being on the team mean for you as an athlete? Will you still be working with CXC and based out of the midwest?

GK: A post on Laura Valaas’ website from May 23, 2007 sums up my feeling about being on the team. . .being named to the team does not automatically make someone a faster skier, I still need to work as hard as I always have to improve my ski racing. I continue to live in Hayward and train primarily with the CXC Team. I’ll be attending some camps, like the Lake Placid Camp in October with the US Team and CXC, but the majority of my training will continue to be here in the Midwest.

FS:Do you feel any additional responsibility as a member of the team?

GK:Of course. I believe that a member of the US Ski Team needs to be the fastest skier in the country, if not for all events, then at least in their primary event. I’m not there yet, so that’s one responsibility I feel. Another responsibility is to help and inspire other skiers improve so that the US can become the “Best in the World.” We’ve got a lot of work to do as a team, but we’re going in the right direction.

FS: What are your goals for the 2008-2009 season?

GK: The big races this coming season are later than last year. I plan to build into this season and race progressively faster. I’ve spent time this spring working on my classic skiing to get that on par with my skating. Like I said earlier, picking my big races more carefully and attacking those with the focus I had going into Canmore this past season is a big goal. Specifically, US Nationals, the Whistler World Cups, and the World Championships in Liberec, CZE are the races in the back of my mind when I’m out training.

FS: How has your training been going this summer? Have you made any significant changes? Are you focusing on anything in particular?

GK: This has been a challenging spring for me. It’s taken me longer to recover from the racing season than usual. I spent two weeks on snow in Whistler in May with the US Team and focused a lot on classic skiing, which was exactly what I needed. That camp pushed my summer training back a few weeks, but I’m back in the swing now. My training the past two months has been almost identical to last year. I’ve been focusing lately on building a strong base by going a little easier, but longer on my distance training.

FS: Would you consider yourself more of a distance racer or a sprinter? Or do you feel that you have the versatility to excel at both?

GK: I’d consider myself a middle-distance skier.

FS: Could you see yourself specializing at some point in the future?

GK: No. I’m amazed at how it’s possible to evolve as a skier without planning a specific change, as sort of a bi-product of other training. Who’d have guessed that a sprinter like Torin Koos could ski so well in long distance races like he did at Canadian and US Distance Nationals? All events in Nordic skiing take endurance and speed. Ideally, I see myself having the endurance to hang with the pack in a mass-start distance race and the speed to drop the hammer into the finish.

FS: At this point, it is certainly not unlikely to see you racing in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympics. Is that a specific goal? Do you look beyond 2010 to 2014 and do you see yourself competing for a medal at that point?

GK: If I race in Vancouver, I’m going to be racing for a medal. Sochi is a little further down the road. If I’m still having fun and improving, you bet I’ll give it a shot.

FS: You have been training with CXC for some years now. The organization is relatively new, but seems to be doing a fantastic job at all levels. What has your experience with CXC been?

GK: I’m going into my third season with CXC. The program has evolved a long way since it started. The CXC Team was just for elite athletes in 2006 with seven athletes and one coach on the team. We’ve now got the CXC Elite Team with 13 athletes, one physiologist, one wax-tech, and our coach, Bryan Fish, who can do anything. There’s also the CXC Junior Team, the CXC Youth Team, and the CXC Masters Program. The quality and professionalism of CXC are improving with this growth as well.

FS: Why did you choose to join CXC following college?

GK: I’d always focused on school and skiing at the same time. I really wanted to see what would happen if I devoted all of my energy to skiing. CXC provided the best opportunity for me to do that and to give back to the ski community where I grew up, right here in the Midwest.

FS: How important has it been for you to have the support and coaching that CXC provides?

GK: Having a motivated team to train with really gets me fired up. Everyone in the organization, from the athletes to the administration, is “All in.” There is a much different dynamic on this team, where we train and travel together year round, than a factory team, where skiers live around the country and travel together just in the racing season. The support of the team is why I’m able to continue ski racing.

FS: You have coached at a number of CXC-run clinics and training camps. Do you enjoy working with other athletes? Does this help your own skiing?

GK: One of the highlights of my “job” is leading ski clinics. It’s very important to have a strong grasp on the basic fundamentals of skiing. Leading regular clinics keeps me thinking about the fundamentals all the time. Something that’s evolved out of the CXC Clinics is the “CXC ACADEMY.” It’s a new website where you can interactively learn about ski training and technique with videos and downloads. It’s got yearly training plans that can be customized for skiers of all levels. Check it out at www.cxcacademy.com. It costs about as much as 100g of high flouros to sign up, but it can improve your skiing by much more than that. Type “Kuzzy” into the Promo Code when you sign up and I’ll get in touch with you to answer any questions you may have. If you want more personal attention, I also work with individuals to customize training plans.

FS: What is your favorite summer workout?

GK: I love mountain biking. Just last night I did a threshold workout on my bike on an 18-mile single-track trail that starts at Telemark and parallels the Birkie trail. The raspberries are just coming out in northern Wisconsin so at the end of the ride I chased off a few black bears and ate berries till the moon came up. I don’t get to ride my bike as much as I used to, so I really enjoy every chance I get to ride.

FS: What is the best part about training in the Midwest? The worst part?

GK: The support of the ski community in the Midwest is awesome. I also really like all the paved roads for rollerskiing and trails for running and biking.
Most people might say the mosquitoes or the humidity are the worst part, but I really wish there were a few more hills that lasted longer than 3 minutes to climb.

FS: What do you do to relax between workouts?

GK: The real reason that I train is so that I can eat as much as I want. The time I spend eating would probably rival the number of hours I train in a year! Sitting down and enjoying a good meal is my favorite way to relax.

FS: What do you have on tap for the rest of the summer and the early fall?

GK: I’m coaching at a junior camp next week, then we (the CXC Team) head up to the Olympic Education Center in Marquette for our two-week August camp. I plan to stick around Hayward for most of the fall with the exception of heading out to Lake Placid for the annual Fall Camp with the national team and most of the regional teams.

FS: Tell us something interesting about yourself.

GK: There’s nothing too exciting to report about myself. My sister Martha and her team just won the World Jr. Rowing Championships in Austria at the end of July. Right now I’m pretty darn excited for Martha.

Check it out: http://www.usrowing.org/News_Media/PressReleases/detail.aspx?nws_lKey=563

FS: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Good luck this season!

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