Interview: Checking in With Birkie Winner Caitlin Gregg

Rosalie LipfertMarch 3, 2014
Caitlin Gregg, winner of the 2014 Birkie. Photo: American Birkebeiner Foundation
Caitlin Gregg, winner of the 2014 Birkie. Photo: American Birkebeiner Foundation

Caitlin Gregg channeled the training and fitness she had accumulated for a potential Olympic start into her 3rd Birkie win and is now back in Europe racing on the World Cup. FasterSkier checked in with the Birkie Champion her training after her first World Cup weekend on this European trip.

FasterSkier: Last weekend you won the Birkie by over a minute. How did you feel in the cold, slow conditions? How was the day for you overall?

Caitlin Gregg: I am really psyched to have “nailed” my training over the past few months. I was hoping to peak for an event on the 22nd of February, and wanting the event to be the 30K Skate at the Olympics, but also realized I could capitalize on my fitness and trajectory for the Birkie when I wasn’t named to the 2014 Olympic Team. I have been writing my own training this year, but it has been heavily influenced by the training I did when I was with the Biathlon Development Team and James Upham. He taught me how to peak for major events and I have used his suggestions many, many times with a lot of success, including the 2010 Olympics and the past 4 American Birkebeiner Races.

FS: What’s been most difficult aspect of your training and racing these past few weeks?

CG: The hardest part was maintaining some volume while still racing every weekend on the World Cup and Super Tour. I put in a lot of hours and kilometers while out in Craftsbury, Vermont and I was thrilled with my Super Tour results that weekend. Leading up to the Birkie, I cut my training a ton and felt great for the event. I love long skate races and I had been doing a lot of Skate Sprints and 5K’s so I was pumped to get another opportunity to ski a long one.

FS: Did this Birkie stand out in any particular way, and if so, how?

Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus), 1st
Gregg racing at U.S. Nationals early this season.

CG: The 2014 Birkie was the hardest one I have ever done. The combination of cold wind and slow snow made the race almost 20 minutes longer despite my higher level of fitness. I always have a few game plans in mind before the race, but so much can happen during the event and it’s almost impossible to know what to do until the race unfolds on race day. When the lead pack of Elite Men came through I had about 5 seconds to make a decision to go with them or let them ski away. I am glad I could think quickly enough and had the energy to chase after them and try to hang on. The last few kilometers of the race were extremely difficult. I don’t think I have ever been so cold and tired in my entire racing career. I cannot believe that Matt Liebsch caught me when he did and that I could tuck in behind him. He certainly could have dusted me, but he let me draft off him across Lake Hayward. He is an incredible athlete and an even more incredible person!

FS: Fast forwarding to this past weekend, how was Saturday’s freestyle World Cup sprint in Lahti for you?

CG: I certainly have my work cut out for me! I was able to recover well in the U.S. for a few days before flying over here to Finland (which was not the plan originally but actually was a blessing in disguise). I have been adjusting well and the energy and excitement of the team over here is certainly helpful and motivating to get up to everyday! The real challenge has been shifting gears from a long slow hilly 50K to a fast flat 1K on the World Cup. The snow here is fast and sugary and it is a little cumbersome to feel super stable on your feet. My race yesterday was ok—I found it hard to feel powerful and be able to push myself past my 50K pace from last weekend.

FS: How was it being at the races with Kikkan’s win and Sophie’s third place finish?

CG: It’s been a really fun season here in Europe when so much history is being made! Watching Kikkan and Sophie yesterday was incredible and I have the feeling there will be some more amazing results to come in the last couple of weeks over here!

FS: And how did Sunday’s World Cup 10k skate race go for you?

CG: I actually felt really good, especially for the first 5K, which was fun! The snow and conditions were a bit tricky but I felt like I am making a good turn-around from the Birkie and travel.

FS: Lastly, how has it been training without your husband (who is also your training partner) these last few weeks? Has that been a difficult adjustment, or has it gone over pretty smoothly?

CG: Training without my husband has been super lonely. Not that we ski together all the time, but we are certainly around each a lot between training sessions. The best part about his trip to the Olympics was a phone that had a U.S. plan, so I could call him and he could call me anytime! I feel so lucky to have my husband traveling and racing with me so often, that a few weeks a year is manageable. We are very excited about meeting up again in Alaska for the Super Tour Finals.


Rosalie Lipfert

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