FS Podcast: Holly Brooks Retires, Now the Work Begins

Jason AlbertAugust 2, 2016
Holly Brooks inspiring local you in Alaska. (Courtesy photo)
Holly Brooks (in purple Olympic bib) inspiring local youth in Alaska. (Courtesy photo)

Prior to her emergence on the national and then international cross-country ski scene, Holly Brooks, now 34, wasn’t exactly relay sock worthy, but that too would eventually transpire.

A graduate of Washington’s Whitman College in 2004, Brooks hadn’t tapped her potential as an athlete. Upon graduation she moved to Anchorage, Alaska, and took a part-time job coaching West Anchorage High School. Two years later, she was hired by Alaska Pacific University (APU) Nordic Director Erik Flora as a coach. In 2008, after thousands of kilometers coaching/skiing, she won the Tour of Anchorage.

In 2010, Brooks made the U.S. Olympic team and headed to Vancouver, British Columbia, for what would be the first of her two Olympics. The next year, she qualified for 2011 World Championships, and in 2012, Brooks won the American Birkebeiner was named to the U.S. Ski Team.

Holly Brooks with her parents at her recent graduations. Brooks received a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Alaska Pacific University. (Courtesy Photo)
Holly Brooks with her parents Don Brooks and Chris Syrjala at her graduation in April. Brooks received a master’s in counseling psychology from Alaska Pacific University. (Courtesy photo)

Although a late career move, Brooks had arrived.

At the start of the 2012/2013 season in Gällivare, Sweden, along with Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen and Jessie Diggins, Brooks proved the infamous relay socks had legitimate mojo: the foursome were the first Americans to podium in a 4 x 5 k women’s World Cup relay.

The following spring, she was promoted to the national A-team. She spent one more season on the World Cup before declining a spot on the national team in 2014 and giving the FIS Marathon Cup circuit a go instead. She ultimately placed third overall in the 2015 standings.

Brooks’ retirement, as she explains, became “official” just weeks ago. But she hasn’t really considered racing for a bit over a year. As mentioned in the podcast, she and her husband, Rob Whitney, himself an accomplished cross-country skier and former national-team member, began thinking about starting a family. The backstory to all this: during her serious training and racing, Brooks was without her period for eight years.

As she has navigated the complexities of fertility, Brooks has found new meaning in her master’s degree in counseling psychology — she’ll be starting a business with a focus on helping female athletes.

Holly Brooks with Husband Rob Whitney and chicks in Alaska. (Courtesy photo)
Holly Brooks with her husband Rob Whitney and their six chicks in Alaska. (Courtesy photo)

There’s a lot more in the podcast as we go beyond simply scratching the surface. Brooks also reads a poem by runner Lauren Fleshman, “From Retiring to Rewiring“.

Press play (the arrow) to listen.

Jason Albert

Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.

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