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VIDEO: Sky On Fire at Elm Creek!

The sky was on fire last night during my ski at Elm Creek Park Reserve (Osseo, MN).

Sometimes you just can't help but be happy to be alive - and out skiing! Last night was one of those amazing nights on skis!

With the weekend slipping by, I thought that I may not get out on a ski when all of a sudden, I had an hour or so so get out and go. I quickly loaded up the car, got my daughter to the Grandparents (thanks J & K!), and made the drive up to Elm Creek Park Reserve.

I found a great 1k man made snow loop, with the usual amazing base of snow they have there - literally 3-10 feet of packed man made snow! This in itself is amazing for early season skiing on November 28!

After skiing for about 30 minutes, I looked to the horizon and realized I was going to be in for a treat of a sunset. However, I've rarely seen the "sky on fire" as I did - and I had my camera with in my pocket. Not only did a get a couple of great images of the sunset, I got a video of my skiing the 1K Valley Loop with the sunset from many different angles.

Check out the video below:

Video of my ski with the sky on fire at Elm Creek, 11-28-2010.

TRAIL REPORT: Elm Creek Opens This Weekend!

Elm Creek is open for business!

Elm Creek Park Reserve officially opened up it's 1k "Valley Loop" for skiing yesterday (11-27-2010).

They've had their snow guns blazing for the past couple of weeks, when ever the temperatures were under freezing and have made a lot of great snow.

They blow the snow into big piles and then push the snow to where it is needed with the Pisten Bulley groomers.

Elm Creek has provided the most consistent, literally world class xc ski trails in the Twin Cities Metro area for the past several years, particularly since getting their snow making system and new Pisten Bully grooming machines (that's right, multiple Pisten Bulleys).

Trail conditions on Saturday morning were excellent machined powder / man made snow conditions with a nice thick base, at least 2 feet thick in all places. You can get out your new and freshly stoneground skis for sure!

Time to get out and do some skiing - old man winter is here early this year!

Birkie Training with Billy Squire's "Rock Me Tonite!"

Here's what I figure...I figure that all of us at CyclovaXC should memorize Billy Squire's exact dance routine in the above video for "Rock me Tonite!" and we should perform it in public in group synchronization whenever possible.  It shouldn't be all that hard to learn...all he does is flap his arms about like a turkey.  Come on...it'll be like 3 minutes of aerobics!

Seriously...do you know the story for this video?

Back in the 80s, when music videos were still new...Billy Squire invented virtually EVERY sexy dance move that became associated with cheesy videos from the 80s!  He invented the stomach crawl (which Shakira later perfected), he invented the ripped T-shirt and the T-shirt rip (in the second, the T-shirt comes right off the body), and he invented the downward miserable look as you tuft your humongous/ridiculous 80s hairdo!  With all of these contributions to music video lore, you might be wondering why Billy Squire isn't being celebrated to this day?  Well, unfortunately all of these moves are only cool if a WOMAN does them!  Billy Squire's insistence that HE do all of these moves HIMSELF essentially RUINED his career!

Seriously, I can barely watch this video.  I had to turn it off the first time through, then I had to call my wife over to sit by me in order to actually watch it.  If you're at work...don't play this.  A guy simply can't watch this video by himself...much less star in a video like this (I don't know what the source of this prejudice is...but I FEEL it man...though not as much as Billy Squire Feels it!).

Owen on the Podium

Here's one of our CyclovaXC guys on the podium at the Cyclo-cross race in Taylor's Falls a couple weeks ago. I'm not going to put his whole name, because I'm kind of against putting people's full names on the internet (I've done it in the past to much displeasure).

It's sort of like those old fantasy novels where people are reluctant to give out their "true" name. Do you know what I'm talking about? For example, if a dragon or something asks you your name you should do like Bilbo Baggins did and say you're the lucky number and the barrel rider and he who walks unseen. Back in the old days, the reason for not giving out your name was because having your true name enabled the dragon (never be an enabler) to cast some sort of mystical spell of control on you or whatever.

These days you avoid writing people's true name on the internet because you never know how prospective employers are going to view the various places and photos of you they find all over the internet (and don't think that your current job is so stable that you will never be looking for another one...not even if you employ yourself).

Oddly enough, I just did an internet search for my name and found a source or two that claimed I worked for the CIA. That's annoying because it's not the type of thing that you can deny. "No...I NEVER worked for the CIA!" you say, and everybody just nods and says, "Riiiiiighhhhhht...."

Anyway, Owen got on the podium in the race (whatever his last name is). I keep awaiting his email so I can send him the originals...but I haven't got it yet (tic, toc, tic, toc).

--Sebastian Janikowski

Cars of Avid Skiers Fill the Driveway

Have you ever noticed that all skiers drive remarkably similar cars? I suppose that once you're done putting ski racks and bike racks on ANY kind of vehicle, it's going to start looking similar to all the other vehicles out there sporting ski and bike racks.

But let me ask you this: when you see a car with a bike rack and a ski box do you find yourself trusting that driver just a little more than if it were just any old car on the highway? I mean...are you kind of thinking, "man...if something goes down out here on this lonely gravel road...I know who I'm going to recruit as an ally?"

The only difference is that a lot of skiers drive these massive trucks. You know, it'd be interesting to do some sort of scientific study and see what kind of differences there were in results, physical build, etc., with racers as they correlate with the kinds of cars they drive. Somebody should write Yahoo or the US government and see if they can get a stupid study like this commissioned. I mean...they're ALWAYS doing completely redundant, stupid studies and displaying them on Yahoo.

Better yet...maybe we could get them to pay US to do this study! Is there anybody on CyclovaXC that knows anything about statistics? How many people would we reasonably have to interview in order to justify charging the government like 50 million dollars. I'm thinking no more than a half-dozen or so...but again I'm just basing my numbers on what I've seen come out of Yahoo and the Government previously.

The Bumblebee Costume at the Cyclo-cross Race

That Cyclo-cross that I went and watched (and which you might be getting a little bit bored of hearing about...but bear with me) happened to be going on right around Halloween.  Apparently for that reason (I'm assuming it was for that reason, I mean for what other reason could it have been?) people were doing the race in costume.

Here's a picture of one of the better costumes...Bumblebee girl.

Dressing up like a Bumblebee kind of lends itself to a bike race in exactly the same way that dressing up like the demon from legend (replete with his 14 inch heels) absolutely doesn't.  You see...a person on a bicycle kind of LOOKS like a Bumblebee, all hunched forward and buzzing around. And the natural noise of the bike actually helps with the "bzzzzzzz" of the chain.

You know, the way I see it, I don't know why they shouldn't have a costume for EVERY cyclo-cross race!  I mean...why NOT really?  Don't we do these crazy bike/run/ski races on the weekends to get AWAY from all the boring stuffed shirtedness at work?

If I were in charge of the world, you'd have to do EVERY race in some sort of absurd costume, and you couldn't WIN unless your costume was as good or better than your time.  Plus, you'd have to carry a nerf football soaked in paint, and if a racer got hit three times by one of these nerf paintfootballs, they would be disqualified.  Also, you would have to take a shot of Johnny Walker on every lap.

See?  If the world didn't so cold heartedly discriminated against me and all my brilliant ideas, I'd probably be a multiple gold winning Olympic athlete by now (of course...there's the alternative possibility that if the races were run that way...I'd be complaining that they should be run the way they are now...you never know).

Box 'o Cyclova Gear

More and more frequently people are seeing me lugging around this tiny little box of CyclovaXC gear.  You know, it's always a big surprise how little space something like 100 ski jerseys takes up.  At the beginning of the summer, this awesome plastic carry-all (that I got at WalMart or K-Mart for like $14) was FULL with jerseys, ski suits, hats, and warm-ups.  There's a significant amount of space in it now, but it's about to fill up again with our order of vests, long-sleeve cycling jerseys and hats (although theoretically every item in that order is already spoken for...but I'll believe it when the CHECKS come in!).

Those boots are pretty much antiques these days.  You know, that's the main difference between skiing at 23 and skiing at 35.  When you were 23, the stuff from 10 years ago seems ANCIENT!  Now...it seems like the stuff that happened 10 years ago happened YESTERDAY!

I don't know if I've told you the whole story about those ski boots.  They have seriously been through a couple major accidents with me at the helm (like all things that have submitting to putting me at the helm have invariably experienced).  I crashed once really good on a mountain in Australia and ripped the metal hook thing off my ski binder (making them useless as ski binders).  The force of my crash also made the plastic knob thing on the "energizer" spring at the back of the boot explode and go flying off into the bush.  It was a hard hit, the last time I was beaten like that in Australia, it was at the hands of Mel Gibson (I'm gonna burn this @#$% house DOWN!...gotta love Mel).

Well, I took those boots into a local ski shop and they fixed them up with an aluminum screw that is still holding those bad boys together to this day.

The black velcro was applied when the zipper went out (why can't they switch back to metal zippers).  The guy at the Oakwood wall "fixed" them for like $20...but I had money in my pocket that day so I didn't complain (that's my problem, I only complain when I don't have any money...and when you don't have any money, nobody takes you seriously).

Anyway, the next time you see me, chances are I'll have my plastic box 'o CyclovaXC gear...so bring your checkbook and prepare to be swathed in glory!

Taking the Rollerskis out for a Concrete Boot

Sometimes you just feel like throwing your rollerskis into the trunk of your car, driving them out to an abandoned corn field, and beating them to death with a shovel like in "Casino" (except that was with Joe Pesci's head and not 4 pairs of roller skis).

You know you have a skiing problem if you one day pop your trunk and you see the above picture. I mean...even having only one pair of rollerskis is almost not reasonable. Rollerskiing is such a weird enterprise, it's only semi ski like and it has a way too high percentage of causing you great pain (crashes provoked by rocks, twigs, ice, bears).

However, if you end up having like 10 pairs of rollerskis, then there's something truly wrong.

I think the most I've ever had at any one time was 4 pairs. I had my trusty Pro-Skis (which I'm finding are way too fast for an old guy like myself), my Elpex classical skis, my old V2 skate skis, and a pair of Elpex Off Road skis.

Those off road skis were kind of awesome, even though the thought of them is kind of counter-intuitive. You needed a pretty nice trail in order to be able to use them, but we had a trail like that in the Gandy Dancer. Actually, Frank has some pretty epic stories of things like 7 hour off-road roller skiing days. I sold mine when I went down to Peru because I needed an extra $200, but I wouldn't mine doing some off-road roller skiing again...

Wait...nope! No more pairs of roller skis! Those things are crazy, and the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Pssst...but seriously give off road roller skiing a try!

Balsam Branch Trails Now Lighted!

A light pole goes up at the Balsam Branch Trails!

Ski trails don't groom them selves, nor do they light themselves. As a Nordic Ski Club with membership that enjoys many of the ski trails across the region, it's important that we chip in and contribute. Contributing financially and also with work gloves & a shovel are equally important!

One such opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago at the
Balsam Branch Trails, which is between St. Croix Falls and Amery, WI. Not knowing for sure what "putting up light poles" would involve, I brought with a shovel, some work gloves, and work clothes. Shortly after I showed up, the Osceola contingent of Cyclova XC showed up to help out as well. We teamed up with some hard working members of the Nordic Ski Club of Amery to put up about 30 poles.

Putting up these poles involved:
  • Stringing wire the length of a pole through a PVC conduit pipe
  • Guiding the pole into the pre-drilled hole
  • Back-filling the hole ensuring the pole is vertical
  • Burying the cable from the conduit on the pole to the buried electrical junction box next to the pole.
Power cables had already been trenched in and buried in advance, with the huge pole holes all pre-drilled as well - which must have taken a huge amount of time and some heavy equipment. The final stage in finishing up this project was for an electrician to install the light fixtures at the top of the poles and connect the pole cable to the electric power in the junction box.

Yes, it takes a huge amount of work to light a ski trail! Yes, it will be amazing to have another great option for night time skiing at Balsam Branch, with 4.5k of lighted trail!

Looking like a lazy road construction crew, the Cyclova XC work crew (Mike, Steve, and Duane) get ready to put up some light poles.

Next time you're out enjoying a great ski trail, take a moment to thank the great volunteers that make it all possible!

Get a New Car...Or Get an Auto Survival Kit!

Having a baby changes a guy, let me explain how.

My car's getting old and crusty.  Every now and then I wonder if the darn thing is just going to randomly explode on the highway.  Occasionally there is a burning smell, and plumes of white smoke go rising up from under the hood (this usually happens at stop signs or red lights...but it "goes away" when I continue to drive).

Back when I was a single fellow, these car problems would have just made me laugh at the fact that I was probably just going to have some marvelous adventure in one of the upcoming days.  It's sort of like waiting on a pregnancy.  You're never 100% sure when that baby is going to come!  Perhaps the car would break down on a long trip out West...or maybe just one Monday morning on the way to work...but whenever it happened, that day was going to be EPIC!

However, now that I have a little baby in the car, it occurred to me that although a night in sub freezing temperatures would be a fun and wonderful adventure for me...the baby might not like it all that much.  So I had to take some steps to figure out how I could make a freezing winter night more comfortable for my darling daughter.

At first I considered buying a new car.  But the thought of spending $20,000 just didn't sit well.  So instead of spending $20,000, I spent $20 on a hatchet and a pack of matches (my auto survival kit).

Now if I have a car implosion on the way to Grandma's house and have to live in a ditch for the night, I can take comfort in the fact that I can build a primitive shelter and everyone will survive.

Perhaps you should get an auto survival kit (I mean...only if you want to be a responsible parent).

Deer Hunting Season is Upon Us (get out your blaze orange)

Yup, it's deer hunting season again. If you've been out at all in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin, you've probably been seeing a lot of bucks running around all crazy in the rut.  Seriously, if you think sixteen year old boys are out of control, they've got NOTHING on young male deer this time of the year.

In fact, the last three times I've been out roller skiing I've seen young bucks go sprinting off into the distance after desperately trying to pick fights with trees, semi-trucks, and houses (not necessarily in that order).  They're all jacked up on hormones this time of the year...it's crazy out there.

A couple of weeks ago I was out roller skiing with the Osceola contingent.  We'd just finished up our loop when a young doe came sprinting out of the woods with a buck on her tail.  We all just had to stop and stare as she went BOOKING into a nearby field with that buck in hot pursuit.

Honestly, it was almost as if you were watching something inappropriate.  Like the "correct" thing would have been to step in and intervene.

---That's what one part of me thought.---

Another part of me was like, "WHOOOOOOO---HOOOOO---GO GET HER!!!!  YEAH!!!!"

That part was a little more awesome.

I mean, talk about peeling something down to it's barest possible essence.  There was no dinner, no movie, no pre-nup, no NOTHING!  Just raw animal hormones RAGING!  And you should have seen the MUSCLES on that buck!  Generally you don't see animals get all worked up about anything.  They're usually just standing around miserably slowly chewing or fleeing in terror.  But even when they flee in terror they don't put as much effort into it as THIS animal was cranking out.

The whole thing kind of gave me hope...I'm not sure what KIND of hope or what it even meant...but it was cool.

You connect the dots...I'm afraid to!

Wiping Out on Roller Skis!

This is a totally ineffective picture, but it's 10:57 PM and I have to get something whipped into shape for this web site.  What I was trying to show was how my first finger on my left hand has swollen up to the size of a sausage as the result of a particularly nasty roller ski spill that I took yesterday.  I have no idea what I did to wreak havoc on my finger...as I was falling I was thinking primarily of avoiding damage to my head (which I didn't avoid completely).  But let me back up and start at the beginning.

Wednesday morning is the day that I wake up at 5:50 AM to go roller skiing with Greg and Kathie.  They're supposed to arrive at 6:30 at the designated spot...but they're always late because Kathie needs her morning coffee (and it just cracks me up that I'm gossiping like this...hehehe).  Anyway, it's no skin off my nose because I just go for a little 20 minute loop or so before they arrive.

You see, Wednesday morning is my big day for training.  I've gotta get my HOURS in, so if I can break it up by skiing alone before my companions arrive and then skiing alone after they have left, it's all the better.

So I was out doing my initial loop at 6:30 when I noticed it had been pretty moist the day before and all that moisture had hardened up into patches of ice all along the path.  When Greg and Kathie arrived, we ended up skiing like people who had only just picked up their skis 20 minutes earlier.  Because of all the ice patches, you couldn't really commit to a long glide, so you were always hopping off one ski to another (it actually makes for a harder work-out).

Anyway, I did my hour with Kathie and Greg (putting me up to about 1.5 hrs on the day) and I figured I might as well round it out and do a clean 3 hours.  So I headed out again hoping that the extra hour of morning light would have melted the trail a little bit.  I was about 20 minutes into my second loop when I got a little overconfident that the ice had melted and I hit a slick patch.  I started to wobble, then kind of caught myself, then kind of glided for a minute, before dropping down to my hands and stomach.  It wasn't that bad a crash since it was pretty slow mo, but it was kind of annoying.

I jumped up and dusted myself off and decided that nothing was out of place, so I continued on.  The sun kept rising and the day kept getting warmer and I wasn't feeling too bad, so...all in all...it was a nice morning.  At my turn-around, I got to see a deer stumble out of the woods in it's rut frenzy (don't wear brown this time of year...).

Anyway, so I was well on my way back, only 15 minutes short of my 3 hour roller ski and it wasn't even 9 AM yet when WACK!  I went down HARD!  There was no time for bracing myself, it was just a nasty belly flop onto a wet segment of pavement like I had just been hit by God's fly swatter.

Back when I was a young pup, I could have just leaped up from something like that, but boy...I'm not that critter any more.  First of all, I think I might have hit my chin because I was seeing those little tweety birds.  They were circling over head going "tweet...tweet...tweet...tweet..."  Then I noticed that my finger was in agony as well as my wrist.  The greatest indignity was that my BELLY was all ripped up (it burns even as I write this now)!  I was wearing my old Riverbrook warm-up jacket, which had accompanied me through countless excursions behind enemy lines and now, sadly has a couple holes worn into the front.  A warm-up jacket will pretty much last you forever until you do something stupid like wipe out on a roller ski while wearing one (sniff...sniff...).

So there I was, wind half knocked out of me, finger throbbing in agony, my stomach burning, and my leg slowly getting wet since I'd landed right in the middle of a puddle.  I just kind of rolled over and sat there feeling miserable and sorry for myself.  The only thing I could think to do was stop and eat the Snickers bar I had brought along ("I'm heeeeeeelpiinggg....").  So I whipped the snickers out and chewed on it while sitting in the ditch, vaguely throbbing in agony.

Fortunately the Snickers more or less worked and the pain more or less went away and sitting here writing this now (a day later) the only real complaint I have is that my finger is a big sausage.  It could have been worse.  But still, wiping out on roller skis sure makes you feel stupid!  I hope this experience doesn't leave me all jittery on the downhills!

Once you start fearing that fall, you're pretty much just inviting it to come and live with you in your guest bedroom for like four months.


I hope it snows soon before I get myself killed!

Minnesota State Cyclo Cross Championships on CNN and Kare11!

Not only were new State Cyclo Cross Champions crowed in Saturday's Minnesota State Cyclo Cross Championships, the perfect storm brewing overhead dumped more than 9 inches of wet heavy snow onto the race course throughout the day. This created a unique bike racing atmosphere that the main stream media latched on to, which is a great and unusual thing.

Earlier today, I spoke with race promoter Stephen Vitvitsky and he commented that "the race went very well, but it was the blizzard that made the spectacle a national media event. Anything that draws national attention to bike racing is a good thing".

News coverage of the MN State Cyclo Cross Championship on Twin Cities New Channel Kare 11.

I've not only seen coverage of this event on local Twin Cities station Kare 11 (see above), but also global media giant CNN and many other websites, such as Cycleture.com.

Cyclo Cross truly is the ultimate segment of bike racing to spectate and get people excited about racing. It's rich history and exciting nature can compete with any mainstream sport!


First Snowfall!--Cyclops 2.22

Hey Everybody!

Well, the first snow has fallen, and although not much of it remains there are a few lingering patches of white to be found here and there to remind us the ski season is not far off. It's early snowfalls like this that help rouse you from your zombie like autumn training state. After a few months of hill-bounding and roller-ski workouts, you sometimes have a tendency to forget what you're doing it all for. There's nothing like a few flakes of snow to wake you up (either that or a bucket of water thrown right in the face...they both work).

We've got our ski vest/long-sleeve jersey/hat order in (I'm still awaiting your checks--gentle reminder). I'm psyched about this new round of clothing, mostly because we put it together on the fly and with extreme haste (otherwise known as with extreme efficiency). I think the hats are especially going to separate us from the crowd. Spectators will be seeing us a mile away!

Back when Frank and I were doing the Riverbrook club, we were pleased to see a cover image in a newspaper that featured six of our guys skiing along in a row. They obviously picked that image because our ski suit was clearly the best on the trail! Well, the case can be made again, and I'm looking forward to our appearing in local newspapers from Fargo to Ishpeming (or even farther east...I just said Ishpeming because it is a cool name for a town...or person...Ishpeming Jonjak...hmmmmmm).

Anyway, enjoy the following articles, get your checks in, and think snow (check out the Jeff Foltz interview...it's about a new Birkebeiner novel)!!!

Bike Tech: How to not put a bike on a car rack

How to not put your bike on a rear mounted bike rack.

When Ben and I first conceived of putting together a daily updated website to accompany our bike, ski, and run team, I'll admit that I never thought I'd put up a post on how to not put a bike onto a auto bike rack. In any case, here we go...

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I were driving north out of Minneapolis on Interstate 94 and we saw the above car with a trunk style rack installed incorrectly, with a bike strapped on - horizontally over the trunk. I couldn't believe it so had my wife take a picture as we drove by.

Clearly this is simply a case of someone putting a rack on this car whom just doesn't know what they are doing. However, they really need to read the directions. This is simply dangerous. With a bike hanging off the care like this, it's just a matter of time until it falls off, bounces off the road and goes through someones windshield. Or, if they were to slam on the brakes, it could break loose of the rack and go through their own rear window.

Yes, auto racks are certainly serious business, with which safety and liability should always be a concern. Some auto racks are complicated, so if ever in doubt do take a careful look at the manual, as they are easy to find online.

Ski Trail Profile: Balsam Branch Trails / Garfield

Finding the Balsam Branch Trails is a snap, due the great signage, all the way from Hwy 8!

It's no secret that the St. Croix River Valley is a mecca of sorts, for endurance athletes. This certainly applies to cross country skiers as well!

The Balsam Branch Trails, also known by some simply as "Garfield" (as the trail system is located Garfield township) are located just south of Hwy 8, between St. Croix Falls and Amery, WI. With 12k of trails groomed for both skate and classic, it's developed a reputation as one of the premier trails of the area. The glacial terrain of the area provides a bit of everything ranging from flat prairie areas to steep ridges.

The trails flow very well and there are a number of combinations that you can ski the loops in, allowing a skier to get in a long day on the trail without doing the same loop over and over.

Grooming here is consistently good, with a couple of gentlemen who team up to ensure that the trail is groomed regularly. I recently spoke with one of the groomers and he commented that "grooming the trails is a labor of love and that all of the lonely hours at night out on the groomer are worth it". I think that many volunteer ski trail groomers can relate to that!

New for the 2010 - 2011 ski season, the Balsam Branch Trails will have an approximately 4k lighted loop. This lighted loop has been a dream for years, but is now a reality thanks to hundreds of hours of volunteer work the fall of 2010.

Lights go up at the Balsam Branch Trails, Fall 2010.

The Nordic Ski Club of Amery is the hard working group of folks we have to thank for making this amazing skiing available to us all. This group has been working on these trails for over 10 years, an amazing accomplishment considering that they are a small group of about 12 individuals.

I was only able to find a hard copy of the Balsam Branch Trail map, so scanned it in...

Snow Covers Much of the Midwest!

Saturday brought about ten inches of snow to parts of the Twin Cities. Photo Credit: MPR

Saturday's storm proved to be the real deal, by early Winter Storm standards anyway. In fact, yesterday a new snowfall record was set for the day at the Minneapolis / St. Paul International Airport of 7.7 inches, breaking the prior record of 4 inches set on the same date in 1997.

Other locations throughout the region saw even more snowfall, with 9.2" falling on Saturday in St. Louis Park, 10" in Forest Lake, 5.5" in Cumberland, 4" in Duluth, and 5.0" in Spooner,

The temperature throughout most of this storm was about 33 or 34 degrees, resulting in a very heavy and wet snow. If temperatures would have been 5 degrees colder, I'd guess that we would have ended up with double the snow fall totals we actually got.

Saturday was a great day to make a snowman (note the Cyclova XC hat on the snowman)!

This heavy wet snow is ideal for Winter frolicking and making snow men / forts. While it isn't ideal for xc skiing, my wife and I did make it out on the golf course for a 45 minute ski last night.

Welcome to the 2011 - 2012 ski season! Long Range Forecasts are still saying that this will be a good winter for skiers!

Is Quinoa the Magical Birkie Beater?

Here's the thing...

As many of you know, my wife is from Peru.  What that means is she is privy to a whole bunch of knowledge about actually nutritious food that Americans know nothing about.  She's constantly trying to get me to eat like her, but I'm too busy sucking the grease off American French fries and the like.

Well, she managed something with this Quinoa thing that got my attention.

Quinoa is a...well, I guess you'd call it a grain, and apparently it's just jammed packed with super-powered goodness.  You can generally find it in health food stores, and they even have a bin of the stuff at Festival foods in Eau Claire.

At my household we've just had a baby, and my wife's mom insisted that she eat a regular portion of Quinoa to help enrich the nutritional quality of her breast milk.  So, my wife has been diligently boiling up a mixture of Quinoa and oatmeal and serving herself a cup full every day.  She's served it to me a couple of times on occasion and it doesn't have a bad flavor in the least (honestly, the oatmeal flavor kind of dominates and the Quinoa just provides a texture...oddly, Quinoa looks a bit like fish eggs when it's cooked up like this).

Anyway, the thing is, our baby has simply EXPLODED in size.  She was born in the 50% at 7 lbs 10 oz, and at two months she was sitting in the 93% at 12 lbs 6 oz.  She simply put on a HUGE amount of weight and the pediatricians were amazed (she's also doing calculus, writing novels, dancing and is fairly decent with an acetylene torch [for sculpting...not torture]).

So I think the massive nutrient surge she has experienced is because of the Quinoa, not that it's made me eat it more than I had before, but at least I'm CONSIDERING eating it more!

Still...those greasy french fries are calling....but I KNOW those don't make you ski the Birkie faster!  It must be the Quinoa!

Are Workout Bars Overpriced and Ridiculous?

The short answer is YES...which is always why I bring the items in the above picture along for me when I'm out training.

That's right...TOMATOES!!!

No, just kidding...I take Snickers bars.

If you ever read one of the packages you'll realize that the ingredients are essentially the same as what you'll find in a Cliff bar or a Power Bar except you don't have to pay seventy-two thousand dollars to buy a frickin' Snickers bar...NO...they're only like thirty-six cents a bar and they actually TASTE good because they're BATHED in chocolate and frankly...when you're out there doing like a seven hour roller-ski you DESERVE to eat some frickin' chocolate!  That's how I motivate myself to get out there and train...I take a Snickers and I'm like, "not yet my sweet...but soon...yes, soon" and then I go skiing and skiing and skiing and finally when I get to a spot exactly three point five hours away from my house I stop and I sigh and I whip that Snickers bar out of my little water carrier pack and I gobble it down and then I shed a solitary tear because my brief moment of happiness has ended and I now have to ski 3.5 hours back to my house and it's already dark.

Snickers is awesome...and they're ESPECIALLY awesome because they produced the following super creepy Halloween commercial that is honestly the BEST commercial I've seen on US television since I've been back in the states.  Seriously, this commercial is GREAT...but I have to admit, I was only creeped out by it the first time I saw it (seriously creeped out...like "I'm not sleeping with the lights off" creeped out), but the second time I saw it I was ROLLING with laughter.  Enjoy:

Words with Jeff Foltz, author of "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War"

The following is an interview with Jeff Foltz, author of "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War."  To learn more about Jeff, check out his web page at Birkebeinerthenovel.com.

From your web page I get the impression that "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War" is a piece of historical fiction. However, I still don't really know what to expect. Do you represent the "Birkebeiner" warriors Inga, Torstein, and Skjervald as characters in a drama? Or is this more a historical exploration of the events that inspired the Birkebeiner?

Inga is the main character. Research revealed that there are two versions of the event. One claims that Inga took a different route than Torstein and Skjervald and met with them later. The other says she accompanied the soldiers. That one makes more sense to me and, I think, a better story. I’ve used some literary license, but stayed true to the spirit of an heroic event. Back story reveals some of the history of the Birkebeiner, I hope without it sounding like a history lesson.

What effect did your trip to Norway have on the creation of this book?

The trip was invaluable. I was able to see the kind of terrain they would have faced, feel how cold a Norwegian winter can get, understand how bleak it might have been on a snowfield above the tree line. There’s no substitute for experiencing the place where a story unfolded.

Did you ski the Norwegian Birkebeiner?

The Norwegian Birkebeiner is on my bucket list.

What initially got you into Cross-Country Skiing?

My other sport is sculling. I rowed in high school and college and when I left climates where the water was liquid 10 months a year and moved to Maine, I needed a winter sport. I entered a ski race my first week in the sport. I only beat one person. Any sport that tough was bound to hook me.

I see you've done the Birkie 5 times. Do you have any good Birkie tales?

Yeah. I skied 5 kilometers of my second Birkie unconscious. At the 12k mark, on a downhill turn in heavy traffic, I went down. I was skiing well, and to this day have no idea what happened. I suspect somebody planted a pole just inside my tip, but the next thing I knew, a spectator was pulling me to my feet and asking if I was okay. I remember seeing the shattered shards of my dark glasses on the trail and then I remember nothing until I reached the fire tower at 17k, where I noticed others looking at me with concern on their faces and asking if I was okay. I touched the side of my face and my hand came away crimson. I felt okay, so I skied on and finished in 3:07, my second fastest Birkie time. At the finish line, the good volunteers patched me up. Still, I have no recollection of the missing 5k.

What was it like working with Main Authors Publishing?

Terrific. Very professional, talented and dedicated bunch. You’ve seen the physical book. I’d say it’s attractive and high quality in every way, wouldn’t you?

Yes, it looks great!  Is that Knud Larsen Bergslien's painting on the cover? How hard was it to secure the rights to that?

Shellie Milford at the American Birkebeiner helped me get permission from the Norwegian Birkebeiner to use their print version. I’m grateful to her and love the Birkie even more than I did before.

Are you skiing the Birkie this year?

I wish I could, but I’ve made arrangements with the New England Nordic Ski Association (another great group of XC Ski enthusiasts) to attend many of its events to promote the book. Perhaps next year.

Is there a sequel planned?

There could be a sequel. It depends on how people like the first and, while reaction is initially encouraging, it’s really too early to draw conclusions. I have finished the first draft of another novel that has nothing to do with the Birkebeiner.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Parents who have ever wondered what they would endure to protect their children will identify with Inga. I believe cross country skiers will like the book because it is integral to the history of a sport they love. But the story is primal… Motherhood and war. We can all relate to that.

Birkebeiner is available in print and in a Kindle edition.