KRIS FREEMAN, THE ATYPICAL OLYMPIC STORY
A four-time Olympian, a fifteen-time national champion, and one of the best American cross-country skiers, Kris Freeman’s story sounds like a fairytale athletic dream. At a transformative point in his career, Kris was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Not easily derailed, Kris carried on with professional determination and went on to world class results. We recently caught up with Kris to see what’s the latest from with someone who’s in perpetual motion.
We’re a New England based brand. You’ve said in interviews that there’s no place you’d rather train than New England. What’s that pull to this area for you?
I love the landscape. I live in Campton, NH and my surrounding area is like a giant play ground. I am twelve miles south of the Franconia Ridge and ten miles East of Waterville Valley ski area, which has some of the most fun cross-country ski trails in the world. The Pemi (editor: Pemigewasset River) is about two miles away which I regularly paddle and there is a local lake with no motors allowed that is perfect for open water swim training. I have awesome rough mountain bike trails right out my door and professionally engineered mountain bike trails a short drive away. There is an endless maze of rolling backroads for road biking and roller-skiing and many of them are interstate frontage roads that have very little traffic.
You’re a career professional athlete. What do you credit your longevity to as a ski racer?
I never lost sight of how fortunate I am to be able to train and race for a living. I didn’t have much money growing up so competing in skiing was always a privilege, not a right. I never looked forward to retiring from ski racing. Waking up everyday to pursue training that would adapt my body into the best skier possible has always been its own reward.
What tips can you give aspiring athletes wanting to be at their peak?
I worked for countless hours on core strength and transverse abdominis activation in order to be as stable in controlled in my movements as possible. It is necessary to have a solid base of body awareness so this is a big recommendation of mine; have foundational strength in order to build a tower of fitness and speed.
You’re transitioning to a new era as an athlete. What defines the change and what are you newest goals?
I reached my peak in cross-country ski racing in my late 20’s and early 30’s. I spent five years racing beyond that peak with diminishing returns. I could still turn in great races, but they were fewer and farther between. The spring of 2018 I decided to end my professional skiing career but didn’t feel finished as an athlete. I trained between 700 to 1,000 hours a year from the years 2000 through to 2018. That has given me an absurdly large training base that I knew I could use in endurance sports with longer races than cross-country skiing. As I have aged, my top speed has decreased but my endurance remains strong and I believe it can still be improved upon into my early 40’s. I chose to focus on triathlon so that I could race in a sport again with the expectation of getting faster each year. I started working with a swim coach and race in time trials regularly with a local bike club. I won several regional triathlons this summer including the Sea to Summit which is a 1.5 mile swim, 92 mile bike and a run/scramble up the Tuckerman Ravine trail to the summit of Mt Washington. Next year I plan to compete in my first full length Ironman where I hope to qualify for the world championships in Kona, Hawaii.
You’ve spoken at length about your diabetes diagnosis and your work and management of blood sugar in training and racing? How has that process evolved for you over time?
When I was first diagnosed no one with Type 1 diabetes had ever competed in an endurance event at the Olympics. Shortly after that diagnosis I told an endocrinologist that I planned on being in the Salt Lake City games and he laughed at me. Two years later, I was able to compete in those Games by creating my own insulin protocols with a new form of fast acting insulin called Humalog that had only been on the market for four years. In 2008 I began using the OmniPod insulin pump and in 2010 I adopted the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. I am constantly studying the latest findings in diabetes research and technology so that I can integrate anything applicable into my management system. Diabetes care is far more advanced then when I was first diagnosed and attitude and expectations are changing in patients and medical professionals. Hopefully another diabetic will be in the Olympics soon.
How does UnTapped fit into that process now? What makes UnTapped a good fit for your highly specific nutritional needs?
As important as choosing the right insulin is, I always say that diabetes management starts with your diet. I avoid processed foods as much as possible and always look for foods as close to their natural form as possible. It doesn’t get any more basic and pure then boiling maple tree sap into syrup gel packets. I love using a product with one ingredient! I find UnTapped maple packets delivery to be very easy on my stomach and even when I am at full exertion I have never any problems with digestion. UnTapped’s Lemon Tea Mapleaid follow the same philosophy and have only four ingredients. I credit the simple recipes for the refreshingly unique flavors and ease of ingestion. I believe mother nature knew what she was doing when she made very basic food for us and that we should stick as closely as possible to the macronutrients and calories she provides. It has always been my experience that the less processed my food is, the easier it is to balance with insulin and the better the energy I get while exercising.
Thanks for taking the time Kris! We wish you all the best in this next exciting chapter.