Thursday, March 27, 2014

March

So, how come so many of us stop racing or even skiing after the Birkie?  Late-season skiing is often some of the best skiing, and the last month has been exactly that – more comfortable temperatures, more daylight, and still great trail conditions.  With yet a decent snow pack and with the really good grooming that seems to be pretty much the norm now in the Twin Cities, March has had a lot of wonderful opportunities to keep enjoying our favorite sport.

Even the late-season racing can be some of the most fun – low-key, no pressure, just get out there with your buddies and go as hard as you can for 10 k’s or so.  And those 10k’s can go by pretty quickly on March corn snow.  The Slush Rush at Elm Creek the weekend before last was absolutely perfect conditions – no slush, just immaculately groomed and lightning fast and a gorgeous sunny day.  I’d attribute my time of 22 minutes for a purportedly 10 k course to great skis and Fast Wax Cold Flite, but then pretty much everyone was flying that morning.

Even the past few days, with warmer weather and snow disappearing elsewhere, the conditions at Hyland and Wirth have been first-rate.  (Maybe especially for classic; corn snow and klister – fast and bomb-proof kick.)

I’ll move on to other things when the snow is finally gone, but until then I’m going to enjoy the skiing.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

MN State Pursuit Championships

Yet another chilly morning of skiing with a start temperature of -3F.  The sky was blue and the sun felt good, even if the air was cold.  This was my first ever pursuit race.  I chose to wear my skate boots for the races.  The boots felt weird during the classic race because of their stiff soles, but I adjusted. 

I didn't get the best start, the front line was filled with several skiers that should have started in the middle of the pack.  It didn't take long for the field to get strung out.


 
My son, Josh, had layed my skis out for me at the exchange.  The toughest part about the exchange was stuffing my lobster mitts into my pole straps.  After a couple minutes I adjusted to the skate technique and was on my way again.  The skate portion felt slow as the cold, sharp snow crystals took grip on my ski bases.  I had waxed with Fast Wax's HSLF-0, and my skis were gliding as well as anyone's out there, I just wish the conditions were faster.
 
 
I finished 10th overall and first female.  This finish gave me enough points to claim first place in the Fast Wax Cities Cup Series.  Dave Christopherson also had a race, finishing 9th overall.
 
At the finish we were all treated to hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and hot dogs.  The key word here being "hot".  It all tasted good.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Birke - 50km Skate

When we are told to catch a bus from Hayward no later than 6:30 AM, they actually mean it!  We were running a bit behind schedule and pulled into the parking lot at Donnellan Field at 6:38 AM.  Not knowing if there was a parking spot left in the lot, Angie Robinson asked the attendant if we could park "here"; a spot partially blocking the lot entrance.  We took the attendants confusion for a "yes", and quickly vacated our vehicle.  We headed for the next loading bus as another bus pulled forward, next to the line of loading busses.  The driver open her door and asked if there were a few skiers that wanted to get on.  Angie and I ran over to the bus.  After about fifteen of us got on she closed her door and zoomed away.  We looked at each other and said, "that was weird, why didn't she wait until the bus was full?"  We were glad to be on a bus and headed for Cable. 

As everyone that skied these races knows, the ride to Cable took a bit longer than usual.  We finally pulled into Telemark about 7:50 AM; our race started at 8:00.  Certain we would miss our start, we pleaded with the driver to let us out ahead of the other unloading busses.  We were told there were procedures and we needed to wait our turn.  After getting released from our bus we ran for the start area.  My running wasn't quite as fast as Angie's since I had consumed an entire thermos of Gatorade on the bus ride up.  All I could think about was my bladder and how badly I wanted to empty it. 

As I approached the bag dump area I saw Brad Skillcorn.  Without saying a word he nodded "yes" and I handed him my bag which he relayed to the bag check truck.  I heard it announced that we had two minutes to the race start.  I ran to the nearest truck and finally emptied my bladder (sorry truck owner).  With one minute to race start I jumped over the start area fence and into my skis.  I still can't believe I actually made it to the start on time, and I was nice and warmed up from the run.

My race started off O.K. skiing with Jan Gunther.  We worked together for quite a few kilometers (20 or so?).  Just before OO I started to feel energy depleted;  I officially "bonked" not long after.  I have a really fast metabolism and needed a higher dose of calorie consumption than what I was getting, especially in the cold and slow conditions.  I have a few ideas for next year.
With about 17 kilometers remaining
 
With about 12 kilometers remaining (just before Bitch hill) I was in serious trouble.  I started feeling like I was floating and had to back my plodding down to a crawl (literally).  I oscillated between plodding and crawling for the remainder of the race.  With 100 meters to go I wasn't sure if I would actually cross the finish line, or if I would pass out on main street (how embarrassing would that be!). 
Crossing lake Hayward
 
I did finish and was whisked away to first aid on one of their golf carts.  Wow, first aid isn't such a bad deal.  They put me in a 80 degree room, brought me my clothing bag, fed me hot soup, barbeque potato chips and brownies.  Catlin stopped by and I was able to chat with her about her race. 
 
Hopefully next year I won't look quite as pathetic at the finish as I did this year.  But, I am very grateful for the wonderful volunteer that took care of me.
 
It's all a big adventure-

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mora Vasaloppet - 35km Skate

It was a brisk morning for skiing!!! In the negatives at the start and barely rising above zero by the finish.  Going into the race I knew my skis had too much structure for these cold temperatures; I was apprehensive about strapping them on at the start just to confirm.  I was pleasantly surprised to find relatively fast snow.  The groomers must have worked overtime to make sure the course was well packed with beautiful corduroy.  The start went well with no crashes or falls (at least none that affected me).  I started a few rows back and so after the 35km split with the 58km I was looking around to see what women were in front of me.  Throughout the race I wasn't quite sure what place I was in, but was guessing Elaine Nelson and I were the first two (actually, I thought it was Margie).



My skis were riding well.  I did exactly what Dan Meyer (Fast Wax) recommended: HSLF-10 teal followed by HSLF-0 white, and then Flight Arctic as a top coat.  The pack from the photos above stayed together for just about the entire race.  The kilometers flew by and before I knew it we had 7 kilometers to go.  I was still feeling the marathons from last weekend, so I was happy to just ski with the pack and not try to break away. The streets of Mora were a welcome site after 35km.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

City of Lakes Loppet Minne Tour - Finn Sisu Sprint

I will start by saying the City of Lakes Loppet race, or rather the epic 3-day adventure that made up the new Minne-Tour was a blast! Despite any minor growing pains from expanding the event to longer days and longer trails, I think the Loppet Foundation put on a great event, and it should only get better.

My weekend started on Friday night at the Finn Sisu Sprints. Honestly this was the first sprint race of my life, and I really didn't know how I would fare. My quarterfinal heat consisted of myself, the very fast Andy Brown, my formidable Vakava teammate Craig Cardinal, and two other skiers. Truthfully even though we had some fast skiers I think we had the easiest of the heats simply because this was actually the first sprint race of Andy and Craig's lives too. The other heats had guys like Matt and Doug who have done the supertour races and have much more sprinting experience.

The sprint course was approximately 800m with a 100m straight at the start, followed by a wide, 90 degree left-hand turn into the short up and down "hill" over the covered walking tunnel, followed by a 50m flat. This lead to the big hill on the course, which was actually pretty steep and was a true V1 hill. At the top of the hill was a 100m flat section with a 180 degree turn at the end. You then went in reverse on the course to the finish - with the added bonus of a "jump" on the last downhill (very Qu├ębec city-sprint). (f/go has a bunch of pictures of the evening)

In previewing the course it became immediately clear that whoever got to that first turn would have a huge advantage for the remainder of the race, as the passing opportunities were very limited. So for my quarterfinal heat I went out as hard as I could, immediately jumped to the lead, and then spent the rest of the less-than-two-minutes of the heat flailing to stay in front. Around the final turn to the homestretch I was far enough in the lead that I could ease up to the line. Andy was able to hold onto second to also advance to the semifinals.

Our semifinal heat was only 15 minutes later, and my legs were jelly when the gun went off. Now Andy and I were facing off with Doug Debold and another quick guy, Kasey Basco (dressed as Super Mario, the video game character, not the Swiss skier), and despite my prior knowledge of how important a fast start was, I immediately found myself in the back of our group of four. Despite my legs wobbling the whole way, I stayed right on the back of Andy and Kasey, and around the last turn as Kasey was starting to fade I actually had a fleeting vision of slingshotting around both of them into second. Instead as I tried to move around I ran out of room, heard Andy's pole break, and only could come across the line a very close (but still) 4th place. So Andy and I moved to the B-final.

Now I had over an hour to relax, pick up my other bibs, and wait until my last race of the night. The whole point of doing the sprints was because they were part of the Minne-Tour series, and you could get minutes (or seconds) reduced off your overall time for finishing well in the sprint. Winning got 2 minutes off your overall time. Winning the B-final (and so finishing 5th overall) got you a mere 10 seconds.

The 10 second advantage must not have held enough appeal for one of the other B-final starters, since we learned he had decided to just go home and get ready for tomorrow. But I had paid my entry fee, and heck, the sprints were fun, so Andy and I lined up with one other skier for our final. When the gun went off this time my legs felt normal again, and so I was able to again shoot to the front and take the lead. I was actually feeling pretty good in this heat and extended my lead to win the B-final (and those precious 10 seconds) pretty comfortably. Not bad for my first sprint race! It helped that my skis felt fast all night despite the cold temps - I went with a layer of Fast Wax HF Green, a layer of Fast Wax White, and a topcoat of Fast Wax Flight Arctic on my Salomon skis with a Finn Sisu fine grind.

After the race Craig and I headed off to my parent's house for the night. Getting a nice meal of pasta and a chance to finish kick waxing my skis for the next day's race.

City of Lakes Loppet

The City of Lakes has always been one of my favorite races. I love its unique urban terrain, combining sections of challenging hills and beautiful city views. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for a long, grueling race with cold, new snow and the additional 7k including the Minikahda golf course section that was added this year. I was thrilled to find my skis running so well right from the start and throughout the entire race.  I followed Dan's Fast Wax recommendation of two layers of HSLF 10, followed by two layers of HSLF 0 topped with a coat of flight arctic ironed in with a base saver.  I also chose a pair of Atomic World Cup soft track skis. I've struggled with climbing the past few years, so I was especially grateful to find my friend and teammate, Rob Edman, to follow through the bog and the flower gardens. It sure is good to have friends in all the right places! I was also impressed with how my skis were performing. They were fast on the downhills and flats and the soft track skis worked especially well on the hills and cornering. Rob and I skied together on the lakes for awhile and then lost each other. I was happy to make it out of the Minikahda golf course with the soft conditions and the extremely slow and dirty snow at the entrance and exit.  Good thing I had a top coat on my skis to help keep them running fast all the way to the finish.  One of the best parts of the race was seeing and spending time with my friends afterwards. I loved hearing about their war stories on the trail, with a glass of Surly Beer in hand. 


Vakava had some amazing results!  Extra cudos to the Warriors who did both marathons!

42K Classic Results Men
Nate Porath                  10th overall                 5th age group
Craig Cardinal             17th                              6th
Rob Edman                  38th                              10th
David Christoperson   46th                              1st
Kevin Ivens                   141st                            11th
Brent Oja                      157th                             14th

42 Classic Results Women
Bonnie Wiskopf Albrecht   3rd Overall           1st age group
Angie Robinson                  8th                          2nd
Xena Huff                             10th                        4th    (new Vakava recruit)
Michell Oja                           17th                        6th

42K Skate Results Men
Nate Porath                         4th Overall             3rd age group
Derek Wallen                      20th                         7th
Craig Cardinal                    32nd                        10th  
Rob Edman                         44th                         12th
Andrew Kromroy                 51st                         15th
Paul Olson                           72nd                        20th
Dave Christopherson         98th                         1st
Mark Ahlers                         132nd                      16th
Mike Nohr                            144th                        8th
Kevin Ivens                          375th                       45th
Brent Oja                              402nd                      51st

42K Skate Results Women
MB Tuttle                             1st Overall              1st age group
Bonnie Wiskopf Albrecht   7th                            1st  
Cheryl DuBois                     8th                           3rd
Michelle Oja                         28th                         6th

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Boulder Lake (aka: Sufferfest)

Boulder Lake was my first race this year. I've been very busy with work and family and this was my first opportunity to race. I knew I shouldn't put it off any longer if I wanted to not bonk at the Birkie, and figured this would be a relatively easy one to start with. In past years, it has felt relatively easy, but not this one. I guess I can handle a course like that when I'm in shape, but that's not the case this year. I haven't done nearly as much intensity as I normally do because I haven't had the time, or more importantly the energy, to do much. Boulder is a very flat course. There is virtually no rest on a course like that, which is hard for me to take. I need a rolling course to let the lactates clear. The weather turned out warmer than expected so my wax was a bit slow. Not terrible, but not great. (The weather forecasts have not been reliable this year and seem to change significantly in just hours making it hard to wax ahead.) I went out just a tad fast but finally established a comfortable pace about 5k in. The next 10-15k were good. I felt pretty good and was just the right temperature. At the end of the second lap, things took a down turn. I started feeling cold and that is always a sign that I'm getting tired. Then the muscles in my left thigh started to twinge and cramp. Every little downhill I could find, which were precious few and far between, I would get into a tuck and dig my elbows into my thigh to try and rub the cramps out. They would feel better for a bit, and then start tightening up again. After several k's of this, my right leg started feeling tired too, then my arms. The last couple k were just survival mode. I was so glad to be done. I'd driven up with Cheryl and we were both tired so we didn't do much of a warm down before heading home. I was so cold and tired and hungry. Cheryl had a decent race and finished just behind me, but had skied hard and wasn't feeling the greatest either. I at least felt that I had put 'money in the bank' as Cheryl had said.