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The Beginning of "The Winter of CyclovaXC"!

That's right folks, the day has come where I saw the phrase "Winter Weather Advisory" on various weather websites. Check out this beautiful map above... While Fall officially started a week or so ago, it felt like it actually arrived on Sunday evening at about 5 PM. Here in Minneapolis the temperature dropped 25 degrees between 4:30PM (74'F) and 9PM (49'F) - that's 25 degrees in 4.5 hour folks!

Since then, the past few days have been chilly Fall days, the weather we love. Today comes the first frost warning, which I will call the first major milestone of the '09-'10 winter, the winter of CyclovaXC; Our first frost!

Cover up the tomatoes, the flowers, and all other delicate things; actually don't bother, they're all screwed with the winter we're going to have. The great cities where CyclovaXC members hail from are going to enjoy momentous snow this winter; places like Minneapolis, Osceola, Spooner, Hayward, Eau Claire, Rochester, Barron, St. Croix Falls, Frederic, and of course Ironwood! In fact, Ironwood better be ready to loan out some of it's heavy snow moving equipment, as the rest of us are going to need it!

Now I hope that got you all fired up to ski. For those of you who are cyclists, runners, and not bikers, just let us skiers enjoy our season. We do love you, it's just the skier's turn now.

In all seriousness, this is an early frost, roughly 10 days earlier than the median first frost date here in Minneapolis. I am a huge fan of weather in general. While working for Toko and publishing all of the Toko Wax Tips for the US, it was my job to be a weather and waxing expert. That passion still holds true today.

With that said, I'm working on the CyclovaXC Winter Forecast for the Upper Midwest. In this CyclovaXC Winter Forecast, I cite several weather authorities such as NOAA, The Climate Prediction Center, The Farmers Almanac, and our friends the Wooly Bear Caterpillars. Watch for this post soon!

Think Snow!

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Premature Skiing Thoughts...

Ok everybody, now that we've already got you with skiing on the brain due to our ski suit insistance and our creation out of the very dusts of nothingness this fantastic ski club, I thought it would be nice to just reflect for a few moments on this actual...lets call it an artform of an athletic pursuit.

As I've mentioned before, I've been off the old "glidekickers" for a few years now, pursuing other endeavors like travel, gunfighting for dollars in Thailand...filmmaking, the usual. Actually, when I say filmmaking, that's a big of an overstatement. All I did was get my picture taken topless so that my rippling greasy abs could be superimposed on the flabby stomachs for all the actors of "300." You can have a look at my work in the photo to the right.

Well, the sad truth is that as much as XC-Ski racing is like fending off millions of Persian warriors while dressed only in some straps of leather and a crimson cape, the extra weight doesn't help you much in the Birkebeiner.

It's going to be an interesting transformation in the upcoming months, and as hard as it is to grapple with, in the end I might just have to accept that the kind of results I used to get at 23 are now beyond me.

Then again, I've toyed with the idea of the CyclovaXC team operating in a Phalanx (imagine an enormous ball with razor sharp carbide tips sticking out in every direction) and simply not allowying ANYONE to pass us!

Sigh...but of course people would complain instead of just recognizing that THEY TOO COULD HAVE JOINED THE CLUB...shesh...

I guess we'll just have to revolutionize the sport in a different way...maybe by skiing topless except for a thin sheen of grease with our numbers pinned directly to our chests and CyclovaXC tattooed across our backs....YES!
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Member Profile: Abby Boline

Abby Boline, now there's someone who loves being active for the right reasons! Abby loves getting out and training because it make her feel good, is good for health/well being, it's fun, because she doesn't have a TV and needs something for entertainment (other than our daughter and 3 pets), she loves the people she meets while out, and because she enjoys eating after working out (we all do)!

That's right, those are also the best reasons I can think of to work out and I'm lucky enough to call Abby my wife! Even with the "baby factor", Abby still does an amazing job of getting out to enjoy the outdoors and get some training in. In fact, our daughter Ingrid only seems to have made Abby faster. This summer she set a PR for the half marathon.

If you know Abby on the sports side of things, you know that she is very modest. When she says, "I hope to finish today", she really means, "watch out, I'm coming after you". When she says "I've been feeling good lately", she really means, "I'm going to kick your ass and maybe win". She will likely disagree with me on this, but it's true.

Abby has a broad background in the XC skiing and running world, with running being her main passion since the high school days. She has ran 5 marathons including Grandma's, Twin Cities, and Whistlestop and many other shorter distance races. Most of her recent training has been with the Lifetime Fitness training group, but look to see her at some soon to be announced CyclovaXC group runs. Additionally, Abby spent a lot of time skiing in high school, as part of the Cooper High School Ski team, in Crystal, MN. She found her groove in classic skiing and is a very strong skier to date, after picking up the sport again in recent years. Finally, she loves using the bicycle as a practical mode of transportation around the city.

Look to see her on a trail near you sometime soon!

Member Profile: Zulma Liliana Chafloque Diaz de Jonjak

Yup, that's my beautiful wife that all of you will have the privilege of meeting at the end of October when we relocate back to the US. Zulma (it's prononced "Su-lma" not "zoo-lma") has recently taken up running mostly due to the fact that I keep signing us up for half-marathons down here in Lima. At first, like many others, she was a bit skeptical about paying money to go out and run, but after suffering an ankle injury and being forced to miss a 5k, she started to realize how much fun going to, competing in, and completing these events can be.

My long-term sinister plan for Zulma (whose name just keeps getting longer and longer) is to get her on a pair of XC-Skis and to see if we can get some major press for her being the first Peruvian to complete the American Birkebeiner. Actually, I have no idea if any Peruvians have done the Western Hemisphere's best ski race, but I think I'm going to use Zulma's intent as some major press fodder, so I'm not really interested in digging up information about some Previous Peruvian XC skier.

However, since Zulma's never been on snow before (and only ever seen it from a distance), a Birkie completion might be a lot to ask for from the first year, so we'll see. But I know she likes the running events, and I have no doubt she's going to get a kick out of pushing a bike around as well (maybe she can be the first Peruvian to complete the Firehouse 50?).

In terms of cross-training, one of Zulma's major joys is dancing (and believe me you can burn a LOT of calories dancing the way she does). It could be that we'll be getting some dance sessions organized, so stay tuned!

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Event Feature: Whistlestop Marathon

Ah, the Whistlestop Marathon... This was my very first marathon, and a key part of one of Ben's favorite stories involving me and a "crazed gnome". This is an event that I know very well and hold close to my heart. I participated in the first 4 editions of this race, 1998 through 2001, as well as a couple of other times. This is an event that is on par with any event in terms of organization and overall experience, just at a smaller scale than something like the Twin Cities or Chicago marathons, which can be a refreshing thing.

This event is held on a limestone bike trail (an old rails to trails trail), with the full marathon spending the entire distance on the trail from Iron River, WI to the finish in Ashland, WI. The half starts somewhere in the middle, follows the same course, and also finishes in Ashland. The beauty of this race is that it's on a soft surface (limestone and gravel), thus it is far easier on the body than races held on pavement. This is definitely something that appeals to all of us injury prone runners! On the other hand, in my opinion, this is also a very tough marathon because the course is SO FLAT. As there are literally no hills the entire race, you are using the same muscles every single stride of the race with no downhill sections to "coast" or recover on. So even though this event is held on a soft surface, I believe my legs have hurt more after this marathon than any other I've ever done (due to the fact it is so flat). Also, times are usually slightly slower on this course than they would normally be due to the soft surface.

One constant theme in this race is that you never have any idea what the weather will be like. In this race, I've experienced everything from 75' perfect sunny skies to horizontal 40' rain, to 30' cold with an inch of snow/ice on the course. Come prepared with clothing for any weather and don't make the mistake of dressing too lightly if it is cold. Remember, your in the north woods and Lake Superior is less than 1 mile from much of the course!

Friend of CyclovaXC Michelle Flannigan-Haag enjoying a beautiful day at the Whistlestop

As mentioned in Ben's above mentioned favorite story, I would definitely advise reserving a hotel room in advance for this race, even though it is in "small town Ashland". You wouldn't want to have to beg to share a room with some random "Crazed Gnome" as we had to back in the day. Also be aware that the fish feed the night before the race at the registration stadium is excellent and affordable. Finally, after you're done with the race, be certain to enjoy some quality brews from the South Shore Brewerey, on of my favorite micro breweries. While enjoying your brew, you'll likely want to check out the after race party under the tent at the finish. There is much good food and live music to enjoy the afternoon with.

To view the official event website, click HERE.

Event Feature: Twin Cities Marathon

Commonly referred to as "the most beautiful urban marathon in America", this world class event lives up to this promise! I personally have participated in this event twice and can vouch for the fact that it is a truly world class event and a great time (if you can call running 26 miles a great time)!

There are a number of factors that make this event so much fun. For me, the best part is always the hundreds of thousands of spectators that you see along the course. There is not a single stride you take the entire length of the marathon where a spectator isn't cheering for you. Oh, and then there are the memorable spectators: the girl with the coconut bra, the rock and roll bands on mini stages along the course, the crazy guys with body paint that run along side you screaming (as if this were the Alpe H'uez in the Tour de France or something), the drunk college kids doing beer hand offs along Summit Auenue, the guy with the Green Bay Packers Zubas (really), etc, etc. You get the point, there is never a dull moment and there is always something to entertain you. Last year, in 2008, temperatures were in the 40's for most of the race with horizontal downpour rain and all of these spectators were still out there! Now that's hard core!

This race is also so incredibly organized. To start off with, they rent the Metrodome to use as the start staging area. How many other races have you done which rent a major pro sports stadium as a start staging area? The start area is a few short blocks from the Metrodome, with hundreds of helpful volunteers anticipating your questions.

Once you're off and running, the course is beautiful, taking you through the most scenic parts of the Minneapolis/St. Paul downtown areas. Fall colors, water, and parks are a normal theme of the course. This race passes by 4 lakes, 1 creek, and 1 river, with about 2/3 of the race next to a body of water. On top of all of this "urban nature", the race starts in beautiful downtown Minneapolis and finishes at the State Capitol in downtown St. Paul.

Now you want some advice for this race? Well, similar to doing any other marathon, save some energy for the final 6 miles. This race can be made or broke in the final 6-8 miles as the final 8 miles are all up hill, mainly so gradual you can't even tell you're going up. These "false flats", such as the final 6 miles on Summit Ave are a real killer. I've walked the final 5 or so miles in the past as I just couldn't keep the legs going up Summit, so beware! Once you finally climb Summit Ave and drop down toward the Capitol, it's all downhill with a sweet view of the Capitol, the Cathedral, and downtown St. Paul. To view full course data including a GPS map, topographical info, and my pace/heart rate data from last year, click HERE.

To access the offical Twin Cities Marathon website, click HERE.

CyclovaXC Celebrates a 1000 hit month!

Sure, for the major web pages in the universe, a 1,000 hits in a month is nothing. But we know that every journey begins with a single step, and the first 1,000 hits is a launchpad for bigger and better things. Furthermore, we're keeping CyclovaXC as grass roots as possible (the only thing we're investing in right now is the suits) so there are no advertising dollars besides word of mouth (which is free, and the best advertising anyway).

We're actually pretty pleased with how fast this is coming along. The last time I checked, our facebook group was up to 22+ members, and we've had confirmed orders for about 15 Suits. It looks like we're already set to start fielding a pretty solid group this ski season, and once the momentum builds (as it always does when the actual suits show up), more and more people will be jumping on the bandwagon.

Today I was messing around with various features on facebook (if you're a member you really need to get a facebook account, it's just so convenient...but don't put your real birthday on there--it's never a good idea to offer too much personal information for free) and I stumbled across an application called NetworkedBlogs, which seems to allow our blog to automatically update our facebook fan page (not our group which is annoyingly different).


It's just one of about a billion little things we're working on, all of which are extremely frustrating and make you want to go out and split wood for about three and a half hours afterwards to just blow off some steam. Still, when they actually start working (and we get our first 1,000 hit month) that kind of cheers us back up again.

So keep telling your friends about us, and keep checking back in. Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter either. Our bi-monthly editions are going to begin around October 1st, so be on the lookout for that! And, as always, THINK SNOW!

Oh, in case you're wondering why our hit counter down in the bottom is way over 1,000, it's because we were generating a certain number of hits before our official launch. That's been accumulating for about 3 or 4 months, but we've had a HUGE surge in interest now that we're officially out there.

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Bike Touring: Food For the Soul (June Adventure, Part 2)

Greetings, and welcome to part 2 of this series on and epic bike tour, from Minneapolis to Thunder Bay. See part 1 by clicking HERE.

Part of the beauty is in the fact that you are living the good life consisting of eating, riding, and sleeping. While living this life, time seems to slow down after a day or two, giving you time to think and reflect, and concentrate on the task at hand (riding your bike a really long way!).

Day 2 of my trip this past June found Dave and I packing up on a chilly, foggy, and damp June Morning. We had our campsite breakfast consisting of some tasty espresso (thanks to the critical stove top espresso maker), Malto Meal hot cereal, and a peanut butter sandwich. Note that we each at copious amounts of these foods. We then packed up the wet tent and other gear and were on our way by 9AM or so from Banning State Park.

The theme of this day's ride was riding the excellent Willard Munger Trail, which goes from Hinckley to Duluth. The Munger trail is a beautifully paved trail spanning about 80 miles, a gem for sure! After going about 15 miles or so, we were both ravenous, so we resorted to each consuming the staple of any endurance athlete's diet, the king sized Pearson's Salted Nut Roll. After our nut rolls satisfied us, we found our groove, only to be interrupted by an enormous US Army battle helicopter firing at us. Thankfully, Dave used his amazing diplomatic negotiation skills to talk them down, but not before a random staple punctured his tire. So, we hung out below the helicopter to change his flat...

Once we got the flat taken care of, we went on our merry way and rode the rest of the Munger Trail, until the GPS unit told us to take off on what looked like a deer trail up a hill to the side. Trusting in our battle tested GPS unit, we followed it. The deer trail led to a 4-wheeler trail, which led to a 4x4 truck trail, which led to a rough gravel road, which led to a smooth gravel road, which led to rough blacktop, and on... You get the picture. This trail eventually turns into Skyline drive in duluth and is an amazing route to take, albeit a bit slower than the Munger trail and less than ideal for touring bikes with skinny tires. While approaching Duluth, we came upon the amazing rock bridge, near the top of Spirit Mountain where we both took pictures of our "rigs".

Once in Duluth, we made a few brief stops and had a much needed and late lunch at Sir Benedicts, near the Fitger's complex. Of couse after about 95 miles of riding, massive amounts of calories and a tasty beer were enjoyed.

After riding the amazing Scenic Drive between Duluth and Two Harbors, we ended the day with about 120 miles and camped at the Burlington Bay Campground in Two Harbors, on the north side of town. This was a great little campground with beautiful lake side camp sites, which we enjoyed. Affordable with cheap camp fire wood, I'd definitely recommmend this place, especially during the off season (as it was on June 2). As we were setting up camp, the sun was setting, dinner was enjoyed, and sleep got the best of us early.
Stay tuned to www.cyclovaxc.com for parts 3 and 4 of this mini bike touring odyssey...

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Actually Maybe Haile Gebrselassie is the best Athlete of all time

A couple days ago I wrote an article in which I argued that Lance Armstrong was not only the greatest cyclist in history, but the greatest athlete to compete in any sport ever. Such statements are designed to get a lot of people riled up so that they start throwing rancid vegetables at you, but due to the fact that I'm writing this for an American audience (and not...for example...a French one) the Lance Armstrong statement stood without too much contention.

We'll if nobody's going to contest my assertions, then I'M going to contest them!

The other day for some unbeknownst reason I decided to look up the world record mark for the marathon and, yup, you guessed it, the guy that currently owns it is Haile Gebrselassie (It's pronounced "give-burger-to-lassie" in case you were wondering). Mr. Giveburgerlassie sprinted through the legendary 26.2 in an impressive 2 hours THREE minutes :59 seconds.

Wow...impressive stuff.

But the thing that makes old Haile impressive (apart from the fact that they just give him a bib that says "Haile" as opposed to a number), is that at one point or another he's had the world record in basically every distance between 2 miles and the marathon. Check him out on Wikipedia (which I assume has accurate information on THIS at least).

Oddly enough, I'd heard about Haile because of a movie (it's a dramatization that is shot like a documentary) called Endurance that for some unknown reason just appeared one night on Peruvian TV. Well, it's available on Amazon obviously, but not on DVD...who knows why? Anyway, it shows what you'd expect of a movie about a guy from Ethiopia who became the greatest runner of all time (there's a lot of scenes where he's running the 12+ miles it takes to get to school as a tiny child and getting savagely beaten when he arrives like .2 seconds late).

Well, apparently he learned the lesson and nobody can accuse him of ever arriving late anymore, so I for one think he should be sending that teacher a fruit basket with every new record...sigh...teacher's are never appreciated now are they?

Anyway, let's hear it for Haile Gebrselassie, and let's see if we can get him in a CyclovaXC singlet when those things become available (they're sure to shave a couple seconds off that record time right there).

Member Profile: Frank Lundeen

Hello everyone! Ben here again (you can tell because that's MY thumbnail to the left), and today it's my task to introduce you all to Frank Lundeen. However, if you have been even peripherally involved in the ski, bike, and run industry in the midwest over the last ten years or so, I don't know how you could have not crossed paths with Frank Lundeen.

First of all, Frank Lundeen is ETERNAL, the guy wasn't BORN, he frickin' leapt from the earth clutching a carbon fiber bike frame in one hand and holding a pair of hard flex XC skis in the other. Around his neck was a ring of pure fluro race wax...he wasn't wearing any clothes!

The above picture is from when Frank came down to Peru to build the city of Cusco. When he was finished, he stood upon a pedestal seven miles wide and surveyed his handiwork and called it good. Had he not thought it good, he would have called down a rain of fire and sulpher from the heavens...but Frank never builds anything that isn't good so he rarely has had the need to destroy any of his works (I'm not saying "never" since Frank is all-powerful and he has the ability to perform even self-contradictory acts should the need arise...that's what Omnipotent means).

But in all seriousness, you only need to know Frank for about five minutes and you put him on a pedestal. He's one of those people you inherently trust (not like me...shesh, I can't even get people to let me hold their groceries while they're looking for their keys, of course, the minute I get those grocieries I go sprinting off into the wilderness so maybe that's got something to do with it...not that I'm complaining...).

Let me tell you about Frank. One day, after having gotten lost on a trail run (not that Frank ever gets lost except for when it serves the mysterious functionality of the universe he created, and is therefore part of his master plan...see the note about contradictory acts that I mentioned earlier) Frank mistakenly ran for something like 3 hours. Realizing that he had now done the appropriate training for a marathon, he promptly signed up for the inagural Whistlestop race up in Ashland. Thinking this whole thing sounded like an impending disaster, I came along for the ride.

After passing the night in a hotel that we shared with a crazed gnome (I'm not even going to get into that story), Frank sprung from bed, directly into his running shoes and sprinted out the door to the nearby Country Kitchen.

Hurrying to catch up, I arrived simultaneously with Frank's "Belly Buster" breakfast which he felt was a good choice to start off a day of hard running. The breakfast consisted of five or six pieces of toast soaked in butter, six or seven sausage links, seven or eight pieces of French Toast, eight or nine scrambled eggs, and an infinite pile of hashbrowns. Along with a large glass of orange juice, Frank also polished off a cinamon roll if I'm not mistaken.

Well, I took him to the start of the race, and then drove down the trail to wait for his arrival fully expecting to see his fine white racing singlet soilet with the expelled mass of that horrific breakfast concoction.

Obviously I was wrong, and true to his training, Frank finished his first marathon in something like 3 hours (slowed only because he had to wade through a swamp and engage in a death struggle with seven or twelve medieval giant serpents..otherwise he was on pace for like a 1:12).

So that's Frank...plus, he kind of looks like Clint Eastwood. I mean, come on you guys see it too right? I'm not the only one!

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Member Profile: Ben Jonjak

Hello Everybody! Our little CyclovaXC project is gathering steam and we're getting a pleasant number of people signing up for our ski suits. There are still a few stragglers out there (cough, cough, Kettula...cough, cough...Krenz) but we're fairly sure that they'll be dying with envy when the snow falls as they see us go floating effortlessly past buoyed by the fact that we just look so frickin' good. As of right now, the plan is to make our order with Podium Wear on Monday the 21st, which should give us a delivery date in late November (and the second the suits are in our hands, we'll be getting them to you...come to think of it, that might be a good day for a party at Frank's house...how do you feel about that Frank?)

In the meantime, I'd like to start introducing our confirmed members just to give everybody involved a face to go along with the name (especially for those of you who aren't on facebook). The idea is that when you see a person speeding by in a CyclovaXC suit, not only you, but all your friends and loved ones will be able to scream, "Go Frank! Go Ben! Go Cory Kending (cough, cough...another ski suit buying straggler...cough, cough!"

So, that being the case, let me take this opportunity to introduce myself. I'm Ben Jonjak and many of you know me as the co-founder of the Riverbrook ski team back in the early 90's. The whole point of that team was just to get enough people involved so we could print up a cool looking suit (because there were no cool looking ones to buy anywhere). Well, we more than succeeded, and the second generation especially became the standard by which all other professional ski suits were measured (I'm only exagerating a little bit...Rossignol's team suit totally ripped us off a few years later).

I skiied pretty seriously for about ten years, and then kind of got fed up because after a great fall/summer of training I got sick, lost a bunch of weight, and nobody could figure out what was wrong with me (turns out I needed my Gall Bladder removed...that sucked, I still remember watching "Highlander" in the recovery room while munching on coedine tylenol...incidentally Bob Peterson was the guy who got me stitched back together...you buying a suit Bob?).

After the Gall Bladder incident I packed up all my things (it fit into one small backpack) and moved to Lima, Peru. The idea was to spend about six months there learning spanish, but I ended up staying for 9 years. The above photo essentially sums up that decade as those are the clothes I always wore, and that was the place I was always trying to be (in the mists of Machu Picchu). I once heard a guy reflect that, "any day not spent on RAGBRAI is a wasted day," and I agree 100%, except that I would add, "any day not spent on RAGBRAI is wasted, unless you were at Machu Picchu." Incidentally, if anybody wants to go check out Machu Picchu sometime, I'm the guy to talk to. My wife's Peruvian and I'm fairly sure I'll be heading to Peru at least once a year for as long as I live (and it's not hard to talk me into taking you up there).

Well, my wife Zulma just got her immigration visa, so she and I will be heading up to Wisconsin in late October. I've been wanting to, in the words of Tom Krenz, "Get off the barstool and be an athlete again" for a long time, and this return trip affords the perfect opportunity. However, as much as skiing is an individual endeavor, it's also a community event, and there is nothing better than sharing the emotion felt at the end of a ski race with close friends and fellow competitors. Also, I love the road trips on the way to races, and I've never heard truer words spoken than, "the more, the merrier!" (we've taken over hotels before, it's awesome).

These days I'm carrying a few more kilos than my old racing days, but there's nothing better than hitting bitch hill to shave those off (and that's the whole idea). I haven't done a half-marathon in under 2:10 in a long time (and I ususally finish carrying a beer), but hey, I can still be NOISY!

The idea here at CyclovaXC is to share everybody's stories and enthusiasm for biking, running, and skiing. There are a lot of tales out there to tell, and I like telling them (as you might be able to guess if you've happened upon my Streets of Lima web page). We want members from ALL levels because I find everybody's unique perspective fascinating, and, like I said before, the more, the merrier!