Course-Side Quotes: Catching Up with U.S. Nationals Top Dogs

BrainspiralJanuary 3, 20151
Rosie Brennan (Alaska Pacific University)
Women’s SuperTour leader Rosie Brennan (Alaska Pacific University) getting some race prep in Saturday morning before the first race of 2015 U.S. Cross Country Championships on Sunday: the 10/15 k freestyle individual starts at the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton, Mich.

HOUGHTON, Mich. — After touching down in Houghton later Friday afternoon, FasterSkier chatted with a couple of podium favorites at the U.S. Cross Country Championships over the next week, including World Cup and top SuperTour skiers. The first race of 2015 nationals kicks off Sunday at 10 a.m. with the women’s 10 k freestyle individual start, followed by the men’s 15 k freestyle at 1 p.m. at the Michigan Tech Trails.


– Rosie Brennan (Alaska Pacific University)

Women’s overall SuperTour leader, who earned World Cup start rights after nationals with her November-December results

Last two races: 1st Bozeman SuperTour classic sprint (Dec. 6), Bozeman SuperTour 10 k classic (Dec. 7)

On period between Bozeman SuperTour in early December and U.S. nationals: 

“It’s been a little weird because I was actually dryland training in Utah for a few weeks and then I had a week-and-a-half of OK skiing, so it feels like I’m starting my season over again. I actually have really fond memories of racing here so I think it’s a good mindset to be in. “

On the where she’s at:

“I’ve been working on a lot of more process-oriented things in my racing. If I do that, more result-oriented goals will follow. I had a really good summer of training; I think I just learned a lot over the last season more in terms of just how to be a better racer and I think that’s proven really helpful in being able to use the fitness that I’ve gained over the summer more effectively.”

On racing the World Cup starts after nationals: 

“I’m just looking to use what I’ve learned from my past experiences on the World Cup and hope to improve upon other times I’ve had over there.”

Caitlin Patterson gliding through the finish during Saturday morning race prep at the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton, Mich. U.S. nationals kick off Sunday in Houghton with the 10/15 k freestyle individual starts.
Caitlin Patterson gliding through the finish during Saturday morning race prep at the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton, Mich. U.S. nationals kick off Sunday in Houghton with the 10/15 k freestyle individual starts.

– Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project)

Second-overall ranked SuperTour woman

Last two races: 4th in 10 k skate at Besh Cup in Anchorage, Alaska (Dec. 21), 6th in Besh Cup skate sprint (Dec. 20)

On racing again:

“I’m looking forward to another round of competition. It was fun to start off the SuperTour like always in West Yellowstone and Bozeman, and those races went well but I still felt like I was rounding into good shape and figuring out some early season bugs. So I’ve been feeling good and I’m looking forward to these, to fight it out again and there’s a lot of fast people here so it should be pretty cool.”

On skiing the skiing Anchorage (in late December):

“Anchorage has really low snow, so it actually wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. I brought rock skis and used them a lot, but there was snow. I skied every day. The [Besh Cup] races were a little bit changed from what they had planned, like we did a sprint that was not even 900-meters long, a skate sprint, so that was funny, but it was good, enough to throw off your balance a little bit. I was there until [Thursday] and then I flew here. ”

On U.S. nationals goals:

“I’m definitely shooting for some podiums; I see that top fives should certainly be within my reach. We’ve raced on the SuperTour with a lot of these girls, everyone except Caitlin Gregg has been around and we’ve been bouncing back and forth a bit, so I guess just looking forward to putting out there whatever I can and see how it turns out.”

On what she needs to do to succeed:

“Keeping nerves in check a little bit, but I think it’s good to get a little bit nervous because it shows that you care about it and care about racing and are ready for it. It’s sort of just part of the preparation. I definitely need to get in a good warmup — that’s one of the things I’ve been trying to focus on this year because it’s pretty important to come into the races right from the first kilometer, not start slowly and try to wake up … Then just keep in the zone and have a lot of focus during the races and go for it. ”

Chelsea Holmes (Alaska Pacific University)
Chelsea Holmes (Alaska Pacific University) training on Saturday morning at the Michigan Tech Trails, the day before U.S. nationals kick off in Houghton, Mich.

– Chelsea Holmes (APU)

Third overall

Last two races: 2nd in 10 k skate at Besh Cup in Anchorage, Alaska (Dec. 21), 5th in Besh Cup skate sprint (Dec. 20)

On first impressions of the conditions at Michigan Tech: 

“Great, lots of snow, it’s cold, hard wax so I’m pretty happy so far.”

On memories of Houghton [when it last hosted U.S. nationals in 2007 and 2008]: 

“Those races, I don’t remember anything of the actual experience, which seems silly, other than I remember it being really warm. I did senior nationals those years when I was in college and I had never done it prior, but I mean, I think my first year of senior nationals I was close to the one-hundreds and maybe the second year I was in the forties or fifties. It was the first races of college skiing and it was just race as fast as you could.”

On how it feels to be in Houghton now, in the top three overall?

“Not too different. I’ve tried to make the switch where I’m just going out and having fun, but also, the races are a big deal and you want to do as well as you can, but I try to keep it in the context of, it’s a race and there’s only so much I can control … I can’t control how everyone else skis, so I can, even if I have a terrible day, I would like to say, I’m happy with that. That’s my goal.”

On her target race(s):

“I’m definitely a stronger distance skier so I would say those [races] more, but I’m really working on improving my sprinting, so I’ve discovered that if I try to stress about that less, that can be fun, too. Honestly, I’m really excited about the whole week. I think it should be really fun, and I love to race so four races in a week is a good bang for your buck.”

– Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus)

2013/2014 women’s overall SuperTour winner, started 2014/2015 season on World Cup

Last two races: 47th in Davos World Cup sprint (Dec. 21), 54th in Davos 10 k freestyle (Dec. 20)

On how she feels heading into nationals, her first domestic races of the season: 

“I’m feeling pretty good. I think the one thing that I’ve realized, though, is I don’t know where I’m at. I always say, ‘I’m never 100-percent confident going into a race,’ or anything like that. I’m always like, anything could happen. I could have a great day, but then someone could have an even-better day so anything is always possible. Going forward, I’d say I feel good, energy feels good, but we’ll have to see what happens. … It is definitely fun to be back and have the whole [Loppet Nordic Racing] crew here, our club team, for Brian and I to be training with and prepping with.”

On how she’s recovered since four weekends of World Cup racing in Europe:

“I ended up taking a number of days off from training when I got home and a number of days off from skiing. I’ve been pretty conservative, trying to maintain my fitness, but also kept things really short, kept things kind of focused on not pushing the body too far.”

And after contracting shingles at the start of the season in Muonio, Finland (as explained in an email):

“The small rash healed up in less than 3 days and was never as painful as others have shared in their stories! I felt a little tired and lethargic for about a week (but I also just traveled 24 hours to Europe!). After taking it easy I resumed normal training and my energy felt great, especially at the lower intensities, but when I went to race I realized that my highest gear wasn’t quite there.

“It wasn’t until the second weekend in Davos, when it was a 10K Skate race at altitude and should have been my best race, that I realized the virus might have zapped me a bit more than I thought. I am still not sure if it had any affect on my race results though?

“I decided to get home and give myself a good couple of weeks to recover. I went to Hayward with Brian and didn’t train for 5 days. After that I started jogging easy and finally began skiing after a week. I feel great, especially at lower intensities, but I still don’t know where my energy at higher intensities is? I am excited to race and look forward to the rest of the season!”

On goals at nationals:

“For sure, when you’re on the World Cup and you’re kind of getting toward the back of the pack, you’re kind of like, ‘Man, that really doesn’t feel so good.’ I can deal with it, but you’re like, ‘It would be fun to feel good and finish a race,’ and be like, ‘All right, that was fun again.’ The races are fun over there for sure, but I want it to be a good feeling all around. Feel good energy, feel great skis and obviously great course, and have everyone I know here for it.”

On how she’s feeling about Sunday’s 10 k skate, her target race:

“I’m really excited about it. I love this course. I heard there was going to be a little adverse weather conditions and that kind of gets me excited, too. We kind of get a lot of that in the Birkie and I’m kind of preparing for it in a similar way where you never know, is there going to be a lot of snow? Is it going to be blowing sideways where the windchill’s just horrific? All that just makes it more interesting.”


Matt Gelso racing to first in the West Yellowstone SuperTour 15 k freestyle on Nov. 29, 2014. (Photo: Toko)
Matt Gelso racing to a win in the first distance race of the season at the West Yellowstone SuperTour 15 k freestyle on Nov. 29. (Photo: Toko)

– Matt Gelso (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation)

Second-overall ranked SuperTour male, first American, who earned World Cup start rights after nationals

Last two races: 6th Rossland NorAm 10 k classic (Dec. 13), 2nd Rossland NorAm 15 k classic (Dec. 14)

On how he’s been feeling in the time since those races:

“I’m feeling good. I got a strong solid block of training in California during Christmas. I managed, knock on wood, to not get sick. I’d like to feel good and be up in the results. I know I’m skiing good and skiing fast; I want to set myself up well to go to Europe and  have a platform at least and try and have some success over there.”

– Miles Havlick (SVSEF)

Fourth overall in the SuperTour, second American

Last two races: 2nd Bozeman SuperTour 15 k classic (Dec. 7), 9th Rossland NorAm 10 k classic (Dec. 13)

On arriving in Houghton: 

“It’s been fantastic. The conditions are as good as they get. I had a little bit of illness after Rossland but a little time at home fixed that.”

On racing prospects: 

“I’d like to have a few podiums. That’s my goal. I think with these trails – the laps are long – the race is going to be a little different than we’re used to so pacing is very important. Warming up well in the cold temperatures and gritting your teeth and staying focused in the race.”

Kris Freeman on his way to winning the 30 k freestyle interval start by more than a minute and a half on Dec. 20 at the Sovereign Lake NorAm in Vernon, B.C. (Photo: Frances Weeks)
Kris Freeman on his way to winning the Sovereign Lake NorAm 30 k freestyle by more than a minute and a half on Dec. 20 in Vernon, B.C. (Photo: Frances Weeks)

– Kris Freeman (Team Freebird)

Seventh overall in SuperTour, Canadian NorAm leader

Last two races: 1st in Sovereign Lake NorAm 30 k skate (Dec. 20), 1st in Rossland NorAm 15 k classic (Dec. 14); has won every NorAm he’s entered this year.

On how he’s feeling:

“It’s been a couple weeks now since I raced, but I had good momentum coming out of the NorAms in Canada so I feel good and good on my skis and looking forward to racing.”

On goals at nationals:

“I want to keep on having the good sensations that I’ve been having racing. When I’m skiing well, skiing is just so fun. And to be skiing well again this year, I’m really enjoying it.”

– Paddy Caldwell (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team/Dartmouth)

21st overall in SuperTour, U.S. Ski Team D-team member who skipped the Bozeman SuperTour and is focusing on 2015 U23 World Championships in Kazakhstan

Last two races: 4th Middlebury Eastern Cup 10 k classic (Dec. 20), 1st Middlebury Eastern Cup 15 k skate (Dec. 21)

On goals for the week:

“My goal is to, honestly, feel good racing. I always have a rougher start at the beginning of the season. I’m starting to feel good so I’m hoping to race as hard as I can and feel good about the effort about the performance.”

On racing blueprint for rest of the season:

“My plan is to head back to Dartmouth after the races to start classes and feel it out from there.”

– Reese Hanneman (APU)

2013/2014 men’s overall SuperTour winner, started 2014/2015 season on World Cup

Last two races: 86th Davos World Cup skate sprint (Dec. 14), 79th Davos World Cup 15 k classic (Dec. 13)

On what he’s been up to since: 

“I came back from Europe on the World Cup [around Dec. 17] before Christmas and have been in Anchorage for a week then Fairbanks for a week then here.”

On re-entering the domestic-racing scene:

“This is the first year that I’ve done the World Cup to start off my season. That was different and obviously a huge learning experience and I didn’t perform like I wanted to or like I knew I can, but I got a lot out of it. It was really productive. So now to come to nationals, I remember maybe a couple years ago where I’d come to nationals and be stressing out like, ‘Oh man, this is such a big race,’ and now it seems pretty relaxed. It’s more homey. It feels like less of a mob scene. I guess it makes me a little more comfortable here.”

On his memories of Houghton (at Junior Nationals in 2006 and senior nationals in 2007):

“All of the races as a junior … here, I really struggled. I remember being way, way back in the pack, like, hundreds except for the skate sprint at U.S. nationals here. I had a really uncharacteristically good race and that got me to World Juniors [Championships in 2008]. At the time I didn’t even know what World Juniors was, but I had just made it and that ended up being really sweet. I remember coming up that hill on the sprint course here and passing everybody [laughs].

“To be honest, that’s probably a race or a day or even a moment that probably got me to where I am now. because who knows, if I hadn’t done well that day, maybe I wouldn’t have gone to World Juniors and I wouldn’t have kept skiing, you know? So I remember that and I have some good memories and it’s been a while so I’m looking to ski a lot faster than I did when I was here.”

On goals this time around at nationals:

“I always want to do well at nationals. Obviously the World Cup is sweet and I would’ve loved to have performed better there, but U.S. nationals is still some of the biggest races, and maybe not the highest level of race that I’ll do this year, but pretty important just to qualify for [international-racing] teams and all that stuff.”

10/15 k start lists (scroll down past first 200 racers for women)


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One comment

  • highstream

    January 3, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Wow, what bad luck for Caitlin and European skiing recently. Shingles is no fun!

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