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Adios January and Your -50 Days!

I don't know about you, but I'm always happy to see January bite the bullet.  Sure there has been plenty of snow and that's great, but seriously, the ski races in January are frickin' cold.  I don't really understand why we're doing anything other than classical races because skating leaves you an icicle and it's EASY to get good kick on a -20 day.

Still, you pretty much have to do as many races as you can in January so that you can actually enjoy the races of February.  You've got to get out there and get in shape, if you don't pay for it in January you pay for it in February.

But wow...how January makes us pay!

We're through it now though ladies and gentlemen.  February is upon us and it's a downhill slope to the Birkie now.  Here's to 20 or even 30 degree days, 3 more hours of daylight each evening, and fluoro waxes that FLY!

Awesome Retro Ski Boots on Ebay

The other day I was browsing around on ebay and I discovered this awesome pair of retro Salomon boots!  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe these were the first of the SNS Profil line.  I was looking for a pair of boots to destroy while roller-skiing because I still think it's ridiculous to use your best equipment for that, I mean...roller-skiing just HAS to be hard on your equipment.

Isn't it strange though, the feeling of nostalgia you get when you see an old pair of boots like this?  I instantly remember a couple of Birkie posters in which absolutely EVERYBODY was wearing this dayglow monstrosity.  I guess yellow and pastel purple were just the IT colors for the eighties (geeze...are these boots that old?).

Anyway, if you look, you can generally find pretty good equipment like this on ebay for just a couple bucks.  I recently bought a pair of boots like these for my wife (not the ones in the above picture because my wife could get both her feet and an arm into boots of that size...but a smaller pair just like them) and I think I paid around $25.  That's waaaaaay better than what new equipment costs, and even used equipment at play-it-again sports isn't likely to be as cheap.  Seriously, ebay rocks.  It's a great value, and it's a walk down memory lane.  I jump on there just to see what's available...when I'm not busy writing tremendously entertaining CyclovaXC articles that is!

Ski Trail Profile: Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

A beautiful day to be out skiing at Murphy-Hanerhan Park!

The Twin Cities area is fortunate to have a literal wealth of amazing xc ski trail systems throughout the entire metro area.  One of my favorite places to ski in the metro area is Murphy-Hanrehan.  Nestled away in rural Burnsville, you barely realize that you're technically in a suburb of the Twin Cities due to the beautiful wilderness and terrain that dominates the area.

Location:  Off of the West Burnsville Parkway in Burnsville.  Click HERE for the Google Map

Trail Distance:  19.3k for skate and classic. 

The trailhead at Murphy-Hanrehan
Terrain:  Murphy is locally famous for having some of the most challenging terrain and technically challenging trails to ski in the region.  This terrain is ideal for metro area athletes to prep for some of the tougher regional races on hilly courses such as Giant's Ridge or the Birkie Trail.  Beware that some call these "expert only" trails, so ski with caution.

Grooming:  Maintained by the Three Rivers Park District, the grooming at Murphy is generally very good to excellent (as are all Three Rivers Parks).  Note that this trail needs a good solid snow cover to be groomable.  Typically, Murphy isn't groomed until after Christmas.

Fees:  As part of the Three Rivers System, a Three Rivers Ski Pass is of course required.  These passes are a bargain at $4 for a day pass or $50 for a season pass. 

There is a warming house at Murphy, but it's rarely open in my experience

SKI TECH: A Waxless Touring Ski Setup For Beginners or Off Track Fun

A waxless touring ski is a staple for any XC Skier, from first timers to Olympians!  Photo Credit to North Star

Let's face it, in the small world of XC Skiing, there is way too much attention paid to racing.  There is far more to this wonderful sport than racing.  While racing is an important part of the sport, the essence of the sport is found while gliding silently through the woods - observing nature and flowing with the terrain.

Unfortunately, getting started in the sport is often a big hurdle and can be very intimidating to a potential new skier.  This is in part due to the perception of XC Skiers all being a bunch of neon, lycra clad "forest fairies" that are race freaks.  It's important to remember this sport's roots.  Skiing is about getting outdoors during the winter, having fun, being healthy, and even about transportation

So, get out there and help to grow this wonderful sport of yours!  Help someone discover the beauty of XC Skiing.

In an effort to do just that, following are a few simply equipment suggestions for people just getting into the sport:
  • Skis:  The only way to go for beginners is to start with a Waxless Classic Ski.  Waxless classic skis have a "fish scale" pattern on the bottom of the ski, in the section of the ski that is under the skier's foot.  The tips and tails and smooth and slippery.  This combination of smooth base on the ends and grippy fish scales under foot allow you to propel yourself forward but also glide along.  Good quality waxless classic skis can be commonly found for as little as $130 at most XC Ski Shops.  Fit is critical with skis, so make sure that the ski you choose is appropriate for your body weight.  Note that these skis are called waxless skis because grip wax is not necessary to grip the snow and propel yourself forward.  You WILL still need to apply some sort of liquid or paste wax to help the skis slide along in the tracks and prevent snow from sticking to the "fish scale" grip pattern.
  • Bindings:  There are 2 primary binding systems used these days:  Salomon and NNN.  They are both excellent and you can't go wrong either way.  Beginners should go for either brand's "Automatic Touring' binding.  Rather than choose a binding based on the merits of the binding itself, choose your binding based on which boot fits best!  Auto Touring Bindings are typically in the $50 price range at most XC Ski shops.
  • Boots:  Far and away the most important thing about choosing a ski set up, is to ensure that the boots fit well and are comfortable.  There are many brands of boots available with various features.  Choose which ever boot fits best and then go with the corresponding binding system.  If you are to enjoy your time out skiing, your boots must be comfortable and supportive.  Quality entry level XC Ski Touring boots start at about $70 and go up from there.
  • Poles:  XC Ski poles are the final piece of equipment you'll need to select.  As with all of the above mentioned equipment, the most important factor with poles is fit (length).  Classic poles should be of a length such that they go to the middle of your shoulder while standing up straight.  Most basic poles have a nice adjustable loop strap system and a strong yet lightweight shaft, made of either aluminum or fiberglass.  Entry level touring poles start at about $22 in most XC Ski shops.
Note that if you opt to go for a complete ski package at once, significant discounts are frequently available.  A good solid ski package can frequently be found starting at about $260 in ski shops.  

Cross country skiing is a relatively simple sport, particularly once you get over the initial barrage of technical jargon.  It is a great way to get outside and achieve great fitness during winter.  Most of all, it is a fun life sport with a whole lot of great people involved.

Skis in a Sauna (cheap sauna kits wanted)

The other day I was over at Allan's house and I noticed that he had a sauna.  Being a skier, the first thought that crossed my mind was, "I bet I can make that thing work as a hot box!"  So I immediately turned on the sauna, ran out to the car to get my skis, and then threw them in!  It worked perfectly too!  The sauna is meant to hold like 3 people (I think Allan set a record with 15 or 16 in there once though), and there's just enough room diagonally for the skis.  Even better, there are these horizontal slats that work as ski holders.

So I dumped my skis in and was just hanging around the house when Allan showed up a while later with my skis in his hands.  Apparently he didn't approve of me totally violating the proper usage of his appliances.  However, when I went into the sauna room later, it was stacked full from top to bottom with Allan's skis, so there you go.

So, if you're thinking of spending some money on a hot box, I'd say you should get the two for one deal and buy a sauna instead.  I was talking about this with somebody recently and I think there are some pretty inexpensive kits out there to be found.  Here's one at Amazon for only about $800.  If anybody finds anything cheaper anywhere else, just let me know (put it in the comments)!

Sometimes The Adventure Is In Getting To The Ski Race!

XC Skiers brave actic temps, sketchy roads, low visibility, and gas station food to be part of an epic ski race!

This past weekend's Pepsi Challenge was epic in several ways.  The arctic cold, tough course, and solid competition come to mind as a few examples.

While driving up to the small Minnesota Iron Range town called Biwabik, Ben and I were chatting about some of the crazy drives through blizzards we've done - all to get to a ski race or even just for a training ski.  We rattled off a few epic drives through blizzards to places like Marquette, MI, West Yellowstone, MT, Kelowna, BC, and others. 

As we were discussing these past epic drives, big fat snowflakes started falling heavier and heavier as the temperature was plummeting to -20'F.  We jumped at the opportunity to chronicle this drive through the frozen north for all to enjoy.  While this video is a bit "Blair Witch-ish" (especially the simulated crash - don't worry, we didn't crash), I think most people reading this post can relate.

The snowy drive, small towns with funny names, cheap hotel rooms, and Mickey's Donuts are all just as much a part of XC Skiing as a corduroy trail and wax.

A Perfectly Clean Winshield

This is how you know it's going to be a good morning. When you wake up, there's like a foot of snow on the ground, and your windshield is covered with six inches of permafrost!

Back in the old days, I never even owned an ice scraper.  I just used to get up, grab a cassette tape case from my console, and take a couple lazy swipes at the glass before I jumped in and hoped the defroster would take over before I made it to my destination.

Now, of course, those days are long gone and I have this six foot long heated scraper with a laser sight (I just took the above photo to prove a point).  I guess I'm getting soft.  Back when I was in my twenties, I never owned anything heavier than an autumn weight jacket, and even that I never used to zip up.  I never used gloves either, although I'm rarely found without a hat.

Today, I look a bit more like an Eskimo.  I just find that it's worth it to pull on those gloves and button up before I head on outside.  I usually have a cup of coffee in my hand as well.

Oh...and I always make sure to scrape off my windshield.  It's just easier to drive when you can see!

Keep your eyes peeled for a video that Frank and I shot and compiled on our way up to Biwabik, we wanted to post it from the $45 Forest Garden Hotel (or whatever that place was called), but we couldn't hack the code for their free wi-fi!  It'll be up as soon as Frank posts it!

The First Pepsi Challenge in 1985

When Frank and I stumbled into the Biwabik pavilion at 9:57 PM, we were a little concerned that all the volunteers would already have packed it in and be ready to head home (they were scheduled to close at 10).  However, that wasn't the case at all, and the happy people we met there were especially pleased when they noticed "Chippewa Falls" on my registration card (they were fans of Leinenkugels...but who isn't?).

Our impression was that the bitter cold that was predicted for Pepsi, plus the fact that the race had been shortened to a 24 instead of 48 must have kept a few people home.  Incidentally, I'd like to sincerely THANK the race directors for shortening the event.  I was signed up for the 48, and I think I would have crawled out into the woods and buried myself if I'd actually tried to ski it.

Well, as we were hanging around the pavilion getting our registration duties taken care of, our attention was directed to a poster sized print of the first Pepsi challenge that was sitting on one of the tables.  I snapped the above picture of the picture (you aren't supposed to be able to get away with doing that...but the image quality actually turned out pretty good).

The first race was 1985, to put that into perspective, Rambo: First Blood Part II was in theaters.  Oddly, the sequel to Rambo is Rambo III.  A more appropriate title for Rambo III would have been, Rambo II: First Blood Part III...but that's neither here nor there.

How many of you have skis, ski suits, or mustaches like those that appear in the above photo?  Put your hand down Jeff Hostetler.

Awsome...long live the Pepsi Challenge!

2011 Pepsi Challenge Classical Start

I took this quick video while I was skiing around on my "warm-up" at the Pepsi Challenge.  I put warm-up in quotations because I really wasn't warming up so much as keeping in motion just to make sure the molecules in my body didn't stop moving. I didn't want to end up in a Megatron situation where I was fell into a cybergenic deep-freeze and stored under the Hoover Dam for several decades.  What I'm trying to say is that it was cold up there in Biwabik.  Awesomely cold like it pretty much always is up there.  The positive thing about that course is that it's the toughest course in the whole Midwest by a wide margin.  In fact, I always forget how tough it is out there at the Pepsi Challenge until I head out there and it utterly destroys me.  That's the race all the real skiers go to.

I'm pretty much thinking that this will be an entire week of Pepsi Challenge praise just because Giant's ridge is THE place to go.  Frank's been talking about doing a top 10 list of why Pepsi is so awesome, but before we get into that, let me just thank John Filander for giving CyclovaXC.com a huge shout out at the start!  Nothing like a man with a microphone singing your praises to lift your spirits at the beginning of a 24 kilometer mega sub zero odyssey!

Here's hoping you all stayed warm this weekend, and managed to recover from your various skiing endeavors while watching the Packers charge into the Super Bowl!

Coldest Temperatures of the Winter Today - a good day to be waxing your skis!

The "high" temps for today aren't going to be very warm in the Midwest.  Photo credit to weatherunderground.com.

This is historically the coldest week of the year for the Midwest, and this year is no exception.  No wonder the Pepsi Challenge is always so cold, always making for an epic adventure through the frozen north tundra of Minnesota!

Upon waking this morning, I saw an air temperature of -22'F outside.  Scanning the weather situation throughout the region, I saw temperatures of -31 in St. Cloud, MN, -18 in Minneapolis, MN, and even -41 in International Falls, MN.

While it is remaining cold throughout the day tomorrow, it is suppose to warm above zero tomorrow.  It may even be above zero when finishers are crossing the line at tomorrow's races!

If you're racing this weekend, today is a great day to organize and strategize your clothing plans for the weekend's races.  Several windproof layers is key.  Click HERE to check out a great post on dressing for cold weather on the Toko Blog

It's also a good day to spend waxing your skis.  Remember, a key to having fast skis in the extreme cold is several repeated layers of a very hard wax (think Fast Wax White, Toko Blue, Swix Blue, Start Green, etc).

Happy waxing!

Full Coverage of Kikkan Randall's Recent World Cup Win in Liberec

Kick back and enjoy - actually sit on the edge of your seat and enjoy full coverage of Kikkan's recent World Cup win!

Kikkan Randall is the first American female to win a World Cup XC Ski Race, which was back in 2007 in Rybinsk, Russia.  The only other American XC Skier to ever win a World Cup was the great Bill Koch.

This past weekend in Liberec, Czech Republic, Kikkan conquered the world once again, winning yet another World Cup Sprint race in impressive fashion.  This is truly an exciting era for American XC skiing!

Kikkan won a silver World Cup medal back in 2009 on this very course.  In an interview with the US Ski Team, Randall said knowing the course was a big plus. "I've done well here before, and knowing the course - its twists and turns - was a huge help."

It was a tough day at the races with a wet and icy course.  Rain was falling for much of the day, especially during the qualifying rounds. 

In an interviewer with Fasterskier.com following the race, a satisfied Randall commented “I just thought about getting through one round at a time.”  She went on to say that “it was pretty cool to be able to have the time to enjoy the win.”  Wrapping up, she commented that “I think the best is still to come.”

Congratulations to Kikkan and the US Ski Team for the amazing results in recent years.  Days like this are momentous for American Nordic skiers.  Decades from now, we will remember the day that Kikkan won the World Cup in the Czech Republic!

Wax Tip: Pepsi Challenge

Race day waxing can be hectic, so rest easy the night before the Pepsi Challenge by waxing in advance.  Above, the author helps classic racers at the Mora Vasaloppet apply the klister of the day.

Following is the Cyclova XC Racing Service Wax tip for the 3 major wax brands of the region. Note that these are not officially endorsed wax tips by the wax companies, rather these are tips that I have personally created based on my 11+ years of professional experience in creating race wax tips.

Event:  Pepsi Challenge at Giant's Ridge Ski Resort, near Biwabik, MN.

When:  10k, 24k, & 50k skate and classic events starting between 9:30 & 10:15AM on Saturday, 22 January

Forecast & Conditions:  Overnight low of about -15F with a temp of about -10'F at the start.  Daytime high will be in the low to mid single digits.  The snow temp will be very cold.  Expect machined track conditions with a mix of old and new snow.

Ski Flex:  Moderately flexed ski for machined conditions

Glide Wax Tips:
Fast Wax:  HS-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HS-10 Teal, Scrape, Brush, HS-0 White, Scrape, Brush
Swix:  CH-4, Scrape, Brush, CH-4, Scrape, Brush, CH-4 / CH-3 mix (1:1 ratio), Scrape, Brush
Toko:  System 3 Blue, Scrape, Brush, LF Moly / LF Blue mix (1:2 ratio) , Scrape, Brush, LF Blue / Cold Powder mix (1:1 ratio), scrape, brush
Pre Race Tip:  A few minutes prior to start and after your skis have been outside in the cold for a while, brush your skis with a fine nylon polishing brush.  This will ensure your skis are flying right from the start!

Grip Wax Tips:
Swix:  Roughen grip zone with 180 grit sandpaper.  Apply VG35 Base Binder, iron, and smoothen with cork.  Apply 5 layers VR-30 thoroughly corking each layer.  For skiers needing more grip, use 3 layers VR-40 covered with 1 layer VR-30.
Toko:  Roughen grip zone with 180 grit sandpaper.  Apply Base Green iron, and smoothen with cork.  Apply 3 layers Carbon Mint thoroughly corking each layer.  For skiers needing more grip, use 2 layers Carbon White covered with 1 layer Carbon Mint.

Have fun and see you out there!

I'm Starting to Get Nervous about the Pepsi Challenge!

I just jumped on the web page at weather.gov, which is a great resource for any skier, to see what the forecast was for Biwabik, MN.  As of right now, here is what they say for Saturday, Januray 22nd:

Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 9.

Well, that's right on the border of being bearable, but it means that we'll probably be starting the day at right around zero.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I received an email from the race director about possibly postponing the race.  My guess is that will probably be the case, which means we might be starting out at around 5 degrees....


The good news is that I checked the forecast twice today.  Early this morning they predicted a high of 8, so it's good to see a gain of a degree since then.  If it continues at that pace (a degree every 10 hours), we'll be sitting at a balmy 22 at race time, which would be fine by me.

At least they're not predicting a high of -25.

Well, I'll be heading up there anyways.  In the old days I used to thrive on doing ski races in zero degrees or lower, now I'm tempted to just stay in bed and have a second breakfast.  The good thing about the Pepsi Challenge is that it goes in loops, so you can always start and then head in to the lodge if you're freezing too bad.

I think it will be OK though, let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for five or six more degrees at start time!

All You Need is Start Green

It's starting to feel like a Start Green year.  Some people have had really good luck with Start Green, but I'm only lukewarm on it.  Toko used to have a pretty good blue wax that I thought outperformed Start Green and Swix LF4 is a pretty darn good wax for cold conditions as well.

The fact is, when it's super ridiculously cold you're just not going to have great glide.  You're not going to be able to breathe all that well and your nose is going to turn black and fall off about halfway through the race as well (grrr...can you tell I'm ready to do some ski races in 20+ degree temperatures).

Actually, the last two races I've done have been a balmy 2 degrees at the start time.  It's not that hard to deal with actually, you just do a fifteen minute warm-up while wearing your ski jacket and warm-up pants over your ski suit.  Then, you peel off this additional layer 15 minutes before the start, do another quick ski, and, try to make sure you're only standing and shivering before the gun for about 5 minutes (no more than 5).

Once the race has started, you'll be too out of breath to worry about being cold.  You can't breathe when it's cold...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I celebrate the day I can throw my Start Green down into the bottom of my wax box and just forget about it.

Things to Consider When Picking an Effective Wax Box

I'm sure all of you have fought with buying the appropriate container for all your wax supplies.  It's kind of a tricky business since the utensils that you need to put into your wax box are fairly varied and there's really nothing out there that's specifically designed for that purpose.  Well...I take that back...there probably IS some kind of perfect wax box that you can buy from Swix or Toko or somewhere...except that any time you break down and get such a niche product, you end up paying excessively for it.  For that reason, most of us end up resorting to some kind of tackle box that you can get at Farm & Fleet.

The above is the wax box that I've been using for quite some time.  The idea is that it's big enough to contain most of what you're going to need, but small enough so that you can throw it in your car for those weekend waxing/skiing trips.  At first glance, this box might even look a little too big...but don't be fooled, you need that extra space.

In the main box, I have my iron, and my power drill (for roto brushing).  Although I have to say that I haven't been using the drill brush all that much lately.  Frank's got me convinced that you can do a better job with the hand brush, so I've been having at it with my skis (proper waxing is a workout in itself).

I've also got a pretty decent mask in my box for when I'm melting in the fluros.  

Actually, between all the tools and hardware, I don't have all that much room left over for WAX!

I have to admit, though, that the best part of my wax box is cosmetic...that being, the spy vs. spy sticker I have just under the handle.  I don't know where this sticker came from...but I'm glad it's there every time I happen to notice it.  Here's a magnified view since you can hardly see it in the above image:

Fridtjof Nansen 15 K on Sunday, January 16th in Eau Claire

I should have posted this prior to today but you know how it goes...

Anyway, there's this ski race happening tomorrow that I plan on attending and it'd be great to see a bunch of other CyclovaXC people there.  It's called the Fridtjof Nansen which seems like an appropriate name for a ski race (because it kind of sounds like "freeze your nads off" at least to me).

Oh, in case you're wondering who Fridtjof Nansen is, you can check here.  Apparently he's a Norwegian explorer who did things like ski across Greenland and up to a then record 86 degrees 13 minutes of Northern latitude...just 3+ degrees short of the North pole, how ever far that is!

This weekend's race is going to be another solid bit of training for the Pepsi Challenge which I'm still psyching myself up to go and do.  I'm registered and have a hotel reservation...but if it's looking like it's going to be -20, I'll stay in bed.

The Fridtjof Nansen is right out the back door more or less though, so I'm looking forward to it.  See you there!

Here's the place to go for more race info!

SKI TECH: Wedge Plate for NIS Bindings?

The above video was released by FIS in the past few days, providing a glimpse of a NIS compatible NIS Wedge Plate which is hopefully coming to the market.

The SNS Wedge has been a hugely successful innovation for Salomon in the past year.  Raising the front of the binding in relation to the rear simply helps the ski to squirt out from under your foot quicker and easier, particularly when climbing.  This product has been embraced by both World Cup Athletes and the citizen athlete.

However, the SNS Wedge leaves athletes using the NIS System without any options.  I've been contemplating this over the past few weeks until I stumbled across this very interesting video, showing prototypes of a new NIS Wedge Plate that is fully compatible with NIS skis & bindings.  

It looks like this plate is the length of the front portion of the NIS binding and that the heel plate sits flat on the NIS plate, which is fine of course.

I expect we'll be seeing more and more of these under binding wedges in the future - or even bindings with this type of raised toe angle built into the binding itself

Next on the list of innovations I'd like to see is a cooperation between Rottefella and Salomon to create a NIS compatible Salomon binding or some sort of adapter allowing a Salomon binding to be used on a NIS ski without screwing it on.  Call it a pipe dream, but it would make me and a whole lot of other Nordic skiers very happy!

Skier's Thumb - A common injury for XC Skiers

Skiers thumb image
Skier's thumb is a common injury among XC skiers.  Photo credit to BSSH

Avoiding injury is often the most challenging part of working toward peak fitness.  There are many injuries that XC skiers can suffer while training, but one of the more painful ones that leaves you feeling helpless is "skier's thumb".  Just recently, I've spoke with a number of skiers whom have suffered this injury.

Skier's thumb is a injury common among XC skiers which happens when you fall onto your outstretched thumb (crash and land on your thumb), usually when you hand is gripping something (like a ski pole). 

The result is usually unpleasant with bruising, swelling, and sharp pain.  Amongst the skiers I know that have suffered skier's thumb (including myself), the condition slowly improves and usually heals completely on it's own.  However, sometimes serious medical treatment is necessary immediately - if in doubt, see your doctor.

Each time I’ve jammed my thumb, the skier's thumb seems to be worse than the prior time and recovery takes longer than the prior time.  In fact, it seems that one of the joints in my thumbs is slightly but permanently swollen - this would be due to the fact that one of my Ulnar Collateral Ligaments are torn and not fully healing.

Again, the rule of thumb (pun intended) is to definitely go in and get it checked out by a doctor, especially if it is black and blue, although I’ve had a black and blue thumb with no breaks or fractures.  Icing it and taking an anti-inflammatory (like Ibuprofen) is generally also a good thing to do.  In severe cases, splinting, physical therapy, or surgery may be necessary.

If you’re certain there is no break, a good massage therapist could likely help by breaking up some of the inflammation and accelerating the healing process.  While this is painful, I’ve found massage to dramatically speed up the healing process of such injuries.  Quality chiropractic care can also help to realign any subluxations, which are common when your hand or other area of your body sustains such an injury.

This is Why I can't Shed those Last 20 Lbs!

So I stumbled to the finish line of the Landgraf Loppet in a time of just over an hour.  Frankly, I was happy enough with that since that's right around 4 minute k's and that course is TOUGH (you never go down at Hickory ridge...you always go up), plus it was COLD and my Start Green wasn't as fast as it should have been (NEVER blame the motor folks).

Anyway, I got into my warm ups and headed over to the fire only to find an enormous, wonderful cardboard box filled with big, massive, huge, juicy delicious donuts.

People...donuts just never taste as good as they do at the end of physical exertion in the midst of a 2 degree day!  Honestly, I wasn't even all that hungry, but I had to gobble down one of those bad boys just for the pure joy of it!

Last year at the Birkie, I made a promise to myself to never again do that race at 220 lbs.  This year, I've been sitting at about 214, which is still too much for any kind of racing.  Let me tell you...hills are BRUTAL when you're carrying extra weight!  If all goes well, I'll be sitting pretty at 199 or so by the time the Birkie rolls around.

But I might just have to request that all race organizers not tempt me with delectable donuts at the end of races.  My will power has never been all that great, and lately, it isn't even as good as it once was!

Birkebeiner Warrior Torstein Appears at the Landgraf Loppet

I was sitting in the registration vehicle with Emalea, waiting for all our racers to arrive, when all of a sudden Torstein came striding out of the wilderness!  I'm not sure if this was Gale Otterholt or Marv Franson (those were the two selected to be Torstein and Skervald this year), but whoever it was he deserves a massive congratulations for taking his role to heart!

Earlier this year, Frank, Emalea and I had sent in an essay in hopes that we would be selected...and we were sorely disappointed when we weren't!  But after having met the official representative of Torstein, we have to say that the Birkie office made a worthy selection!  I was talking about it on the phone with Frank later, and he said, "I'm not sure I'd be doing early season races dressed up in Viking garb!"...then again, now that we know that's how high the game is elevated, I'm sure we'll be rising to it next year!

Anyway, look for Torsetin and Skervald up and around the Birkie festivities this year, and remember that Torstein made his first appearance at the Landgraf Loppet (it doesn't get more Birkie than that)!

Great Day at the Landgraf Loppet!

Here's David getting ready at the start of the Landgraf Loppet last Saturday.  We had a solid 30 or so people which was a pretty nice turnout for a race that we only started promoting on the previous Thursday.  I think there might have been a few more, but the forecast for the weekend wasn't all that great.

According to my cell phone (which is my primary source for just about any piece of information that goes into my head these days) it was a balmy 2 degrees Fahrenheit the morning of the event.  After the race, as I drove with the Osceola contingent in search of a Subway, the mercury had risen to a tropical 5 degrees...

So that's the type of day it was!

I parked next to David and learned a new trick (you always learn new skiing tricks around that guy).  He had his skis propped up so that the exhaust from his car warmed the bases, sort of like a poor man's hot box.  I'm not sure how much of an effect such a trick would have, but any kind of psychological currency in a 2 degree day is worth its weight in gold.

The Landgraf Loppet was a bring your own bib affair, although they did have a few bibs to hand out to people (Emalea was annoyed to realize that they were HER bibs).  Frankly, I think a few more people would have shown up if we had advertised that David's founder bibs would be used as the race numbers...although they probably give him the same number every year so that would be worthless.  Still, it's the dream of many to go sprinting through the woods with one of those awesome red bibs!

By the time I finished, David and the rest were standing around eating donuts after having gone on a 30 minute warm down ski.  I asked David if he'd won, and he just kind of grunted and said, "Krenz let me win" (check in the dictionary under modesty and you'll find a picture of this guy).  Props to both of them for putting on a fun little training race!

And props to everyone who came out to race or make a donation to the groomer!  I've been hearing from Lindsley lately how much it costs to keep all these marvelous ski trails up and running and all us skiers really do owe a sincere thank you to the people who donate their time and money to keep that corduroy set-up and fast!

Keep an eye out for future Landgraf Loppets!

Bikes Forgotten In Snowbanks

If only bikes could talk...  We found this bike outside the Pizza Luce restaurant in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.  Photo credit:  Tyler Prahl

Bikes are different things to different people - racing machines, transportation vehicles, something to get exercise on, toys, or even art.  The list could go on and on.

When I saw the a above bike locked to a bike rack encapsulated in a 4 foot snow bank, I thought to myself that this bike had fit into a number of the above categories.

This bike clearly started out its life as a road racing bike.  At some point, the drop bars were removed and flat bars put on - likely for the purposes of commuting.  Judging by the age of the bike, it was used for many years in these capacities. 

That brings us to this snowbank.  It appears that the bike was locked up with the intention of coming back to get it - but that the seat post was stolen off of it.  Maybe the bike was forgotten, or the key for the lock lost - but in any case, it's been locked up encapsulated in this snow bank for the entire winter. 

It looks like snow blowers and shovels bumping into it have bent up both of the wheels, rear derailleur, and other things on this bike.  I'd say this bike best falls into the art category currently, but come spring time, this will definitely be moving on to it's final stage - garbage.  When the city comes through and cleans up everything this Spring, this bike will likely be disposed of.

And so is the life span of this poor cold bike, buried in a snow bank.