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I Just About Got My Head Blown Off On Saturday

How ironic. Just a few days after writing this article about making sure you wear your blaze orange when you go rollerskiing, I had a terrifying run-in with a group of...well, more or less psycho hunters.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say that I'm totally in support of hunting. Everybody I know hunts, my mom hunts (she can hit a deer at a dead run at 800 yards, no joke...or she can red mist a squirrel off the hood of her car without scratching the paint [they eat the wiring and cause $$$ in damage]). Hunters are fine and people that hunt are fine. What isn't fine is that people with guns get aggressive when I'm trying to rollerski.

To be fair, I was at fault here (much as it pains me to admit it). You see, I was down in Eau Claire and I found myself without a blaze orange vest or jacket or anything. However, since I was rollerskiing basically within the township of Eau Claire, I figured I'd be OK, especially if I put on the lime green T-shirt from Grandma's marathon this year. Lime green is pretty far removed from deer hide brown (I do have a deer brown thermal shirt that I almost wore...if I had, I might be typing this with a hole in my chest).

So I put on the shiny lime green T-shirt that you see in the photo above and set out FROM THE CENTER OF TOWN out on the bike trail.

Now, it's been a long time, but refresh me on the rules, how far away from a road do you have to be before you can shoot at something? How far outside the city limits?

Well, things started to go wrong, I guess, when I started to feel good and decided to do a 3 hour ski instead of just two. So I was going along and going along and going along and I kind of got into that zen-like skier state where you don't feel anything but adrenaline rushes and the occasional hunger pain, when, all of a sudden, I was kind of OUT of the city. Well, I had a look around and thought it over and decided that since I was still within sight of a pretty major highway, nobody should be hunting, so I kept going.

About ten minutes after having thought this, however, I came to an intersection that had three cars parked by the side of the road, and looking up I noticed three hunters striding through the woods.

Now, first of all, seriously, does anybody ever GET anything by wandering around? I guess a lot of people like to do big ridiculous "drives" (ten hunters or so banging pots and pans as they walk along and try to drive the deer towards the guy sitting in a tree farther down the line...and forgetting that the basic premise of this idea puts the deer BETWEEN themselves and the eventual shooter...always hated that). But isn't it better to just get up before the sunrise, sit next to an obvious deer trail (one that you've been dropping corn on for the last 10 months) and just wait for the deer to come by? Who walks around in random corn fields?

Well, anyway, I looked up and felt a pretty nasty, icy chill as I noticed all three of these guys were staring at me. Suddenly that blaze Lime seemed woefully inadequate. Sure, I wasn't wearing the colors of the enemy, but I wasn't wearing the colors of the good guys either now was I?

So I let out a big, "Hello!" with the hope that the bloodlust hadn't made these guys forget that deer can't talk. And they replied with, "Skier...we're HUNTING here" in a voice that implied that they were none too happy with me.

Well, I wasn't in the mood for a philosophical conversation, so I just kept on trucking and then only realized later what a bad idea it was since I was going to have to come back by these jokers in another half hour or so (ample time for them to forget that I had ever passed). I took another look to the left and was a little bit reassured by the fact that there was a major highway over there about two hundred yards away, plus the fact that there was an occasional house gave me hope that these dudes would "know their target" and not shoot in the direction of residential areas or cars, but I still kind of thought it was going to be the end of me.

In moments like that, as your skiing along, you start to imagine scenarios in which you get shot but only wounded and you wonder if the jokers who did it would be willing to admit their error and take you to a hospital, or if they'd just cut their losses and finish you off (none of that came to pass...but still).

Fortunately when I got back to the intersection the cars were gone (maybe they went someplace where there was a chance in hell they'd actually see an ANIMAL and not PEOPLE ON A PUBLIC TRAIL!


So I'm off to Gander Mountain to buy a reflective Blaze orange vest with a siren and a CB radio on it (as well as some phosphorescent flashing lights).

I suppose in hindsight it wasn't THAT close a run-in, but it wasn't that much fun at the time either...Sigh...well, at least in WI they don't constantly nag about seeing your ID when you try to order a frickin' beer...I like THAT!

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Pinch Me!

That's right! Pinch me! Is this snow actually for real?
That's right folks, the snow is for real in Montana! The below image was taken by Isaac Larson on Wednesday, 26 November at the end of the Windy Ridge Trail on the Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone, MT. The skiing here in West Yellowstone continues to be unbelievable. I've been out here for 10 of the past 11 Fall Camps and this is arguably the best snow I've ever seen out here during the Fall Camp week!
About 2 feet of snow fell in mid November and there have been a few minor snow falls to freshen up things since. We've been enjoying beautiful packed powder conditions now all week and the trails are holding up very well despite thousands of skiers using the trails.
The weather has been ideal with lows of about 10'F overnight with day time highs of 35'F or so. Essentially you're skiing in nice warm conditions on beautiful cold powder. Certainly great for classic skiing and also ideal for skating!
If you're not fortunate enough to be out here, enjoy this picture and take comfort in the fact that the snow will be flying soon in the Midwest!
Thanks again to Isaac for this great image!

Pre Supertour Race thoughts...

As I prep for my race debut of the xc ski season, I find myself with butterflies in my stomach that I haven't felt in years. Am I crazy? I haven't raced in 4 years and my first races of the season will be the Supertour 15k Skate and 10k Classic at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. I keep on telling myself that this will be the best possible way to get myself in shape for the later races, so I hope that is the case!

While the Supertour series routinely draws the nation's fastest skiers, this year's Supertour series promises to draw far more competition as these races literally are the selection races for the US and Canadian Olympic teams. The stakes are high for these folks and they mean business!

Perhaps this one of the beauties of XC Skiing. I, a former self proclaimed "Professional Ametuer Athlete can line up next to the superstars of the sport. Everyone will leave it all on the course and move on to what life serves up next. For the Superstars that will grace our Olympic team, they will follow the circut to the next race venue and prep for their next opportunity. For me, I eagerly look forward to getting back home to my amazing family!

The Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone in perfect condition. Photo Credit: Isaac Larson

In any case, as usual, it's been a great time out here at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival! The snow has been amazing, the Turkey Dinner was great, and it's a homecoming of sorts for many of us!

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Don't Buy New Ski Poles on Black Friday...USE the JUNK!

There you go! There's a piece of road worn, destroyed ski poles! The STRAPS don't even match! You see, that's the way it should BE when you're rollerskiing (although I'm the only one who thinks this apparently since everyone else tends to have nice stuff).

I think cost is a main reason people stop doing certain sports, or that they don't take them up in the first place, but skiing can be really inexpensive if you start putting your stuff on a rotation. I suppose it's just a matter of not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.

Actually, now that I mention that...whoa...I think that's a whole can of worms to just start ranting on like a maniac. You see, having just moved back to the US from Peru I can't help but have a fairly unique perspective on things...especially since we've come here right smack dab in the center of the holiday buying season.

I slipped the phrase "Black Friday" into the title of this article because I thought it would grab me a few free search engine hits, but now that I've managed to somehow magically segue to it from ski poles no less (that's pulitzer material right there) let me just say a few words about this idiotic phenomenon. First of all, you do know where the phrase "Black Friday" comes from don't you? It's an INDUSTRY term...it's the day that Commercial retailers get back in the black.

So, for those of you who are a little dim, let's just apply this to the whole predator/prey concept. In terms of retail sale, commercial stores are the predators and consumers are the prey. That being the case, it's absolutely supidly ridiculous that consumers are running around all excited about "Black Friday," when the whole frickin' DAY is about taking money away from the customer!

Are you stupid?

I suppose there are some people out there doing their rollerskiing on the same $600 race quality poles that the US national team uses at the olympics (they're called people who have "sponosors" and "idiots"). You should go ahead and wear that trashy gear! As long as you've got some sort of CyclovaXC logo on you somewhere, you're golden!

Oh, and by the way, here's another "Black Friday" trick...if you think you're getting something for a 40% discount, it's only because they just marked up the price tag 80% five minutes before. Don't go Sale tag happy, I only give hugs for Xmas (and CyclovaXC gear, I condone that as well). But rollerski on your junk, the road is not as forgiving as the snow and it's seriously AMAGING how many hours you can squeeze out of that old stuff.

Happy black friday! The Jonses are WAAAAAYAYYYYYY behind!!!

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Happy Thanksgiving...Don't Forget your Blaze Orange When Rollerskiing!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! There's nothing like the holiday seasons to ruin your diet and get you to gorge yourself on various pies, cookies, turkeys, turduckens and whatnot. Yessir, if it weren't for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm sure I would have been a good five to ten pounds lighter for every single one of my birkies. There's nothing worse than that feeling of having sat around all day and eaten way too much and having watched way too much football. The worst thing about it is that you don't actually realize how much damage you're doing to yourself at the time. You just sit there quietly munching away, quietly watching TV until you finally stand up about six hours later with a pot belly and a swooning head with red, puffy, bloodshot eyes, and you think, "damn...I wish I'd done a rollerski this morning."

That too presents some problems, however, since as everybody knows Thanksgiving lines up with hunting season and you've got to be pretty careful about walking around in the country (or even close to the country) with all the trigger happy riflemen about. Now in all reality, by the time you get to Thursday, most of the initial "sound shots" taken on opening day have died away by an appreciable percentage, but you can never be too careful.

That said, I would recommend that you NOT go skiing in your deerskin brown top. Instead, find some kind of swath of blaze orange and have at it. Actually, I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to have a blaze orange with camo version of the CyclovaXC ski suit. There's no reason we have to follow European trends here in the midwest! When they come over from Norway, Spain, etc., let's let them know who they're competing with!

But seriously, don't forget the blaze orange...we wouldn't want you lose you (and potentially gut and eat you) before ski season even starts!

Old, Junky Rollerskiing Gear

Rollerskiing is some of the best fun you can have wearing ski boots (probably about number 3 now that I think of it, but I'm not going to write the rest of the list for obvious reasons). However, the problem with rollerskiing is that it's pretty hard on your equipment...at least, that's what I believe in my entirely non-scientificly based estimation. The argument I have is that the stones and gravel that you inevitably encounter on the highway rollerskiing scuff up your boots worse than anything you'll ever find on the ski trail. Plus, I've always kind of suspected that the additional torque put on your boots/bindings because of the heavier and shorter rollerskis kind of messes up their rigidity (although now that I type that I suppose it sounds kind of absurd).

In any case, I suppose not too many people would disagree with me that it doesn't seem prudent to wear your BEST gear when you're out rollerskiing. Although, I suppose most people don't go out with as BAD of equipment as I like to rollerski on.

Starting with the pair of boots you can see above. Those were the first pair of ski boots I bought way back in 94 or so. Back in those days, buying a pair of ski boots was a significant investment, so you had to do what you could to make sure they lasted a while.

Now, I suppose most of you can't conceive of something HAPPENING to your ski boots, but that's probably because you weren't as totally nuts as I was back when I was 19 and was just learning how to ski. Frankly, the fact that I was just learning did not in any way inhibit me from flinging myself off ridiculous cliffs, etc. That's not the type of thing that can get you into too much trouble here in WI (since the terrain just isn't all that extreme), but when I went down to Australia to ski the Kangaroo Hoppett (held up in the mountains), I just didn't have the proper mentality for...well...skiing down sheer mountain faces.

So...what happened was I went over this cliff and when I finally emerged from the 12 foot diameter snowball at the bottom the back end of my ski boot was destroyed. Fortunately I was able to go down to a local ski shop and the clever guy at the store (his name was Jimowen or something like that...it was all one word) ratcheted the thing together with an aluminum screw/bolt combo. Obviously having an aluminum rather than a plastic screw holding your ski boot together makes the thing unuseable for competition, but the extra "Road Warrior" hardware makes it perfect rollerskiing material.

The other thing that happened (years later) was that the zipper broke. That was a horrible tragedy until I was walking through the Oakwood mall one day and I found a boot/shoe repair store. So, I gleefully pranced out to my car and skipped back carrying my boot and the guy assured me that he could fix it and charged me $20. So I came back the next day all hopefull and excited and the guy handed me back the boot. But instead of having changed the zipper (like I or any other reasonable person would have thought he was going to do) he just sewed a big nasty black velcro patch on there.


He looked kind of sheepish and embarrassed as he handed it back to me, but I didn't complain. I guess I decided that he had bigger issues in his life, and I was just going to trash those boots the rest of the way anyway. Here we are, 15 years later and I'm still hammering on them and they just won't be destroyed...

Huh...come to think of it, I guess that pair of ski boots wasn't such a bad purchase after all. However, they still don't compare to the blue sweatshirt that I bought for $2 when I was 18 and still have/use on a regular basis.

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The Last Days of Autumn

Well, obviously this picture was taken right in the middle of autumn. From what I heard, Autumn started out pretty wet and miserable this year. Lots of drizzling rain and colder than normal temperatures. Hearing people complain about that sort of got me thinking. Even though we divide up the year into 4 distinctive seasons, you could really divide those seasons up another three or four times as well. Early autumn is just when you start to feel that little bite in the air and you start getting the color in the trees. Mid autumn is wet and horrible, and late autumn...well, late autumn is kind of a wild card.

Of course, we've reached late autumn right now, and if you didn't know it already, this is prime training season. Frank wrote an article back in October on the joys of fall bicycle riding, and late autumn is great too although with a slightly different flavor. The air is a little sharper now and most of the leaves are gone. In fact, it's as if the whole North country is holding its breath and just waiting for the snow to come (thus, there is an element of chance as to how much longer late autumn will last).

The other thing about fall training is how relaxed it is. I think that's because there is a definate lull in the race season this time of year. Summer and spring are packed with bicycle and running events, and winter is filled with skiing, but autumn doesn't have as much. Seriously with the proliferation of awesome bike trails out there, somebody (maybe cyclovaXC) should really get a nice...chill (so you don't get too serious and break a collarbone before the snow)...rollerski race circuit going (we'll talk it over...maybe for next year...although I read something about a "limestone loppet" in Silent Sports, details anyone?).

However, there is a certain amount of pressure in that you have to get your training in NOW and for several reasons. One is that this is the last good push before the snow flies. And the other is that once the snow does come, there is always about a two week lapse in which the rollerskiing turns ugly (you don't like to go out on snow or ice covered roads) and which the trails become skiable (and you can only do so many K on golf courses).

So get your hours in! And make sure you're good and exhausted so that you can party without guilt (yes, I spelled that wrong--"pary" instead of "party"--like an idiot on the email I sent out) on the 5th of December!

Member Profile: Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace is another veteran skier who has joined CyclovaXC pretty much due to the sheer awesomeness factor of the ski suit (of course). He can be seen here heading out for a rollerskiing training session, and, to my knowledge, he's the first guy to begin using the ski suit on an almost daily basis for his training. He wears only CyclovaXC colors for running, for rollerskiing, for bicycling...basically anything that requires him to work up a sweat, he's ON it! And men and women, THAT'S the way it's got to be!

One of these years, I think Chris and I will apply to be the "Norse" guys who ski the birkie...You've probably seen them, there the guys who strap tree trunks to their feet and deck themselves out in era specific gear and trudge the whole length of the birkie course in a superhuman effort that is probably beyond the comprehension of most mere mortals. That's the type of event that Chris is built for. Me, not so much, but hey...that doesn't mean I'm not still up for it!

If you have any connections with the Birkie office, make it happen, you all know how to reach me!

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Chewbacca on the Balance Board

Well, the story here is that my mom bought a balance board the other day. Apparently this was a toy that she used to play on back in the day and which is now used primarilly for rehabilitation. The balance board consists of a platform on which you stand and a couple different items for the bottom to make the act of balancing different. One of these items for the bottom is a cylinder, and you'd be surprised how frickin' hard it is to balance on that damn platform with the cylinder beneath you. You'd also be surprised that anybody would suggest using this for rehabilitation, because you actually start gathering speed pretty quickly and I think that if you, for example, busted an ACL (and that's what landed you in rehab in the first place) you could quite easily bust it again on this damn board.

Not being one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to practice on the balance board until I could do it, with the added difficulty of wearing a movie quality Chewbacca mask!

I'm actually fairly sure that I'll be wearing that Chewbacca mask at all the ski races I do this year as well as the birkie, so stay tuned!

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A Shot Rollerski Wheel

Here's a problem that most skiiers are unhappily familiar with. A Rollerski wheel that is just a lawsuit waiting to happen. A lawsuit against whom you ask? Well, potentially against the rollerski maker in response to the broken neck you suffered while tumbling ass over teakettle into a mulchy ravine, or perhaps it would be a lawsuit from your wife against the ski pole company due to the fact that you impaled her while you were windmilling desperately to regain your balance...but most likely, the lawsuit is against YOU as a result of the fact that you crashed into some little old lady who was out for a walk on some public trail and you accidentally killed her dog.

Well, the whole problem could have been avoided if you had REPLACED your ski wheels six or seven seasons ago instead of just loosening them up, moving them down, and then retightening them so that they just balance precariously at the bottom of the fixture (thus to get a few more miles out of them).

You see, that's just a hazard of the course because XC skiers don't like to replace there wheels all that often.

And WHY don't we replace our wheels with greater frequency?

Because rollerski wheels are ridiculously expensive! Those babies up there, they were like $35 dollars each plus another $20 if you need the bearings and screws and everything else that makes the unit functional as a "wheel." And that's just for ONE wheel!

Frank keeps telling me I'm ridiculous for sticking with my beloved Proskis, apparently there are more cost effective rollerskis out there that don't cost essentially the price of a whole new set just to change the wheels (which needs to happen once a year). If we're lucky, maybe Frank will write us an article about HIS super duper rollerskis. I've never tried those...but I know that these Proskis are a heck of a lot better than my old V2 skis which approximated the glide you get when the outside temperature is something close to absolute zero.

Well, the wheels in the above image are just about worn out, so I'm on a quest to find some new ones for as inexpensively as possible...I'll keep you posted as to how successful I am. Stay tuned!

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Master Skier Magazine gets a face lift

As a Contributing Editor for Master Skier Magazine, I received a heads up in August that the magazine was going to be changing formats. Master Skier Magazine has been the journal of XC Ski Racing for the US, Canada, and beyond. For as long as I can remember, there has been 3 issues per winter in a newspaper/magazine type format. It never was glitzy, rather it was the content that kept it readership and advertisers coming back for more.

For the '09-'10 ski season, Master Skier Magazine got a total rework and face lift! No more 3 copies per season. Rather, there is one massive issue that is 74 pages in length with a wealth of articles on everything from "The Fine Art of Brushing" (by yours truly) to a wealth of articles on the coming Winter Olympic Games.

The glossy pages of the new Master Skier Magazine, with the author's article in the upper left.

The finish of the magazine also got a major face lift. Gone are the days of news paper quality stock, hello high quality glossy pages!

According to Publisher Bob Gregg, “The Master Skier will be upgraded to a premium, perfect bound annual edition with a dramatic modular design… The new design will have a hard, glossy cover and interior pages of comparable excellence. It will be the finest publication in the business. People will read it and proudly leave it on their coffee tables for others to read,” explained Gregg. “Best of all, we will be reaching 65,000 readers through additional newsstand, Olympic and counter distribution.”

There you have it, the new Master Skier Magazine will live on my coffee table for the duration of this winter and beyond. In fact, you can see that it looks quite nice on my table either with a coffee or beer as a companion!
Master Skier Magazine with Coffee . . . Master Skier Magazine with Beer

Now go get yourself a copy and get your read on!

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Steve Prefontaine tears it Up

I was standing in Borders bookstore the other day, browsing through the magazines because...well shesh...WHO reads books? Anyway, being the XC fan that I am, I instantly noticed the intense eyes of Steve Prefontaine staring up at me from the lonely racks.

Like most of you, I'm familiar with Pre because of the two films that came out about him at basically the exact same time. If you don't know these films, they are "Without Limits" starring Billy Crudup (he played Dr. Manhattan in "The Watchmen"...that naked blue guy...yeah, that's Pre). The other film is simply "Prefontaine" staring Jared Leto. You might remember Jared Leto from "Fight Club" or due to the fact that he's oddly gone off in a new career direction, that of a rock star. He's the lead singer of a band called mission to mars or something like that (they actually sound pretty good I'm embarrassed to admit).

Essentially the two Prefontaine movies are about of equal quality. Leto looks a bit more like Pre and I think he gives a better performance than Crudup (Leto's just a bit more likeable), but the fact that "Prefontaine" is filmed in documentary style was kind of a mistake, and the surrounding cast of "Without Limits" (especially Donald Sutherland as Coach Bowerman, is superior.

But anyway...

So, seeing Pre on the cover of that magazine provoked me to pick it up and page through it (as you do with magazines) and inside there was an article about a guy who makes a point of picking up all the change he sees when he's out running (penny, quarter...whatever, he picks it up). Apparently after doing this for his entire multi-decade long running career, he's amassed more than eight thousand dollars!

For more details, pick up the above magazine, but it just got me thinking that the next time I see a partially useable chewed up tennis shoe or ratty old hat or bottle cap...heck...I'm GETTING it and bringing it home, no matter HOW nasty it is!

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Old School Birkie Pictures

This is an odd birkie start shot in that it represents the photographer breaking the first rule of taking pictures of people at a marathon event...that being...you don't take pictures with TWO or THREE people in it because the chances are that those people DON'T KNOW EACH OTHER and they're not going to want to BUY a photo of themselves with a bunch of random people!


I happen to know ALL of those people in the photo with me, so this was a no brainer!

The guy on the right is the infamous (as I like to call him) Randy Larson, who has been training the next generation of skiiers up in Spooner for as long as I can remember. He's also a great chiropracter, so if you're in the area, give him a call.

Next to him is John Waggoner (actually I'm not sure how to spell his last name)...great guy, used to see him training on the birkie trail all the time. He's son's a great skier too, CJ I think is his name (remember I've been out of the loop for 10 years, I'm looking deep into the fog). I remember when CJ used to come flying by me as I skied up to the top of the great divide or whatever, and he was like 10 years old, amazing!

Next is me, and beside me is this guy that crashed spectacularly in front of me earlier in the year at the Pepsi challenge. Just because of that, I kind of found myself (kind of unfairly) not liking the guy, so my first thought as he came to stand next to me was along the lines of, "great, I hope this guy doesn't fall down in front of me and ruin my race before it starts."

But, when the photographer came along and started shooting pictures and the "falling down" guy leaned over to get in on the shot, I couldn't help but laugh at the thought that the moment would be immortalized forever.

So there you have it, the hazards of taking random Birkie start pictures could not be more clearly explained.

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