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Running the Inca Trail With Two Olympians

This is an article I did recently for livinginperu.com about my Inca Trail adventure with Roberto Carcelen and Martin Koukal.  I'll be giving you some more insider information on this in upcoming posts.

Peru's first winter Olympian, Roberto Carcelen, called me up recently with the question I dread to hear from professional athletes.

"Hey, what's your fitness level?"

For the record, my fitness level is pretty decent. Last February I competed in America's largest cross-country ski race, the 50 kilometer American Birkebeiner, and finished in a respectable, if not blazing, time of 3:44. However, compared to Olympic athletes, I'm essentially just another couch potato.

"Err," I answered, "I've been doing an hour run about three or four times a week."

"Great!" replied Roberto. "How would you like to hike the Inca trail?"

The question gave me pause. I've lived in Lima, Peru for close to ten years and I've done just about every tourist activity except the famous Inca trail. However, the prospect of hiking all day long and camping at altitude is not the type of undertaking you should agree to without consideration. From all accounts, the Inca trail is pretty difficult, so I wanted to make sure it'd be worth the trouble.

"What I'm really interested in doing is seeing Choquequirao," I said.

"Perfect!" Roberto exclaimed. "That's exactly where we're going, Inca runners is going to connect the lost cities of Choquequirao and Machu Picchu. We're using this as a training camp for the cross-country world championships."

"We?" I asked. Now more than ever I felt I was getting in over my head with this enterprise, but at the same time it seemed like too cool an opportunity to pass up.

"You, me and Martin Koukal, the 2003 World Champion in the 50 Km skate, and bronze medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics."

I sighed, once again it seemed like fate was playing sinister games with me by presenting me with offers I couldn't refuse.

"I'm in," I said.

"Great!" Roberto replied, and just like that the machinery was put in motion.


We arrived in Cusco in the midst of the rainiest July anyone could remember. At first Roberto was a little concerned that parts of the Inca trail might be blocked by snow or that the excessive rain might have made a river crossing on day 5 impassible, but Martin wasn't the slightest bit concerned. I soon found out that along with being a World Champion Cross-country skier, Martin is also an experienced mountaineer having scaled the 8,201 meter Cho Oyu in the Himalayas. If it hadn't been clear before it was clear then that I was traveling with some pretty heavy hitters.

The rain persisted in our first few days at Cuzco which we spent acclimating by visiting local ruins such as Sacsayhuman, Ollantaytambo, and Pisaq. Soon enough, however, we piled into the car and made our way to Cachora, delighting in the news announcements that continually mentioned the "Olympians running the Inca trail."

Roberto had done this trip many times before with Inca Runners, and after presenting us with our three porters and their donkeys, we were on our way.

The first day was a pretty grueling 17 mile hike that essentially took us to the gates of Choquequirao. Roberto confided that he normally split the first 17 miles into two days of hiking, but he figured Martin and I could deal with doing the whole thing in one go. I didn't have any doubts about Martin, but I felt my own chance at survival was disturbingly low. As it turned out, the first 11 miles of the hike wasn't all that challenging, but the last 6 were off the charts. I stumbled into camp in something like nine and a half hours only to find Roberto and Martin relaxing by the tents. They'd traversed the distance in about half the time it had taken me, an achievement that would repeat itself every day throughout our trek.

Visiting Choquequirao was an absolute joy. The cleared areas of ruins are almost as large and magnificent as Machu Picchu, and it has been suggested that the total number of ruins on the site are actually much greater in size than what can be found in its sister city. We spent the day exploring and taking pictures without hardly seeing another person.

All too soon we were back in the tents, preparing for another few days of hikes. Having learned from my experience on the first day, I took to waking up before my companions and hitting the trail an hour or so early. This afforded me the opportunity to take their picture as they came running past me out on the trail.

If you've never witnessed the endurance of an Olympic athlete up close, it's quite a sight to behold. I would spend my whole morning laboring up a small little rise, only to turn around and catch a glimpse of Martin and Roberto bounding gracefully up the slope. They were always jubilant as they came by me, taking great joy in the exercise they were getting and the base they were laying for the upcoming race season.

The second day of hiking took me eight hours to their four, and the third took me seven to their three and a half. I wasn't foolish enough to think I was in a competition, and simply meandered along at my own speed stopping frequently to fill up my camera's memory card with spectacular shots of the astounding vistas.

The last day of hiking was kind of a monster as it took us from Yanama to Totora and crossed the 4,800 meter Yanama pass. The pass especially took its toll on me, and as I stumbled down the road into Totora, I was surprised to see Martin hiking out to meet me.

"How did it go?" he asked.

"Brutal," I said smiling, "but I made it!"

Footsore and weary I tried to keep up with Martin as he skipped along at an easy pace.

"You know," he said, "I think you're a pretty tough guy. Roberto said that if you were on a normal trek, you'd be one of the faster hikers. It's just that this time you came along with a couple of guys who have been training professionally since they were sixteen."

"Thanks," I managed to say, extremely flattered to have earned the praise of the world champ.

After another cold night, we took the bus down to Hydrolico, but we just missed the train to Aguas Calientes, so we finished off our trek with another three hour hike. After a hot shower and a night in a bed at Gringo Bill's, Martin and I headed up for the obligatory look at Machu Picchu. Again, I left an hour earlier than Martin, but I had just started my ascent to the mountain when I felt a light tap on my shoulder.

"Hi!" Martin smiled as he flew effortlessly by me. I just shook my head and continued on my way.

Machu Picchu is a bit of a zoo compared to the magnificent Choquequirao. Both ruins are spectacular, but there's something special about being in one of the ancient Inca cities entirely alone. I'm sure that as Choquequirao gets more and more popular, it will soon be bursting at the gates just like Machu Picchu is, but for now it's a silent gem and a truly magnificent experience.

I got into Machu Picchu in time to watch the sunrise over the ruins, then I took a quick tour and headed back down to Gringo Bill's. By then I'd had enough walking and I coughed up the $8 for the tour bus. I sat down to breakfast with Roberto at about 11, only to have Martin come trotting in. He didn't look the slightest bit tired, and proceeded to inform us that he had run from Aguas Calientes to the gates of Machu Picchu in about 40 minutes, trotted up to Intipunku and back in time to get to the gates of Huyana Picchu at about ten to seven. He'd then climbed up to the top of Huyana Picchu in about 25 minutes, and gotten there early enough to have 40 minutes of solitude before the next tourist arrived. Then, he'd come back down making a quick stop at the Temple of the moon before picking a bus to race from the gate to Aguas Calientes (which he beat of course).

Roberto and I couldn't do anything but shake our heads.

It was only a couple hours later as we were eating our second or third helping of rum chicken served in a pineapple at Indio Feliz that I realized how great a trip it had been.

"We should do this next year," Martin said with a smile. "This or something crazier."

I agreed, but I resolved that if I were to do the Inca trail again, I'd make sure I dropped at least 10 kilos.

"All you've got to do is beat your time from the previous year," Roberto said. "You'll be the most improved of us by far."

"I think I'm the most improved right now," I replied. But the prospect of making the Inca trail a yearly event was intriguing. If Roberto and Martin indeed decide to go again a year from now, I'll definitely be packing up my tent. Hopefully, I'll see some of you out there as well.

Event Feature: Lamar Festival

The Lamar Center, just outside of St. Croix Falls, WI is the home of the area's premier alternative festival.  Photo credit to the Lamar Community.

The Upper St. Croix River Valley has so much going for it - what a wonderful place where you can enjoy the country lifestyle, with literally the conveniences and luxuries of the city.  You literally have the best of both worlds.

Next Friday evening & Saturday, is a definite summer highlight, just outside of St. Croix Falls:  The Lamar Festival!

The Lamar Festival is held at the Lamar Center, roughly between St. Croix Falls and Centuria, WI - roughly 1 hour from downtown Minneapolis.  The Lamar Center, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 1905 School House in the process of being restored to pristine condition.  Today, the Center is used for hosting Solar Power seminars for Solar Tradesmen, art camps for kids, family events, and is part of the National Tour of Solar Homes and Businesses.  

The festival is known as an extravaganza of music, art, local food, dance, and sustainability.  Friday evening kicks off at 6PM, with lessons in Latin rhythm drumming, dance lessons, and Salsa music.  Come on Saturday for a day packed with a wide variety of music acts, kids activities, excellent food & drink, and groovy people.  There is camping available on-site.

Come for a weekend of great music, food, camping, and cycling or running in the beautiful river valley!  For more info, go to http://www.lamarcommunity.org/ or see their poster below.

Register now for the Birkie and City of Lakes Loppet - Price hike after July 31!

Register for the Birkie, and the sweet taste of a Birkie finish on Main Street will be in your future!  Don't wait!

It's late July, and already time to start registering for the coming winter's big ski races.  Think about it, snowflakes are only about 3 months away - great news for us skiers (not so great for those who don't like snow, yes I'll probably get a few hater comments for my anticipation of snow)!

Without further hesitation, jump on over to the BIRKIE WEBSITE and the CITY OF LAKES LOPPET WEBSITE and register for these fine events.  The entry fee's jump significantly after July 31!  As is always the case, you'll be far more motivated to train, if you're officially entered in a big event.  Registering early is clearly a mutual win:  races win because they know how many people will be racing & you win because you're getting a deal and have additional incentive to train!

Don't start thinking snow yet, but come October, you know where our mind will be...

!ANNOUNCEMENT: XC Ski brands to be Featured at Cyclova XC Store!

Cyclova XC's assortment of Nordic product will be second to none - while only carrying best products from each vendor - the products that we use ourselves!

Today, we make a highly anticipated announcement:  The Snowsports brands that Cyclova XC will partner with for the coming winter - and will be in stock for our Grand Opening on October 1! 

We believe it is critically important to offer a deep selection, thus the fact that we will carry the top 4 Nordic ski brands on the planet.  However, more isn't necessarily better - in many cases it's worse.  We have carefully selected only what in our opinion are the very top products from each of our vendors - the products that offer the greatest performance and value to our customers.  These are the products that we use ourselves and believe in.  

We will have the perfect ski to outfit any Nordic skier, from a first timer to Olympian.  Of course, even more important than offering the best product, is having a friendly expert staff to ensure every customer is set up with exactly the right gear for them - and that they know how to use it.  Our goal is to ensure that every customer has a great time out on the snow and embraces Nordic skiing as part of their healthy lifestyle.

Following are some brief highlights of the products that we will be stocking from these key vendors.  Look for more details and specific product information to be published in the near future on CyclovaXC.com.
  • Rossignol:  Cyclova XC will be a Rossignol Race Center - with an extensive assortment of X-Ium Product.  We have also chose to heavily stock Rossignol's entry level Zymax skate ski for beginner skaters as well as their amazing Evo Glade Touring ski - which offers incredible value in a waxless classic ski.  An extensive assortment of Rossignol boots, bindings, and One Way poles will be featured in similar categories to the above mentioned skis.
  • Salomon:  Salomon has been a Nordic industry leader for ages, and they continue to be a leader in innovation!  Cyclova XC will feature a wide range of Salomon product.  We are particularly big fans of Salomon's new Equipe 10 Classic skis, as well as the Equipe 10 Skate and will offer a deep assortment of lengths and flexes of that particular models.  Additionally, a wide assortment of Salomon boots will be offered, ranging from the top of the line S-Lab Skate Pro to the Escape 5 Pilot.  Reminiscent of the old Yoko / Toko 232 System, we will be offering a variety of new Salomon poles featuring their new Cork Click Strap System.
  • Madshus:  I have quite a history of working with Madshus (dating to November of 1998), from bringing the brand to the masses northern Wisconsin in the late 90's to promoting the brand as part of the Madshus Tech Team at expos across the country - not to mention being a Madshus sponsored athlete when I was racing full time.  Madshus has continued to up the bar and innovate, building skis entirely different than any other ski manufacturer - and we continue to huge believers in the brand!  Madshus has done a particularly fantastic job of bringing incredible value to the middle price point model skis - with a whole lot of amazing trickle down technology from their top of the line Nano-Sonic model.  With that said, we will offer a deep inventory of Hypersonic skate & classic skis, Ultrasonic skate & classic skis, as well as boots and bindings to match.
  • Fischer:  My first pair of skis were Fischers, and Fischer has literally been the globally dominant ski for the length of my skiing career.  They continue to up the bar with their new Carbonlite Skate Hole Skis - and we will feature a full offering of sizes in this model - to fit any skier to perfection.  This is clearly a dominant ski, with numerous major innovations that will continue to dominate podiums across the globe - and in the Midwest.
  • Alpina / Yoko:  Alpina has always made fantastic fitting boots - in my own opinion, particularly at their entry level price points.  We will feature a deep assortment of the Alpina T-5 touring boot - as well as the timeless Blazer - which is a 3 pin boot, to support skiers with older skis.   Thankfully, Yoko is now being brought into the country by Alpina - and we will be highlighting what we believe is the best value in a race ski pole on the planet - the Yoko 7100 - a full 100% carbon pole with a quick release grip that will sell for $119!  Additionally, you're not a ski shop without Yoko gloves, and we'll feature the top models of Yoko gloves to keep your fingers toasty warm!
  • Tubbs:  Not skis, but snowshoes!  Tubbs makes the finest snowshoes on the planet, and we'll feature their top models, to help you get out and enjoy the snow!
  • Toko:  Speaking of history, I have some history with this brand!  As a member of the Toko Tech Team from 1999 - 2006, a sponsored athlete, and an in-house employee of the brand from '02 through '05, we know Toko!  Cyclova XC will literally feature all things Toko:  wax, tools, gloves, hats, accessories.  Come and get your Toko on!
  • Fast Wax:  Man, I must be getting old - I have history with a lot of these brands...  As far as history goes with this brand, I've had the pleasure of working with Fast Wax, as the brand manager and buyer of their distributor from 2008 through 2011.  Fast Wax is made in Minnesota, developed by a polymer scientist, and is likely the most rapidly growing wax brand in the country!  Ski on it and you'll be a believer!
  • Swix:  Swix is the unquestionable leader in Nordic wax and poles - period.  Great products by great people - you'll find the top Swix products always in stock at Cyclova XC.
  • Start:  Start is back in the US, in a major way!  With Andy Gerlach at the helm and distributed by Q-Outdoor (which Frank launched for QBP back in 2006 - I know, enough of the history already...), we will stock the key Start products, some of which include:  Start Green (duh!), their new Nano line, select Pine Tar Grip Waxes (Pine Tar is unique to Start in Grip Waxes), and some other necessities.
  • SportHill:  Sporthill is the unquestionable leader in Nordic pants.  Their 3SP fabric and great designs yield unparalleled comfort, warmth, and breathability in Nordic garments.  You'll find a fantastic assortment of stylish and functional Sporthill outer and mid layer pieces at Cyclova XC.  Additionally, for the gentlemen, you'll find their new wind brief made of 3SP, which promises to protect the vulnerable male anatomy from the elements...
  • Smartwool:  Smartwool is the unquestionable leader of the Outdoor Sock Market - including Nordic.  Pull on a pair of their incredibly soft, comfortable, and warm socks and you'll know why!  We will feature a variety of staple Smartwool socks for Nordic Skiers, Cyclists, and Runners (including their new fingered sock, for use with Vibram 5 Fingers Shoes).  In addition to socks, look to Cyclova XC for a wide assortment of Smartwool base layers - tops, bottoms, and wind briefs!

Don't Forget to Change Your Bladder

Bladder funk...

You know what I'm talking about (man...this article is already off to a bad start)...you fill up your hydration bladder with apple juice, and then you top it off with lime gatorade, then you drink 95 percent of it and leave your camelbak in the trunk of your car on a 105 degree day...then you forget about it for six months and later, when you're cleaning your car you stumble across it again only to find that it's swollen up like two week old road kill.

We've all tried to rinse that sucker out and fill it up again (well, maybe some of you haven't)...only to become violently ill two minutes into our session.  The fact is, you just can't get those bladders clean.

Well...I have a solution.

Buy a new bladder.

Actually this is surprisingly easy.  You can find them at your local bike store and they're only like six bucks, so seriously, instead of trying to scrape apple juice mold out of your bladder, just throw the darn thing away every couple of months and buy another one.  It seems like the healthiest thing to do.

"Bladder Funk" would be a good name for a power gel though, wouldn't it?

Could Armstrong Dope Without Doping?

Somehow I think the whole Lance Armstrong doping debate is never going to go away until somebody comes up with a plausible answer that people can live with.  Now, I don't have any more insider information than anyone else, but in the course of discussing Armstrong with some friends (who do have some insider information into general doping practices and the human anatomy), I heard a pretty plausible theory on the Armstrong enigma.

There are a couple facts that need to be established right from the beginning.  There does exist a medical record that shows Armstrong to be a phenomenal athlete.  I'm not talking about his string of victories in athletic events, I'm talking about the blood and tissue tests that have been done on the guy since he was in his teens.  Had Armstrong only won one or two Tours, I don't think he'd be in the news.  The consensus is, yes, he had the "stuff" to win the tour legitimately.  The problem people have is that he utterly dominated it for 7 consecutive years, a feat that was beyond the ability of any other tour champion, French, Spanish, Belgian or otherwise.

The question I have is this: what did Armstrong's cancer and treatment do to his ability to produce testosterone?

Ok, I'm not a doctor (you'll note that I keep having to emphasize my total lack of qualifications to even have an opinion here for legal reasons...I mean seriously...that's a GRAND JURY after Armstrong and I don't want them coming after me) but isn't it plausible to think that removing a testicle and banging on the other one with a hammer would inhibit your ability to produce testosterone (again, they probably don't hammer your testicle to cure cancer, but they do throw it in a microwave don't they)?

So...is it fair to assume that Armstrong medically lost the ability to produce a normal amount of testosterone...and if that's the case, does he have an exemption from the world doping agency to artificially regulate his testosterone levels?  I mean, isn't that a medical necessity for the guy?

I know we have some doctors on CyclovaXC, so one of you needs to pipe in on here and tell me how plausible that assumption is.  But for the moment, let's just assume that Armstrong is allowed to inject himself with testosterone legally.

So...if that's the case...isn't it true that in a normal human being the naturally occurring level of testosterone fluctuates?  The result of this would be that if you were just relying on natural testosterone levels, you would have high and low days while training and racing.  Armstrong, however (in my hypothetical testosterone exemption hypothesis), would be allowed to maintain his testosterone consistently at the "just below" legal limit both while training and racing...which would be enough of an advantage to propel an athlete who is legitimately capable of winning a few tours naturally into a guy who dominates it for seven years.

Therefore, by taking advantage of a legal exemption, Armstrong could regulate his own testosterone level perfectly legally...essentially dope without doping.

Honestly, this whole idea might be completely crazy, but the thing I find annoying is that with all the "brilliant" minds working on this case, shouldn't somebody have mentioned this before...even if just to dismiss it?

I'm curious to hear what you guys think about this so please leave some comments.

RACE REPORT: Wannigan Days 5k in St. Croix Falls, WI

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of being able to be a part of the 1st Annual St. Croix Falls Wannigan Days 5k Running Event.  This was a first time event, spearheaded by the good folks at Bont Chiropractic as well as by Snap Fitness, both of St. Croix Falls.  While this is a first time event, the folks at Bont Chripractic are behind most of the running races in the St. Croix Falls area, such as the City of Trails 5k in the Spring, and the Autumn Fest race in early October.

My "job" as a volunteer was to be the pace vehicle, to ensure the leaders stayed on the race course.  This was a fantastic duty to have and gave me the best seat in the house, for what proved to be an epic battle at the front of the field.

The race course featured a gradual climb for roughly the first half of the race, from downtown St. Croix Falls to Interstate Park (WI).  Then, the course dropped down the massive hill into the north campground of Interstate Park.  From there, the runners ran up a steep gravel grade to the sidewalk along Hwy 8, for a sustained climb to Washington Street in St. Croix Falls.  Once on Washington St, the racers had just under a 1k sprint to the finish line.

As you can see from the photo slide show above, Tony Meyers of St. Croix Falls, in the yellow singlet dominated the start and got off to a commanding lead.  However, once the race dropped into Interstate Park, the flying 18 year old from Webster, WI Jack Taylor (wearing the black singlet in the images) closed the roughly 35 second gap on the leader to within 5 seconds or so.  Jack absolutely flew down this hill, using some of his fresh Cross Country descending skills.  On the final climb along Highway 8 (see the slide show), Jack surged and passed the Tony.  Once on the final stretch of Washington Street, Jack continued to push to the limit until across the line with a time of 16:18, 13 seconds ahead of Tony.  This was a truly impressive effort, timed to perfection by Jack.  Congrats to both of these gentlemen!

The taste of victory is still fresh on Jack Taylor's face, seconds after winning the Wannigan Days 5k!
In a post race conversation I had with Jack, he modestly commented on how he "loves the hills, going both up and down them".  This love of the hills was evident at Wannigan Days!

Unfortunately, as I was out in front of the lead men, I didn't get to see what was happening in the ladies race.  However, two local ladies (Tammy Braund of St. Croix Falls Heather Meyers-Wimer of Dresser) did light up the course with blazing fast times of 19:28 and 20:44 respectively .  Congratulations to both of them!

Overall, the event was very well attended and executed for a first year event, and promises to have a bright future on the running race circuit.  Officially, 126 people finished the 5k race with an estimated 30+ kids running in the kids race.

Thank you and congratulations to all race particpants - and a special thanks to the folks at Bont Chiropractic and Snap Fitness that made this great event happen!

The Future Cyclova XC Store Space in St. Croix Falls, WI: A Sneak Peek

The future home of Cyclova XC is really taking shape.  Walls have came down, doorways going up, and concrete / brick walls are coming down to make way for the storefront display windows!  Photo taken from what will be the back of the store (service area) looking toward the front.

We are now less than 10 weeks from the Grand Opening of the Cyclova XC retail store in beautiful St. Croix Falls, WI.  With that said, we have been feverishly working to prepare everything.  A tremendous amount of work has been done, but there is much left to do.

On Saturday, I met with Tony, who is our landlord for the store space.  He showed me some of the work that has been going on, to prep the space for our store.  I was quite impressed - as a lot has been done in the past few weeks.

We are taking a space that formerly had 2 tenants, with a wall in between the 2 spaces.  That wall has been taken down now!  In the above picture, you can now see that our store space is now all open - one big space 30 feet wide by 100 feet deep (that's right - we will have 3000 square feet of bike, ski, and trail run goodness for our customers). 

Additionally, in the below image, you can see where our two large storefront display windows are will be going in.  These windows will look out on to Washington Street (known by many as Main St.) and look across the street toward the Indian Creek Winery and other great businesses.  Sheetrock, insulation, concrete blocks, and brick all have to come down to get these windows in - the first 3 of which are complete.  The landlord will wait to break down the exterior brick until the day the windows are going in. 

Sheetrock, insulation, and concrete blocks have came down - to make way for our storefront display windows.
We have also been hard at work designing our store signage.  There is a 40 page or so booklet of signage regulations that we must comply with, but we are getting close now on a concept that we think will look great, the make the city happy, and please the landlord.  Our tentative plan is to have a hand crafted metal sign produced by a Northwest Wisconsin metal working artisan.  The sign will feature our text based logo (to the right in the bottom sign), likely with our shield logo to the left.  The text letters will be a maximum of 15" tall and will be centered over where our windows will be.

Also, in the below image, you'll notice the big blue boxes.  This is where our display windows and door will be.  This is a very rough mock image to give you an idea on what our shop storefront will look like, come opening day on October 1.

A sketch of ROUGHLY what our storefront will look like, come opening day on October 1.  The 2 blue boxes to the left represent what will be our windows while the blue box on the right represent where our door will be.
Finally, we are still contemplating a potential future mural on the south facing side of the building.  Above is Ben's first crack at it (also seen in this post).  As much as we like this, I don't think we could get the landlord or city's approval on this.  We're thinking of perhaps a map of the St. Croix Valley highlighting the key bike, xc ski, and run trails may be nice...  What do you think?

TRAIL PROFILE: Seven Lakes Stower State Trail, Dresser to Amery, WI

Beautiful new signs mark the length of the new Stower Seven Lakes Trail - which is open to cyclists, foot traffic, xc skiers, and snow shoers.

The Stower / Seven Lakes Trail was completed recently, during the summer of 2010.  This beautiful new "rails to trail" type limestone trail travels the beautiful country side between Dresser and Amery, WI.  Many lakes dot the country side along it's length, not to mention the fact that it travels through beautiful wilderness.

From Dresser, the trail gradually climbs out of the St. Croix River Valley, and if heading east from the Dresser end of the trail, you'll find yourself continually pushing hard on the pedals as your climb the gradual grade.  The middle of this trail in some ways, is an area that time forgot about.  Small villages like Wandaross and Nye are along the trail, which both used to be rail road towns - these towns now appear to be quiet little villages that the local have to themselves and the occasional vacationers discover and enjoy.

The limestone surface of the Seven Lakes Trail is ideal for any type of bike and is ideal for preserving snow on the trail during the winter for XC Skiers!

This trail is 14 miles in length, and a great ride in it's own right.  With that said, the master plan is to connect this trail to the Gandy Dancer State Trail, which would result in a 70+ mile continuous trail.  With the additional plan for the Gateway State Trail (in Minnesota) to eventually go all the way from St. Paul to Taylors Falls, this would result in over 120 miles of literally continuous bike trail bliss, with the St. Croix Falls area as the central hub of it all.

Location:  With trail heads at Lotus Park (a few miles east of Dresser, WI) and in downtown Amery at Harriman Avenue, this 14 mile trail connects Amery to the St. Croix River Valley.  Click HERE for the official DNR trail map.

Distance:  14 miles point to point from Lotus Park near Dresser to downtown Amery, WI.  The master plan is for this trail will eventually connect to the Gandy Dancer State Trail.

Surface & Maintenance:  A beautiful, smooth yet firm limestone surface, similar to the Gandy Dancer Trail.  This surface is appropriate for any bicycle (including road bikes, unless it is really wet).  

Terrain:  As this is on a former rail road bed, this trail is generally flat, with a few very gentle grades and is suitable for any cyclist.

Amenities:  There are several rest stops along the Seven Lakes Stower State Trail, most of which include rest rooms, trail maps, and parking lots (a few of them have water fountains as well).  Dining and food can be found in Amery and nearby Dresser (as well as St. Croix Falls).  Nearby bike shops include Cyclova XC and Amery Pedal and Paddle.

One of several rest stops along side the trail feature new rest rooms, bike parking, and water fountains in some cases.

The Lion's water fountain in Amery at the trail head offers a memorable place to quench your thirst!

CyclovaXC Celebrates 100 Years of Machu Picchu

Hey everyone! I just got off the Inca Trail in time to catch the 100 year celebration of Machu Picchu!  It was a pretty awesome trip, although it kicked my butt pretty hard.  I went with Peru's first winter Olympian, a cross-country skier named Roberto Carcelen as well as Martin Koukal, a cross-country skier from the Czech Republic who is a former world champion (2003 50 km) as well as an experienced mountain climber (he did the 8201 m Cho Oyu in the shadow of Mt. Everest...the 6th highest mountain in the world...without oxygen or Sherpas).

Anyway, now that I know Roberto pretty well I'm the guy for you to talk to if you want to do the Inca trail at some point.  My wife and I are pretty much going to try to get to Peru at least once a year (my wife's family is down here), so that makes it easy for me to plan an Inca trail trip.  Here's the itinerary of the trip I did with Roberto.

I suppose we'll be able to get some good tents, sleeping bags, etc., through CyclovaXC once we're up and running, but I'll have to talk to Frank about that.

Oh...and I'm sick of everybody who says they want to come and see Machu Picchu wimping out...so I'm going to start using some more pressure tactics on you all...so be warned (it's for your own good!).

TRAIL PROFIILE: Gateway State Bike Trail - St. Paul to the Stillwater, MN area

The very informative trailhead info sign, as seen at the Gateway's western terminus, in St. Paul.

With the Twin Cities (Minneapolis specifically) voted by Bicycling Magazine as the best city for cyclists and the St. Croix River Valley, being the nearest "mecca" for riding on great country roads - it's only logical that there be a great trail connecting the two.  This critical connector is known as the Gateway Trail.

Built in 1993 on the Soo Line Railroad bed that was decommissioned in 1980, the trail now spans 18.3 miles, linking the St. Croix River Valley to the Twin Cities.   $2 million was initially spent in the creation of this trail, with several major recent improvements taking place including the completed Century Avenue bridge in North St. Paul bridge (which saves you several minutes of waiting at a slow stoplight) and the Manning Avenue bridge which is currently under construction.  The eventual master plan for the Gateway Trail is to continue north along the St. Croix River all the way to Taylors Falls (just across the river from Cyclova XC's shop in St. Croix Falls).

One of the memorable landmarks along the Gateway Trail is the huge snowman and electric generating windmill in North St. Paul.

Location:  With trailheads at Cayuga Park in St. Paul (northeast of the Capitol) and at Pine Point Park northwest of Stillwater, this trail connects the Twin Cities to the pristine St. Croix River Valley.  Click HERE to view a Google Map of the Gateway Trail.
Distance:  18.3 miles from St. Paul to Pine Point Park near Stillwater, with plans to eventually add another 35+ miles to Taylor's Falls
Surface & Maintenance:  The Gateway Trail is all blacktop in good to new condition.  Certain sections are newly paved & glass smooth, while other sections have aged a bit with a few bumps here and there.  The creation and maintenance of this trail is a collaboration between the Gateway Trail Association and various state & local entities. 
Terrain:  As this is on a former rail road bed, this trail is generally flat, with a few very gentle grades and is suitable for any cyclist.
Amenities:  There are several rest stops along the Gateway Trail, most of which include rest rooms, trail maps, and water fountains.  Additionally, there are several spots which have stores and restaurants near by, providing hungry cyclists with good riding food.

The western end (trailhead) of the Gateway Trail can be difficult to find.  Here is what it looks like.

A beautiful, newly paved section of the gateway trail is reflective on a rainy ride.

Team Apparel: Yet another shipment arrived today!

The latest shipment of team kits is in!  Get some!

Cyclova XC is all about having a great time while out cycling, skiing, or running - and wearing top notch apparel is critical to enjoying yourself and being comfortable while out.  It's even more fun to be out and see someone wearing the same kit as you - or do a team workout.  Yes, good times in spandex!

We know cycling - and get out every chance we get.  That's why you can trust Cyclova XC team wear to be the best in the biz while offering huge bang for your buck!  Details like a very specific Italian made synthetic chamois in the shorts, full zip jersey, micro grid jersey fabric, relaxed raglan sleeve jersey cut, and the list goes on and on.  This apparel is the real deal!  Whether you're a first timer or logging a ten thousand mile summer, our team wear will keep you comfortable. 

Over the past few years, a small army of folks have purchased team kits from us, and the momentum continues to grow.  Back in mid May, we placed another big order - primarily special orders for folks whom pre ordered apparel.  The order arrived on Friday and if you ordered apparel, you've received an email notice from me.

If you didn't get in on this order but are interested in some Cyclova XC apparel, there is a very good chance that we have what you're looking for.  For starters, check out our current availability levels on our Team Apparel page.  There, you'll find all of the specifics on the gear and how to order.

Saturday Evening Group Ride: Woolly Mountain Bike Trails in St. Croix Falls, WI

Come check out the great Woolly Trails done by the region's newest IMBA Club - you'll be glad you did!

The posts that we've done on the pages of CyclovaXC.com about the Woolly Mountain Bike Club, their amazing trails, and their outstanding race have drawn a lot of new attention to the St. Croix Falls area - and rightfully so!  We are continuing to get literally daily inquiries about when the next group ride opportunity will be on these trails.

You should know that the Woolly Club does group rides most Tuesday nights at 6:30PM.  See the Wooly Club's Facebook Page for updated info on each week's ride.

Our Saturday rides on the Woolly trails have also been very popular, so we're going to do another one this Saturday evening, July 9, rolling at 6:30PM.  We will be meeting in the parking lot on the west side of the St. Croix Falls High School.  Click HERE to view the Google Map. 

This is a ride for all levels of mountain bikers - and we want YOU to join us.  We will plan on starting out by doing one lap of the 8 mile course as a group, leaving no one behind.  For those that want to stick around for a 2nd or 3rd lap, you can have at it and go as fast as you'd like.  If you've been thinking about checking out some of the greatest new single track in the region - this is the time!  Feel free to contact us on our Facebook Page with any questions you might have on this ride.

We hope to see you out there!

Beating the Summer Heat While Training, Part 1: Hydration

Beating the heat has a simple recipe:  hydrate, electrolytes, wear light colored & breathable clothing, and caution.

Sweaty July weather can challenge the most seasoned endurance athlete. 

As is the case in any training situation, the most important thing is to use your head.  Training or racing in the heat CAN be dangerous, so don't tempt the worst case scenario if you feel heat exhaustion coming on - if this happens, simply stop, get under some shade, and hydrate.

The primary challenges while training in the heat is preventing dehydration,  maintaining electrolyte levels, and dressing appropriately.  

Today, we'll focus on how to stay hydrated while out in the summer heat.  Following are a few tips that can be a lifesaver when trying to stay hydrated while out in the hear.
  1. Drink before you are thirsty.  By the time you actually feel thirsty, you'll be dehydrated.  Force yourself to drink frequently and more than you think you actually need.
  2. Drink what ever goes down well for you.  You'll drink more if you like the way it tastes!  If that happens to be a particular sports drink, or water - just go with it!
  3. Carry your fluids with you in the way that is easiest to drink - as you'll drink more if it's easy to access.  For some people, this means carrying bottles in the cages on their bike, for others this means a hydration pack, for others this can mean a Fuel Belt type device for running, or even just carrying a bottle while running.
  4. If you're going to be out for a long time, plan your route around places that you can get more fluids - or carry more than what you'll need.
  5. Cold fluids will help to cool you down.  Consider carrying an insulated water bottle or hydration pack to keep you fluids cool.